By Paula M. Salvio
The poet's existence as a instructor.
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Additional info for Anne Sexton: Teacher of Weird Abundance (S U N Y Series, Feminist Theory in Education)
Poetry, after all, milks the unconscious. The unconscious is there to feed it little images, little symbols, the answers, the insights I know not of. (Kevles, 1978 (pg 5), xx) The masks and dramatic personae that appear in Sexton’s poetry and that she drew upon in her classroom hold traces of our selves that we are inclined to disavow, the selves we lose or believe we must lose in order to commit to one life and not another—a mother who gives up her child, a girl on the edge of adolescence, a rapist, an assassin—each persona assembled so that her students can begin to approach the uncharted recesses of their emotional lives.
1997, 148–149) By giving dramatic language to loss, Sexton demonstrates how pedagogy can be used to avow a broader range of subject positions in the classroom. Her use of performance accommodates the double-ghosted bodies that are housed in the melancholic. Performative modes of address have the capacity to bring about dialogue with the phantoms we hold, precisely because in performance the body is metonymic, of self, of characters, of voice, and of personae. As I said earlier, what marks the melancholic student is a loss of address, an unspeakability that is not a symptom of thoughtlessness or, what is often described in schools as “retrieval problems,” but rather a symptom of what cannot be spoken in school.
Leverich’s interest in knowing Sexton is, as he notes, a fantasy that I found troubling. On the one hand, I worried about Sexton. To what extent were the images in Leverich’s letter symptoms of his desire to swallow his teacher up, a violent fantasy through which to threaten his teacher’s authority and claim her for his very own? On the other hand, I worried about Leverich. To what extent did Sexton’s memories of sexual distress and loss ﬁgure into her pedagogy at this time, mixing in with this student’s past, a past wrought with pain and loss that he may very well have been working hard to forget?
Anne Sexton: Teacher of Weird Abundance (S U N Y Series, Feminist Theory in Education) by Paula M. Salvio