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Remote Ready Biology Learning Activities

Remote Ready Biology Learning Activities has 50 remote-ready activities, which work for either your classroom or remote teaching.

College Seminar 2001 Forum

Welcome to the course forum area for College Seminar 2001

Comments are posted in the order in which they are received, with earlier postings appearing first below on this page. To see the latest postings, click on "Go to last comment" below.

Go to last comment

Welcome ....
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2001-09-03 16:33:51
Link to this Comment: 28

Glad you're here. A place to have/leave thoughts, and to see what other people are thinking and how that relates to what you're thinking. A place for sharing thoughts in progress, so don't worry about whether they're finished or perfectly composed or ... whatever. What you put here will trigger interesting thoughts in others, and hopefully you'll find here things that trigger new thoughts in you.

To get started ... what do you think of the picture on the course home page? What's its story? What does it make you think? Try making up a story about it, or at least sketching one.

Name: Jennifer
Date: 2001-09-04 11:07:24
Link to this Comment: 29

my question would be whether or not the puzzle pieces are going from the ball to the puzzle or the puzzle to the ball. See i think the pieces might be going from the puzzle to the ball, with the ball representing us, these sort of blurry but diverse source of confusion in which we attempt to understand the pieces of our lives. The pieces we think go together like a nice neat puzzle, but as you can see, this is not really true.

Understanding Pictures
Name: Amanda Gle
Date: 2001-09-04 11:10:03
Link to this Comment: 30

The picture of understanding on the course home page is a thought-provoking piece of art. As the block of reason loses its puzzle pieces from each of its solid sides, the sections fall to the sphere of imagination and confusion. That sphere though is not just a messy college but also its own form of understanding. Emily Dickinson once said, "Much madness is divinest sense to a discerning eye." Her quote applies to this picture with the madness of the mottled colours of the sphere. The picture provokes the onlookers to ask what is understanding? Is it the solid cube of primary colours? Or is it the blotchy globe? Will we ever truly find out?

Name: Cathy B.
Date: 2001-09-04 11:12:40
Link to this Comment: 31

Well, it makes me think of the learning process. It's based on questions, and has a pillar of understanding supporting a complex puzzle that could, I suppose, represent knowledge. It is a very evocative image.

Name: emily clai
Date: 2001-09-04 11:12:52
Link to this Comment: 32

The aforementioned picture seems to define a loss of global understanding, which seems somewhat contradictory to the meaning of the course (i never was very good at pictoral interpretations). The large block of puzzle pieces, which are held on a pedestol of understanding, are falling off, and creating themselves into their own sort of globe. Perhaps this is meant ot define a greater sense of understanding, by creating a mixture of all the different pieces. However, at first glance, i felt that the globe itself showed a loss of understanding, by detracting from the puzzle pieces original spaces. The word "understanding" is also followed on the side by "is" and "???", perhaps further defining the confusing nature of the interpretation to be purposeful.

Name: Liz
Date: 2001-09-04 11:14:43
Link to this Comment: 33

The different color box reminds me of a rubix cube... I guess that understanding is kind of like fitting together the correct pieces of a puzzle (getting the right colors from the multicolored sphere). From a different perspective, it's kind of like taking "gelatinous" colors from the shifting sphere and finding just those that fit to make a solid, stable square. Um... what do other people make of the podium type thing holding up the square?

puzzle picture
Name: Sarah Frie
Date: 2001-09-04 11:15:15
Link to this Comment: 34

It seems that the circular shape in the picture might be a brain, and the cube could be a world from where a brain gathers little bits of information and fuses them together to make since of these pieces of matter and ideas around it. Now, I notice that the cube is top heavy, and sort of rooted to the ground by a stand that seems to say understanding is questioning. I interpret this to mean that the questioning part is the difficult, unstable part, while the observations themselves are more solid, at least in their assembled form. But when the brain tries to take the cube apart, it must learn to understand what all the puzzle pieces mean in order to question them and find out more, and incorporate more puzzle pieces. So it must both understand in order to question, and question in order to understand.

understanding-web page picture
Name: Flori
Date: 2001-09-04 11:17:54
Link to this Comment: 35

This picture is illustrating the way people make sense of the world-the way their minds work toward understanding. Their memories are built from stories that they've heard, pieces of information that they've learned, that fit together like a puzzle. The different colors stand for the different stories. Each story is colorful and imaginative. Each thought is different from another but fits together to make up one's understanding. The more information, the more complete the puzzle becomes (the more complete one's understanding becomes.) People's understanding is also built upon the grouping of information they retain. That is why the puzzle in this picture has sides of different colors. Not only must one retain information, but also group it together to make sense of it.

Name: Laura Bang
Date: 2001-09-04 11:18:11
Link to this Comment: 36

Understanding is a very important part of defining who we are. Everyone has a different understanding of events that happen in our lives. First, we must ask questions, for it is curiosity that leads us to draw our own conclusions about the world around us. The observations we gather in respone to our questions lead us to understanding. Once we have enough puzzle pieces to "understand" something, the pieces fall apart and become a globe of knowledge. Understanding and knowledge are not the same thing.

Thoughts on that Picture
Name: Helena Sal
Date: 2001-09-04 11:18:19
Link to this Comment: 37

Being new to this forum, I guess I'll say hello to everyone and add my thoughts on that picture on the CSem page. It looks like the box is knowledge, or something that's solid and makes sense, while the ball next to it is ourselves (like Jennifer said) of our culture, which takes pieces of the nicely cubed jigsaw puzzle and incorporates it into our own little shere of influence that mixes it with everything else in our environment. It seems to show that ourselves, when taking in knowledge and culture, manage to mesh it all together despite their distinct basic colors and aspects, and personalize it when adding to what we already know.

That little podium, though, with all the '???/???' on the bottom seems to be trying to show that we're not yet sure of what understanding consists of?
Any other ideas?

Course Home Page Picture
Name: Chelsea Ph
Date: 2001-09-04 11:18:44
Link to this Comment: 38

Hi everybody! I'm Chelsea and this is my take on the picture on the Home Page.

Once upon a time- no scratch that- A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away there lived a box whose name was Penelope, even though it was a boy box. Penelope, or Penny, was best friends with Winston, a bouncy ball filled with confetti of all the colors in the cosmos. Penny always shared everything with Winston, or Winny, including his most hidden desire- to be a LAMP SHADE!! Knowing how important becoming a lampshade was to Penny, Winny decided to help. The two friends set of into the night, journying across many strange lands and through untoward dangers to finally reach their destination- the JCPenny Home Store. They snuck inside, using guerilla manuevers Winny had learned in the war. They searched high and low until they found the perfect home for Penny. It was a striking base in classic white, but perhaps its most intruiging feature was the philosophical "Understanding is ?????" painted onto its stark white sides. Quickly, Penny bounced up onto the base using Winny as a springboard. He switched on the light, but found he was a bit too opaque to really let the light through, so he left pieces of himself go in order to light the world.

Burgmayer Picture
Name: Kathryn Ro
Date: 2001-09-04 11:20:12
Link to this Comment: 39

Th Burgmayer picture explains how the world of knowledge is put together. A question is the first step, which leads the way to understanding the answer to that question. However, it also helps lead the way to understanding the world better because by questioning, one is not simply accepting what one has been told, but thinking about it and beginning to develop their own opinion. Before one can develop their own opinion however, they must figure out what the different ideas and positions there are about it. Then one can can pick which pieces of this they agree with, and put together their complete opinion.

Thoughts on picture on course page
Name: Karen Pang
Date: 2001-09-04 11:21:35
Link to this Comment: 40

My interpretation of the picture on the course page is a work of art depicting how most humans view their world. The sphere consists of mixed color pieces, all put togther in no particular order--it is a mess. The square, however, has distinct edges, corners, and sides. The pieces of the square are even organized into separate colors. Since the pieces are taken from the sphere, one can see it as a human trying to gather loose pieces of information and trying to make sense of the parts and finally creating a form of what humans begin to feel as a sense of "understanding". Nevertheless, this square is held up by the words "UNDERSTANDING is ??????" This contradicts what humans believe as "understanding"--when they have reached a point when they feel they have gotten the answers to their questions, they find even more questions.

Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2001-09-04 12:52:30
Link to this Comment: 41

for me, the box (colored so brightly, brightly and w/ beauty; i revel in the intensity of these primary colors) clearly represents academic “knowledge,” the sort of “packaging” that shows up as disciplines like“biology” or “literary studies” or “anthropology,” while the globe is the multiple pleasing richnesses of the world. but i really don’t like the way this artist has figured the relationship between these two images. rather than “reading” what she’s drawn, i’d prefer to re-draw the picture/re-arrange the interaction between the parts. i’d get rid of the stand and its label, put the box and the globe on the same level, let the puzzle pieces flow back and forth between them, in order to “say” that the rich multiplicity of the world is what feeds our academic “packages,” but the sense those packages make of the world has the capacity for re-shaping it in turn...and on and on/round and round/back and forth it goes. (in the picture, as it’s currently drawn, gravity works against that back-and-forth process) WOULDN’T i just like it a LOT if, before class ends in december, each of us could not just describe (as i just have), but actually DRAW our own figure of what “understanding” looks like....

what the cover says
Name: Carol
Date: 2001-09-04 17:28:34
Link to this Comment: 50

What the cover says to me is that the process of asking questions can lead to a better understanding of your topic which, in turn, can lead to a way of fitting the pieces of a puzzle together. However, in this illustration it's not clear where these pieces of the puzzle originate. Have they fallen off the completed cube, or have they exploded from the sphere? Will the blue puzzle piece work even though it has spots of red on it?

We could think of this picture as an illustration of how we might put together the pieces of a life. We ask ourselves questions about who we want to be, we try to come to an understanding of what we want to be and what we want to do, then we try to fit the pieces together in a way that makes sense. The ambiguity about whether the puzzle pieces have fallen off the cube or have erupted from the sphere tells me that the questions we ask ourselves don't come from a single source. Serendipity happens, tragedy happens, the world intrudes, and our lives must be modified even after we think we have the puzzle solved.

Asking the right questions
Name: Robin Land
Date: 2001-09-04 17:33:34
Link to this Comment: 51

If you can get your question formulated exactly right, so that it is in just the right shape, very neat and with no rough edges, it can lead you to a place where the universe itself will provide the answer.

Name: Louise
Date: 2001-09-04 19:54:47
Link to this Comment: 52

My interpretation of this picture is…. that understanding is the connection between questioning, and knowledge. The ball with the mixture of colors – represents to me, the universe with its understanding of what we need –is offering us the answers to our questions, BUT only when we are truly receptive and open to what it offers will the puzzle piece actually fit.

The floating puzzle pieces in the picture, look like they are on there way up to fill in more pieces to our lives. The empty pieces represent the openness we need in order for all to go well and work well together. The universe looks like it has endless answers to our questions…

Understanding is....
Name: Sharon Burgmayer
Date: 2001-09-04 20:43:39
Link to this Comment: 54

What wonderfully thoughtful and creative ideas about my picture are written here!! "Are any of them right?" you are bound to ask. Does it matter? I don't think so. What matters are the new ideas the picture creates within you, that glorious birth of a new connection.

Besides, once you see the original——rather than this "modified" version on your cover——you'll likely want yet another stab at "the story"......

Cover Image
Name: Lisa Harri
Date: 2001-09-05 07:55:16
Link to this Comment: 55

As an artist, when I first viewed the cover of the C-Sem packet, my eye was
immediately drawn to the narrow rectangle ("Understanding").  The shape just
didn't convince my eye that it was able to adequately support the cube --
it's as if a third dimension is missing.  

Otherwise, I enjoyed struggling with the question over whether the little
puzzle pieces are exploding from the sphere, or are they splashing into it?  
Perhaps some are falling, while others are returning to the  cube.      

One more thing.  I couldn't help but see the yellow background as a sun in a
blue sky -- yet with ominous clouds lurking nearby.

Name: Cathy B.
Date: 2001-09-05 20:55:36
Link to this Comment: 58

Okay, I finally finished all the reading for Thursday. As far as I can tell, the first section is about questioning the meaning of life, the second is about coping with change, and the third is about the relationship between the past and the present. I know these are the pretty obvious conclusions, but the texts are so long that it's hard to take up all the details.
Anyway- I liked the second one best, and the poem was pretty good, too. I got the feeling that the thrid had the most literary value, though.

Name: Gail DeCou
Date: 2001-09-05 22:53:05
Link to this Comment: 59

Here's my two cents worth: Understanding (i.e. knowledge) is based on finding the answers to numerous questions. The more answers we get the greater our level of understanding, which is represented by the elevated cube. The cube is a great place to be because everything fits together nicely. All colors are bright and clear, all lines are sharply delineated, there is order. Having arrived there, you shout "Eureka!"

But not for long. Newfound answers can undo what was previously held as true and then things begin to fall apart. Old beliefs fall away. Some ever so slowly, because it's hard to let go of what was once held as true, while others go crashing down into the amorphous sea of restless ambiguity, where the constant churning (questioning) may bring their secrets to the surface again.

Name: Gail DeCou
Date: 2001-09-05 23:01:46
Link to this Comment: 60

(Now here's what I really think when I look at the picture: The cube represents how my brain feels when I'm doing Math. The orb is how it feels when it's struggling to do creative writing. Aarrggghhh!)

Name: mdevereu
Date: 2001-09-06 08:20:17
Link to this Comment: 64

the chaos of a bright confettied globe sends puzzling bits to complete and
make wholethe box with gaping bits. the box then sends a sheet of unraveled
understanding and truth to a plinth of more queries. the more we learn the
more we question

Name: Stephanie
Date: 2001-09-06 21:17:16
Link to this Comment: 68

The ball is a "melting pot" planet made up of several shapes and colors. The box is humanity. Are the falling pieces completing the planet or does the planet complete humanity?

opening paragraphs
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2001-09-07 09:14:45
Link to this Comment: 72

Our section had a great writing workshop on Thursday; we read together 5 opening paragraphs, written by class members, and found ourselves not only full up w/ ideas on how they might be improved, and full of questions about how the "promises" of the first paragraphs would be fulfilled later in the papers, but also enchanted w/ the variety of ways in which papers describing our "lives of learning" might be initiated: some of us began w/ particular, concrete, sensuous (aural and visual) details, others w/ more "universal" images or sensations; some of us started out sharply & quickly; others chose slower, dreamier tones...Anyhow, for a taste of the range, here are the passages we discussed:

1. My most vivid recollection of first grade is that of my teacher, Miss Johnson, holding a straight pin in the air as the class stood silently in two straigt lines divided by gender. Before we could be dismissed for recess, our teacher always insisted on being able to hear the pin hit the floor. On one of these occasions, as I concentrated on listening for the familiar tiny bounce, a classmate tapped me on the shoulder and whispered something in my ear. Dutifully, I turned to remind her that we had to be quiet. The next thing i knew, Miss Johnson was beside me. But before I actually saw her, I felt a painful blow--apparently from her bulbous, costume-jewelry ring--making contact with the top of my skull. Tears raced to the corners of my eyes, and chills ran down the back of my neck as the shock and embarrassment of what had just happened reached my senses. I remember promising myself I'd never speak in class again.

2. My life of learning began, when I was a child in the public schools of Philadelphia. It was in the sixth grade and I had a crush on my favorite teacher, Mr. Flynn. He wasn't your typical teacher in looks or technique. He was completely bald with a bright wide smile, mischievious eyes, and he always made me feel important as his student. He was of Irish decent; he acutally looked a bit like a leprechaun only taller, and of course he taught us every Irish song he knew; he had us sing them over and over again. Some of my favorites till this day are "When Irish Eyes are Smiling and Torr a lore a lora." The class loved it.

3. When I think about the phrase "life of learning" the words "life" and "learning" swirl together in my mind. Then I see a hand with its palm facing me, fingers spread, as the fingers of the partner hand snuggle into the (word?? What is the groove between the fingers called?) Life IS learning isn't it?

4. My family is from rural Kentucky and most of my relatives were and still are tobacco farmers. My father and mother both dropped out of high school--as many of their friends and family did--to help out on their parents' farms. Education was respected but not viewed as essential, especially for women.

5. The warmth of summer still lingers while memories of summer's experiences already begin to fade. The week spent in Los Angeloes at the end of June seems like a lifetime ago. The six weeks spent in New York until just a fortnight ago seem equally remote. One summer in a lifetime of summers. Autumn brings a differnt focus to our lives in perhaps obvious ways with most of us going back to work or school. In contrast to dreams of warmth and sunshine, autumn brings a sense of purpose and memories of fresh, fragrant mornings walking to school.

Cover Art Comment for Tuesday
Name: Emma
Date: 2001-09-09 20:29:47
Link to this Comment: 83

The primary colors and the straight-line geometry of the box represent the most basic sort of knowledge. But there is energy in our quest for understanding which eventually leads to thinking that is more dynamic and more complex until, finally, truly original ideas require a leap!

Cover Picture - Comment
Name: Eveline A.
Date: 2001-09-09 23:45:12
Link to this Comment: 84

The cube painted in bold primary colors seems to suggest linear thinking, i.e. logic and reason. The word "understanding" is shown with question marks because understanding cannot be complete (missing puzzle pieces) when based on logical thinking alone. The ball as a circular object suggests something whole or complete (intuitive knowledge?); it is painted with splashes of colors, at times overlapping, suggesting a blending of characteristics. Interpretation: perhaps the missing puzzle pieces of logic must become painted with the various shades of intuitive knowledge emanating from the multi-coloured ball in order for complete undestanding to take place. If we continue the process, perhaps the cube will eventually become the ball! An imaginative piece of art. I enjoyed thinking about it.

Response to Request for the Meaning of the Syllabu
Name: Zoe Anspac
Date: 2001-09-10 09:58:26
Link to this Comment: 87

On the Meaning of the Syllabus Cover Art, Hereinafter Named Reppreason Titus

Socrates: Reppreason Titus, I have been charged by the Authorities with the Inquiry of your Meaning. I ask that you forgive my interrogation, and the limitations inherent in translating your intentions into those inadequate scratches we call words.

Reppreason Titus: Socrates, you may inquire of my meaning free from concern for my insult, or offense as I will simply tell you what you already know: that I, like all in existence, am spinning with our planet or in our universe, or swimming in the consciousness of various beings, and this constant motion, combined with what we call time, makes my meaning as alive as you, a human, and similarly as vulnerable to infinite possible interpretations at any given moment.

Socrates: Yes, we do agree on the inevitable variability permeating our existence, but perhaps we can record for the Authorities one interpretation by making observations, factual observations, of your physical being, and then deducing what this physical evidence represents. May I propose the observations most readily visible?

Reppreason Titus: Being what I am, a piece of paper with a reproduction of an Artist‚s work, I am vulnerable to dissection. I may prefer you to live with me, see me, take my image into yourself thereby extending my life and producing many generations, and connecting me to my kind; but you, being what you are, must obey the Authorities.

Socrates: Reppreason Titus! We may both be satisfied, for I did as you prefer already. And the Authorities are to thank, for I would not have chosen you otherwise. Let us both be sorry for the experience put upon us, yet glad that we may share some satisfaction in the symbiosis you desire.
Now, please allow me to list what I consider factual observations.

Reppreason Titus: I cannot deny you this.

1.) You are two dimensional, although in reality you do have a thickness, the Artists would categorize you as two dimensional.

2.) You present colors, lines, shapes, and shadows, and varying degrees of hue, and contrast. These we can view individually, and as small groups, and as a whole group; all of which we can view additionally, in a large number of permutations, in relation to each other.

3.) Some of your shapes and lines form imitations of three dimensional objects while others do not. In particular, there is the imitation of a three dimensional cube, and the imitation of a three dimensional rectangular shape. Then, there are three main delineated elements that appear two dimensional: 1) a relatively long and thin rectangle, 2) a circle, and 3) the area surrounding all of the previously mentioned shapes˜what I will call the environment.

4.) Some of your lines imitate letters and punctuation marks used in the English language, and are grouped so as to form the words "understanding" and "is" while the punctuation marks, representative of a question, are organized into two sets of three, forming a group of six question marks.
I could continue this list further to include descriptions of your dominant colors, their placement, and relationship; the smaller shapes, subshapes, groupings, and relative sizes; the varying thickness and orientation of the lines, and much more; but I wish to verify thus far my observations. So now I will ask, my vision, do you agree?

Reppreason Titus: Oh, my dear Socrates! Trouble yourself no further with verification! You have truthfully documented several of my main characteristics. There should be no question that you have examined me thoroughly. The Authorities should be convinced that the interrogation included investigation of not only the obvious, but also the minute and the subtle. Please come to your deductions. Tell me what you make of your observations.

Socrates: My vision, being examined in this way must be uncomfortable. I will cease for now, and offer you reprieve by sharing my responses to our first few meetings.

At first I noticed a darkness indicated within and surrounding the three dimensional cube and what appears to be its supporting base. Then I noticed that, none of the indicated objects are touching or overlapping, and furthermore the objects do not appear to be weighted as by gravity on the suggested ground of the environment. In fact, the objects also do not appear to extend three-dimensionally into the environment (this is not surprising as three dimensions are not suggested in the environment). Instead they appear to be an artificial part of it, like a reflection on the surface of water. At the same time, my emotional aspect sensed the mixture of black and blue surrounded by yellow as a bruise, which led me to think of pain. Altogether I sensed disconnectedness, fluidity, insecurity, and physical injury.

Later, I noticed the word "understanding" which I sensed was representing its literal definition, and by its placement as the stand of the base, I thought it was happening in a particular direction: from the base at its bottom to the cube at its top. Then, realizing that the question marks are on the base underneath the stand (labeled, perhaps as a pun on its suggested position and function, "understanding"), I thought the composition suggested that questions lead to understanding. But, when I looked again, I saw that the word "understanding" was placed so that to read it, which most humans would reflexively do, the eye would have to travel from the top of the stand to the bottom.

That is not the only contradiction in direction I see. There is the indication of puzzle-shaped pieces of the cube falling "down" to the disc (which seems intended to represent a sphere, the success of which is debatable), and yet there is the suggestion that puzzle-shaped figures are rising up out of the disc.

At this point Socrates and Reppreason Titus are interrupted by Old Master Tymis Waystusis who informs them that they must cease their debate until further notice from the Authorities.

fairy tales - quick reactions?
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2001-09-11 09:25:23
Link to this Comment: 93

Friedrich Schiller wrote

Deeper meaning resides in the fairy tales told to me in my childhood than in the truth that is taught by life.

What do you think of fairy tales? Off the top of your head, in a few sentences/phrases ... for you and others to mull over.

Poster comment
Name: Marie-Laur
Date: 2001-09-11 09:57:05
Link to this Comment: 94

This image make think that understanding is the question of an abstract concept that correlate the shapes and colors of the learning process to the extant that it could bring to a change of behavior and ultimatly until one's could adapt and fit oneself to the new environment, which eventually also reacts under the transformation of the new understanding.

one last comment
Name: Liz Nuttin
Date: 2001-09-12 11:41:31
Link to this Comment: 100

I'm chiming in a bit late, but I wanted to briefly give my perspective on the cover picture. I find my view of this picture is shaped by a desire, a desire to see the puzzle pieces as neither falling from order to chaos or rising from chaos to order (if, in fact, it is fair to define the square and the ball as order and chaos, respectively). I choose to see the pieces both falling and rising, encountering each other in the middle, and in the encounter, transforming (perhaps through a sharing of stories) into something new and vibrant.

That, and I like the colors!

Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2001-09-13 09:49:08
Link to this Comment: 111

To the Storytelling Cluster--
this is the message I sent to my class Tuesday night:

I think the way we spent our classtime--keeping one another company,
mostly in silence, while we learned the horrific news of this morning,
and began to process its implications for the way we live our lives--was
the best we could do--was probably ALL we could do--when we met earlier
today. I have also been thinking hard, since, about the relationship
between these unspeakable events and the education each of you has come
to Bryn Mawr seeking: how we might go on from here, acknowledging the
enormity of what has happened to turn our world upside down, but also
not stopping the world altogether and trying to get off.

I was so moved, as we rose to go today, by Meg's invitation to all of us
to come to her farm, "where it is safe," because I was certain then, and
continue to feel now, that there is no safe place on this earth. But it
occurs to me (I got this idea from an essay you can find as a link from
our website, or go to directly via that thinking is the
best way I know to reduce risk, that that IS the project we have already
undertaken together, and that the most hopeful thing I know, right now,
is simply to go ahead w/ it: continuously telling and re-telling
stories, incorporating the new understandings we gain as we go along.
The story that needs to be told and heard about this morning's events,
and their aftermath, will be a long and often unbearable time in the
writing. But in the meantime, we can prepare ourselves to listen to and
understand it, by setting ourselves more manageable tasks.

Therefore: your assignment for Thursday has two parts. My initial
intention was to suggest that you turn the educational autobiography you
wrote last week into a fairy tale which explores the shadow side of your
first draft, which includes the sort of "icky" detail that is so
telling, and so troubling, in the Grimm Brothers' tales (the bloody
foot, the plucked-out eyes). Perhaps, given the events of today, you
would rather not explore your own psychic landscape further; perhaps
you'd like to try and write a fairy tale which takes on larger questions
of (political/economic/national/religious) good and evil? Perhaps
not--but you are free, if you choose, to make up a fairy tale that isn‚t
confined to the limits of your first story. Bring two copies of this
(3-4pp.) draft to class on Thursday, when we'll spend most of our time
reading and responding to what you have written, in small group

The second request I have of you is to read through all the entries in
the course forum area on our class website, describing our various
"readings" of the cover to the course packet. Look for larger patterns
in what we saw: do you see, in our explanations, for instance, an urge
toward order or disorder? What is the common ground, where the
dissonances in our understandings of what constitutes "understanding"?
We'll begin class by looking @ that material...

I was very grateful to have your company this morning, and very much
look forward to seeing you all again on Thursday. We will gather again
in that little room on the right front side of English House: Conference
Room I.

Fairy tales and truths
Name: Liz
Date: 2001-09-13 11:07:13
Link to this Comment: 116

I don't particularly agree that fairy tales or "truth" taught by life either have a really deep meaning. Fairy tales taught when we are young perhaps influence our views of right and wrong, but for me they were mostly entertainment. They instilled in me the wish to have a giant gingerbread house that I could eat and play in and not get eaten by a witch in. And frankly, "truths taught by life" bug me. Is there ever really any truth that is taugh, and unchanging? I prefer to have day-by-day realities as opposed to life-long truths.

Fairy Tales
Name: jen
Date: 2001-09-13 11:10:57
Link to this Comment: 117

Fairy tales hold a lot of truth to them in terms of our tendancy to see life in terms of black and white. In fairy tales, there is always a victorious, victimized good person and an evil person who must be destroyed, usually in some violent grotesque fashion, in order to restore the peace through the kingdom. In the last few days, I fairy tale has unfolded in the news. There are definite good people and bad people, very black and white story lines, and very little detail work in between the lines. It will be interesting to see how this one ends, hopefully with happily ever after, but fairy tales have a tendancy to border violent retaliation.

the weirdness of fairy tales
Name: Sarah frie
Date: 2001-09-13 11:11:04
Link to this Comment: 118

As a child I had no use for fairy tales. The characters in them were unrealistic in that each one wore one mask and always followed a predictable pattern cut for that character. Often the same characters were found in different stories. I particularly disliked cinderella. She was too good. The stories were too simplistic. When I read this class description, I figured that there must be something valueble and interesting about fairy tales that I had missed when I was younger. I guesse I haven't given them much thought until I read the three class assignments. I am interested in seeing what other people have to say about their relevence, maybe about their usefullness as indicators of human values.

Name: emily
Date: 2001-09-13 11:11:32
Link to this Comment: 119

I think i must have been reading the wrong fairy tales. I find the stories enjoyable, but have yet to find a fairy tale that encompasses more than I have learned in my life thus far. The stories are attractive, in that they are filled with pure justice and subtle perfection, but are also filled with abundant stereotypes. The lessons learned appear too black and white, with no room for possibilities. No one person is completely evil or perfectly innocent, as they appear in fairy tales. I enjoy the tales, but they appear too perfectly manifested to compare to real life, and what you can draw from experience.

Fairy tale truths
Name: Cathy B
Date: 2001-09-13 11:11:47
Link to this Comment: 120

Fairy Tales teach us paradigms. They give us ideals and patterned stories. If you spend time with little girls who watch a lot of Disney movies, you see reflected in their behavior the modes of action that Disney heroine express. I think they can give us something to start with, so to speak, but they're not truer than the things we learn by actually living.

Fairy Tales
Name: Chelsea Ph
Date: 2001-09-13 11:12:17
Link to this Comment: 121

Fairy tales have always been a source of intense interest for me. I am fascinated by the similarities in all tales world-wide: their uses, their morals, even their characters. The differences are as wide and varied as the cultures of the world. Emphasis is focused on different human characteristics: beauty and courage in European tales, strength in American tales, wisdom and intelligence in Slavic tales, tales of how things came to be and cautionary tales from Afica- and as many more as you can think of. I think they are our best possible learning devices, especially when we are small.

Fairy tales and the real world
Name: Laura
Date: 2001-09-13 11:12:57
Link to this Comment: 122

Once upon a time, stories were more important than they are now. There used to be very strong oral traditions in many civilizations, before there was tv and internet and all the modern technology. People used to tell stories all the time, and their stories had a purpose: to teach a lesson (or more). I think that fairy tales and mythologies were at the heart of these stories of older times. They tell about heroes and heroines who never give up in the face of impossible tasks. They do make mistakes, as well, though - they are not entirely perfect. It is always much nicer to learn a lesson from a story than from the real world because in a story it is not you that gets hurt but rather a fictional character whose actions will not affect your world but the charater's own world. Don't we wish that all life's lessons could be so easily learned? Don't we wish that September 11 were only the worst part of a fairy tale, that our hero(ine) will come forth to save the day, and lead us to a happily-ever-after? And as we recover from this shock, we learn that this is one of the hardest things about stories: no matter how eloquent their lessons are, they can never prepare us for the shock of reality. So it is important to say that while stories are wonderful, we also need to draw experiences and lessons from our own world and not the worlds of fairies and magic and happily-ever-afters.

Fairy Tales
Name: Kate Rorer
Date: 2001-09-13 11:13:36
Link to this Comment: 123

Fairy Tales captivate almost all children. They are important because they inspire the imagination, which is someting people often use to help cope with the reality of the world and allows people to escape their daily lives. Most adults don't realize this, but most people do have active imaginations, we just don't recognize it. Every time we dream, or make up a story in our head we are using our imagination. It allows us to release our emotions in a constructive way, even if we don't know that we are doing it.

Name: Flori
Date: 2001-09-13 11:14:08
Link to this Comment: 124

I've always loved fairytales. When I was young, I loved to have them read to me or watch movies, particullarly Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty. Then during the day, I would play and make believe that I was the princess that wins the prince. I never thought a lot about them. They didn't have too much meaning besides the obvious. But they were a way for me to let my imagination fly.
Now they mean something different. They are a link to my childhood. They remind me of what I used to think about and dream about.
Now, after having grown up and been given a taste of reality, I know that I cannot continue thinking the way I used to about life. I notice that my favorite stories were always the ones with the happy ending. But I have to accept that life is not always similar to a fairytale with all those "and they lived happily ever after"'s.

Fairy Tales
Name: Amanda Gle
Date: 2001-09-13 11:14:53
Link to this Comment: 125

Growing up I have always believed that fairy tales were part of life. Most people have their own version of the stories told in childhood. Each story has a character who grows up living a storybook life while also encountering problems. In the end, the stories end with "Happily Ever After." Whether or not, the very end of a person's life does end with those three words, most people have a part of their lives during which a period ends happily. I for one grew up in a fairy tale environment. My grandfather is Mr. Clean, my mother was a professional ballerina, and Paul Newman helped me when my car broke down. It's funny how things always happened as if it were a fairy tale. Despite problems, things always seemed to end up well. Fairy tales recount parts of life.

Fairy Tales vs Reality
Name: Helena
Date: 2001-09-13 11:16:21
Link to this Comment: 126

Truth taught by life.. now that's an interesting point to mull over.

Fairy tales throughout my childhood consisted of Disney-ish approaches to tales that usually told of beautiful women or men who overcome all dangers and destroy the 'Bad Guys' so they can live happily ever after. I, as a big fan of Disney's 'The Little Mermaid', was ecstatic when my father went to Denmark and actually /saw/ the mermaid's rock in Gibraltar. When he brought me the original Hans Christian Anderson version of it, I was only too willing to put it on the television immediately and watch, horrified, as the Little Mermaid turned into foam and -didn't- marry her prince charming.

That was a turning point in my life. I read the orignal story and found that not all fairy tales are indeed as sugary as they are made out to be. And when I read stories where the sweet heroine dies tragically, I found that perhaps seeing the world as Black & White isn't what was needed -- Gray was.

With all that's happened on Tuesday, I feel that loss of innocence once again. We have to learn from our lives as the characters in fairy tales do. We have to grow from our experiences and not let them drag us to some abyss of depression, despite the pain it causes us to do so. I think that this has allowed me to review, once again, my life and experiences, and has caused another turning point. Not only must I see my life, but I must also see the world as a Whole, and the different people as a single community - which should have been what I was to see since the beginning.

The Shadow Side
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2001-09-13 15:30:00
Link to this Comment: 132

I've asked my class to re-write their own fairy tales for next Thursday's class, giving space to the "shadow" side of what may have been a "Disney-ized" version the first time through. In doing so, I was remembering commentary written by Mary Gordon, who a few years ago took on the project of writing up the life of her father and found, in the process, among his own writings, evidence that he had been both a virtulent anti-Semite and pornographer. In her biography of him, The Shadow Man, she commented:

"This transformation of the ordinary into the sacred is called transubstantiation, and that was what I needed for my father's history...I wrote my father's history as one of the Lives of the Saints. By doing this, I could see my father's death not as something...without meaning. Loss, absence, the half-life of my life, weren't ordinary or purposeless. My father's life and death became part of something grand, enormous. And so mine did, too...when he died, I was a child of seven. I didn't know what I was doing. What I was doing was telling myself stories. They were richer, more colorful and more enjoyable than the texture of my daily life, which was marked by wrongness and loss....

If only he hadn't been a writer, leaving a trail....I am trying to make a resting place for him in words, a place that won't be torn apart by the words he insisted upon using: words that make me feel I have no right to love him. That I must bear witness against him....But he does not allow me, the reading daughter, the writing daughter, a place of rest...The waters of his contradictions rise around my head and I am drowning in...the sea of a daughter's shame..."

I guess, reading this, my observations are these: putting the story you have to tell (of your own life, or that of your parents, or that of us as a nation of people in shock) in the form of a fairy tale omits some aspects while exploring others, invites you both to flatten and to deepen the account you are trying to give. How can you best write the whole? Is the shape of a fairy tale the one best suited to this task?

Fairy Tales
Name: Emma
Date: 2001-09-14 13:42:26
Link to this Comment: 146

For me fairy tales, like all stories, are about making sense of and bringing order to our world according to the values and needs of a specific culture over time. This is why stories are told and re-told and why elements are constant or why they change. As in the example provided on the website, these stories can change depending on who is telling them, as when (aristocratic?) French women began using the fairy-tale form to express their view of the world, their grievances, their values. Or, for that matter, as when Anne Sexton takes on the fairy tale in a re-telling based on the contemporary, feminist consciousness of her cultural landscape. And isn't Robert Bly a cultural representative of all those males who have been at a loss about how to define their role in the wake of that feminism?

I think the 'told and re-told' fairy tales we've read represent a sort of continuity, an on-going cultural dialogue. Maybe their 'deeper meaning' comes from that sense of continuity? From those aspects of the stories we, as a culture, agree remains relevant, agree to hold on to???

Thoughts on Fairy Tales
Name: Lisa Harri
Date: 2001-09-14 14:42:06
Link to this Comment: 149

I've never been much of a fan of fairy tales. Perhaps that's because I was raised on the "Disney" versions where the characters, while beautifully colored, are relatively 1-dimensional and therefore boring and predictable.

When first introduced, the villains in these (Disney) versions are often depicted larger (and louder) than life, and are quite frightening. By the end of the story, however, these "monsters" are deflated and reduced to slapstick clowns, or otherwise neutralized. Justice is seldom part of the plot.

Grimm's tales, on the other hand, are brutally frank and justice is usually harsh and swift -- if uneven.

In Grimm's version, when Cinderella's step-sisters cut their heels off, the only feeling one has is whatever the reader is experiencing, because these characters exhibit no physical response to such an act. When the step-mother and step-father are cruel and unkind to Cinderella, the reader may feel their coldness, but again the character Cinderella doesn't notice.

In the end of the story, the birds pluck out the sisters' eyes. Is this an act of loyalty on the part of nature to Cinderella? Revenge? Or does Cinderella have a dark side and these birds are acting on her subconscious wishes? It disturbs me that the parents aren't held to the same authority. The father had denied his daughter's very existence to the prince, and the step-mother treated her harshly. Where was justice?

fairy tales
Name: Carol
Date: 2001-09-14 16:33:59
Link to this Comment: 151

I think that fairy tales can present us with a way to confront our violent or "bad" feelings and help us work through them in our imaginations--to process our thoughts on violence, good, and evil without ever having to act on hatred and violence.

When we write our own fairy tales, we can acknowledge our feelings about events and other people who played important roles in our lives, we can have them do very bad things, much worse than what actually happened--the the wicked mother, the father who is stuck in his "red" period as Robert Bly describes--and we can come away saying "yes some bad things happened to me but now I've worked through those feelings by greatly exaggerating them so that I could feel the real truth about those feelings I had as a child, but now I've been rescued and can move forward". (Wow, Anne, that's not my usual edited-down-to-the-bare-bones sentence!)

In our stories, we can punish those who mistreated us. We can't do that in our real lives because violence just begets more violence.

I'm looking forward to re-writing my story as a fairy tale this weekend.

Best to all,


Name: meg devere
Date: 2001-09-15 16:28:06
Link to this Comment: 160


The fairy tales read to me in childhood were never as much fun as Beatrix Potter or the mother goose rhymes or the left over books from the 1930’s belonging to my much older siblings about talking ponies who belonged to real children or stories like Ping. Even though these were fantastic and unreal they had more appeal than princesses and princes. Maybe they had more character development than the one-dimensional fairy tales. I didn’t know the details of the fairy tales’ protagonists’ feelings so I didn’t identify with them or want to emulate them. They didn’t actually make me feel anything. I liked feeling things even if it was sadness for pussy in the well or tom Kitten being punished by his mother or Ping being left behind. For horror I preferred the truly horrific Slovenly Peter books, books that were eventfully banned for children. Now however I am having fun turning the villains of my childhood into fairy tale witches and the heroes into fairy godparents. Maybe this is related to becoming a student at the opposite end of life to most BMC students. . I m doing things in a topsy-turvy way. The truth that I think I have learned from life is that feelings are true, no matter what others think you should or do feel. And in fairy tales we are told feelings but we are not shown them and that makes empathy with the characters rather a chore for me. I certainly don’t think villains are always all bad or that heroes are anywhere near all good. In fact most of us are a complex mixture of good and not so good motives and actions with the rare amongst us truly good as Mother Theresa or truly evil as the perpetuator of Tuesday’s atrocities. Although we all have the capacity to slide in either direction which fairy tales don’t allow us to consider. Well what a ramble. Apologies for such a meandering answer. It must be I’m getting used to my new magic wand – the computer. Ha1

The fairy tales read to me in childhood were never as much fun as Beatrix Potter or the mother goose rhymes or the left over books from the 1930’s belonging to my much older siblings about talking ponies who belonged to real children or stories like Ping. Even though these were fantastic and unreal they had more appeal than princesses and princes. Maybe they had more character development than the one-dimensional fairy tales. I didn’t know the details of the fairy tales’ protagonists’ feelings so I didn’t identify with them or want to emulate them. They didn’t actually make me feel anything. I liked feeling things even if it was sadness for pussy in the well or tom Kitten being punished by his mother or Ping being left behind. For horror I preferred the truly horrific Slovenly Peter books, books that were eventfully banned for children. Now however I am having fun turning the villains of my childhood into fairy tale witches and the heroes into fairy godparents. Maybe this is related to becoming a student at the opposite end of life to most BMC students. . I m doing things in a topsy-turvy way. The truth that I think I have learned from life is that feelings are true, no matter what others think you should or do feel. And in fairy tales we are told feelings but we are not shown them and that makes empathy with the characters rather a chore for me. I certainly don’t think villains are always all bad or that heroes are anywhere near all good. In fact most of us are a complex mixture of good and not so good motives and actions with the rare amongst us truly good as Mother Theresa or truly evil as the perpetuator of Tuesday’s atrocities. Although we all have the capacity to slide in either direction which fairy tales don’t allow us to consider. Well what a ramble. Apologies for such a meandering answer. It must be I’m getting used to my new magic wand – the computer. Ha1

The fairy tales read to me in childhood were never as much fun as Beatrix Potter or the mother goose rhymes or the left over books from the 1930’s belonging to my much older siblings about talking ponies who belonged to real children or stories like Ping. Even though these were fantastic and unreal they had more appeal than princesses and princes. Maybe they had more character development than the one-dimensional fairy tales. I didn’t know the details of the fairy tales’ protagonists’ feelings so I didn’t identify with them or want to emulate them. They didn’t actually make me feel anything. I liked feeling things even if it was sadness for pussy in the well or tom Kitten being punished by his mother or Ping being left behind. For horror I preferred the truly horrific Slovenly Peter books, books that were eventfully banned for children. Now however I am having fun turning the villains of my childhood into fairy tale witches and the heroes into fairy godparents. Maybe this is related to becoming a student at the opposite end of life to most BMC students. . I m doing things in a topsy-turvy way. The truth that I think I have learned from life is that feelings are true, no matter what others think you should or do feel. And in fairy tales we are told feelings but we are not shown them and that makes empathy with the characters rather a chore for me. I certainly don’t think villains are always all bad or that heroes are anywhere near all good. In fact most of us are a complex mixture of good and not so good motives and actions with the rare amongst us truly good as Mother Theresa or truly evil as the perpetuator of Tuesday’s atrocities. Although we all have the capacity to slide in either direction which fairy tales don’t allow us to consider. Well what a ramble. Apologies for such a meandering answer. It must be I’m getting used to my new magic wand – the computer. Ha1

fairy tales
Name: Robin Land
Date: 2001-09-15 17:46:24
Link to this Comment: 162

I think the very one-dimensional nature of fairy tale characters may be part of their strength. The characters are blanks because they don't really stand for an individual person. If they were more like the characters we see in modern novels and stories, then they might lose the dreamlike symbolism, the stark contrasts of light and shadow that have made them endure so long.
As for the truths of fairy tales - well, maybe if we're exposed to these stories often enough from a young enough age, they color the way we see the world. That way, they become true because we see the world in the context of the stories we grew up with. The relationship between truth and fairy tales might set up a sort of echo effect. The stories come out of the teller's experience of the world, and they color the hearer's experience of the world so that when the hearer grows up to be the teller, the world actually has become more like the fairy tale... umm, I'm starting to confuse myself, so if this doesn't make sense to you, don't worry - you're not alone. :)

fairy tales
Name: Louise
Date: 2001-09-16 13:48:18
Link to this Comment: 164

As a child, I didn’t read or have read to me, too many fairy tales, but I did watch Disney. Now looking back on it, it was a wonderful adventure into the land of make believe. “When you wish upon a star…”

I loved the feeling of imagining what each of the characters were feeling as they walked through scary situations, but also having the sense that I was safe and removed from any real danger. That is why; I think it is so hard for me, to accept what happened to our country this past Tuesday. The word “safe” keeps jumping out at me. I am still pondering over it… What it really means??

As a child, Disney gave me a false sense of security, about bad things happening to people. The terrorist attack on NY has shaken that childish way of thinking. For me this terrible event --was a reality check, and it seemed to tie into our class assignment…surprise, surprise… more self-discovery.

Name: Zoe Anspac
Date: 2001-09-16 18:31:41
Link to this Comment: 167

Fairry Tails

Puffer’s butt has a fairry tail.
His fairry tail tells me
wiggle, waggle, sprinkle, tou-tou,
It’ll all be o.k., my love.
When the darkness
takes the tower down.
Come see my wiggle tale.
Ferry away on my softie nose.
Wiggle, waggle, sprinkle, tou-tou,
My fairry tail is here for you.

For you, fare you, fair-y, foo;
It’s all o. k. if I love you.
Even death cannot scare you,
When you see my tale in you.
The tale’s inside
It comes to you
Wiggle, waggle, sprinkle, tou-tou.

Before the boom
Before the crash
The tale is fast
It gets to you.
The tale my love
will come to you.
So fast it moves, so fast
It flies
Across the space,
Before the angry
Hits your face.

Behind your eyes
It comforts you
Beatle, Battle, Buggle, Boo;
My furry tale will comfort you.

Beating tail, beating tale,
Will come for you.

The news
the news.

The sound
Not the words.

Hear the Big
See the Small.
The sounding words,
The sounding worlds,
the tickle In,
the Trickling.

Grab the Reel,
Grab the Real.
Take the Feel
from the Real.

Take the Sound,
Make it drowned.

What is lost?
What is cost?
Can you tell
the news of hell?

Understanding the cover
Name: Sharon Burgmayer
Date: 2001-09-16 22:15:14
Link to this Comment: 174

This link:
will take you to a movie that tells the story of how I came to create the
original "understanding" painting that was slightly changed for the cover of your book.

This movie gives one story, the first story, of the painting's "birth". In the original story, I "saw" the pieces moving in one direction only (as you'll see).

You, and others with whom I have shared the painting, have told subsequent
stories that have multiplied the dimensions of "understanding" that can be
extracted from it. From these stories I, too, now appreciate the ambiguity of pieces moving in both directions.
How you see it depends where you are. (Not unlike life.)
(The quote "Understanding is...." is from Werner Erhard.)

Name: Stephanie
Date: 2001-09-17 17:59:19
Link to this Comment: 188

I am still waiting for my prince charming.

Fairy Tales and Truth
Name: Eveline A.
Date: 2001-09-17 23:00:49
Link to this Comment: 195

I am by no means an expert on Schiller having just recently gleaned some information about his life through an encyclopaedic source. However, from what I can gather about the oppressive times in which he lived (dukes in the 1700's on a whim still had the power to imprison a law-abiding citizen), this was a man who despite the inequities he saw around him was inspired to write the "Ode to Joy" which Beethoven later set to his 9th Symphony.

Since freedom of speech was not welcomed in Schiller's day (or even sometimes these days, particularly under suppressive regimes), and it could be dangerous to speak openly about a politically or socially sensitive issue, the fairy tale was a very useful medium to get one's point across without offending those in power. While being truthful in real life may not have been socially acceptable, the fairy tale could disguise "truths" or "reality" by using symbolism which did not always have an obvious interpretation. Thus, it could safely explore a wide range of taboo subjects - from politics to sexuality to psychology.

As a child, up until the age of about ten, Grimm's Book of Fairy Tales enchanted me. At that age, I didn't seem to take much notice of the violence inherent in many of the stories. My child's imagination was captivated with the magic of far away places, impossible feats such as climbing glass mountains, and the beautiful, virtuous or mysterious characters that peopled these stories. I wasn't mature enough to understand all of the symbolism and shades of gray. Even so, these fairy tales left an undeniable influence: moral lessons such as being good, compassionate, and true especially under trying circumstances, instilled in me a life-long love for "higher values" (perhaps for lack of any religious training during my early years!).

Getting back to Schiller, I find it inspiring that although affected by the social injustices of his time, he remained an idealist and could write with utter conviction that "alle menschen werden bruder" (all men will become brothers) - which, despite the tragedy of the past week, and even though it could take many generations, may yet be realized one day.

Schiller's quote
Name: gail decou
Date: 2001-09-18 00:08:07
Link to this Comment: 200

As i read, and re-read, and read again the quote by Schiller, I'm trying to understand what he means by finding "deeper meaning" in fairy tales. maybe I'm over-analyzing this somewhat simple quote, but I keep trying to figure his meaning. I tend to lump fairy tales in the same category as parables, and morality plays etc. Short, simple stories meant to teach a lesson about good/evil, right/wrong. They have an oral tradition, and in that sense, their telling reveals something about the teller and the culture and times from which the stories emanate. For example, when fairy tales were first told by women, women were the main characters, more active, clever etc. When fairy tales began to be written down by men(the Bros. Grimm, Pourrault), they made the male roles more heroic. Is this what Schiller means by deeper meaning?
To me, it seems that just living our day to day lives in this world provides more opportunity for examining the deeper meaning of life-

Fairy tales
Name: Marie-Laur
Date: 2001-09-18 08:56:05
Link to this Comment: 202

In the process of connecting a life of learning to myths and stories of the wild archetype, it seems to me that fairy tales can act as an essential nutrient for the human spirit . This nourishment is needed to brake off the rationalized mind and mechanism developed over time. When aging one learns and develops a mental disposition to find plausible but mostly untrue reason for situation that had appeared dubious in the outer world. where as in fairy tales the characters unfold their life in a rather natural rhythm and they become self realized. Therefore fairy tales not only open a window to the imaginary lands but they also have meaning at a higher level. Fairy tales are the root canals that connects the outer world to the inner world.

anne sexton's psychiatrist note
Name: Carol
Date: 2001-09-18 15:02:27
Link to this Comment: 208

Anne, and fellow CSem students,

Today in class I mentioned that Anne Sexton's psychiatrist's notes were published several years ago and that they had been released by her daughter. As often happens, my memory was not quite right. Her daughter did release the notes to Diane Middlebrook, Anne Sexton's biographer. That act stirred up a lot of controversy regarding the privacy of medical records.

I did a search on "Anne Sexton Diane Middlebrook" and found that there's a lot of stuff on the web about it. Here's one place to go for information:


Name: carol
Date: 2001-09-18 17:42:21
Link to this Comment: 217

another link regarding Anne Sexton's psychiatrist's notes:

Fairy Tales
Name: Stacy
Date: 2001-09-18 21:27:24
Link to this Comment: 221

Friedrich Schiller's comment regarding fairy tales is valid in some respects and not quite so valid in others. On the one hand, fairy tales do provide a definitive message: they show children virtuous, appropriate behavior, contrasted with evil, inappropriate behavior. In the end, the virtuous receive some sort of reward, albeit at times on a small scale, while the evil pay the consequences for their malicious ways, thereby teaching children the value of moral behavior. Thus deep meaning can reside in fairy tales, a meaning that spares the reader - the child - from experiencing "the hard way" the mistakes that the immoral characters make; they see what happens in the tales so they do not make the same errors themselves.

On the other hand, this is largely theoretical, so the actual value children derive from fairy tales may not excede that derived from life experiences. True, as older students, we are taught to look for the moral in the story, but can the same be said for children? Do they grasp the meaning behind the tale or does the storyteller's well-intentioned message slip right over their heads? Especially in this day and age, when fairy tales and the like are "dumbed down" so that they will be "appropriate" for children, the original moral is often smothered in the attempt to increase the entertainment quality. As a result, it seems that fairy tales have lost some of their value as a primary learning tool for children. Furthermore, children of today seem to have grown so accustomed to passive entertainment that, even if the message were more blatant, they might be immune to it. In this respect, I do not feel that children's fairy tales hold greater meaning than life's lessons.

red rose girls
Name: Carol
Date: 2001-09-20 16:43:32
Link to this Comment: 244

I was telling several of the McBrides about an opening I attended at the Woodmere last weekend, and they suggested that I post the information on this site. It's a show of illustrations by The Red Rose Girls--Violet Oakley, Jessie Willcox Smith, and I forget the other one's name--who studied with Howard Pyle at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. They illustrated lots of children's books, so many will recognize some of the illustrations from their old books of fairy tales (especially McBrides of a certain age).

Here's a review of the book about them. I've ordered a copy from Amazon and will share it when it comes.

The Woodmere is in Chestnut Hill on Germantown Avenue. Don't know their hours, but it's a fun show.

Editorial Reviews
Alice Carter's The Red Rose Girls traces the lives of three talented artists: Jessie Willcox Smith, Elizabeth Shippen Green, and Violet Oakley. After studying together under the sympathetic guidance of Howard Pyle in Philadelphia, the three (all youngest siblings) decided that they could work best away from the distractions of the city. In 1900, they established their home and studios in a rambling country house called the Red Rose Inn, leading Pyle to dub them the "Red Rose Girls." Strengthened by the emotional support and artistic inspiration that each gave the others, their careers blossomed. Green was a successful illustrator, especially for Harper's Magazine; Smith produced charming portraits of children; and Oakley was famous for huge murals commissioned to decorate state buildings. With their friend Henrietta Cozens acting as "housewife," their unconventional living arrangement attracted much interest, not all of it positive. Carter, a professor at San Jose State University, claims that it freed them from the domestic responsibilities and isolation that could cripple an artist, especially a female artist in pre-emancipated society. For eight years the four led an almost idyllic existence of genteel lifestyle and artistic productivity, but eventually the group disintegrated, with Green's marriage causing an especially painful break. Carter's sympathetic, easy prose perfectly complements the women's idealized art and their uncomplicated belief in the goodness of life. Combining delightful photographs of their domestic lives with examples of their work, The Red Rose Girls re-creates a vanished world of optimism and grace. --John Stevenson
Publisher's Weekly
"...fascinating...the exquisite illustrations are worth the price of admission."

constructing a bunch of tunnels
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2001-09-20 23:40:29
Link to this Comment: 245

As you all work toward the final revisions of the series of drafts you've been laboring over the past few weeks, I thought it might interest you to hear a snatch of description from another Bryn Mawr professor (the chairman of the English Department, Michael Tratner), about his own writing process. He and I were e-mailing one another back and forth in the middle of August about our book-writing projects, and (at my request) he said I was welcome to share w/ you what he wrote:

My writing has proceeded at a good clip (I have about 150 pages now) but it is all sort of chaotic. For some reason, I cannot bring myself to actually get anything fully written out, so I have 20 page parts of several different chapters and two or three possible overarching structures and introductions. It is sort of odd; I believe there is a large point worth exploring for a whole book here but I don't quite know what it is. Kind of like digging in a cave hoping to come upon a vein of valuable material, and
wondering if there is any value in having constructed a bunch of tunnels. I envy the scientists, who can conduct experiments and publish the results when the experiments fail so others who might think of the same experiments can know what happened.

Michael's description of his own writing process seems to me a wonderfully apt way of describing the way we've been working in this course. So get going on that tunnel-digging!

For my McBrides: here are your more explicit instructions--
Your assignment for next Thursday is to re-write a paper (whichever of the 3 you've done so far that you feel has the most potential for re-writing/would be most worthwhile/valuable for you to re-write) and to submit it to me along w/ an analysis. This can be a Bettelheim-type interpretation, explicating the ways in the which the story speaks to the unconscious/psychic needs of "the child" (or hey: of your professor. or of yourself. or of the nation. or of....). Feel invited, in your analysis, to consider the limits of the fairy tale form (or of storytelling more largely conceived) to explore questions and issues (and hey: to offer answers!) that seem important to you (particularly, perhaps, w/ regard to these matters of "learning"--what it is/how it is done; or particularly w/ regard to the overwhelming events of the past 10 days, and the ways in which they may have unhinged our understanding of what consitutes understanding). Think especially about the implications of how you choose to "close"
your tale; what is your sense of what its ending accomplishes (or wants to accomplish)? Your analysis also might productively look more generally @ the form your writing/your sentences/your tone takes--what are you aiming for/what have you achieved/what not quite by the particular kinds of "shaping" you have chosen?

Enjoy the exploration, knowing that I very much look forward to seeing what you will discover enroute.

Name: Carol
Date: 2001-09-21 16:51:18
Link to this Comment: 250

I forgot to mention the connection between the Red Rose Girls and Bryn Mawr--they drew the illustrations for the Bryn Mawr calendar. Many of the paintings in the show are on loan from Bryn Mawr.

the limits of storytelling
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2001-09-21 18:05:38
Link to this Comment: 252

My McBride session was wrestling in Thursday's class w/ the limits of storytelling, particularly w/ the ways in which OLD stories (like fairy tales, w/ their clear demarcation of "good" from "evil")--but actually ALL stories, w/ their impulse to shape and organize experience--can limit our understanding; they provide us w/ ready-made accounts that may fail to open up new possibilities for how we might see--even re-shape--the world. In this morning's (9/21/01)Philadelphia Inquirer, I found an apt example of this. The article, called "Putting a face to terror may have a downside," is by Anthony Wood, and reads, in part

The scope and particulars of the terrorist network that destroyed the World Trade Center are murky and obscure. But..."Americans like to put a face on the enemy; they prefer a tidy story line--begining, middle and preferably an end....American foreign policy has always had a need to moralize....It has been unable to function unless it's in terms of good and evil....This is difficult. It's a shadowy network. It brings together people from all regions of the world and different nationalities"....Clark McCauley, a psychologist @ Bryn Mawr College, said that identifying bin Laden was a desperate effort to blame someone--anyone. "Any kind of answer to what's going on is better than none," he said.

We are the stories we believe
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2001-09-23 07:23:16
Link to this Comment: 259

A similar comment appeared in today's (9/23/01) NYTimes Magazine, in a little piece called "The Villians" by Robert Stone:

"We confined by our narrative as the murderers are confined by theirs. History is a story we have accepted; our lives are the stories we tell ourselves about the experience of life....The unreality we experienced on Sept. 11 was of something fictive. We witnessed, in the elemental horror that our conscious minds denied,the violent assault of one narrative system upon another....But in various ways, our internal narrative, our social and political foundations, circumscribe our capacity for revenge. The internal narrative of our enemies, their absolute ruthless devotion to an invisible world, makes them strong....The power of narrative is shattering, overwhelming. We are the stories we believe; we are who we believe we are. All the reasoning of the world cannot set us free from our mythic systems. We live and die by them."

The conception of this course, of course, is more hopeful than this; it maintains that, via reasoning, we CAN alter the stories we tell, and thereby the world we live in. Stay tuned.

more art
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2001-09-23 07:35:06
Link to this Comment: 260

one last bit, then i'll let others talk for a while....

helen rehl, the english dept. secretary, who keeps me constantly supplied w/ info about the feminist art world, just passed on to me an article from "women in the arts" called "rapunzel let down your hair." it reports on a new exhibit running now through 1/27/02 @ nmwa, the national musuem of women's art in d.c., which juxtaposes 54 original illustrations of "rapunzel" by 8 contemporary children's book illustrators w/ 41 printed versions of the story published in the last 150 years in English, French, German and Dutch:

"We begin w/ a fairy tale, a children's story, but as we delve deeply into the drama, we discover layer upon layer of nuance, detail, and was both fascinating and challenging to try to reconcile those elements of the tale that children find appealing w/...the many unanswered questions and important issues related to feelings, relationships, and values that only adults can fully appreciate. I supppose that is why we never really outgrow our love affiar with fairy tales" (etc. etc. etc.)

so...anyone passing through d.c. in the next four months? go have a look.

fairy tale
Name: Carol
Date: 2001-09-26 13:05:57
Link to this Comment: 299

Princess Carolina

Once long ago in the Kingdom of Kentuck lived Princess Carolina. Carolina was tall and fair and had especially beautiful feet with lovely high arches and 10 perfectly proportioned toes.
The castle where the Princess lived with her father and mother, the King and Queen, and her three brothers, the Princes, was rundown and remote. The King could not afford servants, so he treated the Queen and the Princess as his and the Princes’ servants. “Draw my bath!,” he would roar to whichever was nearby. “Where’s my socks?” he would roar at the Queen every morning.
The Princes were known far and wide for their skills and heroism in the Games they played with their big wooden sticks and small hard balls. “Have you washed and ironed the Princes’ uniforms that they will wear this day in the Gaming Competition?” roared the King to Princess Carolina. “Yes, Father, I am just finishing the third uniform” said Carolina. “You’re too slow!” said the King, stomping off. As Carolina continued to iron, she noted the beautiful stitches, the raised embroidered numbers, and the fine cloth that the uniforms were made of. In contrast, her plain white blouse and shorts were made of thin cotton.
The King and Queen were unhappy with their only daughter. One day the King demanded that Carolina support the Princes in their Games by becoming a Leader of the Cheers. The Princess didn’t want to do that. The Leaders of the Cheers wore silly short skirts and shouted silly slogans through bullhorns. She refused. The Princess wanted art and beauty in her life. To punish Carolina for disobeying him, the King forced the Queen to whack off the beautiful little pinky toe of the Princesses right foot. The Queen didn’t want to do it, but the King demanded it, so it must be done.
“Alas, my foot is now ugly,” the Princess thought silently as she watched drops of bright red blood fall onto the white tiles of the kitchen floor. “Now my foot will never fit perfectly into the glass slippers that Princes use to find their brides. I’ll be the King’s slave forever.” After the Queen fled in horror from the kitchen, Caroline carefully picked up her severed toe, lovingly wrapped it in a bit of silk, and put it into a little box. She did not cry. Outside under a flowering cherry tree, where she escaped each night when the rest of the castle was asleep, where she gazed up at the bright white stars against the blackness and wished for beauty and art and maybe even for a Prince, she buried her poor little toe. The Princess came back night after night to dream of herself far, far away, in a Kingdom full of art and beauty.
On Sundays at the castle, cousins, aunts, and uncles gathered to feast around the big table. Chicken was always served. There was no need to call it “Fried Chicken” because it was always fried. Just call it “Chicken.”
To prepare the chickens, the Queen and her sisters would chase the chickens around the henhouse until they caught some nice plump ones. With hatchets in hand, they would put the squawking chickens head on the chopping block and, with a quick chop, the chicken’s head would drop to the ground. The chicken’s body would hop up and run around the chicken yard spurting bright red blood on its white feathers. The womenfolk would then scald the chickens until all their feathers could be plucked off to lay their moist pink skin bare. After all the chickens were fried up extra crisp, the potatoes mashed, and the green beans cooked to death, the menfolk would take their places at the table. The women would serve the food to the men and hover around the table filling and refilling their plates with food and their goblets with sweet iced tea. After all their royal highnesses arose from the table to smoke cigarettes and get out their whittling knives, the womenfolk would sit at the table to eat the leftovers. Instead of sweet tea, they always drank black coffee with their food. Never with milk. It seemed to the Princess that the Queen and her sisters were always happier on Sundays than on any other day of the week, sitting around the table talking, eating, and drinking coffee.
Carolina was happier on Sundays too because, relieved of some of her kitchen duties, she was free to play with her cousins. They would climb and jump in the hayloft, swim in the creek, and tell each other stories. One of the stories Carolina’s cousin told her was that all the males in the kingdom had little sticks and balls between their legs, extra equipment that they were very proud of. This, she explained, has something to do with the Games they played with their big wooden sticks and little hard balls. If a Prince was victorious in the Games, it meant that the little sticks and balls between their legs were very powerful, the best in the land, and they were greatly admired. “Why do the Leaders of the Cheers wear their silly skirts and cheer them on?, asked the Princess. “Because” said the cousin, “the Leaders of the Cheers have seen their Princes’ little sticks and balls and have maybe even touched them.” “That’s why they cheer their Princes on at the Games. They want everyone to know that their Princes have the biggest and best sticks and balls across the land.”
“Oh, I see. It’s all about the men again. There’s no glory in being a Leader of the Cheers. I’m glad I refused, even if I had to sacrifice my little pinky toe,” said Carolina.
One Sunday evening, after all the chickens had been consumed, all the tea and coffee were gone, the cigarettes were smoked, and the whittled shavings of cedar sticks were swept up, Princess Carolina went outside to sit under her flowering cherry tree and dream her lovely dreams. As she looked up into the starry night, she saw one of the stars fall from the sky and turn into a perfect white dove. The dove perched on a branch of her tree. “The key is in the Green Castle,” the dove said. “But how can I get there?” said the Princess. “You’ll see. It will happen,” said the dove as it flew back up into the starry sky.
The very next morning, the King entered the Queen’s bedchambers to find her dead in her bed. Her heart had been plucked out. There it lay against the white sheets, a glob of bleeding red heart surrounded by a few stray white feathers.
The King was despondent. He was worried about who would draw his baths, find his socks, prepare his meals. He knew that Carolina would be too slow to do all of that and care for the Princes’ uniforms. He determined immediately to leave the castle and travel across the land until he found a new wife.
The King of Kentuck after searching far and wide found his new bride, a widowed Queen who lived in the Green Castle in the Kingdom of PennsWoods. After they were married, the King and his new Queen sent for Carolina and her brothers, the Princes. Carolina packed all the fine uniforms and all of Carolina’s white kitchen blouses and shorts and traveled seven days to reach their new home.
Carolina worried during every day of the journey, because she had heard stories about wicked stepmothers. When they finally arrived at the gates of the Green Castle, the Princess was amazed to see that the castle was three stories high, the kingdom full of chariots and beautifully dressed men and women, and most pleasingly that her new stepmother was kind and good. She was also rich and had servants to prepare the food and to keep the princes Gaming uniforms clean and pressed. Carolina was suddenly hopeful that she might find here in this Green Castle the art and beauty she had dreamed of. She realized that she would have to learn the language of this new land, which was very different from that spoken in the Kingdom of Kentuck. She noticed also that they roasted their chickens, and that now she would have to say “Fried Chicken” or “Roasted Chicken” if she wanted to be understood. It is “ice-ing” on top of a cake, not “aah-sin,” she said over and over. Carolina practiced speaking their language until she was good enough.
One thing the Princess admired about her new stepmother was her ability to make beautiful music with a big stick. Carolina had no idea that something of beauty could come from one of the big wooden sticks. She had seen them used only in the Games. One day after listening entranced by the notes, Carolina asked her stepmother what the stick was. “It’s called a bassoon, and it’s made from carved zebrawood. It has holes poked into the wood in certain places,” the stepmother said. “When I blow into this tube and put my fingers over the right holes, music comes out the other end.” The stepmother then placed a beautiful piece called “Red River Valley” for Carolina. It was wonderful.
One day while exploring the grounds of the Green Castle, Carolina discovered an ivy-covered tower in a courtyard. She tried to open the door, but it was locked. “The key is in the Green Castle,” she remembered the white dove saying to her. The Princess rushed into the castle to find her stepmother and excitedly asked her about the ivy-covered tower. Producing the golden key kept hung on a white silk rope, the stepmother explained that in the tower was a room called the Library, which housed Books, a place to keep written words of wisdom on paper. “There are ideas and pictures in the Books. Go see for yourself,” said the stepmother.
Carolina was very excited. She rushed to the tower, placed the key in the lock, and ran up the steps to the Library. It was a quiet place with rows and rows of Books and down-stuffed chairs to sit on. She started leafing through the books she found on the shelves. She discovered a whole set of stories about a Princess Nancy from the Kingdom of Drew, who had her own open-top chariot and drove freely about the land picking up cute Princes and taking them with her on her adventures. She found another volume called “Gone With the Wind,” about Princess Scarlett from the far off Kingdom of Tara. Tara was in the South, near the Kingdom of Kentuck, so Carolina couldn’t wait to read Scarlett’s story. Every day for the next twelve years, Princess Carolina went to the ivy-covered tower and chose a volume from the shelves. She was happy to finally have beauty and art in her life.
The King of Kentuck and his three Princes, however, had not come to such a good end. One day the King was served his Chicken Roasted instead of Fried. As he roared at the cook for preparing the wrong kind of chicken, he choked to death. The Princes found that without their father to urge them on they could no longer competed and win in the Games. They were forced to become fat salesmen of the big wooden sticks and balls needed to play the Games.
Widowed again, the good stepmother joined an opera company and moved to the New Kingdom of York, leaving the Green Castle and all the Books to Carolina, who found herself with everything she had longed for---except, of course, a proper Prince.

So, dear reader, this is what the Princess wants to happen next. She wants to meet a Knight,a Prince, or maybe even a kind Frog, perhaps one who has knowledge of medicine or science, who can fashion a little prosthetic right pinky toe. He will place the prosthesis on Carolina’s toe and slip her again-lovely foot into a size 41 Birkenstock sandal. It will fit perfectly and they will live together happily ever after.

PS Thanks to Stephanie and Meg, whose words/ideas I borrowed (stick and Frog). Hope that's OK!

her shrink's notes
Name: Carol
Date: 2001-09-26 15:53:14
Link to this Comment: 308

Psychiatric Patient Records
Dr. Cope-Land

Patient: Princess Carolina

Sept 1. Patient (Pt.) Princess w/symptoms of mild depression--sleep disorder, dwells on bad news, phobias/fears of wild animals, hatchets, blood. Aversion to eating chicken, esp. fried.

Pt. neatly dressed in long expensive velvet gown, wears attractive crown on long flowing hair. Employed in publishing biz. 3 children--boys. Affect normal. Mood somewhat sad. Concentration and attention seem good. States symptoms began few months earlier after family visit to faraway kingdom. Pt. claims feelings “stirred up” by visit.

Dr. C: Tell me about your childhood. Normal delivery? Any early illnesses? Good relationships with parents and sibs? Toilet training at normal age?

Princess C: Born at home on farm. Healthy. “Normal” family relationships. Out-house trained at normal age.

Dr. C: Any eating disorders?

Princess C: States she never liked fried chicken. But will eat anything else

Dr. C: (Note to self: she is carrying a few extra pounds.)

Dr. C: umm….our hour is just abt. up. Here’s a prescription I’d like you to try.

Rx: 100 mg Zoloft, tid. Reg. exercise. Return visit l wk

Wk 2:

Dr. C: How are you feeling?

Princess C: Feeling little better--thinks Zoloft is kicking in

Dr. C: Let’s talk more about yr. family. You say it was “normal” upbringing?

Princess C: Father ruled castle, mother weak/submissive. 3 Princes who played baseball. Parents pressure Princess to become cheerleader. Pt refuses, mother is forced by father to chop off Pt’s little toe as punishment. Father treats Queen/Princess as his servants. Father “roars” commands. One recurring command for Princess to iron Princess uniforms. Father thought her “too slow.” Pt. states that she frequently sat under flowing cherry tree/dreams of art, beauty, a Prince.

Dr. C: (Notes to self: Gender issue, In deep denial re “normal”, Wild animal roars, Simpleton theme, and definitely was a virgin)

Dr C: Did you ever notice any families who were “different” from yrs?

Princess C: Pt responds that when her clan moved to a faraway Northern kingdom she noticed that family dynamics different there. Pt states that fathers there loved and respected their daughters, that boy Princes helped around the house, that mothers were strong and got to make some of the decisions. Noted that none of her new friends had to so sock and bath duties, iron b-ball uniforms.

Dr. C: How did you feel about yr new friends and their families?

Princess C: States she wished she belonged to their families. They spoke with nice accent, bought their chickens already cut up, roasted them. They also had books to escape into.

Dr C: What kind of books?

Princess C: Pt responds that she read lots of books after moving to the Green Castle. States that she liked Nancy Drew, Gone with the Wind, Of Human Bondage.

Dr C: ( Note to self: Hmm--all strong women well aware of power of inner resources.)

Dr C: Umm, our hour is just about up.

Rx: >Zoloft to 150 mg tid. More exercise, Return visit 1 wk.

Week 3:

Princess C: states feeling “much better.” Has been wondering if anything in her childhood could be causing her symptoms?

Dr. C: Tell me more…

Princess C: states recurring childhood nightmares about bloody scenes--chickens with heads chopped off, globs of bleeding hearts, drops of blood on a kitchen floor. Pt states that it was the women of her clan who had to do all the bloody work. They gave blood for their men but no honor or glory was given back. States that when men give blood they are honored--given medals. Why aren’t women seen as heroes? All that bloody work, and they didn’t even get to sit down to Sunday dinner until the men were finished.

Dr. C: Is that why you don’t like fried chicken? Umm, tell me more.

Princess C: You’re probably right

Wk 4:

Dr. C: And how are you doing?

Princess C: reports “sleeping like a baby” Exercise seems to be helping.

Dr C: Suggest we talk more abt childhood. What was sister like?

Princess C: responds that she played bassoon. Sister used talent as way to escape castle. Pt wanted her own way to escape castle. Loved her sister but was nevertheless jealous of her talent. Pt. dreamed of being able to play piano. Sister also didn’t want to be cheerleader and was resentful of princes—that’s why she found her own stick to play with.

Dr C: (Note to self: Ah-Hah! Connection between baseball bat and bassoon.)

Princess C: reflects that maybe Books have been her “escape and rescue.” Her “prince.” Humm.

Dr. C: Can we talk about love life?

Princess C: states difficulty finding Prince. Has tried a couple of them but none just right. Admits to fantasy abt Prince or even Frog who can make her a toe and slip her foot into a perfectly fitting size 41 Birkenstock.

Dr C: (Note to self: Princess has big feet!)

Dr C: Will you be happy then?

Princess C: States that is not what she expects from her love relationship. States that we must draw on our inner resources before we can move outward and form meaningful relationships with other people. We must be strong and hopeful and use a stick for support along the way if we need it.

Dr. C: Well our hour is just about up. I’ll see you next week.

Rx: Continue Zoloft, plenty of exercise, run personal ad for potential suitor.

Prognosis: Pt. Shd. Do well w/current regimen. Recognizes that she is resourceful/strong. Has acknowledged that weird family was dysfunctional. Pt. has hope for future. Long rest at quiet place would be helpful. I’ll tell her abt. the castle @Bryn Mawr.

Date: 2001-09-26 20:13:25
Link to this Comment: 311

College sem I fairy tale2 Meg Devereux

Once upon a time, a handsome sea captain retired from the sea, and moved with his young playful wife to a small farm way far away in the countryside. Late in life they were sent a child, a girl whom they called Meggie. She was born with eyes that shone with spirit, wisdom and soul. Her parents loved her very much, but they were busy and forgot to look deeply into her eyes.
Meggie wore corduroy overalls, sturdy brown shoes, and a brown jacket that had once belonged to her brother. Her curly hair was wild and her fingernails were ragged and not especially clean. One day she went off to school. There she saw little girls dressed in frocks all covered with flowers and with smooth white collars. The little girls’ hair was neatly brushed and parted into smooth curls and held in place by shiny gold barrettes. And their fingernails were tidy and clean. Meggie was happy though to play with the boys and didn’t think she needed a dress or barrettes. After a time, however, she longed for a dress and smooth hair. She went to her busy mother.
Her mother could sail a boat, shoot a gun, milk a cow, ride or drive a horse, pitch hay, clean a fish, pluck a fowl, but combing a child’s hair, finding the part for a barrette, and conjuring up a dress with flowers were beyond her. Meggie would stand next to a window in the farmhouse and wrap herself in the old curtains that had once hung in the family’s grander houses and pretend she was dressed for a ball. Seeing her at play, her mother remembered a childhood friend who lived in the City to the North, home to a huge bell called Liberty. She put pen to paper. Soon a large parcel arrived and what do you think?
In side the big brown box were four beautiful dresses all covered in flowers of the most delicate and yet brilliant hues. Each dress had a perfectly stitched white collar, puffy sleeves, a beautiful full sash and the finest embroidered smocking all over its bodice. As her mother handed her the dresses, she whispered the words “Liberty lawn”: soft as silky down to the touch and fit for a princess. In fact the dresses had come from a princess who lived in a palace of marble floors and liveried servants. These dresses were her own daughter’s out grown frocks, sewn just for her in a foreign land.
Meggie wore her new dresses every day even to play alone on the farm. They were a little big because she was thin as a rail and the princess’s daughter was plump and round, but with the big sashes wrapped around her waist twice, the dresses were almost perfect. When Meggie twirled and whirled in the dresses the skirts became full-belled kaleidoscopes of color and entranced her with their richness. She would twirl and whirl. Twirl. Whirl. Twirl. Whirl Twirl. Whirl. Liberty. Liberty. Liberty.
When she was 12, Meggie learnt to ride the farm horse. She galloped over fields, soared over fences and streams racing to find the beginning of the wind, the edge of other lands, the endless blue of the sea and the place where the world ends and the universe begins.
When she turned 15, she had two visitors. Her Fairy Godmother, Hilda, was a tall thin crone swathed in dark earth-colored strips of velvet and crushed silk. Her gray and black hair was wild, her eyes wilder. Hilda told tales of the real world, stranger often than those of fantasy. From her, Meggie learned to love stories and history, indistinguishable in their richness. The second visitor was Fairy Godmother Nancy, round and soft and dressed in gossamer with little lights all around her hem. Nancy spoke to Meggie of her friends, the wise fairies and the elves who lived all over the gardens and of beauty all around. From her, Meggie learned to love the mystical and the beautiful.
Meggie grew to womanhood and journeyed to a far off land where those long ago twirling, whirling, Liberty dresses had their beginnings. She visited castles, palaces and cathedrals. She met people from many lands of different faiths, color and customs. She drank in new ideas, sights, thoughts, and explored tiny corners and open moors of the landscape. She married a young squire in the far off land and lived there.
The squire then took her back to the land of her birth, to the City to the North, home of the bell called Liberty. Meggie learned the ways of the city and its history. She donned antique garb and guided visitors through its old streets and showing them the bell called Liberty and the birthplace of her land’s liberty. She loved the mystery of the city and its people. Though whirling had become a bit beyond her by then, she sometimes twirled in her antique dress. Although it was made of dull green homespun, she remembered the magic in the Liberty lawn of her youth.
Then the squire from the far off land left her for another. This felt a bit like Liberty. But not as she had imagined it.
In time, she worked in huge palaces of learning which housed treasures of art and science. This felt a bit like Liberty. But not quite as she had imagined it.
Eventually she met a prince of the city and married him with a bishop’s blessing. This felt a bit more like Liberty. But again not quite as she had imagined it.
Meggie and the prince were sent three beautiful children. This felt like Liberty. Just as she had imagined it.
Their first-born was a girl. She had eyes that danced with her spirit. In them her mother and father saw the world’s spirit. The second born was a son. He had eyes that shone with his wisdom. In them his mother and father saw the world’s wisdom. The third born was yet another son. He had eyes that burned with his soul. In them his mother and father saw the world’s soul. Their parents named them Liberty, Liberty, and Liberty for when they looked deeply into the children’s eyes they felt a love so great and strong they were all, parents and children, set free.
Meggie dressed her daughter in Liberty dresses which were actually quite precious and caused some hardship for the family. But Meggie wanted her always to have Liberty. Her sons she dressed in sailor suits. Around their necks each wore a silken lanyard attached to a small silver whistle. These costumes too were precious and a bit beyond the family’s means. Nonetheless it was important to Meggie that the boys have the same sense of Liberty.
The children climbed trees, camped in their big wood, sailed their little skiffs on the lake, rode their shaggy ponies over the meadows and through the streams. They laughed and sang and whistled all day long. Their beautiful and rich clothes were often mended by their mother who loved their Liberty but sometimes sighed and scolded about the tears and rents.
The children loved their mother as all children do. Because they didn’t want her to be sad or cross, they soon stayed inside even on the balmiest days. They rarely left their third floor nursery at the top of the house. They put puzzles together. They read the big picture books. They painted pictures of the out of doors. They took turns on their big window seat just gazing out the window down at the wood, and over the meadows and the streams. Their cheeks paled. Their eyes dimmed. Gradually their wistful gazing turned to sleep, deeper and deeper sleep. Even Maggie’s kisses could not wake them.
Meggie was distraught. She brought them sweet treats from the oven. They could not smell them. She brought them new kittens from the stable. They could not stroke them. She brought them new stories about pirates and princes. They could not hear them. She brought them pretty pictures of far off lands. They could not see them. She told them silly riddles. They could not laugh. In her sadness, she opened their wardrobe and there all neatly mended and pressed were their dresses and sailor suits. Meggie stroked each one and let her tears fall. Silently she wished her children had just come into the house from the meadows with smiles and laughter and new tears and rents in their clothing. As she held the fabric in her hands, the flowers on the dresses began to bloom afresh, and the little whistles began to sing.
She turned to her children with these clothes in her arms. She saw their cheeks blush with pink, their eyelids flutter, their eyes open and their faces break into smiles and life. Next they danced out from under their counterpanes. As their mother smiled, they threw on the dress and the suits and raced downstairs and out the door into the world. As Meggie was watching closely, she saw: the spirit, wisdom and soul burning again in their young eyes as they dashed past her. And if their mother was listening closely she might have heard the whispered refrain, “Liberty. Liberty. Liberty.”

Bruno Bettelheim stated that fairy tales help children meet their psychic needs by helping the child “to transcend the confines of a self centered existence”. 1 He believed that fairy tales help a child to develop his intellect, emotions, imagination, and aspirations and help him recognize his problems and anxieties.2 In short he felt meaning in life will be obtained by becoming acquainted with fairy tales at an early age. Bettelheim seemed to believe fairy tales would set a child’s feelings in order by providing archetypes for dependence, fear, love, anger, adventurousness, competence, jealousy, loneliness, and abandonment.3 They, he inferred, teach children the truth of their lives.4 Fairy tales, Bettelheim asserted confirmed children’s complex and varied feelings and furthermore promised them optimism in less than happy life situations.5 In fact, he felt that the upbeat message contained in fairy tale made them “love gifts”.6 Children deprived of these stories might feel disoriented and abandoned. Children reared on fairy tales understand true justice and never feel abandoned.7
Bettelheim felt that most successful fairy tales consist of an abandoned innocent who suffers betrayal and torment at the hand of step family and witches, is saved by a fairy godmother, fights dragons or other obstacles, separates from an early protector, finds true romantic love, and discovers autonomy. This is quite a formula.8
I agree with Bettelheim when he advises making the process of imparting fairy tales warm and intimate so that the child feels “understood in his most tender longings”.9 In fact, I think the telling is more important than the tale alone for it is in the intimacy (into me see) that children are acknowledged and affirmed in the spirit and the mind. I think children’s psychic needs can be met in part by parents who acknowledge their children for who they are as they were created and by parents who accept their children’s feelings even when shocking or painful to the parent. I think introducing children to a transcendent, mystical and loving entity further helps to fulfill their psychic needs. Reynolds Price speaks of the un-churched undergraduate thirst for the mystical poets. He is not referring just to his own faith in a particular church and its God but to the wider universe of the spirit. Madeleine L’Engle and C.S. Lewis recognized in their tales children’s craving for and delight in the transcendent.
In my tale, Maggie is loved but perhaps not for the person she feels she is. The dresses meet her needs, as they are soft (or nurturing). Beautiful (or aesthetically enriching). Intricately made by hand (or with great love). Flowering (or creatively encouraging). The dresses representing Liberty lead her on a developmental journey. As a prepubescent girl she transfers her love to riding a horse, a classic symbol of female empowerment and autonomy. As an adolescent she is receptive to two adult mentors who affirm and define her interests. Nancy and Hilda are offbeat and appeal to her as trustworthy ageless adults who seem to know her needs and desires better than her parents. Meggie, as a young adult, ventures on a quest to have more needs met. She travels, studies, and tries romantic love. Finally, in her own children she finds Liberty or freedom of unconditional love or agape. She looks deeply into their beings and is given the gift of seeing their spirit, soul and wisdom. Her needs are met in that she witnesses their essence. Through connecting with her children she sees the mystery she has been searching for, a deep and profound timeless love.
Bettelheim might recognize some of his criteria for fairy tale archetypal metaphors in this first section: the innocent abandoned, the magic gift, the fairy godparents, and the quest. But I think he would have thought the ending a bit preachy and spiritual and moral. I don’t think it would be grounded in enough archetypes at the end: no prince to represent the balm of earthly love or kingdom to represent autonomy.
I feel that the second part of the tale (added in the second rewrite – thanks to a wise Fairy Godmother’s advice) has more psychic truth for me. In it, Meggie is more fully evolved. Not only is she obviously adult, she has become a giver of love, no longer just a seeker. Even so it is human love, one limited by conscious or un conscious mixed motives. She wants her children to have what was not given freely to her from birth: recognition of a child’s needs for softness, beauty, nurturing and creative encouragement. So despite some hardship she provides them with the special clothing that helped her on her journey. Dismayed by what to her is their carelessness of these special gifts she lets her children know, consciously or unconsciously, her disappointment. They feel for the first time something conditional in her love. The children respond by giving up their gifts of joy and laughter and retreating from life. Only by truly repenting and feeling her profound loss in a most authentic manner (and implicitly recognizing her control) does Meggie bring the children to life again. She has learned that love and spirit, soul and wisdom cannot be possessed or controlled or augmented by conditional gifts.
If the first half of my story is pretty much a Bettelheim fairy tale, I think the second half is more a parable. The gift given (the creation) is the children and their transcendent qualities. Even the landscape they inhabit is gift, a paradise of sorts. The gift taken away(sin or separation from self, others or God) is the conditional and controlling love shown through Meggie’s disappointment of the torn clothing. The near death of the children is a realization of the gift being lost(judgement). The genuine remorse felt by Meggie is a realization that she misses the gift and is responsible for its loss(repentance). The revival of the children and their return to a bucolic paradise is the gift restored(redemption).
Formulaic? Yes, but my psychic needs are better met by this second formula of a parable. Maybe that’s because the protagonist creates her own obstacles, becomes at least partially aware of her own responsibility for them through her grief and is given the means to make amends through the grace of her mourning. Of course the redemptive restoration of the children is still full of magic. Or mysticism. For me the second half holds a more integrated and profound Love gift. It also fills me with optimism for personal, but also universal, redemption. If it worked for an old cynic like me, it could, if taught with discernment, I feel, help many more. I think I feel this optimism because the protagonist loses such a huge gift and regains it. The struggle is nearly all internal but, to me, its resolution is tinged with external mystery and filled with “ grace abounding”. As an adult I am more consoled by the resolution of a realistic internal conflict than an external conflict of the archetypal fairy tale. Is this consolation a matter of a developmental change in perception of our place in the world as we move from childhood to adulthood? I suspect it is.

1Bettelheim, Bruno, “Reflections: The Uses of Enchantment.” The New Yorker(December 8,1975): 50-114 Numbered for this article 1-15 p.1

Name: Stephanie
Date: 2001-09-26 21:18:47
Link to this Comment: 312

Renee and the Owl

There once was a land many referred to as a jungle, but it was no ordinary jungle. It was a Concrete Jungle. Midnight-black asphalt and dinghy, grey cement comprise the landscape. It never gets dark in this jungle. Darkness is held at bay by the illuminations of neon signs proudly blinking, declaring, "Eat At Joe's."
None of the houses stand alone. They crowd together, touching each other, afraid of losing contact. Despite the best effort of the houses, those living inside have no connection to their neighbors. The houses squeeze together more, thinking that if they get close enough, a sense of community will develop. The only thing that develops is the bank account of the house builders.
The constant whir of too many motorized conveyances drowns the squawking of the crows and vultures sitting atop the beautiful capital building. The conveyances have a mystical power over the natives forcing them to use nothing but the foul machines. The people develop a thickening of the waist area from their dependency on the conveyances.
At the end of each driveway sits a carefully placed mound of garbage emanating a noxious odor. The foul air destroys any hope of vegetation. Passers-by are disoriented and confused by the garbage. Thinking it a new form of art, they carefully help themselves to the wonderful treasure, only to realize their bonanza is nothing more than a pile of rubbish, rubbish that infests their homes with thousands of little creepy-crawly creatures.
In addition to language, the people of this land use finger gestures to communicate. A particular favorite of the natives is to extend the third digit of either hand as a show of deep emotion.
Once upon a time, in a place far away from this jungle ? in a land of cows and plenty, a horrible ogre fell in love with a beautiful young woman named Renee. Unfortunately, Renee became ill. The ogre knew not how to accept someone who was unable to run and jump. He wanted a wife who was hearty and able to produce strong baby ogres, but Renee could never be that wife. The ogre was consumed with anger. Seeing Renee's differences reminded the ogre of what he wanted but knew he could never have in a wife. Renee could not be like the other ogre wives. The ogre felt he was lacking something in life because of Renee. The other ogres would never look up to him if his wife were different. Renee was a burden. The ogre became so enraged, that he traded three goats and a Dunkin Donuts coupon for a spell to banish Renee from his life.
The spell worked extremely well. Renee was forced to leave the land of plenty to move to the Concrete Jungle. Renee applied to the rulers of the jungle, but they were too busy to hear her plea. The rulers had more important things to discuss. A decision needed to be made as to fare to be served at the annual rulers' picnic.
The move had a devastating effect on Renee. The confined quarters, the constant noise, the horrid odors, the lack of stars in the night sky proved to be Renee's undoing. She became so weak she could no longer fight her illness. Before she could not run. In this land, she could no longer walk.
Renee sought a cure for her condition, but none were available. All of the really good spells had already been taken. There was, however, an old washerwoman with a stick. This was no ordinary stick. It had magical powers. Renee traded two chickens and a book of Anne Sexton poems for this magical device.
With the assistance of the stick, Renee was able to imitate a form of walking. More hobbling than walking, Renee was able to maneuver from here to there. But the stick had adverse side effects. Renee's illness was now evident to all and they assumed she was not whole, not good enough. "Carrying a stick does not change the inner strength and character of a person," Renee cried. But no one listened.
Renee was banished from using regular bathrooms. She was forced to use the one with the odd picture on it, the sign of a large circle with a protruding knob. The sign has no gender -- just a large circle signifying a blob -- a mass of wasted flesh.
Renee was denied employment because of the stick. "You can not do your job if you need to carry that tree limb. You are weak to depend on a piece of wood." She heard this time and time again. Without a means of supporting herself, Renee was forced to beg the rulers of the land. The rulers gave Renee a minimal pittance to get her to leave their beautiful capital building so they could return to planning their monthly luncheon. The allotment from the rulers was so small, Renee was forced daily to eat Ramen Noodles.
Renee knew there was a better life for her. She recognized the deep longing for more, but she did not know what to do. Renee wallowed in misery.
One day a boy from the concrete jungle tried to steal Renee's stick. Anger coursed through her veins. Finally, Renee had had enough. "How dare you take my magic stick?" she yelled. Renee walloped the young boy across the shoulders with her stick, and the boy fell to his knees. Renee smacked him again and again with her stick. The boy howled in agony. Renee realized that he was an evil spirit sent by the jungle natives who feared Renee. She continued to beat the boy-spirit until he transformed to his true shape of a snake and slithered away. He had failed in his attempt to rid the jungle of the Renee, a threat to the conformity of their lives. Different is irregular.
Flush with her success, Renee had a renewed sense of purpose. She knew she must end her misery, but how? Renee thought, "Wouldn't it be great if answers were sold at the corner McDonald's?" Finding no answers on the menu board, Renee returned home. As she hobbled slowly home, she heard a cry for help from inside a mailbox. Renee rescued an owl from within.
"I was trapped in this mailbox by an ignorant mob. You have saved me from being sent to Latvia. For this I will grant you anything from this Sears & Roebuck catalogue," said the sage old owl.
Renee thought of the fulfillment the owl could grant her, but sensing the loneliness the owl suffered, Renee made a different request. "I have but one humble desire. Would you become my friend?" she asked.
The owl was so touched that she became Renee's constant companion. The owl encouraged Renee to get an education, vaporizing anyone who would stand in the path of Renee reaching this goal.
Renee knows the education will not cure her illness. But she also know education will cure the illness of ignorance. Education is the strongest weapon she can have. Education eradicates insults. Education brings about understanding. Education leads to compassion. If everyone gets an education, hate would be gone from our lives. Renee is hoping that with her weapon of education, she will be able to find owls for others. And with the owls' help, an education can be had for all.

The author's voice is quite apparent in this fairy tale. Her sense of humor may not be pleasing or even obvious to all who read this "fancy." The vultures sitting atop the government building and the alternate forms of communication both testify to the wittiness of the author. She has even been called a "Quip Master" by some, albeit only by those administering the Meyers-Briggs test.
What is most apparent in this tale is the author's pain. The injustices inflicted by the regular world are harsh. When a person does not fit into that world, it becomes a nightmare. The degenderizing (I made up a word) of the handicap symbol is a severe blow to an already fragile ego of a disabled person. The reader yells, "Hooray!" as Renee uses her magic stick to beat the evil spirit, when, in truth, Renee is furious that she even has possession of the stick. If she were normal, an evil spirit would not have attacked her nor would she have had the need to defend herself.
Being ill is not the most severe blow to Renee. It is being perceived as being not good enough for the one she loves. Her body betrays her, the world betrays her, the one she loves betrays her. This can not be adequately put into words. Because of the confines of our language, the feelings of rage, humiliation and despair are not appropriately conveyed to the reader.
The ending seems unfinished and incomplete. It does not seem to reflect the true depth of feelings of the author. The ending lacks the same conviction and voice as the balance of the fairy tale. The ending leaves the reader feeling dissatisfied and resentful. The reader feels let down by the author. No real issues were resolved. It is great to have an idealistic dream for eradicating the problem of ignorance, but as no solutions were introduced, ignorance will continue to grow and even flourish.

Fairy Tale and Analysis
Name: Lisa Harri
Date: 2001-09-26 23:36:02
Link to this Comment: 313

The Princess's Journey

Long ago, in a palace constructed of brick and mortar, there lived a kind-hearted princess. The castle was more like a dungeon really, surrounded as it was by cement and asphalt. It was also most unfittingly named "Green Acres."

A quiet girl, the princess had an interesting face. Her dark owl eyes were keen and missed nothing. She had flaxen hair, which hung in frizzy tendrils down the length of her back. Early on, the princess had discovered she possessed two inexplicable magical powers: she was invisible to a great many people, and few seemed able to hear her voice. In addition to these gifts, she carried the burden of ignorance.

The princess lived at Green Acres with her MotherQueen, and brother DarkPrince, as well as the elders who ruled the house, GrandmotherQueen and GrandfatherKing.
Having been born to an unhappy couple, the princess's days had always been filled with sadness. The father, knowing he would never be King, left the palace in search of a new life, thus sending the MotherQueen into a bitter and resentful spell all the rest of her days. Unable to sleep in her former chambers, MotherQueen had moved into the princess's meager room, and there she would stay for the next fifteen years.

Nary a day would pass without GrandmotherQueen reminding the children and their MotherQueen that they were all welcome to stay in her castle as long as they wished, so long as they remembered to pay her copious amounts of gratitude on the 15th of every month.

Over the years, DarkPrince had come to despise the princess for her goodness, which he felt only magnified his (perceived) failings. He had been the sole heir before she came along, then DarkPrince was forced to share the scraps of attention with her, and there simply were not enough to go around. While the princess did indeed love her brother, these affections were tempered by the fear she had for his black moods and aggressive behavior. DarkPrince easily concealed from the elders his wild activities throughout the Kingdom and his abuse of magic pills and potions. The King and Queens were blind to his addictions, but the princess -- having witnessed much -- sought to confront DarkPrince and alert the elders of all she knew so that she might save him. Her magical powers, however, interfered greatly, and sadly no one heard her.

The princess adored her GrandfatherKing. A tall man, standing regally at 6 feet, 4 inches, he wore a head of thick, white hair and had the soul of a dove. She enjoyed walking hand-in-hand with him, and delighted in having to run four quick steps to equal his one. He was GrandmotherQueen's second King and therefore of no blood relation to the princess, yet their bond to one another was sound. This connection triggered much jealousy in GrandmotherQueen and she began to arrange for GrandfatherKing to spend more time in Noble City. When he was home for supper, GrandmotherQueen would often sprinkle her poisons into the GrandfatherKing's milk, in an attempt to sour his affections for the princess. But no matter how strong she mixed the tonic, the potion succeeded only in making him drowsy.

On many evenings, the princess would retire to her room to rest or read a favorite book, only to find MotherQueen sitting on the edge of the bed, mindlessly chatting on the phone, a small pile of used and twisted cigarettes smoldering in a nearby vessel of ashes. From her bed, the princess would stare at the smoke as it swirled endlessly out of the MotherQueen's nostrils and mouth, momentarily blurring the woman's physical beauty, while exposing her true Dragon features. How the princess wished the entire Kingdom could see the MotherQueen in her raw and beastly reptilian form.

Often the girl would pull the quilts over her head, trying to escape the fumes, but their weight proved too hot to bear. Seething, she would gaze across the room at the glow from the orange plastic lamp, wishing it were possible to blow it out from where she lay, in order that she might for once be able to rest in total darkness. She would scream out, but no one heard. The princess well remembered the times she'd dared to complain about the living conditions. The MotherQueen's Dragon head had turned swiftly, snapping at her "You spoiled cretin -- learn to sleep with the light on!"

MotherQueen was an unkempt woman caring little where she laid her garments. She'd seized all the space in the wardrobe, leaving three small drawers for all the princess's worldly goods. DarkPrince, who occupied the next room, begrudgingly shared a bit of his closet space with the princess.

Rising early for her schooling proved difficult, especially if MotherQueen had been out with other local Royals the night before -- and this happened often. The princess would cautiously rouse the snoring Dragon, as was her job, being certain to move quickly out of the way of its' wicked tail. Then, tiptoeing into the DarkPrince's shadowy chambers, she would hastily choose her day's dress, praying the noisy door hinges would not reveal her presence.

Downstairs, GrandmotherQueen and GrandfatherKing had already left the palace for their day's work, and the princess would not see them till after dusk. Dutifully, GrandmotherQueen would leave provisions on the table for the children each morning. She would also set enough coinage at their places so that they might afford riding the noble buses of the Kingdom to and from the palace.

Years passed, and the princess's existence continued much the same. She failed to thrive and thus was of smaller stature than her peers.

MotherQueen eventually took a new husband, and moved the princess out of the familiar Kingdom, keeping her locked in the ApartmentTower of their new dwelling. No friends or relatives ever came to call. DarkPrince had been granted special permission to stay with GrandmotherQueen at the palace, thereby fulfilling his wish to become an only child once more. MotherQueen's new mate was an old man - a drunken ogre. The princess avoided him at all costs, and learned to cook and clean for herself. Now that she had a room of her own, she was free to read vast amounts of books without anyone noticing. So began her long journey toward the Land of Knowledge - the bonds of ignorance loosening.

Inspired by stories in her books, yet limited by the views from her window, the princess started to plan her escape. One evening while MotherQueen was out; the princess was able to secure the keys from the ogre's fist as he lay snoring in an inebriated stupor at the dining table. The princess simply unlocked the main door and was free. She set out to discover the world and soon found work at various places of knowledge. It was there that she learned about the Secret Path to Enlightenment. She was told that she could free herself of ignorance if she traveled that Path, and once she made it to Enlightenment, there would be other opportunities.

When GrandmotherQueen heard about princess's escape and her discovery of the Secret Path, she angrily told all the members of the NobleFamily that the princess had proved to be an ungrateful child who had turned her back on her elders. "Who was she to go on this fool's mission?" GrandmotherQueen demanded, further reminding them that no other member of the NobleFamily had dared travel to Enlightenment before and the princess was shaming the family by so doing. Members of the NobleFamily joined in GrandmotherQueen's wrath and scorned the princess for her thoughtless and misguided actions. The princess, however, was defiant. She was angry to have had all knowledge of the Path hidden from her all these years. She was determined to journey onward.

Months passed, and at times the princess found herself longing to hear the voice of her gentle GrandfatherKing. He was older now, and his spirit had dimmed somewhat. GrandfatherKing had never spoken out against her like the others, and this was the only thought that comforted the princess. At times she even missed the ill attentions of DarkPrince - any companion would be better than such utter solitude.

Three years into her journey, the princess had grown weary. She came upon an orchard where the Path split into a multitude of trails, none of which was clearly labeled. Overwhelmed by her loneliness, she felt she would collapse. In need of nourishment, the princess took apples from one of the trees, and drank fresh water from the nearby creek. Still despondent, she began to question her mission and life in general. "Maybe I am on a fool's mission," she thought. For a moment, she considered turning back.

When she looked up she saw an elderly, disheveled man hobbling toward her. He crossed the water with the unmistakable purpose of interrupting her lonely respite. "He can see me," she thought, surprised; it had been so long since anyone had been able to. The man appeared to be a gentle soul and asked if he could sit with her. Usually, the princess was not one to be inhospitable, but at that moment she had to feign kindness in welcoming his company. She tried to smile and be charitable, but her spirits were low, and she did not want to visit with anyone -- much less this grimy stranger. "Why isn't my invisibility working now?" she wondered.

Within minutes, the man began telling the princess that he knew her history. As proof of his knowledge and wisdom, he proceeded to relay the details of her life, secrets that only she knew. Speechless, the princess's heart began to race, as it became clear that this man - the very one she nearly turned away - was a Messenger sent from the Future. He knew of her terrible unhappiness and assured her she would choose the right Path, and must continue on her journey. He brought for her the message of hope. Then the Messenger rose and bid her farewell, walking away. Standing now, but unable to move from her spot, the princess called after him, "Will I ever see you again?" she asked. And placing his hand over his heart, he replied "I'm here every day; I've always been here."

Tears streaming down her face, the princess turned and was again confronted with having to choose a route. Some of the trails were easy to eliminate, as they were most unwelcoming. One appeared dreary and threatening, another was filled with thorny bushes. The Path turning back was the scariest of all. Yet how was she to choose from among the others -all of which were equally inviting? One trail looked vibrant and colorful, another was brimming with nourishment. As she was trying to decide, the scent of lilacs and their promise of spring and life anew suddenly captivated her. She followed this course through a brief but harsh winter after which she was led into a warm and brilliant sunshine.

Overhead flew a mysterious, silver-winged metal bird, which alighted farther down the Path. Somewhat frightened, the princess hid behind a nearby bush. Her curiosity, however, refused to let her run. She went closer. Had this enormous horseless carriage come from the heavens? Slowly, the great door opened, and out stepped a beautiful man. He wore a fine hat, and was cloaked in ceremonial dark navy garb. His robe had silver stripes on the shoulders, and he wore a winged pin upon his chest. As he walked toward her, he spoke softly. "I've come from the Land of Your Future. My name is Love." His eyes were honest and welcoming. He extended his hand, and the princess was startled by the power of his touch. When he asked -- she quite forgot her own name, so he gave her a new one. He called her "Precious."

This kind man could not only see her, but listened to her as well. He took her into his flying carriage and showed her all the Kingdoms from above. The view was magnificent and put the Path to Enlightenment into great perspective. The princess could clearly see where she had veered from the Path at times, and traced her footprints back to where she found it again. From here she could also see the many other roads beyond Enlightenment. Everything made sense from this vantage point, and she marveled over how her steps along the way fit together like a puzzle, leading her to this very moment. Love explained to her that the Land of Your Future was nestled in the heart of Enlightenment.

The princess knew that she wanted to spend the rest of time in Love's arms. This elegant man wanted very much for her to be his wife. She accepted, and took his name, glad to have put aside her father's. With Love by her side, she learned to trust.

Together they built their own life and Kingdom on the highest hill in Enlightenment, and to this day, they rule their world and continue to live very happily.

The End


An Attempt at Psycho(!)-Analysis of:
The Princess's Journey

The story tells of the life of a girl growing up under unfortunate circumstances. She is small in stature and insignificant to her family.

When the girl comes of age, she escapes her oppressive environment to live her own life. Her journey on the "Path of Enlightenment" continues throughout the rest of the story, and the path is symbolic of life's learning.

Years later, the girl (weary from her travels) arrives at a place in the road that splits into many different trails leading to unknown places. Exhausted and overwhelmed, she must decide on her own which path to follow.

A Christ-like "Messenger" from another realm appears at this point (although the author tells me she is not particularly religious).

While traveling the new path, the girl meets "Love" (in the form of a man) for the first time in her life. She is in awe of "Love's' magnificence and "Love" carries her away, giving her a new perspective on her life's journey. She is not invisible to this man, and through "Love," she learns to trust.
* * * * *
The story works in that there is a definite shape. It has a beginning, middle and end. The descriptions and details are revealing and set up the story nicely. Its theme of finding love has universal appeal, and there is magic or mysticism sprinkled throughout.

One weakness of the story is that it is told on a personal level. (Lisa acknowledges she needs to pull back a bit more to appeal to a larger audience.)

This story may be powerful enough to meet the psychic needs of individuals who have grown up in neglect and without love, or it may seem to good to be true.

The author realizes the ending may be considered sappy to some, however she insists it is based in reality. Perhaps that fact in and of itself can give hope. To-date, Lisa and her husband have had a unique and loving relationship for 17 years.

The clock story
Name: Robin Land
Date: 2001-09-26 23:37:22
Link to this Comment: 314

There once was a man who liked to make clocks. He made silver and gold clocks, blue and purple clocks, digital clocks and clocks with many hands. His clocks had complex and fabulous mechanisms that chimed and groaned and wept at various minutes and hours. He once made a clock that signaled the ebb and flow of the tides; the mechanism based only on the pull of the moon.
His clocks were complex and perfect and much sought-after. The very rich paid vast sums for his clocks. Sometimes, he would donate a clock to a very poor family so that even though they had no bread they would still know the time and so not be completely impoverished. Those who were neither very rich nor very poor, however, were left with no way to tell the time until the clockmaker designed the glockenspiel for the top of City Hall.
The glockenspiel depicted the story of the Trojan War. Beginning at one o’clock in the afternoon, three carved wooden goddesses would compete in a corrupt beauty contest with a golden apple as the prize. The story would work its way around the clock until precisely at noon the next day, the miniature walls of Troy would fall and the rubble would smolder until one o’ clock came around again and it all started over, while heroic songs chimed at every hour.
The clockmaker was proud of this glockenspiel. It had taken many years to complete and had employed forty families of woodcarvers. It was also the pride of the town, for people came from all around to see the marvel atop City Hall and put coins in large binoculars to better see the delicate carving on the face of Aphrodite or the great detail on the shield of Achilles.
The townspeople soon began to refer to time with the images from the glockenspiel. “Meet me when Achilles drags Hector around the walls,” they would say, or, “Let’s have dinner at half past the sacrifice of Iphigenia.”
The townspeople were well educated enough to know most of the story on the glockenspiel, but hardly anyone had made a study of it or given much thought to it at all. In spite of this, people began to form opinions about the story.
The trouble started with a letter to the paper.

“Dear people,
I’m writing to express the depth of my pride in our beautiful and fascinating glockenspiel. In its depiction of the heroic victory of the ancient Greeks at the city of Troy, it instills in all of us a sense of pride in our city and an example to our children of the glory of heroism and the necessary sacrifices that come in times of war that ensure eventual victory. In spite of their differences, the Greeks came together and through strength and intelligence won a victory over a people who had greatly wronged them. The example of this great story is a lesson to us all.
Huzzah for the glockenspiel.”

The very next day, there were two letters in response. The first of these two was brief and largely ignored, from a professor of Classics at the university. She pointed out that technically there were no actual Greeks at the time of the Trojan War, and that the people in question referred to themselves as Achaeans.
The next letter was much longer and received a great deal more attention.
“Dear people,
I am moved to respond to yesterday’s letter in reference to our beautiful glockenspiel. I fear the author of that letter has deeply misunderstood the significance of the example set by the sublime and deathless tale told atop City Hall every day.
The story is an example for us all, young and old alike, of the futility and waste of war. In the story, we see many lives lost and a great city laid waste, all over one woman. We see that there were no winners in this war. At the end, in spite of their supposed victory, what did the Greeks have? Menelaus got his faithless wife back and Achilles lost his life. If they had never gone to war, what would be different? Menelaus could have found another wife. Achilles would still be alive. Everyone would be at peace.
This story is a warning. Peace is the only way.”

There was a third letter the next day, again largely ignored, from the same professor of Classics. She pointed out that it was a mistake to ascribe the desire to bring about the return of Helen as the sole cause of the Trojan War, a misunderstanding that stemmed from an ignorance of the Homeric concepts of time/ kai/ dike/.
The two letters that anyone paid any attention to became the subjects of conversation throughout the town. Example or warning? Peace or war? The townspeople began to take sides on the issue.
“If we all stick together,” one side claimed, “we can do anything, in spite of our differences. That’s the message of the clock.”
“No,” cried the other side, “the message is that we need to look at the underlying systemic causes of war to see the futility of the whole enterprise. War is not the answer. That’s the real message.”
The two sides became angry with one another. “You’re destroying our coherence as a group with your cowardly insistence on seeing the story as a warning,” the argument went. “We need group unity to survive a crisis, and by disagreeing with us, you’re destroying our unity.”
“That’s a specious argument,” went the response. “We need to understand a crisis in order to survive it, and your insistence on unity undermines understanding.”
People began to wear buttons proclaiming various slogans that identified the side of the argument on which the wearer stood. Marriages broke up over the argument. Young people became estranged from their parents. Finally, things got so out of hand that a meeting of the whole town was called to resolve the issue. The people met in the town square at the hour of the embassy to Achilles.
Speakers from both sides presented eloquent defenses of both interpretations. A professor of Classics stood up and told them they were all wrong and needed to learn Homeric Greek to really understand, but everyone ignored her.
Finally, the town appealed as a group to the clock maker. “Please tell us,” they begged, “why did you choose that story for our clock? What were you trying to say to us? Tell us the answer, so we can all go home.”
The clock maker, astonished that anyone would see him as an authority on the subject, stood to speak. An expectant hush fell over the crowd.
“Well,” he said, “it was a respectable old story with lots of different characters that would keep the hours interesting. It seemed like a good idea at the time. I didn’t know it meant anything at all. After all, it’s just a story.”
The meeting dispersed quietly.
Over the next few days, the town remained unusually quiet. People seemed lost and confused, and they went about their days with a sense of detachment and purposelessness. The old argument was forgotten, but it was not replaced. There was a vacancy.
Eventually, things picked up and life went on, but the town had changed. The glockenspiel was no longer a source of wonder and curiosity. It became merely background. The clockmaker’s elaborate constructions fell out of fashion as people began to favor very simple and severe designs for clocks. New houses were built to look like large shoeboxes, with none of the fanciful details that had once been popular.
The glockenspiel became a source of embarrassment for the town. It represented the old, the outdated, the uselessly fantastic. The binoculars were pulled up and the lenses converted to useful scientific instruments. No one was interested in the details of craftsmanship that now seemed such a waste of time.
Shortly after the binoculars disappeared, a letter was printed in the paper.

“Dear people,
It is in the best interests of our modern and prosperous city to remove the awful old glockenspiel from City Hall and replace it with a large lighted electronic atomic clock. The new clock would keep accurate time and align us with the fast pace of the modern world, without all the distracting and useless detail of the present glockenspiel. The glockenspiel is an embarrassing reminder of a childish phase in the development of our city.
Tear down the glockenspiel!”

The townspeople took up the cause with enthusiasm. They appealed to the clock maker to construct a large and sensible electronic atomic clock to replace the glockenspiel.
The clock maker, who was tired of making boxy alarm clocks in the new fashion, wept when he heard the plan. He loved the old glockenspiel and had no sympathy or understanding for the new taste for the plain and sensible.
“Don’t you find the glockenspiel beautiful any more? Look at the carvings! Think of the exquisite complexity of the mechanism! The new clock you want is dull and sterile. I won’t make it.”
The townspeople were angry. They called the clockmaker old and reactionary and out of date. They said his glockenspiel represented bourgeois sentimentality. They said that real art was minimalist and conceptual in nature, and that the glockenspiel was tasteless in its pointless representational form.
All this baffled the clock maker. Had the world changed so that beauty wasn’t beautiful any more? In sadness and confusion, he went down to the university to talk to learned people and find out what was going on.
A certain professor of Classics was delighted to see him. She had been waiting a long time to talk to him.
“What has happened?” the clock maker asked her. “Why doesn’t anyone like the glockenspiel any more?”
The professor said, “People have a hard time seeing beauty naked, just as it is. They need an interpretation for it, a structure and a framework. They need meaning. They need to be able to read themselves in a story. If you take that away from them, the story looks pointless rather than beautiful.”
“What can I do?” asked the clock maker. “How do I give them back meaning? I don’t even know how the meaning got there in the first place. The idea for the glockenspiel just seemed beautiful, for its own sake.”
“That’s just as it should be,” she replied. “No one, not even the greatest artist of all, can tell people their own truths for them. People find truth in art, but it’s not always the same truth for different people. An artist can’t do that on purpose. A great deal of bad art has been created in just that attempt. But just because you don’t put it there doesn’t mean it’s not present in the art.”
“So there’s nothing I can do? They either disagree about the story or they ignore it?”
The professor smiled. “Argument isn’t always a bad thing. Let me see what I can do for you. I don’t want the glockenspiel to come down, either.”
The next day, a brightly-colored full-page advertisement appeared in the newspaper. It announced the formation of a night class at the university, open to all the townspeople, on the subject of the Trojan War.
Only a few furtive students attended the first class. The professor opened with a lively lecture on the motivation of the wrath of Achilles. Soon, the students opened up and the class ended with a passionate discussion of the role of women in history.
The next class was slightly better attended, and the one after that even more so, as word spread, quietly but swiftly, of the joyful stimulation to be found in the discussion of complex ideas that could not be easily resolved.
There were no more letters to the paper on the subject of the glockenspiel. Discussion of its removal died down to nothing, and eventually even the binoculars were reinstalled. Arguments over the meaning of the story on the clock continued, but they were engaged with knowledge of the material and a respect for other points of view that had been unknown in the original argument.
Everyone lived happily ever after.

Name: Robin Land
Date: 2001-09-26 23:39:51
Link to this Comment: 315

The Story on the Clock: An Analysis

“The Story on the Clock,” a fairy tale by the little-known American writer Robin Landry, is an ambitious story that attempts to tackle several large and important issues.
Where it is most effective, and where it functions as a true fairy tale, is where it illustrates the transformation of consciousness that a child must go through to achieve a mature appreciation of art.
The townspeople represent the growing child. At first, a child has a wide-eyed and naïve wonder before beauty. It is often said that children are natural artists, and the clockmaker in the story is an eternal child, forever in this state of unthinking wonder.
Conflict comes with adolescence. The adolescence of the townspeople represents the confusion of a teenager, struggling to make sense of the world. The townspeople become mired in argument and confusion because they have not fully realized the depths of the implications inherent in art. Similarly, the adolescent often rebels against society because of perceived contradictions that are only dimly understood.
In a quest to resolve these contradictions, the world starts to seem pointless and the adolescent can fall into a state of existential angst. Uncertain of life’s purpose, the adolescent sometimes turns to what seems to an outside observer like pointless, random destruction. The adolescent in this state rejects what was once a source of joy.
The intervention of a mature fully realized adult saves the adolescent from this unsatisfactory state. It is interesting that the catalyst for the change, the one who brings the unfulfilled adolescent and the adult mentor together, is the rejected component of self, the childlike artist. This aspect of the self, though devalued, is actually of crucial importance for continued growth.
The intervention of the professor, who takes on the role usually reserved for the fairy godmother in classical fairy tales, is necessary for the growth process. The professor performs an act of magic in returning art to the town. This caring and powerful adult figure represents the guide to maturity.
In the end, the old formula of “happily ever after” refers to the deep and integrated appreciation for the complexity of interpretation that comes with educated maturity.
This story could conceivably serve as a guide for a person mired in the stage of rebellious conflict or the stage of philosophical emptiness. Such a person might read this story and see that others, too, have felt this way, but that such feelings need not become a permanent part of an adult worldview.
However, the magical and overly simplistic way in which the professor corrects the problem might cause the reader to reject the story as a source of comfort. Such solutions may be effective in a children’s fairy tale, but this tale is clearly aimed at an older audience. The audience knows quite well that a university extension course is not enough to bring about “happily ever after.” This is a weakness in the story that the author may wish to address if she chooses to subject the story to further revisions.

Emma's Tale & Analysis
Name: Emma
Date: 2001-09-27 00:31:59
Link to this Comment: 317

Emma Torres
September 27 Assignment
Analyze Your Fairy Tale

The stories we've read, our class discussions, and the interpretive material I've managed to research all address the fairy tale as a form that explores the forces of our subconscious. The consensus seems to be that the fairy tale is uniquely suited to examine the psychic landscape of 'self,' and of our relationship to others with whom we have formative emotional ties. Thus the fairy tale takes us on a very particular journey, and it is one that primarily leads inward. This aspect of the fairy tale would seem to limit its use when we want, in our life of learning, to tell stories that journey outward.

Before Zen, mountains were mountains and trees were trees.
During Zen, mountains were thrones of the spirits and trees were the voices of wisdom.
After Zen, mountains were mountains and trees were trees.

In Women Who Run With the Wolves (Ballantine, 1992), the 'old saying' quoted above about Zen enlightenment is interpreted by Pinkola Estes as "Life is supposed to become mundane again."

I prefer an interpretation closer to what Jamake Highwater in his book, The Primal Mind (Meridian, 1981), describes as "the metaphor...of knowing things by turning into them." Highwater further expresses this concept using the words of an Indian holy person: "The apple is a very complicated thing...but for the apple tree it is easy."

I feel that in attempting to shape my 'life of learning' as a fairy tale, I experienced this inward-journey aspect of the form as a limitation.
My story of this woman on a boat out in the middle of a dangerous ocean is meant to be a story of a woman gaining physical courage. That's not to say there are no inner emotional states such as fear, for instance, that one must overcome to be brave. It's also not meant to deny that the need to be brave cannot be interpreted in psychological terms. I only want to point out that the test of her courage, the goal, is not primarily meant to attain psychological growth that will help her cope with emotional relationships. It is a trial meant to attain her capacity for action in the physical landscape.

Such tales are usually told in the form of a hero's quest. In such tales one has moved beyond the mundane. "...beyond the community circle, beyond everyday demands, assumptions, possibilities." (Familiar Mysteries: The Truth in Myth; Lowry, Oxford University Press, 1982. p. 78)

Therefore, it might have been more productive to conceive of and try to write my story as a re-telling of a tale of quest. At this point, I only have time to expand the beginning of the tale so as to open the tale with what Joseph Campbell terms 'the call to adventure.' This revision could go something like this:

Some long time ago, there was a woman who went to stay in a palm-thatched hut on a peaceful hillside far from her mother's home. Every day, the woman delighted in picture-postcard sunrises and sunsets that blazed over the little bay at the foot of the hill. And each afternoon she would walk along the beautiful sandy shore.

Until one day from out beyond the bay where the water was dark and deep--a place the woman had never been to--there appeared a wooden boat. It was old, its paint was cracked, and at the helm was an odd looking man in a straw hat. She quickly hid behind a boulder to watch him bring his vessel to shore.

It happened that the woman caught sight of a light shining from a plastic tub tucked under a plank near where the boatman sat. The woman stretched and strained to look out from behind the boulder without being seen, but the old man caught her spying on him and cried out. "A piece of your bread and a drink of tea for a glimpse of the silver light!" he demanded.

The woman had indeed brought lunch in her daypack, and she offered it to the boatman who tore into the bread and gulped the drink. While he satisfied his hunger and thirst the woman stepped onto the boat. Unable to contain her curiosity, she lifted the tattered sarong draped over the bucket, and saw it contained the wriggling life of all the silvery-skinned fish on earth. She was so startled she accidentally kicked over the bucket. And when she did, the silver light disappeared. Now there were only a few gray fish flopping about in the boat.

The man spat out his bread, spraying crumbs that caught in his wispy beard.

She apologized a hundred times, but the boatman would not be calmed. He told her the fish would never again allow a fisherman to catch them unless she went to the place where they lived and asked permission, however belatedly, to glimpse their radiance.

Well, the woman had never been out to the dark waters so far beyond her comfortable thatched hut, and she didn't want to go now. But what would become of the peaceful hillside village if the men could no longer catch fish to feed their families? What if the villagers found out she was the cause of their misery? She'd surely have her tourist visa revoked. Then she'd have to leave this tropical paradise. And so she agreed.

(And now I pick up with the previous draft, making what revisions I can as I go along...)

A Fairy Fish Tale

Soon, the old man's vessel seemed little more than a rowboat as it was tossed about in the vast Andaman Sea. At 14 feet, it was too narrow, too low in the water, and much, much to far from land. As she struggled to steady her fear the woman could only lament, "Why did I ever do this?"
The boatman ignored her, and busied himself with attaching hooks to a fishing line. First he threaded one, then another, and another. When there were a dozen or so hooks hanging from his pole-each with a smear of fishmeal-the boatman dropped the line into the ocean. Suddenly hundreds of small fish appeared alongside the boat.

But the woman was too terrified to be curious. When her gaze followed his hooks into the ocean, she saw only the deep-water nothingness. She cursed her fate with every ocean wave that lifted and dropped the little vessel, until finally she cried out, "How could you bring me onto an ocean with all these waves crashing around?"
As soon as she had said this, the ocean grew deathly still. Not a wave, not a ripple disturbed its dark surface. The woman no longer had the waves to fear, and this calmed her. Now with the sun high in the sky, the ocean placid, and the boatman stubbornly silent, the woman found it hard to stay awake. Soon, she was lulled into a sleep so deep as to be empty of dreams. Yet she had not been asleep but a moment when a cold gust of wind woke her. The sky, which had been so blue a moment ago, was filled with dark clouds spinning themselves into a fury. The ocean, which had been so calm, was again in roar. Both stirred up by the boatman's temper. The little boat was pitching so badly the woman again wanted to cry out in fear. But just as she opened her mouth a great wave rolled over the boat, knocking them both into the water.
The woman sank long and deep without uttering a single sound because she didn't want to open her mouth and swallow the entire ocean. She wanted to kick her legs and flail her arms. And her movements soon alerted an ocean's worth of silvery-skinned fish to her presence. When she saw them, she remembered what she had to do. She stilled her fear long enough to give the fish what they were due. And by their silvery glow, as they surrounded her, she managed to see the boatman's fishing line. She grabbed hold of it. And even as the sharp hooks bloodied her hands, she would not let go. She pulled herself, hand over hand, along that fishing line until she finally reached the boat. She saw the boatman in the distance, swimming like the old fish he was, into the horizon...and leaving her to go it alone.

Name: Louise
Date: 2001-09-27 08:50:05
Link to this Comment: 319


Their once was little girl named Hope. Her fondest memories of her childhood were of her favorite teacher Mr. Lucky Charm. Mr. Lucky Charm wasn’t your typical teacher in looks or technique. He was completely bald with a wide bright smile, and mischievous eyes. He was of Irish descent; he actually looked a bit like a leprechaun only taller, and of course he taught the children every Irish song he knew; he had them sing them over and over again. Some of Hopes favorites till this day are “When Irish Eyes are Smiling” and TOO-A-LOO-RA-LOO-RAL
Mr. Lucky Charm’s classroom was a happy place. It was where a child was given the opportunity to be his/her self. He taught Hope to play an instrument. She played the flute, and enjoyed her art class too. In art class she remembered doing charcoal drawings and abstract designs of wonderful bright colors.
As Hope approached the last semester of here favorite school, where she was so happy, her parents began to talk about sending her to the local Penguin school, because they felt she would get a better education there and it would be safer. The Penguin School was a place where hope was erased from each child. At the Penguin School, the penguins instructors were scary, they all wore black robes, and didn’t smile. They looked alike too and their faces were unexpressive. You weren’t allowed to speak, or laugh either.
Hope was depressed at the thought of not being with her friends; she really wanted to go on with them to the Happiness Junior High. She longed to continue with the same education, she was getting. It felt so right for her.
She remembered skipping through the schoolyard and just feeling pure joy about her life and who she was. That was to change for her very soon. It wouldn’t be long before her pure joy would turn to deep sadness.
She cried, she kicked, she screamed for her parents to see it her way, but to no avail. She had to put on my strait jacket and go the sanitarium. It felt so wrong. She was being imprisoned. She was being restricted, stifled, and smothered with conformities, and alikeness.
In this school she had to dress alike, talk alike, and sing alike. Her individuality was erased and it was so hurtful and disillusioning; she believed she would never find her way back to feeling all was right in her world.
Well the day came, and Hope hated it. She remembered it being gray and gloomy out. It seemed to be that way a lot. Penguin schooling was rigid, and hurtful. She didn’t want to be alike. She wanted to be herself. She wanted to sing Irish songs and play volleyball out in the playground with her old friends, enjoy a well-rounded education that offered a banquet to choose from. She felt so afraid.
Every Thursday, she had to go to Penguin school extra early in order to go to worship. She had to be there by 8 AM. The Penguin teacher had yardsticks, long thick yardsticks. She was told that if we didn’t sing loudly, she would have to stay after school and get the yardstick across their knuckles. Her classmates and she looked like rows of cut out dolls. They were different on the inside, but no one seemed to care about that.
The next five years she learned to accept that this was where she was, and where she needed to be in order to receive her Penguin Diploma. She did receive it, but Instead of gaining, she felt she had lost something very important along the way: her identity.
For many years after graduation, she wondered from job to job, never really feeling any of them were for her. Whatever the job was, she did well, and gave all she could, but always felt something was missing. Then one day, years later- call it fate, or call it an act of God, call it whatever you wish—Hope calls it a miracle. She decided to get in touch with the local college, to ask what classes they might be offering. When she explained her situation to them, they suggested she call another telephone number, for displaced penguin workers/ penguin homemakers. That sounded like her. She had felt displaced for a very long time, so this was a tiny, tiny ray of hope for Hope.
She was accepted into their Job Training Program, which offered enrollment into Job Training School. When she began her classes there, she never dreamed that all that hurt and disappointment that she had felt in the past would come to the surface. She thought since she had buried for so long it had disappeared. She didn’t expect an emotional ride, but there was, like it or not and it was very overwhelming.
Hope didn’t know it at the time but she had a fairy godmother at the Job Training School. Her godmother was a beautiful and kind woman that had experience with helping displaced penguins. Carol was her name. Carol was supportive and caring, and knew instantly what Hope needed. And she gave it. When she was frightened of her new journey, Godmother Carol would say, “Hope just take one step at the time, it is going to turn out fine.” She listened to Carol, and little by little regained her identity. Finally she is not displaced.
Hope feels, her path to success may not be the traditional one, but it may be more enriching. Education enriches the soul, and touches the heart many times when you least
expect it. Especially when a beautiful fairy godmother reaches out her hand to help you.
She gave hope in what seemed to be hopeless situation. This is what we are doing now by reaching out our hand to each other; we are giving each other hope.

That's An Irish Lullaby
Over in Killarney
Many years ago,
Me Mither sang a song to me
In tones so sweet and low.
Just a simple little ditty,
In her good ould Irish way,
And l'd give the world if she could sing
That song to me this day.
"Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral, Too-ra-loo-ra-li,
Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral, hush now, don't you cry!
Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral, Too-ra-loo-ra-li,
Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral, that's an Irish lullaby."
Oft in dreams I wander
To that cot again,
I feel her arms a-huggin' me
As when she held me then.
And I hear her voice a -hummin'
To me as in days of yore,
When she used to rock me fast asleep
Outside the cabin door.

Fairy Tale Analysis of "Hope"

The story "Hope" speaks out about the unconscious needs of a child yearning to stay in her fairy tale magical thinking world. The tone of the beginning writing is lighthearted, but takes a turn towards sadness and disappointment because she feels as though she has been wakened out of a wonderful peaceful sleep. This dramatic change in her life makes her feel insecure about the world she lives in.

The story brings out the conflict she is having with her parents about maintaining her own "identity." She will not give in without a fight. She explains in detail, her feelings about this excruciating painful experience. The words used in this explanation are strong. Straitjackets, sanitarium, imprisoned, restricted, stifled, and smothered these are all very troubling words.
The reader gets the feeling of not being able to breath, and not being able to be true to one's self. The use of these words brings out how the child within has become deadened inside, and she has had to give up "self", in order to survive and cope in a very difficult situation.
She is still longing and struggling for the fairy tale not to end and if it had to end it would end with, "happily ever after."
She wants to continue the dream of skipping through the schoolyard and singing TOO-A-LOO-RA-LOO-RAL with her classmates. The child is still resisting the call to "WAKE UP, GROW UP."

As we move through the story, we sense a rise to hope within and this is accomplished by using that very word "hope." Its tone changes and lifts the reader's spirits into a more optimistic one.
As she explains the help of a fairy godmother "Carol", you sense she is more of a surrogate mother figure for the child within. It is this "mother love" that was missing, and needed in her world to help her feel secure and to help her in her journey towards self-actualization.
As the story progresses the shape continues on the path of hope and achievement in education. Finally she is not displaced, in the end of this story, we sensed she has attained an inner sense of security and is now able to make her own decisions about her world.

In reflection of the happenings of the past days...maybe the reason so many of us feel so uneasy and helpless is because we feel we have no control of what is going to happen in our world. I feel that the bombing of the World Trade Center was a call to "WAKE UP." I feel, we as a country in many ways were in fairy tale land and now it is time for us to grow up. We also need hope, and we can give that to one another by reaching out and offering hope in finding solutions to make ours world a better place to live.

writing assignment for 10/4
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2001-09-27 10:57:31
Link to this Comment: 320

To the first-year Mcbrides: your writing assignment for next week--

Drawing on Flatland and The Order of Things, reflect on why we are both motivated and reluctant to re-tell stories. What provokes us to this activity? What prevents us from engaging in it? How does it profit us, and what are its costs?

If you find yourself not engaged by/draw into the work of either Abbott or Foucault, then answer these questions with regards to some area in which you are currently working: what are the stories being told and re-told right now in economics or archeology or chemistry, in international relations or art history or geology? What prompts, what hinders such activity?

In answering these queries, avoid large generalities; be as concrete and specific and particular as possible in illustrating your hyptheses and claims.

Please post your essay on the course forum area by 9 a.m. next Thursday, October 4th.No minimum or maximum # of words; just say what you have to say (which I'm very much "looking" forward to "hearing"!). Anne

Name: Zo
Date: 2001-09-28 11:37:12
Link to this Comment: 324








I saw myself in a tear.


extending my neck,

the wet reflection

became clearer.

rib-bone tremored.

I closed my ear.

I fell under myself

and clung to my feet,

waiting for the terror,











style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>To look upon the face of

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>is to look at once at life and

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>It?s like peeling one eye to the

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>and dangling the other above a
black hole.

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>Since the first hairless toe
touched this earth,

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>many people have climbed up and
tried to see,

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>covering their eyes with polymer

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>slathering their skin with
ultra-violet silicone gel.

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>Up-trudging their condensed
binary motives they go,

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>up to the old gray rock.


style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>The rock is so tall it looks
like a mountain from below.

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>But it is like


style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>the closer you get to the

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>the smaller the original job


style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>And most are surprised at how
delicate the stone

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>appears, and


style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>cannot believe that here,

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>on this humble throne,

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>Violinno rests like a sculpture

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>not waiting,


style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>rapt in repose,

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>purity enclosed.


style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>Violinno is like the stone with
its natural pairs:

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>Hard yet


style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>fast compared to the speed of a
universe expanding,

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>slow compared to a planet dying.


style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>When Violinno weeps

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>it is not like a woman

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>weeping over her lost keys,

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>lost kids, lost time;

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>mind turned to dust

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>running muddy eye rivers,

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>not like that whine.


style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>Ask the ones who walked away

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>the corpse pits,

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>the gas,

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>the shoveled shells where

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>lives once lived.

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>They know about the weeping

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>versus the whine.

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>Ask Viktor Frankl about those

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>cried when the heart is so

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>it can stand naked,

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>bruised side out.


style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>Violinno knows the power in


style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>The urge to hide crying

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>was this always human?

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>The urge to see the bad man cry,

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>or else make him a demon,

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>make him die,

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>was this always there?


style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>We could ask Violinno,

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>but, we must go to the beginning

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>when Violinno had not yet been


style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>It was before we found our
brother planet,

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>before the great Unity of

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>when things were still created
for sale,

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>and scarcely could be found

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>a creation for the sake of
beauty alone.

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>So many lives were bound and

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>tied up in packaging.


style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>How could it be so?

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>We must look back even further,

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>to the time when the continents

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>and, of course, the people did

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>The division multiplied over

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>As division afflicted the

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>like an incurable epidemic, soon

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>countries divided, then?

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>can you believe??

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>People were divided by

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>and by sex, and by melanin,

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>even brothers and sisters

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>floated apart.



style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>they were so divided

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>that each was separated from the

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>and called individuals.

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>So near danger were they

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>that they could not see.


style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>The division accelerated.

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>Individuals began to divide!

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>Whole persons separated,

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>first into two, then into three.

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>And being broken in pieces they

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>could not well align with one


style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>The next 100 generations

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>Soon they were born divided?yes!

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>The infants were born pieced

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>exactly twice that

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>of their parents.


style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>Now it was even harder to see

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>Violinno was at the tips of
their fingers.

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>Some felt the impulse,

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>some knew the hand could teach
the brain,

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>but it was too late.



There was yet no

no standard

No ?Yes, I too want
to and will

do at least X, style="mso-spacerun: yes"> at a minimum.?

There was only one universal

Everyone thought it
was math, but again,

so close, they
didn?t see.

What contained

the math container

was bigger than

And it could
describe the unwriteable.


There was an
enchanted fountain

underneath a lake.

Stranger things
have been discovered!

Like life where it
shouldn?t be.

So don?t disbelieve

that the fountain
sang this very song:


?Raindrops go now
with me.

Nature orchestrate
my melody.

Clear, silent,

One singing tree.

Answer the

Answer the plea.

Exhume Violinno

from the sea.?


And One Singing


came forth and

?Here I am, ready
for the master luthier

ready for my

Now who will

their guts for my

The strings will


infinite notes,
like Calculus,


perfect fifth.

Through constant

the strings will

Violinno the power
to disarm

evil, transform
with a gift.?


Then once again
came Violinno,

our gift we left
unwrapped for so long.

The hybrid energy

nature and humanity

was here.



Oh Violinno where
are you now?

Soft innocent faces
are gone.

A chorus of
confident sound

is now dust on the

The people,

the place

that fertilized

will return to its

Do you comfort them

the dead buried and

along with our open

to nobility?


The problem with

is always the same.

The one who can

can go insane.


inherent in life

holds responsible
the creators.

Is there anyone who
hasn't once asked,

"Why God,

But the question

the true sentiment.

God must be crazy

to kill and


We will find

where we all find


turned back to
finish our start,

at death

witnessing our


We think we know
the picture of birth

the story it tells

We think we know
the distance

between heaven

and hell.

But it?s a trick

because now

we are born

even to time,

swaddled in chaos.


Came Music

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>Only Violinno found the place

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>where Bamad Man was, all

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>laden with guilt from his

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>plot?s fulfillment

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>that turned people into dust,

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>that made crappy movies

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>laugh at themselves madly,

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>like a murderer cackles to the

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>thrilling and scaring himself.

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>Violinno found the black hole in
his universe,

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>the antimatter he had for a
heart, and

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>saw the question in nature and

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>the question in art.

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>Violinno played carefully

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>with strange gentleness,

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>not fearing for her life,

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>but because a wound so deep, she

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>holds an eruption of tears

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>that can drown a soul.



Hanging lightly
onto the planet,

tethered to the

I fly in circles.

I cannot let go.

Bound to clutch the
handle of this space balloon

or drift out to
infinity to



style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>No, I must face you

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>Tug-boat Earth.

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>If I want to ride your wake,

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>take your one-way-only

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>trip to



style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>Looking down,

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>my eye is dirtied at the sight:

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>A filthy fly,

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>two filthy flies, more,

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>beat their thick wings dumbly,

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>stickying the atmosphere.

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>Sickening, I see it,

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>and yet I don?t.

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>But I know it happened

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>when the flies pause to wash
their hands

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>before they eat death for


style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>The picture is a negative

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>still developing the ghostly
reverse image.


style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>down, down, I go

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>?still?! to get a bite.

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>Hide, hide, the unsaid.

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>No! The drear-cheer music should
not play.

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>The cashier should not say

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>?Have a nice day.?


style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>A smile seems wrong.

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>Tears, tears, a dream

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>is gone, the dream of fruition,

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>of hope in all the small details

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>that seemed to say

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>?Yes, slowly our cooperation is

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>increasing, our beliefs are

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>our fears are releasing.?


style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>Growing up knowing

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>it was always there,

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>the ability to self-destruct,

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>made me look

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>for signs, all the time;

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>signs of progress,

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>like the human harmony

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>of peaceful eyes meeting on the

style='mso-bidi-font-family:Times;color:black'>or the aerial sensation of


A Fairy Tale
Name: Eveline St
Date: 2001-09-28 12:18:08
Link to this Comment: 325

Eveline A. Stang
September 26, 2001

Draft B
A Fairy Tale

Long, long ago, on a far away island lived a sad princess. The small castle she lived in kept her safe from the gnomes and goblins beyond its walls, but the princess dreamed of a different life. For many years, the princess wove secret thoughts of freedom and adventure until one day she had a wonderful idea. She decided to set out on a quest. The king and queen, who loved their daughter, worried for her safety and were naturally much opposed to the idea. The king reasoned, the queen pleaded, but the princess stood firm. I will take thy wisdom, father, and thy kindness, mother, with me and all will be well.
The next day, with heavy hearts, the royal couple bade their daughter farewell as she set forth on her journey. The princess took only the simplest of clothes with her so that she would not be recognized, a few gold coins her mother had given her, and a silver flute that was a gift from her father. Across the drawbridge and down the hill she went with an eager step and a song in her heart. Without any trouble at all, she found her way to the shore where a ferryman was waiting to take passengers across the waters. The old man seemed kind and friendly, and, while they journeyed across the sea, the princess felt quite at ease chatting to him about her plans to see the world. Dear child, are you acquainted with anyone, either friends or family, in the country that you will be visiting? he asked. No, no one at all, said the princess rather matter-of-factly. But, I am not afraid, she added stoutly, for I am eager to explore the wonders and beauty of the world. Well, if you are ever in need of anything, anything at all, I know of a good man, Marius, who lives in the village of Ruprio. Ask anyone there and they will know of him. Marius will be glad to be of service. Please remember that he can help you. The princess, somewhat surprised at the ferryman’s earnestness, thanked him politely for his kindness. However, she had no intention of seeking help from anyone, as she was quite stubborn about doing things on her own. After many leagues they reached the opposite shore. They exchanged goodbyes and good wishes, and the princess set off on foot once again. The golden sun smiled upon her, the birds sang, and the trees swayed gently in the fragrant breeze. She delighted in all that she saw, and several hours passed happily as she trudged through the beautiful countryside. How wonderful the world was outside her small castle.
As evening approached, she began to think of where she would rest for the night. Across the valley, at the edge of a deep forest, she noticed the outline of a large, imposing-looking house, and set forth towards it. As she neared her destination, it became evident that the house was in much need of repair. Summoning up her courage (even princesses feel a little nervous, at times), she knocked briskly on the large, oak door, and, after some time, an old woman bent with age answered. Good evening, good woman. My name is Rosalinde. I am seeking shelter for the night, and I would be most grateful if you would be so kind as to take me in. I can pay you for your trouble. The old woman looked the girl up and down suspiciously. Finally, she opened the door wider and said in a brusque manner, This place has become shabby and faded, as you can see. I don't want your money, but if you would like to stay here a little and help me make some repairs, then, come in, do come in. The princess took pity on the old woman, and, as she had nowhere else to go, decided to delay her journey for just a short while. She was grateful for a supper of milk, bread and melted cheese, and, feeling quite worn out, was led to a little room on the second floor where she fell fast asleep and dreamt about her first great day of adventure.
The princess stayed for one week and worked very hard. She washed windows and floors, cleaned the kitchen, and repainted the outside shutters. She even learned how to cook a little. The old woman seemed very pleased, and so the princess stayed another week, and then another - until she forgot all about her quest to seek adventure. One day, however, the princess overheard the old woman mumbling in her sleep. I will keep her here. I will never let her go. She will be my slave for as long as I live. With a shock, the princess suddenly remembered who she was and why she had come to this country. And, because she was an honest (and naive) girl she waited until the old woman woke up to tell her that it was time for her to go. Upon hearing this, the old woman flew into a rage, accusing her of ingratitude and calling our princess all manner of names. But, Rosalinde managed to run away into the woods and was soon a good distance away.
I won’t let anything like that happen again, she thought, as she re-embarked upon her journey. Dark rain clouds were gathering when two swans caught sight of the young girl and offered to fly her beyond the dense forest. After several days, they came upon a pretty town situated on the banks of a river. The skies were wide open there, and at night the moon hung low and full glowing like a huge lantern. What a wonderful place this is. I think I will stop here for a few days, she decided. As they gently set her down, Rosalinde thanked the swans for their kindness, and gave them each a generous piece of bread before they flew southwards.
The princess explored the cobble-stoned streets and the quaint shops, and soon chanced upon an inn, and inquired about taking a room there. The innkeeper seemed a jolly, hospitable man and offered her a pleasant chamber with a view of the river. However, to the princessí great dismay, when she opened her little purse to pay for it, she found that the gold coins her mother had given her were gone. The innkeeper took pity on her and offered her shelter for the night. Worn out from the adventures of the day, the princess soon fell fast asleep. The next morning he had a suggestion. ìMy daughter may be able to take you in. Her husband has been away with the crusades from some time, and she has her hands full with her children. Perhaps you could stay with her in exchange for watching over them. For the first time, the princess thought of her home and her parents far, far away. But, how will I be able to return home without money? she asked. Well now, you look like an industrious girl. You may work here at my inn until you have saved enough to get back. the innkeeper offered generously. And that is exactly what the princess did. By day she worked hard cleaning tables and serving meals to the townsfolk. But the cook was often cross and given to scolding her, and the hours were long. During the evenings and sometimes her free hours, she would take care of the innkeeperís grandchildren. But the innkeeperís daughter was not kind, and her children were very unruly for they had acquired bad habits from the gnomes and mischievous forest creatures they were left to play with. Sometimes, the only way the princess could get any rest was by putting the children to sleep with the gentle songs she played on her silver flute. The days passed into weeks, the weeks passed into months. Gradually, she forgot about who she was, where she was from, and her quest to seek adventure. The princess, overworked and exhausted, became very sad.
One day, one of the kitchen maids whom the princess had befriended told her about a wizard who had come to the little town. Would the princess like to go with her to see him perform? Delighted with the idea, the princess accompanied the girl to the town square where many of the people had gathered to watch. The wizard was indeed gifted and performed many miraculous feats. After the show, long lines of people gathered to enquire about their futures. The princess awaited her turn anxiously. At last, after all the others had consulted with him, she was summoned into his tent. The wizard looked at her with great tenderness. Holding a mirror to her face he said, Princess, love has been seeking you, yet it has eluded you. Your quest for adventure has given you freedom beyond your castle, but it has also brought you into the world with all its temporal joys and sorrows. You thought adventure would bring you happiness, but, instead it has brought you sorrow. Look now to your heart and find your true quest--has it not been for love? And what is real love, if not freedom? Clasp my hand and come meet your future.
The wizard’s words opened the heart and mind of Rosalinde, and all her sadness melted as snow before the sun. As she looked at him with joy and gratitude, the wizard transformed into the form of the elderly ferryman, the two noble swans, the innkeeper, and finally into that of a youth-- the face of a stranger, yet someone vaguely familiar.
The summer breezes took Marius of Ruprio and Rosalinde to other lands and other castles. Together they had many adventures: they climbed mountains that were hard and steep, they crossed turbulent rivers of joy and sorrow, they flew close to the sunís firey rays, and, finally, as they grew old and wise, they learned to ride the great beam of love with gratitude in their hearts.

A Brief Analysis
The above story is an attempt to write an autobiographical account using some of the features found in the traditional fairy tale.
The writer objectifies the story by placing it in the realm of a distant time and place, with the use of a traditional opening phrase: long, long ago, on a far away island. The reader understands that the characters belong to a different world because their personalities take the form of a princess, a king, a queen, and a wizard with passing references to gnomes and goblins, as well.
A few magical elements are found in the story as seen, for example, in the swans who communicate with and transport the princess, the silver flute which can put naughty children to sleep, and the wizard who takes Rosalinde to other worlds.
The writer has chosen specific symbols to represent certain ideas. First of all, the choice of princess was made because the story has to represent someone special. The king and queen are symbols of control. The home of the princess is described as a small castle which refers to the narrow world of experience in which she lives. The island is chosen as symbol for the isolation that she feels i.e., she feels cut off from the rest of the world. A benevolent force, one that looks out for the innocent beginner or traveler of life is represented by the personas of the ferryman, the swans, the innkeeper, and the wizard. The body of water she crosses to get to the other side is a symbol for consciousness. Rosalinde needs to make the transition from the consciousness of the introvert to the consciousness of the extrovert in order to experience the world. The forest represents fear of the unknown; and, the old womanís dilapidated house is meant to portray the shadow side of the world--its limitations, disappointments, and negative aspects. It is in this house that Rosalinde, who begins her adventures with such optimism (and naivete), becomes burdened by self-imposed expectations; her eagerness to please the old woman is motivated by the expectation to be appreciated (loved) in return. She creates, in effect, another small castle for herself. After she seemingly learns from this experience, she is rescued by benevolent forces in the form of the two swans (two is used here because in the actual life of the writer, two individuals helped her to reach her next destination), who take her over the forest of fear and place her in a seemingly happier setting. However, Rosalinde is still prone to being a victim of circumstance. Because of her youth and lack of experience, she doesnít see the implications of a situation. Once again, Rosalinde becomes despondent because she doesnít seem to have control over her destiny.
The wizard represents wisdom, experience, and unconditional love, and the mirror he holds to up to her is the mirror of truth. When Rosalinde faces the truth about herself, she grows up. She discovers that her notions of happiness (represented by the quest for adventure) are false, and that the world is an unreliable and empty place without a true understanding of love.
The story has a medieval quality to it because of the references to castles, quests, and royalty. A chivalric element is also present in the form of rescue of the princess from unhappy situations--although the rescues are accomplished without the white horse!
The writer has tried to give a certain shape to the story by presenting it in the form of a journey that has an purposeful beginning, a middle, and an end.
The adventures of Marius and Rosalinde in the form of landscapes such as mountains, rivers, and the sun, refer to life’s experiences, to life’s ups and downs.
Finally, true to fairy tale tradition, the writer cannot seem to escape including a moral element to the story which in this case would be that life is both shadow and light, good and bad, joy and suffering, and that the ultimate aim would be to learn from life’s experiences to ultimately rise above the dual nature of reality. The solution offered is typically altruistic of this writer--she hopes to discover the transcendental nature of life through self-lessness and unconditional love.

Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself.
Love possesses not nor would it be possessed;
For love is sufficient unto love.
When you love you should not say, God is in my heart, but rather, I am in the heart of God.
And think not you can direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course.
Love has no other desire but to fulfil itself.
But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires:
To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night.
To know the pain of too much tenderness.
To be wounded by your own understanding of love;
And to bleed willingly and joyfully.
To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving;
To rest at the noon hour and meditate loveís ecstasy;
To return home at eventide with gratitude;
And then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart and a song of praise upon your lips.

from The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran

Name: Marie Laur
Date: 2001-09-28 12:29:43
Link to this Comment: 326

Once upon a time in a big city crowded with people, cars, and buildings,
where there were no gardens but only flowers that grow in pots, lived a
woman with her youngest daughter Knawlchen. She was not exactly
what someone
could call pretty but she was not ugly either. Her brown, smooth satin
complexion did not belie her origin. She was as sweet as honey and
could have been her nickname. She wanted to find meaning for her
being in
this world. The day had arrived when she had to leave home.
Her mother had taught her every bit of information and skill with which
herself had knowledge. The day she set off for her journey her mother
her a necklace of dark red stones with a pendant on it in a shape of a
seashell cone. When she was younger, her mother had received a
similar gift
from her mother, which she herself had received from her mother; it has
like this for generations. The necklace was to protect and guide
in her quest. Her mother explained to her how to use it: "Rub it any time
you need it, and it will indicate which route to take and more." Then, her
mother kissed her for the last time before she set off late that morning.
After she went through several lands full of towns just like the one she
grew up in, Knawlchen penetrated a forest at last. Deep down in the
she came upon gigantic walls. On one side was drawn a dark door
filled with
sculptures representing disorder and chaos. When Knawlchen saw the
door, a
cold breeze went down her back. She shivered. Nevertheless, that did
stop her. She carefully looked for a way to get in, even though she could
not readily find it. In deep reflection, she sat near the door. She believed
the door was the first important thing she had discovered since she left
home because and her necklace had guided her to this point. She
decided to
wait. She just needed to figure out what to do and how to do it. She
for something to happen.
Finally, two cats appeared; one black and one white. Both cats meowed
times while rubbing themselves on the young girlís legs. Then each cat
in an opposite direction. Knawlchen listened to her necklace and
the white cat heading to the East side of the wall. It went through an
opening, which surely had not existed before. Knawlchen followed the
cat on the trail that went downward a considerable degree. Soon after
the cat disappeared, but a huge field of hair lay in front of Knawlchen.
could not believe her eyes. There was a mix of three different hair colors:
black, blonde, and red. Knawlchen was confused. She decided to
consult her
necklace. With its help, she spent seven days and seven nights
the hair by color so she could plant each strand as if it was a seed.
After she planted the hair, she noticed another door at the end of a field
in which she heard running water. This time the passage was a lot
since it was made of spider webs. On the other side of the wall lay a
of blood. With the help of her necklace, she spent seven days and seven
nights separating water from blood. Then she took the blood and
sprayed the
field of hair.
In the next land, Knawlchen found a tall mountain made of human
bones. One
more time, she spent seven days and nights sorting the menís bones
from the
womenís. With the menís bones, she nourished the field of hair and
Knawlchen used the womenís bones to build herself a bridge, which
went from
one bank of the river to the other. Once on the other side, she walked
through another door. She could not see because it was pitch dark, so
When the sun grew high in the sky, she opened her eyes. She was in a
courtyard surrounded by six doors. Four of the doors were labeled
Summer, Fall, and Winter. When she opened the door of Spring, she
saw the
most magnificent green garden. All the flowers, trees and bushes were
different shades of the precious stone jade. The young girl looked at this
sparkly beauty. It was peaceful. She felt hope. Then she opened
door, where she found another gorgeous garden composed of golden
fruits and
grains. Knawlchen looked at this blazing beauty and felt herself
immersed in
compassion. She closed Summer and opened the door with Fall written
on it.
What she saw there was beyond her imagination. She had no words to
it. A spectrum of brown, red, orange and yellow composed the leaves of
trees, which were made of precious stones. Knawlchen looked at the
delightful sight and felt herself immersed in love. At last, she opened the
door with Winter written on it. Standing at the threshold, she saw the
crystal snow hanging down on the trees and bushes. Because the
flowers were
made of diamonds, she was able to hear music coming from their
bells. This
time, as she looked at this twinkling sight she felt spiritual. She thought
that everybody should be allowed to see those gardens. She
herself how could she make these jewels accessible to everybody.
When she opened one of the two remaining doors, she entered a forest.
she found a spring and drank some of the water. Then she walked
farther into
the woods and she found berry bushes from which she nourished
Knawlchen walked more and she met ten little imps. She told them the
story and asked them if they knew the owner of this place. "Yes," said an
imp with a long beard. "The Witch Lamia lives at the end of the trail you
are on right now." Knawlchen said goodbye to the little imps and
on her journey on a path by the river until the trail arrived at an immense
castle elevated by human skulls.
As she approached the entranceway, she saw a gardener and asked
him where
she could find Lamia. He showed her the way to the witch and left.
saw a body which was half woman and half wolf. There was something
about her look. Knawlchen once more told her entire story and
asked Lamia for permission to destroy the walls that enclosed the
She explained to her, her wishes to allow people who lived in towns to
life under another light. Lamia listened and finally said, "You may go
my kingdom on the condition that you guess the key that opens the sole
to freedom. Otherwise, I will eat you and throw your bones with the rest
those who dared to come here." On these words, the gardener
reappeared with
a white table built out of bones on which lay three keys. He set the table
in front of the young girl for her to take one. Discreetly, Knawlchen
consulted her necklace and extracted the left key on the side of the table.
She knew she had the correct key since she was asked to leave right
Before she left, she asked Lamia, "why are the other seekers dead?"
happened to them?" Lamia told her, "Most people are simply not ready
what they ask for."
On her way out Knawlchen saw the field she had built with her hand,
covered with vegetation. Surprisingly the walls were gone. People and
animals were relaxing. She even recognized a group of friends sitting
a fire. As she walked toward them, she was delighted to find an empty
available between two people. To the left of the space was "Devotion",
to the right was "Duty". On that empty seat was written Knowledge, the
translation of her name. After a while she set back home. On her way
she met with the white cat who has let her through her first entrance.
petted the cat. To her surprised, he turned to be a handsome prince
who has
been imprisoned by Lamia. Her courage broke the spell away. As they
it was the beginning of the afternoon. He took her to his castle and they
shared everything they knew and pledged their love. From then on,
she undertook was a manifestation of what she experienced in the

Fairy Tale Analyses

In the Fairy Tale, "Knawlchen", there are three stages of development.
First, she is willing to stand alone and courageously go on a quest to
acquire self knowledge. In the second part, she is using her intuitive
to make decisions and gather information to find knowledge. In the third
final stage, she is transforming and integrating what she has learned to
give back to her world.

In the introduction, before Knawlchen sets off, she must be willing to
her nurturing family and the comfort of her home. By doing so, she is
breaking away from her identity as a child. She calls on her inner
and intuition to give her courage to set off alone. The necklace and
that she receives as a gift is a legacy from her ancestors. With it she
the protection and wisdom of the women in her family. Finally she
the blessing of her mother. "Late that morning" is a metaphor that gives
information on her age. Knawlchen is at the end of a cycle, which in this
case is the transition from her teen age years to her womanhood. By
the forest she enters the wild and unknown world.
She listens and relies on her inner voice. Indeed the necklace and She
willing to be patient and confront her frustration and fears in order to
gain entrance in to the world of knowledge. In the book Women Who
Runs With
the Wolves, by Clarissa P. Estes, the door symbolically represents a
barrier to truth. The cats represent the forest of good and evil at
apparently seems equal but she has the intuition to make the right
The tasks that she undergoes are tests to enter in a place even greater
what she has ever experienced before. This is the place where she
the secret resources of life. The particles of hair that she separates train
her to refine discernment. The blood is a representation of the
flow of life. The bones are to represent her inner strength and
endurance to
fulfill her tasks and challenges. After she had proven that she was able
overcome obstacles and find creative solutions to problems, she had to
go everything she knew. She trustingly enters in a dark void. As she let
her preconceives notions, she was able to transform and open up to
beauty and knowledge. Armed with her new knowledge she has to
confront the
ultimate power "the Witch Lamia" that will help her integrates her
into the world. The finding of the key to the exit door is the freedom from
control and ignorance.
After that Knawlchen had received her spiritual nourishment, she is
able to
nourish herself. The gardener is the protector who cultivates and
regenerates energy. Finally, Knawlchen does not only find who she is
but she
has the recognition of others. In the meeting with her prince, there is a
merging of inner knowledge and the outer manifestation of her life path.

Knowlchen had become fully realized and integrated person.

Boat Girl Script
Name: Robin Land
Date: 2001-09-28 16:53:04
Link to this Comment: 327

Script for “The Boat Girl”

Louise: Sue, the Boat Girl
Emma: Narrator
Ann: The Boat Girl’s Father, a Carpenter
Lisa: The Boat Girl’s Mother, a Maid
Meg: River Spirit
Carol and Gail and a Large Sheet: The Waterford River
Everyone Else: Townspeople of Waterford

(As we begin, the River is flowing…)

Narrator: reads first paragraph (from “Beside the banks… “ to “…carried with pride.”

(All Townspeople [including Carpenter and Maid] shoulder their “boats” here and gather by the river.)

Narrator: reads second paragraph (from “At first…” to “…roiling river.”)

(As this paragraph is read, the Townspeople pantomime the action: two Townspeople shrug off their backpacks only to be pushed into the River. The River can roil and the Heretics can thrash and churn effectively here. All Townspeople then clear the scene. The River continues.)

Narrator: And so it came to pass in the town of Waterford that a young maid and a carpenter fell in love.

(Maid and Carpenter here hold hands and beam happily.)

Narrator: Soon they were married and the carpenter set about the task of building a new house in which they would live. They were very happy in their little house on a hill overlooking the river, but the carpenter and his wife felt an emptiness in their lives….

(Maid and Carpenter here improvise some lines expressing longing for a child)

Carpenter: (picking up hammer) I’m off to work, dear! (leaves)

Maid: (assumes prayerful pose, looking towards River) River Spirits please bless us with a child. I’ll be the best mother I can be if only I can have this one wish.

Narrator: At long last the Spirit granted her wish and she delivered a daughter.

(Boat Girl joins her parents here. All hold hands and beam happily. Some improvisations about how happy parents are with child)

Narrator: reads paragraph 4 (from “The man and his wife… “ to “ …boats of their own.”)

(Several “townspeople” quietly slip off backpacks and become “children” here. Children join Sue near the river. )

(Sue and town children improvise about wish for grownup boats)

Narrator: reads paragraph 5 and 6 (from “At long last the day arrived… “ to “…she yearned.”

(As the Narrator is reading, Sue, the children, the parents, and the townspeople pantomime the action as it is being described. Everyone can sing “Gulla Gulla” as the children get boated. As Sue is feeling more and more isolated, the various characters leave until Sue is all alone and looking very sad and weighed down.)

Narrator: reads paragraph 7 (from “From her little house . . .” to “ . . . for understanding)

(During the reading, Sue looks solemn and melancholy)

Sue: River Spirit, please help me to understand why I feel this way!

(River Spirit appears from the River and beckons to Sue)

Narrator: No one else seemed to notice the mysterious figure. Sue could not dismiss this change in the river, and deep within she, too, felt a change taking place. Each day Sue felt drawn to her lookout perch and the inner peace she felt when gazing upon the beckoning figure.

Narrator: But it happened one day that a stranger came to Waterford.

(The townspeople surround the River Spirit, who has no boat, and improvise some jeers for her boatlessness. Sue, peering from under her boat, is amazed.)

Narrator: Never before had Sue seen a full grown adult unencumbered by a boat. She felt pained to see the crowd of people that she knew and loved jeer this woman, who Sue began to recognize as the misty figure in her cherished vision. She saw that the expression on the stranger’s face remained calm and serene, as if nourished by an inner peace. Sue longed to know this sense of well-being, but as she stared into her eyes, poof! The woman disappeared into thin air.

(River Spirit goes back into River)
River Spirit: I have been searching for you, Sue. My journey has taken me from village to village, and at last we meet! I know you are unhappy here. Cast off the weight of this boat from your shoulders and come with me to a place where no one drag such an object, and people dance the day away.

(Sue casts off the boat and stands up straight, smiling and looking gleeful.)

Narrator: As she clapped her hands with glee, scales began to form on her arms and body. When the transformation was complete, the two fish swam away together.

(Sue and River Spirit link arms and dance away surrounded by River, who moves with them off the scene.)

Narrator: With grateful acknowledgement to the Buddha, who said, “To remain with a belief that no longer serves its usefulness is like continuing to carry the raft after you have crossed the river.”

The End

Clockmaker Script
Name: Lisa
Date: 2001-09-29 13:21:52
Link to this Comment: 330

The Clockmaker script is 99% complete. I'm awaiting "approval" from my co-producers, Meg and Gail -- then, I'll email a copy to each of you in a Microsoft Word document.

P.S. Don't forget your crowns and magic wands.

The Boat Girl
Name: Gail DeCou
Date: 2001-09-29 15:15:49
Link to this Comment: 331

The Boat Girl

Beside the banks of the mighty Waterford River, under the sheltering branches of tall pine and oak trees, lies a busy village of the same name. Waterford is a town with traditions as old as the hardwoods that surround it. The ancient trees and the rolling waterway provide a livelihood for most of its inhabitants, and in fact, it is just this proximity to these natural resources that drew the villagers there in the first place, supporting a lifestyle that continues even to this day. Waterfordians come from a long line of boat builders who cherish and promote their traditions in every way they can. They take such tremendous pride in the fine workmanship of each vessel turned out by their artisans that long ago they decreed that all inhabitants of the town, upon reaching the age of reason, should be presented with their own boats, to be carried with pride.
At first, according to the town legend, some townsfolk complained that carrying a boat around all day long was much too cumbersome, but they were roundly scorned by the others for lack of civic pride. After all, they were told, Waterford was such a model community that Waterfordians should be honored to be chosen to display their craft for the entire world to see. It was pronounced that this outward display would attract new members to their community, which would result in greater boat production and, it would follow, greater wealth for all. Many quickly learned to adapt. The most outspoken of the protestors, however, were met with a most cruel fate. Plunged into the river’s raging waters with neither boat nor paddle for protection, heretics were doomed to thrash and churn relentlessly below the surface of the roiling river.

And so it came to pass in the town of Waterford that a young maid and a carpenter fell in love. Soon they were married and the carpenter set about the task of building a new house in which they would live. They were very happy in their little house on a hill overlooking the river, but the carpenter and his wife felt an emptiness in their lives, and they longed for a child. Every morning the carpenter picked up his toolbox and went off to work. And every day the wife prayed very hard to the River Spirits asking her to bless her with a child. She promised them that she would be the best mother she could be if only she would be granted this one wish. At long last the Spirit granted her wish and she delivered a daughter.
The man and his wife were filled with joy and named their girl Sue-Z-Q, after a famous boat in their village. The little family lived in peace and harmony amongst the boat people. As the daughter grew to young girlhood she became fascinated by the adults in her town. She longed to be a grownup and carry the cherished boat the way her parents and the other adults did. She often played with her friends on the banks of the river, sailing their toy boats back and forth and dreaming of the day when they would receive real boats of their own.
At long last the day arrived. The children assembled on the mossy banks of the river. The crowd that gathered for the ceremony sang out joyously “Gulla Gulla” as Sue and the others received their boats. Sue’s heart burst with pride as she was handed her boat and began to slip it over her shoulders. It really was quite heavy and Sue found that in order to keep it from dragging on the ground she had to crouch a little. But the look of love and pride that shone on her parents’ faces more than made up for any discomfort. Sue wanted to dance and sing along with the well-wishers, but was finding it difficult to maneuver her boat. The other children seemed to be having trouble, too, but the grown-ups said they’d all get used to it soon enough.
But Sue didn’t. She found it difficult to play most games, and dancing, which had made her feel light and free, now made her feel silly and self-conscious. As she watched her friends becoming increasingly comfortable in their boats, Sue began to feel more and more uneasy in hers. In spite of her outward appearance, inside Sue was feeling troubled and confused. She did not know the sense of happiness she believed that others enjoyed. Her growing sense of isolation caused her to question her own value--Perhaps she wasn’t worthy enough to carry a boat. There were times when she felt like an outsider in her own village. Sue wondered if she would always feel this way, or if there was a way to find the peace of mind for which she yearned.
From her little house on the hill, Sue often gazed solemnly out her window. Beyond her yard the path led down to the bustling town that hugged the water’s edge. Watching the familiar sight of life in the village made her feel safe and secure. But it was the presence of the river, the life force of the village that captivated her. She felt drawn to the magic of its deep, dark, mysterious waters and longed to understand their meaning. Her Mother had taught Sue how to pray to the River Spirits for special favors. Sue now prayed every day for understanding.
One day as Sue peered from her window her eyes began to focus on something that she had never noticed before. A misty cloud had formed just above the surface of the water. Within its swirling movement Sue thought she saw a beckoning figure suddenly emerge and just as quickly disappear. No one else appeared to notice. Sue could not dismiss this change in the river, and deep within she, too, felt a change taking place. Each day Sue felt drawn to her lookout perch and the inner peace she felt when gazing upon the beckoning figure.
It happened one day that a stranger came to Waterford. As Sue walked along the riverbank she almost missed seeing the newcomer. With the weight of her boat straining her back and shoulders, Sue had taken to walking with her head bowed. She could only tilt her head slightly and lift her eyes in order to see above her. But the sound of a commotion nearby caused her to strain her eyes to see. People had gathered around a woman beside the shore, standing fully erect and boatless! Never before had Sue seen a full grown adult unencumbered by a boat. She felt pained to see the crowd of people that she knew and loved jeer this woman, who Sue began to recognize as the misty figure in her cherished vision. She saw that the expression on the stranger’s face remained calm and serene, as if nourished by an inner peace. Sue longed to know this sense of well being, but as she stared into her eyes, poof! --The woman disappeared into thin air. Just then, a golden fish emerged from the water and spoke to Sue in a beautiful and gentle voice: “I have been searching for you.’ The fish said. ‘My journey has taken me from village to village and at last we meet! I know you are unhappy here. Cast off the weight of this boat from your shoulders and come with me to a place where no one drags around such an object, and people dance the day away.” Sue was overjoyed. She immediately cast aside her boat and was amazed to be able to stand upright again. As she clapped her hands with glee, scales began to form on her arms and body. When the transformation was complete, the two fish swam away together.

With grateful acknowledgement, (paraphrased to the best of my memory):
To remain with a belief that no longer serves its usefulness is like continuing to carry the raft after you have crossed the river.
The Budda

The Boat Girl: An Analysis
Name: Gail Decou
Date: 2001-09-29 15:18:39
Link to this Comment: 332

The Boat Girl: An Analysis

“The Boat Girl” is an appealing story told in the fairy tale form. This initial offering by newcomer Gail DeCoux describes the angst of an ordinary young girl, with the not so ordinary name Sue-Z-Q, who undergoes multiple transformations. Apparently influenced by Bruno Bettelheim’s “The Uses of Enchantment,” the author has crafted her tale on several levels in order to appeal to a wider audience. She has done so with some success, but not without some sacrifice.
On its simplest level the story involves our aforementioned hero who, already burdened with an inscrutable name, is also made to bear a boat on her back. She is joined by a talking fish, a river that is at once both cruel and kind, and the river spirits that dwell beneath its waters. The thick forest that surrounds the village holds secrets that will be revealed. In “The Uses of Enchantment” Bettelheim writes: “For a story to truly hold a child’s attention, it must entertain him and arouse his curiosity.” (1) In true fairy tale form these characters and their actions are meant to entertain and to capture the imagination of young readers as well as provide an enriching experience.
There is also another level of meaning to be found in “The Boat Girl.” In reference to folk fairy tales Bettelheim also writes: “…from them a child can learn more about the inner problems of man, and about solutions to his own (and our) predicaments in any society, than he can from any other type of story within his comprehension.” (2) In this regard the author has deviated from the classic fairy tale form in representing the inner conflict of Sue. Typically, the hero sets out on some sort of journey or adventure, or is in some way tested by external forces, in order to overcome an obstacle
Sue’s battles are from within. . Bettelheim states that, “…our greatest need and most difficult achievement is to find meaning in life.” (3) One could argue that this search is meaningless, for there is no definitive answer to this question. Each of us, however, must search for our own meaning in order to acquire psychological maturity and the inner peace that follows. The author describes the deep psychological distress that Sue experiences in her struggle to find meaning, rather than presenting it in symbolic form. Purists may feel shortchanged. (Perhaps the outward physical change in Sue could have transpired more gradually, along with her psychological changes. Also, the parents play a minor role here, and no mention is made of brothers or sisters. These are regarded as classic fairy tale vehicles to demonstrate relinquishing childhood dependencies, gaining a feeling of self-hood and self-worth, and a sense of moral obligation). (4)
In yet another deviation from the norm, the two fish swim off together. Again, Bettelheim: “…it is even more important…that the child be provided with images of heroes that have to go out into the world by themselves and…find themselves secure places by following the way that is right for them with deep inner confidence.” (5) But this reviewer thinks that the author may have had something else in mind. The other fish symbolizes the embracing of new ideologies, the forming of new and meaningful relationships, which, may themselves fall away as greater levels of knowledge and understanding are gained. Thus, the search for meaning is never over, but continues throughout one’s lifetime.
Most readers, however, will exult along with Sue in her ultimate victory over the constraints of old beliefs as she realizes that in order to be true to herself she must break free of former bonds --many of which are still held dear-- and embrace her true beliefs. She effects her own transformation by drawing on her inner strengths and resources, symbolically shown by growing scales on her body. With this comes her redemption.

(1). Bruno Bettelheim, “The Uses of Enchantment,” paragraph 2.
(2). Ibid. para. 3.
(3). Ibid. para. 1.
(4). Ibid. para. 5.
(5). Ibid. para. 12

The Boat Girl: An Analysis
Name: Gail DeCou
Date: 2001-09-29 15:24:06
Link to this Comment: 333

The Boat Girl: An Analysis

“The Boat Girl” is an appealing story told in the fairy tale form. This initial offering by newcomer Gail DeCoux describes the angst of an ordinary young girl, with the not so ordinary name Sue-Z-Q, who undergoes multiple transformations. Apparently influenced by Bruno Bettelheim’s “The Uses of Enchantment,” the author has crafted her tale on several levels in order to appeal to a wider audience. She has done so with some success, but not without some sacrifice.
On its simplest level the story involves our aforementioned hero who, already burdened with an inscrutable name, is also made to bear a boat on her back. She is joined by a talking fish, a river that is at once both cruel and kind, and the river spirits that dwell beneath its waters. The thick forest that surrounds the village holds secrets that will be revealed. In “The Uses of Enchantment” Bettelheim writes: “For a story to truly hold a child’s attention, it must entertain him and arouse his curiosity.” (1) In true fairy tale form these characters and their actions are meant to entertain and to capture the imagination of young readers as well as provide an enriching experience.
There is also another level of meaning to be found in “The Boat Girl.” In reference to folk fairy tales Bettelheim also writes: “…from them a child can learn more about the inner problems of man, and about solutions to his own (and our) predicaments in any society, than he can from any other type of story within his comprehension.” (2) In this regard the author has deviated from the classic fairy tale form in representing the inner conflict of Sue. Typically, the hero sets out on some sort of journey or adventure, or is in some way tested by external forces, in order to overcome an obstacle
Sue’s battles are from within. . Bettelheim states that, “…our greatest need and most difficult achievement is to find meaning in life.” (3) One could argue that this search is meaningless, for there is no definitive answer to this question. Each of us, however, must search for our own meaning in order to acquire psychological maturity and the inner peace that follows. The author describes the deep psychological distress that Sue experiences in her struggle to find meaning, rather than presenting it in symbolic form. Purists may feel shortchanged. (Perhaps the outward physical change in Sue could have transpired more gradually, along with her psychological changes. Also, the parents play a minor role here, and no mention is made of brothers or sisters. These are regarded as classic fairy tale vehicles to demonstrate relinquishing childhood dependencies, gaining a feeling of self-hood and self-worth, and a sense of moral obligation). (4)
In yet another deviation from the norm, the two fish swim off together. Again, Bettelheim: “…it is even more important…that the child be provided with images of heroes that have to go out into the world by themselves and…find themselves secure places by following the way that is right for them with deep inner confidence.” (5) But this reviewer thinks that the author may have had something else in mind. The other fish symbolizes the embracing of new ideologies, the forming of new and meaningful relationships, which, may themselves fall away as greater levels of knowledge and understanding are gained. Thus, the search for meaning is never over, but continues throughout one’s lifetime.
Most readers, however, will exult along with Sue in her ultimate victory over the constraints of old beliefs as she realizes that in order to be true to herself she must break free of former bonds --many of which are still held dear-- and embrace her true beliefs. She effects her own transformation by drawing on her inner strengths and resources, symbolically shown by growing scales on her body. With this comes her redemption.

(1). Bruno Bettelheim, “The Uses of Enchantment,” paragraph 2.
(2). Ibid. para. 3.
(3). Ibid. para. 1.
(4). Ibid. para. 5.
(5). Ibid. para. 12

Particle Man Hyperlink
Name: Gail DeCou
Date: 2001-09-29 16:22:24
Link to this Comment: 334

Hi All, As some of you may know, the poem "Particle Man" that appears in our course packets is a song by a group called They Might Be Giants. There is a web-site that has some interesting interpretations for this song, one of which is based on the reading for Tues., Flatland.
With the gracious assistance of my son-in-law, Paul, I will now attempt to send you a hyperlink;

click here

Click on BAND. Then click on the 2nd listing which is chords, lyrics & interpretations. Then click on FLOOD. Then click on the #7 Particle Man key symbol.
If your in a hurry, scroll down to last entry. -Gail

dropped stitch: citations
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2001-09-29 16:31:07
Link to this Comment: 335

One of several stitches I dropped this week was a promise I'd made to the McBrides for a quick review of the conventions for citing other works in your own. Basically, here's how:

in your text, insert parenthetically, @ the end of the sentence in which you embed a quote, the page # from which you've taken it, as follows:

Bruno Bettelheim states that fairy tales help children meet their psychic needs by helping the child "to transcend the confines of a self-centered existence" (1).

Then, at the end of your essay, give a complete citation of the article, noting all its pages, not just the one from which you quoted (you can lift this directly from the bibliography at the front of our course packet):

Bettelheim, Bruno. "Reflections: The Uses of Enchantment." The New Yorker (December 8, 1975): 50-144.

the concert
Name: Carol
Date: 2001-10-01 10:32:41
Link to this Comment: 347

I hope the performances went well last night. I'm sorry to have missed the occasion, but here's the review of the concert I went to, where my sister played her "big wooden stick," as I call it in my fairy tale. She, of course, was fabulous, but Leontyne Price, Yo-Yo Ma, and James Levine were also just great. Very moving.

October 1, 2001

A Concert Offers City Some Time For Healing

Find additional information by selecting from the following topics.

Classical Music
Ma, Yo-Yo
World Trade Center

any great performing artists give generously of their time when called upon to participate in memorial concerts. But time was an especially tight commodity for two of the artists who appeared last night in Carnegie Hall's free concert of remembrance to honor the victims of the tragedy of Sept. 11.

The cellist Yo-Yo Ma had been in Chicago from Thursday through Saturday giving the premiere performances of Elliott Carter's new Cello Concerto with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Yesterday afternoon, prior to the Carnegie event, he performed in the private funeral service for Isaac Stern in Connecticut.

On Saturday James Levine had his first doubleheader of the season at the Metropolitan Opera, conducting Mozart's "Idomeneo" in the afternoon and Berg's "Wozzeck" in the evening. For last night's concert he brought along four superb musicians from the Met orchestra to join him in Mozart's Quintet for Piano and Winds in E flat.

Time in a different sense was an issue for the other generous artist of the evening, Leontyne Price. At the request of Carnegie Hall, Ms. Price, who is 74, came out of retirement to perform. It must have been heartening for her to see such a racially diverse and notably young audience in the hall. If classical concert producers need more evidence that the cost of tickets keeps potential new audiences away, this concert provided it.

Robert J. Harth, the executive and artistic director of Carnegie Hall, began the evening with an eloquent tribute to the victims, families and rescuers. Then Mr. Ma appeared, to perform two works for solo cello, starting with "Appalachia Waltz" by his colleague, the violinist and composer Mark O'Connor. In Mr. Ma's beautifully subdued performance, this tender work, steeped in Appalachian folk music, had an ancient modal resonance, almost like medieval music. Then Mr. Ma played Bach's Cello Suite No. 5 in C Minor. If you are looking for something to depend on at this time of loss and confusion, Yo-Yo Ma playing the Bach cello suites will do just fine.

Mr. Levine and the Met wind players — Elaine Douvas (oboe), Ricardo Morales (clarinet), Patricia Rogers (bassoon) and Julie Landsman (horn) — gave an undulant and spirited account of the Mozart quintet. Then Mr. Levine offered a wistful performance of William Bolcom's "Graceful Ghost Rag."

Ms. Price's appearance, no surprise here, elicited a prolonged ovation. When she retired from opera in 1985 with a performance of "Aida" at the Met, the grand farewell was broadcast live over public television. She continued to give recitals over the years, but with decreasing frequency. Finally, in 1998, with no attendant fanfare, she simply stopped.

Though she looked radiant in her black gown and turban, she seemed quite nervous at first. It surely took courage for her to sing again, especially on such an emotional occasion. She needed a little time to settle vocally into the first offering, which Mr. Levine accompanied: "This Little Light of Mine," the words slightly altered to the more inclusive plural pronoun ("this little light of ours"). Naturally, her voice has faded. Still, that we were hearing the gleaming Leontyne Price sound at all was very consoling. Her words were not always clear, but her intention was. The audience stood and cheered.

Then she sang a solo rendition of "America the Beautiful," both verses, and, now more confident, her voice resounded throughout the hall. As she capped the anthem with a lustrous top note, decades suddenly disappeared.

If artists like Mr. Levine and Mr. Ma can put themselves out like this for a healing public ceremony, and if Ms. Price can still sing so bravely, then New Yorkers and the watching world can get through anything

last night and ...
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2001-10-01 15:31:08
Link to this Comment: 357

Thanks to all for an enjoyable/instructive evening. I have some pictures as reminders which I'll try and get up in the near future.

Have found our story telling/retelling inquiry valuable in my thinking about 11 September, and pleased to find that set of concerns part of yesterday evening as well. The end of the 11 September 2001 Forum (at least as of today) has some thoughts that may be of interest in connection with our course. And your own thoughts about 11 September and its sequelae are of course welcome in that forum.

Wednesday 3 Assignment
Name: Annie
Date: 2001-10-02 21:31:22
Link to this Comment: 367

We live in a world of stories. All of history is, by virtue of its very name, is a story, and since we are literally creating history with every second we are on this earth, we are telling new stories. Why, then, are we reluctant to consciously admit we are doing so? Why is it different for us to say, “Oh, here is a new story” when our lives are basically that?
We are reluctant to tell new stories sometimes because of the pressures of our culture. In Abbott’s Flatland, A. Square is frightened of relating his experiences because he fears the retaliation of his society’s leaders, who are determined to keep such radical ideas out of the mainstream’s consciousness. Square tells us the story of the revolution of Color, and several others, all which have become warnings about the consequences of speaking against the determined thought process of Flatland. When Square does attempt to share his story of Spaceland, he is imprisoned. Foucault claims that any culture is preoccupied with the order it has created to make sense of its collective experiences, and that any idea or story that challenges that order is often feared for its ability to cause such uncertainty. We do not, as creatures of our society, raised on the history of our country, find it easy to break the order of our lives. Even in a free country, swimming up tide, creating new stories that either conflict or do not completely coincide with the established tales of our experiences, is a frightening prospect.
We are, on the other hand, motivated to tell new stories because of the knowledge we feel we can add. Square persisted in his attempts to speak about Flatland because of his conviction that the third dimension was a wonderful, vital thing to share with his fellow countrymen who were still limited by the acceptance of the confining two dimensions. Foucault suggests that orders are made to be redesigned, to be altered and tweaked to accommodate all new information that confronts a society. We as people have an innate desire to understand as much about the world as we can, and we see that need in other human beings. Any new story we hear, any tiny little bit of knowledge we find in a new train of thought or a new piece of evidence, anything that can help us sate our passion for comprehension is something we feel obligated to pass along. We tell new stories in the hope that they will serve the purpose of the existing ones: to help bring meaning into the often unfathomable phenomenon that is life.
Bettelheim argued that children find meaning in fairy tales. No matter how cynical or world weary we become as we age, we always retain that bit of childhood inside us that clings to the comfort a story can bring us. We tell ourselves stories of the past, and we attempt to create new stories, despite the sometimes negative consequences, to satisfy that inner child that begs for comprehension.

Name: Stacy
Date: 2001-10-02 21:31:55
Link to this Comment: 368

Why We Re-Tell Stories

In his Preface to The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences, Michel Foucault reveals a primary concern in his investigation: "observing how a culture experiences the propinquity of things, how it establishes the tabula of their relationships and the order by which they must be considered" (xxiv). In other words, he strives to create order in a disparate universe: to characterize, to categorize, to define, to differentiate - namely, to arrive at some semi-satisfactory state of understanding that accounts for the vast inconsistencies that populate the world. Does this sound familiar? Of course: it reflects the end toward which humanity has been striving since the origin of thought. Do we not inherently realize, as Foucault puts it, that "a 'system of elements' - a definition of the segments by which the resemblance and differences can be shown, the types of variation by which those segments can be affected, and, lastly, the threshold above which there is a difference and below which there is a similitude - is indispensable for the establishment of even the simplest form of order" (xx) and consequently wish to act upon this idea? We do, a fact evident in our explanation of the biological hierarchy of life; in the construction of countries, states, towns and other non-natural borders; even in the divisions in our schools as to graduating year, academic field, extracurricular interests, and the like. But Foucault's purpose is not nearly so simple. He sees a spectrum of knowledge ranging from this "system of elements" or "fundamental codes of a culture" at one extreme to the "scientific theories or the philosophical interpretations which explain why order exists in general, what universal law it obeys, what principle can account for it, and why this particular order has been established and not some other" (xx) at the other. Between these extremes, he finds "the pure experience of order and of its modes of being" (xxi), the springboard for his ensuing "archaeology." In sum, he believes that he has found a fresh approach in humankind's epistemology and so wants to re-tell "the order of things" in relation to this new inspiration.

Is this any different from our own motivation for re-telling stories? Not really. When our experiences yield new epiphanies or when enhanced knowledge affords new perspective on our world, we feel compelled to share this learning with our compatriots in an attempt to make life's mysteries more comprehensible for ourselves and for those who share in humanity's struggle for truth - in essence, we yearn to re-tell the story in light of our personal findings. When we are captivated by a novel, a newspaper article, a bit of gossip, do we harbor it silently or do we tell a friend, a classmates, a teacher, or a family member? Most of us tend toward the latter. Why? Quite simply, the story has re-shaped our outlook. It has caused us to ponder and reevaluate our own conception of the world, and thus, in imparting it to others - in "re-telling" it - we can better understand our perception of this knowledge in addition to enriching the perception of our listener.

If humankind is so eager to relate its experiences and to analyze them and propose questions in its eternal search for greater knowledge, why, then, is storytelling such a specialized field? Should we not all be writers, poets, storytellers, pondering intellectuals? In an informal sense we are, but naturally, there must be some inhibitions preventing us all from entering this field. Some may feel they are not equal to the task, perhaps deficient in the communicative gifts of the effective storyteller; others may fear persecution or discord stemming from their unique interpretation; still others may prefer to listen, ponder, and muse rather than question, assert, and propose.

What do we hope to gain by exercising or deferring our capacity to re-tell stories? Edwin A. Abbott, like Foucault, had a story to re-tell, yet his - Flatland - takes a starkly different form. Why? More specifically, what did Abbott hope to gain in telling his story as a satire? What losses, what costs, did he wish to minimize? Taking into the consideration the social climate of the time, it is possible that a straightforward, academic piece may have invited rampant disapproval. Thus Abbott, undoubtedly feeling that his social criticism merited expression despite the possible cost in a dissatisfied audience, chose to submerge his message in the experiences of A. Square. He can still express his "hope that these memories...may find their way to the minds of humanity in Some Dimension, and may stir up a race of rebels who shall refuse to be confined to limited Dimensionality" (82) - in other words, his desire that future generations in his own world not be so insular - but without jeopardizing himself. In the same way, humanity weighs the costs and benefits of re-defining its world through stories that enlighten and attract readers without compromising their message.

Retelling stories paper
Name: Cari
Date: 2001-10-02 22:19:53
Link to this Comment: 370

Humans have, for as long as they have been able to speak to each other, told stories to each other. These stories explained occurrences in nature, or taught lessons. They could be told as a caution, or as a lesson, or just for fun. The history of mankind itself is a story, and not even one that all people agree on. While some may take the creationist approach others like the evolutionary approach more. Along the same lines, cultures have different versions of history depending on how their ancestors lived in years past. This can create many interesting stories, but can also cause conflict between people who do not agree on the stories.
Stories of old were passed down first, through word of mouth, and later through writing. As these stories were passed they went through revisions, either intentionally or by simple human forgetfulness. Retelling stories is a way to teach a younger generation, but also a way for one person to share with another his knowledge or ideas. We want to retell these stories so that we can share past experiences, emotions, or knowledge with another person. This can be because we want to teach them, or that we simply want another person to know the story, to experience it and be able to tell us their reactions. By telling stories to others we let them in on events from our life. We can also try to make sense of something we have learned by explaining it to another.
In Flatland A. Square wanted to share his new perception of Flatland and tell others that there was more to their world. By keeping it to himself, he found himself forgetting the details of what had happened. As time wore on he found that the picture of the three-dimensional square, or cube, was fading in his mind, without sharing the image with others. He felt stifled and needed the ability to share his insight. Without this, he would not have a sharp memory of his experience in Spaceland.
We retell stories to help us remember what happened before, either in our lives or in the history of the human race. If these stories are not old, we lose important events that happened, and a part of ourselves, or out pasts.
Unfortunately, sometimes we feel reluctant to tell stories. Especially in this day and time, we fear offending someone or unintentionally making an error. We can also be prohibited from retelling a story, just as A. Square was. With the increasingly politically correct world we live in, especially here in America, some stories that were okay for retelling 30 years ago are no longer appropriate. A story may offend a religious group or a racial group. With our increasing consciousness of saying the wrong thing, we retell stories in a different light, or not at all. A good example of what can happen to stories that are fixed to make them politically correct is James Finn Garner’s satire, Politically Correct Bedtime Stories. This book takes the idea of politically correct to an extreme, changing the faerie tale stories and the words themselves in the faerie tale to make them inoffensive to the point of being ridicules. Retelling stories can cause the story to lose its meaning through an eager attempt to offend no one.
As in A. Square’s Flatland, we may also be forbidden from telling a certain story. In some cases teachers in public schools are not allowed to teach on the subject of creationism or, conversely, evolution. In Flatland, A. Square was unable to retell the story of Spaceland due to the fears of the Circles. With this fear in mind the Circles forbid the mention of the third dimension. This law forcibly kept Square from retelling his story by threat of imprisonment. Due to laws, or rules enforced by our parent, we are reluctant to retell stories because of the consequences that are associated with them. For instance a teenager may not tell his parents about the party he went to the night before because of his parents rules on parties. Even if something important and life-changing happened. We find that the stories that define our lives must be kept from others for fear of the consequences.
There are a number of pluses and minuses for retelling stories. These retold stories can either be retold verbatim, or they can be changed to fit the new audience. The story can be an important lesson for children, or a reminder, or a way to help people understand the world around them. With the retelling of stories the next generation, or even the next group of listeners can begin to learn these same things.
Retelling stories is not always beneficial however. If a story is outdated it can be interpreted to mean something completely different, or it can have no meaning to the listener/reader. This does not mean that the original idea is lost forever. In retelling a story, the author can make changes to help his audience. Disney does this to some extent. They have made the classic faerie tales easier for children to understand and relate to in some cases. However, there are drawbacks to the changing of a story. It may lose its meaning with extensive changes. If the author is not careful, the story can cease to serve the same purpose, losing its meaning just as the author was trying to revive it.
Stories are an important part of human interaction and the way humans remember their history and their past. With the retelling of stories come consequences, both positive and negative. Sometimes the author will proceed anyway, despite any negative consequences (for example, A. Square) or they can revise the story to make it acceptable or more easily understood. With a revision, though, the author can sometimes take away important aspects of the original story. Thus retelling stories can become an art in and of itself as authors try to keep a balance between the positive and negative.

The importance of storytelling
Name: mel schott
Date: 2001-10-02 23:35:26
Link to this Comment: 372

Mel Schottenstein
English Seminar
Professor Nutting
October 2, 2001
The Importance of Storytelling
Storytelling is an age-old tradition that has often been used as a means of passing a history or ideas of a people from generation to generation. Some cultures, such as the Nubian People of Africa and the Iroquois People of North America, have successfully re-told stories in order to pass down guidance and traditions from their ancestors. Similarly, the Grimm brothers scribed their collection of fairy tales only after they had been re-told by German peasants for hundreds of years. The importance of storytelling is a subtheme of Abbott’s novella Flatlands and Foucault’s preface to “The Order of Things: An Archeology of the Human Sciences,” and can be seen within the geometric metaphors of both.
There are multitudes of reasons for the creation of stories. Among them: to examine world issues, to make a commentary on life, and to explore a culture’s value system. In Flatlands, Abbott adds another reason to the list—to expand a culture’s knowledge and intellectual curiosity. In addition, his first-person narrative portrays women as one-dimensional (pun intended) and the society they moved in as strict and close-minded.
The main conflict of the narrative involves storytelling. Abbott’s main character, A Square, wishes to explain the “third-dimension” to all of the other geometric figures in Flatland, but he is prohibited to do so by the “circles”—parliament—who attempt to suppress the transmission of new knowledge through threat of penalty. A Square is sufficiently motivated to tell this “story” because he is the only one who possesses this information; unless he tells his story, the information will be lost for another millennium. But he also fears being punished for telling the story; hence, his reluctance to do so. Though written long before the thought-controlling fascist regimes of the twentieth century, Abbott’s narrative could easily be describing the practices of Nazi Germany or Stalin’s Soviet Union; it is a clever—if transparent—satire on repressive governments. As A Square operates under such dangerous circumstances, he raises the stakes of storytelling and draws attention to the power of stories.
What does Foucault say about the importance of storytelling? Though his prose is abstruse and dense, a story-related idea emerges. By using the anecdote from a Borges passage, Foucault highlights fiction’s power to create alternative systems of thought that were previously unthinkable, or, as Foucault puts it, “the stark impossibility of thinking that” (xv). By calling his study an “archeology,” Foucault is drawing attention to the absence of a classification system that can adequately incorporate large “unusual juxtapositions” of seemingly unrelated disciplines. (Which could almost be a mission statement for a seminar like this one.) He writes that other scholars have devoted much time and energy toward explaining the “fundamental codes of a culture” (its “empirical orders”) as well as its “scientific theories … which explain why order exists in general,” yet none of these scholars has explored an “intermediary” domain which is concerned with the very existence of “order” (xx). Foucault, of course, chooses to explore this domain. Though not concerned with the profits and costs of storytelling per se, a crucial inference one can draw from his text is that all stories are masked attempts to gain a better understanding of ourselves as human beings, and, moreover, attempts to gain insights into the nature of “ordering” itself (why do, for example, stories have beginnings, middles, and ends?).

Name: Sarah Eber
Date: 2001-10-02 23:53:05
Link to this Comment: 373

Human beings are both driven and afraid to retell stories. Part of this drive is the need to define the world for the self, but equally compelling, in the opposite direction, is the fear of being wrong. This fear extends not only to fear of persecution by others, as exemplified by the fate of the narrator of Flatland, but also to the fear of disturbing the previously set order, as described in the Foucault selection.
Stories are told in the first place to make sense of the world, a risky venture in itself. Retelling stories implies a more personal search for truth, analyzing what others believe and choosing or discarding ideas to one’s individual liking. This allows for personal growth and the opportunity for a multitude of viewpoints to be represented in the same basic story. Teaching is also an important impetus for the reinterpretation of a story, as demonstrated by the teaching going on in Flatland, as the narrator attempted to explain two dimensions to the line in Lineland, and the Sphere attempted to demonstrate the existence of the third dimension to the narrator. Although not all of these incidents were successful, retelling of stories has the potential of creating better understanding in both teacher and student.
However, retelling stories has its risks. Foucault spoke of the order of the world, and the ways in which it could be upset by reclassification, which retelling stories essentially is. A change meant to clarify has the equal potential of confusion, and the pressure to get it right springs from both without and within. The possibility of condemnation also tends to discourage the aspiring storyteller. This condemnation can be caused not only by “getting it wrong,” but also by society’s rejection of an idea, whether through ignorance or deliberate suppression, as was the case with the Flatlanders’ determined efforts to keep secret the existence of the third dimension.
This conflict of whether or not to develop one’s own interpretation of reality, and to impart it to others, is one that is dealt with often, in various situations. The balance between the two opposing influences is one that is newly negotiated many times a day.

Re-telling Fairy Tales
Name: Annabella
Date: 2001-10-03 00:12:31
Link to this Comment: 374

Annabella Rutigliano
Professor Nutting

Why are we motivated and reluctant to re-tell stories?
How does it profit us and what are the costs?

As humans we have been telling, and re-telling stories for ages. At first storytelling, or oral tradition was a way of keeping history and knowledge alive. At this point we were motivated to tell stories as a way of survival, as a method of immortalizing the lessons we learned during our first days of existence. Through out those seemingly innocuous stories, vital life lessons were taught. Without them would the human race have survived? Later the ancient civilizations told myths, legends, and fairy tales to explain the unexplained. Through those tales we gain our first stories, and in-turn the first marked evidence of an organized civilization. Subsequently philosophers would use stories as a tool to teach, and moralize to the masses. Even now we tell fairy tales to children in hopes to appease, and impinge upon them some sense of good and evil.
Modern day writers are motivated by opinions, newfound knowledge, and experiences to tell us stories. Today writing, an evolved form of story telling, is a tool of mass media. Authors can publicize their ideas, and theories. One of the most crucial and hazardous tools in history has been a story or opinion written in a book. Take for example the Federalist X. The American and French Revolutions would not have occurred, if its ideals had not inspired nations to revolt! History its self is the greatest re-told story of all time. History is in the hands of its authors. A perfect example is the textbooks that we use in school. For example if you compare the history books of a child in the United States to that of a German child you will get two radically different versions of the events of World War II.
This brings me to one of the flaws in telling and re-telling stories. Each time that we re-tell a story, we change a small part of it to fit our perception of how it should have been (according to us). Take for example how many different versions of Cinderella we have heard!! If that’s not enough look at everyday life occurrences. Take gossip for example. One minute you hear “someone fell down the stairs.” The next “some one was pushed down the stairs, got concussion, broke 5 ribs, and was hauled away as a bloody lump in an ambulance. Only after having been pulled back from the brink of death by EMS.” Personally this shining example of human nature would quench any burgeoning need I had to tell a story. The risk of it being maligned and perverted for the general public’s entertainment makes me cringe.
In the beginning stages of societal development the telling and re-telling of a story could have been the difference between life and death. Later on, books such as Flatland and Federalist X were used to propagate important issues such as Women’s Rights, Civil Rights, and Educational Reform. Even today’s our news papers re-tell events to the masses. In total as a society, and a race humans have profited endlessly from the telling and re-telling of stories. We have used the re-telling of stories as a survival tool, a method of education, an implement of morality, a battle cry, and more recently as a tool of mass media, and a device of advertisers. But with the good comes the bad. Each time a story is retold its original structure is subtly altered, and what is lost can never be replaced. Also with each re-telling a story will have a different meaning cast on it. What was originally a fairy- tale in the 15th century, could turn into a politically loaded metaphor of the 21st century.

In conclusion stories will always be told and re-told until the end of time. A story is the true fountain of youth. Cinderella is immortal, as is Briar Rose. Prince Charming will always be the standard that women ruthlessly hold men up to. Once in a story you will be forever young. But with endless youth comes the high price of time. A heroine and role model today, is a feminist’s arch foe tomorrow. But remember a villain is always a villain. Woe to those who go down in history as the stepmothers, and evil Queens!!

Name: Aneta Piat
Date: 2001-10-03 10:28:06
Link to this Comment: 377

Story telling has been an activity that people all over the world of a variety of different cultures have been engaging in for centuries. It has actually become an important part of the culture, a form of identification. Each story is important in explaining a culture. Often, the morals and values of a particular culture are revealed through a story. A constant theme in stories of all types is the struggle between good and evil. Good and evil may have many different definitions depending upon the culture. Stories help conserve tradition and they also tell history. In Africa, a story teller is a privileged position. The person is called a griot, and their occupation is story telling. The griot has salvaged African history, for besides western interference, there was no recorded history of Western Africa. Oral tradition is a valuable means of story telling. All over the world, stories of many varieties have, are, and will be told. Most stories are told in order to explain. A very popular topic is the origin of life. Ranging from Native Americans, to Africans, to the Aboriginese, to Indians, to Arabs, and Europeans, the origin of life has been a very debated and interesting topic, and remains so to this day. Stories are re-told because they are interesting, and they provide a base for moral fiber. A story can never be told, heard, or read twice in the same exact way. Each time, there is always a new feeling, a new meaning to the story. And that make it all the more interesting. Occasionally people refrain from telling stories because they are too painful or their subject is too delicate a matter to be openly discussed. There is a fear of the opposition of society, as in Flatland, and stories are not told for fear of one's life. Stories enrich our cultures and remind us of our responsibilities. They take us back in time into the past to help us understand our cultures. Stories help us understand ourselves. They set a basis for society, as Bettelheim described with his analysis on the effect of fairy tales on children. Only a few stories, which may be misleading or falsified, are capable of hurting us. Otherwards, stories benefit the human race as a whole.

My Response
Name: Molly
Date: 2001-10-03 11:01:35
Link to this Comment: 378

Everybody and everything has a story to tell. This simply is a fact of existence. What is a story? It is merely an interpretation of some reality. This redefinition is what literature is, an author’s perception of reality be it his/her own or the “reality” of some character. When we talk about ourselves, we like to think that we all co-exist amidst the same reality. But is my reality really the same as another person’s? No, the very idea that some other person occupies my unique perception is a scary thought. It is oppressive and unrealistic as well. This discontinuity between individual perceptions is what prompts us to rearrange our world in story form.
I think that both Foucault and Flatland are very telling. The way both authors chose to define a reality says a lot about the way they view the world. All of us, because of who we are as humans, are prompted to be storytellers and thus rearrangers and dissectors of the world. Because of this, we have almost an infinite number of rearranged existences. Yet, only some us are compelled to share our interpretations. Others find that merely living out a reality keeps their hands full enough. so the physical interpretations are left to another party. Since there is no one-way to view the world, however, each of us is living out only a perception of a reality and this is essentially just a story in itself.

Name: Joanna Sim
Date: 2001-10-03 11:34:16
Link to this Comment: 379

People are both motivated and reluctant to re-tell stories. There is an overwhelming urge to share stories with others; to convey messages and for enlightenment. But the author is also afraid of being persecuted for his or her representations, and there is a fear that an author’s message will not be conveyed correctly-- that the intent will be misunderstood by the reader.
Flatland clearly demonstrates the motivation to re-tell a story. After the narrator returns from his visit to “Spaceland,” he is anxious to evangelize the people of Flatland and enlighten them to the truth. He wants to record his adventure or relate it to others so that the revelation will not be forgotten. He spends several months composing an exposition that will reveal to the ignorant people of his world that this new land truly does exist. He has trouble refraining from telling his story, and begs his people to go beyond what they know-- beyond their original beliefs-- and accept the idea of a new dimension.
Flatland also clearly demonstrates the reluctance to re-tell a story. The narrator realizes the danger in relating his dream-like adventure, and is discouraged to communicate his secret. He fears the consequences, which includes imprisonment, and he knows that the people of Flatland will discredit his tale. Although he realizes the officials of Flatland will attempt to keep his story a secret from their world, he continues to hope that his story will someday be revealed, and the people of this limited dimension will finally discover the truth and break away from their confinement.
Foucault attempts to prepare his readers for the rest of his book The Order of Things in his Foreword. He feels the need to define and clarify his intentions and provide an explanation for his book. He is not exactly reluctant to tell his story, but reluctant to allow his readers to reach there own explanations and interpretations based on what they read. He feels he must first warn the reader about what they are to expect and show them how to interpret his work. The Foreword hints at what the author will attempt to reveal in the rest of his book.
Both Foucault and Abbott, similarly with all authors, demonstrate a fear that readers will not approach stories with open minds. They feel provoked to divulge certain truths, but they also are prevented and reluctant to tell their stories because they feel the readers will not understand or believe the stories to be true. They fear that the original intentions in writing the tales will be lost. In spite of all this, stories are continually told everyday, through all things done or said. Authors will continue to enhance and enlighten our world through the stories they choose to reveal.

story telling
Name: Diana
Date: 2001-10-03 12:40:44
Link to this Comment: 380

Diana Lowell
Professor Nutting

Why are we both motivated and reluctant to retell stories? What provokes us and what prevents us? How does it profit us and what are its costs?

At the beginning of language, humans used stories as a way to explain history. Before there was writing, there was spoken history that passed from village to village and father to son. The stories dealt with origins of the world and famous battles that took place. The motivations for these stories is quite obvious because curiosity is a big part of human nature. However, in today’s society, stories have become more complex and the telling of them has consequences with the joys.
Parents usually start reading their children familiar stories such as fairy tales that are fun to tell. There is much motivation to tell fun stories because the audience reacts positively, whether through laughter or a simple smile. However, with society changing, some parents feel reluctant to tell traditional fairy tales. As we have discussed in class, fairy tales often show women as weak characters that need princes. They also can be gruesome, which could cause nightmares. All in all, though, it is usually enjoyable to tell children’s stories.
However, there are stories that are not easy to tell. Many of these stories deal with religion in some way. In ancient society all people worshiped the same god, but as time progressed, so did beliefs. Many Jews were persecuted for telling their stories about their god. If they had not spoken their beliefs, though, their children would not have learned how to worship. Other religions faced the same problems. They had to decide between speaking their beliefs and serving their god, or keeping silent and being disobedient.
In Flatland the square must decide whether or not to speak about his mathematical discoveries. Many early scientists faced this same dilemma. Magellan said, “The church tells me that the earth is flat but I have seen the shadow on the moon and I believe in the shadow more.” Science could have advanced much faster if early discoverers were not forced to recant their beliefs. Each scientist had to decide whether to keep silent and avoid trouble or give society the chance to advance. In today’s society there is not so much persecution because of science. Even so, anyone who discovers something new must decide whether or not to put forward the theory. If it is correct, he or she will be rewarded, but if the theory is incorrect, other scientists might reject the data and the scientist along with it.
There is a benefit to telling stories because when one believes that something is true, or worth knowing (as is the case with fairy tales), then there is an inner compulsion to share that knowledge. In a perfect society, all stories would be heard without judgment of the story teller, but just like what happened in Flatland, there are sometimes repressive consequences for telling an unpopular story.

Name: Courtney M
Date: 2001-10-03 14:10:55
Link to this Comment: 381

As an outsider of Flatland I find it particularly obscure that some shapes are assumed to be better than others based on their angles. It seems as though Abbott makes a mockery of earthly societies' class structures. What are they generally based on? An example is skin color: it is just as illogical to say that someone is fated to be unintelligent because of their skin tone as it was for smaller angles to indicate obtuse personalities (isn't it strange how the shapes with obtuse angles are "sharper" than the shapes with acute angles?). I wonder if it was sarcasm when the sphere first meets the narrator and says that three dimensions is knowledge, when our earthly 3-D society can be equally as ignorant and illogical as Flatland's.
It is interesting how Abbott walked the reader through the narrator's process of learning and coming to understand something as foreign and a third dimension. Furthermore, the narrator possess a positive human characteristic brought out after being enlightened: the desire to spread his enlightenment and help others know what he knew. The narrator knows that he would have to convert a pack shapes willing to rebel in order to deal with the obstinance that will face him as he tries to spread his new knowledge. As in earthly society, beings are reluctant to change their ways because it would take so much work and adjustment to deal with life differently. Such movements to change societies' routines are often long-term struggles because of those who don't join in just because they can't see a foreign concept working. By using the example of trying to comprehend a new dimension, Abbott illustrates how inconceivable new societal arrangements can be in the earthly world.

Telling and Re-Telling of Stories
Name: Andrea Bet
Date: 2001-10-03 14:34:50
Link to this Comment: 382

Human beings have lived with a continuous struggle with their own
existence. The questions of “who are we” and “where do we come from” are
doubts that have existed since the origin of humanity, and therefore, they
are questions that have induced mankind to search for answers throughout
their history. The method by which man and women have answered their
questions, as to say, have gained knowledge, of existence is throughout the telling and re-telling of stories.
Language is the most important element in the activities of telling and retelling stories. Human beings are provoked to recreate reality (moral
and/or physical) in order to have a better understanding of them; of the way they live, act, and think, in a certain period of humanity’s history. The way the author expresses and organizes the plot in a story correspond to a certain “scheme of thought” proper to his surrounding reality, and caused by influences such as the “natural history”, the “laws of language”, and the “economic facts” of that certain time period. Foucault, in fact, digs under these terms in his book, The order of things, to analyze the origin of our current scientific way of thinking. These factors, which seem irrelevant and distant fields from humans “thought” -“knowledge”-, are the ones that unconsciously shape our ways of visualizing, assimilating, ordering, learning, and interpreting “scientifically”.
When reading stories of past times, not only do we encounter
different expressions and words no longer used; but also, most importantly, we encounter with the problem of interpreting language as a whole. The risk we take, and that some times keep us reluctant to continue the retelling of stories, is the unconscious, and yet, always present misinterpretation of the discourse, its meanings and values on the time it is created and given to the audience. A clear example of this problem is the retelling of the story of the Bible. Some morals and allegories used two thousand years ago are ignored nowadays, therefore the interpretation of them are not the same as they were intended when written. For example, the scene where Jesus offers his left cheek after being slapped in his right one, “teaches” us we have to “turn our other cheek’ instead of responding firmly to the aggressor. But, what we ignored is the real meaning the “turning of the other cheek” had in the ancient Jewish society. Back then it meant daring the enemy to repeat his
action. These types of misinterpretations are caused when the reader of
stories is not familiar with the culture, values, ideals and semiotics of the time when it was written.
Human beings tell stories as a way of spreading knowledge, in other words, of explanations (that attempt to be true) of our origin and function in this world. Even a scientific theory such as the Big Bang can be eventually classified as a fiction story (when the theory of inflation
reaches a broader audience) because stories reflect human’s actions and
thoughts in different ways. They are sometimes imaginative and sometimes
scientifically proved, but do not both emerge from people’s minds? Yes, both ways of explaining the world come from the same source-the mind-, and, they are both transmitted throughout a discourse that has been created in a certain time, under certain rules, beliefs, and values, in order to reach its contemporary audience. Thus, stories that are retold loose their initial meaning and explain things in different ways, that sometimesbecome incoherent when interpreted in a different context of the one it originally belonged to. Tale stories, such as Flatland, may include
interesting and innovating points of view for the writer’s contemporary
audience, but, as time passes and the issues treated gain different
perspectives, the story may become absurd or it may awaken more doubts that look for more stores. For this same token, humans cannot engage with stories. They can learn something about the past throughout them, but as they learn more, they question even more, and their thoughts are exposed to continuous changes. Thus, stories are always being produced, and people cannot re-tell stories that loose their original truth, only; but they must always be open to discover new perspectives of humans and the world. Therefore they should be willing to create stories as human minds bears the most unique transformations.

Why are we reluctant/motivated to tell stories?
Name: Lisa
Date: 2001-10-03 20:42:31
Link to this Comment: 384

Draft 1

We are reluctant to tell our stories for some of the same reasons we are motivated to express them.

Our need/desire to "fit in" corresponds to both our motivation and reluctance. On the one hand, we'll tell a story to establish our sense of belonging, yet we may resist telling the same story because we worry that it will illustrate just the opposite -- that we don't "fit in."

Insecurities and/or feelings of inferiority are reasons we sometimes hold back from telling stories -- we worry what others may think of us once we reveal ourselves. We're taking a chance when we express ourselves because there is always the potential for discomfort if, for instance, the dialogue pushes us into revealing more than we had originally planned.

Sharing ideas about who we are and where we come from allows others to know something about us, and the ensuing exchange can be exciting. In social situations, we tell our stories because we hope for a reciprocal relationship/friendship. It's a wonderful human experience to connect with someone and begin a new friendship. Yet, having stated that, I'm sure most of us have experienced other facets of this situation. How often have we prematurely judged someone we've just met, based solely on a story they've shared?

If we read Flatland, and never read other works by Edwin A. Abbott, it gives us only one reference (albeit a solid one) as to who the author was, where he comes from, etc. But reading the man's biography as well as other works helps us to form a more complete picture of the author.

We use stories as a means of communicating and opening oneself up to suggestions,possibilities and others' interpretations. We use stories as a way to seek opinions and/or advice and counsel, as well as to educate -- but there are limitations. Time (or space in say, a newspaper column) often dictates or prohibits the full telling of a story. The author risks the reader forming opinions based only on what time/space have allowed her to write, and so she must be meticulous in choosing which points she wishes to exaggerate and/or leave out.

As to why we change stories, I believe we revise and rewrite our stories to make them more accessible to readers/listeners. We're always trying to better define the story, or better illustrate a point which aids us in the process of convincing the reader of our truths.

Name: meg devere
Date: 2001-10-03 20:52:15
Link to this Comment: 385

· Motivations for the Stories we retell

Meg Devereux

I am having the worst time condensing what seems to me the subject of an entire semester, the content of a long magazine article, or the ongoing topic of an all night bull session. The need to change or retell the stories we tell about the nature of the world.
As a reading addict for the last forty years, I could start with the big story that begins, “ And an angel of the lord appeared to Mary…” This pretty much tops the fairy tales for me for sheer magic, beauty, plot and promise. I could stagger through hundreds of other retold tales including those of Austin, George Eliot, Forster, Woolf, Waugh, Huxley, James, Wharton, Fitzgerald, and the far less known but appealingly direct Bawden, Gilchrist, Sheilds, and a host of others who deal with the isolation of class stratification and the search for connection to self, others and the Other, their own definition of a transcendent truth. If I start with the annunciation, I would probably end the list with “…world without end. Amen”.
What then motivates the creators of these richly woven diverse strands, strands that become the whole cloth of retold stories? I believe it is the desire to give meaning to their lives and the lives of their readers in a fresh, revelatory, even jolting manner.
When Edwin Abbott wrote Flatland, I think he was combining the central story of his vocation with the spiritual and social needs of Victorian England. The story of Jesus who revolutionized the old order of law, retribution and rigid class stratification with the radical message of love, forgiveness and equality in the eyes of God was a story ripe for retelling in a manner that might alert a pious Victorian society to its own complacent acceptance of the implications of its class system. Abbott’s sometimes overly enthusiastic message only underlines his intense motivation. His mathematical gifts and abilities also might have fuelled his motivation as Victorian society’s rational approach and increasing interest in science and mechanized industry were certainly known to him. He may have seen a temptation to rationalize the needs of humanity right out of sight.
Abbott was possibly provoked into the writing of his tale by the extremes affluence of his educated peers and the poverty of England’s underclass, which supported it. Reportedly this reality was complacently accepted by nearly all the participants, at least those whose voices were most heard.
Abbot’s Flatlanders live in an atmosphere that lacks light or shadow. (1) The narrator begins by rationally explaining the class system of Flatland, (2) and goes on to detail the methods of controlling the lower classes, (3) and the suppression of women and their gifts. (4) He then takes us on a tour of the subtler distinctions among the upper classes (5) and elaborates on the “barbarism”(6) any crack in the complex system would cause. “Mercy” is demonstrated by euthanizing those whose character or shape is a threat to society’s expectations. (7) When the narrator is ultimately shown an alternative and revolutionary three-dimensional world, he is given a whole new perspective and vision of reality. He achieves knowledge of himself; others and the Other, in this case the idea of unlimited worlds. He is open to the gift but is not an active seeker in the pursuit of this new world. It is grace of a sort. Before this ultimate revelation, the narrator shares a story that foreshadowed his discovery of three dimensions. Chromatistes, an upper class mutation of the sort usually stamped out, (8) discovers colour and is made easily visible in a new and explicit way. The introduction of colour to Flatland brings liberation and the joy of creation is spread throughout the land. (9) Art in the form of colour changes the Flatlanders’ perceptions and helps them to see what was formerly invisible. Those in authority see the burgeoning art as “immoral, licentious, anarchical, unscientific…yet aesthetic…the glorious childhood of art”. This creative burst gives, “a richer larger world of thought…the finest poetry…rhythm”. (10) As the influence of art spreads through the classes it soon becomes seen as a threat to the established order of the land. Even women and priests are influenced. (11) Eventually the arts are suppressed by those whose power is threatened. The Flatlanders are returned to one dimension. All accounts of this period are effectively written out of the history of the land. In this land no stories can be told or retold. Too threatening to the stability.
We are prevented from retelling stories when we fear facing a new truth or a new bit of truth in ourselves, in our perceptions of others or in the Other, our vision of what makes the universe’s energy. When we are clinging to a perceived security it is difficult for us to change or retell a story that might push us from that precious niche.
What profits us from stories being retold is being gently lead, dragged kicking and protesting, or shot violently into new visions of our worlds. Sometimes in fairy tales or parables the vision heals. Sometimes in satire and tragedy it turns us around to face places we’d rather not go. Sometimes in poetry or mysticism it sends us into deep places of transformation and we have no choice but to become co-creators in that place of crisis and transformation. Abbott transformed the story of his beliefs into a story that retold those beliefs in a way that spoke to his need to preach change for his world a world of Victorians stranded in a class hierarchy who had become adept at rationalizing the need to support such a stable and apparently unchanging structure.
The cost of telling the changed story is one of giving up old certainties and living in the wisdom of insecurity as both the narrator and, no doubt, Abbott himself were aware.
To me the point of retelling stories is to state and learn a truth or a new truth in a way that makes it apparent, as it wasn’t before. If one other person gains understanding of even a small part of that truth then the story is worth telling, retelling, or changing.
1.Abbott, Edwin. Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions. 1885;rpt. New York: New American Library, 1984, p.4.

Name: Stephanie
Date: 2001-10-03 21:38:45
Link to this Comment: 386

George Washington never had wooden teeth. It is true that his teeth were rotten. That is why Washington never smiled with any frequency. But it made a better story to say Washington had “wooden” teeth rather than “rotten” teeth. History is the written account of man, but accuracy depends on who is doing the writing. History books are filled with misstatements, half-truths and stories. The stories seem to gain validity with each retelling, so that after 200 years, every fourth grade student in America learns that George Washington had wooden teeth.
We retell stories to understand our world. Those who do not understand history are doomed to repeat it. But whose version of history do we understand? There is no doubt in my mind the Holocaust was a very real event, but thousands of people think it is propaganda, a story used to gain sympathy. Will the Holocaust be repeated if we do not admit it happened? How do you tell an Auschwitz survivor that the Holocaust was a figment of someone’s imagination? The tales of both heroism and terrorism become distorted with time. The stories change.
The stories become reality. Reality has a million different truths. Former President William Jefferson Clinton once said, “I did not have sex with that woman.” Was it a story or just his version of the truth?

Portable digestibility
Name: Robin Land
Date: 2001-10-03 22:33:08
Link to this Comment: 387

When we tell stories about the nature of the world, it can seem like a little act of creation. By describing the world in a story, we reduce it to a form that is both portable and digestible. If we match key points of the story closely enough to observable reality, the story looks true. Once we get hold of a portable, digestible, true-looking story, we’ll fight literally to the death to keep it.
By “portable”, I mean that the story can be both easily remembered and easily communicated, and by “digestible”, I mean that the story can be easily processed and assimilated into everyday life. Stories of this kind are so common that they are often hard to see.
For example, in middle school biology classes, most children are taught the story of the Egg and the Sperm. For life to begin, the heroic Sperm must travel and fight its way against great odds to reach and penetrate a large and passive Egg, so to create life. This story has all the trappings of a romance novel, and probably has about as much to do with biological processes at the cellular level as a romance novel. This story conveniently fits with other stories we all know about gender roles, so it seems to fit in an almost intuitive way. It’s both portable and digestible. Yet, it was certainly not taught to me as a “story” when I first learned it; it was called “science.”
In Abbot’s Flatland, every character had a story to tell, and they all defended their various stories at all costs. The point, happy and complacent, knows that it is the entire universe. The king of Lineland knows that there is only one dimension. A new story about a second dimension is neither portable nor digestible, and so is utterly rejected. In Flatland, of course, the same process is repeated – the ruling circles of Flatland cannot accept the story of another dimension. The Square, however, has seen a new story that, through extraordinary means, has become part of his view of reality. This new story is not at all portable, though. The Square cannot replicate the extraordinary means that showed him the truth of Spaceland. There is no hope of spreading this new story.
The Square, however, refuses to go back to the old story once he has found the new one. Why does he refuse to go back to a story that served him quite well in his former life, when the new story causes him imprisonment? Why won’t the Square change his story?
The Square can’t change his story because that’s not how these kinds of stories work. The Square, in his speculation by analogy of multiple dimensions extending without end, has shown his motivation for keeping his story.
Though stories give us a way to carry and digest reality, once we have seen that there are possibilities beyond the stories we once accepted, there is no turning back. The same rules apply for acquiring new stories about the nature of the world, but once the very possibility of a new story becomes open, no story is safe, from the creation of the world to the propagation of life to the rules of right and wrong.
The Square hasn’t just seen the truth of a Third Dimension; he’s seen the truth that the stories that had seemed like good descriptions of reality are, in fact, inadequate. This is why he’s locked up. The story of a Third Dimension doesn’t just threaten the Flatlanders’ theoretical view of reality; it threatens their entire society. This is why the circles are so determined to silence the Square. This is also why the Square can’t give up or ignore his vision, inadequate as he may be to communicate it. He has seen that his entire society is built on quicksand. He can no longer believe anything he had once taken as truth. It would be impossible for him to live among his fellow polygons.
By calling a certain description of the nature of the world a “story,” it might sound trivialized. There is actually nothing trivial about storytelling, though. It is serious and dangerous business, as the Square has learned.

Name: Mia Shea-M
Date: 2001-10-03 22:49:57
Link to this Comment: 388

Why the Stories Had To Be Flat
Mia Shea-Michiels
Ms. Nutting

Flatland was flat. There was no denying that. It was flat and boring. The shapes were squares, parallelograms, triangles, circles and even lines. Every shape was easily organized according to it’s sides. What if a shape was born with sides that were different from that of it’s peers? No. This would not be tolerated. The shapes moved from their homes to their jobs to their schools everyday in the same way following the same lines. They moved north and south, east and west. What if someone decided to go in a different direction? No. This would not be tolerated. The shapes intelligence and social ranking was determined by the number of sides it had. What if a shape wanted to go beyond it’s social ranking? No. This would not be tolerated. Flatland was going to be flat and boring. That was that. There was no variety in sides, no up and down and no social mobility. None of this could exist until it was heard. The story needed to be told.
Just like people, shapes can be stubborn. Everyday the shapes went through a routine. The routine made them feel stable and safe. Nothing changed so nothing could go wrong. They were prepared for everything. The square was one of the shapes to try and change this two dimensional world. He wanted everyone to hear and see the beauty that he had seen. Now that he had this knowledge, he felt compelled to share it. But there was still the fear of his peers reactions. It was as much a struggle for square to tell his story as it would be for Flatland to understand it. He were telling stories of a third dimension. Something that could not be seen by everyone but had to be believed. This would not be tolerated. The Flatland society was so frightened of thoughts that might change what had always been accepted that they decided they would get rid of these thoughts. The story teller and his story would disappear
The shapes who told of new worlds faced scorn by their peers just as people with new ideas from our three dimensional history did. These people had their own sphere that showed them something that no one else could see. They retold their story and faced the consequences for their controversial views.

Draft 1
Name: louise
Date: 2001-10-03 23:26:17
Link to this Comment: 389

Draft 1
Why are we motivated and reluctant to re-tell stories?

The resistance of re-telling stories may come from the concern of it becoming a re-conception of the original. We risk losing the story’s true meaning. In our college seminar class, for instance, we were assigned to write our life of learning story. In the telling and re-telling of this story, I admit resistance in some areas. I claimed ownership of my original story and the re-telling of it, I felt, would risk it being dissected. I didn’t want it to change in my mind because it was too intricate complicated and sensitive.

What are the costs?
The costs are that the story may become corrupted in the re-telling process. Re-telling has its value, but has a price. We may never feel same way about the story. It will never be the same. We need to be ready to let go of the old story, and be open/accepting of the new one being told. The telling and re-telling made me see another view. As in Flatland I am becoming more aware of another dimension of possibilities.

Telling Stories
Name: Emma
Date: 2001-10-03 23:31:33
Link to this Comment: 390

As individuals we are motivated to share stories that entertain, inform, instruct, influence, enlighten, and heal. However, the most important stories humans tell are those that most directly order our world and our place in it. Abbott's use of fiction to explore new dimensions of the universe, and Foucault's reference to Jorge Luis Borges' writings are indications of the unique power of stories to re-order our world.

In his preface, Foucault relates how Borges disrupts a world ordered by categories of "same and other" corresponding to the European arrangement of the natural world into the taxonomies of Linnaeus. In Borges disruption, Foucault discovers an "impossibility of thinking" (xv) relevant to his own consideration of how we come to arrange our thoughts, our knowledge, according to one particular framework. Abbott's Flatland is also of interest in this regard when related to what Foucault calls the "positive unconscious of knowledge" (xi) of a particular era. In the introduction to Flatland, Banesh Hoffmann tells us that in the days when Flatland was written, the mathematicians "were imagining spaces of any number of dimensions. The physicists too, in their theorizing, were working with hypothetical graph-spaces of arbitrary dimensionality. But these were matters of abstract theory" (iii). Abbott's book presents a view of the world according to the laws of geometry, but then challenges this with imaginings of other dimensions. In this way, Flatland makes a different view of the world available to us without any need to await scientific proofs (an advantage fictional stories have over scientific stories).

However, any re-telling and re-ordering of our world has its risks. In Flatland, Abbott addresses the danger when Square is jailed for his attempts to re-tell the story of Flatland's place in the dimensional universe. His fate, it appears, is the fate of a Galileo. But Abbott is a clergyman, and he uses some of the language of religion in describing Square's fate: "Death or imprisonment awaits the Apostle of the Gospel of Three Dimensions" (67). So, perhaps, Square's fate is that of the Apostle. What these two interpretations have in common, however, is that when a different story of our world is constructed it is heard as a threat to the established order. In our Western history, this resulted in a confrontation between the tellers of religious tales and the tellers of scientific tales. Remnants of this confrontation over the ordering of our world persist, as we shall see, in the story telling of "Creationism."

Name: Zoe
Date: 2001-10-04 05:56:29
Link to this Comment: 392


The Uni-tale Universe

(Draft A)

I can only tell you this once:

I am a monk living in self-imposed exile from multiple-story life. My youth was wasted on attempts to duplicate ten-thousand versions of the story of a girl. I came of age in the information age, the natural successor of the duplication age. With so much information, anyone could be anything, virtually at least. Even the poor could step inside a duplicated dream. They were everywhere, instantaneously, these physical streams of someone’s dreams, and being so ubiquitous, they were bound to collide. Collide, combine, combust, fragment, disperse; the cycle of self-propagating thought pieces was hard to reverse. Inside the space of two decades our inquisition changed from breathing in the smell of paper and ink, to attaching some electric apparatus to our brains. The storybook that once fascinated the child was replaced by a game that you could go inside.

Looking back now I wonder at how we gorged ourselves on a combination of fiction and fact until we ourselves became hybrids, part real, part imaginary, unable to tell anymore which was which. The question was asked: could a murderous act be provoked by a song, a video game, or a movie? Soon followed the question of whether or not a fictional image of a crime could indict an innocent person. We spliced reality with fantasy and vice versa until the distinction was nearly extinct. Even songs were assembled bits and pieces; the real version lost in a glass recording room window. Science and science fiction seemed inevitable collaborators in the public perception of reality. Some people wondered if perhaps even a world war could be started by the devious transmission of a false tale in which one world power is being attacked by another.

Somehow my reluctant brain adapted to the oxymoronic idea of virtual reality, and apparently so did many others. I thought maybe it would pass, but then I perceived that I was hearing increasingly strange, disturbing, and frequent stories on the radio broadcast news. I heard that 1) someone was actually going to get the legal right to display advertisements on the moon, 2) scientists had found a way to transport a photon, and 3) someone had intentionally set a person on fire. My sacred public radio news, my favorite source of stories and ideas when time for reading became a luxury, was starting to seem unreal.

I swore I would never digest the news from television, but the next set of frightening stories I remember were the ones I indeed watched when my best friend was an actress addicted to soap operas. As we chattered about, dreaming up fantasy careers for ourselves, her eyes glued to the soap, my eyes glued to her, in her elaborate make-up procedure, we were interrupted by the televised Columbine murder scene. Shocked, and horrified, I felt the televised story turn to oatmeal pouring into my eyes, into my brain. Within months--or was it weeks?–the kids killing kids in school, these murders were being replicated around the country. The reports sounded off like a deformed bullet ricocheting in a holographic chamber.

I began to feel I could not read one story at a time; I could not find my own original story. I could not find Integrity. Once I had glimpsed her in an old woman’s repose. Fifteen years later I can only see my memory of her. Three weeks ago I saw a few minutes of a scene from a horror film displayed on a news broadcast. Everyone says it was real. I heard part of the story on public radio. Everyone is telling me what happened, and they are all saying something different. Everyone is watching the story as it is re-veiled on t.v. I decided I can’t. I decided to boycott the oatmeal this time.

I guess that’s how I wound up here, in the Uni-tale Universe. Apparently, someone here wanted to experience multi-story life at the same time that I wished to experience one-story life and a trade was arranged, although I haven’t yet figured out how that happened without my conscious consent. I don’t mind anyway. I want to explore and when I am done, the story I know should only be one.

Here a story can only be told one time. This is a Natural law here, comparable to our laws of Physics, immutable, irreversible. What happens if someone tries to re-tell a story or duplicate a once-told story here? I will have to ask, but first the Uni-taleiens have asked me to embed this in my story:

Oh beautiful reader, calm, near: Hear what we write upon your heart’s ear. From the land of the Uni-tale, the land of cherished stories, whose authors we revere, perceive a new vision; feel every angle of our interior.

Here, the physical laws dictate that a story may only be told only once. Feel our despair, though we are naturally joyous, we are imprisoned by our laws of physics that limit us to telling a story only once. How we crave to hear our cherished stories cooed into our ear repetitiously, like a mantra: secure, secure, secure. How we long for the deeper bond we can share, how we long to meet a tale transformed, ourselves transformed, or find the mutually transformational relationship you enjoy with your stories. We want to eat the Group Thought Soup we’ve heard exists in your world.

If this be our first encounter with the Multi-tale Universe, as is suspected by the Memory Bankers, then this singular mail, if it reaches you your world, may cause a collision of our two universes. We don’t know what will happen then, but we are so desperate we will take the risk.

We desperately seek to learn the technology that enables you to re-tell stories. Since we cannot copy in whole, or in part any story, we may not benefit in many ways. Our scientists must rely on nature to inspire their minds, to act as the corpus-collasum, as the bridge between fact and imagination that leads to new discovery.

One of our scientists believes you have a counterpart law of physics: that energy cannot be destroyed or created, only changed. The physics here dictate that no thought can be destroyed or created, only changed. One of our Fully Bright Scholars, the first to find a way to communicate a tale to all of us at once, as if we all shared one pair of eyes, through the use of electricity and some raw materials, the Scholar created a network that could display the same story in multiple places at the same time. the Scholar believes this is a monumental breakthrough in the search for multi-story technology.

You may wonder just what the one-telling law applies to here since where you are a story can be one of many things: gossip, news, a show, history, the description of a dream...a song? What is a story, what is a tale?

A story is a radio wave solicitation from one universe in search of another, a homing device sent out from one mammal in search of others, awaiting a response, anticipating a connection, lost if returned with only echoes.

Perhaps you can benefit from our uni-tale system: memory is better, cherished stories must be remembered since even if they are written they cannot be duplicated. The person with the cherished story is wealthy indeed. Some communities have no beautiful stories, they are destitute.

(Sorry, the transmission of the end of this story was lost somewhere in between multi-story land and the uni-tale universe.)

Name: Gail DeCou
Date: 2001-10-04 08:39:50
Link to this Comment: 393

As multi-layered as the stories we tell, so are the reasons for the telling multi-layered. Sometimes the motivation for story-telling is of the noblest order; at other times the reason is self-serving. Sometimes the purpose for story-telling can change dramatically. Overnight. After the horrific events that shook our nation on September 11, we saw numerous changes in the stories in the mass media and popular culture. Most, if not all, regular television programming was stopped while we watched in shock/fear/anger as the events unfolded before our eyes. At the same time these very emotions were underscoring the story that was being written as we went along, shaping and feeding it. Though the memory of that Tuesday will not soon fade, Americans take some degree of comfort and strength to go on from the sense of solidarity drawn from those stories. As of now, the strongest voices are the ones linking the American way with military might. On the other hand, now that it has been set in motion, the story has seen very little in the way of revision. Often those that attempt to alter the story are harshly criticized or silenced by not being given the opportunity for a public forum. We suffer for it in that we do not have all the information we need to make sound decisions. Our story turns out to be the truth that we want it to be. Thus, it is left to the story-tellers, the re-tellers/revisionists/ourselves to uncover the additional layers of meaning in any story.
In “Flatland”, once the square from the 2nd dimension has had a revelation, in the form of being made aware of the existence of a 3rd dimension, he can never be satisfied with being complacent again. He has a “thirst”, a “craving” to explore the dimensions beyond the 3rd that he now imagines must be out there. So to, once the human imagination has received the spark of knowledge, it feels compelled to uncover deeper and deeper layers of understanding.
The author’s description of this need in us to acquire deeper meaning is done so within the pages of a book that itself requires the same revising/re-telling in order to fully grasp his intent. For example, during our discussion of this book, several classmates expressed the opinion that “Flatland” is an attempt to prove the existence of God. I came away with a different interpretation.
On pg. 58, the sphere, (who represents a supreme being to the square), in thinking that he sees and knows all in his own dimension and those below his own, is subject to the same fallacy of thought that hinders the square. (God, by definition, would be all-knowing). This flaw is emphasized again when the sphere also discounts the existence of realms beyond his own dimension. Here, each encounter with someone from the next dimension reveals a being that is oblivious to the dimension beyond. Also, Abbott does not portray his supreme beings as having had a hand in the creation process—a major omission in an argument for the proof of the existence of god. Instead, his deities show up once every 1000 years to announce their existence, and they frequently laugh at or mock the misguided thinking/arguments of the non-believer. Is Abbott poking fun at our faith-based systems that attempt to explain difficult concepts without the use of reason? Abbott demonstrates this as the square humbles himself repeatedly, prostrates himself mentally before his Guide (p64), and demonstrates complete reverence to a being that ultimately turns out to be fallible.
I think that Abbott, a clergyman himself, would have been highly aware of these discrepancies and therefore it was his intent to present his vision of god in a highly revolutionary manner. Banesh Hoffman, in his introduction, states that “Flatland” was written pseudonymously because Abbott was afraid that it would besmirch his more formal writings. Perhaps Abbott anticipated the fallout from such a highly unconventional god view—that of pure knowledge rather than a kind/loving father figure.

retelling stories
Name: Carol
Date: 2001-10-04 09:33:22
Link to this Comment: 394

I traveled yesterday and had planned to work on this draft on the train. However, after
seeing all the police dogs and security in the station, I found myself nervously eyeing the rest
of the passengers waiting on the platform. I spotted an Arabic-looking man nervously chewing
gum and shifting back and forth from one foot to the other. Shame on me! I was a racial profiler.
I tried to get a glimpse of his suitcase ID. I noticed an Eli Lilly Pharmaceutical Company logo and
was comforted. I still found myself consciously looking for the biggest, burliest guy I could find to sit next to,
as if my own personal bouncer could protect me from bombs and poisonous gases. I had trouble
concentrating on the train. So I'm late with this draft.

Why do we not want to revise our stories? Because we've become comfortable with the old stories.
We don't want to revise them because it will mean that we must go through a painful upheaval and
discomfort to develop a new story. We fear that the new stories won't work for us and if we've already
abandoned the old stories, we'll have nothing to fall back on.

But, if we become uncomfortable enough--as we all did on September 11, it becomes necessary to revise
our stories. With the new knowledge that terrorists can live anonymously in our midst and that they are
willing willing to turn planes, trains, and other vehicles into bombs, we must revise our stories. We'd never really
thought of that scenario before in this country.

What were comforting stories in the past--knowing that in fairy tales the bad people get punished--no
longer works as a way for us to confront our fears and to help us define good and evil.

What causes us to rewrite our stories?

We need to revise our stories to help us make order of our world. We all have a need to tell ourselves and
others when we acquire new knowledge.

Foucault uses the analogy of recognizing a face. He says that we "know more than we can tell." To recognize
a face, we could look at a picture of it. This might not work, however, when the person's actual face is
viewed because you need more knowledge of that face than can be presented in a picture. To be
able to recognize a face and better know a person, you need to be able to see that face from all angles.
You need to see the face smile, frown, show expression and emotion. Only then do you know the face well
enough to recognize it when you see it again.

The same can be said of our need to rewrite stories. We can read an old story or listen to another's story, but t
to make it work for us in the present, we need to examine it from all angles. We need to add our own
knowledge to the story. To make it work for our own needs, we need to feel the story, see its expressions, its
beauty, its warts--just like recognizing a face. Only then do we have enough knowledge to tell a new

Writing Assignment for 10/11
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2001-10-05 11:17:12
Link to this Comment: 401

To the McBrides--
your last set of drafts are in my basket (or on Helen's desk) for pick-up this morning. All requested faxes are also enroute. Moving on now--

to your next paper assignment.

This week, I had asked you to begin drafting your reflections on why we are both motivated and reluctant to re-tell--that is, to CHANGE--our stories about the nature of the world. What provokes us to this activity? What prevents us from engaging in it? How does it profit us, and what are its costs?

Your next step in this ever-evolving, ever-revising process is to read over what you have written, looking (as we looked @ Stephanie's and Louise's papers in class today) to identify the argument, the hypothesis, the claim(s) you want to make in response to the queries above.

For next Thursday, I'd like you to expand and develop your argument, answering these questions again by focusing on some contemporary debate in the public arena in which you are invested (as invested, perhaps, as the narrator of Flatland was, in convincing others of what he had experienced and known?). That is: chose an issue for which you want to try and write a convincing story.

The suggestions in the course packet focus on the contemporary debate in science education; if you chose that option, you'll find listed in the syllabus on the course website links to numerous websites on evolution and creationism, which you can click on and explore; I also distributed in class a flyer advocating creationism, which was given to me while vacationing in Montana this summer. If you chose another
option--and I strongly encourage you to write about a topic where the shape of the story really matters to you--then you need to find evidence to explain why you think the story needs to be written in the way you are trying to write it.

Please post what you have written on the course website before class on Thursday, October 11th; please also bring a hard copy to class that morning, for workshopping and then submission to me.

Looking forward, w/ ever more investment, to what you will have to say.

Name: carol
Date: 2001-10-05 12:23:22
Link to this Comment: 402

I found myself humming "Particle Man" all day yesterday. Suddenly I realized that the tune we all thought sounded familiar was this:


Spider Man, Spider Man
Doing the things that a spider can
Spins a web, toward the sky
He’s got radioactive eyes
Look out! Here comes the Spider Man

Now I hope I can get the tune out of my head finally!

two more bits....
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2001-10-05 12:41:49
Link to this Comment: 403

...of information. During our discussion of Foucault yesterday, I described to my students the (to me very useful) concept of "bounded variance," the notion that identity w/in any particular Foucaultian category (such as "tree" or "American literature") might well be conceptualized as a range of variations, theoretically unlimited and infinitely expandable, which nonetheless have an "outside" (that which is "not-tree" or "not-American-literature"). I picked up this idea from an piece of biological theory Paul Grobstein wrote over a dozen years ago. The article is pretty arcane, but here's the reference if you want to try wrestling w/ it:

Also: Paul and I are are speaking on a panel Tuesday night (7-9:30 p.m., Thomas 110) which might interest some of you. Entitled "Brain/Body/Mind/Soul: How Many of These Does One Need?" it will involve a presentation by Elio Fratarolli, who wrote "Healing the Soul in the Age of the Brain: Becoming Conscious in an Unconscious World," followed by short responses by four of us, then an open discussion. You can see details @
and learn more about Frattaroli's project @

That's all for the weekend.
I think.

center of the universe
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2001-10-06 21:39:43
Link to this Comment: 406

...something else i'm doing this semester is teaching a 300-level course in feminist literary theory. in our collection of readings (feminisms: an anthology of literary theory and criticism, ed. robyn warhol & diane price herndl rutgers univ press, 1997) is a very cool piece called "aesthetics," by joanna russ, an english prof @ uwashington, who writes feminist science fiction and critical studies of utopia. she ends this particular piece w/ a passage SO relevant to our reading for this week that i can't forbear sharing (i haven't been able to track down "glotologgish," but suspect is has something to do w/ distorting language....):

"There used to be an odd, popular, and erroneous idea that the sun revolved around the earth.
This has been replaced by an even odder, equally popular, and equally erroneous idea that the earth goes around the sun.
In fact, the moon and the earth revolve around a common center, and this commonly-centered pair revolves w/ the sun around another common center, except that you must figure in all the solar planets here, so things get complicated. Then there is the motion of the solar system w/ regard to a great many other objects, e.g., the galaxy, and if at this point you ask what does the motion of the earth really look like from the center of the entire universe, say (and where are the Glotolog?), the only answer is:
that is doesn't,
Because there isn't.

Analysis for Violinno (message 324)
Name: Zoë
Date: 2001-10-07 11:27:49
Link to this Comment: 407


The Sound of Letters

The act of reading is usually considered a mental activity. The point of reading, we are taught, is to understand what is written. Literacy, wherever it is found, begins by learning a set of symbols: letters. At first, letters seem to be the designated representatives of certain sounds, however, they don’t capture the variety, or the full range of sounds experienced in the typical fledgling human consciousness. Who decided which parts of the infant gurlging, gahyahing, and oohing, or the adult grunting, groaning and umphffing would be the chosen phonemes, the preferred units of sound, to be elevated to symbolization? Furthmore, why was sound, the human sound, elected to the impossible task of both representing itself, the symbol of itself, and ultimately, when ordered and combined according to the code of language, carrying messages, thoughts, and ideas away from one person and into another?

Perhaps the letters do not symbolize sound. Perhaps it is the other way around, and the letters existed once void of sonic conveyance. The letters, then, must have symbolized something else, certainly we agree that they must have symbolized something originally. In the museum of archaeology, looking for the answer might result in quite a surprise. The scholars have evidence collected, ancient objects found, that show that the earliest form of recorded hand-assisted thought transmission existed first as pictographs, drawings of everyday objects and scenes. The old stones show how the drawings evolved as the drawers, the artists, who were evolving too, simplified what they drew. As happens with simplification, paradoxically, the drawings became abstract; simpler, yet more complex.

Now, in reading what I wrote, I feel as helpless as a sound, ordered to represent itself, the symbol of itself, and charged with the transmission of the truth. Who invented the symbol for infinity, that twisted loop? The possibilities multiply the longer one considers the meaning of these physical marks, these groups of tiny drawings, these brain invaders; letters. Words.

What occurs to me when I investigate the markings I made when I was asked to write a fairy-tale the day before the mass murder at my country’s door to the world, New York City, a city I loved, is that I am here alive and my friend is at home with her husband staring at Saran-wrapped leftovers from Saturday’s memorial that was held for their 24 year-old son, David. His father said "So long, son," in his usual way the morning David left to meet a client for a rescheduled appointment, only three blocks away. David, of course, arrived a little early for his appointment; people who know the kind of elevator delays that can arise in navigating the way to an office 100 stories high, know to go early.

While we students that morning prepared to discuss the meaning of fairy tales, the hour approached when David’s father would see a giant airplane used as a bomb plunge into that building with its hundred stories, and in less than an hour the structure was no more; powdered cement on the ground was now the 100th floor. When the World Trade Center fell, all the office debris flew into the vicinity. All the paperwork people had said they were buried under was working its way down and around, falling much slower than the burning bodies, down to the tomb.

The World Trade Center was like the United States’ penis; New York City was like its womb. That’s the first set of words that came to my mind when I saw the attack from the seminar room. My mind perceived an abbreviated message transmission via the WTC, the very place where I had increased my vocabulary by at least a thousand acronyms. In my head, guts, and glands, I felt the message, vulgar and profane, I felt my country’s pubescent exuberance had been slain.

We didn’t get to discuss our reading from Robert Bly’s "Iron John, A Book About Men," but these words: Iron John Robert Bly Book About Men, these words will for the rest of my life carry to my inner ear the silent bomb that reduced me to fear.

David’s father received a message, too, as he cried to God to send him a sign, to tell him if he looked for his son, what would he find? Out of two buildings, so tall they were like marks drawn by a giant in the sky, a signal to traveler’s that NYC was nearby, a single piece of paper was heard colliding against the fabric of the suitcoat David’s father wore as he walked toward the death heap. The sound registered in his ear, the tiniest pressure from the edge of paper traveled through his coat to his skin, and reflexively he plucked the thin sheet off and looked at it. Within two seconds what was written got to him. His son’s full name was written near the top of the sheet because it was an invoice for services rendered by his son.

This story is more than the letters and words organized here. As representatives they can never completely report all the experiences of September 11th, 2001. Certainly no one can make marks that tell the experience of the murdered.

Our marks and scratches, our attempts to explain human —human-generated!— atrocities to ourselves and to those yet to be born, our thoughts and ideas arising from the pain, are impossible to contain in physical form. We may find the strangest messages carried into our brains on seemingly unrelated words. This is what happens when I read what I wrote to myself. I get messages that are more than the combined definitions of the words.

First, I see the image of the first paragraph as an abstract shape shaded in with marks. The shape with its sharp point aimed at the text below gives me a sense of being attacked. At the same time it looks like a dancer; I find myself in a state of emotional ambiguity because I know the shape is abstract and my mind is for some reason choosing these images. Before I begin to read I feel physically provoked because I am forced to discard my habitual way of reading: left, right, down, left, right, down. The arrangement of the words in a different way makes the words unfamiliar so that they bypass my automatic dictionary. As I navigate the text and hit space instead of the end of a sentence I feel a little abandoned, pushed into uncertainty, this changes my perception of the next group of words. Soon I feel so physically manipulated that it is as if the writing is dancing with me, but it is the leader. This physical sensation heightens my other senses; I begin to experience the words rhythmically, as well as visually and physically; the meaning of whole sets of words comes in last. Once I adapt to the disorientation, I begin to experience the space around the words as quietness that invites meditation, and a restful place for thoughts.

As I continue to investigate the marks on the page, echoes of words and echoes of meanings combine in the way that ripples combine when two pebbles are tossed close together onto a placid lake. The combination of words that echo a sense of the ancient combines with the words that echo futuristic. "Sun," "old gray rock," and "stone," for example, ring ancient while "black hole," "polymer," "ultra-violet silicone," and "lost keys" ring contemporary. The two together create a broad perspective of time.

When the words "cried," "heart," "naked," and "bruised side out," collide in my mind I sense pain, and the vulnerability of facing pain and suffering head-on. "Brother planet" carries an image of kinship and an assumption that earth is the sister planet to my imagination. The chronological aspect of the story moves forward in time, then goes a little bit back, forward in time again, a little bit back, in the way that waves do. This coincides with the emotional waves, that like nausea, washed over me repeatedly during and after the terrorist attacks, but I am uncertain as to whether this effect will be transmitted to other readers. Since I know what I felt as the images came to mind when I wrote, I find it impossible to judge whether or not they even make sense to anyone else, and I wonder if this writing has any meaning at all outside of the context of the insane message sent to our country on September 11th.

Zoë Anspacher October 6, 2001

Fairy Tale
Name: Stacy
Date: 2001-10-07 20:47:53
Link to this Comment: 409

The Daughter’s Journey

Once upon a time, there was a small peasant family that lived on the outskirts of a faraway kingdom. Their dwelling, four mud walls joined by a thatched roof, was small but suitable for their simple, earthy needs. Everyday the wife, the husband, and their young daughter arose with the sun and went about their simple, earthy tasks. The daughter carried water from the stream to the simple, earthy cook station outside their dwelling, while the wife prepared breakfast. The two passed the day cooking, washing, and weaving, until the husband returned from his day in the field, where he planted ad tilled according to the king’s command. They enjoyed a simple, earthy meal together before retiring with the sun. And so the years passed.
One night, after the daughter had spent fifteen years in the simple, earthy dwelling devoting herself to simple, earthy chores, the Wise Woman appeared to her in a dream. “You must go west,” said the omnipotent presence.
“Follow the setting sun,
And where the willows weep and the waters run,
Where the salmon leap with pleasure –
There you will find great treasure.”
When the daughter awoke at daybreak, infused with the spirit of the Wise Woman, she proclaimed with conviction, “I must embark on a journey to the West.” So she gathered her simple, earthy belongings – her woolen stockings, her knitted shawl, her wooden hairbrush, her woven sandals – and set them in her deerskin bag with her daily ration of bread and goat’s milk cheese. Then she went to her mother.
“Mother,” said she, “I must embark on a journey to the West.”
“Beware the cockleburs that will cling to your clothing; do not let them damage your skin,” cautioned her mother, and then she bid her daughter farewell.
Then the daughter went to her father, who was on his way to the field, and she said, “Father, I must embark on a journey to the West.”
“Beware the coyotes that will hound at your back; do not let them overtake you,” warned her father, and then he, too, bid her farewell.
So the daughter turned to the West and set forth upon her journey.
Follow the setting sun, and where the willows weep and the waters run, where the salmon leap with pleasure – there you will find great treasure, she thought, as she ambled down the narrow path, the rising sun warming her back. She hummed and whistled and marveled at her good fortune, until very soon she came upon a fork in the road.
“Oh, no!” cried she. “Which path am I to choose? The Wise Woman did not warn me of a fork in the road, and I do not know my way.”
So she sat down on a nearby rock and sobbed.
But then she heard the flutter of wings overhead, and glancing up, she saw a white dove circling above. She watched it curiously at first, as it spiraled and soared, and then more attentively as it flew off over the leftmost path.
“Perhaps this is a sign,” she thought and peered more closely down the two paths. In the rightmost trail, she noticed cocklebur plants that she had overlooked before.
“Aha!” she exclaimed in delight. “These must be the cockleburs that my mother warned me about. The dove was right in choosing the left-hand trail.”
So once more in high spirits she set out upon her journey to the West.
Soon she noticed that the light was diminishing. Tall pines loomed ominously overhead and thick underbrush muffled her tread underfoot; the path seemed to be drawing her further and further into a deep forest. Suddenly an eerie howl emanated from the foliage. It was answered by a chorus of similar howls from all sides. Terrified, the daughter broke into a run, stumbling over tree roots and tearing through underbrush as the howls intensified around her. Thrashing and flailing, her heart pounding, her breath coming rapidly, she almost missed the fluttering of wings overhead. But there it was – a light rustle amidst resounding howls that sent her nerves into spasms. Looking up, she saw the white dove alight upon a nearby pine.
“Aha!” she exclaimed. “This must be an omen to remind me of my father’s warning. These are the coyotes he cautioned me against. I will take shelter under that tree and wait for their pursuit to subside.”
Gradually the howls receded, and once more, joyful of spirit and light of step, the daughter set out upon her journey to the West.
Soon the thick underbrush gave way to a fine sand, the tall pines to an occasional cactus, the dim light of the forest to the glaring sunlight of midday: the daughter was in the desert. At first the simple landscape seemed a welcomed respite from the overgrown interior of the forest, and she skipped down the dusty path, humming to herself. Follow the setting sun, and where the willows weep and the waters run, where the salmon leap with pleasure – there you will find great treasure. Suddenly, however, she was struck by the immense silence of her surroundings; not a coyote howled, nor did a bird chirp, nor an insect buzz, nor a light breeze rustle. The silence gaped. The daughter trembled and looked about her…nothing. The landscape was completely barren. The blue of the sky merely blurred with the beige of the interminable sand. Even the path beneath her feet had disappeared. She looked skyward for a sign but none appeared – no white dove to guide her, no parental warning to steer her from harm. Not even the sun offered solace: directly overhead, it could not point her westward.
Disheartened, she longed for companionship, for guidance and for comfort. Weary, she longed to rest, but dared not for fear that the sun’s vicious rays would claim the last bit of her energy. Famished, she longed to eat some of her rations, but refrained for fear that the sustenance would only further aggravate her parched throat. She had no choice but to move on, to rely on her intuition for a sense of direction, to keep going one fatigued step at a time.
Hours passed. Her feet ached. Her head throbbed from the heat. Her stomach grumbled and turned for want of nourishment. Her throat cried out for water. No delight seeped into her voice now, no joy found its way into her spirit, no levity into her step. Yet the unfeeling desert spread out ceaselessly in all directions, a world unto itself, without beginning, without end…Suddenly a lump appeared on the distant horizon, and then another.
“I must be nearing the West,” thought she, and pressed onward with what little zeal she could muster.
The lumps became rocks and all of a sudden her heart sank.
“It’s a cliff!” she cried, but then, peering down, she caught her breath. Several hundred feet below a stream wound its way through the rocks; within its waters fish leaped, along its bank willows drooped. “This must be the West!” she exclaimed with great delight. “Great treasure awaits me below.” And with that she slung her deerskin bag over her shoulder and lowered her foot carefully over the ledge.
Inch by inch, she descended the rocky cliff, all the while repeating to herself the words of the Wise Woman: Follow the setting sun, and where the willows weep and the waters run, where the salmon leap with pleasure – there you will find great treasure. The going was slow and strenuous, but at last, sore and blistered, exhausted and bleeding, she lowered herself onto the grassy bank. Peering across the crystal surface of the stream, she caught a distinct glimmering underneath one of the willows.
“It’s there,” she whispered in awe, for the place had an untouchable quality about it. “My treasure awaits me.” Without a second thought, she plunged into the stream, the last barrier that separated her from her long-sought destination, and fought the current before securing her footing on the opposite bank.
But there was nothing there. No treasure. Try as she might, the daughter could not locate the source of the glimmer. It must have been an illusion created from the sunlight on the water, she concluded, and sat down on a nearby rock and sobbed.
Suddenly a soft fluttering broke the stillness, and glancing upward, the daughter watched the white dove alight atop the willow and break into song: Seek not, my little maiden, outward treasure, but look within for bounty beyond measure.
Bounty beyond measure? thought she. Bounty beyond measure! scoffed she.
“I have no bounty,” said she aloud, suddenly bitter. “I left my home behind. I left my family behind. I left my simple life behind. I left my possessions behind, save for the bare necessities. Now even these are gone, claimed by the stream’s current in my haste to uncover my treasure. Treasure, ha! This world holds no treasure for me.”
And with that she stomped off down the bank, indignation and betrayal frothing in her eyes, obscuring her vision.
But gradually, as the sun began to wane, she realized that she could no longer ignore her plight. Night would come, and with it, untold dangers. So she set about gathering berries and nuts to satiate her raging stomach and leaves for makeshift bedding. Then she retired for the night underneath a willow.
The rising sun roused her from her slumber.
“What beauty!” murmured she, marveling at the dozens of tiny rainbows that danced over the surface of the stream in the early morning light.
“What tranquility!” whispered she, pondering the gentle movement of the stream alongside the unperturbed austerity of the willows.
“What tenacity! What vivacity!” exclaimed she, as she watched the salmon leap, slowly but surely making their way upstream, one triumphant arc after another.
Infused with the spirit of these discoveries, she was spurred into action.
“I will embark on a new journey,” asserted she with newfound conviction. Turning to the stream, she declared, “I have survived the forest,” and to the willows, “I have conquered the desert,” and to the salmon, “I have vanquished the rocky cliff,” and to the dawning day, “I am ready to take on the world!” And thus, without any further ado, she set off with elation in her heart and confidence in her stride.
The Wise Woman had not sanctified this journey. That did not quench her spirit. She had stowed no parental advice safely in her mind. That did not deter her. The white dove was nowhere to be seen. That did not intimidate her. What awaited her, she could not fathom. But whatever the outcome, whatever the trials along the way, she knew that ultimately she would not be disappointed.
Perhaps the dove’s words held some hint of truth after all.

Fairy Tale Analysis
Name: Stacy
Date: 2001-10-07 20:49:38
Link to this Comment: 410

Paper #1: Analysis of “The Daughter’s Journey”

The theme of a journey is firmly entrenched in literature. Readers continue to identify with Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre as she struggles to discover herself, her potential, her values, or with Margaret Mitchell’s Scarlett O’Hara, or Jane Austen’s Emma, or Zora Neale Hurston’s Janie, or Barbara Kingsolver’s Taylor Greer, or…the list is endless. Why, then, if such a theme has been so well documented, does the modern writer often revert back to trampled ground, grasping that thread of old – that idea of a journey– and re-entwining it to encompass new lifestyles, new issues, new societal conflicts? What charm does this format hold for the author? And then, what charm does it hold for the reader that she continues to relish it age after age? In his essay titled “Reflections: The Uses of Enchantment,” Bruno Bettelheim defers to Freud in claiming that “only by struggling courageously against what seems like overwhelming odds can man succeed in wringing meaning out of human existence” (3), and it is precisely this quest for life’s meaning that constitutes “our greatest need and most difficult achievement” (1). Thus, quite simply, man tends to embrace those themes he finds most applicable to his existence. As a curious, pondering, dissatisfied being, he attempts to create meaning and order in an often chaotic universe. How does he accomplish this? By taking the complex whole and dividing it into distinct, manageable stages – in essence, by formulating a journey story: life corresponds to a well-defined series of events, each with certain prerequisites that must be observed before the next level can be reached. Man finds comfort in the tale for he can empathize with the journeyer: he understands the hardships, the pain, and the sacrifice that each stage requires but he also knows that endurance will carry him to the next level, allowing him to rejoice in the fruition of this perseverance.
So why, then, would one place the traditional journey story in fairy tale format? If it is man, not child, who hungers to structure, order, and quantify his existence, why impress adult problems on an innocent, developing mind? Children already tend to have an insular view of the world, free from the quandaries of their older counterparts. Must we expose them prematurely to man’s dilemmas? As with all issues of child psychology and maturation, there is no clear-cut answer. It has been observed, however, that children tend to retain fairy tales and the like well into their adult years. Thus, it would make sense that by allowing a child to associate with this concept – that of life as a journey with tangible obstacles and subsequent resolutions – early, even when she may not recognize its implications, we might provide a suitable foundation to which the adult may revert back when life’s incongruities leave her yearning for the predictability of a journeyistic progression. Bettelheim goes one step further to conclude that this idea of surmounting obstacles to create meaning is “exactly the message that fairy tales get across to the child in manifold form: that a struggle against severe difficulties in life is unavoidable – is part of the human condition – but that if, instead of shying away, one steadfastly meets unexpected and often unjust hardships, one masters all obstacles in the end and emerges victorious” (3). In other words, fairy tales have at their core the journey concept, which in turn, has at its core humanity’s quest for the meaning of life. Thus, in order to foster understanding, the journey concept is not only applicable to fairy tales; it is essential.
Analyzing one such fairy tale, “The Daughter’s Journey,” we can see how the journey concept seeks to make meaning out of a child’s transition to adulthood. In presenting the process as a series of concrete steps that are overcome in turn, the tale captures an often ambiguous and traumatic period in man’s life in manageable parts. Although the child may not initially recognize the symbolic nature of the tale – in that it represents the journey out of childhood – it will trigger subconscious reactions that, as an adult, she may recall in order to assess its meaning in the progression of her own life, to add coherence to her own such journey. What such meaning might this tale offer? Let us take a closer look.
The tale’s opening paragraph, with its traditional “Once upon a time” and reference to a “faraway kingdom,” signals to the child that this is no everyday story of the here and now. In other words, she need not worry that the events soon to be recalled will overtake her tomorrow; rather it allows her to pleasantly muse and ponder the “what ifs” of this distant tale. The child derives equal comfort in the predictable setting: the daughter in the story goes about her “simple, earthy” life with no apprehension of the future or the dangers that it may entail. She is firmly rooted in her family life, in her relationship to the natural world and in the simplicity that these facets endow. Thus the child slowly immerses herself into a reassuring world without trouble.
As the tale continues, we see “the daughter” emerge as the central character, and perhaps wonder why she lacks a name. For the child, however, this is no source of consternation: without a name, the child may fashion the character into whomever she wants her to be. Perhaps the child sees herself in the character, or perhaps she finds a close friend; whomever she chooses, the imagination that went into deriving an identity for the main character heightens the child’s connection with the story and her consciousness of its applicability to her life.
Before long, the child encounters another figure – the Wise Woman who appears to the daughter in a dream. The tale refers to her as an “omnipotent presence” but gives no indication of her true identity. To the child’s mind, this is of little relevance. Thirteen such women appear at the feast of Briar Rose, a Wild Man inhabits a deep pool in “Iron John,” a wolf takes on human attributes in “Little Red Riding Hood”– such paranormal details are the substance of fairy tales and so the child merely takes them in stride without question as to why or whence they come. Yet to the adult reader, this explanation is no longer satisfactory. Who is this Wise Woman? we ask. What does she represent and why does she urge the daughter on a journey? If we interpret the daughter’s journey as a symbolic passage out of childhood and into life’s challenges, then the Wise Woman must represent the instigator of this transition. But who or what might this instigator be? Again, there is no obvious answer; the lack of description of the Wise Woman allows for ambiguity, which in turn, reflects the fact that this instigator varies from child to child. For some, she may be a person – a family member, an acquaintance, a mentor – and for others she may represent an internal voice, a type of subconscious entity, and for still others she may be a specific event, a moment, an epiphany, a sudden realization of the complexity of the world. Regardless of the form, this instigator speaks to each child in a similar way: “You are no longer a child,” it says. “There is a wide, complex world beyond your simple, childlike existence, and you must go and explore it.” So, still naïve and innocent, the maturing child – here symbolized by the daughter – embraces the idea of a journey; as of yet she has had no experience beyond her simple, protected childhood so the prospect of an adventure poses excitement, not apprehension.
At this transitional stage, the daughter separates from her mother and father. The child reader again takes this in stride; she is accustomed to deceased fairy tale mothers, insubstantial fairy tale fathers, and wicked fairy tale steprelatives, so the fact that her parents are so nonchalant about the proposed journey stimulates no second thought. But we are not so easily satisfied. Are the parents not concerned for the well-being of their only daughter? Should they not try to dissuade her or at least offer considerable assistance? Again, if we understand this tale as a maturation journey, then the mother and father can only act in one way: they allow the daughter to go. They understand the necessity of severing the close maternal and paternal ties in the maturation process, so they leave her with bits of advice, symbolic of lessons that they instilled in their daughter during the developmental period. The daughter is thus armed with parental wisdom, yet, as she must be to fulfill the journey to adulthood, she is alone.
The daughter’s simplistic view of the world is shattered when she comes upon her first obstacle: a fork in the road. Like any child newly severed from the comfort and protection of her caregivers, the idea of making a decision entirely on her own is frightening. Perhaps the child reader has encountered a similar situation. Perhaps she, too, responded with tears. But the tale does not stop here: it not only offers an obstacle with which the child can empathize but also poses a resolution from which she can derive guidance. The daughter in the tale notices a white dove, which serves as a memory trigger to her mother’s caution. How, then, does this apply to the child reader? If the white dove is seen as the child’s conscience, pure in its innocence, then it makes sense that this symbol would bring her back to her parents’ teachings and that she would, in all trusting and confidence, heed her parents’ advice. Thus at this point in her development, the child still relies heavily on parental guidance.
She soon encounters another obstacle – the arrival of the wolf pack. This one is slightly more serious, more threatening to the inexperienced journeyer than the former. Yet she is not so far removed from her childhood as to forget the teachings of her parents, and once again they come to her rescue.
The third obstacle, however, poses a more critical concern. Here, surrounded by the merciless desert, she has moved beyond the naïveté of childhood (hence, no white dove rushes to her aid) and beyond the limited reins of her parents (hence, no parental wisdom seeks immediate attention). Now, no longer is she physically alone, but she is psychologically isolated as well. What does she do? Does she “sit down on a nearby rock and sob” as she did at the first obstacle? Of course not. She has matured beyond the scope of childhood and must face the new challenge directly, however daunting it may be. And the child reader, in following the daughter’s journey, realizes, perhaps unconsciously, that this is the natural progression that she must eventually follow in her own life: she leaves the direct aegis of her parents, enters into a semi-dependent state during which they continue to influence her decision-making, but then reaches an independent phase when her own survival is directly rooted in her own ability to endure. Even if the child cannot explicitly relate this progression, she understands the concept, such that later in life, when she is faced with a similar predicament, she can apply the daughter’s plight and the daughter’s response to that plight to her own situation.
True, the daughter does show newfound perseverance and strength, but, as the reader has known from the start of the journey, this effort is not without purpose: the daughter has a tangible end in sight – the treasure promised her by the Wise Woman. What happens when she realizes that there is no treasure, that her strenuous journey was ostensibly in vain? She sits down on a nearby rock and sobs, just as she did fresh out of childhood. So then has there been no growth, no progression, no maturation? we ask, perhaps feeling that our own journey in following the tale was in vain. Has she not already learned the futility of inaction in the face of adversity? Our logical side concludes that she must have grown, but our questioning, doubtful aspect hungers for a reason for this seemingly childish behavior. Why does the daughter sit down and feel sorry for herself? Quite simply, this behavior teaches the child reader that it is acceptable to cry; it is okay to feel frustrated, neglected, and upset, and to succumb momentarily to these feelings. Even as adults, extreme frustration and feelings of inadequacy and of failure are often met with tears. This is okay, the child learns. It is not, however, permissible to wallow in these feelings of self-pity. The daughter in the story goes so far as to express bitterness, to deny her successes, to shield herself in pessimism, to allow “indignation and betrayal” to get the better of her reason. These are natural responses to which the child can relate. Thus the tale conjures up emotions that the child already feels, and in doing so, allows the child to cope with them in a constructive manner. As Bettelheim asserts, fairy tales “give these anxieties [these upsetting feelings] form and body and show ways to overcome them” (12). This is pivotal in the child’s psychological development: she learns that unpleasant emotions merely reflect her humanity, and that, like others before her, she can address these emotions and rise above them. To this end, the daughter in the story does not end in disgust or self-pity; she awakens refreshed to a new day, a new beginning, a new opportunity, and chooses to focus on the beauty and vivacity that surround her, rather than on the hopelessness of her own failure. So, too, the child learns to focus on the positive aspects of a trying experience, to see the good when the evil threatens to overpower her. This, she learns, can be a source of strength. Just as the daughter in the tale is newly invigorated, so, too, can the child be strengthened, elated, and confident when she focuses on her own personal successes along the way in place of dwelling upon a disappointing outcome.
In this way, the child, like the daughter who finds truth in the words of the white dove (i.e. her purest, well-intentioned conscience), comprehends that her real treasure is intangible. It stems not from external reward for hard work, but from the strength and wisdom derived from her personal journey, her own maturation process.
Thus “The Daughter’s Journey” first captures the child’s imagination and subsequently impresses upon her the need for parental separation, and the value of struggling actively through hardship, of recognizing and managing upsetting emotions, and of ultimately emerging confident and victorious, all of which satisfy Bettelheim’s criteria for an effective fairy tale. What, then, is this story lacking? What features might be adverse to Bettelheim’s perception of a worthy tale? At the outset, he would undoubtedly criticize its lack of universality and tradition: the story is obviously intended for girls, and yet it shows the female in an atypical role as adventurous and in the end, single-handedly victorious. Where is the daughter’s “significant other”? Bettelheim might ask. Does she not desire to be loved? Does she not want to be comforted by a constant companion against the uncertainties of mortal existence? His reasons for posing such questions are certainly valid: “Existential anxieties and dilemmas,” according to Bettelheim, stem from “the need to be loved and the fear that one is thought worthless; [from] the love of life and the fear of death” (4). A fairy tale must, therefore, address itself to these serious concerns. Does “The Daughter’s Journey” satisfy this prerequisite? Hardly. Must it then be deemed a failure, at least in light of an effective fairy tale? Hardly. Simply put, in this day and age, such a finale no longer seems entirely applicable. True, it is important that a young girl recognize that “forming a truly satisfying bond to another” can “take the sting out of recognition of the narrow limits of our time on this earth.” But is it not equally imperative that she recognize her own merits and learn to act independently beyond the realm of her previously-restricted potential? Can she not experience the “happily ever after” without becoming a queen or a princess, without living eternally under the auspices of her male counterpart? Certainly. This is precisely the philosophy that “The Daughter’s Journey” espouses: a female character is fully capable of embarking independently on that well-documented journey that is life, of conquering the challenges that befall her, and of ultimately emerging wise, strong, and genuinely happy.

Quotes taken from the following source:
Bettelheim, Bruno. "Reflections: The Uses of Enchantment." The New Yorker
(December 8, 1975): 1-15.

Retelling Stories
Name: Flori
Date: 2001-10-08 21:33:40
Link to this Comment: 416

In Edwin A. Abbott’s book, Flatland, the story of life’s dimensions are retold many times, and the main character, the square, develops the idea that there must be infinite dimensions. What he thought was the only true world, Flatland, became an inferior world compared to the three-dimensional Spaceland. If three dimensions exist, there must be four dimensions, and if there are four dimensions, why not five, and so on. He concluded that “to be self-contented is to be vile and ignorant, and that to aspire is better than to be blindly and impotently happy” (Abbott 75).
The entire social system of Flatland, where the square has lived his whole life, has been based on the idea that circles are above all other beings because they are the most knowledgeable, and everyone aspires to be like the circle, the closest to perfection. Therefore, it would make sense that the square carries this same mindset when contemplating the existence of other dimensions. Being aware of other dimensional worlds makes one more knowledgeable, therefore, closer to perfection. This is why he feels the need to retell his story, “to aspire, and to teach others to aspire” towards this perfection (Abbott 77). The square thought it was so important to share this knowledge with the rest of the beings of Flatland that he was even willing to go against the law of the land and be thrown in prison.
There was a law that anyone who “[professed] to have received revelations from another World” would be imprisoned or executed (Abbott 77). The leaders of Flatland were in power because of their shapes. Their shapes, however, are only sides to the greater beings of Spaceland. They would be inferior to those in Spaceland. This was a part of Flatland’s culture and the leaders of Flatland did not want to lose this culture, especially because it would mean that they would not be the superior known beings. Therefore, they attempted to keep the knowledge and curiosity of Spaceland from spreading. This retelling and withholding of stories is based on a social system and the affects the ideas presented in the new story would have on that system. The retold story may have positive or negative effects depending on the individual’s situation, and the weight of the effects of the story may also differ.
Flatland introduces another character to whom the knowledge of other dimensional worlds is unnecessary. This character is the point from Pointland. He feels complete joy just from being. The point does not know of the possibilities of other dimensions, therefore, he is completely satisfied with the life he knows.
To answer the question of whether it is good to retell stories and search for new truths or not totally depends upon the individual. Some feel satisfied with existence while others feel that they are in the situation where they must strive for explanation and infinite knowledge. After all, the square believed so strongly in the idea of retelling the dimensions that he was willing to be imprisoned as a consequence. But where did this get him? It only made him feel burdened and haunted by the knowledge of Spaceland that he was not able to share with the rest of the world.

Works Cited
Abbott, Edwin A. Flatland. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1992.

The Truth & Lies of Retelling Stories
Name: Laura Bang
Date: 2001-10-09 21:48:51
Link to this Comment: 429

Stories can be infinitely valuable to society. Their value depends on their change-ability. If a story can be altered to fit new perspectives and new social issues, then that story is successful. These alterations are not necessarily physical alterations (that is, alterations to characters or plot), they could just be a change in how people look at and interpret a certain story. But why are some people eager and others reluctant to retell or re-interpret stories?
In Flatland, the narrator is retelling the story of his fantastic journeys in Lineland, Spaceland, and Pointland. He has already told them once (to the people of Flatland) and they were rejected as lies, for which he was put into prison for the rest of his life. Why then, does he attempt to tell these stories again? One of the reasons is, I think, to assure himself that his experiences were real. If he writes them down, he himself will not come to believe that it was all just a dream. Over time, the memories might become hazy and dream-like, but if he writes them down while they are still fresh, they will remain real (at least to him, if to no one else in Flatland).
Another reason the square retells his story, is for future generations of Flatlanders. He hopes that one day, Flatlanders will read his story and be able to conceive of other dimensions and realize impact of these other dimensions on their own lives. Or perhaps he hopes that his retelling will reach the other dimensions beyond Flatland and that the inhabitants of these other dimensions will take it upon themselves to educate themselves and the Flatlanders about the various dimensions.
The inhabitants of Flatland, however, are reluctant to hear such a retelling of their lives. They have gone about the same lives for generations beyond memory – born one shape, each successive generation gains an extra side until they are admitted to the elite polygonal and circle societies. The idea that there may be other dimensions in which are inhabitants greater than Flatlanders, this idea is frightening. The Flatlanders, therefore, feel that the square must be condemned for spreading such “lies.”
When a retelling of a story threatens to change our existence, we are frightened, and very reluctant to hear such a story. We call such retellings lies, but what are “lies”? It was once thought a lie that the earth was round. It was once thought a lie that men could reach the stars. Some people think it a lie that men were created by gods; some people think it a lie that men are descended from gorillas. It is often hard to decide what “lies” are. After all, one person’s lie may be someone else’s truth.

Name: Wareen
Date: 2001-10-09 22:26:51
Link to this Comment: 430

Bear with me people, this is a 2 pager b/c I'm bad enough with my long winded thinking in long papers, never mind short ones. Also, I'm not sure how well the topic is addressed, but its sort of a fun paper to read and laugh at!!

The Fourth Dimension’s Version of the 3 Dimensions

I call our world Timeland, not necessarily because we call it so, but rather to make its nature clearer to you. I don’t know exactly how to describe this world, nor whether it is even worth the effort to attempt a description. I know you beings accept the three dimensions of width, height, and length, and that you interpret the world around you accordingly. Well, picture a world in which the three dimensions are length, width, and height, but these are interpreted according to the past, present, and future. Since I know how confused you must be, I will offer an example for your puny minds. When we look at the sun, we are able to see a speck of dust, a swirl of gas, a mighty sun, and a terrifying darkness. These images are not as blurred as you might imagine, but rather we understand their dimensions and position in time as clearly as you understand which lines of the cube are furthest from you and which are closest. You see, the fourth dimension is time, and our world is the essence of time. We are a world in the sense that we exist among you, as one of your unseen dimensions, as a universe known to only the deep recess of your mind. We are the ones responsible for the time aspect to your life, the baby fat and the wrinkles, the arthritis and the metabolism. We are the ones responsible for changing the story of your life. We are responsible for rotating the cube, for bringing those distant lines to the foreground of life, for merging the future and the past within the realm of our control known as the present.
Now I know what you’re thinking, and I’m telling you right now to relax. It’s not as complicated as it might seem. Time is a dimension already existing as a part of you; it is just an invisible part. You see, every decision you make in life (and everything from movement to zoned out silence is a decision) we interpret the future this decision makes, and we move the future consequences forward. Like a cube, some of the points on the line take longer to move forward than others, hence, you acquire wrinkles slowly but hair grows quickly.
This has more of a consequence than you may realize. Time controls your entire life, and we control your entire past, especially your history. Your history, you see, is not a line of facts and dates but a constantly evolving story of potential, realization, and interpretation. With time, everything changes; the cube rotates; we create a new story for the making. But this new story is not altogether new; you see the potential for a new interpretation is “already there, waiting in silence for the moment of its expression (Foucault xx.)”
However, there are impossibilities within your three dimensional world, interpretations you are not able to realize until the timing is right, until it is declared and destined that it be seen. In other words, “the unthinkable is that which one cannot conceive within the range of possible alternatives, that which perverts all answers because it defies the terms under which the questions [are] phrased (Trouillot 82.)” Allow me to demonstrate once more, for your sake. If you lived on a plain, a two-dimensional plane of existence, it would be “unthinkable” for you to see three dimensions because every question you ask is framed with an assumption of that plane. You humans think linearly, and so every assumption you have you always assume to be constant. Life will always be defined by that plane because everything is currently defined by that plane. The potential for the linearity of life to bend is a denial with you beings. No question is able to pierce that ignorance.
Why is it so impossible to pierce through that mindset? All this must be terribly confusing for you, especially since I have already mentioned that the deep recess of the brain accepts more than three, even more than four dimensions. Then why can’t you accept them? Very simple, you have been handed down the plane form of existence; you were brought up believing in the line. Children, however, are instinctively curious and able to question; they are able to picture other possibilities even if they “don’t see how (53)” this other possibility could be a part of their reality. This sort of curiosity would make a child a “fool (54)” even if the child is perfectly correct. You are taught how to see the world, and you are taught by which questions and terms you are to define it. You people have a necessity for lines, for clarity, for rules.
You see, that is where time comes in. We are an earthquake, I suppose, to the linear ground of your structured world. When the time is right, we shake the world up a bit. It is as though a great Sphere of knowledge descends every millennium to reveal another layer, another part of your world. This does not mean we reveal ourselves, nor does it mean we reveal dimensions. Rather, this means we reveal a new story, or rather we change the world by bringing out a new potential, a new side, to the same story.
If, for example, we were to take a figure from Flatland and show him your three dimensional world, he would declare “behold, a new world (64.)” For him, this would be a new story, and so he would be forced, most likely, to write some absurd book or make some bad movie rewriting the story of his plain, of his Flatland, to incorporate this “new” third dimension. As time demands, your story is changed, and so you beings, obsessed as you are with detail and linearity, must rewrite the story correctly, starting off, of course, with the world in which you previously lived. To rewrite or revise a story there must be an original, and so the original always comes first, even when rewritten, if simply to mock and satire the errors, but more commonly to make obvious the “newness’ of the world.
Perhaps the sad part is that there is no help for your perception, no help for the world. No story is ever rewritten; no world is ever “new,” only redefined. The potential exists, but the structure of life and the varying dimensions are always too strong. Only accepted ideas are transcribed into the culture, into the world. The rest remain a figment of the imagination or the reality of a mental patient.
But, since you live in the three-dimensional world, you are required to rewrite the story of life and history as the story unfolds and as time changes the definitions. Everyday a little bit unfolds, and everyday you adapt and accept the new terms. There are too many possibilities in life for you to accept them all, not if you want to maintain order and structure, not if you fear change. So the story changes rather slowly, and only in moments of complete chaos and melancholy is the story ever replaced with an entirely “new” account of the world. Whether this be a “Colour Rebellion” or the opening up of a new dimension, these changes are rarely as sudden as perceived, and they are rarely as lasting as they are promised to be. And yet, they are essential. The reinterpretation and the retelling of stories remains the only means by which time is measured, and the only ways in which the world revolves and its people progress through life. You need the ground to shake just as much as you need the structure to hold strong. This is a necessity.
The story of life is much like a fairy life; you beings you could recite the tale by heart. The story is what defines you. As you change, as time changes you and the world, aging you slowly, the world is redefined and rewritten by new terms. The story is constantly revised, constantly rewritten because you are constantly comparing the “old” with the “new.” You are always discovering and exploring, sometimes by force. The world is less stable than you claim, more complex than you see, and more ancient than you could imagine. But the frontier is always expanding, and the story is constantly changing by the dictation and command of the mighty fourth dimension. We are the ones who rewrite the story through the accumulation of change and time, through the exposed possibility of potential.

Telling and Retelling Stories
Name: Amanda Gle
Date: 2001-10-09 23:07:57
Link to this Comment: 431

Throughout life and history, mankind has been known to tell and retell the stories of life as well as future generations. Before word was written down, the tales were told orally and memorized so as the children could learn from the past. "Beowulf", the epic tale, is a prime example of the passage of stories. The past generations retold the story. Where the telling and retelling of stories is also very apparent is the novella by Edwin A. Abbott, "Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions." The square, the main character in the story, tells the story of reality in two different dimensions. This is key as the different stories show different opinions and viewpoints. This is a prime example of what occurs with the retelling and telling of stories.
History and the retelling of stories is a key part of all cultures and societies. The words passed down are normally fundamental stories of the community. Despite being key, the stories normally change over time. This is because being told by mouth, people alter the tale to aid themselves. Even the epics of cultures are changed so that the community can use it for their own good. Fundamental stories are told and have been told throughout history as examples of the rights and wrongs and as past examples.
Not only do communities change stories but so do individuals. If one version of the story does not suit the present situation, the teller may adjust it so that it will fit. Or, if the person telling the story wants to see the tale in a new light, he or she may change it. For example, in Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman", Biff states to Happy, "How the hell did I ever get the idea I was a salesman there? I even believed myself that I'd been a salesman for him! And then he gave me one look and--I realized what a ridiculous lie my whole life has been! We've been talking in a dream for fifteen years. I was a shipping clerk." (Act II) This is a common theme among people, the change of stories so that the tale will aid the teller.
Stories are told and retold throughout history, being altered while staying the same. It is interesting to read the tales of people from the past who altered the stories to benefit themselves. It is a common theme in literature and life.

The Evolution of Human Thought, or Why Christ Won'
Name: Liz Clarke
Date: 2001-10-10 00:06:45
Link to this Comment: 432

Human society and thought are structured around ideas so fundamental to our perception of the world that no one truly realizes what they are until they have changed. As these beliefs change over time, with them change society and the human concept of the world. These ideas are so fundamental and necessary as to be like “genes;” they code for a good portion of the characteristics of human thought and society in any given period. Much like human genes, they are subject to mutation. The products of these mutations, radically new ideas or discoveries, are themselves subject to natural selection. (I acknowledge that this comparison has an obvious flaw in its broadness, for the biological evolution of a species is far more complicated than simple genetic mutations and the results of natural selection; with that knowledge, however, I feel it serves as a suitable metaphor.) These relatively infrequent processes punctuate the constantly and slowly expanding realm of human knowledge, leading to beliefs fundamental to human thought changing over time.
Change in these beliefs stems from a radical event or discovery (the “mutation”) that disturbs well-established human knowledge. For example, consider the “discovery” of evolution. Evolution was a concept that very strongly opposed society’s fundamental belief in creationism; it also emmerged relatively suddenly, as creationism had been around since biblical times. Once the revolutionary event takes place, it must be dealt with; the new thought or discovery exists, much as the genetically altered organism would still exist, and will not disappear if simply ignored. In this way, the very fact of its discovery begins the process of change. In Flatland, the “mutation” in the square’s fundamental beliefs is his journey into spaceland. At this point his perception of the world is irreversibly altered.
It is now that “natural selection” takes place. The genetically mutated organism either survives and prospers, being better adapted to its surroundings than its predecessors, or fails to survive, being worse adapted. The same is true for a discovery depending on its “surroundings,” the social atmosphere of the time. It is now widely accepted that humans evolved from hominids, and were not created and placed on earth in our present state. This revolution in our society’s belief of our origins took many years to become the prominent view; it has been the subject of many debates, such as the John Scopes trial and the recent arguments over whether evolution could be taught in Kansas schools. These debates prove its worth as a new basis for thought. Conflict proves that it is believable enough to challenge and replace old ideas. Its triumph in such situations has been because of the social climate that is willing to accept such a change. Such is not the case in Flatland, where the square finds that the social climate is turned against his discovery of other dimension. There are no arguments that accompany his claim, it is simply dismissed. A comparable modern situation is one in which a person makes the revolutionary discovery that they are Christ in the second comming. Society is not inclined at the moment to believe, or even consider, that Christ has returned to judge us. By most, the person is dismissed as crazy. The same social climate faces the square. Thus, the social atmosphere into which revolutionary discoveries or events are introduced directly affects the extent to which they change our fundamental beliefs and views of life.
Changes in fundamental human beliefs arrise from certain reality-altering events, “mutations” in the genes that code for society and human thought. These mutations are then judged by society at large, and deemed worthy of change to accomodate them or are dismissed as unconvincing and are eliminated. Through this process, fundamental human beliefs change through time.

why the square retells his story
Name: Sarah Frie
Date: 2001-10-10 00:15:20
Link to this Comment: 433

Just as humans believe that space occupies three dimensions, the three dimensions that we can commonly see, the square-shaped narrator of "Flatland" believed that space only existed in various configurations of lines forming an assortment of angles. When a solid sphere, a being completely alien to the square, descended to flatland with the intention of broadening the square's knowledge of the universe, the square has to choose to accept or refuse the belief that other dimensions exist. Surprisingly, it only takes one conversation to convince the square that his perspective of the world is limited. Why did the square so easily dispense with the version of the nature’s laws that his people so viciously held to and that had molded his own way of thinking from birth? By replacing his own life-long assumptions with another set of explanations, the square manifests his own dissatisfaction. In other words, retelling the story is a way for the square to remedy the discontent that he gains when he hears about other ways of thinking.
When the square first begins to describe his homeland, he seems embarrassed by the limitations imposed by the constraints of linedom. He explains that the geometrically shaped inhabitants can neither move up and down, nor distinguish one another by sight. It seems obvious that the square is dissatisfied with his original worldview after adopting a new one. But is the square dissatisfied with his life in flatland before the sphere makes him aware of other possibilities? A related question, does one need to know about alternative viewpoints in order to be unhappy with ones own, must also be considered. Finally, can the square be dissatisfied with the particular viewpoint commonly used in his land to understand the world and still be perfectly content with his own existence?
Before discussing the above questions, an important distinction must be drawn. The questions above separate two realms in the square’s life: the actions and feelings regarding his everyday life, as opposed to the larger, more abstract values that influence ones life constantly but at a subtler level.
The square lives in a community that values what he has accomplished in his lifetime. He does not stand at the top of the class structure, but, as a professionally educated man with a proper wife, several children, mostly sons, and a clever grandson, the square lives the "good life." There is little evidence that the square is displeased with the life that flatland provided. But this train of thought only addresses the square’s personal satisfaction on the day-to-day level.
Because the square does not desire a different lifestyle in the sense described above, the question of whether it is possible to desire a change without knowing what the change should be is inconsequential. Alternatively, when one examines the second realm of the squares life, which focuses on the societal views, the second question has more meaning. It is unlikely that, prior to meeting the sphere, the square thought much about the way in which he viewed the world. But this does not mean that he found this view completely gratifying. On some level of his conscience the laws of flatland may have left him with unanswered questions, or it may have not addressed his questions at all. The square could not dwell on the fact this fact because first, he had no alternative, and second, because was not fully aware of his dissatisfaction.
The square's willingness to change his story can be attributed to a need awakened by the sphere when he enlightens his student. Even though the square is not unhappy in his daily life, he does desire a new set of truths, and a new set of truths requires a new set of questions. The truths presented in the Flatland worldview address questions of gender, class, authority, human relations, and human worth. In the first half of the book the narrator explains how these subjects are treated in the context of a world where beings can only see each other as straight lines and were most individuals must resort to feeling each other to identify one another. Although the multi-dimensional word that the sphere introduces the square to is actually the same world viewed in a different manner, one can infer that the different vantage point, (literally,) allows the discussion of more informed questions. These new questions appeal to the square, and lead him to change his story.

Follow the Leader?
Name: emily
Date: 2001-10-10 00:32:13
Link to this Comment: 434

For the most part, stories follow the societal norm of the era into which they are born. A story is acceptable in nearly every condition if it is taken within the context of its time. It is the stories that break through the values impressed upon them that truly define a time period. Fundamental stories change over time not only because they must change to comply with the expectations of a society, but also, to disagree with the expectations of a society.
In one sense, stories change over time because the values of society change, and the stories must comply. These stories, that follow the patterns of society, are more traditional, and are met without much opposition. Foucault alludes to this idea in "The Order of Things". Foucault discusses the possibility that, in any given time period, there are a prescribed set of ways that people have of making sense of the world. Furthermore, these ways are so general that people are oblivious to them until they change. Stories are expected to follow these societal patterns. Therefore, stories that do not challenge society's ideals must follow them, and these stories only change over time as society's expectations change.
In a seperate sense, it could be said that stories change over time to disagree with the expectations of society. In a general sense, stories that cause the most commotion in society are those that disturb some element of social order. In the satire Flatland, Abbott states, "...nothing that you or I can do can rescue him from his self-satisfaction." (pg 76). Here, the square is unable to convince another of the realities of other dimensions. In a general sense, people are happy within the societal norms that they have created. When a story is created to throw their beliefs off balance, they are more apt to disagree with it.
Fundamental stories change over time for two seperate and opposite reasons: in one sense, to follow the societal roles of the time period, or, in an opposite sense, to overthrow them. The first option is more prominent, as it is more easily accepted. However, to redefine the rules of a given time period through a story causes more commotion, but holds the ability to change the rules of an era.

Re-telling Stories
Name: Kathryn
Date: 2001-10-10 04:06:37
Link to this Comment: 437

The world is extremely complex and confusing, yet people have a need to feel that they understand it. Stories are important in explaining how the world works. Usually there are particular stories that a person believes gives an accurate decription of the world. This becomes thier reality. When people find new stories that contadict the old ones there are two basic reactions. One is that the new story is closer to te truth and therefore it should be shared with everyone because it would make their lives better. The other is that that the new story should not be shared because it would shake people's basic foundations which would anger them and bring them pain.
People search for meaning and direction in their lives, and in order to have this they need to understand the world in some way. This is where stories come in. For many people, the Bible is the story that explains the reality of the world. It is from this reality that they can then form a purpose in their life. Foucault presents the idea that people are constantly reorganizing stories about how the world works as new information is presented to them. In today's society, science is often viewed as the stories that explain reality. Many people believe that what science uncovers is the way the world actually works. When a scientist disovers something that he thinks further explains the workings of the world, he is eager to share his knowledge with his fellow human beings because he wants them to understand what he understands since he thinks it brings them closer to reality. He thinks this will help better people's lives. A negative reason he would want to share his findings is because it gives him power, the power to change people's lives.
However there are reasons why people don't want to share new sores also. Not all people want to be introduced to new stories if it means changing their old ones. This is because it would bring uncertainty and confusion into their life. By introducing a new story to explain something that they thought they already knew, it proves their beliefs to be wrong. This is upseting because the person has based their goals and purpose in life on the previous story. It is common for people to become angry when someone tries to introduce a new story. Of course not all stories are this mind shattering, and sometimes people are open to hearing differnt stories. Usually people are open to new stories when they are confused about something, and need to form an opinion about it. In this case, stories are helpful because they offer explanations to what the person is confused about, and then the person can decide what they believe is the truth or reality. However, once this belief is formed, it is often hard to get a person to change it, especially if it is something that a majority of the people believe to be true. This is when a person can be reluctant to retell a story, when the new version would disrupt people's basic beliefs and foundations. This is evident in Flatland, when the square wants to share his discovery with the others, but is reluctant because he fears that the others will be upset and claim that his story is his fantasy, not a fact that explains reality better. His assumptions turn out to be correct after he tells his story to his fellow figures and they declare him to be insane and place him in prison.
This is a common reaction to someone who presents an idea that changes the common sense of reality. Historically, many people who have later been realized to have valid stories are considered to be insane at the time they present the ideas because people do not want their sense of reality to change. They have become comfortable and confident in their beliefs and don't want to change them. Galileo is a perfect example of someone who presented new stories with sufficent evidence to back them, yet no one wanted to see this evidence because they didn't want to have to challenge their beliefs about the church. The church explained how life worked to people and their entire society was based upon it. To challenge the church would mean challenging their society, which many people did not want to do because they were comfortable with their society, they knew their place and their purpose.
The desire to understand the world and develop a reality about it is something that all people are driven to do. Without some sort of explanation or understanding, life would not have a meaning. Some people look for a better understanding of the world than the one presented to them, others simply come across a new story. The square is an example of someone who came across a new story without really looking, and was convinced enough by to believe it to be a new piece of truth. These people are then presented with the dilemma of whether to share this new story with others. Most people would want to share this truth with others for both selfish ad unselfish reasons. However, they are often reluctant to do this out of fear of rejection or to protect people from the pain of having thier foundations knocked down.

Thoughts on Change
Name: Helena
Date: 2001-10-10 06:18:37
Link to this Comment: 438

Fundamental stories.. Hmmm.. I don’t really thing that the factor behind them all change, since it had to be there over time, but the stories change mostly because of our perspectives. After all, if someone came along and saw a cube from one side, and it was all black, the person might suggest that the entire cube was black. But what if the other side was white, and someone else came along and saw /that/? Would this new person suggest that the entire cube was white? Most likely. However, they only saw a fragment of the entire picture, as did the Narrator in _Flatland_. The cube, in essence, is both black and white, because it is made up of all the different fragments that compose it.

I think it’s part of human nature to re-tell a story, only because it would allow them to set the story right or make any changes they deem necessary for the betterment of the tale. Perhaps it’s because they have learnt something new, or perhaps it’s because they simply don’t like the way it ended (think Disney and ‘The Little Mermaid’), or maybe it’s just the case of not recalling the exact facts. When stories are passed down from generation-to-generation through word of mouth, it usually loses some of the lesser details while new ones seem to spring forth. Much like a game of telephone, where you whisper a phrase that is to be passed around a group a people, the end result can sometimes not be remotely similar to the original phrase.

On the other hand, however, we are reluctant to go ahead and re-tell a story because we might change it, or taint it, or do something that’ll absolutely ruin it. It’s that hesitancy that keeps us back from changing something told, because sometimes things are best left alone. Other times, however, they just need some shaking down to get them ready.

Changes are, I believe, something that is essential. Perhaps knowledge that the stories we hear today might not be the exact ones told to family members long before they thought about writing them down is reassuring, because it shows how society has changed. Of course, we might lose the knowledge we had of what came before the change, but if the new change isn’t for the best, it can be changed once more to fit an adapting society. It also might be that we need to be proven that there isn’t just one correct form of a story: there are various views that should be analyzed and put together like a giant jigsaw puzzle.

Changes and Life
Name: Cathy Burl
Date: 2001-10-10 08:54:45
Link to this Comment: 439

      The play “Galileo” and the novel Flatland are brilliantly told dramas concerning the lives of men and the revisions that they must make to their assumptions about the world. In both of these books, the protagonist experiences a profound change of perspective. The struggles of Galileo and the square from Flatland spring from revelations---moments of clarity. These radical changes force both men to re-consider everything about their worlds. For the square this is a drastic change from his previously well-ordered life. For Galileo it is part of his life-long struggle in the name of science. But both cases contain an important lesson: changes of perspective are inevitable, inexorable, and will profoundly affect one‘s life.
      Every time a student learns something new, it infinitesimally changes their outlook on the world. It may give them a small insight to the way the world around them works, or force them to reconsider their assumptions. Similarly, every experience one has affects all one’s future experiences in profound, hopelessly complicated, yet infinitely subtle ways. A word that you hear used today, you may come across later in a new context, and recognize partially from the earlier experience. Then, when you see it again, your previous knowledge, at an almost unconscious level, may give you the meaning of the word. When you use the word in conversation and someone asks, “What does that mean?” You can explain the meaning, but can’t explain your knowledge of it. And that’s only the simplest example.
      “Galileo” and Flatland both dramatize important factors in the lives of their heroes that cause them to re-consider and re-tell their stories. In reality, however, these “revelations” are ubiquitous and usually subtle. The stories we tell aren’t arbitrarily re-told at certain intervals. Just as with literal storytelling and oral tradition, they are constantly changing. Everything the storyteller does, observes, or experiences affects the story. It moves through infinite disparate gradations, and is never finished.

creation and evolution stories
Name: mel schott
Date: 2001-10-10 10:25:49
Link to this Comment: 441

Mel Schottenstein
English Seminar
Professor Nutting
October 9, 2001
Stories Used to Explain Our Origin
Stories, whether true or not, are one of the vital ways through which we attempt to explain our conditions on this planet. Flatland’s fictional A Square and Brecht’s semi-fictional Galileo both attempt to explain their worlds through a mix of stories and scientific reasoning. Their stories deal with large philosophical questions, such as the origin of their culture’s existence. But by doing so, these two protagonists are not embraced by their respective audiences; instead, in telling their stories they find their lives are at risk.
The predicament of A Square and Galileo underscore the difficult task of explaining the origin of humankind. Judging by the recent war of words between scientists and Creationists, this task is no less difficult today. While finding their truths in the creation myths found in Genesis of the Old Testament, most scientists cite evidence that man has evolved over time through a series of adaptations and modifications. Proponents of these two opposing views go to great lengths to prove that theirs is the “correct” explanation of why we are here. Whether or not we believe in either side’s evidence, the controversy does draw attention to two “truths”: a.) human beings have a need to tell and pass on stories, and b.) human beings yearn to know where they came from.
Moreover, it is illuminating to view both sides of the argument—creationism and evolution—as stories (Lewin 6). Anthropologist Roger Lewin explains that humans are generally egotistical creatures and want to read narratives about themselves and how they came to be. Similarly, one Professor Landau, a Boston University anthropologist, explains that the same important stages of a hero can be found in explanations about man’s decent (Lewin 6).
Of course, one popular method of explaining life is through the theory of evolution, or the study of how life has changed and is changing on earth for the past billions of years to present day (Campbell 421). This study really looks at the history of humankind through such cross-disciplinary lenses as comparative anatomy, comparative embryology, behavior, biogeography, comparative chemistry, and molecular biology (Campbell 423). By classifying various species, this collection of scientists hopes to discover useful patterns of evolutionary history in the hopes of leading us to a “Common Ancestor” and/or the very beginning of life on earth.
Such study has yielded many important and useful outcomes. By studying abrupt changes in evolution, we have learned about certain catastrophes that destroyed vast number of species (Campbell 422). By continuing to study such biologists hope to one day bes able to predict evolutionary changes, which would be helpful in understanding bacterial growth and bacterial antibiotic resistance. We might also be able to understand how viruses evolve and the frequency and expression of genetic mutation (Campbell 425). In addition, perhaps such study will allow us to understand the earth’s natural environment and ways in which to preserve it.
The Bible’s account of the origin of human beings is, of course, quite different. At the heart of this account is G-d’s creation of everything in and around the universe in six days (circa six thousand years ago). As we all know, over the course of these six days G-d created “man” in the “perfect” image of “Himself.” This account does not lack a body of supporting evidence. Many stories and events found in the Bible have been validated by numerous archeological finds ( It is possible to find truth in such articles of evidence—many Americans have done so. They agree with those “creationists” who believe that life is too complex to have evolved without the help of a higher power. The fact that there are parallel myths—such as a “flood” myth, which is supported by the existence of fossil fuels—within many unrelated cultures is very favorable to the creationists’ view ( Unlike the theory of evolution, such an explanation of the origin of humankind may even give people a sense of security about themselves ( This is a vital point; people need explanations for unknown phenomena, and luckily, explanations of such phenomena can be found in the Bible.
Since there were no human witnesses when the earth and universe were created, no one knows for sure which of these stories is “correct.” This being the case, scientists and creationists must continue to search for new evidence and data to support their claims. Someday, perhaps, G-d will give humans a sign that the Biblical account is truth. Or someday maybe scientists will find the “missing link” to human evolution. Until this happens, the stubborness of both sides prevents people from weighing the merits of both. Nobody seems to be the winner in the battle between these two opposing stories. Galileo and A square struggled to communicate their stories to others, and by doing so they enlightened people with evidence and new questions. For this reason both of these stories—Creationism and Evolution— should be universally taught so that one day someone might create one story that unifies them both.

Works Cited
Abramson, Paul., 9 October 2001
Lewin, Roger. Human Evolution: An illustrated Introduction. Malden, Massachusetts:
Blackwell Science. 1999.
Campbell, Neil, L.G. Mitchell, J.B. Reece. Biology. Menlo Park, California: 1999.

creation and evolution stories
Name: mel schott
Date: 2001-10-10 10:26:14
Link to this Comment: 442

Mel Schottenstein
English Seminar
Professor Nutting
October 9, 2001
Stories Used to Explain Our Origin
Stories, whether true or not, are one of the vital ways through which we attempt to explain our conditions on this planet. Flatland’s fictional A Square and Brecht’s semi-fictional Galileo both attempt to explain their worlds through a mix of stories and scientific reasoning. Their stories deal with large philosophical questions, such as the origin of their culture’s existence. But by doing so, these two protagonists are not embraced by their respective audiences; instead, in telling their stories they find their lives are at risk.
The predicament of A Square and Galileo underscore the difficult task of explaining the origin of humankind. Judging by the recent war of words between scientists and Creationists, this task is no less difficult today. While finding their truths in the creation myths found in Genesis of the Old Testament, most scientists cite evidence that man has evolved over time through a series of adaptations and modifications. Proponents of these two opposing views go to great lengths to prove that theirs is the “correct” explanation of why we are here. Whether or not we believe in either side’s evidence, the controversy does draw attention to two “truths”: a.) human beings have a need to tell and pass on stories, and b.) human beings yearn to know where they came from.
Moreover, it is illuminating to view both sides of the argument—creationism and evolution—as stories (Lewin 6). Anthropologist Roger Lewin explains that humans are generally egotistical creatures and want to read narratives about themselves and how they came to be. Similarly, one Professor Landau, a Boston University anthropologist, explains that the same important stages of a hero can be found in explanations about man’s decent (Lewin 6).
Of course, one popular method of explaining life is through the theory of evolution, or the study of how life has changed and is changing on earth for the past billions of years to present day (Campbell 421). This study really looks at the history of humankind through such cross-disciplinary lenses as comparative anatomy, comparative embryology, behavior, biogeography, comparative chemistry, and molecular biology (Campbell 423). By classifying various species, this collection of scientists hopes to discover useful patterns of evolutionary history in the hopes of leading us to a “Common Ancestor” and/or the very beginning of life on earth.
Such study has yielded many important and useful outcomes. By studying abrupt changes in evolution, we have learned about certain catastrophes that destroyed vast number of species (Campbell 422). By continuing to study such biologists hope to one day bes able to predict evolutionary changes, which would be helpful in understanding bacterial growth and bacterial antibiotic resistance. We might also be able to understand how viruses evolve and the frequency and expression of genetic mutation (Campbell 425). In addition, perhaps such study will allow us to understand the earth’s natural environment and ways in which to preserve it.
The Bible’s account of the origin of human beings is, of course, quite different. At the heart of this account is G-d’s creation of everything in and around the universe in six days (circa six thousand years ago). As we all know, over the course of these six days G-d created “man” in the “perfect” image of “Himself.” This account does not lack a body of supporting evidence. Many stories and events found in the Bible have been validated by numerous archeological finds ( It is possible to find truth in such articles of evidence—many Americans have done so. They agree with those “creationists” who believe that life is too complex to have evolved without the help of a higher power. The fact that there are parallel myths—such as a “flood” myth, which is supported by the existence of fossil fuels—within many unrelated cultures is very favorable to the creationists’ view ( Unlike the theory of evolution, such an explanation of the origin of humankind may even give people a sense of security about themselves ( This is a vital point; people need explanations for unknown phenomena, and luckily, explanations of such phenomena can be found in the Bible.
Since there were no human witnesses when the earth and universe were created, no one knows for sure which of these stories is “correct.” This being the case, scientists and creationists must continue to search for new evidence and data to support their claims. Someday, perhaps, G-d will give humans a sign that the Biblical account is truth. Or someday maybe scientists will find the “missing link” to human evolution. Until this happens, the stubborness of both sides prevents people from weighing the merits of both. Nobody seems to be the winner in the battle between these two opposing stories. Galileo and A square struggled to communicate their stories to others, and by doing so they enlightened people with evidence and new questions. For this reason both of these stories—Creationism and Evolution— should be universally taught so that one day someone might create one story that unifies them both.

Works Cited
Abramson, Paul., 9 October 2001
Lewin, Roger. Human Evolution: An illustrated Introduction. Malden, Massachusetts:
Blackwell Science. 1999.
Campbell, Neil, L.G. Mitchell, J.B. Reece. Biology. Menlo Park, California: 1999.

fairy tale
Name: mel schott
Date: 2001-10-10 10:28:37
Link to this Comment: 443

Melinda Schottenstein
English Seminar
Professor Nutting
September 11, 2001
Samantha’s Dream Date: A Fairy Tale
Everything would have been so much easier, Samantha thought to herself, if only she were someone else. Why, why, why couldn’t she shed her pale sallow skin and dress herself in someone else’s! What cruel magic had been responsible for placing her in this body, in this town, at this school? Boring—that’s what her life had become; she dreaded how every new day would pass her by in such monotonously similar ways. And this was the time of day that she dreaded the most—lunchtime. She found it incredibly intimidating having to choose a place to eat. Terrified at the thought of eating alone, she scanned the cafeteria to find an open seat. At first glance, she only saw available seats with sixth and seventh graders. Unwilling (and slightly embarrassed) to be seen with “children,” she continued her search. A mixture of hunger and fear brewed in her stomach as she looked around the cafeteria. On the far side of the cafeteria, she spotted a table with one seat left. To Samantha’s disappointment, she found Andrea Lufwa sitting there with the rest of her fashion-conscious clique. Curvy and blonde with a magical smile, Andrea was the toast of the school and the object of the boys’ desires. Samantha knew that if she sat with Andrea, the most snobby and popular girl in the school, she would be scorned and ridiculed.
With her palms sweating and her heart pumping, she walked over to the front of the food line, desperately trying to find a different face, a friendly one. The stench of honeyed ham and salted green beans filled the air and made Samantha feel even worse. Tired of this monotonous daily game of Musical Chairs, Samantha ate her lunch at the end of an empty table. She sat there alone and silent. As she drank her soda, drops of condensation ran down the outside of the can, falling to the table in a small puddle. It reminded Samantha of tears--tears she desperately needed to cry.

The next morning, as Samantha ate cereal, her mother asked, “Are you going to the Prom this Friday?”
Samantha replied, “I don’t know. No one has asked me. Besides, the Millers asked me to baby-sit on Friday.”
“Oh Samantha, stop making excuses! I’m sure the Millers can find someone else.” Samantha’s mother interjected. “I want you to go out and have a good time. Why don’t you ask a boy to go with you? Or go with some of your friends?”
“Nobody wants to go with me!” she shouted. “Mom, I’m not popular! I’m not Andrea Lufwa!”
“You don’t need to be Andrea Lufwa to go to the Prom,” said her mother. “There are plenty of girls who aren’t Andrea Lufwa.”
“Alright, Alright! I’ll think about it,” Samantha barked at her mother as she finished eating.
As Samantha drove to school, her mind swam with optimistic images as she envisioned herself in a beautiful dress—like one she imagined Andrea would wear—being escorted to the Prom by Will Cartwright, the most popular boy in school. She had long, blonde, Andrea-like hair and she had a magical, dazzling Andrea-like smile. And she was the talk of the Prom—all the boys wanted a dance with her and every girl wanted to be her. The best part, though, came at the end of this imaginary evening when Will walked Samantha to her door and … and … and he kissed her good night.
The sound of a horn woke Samantha from her dream. She found herself sitting behind the steering wheel, stuck in a line of cars waiting to turn into the school parking lot. Much to her horror, Samantha did not remember anything of her drive there. She did, however, remember her vision and it gave Samantha a smidgen of hope. She resolved to ask Will Cartwright to the Prom.
Samantha parked her car and headed for the main doors to the school. As she walked, raindrops fell around her, peppering the parking lot with small wet marks. Ominous clouds filled the sky, casting an oppressive light on Samantha. She could not help but think this was a dark omen. As she reached the doors to the school, a solitary drop of rain hit her cheek and ran down her face.
Samantha sat uncomfortably at her desk awaiting class to begin. An obnoxious odor of hair spray and imposter perfume lingered in the air. Her nose followed the pungent trail to a collection of desks occupied by a few of the girls in Andrea Lufwa’s clique. Each of the girls slightly resembled the other, except for slight differences. Jacqueline, the tallest girl, was second in command (outranked only by Andrea herself). The other two girls had no authority in the clique. The shorter of the two, Tiffany, giggled incessantly. Jenna, the quietest of the group, usually just sat in a daze, twirling a lock of her hair. Most of the time Samantha ignored their constant gossip. Today, however, the topic of conversation was about the very boy Samantha had been thinking about. She listened intently as each word fell from their mouths.
“Did you hear that Andrea is going to ask Will Cartwright to the Prom this Friday?” Jacqueline casually mentioned.
“No, I had no idea. She’s so lucky,” Tiffany replied with a hint of jealousy. “She can get any guy.”
“When is Andrea going to ask him?” a curious Jenna inquired from her trance.
“I don’t know. She’ll probably call him tonight though,” Jacqueline answered.
Samantha turned away. She was devastated. She gripped her pencil tightly in frustration. Her knuckles turned white from the pressure. It was beyond her belief that anyone could be so cruel to her. As she reached for her notebook, Samantha thought to herself, Andrea can choose from any guy in school. Why did she have to take Will from me? Then the thought occurred to her that she had never told anyone she liked Will. Nobody knew—not Andrea, her clique, and most importantly, not Will. She decided to beat Andrea by calling Will immediately after school.
That afternoon, Samantha closed the door to her bedroom, leaned against her door and took a few deep breaths. Her hands started shaking and her palms sweating. Samantha was so nervous that she felt dizzy. “I know I have to relax,” she thought. “The worst that can happen is that I will not go to the Prom.” Samantha picked up the phone and dialed the number to Will’s house. She was so nervous that she could hear her heart pounding.
“Hello, is anyone there?” a voice on the other end of the telephone answered.
Samantha froze with fear and hung up the phone. She knew if she wanted this date, she would have to face her fear of rejection.
Once again Samantha picked up the phone.
“Hello, Cartwright residence,” a voice answered on the other line.
Samantha nervously spoke into the telephone, “This is Samantha Enola. May I speak with Will.” She was placed on hold. The dead silence seemed to go on forever. Samantha made such few phone calls that she did not know what to do during her wait. She bit her nails anxiously as she awaited Will’s answer. Then, Will picked up the phone. Samantha gripped the telephone tightly.
“Hello, Will, this is Samantha. You may not know me. I sit behind you in Mrs. Lugash’s class,” Samantha spoke tensely.
“Oh, I think I remember you,” Will replied, though he sounded unsure of himself.
Samantha replied, “I was wondering whether or not you’ll be going to the Prom this Friday.”
“Andrea Lufwa asked me, so I’m going with her,” then he paused. “Why do you ask?”
“Oh, no reason. I was just curious,” replied Samantha with sadness breaking through her voice. “I’ll see you tomorrow.” After this wretched sentence, Samantha choked up and swiftly ended the call. She placed the phone back on the base and began to cry.

The following day at school, Samantha went from class to class trying to forget about last night’s trauma. She could not focus on her work as well as usual. She went from each class trying to escape the constant chatter about the dance. Then, came English class.
In English class, Andrea approached Samantha at her desk.
“Hey Samantha, are you going to the Prom this Friday?” Andrea cynically asked.
“I don’t know. I might have to visit my grandparents,” Samantha apprehensively stated. She did not want Andrea to know the truth for fear that she would be ridiculed.
“Oh, I thought you weren’t going to the Prom because you don’t have a date,” Andrea replied with a smirk on her face. She continued, “because I am going with Will and you’re not.”
“Andrea, I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Samantha replied angrily. Andrea gave her one last condescending glare, then moved across the room to her desk. She gossiped with her clique until the bell rang.
Samantha was humiliated from this encounter. She looked around the classroom, wondering if anyone witnessed the spectacle. As Samantha looked around the room, one person caught her gaze. A boy who looked at once both familiar and incredibly strange. Suddenly, his eyes met hers, and, at that moment, before the boy could return to his task—he was writing something in a notebook—she saw that each of his eyes possessed a different, magical color: one green, the other blue.
After school, as Samantha gathered her books from her locker, she found a note addressed to her. She swiftly put it inside her book bag so it would not seen by anyone. Samantha scurried out of the building and drove to her house. On her way home, she tried to imagine what was written on the poorly folded paper. Her first thought about the letter was that it was another of Andrea’s pranks--a cynical joke to make her life a bit worse.
Once she was safe in her bedroom, Samantha opened the letter. To her surprise it was a letter asking her to the Prom. It was written by one of her peers, Jonathan Penn. She vaguely remembered Jonathan Penn, but had a difficult time calling his image to memory. She decided to look him up in her yearbook from last year. Samantha skimmed through the yearbook until she came to her class pictures. As Samantha ran her finger along the first row of faces, one face stood out from the others--Will Cartwright. Samantha paused for a moment as she stared at his face. A whirlwind of emotions moved through her. She then moved farther down to the face of Jonathan Penn. Samantha studied his face and recognized him immediately. He was the same person who was watching her during her fight with Andrea. She remembered the brief moment their eyes locked. Before he looked down, Jonathan’s stare communicated what a thousand words could not--he understood her pain. Samantha began to wonder, Do we have anything in common?

During study hall, Samantha decided to thank Jonathan for his note. This, of course, was just an excuse for her to talk with him. She was nervous, gripping the note tensely as she walked towards him. Samantha could not help herself from studying his hand as it moved effortlessly across a sheet of notebook paper. She presumed this notebook once held the letter he had written her. As Samantha approached, she took a deep breath and spoke:
“Jonathan, I wanted to thank you for your note. I thought it was—”
“What note?” Jonathan interrupted nervously. “I’m sorry but I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Oh, Jonathan, stop joking! You know, the one where you asked me to the Prom tomorrow night,” Samantha replied.
“Prom? Note? Sam … um … I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
When Samantha heard those dreadful words, she abruptly turned around and ran out of the room and hid in the girl’s restroom. After some minutes she reentered the hall, and, to her surprise, Jonathan was waiting there patiently, leaning against a set of lockers directly across from the door.
“I don’t want to talk to you, so go away,” ordered Samantha. “You humiliated me in front of the entire class. Was this some kind of sick joke?”
“Sam, I really had nothing to do with the note. You’ve got to believe me. I would never do anything like that,” replied Jonathan.
Samantha looked into his eyes, and saw the truth of his statement. Then, she asked, “Well, if you didn’t write it, who did?”
Jonathan responded, “Don’t you know who would try to trick you?”
“I do,” interrupted Samantha, then continued, “and her name is Andrea Lufwa.” Just then the bell rang and Samantha asked Jonathan if he would meet her after school to discuss the matter further. He agreed. Samantha said goodbye to him and headed off to her next class.
When school ended the two met by the cafeteria.
“Jonathan, thanks for meeting me here,” Samantha asked.
“No problem. What’s up?” Jonathan replied.
“Well, Andrea is definitely the one who wrote the letter. I overheard her cronies talking about writing something or other last class period. She makes me so . . . so angry that I could just—”
“I understand completely, Sam,” Jonathan interrupted, then continued, “but don’t let her get to you.”
Samantha responded, “That’s easy for you to say, but you aren’t the butt of Andrea’s sick jokes.”
“I’m not?” said Jonathan. “Wasn’t my name the one signed at the bottom of the letter?”
“OK, so both of us have been had,” remarked Samantha understandingly. “The important question to ask is, what do we do about it?”
Jonathan began speaking, “I think we should go to the Prom together—you know, as a couple—and make it look like we are having a great time. It would frustrate Andrea to see us there, especially if we make it a point to thank her for hooking us up. What do you think?”
Samantha stood motionless for a moment, thinking about what Jonathan had proposed. Strange way to get a date, she thought, but what the heck. Then Samantha replied, “Jonathan, I think that’s a great idea. It should really upset Andrea!”
“Great. I’ll pick you up tomorrow night at 7:00. See you then.”
“Bye,” said Samantha as they parted.
As Samantha drove home, she rolled the window down and let the wind caress her face. A small insect struck the windshield, and Samantha’s eye automatically focused in on it. How tragic, she thought, that it never saw me coming. A strange vision appeared to Samantha just then. Andrea. Her face. Samantha kept seeing Andrea’s face and it was wearing a look of jealousy. She would have the last laugh on the person she had always wanted to be.
Jonathan arrived at Samantha’s house promptly at 7:00. He was very well dressed in a black tuxedo and a satin, seafoam-colored bow that exactly matched, curiously enough, her gown. When Samantha welcomed him at her front door, he greeted her with a white orchid corsage that was still wet with water from the florist. She was flattered by this gesture of kindness and blushed. The two walked to Jonathan’s car and left for the Prom.
When they arrived at the place on the river where the riverboat was moored, they were excited at how the boat had been magically transformed into a pulsating discotheque by members of the student council. Before walking in, Jonathan had asked to hold Samantha’s hand--a pretense, he told her, that would certainly upset Andrea. She agreed to the plan, and in they strode, happily swaying their locked hands.
The beat from the music energized the student body. Students glided in various directions, moving to the changing rhythms. Samantha and Jonathan maneuvered their way through the frenzied crowd to the snack table. There they encountered Andrea, gossiping with her followers.
Jonathan unclenched his hand from Samantha’s and placed his arm around her. Andrea looked at the couple in astonishment, and asked:
“Did you come to the dance together?”
Samantha looked at her triumphantly and said, “Yes, of course, we came together. Wasn’t that your plan?”
“I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about?” declared Andrea.
“Well, I’m sure you do know what I’m talking about,” replied Samantha, then continued. “Yesterday, I overheard Jacqueline, Jenna and Tiffany talking about a certain note they were going to forge.”
Andrea seemed caught off guard.
“A note? Forge a note? Of course we forge notes! How the hell do you think we spend so much time in the restrooms? And besides, like we’d bother forging a note having to do with you!”
“Whatever,” said Samantha, then continued sardonically, “I just want to thank you for steering Jonathan my way.”
At this, Andrea stormed off. After a few angry steps, she turned to her clique and ordered them to follow her. One by one, Jacqueline, Jenna and Tiffany turned their backs on her. Andrea mumbled something under her breath, then walked over to where Will was standing.
The three rebellious members of Andrea’s clique left Samantha and Jonathan at the snack table, and began to spread the news of Samantha’s exchange with Andrea. Soon the whole gym was talking about Andrea’s “defeat.” Eventually, Will got word of it, and asked to take Andrea home early--she would not soon forget this night.
Jonathan and Samantha danced until the DJ stopped playing music. After they left the Prom, Jonathan drove Samantha home. He took the long way there, and they talked and laughed together. When they finally arrived at her home, it was apparent that neither wanted to part company. Jonathan asked Samantha if he could walk her to her door. Once on the porch, Samantha spoke:
“Jonathan, I had a wonderful time tonight. Thanks for everything.”
“I had a great time too, Sam.”
Samantha looked down at her hand. It was being gently caressed by Jonathan. She gripped his hand, saying, “It was so silly of Andrea to try to fool us.”
“Yes,” said Jonathan. “But about that note, Sam.”
“Yes, Jonathan?” Her eyes were looking deeply into his—one green, one blue.
“I need to tell you. I really did write it. You see, Sam, I’ve had eyes for you for so, so long.”
“Yes, Sam,” he said. “Really. Now . . . would you mind if I kissed you?”
“Mind?” said Samantha. “I’ve been waiting for that all night long, Jonathan.”
“Oh, Sam, stop being so formal,” said her date. “Please . . . call me ‘Joan.’”
Samantha looked carefully at the person before her, suddenly noticing the delicate trace of cheekbones and the pair of long eyelashes. As her date leaned ever closer toward her, Samantha reflected how her evening had turned out to be so very different from her dreams. And yet… was different so bad?
The kiss was magical. The world spun around her in a flurry. Her senses blurred, and for a moment, she knew how Andrea must have felt, being kissed so many times. Then, with a blast of cool spring air, it was over. Samantha felt as though she had been wrenched from the moment. She opened her eyes, expecting to find Jonathan – no, Joan smiling at her, but… Joan was across the street, embracing someone else with a seafoam-colored prom gown. How could this be? One minute Joan was kissing her, and the next…
A light breeze blew her hair in front of her eyes, and as Samantha reached up to push it away, she noticed the hair was blonde, the nails finely manicured. Samantha felt sick as she looked down at her clothes. She was wearing a black crepe dress that did not belong to her. It was Andrea’s dress. In fact, Samantha realized with horror as she recognized the face of the person in Joan’s arms, she now was Andrea.
Prom night was always magical. But this was a magic far beyond the twinkle of lights and the excitement of a first kiss. Joan’s kiss – something about Joan’s kiss and those mysterious bi-colored eyes – had catapulted Samantha into the body of Andrea. And Andrea had become her, Samantha guessed. She stared across the street at her own face, her own dress, her own Joan…
Samantha felt a great loss as the new Andrea led Joan up the steps to the front door. It was too late – they disappeared inside, and Samantha had no way of letting Joan know that she – the real Samantha – was trapped outside in the body of her rival.
But wasn’t this what she had wished for all along? Samantha pulled her thin shawl tighter around her shoulders as she sat down on the curb. Hadn’t she wished to live Andrea’s life, to be Andrea? The spring air turned cold and Samantha waited, shivering.

revising the requirement to post
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2001-10-10 10:41:43
Link to this Comment: 444

To the McBrides--
I've been so tickled w/ what you are writing that I wanted all your papers
up on the web for all to see (I also very much like having
not-quite-finished pieces posted, because it's a help for all of us to see
the messiness of the evolving process...) I understand from conversations
w/ several of you today, however, a little more about the real unease that
such a requirement entails. Anyhow, anyhow, it seems I've pushed too much,
too soon (yes, I'm still working on getting this teaching thing "less
wrong"....) So let's revise that requirement, shall we? I
invite/encourage/hope you will post your next paper, but it's not a

Foucalt and Flatland- Telling Stories
Name: Chelsea Ph
Date: 2001-10-10 13:39:28
Link to this Comment: 447

When someone tells a story, they must necessarily add in detail and imagery to make it appealing to their audience. For example, the detail in Flatland, while tiring, was preferable to the drone of Foucault. This is embellishment, and you will find it in every story you will ever read. If you try and become conscious of your own story telling, you will notice differences- usually subtle, and really not ultimately important. Do you remember telling stories when you were a child- the wild and more improbable the better. It was embellishment for shock value as opposed to embellishment for entertainment. Why do we feel the need to tell our stories? Why do we embellish and change? Is it good or bad? We tell stories to make ourselves important or more appealing to others, embellishment makes it more believable, and good or bad is arbitrary in most cases.
People tell stories for different reasons. One of the main reasons is so others might learn from their mistakes. We use stories, bad mostly, to illustrate why someone should make one choice over another- between lying and being truthful, the decision to tell someone how you really feel, etc. These decisions are weighed carefully with no small emphasis being placed on the experience of others. This is natural, considering that we learn walk, talk, feel, eat, and socialize all by example. I remember my brother playing with firecrackers in the woods when I was little. He, inevitably, lit a field on fire and the fire department came and my parents were a little mad. From his mistake, I learned that lighting fields on fire did not make my parents happy, and so I never did it. The numerous other lessons learned from my brother can’t even be recounted in ten pages, let alone two, so suffice to say that his mistakes taught me a lot.
I say I remember the story about my brother and firecrackers so well, but do I? It’s just like the Sister Olive who looked like an olive story that we read the first week of classes. How much do I really remember, and how much have I made up to fill in the blanks and make the story more interesting? For example, I remember that my best friend was over and we were playing with dolls. Do I remember that? Or do I assume that because it seems most logical? This embellishment fills the story with more detail. However, I also seem to remember that it was my idea that we should go and hide in the basement. But, how can I be sure that it was my idea? It could just as easily been Samantha’s idea. Perhaps I naturally give myself the important, assertive role because that was how I viewed our relationship. But is that really how it was? Maybe she wanted to go hide, and I wanted to stay. The only part of the story I remember and still believe to be fact is that I remarked the basement was safest because fire didn’t go through concrete- a fact corroborated by my mother, and therefore more believable.
All right, I know, boring story. So why tell it? Why do all of my friends know this story? What about it exactly makes me want to retell it? Entertainment value. Making other people laugh feels good. When people laugh at you, it hurts, but when you’re laughing too, it’s totally different. People think, “Oh, how cute!”- it’s positive reinforcement, and so I include it in my childhood stories repertoire, if you will. The ability to say, “Yeah, I was such a dumb kid, you won’t believe some of the stuff I did…” makes you more amenable to other people.
People enjoy being around people who can laugh at themselves. I have learned this through observation, and so I use it. I also used to think (and this is true) that little people lived in videotapes, and so the only thing that would keep me from watching “Kiss Me, Kate” for a sixth time every day was the thought that the little people were getting tired. See, I did it again. I told a silly little story to prove that I can embrace my childhood naïveté and use it as a cunning tool to trick people into liking me (maniacal laughter here). We learn that abasing ourselves often makes others enjoy our company more, because it makes the other person feel superior. However, if they are a true friend, they will give you a dumb story as well, thus relinquishing the right to superiority.
Our relationships are really founded on the telling and retelling of stories. People tell stories when they are just getting to know each other in order to break the awkward mood, to encourage them to open up; generally to put and be put at ease. So, is telling stories, even if they are embellished, a positive thing? Maybe. Does embellishment mean that all of our relationships are founded on lies? Well, who hasn’t lied at a first meeting, for the sake of peace and politeness? This doesn’t mean that the whole friendship is a hoax! Eventually you start being truly honest with your close friends; things you can hardly admit to yourself you can’t keep from them. The initial calculated responses and fallacy are a defense mechanism again the danger of abandonment.
Regrouping, we tell stories because we want to entertain, and make ourselves look better or more appealing as companions. Sometimes, changing our stories at first is a positive, because it sets up a relationship that no longer needs embellishment. It is a natural instinct, in and of itself neither good nor bad. How to relate all this to Flatland and Foucault then? Well, Foucault would support the notion that there is a connection between the motivation to cling to your parents as a child and to lie to strangers as an adult. These two seemingly unrelated things (in separate boxes at either ends of the table) are very much the same in terms of the unconscious.
Another example is the classifications used in Flatland. When the square travels to Lineland, he moves in and out of the one-dimensional world prove the existence of the second dimension. He says, “…besides you motion of North and South, there is a motion which I call from right to left” (Abbott 50). This is less than incomprehensible to the King of Lineland, and it frustrates the narrator. However, not ten pages later, the square describes in detail the way in which the sphere moves to prove to him the existence of the third dimension, sparking the “No, not Northward; upward…” (Abbott 60) quote. Does the author see the parallel? No! Not until much later does he realize that he behaved in the exact same way as the King of Lineland. The whole purpose of his first experience was to prepare and teach him for the second, and he missed the whole thing! The same is true with the narrator’s experience with his grandson. It too was an opportunity for the square to expand his realms of thought, and yet he brushed it aside as impossible, and did not even recall the occurrence until much later.
In an ideal world, we would understand all of our unconscious motivations. We would never forget an idea, no matter how absurd, because it might be useful later. We would also be very bored, I think. Telling stories helps us continue to learn and grow. It keeps people young; stretches for your brain. We don’t even have to understand or visualize everything. For example, the ten-dimensional universe we live in (and why stop at ten?!) I have no way of truly fathoming, but I can make an analogy using something familiar, which stretches my mind without undoing it. In my case, I think of the ten-dimensional universe in terms of Park Science Building. You can go in the east door, and walk straight east (occasionally going downwards, not southwards), and yet still end up on the west side of the building in the chemistry department, without going through the library! It’s a scary, twisted ten-dimensional universe out there…try to remember everything you’ve ever learned.

Date: 2001-10-10 18:26:40
Link to this Comment: 456

Science Art Religion Children

Brain Mind Spirit Soul

Meg Devereux

Science asks,
Isn’t it wonderful?

This creation is one of a multitude.
This atom can scorch bits of this creation to gun metal dust.
This atom can yield a power measured by men.
This atom is now in our control, or not.
This atom can be a new energy.

Science says, there are many answers.
There are many questions.
We are answering.
We are asking.

Art asks,
Isn’t it wonderful full?

This word can attach to that word and become a poem, myth, saga.
This color can be painted next to that color and become a painting to provoke us.
This sound can meet those sounds and become a symphony to jolt us.
This flower can be planted by that tree and become a garden.
This arm can encircle that waist and become a dance.

Art says, there are many answers.
There are many questions.
We are answering.
We are asking.

Religion asks.
Isn’t it wonderful full full?

This creation can be a wholeness.
This breaking of wholeness can be a loss.
This loss can be a reaching out in pain.
This reaching out can be a healing.
This healing can be a beginning for wholeness.

Religion says, there are many answers.
There are many questions.
We are answering.
We are asking.

The child asks,
Isn’t it wonderful? Full, full, full?

This child can observe the cells on his skin.
This child can be told this is science.
This child can look again and see anew.
This child can write a poem, paint a picture, beat a drum, sow a seed, dance for the stars.
This child can be a creator.

The child says, I have many answers.
I have many questions.
I am answering
I am asking.

Name: carol
Date: 2001-10-10 18:27:55
Link to this Comment: 457

This paper needs work, I know, but I've been short of time. I think I've strayed away from the structure we talked about on Tuesday, but after talking to you, I remembered working on a biology textbook with Eldra Solomon and her co-author Bill Davis, who later published his own creationist biology book. Anyway, I thought that maybe I should include something from his book. What do you think--take it out?

In the book of Genesis, God created life in all its diversity in seven days. He began with a “formless wasteland” and first created light, then water, then sky, then living creatures, both plant and animal. On the fifth day, the story goes, God created man in his own image and tells him “Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that move on earth.” After each act of creation, God paused to admire his creations and pronounced them to be “good.”

Evolution by natural selection is the scientific version of the story of earth. Most of the scientific community accepts the idea of evolution as an explanation for the biological diversity of life on earth. They agree that the earth is billions of years old and that millions of species of living things evolved over millions of years into their present forms. The theory of evolution has been studied and supported scientifically since Darwin and Wallace proposed it simultaneously (Is this true? I forget the details, but will fix in my revision.) in the mid-1800’s. Data have been presented and analyzed in the fields of geology, paleontology, genetics, and many other scientific disciplines. As in all of science, the theory of evolution has been assembled from a system of ideas and concepts that make sense of all the data. As is true of all theories, the story of evolution is always open to revision.

If we review the scientific method, we see that the nature of science is that it is always testable. It is based on inferences that are supported by observations and collections of data. Science is always open to debate and controversy. Science must follow the steps of observation, hypothesis, experimentation, all in light of the most certain of scientific statements—laws. Laws are considered to be facts, cases in which a contradiction cannot be conceived of and none has ever been observed. An example would be the law of gravity.

Creationists, who believe in the story of Genesis and sometimes call themselves “Scientific Creationists,” violate all the rules of proper science. They begin their studies with a belief system and then set about to provide explanations. This is a backward approach to science. A scientist sets out to test and validate theories and then acknowledges the results, come what may. Creationists, because they have a literal belief in Genesis’s account of the origin of life, seem to believe that their argument needs no testing. They simply gather evidence that seems to validate their already-established claims and they discount all other evidence. This might be a valid approach to theology, but it is not to science.

In their “creation-science” biology textbook, Of Pandas and People, Percival Davis* and Dean Kenyon present their evidence of what they refer to as an “intelligent design” as a way to reconcile their belief in Genesis with their knowledge of science. For example, they point to the gaps in the fossil record as evidence against evolution. They maintain that fossils which show a gradual change from one species to the next should exist, and that they just don’t. Their conclusion is that, therefore, all species were created in their *Really Bill Davis, a lapsed biology professor turned creationist professor.
present forms by an “intelligent designer.” Concerning the origin of Homo sapiens, they make the following statement:

“Does the fossil record provide any evidence for either the evolution or the intelligent design of man? It is interesting to note that in his book, The Descent of Man, Darwin did not cite a single reference to fossils in support of his belief in human evolution. Clearly his original idea of human evolution did not grow out of a study of human fossil evidence, but out of a previously held opinion about the origin of man. The same is true of many researchers today. Since Darwin’s time, evolutionists have been searching for fossil remains to establish their views that man evolved. Despite the absence of transitional series, this position is held in the expectation that the evidence will turn up…Meanwhile, it is easy to assume the idea of human evolution has been confirmed just by the confidence expressed by many biologists in the essential correctness of evolution.”

Is it possible to reconcile a belief in divine creation with all the available scientific support for the theory of evolution? Should we even try?

I think that we should view Genesis as the fairy tale version of the story of earth and evolution as the scientific version of the story. We should not try to reconcile the two stories but simply respect the needs they fulfill for different kinds of peoples and cultures. We should not abandon the old stories and simply replace them by new stories. Instead we should recognize that whatever comfort we find in any version of our stories is just that—comforting.

Davis, P. and Kenyon, D. H. Of Pandas and People: The Central Question of Bilogical Origins. Dallas, Haughton Publishing Company, 1989.

Dorit R., et al. Zoology. Philadelphia, Saunders College Publishing, 1991

Campbell, N. A. Biology. Menlo Park, Calif., 1987

Name: Emma
Date: 2001-10-10 22:37:40
Link to this Comment: 460

Emma Torres
Professor Dalke
College Seminar
October 10, 2001


As individuals we are motivated to share stories that entertain, inform, instruct, influence, enlighten, and heal. The most important stories we tell, however, are those that order our world and our place in it. And when we tell a new story of our world it is possible that some will hear it as a threat.

Evolution is the secular story we tell of our origins. It is a story made possible by the Western world's exploration of humankind's place in the universe through the method we call 'science'.
The National Academy of Sciences website describes science as "a particular way of knowing about the world." It goes on to say that "... Explanations are limited to those based on observations and experiments" and "Scientists can never be sure that a given explanation is complete and final" (Intro). This being the case, we should consider that by replacing a religious myth with a scientific theory we deny an important purpose of creation stories, namely that of bringing certainty and order to our world, and meaning to our existence.

The uncertainties that are part of science, anthropologist Jamake Highwater writes, have been most acute with the advent of Twentieth-century science where strict laws have been "ignored in the pursuit of a worldview that requires subtle and flexible truths." But this uncertainty is also a challenge inherent in the "emergence of a relativistic viewpoint" in our Twentieth-century culture (40).

Some people experience modern culture as chaos. There are new roles for women to be sorted out; demands by people of different cultures that their voices be heard; and the challenge to authority by our young people. The list of forces re-ordering our world goes on and on. Modernity can seem threatening to a person for whom the old order reflected all that was right about the world.

"With [the] constant onslaught of observations and hypothesis that countermand the rituals of Judeo-Christian dogma, and with today's deeply felt and daringly facilitated humanism, the first shock waves of a 'cultural earthquake' ... have aroused in us the possibilities of Western transience and fallibility" (40).

The attempt by Creationists to re-tell the Genesis story in our public schools is one response to 'the earthquake' of uncertainty. It reflects a desire to return our society to the comforting certitude that the religious way of knowing is meant to provide. Creationists desire to assert a public role for religion in a society they feel has moved away from God; a society that has delineated a separation of church and state, a separation of the secular public space from the private religious space.

The strategy Creationists devised for bringing religious belief back into our secular space is the re-telling of their Genesis story in the language of science. In the United States, they have been organizing to reassert such a place for their Christian understanding of the world since the founding of the Religion and Science Association by George McCready Price. Price was a Seventh Day Adventist who in 1935 published the "New Geology," which argued that all geological features today are the result of Noah's Flood.

Henry Morris, the father of modern Creationism, is credited with setting into motion the use of scientific data as a "tool for bringing people to Christ." He began presenting the Flood geology model as an "alternative science," strategically avoiding any mention of the Bible, or of Christ as the Creator (Nelkin, 78). Such omissions led to an outcry from other Creationist thinkers who complained that, "One might just as well be a Jewish or even a Muslim creation scientist as far as this model is concerned" (246).

However, Morris' re-telling was useful to the Creationist movement for several reasons. Chief among them is that American society believes in science as a way to understand the world. In the Creationist's re-telling of the Genesis story the movement benefits from the legitimacy of science. In Morris's words, "Creationism is on the way back, this time not primarily as a religious belief, but as an alternative scientific explanation" (16).

This residual legitimacy has had its rewards. Creationists have gained access to the media (as seen in the articles accessed at our various websites). And most significantly, this borrowed legitimacy provided access to local and state legislative decision-making processes. It made it possible for Creationists to have "Balanced Treatment" laws passed mandating equal treatment of evolution science and creation science in the classroom. In anticipation of success, Morris even wrote the definitive book on the science of creationism, and designed it to be suitable for use in school biology courses (16).

The Creationist's claims to science have been fully refuted. The National Academy of Sciences website states that: "Scientists have considered the hypothesis proposed by creation science and have rejected them because of a lack of evidence. Furthermore, the claims of creation science do not refer to natural causes and cannot be subject to meaningful tests, so they do not qualify as scientific hypothesis."

Others have addressed the specific scientific points made by Creationists, including those put forth by the intelligent-design theorists who Robert Wright agrees "are more sophisticated than past creationists." But he goes on to say that the movement's critique of evolution is nothing new. It is "just a fresh label, a marketing device" (slate/Earthling). In a 1987 ruling, the United States Supreme Court agreed. It declared that creationism is religion, not science, and cannot be taught in the classroom.

The story of evolution is, undeniably, our dominant creation myth, but the Genesis story will continue to be told because some find comfort in it. However, the Genesis story re-told by Creationists has no place in our schools. The classroom is where our children gather to hear secular storytellers, our teachers, pass on a view of our origins we can all believe in.

"Grace Theological Journal." 1983, cited in "Numbers," 1992
Morris, Henry. Troubled Waters of Evolution 1974
Highwater, Jamake. The Primal Mind Meridien, 1981

New Editions
Name: Lisa
Date: 2001-10-11 00:57:50
Link to this Comment: 461

Note/disclaimer to my friends:

Tuesday I trudged around campus feeling lousy. I had a banging headache, over-caffeinated nerves, and my eyes felt like they were about to be catapulted out of my skull if someone were to let go of the rubberbands holding them in place. Just your typical pre-break Bryn Mawr woman, right? Except that none of these symptoms had anything to do with fairy tales, Foucault or Galileo, but in fact had everything to do with my nightly visitor.

Thomas, my four-year-old son, has been paying me visits in the wee hours of the night for the last four weeks or so. Most times, he doesn't say a word, but even in my deep slumber, I can sense his presence, hear his breath and I awaken to see him standing by the bed. "What is it, Sweetie?" I ask. He replies in a whisper "Nothing, I just want to look at you."

We walk together to his room, where I wrap him in his favorite blanket and we rock in our favorite chair, saying nothing, and for the moment, we are both blissfully content.

But oh the consequences of interrupted sleep.

The truth is, my little guy is not adjusting well to Mom's new world/hours. He's always been a Daddy's boy, so I admit to being a bit surprised by his sudden emotional state. With my absence from his world --even though it's only two days a week -- he seems to have suddenly fallen unabashedly in love with me.

I'm exhausted. Anyway, did I misunderstand something? I thought we didn't have to write about evolution vs. creation? I guess I'm still stuck on why we change our stories. Sorry everyone.

The course's theme has to do with getting it less wrong -- but I fear I'm moving in the other direction -- I'm getting it less right.


Changing/Replacing Stories

Our narratives have to evolve with the times in order to reflect changes in society, but we don't necessarily replace earlier stories, so much as we update or add to existing ones.

In my home library, there are two shelves devoted to books on child care and child development. The volumes are bound in different colors with individual illustrations. The authors are from various countries, and their works are published by an assortment of publishing houses. Other than the subject matter, they have something else in common. On each cover, these books boldly emphasize which "edition" they are.

With the creative use of italics, font sizes, and colorful stickers, publishers proclaim that what you are about to purchase/read is the latest, most up-to-the-minute version available in print. These new editions are marketed with the not-so-subtle message that anything but the latest edition is out of touch. Obviously their aim is to sell more books, but are these constant revisions necessary? In any bookstore, bright covers nearly shout out "New Edition," "Revised," and/or "Expanded." I can't decide - is this braggadocio for all they've updated, or is it an apology for all they've updated?

With most of these updated publications I have no way of knowing how, where, or why it was changed, and I find myself wondering what transpired in those years between editions to convince the authors they needed to revise their story. What exactly did they feel a need to change, add, or delete? Why couldn't the publisher have chronologically color-coded the text, so that I might see for myself the irrelevance of the now missing data?

I want to focus on an old favorite reference book, Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care, the cover of which boasts "40th Anniversary Edition, Revised and Updated for the 1980s…." The date on the inside cover is 1985, meaning it was already five years' old (and in need of revision?) when my first child was born. Upon thumbing through the old tome, I discovered a unique feature. The author devoted the first three pages of his book to addressing the very issue of "Why This Revision of Baby and Child Care."
These introductory pages present "new" theories on such subjects as divorce and its effect on children; step-children; blended families; and breast feeding hints for the working mother -- all topics that were not part of society's discussions in 1945, when the book was first published. These and other modifications to the book are useful to the readers, and I can clearly see the reasons for such amendments.

The last paragraph of this revision section however, addresses another issue, and provides an interesting history. In 1968, the widely read and respected pediatrician/author was publicly accused by some outspoken politicians of having taught "permissiveness." This permissiveness, they believed "…made so many young men oppose the Vietnam War, thereby making them irresponsible, undisciplined and unpatriotic."

Dr. Spock had openly opposed nuclear technology and the Vietnam War, and he joined young people in their public protests. He was arrested and convicted for conspiracy to aid, abet, and counsel young men to avoid the draft. (The verdict was later reversed on appeal.)

It's curious that Dr. Spock felt the need to use space in his 1985 book to update his readers on those events from years ago, defending his work. He claimed those who had harshly criticized his writings and philosophies at the time did so only because they had political differences with him.
While he doesn't use his book to name his adversaries, we know from news accounts that the most outspoken public figure was then Vice President, Spiro Agnew, who charged that Dr. Spock was corrupting the youth of America.

Many Americans have certainly altered or revised their opinions since the 1960s on the issues surrounding the Vietnam War -- enough so that they even twice elected a man president who had avoided the draft. Perhaps the more recent edition (for the 1990s) does not include this reference.
When I discussed this paper with Professor Dalke, we both thought it would be interesting and perhaps amusing in a nostalgic sense, to learn what the 1945 version of the book had to offer. With a few quick taps on her keyboard, our energetic professor discovered there was indeed a copy of the older publication available at Bryn Mawr's own Canaday Library.
When I look at the two books, the first difference I noticed was that the title changed from 1945's The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care, to 1985's Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care.

In the first few pages of the 1945 version, Dr. Spock included a "Letter to the Mother and Father" and addressed the issue of which pronoun he decided to use throughout the book when referring to the baby. It was a difficult decision for him, and not too surprisingly for the 1940s, he chose "he/him." What did surprise me though, was his sincere and thoughtful apology to the reader for his choice. He said he couldn't bear "…the idea of using 'it,' and felt he needed to save the pronoun 'her' for referring to the mother." By 1985's version, he had apparently worked through the pronoun dilemma and settled on using the terms "baby," "babies," "child" and "children" interchangeably.

In comparing these two editions, I expected the older version would seem naïve to a parent in the 21st Century. I expected a few chuckles at its expense, and when I came across the sub-heading "Why not the stork?" I was confident it would provide the necessary material. It didn't. Oh I smiled, but more because the good doctor had impressed me with his solid opinion on the consequences of lying to children about where babies really come from.

One of the illustrations in the old book was rather poignant and telling. It depicted the new father viewing his newborn for the first time -- through a glass window. In those days, the father was not permitted in the nursery, nor allowed to hold the baby.

My husband and I well remember the stereotypical "Fathers Waiting Room" in the hospital where our children were born. It was empty! All or most of the fathers nowadays stay by the woman's side during labor and delivery, participating as much as possible in the process
-- unthinkable in 1945!

Forty years ago Dr. Spock chastised those who believed that the care of babies and children was the mother's job entirely, stating "You can be a warm father and a real man at the same time." (Two steps forward.) He then added, "Of course, I don't mean that the father has to give just as many bottles or change just as many diapers as the mother. But it's fine for him to do these things occasionally." (And one step back.)

The 1985 issue has 701 pages or 194 more than the 1945 version, and includes 873 sub-headings, or 366 more than the earlier version. A great amount of information has been added to the first version, but has not replaced the pediatrician's respected first effort.

Dr. Spock was an astoundingly progressive thinker in 1945. He addressed issues such as puberty, masturbation, sexuality, fatherless children, handicapped children and adoption. The newer version adds a variety of topics such as: Child Abuse and Neglect; Enjoying Your Baby; Learning to Parent; What are Your Aims in Raising Children?; Parents are Human; etc.

The author believed that children and adolescents' fears of nuclear war are real, and in 1985 he still advocated peace groups, demonstrations and the importance of voting.

Dr. Spock was nearing his 80th birthday when the 1985 version was published. He stated the main reason for this fourth revision was "…to introduce a collaborator and co-author, Michael B. Rothenberg, M.D." He felt this might be his "…last chance to work closely with a successor and ensure a smooth transition." (Another edition was indeed issued in the 1990s, but was not available to me for this piece.) Dr. Spock died in 1998 at the age of 94.

It seems there can be no final edition in our ever-evolving world. Dr. Spock came surprisingly close.


Spock, Benjamin
The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care
New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce
1945, 1946

Spock, Benjamin and Rothenberg, Michael B.
Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care
New York: Pocket Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

"United States," (Copyright 1998 by The Associate Press)

paper # 2
Name: Joanna Sim
Date: 2001-10-11 13:16:05
Link to this Comment: 463

Throughout history, scientists have argued on many points dealing with the origin of life. There have been multiple explanations for evolution and creationism, and many interpretations of their analyses. Because of the many discrepancies in these views, it is extremely hard for scientists to prove an exact theory and discover truth, but there is still the quest for understanding. Scientists, hoping for progress and the discovery of new developments, constantly test ideas and build on preexisting work. Galileo and advocates for both the theories on evolution and those on creationism tell stories of their theories in order for people to discover the truth of how the world works and how it began. They seek a way to explain the universe and life itself.

Galileo begged the people to understand that the universe was heliocentric. Like those in Flatland who refused to believe in a third dimension, the people refused to believe in Galileo’s theory. They were too closed minded to go beyond their conventional beliefs and accept these new ideas. Galileo was reluctant to tell his tale because he feared ridicule and even worse consequences, but he was also motivated to reveal the truth and expose the world to a “new dimension” of thought.

There were many costs Galileo had to pay for telling and not telling his story. It was dangerous to reveal his theory about the Earth. At that time, science was still entwined with religion. The Vatican was in charge of Italy, and therefore science. The Inquisition believed that Galileo’s Heliocentric Theory went against God and the church. They threatened to torture him if he did not disclaim his original-- and what was to them outrageous-- theory. Galileo went along with them, but later he still found a way to reveal the truth and revolutionized scientific thought. He had been afraid and reluctant to tell his story, but he always remained eager to enlighten others to the truth.

People today still try to view science with a religious base. Creationists and adherents of the Intelligent Design Theory explain the origin of human life and the Earth based on the belief that a higher being designed the world. They believe that evolution goes against the Bible. They tell their stories to prove that evolution is not a legitimate way to explain the origin of life. Supporters of the theory on evolution claim that creation science lacks pragmatic support and cannot be significantly tested. Scientists of all views, aware that others will attempt to disprove their theories, continue to strive for understanding and truth.

Scientists hope that by exposing the world to their stories, the truth will be learned. They persist in their search for evidence to prove their theories. By exploring the world of science, they enhance and enlighten others. The contemporary debate about science education will continue for many ages, and people will continue to reveal stories in the hope of uniting the world.

Paper #2: Why We Re-Tell Stories
Name: Stacy
Date: 2001-10-11 14:35:10
Link to this Comment: 464

Stacy Claxton
College Seminar
October 10, 2001

Paper #2: Why We Re-Tell Stories

In his Preface to The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences, Michel Foucault reveals a primary concern in his investigation: "observing how a culture experiences the propinquity of things, how it establishes the tabula of their relationships and the order by which they must be considered" (xxiv). In other words, Foucault strives to create order in a disparate universe: to characterize, to categorize, to define, to differentiate - namely, to arrive at some semi-satisfactory state of understanding that accounts for the vast inconsistencies that populate the world. Does this sound familiar? Of course: it reflects the end toward which humanity has been striving since the origin of thought. Do we not inherently realize, as Foucault puts it, that "a 'system of elements' - a definition of the segments by which the resemblance and differences can be shown, the types of variation by which those segments can be affected, and, lastly, the threshold above which there is a difference and below which there is a similitude - is indispensable for the establishment of even the simplest form of order" (xx) and consequently wish to act upon this idea? We do, a fact evident in our explanation of the biological hierarchy of life; in the construction of countries, states, towns and other non-natural borders; even in the divisions in our schools as to graduating year, academic field, extracurricular interests, and the like. But Foucault's purpose is not nearly so simple. He sees a spectrum of knowledge ranging from this "system of elements" or "fundamental codes of a culture" (xx) at one extreme to the "scientific theories or the philosophical interpretations which explain why order exists in general, what universal law it obeys, what principle can account for it, and why this particular order has been established and not some other" (xx) at the other. Between these extremes, he finds "the pure experience of order and of its modes of being" (xxi), the springboard for his ensuing "archaeology." In sum, he believes that he has found a fresh approach in humankind's epistemology and so wants to re-tell "the order of things" in relation to this new inspiration.
Is this any different from our own motivation for re-telling stories? Not really. When our experiences yield new epiphanies or when enhanced knowledge affords new perspective on our world, we feel compelled to share this learning with our compatriots in an attempt to make life's mysteries more comprehensible for ourselves and for those who share in humanity's struggle for truth - in essence, we yearn to re-tell the story in light of our personal findings. When we are captivated by a novel, a newspaper article, or a bit of gossip, do we harbor it silently, or do we tell a friend, a classmate, a teacher, or a family member? Most of us tend toward the latter. Why? Quite simply, the story has re-shaped our outlook. It has caused us to ponder and reevaluate our own conception of the world, and thus, in imparting it to others - in "re-telling" it - we can better understand our perception of this knowledge in addition to enriching the perception of our listener.
This matter of first gaining knowledge through personal experience and perception and of subsequently conveying one's findings to the world through re-telling stories is central to the ongoing debate over evolution and creationism. Both sides share the same goal: to impart truth based on personal knowledge. Where they differ is in their application of this objective: evolutionists adhere to purely empirical means in explaining the origin of life, while creationists find credence in Biblical teachings and the idea of a "divine Creator." If both groups are working toward the same end, why do their stories - their respective explanations for the origin of life - not coincide? The answer lies in the ambiguous nature of truth: what one person's experiences may regard as truth another's may deem mere speculation. For example, the evolutionist's story may go something like this: An explosion several billion years ago (i.e. the “Big Bang”) catapulted into space matter and energy that eventually coalesced into galaxies, stars, and, about 4.5 billion years ago, Earth. Biochemical reaction on the primitive planet created the simple organisms that evolved over billions of years into the life forms evident today. The evolutionist’s corroborating evidence (i.e. the "stories" he or she tells to prove the accuracy of this perception) may be sprinkled throughout this general progression, incorporating such fields as paleontology, comparative anatomy, biogeography, embryology, and molecular biology. In conclusion, he or she may claim, as does Bruce Alberts, president of the National Academy of Sciences, that "the tremendous success of science in explaining natural phenomena and fostering technological innovation arises from its focus on explanations that can be inferred from confirmable data."
The creationist’s story will undoubtedly take a different form: The Biblical account of God’s creation of the universe, the Earth, and all its present life forms, whether taken literally or metaphorically representative of seven pivotal periods in Earth’s formation, establishes humankind’s origin as a divine effort. The creationist may avoid empirical evidence, urging readers of this “story” to ponder its validity through relevant analogies. Consider Mount Rushmore, the creationist might propose. Could natural forces have carved those intricate faces on the cliff? Of course not: it required man’s adroit hand to mold such precision. So, too, it is with life; it required God’s perfect hand to shape such complexity. The creationist thus would agree with astronomer, physicist and minister Hugh Ross, who claimed, “As a physicist, I have never seen a fundamental particle called a neutrino. But I have faith in its existence and act accordingly because of certain well-established facts. As a Christian, I have never seen God. But I have faith in His existence and act accordingly because of certain well established facts”: he or she may not be able to prove the Creator’s existence by scientifically accepted means, but nevertheless finds faith and the miraculous nature of everyday existence sufficient to substantiate His presence.
Thus two divergent stories have evolved to explain the same observed phenomenon – namely, that life exists on Earth. Which one is correct? More specifically, if truth is relatively finite, how can there be two valid stories? Must one not be false? Eric Bentley offers us a possible explanation in his introduction to Bertolt Brecht’s Galileo: “Truth,” he claims, “may be stranger than fiction; but it is not as orderly. Or as Pirandello stated the matter: the truth doesn’t have to be plausible but fiction does” (11). In other words, the truth – that life exists – may seem “chaotic and meaningless” (11), incomprehensible. Therefore, humankind creates the “fiction” – the explanation or the “story” – to account for the unexplainable in an orderly, sensible fashion. For some, evolution is the version of the story that makes sense according to their personal perception of the world, while for others, creationism may ring true. In this way, evolutionists and creationists, like Foucault or, for that matter, anyone with a "story" to tell, want to share their perspective, each re-telling his or her version in an attempt to convince the world of his or her own correctness.
This explanation, while proposing why we re-tell stories, arouses another question: If individuals are so eager to relate their experiences and to analyze them and propose questions in their eternal search for greater knowledge and in their eternal quest to validate the truth of their own perceptions, why, then, is storytelling such a specialized field? Should we not all be writers, poets, storytellers, or pondering intellectuals? In an informal sense we are: each time we share news, an anecdote, a piece of written work, and the like, we are manipulating a story to reveal our personal understanding of it. Naturally, however, there must be some inhibitions preventing us all from pursuing storytelling as a means of livelihood. Some may feel they are not equal to the task, perhaps deficient in the communicative gifts of the effective storyteller; others may fear persecution or discord stemming from their unique interpretation; still others may prefer to listen, ponder, and muse rather than question, assert, and propose. These factors hold particularly true in the case of the evolution debate: Some with a religious foundation may feel repressed within the scientific community and choose to subordinate their views, while, conversely, scientists might abstain from presenting their ideas in a religious arena. Others may have yet to formulate their own story - the explanation that makes the most sense to them - and thus refrain from expounding until it has reached a coherent form.
In the end, our decision to speak out or remain silent stems from a weighing of the costs and benefits of each. What do we hope to gain by exercising our capacity to re-tell stories? Do the benefits of this action surpass the sacrifices of deferring this right? Edwin A. Abbott, like Foucault, had a story to re-tell, yet his - Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions - takes a starkly different form. Why? More specifically, what did Abbott hope to gain in telling his story as a satire? What losses, what costs, did he wish to minimize? Taking into the consideration the social climate of the time, it is possible that a straightforward, academic piece may have invited rampant disapproval. Thus Abbott, undoubtedly feeling that his social criticism merited expression despite the possible cost in a dissatisfied audience, chose to submerge his message in the experiences of A. Square. He can still express his "hope that these memories...may find their way to the minds of humanity in Some Dimension, and may stir up a race of rebels who shall refuse to be confined to limited Dimensionality" (82) - in other words, his desire that future generations in his own world not be so insular - but without jeopardizing himself. In the same way, humanity weighs the costs and benefits of re-defining its world through stories that enlighten and attract readers without compromising their message.

Works Cited
Abbott, Edwin A. Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions. 1884; rpt. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1992.
Alberts, Bruce. Preface. Science and Creationism: A View from the National Academy of Sciences. 1999 .
Bentley, Eric. Introduction. The Life of Galileo. By Bertolt Brecht. 1952; rpt. New York: Grove Press, 1966. 9-42.
Foucault, Michel. Preface and Forward. The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences. 1966; rpt. and trans. New York: Vintage, 1973. ix-xxiv.
Ross, Hugh. "The Shell Game of Evolution and Creation." Reasons to Believe. 1991 .

Evolution vs. Creationism
Name: Diana
Date: 2001-10-11 16:02:14
Link to this Comment: 465

Diana Lowell
Professor Nutting
Evolution and Creationism: Scientific Stories
Storytelling is a big part of today’s society. Parents start telling fairy tales before their children are able to understand language. Throughout education, students are taught everything from history to science through the use of stories. Ancient civilizations also used stories to explain many things around them. With today’s knowledge of science, most of their “truths” can be easily dismissed. We know that lightning is not the result of a god throwing fire, and we also know that the earth is round. However, even in this day and age, no one can say with absolute certainty how the universe came to exist. The two major beliefs, evolution and creationism, are told to students much like other stories in the world.
Evolution hit the common people when Darwin recorded his observations of birds on the Galapagos Islands. Scientists used his concepts of natural selection and survival of the fittest to explain the beginning of life. Evolution comes with a lot of unanswered questions. The first people to support the theory of evolution had to face criticism from all sides. Religious authorities accused them of grave sins because it was thought that evolution totally disregarded the existence of a god. Physical evidence was lacking at first, which also led to skepticism. However, as scientists have worked on the theory and found evidence to support it, those who were in the first group of supporters are now looked on as authorities. Among scientists today, it is generally expected that most, if not all, support the theory of evolution. Therefore, the theory of evolution is mainly told among nonscientists in order that there would be a unified theory.
A major breakthrough for evolution occurred when scientists were able to understand proteins.
In 1959, scientists at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom determined the three-dimensional structures of two proteins that are found in almost every multicelled animal: hemoglobin and myoglobin. Hemoglobin is the protein that carries oxygen in the blood. Myoglobin receives oxygen from hemoglobin and stores it in the tissues until needed. These were the first three-dimensional protein structures to be solved, and they yielded some key insights. Myoglobin has a single chain of 153 amino acids wrapped around a group of iron and other atoms (called "heme") to which oxygen binds. Hemoglobin, in contrast, is made of up four chains: two identical chains consisting of 141 amino acids, and two other identical chains consisting of 146 amino acids. However, each chain has a heme exactly like that of myoglobin, and each of the four chains in the hemoglobin molecule is folded exactly like myoglobin. It was immediately obvious in 1959 that the two molecules are very closely related.
During the next two decades, myoglobin and hemoglobin sequences were determined for dozens of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, worms, and molluscs. All of these sequences were so obviously related that they could be compared with confidence with the three-dimensional structures of two selected standards--whale myoglobin and horse hemoglobin. Even more significantly, the differences between sequences from different organisms could be used to construct a family tree of hemoglobin and myoglobin variation among organisms. This tree agreed completely with observations derived from paleontology and anatomy about the common descent of the corresponding organisms (National Academy of Sciences 4).
When the theory of evolution became a viable alternative to ancient beliefs, those who still believed in a creation were forced to defend their belief with proof. The basic form of creationism is found in the Bible which relates the story of the earth being created in seven days. There are new theories about creationism that have formed as a result of the scientific inquiries about the validity of creationism. The new theories involve evolution, large time spans, and only the hint of a creator god. One can easily understand why these new theories have become popular. Unlike the square in Flatland who is persecuted for believing in something new, so scientists and lay people are criticized for believing something so old. Scientists who still hold to creationism face many difficulties in telling their story. They are thought to be ignorant and unintelligent, even though this is not always the case. Often their work in science is viewed as invalid. However, just as Darwin felt the need to write about his findings, so scientists who believe in creationism must share their ideas. Science is about the pursuit of truth, so when a scientist believes that he knows truth, it is his obligation to spread his facts and show others why he is correct. Creationist scientists may face negative consequences for their beliefs, but they have the same desire to speak as their evolutionist colleagues.
One story circulating about evolution is the concept of vestigial organs. Scientists cannot determine specific functions for certain organs in the body, which led to their theory that the organs without functions are leftover from the evolutionary process. However, Heinze refutes evolutionists with these thoughts:
The vestigial organ which has been most commonly used to prove evolution is the appendix. In some "less evolved" animals the appendix is larger than that of man, and has a clear function. It is stated that man evolved from hypothetical ancestors with larger, functioning appendixes, keeping his appendix but loosing its functions. There are, however, animals considered less evolved which have smaller appendixes than that of man, and other animals which have no appendixes at all. If it is true that man is more evolved than the animals which have more highly developed functioning appendixes, then man should be less evolved than the animals in which the appendix is less developed than ours, or even absent. Furthermore, it could just as easily be said that these animals evolved from man. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, "Animals that have the same organ in a fully developed and functional condition are believed to be close to the ancestry of the animals having the vestigial organ” (983). This puts man close in ancestry to the marsupials and rabbits in which the appendix is well developed, and distant from the monkeys which generally do not have appendixes! All of this goes to show that the appendix was never a really good argument for evolution. However, it is now well known that man’s appendix (like his tonsils) is not vestigial at all, but contains lymphatic tissue which fights infection (Heinze 3).
It is important to note that creationism and evolution are not always in direct conflict. As the stories have been told and knowledge has been added, some scientists have melded the theories in order that God created the world and life, and evolution took over after that. The intelligent design theory suggests that the earth may have been around billions of years and evolved, yet the complexity of life suggests the involvement of a high power. This shows how through the retelling of the stories, people have been able to piece them together so that what was once in stark contrast has been made into the same.
Fairy tales tell the stories of imaginary kingdoms from long ago, history stories tell us that Columbus once discovered America, and math stories tell us how we can manipulate numbers. Stories about the beginning of life have also been passed down. Both evolution and creationism will continue to be told because the tellers believe them to be true, and despite whatever consequences come from telling them, it is more important to spread truth than to be concerned with self.

Works Cited:

National Academy of the Sciences. “Evidence Supporting Biological Evolution.” Science and Creationism.

Heinze, Thomas F. “B3-The Pillars of Evolution.” Answers to my Evolutionist Friends.

Glanz, James. “Evolutionists Battle New Theory On Creation.” New York Times. (8 April 2001).

evolution, creationism
Name: Cari
Date: 2001-10-11 16:03:03
Link to this Comment: 466

Cari Cochrane-Braswell
C. Sem. Paper
Evolution and Creationism
October 10, 2001

Creationism and evolution are such ideological ideas in today’s society. To believe in one idea is to discredit the other idea. Science can be used to support both ideas, and each side can find holes and errors in the other side’s arguments. The accusation from both sides is that the other tries so hard to prove their point that they don’t take into account all the other facts. There is still a long way to go to proving either theory correct, which just helps both sides find ways to argue the other side is wrong.
How children are brought up influences the way they will look at this question. If they were brought up in a very religious family, who went to church every week, they would be very familiar and comfortable with the idea of Genesis, and believe that this is the true origin of man. Whereas, in my family, we never went to church, and I never read the Bible. The idea that God created the Earth and all its organisms was completely foreign to me. I do not think it is anything more than just a story, whereas others may feel that this is the literal truth. Depending on the beliefs of parents, family, and community, children form their own ideas and beliefs.
To believe in evolution, to some deeply religious people, would be to discredit the word of God. To say that God had not created the Earth and the humans on the Earth would be to say that all of Genesis was a story, and nothing more. This can sit very badly with people who have spent their entire lives believing this story. The idea that this story is not real would mean that they would have to search for a new reason; it would shake their faith in their religion. It is hard for people to let go of things that they find comfortable. If they are religious, or were in their childhood, then they are comfortable with this story. If the story is not true then they have lost part of their foundation, and they must now find a new way to support that part of themselves. They would be lost without that support. This means that they will stick to their comfort zone and search for ways to prove that this foundation is true. An example of supports for this creationist foundation is found in the law of thermodynamics. This law is used as proof by some creationist since it states that energy cannot be created, meaning that there is no way that the universe could be created through the Big Bang theory. Creationists argue that evolutionists are using this theory without having any idea where this matter could come from in the first place, for it must have originated somewhere.
This idea of comfort can also be looked at from the other perspective. Evolutionists may not be comfortable with the idea that there is a greater force than all of us, or that there is no logical progression of humans or other animals. They would feel lost and adrift without this foundation of there being a logical progression from ape to human. They then use fossils that date back millions of years to prove their idea that humans developed from the primates, as the Homo sapiens fossils are found to be “younger” than the fossils of primates.
The idea of creationism can also be seen as the grasping on to of the old ways. Religions were first introduced, in their earliest forms, and in the ones still around now, as a way to explain the otherwise unexplainable. As we have progressed through the centuries and millenniums, scientists have discovered answers to more and more of these previously unanswerable questions. For example, we have found that the sky is not a blanket up above the Earth, or a cage that keeps the stars up. We now know that they are other celestial bodies that move in their own solar systems. We also know that we are not the center of the universe as we previously thought. As scientists continue to prove the old ideas wrong, those people who used those ideas as their supports have been thrown off. They have been forced to either find new foundations or cling childishly to their old safety blankets. We see evidence of this in “Galileo,” where the church is particularly offended by the new ideas of scientists in regards to the heavens. They do not want to come to terms with the idea that God did not create the Earth as the center of the universe because it would make their beliefs wrong. As they think that God has himself said that the Earth is the center of the universe, to say otherwise must then be blasphemous. In a similar way, the idea that God created humans and that there was no evolution involved is the old teachings of people before science discovered another theory. Those who believe in the creationist theory, however right or wrong, cling to the old ideas from the Bible that explained where humans came from, and why they were so different from the other animals on the planet that they had come into contact with. The old reasons still hold meaning to those religious people. While they are now founded in modern science and beliefs, the main tenant, God created the Earth, originated in the past.
The evolutionist theory represents the new ideas that scientists have come up with to explain the old questions. Like Galileo, they have been fighting the previous norms of society. This can be a harder battle to fight since scientists must win people over from their comfortable foundations. It is harder for people to switch their way of thinking once it has been ingrained in them from childhood. Eventually, though, as the population changes and the new generation searches for ways to break away from their elders, new concepts are accepted and then become ingrained in other individuals.
In the debate between evolution and Creationism, the new ideas and old ideas come into battle. Just as we see in “Galileo” the struggle between the old ideas, represented by the church, and the new ideas represented by Galileo’s teachings, we can also see the struggle in this modern debate. Until there is solid proof from either side, both will continue to find holes in the other’s philosophy. Each side has at stake their foundations that they have found security in from childhood. To have their idea disproved would be to have to refashion their old ideas to fit into a new world. As people grow older this becomes increasingly harder for individuals to do. Thus we tell stories of our take on the evolutionist-creationist debate to solidify and prove our foundations. We find ways to make sure that our foundation is not taken out from under us, leaving us floundering in the dark for a new one.

Telling the Tale of September 11
Name: Annie
Date: 2001-10-11 21:45:43
Link to this Comment: 468

In the beginning of his article “The Uses of Enchantment,” Bruno Bettelheim writes, “if we do not live just from moment to moment but try to be conscious of our existence, then our greatest need and most difficult achievement is to find meaning in life.” September 11, 2001 was a day full of death and terror and disaster, a day when many people were living moment to moment in a seemingly endless torment of anticipation and shock. Now, over a week later, America is still horrified, and is struggling both as a people and as a country to become conscious of its existence and to grasp the meaning in that particular moment of life. Bombarded ceaselessly by images of murder and heroism, of tragedy and of grace, every person who lives in this union is struggling to find the meaning in their newly changed world. Why am I still alive when so many others are dead? Why did this happen? How could this happen? How can we ever carry on with our lives? Granted, daily life has continued, more out of necessity than desire, but none of these questions have been answered.
One of the most plaguing issues survivors face is trying to comprehend how this near-apocalypse will affect the next generation, the children who will be forced to shoulder whatever burden we shrug off as we enter our graves. Surely the blunt, unedited truth is too difficult for an adult to handle, much less a child. How, then, to pose the issues to a child? Bettelheim argues that “a realistic explanation is usually incomprehensible to children…while…correct answers make an adult think that he has clarified things for the child, they leave the child confused, overwhelmed, intellectually defeated.” A child cannot understand the abstract events of September 11th by hearing only the clear-cut facts; rather, the facts must be pieced together into a comprehensible narrative for the child to find any comfort in hearing it. Bettelheim maintains that there is no story that has a power comparable to one of the oldest and heaviest relied-upon traditions in the entire literate world: the fairy tale. “The child can find meaning through fairy tales,” Bettleheim concludes, and if that is true, than fairy tales have found their place in history again by being the ambassadors of hope and comprehension into young minds. I am not a therapist, I am not even a parent, but I put my trust in history. On that note, let me tell you a story.
The tale concerns a young boy who lived in a beautiful city with his parents once upon a time. One day the city is burned to the ground by a group of goblins. The boy is orphaned, and for lack of anywhere else to go as well as a desire to better himself, he joins the king’s army on their quest to find the goblins. The king’s spies have discovered that there is only one true goblin in the group, a vicious evil creature who is their leader. This Goblin Lord has made it his mission to lure humans into his castle by playing on their greed and turn them into heartless goblins like him. The king’s army sets out across the world, finding goblins and forcing them to drink a special elixir that returns them to their human form. The boy grows to manhood during this period, and becomes the best fighter in the army. Finally he is elected to accompany the king on the pinnacle assignment, to kill the Goblin Lord. The king attacks the Goblin Lord rashly and angrily and is wounded. The boy, however, uses his cleverness to succeed, and then sets out to liberate the rest of the goblin castle. He finds in his search the king’s beautiful daughter, who had been captured by the goblins as bait. Since the king is dying, the boy marries the princess, inherits the kingdom, and lives happily ever after.
This is a simplistic, derivative story, not designed to stand the test of time but merely to serve as an allegory, but it also fulfills the purposes of the psychologically sound fairy tales described as so essential by Bettelheim. The tale has been constructed step by step to correspond with Bettelheim’s arguments. Of course, no story, especially one as brief and plain as the one summarized above, can cover every possible issue to confront a child on his or her road to maturity, and so there are sections of Bettelheim’s requirements of sound fairy tales that have been omitted. For example, the frequent theme of rejection by older siblings is absent, as is any attempt to deal with Bettleheim’s oft-mentioned “oedipal conflicts.” Both of these pieces have been rendered obsolete with the death of the boy’s parents. Clearly, no child who lost a parent in the actual attacks will be immune to the difficulties of coming to grips with their parents, even when they are no longer alive, but this is one area in which there is no norm, no generalization that can be made in good conscience. The situation is truly unique, and every child’s experiences in this issue will be so vastly different that any intention to combine them in the form of a single story would surely be misguided.
With that caveat, however, it is fair to say that there are plenty of issues about September 11 that can and should be dealt with in such a broad manner. One of the difficult concepts to grasp about the attacks was the idea of viewing the actual terrorists as humans, and attempting to understand them as such. Parents would like to tell their children that all men are inherently good, but they know that such a generalization will only be proved wrong, as it was so gigantically when the first plane flew into the World Trade Center. How, then, to amend the aforementioned statement? Bettelheim suggests the use of fairy tales, because, as he affirms, “[they] present evil as being no less omnipresent than virtue. In practically every fairy tale, both good and evil are given body in the form of figures and their actions, as both good and evil are omnipresent in life and the propensities for both are present in every man.” The September 11th fairy tale gives the child evil in the form of the Goblin Lord, who is nothing less than an archetype of the prejudice and hatred that led to the attacks. The fact that the Lord is killed in the end of the story is designed to prove that, as Bettelheim writes, “the bad person (or in this case, quality) always loses out.”
The conceit of the humans forced into goblin suits is meant to embrace two of Bettelheim’s theories, the first an attempt to help children accept the “bad guys” as human. The murderous goblins actually being good, if misled, people is characteristic of the splitting of one person into two so often used in fairy tales to help “keep the good image uncontaminated” and aid children in finding “a solution to a relationship too difficult to manage or comprehend.” If ever there was such a relationship as Bettelheim illustrates, the contact that must be made between the next generation of both the Americans and the terrorist people is one. Secondly, the device of the human-goblins also reaches out to a child on a level they are often scared to reveal, the level that contains “the monster he [she] feels or fears himself [herself] to be.” Bettelheim maintains that every child is conscious of his or her own inner “dark side” to quote the allegorical Stars Wars movies, and that fairy tales serve as comfort for their guilt and as inspiration to control their own less virtuous desires. With such an attack, there is always the chance of the victims becoming the attackers in order to avoid being victims again, a futile, deadly cycle that must be avoided with this tragedy. Viewing the terrorists as humans, if not good ones, and identifying with them even on the basest of levels is one step in this direction.
One of the most troublesome concepts for anyone to grasp today is how anything can get better after the massive upheaval that occurred on September 11th. If supposedly rational, mature adults are having difficulty coping, how much more complicated must the healing process become for a child who is accustomed to depending on his or her parents for comfort? Bettelheim argues that fairy tales are extremely valuable for their ability to help convince children that successful resolutions to their problems are not only possible but feasible. He writes, “this is exactly the message that fairy tales get across to the child in manifold form: that a struggle against sever difficulties in life is unavoidable—is part of the human condition—but that if, instead of shying away, one steadfastly meets unexpected and often unjust hardships, one masters all obstacles in the end and emerges victorious.” The goblins’ destruction of the city and mass murders is both unexpected and unjust, but neither the boy nor his king (who stands, not exactly for our leader but for our entire country) allows their actions to cower them. Instead the army fights back, recovering the captured humans and conquering the evil manifest in the Goblin Lord. Specifically, the boy, who is the attractive underdog hero Bettelheim maintains is the vital link to bring children into the story by their unconscious feelings of relating to him, achieves all of the fairy tale requirements for success. Once a sad orphan, the boy rises through the ranks of his quest, which to the reader is important, since it reveals that, “he has already started on the process of realizing his potential.” The boy becomes king, “[symbolizing] a state of true independence, in which the hero feels as secure, satisfied, and happy.” Children growing up today need to feel that they will have control over their own lives; even when outside forces sway them, it is still important for them to feel capable of living without their parents ruling them. The boy also marries the princess, forming the true bond of love that Bettelheim explains is the real meaning of the phrase “happily ever after.” The single most desperately needed ingredient for a child’s spiritual and emotional survival is hope: what better to give him or her that than a realistic, unabashed promise that life can end happily?
When Americans tell the story of September 11th, 2001, the plot, characters, and endings will differ for every speaker. There is a temptation to make the entire tragedy into a morality tale, to speak to the young minds and hearts of our country in terms of evil villains and brave vengeance, to warn them against ever trusting someone who is not like them, to learn to live with “caution.” Other parents desire simply to cover their children’s eyes, to read them rhyming books featuring talking fuzzy animals playing in a forest where the sun always shines, to soothe them and hug them and promise them that everything will be all right. Neither option is completely viable; Bettelheim would argue that while both are valuable, even together they could not accomplish as much good for a child’s psyche as a single fairy tale. The United States of America is surviving on the notion that there will be a brighter tomorrow, and no one could deny that that tomorrow depends entirely on the young people of today. “If a child is for some reason unable to imagine his future optimistically, arrest of development sets in,” Bettelheim warns, and this arrest must be prevented, even in a time such as this, when almost no future seems as positive. A fairy tale is not a panacea. It cannot heal the broken heart of an orphan or stop a Boeing 747 from flying into a building. What it can do, however, is make the confusing outer world of a child a bit more bearable. If a fairy tale can bring even one moment of happiness into a child’s soul, one second of conviction that he or she can succeed, can live, can change the world, then I put my faith in fairy tales. After all, I am not too old to believe in happily ever after.

Name: molly
Date: 2001-10-11 23:38:08
Link to this Comment: 470

We as humans are on a quest to place ourselves in our world. Consciously and unconsciously, we search to discover the meanings of relationships between each other and our physical environment. We have developed languages (such as mathematics and physics) to explain, and sciences (such as anthropology and psychology) to explore this conundrum. As humans, we all share the commonality of an unsure sense of existence and seek to find ways to stabilize and define life and it’s purpose. This universal search for meaning coupled with that of perspective, I believe, is the motivator for story telling. Universally we all share the privilege of perspective. Each human being is the possessor of his/her own unique outlook that is unlike any other. However, this commonality is the factor that conversely isolates us from one another. We each live our lives bubbled in by our own sphere of existence unable to truly grasp and comprehend the view of another. Storytelling is the bridge between the gaps of perspective. This particular assignment, which required the perusal of several web-cites dealing with the issue of creationism, prompted me to reach this understanding.
The conflict between religion and science has been a thorn in the side of many a man of thought. The relationship between the role humans play in our physical world is a complicated matter when it stands alone. When the ethereal presence of a God as well as the ramifications of a religion are calculated into the equation, the arguments and relationships become as messy as a pack of wolves at a pig farm.
Despite the timeless nature of this conflict, I never thought of it as having any direct affect to my life as an adolescent existing in the twenty-first century. Yet, as I was haphazardly looking at several of the prescribed websites I happened upon, a strictly pro-creationism anti-evolutionism web page. It was this cite that caused my dander to ruffle like a duck in flying backward in a wind tunnel. I was halfway through an incredulous and not so nicely worded email to one of the author’s on the cite before I caught myself and began to question my reaction. I was trapped between a mixture of disgust and bemusement. What prompted my response? Where did it come from? God knows (pardon the pun) it isn’t my undying loyalty to Darwin.
At first I couldn’t quite grasp exactly why I would take the, what I perceived to be, ignorance of fanatical creationism offensively. I consider myself an open-minded person and would identify myself neither as an evolutionist nor even as someone who was remotely informed or passionate about the current debate between these two extremes. And yet, despite my apparent indifference, I was moved to feel incredulous toward the absurdity of the creationist point of view. My reaction made me think. We are steeped in beliefs in doctrines that we take for granted as truths. Our own perceptions and our environment dictate what we believe. My own personal perspective as someone who had been raised with the belief that the evolutionary theories are not at all at odds with the church had a hard time taking seriously the perspective of someone outside of this tradition. This interference into my personal sphere of belief provoked me to react strongly and negatively to an idea that was contrary to what I had been taught.
This notion of personal response brought me back again to the idea that as humans we are all “steeped in relativism…and confined by our [own] narrative” as worded by Robert Stone that author of a New York Times article entitled “The Villain”. This isolation of perspective, however, prompted me to draw a parallel between current debate of creationism versus evolution and the past debate between Church and science as presented in Brecht’s The Life of Galileo. I admit I didn’t immediately make this connection.
While reading Brecht’s novel, I sympathized with Galileo’s struggle as he was pitted against the Church, which was basically portrayed as a wall of ignorance. In this scenario, my anger was directed against the established and accepted force of the Church. My reaction towards the web-cite, however, transposed this feeling. In this case, my incredulity was aimed against the “radical” or not very widely held view of the creationist, which can be aptly paralleled by Galileo’s position, while my own perspective could be paralleled by that of the Church. I think ultimately this experience was an exercise in perception exchange.
For the past month, we have been looking at different portrayals of our world and our place in the world. This relationship very much mirrors the heart of the religion versus science debate encompassed in both the creationism debate and the Brecht novel. This parallel has made me believe that the nature and motivation of storytelling is one of perspective. This challenge of perspective not only has the power to enlighten but also the power to alienate. The line between the two is often narrow and dangerous. And yet, despite the consequences, we see repeatedly that humans are driven to speak, to write, and to tell. The threat of alienation or persecution, two elements humanity fears most, cannot overcome the need to expound upon beliefs, ideas, and perspectives. Because we are all universally united by the quest for understanding there is an innate human need to communicate ideas and thoughts, in other words to bridge the gap of perception that conversely unites and isolates us.

Essay #5
Name: Sarah Eber
Date: 2001-10-12 01:04:43
Link to this Comment: 471

Sarah Eberhardt due 10/10/01
CSem Paper # 5

Fairy tales, Galileo, and Flatland all focus upon the struggle of individuals to discover and then to tell the story that they believe to be true. This theme is also the goal of the college seminar class. Through our various readings we have discovered ways to express the truth, and, more importantly, how to search for and decide upon which ideas are true in the first place.
Fairy tales are the most simplistic of the collected works thus far, presenting basic truths of life in a plain format meant to entertain and educate children. In writing our own fairy tales, we were each forced to examine our purpose, working to distill the various aspects of our message into a coherent story. This was a familiar medium, for all in the class have had fairy tales read to them in their childhood. On the second draft, however, we were asked to add darkness to our tales, using a bit more of the grim side of life to make our stories more applicable to real life. In this second draft we expressed a bit more of what we knew to be true: that not all stories end with happily ever after. These two different expressions of reality – one guaranteeing a happy ending, the other not – raise interesting and essential questions about the meaning of truth in a story. As Schiller said, “Deeper meaning resides in the fairy tales told to me in my childhood than in the truth that is taught by life” (Bettelheim 1). Fairy tales have a visceral impact on many, forming as they do a child’s belief in how the world should be; however, as a person matures and changes, more complex truths must also be integrated into this original truth.
Flatland is the opposite of fairy tales in that it seeks to raise more questions than it answers. Although the protagonist, like those in many fairy tales, is in search of the truth, his attempts to enlighten others are met with disbelief and censorship. The purpose of the story is to encourage questioning and exploration of the world, requiring a person to look at reality from different viewpoints and pointing out loopholes in our own reasoning towards truth. For example, the narrator cannot understand how the king of Lineland can exist solely in a one-dimensional world, yet when the Sphere suggests the concept of a three-dimensional world such as Spaceland, the narrator is as uncomprehending as the king had been. As a lesson in writing, this demonstrates the importance of considering readers’ personal biases and beliefs while writing a paper, in order to better facilitate understanding of concepts.
Galileo deals also with differing ideas of truth and the consequences when they collide. Galileo’s scientific advancements, rejected as heresy by the Church, forced people such as the Little Monk to debate which was true: the evidence of their own eyes and experiences, or the teachings of the Church? Besides these inner deliberations, an appendix to the play also presents “difficulties in writing the truth.” In this, Brecht condenses many of the most important aspects of the play into five points needed for good writing: “…the courage to write the truth when truth is everywhere opposed; the keenness to recognize it, although it is everywhere concealed; the skill to use it as a weapon; the judgment to select those in whose hands it will be effective; and the cunning to spread the truth among such persons” (133).
Through both reading literary works and writing our own, the class has been coming to grips with various modes of writing. The fairy tales, Flatland, and Galileo offer a natural progression of complexity. With these readings, starting with the basic fairy tales and working up to the deeper questions of personal truths dealt with in Flatland and Galileo, the class has been studying not only the mechanics and techniques of expressing oneself, but also the process of discovering and developing what one considers the truth of that particular work.

Fairy tales, Flatland, and Galileo
Name: Andrea
Date: 2001-10-12 13:38:07
Link to this Comment: 476

Relating Brothers Grimm's Fairy Tales, Flatland, and Galileo
Humanity has always told and retold stories throughout history. Long ago, when writing was not a popular way of communication, fairy tales where orally told from generation to generation. These fairy tales were fantasy stories that symbolized the basic morals and life matters of the early middle-age society. Later, in the ninetieth and twentieth centuries, writers, such as Abbott and Brecht, wrote stories that revealed the thoughts and ideological changes of modern society. The first ones belong to a time period where there were no sciences or technology, and people's actions were judged only by the morals of good and bad. The two latter literary works, instead, belong to a period where technology and sciences were being developed, and where people's morals were based on capitalism and production. Still, The Brothers Grimm's Fairy Tales, Flatland (by E. Abbott), and Galileo (by B. Brecht) are all tales that emerge from human's imagination that attempt to recreate humanity's ways of living and thinking in order to understand our own existence in this world.
Anonymous authors created the fairy tales recollected by Brothers Grimm's during the Middle Age period. It was a tradition to tell stories that people 'have heard' somewhere else and that had a message for the listeners to learn. New storytellers would adjust a new meaning or moral lesson to the general plot of the story, but the main idea of the tale was always kept in each of them. Fairy tales were stories that emerged from inhabitants of middle ages societies, therefore the messages, morals, and ideas a reader learns from those stories correspond to this time period. For example, the image of the beautiful woman who lived in a castle and was saved by the charming prince belongs to the idea people in that time had towards women. Women were the "weaker sex" that needed to marry men in order to find true happiness. The confrontation of the fairy godmother and a stepmother respond to the moral issues of good and evil. Like these examples, we find many other moral meanings behind each of the characters and images presented in fairy tales. Thus, it is evident that the authors of these fairy tales wanted the community to visualize the abstract concepts they unconsciously worked with in every day life. Through fantasy people gained moral knowledge and this helped them understand their own actions and their goals in life.
In contrast to Grimm's' fairy tales' time period, Edwin Abbott, wrote his story in the Modern Age, when sciences and technology were strongly being developed. His stories are not only magical and imaginary, but they involve one of the big sciences of the time: mathematics. His story deals with worlds of different dimensions, which respond to the questions and doubts that appeared by the end of 1800's and the beginning of the 1900's. During that time, scientists were on their path to accept time as the forth dimension, but this new "crazy" idea was unable to fit with people's mentality that was used to understand the world in three dimensions only. Through Square's journey in the no dimensional, the one dimensional world, the three dimensional world, and his original two dimensional world, the author is capable of making the reader visualize and think about the radical changes in the ways of visualizing our spatial surrounding. Throughout Square's adventures and doubts, Abbott reveals humanity's own questions that are continuously present when trying to explain our existence; he represents the same society's problems we have been dealing throughout history (distribution of social-group classes, power of the strongest over the weakest, discrimination towards women, among others, construction of good and evil morals, etc.) in different dimensional worlds. As Banesh Hoffman says, "The inhabitants of Flatland are sentient beings, troubled by our troubles and moved by our emotions." Therefore, Flatland is a modern version of fairy tales told throughout a mathematical perspective.
Finally, in the last book, Brecht, recreates a drama piece concerning Galileo's contribution to humanity's search of an explanation for our existence in a historical moment where sciences were just appearing. Even though this book deals with a real historical person, his life is a story recreated two centuries after Galileo's life. Meanwhile, inside this fiction story of the scientist's life, Brecht introduces another story that deals with the Earth's position in the Universe. The play puts on view Galileo's new scientific proposal (story) of how Earth is no longer the center of the universe, but it is part of a small solar system where the Sun is the center. He confronts Galileo with a strong antagonist (the church) that stands for those who own a story based on belief and do no accept new stories that derive from doubt. By the end of the play, the powerful church wins while Galileo gives up. It is interesting how an nineteenth century writer, who belongs to the scientific era where questions draw from doubts and theories that explain them are proved by scientific methods, presents a play where religious faith wins over doubts that lead to reasoning. The inquisitor questions doubts in scene 11:" These men doubt everything. Can society stand on doubt and not on faith? "Thou are my master, but I doubt whether it is for the best" (Pp.108-109). The author, like Abbot in Flatland, represents in his story how human beings are reluctant to change their ways of understanding their surrounding; in other words, how they deny changing radically old stories that rely on faith for new stories that derive from doubts. He also displays how the strongest group (the church at that time) in a community/society manages to impose their story as the "true" one. Brecht does not intend to include factual information about Galileo's life, but throughout this fiction-scientific play, he attempts to create a fairy tale of a typical scene of human beings history: their confusion when confronting new perspectives of visualizing human existence in this world, and their tendency for accepting as "truthful" the traditional stories imposed by the powerful groups of a society.
The scientific theories, discoveries, religious beliefs, and imaginary creations are all stories that emerge from human's minds and present different perspectives about the same issue: the explanation of humans role in this world. The Grimm's fairy tales explain life stages through morality; Flatland is a modern fairy tale that uses mathematics to reveal the different ways of understanding our world; and, Galileo takes a historical character to represent human reactions towards the transformation of perspectives. The Brothers Grimm's Fairy Tales, Flatland, and Galileo are stories that recreate human's actions and thoughts and help the human readers understand more about them, in other words, they give readers different types of knowledge.

Creationism vs. Evolution
Name: Mia Shea-M
Date: 2001-10-12 15:21:41
Link to this Comment: 477

Evolution vs. Creationism
Mia Shea-Michiels
Galileo Galilei had told his story and the people had heard it. This is what had scared the church, the power at the time. By telling his story, Galileo had hoped to change the way people saw the world. Years later, Charles Darwin also experienced the heat of the church. He frightened the creationists with his idea of evolution. Both of these men were attacked for their radical views. The church wanted to erase their writings so that the word of God could not be questioned. But this was not possible. Science could not be silenced. Though Galileo’s findings are almost never disputed in present times, Darwin’s theory of evolution is still argued. We no longer only read about each sides case in books. We hear about natural selection and “Origin of the Species”, God and the Garden of Eden on the radio, television and even the internet. I visited many websites on the internet to discover just some of the ways different sides tell different stories on the same subject. What I found surprised me.
Creationists had always felt that humans were important. We know how to use tools, communicate and raise animals. Humans are at the top of the food chain. They believe that animals of the earth were put here for us to eat and wear. We have a right to do what we wish with these living creatures because they’re not part of us. We are far removed from them. God produced Adam and Eve and then made the animals. When we look at ourselves we see humans made in God’s image. We are part of the pureness that he represents.
Suddenly this man with evolutionist ideas stepped out of the shadows and said that creationists were wrong. We weren’t who we thought we were. He said that we slowly descended from chimpanzees over time in a process called evolution. He said that we even now share some characteristics with them. This was difficult to accept. Chimpanzees live in our cages and don’t wear clothes and pick at each others fur. They were not made from divine creation.
I realized, after visiting all the websites, that the creationists are now desperately trying to defend their position. For so long this view had been widely accepted. Many people had even been persecuted for disagreeing with the church. But now the priests cannot just satisfy the community with a simple statement. They re-tell their stories even more now to assure their audience that they are right and to reassure themselves. It was as if they felt that if one of their beliefs was wrong then perhaps everything they’ve ever believed might be wrong. Many of the websites seemed to be reaching for any point they could use to “prove” their story of origin. The creationism sites even reach towards scientific facts to help confirm their position. In the past science has been the enemy of religion. With trips into space and archeological digs new parts of the old origin story have been arising. Religious leaders are now trying to match the power of the scientific research that supports evolution. Kids can visit a section of a creationist website to see information on how dinosaur bones give evidence of Noah’s flood or visit a site that explains how carbon dating can help clarify the bible stories.
Just as Darwin said we slowly evolved, the beliefs of people seem to be slowly evolving. We have moved from blind faith to critical examination. Instead of silencing new stories we are now shouting them out.

Evolution and Creationism
Name: Flori
Date: 2001-10-21 01:45:31
Link to this Comment: 490

Religion Versus Science
We live in a society that believes in the separation of church and state. While we practice the freedom of religion, there is a fine line drawn in public education, separating religion from science in order not to infringe on this freedom. However, in the sense of evolution versus creationism taught in our schools, there is a great contradiction to this separation of religion and science. While the government allows only the theory of evolution to be taught in order not to monopolize one religion over the rest, this theory in its pure form goes against the views of many possessing the belief in a Creator.
The two theories of creationism and evolution are such extremes that it is impossible to teach one and not the other without forcing people to compromise their sense of reason and belief. Why then do we insist on teaching one of them in its extreme form without introducing the other when neither has been proven but only exists as a theory? Many justify this by saying that creationism, relying heavily on faith, cannot be taught as a science because there is no testable evidence or scientific support behind this theory. Therefore, we will continue to teach evolution in our schools.
Our society today is very different from the one that existed in Italy during the time of Galileo. While we do not allow religion to be taught as a science in our public schools, Catholicism was the only true science taught to the people of Galileo’s time. The Italian people of the early 1600’s relied heavily on the Vatican as their source of truth about the universe as well as everything else. However, Galileo felt he had a different story. He had found scientific evidence against the church’s view that the earth is the center of the universe. He wanted to share his discovery with the rest of the people, retelling the story of the universe and adding a new perspective.
No longer would the world rely solely on faith, but be open to other interpretations of our universe that rely more heavily on scientific proof. Science today is constantly searching for proof. Many no longer rely on the old stories of creationism, dating back to the beginning of the Bible, but believe and teach what we can observe and back up with evidence.

Paper #3 Assignment
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2001-10-23 21:19:21
Link to this Comment: 516

To the McBrides--
Questions, Intuitions, Revisions:
Telling and Re-Telling Stories About Ourselves in the World
Fall 2001
Paper Assignment #3

Our sequence of drafts for Paper #3 derives from Michael Polyani’s claim in The Tacit Dimension that "Tacit knowing is shown to account (1) for a valid knowledge of a problem, (2) for the scientist’s capacity to pursue it, guided by [her] sense of approaching its solution, and (3) for a valid anticipation of the yet indeterminate implications of the discovery
arrived at in the end"(24).

Each of Polyani’s stages marks a draft in your writing process.

(1) By 9 a.m. on Thursday, October 25th, please deliver to my office a written record of data you have collected on tacit understanding; we will conduct a large-group workshop on the material you have gathered. There are a wide range of forums where you can make these observations. For instance, three exhibits on Serendip invite you to do precisely that:
You’ll find “Time to Think” @
“Seeing More than your Eye Does” @
and “The Three Doors of Serendip" @

Alternatively, you may want to conduct your own experiment, making observations of how you see yourself--or preferably, others--using tacit knowledge; you might also find it very productive to conduct two different experiments/gather two different sets of comparable data in which you have observed tacit knowledge being used.

(2) On Thursday, November 1st, please bring to class a draft in which you interpret the observations you have made: what story, what theory most fruitfully describes the data you have collected? We will conduct small-group writing workshops on these drafts.

(3) On Thursday, November 8th, please bring to my office by 9 a.m. a final version of this paper, in which you not only present and interpret your data, but also identify what new questions your explanatory theory raises. What new experiment need you now design, to elicit a further set of observations?

Paper#2: Retelling Stories
Name: Kathryn
Date: 2001-10-23 22:36:33
Link to this Comment: 517

Humans are truly fascinating because unlike other animals they have the ability to question and they possess free will. These two capabilities can create a frustrating dilemma for a person because it usually causes the person to ask how they should use this free will to live their life. People need to determine a purpose in their life in order for it to have meaning. Yet determining this purpose also requires the person to have an understanding of themselves and the world around them. A person's understanding of the world is based on a story, which is a sequence of events that attempts to explain humans or the world. For thousands of years, people have made up stories to explain how the world was created. The Greeks, the Romans, the Christians, and many other groups of people had stories that explained the earth's creation. These stories were extremely important because they also played an important role in how people choose the purpose of their life. This is why there is such a huge debate today about whether creationism or evolution should be taught in schools. Creationism is based on the book of genesis in the Bible that says that God created the world and human beings. Evolution is the scientific theory that humans and the world were created slowly from inanimate objects and natural selection. Evolution retells the story of the creation of the earth and life. This change creates benefits and drawbacks as all changes do, and the groups debating this issue differ their beliefs on whether or not they think change is good. Of course this debate is especially heated because it can significantly effect how people choose their purpose in life, which greatly stirrs people's emotions.

For many people, the creationist view is the first story they heard about the beginning of people and the world. Many of these people also chose to follow the Bible story as their guide to establishing their life's purpose. For these people, the creationist view satisfactorily answered their question, and this is the story they believed to be true. Therefore, when Darwin or the other evolutionists came along and questioned the story of the creation of the earth, it caused these people to have to question the world, the Bible, and their purpose in life. Some people were willingly to do this because they saw the evolutionist's evidence and agreed with this new story. They were not upset by being forced to question their foundations if it meant gaining a better understanding of the world, an understanding that they believed was closer to the truth. This then could become their new purpose, searching for the truth, or they could develop another purpose. But the major point is that they were willing to change their beliefs because they thought that the change would benefit them in some way. Other people were not eager to change because change produces uncertainty. Most people don't like to feel insecure or confused about something. People like to have answers and understanding, not frustrating questions. Therefore, some people refused to accept this new story because they were satisfied with what they believed in the first place, they had established their life's purpose based on the Bible and didn't feel any need to change it because someone decided to retell the story. If they were to change their beliefs it would prove their previous beliefs to be wrong, and the deeds that they did according to these beliefs would now be considered a waste. Most people would not like to feel like they wasted their life doing the wrong thing, especially older people. In this case, the retelling of the story of the creation of the earth is harmful.

The debate over evolution versus creationism has greatly affected people, some beneficially and others harmfully. Anytime someone retells a story there are going to be those that welcome the change and those that don't. Often times there are more people who don't want to accept the change. This is why people are conflicted when they come across something that will change a story. On one hand, they are motivated to retell the story because they feel that their new evidence or perspective will help people to gain a better understanding about the subject of the story. There are also negative reasons why people retell stories, such as to purposely create confusion and frustration or to make themselves look better or more important. On the other hand, most people don't like change because it can make them confused and uncomfortable. People who believe that change is helpful to people will naturally be inclined to retell stories. Those who dislike change will be reluctant. Even though change may disrupt many people's minds, they also have the choice not to accept the change. This is why people should be allowed to introduce new stories, because every person has the will to reject it. This is why I think both evolution and creationism should be taught in school. Students hould be given the opportunity to look at facts fom both stories and decide for themselves which one they think is true. History has shown that stories are always changing, and it would be silly to immediately accept or reject a revised story without looking at all the information. Part of school is learning to make your own decisions, which is extremely important because every person will eventually have to make a decision about how to live their life. This is why I think it would beneficial for students to become comfortable with comparing and analyzing stories before they make a decision about which one they believe. Too many people don't think about why they believe in certain stories, especially important ones such as how the earth was created. Retelling a story can be very powerful, and one should always ask why they want to retell it before they do, so they can determine whether it is a good idea to retell it or not.

To Tell or Not to Tell, That is the Question
Name: Amanda Gle
Date: 2001-10-24 00:31:44
Link to this Comment: 519

Throughout history, stories have been told, been passed down from one generation to the next. These stories become truth and the accepted knowledge of society. As the stories evolve and become more deeply roots of society, they become harder to dissuade people from believing. Because of these social roots, people become apprehensive to introduce a new version of the story into society. The storyteller will see that there are pros and cons, reasons to be motivated and reasons to be reluctant.
When someone is going to tell people a new story, people become nervous about whether or not the tale will be accepted. The nerves that are shown make a lot of sense. If a person comes up with an idea that contradicts everything that everyone else knows, there is a very good chance that the teller will be ridiculed. Reluctance is quite normal. What person would want to be shunned by all, for telling a different idea? Also, the new tale might change all viewpoints later on. If this upsets people or confuses them, the person who originated the telling of the idea could be blamed. People don't want to take responsibility for anything bad that might happen. Therefore, the reluctance of telling a new story is quite understandable.
There are also some positives about telling a new story to a waiting public. First of all, the people who hear the story will be hearing new ideas. The yeast of the thoughts will cultivate and grow into a loaf of newly accepted brainwaves. The alteration that would come of this, if good, would be a positive change to society. Just as people do not like to take blame for the bad, they like to take credit for the good. Because of these reasons, people have some motivations to tell their new stories.
A good example of the positive versus the negative points of telling a new story or viewpoint is Bertold Brecht's "Galileo." In this play, Galileo thinks of a new idea along with his invention of the telescope and he has to decide whether or not to move to Venice to present his story. The pros of moving end up outwaying the cons but in the end he is ostracized to the point where his daughter loses her fiancé. Galileo chose to tell the story.
That choice is up to the story teller. Some are motivated and some are reluctant. In the end though, something will come of the decision, be it good or bad.

Conflict and ... Compromise?
Name: Laura Bang
Date: 2001-10-24 00:46:10
Link to this Comment: 520

Conflict and ... Compromise?
The War Between the Theories of Evolution and Creation

Would absolute, concrete knowledge of the origin of humans really make that much of a difference in our lives? For many people, this answer is a definite ‘yes’; and thus began the battle of evolutionism versus creationism. These two theories – and theories they are because neither has been undeniably proven with tangible evidence – are the two categories of the burning question that humans long to have answered: where do we come from? Are humans children of the gods or are we just soul-less clusters of atoms that happened together for no particular reason? And which theory should be taught to our children in schools? The answer to both questions is a combination of both evolutionism and creationism. These theories of our origins, however conflicting, should both be taught in schools.

Regardless of whether or not they are truth or fiction, science and religion are both stories. They explain why things are the way they are. The only real difference between these two story-telling methods is how they answer questions: religion answers questions with stories; science answers questions with narrower and narrower questions until a finite answer is reached. Both methods are flawed.

By answering questions with stories, religion makes the answers more accessible because they involve people like us so that the ideas being conveyed seem more tangible. The problem is that stories do not give consistent answers. Stories are more often than not intended to be somewhat vague in order to promote the thoughts of the reader. Every reader brings to the story their own thoughts and viewpoints, which leads each reader to draw their own distinct conclusions as to the story’s meaning. That is, different people can, and most likely will, come up with different interpretations.

Then science must provide the correct method of story-telling, right? No. By answering questions with more questions until a finite and tangible answer is reached can take a very long time. For instance, how long did people believe that the earth was flat, or that the sun travelled around the earth, or that women were inferior to men? The time it took for science to learn the correct answers to these puzzles was very long, in fact, centuries long. The flaw in this method of answering questions is that it is often very hard to put the series of questions in the right order so that they lead quickly to a finite answer. And it is sometimes difficult just to think of the right question to ask.

I am not, however, saying that either of these methods is wrong. On the contrary, I believe them both to be correct in their own way. That is to say, the theories of creation and evolution are both important because they come from the two leading spheres of knowledge in our world – religion and science.

Since children in school learn about living in our world, which has many conflicting ideas and events besides the war between science and religion, why should they not learn about evolution and creationism? But it is important to stress that the creationism aspect of school teaching should not focus solely on the Judeo-Christian creation myth. Children should learn about all, or at least many, creation myths from religions across the world. The similarities between these mythologies across cultures that are so vastly different from each other need to be taught so that our children understand that humans are similar regardless of what they believe or where they come from. And who is to say that the theory of evolution does not also share these similarities? If everyone could comprehend this significance, it would be so much easier for people to start understanding each other better.

One theory is not more important, or for that matter more “true,” than the other. They contrast and complement each other, like orange and blue or enthalpy and entropy. Conflicting pairs like this are a tradition of our world; and, yes, this occurrence, too, is answered by religion and science in their own ways.

Many conflicting pairs are able to compromise, at least somewhat. Take, for example, night and day. This is a very simple conflicting pair, they are opposites and no one disputes that. But at least twice a day, these two opposite forces are engaged in compromise: in the pre-dawn twilight hours, when it is neither day nor night. A more complex example involves humans. In spite of all the different backgrounds, people were able to come together in compromise in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks. It is true there were people on either side of the compromise who either rejoiced that America had been attacked or instantly hated all people with the slightest similarity to the attackers. But the overwhelming majority of human reactions was one of peaceful, sorrowful, compromise. Even religion and science have been known to compromise, as demonstrated when the Pope stated that evolution did not flatly denounce his beliefs in the Bible.

Although it is difficult sometimes, or most of the time, to compromise, it is always possible if we are willing to try. There is no need for evolutionism and creationism to compete for a place in our children’s schools. They can be taught together in a way that would more effectively teach our children about the world we live in, a world of conflict and, however unlikely it may seem at times, compromise.

Supporting Role
Name: emily
Date: 2001-10-24 01:31:06
Link to this Comment: 521

A person's entire life is based on a series of stories that are constantly changing. One story does not replace the next, but is simply added to the others to create a new interpretation. The saying "Wisdom comes with age" is misleading. Wisdom does not truly come from age, but from the ability to transform the large amount of events a person has been through into a meaningful story. Age simply gives a person more events to choose from. Similarly, any story should be looked at in view of its predecessor. One definition is often not enough; a combination of ideals over time is generally more effective.
More specifically, the evolution story, by itself, should not be taught in schools, but rather, taught in combination with its predecessor, the creation story. This principle of a story taught in addition to a previous explanation is not unfounded. Both Abbot's Flatland and Brecht's Galileo explore this ideal. In Flatland, another dimension is discovered, in addition to the two already known. Galileo is depicted as battling for a similar cause. His main battle is not in getting the people to believe his hypothesis, but to believe that there is even a possibility that it is true. Abramson and Lyttle further define this ideal in their articles. These articles further contribute to the idea that the solution to any problem is not often found in one answer, but in a combination of possibilities.
The evolution story can easily be thought of as the follow up of the creation story in terms of explaining the beginning of the world. In this sense, the evolution story is merely an addition to the creation story, and must be looked at along with the creation story. A. Square came across the same situation in Abbott's Flatland. A. Square was not denying the existence of the first two dimensions, but felt there was a third dimension that needed to be looked at in addition to the other two. The Sphere himself devised an example explaining the relationship between the dimensions. Abbott states,
Behold this multitude of moveable square cards. See, I
put one on another, not, as you supposed, Northward of
the other, but on the other. Now a second, now a third.
see, I am building up a solid by a multitude of squares
parallel to one another. Now the Solid is complete, being
as high as it is long and broad, and we call it a Cube. (69)
The Sphere used the second dimension in his explanation for the third dimension, thereby using the original story in combination with the new story.
The character of Galileo in Brecht's Galileo, although not necessarily adding on to previous principles, is not asking for complete destruction of them. Galileo believes his principles to be correct, but his greatest battle is not in convincing others of this truth, but in convincing others to allow his principles to be studied. The evolution story should be allowed to be taught, following Galileo's principles, but accordingly, so should the creation story. Granted, Galileo was not a religious man, and therefore one might argue that he would not be in favor of the creation story. However, it is also important to note that Galileo was a scientist, and as such, was more interested in the process of research than the product itself. Therefore, Galileo would be open to the study of both stories.
Furthermore, Galileo was aware of the naivety of the common people in his time period, and the great emphasis they placed on religion. At one point, the character of little monk tells Galileo of the common folks' need for religion. Brecht states, "They have been told that God relies upon them and that the pageant of the world has been written around them that they may tested in the important or unimportant parts handed out to them. How could they take it, were I to tell them that they are on a lump of stone ceaselessly spinning in empty space, circling around a second - rate star? What, then, would be the use of their patience, their acceptance of misery?" (83). Galileo is aware of the masses' need for religion, for without it, they would consider themselves to be nothing. In this particular case, the new hypothesis, Galileo's idea of the earth revolving around the sun, is rejected because it may harm the masses' contented view of their life. However, it is feasible that the opposite situation may occur, where the second story, instead of the first, may only be an attempt to console the masses. Because of this possibility, and in view of Galileo's distaste for following a story simply for its ability to please the masses, it is necessary to include both stories for proper interpretation.
Ron Lyttle further widens the argument for the necessity of both stories to be presented in relationship to each other. In his article, Could Life Just Happen?, he describes the evolution story, in many ways to be just as unrealistic as the creation story. According to Lyttle, both arguments, separate of each other, lack proof and are unrealistic. Paul Abramson shares Lyttle's ideas involving the need to combine the arguments. According to Abramson, one definitive answer by itself is not enough, but what is really needed is a combination of ideals presented together.
Neither the evolution story nor the creation story can stand entirely on its own, with so many strong arguments pulling in both directions. As Abbott suggests through the ideas of Flatland, perhaps one is merely an addition to the other, or a final step. Brecht's idea that both stories have the right to be shared, even if one is disconcerting, can also be applied. Both arguments are definitive in tearing down the other but do little for standing on their own; as a combination however, they create a more precise argument.

Evolution vs. Creation
Name: Chelsea Ph
Date: 2001-10-24 01:43:57
Link to this Comment: 522

Science is so widely accepted and practiced, taught and learned, that in can be considered a religion. Science is to the 21st century world what Roman Catholicism was to 13th century Europe. As society has grown and ‘evolved’ (no pun intended), we as a country have been carefully neutral- most notably in the separation of church and state. But, if science has become a religion, then should we not also have separation of science and state? If were are going to have bias in our school systems towards science, and away from religion, then we are better to not teach anything at all.
To this idea, most would scoff and turn a deaf ear; science is so much a part of our lives that we cannot fathom a way to separate it from modern government. Science is our rock, it is progress as well, and we need it. Think, though, of when this nation was first founded. Could the pilgrims have had a separation of church and state? Of course not, that would have gone against every ideal that became the basis of this country. So how can we now debate that it is okay to teach evolution, but not creation? The argument is, naturally, that it is wrong to force the beliefs of Christianity and Judaism on people who do not feel the same. But what about people who believe in creation and not evolution? Aren’t we doing the same- forcing science on them? And what about other religions and civilizations and their stories? If you can’t or won’t teach it all, you shouldn’t teach any of it. That makes it hard, doesn’t it? Without the basics, there isn’t much that you can teach. The only way to be truly fair is to present every story and let the students decide for themselves what they believe. Different aspects of the same story are also important.
It could be a completely separate class, and a prerequisite for all science and religion classes. In fact, it would not be unlike our college seminar, a forum for stories, all kinds, from all over the world. What exciting discussions might in sue; what a way to stretch people’s minds, and help them establish their own philosophy- personalized religion, you might call it. So much emphasis is placed on science, in fact even the way it is presented, that it is nearly impossible to see it as anything but cold, solid fact. But what if science is a story too. What if we revere science only because it is something larger than ourselves? Then, truly, it is no different from religion.
How do religions come into being? This question is fundamental if we are to argue that science is a religion. Generally, people need to reassure themselves that everything in life has meaning, and so they begin to search for answers and reasons. Explaining the impossible is an obsession for the human race. For a certain time, religion satisfied all of these things, but our curiosity has driven us to find answers more and more real and substantiated. When I say “real”, I mean tangible. Has anyone ever touched God? Can we mathematically prove the existence of God as we can scientific observations? No. Therefore, many are more inclined to believe in tiny atoms that we can’t feel but that we believe make us. Sounds like a religion to me. Belief in a higher power, belief in tiny atoms, spinning and forming universes…what’s the difference, really?
Above and beyond this argument, there is the case of believing both, theistic evolution. If both are equally believed, then should they not also be equally taught? For example, take the following math problem…

60sec/min * 60 min/h * 24 h/day * 6 days (God rested on the seventh day, right?)
= 518, 400sec * 10,000 yrs/sec (# of years passed on Earth for every second in heaven, according to Old Testament) = 5.18 billion years. Estimated age of Earth: 4.5-5 billion years old. Makes you think…

Even some scientists and religious philosophers agree that the two are not mutually exclusive. When they are taught, however, it is important to keep personal biases out of conversation. True, neutrality has never been one of our strong points, but without it the whole purpose of presenting both to the students will be lost. For what good is the presentation of one theory, when all conviction lies in another.
In terms of presentation, story format is natural and logical. When writers write, their main objective must be to captivate their audience long enough through language to get to the main point at which their piece is driving. Consequently it is most effective for presenting all material, even scientific proofs. Perhaps science could shrug off its generally stereotyped cold exterior and get a little funk to it…kind of like Catholicism WOW! from (the movie) Dogma. Not a bad idea, overall. It might inspire more young minds to delve in and explore, rather than relying on the material itself to capture the needed individuals.
The real problem with both these theories is that humans are relied upon to present them. There are too many strong feelings on both sides of the issue. Hypocrites abound and it does nothing for the credibility, or the maturity, of either side. Until we can all put aside our differences for the sake of the betterment of everyone- regardless of how different their beliefs are- we will never get anywhere. The love of argument has gone a little too far. To sacrifice progress of a more benevolent and beneficial kind, such as the improvement of life and learning of all people, for the sake of age-old arguments is absolutely ridiculous. There is no more point to it than there was in the feud between the Montagues and the Capulets (and we all know how that one ended). Argument is good, but not when it reduces us to the level of children playing with big words
In fact, beyond the debate over not offending people’s beliefs, why not do it anyway? Our children could be more cultured, understanding people. Maybe they would be more open-minded and compassionate- wouldn’t that be progress? Progress above and beyond more technology, machines and software programs. Whether the students would choose to accept all, some, or none of the ideas, exposure would be, could be, nothing but positive. With strong teachers and good, open discussions, a huge impact could be made on the ideology of traditional thought. Perhaps we would become less ignorant of our own world (own country, even) and more understanding of others and their beliefs, ideals and dreams that have shaped them. We could finally become the nation that we claim to be- accepting. A nation not of hypocrites and stubborn black and white thinkers, but arrayed with all the beautiful shades of gray and willing to learn. A magnificent rainbow of thought, without limits, biases or prejudice- the change would not be all at once, but what a start it would be.


Stories And Why They Are Shared
Name: Helena S
Date: 2001-10-24 03:26:17
Link to this Comment: 523

What makes us decide to tell a story isn’t something that can be explained in so many words, but more of an instinctual drive that propels us into telling them. No story is, then, either utterly wrong or right, but simply a reflection upon a thought of someone who initially came up with it. If the argument is between scientific evolution and Creationism, the same argument can be applied.

Whenever we come across something new, we either shy away from it in fear of having to learn about this new aspect, or we embrace the novelty because it can be incorporated into our lives to make it better. Galileo’s discovery that the universe didn’t revolve around the Earth and that, with the telescope, he could prove that there were many other constellations and galaxies out there only showed that point. The Church at that time feared what would happen if Galileo was right – if one of their teachings was incorrect, people could begin to doubt other aspects of them as well. It is not to say that they are, but simply how one small novelty, or incongruence, can create a domino effect on society.

Perhaps that is the reason why stories are so widespread and popular. We tell stories every day in the form of anecdotes, exchange of information, or even a simple conversation. It is done unconsciously, and yet when we come across that one new aspect of a story this hidden side quickly surfaces into our consciousness.

It is not surprising that when the theory of evolution came along that there would be people unwilling to believe. Scientists find themselves discussing a moot point when it comes to Creationists and evolution. It is like saying that there are many stories, each one telling a different tale. However, there are different versions of the story, even if they tell of the same thing. Evolution and Creationism are similar, in a way. Although we are indeed curious to find out how we got to where we are and where we are going from here, we can’t forget that the important aspect is that we are here _at this moment_. The telling of the story in alternate versions, however, allows for all the other people who have not yet been aware of this new version to make a decision and go with what they feel comfortable with.

If God created the world in 6 days or if it came from the Big Bang and a grueling process of evolution is not the issue. Nevertheless, when there is a group of people who believe in their personal version of a story, they tend to want to stick to it. Just the thought of having to come across a new one is simply distasteful to them. Perhaps that is why there are so many problems with teaching new aspects of science, or creativity, to minds that want to have these new ideas shut out.

Once we accept a new idea, we try to find a niche for the old one. Sometimes we can’t find it, and the old idea has to either be discarded and forgotten or kept instead of the new one. Brecht’s “Life of Galileo” is a good example of what people are willing to believe but cannot. It demonstrated curiosity and a willingness to learn, yet a stubbornness to believe in what was taught and proven. If we have the end of the story, today, then we can write a story that fits with proof around us and say that is our history. As long as it makes sense, and there is something we can acknowledge as true, it cannot be wrong.

Storytelling is a double-edged blade, because while a story can entertain or teach a person, it can also cause others to infer a wrongful impression of the storyteller. So while we are willing to tell our stories, they might be modified or kept untold for the sake of the avid listeners.


Date: 2001-10-24 08:20:07
Link to this Comment: 524

Jennifer Colella

Twin Towers of Civilization

Once upon a time it happened by some chance, by some being, or some freak collision of two molecules, that man walked the earth. It happened that the whole human race was born of this early ancestor, but by this time, the ancestor had been forgotten. The roots had been pulled up, and our past had become a mystery. So as the birth of mankind was taking place, the conception of the story was also occurring. Man needed a story to explain himself, to justify his life and his world. No creature is perhaps as insecure as this feeble creature, and so two stories took the stage: religion and science. Both stories answered man’s cry of loneliness and chaos, both gave him answers, and both gave to his darkness a light of reason and faith. Because both stories were addressed to the same audience and to the same issues, the two were destined to be critics of one another for all eternity, or as long as their stories were told and retold. In reality, however, the two stories are sisters, twins that were born of the same ancestor by the same necessity. The two stories are the same differing only with author, and yet it is between the sister stories that the greatest ideological battle of history is constantly waged.
This battle is due to the nature of man and not to the teachings of the story. Man is a creature very much lost in a sea of confusion, perhaps blessed with his intelligence or cursed with his doubt. Either way, there is a great quest for answers and comfort. Even in a sea of people, men “scare [themselves] with [their] own desert places” in which “the loneliness includes [them] unawares.(Frost, p.1627)” Men are constantly lonely, but not due to a lack of relationships but rather due to a lack of knowledge and understanding about themselves.
Therefore, it is a constant necessity for men to understand where they belong in the world. Galileo’s struggle against the church for the sake of science was less about “the truth [of] the distant stars (Brecht, p.65)” then it was about the “cage (Brecht, p. 48)” and the “locked up (Brecht, p.48)” men inside. The “desert place” for Galileo was the church, for “there is no support in the heavens (Brecht, p.62),” and his holy quest “to know the reasons for everything (Brecht, p.7)” was really a quest to know his place, his reason, and his contribution to the world.
This is his first complain to the porcurator, that he is “stupid…[understands] absolutely nothing” and feels “compelled to fill the gaps in [his] knowledge (Brecht, p. 14.)” The question was not whether or not the earth went around the sun or the sun around the earth but rather how Galileo orbited within his society and his life, and similarly, the Pope’s concern for Galileo’s treatise was also self centered. The Pope and all the clergy had learned one story; they took comfort in the story, and they were cured of their “desert places.” Galileo challenged that by “[announcing] to the world that [the Pope had] not the best advice about the heavens…up to now [his] only uncontested sphere of influence (Brecht, p.109.)”
Both men were merely struggling to find their place, to cure their fears and insecurities. One found religion to be his cure, his aid, and his faith. The other had no place in religion and learned nothing comforting from it; it was a trap for Galileo. He turned to science. Both stories answered the same question, both told their followers something of the Heavens so that there might be order in everything on Earth. If man honestly seeks only answers, then why was there so much debate between the two stories? As to the order of the Galaxy, both provided an answer, so did it honestly matter which was correct?
It did matter because different people found comfort in different answers; each answer carried with it a different purpose for mankind. Some found Galileo to be “frightening” because he “destoyed [their faith] (Brecht, p.61),” and they became “disgusted with the world.” Others found him freeing, declaring “obedience will never cure your woe so each of you wake up and do just as he pleases (Brecht, p. 102.)” The cause for this was simple. Many people “[drew] the strength they [needed]…from the little church and Bible texts they [heard]…on Sunday (Brecht, p. 83.)” Others found this demeaning since “people must keep their place, some down and some on top (Brecht, p. 100.)” Different people require different stories to find their place in the world. It was not necessarily a matter of truth, only purpose.
The story of this clash continues today in the modern example of creationism versus evolution. Science and religion are, as always, pitted against each other. Both provide the same answers; both give origin to man. However, it is not enough to just have origin; a man must have purpose. People do not want to believe that “life is but an empty dream” but rather that “Life is real! Life is earnest! And the grave is not its goal; Dust thou art, to dust returnest was not spoken of the soul (Longfellow, p. 941.)” Different people find their purpose in different stories because the context, the eyes with which they are reading the story, differ. Creationism allows God to exist; it maintains holy order and comfort. Evolution is liberating; man is free to determine his life, to better himself, to evolve, to change, to perfect. God takes a smaller role in controlling man, if he takes a role at all. Both speak to different concerns, to different perspectives on life.
Notice the reasoning and the argument are always the same, whether it be between Galileo and the Pope or school teachers and priests. Some will always claim “the bible is an antique Volume written by faded Men (Dickinson, p. 1187),” while still others will constantly declare that science “preyest…upon the poet’s heart, vulture, whose wings are dull realities (Poe, p. 574.)” It becomes futile to debate creation versus evolution because it is not a question of logic or truth but of natures, as it was with Galileo and the church. Truth is reality; “Reality is perception (Blair Witch 2);” and perception is incidental. This makes the debate a very curious and difficult ideological war between the two twin stories.
It is a difficult debate because both sides are right, and in fact, both sides are needed. What would happen to the world if tomorrow the Pope admitted to the world there was no God, no higher purpose, so consequence or hell? People would have nothing but reason to dictate their lives, but “can society stand on doubt and not on faith (Brecht, p.108)?” Cloning and weapons of mass destruction are only two consequences of too much freedom to reason. With evolution reason may allow the current rate of extinction based on survival of the fittest.
But what about a world in which there is no logic, no reason, only faith? Man would be reduced to slaves of the pope and the church, unable to think. Is it even worth being alive without the ability to determine one’s own life? Galileo didn’t think so. Such a world would be dark, grim, and also very violent; too much religious zeal kills as easily as scientific freedoms.
The sister stories grew up together; they changed together and in partnership, but their purposes are constant. Religion, creationism, and faith provide rules, order, and discipline to those who take pride in ordered purpose while science, evolution, and reason provide liberty, intrigue, and curiosity for those who value freedom. There is no right answer between structured purpose and freedom. There is no right answer between science and religion. The two stories are both right and they are both required to answer the insecurities of men. A world with no reason is equally as frightening as a world with no faith. Therefore, both creationism and evolution should be taught in the schools. Both religion and science should carry equal weight. In doing this, the nature of man would be at his freest and most secure. Religion and Science must both be allowed to the tell the story of man in harmony with one another since they are unable to do it with agreement.

Name: Liz C-H
Date: 2001-10-24 08:56:43
Link to this Comment: 525

While in what seems to be perpetual friction, the theories of creationism and evolution are in fact similar on a most basic level. They are both stories that attempt to explain our origins, something that seems a necessity to humanity; however, beyond this function the two theories are hardly comparable. The creationist view of human history satisfies the spiritual side of our need. The evolutionary view satisfies the scientific side. While they accomplish the same end, one cannot be more “right” than the other; as individuals, we shape our own stories of our origins using both of these theories. The extent to which our personal story is scientific or spiritual depends on the amount of comfort and reassurance that we find in the scientific or spiritual explanations.
Evolution is based on evidence from observable natural phenomena such as fossils; this is what classifies it as scientific. It is a result of our logical and studious pursuits of knowledge of our origins. The evidence presented in defense of this theory is scientific, and therefore fact- and precision-based. Fossils, analogous structures, embryology, and molecular similarities in living creatures incite in people the security of reason, logic and “provable” fact. It answers questions of the physical, such as why we resemble monkeys and why whales have pelvic bones.
Unlike evolution, creationism offers a supernatural or divine explanation for our presence on earth. The idea that God created us and placed us on the earth gives people a sense of spiritual security. It appeals to their humanistic sides, and satisfies questions that cannot be explained by science, such as the existence of a soul in living things. There is no observable evidence of divine creation. This is what irreconcilably separates it from evolution. Both theories serve as equally fulfilling explanations of human origins. They can provide comfort and a sense of security to those who believe in them. The explanation or combination of explanations that a person chooses to believe merely depends on what particular role that person needs the story of human origin to play in his life.
In this way, creationism and evolution cannot ever be entirely and exclusively correct. Each one is right for the person who believes it. I myself find that I need both spiritual and scientific explanation for our origins. I tend to believe that the earth, its creatures, and the universe have evolved and are evolving in a purely scientific sense. I also believe that there is some higher power, some “om” to the universe if not a god, that makes it possible for life, and the soul, to exist. Each individual person decides for himself the combination of science and spirituality that makes up his view of human origins. Each person, then, writes and rewrites his own story of our past in a way that best suits his fundamental human need to explain our roots.
This individual creation of an explanation for our creation presents problems when it comes to what to teach in school. Views of our origins are so tailored to the individual, and extremists for both sides believe very strongly that theirs is the correct view. It is difficult, therefore, to teach either creationism or evolution without some resistance. In America, though, the “separation of church and state” for the most part makes this decision for us. Because creationism is so closely associated with religion, it is not regarded as suitable material for public schools to teach in many places. The theory of evolution, however, is often presented in a biology or similar scientific course, as an explanation for human origins. In a scientific context, I believe that we have every right to present this material as an option for children to consider. In response, parents have the right to endow their children with a more spiritually-oriented view of our past, and are free to teach children themselves or send them to religious school. By presenting evolution as the foremost scientific view, and allowing for the church or parents to present a more spiritual alternative, we allow children to create their own story of our past with the information given them.
Every person has a need to explain human origins to a certain extent to feel settled and secure in his place in the world. Each person creates his own creation story to best give him this feeling of security using some combination of evolution and creationism. In America, we teach children evolution in most schools and leave creationist teachings to the church and parents, which provides children with the ability to form their own views on the subject of human origins.

retelling stories
Name: Sarah Frie
Date: 2001-10-24 10:04:26
Link to this Comment: 526

The phenomenon of life on earth presents a mystery that humans have long sought to explain. Over time, stories have developed to serve this purpose. One story, entitled religion, tells that humans were placed on earth by a divine being. This story is valuable because it encourages humans to explore the context of their own existence, but it also sets boundaries within which this exploration must take place. Human understanding of the world is further expanded when new stories are conceived, and it is therefore good to add another story. A second, more modern story, attempts to explain the origin of life by examining the physical “evidence” left behind by the history of living organisms and our own earth. This epic story is called science. The subtitles of the respective stories described above are creationism and evolution. It is worthwhile to retell the first story of creationism as long as the intent is to provide an equally valid alternative. The two stories address the same phenomenon, and although they differ in their explanations, each is able to both expand and restrict the human capacity for knowledge. Because they share these characteristics, both stories are equally able to satisfy the human need for a general way of managing the way in which they see the world. In short, humans need a story, and both evolution and creationism fit the bill.
While it may be apparent that the freeing quality of the creation story appeals to humans, it may not be as apparent why humans need a story that restricts them in some way. Humans need to feel that they have some kind of control over their ideas and lives. By enforcing a limit to the infinite ideas and events available to a human, the inhibiting factors serve to provide humans with this illusion. In many cases, the limiting and freeing components are the same, as is evident in the argument that follows.
To understand how the story of creation frees human thought while also containing it, one may recall the book of Genesis in the Old Testament. The notion that an all-knowing power created a universe, day and night, and, finally, a pair of human beings, all in the time span of seven days, is an awe inspiring idea. In portraying a world where the formation of human life began and ended on the same day, the story releases humans from the insecurity of not knowing from whence they came. At the same time, this idea narrows the scope of other possible explanations. While in relating a world in which the creator keeps harm at bay, thus freeing humans from a potentially overwhelming fear, should disaster strike, the same humans would be limited in their ability to cope. In describing a world were an omniscient king not only protects individuals from harm but also has constructed a greater plan, in which the lives of humans are pre-determined, the story frees humans from the chaos of a spontaneous world. Simultaneously, this story ties humans down by suggesting that they lack the ability to think thoughts that have not already been planned for them.
The story of evolution also frees and restricts those who believe it. Because evolution is a scientific story, it has been constructed using the scientific method. This process involves asking questions, making preliminary a hypothesis, testing the hypothesis by experimenting and making observations, and then stating a conclusion based on the observations. This system continues indefinitely, and is thus built to withstand change. But the means by which scientists write their story behave in a way similar to the creation story described above. When a scientist asks a question, he might be removing the foundation of a former assumption. In this way the question would be a means of expanding thought, and thus a freeing agent. However, the scientist is still only able to approach a thought about which he can ask a question, and in this way the nature of a question holds back the flow of ideas. The evidence that a scientist collects and observes has the potential to present new possible “truths.” Such evidence can quickly cause stories to change, and in that way it feeds the growth of understanding. Nevertheless scientists are limited by the evidence that they know to look for, and are further limited in the way that they know how to assign it significance. After making careful observations, a scientist might want to state a conclusion. This conclusion frees the scientist from a certain degree of uncertainty, just as the very way that it is presented suggests that it is a definitive fact not to be questioned. Even though the entire process of constructing a scientific story invites change, and thus seems to be innately freeing, the individual ways in which the process takes place both free and bind.
Now that it has been established that both stories have the same effect on human thought, it is logical to state that these stories are equally valid, and should both be told. Even though the two stories differ in their approach to the question of human life on earth, and depending on individual preference, one may be more satisfying than the other, they both address the same concern in such a way the satisfies an important human need. While creationism states that a god created our universe, evolution claims that our universe happened without divine intervention and that life formed spontaneously from existing chemicals. Since the story of evolution was first told, humans have debated about which story holds more truth, and thus which should be believed. This debate, while understandable, is not necessary, because it is possible to construct two alternative stories on the same topic and learn from both of them independently.

Creationism or Evolution?
Name: Karen Pang
Date: 2001-10-25 09:49:29
Link to this Comment: 536

Since the time humans were able to conceive logical thinking, we have been asking questions. Our lives dwell on knowing, and every minute is a time for learning. As our species lived on, the one question we constantly tried to tackle is the question of our origins. The answers that first satisfied our ancestors were the religious stories that told of supernatural beings who were able to control the universe. As time and human technology progressed, more suggestions were developed in explaining the beginning of our existence. Individually, we must decipher for ourselves which story to believe as the truth or possible truth. Some people may be apathetic altogether but eventually, the question of life’s creation will affect everyone either directly or indirectly.

Two main approaches exist today to explain the origins of life. Religion is the oldest “story” or “history” to explain this phenomenon. Belief in multiple gods suggest that each god specialize in one power while belief in one single omnipotent God suggests that He created and controls everything in the universe. Creationism and other explanations of supernatural origin of life are not testable in science unlike scientific knowledge, which is gathered by facts and results of experiments. However, stories such as these help people to coop with everyday lives and give reasons for many natural marvels and destructions.

Charles Darwin first introduced the other explanation of life in 1859 in his book On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection written after observing life on the Galapagos Islands. Evolution uses scientific proofs and theories to assert that every life on earth evolved from the same, single, inanimate source. Creation of Earth and other celestial objects are explained through scientific theories such as the Big Bang, a theory stating that our universe began as an extremely dense mass of matter that eventually exploded to form clutters of galaxies. As time went on, life began from one source (whose origins are once again explained through many different theories) branched out into different forms creating the life we see today on our planet. According to these theories, genetic material that supposedly makes up every living thing is still evolving.

Evolution is uses scientific approach in justifying our creation. Scientists gather facts and physical evidence and concoct various theories. However, theories are not facts—they can merely exist to be disproved by further observation. Creationism has only one definite answer to our questions of life: life does not evolve but God created us as what we see ourselves today. Our DNA does not change and there is no natural selection—what you see is what God created from the first days of life. Those who believe in creationism are determined to refute all together the idea of evolution. Organizations, books, websites, and numerous other informational entities reveal the discrepancies of evolution and try to convince others that the plainest and simplest answer to this baffling question is that God created us all and the world we reside in. However, science uses one natural phenomena to justify another and consequently lead to greater understanding of our world from the mere explanation of why boats float to why the universe is moving the way it is; theories are the answers in scientific approach and even then they can be disproved.

These two different views on life have sparked heated disputes between people who have the same goal in mind—trying to find the source of our existence. Not only are people arguing with other people, individuals fight within themselves to find a comprehensible explanation. Being in a public school, I was first exposed to small sections to the larger theory of evolution. Public elementary schools forced upon us the idea that everything happens for a reason and that in order to find the answers we must do it through careful scientific observation. Up until the end of grammar school, I believed this was true and that Big Bang seemed the most logical approach of all in pursuing an explanation for life existence. However, middle school approached and I suddenly found myself in a Catholic school—one of the only two non-Christians in the seventh grade. The only visible differences to me in being in a Catholic school were the uniforms and the addition of a new class called religion, a class I viewed as just another course to pass. As time went on, I began to realize they were teaching us two conflicting ideas in life. In the physical science class, we discussed the Big Bang and evolution theories. An hour later in another classroom, God was the almighty being who created our world. My scientific mind and religious mind has been in competition since.

On a much larger scale, lawmakers have been trying to pinpoint the best methodology to teach in schools. Should we teach the evolution theory or the “intelligent design theory”? Teachers are not allowed to teach one set of ideas as more true than another set regarding the creation of the world. However, most schools only show one side of the story, the scientific side. Though many are aware and are exposed to creationism, it is not an idea generally discussed deeply in classrooms because it may be called a “religious” teaching. States have consequently been discussing that creationism should be placed on the same level as evolution when teaching children about the story of creation.

There are people who believe that the creationism theories and true science can coexist with each other. Some spend most of their lives trying to disprove one or the other. Explaining life is much like explaining to a court judge who instigated a physical fight. To the judge, neither sides of the story can be complete truths because he was not there to witness the ordeal. However, both stories have the same intention—trying to identify the beginning of the fight. In the situation with the creation of Earth and its contents, our individual selves are the judges. We must determine which seems more credible or more dependable. If knowing there is a greater being watching over you gives you the support you need to live, then be it. If knowing your genes may one day help you survive a great plague, then be it. If you just don’t care, then be it.

Twice Upon a Time
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2001-10-28 22:55:51
Link to this Comment: 540

From the October 26, 2001 Chronicle of Higher Education (read to the end, where Sexton's cannibals appear....)

'Twice Upon a Time: Women Writers and the History of the Fairy Tale'

Once upon a time there was a fairy tale. Ageless, universal, and vaguely handed down by the folk, it comforted us with formula and ended happily ever after.

Wrong, says Elizabeth Wanning Harries. Our common ideas of fairy tales are mistaken, "part of the nostalgia and traditionalizing that have accompanied our construction of our own modernity."

The tales we know now have always been deeply affected by the practices of writing, argues the scholar, who teaches English and comparative literature at Smith College. They may have roots in oral culture, but their history is primarily one of print, the legacy of highly educated people.

"We need to reread the history of fairy tales, and to watch ourselves rereading it," she says.

Her own rereading in Twice Upon a Time: Women Writers and the History of the Fairy Tale (Princeton University Press) explores an oft-neglected realm of the fairy-tale world: the conteuses, or female storytellers, of 1690s France.

They were the contrary contemporaries of Charles Perrault of Mother Goose fame. Perrault, who influenced the Brothers Grimm, framed his collected tales in folkloric terms. His books' frontispieces showed an older woman, perhaps a kindly nurse or grandmother, spinning both wool and stories. In a compliment damning of old ladies, the abbé de Villiers praised Perrault:
"One must be clever to imitate their ignorant simplicity well."

The conteuses were different. They presented themselves as sophisticated writers, not artists of nostalgia, says Ms. Harries. The glitter and artificiality of their stories work against the association of fairy tales with the folk, she argues.

On their frontispieces, they portrayed themselves as sibyls, Greek goddesses, aristocratic storytellers, often shown in the act of
writing. Their tales blossomed from the "competitive, scintillating dialogues" of salon culture. And in critiques of marriage, the
conteuses' characters did not always live happily ever after. Consider the princess in Catherine Bernard's "Riquet à la houppe," who finds herself saddled with two identical, repulsive husbands and no one to talk to.

Ms. Harries's own scholarly tale closes with modern female writers who have retold stories for their own artistic ends.

Anne Sexton's "Hansel and Gretel," for example, reveals the "barely repressed murderous impulses in the heart of the nuclear family," every member a potential cannibal. "Sexton frames all her tales with the sardonic, vulgar voice of the storytelling witch, the witch who speaks American slang and knows all the brand names..."

Name: Louise
Date: 2001-11-02 16:48:46
Link to this Comment: 548

Students should be given the freedom of choice whether or not to post their essays on the Internet class forum. I believe writing is intimate, and the thoughts and ideas that we place on paper are our own and should be treated with kindness and consideration of the writer’s position. The policy of posting on the class forum places the student in a vulnerable position. This position is demonstrated when they are asked to produce essays or analysis that are delicate, revealing and personal and are then instructed to post them on the Internet. I believe this creates a breach of trust a crucial ingredient in building confidence.
Before technology was in place, and used in classroom forums for collaboration, the instructor was the person that read personal ideas and helped the student work through the difficult process of organizing it into logical order. The student chose the eyes that read her private words. This interpersonal relationship was built on trust, and security and created an atmosphere of increased writing creativity. A WRITING TEACHER Is LIKE a Psychoanalyst, Only Less Well Paid, Jay Parini declares in a recent essay in Freud in the Writing Center
The use of the mandatory posting on the class forum corrupts that trust between teacher and student because it drapes a veil of mistrust over the writing process. It blocks the student’s freedom needed to write creatively without fear of academic nakedness. As in psychoanalysis, the quality of the interpersonal relationship between therapist and client, teacher and student, determines how successful the interaction, as a whole will be. Truax and Carkhuff, in Toward Effective Counseling and Psychotherapy, would contend, however, that fundamental and profound similarities exist amongst all the intervention processes, from therapy, to education, to the managerial interactions of employer and employee. They state “the person (whether a counselor, therapist or teacher) who is better able to communicate warmth, genuineness, and accurate empathy is more effective in interpersonal relationships no matter what the goal of the interaction” (116-17) Freud in the Writing Center
Nakedness, and vulnerability are not the feelings that a student wants to feel after writing their first essay for a college course. Yes, growth can be very uncomfortable, but compulsory rules of exposing a student’s writing too soon on the college forum stunt that growth. It can block creativity because it creates stress and concern about rules of grammar instead of focusing on the creative content.
Technology is a wonderful tool to be used in the classroom and for posting information for collaboration, but I believe it should be used carefully, according to the ethics of posting academic information and with extreme consideration to the student’s venerable position as a new writer in the college forum.
Ceremony, the novel by Leslie who says, “That was the responsibility that went with being human… the story behind each word must be told so that there could be no mistake in the meaning of what had been said” (35) we share the powers of language to express emotions, to inspire creative thought, and to change perceptions of the self and others. We share the power of language to transform thought and being. Freud in the Writing Center

Parini, Jay. “A Writing Teacher is Like a Psychoanalyst, Only Less Well Paid.” The Chronicle of Higher Education 2 Nov. 1988. B2.

Please post your reactions to Morrison's novel
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2001-11-06 21:56:02
Link to this Comment: 569

To all students in the Storytelling cluster--
It's been a while since we've seen most of you in this course forum space. Welcome back. As you know, we've reordered the reading for the fourth section of this course, and will be discussing Toni Morrison's novel Beloved during the weeks of 11/12 and 11/19. So--by 9 a.m. on Thursday 11/15 (this posting deadline is for the McBrides; it may vary in the other sections) please post your 1-2 pp. response to (one or more of) these queries:
What are your initial reactions to Morrison's novel?
Within the context of this class: what do you find most interesting &
most problematic about the story she tells, and how she tells it?
What is the experience of reading the novel like for you?
Can you begin to speculate about the ways in which the tacit knowledge you bring to the novel, and w/ which you read it, might actually be re-arranged in & by your experience of reading it?

tacit knowledge
Name: Diana
Date: 2001-11-07 12:21:40
Link to this Comment: 571

Diana Lowell

While typing an e-mail to a friend, I stumbled over the word hair. I mistyped it at first, and then while trying to correct it, the entire word lost its meaning. In fact, I deleted the entire sentence and chose another topic. Now that I come back to the word, I can see that it is correct. Tacit knowledge is the inner knowledge that is more like a feeling than words, which guides motor skills, recognition, and language.
Gymnasts often speak of a sixth sense that allows them to go through a routine simply by feel and not thought. However, that feeling could better be called motor memory because it comes from memorizing the moves so well that they come without focus. Tacit knowledge is knowing that the move is right or wrong without needing to perform it. To use an example, after memorizing a song a pianist can play it on a muted keyboard and know where the mistake was, without hearing it or looking at the keys. It isn’t because her fingers landed in the incorrect place or because she forgot a section, it is because her tacit knowledge told her that one finger was off, be it even by a millimeter, and the “feeling” of the song was not the same as usual. However, if one was to ask her what she did wrong, she would not be able to explain in words such as, “My third finger missed the flat.” She would instead say that there was something simply wrong with it. Tacit knowledge could also lead her to finish the song correctly and, though she did not hear a note, know that it was a flawless performance, not only technically, but also artistically. The tacit knowledge about the song came from practice and memorization, but it is also much more than that because it has been internalized and transformed into an inner guide. Other motor skills, such as walking, are programmed into each living thing. Therefore, though a child needs to practice walking, they are not taking a skill and making it their own, they are discovering the knowledge which is within them. This can be easily described with birds. Four birds are born on one day and two are taken from the mother. When the two remaining birds gain strength the mother begins to train them how to fly, while the other two birds are not taught anything. On the day that the two “trained” birds first fly the other two “untrained” birds are released. All four are equally capable of flying. Therefore, the skill of flying does not need to be taught, the small birds are at first incapable only because they are too small and weak. Tacit knowledge is taking an outside (distal) skill and programming it until it is as innate as walking.
Recognizing faces is another form of tacit knowledge. While walking down the street, one can see friends, family, and aquantances and be able to recognize and distinguish between even those who have similiar features, such as sisters. However, imagine a situation when a person is unable to meet a sister and sends a friend in his place. This friend must know how to recognize the sister, therefore the brother describes her as being “tall, thin, with short black hair and dark green eyes.” If the friend is lucky, the sister will be on a plane filled with short blondes. This simple description is, in reality, quite useless. Without tacit knowledge, police lineups would not work. Take a group of fat, bald, dark skinned construction workers and ask a victim to pick out the exact man who stole her purse. Tacit knowledge allows the woman to point at a man who was the perpetrator. Though she could not find enough words to say why she knew that he was the man, her tacit knowledge told her. She had tacit knowledge of him because he was not just another face on the street, he was the robber! Again, tacit knowledge is the internalizing of a learned fact. No matter how many words the brother may use to describe how her sister looks, until the friend actually see the sister, he would not be able to pick her out from a crowd of similiar faces. Once he met her, though, and the knowledge began to pertain to him, he would be able to find her again by use of his tacit knowledge.
Just as each face has many characteristics that are internalized in different ways, so language is tacit knowledge with nuances and personal meanings. For example, lock a child in a blue room every time she misbehaves. That child will associate blue with punishment, pain, lonliness, and anxiety. Take another child and reward him with a blue ball every time he behaves well. That child will see blue as satisfaction, joy, freedom, and love. Each child has a different view of the word blue because they have had different experiences with the color. Blue is neither pain nor love, but to those children, it is. Another way that language is tacit is how each person constructs sentences and chooses words. The word “toilet” and “john” both mean the same thing, yet it is unlikely that a buisness woman would announce a trip to the john. Though one could say that she chose a formal word over slang, in the dictionary there is no real difference between the words. Tacit knowledge says that you know which word to use in which situation, though there isn’t a lengthy explanation as to why. Children often misuse words because they have yet to learn the complex meanings behind them. However, when they hear the word used and the situations it is used in, it becomes tacit knowledge to them.
To summarize, tacit knowledge is taking facts and internalizing them until they take on personal meaning. It is also knowing more than words can say. Explaining to a blind man what the color red looks like is as impossible as saying why your two blonde haired, 5’7”, blue eyed, thin friends look completely different. However, a blind man can learn where things are located and get to a point where he can avoid tables without touching them or seeing them. Avoiding tables, recognizing faces, and playing the piano flawlessly are all aspects of the broad topic known as tacit knowledge.

The Tacit Dimension
Name: Eveline A.
Date: 2001-11-08 09:31:54
Link to this Comment: 581

Eveline A. Stang
College Seminar 01
November 8, 2001

Paper #3: The Tacit Dimension

In his lecture “The Tacit Dimension” Michael Polanyi explores the idea that “we can know more than we can tell.” In order to explore the concept of knowledge that is understood or implied without being stated, I undertook three experiments accessed from the Serendipity “Brain and Behavior” website.

The first experiment called “Time to Think” measures simple reaction time to a visual stimulus, as well as reaction time in several situations where more “thinking” is required ( At the outset, this experiment seemed to be straightforward enough. Basic response time was observed and it seemed obvious that the more complex the stimulus, the more time it took to respond.

Some of the tacit aspects of this experiment are of course to a certain extent physiological: the body automatically “knows” how to press the button in response to the instructions. However, we are not conscious as to the mechanics, that is, how the body does this, not are we able to articulate this process unless perhaps we study neurobiology. Silently, and most efficiently, the brain is able to make decisions that are subsequently translated into actions.

I observed that fluctuations in response time could be caused by a variety of factors including newness of the task, fatigue, lack of concentration (mind wandering), anxiety or annoyance because of making a mistake, and premature responses due to competitiveness (with myself!). All of these elements constitute a tacit level of the experiment, as does the inner dialogue that may be taking place while we are thus engaged – “You are too slow. How could you be so stupid? I wonder how I rate compared to other people …” Whereas negative messages to the self had the effect of causing mistakes or a ‘slowing down’, positive messages resulted in greater efficacy and success. In short, the experiment revealed that attitude seems to have an effect on reaction time.

The second experiment called “Seeing More Than Your Eye Does” demonstrates that the brain “adds very substantially to the report it gets from [our] eye, so that a lot of what [we] see is actually “made up” by the brain” (quoted from the website). It is remarkable that the brain has the ability to fill in the blind spot or “space” with the particular color or pattern of the background even when that background color or pattern changes. This experiment seemed to unveil another tacit component in that not only are we not conscious of certain physiological processes such as demonstrated in “Seeing More Than Your Eye Does”, but we have no control over these processes. It seems that on some level, ultimately we must accept that we are not in full control. Thus part of our tacit knowledge appears to consist of a certain degree of faith, even to the extent of taking for granted, certain aspects of ourselves. This leads one to ask an age-old question which has been voiced in the realms of philosophy and metaphysics. If we are not fully aware of or in control of our functions, then are we really the doers of those actions? And, if we are not the doers, then who or what is?

The third experiment brought me to a further area of exploration. “The Three Doors of Serendip” ( not only tests “hands on” understanding in terms of intuitive, unconscious understanding, “experimental” understanding in terms of what is conscious and observational, it also challenges “rational” understanding which is conscious, analytical, and logical. The player is invited to take part in a contest where choosing the right door will earn him $5. The choice in choosing one of the three doors lies is whether to stay with the door you originally chose or switch the choice to the remaining, as yet unopened door. After multiple attempts at playing, I began to experience not the satisfying experience of “Oh, I get it” or “Hmmm, there is something interesting here”, but frustration – even anger. This was no longer an experiment to measure the effects of stimuli in the cool light of reason. This was war! Playing “The Three Doors” did have the result, however, of bringing out a certain determination to “get it.” Finally, it became clearer that the act of switching doors was “better” than staying at the same door. In the final analysis, the experience was unsatisfying because although there was a vague recognition of the benefits of switching, it was still not clear to me when switching should occur. In other words, the element of predictability or logic in the game was not fulfilled for this player. But, it’s only a game, right? Is the objective to play or to win?

It is interesting how a game, which at first glance seems innocuous enough, can elicit such a strong reaction from a player. More that the first two experiments, perhaps, this game was armed with the implicit and tacit concepts of winning or losing. Winning and losing imply values or judgments that involve the individual. On further analysis, I realized that perhaps this is why I don’t really like games and have never been any good at them. Perhaps this is because to be successful a certain amount of flexibility and a certain amount of playfulness is required, as well. The enthusiastic player doesn’t mind playing by someone else’s or something else’s ground rules. The unsuccessful player may resent the boundaries that are set by the game, and even prefer to set his own boundaries! As a result of feeling restricted, the reluctant player’s ego seems to become resistant and defensive losing its sense of willingness to experiment and play.

In conclusion, it appears that the underlying attitudes and tacit pre-conceptions one brings to life affect our ability to engage in the world. “The Three Doors” game serves as an example that knowledge (about ourselves) can remain tacit unless we make the effort to examine it. If we wish to change our performance in the world, i.e. if we wish to interact rather than react in terms of situations and the people around us, it is vital that we try to cognize the hidden aspects of ourselves and articulate them (if useful and appropriate).

Drawing Experiment
Name: Lisa Harri
Date: 2001-11-08 20:55:45
Link to this Comment: 582

Tacit Knowledge
Drawing Experiment

Within all of us lies the ability to draw; and while the talent may be dormant, it can be awakened. We need not be taught step-by-step how to put lines on a page to complete a picture, but rather we need to be introduced to another way of “seeing” via a deeper level of concentration, in order to access our tacit artistic competence.

The ability to draw is not a magical gift. In fact, many people might be surprised – if not disappointed – by the beautiful simplicity in achieving access to their individual artistic aptitude. Drawing takes work, but a person with seemingly no drawing skills can achieve success rather quickly. To my way of thinking, the desire to learn how to draw is all that is necessary, because as long as you have the desire, you can be taught how to view the world as an artist does and the natural ability will follow.

My plan for this experiment was to introduce non-artists to this deep level of concentration, in which they would begin to draw what they “see,” and not what they “know.” Artists often speak of “seeing,” and by this they mean they are focusing their attention to all the lines, shadows and value changes of their subject matter. This level of concentration is different from that which people usually use to view the world.

Tuesday, October 30, 2001

Two of my three subjects told me they “couldn’t draw at all,” and were convinced that they just didn’t know how. I explained to them that once they reached a certain state of consciousness, the analytical part of the brain would quiet. In this state of mind, they would be free to draw what they saw, without the “voice in their head” telling them otherwise.
My third subject is an artist, and as such, she continually endeavors to improve her “seeing” and so she too was eager to participate.
To start, I gave each person in the group a special soft-leaded pencil and some sketching paper. I talked about the struggle many beginning artists have in trying to translate so much information from the three-dimensional world onto the two-dimensional paper. One way beginning artists simplify images is by squinting their eyes. Another method involves using a viewfinder (a one-inch rectangular opening cut out of paper), which the artist looks through with one eye. This viewfinder helps contain the image(s) in a smaller field of vision, allowing the artist to compose her drawing.

Exercise #1.

The first instruction was to “Draw a hand.” In less than a minute, my three subjects each produced a rendering of a hand. I explained to them that part of their brain “knew” what a hand was, and so with that knowledge they had quickly fashioned an image with 5 digits, representing a hand.

Subject R did not look at her hand while drawing. Subject M thought about it, questioned me about it, but in the end proceeded to draw the hand that she “knew” from her memory without looking at her own hand for reference. Subject Z (the artist) did not look at her hand for reference, but relied on her memory, as well. (Note: Subject Z’s memory includes her prior drawing experiences.)

Exercise #2.

I asked each of my three subjects to draw her own hand, without looking at her paper. My intent was to get them to start focusing on what they saw (the subject and all its lines, value changes and shapes), not what they were putting on paper. This exercise is known as “blind contour drawing,” and is often used by artists as a type of warm up exercise. Initially, the idea of drawing and not looking at their paper was met with some trepidation, but all three subjects complied. While I did not time them, this exercise took considerably longer than the first, as their concentration deepened.

We all know a hand usually has four fingers and a thumb – and all of the first drawings by the three subjects clearly showed all five digits. Yet if you were to hold your hand in a fist – no obvious fingers in view – it still looks like a hand and of course, it still is a hand. In our memories, however, we tend to hold a simplistic image of a hand.

During Exercise #2, Subject R included five digits in her drawing, as that was how she modeled her hand. Subject M included her wrist in the drawing and then drew one shape that represented four fingers, and another shape that represented the thumb, so that her final exercise looked something like a mitten. Subject Z drew her hand showing all five digits, but with the palm facing upwards, fingers curled.

I pointed out to each person how the lines in their second drawings were more authentic than those in their first attempts. By having altered their concentration, they were already beginning to draw what they saw, not what they knew.

The final experiment for the day was to draw a picture of a famous person –using a photograph in a book. I knew that the more analytical part of their consciousness would recognize the image, and that there was bound to be resistance on the part of the subjects in tackling this type of a drawing. To subvert this judgmental sensitivity, I turned the image upside-down for Experiment #3. Then I drew a smaller rectangular shape on their papers so that the white space or size of their paper did not overwhelm the subjects. Within this smaller rectangle, they drew the image of former President John F. Kennedy.

For two of the subjects, this was their first attempt at drawing/seeing all the lines, shapes and value changes that make up the image. Subjects M and R met with success in completing the drawing and accessing a deeper state of concentration.

Subject Z had in fact earned a living through portrait work, and so while inverting the photograph was a new exercise for her, she had no difficulty in accomplishing the task, and she also met with success.

Afterwards, I asked the subjects what they were thinking while drawing, and asked them to explain any difficulty or frustration they might have experienced. Subject R stated that when she reached one area of the image, she immediately recognized it as the nose and started mentally labeling it as such. For a moment, she even stopped drawing, telling herself “Oh, it’s a nose, I can’t draw that. It’s too hard.” Subject M also stopped at the nose, because even though inverted, it was identifiable, and so for a moment she too stopped seeing the lines, values and shapes. Subject Z never paused, but stayed focused on the image.
Periodically during Exercise #3, I referred to areas within the image, literally pointing out the relationship of one line, shape or value to another. Subject M stated that when she found herself struggling while drawing the nose, she squinted and forced herself to see it as a line or shape, and was thus able to continue.

When the subjects turned their drawings right side up, they were impressed with their creations. They did not think they were going to be able to do it. Subject R commented that all the while she was drawing the picture of President Kennedy, she was thinking it was not going to come out as anything but blobs, and so she was pleasantly surprised with her results. In fact, Subject R expressed a desire to try this experiment at home using other images.

Total time for all drawings/discussion: 30 minutes (12:30 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.)

Thursday, November 1, 2001

Subjects R and Z were absent.
Subject M was present.
New Subjects were: Subject D, Subject MM and Subject Matt

It is important to note that the three newcomers never expressed to me that they could not draw.

I met with Subject M and three of her friends at 12:15 p.m.

I handed everyone a drawing pencil and a piece of sketching paper. I asked the three newcomers to draw a hand.

Meanwhile, Subject M began by practicing blind contour drawing (not looking at her paper).

Subject D and MM are students on campus. Subject MM is an artist. Subject Matt is a professional musician.

I found it interesting that when I instructed this group to “Draw a hand,” each of them immediately looked to their own hand for reference.
Subjects D and MM are foreign students, and I mention this because I wondered if there was a cultural difference in how people responded to my asking them to draw a hand. (Perhaps I’ll save that question for another experiment.)

Subject M was ready to begin her second drawing of President Kennedy. Again, I inverted the photograph.

Subject Matt wanted to participate in this exercise of drawing Kennedy, as well.

Subjects D and MM continued to work on their hand drawings.

We were in a busy, noisy public cafeteria, yet all the while these four students were drawing, they became astonishingly silent. So deep was their focus, they were not at all distracted by their surroundings.
I flipped the Kennedy image for Subject M, and for the first time she worked on her drawing right side up. A few minutes later, I inverted the photograph again, and told her to finish her drawing by working on the “darks,” which she did with great success.

Subject M was most surprised and pleased by her final experiment, saying, “I drew Kennedy.”

Subject Matt was surprised with the results of his final renderings of his hand and Kennedy, as he’d never before attempted drawing.

Every Subject in this experiment produced excellent examples of drawing what they “saw.”

If I had more time for further experiments, I would have the Subjects in my study begin drawing images or landscapes of their own choosing – drawing them right side up.
I believe this initial experiment illustrated how we can alter our tacit knowledge.
Subjects M and R initially believed they could not draw, but after only a few short exercises, they began to realize that the ability to draw existed within them.


Name: Lisa
Date: 2001-11-09 11:09:28
Link to this Comment: 585

(We used to have poetry slams weekly here in New Hope, PA, but the couple who "ran the show" moved to Yugoslavia. Could I make this stuff up?)

In answer to the question regarding Poetry Slams...

In 1985 a construction worker and poet named Marc Smith started a poetry reading series at a Chicago jazz club, the Get Me High Lounge, looking for a way to breathe life into the open mike poetry format. The series' emphasis on performance lays the groundwork for the poetry which would eventually be exhibited in slam. In 1986 Smith approached Dave Jemilo, the owner of the Green Mill (a Chicago jazz club and former haunt of Al Capone), with a plan to host a weekly poetry competition on the club's slow Sunday nights. Jemilo welcomed him, and on July 25, the Uptown Poetry Slam was born. Smith drew on baseball and bridge terminology for the name, and instituted the basic features of the competition, including judges chosen from the audience and cash prizes for the winners. The Green Mill evolved into a Mecca for performance poets, and the Uptown Poetry Slam still continues nearly 15 years after its inception.

Simply put, poetry slam is the competitive art of performance poetry. Established in the mid-80s as a means to heighten public interest in poetry readings, slam has evolved into an international art form emphasizing audience involvement and poetic excellence.
In the majority of slam series, organizers stage weekly or monthly events in a public space, such as a bar or cafe. Poets wishing to compete sign up with a host, and the host finds five audience members who wish to serve as judges. Poets must follow a series of rules: the poems must be of each poet's own construction, the poet may not use props, costumes, or musical instruments, and if the poet goes over the time limit (three minutes plus a 10-second grace period), points are deducted from his or her score. Judges, who are encouraged to factor both content and performance into their evaluations, judge each poet on a 0.0 to 10.0 scale. The high score and low score are dropped, and the middle three scores become the score for that particular poet. To insure that the entire audience is involved, the host encourages the audience to respond to the poet in any way they see fit, be it impassioned cheering or lusty booing. The judges, in turn, are encouraged to remain consistent with themselves and not let the audience influence them.

In a typical competition, all poets read one poem in the first round. Based on the scores they receive, the top-scoring poets go on to the second round, and from that pool, a smaller number of the highest-scoring poets in the second round go on to the third and final round. While the specifics vary from slam to slam, certified slams adhere to this basic structure, insuring that poets must seek to make immediate connections with the audience in order to continue on. Cash prizes or other prizes are offered to the winner as further impetus for performing well. In most cities, the slam series culminates with a final slam at the end of the season to determine which poets will represent the city at the National Poetry Slam.

By adhering to a structure that factors in the audience at such a basic and integral level, slams have emerged as the most vital and best-attended of many cities' regular poetry events. Whereas many open mike events tend to serve either the poets who participate or a particular target community, slam's emphasis on addressing the audience has garnered slam a more inclusive, more diverse audience than the typical poetry reading. By marrying poetry with competition, slam has allowed non-traditional audiences a tangible and intriguing avenue for experiencing poetry in a live prime-time setting.

source: (of course!)

Initial Reaction to Beloved
Name: Stacy
Date: 2001-11-12 19:48:53
Link to this Comment: 588

“It was not a story to pass on,” claims Toni Morrison in the final chapter of Beloved. “This is not a story to pass on” (260). Why not? Does the tale not merit perpetuation? Is it not a worthy narrative? According to Bruno Bettelheim, “for a story to enrich [the reader’s] life it must stimulate his imagination, help him to develop his intellect and to clarify his emotions, be attuned to his anxieties and his aspirations, give full recognition to his difficulties, suggest solutions to the problems that perturb him, and promote confidence in himself and his future” (1). Applying this definition of an effective narrative, Beloved is more than successful; it is exemplary. In terms of imagination, Morrison leaves much to the reader’s speculation, especially the details surrounding Beloved: Whence does she originate and to where does she disappear? How does Paul D’s presence stimulate the former and Sethe’s attempt on Edward Bodwin’s life the latter? What are all the images that invade Beloved’s thoughts – the men without skin, the dead man, the laughter, the water, the faces, the hot thing? The questions, the avenues for imagination to run rampant, abound. In the realm of intellect, the novel also provides ample stimulation. The reader may ponder Morrison’s assertion that “Freeing yourself was one thing; claiming ownership of that freed self was another” (88) or her seeming paradox in “The box had done what Sweet Home had not, what working like a dog and living like an ass had not: drove him [Paul D] crazy so he would not lose his mind” (39), grappling with such ideas, manipulating them such that they make sense in light of the story and in light of the reader’s own experience. The opportunities for emotional clarification and association, too, are not lacking. The reader may empathize with Sethe in her intense love for her children on the one hand and her tenacious refusal to return to slavery on the other; or with Paul D in his decision not to love things too large, too much; or with Denver in her relentless desire to hold her mother’s complete attention, and then her sister’s, in her fierce conviction that her father with eventually return for her – each character provides a path down which the reader can direct her emotions, can become more responsive to her own suppressed “anxieties,” “aspirations,” “difficulties.” And in the final capacity – that of promoting confidence in the reader and in the future – the narrative has its virtues: despite the inconceivable pain of a mother’s “thick love” for her children, of a world so cruel that it would drive a human being to such ends, of a society so deranged that it maims and murders in the name of the law, despite all the suffering, there is hope – hope that Sethe will surrender her grasp on Beloved, that Paul D will finally settle down, that Denver, permanently wrenched from her childish fantasies and preoccupations, will find her place in the world.
Yet even without any formal definition of an effective story, the reader understands, albeit tacitly, that Beloved masters the art of narrative beautifully. Morrison weaves into and out of the present, the past, individual streams of consciousness, side stories and recollections, memories and “rememories,” without losing the thread, the common story that unites them all into a cohesive, meaningful whole. In the same way that Denver saw and felt the stories that she told Beloved, in the same way that she “anticipated the questions by giving blood to the scraps her mother and grandmother had told her – and a heartbeat” so that “the monologue became, in fact, a duet as they lay down together, Denver nursing Beloved’s interest like a lover whose pleasure was to overfeed the loved” (73), Morrison involves the reader so that the emotions, the struggles, the fears and the suffering of the characters are not distant but imminently significant.
Why, then, does Morrison declare that “this is not a story to pass on” (260)? She has chosen to tell it, to pass it on, has she not? The answer seems to lie in the fact that it is an undesirable re-telling, “like an unpleasant dream during a troubling sleep,” a “remembering [that] seemed unwise” (260). As a painful, troubling tale, the author realizes that it is best forgotten, that it is natural for the participants to want to bury it, to neglect to pass along its horrors. Nevertheless, in the same way that Sethe realizes that "her story was bearable because it was his [Paul D's] as well - to tell, to refine and tell again" (92), so, too, Morrison realizes that hers is a story of a whole race of people, made endurable only in the re-telling and redefining that render it manageable, conquerable.

Toni Morrison
Name: emily pric
Date: 2001-11-13 19:28:02
Link to this Comment: 590

Toni Morrison's novel Beloved appears to be, thus far, a product of the main character's jumbled memories. Sethe, throughout the novel, is redefining her memories of the past through recollection. I found two quotes, one spoken by Amy Denver, and one by Sethe herself that help to define the reasoning behind the book's structure. Through these quotes, it becomes apparent that for Sethe, memories never die, but they hurt when they reappear. The novel can therefore be seen as an attempt to keep and restore old memories, so they no longer have the power to hurt her.
Throughout the novel, Morrison jumps from one time frame to the next in an attempt to recreate Sethe's confused memories. The lack of clear transitions between different memories creates a sense of timelessness, as though Morrison is attempting to define each memory as important in its own right. Each memory is able to stand on its own, without relying on chronological order to uphold it. By recreating the story through a person's memory, Morrison is given the ability to illustrate each separate memory, rather than define each memory in terms of sequential order.
The lack of time helps to further illustrate the idea that memories never truly die; they are simply forgotten for unknown periods of time. Morrison quotes, "Denver picked at her fingernails. 'If it's still there, waiting, that must mean that nothing ever dies.' Sethe looked right in Denver's face. 'Nothing ever does,' she said. " (35). According to Sethe, if nothing dies, then neither do memories. Memories may be stored away and forgotten, but they never die.
The order in which different remembrances are written about in Beloved reflects the immortality of memory. Each story that is written about leads Sethe to remember another. The progression from one memory to another is not chronological, and therefore confusing to the reader. However, there is obviously a connection for Sethe that leads her to move from one story to the next. In this way, memories never die, but can be forgotten until another story triggers a person's memory of them.
In the previous quote, Sethe has established for herself that memories never die. Why, then, is she reliving her past through her memories? Morrison states, " Then she did the magic: lifted Sethe's feet and massaged them until she cried salt tears. 'It's gonna hurt, now,' said Amy. 'Anything dead coming back to life hurts.' " (33). If Sethe continues to keep her memories alive, they will never come so close to death that bringing them back will cause her pain. The novel itself is a chance for Sethe to recollect her memories, and redefine them so she is able to keep them in tact, without them causing her any pain. By disregarding and forgetting her memories, she is in a sense, letting them die. As Amy says, anything dead coming back to life is going to hurt more than if it had been kept alive. In this sense, Sethe, through the novel Beloved, is attempting to keep alive her memories, so they will be unable to hurt her anymore.

First Impressions of Toni Morrison's Beloved
Name: Laura Bang
Date: 2001-11-13 21:20:28
Link to this Comment: 591

Beloved was spiteful. Full of an author’s venom. Okay, maybe not venom, but the novel is full of some dark presence. My first impression of this book was that I hated it. I am almost halfway through, and I think I have now grown to mere dislike (as opposed to hate) of the novel. There are several reasons for these sentiments of mine towards the novel.
The first thing that bothered me was Morrison’s style of writing. There are secrets whispering out of reach in every sentence and it is annoying (to say the least) to a reader to have to try and decipher every single sentence that falls beneath their eyes. As a writer, I do understand the value of keeping secrets in a novel to keep the reader interested, but Morrison uses this method to the extreme. A reader should not be forced to wonder at the meaning of every word in every sentence on every page. That is too much to ask. A reader has the right to understand at least one thread of the main plot without having to question it.
Another problem, which is related to the style, is Morrison’s tone. The tone of the novel is altogether dark and confusing. The plot is broken into fragments that the reader has to try to fit together, and this is very confusing and frustrating at times. On top of that, the fragments are all more or less the same dark color of the haunted past, which makes them like those especially aggravating pieces of a puzzle that are all nearly the same color. Morrison jumps between the present and memories of the past so often that the transitions are not always clear and it is often hard to determine at what time an event is occurring.
The three main characters (leaving Beloved aside for a moment) are intriguing, but they are so diverse in their similarities that it presents another difficulty for the reader. That is, they are all dealing with the same basic problem: trying to cope with their pasts while also trying to build a future that they can depend on. Yet while they are all dealing with the same problem, they are dealing with it in different ways and for different reasons. Denver’s reason for trying to cope with the past while trying to find someone she can love and depend on in the future is obviously different from Paul D’s and Sethe’s reasons because Denver was never a slave. Add to these three characters the wild card of Beloved’s character and that is quite another mess the reader has to deal with.
My hate of the novel turned to mere dislike when Beloved appeared. The reason for this is that Beloved’s character intrigues me. The idea of the ghost being given a human body again has great potential. However, there are just too many other things that are distracting me from the appreciation of this idea. The novel is too cluttered for me to enjoy it much. Cluttered with plot fragments, character conflicts, character fragments, a dark tone, and a confusing style, Morrison’s story is almost entirely lost on me. Well, that’s not exactly true. I understand the story well enough, but I have to work too hard to reach that understanding for me to be able to just enjoy it.
One last problem I had was where the story began. It didn’t begin at the beginning, the middle, or the end of the story. Rather, it began somewhere in between the middle and the end (from what I can gather, that is). I cannot say particularly what the problem is with this, as I have read other books that didn’t start at a usual place and not had any problems with them. My best guess is that the odd starting place of the novel only adds more to the confusion, especially with all the time shifting Morrison does as she uses flashbacks.
Thus far in the novel, I am intrigued by the idea of the plot, but I lose that intrigue in all the confusion that I have to sort out. There are just too many things the reader has to figure out or wonder about or remember to be figured out later on. I must confess that this is a book I would not finish if I were reading it on my own instead of for a class because, as my 11th grade English teacher said, “Life’s too short for bad books.” Not to say that this is a bad book, it’s just more trouble than it’s worth, at least for me.

76 pages of Beloved
Name: Sarah Frie
Date: 2001-11-13 21:26:44
Link to this Comment: 592

Toni Morrison’s Beloved is filled with memories. The first time that I read Beloved, I struggled to put the memories into a chronological order, enabling me to read a linear plot. The second reading filled the holes in the plot left from the first reading. This time, as I began my third reading of Beloved, the memories that Morrison shares with me through her characters take on a new shape and purpose. Rather than lying on a time-line, separated by dates and people involved, I see them as a continuous misty cloud. Memories are no longer merely a literary device used to inform the reader of the past. Rather, they show how the past constantly invades the present and becomes an integral part of it. More specifically, Sethe, the main character, lives a life in which her past is as much of the present as any “current” action is.
Sethe believes that some things in ones past never stop existing. Many events certainly live on in Sethe’s mind as real to her as when they first happened. She does not regard them as memories, but as continuations of the past that never goes away. These events live in her thoughts and feed off of the attention that she gives them. Sethe does not live in the past, but she does allow the past to live in the present. Her perception of the past influences how she thinks. It affects her relationship with her daughters. Finally Sethe’s memories yearn to grow.
One example of how Sethe thinks through her memories becomes apparent shortly after she ran away from Sweet Home, where she was owned as a slave for many years. She was six-months pregnant, with breast milk spilled all the front of her dress. When she believed that she could go no further, she lay down in a wild onion patch. Her feet were raw and dead. Her back hurt as it healed from being opened up by her master shortly before she escaped. On top of all that, she had an “antelope” inside of her kicking her swollen insides. Or at least she thought of the baby as an antelope. Upon reflection she wondered why to her the baby was an antelope. Her only knowledge of an antelope was a dance by that that name, performed by her mother and the other grown slaves. Sethe was very young, but remembered watching the adults from afar. This was also one of the only memories that she had of her own mother.
Sethe sees her fetal offspring as a version of her own mother’s image, leaping, twirling, and kicking. In her tortured state, an image from Sethe’s past takes on a new form; the form of a baby girl in Sethe’s womb. This is one example of how the past repositions itself in Sethe’s mind to become the present. When the antelope kicks, it is not a past memory of adults dancing like wild strong-legged animals kicking. It is a real baby that Sethe conceptualizes by transforming a memory. In this case, the memory comes alive to influence how Sethe sees her body and the body within.
A second example of how the past is a living part of Sethe involves her own memory being changed. Sethe did not know that her husband, Halle, saw her being attacked by schoolteacher, her owner at Sweet Home. She had planned on running away with Halle and her four children. But Halle never showed up, and she went on. When she and Paul D, one of her friends from Sweet Home, reunite 18 years after she left the plantation, he tells her that Halle had hid in the barn where she was attacked, and that he saw schoolteacher’s son take her milk. Also, Paul D. tells Sethe that after she left Sweet Home, he saw that Halle had gone crazy. He knelt in the dirt smearing butter over his face. Part of Sethe tells herself that she should not incorporate this new knowledge to the story that she had told herself for 18 years. But her mind is “greedy” for this addition, and refuses to let her leave it alone.
Sethe’s memory is so dynamic that it has the ability and yearning to change to keep currant with what the rest of her knows. Rather than existing as a single, suspended event from the past, Sethe’s entire memory blends many images, and the picture is not complete until she has included ever image. It is difficult for Sethe to imagine her husband’s spirit breaking after seeing his wife savaged. But she relies on her memories to understand and bear her own life, and in order to do this, she must update her memories, even when it is unpleasant for her to do so.
Sethe’s memories are so vividly part of her, that her living daughter, Denver, and her ghost daughter, Beloved, both want her past to be a part of them. Denver loves to hear the story of her birth. She was the “antelope” in Sethe’s belly when Sethe left sweet home. A young white girl found Sethe and soothed her with tales of velvet fabric enough so Sethe lived through the night and was able to give birth the next day in a canoe, then cross the river to safety. Denver asks to hear the story repeatedly. When Beloved takes on her human form and comes to live with Sethe and Denver, the two girls sit and try to imagine every detail of Sethe’s escape. Denver feeds Beloved the facts that she knows so well and Beloved contributes to the retelling with her passionate yearning to know more.
Denver and Beloved cling to Sethe’s story because reliving this memory is a way to get closer to their mother. Those who love Sethe know that the best way to understand her is to understand her memories, and to do this they must make her memories their own. Beloved and Denver’s telling every detail of Sethe’s escape allows them to feel that they have lived through the events that remain so present in their mother’s mind.
As I begin to read Beloved for the third time, I am thinking about the purpose of memories in literature, in people, and in myself. The way that Morrison describes Sethe’s memories seems different from the way that I would describe memories in myself. I think of my memories as images of the past that fade and are replaced as time goes by. But Sethe’s memories seem to operate as scenes, feelings and places that exist forever in Sethe’s mind. They force their way into her conscience and dictate her thoughts. They give others a fuller picture of her. And, eventually, some of these memories must be reshaped to fit the new knowledge that Sethe acquires.

Reality Versus Memory
Name: Flori
Date: 2001-11-13 22:28:41
Link to this Comment: 593

The concept of tacit knowledge can be exemplified in the novel Beloved by Toni Morrison through the constant reference to memory. Memory may fall into the category of what we are only unconsciously aware of. Our minds unconsciously form pictures of our past that we may not always make total sense of. Memory is reality distorted into a perception of the past, highly controlled by our emotions. Our memories are constantly changing by these emotions and by new added information of past occurrences.
In Toni Morrison’s novel Beloved, Sethe, one of the main characters, seems to hold on to only one part of herself, her past, and live in the present. She is unable to focus on the future because there are such strong parts of her past that she has not been able to overcome. She is only still putting all these memories of her past together to try to make sense of her life. When Paul D comes, he only adds more to these memories and upsets her enough that she runs out of the house to try to seek refuge from what Paul D tells her. Her past scares her and stops her from allowing herself to have hope for a better future with him. She longs for Baby Suggs’s wise words to “lay it all down” and turn her focus away from her past by letting go of the memories that haunt her (Morrison, 80).
When she goes to the clearing where Baby Suggs used to hold gatherings, she is touched on her neck by something, gently at first but then violently, and rescued by Beloved who gently massages her neck again and kisses it. She is startled by this kiss but it helps her to unconsciously realize that although she thought the touch was from the hands of Baby Suggs at first, they really belonged to the ghost of her oldest daughter Beloved. This touch makes her long for Paul D’s “trust and rememory” because it sparks something in her that she used to know so well, the touch of a daughter and a caring mother-in-law (Morrison, 92). Now as long as Paul D is there, Sethe can remember the past without losing sight of the possible happiness of the future.
Sethe had always unconsciously treated the strange girl, Beloved, as a daughter, but it was not until Paul D had gone and Beloved hummed the tune that Sethe made up and sang to her babies does Sethe actually and not just unconsciously realize that Beloved is the ghost of her first daughter. Her tacit knowledge became conscious knowledge. Sethe becomes so happy that they are finally together again and does everything she can to make up for what she did to Beloved, losing respect for the happiness she deserves for her own future.
At the end of the novel, she goes out on the porch holding Beloved’s hand when she hears the music the women were singing. She sees Mr. Bodwin coming down the road on his wagon and her tacit knowledge that all white men are evil and coming after her children surfaces. She runs after him with an ice pick. She had been so caught up in her past that she had formed a memory that kept her from the reality of the situation.
Memory as a form of tacit knowledge can be very dangerous. Our memories can be distorted into what we only feel is reality, and the scary thing about tacit knowledge is that we are unaware of it. Sethe suffered from trying to organize the reality from her distorted memory without losing the precious pictures in her head of the good things from her past, such as her husband and her two boys. “It was hard for [her] to believe in [time]” (Morrison, 34). She felt as if her life revolved around what had happened to her in her past and not in the future, but what she remembered of her past was constantly changing with each step into the future, drawing her further and further from reality.

Works Cited
Morrison, Toni. Beloved. New York: Penguin Putnam Inc., 1987.

A Brief Reaction to Beloved
Name: Cathy B.
Date: 2001-11-13 23:28:27
Link to this Comment: 594

          Beloved is a dark and complex novel. It’s tone and themes are quite negative in nature and make the book difficult to appreciate the story’s finer points. Obviously, it has redeeming qualities and probably a great deal of literary value, but it is not enjoyable to read.
          The tone of the novel dark and depressing. The constant focus on the past, and memories leaves the reader with a sense that there is little to look forward to in the future. The constant mixing of past and present produces a mood of confusion and an impression of being helplessly trapped by memories.
          In addition to a dark tone, the themes of the book evoke sadness and a certain hopelessness. The idea of Sethe and Denver living alone in the middle of nowhere for years, hardly ever leaving the house, rejected by the community, is irrepressibly awful. They are scorned by the community, scarred by their past, and inexplicably unable to improve their situation. Sethe insists that they can’t leave the house, knowing that Denver is unhappy there. In short, the lives of the characters are terribly depressing and discouraging.
          The pervading themes and tone of this novel are deeply unhappy, and are apt to distress the reader to the point where they are not willing to commit their emotional energy into reading and trying to understand it. Although I’m sure that the intricacy and beautiful figurative language of Beloved appeal to all it’s readers, it is simply to morose and not compelling enough to be engaging.

beloved response
Name: molly
Date: 2001-11-13 23:56:53
Link to this Comment: 595

In Toni Morison’s novel Beloved, storytelling is the vehicle that bridges the gap between past and present. Paul D., Sethe, and Denver are stunted and unable to realize and incorporate themselves into the present world. The atrocities of slavery have left Paul D. physically and emotionally battered. He is unable to attach himself to anything and has buried the past in the “rusted tobacco tin” of his heart. Seth is affected likewise. She remains outside society unable to think or speak about her life at Sweet Home. Denver, however, is a product of Sethe’s self-imposed ostracized state. Like her mother, Denver exists without a community and without a past (had Baby Sugs lived this might have been different). Because of Sethe’s situation and refusal to impart her own past unto her daughter, Denver is unable to create her own story. The nature of each character’s repression, allows them only to partially live. An unexpressed part of them always remains dead. Without it, they are unable to be whole and alive.
The character Beloved has the power to reinstate the dead part of their beings, however. She is a manifestation of the repressed past and instigates release by forcing confrontation. Her direct questioning sparks Sethe to remember and (more importantly) to tell, things she once was unable to do. Much of the narrative unfolds from these re-ignited memories. Beloved also passively facilitates release. Her presence incites Paul D. and Sethe to rediscover the past together despite the pain that is involved. This is reminiscent of something Amy says to Sethe while massaging her battered feet; “ Anything dead coming back to life hurts.” This release allows both Paul D. and Sethe to form a cohesive narrative of past events (by filling in the gaps of each other’s stories) despite the painful nature of the process.
Denver is affected in a different manner. Throughout the novel we see that Beloved has the power to resurrect, yet Denver is the only one who succeeds in obtaining an active role in the present world. Sethe sinks into madness while Paul D. remains caught in a state of doubt unable to fully incorporate himself. Denver’s escape can be accredited to the fact that she had no past to repress. Her existence was merely dormant. In a way, Beloved excised her of Sethe, thus allowing Denver freedom from her mother’s past. The storytelling in this novel is intrinsic to providing forward motion. The character Beloved encompasses the fluid entity that facilitates the restarting of the clocks through the reincarnation of Denver.

Name: Cari C-B
Date: 2001-11-14 01:12:40
Link to this Comment: 596

Cari Cochrane-Braswell
Prof. Nutting
Nov. 14, 2001

Beloved took place in a time when blacks were unable to let their emotions completely show through. They could not completely love their children, those they should have been close to, or even themselves. At the beginning of these character’s lives they owned nothing, not even their own bodies, and they therefore chose not to get to close to anyone or anything. When they left they were finally able to do this, or at least thought they could do this, but the complete control of white people followed them into freedom and continued to affect their lives, eventually taking everything from them that there was to take.
My initial reaction to the book was a result of my tacit knowledge. I could not accept the idea of a ghost causing such havoc and from the very first page I tried to explain the ghost’s actions in a ‘logical’ fashion. This was until I finally reminded myself that this is a work of fiction where ghosts really do exist. , that the ghost is the logical reason for the events. This realization helped me later as I read about the ghost coming back to life in a human body.
Beloved is a book that relies heavily on the memories of the characters; it does not take place just in the present, but in the memories of the past. This is ironic since each character was trying to escape the remembrance of their past, they were trying to live only in the present in their newly freed position. This is ironic since each character was trying to escape the remembrance of their past, they were trying to live only in the present in their newly freed position. Yet the story did not develop until the reader finally grasped at the past. The only way to make sense of the story was to look into the past. Toni Morrison is saying that the only way to understand black people’s suffering now is through the events that happened in the past. We cannot keep out all the unwanted things, just as Paul D. tried to keep all his past in the tobacco tin. The only way to understand why the characters are where they are is to see the past on Sweet Home and their trials to get where they are now, yet this past is painful and threatens to swallow each character up. There was so much for each person to live through that their natural response was to shut it out as a survival mechanism.
Baby Suggs, Sethe, Paul D. all tried to keep the past out. They were worn down by the things they remembered and as result they tried to keep the memories out. Their tacit knowledge was to fight for the continuation of each day. Each character tried to keep from thinking too much on what they had to survive through in order to get where they were today, yet the whole story only unfolds when they have remembered what they tried to keep out. We, the reader, cannot discover the whole tale without the rememoires. Through these memories the reader also sees the conditions of slavery they lived through. Working on Sweet Home they were treated better than on other plantations and in different households, at first, but it was still slavery, and while it was better each one knew it was not good. They still did not own themselves. Then with the coming of Schoolteacher, this became more apparent, after having lived in slightly rosier world, they were suddenly forced into one that was not as nice. The characters, however, still do not see any freedom in the earlier days of Sweet Home, just a lesser degree of slavery.
Beloved is a story of the effects of slavery on these people. Each character was only able to take so much. Even in freedom they were pushed until their breaking point where they could not continue any more. We see their struggle to survive in a world that does not want them and the fight they put up to keep what little they claim as theirs. In a broader sense Beloved is not just a book about the lives of these characters, but also on the affects of slavery and white people. It tells a narrative of people from whom white people took so much, and yet continued to demand more. The characters reached their breaking point where they could not go on. Just as Baby Suggs last words suggested, that white people take everything they can, and do not help black people out. Sethe comes to this realization too, even though there were nice white people in her life, she was still in the position was because of slavery. She ended up killing her own daughter and attempting to kill the others because of what she was afraid would happen to them if they lived. Baby Suggs also gave up hope because of the effect the sight of the schoolteacher had on Sethe.
The book about more than just its basic plotline, it goes beyond in its attempts to show the affect of white people on blacks at this time period. The characters tried to fight this affect, and survive like heir instinct insisted they do, but they were broken down by every little thing they experienced until it became to much for the to bear. Each character tried to keep the past out of the present in an effort to stay alive and not be drowned in the sorrows and hardships they had experienced. Toni Morrison wanted the reader to see not only the physical hardships blacks suffered, but also the emotional ones that left scars as large as the tree on Sethe’s back.

Love in the Time of Beloved
Name: Amanda Gle
Date: 2001-11-14 02:27:54
Link to this Comment: 597

Though the story lines in Toni Morrison’s Beloved and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera are very different, the novel and the novella are very reminiscent of each other. Written about two very different subjects, in two very different places, Columbia and Ohio, the aspects of the pieces of literature are quite comparable. Intersperced with mystery and magic, both works use the flow of language to pull the reader into the societies and cultures where the characters live. Through the deep characters, the reader learns much about the surroundings and what is going on. Both are about love, memories, society, and race.
Both works tell a story of love. Gabriel Garvia Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera, a novella about unrequited love is different in that Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza are allowed to fall in love with each other. They do not have to worry about being split apart byhaving a lover sold like the characters do in Beloved. Despite that, there is also a good deal of love in Toni Morrison’s novel. There is the love that Sethe has for her children, even those that are missing; there is the love that Denver has for Beloved; and there is the love that Sethe and Paul D. begin to let themselves feel for each other, though this is less of a love, and more of a trust. But trust is the beginning of love so that is key. Love is very important in both stories as it holds people together.
The novel and the novella also are based a good deal around memories. In Beloved Sethe is both haunted and lives in the rememories of her former life at Sweet Home and with her baby. Living within those memories makes it hard for Sethe to move on. Love in the Time of Cholera is also based around memories. This is seen in the fact that Florentino still courts Fermina after almost fifty-one years. He continues what he has left off before because he remembers how much he loved her. The memories help create the stories.
Because of the where the stories are set and the way that they are told, the readers are able to learn a good deal about the societies and cultures that they are set in. In post-Civil War Ohio, where Beloved is set, there is still a good amount of racism. There is a day at the carnival when only “coloreds” could go; the neighbourhoods were sectioned off, and it was a big thing when Amy, a white girl, helped Sethe give birth. There is also racism in Love in a Time of Cholera in that the whites are set apart from everyone else. They are not expected to socialize and do things differently than everyone else. Racism and thus the culture and society is aparent in both.
The different key points of the two works bring them together while still allowing the novel and novella to be different. One written by a Hispanic man, the other by a black woman, it is quite amazing how alike the two are. From the emotions shown to the characters painted, they are comparably, intense, strong pieces of literature.

Name: Annabella
Date: 2001-11-14 02:45:53
Link to this Comment: 598

Annabella Rutigliano
Professor Nutting
What was your initial reaction to Toni Morison's novel Beloved?
“Any thing dead come back to life hurts.” For me these words sum up my initial reaction to Tony Morison's novel Beloved. Reading such a tragic tail so beautifully told by Toni Morrison was bittersweet for me to read. At the same time as my mind was reveling in the books masterful prose, my heart was weeping at the constant atrocities that were inflicted upon the characters. I felt what they felt, hoped as they hoped, and found my self immersed into the dismal pall that is Beloved. The book dredged up memories of an America that are still raw, even for a person that was never a part of the carnage of slavery Beloved made me ashamed that such a thing was allowed to occur in a country where freedom is cherished.
For me the quote is the quintessential moral that Tony Morrison wanted the reader to come away with. But this understanding is only gained if you look at Beloved tacitly; In fact Tony Morrison makes it impossible for the reader to do so any other way. She uses the hodge-podge of Sethe’s memories to bring the reader to this realization. At first I was vexed at the flitting and unordered quality of Sethe's recollections, and I wondered what point was the author trying to make. What was the author trying to lure the reader into discovering? After I realized that trying to order Sethe’s memories would detract from the principle of the book, and was in-fact making it that much harder to read, I saw that there was a “method to this madness.” So relying on my newly found belief in tacit knowledge I read Beloved from cover to cover, trusting that in the end I would get the gist of it.
With my newly imparted knowledge, I set off through the despairing maze of Sethe’s memories and came to know Beloved. I found my self using my tacit understanding to sort through Sethe’s tacit knowledge, because that is what her memories are. Her memories are bits of repressed tacit knowledge that are pushing through the tortured miasma of her mind to form “the part of a greater whole.” The entire point of Beloved is for Sethe to bring back from “death,” her memories so that she can become a whole person again. As a tool to ressurect her memories, and maybe the inevitable pain that they will bring, she literally brings back her dead daughter Beloved. When this occurs the wheels are set into motion, both for the reader and for Sethe, setting them both on a path that will lead to newfound truths.
In the end Tony Morrison says that “this is not a story to pass on.” What is she trying to convey with that statement? Is she telling the reader that the sins of slavery must never occur again, or that quite literally the story we have read must remain untold? Is she trying to save her readers the pain of resurrected memories? Or trying to warn us that the resurrection of memories would be unnecessary if we as a people and nation would not bury them?

Date: 2001-11-14 08:31:14
Link to this Comment: 599

Jennifer Colella

The Thought Picture

It was one of the nights when the darkness just seems to take hold of you with that icy grip combining both the might of winter’s breath and the fierce obscurity of the unknown. I was asleep, wandering in a dream world where light could find its way clear to reassure my weary heart when my sister crept through the room on tiptoes. I could feel her eyes on me with this guilt and insecurity filling her, but as she turned to leave, the sight of the shadows looming large in the narrow hall brought her back to my side, and this time she woke me up. It happened a lot, both when we were children and even as we got older. The night time wake up was a sister’s duty. Together, half asleep, a fearful sister would lead a half asleep zombie down the stairs and to the television where a comedy or Disney feature film was waiting to pacify the evils of the night sky. The experience was also filled with droopy eyes and yawns, but by the next day, by daybreak and the return of safety, the memory was void of the fear, depleted of its sleepy filled resonance. It was a moment of family and love, the moment of sisterly reassurance that the night, that the shadow, would always be fought side by side, as would any other evil.
Perhaps this is a sentiment shared only by sisters, but I suspect it is more. The greatest feeling of love, of being loved, comes from the safety of distance, of memory. The present is filled with thought and response; the past is filled with safety and remembrance. The most fond, most loving memories of my family occurred without my knowing the degree of love that was spewing from my heart, without my knowing that I was, in fact, creating the sentiment of love. It is a hard concept to describe, but if you imagine the most loving memory of your family, you’ll probably realize that at the time you did not consciously realize you were being loved, or at least not to the degree that you realize it after the memory is created. Hugs, kisses, tears, and sleep are the actions of a conscious present; love is a thing of consideration, of thought, of the past.
Of course this elevates the issue of the past to new heights. Memory is no longer a biography but an emotional necessity. What are we if we are not loved? Who are we if we don’t mean anything to anybody? We become an empty vacuum with a void heart demanding its fill. The title of the book “Beloved” is just that, a statement to the importance of love. Not just referring to the character Beloved, the title speaks to the motivations of all the characters, to their vacuum and their necessity to find their fill. Beloved wants her mother, Sethe demanded, once free anyway, the love of her children, Paul D. wanted Sethe’s love, and Denver the love of a family in which she could finally feel safe. Love was not just a motivation or footnote for the story; love was the story. The book is called “the one who is loved” because they all wanted to be loved, but memory stood as an obstacle.
Memory, the past, is that chain that binds us, or, perhaps better put, the roots that keep the tree both alive and forever stagnant. Sethe’s scars in the shape of the tree were a “way [to] her sorrow, the roots of it (17.)” We are stuck with these roots. Unfortunately for Sethe and Beloved, the roots were not to love but to a much different emotion, a betrayal or loneliness. This they were forced to overcome, but you can’t escape your past. As Sethe’s says, “where I was before I came here, that place is real. It’s never going away (34.)” Our memories anchor us in emotion.
Sethe is able move on, able to find love because she is able to create new emotions, able to grow new roots. Beloved does not have this luxury. She suffers what is probably the ultimate betrayal, murder and death at the hands of the woman who gave her life. How do you even begin to overcome the memory of having your own mother hold your chin up so that she might row the teeth of a handsaw back and forth upon your veins? How do you find love when that is your last living memory? Can you find love when that is a memory at all? The two boys finally split and even Denver, who couldn’t remember her own near death, found the root to such a childhood unsettling and frightening. She didn’t hate her mother, but she didn’t seem to love her either, and perhaps she wasn’t able to love her mother. Her indifference is demonstrated by her constant dreaming for a father, for Halle. She didn’t care whether or not Sethe stayed so long as she had her father.
The confusion comes when Denver decides to protect Sethe rather than Beloved. Where did this love come from? How did Denver overcome her own fear and her own memories of a mother who tried to kill her children? Denver had enough other experiences to build new roots and new bonds with her mother, but at the same time, she was a play partner with Beloved since they were children. She lost her deafness only when she heard her sister trying to crawl up the stairs. She had roots to both of the women, but one had tried to kill her. How does she find this love when it doesn’t exist early in the novel?
Does she even learn to love Sethe? She doesn’t switch her protection roles until it becomes “obvious that her mother could die and leave them both and what would Beloved do then…It only worked with three—not two….(231.)” Beloved is still the person Denver seems sincerely worried about loosing, worrying more about what Beloved would do when Sethe died than Sethe actually dying.
Can we overcome our pasts, our memories, and grow new roots and new loves when there are such dramatic event in our past? Is that possible? Sethe was able to find love, a love claimed “too thick (156.)” If we’re able to move on with our lives, able to find new emotions and loves, then how there is this obsession with the past. Transitions between the past and present take place as though there is no transition, as though there is no need because our past is always in the present with us. It is inescapable. This would leave us like a tree, totally stationary and unable to move beyond our past. This can’t be a good thing.
Or can it be? The hard thing is moving beyond a past with blood and murder and hand saws in it. My childhood was more freeing with those night excursions to the tv with my sister perhaps the most freeing of all. I had nothing to fear. If I had a past with slavery, the story of my life would be different. I might be more anchored to those memories.
Perhaps it’s possible then that the tree is a symbol of hatred, of slavery, a hideous past while the doves and the birds within the book become a symbol of love, of a freeing past. Whenever Sethe prepares to kill someone, she “hears wings. Little hummingbirds… (248.)” She kills out of love. Paul D. brings the doves into the story as he recalls “having neither the right nor the permission to enjoy (154)” their song because “everything belonged to the men who had the guns.” At the same time that the birds take on a sense of freedom, a sense of love, stationary or low objects become limiting. By the end, Beloved is a “naked woman with fish for hair (253.)” She is with the water, water existing as a very anchored thing. But water moves too. And Sethe was still obsessed with the past when she heard the hummingbirds.
There is a major obsession with the past in the novel, but that is because the past is so essential to who we are. It is a part of us that we can’t outrun. We gather our sense of freedom, our sense of limitation from our past and the degree to which we were either loved or not. Whether we are loved has a severe affect on our lives because everyone requires someone, a sign that they mattered in some way to a life. In this way, I suppose our past is a tree, tied down and stretching towards the sun for a little affection.

Intial Reaction to Beloved
Name: Kathryn
Date: 2001-11-14 09:46:41
Link to this Comment: 600

When my mother asked me on friday night what I thought of the book, I said,"it's weird and confusing." Morrison jumps from past to present, from scene to scene, place to place without warning about the transitions. This is why I initially found the book difficult to get through, it was difficult for me to place what she was talking about in many situations. I couldn't wait to get to the end of each chapter, however, when I got there I wanted to read on. Morrison uses dfferent characters' perspectives and memories to patch together her story. This means that she will start out with one story and leave it incomplete. Later, the story will be reintroduced and filled in more. I found this technique to be very interesting and suspenseful once I figured out the pattern.
A good early example of Morrison's style is the story of Denver's birth. The story is first briefly introduced on page 8, when Sethe is speaking with Paul D. She tells him that a whitewoman helped deliver her baby girl Denver, the child she was pregnant with when Paul D. last saw her. This gives the reader a tiny clue about what happened, but I found it to be frustrating at first because the beginning of the story is especially cluttered with half told or briefly mentioned stories. The reader is bombarded with information but none of it is complete or seems to fit together.
The story of Denver's birth is brought up again while Denver is alone in her secret boxwood room in the woods. It begins to snow and the snow reminds her about the story. The story is then retold through Denver's memory with so much detail it seems Denver could not possibly know so much information since she was not able to actually remember the event. Yet Denver's favorite part of the story is told at this point in the novel with explict detail. However, the reader is still only given a piece of the story. The memory stops before Denver is born so the reader is still curious to hear the ending. At this point I was less frustated though because I was beginning to see Morrison's pattern from this story and a few others. I began to see that the confusing collection of memories, facts and events that I had read about so far were going to be elaborated on later.
The most complete account of Denver's birth is found on page 71, when Denver tells the entire story to satiate Beloved's appetite for stories. This retelling is by far the most detailed because Denver knows how much Beloved loves details, and she expands her story to make it as alive as possible in order to please Beloved. Now the reader can see how all the previous bits and pieces fit together.
The fact that the story is finally told completely to Beloved brings up an important point. At this point in the novel, many stories that were only mentioned before are being told in completetion to Beloved, piecing together Sethe's mysterious past. Beloved's desire for stories seems to be a clever device that Morrison uses to elaborate on some of the information presented in the beginning of the book. In this respect I find the book to be brilliant because while some of the mysteries are being explained, Beloved herself is extremely mysterious which adds mystery. This means that the reader is understanding some previous connections, yet is still interested in reading on because now there are new questions.
Morrison's style coincides with many of the comments made in the novel about memories.
Sethe says;
"I was talking about time. It's so hard for me to believe in. Some things go. Pass on. Some things just stay. I used to think it was my memory. You know. Some things you forget. Other things you never do. But its not. Places, places are still there. If a house burns down, it's gone, but the place-the picture of it-stays, and not just in my rememory, but out there in the world."
Sethe's comment is reflected in the way that Morrison uses memories along with the present to tell her story. Often the memories may seem insignificant to the reader, and the reader might even forget about them, but they will be remembered later on when they are connected to something else. The transitions between past and present can be confusing, but it works the same way that people often switch their minds from a memory to the present. By retelling the memories, it gives another person a picture of what happened, and therefore it will keep on living inside the minds of many people-the picture of it will be out there in the world.
Although I found Beloved difficult to get into, once I recognized Morrison's pattern I thought the book was very interesting. Morrison's style can appear to be disorganized, but almost every seeminly irrelevant piece of information is connected to something later on. If the reader knows this, new pieces of information are exciting, but if not it is confusing. I'm glad I pushed myself to get through the beginning because now I look foward to the end.

Name: Joanna Sim
Date: 2001-11-14 11:30:44
Link to this Comment: 601

Joanna Simonis
Nutting, Csem

Haunting Stories of the Past

The characters in Beloved are haunted by memories of the past. They are stuck between the reluctance to remember the horror of the past and the motivation to face and fight it. In order to look to the future, Sethe had to forget the past. She needed to let the past go and loosen the hold her memories had on her. She was trying to protect her children from the life she had lived, regardless of the consequences.
Denver liked to hear the story of her birth, but she was afraid to hear other stories about her mother’s past. Like Sethe, Denver wanted to hide from the horror of the past. But hiding from it prevented Sethe from forgetting it. Beloved was enthusiastic to hear their stories. She asked Denver to retell the story of her birth, Denver became alive as she narrated the tale and it was a relief to reveal the past. The memories weighed the characters down. Beloved motivated Sethe and Denver to tell their stories. They no longer fought from keeping them back.
Paul D. was also haunted by the past. Both he and Sethe came from Sweet Home but they had different stories to tell and different ways of dealing with their memories. Paul D. sang his tales. These songs were a way for him to face his past, yet they did not hurt anyone else. They were sad, but not revealing.
Paul D. was motivated to tell Sethe the truth about him and Beloved. He was ashamed and he needed to break away from his guilt. He needed to break away from the home and the haunting past. The ghost continued to have a strong hold on 124, similar to the hold the past had on the characters.
When Sethe becomes aware of who Beloved is, she no longer needs to bear the weight of her past. She finally can come to terms with the memories of her life. She is released from the guilt that has weighed her down. She is now eager to explain to Beloved and apologize for the past. Her daughter is safe and she is ready to create a future for her she thought she had destroyed.
The characters in Beloved struggle to deal with their haunting pasts in the aftermath of slavery. The book shows Sethe’s attempts to release herself from the horrible memories of the degradation and pain she had experienced in her life. She tries to create a hopeful future for her family separate from any memories of slavery. After Beloved disappears, the past can be forgotten and Sethe, Denver, and Paul D. can begin new lives. The memory of Beloved also fades. The past has been revisited and confronted, yet the memories remain. But they no longer haunt the lives of the characters in the novel.

Name: Mia Shea-M
Date: 2001-11-14 13:30:09
Link to this Comment: 602

The Allegory of Beloved
Mia Shea-Michiels
Ms. Nutting

We now know, after studying tacit learning, that there are thoughts in the back of our minds that have a large role in what we do and say. There is knowledge that we don’t need on a conscious level and knowledge that we don’t want to have on a conscious level. We may have buried some thoughts that we’d rather not think about so deep into our minds that we almost forgot they were there. What Beloved proves is that those thoughts that we think we have discarded are still there and can come back to haunt us. They will show us that we can’t get rid of the past and can’t get rid of our tacit knowledge.
Seth had covered up her past for a long time. She had even sheltered herself from the truth. She never felt a need to tell her daughter Denver the stories of slavery and the life she saved her children from. Seth didn’t talk about the past and didn’t think about it. She had thought it was over but the supernatural presence in her house didn’t. This ghost of Seth’s baby raised all her mother’s forgotten thoughts to the surface. Seth wasn’t aware of thinking about her slave days but those thoughts were there with everything she did. Her relationship with her daughter Denver, her motives for staying in 124 Bluestone Road for years and the reason Denver and Seth isolated themselves from the community are all effects of Seth’s past.
The arrival of Beloved, the young girl who is found in front of 124, signals a merging of the past and the present. Beloved seems to evoke stories from Seth that she wouldn’t otherwise remember. Beloved is the catalyst that drives Seth’s tacit knowledge into the open. She is the symbol of slavery and the fact that it won’t be shut out and forgotten. There are scars that run too deep to rub away. Seth finds that she will not be able to continue on with life and the people she loves unless she faces her demons. Though it is a battle, Seth will find that life can continue along with the memories from the past.

Beloved reaction
Name: Sarah Eber
Date: 2001-11-14 14:17:57
Link to this Comment: 603

Sarah Eberhardt due 11/14/01
Csem Reaction to Beloved

Most of the relationships tying together the plot and characters of Beloved are derived from the tacit knowledge of each individual person in the novel. They are linked by memories and common knowledge, of their enemies the white people, of the ghosts of the dead, and the methods by which it was possible to keep on living.
All of the characters in the novel share a common tacit knowledge of the ways of white people. Some, like Baby Suggs, drew the conclusion that there would always be the danger and unpredictability of the more socially powerful race. Others, like the Sweet Home men (except for Sixo), believed that since the white people who personally held the power over their own lives were relatively benevolent, so must all the others be. However, no matter what one’s attitude, there was at all times the awareness of that power.
Perhaps because of this shared unhappy life, nearly all the slaves or ex-slaves also believed in ghosts and spirits, the angry or grieving dead that refused to stay in their graves. Maybe it was only this belief that gave the dead the power to become spirits; maybe they would not have been able to, were it not for the altering of reality caused by these shared beliefs. Some people feared the ghost Beloved, while others loved it, hated it, or felt in debt to it. Denver, who had had insufficient company after her brothers ran away and Baby Suggs died, accepted it as an oddly-behaving but nonetheless harmless sister. Sethe greeted the spirit as a responsibility she must meet straight-backed and strong, but when Beloved appeared in her bodily form, Sethe swiftly grew apologetic and subservient to it. Were it not for the beliefs of these two, that accepted it as reality, perhaps the ghost would have given up, would have been unable to affect them as it did. Even Paul D, who was able to rout the spirit for awhile, never faced it with disbelief.
Most important to the novel was the knowledge of life accumulated through the trials of the characters. The transition from slave to free woman affected both Baby Suggs and Sethe in a similar way, causing them to be less wary of love. Baby Suggs expressed this through her meetings at the Clearing, through her help offered to any stranger that needed it. Sethe, for the first time, allowed herself to wholly love her absent husband and her own four children, a luxury that Baby Suggs had not had, that no slave woman had, for always there was the fear of being separated and sold away. This awareness of love was central to the novel. Paul D spoke of rationing love, giving one’s heart away only a bit at a time, so that when the recipient was sold or hung or ran away, you too did not give up. Loving people at all was sometimes too much; sometimes one’s love must be restricted to small things: a star, a flower, a blade of grass. The sudden swelling of emotion in the newly freed Sethe was perhaps what caused her to try and murder all of her children. She now cared far too much what happened to them, and the worst thing she knew was about to happen, was riding towards them with his hat tipped down.
The novel dealt with knowledge, knowledge of love and death and the interference of white people in both. It dealt with the ways people tried to get by in life, trying to survive so that their children could live free or at least freer than they did. It dealt with what happened if that freedom wasn’t possible.

Name: From Emma
Date: 2001-11-14 22:41:05
Link to this Comment: 604

When I picked up Beloved earlier in the semester, I was impatient with the unfamiliar story-telling style and could not settle into the book. This time around I eased past the initial disorientation and soon found myself compelled ‘to witness’ the horror of Sethe’s experiences, which I accept as the story of a people. I found I couldn’t turn away from that story, which Morrison puts so directly and forcefully before me. I would say that, ultimately, this is why difficult transitions, unclear tenses, non-linear construction etc, stopped being obstacles (for me, personally).

I understand the story because I feel it.

As I said above, to me this book is not primarily about Sethe’s personal story, nor the story of any of the characters Morrison invents. At least, I don’t believe this is the source of the story’s power or importance. Not for me. This story encompasses the historical experience of a community of people, and that people’s story is told in the context of our country’s story. Although this context is not explicit (as might be the case if the story were in the style of social realism??) it nonetheless hangs over the story, itself a haunting out of our country’s past. This, I think, puts Beloved into a different category of storytelling. And at this time in my life, I have a preference for stories that connect to the larger community, and am less moved by storytelling that is too inward looking, “slice-of-life,” and, to my mind, obsessed with the psychology of the individual.

I believe a point was raised in class about whether this story was ‘conservative’ as in not forward-looking. I think it’s both conservative and forward-looking. This story springs from a community for whom the terrible past is part of its own, and this country’s, unfinished business. Morrison’s book suggests this unfinished business haunts our ability to move into the future. In order to move forward in a clearly affirmative, life-sustaining, way a terrible past demands attention. Not everyone wants to hear this past story retold, of course. Think of the controversies surrounding the issue of reparations for African-Americans, or the recent revelations of how upstanding Northeast companies (still open for business) as well as certain Ivy League institutions benefited from money generated by slavery. Unlike the story of the Holocaust, this story is very much closer to home and we were not, in a clear and decisive way, the heroes. Let’s face it, the story of just how inhuman humans can be to one another, wherever it happens to be set, is never an easy one to hear.

Luckily, there's more than one way to tell a story. And if Morrison's style doesn't do it for everyone, we can turn to other story-tellers working in fiction and non-fiction.

Name: Lisa Harri
Date: 2001-11-14 23:29:03
Link to this Comment: 605

First Thoughts – Beloved

(I've read many reviews and opinions on this novel, and so I expected it would be annoying or difficult to read. That has not been the case for me at all. I love this novel, and I am not at all disrupted as a reader to the author's style of jumping from memory to memory. In fact, if it hadn't been so often pointed out, I wouldn't have noticed....)


I feel as if I could write an essay for very nearly every sentence in this book.

It is the late 1800s, post-slavery and I find myself in Ohio. Toni Morrison has placed me there via her novel, Beloved, forcing me to bear witness to the once unspeakable details of the horrors of slavery and its aftermath. It feels as though Ms. Morrison is standing behind me as I read, holding my head between her hands turning it in the direction of each scene, insisting I watch what is so hard to accept and understand. I can almost hear her affirming what I’m seeing, because she knows I can’t believe it.

Before I have time to digest the unimaginable humiliation of a woman named Sethe selling her body for the price of seven letters on a tombstone, my head is turned to another setting and I hear the words of Baby Suggs saying, “Not a house in the country ain’t packed with some dead Negro’s grief.”

And I’m only on page 5. (Realizing there are more than 250 pages to go, I brace myself emotionally for this beautifully written yet brutally frank account of post-slavery.)

The theme of memory -- or rememory as Sethe calls it -- is constant, and I can’t help but reflect on how the body never forgets. The “tree” Sethe refers to on her back is taken so literally by Paul D; he seems to think he’ll see something physically growing out of her body. Sethe says she’s never seen the tree, and never will, but she knows it’s there. In my mind, this tree symbolizes other deep-rooted memories that have scarred her but that she does not want to remember. The memories, like limbs on that tree, are now part of her being – part of her flesh – and the author literally brings them to life.

A white woman who massaged Sethe’s bloodied feet, told her “Anything dead coming back to life hurts.” This makes me think of when Sethe said her mind was devious, because she never knows when something like the scent of cherry bark ink, or the feeling of a cool breeze on her face will bring to mind the old pictures of Sweet Home.

Even if you think you’ve buried a memory forever, it’s still inside you somewhere and you never know when it will be called to consciousness – or what will trigger its resurrection. Sethe’s repressed memory of having murdered her child arrives in the form of a ghost, and later manifests into a physical being – a young woman – who comes to live with her.

This novel also introduces me for the first time, to the humiliation suffered by the enslaved male population. My mind races to the present where I can’t help thinking of the disproportionate number of black male prisoners. They are still carrying the degradation of slavery.

I now feel I’ve been lied to for many years, since the stories about slavery that I’d heard had obviously been meticulously cleansed, and made easier to tolerate. There is nothing easy about Toni Morrison’s novel, and she seems determined to show us the truth with all the grisly details. At times I’m so overwhelmed, I find I need to close the book to escape its painful realities. And then I feel guilty because I can.

The book brings to life the dead and forgotten. It is merely one story – and so we must remember to multiply it by the thousands in order for us to even begin to understand the enormous suffering that was borne out of slavery.

Moral Riddle
Name: Robin
Date: 2001-11-15 00:41:40
Link to this Comment: 606

The Moral Riddle Behind Toni Morrison’s Beloved

I don’t know where to begin writing about Beloved. It’s an enormous book. Any little facet I choose to focus on suddenly becomes the universe. I’m intimidated by the task. I fear that anything I say about the book will be inadequate. Anything I say will leave out something of vital importance. Beloved leaves me nearly speechless. At the same time, I feel the need to write endlessly about it.
The facet I’ve chosen to focus on with this particular reading of Beloved is the moral riddle behind Sethe’s choice. Sethe murders her infant child. The murder of a child, the absolute innocent, by her own mother seems like such a horrible crime that there can be no redemption from it. It’s a fundamental betrayal of a deep, primal trust. It seems like a violation of natural law.
Yet, we know Sethe, and I think most readers of the book will not judge her harshly for her choice. I identified so deeply with Sethe that I was upset with Paul D for leaving her after learning her truth. I wanted him to understand her, to pity her, to love her.
Why does understanding create such compassion in the face of horror? This seems like a profoundly important question, especially in a time of war. Should we forgive those who kill the innocent? Should we love them, pity them? Is any action completely evil? Is any person evil? Are the qualities of good and evil the products of circumstance and environment alone, or do they rest somewhere deeper? If they do arise from circumstances, how can anyone be judged or despised? If they do not, then where do they come from? Do they exist at all?
I could keep asking questions like this for pages. A long tradition of moral philosophy has wrestled with these questions. Toni Morrison poses them eloquently and beautifully in Beloved.
In Beloved, evil is dreadfully real. The face of slavery silences the question of the reality of evil. Good, too, is vividly real. Amy Denver, Stamp Paid, Halle’s purchase – these are all clear and realistic portrayals of goodness. The extremes throw sharp shadows, which make the moral blurriness of Sethe’s choice all the more pronounced.
Sethe kills her baby. This is horribly wrong for a mother. Yet, Sethe protects her baby. This is absolutely right for a mother. What can right and wrong mean under such circumstances?
The key to understanding, perhaps, comes in Paul D’s response to learning of Sethe’s choice. She pours out her story to him, tells him that what she had provided for her child was safety. He says to her, “You got two feet, Sethe, not four.” (p. 156)
Paul D is a man who knows the difference between a human being and an animal. He’s struggled to be human his whole life, while the world treats him like an animal. Paul D walks right along the borders of humanity, so when he talks about that border, he’s saying something important.
“More important than what Sethe had done was what she claimed,” Paul D realizes. Sethe claimed that she had stopped schoolteacher and saved her baby. She made a claim that she had been a good mother. She claimed goodness. She claimed that there had been a right choice that day, and that she had made it.
An animal reacts without reflection. An animal has all its choices made for it, by nature and circumstance. To be human is to make one’s own choices and to take responsibility for them. Humans can be held responsible for their actions because they have free will. Animals cannot be said to be good or evil, they just are. Sethe has two feet, not four. She’s a human being. She has volition and free will, and she is responsible for her choice.
To respect her humanity, Sethe has to acknowledge the horror of what she did. The ghost Beloved is such a rich, deep metaphor that any definition is probably inadequate, but I see the ghost as a personification of that horror. It’s there, a constant companion, creating despair and havoc in the household. Sethe cannot go on with her life as a free human until she deals with that ghost. As long as it is outside of her self, she remains a slave.

Response to "Beloved" by Toni Morrison
Name: Zoe Anspac
Date: 2001-11-15 07:56:03
Link to this Comment: 607



Beware Beloved. Beware the book that lives. What lives must consume. That book is more than paper and ink. Paper and ink and a book that’s pink, sounds like nothing, but its not. The pink and the name, Beloved, they are con artists, total imposters. Just remember the eyeless readers. Eyeless they are after lifting that pink cover, and letting their eyeballs in between the pages. Remember Tacetta, that white lady, sitting on the green tapestry sofa, all cozy, all safe. Lost her eyeballs though. Beware Beloved, if you want to keep your eyeballs. That book is alive. Living things have their way of getting what they need, and they always need to feed. People like Tacetta are such easy prey, sticking their heads in the guillotine like that. Like all those college girls at Big Bear Schools. They go asking the professors and looking for wizards to smash their skulls open or cut off their heads clean with the guillotine. They want the Big Bear professors and wizards to open their squishy brains, they want them stuffed with new meat and opened up at the same time. They don’t want them re-attached until they are done. What do they expect? They are just asking for a book that’s looking to hook itself into a nice soft open head. They don’t even notice when the needles come out of it. Tacetta didn’t. That book had already sewn one eyeball to the edge when she started to notice, when she couldn’t get her eye off of it. But, with her brain all full of holes, she thought maybe it was a good thing and besides she was already attached. So the sewing continued. That hungry book sewed her other eyeball around the rest of its cover. And there she was with two eyeballs held two feet away from the open book, the red thread making a web, a cacoon that wrapped her in front of its open pages.

Sewn in like that, she was barely moving when her husband came home. Runno was used to that. He just saw what he always saw, the snapshot his mind provided as he dashed past her. His visual shorthand said she was reading on the sofa. He went about his usual post-work bustle, thinking that Tacetta was fine. Too bad, by the time he noticed, it was too late. Way too late--beware Beloved, the book that lives. It had her good by the time Runno actually saw her, or what was left of her. He almost ran at the horror, but then he heard Tacetta’s little girl voice, the one she couldn’t control when she was excited. He had to listen.

"Hi honey. Oh my God! This book is so great! Look what it did to me," she said. He could hear her smiling tone, but he couldn’t find her mouth. All he could see on the monster was two white eyeballs, the rest was black. He tensed his biceps and his back, trying to force his body to stay standing.

"Don’t worry, I’m fine. In fact, its great! Whoa! This is incredible. See, its so powerful. First my skin flew off--its over there behind the piano–then, this warm black liquidy stuff surrounded me, except for my eyes." The monster didn’t move. Runno saw her white eyeballs, no more blue in them, sewn to the outer edges of a book.

"Wha..wa..what book is that?" He said

"Its Beloved, by Toni Morrison. Man, I can’t believe this! This is the Beethoven’s 9th of literature! I feel like she’s inside my head. I mean it feels like the way my mind is or something." Her voice was helping him calm down. It was still Tacetta, his lovely wife, thank God, but...could he touch this black jelly creature? He avoided looking toward the piano. The thought of her skin lying in a heap over there made a half groan half croak sound come out of his mouth. Act normal, just get through it. Maybe its not real. He felt his mental armor clang over himself. His breastbones hardened.

"That’s great," he managed an enthusiastic tone, "I’m glad you like it. Are you almost done?"

"No. Oh God no! I can’t stop going back over pages. Over and over again. But don’t worry. Look, this is so cool! When the pages turn back and forth and over again, it blows up my skin. See." Tacetta paused. "Its o.k. honey. Don’t be afraid to look. You’ll like it I promise. Its the coolest thing!" But, he could not look.

"I love this," she continued, "my skin gets blown up from the pages flipping and flying. Then, guess what? It goes to school for me! Huh-hu-ha!,"she laughed "Its a skin balloon!" Tacetta said the last three words so loudly, Runno could feel her breath in his ear. But wait! His chest went to ice as he turned his head toward the breath. There she was, Tacitta, all soft and peachy, and human! And eyeless. Runno’s eyes stared straight into two white sockets that looked like two sideways white almonds. Oh my God! He wanted to weep or scream or pound this nightmare to bits. He clenched his fists hard enough to get the short fingernails to scrape his palms. Oh it was real alright. Beware Beloved, the book that lives. be continued.

Name: Louise
Date: 2001-11-15 08:09:36
Link to this Comment: 608

The emotions provoked by Toni Morrison’s Beloved are of deep sadness, anger and confusion. This novel has raised my awareness to the terrible atrocities done to this community of people. I am working through each emotion as I read further into the novel.

For me the beginning of this novel was startling and painful. It made me want to slam the book shut to stop the hurt I felt for Seth and her family. As a mother myself, it made ponder on how she could have killed her own child, but I stopped myself from engaging in that vein of thinking because I wasn’t in any position even close to hers to make such a judgment.

I feel Seth wanted desperately to come to terms with the torment of taking her child’s life. She could not bear it. Because Seth loved her child so much she inflicted the most unimaginable pain upon herself by taking her own child’s life, and struggles with this haunting question that cuts in her heart like a knife. Seth struggles with how to forgive those that forced her hand and pushed her over the edge and more profoundly on forgiving herself for taking her own child’s life. She is haunted by the memories of her torture, her reaction and what could have been….

More to come…

Angel of Death
Name: Stephanie
Date: 2001-11-15 08:42:52
Link to this Comment: 609

Angel of Death? That is an oxymoron just like man’s intelligence. The two things couldn’t be further apart. Angels and dying. We try not to associate sweet cherubs with the ugliness of death. Innocent, baby-faced angels have no place associating with mean-spirited, red devils. The lines of battle are clear. Angels are good. Death is bad. Good versus bad. Good. Bad. Holiness. Evil. Yet for some, death is not bad. It actually ceases to be ugly. In fact, death becomes a thing of beauty, something to be cherished and loved. Death is cloaked in mystery, yet when death is embraced, the mysticism dissipates. The mystery surrounding death is solved. There are no more questions. Death becomes a glorious end to horrible pain and suffering. Death is a welcome respite from the terrible atrocities of life. Death is good. Death is anticipated. Death is welcomed.
The general belief is that life is good. Life is worth living. But that is not always true. Sometimes life becomes more than a person can bear. Life is meant to be lived t the fullest extent. If that living is so severely diminished, it is not worth living. Officially, in this beautiful country, committing suicide is a crime. It is not a matter of courage why so many people do not commit suicide themselves. It is not the fear of "the other side." It is not a fear of being dead. People do not commit suicide themselves out of a terror in the soul that a loved one will find the body, often times, a grotesque, mutilated body. The fear of not completing the action properly is also another factor. Trying to shoot yourself is not the easiest thing in the world. If the shot is not placed properly, a terrible mess can be made.
Most people can not understand how someone can embrace death. Dr. Jack Kavorkian has been labeled the Angel of Death. Nay, he is the Angel of Mercy. Dr. Kavorkian understands that modern medicine is an absolute wonder. Yet, some people are forced to live with agonizing pain. Pain that never goes away. Some people become burdens on their family while they wait. They wait and wait for Mother Nature to finish the task she has started. Mother Nature delights in the pain, torturing the poor souls to the cores of their beings. Dr. Kavorkian gives relief to those people. With his assistance, poor, suffering individuals are release from their torture. The courts have placed Dr. Kavorkian in prison. The courts say he is a killer. He is not. He is not a savior. Dr. Kavorkian understands pain. He understands pain much in the same way Sethe understands pain.
Sethe took the life of he child. While most sit back and gasp at the so-called atrocity she committed, I applaud her courage. Sethe believed in an afterlife. She believed that innocent child would be embraced by the arms of God in Heaven. Sethe wanted to spare her child the agony of living. Whether you believe Sethe was right or wrong, know that Sethe was trying to protect the child she loved.

Date: 2001-11-15 08:53:17
Link to this Comment: 610

College Seminar
Meg Devereux

Beloved is not "interesting". It is full of venom. It rams ice picks through my softness and turns my pat liberal assumptions into a mess of inadequacies that stew in their own liquor like greens left to boil too long. It harasses me and then sends me soft moments of a lyric pastoral that in turn quickly descend from Eden to snake filled sloughs with gray hanging moss and black sucking mud. Sweet Home is not. 124 is a riot of illogical unnumbered chaos. And yet it is a house where the windows open to a star filled sky. It is a house of freedom and a house of enslavement. Sethe is soothing and seething. Baby Suggs is wise and energized with love and yet broken by a tragedy, one more than even she can cope with. Beloved is beautiful but as full of choking tendrils as wisteria gone wild on a host tree. Paul D. is honorable, patient respectful. He is humiliated, driven, and unable, until he arrives at 124, to still his restlessness born of running. The settings and the characters move out of their stillness and beauty and into the drumming staccato of personal and collective horrors.
Sethe appears dignified and accepting but also lifeless and inanimate worn out by all her in dwelling, unexpressed rage and grief. Beloved haunts her. She is paralyzed by the impasse of her choice (or lack of choice) in the moments of imminent capture. She is a person more dead than alive. She has less energy than the dead child, Beloved. Baby Suggs, even in death, has more energy than Sethe. She longs for color, something Sethe doesn't even miss. Sethe's sons have more energy: they run off in their fear and anger. Here Boy, the dog, even has more energy, as he physically fears the specter of Beloved. Every one has an energy with which to cope or react. Everyone but Sethe. Sethe enslaves herself by killing Beloved. She may liberate Beloved but she has sold herself to a horror that cripples her. Sethe refers to her dead child as Beloved, a name she hears at her burial, not her given name. Her given name is lost along with her life. Beloved, the name chosen at the height of a tragedy, speaks of all the nameless in nameless unmarked graves of those who went before. Those without names cannot rest or be mourned. Sethe plods through her days in a trance of routine and nameless loss. Beloved whose very name contradicts and mocks, seduces a sister, scares off brothers, breaks a grandmother and saps the vital juices of her mother. With special virulence, Beloved attacks a visitor from the past who arrives with an antidote, the healing of love. In a book mired with perversions, it almost seems surprising that Sethe didn't take her children's lives as they were born. The drive to give life is put through the grotesque twist of having it taken away by slavery. Death does seem a sort of freedom in this darkness. But because something seems a truth in the dark, doesn't mean that in the light it will hold the same reality or lack of it. That is Sethe's tragedy and the tragedy of those who love her.
Reading Beloved, I feel a wrenching, suffocating, angry, impotent, destructive, dulling, compelling and weirdly lyrical instability. Nightmarish scenes of torture and degradation shove into one at a visceral level. The inversions of humanity suck the air out of rationality. The ability of the characters to survive as recognizable albeit scarred spirits is the only impetus for reading on. Then book has small giving moments of wonder as when Paul or Sethe think of trees in their lives, Denver dances in her precious ring of boxwood, and the stars shine in through the roof windows. The contrast of limited lyricism and ongoing horror make a taut rope of counterpoint, bitterness with sweet touches of pure spirit. The sweetness underscores the lye and makes it burn like the brine blisters on Sethe's arms when she forgets the bouquet of salsify.
The tacit assumption I bring to this book is the belief that buried deeply in the most disabled being lies a small light that no amount of alienation can destroy. This novel challenges me for thinking that and pulls at my assumptions with sharp and terrible images. It takes whole incidents and turns of plot and unfolding horror upon horror to hammer home that my assumptions may be ones that come from a privileged individual history and a collective history that includes religious persecution but a persecution with the freedom of choice to start over in a new land with faith intact. Slavery in America still has not, even after its abolition, given that freedom of choice. I am listening to survival on a level I had assumed no one could ever descend to or it seems fully arise from. I have looked at my tacit optimism and brought it to consciousness and think by looking down to a deeper level of endurance am able to see a higher level of survival. My tacit understanding and compassion has been pulled out of secure space and examined in light of a less hospitable space.

Beloved- First Draft
Name: Gail DeCou
Date: 2001-11-15 09:25:39
Link to this Comment: 611

Gail DeCoux
CSem 1
First Draft

When I began reading the book “Beloved” for the first time several years ago I found that I was quickly drawn into the story of the people who lived at 124 Bluestone Road. Sethe, an ex-slave, and her daughter, Denver, inhabit a house that is possessed by the ghost of Sethe’s other daughter who died before her second birthday. This baby ghost is mean and spiteful and full of venom. Her presence has caused so much distress that Denver’s two older brothers have run away. Baby Suggs, the grandmother, who died soon after, found living with this ghost as “intolerable” as living her former life as a slave. When the story begins, Sethe and her daughter are visited by Paul D, who moves into the house with them.
The horrible circumstances of life as a slave are revealed gradually in bits and pieces through a series of flashbacks. The story is vividly and graphically re-told in brutal detail. But what makes this story different for me is that it is told from the point of view of the sufferers. We can hear their voices cry out in shock and disbelief at the atrocities inflicted upon them. Sethe says many times “They took my milk” as if she can’t quite believe, despite having borne all the degradation a slave can know, that they could stoop to this. She repeats the only words she can find to express her anger and insult. And we know what Sethe must know: that mere words are inadequate for describing the depths of her insult and outrage.
But the author has us watch the way these characters behave with the burden of their suffering. They don’t rebel. They don’t spend long hours commiserating with one another. They don’t act out in a formal, unified way. They simply forget. The loss of memory, as a recurring theme throughout the book, is a common coping mechanism used by the former slaves. They have been so traumatized by the horrors of slavery that they bury their memories of it. As we watch them trying to carry on their lives after emancipation, we can see that along with those memories they’ve also lost so much more: their emotions are blunted –Sethe says that everyone she ever loved was taken away form her or left her -–and they are unwilling/unable to commit to lasting emotional attachments. There is too much risk in that. They’ve lost joy and hope in their lives. They are simply trying to survive from one day to the next. We can begin to understand how Sethe, the embodiment of mother love, who suffered tremendous physical pain and was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to help her children escape to freedom, is now only capable of a detached relationship with her only remaining child, Denver. She has learned her lesson well; don’t care too much for you will surely lose her, just as you lost the others.
And what must it be like for Denver growing up knowing that her mother murdered her sister? Does she fear that under the right set of circumstances her mother may kill her, too? We see the aftermath of slavery played out in the nuances of the every day lives of the ex-slaves and their families. Although the focus is on the family at 124 Bluestone, Baby Suggs says “Not a house in the country ain’t packed to its rafters with some dead Negro’s grief.”
I felt so completely absorbed in the reading of this book that I wondered about my own motives for immersing myself in its tragedies. But it was more than gawking at the litany of horrors. In addition to the fact that it is a compelling story and beautifully written, I felt as though I was being given a clearer window on history. That Tony Morrison was somehow able to grab hold of this important nugget of history and present it in a way that made me not only know it, but feel it, too. I felt as though, in reading this book that I was being called upon to witness a truth about our history that goes beyond mere documentation. In this telling there is also unavoidable empathy. Sethe’s story, magnified throughout African American culture, does not belong solely to one race. We all are affected by it. If we won’t do the right thing for it’s own sake, at least recognize that discrimination, our proclivity towards “othering”, ultimately hurts us all.
During my initial reading, although fully dwelling within the story, I had some difficulty with the concept of a ghost that was treated as a real entity. I expected that Sethe would somehow be labeled mentally deranged for her belief in the presence of Beloved. And she was ostracized by her community, but not for being crazy. The former slaves knew that Sethe’s ghost was real, alright. But there was a tacit understanding among them that this was something not to be acknowledged. They all had their own ghosts to bury.
In our class discussion, I came to realize the importance of the spirit world in black culture. Tony Morrison grew up living these kinds of stories.
Ghosts tell us that the spirit does not die, that it outlives the flesh, and that it refuses to be silent. Accepting this concept is making a huge difference in re-reading Beloved, in uncovering more layers of meaning. But this leap has caused me to think that there are in fact, two leaps that those of us living in the present American culture must make in order to grasp Sethe’s story. In regard to Sethe’s murder of Beloved, we have to realize that death is not the worst thing that can happen to a person.

Date: 2001-11-15 09:31:25
Link to this Comment: 612

What does it take to become a woman? Is it to live again what have been long gone. is it to suffer consciously one more time and feel the inside wounds slowly heal themseves.

It is not only the matter to be born with the right female genital or to be of a certain age that make one a woman, it is much more than that. And Toni Morrison seems to hold the recipe for guiding her main character in the cycle of development for womanhood. Morrison directly speaks to the woman inside that is dormant but yet ready to live its part. The soul is the key component of this book beloved. The frame of the story of Sethe reminds me of an experiment made by scientists on a dog. This experiment is described by Clarissa Estes in her book Woman Who Run With the Wolves, as this. “One experiment they wired half the bottom of a large cage, so that a dog placed in the cage would receive a shock each time it set foot on the right side. The dog quickly learned to stay on the left side of the cage. Next, the left side of the cage was wired for the same purpose and the right side was safe from shocks. The dog reoriented quickly and learned to stay on the right side of the cage. Then, the entire floor of the cage was wired to give random shocks, so that no matter where the dog lay or stood it would eventually receive a shock. The dog acted confused at first, and then it panicked. Finally the dog gave up and lay down, taking the shocks as they came, no longer trying to escape them or outsmart them… Next, the cage door was opened. The scientists expected the dog to rush out, but it did not flee...the dog lay there being randomly shocked.” In Beloved Sethe is the dog, the white people are the scientist and slavery is the cage in which she is being mutilated. Although Sethe killed the last emotion and feeling left in her, they would never go away. The figure of the ghost comes to replace the Sethe’s soul, which both plagues and heals at the same time. The first pages of the book is actually the critical point of her her life when changes going to occurre. Like a fairy tale the story is full of symbolic images that take their source in the woman psyche. But unlike fairy tale, the story does not develop in a direct line. The juxtaposition of her present and past life gives the impression not only of a disordered life but also it gives the impression that her life as been shattered just like the mirror in the beginning of the story. She is not in search of the mystery. The mystery has been waiting for her to discover it. 124 when add together is the number seven and seven is how many year the malediction for braking a mirror last. Paul D is the one who helped her reconstitute pieces by pieces the alienating past life of hers. Here, Paul D, the powerful male figure acts like a mage; he is her strength. he is capable of interpreting what he sees. This attitude allows Sethe to recall, replace, and comprise the pieces that her and Paul D share together. Denver her heartfelt daughter is the reincarnation of her sleepy psyche. Beneath her gentleness, she has the aptitude for fighting. She is able to affront the world that is unknown to her and she is guided by the telling of her grand mother Baby Suggs. Although at first, she is not able to articulate once out in the world, she returned home enriched from it.

I am sorry I know you liked it but it is time for me to go to Ann class. Have a good day.

Instructions for your Paper on Beloved
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2001-11-15 19:29:46
Link to this Comment: 614

I have taught Beloved many times, but never after a unit like the one we've just completed, on "collecting observations." What this means is that I have found a new way of describing to you all what I am expecting in the final draft of your expanded paper on Morrison's novel. As you reflect on what is accomplished in her (re-)telling of this story, you might find it useful to think of this paper as following the same format as the last one you wrote, but having a different object: rather than studying "tacit understanding," you will be exploring Morrison's novel. That is, you should
1. gather your observations about some piece of the novel that puzzles/intrigues you/that you don't understand
2.try to solve the puzzle/put together and interpret the pieces/tell a story/concoct a theory to explain it
3.this essay, like the last one, needs a thesis/to take a stand/make an argument/claim an interpretation
4.this essay, like the last one, needs more than a mere "associative" allusive arrangement; it needs a structure, w/ logical connections between paragraphs and the ideas developed therein
5.check again in course packet for the 9/27 handout by Juana Rodriguez
(right after the Bettelheim material) which gives guidelines for revising your papers (and critiquing others)

You are welcome to try out possible topics/thesi on me during the week prior (via e-mail; there are no conferences Thanksgiving week). Bring your paper to class on 11/29 (deadlines may vary for the non-McBride sections). I'm looking forward to seeing what you come up w/!

What do we achieve by storytelling?
Name: Eveline A.
Date: 2001-11-28 03:33:49
Link to this Comment: 635

Eveline A. Stang
Professor Anne Dalke
College Seminar 01
November 27, 2001

What do we achieve by telling stories?

Through our discussions of Beloved and the articles reviewed in this morning’s class, we have been exploring how stories help us to understand the many facets of human experience. Stories can instruct, inspire, heal, make us laugh or cry, and keep us connected with one another. From the Pueblo Indian perspective (Silko 84) “ stories are always bringing us together, keeping this whole together, keeping this family together, keeping this clan together”, and experiences are shared so that one doesn’t have to endure them alone. Sometimes, however, the story may be so foreign to us, as in the case of the headhunting practices of the Ilongots of the Philippines, that understanding eludes us despite all of our education and knowledge (Rosaldo 8) and our attempts to classify the story. The article by Coles, illustrates how we, by our own limitations, are influences on the stories that want (and at times desperately need) to be told. The author describes how psychoanalytic methodology to a great extent prevented him from listening to what his patients had to say, thus limiting his understanding of them.

Two common themes seem to have emerged from the above three articles (a) the importance of the emotional accessibility of the story, and (b) the listener’s participation in or response to the story. For the Pueblo Indian, “the words most highly valued are those spoken from the heart, unpremeditated and unrehearsed” (Silko 83). The audience is also vital because “a great deal of the story is believed to be inside the listener; the storyteller’s role is to draw the story out of the listeners” (Silko 84). For Rosaldo’s understanding of the tribe he was studying, it was necessary to transcend the anthropologist’s preferences for “symbolic webs of meaning, […] thick description, multi-vocality, polysemy (2).” This transcendence was ultimately achieved through personal sorrow: the powerful emotions elicited by the loss of his wife and brother enabled him to understand how “the rage in bereavement could impel men to headhunt” (3). Coles, also, learned to go beyond the psychological abstractions and jargon of his profession, and the cataloguing of patients’ symptoms by becoming “an all-day listener” (14). By teaching himself to become comfortable with “the give-and-take of storytelling” (18), by concentrating on understanding his patients instead of trying to change their behavior, he created a space for acknowledgement and healing to take place.

Sometimes, as the following excerpt will illustrate, listening and silent acknowledgement may be the most compassionate and appropriate way to respond to a story.

Dr. Rachel N. Remen submitted this article to the Winter 2001 issue of Self-Realization Magazine. Dr. Remen is a Clinical Professor of Family and Community Medicine at the UC San Francisco School of Medicine.

Bearing Witness

“…[A] colleague of mine, a psychologist, told me this story. In the eighties, when she lived and practiced in New York City, she had decided to attend a two-day professional workshop based on twenty or so short films of one of Carl Jung’s last pupils, the great Jungian dream analyst, Marie-Louise von Franz. Between the showing of these films, a distinguished panel consisting of the heads of two major Jungian training centers and Carl Jung’s own grandson responded to written questions from the audience sent up to the stage on cards.
One of these cards told the story of a horrific recurring dream, in which the dreamer was stripped of all human dignity and worth through Nazi atrocities. A member of the panel read the dream out loud. As she listened, my colleague began to formulate a dream interpretation in her head, in anticipation of the panel’s response. It was really a “no-brainer,” she thought, as her mind busily offered her symbolic explanations for the torture and atrocities described in the dream. But this was not how the panel responded at all. When the reading of the dream was complete, Jung’s grandson looked out over the large audience. “Would you all please rise?” he asked. “We will stand together in a moment of silence in response to this dream.” The audience stood for a minute, my colleague impatiently waiting for the discussion she was certain would follow. But when they sat again, the panel went on to the next question.
My colleague simply did no understand this at all, and a few days later she asked one of her teachers, himself a Jungian analyst, about it. “Ah, Lois,” he had said, “there is in life a suffering so unspeakable, a vulnerability so extreme that it goes far beyond words, beyond explanations and even beyond healing. In the face of such suffering all we can do is bear witness so no one need suffer alone.”
Perhaps a willingness to face such shared vulnerability gives us the capacity to repair the world. Those who find the courage to share a common humanity may find they can bless anyone, anywhere.”

Instructions for Paper #5
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2001-11-28 21:25:47
Link to this Comment: 646

Questions, Intuitions, Revisions:
Telling and Re-telling Stories About Ourselves in the World

Instructions for Paper #5
(following a pattern which may be wearyingly familiar to you by now:
a sequence of 3 steps):

1. Read through all the materials in the course packet on Bryn Mawr history: Horowitz's two chapters, Heller's introduction, and the 6 short essays from the 1920s-30s Alumnae Bulletin. We will also watch The Women of Summer video in class early next week. Then write, and post on our course forum, a short draft of "the history of Bryn Mawr" as you now understand it. In this essay, draw on your own campus experiences as well as your reading and viewing of the assigned materials. What is most striking to you about this slice of Bryn Mawr history? What surprises you, pleases you, distresses you? What would you like to know more about? (For the McBrides: due by 9 a.m. Thursday, 12/6.)

2. Read the McDermott and Vareene essay on "Culture as Disability" and the Osborne NYTimes piece; if you have time and interest, also view one of the videos on American Sign Language poetry on reserve in Canaday library. In your second draft of this paper, re-write your above story of Bryn Mawr, focusing on the disabilities that may be generated by the abilities you see being taught here. For the McBrides: bring to class on Thursday, 12/13.

3. In your final draft, revise this Bryn Mawr story a third time. This might take the form of an essay, a futuristic short story, fairy tale, a montage, a poem or an illustration; it could be a riff on Sharon Bergmeyer's production of "Understanding is ???"; it could be collaboratively written or performed at our final celebration--to which you should bring it (tentatively: 4 p.m. Tuesday, 12/18).

Final Portfolios (w/ one paper dropped; one substantively re-written; all collated and chronologically ordered; the whole thing reviewed-and-evaluated-by-you in accord w/ upcoming instructions) due-for the McBrides--by noon, Saturday 12/22.

Instructions for Preparing Your Final Portfolio
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2001-11-28 21:32:05
Link to this Comment: 647

Questions, Intuitions, Revisions:
Telling and Re-telling Stories about Ourselves in the World
Fall 2001
(Slightly Revised) Instructions for Preparing your final Portfolio

In this portfolio, due (for the McBrides) by noon on Saturday, December 22nd, I am asking you to collect and reflect on the written work you have done for this course. This portfolio project invites you to chronicle what has happened in your evolution both as a writer and a speaker in class, and to contribute to and assist me with the evaluation of your work. So--

1. Gather together everything you've written for this class: copies of what you've posted on the course website, all your paper drafts, as well as all the responses (you've saved) from both your classmates and me. Arrange the material chronologically, back to front, in a folder.

2. You are free to omit altogether from the packet one of the papers (in all its versions).

3. You are also invited to revise one of the papers. Be open, in this process, to major re-thinkings of what you have done already. (Merely editing for stylistics and technicalities doesn't count for much, although you may find it satisfying--and so are more than welcome--to submit a clean and corrected copy as finale for a sequence of drafts.)

4. You are also warmly invited to post another one of your papers on our course website, as your public finale to the course.

5. Review all you've gathered together in the portfolio; ruminate for a while on what you're seeing as you do so. Then write a short (2 pp.) essay tracing where you were when we began this process, where you are now, and what's been happening in between. Be specific and descriptive, but also evaluative: how much effort have you put into each of these drafts and their revisions, and what can you say about the quality of the final products?

6. Review as well your participation in our group work: how frequently have you come to class, how present-and-contributing have you been in our discussions,both large and small, what role have you assumed in our group dynamics?(Are you an organizer, devil's advocate, includer, clarifier, withdrawer? I picked up this idea from a book called Freire for the Classroom: A Sourcebook for Liberatory Teaching, which called my attention to the roles people play in groups.)

In my response to your portfolio, I'll be giving you a grade not just for the quality of your written work, but also for class participation and process. Your self-evaluation will assist me w/ my own.

I very much look forward to seeing what you come up with, as well as what you have to say about it.

In gratitude for the pleasure we have found in the hard work we have all been doing together,

The Bryn Mawr Story
Name: Laura
Date: 2001-12-02 23:47:55
Link to this Comment: 653

Bryn Mawr College opened in 1885 to a class of thirty-six students as an institution of higher education for women. What set Bryn Mawr apart from other such institutions was its focus on promoting an academic community of independent and ambitious young women. Where other women’s colleges fell short in certain areas, Bryn Mawr’s “residence halls, groupings of buildings and spaces, late Gothic forms, library, and president’s house set a new standard for the women’s colleges. With its buildings and landscapes went Bryn Mawr’s system of self-governance, which, however limited, opened up new possibilities for organizing communal life. Bryn Mawr broke with the building and governance traditions that had marked the women’s college and claimed for women the academic setting and way of life of men” (Horowitz 133).
Bryn Mawr has definitely changed as women’s status in society changed in the century and a quarter since the College’s founding. Nonetheless, Bryn Mawr still provides a strong academic community for women who dream of great achievements in a world that is still, for the most part, dominated by white males.
Bryn Mawr did not, however, start out in the same direction as it has gone for so long. In the beginning, a man by the name of Joseph Wright Taylor envisioned a Quaker women’s college that would be a female version of Haverford College. Taylor’s college would be practical and sophisticated. A woman by the name of Martha Carey Thomas, however, had an entirely different vision, and when she became the second president of the college in 1893 she began working towards her own vision, leaving Taylor’s as a vague outline in the background.
Carey Thomas had always been a far cry from society’s idea of a proper young lady and had grown up dreaming with her friend of “all who should say ‘ their example arouses me, their books ennoble me, their ideas inspire me and behold they are women!’” (Thomas apud Horowitz 112). Thomas believed that women deserved an education equal to men’s and that they did not need to be taught domestic skills while at the College. She let the students pick their own courses, imposing only a few basic requirements, so that they could pursue what they loved best. “She consciously shaped Bryn Mawr into a female community where women’s influence predominated” (Horowitz 115-116).
Bryn Mawr has always offered the opportunity of women’s education to a diverse group of students. One of the best examples of this is the Summer School for Women Workers that was hosted on the campus in the 1920s and 1930s for under-educated women who had had to drop out of school in order to get a job to help support their families. “An overwhelming proportion of the canvassed women stated that the School had had a considerable impact on their lives and had significantly contributed to their enhanced self image and skill development” (Heller 3). The Summer School gave valuable opportunities to women who otherwise might never have had such chances. It also helped improve the nation’s communities by giving confidence, and thereby voices, to the under-educated women who came from all over.
The Bryn Mawr story continues today in the same manner that it began in, although perhaps not so easily accessible. The high cost of tuition makes it difficult for even the brightest young woman to attend unless her family is at least in the middle class society. The most ambitious women who believe in their dreams, however, will find a way to attend, even if it is not until later in their lives, as is the case with the McBride scholars.
Bryn Mawr provides a diverse community for academically excellent women with a desire for more knowledge. Thousands of young women have experienced the Bryn Mawr story, and thousands more will follow. Each student will experience a slightly different story, as the college and the image of women change with the times. I am glad that I am part of the Bryn Mawr story.

length of papers
Name: Carol
Date: 2001-12-03 12:01:51
Link to this Comment: 654

A Mark Twain quote that speaks to our concern about the length of our papers:

"If I had had more time, I'd have written you a shorter letter."

Bryn Mawr Essay 1
Name: Flori
Date: 2001-12-05 14:19:15
Link to this Comment: 655

My Bryn Mawr
During my college search senior year in high school, I tried to take note of the feelings I would get the second I stepped foot on all the campuses I looked at. I felt this feeling was a very important aspect in a college choice. Deciding where to spend the next four years of my life, it was very important to find an atmosphere just right for me. However, at the same time, I wanted a totally new experience. I wanted a change, not because I was unhappy with the atmosphere I had been raised in and had gone to high school in, but because I simply wanted to experience something different. I felt that I could find this experience at Bryn Mawr.
Bryn Mawr definitely presented this different atmosphere with my very first visit. But I was and still am pleased with this atmosphere because I find it somewhat challenging, mainly due to the fact that it is so different from home. I come from a very small, mostly conservative town of Wellsboro, Pennsylvania. The area around Bryn Mawr College is huge in comparison with Wellsboro, and the students at the college tend to be very liberal.
When I read over the material about Bryn Mawr, I found many things about the founding and history of the college that explain the evolution of this college’s atmosphere that I had not been aware of. I new that Bryn Mawr had been founded as a Quaker college for women, but it was interesting to learn how much the plan for the college has strayed from its original path. Bryn Mawr was founded by Joseph Wright Taylor and opened in 1885, but Martha Carey Thomas, who eventually became Bryn Mawr’s third president in 1893, had a different vision for this new women’s college (Horowitz 117). Although she was born to a strong Quaker family, Thomas had strayed far from Quaker ideals (Horowitz 121). She had taken on a totally liberal mindset and was ready to instill this mindset on the college.
Two of these characteristics Thomas possessed were materialism and the “enjoyment of power” (Horowitz 130). One of the stereotypes about Bryn Mawr is that its students tend to be rich, snobby girls from upper society. This is probably because of Thomas’s mindset at the earlier years of the college. In a section dedicated to Bryn Mawr College of Helen Horowitz’s book Alma Mater: Design and Experience in the Women’s Colleges from Their Nineteenth-Century Beginnings to the 1930s, Horowitz states that “Carey Thomas always hoped to attract the daughters of wealth” (Horowitz 127).
Despite this aspect of the college under Thomas’s power, Bryn Mawr has taken on a revolutionary tone because of her influence. The Summer School for Girls started under Thomas’s presidency and lasted for the summers from 1921-1938 (Heller 4). In the documentary by Rita R. Heller called The Women of Summer: The Bryn Mawr Summer School for Women Workers, Thomas is described to “[defy] categorization” (Heller 10). Although it was started as simply a “social experiment” it became a major part of the college, educating blue collar women workers (Heller 2). It was also one of the very first colleges to educate black women (Heller 21). Through Thomas, who “seemed to delight in the impulsive act and the legends that might thereby result”, the Summer School for Girls is a good example of one of the many liberal standpoints of the college throughout its history (Heller 11).
I am very proud of my college’s revolutionary attitude. I respect this atmosphere more now that I know the college’s story, because I know what Bryn Mawr is capable of doing. Bryn Mawr women, as they did during the Summer School for Girls, learn to be strong enough to question and challenge aspects of society that have always been accepted but need and can be changed, such as blue collar labor back in the 1920’s. I knew there was something special about Bryn Mawr’s different atmosphere, and I am happy to be discovering these things that make it special and to be a member of this revolutionary group of women.

Works Cited
Horowitz, Helen. Alma Mater: Design and Experience in the Women’s Colleges from Their Nineteenth-Century Beginnings to the 1930s. New York: Knopf, 1984. 105-133.
Heller, Rita Rubinstein. “An ‘Unnatural’ Institution.” “The Women of Summer” The Bryn Mawr Summer School for Women Workers, 1921-1938.” Dss. Rutgers University, 1986. 1-36.

The Herstory of Bryn Mawr
Name: Stephanie
Date: 2001-12-05 21:31:43
Link to this Comment: 656

The Herstory of Bryn Mawr

As I drove past the campus for the third time, I said to my self, "Where in the world is the blasted place?" Oblivious to the panic I created within her, I pulled along side an unobtrusive jogger. The health fanatic was perfectly content to not be harassed by a lunatic ready to plunge to her death from a moving car window. "Excuse me, please," I shouted. She kept jogging. The wind worked my hair into a lunatic frenzy. I swerved the car to miss an innocent squirrel. What was he doing on the grass, anyway?
Thinking the hapless jogger did not hear me, I screamed my plea even louder this time. "Excuse me, please."
Surely the jogger had a hearing impairment of some sort, as she never strayed from her path of health and exercise to assist a person in obvious great need. And then it hit me. The tree branch, right in the face. That is what happens when you perch precariously from a car window. My guttural howl of pain, it could be called nothing less, did grab the attention of the jogger, or perhaps it was the two ton vehicle careening wildly out of control as I released my hold on the steering wheel to hold my injured face. Nonetheless, the spandex clad woman was now willing to assist. Imagine to my innocent surprise when I realized the woman was not hearing-impaired. She was just ignoring me.
While I had the full attention of the jogger, and every person in a two-block radius, I quickly asked for directions to Bryn Mawr College. Delighted, yet slightly bruised, I quickly made an illegal u-turn towards my future lest I forget the vital information just imparted to me. As I blazed a path in the grass, the jogger's final words echoed in my ears. The words will stay with me always, "They will let anybody into that school."
Finally finding the beautiful campus nestled into a quaint nook, I alighted from my car with feelings of overwhelming joy and happiness. The lush green grass made me thankful I was not a member of the grounds keeping staff. The volume of trees presented a safe haven to the overwhelming number of visible squirrels. I had not previously realized that the squirrel was an endangered species and was protected by Bryn Mawr Public Safety.
The architecture of the Bryn Mawr campus was majestic, except for one building oddly thrown into the mix. Obviously aliens had landed at Bryn Mawr and left Erdman as a reminder of their visit. The landscape was awe-inspiring.
The castles and turrets transported me back in time. I was able to imagine myself as a fairy princess about to slay the evil dragon. My weapon was education; my dragon was the outside world.
Bryn Mawr does that. It affords you the weapons needed to fulfill your dreams.
It has and continues to offer women their rightful place in this world. The original dream of Bryn Mawr was to provide a school for women equal to that of Harvard and Yale. At least, that was M. Carey Thomas' dream. Being herself denied the opportunity to achieve a Ph.D. in the United States, she was forced to obtain her doctorate in Zurich. This alienation by colleges, coupled with Thomas' unquenchable thirst for knowledge, compelled her to insure the resource of Bryn Mawr College.
Thomas required students to pass entrance exams, to study Greek and Latin, and to build the body with physical education requirements. This was not a finishing school. Ladies did not swoon at the sight of bared ankles, rather the female students brazenly created havoc with their nude swimming.
Bryn Mawr can not be defined. How do you define an enigma? The school is constructed of complexities. The school is filled with diversity, yet the statistics reveal a mostly Caucasian population. The school encourages self-expression, yet being heterosexual is looked upon as limiting. The school nurtures expansion of the mind, yet I can not attend my classes, as the campus is not handicap accessible.
The history of Bryn Mawr is nowhere near completion. It is being written and rewritten everyday and I, for one, look forward to being a part of that story.

Courageous Women Then and Now
Name: Lisa Harri
Date: 2001-12-05 23:16:54
Link to this Comment: 658

Courageous Women Then and Now

After viewing the film, The Women of Summer, someone in the group wondered if Bryn Mawr College was proud of that part of their history. The fact that the Program was discontinued, and most of us had never heard about it, seemed to indicate a certain amount of shame associated with the Summer School.

Personally, I was struck by the similarities between the 1921-38 program for women workers and the current McBride Scholars Program. Approximately fifty years after the Summer Program closed, Bryn Mawr again began offering opportunities to women who might not otherwise have a first-rate liberal arts education available to them.

The trade workers of the Summer Program were selected based on their social standing and trade work. (The College went so far as to exclude teachers, clerical workers and saleswomen from the Program.) In 1923, the School revised its Statement of Purpose.

The aim of the School is to offer young
women in industry opportunities to study
liberal subjects and to train themselves
in clear thinking; to stimulate an active
and continued interest in the problems of
our economic order; to develop a desire to
study as a means of understanding and of
enjoyment of life.

The Summer School looked for blue-collar women
eager for challenging collegiate study. They sought
women of promise wishing to better their lot.
Recruiters sought evidence of maturity, leadership
potential and mainly of intellectual curiosity.

Today, McBrides are selected based on age rather than social class. One of the McBride Program’s criterion is that the women must be “beyond the traditional college age.” Otherwise, the McBride recruitment literature of today is remarkably similar to that of the Summer School’s requirements.

Today’s McBride Program looks for “women who have an
intense motivation and desire to advance their knowledge
in an academic community that recognizes their
unique contributions and challenges.”

The McBride Program recognizes the myriad of reasons
women postponed or interrupted their schooling for
family, work, financial hardship, or to pursue
other interests. They further recognize that some
women never considered going to college because they
didn’t realize they were smart.

The majority of McBride Scholars I’ve come to know aren’t daughters of Industry leaders, but they are intelligent women who’ve been held back for one reason or another from achieving their intellectual potential. They’ve sacrificed their goals and desires for others and continue to make sacrifices in order to pursue their dream of an education. Some are interested in initiating bold changes in national politics or within their community, while others are starting more tentatively with a quieter revolution from within.

The Summer School women and the McBrides have at least one commonality: courage.

Perhaps another paper…

Another fascinating aspect of the film intrigues me. Bryn Mawr alumnae were known to be offspring of wealthy families. Their fathers were generally capitalistic affluent businessmen. Yet this Summer School sought to educate the very workers in their factories – leading to unionism – which meant higher wages, less work hours, better working conditions, etc. I’m perplexed – was Bryn Mawr College (M. Carey Thomas) deliberately baiting the parents of the student body when it sought to educate these women in labor issues and collective bargaining?

My Place at Bryn Mawr
Name: Robin
Date: 2001-12-06 00:10:25
Link to this Comment: 659

I don’t remember when I first heard about Bryn Mawr. It might have been when Bart Simpson’s schoolteacher announced that she was a Bryn Mawr woman, as though that gave her some special status. I think I already knew what she was talking about, though.
Bryn Mawr has a magical quality about it. It has dramatic architecture, stacks of musty books, mysterious traditions, and a wide variety of fascinating people in various stages of eccentricity, many of whom expect me to work very very hard. This all adds up to my personal vision of heaven.
Of course, there are many bits and pieces that don’t fit into my little vision. I don’t necessarily pay attention to those bits and pieces; I like being happy and I’m not above achieving happiness with a certain measure of delusional thinking. Other people’s Bryn Mawr, therefore, may not be much like mine.
Bryn Mawr is often seen as a place for the daughters of the wealthy. When I asked one of my community college professors for a recommendation, she gave it gladly but said, “Well, I guess you’ll be too good for us now.” I don’t actually feel that way, but I do have a certain pride in being a Bryn Mawr student that I never had as a community college student. As another of my community college professors pointed out, “Nobody buys t-shirts for this place.”
Bryn Mawr students buy the t-shirts. I have two already.
The history we’ve just read of Bryn Mawr doesn’t really surprise me all that much, for some reason. M. Carey Thomas’ personality still seems present on campus, and her story seemed comfortable and familiar, though I didn’t know much about her before. I didn’t know about the summer school, but it doesn’t seem surprising. The McBride program feels like a spiritual descendent of the summer school, though the distinction is now made by age rather than social class. The end of the summer school doesn’t surprise me, either. Bryn Mawr expects students to stay in the place where they’re put. The summer school women did too well. They learned more than the powers behind the school wanted them to. There was only so long that that could go on.
The women of the summer school were beautiful and inspiring. I kept making the parallel between them and the McBrides, who are also unexpectedly beautiful and inspiring. I wonder if someday the McBrides will do too well, and cease to exist. I think that, in general, the McBrides might come from less auspicious backgrounds than the traditional students. This might be interesting to explore further.
(I just looked at the forum and saw that Lisa talked about the same sort of thing, as far as the parallel between McBrides and the summer school [more eloquently than I have, I notice] and she mentions the shame that might be lurking behind the failure to recognize the summer school. I sincerely hope Bryn Mawr never feels ashamed of the McBrides. . .)

Bryn Mawr History
Name: Emma
Date: 2001-12-06 00:54:43
Link to this Comment: 660

It was fascinating to read about all that Carey Thomas had to go through to realize her vision for Bryn Mawr. That vision of an academically rigorous institution meant to challenge a woman's intellect was clearly radical in her time as was the idea of educating working-class women. I was moved by the story of Bryn Mawr's summer school as told by the women who participated. Hearing these stories, reading about Carey Thomas, stirred my sense of appreciation for those whose courage made possible the opportunities we now take for granted.

Normally, someone encountering these stories might get a stronger sense of the nostalgia of the history, but the direct testimony of the women's hardships in the workplace and of their union activism doesn't allow us a comfortable distance from the past. This story, it seems, is being shared as a reminder that even today there's radical action waiting to be taken. This challenge from the past is jarring. After all, the possibility that we, today's Bryn Mawr undergraduates, will heed it is very unlikely. The problems we face as women, as workers, as members of any particular group are not as harsh. We do not have a compelling need to mobilize ourselves into collective action. However, the story of radical ideas and actions related to Bryn Mawr's history tells us that progress is made through struggle, and it forces us to consider what we owe to that struggle.

On a completely different track...

I have the sense there are plenty of smart young women from working-class families at Bryn Mawr now and, to the credit of our American society, this seems unremarkable. On the other hand, I do wonder if Carey Thomas' vision of an academically rigorous institution remains the same as what she intended. There is certainly a lot of work demanded here, but perhaps quantity gets in the way of quality?

Date: 2001-12-06 08:46:00
Link to this Comment: 662

Quaker(?) Ladies(?)

College Seminar
Fall 2001
Meg Devereux

What a vision Carey Thomas had. And what grit to push her ideas through her enlightened but nonetheless all male conservative board. Her decisions to take the best that Smith, Vassar, and Wellesley had to offer and combine it with her own vision intrigues me. That she wanted the women in her college to govern themselves and not be chaperoned as in a female seminary combines a lack of condescension and a surplus of trust that must have been empowering in a an almost revolutionary way. Like many visionary pioneers she combined new and energetic plans with what sometimes seems a number of inconsistencies and contradictions. As with any single minded visionary she could appear arrogant and intractable. Yet she was flexible enough not to judge the nude swimming of her undergraduates and forbade it only under pressure from her board. Her critics probably borrowed a line from her contemporary, Queen Victoria, "We are not amused."
During her early years at Bryn Mawr, Thomas was careful to pay lip service to the Quaker philosophy of her youth and her male board. Quakers believe in a life lived in simplicity, with lack of decoration or extravagance, They "thee" each other as a sign of their lack of worldly deference to one another. All people are equal before God and therefore no clergy or persons of authority are needed in Quaker worship or meeting as they call their services of silent prayer focused on the light within each of them. Quaker women are viewed as fully equal to men. Thomas felt less judged than equal in her pursuit of a higher degree and more than equal in attaining one. No wonder in later years she became Episcopalian as so many of her fellow Quakers of the period did. Episcopalians are not known for their modesty or humility. The Quakers who returned to this their earlier faith of Anglicism, the English parent of the Episcopal faith, appeared at times to do so to enjoy the prosperity and opulence of the late 19th century. The Quakers had come to Pennsylvania "to do good" and had, as the saying goes, "done well". With her love of theatre and music, Thomas would have enjoyed both these elements inherent in the Episcopal liturgy which closely resembles that of Roman Catholicism. Thomas, as did the Episcopalians, enjoyed elegant entertainment, expensive travel, fine houses and collecting objets d'art on trips abroad. Thomas's affection for her cosmopolitan Quaker cousins further demonstrates her comfort with a world beyond her religious roots. Two cousins, married respectively to Bernard Berenson, the art historian and dealer, and Bertrand Russell, the mathematician and philosopher, and their brother Logan Pearsall Smith were among her intimates. The cosmopolitan, less than constant marriages of these women, were a bit off the mark in terms of Quaker "lady hood" referred to by the early board of Bryn Mawr as desirable qualities in the new college before the full directive influence of Thomas was felt.
An ardent feminist, who felt women deserved the same intellectual privileges of the day as men, Thomas eschewed the cottage housing of Smith and Wellesley in favor of a more masculine prototype. Thomas had no say in the first buildings on campus including Taylor named for Bryn Mawr's founder and benefactor. Taylor created a strong vertical presence rising out of an almost unplanted bare landscape. Masculine is hardly a strong enough word for it though the all male board thought of it in its plain demeanor as a gray Quaker Lady on the hill removed from worldliness and signifying spirit and intellect. Thomas, in turn, chose to imitate the colleges of Oxford in exterior architecture, architecture derived directly from mediaeval Roman Catholic monasticism and later all male Anglican academia. Oxford was also suggested in the interior lay out, giving each woman a room or rooms of her own. Unlike students attending other women's college, Bryn Mawr women were not expected to tend to personal housekeeping and were provided with servants, not a particularly Quaker attitude to say the least.
Despite her own hard won academic credentials acquired in Europe or perhaps because of the struggles they entailed, she was loathe to hire women as professors, feeling them to be less qualified academically, less dynamic and unreliable due to marital propensities. She determined early on to employ male professors of first-rate intellect and accomplishment. Bryn Mawr unlike other early women's colleges was situated near a major city that offered intellectual, scientific, cultural and industrial worlds, which provided rich resources for research and intellectual interaction and stimulation for her faculty. Male faculty would be drawn to such a stimulating environment and Thomas utilized this asset to the fullest.
A lover of the arts, Thomas was nonetheless anxious that Bryn Mawr emphasize a traditional male curriculum emphasizing the classic languages, Greek and Latin, and the sciences. Entrance exams were based on stringent male models. The demands of this program were more conservative than other woman's colleges. Nonetheless Thomas moved into new territory. Unlike other women's colleges, Bryn Mawr offered graduate degrees from its early days. Thomas introduced and promoted a highly innovative Graduate School of Education and an equally innovative and controversial Graduate School of Social Science. The later was in constant need of Thomas's protection from her conservative board. Her summer school for women workers was yet another radical program which honored the Quaker classless vision of her youth.
Carey Thomas, Quaker, Episcopalian, feminist, employer of male faculty, builder of monastic edifices, classicist and educational innovator had the diversity of vision and the energy for execution to create a flexible disciplined evolving institution that continues today to embrace and expand complementary and contradictory wholeness. Today women from many races, religions, and economic strata and of varying ages are benefiting from Thomas's early leadership. Bryn Mawr still honors that breadth of vision that F. Scott Fitzgerald cites as the mark of a sophisticated person, an ability to hold multiple and contradictory ideas in the mind at the same time.
As I read the early history of Bryn Mawr, I identified with the summer school students. As a McBride, I am grateful and excited to be here where every bit of learned information seems to jump at me as iron shavings to a magnet. I have a bit of trouble sorting them out and I wouldn't mind a few less at a time but I'm greedy enough to hope I can gather as many as I can for as long as I can and sort them out in my dotage.
Reading these pieces reminds me of at least two women who were here in the 20's and 30's. One was my high school history teacher whom I wrote of briefly in my fairy tale and the earlier assignment on my life of learning. She charmed me, shocked me, pushed me, mothered me and taught me more than any other teacher in a school known for its teaching. The other was a neighbor who died last month at the age of ninety. Widowed at twenty, with two small children she returned to Bryn Mawr and completed her degree. I heard this for the first time ten days ago at her memorial service. I have read her two racy acerbic novels that expose the world of proper Philadelphia, listened to her tell witty self deprecating stories about her life, had her tell me I was full of crap (really her words), and heard others speak of her incredible and quiet generosity of spirit and purse. Both these women had little patience for anything less than an honest, straightforward effort of mind and spirit. Both exemplified moral and intellectual integrity. Both reveled in learning and teaching. Both stood out in their worlds as a little more alive than those around them. Both were a hoot. Well done, Carey Thomas.

History of BMC
Name: Zoe Anspac
Date: 2001-12-06 08:51:43
Link to this Comment: 663

The History of Bryn Mawr College: How Did A Revolutionary College Become A Conservative College?

Reading about the history of Bryn Mawr College is difficult, not because of its complexity, but because the writing is overrun by status-related information and a lopsided perspective. The story is told primarily from the point of view of the wealthy and powerful founders and administrators. Certainly their influence in shaping the college is depressingly large. However, in my short experience of one semester at the college, the students, a magnificent array of intellectually talented women, they, not the buildings are the intellectual and holy face looking down from the beautiful site upon the surrounding world saying "I might, I might just be able to make a difference." They are one of the most compelling reasons to attend Bryn Mawr. Only in the story of The Bryn Mawr Summer School for Women Workers do we begin to see how the students contributed to the character of the college.

The school was conceived in the mind of a conservative Quaker, a rich man with connections to other rich men with connections to Havorford College. He wondered where Quaker women could get educated. He formed a vision of a female Haverford and with the help of his friends he laid the foundation financially and philosophically for a Quaker college for women.

When he died just before the school became a reality, his daughter took over. But she was quite a different woman than the orthodox Quaker woman her father imagined. As a women with a Ph.D. in 1883 and the hubris to suggest herself for the presidency of the new college she was radical. She went on to rule the school for nearly four decades. What is considered outrageous behavior for the times is amusing to read about in our impious age. Apparently, it was the height of flamboyant disregard for Quaker philosophy to allow music and theatre in the school. I couldn’t help but feel a comraderie with her when she made her aesthetism and pageantry permeate Bryn Mawr College.

Unfortunately, my admiration of her was spoiled when I saw the documentary film about the Bryn Mawr Summer School of Women Workers. Although she helped to found the socially progressive school, she made sure that African American students would not be treated as equals with the rest of the students. This is a disturbing part of Bryn Mawr’s history. Still, the school indirectly contributed to radical social reform by educating industrial workers and promoting social activism.

After discovering that the Bryn Mawr’s leadership of Bryn Mawr was once a forerunner of progressive education I wondered at what point in history did the school fall behind progressive education. Bryn Mawr College intended to be progressive and it was--in its beginning. But is it now? What would be progressive now? I once searched for a progressive school and I never came across Bryn Mawr. Instead, I found schools that shared an alternative approach to the following set of characteristics:

Child Care
Where students with children are accomodated with childcare facilities and a general attitude of tolerance for the parent’s unpredictable needs (for instance at UCF they allowed cell phones, and if a student mother had to leave class in the middle of a test to attend to her child it was done.) It is astonishing that any school associated with the notion of feminism would not have on-campus child care. Also, what about the needs of the young mother. If she is required by a totally outdated idea of requiring all students to live on campus, forgo having a car, and be full-time this practically excludes young mothers. What should they do? Wait until they are old enough to be a McBride? ...which leads me to the next thing:

Age Discrimination.
The very stodgey requirement that students attend full time is an exclusionary mechanism in two ways: it keeps those who would have to work to pay for the school out. 2. It keeps older adults out. (It also prohibits those with disabilities.)

Frankly, I think that grading while in the learning process is absurd. Testing, not grading, is a necessary part of learning. Testing tells the teacher and the student how they are progressing. Grading is infinitely useless in predicting or informing of a persons abilities and potential. Furthermore, it is childish; as if a reward needs to be dangled in front of people who have already been determined as self-motivated and intellectually hungry.

Interdisciplinary Curriculum
For instance, progressive elementary schools are using art to teach anthropology and math to teach music. A radical liberal arts college today would not lack a strong presence of the arts. It certainly would not promote P.E. more than it promoted the arts! Also, at progressive colleges, such as Wesleyan, there is more allowance for the student to enrich his or her learning experience by taking classes in vastly different disciplines without the risk of lowering their academic standing if they don’t perform well in subjects outside of their major.

Where the charges or payment for college education are innovative, such as allowing the student to pay by working on a campus agri-busness, or giving full scholarship to students regardless of their financial situation if they are deemed qualified to attend the school (i.e. Cooper Union.)

Diversity or Cultural Presence
Progressive schools have had it for decades.

Modern Technology
i.e. online registration...

Innovation and Application
The idea of serial processing and parallel processing comes to mind as I think about this. Both are essential to what? more...

Bryn Mawr cannot be considered progressive or revolutionary anymore. In fact, the school now seems conservative. Feminism has advanced considerably.Yet the school remains in a mode of overcompensating false masculinity. The face I see now is that of a quiet stern matron. I question whether or not the need exists now, as certainly it did at Bryn Mawr’s beginning, to obtain intellectual validity for women by making a women’s college a proving ground in the image of the leading men’s colleges. I think that the idea of modeling after men’s elite colleges is now unnecessary. In my experience, people are judged more often on their professionalism and their ability to apply knowledge productively.

By remaining narrow and elite, the school feels contracted. It needs to stretch. I believe its future value depends on broadening it.

Bryn Mawr excels, in my short perspective, at the following:
Providing professors that offer substantial feedback and interaction with students.
Creating an attitude of colleagueship between teachers and students.
Assembling an amazing array of intellectually curious women.


Summer School
Name: Carol
Date: 2001-12-06 08:56:37
Link to this Comment: 664

I wonder why only a couple of people among about twenty women who have clearly spent lots of time studying Bryn Mawr--reading about its history, roaming its campus, going through the arduous process of applying--have ever heard the Summer School even mentioned.

Is the college not proud of this important part of its history? Is the college not only not proud, but is it embarrassed?

It seems that M. Carey Thomas originally envisioned the Summer School as a place where women workers would study and frolic and have access to "things of the intellect and spirit." (Heller, 13) She based her ideas on the Summer School on the Workers Education Association, which was a British program that through education would prepare workers "for life, not livelihood." (Heller, 11) We could read this to mean that the educated workers would not be expected to take action or to provoke change in the social structures that bound them to their menial jobs.

That the Summer School at Bryn Mawr turned out women who were heavily involved in the organized labor movement, who took actions and provoked social changes, seemed to be a real surprise to Thomas. As Jane Worthington stated, "Miss Thomas didn't realize that a workers school would plunge Bryn Mawr into the heart of the organized labor movement." (Heller, 12)

Miss Thomas had created a Frankenstein's monster. Her social experiment pleased everyone as long as the students participated in education for education's sake. However, when her newly educated workers discovered their guts and their voices and began to be politically active--participating in demonstrations and strikes--Miss Thomas and the college trustees began to be nervous. By the time of its 1935 eviction, Miss Thomas joined the trustees in opposing the Summer School that she had founded. Her monster had taken on a life of its own.

I, too, am struck by similarities between the Summer School students and the McBrides I have gotten to know. Like "Women Workers in Industry," (Grumman, 23) we McBrides could be called Women Workers in Life. Many of us have held menial jobs in industry and business, we've cared for other people all our lives, and we come to Bryn Mawr knowing that we want an education, not because we need it for our resumes.

I loved the film "Women of Summer." I loved hearing all those proud, strong, articulate elderly women reminisce about the summers they spent together finding their power in education.

women of summer
Name: Marie-Laur
Date: 2001-12-06 09:36:57
Link to this Comment: 665

The women of summer were part of history but history did not happen to them. They went to history. At least that the claim I heard. Is it a reality that no matter what we do, we will in a way or another be part of the history. I can think that way only because those women or others had worked hard for us, women find a place to create. They have climbed the mountain and what is left for us to do? I have the impression we are descending from that mountain and more on the luxuriant side of it. Nonetheless it is not less work for us, now. I believe that each step has been important and still is important. But do I really want to go further? After all, because of those women and others, I could today just take delight in their works. The women of summer were a bit too radical as the other people said, so what? Isn’t what we need to be in order to make changes? Changes for what? Changes for who? In the core of Bryn Mawr we come to defy. To defy who? To defy what? I feel that I am running out of time, just like the rabbit in Alice in the wonderland. Is it the running we have to do. I do not know for sure but a wonderland it is indeed, indeed!!! From what I have read and what I have seen my mind could not stop on spinning, after all I am history. What do I do? What do I want to do? It was obvious for those women of summer what to do? They were at Bryn Mawr to make their own story. I’m here too and I make my own story. Where does this get any different? They were a spirited community of a low number of people and we are a bunch of individuals in a community. The important thing to know is how the community served our purposes. Does the community bond together as a state or a band? Since the time of the women of the summer things have changed. Some people would say, “It has evolved” but some would say, “It did, but only on the surface”. How does this make any difference? Isn’t this a reality that thing can only change when they have been touch in the inside. At least, it has been the reality on which I have been drawing my inspiration from since I entered the school. So like Sethe should we fight against Schoolteacher and wait to get touch on the inside, which might never happened or should we look for what would touch first and then act. Those are not the only solutions that we can find. But no matter what we decide to do, we should be pleased with it because we could not possibly please every single person on earth. Moreover, in my opinion any solution would one way or another be story and history at the same time.

Re-writing the Bryn Mawr Story: Starting w/ Admiss
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2001-12-06 16:32:37
Link to this Comment: 666

To the storytelling cluster--

As I was telling the McBrides this morning, part of my own effort
to "re-write the Bryn Mawr story" involves working on the Admissions
Committee, where I find myself in quite a struggle over how to
recruit and retain the sorts of students (like yourselves!) I want
to work w/. Talking over this project, Paul and I came up w/ the
idea of trying evoke, in the Admissions materials, possibilities of
how potential students might perform here, rather than asking them
for a catalogue of criteria they have already met--criteria which I'm
yet to be convinced are predictive of flourishing (however one defines
flourishing). I'm wondering what you think of this proposal for a new
set of essays we might require for Admission to Bryn Mawr?

1. What has been your most difficult academic challenge so far?
How did you meet it?
2. Write an essay in which you provide a critical analysis of your
educational experiences to date.
3. Write an essay describing your understanding of the relation among
math, natural science, social science and humanities. (If your inclinations
are mathematical or graphic, you are free to "figure" rather than to
write this.)
4. Substitute for either 2) or 3) a portfolio of your most meaningful
creative work to date.
5. Submit your high school record and whatever other measures of
academic performance and promise (i.e. SATs, etc.) you think relevant.
6. Submit three recommendations of teachers who know you well and can
speak about the quality of the work you have done.

Name: meg
Date: 2001-12-06 19:40:55
Link to this Comment: 667

the portfolio idea is the best. It should be validated by the high highschool. Also the teacher reccomendation. some of the boarding schools we have applied to have very profound questions and requirements including character assesmentss. much better than the colleges. Oh how lucky BMC is to have you, Anne, on their admissions com.. Also I think a yesr off working, Outward Bound or doing your art, visual, performing, writing etc. should almost be mandatory. why are sports such a huge entr these days Megpuleeze.

Bryn Mawr's Story
Date: 2001-12-07 21:21:01
Link to this Comment: 668

Caring to Dare
M. Carey Thomas, Bryn Mawr’s first dean and longest termed president, inspired the college’s first students to dare. She encouraged them to test their opinions in academically rigorous settings, to project an inner confidence, and to act when they felt it necessary, regardless of current orthodoxies. It is a story of daring that best describes Bryn Mawr College. Thomas inspired by example. She turned the proposed college from an orthodox Quaker school emphasizing domestic life to a woman’s college with faculty active in their research and demanding in the classroom. The school that Thomas created remains a springboard for daring woman as they dive into their independent lives.
Thomas was able to convince her opponents that enacting her plans would best serve the college because her goal was a personal one. Several years before she adopted Bryn Mawr as her project, Thomas had been refused access to Johns Hopkins graduate school program because she was a woman. Thomas drew on both this experience and the confidence that she had in herself and other women to engage in the highest levels of scholarship. They motivated her as she created a school where other woman could realize their dreams through participating in an exchange of ideas and, when appropriate, inventing their own.
Thomas continued to live her legacy, and, approximately thirty years into the school’s existence, she expanded the legacy to add a summer school for female factory workers on the Bryn Mawr Campus. This time, she had a vision for how the school that she loved and nurtured could play a part in shaping the lives of women outside of the elite class on which she had previously focused. By sharing her idea, believing in her abilities, and following through, M. Carey Thomas fostered the daring and contagious spirit that infected many generations of students after her reign as president ended.
One way that Thomas’s inspirational influence continues to manifest itself is through the buildings whose architecture she advocated. Thomas’s love of pageantry and the aesthetes, despite her Quaker background and professed beliefs, is reflected in Pembroke and Rockefeller Halls. Thomas Hall is a trophy won by Thomas in a battle with the Board of Trustees, who felt that the new building was too close to Taylor Hall, whose form represented to them traditional Quaker values. Both of these buildings represent a vision held by a woman who was not queasy about developing artistic tastes that conflicted with the tastes preferred by her contemporaries. She used architecture to make bold statements about her own philosophies, and these statements continue to serve as reminders of the value of realizing ones dreams.
Amidst the wondrous buildings that enclose the campus, students continue to challenge each other with new ideas, learn to take pride in their ability as well as their accomplishments, and seek out opportunities to take action to improve their own lives, the lives around them, and the lives of the greater humanity. Although today’s typical Bryn Mawr woman is often so intensely wound up in her academic work that she seems to be incognizant of the greater world, the vary vigor with which she approaches her studies is influenced by M. Carey Thomas. This is because the Bryn Mawr curriculum encourages research, discussion style learning, and cross discipline thinking, all components that teach students to take active and independent roles in their own education. These key elements make Bryn Mawr the college that Thomas envisioned and made a reality.

History of Bryn Mawr
Date: 2001-12-08 19:14:19
Link to this Comment: 669

Bryn Mawr College opened its doors in 1885 with a mission that would carry it into the twentieth century. Taylor envisioned his college as a small one “for the advanced education and care of young women and girls of the higher and more refined classes of Society.” (Alma Mater 110) Although M. Carey Thomas would be the catalysts in bring Bryn Mawr College to where it is today, it was Joseph Wright Taylor’s question to himself that created the idea for the college in 1877: “ Who educated Quaker women? (Alma Mater 105) Taylor died in January 1880, but his idea lived on and continues to be re-sculpted everyday.
Taylor’s idea developed into a vision through M. Carey Thomas a woman with a daring attitude toward women’s issues who embraced these issues with strength and innovativeness. Ultimately, she was motivated by her wish to have a life different from her mother’s, a dream she had since she was fifteen years old. She shared her ideas with her cousin and closest friend Bessie. “The daughters of prominent Quaker families, their ambitions soared far from the domestic accomplishments of their mothers.” (Alma Mater 112)
Her intuitive image of a college focused on the idea of women becoming empowered through a liberal arts education as rigorous as men’s. This idea would immerge explicitly in the form of Bryn Mawr College. M. Carey Thomas stayed focused on her purpose. “ She always kept the purpose in mind: behold they are women.” (Alma Mater 112)
I arrived at BMC as a McBride Scholar in September 2001 with a very strong determination to also have a life far different from my mother’s. The BMC McBride program is designed for women returning to school after at least five-year break. I believe one of the criteria in order to be accepted into this program is the virtue of fortitude and which coincides with the determination of the founders of BMC. I believe every McBride accepted has abundance of it!
On my arrival I found the college filled with energy and pride that quickly transferred itself to me. The legacy created by M. Carey Thomas after 30 years as president of BMC was obvious to me as I became familiar with the campus architecture and traditions. The regal atmosphere is in every nook and cranny of the campus. The supportive atmosphere at the college is demonstrated everyday in the classrooms when students ask for extra assistance from their professors, or when a dean needs to become a mentor for an overwhelmed student trying to balance her new life. Personally my Italian professor meets with me once a week and the McBride Dean has been available to me throughout the semester with an open door policy.
Moving toward my second semester at BMC, I feel very proud and appreciative to be here. Learning about the history of BMC has made me realize that the women attending the college today have many of the same qualities in common with the women that attended BMC from the beginning. Today we are just as determine to change history and re-tell our stories, and for some of us, to have a life different from our mothers.
BMC makes this possible, because of the indomitable spirit of M. Carey Thomas and all those that helped her fulfill her vision. We are all connected and part of a greater whole, because the education of one of us affects all of us in the community, which in turn affects the whole world.

History of Bryn Mawr-- Draft 1
Name: Louise
Date: 2001-12-08 19:15:47
Link to this Comment: 670

Bryn Mawr College opened its doors in 1885 with a mission that would carry it into the twentieth century. Taylor envisioned his college as a small one “for the advanced education and care of young women and girls of the higher and more refined classes of Society.” (Alma Mater 110) Although M. Carey Thomas would be the catalysts in bring Bryn Mawr College to where it is today, it was Joseph Wright Taylor’s question to himself that created the idea for the college in 1877: “ Who educated Quaker women? (Alma Mater 105) Taylor died in January 1880, but his idea lived on and continues to be re-sculpted everyday.
Taylor’s idea developed into a vision through M. Carey Thomas a woman with a daring attitude toward women’s issues who embraced these issues with strength and innovativeness. Ultimately, she was motivated by her wish to have a life different from her mother’s, a dream she had since she was fifteen years old. She shared her ideas with her cousin and closest friend Bessie. “The daughters of prominent Quaker families, their ambitions soared far from the domestic accomplishments of their mothers.” (Alma Mater 112)
Her intuitive image of a college focused on the idea of women becoming empowered through a liberal arts education as rigorous as men’s. This idea would immerge explicitly in the form of Bryn Mawr College. M. Carey Thomas stayed focused on her purpose. “ She always kept the purpose in mind: behold they are women.” (Alma Mater 112)
I arrived at BMC as a McBride Scholar in September 2001 with a very strong determination to also have a life far different from my mother’s. The BMC McBride program is designed for women returning to school after at least five-year break. I believe one of the criteria in order to be accepted into this program is the virtue of fortitude and which coincides with the determination of the founders of BMC. I believe every McBride accepted has abundance of it!
On my arrival I found the college filled with energy and pride that quickly transferred itself to me. The legacy created by M. Carey Thomas after 30 years as president of BMC was obvious to me as I became familiar with the campus architecture and traditions. The regal atmosphere is in every nook and cranny of the campus. The supportive atmosphere at the college is demonstrated everyday in the classrooms when students ask for extra assistance from their professors, or when a dean needs to become a mentor for an overwhelmed student trying to balance her new life. Personally my Italian professor meets with me once a week and the McBride Dean has been available to me throughout the semester with an open door policy.
Moving toward my second semester at BMC, I feel very proud and appreciative to be here. Learning about the history of BMC has made me realize that the women attending the college today have many of the same qualities in common with the women that attended BMC from the beginning. Today we are just as determine to change history and re-tell our stories, and for some of us, to have a life different from our mothers.
BMC makes this possible, because of the indomitable spirit of M. Carey Thomas and all those that helped her fulfill her vision. We are all connected and part of a greater whole, because the education of one of us affects all of us in the community, which in turn affects the whole world.

Bryn Mawr
Name: Amanda Gle
Date: 2001-12-09 21:51:26
Link to this Comment: 671

Just outside Philadelphia, in a little suburb named Bryn Mawr, in the year 1885, Bryn Mawr College, a stong woman’s college opened its doors to its students. Five miles from its brother school, Haverford, on a pleasant thirty-two acre parcel of land, the school blossomed. When M. Carey Thomas arrived home from Europe with a Ph.D., she was a perfect choice for head of school. As a “brilliant, determined, feminist, Quaker woman...the daughter, niece, and cousin of members of the board of trustees”1 she quickly became first member of the faculty and dean while James Rhoads was president. M. Carey Thomas was not president as the board had three issues with her: 1.) She was a female; 2.) She had yet to be tried; 3.) The trustees believed that perhaps she was not the good Quaker that she appeared to be. Despite this Rhoads and Thomas worked well together with her having most of the power. Carey Thomas “did not hope to re-create Smith, the equivalent of the best colleges for men. Rather she intended to offer to undergraduate women the highest standards of university training available in the United States.”2 With this attitude, Bryn Mawr rose to a prominent position in the American scholar’s mind.
Studying under a coeducation faculty, on a classic campus in the style of “Quaker lady” dress, the independent women who chose to attend Bryn Mawr began to learn greatly. Because Carey Thomas did not see the need for difference between men and women’s education, no special emphasis was placed on domestic work. “As the visible sign that truth had no sex, the Bryn Mawr campus gave no clue as to the gender of its student body.”3 Unlike most women’s schools, Bryn Mawr did not even have the women make their beds. The students wore scholar’s garb which male students at most colleges wore. Each woman had her own room for privacy. It was a unique environment for the women to learn in.
This unique environment strentched not just from the campus setting but to the learning itself. Classes were taught in a seminar style, with the students and professors learning together. Almost thirty years after its establishment, another new learning style was established. “The Bryn Mawr Summer School for Women Workers offered to [eighty-two blue collar women] eight weeks of residential, non-vocational, liberal arts study.”4 This way of learning had considerable impact on many young women’s lives allowing them to stretch themselves farther than they thought possible. The timeless study of the liberal arts allowed the women who attended Bryn Mawr’s Summer School for Women to blossom in “the thriving women’s social justice movement of the progressive era.”5 These women were looking for work outside of domestic settings and thus embraced this nouveau learning style.
The Summer School was not just about social feminism though. It was mostly about learning. What with the suffrage victory, learning equally to men was a prime goal. The Bryn Mawr Summer School was unique in that it allowed laborers to study in an elite environment. The educators that joined the school ranged from academics to unionists to socialists to idealists. Taught by such a large range of professors, the “women’s social justice movement joined ranks with an incipient workers’ education movement.”6 This “encourag[ed] women to fulfill their a sexist world.”7
Bryn Mawr’s diverse society helped to edify the students in their “street” knowledge. From the different geographical regions, the women from the Northeast were educated in the remoteness of the rest of the country, and the Southern and Western women learned of the issues of the Northeast.8 Also, as there was a mixture of ages, mature women were able to watch the games of the younger and the less mature were able to discuss with the elders. Races and ethnic groups were mixed which added to the diverse character of the student body. This all helped with the Bryn Mawr experience.
With the different aspects of Bryn Mawr, women from all cultures, of all ages, and of all different characters have been able to learn about and be equal to men who go to schools which are on the same level as Bryn Mawr. The strengths of Bryn Mawr are many.

My Impressions of Bryn Mawr
Name: Eveline A.
Date: 2001-12-11 04:53:11
Link to this Comment: 674

Eveline A. Stang
Professor Anne Dalke
College Seminar 01
December 6, 2001

My Impressions of Bryn Mawr College

My first introduction to Bryn Mawr was in 1997 when I attended a concert by the late Carol Amado, who was my son’s violin teacher and also happened to be an honorary member of the Bryn Mawr College Faculty of Music at the time. My family and I had moved to the United States from Canada just a few years before, so I was not well acquainted with the area or the college itself. The concert took place in an upper gallery of Goodhart Hall on a Sunday afternoon in October under heavy gray skies. The rain pounded ceaselessly on the roof that afternoon. The noise threatened to drown out the musicians, so that the tall windows with a view to endless green lawns had to be closed. Perhaps it was the weather, or perhaps it was the medieval English architecture, but the place had a certain presence, hints of “Manderley” the beautiful mansion in Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca. “It kind of reminds me of Oxford,” I remember remarking to my husband. Who would have thought that I would be attending as a student just four years later!

My next contact with Bryn Mawr was in the form of a college admissions interview on a hot, sunny day in June in a charming little yellow house across from Wyndham. I was pleasantly surprised to see antique rugs and furniture as part of the décor, the kind of details one associates with a well-appointed home. The thought occurred to me that this was probably due to the fact that Bryn Mawr is a women’s college; generally, women seem to place more emphasis on creating comfortable surroundings.

Following this interview, where not only the ambience but also the college directors put me at ease, I attended an open house for prospective McBride students in November 2000, which took place in Wyndham. As I understand it, Wyndham was at one time a manor house that was donated by the owners to the college. It is now an inn for college guests, and has a formal dining room as well as meeting room facilities. The atmosphere of Wyndham, like the previous house, conveys warmth and hospitality. The soft colors, vintage carpets, and comfortable furnishings seemed surprising to me in a college setting, as did the buffet of pastries and coffee that preceded the meeting! I had expected a more officious atmosphere for a college with a reputation for being “the very best woman’s college there is” and one of the best in the nation.

Bryn Mawr has an intriguing, tangible sense of history that is reflected in its architecture. Taylor Hall and the Merion Residence Hall provide the only physical evidence that a Quaker philosophy was once intended to guide the education of young women. The original building, Taylor Hall, sits three stories tall on a gentle rise in the middle of the campus, and was constructed to serve a dual administrative and teaching purpose. Its simple, yet dignified lines suggest a certain pragmatism. The Merion Residence Hall, designed by the same architectural firm, was built to resemble a row of cottages and was specifically planned with women in mind. Helen Horowitz explains that the home-like style of the buildings was intended to give “greater comfort and less nervous excitement” (110), and the rooms were designed with attention to privacy and space in order to accommodate “the higher and more refined classes of Society” (110). It is apparent from reading Horowitz’s article that, despite some of the biases that shaped it, much thought and care went into the building of the college. If Bryn Mawr’s founder, Joseph Wright Taylor, seemed deeply devoted to his creation then the next great influence on the college, Martha Carey Thomas, was fairly obsessed with it.

A Quaker by birth, M. Carey Thomas’ family and religious connections were instrumental in helping her become elected as the first dean of the college, despite the fact that the board “was and remained for many years all male” (Horowitz). Although outwardly she professed her commitment to Quaker ideals, at heart M. Carey Thomas was a renaissance woman, revolutionary in her day for her comprehensive vision of education and equal opportunities for women. Whereas Joseph Taylor saw Bryn Mawr as a small women’s college that offered an advanced education within traditional, orthodox Quaker parameters, M. Carey Thomas’s model called for a cosmopolitan, secular spirit of scholarship in which Bryn Mawr offered “the highest standards of university training available in the United States” (115). To achieve this goal, not only did the college require a distinguished faculty and talented students, but also “a campus with the appearance of a great university” (

In the years that followed construction of the first two buildings, a different style of architecture emerged under Thomas’ influence. Thomas strove to elevate the intellectual quality of the faculty and academic programs, and “demanded a new architectural setting as an appropriate symbol of the life within” (116). Thus we have inherited arched entrances into the park-like grounds, Jacobean quadrangles, turrets and castle-like ramparts. The Thomas Library is undoubtedly the most dramatic embodiment of M. Carey Thomas’ aspirations in its lofty chapel design with towers and battlements. In the Thomas Great Hall, which was originally the Reading Room of the Library, interior walls are faced with Tudor paneling, and the light streams through enormous windows ornamented with tracery. It is a vast room that was intended to express the "dignity of scholarship" (130). On the lower level of the Library, a rectangular cloister with a vaulted passageway and courtyard arcade were constructed to offer “an appropriate setting for the monastic renunciation that Thomas associated with the life of the mind” (130). All of these architectural elements manifest not only Thomas’ academic ambitions for the college, but her love of pageantry and drama, and her strength of personality.

Now that I am acquainted with some of Bryn Mawr’s history, the architecture, which attracted me from the outset, naturally has a greater significance. Whereas M. Carey Thomas may have had her flaws, as we all do, I am left with a deep admiration and appreciation for her fiery spirit and commitment to her vision of education, the benefits of which we are enjoying today. Although some changes have inevitably taken place in the outer form of the college, I would like to think that Joseph Taylor would be pleased with the level of caring (and lawfulness!) exhibited by faculty and students. M. Carey Thomas would surely be impressed with the independent, progressive spirit of the Bryn Mawr community, as it exists today, and the reputation for academic excellence that it continues to uphold.


Horowitz, Helen Lefkowitz. Alma Mater. Alfred A. Knopf (1984): pp 110, 115, 116, 130
Bryn Mawr College Library Special Collections. Sept. 32 – Dec. 20, 2001.p1

Bryn Mawr is a College for Women, isn't it?
Name: Lisa Harri
Date: 2001-12-12 22:56:27
Link to this Comment: 679

Bryn Mawr is a College for Women, Isn’t It?

A bold and staunch feminist, M. Carey Thomas sought to build Bryn Mawr College in the image of men’s colleges. She believed the life of the mind was neuter, and therefore did not take into account a separate woman’s culture. One of the first women to be awarded a Ph.D., Thomas believed the ideal educational institution had to be void of feminine spaces. She wanted to appropriate the library and the laboratory of men. Domesticity in all its forms was anathema to her. My feelings were mixed upon reading about this defining, yet opinionated woman so dominant in Bryn Mawr’s history. In 2001, it’s left to my imagination and what I can glean from historical perspectives to appreciate how in 1885, a bright woman would have had to model herself after a man in order to prove academic prowess. In the Twenty-first Century, I have to admit to taking for granted the benefits forged by these earlier feminists when I say that I’m not comfortable with the idea of subverting my feminine side or adopting male characteristics in order to prove myself worthy academically.

Typically female strengths are still devalued as the College aggressively seeks prospective students who’ve demonstrated competence in so-called male-dominated fields such as math and science. How many eighteen-year-old high school students -- prospective undergraduates -- upon reading the history and literature of the College, don’t apply because they feel they’re not “male-like?” There is the not so subtle message throughout the College’s history that the male prototype was/is superior, all the while touting women’s abilities in education.

One hundred and sixteen years after its birth, the admissions standards remain high and exclusive, lending an air of pride to those who’ve been admitted, yet I wonder the cost of so narrowly defining the Bryn Mawr woman. Obviously some women are missing out on a first-rate education because they didn’t take enough advanced math courses in high school. And the College is missing out by not taking chances on students who don’t fit one profile.

The one area where Bryn Mawr makes an exception in the admissions process is through their McBride Scholars Program. Women are selected based on age rather than social class. One of the Program’s criterion is that the women must be “beyond traditional college age.” Otherwise, the College is perhaps more generous when considering the educational backgrounds of these women.

Bryn Mawr and the Culture of Academic Rigor
Name: Eveline St
Date: 2001-12-13 15:32:43
Link to this Comment: 681

Eveline A. Stang
Professor Anne Dalke
College Seminar 01
December 12, 2001

Bryn Mawr College and the Culture of Academic Rigor

From its inception in 1885 under the leadership of M. Carey Thomas until the present time under the presidency of Nancy J. Vickers, the objective of Bryn Mawr College has been to provide a rigorous, collegiate education for women. An excerpt from the Bryn Mawr Mission Statement of December 1998 reads as follows:

“The mission of Bryn Mawr College is to provide a rigorous education and to encourage the pursuit of knowledge as preparation for life and work. Bryn Mawr teaches and values critical, creative and independent habits of thought and expression […].”

“Bryn Mawr sustains a culture of innovative inquiry by training extraordinary women in a tradition of rigorous, independent scholarship.”

No alteration of this philosophy of education can be found in the McBride Curriculum : “McBrides enroll in the same rigorous course of study expected of traditional-aged college undergraduates […]”, and

“McBrides conduct their rigorous academic pursuits [etc.].”

The ideal of a rigorous intellectual training is the essence of the Bryn Mawr culture. Now that I have experienced a whole semester at Bryn Mawr, I am not surprised to see how often the word “rigorous” is used in the Bryn Mawr literature. But, I must admit that it has taken me many weeks to fully understand what “rigor” means in practical terms, and what the implications are. The Oxford Dictionary defines “rigorous” as 1. extremely thorough, exhaustive, or accurate, and, 2. strictly applied to or adhered to as in a belief, opinion or system. “Rigor” in the nominative form has a rather different meaning: harshness; rigidity, inflexibility; hardship, austerity, discipline, and is derived from the Latin word for “stiffness.”

Is the curriculum at Bryn Mawr “extremely thorough”, or is it a system that leaves something to be desired? My experience at Bryn Mawr, thus far, is that the courses cover a great deal of information, which in turn requires a great deal of research and reading. The breadth of material covered reflects a curriculum that seems to be designed not to leave anything out. I question the value of this style of learning because it barely leaves any room (or time!) for in-depth learning.

A conversation I had with a Bryn Mawr graduate student may illustrate the point. My friend (who has an M.A. from a well-respected university in The Netherlands) was a little bewildered at the considerable amount of data given in his graduate courses without explanation or context. He asked his professor what the relevance was of some of the material to the course theme, and was told, “Don’t worry about it, just learn it.” As no further discussion was welcomed, my friend resigned himself to the fact that this is the “Bryn Mawr way”, and this is the way it has always been done here. No one is going to take you by the hand and give you a step-by-step explanation. You have to figure it out for yourself. Did his question not fall under the category of critical thinking? The built-in implication seems to be that breadth is more important than depth, even at the graduate school level, and the assumption is that the student is already in possession of those “critical, creative and independent habits of thought” mentioned above, and knows how to apply them.

The short-term disability of the “horizontal” approach to learning is the extent to which it may become overwhelming and anxiety producing to try to retain the information, let alone think intelligently about it. If the student is not shown how to evaluate information, how to think critically, or how to move with fluidity between the abstract and the particular, she may not develop this ability very well. On the other hand, one might argue that if the student struggles long enough she will eventually acquire that skill. Somewhere along the line the definition of rigor has changed from exhaustive to exhausting!

In practical terms, it takes time to digest new information and make sense of it so that the information can become useful in some way. I think it would be helpful to reduce the quantity of material in a course, and place more emphasis on examining it in class. In this way, inexperienced scholars can benefit from the guidance of the experienced professor who has traveled the intellectual paths before. The old-fashioned approach of the professor in the role of “talking head” with little, if any, interaction with the students is surely an anachronism by now. In general, there seems to be such a concern to cover all the material by the end of the semester that questions from the class almost seem like an imposition. These conditions do not empower a student with the confidence that seems so integral to the Bryn Mawr philosophy of “innovative inquiry.”

Another aspect of the “rigor” at Bryn Mawr is the degree requirements. Speaking as a McBride, one might argue that the Math stipulation seems a little silly for a middle-aged student with a background in humanities, who has no intention of becoming an architect or an engineer at this point in her life. The College might also take into consideration the value of obligating the McBride student who has never displayed a knack for languages to struggle through two years of it, when her future job opportunities in the U.S. will more than likely not require a foreign language. The liberal arts program is intended to broaden the scope of our knowledge, certainly, but perhaps there should be an element of choice in deciding which courses will be practical or useful for the individual student.

Bryn Mawr no doubt wishes to perpetuate its specific vision of education in order to protect its academic legacy. One of the goals of M. Carey Thomas was “to make the College the leading proving ground for educational attainment equal to that of Harvard, Yale or Johns Hopkins.” In a man’s world, she adopted the format used at leading men’s colleges to prove that women were equally capable of rigorous academic training and intellectual achievement. Bryn Mawr is proud of its “tradition of exceeding expectation, of acting as a standard-bearer in women’s scholarship.” Although it appears that Bryn Mawr no longer needs to prove itself (social attitudes towards women have changed considerably in the last 100 years, and Bryn Mawr has produced respected scholars and productive members of society), it clearly wishes to maintain what it has fought for because “women are often still expected to achieve more modestly than men.” However, the question that would suggest a “disabling” element here is: “Is our conventional approach to learning still the best way for women to realize their intellectual potential, or are we mainly holding on to this approach for the sake of the reputation of the college?

In addition to the ideal of rigor, the Bryn Mawr literature frequently mentions the word “achievement.” Except to a degree in the McBride program, Bryn Mawr does not give prominence to goals such as personal fulfillment. It wants to see results: it is interested in the academic and worldly success of its students. Bryn Mawr also wants to “encourage students to be responsible citizens who provide service to and leadership for an increasingly interdependent world.” These are admirable directions to steer people in, but the importance given to achieving specific goals and becoming a success story can take away from the simple joy of learning.

Ultimately, the decision to accept the rigorous academic culture that Bryn Mawr celebrates is a matter of choice. There are other less high-profile colleges, colleges that are less steeped in tradition and offer perhaps a more flexible, yet still sound academic model. There are colleges that are more geared to the arts and music, but still fulfill the academic goals of the student. These colleges may be as passionate as Bryn Mawr is in terms of the expectations they have for their students; their programs may be just as “rigorous”, but the focus is less intellectual. Clearly, there is a place for these colleges just as much as there is one for Bryn Mawr; it is important to have choices in response to the range of talents and potential in a society. Bryn Mawr is still a process of discovery for me in terms of what I am capable of. In the short-term, those of us who choose the intellectual “rigor” of Bryn Mawr may find it difficult to adjust to, but during the long run who knows where the academic “hardship, austerity and discipline”(5) of this path will lead us?

A College Sem High
Name: Louise
Date: 2001-12-16 13:21:11
Link to this Comment: 683

A College Sem High…

September 2001, I arrived
Full of pride
I was a McBride ready for a College Sem High

Life of Learning was first
Starting to quench my thirst…
A fairy tale next
I admit I was vexed…
Then, let’s take a stand; back it up
Posting was mine
Anne’s grace was sublime
A College Sem High

In the middle it hurt!
Daddy was gone
Confusion set in
Like a bad song
Pieces of life
Thrown up in the sky
One by one fell
Back into my heart
Thanks to god, family and friends
A College Sem High

Tacit knowing, who knows?
Can’t say-- still flowing
Beloved the ghost
Stirring, unnerving; took us all for a ride
She was a wonderful host

The symphony is playing
Carey Thomas is saying
This is my history, my quest
Go girls go!!

Thank you my friends at College Sem
Most of all Anne, you guided, you led
You got into my head
Telling, re-telling
I have a choice
I’ve found my voice
A College Sem High

A College Sem High written by Louise Tillett
Name: Louise
Date: 2001-12-19 12:43:24
Link to this Comment: 684

A College Sem High…

written by Louise Tillett

September 2001
I arrived
Full of pride
I was a McBride ready for a College Sem High

Life of Learning was first
Starting to quench my thirst…
A fairy tale next
I admit I was vexed…
Then, let’s take a stand; back it up
Posting was mine
Anne’s grace was sublime
A College Sem High

In the middle it hurt!
Daddy was gone
Confusion set in
Like a bad song
Pieces of life
Thrown up in the sky
One by one fell
Back into my heart
Thanks to god, family and friends
A College Sem High

Tacit knowing, who knows?
Can’t say-- still flowing
Beloved the ghost
Stirring, unnerving; took us all for a ride
She was a wonderful host

The symphony is playing
Carey Thomas is saying
This is my history, my quest
Go girls go!!

Thank you my friends at College Sem
Most of all Anne, you guided, you led
You got into my head
Telling, re-telling
I have a choice
I’ve found my voice
A College Sem High

1st draft - BMC History
Name: Gail DeCou
Date: 2002-01-10 15:25:49
Link to this Comment: 687

Gail DeCoux
CSem 1
First Draft
Fall 2001

Initial Observations on Bryn Mawr College Readings

Many of us arrived on this college campus for the first time feeling a mixture of excitement tempered with a bit of trepidation at the immense journey about to be undertaken. For me, Bryn Mawr College symbolized, and still does, academic excellence steeped in rich tradition. Just what that tradition entailed I presumed was something along the lines of a founder, and a subsequent series of college presidents, administration, faculty, students and alumnae/i, all focused on creating and maintaining the highest standards of academic excellence.
After reading the Bryn Mawr packet these views are unchanged, but have been broadened considerably. There are now faces and names associated with the founders of BMC. These individuals have taken shape as the inspiration and motivation that made the Bryn Mawr vision a reality. As a latter-day Mawter I feel their influence as I walk around this campus, created as a tribute to the “dignity of scholarship” and “the life of the mind” that they so cherished. My esteem and gratitude for them grew as I realized more clearly the great difficulties they had to overcome in order to create a rigorous college for women in late nineteenth century America. But I’ve also learned that sometimes their motives and methods were not always of the highest caliber.
They say there are skeletons in everyone’s closet, and Bryn Mawr, it appears, has a few of its own. In reading the history of BMC I found that I was especially intrigued by the persona of M. Carey Thomas -- in awe of her intelligence, and inspired by her determination to bring her dreams to fruition despite the adverse social pressures of her time. After overcoming daunting gender obstacles in the pursuit of her own Ph.D. she went on to greatly influence all aspects of the formation of Bryn Mawr College, including faculty selection and curriculum, even campus architecture and the admissions process. Later, she went on to become the college’s first female president. The legacy and reputation for high standards that Bryn Mawr enjoys today is due in large part to her vision, devotion and unyielding drive. This bold, iconoclastic woman who championed higher education rights for women is entirely in keeping with what I expected to find in Bryn Mawr’s history.
In many ways, M. Carey Thomas presents as a figure of controversy. But some of her actions were downright abhorrent, even when judged by the mores of her time. For example, she was a known anti-Semite who personally screened applications in order to deny admission to Jewish candidates or those with Jewish sounding names. However, some of her motivations for other actions are less clear. When she focused the marketing of Bryn Mawr College on the wealthy daughters of the privileged, was she a social snob, or a shrewd planner who recognized that crucial future endowments depended on a prosperous alumnae base? Toward the end of her tenure she became an autocratic president who denied herself few material pleasures. Was her extravagance due to misuse of power and self-indulgence, or did she see the value in maintaining appearances on a par with comparable men’s colleges?
In 1921 she helped to promote an unconventional experiment in education with the launching of the Bryn Mawr Summer School for Women Workers. Scholarships and stipends allowed working class women the opportunity to study political science, economics, and literature on the college level. By this time, Thomas’ feminist sympathies had broadened to include women from outside her own race, culture and social position, and the Summer School students were a diverse population. Many said that offering rigorous study to blue collar workers was doomed to failure, but the project continued successfully for seventeen years. The overwhelming majority of its participants, faculty as well as students, praised it as a positive and enriching life experience. Despite this, in 1938, as a member of the board of directors of BMC, M. Carey Thomas voted to abolish the Summer School for Women Workers.
Although economic factors undoubtedly came into play in both the formation of the Summer School and, later on, the Catherine E. McBride Scholars Program (it would have been fiscally irresponsible not to consider this fact of life) – in these two particular instances I applaud Bryn Mawr’s course of action. It chose to deal with the reality of economic necessity by reaching out and providing the opportunity for intellectual growth to non-traditional students. And although the proud history of Bryn Mawr College is not without some regrettable moments, I’m heartened that these incidents haven’t been deleted from these pages, and that we have been encouraged, in fact required, to read them.

and on ...
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2002-01-11 14:02:50
Link to this Comment: 696

So, you thought is was over at the end of the semester ... ? You knew better? Or just wanted a reminder? Anyhow ...

All material to date from the course forum has been preserved in various files in the course archive. And the course home page remains, with links for the archive as well as pictures (including from our last group meeting).
You can also find there links to Sharon's movie and to a web exhibit/survey related to the course.

Had some more thoughts from/related to the course? You're more than welcome to leave them here. Again and again ... as we tell and retell this particular story.

Final (deep) thoughts:)
Name: Chelsea Ph
Date: 2002-01-29 14:21:53
Link to this Comment: 775

Hi everyone! I miss you all terribly, and hope your semesters are going well. I'm going to post the last paper I wrote, and I hope it gives you all some idea of how much this class meant to me. Incidently, I do have a list of the things I learned from you all know where to find me if you want to know, or if you just need a hug.


It’s been quite a semester. I can’t remember a time I laughed or cried more. I can’t remember ever having a class quite like this- anything like this, actually. Maybe it’s because we all experienced those life-altering events together that we became so close. Perhaps it was the need to understand the world that we sought so persistently to understand each other; perhaps it was something much more. Perhaps it was learning, and thought, love, and joy, and laughter, and tears all rolled up together. I think it was, and even more.
On a more personal note: though I often insisted on writing conversations instead of papers, refused to organize my ideas, and was at a loss when it came to taking myself seriously, I have gotten the message. Henceforth, I shall only write serious, organized, thought-provoking, life-changing papers. However, I can only hope you won’t begrudge me this last unorganized conversation (at least you’ll know I wrote it).
The class was diverse, if not in appearance, at least in our interpretations and views. If I may say, the professor was a pleasant surprise as well. Your openness to our ideas, and the genuine joy you took in our oddball, off-topic conversations was truly mind-boggling; lesser men would have run, screaming. You defied every one of my preexisting stereotypes of a scientist. You believe in the brain, yet feel from the heart (forgive the expression- am not arguing emotion comes from heart instead of brain)- something I thought utterly impossible. Everyone in the class taught me things about themselves, human nature…life; things I desperately needed to learn. For a few examples:

Being quiet is not a bad thing.
Organization is necessary for those not sharing a subconscious.
All the ideas that come into your head do not need to be put into your paper.
Having different viewpoints and sharing them benefits everyone; it doesn’t mean you aren’t still friends.
Words can be more revealing and more powerful than anything else in the world- they can also be completely unnecessary.
Love makes family- blood is incidental.

There is so much more, but I’ll limit myself. To be honest, I don’t really know what I’m doing or how to tell you how much this class meant to me, or how much I wish the semester could have never ended. I could try, but I think, like many things, you have to go off the way you feel, not the words that come when you try to explain. So, on that note, I will say thank you, let it be what it was, and not stress so for why it was.

my favorite c-sem paper
Name: Sarah Frie
Date: 2002-02-03 20:22:42
Link to this Comment: 808

Success Through Stress
Bryn Mawr is a Welsh name for big hill. A more appropriate name for the school might be big, obligatory displays of stress, as this feature is as prominently a part of the culture as any geographical feature. The culture of Bryn Mawr seems to promote the anxiety of the students. Ray McDermott and Herve Varenne describe how a societies culture can create a context in which individuals who are not able to perform tasks deemed necessary by that culture are left “disabled” in the eyes of their fellow society members. Applying this view to Bryn Mawr, one might see the emphasis on the pride evoked by stress as a societal goal and those who do not wave the frazzled flag as the disabled, unable to fully take part and succeed in this atmosphere. McDermott and Varenne explain that culture exists so that people can have a criterion on which to “document each other’s failures.” Has the aspect of Bryn Mawr’s culture described above developed to fill the same need? This explanation can be applied to a culture that glorifies stress, but only after examining the more obvious origins of what it was that gave Bryn Mawr students the need for such a culture.
M. Carey Thomas believed that Bryn Mawr would provide the equivalent of a Harvard education to its students. By this she meant that her students would be held to the highest standards of scholarship made possible by top-notch research facilities and quality instruction. But by modeling her school after “the best” institution, Thomas also fueled her institution with a strong competitive drive to be the best. Not only did the competition push the school to achieve, but also it inspired individual students to pursue their personal goals with determination to be the best at whatever they chose to do.
Since individual successes as well as communal success were the goals, and neither of these goals produce results overnight, over time, students found that they could advertise their progress through advertising the work that they had to do. As more time went on, they found that a more effective way to notify each other of the work expected of them was to display signs of the stress that one often encounters when participating in intense academic endeavors. In this way, a language developed whereby Mawrtyers felt obligated to communicate the anxiety that they felt due to the standard of excellence established by M. Carey Thomas during the school’s conception.
A second origin of Bryn Mawr’s stress culture may have worked to counteract the expectations placed on students by the high-ranking social class to which many of them belonged. While they were given luxurious suits to live in and maids to work for them, Bryn Mawr students may have wished to create identities outside of the classes that they were born into. They could establish their independence by proving to themselves, their peers, and their families that they were not the passive, incompetent, dainty young misses that their rank in society supposed them to be. They were perfectly capable of getting their hands dirty in the lab, approaching and mastering difficult concepts, and even suggesting a few of their own.
Hard work was a way for them to define themselves and their abilities. But in order to make it clear to others that they truly were capable of completing such work, they felt a need to exhibit not just their ability work at the highest level, but also their ability to handle a certain level of stress that comes with intense academic endeavors.
Thus the language of lamenting, celebrating, and even just acknowledging stress took further hold in the culture of Bryn Mawr.
Where in this atmosphere of competitive, driven individuals does a need for a social construct that documents the failures of others fit in? At this point it should be pointed out that to document the failures of others does not mean to eagerly wait for others to fail, or even take pleasure when they do. It only suggests that people in a society have a need to know what constitutes failure, and develop cultural values accordingly. When someone cannot abide by a law, fails to learn the “right” skills, or even, in terms of Bryn Mawr culture, can learn, achieve, and struggle without flaunting their stressed out state of mind, they have failed the culture. It is in this way that culture documents the failures of its adherents.
Mawrtryers specifically have a need to know when their peers are failing because it tells them that they are succeeding. That is, in comparison to those who are unable to take part in the stress-laden laments of “oh how much work I must do,” the vocally stressed students believe they are achieving greater work. The silent-stressers do not make it apparent to those who believe that stress equals hard work that they are in fact working. The mainstream students feel that they get the most out of Bryn Mawr, and thus succeed as students. They see themselves in a position where they and only they can benefit from the education that the school has to offer. The competition that originates from desiring to be the best in education for women, and expands to include a desire among students to create the best work, also encompasses a world where it is vital to know where one stands. It is in this world were competition creates a cultural value that allows certain students to see themselves as more successful than those who do not compete in some way.
Since students do not discuss grades explicitly, they find a more implicit way to compete; they compete by comparing stress. Those who do not find satisfaction in this mode of communication are left without the opportunity to experience a mainstream cultural feature of the school. They lack the ability to appreciate an art of competition that has come to define the school. Therefore, in some capacity, these students are disabled. An important proviso must be added here: the students who survive Bryn Mawr without participating in the glorification of stress, like any individual or group of people with physical, mental, or any kind of perceived disability, are only disabled in context of the culture that surrounds them.
In their essay, “Culture as Disability,” McDermott and Herve explain one function that culture serves: to give society a standared by which some in the society measure up, and necessarily, others do not. In the case of the stress culture at Bryn Mawr, this standard has been created by some student’s need to feel successful by enforcing a standard, (or just living up to it,) and believing that others are unable to also live up to it. According to this train of thought, Bryn Mawr’s culture has two standards. The first has to do with the academic excellence that M. Carey Thomas envisioned and the Mawrtyrs want. The second is the standard created as a result of student’s need to compete and feel more successful in terms of benefiting from the academic excellence that Bryn Mawr offers.

Welcome csem colleagues
Name: Paul and A
Date: 2002-05-28 11:09:01
Link to this Comment: 2136

Anne and I would very much like to continue the conversation ... your reactions to our course, your thoughts about your own, are more than welcome. Never the last word, always the thoughts that can help others get less wrong.

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