Saturday, April 28, 2007

Mise en abime 

CNN: Student arrested for essay's imaginary violence

Students were told to "write whatever comes to your mind. Do not judge or censor what you are writing," according to a copy of the assignment.

According to the complaint, Lee's essay reads in part, "Blood, sex and booze. Drugs, drugs, drugs are fun. Stab, stab, stab, stab, stab, s...t...a...b...puke. So I had this dream last night where I went into a building, pulled out two P90s and started shooting everyone, then had sex with the dead bodies. Well, not really, but it would be funny if I did."

Officials described the essay as disturbing and inappropriate.

Lee said he was just following the directions.

"In creative writing, you're told to exaggerate," Lee said. "It was supposed to be just junk. ... There definitely is violent content, but they're taking it out of context and making it something it isn't."

I can't really think of a worse assignment--at least, for an 18-year-old U.S. student--than "write whatever comes to your mind." Unless the mind is somehow used, how can what "just comes" to it manifest itself as anything but "just junk"? (Especially when so much actual junk is already aimed at that mind and desperately clamoring to get in?)

But what is CNN if not a great, dim adolescent mind operating under the imperative to mindlessly conduct "information"--i.e., junk? Who are the CNN reporters, analysts, etc., but people working under explicit orders not to think in any way about the sounds coming out of their mouths? In other words: "s...t...a...b...puke."

I don't mean to belittle the value of "automatic writing" in the avant-garde literary tradition. I also don't mean for the CNN/teen analogy to be taken too seriously, since it seems as though Lee is, at least by some measures, quite intelligent.

Update: josh r draws our attention to a piece of information from that article which, when I read it, must have seemed too baffling and disturbing for my mind to assimilate:

Defense attorney Dane Loizzo said Allen Lee has never been disciplined in school and signed Marine enlistment papers last week.

Are we to suppose that Lee had signed enlistment papers before he completed this "assignment"? If so, I guess it sort of explains the state his "mind" would have been in when "whatever comes" just "came."



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