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

Notes Towards Day 16 (Thursday, 10/31): Refocusing the Lens

mlord's picture

all gather in Anne's classroom

I. 11:25-11:40-->
upcoming plans
Eco-360 tea @ 4 p.m. today in DVRm

before you go to Eastern State Penitentiary this weekend,
read Jennifer Janofsky's essay, "'Hopelessly Hardened."
the prison is @ 2027 Fairmount Avenue (in the Fairmount section of the city,
up the hill behind/north of the Free Library) and is open every day 10 a.m.-5 p.m;
you need to plan an hour for the tour and 1/2 hour alone in your cell.
R100 tokens and your tickets
get up and organize yourselves into traveling groups, based on Tuesday's sign-up sheet

* on Tuesday we'll "close read" our experiences @ Eastern State;
there is no other reading assignment, so treat your excursion like one:
pay attention/take notes/write up your reflections;
come to class ready to "read the text"

* ordering tix for Nicole Canuso Dance Company's production of The Garden

II. 11:40-12:10 some advice on revising your papers:
last week, Anne spoke about Jonathan Culler's explanation of "theory":
* a critique of common sense, of concepts taken as natural;
* reflexive, thinking about thinking--
enquiry into the categories we use in making sense of things.

To help you do this, we have been harping on your finding a lens:

to theorize & analyze, not just describe. Many of your postings from
last night say "I want to keep my lens, and narrow it down"; or
"I will sharpen my lens to focus on a specific part of the book"--
but you don't say how you will do this. Some of you said,
"my lens is the relationship/the friendship/the sexual relationship."
--but that is your topic, the landscape you want to bring into focus;
it is the object of the focus, but not the means of focusing.

A lens is different than a landscape;
it is not the topic, but a p.o.v., a particular angle on the topic;
it's not just naming the idea, but framing it.

To build that frame/polish that lens, most of you need more information than you have so far.
For example, if you are going to read a text through an economic lens,
you'll need understand something about the concept of scarcity,
which is so central to economic thinking.

"When economists see the world, they see hidden social patterns that become evident only when one focuses on the essential underlying processes...Economists have certain things they like to focus on, and scarcity is one of them" (Tim Harford, The Undercover Economist).

There are three articles on-line about the work of Eldar Shafir, a Princeton psychologist,
and Sendhil Mullainathan, a Harvard economist, which talk about the significance of scarcity
(which refuse, btw, the simple binary we constructed Tuesday, between the "psychological" and
the "economic" orientations on the world), and which might help you think some more in this
arena; see descriptions of what they call "the packing problem" @

I've been helping people, in my conferences this week,
find texts that they can use to look more sharply @ their topic.
For example...
Evelyn is interested in Natalie's "loss of self"-->she's going to use a piece of educational theory about
the "cultural suicide" of minority students in elite educational institutions to analyze this dynamic;
Claire wants to be a zoologist; she's going to use a piece by a primatologist,
about intra-species intraction, that focuses on the subjectivity of animals,
to better understand Leah's grief @ the death of her pet;
Ava is going to use a piece of theory by a feminist anthropologist
to think more deeply about the relationship between agency and power.

So: if you plan to "focus on  sexuality"--what gender studies text would help you do so?
If you want to "think about free will"--what philosopher can sharpen your lens?
If you want to understand "female friendship"--who can help you?
(There's a nice essay by 19th American historian Carroll Smith-Rosenberg called
"The Female World of Love and Ritual" that might be useful; also a piece by
literary critic Elizabeth Abel, "(E)Merging Identities; The dynamics of Female
Friendship in Contemporary Fiction by Women" that could be helpful.

How can you help one another find/figure out how to apply these resources?

Get into groups and tell one another what you posted last night:

what will be your new/sharpened lens?
what will it allow you to focus on/zoom in on?
what are you going to read to help you do this?
where are you located in relation to the lens?
(are you in it/outside it/lurking somewhere nearby?)
how might this reading change readers' view of the novel?

help each other think about what-you-might do to make your lens sharper

and your analysis deeper...this paper is due on-line (of course) by midnight on Sunday

III. 12:10-12:45 return to our two sections, for our last conversation about NW....
what are we still curious about?

seking's medical leave...