Throughout the course of this class, American Literature: 1915-present, my classmates and I were required to create and maintain our very own online social network. While tackling an assigned reading, we were expected to create blog entries examining something worthwhile we encountered in the text, usually a direct quotation. While these blog entries were required, they were not rigid, because they allowed us to express ourselves. I chose to title my second blog portfolio "Who Knew???" because I never imagined myself blogging at all much less enjoying it. In fact, I confess that I had a very vague idea of what blogging was prior to taking this class. Sure, I heard the term mentioned or saw it floating around online, but I never bothered to look into it. I personally enjoyed blogging because it allowed me to find myself within a given work; in other words, I could delve into an assigned reading, and extract something that evokes my unique interests. I found that I most enjoyed comparing the implications of a quoatation with another assigned reading we completed in the course. I also liked to relate my findings to personal experiences. Through blogging, I not only got to share my ideas, but I also got to benefit from those of my classmates, who also shared their thoughts upon reading my blog entries.
Coverage: I am proud to report that all of my blog entries are based on a direct quotation, and I have identified in some way (author, title, page number) the assigned reading from which it came. I struggled with providing a link back to the course web page devoted to a particular reading in the former portion of the course. I have mastered this technique by now, however, so all of the blog entries in my second portfolio contain a "trackback". For thoroughness, I will merely include here some blog entries not better accounted for by another category.
Timeliness: I am also proud to report that all of my blog entries have been submitted on time, if not early.
Interaction: My ability to interact with my peers has improved since my first portfolio, because in addition to commenting on my classmates' blog entries, I have also tried to keep up with responding to comments left on my own blog entries.
My Thoughts on Julianne Banda's Blog
My Thoughts on Christopher Dufalla's Blog
Depth: As I mentioned in the introduction, one of my favorite things to do while blogging was to compare. I demonstrated depth by comparing the assigned reading with other assigned readings and real life experiences.
Discussion: I have made comments on several of my coursemates' blog entries that were part of a fruitful discussion.
My Thoughts on Jennifer Prex's Blog
My Thoughts on Carlos Peredo's Blog
My Thoughts on Rosalind Blair's Blog
"Going out the window was a very interesting experience. I can remember passing the third floor on my way down and the glorious sensation of release." (Miller 1).
Although this quote appears in the second paragraph of the work, I immediate connected it to Foster's chapter on flying. I found it interesting that flight can be so freeing, even as a suicide attempt. In addition to feeling "a glorious sense of release", the character, Jeanine speaks of feeling transparent, seeing sharply, and even believing in God. Then the sidewalk broke her fall, or should I say flight. Although a suicide attempt, I think Jeanine's flight was undoubtedly liberating. I equated the "seeing sharply" to one's life flashing before her eyes. Perhaps Jeanine saw the void in her life before she took flight. Similarly, the "sensation of release" may mean that Jeanine is not the same person as she was before the flight. And Jeanine must like being this new person, freed from the confinements of her previous life, because she mentions being happy that her suicide attempt proved unsuccessful. Jeanine also states, " ...I feel rather cheerful about it all, in a remote way, now that I died, or almost, and have my life again" (Miller 1). Jeanine may have failed at death, or did she? She failed in life, at least her past life, but I would say her suicide attempt was successful in that it resulted in the death of the old Jeanine, and enabled her to begin anew. Perhaps she even has a new appreciation for life, which she previously took for granted.
"In general, flying is freedom, we might say, freedom from not only from specific circumstances but from those more general burdens that tie us down." (Foster 127).
I used this quote from Foster in the attempt to make sense of Henry in The Time Traveler's Wife, whose time traveling I would consider flying. Henry's "flying" or materializing can definitely be considered liberating. Henry usually takes flight when he is stressed, and he often goes to an earlier, less threatening point in his past. This made me think of a computer's system recovery function: when the system fails, you simply restore it to a point earlier in time when it was working properly. For instance, at one point in the story, Henry and Clare are having problems in the present, and it is January. Henry time travels to a point in the past at which he and Clare are getting along great, and it is summer. On the other hand, I can also see Henry's flying as debilitating. It obviously affects his ability to function; for example, he cannot drive or watch television. He has no control over his departure. Or is Henry's flying both freeing and crippling? Is it liberating for Henry, who gets to leave when he and Clare are having problems, avoiding their problems? And is it debilitating for Clare, who is the one that stays and is left not only with whatever problems she and Henry were having, but also the worry that comes with wondering where and how Henry is while he is gone? At one point in the story, Clare even says, "...I am his prisoner..." Is Henry's flight freedom or confinement? What do you think?
"...I had this huge crush on Patty Hearst...She was a rich Californian college girl who got kidnapped by these awful left-wing political terrorists, and they made her rob banks...Why did I like her? Ah, I don't know. It's irrational, you know? I guess I kind of knew how she felt, being taken away and forced to do stuff she didn't want to do, and then it seemed like she was kind of enjoying it." (Niffenegger 65)
So Henry had a crush on Patty, a girl who was taken out of her element and forced to do stuff she did not want to do; namely, steal. But was it irrational? No; in fact, I think it made a lot of sense. I immediately thought of the Venus of Willendorf: the paleolithic figurine of a woman who is hefty and appears to be pregnant. This ideal women of the ancient times embodied what was important to society at that time: food, warmth, and fertility. As we emerged from the hunter/gatherer society and became domesticated, Barbie became the ideal woman. Ultimately, what one deems important, or in these cases, essential to survival, he or she will seek in a partner. In one sense, Henry identifies with Patty because she is uprooted against her will and forced to do things she does not want to do, just as Henry time travels and steals money and clothing. On the other hand, Henry admires and probably even envies her supposed enjoyment of robbing. Unfortunately, Henry sometimes has to rob to survive, so I would not think it irrational to like a girl like Patty Hearst; conversely, I would deem it natural and reasonable. I think this is the idea behind the "opposites attract" theory, which may be true for any of us. Perhaps we seek those things in a partner that we lack or hope to acquire from their company, I know I surround myself with people whom I would like to be more like in one way or another, just as Henry would probably like to enjoy what he is forced to do to survive.
"But more so than either of these, Emerson thinks of eloquent composition as a process of musical collaboration that draws upon, channels, provides a conduit for energies already in circuit among 'the people.'" - "Eloquence and Invisible Man" by Christopher Hanlon.
I chose to look at this quote because it reminded me of my own blog, and also of recurring themes in the story. Music is obviously a dominant theme throughout the novel. Descriptions are often made in terms of music, instruments are pointed out in scenes, and characters are usually uttering songs. Perhaps the invisible man has been chosen as an eloquent composer of the people. This may be the significance of the scene at the party, during which a man expected the invisible man to sing, almost as if this expectation was instinctive. In my blog, I spoke of the invisible man's speech, and how he did not know from where the wrods came. The invisible man may be a channel through which energy is elicited This energy is then transferred to the audience, constituting the members as a group, and unifying them in purpose. Brother Jack even goes on to say that the energy stirred up by the invisible man merely be channeled in the appropriate way to achieve the desired results. The article goes on to quote Emerson in sayin, "no one can survey the face of an excited assembly without being apprised of new opportunity for painting in fire human thought, and being agitated to agitate". Perhaps this was why the invisible man described the audience as being blurred and consisting of faces he could not clearly see, yet he felt a kind of affection for the members of the audience as if he belong to them. Maybe this blindness to the faces did not mean, as I preciously considered, that the invisible man was preaching ideas in which he did not himself believe, but rather that he needed to view the audience as one "social organism" in order to channel its energy.
"What had come out was completely uncalculated, as though another self within me had taken over and held forth." -Invisible Man, Ellison; Chapter 16, page 353.
I chose to look at this quote because it reminded me of something. If I recall correctly, people, such as in the ancient times, did not respect poets; rather, they deemed poets as mere channels of talent. In other words, poets produced these masterpieces, but did not understand their craft. Indeed, any person standing by could interpret a poem better than its author! I cannot decide whether or not this is what is happening to the invisible man. In the above quote, he obviously admits not knowing from where the words came. Is the invisible man a channel? Does he speak the words, but not understand their meaning? However, the invisible man was also temporarily blinded at the culmination of his speech. Was he beginning to see things clearly? Was he beginning to take responsibility for himself and his race, the members of which he formerly deemed ignorant and disgraceful? Was the invisible man beginning to see Dr. Bledsoe as the enemy, the atiphesis of his aspirations, rather than his mentor and predecessor? I cannot decide. The invisible man also speaks of feeling as though he belonged to the audience that accepted his speech, yet he could not see the faces of its members, only a blur. Is the invisible man really beginning to identify with his race, and realize his purpose? Or is he merely going through the motions of some calling he does not understand? Is the invisible man blind in that he now sees things clearly, or is he blind because he does not know where he is going?
What do you think?
"I was the irresponsible one; for I should have used my knife to protect the higher interests of society. Some day that kind of foolishness will cause us some tragic trouble."
In this quote in the prologue, the protagonist is suggesting that he should have used the knife to murder the man to meet society's expectations. There is a saying that people only notice things when they aren't as they should be. For instance, the child seated quietly in the backseat of the car will go unnoticed, but the kid who is kicking the back of the driver's seat and rolling the window up and down will attract attention. I believe this is the kind of effect about which Ellison is speaking. Minorities are expected to be powerless and weak, but as soon as an individual acts out, the act gains attention, and serves only to confirm the attitudes of society. I think this is the very thing the protagonist's grandfather was talking about on his deathbed. Perhaps he was a traitor because he did not conform to society's expectations. But it is likely that he also failed to meet the expectations of the members of his race, the majority of which would want him to act out in anger and resentment, and to be noticed. It is a vicious cycle, which is definitely still in place today. The reigns of society continue to halt the development of an entire people, and are difficult to shake loose. African Americans are underrepresented in terms of taking advantage of the opportunities that are now available. I think the power of expectations, or the lack thereof, is tragically underestimated. It's as if an entire people has the condition known as "failure to thrive" from chronic dehumanization and lack of stimulation, and the result is an entire race of untapped resources of knowledge, creativity, and the like.
"The Joads' saga offers a fictional version of the consequences of this myth of the garden and the accompanying myth of the American Frontier. Both were driven by a perceived superabundance of resources, a national fantasy that prodded the Joads towards Oklahoma and then later to California."
- "Turning Wine into Water..." by David Cassuto
I may have heard of this myths, and notice the implications of them throughout the work, but I was not really concious of them while reading. I did not realize that both the unwillingness to move from Oklahoma and the eagerness to get to California involved the belief of excess or "superabundance" as Cassuto says. Despite economic and ecological laws at work, there was a pervading belief that the land would continue to yield abundant crops despite the failure to rrotate crops, for example. The tenant families made the mistake of believing that as long as they were able to work there would be work to be done. Similarly, in California, the tenants suffered from an unshakable belief in the same kind of system. The tenants thought there woud be plenty of work for everybody, especially Pa who clung to the message of the orange handbill. Pa and the other tenants did not even consider the problems they may, and did encounter: too many workers, not enough work, minimal pay, no respect. It was no longer enough to believe that God or that technology would take care of things. The nation had to begin to accept that the myths were false, and take responsibility for what was done, and what needed to be done to "modernize the American dream", which was turning into a nightmare.
"But they pulled me out of the sack,/And they stuck me together like glue./And then I knew what to do./I made a model of you"
- "Daddy" by Sylvia Plath
I chose to examine this quote because of its familiarity. So many of us, men or women, choose partners that remind us of our parent. And this can be a good thing or, as in this case, a bad thing. In the stanza immediately before the one quoted above, Plath speaks of trying to die at twenty to get back to her father. After this attempt proved unsuccessful, Plath did what she thought was the next best thing: she married a man that reminded her of her father. Perhaps Plath thought she could receive the attention she craved from her father from this man. I did not gather that the issue with her father was inattention from this poem, but from another one of Plath's poems: "For a Fatherless Son". In this poem, Plath writes, "You will be aware of an absence, presently,/Growing beside you, like a tree" and "an utter lack of attention." Plath goes on to describe the boy as being dumb and stupid, and to say that she finds no face but her own in the boy's face. This can be compared to Plath saying that she could hardly speak in "Daddy". Immediately following this stanza, Plath describes her husband as a vampire resembling her father who sucked her blood during their marriage. In other words, her father and husband literally sucked the life out of her. At the end of the poem, Plath speaks of being through, but I think Plath could only relieve herself of her troubles by taking her own life, which she did at the tender age of 30. Perhaps if we were to read a poem featuring the small boy from "My Papa's Waltz" at a later stage in life, we could find similarities when compared with this poem. In fact, the hanging on like death. I would say, is a feeling evident in both poems as they are despite the age differences. Both characters also have distorted ideas concerning their relationships with their father, and others as is the case with Plath and her husband.
"The hand that held my wrist/Was battered on one knuckle;/At every step you missed/My right ear scraped a buckle."
- "My Papa's Waltz" by Theodore Roethke
This waltz definitely portrays an abusive relationship to me. I chose to examine this quote because it contains several words the scream abuse, although such words can be seen throughout the entire, relatively short poem. The first stanza introduces the smell of whiskey, the sensation of being dizzy, and hanging on like death. It would be no surprise if the alcohol and abuse coincide here. and I suspect the dizziness is not from the smell of whiskey alone. The second stanza involves romping, which is not a term I would think to use to describe dancing, "until the pans slid from the kitchen shelf" Again, these words scream abuse. Mother, who is probably powerless to intervene since she is only mentioned once, is wearing a perpetual frown in this scene. The third stanza, which is the one I quoted above, involves a hand with a battered knuckle holding a wrist. What dancing partner would lead you by holding your wrist??? An abusive one! And finally, the belt buckle, and belts have a bad reputation as being weapons of beatings. The final stanza involves the father beating time on the boy's head and putting him to bed, still clinging. Although this poem tells of an abusive relationship, it also tells of a boy who loves his father; hence, the hanging on and clinging. Love is not supposed to hurt, but this love is all the poor boy knows, and so he calls his abuser "papa". Or perhaps the boy knew this since he recognized that "such waltzing was not easy" , but was hopeful that his father would change. What do you think???