Menyeberangi Lembaran Kertas

Perpindahan dan Perubahan:

Transportasi dalam Struktur Naratif Riwayat Perjalanan ke Amerika di Era Viktorian

Ari Adipurwawidjana

Abstrak

Riwayat yang disajikan penulis Britania era Viktorian tentang perjalannnya ke Amerika mengasumsikan adanya sebuah jaringan prasarana transportasi. Sistem transportasi terkait dengan riwayat perjalanan (travel narrative) dalam tiga hal, yaitu (1) sebagai basis material bagi perjalanan, (2) sebagai substruktur riwayat, dan (3) sebagai pokok pembicaraan dalam riwayat itu sendiri. Buku Domestic Manners of the Americans (1832) merupakan model bagi cara infrastruktur transportasi menentukan aspek naratologis, yaitu urutan dan perspektif dalam struktur naratif riwayat perjalanan. Karya tersebut juga menyajikan transportasi sebagai pokok pembicaraan dalam teksnya itu sendiri walaupun tidak sejauh sebagaimana yang tampak pada The Amateur Emigrant (1895) karya Robert Louis Stevenson. Dalam hal ini, The American Scene (1907) karya Henry James juga relevan karena, walaupun tidak secara gamblang membicarakan transportasi sebagai topik dan tidak pula menampakkan ciri-ciri riwayat perjalanan, karya tersebut merepresentasi cara wawasan Britania-Amerika trans-Atlantik dianggap sebagai sesuatu yang lumrah. Kelumrahan dalam hal ini dapat dipahami baik dalam arti given atau taken for granted maupun sebagai perihal yang berkaitan dengan waktu (dalam bahasa Arab لمره) mengingat bahwa transportasi bagi kedua belah pihak di kedua sisi Atlantik menganggap perjalanan trans-Atlantik sebagai semacam perjalanan menembus waktu sebagaimana tampak pada riwayat yang lain. Dengan demikian, riwayat perjalanan era Viktorian mencatat ketidaknyaman para penulis Britania abad kesembilanbelas terhadap transformasi sosial ke sistem kapitalis yang direpresentasi secara metaforis oleh pemahaman mereka tentang Amerika.

Kata-kata kunci: travel narrative, Viktorian, Fanny Trollope, Robert Louis Stevenson, Henry James, transportasi, wisata, infrastruktur, materialisme budaya

Dalam kurun waktu antara berangkatnya Frances Trollope[1] dari London menuju Amerika pada tahun 1827 dan terbitnya Domestic Manners of the Americans pada tahun 1832, Amerika Serikat sebagai negara berdaulat masih dalam proses mendefinisi diri, dan bangsa Amerika belum lagi mapan. Setelah memperluas wilayahnya ke utara dengan mengalahkan Inggris pada Perang 1812[2] dan menguasai Florida sebagai sebuah wilayah territorial pada tahun 1822, Amerika Serikat masih harus berurusan dengan masalah resistensi bangsa Cherokee dan Seminole dengan mengupayakan hijrah paksa ke sebelah barat sungai Mississippi. Selain itu, Amerika Serikat masih belum  dapat menentukan status politik warga keturunan Afrika dalam republik yang baru saja didirikan tersebut, sebuah isu yang melibatkan masalah perbudakan (dan abolisi terhadapnya) dan kolonisasi Liberia. Negara Amerika Serikat dan bangsa Amerika masih dianggap sebagai “the great experiment,” yang menjadi topik menarik bagi penulis Britania[3]. Trollope sendiri memutuskan menulis bukunya karena

[a]lthough much has already been written on the great experiment … on the other side of the Atlantic[4], there appears to be still room for many interesting details on the influence which the political system of the country has produced on the principles, tastes, and manners, of its domestic life. (Trollope, 1997: 7)

 

Pernyataan Trollope tersebut bukan saja menunjukkan bahwa memang ada kepentingan bagi pihak masyarakat pembaca Inggris, sebagaimana yang tampak dari banyaknya tulisan yang dikatakan telah dihasilkan tentang Amerika Serikat, melainkan juga bahwa kawasan Atlantik dipahami sebagai sebuah entitas regional yang mencakup Amerika Serikat dan Britania Raya. Selain itu, dalam “Unpublished Preface from the Rough Draft of Domestic Manners of the Americans” Trollope mencatat bahwa “the [American] people are so strangely like us, and so strangely unlike us; the connection with us so close, yet the disunion so entire; speaking the same language, yet having hardly a feeling in common” (1997: 319-320). Pernyataan tersebut menyiratkan lebih jauh tentang adanya sebuah masyarakat trans-Atlantik dan juga adanya kepentingan Inggris atas Amerika.

Buku Fanny Trollope sebagaimana pula karya lain yang menurutnya telah ditulis tentang Amerika merupakan contoh “such texts [which] can create not only knowledge but also the very reality they appear to describe [emfasis asli]” (Said, 1978: 94). Dengan kata lain, riwayat perjalanan tentang Amerika oleh penulis Inggris seperti Trollope turut melenggengkan konsep tentang kawasan trans-Atlantik dengan cara mendokumentasi dan memvalidasi keberadaannya dengan cara melekatkan definisi dan makna kepada kenyataan mentah. Lagipula, riwayat perjalanan era Viktorian ini meneguhkan pemahaman bahwa

worldliness, circumstantiality, the text’s status as an event having sensuous particularity as well as historical contingency, are considered as being incorporated in the text, an infrangible part of this capacity for conveying and producing meaning. (Said, 1983:39)

Artinya, teks memiliki signifikansi sedemikian rupa sehubungan dengan relasi antara manusia dan dunia nyata yang dihuninya karena kenyataan material merupakan determinan diskursif yang terjalin dalam kompleksitas teks itu sendiri. Dengan demikian, dari perspektif materialis kultural, haruslah diidentifikasi “landasan sesungguhnya (die reale Basis) yang di atas dibangun (erhebt)” superstruktur sebagai “keseluruhan ‘ideologi’ sebuah kelas: ‘bentuk kesadarannya;’ cara konstitutif memandang dirinya dalam dunia” (Williams, 1977:  76-77). Hal ini demikian karena wawasan, yang dibangun teks sebagai ”bentuk kesadaran” tersebut, berlandaskan sebuah basis ekonomi, sebuah infrastruktur material. Dalam halnya riwayat perjalanan ke Amerika di era Viktorian, infrastruktur ini berupa sebuah kompleks luas sistem transportasi, yang mencakup jalur pelayaran trans-Atlantik dan jejaring prasarana darat di masing-masing sisi Atlantik. Jaringan sistem transportasi inilah yang telah mendukung ekonomi internasional trans-Atlantik sejak Kolumbus melakukan pelayaran pertamanya di abad kelimabelas.

Memang sesungguhnya, transportasi dan prasarana yang mendukungnya merupakan unsur-unsur sentral bagi riwayat perjalanan. Sementara dalam wacana naratif pada umumnya ada asumsi bahwa terjadi “perjalanan” ke dalam dunia naratif, dalam riwayat perjalanan masalah transportasi mendapat makna yang harfiah. Si penulis riwayat sebagai perawi atau narator memang masuk ke dunia yang diriwayatkannya dan memang kenyataannya perjalanan ini berfungsi untuk memvalidasi atau menyahihkan pernyataan-pernyataan yang diajukannya tentang dunia naratif tersebut. Kenyataan bahwa si penulis riwayat perjalanan (katakanlah, ar-rawī wal-musafir) memang berada di lokasi yang diamati, didokumentasi, dan diriwayatkan dalam teks sudah memberi asumsi bahwa ia telah memanfaatkan infrastruktur yang ada. Bagi para musafir dan wisatawan zaman Viktorian yang bepergian ke Amerika ketersediaan sarana dan prasaran transportasi ini memiliki signifikansi lebih karena, tidak seperti para “explorer” Britania yang terlibat dalam “treks to distant, unfamiliar, ‘exotic’ and uncharted lands” (Morgan, 2001: 24), mereka melalukan perjalanan dalam batas-batas dunia yang mereka sudah kenal. Dengan demikian, perjalanan ke Amerika serupa dengan yang dilakukan ke daratan Eropa. Dalam batas-batas kawasan geografis ini basis ekonomi dan superstruktur ideologis sudah saling meneguhkan setidaknya selama tiga abad. Jalur pelayaran, jalan darat, dan rel kereta api telah memfasilitasi perjalanan, dan riwayat tentang perjalanan pun telah menjadi alasan bagi pemeliharaan jaringan transportasi tersebut. Morgan lebih jauh mengamati bahwa pada tahun 1830an saja sekitar 50.000 orang per tahun berlayar dari pelabuhan-pelabuhan Inggris, dan banyaknya pula tulisan tentang perjalan tersebut menunjukkan adanya industri perjalanan yang sedang berkembang pesat di abad kesembilanbelas (2001: 14). Bahkan sesungguhnya, Morgan selanjutnya mengatakan bahwa sedemikian pentingnya gejala yang disebutnya “touring frenzy” di Britania era Viktorian sehingga hal tersebut “affected not only the reading public, but also the landscape in Europe’s and Britain’s towns and countryside” (2001: 15).

Namun, perjalanan ke Amerika memiliki signifikansi lebih daripada sekedar berkembangnya sebuah industri karena hal itu dapat dipandang sebagai perjalanan ke wilayah yang dapat dianggap sebagai perpanjangan dari Britania sendiri. Hal ini disiratkan oleh ambivalensi yang dinyatakan Trollope bahwa orang Amerika itu sangat serupa dengan sekaligus sangat berbeda dari orang Inggris. Seorang musafir seperti Trollope dengan mudah menerima begitu saja penggunaan bahasa Inggris dan adanya sarana dan prasarana transportasi walaupun ia pun menunjukkan kekaguman akan  alam dan kekhasan lokal yang dilihatnya di Amerika.  Ambiguitas dalam membaca riwayat perjalanan ke Amerika Serikat mirip dengan ketidakjelasan tentang betul tidaknya

the early colonization of Australia should be viewed as a part of a coherent narrative—about politics, about criminal justice, or about imperial expansion—or a fragment, a development that had no defensible contemporary cause and which could only look toward an uncertain and perilous future.” (Benis, 2003: 287)

 

Bedanya, dalam kasus pandangan terhadap Amerika, pihak Britania bukan mempermasalahkan isu keadilan pidana melainkan lebih ke isu keadilan sosial karena bermigrasinya warga Britania ke Amerika Serikat dilakukan atas kehendak sendiri—setidaknya di abad kesembilanbelas[5]. Ditransportasikannya para pelaku tindak pidana ke Australia merupakan cara menangani “the crime wave of the 1790s: inflation, unemployment, and near famine conditions brought on by bad harvests have driven British men and women to steal” (Benis, 2003: 288). Serupa dengan itu, Stevenson dalam The Amateur Emigrant mengamati bahwa para penumpang yang menempati dek terbawah merupakan kalangan

[l]abouring mankind [who] had in the last years, and throughout Great Britain, sustained a prolonged and crushing series of defeats … a company of the rejected; the drunken, the incompetent, the weak, the prodigal, all who had been unable to prevail against circumstances in the one land, were now fleeting pitifully to another; and though one or two might still succeed, all had already failed (1921: 16-17).

 

Amerika menjadi sebuah tujuan pengasingan sukarela sebagaimana Australia menjadi tujuan pengasingan yang dipaksakan oleh pihak pemerintah. Keduanya didorong oleh keadaan ekonomi dalam negeri Britania yang mendesak warga kelas buruh.

Dapat pula dikatakan bahwa permasalahan ekonomi dalam negeri serta  kebutuhan akan sumberdaya dan pasar yang lebih luas, yang tidak dapat diperoleh di dalam negeri, juga merupakan basis material bagi ekspansi imperial Britania. Karena itu, kondisi-kondisi tersebut pun menjadi motif bagi pembangunan jalan darat dan rel kereta api Amrika dan jalur pelayaran trans-Atlantik. Inilah kebutuhan, sebagai yang disitir Dunbar, menyebabkan “the growth of the [British] white man’s travel system in America and his subjugation of the continent” (1937: 57). Selanjutnya Dunbar menyatakan bahwa “white travel resulted in more demands to buy land, more purchases, permanent white occupation and curtailment of [Native American’s] territory and natural means of subsistence” (1937: 61). Maka, jelas bahwa kisah perjalanan orang Inggris ke Amerika di abad kesembilanbelas dan pembangunan sistem transportasi tumpang tindih dengan sejarah imperialisme Anglo-Amerika, yang dimulai oleh kolonialisme Britania di abad ketujuhbelas dan dilanjutkan di abad kesembilanbelas oleh politik ekspansionisme pemerintah Amerika Serikat di bawah Andrew Jackson.

Jadi, ketika Fanny Trollope tiba di “the soil of the new land, of  a new world” dan merasakan “considerable excitement and deep interest in almost every object that meets [her]” (1997: 12), sesungguhnya agenda perjalanannya selama tiga tahun dan enam bulan melalui berbagai daerah Amerika Serikat tersebut telah tertata, dan alur riwayatnya—sampai taraf tertentu—sudah terbentuk. Jika Trollope dalam bukunya menyajikan dirinya sebagai salah satu dari orang yang disebut Morgan sebagai

self-proclaimed ‘travellers’ [who] distanced themselves from and denigrated ‘tourists’ by depicting them as passive, dependent followers of the beaten track laid for them by rail companies, guidebooks and entrepreneurs such as Thomas Cook (2001: 10)

 

agar dapat menyahihkan pernyataan-pernyataannya tentang “domestic manners” bangsa Amerika dan juga tentang kehidupan sehari-hari di sana dengan merujuk pada dirinya yang memiliki “aesthetically sensitive, independent spirits, bent on avoiding well-trodden paths and thus experiencing other places and peoples in an original, authentic way [emfasis saya sendiri]” (Trollope, 1997: 14); hal itu semakin menunjukkan betapa sarana transportasi itu telah dipersepsi sebagai bagian yang tak terpisahkan dari lanskap Amerika dan ketersediaannya dianggap lumrah oleh si musafir Britania.

Trollope sama sekali tidak mempermasalahkan kenyataan bahwa ia memulai perjalanan dan domisili sementaranya di Amerika Serikat di New Orleans, bahwa ia menikmati warisan pendirian New Orleans sebagai pelabuhan utama bagi perkebunan di Louisiana. Padahal, ekonomi perkebunan Louisiana didukung oleh tenaga kerja budak yang dianggapnya sendiri sebagai sebuah kejahatan sosial yang secara imoral dipelihara masyarakat Amerika Serikat. Ia mengabaikan—kemungkinan besar tanpa sadar—kenyataan bahwa kedatangannya dimungkinan oleh satu segmen perdagangan Altlantik utara, yang

memanfaatkan  arus berputar Samudra Atlantik, yang dengan demikian menghindari arus utara dan menghasilkan laba yang lebih besar … [dengan cara berlayar] ke arah selatan dan arus Kepulauan Kenari ke Afrika Barat [tempat] mereka mengambil ‘kargo’ budak belian, dan berlayar dengan angin dan arus yang mendukung dan arus ke barat ke kawasan Karibia dan daerah selatan Amerika.

(Franck dan Brownstone, 1984: 277)

Walaupun penulis riwayat perjalanan seperti Trollope tampak mengabaikan mudahnya bepergian karena ketersediaan sarana dan prasarananya, tidak berarti berkurangnya signifikansi transportasi bagi para musafir Britania dan hubungannya dengan proses periwayatan perjalannya tersebut. Fungsi transportasi sebagai basis material bagi dibangunnya riwayat perjalan, sebagaimana yang telah dibahas tadi, meletakkan riwayat dan proses periwayatannya dalam sebuah konteks historis sehingga menunjukkan keterlibatan riwayat dan proses periwayatan dengan dinamika khas sosio-politis yang melingkunginya.  Situasi-situasi spesifik ini

meletakkan batasan pada para penafsir dan penafsirannya bukan karena situasinya tersembunyi dalam teks sebagai sebuah misteri melainkan karena situasi tersebut berada pada tataran surface particularity yang sama dengan objek tekstualnya itu sendiri [emfasis saya tambahkan sendiri]. (Said, 1983: 39)

 

Artinya, jika proses pembacaan yang kritis dipahami sebagai proses berhadapan dengan teks dengan melihat cara teks tersebut beroperasi, dan jika dipahami pula bahwa masalah transportasi begitu terpatri dalam dalam riwayat perjalanan, dapatlah disimpulkan bahwa peran infrastruktur transportasi bisa dipandang sebagai semacam strukturnya pula.

Jadi, secara umum, jelas pola naratif riwayat perjalanan era Viktorian ke dan di Amerika Serikat tampak dicirikan oleh kebergantungan si musafir pada jalur, jalan, dan segala sarana yang tersedia. Ciri naratif ini tampak pada dua tataran naratif, yang menurut teori naratif strukturalis dimiliki semua teks naratif; atau, tepatnya, semua riwayat terdiri atas sebuah struktur ganda. Selalu ada “kisah (histoire), isi atau serangkaian peristiwa (tindakan dan kejadian), serta yang dapat disebut sebagai existent (tokoh, objek-objek yang ada di latar); dan wacana (discours), yaitu proses pengungkapannya, cara isi tersebut disampaikan” (Chatman, 1978: 19). Dalam teks-teks naratif yang pertama senantiasa tampak gamblang dan tidak jarang pula berada di pusat struktur naratifnya. Namun, struktur yang satunya lagi tidak selalu berada di permukaan teks. Dapat saja didalilkan bahwa struktur ganda ini merpakan struktur universal bentuk riwayat karena adanya riwayat sudah mengasumsi adanya pihak yang meriwayatkannya. Namun demikian, banyak pula riwayat yang memberi kesan bahwa peristiwa yang berada di hadapan pembaca merupakan peristiwa  otonom sebagaimana peristiwa yang “nyata.” Dalam hal ini, ada seorang perawi atau narator tersembunyi di balik permukaan riwayat, yang keberadaannya, bagi pembaca yang kepentingan utamanya adalah rangkaian eristiwa yang membangun riwayat, mungkin saja tampak tidak relevan. Akan tetapi dalam hal riwayat perjalanan kedua struktur tersebut signifikan. Sang perawi sekaligus penulis riwayat selalu gamblang (bukan tersembunyi. Ia pada waktu yang sama meriwayatkan hal-hal yang diamatinya  di tempat-tempat yang dikunjunginya dan juga kondisi yang melingkungi perjalannya.

Ada dua aspek naratologis yang secara khusus signifikan dalam kaitannya dengan struktur naratif riwayat perjalanan era Viktoria dan fungsi transportasi sebagai  determinan, yaitu urutan dan perspektif. Genette memprasarankan, bahwa “urutan temporal rangkaian  peristiwa dalam sebuah kisah dan urutan pseudo-temporal dalam penataannya dalam riwayat” merupakan unsur dasar dibangunnya sebuah struktur naratif (1980:).   “Teori naratif strukturalis,” menurut Chatman, “mendalilkan bahwa penataan[6] [peristiwa yang membangun alur] lah yang merupakan operasi yang dijalankan wacana. Peristiwa dalam kisah dijadikan alur oleh wacananya sebagai modus penyajian” (1978: 43). Dengan demikian, pada tataran wacana, dapat diamati bahwa cara peristiwa diatata dalam penulisan riwayat perjalanan era Viktorian tidak menampakkan tidak adanya efek dramatis yang menjadi landasan penting bagi genre naratif lainnya yang juga cukup populer di zaman itu, yaitu fiksi naratif. Henry James dalam The American Scene, yang dapat dipandang sebagai upayanya mencoba menuliskan kisah kembalinya dirinya ke Amerika Serikat, berusaha agar ada sesuatu yang

lurk beneath this … to thicken the plot from stage to stage and to intensify the action” karena “nothing could be more to the occult purpose of the confirmed, the systematic story seeker, or to that even of the mere ancient contemplative person curious of character. (1947: 12).

James sendiri tidak merumuskan unsur pengikat yang mengikat peristiwa-peristiwa dalam riwayat perjalannya itu sehingga selaras dengan konvensi alur fiksi Viktorian yang lekat dengan dirinya sebagai pengarang kanonikal aman itu baik dalam tradisi kesusastraan Britania maupun Amerika. Alih-alih, ia beranjak dari satu adegan ke adegan yang lainnya hanya berdasarkan kenyataan bahwa dirinya sebagai titik fokal narasinya sendiri berpindah sebagai seorang musafir dari tempat yang satu ke tempat yang lain.

Maka, sebagaimana dicontohkan dalam pola naratif James, dapat dikatakan bahwa riwayat perjalanan era Viktorian merupakan pewaris fiksi Inggris abad kedelapanbelas, bukan sekedar karena yang pertama secara kronologis memang berkembang setelah yang kedua dalam konteks sejarah kesusastraan Inggris, melainkan lebih karena ia memiliki ciri-ciri naratif yang serupa dengan fiksi Inggris zaman sebelumnya. Karena bergantung pada adanya jalan, rel kereta api, dan jalur perairan, riwayat naratif era Viktorian bersifat episodik sebagaimana Tom Jones karya Henry Fielding atau Humphrey Clinker karya Tobias Smollet, atau bahkan lebih. Ia memulai kisah di pelabuhan masuk mana saja si perawi kebetulan berada pada awal perjalanannya; dan kemudian maju ke tempat manapun yang dibawa kereta kuda, kereta api, atau kapal uap. Tidak ada konflik tematis yang menggerakkan urutan naratif dalam hubungan sebab-akibat. Dengan demikian, si musafir sebagai tokoh protagonis riwayatnya sendiri disajikan sebagai tokoh picaresque, yang sikapnya terhadap tema dan pokok pembicaraan yang disajikannya pun turut berubah seiring dengan berpindahnya si tokoh dari episode yang satu ke episode yang lain.

Perubahan sikap yang senantiasa terjadi ini juga dimungkinkan oleh aspek lain wacana naratifnya, yaitu perspektif. Genette mendefinisi aspek ini sebagai cara teks naratif

meregulasi informasi yang disampaikannya, bukan sebagai semacam penyaringan, melainkan berdasarkan kapasitas pengetahuan peserta dalam kisah (seorang tokoh atau sekelompok tokoh), dengan cara mengadopsinya atau tampak mengadopsinya riwayat hal yang lazim kita sebut sebagai ‘pandangan’ atau ‘sudut pandang’ si peserta; riwayat tampak dalam hal ini…menggunakan, sehubungan dengan kisahnya, satu atau lain perspektif [emfasis asli]. (1980: 162).

 

Dalam riwayat perjalanan ke Amerika di era Viktorian, kendaraan dan jalur yang dilaluinya berfungsi sebagai sebuah ruang ambang (liminal) yang senantiasa dihuninya beserta musafir yang mengendarainya. Posisi ini memungkinkan perawi menjaga jarak tertentu dari lingkungannya sehingga ia tetap bertahan dengan statusnya sebagai pengunjung tetapi cukup dekat sehingga memiliki perspektif yang memadai agar dapat memperoleh informasi yang cukup agar dapat memasukkannya ke dalam riwayatnya.

 

IV. Transportasi sebagai Isu Tematis

Namun demikian, masalah perspektif ini lebih daripada sekedar perkara struktural. Aspek ini merupakan lokus bagi pemberian makna atas perjalanan karena “perjalanan melibatkan ditinggalkannya situasi sosial dan kultural rutin, dan karena itu mengasingkan [estranges]si musafir dari yang dikenalnya” (Morgan, 2001: 10). Stevenson berkata serupa dalam riwayatnya:

Ada dua macam perjalanan dan perjalananku menyeberangi lautan ini menggabungkan keduanya…Aku bukan saja pergi ke luar negeriku dalam hal garis lintang dan bujur, tetapi keluar dari diriku dalam hal makanan, kenalan, dan pertimbangan. Sebagian dari ketertarikan dan banyak kesenangan mengalir, setidaknya untukku, dari situasi baru ini (1921: 88).

 

Hal tersebut membuka peluang bagi dirinya untuk dapat berada di tengah-tengah Liyan sehingga ia dapat memiliki wawasan penuh yang strategis atasnya agar dapat membuat pernyataan tentangnya. Status ini menganugerahkan kekuasaan yang besar karena naik ke posisi

di atas kekinian, melampaui diri, ke dalam wilayah asing dan jauh” memungkinnya memandang lingkungan sekitarnya sebagai objek pengetahuan, yang “secara inheren rentan terhadap pemeriksaan[7]…. Memiliki pengetahuan tentang sesuatu sama dengan menguasainya[8], memiliki wewenang atasnya. Dan kewenangan di sini berarti ‘kita’ menyangkal otonominya…karena kita mengetahuinya dan ia ada, dalam makna tertentu, sebagaimana kita mengetahuinya. (Said, 1978: 32)

 

Lebih penting lagi, hal tersebut terkait dengan pandangan ambivalen para penulis riwayat perjalanan Britania terhadap bangsa Amerika, sebagaimana yang dicontohkan kutipan dari riwayat Trollope di awal tulisan ini. Karena itu, keluhan yang senantiasa tersebar dalam riwayat mereka tentang betapa kampungannya orang Amerika atau tentang betapa bangsa Amerika terobsesi dengan upaya mengejar uang harus dipandang sebagai gejala yang lebih daripada sekedar kecerewatan yang mengemuka dari keangguhan etnosentris bangsa Inggris. Trollope, dalam penilaian akhir atas masyarakat Ameria menegaskan:

if refinement once creeps in among them, if once they learn to cling to the graces, the honours, the chivalry of life, then we shall say farewell to American equality, and welcome to European fellowship one of the finest countries on earth. (1997: 318)

Ini lebih daripada sekedar semacam ancaman embargo kultural atas yang diberlakukan kekuatan peradaban Eropa atas bangsa Amerika yang vulgar. Hal ini juga menunjukkan kekhawatiran tentang yang dapat terjadi terhadap bangsa Britania[9] itu sendiri dengan melihat Amerika sebagai cermin yang menayangkan Liyan sebagai imago Dirinya. Perjalanan memang bukan sekedar kesempatan bagi si musafir memandang Liyan melainkan juga bagi transformasinya menjadi “pengamat seksama atas kebudayaan dirinya dan orang lain” (Morgan, 2001: 10). Hal ini berkenaan sekali dengan kasus musafir Viktorian di Amerika karena, walaupun ia memiliki kebanggaan tentang bangsanya, mereka tidak dapat menyangkal bahwa ia memiliki afinitas dengan objek pengetahuannya.

Khususnya bagi James, ambivalensi ini bersifat sangat signifikan karena ia terikat pada kedua wilayah geografis tersebut. Riwayatnya tentang perjalanannya kembali memberi kesaksian atas temuannya bahwa sebuah “perpetual passionate pecuniary purpose … derides and devours” kampung halamannya, yaitu New York. (1947: 111). Serupa dengan cara infrastruktur transportasi mengambil kekuasaannya sebagai “the systematic story-seeker,” yang merintangi upayanya memberi makna kepada perjalanan; kekuatan ekonomi saat itu sedang dalam proses mengubah dunia yang dikenal wawasan Viktorian.

 

V. Penutup

Perspektif yang dioperasikan dalam struktur naratif karya James dan Trollope mennghalangi kedua pengamat seksama kehidupan dan alam Amerika ini dari melihat yang gamblang. Trollope dan Stevenson tampak bersikukuh dalam menegaskan bahwa mereka memiliki status sebagai seorang lady dan seorang gentleman walaupun jelas—sebagaimana yang dilihat Setevenson pada sesama penumpang dek terbawah kapal, dan yang enggan diakui Trollope ada pada dirinya—bahwa perubahan ekonomi di tingkat global sedang terjadi di penghujung abad kesembilanbelas, yang mendorong dan memungkinkan orang bepergian menyeberangi Samudra Atlantik dan kembali lagi dengan mudah karena tersedianya sarana dan prasarana. Namun demikian, James yang membandingkan dan menyandingkan masyarakat Anglofon di kedua sisi Atlantik dalam seluruh karirnya sebagai penulis, dan yang dirinya sendiri merupakan personifikasi dari diri trans-Atlantik, dalam haya penulisannya yang yang penuh manuver, sesungguhnya menyiratkan adanya transformasi ini. Perjalanannya ke sisi Amerika identitasnya mengarahkan dirinya pada penemuan, seiringan dengan renungannya tentang konstruksi yang baru sebagai ganti yang lama, bahwa “the monuments of pecuniary power rise thick and close” (1947: 212). Ia selanjutnya menyatakan:

This acquaintance, as it practically been, with the whole rounding of the circle (even though much of it from a distance), was tantamount to having sat out the drama, the social, the local, that of a real American period, from the rise and fall of the curtain—always assuming that truth of the reached catastrophe or dénouement” (213).

 

Karena terkait secara biografis dengan kedua sisi Atlantik, James dapat melihat bahwa perjalanan ke Amerika secara metaforis mengikuti arah perkembangan sistem ekonomi global. Seiring dengan menjalarnya jaringan jalur pelayaran,, jalan darat, dan rel kereta api ke arah barat, riwayat perjalan Britania Britania abad kesembilanbelas, sebagaimana terbangun dalam citra dirinya sendiri, mendokumentasi ekspansi ekonomi kapitalis yang tidak lama kemudian akan mendefinisi Britania Raya dan juga Amerika Serikat. Pada saat yang sama, riwayat-riwayat tersebut, menyuarakan keengganan bangsa Inggris dalam menghadapi akhir kerangka berpikir Viktorian yang diwakili mereka sendiri.

 

Daftar Pustaka

Benis, Toby R. 2003. “Transportation and Narrative.” Criticism Vol. 45 No. 3, hlm. 285-299.

Chatman, Seymour. 1978. Story and Discourse: Narrative Structure in Fiction and Film. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press.

Dunbar, Seymour. 1937. A History of Travel in America. New York: Tudor.

Franck, Irene M. and David M. Brownstone. 1984. To the Ends of the Earth: The Great Travel and Trade Routes of Human History. New York: Facts On File Publications.

Genette, Gérard. 1980. Narrative Discourse: An Essay in Method. Terj. Jane E. Lewin. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press.

James, Henry. 1947. The American Scene. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.

Morgan, Marjorie. 2001. National Identities and Travel in Victorian Britain. Houndmills: Palgrave.

Said, Edward W. 1978. Orientalism. New York: Vintage.

—. 1983. The World, the Text, and the Critic. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

Stevenson, Robert Louis. 1921. The Amateur Emigrant and the Silverado Squatters. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.

Trollope, Frances. 1997. Domestic Manners of the Americans. London: Penguin.

Williams, Raymond. 1977. Marxism and Literature. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


[1] Frances Trollope (1779-1863) adalah ibu dari penulis modernis ternama Anthony Trollope. Karya-karyanya yang lain, yang berpendirian anti-perbudakan konon mempengaruhi penulis Harriet Beecher Stowe.

[2] Kehadiran kekuatan Imperium Britania di sebelah barat Amerika Serikat menjadi penghalang bagi perdagangan internasional karena Inggris masih berkonflik dengan Perancis yang menguasai beberapa bagian utara dan notabene merupakan sekutu Amerika Serikat serta persaingan antara Angkatan Laut Kerajaan Inggris dan kapal-kapal dagang Amerika Srikat. Selain itu, Inggris pun mendukung resistensi bangsa-bangsa pribumi trehadap upaya ekspansi Amerika Serikat.

[3] Walaupun dalam tulisan ini saya sering menggunakan istilah ”Britania”  sebagai sinonim ”Inggris,” sesungguhnya keduanya harus dibedakan satu sama lain.

[4] Frase inipun menyiratkan bahwa di Britania pun ada wacana tentang eksperimen sehubungan dengan upaya transformasi sosial secara revolusioner.

[5] Pada awal kolonisasi Amerika oleh bangsa Britania, memang salah satu alasan migrasi adalah pengasingan para narapidana sebagai ganti menjalani hukuman penjara.

[6] Berkaitan dengan masalah penataan rangkaian peristiwa dalam sebuah riwayat—baik yang fiktif maupun yang non-fiktif Northrop Frye menawarkan juga istilah ”emplotment” dan ”mythos” dengan merujuk kepada konsep-konsep yang diajukan Aristoteles dan para ahli teori sastra Aristotelian.

[7] Said menggunakan kata “scrutiny.” Saya menggunakan kata “pemeriksaan” dalam arti sebagaimana polisi memeriksa tersangka, jaksa memeriksa terdakwa, dan hakim memeriksa perkara; atau sebagaimana seorang auditor memeriksa pembukuan, guru memeriksa ujian, atau dokter memeriksa pasien.

[8] Misalnya, karena seseorang mengetahui ilmu atau cara melakukan sesuatu, dikatakan ia menguasai hal tersebut.

[9] Harus diingat juga bahwa pemahaman tentang Britania sebagai sebuah bangsa pada saat itu merupakan hal yang relative baru dibandingkan pemahaman tentang Inggris sebagai sebagai entitas politik.

Ini Bukan Sajak

Ini bukan sajak.

Ini bukan cerita fiksi.

Ini adalah tiga belas hal yang dipertimbangkan ketika membongkar belulang leluhumu dari kubur.

These are thirteen things to consider when exhuming the remains of your grandfather.

 

Kalau saya bilang tiga belas maksudnya: satu, dua tiga, empat, lima, enam, tujuh, delapan, sembilan, sepuluh, sebelas, dua belas, tiga belas.

Kalau saya bilang tiga belas, bisa juga artinya satu, tapi jelas bukan dua. Dua belas bulan tambah satu, tanggal dua belas tambah satu. Twelve hours and one. Twelve witches and one.

For some people definitely not three, not four, not five, especially not seven.

One little bird

Two little birds

Three little birds

Thirteen black birds pecking on the pile of dung that is me

berbincang dengan cacing                        belitung                                    dan hara tanah. Kadang-kadang Sri Pohaci yang bangkit.

Seringnya

cuma bau busuk.

 

Tiga belas hal yang dipertimbangkan ketika membongkar belulang leluhurmu dari kubur

Thirteen things to consider when exhuming the remains of your grandfather.

 

When I say things, I mean a cup of coffee after you say, “Would like to come in for some coffee or something?” Or something. Mungkin kopinya dulu, dan somethingnya abis itu. Itu satu.

When I say things, I mean the smell of protein which lulls you to sleep and you only realize it’s there when you wake up. Diet protein itu tai kucing. Gak pernah cukup karena pas bangun pagi, kamu bikin telor mata sapi, when it’s still easy to do, for two. Dan, ingat tadi saya bilang: definitely not two. That’s two.

When I say things, I mean the cat in the hat that brought in thing one and thing two. So you see caffeine and protein can really mess up your house. Make sure you clean up before your mother comes back. A. The cat. B. Your mother. C. The fish in your head. Itu tiga. (Saya Pisces lagi.)

When I say things, maksudnya satu set kunci duplikat. Satu buat pintu depan. Satu buat pintu belakang, satu buat garasi, satu buat laci di kamar tidur. Itu empat.

When I say things, maksudnya pintu. Pertama dibuka. Terus ditutup. Terus dikunci. Then, you either unlock or kick it open. Then, you let her decide whether to slam it shut or close it in a civil manner. But even in civil cases, a lot of slamming goes on. Itu lima.

When I say things, I mean the things you have to come back for afterwards: a shirt, a book, a bank statement, a son. Enam.

When I say things, I mean the keys you have after she’s changed the locks, or kunci pintu kosan. Tujuh.

When I say things, I mean a name. Delapan.

Stories your mother’s told which she has no recollection of telling and blames you for remembering. Sembilan.

Foto di dinding. Sepuluh.

One: arms and legs and things that cost you an arm and a leg; two: a heart; three: arteries, veins, and capillaries; four: glands and secretions, five: metabolic osmosis; six: eyes; seven: the retina; eight: the nerves that connect the retina to the brain; nine: a brain; ten: a spinal cord; eleven: nerve ends that burst out of your pores and turn to

Dua belas: Rhizomes, that creeps out the dung that is me dan masuk ke tanah menuju belulang leluhur saya dan

Tiga belas: A black bird.

 

Pada mulanya satu. Kemudian tiga belas                      terbang dan menyatu dalam

Sebotol tinta.                                                 Sang Bapa memekarkan bulu ekornya, lalu

menghujam dan bangkit                berulang hingga                              ia puas.

terus ia menoreh

dan meninggalkan bekas              berulang hingga                              ia puas

di kertas                                             di batu            di tanah                     di dalam darah.

Ia menoreh                                        menggaruk    menggali                   dan membongkar

berulang hingga                              ia puas

hingga akhirnya bayangannya     menjelma

menggantung di atas kepala.

Dituliskannya diri saya pada bayangannya                   dan saya menuliskannya

Berulang hingga                              ia puas.

 

Tinta merembas menyerap dalam pori-pori jaringan bubur kayu yang mati, mengisi ruang hampa.

Thirteen blackbirds dan seorang laki-lalki bermantel beludru berbordir emas.

Ini bukan sajak.

Tidak ada aku yang meradang menerjang

karena

 

Api memang membakar, tapi

Air lah tempat bumi berlabuh.

 

Kobarnya mengeringkan tenggorokan

Menghampakan dada,

Perut kosong, dan

Kulit & selaput berjelaga.

 

Naga kehilangan cengkeramnya,

Lelah dan letih,

Mata merah dan kulit kering.

 

Tapi, air

Seperti mani melembutkan

Dinding vagina basah, sepert

Liur manis di antara bibir dan lidah dan semua, seperti

Setetes keringat menggantung di bulu mata,

Asin seperti               air laut,

Tempat bumi berlabuh.

 

Api membara, mendidihkan darah,

Degup jantung, dan

Napas dan dahak tepat di pangkal lidah

Terasa bahwa nyawa itu pahit.

 

Naga serak dan kehilangan suara,

Waswas, mata berkedut, jari bergetar,

Khawatir kalau-kalu kata menumpahkan malu, tapi

 

Air

Tempat berlabuh menjangkarkan rambut dan kepala

Meneteskan air mata di dada

Terkecap sambil kamu dan saya mengayun

Pasang surut diikat

Setetes asa yang pada sesaat.

 

Ini bukan sajak, walaupun

 

Sunyi itu memekakkan.

Nasi terjun ke rongga hampa.

Esok dan dulu meninggalkanku

Di gurun dengan mulut ternganga

Supaya tidak sakit bila nyawa hendak berangkat.

 

Kalau puisi itu luapan jiwa,

Bisa kujual sajakku ke petugas tinja.

 

Karena

Ini bukan sajak.

Ini cuma satu cara membongkar belulang leluhur.

 

Ketika semuanya tersingkap,

Yang ada bukan cahaya putih pusaka

Hanya

Sisa hidup yang kita buang ke

Jamban.

Three-Rabbi Lecture

On this seventh day of the month of November in the Common Era, the Madrasati-l-Nazariyyatu-l-Hartaqa (The School of Heretical Theory) will be blessed with the ghostly presence of three dead Jewish teachers of noble heresies.

  1. Sigmund Freud, Victorian Ashkenazi doctor of the soul, will be speaking of the significance of dreams, particularly dreaming of killing Fathers and marrying Mothers.
  2. Karl Marx, Victorian Ashkenazi scribe of the market, will be speaking of History as the universal story of class struggle, ideology in popular culture and entertainment, and, of course, the joy of religion as opiate.
  3. Jacques Derrida (aka Rabbi Ben Rida?), 20th-century Sephardi teacher of the text will, of course, be speaking of the text as universe.

The presence of these eminent teachers will be facilitated by the medium Dr. Tom Byers of the University of Louisville, Director of the Center for Commonwealth Center for the Humanities and Society.

The lecture will begin at 8:50 a.m. Western Indonesian Time (WIB), and will take place on the 2nd Floor of Building D of the Faculty of Arts at Universitas Padjadjaran, Jatinangor.

Critical Theory Notes for Week 2

Critical Theory

Notes

Week 2

Literature and Literary Theory

 

[After discussing the issues raised here, begin writing and electronically publishing your responses. Make explicit note in your published piece that you will provide further elaborations later. You will have to publish your responses by Tuesday night 11.59 p.m. at the latest to allow potential readers to present comments and questions. Your failure to publish your response will cost you your grade for Response 1.]

 

Two questions may haunt students of literature—both those paying and those being paid to study—who have decided to dedicate a major portion of their lives—at least for a particular period of time—to studying literature. One is: What is the function of literature in society? This may be safer question than the more utilitarian question: What is the use of literature?—both in its denotative and rhetorical meanings. Even if we ask the second question, we may still follow it up with the question: If there is no practical use for literature, why is it being constantly produced by society, and for significantly lucrative commercial purposes for that matter? We may consider that the printing and publishing industries, though one may argue that those industries were initially driven by political religious motivations of the promoters of seventeenth-century Protestantism, flourished for the purpose of distributing literature to the general public, with similar Lutheran sentiments to those who have taken advantage of the industries to give the general public access to the word of God. (In this light we might also consider Boccaccio’s argument that poetry is secular theology.)[1] “Literature,” Frye reminds us, “has been always recognized to be a marketable product, its producers being the creative writers and its consumers the cultivated readers, with the critics at their head” (1957: 19-20).

This is not after all a new question. In Horace’s advice to his pupil, he emphasizes that poetry should be utile or useful (and, by this he means that it should be teach some kind of lesson—moral or otherwise) as well as dulce or sweet (in that poetry must also entertain or delight).[2] At this point, let us consider the following questions:

  1. a. How does Horace rhetorically make the argument in support of the utilitarian benefit, or even necessity of poetry? What statements does he put forward to make this claim?
  2. How does his argumentative point of urbanity fit in this rhetorical purpose? What does this point on urbanity suggest about the place of poetry in high culture, Horace’s views about social structures and hierarchies, and the prestige of poetic language in society? What does the constant separation between “good” and “bad” poetry (the latter being not poetry at all) as well as what forms are superior or inferior to other forms suggest? What does the inclusion of English (literary) studies in England in the early nineteenth century suggest about the way prestigious and non-prestigious writing travel around social hierarchies?
  3. What can you infer from the fact that Horace as well as Plato, Aristotle, and Boccaccio talk about literature as “poetry” or “poetic fiction”?
  4. a. Plato, Aristotle, Horace, and Boccaccio assume the fictional nature of poetry by constantly addressing the problem of imitation or mimesis.[3]How do they talk about this either defend or discredit the place of literature in social discourse?
    1. How can the underlying assumed end or function of literature as being truth or the revelation thereof be removed or replaced in order to get around the problem of imitation? Does Aristotle’s strategy of appreciating the complexity of poetic forms help to get around it?
    2. How does such contemporary discussions as Scholes’s which argues for the necessity literature as the social space where “[o]rthodoxy…[codifies] unorthodox behavior, setting aside times and places for approved Saturnalias, designating certain attire as the jester’s special clothing, and telling poets they have a ‘license’ to be odd” resolve or further problematize our understanding of the place of literature in everyday socio-cultural activities?

The other question is somewhat a continuation of Horace’s discourse. While Horace and also Aristotle[4] elaborate on the sophisticated mechanisms of poetic language and what their effects to show what the (novice) poet should and should not do, contemporary students of literature—perhaps inheriting the legacy of nineteenth-century English studies—are accustomed to study literature as readers rather than writers. If they are to be writers, what they write would be criticism of literature but not literature itself. This presents them with the question of the function of literary studies and literary criticism. Prior to theory, as De Man suggests when he reminds us of the distinction between Warheit (truth) and Methode, the main end of the literary scholarship has been the revelation of truth hidden as a mystery underneath the labyrinth of poetic language. Perhaps, this is also the underlying problem when making the distinction between “good” and “bad” literature, for what is the use of studying inferior writing if there is no truth to be found beneath the text? This is an essential question for literary criticism as an academic subject because “it should be possible to get a comprehensive view of what it actually is doing” (Frye, 1957: 12).

The mere fact that such a statement as Frye’s is put forward at all does not only present us with a kind of guideline on what we should or should not do, but more importantly that we as students of literature feel insecure by the fact that we actually need to justify what we do. Frye’s comment that literary criticism is “[n]ot a “pure” or “exact” science, of course, but these phrases belong to a nineteenth-century cosmology which is no longer with us” (1957: 7) shows uneasiness about the kind of academic work that we do. Then, we can proceed with the following questions.

1.            How does Frye’s constant comparative reference to the “exact” sciences and other fields of study help us understand the problems with English studies in particular and literary/cultural studies in general in our contemporary Indonesian social and academic discourse, especially as they pertain to the recent developments in the curriculum in our English studies programs.

2.            If we depart from Warheit and the use of literature as a kind of guidance for social and moral life, and then take on Methode, does that necessitate theory in our carrying out our work? If so, why then is there resistance to theory at all? What does such resistance assume? Is Methode as De Man discusses it similar to the way Aristotle “propose to treat of poetry in itself and of its various kinds, noting the essential quality of each; to inquire into the structure of the plot…and the nature of the parts?”

3.            Is Scholes a supporter for or an opponent against theory? How does his general attitude related to his concern of English studies as an “apparatus”?[5] What does Scholes’s mapping of English studies show about the field as a part of social hierarchiazation of knowledge?

4.            Is De Man saying that the study of literature is an application of linguistic principles when he says “[l]iterary theory can be said to come into being when the approach to literary texts is no longer based on non-linguistic, that is to say historical and aesthetic, considerations or, to put it somewhat less crudely, when the object of discussion is no longer the meaning or the value but the modalities of production and of reception of meaning and of value prior to their establishment- the implication being that this establishment is problematic enough to require an autonomous discipline of critical investigation to consider its possibility and its status?” Does such an argument give more justification for carrying out serious, dedicated study of literature?

5.            How may then literary studies be beneficial for society?[6]


[1] In this defense of poetry, Boccaccio makes the excuse that “although the two forms of writing [i.e. the Scriptures and poetry] do not have the same end in view, but only a like method of treatment,” he continues by citing Gregory that both are worthy of praise because the former allows access to divine truth (according to Christian doctrines) and the other  “reveal to us the causes of things, the effects of virtues and of vices, what we ought to flee and what to follow; in order that we may attain by virtuous action the end that they, although they did not rightly know the true God, believed to be our supreme salvation.”

[2] On the issue poetry’s needing to be both instructional and entertaining, Boccaccio suggests that poetry like the Scripture use poetic devices and language “disciplines the wise, and…strengthens the foolish….[by nourishing] little children, and [preserving] in secret that whereby it holds rapt in admiration the minds of sublime thinkers.”

[3] Begin thinking about issues concerning representation and their implications for next week.

[4] Note that Ion is also a rhapsode, and the lesson that Socrates offers is presented to an artist with a specific skill and not the general audience enjoying poetry as “end-users.”

[5] This term reminds us of Louis Althusser’s concepts about State Ideological Apparatuses (ISAs).

[6] This question will resurface as a question in the Oral Examination at the end of the semester.

On Mina Loy’s Poetry

Laying Out the Exiled Body: Notes on the Spatial Structure of Mina Loy’s “Anglo-Mongrels and the Rose”*

Ari Adipurwawidjana

This piece of writing assumes, on the mere basis of the title, that the issue of the historical exile due to race and gender is the underlying notion around which Mina Loy’s “Anglo-Mongrels and the Rose” revolve. In the first encounter the poem shows itself to be a labyrinth of words. It demands what any text, be it an advertisement or the utterances of a psychoanalyst’s patient on a sofa demands: to be understood. Fulfillment of such a task entails the revelation of an identity. However, that identity is manifest through the disembodied voice the existence of which can only proven by the existence of the body of the poem.

Despite the aforementioned general assumptions about texts, I will not attempt to interpret the long, three-sectioned poem as such, and therefore, neither will assume that it is in fact semi-autobiographical. Meaning through signification will not be the end of the reading. The project will not be to ask what the poem means but rather what it does. It will attempt to see how the poem operates due to the poem’s resistance to, or at least evasion from, interpretation. Therefore, as a number of writers who have set out to take on the interpretive task in the face of Loy’s poetry, I will initially look at the condition out of which the poem was born, namely Mina Loy’s person and her career as an artist.

First, this condition shows that Mina Loy is a manifest feminist, who declares:

The Feminist movement as at present instituted is inadequate, that women should cease to place their confidence in economic legislation, vice-crusades and uniform education, that they should deny at the outset that pathetic, clap-trap war cry Woman is the equal of man [my emphasis].” (qtd. in Potter “Waiting” 258)

This statement gives some light as to how to approach her poem. Clearly, it suggests that Loy does not trust legislation, the most formal manifestation of the Law, and that she insists on refraining from submitting to the rhetoric of “rights,” which defines the civic place of men. Therefore, one step, which I shall take in this project, is to resign from the task of interpretation, to refrain from assuming that Loy’s poem operates under the auspices of the symbolic procedures of linear patriarchal language. After all, it is a poem, and therefore, I shall assume the semiotic approach to poetic language as proposed by Kristeva.

Furthermore, Potter remarks that in lieu of the “rights-based focus of existing feminist politics,” Loy in her feminist manifesto of 1914 proposes that “women’s liberation would be most effectively consolidated through the surgical destruction of virginity in pre-pubescent girls” (Potter “Waiting” 258). This implies that if Loy were to make a statement, she would do so not by means of the linguistic-symbolic but out of the somatic-semiotic. This suggests that what would adequately serve the field on which her creative forces work is the spatial chora. This is understandable considering the fact that Mina Loy was a visual artist and theatrical performer as much as she was a poet. Therefore, a portion of this task of approaching Loy’s poem prior to any daring attempt of reading is to glance at the general composition of some of her paintings, drawings, and collage and compare them to the way her poem is laid out on the two-dimensional page so as to map out the ideas that come together to form the poem.

However, it would be quite misleading also to assume that the poem is the representation of her body. Though metaphors of physicality are prevalent in the poem, the poem is only a body as it is the body for the voice of the subject in the poem. Nevertheless, this subject is not a unitary consciousness. As the focus and perspectives shifts from Exodus, the exiled Jewish
father; Ada, the imperial rose mother; and Ova, the mongrel-rose daughter, the voice also alters. Neither does each of these figures form any kind of centrality for each section. The father is not the archetypal father. He is an exile begotten out of a gentile mother and consequently also a “disinherited” father (22). Exodus is then doubly disinherited, and as Jew in a European world, he is thus doubly exiled. His mother’s revealing to him that “he was seven month’s child” (210) when he “leapt from the womb” (5) suggests that he still in a way belongs in the womb and is continuously trapped in the imaginary held back from becoming a man.

The poem, both in its sections and its entirety, is decentered in its semantic structure leaving numerous gaps in the textual mesh. On the printed page, the poem clearly shows visible spaces between words. These spases may be seen as an element in the set of visual peculiarities of the poem. In general, these spatial and visual features take the place of conventional punctuations. If it may be assumed that punctuation represents the suprasegmental aspects of spoken language, it may also be understood that punctuation operates under the same linearity as speech, which characterizes
patriarchy. Thus, it can be concluded that the visual and spatial features represent the general breaking away from linearity and therefore also patriarchal language.

While the language of the Law regulates the symbolic function, the chora lays out the field for the body to dance in. In Loy’s “Anglo-Mongrels and the Rose” spaces between words and lines indicate that the poem operates within the semiotic function allowed by the spaces provided by the chora. In conventional syntax, words occupy a one-dimensional line which uncompromisingly regulate words into a series. The spaces in this particular poem of Loy’s—not many show this characteristic\—open additional levels of space into which the word can slip out of linearity and obtain a oblique relationship with other words in the poem, revealing a visually apparent collocative and associative relationship. In lines 64 to 72, the words in a line are separated into spaces, which in a way creates two columns. The columns create a space for words to relate to each other in addition to the line:

 

An insect from an herb
errs on the man-mountain
imparts its infinitesimal tactile stimulus
to the epiderm to the spirit
of Exodus
stirring the anaesthetized load
of racial instinct frustrated
impulse infantile impacts with unreason
on his unconscious

 

If forced into a linear syntactic structure, the lines would read: “An insect from an herb errs on the mountain-man[,/and] imparts its infinitesimal tactile stimulus to the epiderm, to the spirit of Exodus, stirring the aenesthetic load of racial instinct, frustrated impulse, [and] infantile impacts with unreason, on his unconscious.” My attempt to provide appropriate punctuations and conjunctions shows that the conventional mechanics of linear language would impose a singular understanding of the relationship between, for example, “errs” and “imparts” by either appropriating a comma or an “and.” However, the choral space, which the poem has opened, makes it possible for the two verbs to have a harmonious ambivalent relationship. This is characteristic of the whole poem’s being “heterogeneous to meaning but always in sight of it or in a negative or surplus relationship to it” (Kristeva 133). In other words, it resists meaning but its resistance recognizes the impending weight of meaning in language, albeit poetic, allowing either complete denial of any kind of linguistic significance or a variety of possibilities for meaning. It variably and simultaneously terminally disables and infinitely enables the interpretive act directed toward it.

 

It is important to observe that the spaces also form a framework of lattices, which resemble the way lines grid the space in her visual art. Consider Le Maison en papier.

While the bodies of the six characters overlap and intertwine, the segmentation of the paper wall of the bathhouse helps configure the spatial relationship between them. The frame simultaneously connects them into the whole of the space and emphasizes the individuality of each body.

Also, the creation of that extra space allows the second column to collocate vertically developing the allusion of “man-mountain” to Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels down to “the tactile stimulus,” to finally “his unconscious” implies that even the minutest violation of the body is a numbing of consciousness. What is more important is, however, that the breaking of linearity with a possible logic perpendicular to it\suggests Loy’s surgical renting of the textual hymen as the seal of the Law’s ownership of the individual body.

Unlike the number of critics which tend to lean too exclusively toward a feminist interpretation in the sense that Loy’s poetic resistance solely voices the damaging impact of patriarchy on the female subject, I see that “Anglo-Mongrels and the Rose” depicts the Law to enforce its power in a trinity of mutually fortifying avatars: patriarchy, capital, and empire.

The poem does not focus singularly on the feminine-gendered subject. It begins with the fractured identity of Exodus as well as both his parents suffering the marginalization of an oppressive social structure. Exodus, despite his being male, is not depicted to be inheritor of the masculinity of the Law. He has

 

[…] grown    
neglected      along the shores of the Danube
on the Danube in the Danube
-or breaking his legs behind runaway horses-
      with a Carnival quirk
      every Shrove Tuesday (6-11)

 

Exodus’s surrounding element is fluid and his relationship to it is varied. He is associated with the carnival, which Kristeva, with reference to Bakhtin, identifies as the opposite of linear narrative (88). The spatial placement of Exodus’s location in relation to the Danube is also interesting. The participle “neglected” is flushed to the left margin in line with “on the Danube in the Danube.” This spatial collocation suggests the exiled quality of being neglected with locative fixity. On the other hand, the implied choral festiveness of the Carnival and Shrove Tuesday is aligned with the fluid aspect of the Danube. Thus, in parallel simultaneity Exodus’s non-location outside the Law is presented as both being denied it and free from it.

Nevertheless, this exiled character constantly portrayed to have the desire to penetrate the limitations which separates him from the realm of the empire similar to the ambivalent relationship he has with the Jewish community:

Imperial Austria taught the child
the German secret patriotism
the Magyar tongue the father
stuffed him with biblical Hebrew and the
seeds of science exhorting him
to vindicate
his forefather’s ambitions
Kouidis remarks, seemingly likening Loy’s use of spaces to Dickinson’s dashes, that “[t]he internal spaces reflect pauses of the intuition and leaps into the subconscious” (181). I would agree insofar that intuition is associated with the chora. However, to suggest that the spaces represent pauses would be indifferent to what I think is Loy’s effective use of space in the act of writing. Though obviously the poem comes into being as an enactment of Loy’s creative imagination and her imaginings of her own coming to being, the poem on the page at the moment that it is manifest on the
page becomes a separate entity detached from its authorial origin. Mina Loy afterwards merely functions as the author as a textual aspect. According to Foucault, “author” functions as a “figure” to which the text points and is attributed, but understood to be “outside it and antecedes it” (Foucault 264). It is characterized by the contemporary conventions about “[t]he form of ownership from which [texts] spring,” about the “types of texts [requiring] attribution to an author,” about the author’s being “the result of a complex operation which constructs a certain rational being that we call ‘author,'” and about notions of origin and authenticity (Foucault 268-270). In short, the author function is just a convenient personification of the voice of the text itself. It is quite obvious that Ova is the parallel of Mina Loy, and her relation to Exodus and Ada resembles that of Loy’s to her parents. However, the whole structure of the poem points to a voice attributed to a personage known as Mina Loy. In that sense, not only Ova but also Exodus and Ada are poetic incarnations of Mina Loy.

This is the main problem with Mina Loy criticism so far. It is too preoccupied with her person, partly because the text’s evasiveness directs the interpretive enterprise toward the more stable, more centered figure of the writer’s person and because Mina Loy herself is somewhat a text. Her range of aesthetic endeavors forms a spectrum consisting of her body in one extreme, and in the other her photographic performance as a model, her visual art, and her poetry. It must be kept in mind that the aesthetic form with which Dickinson works is quite different from Loy’s. Dickinson was not a public speaker, nor was she a well-developed visual artist. Her explorations with possibilities of writing were thus limited to whatever cracks and loopholes language provided.

More importantly, the development in and prevalence of print technology made it possible for Loy to play with more typographical variants than Dickinson, whose dash is really just the printer’s interpretation of obscure markings (definitely the sign of the chora) on her manuscripts. Loy’s “Anglo-Mongrel and the Rose” is virtually bereft of punctuations in the conventional sense. The poem retains the function of the capital letter as the sign for the beginning of a sentence, but, reasonably enough does away with periods to mark the end. It also keeps the conventional usage of double quotes, which marks direct speech, and single quotes, which signifies unique word usage. There are special typographical characters commonly used as punctuation, which in “Anglo-Mongrels and the Rose” function in a different way from their normal utilization, namely hyphens (in sets of one, two, three, and five) and multiplication signs in sets of three. The latter set always functions as a marker separating certain stanza units from another. The former, however, are situated in the poem in a variety of ways suggesting a similar diversity of functions.

In most instances, the markings fill in spaces much in the same way as words. They may function as signifiers for a language with no signifieds. Or, they may represent signifiers for signifieds lay in the poem’s own subjectivity. Either way, the poem indicates that non-linguistic elements are in play and causes the breakdown of linguistic integrity. Such a textual instance occurs when Exodus as the intruder of the empire first meets Ada as the feminized, perfect form of the empire:

And the rose

rises

from the green

of a green lane

rosily-stubborn

and robustly round

– – – – –

Under a pink print

sunbonnet

the village maid

scowls at the heathen

Albion

in female form

salutes the alien Exodus

staring so hard—

warms his nostalgia

on her belligerent innocence

– – The maidenhead

drooping her lid

and pouting of her breast

– – forewarns

his amity

– – – – –

Amorphous meeting

in the month of May

– – – – –

(449-473)

Amorphous it is. The poem underlines the destructiveness of the event both by its self-referential comment and the disintegration of its syntactic structure. The hyphens open an entrance to the poetic chora
as the ambiguity of physical gestures initiate the collapse. The maidenhead offers the ambivalence which mixes the untouchable, immaculate image of the Virgin Mary and the forbidding hymen/tempting vagina, that is both impenetrability and invitation. Similarly, the “pouting of her breast,” in itself neutral, becomes double-edged: either disapproval or affirmation. In the moment of crisis, her initial stately appearance and threatening looks upon the trespasser succumbs to Exodus’s “staring so hard.” It is not a sudden defeat either. Something happened between line 454 and 455, as indicated by the five-hyphen intrusion. Then after line 458, her position shifts with indentation, while the stable post of the left margin is taken over by Exodus with his penetrating gaze. This violent moment on woman’s body as the seal of the authoritative purity and grandeur of the empire resemble the crushing effect of decorum for the interest of the male gaze as displayed by Loy’s drawing “Consider Your Grandmother’s Stays.”

The woman seems to be squeezed by the overwhelmingly space-occupying dress until her arms and head appear to dangle out of her disappearing torso. Ironically, Loy herself had had the experience of being constricted by the male gaze. In a photograph taken by her husband Stephen Haweis, the image of Loy’s body more closely resembles the falling apart of Ada’s presence in the poem than her drawing:

In the picture Loy’s identity “is reduced to a voyeuristic fetish, her body is exposed as the object of the violence of the male (gaze)” (Goody 278). Like the “maidenhead | drooping her lid,” Loy cannot return the gaze of the male camera.

However, it is Exodus that penetrates the emblem of the empire. This Exodus earlier in the poem is sent to live with “Sinister foster-parents | who lashed the boy | to that paralysis of | the spiritual apparatus | common to | the poor” (40-45). And later on in his life he joins “voluntary military | service paradise of the pound-stirling [sic] | where the domestic Jew in lieu | of knouts is lashed with tongues” (56-59). Each character within their respective sections is marginalized and victimized, but bring about the eventual violence of another. The marriage of Exodus and Ada results in the birth of Ova. Her birth is not a miracle:

Her face
screwed to the mimic-salacious
grotesquerie of a pain
larger than her intellect
– – – – They pull
A clotty bulk of bifurcate fat
out of her loins (674-680)
Again the hyphens appear in the liminal instance upon the coming to existence of another body within the choral space. It a transitional space between the grotesqueness of giving birth and being born, the sheer physical labor, where the rigid strictures of language cannot function. It is the Kristevaean abject. Out of this indescribable event outside the realm of the law is the image and voice of the artist, in whose person “Jesus of Nazareth | becomes one-piece | with Judas Iscariot in this composite | Anglo-Israelite” (725-729). As she is born out of this in-between space, through it also she squeezes into the symbolic order:
And instantly
this fragmentary
simultaneity
of ideas
embodies
the word
A
lucent
iris
shifts
its
irradiate
interstice
Mina Loy’s “Anglo-Mongrel and the Rose” is not a labyrinth after all. Its non-linearity, ambiguity, and ambivalence indicate its exhaustion of the potentials of poetic language and extensive exploration. Her use of non-letter typographical characters and space “creates a dense, multi-layered text which elaborates and synthesizes connections among personal, cultural, social, and moral” (Jaskoski 351). It is the same explorative spirit which she seeks from shifting from one media to another, much in the same way her poetry moves up and down the page. Unfortunately, it is her exploration in the spaces of the chora in various fields that she disappeared from the memory of academic scholarship, until her rediscovery by Virginia Kouidis. For Loy poetry is the process of “defining her own place within the ‘spatiality’ of poetry” (Burke 137). In her lifetime, she had expanded that poetic space into the realms of various media, which the ever-changing subject of “Anglo-Mongrel and the Rose” has found through the crevices of rigid linear language.

References

Burke, Carolyn. “Becoming Mina Loy.” Women’s Studies 7 (1980): 137-150.

Foucault, Michel. “What Is an Author?” Trans. Donald F. Bouchard and Sherry Simon. In Contemporary Literary Criticism. Eds. Robert Con Davis and Ronald Schleifer. New York: Longman, 1989: 263-275.

Goody, Alex. “Ladies of Fashion/Modern(ist) Women: Mina Loy and Djuna Barnes.” Women: A Cultural Review 10.3 (1999): 267-282.

Jaskoski, Helen. “Mina Loy Outsider Artist.” Journal of Modern Literature 18.4 (1993): 349-368.

Kouidis, Virginia M. “Rediscovering Our Sources: The Poetry of Mina Loy.” Boundary 2 8.3 (1980): 167-188.

Kristeva, Julia. Desire in Language: A Semiotic Approach to Literature and Art. Trans. Thomas Gora, Alice Jardine, and Leon S. Roudiez. Ed. Leon S. Roudiez. New York: Columbia University Press, 1980.

Nicholls, Peter. “‘Arid Clarity:’ Ezra Pound, Mina Loy, and Jules Laforgue.” The Yearbook of English Studies 32 (2002): 52-64.

Potter, Rachel. “At the Margins of the Law: Homelessness in the City in Mina Loy’s Late Poems.” Women: A Cultural Review 10.3 (1999):253-265.

—. “Waiting at the Entrance to the Law: Modernism, Gender, and Democracy.” Textual Practice 14.2 (2000): 253-263.