Questions, Intuitions, Revisions:
Telling and Re-Telling Stories About Ourselves in the World
A College Seminar Course at Bryn Mawr College

Forum - Sundry Thoughts

Name:  Anne Dalke
Subject:  opening paragraphs
Date:  2001-09-07 09:14:45
Message Id:  72
Our section had a great writing workshop on Thursday; we read together 5 opening paragraphs, written by class members, and found ourselves not only full up w/ ideas on how they might be improved, and full of questions about how the "promises" of the first paragraphs would be fulfilled later in the papers, but also enchanted w/ the variety of ways in which papers describing our "lives of learning" might be initiated: some of us began w/ particular, concrete, sensuous (aural and visual) details, others w/ more "universal" images or sensations; some of us started out sharply & quickly; others chose slower, dreamier tones...Anyhow, for a taste of the range, here are the passages we discussed:

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

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

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

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

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

Name:  Anne Dalke
Date:  2001-09-13 09:49:08
Message Id:  111
To the Storytelling Cluster--
this is the message I sent to my class Tuesday night:

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

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

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

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

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

Name:  Anne Dalke
Subject:  The Shadow Side
Date:  2001-09-13 15:30:00
Message Id:  132
I've asked my class to re-write their own fairy tales for next Thursday's class, giving space to the "shadow" side of what may have been a "Disney-ized" version the first time through. In doing so, I was remembering commentary written by Mary Gordon, who a few years ago took on the project of writing up the life of her father and found, in the process, among his own writings, evidence that he had been both a virtulent anti-Semite and pornographer. In her biography of him, The Shadow Man, she commented:

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

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

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

Name:  Carol
Subject:  anne sexton's psychiatrist note
Date:  2001-09-18 15:02:27
Message Id:  208
Anne, and fellow CSem students,

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

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


Name:  carol
Subject:  link
Date:  2001-09-18 17:42:21
Message Id:  217
another link regarding Anne Sexton's psychiatrist's notes:

Name:  Stacy
Subject:  Fairy Tales
Date:  2001-09-18 21:27:24
Message Id:  221
Friedrich Schiller's comment regarding fairy tales is valid in some respects and not quite so valid in others. On the one hand, fairy tales do provide a definitive message: they show children virtuous, appropriate behavior, contrasted with evil, inappropriate behavior. In the end, the virtuous receive some sort of reward, albeit at times on a small scale, while the evil pay the consequences for their malicious ways, thereby teaching children the value of moral behavior. Thus deep meaning can reside in fairy tales, a meaning that spares the reader - the child - from experiencing "the hard way" the mistakes that the immoral characters make; they see what happens in the tales so they do not make the same errors themselves.

On the other hand, this is largely theoretical, so the actual value children derive from fairy tales may not excede that derived from life experiences. True, as older students, we are taught to look for the moral in the story, but can the same be said for children? Do they grasp the meaning behind the tale or does the storyteller's well-intentioned message slip right over their heads? Especially in this day and age, when fairy tales and the like are "dumbed down" so that they will be "appropriate" for children, the original moral is often smothered in the attempt to increase the entertainment quality. As a result, it seems that fairy tales have lost some of their value as a primary learning tool for children. Furthermore, children of today seem to have grown so accustomed to passive entertainment that, even if the message were more blatant, they might be immune to it. In this respect, I do not feel that children's fairy tales hold greater meaning than life's lessons.
Name:  Carol
Subject:  red rose girls
Date:  2001-09-20 16:43:32
Message Id:  244
I was telling several of the McBrides about an opening I attended at the Woodmere last weekend, and they suggested that I post the information on this site. It's a show of illustrations by The Red Rose Girls--Violet Oakley, Jessie Willcox Smith, and I forget the other one's name--who studied with Howard Pyle at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. They illustrated lots of children's books, so many will recognize some of the illustrations from their old books of fairy tales (especially McBrides of a certain age).

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

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

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

Name:  Anne Dalke
Subject:  constructing a bunch of tunnels
Date:  2001-09-20 23:40:29
Message Id:  245
As you all work toward the final revisions of the series of drafts you've been laboring over the past few weeks, I thought it might interest you to hear a snatch of description from another Bryn Mawr professor (the chairman of the English Department, Michael Tratner), about his own writing process. He and I were e-mailing one another back and forth in the middle of August about our book-writing projects, and (at my request) he said I was welcome to share w/ you what he wrote:

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

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

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

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

Name:  Carol
Subject:  more
Date:  2001-09-21 16:51:18
Message Id:  250
I forgot to mention the connection between the Red Rose Girls and Bryn Mawr--they drew the illustrations for the Bryn Mawr calendar. Many of the paintings in the show are on loan from Bryn Mawr.
Name:  Anne Dalke
Subject:  the limits of storytelling
Date:  2001-09-21 18:05:38
Message Id:  252
My McBride session was wrestling in Thursday's class w/ the limits of storytelling, particularly w/ the ways in which OLD stories (like fairy tales, w/ their clear demarcation of "good" from "evil")--but actually ALL stories, w/ their impulse to shape and organize experience--can limit our understanding; they provide us w/ ready-made accounts that may fail to open up new possibilities for how we might see--even re-shape--the world. In this morning's (9/21/01)Philadelphia Inquirer, I found an apt example of this. The article, called "Putting a face to terror may have a downside," is by Anthony Wood, and reads, in part

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

Name:  Anne Dalke
Subject:  We are the stories we believe
Date:  2001-09-23 07:23:16
Message Id:  259
A similar comment appeared in today's (9/23/01) NYTimes Magazine, in a little piece called "The Villians" by Robert Stone:

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

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

Name:  Anne Dalke
Subject:  more art
Date:  2001-09-23 07:35:06
Message Id:  260
one last bit, then i'll let others talk for a while....

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

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

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

Name:  Anne Dalke
Subject:  writing assignment for 10/4
Date:  2001-09-27 10:57:31
Message Id:  320
To the first-year Mcbrides: your writing assignment for next week--

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

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

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

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

Name:  Gail DeCoux
Subject:  Particle Man Hyperlink
Date:  2001-09-29 16:22:24
Message Id:  334
Hi All, As some of you may know, the poem "Particle Man" that appears in our course packets is a song by a group called They Might Be Giants. There is a web-site that has some interesting interpretations for this song, one of which is based on the reading for Tues., Flatland.
With the gracious assistance of my son-in-law, Paul, I will now attempt to send you a hyperlink;

click here

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

Name:  Anne Dalke
Subject:  dropped stitch: citations
Date:  2001-09-29 16:31:07
Message Id:  335
One of several stitches I dropped this week was a promise I'd made to the McBrides for a quick review of the conventions for citing other works in your own. Basically, here's how:

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

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

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

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

Name:  Carol
Subject:  the concert
Date:  2001-10-01 10:32:41
Message Id:  347
I hope the performances went well last night. I'm sorry to have missed the occasion, but here's the review of the concert I went to, where my sister played her "big wooden stick," as I call it in my fairy tale. She, of course, was fabulous, but Leontyne Price, Yo-Yo Ma, and James Levine were also just great. Very moving.

October 1, 2001

A Concert Offers City Some Time For Healing

Find additional information by selecting from the following topics.

Classical Music
Ma, Yo-Yo
World Trade Center

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Name:  Paul Grobstein
Subject:  last night and ...
Date:  2001-10-01 15:31:08
Message Id:  357
Thanks to all for an enjoyable/instructive evening. I have some pictures as reminders which I'll try and get up in the near future.

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

Name:  Anne Dalke
Subject:  Writing Assignment for 10/11
Date:  2001-10-05 11:17:12
Message Id:  401
To the McBrides--
your last set of drafts are in my basket (or on Helen's desk) for pick-up this morning. All requested faxes are also enroute. Moving on now--

to your next paper assignment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Name:  carol
Subject:  trivia
Date:  2001-10-05 12:23:22
Message Id:  402
I found myself humming "Particle Man" all day yesterday. Suddenly I realized that the tune we all thought sounded familiar was this:


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

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

Name:  Anne Dalke
Subject:  two more bits....
Date:  2001-10-05 12:41:49
Message Id:  403
...of information. During our discussion of Foucault yesterday, I described to my students the (to me very useful) concept of "bounded variance," the notion that identity w/in any particular Foucaultian category (such as "tree" or "American literature") might well be conceptualized as a range of variations, theoretically unlimited and infinitely expandable, which nonetheless have an "outside" (that which is "not-tree" or "not-American-literature"). I picked up this idea from an piece of biological theory Paul Grobstein wrote over a dozen years ago. The article is pretty arcane, but here's the reference if you want to try wrestling w/ it:

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

That's all for the weekend.
I think.

Name:  Anne Dalke
Subject:  center of the universe
Date:  2001-10-06 21:39:43
Message Id:  406
...something else i'm doing this semester is teaching a 300-level course in feminist literary theory. in our collection of readings (feminisms: an anthology of literary theory and criticism, ed. robyn warhol & diane price herndl rutgers univ press, 1997) is a very cool piece called "aesthetics," by joanna russ, an english prof @ uwashington, who writes feminist science fiction and critical studies of utopia. she ends this particular piece w/ a passage SO relevant to our reading for this week that i can't forbear sharing (i haven't been able to track down "glotologgish," but suspect is has something to do w/ distorting language....):

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

Name:  Anne Dalke
Subject:  revising the requirement to post
Date:  2001-10-10 10:41:43
Message Id:  444
To the McBrides--
I've been so tickled w/ what you are writing that I wanted all your papers
up on the web for all to see (I also very much like having
not-quite-finished pieces posted, because it's a help for all of us to see
the messiness of the evolving process...) I understand from conversations
w/ several of you today, however, a little more about the real unease that
such a requirement entails. Anyhow, anyhow, it seems I've pushed too much,
too soon (yes, I'm still working on getting this teaching thing "less
wrong"....) So let's revise that requirement, shall we? I
invite/encourage/hope you will post your next paper, but it's not a
Name:  Anne Dalke
Subject:  Paper #3 Assignment
Date:  2001-10-23 21:19:21
Message Id:  516
To the McBrides--
Questions, Intuitions, Revisions:
Telling and Re-Telling Stories About Ourselves in the World
Fall 2001
Paper Assignment #3

Our sequence of drafts for Paper #3 derives from Michael Polyani’s claim in The Tacit Dimension that "Tacit knowing is shown to account (1) for a valid knowledge of a problem, (2) for the scientist’s capacity to pursue it, guided by [her] sense of approaching its solution, and (3) for a valid anticipation of the yet indeterminate implications of the discovery
arrived at in the end"(24).

Each of Polyani’s stages marks a draft in your writing process.

(1) By 9 a.m. on Thursday, October 25th, please deliver to my office a written record of data you have collected on tacit understanding; we will conduct a large-group workshop on the material you have gathered. There are a wide range of forums where you can make these observations. For instance, three exhibits on Serendip invite you to do precisely that:
You’ll find “Time to Think” @
“Seeing More than your Eye Does” @
and “The Three Doors of Serendip" @

Alternatively, you may want to conduct your own experiment, making observations of how you see yourself--or preferably, others--using tacit knowledge; you might also find it very productive to conduct two different experiments/gather two different sets of comparable data in which you have observed tacit knowledge being used.

(2) On Thursday, November 1st, please bring to class a draft in which you interpret the observations you have made: what story, what theory most fruitfully describes the data you have collected? We will conduct small-group writing workshops on these drafts.

(3) On Thursday, November 8th, please bring to my office by 9 a.m. a final version of this paper, in which you not only present and interpret your data, but also identify what new questions your explanatory theory raises. What new experiment need you now design, to elicit a further set of observations?

Name:  Anne Dalke
Subject:  Twice Upon a Time
Date:  2001-10-28 22:55:51
Message Id:  540
From the October 26, 2001 Chronicle of Higher Education (read to the end, where Sexton's cannibals appear....)

'Twice Upon a Time: Women Writers and the History of the Fairy Tale'

Once upon a time there was a fairy tale. Ageless, universal, and vaguely handed down by the folk, it comforted us with formula and ended happily ever after.

Wrong, says Elizabeth Wanning Harries. Our common ideas of fairy tales are mistaken, "part of the nostalgia and traditionalizing that have accompanied our construction of our own modernity."

The tales we know now have always been deeply affected by the practices of writing, argues the scholar, who teaches English and comparative literature at Smith College. They may have roots in oral culture, but their history is primarily one of print, the legacy of highly educated people.

"We need to reread the history of fairy tales, and to watch ourselves rereading it," she says.

Her own rereading in Twice Upon a Time: Women Writers and the History of the Fairy Tale (Princeton University Press) explores an oft-neglected realm of the fairy-tale world: the conteuses, or female storytellers, of 1690s France.

They were the contrary contemporaries of Charles Perrault of Mother Goose fame. Perrault, who influenced the Brothers Grimm, framed his collected tales in folkloric terms. His books' frontispieces showed an older woman, perhaps a kindly nurse or grandmother, spinning both wool and stories. In a compliment damning of old ladies, the abbé de Villiers praised Perrault:
"One must be clever to imitate their ignorant simplicity well."

The conteuses were different. They presented themselves as sophisticated writers, not artists of nostalgia, says Ms. Harries. The glitter and artificiality of their stories work against the association of fairy tales with the folk, she argues.

On their frontispieces, they portrayed themselves as sibyls, Greek goddesses, aristocratic storytellers, often shown in the act of
writing. Their tales blossomed from the "competitive, scintillating dialogues" of salon culture. And in critiques of marriage, the
conteuses' characters did not always live happily ever after. Consider the princess in Catherine Bernard's "Riquet à la houppe," who finds herself saddled with two identical, repulsive husbands and no one to talk to.

Ms. Harries's own scholarly tale closes with modern female writers who have retold stories for their own artistic ends.

Anne Sexton's "Hansel and Gretel," for example, reveals the "barely repressed murderous impulses in the heart of the nuclear family," every member a potential cannibal. "Sexton frames all her tales with the sardonic, vulgar voice of the storytelling witch, the witch who speaks American slang and knows all the brand names..."

Name:  Louise
Subject:  Writer’s Incubation
Date:  2001-11-02 16:48:46
Message Id:  548
Students should be given the freedom of choice whether or not to post their essays on the Internet class forum. I believe writing is intimate, and the thoughts and ideas that we place on paper are our own and should be treated with kindness and consideration of the writer’s position. The policy of posting on the class forum places the student in a vulnerable position. This position is demonstrated when they are asked to produce essays or analysis that are delicate, revealing and personal and are then instructed to post them on the Internet. I believe this creates a breach of trust a crucial ingredient in building confidence.
Before technology was in place, and used in classroom forums for collaboration, the instructor was the person that read personal ideas and helped the student work through the difficult process of organizing it into logical order. The student chose the eyes that read her private words. This interpersonal relationship was built on trust, and security and created an atmosphere of increased writing creativity. A WRITING TEACHER Is LIKE a Psychoanalyst, Only Less Well Paid, Jay Parini declares in a recent essay in Freud in the Writing Center
The use of the mandatory posting on the class forum corrupts that trust between teacher and student because it drapes a veil of mistrust over the writing process. It blocks the student’s freedom needed to write creatively without fear of academic nakedness. As in psychoanalysis, the quality of the interpersonal relationship between therapist and client, teacher and student, determines how successful the interaction, as a whole will be. Truax and Carkhuff, in Toward Effective Counseling and Psychotherapy, would contend, however, that fundamental and profound similarities exist amongst all the intervention processes, from therapy, to education, to the managerial interactions of employer and employee. They state “the person (whether a counselor, therapist or teacher) who is better able to communicate warmth, genuineness, and accurate empathy is more effective in interpersonal relationships no matter what the goal of the interaction” (116-17) Freud in the Writing Center
Nakedness, and vulnerability are not the feelings that a student wants to feel after writing their first essay for a college course. Yes, growth can be very uncomfortable, but compulsory rules of exposing a student’s writing too soon on the college forum stunt that growth. It can block creativity because it creates stress and concern about rules of grammar instead of focusing on the creative content.
Technology is a wonderful tool to be used in the classroom and for posting information for collaboration, but I believe it should be used carefully, according to the ethics of posting academic information and with extreme consideration to the student’s venerable position as a new writer in the college forum.
Ceremony, the novel by Leslie who says, “That was the responsibility that went with being human… the story behind each word must be told so that there could be no mistake in the meaning of what had been said” (35) we share the powers of language to express emotions, to inspire creative thought, and to change perceptions of the self and others. We share the power of language to transform thought and being. Freud in the Writing Center

Parini, Jay. “A Writing Teacher is Like a Psychoanalyst, Only Less Well Paid.” The Chronicle of Higher Education 2 Nov. 1988. B2.

Name:  Anne Dalke (for the teaching t
Subject:  Please post your reactions to Morrison's novel
Date:  2001-11-06 21:56:02
Message Id:  569
To all students in the Storytelling cluster--
It's been a while since we've seen most of you in this course forum space. Welcome back. As you know, we've reordered the reading for the fourth section of this course, and will be discussing Toni Morrison's novel Beloved during the weeks of 11/12 and 11/19. So--by 9 a.m. on Thursday 11/15 (this posting deadline is for the McBrides; it may vary in the other sections) please post your 1-2 pp. response to (one or more of) these queries:
What are your initial reactions to Morrison's novel?
Within the context of this class: what do you find most interesting &
most problematic about the story she tells, and how she tells it?
What is the experience of reading the novel like for you?
Can you begin to speculate about the ways in which the tacit knowledge you bring to the novel, and w/ which you read it, might actually be re-arranged in & by your experience of reading it?
Name:  Lisa
Username:  lharriso
Date:  2001-11-09 11:09:28
Message Id:  585
(We used to have poetry slams weekly here in New Hope, PA, but the couple who "ran the show" moved to Yugoslavia. Could I make this stuff up?)

In answer to the question regarding Poetry Slams...

In 1985 a construction worker and poet named Marc Smith started a poetry reading series at a Chicago jazz club, the Get Me High Lounge, looking for a way to breathe life into the open mike poetry format. The series' emphasis on performance lays the groundwork for the poetry which would eventually be exhibited in slam. In 1986 Smith approached Dave Jemilo, the owner of the Green Mill (a Chicago jazz club and former haunt of Al Capone), with a plan to host a weekly poetry competition on the club's slow Sunday nights. Jemilo welcomed him, and on July 25, the Uptown Poetry Slam was born. Smith drew on baseball and bridge terminology for the name, and instituted the basic features of the competition, including judges chosen from the audience and cash prizes for the winners. The Green Mill evolved into a Mecca for performance poets, and the Uptown Poetry Slam still continues nearly 15 years after its inception.

Simply put, poetry slam is the competitive art of performance poetry. Established in the mid-80s as a means to heighten public interest in poetry readings, slam has evolved into an international art form emphasizing audience involvement and poetic excellence.
In the majority of slam series, organizers stage weekly or monthly events in a public space, such as a bar or cafe. Poets wishing to compete sign up with a host, and the host finds five audience members who wish to serve as judges. Poets must follow a series of rules: the poems must be of each poet's own construction, the poet may not use props, costumes, or musical instruments, and if the poet goes over the time limit (three minutes plus a 10-second grace period), points are deducted from his or her score. Judges, who are encouraged to factor both content and performance into their evaluations, judge each poet on a 0.0 to 10.0 scale. The high score and low score are dropped, and the middle three scores become the score for that particular poet. To insure that the entire audience is involved, the host encourages the audience to respond to the poet in any way they see fit, be it impassioned cheering or lusty booing. The judges, in turn, are encouraged to remain consistent with themselves and not let the audience influence them.

In a typical competition, all poets read one poem in the first round. Based on the scores they receive, the top-scoring poets go on to the second round, and from that pool, a smaller number of the highest-scoring poets in the second round go on to the third and final round. While the specifics vary from slam to slam, certified slams adhere to this basic structure, insuring that poets must seek to make immediate connections with the audience in order to continue on. Cash prizes or other prizes are offered to the winner as further impetus for performing well. In most cities, the slam series culminates with a final slam at the end of the season to determine which poets will represent the city at the National Poetry Slam.

By adhering to a structure that factors in the audience at such a basic and integral level, slams have emerged as the most vital and best-attended of many cities' regular poetry events. Whereas many open mike events tend to serve either the poets who participate or a particular target community, slam's emphasis on addressing the audience has garnered slam a more inclusive, more diverse audience than the typical poetry reading. By marrying poetry with competition, slam has allowed non-traditional audiences a tangible and intriguing avenue for experiencing poetry in a live prime-time setting.

source: (of course!)

Name:  Anne Dalke
Subject:  Instructions for your Paper on Beloved
Date:  2001-11-15 19:29:46
Message Id:  614
I have taught Beloved many times, but never after a unit like the one we've just completed, on "collecting observations." What this means is that I have found a new way of describing to you all what I am expecting in the final draft of your expanded paper on Morrison's novel. As you reflect on what is accomplished in her (re-)telling of this story, you might find it useful to think of this paper as following the same format as the last one you wrote, but having a different object: rather than studying "tacit understanding," you will be exploring Morrison's novel. That is, you should
1. gather your observations about some piece of the novel that puzzles/intrigues you/that you don't understand
2.try to solve the puzzle/put together and interpret the pieces/tell a story/concoct a theory to explain it
3.this essay, like the last one, needs a thesis/to take a stand/make an argument/claim an interpretation
4.this essay, like the last one, needs more than a mere "associative" allusive arrangement; it needs a structure, w/ logical connections between paragraphs and the ideas developed therein
5.check again in course packet for the 9/27 handout by Juana Rodriguez
(right after the Bettelheim material) which gives guidelines for revising your papers (and critiquing others)

You are welcome to try out possible topics/thesi on me during the week prior (via e-mail; there are no conferences Thanksgiving week). Bring your paper to class on 11/29 (deadlines may vary for the non-McBride sections). I'm looking forward to seeing what you come up w/!

Name:  Anne Dalke
Subject:  Instructions for Paper #5
Date:  2001-11-28 21:25:47
Message Id:  646
Questions, Intuitions, Revisions:
Telling and Re-telling Stories About Ourselves in the World

Instructions for Paper #5
(following a pattern which may be wearyingly familiar to you by now:
a sequence of 3 steps):

1. Read through all the materials in the course packet on Bryn Mawr history: Horowitz's two chapters, Heller's introduction, and the 6 short essays from the 1920s-30s Alumnae Bulletin. We will also watch The Women of Summer video in class early next week. Then write, and post on our course forum, a short draft of "the history of Bryn Mawr" as you now understand it. In this essay, draw on your own campus experiences as well as your reading and viewing of the assigned materials. What is most striking to you about this slice of Bryn Mawr history? What surprises you, pleases you, distresses you? What would you like to know more about? (For the McBrides: due by 9 a.m. Thursday, 12/6.)

2. Read the McDermott and Vareene essay on "Culture as Disability" and the Osborne NYTimes piece; if you have time and interest, also view one of the videos on American Sign Language poetry on reserve in Canaday library. In your second draft of this paper, re-write your above story of Bryn Mawr, focusing on the disabilities that may be generated by the abilities you see being taught here. For the McBrides: bring to class on Thursday, 12/13.

3. In your final draft, revise this Bryn Mawr story a third time. This might take the form of an essay, a futuristic short story, fairy tale, a montage, a poem or an illustration; it could be a riff on Sharon Bergmeyer's production of "Understanding is ???"; it could be collaboratively written or performed at our final celebration--to which you should bring it (tentatively: 4 p.m. Tuesday, 12/18).

Final Portfolios (w/ one paper dropped; one substantively re-written; all collated and chronologically ordered; the whole thing reviewed-and-evaluated-by-you in accord w/ upcoming instructions) due-for the McBrides--by noon, Saturday 12/22.

Name:  Anne Dalke
Subject:  Instructions for Preparing Your Final Portfolio
Date:  2001-11-28 21:32:05
Message Id:  647
Questions, Intuitions, Revisions:
Telling and Re-telling Stories about Ourselves in the World
Fall 2001
(Slightly Revised) Instructions for Preparing your final Portfolio

In this portfolio, due (for the McBrides) by noon on Saturday, December 22nd, I am asking you to collect and reflect on the written work you have done for this course. This portfolio project invites you to chronicle what has happened in your evolution both as a writer and a speaker in class, and to contribute to and assist me with the evaluation of your work. So--

1. Gather together everything you've written for this class: copies of what you've posted on the course website, all your paper drafts, as well as all the responses (you've saved) from both your classmates and me. Arrange the material chronologically, back to front, in a folder.

2. You are free to omit altogether from the packet one of the papers (in all its versions).

3. You are also invited to revise one of the papers. Be open, in this process, to major re-thinkings of what you have done already. (Merely editing for stylistics and technicalities doesn't count for much, although you may find it satisfying--and so are more than welcome--to submit a clean and corrected copy as finale for a sequence of drafts.)

4. You are also warmly invited to post another one of your papers on our course website, as your public finale to the course.

5. Review all you've gathered together in the portfolio; ruminate for a while on what you're seeing as you do so. Then write a short (2 pp.) essay tracing where you were when we began this process, where you are now, and what's been happening in between. Be specific and descriptive, but also evaluative: how much effort have you put into each of these drafts and their revisions, and what can you say about the quality of the final products?

6. Review as well your participation in our group work: how frequently have you come to class, how present-and-contributing have you been in our discussions,both large and small, what role have you assumed in our group dynamics?(Are you an organizer, devil's advocate, includer, clarifier, withdrawer? I picked up this idea from a book called Freire for the Classroom: A Sourcebook for Liberatory Teaching, which called my attention to the roles people play in groups.)

In my response to your portfolio, I'll be giving you a grade not just for the quality of your written work, but also for class participation and process. Your self-evaluation will assist me w/ my own.

I very much look forward to seeing what you come up with, as well as what you have to say about it.

In gratitude for the pleasure we have found in the hard work we have all been doing together,

Name:  Anne Dalke
Subject:  Re-writing the Bryn Mawr Story: Starting w/ Admissions
Date:  2001-12-06 16:32:37
Message Id:  666
To the storytelling cluster--

As I was telling the McBrides this morning, part of my own effort
to "re-write the Bryn Mawr story" involves working on the Admissions
Committee, where I find myself in quite a struggle over how to
recruit and retain the sorts of students (like yourselves!) I want
to work w/. Talking over this project, Paul and I came up w/ the
idea of trying evoke, in the Admissions materials, possibilities of
how potential students might perform here, rather than asking them
for a catalogue of criteria they have already met--criteria which I'm
yet to be convinced are predictive of flourishing (however one defines
flourishing). I'm wondering what you think of this proposal for a new
set of essays we might require for Admission to Bryn Mawr?

1. What has been your most difficult academic challenge so far?
How did you meet it?
2. Write an essay in which you provide a critical analysis of your
educational experiences to date.
3. Write an essay describing your understanding of the relation among
math, natural science, social science and humanities. (If your inclinations
are mathematical or graphic, you are free to "figure" rather than to
write this.)
4. Substitute for either 2) or 3) a portfolio of your most meaningful
creative work to date.
5. Submit your high school record and whatever other measures of
academic performance and promise (i.e. SATs, etc.) you think relevant.
6. Submit three recommendations of teachers who know you well and can
speak about the quality of the work you have done.

Name:  meg
Subject:  admisssions
Date:  2001-12-06 19:40:55
Message Id:  667
the portfolio idea is the best. It should be validated by the high highschool. Also the teacher reccomendation. some of the boarding schools we have applied to have very profound questions and requirements including character assesmentss. much better than the colleges. Oh how lucky BMC is to have you, Anne, on their admissions com.. Also I think a yesr off working, Outward Bound or doing your art, visual, performing, writing etc. should almost be mandatory. why are sports such a huge entr these days Megpuleeze.

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