Freaks of the Core

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Freaks of the Core Wherein lies the odd attraction and power of the freakish? Just as often as it introduces us to expressions of common human experience, study in the Humanities also introduces us to the decidedly uncommon--to writers, artists and thinkers who push conventional limits of language and narrative, vision and imagination, memory and history, or logic and rationality. For our Freaks of the Core colloquium, we explored the outer limits of human expression and experience. What, we asked, defines the abnormal or the outlandish? the fanatical or heretical? the illusory or the grotesque? Why are we commonly drawn to the very uncommon? "Nothing, indeed, is more revolting," wrote Thomas De Quincey in his famously freaky Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, "than the spectacle of a human being obtruding on our notice his moral ulcers or scars, and tearing away that 'decent drapery' which time, or indulgence to human frailty, may have drawn over them" (1).[1] But De Quincey chose to tear away that drapery in his Confessions nevertheless, believing that his outlandish experiences with addiction, poverty and illusion would teach his readers valuable lessons that outweighed any offense. "In that hope it is that I have drawn this up," wrote De Quincey, "and that must be my apology for breaking through that delicate and honorable reserve, which, for the most part, restrains us from the public exposure of our own infirmities" (1). The essays below also tear away the "decent drapery" which covers the sometimes unsightly extremes of human experience, and they do so with similar hopes and reasons. Kimberly Tsau, for example, follows De Quincey's lead in her analysis of T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land, suggesting that among the violence, apathy, and disjointedness of the poem is a call to face and learn from suffering. Her essay, "Hanging in a Jar," examines how Eliot collects a variety of "cultural memories," cutting and pasting them together to form a collection that is both terrifying and edifying. In "Per Repitio Nos Studiare: The Struggles of Abraham and God," Ryan Priester also explores how one learns through repeated suffering. Instead of examining human apathy or submission in the face of pain, however, his examination of the binding of Isaac introduces us to the role of human rebellion and resistance. Both The Waste Land and the relationship between Abraham and God revolve around the human response to excess and extremity.
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