Norma Cole on How(ever)

Norma Cole
phto by Camille Roy

Norma Cole began her contribution by marking three historical events:

The 1980 New French Feminisims edited by Elaine Marks and Isabelle De Courtivron published by the Univeristy of Massachusetts. In this book, Norma and others "found in translation many of the great writers we know and love, e.g. Julia Kristeva, Luce Irigaray, Helene Cixous, and Marguerite Duras. Duras talked about women, writing and embodiment." Cole then linked this feminist work to current cutting-edge neuroscience--"it's all about embodiment."

The 1986 The Poetics of Gender edited by Nancy K. Miller after a colloquium at Columbia.

Then, Francis Fukuyama's The End of History published in 1992.

Norma then read to us from her Postcard Review (How(ever) Jan. 1988, Vol. 4, No. 3) of Dennis Baron's Grammar and Gender :

Grammar and Gender
Dennis Baron, Yale University Press, 1986

For any of us who have been wondering about the ontology of "her" speechlessness and that d' "alliance of speechlessness and powerlessness." (1) that, we are assured, is individually based-- your own timidity --here is a helpful source book. Grammar and Gender is a thorough, informative narration on how we've been named strangeness, other, alien; how that's been built into the language we use(d), lodged in legitimacy. It is a book bearing witness to the man-made structure of events and political facts behind the word-set we know, "the powerful are dedicated to the investiture of speechlessness in the powerless."(2)

What becometh a woman best, and first of al: Silence. What seconde: Silence. What third: Silence. What fourth: Silence. Yea if a man should ask me til' dowmes day, I would stil crie, silence, silence, without the whiche no woman hath any good gifte, but hauing the same, no doubt she must haue many other notable giftes, as the whiche of necessitie do euer folow suche a vertue.--Thomas Wilson, Arte of Rhetorique, 1553.

"You can make your eyes, your smile speak for you and say more, perhaps, than words could express" --Harriet Lane, in The Book of Culture (1922)

Vives asserts that silence is a woman's noblest ornament, and he warns his female readers not to speak when men are present, for verbal intercourse leads inevitably to sexual intercourse. Vives explains that a woman can defend her chastity "stronger with silence than with speche"-- De Institutione Christianae Feminae , Juan Luis Vives (1523)

--Norma Cole

1. Michelle Cliff, "Notes on Speechlessness." Feminist Poetics: a consideration of the female construction of language. Ed. Kathleen Fraser. San Francisco State University, 1984. pp. 103-7.

2. ibid.

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