Intro To Graduate Studies, Poetry Blogs, Remix, Thesis, Translation

Today We Read Henry Louise Gates…

…”IMG_2945.jpgAnd it was honestly really interesting to think about how I could draw connections with the article for so many different papers/ideas.


I was thinking about this actually the night before class…so last night. At the very beginning of his article, Gates says his theory “is a theory of formal revisionism, it is tropological, it is often characterized by pastiche, and, most crucially, it turns on repetition of formal structures and their differences” (987).  I’m going to break that down and see if I can make this make sense.

When we break this definition down some it suddenly is less intimidating. 🙂 I promise. For starters. “Tropological.” Gate whole paper discusses tropes. So “tropological” is really just a fancy word for the study of tropes. Actually, the OED provides this fantastic definition Gates turns a little on its heels. OED says, “Designating or relating to an interpretation of Scripture which goes beyond the literal sense to find a figurative meaning, specifically one relating to conduct or morals. Hence (more generally): relating to morals; moral.” Gates doesn’t talk about the Bible, per se, but you can get the general, if we’re thinking about breaking formulas and traditions, why not do it with traditional definitions of words, right? Or something like that…

Good. One word down. More to go…

Pastiche. Um, one guy in my class forgot the word and said something about a….”pistachio” he mumbled. Nope. Pastiche isn’t a pistachio. Nice try. But wrong. IT’S really pistachio ice cream that HAS TURNED, as Mater from Cars 2 (and being a lover of Japan, that scene in which he mistakes wasabi for “pistachio ice cream” never fails to make me laugh. But that’s beside the point..) Pastiche. Okay it’s a French word. First use in 1677 in reference to paintings and 1787 in reference to literature. But it’s basically “a work, esp. of literature, created in the style of someone or something else; a work that humorously exaggerates or parodies a particular style” (OED). Gates uses it (and a very common connotation of pastiche is) its relationship with black, African American parody/humor. Artists combine different styles and elements. (And it’s not a negative noun/adjective.)

By now you should see how I was thinking about remix when I was reading this sentence. Remix takes different components from various mediums, genres, works, themes, people, political and religious convictions and combines them in ways that break the traditional formula. As a result, the original work changes meaning slightly and the artists creates a whole new work. The new text carries with it all the different, historical meanings of the old work, and then juxtaposes them together in such a way that the new work usually gives a whole new meaning. Sometimes I like remixed art, and other times I really think that arts ruined the original for me. Regardless of my personal opinions of remix, and I do have them!, remix definitely is a perfect example of pastiche, I think! {And, I’m always happy when I think of a real life example of the theory and then the teacher brings up the same exact example. It’s a small validation in my day. 🙂 }

Oh, and the rest of that sentence…I think you can figure it because I kind of combined it all in that last paragraph. Remixers take traditional formulas and twists them. Not too much otherwise the new work won’t make any sense. But just enough so that that reader/view seems something vaguely familiar and also shockingly new (hopefully it’s a pleasant shocking and not an unpleasant one!)

Poetry blogs.

Of course. You knew I’d connect this with poetry blogs. I have to. Poetry blogs are in themselves a sort of remixed way of writing and publishing poetry. So there’s that.

But I was also thinking of this in terms of the signifier and the signified. Gates says “The Afro-American rhetorical strategy of signifying is a rhetorical act that is not engaged in the game of information giving. Signifying turns on the play and chain of signifiers, and not on the supposedly transcendent signified” (989). If you know Saussure, don’t think about his use of Signifying/Signified/Signifier because that’s not really how Gates uses them.

Okay. Gates is saying works don’t have any transcendent meaning. That means they don’t have any absolutes or Truths. “One is signified upon by the signifier” (989). In this way, bloggers are signifiers. And their posts are the signified.

If you flip two pages over to page 991, Gates says, “[Zora Neal] Hurston is the first author of the tradition to represent signifying itself as a vehicle of liberation for an oppressed woman, as as a rhetorical strategy in the narration of fiction.” Now, this part really stood out because I’ve previously research how blogging can help oppressed woman feel supported and empowered. Immediately I made the connection between this passage and poetry blogging. Is blogging a signifying act because bloggers relate their experiences? Bloggers then become the signifiers.

I really don’t know what importance this has on anything, but it was interesting to think about and discuss in class.


This is the last section I want to talk about tonight. Ironically, this is  really what I want to focus on, so be prepared for more on this in the near future. I’m interested in this because of my thesis. I’m looking at autobiographies/memoirs written by internationals/immigrants whose L2 is English. And one of the things I’m studying is how writing in English as an L2 loses meaning. I’m wondering if part of the authors depth of meaning  might be lost because there are things that they could really only communicate best in their L1. Anyways, on page 994, Gates says “Ellison’s stress upon ‘the unwritten dictionary of American Negro usage’ reminds us of the problem of definitions, or significations itself, when one is translating between two languages.” How interesting and fascinating! I think that they (Ellison and Gates) definitely have a point there. Idioms change in each culture. Obviously words have different connotations, culture and religion affect/influence one’s use and understanding of words…all of these things. I’m interested in studying this part of the essay–the sociolinguistic implications of Gates article. Meaning gets lost in translation. It’s true.

Well….those are my thoughts. It’s late. The papers need to be written. The books need to be read. The passive voice needs to be avoided. This grad student needs sleep. And she must write without “to be” verbs, “that,” “dead pronouns,” “dangling modifiers,” and the whole rest of that Christmas wish list her professors tirelessly tells the whole class. (I sure hope they never read this blog! It breaks all those rules!) 😳



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