Stephanie L. Newman
Our courses offer well-informed readings of literature with racist undertones, and we have developed thoughtful methods for discussing post-colonialism, anti-Semitism, classism, even sexism—but not, it seems, sexual violence. Rape should be included in the ranks of literary complexities most deserving of attention.
In her poem “Questions of Travel,” Elizabeth Bishop asks, “What childishness is it that while there’s a breath of life / in our bodies, we are determined to rush / to see the sun the other way around?” I boarded a plane to South America last Thursday with Bishop’s poem in my canvas bag.
Periods, commas, and colons are the fine-edged tools writers need to contour the voice they want the world to hear. When we treat writing not only as a structure of pages, paragraphs, sentences, and words, but also as a patchwork of punctuation marks, reality can celebrate for having another level of gradation revealed through language.
Was this reality? I could almost feel Kafka’s Coliseum rising up around Aurora as though summoned from the author’s literary depths. I began to grasp that in our historical moment, a shooter can costume himself as a superhero villain and blast Batman fans with ammunition.