Review of Week 6 (Sept. 26, 28) and Preview of Week 7
Review of the Week 6
2:00 class by Abe Arrillaga
When working on a research paper it is key to follow MLA guidelines. The purpose of research is to discover information that wasn’t previously known. It isn’t done to reaffirm facts that the writer already knew. The research process should be an investigation. It should add on to the writer’s knowledge. The writer’s interest should have morphed into an informative decision about a topic by the time the research is finished. While starting research it is important to remember that the claim one tries to make is not unique. The goal of research should not to be unique but to discover unknown information. There are different types of research, and the most common comes from primary and secondary research. Primary research is the study of a subject through firsthand investigation. Secondary research is the examination of studies that other researches have made of a subject. An easy way to remember the differences is remembering that primary research is statistical data, historical documents, and works of literature/art, while secondary research is typically articles or books about something. While working on research it is important to not depend on one single source of information. Variety in resources makes the paper more authentic.
THE WIFE OF BATH
The Wife of Bath starts her tale by speaking harshly about the friars. They are to blame for the loss of magic in the world. They scared all the fairies away. She accuses the friars of raping women, and unlike the incubi that used to do so the friars only steal their honor, and don’t give the raped women a sense of honor like the incubi did. The story starts off with rape, which sharply contrasts the typical knight tale. Instead of an honorable knight, Alys presents a dishonorable knight who lost himself in lust and raped a woman. The knight’s punishment should’ve been death but by the grace of the queen he is given a second chance. He is given a year’s time to discover what women want most. A quest that is known as the “impossible quest.” Alisoun goes off on many tangents in her story and one such distraction is the story of Mydas. Alys alters the well known tale, and the way she tells it suggests that women are unable of keeping secrets. The bulk of the story comes from the knights’ interaction with the old lady that helps him solve his quest.
THE WIFE OF BATH (cont.)
Despite being saved by the old lady, the knight is still very hesitant to mary her, and when he finally does mary her he is too afraid to have her shown in public. The old lady goes into a long discussion with the knight that is her defense of all the traits the knight finds repulsive. She turns her old age positive, her lack of wealth positive, and she discusses gentility. Near the end of her speech it is apparent that the old lady is tired of trying to convince the knight, and it is rather apparent that he is not convinced, so she gives him an ultimatum. He can have her old and loyal or young and not so loyal. The knight lets her decide and she reacts with great joy, for this is what she wanted. The knight letting her choose is an act of passing responsibility to the wife, and recognizing her ability to make decisions. He has given her sovereignty. In the end the old lady becomes young and loyal, and in effect gives the knight exactly what he wants, which is what causes discomfort in interpreting the story. The rapist is rewarded, which isn’t exactly settling. Different interpretations offer solutions. There is a reform interpretation that sees the whole quest as an attempt at reforming a criminal instead of putting them to death for breaking the law. It can be said that the knight doesn’t learn, but he does end up giving the old lady sovereignty. Another interpretation that was once the common interpretation suggests that the whole story is Alisoun’s fantasy. She wants to be the old hag. She wants to be young again and still have sovereignty over the man. These are just a few of the interpretations. No matter what the reader’s interpretation is, it is important to note that Chaucer did alter the story from what it originally was. The other two similar stories were focused around the man, where as this story is focused around the woman, which is why it is so interesting.
THEORY TOOLBOX – THE READER
The previous chapter declared that the author doesn’t have a monopoly over meaning, but does that mean the reader has all authority over meaning? The end answer is no. Readers offer a multitude of readings, but not all are correct. There are many outlandish interpretations that simply cannot be true. Meaning, is determined by many different things. It is influenced by the author, the reader, and the text itself. Like Tompkins suggested, the theory toolbox suggests that interpretations on a single work have changed over time. For example, Douglas was at first a voice for abolition, but now he is credited with innovating the slave narrator genre, being a rhetorician, a theorist of race, and a canonized 19th century author. Professor Seaman pointed out in class that less interpretations are possible at the starting point of an event or work. It is too immediate to have a big list of interpretations. Looking back at something always produces new interpretations, and it almost always produces different interpretations than initially suggested.
The chapter on readers also introduced concepts in linguistic thought. The biggest point it touches on is the difference between metonyms and metaphors. It is easy to think of metonyms as concrete thought and metaphors as abstract thought. Metonyms stand for something literally and metaphors stand for something figuratively. Metaphors are usually the most common form of thinking for a person, nevertheless, all metaphors are born from metonyms. Abstract ideas are born from concrete ideas.
“Opinions are like assholes: everybody’s got one” (Giroux, Nealon 22)
“A metaphor is always a metonymy first; a metaphorical concept doesn’t exist without the material or social signifiers that configure the concept. Even abstract ideas are constructed out of concrete signifiers” (Giroux, Nealon 31).
“All meaning is socially constructed and decided; all reading is necessarily a socio-historical process of negotiation” (Giroux, Nealon 31).
“Now it’s real” – Shana
“Hey, what’s your deal” – Zach
“Is it a means to an end or is it the end itself?” – Prof. Seaman
metaphor – a figure of speech wherein something sensible is translated into the categories of the intelligible by use of an implicit comparison.
metonymy – the substitution of one word for another.
Primary Research – the study of a subject through firsthand investigation, such as analyzing a literary or historical text, a film, or a performance; conducting a survey or an interview; or carrying out a laboratory experiment.
Secondary Research – the examination of studies that other researches have made of a subject.
sign- something that stands for something else.
signifier – the “sound image” or word used to represent a comparatively abstract concept.
signified – the abstract concept a signifier represents
reader-response criticism – a type of literary criticism that focuses on reading as an active process and on the diversity of readers’ responses to literary works.
Review of Week 6
3:20 class (by Julianna Stasio)
Just a reminder from class – Text Selections are due on Monday, at 9:00 AM. Turn those in on the blog. Do a little search for a substantial amount of information on your chosen piece to ensure a smoother process. You may find yourself wanting to explore another text if your present one does not quite pique your interest as anticipated.
Now, let’s get started. This week we were assigned reading from MLA 1.1-1.3, Chaucer’s Wife of Bath’s Tale (WB pp. 73-85), and chapter three from Theory Toolbox.
Class began with a discussion touching on concepts regarding the research paper. What exactly is research? Rather than just assembling numerous texts to illustrate the steps you took in writing a paper or what material you read, a research paper ultimately concludes as an experience of discovery. An individual will learn something new through his or her findings that were not apparent at the start. The usages of primary and secondary sources were examined as well. We gathered that a primary source is not really research as it is the text itself, while secondary sources are used to illuminate meaning in the primary text. Remember, the research should come first, then the thesis. Our reading from The Wife of Bath’s Tale served as the bulk of discussion as its coverage spanned from Monday’s class into Wednesday’s. Quick recap: Knight is sent on adventure to find out what women truly want. He meets a woman who possesses the answer, but she is not beautiful to him. Yet, she saves his life so he must consent to marry her. He is ungrateful and annoyed that he is married to her, but she asks if he would prefer her to be beautiful and maybe faithful or ugly and faithful. He ultimately asks her to decide resulting in a happy marriage and happy ending with the woman transforming into a faithful beauty. We began to wonder how can we produce other meanings of The Wife of Bath’s Tale? Dr. Seaman spoke of analogues to the text. Chaucer’s version elevated the role of the woman (woman is cursed/presents the option of being ugly and faithful or beautiful and maybe faithful to the knight), but other texts placed the man in a position of power (woman is cursed, but if kissed by the best knight will transform into her true self). We essentially did a contemporary feminist reading of the text. Next, we looked at Theory Toolbox’s chapter on Reading. We often create meaning from “cultural artifacts” and often texts are interpreted in the context we are living. This section really propelled our thinking in regard to the relationship among text, author, and reader. We used the example of what the Frederick Douglass narrative could possess to a reader of today versus when he actually produced the text (pp.23). It is just about impossible to have the same reading experience at different times. This triggered somewhat of a tangent, yet very relatable topic of how the future might reflect back on us. And, lastly, remember that a metaphor is always a metonymy first- metonymy (concrete representing concrete) and metaphor (concrete representing abstract).
“No matter what your subject of study, learning to identify and analyze work of other researchers will play a major role in your development as a student” (pp. 3 of MLA – and, essentially the goal of ENGL 299)
“It takes a lot to get to the thesis. Your research should come first, then your thesis.” (Dr. Seaman)
“In th’ olde days of the King Arthour, if which that Britons speken greet honour, all was this land fulfild of fairye.” (WB pp. 73, lines 857-859)
“Of limitours and othere hooly freres, That serchen every lond and every streem as thikke as motes in the sonne-beem…” (WB pp. 74, lines 866-868)
“If the producer of a cultural artifact isn’t the privileged place to search for meaning, where do we go looking next?” (TT pp. 21)
Metaphor, metonymy, reader-response criticism, sign, signified, signifier
Preview of Week 7 (by Dr. Seaman)
Week 7 is a busy one. We’ll be meeting outside of class, individually, to discuss your revision plans for your summary of Tompkins’ essay. Before class on Monday, you’ll post to the blog your statement about your text selection for the Big Project.
During class, we’ll discuss on Monday a bit more of the Research chapter from the MLA Handbook that we started on last week and will be talking more specifically about the research process for the Big Project. We’ll also talk about the Subjectivity chapter in Theory Toolbox, moving in a new direction from the Reader-Author-Text focus we’ve had for a few weeks now. You will also bring to class two copies of your summary essay so that you can discuss these with fellow students, and we will probably look at one or two examples of student essays together as a class.
On Wednesday, we will catch up on anything that lingers from Monday’s readings and will add to that some reading from the MLA Handbook on intellectual property and academic integrity, always concerns once we start making use of others’ ideas and words in our own writing and thinking. We will look at the assignment sheet for the Response essay and will in class discuss possible approaches in workshop.