The Childless Witch: Trembling, Dance, Voice, Oracle, Grace
How do we pose true questions? In my seminar I want to introduce this axiom: a true question is the question that forgets the roles we play. I propose that we give my latest book, The Childless Witch: Trembling, Dance, Voice, Oracle, Grace, a close reading, and look at what is presupposed in the conceptual that circumscribes the childless woman as a witch, a nasty woman, or an eccentric being that can’t be trusted. Being one myself, a childless woman – including the arsenal of epithets that go with this label – I’ve always wanted to know, ‘but why, why all these names for a state that is as natural as falling rain?’ While we can quickly agree that all life is a series of performative enactments of self- and -other identifications, we can agree less on when exactly we can say that ‘playing the role’ – any role – is simply lamentable.
While I’ve stopped asking the question of why childless women are, statistically speaking, almost always subject to suspicion, I haven’t stopped thinking about what’s more interesting. It’s not interesting to think of the roles we play, in what name, and for whose honor, unless, of course, we’re in it for the entertainment value, as it’s fun to change identities as we change our hats. But here’s what I think: what’s more interesting is what we do with ourselves when we refute resolutely to play any cultural games whatsoever, whether for fun or necessity. In my investigation of how we go beyond the roles we play, and consequently start asking true questions, I found that especially artists trained in performing roles have a better grasp of how we can stop lamenting the clichés and stereotypes surrounding us, and focus instead on a clear direction out of the strange loop that’s called ‘other people’s knowledge of us.’
Let’s look at the childless witch as an example of a person who is not only capable of asking true questions, but also answer them. We’ll look at musician and drummer Zohar Fresco, butoh dancer Carlotta Ikeda, Maria Callas in Pier Paolo Passolini’s filmatization of Medea, and filmmaker Maya Deren. I’ll provide video clips of these artist performances and together we’ll pose true questions.
A 4-hour intensive with a break after the first 2 hours.
1. Intro followed by a hot incitement to a few spontaneous responses to a question I will ask the audience to engage with.
2. We go through the four main sections in the book via media examples and discuss briefly what is going on beyond symbolism. I want to focus on the literal expression of the art. I then want the participants to contribute a passage from The Childless Witch and thus explore the five ideas of trembling, dance, voice, oracle, and grace as vehicles towards asking true questions.
3. We round off with some concluding remarks on the curse of identity and identificatory mechanisms, true childless witch style.
Facilitator: Camelia Elias, PhD & Dr. Phil. (Habil.) is a former university professor and chair of American Studies at Roskilde University, Denmark. After 20 years in academia, she left her career to pursue her interests in teaching and writing on the philosophy and practice of reading cards. She works with contemplative arts, oracular language, and martial arts cartomancy and Zen at her own school, Aradia Academy.
The Childless Witch: Trembling, Dance, Voice, Oracle, Grace (EyeCorner Press, 2020): available from all online stores (Barnes and Noble is quick with delivery).
Video clips will be shared in class, but if you have the chance to watch in advance Passolini’s Medea and Maya Deren’s short films, Meshes of the Afternoon, The Witch’s Cradle, Ritual, and At Land – all on YouTube and below – all the better.
Time: Saturday, March 27, 10am-2pm. Online via Zoom.
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