Class 9 (English 238 – Fall 2020)

Class Business

  • First class blog posts are going up: “Student Research Blogs”
  • Presentations of “starter kits” in our next class:
    • 7 minutes maximum
    • This time, we will not have discussion after each presentation
    • Instead, we will have round-table discussion after all the presentations have been completed.
  • Please fill out course evaluations (online), starting Nov. 30

Plan for class:  Contexts  Arrow right  Discussion of Muriel Rukeyser’s The Book of the Dead.

Goal for class: To explore the creative arts’ “representation” of infrastructure to the point where we question the adequacy of the notion of representation by asking: How can an artist write, paint, or otherwise create works that are not just “about” infrastructure but of / from / in / through infrastructure—as it were, from the POV of infrastructure.

Epigraphs for Class

Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space (1958)

  1. The House. from Cellar to Garret. The Significance of the Hut.
  2. House and Universe
  3. Drawers, Chests and Wardrobes
  4. Nests
  5. Shells
  6. Corners
  7. Miniature
  8. Intimate Immensity
  9. The Dialectics of Outside and Inside
  10. The Phenomenology of Roundness

To inhabit oneirically the house we were born in means more than to inhabit it in memory; it means living in this house that is gone, the way we used to dream in it. (16)

To bring order into these images, I believe that we should consider two principal connecting themes: 1) A house is imagined as a vertical being. It rises upward. It differentiates itself in terms of its verticality. 2) A house is imagined as a concentrated being. It appeals to our consciousness of centrality. (15)

Fernand Deligny, The Arachnean and Other Texts. Translated by Drew S. Burk and Catherine Porter. Minneapolis, MN: Univocal, 2015.

Drawing on p. 110 of Fernand Deligny's The Arachnean and Other Texts (translated by Drew S. Burk and Catherine Porter, 2015)
Drawing on p. 110 of Fernand Deligny’s The Arachnean and Other Texts

Drawings on p. 111 of Fernand Deligny's The Arachnean and Other Texts (translated by Drew S. Burk and Catherine Porter, 2015)
Drawings on p. 111 of Fernand Deligny’s The Arachnean and Other Texts (translated by Drew S. Burk and Catherine Porter, 2015)

Ovid, Metamorphoses: The New, Annotated Edition. Translated by Rolfe Humphries. Annotated by J. D. Reed. Indiana University Press, 2018.

—From “Apollo and Daphne” in Book I

So ran the god and girl, one swift in hope,
The other in terror, but he ran more swiftly,
Borne on the wings of love, gave her no rest,
Shadowed her shoulder, breathed on her streaming hair.
Her strength was gone, worn out by the long effort
Of the long flight; she was deathly pale, and seeing
The river of her father, cried “O help me,
If there is any power in the rivers,
Change and destroy the body which has given
Too much delight!” And hardly had she finished,
When her limbs grew numb and heavy, her soft breasts
Were closed with delicate bark, her hair was leaves,
Her arms were branches, and her speedy feet
Rooted and held, and her head became a tree top,
Everything gone except her grace, her shining.
Apollo loved her still. He placed his hand
Where he had hoped and felt the heart still beating
Under the bark; and he embraced the branches
As if they still were limbs, and kissed the wood,
And the wood shrank from his kisses, and the god
Exclaimed: “Since you can never be my bride,
My tree at least you shall be! Let the laurel
Adorn, henceforth, my hair, my lyre, my quiver:
Let Roman victors, in the long procession,
Wear laurel wreaths for triumph and ovation. (19-20)


XX
Boy. Dir. Adam Randall. Netflix, 2017.

Context (1): The Creative of Arts of Infrastructure

CIstudies.org Bibliography:
Design arts (e.g., Architecture) | Art & aesthetics | Photography | Fiction | Poetry

Art (example of perspective & post-perspective painting)

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Corinne Washmut

Corinne Washmut, Bibliotheque/CDG-BSL (2011)
Corinne Washmut, Bibliotheque/CDG-BSL (2011)

2012 Exhibit at the Petzel Gallery

Biblioteque/CDG-BSL
2011. Triptych: oil on wood mounted on aluminum; each panel (support): 83 x 95 inches (210.82 x 241.3 cm); overall: 83 x 285 inches (210.82 x 723.9 cm); Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York

Review of Wasmuht by Andreas Schlaegel for the Frieze Academy (2014)

Photography & Film

Edward Burtynsky

Michelangelo Antonioni, Red Desert (1964)

Fiction

Rubenstein, Michael, Bruce Robbins, and Sophia Beal. “Infrastructuralism: An Introduction.” MSF Modern Fiction Studies 61, no. 4 (2015): 575–86. https://doi.org/10.1353/mfs.2015.0049.
Wasserman, Sarah. “Ralph Ellison, Chester Himes, and the Persistence of Urban Forms.” PMLA 135, no. 3 (2020): 530–45. https://doi.org/10.1632/pmla.2020.135.3.530.

Pamela Lu, Ambient Parking Lot (2011)

Pamela Lu, Ambient Parking Lot (2011) (publisher's page for book)
Pamela Lu, Ambient Parking Lot (2011) (publisher’s page for book)

Commanding office hours there for the better part of the day, we plotted the emergence of a new cadence of parking—not just the parking lot but the hum of engines in idle, not just the cars in action but the action without the cars, the pure gestalt of parking itself. (7)

Like synthetic geologists, we marveled at the diverse materials in our environment…. (9)

We became one with the bus garages, auto dealer lots, and slick consumer parkades…. We got intimately acquainted with city street corners…. (12)

They didn’t budge and they rarely compromised. They identified so closely with their source that they were totally willing to disappear into it, to become as pavement-faced as their materials, to relinquish their authorship to the asphalt. (147)

We should have refrained from anthropomorphizing the parking lot and allowed it to express its natural state . . . Egoism has no place in endeavors of this scope and magnitude. (19)

One dancer’s performance in particular gave rise to intolerable feelings…. As she punched in the numbers, the space between her fingers, the phone, and the wreckage was filled in with ambience…. the living performer become a thing. (22-24)

I gave in to the chill….  god help me, I lifted myself out of the wreck.  (174-175)


That America coded in Inverarity’s testament, whose was that? She thought of other, immobilized freight cars, where the kids sat on the floor planking and sang back, happy as fat, whatever came over the mother’s pocket radio; of other squatters who stretched canvas for lean-tos behind smiling billboards along all the highways, or slept in junkyards in the stripped shells of wrecked Plymouths, or even, daring, spent the night up some pole in a lineman’s tent like caterpillars, swung among a web of telephone wires, living in the very copper rigging and secular miracle of communication, untroubled by the dumb voltages flickering their miles, the night long, in the thousands of unheard messages. (Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49)

Poetry

Jennifer Scappettone, The Republic of Exit 43: Outtakes & Scores from an Archaeology and Pop-up Opera of the Corporate Dump (2016)

Jennifer Scappettone, The Republic of Exit 43 (2016)
“a verbal/visual archaeology of the hazardous waste sites across the street from home and school, tucked behind the portal of an expressway: domains mute and seemingly inert. Composting Alice’s adventures underground, verse channels unearthed disputes surrounding a noxious landfill and adjoining copper rod mill through the throats of nether and overworlds, from Eurydice to CEOs—mining landscape as retribution, baffle, legal battle and real estate speculation, deregulation, rogue digging and pastoral pipe dreams on the part of the harmed. Amidst the stupefaction of innumerable private and state ruses, these pages lay out how the entrails of postwar industry might be reclaimed toward a music of non–consensual citizenship where poetry is unregulated and fully integral.”

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Mark Nowak, Coal Mountain Elementary (20o9)

Mark Nowak, Coal Mountain Elementary (2009)
“A singular, genre-defying treatise from one of America’s most innovative political poets, Coal Mountain Elementary remixes verbatim testimony from the surviving Sago, West Virginia miners and rescue teams, the American Coal Foundation’s curriculum for schoolchildren, newspaper accounts of mining disasters in China, and full-color photographs of Chinese miners by renowned photojournalist Ian Teh.”

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Muriel Rukeyser, A Book of the Dead (1938)

Muriel Rukeyser, The Book of the Dead, with foreword by Catherine Venable Moore (Morgantown: West Virginia University Press, 2018)
Muriel Rukeyser, The Book of the Dead, with foreword by Catherine Venable Moore (Morgantown: West Virginia University Press, 2018)

Context (2): Muriel Rukeyser’s The Book of the Dead (1938)

The Poet

The Hawk’s Nest Tunnel Disaster (1930-35)

  • House of Representatives Labor Subcommittee’s hearings, Jan. 16 to Feb. 4, 1936.

Genesis of the Poem (1936-1938)

  • Muriel Rukeyser and and Nancy Naumburg’s trip to locale in March 1936.
  • Muriel Rukeyser’s trip in 1936 as a correspondent to Moncada and Barcelona (arriving July 19) to cover The People’s Olympics at outbreak of Spanish Civil War (more info: ( 1  |  2 ).
  • Writing of The Book of the Dead, early summer through end of 1937.
  • Muriel Rukeyser, “Note,” at end of U.S. 1 (New York: Covici and Friede, 1938), the volume of her work in which The Book of the Dead was published:

The Book of the Dead will eventually be one part of a planned work, U.S. 1. This is to be a summary poem of the life of the Atlantic coast of this country, nourished by the communications which run down it. Gauley Bridge is inland, but it was created by theories, systems, and workmen from many coastal sections — factors which are, in the end, not regional or national. Local images have one kind of reality. U.S. 1 will, I hope, have that kind and another too. Poetry can extend the document.

Spanish Civil War, Barcelona, 1937

Erskine Caldwell and Margaret Bourke-White, You Have Seen Their Faces (1937) [photos]

Erskine Caldwell and Margaret Bourke-White, You Have Seen Their Faces (1937) (book cover)
Erskine Caldwell and Margaret Bourke-White, You Have Seen Their Faces (1937) (book cover)

James Agee and Walker Evans, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (1941) [photos]

James Agee and Walker Evans, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (1941) (book cover)
James Agee and Walker Evans, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (1941) (book cover)

Book of the Dead

Judgment (weighing) of the heart (Wikipedia)

Weighig (judgment) of the heart in the Egyptian Book of the Dead (Wikepedia)

Text used by Muriel Rukeyser: E. A. Wallis Budge, ed. and trans., The Egyptian Book of the Dead (1913; rpt. New York: University Books, 1960)

Reading Rukeyser’s The Book of the Dead

“About” Infrastructure

“Alloy” (The Book of the Dead — poem 15)

“Power” (poem 16)

“The Dam” (poem 17)


Medium & Form


Tim Dayton, Muriel Rukeyser’s “The Book of the Dead”

The documentary procedure in The Book of the Dead derives from many sources. The 1930s were, as a number of scholars have demonstrated, a decade in which the documentary form became extraordinarily powerful. On the Left, “reportage” was considered a major literary form. Simultaneously Ezra Pound showed that fr was possible to overcome the limitations of lyric poetry through the use of nonpoetic documents within poetic texts. A wide variety of cultural developments that led to a fascination with documentary form, and the motivations underlying these developments, are to some degree registered by The Book of the Dead.
spacerAs William Stott argues in his seminal Documentary Expression and Thirties America, the 1930s were virtually dominated by the documentary mode of communication, in part because the seeming directness and factualness of the documentary suited it both to the traditional American “cult of experience” (in the phrase of Philip Rahv) and to the more particular skepticism regarding the abstract and impalpable that was engendered in the public by the Great Depression. (62)

Closely related to the documentaries analyzed by Stott is the journalistic practice of reportage. Reportage as a technique of the Left was pioneered by John Reed and exemplified in highly influential form in his 1919 account of Russia’s October Revolution, Ten Days That Shook the World. By the 1930s reportage was a standard leftist journalistic mode, and the flagship anthology Proletarian Literature in the United States (1935), edited by the leading literary figures of the Communist party, featured fifty pages of reportage. The editors claimed that reportage was a literary form specially characteristic of the twentieth century, and one that “assumes greater importance as the tempo of this age increases.”

[Reportage] helps the reader experience the event recorded. Reportage is threedimensional reporting. The writer not only condenses reality, he must get his reader to see and feel the facts. The best writers of reportage do their editorializing via their artistry.
(63)


“Statement: Phillipa Allen” (poem 3)

“Praise of the Committee” (poem 6)

“The Disease After-Effects” (poem 18)

“The Bill” (poem 19)


Erskine Caldwell and Margaret Bourke-White, You Have Seen Their Faces (1937) [photos]

Erskine Caldwell and Margaret Bourke-White, You Have Seen Their Faces (1937) (book cover)
Erskine Caldwell and Margaret Bourke-White, You Have Seen Their Faces (1937) (book cover)

James Agee and Walker Evans, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (1941) [photos]

James Agee and Walker Evans, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (1941) (book cover)
James Agee and Walker Evans, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (1941) (book cover)

Muriel Rukeyser’s Map & Nancy Naumburg’s Photos of Hawk’s Nest Area

From Muriel Rukeyser, The Book of the Dead, with introduction by Catherine Venable Moore (Morgantown: West Virginia University Press, 2018) (Course password required)

“The Road” (poem 1)

“Gauley Bridge” (poem 4)


Genre


Tim Dayton, Muriel Rukeyser’s “The Book of the Dead”

p. 28
Original order of poems Poems sorted in Dayton’s generic scheme
“The Road”
“West Virginia”
“Statement: Philippa Allen”
“Gauley Bridge”
Introductory Poems
“The Road”
“West Virginia”
“Statement: Philippa Allen”
“Gauley Bridge”
“The Face of the Dam: Vivian Jones”
“Praise of the Committee”
“Mearl Blankenship”
“Absalom”
“The Disease”
“George Robinson: Blues”
Lyrical Monologues
“The Face of the Dam: Vivian Jones”
”Mearl Blankenship”
“Absalom”
“George Robinson: Blues”
“Juanita Tinsley”
“Arthur Peyton”
“Juanita Tinsley”
“The Doctors”
“The Cornfield”
“Arthur Peyton”
“Alloy”
Documentary Poems
“Praise of the Committee”
“The Disease”
“The Doctors”
“The Disease: After-Effects”
”The Bill”
“Power”
“The Dam”
“The Disease: After-Effects”
“The Bill”
Meditations
“The Cornfield”
“Alloy”
“Power”
“The Dam”
“The Book of the Dead” Coda
“The Book of the Dead”

“The Road” (poem 1)

“Mearl Blankenship” (poem 7)

“Absalom” (poem 8)

“George Robinson: Blues” (poem 10)

“Juanita Tinsley” (poem 11)

“Arthur Peyton” (poem 14)


Erskine Caldwell and Margaret Bourke-White, You Have Seen Their Faces (1937) [photos]

James Agee and Walker Evans, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (1941) [photos]


Rukeyser & Modernist Poetry


James George Frazer, The Golden Bough (1890–)

T. S. Eliot, The Waste Land (1922)

Ezra Pound, The Cantos (1925–)


Judgment


T. S. Eliot, The Waste Land (1922)

Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (c. 700 BCE)

Datta Give
Dayadhvam Have compassion
Damyata Control

“Absalom” (poem 8)

“The Book of the Dead” (poem 20)

“Of” Infrastructure

Pablo Picasso, Guernica (1937)

Pablo Picasso, Guernica (1937)
Pablo Picasso, Guernica (1937)

Sergei Eisenstein (dir.), Battleship Potemkin (1925)

Tim Drayton, Muriel Rukeyser’s The Book of the Dead

The Book of the Dead may be related to the poetic project of Brecht . . . insofar as it attempts to break with the self-enclosed quality of the modern lyrical subject. Brecht rejected the tradition of the lyric as it presented itself to him because it was unacceptably subjectivist in form, caught up within the dimensions of a somewhat fantastically isolated subjectivity. He attempted in his poetry to achieve something different from this, to create a speaking subject whose being derived from “the outside” as much as from “the inside”; or rather, a speaking subject in whom the interrelation of inside and outside would be dynamic and meaningful. By allowing the outside world, the world of historical experience, to have a meaningful place within lyrical speech, Brecht attempted to produce a poetry free from what he saw as the ideological character–and self-indulgence–of the modern lyric, which rendered it essentially conservative in character.  (2-3)