Will's Reviews > Arts of the Possible: Essays and Conversations

Arts of the Possible by Adrienne Rich
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Jul 06, 08

bookshelves: theoretical
Read in January, 2006

In the America where I'm writing now, suffering is
diagnosed relentlessly as personal, individual, maybe
familial, and at most to be "shared" with a group
specific to the suffering, in the hope of "recovery."
We lack a vocabulary for thinking about pain as
communal and public, or as deriving from "skewed
social relations." (Art, 114)


As seen here in an excerpt from 1996's "Defying the Space That Separates," Adrienne Rich's cultural observations continue, more than a decade after being put to paper, to illuminate reasons for the growing solipsism and sense of alienation that face America today. It should not be surprising then that Rich's social acuity is just as sharp in 2001's Arts of the Possible: Essays and Conversations, which includes "Defying" alongside other prose pieces that help contextualize its ideas in more specific terms. Essentially, the heart of this civil unrest, Rich suggests, lies in an increasingly rigid and formulaic use of language that arises from "exploitative relations of production" (Art, 145). Such exclusory hierarchical systems--being either unwilling or unable to synthesize a dream-worthy symbolic universe--reveal for Rich the mounting social disjointedness and poverty of language that are implicit in the basic tenets of capitalism and a free market economy.
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