Final Blog

December 23, 2010

This is one of the few English classes that I have taken and I have truly enjoyed reading most of the works of literature that we focused on in class. As an English major you always hear talk of the Canon and the traditional works of literature that are “essential” and so “important” for English major to read and be familiar with. For our final blog we were asked to basically evaluate the Global Literature course and express what we enjoyed about the class and what we didn’t as well as discussing the Canon.

In my opinion what this course should be is, a class that focuses on literature written by non western writers. What this means is that the course should not include tradition western works which essentially is what the Canon is, but it should mention them very slightly. Because it is Global literature I think that it deserves to only include works of literature that are not western works, after all its only fair because American literature gets two required classes that English majors must take at Queens College, as does British literature. So Global literature in my opinion should not include 20th century canon works.

What worked for me in this course was the second half of the semester. During the second half of the semester we focused on non 20th century works of literature and these works are what grabbed my attention and interested me the most. As I mentioned in previous blogs I absolutely loved “Drown” by Junot Diaz, and I am currently reading his other novel ” The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao”. But I never expressed how I truly felt about the other novels we read in the second half such as “Persepolis”, “Dreams From My Father”, and “The Woman Warrior”. I never expressed what how I enjoyed these  novels better than any of  the works we read in the first half. I finally noticed, because of this final blog assignment, the reason behind me enjoying the second half of reading so much better than the first and that reason is because I relate to the authors that wrote the works we read in the second half. Never in my life have I traveled trough Africa, like in “Heart of Darkness”, and describe people by the color of their skin and belittle them in my mind and with my words. But I can relate to Kingston being discriminated against because of her culture, Diaz hating himself because of his culture and ethnic physical traits, and Obama realizing how minorities are exploited by politics. This is why I enjoyed reading in the second half of the semester. There is no hiding that I am a minority, and I can relate to each work that we read in the second half and these works made me think and reminded me why I love reading. I never once could  relate to “Homer:The Iliad,The Odyssey”, and I never once enjoyed reading it. I always thought of English as an art and not a list of “Great” western readings that professors must shove down students throats, and because they know the students will not read it, must then test them to ensure they do because no body wants to fail.

You would think that going to college in New York City which is considered the most diverse city, and going to college in Queens which is the most culturally diverse borough in New York City, that by now we would be able to incorporate more works of literature written by minorities and women. But yet we still focus primarily on the 20th century canon and western literature.  The Canon wars that took place in the 1980s was to incorporate more women and minority writers into the works of literature read in colleges in America. Although they did succeed and us reading Diaz, Obama, Satrapi, and Kingston is evidence of this, I still do not like the idea of the Canon or that they are considered “Great Works” in literature. Why is it necessary to read often racist, and sexist works, what do I learn from this. Being a minority and a English major it is truly disappointing. Why should we read the works of dead white males, are minorities not as good at writing, do women not posses the same passion for writing as these men did. I do not believe that because a group of men decided that these works are “great” means that they should be the focus of English in college education.

Because I am a minority and a English major I maybe bias, but it does not give me hope. I feel like minorities are not represented fairly in the Canon and that the Canon should be changed not only because of the misrepresentation of women and minorities but because of the time period. It would make sense if the Canon was changed every certain amount of years to include past “great” works and current “great” works. But the problem with this is that every onde has a different interpretation of what a great work of literature is.

Out of the 5 classes I have taken for my English major this is the first to spend substantial amount of time on works of literature that are not considered part of the Canon. And I enjoyed this class much more than the other English classes I have taken.

It is not only race and sexuality that is the problem with the Canon and having colleges only focus on the Canon, but having students being narrow minded and only read the Canon is a problem. College is supposed to expand your mind, you are supposed to think and learn. And if Colleges only have students read the Canon then we are only learning parts of literature because we would never experience authors such as Diaz, Kingston, and Obama.

I think  that the Canon wars were very effective, but need to be revisited. During the Canon wars Allan Bloom wrote a book titled “The Closing of the American Mind”, in this book he stated things like “that abandoning the Western canon had dumbed down universities, while the “relativism” that had replaced it had “extinguished the real motive of education, the search for a good life”. I cannot think that any one could be more wrong about moving away from the Western Canon. If students do not like what they are reading they will not read it instead they will find summaries and get the information they need to pass a test or write a paper and the information they are supposed to learn from the reading will never stay with them. Now if we go away from the Canon and read novels close to the current time period and interest students then they will want to read and keep what they learned in their minds and expand their frame of thought. Novels such as “Dreams From My Father” address past issues with African Americans, and current, and includes situations in which most people relate to and this attracts them to the novel.

In time what I think will matter to me as a reader is reading what ever I like to read. Of course I will read the mandatory western Canon reading that I am destined to encounter at least 20 or more times till I complete my English major at Queens College, but I will not enjoy reading them. And what will matter to me as an English major is becoming a better writer and seeing more minorities and women on the syllabus for future classes, and until then I will chant “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Western cultures gotta go”, as the students from Stanford did in a rally during the Canon wars.

Now I am not saying the Canon is full with horrible racist and sexist works, but the fact that it only has white male writers makes the canon racist and sexist not the works although some of them are. And the reason that the second half of this semester worked for me was as I stated before was because we read works by talented writers who I can relate my self to and learn from. In simpler terms what I am trying to say is that how can I learn or want to learn from a writer that lived centuries before me and I could never relate to and vice versa.

It saddens me that my first English class with Beverly will be my last because she did introduce me to authors who I probably would have never encountered because of the usual required reading in typical English courses. I think that Beverly handled the course exactly how it should have been handled, in that she showed us some of the Canon then dedicated the rest of the second half to non Canon works of literature.

Madness or Silence

December 9, 2010

 

For the blog we must chose if the last section, “A Song for a Barbarian Reed Pipe”, is either madness or silence, but I think that both represent Maxine. 

Maxine desperately tries to be like her mother and be outspoken and the most popular girl as her mother was in medical school, and in the final section her mother’s talk-stories impact her school life and child hood. In the final section Maxine discusses her school life and how she is tied with another girl for least popular in the school, this is where  the silence plays a part. As much as Maxine tries to be Brave Orchid she is not, instead she is like a typical Chinese women who is shy and barely speaks,  this causes the madness. Because she is tied with this girl she then begins to torment her for no apparent reason but to try and make her talk, this is only part of the madness that Maxine illustrates in this last section, but her silence and lack of popularity in school I believe cause this madness. 

Maxine also mentions her neighborhood and paranoia. She compares herself to the neighborhood crazy girl “Crazy Mary”, and she feels as though she is the “Crazy Mary” of her family because she hears voices in her head, and this turns to paranoia as she fears she will have to marry the mentally ill neighborhood kid, or her parents will give her away to a Chinese man. 

I believe that the Madness is caused by the silence for one key reason. In this chapter Maxine touches on confessing to her mother certain things she did, and when she speaks of killing a spider her mother instantly tells her to stop because she can’t take it, this is the silence. Maxine is not able to talk to her family and is an outsider at school automatically because she is Chinese, so this silence turns to madness, and I think both are about Maxine herself. 

I also wanted to just touch on something we mentioned in class which was about the ghost. In the previous chapters Maxine mentioned not being able to stay at her mother house because the ghost haunt her, I think the Ghost is her mother. Although she loves her mother, her mot her made life very difficult and put contradicting views in Maxine’s mind. All her talk-stories and ghost stories of her killing ghost and of medical school and being strong women play a huge toll on Maxine and her madness. She desperately wants to be her mother but is more like Moon Orchid and other Chinese women because she is quiet and Maxine knows this goes against everything her mother instilled in her. The ghost is also her culture, although she loves it she doesn’t want it to hold her back as it did her mom, who went from doctor(Shaman) to Laundry worker. I realized this mostly from her name Maxine Hong Kingston, She wants to push her culture away but still remember where she came from so she hyphens rather than getting rid of her maiden name and culture completely.

Change in Maxine’s mother

December 5, 2010

I wasn’t sure if you wanted us to discuss the change in Maxine’s mother, also known as “Brave Orchid” in the novel, in the two chapters or how she changed from the beginning of the novel.

I noticed a difference in Brave orchid in her personality compared to that of the first two chapters. In “Shaman” I think this is were her change becomes evident. She mentions going to medical school and only having to be worried about her self after her two first children have died, this is where her change comes about. In medical school she is able to escape most of the typical woman role in Chinese culture and she does not have to plow or fetch things for her mother-in -law and she is responsible for only her self.   When she returns to her village is where you see the change cause by medical school and independence, she becomes just like the Chinese men and culture and thinks of women on a lower scale and sort of worthless. She complains shortly in this chapter about paying $200 dollars for Maxine’s birth when they were giving out slave-nurses for free, she thinks of the money as a waste because she could have gotten a free girl if she wanted to. I think this change is caused by medical school because when she returns to her village is when she is treated as a “shaman” because she can cure people and supposedly get rid of ghost.

You also notice her change in “At the Western Palace”. When her sister Moon Orchid arrives, Brave Orchid complains about her being worthlessness because she is unable to do simple house work such as folding the laundry. Brave Orchid or Maxine’s mother is drastically different. in the previous chapters  she tells Maxine stories of female empower ment such as “Fa Mu Lan”, but then then in these two chapters a woman’s worth to her is house work and her own daughter is not worth $200 because she could have gotten a slave-nurse for free. Maxine’s mother changed by going back to the typical Chinese views of a woman’s worth.

P.S.

I noticed in the chapter “At the Western Palace” Moon Orchid’s husband left her in china and started a new family in America and has success. This immediately brought “Drown” to my mind. I recall in “Drown” the father leaves his wife and children in the Dominican republic to start a new family in America, although he eventually reconnected with his first wife it had me thinking. In these cultures where woman are thought of as less valuable then men why is it that the man cannot survive without the woman and the woman is the key to his success. Both  men immigrate to America and both men find a women and start a new family before having success, so who’s really worth what is the question.

Kingston is simmilar to the swordswoman in many ways. The most noticible way is that they are bothe women and the only way “Fa Mu Lan” or her in her fantasty can get recognition for her accomplishments is to pretend to be a man.

Although Kingston never pretends to be a man she recognizes that even in America she faces even more roadblocks. She faces sexual discrimination from her own family and chinese culture, as well as racism and sexual discrimination from americans. What make her and the swordswoman so similar is that she is fighing for somethings as was the swordswoman.

Kingston could claim to be a woman warrior because of the everyday battles she faces as did the swordswoman. Except Kingston faces an even bigger battle, she wants to be aknowledged for her accomplishments but because she is a women this is difficult, she also wants to help  the people in China and end communism. Kingston is faced with an even bigger challenge than Fa Mu Lan was faced with because she is fighting for the Chiese-Americans as well as the Chinese back in china where as Fa Mu Lan was fighting for her family and Chinese peasants and the swordswoman was only faced with sexual discrimination and class difference, and Kingston must battle sexual discrimination, class difference, and racism.  “What we have in common are the words at our backs- And I have so many words-“Chink” and “gook” words too- that they do not fit my skin” (53), Kingston faces so many challenges, including similar ones that the swordswoman faced, that her tattoos of “revenge” cannot fit on her skine because she has so many.

Politics or Not?

November 29, 2010

Before reading  chapeters 7-14, I told my self to not be bias and to try and read the book as if it was written by Barack Obama and not President Obama or Senator Obama. And I found that this is impossible and he makes it very difficult.

“”I’d pronounce the need for change. Change in the White House-Change in Congress- Change in the mood of the country-Change won’t come from the top, I would say, Change will come from a mobilized grass roots”(133). This is how Obama makes it difficult. Lets look back at his 2008 presidential campaign, his slogan was “Change” and what does he discuss in his Chicago chapters “Change”. I then became totally convinced that this book was written to support Obama’s political agenda.

In Chapters 7-14  Obama focuses on portraying himself as a normal person that wants to just improve the community and is not in it for profit.” ‘Hey, didn’t I promise we were gonna make something happen?” (186). This quote is said after Obama is determined to draw community members to support programs being built in the poorer part of Chicago. This just seems so political, he shows that he made a promise and kept it unlike typical politicians and was “Changing” the community.

The only way the novel would not be portraying his political agenda in my opinion is if he never was a politician and just did community organizing as an author or writer. Because other wise there is always some political agenda, as he says in I believe chapter 8 or 9 when he is talking to Marty about a reverend Marty says its all politics, “he’s just a politician with a collar”. So if he was never Senator Obama or President Obama, I would have read this novel completely different and it would be about a young black man trying to better a community rather than a young black politician, starting his political career early. And I think that if he never was a politician I would enjoyed the novel much more rather than thinking, “Man, he bullshits very well”.

Blog Comments.

November 22, 2010

I commented on John Stippell’s blog as well as Caitlin Machicote’s and Maggie’s. All were great blogs.

This is probably the hardest blog yet because I am forced to pick between 10 great stroies that influence each other, if I had the choice I would pick all of them but since I cant decide on just one I will pick two. The two stories that were my favorite were “Drown” and “How to date a Browngirl, Blackgirl, Whitegirl, or Halfie.”. These two stories were my favorite out of the ten and it was a hard decision.

I chose “Drown” because of the Junot Diaz, in my opinion, shows his style of writing the most in this story. Before reading it you would just think that it possibly could be about somebody drowning, but after reeading it you realize it is about somebody drowning but water is not the cause instead it is life and memories. Diaz in this story unveils that the narrator’s friend Beto molested him when they were young and although  the Narrator wants to make it seem as if the sexual assault had no affect on his life it is evident that it has. He indirrectly compares his life to the life of Beto’s , and mentions how Beto is in college and he is selling drugs trying to help his mother with the bills. He is drowning from the memories of his life as well as his present life, he is slowly dying and cannot breathe. I liked this story because not many male writers, or men in general would admit to being sexually assaulted by another man. And Diaz makes the similarities between him and his character that one could think he himself is the narrator.

“How to date a Browngirl, Blackgirl, Whitegirl, or Halfie”, once I read thje story it instantly became my one of my favorite stories out of the ten and is a reason I love the novel so much. One line in this story really stuck out to me and it was, “Tell her that you love her hair, that you love her skin, her lips, because, in truth, you love them more than you love your own”. This unveals the narrators insecurities which is what I love about Diaz he lays it on the table good or bad. But I loved this story because it shows the insecurities that many hispanics have that they dont always mention. And he expresses the truth in that each girl depending on the color of her skin or where shes from determines how you treat  her and how you portray yourself because you are self concious, and ashamed somewhat of your culture as is the narrator. The main thing that I realized is whether it is a “Browngirl, blackgirl, Whitegirl, or Halfie” the narrator is never himself thats the only common advise he is portraying in dating. And I love that he is willing to let the reader see that.

The relationship between Faulkner and Hemingway has been in my head since we finished “The sound and the Fury”, but then I started to read “Drown” and read the story “Aurora” and then I found one similarity between Diaz, Faulkner, and Hemingway. This one similarity was the infatuation or love for one particular women in each of the novels.

I will first talk about Brett. In”The Sun Also Rises”, Brett is constantly on another characters mind since the other characters are all men. Brett is the typical tease, she is loyal to no guy, and all her friends are guys probably because if she had female friends she would steal their boyfriends or husbands. Jake the narrator is in love with Brett but only shows his affection to her in private because he does not want to be like every other guy chasing Brett. Although every man wants Brett it is not clear to the reader why. All Brett does is tease and use, she breaks hearts all the time and even when Robert or Jake have another woman all they can think about is Brett. She comes off as an unattractive bitch to the reader but to every man in the story she is the best women they have ever met. She is promiscuous and not loyal so why would every man want her.

Next is Caddy, Caddy in the novel “The sound and the Fury” has three brothers all of which are obsessed with her in a kind of sick way. Like Brett, Caddy is promiscuous and is always on somebodies mind through out the story. Caddy is able to leave the Compson household and try to succeed but through a man’s success not her own which is very similar to Brett because they are both using men to survive. Caddy’s brothers are strangely obsessed  with her and her one brother Quentin is obsessed with her in a sexual way. Caddy like Brett is mentioned through out the novel and always on somebodies mind.

And lastly is Aurora. Aurora is a Heroin addict and the narrator is in “love” with her or what he thinks is love. Even though Aurora  hurts him over and over he still believes the words she whispers into his ear and he still believes that the time they spend together is real. The only time she sees him is when he has cigarettes to give her or when shes tired of getting high, he even catches her kissing his friend and drug dealing partner. So why is he so infatuated with her.

The same question is asked for each girl in each novel which is why are the other characters in the novel so obsessed with them. And I think I realized the answer, which is they want these women because they ccant have them, and they know that the women are not going to change their ways. Faulkner, Hemingway, and Diaz show the power of beautiful and desired women that are inescapable in each novel.

Style of Junot Diaz

November 11, 2010

Before I go right ahead and anwer the question for todays blog which was to describe Junot Diaz’ writing style and the voice of the narrator, I just want to say how much I fell in love which the novel. I want to thank Beverly for leaving the cannon and having us read this novel.

The reason I fell in love with this novel is because of Junot Diaz’ writing style, his writing style is simply “real”. He hides nothing he doesnt hide trhe characters faults or embarrissing moments, he lays it all out there for the reader to see and this puts us in  the story. One of the first things I noticed was in the first story titled “Ysrael”, in this story the narrator and his brother Rafa board a bus and go looking for the  town “freak”, but while on the bus the narrator is sexually abused by a grown man. This showed me that Junot Diaz hides nothing from the reader, because the young dominican narrator I assume is portrayal of himself, how many men would let people know that they were sexually abused by another man. Never does Junot Diaz hide the fact that his narrator, who seems to be him, does drugs, is scared of his own father and insecure.

Another thing about Junot Diaz is that he is some what ashamed of his culture and especially his physical characteristics compared to that of his lighter skined brother. This is another instance if his writing style which I desribe as “real” in that he doesn’t hide the feelings he had as a child and lets us see his faults and insecurities which draws me in and makes me love his brutally honest writing.

The narrator I suppose is supposed to be a some what fictionous version of him. I say some what ficti0nous because there are so many similarities betweeen him and the description of the narrator but yet the book is of fiction genre so I am not sure what is fiction or what is not but the similarities are there.

Once again I want to thank Professor Gross for having this novel as part of our assigned reading. I love Junot Diaz’ writing style and can some what relate to his life experiences and  insecurities as I was also once teased for having “african” type hair and being hispanic. And although we were only supposed to read the first for stories I skipped ahead and read “How to date a browngirl, blackgirl, whitegirl, or halfie” because the title caught my eye.

April 8, 1928

November 7, 2010

The final section of the novel was kind of a big let down. I expected something more exciting to happen to Benjy besides getting hit by Jason and whimpering. I say kind of because this section actually wasn’t all that horrible after I thought about it for a couple of minutes and it turned out to be my favorite section of the novel.

In the final section Jason, after stealing Quentin’s money, he finally gets a taste of his own medicine and his money is stolen from his lock box. This was interesting because Quentin is accused of stealing the money and running away, but when Jason calls the police they are hesitant and do not believe his accusations. This is one thing that made the final section enjoyable because Quentin gets her money which is rightfully hers and Jason gets what he deserves, it is kind of like karma.

In the final section Luster and Benjy go to the cemetery and this is when Benjy begins to whimper because Luster brings him a different way than he is used to. To stop the whimpering Jason strikes Benjy and slaps Luster for bringing him a different way. This showed that even after having the money he stole, robbed from his safe, Jason still doesn’t learn his lesson and is still the nasty man that he is and he will never change.

The end of the novel portrayed one thing that caught my attention the most and that was the fact that Quentin got away. Out of all the Compson’s she may e the one with a real legitimate chance to be successful and learn from her families mistakes. But I think that Faulkner leaves the part about Quentin leaving open to  the readers imagination because Quentin can either run off and be successful or be promiscuous and fail in the same way her mother Caddy did, after all Jason is accusing her of running off with a man.