Thoughts on: “Moraga’s “Queer Aztlán” and the Urgency of Chicana (Lesbian) Feminist Critique

I was lucky enough to attend Dr. Mel Hidalgo’s recent talk on Feminist Chicana Literature here at University College Cork. The talk was engrossing and interesting, particularly because I went into it completely unaware of Chicana literature and the movements associated with it.

Dr. Hidalgo began by contextualizing Cherrí Moraga (the author who formed the bedrock of Dr. Hidalgo’s talk) within the larger history of Chicana/o culture. Specifically, she gave a nice introduction to Movimiento Chicana Feminism, a movement that began in the early 1970s and was, in many ways akin to other minority Civil Rights and Nationalistic movements like the Black Panthers. Movimiento’s Feminism was partly inspired by machismo of the larger Chicano movement and was an attempt to balance the problematically patriarchal tone of that movement. For me, this brought to mind the relationship between a writer like Sonia Sanchez and the kind of militant masculinity seen in other major Black Arts Movement writers like Amiri Baraka. In continuation with that line of thought I was also left wondering where the strong dissenting female voices of early Irish Nationalism might be found. I’ve often pondered the fact that, despite some overwhelming differences, there are some resonances between Pádraig Pearse and Baraka’s attempts to root a minorities identity in its masculinity. I can’t help wondering if an Irish Movimiento might be lost to history (or, of course, maybe I just need to do more research).

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Yolanda Lopez “The Artist as the Virign of Guadalupe”

Continuing in her talk, Dr. Hidalgo compared post-movimiento Feminism (the movement that Moraga was part of) to Movimiento Feminism by comparing Yolanda Lopez and Alma Lopez’s approaches  to representing the Virgin of Guadalupe. Yolanda’s work was typical of Movimiento Feminism as it focused on a woman in action. Alma’s, however, allows her subject to just be. In particular, it allows embraces the body and sexuality of the subject in a way that early Movimiento Feminism did not. In particular, this acceptance of sexuality allows Post-movimiento Feminism to be more inclusive of the LGBTQ community, which, according to Dr. Hidalgo, prefigures the concept of intersectionality popularized in more contemporary versions of Feminism that emphasize the relationship between the struggles of women, the
LGBTQ community, and even CIS men and ethnic

 

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Alma Lopez “Our Lady”

minorities as a result of patriarchy and the power dynamics of hegemonic masculinity.

Ultimately, Dr. Hidalgo forwarded Cherrí Moraga, in particular her writing in “Queer Aztlán”, as a reappraisal of the relationship between individual sexuality and patriarchy as well as the relationship between Chicana/o people and the very land where they live. Moraga draws on the idea of Aztlán, the original lands of Mexico that included much of the American Southwest before the Mexican-American War, to explain a sense of belonging among Mexican-Americans that manages to overpower the White American narrative that deals with them so exclusively in terms like “alien” and “illegal.” More importantly, Moraga uses Aztlán to explain a sense of loss in Chicana/o literature, as much of the original lands of Mexico have been lost to the U.S.

Naturally, Dr. Hidalgo mentioned the relevance of Moraga and Post-movimiento Feminism to America’s current political climate. In fact, it was in her concluding remarks about Post-movimiento writing as a search for a kind of “decolonizing Nationalism” that the real importance and potential of Post-movimiento writing became apparent to me. America, and many other nations, are clearly facing the demons of their latent Nationalism. In many ways I don’t think that Nationalism is inherently bad, at least as far as it exists as a pride in one’s community, but I do think, in its current form, it is diseased. If the conversations sparked by things like Post-movimiento writing can help mold a identities that don’t draw strength from oppression and abuse, then I hope that those conversations continue.

Works Cited

Hidalgo, Melissa. “Moraga’s “Queer Aztlán” and the Urgency of Chicana (Lesbian) Feminist Critique.”31 January 2017, University College Cork School of English, University College Cork. Lecture.

“Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey Stuff”: Thoughts on “Remembering Past Futures”

Yesterday I attended the final lecture of UCC’s School of History’s Irish Revolution Series. This lecture, titled “Remembering Past Futures: Commemoration and the Roads Untaken,” was presented by Dr. Heather Laird, and despite some titular similarities to past installments, is, in fact, not a new X-Men film.

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Image produced by author. Source images to be found at: truthoncinema.com/featured/havent-seen-x-men-dofp-review/ and wexfordsinnfeinnews.blogspot.ie/2010_10_01_archive.html

This talk took the current flurry of 1916 commemorations as a jumping off point to question how we deal with memory, history, and the past. Laird differentiated history from the past through Ged Martin’s definition of history as “an attempt to make sense of some part of the past.”Historians concern for making history a dry sequence of events, however, makes a process as deeply emotional and personal as commemoration problematic. Laird contended that within more personal and “bottom up” interpretations of the past like commemoration lies the potential for seeing alternatives histories and, as a result, alternative futures.

Laird’s talk was rooted in a criticism of the teleological nature of history as it is usually viewed. She offered instances of counter factual fiction as an alternative to traditional history, a way to re-imagine the past. She illustrated this most succinctly through a quote from the Nestor episode of James Joyce’s Ulysses:

Had Pyrrhus not fallen by a beldam’s hand in Argos or Julius Caesar not been knifed to death? They are not to be thought away. Time has branded them and fettered they are lodged in the room of the infinite possibilities they have ousted. But can those have been possible seeing that they never were? Or was that only possible which came to pass?

Laird was sure to observe the language of servitude in this passage (see “branded” and “fettered”). This seems to me to point to the helplessness this view of history can encourage, as opposed to the more imaginative questions that can be asked (such as what if Caesar had not been killed) if one looks at history as something less than inevitable.

This point in the lecture that actually kickstarted my thinking about my own work. While the essay due dates for my current modules are still comfortably distant, I have been particularly challenged by thinking about a potential topic for my Irish Cinema paper. While listening to this talk, however, I began to think of how certain elements of this interest in what might have been, or a literature that actively interrogates the routes of history relates to Peter Lennon’s The Rocky Road to Dublin. Particularly I began to ask myself how the film’s emphasis on music functions as a distinctly cinematic way to contemplate the passage of time, music being an art form based on organizing and structuring the passage of time in distinct beats and measures. All of these questions and musings are only in their vaguest state for me at present, but it is reassuring to begin to have a sense of direction.

In the meantime I’ll work on my photo editing abilities.

Works Cited

Laird, Heather. “Remembering Past Futures: Commemoration and the Roads Untaken.” Reconsidering the Rising Lecture Series, University College Cork School of History, 26 October 2016, Lecture.

“You’ve Got a Friend in Me(?)”: Thoughts on “The Art of Being Together: Shakespeare and Friendship”

This week I had the opportunity to attend the workshop “The Art of Being Together: Shakespeare and Friendship” led by Prof. Goran Stanivukovi of Saint Mary’s University Canada. While I must admit my interests usually lie about as far away from Early Modern and Renaissance Period literature as I can possibly get, due to my experiences in the theatre, Shakespeare holds a special place in my heart. As a result, I was glad to get a chance to look at his work in the light of Prof. Stanivukovi’s research.

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Myself playing a guy playing Hamlet: or, a Shakespearean character sans friends

Prof. Stanivukovi began the workshop by positing that investigating the meaning and nature of friendship is, in many ways, the primary goal of many of Shakespeare’s plays. He provided ample evidence to support this idea, pointing to the friendships of Romeo and Mercutio, Hamlet and Horatio, and Antonio and Bassonio and observing that many of the conflicts that drive these plays stem from intrusions into these friendships. These intrusions tend to take the form of either a competing romantic relationship or economic concerns.

At this point it is important to observe that Prof. Stanivukovi builds his argument off an early modern understanding of friendship. To help those of us attending the workshop understand this, he provided a pretty wide range of readings of Classical and Early Modern ideas about friendship. What stood out to me the most from these readings was the belief that friendship was a higher or nobler relationship than a romantic relationship like marriage. Marriage was viewed as a partnership founded on inequality and commercial or financial agreement rather than the genuine affection of friendship. The Renaissance idea of friendship was also a good deal more flexible than we are accustomed to today, including familial relationships as well as relationships between mentors and mentees

For Renaissance figures like Shakespeare, this created complicated questions about love, desire, friendship, and the lines that divide and connect them. While we did not discuss this play in the workshop, to me this is most obvious in As You Like It.  Orlando must pretend to court Rosalind (who is masquerading as the country youth Ganymede), thus blurring the lines between friendship and romance, and the central conflict of the plot is, in many ways, the product of the failed friendships of the brothers Duke Senior and Duke Frederick, and Oliver and Orlando, which is caused by the intrusion of politics, power, and money in their relationships.

While this talk centered on the Classical/Early Modern concept of friendship it seems to me that friendship is an even more pressing topic to consider in Modern and Postmodern works, which are often founded either on a conspicuous lack of friendship or meaningful human connection (see Samuel Beckett’s Molloy, Malone Dies, and The Unnameable trilogy, or John Banville’s The Sea) or on hyper-dependent relationships that still fail to bring those involved any meaningful connection (again, see Beckett’s Waiting for Godot or Endgame, or, in the interest of stepping away from an Irish context, Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, or even Edward Albee’s “Zoo Story”).

Ultimately, however, this leaves me ruminating on some of the Modern and Postmodern works that resolve themselves (in as far as such works ever resolve themselves) through successful relationships. Interestingly, this brings to mind three rather far flung works: James Joyce’s Ulysses, J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, and Jamie O’Neill’s At Swim Two Boys. In Ulysses, Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus are, in many ways, saved and rejuvenated by their short relationship as Dedalus defends Bloom from the capers of his friends and Bloom helps Stephen safely navigate the perils of the “Nighttown” episode. In fact, it occurs to me that their relationship is not unlike that of Prince Hal and Falstaff in Henry IV parts one and two, as the seemingly lower class and clearly much more worldly Bloom must stand in as a new father figure/mentor to Dedalus. Of course, the fact that the bond between Frodo and Sam was the only thing that made the destruction of the Ring in The Lord of the Rings really possible is fairly obvious even to people whose sole experience with the book is through GIFs and memes taken from the Peter Jackson trilogy.  vh-tumblr_m2s6d4gns11qf44ulo1_500

At Swim Two Boys probably presents the most complex picture of friendship as it dramatizes the establishment of the homosexual relationship as a fully realized bond, deeply related to yet distinct from more Classical ideas of friendship, through the musings of MacMurrough and the burgeoning, if tragically brief relationship between Jim and Doyler. Looking at At Swim Two Boys in the context of Prof. Stanivukovi’s workshop is actually quite exciting, as it places O’Neill’s exploration of the homosexual relationship into a much longer tradition, and helps one to consider some of the wider ramifications of Shakespeare’s own consideration of the lines between affectionate friendship and desire in works like As You Like It.

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Again, me playing a guy playing Hamlet: or, a Shakespearean character with friends.

Obviously, Prof. Stanivukovi’s workshop has given me a lot to think about, both as his research into friendship relates specifically to Shakespeare and as it forces me to consider works nearer to my own field of interest in a different light.

Works Cited

Joyce, James. Ulysses. Edited by Hans Walter Gabler, Vintage Books, 1986.

O’Neill, Jamie. At Swim Two Boys. Scribner, 2003.

Shakespeare, William. As You Like It. Simon & Schuster, 2004.

Stanivukovi, Goran. “The Art of Being Together: Shakespeare and Friendship.” 18 October 2016, University College Cork School of English, University College Cork. Lecture.

Tolkien, J.R.R. The Lord of The Rings. Hougton Mifflin Harcourt, 2004.