Saturday, June 12, 2010

I have an article that should be out this summer where I talk about the role that shame has played in my teaching. It's basically about why I did not choose to come out to my classes. Though it would have exploded my argument, I wish I'd read Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick's Touching Feeling: Affect, Pedagogy, Performativity before I sent that article out. Sedgwick writes a pretty compelling argument for why shame is not always a negative thing. In fact, it's pretty integral to shaping our sense of self, which in turn means it's integral in how we relate to others. Here are some quotations of hers that are pushing me to rethink shame.

"In fact, shame and identity remain in very dynamic relation to one another, at once deconstituting and foundational, because shame is both peculiarly contagious and peculiarly individuating" (Sedgwick 36).

"That's the double movement shame makes: toward painful individuation, toward uncontrollable relationality" (Sedgwick 37).
"The conventional way of distinguishing shame from guilt is that shame attaches to and sharpens the sense of what one is, whereas guilt attaches to what one does" (Sedgwick 37).

"The forms taken by shame are not distinct 'toxic' parts of a group or individual identity that can be excised; they are instead integral to and residual in the processes by which identity itself is formed" (Sedgwick 63).

"If the structuration of shame differs strongly between cultures, between periods, and between different forms of politics, however, it differs also simply from one person to another within a given culture and time" (Sedgwick 63).

"Shame interests me politically, then, because it generates and legitimates the place of identity--the question of identity--at the origin of the impulse to the performative, but does so without giving that identity space the standing of an essence. It constitutes it as to-be-constituted, which is also to say, as already there for the (necessary, productive) misconstrual and misrecognition. Shame--living, as it does, on and in the muscles and capillaries of the face--seems to be uniquely contagious from one person to another" (Sedgwick 64).

"Survivors' guilt and, more generally, the politics of guilt will be better understood when we can see them in some relation to the slippery dynamics of shame" (Sedgwick 64).

Yes, I'm posting a lot of quotations lately. I'm spending this first part of the summer doing a lot of notetaking, which is why I'm finding a lot of amazing quotations and presenting a few here now and then. If they inspire you, I'd love to hear how in the comments.  Oh, I have written about this book before on my personal blog.

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