Saturday, May 31, 2008

dear reader

This morning, she and I are talking, like we enjoy doing so much. She's on her way to run while it's still 72 degrees Fahrenheit this Texas morning. I'm sitting here looking at a friend's note on a draft of my dissertation: "My favorite passage," he's rather generously noted. So, rather randomly, I throw it out into our conversation:

"My thesis is this: Translations of Aristotle's Rhetoric have been ostensibly faithful to Aristotle's authorial intentions; but a feminist translation shows that rhetoric is translational and feminist, even when Aristotle intends to theorize it, to define it, otherwise. Something like that. Sure, I define feminism in opposition to sexism, but I'm undefining definition as something more than mere opposition and binary. Feminism is not just the avoidance of sexism; it is the voicing of the unvoiced. It it the translating of the untranslated. It is the speaking of the speakeresque. . . So, to be very clear, the feminist translating does not reverse the sexism in the text, but rather it opens the text up to alternate readings not constrained by a sexist intention, a masculinist logic, or an elitist's language."

She replies by saying she'd picked up a couple of books I bought for our daughter and suspects they suffer from the Donna Jo Syndrome. Anne Lamott and Donald Miller don't so suffer, she says. And she explains more as I impatiently keep demanding that she get to the point. Donna Jo, one of our good friends, uses more words than she needs to. Oh, I reply. I'm thinking something else to myself but not saying it to her: that in Bird by Bird Lamott herself advises writing shoddy drafts. It's actually the writer's word that sort of rhymes with shoddy. I'm writing one bird after another here, and when someone writes in the margin that it's a "favorite," well. Okay. Yes, and who has to read this stuff anyway? Four professors on a dissertation committee, people who make their living professing things like classical rhetoric and feminist rhetorics and writing tutorial theory & practice and new testament greek and feminism. So I return to talking with her, to listening to her, and she's saying, she this best friend of mine who makes her living by writing professionally and winning awards and cash prizes, that she will be back soon before it gets to be 74 degrees Fahrenheit, on this Texas morning. I pledge to run our dog, named Bear, to the Trinity River, just as soon as she gets back.

And I go back to that friend who'd written the "favorite" comment. He'd asked, "Why, if it's a methodology--in addition to being activism--does it have to be called 'feminism'?" It doesn't, I want to say. And he's gone on, "Why the 'fem' when both men and women can employ the methods?" To which I say (to myself), "Yes, Why?" But "fem" I remember is no simple abstraction. "Feminism," I say, "who defines that? Who gets to say what the Feminine is? Now, tell me about your mother. Simply now, please define her for us. Write a dissertation."

She's back. It's after 8am and up to 74 degrees of Texas heat. She remembers talking with our daughters when they were out together last night, "I meant to tell you." One of them has told her (the one who just graduated elementary school), "Our class is R-rated," which translated means that there's some profound promiscuity going on. "But Jake [one of the boys] texted Susan [one of the girls in class] from Arizona saying that he's thinking of turning his life over to Jesus. Isn't that weird." She tells me that she asks our daughter, "Why is that weird?" And our day moves on. I'm going to run that dog, Bear, to the Trinity.

So I write to you now, dear reader. What sense does that make?

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