Amber Lee Blog 5 Make-Up

In the article, “Nancy Cunard’s Negro and the Transnational Politics of Race” Laura Winkiel very often makes a claim that Nancy Cunard’s Negro Anthology contains a multitude of “contradictions.” The “contradiction” that I find the most fascinating is “between detailing the horrors of colonization and racism and its jubilant and often primitivist celebration of popular black entertainers” (Winkiel 509) as if the experience of a black person in the modernist times cannot be both jaded and hardened by the world they live in and freely laude those who are successful and give them joy in life. I find that Laura Winkiel stating this as a contradiction when she also calls the anthology “far more than a rigid dichotomy, the anthology aims at a ‘panorama’ of black struggles and achievements against a racist modernity” (Winkiel 509) to be an interesting turn. It seems that Winkiel has some contradictions of her own in this article. It should be noted that while an anthology on a group of people should show the good times and the bad, we need to see the layers that go into them. The anthology shouldn’t be seen as a rigid dichotomy of joy and struggle because people’s emotions aren’t one or the other. I will explore what counts as a struggle and what counts as an achievement through the two sections “Hitting Back” by Henry Crowder and “Three Great Negro Women” by Gladis Berry Robinson to examine how the two explore the “panorama” of the struggles or achievements.

“Hitting Back” by Henry Crowder is formed as a series of vignettes (quite appropriate for an anthology) about times that he fought back against racism in his home. These events range from a joke that revealed the seriousness of the world to straight up brawls between white and black people. Even from the title, the reader can see this is a story of struggling against white superiority and racism. What is harrowing about these events is the casuality of them. The third vignette is about the author going home to where his father lives during the Atlanta riots and making a joke about demanding to be let in the house. After he realizes that the joke is going too far and gives his name, his father opens the door with a shot gun. The author solemnly states, “I will never try that kind of joke again” (Cunard 117) thus showing the audience that even joking about the riots under-cutted the seriousness of them and how they were affecting people. People were so riled up and afraid, that his father went to the door prepared to kill and die. This is particularly effective because it shows how people could become disconnected to what was happening around them because it was so common, but at the end of the day, people were dying and scared. The sixth vignette is about the narrator and his friends happening upon a group of white men beating one lone black man in the street, so they intervene and scare the white people away. Again, there is a casual tone about this story. Many of these stories are about one black man facing a beating from multiple white men for no good reason until more black men come and the white men back down. This story shows how common violence was. These stories make it especially clear that white men were very willing to beat a black man, but didn’t want to risk their own hides in a fair fight that the black men were willing to fight. This paints the white men as bullies, but also shows the kind of fear that a black man had when he was alone on the streets, because he could always get jumped. There is a bitterness in these stories, but I think they show a strong variety in the type of violence against black people that occurred and how common it was.

“Three Great Negro Women” by Gladis Berry Robinson is the telling of the lives of three great black women: Phillis Wheatley, Sojourner Truth, and Harriet Tubman. These women are inarguably some of the greatest women in American, if not world, history. Each section on each woman starts as historical retellings of the women’s lives and what they did that made them great with some personal comments from the author, especially for Phillis Wheatley. For Phillis Wheatley, the author takes note of how great her poetry and prose was despite the fact that she was born a slave and not appreciated for her talents. Truth and Tubman both fought for emancipation and freedom for black people and women’s rights. What is interesting about these women is that Phillis Wheatley sticks out a bit as not being as prominent and active as the other two, yet she is placed first. Her inclusion shows that the author doesn’t need great women to lecture presidents or be activists to make great strides for black women. Yet, she gets the most personal comments from the author, as if she feels the need to defend her choice to include Wheatley in the mix because she isn’t as obvious a choice as Truth and Tubman. Still, all of these women did what they did in during slavery and the Civil War where there was even more oppression for black women then when this article was written, so the author clearly wants to make a point that great women stand in the face of adversity even in the worst times.

What I like about these two writings is that they show diversity in what it means to succeed and struggle as a black person in America. They are snippets of a greater “panorama” but show great difference in what it means to be black. Both of these writings are anthologies themselves which proves how different the lives of black people can be, but they share enough commonality to be included in the larger work.


Amber Lee~ Blog Three

For a moment in class during the presentation I mentioned the Chinese characters in class and the way I thought about them. I wanted to talk about them more in the presentation, but the question that I wrote didn’t mesh together with the other question’s themes. Now that I have the opportunity to discuss what Pound would have called an “ideogram” as we learned in Kelsi’s presentation, I will discuss the way the Chinese characters are used in 77 since it is the only one of the cantos with the explication of the Chinese characters at the end.

What is interesting about an ideogram is that it “represents the idea of a things without designating the sounds you use to say it” (Kinavey 2) which is not how I would have thought about the Chinese characters in cantos 77. When we did our group project a lot of what we talked about was the sound, musicality, and rhythm of the cantos, but the Chinese characters in the poem can only be interpreted by a non-Chinese speaking audience as a symbol, not as a word that we can say. Even though I have the definition of these symbols, I would have absolutely no idea how to say them to a Chinese speaking person. In a poem where words are broken down to be heard like they are spoken like “Sochy-lism” (Pound 77. 27) and sounds are put in front of us like “k-lakk…..thuuuuuu” (Pound 77. 40) to have symbols that can only be seen and understood, but never heard seems odd. This could be attributed to Pound’s concept of counterpoint, that for every word or concept that was can see, understand, and hear, there are those that we can see but may not be able to hear or say or understand, but they are just as important and valid to have, or they wouldn’t be in the poem. The only time that it seems that the sound of a Chinese character is given to the readers is on the last page of cantos 77 where the phrase “ch’êng” (Pound 77. 324) appears under the Chinese character that means “perfect or focus” (Pound 54) which appears twice on the page mirroring one another almost at the end of the poem. It is possible that the word sound described at the end of the cantos doesn’t describe the way to say the Chinese characters above it, but I think it is safe to assume that it is considering that the word “focus” (Pound 77. 323) is in between the two Chinese characters. Pound may give us the way to saw this character in particular because of how much he wants his audience to focus. He is, in a way, telling us to focus on what is happening five times without looking like he is doing so.

The other part of the ideogram and Chinese characters I would like to discuss is how they represent an idea of a thing. While reading the poem, the reader doesn’t know what the symbols mean. A first time reader, who wouldn’t have known about the explanation that Pound gives as the end of cantos 77, may be especially lost and unaware of what these Chinese characters mean. I think it might be a large jump to assume that just because Pound pairs these symbols with the words they mean that the readers would know this and see what Pound is doing when first readings. By showing us that he is in fact repeating words with Chinese characters, it may force the reader to either go back and re-read all of cantos 77 or just go back and see the small sections to understand the gist of what he is trying to do. Either way, there is some element of returning to poem to re-think and look at the poem another way. I have to wonder if I like the poem better or worse after going back and looking at the symbols again. I am reminded of the reading from week one where Arnold Schoenberg discussed in “The Relationship to the Text” hearing music and learning that there were poems that the music was based on, but when he read the poems, he didn’t gain any more understanding and depth to the music. On the contrary, he thinks it detracted from the way the music had initially affected him. It is possible that the Chinese characters mean less to the audience when we discover that Pound is reiterating ideas that he already portrayed in English. It is also possible that it adds to poem that Pound found these words and ideas worth reiterating or maybe Pound wanted more universality to his poems. Whatever the case may be, the fact that the Chinese characters are there at all has to mean that they are important to Pound.

Amber Lee: Blog 1

When I read the first prompt (which I will be writing about), one of the first things I thought about was what rhythm means. I looked online the Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary and found that the first definition given was “a regular, repeated pattern of sounds or movements” (Merriam-Webster) which lead me to the conclusion that “rhythm” isn’t necessarily predominantly a musical term because of its ties with movement. This makes perfect sense to me, the two ideas of sound and movement should be intertwined because music so often causes people to move. We learned in class that some music caused people to stand up and riot. In a less violent function music is what causes to dance. Music causes people to sway and move naturally. Painting in a basic sense also falls in line with the definition of rhythm: a painter moves their brushes repeatedly in some sort of pattern in order to create what they want on their canvas. With all of those things tying together it doesn’t seem as strange to describe paintings in the terms of rhythm. Something much like music, which inspires dance, must inspire a painter to pick up their brushes and create. Where it fails to meet the definition exactly is where rhythm is described as being “regular” which many paintings are not, nor should they always be. Yet there is some regularity to some of the paintings in the Butler reading like the Piet Mondrian. All of the shapes painted are regular squares and rectangles. Not blobs or faces or stars. The painting is brought together in a way that not one of the shapes overwhelms the painting. The viewers’ eyes can move from shape to shape as we are drawn to the large red square. Still, not a thing seems out of place perhaps because the shapes are regular enough that our eyes can move from one to another without confusion. This painting is not difficult to look at and take in. It is not traditional or what we see in nature, but looking at different colored squares is easy to take. The message and purpose is the more difficult task.

This then brought me to the idea of a painting having rhythm. Like a dance, shouldn’t a painting move from one place to the next with grace a purpose? If it does not have grace, it should at the very least have purpose. A painting should draw a view’s eyes from one place to the next with some sense of intent, unless this is not the artist’s intention. Like many dances, two or more things must work together in order for something to move in unity to create something worth looking at and not just a mess of tripping limbs. Butler says that for the Piet Mondrain painting, “our feel for harmony and balance” (Butler, 24-25) is much may determine if the viewer likes the painting of not. Harmony and balance are also essential parts of dance also, though they mean slightly different things in that application. For the painting things like color and shape must have harmony that is either pleasing or aggravating depending on what is being portrayed. Balance is important to a painting because if one side of the painting is too busy or heavy in color, the view may feel like they are falling into one side and completely ignore the other. Space is important to art, but the space must be there to counterbalance a weight somewhere else. All art, not just aural, require some finesse and attention to what is happening and what the piece is doing.

With so many tools for artists to work with, taking those that seem to belong to other parts of art can create a new connected feeling where the painting has more life than the one on the wall. By combining the techniques and ideas connected to music and art the viewer may move and sway with the painting as much as they would when listening to music. If we try to bring language into this it may become even more complex. Yet, isn’t that what many musical productions are? Musicals are a combination of visual art, music, and language used to portray something about life whether it is a lesson, story, or just an emotion. Although the visual aspect was less important, for a long time, this was one of the highest and most entertaining versions of art. Visuals have become more important in things like sets and costumes and movie magic, but still, it is the playing of all these things together that can be the most emotional and do the most for people. It can inspire people to laugh, to cry, and to riot, and all that coming from one piece of art is amazing.