Indices from Narratological Form to Physical Space

Benny Andrews's Did the Bear sit Under a Tree

Benny Andrews's Did the Bear sit Under a Tree

In the last section, I sought to explore the relationship between spatial forms and narratology through the emphasis of intersectionality as the guiding form of the dispute of power structures. Let’s take a moment to corroborate how power structures entice or indicate where space and place can offer a leniency to the human psyche to seek out resistance to power and spatial justice. Hortense J. Spillers, in her massive work, Black and White in Color: Essays on American Literature and Culture, entices the reader to think about form as a holistic structure. Her essay, “‘The Permanent Obliquity of an In(pha)lliby Straight’: In the Time of the Daughters and the Fathers,” immediately calls for a place that offers both the potentiality of resistance and/or compassion, but most often a complex distinction of both. That is the secret to opening spatiality of human determination towards justice. All matters that function as “turns” towards greater realization of an abrupt, solid distinction that our place matters just as much as civil justice and the two are intimately related. Spillers writes,

A “white lady” steps out of a grandfather clock, and she is robed in “white milky stuff and nothing else: (45). Clearly we are meant to understand a doubling of the prohibitive effect of this scene, as we already know, without Trueblood having to tell us, that she is “holding” him and he is “careful to touch her cause she’s white” (45). But this she is holding his fantasies as much as anything else his dream-body brings to bear on the scene; we could say that Trueblood’s body “preaumbulates” and materializes like an object in protective coloration, has always historically translated him into a potentially mutilated body. (2003, 239)

Spillers’s critique transcends literary stations of form into a narratology of spatiality through upheaval and laxity in the commotion of white spheres. This spatial drift is a specific cylinder of forms. It is a narcology of spatial justice that can only be expressed through literary spatial incubation of form and digression from the alertness of justice’s repose of form and in that we see the elaboration the “dream-body” and of the need for a physical space and place for doctrinal forms of justice that feminist geographers map as illustrative of sociopolitical reparations. 

Power structures are interwoven into our innate cause of seeking physical liberation from the insistence of physical barriers to spiritual-emotional liquidation of regression. To hold back is to shrink back from oppression. This all alludes to an indication of growing into the liberation of the consciousness of spatial justice on both an intellectual and corporeal level. Daphne Spain, in her under-currented, wonderful work, Constructive Feminism: Women’s Spaces and Women’s Rights in the American City, writes about bookstores and physical spatial access as pathways to liberation; “A woman who could read might threaten the social order, especially if it was one that denied access to books” (2016, 89). Spain continues, 

Women already knew how to read and write, of course, but publishing and distributing their own work was a radical act. Feminist bookstores sustained and enriched the women’s movement when they disseminated literature by women of differing cultures, ethnicities, races, and sexual preferences. They contained knowledge women could translate into action in their personal lives. By reading, customers learned how to recognize sexual harassment, fight against job discrimination, and take care of their own health. If the purpose of the Second Wave was to empower women through knowledge, feminist bookstores were key sites of that process. (2016, 89). 

There is a clear reflection in the fabric of the material in the literary context and the manifestation of the physical liberated structure within the site of oppression. From aesthetics and literary devices to physical buildings and space within the power cells that unite the front of oppressive tactics, women could impose a literary distillation of resistances in spaces of power-taking that hold more form than matter and more resilience than centuries old soliloquies. 

Note how Spain does state the Second Wave literature was inclusive and intersectional. Though often critiqued as a white movement compared to Third Wave feminism, Second Wave emphasis on inclusion did go a long way to prepare for the intersectional movement of Third Wave feminism (which some argue is manifesting more adroitly in the petitioned Fourth Wave, however distinctive it may sound off as a guiding map). The physical place, like the emotive-political place of the form of narrative power sharing is not lost on careful observation and indices of time passing, however so slowly, towards a sustained movement of form towards spatial justice which in itself is entirely inclusive of form manifested as the realization of realigned power entities.    

Painting: Benny Andrews’s Did the Bear sit Under a Tree