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In “the American tradition of do it yourself, of permanently insecure and self-taught”

Reading Eileen Myles*, I am struck by my education. She speaks a lot about education and its class implications. And she mentions Harvard quite often, as place and placeholder and class and class. From Hopkinton Pre- through High School, to Harvard, to New York, to the Graduate Center, I have been educated.

I am striking out now on a remarkable semester with Maura Smale, Wayne Koestenbaum, Mary Ann Caws, and Ammiel Alcalay, and I am repeatedly discovering how much I am re-learning how to learn. As a largely self-taught teacher, a self-producing theater artist, this process is not unfamiliar. I recognize that teaching teaches us about ourselves, that self-direction leads us places. Yet, I cannot help but appreciate how well the Graduate Center encourages the skills of self-determination.

Maybe the scrappy, pull yourself together, makeshift, make believe, staple-or-tape-your-costumes attitude is one that I got out of years in the theater. Pretending to be an actor is very like being one. Maybe I have found how to make my school my own through years of making it up. Maybe I’m living out some version I imagined. But it’s not just that my research skills are better grounded in an understanding of the world or that I know how to google error messages to debug code. Some magic infuses the ways Matt Gold and Kandice Chuh and Nancy Miller– like the writers and guides I mention above– convince us to find our sticking points, our wants, our projects.

More meditation to follow.

 

* Eileen Myles, “How to Write an Avante-Garde Poem” in The Importance of Being Iceland: Travel Essays in Art. Pasadena, CA: Semiotext(e): 2009. p 160.