Lauren Miller: March 2008 Archives

Moral Obligations and Today's Society

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"She began to understand that she had a moral obligation to fire the Pole and that she was shirking it because she found it hard to do" (O'Connor 249). 

In the beginning, Mrs. McIntyre felt that she had a moral obligation to employ the Polish family.  Toward the end, she felt that she had a moral obligation "to her own people, to Mr. Shortley, who had fought in the world war for his country and not to Mr. Guizac who had merely arrived here to take advantage of whatever he could" (O'Connor 242). 

"The Displaced Person" really relates to the immigration situation today in the United States.  I think that the way one reacts to this story can reveal their view on this current issue.  (This is a great example of why we should continue to study works of literature that were written before our time.  No matter what year it was, they can still relate to today's society.)

The United States is faced with a moral obligation right now.  Should they continue to watch immigrants suffer and die either trying to cross the border or living in inhumane conditions or should they reform the current laws in place? 

O'Connor may have been writing during a different time period, but she was still writing about the United States.  The way that she portrays the treatment of people of other races/ethnicities during that time and the way we see them being treated now has not changed much.  It just shows that the United States has a long way to go before we can say that everyone is treated equal.

On a lighter note, you have a moral obligation to see what my fellow classmates have said about the same story. 

   

Education vs. Flirtation

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"Whenever she looked at Joy this way, she could not help but feel that it would have been better if the child had not taken the Ph.D.  It had certainly not brought her out any and now that she had it, there was no more excuse for her to go to school again.  Mrs. Hopewell thought it was nice for girls to go to school to have a good time but Joy had 'gone through'" (O'Connor 173-174).

This quote relates to what I blogged about in one of my previous entries entitled "Lack Of Knowledge, Lack Of Values?"  Again, Flannery O'Connor seems to be playing upon the values of southern society at that time.  Mrs. Hopewell seemed to think that it was silly that Joy enjoyed going to school.  In fact, it looks like Mrs. Hopewell would have rather had Joy go to school and party than actually get an education!  Now how many of your parents (or whoever is paying for your education) would say to you, "You know what?  I just want you to go to school to 'have a good time'.  Don't take your education seriously.  It is better to be flirtatious than knowledgable." 

 Well, I know my parents would flip.

This society values marriage over education.  It is more important to be known as a Mrs. than a Dr.  They are all about titles, oh yes, but there better be land and money and other property to back them up.  If you marry a rich man, you'll have all three of those things.  If you go to school for your Ph.D....well, you may not have any of those things.   

It is very interesting to look at the recurring themes in Flannery O'Connor's work.  I feel like all the characters in these stories are neighbors to each other and they all have the same values and qualities.  This collection makes me feel like I am peeking into http://jerz.setonhill.edu/EL150/2008/oconnor_good_country_people.php#comments.  

He/She/It/Them...What am I talking about? Third person!

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"An omniscient third-person narrator can enter the consciousness of any character, evaluate motives and explain feelings, and recount the background and predict the outcome of situations" (Hamilton 114).

I always found third-person omniscient to be much more interesting than third-person limited.  Granted, it is probably harder to write in that way.  Think about it: remember when we were looking at tips on writing a short story?  It mentioned that you should always fully develop your characters, even if you don't mention all their characteristics in the story.  When you're writing in third-person omniscient, you have to go so much deeper into character development because now you have more than one character in the spotlight. 

When I was a kid, I read R.L. Stine's Goosebumps Series.  After I read through all of those, I moved on to the Fear Street series.  Most of the Fear Street books were written in third-person omniscient.  Although it was probably difficult to write, it was extremely suspenseful.  In one chapter, you would be in the mind of a character who just heard a noise in the middle of the night and were going to investigate.  In the next chapter, you'd be in the mind of the person who just killed that character.  You'd never find out who the killer was because you were in their stream of conciousness...you only read their thoughts and you never saw their name mentioned (until the end of course).  I believe that the third-person omniscient thrives best in a horror (or mystery) story environment.

Don't like third-person omniscient.  That's too bad.  I guess you'll just have to return to the homepage and find another literary term that you like better. 

If It's Obvious, Then Why Bring It Up?

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"It is not difficult to label the agent of evil in Flannery O'Connor's signature story, 'A Good Man is Hard to Find'" (Desmond 129).

If it is not difficult to label it, then why mention it?  I felt that this was a weak first sentence and it seemed to be just an excuse to mention the story's title.  Reading through the rest of this analysis, I felt somewhat lost and had to keep reminding myself what his claim was.  Now, I know I am not an expert at close reading (my essay was not the best in the world), but I know a good literary analysis when I see one.  Now, I'm not trying to put Desmond down.  I mean, he wrote an 8 page close reading essay for goodness sake, he should win an award for that.  And he also uses the text well and other sources to try and support his claim.  But I just feel that his claim is weak in the first play.  The first sentence somewhat put me off and it did not get me interested in reading the rest of it.  At least start out strong and then fall to pieces.  But don't start out weak, because chances are, the reader won't go past the first sentence.

We're off to see the Misfit. 

Lack Of Knowledge, Lack Of Values?

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"Nobody thinks any more," Mr. Jerger said (O'Connor 71).

This quote really made me wonder about the values of the characters in the story as well as the values of Southern society at that time.  Was education important to them?  Just from the stories we have read so far, it seems as though the emphasis was on land and power.  In almost every story we have been assigned, there is always a discussion concerning how much property somebody owned or how many slaves they had, etc.  Mr. Jerger, the one who was different from most of the other characters in the story, frowned up the society and its values.  Oddly enough, just from Ruby's reaction, nobody wanted to speak to this man; they avoided him as much as possible.  Nobody wanted to hear about his little facts and stories.  It seems to me that this quote has a deeper meaning.

See?  You should be happy that you have an education.  Now get back to the homepage and finish your homework!   

Weird title, eh?  It's related, trust me.

"The MFA program in creative writing I attended, its many merits aside, tended to invite as speakers not editors, agents, or publishers, but mid-list literary authors who would do us the very great honor of reading from their latest volume.  When I asked why the program didn't spend more time (that is, any time) on the business end of writing, I was told that doing so would distract students from writing and take time away from The Craft" (Lemire 210).

It is VERY important to me to understand the business side of writing because one day I would like to publish some poems and perhaps even a short story.  Creative writing is a passion of mine and I would not mind teaching it either (my high school was lucky enough to have two creative writing classes but I am not sure if it is the same with other schools) but that would all depend upon the certification process.  But the main reason why I chose a creative writing minor is because one of my goals in life is to have either a book or a collection of poems/short stories published.  I already have a general idea of how to write creative pieces...how do I get them published?  To hell if I know. 

I actually agree with Lemire (*gasp*).  Don't get me wrong; I love hearing other poets and writers read their work.  But it would be more beneficial for me in the long run if an editor, agent, or publisher spoke to me about the process. 

I thought that Michael Sims was a great speaker.  Even though he was not an agent/editor/publisher, he answered many of my questions about having pieces published.  This was very useful information and it was nice to hear coming from a published writer.  So, I don't think it's fair to rule out the writers all together as guest speakers because most of them do provide real-life examples and experience.  It's just the ones that are there purely to show off their work that are really of no use.

I will be terrified when I first throw that ball over the fence.  It may come back shredded to pieces.  It may not come back at all.  But maybe, just maybe, it will come back with an approval stamp on it.  Then, I will be happy that I learned about what's on the other side of the fence.     

No Es Imposible/It's Not Impossible

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"'You must be pretty fluent by now.  Did you know Spanish prior to arriving there?'

'I didn't speak the language at all when I arrived, but I'll tell you it's a lot easier to learn than Czech.  When I'm nervous, I lose my Spanish almost entirely; on the other hand, when I'm angry, it improves, and I start talking really fast'" (Lemire 171).

Although I sometimes disagree with Lemire's ideas, I do really enjoy reading the Q & As because it gives a real-life perspective on English majors.  I found this interview to be particularly interesting because Nancy Strauss took a chance, went overseas and started teaching in the Czech Republic, decided to write a novel about the Spanish Civil War, moved to Spain and LEARNED A COMPLETELY NEW LANGUAGE.  I always hear (and there are scientific studies to back this up) that adults find it almost impossible to learn a foreign language.  This woman was straight out of college and even a few years passed before she lived in Spain.  So she was probably like mid to late twenties when she actually started to learn the language!  I just found this to be an important point to make that it is not impossible to learn another language when you're an adult.  You just have to learn it in a different way. 

I also admire Nancy for having the guts to go out and live overseas for her first real job.  As entrepreneurs (since we are always talking about being entrepreneurial), we should be willing to take risks and go outside our comfort zones.  We can learn so much from travel and we should take advantage of it when we can. 

One final point:  It is really reassuring to see a few people mentioned in this book who are specializing in English but learning other languages as well.  When I first came to SHU, I thought that I was doing a strange combination when I picked Spanish and Creative Writing (along with Secondary Education).  But reading this gives me confidence that the two are more related than perhaps I originally thought and that I can do something in my life that includes both of those subjects.

Come on, vamanos!  Everybody let's go!  Come on, let's get to it!  I know that we can do it!  Where are we going?  Back to the homepage!  Where are we going?  Back to the homepage!  Where are we going?  Back to the homepage!  Where are we going?  Back to the homepage! 

Back to the homepage!

(You know you loved my version of the Dora travel song.)    

Repetition Repetition Repetition

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"Intentional--as opposed to careless or inadvertent--repetition of sounds, words, phrasing, or concepts is used in literary works to create unity and emphasis.  The effects of repetition on the work's tone and meaning vary with the context and with the form of the repeated element" (Hamilton 98). 

When you write an essay, it is generally frowned upon if you repeat words.  Not so with literature.  Repetition can have profound meaning in fiction and poetry.  For example, in one of my very old poems "Waiting For The Song To End", I repeated this line after every stanza:

"Tick...tick...tick..."

It was to emphasize the sound of the clock that was slowly driving me mad (as it does to the audience when they read the poem).  The audience becomes impatient and agitated, which was the emotion that I felt during my experience that inspired the poem.

So the next time you see an author repeat words over an over again, don't just write (haha) them off as poor writers; take a look at the words they are repeating and try to find some meaning in them.

Lather.  Rinse.  Repeat.

Oh No She Didn't

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Oh yes she did.  Take a look for yourselves, ladies and gentlemen:

"But warnings about the heat and the allergies put me off, not to mention my worry that the Latinos might be hogging all the crap jobs and substandard housing for themselves, as they so often do" (Ehrenreich 121).

Needless to say, I was pissed about this quote.  In my previous entry about Nickel and Dimed, I noted how negative her tone was toward "trailer trash".  Now she is picking on Latinos.  Can this lady be any more closed minded?  I have to say that I did not enjoy reading this book from her discriminating point of view.  All she likes to do is point out stereotypes and complain about them.  Well I have something to say to her:

Mira, Barbara.  Pienso que usted necesita aprender algo sobre el respeto.  ¿Me escucha?  Usted debe abrir su mente antes de su boca.  Hay muchos latinos que han tenido éxito en sus profesiones y viven en casas bonitas.  No me gusta su actitud con las personas de otros etnicidades y clases sociales/económicos.  Antes de escribir su libro próximo, usted debe viajar a un país que no habla inglés y ver como usted se siente.  Después de eso, yo podré respetar sus ideas.

Vamos a volver al mundo donde tienen mentes abiertas.

Don't Throw Out The Trash

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"Still, it is a shock to realize that 'trailer trash' has become, for me, a demographic category to aspire to" (Ehrenreich 12). 

I was a little offended at this statement that Barbara Ehrenreich made.  I spent half of my life being a resident at a mobile home park (which I guess is the more politically correct way to say it) and I think that I turned out alright.  I'm going to college, I have two jobs, and I'm involved in clubs and activities on campus.  Just the way she said it made it seem like such a dismal position to amount to.  Now, I realize that she was probably never in that situation before, but was it really such a shock to her that SURPRISE! not everyone gets everything handed to them on a silver platter? 

I'm not trying to criticize her or anything, but the choice of words just seemed inappropriate. 

Want a different perspective?  Go here.

Expecto Degreeum!

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"Degrees can be helpful, but they are not magical" (Lemire 44).

I apologize for the Harry Potter reference, but I simply could not think of a more suitable blog entry title.  Plus, you know you love HP.  :-P

Anyway, the way that Lemire describe the importance of degrees was really surprising to me.  He almost acted like they had no influence over whether you got a job or not.  But now I am starting to understand what he is saying.

There are two general types of college students: those who are there for the education and those who are there to party.  I don't mean to stereotype, but I believe that is what it generally comes down to.  It's not always their faults either; some parents force their children to go to college, even if they don't want to.  Inevitably, that child may not give a hoot about their education because they did not want to be there in the first place.  But both of those types of students can walk out of college with a degree. 

I have heard many people say that whether or not you get a job depends on what degree you have and what school you went to.  Lemire seems to dismiss this idea.  Sure, having a degree does imply that you went on to higher education and took more classes...but does that mean that you gained more knowledge?  I think that everyone learns something after coming out of college.  Lemire seems to think that it all comes down to whether or not you took your education seriously. 

If you wish to return to the course website, you may either apparate, use the portkey, throw some floo powder into the fireplace, or simply click here.     

Content, Content, Content

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"'If you want to be a good teacher, don't be an education major.  The best thing you can do is be really good in your subject'" (Lemire 34). 

Of course I had to choose Kelly Cowan's interview (she is a Spanish teacher) but I did not simply choose hers for that reason.  I found that a lot of her values as a teacher were comparable to the values we have here at Seton Hill.  I believe that the whole reason why SHU has education as a separate certification and not a major or minor is so that the students learn more content.  I completely agree with her statement.

Most of the complaints I hear about foreign language teachers is that most students did not believe that they (the teachers) knew what they were doing.  Sadly, this can be true.  I have a friend at another university who has a foreign language teacher that mispells the foreign words on the board (yikes!).  If you, as a student, can pick up that the teacher is consistently making mistakes that they should not be making, how much are you going to respect them as a teacher?  

I was also happy to read Cowan's interview because it showed the similarities between teaching English and Spanish.  The skills overlap.  I have to admit, I do get annoyed when people cannot spell to save their lives.  I am guilty of it too, though, but I know that if I were teaching a lesson I would double check the spelling of the words I was teaching (especially if they were vocabulary words that I wanted the students to know). 

Regardless of what subject you are teaching, you should know the content.  Teaching strategies are important too, but if you do not even know your subject, how can you teach it?   

"I remember...

10% of what I READ.

20% of what I HEAR.

30% of what I SEE.

50% of what I SEE AND HEAR.

70% of what I DISCUSS WITH OTHERS.

80% of what I EXPERIENCE BY DOING.

95% of what I TEACH TO OTHERS."