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Class Recap: The Master's Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master's House

Lorde standing in front of a blackboard that reads, "Women are powerful and dangerous"

For today's English Composition 1 class, we read June Jordan's "Poem About My Rights," and two essays by Audre Lorde from Sister Outsider, "Poetry is Not a Luxury" and "The Master's Tools." We began by reading and responding to one another's posts to the Blackboard discussion question for the week, "What should we be writing about right now?" Then we moved on to read Jordan's poem, first to ourselves, and then reading along while listening to Jordan read it. We discussed the sound of her voice--students described her voice as "grounded," "frustrated," "authentic" and "calm"--and then how Jordan breaks away from typical traditions in poetry (meter, rhyming, and other limiting structures) to express herself in her own voice, effectively discarding the "master's tools" to write poetry that is "my own my own my own." 

We then moved on to discuss Audre Lorde's essays, intersectionality, how patriarchy oppresses both men and women, and the sociopolitical importance of poetic expression, especially how poetry can be a bridge to new imaginaries and futures that are equitable and just. One thing I'm realizing (it was true when teaching in person and is even more true when teaching online) is it's better to pick shorter readings so we can go into more depth, and, if need be, we can read them together on the spot when folx don't have time to read them on their own.

Students picked sentences from Lorde's essays that stuck out to them and then shared and discussed their sentences in breakout rooms of 3-4 students. Students picked a spokesperson for each group to summarize what was discussed during group work. After 5 minutes, we all came back and those spokespersons shared what they talked about, generating a fruitful class-wide discussion. It was lovely and empowering.

Students chose these sentences:

“They [the master’s tools] may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change” (112).

“As women, we have been taught either to ignore our differences, or to view them as causes for separation and suspicion rather than as forces for change” (112).

“For Women the need and desire to nurture each other, is not pathological but redemptive, and it is within that knowledge that our real power is rediscovered” (111).

"Difference must not be merely tolerated, but seen as a fund of necessary polarities between which our creativity can spark like a dialectic" (111).

''Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought. The farthest horizons of our hopes and fears are cobbled by our poems, carved from the rock experiences of our daily lives'' (37).

“they may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change” (112).

"...the women who clean your houses and attend your children while you attend conferences on feminist theory, are and for the most part, poor and third world women? What is the theory behind racist feminism?” (112).

"The white fathers told us: I think, therefore I am. The black mother within each of us -the poet- whispers in our dreams: I feel, therefore I can be free" (38).

"Women of today are still being called upon to stretch across upon the gap of male ignorance and to educate men as to our existence and our needs" (111).

"Possibility is neither forever nor instant.It is not easy sustain belief in its efficacy" (38).

"It is in the knowledge of the genuine conditions of our lives that we must draw our strength to live and our reasons for acting" (113).

“Difference is that raw and powerful connection from which our person power is forged” (2).

“For Women the need and desire to nurture each other, is not pathological but redemptive, and it is within that knowledge that our real power is rediscovered" (111).

“As women, we have been taught either to ignore our differences, or to view them as causes for separation and suspicion rather than as forces for change" (112).

Next week we will be discussing Ursula Le Guin's Introduction to her book, The Left Hand of Darkness. Then students will be introducing themselves here on our HASTAC Group with their "cover letter" assignments. Stay tuned!

Photo credit: The Macaulay Messenger

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