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.
I liked our discussion at the very end of class today about the importance of “drawing a line” to indicate that something is special and unique instead of expanding definitions to include everything. If I remember correctly, this conversation sprung from our discussion about the end of Scott McCloud’s second book. I understood his argument to be something like this: in order to maintain comics’ relevance in the digital age, artists have to remove panels and embrace the infinite. We talked briefly about how removing panels from comics makes them reminiscent of the cave drawings from which they arose.
If McCloud is right, and the future of comics relies upon removing the panel, then their evolution serendipitously ends up right back where it started. This is nice for my brain to think about. I like circles.
Hmm... this picture is backwards...that's strange.
I feel like my brain may be on overdrive a bit this week. I'm thinking about Thursday's class and how we're now moving onto graphic novels and honestly I'm a bit confused. I thought Thursday's class was incredibly interesting. Mental differences are very real and very important to understand, especially in the context of education. I think that's why I'm confused. I've been trying to tie Thursday's class into the whole genre of the academic essay. I think I've wrapped my brain around the idea that mental differences among people can lead us to create various genres of people. I also understand from our studies of academic writing so far that catagorizing anything into genres is extremely complicated and difficult. Is that how I should relate Thursday's class? We should be aware of differences among people even within a possible "genre" that society may associate them with?
Maybe I'm over thinking. Maybe the point was just to read a chapter of a very interesting book and have scholarly discussion about it. Maybe it's just the rigid confines of most of my schooling that is causing me to look for a bigger picture.
I have never heard of the digital humanities before the Literary Kinds course and I soon discovered the transformative nature of digital writing and its evolution across media. I have taken for granted the opportunities for self-learning from the infinite sources of information that are available through the Internet. The Digital Humanities Manifesto was empowering as it pushed me to take advantage of the open-source culture that is available in this time and age and to get my hands dirty as I partake in the “democratization of culture and scholarship”. For my first web paper, I explored science writing by examining how it transforms across platforms: from laboratory journal to popular science magazine to headline news. I looked into several pieces of writing in each stage but did not seek to examine the interface between the audience/readers and the scientists. I remained at the surface. It is a gift economy, where knowledge is readily accessible to all of us at no cost, but I had to make the connections inside the network in order to extract the most out of it. I had to give back, provide my perspective to hear the echo of others. In examining the Ten Principles for the Future of Learning Institutions in this digital age presented by Davidson and Goldberg, it was clear that I have not yet reached out “horizontally”. I did not consider approaching neither peers nor bloggers who explored the topic to better understand the changes in science writing.
Mental health is a personal interest of mine - mainly because it is so personal to me, but also because I like to think that there is a connection between mental disorders and brilliance. Newton, Michaelangelo, Nash, Einstein, Van Gogh, Aristotle - so many great minds in history who are thought to have had some sort of mental disorder (by studying their personal journals or historical accounts about their personalities). As I said in class, I indulge in being part of a community of people who have the same mental disorder as I do. It is my personal preference to dive into the idea that mental illness and intelligence are connected. Very smart people come with baggage.
I watched this short (30 minute) documentary film about a young woman and her experience with bipolar disorder. "Crooked Beauty: Navigating the line between brilliance and insanity" is a personal documentary in which the author, Jacks McNamara, advocates for people to live with their madness and use it as a tool for inspiration and creativity. She specifically does not support allowing people to use their diagnosis as an excuse, or a burden reliever. She did not appreciate being medicated so that her 'radio transmitters' were shut down, and she more easily glanced over the world's suffering, instead of being so sensitive to it.
not sure how I feel about this, but it seems related to our discussion from thursday.
also related (re: free schools) act three from this episode of This American Life.
During Thursday's discussion, I had much to say about the education system and how I am perfectly content with the way it is; in fact, I think I was defending the system. I have come to adapt to its ways, and even dare to say that I have mastered it well—enough to know to do what I am told, say what it expected of me, and never question the system. The thought of changing a system that I have successfully maneuvered for the last 16 years of my life scares me. I’m not even sure I want to imagine a world that is any different—where students can freely do whatever they need in order to fully understand and digest material, where the established roles of teachers and students are broken down. Honestly, using the restroom without asking for permission is still something I can’t do in my college classes; I have always known my place a student and never questioned it, just always adapted to this role. But it never occurred to me that other people can’t. I was selfish in my thoughts the other day when I mentioned that in an environment that caters to everyone’s needs, I will be displaced. There are so many people who have been feeling like this for quite a while, and barely anyone to speak up and do something for them.
Today’s class, (well it’s 12am, so technically, yesterday’s class) is still spinning through my head. I am not a silent person, and I can’t stop wondering why I was so quiet during class. The answer I’ve come up with is, that although I’m not a silent person, I definitely am a fixating one, as in I have a fixating personality. When I hear something that strikes me differently, I fixate and think-it to death, and thinking something to death takes a lot of effort- how could I have strength to speak?
So now that I have had some time to let my fixation formulate, I can talk. The fatherly advice froggie generously shared with us yesterday got me thinking. I’m paraphrasing, so forgive me, but it was something to the effect of, “you don’t have to work in a corrupt system.” I don’t think the word corrupt was used, but it was something like that. This advice struck me as odd, because it is the opposite of what I’ve been taught, that is not a judgment on the advice, it’s just a noting of difference.
This week has been one of my favorite weeks at college, ever. I think it has a lot to do with the conversations we’ve been having in class. I’ve been connecting things from this class to lots of things in my life outside of class, I’ve been reading more, thinking more, smiling more, and writing. I feel really lucky to have been a part of reading what we’ve read and saying what we’ve said this week, and I feel sad to be saying goodbye to this unit. I hope that we can make graphic novels as exciting as academic writing (I’m laughing at myself because the response to that seems so glaringly obvious to me: YES! OF COURSE WE CAN!)
I left last Thursday class a little shaken. Our conversation and the Breaking Project reading made me think about things I didn’t really want to think about.
I unfortunately was not able to make it to last Tuesday’s rich discussion but would like to share my thoughts on Cassie Kosarek’s work. I thought that she created an interesting space on her “English thesis wanderings” blog where she presents her thesis preparation and which will culminate into her final thesis. It seems as if the burden behind thesis work and preparation is slightly lightened by the blog; it seems to be a more enjoyable journey into her final thesis presentation. Not all blog posts are cut from the English-thesis-proposal expectations or so I believe, but Cassie’s one post “So, Margaret Price and Judith Butler Walk into a Bar”, which is a virtual dialogue between the two theorists, was an original way to have her thesis work become a creative experiment.
I thought that this interestingly tied to what Kathleen Fitzpatrick describes to be the “remix” culture that is created from digital networks. Scholarly remixing allow for works to come together and form new interrelationships.
“Today, in the current system of print-based scholarship, this work takes the form of reviews, essays, articles, editions; tomorrow, as new mechanisms allow, these texts might be multimodal remixes, mashing up theories and texts to produce compelling new ideas.”-Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Planned Obsolescence, from originality to remix
There's an interesting piece in the Times "Week in Review" section today, called The Death of the Cyberflaneur. It locates the evolution of the internet--from its earlier days, as a place of wandering exploration, to its current structure, which is highly deterministic and commercially driven--in the longer history of the "flaneur," the 19th century wanderer who "did not have anything too definite in mind," as he strolled the streets of Paris, observing, sometimes narrating, the rich sensory experience he perceived there.
The key challenge here--to the celebration of collaboration that we've lately been engaged in--is "this idea that the individual experience is somehow inferior to the collective"; it's an interesting take on "the tyranny of the social" that I think we might explore more fully together….
With academic writing morphing into a genre on the web, we mostly read assigned texts from our computer. I decided to use reading the course assignments online as part of an experiment to test my ability to concentrate. Turns out I prefer to read the course material from a piece of paper instead of a computer screen because I grasp the material quicker and gain a better understanding. As previously mentioned in class, reading from our computers often leads to going in and out of multiple websites which means we are not able to give our assigned readings the undivided attention they deserve. I ask myself: Are we program to give text on a piece of paper more authority, esteem and attention? If so, we must acknowledge that the online publication of academic writing is gaining appraisal from the scholarly community and that we must modify how we perceive reading in this medium.
It is all a matter of time for me (as the writer), for you (whoever is reading this right now), for us (as a class)…