Craft as a Memorializing Rhetoric | Novotny | Harlot: A Revealing Look at the Arts of Persuasion

Craft as a Memorializing Rhetoric

Maria Novotny

I have never really identified as a crafter. I can’t knit. I can’t crochet. I can’t sew. So when I saw this call for proposals around topics of craft, I never really thought I had much to contribute. This changed, however, during November 2014 when my uncle suddenly passed away. Assisting in the preparation of funeral arrangements and engaging in cultural mourning rituals, the presence of craft in my life was made more apparent. As I transitioned back to graduate school after laying my uncle to rest, I began to realize the multiple ways craft functions as an essential memorializing and healing practice in my own life.

In this video essay, I take time narrating how I value craft in my life through three vignettes: (1) the passing away of my Aunt Joanne—who was the first significant person in my life to pass; (2) the passing away of my Uncle Paul—who most recently passed away of a sudden heart attack; (3) and my coming to terms with my own infertility diagnosis—in which I have struggled with conveying and representing my desire for a child that I know will most likely never come into being. As such, this video attempts to push beyond traditional assumptions of craft as a discourse related to home projects or food, and instead suggests that craft is an embodied relational practice which often is central to the memorization of bodies that have passed on or have yet to come to into existence.

Maria Novotny is a PhD student in Rhetoric & Writing at Michigan State University where she studies rhetorics of infertility. She facilitates arts-based infertility workshops with The ART of Infertility—a national arts, oral history and portraiture project. Participation in these workshops has led her to view craft as a essential component to healing and memorialization. In her free time, she travels to Northern Wisconsin where she fishes and hikes with her husband and their three “furbabies.”

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