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

Forum 6 - Papers on why stories are retold (first draft) ...

Name:  Elena
Subject:  Draft A, due 10. 4. 02.
Date:  2002-10-04 17:59:42
Message Id:  3125
Elena Weygandt Draft A: Response to "Recycling the Universe..." Professor Hayley Thomas October 7, 2002 The Universe: A Story About Its Birth Some stories come about that are so radically compelling that they must be shared. In "Recycling the Universe: New Theory Postis that Time Has No Beginning or End" Richard Monastersky tells such a tale. Here, he illustrates the creation of the universe by amalgamating the stories that science has told in the past century about this phenomenon. One group of scientists in particular that he draws upon, University of Cambridge chairman Neil Turok and physics professor at Princeton University, Paul Steinhardt, dared to question the Big Bang theory and in doing so, found a plausible solution to the discrepancy that exists within this authentic notion. They came up with the story they call the "cyclic model" which, since being published, has convinced other scientists and readers to alter their perceptions about the sacred birth of the universe. Until recently, all of earthling intelligence has assumed that the universe was created out of an extremely hot and dense point that has been expanding ever since the beginning of time. In the 1980s, the physicist, Alan Guth added more details to the story by suggesting that within less than one second, the rate of this expansion, or inflation, slowed almost completely to the rate it is today, so that after fourteen billion years, the tiny patch of space has grown into what science perceives as the universe.# What the Big Bang story omits is how the initial plot of space came to resonate the amount of heat possible to cause inflation. In Turok's and Steinhardt's story about the birth of the universe, it goes through an infinite cycle of rebirths so that there are, in fact, many Big Bangs to come in the future.# By rewriting the Big Bang theory, new ideas are being tested by scientists, which, ultimately, help in attempting to further solve the answer to this great riddle. In fact, Steinhardt states that this cyclic theory is "opening us up to possibilities that we did no believe in before, including the fact that time could exist before the Big Bang." # Interestingly enough, this story came about in the area where many stories are shared-- on the train. Three scientists, Steinhardt, Turok and Burt Ovrut, physics professor at the University of Pennsylvania, traveled through England discussing the details of this version of the creation of the universe and settled upon the conclusion that eleven mathematical membranes, or dimensions, in space exist, not just four. # These seven other "branes" can move, the scientists decided.# They also agreed that there exists a "spring-like force" that pulls two branes together.# It is during this collision that the Big Bang phenomenon occurs. # This story concerns humans in the fact that when the branes approach each other, subatomic particles lose their charges and masses; so that essentially, we evaporate.# Yet Turok insists this catastrophe will not occur for billions of years. # Since the cyclic theory has no present effect upon humans, then it might seem meaningless for Turok and Steinhardt to promote it. In truth, however, this nascent outlook serves as an inspiration to thinkers in every field. Here, two scientists dared to compete against the popular Big Bang theory because they sought answers to unexplained questions, such as the force that initially caused the universe to expand at an increasing rate.# Though their story of a cyclical universe is not completely refined, it does present a plausible sketch of the creation of the universe. To them, the further committed they are to this project, the greater potential it has to influence the global consensus. It is by this ambition to convert the whole world that motivates Turok and Steinhardt to tell the story of the universe's birth the way they have worked to perceive it.
Name:  Ro. Finn
Subject:  Reflections on what motivates re-telling stories, etc.
Date:  2002-10-05 15:47:51
Message Id:  3137
This week's assignment:
Drawing on Foucault and FLATLAND, 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?
Why are we motivated to re-tell stories? Nostalgia is the way it wasn't; "it's a way to have a thoughtful and positive relation to your own present." 1

A story is a familial 'hand-me-down', a garment of words that, with adjustments in shape and size, is made to fit its next inheritor. Every story told is irrepressibly retailored during its next reading or recital, because, for each of us, perception is colored by the context of cultures: micro-cultures, such as family; macro-cultures, such as country, race, and religion; super-cultures, such as membership as Homo sapiens on planet earth.

Stories are re-cast when we've grown past them to a point where they no longer hold true meaning, no longer can be told with impunity in the face of new knowledge. Our motivation in reshaping stories is to be able to take what is still valid from the past and port it to the present in some useful form. Knowledge seems to be born and reborn in the present, where it holds relevance by virtue of our current, collective abilities to frame it somehow.

We re-frame stories repeatedly, in order to locate and display the emblems that powerfully represent essential properties that identify us. The realities harbored within us become less literal as they emerge in space and time, based upon who we are now; the reorganized fantasies of our present are more real, more applicable, than the realities of our past.

Discontinuity arises when we recast long-cherished truths. Perhaps our reluctance to do so comes from a lack of confidence that we can safely juggle the relationship of past to present. There can be social or political risks and consequences when we strip away that which is comfortable and familiar, as was the case for the narrator of FLATLAND, who wound up imprisoned for pitching an alternate version of reality. Whatever the root cause, we use devices to effect change – to make the need for change both visible and palatable , e.g., the use of satire, such as in both THE ORDER OF THINGS and FLATLAND.

Each of these writings reflects our world as viewed through the creation of another world that is highly exaggerated. With magnifying glass held so far that the focal point inverts the image, both reorient our reality upside-down, inside out, and freshly different from what we had taken for granted. The message is that our reality is an illusion. We get to re-shape our world, our story, as a result of new insights delivered through the discovery of a fresh perspective. Just as with fairytales, it is the use of symbolism to get closer to discovery, closer to truth.

In Foucault's THE ORDER OF THINGS; the media is the message, and the message appears to be that style matters. The irony is in how he has chosen to write – an endless braiding and brocading of thought upon thought, literally taking our breath away in the task of reading one sentence.

As for content, Foucault is saying that unrelated sets of knowledge, such as biology, economics, and linguistics, use a common process by which each evolves. Each "episteme" – knowledge produced during a period of time – has, for its period, a common way of exploring and questioning what is known across these different disciplines, just as the Chinese bevy of unrelated animals became connected when they were assigned alphabetical ordering.

We're in a continuous cycle of transformations and regenerations –from what we know, to what we question about what we know to what we discover, which causes us to discard, retain, replace, reshape. It's not just about discarding fallible answers, it's about digging to enable new ways to question, new patterns to emerge. "The problem is no longer one of tradition, of tracing a line, but one of division, of limits; it is no longer one of lasting foundations, but one of transformations that serve as new foundations, the rebuilding of foundations. What one is seeing, then, is the emergence of a whole field of questions, some of which are already familiar, by which this new form of history is trying to develop its own theory..." 2

If that is the case – from metaphor to metonymy to synecdoche – where do we shape shift next?

1Source: Truth, Power, Self: An Interview with Michel Foucault - October 25th, 1982. From: Martin, L.H. et al (1988) Technologies of the Self: A Seminar with Michel Foucault. London: Tavistock. pp.9-15.

2Source: The Archaeology of Knowledge (1969), publ. Routledge, 1972. Introduction, by Foucault.

Name:  Rachel Steinberg
Subject:  Draft A- retelling stories and Flatland
Date:  2002-10-05 18:36:01
Message Id:  3139
Rachel Steinberg
Questions, Intuitions, and Revisions
When a story is written or told, the author or speaker is retelling a story that they have heard or made up that they want to share with others. Stories are all retold, whether they have previously been told out loud or in one's head. It is unlikely that Flatland by Edwin A. Abbott was a story that had been repeated for generations, however it certainly had been forming in his head for some time. Abbott was intrigued by the idea that each dimension is a new world, and wanted his story to be heard. However, there are stories that are stated once and are never repeated again. The person who heard or read this story deemed these stories uninteresting or inappropriate, and thus a decision was made to never repeat it. It is unfortunate that these stories will never be heard again, and will be forgotten, but it is a subjective decision.
In Flatland, the square is scorned for telling his story. It is a story that is repeated every thousand years, a true one, yet no one believes it whenever it is told. The lack of proof and infrequent telling of the story make it futile to repeat it. In Flatland, new stories are looked down on, whereas in our third dimension, they are applauded. This concept is interesting to the author, and Abbott enjoys imagining a world in which ideas, among other aspects of life such as women, are scorned.
The decision to tell and then retell stories is a completely subjective one. An interesting one will be retold, an uninteresting own will die out. An interesting one will be retold, an uninteresting own will die out. In Flatland, Abbott has pondered over what it would be like if every dimension was its own small world. Each world has its own story to tell, and Abbott discusses all of them. He finds this idea intriguing, and has put it into "a romance of many dimensions" for the world to experience. This is the start of his story. When it is read, it will be told and retold to countless individuals, spoken or written. Those who have interest in it will partake in this activity while those who did not enjoy this story will put it out of their minds.
There are certain stories that are never retold. This seemingly random decision can be disappointing. At one time in life, this tale was important to someone. It may have even been the life story of someone or a truthful story about an event that will now be forgotten forever. Imagine how the original teller of the story would feel knowing that their important narrative was no longer significant, nor told ever again. This thought is a scary one, and it is questionable as to whether stories would be told at all anymore for fear of it being disregarded. Perhaps they would only write their stories down instead.
Yet this may also cause conflict. There are those who are not accomplished in the art of writing, and thus their written version of an interesting story may come out like mush on paper. So, yet again, a story would be disregarded. It is unsettling to know that one's story may not be remembered, and particularly that of one's life. In that case, has one's life been in vain if no one ever talks about them or their time on Earth again?
It is interesting how one story can be known by the entire world while another story can be known by one person and then never known again. Flatland also discusses the nature of telling stories in a context in which it is looked down on. The two extremes of retelling stories is seen everyday and by everyone, and has probably been done at least once by you and I. It will never stop, and will always be examined at one time or another.
Name:  Kristen Coveleskie
Subject:  re-telling stories; draft A
Date:  2002-10-05 19:24:01
Message Id:  3140
What is a re-telling of a story? A re-telling could be seen as taking a story with its plot, characters, etc. and telling it from another point of view. This is what Anne Sexton does when she takes fairy tale fantasies and transforms them into nightmares. A re-telling could, however, be seen more profoundly, as bringing an entirely new truth to life. A re-telling, in this sense, would be more like a re-defining of the very world we live in. This is the vision of re-telling seen through Edwin Abbott's Flatland and the preface and forward to Michel Foucault's The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences.

Redefining a way of thinking is not an easy task, but the true challenge comes in expressing your new insight. Some might feel compelled to re-tell a story because they want to get their new idea exposed to the masses. They want others to be enlightened just as they have been. This is seen in Flatland when the square, once given the knowledge of other dimensions, wishes to share his information. He joyously declares, "Even to Women and Soldiers should the Gospel of Three Dimensions be proclaimed." (1) The truth was so apparent to him that he wanted to share it with others. In Foucault's forward, he seems genuinely excited to be revealing "a positive unconscious of knowledge" (2). He entitles his forward, "Directions for Use" and attempts to break down his ideas in order for people to understand them. He discusses his example of classification, a quote from a Chinese encyclopedia, in a light-hearted manner making the text enjoyable to read. He's trying to get the reader interested and drawn in to his idea.

Another purpose for expressing a new concept is to give others a new or different way of thinking. The article "Recycling the Universe" has little verified proof to suggest its theory is correct, but simply laying it out there gives people the opportunity to think about it. The new idea about the origins of the Earth is so extreme that without this article, many would never give it a thought. Foucault gets the cogs in our minds turning about different ways of classification and order and how they affect our thoughts and actions. In Flatland, Abbott gets his audience to think about the same things using sarcasm. The class system in Flatland is so utterly ridiculous that it makes us think about our systems of classifying people today. In Flatland, women are straight lines on the bottom of the ranks. They are forced to use separate doorways into their houses, are kept from an education, and must constantly be in motion or singing in order for people to know where they are due to their deadly capabilities (1). They are referred to as the "frail sex" and said to be "wholly devoid of brainpower" (1). Abbott makes the treatment of women so blatantly wrong that everyone can see it. However, women today are still treated in some ways like lines in Flatland. Abbott also gives us a new way of thinking by introducing the idea of multiple dimensions including ones that we have no way of recognizing.

Advantages of re-telling a story include expanding your mind and changing the world as you know it. Foucault talks about how completely new ideas drastically changed the world from the classical society to the modern one (2). He calls this the "history of madness." (2) In Flatland, once the square knew about Spaceland and other dimensions, his world was never the same again. Even after being in prison for seven years, he still held firm to his vision. Having your world change can also be a negative effect of a re-telling. If no one else lives with you in this new world, it can lead to isolation. Once you come out with a new way of thinking or a re-telling, there is no going back to the way things were. At the end of Flatland, the square was literally isolated in prison. He sees it as martyrdom for the truth (1).

Avoiding this isolation is one reason someone might not re-tell a story. This isolation would result if their new idea wasn't accepted and they were scorned or punished. Foucault seems to suggest that the reason new ideas aren't accepted is that people are so stuck within boundaries of order and classifications instilled in them by society. They are unable to comprehend the new idea within their known limits and therefore reject it (2). This is more concretely seen in Flatland whenever new ideas about different dimensions are introduced. The king of Lineland rejects the square's image of Flatland, just as the square at first rejects the idea of Spaceland and the sphere rejects the idea of any higher dimensions (1). They are unable to transcend the bounds of their senses and the order of society to admit to anything more being able to exist. In Flatland itself, the class structure is so strict that it rejected the idea of using color as identification when it was revealed that women could be mistaken for the circle priests (1).

Another reason people might reject a re-telling is if there was no physical evidence or proof. This also goes to their need to stay within certain boundaries. The theory put forth in the Recycling article, has no real credit to many because there is an obvious lack of solid evidence. In the end Mr. Turok even admits, "We know that we are faking what we hope eventually will be a complete and fully consistent mathematical theory." (3) In Flatland the theory of the women is that "feeling is believing" (1). Even the nobles' use of sight recognition is still dependant on their senses. They are not willing to accept the notion of other dimensions because it is not something they can physically prove and therefore they reject it.

The success of a re-telling of a story or innovative idea is essentially dependent on the audience's reception. This depends on the "codes of culture" that establish the basic order of man (2). The stories by Alcott and Foucault both discuss the consequences of re-telling a story. At the same time they are themselves re-tellings of traditional ways of viewing the world.

(1) Abbott, Edwin. Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions. 1885; rpt.
New York: New American Library, 1984
(2) Foucault, Michael. Preface and Forward. The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences. 1966:rpt. and trans. New York: Vintage, 1973. ix-xxiv
(3) Monastersky, Richard. "Recycling the Universe: New Theory Posits that Time Has No Beginning or End." The Chronicle of Higher Education. June 7, 2002.
(4) Many ideas also taken from class discussion

Name:  Kristina Copplin
Subject:  Re-telling stories
Date:  2002-10-06 12:40:15
Message Id:  3151
In my experience, re-telling a story or sharing acquired knowledge is a very precarious action. Though it is usually first instinct to share what you know, there is also always a fear that your viewpoints will not be shared and your feelings will not be reciprocated. Thus, we are often reluctant to re-tell a story for fear that we will offer a part of ourselves to another and consequently be rejected.
In Foucault's "The Order of Things" he examines what prohibits people from both sharing new concepts and accepting change. One of the most prominent aspects of the article is his concern regarding the boundaries that keep people from seeing things in new ways; he wants to examine the " codes of culture" (Foucault, XX) that prevent mankind from embracing change and accepting the birth of new ideas. Moreover, Abbot's Flatland also questions society's inability to re-tell stories without some hesitation. A. Square is not provoked to spread the "Gospel of Three Dimensions" until he has physically experienced the "Truth" that the sphere presented to him. A. Square's inability to trust a new idea is representative of society's tendency to reject change. Throughout history such rejections have often been unjustified: people believed the sun revolved around the Earth and refused to accept the fact that such a theory was incorrect. Until the 19th century, most people believed that the world was flat and it was not until someone actually sailed without "falling of the edge of the world" that people began to accept the newfound theory that world was indeed round. As Foucault and Abbot examined "when you dare to think of the unimaginable you're classified as crazy" (Professor Thomas, 10/2/02). Therefore, it is not surprising that we are often reluctant to share new ideas or even to share those that are not new- we often refrain from re-telling stories out of fear of isolation.
However, clearly when one acquires knowledge he or she often feels obligated to spread the new found understanding. When A. Square was enlightened as to the three-dimensional world he accepted that spreading the "Truth" might cost him acceptance within society- yet he still chose to speak of the "Gospel". Cleary, we are motivated to re-tell a story in order to share our wisdom and hopefully educate others; often one must accept the risk of segregation in order to enlighten society.
While we are often motivated to both re-tell stories and refrain from re-telling stories there are clearly costs and rewards for these two actions. If one shares information that is accepted (such as the assertion that the Earth revolves around the sun) the person is rewarded with fame and is deemed an enlightener for generations to come. However if society chooses to reject the theory, the person is often "punished" by some form of exclusion. In Flatland, the enlightener is imprisoned for wandering from the norm of society and for believing something that was different. In other cases, he or she is considered insane or abnormal.
Consequently it is often terrifying to re-tell a story for there are ultimately costs associated with such a process.
While society is not always welcoming of new ideas, such theories are necessary for the evolution of civilization. As Foucault and Abbot examined, there are often unseen boundaries that prevent society from accepting change and it is society's duty to alter the "way in which a culture can determine in a massive, general from the difference that limits it." (Foucault, XXiV).
Name:  Bridget
Subject:  Flatland
Date:  2002-10-06 16:35:19
Message Id:  3158
In his book Flatland, Edwin A. Abbott uses a hypothetical nation to demonstrate a variety of themes. One of these is the distinction between the three dimensions known to man today and the possibility of dimensions beyond. Another is the importance of knowledge versus the importance of security and tradition. A third but less obvious theme is the importance of believing in certain things which you might not be able to set your eyes upon.
The main character of the story is a square without a name and a devoted citizen of Flatland. He has a disturbing dream in which he is trapped in a one-dimensional land and tries to explain to them the notion of a second dimension, without success. At this point the reader feels a certain connection with the square because now he shares the same sense of frustration with the people in the one-dimensional land that the reader, as a resident in a three-dimensional world, has with the square himself. Trying to explain a second dimension to people who cannot comprehend such a thing is not an easy task.
Later in the story a sphere visits the square and attempts to explain the third dimension to him. The sphere has as much luck with the square as the square has with the king of the one-dimensional land. The sphere then realizes words have no effect on the square, so the sphere and the square rise above Flatland to view the insides of flat buildings and flat houses. When in Spaceland, as the region above Flatland is called, the square witnesses the third dimension, and can argue no longer with the sphere about its existence.
The experience causes an awakening inside the square. Upon returning to Flatland he desires knowledge of the fourth dimension, and the dimensions beyond it. The sphere cannot explain the fourth dimension to the square because it does not believe there is a dimension beyond the third. The square becomes frustrated again with the sphere because although he is trying to explain the logicality of an infinite number of dimensions, the sphere refuses to believe that they exist.
The square returns home, enlightened and excited to share his new data with the citizens of Flatland. He begins with his grandson, who would seem to be the most logical choice, because of his superior intelligence and open-mindedness. Unfortunately, because the square cannot physically demonstrate three dimensional objects, he can't make the third dimension apparent to the boy.
Clearly the sense of sight is very important to the population of Flatland. The sphere was the only character successful in changing someone else's mind throughout the book, because he was the only one who displayed what he was describing for the opposing party to see. Neither logic nor mathematical equations could convince anyone in Flatland that a third dimension existed, it had to be viewed.
This could be a subtle symbol of society amidst the books themes. The people in Flatland obviously don't believe in any sort of Creator or Supernatural being. Their priests are not religious leaders. They are more comparable to aristocracy or a council of elders. They don't know anything outside of their own environment, whether it be real or divine, because they have not witnessed anything outside of their own environment.
Abbot could be arguing that one who doesn't believe in something because he cannot see it is as absurd as one of the characters in his book appear. In our society today and most likely also during Abbot's life time there were a large number of skeptical people who do not believe in things like God and global warming because there is no concrete proof that either exist, and concrete proof is what such people require to believe in something.

Name:  Diane Gibfried
Subject:  Flatland Meets Fractals
Date:  2002-10-06 19:24:24
Message Id:  3169
23. In Which It Snows and the Citizens of Flatland Recognize the Infinite Potential of Each Citizen for Infinite Perimeter, Self-Similarity and Chaos

Things were extremely dull in Flatland. We were settled in our pentagonal houses and the class system we had established in our two dimensional world although it provided some security and safety was stifling. One may wonder that we did not have more "intuit"ers who dreamed of other possibilities, other worlds. And in fact, I myself wondered that I had not wondered more, and especially after my discourse with my Nephew and the intervention of the Sphere from the Third Dimension and with much time on my hands, being imprisoned.

And then a phenomena occurred. It often rained in Flatland and the rain came from the North. As was aforesaid, it helped us to determine North from South. But one day, and I don't yet comprehend where the cold came from, we sensed a change in the air, even in the most temperate zone. (It is rumored from my connections in Spaceland that a butterfly fluttering it's wings in China may have contributed to this change in our weather... but these are things I do not comprehend or understand, not know what is a butterfly, or even China... having some comprehension of fluttering, because of the motion of our females).

And suddenly, particles of white substance fell from the sky above us. Falling on us and obscuring parts of our selves and our homes. Breaking us apart with whiteness.
I tried to view these particles with my eye and gradually as I fixed all my concentration on them, became mesmerized by their spectacular geometry. Before me were mirrors of my fellow citizens and myself, joined together in fantastic formations, beautiful and delicate and intricate. Triangle upon triangle, Circles with intricate and glorious perimeters, subdivided beautiful empty spaces, squares and smaller squares.
I watched in awe, as the cold prophetic white particles melted before my eye. And with my notepad, I began to sketch. There seemed to be a method here that was up to now never considered. I sketched my neighbor the triangle and began to subdivide him.
I broke him into smaller and smaller pieces, and then smaller still all contained within himself, all similar to himself, and I formulated that this dissection could extend infinitely! I traced the perimeter of one of the small white flakes in my mind. I measured it and then measured it with a smaller measure... and then with a smaller measure still...
And I was impressed by the infinite potential and dignity of each individual citizen of Flatland.
And I recognized, that this too could go on infinitely for other shapes within the confines of a circle, the area being the same, but the perimeter infinitely growing and growing in size! And as it could go on exteriorly, it could also implode interiorly.
I looked around in awe at my world quickly vanishing in white. A line who happened to be sleeping nearby was broken up by the flakes that lay flat on her so that segments of her seemed to disappear.
I then broke up a line mentally, by taking away a segment at intervals, and then smaller intervals and smaller intervals until the tiny fragments mimicked the dust that fell onto our plane that day and I recognized that this too could extend infinitely. And from this I deduced a new dignity of the line and it's infinite beauty and capacity to regenerate.

And I began to conceive of a very different Flatland, in which triangle and circle and square united in whole new societies of glorious repetitions and evolutions spiraling and twisting all over our plane and this manifested itself, in my thought, in a system of individuals who cooperated with each other magnificently and without condescension or confinement as to class or gender. The possibilities were so overwhelming, and I was so ill equipped to deal with what I was seeing, that for many years afterwards, I was unable to speak!

Note: I visited a few sites on fractals and then started to think
what if it SNOWED in Flatland. Not being a mathematician, I feel like a
primitive who has never seen fireworks!! And partly because Edwin Abbott was a schoolteacher and not a mathematician either, I had the courage to play with the idea.

Name:   Diane Gibfried
Subject:  Fractals in Flatland
Date:  2002-10-06 20:25:31
Message Id:  3172
Note: A friend of mine who knows a little bit about fractals informed me that there are not any square fractals that she knows of. And she also doubted that there were squares in snowflakes.
But there are fractals known as the Koch's Snowflake, Anti-Snowflake
and Cantor Dust... to which I refer in the story.
So I would change my squares in my sequel to hexagons.
When I read her my excerpt she asked if I had tried to include something of Schroedinger's Cat. That's interesting, so there may be yet another sequel. As I learn more, my point of perception changes! Diane G.
Name:  Beth Ann Lennon
Subject:  Re telling a story: why and why not
Date:  2002-10-06 20:34:14
Message Id:  3174
"Why are we both motivated and reluctant to re-tell a story? What provokes us to this activity? What prevents us from engaging in it? How does it profit us, and what are the costs?"
To tell a story is to reach out in the hope of connecting with another human being in some way. There is an inherent hope in telling a story that you will find another person who understands what you are trying to say. Quite often, however, that connection is never found. As you tell a story, you set a part of yourself out there for pubic display. If the connection between you and another is not found, you almost feel as if that part of you is lost. However, if you never reach out there is no chance that you will connect with that other person. This is a very lonely prospect. There is an inherent hope that, even if there is no connection, someone will attempt to understand.
Retelling a story also has a "larger than you" feel to it. You are passing something on, teaching someone else a lesson which was taught to you. Perhaps it is not your story to keep to yourself. When you reach one person with a story, how many people will that person reach when they pass the story on? The possibilities are limitless.
If you tell as story that is important to you and you are not understood, that hurts. You feel alone in the world, misunderstood, estranged, and reluctant to do it again. If you never tell a story that is important to you, that hurts. You feel alone in the world, misunderstood, estranged, and it builds within yourself. Either way you are disconnected and unhappy. However, when you tell your story there is perpetually that chance that you will find someone who actually understands. This hope is not there when you keep it to yourself.
This reminds me of the excerpt from this year's diversity readings by Audre Lorde, "The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action." In it she say "In the cause of silence, each of us draws the face of her own fear- fear of contempt, of censure, or some judgment, or recognition, of challenge, of annihilation. But most of all, I think, we fear the visibility without which we cannot truly live" (Lorde 29). This woman is talking about a feeling which I very much can relate to. She tells of the necessity of story telling to existence. Without it you feel incomplete. She says that "your silence will not protect you" (Lorde 28), and in a sense that is the only reason why someone would not tell their story, out of fear, in hope of protection. We will all die, whether we have told our stories or not but perhaps if we share them we might live on in some way though them after we are physically gone from this earth.
Audre Lorde was not the assigned reading but as I sat here looking at the questions which were set forth by the reading of Foucault and Flatland I was continually drawn back to her paper which I read more than a month ago. For me it explained so much of what I felt. Every tome I attempted to omit her from my paper and write on the Square's perpetual and fruitless quest for understanding through the telling of his story I was drawn back to the questions which she set forth. "What are the words you do not yet have? What do you need to say? What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die from them, still in silence?" (Lorde 28). Square tells his story, even as he is persecuted for it, because he has to or he will "sicken and die, still in silence."
Even when I do write, when I tell my story, I find myself hiding, unwilling to fully reveal myself. I fear that holding myself out before the world. I fear my holding back just as much though. The benefits of connecting, just once, with just one person is so great that it some how makes it worth every time you reach out and connect with no one. That does not eliminate the inherent fear that we all must live with though.

Abbott, Edwin A. Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions. New York: Dover Publications Inc. 1992.
Lorde, Audre. "Transformation of Silence into Language and Action." Diversity and Community at Bryn Mawr College: Readings for First-Year Students. 2002.

Name:  orah minder
Subject:  reluctance to re-telling stories. Draft A
Date:  2002-10-06 22:35:16
Message Id:  3180
[[ i could not get the footnotes to copy into the forum. sorry. everything i used for this paper was either in Flatland, Monastersky's article or Foucault's article]]

Walking down the streets of New York City I see men with long beards and ratty, plaid shirts preaching, and passing out pamphlets, saying that they have seen the light and know that the world is coming to an end. Watching the news we hear of another child who says that she was abducted by aliens. We hear about cults that end their lives because G-d told them to. I look at signs plastered to walls with pictures of the new Messiah. What do we think when we hear about these people and see them walking down the streets of our neighborhoods? Crazy? Or enlightened? When a person stands above the crowd, writes an article, say something to the public, she is putting herself on the line and will be deemed crazy or enlightened.
In Abbott's Flatland we hear of a man who has a supernatural experience and is pulled out of his own dimension. He can float on top and see into his world. Then, he is pulled into another dimension that he never could have imagined existed. Back in his own dimension he tells of the more complex dimension and is scorned and thrown into jail: Crazy!
Another story: men in dark suits, short hair, and thick glasses, sit around a table and talk of the universe. One man says, "The universe is going through an endless series of rebirths." Another man says, "an unseen parallel cosmos hovers only a tiny distance from our own visible universe, and the two periodically collide and rebound, regenerating all of matter in process." A third gentleman says, "Our visible cosmos is like a three-dimensional sheet that exists in other dimensions, of which we remain totally ignorant." These men are the scientists of the new millennium, they sit around tables and speculate about the shape of existence, they speculate about things that cannot fit into the human mind and what do we say? Genius!
One more: a man says, "The unconscious of science is always the negative side of science- that which resists it, deflects it, or disturbs it. What I would like to do, however, is to reveal a positive unconscious of knowledge: a level that eludes the consciousness of the scientist and yet is part of scientific discourse, instead of disputing its validity and seeking to diminish its scientific nature." This same man takes on the task of writing "a history of madness...the history of the Other- of that which, for a given culture, is at once interior and foreign, therefore to be excluded [so as to exorcise the interior danger]..." This man says that madness is something within us that we do not understand, something that we try to cast out of ourselves but something that is natural to humanity. It is something that cannot be analyzed out of existence by scientists because it "eludes the consciousness of the scientist." These thoughts scare us and we envision monsters frothing at the mouth, eating our insides, and not being able to expel them. This man tells us things about ourselves that we do not want to hear. He does not travel outside of our dimension to see in; he travels inside the deep realms of the human mind and looks out through the tainted, splinter glass of the human eye. Do we call him crazy, in defense of our sanity? Or is he a genius because he understands that the only way to see a person is not from the outside, looking through a one-sided glass, but to look at a person from the inside?
These are three examples of people who have told stories, who have opened their minds to the public to be dissected and judged as genius or as crazy. All three have innovative ideas that can either be accepted or rejected by society. When people put forth these ideas they are exposing themselves to society, they are vulnerable. If they are accepted they are secure and able to continue their thought, their art, their work. If they are rejected they are left in the cold, alone, and wondering if they should continue their thought or believe a society that says they are crazy. At the end of Flatland, A-square, left to live the rest of his days in jail says, "I cannot honestly say I am confident as to the exact shape of the once-seen, oft-regretted Cube... all the substantial realities of Flatland itself, appear no better than the offspring of a diseased imagination or the baseless fabric of a dream." When one has been told that he is crazy does he believe or does he listen to his instinct? Does one blame an unaccepted innovative idea on a diseased imagination'? Or does one continue writing though locked away in a cell, hoping that one day this 'diseased imagination' will be read and finally loved? Do the shaggy men in plaid shirt live for the day when the world will end? The children, now grown, who were told the aliens were only dreams, dance when they hear that a UFO was found stranded in the midst of a desert. We live for acceptance; we struggle for love, and are willing to sacrifice dignity for the moment when a girl in the crowd shouts above the mass of dissenters, "Yes! You are right! You are a Genius!"

Name:  samea
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  i made some changes from my first post - sorry!
Date:  2002-10-06 22:51:53
Message Id:  3182
In a world full of strangers where nothing is permanent and life is passing, people spend a majority of their time seeking acceptance and yearning for a sense of belonging. In an effort to ease the discomfort of such an unfamiliar environment, many people put forth an effort to familiarize themselves with their surroundings. Unknown faces can become friendly through the conventional, traditional concept of conversation. In many ways, I believe that this has everything to do with motivation to tell stories.
In addition, the world is a quickly moving place, where very little, if anything at all, is eternal and in the blink of an eye, everything can change. Because of this, people are constantly seeking some sort of a name for themselves – something that will keep them in the hearts and on the tongues of generations to come. By telling stories, one can only hope that the influence, through the story itself, will be enough to make an impact on those who are listening. Hopefully then, the story will be passed on, and will continue to be told to the point where although the individual from whom it originates may be forgotten, nevertheless, the words of that person may live on.
Telling a story is an effort for one to reach out and try to find a means in which to relate to another. When people tell stories, whether they realize or not, the effort is made in a means to connect with another. By telling stories, people hope to find someone who will reach out their hand so that the two will make some sort of a connection.
Nevertheless, all these outcomes of telling stories are hopes held in the hearts of these individuals. There is no guarantee that any of this will happen. Although a negative point of view, one cannot forget that oftentimes the real world is not as hospitable as one would like to believe. There is always a chance that the stories being told will fall on deaf ears. Oftentimes, that fear will encompass the hearts of those who would rather not take such a risk, and the story remains inside the mind of the individual who cannot bring him or herself to share it. The idea of rejection is a frightening thing, and no matter what, even knowing that there is a potential risk of experiencing it is enough for people to shy away.
It's definitely harder for some to share thoughts, ideas, or stories with others basically because of a fear that weighs down their hearts. In a way, by sharing something like this, a person is taking a part of their individuality - their personality, and putting it out there, hoping that somewhere someone will accept it and take it endearingly. Nevertheless, many times just the idea of having to share so much of themselves with another is almost too frightening to bear, and people will quickly shrink away just from the idea of it. Of course there is a big risk; however, risks don't always turn out negatively. One cannot always hide from interaction because of the idea that rejection could arise. The rewards of taking a risk and the joys of having a person to connect with should be enough for people to oftentimes just jump in without cautiously testing out the waters – the result does not always have to be a negative one. However, for many, maybe it'll always just be easier to write "stories" – under the names of others or the label of "society" in the third person. Perhaps greater ease is found in pretending that those characteristics that listed about an individual's fears and concerns belong to another, and not to the name behind the paper.
Name:  Alexandria
Subject:  flatland paper
Date:  2002-10-06 23:35:49
Message Id:  3183
Alexandria Frizell
Questions, Intuitions, Revisions
Professor Grobstein
October 7, 2002

Flatland and Why We Change Our Stories

People everywhere have been telling stories since time began. Not only do people tell stories for entertainment, they are also told for learning purposes. Children were taught by stories. We learn about our relatives and ancestors through stories passed down over generations. We also learn about each other and ourselves from stories we tell and are told. Stories change for many different reasons. One of these reasons is that the world changes and we revise theories. The world used to be "flat". It was discovered that the world is actually round, and the story changed. New things happen that change the old stories that were once told. Also, stories tend to acquire a "whisper down the lane" quality, where the story changes a little each time it is told. Perhaps our memories aren't inclined to remember every minute detail of an experience. Maybe we want the story to be different in our own subconscious. This we do not know. What we do know, however, is that stories do change.
We change stories because we ourselves change. The stories of our lives are constantly changing. New experiences are constantly happening. We meet new people often, and we see new faces on a daily basis. We are changed by those around us. Different people have different effects on us, and help us to think in new ways. These new ways of thinking create new stories.
We often revise stories. Revision is a necessary part of storytelling, as it is in opinions and in life. As we change as people, and our opinions and views of life change, our stories are revised to fit our new selves.
Flatland is a story about the changing of stories. The square, at the beginning of the book, only knows one way of life. He is stuck in his two dimensional world of lines and angles. He has never heard of the word "up". When the sphere comes and takes him to new worlds, he originally is in disbelief. He visits the one dimensional world and finds all of the people along one line, as points. He cannot fathom that these people do not understand that they can move in more than one dimension. This is ironic because he does not understand that there are more than two dimensions. He changes his story to include his new life with the knowledge of a third dimension. With this knowledge, his mind is expanded to other things. He now believes that there is a fourth, fifth, sixth dimension, just waiting to be discovered. His story changed to allow for the changing of his surroundings. He is more open minded.
The story of the point is very sad in Flatland. He is in his own little world, the only being in his existence. When he hears the square try to inform him of his sad state of existence, that there is much more out in the world besides himself, the point believes that it was his own self that said that out loud. He is the only being in the world, so therefore he is the only person who could be speaking. The point cannot change his story because he is too ignorant. If he did change his story, his life would be enriched with knowledge.
Stories change as we change. To change is an important part of life, and we revise ourselves as time passes. The stories of our lives are constantly being changed. We are always updating ourselves. To change a story is to make it better. It is about having an open mind and the willingness to accept new things.

Name:  Abigail
Subject:  Draft A: Foucalt and Flatland
Date:  2002-10-06 23:39:31
Message Id:  3184
Abigail Bruhlmann - Csem Flatland paper - October 6, 2002

Your Perspective is in Another Dimension

It seems that here on our three dimensional Earth, small children are encouraged to make discoveries about the world around them, yet adults are ostracized if they try to do the same. Perhaps this contradiction exists because children are only capable of discovering what adults already know, and adults are expected to accept the truths they discovered for themselves as children without questioning their validity. There exists an unwritten rule somewhere, perhaps it's in another dimension, that imposes conformity, lest complete disorder erupt if one dares to question the only way of life that everyone knows and accepts. Therefore, adults fearing that they will not be understood and therefore will be ostracized from society will often suppress their childlike eagerness to make and spread new discoveries.

Why then, are some people willing to risk being misunderstood by all of their peers in their zeal to share a new idea? Failure to properly explain one's ideas certainly is a deterrent against sharing them. At times, A. Square could barely explain to himself exactly what Spaceland was, so explaining this concept to others became an even more daunting task than if he had completely understood what he was talking about. Most new ideas, though, aren't developed so that the person doing the explaining understands everything in the first place. When asked, "Where is this or that theory come from?" (Foucalt xiii) there might not be a clear answer. After all, "questions like these are often highly embarrassing because there are no definite methodological principles on which to base such an analysis." (Foucalt xiii)

When one is absolutely convinced, however, that one has an idea that will completely revolutionize one's world, the thought that other people aren't equally aware of the real truth is unbearable. Therefore, a brave person will do as A. Square did when he discovered and accepted the idea of a third dimension; he will try to change the world. The key word, though, is "accepted." One can be told of a completely different way of thinking and then one can dismiss it without another thought as utter nonsense. However, if one can actually be convinced that something outside of what one is used to exists, then this knowledge is too powerful to be contained. It is so difficult to conceptualize and believe a radically new idea that if one can actually do it, one will be overwhelmed to the point that sharing this new information will become a priority. A. Square was so amazed by the existence of a three dimensional world that he was moved to, "go once, and evangelize the whole of Flatland." (Abbott 77)

People don't just listen to new ideas and with an open mind, as A. Square and many others with the goal to "evangelize the whole of" (Abbott 77) wherever they happen to live, have discovered. Rather, it is common practice hold fast to one's beliefs because it is comforting to know how one's world works. If someone tells you that everything that you are used to and have taken for granted isn't how the "true" world really is, shock, disbelief, and utter denial will inevitably be your reaction. Without proof, how can one believe an outrageous theory? Indeed, A. Square only believed in Spaceland once he was transported there.

It is nearly impossible to accept a concept that is so abstract that even imagining it is a struggle. A. Square of Flatland is yet again the perfect example. He knew his place in life, understood how his two dimensional world was constructed, and was comfortable with his pentagonal house and linear wife. Before he accepted Spaceland as a reality, he tried in vain to make the King of Lineland understand that there is more to the world than one dimension. The King vehemently opposed his ideas as nonsense which frustrated A. Square. Ridiculously enough, A. Square was just as unwilling to accept the idea of Spaceland as the King of Lineland was unwilling to acknowledge Flatland. This complex, which would be seen as ironic in whichever dimension you live, explains the conundrum that telling and re-telling stories presents. Everyone is eager to spread new ideas, and those who are not afraid of the violent reactions that mirror their own, will follow through with their intentions. Yet at the same time, everyone seems to hold the mantra of "seeing is believing," (Abbott 54) in equal esteem to the desire to spread ideas that can't be proved.

Perhaps everyone with a new idea expects that everyone listen but at the same time, knows deep down that accepting an equally radical idea from someone else is never going to happen. It seems that all people like to understand their world. When their state of existence is challenged, their comfort zone is broken, and then there will never again be a place that feels exactly like home.

Works Cited:

Abbot, Edwin A. Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions. 1884. Dover Publications, Inc. New York, 1992. pp. 54, 77

Foucalt, Michel. The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences. Vintage Books. pp. viii

Name: &nb sp;Phoebe Anderson
Subject:  Pros and Cons of retelling stories
Date:  2002-10-07 03:09:04
Message Id:  3187
Although excitement fills the veins of a young child who spots a uniquely colored beetle crawling on the ground, he is timid to share his discovery with his older siblings for fear that they will not believe him. After all, they didn't see the bug, did they? Why should they believe him? Should he tell his story or not?

Foucault speaks about the aspects of "linguistic signs," saying that "the exchange of goods" (x) is a major part of language. People like to share information with one another because they like to enlighten and be enlightened. Sharing stories is a way for people to form connections and be drawn together. "Frontiers are redrawn and things usually far apart are brought closer..." (x) People are often able to gain conformity, in a sense, when they share stories because the likely-hood that they are going to have something in common with another person is greater. By exposing a part of a person's life, she is inviting the person she is conversing with to share back. Foucault demonstrates this point when he is talking about the methods used by "the naturalists, economists, and grammarians" (xi). "...but, unknown to themselves...[they] employed the same rules to define the objects proper to their own study, to form their concepts, to build their theories" (xi). Foucault tells us that the potential for having similar views and thoughts is very high. Sharing stories allows these similarities to be brought out, facilitating personal connections between people.

The excitement that comes along with retelling stories is heavily discussed in Flatland. When A2 is taken by the sphere to see how the sphere views the world, he remarks, "...Behold, a new world!" (Abbott 64) He "awoke rejoicing, and began to reflect on the glorious career before [him]. [He] would go forth...and evangelize the whole of Flatland" (Abbott 77). The need to tell others not only comes from the shear excitement of the event, it comes from a deep need to be validated, to have others see the same thing that you see. To be the only one who "sees the light" is to be alone. A2 almost tells his wife about his discovery because he is so excited about his enlightenment. He ends up talking with his grandson because he expects his grandson to understand him because his grandson was the one who proposed the idea of the third dimension. He hopes to gain acceptance and understanding from his grandson. He sadly does not.

A2's rejection from his grandson shows what can happen if people tell stories to others. They can be rejected. This fear itself keeps many people from sharing. Before A2 tells the rest of the people in Flatland he "[hears] the sound of many voices in the street commanding silence...[He] recognized the words of the resolution of the Council, enjoining the arrest, imprisonment, or execution of any one who should pervert the minds of the people by delusions..." (Abbott 77). He is afraid of rejection and isolation. He experiences a similar rejection earlier in the story when he is conversing with the king of Lineland. He is unable to get the concept of the plane across to the king who is only familiar with the line.

Foucault explains why people do not readily accept new and different information as the truth. "The fundamental codes of a culture...establish for every man...the empirical orders with which he will be dealing and within which he will be at home" (xx). The king of Lineland cannot accept A2's explanations because the king is only familiar with what he is accustomed to. He cannot imagine moving up and down because he only moves left and right on the line that makes up his world. "Out of my line? Do you mean out of the world?" (Abbott 50)

Back to the question at the beginning, should the child tell his siblings about his insect discovery? Well, he certainly won't be imprisoned like A2 was. He may be laughed at and called a dreamer. If, however, he can prove to them that this bug does exist, he could gain their support and acceptance. Perhaps with this new discovery, he and his siblings will "[deviate] from the empirical orders prescribed for [them]...[and] discover that these orders are...not the only possible ones or the best ones" (Foucault xx). Perhaps they will observe the world differently.
Name:  Jessie
Subject:  Draft A
Date:  2002-10-07 09:47:41
Message Id:  3188
I can't format my piece in this space-my computer is being fussy. Sorry I had forgotten to post in all the hubub of Spec weekend!!!
Telling stories is something that has been done throughout the ages, whether fiction or reality or somewhere in between. Flatland explains that telling stories is a necessary evil-something we all want to do and something that we all fear doing, while Monastarsky is the telling of the story that we all fear telling. The understanding of a different type of space in both works, acts as a universal metaphor for understanding different cultures and ways of being.
Monastarsky writes for the Chronicle of Higher Education about a new theory that claims that time has neither a beginning nor an end. Provoking him is the idea of making an esoteric, almost bizarre theory edible to normal human mind. He is able to safely venture outside our normal realms of thinking by not claiming this idea as his own, but rather, as someone else's. If there is ever a public out lash against an idea or event, the journalist is rarely blamed. Rather, the theorist or provocateur is blamed, leaving the journalist in a safer position to tell the stories of the other. Monastarsky takes an interesting approach to explaining this theory, that time has neither a beginning nor an end. He mocks it. Titling each section with witticisms such as "A Meeting of the Branes," he makes it clear that he too finds the findings bizarre because they are different. Perhaps he might be reluctant to be honest and humorless because it is more direct. His story is the one that we all fear telling because it is groundbreaking, one that challenges the very way we thought we saw the world.
In Flatland, by Edwin A. Abbot, A. Square attempts to understand other ways of looking at the space he occupies. As he visits Lineland and Spaceland, and lives in Flatland, he tries to understand others, and have others understand him. A. Square identifies why we often tell stories-we all want to understand the whole world. However, even he becomes frustrated, and forgets to understand the other. A. Square yells at the monarch of Lineland "You profess to see, when you can see nothing but a point! You plume yourself on inferring the existence of Straight Lines, but I can see straight lines, and infer the existence of Angles, Triangles, Squares, Pentagons, Hexagons, and even Circles." (Page 51).
Monastarsky is attempting to explain to humans who can only see beginning and end that the very place they live in has no beginning or end, without being mocked. A. Square is attempting to explain that there is more to a space than the Monarch realizes, by mocking. We all become frustrated in the process of telling stories because we cannot understand or make others understand.
Name:  Nadia Christidis
Subject:  Draft A
Date:  2002-10-07 10:16:36
Message Id:  3189
Foucault, in The Order of Things: And Archeology of the Human Sciences and Abbot, in Flatland, both discuss the topic of what telling a new/different story involves, what one risks when one does tell a new story, how people typically react to new stories they hear, and the ramifications that their reactions and his strong hold to this new vision have.

In the novel Flatland, these ideas are portrayed through the story of the narrator, a square. The narrator lives and has always lived in a two-dimensional world. He lives in flatland, unaware of the existence of a third dimension and space land. Then one day, he visits space land, realizing that a world other than his own exists, and the ground on which everything he knew had rested is shaken. His ideas about the world are completely revolutionized by his experience. When he returns, he tries to share with the rest of the inhabitants of flatland his experience of three. He feels compelled to retell others stories about space land because he feels the need to convert the others' worlds that are now so different than his to ones more similar. However, he is thought to be insane for having a view other than the conventional/accepted one and is imprisoned. It seems to the reader as though Abbott, through this story, is making a social critique on how humans are so rooted in the ways they are familiar to, in their regular order (as a result of their rigid belief in common ideas), that they believe that anything which they are not familiar with does not exist or is wrong. Abbott may be, through square's reaction to his new discovery and through the reaction of others, commenting on how we are too comfortable in our own ways, too certain of what we "know", that we do not even consider new ideas that are different that ours or ones that have no context for. This last idea, about not believing what you have no frame of reference for, is brought to our attention when square's wife says, "Feeling is believing." (Flatland, 54). Here, feeling means feeling familiar with something, in other wards having a context for it, allows us to believe it. This sets the stage for two questions which Abbott poses to the reader and which he answers. They are: What is the price one pays when one retells a story in a way others are not familiar with? What then motivates people to retell stories?. Abbott's answers to these questions can also be found in the plot. His narrator in Flatland feels the need to make others understand him by attempting to make others understand his experience in space land, an experience that has literally changed his world and that has ostracized him from the others for there is no way he can re-integrate himself into the two dimension world again. He risks however being even more ostracized as a result of his having radical ideas; he risks being called mad and put into jail because having different ideas can lead to chaos. What's most interesting is that Abbott presents in this novel a two dimensional world, a notion which the reader is unfamiliar and uneasy with. The reader thus through his/her difficulty to imagine a world that he/she has no context for understands what the author is commenting on. The reader in the beginning feels that the narrator is possibly mad because he believes that he lives in a two dimensional world. In this way, Abbott is directly asking us to look outside of ourselves.

Foucault in the Order of Things also questions what we "know" and take for granted. He starts of his preface by describing his reaction to a definition which he has read in a Chinese encyclopedia, which differs from what he is familiar with. This leads him to the conclusion that we limit ourselves to our own knowledge of things and that anything other than that is impossible. This leads him to question the process by which we classify. Classification according to him is a "linking together of things that are inappropriate" (Foucault, xvii). In the preface, he examines different example of how classifications, leading him to the conclusion that classifications which we do not question are arbitrary. At one point he says, "What is the ground on which we are to establish the validity of ... classification with complete certainty?" ( Foucault, xix). Foucault also says that the system of classification was adopted in order to establish order and that this system sets boundaries that prevent us from attempting to understand what others have to say. In fact, Foucault says that "the history of madness would be the history of the Other" (Foucault, xxiv). The preface initially seems like a justification for the form of the body of The Order of Things, a glimpse of which the reader sees in the foreword, in which the author describes how he is going to write a history of science that is different from what most readers are familiar with. It is underneath, however, a social critique of how we are too comfortable with what we "know' and how we think of what we know, with out question, as absolute. Foucault wants to show readers that if others have a vision of the world, in a manner other than that which we are used to, he/she is labeled mad. They, who see the world differently and who try to communicate to others their visions, out of need to be understood, can not be reintegrated into society because their world is so different from that of the rest of us; their visions are so radical from our certain ways, surely he/she must be mad. They are believed to disrupt the order of things. This is what Foucault believes to be the price of retelling a story, alienation from the rest of society.

In conclusion, both Foucault and Abbott believe that the price that one pays for retelling a story, in a way others are not familiar with, is possible alienation. They both however also agree that humans feel the need to retell stories, despite of the fact that they are aware of this price, because they feel the need to be understood.

Name:  Adina
Username:  ahalpern
Subject:  Draft A
Date:  2002-10-07 13:53:16
Message Id:  3194
What causes people to change their stories? What are the consequences? Write your first thoughts on the matter using Flatland. What causes the narrator to change his story?

The biggest factor in causing people to change their stories is experience. There is a strong urge to tell new stories, even when the consequences are drastic. This is definitely the case with our little anonymous Square in Flatland, whose experiences in different worlds cause him to see the universe and his world in completely new ways and land him in prison.

Before visiting Lineland, the Square has no idea that he is living in a world of dimensions. He is outraged that the Line does not understand his story. Perhaps Abbott is telling us that this need to tell stories and to be understood is an integral part of the human condition. At this point, the Square's story changes because he has new knowledge that there are other worlds out there, however boring and frustrating they may seems, and he now knows that he and the other citizens of his land are not alone.

The Square's story changes yet again with the introduction of Spaceland. He goes from accusing the Sphere of being a "Fool! Madman! Irregular!" (Flatland, 64) to treating him as a master and a God-like figure. Not only has his story of the Sphere changed, his story of his entire world has changed. He comes to realize that there are so many unknown possibilities out there, and that there very well might be a forth dimension. This is something that the Sphere cannot comprehend because he does not have the same experiences as does the Square. Like the Square, the Sphere is aware of dimensions, but unlike the square, he has not been through the awesome eye-opening experience of realizing that there is so much more out there. He does not have the ability or the resources to comprehend such concepts, and his story never changes.

The Square now has a completely different story. He sees his own world as dull and depressing because he now has the story of Spaceland, where everything is three-dimensional, new, and exciting. He cannot restrain telling this new story, and he seems to go crazy and illegally tells it until he is eventually thrown in prison. This is because the States of Flatland refuses to let anyone speak of Spaceland or try to describe other dimensions. Perhaps this is to prevent the chaos of a collective changing story. People are generally very reluctant to change their stories; they need proof. Even the Square's story did not change until he gained the experience and thus the necessary proof. If everyone's story changed, everyone might go as crazy as the square. Flatland would cease to function and would be thrown into complete chaos – but then again, the Square may simply be going crazy from the inability to tell his story. This need to tell our stories seems to be inlaid in all of us, and the chaos is not necessarily bad. Often, in the real world, lives are sacrificed for the sake of changing stories; however, this is not always the case. Collective narratives change all the time; without changing stories, we would still be living in previous centuries or millennia.

The square's story is changed by his experiences of visiting new lands. In his case the consequences are drastically unpleasant to say the least, though this is not always true with the re-telling of stories. Like the Square, we all have an undying need to tell our stories so that the world can progress in a healthy way.

Name:  Gwenyth Cavin
Subject:  Why Stories Change: In Respect to Flatland
Date:  2002-10-07 17:08:55
Message Id:  3195
We have already discussed the issue of what constitutes a "story" and concurred on the idea that a "story" can be practically anything from a lengthy speech to a passing thought. There are as many answers to the question of why stories change as there are types of stories in the world. Each story is so unique that it too has a story of how it began and evolved. History itself is an ongoing story, being written and rewritten everyday. One very important reason things change all the time and stories are never permanent is due to the search for truth. By truth I mean forgetting about what we take for granted as being real and finding out what is really out there, what really happened, the "true story." Edwin Abbot's Flatland is a novella about a story that is permanent only to those who do not seek the truth, but an ever-changing way of life to one brave Square who happens upon it.
Flatland is a series of stories about life for a series of species. Each specie accepts their way of life as being the only way to live. The subjects of Spaceland are assured of their superior three-dimensional world. Those in Flatland can not even comprehend any other directions/dimensions but those in the two dimensional world. The King of Lineland thinks the Square is absolutely absurd when explaining a new dimension. Even the Point thinks itself to be the sole inhabitant of all "space." Stories are not easily changed when the story is a concept one has believed in and lived all their life.
The Square was not a believer either when first confronted with this new idea which challenged his entire way of life. He had to be physically forced out of his world to look at everything from a different perspective and accept these new changes as the truth. When he discovered the truth, that there was another dimension altogether, there was no denying it. His story was changed forever. Then charged with the responsibility of spreading the truth, he was faced with a group of people unwilling to see reason because it was a threat. A new dimension would mean an end to their refined art of Sight Recognition, their grasp of the world, and their world itself. We come across the same situations today very often. For example, many religious fanatics will not accept or even be willing to learn about the theories of evolution. They see it as a complete contradiction to all their religion has taught them, the religion that they put their faith in to and live by. Changes in this would change the nature of their existence, much like the people of Flatland.
The phrase "ignorance is bliss" comes to mind here. It is easy to create a cozy existence just by ignoring the facts and fabricating new "easier-to-accept" ones. The discovery of the truth brings great amounts of responsibility as well. To fully accept a truth such as the one that faced the Flatlanders, one must make sweeping changes and welcome an entire new way of life. This is no doubt incredibly difficult, but it is the price of truth. The Square was imprisoned for life for attempting to enlighten others. He is well aware of the troubles truth can bring. However, stories must always change in a never-ending quest for truth. No matter what difficulties I face or burdens I bear, I can only hope my life will be a shifting story. Nothing is worse than living a lie.
Name:  Kim Cadena
Subject:  Cursed server...that is finally back up...
Date:  2002-10-07 22:54:14
Message Id:  3197
Change is icky.

People are funny creatures. We don't like change, especially if it involves shifting our paradigm. We will do anything to avoid having to change our stories, even if it means ignoring new information or hanging on to ridiculous ideas. We're constantly being taught new things, but we keep telling ourselves the same stories over and over, like A. Square, since we're scared of change.

Actually, the Square didn't tell himself the exact same story repeatedly; he changed it at little based on the limited information he had, as people do. He perceived of 'thickness' before other residents of Flatland and included it in the story he told to us, but he didn't understand what it was or its application to the greater story. His understanding of three-dimensions is similar to that of a child who understands that things move in certain directions, but not the concept of vectors. He is capable of dealing with the world he sees, but not of expressing the 'truth' of the world in the right terms because he doesn't have the right terms or the right concepts.

When he gets the right terms and concepts to change his story, however, he does a very human thing and rejects them at first because it's easier to stick with the story he was telling than change his story to fit with what her knows. He violently resists the knowledge of three dimensions the Sphere is giving him, because he is unwilling to change his story of the world to accommodate more dimensions. Most people refuse to change what they believe at first, afraid that the new knowledge they are gaining will throw out the old story they know. Eventually, though, both Square and people learn that adding knowledge to their stories doesn't cause the old stories to disappear; they become part of the new story, as the two-dimensional story became part of the three-dimensional one.

Finally, the Square assimilates the knowledge of the three-dimensional world into his story and tries to spread this knowledge to others in Flatland. The circular priests stop him, because they have the same reaction to his new understanding as he originally did: fear. Unlike him, though, they not only fear having to change their stories and concepts of the world, but also the possibility that the Square's knowledge will challenge their power and control of their world. They won't allow that, so they prevent the Square from sharing his knowledge with the rest of Flatland. The priests' behavior is quite like that of the Catholic Church dealing with Galileo (maybe that's what the author had in mind?). Free thinking is a challenge to an autocratic system that requires firm belief in the rulers to survive, and belief is not fostered if it is revealed that the leaders had been getting the story of everything wrong for centuries. Besides, the priests in the story showed themselves to be masters of propaganda anyway, so it is unlikely that a changes story is a task they want to deal with spinning; it would be way too much work. The Square was sacrificed in the name of the status quo, like many a great story-changer before him.

So people do change their stories, even if they don't like to. The problem is, working at a rate of one changed story at a time is pretty slow. That's part of the reason the Square was so easily thwarted by the priests; a lack of mass media made his idea hard to spread. We are living in an age where stories change constantly, or should, at least, depending on the willingness of people to change. The possibility is there, though, and so our stories will change, even if we're scared to change them.

Name:  claire
Subject:  changing stories
Date:  2002-10-07 23:27:51
Message Id:  3198
Have you ever changed a story? Surely you have. Everyone has at one time or another. In fact, most people change stories more frequently than they may realize. In Flatland Edwin A. Abbott reinforces the thought that from altering a brief encounter to skewing facts to changing an opinion, this metamorphosis of the 'story' isn't intrinsically good or bad.
Certain people, my good friend Lucy for instance, have a tendency to embellish stories. For example, Lucy explaining "...and then Miss Johnson took Erik's calculus book and made him run laps in the hall to make up for not changing for gym that day. And then she told him that she'd call his parents. And he told her to go ahead, because he didn't have anything good to do that weekend anyway, and he started to sing..." would correlate with a fairly uneventful phy ed class during which a student got caught unprepared. "That didn't actually happen, did it, Luc?" became frequently asked question by me and my friend Krissy when in Lucy's presence. As in Lucy's case, along with many retellings, explanations of simple events gradually become tall tales. Often these exaggerations prove harmless and merely add interest to an otherwise dull anecdote. On the other hand, "he said, she said" stories do frequently become hurtful, even slanderous. Rather than briefly relating the facts of an argument, a narrator may put a forceful spin on the conversation in order to take sides. Another illustration of this phenomenon, you may ask? Debate. One of the main purposes of debate is to portray information in a way that sways those listening/opposing. Providing a strong stand with compelling defense overcomes insecurity and security alike. Why would anyone do this? Simply stated, changing stories has, for years, remained a mainstay to cultures worldwide for the benefit of providing more "fulfilling" entertainment, for validation, or for argumentation.
Abbott cleverly discusses this idea in his book, Flatland. Because the setting and characters appear objective and far-removed, one doesn't feel personally attacked or talked down to. The mock-anthropological study format of the course which the square takes (dare I say his Life of Learning?) forces one to look more closely at our society. This square accepts, as most everyone does, that his world is the world of truth. Upon seeing the one-dimensional realm he scoffs and attempts to persuade the King to "see the light"--to realize the true nature of the world. Beyond this, a sphere takes the square under his care and, in a kind of role-reversal, the square becomes the tutee. The original philosophical arguments of the sphere do not move the square, but upon visiting Spaceland, he is intellectually converted, and even goes beyond the sphere's teachings. What are the consequences of all this revelation? Just that. Once "liberated" from popular opinion, the square (or any human on earth for that matter) strives further to achieve an even greater amount of knowledge, comprehension and ability to convey that newly discovered intelligence.
True, people change their opinions, but this does not necessarily equal weakness. Rather, change is a natural part of life, and can happen for any number of reasons. Change can enlightening, it can hurt, but change in and of itself does not by any means fit in a pigeon hole of "goodness" or "badness."
Name:  natalie
Username:  nbishar
Subject:  order and change, a story needs to be told
Date:  2002-10-08 10:29:09
Message Id:  3201
Order and change, a story needs to be told

"There is nothing more tentative, nothing more empirical (superficially, at least) than the process of establishing an order among things; nothing that demands a sharper eye or a surer, better articulated language..."(xix) If one is ever changing, order comes second. Our impulsive nature is more prone to chaos rather than keen and cautious awareness. If the ground below our feet is not stable, there has to be a reason. The reason for a new story! But the past is still present in our changing world; it is passed down through generations. Each mouth it passes through creates the same story with a new twist.
When there is a change the true original form is lost forever. With the Universal Color bill, it was so that shapes without angles would be shaded a specific color. Therefore, women and priests were painted half red and half green. Walking down the street anyone would be easily confused as to whether they were accosting a priest or a woman. This was a benefit for women, but the demise of the priests due to the know status of the two extreme stations. By introducing these new colors, the priests and women were not looked at the same way again.

The inhabitants of Flatland were exposed to one and only one story: one past, one present, one future. If one is born and lives their whole life in flatland, what else would they be aware? Understanding is limited when one grows up learning of only one place, the place in which one live. In the case of Flatland, it is extremely difficult to allow for understanding when the inhabitants of flatland do not know other "dimensions" exist. A make-believe story, a fairy-tale perhaps, might be able to convey the existence of life elsewhere. The problem is that the narrator tries to send out a message in such a rational, logical, mathematical way, the way in which he interprets it. However, the majority of the populace of Flatland cannot process such immense amounts of knowledge in one gulp. What comes across as radical and absurd thought of the narrator, will in the future as more and more heads turn curious or intrigued by the possibility of other dimensions.

Although he verges on hopelessness, the narrator's role in sacrificing himself to give others the understanding he possesses is a necessary one. It is in our nature to evolve, and as we do, the way in which we describe ourselves also evolves. Evolution of a species depends on the location, setting, climate, language and culture. The narrator had witnessed hands-on the lands near and far and could identify the differences among his people of Flatland and others. Why should he remain silent, a story needs to be told.

Name:  Diane Gibfried
Subject:  Conversation between M. Foucault, Monsieur Square and 50% Carl Sagan 50% Not Carl Sagan in the Non-Place of Language
Date:  2002-10-08 11:20:15
Message Id:  3202
Discussion Group: Stories- Telling & Re-Telling
Time: 12:00 Midnight
PLACE: The Non Place of Language
Attendees: Michel Foucault, Monsieur Square, 50% possibly Carl Sagan and 50%Not Carl Sagan
(I just had to get in Schroedinger's Cat!)

Monsieur Square: I cannot stay long. As you know, I remain a prisoner for my radical beliefs about other dimensions.
Michel Foucault: I have been inquiring about the same sort of thing. Because I have tried to conceive of a dimension or place in which there could be "open discourse" between all sciences which would be free flowing and not tied down to causality or identities. Because one (causality) is too hard to pin down and the other (subject) is too rigid. You see I don't believe that anyone has the last word on anything.

Monsieur Square: Hmmm. That is rather what I had hoped for from the Sphere at the point where after sharing in the Sphere's revelation of the third dimension, I began to wonder about a fourth, or possibly a fifth. Things are rather partitioned out and classified quite distinctly in Flatland. A triangle is a triangle you know. And an Isosceles remains an Isosceles.

Michel Foucault: Well, that's very interesting... beause I see that you come from a world rather different from my own and yet somehow similar.

Monsieur Square: Yes, my world exists on a rather predictable plane of two dimensions. Clear cut roles are assigned to each two dimensional character in terms of class, gender, roles in society. Even the shapes ofour houses are dictated by practical requirements for safety and security. Things were rather ho-hum until I experienced a puzzling intervention of a being from another dimension.

Michel Foucault: I wonder what the significance of that intervention at your particular time in history may have in terms of all forms of knowledge and awareness available to your from your particular point in perception. And how such an intervention may have been differently understood and interpreted epistemiologically in yet another time.

Monsieur Square: Well, I will tell you. It certainly gave me a scare at first. And I scarcely believed my own experience. But I was transported out of Flatland and floated above it and was able to see it in an entirely new way and I saw that it existed on a plane somewhat like the top of one of your tables in Spaceland.

Michel Foucault: Fantastic!

Monsieur Square: Yes. And from this new vantage point my vision was no longer obscured so that I could really see the shapes of things and the shapes inside of the shapes. Because before all I could see was an edge of sorts and senses of an angle here and there. Before that my perception of the class system, our forms of reproduction, our assignments of roles and the doctrine of "Attend to your Configuration" made perfect sense. But now, it no longer does at all. I see no point in attending to any Configuration that the Circles endorse. Except to maintain the status quo and continue to suppress exploration!

Michel Foucault: "Strangely enough, man – the study of whom is supposed by the naive to be the oldest investigation since Socrates – is probably no more than a kind of a rift in the order of things, or in any case, a configuration whose outlines are determined by the new position he has so recently taken up in the field of knowledge."

You are on to something here.

Looking over the period of time in which you perceived this new insight, which led you to suppose other new insights, has a coherence which might (at least regarding Flatland) seem obvious. And this also probably contained changes and "mutations" which were necessary to push you forward.

Michel Foucault: I also believe we ought to attend to everyone's configurations and so attend to none. It seems to me that instead of tiny cubicles and rooms of egos and identities associated with knowledge, it would be far better and serve more of a purpose to find the innate order of things which exists in all of science itself.

I guess my equilateral friend, we can think about what we configure and what configures us?

Monsieur Square: Certainly my configuration has altered since I started to perceive these new possibilities.

Michel Foucault: Since Man is so young on the planet and in the scheme of Time, it seems he will reinvent himself over and over again as his knowledge increases or changes. Ah yes, I speak of another dimension. In which we change our configurations. I am excited to think about where this may finally take you and eventually all of Flatland.

Monsieur Square: For now, it has taken me straight to prison.

Michel Foucault: Be thankful you don't have a nice roly poly head.

50% Carl Sagan and 50% Not Carl Sagan: I have been enclosed in a space capsule and was floating above space, much like Monsieur Square here.l.. when the interior of my space ship exploded. There is a 50% possibility that I am alive and a 50% possibility that I am deceased. Anyway I found a nice spot to land in the blue dot parking lot.
How are things on our good old speck of dust?

Monsieur Square: What on earth do you mean?\

Michel Foucault: You don't look like Carl Sagan.

50% Carl Sagan and 50% not Carl Sagan: When the light of your planet lit up my electrons they started to swerve... and now I am quite another being. The act of observing me has changed me somehow you see.

Name:  Whitney
Subject:  stories help us establish order
Date:  2002-10-08 20:47:44
Message Id:  3218
Stories are our way of enforcing order in the world; our way of consoling ourselves in the face of confusion. We have science, religion, "truth", and "knowledge" to guard against chaos. In essence, we have created order to mask the order that we do not understand. As we begin to strip our contrived conditions and rules from the structures of ideas, we realize that there is an order to the chaos. An order that was prevalent before us, and an order that will preside after us. Our world is more than what we see.
It is human to strip things down, to simplify complexities. Stories serve that very purpose- to polarize events or ideas into two sides, two sides that are easily quantified and far enough removed from the reality of things. Thus, stories protect us from ourselves- creating archetypes to represent what we know to be true, to replace the things that are too true, to make our lives into stories separate from us.
Religion is a story that was generated to glorify and teach, and the success of this one story (or kind of stories) is a phenomenon. The success of religion lies solely in its remote relationship to life. The key here is "remote"- a story must not hit too close to home. Religion gives the people an organization, a sort of cleansing ritual, to convince themselves that there is spirituality in this world, and that they can indeed be part of it.
The most important purpose that stories serve is their ability to teach while simultaneously comforting, or entertaining. We depend on stories to teach our children about the world- gently graduating them into reality, from simplicity to complexity. The story is stripped of all personal context so that the reader may supplement their own world- in essence transplanting each story from one perception to the next. Each reader draws something different, something directly pertaining to them, from stories.
Stories are a crucial part of our development as a society. They teach and unify, and yet also mask and distort. We cling to stories because they are the only way through which we see the world; they interpret our reality for us.
Name:  Joy
Subject:  retelling stories is essential...
Date:  2002-10-08 23:20:12
Message Id:  3222
We tell stories, not only (as some people have already pointed out in this forum) in the hopes of connecting with/explaining ourselves to others, but also to explain the world around us to ourselves and help us to understand, at least in some superficial way, our existence. For these two reasons, the telling and re-telling of stories have been and will continue to be and essential part of human history and existence. Humankind has always told stories about the things around them in an attempt to make sense of the world – hence the existence of creation myths, legendary gods and heroes, and mythological histories of every culture since writing was invented. There is no doubt that stories existed long before humans discovered a means to write them down as well.
Recognizing that these are the purposes of stories, it is not hard to understand why we re-tell stories and why our stories change. We pass down certain cultural stories from generation to generation, and these stories may evolve not purposefully, but as a result of changing values of the generations/societies/cultures that receive, and in turn re-tell them. Explanatory stories can change because an aspect of them is no longer considered truthful, acceptable, beneficial, applicable or even fashionable.
An important parallel that one can draw between Flatland and Focoult's piece is the notion that stories help us to understand existence through the categorization of the things we interpret and percieve in the world. As evidenced in both works, this categorization can take place simply as a systemic way of placing that which we perceive into convenient niches, or drawing distinctions between "different" and the "same", or that which is familiar to us and the "other".
In Flatland, A. Square takes us through the different "worlds" of dimensions. The majority of the narrative of this work thus results in comparisons between the lands and the use of these comparisons (both similarities and differences) to explain things that the reader has never experienced. When explaining different lands to the various people he encounters, he builds his stories around terms and concepts which are universal enough that both he and his audience can understand. Stories are the only thing that can accomplish the extremely important task of helping people to understand things outside of their own experience/being.
When Focault speaks of the Chinese encyclopedia and its classifications of animals, he makes us aware of the vastly different ways in which cultures view the world and place things into categories. However, we can understand how to the author/s of this encyclopedia, making such distinctions is inherently necessary in understanding the world, for we do the same, though in a quite different way.
In this way, stories can facilitate an understanding of other cultures that is essential to the harmony of the human race. If we were not able to tell stories, our existence would be futile. We could never relate to our friends what happened to us during the day, never tell about our past – there would be no such thing as the news, or books, movies, TV, and art. Likewise, if we could never change and re-tell stories, we ourselves could never change or take into account new information and points of view and form new ideas – and the human race would be hard pressed to evolve in any meaningful way.
Name:  Molly Cooke
Subject:  Re-telling Stories: Not on Foucault or Flatland
Date:  2002-10-20 22:36:32
Message Id:  3287
As I attempt to understand it, stories are as inextricable from what makes us human as are food and water. We use them to communicate a message, record history, teach, and entertain. Stories occupy a large part of our time on this planet - the preparing, the telling, the listening and then the re-telling. In the case I did not miss something, this is not a complicated matter.
Further, the question of why we re-tell or revise stories is a very interesting a matter; however, I have run into obstacles in drawing on Flatland and Foucault. I shamefully admit I have not been able to understand how the story Flatland is a re-telling when it appears to be the initial telling of a story; and therefore is understood as a vehicle for communicating, recording, teaching and entertaining. Because it is written text, the retelling is no different than the original. With my personal regard to the fascinating segment of Foucault's The Order of Things, I also have a hard time understanding where the story was in this text. In what is perhaps my too-narrow view, this is not a story. It has no plot, no denoument, no re-telling of events: therefore, as best I can understand it, which may not be very well, this is no story here at all. Furthermore, The Order of Things does not appear to be a re-telling of anything, rather it is the first formal English language record of Foucault's original thought.
My failure in this assignment is therefore sealed, so I apologize to the reader for my own thickness. To draw on these two writings to answer the above questions can only be done if I create a false understanding of the assignment, which would truly defeat the purpose, wouldn't it?
I shall attempt to approach the questions, therefore, from an angle that I think I understand. I will attempt to apply them to a situation that I find highly relevant which we experienced in our very own McBride section of CSEM.

This is the story of the story we chose not to tell.
Born of the first writing exercise on the second day of classes of our first semester here at Bryn Mawr College, each student of CSEM produced a fairy tale. In our own section, the McBride section, we delighted in reading each and every story, and when the time to prepare for the Fairy Tale Symposium, it was generally agreed that we would present a particular story which had moved every reader deeply. Come symposium night, however, minds were changed. It was decided on short notice that this would not be shared after all. The vocal and articulate members of our class expressed concern that the story was too emotionally charged for a general audience, that we as responsible storytellers were not prepared to handle the potential results of re-telling this story. So the story went untold. This is a perfect example of why stories are not re-told. If content is too difficult, or cannot be understood within a measure of comfort by the teller, it is not an affective story and will not be told.
However, not telling the story also felt wrong. Again the vocal members of our class expressed a need to honor the writer's courage and her story as well. It was even said that holding back the story was possibly an error - for we chose not to expose others to the challenge we felt ourselves instead of allowing for the story to do it's work, whatever that may have been. This is an example of the potential cost of not sharing a story. The ability to find common ground, in the broadest sense, to understand one another is lost when a story is censured.
What would have been the right thing to do? What could we do to fix this situation? Ideas began to pour forth. A re-telling of the story was created through the cooperative efforts of a number of students with a mind to satisfy their own need for more subtle, symbolic language as well as to honor the tale with the same degree of respect they felt for the author.
As a result, the story was re-born in a body that the tellers felt a measure of comfort with: and I believe that is the key. The audience is taken by the hand of the storyteller to the threshold of their own imaginations.

Name:  Anne Dalke
Subject:  Catagorizing the Heavens
Date:  2002-10-08 18:14:49
Message Id:  3215
There was an article in this morning's (10/8/02) Philadelphia Inquirer which I want to share w/ you all. It's just TOO GOOD an illustration of what Foucault has been teaching us about the subjectivity of categorization, and also--in its account of the ways in the which our understanding of the heavens continues to be re-formulated even as we speak--it offers a marvelous seque-way into our reading of Brecht's Galileo. The article is entitled "Space Object Pulls Pluto into Planet Debate":

"On the frozen outskirts of the solar system, astronomers have discovered an orbiting object half the size of Pluto....They have named it Quaoar (kwah-o-war), after a Calfornia Indian creation deity....Quaoar is not a planet--it is a Kuiper Belt object, a member of a distant realm that is just beginning to be explored....this newcomer is creating an awkward situation in the solar system....because Pluto is classified as a planet, [some astronomers] feel obligated not only to admit Quaoar, but 661 other catalogued Kuiper Belt objects....

The word planet comes from the Greek term for 'wanderer' because planets appeared to drift among what seemed to be a fixed background of stars. So, according to the Greek definition, Quaoar and Pluto are both planets, but then so are all the countless asteroids and pieces of assorted debris. Pluto...has always been a misfit, but [one astronomer] has long argued that it should remain a planet because it has its own moon and atmosphere and appears spherical....whether Pluto is called a planet [another astronomer] considered a meaningless question. 'It's like deciding to call Australia a continent and Greenland an island,' he said...

'I think Pluto is happier as a Kupier Belt object,' [said the first astronomer]. It gets to go from puniest planet to king of the Kupier Belt'....

The International Astronmical Union has rules for what you can name objects....Anything found in Quaoar's particular neighborhood must be named after a creation deity...If it were closer to Pluto, they would have needed to name it after another mythological deity associated with the underworld."

{Now: doesn't THAT account give another spin to the "strange categories" of Borges' encyclopaedia," w/ which Foucault begins his discussion of The Order of Things?


Name:  Anne Dalke
Subject:  coldest places human thought has ever reached....
Date:  2002-10-11 14:09:24
Message Id:  3262
Another relevant "book report": last Sunday's (10/6/02) New York Times Book Review looked @ a new biography of Charles Darwin, which put me strongly in mind of our current conversation about how reluctant we are to give up the stories which comfort us:

"It is necessary to appreciate the dislocating sweep of Darwin's achievement. The discovery of natural selection, the austere logic of reproducing systems, was only Darwin's first step....He showed how selection united ..the physical and the mental into a single fabric of intelligble mateiral causation. If one could accept the price....: our cherished mental life was a naturally selected product of organized matter, just one downstream consequence of the uncaring immensities of time and chance....

no comporimise was possible between the need for ideological affirmation and the logic of Darwin's worldview. As he explained, in a world governed by physics and seleciton, humans are a "chance," like other life forms "a mechanical invention"; there is no "necessary progression"....Most disturbing was his recongition that because natural selection gave a contingent, materialist explanation for the existence of the moral capacity, it removed any divine or cosmic endorsemnt of its products.....

Darwin went further than his contemporaries because he was less bound by the compulsion to make the universe conform to his predilections. While others rapidly turned aside, his stoicism in the face of bitter imaginative vistas allowed him to persevere along logical paths to some of the coldest places human thought has ever reached.....The will to know must have been singularly unbending in a man for whom even God's banishment or death was incidental to finding the truth....

Name:  Anne Dalke
Subject:  Narratives of Closure
Date:  2002-10-17 07:46:39
Message Id:  3276
In the next section of this course, we'll be exploring the various ways in which cultures (like individuals, like science) tell stories about the world. An article in this morning's (10/17/02) Philadelphia Inquirer, "Professor works to debunk myths about historic events," anticipates us:
"...the complexities in history often get smoothed over as societies try to make sense of events by fitting them into simple, familiar story lines. And the facts a society chooses to forget can be just as informative about that society's values....over the last century, the camera image...has had the most powerful influence on how Americans develop cultural memories of key images 'play a vital role in the devleopment of national meaning by creating a sense of shared participation and experience in the nation.' So powerful are those images that they not only create memories but obliterate them, as evidenced by World War II veterans who have forgotten where their war memories come from--their own experiences or Hollywood movies....'memory most often takes the form of cultural reenactment, the retelling of the past in order to create narratives of closure....'"

This is a little different than where we are heading (telling stories in order to produce new ones) stay tuned! Anne

Name:  Beatrice Johnson
Username:  Beatrice Johnson
Subject:  Flatland and the Order of Things Revisited
Date:  2002-10-22 13:13:54
Message Id:  3313


| Forum | Science in Culture | Serendip Home |

Send us your comments at Serendip

© by Serendip 1994- - Last Modified: Wednesday, 02-May-2018 10:51:54 CDT