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March Blowtorch Reading

March 3, 2017

Please join us on Wednesday, March 8, for 24-hours of poems, essays, stories, and legislation in the second of our series of Blowtorch Readings in the Ethnic Studies Room at College Library. This reading, with a number of pieces appropriate for Women’s History Month, is a locally organized event and features invited participants reading aloud or imaginatively performing published texts or historic documents that “cut through the current national situation with the precision and intensity of a blowtorch.”

Selected readings may include the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (1789; in French and English); individual and group readings of the United States Constitution (1789), the Bill of Rights (1791), and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948); Roe vs Wade (1972); Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1794); The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir; poems by Adrienne Rich; Toni Morrison’s fiction and essays; works by Martha Nussbaum; the poems of Gagan Gill; Mahasweta Devi’s fiction and prose; poetry by Nikki Giovanni; and the San Francisco City Council statement about sanctuary (November 15, 2016).

Vinay Dharwadker, a professor in the department of Comparative Literature and Folklore Studies at UW-Madison, organized this series. He explains, “More than at any other time in recent history, common citizens today need to fully explore and understand the freedoms and responsibilities of citizenship. As individuals, we must ask ourselves, what do we owe to the people we love, to our families and friends, to the places where we lead our manifold lives, to ourselves, to our nations, to our fellow human beings, and to the world at large?”

Literary texts, political constitutions and laws, documents of record, and ancient and modern classics everywhere give their audience the most precise and profound formulations of what it means to be citizens. They use “the best words in the best order” to reflect deeply on political crises and difficult times, on rights and freedoms, on moral conundrums, on abuses of power, and on the possibilities of resistance and transformation. As Dharwadker notes, “Such texts and documents have the power to speak to us and for us.”

The next Blowtorch Reading in the series will be held on Saturday, April 8, with a six-hour reading focused on poetry of protest and resistance from around the world, in many languages and in translation, in honor of International Poetry Month.

For further details and recommended readings, see blowtorchreadings.org.