Grimm is about right

To start:

“Consider a monologue describing in sequence all of an individual’s recollections. It would sound as a meaningless cacophony even to the narrator.” (Trouillot 15)

As I was reading Heart of Darkness, I came to realize that the whole book can be described (sort of) with this quote from Silencing the Past. I say “sort of” because I don’t think that Heart of Darkness is meaningless or cacophonous; just hard to understand. I think I can say that because I’ve read it twice (third read in progress) and I’m still not too sure of it.

(I also have to admit that I didn’t flag the quote while reading Silencing the Past, and I had to search for it on Amazon. I guess that “events otherwise significant to the life trajectory were not known to the individual at the time of the occurrence” (15)).

I remember Jon saying in lecture for Black Skin/White Masks that if Fanon handed that in as an Arts One essay, he’d probably get a B-. Well, if Conrad handed in Heart of Darkness as a creative writing project in, say, high school, he probably wouldn’t get a very good grade because it’s so strongly stream-of-consciousness. (Then again, I’m sort of a lowballer when it comes to marks…)

The narration also struck me as very Frankensteinian (Shelleyan?) – guy on a boat meets another guy, second guy tells long and scary story. Although I do think Mary Shelley uses the narrative device in a way that’s easier to understand than Conrad. Hannah said something like this about Foucault before, but it’s just hard to understand what’s going on when paragraphs span whole pages and then some. I can’t remember if Shelley had the same ridiculously long paragraphs going on – but if she did, she must have done something differently.

Final thought:

“Two women, one fat and the other slim, sat on straw-bottomed chairs, knitting black wool.” (75)

One of my most distinct memories from English 10 is of Madam Defarge, knitting (not that I ever actually saw her knitting as opposed to just reading about it). When I read this part in Heart of Darkness, I asked myself (and wrote down) – when are fictional knitters ever good news? It’s not just Madame Defarge. You have the Fates in Percy Jackson, who knit huge blue socks (although in the myth, the Fates are weavers). See?

Now that I think about it, though, I guess there are some fictional knitters who end up being all right. For example, one of my favourite stories as a child was Hans Christian Andersen’s The Wild Swans, which is about a girl whose brothers are turned into swans, and to turn them back, she has to knit them sweaters from thorns. (I know Wikipedia says that they’re shirts of stinging nettle, but how I remember it is close enough, I guess. I actually seem to remember it as the girl having to make the sweaters using thorns as knitting needles…but whatever.) There’s another very similar fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm, if you’re interested.

(Since some of you apologize for your blog post titles, sorry for mine.)

I’m not sure how much longer I can stand the constant vacillation between warm/cold and sunny/rainy. Thanks for reading, everyone.


Gathered up

I put off this post because I haven’t found anything to say about the book.

Well, I guess I can start with Freud.

“Examine diligently, therefore, all the faculties of your soul: memory, understanding, and will. Examine with precision all your senses as well. . . . Examine, moreover, all your thoughts, every word you speak, and all your actions. Examine even unto your dreams, to know if, once awakened, you did not give them your consent. And finally, do not think that in so sensitive and perilous a matter as this, there is anything trivial or insignificant.” (20)

I tagged it with Freud mostly because the dream-analysis part caught my attention, but in typing out the full quote, I realized it was closer to a description of introspection. Which is weird now, because when I was actually taking PSYC 101 I never really thought about the similarities between Freud and introspection. Probably because I hadn’t read Dora then.

I like how the first part of the book is called “We “Other Victorians”". As in, even though their opinions regarding sexuality are different, they’re still Victorians. The question of what defines an era goes back to what Miranda said about how eras are made sense of in retrospect in the Lyrical Ballads lecture and the ensuing discussion in seminar.

Foucault concerns himself a lot with what I tagged in my notes as a “legislation” of sex (37) – literally, but I was also referring to how he seems to dislike comprehensive descriptions/explanations of sex. He also draws a line between sexuality and sex in his discussion, which I found interesting (54, 114).

I also like that he didn’t use, as I said in my last blog post, the random justification (at least, not to the extent that Rousseau uses it). Maybe just because his discussion is more limited, with a focus on history like the Industrial Revolution, and not Rousseau’s brand of pre-history. Checking against my seminar notes now, we discussed Foucault in our Silencing the Past seminars and how Foucault doesn’t discuss the “provenance of power” and talks about history without being a historian (just like Trouillot). Again, now that I’ve remembered this, it’s weird that the books that have something to do with Silencing the Past are the ones I really am “decidedly neutral” (again) about. Maybe because I haven’t really considered in the past whether or not I’ve liked most of the books, and only recently have I started to do that.

See? Not much to say. Thanks for reading, everyone.


[Edited for spacing.]

Glass and history

1. From page 88:

“In 1791, there is no public debate on the record, in France, in England, or in the United States on the right of black slaves to achieve self-determination, and the right to do so by way of armed resistance.”

What does Trouillot mean by “self-determination” here? I ask because I always thought of it as more of a 20th century term.

2. On page 95, Trouillot discusses scientific racism. I don’t really know how to phrase this as a question. I just think it might be interesting to discuss the history of using science to legitimize bigotry.

3. From page 10:

“Historians had long questioned the veracity of some of the events in Alamo narratives, most notably the story of the line on the ground….Texas historians, and especially Texas-based authors of textbooks and popular history, long concurred that this particular narrative was only “a good story”, and that “it doesn’t really matter whether it is true or not.”

(The footnote to that segment is on page 158.)

There seems to be some shift in the meaning of “historian” in this paragraph. What is it exactly, and what does it say about Trouillot’s stance on the matter?

4. To what extent does Trouillot use narrative techniques to discuss the use of narrative techniques in recording history?

5. From page 142:

History did not need to be mine in order to engage me. It just needed to relate to someone, anyone. It could not just be The Past. It had to be someone’s past.”

Can history exist without being related to the present?


The ending story reminded me on the first read of this. I couldn’t have been the only one.

Oh, and – the copyright information at the front of the book misspells his name as “Michel-Ralph Trouillot”. Thanks for reading, everyone.