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"You Can't Flow Over This": Ursula Rucker's Acoustic Illusion

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This essay brings together two texts, a letter to the editor written by the avant-garde Beat poet, Bob Kaufman, and "The Unlocking," a poem written and performed by Ursula Rucker. By using the aural to disrupt expectations set up for us by the visual, each text shatters the visual, and reveals something important about the kinds of silence identification in the visual requires. Though radically different in form from each other – Kaufman's letter was written to the San Francisco Chronicle in 1963, and Rucker's poem appears on a 1995 rap album – both artists turn to the ear to subvert the eye, using sound to disrupt fantasies about race, gender, and power in the larger social scenes in which their texts originally appeared.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2008


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