From the 1990s, a message about Rich, Weil and trauma writing.
I was rereading a preface by Adrienne Rich. The preface is collected in On Lies, Secrets and Silence: Selected Prose 1966-1978. The preface is dated 1976 and is entitled ”Conditions for Work: The Common World of Women”. She quotes from Simone Weil:
A clear view of what is possible and what impossible, what is easy and what difficult, of the labors that separate the project from its accomplishment — this alone does away with insatiable desires and vain fears; from this and not from anything else proceed moderation and courage, virtues without which life is nothing but a disgraceful frenzy.
The passage is from Weil’s “Theoretical Picture of a Free Society” collected in Oppression and Liberty trans. by Arthur Wills and John Petrie (1973).
I am wondering if Weil and Rich might not provide a bridge back to considerations of the popular as the work of social reproduction and a way of conducting the work of memorialization without reinducing trauma. Rich suggests that “[f]or spiritual values and a creative tradition to continue unbroken we need concrete artifacts, the work of hands, written words to read, images to look at, a dialogue with brave and imaginative women who came before us.” She then cites a passage from Hannah Arendt’s The Human Condition and continues to firmly situate this work in a gendered context: “Hannah Arendt does not call this ‘women’s work.’ Yet it is this activity of world-protection, world preservation, world-repair — the million tiny stitches, the friction of the scrubbing brush, the scouring cloth, the iron across the shirt, the rubbing of cloth against itself to exorcise the stain, the renewal of the scorched pot, the rusted knifeblade, the invisible weaving of a frayed and threadbare family life, the cleaning up of soil and waste left behind by men and children — that we have been charged to do ‘for love,’ not merely unpaid, but unacknowledged by the political philosophers. […] Arendt tells us that the Greeks despised all labor of the body necessitated by biological needs.”
The radical American feminist critique of the 70s regarding the repression of the body in Western thought might be worth keeping in the background of your explorations of the debates over the proper relation between the popular and the Holocaust. Incidentally, Rich does in her later prose and poetry explore her Jewish roots. [See “Split at the Root: An Essay on Jewish Identity” (1982)]
Somewhere in all this quotidian work there the encounter with the impossible. Rich writes in “Split at the Root” about sometimes feeling inadequate to the task but she does not shrink:
Yet we can’t wait for the undamaged to make our connections for us; we can’t wait to speak until we are perfectly clear and righteous. There is no purity and, in our lifetimes, no end to this process.
We can’t wait. No we can’t.
And so for day 1994