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States of Rage: On Cultural Emotion and Social Change

Renée R. Curry
Terry L. Allison
Copyright Date: 1996
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    States of Rage
    Book Description:

    States of Rage permeate our culture and our daily lives. From the anti-Catholic protests of ACT-UP to the political posturing of Al Sharpton, from the LA Riots to anti-abortion gunmen murdering clinic personnel, the unleashing of rage, marginalized or institutional, has translated into dead bodies on our campuses and city streets, in our public buildings and in our homes. Rage seems to have gained a currency in the past decade which it previously did not possess. Suddenly we appear willing to employ it more often to describe our own or others' mental states or actions. Rage succinctly describes an ongoing emotional state for many residents and citizens of the United States and elsewhere. States of Rage gathers for the first time a critical mass of writing about rage--its function, expression, and utilities. It examines rage as a cultural phenomenon, delineating its use and explaining why this emotional state increasingly intrudes into our social, artistic, and academic existences. What is the relationship between rage and power(lessness)? How does rage relate to personal or social injustice? Can we ritualize rage or is it always spontaneous? Finally, what provokes rage and what is provocative about it? Essays shed light on the psychological and social origins of rage, its relationship to the self, its connection to culture, and its possible triggers. The volume includes chapters on violence in the workplace, the Montreal massacre, female murderers, the rage of African- American filmmakers, rage as a reaction to persecution, the rage of AIDS activists, class rage, and rage in the academy.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-2369-2
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. INTRODUCTION: Invitation to Rage
    (pp. 1-12)

    In our daily consumption of media, “rage,” “outrage,” “enraged” increasingly appear in print or are splashed at us from our televisions and radios. Rage appears to define the daily existence of some groups in the United States;¹ further, our own experience suggests that few individuals in our media-dominated culture fail to encounter en-, out-, or just plain rage each day. Contemporary society appears suddenly willing to employ the term more often to describe our own or others’ mental states or actions. Rage seems to have gained a currency in the past decade which it previously did not possess.

    The rise...

  6. Part I. Social Constructions of Rage

    • CHAPTER 1 Female Lives, Feminist Deaths: The Relationship of the Montreal Massacre to Dissociation, Incest, and Violence against Women
      (pp. 15-34)

      On Wednesday, December 6, 1989 a young man, 25 years old, product of a violent home, failed military candidate and lover of war films, entered the University of Montreal’s School of Engineering building. He was not a student, although he had once studied for admission to the school. He was carrying a .223 calibre semi-automatic rifle.¹ It was a little after 5:00 p.m.

      Walking into a classroom, he shouted “I want the women” (Kuitenbrouwer, Scott, Lamey & Heinrich, 1989). He separated the men from the women, ordered the men to leave the classroom, and lined the women up along one wall....

    • CHAPTER 2 Violence, the Emotionally Enraged Employee, and the Workplace: Managerial Considerations
      (pp. 35-61)

      In 1986 in Edmond, Oklahoma, postal worker Patrick Henry Sherrill fatally shot fourteen persons, wounded six others, and committed suicide at the U.S. Post Office, after being reprimanded by his supervisor and told that he would receive a poor performance report.¹ Sherrill’s crime marks the first landmark case of violence in the workplace. “While there had been a small number of limited cases, workers basically vented their anger and frustration in non-violent ways and workplaces were generally free from the threats of intruders. Now, and perhaps permanently, violence has become commonplace.”²

      The treatment below attempts to shed light on possible...

    • CHAPTER 3 Over His Dead Body: Female Murderers, Female Rage, and Western Culture
      (pp. 62-73)

      Unspeakable female rage, when enacted, expresses the darkest, deepest secrets of Western patriarchal order. The first thought that probably comes to mind when people hear about a woman who has committed murder is that a crime against nature has occurred. That is, primarily a crime againstherculturally prescribed nature. Somehow, almost nothing would seem as horrible or perverse as a woman who can kill. Women, after all, give life—they are not supposed to take it away. Men kill frequently in many deliberate ways (i.e. as soldiers in war) and our sensitivities do not seem nearly as offended when...

    • CHAPTER 4 Fuck Community, or Why I Support Gay-Bashing
      (pp. 74-88)

      I am sick and tired of hearing these matter-of-fact references to “the gay community,” as if everyone knows what this community is, as if everyone is included in it, as if everyone wants to be included—or should want to be. If I hear another reference to “the community” or “the gay community,” I am going to scream. I direct my rage as much against racism as against the gay-bashers. I am sick and tired of guppies of all colors, self-centered white fags, and smug lifestyle lesbians telling me that I am divisive, too radical, too extreme. I am sick...

  7. Part II. Artistic and Cultural Representations of Rage

    • CHAPTER 5 Whatup in the ʹHood? The Rage of African-American Filmmakers
      (pp. 91-106)

      In his 1989 film,Do the Right Thing, Spike Lee imitated life by borrowing from the infamous Howard Beach incident where whites beat African-Americans for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. In the film, the protagonist Mookie (played by Lee) sets off the climactic burning and looting of Sal’s Pizzeria by shouting “Hate!” and throwing a trash can through the window of Sal’s store. Three years later, at the flashpoint of the Los Angeles riots, in a case of life imitating art imitating life, a home video camera captured a young black man tossing a metal sign...

    • CHAPTER 6 Rage and Remembrance: The AIDS Plays
      (pp. 107-125)
      D. S. LAWSON

      As the incidence of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome has spread, the literature dealing with or focusing on the disease has burgeoned. Ironically, at the same time that the virus is killing many men and women around the world, the body of literature surrounding AIDS seems to be growing with alacrity; as people sicken and die, the words flourish and live.

      Early on in the plague, two plays—Larry Kramer’sThe Normal Heartand William Hoffman’sAs Is—established twin avenues of dramatic reaction to the situation. Borrowing terms from the subtitle of gay American composer John Corigliano’s first symphony, I...

    • CHAPTER 7 The Aesthetic Politics of Rage
      (pp. 126-145)

      InJane EyreCharlotte Bronte, in a sudden textual turn from narrative to argument, interpolates a passage on the need for action in women’s lives:

      It is vain to say human beings ought to be satisfied with tranquility; they must have action; and they will make it if they cannot find it…. Women are supposed to be very calm generally; but women feel just as men feel; and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags…. It is...

    • CHAPTER 8 ʺAll Anger and Understandingʺ: Kureishi, Culture, and Contemporary Constructions of Rage
      (pp. 146-166)

      Hanif Kureishi commits himself to the representation of rage as vital narrative force when depicting oppression in film and in literature. Since Kureishi works both in film and in literature and presents rage as a multi-issue, multicultural concern, he provides an exemplary representation of the current artistic engagement with rage. Kureishi describes the particular rage about belonging that a man raised in England by an English mother and a Pakistani father experiences upon his return from a trip to India:

      I read in the paper that a Pakistani family in the East End had been fire-bombed. A child was killed....

    • CHAPTER 9 The Psychohistory of Jewish Rage and Redemption as Seen through Its Art
      (pp. 167-178)

      Jews are people. Whatever the psychodynamics of people may be can be applied to Jews as well. This is pretty obvious, but the most difficult thing to see is the obvious. As deMause suggests, “Psychohistory is more a rediscovery than a discovery—it is a process of finding out what we already know and act upon.”¹

      A good deal of the Jewish historic experience of the last few hundred years in Europe has been fraught with trauma and hatred. That, too, is obvious and is what we already know. But how did Jews act upon this powerfully negative environment in...

    • CHAPTER 10 Aborted Rage in Beth Henleyʹs Women
      (pp. 179-194)

      Beth Henley’s tragicomedies study the effects of the feminist movement upon a few, mostly proletarian women in rural Mississippi, who are more likely to readGlamourthan Cixous and Clement’sThe Newly Born Woman.¹ We are invited to sympathize with isolated heroines whose fantasies demonstrate the difficulty of conceiving female subjectivity while entrenched in patriarchal epistemes, whose resilience is expressed in their canny, survivalist compromises with the codes of passive southern womanhood.² Their compromises may be precisely located in the recurring imagery of homicide and suicide that pervades Henley’s scripts. Take Elain inThe Miss Firecracker Contest(1979),³ for example,...

    • CHAPTER 11 My Words to Victor Frankenstein above the Village of Chamounix: Performing Transgender Rage
      (pp. 195-216)

      The following work is a textual adaptation of a performance piece originally presented at “Rage! Across the Disciplines,” an arts, humanities, and social sciences conference held June 10–12, 1993, at California State University, San Marcos. The interdisciplinary nature of the conference, its theme, and the organizers’ call for both performances and academic papers inspired me to be creative in my mode of presenting a topic then much on my mind. As a member of Transgender Nation—a militantly queer, direct action transsexual advocacy group—I was at the time involved in organizing a disruption and protest at the American...

  8. Part III. Rage in the Academy

    • CHAPTER 12 Class Matters: Symbolic Boundaries and Cultural Exclusion
      (pp. 219-229)

      “I believe this community is a hard-hat community and very few hard hats take in Shakespeare. They’re moreOklahomatypes. I’d like to see [the company do] more things that the citizens of Garden Grove would come out to.” So reasoned City Councilman Raymond T. Littrell, as he and other members of the council in my hometown of Garden Grove, California, decided in June 1988 to withdraw an $83,000 subsidy from the Grove Shakespeare Festival (Herman, 9). City councils sometimes debate the value of subsidizing arts organizations, and often the debate is conducted over cultural taste, the relative merits of...

    • CHAPTER 13 Second-Rate or Second-Rank: The Human Pyramid of Academe
      (pp. 230-244)

      The academe, in the United States and elsewhere, is a human pyramid bound together by capitalist hypocrisy. A limited number of elite institutions perch on the precipitous tip of this pyramid like captains of industry, dominating the preponderance of resources, while the bulk of, in James Sosnoski’s term, “Token Professionals” labor and sweat at the swampy bottom of this triangle to hold up the weight of the structure, subconsciously resigned to the fate of slaves carrying on their shoulders what Sosnoski calls the “Master Critics.” A preference for this status quo is understandable amongst the ruling class if they were...

    • CHAPTER 14 The Rage of Innocents: On Casting the First Stone in a Sea of Cultural Pain
      (pp. 245-264)

      Within the walls of academia, most all of us feel ourselves to have become casualties in the war over political correctness. Some PC proponents have lost their jobs for their fight for cultural parity. A few PC-opponents may have lost their jobs for their resistance or lack of compliance with the new trends within the academy. Many have been wounded on both sides. Robert Hughes, inThe Culture of Complaint, describes our society as a growing population of cry-babies. We have become thin-skinned and preoccupied, he says, with the negative, and many bask in the self-righteous bath of victimhood.¹ Advocates...

  9. INDEX
    (pp. 265-268)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 269-269)