Literary Kinds 2012
Welcome to Literary Kinds, an English course offered in Spring 2012 @ Bryn Mawr College. This is an interestingly different kind of place for writing, and may take some getting used to. The first thing to keep in mind is that it's not a site for "formal writing" or "finished thoughts." It's a place for thoughts-in-progress, for what you're thinking (whether you know it or not) on your way to what you think next. Imagine that you're just talking to some people you've met. This is a "conversation" place, a place to find out what you're thinking yourself, and what other people are thinking. The idea here is that your "thoughts in progress" can help others with their thinking, and theirs can help you with yours.
Who are you writing for? Primarily for yourself, and for others in our course. But also for the world. This is a "public" forum, so people anywhere on the web might look in. That's the second thing to keep in mind here. You're writing for yourself, for others in the class, AND for others you might or might not know. So, your thoughts in progress can contribute to the thoughts in progress of LOTS of people. The web is giving increasing reality to the idea that there can actually evolve a world community, and you're part of helping to bring that about. We're glad to have you along, and hope you come to both enjoy and value our shared explorations. Feel free to comment on any post below, or to POST YOUR THOUGHTS HERE.
Here's the plan for next Thursday's teach-in. We have five performances scheduled, for an 80-minute class period, so each one can take up to 15 minutes (if needed/wanted). Don't feel that you have to fill the time; we can always spend it talking about what we've done and/or seen one another do...
10:25-10:40 Aya and froggies315
10:40-10:55 vspaeth, egrumer, dglasser
10:55-11:10 leamirella, kobieta, sterrab
“My Struggle” has set off a debate about which genre it properly belongs to. The original Norwegian version put the word “novel” on the title page, implying a certain distancing from the real events the book portrays, but that designation has been removed from the American edition, a decision that Mr. Knausgaard attributed to his American publisher, Archipelago Books.
“It was a conscious choice not to label the book for the reader,” Jill Schoolman, the founder of Archipelago, wrote in an e-mail. “I feel that ‘the project’ dwells comfortably between (and embraces both) fiction and memoir. (Aren’t they always inextricably entwined?) Why try to define or label the work?”
--from He Says a Lot, For a Norweigan. Books. The New York Times (June 18, 2012)
I was a tourist. And so I stated as I reflected on one month of participation on Serendip and the course. I had been fascinated by the interactive work on the online platform and the subdiscipline of the digital humanities. On my first day, I assumed many things about the course and myself. I guess that’s why we should never assume things. I had eventually evolved out of the generalizations I had made. I finally adopted the open classroom and the interesting discussions that branched out from title analyses or word definitions and were ongoing on Serendip. But there I was again, an observer, failing to pull my camera down to see what lay ahead of me with my own eyes.
I have tended to remain silent many times, but not out of shyness or indifference. I grew to listen to what my classmates had to say, as I found the conversations to be intricately fascinating and chose to sit back and take in. I can be a silent participant, but I did speak up every once in a while when I thought my contributions could be useful to the comments of others. Even if the board activities were imposing, I like how they sometimes forced me to be more outwardly vocal. I sometimes feel too self-conscious about my opinions that I do not speak up. The board activities challenged me to get up and share something, whatever it may be, finally stating what I kept to myself out of hesitation.
An Introduction to Feeling
I am a Scorpio. Generally, my zodiac sign is entirely irrelevant to an academic paper, but in this case it has some bearing. As a child, I was deeply uncomfortable with being a Scorpio, due to what I read was the inherent nature of Scorpios: passionate. I felt squeamish of the term, which to me had very sexual connotations. As such, I resented being told that I must be a “passionate” person. I was not passionate, my childhood self would have told you adamantly. In fact, I might have said so passionately.
Several weeks ago, when our class began reading The Orchid Thief: A True Story of Beauty and Obsession by Susan Orlean, the subject of passion came to the forefront of our group conversation. I found myself thinking again of my childhood zodiac qualms as we debated the nature of passion. This time, it was not the sexuality of passion that was being questioned, but its ability to last. Is passion, by definition, a passing feeling, or is passion something that can endure? Additionally, we wondered if passion is something that only some people have, or if it is more universal than that.
I was a child racked with nightmares. I spent many nights whispering for my dad in the night, sweating and stricken to my bed, wondering why he couldn’t hear me. I would dart down the hall to his bed and shake him awake “Daddy! Daddy, can I sleep with you?” I would gladly crawl into his bed, cuddle with my stuffed animal, and fall peacefully asleep. When I began to grow too old to be sleeping in my dad’s bed any longer, we had to have a talk. “It’s not real,” he said. “It’s all in your head. Just tell yourself in your nightmare that it isn’t real and I promise you won’t be scared anymore.” So my nightmares came less frequently and less intensely. I befriended the witch that hexed me and the ugly creature that always chased me turned out to have a sweet spot.
After examining the transformation of the science writing genre from the research laboratory to mass media, I gradually explored the humanities and the space available to the class here on the Serendip platform and in our bi-weekly class meetings. I had no prior background in the humanities before taking the Literary Kinds course and was only left with some baggage from high school and the Emily Balch freshman writing seminar. The initial challenges lie not on the content of the readings, but were at the heart of the culture of the English classroom and the backgrounds of the authors we have been reading.
The Literary Kinds course became a new experiment, appearing disguised under the humanities discipline but gradually resembled those in the science laboratory in its approach to learning. I was making observations on the intellectual and individual relationships that were formed in class and began testing a melting pot of diverse ideas and backgrounds. My initial hypotheses on the expectations and type of work were rapidly rejected. My philosophies on the humanities discipline have inevitably evolved to dismiss the stereotypes I have heard and admitted.
“I don’t know where I end or where I begin. All I know is that I’m delicious.”
1- Open 1st Attachment
2- File>>Web Page Preview
P.S: If this isn't working for you, I've supplied a doc. version. The interior links won't open, but everything has been laid out for you. You won't get the exacat same feel, but hopefully you'll enjoy it just the same!
So EGrumer and I worked with dglasser to help flesh out her idea of Literary Labs a little more!
Some of the things I was responsible for were:
- Finding a decent book list
- Finding a good character profile
- Making a playlist of music (more on this later)
I linked to the websites where I found both the list and character profile in case anyone wants to see them again. The book list was something dglasser knew she wanted when she originally designed the labs. The idea, and she can correct me if I'm wrong, was that you would be able to draw inspiration from these various works. The character profile is something that I (and EGrumer) had used before when acting. Normally they're used to help people in the chorus or minor roles flesh out a character for themselves so they can put more into their performance on stage. I liked this one because it was really detailed and I thought it would be useful to help writers develop characters if that's what they wanted to work on in the lab.
How can we define genre? It is a kind of something, a type. It is a manner we use to categorize information that we come into contact with on a daily basis. Genres evolve. This semester we have explored the evolution of various genres; we have seen how the lines between them become blurry. We have taken the definition of genre and molded it to fit in ways we may not have thought about before. With this in mind, how has the genre of this class evolved over the course of the semester? It has evolved. Everything evolves. I have evolved, the class has evolved, and this paper will evolve as it is written. The evolution of the class is important because it helps me to see where my problems were and it helps me to tie everything together and try to make sense of a class that I struggled through.
There is nothing I hate more than being proven wrong, and that’s exactly what Lit Kinds did this semester. Several times. Although I hate to admit that the class proved me wrong on several occasions on what I thought were my opinions and what makes me, me, these instances only made me a better thinker, a better writer, and overall a better learner, who is more open to changes.
I also hate to reuse this metaphor, but in my final self-evaluation for my bio class with Wil Franklin, I mentioned that I was like the ending species in a ring species. Ring species are animals—mostly birds—that migrate in a circular pattern in a course of a time frame, like a year. During this migration pattern, they evolve into several different species until the time comes that they return to their starting point and find that although they resemble the creatures that started the journey, they are completely different species. I am that final species in my Bio class as I am in Lit Kinds.
When I took “Evolution of Stories and Story of Evolution” last year, one of the things I started to work on was fitting into the class dynamic. I wrote in my Evolit class evaluation that, “…I felt that I should try to modulate my speaking. I wanted to leave more room/silence for others to explore their voices…I felt that the course was about ideas AND about learning to be a member of a team… This isn’t to say that I stopped participating, I just tried to find a more helpful level.” So I continued to pursue that type of group-mesh in this class as well. I think I may have gone too far in the other direction, however, so after talking with Anne I tried to increase my participation. I discovered that it’s very difficult to try to have that awareness of how you’re perceived in terms of the appropriate amount of participation: the level where others can feed off of what I’m saying and I can feed off of their ideas. My journey in that arena continues and maybe there isn’t a “correct” level, but I’ll keep trying to engage others and be engaged as I continue with my classes.
Changes in my Writing:
Is life a series of choices or is it predetermined? How each of us addresses this question is key to our understanding of life, our purpose and our happiness. If you feel that you have free will, you feel agency and an ability to impact the behavior of yourself and others and to choose a direction for the events in your life. But is it a binary, are the two possibilities complete free will or complete determinism? In this paper I would like to investigate how they work together. I think that many of us believe that we have free will but then make choices based on determinism. Why do we behave in this way, how can we change it and what would the impact be?
Lit Kinds Song (Tune of Sundown By Gordon Lightfoot)
Lit Kinds, I think it’s a shame if you don’t know fact from fiction how can truth be explained.
Lit Kinds I’m going insane ‘cause I realize our perceptions are never the same.
Digital Humanities are moving along now you don’t need a doctorate to survey what’s going on.
Then Price came to visit said she’s open to things and if we laid down on the floor it wouldn’t bother a thing.
When you’re struggling with the difference essay, story or life, start with definitions it might bring it to light.
Then we’re talking about breaking and those kind of things but some don’t like when teachers share personal things.
Now we start with a discussion of a title’s name and if you don’t really get it better read closer in.
We’re working on the board, which we don’t really like, let’s just talk in our seats I think that’ll be alright.
(War of the) Worlds was really different on the radio
Wells tried to trick us, Was that nice? (Yo!)
Then we’re filling out our evals, Our letters to Anne
Every question had genre so confusion set in.
when there are no more words
For our final performance, Alexandra and I chose four artifacts which represented the gems of our learning from this semester in Literary Kinds. The artifacts were:
1. sourdough bread
3. twigs from a tree
Looking back to the very beginning of the course, I remember thinking that I would be looking at some hardcore theory and a wider range of genres. At least this was the impression that I got from reading the first few readings in the course syllabus. I was really excited. However, the course took a slightly different path than the one that I described and I found myself, at times, struggling to find significance and also, limited by the limited genres that we encountered.
That said, I did enjoy the course as a whole – I see that by concentrating our (and my!) efforts on a handful of select genres, I was able to more fully appreciate and understand them. However, I still would have liked to see more of a theory-based spin on things, as I believe that it would have allowed me to really ground my claims as well as push me intellectually. Additionally, I wasn’t quite convinced that beginning the course with the digital humanities and the form of the academic paper was really effective. Perhaps building towards it would have been a great idea or, at the very least, I would have liked to link back to it throughout the course as I think that it is an emerging genre that is particularly pertinent in a classroom, where we are invited to generate “web events”.
For this paper, I have worked with the "genre" of the academic paper. My paper details some of my numerous attempts to play with academic writing as well as defies the directed reading that traditional papers require. I highly encourage you to click on the different links out of order to see if it still makes sense. Also, please feel free to leave comments in the comment boxes on every page: they're there to spark conversations, just like Serendip's commenting function!
It is in human nature to classify, organize, and put into a structure the things we encounter every day; when we implement this “order” into our lives, we get a false sense of security, a sense of empowerment at being able to have control over the chaos that is our world. When we take time to actually study and analyze these categories and boundaries we have tried so hard to set however, we see that much overlapping and blurring of the lines occur, even in what is originally thought of as two very different things. Often times, there are distinctions created between two things when none is needed. One such example is the boundary set between the disciplines of humanities and science. Using the rules that define realities and dreams to define humanities and science, we see that the defining qualities and more specifically, the methods of inquiry in both science and humanities are so similar—so similar that they can be used for both—that they almost need not be different disciplines.