Katherine Voyles Responds to Daniel Pollack Pelzner

Daniel writes movingly of the fraught pleasures of teaching about reading in the Age of Trump and of his wish that Good Form might act as a sort of GPS to steer his students through conceptual impasses.

Our work today involves understanding how we occupy multiple temporalities that clash painfully in their simultaneity. Good Form’s focus on moving through time, on transformation and on reaching a satisfying ending is deeply helpful as we live through unsettled time and times.

The power of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s twinned essays “My President Was Black: A History of the First African American White House—And of What Came Next” and “The First White President: The Foundation of Donald Trump’s Presidency Is the Negation of Barack Obama’s Legacy” is how they work back in time to explain the central role of race in arriving at now. Coates is crystal clear that a lot of people got the ending they wanted; that for them this resolution, this transformation, is a return.

Consider, too, David Frum’s terrifying “How to Build an Autocracy,” which ushers in an imagined future on the premise that the conditions of autocracy already exist. To comprehend today it looks to an as-yet-unrealized tomorrow.

Then and now. Today and tomorrow. The nineteenth-century novel and the twenty-first century essay. Coates joins them all in a tweet about We Were Eight Years in Power: Galleys today. As George Eliot would say, ‘All the light I can command’ in this one. Never know if it’s enough.


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