Gail Scott


From Eros The Bittersweet, by Anne Carson

". . . Whenever passion seems within reach, aidos falls like a veil. . . . This aidos is the archaic ethic of 'shamefastness'. . . . Ahprodite is the divinity in charge of the perversities of aidos within the novel. She is the chief designer and chief subverter of the story's changing triangles, both patron and enemy, inspiring with a passion strong enough to resist all the temptations that she herself proceeds to hurl against it. . . . Aphrodite's role in novels is an ambivalent, not to say paradoxical, one like the role of Eros in archaic poetry." Eros, p. 79-80

[Carson's Greeks lined up Eros versus 'shamefastness,' which I contemporaneously interpret not as 'chastity' but as 'cover-up'; class has entered discourse: shame is private and social (Scott)]

From The Shell and the Kernel (Vol. 1) by Nicholas Abraham and Maria Torok

. . . What haunts are not the dead, but the gaps left within us by the secrets of others . . .
. . . It is reasonable to maintain that the 'phantom effect' progressively fades during its transmission from one generation to the next and that, finally, it disappears. Yet, this is not at all the case when shared or complementary phantoms find a way of being established as social practices along the lines of staged words . . . To stage a word, whether metaphorically, as an alloseme, or as a cryptonym-constitutes an attempt at exorcism, an attempt, that is, to relieve the unconscious by placing the effects of the phantom in the social realm.
. . . The phantom's periodic and compulsive return lies beyond the scope of symptom formation in the sense of a return of the repressed; it works like a ventriloquist, like a stranger within the subject's own mental topography. The imaginings issuing from the presence of a stranger have nothing to do with fantasy strictly speaking. They neither preserve a topgraphical status quo nor announce a shift in it. Instead, by their gratuitousness in relation to the subject, they create the impression of surrealistic flights of fancy or of oulipo-like verbal feats.

[I like to think of the phantom dressed up in a cloak studded with the latest consumer items, on his way to the zoo. I like the play between contiguity and disjunction implied by attempting to converse with the unspeakable. This makes strange sentences that swing "both" ways, dialoguing with both the uncanny and the social: a rhetorical edge is added to poetic thinking. (Scott)]

From Zoo or Letters Not About Love by Viktor Shklovsky

. . .She loved me like her own daughter. When I was two months old, she fed me cabbage soups and once she managed to poison me by gorging herself on the pits from the cherry preserves that were being made at our summer cottage. When I grew up, she came to see me, always with presents; she remained standing and spoke to me in the formal way; then, when everyone left, she sat down to drink tea with me and used the familiar form . When I became an adult, I began to understand her cheerful disposition: 'My mistress lives with another woman; it's beyond me-just like nuns!' And she'd roar with laughter--. . . She had a special smell, like her wooden trunk when she lifted the lid: calico and apples. A tlted nose, knowing eyes. . .
"One time she was working in a very rich household. The house was robbed. . .
Papa asked her: 'And where were you when the house was robbed?'
'At the Novo-Devichy Convent visiting a nun.'
'Well, then, tell them and they'll let you go.'
'What? And get a nun mixed up in such business, master!'

So she didn't say a word, but sat in prison until the thieves were found and she was released.
Then, after the revolution, Mama tried to persuade her to go vote, but she said that after that business with the silver spoons, she wouldn't go near the police station for love or money.

[This passage, though "authored" by Sklovsky, is actually by Elsa Triolet, Shklovsky's beloved at the time. He integrated her letters into his own fiction. I had intended to quote Shklovsky; whose manner of stringing together seemingly cut-up prose lines to effect narrative 'continuity' is exemplary. Not only shame, but also authorship, get partly buried here. (Scott)]

From Lyn Hejinian's Introduction to Jena Osman's Character

Performance requires the person who is the actor (i.e. already a character) to be in character, and this, in turn, cannot occur without performance. This produces not a tautology ("performance requires performance") but a bifurcation-character occurring as a performance in and of itself; or, as Osman says (in "The Figural Cabinet"), "the taking place is double."
Such double-mindedness, which is to say this 'self'conscious, is central to Brechtian theater; it forms the basis on which alterities can come into (the) play. It is characteristic, too, of everyone who is forced into identity-consciousness, as W.E.B. Du Bois pointed out long ago in The Souls of Black Folk, a work which itself has been described (by Houston Baker) as a "cultural performance." More recently, the notion that "identity" is itself performative has been greatly elaborated by theorists such as Judith Butler. Identity-the sense of difference that belongs to one's self-sameness-is itself "character," something that "takes place." This means both that it is an occurrence or event-it happens-and that it involves taking up a position among others (as might be indicated by stage directions: Enter Woman, wearing a hat, etc.)

From "Not All Halfbreed Mothers" in I Knew Two Métis Women, by Greg Scofield

Not all halfbreed mothers
wear cowboy shirts or hats,
flowers behind their ears or
moccasins sent from up north.

Not all halfbreed mothers
read The Star, The Enqurer,
The Tibetan Book of the Dead

or Edgar Cayce,
know the Lady of Shalott
like she was a best friend
or sister.


Not all halfbreed mothers
speak like a dictionary
or Cree hymn book,
. . . . . . . . . . .

Not all halfbreed mothers


red rose, blue ribbon,
Kelowna Red, Labatt's Blue.

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