Henry Miller’s 11 Commandments for Writing

Henry Miller Ravishing his New Bride, linocut print by John Steins

As we all approach that time of the semester when we begin term papers, finish our theses, or balance both at the same time, it can often feel like we just need someone to tell us what to do to make it through.  Henry Miller’s 11 Commandments for Writing may not say exactly how to get that research paper done in a today, but they do give some consoling advice.  Namely, “Keep human! See people, go places, drink if you feel like it.” And “Don’t be a draught-horse! Work with pleasure only.” Working with pleasure often seems like a difficult task when all of your professors ask for a paper at the same time and you find yourself making the library your new abode, but remember to “Discard the program when you feel like it.”  Don’t drive yourself crazy.  “But go back to it next day.  Narrow down. Exclude.”  Even while working hard, a little taking care of yourself goes a long way.


The feminist librarians of New York present: the Feminist Zinefest 2012


Endless Bummer, ink on paper, Kate Wadkins

Barnard may have one of the best feminist zine collections in the city, but this past Saturday the 2012 NYC Feminist Zinefest surely surpassed that little shelf in the Wolman Library. A showcase of visual artists, poets, journal writers, social critics, comic writers, and other feminists who write and publish zines, the Zinefest featured a wide array of zine authors – but all with a feminist bend.  According to the Zinefest’s website, a zine is “like a small, pocket-sized emissary of ideas.”  It is a medium that puts us in touch with the contemporary feminist discourse outside of academia and outside of the world of publishing – it is the blog before its time and the last of modes of expression in print in our digital age.

And after all, what could be more feminist than an open forum for fellow voices in the artistic, literary, and activist world?

Check out the awesome designer/photographer Kate Wadkins and Barnard’s own Jenna Freedman, both featured at the Zinefest

Speaking of dance… Huppenthal dances around accusations of book banning

“All things in common nature should produce

Without sweat or endeavor: treason, felony,

Sword, pike, knife, gun, or need of any engine,

Would I not have; but nature should bring forth,

Of its own kind, all foison, all abundance,

To feed my innocent people.”  – William Shakespeare, The Tempest

Most of you have heard by now about the Tucson book ban – the Tucson Unified School District’s removal of seven books from the State’s curriculum.  Among these books are Critical Race Theory, The History of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, and Rethinking Columbus.  I don’t know about you, but I’ve been openly opposed to book banning since about 9th grade, when I first read Fahrenheit 451.  Even Mein Kampf has literary value as a record of the reasoning behind one of the most evil minds of modern times.

The story of the banning, in a nutshell, is that Arizona Superintendent for Public Instruction, John Huppenthal, “suspended” the books according to state law ARS 15-122, which prohibits teachers from using materials that  “(1) Promote overthrowing the U.S. government; (2) Promote resentment towards a race or class of people; (3) Are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic race; and (4) Advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.”  Shakespeare’s The Tempest is permitted, under the condition that teachers do not mention that the native on the island are “oppressed” or that the enslavers are “oppressors.”  As Susan Shown Harjo, a Cheyenne poet, columnist, and policy advocate claims in her article on the ban in Indian Country Today, “Huppenthal is sensitive about words related to oppressor,” which he traces back to The Communist Manifesto.  Although, as Harjo points out, the word “oppressor” does not date back to The Communist Manifesto, it “is Middle English, deriving from Old French and Latin; in Karl Marx’s German, it’s unterdrucker.” Huppenthal also claims that no books have been banned – “Teachers may continue to use materials in their classroom as appropriate for the course curriculum.  The Tempest and other books approved for the curriculum are still viable for the curriculum.”  Thing is, as of now, those seven not-really-banned books have not been approved by the curriculum police.  “Because words are important,” writes Harjo, “let’s just call the stored books banned.”

See also this video of Noam Chomsky, famed linguist, philosophy, and self-proclaimed anarchist, on the banning.

Animate Education

RSA, or the Royal Society for the encouragement of the Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, defines itself as an enlightenment organization for the 21st century.  Like TED talks, it is an intellectual hub that supports research and debates about “the future prospects of the human race.” Sir Ken Robinson’s Changing Education Paradigms raises many important questions regarding the future of public education across the world (mainly, “How do we educate our children to take place in the economies of the 21st century?”), but its main interest to me is its presentation.  RSAnimate uses a media not generally utilized in academia – animation.  The continual unfolding of Robinson’s narrative, audibly and visually, facilitates memory and understanding, as well as the pleasure of hearing a story as it progresses.

Most of us know that everyone learns differently.  We’ve heard about visual learners and tactile learners, but our education system is nonetheless centered on one type of learning, especially at more advanced levels.  In college, most history professors don’t consider acting out the arrival of the pilgrims in class as I did in elementary school, or having students render the fall of the twin towers in a poem as my 6th grade social studies teacher did shortly after 9/11.  These activities were not only fun – they made me enthusiastic about learning.  RSAnimate brings some of that creativity and enthusiasm into the world of professional academia.  It makes me wonder – could “academic ability,” as Robinson calls it, be more effectively harnessed if lessons were still playful in a college setting?