words make a difference: “The Struggle of the Seamstress: Stitching Yourself Into Existence”

Brittany Sperino Horsford, Deans' Writing Award Winner for English Literary Studies

BrittanyWhat I've always loved about writing is its ability to transform. There are so many different lenses to look through, and the same poem can change depending on which one you choose. I wrote the essay, "The Struggle of the Seamstress: Stitching Yourself Into Existence," for my Literary Criticism class. When I first looked at the poem "Seamstress" by Lamont B. Steptoe, I thought it was about a woman who simply and sadly works her life away. She tries to resist, but in the end is turned to dust. But whether she resisted or not, don't we all turn to dust anyway? I looked more closely at the conventions of the poem. The repetition of stitching and weaving was constant. It reminded me of the works of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, where they explain that, in a capitalist economy, work is alienated from the laborer. However, instead of letting the ruthless nature of capitalism degrade her, the seamstress uses her craft of weaving to preserve herself, her family and her culture.

As I wrote the essay, I honestly admired the seamstress. I come from a working-class background with a single mother who works two waitressing jobs. In January 2012, my mother suffered a heart aneurysm that limited her capabilities, but she works through it. I hope my essay can open people's eyes to the fact that, although labor can wear us away mentally and physically, there are ways to resist, just like the seamstress does. As a creative writing student, my writing is constantly connecting with my own life, and I've learned that creating your own distinct voice is crucial. When it came to classes like Literary Criticism, with more formal essays, I didn't see how I could keep my own distinctive voice. But Dr. Curtin taught me that writing critically also means to write creatively. It means you can take what you know, what you've seen and read and transform it into a vision that is both your own, and something that can be shared with the world.