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Towards Day 25 (Wed, Apr. 23): "Wild Fiction"

Anne Dalke's picture

can we meet outside?!? and pay attention to what difference that makes?!?

I. coursekeeping

portfolio instructions not yet completed/up/will happen next week;
but a few details have come clear/want you to hear:
next week we'll spend both English classes discussing the second 1/2 of Ghosh's novel, "The Flood"
(try to finish it by Monday so we can discuss the whole book....)
please do a posting EITHER on Sunday or Tuesday evening (your further thoughts about the novel,
which I'll draw on in structuring the class); if you owe me a couple of postings,
you could post different ideas on both nights....

tomorrow night you of course know/are helping to run our story slam, 7:30-9:30;
Jo asked for five minutes to sign y'all up for specific roles in set-up--let's do that now.

next Monday 4/28, @ 6:30, we are having our eco-dinner @ the DVRm
(aphorisnt can't come? Jenna, smilewithsh didn't reply?); we have an agenda:
come prepared to tell us all, then, what your follow-up to the story slam will be:
what action will you pursue, why (what are you trying to find out/accomplish?)
and the logistics of how it will happen: have you set up a meeting, scheduled a conversation?
what will you have to do to make this happen before you (and others?) leave campus?

Sara had posted some early thoughts about moving beyond the story slam:
she asked if you all could initiate a group on campus which is dedicating to hosting story slams/
open mic nights on campus that can be flexible in addressing campus wide issues and creating
spaces for critical conversation; if you/others wanted to move forward  w/ that initiative,
what would be the first steps and how would you take them before leaving campus?

I'm pushing you now to be prepared to talk about this on Monday night;
and we will push you during dinner to be accountable for this process;
at our very final gathering of the semester (still unscheduled/dependent
on the timing of Ava's installation: maybe midday May 5 or 6?)
we will ask you to report on what you've actually done...

also! next Wednesday, 30th, we're going to re-arrange your afternoon:
plan to bring your lunch to Jody's class @ noon, and stay straight through til 3:00
[can we use that room for three hours?]
we will actually hold my class first, finishing our conversation about the novel, noon-1:30,
take a short break, and then spend the time til 3:00 processing the whole 360 experience together,
a vocal, public, group self-evaluation of what we've done this semester

II. silent discussion of your posts from last night,
about Part I, "The Ebb," from The Hungry Tide

What sense are you making of an environment that is always
on the move? Of space that is temporal and impermanent?

Sophia: the story is so location-based…the 'environment' is
itself part of the story….everchanging and impermanent…

"There were no docks or jetties on Lusibari, for the currents and tides that flowed around it were too powerful to permit the construction of permanent structures" (p. 32).

"almost every island in the tide country has been inhabited at some time or another. But to look at them you would never know: the speciality of the mangroves is that they do not merely recolonize land; they erase time. Every generation creates its own population of ghosts" (p. 43).

Let’s talk about the repeated failure of empathy in the novel,
the inability of characters to understand one another….

Sophia: “people too are everchanging and impermanent….
there are many disconnections [among people] in the novel.”

"it was a relief to be spared the responsibility that came with a knowledge of the details of another life" (p. 61).
there was the immeasurable distance that separated her from Fokir....that was how it was with human beings, who came equipped, as a species, with the means of shutting each other out....wasn't it better in a way, more honest, that they could not speak? (p. 132).

Jenna: when Piya was showing the guard a picture of the Gangetic dolphin "he asked if it was a bird”… Ghosh showed how people with two different backgrounds could perceive things differently….similar to the hockey stick graph.

Let’s consider the limits of our own ability to understand the characters. (Do you feel you have the “right” to “access” them?)

The themes of home, belonging, and exile come up quite frequently in the text…

Simona: I am an insider and an outsider to this book….
I probably don't totally understand Pia.

“speech was only a bag of tricks that fooled you into believing that you could see through the eyes of another human being" (p. 132). 

Sara: I am so struck by your recognition of being an insider/outsider to the text itself...This is making me wondering about Ghosh's intended audience, and whether we are meant to experience the text as an insider/ some ways it would seem to strength our inclination to identify with piya...

Kelsey: Fokir is the one character of the three whose "mind" we are never given the chance to occupy… it feels like Kanai and Piya are being positioned as the characters we can relate to, at least in some way, while Fokir is being portrayed as an other, an outsider. Maybe The Hungry Tide is fooling us.  Using speech, using the language of English that we as readers must know to read the text untranslated, to make us think that we can understand Kanai and Piya because we can understand their language (and that we can't understand Fokir because we can't understand his), and then abruptly reminding us that this isn't true.  

What are we learning from the novel’s representation
of entitlement (of class? education? nationality?)?

Piya’s relatives in Kolkata “seemed to share that assumption that they had been granted some kind of entitlement… that allowed them to expect that life's little obstacles and annoyances would always be swept away to suit their convenience.”

 smilewithsh: “This catering-to mentality is something that resides very deeply in the South Asian societies.

What is the novel teaching you about the search for one’s life’s work?

"as a young man Nirmal was in love with the idea of revolution...he would say, 'You've joined the rulers; you've begun to think like them. That's what comes of doing the sort of social work you've been doing all these years'....she recalled the contempt with which her own husband had dismissed her life's work" (p. 100).

"it was true that whatever came of it would not revolutionize the sciences, or even a minor branch of them, but it was also true would be as fine a piece of descriptive science as any. It would be enough; as an alibi for a life, it would do; she would not need to apologize for how she had spent her time on this earth" (p. 106).

smilewithsh: in order to feel substantial and useful and not having to apologize for occupying space on this earth, some sort of purpose of a future plan or desire or goal needs to be set. I wonder how many of us have felt like that before.

Simona: I wonder if I'll ever find that one thing while on the road, that pool of dolphins, that opens my mind to a life of "purpose" or "progress," or maybe then again I'll be content wandering.

Jo: undertaking a project that might last up to twenty years and form the better part of my career and even my lifetime would be a terrifying prospect for me….I am wary of this ambition, in myself and in others, especially in light of our recent discussions on making change, marks and scars. I will share again the quote I shared at the cemetary from The Fault in Our Stars by John Green: "we're as likely to hurt the universe as we are to help it, and we're not likely to do either”… many scientific experiments are invasive and all are to some degree human-centered... 


How does language work in this book?

I was most struck by metaphors…which depict language as the tide…the fluidity of language; and it’s ability to harbor complexities….words can also be a force of destruction… evident in the refusal of tide country people to even speak the name “tiger”- as the very act of uttering the word is believed to call upon the living animal. Words so powerful that they are believed to perform actions merely by their enunciation. 

Jessica: The amount of detail makes me want to swallow into the scenes. I really like how vivid the descriptions are…

Aphorisnt: At the same time, though…there also exists the interesting juxtaposition of Kanai, the translator and master of many languages, and Piya, the  purposefully monolingual scientist who prefers "words with the heft of stainless steel, sounds that had been boiled clean...empty of pain and memory and inwardness" (78). Words seem to work both ways, connection and isolation.

Sara:  I agree that words seem to work in both ways- and that together, Kanai, Piya and Fokir seem to exist on a spectrum, going from heavily linguistic to almost completely wordless. Their differing relationships highlights the complicated and at times, seemingly contradictory aspects of power and uselessness in language/silence.