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Women In the Three Seas posted 20 July 2004 in Author Q & AWomen In the Three Seas by Tattooed Hand, Auditor

I’m not talking about moral relativism, but rather historical contingency. Slavery is not good how ever you cut it, in my opinion. But, the experience, the institution, the practice of it varies across time, societies, class, gender, race, etc. (these are not already constituted categories) so that an African slave picking cotton in Alabama has an experience that is a pretty far cry from a Georgian slave made eunuch who goes from the harem to being governor of Isfahan and amassing a vast personal fortune. These are pretty important differences that inhabit the same word.

Our specific representations of these two experiences depend on the questions we ask, sources we select, the way we read those sources, and methodology of our interpretation.

I’m hashing all this out in a paper and am still struggling for clarity, but here’s a shot. The beauty of fantasy is that you have a freer hand to play with historical narratives in your story than someone like me who can’t manage to write anything but boring academic stuff. I don’t think you’ve got the wrong history. Wouldn’t a wrong history imply that there is a correct representation that gives voice to a pre-discursive reality? But from the perspective of women, gender and sexuality, some are better than others. It’s all about how that narrative is constituted. The histories we write reflect our conceptions of the present in our narratives of the past. And history is constituted from the recollections, interpretations and narratives of others.

And I don’t think your story is misogynist, but I am just trying to call attention to the overwhelmingly misogyny of “general” historical representation, where general means a naturalized masculinist gaze and agenda.

By in large we can argue, that in different ways, political, social, economic systems have been stacked to be unequal and disempowering for women. But, the ideas that we associate with the present, like gender equality, are not totally new to this century. In prior times, when they did exist, records of these views were later quashed and suppressed. Gnostic Christian movements come to mind. Or the Cathars in southern France. Aren’t there any popular “heretics” in Earwa with weird gender ideas that accept women? I feel that we cannot assume that before our century things just sucked for women because surviving written records said that systems sucked for women and that was the unproblematic representations of lived experiences.

Feminist historiography is trying to move away from the “add women and stir” approach because that does not address what makes women as subjects and gender/sexuality as analytic an optional category that could be excluded at will in the first place. Far deeper critiques about the discipline of history, and how historical significance is constituted are being explored.

Serwe seems mentally disturbed more than innocent, if you ask me. She’s been through a lot and has come up with some pretty creative explanations about why and what has happened to her.
And she thinks Kellhus is God. Maybe that’s not her fault, because I get the feeling if he started working on me, I’d probably think he was God too. I guess for me, the problem with Serwe is that it’s difficult to tell how much of those ideas are her coping mechanisms and which ones Kellhus nudged in there. Like her belief that her baby is Kellhus’s… But then maybe that ambiguity is the point.

This distinction is a bit more clear with Esmi. The fact that the conquerors speech is authored by Kellhus is supreme irony, if you ask me. Esmi has her powers – her intellect, her emotional strength and her refusals. Her refusals are subtle and intriguing. But in dealing with weapons of the weak, as well as archetypes, it’s an extremely fine line to not reproduce them as helpless and powerless victims. That is not to say that you should leave helpless and powerlessness out of the picture, but a complex picture does unexpected things that upset the transmission of representations.

Well, I’ve really messed this up. Maybe you’d like to read my paper, in your copious free time! Ha! (Well, it’s coauthored by my advisor, so there is one person who knows what they are doing in there.) view post


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