Poetry Foundation’s Harriet the Blog has the honor and pleasure of hosting a regular online column with poet and professor Barbara Jane Reyes, who’s latest poets speaks truth to power, breaking silence and representation while giving a shout out to Pinay voices, including yours truly.
Do your soul a favor, and check out her words and Pinay works:
As an author, I’ve been very uncomfortable, being expected to “represent” an entire community. Some years back, as a guest speaker in Willie Perdomo‘s VONA workshop, Building the Poetry Manuscript, I was asked by one Pinay student what that felt like, being a Pinay expected to “represent.” I told her I disliked it; though I think my work can be resonant and relevant to a Filipina American experience, it’s my own take on that wildly divergent thing. Moreover, something I’ve known since I was young, something to which my parents can attest, is that I am never the Pinay that people expect Pinays to be.
This year’s 18th Annual Associated Core Texts & Courses Conference, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, sponsored by Carthage College, and focusing on the theme: “Liberal Arts Education and the World: Inquiring into, Preparing for, and Living in the Real World through Core Texts” took place 29 March through 1 April at The Hilton Milwaukee City Center Hotel, where I presented with the following panel
“Conrad, Ellison, and Narrative Structure:
Blending Critical Thought and Student Engagement”
Aaron P. Smith, Marian University of Fond du Lac, “Authentic Self-Existence for the Visibly Marginalized;” Lamiaa Youssef, Norfolk State University, “Narrative Lenses and the Journey toward Self-Knowledge;” Justin Ponder, Marian University, “A Walking Personification of the Negative: Listening to Stories in Invisible Man;” Rashaan Meneses, Saint Mary’s College of California, “We’re All ‘Others’ Now: Revisiting Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness in the Age of Post-post-colonialism.”
Chair: Jean-Marie Kauth, Benedictine University
Some of the speakers and panels that caught my attention were the following:
Robert Gurval, Department of Classics, University of California, Los Angeles: “Harmony and Homer on the Pearl River Delta: The Foundations of a New Liberal Arts in China”-
China is looking at Western liberal arts colleges to help shape their higher education though instead of calling their undergraduate core curriculum “general education” they’ve opted to use the term “gateway education” to indicate that students are beginning the path to learning
self in search of self
self as social institutions
Liberal Studies as training for life
introduce poetry first as foundation to politics, which is the gateway to political and economic theory
From the panel, “The Function of Core Texts and Their Programs,” Nicholas D. Leither, Saint Mary’s College of California, “Skepticism Destroyed Their Paradise: Generative Thinking and and ‘Believing’ in the Text”-
argues that students lose innocence in college when they’re taught to become the skeptic
more often than not in the classroom creative thinking isn’t valued, nor seeing several POV’s simultaneously
Rational thinking limits
“When we take a critical approach, we forget to believe.”
Critical versus generative, students need to take a leap of faith
From the panel, “Concepts of the Self in East and West,” Yaqun Zhang, Xiamen University “Confucius’ Gentleman Personality and Its Influence on Academic Education”
education as a cultural mission
educating students to let them know they are part of a a social and civic commitment
seeking harmony not sameness
having a sense of appropriate conduct
From my own panel on Conrad and Ellison, Aaron P. Smith Marian University of Fond du Lac, “Authentic Self-Existence for the Visibly Marginalized” (concerning Ellison’s Invisible Man)
one must have existence to become authentic, meta-alienation
alienation requires confrontation
those who create new values need an audience to receive
This year’s conference not only emphasized true and vigorous cultural exchange between the U.S. and China since ACTC has been collaborating with Chinese universities to help shape their curriculum, but another important theme emphasized again and again was inter-disciplinary exchange and pairing texts that weren’t so obvious on the surface, but in comparing say Machiavelli to Lao Tzu, professors made profound connections and demonstrated an exchange of ideas and values that spanned time and geography.
Thanks to professor and poet Barbara Jane Reyes and the sponsorship of the Yuchengco Philippine Studies Program and Asian Studies Program, I was able to guest lecture for Reyes’ Spring 2012 course “YPSP 195-01/ANST 195-02: Filipina Lives and Voices in Literature” at the University of San Francisco on Tuesday, April 3, 2012. Before my presentation, sixteen savvy students read my short personal essay “Barbie’s Gotta Work,” published in Doveglion. The essay was included in the course’s unit on “Work and Domesticity.”
Reyes recently discussed this very same class and its inception in her recent post on the Poetry Foundation’sHarriet The Blog:
One day, I’d casually asked our program chair whether he was interested in an all Filipina/Pinay (Filipino women) literature course, and he said, yes, draft a syllabus, and we’ll get it approved by the curriculum committee. It was approved. It was quickly filled. This is the first semester I am teaching the course, and I’m still in disbelief. All Pinay Literature. I always think, wow, where was this class when I was young, and when I needed it most. It seems a lot of people have been asking this question too, as I have been asked by more people than I can count, for my syllabus and reading lists. So, in this space, I will be talking a bit about some of the items from my syllabus, in the hopes that it will prompt readers further.
For my guest lecture, after giving a brief power point presentation, featuring pictures of my family, my maternal and paternal grandparents at work and at play in their youth, the students asked challenging questions about the superficiality of Barbie and how that was complicated in the essay and what it was like to be a professor of color. Another student broached the gap between generations, wondering how to relate with family members who might not share the same educational experiences. This brought on the idea of exploring the roots that hold us together and the stories family members share no matter where their paths in life take them.
We discussed looking at life and literature through a prism of lenses, much like looking through a kaleidoscope; we can shift the angles. We also talked about family memories that shape who we are. Some of the students shared their own experiences, remembering the work of their mothers, fathers, and grandparents.
Below is a sneak peek at the writing exercise students worked on, sifting through their past and their parents’ and grandparents’ pasts to uncover half-forgotten memories concerning love and labor, two themes that I keep coming back to with my own writing.
Love & Labor Writing Exercise
How do your parents and/or grandparents use their body at work?
How did work define your parents and/or grandparents?
What sense of self and purpose did they find through their labor?
Describe one of your parents or grandparents at work: What is the setting? What are their hands doing? Explain the actions of the body and mind.
How are they interacting with their setting? With other people at work?