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

Forum 4 - From Fairy Tales to Flatland

Name:  Paul Grobstein
Subject:  symposium and on ...
Date:  2003-09-22 09:49:45
Message Id:  6563
Thanks, all, for a thoughtful, productive, and enjoyable evening last night. Click for some photos (and some apologies).

Nice to begin connecting people to writings, so let's see what we can do to build on it here. What was your reaction to yesterday's gathering? What did you discover that you didn't expect? About people? About fairy tales? In what ways were the stories you arrived with yesterday evening altered by the evening? (and, if you weren't there, in what ways are they altered by the stories people tell here about the evening?). Has your sense of "fairy tale" and/or of people/community been altered? In what way?

Name:  Flicka
Subject:  Sunday Symposium
Date:  2003-09-23 12:27:30
Message Id:  6584
I was actually very interested to hear how the McBride students defined fairy tales. It was great to hear the opinions of an older group of women, and I really appreciated their respect for us as intellectual equals. I was surprised by their presentation on "Little e" because personally, I did not think it was a fairy tale at all. It was a very cute children's story, but I think that it lacked a certain magical quality to it that gives fairy tales their spark. I also liked the IDOW, but I did not see it as a fair-godmother type figure. I saw it more as a friend that little E found who helped her to find her place in the world.
I really enjoyed the group that portrayed the fairy-godmother as fed up and bored with her job. We always think of the fairy-godmother as the sweet, kind woman who helps Cinderella go to the ball looking gorgeous. But when you take away her kind nature and Cinderella has to find her own way to the ball, suddenly the fairy tale loses its spark. It loses the magic that makes kids smile, and suddenly the ending doesn't seem so happy after all. I did not see this as a fairy tale, but I enjoyed it nevertheless. The persepctive change was a thought-provoking one.
Overall, I'd say that the meeting helped me to see that some aspects of a fairy tale are necessary (like a magic world and a happy ending) and others aren't (like 2 men living happily ever after).
Name:  Ginny Costello
Subject:  Fairy Tales
Date:  2003-09-24 00:37:41
Message Id:  6603
I loved the Sunday night meeting with the combined classes. It was really fun to see the performances of the various Cinderellas. I enjoyed having the opportunity to hear what others thought about fairy tales and what place they have in our lives.
Name:  Tamiyo Britton
Subject:  A lovely evening!
Date:  2003-09-24 22:39:40
Message Id:  6622
It was a very enjoyble evening. I thought was very meaningful to participate in the conversation in larger group with people who have been reading and discussing about a same material as we have. I was impressed with a highly organized skits that were put by the traditional students. I am looking forward to our next gathering. I cannot say much more right now because I am in pressure to finish our Csem reading for tomorrow.
Name:  Sarah Sniezek
Date:  2003-09-24 23:22:48
Message Id:  6624
As for Sunday night, I had a wonderful time hearing and seeing everyones different views w/ fairy tales. I liked combining the two classes we all can learn something from everyone else.

Now as for our next reading, FLATLAND...well I think it was interesting how Abbott wrote in terms of dimensions. The whole concept of it was ridiculous and I really did not like how he was saying that women were the lowest of low. I thought the whole system he was discribing was completely stupid, but after reading for a bit more I began to realize that he was being a bit sarcastic. By reading Flatland it made my mind see things a bit differently so that I could understand the shapes and what they represented. The way I look at thinks is changed b/c of the way Flatland was written. I liked how he used shapes to explain what was going on, it really made me think beyond they way I usually see things.

Name:  Kristin
Subject:  Sunday Evening
Date:  2003-09-25 00:03:23
Message Id:  6625
I was a little afraid, honestly, going into Sunday night. I was worried the McBrides would not treat young'uns in quite the same manner as they treated one another. Thankfully, my fear quickly disappeared. Everyone treated us as equals, which I really liked. I personally wish we had mixed classes of McBrides and traditional students: I think it would add a dimension to our class that is currently lacking, namely one of experience.

Speaking of dimensions, how about that Flatland, huh? I really liked it, and am excited to talk about it in class tomorrow. Now I just have to figure out how to articulate my thoughts....

Name:  Christine Lipuma
Date:  2003-09-25 07:50:32
Message Id:  6629
The night was a good experience for me in learning about ways that people learn about each other. Seeing our two sections come together was thought provoking and worthwhile.
My sense of what a fairy tale is was expanded because the story of "Little e" made me wonder if that could possibly be a fairy tale. This can also be compared to what Flatland might be.
Name:  Alicia Jones
Subject:  Last Sunday's Combined CSEM class
Date:  2003-09-26 12:04:35
Message Id:  6637
A few thoughts, comments, observations about Sunday night and about Flatland:

I was surprised to read a comment by one of the "trads" that spoke of being "a little afraid, honestly.... worried that the McBrides would not treat young'uns in quite the same manner as they treated one another."

I just have to say to you "young'uns" that I respect and admire you all in the same way that I respect and admire my sister McBrides. The only difference in you guys and us is age and experiences, and I would never let a number come between my getting to know you better. In terms of experiences, we've had a longer time to make mistakes and to figure out how to recoup from them so that we could learn something new. And, here we are hanging out at Bryn Mawr with you, learning some new stuff. Girlfriends - we're all "Mawrters" - in this thing together!

On the fairy tale side of things - I really loved the diverse twists that the trads put into the Cinderella tale. I'm one of those folks who still firmly believes that fairy tales can have different outcomes and take differnt routes, other than the happily ever after path. And, if I'm too look at "Flatland" as a fairy tale then I know fairy tales come in differnet packages!

I, too, had a hard time with the portrayal of women in "Flatland" but after our McBride discussion on Tuesday and then, after doing some research on who Edwin A. Abbott really was, I am ready to change my mind about him in general, and specifically about the woman issue. It seems that Mr. Abbott was a true leader and advocate of women's educational rights in Victorian England. Who knew? Well, I didn't, and today I learned something new that will help me write my paper from a more objective point of view rather than from the reactionary, emotional point of view that I was holding onto Tuesday. Gosh, I love this learning environment!



Name:  Anne Dalke
Subject:  fairy tales, risk-taking and....?
Date:  2003-09-26 18:47:34
Message Id:  6642

Thought you guys might be interested to know that there are other fairy tales being explored in other spaces on campus and . . . be curious about listening in on one of those conversations, about Harm-Reduction, Risk-Taking and "Bloodchild" (which, at the end, seems curiously to circle back to the one we were having together in English House last Sunday night...)

Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  Sunday evening
Date:  2003-09-26 20:17:46
Message Id:  6643
This is a very belated response... (have you ever noticed that in fairy tales no one ever gets a cold and has to read 200 pages in the same week?)

I really liked Sunday's symposium. It is so cool to listen to women in a range of ages responding to the same stories.

I still have pretty mixed feelings about fairy tales. I have a very strong attachment to the stories I heard when I was little. The idea of the prince riding in on a white horse is mighty appealing (say, when your car breaks down...). And since I don't expect magical intervention to happen in real life, why *not* experience it vicariously through a story?

But at the same time, I really like the stories (maybe not technically "fairy tales") where the character takes control and fixes the problem herself, making her own happy ending. For me, personally, I guess those "do-it-yourself" stories have more resonance. That's probably because I'm in the process of reinventing my life (going back to school), and I'm comforted by tales of successful self-reliance.

Name:  ginny costello
Subject:  Photos
Date:  2003-09-26 20:54:38
Message Id:  6645
Dear Paul,
Thank you so much for the photos. I printed them out and got the opportunity to show this great class off to my family.
Name:  Danielle
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  Flatland
Date:  2003-09-28 23:06:08
Message Id:  6658
I really enjoyed Flatland. I found it an interesting new way to look at the world. It is almost humiliating. The "flatness" in my thinking cannot be escaped- I cannot really imagine 11 dimensions- and so in many ways I am- we all are- much like the king in A. Square's dream....
Name:  Bhumika Patel
Subject:  Flatland
Date:  2003-09-29 16:53:59
Message Id:  6682
I think that Abbott was very clever in how he presented social, mathematical and scientific issues. I thought that Part B of the book was a lot more interesting than Part A. I did not find his references to women offensive because I don't think they were intended to be...
Name:  Anita Lai
Subject:  Flatland
Date:  2003-09-30 08:31:23
Message Id:  6703
Flatland is an intriguing and cleverly written book rich with symbolism. Edwin A. Abbott uses figures in an innovative manner that is logical yet wholly unique. The idea I believe Abbott stresses is that people can be extremely close-minded to new ideas, different beliefs, or differences in appearance. The use of shapes in the book and the idea that these shapes can possibly rise in social status with each new birth and become more complex in sides reminds me of evolution. Abbott's Flatland serves as a reminder to ask questions, but also shows the consequences of such actions. As the Square pointed out, it is a manner of what you are willing to give up for a cause you strongly believe in.

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