April 2008 Archives
Sigmund Freud, the famed psychologist, recognized the power of words:
“Words have a magical power. They can bring either the greatest happiness or deepest despair; they can transfer knowledge from teacher to student; words enable the orator to sway his audience and dictate its decisions. Words are capable of arousing the strongest emotions and prompting all men's actions.”
Few people will deny the magical sway that word can have. In EL 150: Introduction to Literary Study, I have tried to better understand and control this power innate in language. Reading Sharon Hamilton’s Essential Literary Terms has provided me with a better understanding of the tools I have with which to manipulate words, such as alliteration, syntax, and onomatopoeia. Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game (besides being a very good book) showed me the writing strategy of a master author to show with words, and not tell. Learning about suffixes, roots, and prefixes gave me a better understanding of the mechanics behind language. Blogging helped me to discover the university mind-set and reflect on my own thoughts and on my classmates'. There is more to literature then just reading a book and saying “what a good book!” Writing blog entries and picking a specific quote showed me that. Thinking about what one has read and the strategies the author used in writing opens up a whole new world of possibilities. Getting blogs in on time was sometimes very difficult and stressful, but getting my ideas out there in a written form where my classmates can review them has really helped me to think critically and see that there is so much more to literature than I previously thought. I don’t think I will ever be able to read a book the same way again. I hope to take what I have learned about words and literature and “transfer knowledge from teacher to student” in the future; however, I will not be the student, but the teacher.
Coverage: These are examples of entries in which I included a quote from the assigned reading and linked my blog back to the course webpage.
Timeliness: These are examples of blogs which were posted 24 hours before class or reflections which were posted before class.
Interaction: Some of my entries got the wheels turning in my classmates’ heads, check out our discussion.
Depth: These entries really demonstrate the magic of words.
Discussion: The first step is reading and considering the text myself, the next is to get some second opinions. Here are some discussions I participated in, which were sparked by a peer’s blog entry.
· Jessie’s Ruthless Tone
· Angelica’s the end
· Angelica’s Themes
· Kaitlin’s Humor in Tragedy: It Does Exist
· Angela’s In Good Company
· Angela’s Clowns and Literature Don’t Mix
Other Entries and Reflections: This is a mishmash of blogs you don’t want to miss! Check out a couple of my other reflections, learn my created word (which will, no doubt, be popping up in dictionaries soon), watch a video on Yahoo, learn some slang, and read my poetry!
I. Sonnet I
Upon your face there rests a sort of smile.
A special sparkle lights your dark brown eyes,
Because I have been gone for a long while.
I realize your mouth shall speak no lies.
Your greeting is the best hello of all.
I dream that more behave as kind as you,
Who never lets the shade of sadness fall.
Pollution has not crept in your pure dew.
Thus showing me with pride your brand-new toy,
You wish alone for favor in my praise.
Upon receiving it you prance with joy,
And look at me with your adoring gaze.
You climb upon my lap to lick my face,
With crooked tail which wags about fast pace.
Leaning languidly, loving language liberated luxurious letters
Intermitted interruptions introductorily intrigue
Blessed bliss broken, but benevolence beguiles
Rescuing, respect rendered, received rarely
Accomplishment achieved, aid again and again
Real reading, raw reason, remains remote
Irrational interest in “innovative” ideas instead insist illiteracy
Assaying aimless assaults afflicting adolescents,
Nourishing knowledge, nestled neatly, knowing need never-ends.
Walking these halls
Listening to the mutterings of the past
Hearing the music, the steps, the calls
I catch the whisper of a suppressed dream, oh so vast
In this land of mirrors, I cannot help but glance
Wondering who was the greatest and the last
To, in front of this vanity, dance.
I long to glimpse the future, but on it slides
In this chateau of France.
Where was I when I noticed this ebbing tide?
Why will it not pause or wait?
I am not ready to continue on the other side.
But even if unprepared, it will come, my fate
Hoping I shall make a difference as those in this house of state.
Pieces of hope,
Fill me up
to the brim.
from the words.
All one can feel
one thing alone,
Maddie’s entry on Margaret Edson’t Wit made me consider the purpose behind includingthe story of The Runaway Bunny. The reading of the book to Vivian really touched me as it did Maddie. It conjures up memories from childhood. Here is Vivian, alone and dying and her professor comes back and reads her a children’s story. In the end, Vivian does not want to hear Donne’s poems recited, it is a simply story of love that she wants to hear. Donne’s work so full of questions that never are answered serve as no comfort for Vivian. It was peace that Vivian needed which Susie and The Runaway Bunny gave her, not resuscitation for a continued struggle.
From Margaret Edson's Wit:
“Vivian: So. The young doctor, like the senior scholar, prefers research to humanity. At the same time the senior scholar, in her pathetic state as a simpering victim, wishes the young doctor would take more interest in personal contact.
Now I suppose we shall see, through a series of flashbacks, how the senior scholar ruthlessly denied her simpering students the touch of human kindness she now seeks” (Edson 47-8).
Facing death makes one contemplate. In this case, Dr. Bearing (Vivian) is regretting her lack of compassion for her former students. She begins to understand how it must have felt for them. She relates to Jason and Dr. Kelekian, they are scholars like her after all. Yet, they, like her, have chosen to distance themselves from humanity—Dr. Bearing by constantly analyzing Donne (or going through one of her old lectures again), the doctors by focusing more on their research than the patients themselves. It is the nurse, Susie, who is portrayed as unintelligent and witless, who comforts Dr. Bearing and respects her wishes. In Wit, it’s almost as if there is a correlation between kindness and less mental capacity. Maybe, Jason is right when he said “ you can’t think about that meaning-of-life garbage all the time or you’d go nuts” (Edson 61); however, Dr. Bearing seems pretty sane to me, right up to the end.
I found Angelica’s quote and blog on Card’s Ender’s Game for two reasons. First it made me consider Ender’s search for identity. I don’t think Ender ever truly doubted he had potential, although he did doubt whether he should be the chosen one. But Ender definitely did discover himself, and learning who he was and his identity did not just come from his good experiences, but also from the bad. Being tricked into exterminating the buggers (or at least seemingly to have) allowed Ender to really appreciate the value of life and the similarities between both humans and buggers later. If you want to read more about the effect of bad events on shaping one’s life read Stephanie’s blog.
Secondly, I found the quote she chose interesting because in a way it relates back to my blog entry. Once again in this quote, it is showing how Ender could be “easily controlled” if he is convinced he is helping the people he cares about. It is Ender’s compassion that allows him to be used, and why Peter was not the one for the job. Yet, by showing how devious Peter is, Card is not supporting a lack of morals. He seems more to saying that while being kind opens one up for problems, based on the how Ender finds himself in the end, that it is better to be as Ender or Valentine than to be as Peter.
Chelsea’s blog on Hamilton’s Essential Literary Terms made me consider how easy it is to write free verse versus other more structured types of poetry. And while, I like free verse like Chelsea does and enjoy writing it, I think that she is oversimplifying free verse by saying it is easy to write. Just like in a sonnet, every word, comma, and pause has to serve a purpose. Granted, one doesn’t have to worry about rhyming, but with such freedom the author needs to be more careful that they aren’t running away with their thoughts and not focusing on the concise nature of poetry. Every single part of the poem needs to be packed with meaning, and that meaning needs to put there on purpose. Without a structure to control you, it is easy to forget that.
From Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game:
“’ when you never know the Earth itself, when you live with metal walls keeping out the cold of space, it’s easy to forget why Earth is worth saving. Why the world of people might be worth the price you pay.’
“So that’s why you brought me here, thought Ender. With all your hurry, that’s why you took three months, to make me love Earth. Well, it worked. All your tricks worked” (Card 243).
This is such a cynical view. It is not the bad in Ender that the teachers can manipulate, it is the good. As soon as they manage to ground the good out of Ender, when he stops caring about others, their power over him is gone. But when compassion rules Ender they can manipulate him into doing horrible things (such as unknowingly killing a whole race). I’m not sure what the lesson here is supposed to be. I mean yes, in the end, Ender “saved” the world and is a hero. He even finds out that he didn’t exterminate all the buggers (certainly a good thing). However, despite the happy ending, it was Ender’s kindness which allowed others to trick him into doing bad things. It’s almost like Card is saying being good makes one easy to control.
From Sharon Hamilton's Esssential Literary Terms:
“Editors also indent blank verse lines that are shared between two or more speakers and number them as one line, to show that the dialogue reflects a close meeting of the characters’ minds” (Hamilton 238).
Almost every time I have read a Shakespeare play in school and then been required to quote things from the text, I invariably am confused by the line numbers. I’d count out the lines and do my best to figure out the line number of what I wanted to quote and then there would be more lines then possible numbers. In the end, I would be so frustrated trying to uncover the answer to this mystery that I would just use a different quote. But no more, Hamilton has explained the cause of my predicament. Some lines share line numbers if they are related. For example, one set of shared lines in Romeo and Juliet “show how closely attuned Romeo and Juliet are to one another’s thoughts and rhythms, almost as if their hearts are synchronized” (Hamilton 238). It is comforting to know that Shakespeare (and the modern editors of his work) actually do know how to count, and in fact, that they are purposefully choosing to share the lines for very good reasons.
Jessie’s blog entry made me consider the role of authority in Card’s Ender’s Game. In the book, not only does Ender see Bonzo’s ineffectiveness, but he also questions the authority of the adults and teachers. He sees them as the enemy, who cause all his problems (which they do). And interestingly, the adults in many ways don’t think they are right, they realize what they are doing is unethical, but they do it anyway. They believe that the end justifies the means. Maybe Bonzo thought that his wish to trade Ender away justified his actions too. Peter could be right about these buggers after all, maybe they never will come, and the adults are just messing up children. It presents some very interesting questions about authority—somebody needs to be in charge and no one can ever be 100% sure his actions are correct, so where does that leave us? Being a leader really is a risk.
I, like Stephanie, love Alliteration and am certainly glad that it is discussed in Hamilton's Essential Literary Terms. I frequently try to make my titles alliterative, for example, “Pessimistic Pregnancy”. I think alliteration helps the reader remember whatever the author wants to better. It also helps drive home the point, if the reader misses the idea the first time the continuous repetition will hopefully catch his attention and help him realize the importance of the idea. Alliteration is a powerful tool, one that even Valentine, the genius 10 year old from Ender’s Game picks up on, “Valentine had a knack for alliteration that made her phrases memorable” (Card 135). What’s even better about alliteration is that it is a relatively simple literary tool; just about any writer can employ alliteration at least to some degree of effectiveness.
From Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game:
“Peter took careful note of all their most memorable phrases and then did searches from time to time to find those phrases cropping up in other places. Not all of them did, but most of them were repeated here and there, and some of them even showed up in the major debates on the prestige nets. ‘We’re being read,’ Peter said. ‘The ideas are seeping out’” (Card 135).
I doubt blogs were popularized in 1985, if they even existed at all. But that is exactly what Valentine and Peter are doing—they are blogging. And not only are they blogging, they are being read and influencing the world. The question it brings to my mind is this: we are blogging; can someone through blogging alone go from an insignificant nobody to someone read and respected? The answer is yes, and it is kind of a scary thought. As evinced in this case, these “well-respected bloggers” are only children! Grant it, they are genius children, but it still can serve as a lesson for us, what do we really know about the things that are posted on the internet? Very little.
This quote is a lesson to us about what we are blogging, as we discussed earlier in the semester, anyone could be reading our blogs. We could be influencing people, we have no idea. But nonetheless, we need to reflect on what we are posting, before we post it. Whether we are intentionally trying to change the world like Valentine and Peter or not, our blogs could still affect someone out there—our ideas could be “seeping out.”
“In its broader sense, onomatopoeia means using words in such a way that they seem to exemplify what they denote, not just in terms of sound but also of such qualities as pacing, force, touch, movement, or duration as well” (Hamilton 221).
This is probably the best definition of onomatopoeia I have ever been acquainted with. Frequently, when one learns onomatopoeia it is excessively simplified. One is taught that onomatopoeia are the words that imitate a sound (which is true and an important thing to know), but Hamilton gets more to the heart of the matter and complicates the term a bit more. It isn’t just words like “woof, bang, zoom,” Hamilton explains that it is not limited to these words, but can be any as long as “they denote” in some way their meaning by how they sound. I think the most important part of her definition is that it doesn’t focus just on examples of what onomatopoeia is, it explains their purpose: “a word or phrase that seems to imitate the sound it denotes” (Hamilton 221).
Emily Dickinson was a recluse. After her schooling, she chose to stay in her family house in Amherst, Massachusetts. She would receive visitors on occasion, but only rarely. One must wonder why Dickinson would disassociate herself from the world by her own choosing. Was she trying to preserve her innocence? Did she simply wish to live a secluded life of meditation dedicated to writing poetry? Or is it even possible, she was hyperdemophobic—fearing other human beings and the pain they could bring? Whatever the case, her poetry still appeals to us today, with poems such as “Because I could not stop for Death” and “Victory comes late.”
Kaitlin made some very good observations on Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game. I agree with Kaitlin completely about Card’s writing style. Card just gives us little tidbits here and there, pushing us to keep reading. I am constantly asking myself questions as I read: “They called Ender a third, what is that supposed to mean? Who are these people talking about Ender? Why is he called Ender? He’s having a monitor removed, what’s that?” Of course, as one reads, all these questioned are answered, but Card writes in such a way that you want to know these answers, so you just want to keep reading and reading to learn more.
Also, Kaitlin’s explanation for why Card chose to write his book like this makes a lot of sense too. Ender is confused and disoriented, and by purposely leaving out the details till later we do feel some of the same feelings Ender is. It was a very clever move on Card’s part to write the book how he did and I can’t wait to read more!
From Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game:
“’The final step in your testing was to see what would happen when the monitor came off. We don’t always do it that way, but in your case—‘
“’And he passed?’ Mother was incredulous. ‘Putting the Stilson boy in the hospital? What would you have done if Andrew had killed him, given him a medal?’
“’It isn’t what he did, Mrs. Wiggin. It’s why’” (Card 19).
I have not read many science fiction books, so I was approached Ender’s Game with caution. I was unsure whether I would like it, but I must say that so far I am thoroughly enjoying it. I also really hope that we do not end up like the people in this book in the future. They are brutal and cruel, and live by Darwin’s mantra of survival of the fittest. But it is not survival of the fittest based on size, it’s all about intelligence. The adults applaud cruelty as long as the children are clever about it. The quote above is an example of that mentality. Ender (Andrew) beat up another six year old, but as long as his reasoning was good, the government finds his actions laudable. It’s all about logic and rationale.
Ethan’s blog entry on “Short Research Papers” made me consider the role of what people have read themselves in their own writing. People who are not trained as writers and do not understand what goes into writing may think (from what they have read) that writing is meant to use a lot of flowery (and sometimes unnecessary) words. Novice writers are trying to impersonate other greater writers who came before them, thinking they will achieve success through impersonating other people’s styles. I think it is not only a lesson in realizing who the audience of a work is, but also one in finding your own style and not copying someone else’s.
“If you are like most students writing a short paper, you will stare at the computer screen for a while until you come up with a title. Then you will pick your way through your topic, offering an extremely broad introduction You might also type in a few long quotations that you like. After writing fluff for a page or two, you will eventually hit on a fairly good idea” (Jerz, Short Research Papers).
I suppose I am like most students then, because that is exactly what I do! I just ramble on for a couple pages till I hit on something, go “aha!”, and then write about that for the rest of my paper. I usually don’t go back through and eliminate the fluff, so that I can focus more on the “fairly good idea”. Partially I don’t do so because I get lazy and have little time, and partially because once the fluff is written, I usually take a liking to it and don’t want to get rid of it because I think it has its own merit. The problem is, whether it is good writing or not, it no longer pertains to my paper. However, if nothing else, this reading has made it clear to me that any corners I cut in writing my papers are obvious to my professors. They know what students do and are thinking when the write, and will be able to tell how much effort was put into a paper. So if for no other reason than to get an A, it is very important to go back through and cut out all that fluff (*sniff sniff* goodbye my friend), and from there focus on the good idea that you came up with.
Speaking of good ideas...check out these!
Keeping up with the times with Urbandictionary.com:
When first time grandmothers freak out about being a "grandma" so they totally overhaul themselves to look hot by spray tanning, buying super young trash clothes and losing tons of weight. When these ladies lose too much weight trying to achieve their new look, they could be suffering from “granorexia.”
Several sentences from urban dictionary as an example: “Every since the baby was born, betty looks like she's trying to look friggin 18...plus she has gotten soooooooooooooo thin!”
“hmmmmm......smells like granorexia to me. wonder if the folks at INTERVENTION would be interested in this!”
Example from Times Online:
“GRANOREXIA Eating disorders are on the rise among the overfifties.”
Granorexia talk about crazy. I suppose eating disorders affect everyone these days—girls, boys, old people. I picked this word because it is a clever combination of the word anorexia and that of the shortened form of grandmother (being gran). However, it does have a comical overtone, which kind of detracts from the seriousness of eating disorders.
The Sensation that your cell phone is vibrating in your pocket, when it actually is not.
In a sentence from urban dictionary:
“I thought my cell phone was vibrating, but it was just PVS.”
Example from USA Today:
“Some call it "phantom vibration syndrome." Others prefer "vibranxiety" — the feeling when you answer your vibrating cell phone, only to find it never vibrated at all.”
This has definitely happened to me before. I could swear my cell phone vibrated, yet when I pull it out, I find I was just imagining it. I was glad to see I am not the only one to suffer from this phenomena and that it in fact has been given a name.
(v) to follow hyperlinks through various wikipedia articles with no express destination.
In a sentence from urban dictionary: "I've been wikiwalking since 9 o'clock! - started off in Bangladesh and ended up at Prime Minister's Questions!"
This is something else I do all the time. I’m looking something up on Wikipedia, only to find a million links throughout the article and at the end which explain more about that topic. Naturally, I feel impelled to click on this licks to other Wikipedia articles, which in turn are full of links I click on, and round and round I go, wikiwalking through webpage after webpage of information.
Literally means "huh?" in Japanese. Popularized by Kenshin in "Rurouni Kenshin" when he uses it in funny situations.
In a sentence from urban dictionary :"Oro? what are you doing?"
An example from YouTube (excerpt from the show)
I was quite surprised and pleased to find oro on here! As a fan of Rurouni Kenshin it pretty much made my day. My buddy icon on instant messenger was even a picture of Kenshin saying oro for awhile. It’s a really great word, one for my friends in high school actually started saying it when she was confused.
To learn more words, click here!
Stephanie’s blog made me do so through her example and analysis of the poem “Deathfugue” by Paul Celan. I had never read “Deathfugue” before; it certainly is a powerful poem, laced with meaning, feeling, and death. “Deathfugue” was an excellent example of syntax and Stephanie’s explanation drives home the importance of it. Her analysis of the strength behind Celan’s choice not to use any punctuation proves how planning pays off. Syntax is yet another tool found in an author’s toolbox used to create emotion and deeper meaning not just from the words themselves but from their positioning and their use of punctuation.
Angelica’s blog entry on syntax made me remember a personal experience with syntax and also consider the merit behind purposely choosing not to vary sentence structure. I agreed with her that using a mixture of sentences is very important; however, there are also some exceptions—it just depends on what you are going for. As Hamilton showed, Hemmingway used many very simple, similar sentences in order to create a certain feeling. So you don’t necessarily want to vary sentence structure if you want to create a feeling of monotony or boredom, but generally it is good to change things up. I remember my senior year my teacher had us write an essay in which we had to include so many different types of sentences (the only one I remember now is parallelism, next time I go home I need to dig out the handout she gave us and look at it). I found the assignment very frustrating at first, but once I went back through my paper and read it, and saw all the improvement from my first draft that the varied sentences had caused, I recognized the importance of not just writing the same type of sentence over and over and over again.
Between Stephanie and Angelica’s two blog entries and my reflection on syntax, I am sure that the importance of it will not be forgotten, at least not by me.
While shutting the curtains, you catch my eye.
I usually choose not to peer out. If
Cool night air caressed my skin, I might be
Tempted to follow you elsewhere, wherever.
Dark, open sky of foreboding I fear,
Asking me why I am here in the calm.
But not this time do I question, for I
See you—little twinkling star, gleaming so
Bright, leading my heart to the heavens! I
Sit in peace and observe a single star.
“It is important to note that scansion is not an exact art. Ambiguities exist about the degrees of stress and the predominant meter of some lines, and expert readers may vary in the ways that they apportion stresses in a line” (Hamilton 205).
What a relief to learn that even the experts can’t agree sometimes! Scansions frequently frustrate me because the harder I try to figure out what the stressed syllable is, the more I get confused. I say it the one way, then I say it the other—and both seem right to me! Sometimes, granted, it is clear what is stressed, but sometimes there is a very fine line. It is comforting to hear that there is at least some leeway for discrepancies. If the experts don’t know, I certainly don’t feel bad not being able to tell for sure. But more than anything else, I think doing scansions correctly is just going with your first instinct, the more you analysis it, the harder it is to tell which part of the word is stressed.
I understand what Chelsea was saying in her blog entry on Hamiton's Essential Literary Terms. To be quite honest, I’m not sure anyone ever told me what syntax meant either. I remember the word being thrown around a lot, but no real explanation of its meaning being given. However, I don’t think it is really a matter of it being fun or not fun to teach. Honestly, I don’t think some of my teachers cared whether what we were learning was fun or not; they were just concerned if what they were teaching was valuable for the students to know (I would also like to mention that there is probably a way to make syntax fun and interesting). I think it is more an issue of the teachers assuming that someone else had already explained the term and that students already knew what it was, more than teachers avoiding teaching it. To me, this is just another warning to me as a future teacher to not assume students know things they might not and to review if at all possible.
From Sharon Hamilton’s Essential Literary Terms:
“In the most extreme examples of this connection between setting and plot, the setting plays a more pointedly SYMBOLIC role, FIGURATIVELY reflecting the feelings and experiences of the characters” (Hamilton 151).
When I read the section in Hamilton on the importance of setting, I immediately thought of Foster’s chapter in How to Read Literature Like a Professor on geography. Having just made a lesson plan with a section on the importance of location in literature (which I consulted Foster about), it is no wonder that after reading the quote above I thought to myself, “Didn’t I read this somewhere before?” Foster explains the importance of setting not only on the plot, but also on the characters. He wrote:
“What she [Taylor Greer, a character from Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver] discovers in the West are big horizons, clear air, brilliant sunshine, and open possibilities. She goes, in other words, from a closed to an open environment, and she seizes the opportunities for growth and development. Another character in another novel might find the heat oppressive, the sun destructive, and space vacant, but she wouldn’t be Taylor Greer” (Foster 167).
Personally, I think Foster explains it better than Hamilton, but nonetheless, if I didn’t get the message the first time, I certainly do now. Setting (or more specifically geography) is pivotal to a story. The next time I pick a setting for something I write, I am certainly going to think twice about my choice and not pick something randomly (which was pretty much what I was doing before). I never realized how much thinking goes into the planning of a book, or how significant almost every element is to the characters and the plot. Planning before you write really is essential, if you want to write anything decent (an idea I have been trying to deny for most of my life).
Now that I’m in the swing of things and better understand the University mind-set, I am able to focus more on my entries themselves and also on my reflections. From EL 150 Introduction to Literary Study, not only do I learn from my own blog entries, but also from reading my classmates’ blogs, and then re-thinking the texts. Confucius, the Chinese philosopher, opined that: “By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.” Learning how to write a blog back at the beginning of this semester was, in a way, a type of imitation. We would read each other blogs, and make corresponding changes to our own. As the semester has progressed, I have slowly been gaining experience, and I have been reflecting on my own thoughts and my classmates’. I’ve also learned about punctuation from Eats, Shoots and Leaves; I’ve obtained a better understanding of literary terms from Hamilton’s Essential Literary Terms; journeyed into poverty and toyed with social reform with Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed; discovered the depths of Flannery O’Connor’s short stories; and argued with Tim Lemire’s opinion in I’m an English Major—Now What? Below, I have broken up my entries into categories for ease of reading.
Coverage: These entries are examples of my ability to correctly link my entries to the course webpage.
Timeliness: These are examples of entries which were posted at least 24 hours before class.
Interaction: These are some of my entries that spurred discussion among my classmates and me.
Depth: Are you ready to enter the depths of my mind? These entries are little more complicated than my average entry.
Discussion: Check out some of my classmates' entries in which I participated in the discussion. In some cases, I was even the first one to leave a comment!
· Jessie’s Goin’ South
· Erica’s Be Your Own Tour Guide
· Angelica’s The working poor
· Lauren’s More Obligations and Today’s Society
· Kaitlin’s Background does not determine a person’s success
· Chelsea’s I’m Glad I’m complex
· Katie’s Someone Make Up Their Mind
· Angela’s Red Water is Not a Good Sign
Reflections: After reading my classmates’ blogs I would write a reflection based on their thoughts. Sometimes I found a whole new meaning to the text, other times my peers managed to sway my opinion a little bit.
Angelica’s blog entry on Eats, Shoots and Leaves made me, as another future English teacher really consider my role in teaching punctuation. As I’ve mentioned before, exclamation marks can be a scary thing (at least to me, anyway). How do you teach their use to kids? You don’t want them to go crazy with them, nor do you want them to write them off completely. It poses an interesting question.
But besides just this question which the quote made me think of, what about the quote itself? “Most of us can’t remember a time before we learned to punctuate” (Truss 134). I don’t know about you, but I certainly cannot remember learning what punctuation marks where for. I’m sure I learned at some point, but their use is so engrained in our minds from such a young age that we cannot even remember what and when we learned about them. Maybe it is because they are so drilled into us that we don’t stop to consider their use. Punctuation marks are elementary; we think to ourselves: “we learned that back in grade school.” But the problem is that we can’t remember what we learned, and thus don’t know how to use them. I think this is part of why people have such difficulties with grammar. And it is an important concept for us future teachers to remember—no matter how basic something may be, it can never hurt to review it with our students to be sure that they do know how to use a comma, a period, or anything else.
Both Juliana’s and Chelsea’s blogs on Eats, Shoots and Leaves were very interesting to me. Both of them expressed their love of the exclamation mark because it helps them express their vivacious, extroverted personalities. There blogs intrigued me, because, as I expressed in my blog, I am the exact opposite. I am very cautious to use exclamation marks. I am more of an introverted person, and using an exclamation mark garners so much attention that I have to think very carefully whether what I am saying really deserves this fluorescent highlight. Their entries made me wonder whether the predilection to use exclamation marks is not related to our personalities—Introverts being afraid of this loud punctuation and extroverts welcoming them happily. And I think Truss wants to warn the extroverts not to overuse them by her comments about critics’ warnings; and I think she wants to encourage introverts to use them through her example of Chekhov’s “The Exclamation Mark.”
From Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss:
“As for our writing personally to each other, how often do you hear people complain that emails subtract the tone of voice; that it’s hard to tell if someone is joking or not? Clicking on ‘send’ has its limitations as a system of subtle communication. Which is why, of course, people use so many dashes and italics and capitals (‘I AM joking!’) to compensate. That’s why they came up with the emoticon, too...” (Truss 192).
I agree with Truss that emails, instant messaging, and texting can only reach a certain extent of expression. Sometimes it is hard to tell if people are just being sarcastic, or if they mean what they say. But I do have a little problem with what Truss is saying here. It can be confusing sometimes, yes. But it can be confusing whether it is in an email, a handwritten letter, or even a book. It’s not that “emails subtract the tone of voice,” it’s that the people writing them aren’t careful enough to enunciate their meaning. Just like it’s not poor punctuation’s fault that people butcher it, it is not fair to blame electronic text-based communication for all the problems people have with communicating themselves in words.
Also, if the whole point is to express the “tone of voice” without actually hearing the person talk, in an informal setting, I don’t think there is anything wrong with using emoticons, italics, capitals, whatever people need to use to get their point across. The problem is that people are letting their internet habits seep into more formal writing. But this is not the Internet’s fault, it is the fault of the people who use the Internet and don’t care enough to make a distinction between formal and informal situations. Blaming the Internet for the deterioration of grammar is simply unfair.
From Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss:
“ grammarians have warned us to be wary of the exclamation mark, mainly because, even when we try to muffle it with brackets (!), it still shouts, flashes like neon, and jumps up and down” (Truss 137).
I won’t deny it, I’m afraid of the exclamation mark. I have been going to therapy and I’ve made improvements, but I’m still a little!-phobic. Exclamation marks are so strong! And in most cases, my feelings about the issue at hand are simply not so very overwhelming that an exclamation mark seems necessary. Even when I am excited about something, I’ll type an exclamation mark, then erase it, then put it back. Pondering whether I will seem ridiculous for using it, I usually decide I am better off eliminating it. What if someone else doesn’t think what I wrote deserves an exclamation mark and then just thinks I’m stupid? Granted, as time has went on, I have become more confidant in its use, but I certainly can understand why people would be hesitant to use it.
Kayley brought up an interesting point with commentary on Eats, Shoots and Leaves. Besides pondering what Kayley wrote herself, it made me think that if the Bible started out without any punctuation at all in it (as Truss tells us it did), then the punctuation was added by other people. How do we know these people added punctuation at the right places? Truss already showed us the difference even one comma can make in a sentence. It’s almost scary the power punctuation has over our lives.
I could really relate to what Katie wrote in her blog on Eats, Shoots and Leaves. I always found grammar conflictions frustrating too. Often for big papers, my teachers would offer to read over you paper ahead of time and give you suggestions. They would tell me to take out a comma here, or add another one here. Then I’d ask my brother (who was an English major) to look over my paper after I had adjusted my paper from my teachers’ comments, and sometimes he would tell me to take out a comma which they told me to add! I think part of it is the trend in recent times to use less commas (which was probably not the case when some of my teachers went to school), but it still always annoyed me. Like Katie, I felt like screaming: “make-up your mind!” I am beginning to see more and more, that there is never one correct answer in English. One always has to see all the possibilities and have an open-mind to versatility.
From Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss:
“Of course, nothing is straightforward in the world of literary taste. Just as there are writers who worship the semicolon, there are other high stylists who dismiss it—who label it, if you please, middle-class” (Truss 107).
Why can there never been one right answer? There always has to be conflicting opinions, multiple possibilities. It seems that a lot of grammar just comes down to personal preference which makes the purpose of this book all seem a little strange. I am enjoying the book, don’t me wrong, and I am learning some things—but, she is trying to teach a “zero tolerance approach to punctuation,” and it seems an awful lot like there are so many extenuating factors that “zero tolerance” are some pretty strong words for the open-endedness of the various parts of grammar.
“Well, start waving and yelling, because it is the so-called Oxford comma (also known as the serial comma) and it is a lot more dangerous than its exclusive, ivory-tower moniker might suggest. There are people who embrace the Oxford comma and people who don’t Here in case you don’t know what it is yet, is the perennial example, as espoused by Harold Ross: ‘The flag is red, white, and blue.’ So what do you think of it? (It’s the comma after ‘white’)” (Truss 84).
I never knew that there was an actual debate over this. I have spent my whole life going around believing there is only one way to punctuate the sentence above. And my belief was that the way that Harold Ross does it is correct. I remember in high school, classmates would feverishly cross out my last comma, as I stubbornly inserted an extra one in their sentences. And to think we were both right it boggles my mind. It would seem just as there is no “big book of right answers” for literature, that there is none for grammar either. However, I’m going to keep putting in my Oxford comma I like it better that way. I’ll leave everyone with this question: “Are you for it [the Oxford comma] or against it? Do you hover in between?” (Truss 84) However, if you are for it, I’m not going to promise I won’t sneak into your dorm room and add Oxford commas to all your papers