[Later this month I start teaching a new online class, a variation of my Ethnic American Lit course that will focus on representations of work in American literature. So this week I’ll AmericanStudy a handful of such representations, leading up to a special weekend post on some of my favorite pop culture worker-characters!]
A quick but stunning literary representation of work today, Martín Espada’s magisterial poem “Who Burns for the Perfection of Paper” (1993).
I love “Perfection” because it lays bare (literally as well as figuratively) the hidden labor that constructs and sustains our society, especially at its highest and most seemingly rarefied levels. I love it because it’s not a political treatise about those realities but a visceral engagement with them, through the lens of a single speaker’s journey, identity, and evolving perspective on himself and his worlds. And I love it because I’ve heard Espada read it, and can say (as proudly as possible) that I share the same public university system with this immensely talented poet.
Last literary work tomorrow,
PS. What do you think? Other representations of work you’d share?