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Knowing Ourselves: Notes Towards Day 2 (Thurs, 1/22/15)

Anne Dalke's picture

I (2:25-2:40) signing onto Serendip/introducing ourselves (get up and play avatar bingo!--
learn everyone's name and preferred pronoun; take a little time to get the story behind their image, too,
if you didn't read it on-line; some of these were really quite lovely...)

what did you learn about one another? anything surprising?

(pass around sign-in sheet: check if you're here, add user name if I don't have it...)
any questions/complaints about Serendip....? (I want feedback...always working on it)

II. (2:40-2:50): coursekeeping--how I want you to use Serendip til we meet again...
2 out-of-class opportunities:
tomorrow afternoon a new exhibit is opening @ Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery @ HC:
it's called Sea Change, in which celebrated Philadelphia photographer Zoe Strauss traces the landscape of post-climate change America;
there is a Gallery Talk @ 4:30, and a Reception @ 5:30

February 22 there will be an Environmental Studies symposium at Haverford; this Mon, Jan 26 is the deadline for submitting a proposal to present @ the symposium. If you are interested, you should send an abstract to Helen White ( about environmental issues you have confronted in your coursework, independent research, internships, volunteering, or student group activities. E-mail Helen your title, name of presenting author and co-authors, 150-250 word abstract describing your work, and preferred presentation formate (oral presentation, poster presentation, pre-recorded video, other). Michael Maniates will be the keynote speaker @ this conference; to get you excited, we're reading an essay of his for Tuesday.

for class on Tuesday, 3 more short texts, which are all about pedagogy:
how are we already set up to teach-and-learn?
how should/might we be teaching-and-learning with a greater environmental consciousness?

listen first to a history of the establishment of east coast colleages and universities:
Greenfield Digital Center Director Monica Mercado, "(A Short, Incomplete, and Often Invisible) History of Race and Higher Education." Bryn Mawr Teach-In on Race, Higher Education, Rights and Responsibilities (including a recording of the talks--listen from 22:35 to 39:00). November 18, 2014.

then read two essays that reflect on what it means to think-and-teach ecologically:
Michael Maniates. "Teaching for Turbulence." Chapter 24. State of the World 2013: Is Sustainability Still Possible? The Worldwatch Institute. pp. 255-268.

SueEllen Campbell. "The Land and Language of Desire: Where Deep Ecology and Post-Structuralism Meet." The Ecocriticism Reader: Landmarks in Literary Ecology. Ed. Cheryll Glotfelty and Harold Fromm. Athens: The University of Georgia Press,  1996. pp. 124-136.

the obvious questions here will have to do with the gaps between business as originally designed/as usual--and the ecological imperative today.

and/then/but/because it's so l-o-n-g between Thursday and Tuesday (!),
AND because I want you to spend more time outside!
each weekend I want you to do two postings, and I want you to get started now:
By midnight tomorrow (Fri, Jan. 23), your first "outside" posting is due:
follow these instructions for exploring the Bryn Mawr (or Haverford) campus; then post your answers to the questions in the survey.

By midnight on Mon, Jan. 26, your second "outside" posting is due: give yourself another 1/2-an-hour outside, a further tour of your campus, to explore one other dimension that you know nothing about. At Bryn Mawr, these could be geological (see Weecha Crawford’s description of the area), botanical (see Morris Woods: Living History and/or the Bryn Mawr College Tree Tour) or social (see Harriton House History and/or Harriton Family Cemetery). At Haverford, your possible sources include a history of the College Arboretum and Chapter 3: "Genesis: 1830-1833" of A history of Haverford College for the first sixty years of its existence (1892), pp. 76-80. Describe how you used your reading to guide your saunter, and what you learned from both your "inside" and "outside" views. Look, too, @ others’ reports: how did your experience echo or diverge from that of your classmates?

Again, just do a regular "post."

Questions about any of the homework/coursekeeping matters?

III. (2:50-3:00) Today's question: How our sightlines (our particular locations in the world)
affect our sight, the sites we view. S
tart to get @ this by looking together @ two mural-like paintings:

"James Sanders, Roadside Field"

"Cordie Cheek, Junction of Route 50 and 50A, near Columbia, Tennessee"

Keith Morris Washington, Within Our Gates: Human Sacrifice in the American Landscape.
The Museum of NCAAA: The National Center of Afro-American Artists (Roxbury, Mass), March-June 2003,
depicting "the pastoral scenes and tranquil settings where lynching, without lawful trial and mob-oriented, actually took place."

epigram for today's class is from a poem by Lucille Clifton, which asks,
"whenever i begin
"the trees wave their knotted branches
and..."     why
is there under that poem always an other poem?

IV. (3:00-3:10) use that to shift from "how we see/interpret paintings," to "how we read"....
for what's "under"
struck on Tuesday by how few English majors/minors we have among us,
made me decide to slow down today, and do some teaching about "how to read"

did everyone bring in the assigned texts?
(if not, put yourself next to someone who does; and next time, bring your own!)
in an essay called "How we Read," Katherine Hayles says that the "essence"
of disciplinary identity/most valuable thing English (as a discipline) ever offered/
its most widely applicable skill/cultural asset is "close reading," now seen
in historical dicotomy with digital technology (fast reading, sporadic sampling)

the preferred/dominant alternative to aesthetic appreciation and
"surface reading" (for overt messages) is "heroically" unveiling,
resisting the ideology of the text--getting "under it" to reveal the "subtext";
deep attention is essential for coping with complex phenomena

So let's apply this practice to the most complex, hard-to-get-at of the
three texts I asked you to read for today: Jamaica Kincaid's "Alien Soil."

We're going to do this using an exercise called "thinkaloud"-->
in pairs (again: get together w/ someone you don't know/haven't really talked to yet)
I'm going to assign you a paragraph to read aloud to one another,
describing what you are thinking while you do so...

ex, Kincaid's opening sentence:
Whatever it is in the character of the English people that leads them to obsessively order and shape their landscape to such a degree that it looks like a painting (tamed, framed, captured, kind, decent, good, pretty), while a painting never looks like the English landscape, unless it is a bad painting – this quality of character is blissfully lacking in the Antiguan people.

the point here is to model what reading is:
a conversation between the writer and the reader,
a transaction in which you don't understand a lot the first time through...
the 'text' happens in the exchange, and it takes time for this to emerge

so: read it aloud, talking back, talking it through/responding/arguing/questioning/assenting...
try first to "believe" her (think of reasons to support her claims);
then play the "doubting" game--what are the limits of her approach?
(what hasn't she seen/foregrounded?)

how does her tale intersect w/ what you know experientially, and/or from other readings?
also, mportantly, throughout: what can you say about Kincaid's style?
how would you characterize it? does it draw you in/shut you out?

believe it! doubt it! cf. w/ what you know! consider the style!

then, step back from these details and tell one another:
does your assigned passage have a thesis? if so, what's its main argument?
and how does she (does she?) support it?
are there any "cracks" in its construction?
where do you get lost/confused/puzzled?
where do you find yourself wanting to ask her some questions?
for ex: what's happening @ the ending?

...there is no order in my garden. I live in America now. Americans are impatient with memory, which is one of the things order thrives on.

does she identify as American? what's the role of order and memory in her life?
what's the difference between her gardening in Vermont, and Jamaican agriculture?

3:10-3:25: small group work

3:25-3:35: coming back together, and breaking this down:

what is she saying? in paragraphs 1-9....?
what do we want to say back to her....?

V. 3:35-3:45: that's "close" reading; now let's do some "hyper-reading":
Katherine Hayles argues that, while we need to ensure that deep attention continues vibrant,
skimming and scanning can usefully alternate with in-depth reading and interpretation,
seeking different distributions of patterns, meaning, context

each form of reading has distinctive advantages & limitations,
I'd like to help you all to be "bi-textual/"multitextual,"
able to read/analyze flexibly, in different ways;
literary studies should teach literacies across a range of media forms, re-thinking what reading is
Hayles argues for a disciplinary shift to a broader sense of reading, to include hyperreading:
reader-directed, screen-based, computer-assisted ...searching, filtering, skimming, hyperlinking,
"pecking," fragmenting, juxtaposing, scanning, strategy of reading in an "F" pattern

deep and hyper attention have distinctive advantages, Hayles says:
hyper attention useful for its flexibility in switching between different information streams;
it offers a quick grasp of gist of material, the ability to move rapidly among/between different texts

so! let's do this (quickly!):
what are the intersections that you saw, or see now, among the 3 essays I assigned?
what are the larger patterns, independent of context and distinct meanings?

what is the argument of all 3 of these essays, taken together (the 'big picture')?
ecological understanding is always raced, classed, gendered, encultured:
each author's particular p.o.v. arises from their social positioning
this orientation is variously called "eco-feminism," "social environmentalism," "environmental justice"-->
it focuses on the intersection of human location & oppression w/ ecological concern;
it is anthropocentric (and we are in the anthropocene?)
Anne's reading notes:

"Alien Soil":

the character of the English people...leads them to obsessively order and shape their landscape

gardens in which only flowers were grown made it apparent that they
had some money...outside space was sheer beauty

What did the botanical life of Antigua consist of at the time...Christopher Columbus first saw it? To see
a garden in Antigua now will not supply a clue....Antigua is also empty of much wildlife natural to it....

there is a relationship between gardening and wealth...the people of Antigua have a relationship
to agriculture that does not please them at all...they (we) were brought to this island from Africa...
for the free labor they could provide in the fields....a wretched historical relationship to growing things

contrasting lawns and massed ornamental beds are a sign...that someone...has been humbled

...what if the people living in the tropics...are contented with their surroundings, are happy to observe
an invisible hand at work...what if these people are not spiritually feverish, restless, and full of envy?

"Black Women and the Wilderness":
I didn't want to get closer. I was certain that if I ventured outside...
I'd be taunted, attacked, raped, maybe even murdered.

I believe the fear I experience in the outdoors is shared by many African-
American women and that it limits the way we move through the world...

I imagine myself in the country as my forebears were--exposed,
vulnerable, and unprotected--a target of cruelty and hate.

"Never be the only one, except, possibly, in your own house."

I could no longer reconcile my silence with my mandate to my students to face their
fears....I have taken wilderness an effort to find peace in the outdoors.

Anthony and Soule, "Multicultural Approach to Ecopsychology":
Given the public invisiblity and harness of their rural experiences, it is not surprising
that African Americans may have a different feeling about the land than privileged
people of European heritage. The depth of humiliation, the feeling of outrage...
lead to a feeling of detachment and avoidance of emotional engagement with rural life
....a psychological perspective that needs to be included in an enduring conservation ethic.

our response to urban realities is not divorced from our ancient fear of wild territories...the inner city
[can be seen as] a wilderness...fear comes from the lethal combination of being caught in darkness in
an unfamiliar world... How much...emotional reaction is an unconscious fear of retribution and guilt for
... the prodigious waste of abandoned sections of the city?

There is also the painful reminder that these are displaced people. They do not own their land, nor are they flourishing in this desolate urban habitat...urban populations by definition are people who cannot feed themselves.

The lessons of both social justice and ecopsychology are simple and the same. They involve living in connection...cities clearly teach us about interdependence....Ecology can be seen as a way of life...its range of relationships includes everyone....feeling more firmly rooted in one's sense of self...holding an ongoing intention to 'stand corrected' without being subsumed....Everybody's story is vital to the integrity of the whole....

Monoculture is...deadly...inclusivity is risky, but ...exciting.