Spring 2012

“When We Dead Awaken”:
Writing as Re-Vision, an excerpt

Re-vision—the act of looking back, of seeing with fresh eyes, of entering an old text from a new critical direction—is for women more than a chapter in cultural history: it is an act of survival. Until we can understand the assumptions in which we are drenched we cannot know ourselves. And this drive to self-knowledge, for women, is more than a search for identity: it is part of our refusal of the self-destructiveness of male-dominated society. A radical critique of literature, feminist in its impulse, would take the work first of all as a clue to how we live, how we have been living, how we have been led to imagine ourselves, how our language has trapped well as liberated us, how the very act of naming has been till now a male prerogative, and how we can begin to see and name—and therefore live—afresh. A change in the concept of sexual identity is essential if we are not going to see the old political order reassert it-self in every new revolution. We need to know the writing of the past, and know it differently than we have ever known it; not to pass on a tradition but to break its hold over us.

For writers, and at this moment for women writers in particular, there is the challenge and promise of a whole new psychic geography to be explored. But there is also a difficult and dangerous walking on the ice, as we try to find language and images for the consciousness we are just coming into, and with little in the past to support us. I want to talk about some aspect of this difficulty and this danger.



The player will show in this paragraph

"Tri Suyati Speaks Mandarin" by Jeannie Simms.                                                                
A woman who has been living inside a maid training agency in Java Indonesia for a year, while waiting to be placed with a family in Taiwan, recites some things she has learned to say in Mandarin, the language women are trained to speak for their future work. Using improvisation and phrases she's learned in the classroom, Tri Suyati speaks about the labor she'll provide and the relationship she'll have with her "boss."