Entropy published “A Refuge for Jae-in Doe: Fugues in the Key of English Major” by Seo-Young Chu.
Read it and see how she knocks it out of the park.
It’s a cycle of poems as well as an essay in prose and verse. It’s an assemblage as well as a compelling narrative. The opening section has one of the best narrations of a dissociation episode.
Her story indicts every institution, Stanford but also the entire Western Canon as irredeemably patriarchal and misogynist in its values. At the same time as she condemns, she shows her mastery of the old forms: villanelle, sonnet, ballad, etc.
The fragments weave together the themes of trauma, imperialism, diaspora, language.
Let no one say a commitment to formalism impedes important social messages.
Let no one say college campuses are places of refuge for Leftists and progressives. That has never been true. Fascists do not “invade” these places; they are already inside, as student front groups for the Right and in the administration.
The originality of this piece as I read it is in staging the ambiguous position of the speaker as a woman who condemns and curates the literary canon in the same breath. The piece’s aesthetic refuge highlights this ambiguous task, which to me is utterly contemporary. The simple dualism of modern high culture and degraded mass entertainment is a thing of the past. Culture and intellectualism in general no longer work as status symbols and under late capitalism can be discarded by the elites. Meanwhile campuses function as they always have: rape factories against women, who relive the insult and trauma with every student loan payment.
The evidence mounts every day that the diseases of rape culture and violent white supremacy in this country can’t be cured except by cultural revolution. The speaker’s rapist, Jay Fliegelman, enjoyed prestige even after his “punishment,” proving, as if we need it, that in patriarchy, the educators are the first ones who need to be re-educated.