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Remote Ready Biology Learning Activities

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

College Seminar 2005 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

Name: Serendip
Date: 2005-08-30 07:45:55
Link to this Comment: 15932

Welcome to the on line forum area for Storytelling as Inquiry. This is an interestingly different kind of place for writing, and may take some getting used to, but we hope you'll come to value it as much as students in other courses have.

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, and theirs can help you.

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. 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 of storytelling and inquiring.

Reading a Picture
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-08-30 09:34:25
Link to this Comment: 15933

I'm one of the instructors for CSem on Storytelling as Inquiry. I want to add my warm welcome to the one above...and ask everyone in the course to post here, before we meet again on Thursday, your story of this picture:

Looking forward both to your initial reactions and...
the revisions that will emerge as we share these stories.

My Reading of the Picture
Name: Ellen Good
Date: 2005-08-30 18:20:29
Link to this Comment: 15935

Understanding is an ongoing process, a puzzle that we will never fully complete, but which we all attempt anyway (some with more success than others). Understanding is taking a chaotic blend of color, of thoughts, feelings, emotions, sensations, and ordering them, adding them all up to form as perfect a box as we can, with each part of the idea color-coded and connected to form a whole notion. Or, at least, our understanding of it.

Name: michelle m
Date: 2005-08-30 18:47:10
Link to this Comment: 15936

Dr.Collard asked me to paint a representation of my life for my next therapy session. What I painted was a symbol of the tree of life(that is of knowledge and understanding)The base was concrete and thus showed its strength, the base was topped with a cube. Each side of the cube had ea color. Each color represented the virtues I had learned or perhaps still need to learn. Red was love, blue honesty and green represented the ability to give to yourself .

I represented myself as a ball. Bits of knowledge fell from the tree to me. Other bits of knowledge were lost when I erupted and the white spots showed how much I still needed to learn. Dr. Collard asked me to paint a representation of my life for my next therapy session. What I painted was a symbol of the tree of life(that is of knowledge and understanding)The base was concrete and thus showed its strength, the base was topped with a cube. Each side of the cube had ea color. Each color represented the virtues I had learned or perhaps still need to learn. Red was love, blue honesty and green represented the ability to give to yourself .

I represented myself as a ball. Bits of knowledge fell from the tree to me. Other bits of knowledge were lost when I erupted and the white spots showed how much I still needed to learn.

Name: Ayaka
Date: 2005-08-30 18:56:11
Link to this Comment: 15937

This is an answer to my questions, all that I inquire of this world, "what is?" "where is?" "how?" "will it always be this way?" But it is the ability to comprehend- my understanding- that builds a bridge between the question and the answer, the present and the future, darkness and enlightenment. This answer is not perfect. It is a complicated puzzle and it does still have missing pieces. We will never see the full picture if there are still these holes that stretch off into shadowy nothingness. Yes, it is still incomplete, in spite of everything. What I can discover by myself is limited by the very limitations that hold me as an individual. So, the puzzle's solution is not one that I can find all by myself. Rather, there is somewhere else I must look. I must step outside of my own world. I will reach into the light that shines from the thoughts of everyone, this collective life. This answer lies in the pieces of the puzzle, these pieces only just created and even those not yet formed, still just dreams of melting color, ideas in the quiet moments before their birth.

The answer to the question is: ?
Name: Ada
Date: 2005-08-30 19:39:46
Link to this Comment: 15938

The basis of the understanding of mankind is limited to the boundries of what is individually known. Therefore, what is thought to be understanding cannot be truly understanding since it is limited to individual perspective. In order for understanding to truly exist, those individual concepts of understanding must be not only reflected upon by the individual, but expressed so that that person's understanding may be shared with another's to create a shared understanding between two people. Even if the individuals may not agree on their respective understandings, the expression of the two separate ideas compliments the other and allows for the synthesis of a new, completely original idea. When this occurs on a larger scale, the spectrum of understanding expands, becoming much more than was understood within the "box" of understanding within the original holder. The multi-colored cube represents the individual, each individual having his/her own "color" or idea of understanding. Individually, they are unable to solve the question as to what understanding truly is. But when a "piece" of each individual is shared with those other individuals, that original thought, while being destroyed, becomes a part of an even larger thought, a thought that is to say, multi-colored. Therefore, understanding cannot be a lone venture- it is something gained from the experiences in others in contrast to your own.

What I see
Name: Leslie
Date: 2005-08-31 12:52:10
Link to this Comment: 15939

The Cube is all knowledge. It consists of all facts, ideas, history etc. All that we know and don't know is in the block. The globe is the world. As the pieces from the knowledge block are absorbed into the world, they change their shape and their colors blend. The support for the block of knowledge is understanding. Knowledge has no meaning unless it is understood.

1st Posting
Name: joanne Bun
Date: 2005-08-31 15:10:54
Link to this Comment: 15941

1st Posting

There once was a man that questioned the base before him. He looked up and gained an
understanding that the base held up a post that held up three dimensional puzzle. Pieces floated
through the air and he followed the pieces with his eyes to a sphere. The sphere, a multi-colored world that the puzzle pieces created gave the man something to ponder. The new pieces changed the landscape of the sphere, the colors combining and taking on new meaning. The man searching himself could see how all the pieces of the puzzle of his life had lead him to this moment.

Joanne Bunch

Picture Response
Name: Ari Briski
Date: 2005-08-31 17:12:35
Link to this Comment: 15942

I hadn't slept in three days. being as I hadn't slept in three days I also had not had a cohesive thought in at least three days. I sat in my living room starring at my floor lamp for so long that it began it shift forms. Where the lame shade once was there now appeared a box, a nicely organized color coded 3-D puzzle in the shape of a box, actually. Everything about the box was logical and purposefull, then at once I realized that, at least in my sleep deprived mind, this box must represent understanding, something i had sought after without much luck over the past few days. My gaze shifted and i noticed my round couch pillow. But then the couch pillow also began to shift, until it took the form of a globe of muddled colors and shapes, something i soon noticed to be a lot more like my own mind. Suddenly pieces began to fall from the understanding puzzle, only to fall in to the mass that was my couch pillow. All I could think was that at this rate, all understanding I had would disappear within the hour. before i could contemplate any further my head fell back into my pillow, and I slowly began to nodd off to sleep.

My thoughts
Name: Shannon Ro
Date: 2005-08-31 17:15:18
Link to this Comment: 15943

The puzzle falls apart. What we once thought was so clear and so obvious crumbles and forms something almost unrecognizable. What is understanding? Is it even possible to define? We certainly try. As humans, we strive to put everything into neat little boxes, catorgizing the world's mysteries and placing them on shelves. We could say that understanding is knowledge, but we can pass tests by memorizing information without understanding the materials. The neat little box is disinigrating and the pieces are molding into a sphere of erratic color. Understanding is...what?

Understanding is refusing to put life on the shelf, refusing to divided it into neat little boxes.

Interpreting the Picture
Name: Jenny Chen
Date: 2005-08-31 17:22:07
Link to this Comment: 15944

This world is made up of "things" that intertwine with one another, even if they seem to be unrelated. The world, full of various shades of color, is the home to many people with all shades of skin color, people with all kinds of personalities, many groups that practice different religions, traditions, and beliefs, etc. Although is seems as if there are so many differences around the world, there are still threads of similarities that tie everything and everyone together. Just like how the beings around the world seem unrelated to each other, the events and experiences in a person's life seem incoherent. Yet, when it comes to telling the story of a person's life, none of the events can be missing from this story. Whether it is coincidence or not, the events or experiences are linked to one another. The messy, mysterious, confusing, diverse sphere can be broken down into another world - this time in the shape of a cube. This cube exists only because our society established it thousands of years ago in search of understanding knowledge and the answers to daily life problems.

Name: Amanda Roo
Date: 2005-08-31 18:44:31
Link to this Comment: 15946

The picture on my book illuminates a cube shaped puzzle that is gradually falling apart. The pieces of the puzzle are morphing into a world of colorful exploration, experience and knowledge. The bright ball of mixing colors looks like the world.

The picture has a phrase "Understanding is ??". Maybe this means if we begin to deconstruct our compicated views,the cube, then our understanding begins to come together differently,the world.

Questioning allows up to understand the world differently.

Understanding is ????
Date: 2005-08-31 19:12:02
Link to this Comment: 15947

There was once a land of laws, discipline, and segregation. In this land, each color lived in its own community with like colors, as had been the case for generations of colors. There was a fierce loyalty among each color community and a dependence on one another. However, although the colors knew that other different color communities existed, no one spoke of them. These communities couldn't see each other, they didn't speak to each other, and, since there had been no communication between the communities, there was no understanding of one another.
Eventually, unrest began to grow amongst the young in each community, and they started to question their existence. They asked the elders of their communities why things were the way they were and why nothing had changed. And, when they kept receiving answers that were unsatisfying, or weren't even answers at all, they started to separate from their communities. But, though they were leaving what they knew, what they were entering was the unknown, a vast empty space, where it felt as though they were falling. But to where they were falling, they did not know.
Soon, each color began to see other colors flickering in the distance, other colors that appeared as though they too were falling. And the colors found comfort in seeing the others. Without knowing exactly why or how, they began to drift toward each other, and as they fell, a radiant glow came from below and was getting closer and closer. Looking down, the colors realized that what they were looking at was the made up of the same things as the homes that they were made up of. Except here, the colors were mixed, clinging to each other, but also leaving space between them for others to enter and space for themselves to grow. This world was growing, constantly growing, and they were going to be a part of it.

Name: Charlotte
Date: 2005-08-31 21:07:54
Link to this Comment: 15949

In this picture, it seems as though the puzzle that is understanding is losing pieces, but the pieces are going into something that is more colorful and complex. To me it looks like the earth, but with more colors. Our understanding of the world is not a simple solid colored box, but a sphere of many colors where different pieces of a full understanding move around and form different idea. Our understanding cannot be easily defined and that is why there are quetion marks. The stable block falls apart and becomes more colorful because in our world there are so many ways of seeing and understanding everything around us.

Thoughts on the painting
Name: Ilana
Date: 2005-08-31 22:50:18
Link to this Comment: 15950

It starts out simply, with things she can understand. A box; just a combination of lines. Red and blue-two primary colors. Her paintbrush hovers over the green. Not really a primary color. But it's always included with the primary colors. The four-crayon boxes of her childhood always had green. She deliberates for a moment, then dips her brush onto the palette and adds the green too.

She changes the box now, so that it's not a solid box anymore. She paints it so that it's made up of interlocking pieces. That's better now-it makes more sense. Even though something may seem solid at first, when you look closer you realize that there's nothing solid about it. It's really just a combination of little interlocking pieces.

She looks at her piece again and realizes that there's something missing. Or rather, nothing's missing. So she blacks out some of the pieces, so that the boxes aren't complete anymore. She paints the missing piececs falling down, away from the box. There. That's the way it should be. After all, are all of the pieces ever there? She doesn't think so.

Underneath the box she paints a long rectangle and writes "understanding" inside. She used to understand the box when it was solid; she thought she knew the direction in which her masterpiece was heading. But ever since she realized that all the pieces weren't even there, it's been a constant struggle. The pieces are falling towards the base of understanding, which she realizes now isn't understanding, just another series of questions. She paints some question marks.

For no reason at all, she decides to draw a circle. A white circle, with pastel splotches, that absorbs the falling puzzle piececs. She doesn't know why she's drawing it; it just seems right at the time. Maybe there's a reason. Maybe she's brilliant, and although she hasn't quite figured out its meaning yet, her subconscious knows and is directing her. Maybe someday they will frame this painting in a famous museum and people will come from all over the world to look at it, and professors will write papers on it, trying in vain to understand its brilliance.

Maybe she just felt like painting a circle.

She's an artist, but that doesn't mean she fully understands art. She doesn't see that as a failing though. For her,it just makes it all the more interesting. She likes how each person can take their own meaning out of it and apply it to their own lives. The point of art, she believes, is to make you think and feel,not to hammer the meaning down to one possible interpretation and say "Here. Understand this, because this is what it must mean to you."

What is understanding? What is art? She's not sure she knows exactly. She is, after all, only a member of the constantly questioning race of beings who have devoted centuries to those same questions. She's not presuming to answer any of these questions. To be human is to question, and so she intends only, as so many others have done before her, to add her own voice to the mix.

What is Understanding
Date: 2005-08-31 22:57:48
Link to this Comment: 15951

Response to Painting
Name: Caroline T
Date: 2005-08-31 23:01:55
Link to this Comment: 15952

"At first," the man told the children, "we open our eyes to the unbearable lights and see the world. Then we always question. This is good. We have to question to find what environment we are in, who we are with, how we came to be, when we are and most important, why we are here."

The children looked up at the old man staring at his face. His wrinkles were as interesting as the words coming out of his mouth. They seemed to tell stories of their own, mirroring the secrets inherent in their palms and in opposition of the innocence of their skin.

The boy in the back closed his eyes, falling slowly asleep.

Unabated, the old man continued. "From our questions, we begin to understand the world. From questions, the tree of truth begins to grow, stretching for that same light that had once blinded us. Rarely does the tree grow straight. Many times it splits, with branches forming, differing in interpretation but same in goal, they all want to reach the light. "Branches are alright, and necessary to a healthy tree. But without a firm, tall, strong stem that they all must share and let everyone see, the branches are hopeless. It becomes a bush, destined to never reach higher than a human.

"At some point, these branches begin to pick up another light. The rest of the world emits its own frequency. A harmony grows if everyone listens and learns from each other. From the world and each other, they form a philosophy. They become strong. They are still composed of smaller ideas, pieces in a larger puzzle. And they change constantly to adapt. But together, they are strong."

The little girl who had been sitting in front nodded off and her soft snores filled their tent under the oak tree.

"And that," the old man concluded, getting out of his woven chair, "is the story of ideas. They grow from the questions of children."

What is Understanding
Name: Sarah Plac
Date: 2005-08-31 23:02:01
Link to this Comment: 15953

Understanding is not unerstanding the reason why we are here on earth. Humans form a circle called Earth made of many different shapes and sizes, much like the puzzle pieces. But there is a magnetic pull on this circle that calls people away to another place; another shape, forming a whole new world. This is why you can't fit a circle inside a square or a square inside a circle. The world of the living and the dead are as different as night and day.

Growing Up
Name: Sarah Voge
Date: 2005-08-31 23:10:39
Link to this Comment: 15954

This picture looks very much like growing up. When I was little I understood things very clearly and absolutely. None of that wishy-washy, shades of gray, compromise nonsense. There were good people, who should be alive and happy, and bad people, who should be dead and miserable. Now that I've been educated I don't understand anything. People aren't bad or good; they're misunderstood, conflicted, fickle, well-intentioned, badly brought up, and other morally neutral adjectives. As a child I was the solidly colored block, on my high-horse (post?) and basically content. Bits of my understanding have since been knocked off and messed around with, mutating from monochromatic certainty to my current blotchy worldview (now represented as a humble planetoid sitting on the ground.) I'd like to think that I am more planetoid than cube at this stage, but cubes don't know they're cubes so there's no guarantee.

Name: Jessica
Date: 2005-09-01 00:10:52
Link to this Comment: 15955

Understanding is transient. It is based on a foundation that is forever being questioned and reinvented. What one comes to "understand" becomes part of a large "box" of life knowledge, but this box is as impermanent as the base of understanding. What you understand one day can become completely false the next, and fall back to the original base full of questions and discoveries.

There is also a sphere of knowledge that feeds from understanding. The sphere is made up from pieces of everything, helping one form beliefs and opinions and character: it is the person. Though the pieces that are used may not always be academically, socially, or morally correct, they are part of the sphere nonetheless. The sphere is never complete because one can never stop adding to his or her beliefs, opinions, etc. as long as life continues. Unlike the "box of understanding", the person is embodied by a sphere because a person is less rigid, less divided, less strict.

story of picture
Date: 2005-09-01 00:49:33
Link to this Comment: 15956

One day, in Gettysburg PA, Sara had a calculus test on Thursday afternoon. When Sara got to school in the morning on Thursday someone told her about the test. Sara completely forgot about it and was frantically trying to cram all the information in the three hours she had remaining. But, then someone had an excellent idea. My friend Tia thought that her and her other four friends should help Sara understand the information she was having a difficult time with. Once they all congregated, started helping Sara and Sara was fine ready in time for the test.

Literally a Story
Name: virginia t
Date: 2005-09-01 00:59:43
Link to this Comment: 15957

Understanding once existed as a cube, a cube that laid on the earth, accessible to Everyone and Everything. Everyone and Everything coexisted harmoniously, what with Understanding being only a stoneís throw away. Everyone and Everything visited the cube of Understanding and offered pieces of themselves to the cube. One would leave a piece and take a piece in exchange, this established the system of Understanding.
When Everyone and Everything began to neglect Understanding, it rose slowly, leaving the earth below. Content, Everyone and Everything did not notice as Understanding slowly left them.
Everyone and Everything had only ever lived peacefully; therefore when slight miscommunications (which are seemingly insignificant to us) occurred, they were hypersensitive to the discord. They took notice that their cherished Understanding hovered above and out of reach.
While the cube of Understanding longed to take its place among Everyone and Everything, It did not wish to return only regarded as a luxury; for Understanding epitomized harmony between Everyone and Everything. Upon this decision an illuminated orb was constructed. The orb flew closer to the cube than any Everyone or Everything could climb. It conducted the exchange of puzzle pieces. However, the orb was a task to catch, for it would levitate around and around, always close but rarely close enough. Few went the distance to attain the orb. The Few attained Understanding.

The Boulder
Name: Silvena Ch
Date: 2005-09-01 09:27:40
Link to this Comment: 15959

When Jane Doe was innocently and happily walking to school one day, she was run over by a boulder of understanding. Perhaps it had been a build up of all the things she had previously ignored. Hurt and confused, Jane Doe found that she could no longer be her old naive self. Her parents were baffled by Jane's new cynicism and flashes of indignant anger. At school, Jane became a loner. She was convinced that everyone was contributing the systems of oppression around her. At home in her room, she would wallow in shame at all the privileges that she received. Then one day, a new, larger boulder of understanding, which had been gradually growing without her notice, ran her over. She found that she had a headache and took some acetaphetamin in the form of two Extra Strength Tylenol. As the headache cleared, she found that she finally had enough puzzle pieces to light that lightbulb over her head. The big picture was becoming clear. She realized that wallowing in shame and alienating others was not very productive. Instead, she decided to become an activist and help others be bowled over by a boulder of understanding.

from tuesday class
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2005-09-01 10:44:16
Link to this Comment: 15960

Two parallel? related? issues that came up in class Tuesday. The first was a question: can one think without ďexpressing thoughtsĒ? The other was the idea that it is not humans that have changed over time but rather culture. Whatís interesting in that in both cases there was an underlying presumption that causal arrows run in only one direction and there is the alternative possibility in both cases that the causal arrows are bidirectional.

Maybe expressing thoughts affects thinking, and humans affect culture? If so, perhaps thinking depends as much on expressing thoughts as expressing thoughts depends on thinking? And humans HAVE changed over time because they are influenced by a culture that they are also contributors to? Perhaps worth thinking/talking more about? And a stimulus for wondering what other situations might make more sense if one throws in the possibility of bidirectional causal arrows?

Name: Kirsten Ju
Date: 2005-09-01 10:49:04
Link to this Comment: 15961

Understanding is not categorizing. Understanding is questioning the accepted, it's seeing that everything cannot be placed into set categories all the time. Life is not a huge color-coded puzzle. It is a mixture of different people and experiences. Many people want everything to have a set place, a set category. But, categories are fluid. A person has to leave the familiar to experience new things and new people. Experiencing and interacting with these people helps a person to grow and understand different aspects of life more fully. Questioning and not just accepting societal norms leads to understanding.

Fragments of Light
Name: Rebecca
Date: 2005-09-01 11:03:45
Link to this Comment: 15962

The world was falling apart, and it was beautiful to behold.

A sphere of light was dissolving, losing the false complexities in which She had attired Herself. Pieces and parts that had once been crucial to her existence fled. The ideals of the sphere were perfection, yet in order to reach that esteemed goal, all differences would be lost in the pure white. And so her pieces fled.

As each fragment left, an explosion of light would break through the hole, carrying the piece back to its original state. As each fragment left, it slowly drained itself of the alien parts that had invaded it. Red again became red; blue again blue; green again green.

There are two states of perfection, two states of purity. The blinding white of unity, and the dark purity of individuals. A sphere and a cube, both perfect for themselves. Yet they cannot both be whole, they cannot both survive, if they are not understood. And so, the innocently ignorant light that makes them what they are flees from one to the other, back and forward again, without understanding, and neither world is ever whole.

The Sky is Falling
Name: Jenny Lee
Date: 2005-09-01 16:06:01
Link to this Comment: 15963

The world is sitting in the abyss. The cube of puzzle pieces is above the world. Pieces of the greater knowledge from above fall down to earth. The pieces fit; colors mix and mingle well. They share their space. We don't really understand why or what to make of it, but that's the way it is. We don't need to understand; the sky is falling only because the pieces fit.
The colors are dispersed all over the world. Questions (ie colors) are answered in different ways, and some answers are hard to find. We might need to travel far because the colors are spread so far apart that we lose our place. We search for the right solution or to find the right question to ask. Nothing in this world is black and white, like "Understanding is." There is no say whether everyone can understand or not. The question marks are not for asking what understanding is, but to show that no one knows what it is.

What I could see
Name: unnati
Date: 2005-09-01 19:33:50
Link to this Comment: 15964

I must honestly say that I spent five hours just staring at the
picture to make some sense of it. As I kept looking i thought I saw,
in those falling pieces, human shapes, falling from one place where
they had completely adjusted to another place completely different. I
feel the same way because I have left my country and loved ones to
come to this new and strange place. I feel what the picture is trying
to say is that understanding is being able to compromise and change
according to situation. The red, blue and green pieces fall from
their designated places to form a sphere of many different colours.
Thus while making that journey I feel they develop an understanding
of something new and different and thus adjust to their new roles.

A Possible Story
Name: Deborah Fa
Date: 2005-09-02 09:17:10
Link to this Comment: 15965

Recently I was confronted by a picture and was asked to tell a story about it. Seeing as I had had contact with the picture for roughly six minutes I felt that rather than me telling stories I would let the painter of the picture do the telling. The following is what they had to say in response to my questions. Of course we must keep in mind that the view of the creator is not necessarily what we should walk away with, especially as this particular creator was not very unbiased or distanced from their work, attributes that help the reader and the creator share a similar view of the piece. Nonetheless, I think that this story has value.

ďYou must understand that to graduate from my high school I had to pass an art course. Had To is key here. It is key because I hated art class, actually I hated the teacher who always ruined my work. You see I was in a sort of philosophical-metaphysical-questioning-doubting phase. I was also a minimalist. I could never understand why I couldnít just write something to get my idea across instead of having to draw or paint or whatever. This picture was my least favorite simply because it had been my favorite until I was forced to change it in order to get a good grade and thus pass the course and graduate. The original was simply the word Understanding being pounded into a block of question marks by a large white cube. I thought it kind of showed the way things often turn ones understanding of something into un-understanding, or in this case a block of question marks. I didnít even bother trying to explain this to the teacher when she looked at it, by this point I had given up on ever having anything even remotely artistic and meaningful getting a decent grade, I simply did what she told me to do to it.
Oh- by the way, I did pass the course, and whenever I see this painting I canít help thinking about the atrocities of that art teacher trying to change my art.Ē

the risky business of metaphoric thinking....
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-09-02 11:35:38
Link to this Comment: 15966

It will be fun, this semester, to watch how the same reading-and-writing assignments lead our two different classes into (multiple?) different directions. Yesterday the section in English House enacted the

"bidirectional loop"
thinking <--> expressing.

Taking our lead from both Patricia Hempl ("I understood a true metaphor is a risky business, revealing of the self")
as well as from Sharon Burgmayer ( "Understanding is the booby prize"),
we spent some time describing our metaphors for the classroom--
and thinking together about their implications for our interactions.

Good unconscious prep work for the papers, upcoming, about what it feels like to be learning. Enjoy!







    dinner party guests hostess
    pot-luck cookers and eaters
  book chapter character authors character
    exclusive country clubcaddy members owner
state standards ("where the food is cooked") food court fast food stand customers cashier
  water hell privileged beings irritating "pea"
    place for acquiring skills apprentice   "master" apprentice
  museum (with
changing exhibits)
one wing of the museum artists/workers/visitors
  airplane countries travelers stewardess
  farm one field corn field in Augustdifferent crops farmer
    orchestra hall instrumentalists conductor
  "Jeopardy" showroom audience contestants hostess
    place for
displaying gifts
The Three Kings North Star
  science center training room Pavlov's dogs trainer
  "Capture the Flag" tournament one game teammates coach

Name: Lauren
Date: 2005-09-04 13:36:19
Link to this Comment: 15977

Our initial vision of objective understanding rests on a pedestal based on inquiry. The clear cut pieces descend into the subjective chaos of our perceptive reality - our consciousness, subconscious, and memory. The pieces fall from darkness, the void. Individual realizations interact to present novel hues. All of the colors in the spectrum merge into white. The rays of complete knowledge are the polar opposite of and partner to the void, the abyss into which our knowledge threatens to dissolve when the light is extinguished.

Reading the Image
Date: 2005-09-04 20:52:47
Link to this Comment: 15990

Hours of contemplating about this abstract image and I still canít put the pieces together. What does the cube represent? Why are there six question marks on each side of the cubeís base? Why are the primary colors blue, green, and red? Are the pieces falling or rising? The responses to these daunting questions are endless, and hard to discover on my own, and sometimes things are best left undiscovered, and sometimes thereís no one answer. In any case, this is what I have to share. The pieces of the puzzles represent people, us; the circle represents the world we live in, and I know what youíre thinking, is there any other? But sometimes we humans forget that we play a major role in our home, a place I like to call Earth, and we slowly disconnect from our surroundings. The people in this image are certainly in tune with the world, which I will discuss further later. The cube represents the world in a segregated form or people forming cliques; as a whole, the many colors represent global diversity; considered distinctly, the color blue symbolizes water, the ocean, the sea, the river, the lake; the color green symbolizes the earth, the trees we walk under, the grass we step on, the shrubs we grow; and finally, the color red represents fire; together, blue, green, and red are forces of nature which represent life. They are here to remind us that we are here for a reason, and that is, to live and grow and spread. Just as I am inspired by the beauty of a night sky, I am equally inspired by meeting and learning from different people who come from all walks of life.

Everyone, ultimately, has a story to tell. The hard part is realizing that it will go nowhere unless I open my ears, step out of my own little world, and explore the beauty of our world. In the image, the people are moving in both directions which is okay, as long as there is a balance; itís important to find others who share a common interest with me but itís also important to leave my circle of friends and make new ones completely different from my old ones.

Still, Iím bound to get lost in the midst of finding my place in the world, and become one of the many floating pieces of the puzzles, soon to be reduced to a messy background, as seen in the image. This evokes the idea of confusion, not knowing which way to go, sort of stuck in the middle of a long journey, and not knowing whether to go back to point A or continue on to where the road takes me. Such happens to us all one way or another.

However, keeping the image in mind, if you ever doubt you play a role on Earth, that your actions, ideas, stories influence anotherís actions, ideas, stories, then simply step out of the dark woods; enjoy a walk around the park; listen to the birds chirp; smell the grass between your toes, and when the sunsets, lose yourself admiring the red, bluish green sky.

Yet Another Cube Story
Name: Heather
Date: 2005-09-05 15:11:25
Link to this Comment: 16004

Am I ever going to get this right?

She was never part of the big picture. Or she hoped that she wasn't, at least. She didn't like to be understood. She couldn't be special but she could be odd. "No," she would murmur stubbornly, "my pieces just don't fit in. They're too jagged and rough."

She saw everyone flying back and forth, being torn apart and thrust back together. It was like watching the tide coming in. She wanted to be a tidal wave.

She gazed at the pieces going up, floating down. She wanted to be a part of that, she wanted to be less confused. She feared that she had no colour at all. Much too dull to be part of the sphere, much too scattered to be part of the cube. She ran her fingertips across the base of the pole, tracing the question marks. Where am I? That was always the question burning behind her eyes.

Acceptance is the first step. She can see that she is part of the puzzle, as frightening and alien as it is. She doesn't want to float by anymore. She just needs to find a way to understand how this world works.

responding to a range of tales
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-09-05 18:16:45
Link to this Comment: 16007

Welcome to Week Two of "Questions, Intuitions, Revisions." Paul and I have selected a range of short readings for Thursday's class. Which of these tales interests you the most, and why?


identifying w/ fairy figures
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-09-06 14:49:34
Link to this Comment: 16011

We initiated our thinking together about fairy tales this afternoon by introducing ourselves in terms of the fairy-tale figures we identified with. Turns out, in English House III, we numbered three "Cinderellas" (though for different reasons: one of us is waiting for a prince, one admires her patience, one has older siblings...), three "Little Mermaid"s, two "Princess and the Pea"s, one of the "Twelve Dancing Princesses," one "Sleeping Beauty," one Jack in the Beanstalk, one Peter Pan (who can fly), one girl-quester from "East of the Sun/West of the Moon," one "Last Unicorn," and one quester/bull rider (who is engaged in "pushing aside metal objects in the woods") from a tale in the Red Fairy Book.


Cinderella Transformed
Name: Jess
Date: 2005-09-06 19:40:21
Link to this Comment: 16015

I like "Cinderella" by Anne Sexton because it takes the basic storyline from the original Cinderella story and makes it less artificial. Anne's version of Cinderella pokes fun at key parts in the traditional tale: the royal ball ("a marriage market"), Cinderella's miraculous bird friends ("rather a large pakage for a simple bird"), the fight to fit the slipper ("that is the way with amputations..."), and the idea of happily ever after ("regular bobbsey twins"). I like it's frankness and the message that fairytales are not meant to be taken seriously: they are merely satisfying stories where the good and the bad get what they deserve. In the midst of the traditional fairytales, it is nice to have a story that subtlely reminds you that things do not always play out and end up happily ever after.

Name: Ada
Date: 2005-09-07 13:01:40
Link to this Comment: 16020

I also enjoyed Anne Sexton's take on Cinderella and "Briar Rose" because while the Grimm Brother's versions of these classic stories are, well, grim, they still maintain the happy ending and the innocence that is present in all fairy tales. Sexton, on the otherhand, completely removes all of the fantasy and innocence from the tales, leaving them stark versions of could be a more plausible reality. I also rather liked Kurt Vonnegut's introduction and his "diagram" of the story of Cinderella. Overall, this section was the one that struck me the most.

Fairy Tales
Name: Ellen Good
Date: 2005-09-07 15:52:41
Link to this Comment: 16023

I was also intrigued by Anne Sexton's tales, just because they are so original and cutting. They skim out the excess wording and fanciful additions of the more traditional fairy tales, leaving just the bare basics of the story, spiced up with more modern terms and witty remarks.
This was also my first exposure to African-American tales, and I found those very interesting as well, just because of all the culture you can see coming through in them, a the background very different from the German and Native American fairy tales which are about the only ones I have read until now.

Name: Ilana
Date: 2005-09-07 16:10:07
Link to this Comment: 16024

Wow. Okay, the fairy tales weren't exactly what I expected. I mean, I've read original fairy tales before and I know that they're a far cry from the Disneyfied versions we all know and love, but still some of these were very strange. I was confused and disturbed by the "Boarhog for a Husband Tale."

My favorites were Yeh-Shen and Buddha, Yeh-Shen because it was well written and seemed to flow together and because it wasn't as harsh or bloody as the others and Buddha because it was a story that I've not heard before and it seemed to have strong cultural/religious ties that reflect the culture from which it originates.

Fairy Tales
Name: Sydney
Date: 2005-09-07 16:10:29
Link to this Comment: 16025

I, too was greatly intrigued and amused by Anne Sexton's versions of both Cinderella and Briar Rose, but, for fear of being monotonous, I've decided to discuss the "German Fairy Tales" version of Cinderella. I've read a couple interpretations of Cinderella before, including the Grimm brothers' version, and I am struck by the sheer brutality of the story. For one, the role of the father is terribly disturbing for me-- not only doesn't he look out for his own daughter and her well being, he goes on to deny her as being his ("'There is still a little stunted kitchen-wench which my late wife left behind her,...'"). Furthermore, there seems to be a good deal of unnecessary destruction involved in the searched for Cinderella. Is it entirely necessary to pick-axe the pigeon-house to pieces or chop an entirely healthy tree down, just to see if someone is in it? And then, of course, there is the brutal physical violence that occurs-- cutting of the big toe and the heel, and eyes being pecked out. And the stepmother seems so calm and cold about it all, which is I guess how she is supposed to act, but it is still quite disturbing. And finally, the moral of the story is so harsh, essentially saying, "don't lie and be mean, or you'll be brutally punished".
I do like, however, the "traditional" fairy-tale style it is written in; it has always enchanted me-- the repetition, importance and use of numbers, and a moral (no matter how grim) at the conclusion, plus, of course, the happily ever after. It's interesting that, dispite all the physical and emotional violence, I still enjoyed the story greatly. I loved reading all of these selections and seeing their immense diversity, and I look forward to further discussing them!

Fariy Tales
Name: Sarah
Date: 2005-09-07 16:22:23
Link to this Comment: 16027

I have always been a sucker for fairy tales my entire life. I've always loved them and always will. I have always loved the gore of Grimm Tales, and how good always seemed to triumph over evil for the most part. I also like the fact that fairy tales have a distinct beginning, middle, and end. An always "once upon a time" and "they lived happily ever after". I also liked the African stories because they were told from a different point of view--the male point of view. As always, there was the beautiful daughter, but she didn't really have a say or a major part in the story. It was mostly about the cunning-ness of the male antagonist. I also really liked Anne Sexton's pieces because of the way they flowed, and because of their sarcastic bite. Her eloquency really hooked me and grabbed me in. As well as the gory and disturbing detail she used. I love the fact that I can read these stories over and over again and never grow tired of them, and I find that interesting that that's the case.

Merry Tales
Name: virginia t
Date: 2005-09-07 17:11:32
Link to this Comment: 16029

Reading a lot of the fairy tales I found that some weren't as coherent as I had remembered. I haven't read fairy tales in a while and now that I'm a little 'style' conscious as well as subject conscious I was reading and thought, " this is pretty choppy. i couldn't get away with writing like this" I guess it's because some are roughly translated? I still love them nevertheless. Why do I love fairy tales so much? I don't know! I'm addicted! I think it's because fairy tales tell of hopeless situations, no matter how bad I have it, it's worse for poor Cinderella or Massa King's beautiful daughter (who wasn't perturbed by the fact that her father shot her boar husband). But in these hopeless fairty tales, the protagonist triumphs. Hopefully I'm the protagonist...hopefully you're the protagonist...but not everyone can be the protagonist...
Anne Sexton. I dig her, too. She has this slighty twisted and turned upside down way of thinking. To understand her you almost have to twist and turn your head to see it, but it's so much fun. Her writing, I read it and i think, i know what you mean, but not exactly, but what's she's saying resides somewhere in my mind. She plays with words. It's fun.

Late Comment on 'Understanding is ??????'
Name: jessy
Date: 2005-09-07 17:18:59
Link to this Comment: 16030

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

I'm not very interested in analyzing the picture on the cover, but 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.' 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, and we will likely never cross the finish line, but we have certainly crossed the start line.

I participate on 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 tomorrow's reading in the hopes of getting my comment on that posted in a somewhat timely fashion.

Date: 2005-09-07 17:19:22
Link to this Comment: 16031

Without a doubt the ďBoarhog for a Husband TaleĒ is the one that grabbed my attention. There were two things about it that struck me. I was a little stunned by the ending. Even after reading the variations of Cinderella in which there was much more violence and brutality than the modern version. The only crime of the boarhog seemed to be that he disguised his ugliness and ate too much of the wrong thing. For this he was quartered and eaten! The other thing that I noticed was the style. There were a couple of asides by the story teller as if the story teller were explaining it to a child as they told it.
There are lots of fairy tales that I do like, but there are a couple of themes that recur in some fairy tales that I find annoying: There is some fair maiden whose beauty is so great that men are in awe. The one with the greatest beauty will win the heart of whatever king/prince is the hero of the story. We are assured that she is also pure of heart and deed and this justifies her victory, but does the hero ever know this? Heís too dumbstruck by her beauty. Her rivals are always evil because they can only compete with her by removing her from the picture. And 'happily ever after yadda yadda yadda..' Anneís sarcastic comments are great. What messages are being given to the children who soak this stuff up?

Fairy Tales
Name: Ari Briski
Date: 2005-09-07 17:30:41
Link to this Comment: 16032

I liked Anne Sexton's poems the best because it is rare to find some kind of discussion of what happens after the fairy tale genereally ends. I liked her version of "Briar Rose" a lot becuase it draws attention to the princess and the fact that the princess had been throught a tramatic event that isn't necessarily going to be fixed simply by the emergence of a prince. Her poems are much more realistic, modern, and cynical, which I think makes them more interesting. It was also interesting just to see how different one story can be depending on the version.

Name: michelle m
Date: 2005-09-07 17:35:28
Link to this Comment: 16033

Well,I enjoyed reading all the tales.I think Anne Sexton had a feeling similar to mine, the father of Little Briar Rose had strange sexual feelings towards her.The father figure in all these tales seemed to have a very negative role.The father of Cinderella did not protect her and Siuddhodana
should have allowed his son to live his life.
I liked the Chinese Cinderella(Yeh-Shen).The Grimm tales are very dark when you think about it!

Fairy Tales
Name: Jenny Chen
Date: 2005-09-07 17:42:53
Link to this Comment: 16034

This is my first post about the fairy tales. I will post more later.

It is interesting to me how most of the fairy tales that I recall are all the Disney versions. I did not recognize the tale "Little Briar-Rose" until I read about the 13th Wise Woman showing up and cursing the baby with death by pricking herself with a spindle. My first reaction was "Oh, it's Sleeping Beauty."

Fairy Tale Reading
Name: Caroline T
Date: 2005-09-07 17:44:16
Link to this Comment: 16036

These definitely felt like they had the tone of a parent or elder telling the young, ignorant child a story. Especially for a child in todayís slightly cynical world. They speak in a very formulaic way: a who what when where form that gives a clear idea of what is going on. Its refreshing compared to the heaviness and vagueness of much of what we read in English. Compared to Moby Dick, its refreshing to have small, self contained stories that give hope and aim for a sense of justice and good.

Fairy Tales
Name: Joanne Bun
Date: 2005-09-07 17:47:19
Link to this Comment: 16037

Anne Sextonís treatment of sleeping beauty, the continuation made sense to me. If I had been asleep for a hundred years, sleep would not be something I could do easily. I read the original version of Briar Rose, the young princes trying to cut through the thorny briars to get to sleeping beauty all but one dying in the process. I kept thinking about sex, the prince that ďgot throughĒ did not have the same kind of obstacle to deal with because she was ready one hundred years had passed and ďThe thorn-hedge was nothing but large and beautiful flowers, which parted from each other of their own accordĒ Although Anne Sextonís continuation of the poem includes the violence and the sex she chose an unsettling image of the sex. Why? Was it shock value or in Sextonsí reading of the fairy tale did she have the sense that the king had other motivations that were not apparent to me?

Fairy Tales
Name: Rebecca
Date: 2005-09-07 17:50:45
Link to this Comment: 16038

Ahh, fairy tales. The only problem I have with this assignment is that I'm supposed to choose one.

What grabbed my attention in all of them was the attitude towards gender roles. In all of the more classic approaches, the girls are merely objects. In Cinderella, for example, the title character does act independently, but then later is given little choice about actually marrying the prince/king/king's son. There is the implication that it is also the girl's desire to marry the king/prince/king's son, due to her actions, but her actions were never "marry me!" She did not seem to be madly in love with the male character, but with the ideal of freedom. Instead, she ended up being trapped by her husband, rather than by her stepsisters/stepmother/father. This is the normal, of course, for fairy tales written hundreds of years ago. It is assumed that girls would do as they were told, and would want to be married to the richest available piece of meat.

It had never struck me of how much of a serious disadvantage Cinderella was at. A crucial step in getting a husband in her time, whichever time that might have been, was her mother. In the traditional European meat market, the mother is the bidder, picking and choosing and nagging. Then, she is also there to protect her daughter from any less appealing pieces of meat. Luckily, Cinderella didn't have to worry about getting anything but the best, but she is forced. Of course, she didn't need to ask for the bird/fish for the help. I suppose she just assumed that she'd like the festival world better - which is probably a good assumption, giving her situation. But, I think someone needs to tell her to be careful what she wishes for.

I've always loved reading twists off fairy tales - especially twists that involve a female backbone. None of these were readily apparent in our reading, which is a disappointment, but it is the norm. However, there is the basic fairy tale formula, and itís always nice to see the different ways it can end in the same place.

On Fairy Tales
Name: Amanda Roo
Date: 2005-09-07 18:14:36
Link to this Comment: 16039

Fairy Tales are a great demonstration of imagination and reality. They are full of hope and treachery. Fairy Tales are like dreams, anything can happen. They are full of possibility. They are painful, romantic, scary. I wonder what it would be like to be Briar Rose or Anansi or even Cinderella. What if it was possible to put a curse on someone so that they would sleep for a hundred years? I do believe that it is possible to put a curse on someone, although I have never done it myself nor have I actually witnessed it. What if your mother died you could plant a tree over her grave and receive gifts from it? Maybe itís possible or maybe itís crazy.

Fairy tales illustrate the many ways a story can be changed. Fairy Tales have bearing in real life. They were written and rewritten by real people. They provide legends and myths and morals to ponder. They can be played with. I think about ďA Boarhog for a HusbandĒ, it says to me that people are not always what they seem to be. People wear masks, some wear full costumes. It makes me think about how honestly we present ourselves to each other? How much do we really want to show?

I wonder where Fairy Tales come from. Are they purely imagination? Where is the truth in them? Were they true stories to begin with? What was the truth? Can there ever really be a true story?

The Most
Name: Amanda Roo
Date: 2005-09-07 18:23:48
Link to this Comment: 16040

Out of all the readings I do not have a favorite Fairy Tale. I am struck by the images of them all in different ways.

Name: Deborah Fa
Date: 2005-09-07 18:45:52
Link to this Comment: 16041

I've always really liked the Cinderella story, I'm not sure why, I don't really identify with Cinderella. So when I read these stories I was surprised when I didn't like Grimm's Cinderella. It seemed too unreal, even for a fairytale, and the Cinderella seemed too greedy, always asking for things from her tree, and bird friends. Luckily for me there was another Cinderella story. I really liked Yeh-Shen, it seemed much more like the fairytales I used to read when I was little. The good people were really good, not greedy, and the bad people were really bad. In Grimm's Cinderella the stepmother and sisters are mean, but in Yeh-Shen the stepmother goes as far as to kill her stepdaughter's beloved pet simply for spite. That is the kind of evil stepmother that belongs in a fairytale. Yeh-Shen herself is more of how I always envisioned fairytale heroines. The story not only tells you that she embodies every good thing, but also shows it. Where Cinderella asked for many things from her bird, Yeh-Shen only ever asked for one thing from her fish, and even then what she really wanted in the end was its friendship, not the wishes. I also found Yeh-Shen easier to identify with. The part where she tries on the slipper only so she can attempt to get her fish friend back was exactly how I felt it should be.

Fairy Tales: Why I Don't Identify With Cinderella
Name: Jessy
Date: 2005-09-07 19:37:47
Link to this Comment: 16042

In Prof. Dalke's post 'identifying with fairy tale figures', she listed which characters everyone identified with. Mine got a little garbled, because I don't identify with any specific fairy tale figure - or at least, couldn't and still can't think of one. The best fit I can find in a fairy tale would be some sort of lone quester, I suppose. Not a bull-rider; that phrase makes me think of the bull-dancers of Crete. I did remember a fragment of a fairy tale that I hadn't read recently, in which a girl was riding on the back of a bull and had to push the branches out of her way. I've found the whole text of the story. It's here: and then click on 'Kari Woodengown', which is the 18th story. It's not very long.

I didn't remember most of the story, but its plot is very much like that of Cinderella, only the helpful animal (in this case a bull) does much more and there is a journey in the middle - not really a quest, though, not for the heroine.

Sometimes I do identify with Grendel in John Gardner's book *Grendel*, but not the original Grendel in Beowulf.

A lot of European fairy tales contain absolutely bizarre images. I think they should be illustrated by a Surrealist. Many of them seem to take place on a Dali-esque plain in my mind - his paintings provide a sense of space that other Surrealists I'm familiar with don't.

I recall an African folktale like the 'Boarhog for a Husband' story: a hyena disguised as a man marries a girl and takes her far from her home, where he intends to eat her. The girl's younger brother saves her. Speaking as an older sister - yeah, right.

'Yeh-Shen' was interesting because as in 'Kari Woodengown', the protective animal died. However, Kari killed the bull at his request, and Yeh-Shen's fish was killed by someone else. No animals died in the brothers' Grimm 'Cinderella'. Of course, both Yeh-Shen and Cinderella had lost their mothers. In all cases, it is through someone else's sacrifice that the heroine is able to catch her man.

One thing I find puzzling about the brothers' Grimm 'Cinderella' is that when her father asks her what she wants, she just requests the first twig that knocks against his hat on his way home (I suppose it's also puzzling why her father is so indifferent, but I'm aware that there are all kinds of screwed up family dynamics out there, so it makes sense outside the fairy tale paradigm, too). The twig does grow into the tree through which Cinderella receives her clothes and infamous shoes, but she didn't know that when she asked for a stick instead of nice clothes and jewels (or did she?). My only guess is that it's meant as an example of how being good and pious and selfless and not standing up for yourself will be rewarded in the end.

No, I don't identify with Cinderella, why do you ask? Apologies to anyone who don't like my Cinderella-bashing.

Anne Sexton, however, leaves out the part where Cinderella requests the twig from her father, making him seem not merely indifferent but actively cruel like the stepmother. I'm not sure why she did that.

Name: Shannon Ro
Date: 2005-09-07 20:07:41
Link to this Comment: 16044

I adored "Buddha" because it was so different from all the other fairy tales I've been exposed to. It gives wonderful insight into a world that is so often hidden from our own.

Someone is watch Gilmore Girls in the background and I'm having difficulty concentrating, but I really loved this fairy tale.

Cinderella & co.
Name: lauren
Date: 2005-09-07 20:48:27
Link to this Comment: 16046

The Grimm's Cinderella bothered me, not b/c it was so graphic, but b/c it was so lost from reality. That Cinderella would be more of an Elenor Rigby than happily ever after. The African tales really left me hanging. I didn't understand their resolutions; was cleverness the virtue? Yeh-shen was much more enjoyable, not only in imagery but in Yeh-shen's personality. I enjoyed Briar-rose just because of the imagery. (The thorns turning to roses, the enchanted sleep). It reminded me of the Sidhatta story in a couple aspects, strangely enough. The Buddha was my favorite, because all though it was mystical I felt that it also had stronger ties to reality. Everyone must face death, poverty, aging and sickness in one way or another. Waking from a slep of comfort and facing the world is like coming into adulthood in some ways. Anyway, I enJoyed the message, "Go forth"! (And stop dreaming).

African American stories
Name: Kirsten
Date: 2005-09-07 22:39:04
Link to this Comment: 16047

I really like the African American fairy tales: A Boarhog for a Husband, Making the Stone Smoke, and Why They Name The Stories for Anansi. These stories were different from the other stories and I found the stories of out-smarting people amusing. I also found it interesting how they ended. In the end the narrator always makes himself or herself part of the story. The endings are also really abrupt which is different from alot of the other stories where there was a sort of building up into the end. I found these three stories to be the funniest and I enjoyed them the most.

Stor y of the painting
Date: 2005-09-07 22:47:06
Link to this Comment: 16049

One day, in Gettysburg PA, Sara had a calculus test on Thursday afternoon. When Sara got to school in the morning on Thursday someone told her about the test. Sara completely forgot about it and was frantically trying to cram all the information in the three hours she had remaining. But, then someone had an excellent idea. My friend Tia thought that her and her other four friends should help Sara understand the information she was having a difficult time with. Once they all congregated, they started helping Sara and Sara was fine ready in time for the test.

Stor y of the painting
Name: Rushita Pa
Date: 2005-09-07 22:47:18
Link to this Comment: 16050

One day, in Gettysburg PA, Sara had a calculus test on Thursday afternoon. When Sara got to school in the morning on Thursday someone told her about the test. Sara completely forgot about it and was frantically trying to cram all the information in the three hours she had remaining. But, then someone had an excellent idea. My friend Tia thought that her and her other four friends should help Sara understand the information she was having a difficult time with. Once they all congregated, they started helping Sara and Sara was fine ready in time for the test.

Fairytale Opinion
Name: Rushita Pa
Date: 2005-09-07 23:05:33
Link to this Comment: 16051

I thought the story "Yeh-Shen" was a fun creative way to see Cinderella. The version was something I would have never expected. I loved how the author used fish bones instead of the "fairy god mother", it was interesting since they are inanimate objects. Also, i enjoyed how there was a festival instead of a ballroom dance. Within "Yeh-Shen" the punishment which the stepsister and stepmother received was reasonable, they weren't invited to the wedding. However in "Cinderella" (both versions), the stepsisters eyes were poked out, which is a little too unrealistic for me. I found "A Boarhog for a Husband" to be a little weird because of the ending. It was a little awkward to end a story talking about a testicle. Basically I thought "Yeh-Shen" was a fun story that I actually enjoyed reading because it was something different and kept me entertained.

Fairy Tales
Name: Silvena Ch
Date: 2005-09-08 00:56:49
Link to this Comment: 16052

I've always absorbed fairy tales readily since childhood. So readily that I've never really thought about or analyzed them. I guess I've always thought of fairy tale characters as having the perfect qualities. Even though the idea of Cinderella needing a husband has become outdated, the qualities that Cinderella possesses are still our ideas of perfection. I'm so used to her being perfect that I was really pissed when she kept asking those birds to do her business. Maybe those birds have better things to do. But then I thought that those are unfair standards to be judging her by. Nobody is perfect. Not even Cinderella.

I've always been taught by my parents that the perfect Asian girl was like Yeh-Shen. It was interesting to see how she compared to Cinderella. She was modest and submissive and even though I know perfectly well that she was possibly even less of an empowered woman than Cinderella, I found myself thinking that her personality is more agreeable. That's annoying. I guess what my parents taught me sunk in after all.

Name: Charlotte
Date: 2005-09-08 00:58:01
Link to this Comment: 16053

I thought that the poems based on Briar Rose and Cinderella were interesting, but also quite irritating. I understand that it is important for people not to lose themselves in trying to live a fairy tale life, but that doesn't mean that fairy tales have to accomodate reality. The real world is scary and hard enough without our stories having to be as well. I really enjoyed Briar Rose and Cinderella even though I realize that the world is nothing like that. I can lose myself for a little while in the story without being in danger of becoming to hopeful and optimistic for my own good. So while I do think that the author is very talented and does a very good job in making the stories ones that could fit in the pessimism and darkness of some parts of reality, I also think that having an optimistic and entertaining story for people to enjoy and explore new worlds through is more important than a forced realistic world view.

Fairy Tale Continuation
Name: Jenny Chen
Date: 2005-09-08 02:05:57
Link to this Comment: 16054

Like I promised, I have another posting about the fairy tales.
Grimm's Fairy Tales did no surprise me since I had been exposed to them when I was younger. I think I was a lot more disturbed as a child than as an adult. It may be because I have been exposed to the lesser good parts of the world. I mentioned earlier that the stories reminded me of Disney's version. As a child at heart, I prefer the Disney's versions of the tales. They seem a lot happier and more innocent.

"A Boarhog for a Husband" was interesting since the little introduction said that it is "Beauty and the Beast"-styled. The story was nothing like I expected, although I am not quite sure what I had been expecting. The story was a bit on the strange side since I am not familiar with the African cultures. I wrote a note next to the last paragraph of the story. I'm not sure why it ended with something so vulgar. Was it that necessary? To me, that ending had no relevance to the rest of the story.

As a Chinese American, I was able to pick out parts of the Asian culture incorporated in ‚ÄúYeh-Shen.‚ÄĚ The underlying story of Cinderella was the same, except this time, the story was told with a twist of another culture. I noticed that the father did not remarry. He had two wives and one child with each wife. He didn‚Äôt die in this story. And throughout the story, the father did not seem to take charge of the daughters. He was just there. The tale also included ‚Äúthe time of festival when the people cooked delicacies and dressed in their finest clothes‚ÄĚ and a friend who is a fish (a symbol of good luck in the Chinese culture, especially during festive times). It was quite interesting to see Yeh-Shen go back to retrieve the shoe because she wanted her friend to come to life again. Instead of thinking about herself, she is thinking about other people.

While I was reading the first Afro-American Folktales, I put a question mark next to ‚ÄúMassa King‚ÄĚ and ‚ÄúLittle Anansi‚ÄĚ because I remembered that those two names kept coming up in readings. The second story answered the ‚ÄúAnansi‚ÄĚ part of my question. What I didn‚Äôt understand was ‚ÄúAnd the wire bended, so my story‚Äôs ended.‚ÄĚ It seemed so abrupt.

There are so many things I can say about Anne Sexton‚Äôs versions of the Grimm‚Äôs Fairy Tales. They are a lot shorter and more concise. Sexton includes many key phrases and metaphors/similies to describe the same events that happen in Grimm‚Äôs version of the tales. I have to admit that the different references Sexton picked out were done really well, yet I am not sure it is a good way to convey her story. There were several references that I had never heard about before, so I was a bit confused (Bobbsey Twins?). I didn‚Äôt pick up the descriptions of sex in the Cinderella story until I glanced over what Joanne had said earlier. I am not exactly sure what Sexton is trying to convey either. As for the Briar Rose story, Sexton seemed to change the ending of the story completely. She mentions the fear of sleep because deep sleep can turn into death. Also, at the end, I was a bit shocked. ‚ÄúThat‚Äôs another kind of prison./It‚Äôs not the prince at all,/but my father/drunkenly bent over my bed‚Ķ.‚ÄĚ What is going on there? I felt like she had been harassed, or even raped, by her father. Is it a cry for help? I sense some despair, angst, and helplessness.

More Posts
Name: Jenny Chen
Date: 2005-09-08 02:14:05
Link to this Comment: 16055

Oops. Sorry, I left out the "Buddha" comments. I actually had not that much in mind for this story since the long names and terms just confused the heck out of me. I felt pretty bad for the boy since his father was trying to choose his fate for him (although he only had two options anyway). I am a little disappointed with the story. The transition was abrupt with Gotama, all of a sudden, being exposed to the bad parts of the world. He seems to jump out of bed suddenly with the realization that the world is not perfect and express the need to bring change.

Innocence and Definition
Name: jenny lee
Date: 2005-09-08 13:26:47
Link to this Comment: 16059

I feel like I'm cheating a little bit, since I'm posting after a class discussion that concentrated on this topic. But this is an original idea, I swear.

The realism in fairy tales for me is that most people think of themselves as this harmless innocent person who feels abused or overused a lot of times. I feel like I am blameless, yet I'm held responsible for others' actions; or I'm supposed to do the dirty work for everyone else without complaint. I guess it's because I have two older sisters, and this is a typical life style for me. My initial reaction to reading these fairy tales was how easily I was able to relate to them, no matter how outrageous or extreme they were. In the Afro-American tale, the daughter, no matter how much she is in love with her boar, is told to deal with it by her father and does. She does, or cannot question his authoritative decision. Or, in all versions of Cinderella, she is meant to obey her older sisters or whoever else quietly. Sure, she asks for favors from her doves, but never does she complain to people who are actually responsible for her misery. It could be because she would only be reprimanded more for complaint, but she is still brooding her sadness. As for Briar Rose, I think she is the epitome of a carefree princess, whimsical, yet clueless. I'd think that knowing my possible fate, I would stop myself from going about through secret doors, but this is also the part that moves the fairy tale forward--in any sort of direction. I thought the 13 was a bad omen of some kind, like the 13th witch is the odd one, the evil one. Cinderella going to the ball three times was like a charm or luck (three times a charm).

My favorite is Cinderella, because everything works out in the end. She gains, not only her "true love" or "true friend," but the wrongdoers in her life are punished, too. Another interesting idea I picked up on fairy tales is that they are always short. There are few, if any, follow ups on these tales, and everything always works out in the end. Perhaps it's a way that people subconsciously want things to be so exact and final. There are no grey areas in a fairy tale; there is a problem, an action, a solution, and an end. Maybe that's why I like them; I want my life to be so defined.

blindspots and...
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-09-08 21:05:04
Link to this Comment: 16063

Hey, Jenny, it's not cheating to speak out of/build on a conversation! Let's keep on using one another's thoughts, okay, and not worry so much about "originality"?

Speaking of which, I thought you guys hanging out in Taylor G might be interested in hearing that, betwixt and between the fairy tales this morning, those of us in English House confronted our own blindspots (can YOU find the error on this book cover?)

--and considered the role that our unconscious plays in knowing what we don't know (AND filling in what we don't see we see). We're going to remember that this weekend, as we follow Hempl's advice to attend to "unconscious or half-known intentions and impulses in composition."

And! I just got an e-mail from my mother which is a great illustration of this phenomenon:

I cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulacity uesdnatnrd waht I was rdgnieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wolhe. Amzanig huh?

fairy tales..a deeper meaning?
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-09-12 12:08:53
Link to this Comment: 16101

Both our sections will be meeting together, this Thursday 9/15, under Anne's direction in Paul's classroom (Taylor G). In preparation for that BIG group discussion, would you all read, please, Bruno Bettelheim's 1975 "Reflections: The Uses of Enchantment," then add your own reflections here.

What's your response (for instance) to the passage Bettelheim quotes from the German poet Friedrich Schiller, Deeper meaning resides in the fairy tales told to me in my childhood than in the truth that is taught by life...?

Heart for Bettelheim
Name: Rebecca
Date: 2005-09-13 18:23:18
Link to this Comment: 16127

Having read just over half of the reading, and already feeling overwhelmed by what's I've read, I feel the need to post now. Perhaps I'll post again, once I've finished reading it. But here's what I have so far.

My first response, is to want to run out and read everything else Bettelheim ever wrote, and to re-read everything I've ever read by Freud. Some of the things that he wrote expressed some things that had been nagging me in our class discussions. For example, the question of whether or not fairy tales should be read to children. Bettelheim obviously believes they should - the majority of our class believed they shouldn't, or at least not in a non-Disnified version. Bettelheim provides some intriguing arguments as to why they should be read - I'm sure there are just as many by other psychologists who argue the opposite. I, however, tend to want to agree with Bettelheim. However, it tends to always be that I agree with whatever I'm reading, and will then read the opposite and agree. I could see myself in some of the examples that Bettelheim provided...and it scares me that all of these were the young children, pre-reason, or were those of the children denied the right to disbelieve reality. For example, one of the reasons I fell in love with Bryn Mawr was it seemed fairy-tale-ish. The admission building looked like it had fallen out of Hansel and Gretel to me, and all the other buildings [excepting Erdman and the Alumae house] look like a castle. With the pond, Senior Row, the Traditions - it's the perfect place to foster a hidden desire to believe in magic. Bryn Mawr's college competitor, for me, seemed to be more of the parent that punishes anything that is not completely relevant to the every day - on my final visit to that school, when I said I would rather watch the Harry Potter viewing than W.'s speech, my hosts looked at me like I was insane.

And I feel I've just word-vomited quite a bit, without saying much of interest, and I haven't even read the entire reading, so I'll stop now.

Defining the Abstract
Name: jenny lee
Date: 2005-09-13 19:07:31
Link to this Comment: 16131

The idea that he doesn't learn as much from life than he did as a little boy reading fairy tales seems strange at first. Then it becomes absurd to me. It's a poetic statement, very provocative. Who knows, though, how much or what we learn as we live? How can we determine what or how much living we've learned to do? The entire article focuses on behavioral outcomes of children who have read fairy tales. I know that I didn't read many fairy tales as a little girl. I've only recently (this summer) bought a full collection of The Grimms Brothers' Fairy Tales. Of course I've heard some or seen them in movies, but I can't say how much the knowledge of fairy tales has affected me. Well, I can't say what has affected me at all, nonetheless know life lessons I've had.

I think it is a much more subjective reading that takes place when reading fairy tales, or anything for that matter. While Bettelheim gives a strong arguement for his opinion on the matter, I have to disagree on some points. I do relate to most of what he's talking about, though, which I think is because he gives a universal and generic explanation. Still, in the end, I think it is a very subjective and personal account he gives about children and fairy tales.

Name: Ada
Date: 2005-09-14 13:11:35
Link to this Comment: 16133

I find it interesting that we're reading Beitelheim after our discussion about the need for "ick" in our development. However, the concept I find most interesting in here is the notion that in order for fairy tales to truly be important psychological"experiences" for a child, they must be shared with the reader, or parent. This idea therefore instead transitions the importance of fairy tales not from the story itself, but to the connection between reader and listener and how the fairy tale affects them individually. I think in turn that it is this sort of connection that distinguishes successful teachers from less successful ones- learning must be gained not only from context, but from connection.

Bettelheim Reading
Name: Sarah Plac
Date: 2005-09-14 16:37:44
Link to this Comment: 16135

I found this reading particularly interesting because I felt like it gave me insight into why fairy tales had such an impact on my life. I liked that I could visualize the psychoanalytical portion on the child psychi, and being a child who loved to read fairy tales, I find that this reading makes me understand where my broad expance of imagination came from. I used to and still do read all of my fairy tales that I have, and I feel like I do this because there is a sense of comfort in withdrawing from reality and letting your mind wander to a fantastical place. I really like the quote "While the fantasy is unreal, the good feelings it gives us about ourselves and our future are real, and these good real feelings are what we need to sustain us. I always felt calm and dreamy afer indulging in a fairy tale, and thoughtful as well because it made me reflect on my own life and I could draw comparisons between the story and my life.
I feel that the reason why I also agree with the Schiller quote is because sometimes the life lessons that we learn are not always apparent to us at first. We sometimes does notice them or realize them until later. Also, thse lessons come as we humans grow up and experience more life and are more self-reliant. In a fairy tale, it is someone else's pain and misery that we feel, but then also their happiness in the end. In this way, it is easier for the reader to be involved in the story, but we don't actually feel the consequences of the story.
I also really agree with the section of Bettelheim when he says that fairy tales such as Cinerella have a child who earlier in life is very happy, but life leads to her a place of utter misery, but then picks her up in the end to live happily ever after. I think that for the most part, we look back on our lives as children when we're adults and reminise on how "good" life was for us then. Bettelheim says that this is because "The child was so happy because nothing was expected of [us]; everything was provided for [us]...Hence, the first few years are remembered as conflict-free and blissful, but empty." I really agree with this statement, and I think it's ironic how when we were children, at least when I was younger, I couldnt wait to grow up and be an adult because an adult has so much fun and can do whatever they want etc., but now sometimes I find that I look back sometimes and can only think how my only work to do was to run on the playground and play with play-dough all day, but only because I don't remember what I was thinking at the time.
Even though this is a rambly sort of post that I think I need to rap up, I think that the reason why I learned more from fairy tales than from life experience is not only because I still have a lot of learning to do, but the imagination and land of fairy tales is a place where I can go and visit whenever I want and be unattached to anything.

fairy tale reading
Name: Deborah Fa
Date: 2005-09-14 17:10:31
Link to this Comment: 16136

I would hope that deeper meaning resides in fairy tales than in my own life. I mean, I've only been around for eighteen years, and for at least two of them I have no memories. However, fairy tales are ages and ages old, and many many people have worked on them, and changed them and made them what they are today. There is so much more experience behind a fairy tale than there is behind me. I think that fairy tales are one of the best media for sharing that experience. Since so much of them is universal archetypes they reach out to a wider audience than other stories, and since they don't strive toward a single moral or lesson, each story to me seems to contain chunks of many lessons, all neatly hidden and packaged so that they are easily internilized, like the coating on asprin.

But I knew that before I read this article. What I didn't know, or didn't really realize was that there were so many people out there who really objected to fairy tales. To me most of what Biettleheim said made perfect sense, minus the blantantly Freudian parts, I don't agree with Freud very much. Of course children have good and bad parts, and of course we shouldn't coddle them, it will only make things harder in the long run. Face it, even now we all like a little gore now and then. I heartily thank this article for pointing out that fairy tales are not useless, but I think all that about the separation anxiety and Odipius cycle was a little nit-picky and over the top. Okay, so fairy tales help us, but do we really have to know exactly how? Doesn't that take away some of the coating and make them taste more like asprin?

Name: Jess Chow
Date: 2005-09-14 17:11:26
Link to this Comment: 16137

Bettelheim presents a lot of interesting opinions about fairy tales, and I (think) I agree with him on most of his points. I liked the idea that the polarity of characters in a tale can help children deal with their different emotions towards other people in life. I never thought about the step-mother really being a manifestation of the real mother in "evil" form. The idea seems to make a lot of sense to me, though. Even now I catch myself splitting a friend/relative/sibling/etc into two: the "good" person and the "bad," annoying person.

I always thought of fairy tales as grossly optimistic and exaggerated, but I agree with Bettelheim that it is a necessary component in order to reach children. If characters were too convoluted and realistic, the stories and their messages would be just like real life: confusing and repetitive. Simplification is needed for fairy tales to be effective.

I liked Bettelheim's analysis of the vagueness before and after fairy tales. I'm not sure if I agree with his idea that vagueness shows the reader that the story is imaginary, but I do agree that the vagueness allows everyone to better relate to the story. It leaves room for individual imagination and molding the story to fit one's own experiences/life.

fairytale reading
Name: Ari
Date: 2005-09-14 17:16:47
Link to this Comment: 16138

This reading made me think a lot about my childhood. From what I can remeber I did read fairy tales, but the only one I ever really identified with was "The Little Mermaid" (if that counts). The only reason that I can remember liking it was becuase I like the beach and swimming, and I thought it would be cool to hang out in the ocean with a talking crab all day. The more I think about and look for any sort of deeper meaning in this childhood obsession the most I realize that it seems likley that there just wasn't one. So I guess I was a weird kid or mabey just a forgetfull forgetfull kid...
But then the examples he gives make it seem like fairy tales apeal to kids more as a way to cope with trama or emotions that children view as dark, so perhaps I repressed these emotions and just never really had a trama to bring them out...? oh well, more to ponder...

Bettelheim's take
Name: Sydney Kra
Date: 2005-09-14 18:10:09
Link to this Comment: 16140

I really enjoyed reading Bettelheim's analysis of fairy tales and the crucial roles they play in the lives and development of children. A lot of what he says makes complete sense. Some of these concepts I've tried and failed to express aloud before, so it was really a relief to see that someone else agrees, and that this someone can express that in an understandable fashion! I also grew up with a psychologist for a father and a parent educator, so I was also pleased to see that, according to Bettelheim, my parents taught me the "right" things in the "right" way. I also know that my dad is familiar with much of Bettelheim's theories, and I'll be eager to discuss this with him and get feedback from him to share in class.

In response to the posted question, I don't think that there is necessarily a deeper meaning in fairy tales than in the truths taught in life. I think, rather, fairy tales take basic truths and lessons and put them forth in a very straight-forward manner; life's truths I feel may have a deeper meaning, but they also seem to come packaged in a more convoluted way. Fairy tales, for me, teach lessons and, according to Bettelheim, clarify and validate children's feelings and experiences. I don't feel children are, nor should they be, learning life's truths at their young age; that task, for me, is left for later in life and is revealed through personal experience.

the importance of fairy tales
Name: Leslie
Date: 2005-09-14 18:19:32
Link to this Comment: 16141

The use of fairy tales as a means to teach children how to resolve emotional issues in early childhood make a lot of sense to me. I think that Schillers comment that the deeper meaning resides in the tales rather than in lessons taught by life, is referring to the coping skills that are acquired by children that have fairy tales read to them. Everyone needs to develop the ability to deal with the disappointments and frustrations that are part of life. The earlier they do this, the easier it is going to be for them to adapt to the world. What a person actually learns from life experiences depends on their attitude towards life. Another interesting point is the one that stresses the importance of the interaction between the story teller and the child during the telling of the story. The story teller has to be in tune with not only what delights the child but also with what, at the same time, will help develop a well adjusted character

Name: Ellen Good
Date: 2005-09-14 19:32:32
Link to this Comment: 16144

I have to say, I agreed right off the bat with his opinions of the more realistic and mordern tales parents tell their kids now. I started reading at a very young age (just before entering kindergarten), and I found myself already bored by the storybooks they gave us to work through. Example: "Are you my mother?" So annoying. I hated that book.
But my mother was very concerned with things that are real. She has an imagination, but she discourages the fantastical side of it (she writes for a newspaper), so she was always reading my brother and I stories like "The Little Engine that Could." I enjoyed my father's spontaneous bedside tales much more, ones with lots of villains and adventure and princesses and princes (though I liked the ones where the princess rescued the prince better... feminism starting early perhaps? heh). He was always the one who would read us stories from Grimm Fairy Tales and the Anderson's Fairy Tales collections, the ones my mother didn't let him tell when she was around, but he snuck in past our bedtimes to tell us anyway. I think that's why, when I started reading, I almost immediately started working my way through more fantasy-related stories, even though the more modern, realistic ones were easier to read. It wasn't so much that I wanted a challenge, more that I wanted to read something I enjoyed.
Anyway, I'm rambling, but overall, I enjoyed Bettelheim's essay, it made some very interesting points, which I could related to my own experiences.

Name: Ilana
Date: 2005-09-14 19:52:14
Link to this Comment: 16145

I'm nearly done reading Bettelheim's article, and I'm really not quite sure what I think. He has a lot of interesting ideas in terms of how the fairy tales help stimulate a child's development and subconsciously help him deal with his questions and fears. I find it interesting how the id, ego, and superego come into play, as does using fantasy to work out conflicts.

While some of it may be overanalyzed, I definately think that Bettleheim has a point. I used to babysit alot for younger kids, and also worked as a daycare counselor, and I was always struck by the kinds of books that the kids liked the best. The kids seemed to really enjoy them, yet I couldn't see what the appeal was. However, the stories that the kids favored seem to have a lot of the same themes and traits that Bettleheim attributes to fairy tales. For example, one popular book (I've forgotten the title) was about a variety of dolls and teddy bears going on a picnic. One of the teddy bears goes off on his own and falls into a hole and it is up to the others to rescue him. First, although this story does not start with "once upon a time in a castle far away" this story sets itself up right away as a fantasy because of the characters (dolls and teddy bears). It addresses the fear of being alone and trapped (the teddy bear that wanders off and falls into a hole) and then also using cleverness to solve the problem (the other dolls save the bear). So it seems that Bettelheim definately has a point.

Name: Kirsten Ju
Date: 2005-09-14 19:54:50
Link to this Comment: 16146

Before I read this I was convinced that children should not hear the Grimm Fairy Tales. I grew up on Disney and the thought of step sisters getting their eyes pecked out by birds just seemed needlessly violent to me. But then I read Bettelheim's analysis of fairy tales and why they should be read to children. This analysis actually made alot of sense and it made me start to rethink some of my views. Alot of what Bettelheim said about the mind and world of children made sense and I can actually, to an extent, remember seeing the world that way. Good and evil used to be very clear cut and that is how it is in fairy tales. This reading definitly made me think and reconsider some things.

Deeper Meaning in Fairy Tales Heard in Childhood T
Name: Jessy
Date: 2005-09-14 20:09:29
Link to this Comment: 16147

I don't quite understand why Jenny Chen thinks that "it is a very subjective and personal account he gives about children and fairy tales." It seems to me that this Freudian has distilled a great deal of scientific work on the subject of child psychology and development. Instead of including all the hard evidence, he offers generalizations - the child, rather than some children, other children. On the one hand I would have liked some concrete evidence, but on the other hand I probably wouldn't find such an article very readable.

I find Bettelheim's prose a bit dry and clinical, but overall, I liked his interpretations of fairy tales and their impact on the minds of children very well. I would be interested in reading some different psychoanalytic approaches to fairy tales, the better to evaluate Bettelheim.

Early on, Bettelheim quoted the poet Schiller: "Deeper meaning resides in the fairy tales told to me in my childhood than in the truth that is taught by life."

That resonated. I have always read a great deal, and it was in contact with certain books that the landscape of my imagination was formed. The Chronicles of Narnia, Middle Earth, Greek myths, studying the Tanach (Old Testament) at my Jewish day school, books by Tamora Pierce and Lloyd Alexander, a large volume of Irish folklore: these really did shape my mental landscape.

I think it's because of these books, which were so influential to my mind, that if I am any character in a fairy tale, I am some sort of journeyer, and often going solo. Most of The Hobbit, and the Lord of the Rings trilogy, is concerned with journeying, and while the main characters frequently travel with companions, there are always scenes where, alone, they must be courageous. I reread those books about once a year for a period of about eight years, I believe, starting in third grade. It must have had some kind of impact.

The Chronicles of Narnia also contains a great deal of journeying, some of the books more than others, but the most spectacular journeys are from our world to the world of Narnia. Being able to imagine other worlds besides the one I live in was and is very important to me - I am enjoy science fiction, these days.

I consider those two of my most major influences, though it's hard to say what my unconscious took, and from where. I am less certain as to what any part of my mind got out of Greek myths and Bible stories, but I am sure that they have an important role, as well.

I still learn by reading stories, though now I do so more deliberately, consciously, and rationally. Still, I am sure that I am learning from stories on other levels as well, so that I don't even realize it. Now that I think about it, I am still discovering new archetypes for myself - the historical figure of Alexander the Great and the characters in the novel Watership Down, for example. I only recently discovered those classics of children's literature Peter Pan, Mary Poppins, and The Jungle Books, and they feel very much like fairy tales. I don't know what I've learned from them, but I feel that they have expanded my imagination nonetheless.

This just occurred to me: Roald Dahl's stories as modern fairy tales, in their appeal and their effect. I adored his children's literature in elementary school, and I still like his two volumes of autobiography: Boy and Going Solo (I think). He has lots of fairy tale elements: polarization of good and evil, the struggle to overcome evil against great odds, the eventual triumph of good, very often fantastical elements, many child-heroes, the happily-ever-after ending.

Who's the analyst?
Name: Amanda Roo
Date: 2005-09-14 20:32:16
Link to this Comment: 16148

Ah...the Bettelheim article.

I find it hard to reflect on something that I feel I have reflected on significantly in my own life. Alhtough I have not specifically thought about fairy tales much I am a strong supporter of psychoanalysis and the use of myth and fairy tales as part of human development. Reading the Bettheim evoked frustration in me, I feel as if I already have a strong knowledge of Freud, myself,fantasy and human development. I am struggling to not lash out with criticism about the content we are being presented with in this class because I think that if one is not able or has not internalized fantasy as a part of a whole type of education, than I think it is extremenly helpful to taste it and begin to cultivate stronger internal voices.

Fantasy is great. Daydreaming is great. Wishes are great. Curiousity is great. What if I feel this within myself now?

Name: michelle m
Date: 2005-09-14 20:54:08
Link to this Comment: 16149

All in all I agree with Bettleheim.I think it is important for adults to understand that children do think differntly then adults.It seems to me that we often view children as mini adults which is unfair.I am 38 and like Ellen could read by the age of 4.I read Fairytales and loved them.I have not spent my whole life looking for a prince to marry me.I think it is also important to note that Cinderella and co were surviors,and the princes that they rode off with were also unhappy.The debate over fairytales has been going on forever, yet they endure.They endure because they serve more of a purpose, then they do harm.Also,how many of us who worry and complain about run to see every new episode of the OC?

fairy tales
Name: Joanne Bun
Date: 2005-09-14 21:40:26
Link to this Comment: 16150

To be honest- I never liked fairy tales. Happily ever after did not exist in my life. I had an "evil mother" that did not protect me from Anne Sexton's "Sleeping Beauty's Father" If there is a fairy tale I like it is Beltelheim's take on "Little Red Riding Hood"

Bettelheim's Fairytales
Name: Caroline T
Date: 2005-09-14 23:22:22
Link to this Comment: 16153

ďI have had as my main task giving meaning to the lives of severely disturbed children. This work has made it obvious to me that if children are reared so that their lives are meaningful to them they will not need special help.Ē

My first reaction to reading this was, Who is he to give meaning? Of course, there is a difference between my sense of meaning and the one that he describes. But it seems that he is playing God in some self bloated show of power and superiority. As if only another non disturbed child can give meaning.

Who gives meaning to a life? I am not sure about the idea of a vocation in life. A general purpose perhaps, but a vocation is too single minded and straight tracked. Any child in a helpful environment can live a healthy life. And besides, what is special help? If I need help writing my resume, is that not special help? Anyone who does not feel purposeful, useful to themselves or others will not be healthy.

Otherwise what is says is quiet interesting. I like the wuote ďíDeeper meaning resides in the fairy tales told to me in my childhood than in the truth that is taught by lifeíĒ. It makes fairy tales more seem like myths than simply stories.

Name: Charlotte
Date: 2005-09-14 23:42:03
Link to this Comment: 16154

I think that Bettelheim is fascinating. I would never have seen such depths in the fairytales that I heard as a child. I agree with what he says. I especially liked the example of the child splitting a person into two different people so that the good image would be preserved. I definitely understand that urge.
It was also interesting for me because my father is a child psychiatrist and my mother does psychiatric research. I think that I was able to form my own views about the world because they understood that I needed to, just as Bettelheim says.
I liked the fact that Bettelheim supported fairytales because in our section many people were saying that the characters were too wimpy or that the story was too unrealistic. I agree that sometimes people, especially children, need the unrealistic so that eventually they can understand reality.I
I also agreed that stories these days do not do the same thing and do not address fundamental questions the way that fairytales have done throughout time. I really liked this reading because it made me think and understand the fairytales I love.

fairytale psychology
Name: Lauren For
Date: 2005-09-15 00:35:54
Link to this Comment: 16155

I thought it was very interesting to think of the fairy tales from the developmental level of the child. Reading them last week, I was very harsh and cynical; I thought that the grimm tales were especially harsh for children. It is good at times to have your judgment shredded. This is a whole new way of viewing childrens storys and their psychology for me. The need to identifiy abstract elements with a clear tangable character makes sense through bettleheim's explanation. I found the references to the id, the ego, and the superego enlightening. Previously, I had also found it "unrealistic" for characters to be so polarized. However, it does make sense through his explanation that a child must first identify strong "good" and "evil" characters and become comfortable with his or her own distinctive emotions before moving on to more complex characters. Although bettlheim aknowledges that more down-to-earth stories also have their place, it is interesting to think of the overwhelming practicality and transcendence of fantasy.

Name: Rushita Pa
Date: 2005-09-15 00:41:30
Link to this Comment: 16156

I thought Bettelheim's piece was very interesting and I agree with a lot of what he had to say. I completely agree with how a kid needs to be exposed to two parts of the world: the rational as well as the imaginative. A child can find meaning through fairy tales rather than being taught it. A child can relate to a fairy tale, and this can be see through predominant themes such as: "living happily ever after", "ending up with a prince," "being "simpleton" and then doing something heroic," "evil stepmothers, stepsister, grandmas, etc," "once upon a time," "having a resolution to a problem present within the fairy tale." As I read most of Bettelheim's piece, I sort of expected for him to say what he did when I understood the approach he was taking within the piece. However, there was one thing that caught me to my surprise. This was the discussion of how there is both good and evil present in fairy tales, since in reality there really is both good and evil in man. For example, a child may think the mother is a benevolent figure in life but at the same time evil because she punishes the child. Overall, I thought Bettelheim's piece was interesting and in my opinion, accurate.

no more school
Name: virginia
Date: 2005-09-15 01:48:56
Link to this Comment: 16157

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

All in all, Bettelheim's "ultimate conclusion" leads me to think/say that fairy tales do not necessarily hold deeper meaning than the truth taught by life, but instead the fairytales aid in the discovery of whatever deeper meaning one searches for in life. "When I say that a fairy tale helps the child to understand himself, guides him to find solutions to the problems that beset him, and so on, I always mean it metaphorically." That's in Bettelheim's conclusion. So perhaps the fairy tale initiates the discovery of the deeper meaning. However, I would not agree that the deeper meaning in fairy tales overrides any of the truth that is taught by life. (I hear a lot of people asking, "IF life teaches us any truthes at all." And I'm only going to say that, that is different from one person to another in different stages of her life.)

To explain my subject line a little more, there were a few things that caught my attention (overall I enjoyed the piece even though it took me a while to get through the whole thing, because it made me think about how fairy tales pertained to me*). At one point, Bettelheim writes, "Factual knowledge profits the total personality only when it is turned into personal knowledge."


Who knows exactly what that means? Raise your hands.

Yeah, everyone.

Another bit of the reading that I wanted to mention was how "realistic explanation is usually incomprehensible to children, becasue they lack the abstract understanding required to make sense of it...[realistic explanation] leave the child confused, overpowered, intellectually defeated." I try to explain things 'realistically' to my little brother all the time. I read this chunk of the article and thought. Shit. I learned something new today. UGH, I'm a bad sister. I explain things to him and in my mind I am absolutely lucid, but I know at the end he is confused. And while I arrived at the conclusion that I simply don't remember how a 10 year old mind functions and he has no clue how an 18 year old mind functions, I never thought of it exactly the way Bettelheim puts it.

The Psuedo-End (besides my P.S)


* this is how Bettelheim made me ponder how fairytales relate to me.

(this is going to be incomplete because my computer is dead and i'm being kicked out of a room.)

I thought about it and while I understand the manner in which Bettelheim relates fairy tales to children, I can't begin to imagine that my reading fairy tales actually soothed my violent subconscious (if you get that gist). I loved fairy tales because the princesses were beautiful, they had flawless everythings (even their princes were flawless) and they had beautiful things. It's all very materialistic. Can I blaim Barbie? I feel that if I make a 'now that i think about it' claim (like the older girl's story that Bettelheim gives about Rapunzel) such as, "Actually thinking back I was forced to suppress a lot of anger towards my parents so fairy tales really did help to vent that anger in a way and reassure me that my anger wasn't just me being pyschotic." it wouldn't be true. MAYBE MAYBE it did a little? Maybe I just want to be Bettelheim's best friend forever. I'm being kicked out. Bye.

no more school
Name: virginia
Date: 2005-09-15 01:49:11
Link to this Comment: 16158

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

All in all, Bettelheim's "ultimate conclusion" leads me to think/say that fairy tales do not necessarily hold deeper meaning than the truth taught by life, but instead the fairytales aid in the discovery of whatever deeper meaning one searches for in life. "When I say that a fairy tale helps the child to understand himself, guides him to find solutions to the problems that beset him, and so on, I always mean it metaphorically." That's in Bettelheim's conclusion. So perhaps the fairy tale initiates the discovery of the deeper meaning. However, I would not agree that the deeper meaning in fairy tales overrides any of the truth that is taught by life. (I hear a lot of people asking, "IF life teaches us any truthes at all." And I'm only going to say that, that is different from one person to another in different stages of her life.)

To explain my subject line a little more, there were a few things that caught my attention (overall I enjoyed the piece even though it took me a while to get through the whole thing, because it made me think about how fairy tales pertained to me*). At one point, Bettelheim writes, "Factual knowledge profits the total personality only when it is turned into personal knowledge."


Who knows exactly what that means? Raise your hands.

Yeah, everyone.

Another bit of the reading that I wanted to mention was how "realistic explanation is usually incomprehensible to children, becasue they lack the abstract understanding required to make sense of it...[realistic explanation] leave the child confused, overpowered, intellectually defeated." I try to explain things 'realistically' to my little brother all the time. I read this chunk of the article and thought. Shit. I learned something new today. UGH, I'm a bad sister. I explain things to him and in my mind I am absolutely lucid, but I know at the end he is confused. And while I arrived at the conclusion that I simply don't remember how a 10 year old mind functions and he has no clue how an 18 year old mind functions, I never thought of it exactly the way Bettelheim puts it.

The Psuedo-End (besides my P.S)


* this is how Bettelheim made me ponder how fairytales relate to me.

(this is going to be incomplete because my computer is dead and i'm being kicked out of a room.)

I thought about it and while I understand the manner in which Bettelheim relates fairy tales to children, I can't begin to imagine that my reading fairy tales actually soothed my violent subconscious (if you get that gist). I loved fairy tales because the princesses were beautiful, they had flawless everythings (even their princes were flawless) and they had beautiful things. It's all very materialistic. Can I blaim Barbie? I feel that if I make a 'now that i think about it' claim (like the older girl's story that Bettelheim gives about Rapunzel) such as, "Actually thinking back I was forced to suppress a lot of anger towards my parents so fairy tales really did help to vent that anger in a way and reassure me that my anger wasn't just me being pyschotic." it wouldn't be true. MAYBE MAYBE it did a little? Maybe I just want to be Bettelheim's best friend forever. I'm being kicked out. Bye.

Name: Jenny Chen
Date: 2005-09-15 04:59:02
Link to this Comment: 16159

Sorry for such a late posting.

This does not pertain to the fairy tales, but I just really appreciate Bettelheim for throwing out the introduction about children and their educational experiences. From my past personal experiences, I think he is right on the money about everything he talks about. I believe it is very true what he describes with parenting (although I regret saying that because I am not a parent yet so I can't back things up... only how I feel as a child). "Unfortunately, too many parents want their children's minds to function as their own do..." It is quite stressful to be the child when parents only want the best for him/her but expects the child to do things that the he/she cannot comprehend. Though I am not sure I can 100% agree with his statement that "if children are reared so that their lives are meaningful to them they will not need special help," I would agree that it is true in most cases. No matter what anyone says, a child is definitely affected by the people who raise him/her (parents, etc.) and also by the cultural heritage he/she is surrounded by.

"Deeper meaning resides in the fairy tales told to me in my childhood than in the truth that is taught by life." Fairy tales are designed for all kinds of operating minds - the young, the old, the less literate, the more literate, etc. It is able to touch the child a lot more than some of the other techniques of teaching because the fairy tale reaches out to the unconscious. The tales touch upon issues/problems in a subtle way that it doesn't knock the child off his/her chair (aka disturb or stress the child out). When you ask a child to relate to some fictional character, in most cases, the child will be able to identify at least one character. After reading Bettelheim's comment about basing daydreams on fairy tales, I would have to admit that my childhood was very much like that. During hardships, I would always dream about different tales (whether the tales are exactly the same as how they are told or not the same) and pretend I was one of those characters. It was a way for me to cope with some of the problems and stresses I dealt with. There was a point when I started to stop dreaming and daydreaming - that was when I started to run into huge problems. I was no longer able to cope with my problems and the "bad" parts of life. So, to me, that comment is quite interesting.

The fairy tales do portray the "[struggles] against severe difficulties in life that is unavoidable..." and in fact helps educate the child. Instead of having the child learn from experience (which would be extremely traumatizing at times), the child would be able to learn certain scenerios and how to deal with the problems. It is a life lesson that should be treasured. Bettelheim also brings up the point that fairy tales mention a real problem "in its most essential form." This makes the child less overwhelmed and anxious during the learning process.

Indeed, fairy tales teach children that there is good and evil in mankind. These tales are able to teach with less biases than most of the modern stories for children. The opposite characters and personalities do not act as an important lesson in moral values. Tales do not fully state the right from wrong. If the tales are to inclue the good and the evil and everyone in between, it would probably make the plot a lot more complicated. This is important in distinguishing the fairy tales from other stories or methods of teaching. Fairy tales break down complicated issues or ideas and simplify them for the children to comprehend.

Also, it is interesting how children are less interested in seeing the evil punished than in seeing the hero(ine) praised. I wonder if there are any children out there who identifies with a villain. If he/she does, what would that mean?

Over this past week, our csem class had been discussing what makes a fairy tale a fairy tale. All of us have picked up that fairy tales is something ordinary and realistic blown up to a fantastic measure. This is exactly what Bettelheim says. What wasn't brought up was myths. I have never actually compared the two, although I loved reading both. As a child, I love myths but had never considered putting myself in a myth. But as I said before, I loved putting myself into fairy tales. Why did I do this as a child? That had never crossed my mind.

I never thought of the grandma in "Little Red Riding Hood" to be loving AND threatening. The fairy tales does such a good job dividing the grandma as two different characters - the loving grandma and the threatening wolf. It portrays a person two-faced without actually saying it.

I could probably analyze the rest online, but it would probably be too long of a comment to read. Wow, it seems that I just wrote some incoherent essay. Sorry so long!

I would just like to say that Bettelheim's ideas should be incorporated to education around the nation. I think it would really help children and adults at the same time.

Name: Jenny Chen
Date: 2005-09-15 05:02:31
Link to this Comment: 16160

"I don't quite understand why Jenny Chen thinks that "it is a very subjective and personal account he gives about children and fairy tales." It seems to me that this Freudian has distilled a great deal of scientific work on the subject of child psychology and development. Instead of including all the hard evidence, he offers generalizations - the child, rather than some children, other children. On the one hand I would have liked some concrete evidence, but on the other hand I probably wouldn't find such an article very readable."

Wait.. what?

Name: Jenny Chen
Date: 2005-09-15 05:05:04
Link to this Comment: 16161

Oh, Jessy was referring to another Jenny's comments... I got confused because my name was in her comment.

Okay, just kidding.

Fairy Tales and Children
Name: Jessica Ca
Date: 2005-09-15 09:48:23
Link to this Comment: 16162

Fairy tales play an important role in a child's development because it speaks to his/her unconscious. They serve greater purposes than just an entertaining bedtime story.

They seep into a child's heart and mind, awakening his/her senses, to the real world, in a way that he/she can comprehend. Good vs. evil. The ugly vs. the beautiful. Although everything is black and white in a fairy tale, what's important is that a child learns to view life as what it is -
a bumpy adventure. In other words, life can be rewarding in the end, once you overcome the obstacles that get in your way. And all of this is taught in a fairy tale.

getting it less wrong
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-09-15 15:36:42
Link to this Comment: 16167

what's important is that a child learns to view life as what it is....
that begs the question, doesn't it, of just what "life is"?

I enjoyed our conversation this morning; thanks to Paul's group for letting us into your all's space...I found rich our shared exploration of what children need, how appropriate/how false the consolations we offer them in fairy tales...and the larger matter of just what attending to the "ick" of the unconscious has to do w/ your BMC education...

Here are the notes I used for guiding our discussion. Not that we followed them!--but I thought you might want to look again @ the images we interpreted together--and also learn a little bit more about Bettelheim's life (see web resources @ the bottom of the page): I had misremembered his dates by a few decades--he was 35 when he was interned in Dachau and Buchenwald....

story revising
Name: Anne and P
Date: 2005-09-20 09:17:51
Link to this Comment: 16226

Brecht's Galileo is a story of story revision (from an earth-centered to a sun-centered picture of the universe, among other things), and raises interesting questions about why people revise stories and the consequences of doing so. What are your reactions to the story? In what ways might it be relevant to your own life of learning? To contemporary social and cultural issues?

Name: Lauren
Date: 2005-09-20 23:56:13
Link to this Comment: 16230

I havenít read through all of the intro and appendix reading; the play kept my attention. In reaction to the story, I noticed many themes. I am not sure which are Brechtís and which are ďfree creationsĒ of my own mind.
I am not familiar with the historical Galileo. I hope he was not as revolting as the fictional one. The intro noted Georg Lukacsí suggestion ďwhile playwrights and novelists depart from the facts of history, they still present the larger forces of history.Ē I agree that Brechtís Galileo presents a force although it may not be accurate in the Seventeenth Century context. Brecht comes from a Marxist point of view at the birth of the atomic age. Perhaps there are similarities between the two that could be elaborated on. For now, I would like to note the strong socialist tones through out the play.
It seems to me that the working class was given greater importance than would be realistic for the time period. Scene seven goes into particular detail about the daily struggle for the working class. The young monk expresses his concern for his poor parents, if they were to have their universe turned on its head. ďWhat, then, would be the use of their patience, their acceptance of misery? ... They would feel cheated.Ē This thought process inevitably leads to that of the church authorities, who are the center of their universe. Even Ludovico says, in scene eight, that Galileoís teachings ďwould unsettle our peasants.Ē Brecht was in a time of uprising by the working class. Marxist ideals got into their heads and they werenít satisfied with their positions. ďThe carpenters take wood and build their houses Ė not the churchís pews.Ē And the masses decided to do away with the hierarchy, ďsome down and some on top.Ē I do not know if Brecht was religious, certainly it doesnít follow with Marxist doctrine! The ballad singer's phrase, ďIn serving cruel lords and gentle Jesus,Ē suggests that religion only keeps people submissive to abuse. Brecht repeatedly urges freedom and awakening. Such easily alludes to revolution.
In addition to revolutionary Marxist ideas there seem to be some existential tones. Was Brecht influenced by Nietzsche? Perhaps it is just my imagination that links images such as the ďcageĒ (p.41), which Nietzsche writes about freeing oneself from. Nietzsche writes on many levels, but it is easy to grasp a consistent theme of manís power and his freedom from the illusions of religion and so on. In the same conversation in scene one, Galileo refers to ships as ďthey used to hug the coasts and then all of a sudden they left the coasts and spread out over the oceans.Ē This reminded me of Nietzscheís persistent imagery of man leaving security, the land, and embarking into the unknown abyss, the ocean. He speaks of this also in the sense that one can never return, and of course with existential isolation. I doubt I have really understood Nietzsche, I only remember that what we read by him left me with the image of a person alone in their vessel in the middle of the ocean, and abyss of unknown. Surely their adrenaline was rushing and they were afraid with no comfort soaked in cold. But Nietzsche embraced this that he called ďfreedom.Ē Was it the freedom to doubt? The freedom to question? The freedom to find the truth? Maybe I have gotten off-course, but these are issues in Galileo. ďAre we, as scholars, concerned with where the truth might lead us?Ē (Galileo, p.68)
Whether or not, upon the reflection of a good fifty years, you agree with Brechtís Marxist views, there are pertinent political messages. In scene eleven the Inquisitor refers to those under him as those ďwho have come believing with childlike faith.Ē I certainly would not be contented with authorities who saw me as a ten-year-old child, for example, who really could not deduce her own opinions.
Most universally, Galileo is presented with the conflict of what he may discover and what the Authorities will punish. This is certainly a conflict present through out every time and place in history, including our own. What I could not stand was the repulsive character Brecht painted of Galileo. (I hope the real character was not like that.) He renounced his work at the mere threat of physical pain. As if that was not pathetic enough, the last thing the audience sees him doing is ďcontinues eating.Ē Perhaps I am still hung up on fairy tales and do not desire a realistic portrait; I wish for a more stoic hero. In the end, Brechtís Galileo was truly living ďhand to mouth.Ē

Name: Jessica
Date: 2005-09-21 13:28:48
Link to this Comment: 16239

I really enjoyed reading Bertolt's "Galileo". I thought the character of Galileo in the play was developed well: he was a flawed man, with brilliant ideas and human fears. From the beginning we watch Galileo steal an already public invention in Holland and use it as his own (but "improved"). I was rather shocked by this incident, but as the story went on I came to like Galileo more and more. He seemed real to me: he wasnt as detached a character as those in other plays I've read.

Galileo challenges a central idea in society that has existed for years, and he is persecuted for this. His story helped me to relate to my own life of learning because I've always been afriad to challenge what is dictated and normal. I merely listen to and memorize facts in classes, and it is rare that I question if the information makes sense. Galileo, though he is prosecuted for going against the norm, shows that it is essential that we question what we are taught. Never accept things without thinking. It is horrible to live in ignorance just because it is convenient.

The Non-Dangers of Paths
Name: jenny lee
Date: 2005-09-21 16:11:03
Link to this Comment: 16240

I think it's sad how gullible people were, are, always will be. I remember always being told that we're making history, but I couldn't think of any kind of important history that we were adding to this world. I take for granted what we are taught to have been the only truth from the beginning. When I learned that the earth revolves around the sun, it didn't occur to me that someone had thought otherwise. When I learned that people thought the earth was the very center of the universe, I thought they were being pompous, like there's nothing in this world that is more important or significant than the human race and anything to do with the human race. It's kind of a shallow way of thinking about things, isn't it? Anyway, I read Copernicus a couple years ago and remember wondering when it was that people even acknowledged the existance of the sun as being something important to their very lives. I think that's the beginning point of my education; everything begins with a question. Anything that follows the initial question are possible explanations, whether bizarre or "scientific." Sometimes, we ask the wrong questions, or we get answers to questions we haven't asked. Even though I know, or rather, believe that the earth revolves around the sun, it's interesting to think that the sun revolved around the earth. In the end, we're only questioning our existance and the reasons thereof.

Revising stories is essential to education, as well as in fairy tales or stories. If no one ever went back to question what was already believed to be true but false, we would never know the actual truth. It seems like we know everything there is to know right now, like all the interesting facts to be discovered have already been discovered. But maybe the knowledge we have needs to be questioned again, revised, retold as a new truth. Isn't that important to education, too, that we can question anything and there is always the possibility of discovery, regardless of how silly our questions may be. We're allowed to make mistakes since that's part of learning what is wrong, if not learning what is right. I can walk down a path to see that it is a dead end, turn around, take another street, see it lead to a completely different place, take a turn, end up where I want to be, etc. I never thought I'd say this, but making mistakes and learning from them is a natural part of learning.

Name: Ada
Date: 2005-09-21 16:19:21
Link to this Comment: 16241

I really enjoyed this play. I have always found the issues between science and religion to be historically interesting, and for Brecht to have written a play about these conflicts brings forth the same question of science vs religion into a literary satire. My favorite part of the story is actually at the very end when Andrea is confronting the little boy about his theory of Marina being a witch. The idea that one should not assume something until one has proved it themself underlies the entire play, and is something that should be adhered to our own lives of learning. It is very important that all sides of a theory are examined, and that this be used not only in formulating academic opinions, but in the way we interact with other human beings in general. For this reason, the quest for knowledge is not only necessary for learning, but to better understand the world we live in and to do so accordingly.

Name: Leslie
Date: 2005-09-21 16:47:54
Link to this Comment: 16242

I liked the story as well, but I don't have a negative opinion of Galileo. He said that he did it not to prove that he was right, but to find out whether he was right. I don't think he cared if anyone believed him. I liked his comment about 'knowledge is the daughter of doubt'. If we blindly accept everything that we are taught as the absolute truth, then we are not really learning. The incident with the little boy at the end was interesting. Even when he sees with his own eyes that what the believed is not true, he does not seem to change his mind. Is it because he refuses to believe what his eyes can see or because he doesn't want to have to tell his friends and be challenged by them?

Name: Deborah Fa
Date: 2005-09-21 16:54:03
Link to this Comment: 16243

I must admit that I didn't love Brecht's play Galileo. It seemed to me like it was not a real play written for a real stage, but instead something by a novelist who for one reason or another decided not to bother with a novel and instead write a play. This sense I got really rubbed me the wrong way, and so I was unable to truly enjoy the other parts of the work. I did however like the "realistic" portrayal of Galileo Galilei. It made him sound to me like many other physicists.

OK, so I didnít really like the play, but I am not about to say that it does not bring up some interesting points. I was not really surprised by the stubbornness of people to disbelieve Galileoís discoveries. People nine times out of ten hate change, and avoid it at great cost. I know that I like things to be stable and constant. I learn best when all but one variable stays the same, then I can ignore the constants and focus on the variable until I understand it. Our minds are honestly only so big, we can only deal with so much change at one time.

This doesnít mean that nothing should ever change. It should, we just have to be realistic about humans. I think the play said something about being realistic. Actually, the play said many things to me about being realistic. Sometimes Galileo was and sometimes Galileo wasnít. Nobody today is entirely realistic either. I donít know if that means anything, or is just a fact of lifeÖthere are too many variables in that equation.

Name: Ellen Good
Date: 2005-09-21 17:02:52
Link to this Comment: 16244

Looking back into literature about and from the past, it always comes as a surprise to me, at first, how ignorant the populace can be, and how, in my opinion at least, stupid they were for not accepting what they could see right in front of them. But, taking a look at the modern world as well, I could say that many of us do the same thing nowadays, if to a lesser degree (or so I want to believe). Thankfully most countries in modern times don't have an Inquisition, or lock their countrymen up for having a new idea, but prejudice and discrimination are still everywhere. People tend to avoid and even fear what they do not know, just as many people in the play feared and avoided the thought that the Earth might not be the center of the universe. It was interesting for me to see how the themes of a piece of historical literature (not sure of it's proper category, so I'll just go with that one) such as this echoed in modern times, and related to everyday life.
I'd like to believe that if I had been alive at that time, I would have believed Galileo, but who knows? I am sure I would have been just as likely as any of the other citizens to discard a theory which challenged how I viewed the world.
The introduction goes into Brecht's distortion of the history of Galileo, but I think that, first of all, as a work of fiction, it need not be 100% by the book, exactly to the letter. By revising some of the facts about Galileo, Brecht was able to draw up a portrait of the world in those times which he can use to express his ideas more clearly. Perhaps this is why I was so strongly reminded of a modern society, because he put a modern spin on an old tale. Either way, I believe that the play was effective, and that Brecht's "revision" of history was more helpful here than it was harmful.

Name: Ilana
Date: 2005-09-21 17:54:43
Link to this Comment: 16245

I really enjoyed reading Galileo, and found the question of science/truth vs. traditions/faith very interesting. In class the other day, we discussed the concept of cultural stories.

In thinking about that, I have realized that cultures have always had stories there to explain things, as in the Greeks or Native American whose stories each explained certain phenomena, such as the changing of the season, night and day, etc... The stories in Galileo are no different-the Church uses the story of the Sun revolving around the Earth to explain that Earth is the center of the universe, and therefore the part that every man plays is important. These stories help people accept difficulties in their lives (as in the poor farming parents of the Little Monk).

However, Galileo threatens to change these stories in pursuit of scientific truth. Some, like Andrea and eventually the Little Monk, embrace these changes while others dismiss them in order to retain the same sense of stability that they've always had from their old stories.

Stories change,and it's scary. It changes everything we've ever thought we'd known about a certain topic. And for certain people, this can change their whole concept of the world (for example in Galileo,that they're not the center of the universe, but rather may be simply inconsiquential).

The issue of science vs. tradition is not limited only to Galileo's time. Even today, we still have court battles over teaching the theory of evolution in schools. That's the first thing that comes to mind anyway. I'm sure that they're are more, much better, examples of changing stories, I just can't think of any at the moment.

Name: Sarah
Date: 2005-09-21 18:13:06
Link to this Comment: 16246

I really enjoyed reading this play. I haven't quite gotten through the intro or the appendixes, but I thought the play was interesting. I have always found the subjects of science and religion interesting. The whole phenomenon of religion (esp. catholicism, for which i am) is based is purely on faith--this is how religion functions, whereas science is based on fact and proof. A scene that really stuck out to me was the one in which Galileo and the little monk are talking, and the monk is saying how he was a physicist and an astronomer but stopped because if he explained to his simple-peasant family his discovery about the universe, their world would be crushed. Because they struggle through life, holding onto their faith that God will watch out for them, and their toil isn't all in vain--they will be rewarded in the end. In some ways I think this is how many people live their lives, in faith and in hope that "things will turn out better in the end." Who instilled this in us? Why do we think this? Is it just part of our human make-up that we feel these feelings of "hope and "faith"? How does science play into this? I always found the scientific studies done on religion and if there really was a Jesus somewhat apathetic. I have the same sort of curiousity to find out if there really is a God and what is the meaning of life business, but at the same time, I wonder what is the point? Even if humans do find the answer, what satisfaction does that give us? what about the faith mechanism in us, does that become obscelete? All these questions are what I find I grapple with whenever I read scientific articles about religion and such as well as when I take certain science classes. Part of me loves the learning and is hungry to learn about science, but another part just asks the question, why?

Name: Kirsten Ju
Date: 2005-09-21 19:39:21
Link to this Comment: 16248

I do not like plays. For some reason I have a hard time following them and tend to lose focus too easily. I have major issues trying to visualize what the author has written in the stage directions and absorbing the dialogue all at once. I would much prefer to see a play then to read it. That being said, I actually enjoyed the idea of this play. Once I got past my dislike for reading plays, I started really focusing on what Brecht was saying. I really liked the character of Galileo and Andrea. Galileo was the man who reveled in discovery, but also knew how much he was willing to give and Andrea was the man who believed with everything he had in Galileo and his findings. I really liked the last scene when Andrea tried to show the boy that you can't believe everything you are told, you have to investigate and then formulate your own beliefs. So basically, I really liked the message of this play.

Unhappy is the land that needs a hero
Name: Jessy
Date: 2005-09-21 20:18:20
Link to this Comment: 16249

First of all, what's up with the format? The print is really small, and to read other people's comments, I'm copying and pasting into Word. Can we get this changed?

As for the play 'Galileo': What interested me in particular was how Galileo's assistants, deprived of the certainty of their god and their central place in the universe, placed Galileo himself on a god-like pedestal. They still needed something to believe in, and they chose Galileo and his mission. Then he recanted in order to save himself from physical pain, and as a result of his recanting, many others lost courage to stand against the Inquisition, including his assistants. Would they have preferred him to die? Would they then have found the courage to continue his work without his guidance, with his painful death as an example? That's like Christian martyrs doing as Christ did. But that wasn't Galileo's style.

So, what did Galileo believe in? Where did he place his trust? About what was he certain? Nothing? And he continued to function?! Remarkable. He may not have planned it out, but Galileo nevertheless completed his Discorsi. Of course, he was a great man. If we no longer have the divine, are we limited to believing in the greatness of a few certain human beings? Do we have the audacity and courage to believe in ourselves? Are each one of us worthy of our own belief?

This play appealed to me a great deal because I'm an atheist now, but I was raised Jewish, and being an atheist provides far less comfort than the agnostic Judaism I enjoyed before. 'Galileo' addresses many issues that were already present in my thoughts.

Date: 2005-09-21 20:57:51
Link to this Comment: 16251

Brecht's Galileo is a story of story revision, and raises interesting questions about why people revise stories and the consequences of doing so.

What are your reactions to the story?

In what ways might it be relevant to your own life of learning?

To contemporary social and cultural issues?

I liked the story more than I thought I would. I didn't think I would like it because it was strictly facts and figures about Galileo and I thought I would be trying really hard to stay awake the entire time(obviously I knew nothing about the book). The opposite turned out true, I liked the book a lot. why? ...let me see. I liked how witty Brecht's Galileo was. The repartee kept me going, I wanted to know what was going to happen. This is while I read.

After I read I thought about how stubborn people can be about things, including myself. Have you ever had those moments when you're absolutely positive you're right about something? So much so that'd you'd bet a lot of money on it? (Not your life, because whenever someone asks you to bet your life on something you think...shit what if i'm wrong) And then to your dismay, as if the world were just out to get you, you're absolutely positively WRONG. I have moments like that. I've learned to just stare blankly, go, "oh." and accept that I was wrong acknowledge that I'm a 'better' person now that I know. I guess I'm just saying yeah, it's ridiculous when people are completely blind to the seemingly obvious, but it happens. Refusing to acknowledge the obvious after 'seeing it,' such as Paolo at the end of the play, is frustrating though and makes me want to shake sense into him. However, it can be scary to doubt. Scary that you might be alone in your thinking, scary that what you've known is going to change, scary that you have to alter your way of existing to accomodate it.

In our present day, I think Ellen is right about prejudices and discriminations in all senses being an example of this blindness that can be frustrating. I've observed this among class mates (in highschool) and simply interacting with people. One classmate comes to mind who was very, very Christian and initially upon entering highschool he pushed his religion on other people and because the majority of the kids were very religiously liberal (some with 'casual' beliefs and most with none with an organized religious group) he came to be known as an undesirably zealous person, because he wouldn't 'just let other people believe what they wanted.' Someone I was 'bitching with' would always end our 'sessions' with "but who are we to judge them you know?" and i would think...yeah but we definitely just a way. i didn't run around screaming i was a bad person for talking about people, but i didn't claim to be a child of virtue either, it just was what it was, shit happens. one day she complained about someone, not thinking twice about it. she was just as quick to judge. (it happened to be about someones music) i pointed this out to her and she shrugged it off. people are eager with their own opinions but not as eager to accept others opinions.

After reading Galileo I realized more about the entire intuition revision question process. I thought, "ohhh...that's what it means to question things and then go with your intuition and having to revise something even if it is what you've known all your life."

Name: virginia
Date: 2005-09-21 21:00:09
Link to this Comment: 16252

the previous post was virginia b.t.w.

Name: Charlotte
Date: 2005-09-21 21:25:17
Link to this Comment: 16253

I think that people have stories because it provides an explanation that most people can understand and enjoy. It is open to all people for their own enjoyment and interpretation. Stories change because societies change. Some stories become obsolete because they do not pertain to the present society. When stories change to accomodate the society that they are in they sometimes lose their credibility as working for everyone and pertaining to all of history. I think that Galileo's story pertains to all of us because in every society there are people who refuse to change their beliefs no matter what the proof is. Galileo shows us that we cannot give up on our beliefs even if no one else believes in them.

Name: Ari Briski
Date: 2005-09-21 22:14:37
Link to this Comment: 16255

This play was a lot easier to follow then I assumed it would be. Well, with the exception of "This age of ours turned out to be a whore, spattered with blood", that part confused me a bit...
The main point seemed to be that religion and science don't mix, but it was stated in a lot of different ways, which kept it interesting to read.
As for as life of learning goes, I suppose the book was just stressing the point that with education comes responsibility.

Name: Amanda Roo
Date: 2005-09-21 22:36:47
Link to this Comment: 16256

I have been thinking about the effect science has on the world and how it has the power to change life fundamentally. Throughout the play I thought about the risk of science and the discovery that threatened the common way of thinking. At the time science was limited to fit within the eyes of God, and God is man, who then confines power and authority in society to be structured by class and religion becomes a tool of the upper class to keep people obedient and faithful. Science was a threat. If life revolves around faith with real life godlike men than people do not see what they do not have because there is God, it left people with answers. If the people questioned the earth moving then, they would begin to question their lives or even the church and then maybe people would question the leaders of the church.

Whether the play exactly represents the man Galileo or not, the play does a good job of highlighting the importance of questioning. It also shows dangers and consequences. Science has the power to turn what is known upside down, it can imprison us as well as free us. Science is limitless, it has endless possibilities, and it has to be done thoughtfully.

I think about all of the crazy things science is doing today, cloning etc. I think there are some things we just arenít meant to know.

Needless to say my post is late.

Name: Rebecca
Date: 2005-09-21 23:21:19
Link to this Comment: 16258

It is very rare for me to dislike someone on the first impression. I suppose this was not my first contact with Galileo, but I honestly found very few redeemable qualities about him. I realize that this is only Brecht's interpretation of Galileo, yet I lost a lot of faith in and respect for the sciences because of his arrogant, cold-hearted way of life. In fact, the only part of him that I found admirable was his effect on Andrea. Andrea was, probably purposefully, presented as the more personable of the two, while Galileo was the genius.

So, although the subject matter was interesting enough, I did not enjoy reading it. The science was wonderful, but the scientist was a thief, a liar, a cheater, and a coward. Disillusionment can be a good thing, but it leaves a bitter trail. This story was a shock, after reading fairy tales, where Good and Honesty and Truth and Justice wins immediately. Instead, Truth rolled over and showed it's wine-inflated belly and was then chastised and lived happily ever after in a muzzle and cage.

Date: 2005-09-21 23:22:02
Link to this Comment: 16259

Name: joanne bun
Date: 2005-09-21 23:26:44
Link to this Comment: 16260

Galileo was a man of his time but somehow he was able to extrapolate what he observed through the telescope and turn the earth-centered world view inside out. What qualities make an individual able to move beyond the narrow thinking of any given time/era and move culture and society to the next level? In our time we have been witnesses to Dolly the cloned sheep and the advent of stem cell research/use. In both instancesí religion has been used to try to block the forward motion of science and society. While reading Galileo, I also thought about some of the social changes that have taken place in the last forty years. Some of the societal norms that are taken for granted today were at one time considered against the law or abnormal.

I have had to rewrite my own life of learning several times. I have learned about life and myself in many settings. I have gained self knowledge through introspection and self observation. I now find myself in one sense moving forward and in another going backwards. I never dreamed that I would be going back to school full time and living on campus again. Changing the way I have been thinking about my life and what I had planned for my life is another way that I am rewriting my own life of learning. If I am are able to grasp/use it every experience adds to my knowledge base. It may sound trite but all of life is about learning. Some of the most important lessons may be the most painful but they are the onesí that cause us to grow.

Name: Sydney
Date: 2005-09-22 00:00:57
Link to this Comment: 16261

-I didn't find Galileo's character to be as offensive as others mentioned experiencing. I appreciated and admired his determination to say what he thought, even if others disagreed with him, and I thought he made his points relatively tactfully. I do have to say, though, that I was surprised that he would renounce his teachings due to fear of physical pain, but perhaps I overestimated him and the importance to him of his teachings and making them known.

-I was a little irked by the fact that, at the start of the play, Galileo took someone else's idea of the telescope and made it his own, though, at the time his intentions were economically motivated. However, he did take the telescope, improve upon it, and use it to make other discoveries that were clearly his own.

-I admired how willingly Galileo took Andrea under his wing. It was clear that the young boy greatly admired Galileo and was fascinated by his studies, and I think Galileo saw this. I could understand Galileo's reluctance to take on others as students, especially if their reasons for coming to him were as pitiful as that of Ludovico.

-The most telling quote for me in the play was when Galileo, speaking to Andrea about his hypothesis of the rotation of the sun, said, "My intention is not to prove that I was right but to find out whether I was right" (96). This sums up Galileo for me-- he was not after fame and attention, but rather he was searching for the truth. Perhaps, yes, he was a little vain, but perhaps he had reason to be. After all, he didn't just pull his ideas out of the blue-- he hypothesized and backed up his findings with sturdy research.

-I was fascinated by the reaction of society. While I am familiar with the idea of people's reluctancy, even still today, to accept change and new ideas (I myself sometimes experience this reluctance), it is interesting to see how desperately people clung to their religious beliefs. I can only try to imagine what it must have been like to hear of these radical ideas at that time, but I think I can understand the fear and reluctance. And, I certainly understand the Church's unwillingness to lose any of it's authority, as the power of the Church was of the utmost importance.

-Overall, I was highly intrigued by the play and will be eager to discuss it when next we meet.

Name: Jenny C
Date: 2005-09-22 04:10:17
Link to this Comment: 16263

I admire Galileo, but at the same time, I am irked by him.

He was well-advanced for his time. He was able to apply what he learned, the basics and facts, and discover new things. Society at that point was formed around the Church and its teachings. Who would ever dare to against the authorities? But those threats did not stop Galileo from seeking the truth. He dared to be different. And because of people like him, we are now able to understand how some things in life work.

At the same time, I am thinking, but society hasn't exactly changed after all. Although society is not strictly shaped by the Church and its teachings, it is still bounded by limitations. What do I mean by that? People in modern times get their education by going to schools or reading books. How do people know that what we are learning is not false? We blindly accept what we learn (most of the times anyway). It's just like how media plays around with what people say or what happens at an event. You never really know what happened less you witness it.

Why do we care so much about learning the truth? Why do we care about learning? Why is the past so important when we are living in the present? What is the purpose of education? What would happen if everyone was not educated? Would the Earth stop spinning?

I didn't like Galileo's attitude in most cases. I know that it is hard to stand up for your own beliefs especially if it is against what the rest of the society believes in. But his actions affect other people. He doesn't even care about his daughter's happiness (what's up with that?). I just believe that there is a certain extent as to where you draw the line. I wouldn't go around proving my point when I'm hurting other people.

This is random, but plays can be hard to read sometimes. I like it better when different people read the plays together, out loud of course. Also, some of the stage directions started to get confusing and long (scene 9). Since plays are pretty much mostly dialogue, I tend to need the voices to get the full picture.

Great but Human
Date: 2005-09-22 08:58:02
Link to this Comment: 16265

Galileo was a great scientist who made great discoveries. He wanted the world to know what he felt was the truth. I feel it is normal for the people of that time to have not believed him because it is difficult to let go of everything that you have believed in for so long. But I also feel that Galileo was being reasonable by surrendering beofre the church because in doing so he was saving himself, and in saving himself, he was saving the genius inside of him. Like every other person, he had a family he cared for and he had to support them. This is shown in the beginning when he "invents" the telescope which was already popular in Holland just to make some money. If he had died, it would have been a great loss which the world would realise after it was too late. But he stays alive and thus helps in popularizing the theory that the Earth revolves around the sun and not the other way around as was believed in those times. Thus the desirein him to remain alive proves that he was human but his efforts letting the world know the truth shows that he is a great human.

Name: Caroline T
Date: 2005-09-22 09:31:30
Link to this Comment: 16268

I feel as if Brecht gives Galileo too much credit. Galileo was *one* of the great thinkers of his time, not the sole one. But Brecht does capture the feeling of oppression and the church's dilemma quite well.
I particularly enjoyed the scene were Virginia asks if she looks nice enough to see the officials, and Galileo tells his daughter that the outcome probably depends on her attire. It was tongue-in-cheek, but at the same time seemed to carry this deadly serious theme of the defenseless woman and a Renaissance affliction with appearance.
The play highlighted for me how much we ignore the gaps in our knowledge from day to day. Whether it is healthy or not, it seems necessary to establish some basis for our lives.

Name: Shannon Ro
Date: 2005-09-22 10:54:47
Link to this Comment: 16269

It was a pretty fast read, and I'd think I'd have to see it to truly appreciate it. I found some aspects of the plot to be sort of shallow and glazed over.

Galileo was pretty couragous to go head to head with the Catholic Church for the sake of knowledge and science. The Church was more than a little set in her ways. She had a "truth" and that was all that she needed. Anything that disputed the importance of the earth in relation to the universe was immediately dismissed. Galileo had to have know what he was getting himself into.

I guess when you are so certain of the truth, it becomes unbearably frustrating to let the rest of the world live on without knowing. I don't really understand how this could be at all relevant to my own life of learning, other than maybe my own frustrations in not always being understood.

turning the world upside down....
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-09-22 13:07:24
Link to this Comment: 16271

In our section today, we broke into small troupes to perform a scene Brecht left out of the play: what happened when the Little Monk went home and told his parents that he'd learned something in school that turned their world view upside down...

Perhaps you all would be interested in a current version of this story (the one all of us ended up performing)? See Intelligent Design and the Story of Evolution....

Date: 2005-09-23 11:49:44
Link to this Comment: 16275

I think that Brecht was retelling this story because it shows that great minds can be flawed humans.Brecht fled to CA during World War 2 so maybe he felt that he was flawed like Galileo.The flaws and struggles of Galileo show that you are human and have flaws no matter how inteligent you are.I found it diffulct to move away from my own expriences when writing my life story and I think Brecht mingled his own feelings in this play.

"Unhappy the land that needs a hero"
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-09-23 11:53:57
Link to this Comment: 16276

Remember the first week of classes, when we read (among other things) Audre Lorde's "The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action," which says (among other things), "your silence will not protect you"?

Well (as I mentioned in class) yesterday afternoon there was a showing @ Haverford of a documentary about Audre Lorde, The Edge of Each Other's Battles. It seemed to me quite an arresting updating of the issues we've been discussing in this course this week, about what motivates us to revise stories--and @ what cost. The film focuses on a 1990 conference held--just before she died of cancer-- to celebrate Lorde's life. It includes an account of the anger of white women refused admission to the conference (because the organizers wanted 50% women of color) and the anger of other (Arab-, Asian-, Native-American and foreign) women, who felt silenced @ the conference by the rich performances of African-American women. In short...?

Lorde's speaking provoked further speaking, by those who felt silenced. The very powerful story she told got revised, by those who felt left out of it. And--

maybe even more strikingly, the desire for a hero was palpable--
as was the frustration in not having one,
as was the compulsion to learn to speak for oneself,
not to insist that Audre Lorde (like Galileo?) do the heroics on one's behalf.

More grist for next week's mill....?


adding to our thinking...?
Name: Anne and P
Date: 2005-09-25 18:10:12
Link to this Comment: 16292

Hi, guys. Thursday's reading is Edwin Abbott's Flatland which, like Brecht's Galileo, is a story about why and how people revise stories and what the consequences are of so doing. What does Flatland add to our ongoing thinking about such matters? To our thinking about the relation between fairy tales, scientific stories, and literary ones?

Name: Heather
Date: 2005-09-27 06:04:54
Link to this Comment: 16329

Would it be a crime to say that I actually liked Galileo? As in, I didn't just see the redeemable qualities in him and I don't merely feel a lack of disgust towards him- I like Brecht's vision of him. He reminds me greatly of a Heinlein "hero." He's cynical, skeptical, scientific... He understands how the world works. Well... The natural world, at least. He doesn't understand the first thing about humans. I appreciate that lack of understanding, though; he isn't a superhuman like Heinlein's characters, who are masters of just about every art known to man.

Well, now that I've completely gone off-topic, perhaps I'll try to tie it all together. We revise stories because that's human nature. What makes a person an iconoclast is whether that person decides to rip out pages of the story to add something new or he/she is content to make a few marks. A few effective marks could be just as effective, but that takes more effort than simply rewriting...

So much to think about
Name: Crystal
Date: 2005-09-27 10:07:26
Link to this Comment: 16330

I liked Brecht's play "Galileo" very much. In addition to the questions about revising stories many others jumped out at me as I read. One thing that I found particularly interesting was the reasons that different characters (Cardinals vs. Little Monk) clung to the holy scripture. For the characters higher up in the church hierarchy, it seemed to be almost an issue of their ego. They couldn't seem to deal with the idea of not being the center of the universe. I related more to the reason given by the humble monk. My personal views on the purpose of religion are very close to what he expressed when he spoke to Galileo about his family. His reason, not wanting to rob the common people of their spiritual support seemed much more noble. In both cases, the position of the character would be shaken by accepting a new truth. However, the latter had more concern for the general good rather than his own self image. I really liked Galileo's example of the oyster and the pearl on page 84.

I also thought it was interesting how the church officials made a distinction between searching for truth and actually finding it. To me, it appeared as though man was supposed to search for truth (perhaps only safe truths), but was not meant to find any understanding. If you are supposed to accept ruling based on precident or ancient authority, how can the human race continue and progress?

Finally, I have a question. I got the impression that at this time, the scripture was considered the direct words of God. The Bible was written by men. Were their words considered pure divine inspiration? Or first hand accounts of divine events and knowledge that were therefore considered holy because of the lessons they contained? The clerical characters take the Holy Writ as absolute truth. God is infalable but human authors are not.

Name: Rushita
Date: 2005-09-27 10:29:25
Link to this Comment: 16331

I enjoyed Brecht's play very much. I admired Galileo for what he went through in order to endure science. I considered all his actions no as selfish or arrogant, but instead validated due to the circumstances he was put into. He had to adapt himself and shape himself into someone that could hold onto a conviction when society didn't agree with him. So, overall I thought the play was a nice way of learning about Galileo and his admirable qualities.

from the Taylor contingent
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2005-09-28 09:52:03
Link to this Comment: 16340

Interesting Tuesday conversation, from which a pithy phrase perhaps relevant to Galileo and Flatland and ....

People (some people? many people?) tend to act as if

Known evils are preferable to unknown evils

or, perhaps more accurately?

Living with known evils is preferable to facing the uncertainties of the unknown

From which followed, and I gather continues, an interesting conversation about life and death. About which is there more uncertainty? And what follows from that in our attitudes towards each?

All of which is probably relevant as well to an ongoing public debate about the teaching of "intelligent design" in schools in Pennyslvania (and elsewhere in the United States). And to broader questions about the relation of "science" and "religion" in public (and private) life.

Oh Brave New World!
Name: Ada
Date: 2005-09-28 12:02:35
Link to this Comment: 16341

When I began reading Flatland, I will not lie about the fact that I absolutely hated it. I hated the overt parallels between human beings and the ranking of shapes, and hated even more that it should shapes used as comparison in the first place! However, when I finished the irritating set up of Flatland in Part 1, I was very happily rewarded in Part 2 when our friend the square discovered Spaceland. Maybe part of my problem with the beginning of the book was that nothing really happened for the first forty pages. Sure, it was an interesting enough notion to talk about how the sides of the geometric shapes determined the ranking, and how women, though inferior, were the deadliest members of Flatland, and how the circles were "perfect" beings and therefore priests. But I really wasn't struck until Square had his encounter with Sphere, and the entirety of his Lineland dream became a reality.

My feelings on this book are that it captures my favorite point of Galileo and expands on it. This idea of limited scope and the unwillingness to believe something more continues to be of great interest to me. It is very easy to see how this plays in the story, but while it didn't really click so much in Galileo, it really clicked for me in Flatland. Flatland is a "romance of many dimensions", although it is not the romance of what we'd ordinarily assume, and it is this idea of have wrong assumptions that gives Flatland its romantic quality. It is not the romance of Square and his line wife, but the romance of the reader and the thoughts of something more. This book provides the basis of flirtation that was also evident in the article about "recycling the universe" and the circular theory of creation. All I can say is after reading Flatland and that article, I want to be like Galileo and look at the stars too just to see if I can look beyond into one of the 11 dimensions. Maybe I'm not supposed to be an English major afterall...

flatland and trueland
Date: 2005-09-28 14:17:38
Link to this Comment: 16342

The Flatlander tells the Linelander that his world is the true world and the plane is the true existence. The Spacelander says the same to the Flatlander, implying that his land is the truest land and the only way of true existence. If they live in their own worlds, according to their own rules, it shouldn't matter what is "true," because it really can't be determined. Each whatever-lander will believe that his land is the only existence purely because he exists there. It's a very narrow way of thinking, but if they lack a more profound perception, it is impossible to imagine there being more than there already is. I would doubt anyone who told me that there is a fourth demension, but to that whatever-land-dweller that is the truer existence.

I found it interesting how the Flatlander, Linelander, and Spacelander tell each others stories, by examples. They cannot do much more than show them, with whatever capabilities, the extent of their being to be more than the other's. It's difficult, too, which is the crucial point. No matter how much one does to show the truth, some people are absolutely blind to it, true or not. Having their entire existence revolve around the single fact that, it is hardly reasonable to expect them to realize that their existence is a false one.

Flatland is funny, anyway. I think it was amusing to think in terms of shapes and dimensions, since I never really questioned my existence as one of dimensia or shape.

The Fireworks of the Universe Would Blaze Forever
Name: Jessy
Date: 2005-09-28 15:28:09
Link to this Comment: 16345

I enjoy *Flatland*, and I usually have trouble with 19th century prose. It's a bit obvious for a fairy tale, maybe, but it is also a satire (it is possible for a story to be both at once, right?). The overall metaphor is very good - you don't notice things that work, and I can't think of any section where the metaphor does not ring true or make sense, even if I haven't puzzled out all the nuances. In particular, I'd like to explore why *all* women *and* the Priests having no sides. What is Abbott saying about society? However, sometimes I am not sure where the limits of the satire are, or, to put it another way, what Abbott's views on certain subjects actually were, such as the potential of women.

After reading Galileo, it was heartening to see, in the article 'Recycling the Universe' by Monastersky, that nowadays many physicists at least are open-minded about revising stories. They do not seem to have invested all their faith in one theory, and are welcoming of a new one. One scientist who was quoted admitted that it was a problem only having one explanation of the origin and nature of the universe. Contrast that to the Inquisition!

I do wonder if somewhere there are furious and embittered physicists who have based their world view around the idea that someday the universe will cool and die, and are unaccepting of the cyclic theory. I know that people who interpret the Bible literally will like the new theory no better than the old - such as them I always find disheartening. I do not myself, of course, assume that there is any ultimate truth and I certainly don't think that the Bible is the single source of truth which we possess.

The cyclic theory itself appeals to me - it provides more possibilities, and more room for hope.

As for the Foucault reading! Well, I'll give it another try later, if I have time, but my experience so far is understanding the first sentence of a paragraph, or thinking I have understood it, being intrigued but puzzled by the middle of the paragraph, and being completely confused by the end.

Flat in Flatland
Name: Sarah
Date: 2005-09-28 17:30:58
Link to this Comment: 16349

If I'm going to be brutally honest, I guess I'm going to say that I had an extreme dislike for this book. I simply did not not not like it. I have never been a lover of Victorian lit or geometry, so for me this was a recipe for disaster. For some reason I am really incapable of understanding fantasy. And as I say that, I find that strange because I would catagorize fairy tales and fantasy, which I love. But I had a real hard time of picturing everything in my head. The entire time, I felt as if my my brain were sucking on a lemon, puckering and just wanting to get away from the narrative. Math is a sure way to get me to steer clear of anything.
But beyond that, I did enjoy the concept and the theme of discovery that was a similar theme in Galileo. The theme of self discovery, and realizing that one has come across something new, and the idea of newfound knowledge opening up a "whole new world" for thought, which is what A Sqaure discovered as he visited each new land. Some other things that I liked and stuck out to me was the concept of shape, were I believe that the more sides you had, the higher up you were on the social ladder. Also, the idea of a circle being "...the cheif object of universal homage" (38.)I liked this because in art, esp. Renaissance art, the circle is a perfect shape because it is infinate. And circles in this case were priests, so they are perfect. I also like "if you were born with any Irregularity, you must be taken to one of the regular hospitals to have your disease cured" (37.) The fact that a shape born w/ any imperfection is a "disease". This stuck out to me because I find that we as humans are always rooting out our irregularities, and trying to fix them. I know that I'm a culprit. These things just really stuck out to me. This is enough for me, the more I think about Flatland the more extremely displeased I feel. Sorry.

Name: Ilana
Date: 2005-09-28 18:34:26
Link to this Comment: 16350

To tell you the truth, I haven't really read that much of this book yet-I'm only on chapter 5 (I have alot more reading to do tonight), so I don't know what I think of the book as a whole.

The satire is written in a clever way, although I don't know too much about 19th century England, so I don't think I quite understand every parallel the book draws.

To be honest, the math puts me off a little bit. I am not a mathmatical person, and I don't enjoy reading about math-math and diagrams tend to make me zone out. But I'll reserve further judgement until I've finished the book.

Flat -> Level -> Rank -> Status -> Class!
Name: Leslie
Date: 2005-09-28 18:50:45
Link to this Comment: 16351

I guess the analogy is obvious, but the question is why revise the story. I think what Abbott is doing in Flatlands recreating the story of social structure by stripping out a lot of detail and boiling society down to a bunch of two dimensional shapes. When they look at each other they can't see the difference but they work very hard at defining how to tell the difference and fitting each other into their appropriate place in the rankings. The by creating the analogy enables it makes it easier for him to prove his get his point across.
His characters also portray the human trait of people not being able to imagine something is true simply because someone tells them it is so (narrow vision). People don't believe unless they can see it for themselves (or they know that others believe it). The most intersting part is when the main character, after seeing the sphere world, realizes that just because he cannot see something that does not mean it does not exist. He now knows that he cannot trust that what he sees is the whole truth and he starts to question whether his own world is just the 'baseless fabric of a dream'.

Name: Deborah
Date: 2005-09-28 19:03:34
Link to this Comment: 16352

I was not prepared for Flatland to be quite so similar to Galileo. In the beginning the two were so different, but the endings are nearly the same, the hero is imprisoned for bringing up the truth when he has been warned that the athorities don't want to hear it. However, I thought that Flatland made a better point of this than Galileo. With the play, we all got tangled up in the complexities of human emotions and reasons for doing things. Flatland's square was blatantly unemotional, which made Flatland, at least for me, an easier story to read. Not to say it didn't make me think and start to get me tangled up in complexities, its just that I got started thinking about the fourth and fifth dimention, not definitions of history. I personally thought this was preferable as I was trying to make my own revision to my world just as the hero did, rather than try to define history which really isn't related to the point much at all. Then agiain, I'm a math type as the rest of you call us, and really really like it when emotions can be ignored, as the best way to make a revison of anything, I've found, is to be distanced from your subject. Perhaps that's what is the real differece between Galileo and Square. Galileo was always stuck with two feet on the earth, while Square got to take a little trip away from his world... Or maybe I'm just making this up...

Name: Charlotte
Date: 2005-09-28 20:19:14
Link to this Comment: 16353

I really like Flatland. I think that Abbott does an amazing job of creating a whole other culture with history and customs. I feel that I can fully emerse myself in this world. It also made me think of Arcadia which I really liked. When Thomasina finds a way to describe the whole world through math, it is just like Flatland. Since all of the things are geometric shapes, they could all be described through math. I think that that is a very interesting idea and added to my pleasure in reading Flatland.

Name: michelle
Date: 2005-09-28 20:26:32
Link to this Comment: 16354

When I first started reading "Flatland" I hated it.Then as I got into it,I realized that the book had meaning.I think at first I thought "oh this is just the dumbest thing".Then I began to see that the way we put people into groups by color,size and appearance was just as narrow minded as regarding one type of figure better than another.We are on the quest for the perfect society.The talk of not wanting to give birth to a defective shape got me thinking.
I prefer literary works over fairytales or science or math books but I am finding that you can learn from something you would normaly avoid.But, that is the point of this class afterall!

Date: 2005-09-28 20:46:57
Link to this Comment: 16355

This book epitomizes maths and sciences for me. I love the concept of both, I wish I was adept to absorbing them, often fantasize that there is hope, but when it comes down to actually attempting to assimilate any of it I can stare at the same thing for an indefinite amount of time and retain none of it. I'm STILL only half way through the book and while I want to enjoy it, I can't! And I don't know why.

Name: Caroline T
Date: 2005-09-28 20:49:15
Link to this Comment: 16356

I am tremendously enjoying this novel. The concept of our view of the world being defined by our dimensions makes so much sense when regarded in comparison to the inhabitants of Flatland. I know that there are theories like the M theory proposing up to 11 dimensions, a concept which seems so forum as we live in four.

I particularly liked the concept of danger in Flatland. That angles are dangerous, even fatal, and must be treated with care. Yet angles are a form of power, with those of greater angles being considered more evolved and circles being the most perfect of all. It occurred to me that everything in Flatland eventually evolves into a circle, a hopeful thought in such a stark and disciminating society.

There seem to be so many threads to pick on in Flatland. The small implications of existence there, like children being the sum of their parents sides unless their parents aren't equilateral. Or how women have no room for thought. I am sure that I will think of more in class, but right now there just seem to be so many to take in.

Name: Ellen Good
Date: 2005-09-28 21:26:57
Link to this Comment: 16357

This story reminded me very strongly of Gulliver's Travels, both in the style in which it was presented, and the way that the main character of each travels first to something "lesser" than his own world (the miniature world, in Gulliver's Travels), and then to something "greater" (the world of the giants, in Gulliver's Travels).
Flatland implies that there could be something more than that which we can see, something more than three dimensional, which is a very intriguing proposition. We can understand the descriptions of the book (if we try hard, those of us who are geometrically disabled) because we live in a three-dimensional world. But, just as the king of Lineland could not understand the concept of a second dimension, and the narrator of the story could not comprehend the idea of a third dimension without being shown it, we cannot wrap our minds around the idea of a fourth dimension, unless some being came and actually moved us into the fourth dimension to show it to us.
Most of the inhabitants of Flatland would rather live in ignorance, than risk their beliefs to know the truth, because they ban discussing the Third Dimension. I admired the narrator for his courage in admitting the truth, but even after he experienced the new dimension for himself, he could not explain it to even his own family. I think what the book was trying to get at is that in order to really learn something, you need to be able to see it for yourself, and revisit it continuously, to keep it fresh and tangible in your mind.

Name: Amanda
Date: 2005-09-28 22:32:44
Link to this Comment: 16358

Whoa! Flatland made me feel dizzy. t felt really foreign to me. I had to strain to read it, for real. It gave me a headache.

I found it hard to think about 2 dimensions and interpret the drawings illustrating how things looked. I see the connection Galilieo.
Science tells stories. Math is flat. I struggled to imagine scenes in the book. Lines, lines and more lines. When I read I create images for the stories. It was hard to picture a square sitting by the fire trying to teach a hexagon math.

Science can be used for more than just solving numerical equations. It makes me think about difference between men and women in the book. Men were "intelligent" and women were "irrational and emotional". Which makes me think about how different each of us, people in general, thinks and leads me to think that there is something brilliant about Flatland and stories generally. They are all very different. Stories can be told by using science, history and other means of coveyence and resontate so differently in people. I cannot define this brilliance right now as I am now cross-eyed .

Name: Amanda
Date: 2005-09-28 22:33:10
Link to this Comment: 16359

Whoa! Flatland made me feel dizzy. t felt really foreign to me. I had to strain to read it, for real. It gave me a headache.

I found it hard to think about 2 dimensions and interpret the drawings illustrating how things looked. I see the connection Galilieo.
Science tells stories. Math is flat. I struggled to imagine scenes in the book. Lines, lines and more lines. When I read I create images for the stories. It was hard to picture a square sitting by the fire trying to teach a hexagon math.

Science can be used for more than just solving numerical equations. It makes me think about difference between men and women in the book. Men were "intelligent" and women were "irrational and emotional". Which makes me think about how different each of us, people in general, thinks and leads me to think that there is something brilliant about Flatland and stories generally. They are all very different. Stories can be told by using science, history and other means of coveyence and resontate so differently in people. I cannot define this brilliance right now as I am now cross-eyed .

Name: Amanda
Date: 2005-09-28 22:33:21
Link to this Comment: 16360

Whoa! Flatland made me feel dizzy. t felt really foreign to me. I had to strain to read it, for real. It gave me a headache.

I found it hard to think about 2 dimensions and interpret the drawings illustrating how things looked. I see the connection Galilieo.
Science tells stories. Math is flat. I struggled to imagine scenes in the book. Lines, lines and more lines. When I read I create images for the stories. It was hard to picture a square sitting by the fire trying to teach a hexagon math.

Science can be used for more than just solving numerical equations. It makes me think about difference between men and women in the book. Men were "intelligent" and women were "irrational and emotional". Which makes me think about how different each of us, people in general, thinks and leads me to think that there is something brilliant about Flatland and stories generally. They are all very different. Stories can be told by using science, history and other means of coveyence and resontate so differently in people. I cannot define this brilliance right now as I am now cross-eyed .

Name: Amanda
Date: 2005-09-28 22:33:29
Link to this Comment: 16361

Whoa! Flatland made me feel dizzy. t felt really foreign to me. I had to strain to read it, for real. It gave me a headache.

I found it hard to think about 2 dimensions and interpret the drawings illustrating how things looked. I see the connection Galilieo.
Science tells stories. Math is flat. I struggled to imagine scenes in the book. Lines, lines and more lines. When I read I create images for the stories. It was hard to picture a square sitting by the fire trying to teach a hexagon math.

Science can be used for more than just solving numerical equations. It makes me think about difference between men and women in the book. Men were "intelligent" and women were "irrational and emotional". Which makes me think about how different each of us, people in general, thinks and leads me to think that there is something brilliant about Flatland and stories generally. They are all very different. Stories can be told by using science, history and other means of coveyence and resontate so differently in people. I cannot define this brilliance right now as I am now cross-eyed .

Name: Amanda
Date: 2005-09-28 22:34:23
Link to this Comment: 16362

Whoa! Flatland made me feel dizzy. t felt really foreign to me. I had to strain to read it, for real. It gave me a headache.

I found it hard to think about 2 dimensions and interpret the drawings illustrating how things looked. I see the connection Galilieo.
Science tells stories. Math is flat. I struggled to imagine scenes in the book. Lines, lines and more lines. When I read I create images for the stories. It was hard to picture a square sitting by the fire trying to teach a hexagon math.

Science can be used for more than just solving numerical equations. It makes me think about difference between men and women in the book. Men were "intelligent" and women were "irrational and emotional". Which makes me think about how different each of us, people in general, thinks and leads me to think that there is something brilliant about Flatland and stories generally. They are all very different. Stories can be told by using science, history and other means of coveyence and resontate so differently in people. I cannot define this brilliance right now as I am now cross-eyed .

Flatland v. Galileo
Name: Jessica Ch
Date: 2005-09-28 22:39:44
Link to this Comment: 16363

"Flatland" was a very interesting story. I think that it showed the difficulties in presenting new/controversial ideas to society more effectively than "Galileo" did. New ideas, whether they be about an organism or the rotation of the planets, are always hard to prove. "Flatland" showed this better than "Galileo" because, in the narrator's world, there literally was no way for him to fully explain what he knew. This is the feeling that many people probably have when trying to introduce and prove new ideas to a society that does not want to believe/accept. The main character's motives for spreading his truth were more evident that Galileo's motives. The square was eager to tell people because of the knowledge itself, and not for any other reason. He revealed and defended his beliefs in front of the council knowing that he had severe consequences in store.

I still find it hard to see a link between fairy tales and scientific stories. I think literary stories are more similar to fairy tales because they can convey a message through imagination and fantasy, just like fairy tales do. However, scientific stories seem (to me) to be more grounded in fact that fairy tales. Though there are things like science fiction and stuff, scientific stories in general just seem more realistic and believable to me. I guess scientific stories can consist of just as much fantasy as fairy tales, but my first reaction would be to distrust a fairy tale and pay more attention to a scientific tale.

Name: ari briski
Date: 2005-09-28 22:55:57
Link to this Comment: 16364

As a story I liked Galileo better then Flatland, as Galileo was more of a story that I can relate to. flatland was an interesting concept, though i found I got bored with it at times becuase of the lack of personality.

Name: Rebecca
Date: 2005-09-28 23:28:18
Link to this Comment: 16365

I'll admit it. I have not read much of the book at all. No pun intended, but I'm in a rather shallow state of mind. Or should I say shape...sorry, that one was intended.

Anyways. What's bothering me as I read this, and perhaps it is explained later, is how they procreate? They are presented as humans, yet the only idea I can come up with is that they are like bacteria who merely clone themselves to procreate - perhaps the "Woman" splits in two, creates an angle, then gains one more and is a triangle, and it all happens instantaeously?

But it seems that Abbott covers his bases fairly well, and it will probably be explained eventually. So I shall go back to reading, in hopes of having this nagging question answered.

Name: Sydney
Date: 2005-09-29 00:52:45
Link to this Comment: 16366

Having completed Part I of "Flatland", I feel I have more than enough thoughts in my head to do this atleast initial posting.

Bottom line (no pun intended!), I find the society of Flatland to be highly offensive. Despite the fact that we're discussing "mere" shapes, I had difficulty reading about Women-- their all just being lines, the need for them to keep continuously moving due to their dangerous shape, their utter lack of memory and intelligence, etcetera. The clearly-segregated classes were also disturbing, and the rash way in which any undesirables were locked up or destroyed seemed cruel.

I'm not exactly sure of what point Abbott is trying to make. The book seems a pointless (again with the puns, oy!) creation. It is interesting to think about what life might be like in two dimensions, but to create an entire society around it seems excessive and frivolous. I look forward to seeing what impact Spaceland has on our narrator's perspectives. I shall plow onward, at the moment, confused.

Name: Jen C
Date: 2005-09-29 02:21:49
Link to this Comment: 16368

I can't stand this novel. It's not the novel, it's just the subject. This whole book can be read in some mathematical way. (Keep in mind that I am a human being in a world of 3-D and am not accustomed to thinking in a 3-D way, whatever that means.) This is a book about geometry, which I cannot stand. So I seem to have some trouble getting through the book although I know it is not about geometry. It is a metaphor for social ideals.

In a way, Flatland is very scary. It's just a world attempting to enforce some sort of forced Utopia, except there is no concept of true happiness. There are way too many rules and regulations. They shun intermarriages. They place women automatically at the bottom while restricting them with so many rules and threaten them to keep them in their places. And the system of class works as a discrimination against people of the lower classes. Basically, it is okay for them to exterminate children who do not meet their standards? Ah!

On the surface, it seems that it is important for the citizens of Flatland to head towards perfection. But life isn't always about perfections, which the book also talks about. A circle in Flatland isn't exactly a circle; it is a polygon with so many sides that it can be regarded as an imperfect circle.

Flatland: Part II
Name: Sydney
Date: 2005-09-29 02:36:12
Link to this Comment: 16369

Having now completed Flatland in its entirety, I feel a little better. I enjoyed the style of writing and the manner in which the dimensions were explained. I am still frustrated and a bit baffled, however, over the structure of Flatland's society. Furthermore, what exactly was the point of the revelation if our narrator failed to acquire any converts and was just locked up and left for crazy? A lot to think about...

Name: Joanne Bun
Date: 2005-09-29 07:17:36
Link to this Comment: 16370

Post #1

If women spoke the truth about their lives, The world would split open.
Sybil Shepard

Name: Silvena Ch
Date: 2005-09-29 08:45:25
Link to this Comment: 16371

I'm not entirely sure whether I liked Flatland or not. There is something about it that makes me uneasy. I guess it's because it resides firmly in a gray area in terms of it being an entirely different culture. Although to us it seems that Flatland's culture is barbaric and unemotional, since this is a world completely foreign to our own, do we really understand it enough to judge it? Also is it hypocritical of us to judge it? For example, our society treats those who are mentally ill similarly to the way that Flatland treats its women. Is it simply because they have the label of "women" that it irks us so much? We like to think ourselves above and better than this world, but I think we are hypocritical for doing so.

Also like Galileo, I feel very ambiguous about Square's character. On one hand, he is admirable for the risks he took in trying to spread knowledge but the way he presents his society is cold and factual. And he seems to readily believe what the authorities of his society tell him, like the way he describes revolutions as something to be squashed. All this to no avail because the council still betrays him in the end.

Name: Unnati
Date: 2005-09-29 08:48:21
Link to this Comment: 16372

It's funny because I actually hated reading flatland and still I was amazed by the book. I don't think I understood a lot of it possibly because it was about an unimaginable two dimensional world where shapes are people. I spent most of my time trying to think how they ate or walked or did other activities and I must say I still can't imagine it. I don't usually read a lot of books but the few that I read, though have confusing plots but I can atleast understand the scenes and can imagine the characters but here I am sure the only things I did understand were the words of the book and it was sad because for the first time I read a book without a satisfying scene in my mind. But thinking of the author amazed me because I want to know what inspired him to create something so fantastic and what thoughts were going on in his mind while writing the book. I want to know the pictures that he has about the charactes of the book in his mind. The book did make me think about the possibility of a four dimensional world, but not wishing to confuse my already confused mind, I didn't pay much attention to the thought. Could be interesting though...

Name: Lauren
Date: 2005-09-29 08:56:58
Link to this Comment: 16373

I think the concept of flatland is interesting. Abbott is ahead of his time. I'm really not a math person, but the story is interesting and a good social commentary. I still have a bit left to read,...

Name: Shannon Ro
Date: 2005-09-29 09:40:55
Link to this Comment: 16374

I found this book EXTREMELY difficult to read. All the talk about angles and shapes and other mathematical things made my head spin to the point I was unable to concentrate. The concept is genius, I'm not about to deny that, but this wasn't a book for me. I was able to catch the social commentary from time to time, but found the geometry too overwhelming to truly appreciate it.

P.S. Ada's title reminds me of my first reaction to the book. There are a lot of parallels between this book and Brave New World, especially in the way they treat different classes.

Name: Rushita
Date: 2005-09-29 10:08:20
Link to this Comment: 16375

When I first began to read this book, I thought i might be something interesting, something that might grasp my attention since I am very mathematically oriented. However, it did completely the opposite. I thought it was very creative the way the flatlanders and spacelanders saw the world, something very interesting, something I wouldnt have imagined anyone to create within their minds. However, I still found the book very confusing and hard to read, I constantly lost interest. I may just have to sit down and read it all over again.

Name: Kirsten
Date: 2005-09-29 10:18:59
Link to this Comment: 16376

I thought that this book was sort of dull. The concept is interesting to think about, but reading a book about would not be my first choice of things to read. Throughout the whole first part I kept drifting off and could only pay attention to the book for very small time periods. And then by the time I was finished with the first part I was so bored that I just wanted to finish the second part as quickly as possible. I had high hopes for this book because of the concept and because one of my old teachers recommended it to me once, but I just didn't really like it.

and on to the next week of re-telling stories--
Name: Anne and P
Date: 2005-10-03 08:56:04
Link to this Comment: 16429, what does the philosopher have to add to the conversation? What's Daniel Dennett's take on why we (refuse to?) revise the stories we tell about the world (especially that story called "evolution..."?) And what's your take on Daniel Dennett's take? In what ways do you find his thinking useful to your own?

Why? Why not.
Date: 2005-10-04 22:55:16
Link to this Comment: 16446

Today's class was strange and interesting. The reading was like a continuation of the class for me.

So far, we've been discussing revisions of stories as a choice, something we'll do when we get to it. Here, it seems like Dennett reminds us that sometimes the stories don't change. Everything and everyone around it changes, which might end up in a different meaning for the story or a forced revision of it to accomidate the modern and changing world. He also brings up the fact that revisions may be required in order to clarify and clean up the mess that is a story. To add to that, clarification doesn't necessarily mean that we have to take away and cut from the story, but possibly annex it to another story. It's strange how some stories blend and mix to become one, or sometimes there are stories within stories. A revision could just consist of separating those stories or putting them together, to get a fuller picture.

I said in class that to look at things objectively can make us realize on more subjective terms. I don't think it is possible for anyone to look at something completely objectively. To look at something objectively protects the ideas that stand subjectively because that is the only way it can be preserved, by being displaced. However, once we've thought about something and have thoughts about it, it's hard to change that idea, but it isn't so hard for us to amend it, alter it, or add to it--but never discard it completely. When Dennett says he'll "look at the idea as unflinchingly, as dispassionately, as possible," I say it's not going to work. He's admitted himself that he's already got his beliefs, so nothing's going to change that. And his belief wasn't an extreme change of being creationist to evolutionist: "God can live in peaceful coexistence with, or even find support from, the Darwinian framework of ideas." With that clarified for us, we know what to expect on his take on Darwin.

The other bit about revising stories that I had never thought of was the idea of strengthening the story by revising it. Of course, when we think of revising papers, it's done to fix it, but it hadn't occured to me that it would be the same way for stories. Since stories are such subjective ideas, it's interesting to think about it being fortified somehow. I guess it would be strengthened for those who believed in it in the first place; otherwise, it's weakened. By questioning the answers we've already been given, it might be because the solution was too weak for us and questioning it takes away its validity. Yet, if it is given a new solution, or a clearer answer, it has just become stronger and less fallible. Now that I think about it, I think I'll have to think about revising my stories as an act of giving it more strength, rather than just restating the same idea under different circumstances.

In these ways, Dennett has been useful to my educational thinking. I think his arguments are interesting and backed up well, and I don't feel imposed upon. I think he knows as well as I do that I'll still believe what I want to believe, regardless of how much he explains and provides as evidence. I mean, I don't disagree with him, so it's just strengthening my beliefs and giving me more of a basis for what I believe in. I wonder what it would be like for someone who disagrees with him...

"why? why not."
Name: Jenny Lee
Date: 2005-10-05 00:24:47
Link to this Comment: 16447

that was me.. I completely forgot to put my name in.. oops.
talk about revisions...

Dennett, Darwin, and the meaning of life
Name: Ilana
Date: 2005-10-05 18:52:11
Link to this Comment: 16456

I'm reading Dennett's article and I'm finding it very interesting. The beginning part, in which he talks about the meaning of life in regards to atheism, Darwin's theory, and religion reminds me of something that happened last year.

We were in Spanish class and had somehow gotten into a discussion on religion when one of my friends mentioned that she was an atheist. I had already known that, and didn't have a problem with it, but I guess she hadn't mentioned it to many other people (or it just hadn't ever come up in conversations) because everyone in our class freaked out. The class discussion turned into an almost free for all. It wasn't an attack on my friend, exactly, but everyone was shocked and asked her tons of questions about her beliefs. Almost everyone there assumed that because she didn't believe in God, she didn't believe in morality, hope, or anything positive about life. The discussion that day really surprised me; I had never seen atheism as mutually exclusive to enjoying life, just as I had never seen religion and evolution to be mutually exclusive, and I hadn't been aware that people I knew might not believe that too.

I want to finish reading this article now to see what Dennett has to say: how do you reconcile religion and evolution? Why does religion have such a strong hold on people, and why do they believe that religion is the only way to find meaning in life?

Dennetts acid test
Name: Leslie
Date: 2005-10-05 18:59:40
Link to this Comment: 16457

So even if you can prove something as Locke did with his 'mind first' theory, it still can be disproved. What is true today may not be true tomorrow. What made it possible to prove at the time was the mind set of the people. Dennett refers to this as the 'blockade to the imagination'. This is one thing that prevents revision. It seems there may be a reason for that blockade. Dennett's claim is that people who reject Darwin's claim do so because of their fear that they will somehow lose the purpose and meaning to their lives. What if someone can prove to me that there is no purpose and meaning to my life? Shall I just lie down and die?

Darwin's idea
Name: Deborah Fa
Date: 2005-10-05 19:09:32
Link to this Comment: 16458

The thing I liked most about Dennett's writing was that he was painstakingly methodical. If there is one way to make sure your reader has no excuse to jump to conclusions it is to be methodical as far as I can tell. Most of what I got from this peice (and I'm sure this isn't all I should have gotten from it, and I hope sometime I can read this again) is that Darwin himself was methodical when he went about writing "Origin". It sounded as if he was so methodical that he didn't quite jump to conclusions himself about what his theory meant (or since it's a theory I suppose I should say could mean). Unlike Galileo and A Square, Darwin didn't seem out to revise the story of his world much. His theory of natural selection started as a story to revise biology and the classification of animals. To me it sounds like pure dumb luck that it was a story that would take the place of the story of God for some people.

As it stands, I think I can agree with Dennett that natural selection is the best story about the origin of species out there at the moment, but it's still not perfect. In fact it's so far from perfect that I personally can't beleive in it alone. For me I have to mush it around with the story of a God for it to work. Really I suppose it is all a personal thing- everyone has to make their own stories, that's why we have people like me, and athiests, and people who fight to get evolution out of the classroom.

Name: Sarah
Date: 2005-10-05 19:32:13
Link to this Comment: 16461

I thought that Dennett's insight on revision, more specifically evolution, interesting. He had a lot of evidence to back up his agreement that followed very methodically, and so methodically in fact that I had trouble following. I liked how he labelled Darwin's idea of Natural Selection as "dangerous". I also really liked how he said that "there is no future in a sacred myth. Why not? Because of our curiousity...we want to know why" (22). I felt that this statement really summed up what A. Square and Galileo were trying to convey to their respective communities, but somehow the idea was conveyed the wrong way. I thought that like Bettelheim, Dennett offered a more universal and all-encompassing explaination of science along with analysis. Though I felt that sometimes I got lost in all the detail, I liked the points that Dennett was trying to convey.

Name: michelle
Date: 2005-10-05 19:50:39
Link to this Comment: 16463

I agree with Dennett that a person can understand Darwins theory of evolution and still believe in God. I will not presume to know who is right and who is wrong because the story of our creation is still an unknown.At first, I thought this reading would be a reason not to retell a story, but after thinking about it the story of creation for mankind continues to devlop as science does and as we become more knowledgable.So, by retelling the story , looking at it, and then revising it we are growing. The creation story was the orignal seed and Hulme and Darwin looked at the story and with the help of science came up with a differnt version. A revision.So, I think this reading does in fact support the view that itt is important to retell and revise stories.

Chance has no memory.
Name: Shannon Ro
Date: 2005-10-05 20:15:06
Link to this Comment: 16464

While I still consider myself the farthest from a math or science person, I enjoyed this selection greatly. I enjoy relating things back to philosophy and asking "the big questions." I was also very intrigued on the section of algorithms and chance.

Once again, we find ourselves revising the story. Dennett reflects many of my own opinions on why humans find it difficult to revise the stories they've grown up accepting. It was refreshing to read someone's thoughts on the subject rather than reading more material that simply supported what I already believe.

willingness to revise
Name: Ayaka
Date: 2005-10-05 21:24:28
Link to this Comment: 16467

I enjoyed reading Dennett's writings. I think one of the passages that I liked the most was..
"There is no future in a sacred myth. Why not? Because of our curiosity. Because, as the song reminds us, we want to know why. We may have outgrown the song's answer, but we will never outgrow the question. Whatever we hold precious, we cannot protect it from our curiosity, because being who we are, one of the things we deem precious is the truth. Our love of truth is surely a central element in teh meaning we find in our lives. In any case, the idea that we might preserve meaning by kidding ourselves is a more pessimistic, more nihilistic idea than I for one can stomach. If that were the best that could be done, I would conclude that nothing mattered after all."
This passage struck me because it kind of summed up what I was trying to express in class. The reason that I, for one, value open mindedness and willingness to look at new viewpoints more than holding fast to the beliefs that we have within ourselves is not because I do not attatch great importance to such beliefs. It is because I hold beliefs, morals, and opinions in such high esteem that I am always willing to put them up for revision. Questioning an idea does not deny your love for it- it affirms that love. Say you write a story, lyrics, report, essay, whatever strikes your fancy. And you pour your heart into that piece of writing, and you love it dearly. But upon reading it again, you can see places where you could change it and make it better. Do you hold on to the original language because it is what you wrote in the first place and you hold an attatchment to it, in spite of any weaknesses it contains? Or do you revise it, and in that revision, make it all the more powerful? The answer is clear. You would not change passages in your masterwork haphazardly, peeling away at the original intent and leaving in its stead an entirely different idea. But when points of error become apparant, so should the need to revise.

Darwin's Dangerous Idea
Name: Ellen Good
Date: 2005-10-05 22:18:21
Link to this Comment: 16468

I found these chapters to be very pertinent to what we had been discussing in class earlier, and also very intruiging. Dennet seems to be getting at two things here: reconciling religious beliefs with science, and what the difference is in believing in science and believing in religion. Is science a religion?
First of all, to touch briefly on the first topic, I was raised in a fairly liberal household, but what I was always taught to believe was that God created the first spark of life, and the rest of it evolved from there. Before I started taking science classes in high school, I never even considered that evolution could be mutually exclusive to religion, or that if one believes in evolution, he or she must therefore be an atheist. I never saw it that way, and I still don't, because I think that there is space to see God having a hand in evolution, which I think Dennet seems to be saying as well (or maybe that's just my reader's bias).
As to the second part, the difference between science and religion, I think that both of them do incorporate belief and doubt, which coexist in everything uncertain. The difference is, in religion, followers are encouraged to believe unquestioningly, to ignore doubt and to put your faith in God no matter what might seem to contradict his existence. Science, however, tries to contradict itself. Scientists look for disproof of their theories, they look to find doubt and to question problems in their theories.
Science tries to disprove its theories, while religion tries to prove its own. That, I believe, is the essential difference between the two.

The Greatness, Rareness, Muchness, Fewness of This
Name: Jessy
Date: 2005-10-05 22:22:12
Link to this Comment: 16469

I haven't nearly finished the reading, and I'm not feeling very articulate tonight, but I ought to get this post done before my brain shuts down for the night.

What I've read of Dennett's article, I enjoy. This is how I like my science - the focus not on the nuts and bolts, but on the ramifications. I like Dennett's approach to the subject. I like the questions he asks, and the answers he comes up with.

"There is no future in a sacred myth. Why not? Because of our curiosity. Because, as the song reminds us, *we want to know why*. We may have outgrown the song's answer, but we will never outgrow the question."

Like myself in my most recent paper for this class ('The Exchange: One Faith for Another', for those of you in my section), Dennett does not attempt to analyze where this driving curiosity comes from. It's as mysterious as the will to live. Still, someday the hormones or patterns of electricity in the brain which create these urges will be identified. Science lets you dare to dream. Or maybe I've just read too much science fiction.

Something different. Perhaps I've regarded the world in a certain way for too long, but I no longer understand the dependency many people seem to have on the idea that we live in a universe created by a god with a plan. If our existence as sapient creatures is the result of pure chance, isn't that just as remarkable in its own way as being made by the divine in its own image? Detter asks if 'any version of this attitude of wonder and purpose can be sustaine din the face of Darwinism'. Isn't our very existence a wonder? Can't the very vastness of the universe and what we *don't* yet know inspire a great sense of purpose? It requires us to take more responsibility upon ourselves as individuals and communities, but its about time we grow up and get used to the idea that the divine won't always be around to explain why bad things happen and to comfort us when we wonder what purpose our lives might have; instead, we should *do* something to stop bad things from happening and find purposes for ourselves.

I'm sure that's going to offend somebody, but I'm not sure if she'll actually say so to my face, which is a pity.

Although I couldn't articulate the meaning of this poem (which I have loved for a very long time), and perhaps it means something different from I think it means, it seems relevant:

'Warning to Children'

Children, if you dare to think
Of the greatness, rareness, muchness
Fewness of this precious only
Endless world in which you say
You live, you think of things like this:
Blocks of slate enclosing dappled
Red and green, enclosing tawny
Yellow nets, enclosing white
And black acres of dominoes,
Where a neat brown paper parcel
Tempts you to untie the string.
In the parcel a small island,
On the island a large tree,
On the tree a husky fruit.
Strip the husk and pare the rind off:
In the kernel you will see
Blocks of slate enclosed by dappled
Red and green, enclosed by tawny
Yellow nets, enclosed by white
And black acres of dominoes,
Where the same brown paper parcel -
Children, leave the string alone!
For who dares undo the parcel
Finds herself at once inside it,
On the island, in the fruit,
Blocks of slate about her head,
Finds herself enclosed by dappled
Green and red, enclosed by yellow
Tawny nets, enclosed by black
And white acres of dominoes,
With the same brown paper parcel
Still untied upon her knee.
And, if she then should dare to think
Of the fewness, muchness, rareness,
Greatness of this endless only
Precious world in which she says
she lives - she then unties the string.

-- Robert Graves

(feminine pronouns inserted by me)

brushfire fairtytales, itsy bitsy diamond wells, b
Name: Virginia J
Date: 2005-10-06 00:14:53
Link to this Comment: 16470

I read Jessy's post and the poem reminds me of our class on Tuesday, particularly the end of the class. Both of these remind me of a line in Dennett's spiel,

"The prize is, for the first time, a stable system of explanation that does not go round and round in cricles or spiral off in an infinite regress of mysteries."

It seems like everything we talk about there isn't a solid answer to. NOT ONLY THAT, but also the questions we ask result in answers that lead back to the question. Soooooooooooooooooooo cyclical...Oh my Darwin. So I was very interested in find the prize in the CrackerJack box that didn't go 'round and round and round it goes where it stops nobody knows.' I don't think I found it. Maybe it evolved so thoroughly and has adapted so well to its place in the universe that no one can find the prize. Maybe the prize needs to hide because if someone found it, it would essentially cease to exist, as if its discovery would be the end of it's species.

People do not revise stories because they want to protect campfire songs.

Date: 2005-10-06 00:16:29
Link to this Comment: 16471

nota bene: please take the apostrophe out of the last it's in the previous post thanks

Impossibly Subjective
Name: Amanda
Date: 2005-10-06 00:22:50
Link to this Comment: 16472

What happened to God? Redesign? Whoa! Algorithmic process of evolution?

Refusal to rewrite stories comes from fear of tearing the fabric with which society is woven. Rewriting stories comes from human curiosity.

Curiosities have multiple layers that can be reduced as well as expanded. After reading Dennet I cannot help but think about truth and reality and the individual, which ultimately led me to think about myself.

I went back and read all of my posts from this course tonight to see about my own evolution in this course. In one post I wrote about how frustrated I was in the class because I felt as if I already knew something about what we were talking about, and in fact I did, and have since realized that I was not holding curiosity with me, and could have engaged myself differently, I also think that had I not been frustrated I would not have come to feel and think about the class as I do now, instead of a strong dislike I have become increasingly curious about the content and everyone in it and all of our interpretations of the materials.

When I think about ďUniversal AcidĒ I think about my life, when I am afraid to ask a question or an idea or ďspeak the truthĒ or know what I know in the presence of others. I think that as much as I hope that I am open to the world around me I have a fear of that if I act, in some cases, there is the possibility that my world will be changed forever, and it will melt me, like the witch in the Wizard of Oz or like Universal Acid. My world will be melted and I will not be able to pick up any pieces, because there would not be anything left.

Really though when I am scared or worried about this, the chances of my world melting are slim, yet for some irrational reason I believe it to be true, and find myself again and again in this position. My world has not melted yet.

My point is that I assume/believe that there is always the possibility of a melt down, yet it has not happened and I am not so sure it will, but the possibility is there. Why do I believe this? It is survival? Do others have the same resilience? When dangerous ideas are made public who are they dangerous to? Those whose beliefs are directly connected to the dangerous idea? Is it ultimately subjective? Canít we choose to believe whatever we want?

Okay itís late.

Name: Ari Briski
Date: 2005-10-06 01:04:54
Link to this Comment: 16473

allrighty, i didn't exactly finish the reading, but it's late so i will leave my impressions thus far and a pledge to finish it this weekend.
The main thought that keeps occuring to me is what information do i regard as fact, when it is really just not disproven yet?
the darwin thing isn't really much of a debate where i am from, so the arguments over it seemed exagerated to me, but i guess thats more of personal experience thing.
i'm sure this is ridden with grammer and spelling mistakes. sorry about that.

Name: Jen C
Date: 2005-10-06 02:41:42
Link to this Comment: 16474

First of all, I'd like to apologize to everyone my comments at the end of class on Tuesday. It was kind of inappropriate... I just "blew up" all of a suddent. So, sorry.

About the reading:

In the beginning, Dennett brings up the point that the meaning of God changes for everyone. It is like how there are different versions of Christianity, for example. There are so many different interpretations of the Bible. And even different churches will have different interpretations and take different actions. Just through this, the meaning of God changes. Then there are the people. Depending on how religious the person is, the meaning can also change. That is just under the Christian branch. There are so many other religions, most with some type of God or higher Being. But no matter the meaning, the common knowledge is that goodness matters.

Dennett shows his likings of Darwin's ideas. The idea of evolution brought many things in life together. Also, "it is not just a wonderful scientific idea. It is a dangerous idea." He states that he likes to cherish these ideas that challenge but also likes to protect them. It makes me wonder about why people like the Little Monk and, at first, A. Square hesitated to share the new ideas with other people. Were they honestly trying to protect their love ones, or were they also trying to protect the ideas? There is a dominos effect. The new idea needs protecting, but the old ideas also need protecting from the new idea.

Dennett: "There is no future in a sacred myth. Why not? Because of our curiosity. Because, as the song reminds us, we want to know why."
Galileo: "An apple of the tree of knowledge, he can't wait, he wolfs it down."
Flatland: "Not that I was wearied of knowledge. On the contrary, I thirsted for yet deeper and fuller draughts than he was offering to me."

"Our love of truth is surely a central element in the meaning we find in our lives." This somewhat reminds me of existentialism. There is no stopping. One will keep learning throughout life.

"People often substitute a 'how' question for the 'why' question, and attempt to answer it by telling a story about how it came to be that God created us and the rest of the universe, without dwelling overmuch on just why God might want to have done that." Why do people take some of these stories more seriously than others? They are all attempts to explain life and the universe. So why are the religious stories taken more seriously than myths? Many myths tell stories about how things came to be. Also, Dennett claims that Darwinian thinking is "a stable system of explanation that does not go round and round in circles or spiral off in an infinite regress of mysteries." I'm not sure if I can agree with that. Although Darwin had more proof than most other stories, we do not know that these proofs are 100% correct. And also, in many cases, more questions are being asked after finding the answer to one question. To me, this is an infinite regress of mysteries. Life will always be a mystery. If it isn't, humans will run out of things to discover and search for. There would be no need to search for the meaning of life.

Name: Ada
Date: 2005-10-06 09:23:42
Link to this Comment: 16477

Upon looking on my reading I see a page made yellow by highlighter. I have not yet finished, however, I find this reading in particular very relevant to our conversation Tuesday and even more so to the idea I've been trying to express in my paper relating the conundrum of the search for knowledge vs. the unwillingness to change. As Dennett puts it, it is an issue of teleology and to what point it should be carried. And, how because of this, the answers to the questions (Why?) have become questions themselves (How?. It is no wonder then the stories need revision: for each why is followed by a different how. This quote from Dennett seems to capture it very well:

"There is no future in a sacred myth. Why not? Because of our curiosity... we want to know why. We may have outgrown [the song's] answer, but we will never outgrow the question. Whatever we hold precious, we cannot protect it from our curiosity, because being who we are, one of the things we deem precious is the truth."

Dennett's Darwin's Dangerous Idea
Name: Caroline T
Date: 2005-10-06 10:14:08
Link to this Comment: 16480

Dennett's Tell Me Why was quite interesting. He seems preoccupied with the idea of purpose. This isn't a bad thing, but it seems that he wants to apply an abstract intuitive conclusion to an imperical world. His discussions of British philosophers were a good overview of different very nuanced schools of thought. Personally, I find that the insecurity that he presents of the philosophers seem to be more of failure in human thought than something lacking in mankind's mandate.

Name: Kirsten Ju
Date: 2005-10-06 10:42:37
Link to this Comment: 16481

I really liked this reading. I actually can't really pin point why and that is probably because I am a whiney brat when I get sick and just try to get things done so I can keep on whining to whoever will listen. But thats not the point. Maybe I liked Dennet so much because of his writing style or because the reading managed to be mathy and sciency without being overwhelmingly so like Flatland. I guess I'm going to have to read this again so I can figure out why I liked this reading and then maybe I'll post something that has some sort of relevence.

Name: Sarah Voge
Date: 2005-10-06 11:18:09
Link to this Comment: 16482

I think that Dennett gets uncomfortably close to talking about Darwin's theories like they are a religion. It's one thing to agree with and support a scientific theory, but it's another thing to claim it's going to be Earth-shatteringly significant. (Should that be "Heaven-shatteringly significant"?) Nowadays everything is a "revolution" no matter how little it pertains to your average person, or how gradual and mild a change it is. True, Locke's "proof" would now be unacceptable to the scientific community, but it wasn't like the theory of evolution suddenly ushered in an age of miraculous scientific enlightenment. True, evolution does upset the religious community (though not necessarily religious individuals) but everything upsets the religious community, so that's no great change. I think the real "revolution" that has been/will be happening is our goal of approaching the truth. While Darwin may have been another step towards this truth, he certainly didn't introduce the idea of truth as an end in itself. (And, if I may be picky, Darwin wasn't the only one who thought of evolution. In fact, his paper wasn't the first published, even.) Dennett makes some good points, but I think he overestimates the impact that "Darwin's Dangerous Idea" had on the world.

Something interesting I found while procrastinatin
Name: Ada
Date: 2005-10-06 19:58:15
Link to this Comment: 16487

Alright... so we've been without our beloved CSem for a whole seven hours and I've found something to post. It goes back to the idea of the "ick" in fairy tales. While reading a movie review of the "Corpse Bride", the critic happened to mention something I found rather familiar:

"His films are fairy tales that haven?t had the scary bits - the good parts - edited out." ~ Jeremy C. Fox

Fox says this in reference to Tim Burton's ability to "understand children better than most adults" noting that they are "tougher, smarter, and weirder than we usually give them credit for."

I know personally how much I've always enjoyed Burton's films for these elements, and I also know how much my mother dislikes them for the same reason. Maybe then this is a reflection on why parents don't read Grimm's fairy tales to their children- it's not necessarily a concern for the child, but rather a concern for themselves.

Just a thought I'd put out there. Here is the link to the review if you would like to read it yourself or explore the site:

See you all on my birthday!!

Name: Shannon Ro
Date: 2005-10-08 00:20:48
Link to this Comment: 16498

It's 12:19am on a very early Saturday morning, and I find myself lonely without my favorite CSem.

I wish I had something relevant/meaningful to say, other than "The meaning of life is.....42," but that's all I have. I hope that can sustain you for a week.

a child's mind
Name: Jessica Ch
Date: 2005-10-16 19:07:19
Link to this Comment: 16513

yeah so i didnt post for last class (sorryyyy) so im gonna post about Dennett now...sorry to take away from the fall break fun posts :) i missed u all

Although Dennett's writing was a little hard to get through, I thought he had some really interesting ideas about Darwin and revising stories. As a semi-sciency person, I began reading with the thought that Darwin's idea about evolution by natural selection was solid and lacking only in the minds of really religious people. Though Dennett did not really change my view about Darwin and his "dangerous idea," I realized better the magnitude of what Darwin proposed, and a lot of my original thoughts on revising stories were confirmed.

Dennett refers to the relationship between new ideas and children a few times. He talks about how over time large revisions (eventually) become acceptable, and a child who is "taught" the revision (at any point in society's acceptance) easily accepts it himself. So, it is not the necessarily the danger of a revision that prevents it from being accepted. Instead, it is always the human mind. If we could just look at revisions objectively, without biases or anything like that - with the clear mind of a child - then revision would be so much more readily accepted.

your own tacit understanding
Name: Anne and P
Date: 2005-10-18 13:11:15
Link to this Comment: 16534

Welcome to the third portion of our class on "Storytelling as Inquiry." Our topic for the next few weeks is the brain of the storyteller: What's in it? How's it work? How does its working influence how we work--how we intuit and write and revise our stories?

Our initial readings in this topic, for Thursday, include selections from Polanyi's The Tacit Dimension, from Lakoff 's Philosophy in the Flesh, and from Belkin's piece on "The Odds of That: Coincidence in the Age of Conspiracy."

So, for starters, and in response to the claims of these texts: What experiences of tacit understanding have you had? What sorts have you seen others using? What tacit knowledge did you come in here possessing? What do you know that you cannot tell? (And? so? How are you going to tell it?)

Dickinson and the unconscious ("tacit knowledge")
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2005-10-18 15:36:44
Link to this Comment: 16535

Interesting conversation in class in Taylor today. Taking off from Emily Dickinson's The Brain -- is wider than the sky --
For -- put them side to side --
The one the other will contain
With ease -- and You -- beside.

Is "reality" actually ideas? What would the implications of that be for understanding, communication, morality? How much do we know without having it in the form of ideas? What role does that play in our ideas/stories?

and You -- beside
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-10-18 21:15:36
Link to this Comment: 16539

To understand irony--or satire--one needs some distance, has to be able to stand outside, "beside," and look across (as Anthony Appiah says, "Ironism isn't for homebodies.")

So I am laughing (ironically), since the as-*interesting* conversation in English House today also took off from "The Brain is larger than..."

but went in an entirely different direction; the poem became, in our hands, a satire, an exaggeration, an over-the-top declaration by a narcissicist, and/or an ironic acknowledgement that...

neither the world nor the brain can be measured, weighed, known for sure....

So: is that a form of tacit knowing? Being able to get the joke? To know when (how/why....) your chain is being jerked? When to be skeptical, when to trust? How can we tell if ED is having fun with us?

Tacits and Tacets
Name: jenny
Date: 2005-10-19 14:18:19
Link to this Comment: 16547

There are many implications associated with tacit learning, but not with tacets in music. When I first learned about tacets in music, I was told that while I didn't play or sing, I should listen to what is being played or sung because that was more important than my part. I think in playing music, or in life general, I placed myself as the sole importance of anything that happened around me. I was the soloist, so to speak. Then I learned that music could present much more when I wasn't a part of it. The whole idea of "less is more" being the lesson. Eventually, just with a look from my conductor, I knew what he meant and did as I was "told."
There have been many moments throughout life when I could just tell what someone meant by the look on one's face, or the gestures one made, or the tone of voice one used. That is something we cannot be taught, but not everyone possesses. It is my tacit knowledge that tells me someone's emotion just by the look on one's face, and it is one's tacit knowledge that knows I understand.
I'm reading a book by Haruki Murakami "Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World." A scientist is finding a way to eliminate sound and speech from the world, because it is detrimental to the human species. He implies that people are perfectly capable of communicating without using sounds, like by using lip-reading. I can't really imagine a world without sound, so it's hard for me to fathom a situation of complete and utter silence. But I can still imagine people communicating by other methods than speech.
I think of tacit knowledge to be a stress on the depths of silence. Silences aren't hollow; there are awkward silences and loud silences, and many more. In that period of silence, there is still an understanding between two people, though I don't know exactly what that is. It's like silences don't really exist because we are constantly thinking to ourselves. Something's always buzzing. We are constantly picking up on cues around us, not necessarily verbal, which is added to our collection of tacit knowledge. I think tacit communication is used far more than verbal language, since we're usually gesturing as we speak. Speech doesn't seem to be enough. The more we know, the more we communicate; our tacit way is something that we do not refer to, yet we use constantly. I think it's the clearest way that we communicate.

Knowledge Without Knowing
Name: Ada
Date: 2005-10-19 15:52:28
Link to this Comment: 16548

So, after reading Polanyi's take on tacit knowledge I'm left intrigued with a headache. There are a lot of things I have to say in response to this. I'll start with a quote at the end:

"The discoverer is filled with a compelling sense of responsibility for the pursuit of a hidden truth, which demands his services for revealing it. His act of knowing exercises a personal judgment in relating evidence to an external reality, an aspect of which he is seeking to apprehend."

If we have not found an answer yet as to why people tell stories, this is it. People tell stories because of the fact they have been able to more fully comprehend the approaching answer than others, and therefore it is their duty to share this discovery. While they cannot define exactly what it is they know, the reflection of this knowledge, in addition to others, presents a grounds on which fact and theory are derived. It is necessary therefore to have an awareness of something undiscovered within the self consciousness in order to comprehend something that is presenting itself as fact. In turn, the action of discovery means nothing without the desire to discover (there must be meaning behind action).

Another thought is on how this occurs. It is mentioned that our bodies are tools that allow us the capacity to express knowledge. We may not know how it is we are able to express it, but we are aware of the fact that we do express it. Therefore there is understanding in the fact that we mean to share knowledge, though we do not know how we do so.

The last quote I want to share is the mention of Plato's Meno:

"He says that to search for the solution of a problem is an absurdity; for either you know what you are looking for, and then there is no problem; or you do not known what you are looking for, and then you cannot expect to find anything."

My problem with this is that if it is true that we cannot expect to find anything if we don't know what it is we are searching for, why they do we continue to do so? If we can expect to find nothing what is the point? The author tries to answer this by saying it is the approach of discovery, but that implies that we know what we're searching for and therefore have something to approach. We may in fact know more than we can tell, but this inability to understand what we know I suppose is what fuels the need for further discover. I don't know what I'm trying to say exactly, which I guess sort of is the point of this article to begin with! Hopefully I will gain a better understanding from our discussion.

Another Dimension?
Name: Deborah
Date: 2005-10-19 18:52:33
Link to this Comment: 16552

Most of what Polanyi wrote seemed fairly streightforward to me- I don't know, perhaps I'm missing something here, but the fact that we have an unconsious that does alot of our thinking for us seems like fairly common knowlage- I mean, do we think about it every time we blink or breathe? So is it really that far of a streatch to say we don't think every time we talk or assess or compare. Of course it's obvious we think about some of the things we do- I think about it before I eat, and think about it before I speak (most of the time at least) so the way I see it it is pretty blatant that there are two ways to do things/think of things, one where you think about it/are concious of it, and one where you aren't. I don't know, I trust my body to do alot of things for me, and so the fact that it does alot of thinking for me is no shock. I'd be more shocked if they found proof that we were concious of all our thinking.

Actually- the book? article? that intrerested me the most was the one by Lakoff and Johnson. I think it is a better question to ask "what does having an unconsious do to philosophy?", than "do we have an unconsious?". However, what really grabbed my attention was when the text started to sound like a geometry textbook. My favorite quote: "Trajectories are imaginative insofar as they are not entities in the world; they are conceptualized as a linelike 'trail' left by an object as it moves and projected forward in the direction of motion." This to me sounded like someone trying to tell me that the fourth demention (time) was just a *con*septualization that my mind made up for me to express a bee flying through the garden. Of course then the text seems to say that everything made up by the mind really has its stem in the physical world. I don't know, perhaps I'm just confused- but I don't have to struggle with ideas like a little heptagon- I know there is a fourth demention and I know I can talk about bees flying because of what my mind automatically calculates about it.

Tacit Knowledge
Name: Ellen Good
Date: 2005-10-19 18:58:07
Link to this Comment: 16553

The first piece was definitely the best objective definition I have seen that tries to explain tacit knowledge, which itself is something I know exists, but couldn't find words to explain. Some parts of it reminded me of Flatland, when they described inferring people's shapes from the lines, knowing from the way they bend whether they are straight or curved or angled, etc.
As for tacit knowledge in my own experience, I remember plenty of experiences with it, since fairly often I come across something that I try to explain to a friend, which they just don't understand, and I end up turning to metaphor to explain.
A specific example I can remember from recently was reading a short story called Cathedral. The narrator was trying to explain what a cathedral looked like to a blind man, but every time he tried, he realized that what he was saying, about turrets, and houses, and looking like a church but bigger, the blind man couldn't picture at all. He knew what a cathedral looked like, but he wasn't able to communicate the knowledge without being able to point at a picture of one. Eventually he ends up taking the blind man's hand and drawing a cathedral out on a piece of paper in front of him, then letting him feel the drawing once it's done, sort of like the probe that they mention in this reading section. It was really interesting to see this type of knowledge explained in a way that was somewhat concrete, though it took a few re-reads to wrap my brain around the whole idea.

Name: Charlotte
Date: 2005-10-19 19:50:42
Link to this Comment: 16554

I am intrigued by the idea of all the things that go on in our brains that we don't know about or understand. I realize a lot that I can't specify my reasons for wanting to do something or why I feel a certain way. It is really interesting to try and thinkg of the unconscious things that may be going on. It opens an entirely different world than what we are used to. In some ways, it seems that this is to some extent what psychiatrists and psychotherapists deal with. They try to understand what our experiences and senses have contributed to our subconsciouses or unconsciouses and how that expresses itself in our actions and thoughts. This fascinates me because I really feel how that would affect me and my life, like the idea of reason being this type of thing.

conscious consciousness
Name: ayaka
Date: 2005-10-19 20:53:24
Link to this Comment: 16555

Personally, I found these articles very interesting. Perhaps this is because, myself, I have spent a fair amount of time thinking about the nature of my unconscious. It's just really fascinating to me that there's a part of me...inside myself..that the conscious "me" has no awareness of. And then I started thinking about the "conscious me" itself, and the fact that because I'm inside my own self I can't really ever analyze anything objectively, especially not myself- especially not this "unconscious self" that I am not even aware of. As an individual so connected to her own consciousness, though, I find it very hard to imagine exactly how it is that there are things that I go about doing without knowing about it- but I guess that's the whole point of it being unconscious then, isn't it....

Name: Jessica Ch
Date: 2005-10-19 23:00:54
Link to this Comment: 16557

I had a mixed reaction to these readings. I really liked the second and third reading. I thought they were pretty straight-foward and raised interesting topics. I really liked the way unconscious thought was broken down in the Lakoff/Johnson excerpt, and how our idea of reason has to be revised because of the new findings about the subconscious. Though just the idea of philosophy usually makes me very uncomfortable, I thought the second reading was very interesting and comprehensible. I also found the newspaper article - the third reading - interesting. The first two pages got me hooked with their dicussion about coincidence and the general desire to find non-existant patterns and links between things. I found it really easy to relate to. I do think a lot of those "links" we find between things are a stretch, but I never really went past that initial thought.

I really did not like the first reading. It was hard for me to understand what the author was saying a lot of the time. Also, his "shock experiment" examples in the first few pages of his book did not entirely make sense to me. I agree that there are many things that I know that I cannot tell/explain to anyone in any way. However, I think that the experiment in which the one guy avoided certain "shock words," but had no idea that he was doing so, seemed kinda of unbelievable. Thinking about myself, it seems like I would know, if not exactly the words i was avoiding, at least that i was avoiding SOMETHING. how could that be in my subconscious? i guess this is another example of not being able to explain something you "know." but...the idea just doesnt make sense to me. i believe in the significance of the subconscious and tacit knowing, but not everything can be lodged in a person's subconscious. something as obvious as avoiding saying certain things seems like something i'd be fully conscious of.

Unconsciously conscious
Name: Sarah Plac
Date: 2005-10-19 23:22:56
Link to this Comment: 16558

I could really relate to the Lakoff and Johnson piece, just because I thought it explained really well the cognitive unconscious and how we as humans are thinking/acting unconsiously all the time. I thought that it was interesting to read in all three pieces about how the role of science is relevant to the way that my brain works and how I think. Thoughts always seemed just thoughts to me, with nothing scientific about them, really. So to have that explained and how our bodies and systems do things automatically, I thought was interesting. I really like the part in Lakoff and Johnson about the perception of color, and how there isn't really "color", per say. This also tied in the idea of catagorization and how we are always unconsiously catagorizing the world around us, which I also thought interesting to note. All in all, I was really intrigued by it all--coincidence, unconcious, cognitive, tacit, etc. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I never really looked at myself as a scientific thing performing certian biological functions, i.e. catagorizing color, perceptions of objects in relation to me. I've always just thought of me as me, and science was never tied in there. And another thing these readings made me think is that does this leave me any room to believe or have faith? It makes me think that faith and belieiving in something intangible is blissful, butisn't real or true--believing in a lie. But then again, why do we as humans need to know everything?

tacit knowledge
Name: Leslie
Date: 2005-10-19 23:25:34
Link to this Comment: 16559

I was interested in how our tacit knowledge has so much influcence over our perception, without even being aware of it. We think we have free will but how much do we really have? If our perception of reality is controlled so heavily by that which we have no control over, what is really guiding our perception? It seems that the neurons in our brains are putting together
structures that follow some sort of chemical sequence and form the patterns that determine how we see things. Sort of like snow flakes, symetric crystal structures that are built on the same principal, but all different. This explanation of how perception works makes it so easy to understand why we have a hard time understanding each other and why we can't even understand

Name: Ari Briski
Date: 2005-10-20 00:58:57
Link to this Comment: 16560

While reading the last article i kept thinking that mabey parania is often more justified then she seems to think, then finally at the end she quotes her friend as saying "you become paranoid. you have to be", which made more sence to me. i suspose i just like to pass off my paranoia as a "better safe then sorry" philiosophy. in fact the reading itself made me more paranoid if anything by describing all those gruesome murders, but then again i tend to be paranoid in general i suspose...

that picnic game
Name: virginia j
Date: 2005-10-20 02:15:03
Link to this Comment: 16562

who's played the picnic game when one person randomly says 'i'm going on a picnic and i'm bringing _______'? (sarah...they played in firenze at that pizza place before central park) that's the first thing that popped into my head when i was reading polanyi. he writes about the shock experiments and how your mind somehow just figures out what will induce a shock and so it avoids those things (syllables/words). that's how the picnic game is! it's so incredibly random. at least to me. usually people are in some sort of circle and one person will say "i'm going on a picnic and i'm bringing plastic." and the next person will say "oh, sweet well i'm going on the picnic and i'm bringing aluminum." and the first person will say, "aluminum? okay, you can come to the picnic." and then it will circle to me and i'll say, "what? okay i'm going on the picnic and i'm bringing finger sandwiches." and the first person will say, "sorry you can't come on the picnic with us." does anyone know that game? i'm not going to explain anymore, maybe we can play in class : D

so, i'm pretty paranoid and i was raised to be. i didn't sleep over at person's house outside of my extended family until i was 13 cause my mom said so. and then i went to boarding school. i'm also the person that loves to point out coincidences and think about how cool/creepy they are. (we have the same birthday! i think we're going to get married...) i guess i'm a bit stuperstitious. i also like to analyze "what she meant by that..." or "what do you think she thinks i meant by that? cause i really meant more like this." i like thinking about associations and implications and inferences, because i've felt that even though they are 'iffy' in nature, it's more of what people are 'really' thinking. i know! i'm not going to explain that, but when and if it happens i will.

i wanted to add to the comments about dickinson's poem. it's a bit of what my take on it has been (and it's hard for me not to think of this everytime someone talks about it or when i read it) and it offers a partial answer to paul. i think that reality is actually ideas. ideas or associations are made in our mind, which is why the brain is wider, deeper, etc. and thinking about a general concept of god, in many religions god is the creator, the one who created the wideness, the deepness, the blueness. but what dickinson implies is that god and the brain are equal for while the people who believe in god have all these beliefs/faiths that he is responsible for all these things, the 'only reason' he exists is that i, you, him, her, we, them put this belief in him. for a person that chooses not to believe in god he is essentially not there. for someone who does believe in god, she would say, well even if you don't think he's there he is.' but what if no one, no one, no one believe in a god? if religion simply wasn't founded, would there still be a god? no, because there would be no such concept. it would be as if someone tried to explain a third dimension in a flatland. we wouldn't have that association or that concept. why do we have a world? because we create one. when i say world i don't mean objects and people placed all around us, i mean the complex world we live in with all the names, words, labels. if we chose not to define our world with language and communication by forming associations then it wouldn't be what we call a world.

Tacit knowledge
Name: Sydney
Date: 2005-10-20 03:00:44
Link to this Comment: 16563

All these phrases kept popping up in my head as I read these pieces-- "you had to be there"; "a picture's worth a thousand words"; "you know what i mean"; "seeing is believing". all these phrases that say, "well, i can't really express the concept or idea or whatever in the way i want to, or in a way that lets you experience the concept as i did". that's because we can't verbalize all our feelings. as discussed in the first reading, we don't even sense or understand all the feelings that go along with an experience. It's interesting to examine the limits of the spoken (and written) language. even in the english language,-- which has such a huge quantity of words-- we cannot always project to others what it is we're trying to say. even now i can see what i'm writing is not what i'm thinking-- er, not what i'm knowing, i guess. so what can you do?

Name: Jenny Chen
Date: 2005-10-20 04:27:54
Link to this Comment: 16564

I have learned that I think way too much. I'm very picky about all these unnecessary details that end up driving me up the wall. When someone says something to me, I can take it too personally and twist it around when it wasn't what he/she meant. But then, I'm a very good observer. In most cases, after some "hard-core observation sessions", I am good at picking up little things from people's actions. I am able to tell when someone is upset when other people have no clue about it. I can tell when some guy like one of my girl friends. During these past few years, I've always been trying to analyze the way I think. I'm still not very sure about things, but it intrigues me - the way the brain operates.

It is funny how I am just like everyone else. I keep wanting to analyze an event and justify why it happened instead of accepting it as merely a coincidence. It really does feel "like a loss of control" (Belkin, 2). And also, I found this comment interesting: "The more personal the event, the more meaning we give it" (Belkin, 7). It is like how I read my horoscope occasionally and twist it into my own personal life. I always feel as if my horoscope is true. And once in a while, when I get bad horoscopes, I get very scared about what will happen. Why is it that I know my horoscope doesn't control my life, yet I believe in it?

It's interesting how seeing is not really believing since "our brains fill in the factual blanks" (Belkin, 6). Wouldn't it be scary if our discoveries turned out to be just illusions that all of us fell for?

Something I don't understand is that why would anyone analyze something to the point where they are counting the letters of words, adding random numbers together, etc. I know I try to justify things, but not to the point where... well, nevermind. I guess I do it too.

"By concentrating attention on his fingers, a pianist can temporarily paralyze his movement" (Polanyi, 18). This is so true! Whenever I think about the actual notes I have to play next or the keys my fingers should hit next, I lose my place. I just stop and can't remember anything. In order for me to play, I have to relax a bit and not think of a the tiny details.

Class cohorts-coincidence or universal plan
Name: Joanne Bun
Date: 2005-10-20 08:35:57
Link to this Comment: 16565

Blah-blah, blah, blah. Mr. Polanyi did go on and on I think he could have said what he needed to say without repeating himself so many times. My first thought while reading The Tacit Dimension was proximal-getting drunk/distal-being hung over. Maybe I misunderstood the concept but I believe that most of us can relate to that tacit knowledge. I tend to believe that there are times that cannot be explained away by coincidence. The brain may fill in the gaps but we only use about 10% of our brain. Mr. Polanyi although wordy as hell may be exploring the other 90%.

Clearly Confused
Name: Amanda
Date: 2005-10-20 08:37:39
Link to this Comment: 16566

This weeks reading are certainly interesting. Polyani could have made his point with fewer words. Tacit knowing is really cool. It identifies a part of human beings that we cannot find the words for, at the same time finding words for it allow us to have more questions about ourselves and the way we know. There are plenty of times when I cannot explain what I am thinking or feeling and resort to metaphor for reasoning. I consider my self an observer on life and people, including myself. I am always gathering data about the world in my daily interactions and observations and eventually form hypothesis based on what I have gathered. It often takes time to form a hypothesis. It is funny, when I am working on a hypothesis I often use the term confusion. The other day I was telling a teacher my data points and said that I had not formed a hypothesis, as I was confused. She said, ďI am sorry you are confused, and I hope it gets better. ďWhen actually nothing was wrong and I was not really confused, I just did not have one single clear thought about what I was observing, and thought it would take more time to articulate, I then offered the class a metaphor, and my teacher said, ďYou really milk the metaphors. ďOut of confusion comes clarity, hopefully. I am also willing to know that there is never one explanation.

Tacit understanding
Name: Ilana
Date: 2005-10-20 09:51:48
Link to this Comment: 16567

I found the idea of tacit understanding really interesting. I do think that oftentimes we are aware of things that we don't know how to explain. His article also made me think of unwritten/unspoken rules. In every society, there are unspoken rules that everyone just seems to understand and follow. That's problably not exactly what Polanyi means by tacit understanding, but it does seem, in some ways, similar.

tacit knowledge
Name: jessica ca
Date: 2005-10-20 10:06:04
Link to this Comment: 16568

"...we can know more than we can tell." (Polanyi)

According to Polanyi, our minds have hidden truths (which we cannot define), which is what gives everything outside of our body, or what we can observe, meaning.

Furthering this with the ideas that reasoning is "mostly unconscious," "emotionally engaged," and "makes use of our animal nature," there seems to be some commonalities in how the human mind works compared to "lower" animals.

And reasoning, shockingly, comes from our unconscious (which contains these hidden truths).

Actions and instinct
Name: Caroline T
Date: 2005-10-20 10:12:20
Link to this Comment: 16569

I must say that I at first found tacit understanding ridiculously easy, and then couldnít help but get confused as it seemed that the author was advocating a more Platonic view of innate knowledge. Overall, I think that the passages do well in distinguishing the ideas of innate knowledge and the concept that the human mind may unconsciously process information and therefore there being an irreversible difficulty in communication. Tacit knowledge seemed to encompass the ďblank spaceĒ of the mind as discussed in class. However, I think that was tacit knowledge clarified from what was discussed in class is that you cannot think of the human brain as a computer with unwritten sectors of hard drive.
The idea of tacit knowledge, which is extremely comparable to instinct, is basic to all of us. Concious thought is limited, and therefore our body has put certain functions on autopilot. Breathing, digesting, even some movement, are reflexes.
The question that this raises for me is how responsible are we for our actions? If we state as a premise that conscious malignant, deliberate acts are those which carry the greatest threat to others and society, what about actions that our bodies may do without us thinking about it? I realize that this is often allowed for in the legal system, such as a person reacting out of instinct and defending themselves, but it raises an uncomfortable escape from culpability. Almost like determinism, the person seems to become only a pawn, a slave to their bodyís tacit knowledge.

Tacit Knowledge
Name: Kirsten Ju
Date: 2005-10-20 10:26:07
Link to this Comment: 16570

Even though these readings were a little more difficult for me to get through then some of the past readings, I liked them. I really like the idea of not knowing everything that is going on in my brain and of having knowledge that I don't even realize I have. I mean honestly, if all the knowledge that I was aware of was all that was in my brain it would be depressing. I would be a lot more boring and a lot less intelligent than I like to think I am. I also liked the changes in our understanding of reason that was presented in the reading by Lakoff and Johnson. Basically these readings just made a lot of sense to me, I liked them, and that's that.

The Secret Universe
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-10-23 21:39:37
Link to this Comment: 16601

This weekend's New York Times Book Review has a piece on a new book by Lisa Randall, Warped Passages: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Universe's Hidden Dimensions. Strong shadows of Flatland here. Listen up:

"The models that Randall and her collaborator Raman Sundrum have been building may explain one of the gretest mysteries in physics: why is gravity so weak compared with the other forces in the universe?...'A tiny magnet can lift a paper clip, even though all the mass of the earth is pulling it in the opposite direction.' The electromagnetic force is a trillion trillion trillion times as powerful as gravity. To account for gravity's feebleness,...What if, they ask, higher dimensions are not small and curled up but large, perhaps infinite in size?...they build models of what the universe might look like if it consisted of...a four-dimensional brane that exists on the surface of a five-dimensional space...."


3 more story-revisions
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-10-24 18:39:37
Link to this Comment: 16624

First Story
This past weekend, I took my "other" class down to The Wilma Theater (highly recommended!) to see "I am My Own Wife." As I told those students today, that play--in which a gay guy from Texas seeks out, idealizes, and is broken to learn about the compromises and complicity of an East German transvestite who survived both Nazism and Stalism--put me highly in mind of the line from Brecht's Galileo, with which our section spent so much time: "Blest be the land that needs no hero." This impulse to seek in others the sort of perfection we can't manage for ourselves...

needs revising!

Second story
(embedded in an invitation to come on over to English House....)
Drive-By Shoot

Third story
is yours. Report in here on what sorts of tacit knowledge you'll be exploring for your own project, and how you plan to do so...

Fourth possibility
Responses to this week's readings--Vygotsky and Pinker--are of course also welcome.

Project on Horoscopes
Name: Jenny Chen
Date: 2005-10-25 13:18:20
Link to this Comment: 16628

Guys, I'm conducting an experiment right now that will take around 7 days for each of my subjects. There is a short survey that is very easy to complete. It will take around 3-5 minutes to fill out. Over the 7 days, I will talk to each person for around 10-15 minutes. It's just like a normal conversation... "catching up time" and people giving me a general idea about how their day went. It is also ranting time =) to some people.

It will be okay if I don't see you every day. You may have to check your email before starting the day and after the day is over if I don't see you. I can also call if that makes things easier.

Let me know if you are interested in participating this study. It won't be too bad. Everything that I hear will be kept confidentially, I promise.

tacit v. projected self
Name: Jessica Ch
Date: 2005-10-25 21:29:26
Link to this Comment: 16629

I am going to explore how closely my own tacit knowledge is related to the type of person i think i am. through observations of tacit knowledge that people have observed in me, i will "create" a person that i believe would embody all of them, and then compare that person to what i consider my "real self." i'll try to analyze any major differences between the two people and find out why these differences much tacit knowledge we refuse to accept in our consciousness/how much is translated into consciousness that we dont accept...why...stuff like that

Name: Charlotte
Date: 2005-10-26 20:26:55
Link to this Comment: 16638

I am thinking of exploring how tacit knowledge works itself into all aspects of our lives and how we see it express itself.

Name: Sarah Plac
Date: 2005-10-26 22:44:53
Link to this Comment: 16643

I have changed my topic from studying when our bodies decide to go to sleep and if that is tacit knowledge to the study of how our bodies are tacitly protecting us constantly through the act of flinching. The reason why I chose this is because I am a big flincher with crazy reflexes. I'm that guy in doctor's office whose leg goes a mile in the air or on the dodgeball field I duck for cover rather than play the game. I'm interested in why my body is so finely attuned to this, and perhaps other people are as not. I plan to study this by asking people if they would be interested in my study of exploring tacit knowledge, and I'll go on for a bit and then out of the blue pretend to throw a toy ball that I will be holding and see their reaction. They will be caught offguard, and I'll explain that, and then I will tell them that I am now going to throw this ball at you. Again, I will pretend to throw the ball to them, and I will record the difference in flinching reactions in both cases, and see what the differences are.

Name: Jessy
Date: 2005-10-26 23:00:29
Link to this Comment: 16644

Unfortunately, I used up my day's quota of analytical skills long before I started trying to write this post. I don't feel like thinking about my experiment, so I'll write about the reading a little.

I enjoyed the Vygotsky reading very much, and I would like to say something about that, and indeed I tried for quite a while to do so, but I couldnít come up with anything worth while.

(other than twinspeak: sometimes twins make up a private language while they are very little, and I wonder if twinspeak isnít a Ďdialectí of egocentric/inner speech. Perhaps Vygotsky didnít bring it up because theyíre not actually the same thing, or the connection hasnítí been tested at all?)

In the Pinker reading: ďIn natureís talent show we are simply a species of primate with our own act, a knack for communicating information about who did what to whom by modulating the sounds we make as we exhale.Ē

I like that very much. I dislike the idea that Homo sapiens is the pinnacle of evolution, and disagree with attempts to set us apart from the rest of life on Earth. We may have the most advanced intra-species communication system (except when there isnít a common language, which more or less puts us back at the starting point of gestures), but other species also communicate, and itís really a question of difference of degree. And furthermore, it is limiting to only look at this moment in time. Evolution happens, and some other species may develop a sophisticated communication system. We can already teach gorillas our communication system in part.

Iím casting around for a good, linguistically-related conclusion and not finding one. Maybe in class something will come out.

Tacit Knowledge Project
Name: Ellen Good
Date: 2005-10-26 23:40:38
Link to this Comment: 16645

In the responses to the survey I sent out, I got a lot of comments on meeting and/or talking to people on the phone after getting to know them via the internet first, so I think I'm going to concentrate on looking into how our "first impressions" (in this case, I mean the first time we meet them in person or physically speak to them) of someone are changed if we have known them before this first face-to-face (or voice-to-voice) meeting. I had a wide variety of responses in this section, one person reported feeling "disenchanted" after meeting the friend they had been speaking to for several years prior in person. Another reported that it didn't feel very different at all from just talking online, while another reported that they were completely taken aback because they had different assumptions of what the person looked/dressed/acted like.
I found those sections very interesting, and I plan on taking a closer look at them, to see if there are relations among the types of relationships (for example, those who knew one another romantically seemed to feel a little more awkward meeting in person than those who were just friends prior to meeting).

il mio project
Name: virginia j
Date: 2005-10-27 01:13:58
Link to this Comment: 16646

Michelle, "Well since you're interested in fashion anyway why don't you do something on why people wear what they wear?"

Why, thank you, Michelle, I believe I will.

Tacit knowledge project
Name: Ari
Date: 2005-10-27 01:28:36
Link to this Comment: 16647

So I shall be changing my project as well. I was going to do tacit recognition of each other, but I now want to switch to how we mimic each other tacitly. I will test this by greeting people in one of three ways, smiling, waving, or nodding, and then seeing if they return my greeting in the same fashion. hopefully that works...

Name: Rebecca
Date: 2005-10-27 01:57:53
Link to this Comment: 16649

Originally, I experimented in observing how people fidget in some manner or another, without realizing it, seeing as a body is rather connected to a person, yet people would be unaware of their body's movement.

However, I have changed my experiment to studying phobias, through questions, demonstrations, and observations. If anyone'd like to help, feel free to contact me :)

Name: jenny lee
Date: 2005-10-27 02:13:10
Link to this Comment: 16650

Yes, we all like to flirt. It's fun and exciting. Unexpected events occur or nothing happens at all. The possibility makes it all the more exciting and enjoyable. But we aren't always aware that that's what we're doing. We can be friendly, making simple conversation, while the person gets the wrong idea. What makes us act so? How come we're not always aware of what we're doing, acting, saying that makes us flirty? Why don't we always pick up those subtle (but very obvious) hints from others, or pick up on those that are nonexistent?

It's our tacit knowledge that assumes, which can lead to dire situations, or funny ones. Regardless of results from flirting or not, there is a kind of communication that occurs implicitly.

I want to find out what it is about flirting or not that we discern as such, and that can be a control factor--a general rule of flirting. How was it that our tacit beings became aware of such actions? If I can find out what it is that we assume in a conversation to be flirting, then I can find out what it is about flirting that we like so much.

(sorry for the late posting. my day's been ridiculous, and of course this was the last thing I could remember having to do.)

Name: Sydney
Date: 2005-10-27 02:56:02
Link to this Comment: 16652

I'm totally impressed and intimidated by the ideas that you all have come up with and am feeling a bit embarrassed by my relatively primitive idea (which isn't even my idea, but a friend's suggestion-- oy!). In addition, the data I have thus far collected has been "incorrect", or not agreeing with the pattern observed in the general population. Nonetheless, I shall plow bravely (or clumsily) forward with my experiment. Perhaps getting a different result than expected will lead me to discover something that wasn't apparent before. So, I should now like to try my test on you all (it takes under a minute):

"Count the number of 'f's"

If you have done this test before, please stop now.

Read the following sentence ONCE, and count the number of "f"s that you encounter:

Finished files are the re-
sult of years of scientif-
ic study combined with the
experience of years.

If you could send me an email (skrausmale@bmc) with "count the f's" in the subject line and the number you counted in the message box, that would be awesome!! Your names will not be used (or considered, for that matter), by the way. Send your email from a friend's account if you prefer! Muchissimas gracias!!!

Oh, and I enjoyed the readings (what I got thru), too! Pinker's piece goes very well with our current study of genetics in bio!

Name: Ada
Date: 2005-10-27 08:37:27
Link to this Comment: 16655

My experiment is going to focus on the direction of tacit knowledge through the observations of free word association, dream patterns, and subconscious mannerisms. I may add another element, but for now I'm focused on these things. I interviewed six people (Myself, My Roommate, My Boyfriend, A High School Boy, A College Boy, and A College Girl) hoping to identify connections in tacit knowledge based on gender. In addition, I'm going to examine the associations of tacit knowledge with everyday life through patterns, individual and group responses, and through my own observations of these people. One of the things I find most interesting about my observations are the results to the "backwards" associations. After receiving the response to my original list of words, I then took that newly generated list and asked for responses based on those words to see whether or not the answers would go backwards. For example, I said the word "gold" and got the response "silver". I then said "silver" and got the response "gold". However, this of course did not apply for all of them, which is why I intend to more closely observe the directions of tacit knowledge.

Name: Unnati
Date: 2005-10-27 08:48:30
Link to this Comment: 16656

As part of observing I am trying to watch the change in people's reaction and tone of voice to people and situation. I have noticed that without realizing many people's faces automatically light up at the mention of certain names and shrink at the mention of certain others. I must mention that not all people's faces lit up at tne mention of my name.

Talking about the readings I enjoyed reading the 'Chatterbox' article, I had never really thought about how little children put proper grammar in their sentences at such little ages. There are part I don't agree on but I can't deny it was a really interesting read.

Name: Silvena Ch
Date: 2005-10-27 09:06:26
Link to this Comment: 16657

I plan on exploring the tacit knowledge in conjunction with mental illness utilitizing my own observations with a friend's schizophrenic episodes.

gastric bypass
Date: 2005-10-27 09:53:04
Link to this Comment: 16658

For the last year I have had to relearn how to eat after having had gastric bypass.It has been a verynqiue exprience.Not only do I need to eat new kinds of food I have to learn how to chew smaller pieces and eat slower all the time. This is a great example of tactic learning.It is easy to forget and take a big bite or gulp.

on studying the unconscious
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2005-10-27 10:31:58
Link to this Comment: 16659

Some maybe useful general thoughts about where you are/might be going ....
  1. Is it true that there are influences on a person's behavior that they are unaware of? ie is "tacit knowledge" or the "unconscious" real? The task is to collect observations that would, among other things, help to answer that question. The issue here is how would one know that something one observes reflects "tacit knowledge" or the "unconscious". A useful answer that emerged in Tuesday discussion was "the things observed are surprises to the person being observed (either some one else or onself as the case may be)"
  2. How can one account for the particular observations one has made, ie what does it suggest is a particular aspect of "tacit knowledge", the "unconscious" ... what is there that would explain the particular observations made? This is not just the observations but your interpretation of them, your way of making sense of them in terms of features you infer exist in "tacit knowedge"/the "unconscious".
  3. What general characteristics of "tacit knowledge"/the "unconscious" do your observations/interpretations suggest may exist? This is the sort of issue that Pinker and Vygotsky try and address, as in other ways do both Bettleheim and, of course, Freud. Particular cases can't, of course, establish general principles but they can certainly point in directions worth further exploration. By comparing a number of particular cases (as we have the opportunity to do from our collective effort, and one by comparing/contrasting the particular case one as studied with other efforts to make generalizations, new thoughts/ideas can emerge.

"Draft B", due next Tuesday, should be an essay in which report observations and interpretations of them, as per points 1 and 2 above. "Draft C", due a week after, should subsume Draft B by setting it in the context of a more general consideration of the nature of "tacit knowledge"/the "unconscious" along the lines of point 3 above. Remember that the writing/thinking is always bidirectional; the same holds for making/interpreting observations (as well as making/interpreting observations and writing/thinking). If you discover as you are thinking/writing that some additional observations might be helpful you're more than welcome to make/add them.

Tacit Knowledge 2: Communication
Name: Caroline T
Date: 2005-10-27 10:35:40
Link to this Comment: 16660

What strikes me about these discussions about tacit knowledge is the difficulty of expressing it, and therefore interpreting this. For instance, someone who is tapping their leg may do so for infinitely different reasons.
But the other element of this, the difficulty of expressing any idea, seems much more pervasive. How often are we stuck because of an inability to communicate? And language barriers are also barries of thinking. For instance, time is expressed different in different cultures. Some, instead of having the Western linear format, view time as a fountain. Saying that something it ahead in time then simply isn't possible without losing information.
I think the reading touched nicely on "thinking without sounds". Bilingual people seem to experience this more from my personal experience. But many people think in images, or feelings instead of clean logical ideas. One has to wonder is the inability to properly communicate ois because of a lacking in our current methods, lacking in mastery of current methods, or if we should give up and just invent a form of telepathy.

Name: Lauren
Date: 2005-10-27 22:08:19
Link to this Comment: 16674

I originally was going to do a "case study
of myself, observing relearning swimming technique that was tacit after years of practice and abruptly interrupted. However this is somewhat impractical, so I am going to do a study on not being able to communicate verbally. here is my way to detailed thing:

How much of communication is tacit? If you can not hear what someone is saying, understand them, or verbalize your thoughts, does this increase your personal isolation? Although communication through body language and tacit movements is key, I hypothesize that if temporarily deaf a person will feel more isolated, as they can no longer verbally communicate, than if they are temporarily blind. I believe that this person will also become more paranoid and may interpret ambiguous situations as hostile. I am basing this on some of the psychology I have read as well as our reading on tacit knowledge.
The experiment consists of a random sample broken into two groups, the control and the experimental. Each group will complete a ďtestĒ after the exercise. The first day, the exercise will consist of merely filling out a test which consists of images illustrating ambiguous situations and a description of how you feel in general, basically a paragraph about your mood and anything you feel like writing at the moment. The experimental group will be deaf (by wearing earplugs) for an hour the following day at any time they choose, as long as they are not just in their room alone or in a class. Immediately following the activity, they will fill out an equivalent test.
It will be a blind experiment in which the groups will be randomly labeled either ďAĒ or ďBĒ and the subjects will receive a number. Only after reading the observations for ďAĒ and ďBĒ and interpreting them will the experimenter be aware of which was the control and which was the experimental.
Here is a simple breakdown:
I. Randomly assign groups ďAĒ and ďBĒ and subject numbers. With help of assistant
II. Have both groups complete the test
III. The experimental group wears ear for an hour of their own time and takes the test immediately afterward.
IV. Tests are returned to box by door and experimenter cannot open until day three.
V. Experimenter records responses for ďAĒ and ďBĒ and interprets them
VI. Experimenter reveals which was experimental group
VII. Experimenter evaluates hypothesis and forms new question or records conclusion or both.

Just because, here is my original plan:
At 5:00 a.m. I went to swim practice for two hours every weekday this summer. Practice also ran 4-6 p.m. every weekday afternoon and 6-8 Saturday morning. This is a typical swimmerís schedule. I began swimming five days a week in second grade and have hardly missed a day since.
That is a lot of practice Ė a lot of muscle memory Ė and a lot of tacit knowledge. This knowledge of how to swim properly was born of repetition. By properly, I mean efficiently. As the basics became natural, I learned to refine my technique. Swimmers do volumes of meterage, but it is more than just speed and endurance conditioning. Technical drilling breaks down strokes so you have to focus on the more proximal elements. This way, a swimmer may understand what is inefficient about their stroke and consciously correct it. Reintegrating the particulars of oneís stroke requires intense concentration and vigilant practice so as not to revert back to old habits.
Clearly I have built up a strong tacit knowledge in swimming. However, I have not swam for over two months because I am recovering from a bicycle accident. Therefore, I am interested to notice the difference of my experience now in swimming as compared to two months ago. It is not the loss of conditioning I am concerned about; I have still maintained my basic aerobic fitness level. Rather, the feel for the water. I predict that I will have to think much more about my body position, the angle at which my arm enters the water, and other elements that came as naturally as walking. Having to relearn the strokes is frustrating. However, I am not completely discouraged. As Polantyi asserted, ďmotion studies, which tend to paralyze a skill, will improve it when followed by practice.Ē Perhaps I have forgotten old habits and can reintegrate my strokes with improved technique. If I donít revert to old habits, then I will not have lost so much ground. It must be a win-win situation.
My experiment will consist of a journal observing myself in practice. This does of course lead to a complete lack of objectivity and diversity. However, case studies have as much to offer as anything else. As Polanyi points out, ďall knowledge is of the same kind as the knowledge of a problem.Ē If finding hidden problems is a goal in itself, then case studies are wealthy jumping off points. I think the in depth observation and evaluation of my own experience will present factors I cannot predict presently and illuminate questions that are jumping off points for broader research. And I am ďdeeply committed to the conviction that there is something to be discovered,Ē even if it eludes me indefinitely.


anthropologists on earth....
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-10-31 10:00:52
Link to this Comment: 16720

Our readings for this week are two stories from Oliver Sacks' collection An Anthropologist on Mars. How are they like (and different) in what they demonstrate about tacit knowledge? How do they add to, simplify or complicate your understanding of tacit knowledge? How do they intersect (or not) w/ your own collections of data on tacit knowledge?

"the case against intuition" (?)
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-11-01 14:32:14
Link to this Comment: 16746

I told my group about Anthony Appiah's talk, last Thursday, focusing on the many studies in experimental psychology showing us all to be "situationists": we respond to circumstances rather than act out of "character" (for instance, a good smell or a found coin will make us more likely to help another in trouble). So, if most of us act instinctively, not knowing why we do what we do, if most of what we do occurs tacitly, without our awareness--how arrive @ ethical theory and judgments?

This Thursday, November 3, @ 8 p.m., Appiah will give his third talk,
entitled "The Case Against Intuition."
Just MIGHT be relevant here....

Name: Jessica Ch
Date: 2005-11-02 16:48:11
Link to this Comment: 16767

I really liked the readings by Oliver Sacks, though my understanding of tacit knowledge was not really clarified by either story.

In both stories, it seemed as if the "characters" (greg and bennett) were mainly ruled by their subconscious, or tacit least more so than a "normal" person. Sack's often describes both of them as childlike, which i thought was interesting. we are usually more truthful "free" as children. so, is being ruled by your subconscious/tacit knowledge being free of all inhibition and social fears? is it your true self, and your conscious just a filter over it? from the narratives, the answer seems uncertain, since greg is sometimes described as being empty or devoid of personality...

I found it interesting that both Greg and Bennett would become "normal" when stimulated in specific ways. I didn't exactly know what to think of that...I guess it kind of relates to normal when you're just sitting somewhere and nothing is interesting you, your mind tends to wander and, in a sense, your subconscious takes over. But, when you do find something of interest, your focus is almost always entirely on whatever you're doing and you ignore other distractions. I also thought it was interesting that Bennett admitted he had really dark thoughts in his subconscious, since it seemed out of character, and shows that he is not completely controlled by his tacit knowledge.

Name: Jessy
Date: 2005-11-02 17:34:49
Link to this Comment: 16768

I'm not sure I understand why this reading is included as part of the tacit knowledge module. Both Greg and Dr. Bennett seem to be missing some unconscious cognitive function which most people possess: Greg has lost all initiative and drive, and Bennett lacks some kind of inhibition or control valve (to state both cases simply and crudely). Is the point the point of this reading to show that there are parts of our unconscious brain which control and guide and goad us, without us ever realizing it?

I've read The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, also by Oliver Sacks, and I enjoyed this reading just as I did that book. Sacks describes bizarre cases in layman's terms and draws interesting conclusions about humanity. There's plenty of entertainment value in that. Part of the draw, as in fairy tales, in the grotesque elements in so many of these cases; with these stories, drawn from real life cases, there is also the horrible thought that one of these things might happen to you or someone close to you, or the comforting thought that they haven't, that whatever you have to deal with *that* isn't one of them.

The title chapter of The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat deals with a man whose eyes worked fine but, if I recall correctly, whose brain did not interpret what he saw in a normal or useful way, so that he thought his wife's head was his hat. This man's profession was musical - I forget the exact nature of his work - and so he was able to continue with what he loved best. But I am a visual person, and I know that if I ever developed any kind of serious visual problem, besides the significant near-sightedness I already have (really bad genes, from both my parents), I would have to change how I live and think considerably; that's frightening, and that's part of why I enjoyed the story, especially since nothing like that has happened to me.

Being on Mars and using tacit knowledge
Name: Joanne
Date: 2005-11-02 18:27:18
Link to this Comment: 16771

Greg not realizing that he was blind made me queasy. To think that a person can so completely ďforgetĒ one of the five senses really bothered me. Although tacitly I believe that he knew something was wrong or he would not have been so resistant to learning Braille. The same with his fatherís death-he kept looking for something, saying he lost something and he had no desire to go home for the holidays.

I found it fascinating that Greg put Connie in a context that he could easily remember. Putting her in his high school setting it seemed to me that he wanted to remember her and that was the only way he could. The tacit knowledge that he developed about the layout of the facility and some of the staff was an interesting point as well.

Bennettís ability to perform surgery is a great example of using tacit knowledge. It is remarkable that someone who under ordinary circumstances has to fidget and touch things almost like OCD. Can put him in a state of overdrive (meditative) and focus in one thing. It also sound to me like it takes great will power to maintain self control under ďnormalĒ circumstances.

In some ways Bennett has added to my understating of tacit knowledge. Translating that understanding to my own work will take some time.

Name: Ilana
Date: 2005-11-02 19:48:13
Link to this Comment: 16774

I enjoyed the Oliver Sack's reading, and in both stories I was struck by the subjects' relationships to music. In the cases of both Greg and Dr. Bennett, they seem to tacitly react more strongly to music or a sense of rhythm...Greg with his songs and limericks and Dr. Bennett with the smooth motions/flow/musicality of operating.

Is it possible that some things are tacitly assimilated more easily than others? Do people tacitly respond more strongly to music than, for instancec, to words or numbers? This would be an interesting theory to test...

Tacit Knowledge and Tourette's
Name: Ellen Good
Date: 2005-11-02 20:10:37
Link to this Comment: 16776

My younger brother actually has a minor case of Tourette's, and I had minor symptoms of the disease that disappeared with adolescence (occasionally happens with less serious cases of the disease), so I found Bennett's story very interesting. It also brought back a lot of memories from my own experiences with Tourette's. I had a very minor case, so much so that I was able to supress it most of the time, and I actually refused to admit I had it until many years after the symptoms had vanished. My mother had noticed that I had some of the same tics as Kevin, but I refused to go in for testing, and because she wasn't altogether sure in the first place that I had it, and because I started hiding it around her again, she didn't force me to.
I used to have this sort of nose twitch that I did, and I'd put my head down on the desk in school all the time so I could do it without anyone noticing, and I used to repeat syllables under my breath, after I said something. My brother did a lot of the same things, but louder, more noticeably, and he also hit himself in the head whenever he was angry, or raked his fingernails across the carpet.
I also remember how what Bennett describes as the "darker side" of Tourette's felt, the bouts of irrational anger, most of which, for me, was directed at my brother. I never took it out on him, and I kept myself from hitting or throwing thing, but I ended up needing braces on my front teeth because I used to cross them and then grind them whenever I was angry. After a few years, it made a gap between my two front teeth.
But whenever I didn't think about it, especially the tics, if I didn't think about repeating them, and focused on something else, like Bennett with his surgery, I didn't have them any more. And eventually, after I hit high school years, they disappeared. My younger brother's case is slightly more severe than mine, and his have not disappeared, though when he takes medication for it, they go away for as long as the dosage lasts.
As for how Tourette's relates to tacit knowledge, I'm still trying to work that out. It reminds me of tacit knowledge in that there are differences in the affects if you think about it consciously or not, but it seems more like a malfunction of tacit knowledge than a form of knowing.

Name: Leslie
Date: 2005-11-02 20:11:00
Link to this Comment: 16777

I'm not sure how tacit knowledge applies to Greg. Since we don't really understand fully how the brain operates, how can we know what is going on when part is damaged or missing? Greg seemed to have lost the ability to 'stack' new information into his existing memories. It is as though that link was no longer there. I had wondered whether his insisting that he was not blind was because he was actually seeing images, and that his brain had rewired things so that he truly believed that he was seeing.

Bennett's ability to do surgery despite having turrets was very interesting. It is as though when our conscious mind becomes fully focused we are able to shut off the messages and interference that comes from the sub-conscious

me musing on Sacks
Name: Deborah
Date: 2005-11-02 20:18:47
Link to this Comment: 16778

I found what Dr. Sacks pointed out concerning amnesia patients growing familiar to their surroundings interesting. It is comforting in a way that there is proof that a person can "know" their surroundings even if they can't remember anything else- though I suppose that is the real question isn't it- can they learn other things as they learn the place they live. I remember feeling confused when Sacks said his amnesiac patients slowly became familiar with the hospital and nurses in other writings of his. I like the idea that tacit knowledge can explain this- it makes alot of sense to me. However- I can't fully see how tacit knowledge has anything to do with Tourette's- perhaps the tics themselves are caused by the unconcious? They seem to come to the person out of the blue- "Then one morning it's gone, and there is another one in it's place" but they don't really come out of the blue- such as Bennett's "Hi Patty" tic- his old girlfriend enshrined for him by him. That smacks of unconsious to me- it also sounds alot like the word associations we were making last class (for whatever's that's worth) though then again I suppose we were arguing slightly about whether those associations came from the unconsious or from some random stack somewhere in the brain.

Ok- lets get back on topic- I also found the fact that rhythem seemed to "fix" many of the problems of both Greg and Bennett. Though that seems to be a common theme with alot of Sack's writings/patients. In The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat the man could only get dressed if he was humming get dressed music- he could only eat if humming music- if he was interrupted or stopped he no longer could recognize food as eatable or pants as clothing- the unconcious (perhaps the tacit knowledge) that enabled him to recognize objects and faces generally- without having to painstakingly reason out- was gone for him- but music brought most of it back. Other stories in that book also had similar musical themes- tunes from a long ago mostly forgotton childhood became obsessively stuck in two women's heads. And there were enphilitis patients that could come more out of thier stupor when music played- then again they could also come partly out if a ball was thrown at them or if there was a pattern on the ground...

All this really says to me is that the human brain is extremely complicated- probably way more complicated than we will ever understand.

Name: michelle
Date: 2005-11-02 20:43:06
Link to this Comment: 16779

I have a friend who has tourette's and was struck by the similatries between her and Bennet. Lisa and I have known eachother our whole lives.Our mothers were childhood friends and in eachothers weddings.Lisa's habits started when we were in grade school. At the time she would flip up her uniform skirt and pull on her underwear.She would also bend down and touch the ground when we crossed.Her mother would beg her to stop and even punish her. She was diagnosed in her late teens, and found the medicine to make her groggy and sluggish.She uses foul lanuage over and over, flips her middle finger etc.When she is around new people she works very hard on trying to hide her ticks.It is exhausting for her, and I do feel sorry for her then. But like Bennet, when she is at work doing her thing she is free of ticks. Also, walking on a treadmill is very very good for her.
She has fits of anger at home and this is stressful for her daughter and husband.Her daughter is now showing traits of tourret's.
This reading gave me great insight to tacit knowledge and I am going to try to call Lisa before class.

Oliver Sacks
Name: Rushita Pa
Date: 2005-11-02 22:12:47
Link to this Comment: 16780

I found the Last Hippie and A surgeon's life both very interesting reading. They were full of observations and evidence and I enjoy stories that are linked to real life. I found both of these stories very scientific, and I have a very scientific mind, this is why I enjoyed them. I think both pieces exemplified tacit knowledge through their stories, and I found that very interesting. When Greg was told his father had died, he was shown to forget about the next day. However, the narrator later states that "One could not avoid the feeling that Greg was looking for his father, even though he could give no account of what he was doing and had no explicit knowledge of what he had lost. But, it seemed to me, there was perhaps now an implicit knowledge and perhaps, too, a symbolic knowing." This shows that even though he may not have been capable of remembering his father's death due to his condition, he still had some type of knowledge of loss (something not apparent to him). In A surgeon's life, Bennet shows tacit knowledge when his Tourette's sympotoms dissapear when he operates. One would assume that a person with Tourrete's syndrome carries the symptoms with them at all times, however it is interesting how for Bennet they dissapear when he performs surgery (aka a different state of mind). He admits that even he doesn't know why this occurs.

Date: 2005-11-02 22:31:14
Link to this Comment: 16781

I really liked Sacks.

It made me feel like I know Greg and Bennet. In terms of tacit knowledge both are really great, extreme examples. Whether they add to or complicate my understanding of tacit knowledge I am not sure.

Greg was seemingly stuck in the past, yet some of his expressions seemed to relate to the here and now, like when his father died, he woke up in the middle of the night and he thought he lost something. Gregís attendance to the world is in his mind in many ways and music infuses him with spirit, or it touches him in a way that nothing else does. Somewhere inside him a ďdecisionĒ, whether it has to do with the damaged brain or something other than the damage, to attend to the world as it was in the 60ís while attending from the way it is seen by the majority.

Bennet on the other hand is a different example, he is able to maintain a ďrealĒ here and now experience so he can function in the world as its seen by the majority, yet at the same time his unconscious is constantly breaking through the here and now and he barely notices. There are words and actions that he expresses and cannot always know where they come from and how they got there. In effect attending to the here and now while attending from the unconscious spurts. At the same time he is able to conduct delicate surgical procedures. Wow, he is pretty amazing.

It leads me to think that there are tacit elements of how we learn and express even more than before. It makes me wonder about why we attend to people like Greg and Bennet, who seem to be extreme examples, and it makes me think about the ďregularĒ person and if we were observed ourselves little pieces of attendance could be seen (or not because they are ďregularĒ, therefore possibly harder to notice) more clearly.

In the context of my teacher observations, at this point, I am not really sure what my teachers are attending to. I had a few hypothesis about each but as I watch them more I notice how every class is very different, every teacher is different and they are not all that consistent. Actually there is one out of the bunch that is consistent but the others are not. The only solid thing I can say is they are not always attending to the class, and it is not always clear what they are in fact attending to. I am not really sure what they are attending from unless it is something unconscious within themselves.

My idea about teachers is that there is an unspoken part of their teaching that serves an unconscious desire to be seen and heard, whether they are fully aware of it or not. I wonder if by attending to a class while attending from a desire, the desire is satisfied with the way they are attending? Can attending to serve the attending from? Maybe it is more of a system than a one way action?

Name: Amanda
Date: 2005-11-02 22:32:02
Link to this Comment: 16782

I really liked Sacks.

It made me feel like I know Greg and Bennet. In terms of tacit knowledge both are really great, extreme examples. Whether they add to or complicate my understanding of tacit knowledge I am not sure.

Greg was seemingly stuck in the past, yet some of his expressions seemed to relate to the here and now, like when his father died, he woke up in the middle of the night and he thought he lost something. Gregís attendance to the world is in his mind in many ways and music infuses him with spirit, or it touches him in a way that nothing else does. Somewhere inside him a ďdecisionĒ, whether it has to do with the damaged brain or something other than the damage, to attend to the world as it was in the 60ís while attending from the way it is seen by the majority.

Bennet on the other hand is a different example, he is able to maintain a ďrealĒ here and now experience so he can function in the world as its seen by the majority, yet at the same time his unconscious is constantly breaking through the here and now and he barely notices. There are words and actions that he expresses and cannot always know where they come from and how they got there. In effect attending to the here and now while attending from the unconscious spurts. At the same time he is able to conduct delicate surgical procedures. Wow, he is pretty amazing.

It leads me to think that there are tacit elements of how we learn and express even more than before. It makes me wonder about why we attend to people like Greg and Bennet, who seem to be extreme examples, and it makes me think about the ďregularĒ person and if we were observed ourselves little pieces of attendance could be seen (or not because they are ďregularĒ, therefore possibly harder to notice) more clearly.

In the context of my teacher observations, at this point, I am not really sure what my teachers are attending to. I had a few hypothesis about each but as I watch them more I notice how every class is very different, every teacher is different and they are not all that consistent. Actually there is one out of the bunch that is consistent but the others are not. The only solid thing I can say is they are not always attending to the class, and it is not always clear what they are in fact attending to. I am not really sure what they are attending from unless it is something unconscious within themselves.

My idea about teachers is that there is an unspoken part of their teaching that serves an unconscious desire to be seen and heard, whether they are fully aware of it or not. I wonder if by attending to a class while attending from a desire, the desire is satisfied with the way they are attending? Can attending to serve the attending from? Maybe it is more of a system than a one way action?

Name: Charlotte
Date: 2005-11-02 22:47:32
Link to this Comment: 16783

I found both of these readings extremely interesting. In both of them the people were able to function when they had a certain rhythm going. The boy who had the tumor found his rhythm through music while the surgeon found his through activites like flying or operating. This makes me think that even though there seem to random outbursts sometimes coming from our tacit knowledge, they might not be as random as we believe. I thought it was fascinating to read how these two people were able to function as a result of their tacit knowledge even though some aspects of their thoughts or actions were problematic.

Name: Sarah Plac
Date: 2005-11-02 22:54:00
Link to this Comment: 16785

I really thoroughly enjoyed both of these readings. I have always been interested and intriuged by the whole idea of phrenology and what causes certain disorders like Tourettes. I'd say that I loved these readings just as much as I loved the fairy tale readings. I found the story of Greg in The Last Hippie somewhat disconcerting. His tumor made it seem as if could happen to anyone, any day. And the fact that he didn't know that he was blind was also creepy. But then that makes sense since he only lives in his own created world, and then why the need for sight? I also thought that it was really interesting how Sacks brings the idea that a case such as Greg's could be liberating, that at times we all would like to "escape" from our realities, even just temporary. It makes it seem like a vacation, an almost wanted condition. To me it raised to question of whether having this kind of condition was "a good thing", because then you do not have to deal with all the emotions that are both good and bad. But that was just me thinking, that doesn't have to do with tacit knowledge. I really thought that the 2nd piece was quite inspiring. A surgeon with Tourette's? Who've thunk? It seems like an oxymoron but then not, because of all the concentration and attention that goes into surgury. I think Tourette's is an interesting idea in terms of tacit knowledge--doing something without thinking. But I think in some ways that Dr. Bennett was aware of it so it lessens the tacit knowledge, esp. in the case that he let him self go in the sense that he became more comfortable around Sacks, so he's doing his tics and is aware of them because he's limiting them. But then is it tacit because he can't help it? Or can we control our tacit knowledge in a way, like Bennett does in surgury? This reading made me think a lot, and I was so incredibly interested by it.

Anthropologist on Mars
Name: Sydney
Date: 2005-11-02 23:56:37
Link to this Comment: 16786

I really enjoyed these excerpts from Sacks' book, though I'm not sure I see a clear connection between them and tacit knowledge. The concept of the unconscious and the kind of control it can have on us is a fascinating and complicated topic.

The mind is so incredibly complicated and we're only just beginning to scratch the surface of our understanding of it. I was kind of uncomfortable reading about Greg's condition and the analysis that Sacks did of it, because I feel like everything he was concluding seemed like a stab in the dark. Tourette's seems a bit more concrete in that it's symptoms are more concrete, but there is still a lot of ambiguity. What was most informative for me was hearing Bennett's own definition of the "disease" and of himself as someone with Tourette's. The quote that summed it up best for me was, "'It's not gentle.... You can see it as whimsical, funny--be tempted to romanticize it--but Tourette's comes from deep down in the nervous system and the unconscious. It taps into the oldest, strongest feelings we have. ...when it takes over, there's just a thin line of control...between you and it, between you and that raging storm.... One can see the charming things, the funny things , the creative side of Tourette's, but there's also that dark side. You have to fight it all your life'" (100).

The other thing that fascinated me was the role of music in both men's circumstances, especially for Greg. I think it goes along with the studies done regarding children hearing music while in-utero and then gain intellegence faster once they're born, or the effect that playing music has on a patient having surgery (like needing less anesthetic). There is so much potential in music, I think, and so much of value left to be discovered in that area.

Name: jenny lee
Date: 2005-11-02 23:59:01
Link to this Comment: 16787

I think sacks is interesting, and I like his ideas based on his observations. And based on those, I have come up with these ideas.

oliver sacks has always been good reading and amusing in his way, but i am always saddened after reading his records. The fact that life is such and that strange unexpected things happen is a little disturbing. It just shows that life is not a pattern or a stitch that can be learned. Part of the difficulty in discerning tacit behavior and other types of behavior is that there isn't a set system or pattern. Since we can't figure logic and reasoning into tacit behavior, it is like improvisation in our heads. Some things we know without any basis for the knowledge to be there, sometimes we understand people we have never met before, sometimes we just don't get it. Whatever the knowledge, there is a random variety of possibilities.

Name: Ari
Date: 2005-11-03 00:53:47
Link to this Comment: 16788

I, too, Enjoyed Sacks. it was written more poetically then some of the other text we have been reading recently, which made it easier for me to read. I feel like the text did address tacit knowledge by discussing the effects of the subconscious on both of the characters conditions, but that neither of the passages were centered around the idea of tacit knowledge, as i kind of had to look for how tacit knowledge applied to each. although both did get me thinking about tacit knowledge in different ways. mostly I was just interested to hear the two different stories of the two different men.

a real raconteur
Name: virginia j
Date: 2005-11-03 01:50:57
Link to this Comment: 16789

oliver kept my attention the entire time i read ( i took a little nap, but it was really short. i was in the library and i literally did a face plant into my reading on the table and woke up to find that i was basically sucking face with my text. getting intimate you know. )
honestly i really liked it. i loved the way he wrote, like amanda said i felt like he truly opened up his subjects and that sort of intimacy made the text personalized and i wanted to read and find out about these people.
i'm not sure how or if this did anything for me as far as tacit knowledge is concerned. i think i need to redefine my concept of tacit knowledge.

i like how in the touretters it seemed to be recurrent that while doing whatever it was they loved (like taking fatty lumps out of people) they were sometimes better than 'normal' people at their task, but always (at least bennett) smooth, flowing, and rhythmic. however when functioning in any other not-doing-much-situation they tic. it's like their minds are the ones that have biologically decided, 'okay we don't want to put up with this inhibition bs, none of these formalities and facades simply to maintain decorum, we're going to do/say what we want when we feel because we don't have the time or energy to waste on something we don't care about...and instead that energy and time will be put into things we love, like fatty lumps and being able to remove them like a fiend.' i realize that sounds romanticized and i think alone it is because he does say how the other half, the internal struggle, is far worse than the external struggle visible to everyone. it seems like a give and take because bennett seems so amazing at being a surgeon, i wonder if he would give up the quirks and the way he works with his patients in order to eliminate the internal struggle. but then it's like a trade off again, because even though he no longer has the internal struggle, he would have to teach himself this external struggle that most humans have, that is their image set among/against everyone else's image and he would have to accustom himself to being so aware and conscious of his actions and being able to control them.

Name: Unnati
Date: 2005-11-03 08:48:24
Link to this Comment: 16791

I really enjoyed reading Oliver Sacks' 'An Anthropologist on Mars'. I actually managed to read the whole thing taking only one break.

'The Last Hippie' scared me because I can't imagine being blind without realising that you're blind. Also, the person had no sense of time whatsoever. The past was the present for him and he lived the same year, maybe even the same day, every year. Perhaps Greg's subconscious was very strong or perhaps he was in a constant state of hallucination. The part about his father's death touched me a lot because I felt as though he was trying hard to feel the loss but the whole situation didn't register properly in his brain. I would like to meet him because I found it difficult to believe all of what is written. The ending depressed me a lot as I has been hoping that at some point he would 'have some sense'.

'A Surgeon's Life' made me much happier because it was about a person who had a control over his life even despite living with Tourette's Syndrome. I felt ashamed as I found myself questioning at one point whether I would entrust the lives of my loved ones on the hands of the doctor. Although the whole part of having a 'normal' life and trying to control the tics must be a struggle for Dr. Bennett everyday. He is willing to accept the fact that he has certain traits that are diffrent but instead of hiding it he was open about the fact and people were willing to accept him. In a way both the reading left me deeply in thought. I am still thinking and I think I will definitely read it a few more times.

Date: 2005-11-03 08:49:08
Link to this Comment: 16792

oh no! I read the wrong articles last night! I have read some sacks articles in ap psych, and they were REALLY interesting... I am trying to finish up these now...

Directions of Tacit Knowledge?
Name: Ada
Date: 2005-11-03 09:37:47
Link to this Comment: 16793

Of all of the medical-based readings we've encountered, I enjoyed Sack's the most. I think, especially in the presentation of tacit knowledge, it is necessary for the subjects to be presented more in the more of a story than a study, since tacit knowlegde is not something that has any one true definition. These readings made me recall a point I was trying to touch on in my last paper about the directions of tacit knowledge in reference to "disorders." Especially in the case of Bennett, I question whether or not the symptoms of Tourettes are not actually expressions of tacit knowledge? That perhaps the "tics" that he expresses are actually amplified versions of the idiosyncracies of people without Tourettes? As for Greg, it is difficult to see how exactly tacit knowledge plays in his situation, although, it seems that it is triggered by some outside influence, as if a switch needs to be turned on in order to reach that area of unconsciousness. Maybe again there can be an observed connection between particular situations and the reactions to them that can shed light on the direction between outside influences and tacit knowledge. Overall, these were very interesting readings, and I feel as though I will look back on them while writing my next paper.

Sacks, the Martian
Name: Caroline T
Date: 2005-11-03 09:45:54
Link to this Comment: 16795

Greg's example shows to me a difference in perception. In the sense of "ignorance is bliss", Greg may well have been happy in the temple even with imminent death approaching because of the tumor. Sacks describes Greg a having an "unnatural serenity", exposing his own bias and personal expectations. Greg seems to have, as popular culture coins it, issues well before joining the monks. I feel that it is difficult in this circumstance to make a judgment call on what is best for Greg.
This being said, I found it worthwhile to read about the physical impact of the tumor on Greg and his tacit knowledge. To me it was clear that tacit knowledge is imbedded in the physical structure of the brain. Greg's passion for music was not a result of some center of his soul, but from the lack of damage to that part of his brain.
His tacit knowledge, or his ability to learn implicitly, seems not only confined to the brain, but extends to the entire body. And this is an important realization because it implies that thought is not enough to sustain a person. The concept of "mind over matter" becomes more muddled because it is not only your conscious mind; it is your whole body that must do something.
It almost seems on page 58 as if Sacks is comparing Greg to someone without the ability to control their tacit knowledge. Perhaps someone who is drunk, or has been given truth serum. So in many ways, Greg is permanently in this condition.

music and meaning
Name: Jessica
Date: 2005-11-03 09:55:46
Link to this Comment: 16796 in both stories, Greg and Bennett, responded to music. The music triggered something in their brains that allowed them to find meaning in their lives...perhaps that something triggered allowed them to use their unconscious and conscious simultaneously rather than in a disorderly fashion....

Name: Ayaka
Date: 2005-11-03 10:14:34
Link to this Comment: 16797

"The Last Hippie" simultaneously frightened and intruigued me. Around him, those who loved Greg saw this drastic, horrible change in him- the Greg they knew was gone. Instead, there was a man who was a fragment of his former self. And yet- Greg, for all purposes, did seem "happy." He had indeed lost the very thing that can tie a human so tightly to sadness- the feeling of the past. Without nostalgia for old times, he was free to live in the here and now. Think about your most horrible memories- think about losing those memories forever. Of course, I could argue, as I often do, that without those bad times we would not be the kind of people we are to-day- that in negative experiences there is something essential for the growth and even the existance of a whole person. At the same time, however, there is a pull to admitting that in the end, adding up the good and bad times, a person would be happier if they didn't have those memories of the bad feelings. What if I, too, forgot the death of my father? Could I live in a world, inside myself, where he was still here? Would I be able to remain eternally as someone simply, in her mind, on a short vacation from my old house, the innocence of childhood forever retained? In the way of reacting to others, of course, that life would be "useless"- but who can deem it useless but the person living it, at any rate. It really made me question things. In the end, of course I'd rather live the full life I'm living- a balance of good times and sorrow. Ignorance is bliss, but it's not the kind of bliss I'd want. Still, the point remains that it is indeed bliss.

Name: Kirsten Ju
Date: 2005-11-03 10:55:43
Link to this Comment: 16798

I first read Oliver Sacks about 2 years ago for a class that I was taking. Ever since then I have always enjoyed reading his works. He always manages to make everything interesting and understandable. But, while I liked these readings, I am not entirely sure if either of them helped me to understand tacit knowledge more. Both these men were controlled by tacit knowledge to a much greater extent than any of us are. But, this fact did not really add to my knowledge of tacit knowledge. I enjoyed these readings, but I don't know how much they helped me.

Name: Lauren
Date: 2005-11-03 19:15:49
Link to this Comment: 16804

Honestly, how can Gregís story not be disturbing? Even if you are not from a scientific perspective, clearly most people claim a sense of selfÖ and few desire to loose their ďessenceĒÖ their soulÖ The brain is a crazy place! Anyway, Iím just going to post some thoughts, take it or leave it.

Ideas I have come across and some of my own philosophical musings:

ďAll matter is merely energy condensed to a very slow vibration. There is no such thing as death, life is only a dream, and we are the imagination of ourselves.Ē Ė Bill Hicks, Philosophy

Interesting website to understand origins of words and make connections:
Nirvana, commonly misinterpreted as the equivalent of the Christian concept of heaven, is actually rooted in: ď1836, from Skt. nirvana-s "extinction, disappearance" (of the individual soul into the universal), lit. "to blow out, a blowing out" ("not transitively, but as a fire ceases to draw;" a literal Latinization would be de-spiration), from nis-, nir- "out" + va "to blow" (see wind (n.)).Ē

Is the self part of the consciousness? The subconscious? Both? Neither?

Good and Bad are human projections

Can you separate time and motion or are they in fact the same thing?

It is interesting how we often equate things to a linear concept of time; some cultures adopt a cyclic conceptÖ. Seems worth considering.

ANYway, the most important realizationÖ maybe the only realization Iíve had is that we just donít know. Science will continue to reform itself, and contemporary thought will grow archaic, so we JUST DONíT KNOW ANYTHING!
Ghaaaaaa, my brain hurts!

some thoughts from the taylor branch ...
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2005-11-06 18:35:23
Link to this Comment: 16832

.... on whether Sacks "helped me to understand tacit knowledge more" and "Is the self part of the consciousness? The subconscious? Both? Neither?" ...

Perhaps consciousness is the things disturbed by Greg's brain tumour, is at best only intermittently and weakly there because of brain damage? If so, consciousness must be an aspect of the brain, a brain function distinct from other aspects of brain function (eg, tacit knowledge or the unconscious). And then it would be particularly interesting that Greg largely lacks a sense of time, suggesting that time is not an organizational feature of tacit knowledge/the unconscious. Perhaps time, and temporal causality (and narrativity) are not "real" but instead "ideas", notions that conscious processing creates in order to make sense of what it gets from the unconscious?

Maybe "conflict" and "control" are similarly "ideas" that wouldn't exist except for consciouness? Dr. Bennet's tics must be a reflection of tacit knowledge/the unconscious because Dr. Bennett wouldn't himSELF choose to have them. Perhaps the unconscious reports to consciousness what it intends to do (the "urges" Bennett describes) and consciousness can, to varying degrees in different people at different times, notice differences between what it wants and what the unconscious proposes and control what does/doesn't result from unconscious urges? Then not only is their no sense of "time" in the unconscious but also no sense of either "conflict" or "control".

What other things might not be in the unconscious, deriving instead from the conscious effort to make sense of what is going on in the unconscious? How about "truth"? How about "reality"?

And how about "self"? Some of that is certainly in the unconscious/tacit knowledge. People lacking conscious experiences (sleep walkers, anyone having drunk a lot of alcohol) act in ways that continues to display aspects of their personality. On the other hand, people lacking conscious experience act, to varying degrees, somewhat differently than they do when they are conscious of their activities. So maybe "self" is actually an amalgam of tacit knowledge/the unconscious and consciousness? Perhaps the always changing expression of a continuing negotiation between urges and ideas?

So may be Sacks can help us better understand tacit knowledge, by placing it in the context of the whole brain, we can see better both what is there and what isn't?

Culture's Stories
Name: Anne and P
Date: 2005-11-07 22:44:42
Link to this Comment: 16870

There are stories of the natural world, of ourselves ... and of culture, which we are all both influenced by and influence. In this next section of the course, we will be looking at and thinking about stories about culture and the influence of culture on stories. Can we step back from "culture" enough to tell useful stories about it? How could we do so?

Silko and Geertz give some examples to help think about these questions, relevant to your upcoming writing assignments, in which we'll ask you to tell a story of some aspect of a culture with which you're familiar. To get started on that, share your thoughts here about a culture you'd like to write about, and ways you might go about it. Or about Silko and/or Geertz and/or anything else that has intrigued you this week.

"A Story Never Beginning at the Beginning, and Cer
Name: Jenny Lee
Date: 2005-11-09 13:40:44
Link to this Comment: 16891

While reading Silko, I thought about the stories that I know about my culture. I would agree that stories are infinite, since they all come from somewhere that existed long before, and will go on to places that don't yet exist. I can't help but wonder who will make additions to the stories. There are so many stories, even within one culture, that make it impossible to keep track of all of them. Stories, in this sense, seem to be alive. Stories are subject to change according to the person telling them, and even more so by those listening. Stories are constantly being altered, whether on purpose or not. Stories, as Silko says, can be old, new, beautiful, sad, didactic, plain gossip, historical, sacred, etc. Stories are personified as people. Since stories are the way we communicate, isn't it possible that we are not the ones who make up the story, but we are made up, as people, by the stories that we are told, that we know, that we want to know? It's a very general statement to make, but I think it's one way of looking at it.

Deep Play: on Bali, and elsewhere
Name: Jessy
Date: 2005-11-09 16:02:39
Link to this Comment: 16893

I didn't get much out of Silko's article, but then I am very detached from any kind of oral tradition. I'm a reader. (Though I'm also probably a Classical Languages major, and the Greeks were far more oral than visual, esp in earlier stages, and I wonder if I'm stuck in some kind of Flatland through being such a visual person. At least I'm a good speller.)

For whom it may concern, Geertz's article was not nearly as difficult or dense as I had been led to believe. I found it quite absorbing, actually.

Reading Geertz's description of how the primary Balinese entertainment, cockfighting, reflects the social hierarchy overall made me wonder what the most popular sports in the US say about its citizens. (Actually, I've seen an evaluation of just that question, in '20th Century Eight Ball', a compendium of David Clowes' Eight Ball comic books; his approach was Freudian, obscene, and satirical, and I enjoyed it immensely, but then I am absolutely not a fan of either American football or baseball, and I have only a little interest even in sports which do involve finish lines). Indeed, considering cockfighting on a par with football helped me understand how cockfighting can be both incredibly significant and change absolutely nothing.

On the other hand, Silko did compare the feeling at the end of a cockfight with the feeling we get from a theatrical performance, and how that feeling "soon fades to become at most a schematic memory - a diffuse glow or an abstract shudder - and usually not even that" (231). So I wonder if perhaps in addition to examining our culture's (or rather, cultures') most popular sport(s), we should also examine other favorite entertainments, such as the types of movies which are most popular, and reality TV. However, since American culture is much larger and much less homogenous than the culture which is reflected in Balinese cockfighting, any conclusions drawn from any one entertainment will only apply to a section of our society.

Women were notably absent from Geertz's evaluation. I understand that on Bali, cockfighting is a strictly male sport, but in discussing social status overall, I'm sure something interesting might have been said about Balinese women. Of course, what I know about Bali is what's in 'Deep Play', and it may be that women in effect have no status at all, which is seen in that they don't participate in cockfighting at all; or perhaps it only seemed that way to Geertz.

I will probably write my next paper about the mailing list I participated in for several months this past year, in part because it's fairly simple for a beginning anthropoligist to make observations: almost all interactions are written down - RL con interactions (real life interactions at conventions) are usually reported onlist - and many of the guidelines are written down or at least reiterated to newbies (new group members) who are not familiar with the conventions and standards of behavior (and spelling) on the list. There is also a hierarchy, based primarily on ability to express oneself in writing, quality and quantity of posts over a long period of time, and consideration toward others on the list - but now I'm starting to write the paper.

Culture Stories
Name: Rushita
Date: 2005-11-09 16:59:56
Link to this Comment: 16894

I considered Silko to be far more interesting than Geertz. No, it is not just because Silko was short, but Geertz's story was just way too elongated. At first, "Deep Play" was interesting since it pointed out very distinct characteristic of the culture of Balinese, but then once the story began talking about cockfights, and continued talking about cockfights, I lost interest. From the whole story, I thought the last sentence created a lasting effect "...societis, like lives, contain their own interpretations. One has only to learn how to gain access to them." It shows how different societies have their unique structure and way of living, but the key to understanding is actually being able to open a door which would lead into understanding the life of a society.
I found Silko's piece interesting from the beginning, as the Pueblo expression was compared to a spider web (I found this analogy very interesting). The whole idea behind the story was interesting, how life is continous story and there are stories within stories; "..language is story."

Name: Deborah
Date: 2005-11-09 19:10:32
Link to this Comment: 16895

I actually "got" more out of Geertz than Silco's peice- I don't know, but I was thinking about observing a culture like what we are supposed to be doing for our next paper, and Geertz seemed to be doing just that. However, the fact that both peices seemed to center around one very specific aspect of one culture was slightly annoying to me. I kept wanting to know more about the culture in general and at the end I was unable to think of the cultures as anything other than the one aspect that was talked about. This irks me since I know for a fact that there is more to the Balanise culture than just cock fighting and more to the Pueblo culture than just storytelling.

The way Geertz compared cockfighting with Hamlet I thought was strange. Can Hamlet really be used to tell a great deal about the majority of our society? or does Geertz not really want to make a real comparison for fear of what it might say about us?

As for the culture I would like to look at, I'm still not entirely sure what I would like to do...let me think some more on that.

Date: 2005-11-09 20:02:56
Link to this Comment: 16896

Having read a work of Silko's in high school, Ceremony, I could see the possible way that it integrated itself into the reading of the book. For example, the book did not have any ending that any of us involved in the class could discern, and definitely followed the spiderweb storytelling pattern. I wish, in fact, that I had had this bit to read along with the book, so as to not have inwardly cringed at the mention of Silko's authorship.

As for Geertz, I must agree with Rushita. It started off interestingly enough. However, it soon became boring as sin. However, the final section was intriguing, and seemed to be the only part with any point. Perhaps, as we discussed in class, this was the difference between observations and interpretations - the intermediate sections were all observations, dull and dry, whereas the final was composed of intriguing interpretations.

It brought to mind our previous discussions of the shared familiar - that is, that every person has something in common, being human, and how each culture has a different approach to viewing these things.

Name: Jessica Ch
Date: 2005-11-09 21:00:00
Link to this Comment: 16897

i enjoyed reading the excerpt from silko's book. i think oral tradition is a very interesting topic, and i liked silko's focus on the words in the stories and the multiple functions each story had within it.

i thought the idea of finding/developing one's identity and finding comfort in distress from stories was interesting. im sure we all do these things at least a little, but i never gave the idea much thought. stories are very important in identity, and maybe thats why we dont like revising some of them. the discussion on the continuity and togetherness in the pueblo stories also interested me, because (though i never stopped to think about it) every story is never-ending.

i guess if i had to choose, the cultures i would write about would be the ones i grew up in/experienced for a long time. but what exactly is culture? i dont know how i would start.

Name: Leslie
Date: 2005-11-09 21:16:42
Link to this Comment: 16898

I liked both the readings, but as a couple have mentioned already, Geertz's story became just too tedious. He took an interesting subject and drove it into the ground.
I liked Silko's for the purpose of storytelling in their culture. I think it serves to humanize the listener. No matter how good you think you are there is always someone better, and no matter how badly things are going there is always someone who has it worse.

I'm still not sure what culture I'll write about, but it will most likely be about the place that I used to work. I'm still not sure what approach to take though.

Name: Shannon Ro
Date: 2005-11-09 21:24:15
Link to this Comment: 16899

Do we define culture, or does culture define us? I might as well ask, "What came first, the chicken or the egg?" All cultures, from ethnic cultures thick with tradition to the ever-changing pop culture, have some authority over our lives. Who is doing the dictating, and when did we become locked into this endless circle of what to do and what to wear? But on the other hand, how can we function as a society without culture? Maybe it's a catch-22 we just have to accept.

Name: Ada
Date: 2005-11-09 22:00:07
Link to this Comment: 16900

While I really enjoyed the description of Geetz's adventures in Bali, I actually feel like I gained more from the reading on the Pueblo Indian's method of storytelling. There are a couple of things in here I want to highlight. First, there is a mention that the language itself is not important, that it is instead the meaning of what the speaker is trying that truly holds the importance. This idea, combined with the idea further down the page that states that a "great deal of the story is believed to be inside the listener" sort of go back to our on-going discussion about society and tacit knowledge. To summarize, "we are part of a whole, we do not differentiate or fragment stories and experiences." Basically this one page in the reading answered the conundrum of tacit knowledge in society.

So, my thoughts on culture runs as follows. My mother is a Polish immigrant who came to this country in her early twenties. I owe practically all of my sense of culture to her and to my relatives in Poland, with whom my contact has sadly lessened. I am considering e-mailing my grandmother and having her send me the context of a Polish fairy tale just to see how it compares to the traditional "American" take on fairy tales. Or I may instead write about certain traditions that my family does in remembrance of my Polish ancestry. I haven't quite decided yet, but either way, the Polish in me is definitely coming out.

Name: Ellen Good
Date: 2005-11-09 22:05:44
Link to this Comment: 16901

I found Silko's discussion of the topic very captivating, with her descriptions of how even thought is different in that culture, and how language is not a means by which to tell a story, but a story in itself.
Describing cultures, and reading about other cultures is always interesting for me, because it offers a chance to see the world from another point of view, usually one which I had never considered before.
As for a culture I could do my paper on this week, I still have to do some brainstorming on that...

Hopis and Cocks
Name: Sarah Plac
Date: 2005-11-09 22:27:12
Link to this Comment: 16902

I found both of these pieces very interesting. I found the Silke article somewhat more disconnected, but then again she warned the reader about the different style of writing in the introduction. There was something quite comforting I found in the oral stories she told, I'm guessing because they are so rich in history and tradition. They are also so unlike the stories that I was told as a child, which I think added to their appeal. Its just another way of looking and analyzing culture. I also like the principles that Silke talked about in the beginning when she was giving her disclaimer for the stories she was going to tell. I liked them. I also enjoyed the Geertz piece as well, but I found it somewhat dry. It was an interesting topic, I think even more so with the bird flu virus (I remember seeing in the National Geographic a picture of a cock's owner sucking the wounds out of the head of his cock), and I liked it too because of the rich cultural connotations. I just found it interesting.
I would talk more about this but I really want to just explain a little bit about what I want to write about for my next paper. I was an au pair this summer for my sister, and I helped her take care of her toddler and infant sons. I lived the whole summer in Elizabethtown, KY (Yes, it's named for the movie that came out. I would like to add that there is only one scene in the movie shot in this actual town, and in the scene they actually had to add fake signs and buildings to make it look more civilized and more like a town) So this was a huge culture shock for me. I entered the land of Amish next-door neighboors, miles of farmlands, pick-up trucks, and Chick-fil-A's. My sister's husband is in the army at Fort Knox, so I was exposed to army life as I had to drop my nephew off to his various camps there. It was pure southern experience. I couldn't for the life of my find and kids my age, only to find out that they hung out at the Wal-Mart every day. (Wal-Mart and Target are the only stores for about an hour radius) Wal-Mart even has parking spaces for the buggies of the Amish! Basically, it was complete culture shock for me. But at the end of the summer, I felt comfortable completely engrossed in Southern lifestyle. Even my friends who came to visit said that I acted so Southern. So in a nutshell, thats the experience I want to discuss.

New culture
Name: Joanne
Date: 2005-11-09 23:03:46
Link to this Comment: 16907

I have come to a strange new land. I am learning the customs of this new place. The demands that this culture puts on the individual can be daunting. The citizens are expected to work very hard, some complain but most do what is required to be successful. Everyone is expected to uphold a high degree of personal integrity. That is one of the explicit customs.

Just as in any culture there are certain unspoken rules for instance if you look at your lantern before you pick up on lantern night you will not graduate. I am learning the language of study. I mastered the language of study years ago but now I have to relearn it. There will be cross-cultural differences, problems with language and some times I may have to use hand signals. I recently had my first cross-cultural misunderstanding with one of the natives of this new land. At a recent meeting with one of the natives I became excited and my voice went up an octave or two. I was told that my voice was getting loud so I came down an octave or two. For me this was clearly a cross-cultural misinterpretation of my intent and the natives' understanding. As I adjust to this new land, language and customs. I am comforted by my ability to remain flexible and open.

Studying Cultures
Name: Ilana
Date: 2005-11-10 00:12:23
Link to this Comment: 16908

I actually found both articles very interesting (except that Geertz did go on for a little while longer than necessary about all the particulars of cockfighting).

I thought that the events/traditions Geertz and Silko chose to explore culture through were both very interesting...I was surprised by how integral cockfighting seems to be in Balinese culture--who knew?

Although I enjoyed Silko's article,Geertz's seemed to be clearer and gave more insight into the culture-I can't help thinking that this is because he is outside the culture he studied while Silko is a part of the culture.

Name: Ari
Date: 2005-11-10 00:30:53
Link to this Comment: 16909

I kind of liked the way Geertz gave a (very) in depth description of one aspect of society, although I suppose Leslie Marmon Silko did this also by concentrating on more on storytelling then everything in her culture. I think I kind of want to do something along these lines, meaning take one aspect of society and try to reveal what that says about the society as a whole.
The flaw in this grad plan is that i can't really think of a culture in which I belong. The only idea I can think of is maybe the coffee shop culture of LA, or maybe just the Coffee shop I know in my part of LA? Then I don't know how well that works because there are so many different groups in the coffee shop at different times, and I'm not sure I fit into any of them... Well maybe I can come up with something that works a little better.

Name: Jenny Chen
Date: 2005-11-10 03:54:06
Link to this Comment: 16911

I felt a bit distant from both of the stories. I think this is because I could not really relate to them. I was able to follow Silko's story better than Geertz's. Something like stories that define a culture is very common in different cultures. Actually, I am not sure of other ways a culture can be preserved. Silko's story about storytelling is more "general" than Geertz's story about cockfighting. Geertz's story was too specific for me. (It sounds really ignorant on my part.)

I have never learned about cockfighting until reading Geertz's story. The Balinese take the animals and cockfighting very seriously. This is a part of a culture that I would never experience. It seemed interesting at first, but somehow, somewhere, my interest fled.

I might have missed Silko's point, but I wasn't sure if I can get a sense of her culture after reading her story.

Name: Unnati
Date: 2005-11-10 08:45:06
Link to this Comment: 16912

I finished reading Silko and I am reading Geertz at the moment. I feel by the end of it I will become an expert on cockfights.

I think the Geertz article is way too long and it turned out to be different from what I thought it would be. The article started with a description of the Balinese people but later on concentrated simply on cockfights. Maybe the writer is trying to show the importance of this (ritual?) in the lives of the Balinese people. Maybe it such a distinct part of their culture that they require no other introduction.

No matter what it was that the writers were trying to say, I don't think the message was very clear to me except that every society want to preserve its culture for the future generations be it an act so brutal as the cockfights or or just telling stories.

"Language is story"
Name: jessica
Date: 2005-11-10 09:57:39
Link to this Comment: 16913

The story "Home Country" described by Silko about a young Indian girl who was given the opportunity to work (unlike any other woman at home), and took it, remembering the day she left her family and home, reminds me of my own family. And it was when she described what her family was doing to assist her with her leave, that I experienced a "story within a story." Pictures of my family, my mom especially, emerged, and the experiences that go with it (like my mom crying after having to leave me at Bryn Mawr back in August). What makes our experiences sooo special to me is the language that defines my family, which carries our stories through time. Thinking about how language changes from culture to culture, sparks a question - are we all telling the same story, just different versions of it? It would be nice to know that although your culture is different because of its language, it contributes to a "greater whole." I like to think that "all things are brought together" through stories.

Name: Caroline T
Date: 2005-11-10 10:19:43
Link to this Comment: 16914

"Pueblo expression resembles something like a spider's web - with many little tthreads radiating from the center, crisscrossing each other. As with the web, the structure emerges as it is made and you must simply listen and trust, as the Pueblo people do, that the meaning will be made."
This statement, at the end of the very first paragraph on Language and Literature, raises many questions for me. Western culture has been based on the principle of logic ever since the Platonic days. Our speaking and writing and reflect this logic. While paper writing reflects a more hierarchical structure, we enjoy having things follow logically. It is more of an outline than the mind map of the Pueblo people.
The mind mapping technique of the Pueblo people seems more reasonable in a visual field rather than a speaking style. But perhaps this is a result of society on the mind rather than the other way around.

"As the old people say, 'If you can remember the stories, you will be all right. Just remember the stories.'"
I once heard this Rabbi speak about how stories define societies and cultures. He said that the reason that he was Jewish was that he knew the Jewish stories and was part of their continuation. He was one of the chosen people and could identify with them.
Perhaps stories are what define a society, but also more importantly, an identity. What makes the people Pueblo or what makes a person a nationality is instead the stories that they absorb.

Finally, the relationship between ďcocks and menĒ, as Geertz put it, is both a story of culture and of stories. In order to maintain that aspect of their identity, they must maintain their culture. A sort of catch-22.

Name: Kirsten Ju
Date: 2005-11-10 10:55:09
Link to this Comment: 16915

So I really liked both the readings and definitly thought both were really interesting. I really liked the idea of stories that never begin and never end that Silko talked about. When I was younger I always wanted to know what happened after the story was finished. I mean did Snow White and the Prince really live happily ever after or did she wind up having 6 kids and being bitter because she had imagined something better. It seems to me that while I was always told every story has a definite beginning, middle, and end, this idea never made sense to me. Stories really aren't lines, they are much more web-like as Silko writes about.

And then to Geertz. I thought that this reading was interesting. Maybe a bit long winded. While I was reading he actually reminded me of a grandfather figure who rambles on and on but in the end makes a good point. I honestly feel like I could go to a cock fight now and pretty much know what is going on. But what I really found interesting is how one aspect of culture can be so representative of many other aspects. Even though he was only talking about cock fights, I feel like I know a lot more about the Balinese culture. So now that I have rambled on I'm just going to write a quote I really liked from Geertz. "The culture of a people is an ensemble of texts, themselves ensembles..."

Name: Amanda
Date: 2005-11-10 11:11:43
Link to this Comment: 16916

I am afraid I have not gotten as far as I wanted to on this...

Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2005-11-10 11:23:42
Link to this Comment: 16917

Some thoughts from the last conversations of the Taylor contingent that seem to bridge into this conversation ...

It is actually in tacit knowledge that we are most individual, distinctive? And the three steps of the last writing assignments (observe, interpret, relate to other interpretations) correspond to have experiences/place in tacit knowledge, use tacit knowledge to create thoughts/feelings/ideas (conscious understandings), intersect those thoughts/feelings/ideas with those of other people. It is, perhaps, that third step, the interpersonal one, that generates increased commonality and ... culture? Which is itself an expression of negotiated commonality? And can in turn become a component of tacit knowledge?

Against this background, there are, it seems to me, some very interesting differences as well as similarities between Silko and Geertz. Silko, it seems to me, is trying to provide a picture of a culture "from within", that is she is trying to represent the set of negotiated tacit understandings that underlie a culture that she has been/is a part of. For Silko, the representation is more important than the thoughts that result from it (though she does make some good contrasts with other cultures). Geertz, on the other hand, finds that he can only write about a culture after he has "gotten into it", ie found a way to intersect his own tacit understandings with those of people in that culture. Having done so, Geertz plays more emphasis on the resulting "thoughts", on the explicit characterization of the hidden rules (the "tacit") that create/pattern what is more readily seen.

What is amusing (at least to me) about this is the notion that what one needs to do in the case of exploring culture is largely the same thing that we have done in exploring "tacit knowledge", ie to find a way to make the "tacit" eplicit. And that to do that one first has to experience the tacit, identify it by its "surprising" character (its contrasts to other things that are or might be) and then make that explicit. Looking forward to seeing where we all go along those (or other) lines.

Name: Anne and P
Date: 2005-11-15 14:03:27
Link to this Comment:

What do you think of the claim made by McDermott and Varenne that cultures are inevitably disabling? What about the culture you've been studying this week?

Name: Rebecca
Date: 2005-11-16 01:08:21
Link to this Comment: 17014

This is not a completely thought out post - it just popped into my head as I was about halfway through Culture as Disability.

I attended a rather small high school. Our graduating class was the largest in history with 96 people. Therefore, we had lots of speeches at graduation as diplomas would not take too long. One of the speeches was by Douglas Marlette - you may or may not have heard of him, he's a comic artist who created Kudzu. Anyways, his son was in my class, and he was unanimously voted to be our parent speaker.

Our reading was the subject of his speech. He did not do well in school, yet he had refused to let that stop him from excelling. He despised the idea that, as humans, we forced each other and ourselves to have as many disorders as possible, to explain our deviations from the norm. His point, if I remember correctly, was our own perceptions have created the norm, and the disabilities to go with it. As McDermott and Varenne are saying, our culture has created our disabilities - now, everyone (or so it seems) has to pay someone to tell them what is wrong with them because that's the only way to find out. No matter that there is perhaps nothing wrong with them - that they are perfect as themselves.

This is the speech that he sent us out into the world with - we are each perfect as who we are, and there is no need to self-diagnose with as many mental illnesses, disabilities, or deficiencies as possible. Doing so is a waste of our precious time and energy and brain power.

and now I'll go back to reading the rest of the reading, as I find it very interesting, but my brain has a limit on how long it retains "brilliant" ideas without being written down, and so I ran to post.

Name: Charlotte
Date: 2005-11-16 15:42:16
Link to this Comment: 17020

It makes sense to me that culture would be disabling because it automatically singles out things that are normal or better, and things that are not. There seems no way to have a culture which can include everything equally without putting somethings as worse or wrong. This is disabling because it limits the view points of the people in the culture. People are not always aware of it as a disability as is demonstrated in the reading. I would say that in my culture of New York City it is very disabling to be so disconnected from most of the people around me. However, while in the city, I find it quite natural. It is only when we move from our cultures into others that we can see how disabling a culture really is.

Not So Normal
Name: Ada
Date: 2005-11-16 17:34:01
Link to this Comment: 17021

This idea of cultural disabilities is really interesting to me. The concept that we would not have disabilities without culture, is however, as my roommate pointed out, not entirely true. As she so eloquently put it "If you don't have legs, you're in trouble." The fact is, even if there were no distinguishing features between people who did and did not have disabilities, some things are just going to make life harder than other things. While I am not advocating that we should kill disabled babies like Peter Singer was, I think that regardless of the society certain restrictions in normal physicality can and do make life more difficult. And regardless of whether or not the society itself prides itself on being sightless, or being mute, the fact is, there will always be some trait in some person that will be cause for disability. Much in the sense that people connect through a sort of tacit knowledge, culture and society is composed of those "unspoken, unwritten" connections that provide the basis of similarity and understanding. And to be without these is to really not possess the full capabilities of being human.

I was even more intrigued by the concept of being or not being neurologically typical. It made me think a lot about what Caroline was telling me about her culture paper, and this idea of normalcy in Swedish society. Perhaps the reason Swedish culture, as well as other cultures, seek normalcy is because normalcy does not truly exist. What is normal is what is defined by the culture to be normal, and when the culture itself seeks normalcy, then who really knows what "normal" really is.

Name: Deborah
Date: 2005-11-16 19:05:36
Link to this Comment: 17022

I found McDermontt and Varenne's idea of cultures being disabling fairly obvious once it was pointed out. I mean, we can all understand how it is our culture that creates our abilities- or at least it classifies certain attributes as abilites versus disabilites, which means it is culture that creates abilites and disabilities. What I didn't really understand is why it was nessisary to spend so many pages to say this.

What I found a bit more interesting is that it then took Varenne another whole slew of pages to come to the conclusion that we cannot create a culture that does not create disabilities. Really if we take away all the connections to education and schools it becomes fairly obvious that if you have abilites you must have lack of abilities (these are also known as disabilites) and it would be impossible to deal with two different human beings without having an idea of ability vs. disability, and it is impossible to have a culture without dealing with different human beings.

Of course this makes the question "what on earth are we to do about this" interesting. In the actual world my answer is "I have no idea" in the theoretical world the answer is simple, there is nothing to do.

Name: Ari Briski
Date: 2005-11-16 19:19:36
Link to this Comment: 17023

Ok, so here is what is bothering me about McDermott and Varenne- the Difference Approach basically says that while people are disabled in some ways they are enabled in others, for example Adam, who had trouble in school but could handle everyday life. The way I see it there is a solution there, being something to the effect of working his education to help with his abilities and not just trip him up on his disabilities. The Deprivation Approach has a solution which is explained also (although it is an awful and often outdated solution) which is basically that people who are disabled are "out of the running for the rewards that come with a full cultural competence." Then there is the Culture as Disability approach, which, although it is usually discussed at greater length, fails to offer much of a solution (unless i missed something). So Culture created disability, and we can't work that feature out of culture... This left me feeling like the thought was incomplete.
I did, however, kind of like the definition of culture ("A much contested term that is generally taken to gloss the well bound containers of coherence that mark off different kids of people living in their various ways, each kind separated from the others by a particular version of coherence, a particular way of making sense and meaning.)

i'm a blind girl in a country of the seeing
Name: ver gin ay
Date: 2005-11-16 21:04:04
Link to this Comment: 17025

i'm a blind girl in a country of the seeing

so i had a bit of trouble with the reading.

okay, so metaphorically speaking i felt like i was blind.

i agree with what ari saying about feeling as if something was missing...while i was reading culture as disability i kept thinking, 'okay...and...wait...i missed something.'

i understand the gist of the concept and i actually wrote a little about it in my last paper. part of what i took from the paper was that culture disables by means of deeming certain things better or worse. 'yeah that makes sense,' i said aloud to myself in the library. but doesn't that mean that anyone/anything we pass judgment on we disable? so we're all just disabler machines.

Ďculture, as we say in our lectures, gives all we know and all the tools with which to learn more.í

i would not say that culture gives us all we know. i think it gives us a foundation. and that corresponds to giving us tools with which to learn more. in the asian american/chinese american culture i'm writing about, i talked about how dependent children are raised to be. i believe this restricts a creative style of learning, because children are raised not to implore.

when i read the section about habitus and early socialization, i thought of how my view, especially in my paper, does suggest that there is a 'return to individual persons as the proximate cause of [people's] own [failures].' i don't understand what mcdermott and varenne mean by this statement. i understand the statement itself, but not how it fits into a bigger picture.

without a money system, there is no debt;
without a kinship system, no orphans;
without a class system, no deprivation;
without schools, no learning disabilities;
without a working concept of truth, no liars;
without eloquence, no inarticulateness.

at first i think, 'that's true, makes sense.' i can see how "without a culture we would not known what our problems are..." but also, it seems like a big cop out, too. i think the 'without...there is no' that got me most was, "without a working concept of truth, no liars..." what happens when someone tells a lie? i understand that the point is there would be no truth or falsity, but that seems like just a big muddle of nothingness. "you're telling a lie!" "no i'm not, because we don't have a concept of falsehood! don't judge me!" it reminds me of the point in pointland in "flatland." because the point was all by itself it didn't really have a concept of anything because it had nothing to compare anything to, it simply existed. it seemed to be in a drug induced haze. "oooooohhhh, everything is sooooo wonderful! look at me in all my pointed glory."

which, hey, isn't a bad thing. i mean, i don't want to be the disabler in this situation, so don't be puttin' words in my mouth.

i'm a blind girl in a country of the seeing
Name: ver gin ay
Date: 2005-11-16 21:04:13
Link to this Comment: 17026

i'm a blind girl in a country of the seeing

so i had a bit of trouble with the reading.

okay, so metaphorically speaking i felt like i was blind.

i agree with what ari saying about feeling as if something was missing...while i was reading culture as disability i kept thinking, 'okay...and...wait...i missed something.'

i understand the gist of the concept and i actually wrote a little about it in my last paper. part of what i took from the paper was that culture disables by means of deeming certain things better or worse. 'yeah that makes sense,' i said aloud to myself in the library. but doesn't that mean that anyone/anything we pass judgment on we disable? so we're all just disabler machines.

Ďculture, as we say in our lectures, gives all we know and all the tools with which to learn more.í

i would not say that culture gives us all we know. i think it gives us a foundation. and that corresponds to giving us tools with which to learn more. in the asian american/chinese american culture i'm writing about, i talked about how dependent children are raised to be. i believe this restricts a creative style of learning, because children are raised not to implore.

when i read the section about habitus and early socialization, i thought of how my view, especially in my paper, does suggest that there is a 'return to individual persons as the proximate cause of [people's] own [failures].' i don't understand what mcdermott and varenne mean by this statement. i understand the statement itself, but not how it fits into a bigger picture.

without a money system, there is no debt;
without a kinship system, no orphans;
without a class system, no deprivation;
without schools, no learning disabilities;
without a working concept of truth, no liars;
without eloquence, no inarticulateness.

at first i think, 'that's true, makes sense.' i can see how "without a culture we would not known what our problems are..." but also, it seems like a big cop out, too. i think the 'without...there is no' that got me most was, "without a working concept of truth, no liars..." what happens when someone tells a lie? i understand that the point is there would be no truth or falsity, but that seems like just a big muddle of nothingness. "you're telling a lie!" "no i'm not, because we don't have a concept of falsehood! don't judge me!" it reminds me of the point in pointland in "flatland." because the point was all by itself it didn't really have a concept of anything because it had nothing to compare anything to, it simply existed. it seemed to be in a drug induced haze. "oooooohhhh, everything is sooooo wonderful! look at me in all my pointed glory."

which, hey, isn't a bad thing. i mean, i don't want to be the disabler in this situation, so don't be puttin' words in my mouth.

i'm a blind girl in a country of the seeing
Name: ver gin ay
Date: 2005-11-16 21:04:25
Link to this Comment: 17027

i'm a blind girl in a country of the seeing

so i had a bit of trouble with the reading.

okay, so metaphorically speaking i felt like i was blind.

i agree with what ari saying about feeling as if something was missing...while i was reading culture as disability i kept thinking, 'okay...and...wait...i missed something.'

i understand the gist of the concept and i actually wrote a little about it in my last paper. part of what i took from the paper was that culture disables by means of deeming certain things better or worse. 'yeah that makes sense,' i said aloud to myself in the library. but doesn't that mean that anyone/anything we pass judgment on we disable? so we're all just disabler machines.

Ďculture, as we say in our lectures, gives all we know and all the tools with which to learn more.í

i would not say that culture gives us all we know. i think it gives us a foundation. and that corresponds to giving us tools with which to learn more. in the asian american/chinese american culture i'm writing about, i talked about how dependent children are raised to be. i believe this restricts a creative style of learning, because children are raised not to implore.

when i read the section about habitus and early socialization, i thought of how my view, especially in my paper, does suggest that there is a 'return to individual persons as the proximate cause of [people's] own [failures].' i don't understand what mcdermott and varenne mean by this statement. i understand the statement itself, but not how it fits into a bigger picture.

without a money system, there is no debt;
without a kinship system, no orphans;
without a class system, no deprivation;
without schools, no learning disabilities;
without a working concept of truth, no liars;
without eloquence, no inarticulateness.

at first i think, 'that's true, makes sense.' i can see how "without a culture we would not known what our problems are..." but also, it seems like a big cop out, too. i think the 'without...there is no' that got me most was, "without a working concept of truth, no liars..." what happens when someone tells a lie? i understand that the point is there would be no truth or falsity, but that seems like just a big muddle of nothingness. "you're telling a lie!" "no i'm not, because we don't have a concept of falsehood! don't judge me!" it reminds me of the point in pointland in "flatland." because the point was all by itself it didn't really have a concept of anything because it had nothing to compare anything to, it simply existed. it seemed to be in a drug induced haze. "oooooohhhh, everything is sooooo wonderful! look at me in all my pointed glory."

which, hey, isn't a bad thing. i mean, i don't want to be the disabler in this situation, so don't be puttin' words in my mouth.

Date: 2005-11-16 21:05:32
Link to this Comment: 17028

holy do i delete comments

Name: Jessy
Date: 2005-11-16 21:59:37
Link to this Comment: 17031

What do you think of the claim made by McDermott and Varenne that cultures are inevitably disabling? What about the culture you've been studying this week?

Cultures are by definition exclusive, because some people function within the culture better than others. A Viking warrior would simply be drunk and disorderly in much of the modern Western world (or a British soccer fan), a sensitive modern guy would always get the short end of the stick in Hrothgar's meadhall (or be the bard).

There's a spectrum, of course, no sharp line between the included and the excluded. The US has no monolithic culture, and so it is possible to enjoy various levels of in/exclusion at the same time. There is a strong feeling of inclusion, for example, at a gathering of a minority group, but that inclusion is created by the exclusion those members of the minority experience most of the time.

(Maybe I shouldn't have changed the terms around.)

In the US, everyone is at least a little disabled at least sometimes, and there are always possible situations in which we might be severely disabled. I'm thinking of Freaky Friday: a mother trying to navigate her daughter's life, a daughter trying to navigate her mother's life. I couldn't be a massage therapist like my mom, I just don't have the strength, and my mom would not survive my Greek class.

I think McDermott and Varenne are right in saying that the US education system has created unnecessary ways of being disabled. I'm restless, I can't always reliably focus, but as soon as I started wondering if maybe I have ADD (my mom does, after all), I found myself using it as an excuse, instead of simply working to overcome it, as I did throughout high school. I have my strategies, I know how to get the work that needs doing out of me, and the physical restlessness, which reflects my mental restlessness is part of who I am. One thing I have learned is that lifelong 'afflictions' such as Tourette's or muscular degenerative diseases are often part of a person's identity. It is much harder to simply get on with life if they are labeled disabilities, however. Would Dr. Bennett have been so successful if he had had a named disease his whole life, instead of just being the way he was?

Name: Sarah Plac
Date: 2005-11-16 22:10:53
Link to this Comment: 17032

Though I had never thought of culture being the vehicle through which the mental disabling and impairing happen, it seemed quite obvious to me afterwards, like why I didn't realize it. Of course culutres are disabling. What I really liked about reading these articles was the fact that they showed me how I view people. I really like the line of Johnson's when she said that "people don't know how to look at me." More than anything I think thats the truth--We as humans have a certain standard of how we appear and act, and perhaps it makes us scared to see something besides that. But then that makes me thin that in a certain way, are we all the same? like that quote, how is it that we are born originals but die copies? These readings made me think that people that we like to call "disabled" are in fact original, because we try and catagorize their disability in order to make it seem ok. For some reason, the picture that popped into my mind when Varenne was talking about culture stopping and accomadating disabled people, what i saw was Times Square in NYC at 12 PM--where theres thousands of people. I then see a stereotypically disabled person in the center of a sidewalk, which then causes the sea of people to move around that person. Thats what I think society does to people with disabilities. But in some sort of way, aren't we all disabled?
I really hate to bring this up because its so stereotypical, but it really stuck out to me. While living in Kentucky, all I could notice at first was the size of the people there. I finally saw where Supersize Me came from. Everything is bigger there--the portions (who can drink a 56 oz of soda?? are you serious?) and the fact that machines reduce the amount of movement that a person has to do. It seems taht everywhere there are moving walkways, or drivethru liquor stores--you just don't have to move or get up. Now i don't know if this is disabling, but I think this certainly catagorizes as culture accomodating society.

Name: Leslie
Date: 2005-11-16 22:25:40
Link to this Comment: 17033

I agree that cultures are inevitable disabling. Culture as a disability is the way in which cultures define what is not considered normal. Dumont says this is how we define what needs to be fixed, but does it need fixing? What defines disabilities in our own, and other cultures, stems from a person's perception of the world. Because most people who can see agree that a life without sight would be awful, is seen as a disability. Cultures will always define differences, which seem intolerable from the perspective of the majority, to be disabilities.

Carried away with culture........
Name: Amanda
Date: 2005-11-16 22:52:30
Link to this Comment: 17034

Because our social structures (government, schools, businesses, families) are stratified ‚Äúdisability‚ÄĚ is inevitable. Most, if not all, of these systems of people engage some form of competition in order to get to the top, out do the other or set a standard-it is part of human nature. It makes me think of Darwin‚Äôs Natural Selection, survival of the fittest. If humans did not have any of any of these systems they would still try to survive, the goal is to live.

The ‚Äúburden‚ÄĚ in the second essay was left up to the ‚Äėthe people with authority to reconstitute our world, including other researchers as we challenge each other to find better ways to learn from the world and propose new theoretical statements in a cycle that will not end.‚ÄĚ(8) So what the hell is that supposed to mean? We can offer theory upon theory upon theory but what is the point if your only audience is a bunch of academics? It must be more widespread than limited to one part of this stratification.

A statement such as, ‚Äúpeople with the authority to reconstitute the world‚ÄĚ, I believe it is only adding to the inevitable disability by saying that one person has a better chance than the other, furthermore I do not believe this dynamic will ever be gone as long as we stay human. And now that I think about it is more widespread in our culture than human, it happens in products we create as well: cars, computers, food (fast to organic) travel (First Class, Business Class and Economy) the list goes on.

Can we not create structures that are more lateral? Rather than placing people in to categories as better than, or smarter than, abled or dislabled, ADD or not, male or female, black or white? And what about multiple intelligence? Why can’t we think in those terms and engage people by utilizing their strengths? It will always, as far as I can see be stratified and there is no one person that will ever be able to completely change this culture.

For my paper I am writing about The Culture Bryn Mawr. What McDermott and Varenne say applies here, why wouldn’t it? It is a small institution with an extremely rich history and extremely complex population, this includes everyone, students, administrators, the mail dudes, housekeeping, public safety and faculty (and any others I may have left out). So far I have heard from many areas of the college how they are not heard or have been treated as less than for not good reason.

I was speaking to a gentleman who works on campus. Since the day I arrived he has always been friendly with me, joking around or just to say hello. I was standing outside the other day smoking a cigarette and he joined me. It was the first time we actually stopped and talked at length. He said something about how so many of the girls just ignore him, I said I didn’t understand. He said he thought, they thought he was hitting on them when in fact he is married and happy, all he ever did was say hi, he doesn’t say hi as often now. It really pissed me off, I kept thinking about how stupid it was, and it made me wonder if this happens to him, how often to people act like this on the Bryn Mawr Campus? Who do we think we are? Was it because he works here and he’s not a professor? What does this action teach us?

Although this may not be a very ‚Äúhappy‚ÄĚ topic, it is a reality of this United States culture and if there is to be any change in it, well I am not going to give you an answer, think about it.

Sorry so long, off on a tear……….

Holy lots of post Virginia!

Date: 2005-11-16 23:20:00
Link to this Comment: 17036

I've already posted, but I hadn't gotten as far in the reading - Varenne says in the second reading that flying has moved from the beaches of South Carolina. The first flight was actually in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

That's all.

Culture as Disability
Name: Ellen Good
Date: 2005-11-17 00:33:32
Link to this Comment: 17037

I can see how culture can be viewed as a disability, it makes sense that, since a culture is a set of conformities, some people will always be left out. However, I can't see how the Culture as Disability options discussed in the reading offered any solution. Did they try to offer a solution? I couldn't even tell, they just seemed to be repeating the same idea that culture excludes people over and over. They didn't offer a way to include everyone in a culture, and in fact mentioned the idea that you can't ever include everyone.
So where does that leave us? Do we not bother trying to include the "disabled," because it's impossible to ever completely do so? Or do we try to change mainstream culture to incorporate them, even though we know that in doing so, we will inevitably shut someone else out of the picture?

Name: michelle
Date: 2005-11-17 08:01:14
Link to this Comment: 17040

Well, I think that society creates disabilties for a purpose. Often, memebers who do not have the disabilty united, feel stronger and oppose the disabled for no reason. I wrote about Italian American Women for my paper and I think at times this culture disables women and on the other hand I fel empowered in some situations because of it.
I also spent alot of years as an overweight american, and that truly wa disabling. Today, I feel like I am the same person I was 125 pounds ago, but society has a differnt view of me. How would you all treated me if I weighed a 125 pounds more than I do today?

Whose Culture?
Name: Joanne
Date: 2005-11-17 09:03:31
Link to this Comment: 17042

Two Things:

Living in a Judeo-Christian culture, I believe has a lot to do with the concept of disability as less than. Judeo-Christian society is filled with dichotomy and it always feels good to be on the side of the angels.

My ex husband was not American and he would say to me: ĒYou Americans always have to make something wrong/invent a new conditionĒ

Name: Caroline T
Date: 2005-11-17 10:08:36
Link to this Comment: 17043

I find that culture as a disability echoes the issues brought up by reading Flatland - that culture creates assumptions on how the world is and because of that we are unable to view it as more than that. Such as the examples with blindness and deafness. It is very possible that blind and deaf people could live out their lives never knowing that they were different, and never knowing that sound and sight exist. However, since we as a culture treat these issues as a disability, the people in question are stimatised. In other words, people are treated based on what culture assumes to be normal.
"Culture as a Disability" seems to advocate a form moral relativism. A form which is tainted by the anthropologists' view on what is right. Because while the article seems negative towards those that treat disabilities as disabilities, it is happy to state that culture is a disability. I'll admit, I am not sure that I fully understand what the article is proposing. It sometimes feels to jump around.

In general, on the prompt of culture as a disability, I do agree that culture limits people. But it is vital to have culture, to have boundries which to question and fear. It gives people something to respond to in a general sense, a framework in which to act. While this limits people in their capabilities, it takes away a lot of uncertainity in life. Therefore, in as much as blindness does not let someone see colour, blindness frees a person to experience life in a different way without the distraction of colour.

Finally, on disabilities in general and society: I think that it is inevitable that cultures stigmatise disabilities, just as much as cultures will praise the extraordinary. I don't think that we can have one without the other, and that such views are naive.
In regards to gender, I think that there is a difference. And cultures may not be proportionate or just in their allocation of roles, but there is nonetheless a difference. It is counter productive to treat people equally, as much as it is counter productive to reject people for being different.

Cuture as a Disability
Name: kirsten ju
Date: 2005-11-17 10:56:06
Link to this Comment: 17045

Ok so I'm a little sick, so if this turns out to be a rambling mess I apologize in advance. I really agree with the idea that culture is a disabler. I think one of the prime examples is ADD. Now I agree that some people legitamtely have ADD, but it seems like now everyone is diagnosed with ADD. We live in a society where we are encouraged to multitask and to never give full attention to any one thing because it takes to long to get everything done. So why are people suprised when kids can't pay attention and are jumping off the wall. If you have been raised multitasking and never paying full attention to things, why is this suprising? Culture encourages multitasking and then when children act the way culture is dictating, they are said to have a disability. Culture is a way to find similarities between people, to link them. But everyone is different too. Culture naturally dismisses differences, because it takes away from the attempt to link everyone. Now I agree with Ada when she says that some disabilities really are legitimate. A person born without arms is disabled, a person with schizophrenia can be disabled. But, when I look around I feel like everyone has some disability. If culture wasn't so intent on negatively contsruing differences, would there be so many disabilities, and so many people with disabilities? I honestly can't say. But yea, that's what these readings made me think about. This is a little rambly and long and ranty, but I definitly think that culture can be disabling.

Culture as disability
Name: Ilana
Date: 2005-11-17 11:08:09
Link to this Comment: 17046

Obviously, I am not an anthropologist, but I think that I do agree with the Culture as Disability theory.

In another class a few weeks ago we were talking about how in America is seems as though the emphasis is on being the is not enough to be a successful actor or lawyer, you must be the best actor or lawyer. This appears to relate pretty directly to the theory of culture as disability.

Name: Ayaka
Date: 2005-11-17 11:18:12
Link to this Comment: 17048

These articles were interesting to me, especially because in all honesty it was never a subject I had spent a lot of time thinking about. So, these articles definately opened up a lot of new thoughts in me. When I started reading through the articles, I thought "culture as disability" was an intruiging idea. After all- it's our perception that there is a "normal" that creates the need to define things as "abnormal." I don't even know if I can agree with those who said that something like having no legs would always be a disability in every case, because in a society of people who all lack legs, it would be the norm. Perhaps having legs would be a more beneficial thing to them, but in a world where they didn't even know of that option, they would develop and they'd view themselves as normal (probably even going so far as to mark a new child with legs born into a no-legged family as a deformity). I think, however, the thing that really brought the idea home for me was the parody website about "Neurotypicals." After seeing the few pages printed out in our reader, I went online to the full website. There, they went on defining things that we view as essential parts of our mental state as negative things, as disabilities. That definately put me into the shoes of someone who may have just recieved a diagnosis of autism or add and is looking at information on their disorder on the internet. To them- it's basically saying "look at all the things that you can't do! look at all the things that will make your life harder!" So while it may be beneficial to see areas that they could work on or something to improve their functioning in society, I can definately see how it could be hurtful to have all the things that our society views as deficiancies in them just laid out in front of them.

beyond culture as disability?
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2005-11-18 11:06:48
Link to this Comment: 17063

Some bits and thoughts off the Taylor conversation ....

Culture as disabling

Perhaps one CAN conceive cultures that would not involve "disabling"?

late posting
Name: jenny lee
Date: 2005-11-20 15:24:28
Link to this Comment: 17098

i reread them after having discussed my paper with dalke a couple days ago. Although I had written about my culture just as it is, it was perceived to be much more than that. I was unaware of the fact that my culture was disabled because it is the way it is for me, but from the eyes of someone who has never belonged to it (ie. Dalke), my culture was a bleak and melancholy one. My paper was about a disabled culture because someone else had seen it to be one, while it was just fine to me. After having attempted to write about its abilities, I couldn't help but keep returning to my old paper and reevaluate what is considered more normal than the situation I set up in my culture.
What I got from rereading it was that my culture has its downs, so it must have its ups. I had written that my culture was neither good nor bad, but I was wrong to say that. As Dalke and the reading pointed out to me, cultures are both good and bad. Its the question of whether it is more good than bad or vice versa that I had to ask myself when writing my second draft. What I got out of it, and the impression that it made on me was "beauty is in the eye of the beholder." Well, in this case "norm is in the eye of the beholder(s)." If a group of people believe that their culture is normal, than that's what it is to them, regardless of what anyone else might say. If they were doing harm, or practicing hurtful acts that effect other cultures, there's a problem. But, I'd say, as long as we're harmless, why be bothered by it at all whether we're considered normal or not?

yes, you DO have a paper due tomorrow!
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-11-21 12:05:43
Link to this Comment: 17118

Nothing like making mistakes in public. Well, just think of me as your model.

A correction to the syllabus @ the front of your packet
(and in accord w/ the syllabus on-line)
you each have a paper due tomorrow (Tuesday, Nov. 22),
in which you describe the disabling aspects of your ("hometown") culture or
(for folks like Jenny, above, who anticipated that aspect of the project last week):
you describe its abling side!

more on the abling and dis-abling of culture
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-11-21 16:23:47
Link to this Comment: 17121

Enjoy your Thanksgiving break.
While you're gone?
Read Connie Willis's Doomsday Book.
When you come back?
Post here your thoughts about the two cultures portrayed in the novel:
what is abling and what is dis-abling about each?

Name: jessica
Date: 2005-11-21 17:17:27
Link to this Comment: 17122

i think that disabilities (and labelling them as) are entirely dependent upon community. Communities are what set the measurements of normal, extraordinary, and disabled. there is nothing innate about labelling something as disabled. there are differences, but why the need to classify them as something bad? it is community, and the mentality it sets for its members, that create labels and negativity. disabilities change in each culture/community, which show that how dependent they are on environment. there is nothing that is truly a "disability" in life. rather, disabilities are a fabrication of the (ignorant) community.

(Dis)Ability in *Doomsday Book*
Name: Jessy
Date: 2005-11-28 15:55:01
Link to this Comment: 17201

Every society has certain ideas about who is fit to do what.

In modern England, Colin was not only not be expected to do anything to help either influenza victims or save a historian, he was actively prevented from doing anything on account of his age, despite being intelligent, energetic, and at loose ends. People older than him and trained in specific fields were the ones supposed to do things which Colin did manage, or might have managed; Colin might have done things which others neglected to do, through there being too much to do.

In the Medieval Ages, during a crisis, Kivrin and Father Roche, although they had no medical training (not that anyone did, really) did everything they could think of, and were given a free hand in doing so (but then there was no one to say no). *see below

How desperate would the situation have to be before a 12 year old boy would be permitted to help with the sick?

How many things do people never think to attempt because no one expects them to attempt it? How many things do we do simply because we are expected to do them?

* Father Roche's role was very circumscribed: he couldn't marry, but he must light candles, pray, and kneel at certain times, and so on. On the other hand, his position as village priest gave him a great deal of scope for helping people in what way he was able, even if it was only to offer them the promise of heaven, or to intercede with God on their behalf through prayer. Father Roche used his role as village priest to feel enabled.

Strict gender roles during the Medieval Ages naturally were very disabling. Even during a crisis, sending a woman off to Bath with a message seems to have been literally unthinkable. It was Gawyn's job to carry messages to and fro, and when he was gone then of course no other messages could be sent.

Speaking of communication: Dunworthy was very reliant on telephones to get things done, even when that technology was hugely unreliable. Far more messages were communicated - in real time - in the 21st century sections of the book than in the 14th century sections. Yet I think Dunworthy felt at least as helpless when he could not get through to people (including Gilchrist, even when they were in the same room) as Eliwys must have felt when she could neither get a message to her husband nor receive one from him. Technology has two edges, once you get accustomed to it.

I don't think that's any reason to become a Luddite. Civilization is based on becoming dependent on technologies, and other people for that matter.

Name: Deborah
Date: 2005-11-28 17:01:48
Link to this Comment: 17203

I can see how this book is the comparison of two cultures as they are both attacked by a plague- however, one of the biggest differences between them I can see is not their placement in time (yes that is big, but not what I want to talk about) but their size and governing system.

Modern Oxford is a big place, a big very heavily governed place. This is evident from the beginning when the only reason Kivrin's drop is taking place is because the administration has temporarily changed. When the epidemic strikes burocracy takes over big time. Roads are closed, the trains are stopped, papers are being signed left and right. Whenever something big happens in this culture, it must be approved by the right people, the correct procedures must be followed.

Skendgate, however, is small. It's governing system consists of Eliwys and Emeyne and sometimes Father Roche. Rather than paperwork, they simply do what they deem fit, and everyone follows their command. They cannot create a quarentine in Skendgate, they fail to keep the plague away because of Emeyne choosing to do otherwise against Eliwys' wishes. This does not mean that light government is a disability. If Kivrin had come out of the future to land in Oxford, I doubt she would have simply been nursed back to health and then allowed to look after the children. And as we can see by the end of the book, Kivrin did make a pleasent difference which would not have been made if she had been hustled off to area 51. So from that perspective a small easily distractable governing system has its merits.

Name: Sydney
Date: 2005-11-29 01:12:35
Link to this Comment: 17208

To me, it really didn't feel like a straight comparison between two cultures, so it was kind of hard to sit back and compare them and their respective (dis)abling aspects.

One of the most striking differences between the two cultures was the presence/absence of modern technology. Despite the great emphasis on the medical achievements and advancements of modern Oxford, it seemed to have very little influence on the effects of the flu. And, despite the dirty conditions of Skendgate, Kivrin was able to recover from her illness (and others were able to survive, generally). Even her attempts to use modern medical practices (i.e. knowledge of viruses/germs) failed to prevent the others from catching the Plague. Also, modern technology was able to send Kivrin to the past, but lack of total knowledge of the technology almost prevented her return.

Communications differences, on the other hand, had major effects on the societies. In modern Oxford, the ability to quickly relay information about illness to create a quarantine area was crucial. It was also important for getting information from the US and other international communities about the virus strains and potential cures for it. Also, phones played a key role in getting in touch with people needed to assist in retrieving Kivrin. The lack of rapid communication in Skendgate, however, proved deadly. Kivrin's Skendgate family never found out about the father, for instance, and they consequently sent Gawyn to the Plague-hit area. This communication by land (person-to-person) was a crucial element in the spread of the Plague in the medieval ages.

Another specific example of a time when culture can be disabling is Lady Imeyne's strong feelings of dislike toward Father Roche because she believes he's an inadequate priest. This prompts her to call on the bishop to come and do the Christmas mass in place of Roche. It is the bishop and his group that bring the Plague to Skendgate.

Name: Jenny Chen
Date: 2005-11-29 03:15:06
Link to this Comment: 17209

Although the people like Mary and Gilchrist in the present-day had more knowledge and resourcese, they dismissed the idea of a plague hitting Oxford. The process of finding out the actual virus and cause of the illness was long and painful. The attempts went in circles, blaming other parts of the world for spreading viruses to their area. They ended up sequencing an unknown illness with seven genetic mutations and could not do anything with the information. In this case, knowledge and technology did not help. On the other hand, as for Kivrin who fell ill as well, she recovered. None of the people knew how to diagnose her properly. But in the end, she did not die.

Oxford was quarantined immediately, which probably helped keep less people infected. The technology kept everyone updated and well-informed of the situation so that the illness would not spread. What did not help was the rumors that the media spread. What Kivrin dealth with was the lack of being able to communicate with other people outside of the town. When the priest from Bath finally showed symptons of illness, it was already too late. The plague had started spreading all over different areas. Kivrin understood the situation but the other people had no knowledge of what was going on.

Both cultures were disabled.

Name: Heather Fe
Date: 2005-11-29 09:01:22
Link to this Comment: 17210

What I think is interesting, and what everyone here has touched upon to some degree, is that the opposing characteristics of the two cultures were disabilities for each. Relaying messages in person in the middle ages spreads the plague and wastes precious time, but dependence upon the phone system in the modern time effectively isolates everyone within the quarantine area. Children in the present time are discouraged from helping in times of crisis, much to Colin's annoyance. Yet in the middle ages, children are seen as miniature adults, much to Rosemund's terror. This would imply that any set of characteristics in a culture can be seen as disabling, depending upon the circumstances. In many ways, this is a rather pessimistic message; no matter what you do, something will always go wrong. At the same time, it can be comforting (for Kivrin, at least) to think that some things never change.

with feeling
Name: Lauren
Date: 2005-11-29 19:58:54
Link to this Comment: 17217

I actually read Dooms Day Book over fall break. I only meant to start it, but I found it intriguing and flew through the whole thing. I thought it was interesting how Kivrinís immersion in the middle ages led her to empathize with the individual characters. In the beginning, they were distant subjects already long dead. By the end, she was more concerned with going north than returning to her time. The middle ages became the present. A detached view of the plague as a historical event seems to limit understanding. I doubt one could grasp reality without acknowledging the universal individuality of human beings in any place or time. I mean, if you are looking at things from a purely factual standpoint, you are missing the human experience. Since weíre a little wishy washy on what is ďfactĒ, it seems the broader reality IS the human experience. Anyone wishing to understand history shouldnít overlook the human tragedy of the plague and the terror it wrought. I felt that Willis made the tragedy of her characters real to the reader. I was very sad when the villagers began to die, especially Agnes. It is hard for me to think that was really all they got to know of the world. There really wasnít much they could have done, they didnít know any better. Even from a logical standpoint it is hard not to ask ďwhy?Ē when terrible things happen. Although Willisí book is fictional, it enhanced my sympathy for people of the middle ages and my respect for their culture.

Date: 2005-11-29 20:13:38
Link to this Comment: 17218

I didn't really compare the two cultures that much when I was reading. I mean, I usually compare things that are somehow related or equivalent. I think it is unfair to judge cultures as "good" or "bad" because they are much more complicated than that.

I suppose that the medical technology was enabling in the future culture. I am not convinced that the buracrecy did much to help.

It is easy for me to see the disabilities of the midevel culture, because they lacked scientific knowledge that to me makes things seem obvious, like not coming in contact with plague germs. However, if the plague was in town today, you might just try to out run it despite "common sense."

I guess I just tend to focus more on the commonalities of human experience. I feel like I often miss details because I am caught up in emotions in the story. I see that some people are caring - Mary, Father Roche, Dunworthy - and others are, hmmm, short sighted - Imeyne, Gilchrist, etc.

If every culture has abilities, thus disabilities, is it possible to have good and bad cultures? Are they just different, or is there such a thing as progress?

Name: Charlotte
Date: 2005-11-29 23:05:17
Link to this Comment: 17222

Well, first of all, I really like The Doomsday Book. I thought that it demonstrated really clearly what is disabling about cultures. We can see how people are disabled moving across cultures when Kivrin goes back in time. She has so much knowledge and yet she can't save the people she is living with. We can also see how the people who know what should actually be happening in the present day are not listened to because they are conceived as weak by the culture that prides success above all. I also thought it was interesting though to watch people sort themselves out in a culture where they were clearly disabled. Yet again, I really liked this book.

Name: Jenny Lee
Date: 2005-11-30 12:56:43
Link to this Comment: 17230

At first thought, the book makes cultures seem pathetic and hopeless. People can't see beyond what is right in front of them, which is disabling in its ways. It's also true that without another point of view, people still cannot ever get the full picture. On second thought, though, it's not exactly pathetic or hopeless. People tend to be constantly ignorant or unknowing, just because it's so impossible to know everything without being partial to some things. Yes, cultures have their disadvantages and advantages, but those disadvantages are what create boundaries and limitations on the given culture; its advantages are what lure people in and keep people within that culture. The book was interesting, but I thought it was longwinded.

Disabled Cultures
Name: Leslie
Date: 2005-11-30 13:00:23
Link to this Comment: 17231

Both cultures were disabled by their bureaucracy.
Although Skendgate was at an obvious disadvantage because of itís lack of knowledge about diseases and their treatment, both situations were being controlled by the authorities in charge. In both cases a hierarchy of authority had evolved over time. I think that cultures by nature seek to develop this kind of structure to preserve what is perceived as valuable characteristics of that culture. What may start out as an effort to maintain order and strength in the culture ultimately becomes it weakness. The protocols become more important and the vision of the goals is obscured.

Disease: Bringing lifetimes together one decade at
Name: Ada
Date: 2005-11-30 15:40:56
Link to this Comment: 17233

Seeing as the "modern day" culture isn't so far off of our own, it is interesting first to note the differences between 2005 (soon 2006) and the world of the time traveling historian. The future is obviously more advanced medically, but technologically, we're not so far off. In addition, our cultures still function in very much the same way. Personalities from Dunworthy's world are easily found in 2005, where buracracy and power struggle are very prevalent.

The one thing I noticed that I found very interesting was how Christmas in the future is a "marketed" holiday like it is now. In the Middle Ages, the emphasis was still on the religious aspect. I think it is interesting to see culturally how the focus on God has shifted with the advancement in technology. I mean, even looking at the focus of "where the plauge came from" you notice how, even though people are dying in bothe eras, the 1348 epidemic is considered worse since it is viewed as a punishment from God. For the modern, it is simply a fluke of medicin.

I think communications in both decades proved disabling, since communication would have gotten rid of half the problems existing in both subplots. This is something common to human experience, however: communication truly is the key.

Doomsday Book
Name: Ellen Good
Date: 2005-11-30 16:40:05
Link to this Comment: 17235

The present culture of the novel was better equipped to handle diseases, but they focused so much on their technology and their guesses that they failed to look at other possibilities. For example, when they were trying to guess the nature of the disease, they were so sure it was from America that they didn't even bother to look close to them, when it was right under their noses all along at the dig. They also became dependent on technology for communication, not knowing what to do if they couldn't get in touch with someone immediately (like the director of the school who was off fishing in Scotland).
In the medieval culture of the book, people are used to not hearing from distant relatives for ages at a time, and they deal well with being cut off from one another in a crisis. They don't have a knowledge of how diseases spread, or how to cure them, but they all pitch in to work together when the disease does strike (except for those who fled the area of course...). They work together more, so that despite their lack of modern medicine, they have a sense of safety, in God and in one another, even though they can't cure the disease.

Name: Ari Briski
Date: 2005-11-30 17:54:45
Link to this Comment: 17237

I feel like there just is not very much to say about the Doomsday Book. It was entertaining to read at the time, but I didn't feel like I walked away from it with a greater understanding.
I thought that the book didn't really live up to its potential. There were so many interesting twists I could have taken, but the ending and a lot of the book just seemed obvious.
It was interesting to see which characters were abled (pretty sure thats not a word....) by each culture. Mostly just the thing where Colin was just a nucence in the present culture but Rosemund was treated like an adult. Overall not really one of my favorite reading.

Name: Rebecca
Date: 2005-11-30 17:56:25
Link to this Comment: 17238

What is the point of a book being 600 pages long when the story could (probably) be told in less than 100? That is, what is the point of a story that has minimal plot?

I am still not sure and as such am greatly frustrated by The Doomsday Book. I found the characters interesting enough, but they didn't do anything. Yes, I could relate to them. Yes, I cared what happened to them. Yet somehow, I didn't.

I'm reminded of Bettleheim's analysis of faerie-tales. The child wants a protagonist that does great things and that they can identify with. The protagonists in Doomsday? Kivrin was perhaps brave, but I found her only outstanding characteristic her foolishness and simpering maiden with a "not-my-fault" view of the world, waiting to be saved. Dunworthy spent most of his time worrying about one thing, and then beating himself up for not worrying about the other. Neither of these fill me with an overwhelming desire to imitate.

Therefore, it is quite fortunate that what we are studying is culture, as that is the only thing even slightly rewarding in this book, although both are mostly hypothetical.

I'm having trouble deciding if anyone was actually enabled in either culture. Kivrin was enabled in 1348, but she was not a member of their culture.

One enabler in the past that comes to mind as part of the culture is faith. As long as they had something to believe in, whether it was right or not, they were content. Those with no faith would have been doomed, as they had no peace. In order to "rest in peace" someone had to have faith in order to be at peace with death.

In the future/present, I suppose the pseudo-opposite would be true: that knowledge was the enabler. All those seeking to better themselves and their situation searched for knowledge - the picketers were looked down upon for being ignorant.

Doomsday Book
Name: rushita
Date: 2005-11-30 18:39:49
Link to this Comment: 17239

I thought Doomsday was an awesome book. Yeah it was a little long but I thought the length allowed for the character development which made me feel as if I was part of the story. The only thing I found a little weird was that when Kivrin was infected with the virus from modern day, she was cured in the middle ages, how can that be possible, the middle ages lacked the knowledge needed to cure it durin modern day. If people were dieing in modern day, how could have Kivrin survived? Despite this, I thought the book was very good but I felt as if they could have put a closure to the story a little more, instead of ending it so abruptly.

Date: 2005-11-30 20:15:07
Link to this Comment: 17240

Putting Doomsday into an ďeither orĒ box does not suit the way I think. Although I will let that go of that for now and make an attempt to say what I think using these terms: abling and disabling. It would be easy for me, as a person in 2005, to state what was disabling about the past. I live in a world where cleanliness in valued. Diseases are mostly treatable. Technology is a huge part of every day life and supposedly helps us. In the past there was a huge lack of cleanliness that breed disease. Religious faith served as a driving force in the way people think. As I am writing I realize that these aspects still exist today. There are places in the world where people are dying because they cannot drink clean water. People murder others in the name of God. Bureaucracy and government have something to do with both today. I think about Hotel Rwanda where one tribe sent out radio messages stating that they were going to destroy another tribe. The UN did not get there fast enough and people were slaughtered in the streets and in their homes. It could have been prevented. Where am I going with this? Doomsday illustrates how cultures are continually abling and disabling, whether they make ďprogressĒ or not. Faith enables people to have standards. They can make a poor person appreciate what they have and a rich person frown at the poor. Which builds class and further divides people. People desire leaders or bureaucracy universally to make decisions. I am tired I feel like I cannot be clear.

Bridging the Disabling Gap
Name: Sarah Plac
Date: 2005-11-30 20:57:08
Link to this Comment: 17245

I have to admit that I liked this book. I usually turn my nose of up science fiction, and I don't know if it's because I thought the history of the Middle Ages that was interesting, or that I kept an open mind. One thing that has been on my mind since reading is the fact of Kirvin being a historian. And the point that Deborah brought up in class is extremely valid. I don't understand how you can be a historian studying a time that you visit. I don't think that is a historian's work--it's a job that is completely new. That whole idea just seemed strange.
In ways that the cultures were similar, I think that it was interesting how despite the hundreds of years' difference, the author really showed how people can think they know everything, when in fact they don't. And in the time of a crisis, they all act and respond in the same way--somewhat chaotic. I also thought it interesting the difference between social standards of Kivrin and Colin--other people mentioned this, and i think it's valid. Colin really got on my nerves because he didn't seem to do anything but sit. His character and personality just seemed to be fluff. I don't know if that was supposed to be a representation of the youth of the modern generation, but I found it annoying.

1348 disabling
Name: Joanne
Date: 2005-11-30 21:21:16
Link to this Comment: 17246

There was nothing ďablingĒ in 1348. Women were considered property. The church was the dominate power, which gave them the ability to make demands of common people as well as the nobility. Servants could be abused by their employers and could be raped by members of the clergy with little or no consequences. At the age of twelve girls could enough to marry.

Doomsday book
Name: Ilana
Date: 2005-11-30 23:16:17
Link to this Comment: 17251

I've briefly read through some of the previous posts. No disrespect intented to anyone who has posted-everyone has valid opinions. However, I don't believe that the culture of 1348 had nothing abling about it and only disabled people. While one culture may be more abling or disabling than another (not all cultures are created equally) I strongly believe that every culture has abling aspects in addition to disabling aspects.

The culture of 2054 clearly had abling aspects. The advanced educational system, with its knowledge of medicine was a definite plus. And of course, 2054 was full of inquirers, intelligent people who wanted to know, learn, and find out more about the past. However, it also had disabling aspects. As we talked about last class, the desire for knowledge ties in with university status and power, which breeds stiff competition, as visualized by the constant conflict between Dunworthy and Gilchrist. Because Gilchrist was unwilling to show his incompetence (which would result in his loss of status) he was willing to sacrifice Kivrin and without Dunworthy's interference, Kivrin would most likely have been permanently stranded in 1348.

As for the culture of 1348: clearly, there are a lot of disabling aspects. The strong focus on God, whom most people believed was punishing them by sending the Black Death, didn't allow the people to see themselves as individuals. Rather, they saw themselves as part of a chain or hierarchy, where the nobles were more important than the peasants, whom they could easily (and often did) take advantage of.

As for the abling aspect of 1348: faith. By 2054, it seems that most people were secular rather than religious. Although Dunworthy, Colin, and even Kivrin talked about attending Church services, they seemed to go more out of the sense of community, or out of habit, than out of actual spiritual devotion. In 2054, religious people are often severe, unforgiving, and zealous, as some of the protestors outside the hospital, or Mrs. Gaddson, who read flu patients less than comforting excerpts from the Bible.

And while religious hypocrisy did exist in 1348 as well (as evidenced by the fancy bishops/priests who come to stay with Eilwys's family), Father Roche is the one character who is religious, kind, decent, faithful, and almost saint-like. Despite the horrors of the plague, he doesn't lose his faith.

Date: 2005-12-01 02:44:00
Link to this Comment: 17254

I think this book was not much different from any other science fiction novel that I have read and it certainly wasn't the best that I have read so far. Firstly I want to say something about 'the extra hundred pages' that was so talked about in class. 'A picture is worth a thousand words' and especially in science fiction novels where the writers needs to explain a scene that is not exactly imaginable, I feel he/she needs to elaborate each scene in order not to loose the reader. Thus a few extra hundred pages here and there I feel is justified. The most interesting part for me about the book was the potrayal of the world of 2054 because I just couldn't get the 'futuristic' images for the costumes and the scenes for the world of that time. The scenes for 1348 however were not as I had imagined those days to be. But I guess the very similarities in the differences made it interesting and easier for me to understand to the plot and the character. What also struck me most about the plot was how the writer was showing two completely different times, completely different societies yet the characters in them had so many similarities between them. I cannot say I completely agree with Willis but it made me wonder if the attitudes and the ways in which people handle various situations will change with the change in time. No matter what the time period is, there will always be people who freak out in the face of trouble, people who are protective of their loved ones and people who like helping others for no reason whatsoever.

Duh Book di Doomsday
Name: virginia j
Date: 2005-12-01 06:22:57
Link to this Comment: 17255

As I read Doomsday Book, I didn't think to compare to the two cultures. ( I started it during fall break) Even when I went to finish it over Thanksgiving, it was difficult for me to read that deliberately because I was really enjoying the story and I really wanted to find out how the book ended.
Reading everyone's comments on the book, I can see the cultural parallels and differences. I only really have one or two things to say that haven't already been mentioned.
As far as Colin's character goes, I disagree with whomever said that his character is simply fluff. In the story I felt like he added some sort of comic relief or light heartedness. I realized that as this young character he was hopeful and musing, which contrasted with most of the characters and this is why he stood apart. This caught my attention because it is interesting that at Dunworthy's bleakest hour (when he believes there is no rescueing Kivrin) Colin is still full of 'naive hope.' Culturally speaking it is as if he is least 'disabled' and able to 'persevere' even when others have given up because 1) he has not been 'tainted' yet by society or 2) of the role he has been assigned by society, he is abled in this situation because the society 'blocks' him (and 'children' in general) out and so he simply muses 'why' or 'why not' for all these situations he encounters.
I also had a quick comment about Ilana's comment on faith. The way I interpretted her post it leads me to say that attributing faith as an abling aspect of 1348 seems a bit idealistic. In my mind it paints a realistic idea of faith being something which is hard to holdfast to, however also a romanticized image of their steadfast faith saving them all. I generally associate a staunch religious zeal (which is what I took as 1348's 'faith') as a disabling characteristic of a culture. It's funny that because Imeyne sent for the clerk, that this really was their doom due to Imeyne's rigid religious practices. I do think that the culture of 1348 did have it's own abilities though, such as the natural instinct of direction opposed to relying on direction giving technology.

My thoughts on Doomsday and our class discussion
Name: Silvena Ch
Date: 2005-12-01 09:34:56
Link to this Comment: 17258

I don't believe that the parallels in the Doomsday Book are of that great significance, especially in the determining of whether or not people are essentially the same in different cultures. Parallels can basically be drawn in any two situations that are even slightly similar. Two epidemics being compared are bound to have some sort of parallel in the sorts of roles that people must fill but that doesn't mean those two people are the same. That said, I don't think it is the similarities between the cultures under epidemic that are fascinating, it is the differences. The similarities are almost like the control factors and the differences are variable factors in an experiment.

culture as disability
Name: jessica
Date: 2005-12-01 09:50:50
Link to this Comment: 17259

I think that the reason the characters seemed to play no role in the novel is because Willis depicts the characters in relation to culture. Although this sounds awefully general, it makes sense since the story's main focus are two different cultures. Interestingly, modern Oxford and Medieval society are not so different since neither could SEE the pandemics before they hit them. And when the disease finally spread to their people, they were both disabled because neither could COMMUNICATE with people outside their comfort zones. Neither culture, regardless of their abilities, could UNDERSTAND any culture outside of their own. Mary, the doctor, and a few others suspected that the virus came from America, but interacting with them was not an option. The village, where Kivrin lived, did not interact with the other villages in the face of the Black Plague. Within each isolated culture, there was collaboration but outside these walls there was none to be seen.

Name: michelle
Date: 2005-12-01 09:51:14
Link to this Comment: 17260

I think that in the 1300's there were some things that were postive, for example you could try things that came to your mind, sometimes age was not a factor so it was enabling for Kivrin that would not happen at Oxford...Oh my god! It all depends what spin you put on it as it does with us...I think that what is good is also bad. I agrre that a crisis does link the present and past you could do it with Pearl Harbor and 9/11 etc. What changes is technolgy.

Doomsday Book
Name: Caroline T
Date: 2005-12-01 09:55:46
Link to this Comment: 17261

I feel that the Doomsday Book is not a good novel to use for comparisons of two societies because it is written by a person from one society, and is therefore influenced by her perceptions of society.
But I feel that the book raises interesting questions about human life and the response of people in adversity.

Firstly, it raises the issue that people die, and that there is often little that can be done to prevent this. For instance, Kivrin was unable to save the village from succumbing to the plague, even though she did her best to limit peopleís exposure. Likewise, in Dunworthyís time, they are unable to save many people. Their approach was aided by science, but ultimately they were powerless to stop many people from dying. All that they could do was the simplest of containment practices Ė quarantine.
It does not make death any more bearable, but makes it universal.

Secondly, people in both times focused on issues that mattered to them, regardless of what was going on. To Dunworthy and Kivrin, that was survival. But others, who could do little to help in preventing the disease, continued on with their priorities. It seems indicative of human nature. That we would ignore things we can do little to change and get on with our lives.

Finally, it questions the role of the God figure. Because in both times there is a God figure, God and absent Basingstoke?, from whom characters wanted help. This figures became a type of hope in both times.

And so ....
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2005-12-05 17:18:38
Link to this Comment: 17313

Fairy tales, science, tacit knowledge, culture: what's it all (or any part of it) have to do with Bryn Mawr, as it was, is, might be?

Bryn Mawr
Name: Michelle
Date: 2005-12-05 21:16:35
Link to this Comment: 17319

Fairytale, science,tacit knowledge and culture are very important to Bryn Mawr. If M. Carey Thomas wrote a fairytale about what she thought Bryn Mawr would become , I think that the present would be like a fairytale to her. Women and science are thriving at Bryn Mawr, I think we can be proud of the accomplishments of women who graduated from Bryn Mawr and the research that is currently being done here!We are forced to examine ourselves and what we have been taught and what we are lacking. We are part of a unique culture that I think is very enabling.

Fairytale, science, tacit knowledge and culture
Name: Deborah
Date: 2005-12-06 01:20:05
Link to this Comment: 17321

Fairy tales, science and tacit knowlege are all part of culture. Tacit knowlege makes culture (I'm thinking about that article on children's tacit knowledge making language here), and then fairytales pass culture around/keep it going, and science looks at this and writes this sencence. And I suppose since Bryn Mawr is a culture all of these are a part of Bryn Mawr too.

Or; What Bryn Mawr culture is now we only know in our tacit knowledge, what it was we only know through stories and fairytales, and what it will be only science dares say.

Name: Michelle
Date: 2005-12-07 19:37:59
Link to this Comment: 17334

I have been thinking about the movie we saw and the reaction to it. What is the defintion of radical? I feel this school is radical because of the amount of women who graduate from here and go on to medical school, or go on to earn a PHD. I want to saw there are many ways to be radical. The student union is active, the rainbow alliance etc are active on campus it is what you decide to do with it.

Lots of Questions, No Answers
Name: Jessy
Date: 2005-12-07 20:22:54
Link to this Comment: 17335

This post was going to be entitled 'Pardon my Anglo-Saxon, but WTF?!", but my rant about le Guin's commencement speech is getting very long, and I don't have time to do it justice. So I'll play by the rules. And hey, if I ever do anything with my LJ, maybe that'll go up there.

Fairy tales, science, tacit knowledge, culture: what's it all (or any part of it) have to do with Bryn Mawr, as it was, is, might be?

Going off to college is a kind of fairy tale, or at least there are fairy tales about college and what happens after college, fairy tales which are shared generally, and fairy tales which we tell ourselves about college. (We have fairy tales about every stage of life. _The Group_ by Mary McCarthy tells the story of a group of young women after college, and how their fairy tales about post-college life didn't come true; sometimes handsome princes were toads, or even wolves.)

Science is one way of understanding human beings more thoroughly. How the brain works; how it learns; how the brains of women function differently from those of men, and why; how a community of academically-driven women differs from other communities; how it is the same; how it is (dis)abling. And also this: science changes society, but it also reflects society. The reception of scientific ideas, new and old, are just as revealing of what it is to be human at a particular point in space and time as the scientific ideas themselves. Of course, you often need science to understand the significance of these reactions, creating a loop, no, it's more like the hare that can only run half the distance between itself and its goal, and half of that distance, and half of that distance ... That's science.

Tacit knowledge tells us how to comport ourselves in class, in the dorm, in the dining hall. What's acceptable and what's not? Where are the boundaries? But do some of those boundaries need to broken, moved, changed?

The culture of Bryn Mawr College. What is the average Mawrter, the Platonic ideal of 'Mawrter', now and in the past? And is there anyone who has every passed through this school who has been The Mawrter?

fairy tales AS science?
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-12-07 21:38:59
Link to this Comment: 17336

From "Reading Kids' Books Without the Kids," NYT 12/5/05:
"Dr. Alison Gopnik, a cognitive scientist who has studied children's learning...argued that children read the way scientists work: they experiment with different ways of ordering the world, exploring alternative modes of understanding....A great children's book...does not reflect the world or its reader. It plays within the world. It explores possibilities....The child, with the adult near at hand, never has a single perspective. Almost anything can happen. And usually does."

Name: Amanda
Date: 2005-12-07 21:43:20
Link to this Comment: 17337

Okay, let's see.....
Fairy tales will always be around, or so far as we can say. The traditions of Bryn Mawr have been around since 1889 and seem like they are here to stay. Science and women was at one time thought of as being absurd, but now look at us. Tacit knowledge is what lies underneath the exchange of learning and the culture of Bryn Mawr is made up of all of these things.

Another way to put these four categories might be this:

What if we called fairy tales-fantasy, we called science-psychology, tacit knowledge-the unconcious and we'll keep culture as culture?

The Individual:
Each person's fantasy of Bryn Mawr is different maybe because of our own psychology, and we each need it to be something different. We are all strangers in some ways to what lies underneath our thoughts and feelings about Bryn Mawr and we are constantly projecting our thoughts and feelings into the world of Bryn Mawr which helps create the culture.

I wanna know what a real Mawrter is. It strikes me that Martyr has several meanings one in which the individual sacafices him or herself for a cause, or a martryr can be someone who complains alot and seeks sympathy from others.

Bryn Mawr was founded on the idea of giving women the opportunity to be educated as well as many other visions. One good girl image offered during the creation of Bryn Mawr was:

ď There is a certain style of ĎQuaker ladyí dress, which I often see in Phila. which tells the whole story-she has her satin bonnet-her silk dress-her kid gloves-her perfect slippers-but they are made to harmonize with the expression of her face which is both intellectual and holy-so may ďTaylor CollegeĒ look down from its beautiful site upon the passing world and we hear them say ďjust rightĒ (Lefkowitz Horowitz 197).

Bryn Mawr was first to be modeled after Haverford. It must be kept in mind when considering Bryn Mawr, regardless of what we believe about it, that the founding board of Bryn Mawr was men using the ďinfluenceĒ of women to create a vision. M. Carey Thomas fought to make this college equal to the education of men, which she succeeded in and maybe to a fault.
Has the process of founding Bryn Mawr set the tone of Bryn Mawr today? What do these early days of Bryn Mawr say about Bryn Mawr today? Is the idea of womenís influence represent a tokenism? Was M. Carey Thomas the first true Mawter?
By definition a martyr is someone who complains in order to gain sympathy from others yet it can also be someone who sacrifices him or herself for a cause. It would seem to me that M. Carey Thomas falls on the side of sacrifice, yet the founding board being men of their time held the image of the soft Quaker lady. Maybe the two visions of Bryn Mawr have created a perpetual struggle. Do the women of Bryn Mawr have a choice, to either complain or to act, and at the moment are we stuck? Or has Bryn Mawr been stuck for a very, very long time?

Okay goodnight

"Bryn Mawr time"
Name: Sarah Plac
Date: 2005-12-07 22:11:42
Link to this Comment: 17339

What keeps coming up in my mind is that fact that Taylor and M. Carey Thomas both had an idea and a dream. As they're piecing it together in both of their heads, aren't they creating their "perfect" university--their fairytale? For me, I think that when people have an idea of something that they want to accomplish, what they see in their head is final product in all its splendor--perfect, finished, and happily every after. It is the obstacles and experience that go into making the idea happen that change what the ideal is.
I've heard a lot of people talk about the Bryn Mawr "bubble". What does that mean? I agree that there is a sense of being apart from the rest of society, but then I've heard it argued that the enviroment is not part of the "real world". What is the "real world" then, if learning and gaining higher knowledge and thinking isn't real? is it not thinking at a job that is all physical and not mental? In this way, is Bryn Mawr a fairy tale? What seems interesting to me in both the video and alumnae bulleitins was how the workers who came here for the summer "couldn't believe" they were here--it was too good to be true--it was the best experience of their life. In reminising about their time here at Bryn Mawr, there is a sense that they are idealising and "fairy-taling" their time here. But I'm still stuck on the idea of being in an academic enviroment to "prepare" yourself for life and the real world. Is the world that we've created for outselves here and the time we're sacrificing not considered the real world? in what ways are we gaining experience, and are we sheltering ourselves? Yes and no. we as students are exposing ourselves to new types of people and thinking and doing, so in that way we are not sheltered. But perhaps because we'/re not part of the hustle and bustle of a city or larger society that it seems that we're sheltered--holed up in our books day and night.
And another thing--the whole notion of Bryn Mawr time. we have our own time system--arrogant or practical?

Dreams come true
Name: Joanne
Date: 2005-12-07 22:21:37
Link to this Comment: 17340

Willing to challenge what was acceptable, willing to challenge the status quo. M. Carey Thomas took a bold step by creating a culture of academic excellence for women over one hundred years ago. Bryn Mawr has continued that legacy to challenge the status quo with the Summer School and the McBride Scholars Program. M. Carey Thomas held the initial vision for Bryn Mawr College and the Summer School for women. Hilda Worthington Smith could see far into the future by integrating the Summer School. It took courage to go against M. Carey Thomas and include non-white women in the Summer School.

Bryn Mawr now has a culture that welcomes women of every class, racial, and age group, blending the academic excellence that Bryn Mawr is known for and the progressive thinking that the Summer School and McBride represents.

Bryn Mawr's Story
Name: Caroline T
Date: 2005-12-07 22:32:30
Link to this Comment: 17342

Fairy tales and science in culture make me think of an urge for idealism. We strive towards perfection, as was mentioned at some point earlier in the course. We have ideals, of how things would be if they were "the way that they should be", and we bear a constant shame because we are unable to achieve our goals.
Of course, all four aspects are present in Bryn Mawr. Bryn Mawr has a culture, a set of social norms that its members are expected to follow. Each person at Bryn Mawr has a form of tacit knowledge. Life is one big experiment, and science is ubiquitous. And we create our own stories, which evolve into fairy tales.

On another note:
I thought that Le Guin made an interesting assumption, that we "came to college to learn the language of power - to be empowered. If you want to succeed... you have to be fluent in the language in which "success" is a meaningful word." Do we really go to college to be empowered? Is it the college experience or the education that empowers us? I don't feel like Le Guin effectively deals with this in her speech. Its a nice throwaway line, but I wish that it had more clarification.

Name: Leslie
Date: 2005-12-07 23:10:25
Link to this Comment: 17343

Why Fairy Tales, Tacit knowledge Science and Culture?
Bryn Mawr began as a dream to provide education for 'the higher and more refined classes of society'. M. Carey Thomas 'consciously shaped it into a female community where women's influence predominated'. At the same time, she made her fairy tale vision of her own perfect life into a reality. She created a protected environment in which she believed women would thrive. They did, and with time it grew to include not just those of privilege. It continued to evolve holding on tightly to its sacred traditions and superstitions.

It seems to me that Mawterdom is something that is learned here without thinking much about it (the tacit part) and the protective and sometimes too nurturing environment that was originally meant to protect it, feeds it. For some reason, cultures don't always improve as they develop. A truly healthy culture, or individual for that matter, has to keep testing its actions and motivations to ensure they truly support what it professes are its values (the science part).

Name: Ari Briski
Date: 2005-12-08 01:36:05
Link to this Comment: 17346

The reading was interesting, but what has really stuck with me is the comment on tueday about how members of the Bryn Mawr community are so dedicated to geting work done that no one feels they have time to protest or get really involved with the world. I realize I do this too, and it is all adding to Bryn Mawr being kind of removed from the world, at least relitive to what we saw in the video.
In the midst of finals it was a nice little reminder of why i'm here though.

Name: Jenny C
Date: 2005-12-08 03:01:58
Link to this Comment: 17347

It is quite interesting how this college came to be - how they chose the architecture, why they found hiring a diverse faculty useful, the influences of other schools such as Smith and Wellesley, etc. I was glad to learn what M. Carey Thomas had in mind when creating the school: the social and the best elements of the sister schools and the academics and standards of Johns Hopkins. (I lived near Johns Hopkins University for 12 years and considered attending the school. However, when it came down to choosing between the two, I picked Bryn Mawr. Although I had some doubts about attending an all-women's college, the Bryn Mawr culture was a lot more attractive in an academic and social sense.) Thomas really did set the tone for Bryn Mawr; a lot of the culture was shaped by what she had envisioned and what she felt. The self-government, "a spy system" to some, is actually a positive part of the Bryn Mawr culture. This is something that isn't found in all other schools. Another wonderful part of our culture is the traditions that we have every year.

Oh, one thing about the architecture, I was placed in Merion without ever visiting before I came and was quite nervous. I had visited Rhoads and Rock and loved the dorms. After moving in, I fell in love with Merion. Just recently, I found out that Merion has not been renovated; it still stands the way it used to (well, with a few changes here and there). I definitely think that the founders did a good job creating a wonderful environment Thomas had envisioned . Whenever I do doubt about my choice to come here, I take walks around the campus. I don't think I can ever be as cozy as I feel here - cozy but not too small.

As for creating "a female Haverford", Bryn Mawr in the present state does not seem to hold to it. Especially after Haverford became co-ed, Bryn Mawr and Haverford seem a lot more distant in partnership despite that the schools are 5 miles apart from each other.

I think knowing parts of the original Bryn Mawr culture and appreciating it is very important. I am starting to be more aware of the activities on campus and how some of the aspects of the current Bryn Mawr culture have been shaped and influenced by the past. The culture has changed quite a bit, but due to the way different generations and the needs to survive have changed, the changes are quite reasonable. There may have been more activist movements in the past, if we are not satisfied with the current changes, why don't we do something about it? After all, us students are the ones who are changing the culture and the story told about Bryn Mawr. We do make up a good portion of the school.

It's true, we are women
Name: Ada
Date: 2005-12-08 09:23:33
Link to this Comment: 17349

The beautiful thing about history, like science and stories, is that it continues to be made and questioned. While you can't really change what happened in the past, you can use that knowledge to impact the way the future will be portrayed. The history of Bryn Mawr College is a very interesting one, and one that I am now very proud to be a part of. I think tacitly, while Bryn Mawr may not be the "hot bed of radicalism" it used to, we all share a common ideology of what we would like Bryn Mawr to be for us. I think that if we were to revise the current state of Bryn Mawr to be more of a reflection of the past, it may prove to be more satisfying for our preconceived ideals of Bryn Mawr culture.

The Bryn Mawr Culture
Name: Ilana
Date: 2005-12-08 09:30:18
Link to this Comment: 17350

Much of culture is tacit knowledge. We learn it almost subconsciously, just from day to day living in our society. But the interesting thing about Bryn Mawr is that it's this new culture we have all just joined. Sure,it may have qualities that are very similar to our own cultures, but nevertheless Bryn Mawr is still a new and unique culture that none of us had been a part of before August.

It's interesting to talk about revising the Bryn Mawr culture, because Bryn Mawr seems to have been created by a series of revisions. Bryn Mawr, a women's college, was a revision to a society that didn't have many women's colleges. M. Carey Thomas' Bryn Mawr was a revision to the women's colleges that already existed. Even now, to some extent, we are taught to revise culture at Bryn Mawr. While the opinion differs on whether or not Bryn Mawr is actually a "hotbed of radicalism" students at Bryn Mawr are educated to re-envision the world around them.

Is it possible then that we have all come to Bryn Mawr to revise our own cultures? After all, we have all agreed to leave our home cultures and spend four years becoming a part of a new culture. Then, we may return to our old culture, or go on to become a part of another culture entirely. But, from our experiences at Bryn Mawr, will we revise these new cultures? Maybe that's the whole point of the Bryn Mawr education.

Bryn Mawr
Name: jenny lee
Date: 2005-12-08 13:29:27
Link to this Comment: 17353

I didn't come here for the reasons that, I'd guess, people assumed to be my reasons. I came to learn, and I seem to be getting a greater education than I had expected. Greater in quantity and quality. It's only now after reading the Bryn Mawr readings and watching the movie that I can see this education in a different way. It's more than just the class discussions, online forums, and student-teacher conferences. It's the material we discuss, the ideas that seem to develop, and the interesting interactions of anyone and everyone here. I can't say that whether I like it here or not, but that's not important. For whatever reasons, I feel like I am supposed to be here. I can't say that I belong, because that has too many implications that don't stand true for me. I do feel like I'm where I'm supposed to be, despite the fact that I never saw myself at an all womens college; I can't see any other way. Even though I thought myself to be quite different from the typical mawrter here, but who knows what the typical is? I don't know why everyone else is here, if she likes it, if she loves it, or what. Maybe people feel the same way I do, but they appear more interested to be here than I do. I don't know. I hadn't questioned my reasons for being here, and now that I am, I don't think it's the right question. After the readings, maybe the right question to ask myself is how I'm planning to improve myself as a result of being here, improve the world once I've left here, or improve others' lives from my education here. That would be the point of learning at all, of revising any story: to refine what is old, what is trite, to make it better, rather than alter it, change it, or destroy it.

Da Bes Fairy Tale
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-12-10 15:10:43
Link to this Comment: 17371

Thanks again to all who came, and thought...
and talked, and re-thought...
and re-wrote, and re-posted...
and generally engaged in an insistent process of revision with Paul and me this semester.

You'll now find archived on-line one record of this:
"Da Bes Fairy Tale," by Jessica, Joanne, Leslie, Sarah, Amanda and Virginia.

I'm very grateful for the good company, and for the shared vision.
And I very much look forward to hearing, in the years ahead, where it leads you all.
Keep me posted?

And they all lived happily ever after.
Name: virginia t
Date: 2005-12-13 16:20:35
Link to this Comment: 17386

ďAnd there is still no sign of the last contender as all the others have come in from a hard raceÖoh waitÖhere she comes rounding the corner, still going strong!Ē

So I am missing two postings, so I want to make them upÖPOOF voila.
First one: On your cultureís story

There are stories of the natural world, of ourselves ... and of culture, which we are all both influenced by and influence. In this next section of the course, we will be looking at and thinking about stories about culture and the influence of culture on stories. Can we step back from "culture" enough to tell useful stories about it? How could we do so?
Silko and Geertz give some examples to help think about these questions, relevant to your upcoming writing assignments, in which we'll ask you to tell a story of some aspect of a culture with which you're familiar. To get started on that, share your thoughts here about a culture you'd like to write about, and ways you might go about it. Or about Silko and/or Geertz and/or anything else that has intrigued you this week.

ďCan we step back from Ďcultureí enough to tell useful stories about it?Ē
I think that sometimes telling stories, even if you havenít ďsteppedĒ back can be useful. This is sort of what Silko does. We discussed in class how some parts didnít seem to make sense to us because it is so personal. Itís almost as if certain parts are not fully and as objectively described as possible. But as it is not objective, it is the personal encounter of something, how a person from that culture has experienced and been influenced by the culture they are in. It is like the person is the developing painting, and the painting is what you see because of the artist and the paints (culture and other people shaping the person/painting).
I wrote about the Chinese American culture and found it very difficult to write in Geertzís objective anthropological style. I was born into the Chinese culture and raised in the Chinese American culture. The melding of these two cultures has been very abrasive for me and I think for this reason the paper was very difficult for me to write objectively because the experience has not been a passive and unemotional one.
I think to tell useful stories about culture, there need to be both objective and personal stories. One to set up the rules and steps, the other to tell how it is to be a member of the story.

Fairy tales, science, tacit knowledge, culture: what's it all (or any part of it) have to do with Bryn Mawr, as it was, is, might be?

All of it has to do with Bryn Mawr before, now, and later.

Bryn Mawr was, is, will be a culture that was started once upon a time to provide equal opportunities for schooling (particularly in the sciences) to show that femalesí tacit knowledge in the sciences were just as acute as males,í they were just never refined.

Bryn Mawr is and will be a culture that was started once upon a time to provide equal opportunities for schooling) particularly in the sciences to show that femalesí tacit knowledge in the sciences were just as acute as males,í they were just never refined, but they started and havenít yet stopped, not only in the sciences either, but also in other fields of study like foreign languages and English.

Bryn Mawr will be a culture that was started once upon a time to provide equal opportunities for schooling) particularly in the sciences to show that femalesí tacit knowledge in the sciences were just as acute as males,í they were just never refined, but they started and havenít yet stopped, and not only in the sciences either, but also in other fields of study like foreign languages and English and hopefully its definition will broaden even more, to more thoroughly encapsulate subjects such as fine arts and students of that inclination because Bryn Mawr historically has such a particular breed of woman coming in and out of it that doesnít lie only in the academia the student pursues, but there is an individual that is able-minded and able-bodied even in solitude that represents a member of Bryn Mawr.

Bryn Mawr
Name: Ellen Good
Date: 2005-12-13 22:11:03
Link to this Comment: 17389

What struck me the most in the movie and in the readings was the very clear, direct vision of the people involved. In the summer school, the women knew what they wanted to learn about - the greater atmosphere around the jobs in which they worked, and they already had a place in the world established for themselves, so to say. They came to the summer school to learn how to change that place and make it better, but they came with a common and visible goal.
Thomas also came to the school with this, and in her work here, she had a very clear vision of what she wanted, something for women that did not exist in the past, a college where they could learn to rub elbows with the 'old boy's club,' and make a difference in the world.
Today, however, I don't think we have such clear-cut goals. Or if we do, I haven't figured out what they are just yet. Women are accepted to universities now, so the goal isn't to establish something unique for them. And not all of us here are in the work force, or interested in the same fields, so we lack that connection there, that common focus. This has been my experience so far, anyway, maybe the goal we have in common just hasn't come to my attention yet, since I've only been here a few months so far, after all.

Name: Lauren
Date: 2005-12-15 23:31:19
Link to this Comment: 17416

I just want to say that that movie really choked me up. I thought about the lyrics when they were singing "bread and roses," and it is like they are getting physically beaten down over a little food and love. They are not asking for a decadent life just the opportunity to live as people and not factory machines. I was absolutely inspired by the socicial activism.

I guess it doesn't entirely supprise me that the summer school turned out such active women. I would speculate that it was more of "a hotbed of radicalism" than the winter school only because the workers were in a situation and then were educated to understand their situation and were able to see the injustices in the system. To a winter student, I think social issues would be more distant and their education in general could be taken for granted in a way that it was not for the women of summer. I certainly am more apethetic than they are. I don't like that I am but I have always had the opportunity to be educated and never had to work in a factory so in that way I am very sheltered.

It is amazing that they were able to make such a difference and the whole program and integrate students and so on... making bryn mawr the amazing place it is today.

However, all around the world and even in the US, there are still people in the situation of those factory workers, and worse. I feel that if many factories have disappeared here it is because they have grown in places like china, sri lanka and everywhere else on my clothing labels. Those workers are not given an education, they are poor and starving and have little hope for "roses". There are people in this country born into poverty who never have the opportunity to escape.

Nothing horrifies me more than to think of having to live without the oportunity to fufill my dreams because of some aspect no one has a choice in, like race, sex, income, etc. These sorts of things don't determine who a person is but society can choose to discriminate and ruin lives. When I saw what those women endured, I realized that they are still out there. Honestly, it makes me ill to think about. The movie made me want to use my education to do something, anything, to help.

Oh, fairty tales, science, and so on... are all the product of different aspects of human consciosness. Familiarization and understanding of all these aspects enriches any situation, including the one here at bryn mawr. I feel like as we come to understand each others stories we can learn to appriciate our different cultures but more than that appriciate our commonalities and learn about our selves.

Date: 2005-12-15 23:32:31
Link to this Comment: 17417

wow...sorry about all the typos...

Name: lauren
Date: 2005-12-16 03:40:42
Link to this Comment: 17424

I feel like I agree that it is important to recognize the significance of Darwinís ideas and to not hide yourself away from contemporary science. I do not like the way he seemed to lightly dismiss thousands of years of philosophical thought as disproved. I mean, I buy into evolution, but I don't think I know everything. Contemporary thought itself will eventually become archaic. So I think that knowing philosophy and mythology can broaden oneís understanding of humanity. If creation stories are taught in school it must be under the context of religion or mythology. When the source of the story is respected and students are given the opportunity to examine it from an intellectual standpoint, then I fail to see how it can harm them; the least the can do is reject it. Science is science.

Name: lauren
Date: 2005-12-16 03:46:44
Link to this Comment: 17425

my tacit understanding experiment was on the swim team. Practice leads to tacit knowledge. swimmers don't think about what they are doing all the time and this can be good or bad.

Name: lauren
Date: 2005-12-16 03:48:44
Link to this Comment: 17426

once again I did swimming. I mean it is the one culture I have been really involved in. I think it was hard to see the disabilities. I should look into that more.

Name: lauren
Date: 2005-12-16 03:52:54
Link to this Comment: 17427

I think all cultures able and there fore must disable. we should be mindful of the repercussions of labeling people as disabled and give them the opportunity to develop their abilities

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