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Paul Grobstein's picture

Experiencing Hustvedt ... and Whitman ... and evolution ....


While reading Sorrows Of An American, most of us confused the narrator to be a female instead of a male ... intentional on the author's part ? ... skhemka

It is possible we all thought the character was a female at first because of the assimilation with his sister at the beginning of the book and maybe also since the writer is a woman, the main character might be “thinking like a woman” ... amirbey

What made him sound feminine? The fact that he was so observant of other's feelings. Or the way he talked about his dead father, his mother, his sister, and his worrying of his niece ... aybala50

Hustvedt and Whitman

The Sorrows of an American is an absorbing novel, however I do not understand why Hustvedt’s narrative should be taken seriously in an academic discussion. Maybe Erik will answer my question in the final scene by closing the gap between past and present ... How do we get from Whitman, one of the most influential American poets, to Hustvedt? Both are examples of realism in literature, but there is still 150 years missing from the evolution of the self ... Lisa B

This weekend I went to see the Cezanne and Beyond exhibit at the Museum of Art in Philadelphia. I'd never studied Cezanne before and I was struck by the way that his paintings seemed realistic at first glance, but the longer I stood and stared at them, the more they seemed ambiguous and slightly unreal. There's always something "a little bit off" about his paintings that make them intriguing and confusing ... I feel the same way about Hustvedt's novel, especially as I neared the end ... it's realistic but there's always something "a little bit off" ... it's easy enough to relate it in some ways to Whitman's work: bits and pieces of a man's life, strung together, and not necessarily related, but describing a sort of general overall theme or feeling. However, what is definitely unclear to me is how this novel is more significant than any other recent novel ... sbechdel

I have found myself in several classes, including this one, asking myself “why this book?, isn’t there a better example out there?” ... It’s interesting to see unconscious thought, like from Leaves of Grass, weaved into a story with a distinct plot line. This immediately made me think of our discussions of evolution. I like Hustevedt’s writing and reading the character’s jumbled, stream-of-consciousness thoughts. I think its much more useful than Whitman’s purely stream-of-consciousness writing, but in this example Whitman was an ancestor of Hustvedt. The “trait” or idea of stream-of-conscious writing was refined and incorporated or “passed down” into a new type of story ... eolecki

In this way, [Sorrows] seems utterly unlike Leaves of Grass or the unconscious. The poem might not have had a traditional structure, but it was always moving. The characters in the novel, on the other hand, seem stuck in isolation ... kbrandall

I ... found the mixture of unconscious thought and consciouness to be very interesting ... there is a great deal more conscious organized thought than there was in Leaves of Grass, but there is also a randomness of order ... it jumps from a later entry into the father's diary to the narrators current time frame then back to the father's diary but to an even earlier time period within that time frame. It makes things a little more confused and jumbled, much like the initial impression of the unconscious thought ... enewbern

We had traced Erik's individual history back with him until the final conclusion that perhaps his subconscious and his conscious were all results of this convergence of three individuals (two who came before him and himself), resulting in the individual he is ... ibarkas

Evolution: cultural, biological, educational

The problem with creating a class about cultural evolution is that there is not just one track to follow-- there are a lot of branches on the tree of cultural evolution too ... Maybe the best way would be to demonstrate the way the class itself evolves when it is given a story and then split up and asked to retell it seperately and then to tell the retold story to different other groups ... lewilliams

I find it rather interesting that in the first half of this course, everyone thought Darwin was boring and that Dennett was more interesting and dynamic. Now in this second half of the course, most of the class believes that Whitman was boring and that Hustvedt is more dynamic and refreshing. It seems as though we like to see a series of ideas evolve (Dennett) or a story evolve (Hustvedt), and that we are bored by mere descriptions (Darwin) or representations (Whitman) of evolution at any scale. Maybe we don't enjoy evolution consciously, that is we find it boring to read peoples' accounts of it, whether large-scale or personal. Instead, we prefer to read things and acknowledge more passively that something is evolving, whether the story is good or not ... In some ways I think this sort of 'passive' acknowledgement of evolution opens just as much inquiry as Darwin's scientific story ... Recognizing that we are directing the evolution of this course and causing each other to evolve in thought is, itself, a great source of inquiry ... There is something very intriguing about controlling and experiencing evolution, perhaps more intriguing than simply studying it ... Jackie Marano

our readings were much richer than they would have been just coming to it with our disparate and limited individual backgrounds and perspectives ... sustainablephilosopher

And on ... to further unanticipated/unanticipatable richness


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