Big Books (Huck Finn) Forum


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Huck Finn, Then and Now
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-03-21 14:43:04
Link to this Comment: 5124

This new forum is, of course, the place for you to share your thoughts about Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, then and now. Did you read this novel in high school? What was that experience like? How is it different this time through? Do you think the novel should be taught to high school students? Do you think it should be taught to college students? What were your reactions to our initial discussion of the book, which focused on the topic of lying and why we do it and what it gets us (or not)?


Huck Finn & race & lying
Name: Natalie Ab
Date: 2003-03-21 19:09:34
Link to this Comment: 5128

I have been trying to remember what was discussed when I read this in high school, and nothing comes to mind. I think that's unfortunate, especially since the "sensitive" topics of race, lying, etc. are really what makes this book worthwhile to read at this time. I do not know if this book should be read in high schools- it may depend on both the students' maturity and the teachers' ability to lead productive discussions regarding the book. Although this book is not the type of book I would read for pleasure, it definitely should be included in the canon of American Literature because it has undoubtedly had a major influence on both the literature that followed it and our perceptions of the "adolescent male adventure" story in its many incarnations.
Regarding our conversation last class about lying, I left class with a question (especially important given current world events) that I would like to pose: is not disclosing information the same thing as lying? does it have the same effect?


Why are we reading Huck Finn?
Name: Jillian
Date: 2003-03-22 20:19:23
Link to this Comment: 5132

I read Huck Finn in 10th grade and one of the only comments that I remember my teacher making was in response to an article against reading HF in public schools. She thought that the author was racist himself and that was why he didn't want others reading HF. To be fair to my teacher, I don't remember what the essay said, and maybe the author was racist - I don't know. In any event my teacher obviously didn't think reading HF in High School was inappropriate since she taught it to us. Reading HF again, I found myself shocked at how racist the book really is. Granted I don't remember much of what happens in the latter part of the book but thus far I am disturbed by Twain's representation of Jim. It's not the n-word that I take issue with because I can understand that it was part of the vernacular in the time period Twain was writing about. What upsets me is the fact that Jim - a grown man - is made to look like a child who is even more naive and (for lack of a better word) stupid than Huck. All of Jim's superstitions make him sound like an idiot! Granted, Jim is also given that innocent kindness and loyalty that children have, but not even that can give him claims to authority or agency.
I found Arac's article really interesting. I'm not sure that Huck Finn has been "hypercanonized". I certainly never thought of it as the all-American novel. But maybe that's just me (and maybe its because I'm female and I always felt like it was a boy's book, even before I knew what it was about).
I really found the idea of the sublime in HF really intriguing. I didn't really see any sublime moments in HF, so I would like to know what he's specifically referring to. However, I thought he was very apt in saying that this sublimeness (if there actually is any) causes identification with the text and results in defensiveness. I would be really interested to hear if any one saw sublime moments in HF.
I'm beginning to wonder if HF should be taught in Big Books. I think it certainly is a "big book" of American Lit. but I'm not sure that it merits that honor. It has been a big influence on many authors, and many children growing up in America, but I'm starting to wonder if that's a good thing and if it's greatness really has anything to do with the actual words that Twain wrote.


am i desensitized?
Name: Nicole Mar
Date: 2003-03-23 00:45:38
Link to this Comment: 5134

I have not read Huck Finn before and though i find the dialect it is writen in distracting at times i am enjoying it. I went online to read a little bit about it after i finished the first half of the book and i was suprised to find that the book is (or was) one of the 5 most banned books in American High schools. honestly, while reading the novel i did not notice just how many times the word "nigger" was used. i did not notice the racism, which i now can pinpoint in relfection, while i was reading the book. And i am shocked at myself!

I don't know why these things escaped me while i read the novel. Maybe it was because, as bernadett (sorry if i slaughtered your name!) brought up in class - i think of Huck Finn as a children's book. maybe i was not expecting racism. i DID however, notice the absudity of huck's adventures. killing a pig, smoking etc... (he is a little boy for god's sake!) and i questioned the stories place in children's literature, but racism never crossed my mind!

Maybe it was because, after reading Uncle Tom's Cabin i am desensitized. I was appalled at the way in which Stowe described her black characters and sought to help the cause of slavery by buying into the larger system of racsim. I guess that i was not offened by Huck Finn because i viewed it as a text that was simply a story in a time period that was inheriantly racist. I did not find the views expressed by Huck, a young boy living in the south during the time of slavery as being out of place.

It is my understanding that Huck Finn is such an influenial novel because of the way in which it was writen, not so much its moral message. I believe i read a hemmingway quote (i think! - could be wrong!) which said that Twain's novel was the definitive American novel and was a standard which all others sought to attain. I am looking forward to finishing the novel and exploring the issues my classmates have raised on the web and in class thus far - as they did not come to my attention while first reading the book. I will keep y'all updated as to whether i remain blind to all these issues as i finish the rest of the book! :)



Name: Samantha D
Date: 2003-03-23 16:37:40
Link to this Comment: 5136

I think that I am one of the only people in our class who has not read Huck Finn yet, so this is all completely new to me. But so far, I realy, really like the book, I think I can even say I like it the best of the books we've read so far. When Kathy and I were preparing to lead class last thursday, I found a quote that Ernest Hemmingway said: "All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn...All American writing comes from that. There was nothing before. There has been nothing good since." Although I don't think I completely agree with this statement, I think it says a tremendous amount about the quality of the book. Because of this, I find it ridiculous that Huck Finn has been banned in some schools.
Also, what I thought was interesting about the first half of this book were all of the themes and symbolism that i'm sure we'll discuss further. Kathy and I chose to focus on the theme of lying and deception for Thursday, but there were some other pretty interesting ones that I think will come up. I also think that the class will be a bit more inspired to speak on Huck Finn then we were on the Scarlet Letter. Basically I think this book will mark an improvement in all dimensions of our class.


Huck Finn
Name: Monica Loc
Date: 2003-03-24 10:18:08
Link to this Comment: 5144

The reason why I wanted to be in this class was because I felt the need to catch up on reading American classics and ask myself why we are still reading these books today. I went to an International school in the Philippines where I took up IB courses but I never had the chance to read American classics. I am enjoying this class and even though there were times where it has been hard to carry out a conversation, I feel that discussions on the books have been beneficial. Someone suggested to go back and analyze the text and I agree with that suggestion. It does not mean going back to the whole chapter but probably analyzing a passage, a quote or two. This is one way to really dissect the book and understand the take home message.
I have never read Huck Finn and so far I am enjoying the book. It is full of adventure and surprise. It reminds me in a way of Uncle Tom's Cabin because of the evident theme of racism but this book I just can't seem to stop reading. I didn't expect myself to be so attached to a story like I am with this one. I find it interesting that the author wrote this book at a time when he was not living in the slavery period. I can't wait to discuss why he did this.


huck in ernest
Name: orah minde
Date: 2003-03-24 16:01:44
Link to this Comment: 5147

in regards to the hemmingway quote (i will paste it again here from samantha's posting because i don't know how to do that cool thing anne does where we just click on the name and are transported to the person's posting)"All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn...All American writing comes from that. There was nothing before. There has been nothing good since."
people say that sylvia plath's novel 'the bell jar' is the female equivalent of holden caulfield after he's been through hell ten times over. i'd say that hemingway is the equivalent of mark twain gone through alcoholism and severe depression. hemingway is the master of the subtle consice sentences that draw a flowing picture in the least number of words. i do not think that hemingway is philisophical ((i may be being presumptuous....never having read hemingway at the college level)). similarly, twain does not strike me as one trying to say something deep about life ((except for the "all right, then, i'll go to hell" part)). i think, rather, he is trying to use words to create the most life-like character there is. huck is the most down to earth character there is.

Huck Finn was one of the books my dad read out loud to me when i was young. Being a southernor himself he was able to flick on that lull-me-to-sleep drawl. as a listening, imagining, child i was able to breath in the smell of the dirt road that huck walks on, feel the hot sun reflected off the dirty brown water. but, alas, as education and deadlines find their way into the brain the imagination slips out and i am left to read huck finn from a critical litterary perspective.
Twain's style is not my favorite...no flowery blow-me-away sentences...that probebly goes hand in hand with the fact that i loath hemingway.

ps i would like to humbly modify hemingway's quote and say that: There was nothing before huck finn and there had been nothing good until holden.


Better with Age
Name: Emily
Date: 2003-03-24 18:05:18
Link to this Comment: 5148

I read Huck Finn in my 11th grade English class. I remember reading about half of the book and finishing it up with Cliffs notes, which was not at all uncommon for students in my class. Our teacher assigned us quizzes about once a week to make sure we did the reading (or at least did a good job at reading Cliffs notes). The quizzes were based on the plot and were always in a multiple choice format. I can't remember our class discussions very well. I am assuming that they weren't terribly exciting. I do remember one student refusing to say the "n" word when asked to read a passage out loud.O bviously, my experience with it this year has been very different. No more reading-check quizzes! We also explore the book, digging into the text instead of regurgitating it.

Although I personally didn't get a lot out of my first experience of the book, I still think it should be taught in high school. With the right teacher, I'm sure we could have done a lot more with the text than we did. Also, reading this book in high school prepares us better for reading it in college (which I think should be done). It's a classic that has a lot of universal themes, which can lead to discussions that are interesting and highly applicable to current issues.

When I read the book over break, I noticed that Huck was lying a lot but I never really focused on it in my head. Having the class discussion made me think about lying to a fuller extent and what exactly it means to lie. Although this book was written in the 17 century, talking about it on Thursday shows that it is not outdated because we can use its themes to talk about the war and I'm sure other current topics.


reflecting...
Name: Margaret R
Date: 2003-03-24 20:14:01
Link to this Comment: 5150

While reading Huck Finn, I did notice the blatent racism. Yet, it didn't disturb my train of thought, while Stowe's did. In Uncle Tom's Cabin I found myself stopping to re-read her racist comments, and I then would become angry and disillusioned with it. Yet, even the flagrent stereotyping of blacks through Jim's character did not cause me to be angry with Twain. Jim's superstitiuos black character was obvious, but I didn't want to stop reading the novel because he was developed as such.
Also, in regards to Orah's comment on Huck being the most down-to-earth character, I feel that is why the racism didn't bother me as much. Huck is so believable and real to me, that he seems to only be a product of his time. His actions do not seem forced and nor do his words. The characters in Uncle Tom's Cabin did.
I am thoroughly enjoying the novel because I am so engaged in the world of Huck Finn, whether Twain is racist or not.



Name: Kathy
Date: 2003-03-24 20:15:33
Link to this Comment: 5151

I feel exactly as Nicole does. I read the novel and was struck somewhat by the way that Jim is portrayed, but not as much as I thought I should be considering the controversy. Maybe I was just reading it knowing the story was written at a very different time. Also I think I was looking at this book as more of Huck's tale about growing up and learning to deal with society. I disagree with Hemmingway's quote that Sam included in her post ("All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn...All American writing comes from that. There was nothing before. There has been nothing good since.") It's a great story of childhood adventure, but I'm not sure it was really meant to be the greatest American novel.


Huck Finn
Name: Maggie
Date: 2003-03-24 21:49:39
Link to this Comment: 5155

I read Huck Finn outloud with my family when I was in early elementary school. We discussed the racism in it and used it in conjunction with a history lesson (I was homeschooled at the time). But I mostly remember liking the story and not being uncomfortable with the racism or the people's attitudes. Now, I notice the racism in it more, but I think it is much less degrading than Uncle Tom's Cabin. I don't think it is just because I resented the fact that Stowe was trying to manipulate my feelings. I think that even though Twain does write racist words, and present Jim as superstitious and naive, he still develops Jim's character. (Especially in comparison to Uncle Tom's characters.) Huck and Jim genuinely like each other, and I think it is significant that we see Huck helping Jim escape even while feeling like he shouldn't. This development in their relationship (or in Huck's character alone) gives more depth to slaves' personalities or predicament than Stowe's book did. So should the book be banned? I don't think so. What would be next? No longer teaching about slavery in history classes because it was racist? Huck Finn may just be entertaining fiction, but it depicts a historical time and the attitudes of the people, and I think that is more important than the presence of the word 'nigger'.


HUCK FINN & CLASS
Name: ngoc
Date: 2003-03-25 12:43:21
Link to this Comment: 5171

i thought it was great for us to start with the our recollection of high school experience ... like many others in class, i too had encounter the novel before coming to big books. unfortunately...i cannot recall exactly what we did...i do know, though, that our school did not find it difficult to have the novel in our curriculum...i wonder if it is because our school is predominantly white and there was never a single African-American students in honors or ap literature class...i don't believe the novel was part of curriculum for accelerate and academic level...the more i think about this the more i believe the context which the novel are read or taught to us really matters...


Huck Finn
Name: Sebastian
Date: 2003-03-25 20:07:54
Link to this Comment: 5173

I remember reading the book in high school and being fascinated and occupied by the great adventures that he would do and I remember thinking how I always wished I could do things like that. When being taught the book I recollect no focus on any of the themes we have mentioned thus far. Maybe I was jsut bad at paying attention. However now that I am reading it again with thoughts in my mind of certain things to pay attention to (lying, racism...) I find myself noticing these elements more and more. I think it is interesting how being given ideas and direction by a teacher before and while reading a text affect how you read the text.


Huck Finn & Jr. High
Name: Julia
Date: 2003-03-25 21:22:46
Link to this Comment: 5174

The last night of spring break I helped with the Junior High Lock ŠIn at my home church. One of my jobs in preparation was to choose movies to watch at night. My guidance in choices was ŅAntz and something like it, related to peer pressure.Ó After much deliberation in the family section I pulled a copy of the 1993 Elijah Wood version of Huck Finn from the shelf. I had really expected the kids to choose Antz for their evening viewing, especially after the last lock-in when the film Edward Scissorhands under-whelmed most of the kids. IÕm not sure if I was expecting them to be bored with the story, the subject of slavery, or something else. Although the film didnÕt follow the book as closely as I would have liked, including the ending, I was impressed by the overall positive response to what they had seen.
An important note is that the significant changes in the screenplay allow some but not all issues discussed in class to come across. It is almost like a stepladder construction of issues related to the book, beginning with more basic in a form presentable to Jr. High kids and allowing them to grow into the book.


High School Experience of Huck Finn
Name: Julia
Date: 2003-03-25 21:41:08
Link to this Comment: 5175

At this point I can only remember parts of my high school experience of reading Huckleberry Finn. I went to what was overall a fairly liberal, Quaker based, private all-girls school. Students and faculty were relatively free to discuss whatever they wanted. The group that would occasionally get in the way, to the irritation of students and faculty alike, was the parents. Unlike the stories I have heard from many public schools, the parents at a private school can have an immediate effect on the lives of the people working within the school. If any parent had had a problem with the text of Huckleberry Finn, we would have known about it.
In my junior year my English class read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn under the guidance of Dr. Minahan. In the usual way of the school, we discussed the use of language in the text. Part of what I can remember is that Dr. Minahan asked us what we had seen in the text and how we felt about it. I canÕt remember any of the specific responses or the specific group of students in my class that year, but I know we had a discussion led by a well-informed professor. I think that part of the reason we could have a very open discussion was that we were all very close. In a class of forty-two, most of whom had known each other for a while, an honest discussion regarding any controversial subject was possible. Huckleberry Finn was certainly not the first or last controversial topic for my class to discuss.


end of huck finn
Name: ngoc
Date: 2003-03-26 07:27:51
Link to this Comment: 5180

i catch myself enjoying the second half the novel more than the first. even after the discussion in class about racism and the word, i still did not find myself paying attention to it. i wonder if this is partly the impact of humor. at least, because this book is so hummorous at times that i forget it can be a serious book. i think that this is true because a Romanian friend of mine said her school in Romania thought it was a good children's book so they made her read it in second grade. even though the novel is an amercian classic...we did not read it in school while we're in second grade... and i am not sure it would be good if we had... at least, for my friend, she hated the novel.


humor and huck finn
Name: Nancy
Date: 2003-03-26 15:55:12
Link to this Comment: 5185

Although I am getting ready for tomorrow's class on humor, I can't seem to get away from the racism theme-- it brings me (kicking and screaming) back to uncle tom's cabin, anf the paper I wrote, namely the idea that whites 'write' blacks as humorous for their own enjoyment but mainly for a sort of "ego-boost" by comparison. Not a popular idea, but definitely worth a second thought. What is humorous about this book? Is it Jim's assumption that Huck is a ghost when he sees him on the island? How about when the Duke and the King dress Jim as a ridiculous, sick "A-rab"? Anyone getting a stitch in their side? I guess all humor hinges upon the fact that their is a butt of the joke, but where is the line and when is it crossed?
I think after the discussion on tuesday, I arrived at a new definition of racism, one not so easily bandaged; to me, racism is any kind of othering. This deletes the 'race' aspect and puts the term back into perspective. For example, is laughing at Huck as he miscontrues history or lacks common knowledge any less "racist" than using the N word? I know this sounds controversial, but at the most basic level, it works. Racism occurs because of the distinctions made between people, and race is a common distinction and usually easy to identify. Othering, labeling, and separating people whether by gender, sexual preference, capability, economic status, etc seems to me to be "racism". Why has the term been so narrowly applied? I don't know where I'm going with this, I don't have a conclusion to the race/othering issue, but i do expect it will come up again tomorrow.


Huck Finn
Name: Barbara
Date: 2003-03-26 16:34:42
Link to this Comment: 5186

This is my first reading of Huckleberry Finn. My children all went to Friends School and studied Moby Dick, The Scarlet Letter, etc. but not Huck Finn, and I am asking myself why the ommission, especially since I was looking forward to questioning them. I find I am enjoying the book tremendously but can understand why it would be both humiliating and enraging for a seventeen or eighteen-year-old to be subjected to the N-word,over and over again,particularly if there were not too many Afro-Americans in the class. However,if the class were to be sensitively conducted, I think it would be a very productive way to begin to understand what hurts and upsets in the book, and hopefully make everyone aware that words used thoughtlessly can do damage. In Margolis' essay, she says, "In 1885 Twain said, "We have ground the manhood out of them. The shame is ours, not theirs, and we should pay for it" (331). I can't believe that, having said that, he would use the word without being aware of the point he was trying to make.


racial jokes
Name: orah minde
Date: 2003-03-26 20:37:35
Link to this Comment: 5187

i don't know any racial jokes so i've been looking them up on line. disgusting is not the word. i'm nauseas. nothing to say.



Name: Eric Seide
Date: 2003-03-26 21:52:49
Link to this Comment: 5188

Tom Sawyer is amazingly annoying.


Hick Finn- ideal childhood?
Name: Natalie Ab
Date: 2003-03-27 00:30:37
Link to this Comment: 5189

After class on Tuesday, I was talking to Anne about how I really have never been a fan of Huck Finn. She asked me to post about why, and it took me a few days to formulate a thought that is somewhat coherent. I eventually came up with the following: Huck Finn is written to satisfy the need to glorify the childhood experience, to have a "hero" to identify with, and to describe adventures that every boy wishes he had experienced. One of the reasons I was not as drawn to the book as some people are, I think, is because I had grown up with a strong, clear idea of who my ideal heroine was. She was, need I say, radically different from the character of Huck Finn! I grew up with Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, Little House on the Prairie, The Secret Garden, even Black Beauty, and the adventures and escapades they had were enough to satisfy my need for vicarious exploration. However limiting/flawed these books may be, they gave me a sense of what my ideal childhood would be. I didn't need Twain's interpretation, as it couldn't add anything that would be useful to this concoction. The need that this book is supposed to address had already been filled with books centered around the premise (mostly) of a female coming-of-age story, certainly more relevant to me than a story of an adolescent male floating down a raft!
On the topic of language being used in degrading manners, I am astounded and disturbed by the number of times I have heard people on campus refer to something as "retarded." Not only is this degrading and downright mean, it represents how we seemingly use our education and others' lack thereof to demean them. The use of the term "retarded" is just as pointless and hurtful as the term "gay," when both are used in a completely different purpose from which they originated.


getting a joke
Name: Mia
Date: 2003-03-27 23:26:46
Link to this Comment: 5199

I was talking to my dad on the phone tonight and he brought up an interesting point that I found true about myself. I do not think that I laugh at ethnic racial jokes/put downs because I knew the stereotype of the ethnicity being "stupid" previously, but came to learn that that was the stereotype through the joke. - I never knew the Polish had a "reputation/stereotype for being dumb" until I heard all the jokes about them, then I acknowledged the stereotype from the jokes and the jokes became "funnier" because I "got" them from knowing that - of course, Polish are "stupid". - If this makes any sense. If it does, I thought it was an interesting reversal of understanding a joke


class criticism
Name: Maggie
Date: 2003-03-28 08:00:50
Link to this Comment: 5202

I know this is out of place, but there isn't a forum for this that I can return to and still post. I just thought of this the other day: up until Huck Finn, we had basically been passively agreeing to use the materials that students used last year when they ran the classes. Perhaps this is another reason the student-led classes were falling a little short of expectation, because we weren't picking materials that really interested us, but just what had already been chosen.



Name: Melissa Ho
Date: 2003-03-28 16:20:12
Link to this Comment: 5203

In class on Thursday I said that I thought that the scene where Mary Jane throws the purse of money at the king and the duke was satiraally funny. I suppose I was having in class articulating exactly what it was that I found to be satirical. So, I went home and looked up satire. Webster's dictionary says that a satire is the use of mockery, sarcasm,or humor in a literary work to ridicule human vice. Here Mary Jane is so kind that it becomes a human fault. I felt that perhaps Twain was poking fun at her shortcoming in experience with frauds such as these.



Name: Maggie
Date: 2003-03-29 09:36:39
Link to this Comment: 5205

In class on Thursday, Anne theorized about why she laughed at jokes. Her thought was that it was her way of coping with the disjunction between her ideal and the reality she experienced. Because of this, she said that there would not be jokes in her version of heaven, because there would not be the need to cope with disjunctions. I would like to think that there could still be jokes (do all jokes have to involve a gap between the ideal and reality?). Perhaps the things that people in heaven would laugh at would be based on different disjunctions that we cannot imagine. Maybe they would be able to make fun of all humans equally because once they're in heaven answers are revealed to them that make them able to make fun of all of us. And certainly there can be jokes that don't hurt anyone but are still funny. I just can't think of any...

And I agree with Orah... I tried to look up racist jokes, and I was horrified. Good work, Mia, for finding a site that made fun of white people too.

Along the lines of the use of the word "nigger", and the meaning or power behind that use... Last year, my dad was teaching fifth graders, and was horrified by how often and casually they used the word "gay". We touched on this in class yesterday. The kids know what the word means in terms of sexuality, but when they describe someone's shoes as gay, it has nothing to do with sexuality. They don't even mean it to put down gay people. Maybe that is how the use began, but now the word has just seeped in to their vocabulary. My dad talked to them about it, and explained the ramifications of what they were saying. I was amazed when he told me that the kids reacted well to what he said, and tried to stop using the word. However, that didn't make gay people any more or less prejudiced against. Although it's great that they kids responded positively, who knows if it will have a real effect on them. I think it shows that the words being used aren't the problem, but only indicative of the problems created by a system that allows words like gay or nigger to be in the everyday language of children.


I hate South Park
Name: Bernadette
Date: 2003-03-30 20:05:16
Link to this Comment: 5211

Despite the fact that as the subject line of this posting expresses my strong feelings about the tv show (and movie for that matter) South Park, I think it is perfect in conjunction with our conversations about Huck Finn. It touches on almost if not all the topics we have been discussing - the use of derogatory terms, the place of history in determining whether something (like a flag or a piece of literature) should be held in a place of honor, and humor.
When South Park first started airing I was appalled at the number of people i knew and respected who watched and enjoyed it. That only grew when I came to college and discovered that most of my friends were avid fans. One night, out of curiosity I sat through the movie with them. I'm sure I laughed at some points, I admit that the creators are good at what they do, but overall I watched in disbelief. Though I believe that at least in part the "humor" used in South Park is pointed and satiric, I find it over the edge. As a result of my distaste for the show, and my lack of inhibition in expressing that distaste, I have been told on numerous occassions to not be so uptight and just acknowledge how the show is poking fun at America and Americans by using the subject matter that I find so terrible. I can't, and I wonder if I shouldn't put the strength of my convictions for this issue into my thoughts about Huck Finn which we have (I think) all determined maintains a great deal of racism - and whether the Spike Lee piece is accurate or not about how Twain was purposeful in portraying Jim as he did in order to poke hole in racism - the steriotypes are still there.
I don't know - it's a tougher issue than I had originally thought.


Decoding Intimacy
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-03-31 14:56:47
Link to this Comment: 5219

I've just posted two thoughts in the Language forum; they pick up and take off from two of our recent discussions: last week's about how jokes work, and the one of the week before about the use of political language to move us. See Decoding and Desire and Intimacy: Good/Bad? .


The Power of Words and the Relationship between HF
Name: Jillian
Date: 2003-03-31 23:44:12
Link to this Comment: 5227

When you think about it, words don't really mean anything in it of themselves. They are just a bunch of sounds or letters thrown together. A word gains its power only through what it represents. It seems weird, though, since the meaning assigned to each word is in some ways arbitrary. "Niger" isn't a bad word in it of itself. The "N" isn't bad, the "i" isn't bad etc. It's the combination of these letters and the historical context that gives the name the power it holds today. Words are such an important force in our lives, and most of the time, we don't even realize it. Words perform so many functions, but I guess we really have to be careful how we use certain words since it will often have repercussions in the future.


I think there are many similarities between what Twain did and what the creators of South Park are doing. They both took a sensitive area in our social history and raised awareness through using that vulnerability in a comic way. SP continually shocks and appalls many people, but its only in showing what actually exists. You could see SP's jokes as lighthearted and insensitive, but you could also see them as pointed illustrations of aspects of society which could be better. I'm not really sure what Twain's purpose was in writing HF, but it could have been to point out the inhumanity of whites towards blacks. He turned a lot of the racism into a joke, but if he didn't, who would have read the book? Same with SP. Who would watch it if it wasn't funny?


Racial Joke
Name: Monica Loc
Date: 2003-04-01 01:40:03
Link to this Comment: 5232

It was hard for me to come up with a racial joke. I love to laugh and hear jokes but I have not come across a racial joke that I have found to be really funny. Being a minority, I know how it feels to be a part of racial jokes. I had to ask a friend of mine for racial jokes. He could not think of any either. I tried looking for some online but didn't find one I was particularly interested in. I had to go with the one my friend gave me even if it was not exactly the best one. Here is the joke: What do you call a black smurf?
A smigger

When I first heard this I did not laugh because it is not funny and is offensive. When I recited this joke to the class, I noticed the same reaction which did not surprise me at all. My assumption is, no one laughed because it was offensive. The joke itself is not funny. There is a play of words but it does not seem to have the laughing effect. When I get a better racial joke, I will not forget to post it! Well, I read the play for tomorrow and I am excited to see how it will be acted out in class!!


south park and huck
Name: ngoc
Date: 2003-04-01 12:39:03
Link to this Comment: 5244

i thought that we had a great discussion today on the issues of what/when texts/shows like Adventure of Huckleberry Finn and South Park be taught or watched... however, i do think that we did not spend a lot of time considering one of the most important aspect of our discussion. before we speculate on why (or why not)texts should be taught--questioning the appropriation of the text... i think we should ask if the readers/students have the appropriate preparation to come into the text-- by this i don't even mean simply background of the text...but rather the skills/tools/ a mental state ready to think critically ... it will be obviously difficult for a fifth grader to engage into the text in ways that we college students are able to... even so, we still fall into the trap / the manipulation that Twain set up for his reader...and we realize this after reading Wiley's interpretation of Jim, a character with agency --

i think that it is critical for us to recognize that as readers we come into these texts with tools/skills/experiences that a fifth grader do not have... it is not the issue of time when a student should be expose to racism, etc...because it is never too late to learn about these issues... rather, it is question of whether we are ready to confront/question/examine these texts when we do engage them...

as for the discussion about history and racism ... it made me think of how history and literature should be taught... there are issues we encounter in english class that we do not encounter in history class... as we move ourselves from one lens to another... when we encounter texts, we are a lot more involved (if not connected) to the issues in the texts. it is inevitable that we are more intimate with the text then with facts and numbers in history class... if we are able to mend the gap between literature and history... it would be possible for us to have younger readers to engage controversial texts/shows... for example, in eigth grade, for a whole marking period, t social history teachers and english teachers were cooperating...in one (same) class period (everyday) we engage in both texts and histories (i.e. reading a novel (fiction) like Adventure of Huckleberry Finn and learning about slavery at the same time) ... from the texts we get critical questions--reflective of, about histories... so our perspective is constructive around not only fiction/novels but also history... because there terms (events/issues) that are part of history that can be offensive if it is taken out of context...by having learned about these terms/issues/events in history along with the text, we can use/refer to these terms/issues/events with constructive understanding/awareness...and avoid the feeling of uneasiness/ the fear of offending others...


Reading Spike Lee's Huckleberry Finn
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-04-01 15:11:12
Link to this Comment: 5246

To the Big-Bookers--

For class on Thursday, please read (or re-read) Jim Zwick's short piece on "Reading Spike Lee's Huckleberry Finn," Wiley's script itself, and Shelley Fishkin's piece "In Praise" of it.

In class, we will be asking you to choose one scene from Huck Finn to reinterpret and act out. We're aiming for something a little more subtle than what we did w/ Uncle Tom's Cabin, so be thinking ahead about how you can alter the text: through changing point of view (perhaps the most profound gesture, which is what Wiley did), or setting, or time period, or humor, or tone...or what else? What we're aiming for here is an increased sense of our own agency as readers (actors?) of the texts, figuring out how we can learn to do for OURSELVES what Wiley has done for us: shown us that we can interpret the text differently than the way we first read it.

Looking forward to seeing what you can come up w/--
and what we can all, together, make out of that--

Emily, Phil and Anne


Wiley..so far...
Name: Margaret R
Date: 2003-04-01 19:31:38
Link to this Comment: 5247

Today in class I shared how I felt about Wiley's new interpretation of the character Jim, which changes from Twain's Jim character. Or does it? Was Wiley only showing us how to read Twain's novel, or was he re-inventing the character?
After reading Wiley's script I felt embarrassed about the way I had read the novel. I felt as though I only saw Jim as the stereotypical black man that Twain describes, but this made me think that I was ignorant in believing that that was all Twain wanted the reader to see.
Wiley opened up my eyes; he allowed me to to see Jim the way he wants people to, and he is successful at this also.
Jim is another character now; he is clever. He is not inferior like he was when I read Twain's text without Wiley's guidance. I truly enjoyed Wiley so far, and believe his interpretation should have been inroduced earlier on. It would have saved me some embarrassment-Haha.


mark twain's intentions and feelings.
Name: orah minde
Date: 2003-04-01 19:52:09
Link to this Comment: 5248

anne spoke at the end of class about how we read Huck Finn from inside the body of a twelve year old, white, southern, boy. Since, we are seeing through the lense of Huck's eyes it is very hard to see things that he doesn't see. Wiley interpruts mark twain's writting as aware of racial equality--saying that he can see beyond huck's eyes to an intelligent black man. we posted at the begining of the semester about author's intentions and if a person derives something from a book that was not intended by the author is this interprataion valid? i think that this is the nature of writing: transferance of a thought into the world, to be shaped by the world into which it was put. i don't think that it matters that mark twain did or did not intend to have jim be an intelligent person...'huck finn' is being interprated in the world of 2003 and in this world black men and women are seen as equals and read as equals, assumed equal. jim was intended to be a less intelligent being, but now he is intelligent.i don't think there is any peice of writing that can live on through the centuries and not change. even the bible can no longer be read at face value (my personal opinion...i'm sorry if this offends anyone). Just because the bible says that homosexuality is an abhorant action it doesn't mean that it is abhorant in this modern era. but, can we still learn from the bible, huck finn? yes, because in reading we derive morals within the frame of our modern world.

i cringe thinking of the hurt feelings of an author who writes something that is interprated in the 'wrong' way, but i guess that this is the risk of publishing and a risk that must be taken by anyone who want to put themselves out into the world, alter the world. this, i guess, is the risk of living...being interprated wrong...people not understanding who
Y-O-U really is. but, i don't think that anyone is UNDERSTOOD, so we might as well get out there and be misunderstood. i don't want to go through life half-assed, wishing that i had written that letter, or that poem.


Huck Finn
Name: Barbara
Date: 2003-04-02 14:42:26
Link to this Comment: 5254

Growing up in Chile, there was always a 'nana' in the house who looked after the young children as they were growing up, and often stayed on in the house long after they were gone. There was a point (generally around Huck's age) when the realization came that one thought one 'knew' a lot more than she did, in book learning, and didn't realize until later that she was much wiser in so many other ways, and I see Jim and Huck in that position, with this bumptious kid who thinks he knows so much more than Jim, not realizing until later that Jim was going along with it out of innate affection and kindness. Had he not been smart,he would not have caught on so quickly in the scene in which they become separated nor expressed his hurt so articulately, and in so many other ways which I can't remember right now. Re one of the remarks posted, in my senior year in high school in the U.S., we did study History and English Lit. together (as a matter of fact we did the Scarlet Letter that way), and it was a great way to study both the book and the period.


Representation of History
Name: Taka Kawan
Date: 2003-04-02 19:04:52
Link to this Comment: 5255

Tuesday's discussion about how to teach history was very interesting. Similar to the example that Nancy shared to us, my country has a controversy over the "national flag" and "national anthem" in conjunction with ambiguous attitude of Japanese government toward postwar indemnification. Since Japanese government used these items to govern people during colonization of East Asian countries, some people say that they are inappropriate for "national" symbolization because they provoke negative experiences of people who suffered during WWII. Compared to the flag in South Park, which too graphically represented one certain aspect of history of the town, the national flag and anthem do not ONLY represent the suffering of WWII; there are more historical meaning and significance in them. Rather, the problem does not lie in whether they have negative connotation or not, but it is how Japanese schools actually teach the history of the flag and anthem to children, and it has been a big issue over decades. My stand point is that since we can not change our history, the only way to cope with the difficulty is taking the responsibility in teaching what happened. Changing the flag or anthem only masks the facts, and does not resolve fundamental problems at all.
Getting back to the question whether or not Huck Finn should be taught in school, it surely depends on how it would be taught. As Bernadette said in class, there are lots of other literatures to teach slavery and we don't have to pick this particular book just for this purpose. Huck Finn should be discussed in more elaborate dimension, which we have been trying to do so far, and it is definitely not something you would expect from middle school classroom. I thought it was a fun book to read, and I believe that we should not mask the complex qualities of this book because of one certain aspect, as long as the readers are able to handle them all. This is the bottom line, and I think that discussion of determining exact timing of when to teach this book is less relevant, since it requires a conditional decision by teachers and generalization can be dangerous.


thurs class
Name: ngoc
Date: 2003-04-03 12:04:39
Link to this Comment: 5259

responding to question: should Huckleberry Finn should be taught in high school and how should it be taught.

i definately think the novel should be allowed to be taught...but only if the students would have a similar experience as we did in class... it's been very insightful for me to read Wiley's interpretation...and it would serve as a very effective tool for high school students to read the text.


generating new stories
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-04-03 15:57:25
Link to this Comment: 5262

Just want to enter the text I referenced in my end-of-class remarks today: it's Jerome Bruner's Acts of Meaning (Harvard University Press, 1990), a VERY rich text which I'm reading as part of my involvement in the faculty working group on Language, and in which he argues that

"young children often hear acounts of their own interactions from older sibings or parents, accounts ...given in a form that runs counter to their own interpretation and interest. It is often from the point of view of another protagonist's goal that may be ..in conflict w/ their own version of "what happened"...Narrative accounts...are not neutral. They have rhetorical aims...that are...partisan, designed to put the case...convincingly in behalf of a particular interpretation."

This is one explanation for the (inevitable) generation of new stories: that those we hear told (about ourselves, about others) seem to us inadequate, so we are driven/drawn to tell them from another point of view...

Certainly this explains Wiley's script of Huck Finn; as Fishkin tells us, Wiley was incredulous to learn that so many critics have been taken in by Jim's performance of gullibility; from his perspective, the minstrel mask is a strategic role Jim chooses to play out of his own self-interest.

Bruner also argues that stories originate as explications of "deviations from the ordinary." If something is unexceptionable, it doesn't need explaining. But if it's odd, we try to make sense of it by constructing a story that gives "exceptional behavior meaning," that makes "deviation comprehensible."

So: Wiley generated his version of Huck Finn to explain what otherwise made no sense to him.

And so: what new stories does Huck Finn invite-or-provoke you to write? Is there anything in Twain's novel that calls out for explication, anything "odd" that you feel the need to try and explain? And--if nothing strikes you as odd--how do you read that reaction?


humor in action.
Name: Mia
Date: 2003-04-03 23:29:25
Link to this Comment: 5266

The other day we had a guest speaker in Environmental Toxicology. He started his lecture by saying something like: "My friend told me I have two problems: One, that I have an accent, and two, that I'm Jewish." He meant it to be a joke but hardly anyone laughed, and the few who did I think laughed just so he wouldn't feel badly about his joke not being funny. Was it actually not funny or was everyone afraid to laugh at it because of it's context? And are we allowed to laugh at it because the subject in which it is poking fun at thinks its funny? Seems kinda touchy to me.
- I just thought it strange to see what we discussed happen in the real world


driving away from the Mississippi . . . quickly
Name: Mia
Date: 2003-04-03 23:37:33
Link to this Comment: 5267

In one of the readings for the Spike Lee part of looking at Huckleberry Finn was a comment about how there has never been a good movie of the book. Maybe it's not the movies that are bad, but the book itself. I feel that this is the perfect place to stop working though this book because it has lost everything it possibly could have posessed. Over analyzing the characters makes the book lose its charm of the simple light-hearted story of a boy having adventures along the Missisip. Also, although a book is open to any interpretation, I feel that you cannot put thoughts into a character's head. The character is not real and merely a creation and figment of the author's imagination. The character's thoughts and actions are all predetermined and manipulated. If Twain wanted Jim to be stupid, then that is how he is even if we see it today as wrong. Because the characters are imaginary creations, anyone can take them and give them their own thoughts, but that is not the way the book was originally intended. Only Twain has created the original and the way the book is. I'm glad we're moving on.


slow down!
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-04-04 08:51:45
Link to this Comment: 5268

I want to slow down your "quick drive away," Mia, by pushing back a little, questioning both your desire to retain the "simple charm" of Huck Finn and your claim that a book is "predetermined" by its author's intentions. If that's the case--if our engagement w/ the book cannot change it (and/or we cannot be changed by our engagement) then why read? If we "cannot put thoughts into a character's head," then are we really engaging in, entering imaginatively into, the act of reading? Not "making meaning" of our own, but giving all the action, all the agency, over to the writer? I will NOT cede my response to the author's "manipulation"; I claim the right, the freedom, the responsibility, actually, to push back, to revise, to re-write, to re-imagine. And I think Twain is explicitly inviting me to do that, by the limitations of using a first-person narrator. Other thoughts on this?



Name: orah minde
Date: 2003-04-05 10:53:58
Link to this Comment: 5271

i think the only way that art can survive is through reinterpratation. the genious in jackson pollack's work lies in the interpratation of his viewer....it is so amazing how pollack can bring together people, have them look at one canvas, and yet have them all see totally different things. we read Huck Finn and really we are all seeing something different because we are seeing it through the unique lens of our own eyes. each time huck finn is read it is reinterprated to custom fit the individual reading it. you are not going to enjoy anything that you cannot relate to; humans are selfish creatures by nature. if we didn't reinterprate huck to fit our modern day minds then he would be forgotten becuase we wouldn't care about a boy who lived 150years ago.


confederate flag flap
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-04-06 22:34:43
Link to this Comment: 5289

The April 5,2003 Philadelphia Inquirer had an article filling in the details on the saga Nancy was telling us about last week. "In Ga. Confederate flag flap, compromise offered": state lawmakers proposed "an entirely new banner that echoes an old Confederate flag but does not include the divisive Dixie battle emblem."

Shades of South Park!


my humor
Name: Julia
Date: 2003-04-16 19:39:57
Link to this Comment: 5421

I have been thinking for a long time about what I find funny. I am among the ranks of people who will sometimes laugh when someone does something ridiculous, even stupid. I think that my laughing in such situations is a combination of sympathy and joy. The sympathy comes from the frequency with which I do stupid things. I feel for someone who has just fallen down the stairs because I have done the same thing so many times in my life. IÕm not sure that joy is the correct word for the other feeling I get. ItÕs somewhere along the lines of being happy that for once I wasnÕt the one to do something stupid. The humor I see in what other people do stems from all that I do. I am able to laugh at myself for tripping over a chair of falling down the stairs. I am also wrong fairly frequently. I am amused by the efforts people make to cover the fact that they have made a mistake. To summarize, I find that my sense of humor comes from my relation to the experiences of people around me.


Huck Finn and South Park
Name: Phil
Date: 2003-05-14 14:12:34
Link to this Comment: 5662

In putting together my portfolio, I've been thinking about one of the major questions we addressed this semester: should we still be reading these novels today? I came to the conclusion that yes we should, as evidenced by our productive discussions and the relative ease with which we incorporated modern adaptations of each novel into our discussions. I think that the modern interpretation bit worked extremely well with South Park. This satire on racial prejudices is very representative of problems and issues relevant today. Huck Finn, with the aid of South Park, shows us how far we have come as a nation and how rooted in our history we are, which is extremely problematic.


why I didn't post
Name: Kati
Date: 2003-05-14 14:12:52
Link to this Comment: 5663

Huck Finn is the novel where my postings fell by the wayside. While reading it I wasn't even able to come up with words to express my disgust and annoyance. This is the fourth time I have been subjected to this "classic" and every time I read it the process becomes more and more painful. I loved the outside material that the class chose to pair with Huck Finn. I found Spike Lee's Huckleberry Finn absolutely amazing, but when I returned to reading the novel itself I was even mroe dissapointed than before. Mark Twain was an amazingly talented man! Huck Finn begins with high expectations and promising story lines, but deteriorated into mere fantasy and lost or forgotten morals or social commentary. It would have made an excellent short story or maybe even novella. But as a novel, a "classic" even, I find it limitlessly lacking.



Name: Eric Seide
Date: 2003-05-15 03:19:52
Link to this Comment: 5674

I found the Spike Lee's Huckleberry Finn to be very provacative (yeah I think that's the word I want). I started to think about what other books, movies, plays, etc would be like if told from another perspective. Talk about mind blowing. The book that immediately came to mind, for some reason, was Doestoevsky's Crime and Punishment. How different would it be if it was told from any other perspective than Raskolnikov's?



Name: Sebastian
Date: 2003-05-15 12:43:52
Link to this Comment: 5684

I thought Spike Lee's Huck Finn was very interesting. For much the same reasons I enjoyed Ahab's Wife (seeing a story from a different perspective) I enjoyed this reading of Huck Finn. However I don't necessarily agree with it. While it is possible that Jim was really the smart responsible one and he was just trying to teach Huck a lesson throughout it all, it is very unlikely. I mean honestly, who would go through all that trouble and suffering just to teach a lesson? Plus, there would be different easier and maybe more effective methods of getting the same point acrosse without suffering yourself.


Racial Controversy of Huck Finn
Name: Ashton Liv
Date: 2003-08-05 16:55:31
Link to this Comment: 6272

In Huckleberry Finn, slavery seems fixed, permanent, while everything else is transitory. Identities mutate as if in a dream, or nightmare. Huck, who forever picks up and moves on, is a master creator of identities. The same cannot be said of Jim, whose loss of identity as a fugitive slave becomes increasingly pronounced.
Huck and Jim, river and raft. Huck and Jim, floating down the river on their raft. It identifies legendary black-white amity and unbounded, dreamlike freedom with a voyage that takes fugitive slave even further south. Huck describes his harmony with Jim and the natural world, "They light up their pipes, dangle their legs in the water, and talk 'about all kinds of things- we was always naked, day and night, whenever the mosquitos would let us." They shed clothes that symbolize the Grangerfords' civilization. The nakedness of Huck and Jim when they are alone on the raft becomes a symbol of how they have shucked off the unnessary things of the real world, their clothes, and have come as close as possible to the world of the spirit. The implication that skin color ceases to matter when the two are away from civilization. They move beyond color consciousness and see in each other only a color free humanity.


Racial Controversy in Huck Finn
Name: Ashton Liv
Date: 2003-08-05 18:40:11
Link to this Comment: 6273

In the beginning of the book, when the town thought Jim killed Huck, there was a higher reward out for him. This was because he was thought to be a higher threat to society. The situation with Huck and Jim being friends was very controversial at the time also, because it was a slave and a white boy. Huck and Jim, river and raft. Huck and Jim, floating down the river on their raft. It identifies legendary black-white amity and unbounded, dreamlike freedom with a voyage that takes fugitive slave even further south. The river also symbolizes the road to freedom.
Huck describes his harmony with Jim and the natural world, "They light up their pipes, dangle their legs in the water, and talk 'about all kinds of things- we was always naked, day and night, whenever the mosquitos would let us." They shed clothes that symbolize the Grangerfords' civilization. The nakedness of Huck and Jim when they are alone on the raft becomes a symbol of how they have shucked off the
unnessary things of the real world, their clothes, and have come as close as possible to the world of the spirit. The implication that skin color ceases to matter when the two are away from civilization. They move beyond color consciousness and see in each other only a color free humanity.


Thesis Paper
Name: Taylor Wal
Date: 2005-04-15 16:09:17
Link to this Comment: 14600

Ive just finished reading The adventures af Huck Finn in my class and im supposed to write a thesis paper on the book. when i found this site site I read through it and got some helpfull information and i would like to thank everone who posted hear except for the person the was telling to racist jokes, thats not cool at all, there not evan funny. Anyway my thesis has to do with that line in the book in that sentimental talk between Jim and Huck were Jim says " Just because you think somethings right, and everyone else thinks its right, dont make it right." Naturally its about slavery and how Huck experiances it first hand. I really injoyed the book but im not doing so well on my paper anyone out there that can give me some good material or sources?


HF should be taught
Name: Ariel
Date: 2005-05-26 07:08:21
Link to this Comment: 15244

I am actually a high school senior and we are reading Huk FInn in my AP Comp class, and I find nohting wrong with reading this novel in class. Our country is supposed to be moving forward and it's supposed to be an open minded nation. But how can we be all that we are supposed to be, when it seems that our nation keeps moving backwards? Huck FInn was written in the 1830's, before the Civil War even began. More than thirty even, and if you haad any knowledge of Mark Twain, one would know that he is in fact not a racist. He was born to slave owning parents, but on a video that we had recently watched, it was proven that he wasn't, as he had written a letter to a college allowing admittence to a black man he had just met, and even offering to pay a sum of the tuition. Tell me, how can that possibly be qualified for racism?
Mark Twain was not intending for his book to be banned or a controversy. He used the vernacular of the time, and it is not as if he was writing, "You who are reading this, you are the n-word!" SO I fail to understand why people insist on being offended by the book.
Jim was written as an innocent person, excluding the escaping part. The reason why Jim has so many superstitions is because it is all he has known. He grew up as a slave and all he expcted was bad luck, hence his superstitions and child-like behaviour. THere is nothing "wrong" with Jim.


Huck Finn
Name: Daniel
Date: 2005-08-03 14:41:52
Link to this Comment: 15838

Twain’s novel is first and foremost about the evils we do as humans, the crimes against humanity and the mental conscience we have about them. This is shown throughout out the book, as it moves from issue to issue. Sometimes an 'drunk and abusive father', or 'what to do about an escaped slave', or even 'cons imposing as relatives to a dead man'.
All these things are wrong, and Twain is pointing that out. He shows us these things, by examples, and tells us, through Huck's thoughts, that they are problems in society. Huck himself even becomes 'ashamed of the human race' when the cons impost as a mute and take advantage of another's lose.
So is it inappropriate? No, I don't think so. The issues it focuses on are only parts of life that we wish weren't. Nothing more and nothing less.


Huck and Jim
Name: Jzun2
Date: 2005-08-22 22:42:15
Link to this Comment: 15915

How would you describe huck and jim



Name:
Date: 2005-08-22 22:43:01
Link to this Comment: 15916

how would you describe huck and jim
please e mail me my e mail is
Tujjsm28@sbcglobal.net





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