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

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 2003 Forum

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

Glad you're here ...
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2003-08-30 14:50:03
Link to this Comment: 6295

Welcome from me to our course forum area. This is an interestingly different kind of place for writing, and may take some getting used to, but I hope you'll come to value it as much as Anne and I do.

The first thing to keep in mind is that its not a place for "formal writing" or "finished thoughts". Its a place for thoughts-in-progress, for what you're thinking (whether you know it or not) on your way to what you think next. Maybe simpler, imagine that you're not worrying about "writing" but instead that you're just talking to some people you've met. This is a "conversation" place, a place to find out what you're thinking yourself, and what other people are thinking, so you can help them think and they can help you think. The idea is that your "thoughts in progress" can help others with their thinking, and theirs can help you with yours.

So who are you writing for? For yourself, and for others in our classes primarily. But also for the world. This is a "public" forum, so people anywhere on the web might look in (and might even add their own thoughts in progress, though that doesn't in fact often happen).

That's the second thing to keep in mind here. You're writing for yourself, for others in the class, AND for others you might or might not know. So, your thoughts in progress can contribute to the thoughts in progress of LOTS of people. The web is giving increasing reality to the idea that there can actually evolve a world community, and you're part of helping to bring that about. Glad to have you along, and hope you value/enjoy sharing the activity.

Welcome Redux
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-09-02 09:16:09
Link to this Comment: 6297

I add my welcome to Paul's; am very glad to find all of us here, and very much looking forward to seeing where we can go FROM here, where we can get to by semester's end....

Let's begin, shall we, by telling one another what we see when we look @ the image on the cover of our course packet/course home page? Tell us what you see when you look at "Understanding Is...???" Tell us a brief story of this picture:

Looking forward both to your initial reactions and the...

revisions that will emerge as we share these stories.


cover art
Name: Danielle S
Date: 2003-09-02 15:56:18
Link to this Comment: 6299

Of the two images in the cover artwork, I find the spherical shape on the right more meaningful. The cube has the word "understanding" followed by question marks written on it; the sphere speaks more subtly, allowing the viewer to apply their own meaning, rather than having been told a meaning by the artist. Because of this subtelty, it evokes a curiosity in the viewer which the cube, it's meaning already revealed, never could have. Whereas the colors of the cube are flat, the sphere is composed of many, multicolored elements. For a course about stories of ourselves within the world, I find a multi-faceited element more appropriate than a simply-shaded cube. It's almost as if the cube has nothing to hide. Like it has opened up, shown us all of its edges, all its colors, while the sphere still has all this mystery inside it, all these elements about it that we can't even begin to understand.

Cover art
Name: Tamiyo B
Date: 2003-09-02 19:11:00
Link to this Comment: 6300

What came to my mind when I looked at this picture was how we cannot understand things completely. There are so many sides to things, so many pieces which we have to account for in order to understand the subject in its context. This picture invites me to question what is missing in our process of understanding. How can the different pieces emerge so that we can come to a fuller understanding?

So it is not just red, it is not just blue, and it is not just green. When all the different colors of understanding emerge, it creates more harmony and more beauty.

cover art
Name: Jenny B.
Date: 2003-09-02 23:08:00
Link to this Comment: 6304

What I see when I look at the painting reflects my own current thoughts and frame of mind. The cube seems to be hard, factual, scientific, certain. The sphere seems to be a more comprehensive and approachable kind of understanding. I see the sphere as an accumulation of experience. The cube seems to be exalted, set above the sphere. I see pieces of hard certainty falling down to be absorbed into a richer whole. The pieces don't have to fit themselves into the sphere, they are changed as they approach it; they are molded and encompassed.

one perspective of picture
Name: Karen Deln
Date: 2003-09-03 01:05:26
Link to this Comment: 6306

There are variant interesting characteristics that make up the cover picture of my Section 11 Csem book. Color scheme and symbolism being most dominant.

Blue, red, green, yellow, and puzzle peices might symbolize fundamental or elementry ideas and/or concepts. Between the two objects, the box pedestal and the round ball, the box pedestal is significantly simpler. The colors are solid on the pedestal, whereas there are multitudes of color splashed throughout the ball. Also, the pedestal has a few basic distinctive sides or angles, but the ball has infinite perspectives.

With this in mind, perhaps the essential symbolic meaning of the picture is that "understanding is" not singular or even clear, but knowing that many variant perspectives exist.

CSEM Cover Art
Name: Alicia Vir
Date: 2003-09-03 11:25:29
Link to this Comment: 6309

Through my eyes here is what i see: "Understanding is...????" represents our view of the world that has been shaped by what we think we already know, and just when we think we have life all figured out some of the puzzle pieces start to fall out of place. Life is like that -- uncertain, unpredictable, and sometimes unrelenting, so what we understood to be true (or even safe) yesterday could totally change how we think today.

I see the sphere as representative of our world -- one large crucible of perspectives - where new thoughts, ideas, education, opinions, facts, lies, truths, judgements, and plenty bs give new shape and form to many things in existence, causing a continual regeneration to our basic understanding of everything, When a basic understanding of life "falls out of place" for you it could very well "fall into place" for someone else because of where we all are at that moment in the life cycle. Everyday when we move through the world we have an opportunity to start a new cycle and formulate new understandings about life, again and again and again. But, this is just my opinion.

cover art
Name: Ginny Cost
Date: 2003-09-03 11:31:09
Link to this Comment: 6310

The message that the painting conveys is that in order to achieve true understanding you must question until you are satisfied that you know the answers. Then you must question again.

The sphere represents the planet. The groups of people on the planet consist of various shapes, sizes, and colors. And, the world is in a constant state of movement and change.

The quest for true understanding is a never-ending journey. Just when you are confident that you have all the answers, and all the pieces of the puzzle fit nicely into their little boxes, the world shifts, uspetting your view. Then you must begin again to question and search further for a deeper understanding.

Cover Art
Name: B
Date: 2003-09-03 12:16:35
Link to this Comment: 6311

I see a circle, resembling a globe.
I see a square, something solid.
I see Understanding.
I see questions.
I see pieces, like parts of a puzzle.
I see color.
I see pieces rising, I see pieces falling.

Cover Art
Name: Flicka Mic
Date: 2003-09-03 14:27:19
Link to this Comment: 6313

I think that the picture on the cover is trying to tell us that understanding is not always difinitive or clear. We have to take pieces from one puzzle and use them to connect to other subjects of knowledge. That is why the colored, defined pieces of the box or falling into a circle of many colors. To understand one subject, you must use what you know from other subjects and interwtwine them. That is why understanding, like learning, is a continuing and ongoing process.

cover art
Name: Stephanie
Date: 2003-09-03 15:32:41
Link to this Comment: 6317

I think that the point of the picture is to show that understanding is ambiguous. At first, I thought I understood the picture; it's a ball containing random pieces that jump up and have a place, no matter how random they are. It could demonstrate that things work out by coincidence. However, I looked again and I saw the block falling apart and the puzzle pieces falling into the ball. This could demonstrate that everything crumbles and goes back to the same place. Altogether, I think the picture means that understanding is ambiguous and that people will percieve things differently and understand things in their own way.

cover picture
Name: Bhumika Pa
Date: 2003-09-03 16:23:01
Link to this Comment: 6318

For me, the picture on the cover can mean a lot of things. Looking at "Understanding is ???" I interpreted it as understanding varies from mind to mind. What understanding is to me might not be what understanding is to someone else. The cube is made up of basic colors so it could represent basic ideas, and as the puzzle pieces are moving towards the sphere the basic ideas blend in to form a well-rounded understanding everything. They could also mean people from different communities coming together and sharing their understandings.

reading images
Name: Angel
Date: 2003-09-03 17:30:51
Link to this Comment: 6321

I found this first exercise of reading images quite a fascinating one. Im one of the last people to post their views and though I haven't read everyone's interpretation as yet I noticed that each has something different to say, all from the same picture. I am going to share my initial and immediate reaction to the picture. To me the dube is the human mind, striving for knowledge and understanding while at the same time struggling to grasp what understanding itself means. There 'missing pieces' of the mind, the pieces that prevent any person from having a complete and comprehensive understanding of the world. These pieces are to be derived from the world (this is symbolized by the multicolored sphere). It is with these pieces in place that the functioning of the human mind is optimized. But the search for the right piece to fit in the right place is the challenge.

Cover artwork
Name: Beverly Bu
Date: 2003-09-03 17:48:34
Link to this Comment: 6322

The following ideas came to mind as I thought about the meaning of the artwork:

The basis of our understanding of the world is composed of what we regard, from within ourselves, as a complete and well-ordered world. This orderly world is normally introduced to us during our childhood by the media, schools, family, etc. As we begin from our own understanding and move out into the world, the shape, color, and texture of our understanding changes. It may become richer, more colorful or diluted. Our ideas and beliefs eventually fall away from their well-ordered structure and melt into a larger, more complex world of understanding. We must then explore this new world and gain a new understanding.

Cover Art
Name: Sarah Snie
Date: 2003-09-03 18:57:45
Link to this Comment: 6323

What is understanding?
Is it pieces of different concrete/solid things put together?
Is it different pieces of different cultures brought together to make a
When I look at this piece of art, to me it is an expression of how we each individually understand life. We all have different meaning full experiences, cultures, morals, religions, life styles, and we ourselves take and leave what we want from each of our certain experiences. Those pieces that we choose to keep all come together in the end to make us who we are individually and how we understand life it self, but each and everyone of us has something like the other and some thing unique. Then each of our own charateristics are brought together in a group, and we learn more and understand more from a combination of all our experiences which makes us a whole.

"Understanding is ?" Illustration
Name: Bethany Ke
Date: 2003-09-03 22:13:08
Link to this Comment: 6324

When I look at this picture I think of pieces of different puzzles falling into place to make a new 'puzzle' of sorts. All the parts are being integrated into a brighter and more rounded whole. I like how the background colors change behind the two objects. The first, a box on a post is dark and rigid-looking, a feeling which is emphasized by the greyish background. This picture is almost like comparing two methods of understanding, or of trying to understand something. The colors on the other side of the illustration are very vibrant and happy. There are new colors here not found on the box from which the pieces came. Maybe the artist is telling us to let different parts of our lives/of what we are trying to understand and what we already know bleed together for a richer, fuller, more lively and complete understanding of the world. Think outside the box. Part of understanding is questioning and changing and experimenting.

"Understanding is ???"
Name: Christine
Date: 2003-09-03 23:15:46
Link to this Comment: 6326

The picture of the block seems to say that there is a completeness to all understanding in the world, and the colors say that there are many different categories to knowledge. However, there is no way to understand everything, so it falls into different pieces. In our world, each person takes small pieces to understand so it makes our comprehension rich but incomplete because no one can understand everything about a single topic.

The Road to Understanding
Name: Gillian Co
Date: 2003-09-03 23:17:57
Link to this Comment: 6327

Hi. Gillian here from Section 11. My reason for posting is two-fold. First because I adore posting on forums on the internet, and see this as the perfect marriage of class and leisure. Second because our assignment was to write briefly on the forum about out ideas on the picture that covers our CSEM guide. So, here it goes.
In my opinion, the cover of our CSEM guide says it all. Well, it doesn't really say anything about the Revisions and Intuitions etc. of telling stories, but it does give a fairly accurate idea of the whole CSEM theory.
If you look at the image on the cover, there are several basic elements that make it up. The first of these elements, and the most noticeable is that of the block with three pieces still missing. The next prominent object is the set of puzzle pieces emerging from the haze below. The most important detail to the whole drawing is the "Understanding" in the middle. Given the hazy ball of color below, next to a series of questionmarks, and the structure above, being pulled out of the pieces of the ball, the meaning of this drawing is fairly simple.
I see this as the Road to Understanding. First it begins with the question ("IS ?????? down below). This forms the basis for knowledge. Without the desire to learn, that ball of hazy colors would never become anything more. Next, the ball of hazy color represents facts and information, the pieces of context necessary to form understanding. Finally the bridge represents the CSEM, and indeed our entire education at Bryn Mawr. The bridge is that of understanding- of teaching and being taught and, in the process, learning how to come to understandings of the world on our own. Thus this drawing represents Bryn Mawr's philosophy and the idea behind the CSEM courses: that our desire to learn will be matched by the understanding of those around us and before us, who teach and learn with us, so that we may ourselves come to a greater level of understanding. We're not just learning about our particular CSEM. We're learning how to become intelligent, intellectual people, who will soon find the road to understanding on our own.

Cover Art
Name: Anita Lai
Date: 2003-09-04 09:25:52
Link to this Comment: 6329

One of the greatest things about artwork is that individuals can find a meaning completely different from what the artist was originally trying to convey. I like to think that the "meaning" behind a piece of art, if any, is relative to each person. While looking at this picture, the words "Understanding is ??????" acts as a pedestal for the multi-colored cube that appears to weigh it down. I interpreted the picture as our understanding being colored by our stereotypes, prejudices, and preconceptions (the puzzle pieces) about things in this world (the sphere). The colored puzzle pieces from the cube falling towards the sphere eventually form a jumbled mass of colors blinding us in our quest for answers with issues in the world.

some added info ...
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2003-09-04 09:49:17
Link to this Comment: 6330

Don't read until you've written your own story of Sharon's picture ...

We modified the image for the course ... the original form of the picture is in an exhibit called Transformation at Click through the exhibit until you get to the three doors, go in the middle one, look on the right wall.

For Sharon's story of the picture, see

Is that actually a "spoiler"? How relevant is it what Sharon says she had in mind when she painted the picture?

a nice start
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2003-09-04 12:07:24
Link to this Comment: 6331

Rich, interesting conversation in ye old csem 11 this morning. Thanks, all. And thanks to our csem 10 colleagues, whose thoughts here were an important part of it.

A couple of themes stick in my mind to mull over further (happy, of course, to have additions/reactions/different stories from others). One was the reading of csem 10 postings on Sharon's image, and a sense that these stories from older women ... reflected expererience of/with constantly shifting worlds. We started trying to characterize reactions to constantly shifting worlds. Mistrustful? Realistically optimistic? Unrealistically optimistic? Csem 11 has five of the first, five of the second, and 1 of the third, for whatever that's worth (and it doesn't seem to correlate with whether one saw the pieces going up or down in Sharon's image (eight ups, 5 downs, 1-2 both ways)).

The other theme was a sense of ... outrage? ... at the notion that Sharon's picture had been altered. And some interesting difference of opinion on whether the image was more evocative of stories from viewers in its original or in its altered form. There's a posting from Sharon a couple of years ago giving her reaction to peoples' reading of the altered image, if anyone is interested.

Looking forward to continuing conversation. Here, in class, and elsewhere.

thoughts from the artist
Name: Sharon Burgmayer
Date: 2003-09-05 00:13:48
Link to this Comment: 6340

I am amazed as I peruse your readings of my painting and see how its interpretations are seemingly endless. Having had many other paintings used by Paul and Anne in their courses, I never quite get used to the experience of having one of my paintings, whose meaning seems so nakedly obvious to me, interpreted by others in entirely different ways! "Understanding is..." was painted at the beginning of period of conscious struggle--no, that's too feeble--revolt against reason and rationality. As you might imagine, that's quite a disorienting step for a scientist. Hence the fluid swirls in the sphere. But mainly, the image was to illustrate the destruction of reason to produce something I dearly loved, colors, lots of colors, symbolic of life's richness.

I smiled to read of the "outrage" response that my painting had been altered for the course because I can well remember how I felt when I replaced the original text with the question marks: I felt physically ill. Why did I agree then to make the change? (this is the interesting part to me) I think because I did not yet value my work as art, nor did I see myself as an artist. Was it worth the change? Perhaps, because its experimental use in this course would eventually generate more paintings and more discussions in other courses.

A Story of a Time When I Learned Something
Name: Ginny Cost
Date: 2003-09-05 19:42:24
Link to this Comment: 6356

I learned a profoud lesson about rigid expectations when I gave birth to my Downs-Syndrome daughter, Ginneane.
As a young married woman starting a family in the sixties, I had definate expectations of what family life and having children woould be like. My expectations were those of the "June Cleaver" era. I was certain I would have a perfect storybook marriage and a perfect family, just like June's.
I was completely unprepared for the challenges that life delivered to me when I delivered my mentally challenged daughter.
I learned that sometimes what seems like a tragedy can actually turn out to be a blessing in disguise, a wonderful chance to learn and grow in new directions. In those early days I learned to love from a deeper place. I developed a better sense-of-humor when I was forced to laugh at myself. I learned that "perfect" comes in many forms, and Ginneane sure is perfect. I learned that the world is a better place where there is diversity of any kind. Ginneane taught me to be a better person, and I learned to release those rigid expectations. I am still learning, she teaches me something new everyday.

Storytelling, about storytelling....
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-09-08 15:59:59
Link to this Comment: 6378

Friends, colleagues--
Welcome to Week Two of Questions, Intutions, Revisions...

when be turning our attention from telling and listening to our individual stories of learning...

to looking at a range of what may? may not? be more archetypal--universal?--tales. Tell us what thoughts arose, as you were reading

There are sure to be lots of stories generated by the intersection of all these stories....

and we are very much looking forward to hearing them--

Anne and Paul

NewRealities/New Storytelling
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-09-09 10:06:08
Link to this Comment: 6387

There was a piece in the new "Currents" section of the Philadelphia Inquirer last Sunday (9/7/03) which seemed quite a propos to where we're at just now (or rather: where we may be heading....)

Entitled "New Realities/New Storytelling," the article mused about the increasing acceptance of "the fractured story" form, and suggested that maybe

"the old forms of storytelling are worn out, and artists and audience are looking for something new....Perhaps 9/11 taught us that we weren't writing the story of our lives--someone else was and, in this one, we're not the heroes. We may be telling stories differently now because we've lost the story we thought we were telling...."

What do you think?


Date: 2003-09-10 12:17:51
Link to this Comment: 6405



Fairy Tales
Name: Bhumika Pa
Date: 2003-09-10 19:22:24
Link to this Comment: 6418

I really enjoyed reading both the Grimm's Fairy Tales and Anne Sexton's version of fairy tales. The Grimm's versions gave me the "happily ever after" that everyone needs to feel good sometimes while the Anne Sexton's versions brought out the humor in these fairy tales.

Cinderelly Cinderelly
Name: Jenny Barr
Date: 2003-09-10 21:15:08
Link to this Comment: 6421

Having recently spent several very long hours in the "way back" of a minivan (equipped with a vcr, a sure sign of the decline of western civilization if ever there was one) watching the Disney version of Cinderella *twice*, it was pretty interesting to read the Bros. Grimm story.

This Cinderella is a much livelier character than the one Disney gives us. She's good and pious and pure, of course, but not to the point of being a sap. She asks for what she wants: when she wants help with sorting lentils, she calls for her friends the birds. When she wants a beautiful dress, she asks for it. She makes the choice to leave the ball ("...and then she wanted to go home."), rather than doing so because she's told to. And, at the end of the story, she puts the slipper on herself, rather than the prince slipping it onto her foot (a small thing, but I liked it).

In the Grimm story, I like the fact that the mother is a continuing presence. The dead or absent mother seems to be such a mainstay of fairy tales, and, at least in the Disney versions, once the mother is gone, she's forgotten. But our Cinderella is constant. She continues to grieve for her mother. This seems like a stronger element of her piety and virtue than just putting up with a lot of guff from her step-sisters and step-mother. So she deserves her happy ending.

Fairy tale
Name: Tamiyo Bri
Date: 2003-09-10 22:59:34
Link to this Comment: 6423

I have not thought about fairy tale in a long time. It struck me how much cruelty exsit in these fairy tales. I was surprised to see myself feeling some kind of relief and enjoyment noticing about these cruelty in the story. I really liked "Yeh-Shen,"it brought me smile in the end.

Name: ginny cost
Date: 2003-09-11 00:28:08
Link to this Comment: 6429


Fairy tales, Fairy tales
Name: Gillian Co
Date: 2003-09-11 09:00:33
Link to this Comment: 6431

Comparing the Grimm Brother's stories to that of Anne Sexton is like trying to compare one of Shakespeare's sonnets to a version that the Muppets might have done. Sure, the Brothers Grimm were there first, wrote these down first, but their versions lack the sheer poetry and movement of Anne Sexton's "Transformations." Maybe it's just that theirs is a translated work, maybe it's the fact that Anne Sexton went to such lengths as to write hers in poetry form, I don't know. The Brothers Grimm may have the originial rights to the stories, but Anne Sexton definitely deserves the credit for making them beautiful and sardonic.
See, that's what I like about Anne Sexton's verions- they're catty, sarcastic, a dry wit of humor that speaks volumes about what she thinks about those fairy tales. To her there bald-faced lies wrapped up in pretty happy packages. She goes so far as to really examine the psyche of the characters themselves. Briar Rose as an insomniac? It's perfect, it makes sense- who can't see her being terrified of sleep, or Snow White becoming anarexic out of fear of eating another poisoned fill-in-the-blank. In short Anne Sexton's "Transformations" isn't just about fairy tales- it's about showing what's really going on behind that happy illusion- making the stories darker, harder and, in the process, realer that the Brothers Grimm ever did.
Just my opinion, but there you have it.

Fairy Tales
Name: Bethany Ke
Date: 2003-09-11 09:42:46
Link to this Comment: 6432

When I was a little girl I always loved hearing fairy tales about pretty princesses to whom exciting things happened. I loved hearing about their pretty faces and their pretty things and their pretty endings of "happily-ever-after." Have you ever noticed how the comparison girl is always stupid or ugly and mean? And we wonder why teen girls in America have so many problems...But anyway, I love Anne Sexton's "transformation's" of the fairy tales. I love that she uses satire and that she boldly brings to light the true weirdness that is present in the originals, but also that there is a sincere questioning in the voice of her poems. She wonders about relationships between family members and between friends and enemies. She stirs thoughts about life and about death; what is living? what is dying? What does happily-ever-after mean? What was between the lines of the story-tellers' stories? After all, these tales were told by people, and they were most likely people with the same questions that seem to be innate in every human being.

fairy tales
Name: Stephanie
Date: 2003-09-11 09:46:46
Link to this Comment: 6433

In reading through Anne Sexton's versions of fairy tales, I realized that all of them have roughly the same story: a beautiful but quite unfortunate girl beats some evil supernatural figure and marries a hansome prince. Sexton refers to this in Cinderella as she says "that story." I guess I just never really thought about all the fairy tales at once.

Maybe I'm caught up in the Wonderful World of Disney, but I did not remember feet being mutilated in Cinderella from when I was little. I would think that something like that would stand out in my head because I'm positive that Cinderella was read to me as a child.

Also, I was a little confused about what happened at the end of Sexton's Briar-Rose. I'm not sure whether she was implying that Briar-Rose had been sexually abused or if she was speaking personally about the subject or if she was making a blanket statement about it. Maybe someone else understood that.

Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2003-09-11 12:00:20
Link to this Comment: 6437

Thanks all for two very rich conversations this morning. I appreciated the sharing of 11 Sept story/emotion; it helped me continue to try and make sense of those events, to find a better story. For anyone wanting to see earlier stories, and, if inclined, to add to them, the on-line forum is at

The other conversation was of course Grimm/Disney/Sexton, how and why the stories changed. What struck me (of course subject to correction/modification by others) is the idea that the stories are intended to appeal to kids, and so reflect what kids are interested in prior to what they're taught. And that Disney took out all the yucky stuff in Grimm, and that Sexton put it back in.

The other thread was the idea that kids are attracted to "cute, fluffy" things but , maybe as per the end of our conversation, to bloody, nasty things as well (boys more than girls?). So maybe Disney is an impoverished experience for kids, relative to either Grimm or Sexton?

Which circles me back to 11 Sept. I wonder if the shock of that event , the sense of being utterly overhelmed by the unthinkable, might have been less if several generations of us had been reared on Grimm (or Sexton) rather than Disney? Might we have been better able to respond meaningfully to the horror, to act effectively to reduce the likelihood of such events in the future, if we were more familiar from childhood with ALL of what is inside us as humans?

Seeds for New Stories?
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-09-11 15:39:00
Link to this Comment: 6440

Reporting in from the "other" section (that one w/ "older" women in it...) where a rich conversation also took place this morning....

also beginning w/ thoughts/memories of September 11th and reflections on the stories we have told since to make sense of it...

Then, after we'd worked our way through reactions to/thoughts about the function of those grim/nasty/cynical/sarcastic (assigned) stories...

we turned our attention to the question of what adult fairy tales might look like. All the McBrides shared a sense of "living a fairy tale" (Disney version) in finally coming to Bryn Mawr. So, we asked ourselves: what's the NEXT story, the one that comes after THAT story?

Taking a leaflet from the new Graduate Course on Explorations of Teaching: What, Why, How and Who? (which, in turn, had taken a leaf from a Summer 2002 Institute for K-12 teachers) we shared a range of metaphors describing what it was like, being in the classroom:

So: any chance any of these might be the seeds for a NEW kind of story? A DIFFERENT way of learning/growing/exploring the world together than the sort traced, nearly two hundred years ago, by the Grimms, or thirty years ago by Anne Sexton?


Fairy Tales
Name: Sarah Snie
Date: 2003-09-11 18:15:47
Link to this Comment: 6445

Well, as I said in class, I really liked the Anne Sexton version of the fairy tales better. They brought back the real true grimms fairy tales with an addition of her own thoughts of each different character. Disney, of course is loved by all, the grimms fairy tales are barely even talked about in todays culture, and well the Anne Sexton version is a bit to blunt for most people these days. Im sure if I was younger, lets say 8, I would much more prefer Disney movies, over movies made from the Grimms Bros and/or Anne Sexton versions. I probably wouldnt understand what was going on in the Grimms and Anne Sextons versions. Overall it was great to see the differences in time periods, and how the fairy tales have evolved into a more conservative manner to pls the parents and the children.

Fairy Tales
Name: Anita Lai
Date: 2003-09-11 23:55:15
Link to this Comment: 6449

My parents never read fairy tales to me or my sister when we were little for bedtime . Through Walt Disney's movies of the fairy tales Cinderella and Briar Rose, I first encountered these happily-ever-after versions of the tales. In fact, I wasn't even aware that other versions of the fairy tales existed until the end of seventh grade. I remember one of my friends talking about how Disney tended to change the endings to be "suitable" and appealing for children. Apparently, in the real story of The Little Mermaid, Ariel ends up turning into seafoam. However, in the Disney movie love conquers all and the "good" girl ends up with Prince Charming in the beautiful castle. After finding out different accounts of these tales existed, I never felt the urge to rent the Grimm fairy tales. Now, after reading the Grimm and Anne Sexton version of the Cinderella, Briar Rose, and other fairy tales, I feel that Anne Sexton takes fairy tales to another level of appreciation. Disney movies suited my earlier childhood, but Sexton's versions have an added dimension that is appropriate for adults who can appreciate and understand her sarcastic remarks. I really enjoyed Sexton's fairy tale poetry, and I am definitely keeping this book instead of selling this book off with the others like I originally planned.

Grimm Tales
Name: Beverly Bu
Date: 2003-09-12 00:16:09
Link to this Comment: 6450

The Grimm Cinderella piece suprised me with the morbid violence in the end. I recall the Disney version of that tale and there was no such horror at any point. I enjoyed Sexton's sarcasm and cynicism because it reflects the stark contrast between the perfect picture that we were fed as children vs the harsh reality of life.

Name: karen deln
Date: 2003-09-12 04:30:12
Link to this Comment: 6451

Maybe there is a time for everything. When I was little I enjoyed Disney's version of Cinderella because it was simple and untroublesome, romantic and cute.

Now times have changed and I can no longer relate to Disney's version of the story. Today, I enjoy Grimm's Cinderella, which is gory and graphic. For example, Grimm's description the "bloody shoe". Why the change? Perhaps, now that I am more experienced I can better appreciate literature that relates to both happiness as well as pain.

Name: Christine
Date: 2003-09-12 23:59:27
Link to this Comment: 6459

I found each of version of the fairy tales interesting in their own ways. Since the Grimm brothers were also retelling the fairy tales that they had been told, their version of them was as much an interpretation as the Disney version and the Anne Sexton version. We can't tell whether the original tales had been as bloody as the Grimm ones, but that was the way that they had heard it and they put on paper the way they thought it would be effective to tell them. Disney took out the less desirable parts and left viewers with something that was not as substantial but in some ways more magical. In the Anne Sexton version, she put back the gore and added in sarcasm. Her stories brought psycological depth to the characters which made them more approachable, but lacking in the happiness that we equate with fairy tales.

Fairy Tales
Name: Alicia Jon
Date: 2003-09-14 01:50:29
Link to this Comment: 6469

I'm a little late, but better late than never.

As I said in class (section 10, fondly known as the "older" group)I think the Bros Grimm were aptly named. I know they only collected the folktales from others, but, my gosh, how much violence against women were they putting forth back in those days? Unless you were a fair maiden and good you got bashed or banished. I find the women-bashing distasteful. Sure, I'll just cut off my toes and heels so I can wear that glass slipper and marry you! Oh, and since I'm so mean and "dark of heart" can you get those birds to peck out my eyes too. Also, that theory of being rescued so that one can live happily ever after is clearly outdated. Was Princess Diana living happily-ever-after with her prince, I ask you? I think there should be fairy tales, but I think we need to update them, just like Walt Disney did, only now they can have a female perspective.

I enjoyed Anne Sexton's poems, not so much for the fairy tale satire, (although her cynicism was cool) but more for the seemingly candid glimpses of her life through some very revealing story telling. I felt like I was being made privy to some of the tragic moments of her life. I was inspired to go online and read more about her. I like writing that exposes the writer because it makes me want to know more about what they didn't say. What were the stories behind the poems that Anne wrote? Were they just new spins on old fairy tales or were they keys that opened a new Pandora's Box?



Fairy Tales
Name: Flicka Mic
Date: 2003-09-14 02:15:24
Link to this Comment: 6470

Fairy Tales were written for children. You must understand this before I begin to explain my view. I enjoyed reading Grimms and Anne Sexton's versions of Cinderella, but I still prefer the Disney version for children. I always loved to hear the story of Cinderella read to me as a kid; I loved the magic and the beauty of it. This is what kids want when they hear a fairy tale. Of course, one day they will have to learn that there are terrible aspects of life, and that not everyone lives "happily ever after". However, they do not need to hear when they are so young.
Disney's job is to tell a story, explain a moral, and leave the viewer with a sense of happiness. And that is what the movie does. Disney only took out the gruesome parts of the Grimms stories to please their audience of children. Even if the stepsisters do get punished in the end like they deserve, nobody wants to see their eyes pecked out! And wouldn't you agree that a magical fairy godmother is more romantic than a bird who throws down pretty dresses from a tree? For kids, I can see how the Disney version would be better.
However, as adults, we can appreciate the other versions of the fairy tales as well. I enjoyed reading the Grimms version of the fairy tales. It was different mainly because it revolved around birds, and her mother's grave. Aslo, her father was still alive. This version of Cinderella struck me as more real in the sense that it wasn't as magical but it displayed more prominently the emphasis on moral values.
I did not like the Anne Sexton version of the fairy tales. It was very interesting to read her view on the stories, but I was unimpressed by the sarcasm, the sly comments, and the straight-forward narration. Personally, I believe that fairy tales are stories to be passed on to other generations, either by reading it or listening to it read by your parents. Fairy tales are supposed to be fixed, and while they will naturally change over time (Grimm to Disney), I believe that one should not encorporate one's personal views into the stories. Obviously, not everyone lives "happily ever after" once they are married. Realistically, people have problems with money, with kids, with each other... but you're not supposed to think about it. That is not the point of the story. The point of the story is to explain a moral and show how the princess get prince charming because she was a good person....Lessons are the main point of fariy tales and I believe they should stay that way. I understand that Anne Sexton was just trying to expose how unrational these stories are, but for children, that just doesn't matter. What is important is to let your child see the good things in life, before the bad things and to keep him/her away from the bad things for as long as possible.

To think/write about ...
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2003-09-15 15:23:51
Link to this Comment: 6482

Did you include a fairy god-mother, prince, witch, or wizard in your fairy tale? Whether you did or not, it seemed to Anne and me that such characters are so frequent in fairy tales that one can't help but wonder why. What do you think? Why do almost all fairy tales have at least one of these character types in them? Is there anything the characters have in common that would make it hard to conceive of something as a fairy tale that didn't have at least one of them in it?

Strong, powerful characters in fairy tales
Name: Alicia Jon
Date: 2003-09-15 22:15:44
Link to this Comment: 6486

Good question. Humm...

My fairy tale has a combination "shero," magical/mystical/super natural, African princess in it as the main character because I wanted her to have powers that were unique and extraordinary. She ends up as an "inner child" for someone and I had to give her a marvelous and powerful life before she got to that mission.

I think fairy tales have to have something magical about them. Its a part of the make believe and it sets the person who usually does something good or spectacular apart from those that might not be so kind. It gives the story that feel good setting and opens the door for the moral of the story.

Unfortunately, most of the old traditional fairy tales use characters like witches and "evil-doers" (I cannot believe I used W's word) to take power away from women. Remember, that a lot of fairy tales were written around or after the witch hunts in Europe and here. Before those awful events common women were the healers of the land and their power lay in the fact that they knew a lot about potions and herbal/medicinal concotions that were used as cures for ailments. They also were usually the midwives of the villages. After the witch burnings any woman who could "lay hands" on someone in an attempt to heal was immediately suspected of witchery and a lot of them were older women, thus, the image of the withered up old witch as the bad person.

I guess that "good vs evil" stream of consciousness is what brought about the "fairy GODmother" character because she is a good woman with power. The prince character is part of the "women in distress need to be rescued by a good strong man" adage, however, all of this is just my humble opinion.


Characters in Fairy Tales
Name: Flicka
Date: 2003-09-16 12:34:24
Link to this Comment: 6492

I believe that the characters in fairy tales such as witches, wizards, and fairy god-mothers, are an essential aspects of them . There has to be something "magical" about fairy tales that gives the story a dreamy tone to it and there has to be something or someone that puts the "fairy" in fairy tale. Witches and wizards give fairy tales a sense of unreality: a place where magic apples grow on trees, and witches curse princesses, and princes run to recsue them on white horses. These are stories that fill the heads of children and allow them to open their imaginations. It also allows them to explore the possibilities between good and evil, and right and wrong.
I think that although magic-like characters are not the main point of fairy tales, they are an absolute neccesity in order to define a story as a fairy tale. For example, you have a girl who is sad because she isn't pretty and all the other girls at school are. So, her mother buys her some make-up at the mall, she goes back to school feeling beautiful, and she gets a date for the prom. Not a fairy tale. However, there is a princess who is saddened because she feels she is not beautiful externally. She is a good person inside, but no one sees that because of her ugly appearance. One day, she meets an old, ugly woman in the forest who needs help walking. The girl helps the old woman despite her appearances, and the old woman turns into a beautiful fairy. The fairy rewards the girl for her kindness by making her extraordinary beautiful, and the princess lives happily ever after as a beautiful person, inside and out.
Now why is this a fairy tale, and the first story wasn't? The first story was about a normal girl, who went to a normal school, and had normal image problems, and who solved them by going to the mall with her mom. The second story involved a PRINCESS who became beautiful by a MAGICAL FAIRY, and it taught a lesson: Do not judge a person by what they look like, but by what kind of person they are. I grant you that not all fairy tales are exactly like this one, and not all fairy tales teach a lessson, but do you undersand my point? The princess and the fairy and the magic, are what make the story a fairy tale.

Fairy godmothers and such
Name: Kristin Bl
Date: 2003-09-17 18:07:30
Link to this Comment: 6516

When I think of the characters of fairy godmothers, wizards, princes and witches, I think of characters who do something beyond the normal scope of human potential. For example, Cinderella is unable to better her position, so (in Disney's version) a fairy godmother comes to do for her what she is unable to do for herself. I think the same principle can be applied to Snow White and her prince...she was unable to get the apple out of her own throat, so she needed him to help her, albeit inadvertently. Similarly, while it's beyond question that people are capable of being cruel and evil all on their own, it seems that characters such as witches and wizards appear in order to do damage that humans are incapable of. I'm not sure what these characters bring to a fairy tale beyond the fantastic, magical feeling that everyone else seems to think necessary to such a story...perhaps that is their only purpose. I'm not quite sure.

Name: Karen Deln
Date: 2003-09-17 19:49:55
Link to this Comment: 6519

Fairy tales are a phenomena worth exploring, they're just plain fun. I did a search on google, there are strange similarities in fairy tales (or like stories) amongst cultures that are physically or socially separate/different. For example, many Indian fairy tales, like European fairy tales, have evil stepmothers, princes, witches, and supernatural beings (like jinnis or fairies). Even Mayan fairy tales hold similar characteristics to those of the rest of the world; however, Maya was physically cut off from any form of outer influence.
Maybe the cause for the likeness is an underlying truth in the fairy tales. Perhaps olden days' stories are nothing more than stories to people now because we've technologically progressed so much that we've regressed in our ability to believe in things we cannot explain. Where as a thousand years ago, people could not understand or explain rain, but it happened nonetheless.

The Good, the Bad, and the Magical
Name: Jenny Barr
Date: 2003-09-17 20:05:06
Link to this Comment: 6520

For me, what stands out is the extreme goodness and badness of these characters. Most fairytales aren't there to give us a nuanced story, where the heroine is a bit flawed and the villain is a bit sympathetic.
They give us a framework of the extremes -- good and bad. Then, when we
experience the people and things in real life that don't fit into either category, we have something to measure them by -- we can hang them somewhere on our framework. This coworker is a creep -- he falls closer to the villain end of things (at least today, he does, tomorrow he'll land somewhere else in the spectrum).

I also think there's something kind of comforting about having things categorized that way (mind you, I don't think it's a healthy, well-adjusted way to approach the world). But I kind of feel like it's reassuring to step into a world where things are clear and easy to identify. In the fairytale, you don't have to say "Yeah, sure this coworker is a creep, but his parents were neglectful and this morning he had a terrible fight with the milkman." You can just call him a creep and let it go at that.

As for the magical aspect of most of these characters, maybe it's a hyperbolic extension of the good and bad. So good or bad as to be entirely outside the realm of human goodness or evil, therefore endowed with super-human capabilities (and motivations -- what's in it for the fairy godmother, anyway?).

Name: Christine
Date: 2003-09-17 22:01:42
Link to this Comment: 6522

When I think of a Fairy Tale, it puts a certain atmosphere into my head. There are castles and magic and scenes from an old world. There are also witches and princes and fairy-godmothers. I think this is because of the time that fairy tales were made in and the reason behind fairy tales. In those days, the greatest position to be in was royalty. So if the someone could use their imagination, this would be an ideal fantasy. For a common young girl, marrying a prince would be the way to become royalty. The handsome prince figure is also one that is exciting but beyond reality for most people. This could also be true about witches in fairy tales. A tax-collecter would be someone who a person might think of in a bad way, but not some who is horrible or awe-inspiring. The witch is a character who is obviously bad but who is also capable of black magic which makes the story more interesting. As for fairy-godmothers, they show you that if you are good but are having a problem, there is someone there for you. Since they are magical, they can help people in ways that no one else could.

fairy tales
Name: Olivia Spr
Date: 2003-09-18 09:10:19
Link to this Comment: 6524

Not only fairy tales serve his suggested purpose. Winnie-the-Pooh, The Little Prince, and what about books in which the character has the same name as the child? he also suggests that the hero is the most attractive figure to the child, wouldn't different children find different figures attractive, as a simple matter of taste? My brother and I never agreed on what fairy tale characters were our favorites (given, it always was a good character).

other fairy tale
Name: Olivia Spr
Date: 2003-09-18 09:20:36
Link to this Comment: 6525

As for the actual posted question. I don't recall there being one of those in The Ugly Duckling. I think the inclusion of characters might come from a time when such archtypes were believed to exist. It also helps the asthetic value of the fairy tale, provides a reason for bad and good. For people who are kind of down on their luck the fairy godmother is inspiring, and so is the evil stepmother, but because she causes the bad.

More about the article: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (though that brings up whole other issues)?
We didn't discuss at all the amoral aspect...any thoughts on that because I know I hadn't really considered it before.

fairy tales
Name: Danielle
Date: 2003-09-18 09:21:23
Link to this Comment: 6526

My story did not have any superheroes in it; however, I don't think that it falls into the category of being a true fairy tale. According to Bettelheim's definition, a "love gift to a child", my story is far from being a fairy tale. Maybe this is true because it has no superheroes- no one comes to save the day. My "fairy tale" is too true to life to ever be denoted as such. Could true life, forever stripped of fairy god mothers, ever be a "love gift to a child"?

Name: Steph Hunt
Date: 2003-09-18 09:45:57
Link to this Comment: 6527

Fairy tales are for amusement and developing the imagination. I didn't like that the Bettleheim article tried to read too deeply into fairy tales, I think it almost ruined the whole concept of them. Fairy tales are just supposed to be fun for people of all ages; whether someone learns something consciously or unconsciously or not. The discussion about the specific stories such as "The Little Engine that Could" made me really angry because I don't think children (except maybe in the specific case) feel defeated. Most kids probably realize that the story only applies to certain aspects; like if you were running, you shouldn't give up, but if you're trying to do an impossible task, the story doesn't apply. I don't understand how Bettleheim can say that children need hope and then discourage stories like "The Little Engine that Could."

As for my fairy tale, mine did include a witch and prince and princess-like characters. I think that they are commonly good because princesses and princes generally represent goodness and piouty and witches represent evil. Therefore, fairy tales depict a struggle between good and evil and generally, good wins. I think this gives people hope that good will usually triumph over evil and for some people, that type of faith is very important.

tiny thought
Name: Tamiyo Bri
Date: 2003-09-18 10:53:48
Link to this Comment: 6528

I was having a hard time putting my thoughts about the charcters in fairy tale. Jenny and Kristin's thoughts helped me to think about the kind of role the characters are playing in fairy tale and I think it is o.k. to say that their obsevation of the charcter go with Bettelehim's commentary.
As much as we want to identify ourselves with "good," "cruel and evil"(Kristine) part of ourselves are expressed by the charcter who plays a role in "exterme badness."(Jenny)

Bettelheim's psychology
Name: Flicka Mic
Date: 2003-09-19 17:58:15
Link to this Comment: 6540

I agree that Bettelheim had some very good points when he analyzed fairy tales. However, some of the points he made contradicted other points, and sometimes he went so far into the depth of the meaning of fairy tales, that he completely confused himself and the reader to what he actually meant to say. For example, Bettelheim makes a big point of saying that fairy tales are just for entertainment and that they really do not have any didactic aspect to them. That's an ok point to make, and I agree with it. However, he goes on and on in the article talking about how much meaning kids get out of fairy tales. He says, " These stories tell him that by forming a true interpersonal relation, one escapes separation anxiety." Bettelheim also says, "The fairy tale is future-oriented and guides the child... to relinguish his infantile wishes for dependancy and to acheive an independent existence." WHAT? I never got that from hearing a fairy tale, did you? I never remember at any time as a child thinking about "achieveing an independent existence" while watching Cinderella.
Another example of Bettelheim's points is that fairy tales are actually a shared experience between the adult and the child. While this may be true for many stories besides fairy tales, I dont necessarily think it true for fairy tales. I always read a lot as a kid, and most of the fairy tales that I know today come from reading them as a child. If I was too young to read, I would watch the movies. It wasn't the fact that fairy tales were read to me which made it so special; it was the fairy tale itself that made me love it and enjoy it. And while my mother may have been truly happy for my enjoyment of the book/film, I don't think it is a necessary part of my experience of fairy tales. Besides, your parents read all kinds of stories to you when you are a child, not just fairy tales, and although it is nice to have that, it is not a necessary part of a child's enjoyment of the fairy tales.

Fairy Tales
Name: Ginny Cost
Date: 2003-09-20 11:34:11
Link to this Comment: 6547

When I first began the "Fairy Tale" exercise I thought of fairy tales as just stories for children with a moral to them. Now, after reading them, then writing my own story, and analyzing it, I realize that fairy tales can be an important instructional tool. I have learned something important about myself through this exercise.

symposium and on ...
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2003-09-22 09:49:45
Link to this Comment: 6563

Thanks, all, for a thoughtful, productive, and enjoyable evening last night. Click for some photos (and some apologies).

Nice to begin connecting people to writings, so let's see what we can do to build on it here. What was your reaction to yesterday's gathering? What did you discover that you didn't expect? About people? About fairy tales? In what ways were the stories you arrived with yesterday evening altered by the evening? (and, if you weren't there, in what ways are they altered by the stories people tell here about the evening?). Has your sense of "fairy tale" and/or of people/community been altered? In what way?

Sunday Symposium
Name: Flicka
Date: 2003-09-23 12:27:30
Link to this Comment: 6584

I was actually very interested to hear how the McBride students defined fairy tales. It was great to hear the opinions of an older group of women, and I really appreciated their respect for us as intellectual equals. I was surprised by their presentation on "Little e" because personally, I did not think it was a fairy tale at all. It was a very cute children's story, but I think that it lacked a certain magical quality to it that gives fairy tales their spark. I also liked the IDOW, but I did not see it as a fair-godmother type figure. I saw it more as a friend that little E found who helped her to find her place in the world.
I really enjoyed the group that portrayed the fairy-godmother as fed up and bored with her job. We always think of the fairy-godmother as the sweet, kind woman who helps Cinderella go to the ball looking gorgeous. But when you take away her kind nature and Cinderella has to find her own way to the ball, suddenly the fairy tale loses its spark. It loses the magic that makes kids smile, and suddenly the ending doesn't seem so happy after all. I did not see this as a fairy tale, but I enjoyed it nevertheless. The persepctive change was a thought-provoking one.
Overall, I'd say that the meeting helped me to see that some aspects of a fairy tale are necessary (like a magic world and a happy ending) and others aren't (like 2 men living happily ever after).

Fairy Tales
Name: Ginny Cost
Date: 2003-09-24 00:37:41
Link to this Comment: 6603

I loved the Sunday night meeting with the combined classes. It was really fun to see the performances of the various Cinderellas. I enjoyed having the opportunity to hear what others thought about fairy tales and what place they have in our lives.

A lovely evening!
Name: Tamiyo Bri
Date: 2003-09-24 22:39:40
Link to this Comment: 6622

It was a very enjoyble evening. I thought was very meaningful to participate in the conversation in larger group with people who have been reading and discussing about a same material as we have. I was impressed with a highly organized skits that were put by the traditional students. I am looking forward to our next gathering. I cannot say much more right now because I am in pressure to finish our Csem reading for tomorrow.

Name: Sarah Snie
Date: 2003-09-24 23:22:48
Link to this Comment: 6624

As for Sunday night, I had a wonderful time hearing and seeing everyones different views w/ fairy tales. I liked combining the two classes we all can learn something from everyone else.

Now as for our next reading, FLATLAND...well I think it was interesting how Abbott wrote in terms of dimensions. The whole concept of it was ridiculous and I really did not like how he was saying that women were the lowest of low. I thought the whole system he was discribing was completely stupid, but after reading for a bit more I began to realize that he was being a bit sarcastic. By reading Flatland it made my mind see things a bit differently so that I could understand the shapes and what they represented. The way I look at thinks is changed b/c of the way Flatland was written. I liked how he used shapes to explain what was going on, it really made me think beyond they way I usually see things.

Sunday Evening
Name: Kristin
Date: 2003-09-25 00:03:23
Link to this Comment: 6625

I was a little afraid, honestly, going into Sunday night. I was worried the McBrides would not treat young'uns in quite the same manner as they treated one another. Thankfully, my fear quickly disappeared. Everyone treated us as equals, which I really liked. I personally wish we had mixed classes of McBrides and traditional students: I think it would add a dimension to our class that is currently lacking, namely one of experience.

Speaking of dimensions, how about that Flatland, huh? I really liked it, and am excited to talk about it in class tomorrow. Now I just have to figure out how to articulate my thoughts....

Name: Christine
Date: 2003-09-25 07:50:32
Link to this Comment: 6629

The night was a good experience for me in learning about ways that people learn about each other. Seeing our two sections come together was thought provoking and worthwhile.
My sense of what a fairy tale is was expanded because the story of "Little e" made me wonder if that could possibly be a fairy tale. This can also be compared to what Flatland might be.

Last Sunday's Combined CSEM class
Name: Alicia Jon
Date: 2003-09-26 12:04:35
Link to this Comment: 6637

A few thoughts, comments, observations about Sunday night and about Flatland:

I was surprised to read a comment by one of the "trads" that spoke of being "a little afraid, honestly.... worried that the McBrides would not treat young'uns in quite the same manner as they treated one another."

I just have to say to you "young'uns" that I respect and admire you all in the same way that I respect and admire my sister McBrides. The only difference in you guys and us is age and experiences, and I would never let a number come between my getting to know you better. In terms of experiences, we've had a longer time to make mistakes and to figure out how to recoup from them so that we could learn something new. And, here we are hanging out at Bryn Mawr with you, learning some new stuff. Girlfriends - we're all "Mawrters" - in this thing together!

On the fairy tale side of things - I really loved the diverse twists that the trads put into the Cinderella tale. I'm one of those folks who still firmly believes that fairy tales can have different outcomes and take differnt routes, other than the happily ever after path. And, if I'm too look at "Flatland" as a fairy tale then I know fairy tales come in differnet packages!

I, too, had a hard time with the portrayal of women in "Flatland" but after our McBride discussion on Tuesday and then, after doing some research on who Edwin A. Abbott really was, I am ready to change my mind about him in general, and specifically about the woman issue. It seems that Mr. Abbott was a true leader and advocate of women's educational rights in Victorian England. Who knew? Well, I didn't, and today I learned something new that will help me write my paper from a more objective point of view rather than from the reactionary, emotional point of view that I was holding onto Tuesday. Gosh, I love this learning environment!



fairy tales, risk-taking and....?
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-09-26 18:47:34
Link to this Comment: 6642

Thought you guys might be interested to know that there are other fairy tales being explored in other spaces on campus and . . . be curious about listening in on one of those conversations, about Harm-Reduction, Risk-Taking and "Bloodchild" (which, at the end, seems curiously to circle back to the one we were having together in English House last Sunday night...)

Sunday evening
Date: 2003-09-26 20:17:46
Link to this Comment: 6643

This is a very belated response... (have you ever noticed that in fairy tales no one ever gets a cold and has to read 200 pages in the same week?)

I really liked Sunday's symposium. It is so cool to listen to women in a range of ages responding to the same stories.

I still have pretty mixed feelings about fairy tales. I have a very strong attachment to the stories I heard when I was little. The idea of the prince riding in on a white horse is mighty appealing (say, when your car breaks down...). And since I don't expect magical intervention to happen in real life, why *not* experience it vicariously through a story?

But at the same time, I really like the stories (maybe not technically "fairy tales") where the character takes control and fixes the problem herself, making her own happy ending. For me, personally, I guess those "do-it-yourself" stories have more resonance. That's probably because I'm in the process of reinventing my life (going back to school), and I'm comforted by tales of successful self-reliance.

Name: ginny cost
Date: 2003-09-26 20:54:38
Link to this Comment: 6645

Dear Paul,
Thank you so much for the photos. I printed them out and got the opportunity to show this great class off to my family.

Name: Danielle
Date: 2003-09-28 23:06:08
Link to this Comment: 6658

I really enjoyed Flatland. I found it an interesting new way to look at the world. It is almost humiliating. The "flatness" in my thinking cannot be escaped- I cannot really imagine 11 dimensions- and so in many ways I am- we all are- much like the king in A. Square's dream....

Name: Bhumika Pa
Date: 2003-09-29 16:53:59
Link to this Comment: 6682

I think that Abbott was very clever in how he presented social, mathematical and scientific issues. I thought that Part B of the book was a lot more interesting than Part A. I did not find his references to women offensive because I don't think they were intended to be...

Name: Anita Lai
Date: 2003-09-30 08:31:23
Link to this Comment: 6703

Flatland is an intriguing and cleverly written book rich with symbolism. Edwin A. Abbott uses figures in an innovative manner that is logical yet wholly unique. The idea I believe Abbott stresses is that people can be extremely close-minded to new ideas, different beliefs, or differences in appearance. The use of shapes in the book and the idea that these shapes can possibly rise in social status with each new birth and become more complex in sides reminds me of evolution. Abbott's Flatland serves as a reminder to ask questions, but also shows the consequences of such actions. As the Square pointed out, it is a manner of what you are willing to give up for a cause you strongly believe in.

Flat fairy tale? Dimensional Story?
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-09-30 09:45:13
Link to this Comment: 6705

Friends and fellow-tellers of tales:
This week's questions (posed by me and Paul, to be chewed over by us all...) are two in number:
Is Flatland a fairy tale? (If so, what makes it so? If not, why not?)
Is it a story?
(So, and: what's your working definition, four weeks into the semester, of story...?)
Hm. Seems as though this week's questions are...
five in number. Go for the bold.
(Sometimes I get ahead of myself....or rather: ahead of the common story we are writing.
Chalk it up to enthusiasm for the tale, in all its dimensions, and know that...
we will be filling in details as we go on, figuring out together which ones are meaningful....)

So Many Angles
Name: Gillian Co
Date: 2003-09-30 09:45:13
Link to this Comment: 6706

Alright, so I still don't fully comprehend the idea of multiple dimensions within our own (my brain isn't flexible enough to wrap around it) but what I do understand is that it would be pompous of us to think that just because we are advanced mathematically and scientifically that there couldn't possibly be another dimension of thought above us. I guess that correlates into the idea of telling stories and changing them: if you're proud enough to swallow your pride and admit you're wrong, then you can change your story. If not, you won't- but that doesn't mean that the world won't change it for you. We're in flux. I guess admitting that is the first step towards thinking of other dimensions as well as our own.

Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2003-09-30 10:02:19
Link to this Comment: 6708

Does anyone care enough to LOOK for additional dimensions? Yep, see photo to right. From todays NY Times Science Times.

While we're on the subject, the Galileo space craft was deliberately crashed into Jupiter last week, for an interesting reason: to avoid possible contamination of Jovian moons with earth life forms. To avoid our changing THEIR stories?

And, remember/notice that, if you want some additional spaces/stories to explore yourself there are always links related to our conversations on our course home page ("some relevant web resources" lower down in the right column).

Flatland a Fairytale?
Name: Stephanie
Date: 2003-09-30 11:59:59
Link to this Comment: 6711

"Is Flatland a fairy tale? (If so, what makes it so? If not, why not?) Is it a story?" Since this has been so utterly ambiguous, let's start with the defininition of a fairytale: From the Merriam-Webster Dictionary: Main Entry: fairy tale Function: noun Date: 1749 1 : a story (as for children) involving fantastic forces and beings (as fairies, wizards, and goblins) -- called also fairy story From the Oxford English Dictionary: fairy tale (or story) 1 tale about fairies or other fantastic creatures Is Flatland about fantastic forces, fairies, wizards? Is it about any other fantastic creatures? No. Furthermore, a fairtale is a compulation of folk tales taken from the general consciousness (at least, so I see it), which Flatland is not. But, furthermore a fairytale is the metaphorical dead horse that we're collectively beating with our semantics. Is Flatland a story? What is a story, anyway? I hear you wonder. Again, thanks to our friends at Merriam-Webster: Main Entry: 1sto·ry Pronunciation: 'stOr-E, 'stor- Function: noun Inflected Form(s): plural stories Etymology: Middle English storie, from Old French estorie, from Latin historia -- more at HISTORY Date: 13th century 1 archaic : HISTORY 1, 3 2 a : an account of incidents or events b : a statement regarding the facts pertinent to a situation in question c : ANECDOTE; especially : an amusing one 3 a : a fictional narrative shorter than a novel; specifically : SHORT STORY b : the intrigue or plot of a narrative or dramatic work 4 : a widely circulated rumor 5 : LIE, FALSEHOOD 6 : LEGEND, ROMANCE 7 : a news article or broadcast 8 : MATTER, SITUATION And, from the lovely OED: story /stawree/ n. (pl. -ries) 1 account of imaginary or past events; narrative, tale, or anecdote 2 history of a person or institution, etc. 3 (in full story line) narrative or plot of a novel or play, etc. 4 facts or experiences that deserve narration 5 colloq. fib or lie So, is Flatland a story? Why, yes, as a matter or fact, it is. It's an account of imaginary events, it's even a narrative and a tale. In the life of A. Square, it's the history of a person, and in view of Flatland itself, it's the history of a society. Interestingly, it took me about five minutes to come to reach these conclusions, instead of 90.

interesting ...
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2003-09-30 12:27:01
Link to this Comment: 6712

I wonder what kind of story about fairy tales and stories might emerge if one were disinclined to appeal to authority and time efficiency? What would the Flatland narrator's answer have been to the question of how many dimensions there are if he were operating under those constraint?

flatland and paper reflections
Name: Bethany Ke
Date: 2003-10-01 11:02:15
Link to this Comment: 6742

Ok, so here's what I found really really interesting in Flatland. All the male shapes are different according to class, but all the women are the same shape. The only real differences in appearance between the women according to their class is how they sway back and forth in order to be seen. This reminds me of a conversation I had with someone this summer about societal/biological differences between males and females, more specifically on the subject of movement. It's sort of like fish; when a fish sees something shiny, or something that moves in the water, it is attracted to it. Women tend to sway when they walk. They can't really help it, it just happens that way, and men tend to be attracted to that. Thus, women tend to be the ones in our society at least who wear flowy things, like skirts or dangly earings or whatever, whereas men tend to appear solid. For example, when they wear earrings/an earring, it tends to be a very small, solid, still object. So we sort of associate movement with female attractiveness. When this theory is applied to Flatland, you might say that the only difference (for the line-women) between a noble-woman and a low-class prostitute is in the finess she uses in her method of attracting a mate. Does anyone else find that odd, or at least worth thinking about a little?

Second subject: I had a bit of a surprise last Thursday when I went to my C-Sem let's-talk-about-your-papers meeting. I had gone with the thought in mind that my three essays so far had gone from ok to bad to worst, the first being the life of learning paper, the second the fairy tale, and the third the analysis of the fairy tale. When I got there, though, Professor Grobstein said that he had actually found the fairy tale to be a powerful story. I spent that afternoon thinking about why our opinions had been so different, and I came up with a guess. As a part of my personality type, I don't like to publicly display my emotions. I don't really have a problem when other people do it, but it's just really difficult for me to pull off. The best example I can think of is The Kitchen God's Wife, by Amy Tan which is an entirely emotion-based book. I love reading it, and I think it has lots of literary merit, but when I talk about the same sorts of things, I tend to view it as a cop-out, like I'm not actually thinking about anything, or like I'm relying on my emotions to do all the work and I'm not really doing anything at all. But when I thought about, I was working when I wrote the fairy tale, just in a different sort of way. What place does emotion have in literature anyway? Is it an intellectual subject/ is it valid for emotion to be the drive, subject, decision-maker when it comes to writing? I don't know, maybe this is silly, but it really struck me as something that was maybe important for myself, and maybe for other people around, too. What do you think?

Name: ginny cost
Date: 2003-10-01 20:41:49
Link to this Comment: 6768

Flatland was not a fairy tale. Flatland was a social satire about Victorian England and the various social classes. It was a mathmatical sci/fi about England's social caste system of the time. Kind of an expose'of the unjust treatment of the various social classes. Abbott originally penned this work anonymously. That is interesting in itself.
What was he afraid of?

Is Flatland a fairy tale?
Name: Flicka
Date: 2003-10-01 21:12:38
Link to this Comment: 6771

I don't believe Flatland was a fairy tale because there were no fairies, or witches, or magicians, or anything magical. It was not written to entertain children; it was written to comment on the societal structure of the time period and to introduce the idea of various dimensions. It is impossible for children to grasp the meaning of this, and as adults we have trouble with the concept as well. So I would say no, that Flatland is not a fairy tale.
Is it a story? Yes. It has structure of thought, it has a plot, and it has various characters . It also has a climax and an ending to the narrative. I'm not saying that this is the definition of a story. I'm simply saying that because Flatland has these characteristics, it is a story. I don't want to go into trying to define a story because it's going to be too complicated.
I want to go back to something we discussed in class. We talked about how fairy tales have good and bad characters and that they are presented as very black and white. Flatland does not have distinctly bad and good characters. Just because the Square learns the truth about dimensions and understands it doesn't mean that he is necessarily a good person. And just because society locks him up for speaking his mind, doesn't mean that they are necessarily bad people. They honestly believe that they are acting in the best interests of the people, and although this does not justify their actions, it also does not make them "bad" people.
Just some thoughts....the Square is actually more intelligent than the Sphere because when the narrator learns and accepts that a 3D world exists, he uses this knowledge to then think about 4th or 5th dimensions. Whereas the Sphere, although he opened up the eyes of the Square, is so close-minded that he will not consider the possibility of more dimensions. I find this interesting because it demonstrates very well the resistance society has to new ideas and to change in general.

Name: Jenny Barr
Date: 2003-10-01 22:16:05
Link to this Comment: 6772

Here's my thought. Some things that go into making a fairy tale: a sympathetic figure facing some terrible problem, a magical figure (or one so perceived by the people in the story), and a happy ending ("never bothered by diapers or dust") brought about by the work of said magical figure. So, if you read it backwards (and gloss over some details), Flatland could be a fairy tale.

A. Square starts out in a miserable position -- in jail, unheard, isolated. He then gets un-separated from his wife and family. He goes on some wild journey to another land with this magical character (who seems to grow from being flawed to being all-knowing). The sphere floats out of view, and the Square is magically restored to his normal two-dimensional world and the social order is unperturbed.

Ok, so maybe that's a stretch. But forwards or backwards it's a story. What's not a story, after all? If the reader supplies enough personal allusions and context, maybe even a grocery list could turn into a story.

Name: Anita Lai
Date: 2003-10-02 07:28:18
Link to this Comment: 6775

Flatland is not a fairy tale for the simple reason that it doesn't have any magical characters such as a fairy, godmother, wizard, or witch. This is not to say however that Flatland is not a story. I believe that Flatland is obviously a story considering the fact that it is a book with characters the author has created through the use of his imagination. I guess my definition of a story is an organized thought with the purpose of imparting knowledge and challenging the reader to use imagination to a certain extent. Also, another characteristic of a story is that it ususally affects the reader by making him or her feel some type of emotion in response.

Name: Tamiyo Bri
Date: 2003-10-02 08:54:43
Link to this Comment: 6776

I think Flatland can be a fairy tale, but it is a different kind of fairy tale from what we assume as a fairy tale. Flatland does have most of the elements we see in fairy tale, Through the conversation we have had in class about fairy tales and what makes it story, Flatland seem to satisfy most of the elements which we discussed. The elements, I meant, mostly what Bettelheim talks about. So it seems to me that he was following certain format for writing fairy tale.

Here's the skinny
Name: Gillian
Date: 2003-10-02 09:49:50
Link to this Comment: 6777

Or the flat, if I were being satirical about our latest reading choices. It's time for a mini-rant:
Flatland is not a fairy tale. I repeat: NOT a fairy tale. It doesn't have the general characteristics, mode, or simplicity of a fairy tale. The characters are shapes, not people, and if the Little Engine That Could traumatized that woman enough to not be a fairy tale, then reading about dimensionality definitiy doesn't qualify.
On that note, Flatland does talk about shapes, as an ALLEGORY for LIFE. It's, and I know there are other people out there who want to say this with me, reminiscent of the Allegory of the Cave (or Den depending on the translation). It goes from a lack of knowledge to knowledge, and the person who finds out that what he originally saw isn't the whole truth has the first instinct to go back and tell his story (note the careful placement of the word STORY. Yes, this is a story, no questions about that). The reticence of people to hear him, the authorities arresting him is a result of the fear of change.
It's an allegory for the way society works and treats new ideas.
Reading Gallileo only confirms that.
Well, I think I'm done for now.
*steps off of soap box*

The real, the truth, and Galileo
Name: Flicka
Date: 2003-10-02 17:02:58
Link to this Comment: 6778

I wanted to continue the discussion we were having in class about where "real" is in relation to stories."Real" is too broad a word to place into a category. You can't draw a box and say "that is real" because we don't even know what real is. We don't even know what truth is. According to Galileo, "Truth is the Daughter of Time..." so we will never really know the truth until the end of time. Since time is constantly moving, we can only get closer to the truth. But we can't become "less wrong" about the world unless we keep an open mind and let ourselves consider new ideas.
I don't think the Brecht meant to write the book as a way for people to realize that change is good. I got the feeling when i was reading it, that Brecht understood how hard it was for society to consider Galileo's new theories. After all, they contradicted 2000 years of Church teachings and if the Church was wrong, what would people believe in? Their whole world would be turned upside down, and the idea frightens them. Ultimately, however, Galileo's ideas were proven to be correct. I believe we should be open to new ideas b/c they may take us closer to the truth than we already are. And although it may seem confusing and frightening to look at such incredible theories, it will be ulitmately be beneficial to everyone to to work together to come as close to the truth as possible.

Many Windows in this "Story"
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-10-03 11:10:50
Link to this Comment: 6780

I've been thoroughly enjoying the conversations about stories which we've been having in my section, as well as listening in to the stories being told over in the other section....

and just wanted to archive here, for the record and further mulling-over, some of what I've been learning...

When the McBrides and I tried defining "story," we came up with a range of possibilities:

It occurs to me, recording these definitions, that none of them worry with the relationship of "reality" to "story." My American Heritage Dictionary lists "an allegation of facts" as the 6th definition of story and "a lie" as the 9th. But it also says this:

"The set of rooms on the same level of a building. From Middle English storye, fr. Medieval Latin historia, originally a row of windows with pictures on them, from Latin historia, story (tale)."

The house of fiction, Henry James told us, has many windows.

I play w/ this in my book: am I telling certain stories in order to limit the possibilities of my own life, and those of others? Can doing so open up new possibilities instead? In the McBride section, we also talked very interestingly about the role of the listener in the construction of story: is she the critic? the authority? is telling a story a way of making a connection/entering into a relationship w/ others? a way of inviting them to tell their stories back, to fill in all sorts of gaps you may have left open? what sort of action is requested (required?) of those who listen to tales?

Yet another key idea that emerged from our discussions this week: the idea of the a-symmetry of the process of revising stories: once you have new data, and draw up a new story to accomodate it, is it possible to "go back"? Is this why the narrator of Flatland couldn't return to the old story of 2-dimensionality? Because his experience of 3-dimensionality made it impossible to tell the the old story any more?

Story or Fairy Tale?
Name: Alicia
Date: 2003-10-04 16:11:42
Link to this Comment: 6792

My 2 cents - plain and simple - Flatland is a story! It's a "novel," unique, creative way to present ideas about "breaking the order of things" in a society that insists on limiting the livelihood of some of its members. It is one man's opinions, presented at first anonymously, in a text that "exposes" the unfair and unjust societal dilemmas of the time. It allows one to think in a linear and mathmatical (logical) way by using lines, squares, circles and octagons that appear flat and undimensioanl, perhaps as a way to diffuse the emotion behind the ideas that it presented. What better way to go about "revealing the truth" that to use math, which is so unemotional.

In regards to the "is it a fairy tale?" question: The answer is NO! It doesn't work as a fairy tale, it does not have the components of a fairy tale and as clever as Jenny's response was (to read it backwards) it still does not satisfy the "fairy tale theory" because, let's face it, we're not going to read it backwards (no disrespect of opinion intended JB).

That's all for now.


Flatlands, Galileo
Name: Beverly Bu
Date: 2003-10-05 18:06:54
Link to this Comment: 6799

Flatlands is certainly a story and absolutely not a fairytale. Flatlands contained too many grey areas to fit into the black and white of the fairytale. Fairytales are normally relaxing to read just before one dozes off, however, Flatlands read almost like a legal document.

The theme of Flatlands is similar to that of Galileo: fear of change to an established order leads to repression of new ideas.

Name: Christine
Date: 2003-10-05 22:10:12
Link to this Comment: 6802

I don't have a solid standing on what a fairy tale is, but I'm pretty convinced that Flatland is not one. It is a story because it was retold. That which is not yet a story is reality. I don't think anyone can say what reality is because by doing so we would be making it into a story. This seems to be what I got out of our class discussion, though I'm sure everyone thinks something different.

Story Time
Name: Kristin Bl
Date: 2003-10-07 09:26:01
Link to this Comment: 6818

While I would agree with most of the previous posts in asserting that Flatland is not a fairy tale,I am struggling with the idea of story.Definitions from dictionaries are all well and good,but I'm not sure what the term 'story' means to me,which has made it difficult to write the past two essays.I feel like there might be two stories within a person,the story of themselves and who they are,in addition to their story of the world.That is to say,the stories people contain are the story they tell to demonstrate their inner selves to others,and the story they tell themselves about the world around them.So does this allow Flatland to be a story?It seems like it's Abbott's story he tells himself to understand the world around him,and that he's just letting us have a peek at it.Perhaps?

"There is no future in a sacred myth"?
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-10-07 10:06:20
Link to this Comment: 6820

Good morning, friends. From Paul and me: here's the next question in our ever-evolving conversation about the nature of stories and the roles they are playing in our education. We'll be reading the first three chapters of Daniel Dennett's book, Darwin's' Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life, for class discussion on Thursday. This passage comes from p. 22:

"There is no future in a sacred myth. Why not? Because of our curiosity. Because...we want to know why....we will never outgrow the question. Whatever we hold precious, we cannot protect it from our curiosity, of the things we deem precious is the truth. The idea that we might preserve meaning by kidding ourselves is a pessimistic...nihilisitic idea...."

What do you think of Dennett's claim? What is your response to his statement?

Name: Gillian
Date: 2003-10-09 09:38:44
Link to this Comment: 6861

I believe that Dennitt's claims are absolutely true. Truth of the matter is, one of the first things we learn to say is "why." We question everything around us constantly as children, in the process driving our parents insane, but also creating a sort of curiosity within ourselves that we will maintain throughout our lives. If you ask anyone what the biggest question of all is, most of them will respond with, "Why are we here?" We search out the truth, trying to find it in order to better define us and our purposes in life. Believing in origin stories without any kind of proof is like believing in the sky without looking up- we need to see it, see proof, that way we can come to our own conclusions.
We are inevitably searching for an answer, and finding more questions as we go along the way.

Dan Dennett
Name: Danielle
Date: 2003-10-09 09:56:45
Link to this Comment: 6862

Dennett is talking to - and about - a different generation. Like we are no longer terriorized by the prospect of the world circling around the sun, so are we no longer "threatened" by Darwin's ideas, at least not in the same way as previous generations were. In the case of my generation, we have been taught the theory of evolution for all of our lives, and though evolution by natural selection still contradicts many ideas Dennett discussed, such as religion, in the current time Darwin is really not the substantial "threat" that Dennett makes him out to be.

Free Will?
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-10-09 14:58:20
Link to this Comment: 6864

Our very-probing conversation in class today about whether there's a "future in sacred myths"--the idea (in Dennett's words) "that we might preserve meaning by kidding ourselves"--led (among many other paths) to a conversation among the McBrides and me about free will, and whether acknowledging Darwin's "universally acidic" idea increases or decreases our awareness of same. You might want to check out a Serendip exhibit I've found very helpful, one that provides both an experiential and theoretical exploration of Free Will?--besides, it involves a game that's fun to play!

Enjoy break, all of you; I look forward to more free exploration when we return (rested?).


Name: Ginny Cost
Date: 2003-10-16 23:12:49
Link to this Comment: 6901

Dennett's compelling work explores evolution through Darwin's theory of natural selection. Volumes have been written in the attempt to define human existance, but Darwin's explanation is a plausible one and enjoys resounding support in most communities, scientific and otherwise.
However, some religious fundamentalist still disagree with the theory of evolution. They are convinced that man was created by a supreme being called God.
Perhaps there is room for evolution and a higher power to somehow peacefully coexist.
When I was a child I was taught the "Sacred Myth," but through education I began to believe in evolution. Although, at times, the two theories co-mingle in my mind.

Tell the Story of a Picture
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-10-20 15:37:01
Link to this Comment: 6923

Dear Questioners, Intuitioners, Revisioners--

Welcome back from Fall Break! Hope your enjoyed yourselves, and are ready for more... questioning/intuitioning/revisioning.... During the first 1/2 of the week, we will continue telling one another why we are inclined (and disinclined) to revise the public stories we tell about the nature of the world....

During the second 1/2 of the week, we will turn our attention to the third section of the course, on the Unconscious. To get the conversation going...pick one of these two paintings by Sharon Burgmayer,

and tell us the story of what you think it represents.

Anne and Paul

Still on Dennet
Name: Kristin
Date: 2003-10-21 09:49:41
Link to this Comment: 6929

This is not on the subject of the paintings, but, rather, adresses Danielle's comment earlier on the forum. Coming from your personal background, it may not seem like evolution is really that controversial, but being from the midwest, things are a little different. I was not taught evolution throughout my education-in fact, it was not presented to me until my sophomore year of high school, and even then only presented as a theory, with great emphasis on the fact that it has still not been proven. And I was lucky, coming from the most liberal town in the state. My boyfriend is from a rural part of Missouri, and evolution was brought up for about a week in his sophomore bio class, treated skeptically as only a theory which no one could prove, and they were then given the assignment of finding information which invalidates the idea of evolution...oh, and they learned nothing about survival of the fittest or the evolution of any species besides man. Perhaps this was because it would have been more difficult to sensationalize the subject. At any rate, I thought I would make note of the fact that it is in fact an ongoing debate, and that not everyone was raised with evolution in their schools.

view from the brain/view from nowhere...
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-10-22 09:05:23
Link to this Comment: 6941

The McBrides and I had another pretty-astonishing conversation yesterday. We lingered for what seemed forever over Emily Dickinson's poem about the "size" of the brain, working particularly the last stanza:

But that was only 1/2 the story. We spent the remainder of our class talking about the consequences of genetic testing (and related matters of manipulating the genome). Our conversation turned to the complexities, demands and uncertainties of decision-making in a world that is as unpredictable as the one Darwin-via-Dennett describes. I referred both to a conversation on the same topic which took place in the Graduate Idea Forum last week (which I make accessible here), and to a February 16, 2003 New York Times Magazine article, "Unspeakable Conversations," in which the disability rights activist Harriet McBryde Johnson describes a "civil discussion" with the Princeton philosopher Peter Singer "about whether she ought to exist."

You'll find one account of that article--and one-to-me-very-striking interpretation of it--in an archive from last year's discussion of The Culture of Science, where a group of us explored the notion that, as the world came to seem an increasingly uncertain place, a separate culture of science arose, as an attempt to create a "more certain place" to live and think. We thought then (and the idea was so resonant it still rings for me now) that, rather than trying to arrive @ the "view from nowhere"--the attempt to get a larger (more objective) perspective than that offered by one body/one brain--perhaps what is needed instead is the "view from everywhere": sorting through our shared views, not in order to strip away all that is personal, experiential and contextual, but rather to INCORPORATE the widest range of particular views, in order to discover what can be seen in common. (I also recommended to the McBrides that, instead of writing "position papers w/ proof," they write papers "exploring an idea and using a flashlight to describe the territory that is illuminated").

For more (much more) about the importance of getting all our views expressed (aka claiming what each of us knows experientially, in order to expand the views of us all) see also Making Sense of Diversity.

Thanks to all for making this a wider-deeper place for me.


Heads Up Re: Reading
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-10-22 14:49:13
Link to this Comment: 6951

When you open the packet tonight, you'll find that the Lakoff and Johnson reading from Philosophy in the Flesh seems to stop on p. 17. If you dig a little deeper into the packet, though, you'll find the missing pps (18-59) of that text pick up after the Vygotsky piece on Thought and Language. Sorry to be so...


Pictures, pictures everywhere
Name: Gillian
Date: 2003-10-22 17:55:17
Link to this Comment: 6955

...but not a drop to drink.
Or something like that.
Okay, I know that a picture is supposedly worth a thousand words, but maybe that only applies to the picture taker, or drawer, or to the overly verbose and annoyingly intelligent because, for the life of me, I can't write a story about either of these two pictures.
Sure, the first one speaks to me in a way, but it's a pessimistic, sardonic, unappreaciative way that doesn't motivate me to say much on its behalf.
In short, I stared at the first picture for an abundant amount of time. An almost criminal amount of time. And, other than hearing the X-Files theme play in my head and muttering "I swear I've seen this episode before..." I wasn't moved. In fact, these pictures, if anything, seem like a flash-job at artistry, that wasn't meant to motivate but, if anything, to mollify. In truth the picture tells a story of several couples in the dark, afraid of what's in those shady corners, but too terrified by what's outside the door in that bright hallway to do anything but cling to each other and cower.
The first thought in my mind isn't "What are they thinking?" or "Why are they hiding?" It's "If I had one of those flashlights I'd hit them over the head with it, tell them to stop cowering and being afraid of the Boogie Man, and get back into the real world that's outside the door." Pathetic, but true.
These figures are hiding in the dark, but scared of it. They're like tiny children, afraid of what's under their bed, but too scared to leave the bed in case a monster jumps out and attacks them while the try to get away.
My suggestion? Dump the flashlights and go back into the light.
Or, at least, get used to the dark.

The Door
Date: 2003-10-22 20:16:19
Link to this Comment: 6956

Why doesn,t someone open the door? Do they choose to move around in darkness with just a hint of light? You might as well close the door.

Name: ginny cost
Date: 2003-10-22 20:28:01
Link to this Comment: 6957

I saw this painting in several different ways, but I like this version the best.
My impression of the two-scene painting is that the forward scene with the four colorful people depicts one woman and three men. They are doing the dance of life. The red figure is a woman. The blue, green, and purple figures are men. They are a very happy group, although the purple man seems a bit serious. The woman is particularly vibrant, red is a powerful color. They inhabit a brightly lit open space. The overhead lights are shinning down on them as they dance. She is in charge and can have her pick of the men. (Or she could continue to dance.)
In the second scene the far-background is darker,it is the color of cement. It has a boxed-in feeling. The colors of the people are pastel and the image is subdued. The woman has selected a man and fallen in love. The forward image of the couple kneeling is the first stage of their union. They embrace lovingly and passionately and are happy. As they move further along in the relationship they are the couple to the left, and they are closer to the dark wall. Their embrace is comforting but not passionate and a blandness seems to be settling in. The last image the couple is closer to the wall their expectations have not been met and they feel trapped.

Name: Jenny Barr
Date: 2003-10-22 21:17:30
Link to this Comment: 6958

I've gotta say that "clinging together and cowering" is not at all what I got from the first picture. And the blues and grays might make you think "oh -- must be sad." Yes the room is dark, shadowy and lacking in knick knacks, but I don't see anything sad or scary here. It looks to me like these people are comfortable in each others' embrace, and that they (at least the two couples on the right) are searching for something. The couple on the left looks like they may have gotten distracted by the dark room, naked companion thing.

What's outside the door (daylight, tree, greenness) is easily accessible, containing tangible things and lots of natural light. Since the door is open, and it's right there, I think they're inside by choice -- what they're after isn't the stuff they can find easily. They're searching for something internal and harder to understand.

I think there's something very positive in the fact that they're doing this search in pairs. That could be either literal -- people who know and love each other both working on finding something together, or less literal -- people feeling that they have some kind of human support in the work they've undertaken.

Of course, it could just be that they're helping each other find their clothes.

The light
Name: Tamiyo Bri
Date: 2003-10-22 22:23:03
Link to this Comment: 6960

There is a world of light outside the door, yet instead of opening the door to bring the light inside, couples are using the frashlight to light the darkness. They are facing the upset of the door which make them unaware of the light coming through from the door. To me, this picture represents the dynamics of light coming from the outside and the light frashing from inside are emerging.

Name: Christine
Date: 2003-10-22 22:33:46
Link to this Comment: 6961

Looking at the painting with the flashlights, I really don't know what it means or what message it's trying to convey. However, the story that I personally get from it is that these people have all found someone to love. They are still in the dark though in the search for the rest of life beyond human relationships. All humans at times focus on their social needs while ignoring the bigger picture of life. This is represented in the painting by the open door to the world. The people know that they are searching for something, but they're not sure of what it is. Therefore, they don't know where to look for it, even though it is right by them all the time.

Name: Steph Hunt
Date: 2003-10-23 09:24:13
Link to this Comment: 6966

Although the room is dark, it is not scary. The dark is usually a terrifying thing for me, but that picture gives me a sense of serenity. Also the people don't seem to be afraid; there is an affectionate quality between each of the three couples. The sense of calmness probably comes from the blue used instead of a grey or black to show darkness. Also,the door is open with a tree showing just outside, so the people cannot be far removed from the beautiful, outdoor, light world. I'm unsure as to why each man carries a flashlight. It implies that the darkness is unwanted, which leads me to question what they are doing. Are they searching for something? If you completely try to pull meaning that's not there, you could interpret the picture to be about couples searching for truth (or some other big intangible aspect of life) in the dark. Obviously, they're not searching for a dead body or something because instead of appearing frightened, they're embracing.

Name: Olivia
Date: 2003-10-23 09:35:03
Link to this Comment: 6967

Pertaining to darwin, I grew up in the South. My own experience is fairly similar to that of Kristen's. The first time I remember ever talking about evolution in a class was in 8th grade. It wasn't that up until then teachers had questioned the subject, they simply ignored it's existance. I didn't have the same shock as Kristen, but I can relate to coming from a place where Evolution is still not readily accepted.
OK, to the paintings, Prof. Grobstein said to go with stream of conciousness so that's what I did. I apologize for how disjointed it is and how it doesn't really tell the story of the painting (as I think I read in an earlier posting).

For some reason it reminds me of Chagall, and this book I bought in San Francisco with an e. e. cummings poem, May I Feel. All the couples have a flash light. The door is open-it's so dark. Only visible face with features is that of the seated figure in the front, I think it's a child and parent. Why do they need the flash lights--well, b/c it's dark, but why is it dark? Why'd they leave the door open (ever heard that phrase relating open doors to being raised in a barn? I never fully understood that connection, I guess it just referes to manners, but why is leaving a door open rude?) I don't like how pale they are--kind of like spilt milk puddles on a dark surface. Isn't there a book with spilled milk shapes? Watercolor? My grandmother wanted me to be a watercolor painter. Somehow it relates to her granfather being a watercolor painter. Funny story about him and Darwinism in the south. look and the water sploches on teh floor--hot or cold press paper? I always preferred hot press. There are little pink flowers by the base of the tree. The painting makes me sad--a melancholy mood-some how from the dark and pale. The open door and tree are slightly redeeming though.

Flashlight Picture
Name: Anita Lai
Date: 2003-10-23 10:03:34
Link to this Comment: 6969

The feeling I get from this picture is one where people are searching and exploring different relationships. I see in this picture a blue room with a hint of darkness with the color gray. I think the room represents life, with the pairs looking for answers. Relationships with others is an important part of life. I see one couple as a parent with a child, and it reminds me of how we rely on our parents when were are younger to answer our questions and needs. The couple looking away represents the friendships we make and the bond that is formed between people. The couple hugging one another I see as our potential mate, whom we grow old with. By having relationships, it makes the world more safe and secure in a world where you might feel small or insignificant. The door leading to the outside where there is a tree reminds me of the tree of knowledge. Maybe the artist is signifying something greater and bigger than just the room we are in. Maybe it is the search of the couples for something in their lives--like the meaning of their existence.

The Drawings
Name: Alicia Jon
Date: 2003-10-23 11:05:02
Link to this Comment: 6970

OK - I'll step out on a limb here, but while I was doing the reading assignment and was immersed in "The Embodied Mind" I got to the tables on pages 50 - 54 and realized that those "primary metaphors" reminded me of the drawings.

So here goes a synopsis of the colorful drawing on the right:

The drawing on the right with the colors and the "happy" people dancing is representative of the metaphor "Happy Is Up" whereby the body is upright and their arms are up in the air. There is an energy about them that signifies that they are feeling good and happy and generally "upbeat."

The figures that are hugging represent "Intimacy Is Closeness" whereby thier physical closeness is very intimate (plus they have no clothes on). There are also images of sadness in that section of the drawing with a sense of needing support (like "lean on me") so it fits in with the metaphor "Help is Support."

Then there are the spotlights which metaphorically could represent the "Knowing is Seeing" aspect which says that knowledge is "getting information through vision."

That's what I see and that is how I can relate it to what I read. I can't deal with the dark, moody drawing on the left because it was depressing.


Name: Flicka
Date: 2003-10-23 12:19:48
Link to this Comment: 6971

To me the picture on the left in the dark room signifies the wish to discover things about ourselves, and about others. The darkness of the room is counteracted by the light from the doorway and from the flashlights, so I don't feel particularly happy or sad when I look at the picture. I think that the the couples are searching for something deeper than what is right in front of them (i.e. the open door), and that they are looking for internal answers to life. Maybe the picture is trying to say that when we search the unconscious, we learn things about ourselves and about those we love that we didn't know before, and that although their are simple answers right in front of us, we need to dig deeper to find the true meaning of our actions and thoughts.

Colorful picture
Name: Beverly Bu
Date: 2003-10-23 22:58:55
Link to this Comment: 6982

This picture reminds me of the days when I used to dance with a small ballet company. We would all spend hours and days and weeks rehearsing for various roles and then came the dreaded audition.

The bright and active people in the front of the photo represent the chosen few warming up to rehearse their coveted roles. (Except for the one with the crossed arms - that is the ballet mistress.) The pale and mourning souls in the back represent those who were told "better luck next time." Notice how they all cling together...misery loves company.

senility and the unconscious
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-10-24 07:48:06
Link to this Comment: 6988

The rich conversation the McBrides and I had yesterday about the fund of "tacit knowledge" each of us carries (and we DID have some stories!!) led (among other things) to our exploring the possibility that, as we age, as we become senile, as we lose our conscious faculties, what we know unconsciously becomes more available to us. I was telling a few stories about visits I used to make with an elderly friend, for whom this certainly seemed to be the case. See, for instance, Language Play: Two More Test Cases and On Losing Categories (the World?).

Consciousness vs. Unconsciousness
Name: Flicka
Date: 2003-10-27 23:51:49
Link to this Comment: 7020

There was a very interesting idea in our bio forum about how consciousness requires more than one person to exist. Do you think thats true? I think that the ability to be conscious is just something that we have. It's not something you can describe, it's just there. However, the ability to be *aware* of our consciousness requires more than one person. In order to be aware of what you're thinking or what you're doing, you need someone else to *make* you aware of it. Therefore, the only way humanity has a knowledge of the unconscious and the conscious is because interactions with other people have made their thoughts about the subject conscious. Am I making any sense to anybody?

But then, does that mean that animals are aware of their consciousness? It's true that animals are conscious, and they do have other animals to associate and communicate with, but do they have the ability to be *aware* of their consciousness? hmmmm....what do you all think?

Painting on the Right
Name: Kristin
Date: 2003-10-28 01:22:26
Link to this Comment: 7022

My instinct on looking at the painting on the right is that there are two distinct moods within the picture. There are the people dancing independent of one another, happy and energetic in the spotlight, full of rich, bold colors. Then in the background are those people who cling to one another, with no movement and a sort of sad feeling...also, their colors are less vivid than those of the independents. Perhaps it is this dependence on another which makes them less vibrant.

Report on Tacit Explorations
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-10-28 10:10:17
Link to this Comment: 7024

Paul and I ask that each of you sketch out in the forum area--and so let everyone else know about--what dimensions of unconscious knowledge you have been exploring in your data-gathering this week.

While we're embarked on this process, two reminders: that a final paper on what you've learned from your exploration of tacit knowledge (and what next project it suggests!) will be due in two weeks. The Sunday evening before (11/9) we will gather in English House for a Symposium on the Unconscious, when we will perform/enact/look together @

...what we did not know that we knew.

tell, please
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-10-29 22:45:10
Link to this Comment: 7045

Each of you, this week, please: tell us what aspect of the unconscious you are exploring? We'd all like to hear about the range of tacit knowledge you are bringing into consciousness..

tell, please
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-10-29 22:45:43
Link to this Comment: 7046

Each of you, this week, please: tell us what aspect of the unconscious you are exploring? We'd all like to hear about the range of tacit knowledge you are bringing into consciousness..

Tacit Learning Project
Name: Alicia Jon
Date: 2003-10-29 22:51:30
Link to this Comment: 7047

OK - it's late and I'm tired, but I want to post a little info about my "tacit learning" project as per Professor Dalke's request in the McBride class on Tuesday.

I am doing an unscientific evaluation on how tacit learning or tacit understanding comes into play when one is taking a "timed typing test."

Some of you may remember the days when there were no computer keyboards at the tips of everyone's fingers, so we learned to type on an old-fashioned typewriter. I think it is interesting that the image of how the keyboard is set up is always there in my unconcious mind and that when I type on the keyboard my fingers "automatically" know where they are supposed to go. I even know, immediately, when I strike the incorrect key. My unconcious knows what to do and where to reach for the keys on the keyboard, but most times I let my "conscious mind" get in the way and I "think" about the strokes and undoubtedly, I then make mistakes while typing.

In order to write the paper and present some data I'll be performing a series of timed typing tests (and I will not look at the keyboard while typing) over this week to see if I can improve my speed and accuracy by just typing and not thinking about where the keys are and what I'm typing. I have no idea what it will prove in the end, but it seems like a fun and unique way to test my tacit understanding. And, hey, maybe I'll even be a faster typist in the end.

Good night all!


consciousness of consciousness
Name: Jenny
Date: 2003-10-30 00:05:48
Link to this Comment: 7048

To me, Vygotsky's idea of "spread of affect" to explain animal "communication" makes more sense than the idea of animals being aware of their own consciousness. Animals probably have some sense of categories (things to fear, things to eat, etc.), but does the information that they exchange with each other convey anything more specific than the general category itself (the geese calling "danger!")? And does that information exchange go more than one way? Can the other goose ever say, "No, no, calm down, that's not a predator, it's a lawn ornament."

But the idea of animals' being able to talk to each other or express their own consciousness is really appealing. There's a great children's book more or less on the subject called "Click Clack Moo, Cows That Type." The cows find an old typewriter and start sending messages to the farmer: "Dear Farmer Brown, The barn is very cold at night. We'd like some electric blankets. Sincerely, The Cows."

And as for humans... I like the idea that knowledge of consciousness developed through social interactions (ourselves in contrast to and in correspondance with others like ourselves), but I wonder if other people are necessary for our continued awareness of our own consciousness? It seems like the state of senility is a "devolution" back into a lack of awareness of differentiation from the world around you. But that's something that results in, not comes from lack of human contact. Would a hermit living alone at the top of a mountain eventually lose the sense of his own individual consciousness? Is that what they call enlightenment?

consciousness of consciousness
Name: Jenny
Date: 2003-10-30 00:07:21
Link to this Comment: 7049

To me, Vygotsky's idea of "spread of affect" to explain animal "communication" makes more sense than the idea of animals being aware of their own consciousness. Animals probably have some sense of categories (things to fear, things to eat, etc.), but does the information that they exchange with each other convey anything more specific than the general category itself (the geese calling "danger!")? And does that information exchange go more than one way? Can the other goose ever say, "No, no, calm down, that's not a predator, it's a lawn ornament."

But the idea of animals' being able to talk to each other or express their own consciousness is really appealing. There's a great children's book more or less on the subject called "Click Clack Moo, Cows That Type." The cows find an old typewriter and start sending messages to the farmer: "Dear Farmer Brown, The barn is very cold at night. We'd like some electric blankets. Sincerely, The Cows."

And as for humans... I like the idea that knowledge of consciousness developed through social interactions (ourselves in contrast to and in correspondance with others like ourselves), but I wonder if other people are necessary for our continued awareness of our own consciousness? It seems like the state of senility is a "devolution" back into a lack of awareness of differentiation from the world around you. But that's something that results in, not comes from lack of human contact. Would a hermit living alone at the top of a mountain eventually lose the sense of his own individual consciousness? Is that what they call enlightenment?

consciousness of consciousness
Name: Jenny
Date: 2003-10-30 00:28:05
Link to this Comment: 7051

To me, Vygotsky's idea of "spread of affect" to explain animal "communication" makes more sense than the idea of animals being aware of their own consciousness. Animals probably have some sense of categories (things to fear, things to eat, etc.), but does the information that they exchange with each other convey anything more specific than the general category itself (the geese calling "danger!")? And does that information exchange go more than one way? Can the other goose ever say, "No, no, calm down, that's not a predator, it's a lawn ornament."

But the idea of animals' being able to talk to each other or express their own consciousness is really appealing. There's a great children's book more or less on the subject called "Click Clack Moo, Cows That Type." The cows find an old typewriter and start sending messages to the farmer: "Dear Farmer Brown, The barn is very cold at night. We'd like some electric blankets. Sincerely, The Cows."

And as for humans... I like the idea that knowledge of consciousness developed through social interactions (ourselves in contrast to and in correspondance with others like ourselves), but I wonder if other people are necessary for our continued awareness of our own consciousness? It seems like the state of senility is a "devolution" back into a lack of awareness of differentiation from the world around you. But that's something that results in, not comes from lack of human contact. Would a hermit living alone at the top of a mountain eventually lose the sense of his own individual consciousness? Is that what they call enlightenment?

much gibberish
Name: karen
Date: 2003-10-30 02:46:30
Link to this Comment: 7052

WARNING: The following is random.(Sorry, being silly. . .)

Carl Yung if my memory is correct beleived all thoughts in the universe are collected a great "pool". The pool is the source of the unconscious as well as dreams. Perhaps man's common ideas of morality and injustice stems from this pool.

consciousness of consciousness
Name: Jenny
Date: 2003-10-30 07:06:25
Link to this Comment: 7053

To me, Vygotsky's idea of "spread of affect" to explain animal "communication" makes more sense than the idea of animals being aware of their own consciousness. Animals probably have some sense of categories (things to fear, things to eat, etc.), but does the information that they exchange with each other convey anything more specific than the general category itself (the geese calling "danger!")? And does that information exchange go more than one way? Can the other goose ever say, "No, no, calm down, that's not a predator, it's a lawn ornament."

But the idea of animals' being able to talk to each other or express their own consciousness is really appealing. There's a great children's book more or less on the subject called "Click Clack Moo, Cows That Type." The cows find an old typewriter and start sending messages to the farmer: "Dear Farmer Brown, The barn is very cold at night. We'd like some electric blankets. Sincerely, The Cows."

And as for humans... I like the idea that knowledge of consciousness developed through social interactions (ourselves in contrast to and in correspondance with others like ourselves), but I wonder if other people are necessary for our continued awareness of our own consciousness? It seems like the state of senility is a "devolution" back into a lack of awareness of differentiation from the world around you. But that's something that results in, not comes from lack of human contact. Would a hermit living alone at the top of a mountain eventually lose the sense of his own individual consciousness? Is that what they call enlightenment?

Name: Danielle
Date: 2003-10-30 09:06:16
Link to this Comment: 7055

I really liked the Pinker reading, particularly "chatterboxes". I thought his connections with William's syndrome was very interesting. In many ways it relates to Anne's question about the consciousness of those of "less" mind capactiy than the fully able human. I personally feel that beings that fall into this catergory are conscious, if in a different way. The human mind is very powerful, but it is also unique; comparing all other minds to ours is not giving full justice. If other people's, or animal's, minds work differently, it does not mean that they are not conscious. Rather, it just means that they are conscious in a different way. Really, this actually isn't even so different from comparing fully able human minds from drastically different societies to the Western mind; so much of our conscious, unconscioous and values are shaped upon society.

Name: Danielle
Date: 2003-10-30 09:06:26
Link to this Comment: 7056

I really liked the Pinker reading, particularly "chatterboxes". I thought his connections with William's syndrome was very interesting. In many ways it relates to Anne's question about the consciousness of those of "less" mind capactiy than the fully able human. I personally feel that beings that fall into this catergory are conscious, if in a different way. The human mind is very powerful, but it is also unique; comparing all other minds to ours is not giving full justice. If other people's, or animal's, minds work differently, it does not mean that they are not conscious. Rather, it just means that they are conscious in a different way. Really, this actually isn't even so different from comparing fully able human minds from drastically different societies to the Western mind; so much of our conscious, unconscioous and values are shaped upon society.

Name: Danielle
Date: 2003-10-30 09:06:41
Link to this Comment: 7057

I really liked the Pinker reading, particularly "chatterboxes". I thought his connections with William's syndrome was very interesting. In many ways it relates to Anne's question about the consciousness of those of "less" mind capactiy than the fully able human. I personally feel that beings that fall into this catergory are conscious, if in a different way. The human mind is very powerful, but it is also unique; comparing all other minds to ours is not giving full justice. If other people's, or animal's, minds work differently, it does not mean that they are not conscious. Rather, it just means that they are conscious in a different way. Really, this actually isn't even so different from comparing fully able human minds from drastically different societies to the Western mind; so much of our conscious, unconscioous and values are shaped upon society.

this is NOT about the unconscious
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-10-30 09:15:12
Link to this Comment: 7060

...but it's what i'm thinking about right now, so t/here!

see free exploration

Forum working again
Name: Webmaster
Date: 2003-10-30 14:27:46
Link to this Comment: 7062

The forum wasn't posting comments from Tuesday afternoon till Thursday afternoon. However, the posts you made were logged, and will be restored shortly. Sorry bout this.

making the unconscious plain
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-10-30 14:28:36
Link to this Comment: 7063 request, posted Tuesday morning, got lost in the ether of the internet/serendip...

what I had asked, and ask again now: would you tell us, please, what aspect of the unconscious you are exploring? What realm of tacit knowledge you are attempting to make conscious in your current writing project?

tell, please
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-10-30 14:29:01
Link to this Comment: 7064

Each of you, this week, please: tell us what aspect of the unconscious you are exploring? We'd all like to hear about the range of tacit knowledge you are bringing into consciousness..

Tacit Learning Project
Name: Alicia Jon
Date: 2003-10-30 14:30:03
Link to this Comment: 7065

OK - it's late and I'm tired, but I want to post a little info about my "tacit learning" project as per Professor Dalke's request in the McBride class on Tuesday.

\nI am doing an unscientific evaluation on how tacit learning or tacit understanding comes into play when one is taking a "timed typing test."

\nSome of you may remember the days when there were no computer keyboards at the tips of everyone's fingers, so we learned to type on an old-fashioned typewriter. I think it is interesting that the image of how the keyboard is set up is always there in my unconcious mind and that when I type on the keyboard my fingers "automatically" know where they are supposed to go. I even know, immediately, when I strike the incorrect key. My unconcious knows what to do and where to reach for the keys on the keyboard, but most times I let my "conscious mind" get in the way and I "think" about the strokes and undoubtedly, I then make mistakes while typing.

\nIn order to write the paper and present some data I'll be performing a series of timed typing tests (and I will not look at the keyboard while typing) over this week to see if I can improve my speed and accuracy by just typing and not thinking about where the keys are and what I'm typing. I have no idea what it will prove in the end, but it seems like a fun and unique way to test my tacit understanding. And, hey, maybe I'll even be a faster typist in the end.

\nGood night all!


consciousness of consciousness
Name: Jenny
Date: 2003-10-30 14:30:53
Link to this Comment: 7066

To me, Vygotsky's idea of "spread of affect" to explain animal "communication" makes more sense than the idea of animals being aware of their own consciousness. Animals probably have some sense of categories (things to fear, things to eat, etc.), but does the information that they exchange with each other convey anything more specific than the general category itself (the geese calling "danger!")? And does that information exchange go more than one way? Can the other goose ever say, "No, no, calm down, that's not a predator, it's a lawn ornament."

\nBut the idea of animals' being able to talk to each other or express their own consciousness is really appealing. There's a great children's book more or less on the subject called "Click Clack Moo, Cows That Type." The cows find an old typewriter and start sending messages to the farmer: "Dear Farmer Brown, The barn is very cold at night. We'd like some electric blankets. Sincerely, The Cows."

\nAnd as for humans... I like the idea that knowledge of consciousness developed through social interactions (ourselves in contrast to and in correspondance with others like ourselves), but I wonder if other people are necessary for our continued awareness of our own consciousness? It seems like the state of senility is a "devolution" back into a lack of awareness of differentiation from the world around you. But that's something that results in, not comes from lack of human contact. Would a hermit living alone at the top of a mountain eventually lose the sense of his own individual consciousness? Is that what they call enlightenment?

much gibberish
Name: karen
Date: 2003-10-30 14:31:58
Link to this Comment: 7067

WARNING: The following is random.(Sorry, being silly. . .)

\nCarl Yung if my memory is correct beleived all thoughts in the universe are collected a great "pool". The pool is the source of the unconscious as well as dreams. Perhaps man's common ideas of morality and injustice stems from this pool.

Name: Danielle
Date: 2003-10-30 14:32:37
Link to this Comment: 7068

I really liked the Pinker reading, particularly "chatterboxes". I thought his connections with William's syndrome was very interesting. In many ways it relates to Anne's question about the consciousness of those of "less" mind capactiy than the fully able human. I personally feel that beings that fall into this catergory are conscious, if in a different way. The human mind is very powerful, but it is also unique; comparing all other minds to ours is not giving full justice. If other people's, or animal's, minds work differently, it does not mean that they are not conscious. Rather, it just means that they are conscious in a different way. Really, this actually isn't even so different from comparing fully able human minds from drastically different societies to the Western mind; so much of our conscious, unconscioous and values are shaped upon society.

this is NOT about the unconscious
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-10-30 14:33:42
Link to this Comment: 7069

...but it's what i'm thinking about right now, so t/here!

\nsee \nfree exploration

Thought & knowledge
Name: ginny cost
Date: 2003-11-03 10:39:07
Link to this Comment: 7092

Several discussions got me thinking about our minds and how they work. Polanyi's ideas on Tacit Knowledge and how "we know more than we can tell," and Vygotsky's claims that understanding and construction of knowledge is social in origin, and then Anne Dalke's account of her visits to her friend with a failing memory churned up some old questions of mine regarding thought and knowledge. I have a child with a condition known as Downs-Syndrome. Downs-Syndrome people have an extra chromosome which means they are wired differently from the average person. They are mentally retarded. For 30 years I have participated in various studies and efforts to help her to learn. She has been in school since birth, and she has had enormous social interaction. She does not speak a word, yet she can perform very minor sign language. She has had numerous test, yet, no one can discover why she is language impaired. She demonstrates preferences for things, and seems to understand many things I say to her.She sometimes seems to speak through her eyes. I always wonder what is in her conscious mind, and now I wonder if she knows more than she can tell us.

Name: Tamiyo Bri
Date: 2003-11-03 12:41:36
Link to this Comment: 7093

I am still having hard time trying to figure out or try to understand how it is possible to write about tacit learning. Or how is it possible to observe tacit knowledge. But for the moment, I am trying to see how I am learning to play the piano.

Name: Christine
Date: 2003-11-04 09:58:01
Link to this Comment: 7102

I will be studying daydreams as a pathway into the unconscious. It has been my experience during chemistry that when I don't understand the lecture and drift into a daydream, my brain makes analogies between chemistry and social relationships. It is possible that this is a way that my unconscious makes sense of chemistry, by relating it to familar concepts of life.

My Study of the Unconscious
Name: Flicka
Date: 2003-11-04 17:08:10
Link to this Comment: 7115

I am asking people at random points in the day to just start writing. I am asking them to not think before they write or while they are writing, just to start as soon as I hand the paper to them. The results I have so far are interesting. My subjects wrote down a stream of conscious (or unconscious, depending on how you see it) about a paragraph long, and then I analyzed it. I learned a lot about the grammatical aspect of writing and how it relates to your unconscious. In my next paper, I'm going to do more studies using this spontaneous writing method and see if I can uncover other aspets of the unconscious.

PS- I got this idea from writing in the forum, because sometimes I would begin writing without even knowing what I was going to write about, and I would come up with some cool idea that I didn't know was in me. :)

Unconscious studies
Name: Danielle
Date: 2003-11-04 17:27:32
Link to this Comment: 7116

For the past week, I have been asking people to draw pictures of the homes. The results have proven to be fascinating; because I would not answer any questions as to how to approach the task, the interpretations of the assignmentin themselves are interesting. As for the actual drawings, they range from floor plans of homes, to aerial views of single houses, to whole cities, and are truly captivating pathways into the unconscious.

Fasinating Tacit Memory Uncovered
Name: Alicia Jon
Date: 2003-11-06 07:55:52
Link to this Comment: 7138

Well, I must say that this digging and probing into the unconscious is pretty darn cool! On Tuesday Prof Dalke and I were discussing my paper on "timed typing tests" and how the unconscious mind retains learned motor skills (such as learning to type) and with her help I "uncovered" a "tacit knowing" about myself that is very reality based. I abhor timed tests, spot quizzes, and actually, tests in general. My tacit memory of them identifies them as being "pure torture." And, I don't think taking them is a confirmed measure of whether or not I have retained anything from the particular educational setting or class that I was in. As a matter of fact, in my research on how the brain learns it is a documented fact that your brain is more likely to store learning that makes sense and has meaning, therefore, just because someone performs well on a test does not mean that they will be the only ones to retain the information.

Just an observation I thought I'd share.


Name: angel
Date: 2003-11-09 22:25:38
Link to this Comment: 7166

I've been observing people who I have come to know quite closely over the span of these few months. I observe how they act and react to the various situations they are faced with. I am trying to find a pattern or a common denominator to define why people act the way they do. A lot of us would agree that some reactions are instinctual, but I think that there are some actions that are instinctual as well, ie they come from the unconscious. I find one example given by Prof. Grobstein important to my point. He talked of how when people were told in a state of hypnosis that there was a table in the middle of the room, they walked around it when they were conscious, even though they did not see it. What is more interesting is that they found alternative reasons as to why they did not walk through the area where they supposed the table was. I think that there are things people do for reasons they themselves dont understand, or reasons that the conscious mind tells them is true as apposed to what is true as per the unconscious. So my theory is that even if you tell someone that they are doing a particular action because of this action, they might acknowledge that but would continue to do it even if you tell them that it is self destructive.

telling culture's story
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-11-11 10:12:46
Link to this Comment: 7196

Your writing assignment next week will be to tell the story of some aspect of a culture with which you are familiar. Step back from it, "make it strange" and then tell the story--whatever it might look like. Post here a short account of what the longer paper will be talking about....
Looking forward to hearing your tales--
Anne and Paul

Culture Project
Name: Alicia Jon
Date: 2003-11-12 10:24:37
Link to this Comment: 7224

Hi all,

I will be writing about the fascinating culture of an African American theater company. I had the privilege of being the business manager for the Oakland Ensemble Theatre in California and it was the best job I've ever had. Theater is indeed a culture of its own. I always felt like I living in a dual-sided world when I was there - there was the business side and then there was the creative side. Words on a page were transformed into multi-dimensional and magical live performances.


The world that I know
Name: Kristin Bl
Date: 2003-11-12 16:17:32
Link to this Comment: 7239

I'm not exactly sure which culture I will be writing about, but here are a few ideas I'm tossing around in my head:
1)Midwestern Hunting/Gun culture
2)Children's Beauty Pageants
3)Children of Armed Forces Personnel

Interestingly,I am a current or former member of all three of these cultures.I think it's significant for a person to be a part of a culture in order to describe it.An outsider's view can only hold so much weight,I think.

Topic of my writing
Name: Tamiyo Bri
Date: 2003-11-12 16:17:33
Link to this Comment: 7240

I will be wriing about the community life in North Philadelphia where I lived and worked as a volunteer. It is a self-help program and mostly African American people who are trying to recover from substance abuse.

Name: Ginny Cost
Date: 2003-11-12 20:52:08
Link to this Comment: 7241

I intend to write about the work culture in the American business community.

prehistoric toads in my coal
Name: Bethany Ke
Date: 2003-11-13 00:35:40
Link to this Comment: 7243

Ok, so my favorite part of the first reading was:
"'Don't go away, don't isolate yourself, but come here, because we all have had these kinds of experiences.' And so there is this constant pulling together to resist the tendency to run or hide or separate oneself during a traumatic emotional experience. This separation not only endangers the group but the individual as well- one does not recover by oneself." I found that to be really inspiring, and it just left me very hopeful and very peaceful. This also reminds me a little bit of Whorf and his postulations about Hopi, and about language in general. He had some weird ideas. I don't like his ideas. Anyway. Why do we only really think of story-telling as a childhood thing? I don't think it should be, especially after reading this article. But I suppose we do have forms of story-telling in books and poetry and theatre and movies and the media, and even gossip. I like that the way in which she writes reflects what she's saying.
I liked certain parts of the second reading, but it was too long, too drawn out. I liked the writing style, though. That made it a little more interesting. It would be a pain to visit Bali. The ignoring sounds a bit like an initiation. There are certain parts of their culture that really bother me. I don't think I could be Balinese. But the parallels drawn between the man and the animal are very interesting indeed.

Name: Christine
Date: 2003-11-13 01:07:26
Link to this Comment: 7244

I will probably be writing about the culture of my high school choir and comparing it to chorale at Bryn Mawr. These two groups have the same topic and focus but are belong to totally different worlds, and I would like to explore why this is.

Name: olivia
Date: 2003-11-13 10:21:35
Link to this Comment: 7246

I thought the following, which appeared in last tuesdays NY Times, was pertinent to our class discussions. The first one is on robots and consciousness and teh second is on sleep.

tuesday science times
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2003-11-13 11:50:20
Link to this Comment: 7247

Very much agree with Olivia that this weeks NY Times Science Times is relevant to our discussions, both past and future ... and both in detail and in general.

I was myself struck by an article in that issue called Does Science Matter?, and wrote a response that I'm copying below. Seems to me this bears on some current and upcoming questions:

Does Science Matter? Refocusing the Question ...

It is appropriate, desirable, and indeed necessary to periodically examine the role that various institutions play in the broader human cultures of which they are a part ... and science in no exception. From this perspective, Science Times of 11 November 2003, and the lead article "Does Science Matter?" by William J. Broad and James Glanz, is very much to be welcomed.

At the same time, it is important to discriminate betweent those aspects of an institution that make it valuably unique in a culture and those that simply reflect the cultural commonalities that exert similar pressures on all cultural institutions. Science is far from the only institution asked by the culture "to resolve social ills". We ask that similarly of other quite different institutions - social, political, economic, and religious - and it is not clear to me that the performance of science in this particular regard is dramatically any worse (or better) than any other institution in our culture. In this regard, I worry that Broad and Glanz (and the Science Times issue as a whole) might mislead readers by posing a set of benchmarks that might appropriately be used for evaluating our culture as a whole but are not appropriate for answering the specific question "Does Science Matter"?

The distinctive role that science has played in our culture, and can if it is valued continue to play, is not to resolve social (or individual) ills but rather to be the embodiment of permanent skepticism, of a persistant doubt about the validity of any given set of understandings reached by whatever means (including those of science itself). It is the insistence on doubting existing understandings, not the wish to eliminate humans ills nor to find "answers", that has always animated science and has always been the source of its power and successes.

Is that persistant skepticism, the perpetual unsettling of existing understandings, good for the culture of which science is a part? For humanity? That remains, of course, to be seen. The by-products of science have certainly contributed to alleviating some social ills but have equally exacerbated or brought into being others. At the same time, a strong argument can be made that, on balance, human cultures (like life itself) depends fundamentally on conceiving challenges, and potential solutions, before they come into being. Doing so is what science is, distinctively, all about.

From this perspective, the fact that "two-thirds of the population believe that alternatives to Darwin's theory of evolution should be taught in public schools" is not an indication that science doesn't "matter" but rather an indication that it does. On a widespread basis, people are being provided with the products of skepticism, with alternative stories that haven't occured to them before and that are potentially relevant to future challenges. And I would argue that this is today occurring with unusual power in an array of areas of unprecedented scope, ranging from cosmological issues to issues of the nature of human life, consciousness, and personal responsbility, to explorations of the place and meaning of humanity in the universe.

The key question, from my perspective, is not "Does Science Matter?" in terms of the standards we apply to all institutions in our culture but rather does science matter in terms of the distinctive role that it has to play in our culture? The answer, it seems to me, is demonstrably yes, and it is becoming even more yes as the decades and centuries go on. The remaining question, one that follows importantly from this, is whether our culture wants science to matter in the distinctive way it can and does. Here, I think, there is greater question, as evidenced by the recent shift in funding patterns from mostly public to mostly private and commercial support of research. I fear this reflects a misguided view of why science matters, one to which the Science Times issue could, however unintentionally, contribute. I hope not, because I suspect strongly that the future of humanity depends on our enthusiam for supporting the kinds of anticipations of change that will not occur without an institution committed to permanent skepticism.

I'd of course be interested in anyone/everyone else's reactions/perspectives.

the doubting game
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-11-13 14:37:17
Link to this Comment: 7250

The most interesting thing that (for me) came out of our discussion, this morning, of the essays by Silko and Geertz was that her storytelling happened WITHIN a culture: if you weren't a member/didn't share in that culture/didn't already know its stories, you couldn't understand the tales that were being told (for instance: we really couldn't make sense of the one about yashtoah). But the storytelling of anthropologists is intended (as Geertz has said elsewhere), to "make available to us answers that others, guarding other sheep in other valleys, have given, and thus to include them in the consultable record of what man [sic] has said."

But the project of this course is not just telling, but REVISING stories. So: having extended the "consultable record" ...

what do we DO w/ it? If meanings are "inside cultures" (as Silko says) and if the work of anthropologists is to make a study of those meanings, in order that we can make each others' belief systems intelligible to one another (as Geertz says)...THEN what? Where do we go (HOW do we go?) from here? Paul claims, above, that science's distinctive role is that of "permanent skepticism, persistent doubt about the validity of any understanding." How does this insistence on doubt play out against anthropology's attempt to find shared understandings?

Name: Angel
Date: 2003-11-13 19:45:36
Link to this Comment: 7252

I intend to write about the family culture in urban and rural India. I will discuss the family structure, family values and common features that I have observed in my years at home.

Culture topic
Name: Beverly Bu
Date: 2003-11-14 22:33:05
Link to this Comment: 7261

I will be examining American culture and their attitude towards debt.

my study of culture
Name: Flicka
Date: 2003-11-15 11:16:42
Link to this Comment: 7262

I will be writing about the culture of the ballet world because it is the culture i know best, and i think it is a culture not too many people know about.

Name: Steph Hunt
Date: 2003-11-17 20:15:46
Link to this Comment: 7298

I was originally planning to write on the "punk kid" subculture in high schools, but what I thought would be more interesting was to write about "stoner culture," because of the extremely fascinating lexicon and of course the habits and laziness of marijuana abusers (as well as "wannabe" stoners).
Should be an interesting night. *Looks at clock...8:15...12 more hours to finish it.*

Name: Bhumika Pa
Date: 2003-11-17 20:35:02
Link to this Comment: 7299

I will be observing Indian American culture among teenagers in high school since I saw a great deal of it in the high school I attended...

culture paper
Name: karen d.
Date: 2003-11-18 04:27:05
Link to this Comment: 7304

This time I'm writing a paper from the heart (as opposed to my other papers which were from my brain). The culture I'm writing about is Indian culture because it seems to be the most obvious culural topic to write about, especially now. As for making the topic "strange", that isn't so hard. I'm away from home for the first time in my life, all the things that seemed easy and apparent to me are now difficult and confusing- as dramatic as that statement sounds, it's true.

I've been struggling with many aspects of Indian culture because I wasn't raised in India, I was raised here in America. I know you're not wondering why I'm not writing a paper on American culture (shame on you! I'm very American as well, hell I am tired of defending my American-ness just cause I'm brown). So my paper is about indian weddings.

To be specific, my paper is about the mendi (dancing) ceremony of Indian weddings. There are things an outsider might notice about the mendi that are strange, but not really strange to Indians. These things include obvious obseravtions like clothes, jewelry, music, and dance. Also, there are hidden events that occur.

Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-11-18 15:36:24
Link to this Comment: 7318

Hi, friends. This week we will be reading McDermott and Varenne's essay, "Culture AS Disability" (we've also included in the packet, should you have time and interest, several other pieces by Lawrence Osborne, Susan Sontag and Paul Grobstein, each of which explores an example of the disabling effects of a particular culture). To extend this exploration, post here, please, your initial thoughts, in a few lines, about some of the disabling aspects of the culture you yourself reported on this week.....

you might also find of interest/use a piece just up, in which Varenne himself answers (in the negative) Paul's query, "can there be a culture which does not disable/disadvantage ANYONE in it?" It's called "Extra burdens in the search for new openings: on the inevitability of cultural disabilities." What a delight to have it arrive (serendipitously?) just as we turn to this query ourselves.

Name: Ginny Cost
Date: 2003-11-20 09:32:49
Link to this Comment: 7343

One of the disabling effects of the American corporate culture is that in an effort to succeed one must conform and "fit in" and demonstrate very specific behaviors and rules associated with the business world. The disabling aspect of this culture is that one gives up something of themself to belong. A loss of true individuality prevails in the corporate culture.

paper topic
Name: Olivia
Date: 2003-11-20 09:54:07
Link to this Comment: 7344

For my examination of a culture I writing about my experience living in Italy with an Italian family.

I played this link (though I don't think it works as a link here because I don't know how to do that yet) in class for a rather rough, but accurate, insight into what I wrote about.

In response to a comment about Silko which I think pertains to McDermott and Varenne, Silko beleives stories reside both indivuals (specifically in the stomach) and culture as a collective whole. It's important not only to distinguish a one culture's story from another's but also differences in individual's stories within that culture's stories.
Another point of relavence: judging other cultures. Right or Wrong? From an anthropological point of view it's wrong. But from a human point of view....We do it very frequently under the guise of human rights.

Name: Anita
Date: 2003-11-20 09:56:04
Link to this Comment: 7345

I wrote about the culture of growing up as an first generation Asian American. I addressed the issue of having an identity crisis as an American and an Asian.

Link to an article about "deep play" & thoughts ab
Name: Alicia
Date: 2003-11-20 19:25:10
Link to this Comment: 7352

Hi everyone,

A quick check-in about my paper on culture. First of all, I did not write about African American theater, instead I wrote about the culture of a women's health clinic that performs abortions as one of its services. Yeah, I know, very different from theater, but my story is about the work that I did for a number of years with a dynamic group of women in California. We have a common belief that a woman has a right to choose an abortion. We believe that it is our job to make sure that this service is safely performed, that it is kept at a reasonable cost that makes it accessible to all women, and that it be kept legal.

Now I know that everyone does not agree with the idea of abortion, but those of us who work for the right's and protection of women's reproductive health issues are committed to this cause. As a matter of fact, one of the disabling aspects of this culture is that there are people in the world who would harm us, even kill us, because they disagree. Our work is indeed "deep play." Did we feel that we had more to lose than we could ever gain? No! Not even the daily threat of harm can stop the movement that we are a part of because we are not willing to go back to the days of "coathangers and backalleys!"

Also, I found an interesting article by poet/writer/naturalist Diane Ackerman with a broader definition of deep play. Check it out via the link below:

play' isn't child's play, says Diane Ackerman


Name: Angel
Date: 2003-11-22 12:43:09
Link to this Comment: 7366

I knew of several disabling factors of the Indian family cutlure before I began writing my paper on it. But thinking about the factors characterising our family culture, I was forced to take a closer look at the various aspects of the culture, especially disabling ones. By its very constitution, Indian family culture is patriarchal. Thus it is immediately disabling to the female sex, in the household and outside. Men are given many privileges that are withheld from women. They are given a higher status in society. The girl child is still looked down upon and female infanticide is still very much common. The culture is also disabling to children in general and to girls more than the boys. The complete unquestionable authority of the parents leaves the children with not too much room in which to explore their own thought and decision making capabilities.
These are the main disabling aspects of the Indian family culture.

"The Disability Gulag"
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-11-23 13:11:23
Link to this Comment: 7374

You'll find in today's (11/23/03) New York Times Magazine a highly relevant and marvelously articulate article by Harriet McBryde Johnson, "The Disability Gulag," which argues that for herself and others w/ severe disabilities, having needs shouldn't mean losing all freedom. She begins not w/ the accomodations needed for own disability, however, but w/ the story of her grandmother's attitude:

" Why does an independent thinker set such store on conventional behavior? Why did she marry a ridiculously steady Presbyterian? I think it's fear. Fear that one day something will go wrong and she, too, will be taken from her family, snatched from the place she has made in the world, robbed of her carefuly constructed self and locked up for life. I know that fear. I share it."

Talk about culture AS disability. And talk about the need for...


"ostrich intellects"
Name: anne
Date: 2003-11-23 13:16:57
Link to this Comment: 7375

The Sunday papers were for me today filled w/ resonances of conversations we've been having in this class. Two were from The Philadelphia Inquirer (11/23/03); the first of these was Karen Heller's column on "Ostrich Intellects"--a reminder of what seems to me a keynote of this course (sounded in the fairy tale section, again in "tacit knowing," now again as we ask you to explore and interrogate a culture you know): the need to claim what it is we know experientially, through our own experience, rather than relying on others' accounts. Heller says

"The serious scholar turns to the great philsophers, leaders and artists for illumination and personal interpretation rather than relying on the distillation of their work by others. She knows that primary sources are the cornerstone of a classical education. The same can be said of a full and thoughtful life, that a rich existence depends on knowwledge attained as close to firsthand as possible. We are witnessing the death of primary experiences."

"deep play"
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-11-23 13:25:45
Link to this Comment: 7376

The last article in today's Inquirer (11/23/03) which put me in mind of our conversations here is an account of Princeton students traveling to New Jersey State Prison to engage in chess matches with inmates there:

"Many inmates say they enjoy chess because it is a metaphor for real-life situations where they often were unable to come out on top. 'If you make one wrong move, you are at a disadvantage, and sometimes you can't recover. . . . That's chess, and that's the way it really is.'"

In trying to think of alternatives to this sort of "deep play," where there's no "back-up," no "way out," I was reminded of all the discussion in the Working Group on Emergent Systems about "distributed systems," complex networks of interaction in which there is ALWAYS a back-up, always an alternative, always...

another way to go. My query now: might such a system mitigate "deep play"--that is, avoid the sort of "check-mate" from which you can't recover?

Name: Olivia
Date: 2003-11-24 16:38:38
Link to this Comment: 7385

Throughout reading Culture as Disability I was reminded of an article by Mary Midgley: Trying out One's New Sword.
"All of us are, more or less, in trouble today about trying to understand cultures strange to us. We hear constantly of alien customs. We see changes in our lifetime which would have astonished our parents. I want to discuss here one very shourt way of dealing with this difficulty, a drastic way which many people now theoretically favor. It consists in simply denying that we can never understand any culture except our own well enough to make judgements about it. Those who recommend this hold that the world is sharply divided into seperate societies, sealed units, each with it's own system of thought. They feel that the respect and tolerance due form one system to another forbids us ever to take up a critical position to any other culture. Moral judgement, they suggest is a kind of coinage valid only in its country of origin."
Midgley goes on to argue that not judging other cultures "paralyses a great mass of our most valuable thinking". Perpetuates cultural disability not within cultures, but between cultures.
Perhaps I will stray slightly from the Italians and explore Midgley in greater depth.
The full article can be found by searching google-I no longer have the link.

Judging other cultures
Name: Flicka
Date: 2003-11-25 16:33:59
Link to this Comment: 7395

Our discussion in class today really made me think about how we judge other cultures, whether we have the right to do so, and the changes within certain cultures. I believe that we do not have the right to judge other cultures, because what may seem barbaric to us may seem perfectly normal to another culture. However, I think that when a tradition of a culture involves killing other people, that is just going too far. I realize that I think this because of the way I was raised and the culture in which I was raised.
However, I think that all cultures and people should be open to new ideas and new cultures. There is a way to teach people about other cultures without forcing the beliefs on the people. We talked in the beginning of this class about how it's hard for people to change because they are scared. Many cultures are worried that if they open up their minds, they will be corrupted by modern ideas and concepts. But is it necessarily bad for cultures to change? No, it is inevitable that all cultures will change at some point in time. Therefore, I think all cultures should keep an open mind about new ideas because they might actually be useful to them.
Of course, I realize this is all idealistic. It's like telling people not to judge other cultures. You should *try* not to judge other cultures because you come from a different background. However, it is natural people to compare the culture they know to the culture they are observing. And there will always be differences of opinions between people. The important thing to remember is not to force your opinion on other people.

thinking about thinking...
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-11-26 10:27:54
Link to this Comment: 7400

I was telling the McBrides, yesterday, about a faculty discussion which seemed very relevant to our on-going discussion in this class about what it means to "think." See both Sentiment vs. Statistics for an account of the conversation and relation between narrative and numbers, redux for an account of my thinking thereafter.

Enjoy the break from thinking that this week will provide...
see you guys thereafter--

Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-12-02 13:56:08
Link to this Comment: 7427

To all Questioners, Intuitors, Revisioners--

Please think about The Crying of Lot 49 as a description of a culture, one that--like all cultures?--both empowers and disempowers (sometimes both?) various individuals within it. Think in particular about what similarities and differences there are between the culture Pynchon describes and cultures with which you are more familiar--those you have been writing about over the past few weeks.

To help other students (and yourself) think about these questions-- and to prepare us all for the paper due next Tuesday on these themes--please post your initial thoughts here.

Thanks for your continued thinking aloud with us--

Anne and Paul (who are doing ditto)

culture in Crying of Lot 49
Name: Bethany Ke
Date: 2003-12-04 10:05:01
Link to this Comment: 7460

This book really does have a lot to say about culture, looking at it now from that perspective. It's very different from ours, but in some ways eerily similar. As we discussed on Tuesday, I think a great part of this culture is communication, which is highlighted quite strongly in the book, but not so much in everyday life. Our entire culture really is based on communication; information and the transfer of it from one party to another. Communication, or the lack thereof, is essentially the root of all of our problems. Maybe Pynchon wants us to think about that concept; communication as a means to an end or just as an end in itself, when is it worthwhile, when is it not, is it's worth important? Another issue: the importance of an author/haver-of-ideas to that work/idea (In terms of Driblette and the shower conversation, 'If I were to evaporate, so would everything from myself that was present in that play, and in terms of the discussion with the English students; is it important who wrote something, or do we just need the 'words'). Perhaps this ties into communication or miscommunication as well.

Name: Christine
Date: 2003-12-07 11:02:26
Link to this Comment: 7479

I think that the book can bring us to examine the ways we see other cultures. Although we may believe that Pynchon was trying to show us that culture is meaningless, the people within the culture thought it had meaning. We do the same thing with many cultures today if we see a ritual they do but don't think it serves a purpose. This can also go with what we think of as useless chatter. It may not have meaning when the conversation takes place, but there is always the hope that it was serve as a connection to the person in the future. This may have been a driving force to send letters through the WASTE system. Even though there is nothing to say in the letter at this time, it is important to send it so that the system continues, and if it does, there may be letters in the future which have a point and need to be sent through this system. Of course, I may be looking too deeply into this because we don't know their actual purpose for sending the letters, but it's interesting for me to think about.

The Crying of Lot 49
Date: 2003-12-08 19:47:24
Link to this Comment: 7486

Pynchon wrote this book in the 60's when it was "politically correct" to question the establishment and everything else. This book is a satire about various disabling cultures in that time period. It points out the disabling characteristics a of the corporate culture that stiffles its employees. WASTE is a key theme. The waste caused by consumerism and materialism. Also, the waste of human life. The question of fidelity, drugs, and Oedipa's search for the meaning and value in her life are all addressed in this book. Pynchon either had a unusual sense of humor, or he was an angry guy. I thought perhaps he was fired from Boeing back in the 60's, and was really annoyed at the establishment. Then again, maybe he is attempting to enlighten us.

Our Latest Paper
Name: Gillian
Date: 2003-12-09 08:40:06
Link to this Comment: 7488

In creating my final Tuesday paper of CSEM, I discussed several of the disabling factors of Bryn Mawr culture, and of culture at large. With that in mind, I took a look specifically at the culture of our CSEM. The following is an exerpt from my essay:
"For instance, in CSEM there is a mandatory course requirement about posting on the online forum. While this forum may be a place where ideas can thrive, the use of force or suggestion to make students post on this forum disables the culture. It may keep the forum alive, and thus maintain the stability of the culture. However, it does so in a way detrimental to the student. In this case, the disabling aspect of the culture outweighs its benefit to the society."
With this quote in mind, I was curious. Do other people in this CSEM agree with my perspective? Is posting online in the forum more of a help or a hindrance in trying to piece your ideas together? Are you worried about really speaking your mind here online because of the possibility of being judged in class on what you say here?
I know it's unusual for a student to be the one posting a question for everyone to answer, but I am curious. Feel free to answer. Feel free not to. But keep in mind that if you do post, post for yourself. I want to see if that's even possible considering the public nature of this forum, or if the forum is, as I say, detrimental to the free mind of the student.

Date: 2003-12-09 19:49:34
Link to this Comment: 7494

I think that the idea of having an online forum is great because it encourages students to think about what they discuss in class outside of classroom. However, I don't think it worked as well as it should have because not many people posted in it. I feel that if a lot of people posted, we could read each other's comments and learn from our conversations online. However, we never really got a discussion going. Of course, questions would be posted every week, but nobody ever responded. Most of the time, I would go to the forum just to look at what other people wrote; but nobody wrote anything. Granted, I didn't write as much as I should have, but I didn't have anything to say. Therefore, I guess you could say that this aspect of our csem was disabling, but the point was that it was *supposed* to be enabling.
I also think that part of the problem was motivation. Nobody was really motivated to talk outside of class, and nobody cared if they posted in the forum or not. That kind of apathy doesn't help the class, it only hinders it. So, maybe the disabling aspect of our csem was not the forum itself, but the people in the forum, or rather the people in our class.

moving beyond disability
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-12-10 10:08:23
Link to this Comment: 7496

Here's a great example of what we asked you to think about in your last paper: "how we might go beyond abling and disabling." According to The Chronicle (12/5/03), Ray Charles just gave $1 million to Dillard University in New Orleans--through the Robinson Foundation for Hearing Disorders. Surprised? You shouldn't be:

"Hearing is precious to the artist....He lost his sight by age 7....'He doesn't consider being blind a handicap....He considers other people handicapped' because they can see. [A friend] remarked to Mr. Charles one day about the beauty of a woman at a bus stop. 'See?' the musician responded. 'You'll be thinking about her all day. I won't be distracted...' Ray felt very strongly that his hearing allowed him to develop an understanding of jazz...."

Get it? The disability of blindness, turned into an ability to hear...
what others cannot. Now: that's moving beyond "culture as disability..."

Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-12-10 14:21:36
Link to this Comment: 7497

So: we won't be holding an in-person finale for this cluster, but hope that--before you leave for semester break--you will share here some of your reflections on the culture of Bryn Mawr. In light of our discussions on the meaning of culture, and the roles it plays both in supporting and in disabling individuals within it, in light of your own first-semester experiences at Bryn Mawr, and in this course in particular: tell us, please, what ways the College has been supportive of you and others. What ways might we change the culture to make it more abling?

Thanks for coming., and for making your contributions to our collective (in-person and on-line) thinking. I've learned a lot from your doing so.

Name: Danielle
Date: 2003-12-10 17:22:39
Link to this Comment: 7498

I agree with "anonymous"; the forum area is a good idea, but no one was motivated to write in it. Even those who were interested at first lost interest, as their peers were apathetic and the forum was therefore lacking comments.

Name: Danielle
Date: 2003-12-10 17:22:44
Link to this Comment: 7499

I agree with "anonymous"; the forum area is a good idea, but no one was motivated to write in it. Even those who were interested at first lost interest, as their peers were apathetic and the forum was therefore lacking comments.

Forum as a disability
Name: Flicka
Date: 2003-12-10 22:52:54
Link to this Comment: 7501

In response to Gillian's question, I agree with Danielle and "Anonymous". I was really excited about the forum at the beginning of the semester, but I feel like no one cared about posting. Since everyone adopted this lack of motivation, I felt unmotivated as well, and therefore never posted. I think that if the class had bothered to write their thoughts in the forum, I would have been more motivated to write mine as well.

Productive Procrastination
Name: Gillian
Date: 2003-12-11 10:50:56
Link to this Comment: 7504

While in class we discussed the first thing that came to our minds when we discussed the negative aspects of Bryn Mawr. Procrastination was one of the many things. With that in mind, I decided to post this link that my friend from the Naval Academy sent me. I find it fitting.

last day
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2003-12-11 11:38:15
Link to this Comment: 7505

A Bryn Mawr student has a page about life at Bryn Mawr, including my favorite James Thurber cartoon on being Bryn Mawr; see

Best wishes to everyone for getting from BMC what they want from it, which of course means in part helping it become what one wants it to be so it can in turn help oneself. Along those lines, see thoughts on The Rebel and Making Sense of Diversity: A Conversation at Bryn Mawr College.

Thanks to all for a semester full of learning.

when a tree falls...
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-12-14 15:58:12
Link to this Comment: 7524

Learning didn't stop when the semester did....

couldn't resist just one more posting.... The New York Times today had a funny piece asking why, at this time of year, many of us so enjoy "gathering around dead trees to celebrate life," and suggesting that it's because we need to assert control over them:

"Trees are extremely effective accomplices in wreaking destruction...ever ready to become seven-ton battering rams or tinderboxes. But inside the living room, we can take comfort from the little tree in the corner, so securely bound in its metal stand and chains of light. This is one tree that can't hurt us."

Something in this account brought into juxtaposition, in my pool-table-y like mind, the recent experience of several of our McBrides, when a huge tree destroyed the Glenmede gatehouse where they were living--with our attempts, throughout this semester, to "make sense" of the world by putting our observations of it into the form of "stories." Were we trying, thereby, to accomplish what this author says we try to accomplish w/ our Christmas trees: to manage what terrifies us, by making it into a story w/ a shape and a purpose, to bind it securely so it can't hurt us, to understand it, so we can predict (and prevent?) what might happen next?

an unhealthy relationship?
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-12-15 07:45:11
Link to this Comment: 7533

One of the students in my "Thinking Sex" class posted an entry in THAT class forum about healthy and unhealthy relationships. Seemed to me that it speaks directly to our discussions about the (dis)abling culture of Bryn Mawr.

abling-disabling and BMC
Name: ginny cost
Date: 2003-12-15 18:18:01
Link to this Comment: 7535

I really enjoyed the postings on the forum. I loved reading the insights from the "traditional" students. It was so inspiring to read the many great ideas from the younger students here at BMC. I think our future is safe with these fantastic young women. I learned alot from their postings.
As for the McBrides, it was an absolute pleasure to participate with these other fantastic women. We all posted almost 100% of the time, and I think it enabled me to grow from this experience.
Toward the end of the semester I started to feel overwhelmed with the amount of writing required in this and other classes. I feel that I reached saturation point approximately two weeks ago, and I was worried that due to overload I may not produce my best work. That is disabling for me because I always endeavor to produce my best work. The requirement should not be to produce volume, but to produce excellence. We could accomplish that better with fewer assignments. Otherwise, BMC enables women to have the freedom to achieve their goals in a very accessible and stimulating environment.

Forum as helpful or hurtful
Name: Bethany Ke
Date: 2003-12-17 19:18:23
Link to this Comment: 7549

Personally, I don't think that the forum is helpful or hurtful in itself; what discourages us from writing or saying what we mean is the (sometimes completely rational) fear of the reactions we may receive from our peers. Ideally, the world, and if not the world, at least a community like Bryn Mawr, should be a place where we are free, truly free to say what we are feeling or thinking, even if we are just trying it on for size. But a reality like this seems to be the exception to the rule, even here. The more I think about the requirement to post here, the more I see an eerie ressemblance to the mail system in the Crying of Lot 49. You must send mail, even if you have nothing to say, just to keep the lines of communication open. You must post, even if you have nothing to say, just to keep the forum breathing. But then the more I think about that, the more I realize that I did have something to say, every time we were asked, even if it was just a small comment, it had some worth. So why did I not post every time we were supposed to? Was it fear? laziness? apathy? avoidance? was I shying away from raising the bar? I think it was everything, all rolled into one big mistake. How do we fix stuff like this? How do we start to change ourselves and become the people that we want to be? I know the forum is just a little matter, but I think that trying to better oneself means that you have to turn all of your leaves, not just the big ones. So I'm writing in the forum, and trying to say what I think, and I know some of you will probably like me less for it, and that most of you won't read it, and the rest, if there are any, I don't know. But there comes a point, I think , when we need to start saying what we think, regardless of the reaction, even if it's just to prove to ourselves that we have worth and opinions and something to say. I think we tend to view the things we keep to ourselves as secrets, as something perhaps shameful or against the norm, and that this creates feelings of mistrust and competition, even though it is almost ceratin that someone else has wondered or is wondering about the same thing. In regards to what someone said in class, it's definitely true that not everyone will agree with everything you have to say, but that shouldn't stop us from speaking. If anything we should speak because of that fear, to practice staring it in the face, and to build our confidence in ourselves as competent women, women with our own ideas and worth. That is a step toward relieving the atmosphere of hate or deceit or posing or apathy or avoidance or fear. I know I, for one, would like to hear what you have to say. We cannot grow if we are afraid of who we are or what we could become.

Name: Tamiyo
Date: 2003-12-19 16:56:41
Link to this Comment: 7562

I found on-line forum to be helpful. I myself did not commented on much but reading other people's comments helped me tremendously to understand our conversaion in a class. I enjoyed the conversation we had in our class. As for as our paper assignments, I think all of us had written pretty personal papers and sometimes I felt there was not enough protection or container to take care of these feelings that were brought up by writing a paper: writing a faily tale using my upbringing made me unhappy for while. But it was not the end of the world...

Posting on the forum
Name: Jenny
Date: 2003-12-19 20:52:10
Link to this Comment: 7565

I know that since it's Friday evening of finals week, there will be few readers of this posting, but better late than never, eh?

I'd like to thank Gillian for asking the question about the forum. This seems like a great use of the forum and of the "free mind of the student." This kind of questioning and challenging is key to a good liberal arts education.

I haven't posted consistently, and that's been for a few reasons. To be frank, the biggest one is simple procrastination. But I also had a hard time with the discontinuity of the medium -- both in the sense that it's difficult to drop in for a few minutes to comment on the topic of the week (unlike class, where you have more time and better context for giving considered opinions), and in the sense that the forum tends to be a list of answers to a question, rather than the give-and-take it seems to have been designed to foster. (This topic seems to be one of the exceptions.)

I agree with Gillian that *having* to post on the forum could act as a hindrance to trying to piece together your ideas on a topic, but I disagree that the forum itself (or its public nature) is "detrimental to the free mind of the student." I think that's an important distinction (the disabling aspects of being required to post vs. the disabling aspects of the forum itself).

I believe that posting on the forum would only be detrimental to the mind of the student if that mind were so vulnerable to outside influence as have its integrity endangered by the criticism of others. And I know that's not true of women who have made it as far as Bryn Mawr. If any exposure to the comments of others is detrimental, the only safe place to voice your thoughts is inside your own head. If speaking your mind freely in the forum is so perilous, how on earth can you speak your mind freely in class? I think that (depending on the student) the requirement to post could very well be detrimental to the *work* of the student but not to her mind.

I'd probably group myself in with the people who didn't find posting on the forum all that useful, but I would attribute that primarily to causes within myself.

Final Thoughts
Name: Beverly
Date: 2003-12-20 00:51:17
Link to this Comment: 7571

Yes, another late posting. I have to agree with some of the comments that the culture of Bryn Mawr fosters procrastination. However, I refuse to label that aspect of the culture as disabling. If I ever feel that strongly about it, I'll go to a college where they don't procrastinate. And the chances of finding a college like that are...???

Anyway, in response to Anne's request for a final posting: In my short time here I have found Bryn Mawr to be very supportive. At this point, there is nothing that I would change.

And a final note on the whole posting situation: I think it's nice that the forum is here. I only regret that I hadn't more time to read or write. Excellent idea in theory, but a tough activity to fit in with everything else.

Name: david
Date: 2005-07-27 02:29:17
Link to this Comment: 15681

I wish my uni had had a forum when I was there.

A Late Post on 'Understanding is ??????'
Name: Jessy
Date: 2005-09-07 16:20:02
Link to this Comment: 16026

I don't have the patience or the time right now to read through everyone's posts, though I skimmed some at the beginning.

I must admit, I'm tired of talking about the picture on the cover of our CSem book (which is likely to change the curvature of my spine this semester). Art history major I'm not, much as I like museums. However, I would like to say that I only think knowledge is the booby prize if you assume that that's all there is to know. There's a quote from the historical novel *Burr* by Gore Vidal in which someone is described thus (to paraphrase): 'He knows what he knows very well, and what he does not know he cannot imagine exists.' Or words to that effect.

On the other hand, attributed to Socrates: 'Wisest is she who knows that she does not know.' (though of course masculine pronouns were used in the original. I've liked that quote for a very long time. I'm sure we can manage to both be aware of our ignorance and to appreciate and use our knowledge and experience. We may not be very far along the path to full understanding of life, the universe, and everything, but we have certainly crossed the start line.

I participate in an on-line mailing list, ostensibly for the discussion of the works of Lois McMaster Bujold, a science fiction writer, but we end up discussing all kinds of things. I enjoy the atmosphere and the conversation there very much, and am hoping for more of the same here.

Now I must finish the reading for tomorrow, so I can post a comment in a timely manner ...

Name: Jessy
Date: 2005-09-07 16:23:10
Link to this Comment: 16028

Oops, wrong forum. Let me go find CSem 2005 ...

| Serendip Forums | About Serendip | Serendip Home |

Send us your comments at Serendip

© by Serendip 1994- - Last Modified: Wednesday, 02-May-2018 11:57:44 CDT