Teaching Delany…

Teaching Delany today in my 100-level Women and Literature class. We read "The Tale of Old Venn" and "The Tale of Potters and Dragons" from Tales of Neveryon, both of which lead to fruitful avenues of discussion. Most of today's class was focused on how money changed Rulvyn society; which led us to a discussion of Marx, the idea of being alienated from one's labor, the ways in which women's work (and the work of people of color) becomes devalued in a capitalist society. We talked a bit about bankers and the stock market; the richest among my own friends are those who spend their workday moving money around.

I asked them who should be paid more, the janitor or the doctor? And why? And which job would they rather have, if pay were equal? How much would they charge to clean toilets? (One student said you'd have to pay her $50 / hr.) Why don't we pay people according to how undesirable the work is, rather than its perceived status? Why is office work often more highly paid than backbreaking physical labor? (One student talked about his father, and the injuries he's sustained doing hard labor jobs, and the fact that he doesn't get any extra compensation for that.) Why are teachers so poorly paid? (I would rather have an office job than try to herd a class of preschoolers for eight hours a day -- the latter would probably make me break down in tears on a regular basis.)

From "The Tale of Old Venn": "Now money, when it moves into a new tribe, very quickly creates an image of the food, craft, and work there: it gathers around them, molds to them, stays away from the places where none are to be found, and clots near the positions where much wealth occurs. Yet, like a mirror image, it is reversed just as surely as the writing on a piece of paper is reversed when you read its reflection on a boy's belly. For both in time and space, where money is, food, work, and craft are not: where money is, food, work, and craft either will shortly be, or in the recent past were. But the actual place where the coin sits is a place where wealth may just have passed from or may soon pass into, but where it cannot be now -- by the whole purpose of money as an exchange object. When money came among the Rulvyn, something very strange happened: Before money came, a woman with strength, skills, or goods could exchange them directly with another woman for whatever she needed. She who did the most work and did it the best was the most powerful woman. Now, the same woman had to go to someone with money, frequently a man, exchange her goods for money, and then exchange the money for what she needed. But if there was no money available, all her strength and skill and goods gave her no power at all -- and she might as well not have had them"

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