So I had my second experience with a Texas "beer barn" last night. Only this one was made out of brick and wasn't called that. I think it was trying to be a little more classy, but it was definitely a beer barn. I can't remember who I went with the first time. Frankie? We asked my ma if she wanted anything and she requested a "mid-range chianti". Classic. The guy at the beer barn didn't know what chianti was.
So I spent the evening getting pissed on red wine and watching The Importance of Being Earnest. Around midnight, my aunt and I realized we hadn't eaten, so we went to Taco Bueno. Steph would be proud, and I was too. Stayed up till two talking about all the heathen kind of things we can't discuss any other time.
Now I'm sitting here sipping on redbush chai and trying to ignore my growling stomach, because I'm too lazy to forage something for lunch.
I think it's going to be a good week.
Emily Dickinson’s Master Letters stand out within her body of work for me.
One of the most difficult things about discussions of oppression is the challenge of finding a name for the oppressor. The Master Letters complicate this issue. In her essay “The Power of Discourse and the Subordination of the Feminine,” Luce Irigaray discusses the complications of the female voice. She conducts an interview with herself about the issues of feminine discourse that are important to her work in her book The Sex Which is Not One. Her understanding of language in relation to women – both the voice of tradition and what happens when woman speaks – is helpful in beginning to dismantle the particular female voice in
Irigaray writes, “The important thing, of course, is that no one should know who has deprived [women], or why, and that ‘nature’ be held accountable” (Irigaray 71). We have no record of to whom, or what, these letters are addressed, other than the title of the Master, who, in pronoun form, is sometimes referred to as “you”, “he” and sometimes, as “it”. The struggle to assign the identity of the Master to an individual is working in an opposite direction with regards to the Master Letters. Isolating this text as being related to a single person would negate the power this text has in relation to tradition and to society. Irigaray writes:
[The interpretation of] women’s sufferings, their symptoms, their dissatisfactions, in terms of their individual histories, without questioning the relationship of their “pathology” to a certain state of society, of culture. As a result, he generally ends up resubmitting women to the dominant discourse of their father, to the law of the father, while silencing their demands. (Irigaray 70)
By attempting to assign the Master Letters to one addressee, we are seeking a personal reason for
Oh – did I offend it –
Daisy – Daisy – offend it – who
bends her smaller life to
his (it’s), meeker (lower) every day –
Since the Master Letters are drafts of a final product, we have the unique privilege of viewing
but must she go un-
pardoned – teach her grace – (preceptor)
teach her majesty --
Low at the knee that bore
her once unto (wordless) rest,
a culprit – tell her
her fault – Master –
if it is small
eno to cancel with
her life, she is satisfied –
The inherent deification of the male necessitates the withdrawal of female exuberance in order to operate, or be read, within the established order.
who only asks – a task –
something to do for
love of it – some little way
she cannot guess to make
that master glad --
And from the third:
I want to see you – Sir –
than all I wish for in
this world – and the wish –
altered a little – will be my
only one – for the skies –
If one aspect of the Master Letters may be sequestered as an example of the definite and intentional undermining of tradition, it is her use of grammar and punctuation.
that is enough – I
shall not want any
more – and all that
(only) disappoint me – (because) will be
it’s not so dear
Structurally, it seems
The reason for the curiosity that surrounds the Master Letters is precisely the reason they are so useful in dismantling ideas of the female voice: the letters have no context. If a recipient of the letters was discovered, not only would we be able to dismiss Dickinson’s undertaking as personal rather than a reaction to a tradition, but we would also have a storyline to follow – a narrative. What we would have would be a reason -- an explanation for the letters, a means of justification, a way of making sense out of them. In order to question the established system of language while using language, we have to stop making sense. Irigaray writes, “If [reversal] is to be practiced for every meaning posited – for every word, utterance, sentence, but also of course for every phoneme, every letter — we need to proceed in such a way that linear reading is no longer possible” (Irigaray 80).Dickinson’s interrupted grammar, combined with a lack of context, serves to disrupt our ability to make linear sense of the letters. It is not only impossible to dismiss the letters as merely personal, it is also impossible to dismiss the letters as fictional. We may not read them as we read stories, and so they have to be acknowledged as something else. They have to be acknowledged.
One of the most fascinating elements of the Master Letters is that
The “matter” from which the speaking subject draws nourishment in order to produce itself, to reproduce itself; the scenography that makes representation feasible ... its actors, their respective positions, their dialogues, indeed their tragic relations, without overlooking the mirror, most often hidden, that allows the logos, the subject to reduplicate itself, to reflect itself by itself. All these are inventions on the scene; they ensure its coherence so long as they remain uninterpreted. Thus they have to be reenacted, in each figure of discourse, in order to shake discourse away from its mooring in the value of “presence.” (Irigaray 75)
Women have historically playacted, or been reduced to, certain roles in relation to men and to the world. Society operates on the notion of certain people playing certain parts, without the option of self-representation. Irigaray is arguing that in order to disrupt this operation, the roles need to be reenacted and interrupted, which is precisely what
If you saw a bullet
hit a Bird – and he told you
he wasn’t shot – you might weep
at his courtesy, but you would
certainly doubt his word –
One drop more from the gash
that stains your Daisy’s
bosom – then would you believe?
In this opening passage from the second master letter,
We have had to go back to [philosophical discourse] in order to try to find out what accounts for the power of its systematicity, the force of its cohesion, the resourcefulness of its strategies, the general applicability of its law and its value. That is, its position of mastery and of potential reappropriation of the various productions of history. (Irigaray 74)
By assuming the voice, the role of Daisy,
To play with mimesis is thus, for a woman, to try to recover the place of her exploitation by discourse, without allowing herself to be simply reduced to it. It means to resubmit herself – inasmuch as she is on the side of the “perceptible,” of “matter” – to “ideas,” in particular to ideas about herself, that are elaborated in/by a masculine logic, but so as to make “visible,” by an effect of playful repetition, what was supposed to remain invisible: the cover-up of a possible operation of the feminine in language. (Irigaray 76)
By taking on the role of Daisy,
And so, suddenly, Daisy speaks.
What modification would this process, this society, undergo, if women, who have been only objects of consumption or exchange, necessarily aphasic, were to become “speaking” subjects as well? Not, of course, in compliance with the masculine, or more precisely the phallocratic, “model.” (Irigaray 85)
Whether the Master Letters were specifically addressed to an individual or not, they were rightly placed in the drawer of
To speak of or about woman may always boil down to, or be understood as, a recuperation of the feminine within a logic that maintains it in repression, censorship, nonrecognition. ... They should not put it, then, in the form “What is woman?” but rather, repeating/interpreting the way in which, within discourse, the feminine finds itself defined as lack, deficiency, or as imitation and negative image of the subject, they should signify that with respect to this logic a disruptive excess is possible on the feminine side. (Irigaray 78)