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a performance event: on defining “rape”

October 30, 2012

What sort of thinking has “sought to manipulate the definition of rape, introducing such terminology as ‘legitimate rape,’ ‘forcible rape,’ ‘honest rape,’ and more”?  There was a poem, a sonnet, that answered the preceding question and also the following political statement/ rhetorical question before they were even asked:  “Every candidate I know, every decent American I know condemns rape. OK, so why can’t people like Stephanie Cutter get over it?”

What “embodied, time-based events in word, sound, and movement, [whose] sonnets, moreover, represent opera as a performative text through which writing and reading, listening and looking, doing and un-doing, meaning and mis-understanding decline to the same verb”?  And what active verb might that be?  Listen, watch, and read.  This is a performance event that seeks to undo the manipulation of the definitions:

Triple Sonnet of the Plush Pony

Part I
Do you think of your saliva as a personal possession or as something you can sell?
What about tears? What about semen? Linguists tell
us to use the terms alienable and inalienable
to make this distinction intelligible.
E.g. English speakers call both blood and faeces alienable on a normal day
but saliva, sweat, tears and bowels they do not give away.
Bananas and buttocks, in Papua New Guinea, belong to the inalienable class
while genitalia and skin of banana are not held onto nearly so fast.

Such thinking will affect how a word like rape is defined
or how sorcerers aim their spells or how you feel in your mind
when you address animals. Of course cows and cats,
sheep, pigs, donkeys, dogs and rats
depend on their owner to keep or dispose.
But your pony you cannot sensibly classify with those.

by Anne Carson

and a brief excerpt of the content

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