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Index: The American Note

A great teacher.

Chloë Hawkey: ‘He seemed to me to be able to make sense of a world, past and present, that completely baffles me. His lectures never suggested that the world isn’t baffling and complex; he didn’t simplify anything to a series of dates or an inevitable process. Instead, he offered us a way to grapple with the confusion, a way to ask questions; as the best critics always do, he offered us a lens through which to look at the world and analyze and wonder at it.’

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Literature as humancraft.

Chloë Hawkey: ‘[Faulkner’s] novels helped readers at the time—as they help us today—to understand why people spoke to each other as they did, why they treated one another as they did; they help us to feel what it is to exist in the world as someone other than ourselves.’

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The inevitable choreographic moment.

Chloë Hawkey: ‘Perhaps, though, we could equally call it a certain deafness in human beings, an inability to hear the pleas of those around us–an inability to hear the music, if you will. And just as dancers can only move convincingly when they are responding to the force of the music, even sympathetic people can only protest when the cultural music demands movement of them, when they feel it in their bones.’

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The National Poet we need now.

Chloë Hawkey: ‘We had Whitman to tell us what was right with us, but now our national ego outweighs even his, and we need Rankine to bring us back down to earth, to ground us and guide us. “Poets are not legislators,” Louis MacNeice once wrote, “but they put facts and feelings in italics, which makes people think about them and such thinking may in the end have an end in action.”’

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The American election.

Chloë Hawking: ‘this is obviously not the time for all thoughtful Americans to abandon political action in favor of reading Henry James. But it is important that each of us who intend to participate in this struggle against Trump be attentive to exactly why we’re doing what we are; it is important, in our fight against a man who has been labeled both a fascist and an autocrat, that we not mindlessly follow the marching orders from above.’

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Wilderness: tamed.

Chloë Hawkey: ‘Now that we don’t have a “frontier,” the American wilderness—or at least an essential protected part of it—has ceased to be a place of the violent work of conquering; it has become a place of meditation. Now that we have no clear sense of a frontier across which to expand, we can finally stand still and see the wonder in what’s around us.’

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‘Collections of intricate and fantastical designs…’

Chloë Hawkey: ‘We seem to be rediscovering the merits of the rough and the analog. Coloring, with its black lines on a white page, with its rudimentary pencils, offers us experiences often missing in contemporary life: straightforwardness, physicality, slowness, solitude, simplicity.’

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