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Towards Day 15 (Tues, 10/27): Re-creating

Anne Dalke's picture

Amaka re-selected the London Room as the site of our education today;
Angela on for Thursday; reminder that your follow-up postings
should do TWO things: describe your decision-making process
AND report on the effect on our conversation of this new environment:
did it feel grounding, stultifying, what...? to be back in the classroom, etc?

I. course evals were positive, very sweet:
overall, you seem to be taking real pleasure—one of you even said joy!--
from the conferences, our ‘moving’ classroom, the writing exercises,
the readings…finding the class comfortable, supportive, educational

* It was especially powerful to be, for the first time, assured that I have the authority of my own experience.

* I would…integrate the environmental aspect of this course into more discussions—I feel as if we are only just getting around to that.
[logic of doing this, moving from identity to environment, making that overwhelming topic more approachable...?]

less invested in/confused by/resistant to Serendip?

* It is a little concerning at times to share my writing on the internet…

* at times the website can be confusing (sometimes the create post
button doesn’t show up) --> means you are not logged in

loosening up the paper requirements?
(moving to two-week schedule now)
* The weekly papers do sometimes feel burdensome
…it would be nice to get a break here and there.

* not enough time for the papers—I feel like the discussion of the topics/
texts used in the papers happens on Thursday so we don’t get the chance
to think about them more collectively before writing; time for drafts would help me
[this is changing this week!]

to discuss: handraising
* I don’t like the hand raising. I feel like it constricts our conversation +
makes it harder for us to speak out. The hand raising gives all the power
to the professor + I feel like that sometimes constricts us.

* don’t really think the hand raising is making much of a difference
for those of us who talk less, so I personally would prefer not to raise hands.

*a nice medium between the free-for-all & the more traditional professor-
student might be for the students to recognize/be conscious of who is
raising their hands & opening the space for them to speak
[great diagram of multi-directional rather than uni-directional interactions!]

II. coursekeeping
* I've responded on-line to all of your proposals (those
working w/ students in Jody's section will get two responses!)

* a heads up/complexification for those of you doing interviews:
tell your subject that you will be taking notes (or if she gives you
permission to do so, taping the conversation), and/but that you
can assure her that she will not be quoted, or mentioned by
name or position in any public document or presentation
[later, we'll give you guidelines for how to represent others]

* today's assignment was to read Parts IV-V, All Over Creation, pp. 169-309;
try to finish the novel for Thursday's class (there will be spoilers!)

we're going to "make some movies" of it, so as you read,
take note of what about the novel seems particularly
"cinematic" to you; you might want to select a scene
(or sequence) that seems to illustrate this...

* your seventh paper (a rough draft of your eighth) is due this Friday

III. (by 11:45) start w/ small group work on this
Karen Tei Yamashita (another eco-novelist whose work we considered for this class),
says in an interview called The Latitude of a Fiction Writer: A Dialogue,
that her project is about "discovering a new map behind the old map":
"I think that for fiction writers, there is this latitude that is special - you don't have to follow
any narrow line of thought. You don't have to prove something that is already often obvious.
The presentation in fiction is very free, and you can play with or examine different ideas that
you might not be able to if you have to focus or narrow your investigation."
This is certainly what Ruth Ozeki claimed, too, when she said that a novel was "not a Trojan Horse"
(though many of you didn't believe her/buy that argument!)

Your job now is to spend 1/2 hour now
to "narrow Ozeki's line of thought" for your paper.
Begin this process by opening up:
helping one another brainstorm

where you might go w/ the quotations you've selected
about the relationship between identity and environment:

divide yourselves up into 2's or 3's--
would be great to seek out folks
you haven't work with (much) yet
take turns: read your 3 quotes aloud,
explain briefly what interested you/why you selected them...
which seems most engaging to you?
how might they be connected?
what are the implications of the quotes?
[one way to think about this would be to
think about how they might intersect with,
or be read by one of our other authors...]

each of you gets 10 minutes of
brainstorming from your partners
on how you might grow a paper out of them...
your job is to listen carefully, take notes
of your classmates' ideas

you will have two weeks to work on this paper:
this exercise is to push your thinking,
so that when you do come to your claim
it will be more complex...

IV. (by 12:15): return to large group
who's got a quote we can look @ closely together?
(either one you'll use for your paper,
or one that won't necessarily get used ;)

possible talking points:
structure of the novel

in the interview with Ozeki that I referenced when we started discussing the novel, she says,
"my first two novels...are very concerned with the interconnected nature of our lives and the world.
In Buddhism, we call this dependent co-arising, or 'interbeing'....Nothing exists independently of
anything else. Novels...are a beautiful way to investigate...the way we inter-are."

The way she cuts back and forth from "The Seeds of Resistance"
to the Fuller's farm, from Yumi's past to her present, illustrates this "inter-being"
[do you find this confusing? her not keeping the foreground/background/
main and back-up characters in line...?]

But Ozeki also says, perhaps in countering this idea of "oneness" (?), that "novels are time-based
and need to move through was in the editing room where I really started to learn the
fundamentals of storytelling….I didn’t know how to move a character across a room, never
mind across months or years or a lifetime. Editing film and video teaches you how to do
exactly this…working in film and video has taught me to 'see' novels in cinematic terms.
I think about things like frame size, and focal length, and I use filmic techniques like visual
description, rhythm, and montage when I write…" [why we'll be 'making movies' on Thursday...:)]

'nother possible topic:
look @ the way Ozeki plays with puns, making so many words do double duty/swing both ways.
think about how this links up with "hybrid vegies and mixed-race kids":
on the linguistic level, it's about the refusal of purity, of simplicity,
the insistance on multiple meanings ("all over creation"? "activism/getting action"? "squash"?)

Words are very labile and associative, both in their evolution and in their "distribution" in our brains. For instance, etymologists say that the English word "beauty" comes from the Latin word bellus; how far removed in the metonymic landscapes that are our brains is bellus (pretty, lovely) from the Latin bellum (quarrelsome, bellicose), or the Middle English bely (belly, leather bag, bellows)? Does the echo of similar sound tell us anything useful about the contingent meaning of these words? Does it suggest that the use of a single word/single sound never (for a humanist, anyhow) signals a single meaning?

puns demonstrate the inherent instability of the meanings of words, and so challenge the conventional understanding of language as a structure of relationships in which each word is identified by its difference from others. The distinction between words isn't at all that clear; the "category" that each occupies is very porous. (In other words, they make linguists very nervous!)

See, for example, Catherine Bates. "The Point of Puns." Modern Philology 96, 14 (May 1999), p. 42 on "pun's perfidious status as an aberrant element within the linguistic structure....Puns play with meaning....they give the wrong names to the wrong things--and they disturb the proper flow of confusing sense and sound...normal rules governing etymology and lexicography are temporarily suspended while speculation and fancy roam free.... puns...subvert the one-to-one relation between signifier and signified...fracture the sign....the word can mean two or more things. It is because it ambiguates meaning that the pun disturbs the system of communication by which meaning is conveyed....the interpretative process...ultimately restores priority to the serious business of making sense, to showing what a pun finally means....a freak coincidence...becomes a causal and motivated presented as lexically appropriate...Once limited to a certain point, the pun becomes masterable and pleasurable."

Jonathan Culler, in On Puns: The Foundation of Letters (1987, pp. 1-16), suggests that punning frequently seems...a structural, connecting offer the mind a sense and an experience of an order that it does not master or comprehend....we are urged to conceive an order.....Insofar as this is the goal or achievement of art, the pun seems an exemplary agent....

Culler asks us to "....note above all the complexity and diversity of literature...the possibility of fictionally exceeding what has previously been thought and written....Literature is a paradoxical institution because to create literature is to write according to existing formulas....but it is also to flout those conventions, to go beyond institution that lives by exposing and criticizing its own limits.... 'cultural capital'...But literature cannot be reduced to this conservative social function...literature is the noise of culture as well as its information. It is an entropic force." (Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction, 1997; pp. 40-41).