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The Revelations of Asher

Toward Supreme Love in Self – (This Is an Endarkened, Feminist, New Literacies Event)

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Jeanine M. Staples

The Revelations of Asher: Toward Supreme Love in Self is an endarkened, feminist, new literacies event. It critically and creatively explores Black women’s terror in love. With poetry, prose, and analytic memos, Jeanine Staples shows how a group of Black women’s talk and writings about relationships revealed epistemological and ontological revelations, after 9/11. These revelations are presented in the context of a third wave new literacies framework. They are voiced and storied dynamically by the women’s seven fragmented selves. Through the selves, we learn the five ways the women lived as lovers: Main Chick, Side Chick, Bonnie, Bitch, and Victim. As an alternative-response to these identities in love, the author presents a new way. She introduces the Supreme Lover Identity and illuminates its integral connection to social and emotional justice for and through Black women’s wisdom.
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Interludes: Regarding BIG questions about this new literacies event (Jeanine speaks)

Interludes: Regarding BIG questions about this new literacies event

Literacy practices are the socially situated, culturally informed, and politically loaded modus operandi by which people move in relation to and beyond word recognition or usage of words on printed pages to “observable and ideological patterns of behavior” (Hornberger, 2000, p. 344). These patterns of behavior happen in light of language and its sociocultural and socioemotional meanings. Literacy practices are the ways we read, write, speak, and listen in contexts and with regard to dynamics that are valued and enlivened (or questioned) in those contexts. A literacy practice is not, for example, the ways one reads print on a page when engaging with a novel at home or the ways one fills out an application or decodes signs while driving or parking a car. Such actions are skills.

A literacy practice is socially situated, culturally informed, politically negotiated, and often emotionally and intellectually sensitive social practice. Such a practice might include, for example, the ways a mother invites her son to assist her in preparing a Thanksgiving Day meal. She may do so by clarifying each step of the process of preparation, implementation, and presentation. She might speak aloud certain directions to her son, reading hand-written recipes to herself and to him, using vocabulary for utensils, offering instructions for use of machinery, and ← 43 | 44 → telling stories of how her uncle taught her to make the same meal several years ago.

New literacies events are the things that we make when we enact literacy practices. They are, in effect, texts that manifest as talk and writings/print. Audio-visual and dramatic productions also count as new literacies events. Some New Literacy Studies (NLS) theorists might even say that the culminating Thanksgiving Day meal (described above) could qualify as a new literacies event…the product of the practices. These (in)tangible artifacts are evidence of our literacy practices at work/in play. They couch voices, stories, epistemes (ways of knowing), ontologies (ways of being), questions, and activities of individuals. They are anchored by the socioemotional and sociocultural nuances of our lived experiences.

New literacies events can be accessed to evolve knowledge (basic, identifiable facts) about an individual or group. These events can push knowledge to the elevation of wisdom. Wisdom is the more nuanced and intuitive sense of discernment. It accounts for and applies concepts of REALITIES, knowledge, and ways of being to enable movement beyond facts at will and as necessary (Staples, 2010a-d, 2011, 2012a, 2012b). For the purposes of this project, new literacies events can basically be understood as various iterations of socially situated, culturally informed, politically sensitive, relationally centered talk and writing (i.e. narrative data and artifacts).

This book is an endarkened, feminist new literacies event. It is multiplicitous in that it represents an amalgamation of genres (including prose, analytic memos, lists, poems, instant messages, and email). It features a cacophony of post-adolescent/young adult Black women’s fragmented ← 44 | 45 → selves. It also features my voice—a contemporary, adult sociocultural literacist. This new literacies event functions as an effort to (re)present some of the voices, stories, lived experiences, and revelations of Black women. Its components work together as generative, reflexive, analytic tools for the reader and writer (Bochner, 2000, 2001; Caulley, 2008). This event was constructed to serve those who are interested in critical, creative responses to epistemological and ontological risings among Black women. It is also for literacy theorists and practitioners who are interested in tracing the dynamic evolutions of genre, voice, stories, epistemes, ontologies, literacies, and literacies events in the 21st century. Methodologists will be interested in it too. This event necessitated a pushing and pulling of methodological and interpretive framing in order to come to fruition. I discuss these contentions and inventions in later chapters.

As a sociocultural literacist, I wanted to explore the ways a new literacies event could become endarkened (enlivened at the intersections of studies in Blackness and spirituality) and also particularly feminist (embodying a critical and creative womanist/feminist femininity) (Dillard, 2000; hooks, 1989). I also wanted to create a space within which I might show, as an endarkened, feminist scholar, what it means to do New Literacy Studies (NLS) with a commitment to the exploration of not only situatedness (Anzaldua, 1987; Bartlett, 2007; Barton & Hamilton, 2000; Searle, 2002; Street, 1985), but also relationship, spirituality, voice, and story (Dillard, 2000, 2003, 2006). That is, I felt curious about the possibilities of moving away from the social and digital turns in NLS (first and second wave, respectively) to attend to the communal, poetic, and divine. As a result, this book reflects what I call third wave NLS. ← 45 | 46 →

This event is a collection of Asher’s stories and revelations. It is distinct from other literacy events in that, while it features the voice of Asher, as a protagonist of sorts, it purposely defies character building and genre fixation. This book is a new literacies event. It is intentionally presented to demonstrate the effects of new literacies, the pursuit of endarkened, feminist socioemotional and sociocultural interpersonal inquiry, and what can be done with particularly raced and gendered voices and stories rising in qualitative data (Ellis, 1997, 2002a, 2007, 2009). I do this to speak particularly to scholar/educators committed to explorations of identities, epistemologies, and ontologies through critical, creative inquiry into marginalized literate lives. I also hope to speak to scholar/activists—those individuals who are interested in how critical and creative explorations of REALITIES, knowledge, and ways of being inform justice movements for all humankind. I include creative representative works (such as anecdotes, poems, and short stories) to also speak to seekers who are interested in the unique and vital lived experiences and subsequent revelatory wisdoms of Black women.

How does one need to read this new literacies event?

***If you are a scholar, read this whole book. If you are a seeker, read whatever is preceded by an asterisk in the table of contents. You may also want to read the Stylesheet right away, or use it as an accompaniment in your reading (see Appendix A & Appendix B). It is helpful in grasping the fundamental ideas and rules of this event.***

It is important to read this new literacies event with regard to its impetus (which I explore throughout the first third of this book). This event emerged as an effect of an interpretive, qualitative inquiry. It makes three distinct “moves” through its content and composition that are important to ← 46 | 47 → note. First, the book is comprised almost exclusively of narrative data. These data are (re)presented as a distinct type of autoethnographic story, one that is told in and by fragments. This move references a union of criticality, reflexivity, and creativity (Bochner, 2001; Caulley, 2008; Ellis, 1997, 2004; Ellis & Bochner, 2000). Second, this new literacies event creates play with voice and story because it is told by fragmentations of Self. These voices are textured with race and gender consciousness and various types of thought that could be called feminist or masculinist. They are also particularly classed (although I do not attend to that qualifier overtly). They speak of some of the sociocultural and socioemotional ideas, questions, and concerns that are aligned with such textures (however, they are not exhaustive and I do not suggest, at all, that they represent a full spectrum of Black womanhood. I don’t know any book that can do that).

As I learned to speak and listen to fragmented selves, I came to understand the social, cultural, emotional, sometimes political and often performative, perhaps even theatrical nature of raced and gendered voices (hooks, 1993, 2001, 2002; Pough, Richardson, Durham, & Raimist, 2007; Richardson, 2008; Staples, 2005, 2011, 2012a). That is, while the content emanating from these voices is socioculturally and politically “concerned” and socioemotionally anchored, the tone, tenor, and language the voices employed can be colloquial, rhetorical, teasing, occasionally preachy, even mischievous, sometimes erotic, and occasionally profane. The voices that speak here are decorated with biblical scripture and idioms, in addition to sarcasm, humor, urgency, and melancholy. Finally, this new literacies event demonstrates communicative mergings, through the meetings of voices of fragmented selves and my voice.

Where one reads the voice of Asher (or any other fragmentation), one is reading the voice of the fragmented self of a post-adolescent/young adult Black woman, rising from narrative data. Where one reads my voice (Jeanine), one is ← 47 | 48 → reading the voice of an adult woman who is a sociocultural literacist (a New Literacies Studies scholar and educator who operates from an endarkened, feminist stance). When I speak to you, I am interpreting the stories and revelations that Asher (re)presents. I explore the implications of Asher’s revelations by seeing them as offerings of an emerging, endarkened feminist epistemology and ontology for sociocultural, socioemotional, and interpersonal relating in love and loving. I also explore the stories, revelations, and findings Asher offers as bearing significant implications for new literacies learning, teaching, and research.

Finally, it is also important to remember that when the tone and language of Asher’s voice and mine meet, it is because, as a participant observer in the inquiry that governs this book, the voices of all fragmented selves were found in my talk and writing too. So, the reader must expect to read this literacy event in flow between the concentricity of voices, stories, epistemes, ontologies, and literacies of the researcher and the fragmented selves of the researched.

The research upon which this new literacies event is based can be understood as a qualitative, interpretive inquiry (Bochner, 2000, 2001; Ellis, 2002b). It was designed as a phenomenological study in that my goal was to deeply describe, rather than explain, the ways post-adolescent/ young adult Black women experienced, explored, and evolved their identities and lived experiences in relation to love and terror. I sought to understand these things as they were explicated through their literacy practices and events, after 9/11, and in relation to post-9/11 popular culture narratives (Fine, 2003) featuring the identities and lived experiences of Black and Brown women in restrictive, international contexts. The phenomena at issue (simply ← 48 | 49 → and succinctly conceptualized) included the interplay of Blackness, femininity, love, terror, and literacies in relation to REALITIES, knowledge, and ways of being.

I employed ethnographic methods to pursue these phenomena, because my efforts to meaningfully (re)present these women’s stories and revelations needed to be steeped in rich description in order to illuminate their nuances and intersections (Anderson, 2006; Ellis, 1997, 2002b; Ellis, Adams & Bochner, 2010; Ellis & Bochner, 1996). In addition, because indicators and signifiers of the presence of these phenomena were found in talk and writing, I call this research a narrative study, deconstructed through interpretive analysis (Ellis & Bochner, 2000, 2006; Wall, 2006). I therefore note its potential to contribute to a grounded theory of endarkened feminist epistemology and ontology through New Literacy Studies (Andrews, 2007; Christensen, 2007; Clarke, 2009; Holton, 2007). ← 49 | 50 → ← 50 | 51 →