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Towards Day 11 (Wed, Feb. 26): Reading "as"....?

Anne Dalke's picture

I. Coursekeeping

Put back up our "silent" sheet discussions...

welcome back the sick ones? (Agatha, Jenna, sara, smilewithsh)

--& give 'em posters to distribute

your second 5-pp. paper for me
(extended from Sun, so no! more! extensions!
is due by midnight tonight. be sure both to tag it as "English" and to flag
it as a "Web Paper/Event" (this will help w/ the organization of your portfolio--
if you didn't tag the last one, you should go back and do that now also)
there is a private option, which many of you used last time--
the default/preference is to go public, try out being a public intellectual, and/but...

10 a.m.-3 p.m. Fri (note longer time/estimated time of return):

Second field trip to the Center for Environmental Transformation in Camden

We'll talk about Ozeki's novel today, up through the mid-point--and then--
in part to give you time to finish it, and in part because *something else important*
is going on in our cluster next week--we'll come back to it after break.

I've selected a range of other readings/viewing for Monday's class:
look again @ the profile of Waterfront South (first week's assigment for David)
focus on Matt Taibbi's magazine article, Apocalypse, New Jersey: A Dispatch
from America's Most Desperate Town
. Rolling Stone. December 22, 2013.
read also Ari Rosenberg (urban farmer @ CfET), Letter to Rolling Stone. December 12, 2013.
and watch Chimamanda Adiche, “The Danger of a Single Story.” TED Talk. July 2009.

By 10 p.m. on Sun, Mar. 2, post on-line a one-paragraph response to "Apocalypse, New Jersey"
(obviously, if you have a stronger response to one of the other assignments, respond to that;
tag these "English," and please also write in response to one another....)

II. Today we return to Ozeki's novel, All Over Creation
I've put back up our silent discussion from Monday
(aimed esp. to bring the once-sick ones into the conversation...)
a little review:
want to highlight the topics we've already introduced/describe what's going on, on your own sheet...?

* genetic engineering--> using language to "disguise" her opinions?
* use of metaphors?
* potato cloning--> diversity and community?
* evacuation--> shame vs. pride?
* "The Seeds" and gardening as examples of control?
* affiliation of religious fundamentalists and eco-activists?
* Frank--> environmental education and politics?
* usefulness of analogy between hybrid plants and mixed-race kids?

III. I had asked you to come today having thought about the novel not just from your own p.o.v,
but using some of the other lenses that you've acquired over the past month: to be ready
to "read as" a geologist, or economist, or educational theorist, or literary critic:
(more specifically) through Paula Gunn Allen's "unified field vision,"
or Martin and Mohanty's questions about "what home's got to do with it,"
or bell hooks on belonging,  or Eli Clare on exile,
or Ursula LeGuin's view from another planet...

Take a few minutes to gather your thoughts:
from what/whose perspective will you speak this afternoon?
whose lens are you using? and through that lens,
what dimension of the novel will you foreground?

Go 'round and introduce ourselves...
what p.o.v will you take on it?

how can these folks talk together?
are their readings congruent, dissonant, complexifying....?

IV. Anne, reading "as" a literary critic (because she "is" one!)--
I'd look @ the way Ozeki plays with puns, making so many words do double duty/swing both ways.
And then try to think about how this links up with "hybrid vegies and mixed-race kids":
on the linguistic level, it's about the refusal of purity, of simplicity,
the insistance on multiple meanings ("all over creation"? "activism/getting action"? "squash"?)

Words are very labile and associative, both in their evolution and in their "distribution" in our brains. For instance, etymologists say that the English word "beauty" comes from the Latin word bellus; how far removed in the metonymic landscapes that are our brains is bellus (pretty, lovely) from the Latin bellum (quarrelsome, bellicose), or the Middle English bely (belly, leather bag, bellows)? Does the echo of similar sound tell us anything useful about the contingent meaning of these words? Does it suggest that the use of a single word/single sound never (for a humanist, anyhow) signals a single meaning?

puns demonstrate the inherent instability of the meanings of words, and so challenge the conventional understanding of language as a structure of relationships in which each word is identified by its difference from others. The distinction between words isn't at all that clear; the "category" that each occupies is very porous.

(In other words, they make linguists very nervous!)

See, for example, Catherine Bates. "The Point of Puns." Modern Philology 96, 14 (May 1999), p. 42 on "pun's perfidious status as an aberrant element within the linguistic structure....Puns play with meaning....they give the wrong names to the wrong things--and they disturb the proper flow of confusing sense and sound...normal rules governing etymology and lexicography are temporarily suspended while speculation and fancy roam free.... puns...subvert the one-to-one relation between signifier and signified...fracture the sign....the word can mean two or more things. It is because it ambiguates meaning that the pun disturbs the system of communication by which meaning is conveyed....the interpretative process...ultimately restores priority to the serious business of making sense, to showing what a pun finally means....a freak coincidence...becomes a causal and motivated presented as lexically appropriate...Once limited to a certain point, the pun becomes masterable and pleasurable."

Jonathan Culler, in On Puns: The Foundation of Letters (1987, pp. 1-16), suggests that punning frequently seems...a structural, connecting offer the mind a sense and an experience of an order that it does not master or comprehend....we are urged to conceive an order.....Insofar as this is the goal or achievement of art, the pun seems an exemplary agent....

Culler asks us to "....note above all the complexity and diversity of literature...the possibility of fictionally exceeding what has previously been thought and written....Literature is a paradoxical institution because to create literature is to write according to existing formulas....but it is also to flout those conventions, to go beyond institution that lives by exposing and criticizing its own limits.... 'cultural capital'...But literature cannot be reduced to this conservative social function...literature is the noise of culture as well as its information. It is an entropic force." (Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction, 1997; pp. 40-41).