Lois Lowry’s novel The Giver focuses on 12 year old protagonist Jonas as he comes to the realization that his society is not the perfect place that he had always envisioned it to be. As Jonas comes to realize that his society runs based on the limited freedoms allowed her people, his innocence begins to slip away and he begins to see the horrors that truly exist. Two works by Don Latham paint the picture of why this novel is so enticing to children of this day and age by arguing that it undermines the idea of a ‘Romantic’ childhood and portrays Jonas as a sort of ideal American. Building upon this idea is that of the integral need for a child to learn to question the environment that he or she has grown up on, as Jonas comes to realize throughout his apprenticeship to the Giver and in his relationship with Gabriel. Continue reading
I have to admit that the chapter on Agency, well, it definitely wasn’t one of my favorites.
For starters, the cheesy line at the end: “And that’s why we need a toolbox, to work on the present, to affect it, to build a present to live in.” (205) I’ve already bought the book, you don’t need to sell me on why I need a toolbox to get me through life.
The whole crux of the argument annoyed me too. Though they were trying to say that life is more than the constructs we make of it, they have not made me a believer. After all “Would a rose by any other name smell as sweet?” Yes, of course it would. Just because we have named it rose does not mean that it behaves in a rose like way. If the flower had been named ‘skunk’, it would smell the exact same. But then this all goes back to what we perceive as sweet smelling, and that itself opens up a whole other can of worms about the whole idea of human construction.
However, I will give them this. After reading about differences, ideology, subjectivity, etc., I do feel that I have a better grasp on what ideas form the world around me. So while that last line is so punny and awful, I guess they have a point. It would be impossible to consider any of these ideas and not consider the incredibly amount of social construction that has gone into them.
Though I at first really disliked the Freudian reading on the Wife of Bath, mostly because Fradenburg spent so much time explaining Freudian theory, I left the class really thinking about it. What really struck me was this idea that we’ve moved from analyzing the author, to the characters, and now the readers.
I’ll be honest, sometimes I wonder what really is the point to all these readings? If you all are fellow English majors, I’m sure you’ve pondered this question at least once. While we love reading and analyzing, sometimes you just have to wonder what good it’s going to do.
When Fradenburg put forth that she was interested in why we are so focused on the Wife of Bath being modern, it kind of gave me an answer. Though I’m probably not going to find the answer to all of life’s questions by writing a critical essay on some book, but I can at least attempt to find out more about the people I have to share this world with. In terms of Fradenburg’s argument, I think it’s fascinating that we are so convinced that the Wife of Bath is like us, or at least closer because we see her views as ‘modern’. I think her types of questions really a bring a lot to the field on English and help to expand it beyond just the group of people who are English Professors or students.
Though we didn’t get to Post Colonialism, in my section at least, this was easily the most interesting part of the chapter on posts for me. In the final working question of the chapter, it compares two scenes from Lawrence of Arabia and Raiders of the Lost Ark and then asked us to compare what our views on the Middle East are today.
I first noticed how the Middle East was cropping up in more and more of our movies when I watched Transformers and then Iron Man. In both movies, we see the Middle East as a dangerous place full of bad guys that try and kill, or at least hinder, our American protagonist. As luck would have it, shortly before this, I had been on a kick where I watched a whole bunch of old classics in black and white, where the bad guy was Russian 99% of the time. Well, after doing some investigation, I found that in the original Iron Man comic books, Tony Stark was kidnapped Wong-Chu, a Vietnamese commander. Considering this came out in 1963, I don’t think it’s too hard to figure out exactly why that person was chosen to be the kidnapper of what one could argue represents American intellect and business.
All that being said, I began to wonder if Post-Colonial was really a movement, or if it is simply the product of a much more politically charged world. As we live in an era of 24 hour new coverage, we are constantly aware of who the enemy is. A lot the post-colonial work I’ve read (Salman Rushdie for instances) seems to be a blatant back lash at whoever the enemy of the moment is. Of course, for many previously colonized nations, this equates to the colonizer, but for superpowers such as the U.S., this seems to be whoever the object of the current war is rather than Britain.
I recently came a across an article about a group that believes we’ve managed to make up 300 years of history between the years 600-900 A.D.. They say this happened because Otto II wanted to have his ruling in the auspicious year of 1000.
So why does this matter? When I brought this up in class, Dr. Seaman noted that it wouldn’t change anything. It’s not like three hundred years would be ripped away from us, because it never existed. It would mean moving our calendars back to 1712 on the new year rather than moving forward 2012. At first, I agreed, it really would mean nothing. These are just numbers after all, not real definitions of anything. Even Theory Toolbox notes that time is just a social construction rather than a part of nature.
But that’s just the problem: it’s a social construction. The same article also talked about when England switched to the Gregorian calender in the 1700s they technically lost 11 days and people, believing that this had been stolen from their lives, rioted over it. We are so attached to our perception of time, that to lose 11 days seemed horrific. Imagine if the world was suddenly told we had lost 300 years. True, it’s not an actual lost, just an adjustment, but time is so intricately tied to our sense of being that we can’t see it as just a number anymore.
This also brings up the question of what to do with the apparent history that exists in that time frame. It could be that, over time, occurrences that previously had no set year were put there and that, over the course of hundreds of years, we have just accepted what were originally guesses as truth. This reinforces Theory Toolbox‘s stance that history is never completely subjective or true. If this theory of ‘phantom time’ is to be believed, we would essentially be accusing Otto II of making up history. So often we see this idea that history is written by the victors, and, as the Holy Roman Emperor, Otto II certainly was a victor. However, I still wonder at how he would have grappled with the knowledge that he was moving the calender three hundred years. Just as those in England in the 1700s had trouble with 11 days, I believe Otto II would certainly have found it hard to wrap his mind around 300 years, even if the measurement of time back then was, at best, guesswork.
Here’s the link to the article if you’d like to read it: http://blogs.howstuffworks.com/transcript/do-we-live-in-the-18th-century/
I don’t know about the rest of you, but I haven’t been able to stop thinking about Pat Buchanan.
Maybe it’s that austere look of his that’s splashed across http://buchanan.org, or maybe it the long list of blog entries that always seem to end with America ending up in flames because in the Census has projected that in 2041 the U.S. will no longer have a truly dominant race. Most likely, it’s that comment Dr. Seaman brought up in class that sums up the idea of his new book: “We were all separated, but we were one.”
It’s these kind of ideologies that are driving racism in America today. It’s not just Buchanan that has expressed these views. I come from rural Oklahoma, and I can tell you, my grandparents have reminisced about the ‘good ole days’, when ‘things were simpler’ way more than once What they often don’t mention though is just how monochromatic those times were. Things were simple, race wise, because they were never forced to truly interact. If I always knew calculus existed, acknowledged, but never had to deal with it, I might say calculus is simple to, because avoiding it makes my life a lot easier.
Obviously, comparing racism to hating math is not something I’m really trying to do, but I hope you see my point. I’m all for people upholding their ideologies, their cultures, etc, but when it comes at the expense of not just one person, but a whole race, I wish people would be considerate, or at least humble enough, to come forward and see that. I’m not really an idealist though, and I know that’s kind of a Miss America hope, but a girl can dream.Ultimately, I don’t believe Buchanan is intentionally racist, but that doesn’t hide the fact that his comments advocate a “separate but equal” kind of world. I keep finding it astonishing that 50 years later, there are still people that are completely ignorant that anyone was hurt by those blatantly racist policies.
I just got back from Jeffrey Cohen’s “Feeling Stone” lecture and, I must say, on my way home, I couldn’t help but looking at every single rock/slab of pavement/ building without wondering just what kind of soul it had and what story it had to tell.
Going into the talk, I was a little weary. I had heard left and right all day about how fun he was to listen to from classes he had spoken in, but, and I say this with kindness, it was about rocks. I couldn’t really think of dull, unfeeling, lifeless rock with any sort of enthusiasm. But that’s just what he honed in on. He was very upfront with the fact that for a long, long time we’ve had a negative, at least in literature, approach to rocks.
One thing that really struck me in his talk though was when he brought up the museum in New York City that had an exhibition on rocks and how everyone wanted to touch them. I attempted to ask him about the science done on human magnetism and if that could play a part in or seemingly inherent inclination to touch stone, but I used touch screens as an example, and I think my question must have been worded in a way so that he thought I was asking if we got the same kind of fulfillment out of touching rock that we do from interacting with a touch screen. His answer was very interesting, don’t get me wrong, but it wasn’t quite what I was looking for.
What I really wanted to talk about is the questioning of is there a real, physical, need to touch rock. Humans all emit a natural magnetic field. It’s what makes touch screens work and is used in numerous technologies. It’s very faint, but present. Considering that he pointed out that people always seems to want to touch stone in the same place as others, I think it would be fascinating to look and see if these places that we’re drawn to have a pocket of Magnetite.
I’m not sure exactly how this would fit into his more philosophical outlook on stones, but I think it’s at least interesting and something that could possibly be explored in the future.
I thought Professor Bruns’ lecture was really interesting. I’d never really considered movies fitting into English studies. Especially just the visual representation. I would have considered scripts, sure, but actual movies?
And, honestly, I think I’m going to keep on believing they don’t quite fit in.
While Professor Seaman made a good point in class yesterday as to why they should be included (we study plays after all, and movies are just a visual representation of a story), I still can’t quite by into it. For one, while most books are written for a profit, they don’t have to recoup the same kind of financial input that goes into a movie. I think that this probably allows writers a lot more freedom in what they say and, perhaps, makes them a little more honest. Directors, on the other hand, consistently have to keep a wide audience in mind, and usually can’t risk alienating anyone. Secondly, when we discuss plays, we read the script, and make interpretations from there. With a movie, we are watching one director’s interpretation of the script, and then attempting to interpret that. It’s almost like there is a middle man involved which is, for me, pointless. I think at the point that you are interpreting the film rather than the script is when it belongs in the arts department rather than with the English department.
I don’t mean to sound like a snooty English major. I think interpreting visual productions is a fascinating subject that deserves to be studied, but maybe in some other department.
The text I’ve chosen to work on is The Giver by Lois Lowry. This is a short novel that was published in 1993. Though it is a fairly new text, it is already being taught on a middle school level in many schools and is likely on its way to becoming part of the canon. The themes that are focused upon in Lowry’s work are similar to themes found in Thomas More’s Utopia, in that it takes what looks on the outside like a perfect society and reveals the flaws. Ultimately, both of these works take many choices away from the people of the society and completely devalue familial and romantic love. While in Utopia, More simply says he can’t see a society really existing like that in England while Hithloday maintains that it’s the best society in the world, Lowry shows how in order for a system like that to function, some true atrocities have to occur.
I first read this text when I was eleven years old, and it has definitely shaped my literary preferences today. I find dystopian novels, such as Margaret Atwood The Handmaid’s Tale and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, completely fascinating in the way people come to terms with a society so completely different than their own. In all the works mentioned, there is always at least one character that knows how the normal world (the reader’s) is supposed to function, which often serves as the basis for resistance. I would love to learn more about Lowry’s thought process throughout the writing of her novel and what prompted her to put such a serious subject into a book for children.
Because it is on its way to becoming canonical, there are quite a few writings on Lowry and The Giver. Between EBSCO and JSTOR, both partnered with the MLA Database, I’ve found numerous hits for Lowry’s work.
I know this is probably the point of this class, but I keep finding it somewhat strange how things I read in here end up applying so well to the other classes I’m taking.
In this instance, as I was reading Pat Conroy’s ‘The Water is Wide’ for my ‘Deconstructing Literacy in the South’ (Much more interesting than it sounds by the way), I was constantly struck with how such simple concepts to us, things we probably don’t even remember learning, such as the lines in the road, were completely foreign to the children of the Island that Conroy taught on. If you are unfamiliar with the story, I’ll direct you to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Water_Is_Wide_%28book%29 and suggest that you read it because it is something that will really make you think.
Theory Toolbox made me really sit back and think about the effect that culture has on how we relate to people outside our own social constructs. While I’ve always used the phrase ‘reading emotion’, I’ve never thought of it as something that had to be taught like reading does. Finding meaning in any sort of work is also a sort of reading. As we’ve learned with Tompkins, meaning in texts is all about what the reader values and looks for. Ultimately, we’re going to read symbols in a way that’s in accordance with what we value and find important.