When we think of “portraits” we often think of paintings--Mona Lisa or Picasso's Blue Man with Guitar. But most literary artists also spend creative time meditating on others' lives as they loom larger than the individuals themselves and become symbolic of a complicated interrelated life. Keats' term "negative capability," referred to the poet's ability to suspend one's ego and imagine others from the inside out. We will review the affordances, risks, and ethics of writing in the "not me" voice and become acquainted with a small tribe of poetic anthropologists who form part of the movement for "humanistic anthropology." Inspired by the work of “antropoetas” such as Kusserow ("Hunting Down the Monk," 2002; "Refuge," 2013), Stone ("Stranger's Notebook," 2008), Rosaldo ("The Day of Shelly's Death: The poetry and ethnography of grief," 2013), and Faizullah ("Seam," 2014), we consider the affordances of socially informed art and artfully informed social science.
Sharing examples of persona poems and dramatic monologues as part of a new, ethnographic poetry canon, we discuss how careful and humble "not me" writing can shape greater connections to the diversity of what it means to be human as well as connections to animal, vegetable, and mineral worlds. Stirring one another with resonant knowing, we welcome the unexpected and lyric in search of cross-cultural understanding.
MELISA “MISHA” CAHNMANN-TAYLOR, a U.S. Fulbright Scholar Ambassador, is a Professor of Language and Literacy Education at the University of Georgia. She’s authored five books addressing intersections between language education and the literary, visual and performing arts including one book of poems, Imperfect Tense, and her newest book, Enlivening Instruction with Drama and Improv. She’s working on The Creative Ethnographers’ Notebook (2024, Routledge). Supported by grants and prizes from the National Endowment for the Arts, Fulbright, and Beckman Award for “Professors Who Inspire,” her work narrates the heartache and joy of teaching and learning language. She lives in Athens, GA.
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