American Literature, American Culture

By Gordon Hutner | Go to book overview
forms this half-conscious enforcing rhetoric of anality, numbness, and silence into a much richer, pregnant address to James's male muse, an invocation of fisting-as-écriture:

I sit here, after long weeks, at any rate, in front of my arrears, with an inward accumulation of material of which I feel the wealth, and as to which I can only invoke my familiar demon of patience, who always comes, doesn't he?, when I call. He is here with me in front of this cool green Pacific---he sits close and I feel his soft breath, which cools and steadies and inspires, on my cheek. Everything sinks in: nothing is lost; everything abides and fertilizes and renews its golden promise, making me think with closed eyes of deep and grateful longing when, in the full summer days of L[amb] H[ouse], my long dasty adventure over, I shall be able to [plunge] my hand, my arm, in, deep and far, and up to the shoulder--into the heavy bag of remembrance-- of suggestion--of imagination--of art--and fish out every little figure and felicity, every little fact and fancy that can be to my purpose. These things are all packed away, now, thicker than I can penetrate, deeper than I can fathom, and there let them rest for the present, in their sacred cool darkness, till I shall let in upon them the mild still light of dear old L[amb] H[ouse}--in which they will begin to gleam and glitter and take form like the gold and jewels of a mine.

33.
Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson, ed. Thomas H. Johnson ( Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1960), p. 406.
34.
Lytton Strachey, quoted in Michael Holroyd, Lytton Strachery: A Critical Biography ( London: W. H. Heinemann, 1968), 2: 179.
35.
Ruth Bernard Yeazell makes clear the oddity of having Marcher turn his back on the Beast that is supposed, at this late moment, to represent his self-recognition (in Language and Knowledge in the Late Novels of Henry James [ Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1976], pp. 37-38).

Hortense J. Spillers


Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: An American Grammar Book

Let's face it. I am a marked woman, but not everybody knows my name. "Peaches" and "Brown Sugar," "Sapphire" and "Earth Mother," "Aunty," "Granny," God's "Holy Fool," a "Miss Ebony First," or "Black Woman at the Podium": I describe a locus of confounded identities, a meeting ground of investments and privations in the national treasury of rhetorical wealth. My country needs me, and if I were not here, I would have to be invented.

W. E. B. DuBois predicted as early as 1903 that the twentieth century would be the century of the "color line." We could add to this spatiotemporal configuration another thematic of analogously terrible weight: if the "black woman" can be seen as a particular figuration of the split subject that psychoanalytic theory posits, then this century marks the site of "its" profoundest revelation. The problem before us is deceptively simple: the terms enclosed in quotation marks in the preceding paragraph isolate overdetermined nominative properties. Embedded in bizarre axiological ground, they demonstrate a sort of telegraphic coding; they are markers so loaded with mythical prepossession that there is

Spillers Hortense, "Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: An American Grammar Book," Diacritics 17.2 ( 1987), pp. 65-81.

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