CTT: Ignorance

For this exercise I chose the tag “ignorance” because it is used to characterize two separate novels that we have read so far. I also find the idea of ignorance fascinating because it can be both involuntary or chosen, and relates to the subject of knowledge. The word is first used in reference to a post on Henry James’ novella The Beast in the Jungle. The post begins by analyzing the early scene where Marcher and May are recalling their first meeting together. The blogger, Haley Boyd, quotes how Marcher “felt as soon as she spoke that she had been consciously keeping back what she said and hoping to get on without it; a scruple in her that immensely touched him when, by the end of three or four minutes more, he was able to measure it. What she brought out, at any rate, quite cleared the air and supplied the link—the link it was so odd he should frivolously have managed to lose” (James 37). She highlights how Marcher is ignorant of the details of their past meeting, and relies on May to “supply the link” and fill in the gaps of his memory. Flipping through a thesaurus, synonyms for ignorance include unawareness, naivete, lack of education, and even half knowledge. This is interesting, because it seems James is using Marcher’s ignorance in this initial conversation to cast him as separate from May, who in can be seen as Marcher’s connection to normativity, or a more socially accepted, “all knowledgeable” way of viewing time/life, etc. To summarize, Helmers writes that “the tessellated pattern of Western culture in which time, understood as a past and present that contain a set of interrelated events that certain people can accurately remember or predict, tessellates into a system of knowledge where people can dig up previously buried pieces of knowledge in order to arrive at a more thorough understanding of past and future and an intimate comprehension of the interiority of other subjects” (Helmers 113). Basically, this reading of Marcher as ignorant further distinguishes him as a non normative or queer character. Furthermore, us readers are forced to relate to this ignorance, as we are only supplied with a half knowledge of Marcher’s secret “truth.” By never naming the “beast,” James alienates us and forces us to become non normative or queer readers. The second post to use this tag is also by Boyd. It explores the same ideas from James’ novel, but asks specifically why Marcher is so eager to let someone supply him with knowledge and fill in the gaps his ignorance creates. She asks if it is “a need to feel normal, motivated either by closeted queerness or by an original inability to conceptualize knowledge and time in a normative way?” I think that in this case Marcher relates to the lead character Vincent from Canet’s film Time Out. Vincent is satisfied at first not working and finding alternate modes of making a living. However, like with Marcher and May, Vincent relies on his wife to fill in the gaps of his narrative when it falls short for his father. Vincent also finally relinquishes his non normativity and interviews for a socially accepted job position. The last post that uses this tag discusses Nella Larsen’s Quicksand and Sianee Ngia’s article “Ugly Feelings.” The blogger, mmacg123, explores the idea of both ignorance and alienation. They describe how Helga acts both ignorant to certain annoyances, but then overly irritated by others. The blogger mentions Ngai’s reading that it is the reader’s inability to understand (or their ignorance of) Helga’s reactions that make them feel alienated. In Helga’s case, ignorance and constant frustration seem to be a type of coping mechanism. Of course, Ngai’s theory is that it is an involuntary response. Either way, I wonder if her frustration is more prominent because she is an African American female, with less agency than the character’s of Marcher or Vincent. After reading these posts, ignorance seems to represent a position that opposes normativity, or socially accepted forms of knowledge. In other words, ignorant characters occupy a queer stance. More analysis needs to be done to determine why some of these characters are so eager to let their ignorance be replaced by the knowledge of others.  


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