December 12th, 2010 / 8:51 pm

Lineage: justifiable matricide vs. I mothered you hoes

Do you feel a duty to read and acknowledge your literary, theoretical, and musical foremothers? Do you feel obligated to know the canon even though you don’t find it relevant to you? Do mothers really know what their daughters want? Are you angered by ignorant people of the younger generation who haven’t taken the time to read the foundational texts? Is Nicki Minaj arrogant for not acknowledging her debt to Lil’ Kim? Where do you fall on the questions of lineage and inheritance? Some ideas to chew on beneath the cut.

The Crunk Feminist: Lil’ Kim vs. Nicki Minaj by Crunktastic:

Last  Friday, Lil’ Kim released Black Friday, a diss track to counter the release of Nicki Minaj’s debut album Pink Friday.

When I heard the track, I had mixed emotions. Truthfully, my first thought was “Why is Kim hating on Nicki?” Surely, we don’t need that. And given that Kim seems to be washed up and almost entirely out of the game, it most assuredly sounds like some hateration.

But I listened again to the track, and listened as Kim chided Nicki for being a “Lil Kim Clone Clown.” As Kim put it, “I mothered you hoes.” And I thought of all my conversations with young folks who think Nicki Minaj is the next coming. It make sense since most of them were maybe 5 or 6 when Kim debuted, and just a little older when she reached her zenith. It’s a classic case of generational amnesia and of the propensity of young folks to think all the hotness begins with them.

Loser Occult by Joyelle Mcsweeney:

Loser occult is a rejection of any concept of literature still trying to worship at that old altar of patrilineage, of literary inheritance. Do even poets, the most marginalized, penniless and emasculated of cultural producers, have to work day and night in the salt mine of that old sexist and property-obsessed hierarchy? Yet we, more than almost anyone, are supposed to celebrate an exclusive, narrow and harrowing traditionalism. We’re supposed to be its guardians, after all, like those old ladies sweeping the streets in Soviet Russia with twig brooms, as photographed for Newsweek magazine. This generation did this, that generation did that, this old man was the forebear, this young man is the inheritor. The loser occult knocks that edifice down, hangs out in the rubble huffing, hallucinating, gossiping, making out, wasting time, confecting new and obscene humanoid and nonhumanoid forms. Loser occult envisions a kind of leveled, ambivalent, invisible perpetuity without precedence or antecedence, not based on permanence but on decay, infloration, contamination. It rejects youth, youthful promise, power, vigor, resonance, and shared experience but allows for the possibility of weird mutation, arbitrary reanimation, coincidence, corrosion, drag and psychic twinship. (…)
Rejection of literary paternalism, its entire model of precedence and succession, is a rejection of literary time– the time of literature and the time in literature, as I, Miss Ronald Reagan Georgie Hyde Lee Gertrude Stein Jack Smith puts it. The rejection of the time of literature is what I’ve discussed above—no forebears, no lineage, no inheritors, no master-slave files, just a present-tension, a heap of erratic and corrupting nows dressed in different sorts of clothes.

BullyBloggers: Justifiable Matricide: Backlashing Faludi by Jack Halberstam:

Faludi doggedly pursues her thesis that “a generational breakdown underlies so many of the pathologies that have long disturbed American feminism.” Billing me, in the article’s final section, as the butch matricidal maniac who casually dismisses early models of feminism and then blithely offers up Lady Gaga in exchange, Faludi tidily but not very convincingly wraps up her vapid take on “ritual matricide” with an apocalyptic image of an older woman sitting in the emptied conference room wondering what happened to feminism.


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  1. deadgod

      the possibility of weird mutation

      “Mutation” of what?

      What is ‘ordinary’ mutation?

      “loser occult” = ‘prosperity theology for the dispossessed-by-inheritance’. ??

  2. lily hoang

      I think about this all the time, Jackie. When it comes down to it, I err on the side of conservative. I tend to say more canon, more reading. Acknowledging I care little about, but yes, reading – canon and not – is important, and I do get angry at “the younger generation” (whatever that means because I’m sure older generations have said that about my/our generation, etc etc) for not reading, more and at all.

  3. M Kitchell

      I think it’s remarkably important to be reading “old” books, though in my insistence I shun the canon and also basically stick to the 20th century (I also probably read significantly more in translation than originally in English, but whatever). However, I think it’s important to be aware of the history of this shit not so much so you can follow in its footsteps, but rather so you can destroy it, to know what’s been done, to know how things work, and to move forward.

      People were annoyed (including me) in response to lily’s post about Johnathan Safron Foer’s cut up book, because he (JSF) & his publisher are acting like this is some brand new thing that’s never been done before. And to be fair, who knows, maybe JSF thinks he’s reinventing the wheel, but the point is if your “new” is something that’s been done before, then it’s not really new, ne c’est pas? which, of course, i’m not saying that newness is all that matters, but i think when we tire of the “traditional mode of the novel,” you want to find something new, specifically you. for me the best way to do that has been to read as many experimentalists as possible, so I can see things authors have tried and how they work, perhaps get inspired to borrow an idea and see if i can push it further. so i think i’m violating his binary you’ve set up ;)

  4. deadgod

      There might even be things one doesn’t want either to imitate slavishly or to destroy glamorously.

      Persuasion is a gem of a novel – not a paragraph or spoken exchange astray or to lack of effect. Even if one isn’t a woman worried about economic survival, or isn’t perkily sad about lost love, the work of the beauty of this story’s telling can alert one to the questions of commitment and suasion, and to the pressure and meaning of opportunity fleeing.

      Of course, maybe perfection in writing is a twilit idol, worth smashing.

      But I don’t think Austen is a garde that the arts of writing can be avant. If my writing were enough to entitle me to call her one of my ho-mammies, that would be fine.

  5. Guest

      Oh geez. Nicki acknowledged the shit out of Kim. Pick an interview at random. The more recent the less praise, but such is rap. The tape from ’07 or ’08 where Wayne plays Clinton and she Lewinsky (Sucka Free, I think?) goes into her comeup quite a bit, and actually features Kim on a track or two.

      Kids (and folks) should read/hear/watch/see/taste canon. Duh. That way when they’re (you’re) an adult thinking about shit like Minaj VS. Kim, they’ll/you’ll have enough facts to KNOW that Kim was and is basically a below average rapper who got and is famous for being hot while having a truly filthy mouth, and Nicki is an unbelievable rapper who got famous for both being hot while having an (equally) filthy mouth, and just for being good (seriously, check her mixtapes/appearances on mixtapes from the last 3 or 4 years. Hell of a run.), but really who (in my opinion) is starting to sing too much and whose later subject matter seems really tied to the general fluorescent-bulb glow of 2010, and so may age poorly enough to even overshadow her talent.

      Anyway, yeah, kids reading htmlgiant, read some shit.

  6. M Kitchell

      I believe you, and see, I don’t inherently think the canon is bad at all, but I just think it’s fucked up that many people seem to privilege the canon over everything else. I might really enjoy Persuasion, but I could come up with a list of probably 500+ books that I actively want to read before I’m to the point where I would start reading things that I don’t have any invested interest in just because there’s a possibility that I’d end up liking it. And this is also not to say that I read narrowly, of course.

  7. letters journal

      I mean, I think everyone (especially me) should be reading more Homer, more pre-Socratics, more Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, and Aristophanes, more Plato and Aristotle, more Philo, more Tanakh, and eventually, with a teacher, more Talmud.

      I think all of those classics offer a nearly endless well of text to draw from and honestly speak more to contemporary concerns than most contemporary literature. I say this as someone who loves contemporary literature. I think contemporary literature would get a lot out of a ‘return to the classics’.

      GEORGES CHARBONNIER: Raymond Queneau, you said to me one day that two great currents exist in literature and that basically one could, if I understood you correctly, link most novels either to the Iliad or to the Odyssey.

      RAYMOND QUENEAU: I think that those are in fact the two poles of Western novelistic activity since its creation, that is to say since Homer, and that one can easily classify all works of fiction either as descendants of the Iliad or of the Odyssey. I had the pleasure of hearing this idea of the Occidental novel as a continuation of the Iliad summarized recently by Butor during a conference [25 July 1961]. He said excellent things in this regard, but he didn’t speak about the Odyssey, and it seems to me that the Odyssey represents the other pole of Western literature.

      Full interview:

  8. mjm

      You think Nicki is an unbelievable rapper? For real though? Homie, no. Okay, I get people can have their opinions, but no. Hell no. She’s dope. But dope in the game is like a “yeah that’s kind of cool”. Unbelievable is Jay Electronica. Unbelievable is Magen Melancholy. I mean, her (Nicki’s) earlier stuff, you’re right, is dope. I nod my head to it. She hadn’t yet progressed toward being unbelievable, but was on her way. Until the media bullshit got to her and the hype, the glamor, the style came before the focus of the music. But then again she’s an artist and I can’t hate too much, she’s doing her damn thing. Still don’t like the ass-plants though, even if it turns me on a little bit.

  9. NLY

      The definition of a canon is a collection of works which people have privileged over others.

  10. K8

      The Halberstam lecture was just plain refreshing. I have not taken a gender studies class in my undergraduate career, but some literature classes have been punctured by little tid bits of discussion that hit on such issues tangentially, never as brashly head on however. Her emphasis on a sort of popular culture understanding of the movements in the realm of feminism was spot on. That is where we need to look for all the transformations that occur in regards to the ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ positions, and I’ve thought something similar, although not as clearly defined as they way she delivered it, on Lady Gaga. Now I need to seek out some Halberstam to read, she just articulates this mess of a discourse so well.

  11. M Kitchell

      yes, hi, thanks, i’m fully aware, what is fucked up then is the concept of canons, ok?

  12. letters journal

      Why is the concept fucked up?

  13. NLY

      I got that.
      My point was that you can’t really say “I don’t inherently think the canon is bad at all” while saying the canon, for functioning as inherently defined, is “fucked up”.

  14. M Kitchell

      when I say “I don’t inherently think the canon is bad” what I mean is “I don’t inherently think the books that fall within the generally accepted canon are bad on their own.” the books could be fine to fantastic, but the way the canon words in establishment of taste & even intelligence is way fucked up, which i will elaborate on to letters journal above

  15. M Kitchell

      I think the canon is fucked up because it presents this core group of texts as, ostensibly, the only texts that “really matter,” as in “here is a body of work of great literature, please select what you will be teaching in schools from this list.”

      “the canon” (and yes, i am aware that when i am using this term i am basically using it in the abstract, but i am pretty sure we all know what i mean) ignores non-realist literature, almost entirely. similarly, it is mostly devoid of The Marginal in general (with the exception of, perhaps, the presence of the working class in the canon, which is good, it is mostly “word up straight white dude”). it’s fucked up because the canon presents the idea that texts translated from thousands of years ago are cool, but any translations even close to contemporary (from the last 100 years) are mostly ignored.

  16. NLY

      So you are not, necessarily, against remembering books? Because, on a conceptual level, that’s all a canon is. It’s the books people think worth passing on, nothing more, nothing less.

      Assuming you don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with the idea of people remembering the best of what’s been thought and written, that would make you a kind of conscientious canon-vegan, I suppose–somebody who abstains because they disagree with the process, rather than the product itself, necessarily?

  17. deadgod

      That is fucking annoying.

  18. deadgod

      I mean, really.

  19. deadgod


  20. deadgod

      Do yourself and everyone else a favor, pal.

  21. deadgod

      Cut it the fuck

  22. deadgod


  23. M Kitchell

      There is a world of difference between the culturally loaded implications of “the canon” and the simple idea of remembering books, and it plays into ideas that Roxane has brought up her Highly Popular Posts that used the absence of Black narrative in the BASS anthologies as a launching point.

  24. NLY

      I know. I said that in my post, in fact. I was asking you if the idea of the canon offended you, or if you objected on grounds of process, thus including all you just said. I’m assuming that’s a ‘yes’ in the conscientious canon-vegan column.

      We don’t have to have this conversation, really. You seem contentious on these matters, or are at least assuming I’m being contentious, and I’m not personally invested in whether or not you read the canon, just curious as to your thoughts.

  25. Generationality (In Which I Pirate Jackie Wang’s Groove to Prevent my Becoming BO’s Most Absentee Contributor) « BIG OTHER

      […] at htmlgiant, Jackie Wang asked folks to discuss where they stand re: issues of lineage and generationality, acknowledgment vs. non-acknowledgment of forebears, contextualizing her questions w/ quotations […]

  26. M Kitchell

      To be honest I don’t buy that you are interested in my thoughts at all, considering that you are engaging with my comments by reminding me of the literal definition of words and then creating port-manteau to reduce my opinion to some hyper-contemporary catchphrase. These things are not interrogating my opinion, they are questioning whether what I am saying fits into some sort of idea you have pre-established.

  27. NLY

      Actually I was establishing a baseline for your opinion before continuing to explore it. The first time I pointed out what the definition of ‘canon’ meant to you wasn’t because I assumed you had no idea what it was, but because of a discrepancy in your comment which struck me as odd.

      The second time I talked about the literal definition of canon, it was to set up my next question. These are not incendiary devices. Had we somehow actually had an exchange of ideas, they would have led elsewhere.

      The canon-vegan thing was only snide the second time around, and then only slightly. The first time I was using the political ideals of veganism analogously.

      If you’d like to actually have the conversation, that’s fine. If you feel more like debating how the conversation thus far has gone down, I recommend we stop here. Hopefully letters-journal or deadgod or someone else strikes you as more amiable, if they continue it.
      Either way, I’m out for lunch.

  28. We Know Best What’s Nearest « BIG OTHER

      […] quick follow-up to Tim’s post here, which was itself in response to Jackie Wang’s post here. Wang had asked: Do you feel a duty to read and acknowledge your literary, theoretical, and musical […]

  29. Tim Jones-Yelvington

      I’ve heard Halberstam say some really provocative stuff about how the application of the generational frame in feminist activism and Women’s Studies programs creates and reproduces the very conflict it seeks to address. I think there’s definitely something to that — that there’s this, like, application of the family frame in non-familial spaces that can create these sort-of bullshit Oedipal dynamics where younger folks have to critique and overthrow what came before and that also maybe obscures intersections or analyses or continuities that are maybe only visible outside any kind of chronological frame. (This is something I really like abt the Joyelle McSweeney quote — I think there ARE radically creative practices in both aesthetics and politics that are only possible when we forget chronology or set aside time/chronology and generationality).

      That said, I also hear what Lily is saying above, and think a lot of us DO embrace lineage, or place ourselves within lineages or traditions, maybe esp. feminist and queer folks who have done the hard work of excavating forebears who have not received their due, and I think that’s work I believe in and believe in honoring (probably minus the stupid murder-the-parent part of the generational frame, which I think is obnoxious and might go so far as to say is esp. patriarchal). I am thinking, for instance, of the way Kate Zambreno acknowledges her debt to Jane Bowles, Elfriede Jelinek, Virgina Woolf, Djuna Barnes, Clarice Lispector, Jean Rhys, etc. etc, and seems to do so very deliberately and politically.

      I maybe advocate a particular kind of both/and where these issues are concerned.

  30. Tim Jones-Yelvington

      Her reading of MARCH OF THE PENGUINS is my favorite. It was something I heard her read live once, I dunno if she published it anywhere.

  31. Tim Jones-Yelvington

      Do people really consider Austen canonized???

  32. Tim Jones-Yelvington

      Um… I want to elaborate a little? I feel like I am always that annoying-ass dude who comments on his own fucking comments.

      The Halberstam lecture where I heard her critique the generational frame was one abt the value of forgetting. –She argued that with the constant emphasis on “writing our own history” and claiming and sharing neglected histories of social movements and movements of resistance, and telling the truth about histories of racism, colonialism, imperialism, etc, social justice folks tend to privilege “remembering,” sometimes at the expense of “forgetting.” She said did not argue AGAINST remembering and historicizing, but rather that the ability to FORGET — for instance to FORGET hetero familial norms that we sometimes apply to our non-familial relationships, and that produce and reproduce fucked up dynamics in those relationships — has its own value that should also be elevated.

      So I guess what I mean is that I think there is value in the kind of radical forgetting of “literary time” that Joyelle McSweeney is advocating above (for instance, I can imagine, through this frame, bringing texts into conversation with one another across time in weird-ass but creatively explosive ways that simply are not possible in a more chronological frame), while also doing the important work of claiming and valuing history.

  33. M Kitchell

      I think it’s more likely that one would read Austen in high school or be inclined to read it due to it being “classic literature” than, for instance, Clarice Lispector, Unica Zurn, Anna Kavan, etc

  34. Tim Jones-Yelvington

      This is true.

      I guess my thinking abt canonization within the sort of patriarchal/white imperialist, etc. context is that the canonized books are understood to be in some way “universal” and “timeless.”

      Whereas there is this ongoing (and sort of minimizing, of Austen) dispute re: Austen abt whether she is truly “literary” or “genre,” but written in a “literary” way. And also that, like a lot of folks whose strength is in sharply documenting the social dynamics of their day, she sometimes gets dismissed as insufficiently timeless or focused on BIG humanist or existential questions or something.

  35. sm

      If a complete stranger may interject here: Sure! Can’t take qualifying exams at my U without a little Austen on your historical list. But also, canons change and fluctuate and new fields give rise to new canons. i.e. Austen seems to come up in queer studies canons that began to solidify in the 80’s and 90’s.

  36. A D
  37. Tim Jones-Yelvington
  38. Guest

      Yeah, unbelievable may be a strong word. You’re right. I was post-sleeping pill trolling.

      I do think she’s really good, though. Or could be. Maybe the last 6 months or so have been pretty silly, but even on the silly, bad stuff – ‘Bottoms Up’ – her presence makes it worth a listen or two. I guess I think she’s kind of exciting?

  39. deadgod

      That’s a good point, Mike – the writing of books that, at some point and for some period, are canonized always has happened alongside “everything else”, some of which “else” is privileged during other periods of history. Canons are intrinsically plastic, and positivists who assert that their canons are objectively real are simply as dumb (or confused?) as they are ‘imperialistic’.

      My point would be that canons are inevitable – as are anti-canons, lateral canons, and debunkery of specifically ‘canonical’ reputations. The books one recommends, the writers whose books one buys, whose books one assigns (as a teacher), whose books one blogs about and whose e-presence one links to in blogs – that’s all canon micro-formation. I don’t think it’s possible to talk about good-v.-bad in literature without participating in the constant formation of ‘what’s canonical’ in one’s culture. – which is cool.

  40. deadgod

      Tim, above, you warn that “canonized books are understood to be in some way […] timeless” – a mistake authorities who ‘understand’ this make in the course of enforcing their canons. I think you’re right to be distrustful of this kind of ahistorical ‘understanding’.

      But look again at the view McSweeney proposes:

      no forebears, no lineage, no inheritors, no master-slave files, just a present-tension

      that stands before one, as you say, without chronology.

      That’s the literary-‘imperialist’ definition of a “classic”! – a normativity that you’re hostile to because that “timeless”ness smuggles into reading the unjust privileging that helped constitute the canons present at this point in history.

      It seems to me that one progressive function of ‘literary genetics’ is the laying bare of historical determination: not that, because injustice has always existed, it always will exist, but rather, that unjust inequalities have knowable histories.

      McSweeney says that “loser occult” stands before the edifice of historical continuities, discontinuous irruptions, and counter-interpretations and

      knocks that edifice down, hangs out in the rubble huffing, hallucinating, gossiping, making out, wasting time, confecting new and obscene humanoid and nonhumanoid forms.

      Well, what the “loser occult” that

      envisions a kind of leveled, ambivalent, invisible perpetuity without precedence or antecedence

      occludes from vision are patriarchy, white supremacy, and heteronormativity themselves.

  41. Chronic: Literary History, Descendants, Counterfeits - Montevidayo

      […] having a good discussion about “chronology” and literature, in part caused by this Jackie Wang post, which quoted Joyelle’s powerful treatise on the issue, Loser Occult. And it also goes back […]