December 23rd, 2010

Final blog…

Posted by jeannem in Uncategorized

            When I first registered for English 255 I was expecting a normal typed English class, similar to those I’d taken in the past.  Up until now, the English classes I’ve taken have been structured around cannon literature with at least two exams and/or papers to test comprehension of the material.  I thought this class would be similar.  I thought we were going to read a couple cannon books either taking places in foreign locations or from the point of view of a foreigner.  I thought I was going to be bored for the most part, but I was pleasantly surprised. 

            First off, the syllabus itself was full of questions and not the typical course description one might be expecting.  One question in particular stood out:  What type of literature constitutes a global literature course?  Cannon or other?  I enjoyed the fact that this was a constant question throughout the course and that we came back to it with each work we read.  It gave us freedom to examine all types of literature under a careful eye while contemplating its appropriateness for the course.  I think that this type of examination is important to English majors.  English majors are always attempting to look at things from a new perspective, to look outside the box.

            While I usually enjoy the classics, cannon stuff, I really enjoyed the other works we read throughout the semester.  While it is great to recognize the importance and vitality of the cannon literature of the twentieth century to our education, it is also of great importance to recognize the other great contributors from other places.  For instance I really enjoyed reading the graphic novel Persepolis and the memoir The Woman Warrior.  Both novels, I thought were very fun in the way they expressed the serious ideas of culture, social hierarchy, and government in their own ways.  It was not only fun, but also easier to read these books.  Let’s face it, even though Satrapi’s novel is one that portrays sometimes horrific and gruesome things, it’s a giant picture book.  Also, I loved the way Kingston expressed her story of the woman warrior by telling her own stories, first by introducing them, and then looking back on them, and contemplating them.  It’s almost as if she is having a conversation with the reader herself, talking story about her childhood and how her experience have shaped her into the person she is today.

            I think it is important that we as students are exposed to both types of literature in a global literature course.  Yes, my vote would have to be for a mixture of the two types of literature.  I’ve already taken both American and British literature surveys so I know my cannon literature very well.  We read it in every English class for the most part.  While reading the cannon stuff is important to the course, considering it’s wonderful contribution to the literary world of the 20th century and beyond, it is important to realize the understanding we gain from reading works from other cultures, other places, helps us to broaden our perspectives as English majors.  The title of the course is in fact global literature and should be highly considered when taking this course.

            An aspect of this class that I loved dearly was the freedom of opinion.  I’ve had many classes where the professors view of what the book was about was what it was about and that was it.  We took the notes, wrote paper we didn’t care about, and took a final exam on which we fed the professor the answers he/she wanted.  However, this class was exceptional because of the fact that we were able to consider a number of possibilities and ideas while we were reading.  It made it so much easier for me to think on my own and come to conclusions about the works.

            The blogging aspect of the class made it easy for me to express my real feelings about the books that we had read, rather than just what I think they meant or what I thought the author was saying.  Initially, I thought I was going to hat the blogs.  I am just not a person who blogs.  I am not a person who feels the need to sit in front of a computer and type pour out my thoughts and feeling to the world in typed form.  I am a person who carries a notebook around in which I write whatever I feel whether it be poems, short stories, or even the beginnings of a novel.  I found myself getting nervous when I was getting ready to write my first blog.  It was something I had never done before and I wasn’t sure of how to do it.  Even so, once I sat down in front of the computer and started to type about my life as a reader, it became easy.  My passion for reading and writing is so intense that it was difficult to put into words, but once I started going, there was no stopping me.  Much like every other assignment we had throughout the course, having the freedom to express how I really felt about something was exhilarating and that was all it took to get me going.

            I took a children’s literature course this semester as well, in which we used black board to share our responses to the books we had read.  We were given a set of questions to answer as freely as we could, but many of the answers overlapped and made the class discussions boring.  I very much enjoyed that the assignments we got for this class were more of general questions in which we were free to express our feelings or opinions in any way we pleased even if we hated the work in everyway possible or didn’t agree with what they were saying.  I think all English majors would agree that this was like a breath of fresh air considering all the structured assignments and boundaries we have to avoid when typing up papers or responses.  There was no real direction in which the responses should go and they flowed in different directions depending on the person writing them.  It was really interesting to see how many different takes there were on the books we read.  After all, isn’t English a subject based on the ability to say things in many different ways?  We as English majors praise our ability to read a work, deconstructing it piece by piece for its main points and ideas, and then putting back together again.  We are able to find that even though there can be many works about the same ideas that it can be told in about a million different ways.  I really enjoyed being given the opportunity to prove not only that I could, but also being able to not only state my opinion and present it along with twenty or so others that made for a rich, exciting conversation.

            Over all, I’d have to say that my experience in this class was one that was much unexpected and most enjoyable.  I’d have to say that my view of what should make an English class has changed since taking this course.  Now, I think that other classes should also experiment with non-canonical literature and freedom of expression.  It would make for a most interesting class.  As for where myself is considered, I think moving forward that I might just take a step back form cannon myself and explore my other reading options.

December 9th, 2010

Silence and Madness

Posted by jeannem in Uncategorized

I think that both Silence and madness are important in the last section.  However, seeing as the last four sections have been about Maxine’s need to talk-story and listen to others do the same, using her words as the woman warrior uses her sword, I think it’s safe to say that the silence part is more of an issue for Maxine.

In the last section there is the instance where she tortures a silent girl at school in order to get her to talk.  She pulls her hair, pinches her cheeks, and calls her names at first all with the intention of hearing her voice.  And even though the girl won’t do anything but cry, Maxine knows that she can talk because she has heard her and she is determined to get her to do so.  The reasoning behind her dertermination is simple.  If you are silent, you are not able to take care of yourself.  Your mother and father and siblings cannot take care of you forever.  This kind of thinking reminds me of the second section where Maxine claims to be similar to the woman warrior.  No, she wasn’t trained in martial arts or sword fighting, but she was trained in talk-story.  In this case, Maxine’s words are her weapons against those who wrong her and I think that she shows us how important she thinks they are with this story.

Also, I think the part where Maxine begins to confess all her wrong doings to her mother is also imporant.  Talking, in this situation, is kind of freeing in a way.  It is something that when used appropriately can liberate one from their sins just like going to a church for confession as Maxine states in this section.

One last thing that I thought was interesting was the fact that Maxine’s mother cut her tongue when she was a child.  Maxine grows up obsessed with the fact that this has happened to her and comes to believe that her mother did it so that she cannot talk, but after her rant to the family about going to college and whatever else, she finds out from her mother that her tongue was cut so that she could talk better.  I think this is not only important for Maxine’s character, but also for her mother’s.  This adds to my theory in the last blog that Maxine’s mother is a person who defies the stereotypical female role in her society.  She is a chinese woman, raised in cultural customs that forbade her to be anything but a slave, but she became so much more.  She cut her daughter’s tongue in a way so that she could talk better and I think that in a way she is trying to help her daughter gain the same wonderful things she did without outwardly alerting her of that fact.

December 7th, 2010

Brave Orchid–

Posted by jeannem in Uncategorized

Ok, so these sections really explains a lot about Kingstons mothers background and who she really is.  I origonally th0ught that Kingston’s mother was a Chinese woman who took the beliefs of her people to heart and condoned the treatment of thier women, but it seems that is not the case at all.

I like the fact that her mother took something so tragic in her life, (the death of her two children and the absense of her husband), and turned it into something good by going off to the school to become a doctor.  Kingston takes a lot of time describing her mother’s experiences at school, especially the night she slpet in the haunted room.

I think that the episode with the ghost really speaks to the bravery represented in Kingston’s mother.  She is someone who while having faced many hardships in life is not willing to give up.  She is someone who will fight tooth and nail for her life and the lives of her friends and even what she thinks is right.  I think that Brave Orchid being shown as such an important person in China, even though she is a woman, is also important.  She is a woman, yet she is treasured among the chinese as possinbly the greatest doctor they have ever had.  Because of this she has reputation and money and even a type of authority or power that women in China did not have.

In the section, At the Wstern Palace, really shows how loving and loyal she is to her family.   Kingston’s mother is the one who sends for her sister to come to America while her husband has given up on her and obtained a new family.  She pushes Moon Orchid to do what’s right and demand to see her husband and take what is rightfullyhers.  This characteristic of someone who must fight for what is right seems to be a constant theme in all the sections thus far.  It seems as though they need in Mazine to fight may have stemmed from her mother, a woman origonally thought to be someone who would back down under the constraints of her husband.

In this section however, we can very clearly see just how much Brave Orchid loves her family.  While she yrges her sister to figth back against her conving husband, she urges only because she wants her sister to be happy.  Even after her sister begins to go mad, Brave Orchid still cares for her and tries help her understand what she believed was not actually true.  She even had the children in on it.

December 2nd, 2010

The Woman Warrior-“The swordswoman and I are not so dissimilar.”

Posted by jeannem in Uncategorized

I’m not one to delve too deep into feminist typed literature, but I’ve got to make an exception for Kingston.  The way she presents her point within the two different stories we’ve read so far is very appealing.  I would have to say based on the first two sections that Kingston has every right to claim herself to be a woman warrior.

The first section starts out with her mother telling the story of her aunt, the alienated ghost who does not exist in the families eyes.  She is one who is deemed adulterous when she becomes pregnant while her husband is away with the other men of the family.  She and her family are terrorized by the villagers because now there is another mouth to feed in all the chaos there is going on around them.  This story is used as a weapon by Kingston’s mother in an attempt to get her to keep her legs closed after puberty hits so that every time she even thinks about looking at a boy, she will remember the disgrace her aunt endured.

Kingston remarks on and makes many references to the view women in China.  She talks a lot about how the obedient Chinese woman would act and how her aunt differs from them.  I think that Kingston’s aunt was also persecuted for this as well as having an illegitimate child in a time of famine.

Kingston remarks on how -even though she believes she means her well- her aunt haunts her because she alone devotes pages to her despite her alienated ghost like state.  This opening to the novel is used as a tool to introduce us to Kingston’s main point.  Her aunt was a woman who went against the limitations of her own culture and was punished because of it.  In fact, she was so alienated; she killed herself and her baby.  She got her revenge against them by plugging up the village source of water and drowning herself in it. 

I feel like the second section really kicks the main point into action.  She talks about how women, Chinese women, can grown up to be heroines and swords woman instead of wives and slaves.  They can do great things.

She goes on to tell the story of how she would have liked to become a warrior woman, all the tests she would have endured, and how she would be honored.  I like the story she tells because it reminds me so much of Fa Mu Lan who went against the rules of her culture to take her father’s place in battle because she feared he would not come back and ended up coming back victorious.

It seems as though the story in this section is almost like a dream.  Right after it ends, there is a break in the page and then we are brought back into Kingston’s world and her stories about how she was put down because she was a woman.  She goes straight into stories about how she would throw tempter tantrums when anyone would say things to her about girls being useless, about how she would make herself be like a boy to get respect and stop getting straight A’s because they were not profitable. 

She makes a point that even though she has not had the same training as the swordswoman that they are not so dissimilar.  She says that what they have in common are the words on their backs.  I think that like the swordswoman with her sword, Kingston’s weapons are her words and it is her words that she will use to fight the battle for revenge.  It is her words that she will use to gain what she thinks is right no matter whom she is fighting against.

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