Lee Mortensen Mortensen 1
February 5, 2004
Outside Lecture Write-up #1
I attended the Yolanda King lecture/performance on Jan. 13, 2004 during the UVSC Martin Luther King day events. I thought King did an interesting combination of performance genres to support the fight for civil rights; part political rally, part lecture, and part dramatic monologue. As a creative writer who likes the crossing of genres, and the defying of audience expectation, I enjoyed how she kind of messed with what her audience probably expected: a lecture or the reading of a paper. Of course performances are likely to appeal to fast-paced, media inundated student minds (hasty as that might sound). Academics might not have been as impressed (just as academics likely pooh pooh my opened-form work as not serious enough, not real; again, though, a hasty generalization). So King likely had more of an impact on her student audience and those who enjoy opened-form work (like myself).
As an actress, one would expect some kind of performance from King, and in many respects the monologues were probably the most effective part of her "speech" where she brought to life fictional/historical characters going through the racial turbulence of the 50's, 60's, and 70's. Certainly one remembers the monologues most, and I liked how each was a very personal narrative perspective from someone real (or fictional) from the past, like the Rosa Parks monologue ("I got arrested. Police and everything all because my feet were tired."). I thought the 70's woman (?) was rather funny with her newfound black appreciation and excited desire to be an activist. Certainly the 70's were a utopic time when people still thought they could make a difference (am I cynical or what?).
I was just talking about political art with my critical theory class and how I kind of bristle against it since my creative writing mentors beat the preaching right out of us during workshops. Anything with an overt message, hitting me over the head with a call for action, well, I just kind of recoil against it even now. Art should be more complex than dualistic I often think, yet I am more able to appreciate political art now as someone less blinded by graduate school ideology. Then again, performance pieces are often more simplistic that way anyway (hasty? perhaps).
I thought it was a very polished performance during each of the genres she was crossing. When speaking to us directly, she had the sing song preacher rhythms of her father. She, too, has been a preacher, though, so this seems logical. I was thinking how her preaching style/voice was very different than the preaching style more commonly heard in this white, Mormon valley. If King were to stand up at a podium in a Mormon church and speak, people would likely be appalled at the heightened emotionality and voice modulations (but also, I bet, they might think to themselves, "Well, that's how those black people talk after all." Am I implying a certain kind of racism? Do I find my own self thinking this at times? Are we not all "still" racists after all?).
Self-Reflection: I do begin this with the context and a small summary of what I attended, but I am mainly critiquing/analyzing some of the speaker's rhetorical choices, and in a few places I am beginning to philosophize/analyze/critique some of her subject matter. One might ask if my paragraphs are concrete enough; where could I go into at least a little more detail? The most detailed, or concrete part of this is probably the place where I quote a little of Rosa Parks, and perhaps also where I begin to describe how King's style is more emotional than, say, Mormon style. I could certainly say more about racism at the end. I also notice that I don't really have a main thesis at the top in a totally closed-form fashion. I don't list all the points I will make in the "essay" in my introduction. I also don't have a formal, closed-form conclusion summing up everything I just said (this assignment isn't supposed to be that formal, but a little closure at the end would help). I also notice that I am moving between the use of jargon and colloquialisms, so rhetorically I am not completely focused on writing for a professional/academic audience, but I am also not writing a cutesy magazine article. I am kind of writing like I speak, except I am being much more grammatically correct. My parenthetical asides are potentially annoying and should be incorporated into the paragraph or deleted. I also use first person, which is less formal, and I situate my own self, my own lenses or angle as a way to introduce the logic for some of my reading biases.