Molly D. Appel deposited The Pedagogical Poetics of Testimony: How on MLA Commons 5 years, 2 months ago
Feminist resistance has been crucial for Argentina’s recovery from the military dictatorship of 1976-1983. Alicia Partnoy was “disappeared” into one of hundreds of torture centers sardonically called “Little Schools.” After her release and exile to the United States, she published her poetic testimony, The Little School, with Cleis Press in 1986. This paper discusses how the literary testimony of The Little School intervenes in the misogynist pedagogy that propelled the violence of the dictatorship. Her text performs alternative modes of knowledge-building within that violent instruction. She does this by declaring herself “una mala alumna” – a “bad student” – of the school’s instruction, which demanded passivity and embodied silence. I argue that Partnoy mobilizes the metaphor of being a “bad student” of the School not only to teach about the structural and personal violence of the dictatorship, but to encourage audiences to grapple with how to safeguard resistant learning within violent instructional frameworks of classroom, public, and cultural pedagogy. To be a “bad student,” or what I call a “willful learner,” is to build resilient forms of self and community within the space of the structural and personal violence of the School where, as Partnoy writes, “professors use the lessons of torture and humiliation to teach us to lose the memories of ourselves.” I further argue that the figure of the willful learner in her text maps onto the generative possibilities of the willful reading of her text’s own audiences. Partnoy’s lesson is a timely reminder of the urgency of safeguarding willful learning within institutions built on the maintenance of white supremacy.