October 2009 Archives

Recess is Important

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"So play, Dear Reader, play" (281).

Something I've said all semester - why read a book if you don't enjoy it?  Other than assigned readings for classes, which are sometimes enjoyable, why read it?  Of course, reading new things expands your mind and your ability to analyze different things, but ultimately, if you do not enjoy yourself, but the book down.  Reading should be fun, not forced.  
I'm glad Foster does realize this; and it really is important to remember that everything up to this point has been merely suggestion.  I know I am at fault for being unhappy with Foster, and not understanding what he's suggesting, but I also remember that they are all just suggestions and opinions.  All reading is opinion based, it all depends on the reader.  
I plan on reading the way I always have, but who knows, perhaps I will notice things I never thought of before, whether I want to or not. 

Walk a Mile in Someone Else's Shoes

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"don't read only from your own fixed position" (228).  This chapter was most excellent of Foster, if you ask me.  Obviously, you cannot read all books from your own view in the year 20__.  If the book was written in 1850, and it describes something that is supposed to be the early 1800s, there are a lot of things to consider while reading.  It is very challenging to try to take on a different perspective while reading.  Foster has presented us with many ways to read and interpret books, so I kind of found it odd that this is one of the final chapters and he's now mentioning that we should be aware of the time-frame and culture we are reading about.  I suppose he might have saved it because it is one of the most obvious suggestions he could make, but I do like this one.  
This can be easily applied to AHF as well.  We (as a class) had so many issues with dialect, simply because it was unusual.  Well, it wasn't unusual for the time, nor was it odd for Twain to appropriately use the language.  Sometimes it's really hard, but vital, to take a step back and appreciate the work.

"the sign carries with it a customary meaning, but that doesn't guarantee it will deliver that received meaning" (239).
Alright - really?  There is not a lot to expand on this because I am genuinely tired of looking for hidden meaning and then learning that there may not even be another meaning.  Really... this is just irritating.

Heartache and Pollution

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"Daisy has suffered from figurative bad air" (220) and "faithlessness, selfishness, cruelty" (212).

These are just two quotes from Foster on "It's Never Just Heart Disease... and Rarely Just Illness," Chapters 23 and 24.  Ultimately, I never thought about disease as a metaphor.  I either understand it's intention without really trying, or I don't see a metaphor there.  
I already read another blog before posting this, and she posted "can't I just get sick?!"  Really, that's what I feel here too.  I understand that we're exposing ourself to new methods of analysis, but this one has me guessing.  I really don't think much of health, and honestly, I probably won't even after reading this.

Humor and Edge

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Mailloux put into words what I could not, "Tom Sawyer's mind is indelibly marked by the romantic adventure stories he admires and them self-consciously imitates throughout the story" (43).  I finally felt like I was seeing what I thought!  Then he makes the statement about Huck being "intimidated by Tom's superior knowledge" (43) and I was little upset.  I never really thought Huck was intimidated, he just didn't know any better - according to Tom.  I think if Huck was intimidated, he wouldn't have offered more than one suggestion, ever.  It seems more like Huck is confused and discouraged rather than intimidated.  

This entire section of reading was really informative though.  Learning the story received "high praise for its realism and humor" (47) was kind of redundant, but also reinforcing.  It's always reassuring to see something that is lingering in the back of your mind said elsewhere.  
Huck is a very realistic character, everyone can relate to some aspect of him, if not his entire character, because he is so universal.  Mailloux makes it a point to highlight the positive effects of the book being considered a "bad-boy" book, which also highlights all the attributes of Huck that the reader has already come to know and love.

Books smarts vs. street smarts

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Was anyone else completely intrigued by chapter 35, in its entirety?  Entitled "Escaping properly - Dark Schemes - Discrimination in Stealing - A Deep Hole" (276) I was thoroughly amused by the arguments between Tom and Huck.  Tom has all these books and figures he relies on to make a proper escape plan while Huck tries to convince him "confound it, it's foolish, Tom" (280).  Tom has all these book-like ideas, that are far from practical, although they are very worthy of writing down.  It's great to see how Huck is actually smarter when it comes to freeing slaves than Tom is, even though we find out Tom was just playing.  This really felt like a build up to not liking Tom because I was already frustrated with him from his outlandish ideas.  Learning later that he was just playing and Jim had been free all along I was almost angry with his character.  Chapter 35 just made me smile. :)

One strange thing I also noticed was on page 283 "Tom said it wasn't enough."  Throughout Huck's book we've seen him use "warn't."  This is the only time I saw him use "wasn't," so I'm not really sure if it happens at all in the rest of the book, but it stood out to me especially because it was used while Tom and Huck were still debating how to free Jim.

Poetry Slam

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Last week we read poetry aloud - which for the record - I thought was pretty sweet.  Everyone has such a different view on things!  I actually hope I get my health back to hear the last of them as they really challenge the way we think!

Here is the synopsis of the comments given to me:
I read  "The last night that she lived" by Emily Dickinson
- soft spoken
- it sounded as if I would "break into tears"
- sad tone - also intimate, gentle, and like reading a suicide letter
- comfortable pace
- consistent
- good eye contact
- there were a couple that mentioned work emphasis, like "italicized" the way it was read you could almost see the word

I had a good time with this poem, it was very easy for me to feel it and understand it.  For anyone not in the class who happens to stumble upon this, here is a copy of the poem:

The last night that she lived,
It was a common night,
Except the dying; this to us
Made nature different.

We noticed smallest things, --
Things overlooked before,
By this great light upon our minds
Italicized, as 'i were.

That others could exist
While she must finish quite,
A Jealousy for her arose
So nearly infinite.

We waited while she passed;
It was a narrow time,
Too jostled were our souls to speak,
At length the notice came.

She mentioned, and forgot;
Then lightly as a reed
Bent to the water, shivered scarce,
Consented, and was dead.

And we, we placed the hair,
And drew the head erect;
And then an awful leisure was,
Our faith to regulate.

Portfolio 2

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This is Portfolio 2 for American Literature from 1800-1915 (EL266).  This is an accumulation of entries from the entire semester so far.  As things get added, some get pulled.  There are new entries since the first portfolio that better suit the requirements for the project.

Coverage

Depth

Interaction

Discussions

Timeliness

Xenoblogging

Wildcards

Coverage

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Here are my responses to select readings that were required outside of class.

How to Read Literature Like A Professor - Thomas Foster - 5, 6, 7

How to Read Literature Like A Professor - Thomas Foster - Interlude, 11, 12

How to Read Literature Like A Professor - Thomas Foster - 13, 14, 15

How to Read Literature Like A Professor - Thomas Foster - 18, 19, 20

How to Read Literature Like A Professor - Thomas Foster - Interlude, 21, 22

The Scarlet Letter - Nathaniel Hawthorne - CH 1-6

The Scarlet Letter - Nathaniel Hawthorne - CH 7-13

The Scarlet Letter - Nathaniel Hawthorne - CH 14-21

The Scarlet Letter - Nathaniel Hawthorne - CH 19-24

Young Goodman Brown - Nathaniel Hawthorne

Bartleby, the Scrivener:  A Story of Wall-street - Herman Melville

Sonnet to Science - Edgar Allan Poe

Depth

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These are the entries that people could easily respond to, or where the topic was discussed in class.

The Scarlet Letter - Hawthorne 1-6

The Scarlet Letter - Hawthorne 7-13

The Scarlet Letter - Hawthorne 14-21

The Scarlet Letter - Hawthorne 19-24

How to Read Literature Like A Professor - Foster 13-15

How to Read Literature Like A Professor - Thomas Foster - 18, 19, 20

How to Read Literature Like A Professor - Thomas Foster - Interlude, 21, 22

Sonnet to Science - Edgar Allan Poe

A Couple of Poems - Emily Dickinson

Interactions

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Here are comments that I left on classmates blogs.  These are not all the comments, but those that seemed to contribute to a discussion.

The Scarlet Letter - Sarah Durham

The Scarlet Letter - Katie Lantz

The Yellow Wallpaper - Meagan Gemperlein

How to Read Literature Like A Professor - Meagan Gemperlein

The Raven - Jessica Pierce

Uncle Tom's Cabin - Ophelia's catch phrase - Jessica Pierce

The Raven, Yet again - Katie Lantz

Uncle Tom's Cabin - Katie Lantz

Nevermore - Jessica Apitsch

Emily Dickinson - Jessica Apitsch

Good vs. Evil - Jeremy Barrick

Discussions

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There were my posts that my peers commented on in such a way as to promote discussion online or in class.

Young Goodman Brown - Hawthorne

The Scarlet Letter - Hawthorne 1-6

The Scarlet Letter - Hawthorne 7-13

The Scarlet Letter - Hawthorne 14-21

The Scarlet Letter - Hawthorne 19-24

Bartleby, the Scrivener:  A Story of Wall-street - Herman Melville

How to Read Literature Like A Professor - Foster 13-15

A Couple of Poems - Emily Dickinson

Timeliness

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These entries were posted with enough time to allow discussions with my peers, whether it sparked the conversation or not.

 

The Scarlet Letter - Hawthorne 1-6

The Scarlet Letter - Hawthorne 19-24

Bartleby, the Scrivener:  A Story of Wall-street - Herman Melville

How to Read Literature Like A Professor - Thomas Foster - 18, 19, 20

How to Read Literature Like A Professor - Thomas Foster - Interlude, 21, 22

Sonnet to Science - Edgar Allan Poe

A Couple of Poems - Emily Dickinson

Xenoblogging

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These are a few posts that I feel diverged from what is really expected of us in this class.  I hope over the last half of the semester, this section improves with the knowledge I gain on blogging.

How I Feel About Blogging - by Kayla Lesko - Comments by Heather Mourick

Some Coverage on G20

A fellow classmate also covered a little bit on G20

Midterm Crisis

Poetry Slam

Wildcards

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Here are a couple random posts from this semester.

An image and description of something that seems to be complete chaos.

G20 Coverage that I feel belongs both as part of my wildcard and xenoblogging.



There is something to be said about reading order

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I feel that I should have read this after completing the assigned Huck Finn reading... 

Regardless of not having finished Huck Finn yet, I did find some of the comparisons in this section enlightening.  For example, "polar opposition between the Rive and the Shore, between freedom and bondage, is restated as a division within Huck's own mind" (333).  I was both surprised and not surprised by Smith's comparison here.  I understand the moral battles that Huck faces regularly, and we see his fight with that, but I didn't really think to compare it to the river and shore.  It makes sense especially though because every time they are on the shore, something goes wrong, or Huck has to create another one of his magnificent stories.  Nothing really good ever comes of being on the shore, or things that come from the shore, like the Duke and the King.  Thinking back now, I can recognize this comparison, and hopefully it will give me something to think about while I continue to attempt to finish the book. 

I also never really saw Huck as a "bad boy" (334).  I just see him as a kid trying to get away from it all, but I guess in that sense, he really is a bad boy character.  

I really feel that I should have finished the book before reading this, because it feels like I'm getting ahead of my reading.  This little introduction provides a lot of great insight to the story that I don't fully understand because I haven't read that far!  In this case, I feel it will linger just long enough for me to finish the book with these thoughts in mind - which may actually benefit my reading style in the end.

Relationships

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I am having a blast reading Huck's awesome words.  For example "sentimentering" (129).  His use of "rapscallions" (133) also amused me.  It doesn't really seem like a word Huck would use fully knowing the meaning, but his mentioning of "good people takes the most interest in" (133) lets us know that he's really just saying what he's heard before.  "Preforeordestination" (171) was also pretty entertaining and I actually had to re-read the word a couple times to make sure I had read it properly.  While Huck may not be fully educated, I would say it's takes a special mind to create a word like that.

Jim's intelligence also surprised me.  Even though I have read this book before (many years ago) I don't think I recognized the role that Jim plays for Huck.  Besides is outstanding superstitions, Jim reaches many conclusions about what's happening before Huck does.  Jim knows how the world works, on pages 133 and 134 Huck talks about how Jim knew everything was "up with him" because he was going to be found and sold back home.
It's an odd intelligence though.  Huck tries to explain to Jim the story of King Soloman (135) and fails miserably at it.  Jim only understands the facts of the story, not the morals.  Things like this continue when Huck convinces Jim he dreamt the storm (141).  However, once Jim realizes that Huck was trying to fool him, he makes Huck feel really bad about tricking a friend.
Huck later compliments Jim by saying "had a wonderful level head, for a nigger" (143).

Ultimately, the two need each other to get where they are going.  Each time they are split, the meet back up.  They listen to each other and consider the needs of both (in the end).  It's a very odd relationship between a runaway slave, and a runaway boy.  One can also see the relationship between adult and child, even though Jim is not a white male.  People of the time would consider him less worthy of praise since he is black, but Twain makes him important to Huck, thus important to the story.

We don't need no, education

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"I had been to school most all the time, and could spell, and read, and write just a little, and could say the multiplication table up to six times seven is thirty-five, and I don't reckon I could ever get any further than that if I was to live forever" (Twain, 82).

If this isn't any implication of what level of education our narrator, Huck, is at, then I don't know what is.  I found this quote entertaining as I read it because I actually had to think for a split second what six times seven was after I had read that.
Knowing the education level of the characters let's the reader know what they're dealing with in this story.  Obviously we aren't reading Melville at this point.  Twain's language is designed for the times that he is writing about, making Huck so likeable.  

The education may not be playing the biggest part with this story though, because we know Huck can be very street savvy when he wants to be.  For example, cutting through the house his dad was locking him up him (96).  Huck may not know his multiplication tables, but who needs those when you know how to break out of a house?

Children are Angels

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Eva is such a unique little girl!  She seems to be so innocent throughout her time in the play, which is very brief in comparison.  I almost compared her to Pearl in my mind, as she always knows what's happening before it actually happens.  She attempts to "save" Topsy, or at least make her behave (97).  
Other people notice the sincerity of Eva as well, Ophelia says "she's so loving. I wish I was like her.  She might teach me a lesson" (104).  This tells us that Eva is more special than we initially thought.
Eva's insight shines through again "the time is coming that I am going to leave you" (105).  Eva knows she is going to die, and she has accepted that.  St. Clare tells her not to speak of such things.  If the reader picks up on her speech patterns, it can easily be seen that she is going to die in the course of the play.  
When Tom interacts with Eva, being as religious as he is, he knows she's dying.  He is just as sure as Eva is that she will leave the world very soon.  Her death may seem unimportant to many people, but the end of the play is where we see why she is so important, why her death is so important.  "Eva, robed in white, is discovered on the back of a milk-white dove, with expanded wings, as if just soaring upward.  Her hands are extended in benediction over St. Clare and Uncle Tom who are kneeling and gazing up to her" (133).  St. Clare talks about how the angels are always made from the young.  How those who leave this world early are the ones watching over us.  Eva's being an angel to those two gentlemen is important because they watched over her so carefully in life and she was meant to watch over them in the afterlife.

On a completely different note:

Eliza's crossing the river (98) made me think of Foster.  All I could think about was the meaning of crossing water, even if she was above it, and did the ice have any significance?  Obviously across the river, she is a free woman, which can be considered a rebirth.  The running water could symbolize the difficulties she faced while trying to get across the river.  The fact that it was cold and there were ice chunks in the river could be seen as the obstacles she had to overcome to reach her freedom.
I find that this section makes me believe Foster may be on to something.  "equate physical deformity with character or moral deformity" (194).  While I tend to disagree with that, so does Foster!  Two paragraphs later he says "we continue to understand physical imperfection in symbolic terms" (194).  
This I follow because thinking about most of the main characters from books I've read, each has something that makes them different from everyone else.  Cassandra Palmer has a huge tattoo on her back, Mercy is a changling - not a werewolf or other mystic creature, Harry Potter has a scar, Bella is clumsy, Edward is too beautiful, Lyra is just a child, Luke Skywalker is missing one hand (yes he is born with a real one, but he does lose one).  All great characters are either born with something that makes then unique, or they develop it.  Whether it's something that can be seen in a positive light or a negative light, they still have some specific trait that makes them stand out from every other character in the books.  
I also liked this line, "we don't get through life without being marked by the experience" (198). I found it to be very true.  This is why not only fictional characters have marks, but so do people we see every day.  

"introduce it early, before you need it" (205) struck me as important.  Why does the author give details that seem meaningless?  Really, they aren't meaningless, they just might appear so upon a first read.  It almost always takes me two reads to really pick up on the details that seemed insignificant before, but after knowing what happens in the end, they play a bigger role.

Midterm Card Tower Collapse

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SO I am feeling a good bit overwhelmed.  This will make a great midterm wildcard...

Between not having any form of stable social life and school, I can easily say that I am lost in school work.  I don't really have anything to distract me from it, ever, making it the driving force of my life at the moment.  
I don't know how anyone else is feeling, I'm sure they have people they can go to at any given moment to avert a crisis.  To let you into my life, I really don't have that, especially now, which is horrible by the way, because even if someone were to offer me some time to sit, I probably would have to decline due to the tremendous amount of work I have to do.  I have run out of option, even playing piano does not help ease my tension anymore.
So please, do me a favor, if you don't really care, and genuinely don't want to know, do NOT ask me how I am doing, or what I am thinking.  Chances are I will either a) freak out on you b) break down on you c) stare ate you like you have got to be kidding me d) not even respond.
I am tired of being this happy person that everyone expects.  I can do it for students, but I have a very difficult time acting it up for teachers and peers.  So the next time I am laughing and I look like I am on the verge of tears, please for your sanity and mine, don't push me further than I already am.

A Little Simplicity Never Hurt Anyone

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Perhaps it's just coincidence that Poe and Dickinson both did not like science?  
Dickinson very outrightly states "it's so unkind of science to go and interfere" in "Old-Fashioned."  She continues describing how science as put beautiful things in cabinets and maps.  Unlike Poe who just tells us that science is desensitizing us, Dickinson goes past that and says "hope the children there won't... laugh at me and stare."  She is afraid that being simple is going to ruin her chance to get into Heaven and be happy!  The examples she provides are very easy for us to see.  Even today, scientists still put butterflies in glass containers to display them.  

I liked "I never saw a moor" as well.  This is such a simple poem.  Even though she's not been to certain places, she is adamant that she knows what they look like.  Honestly, who has not thought that before?  After hearing so many descriptions of things and seeing pictures, which are obviously not the real deal, we often feel we've seen it.  The Grand Canyon in everywhere on postcards and the internet, but nothing compares to actually being there.  This may be a slight tribute to Dickinson's naivety.  While she was well educated and very bright, she feels that she must know what things look like even if she hasn't actually seen it.  I find it invigorating to read about how things once were.  Having the ability to travel makes you realize you don't really know until you've been there.

Let's fly to Never, Neverland

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If you didn't notice, I really do like Poe, even if he is one of the founders of genres that I don't really read.  "Fairyland" uses a lot of symbols to give you this image of surrealness.  On page 55 we see the moonbeam, star-stricken, moon, flowers, and "breath of June" all within the first stanza!  It feels like a set up for the rest of the poem, and it is. More of these same words are on page 57.  The last page switches to waterfalls.  Any information on what a waterfall could mean?  Using trusty google and unreliable sources, there are many interpretations of the waterfall ranging from the fall being female and the mountain being male to waterfalls represent a path to take and what can happen if you lose control of the path - crashing down on rocks.  Frankly, it seems to be a metaphor of the night falling over them, or possibly even reality since he does mention that "or is it all but a dream" (55).

Also a fun thing to note is the name of the girl, Isabel, continuing with the trend of "L" sounds in names used by Poe.

Oh science, how I do Hate thee

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After reading all the assigned works by Poe, I had to go back to what we did the very first day.  If you haven't already, look at Poe's "Sonnet: To Science"  and the first poem on our list, which is also, "Sonnet - to Science."
See any similarities?  I could not find ANYTHING on why there are two versions of this poem, except for a brief statement on this website.  Which skims over that it is one of Poe's earlier poems and may not be exactly as he wrote it.  There are only 3 lines that are different, the last three, some word choices and punctuation changes.  
I found the first one we read to be more aggressive, so to speak, since it uses the tamarind tree instead of shrubbery, but overall they are very similar.  With a little more insight from Foster, Poe says "Vulture! whose wings"  as well as "Albeit, he soar," two descriptions of how science is flying free with all things beautiful are getting dragged to the ground.  
Opening this up to discussion, but are they the same poem just different versions?  Does that make them the same or different?  Which one did Poe really want people to read, or did he want both read?

Additional information:
This website gives different versions of the poem, when it was written.  I still have no idea why there are two versions of this poem!  It is interesting that the newest version we got was found in text in 1829 and the original one we read was found in text in 1843, even though our copy says the poem was written in 1829.

It's Your Density... I mean, Destiny

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Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven" is such an interesting work!  I have always loved this piece, mostly because I adore the interest in birds - I love learning what birds can mean in different cultures.  After reading Foster I thought it was interesting to note that the time of this occurrence is around midnight.  It is the month of December, and it is dreary (1).  Foster discusses how setting plays a big part of the story, one section in particular is that on seasons. This is where he suggests that winter signifies "old age and resentment and death" (178).
Why would Poe choose this setting for "The Raven?"  This dreary setting sets up the reader for an ominous situation, which ties in perfectly to the enigma of the raven and it's phrase.

Surprisingly, using wikipedia brought up some interesting details on the name Lenore, as well as why Poe might have written this piece.  I also looked into the importance of the raven on culture and learned that the raven can at times be too smart.  Perhaps Poe was never asking the raven the proper questions, or the raven knows that no matter what the question, the answer is inevitable.  

April Showers Bring May Flowers!

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If I could just quote the entire chapter on seasons, I would.  Foster has made another point that I can agree with - geography and seasons are important in writing.  
I did find the passage on our being hardwired interesting, "spring has to do with childhood and youth, summer with adulthood and romance and fulfillment and passion, autumn with decline and middle age and tiredness but also harvest, winder with old age and resentment and death" (178).  While I don't think that seasons always signify these things, it something to consider when reading.
Same with geography - where an event happens is quite vital to story telling "when writers send characters south, it's so they can run amok" (171).  

As I keep reading in my comments, Foster is just suggesting different ways to look at things.  I highly enjoy noticing where things take place, and any season references.  Twilight for example, takes place in this rainy, wet, dark town of Forks, primarily at school.  Moments where Bella becomes completely immersed in happiness occur in sunlight, like the meadow scene, times when she sees Edward in his truest form, when it's no longer raining, and it's also most often in a private place.

Foster points out names like "Daisy" (177).  Little things like this can be very serious, or on the other hand just sheet coincidence.  It is still up to the reader to decide how important certain details are to them while they read.

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