Notes Towards Day 12 of Emerging Genres
Beginning Uncle Tom's Cabin
I. announcements and coursekeeping
Performance of British Sign Language Poetry
by Paul Scott
and Rachel Sutton-Spence
this afternoon, Thursday Feb. 28, 4:30 in Sharpless
Auditorium in the KINSC at Haverford
Rachel will talk about some of the techniques used in BSL to create poetic
effect, and Paul will perform some of his original work to illustrate these
techniques - and to entertain and delight.
link to your first set of webpapers
(comments to come this weekend...)
Sorry, Boys, This Is Our Domain (NYTimes, 2/21/08):
among the youngest Internet users, the primary creators of Web content
(blogs, graphics, photographs,
Web sites) are...digitally effusive teenage girls....“Girls are trained to make stories about themselves"....
expected to be social, communal and skilled in decorative arts. “This would be called the feminization of the Internet"....
(cough) reminder that most of you owe the rest of us some weekly postings (on UncleTom'sCabin...?)
keep on reading, next 100 pp. for Tuesday (won't finish til after break....)
nightmare about (not being able to) teaching a science lecture class
III. look over some postings from the past week
- about classic narratives
Louisa:...our discussion of Terror Management Theory....Perhaps this is what makes certain books that focus
on death comforting...In the same way that our culture gives us rules and
set expectations that shield us somehow from death, a book that talks
about death gives it some sort of order, and that order is the buffer.
The phrase “instant classic” is often now used to describe new novels (or films, or albums), but can there be such a thing? How long must a piece of literature be around before it can be considered for the “classic” category...?
Claire: I... think maybe there exist several different types of classics....books...that
are significant because of the impact they made when they were first
written....not well-constructed work of literature...meant to be social
commentary...recognized as socially important. ...from an artistic perspective....made an impact on literature...entertainment popularity at the time they were published....remembered as The Books of this decade.
OED: ad. F. classique, or L. classic-us of the highest class, of the first order
perhaps we're revising the hierarchy? refusing a single order of hierarchy?
- about formalism
Calderon:What was interesting was that Propp did not pay much
attention to the function of the motifs, but instead what fairy tales have in common...the common structure
the tree structure of "Call me Ishmael," complete with determiner phrase...
Ellen: I'm not really sure, like I said, how much use this will be in
examining Moby Dick, or Bakhtin's theory of speech genres, since these
structures deal with the physical grammar of sentences, not so much the
underlying meaning (that would be a semantics course).
- Tynyanov’s “The Literary Fact"...emphasizes change....
- Propp...looks for invariance...
- Bakhtin latter argued that "speech genres"...are primary while literary
genres are secondary....
- Bakhtin praises the novel as the only living genre...ever growing and constantly using other
- Moby-Dick is an exemplar
of his kind of novel because it is very much in contact with reality
and does new things with the novel form.
- Melville ...would parody
the Formalists...would argue that “a book is but a draft”...there is no such thing as a complete, closed system...you can’t understand the
world from your armchair, and you can’t understand a book without
digging into its context.
I find it hard to comprehend any form of art without a basis
in the socio-political spectrum....I'm having trouble even comprehending a Russian formalist
approach because I'm constantly trying to extrapolate to find
significance and value to form without even meaning to....in reading Uncle Tom's Cabin I'm finding it almost impossible to
distance myself from the text...I have a feeling that this is why... it has been so popular. She also speaks directly to the reader at
times, very blatantly telling them how to think-- ...It's easy to digest, the message is clear...
let's work with these claims,
think together about how Stowe's novel fits into all of this...
your reactions to the first 100 pp.?
the reactions of a few other readers....
Uncle Tom's Cabin is a very bad novel, having, in its self-righteous,virtuous sentimentality, much in common with Little Women.
Sentimentality, the ostentatious parading of excessive and spurious
emotion, is the mark of dishonesty, the inability to feel; the wet eyes
of the sentimentalist betray his aversion to experience, his fear of
life, his arid heart; and it is always, therefore, the signal of secret
and violent inhumanity, the mask of cruelty. Uncle Tom's Cabin...is
a catalogue of violence...what constriction or failure of perception
forced Mrs. Stowe to so depend on the description of
brutality--unmotivated, senseless--and to leave unanswered and
unnoticed the only important question: what is was, after all, that
moved her people to such deeds.
How is it that we are so loath to make
a further journey than that made by Mrs. Stowe, to discover and reveal
something a little closer to the truth?...truth, as used here, is meant
to imply a devotion to the human being, his freedom and fulfillment.
This creature is...something resolutely indefinable, unpredictable. In
overlooking, denying, evading his complexity--which is nothing more
than the disquieting complexity of ourselves--we are diminished and we
perish; only within this web of ambiguity, paradox, this hunger,
danger, darkness, can we find at once ourselves and the power that will
free us from ourselves. It is this power of revelation which is the
business of the novelist, this journey towards a more vast reality
which must take precedence over all other claims....
we find ourselves bound...first
without, then within, by the nature of our categorization...the failure
of the protest novel lies in its rejection of life, the human being,
the denial of his beauty, dread, power, in its insistence that it is
his categorization alone which is real and which cannot be transcended.
"Everybody's Protest Novel,"
Notes of a Native Son (1949)
domestic novel of the nineteenth century represents a monumental effort
to reorganize culture from the woman's point of view...this body of
work is remarkable for its intellectual complexity, ambition, and
resourcefulness...it offers a critique of American society far more
devastating than any delivered by better-known critics such as
Hawthorne and Melville....the enormous popularity of these novels...is
a reason for paying close attention to them. Uncle Tom's Cabin
was the first American novel ever to sell over a million copies, and
its impact is generally thought to have been incalculable....Uncle Tom's Cabin...is the summa theologica
of nineteenth-century America's religion of domesticity:...the story of
salvation through motherly love....the sentimental novelists...gave
women the central position of power and authority in the culture
the inability of twentieth-century
critics...to appreciate the complexity and scope of a novel like
Stowe's...stems from their assumptions about the nature and function of
literature. In modernist thinking, literature is by definition a form
of discourse that has no design on the world. It does not attempt to
change things, but merely to represent them, and it does so in a
specifically literary language whose claim to value lies in its
uniqueness...works whose stated purpose is to influence the course of
history...which therefore employ a language that is...common and
accessible...do not qualify as works of art. Literary texts such as a
sentimental novel, which make continual and obvious appeals to the
reader's emotions and use technical devices that that are distinguished
by their utter conventionality, epitomize the opposite of everything
that good literature is supposed to be....
Sentimental Power:Uncle Tom's Cabin
and the Politics of Literary History,"
There is a clear stand off
between Baldwin and Tompkins
A local critic gives us a possible resolution...??
First: a little cultural background.
What do you know of blackface?
the genre played an important role in shaping perceptions of and prejudices about blacks generally and African Americans
in particular. Some social commentators have stated that blackface
provided an outlet for whites' fear of the unknown and the unfamiliar,
and a socially acceptable way of expressing their feelings and fears
about race and control. Writes Eric Lott in Love and Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class,
"The black mask offered a way to play with the collective fears of a
degraded and threatening—and male—Other while at the same time
maintaining some symbolic control over them."