English Honors Papers
This thesis outlines the raw phenomenon of humans to exist in relation to each other as “passersby,” unaware of their tendencies towards desire and lack, when they should pursue “sonder,” the awareness that someone else’s life is as equally complex as your own. Relationality looks like a performance of bodies when it should embody the essence of dance. The performance of bodies equates to the purpose of passersby to prioritize movement as a way to remain unattentive of personhood. Whereas in dance, an appreciation for stillness to the same degree of movement brings people to sonder as a way to critically perceive the deconstructed body.
Chapter One establishes how the practice of writing and dance propose sonder as a necessary attentiveness to build rapport. I build on work from dancers Helen Poynor and Gemma Collard-Stokes, who have reimagined dance outside of the performance of passersby, to consider how choreographers and writers similarly make work to discuss the human condition to either dance or to perform.
In Chapter Two, I outline how literary characters find sonder through specific examples of dance within work from writers Paule Marshall, Wallace Thurman, and Claude McKay. This chapter functions as a bridge between how writing showcases the possibility for dance to exist outside of its performance and how the interactions of characters within literary work embody dance non-traditionally. I show how literary sources schematize how passersby can access dance in order to reject the socially constructed versions of themselves which keep them from sonder.
In Chapter Three I useToni Morrison’s Beloved to encourage the everyday reader to realize an innate presence of dance within genuine human interactions and the inhibitions of performance among interactions that uplift the body as opposed to the flesh--their personhood.
Chapter Three also contends that to understand the human condition we must go beyond accepting our default as passerby, but to acknowledge that in this blind acceptance, we have learned to function as fragmented people. When we strive for sonder then broken people can piece broken people back together. We need to care for one another because the passerby mindset ensures that there will always be something to desire and some experience of lack which leaves people dismembered.
Martin-Hayes, Zion, "Passerby to Sonder: How Black Literary Sources Use Dance to Carve Out Relational Possibility" (2023). English Honors Papers. 68.
Available for download on Monday, May 22, 2023
The views expressed in this paper are solely those of the author.
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