Monday, March 12, 2018

The Praxis of Silence: Teresa de Cartagena and Grove of the Infirm

"Who could hear with the ears of his soul such healthy advice if his physical ears were filled with the noise of human voices?"

Teresa de Cartagena

Deafness is traditionally defined as a disability but medieval and modern deaf writers have long made the case for the concept of “deaf-gain.” As part of our embodiment narrative exercises, we have been pushing beyond the intellectual assent to disability theory and into the praxis of enacting life and ideas together. Towards that end, each of you will practice the habit of Teresa de Cartagena by engaging silence physically, intellectually, and socially.

By intentionally experiencing silence in a loud, busy, stimulating modern world, you will engage to the writing of Teresa de Cartagena in a way that makes the theory into an embodied lesson and consider the challenges as well as the benefits of silence.

The Praxis of Silence will begin at the usual class-time (5:30 PM) on Monday. After this time, you have 24 hours to find an 1 hour 15 min of silence. The first critically important and integral task is to find somewhere as perfectly silent as possible to sit or stand for an hour and fifteen minutes. This may be a museum, a library, a park (be safe), or even your own empty room. Please do not use music or other audio to cover over the ambient noise. Note: what you will experience is NOT the same as what deaf people necessarily experience. Rather, you will be learning in your own way and with your own embodiment what it means to live in and with silence.

While you sit in silence, you are to limit your activities and distractions. You may walk around, think, and do some light reading from the book of Teresa de Cartagena OR from read the lyrics to some form of music (e.g. as Teresa does the Psalms). However, reading should only consist of less than half (30 min max.).




Before 24 hours is up, you must write a four paragraph post that uses two quotes from Teresa de Cartagena’ in order to help you narrative your embodied experience of silence. How does the theory inform your praxis? How did the physical experience inform your theory? Consider attached questions.

How did the experience of silence affect your body and mind?
  • Consider whether or not you moved, fidgeted, sat motionless, etc.
  • Consider what emotions and sensations came and went
  • Consider how your mind and thoughts changed over the hour.

How did the experience of silence make passages of the Grove of Infirm clearer?
  • Consider how certain sentences are different to read than to experience
  • Consider how words often are short-hand for complex physical events
  • Consider how reading changes in quiet versus among noise

How did reading the Grove of the Infirm affect how you experienced silence?
  • Consider what things you focused on because of the book
  • Consider how you felt about the experience because of the book
  • Consider how the book made the experience an intellectual one




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