I just got out of my Trans- Poetics class with the always fabulous Rebekah Edwards. We are examining two bodies of work, Transgender Theory/Studies and Translation Theory, and discovering how they inform each other and create new meanings.
This is shaping up to be an amazing experience, with a bunch of beautiful minds. We discussed Susan Holbrook’s essay, “Lifting Bellies, Filling Petunias, and Making Meaning through the Trans- Poetic” about the trans- moments Gertrude Stein’s poem “Lifting Belly,” and Clare Sears’ “Electric Brilliancy: Cross-Dressing Law and Freak Show Displays in Nineteenth-Century San Francisco,” against one of our readings last week, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s “The Politics of Translation.” My focused interest for the last few weeks has been the way bodies interpret other bodies (bodies meaning not just people but groups of people and institutions, as well as the body as something separate from the self), or translate aesthetic. In these pieces, especially the Sears one, we discussed the way the private/public dichotomy, gender norms, racism, nationalism, and bodies policing bodies all connect, and how these might relate to “trans-ing,” a term we will work towards defining all semester.
Rebekah schooled us on the Ugly Laws, which appeared in many cities across the U.S. in the early 1900’s, policing what kinds of bodies were allowed to be in “public display” and what kinds were “unsightly.” A fellow classmate, L., mentioned something very spot-on in relation to the interpretation of the law and the translation process from written word to punitive action: “[this law thing acts as an example/makes visible] the instability of meaning that creates space for trans-ing.”
For this class, we are also supposed to have a weekly blog with rotating roles. This week I wrote an integration of Sears’ and Holbrook’s texts. If you want to read that, and the description of my 30-day praxis, see below.