March 2008 Archives
Tiffany’s comments on Eats, Shoots and Leaves made me realize that without punctuation sentences would not exist. It would be very hard and overwhelming to read anything with no breaks or pauses as she mentioned. As she commented, one would not even understand what they were reading without any intermissions to think. Breaking things into smaller sections always makes things easier to handle and understand. In my Introduction to Exceptional Children class, it has been stressed over and over again that breaking things into smaller bits makes them easier. As writers, we want our audience to get as much from our writing as possible, punctuation helps facilitate that. Tiffany’s entry made me imagine a world without commas and periods, and to be quite frank—it’s a scary place. So like Truss is trying to show in her book, punctuation exists for a purpose and should not be written off so lightly.
Chelsea's entry on Eats, Shoots, and Leaves made me consider the relationship between creativity and grammar. And I have to agree with her, it doesn’t matter how creative someone is, if they don’t know any grammar. Without knowing some grammar, their ideas won’t even be comprehensible to anyone else. Also, when one writes, the first step is always to write a draft, the writer can be as creative as they want in their draft and not worry at all about grammar. But when one goes back and proofreads, the writer absolutely needs to check out the grammar. Whether the paper is creative or not, if the readers can’t even understand what the writer means it is irrelevant how genius the writing is. Grammar is truly necessary.
“In classical texts, it [the apostrophe] was used to mark dropped letters, as in t’cius for “tertius”; and when English printers adopted it, this was still its only function” (Truss 37).
The background behind an apostrophe made the English language more similar to other languages, in a way. I had no idea that the original intention of apostrophes was to draw attention to missing letters. The apostrophe was therefore at one time very similar to French’s circumflex accent. The circumflex accent(ˆ) was used to indicate a missing letter (usually a consonant) which used to be part of the word, but over time became omitted. Usually, the omitted letter made the word more similar to English, for example the French words: forêt, arrêt, and hâte, all originally included S’s. If one adds the missing letter you can see how they become more similar to English: forest, arrest, and haste. However, while the English language continued to develop new and unexpected (and sometimes arbitrary uses for the apostrophe, for example, the guidelines for its use with proper names ending in S), the French language kept the circumflex accent to denoting one thing and left the possessives to be dealt with by other things (for the most part the word “de” meaning “of.” To make something possessive in French one cannot say Dr. Jerz’s book, one must instead say the book of Dr. Jerz, thus avoiding all the problems involving possessive S’s).
“A woman, without her man, is nothing.
“A woman: without her, man is nothing” (Truss 9).
Wow did this quote bring back memories! Back when I was in 9th grade my teacher gave us the sentence: “A woman without her man is nothing,” just like that without any punctuation. Our job was to punctuate it. Then she went around the room and collected our papers. As she analyzed how we had punctuated the sentence, she had us move to one side of the room or the other. I am ashamed to say that I had punctuated my sentence in the first way (“A woman, without her man, is nothing”). It wasn’t because I believed the veracity of the sentence, in fact, the way I had punctuated it actually made me mad. When my teacher revealed what the two possible punctuations of the sentence were I remember being angry and feeling tricked and betrayed. How was I supposed to know we could use colons!
Rereading the two possibilities punctuations years later, I realize the task she put to us was a valid one. At the time, I felt like she was just trying to show who in the class devalued the female gender. In my anger at being duped, I missed the whole point behind the activity. It is amazing to me how the connotation of the exact same words can change so drastically from the punctuation. Truss proves the importance of punctuation masterfully (who hasn’t wondered why that comma really matters?), but Truss shows us why these little marks are so important. I’m glad I received the opportunity to re-experience the sentence, “A woman without her man is nothing.” As they say, with age comes wisdom, now I can look at these words without the old resentment bubbling up.
The quote that Stephanie chose from Flannery O’Connor short story “The Displaced Person” stood out to me when I was reading it too. Stephanie’s blog made it very clear that this type of thing is still going on today. But not only that, the passage she picked really spreads the guilt for genocide onto all of us—in this specific instance, the Holocaust. It is easy for us to blame it all on the Germans and Hitler, but considering Mrs. Shortley’s opinions, it seems the thought-pattern spread by Hitler was very prevalent elsewhere, even in the United States. It is hard for me to imagine that people think that way (as I mentioned in my previous blog entry), but obviously people did and continue to be afraid of people who are different, whether the difference is in skin color, nationality, language, or something else.
From Flannery O’Connor’s “The Displaced Person”:
“’Well,’ Mr. Shortley said, ‘if I was going to travel again, it would be to either China of Africa. You go to either of them two places and you can tell right away what the difference is between you and them. You go to these other places and the only way you can tell is if they say something. And then you can’t always tell because about half of them know the English language. That’s where we make our mistake,’ he said, ‘—learning all them people onto English. There’d be a heap less trouble if everybody only knew his own language. My wife said knowing two languages was like having eyes in the back of your head. You couldn’t put nothing over on her’” (O’Connor 248).
Ahhh! The thoughts of these characters in this story are so ridiculous! Talk about being xenophobic! I wonder if O’Connor was basing her characters upon actual people’s mentalities. It is hard for me to imagine that anyone could actually think what Mr. Shortley says, but I suppose there are crazy people out there (of course such thought could have been more prevalent when O’Connor wrote some 50 years ago too). However, if O’Connor is characterizing how people actually though, no wonder the Holocaust or other genocides took/take place. It is just absurd for Mr.Shortley to suggest keeping the English language from others. How does he expect to communicate with other people? I guess he follows the philosophy of isolationism (promoted at one point by Japan, or closer to home, George Washington). He seems to believe other countries should stay away from us, and we should stay away from them, and we should all live in ignorance. However, I doubt that Mr. Shortley would have had such a problem with Mr. Guizac ,if he had not been so successful in replacing him. Ironically, “the displaced person” ends up displacing Mr. Shortley.
It was Erica’s blog on Flannery O’Connor’s short story "Good Country People" that made me think specifically about the significance behind the quote: “Some can’t be that simple I know I never could” (O’Connor 195). I think Mrs. Freeman’s comment about how she could never be as simple as the Bible salesman is ironic. From what we have seen of Mrs. Freeman, I would not say she is simple (in the nice, country way). She seems to constantly be judging other people, observing, and silently making opinions. She is certainly simple in that she doesn’t have very worthwhile or deep thoughts, but she likes to pretend she is one thing on the outside (that she is so impartial), while on the inside she is very judgmental. I think Mrs. Freeman’s comment about not being able to be as simple as him, is meant to draw our attention to how she is not quite what she appears to be, just as is the case with the Bible salesman. This quote showed me yet again that there are so many levels to everything that O’Connor writes. Her writing continually amazes me!
Maddie’s comments about Sharon Hamilton’s Essential Literary Terms on foil characters, made me consider where authors got the idea to use them and why they are so effective for the audience. I think that part of the reason why is that foil characters do exist in real life, just as they do in literature. Frequently characters (or people in real life) even know that the people around them are making them look better or worse. The most notable example in literature that comes to my mind is from Forever in Blue: Fourth Summer of the Sisterhood (yes, I know the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants books are not literary masterpieces, but there is still a lot of good stuff in them). In the book, Carmen finds herself befriended by a girl named Julia, but Julia only wants Carmen around to make her look good. Anytime Carmen succeeds, Julia gets mad. We all know there are people out there like that. We have heard people say “she only wants to friends with so-and-so to make herself look good.” Authors will use any strategy that will be effective with their audience to get their point across. So, why shouldn’t they take a type of people that exist in real life and modify them for literature?
From Flannery O’Connor’s short story, “Good Country People”:
“Mrs. Hopewell would say ‘If you can’t come pleasantly, I don’t want you at all’? to which the girl would reply, ‘If you want me, here I am—LIKE I AM’” (O'Connor 171).
Poor, confused Hulga and Mrs. Hopewell. Mrs. Hopewell thinks she is so nice and polite. Yet, when it really comes down to it she looks down on everyone. Hulga, on the other hand, with all her degrees, think she has the world figured out—there is no God. Yet, when Hulga finds out the Bible salesman is not a Christian, she becomes very afraid. It would seem Hulga is not quite as atheistic as she claims, just like Mrs. Hopewell is not as kind as she thinks. Like mother, like daughter, both are deluded in their own ways. The question is, which one is more so?
From Sharon Hamilton’s Essential Literary Terms:
“ the reader may have to guard against the temptation to equate the writer with his or her invented speaker. In fact, however, even when there is no clear distinction between the narrator and the character, the narrator remains a quasi-fictional speaker, contrived for the purposes of the particular story” (Hamilton 112).
I do not usually have any difficulty separating the speaker and the author in prose. The challenge arises when we travel into the realms of poetry. In poetry, we usually have little background or context for understanding who the speaker is, whereas in prose, we usually have a name and know something about the character. Or even if the narrarator is not one of the characters in the book, it is still clearer that the narrator is not the author. But, in poetry, even though I know that the speaker and the author are not the same, it is very easy to forget. It takes a conscience effort to retain the firm distinction between the two in my mind.
I really liked and agreed with Maddie’s entry on Desmond’s "Flannery O’Connor’s Misfit and the Mystery of Evil”. She made it very clear that things are never as easy as being black and white. However, I think Desmond’s opinion went beyond the belief that every person’s idea of good and evil is different. I also think that he is stressing the importance of remembering that just as no one is “good”, no one is “bad” either. Serial Killers are certainly not the greatest people around, but even they have to have some good in them, and I think that is one of the points Desmond is trying to make. Just as “a good man is hard to find,” a bad man is also hard to find (which is of course exacerbated by individual people’s opinions of what good and bad is).
“He rejects belief in Christ yet he recognizes that a world in which actions and consequences cannot be made sense of leads ultimately to a world in which logical distinctions between good and evil collapse” (Desmond).
Desmond’s description of the Misfit reminds me of the psychologist Nietzsche. Nietzsche saw religion as a down gradation of humanity, since we attribute our doings and achievements to a higher power and not to ourselves. He felt that the idea of sin held humans back, that the idea of heaven and hell “poisoned” people’s everyday life with its impending existence. He felt that we need to be “the assassins of God” and proclaim that “God is dead” to truly be free. Later in life, Nietzsche recanted to a degree, since he did not believe morals could exist without religion and he feared the world would become a terrible place. He feared the world would come to have no meaning—nihilism. This seems to be how Desmond sees the Misfit. The Misfit does not want to accept Christ, yet he realizes that the world cannot exist with a purpose without religion. Nietzsche nihilistic beliefs eventually drove him insane; similar to how the Misfit also goes insane (although to a greater extent since he murders other people in his crazed state).
Lauren’s entry on Flannery O’Connor’s “A Stroke of Good Fortune” drew my attention to a commonality between three of O’Connor’s short stories that we have read. The quote Lauren picked, "Nobody thinks anymore," (O'Connor 71), reminded me of the quote from O’Connor’s “A Good Man is Hard to Find” that “People are certainly not nice like they used to be” (7). The quote was also reminiscent of a line in “The Life You Save Could Be Your Own”, that “people don’t care how they lie” (51). These three similarities seem to show that O’Connor likes to focuses on how society is degrading itself or at least that certain outcasts of society seem to think it is. Notice that the speakers of the three quotes are Mr. Jerger, Mr. Shiftlet, and the grandmother—who are all estranged from those around them in their own way. Maybe these quotes are just O’Connor’s wake-up calls for us, since these people are not part of society they will obviously be more critical of it, but as outside observers there is probably some truth in their statements.
From Flannery O'Connor's short story "A Stroke of Good Fortune":
“It was natural when you took on some weight to take it on in the middle and Bill Hill didn’t mind her being fat, he was just more happy and didn’t know why he would never slip up” (O’Connor 77).
So we have a pregnant lady who hates the idea of pregnancy. She apparently made some deal with her husband that she would never have to get pregnant. Now she is, her husband seems happier, although she doesn’t know why. But she is sure he would never slip up I would say that he did it on purpose. She is 34, as she keeps stressing, which while being pretty young, is starting to get up there as far as having kids goes. I would say that this is no slip up, but that her husband did it on purpose and is happy about it. The real question is why Ruby can’t get over herself and be happy about her pregnancy too. Yes, pregnancy is not easy, but I’m betting there is some joy in it too. But all Ruby can do is focus on the bad, talk about being pessimistic.
I could really identify with Chelsea’s entry on Tim Lemire’s I’m an English Major—Now What? It is very hard to pick a major. When I chose my majors (English, French, Education), I had a hard time deciding whether to major and minor or double major. I had to decide between English, French, and History (all of which I was very interested in). And reading Lemire’s chapters did not help me any, they made me want to take on even more! I would love to add a minor in history or if Seton Hill offers it English as a Second Language. Sadly, I cannot fit a minor in, since I have no room to take anything but the core classes and those required by my majors (especially since I am losing a semester to student teach). However, I think Lemire’s suggestion to double-major is an extremely good one. Any way in which we can better prepare ourselves or set ourselves apart from other job candidates is always a plus. And although I know I want to be a teacher, it is encouraging to hear that I am not limited by my majors. And even if I can’t take any more classes as an undergraduate, there is always continuing education!
I have to commend Kayley on her post about Lemire’s I’m an English Major—Now What? She made me see something positive in what Lemire was saying! I wasn’t even sure if that was possible! (Ok, I admit, I am exaggerating, Lemire did have a lot of good points, I just didn’t like how he expressed himself all the time). But Kayley made me consider my role as a future teacher. It is important for me to know all that is out there, available, for English majors. Just because I probably won’t go on to grad school, or don’t intend to pursue journalism myself, does not mean I do not need to familiar with them. I never know when one of my students will rely on me to guide them in the right direction. The more I know about the possibilities out there, the better I can help and teach my students! Just because I am majoring in English and education does not mean I can close my eyes and ignore everything else that goes along with the English major. The more I know, the more I can help future English majors makes themselves marketable (thereby doing what Lemire is trying to do for all of his readers).
From Tim Lemire’s I’m an English Major—Now What?:
“We are notified that Angela needs to make a speech—sometimes we get several months’ notice, sometimes we get one day I speak with Angela about what she would like to include in the speech, and usually, each has two or three drafts sometimes, the drafts are given to a city hall official to see if any information needs to be added” -Jacque Goddard Snyder (Lemire 195-6).These chapters have solidified my desire to teach. This quote is just one example of a job I would not find pleasurable. First off, Snyder will have sometimes only one day to write a speech. I don’t like only being given two days to write a paper, let alone having one day to write a speech tons of people will hear. I like to have time, and don’t like working under pressure. Secondly, she doesn’t even get to write her opinions. She has to write what Angela would say. She has to check with countless officials to make sure the speech is acceptable, and add whatever they tell her to. Me, I like to write what I want. I think it would be very difficult to write as if you were someone else. To top it all off, Snyder does not even receive credit for the speech, she warns: “The speaker will be congratulated for a terrific speech and you will be in the shadows” (Lemire 198). I want credit, where credit is due. By reading about these other career possibilities, seeing their upsides and downsides, I really realized how much more appealing teaching is to me. Not only do I want to teach, I don’t like the sound of these other jobs! It also made me appreciate what these people have to go through for their jobs. Kind of like Ehrenreich was trying to prove in Nickel and Dimed, all jobs are hard in their way. And unless we really understand what the job entails, we can’t realize how demanding it is.
From Tim Lemire’s I’m an English Major—Now What?:
“You will be telling a story to convince and persuade someone that your organization deserves money and support” (Lemire 219).
Well, here we are reading Lemire again, so obviously my response is not going to be positive. Lemire spends all of chapter 10 criticizing the English major. He doesn’t seem to think reading literature and writing papers about it prepares anyone for a job unless they are a teacher. Certainly, there are many more practical aspects about English which should be taught. However, he then writes his little quote from above. It would seem to me that writing papers in which you have to pick a claim and support your opinion in order to convince your audience that your reasoning is valid, is pretty similar to trying to convince someone to support your organization. Granted, there is always something else we can learn to better prepare us, but he should not completely write off the English major the way it is. Reading and writing can help prepare us for other careers besides teaching.
Lauren’s entry on Sharon Hamilton’s Essential Literary Terms made me focus on the reasons why authors choose to repeat things. The repetition authors use is very deliberate and for a specific reason—Lauren’s explanation behind the reasons for repetition in her own poem helped me to understand these reasons. (I just wish I could read her poem now! She has my interest sparked). I think repetition of some words, phrases, or ideas, is one of the strongest ways authors can stress the importance of a point. The author thinks the idea is important enough to repeat it over and over again. They obviously want us to remember this idea, or they wouldn’t repeat it. It’s almost like the author is putting sticky notes all over our room with little reminders, saying “Don’t forget this! This is important!”
"Take away the career and the higher education, and maybe what you're left with is this original Barb, the one who might have ended up working at Wal-mart for real if her father hadn't managed to climb out of the mines." (Ehrenreich 169).
And it also made me think about what Ehrenreich really meant by it. I agree with Kaitlin that background does not decided one’s fate, but I also think that being economically well off sure can help. In order for Ehrenreich to have been able to succeed and go to college like she did, she would have had to work very hard at these low-wage jobs, while she was trying to climb the social ladder. I think that Ehrenreich’s point is that these low-wage jobs are so physically exhausting that she might not have been able to hang onto the rung of the ladder she had managed to get to. She would have been so tired that hanging on to the little progress she had made would take an extremely dedicated, strong person—something that not many people are. Yes, Ehrenreich might have ended up where she is regardless, but I think she is just stressing this point to show how much harder it is for those who are not financially well off to succeed. Where someone who has the resources is already at the top of the ladder, someone who does not, must climb. I think that that is why Ehrenreich included this quote and not because she thinks it is impossible for someone to improve their lives economically.
On Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed, Maddie’s comments made me consider my feelings on other people’s jobs and waiter’s and waitress’ behavior. No one can understand the strains put on a person by an individual job unless they have had that job, that is for sure. Even the simplest jobs are always harder than they seem. Ehrenreich really helped me to appreciate the jobs that anyone and everyone does. It is easy for us to brush aside someone, saying their job is much easier than ours but we really have no way of knowing that unless we have had their job before. However, I think that it is important for waitresses and waiters to be polite, if they are not I don’t get mad or anything. But I mean, I am always polite to them, so I feel like they should be in return. But Ehrenreich does put an interesting perspective on things. She is highlighting the fact that if they are too friendly or nice, they get yelled at! I would have never thought of such a thing. I will consider this fact the next time I eat out.
Maddie made two good points in her blog entry on Tim Lemire's I’m an English Major—Now What? which made me think. First that we are the only ones who can decide what is best for us and when. I think we all want someone to tell us what to do to some degree. I think it goes back to the same reason we wish there was a big book of answers that all the English teachers have. Life would be so much simpler that way but it would also be more boring. Secondly, Maddie makes and interesting point about tolerance. I have run into many people who claim to dislike reading. And I agree we need to be tolerant of their feelings, however, I would like to point out that they are usually not tolerant of ours (those of us who love to read), so I think both sides need to work on that issue.
From Sharon Hamilton’s Essential Literary Terms:
“In addition, Dickens often gives a character a favorite tag line that sums up his or her outlook or values” (Hamilton 99).
Ah yes, the tag line. Anytime I think of a character’s tagline I always think of Pangloss from Voltaire’s Candide. Pangloss’ response to everything was: “Dans ce meilleur des mondes possibles, tout est au mieux" (or in English: “In this best of all possible worlds, everything is for the best.") Pangloss, in the book, was a respected philosopher. No matter what happened, it was always for the best. At one point, Pangloss even prevents Candide (the main character) from saving a man who is drowning. His reasoning being the man’s death will be for the best. Voltaire uses this ridiculous belief to mock the optimism of the time. But one last note on tag lines, it seems to me that generally people who have these tag lines are not portrayed as the most intelligent people. It’s almost like that one thing that they say over and over again, is all they know. (Or is it more they know what they are saying is not quite right, and need to repeat it over and over to convince themselves?)
From Barabara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed:
“If it weren’t for the drug test, I might have stopped looking right then and there, but there has been a chemical indiscretion in recent weeks and I’m not at all sure I can pass my indiscretion involved the only drug usually detected by testing, marijuana” (125).
This passage made me lose a lot of respect for Ehrenreich. I am sorry, but what on earth is a 50 some year old woman doing taking marijuana? For the most part I found Ehrenreich to be reasonable, but this is ridiculous. She even seems to justify her behavior, acting like drug tests are unreasonable for employers to give. I’m afraid that I think it is perfectly reasonable for employers to give drug tests. Drugs can affect an employee’s ability to work. Why should they hire someone who has obviously used a drug at least once? If they’ve used it once, who says they don’t use it all the time? Ehrenreich’s little “indiscretion” made me doubt her judgment, and re-evaluate some of the claims she makes.
“They give you your undergraduate degree because you complete the requirements; they give you the graduate degree because you earn it...the campus life to which you became accustomed in college (naked beer slides, panty raids, destruction of property) doesn’t exist on the postgraduate level” (Lemire 45).
I am afraid I have another bone to pick with Mr. Lemire. I usually agree with our readings, I don’t know if I’m in a bad mood or what here. But regardless, I have two problems with the quote above:
1. His insinuation that undergraduate students do not earn their degrees.
2. His comments on the wild behavior of all college students.
Now, I do not doubt for a minute that graduate school is much, much harder than undergraduate school. And I don’t have any problem with Lemire saying that graduate school is harder. However, I do not like the way he says that it is. It is a bit much to say that undergraduates do not earn their degrees. But even more offensive to me, is his assumption that all college students do such things as vandalize or get ridiculously drunk. Lemire does not say “the campus life to which some students are accustomed,” he acts like every single college student does that stuff. College is just a big party he seems to be saying. Well, I don’t know about all college students, I am sure some do that stuff. But I certainly don’t. I work hard; I certainly do not destroy things or get drunk. In fact, I spend more time doing work for my seven classes than I spend doing anything else at all. I do not appreciate Lemire’s insinuations that college is all fun and games and that we are not earning our degrees. I realize he is just trying to make a point that graduate school is more difficult, but still, he does not need to do so in the way in which he does.
From Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed:
“What these tests tell employers about potential employees is hard to imagine, since the ‘right’ answers should be obvious to anyone who has encountered the principles of hierarchy and subordination. Do I work well with others? You bet, but never to the point where I would hesitate to inform on them for the slightest infraction. Am I capable of independent decision making? Oh yes, but I know better than to let this capacity interfere with a slavish obedience to orders” (Ehrenreich 59).With her typical sarcasm, Ehrenreich talks of this employment eligibility tests. These tests remind me of a survey that we had to take at the end of every school year at my high school. The questions were laughably ludicrous, for example: Do you belong to a gang? Does your gang have a name? How many times have smoked more than a pack of cigarettes per day? How often do you drink? How many times in the last month have you felt suicidal? No one took the test seriously, it was a huge joke. I also highly doubt that people gave honest answers (even though it was anonymous). In a way, it is the same type of thing, anyone with any sense knows what the correct answer is. On the test Ehrenreich took, I think it is more a way for the employer to be sure that the worker is sufficiently accepting of their lot in life. The employee won’t shake things up, or make them feel bad. It’s almost like a way to pat themselves on the back in reassurance that their employees are happy and content.
“Has the undergraduate English major curriculum adequately prepared you for a career in teaching?...The answer to the first question above is no, and not just because requirements for the English major do not include teacher training” (Lemire 12-13).Ok, well, Mr. Lemire, I would just like to point out that although the English major in of itself does not include education classes, that any student who intends to be an English teacher, must take an extensive amount of education classes. Yes, he is right that “interpersonal, and political challenges of teaching are not abilities easily extrapolated” (Lemire 13), but it’s not like education students get no practice. There is extensive observations, practicums, and of course student-teaching. It’s not like we are just being thrown into a school with no experience. Lemire claims that “not a few people come into teaching with little or no training” (Lemire 20), I am sorry, but I am going to have to disagree. Granted, there is always more one can do to prepare themselves for the future. But he acts like us English education majors are just hanging out, doing nothing to work towards our career choice. I think most of us are very much aware that “there’s only one way to find out [if teaching is right for us]: teach” (Lemire 19) and we are working very hard to get the practice and experience we need.