Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

Notes Towards Day 3: Doing a Genre Switch

Anne Dalke's picture


Today, doing a genre switch, we'll be asking
how "Alice in Bed," put on stage by Susan Sontag,
differs from Alice in bed, writing her own diary.

Penguin's notes on our conversation
I. Coursekeeping
For Monday,
finish reading (around in) The Diary of Alice James
we will be joined then by Kristin Lindgren,
a BMC English Ph.D. and director of the Haverford Writing Center,
a scholar both of writing and disabilities studies,
who has spent time thinking about how we might
understand both AJ's illness and her writing.

It would be a kindness to her, and a help to our class conversation,
for you to post ahead of time a passage from the diary
(that speaks to/challenges you) in our commonplace book.

sign in, and sign up [w/ boxes] to
summarize two class conversations this semester

checking in on posting-process:
Marina and exsoloadsolem both now have (empty?) pages
still missing something from Penguins?

Cf. our postings, this week, from-and-about Alice in Bed:
w/ how the Diary handles the idea that
"the victories of the imagination are not enough":

re: the self @ war w/ the self;
"Don't be so conventional.  Very few things are really impossible."
Fabelhaft: she sees the possibilities of the world and
cannot reconcile those images with the world around her.
MissArcher2: I think Alice was conscious of her own imagination, which allowed to to fantasize that...everything could change at the last minute, even when she knew intellectually is what is real that is consequential.
jrlewis: about a woman’s journey of self-discovery and invention.

cf. also jrlewis's discovery of a 2000 Theater Review: The James Sister, Real and Imagined

III. Today we switch genres, from playwriting to life-writing, drama to diary.

Talk first, in pairs,
on the generic level:

what distinguishes the two forms?
What does one do that the other doesn't?
How does each form "signal" to you how read it?
What does each one "do" to you, and how do you respond?
What are your "uptakes"?

Focus next on these individual examples of the two genres:

how does Alice in Bed resemble-and-differ
from The Diary of Alice James?

* Begin by comparing your initial reactions to the readings:
did you like/dislike a particular text? Can you say why?

* Talk next about their formal and stylistic qualities:

how can we distinguish Sontag's voice, or dramatic techniques, from James'?

* Do you "trust" one more than the other?
Or: how reliable is self-reporting? how unreliable is invention?

* How does Alice differ/resemble herself psychologically in the two forms?

*What themes are foregrounded/backgrounded by each text?

Reading Notes from The Diary

July 12:  exchange w/ nurse
(cf. encounter w/ Young Man in play)
Dec 12: on the effects of education--flatulence? "reality of dreaming"?
Jan 12: burrowing vs. expansion
Jan 13: common emotional, not physical ground: friend on Mars
Feb 21: only thing which survives is resistance
Mar. 22: surprise @ repetition
Apr. 7: self as coral insect
May 20: surrender gives no hold to Fate
homesick for empty land of Chance
June 2: Unknowable Reality as a jokester
June 18: what determines selection of memory?
July 18: on experiencing pain w/out distraction
Aug 18: surrender to limitation
Oct 26: never able to abandon/get rest from consciousness
body triumphant in battle with will
self as insane, doctor, nurse, and strait-jacket too
head as dense jungle, continuous cerebration, not abandonable
Nov. 24: on learning one is not Prime-Minstress of Great Little Kingdom
Jan 16: genius: perceiving unhabitually (vs. taking infinite pain)
Jan 23: unconscious benefactions and cruelties
Jan 28: we all ephemerae, seeking renewed sensation
Feb 8: cf. English sense of self as class members, freed from U.S. focus on individual dignity
Mar 23: cf. Yankee tomorrow w/ weight of past in England
does my existence justify itself?
Mar 27: joy of reflection/no intellectual penury
Apr 12: rawboned, relentless moral organization, hardness
Apr 24: nothing expected but the unexpected
May 7: fortune of many aesthetic stomachs
May 9: our gifts carried in airtight compartments, w/ other fields left fallow
May 31: longing for palpable disease fulfilled
June 1: enormous relief of the concrete
becoming picturesque to oneself; grief for those who will see it
June 5: how much humor in my exit?
life disproportioned, inconsistent
July 15: emancipation into wide spaces
Sept 4: suspending duties of individual watch dog of sanity
Dec 11: no fun in dying: can't tell about it
Jan 1: stone as propitious soil for flowering
Feb 1: tragedy of inexorable inadequacy for happiness
success in life: luck of right moment of eclipse
Feb 2: self as more concentrated essence, shrivelled pea pod
Feb 29: supreme interest of watching eternity broaden
Mar 4: making sentences to the end!

Penguin's notes on our conversation