Notes: Sarah Orem and Neil Simpkins, “Weepy Rhetoric, Trigger Warnings, and the Work of Making Mental Illness Visible in the Writing Classroom”

Orem, Sarah & Neil Simpkins. (2015). Weepy rhetoric, trigger warnings, and the work of making mental illness visible in the writing classroom. Enculturation, 20.

Summary:

Orem and Simpkins develop an idea of trigger warnings as ‘weepy rhetoric’ that performs outwardly a reclaiming of assumptions of mental illness.

Keywords: Trigger warnings, mental illness, disability rhetorics

Quotations:

“Trigger warnings have long been used in feminist-, queer-, and disability-activist settings online, but the public discussion of trigger-warned syllabi came specifically on the heels of the ratification of Oberlin College’s 2013 Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act” (para. 2).

“We believed that navigating academic careers while mentally ill demonstrated our resilience, but as journalistic and scholarly op-eds on trigger warnings populated our computer screens, we learned that the opposite conclusion was being drawn by some: only recently, we participated in a highly public online conversation about trigger warnings in which a fellow academic declared that ‘PTSD is the new ‘my dog ate my homework’'” (para. 3).

“[W]e argue that trigger warnings function as what we term weepy rhetoric, a mode of crying through text. Pouring out difficult, messy emotions in academic spaces, trigger warnings function as reverse discourse, reclaiming damaging assumptions about the mentally ill” (para. 6).

“Weeping, therefore, is a dramatic performance of making visible the complex interrelation of emotional and physical, visible and invisible pain. It is a concept rooted in the embodiment of emotional pain” (para. 11).

“A trigger warning, we suggest, weeps. It is weepy rhetoric—a method of calling attention to pain through language, while foregrounding the interrelation between emotional pain (such as mental illness) and physical pain (including assault or sexualized violence). Visibly displaying through text a history of surviving physical and psychological injury, a trigger warning (TW) is itself a Textual Weeping” (para. 13).

“Because trigger warnings point, unflinchingly, to pain and hurt, they position users as performing the wrong affect for the classroom, collective, or digital space; they defy the drive to be pleasant or decorous” (para. 41).

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