Memory Advent Calendar

Welcome to the Memory Advent Calendar.

The mainstream American holiday season, as it is often celebrated, follows a thematic arc, moving from the modern past to the ancient past to the future.

Thanksgiving in late November is the first holiday of the season and functions as an introduction, setting the stage by focusing on tradition.  Thanksgiving is usually celebrated in old places, where people tell old stories and eat old kinds of food.  Together with the Fourth of July it honors, in however mythologized or confabulated or ridiculous a way, the origin of a group national identity.

Throughout December, our attention stays focused on the past.  We go “home for the holidays”, often returning from our modern urban lifestyles to a family house in the countryside.  We practice traditions of the “old world.”  We sing old songs.  We play old games in the snow.  The month of December, the month of the winter solstice, is a time to observe recurrence.

Christmas arrives as the centerpiece of tradition, even for many families that are otherwise secular or even of non-Christian faiths.  On this day, and on its eve, we’re made to consider the origins of Christianity.  While Thanksgiving brings us back 300 years, Christmas brings us back 2,000.  It is a time to contemplate past continuity and change, change in our mass identity as well as change in our families.

Less than a week later, when we’ve barely recovered from yule logs and eggnog, the narrative shifts abruptly. We suddenly look to the future.  We make a flurry of New Year’s resolutions and start planning for the months to come.  Christmas and Thanksgiving are holidays meant for those old enough to reminisce; New Year’s is a holiday meant for those young enough to drink and celebrate well into the morning.

In the spirit of this narrative, I would like to focus on the span of time leading up to Christmas.  These weeks have great potential as a time of reflection and memory, but often become swallowed up in day-to-day affairs: buying presents, planning trips.  To help guide my friends toward consideration of the past, I have assembled a Memory Advent Calendar.  By providing your email address below and signing up for the calendar, you will receive, every morning from December 1 until December 25, a brief email containing a prompt that asks you to consider some aspect of your personal history.  I hope that it can be a source of mindfulness.  The prompts are not religiously-oriented, and people of any or no faith are welcome to subscribe.

In return for these daily prompts, I ask that you consider donation to a charitable cause.  The holiday season is also a time of generosity and giving.  I do not require it, but I suggest that you donate perhaps ten dollars to a local food bank such as the Arlington Food Assistance Center: https://afac.org/donatepage/donate-give/.

To sign up, please contact me directly and let me know what your email address is.  You can reach me at dtr(at)DavidTaylorReich.com or, if you know them, my phone number or facebook account.

I wish you a happy holiday season.
David Taylor

New York City in Arabic Poetry

In the fall of 2016, I wrote an essay for my Modern Arabic Poetry class about the city of New York in the work of Arab poets.  I discuss how Sa’adi Youssef, Adonis, and Amjed Nasser use New York metonymically to criticize the United States, relying on its concrete physical and social features to discuss abstract elements of American society.  Read the essay here (Arabic only).

Unfixed Maps for Unfixed Geographies

In the fall  of 2015, I enrolled in a class in Brown’s English department titled Poetic Cosmologies.  One of the strangest classes I’ve taken, it took up questions of materiality and temporality, particularly in literature.  My final paper discussed a phenomenon at play in several of the course’s readings and in communities around the globe: the unfixity of the land beneath us.  How can we understand geography, not as a constant, but as subject to change?  How does this inform our knowledge of settlements, of spaces, and of poetry?

My paper is available at the following link: unfixedmaps.