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What it is that others know that I do not know

Specialization Course Literary Curatorship, Masterclass Sylvie Moors
By Adriana Murad Konings

Where are you? What can you see from your desk? Silvie Moors throws these questions without much explanation. Although everyone’s camera is on, I am tired and sleazy and I think I’ll merge into the background of this masterclass, listening carefully to Silvie’s ideas about working with a community, hoping to understand what that means and taking my notes as a ghostly presence. However, people start sharing, openly: there are living rooms and bookcases and a lot of windows and even a mirror or two. “I’d like to share with you some texts”, Silvie says, “and I’d like to read with you”.

“I am thinking about a friend of mine”, Silvie reads, “how she is not only what she believes she is, she is also what friends believe her to be”. Having warned that there is no “right or wrong” in literature, Silvie asks everyone what we make of Lydia Davis’ friend. She gives the spotlight to those who raise their hands and she catches off-guard others like me. How am I supposed to make notes of this, I think, am I going to reach a conclusion of what a community is? Silvie wants to bring us together through the text. Alyssa remembers Whitman’s “I contain multitudes” verse, and I am too shy to say this text reminded me of the poet too.

I have mentioned I am in the UK, after reluctantly turning on my camera and mentioning the window behind my desk, only describing the green campus of university but not showing it. “There is someone from York” says Silvie, who would like me to re-read Davis’ story. I am not sure if she thinks I am British, but it doesn’t matter. I read the text out loud and, as I read, I feel like there are so many things to say. Silvie asks about who we are: do we show ourselves to the world as we want, or do others see things in us beyond our intentions? Are we like Davis’ friend?

We move on, Bret Easton Ellis answers: “I feel like shit but look great”. I realise theses narrators long for control: they want to be seen in a certain way, she wants to be thin, he binges and purges. Inspired by their words, I look at myself and the others on screen. After Cristina states that these narrators don’t truly know the essence of their identity, I say that I don’t feel like there is any essence to be known: like us, speaking about our beliefs and thoughts through a video conference, they construct themselves in the moment, they are what they say, they cannot but stay on the surface.

Then, we move on: “I’m covered in tiny mirrors”, Eva Cox’s verses read, “the edges cut into my own flesh”. Alyssa says reading is like facing a mirror, it’s like filling in white spaces. “How is a reading session special?” wonders Silvie, finishing up the magical moment which we have all shared. Somewhat disappointed, I ask myself, is this it? I’d like to keep going, I am fully engaged in the moment, I had forgotten the purpose of the masterclass, I am a fully active member of the community. I have managed to negotiate the virtual space that has brought us together and felt beyond the unarguable reality of my desk.

“This is what I do” Silvie seems to say. Then, I understand. Silvie, a bit like those tiny mirrors from Eva Cox’s poem, has allowed us to see each other. In her organisation “without a name”, as she explains, through which she gives voice to the voiceless, she creates this community. There is no other way of explaining it to someone than to allow them to experience it. I, privileged enough to have a name and a voice, have turned on my camera, slowly approached the screen, and wanted to read more. I have felt safe to speak and I have been left with that tickling feeling inside of me that asks for more and even dreams of being able to offer the same. I imagine the feeling of being in Silvie’s place, offering her texts, receiving so much back, and I feel encouraged to try the same and, maybe, echoing Davis, being able to “guess, from time to time, what it is that others know that I do not know”.