December 23, 2010

I think this course should continue as it has been since its evolution has included the works of woman and foreign cultures. The current sociological movement is that of universalization; i.e., there is a greater interchange of thoughts and states of mind. This ease of communication is most probably do to the speed of which people can exchange information, due to the computer age.

Including works by women authors Maxine Hong Kingston and Marjane Satrapi served the dual purpose of presenting the view of the world from a woman’s point of view and from a different cultural perspective; Ms. Kingston gave us a powerful example of a women trying to come to terms with her Chinese past and to assimilate into America culture. It gave us a vivid picture of her ancestry as well as her hopes for her future in America. Marjane Satrapi, in Persepolis gave us a contemporary woman’s point of view of the total political change that occurred during the Islamic Revolution and how it affected her family.

The poets discussed in the class showed us how the moods created in the poetry changed over time. The work of William Yeats, for a example, changed from a Romanticism derived from Irish folk lore and political radicalism to a more mystical view of the world and art. Eliot’s work marked a big turning point in poetry. In The Waste Land and The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, there was a huge change in the moods and feelings expressed. This was the first time that a sense of alienation was portrayed as a human condition.

Reading the novels by Conrad, Hemingway, and Faulkner showed us how the genre changed over time. Conrad’s novel was a description of an adventurous journey to find Kurtz. Even though it was an adventure it was very descriptive. It also raised the question of prejudice against Africans on the part of European colonists. This accusation was made clear in the work of China Achebe, An image of Africa: Racism in Heart of Darkness. Hemingway’s work The Sun Also Rises gave us a description of the social and psychological changes in the lives of people living in Europe during World War 1. The novel had many characters who were “wounded” either physically or emotionally. We got a sense of people being unhappy with life as it turned out. In The sound and the Fury by Faulkner, we got an example of a “stream of consciousness” novel. This was a major departure from the usual novel form. A lot of commentary fiction was influence by Faulkner.

Dreams from my Father by Barack Obama and Drown by Junot Diaz gave us examples of the autobiography genre. In these books characters told of personal experiences and how they effected them.

The blogs were very valuable because they offered easily accessible points of view of other students. One blogger might have a different point of view from another. That might enable the viewer to change his/her interpretation of the material presented. Also the ability to receive and offer comments was a great help.

Do to the way the course was structured, I was able to gain more since came to appreciate the fact that many different cultures offered works. If the course had been restricted to one period of time or to far countries, I would not have been able to appreciate the valuable contributions to literature.

The Woman Warrior:A Song for a Barbarian Reed Pipe

December 8, 2010

I think the theme of silence was very dominant throughout the other chapters and particularly strong in this chapter because this is the one in which we “hear” what was going on in her mind as a child and an adult.
Brave Orchid maintained the family tradition of no speaking during mealtime. In most families, speaking to other family members is encouraged during meals; in fact, it is a prime way of communicating with other members of the family. Dinners are usually convivial events; people get together and in a less tense or formal atmosphere, they can talk to each other. This privilege was not available to Brave Orchid or to her daughters. In the last chapter, Maxine decides to tell her mother about things she has done and even calculates how much time it will take her. Suddenly, during one meal, Maxine gets up and all her grievances come tumbling out of her mouth. Maxine herself was amazed at how clear her speech was and compared herself to the entertainer she had seen in Chinatown. If was as if there were an explosion inside Maxine who always had to be silent.
Silence and speech difficulties come up different times in the chapter. First, there is the horrific story, if it was true, of Brave Cloud cutting Maxine’s tongue very early in her life. We never get the real reason why; sometimes Brave Cloud said she did if for Maxine’s good so she would be able to learn and at other times we see how females were perceived in China as being worthless and having “sharp” tongues. If it was true why was Maxine the only one to get it than her brother and sisters? There is one scene in which Maxine torments the Chinese girl in her class who can recite things, but refuses to speak to anyone. Maxine tries to get her to say “Stop” or “yes” or “no” by tormenting her physically and emotionally. At one time during the attack, Maxine herself starts to cry. Perhaps she was identifying the girl’s silence with her own.
Maxine tells of the trouble she had in speaking intelligibly and says she, at times, had great difficulty in communicating. In addition to being thought of as worthless and having no thoughts of any value, she carried the extra burden of some physical problem which held her back. At the end of the book, Maxine relates the story of a Chinese woman who lived among “barbarians” for a long time. At the end of the story, Maxine relates that the sounds of the songs of the Chinese woman seem to finally mesh with the sound of the Barbarian reed pipe. Perhaps this is symbolic of the two cultures assimilating and Maxine finally finding her “voice.”

The Woman Warrior: Shaman & At the Western Palace

December 6, 2010

The enormous difference in Maxine’s mother lies in her lack of better acculturation to American society. It is almost as if she is polarized in her perceptions of life in America. To her, most Americans are “ghosts”, a term she seems to apply to mythical creatures, animals and real people.

In “Shaman” we get a picture of a very independent, bright woman who studied to become a midwife and a doctor of sorts. She is treated with the upmost respect in her village, where her reputation as a healer grows with time. Curiously, Brave Orchid mentions that she would not treat those who were dying, a fact which might have contributed to her “success” rate. In this chapter, there is a vivid description of how she rid her medical school of a troublesome “ghost”; she still retained her ghost-fighting ability, but we never know if these stories, like others, are talk-stories and do not have a basis in reality. She is learning Western medicine, but she still is clinging to Chinese traditions. She also reveals the unsavory fact that she had purchased a female slave.

In “At the Western Palace”, we get a very different image of Brave Orchid. This highly qualified person is now doing rather “menial” jobs, like running a laundry or picking
tomatoes and potatoes. She works very long hours in the heat. Her relationship with her children is not too good. This is the first chapter in which her children are referred to, rather disparagingly. They seem to want nothing to do with China at all. When she brings her sister, Moon Orchid to the states, she is shocked to see that the sister is so “old”. She stubbornly maintains that her sister is the only wife to be acknowledged in the old Chinese tradition. The culminating point of this chapter, I think, is when the brother- in-law calls them “grandmothers” before he finally recognizes who they are. He doesn’t want anything to do with Moon Orchid and tells them to leave. Both sisters have now become the “ghosts”.

The Woman Warrior

December 2, 2010

With the two parts of “The Woman Warrior” it was very confusing to the statement “The swordswoman and I are not so dissimilar”. One of the reasons is that the first part “No Name Woman” was about the Chinese culture. The second one “White Tigers” is about how a girl becomes a warrior. She was taken away too trained with an old man and women to become a great warrior for justice and peace. This got me thinking of some Khufu movies. It was like to live by doing something right for themselves, by finding the power within your self in fighting something you believed in.

On page 53, “The Swordswoman and I are not so dissimilar. May my people understand the resemblance soon so that I can return to them. What we have in common are the words at our backs. The idioms for revenge are “report a crime” and “report to five families.” The reporting is the vengeance- not the beheading, not the gutting, but the words. And I have so many words…that do not fit on my skin.” Maxine was trying to say here is when she moved to America with her family and some of the villages come along as well, they were still in the Chinese culture. Maxine wanted to get out of the Chinese culture and move on to the American culture. She and the swordswoman are alike because they wanted to start a new way of life, a new culture for themselves. I guess she wanted to show that you have our own culture, it not so bad to learn a new one.

Chicago (chapters 7-14)

November 29, 2010

I think the book does not relate to campaign literature. First of all it was written when he was very young and was a tribute to his father. It is the memoir of a young man seeking his identity; his search takes us straight to the interaction of questions regarding identity, class and race.
Chicago chapters 7-14 describe his efforts to become community organizer of the blacks. To him becoming an organizer was a natural outgrowth of his family history that came from his father and grandfather. In Chicago, Obama meets Marty Kaufman who gives him advice about starting a program to organize the blacks. Even that has its problems. He meets Reverend Reynolds and feels that he has found a strong ally. He is disillusioned. Obama gets very little support from Reverend Smalls and when he tells Marty what happened, Marty is not all surprised.
At this point in time I feel that Mr. Obama had no political agenda in mind.

People that I Blogged

November 22, 2010

Michael Benares—“Negocios
Stephanie Baigue—“Drown”
Wilfred Gual—“Favorite story in “Drown””

They did a nice job and I enjoyed reading them.

Favorite story in “Drown”

November 19, 2010

The one I like out of the four stories is “How to Date a Browngirl, Blackgirl, Whitegirl, and Halfie.” This was more enjoyable because it was easy to read. This story shows his sense of humor. It was funny because it was like a manual that someone should follow in how to act on a date. He talks about different girls in terms of their races, Hispanic, Black, White and those of mixed race. He sometimes may vary the places where he can eat dinner depending on where the girl comes from, and the way he speaks Spanish depending on whether the girls speaks it or not. One thing that he always does, which I think all men of his age do, is hide embarrassing facts about his family, embarrassing pictures of himself and cleaning the house. The conversation should be about school, jokes and saying something interesting to her to make the girl like you more. After dinner show a sensitive side by admiring the beautiful New Jersey sunset, which, in reality is caused by pollution. Sex might occur. If it does, he recommends calling a friend to tell him that he gotten lucky or just sitting on the sofa and smiley. The boys should keep the goodbyes light and do not respond to any phone calls after the date is over. The fact that this story contains universal themes that are actions that any young man would perform seems to erase a cultural barrier in this story. This story was like a welcome break from the other stories whose themes were much more serious.

Junot Diaz’

November 14, 2010

Junot Diaz’ writing style is very visual and the reader is drawn in by these images. The vocabulary of his writing is raw; it is filled with curse words, usually given in his native Spanish. They are words not used for shock value but simply to show the way in which the people in his life communicated. The use of these words shows that his writing pulls no punches in presenting himself.
His words show anger, sadness and frustration. He is describing growing up under very dysfunctional circumstances; the father pretty much abandoned the family financially and emotionally. When the father is around he frequently beats him. The father has several other women in his life at different times and has illegitimate child/children. Diaz’ also gives vivid descriptions of how his friends mistreat each other and strangers.
He writes about his own experiences but sometimes his writing is not totally autobiographical. There are times when he speaks about growing up in a way that would apply to any child. For example, he is afraid that he going to get arrested at one point; in addition his first love breaks his heart. However, in addition to these “normal” problems, he has to deal with experiencing great poverty. He begins to sell drugs because that is the way to survive in his neighborhood. He seems to have little hope of changing his way of life and almost seems to accept this fact.

The Ending: The Sound and the Fury

November 7, 2010

We know that the Compson family has lost its honorable place in the Southern high class of society. Caddy is never given the opportunity to speak but her presents and life have affected all the Compson men. She never really did them intentional harm but they were all effected by her due to their own defects. For Benjy, she represents a sense of order, something missing in his life as a retarded man. Quentin is neurotic about his reaction to Caddy’s pregnancy and it drives him to suicide. Jason blames Caddy for his failure to get a job at the bank that Caddy’s husband had promised him because Caddy divorces him. Mr. Compson set the stage for the failure of the Compson men because he constantly tolerated his wife’s self-pity and dependent nature.
In terms of the ending there are no real conclusions to the story. The reader is left wondering what happens next in the characters’ lives. The only person who remains a constant, positive presence is Dilsey. We never find out what happens to Miss Quentin, Jason or Miss Caddy. They only thing that we are sure of is the consistency of Dilsey. As far as we know, she will continue helping the family as she always has done in a true Christian spirit.

A Look inside Jason

November 3, 2010

One of the things that is important to Jason is keeping the family honor. Ever since Jason was little he was always distant from the family because he was ashamed of how the family acted. He wants to get Miss Quentin under control. She has been lying to her grandmother about going to school and receiving reports cards. He also objects to her using makeup. Jason refers to the fact that he has a “position in this town”, and his wants to maintain it. Perhaps he is afraid that she will follow the same path that Caddy did. Jason also speaks about Benjy; he is embarrassed about Benjy and he tells Luster that he doesn’t want people to see Benjy. Jason has been thinking of sending Benjy to Jackson where there is a facility for the mentally retarded.
Jason’s has become a bitter, sadistic man who steals from his family. The fact that he acts in no way like his ancestors does not seem to bother him because he lives in the present rather than in the past. He doesn’t act like his ancestors did and he blames his failures on past events. For example, when Caddy was getting married to Herbert Head, she was going to get Jason a job in the bank but after the divorce Jason didn’t get the job, so he blames Caddy. He always seems to make himself the victim of his family’s dysfunctions. His scorn and mistreatment of women also comes out in this section.

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