Big Books (Finale) Forum
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Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-04-28 13:17:23
Link to this Comment: 5531
Here's the place for your final comments on "Big Books of American Literature." What did you learn in all your reading and writing and all our talking together this semester? (One way to answer this question might be to post a portion of the paper you wrote which wrestles most w/ the questions which most interest you; another would be to share w/ the group a portion of your final self-evaluation.)
Thanks to all for coming! I've enjoyed our shared journey, and you taught me a lot.
|my "big books" experience|
Name: Nicole Mar
Date: 2003-04-29 19:16:36
Link to this Comment: 5570
The course prospectus: for English 207: Big Books of American Literature
Gender, Race And Class Explored....[Exploding???]reads:
" In this course we will (re-?) turn to the grand old mid-19th-century American literature narratives, (re-?) reading them through the lenses of contemporary theory and contemporary culture, which focus so insistently on the intersections of the four identity categories we use these days as shorthand (and use so insistently to shortchange). As we work our way through a number of the big books written between 1845-1865 (we will select several from among Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin & Melville's Moby Dick, Douglass's Narrative & Twain's Huckleberry Finn, Jacobs' Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl & Alcott's Little Women, Davis's Life in the Iron Mills & Thoreau's Walden; we could also look at Whitman's Leaves of Grass & Dickinson's Collected Poetry), we will think together about what cultural work these big books perform, and what their current value might be for us all."
Current value. I think that determining the current value of America's "treasured" big books was what English 207 was all about. For me, it was hard to emerge from the mindset of " that was just the way it was back then" and come to a critical place in which I could wonder "but what it that happened today?" and "what impact did the past have on me in the future?" It was of great value for me to integrate the ways in which I think about the world around me and its past. I had never thought to question why the world works the way it does – I just have always went with it. But now – I feel that I can question the oppression of others based upon race, class and gender and analyze the ways in which past oppression has effected me – an Hispanic, woman of a lower-to middle class background. Because the past has undoubtedly effected people like me!
Most importantly, my "big books' experience taught me how to talk for the sake of others hearing what I have to say and not to just please the professor. I learned to REALLY listen to the ideas of others and realized that people in the bi-co are really pretty brilliant. I was constantly amazed by the depth of all the comments and criticisms the class made. At times I felt dwarfed in their intellectualism, but overall I felt honored to hear their theories, opinions and theories. I learn that I didn't have to agree with a point for it to be a valid one (who knew!). I learned that these "old books" really did have something to offer me beside the pride of reading them. I learned that college is not all note taking and lectures and that an in depth conversation in a classroom setting can be just as rewarding as formal seminar.
I learned to not be afraid to play. Guess I am now ready for the games of the real world.
Date: 2003-04-29 20:57:50
Link to this Comment: 5574
Allen Ginsberg recognizes this seeking for companionship within Whitman's words and speaks back through time to him. In Ginsberg's poem 'Supermarket in California' he speaks to Whitman, "Will we walk all night through solitary streets? / The trees add shade to shade, lights out in the houses, / we'll both be lonely." It is this dialogue that we study in 'Big Books in American Literature.' There is a dialogue that occurs over time in each of the books from the canon. Whitman writes, "What is it between us? / What is the count of the scores or hundreds of years between / us? / Whatever is it, it avails not- distance avails not, and place avails / not..." (Whitman's 'Crossing Brookline Ferry') This is the underlying question in this course. We ask whether a book should continue being read in high school classes or in college classes. By asking these questions we are asking if the dialogue over centuries is still alive. Do Mark Twain and Harriett Beecher Stowe still speak to us? And do we have anything to say to them?
personally, i don't think i have ever thought so much in a class. i think this is because we were given freedom to play, freedom to think about what interests us. this is a gift very rarely given, i think.
finally i will leave you with a salinger line that i quote way too often but it seems appropriot again:
'the catcher in the rye' ends with this line: "Don't ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody."
i have sprawled my mind here at serendip. and now you who listen to me are no longer going to be listening. you will leave. i knew you would. if anything that is what i've learned in this class. but, what i have also learned is that despite the fact that everyone leaves humans keep loving each other, we keep telling each other, even though we know the great pain of being torn away from people we love. no pain can counteract this great, great goodness. NOTHING can stop people from loving.
|thanks Ian McEwan...|
Date: 2003-04-29 21:38:47
Link to this Comment: 5575
Tonight I went to hear Ian McEwan read aloud from his novel Atonement, and although I don't believe in fate, it has led me to the Big Books conclusion I would have been lacking had things not fallen so nicely into place. I picked the novel up last week in Barnes and Noble, having heard nothing of it and not knowing the author was coming to Bryn Mawr. Of course, since I am loving the book, I went to the reading and was struck by a sentiment I don't think we have explored linguistically as of yet- responding to an audience question about how McEwan has learned to analyze his own works, he told an anecdote of meeting EM Forster (author of Passage to India) and, having pondered the symbolism of a recurring wasp in the novel and, naturally attributing great importance to insect, McEwan was a little deflated to find out that the wasp had been placed by mere coincidence, little more than accidentally. To this, and to the audience question, he responded in his British accent, "It's not enough to write a book, you have to get out there and tell people what you meant." With all due respect, and as a final nod to our success in this course, I disagree wholeheartedly. I have never won the Booker Prize, never travelled to foreign countries or pitted young lovers against the turmoil of World War Two, but I recognize the beauty of the imagined importance of that wasp. I am saddened, as McEwan probably was, over the discovery of the truth, and I wonder what tales he could have spun from that belief, had the author never "gotten out there to explain himself"... what words he would have chosen to continue its flight, long after the novel's end? Even if the story only remained in McEwan's mind, has the world been cheated out of that story?
Like I said, I had no idea, as i stared blankly at the empty posting screen, how i would sum up our experiences, how, from the inside, I could ever be able to offer a fair critique of our progress, but now i feel certain in our sucess. We have spun innumerable stories; we have taken the words of these authors, and, whether we liked their words or not, cycled them in our minds and imparted a sentiment tinged with our own colorations of self into the world and each others minds.
I do wish, especially now, that we would have been made to post our papers online, to share our stories and thoughts as we shared those of Stowe, Alcott, and Whitman, to continue the cycle of provoking newness. thanks everyone, it has been an enlightening experience.
|the moral life|
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-04-30 14:29:41
Link to this Comment: 5580
Like Nancy, I attended McEwan's reading, as well as a marvelous session beforehand, when he spoke informally w/ students in a contemporary fiction course. Something he said made me think "ah, this is why we read":
He told us that the chief way Briony (the protagonist of his novel Atonement) atones for her mistake is to enter into--and render fictionally--the mind of the man she has wronged. (And the
chief index that her mistake is unforgiveable is the failure of his "generous mind" to encompass hers in return.)
According to McEwan, novels facilitate the moral life by inviting us into the minds of others not ourselves, by getting us to "think their thoughts." (In the last text discussed in the Language Group, "The Theory of Reading," Wolfgang Iser plays out a very similar idea.)
|obrein and mcewan|
Date: 2003-04-30 14:47:39
Link to this Comment: 5582
a little something about entering each other's minds:
this semester i read 'the things they carried' by tim obrien and went to see him speak at the haverford school. at the end of the novel obrien talks about a little girl he knew when he was in the first grade. the little girl dies of some kind of brain tumor; obrien says, 'in the story i can steal her soul....and will her alive.' i think what a reader does is he goes into the brain of the writer (as mcewan says) and you take his characters and bring them back into your own mind. i don't think the characters in novels belong to their creators. in 'the things they carried' obrein speaks to the little girl about what it is like being dead. she says, "(when i'm dead) its like...i don't know, i guess its like being indside a book that nobody's reading."
one more thing obrien says:
"the thing about a story is that you dream it as you tell it, hoping that others might then dream along with you, and in this way memory and imagination and language combine to make spirits in the head."
|the final final comment|
Date: 2003-04-30 17:50:47
Link to this Comment: 5584
I know my last posting seemed like it would actually be my last posting, but i wanted to share one more thing: I just ordered a novel from Amazon.com called 'The Last Girls' by Lee Smith. I wish we could have had it for the modernization of Huck Finn, it is perfect. I'll put the blurb about it--
In the brisk and readable The Last Girls, acclaimed Southern writer Lee Smith reunites four college suitemates on a boat tour of the mighty Mississippi. Thirty-five years before, inspired by reading Twain's Huckleberry Finn in class (a detail not nearly revisited enough), the women floated down the same river on a manmade raft; now they are gathered at the request of their recently deceased ringleader's husband. The story unfolds through the eyes of each woman as the old friends weave college memories with their own dramas spanning the three decades since graduation. Harriet, Courtney, Catherine, and Anna come through muddily compared to their dead friend Baby. Even in death, Baby, a Sylvia Plath-like creature with voracious appetites for poetry, self-mutilation, and sex, nearly overwhelms her more reticent friends with past behaviors better suited to a mental institution than a dorm room. As the tour boat bobs along in the wake of these women's emotional crises, Smith offers up the contemporary female life experience, fivefold. At its heart, this is a book about how we never quite outgrow the past, even after plenty of chances to do otherwise.
|Still resisting change...|
Date: 2003-04-30 19:52:49
Link to this Comment: 5590
I'm not sure that I've changed all that much over the course of the semester. I'm still far more comfortable writing my thoughts than speaking in class. I have trouble catching one of the ideas floating through my head and putting it into words that other people would understand. I guess I really do resist change when I don't feel ready for it. I tried writing papers claiming the I that we discussed in the beginning. In the end I found that the I works in journal forms but not for papers when I am writing. It is another change I have trouble making.
In the reading this semester I have seen that I can frequently pull something relevant to my life from a book written over a hundred years ago. I have also been fascinated by the modern texts that are based on the older narratives or sets of ideas presented in the books of the American canon.
Date: 2003-05-01 12:45:57
Link to this Comment: 5599
i think the greatest challenge in this course for me was not being able to relate to the works we read. because of the distance, i found myself less engaging with discussion in class and on the forum as well. because i am so distance from the text that i also found myself struggling with writing papers. nevertheless, i do think that we should and continue to read and learn about 19th century american literature simply because i believe in the benifit, the value, the impact, of reading on us as human being.
Name: Samantha D
Date: 2003-05-02 15:33:43
Link to this Comment: 5604
First thing's first: This class was absolutely the greatest experience I have had in an academic setting. I was a bit doubtful in the beginning about all of the freedom we were given, and worried that I was missing out on the "instruction" I've recieved in all my other classes. However, I think that I recieved the same instruction in different doses. Alot of the things I learned were articultated by my classmates...and sometimes myself. This was definitely the first time I have not walked into a classroom with the expectation that I would take extremely copious notes, and then regurgitate them in weekly exams.
Throughout this course, the same question repeatedly came up: Should we still be reading these books? With the exception of the Scarlet Letter, my answer is absolutely. I think even though we didn't ENJOY them all we did LEARN from them, and it seems like that is more important. I think that the explanation "These books are outdated and too hard to relate to" is a really incomplete way to think about them. I caught myself using it, I'll admit it, but I think its just an easy way to justify not really getting, or liking one of the "great books." So I guess our time really was well spent. Originally, I signed up for this class because I thought it was important to read these books, but knew I would never do it in any other setting, but I'm really glad I did, because I think the books we read sort of altered the way I'll read all books. Recently I read The Red Tent, and all I could think about was how much it related to the Awakening.
Finally, I just wanted to say thanks to everyoen, and wish you tremendous luck for next year.
Date: 2003-05-02 20:38:24
Link to this Comment: 5607
I definitely felt as Sam did in this class... it was a unique experience for me. I was able to take values from these great books (except The Awakening, that book still frustrates me), and connect them to values that obviously live on today. I found myself getting excited to read the books, even ones I had read before, because I was understanding it all differently. Instead of a professor telling students what the books were about and that they were important (no questions asked), we all were allowed to disocver it on our own, which I think was much more beneficial. I was left a little lost without grades to guide me through the class, I won't deny that, but I think a lot of that was due to the way school has been for me. It was a good lesson on how dependent I had become on a professor's grade. Overall, I'm very glad I took this class and would encourage others to take it.
Name: Margaret R
Date: 2003-05-03 11:37:49
Link to this Comment: 5608
"Big Books In American Literature"- a mouthful to say, and quite a bit of baggage behind the title too. This is why I decided I would take the class; to brave all that is behind the title. I felt as though I needed to read the books that fit into that category because, maybe then, I may be able to seem more intellectual and well read. I am laughing at myself now, not that I am horribly embarrased at my former thought, but that it is so far off from the experiences in the class that are now important to me, and what I truly learned from class.
I did grow as an individual by taking this "mouthful" of a class. It did, in fact, help to awaken myself to who I am in right now. We spoke in class about "finding oneself" and this class did reveal little bits of my identity to me. The readings and discussions helped to uncover ideals, and ideas, that I had buried within, and behind the title of the class, lurking in those "big books." I accepted the challenge of trying to get all I could out of the books, and I felt as though I did make them my own.
Why? Well, the books revealed parts of myself, and therefore they seemed relevant today, what I would now validate as a classic novel.I applied this literature to life, and it made me question myself. So, I took a lot from the title of this course, because the big books in American liturature were transposed into big ideas in Margaret's life.
Date: 2003-05-06 17:47:04
Link to this Comment: 5627
Like lots of other people, I took the class because I thought I should read the 'big books'. But I was lucky enough to have taken a class with Anne before, so I expected the teaching style. These books, whether I personally liked all of them or not, are classics for a reason. And I am sure that just reading them on our own (or in a lecture class where the professor told us what to learn) would have contributed to our growth - intellectually, emotionally, etc. But to experience these books by seeing how they were important to us, how they still related to our own lives, how they related to the world in general, how we felt about them, how our classmates felt about them, what other people throughout the century had thought about them... this is the way to really learn from these books. It opened up tons of ideas and interpretations and feelings about the books that we never would have gotten in another setting. Being allowed to experience the books in our own ways, and then experience them through other essays and our classmates' thoughts made reading them that much better. It also helped me learn how to read other books in the same contexts that we read these 'big' ones. Most especially, being able to ask the question 'should we even be reading this book?' really personalizes the reading and gives us more legitimacy over how we feel/think about the book.
|What have I learned?|
Date: 2003-05-08 16:14:09
Link to this Comment: 5636
This is the second half of my introduction to my portfolio:
I believe this class was a very good experience for me, as it forced me to do work just for the enjoyment of it and to take more responsibility for my writing that I ever have before. I have to admit that the fact that our papers were not graded was slightly angst-producing for me, as I am an admitted perfectionist and concerned about doing the best I can possibly do. Not having the grading system to tell me what was "better" forced me to work on my writing without an outline of "do this, this and this and it will be better." I like the trust placed on the students, especially relating to the timing and completion of written work. The scheduling-your-own-papers concept worked very well for me, as I am fairly organized and can work well with deadlines.
The actual running of the class was successful most of the time, although there were definitely classes where I felt as if it was not working. The book that I wish we had spent more time with was Moby-Dick, as we only brushed upon so many of its intricacies. The last comment I would make about the class may be impractical, but I really would have preferred it to have the class limited to 15 students. It really struck me this semester, after having my College Seminar first semester with 10 students and Methods of Literary Study with 14 students, that the addition of 5 or 10 students can have a big impact on the class itself. Although a lot of our conversations were very personal and intimate, I never really got the feeling that our class made a cohesive group.
I am very happy that I took a class on American Literature, as I will most definitely use my knowledge in future studies, and am glad that I didn't take a traditional approach to these texts. By integrating both traditional and non-traditional methods of literary criticism, I discover the methods, or combinations thereof, that best suits my interests and talents.
|I'm bad at posting|
Date: 2003-05-10 14:43:30
Link to this Comment: 5646
I'm a deliquent "poster" - That is something I definitely learned in this class this semester - though by far not the most important. I had not read most of the books this class was considering when I sat in on the first day and I thought I should so I signed up. As a result I have learned to question even more so what is presented to me as "fine works" of literature. Not that I found any of the books we read severely wanting (except maybe Uncle Tom's Cabin - though I can even see the merits of that book)I just had never thought much about questioning what is already considered a classic. What should go in the canon? yeah - I'd given that some thought - but "what should come out of the canon?" - never crossed my mind. I also have not read much American Lit in the past four years and it was nice to become reacquainted with our literary roots.
Finally, I think the most important thing I learned - and it was a struggle, and I'm not sure I learned it in time for anyone in the class to notice - was to hold off once in a while. I hate silence in a classroom - but sitting through Big Books with all of you this semester and learning alot, perhaps the most, from those who spoke the least, I came to realize that it is far better to sit in silence and mull over one's thoughts then try to fill up empty air.
I learned a lot from all of you - thanks.
Date: 2003-05-10 22:14:00
Link to this Comment: 5647
I'm amazed at how much ground we have covered in this semester. Even though we seem to have read each book insufficiently (is there such a word?), I think we covered a tremendous amount of ground. There was a great deal of discussion, wonderful, original ideas, and great ingenuity in producing our own small plays. I'm glad we all came together after separating for Moby Dick and The Scarlet Letter. I think that is when the class took off, and I believe I even learned everybody's name. Yes, Big Books should be taught, particularly in college. I can't imagine telling such politically incorrect jokes in high school. After going through many English classes and producing some rather stilted papers, I felt I could really take some chances in writing for this class. I loved the books and the period in which they were written, and if I ever get the chance at Bryn Mawr, I hope to reread them, although it won't be nearly as much fun.Hope everybody, including our pilot, has a wonderful summer.bar
Date: 2003-05-13 19:24:31
Link to this Comment: 5655
"Big Books" has been a very good experience for me. I came into the class slightly scarred from my freshman writing class and looking to fulfill a humanities requirement. After completing the class, I feel much more self-motivated and also confident that I have learned a lot about my writing and myself. I think that the most important thing I have learned from this class is that in order to get something out of a book, you have to read it and interpret it in a way that applies to your life. If you try to read a mid-nineteenth century book at face value, it's not going to be nearly as beneficial as if you take a part of the book and work with it until you find how it can be current and applicable to a college, twenty-first century life. Thanks to everyone for a great semester.
Date: 2003-05-13 19:56:40
Link to this Comment: 5656
The types of literature that we have read this semester has been wonderful. These novels have brought up many good questions and interesting discussions. I feel as though I have really gotten something out of this class. I have learned a new way to look at texts and seen many different ways that people read texts. The ways that ideas can get lost through texts and the way that unique ideas are spurred from the texts. I have learned a lot about my fellow class mates as well as myself and hve truly enjoyeed the experience.
Date: 2003-05-14 14:30:09
Link to this Comment: 5667
In our discussion throughout the semester, we consistently ended up on a similar question: should we study these novels? To me, it was quite clear that we should, considering we did a superlative job of relating them to modern issues, movies, television, music, and novels. In my opinion, it becomes more difficult to relate to novels written during the 1800s as our society becomes farther and farther removed from that time period. However, that does not mean that their study is not beneficial, just more difficult. As we learned this semester, the themes and issues dealt with in these novels are still present and relevant today.
I really enjoyed this class; the discussions, the material, the struture. I'm very glad to have taken it.
Name: Eric Seide
Date: 2003-05-15 00:20:27
Link to this Comment: 5673
I learned how important it is to participate in class. In the past I have been content to let my classmates and professor do most of the talking, but I found that I interacted so much better with the text by making an active attempt to understand it. Getting to know my classmates was a great experience that I will forever cherish. Thanks for a great semester.
Date: 2003-05-15 18:05:22
Link to this Comment: 5690
The thing I enjoyed most (and got the most out of) with this class is the unique approach we took to absorbing and dissecting the books we read. I also found the freeform requirements of our paper writing to be unique and refreshing, although difficult to work with. I felt that I really began to look at things from a different perspective opening my eyes and mind to things I had not even considered before. I also feel that I made great progress in my readings of books and analysis of them. Instead of just skimming the surface and working with the most obvious themese I began to delve deeper into the text and instead of just accepting what the authors were trying to say (or what is commonly accepted that the author was saying) I challenged it and formed my own ideas about things. This, I feel, was the most valuable ability I gleaned from this class, the ability to not let other ideas be forced upon me but instead to attack and create my own thoughts. It has been fun.
|Big Readers in Big Books|
Date: 2003-05-15 21:30:35
Link to this Comment: 5693
In the beginning of the semester, when I thought of my role in the classroom as a drop of ink in a pen, I had a specific purpose in mind for that pen. I wanted the pen to write down new and interesting ideas concerning "Big Books", ask questions, and attempt a revision of the canon or "Big Books". For the most part, I feel that we, as a class, covered a lot of ground and dealt with incredibly interesting issues. I enjoyed the honesty and openness of discussion and the range of feelings and ideas concerning the books. I loved how we could go around the room and everyone could come up with a different thought or feeling about a particular book, all of them different, yet all valid. In this class I really began to understand the importance of my classmates. A drop of ink has no purpose, but many drops of ink in a well defined pen, can do a whole lot. Sorry if this is completely cheesy. Lastly, I want to thank you everyone. The "big books" are nothing without readers who can continually re-interpret and re-apply them to our everyday lives. Have a great summer, everyone :)
Name: Monica Loc
Date: 2003-05-16 10:13:51
Link to this Comment: 5699
I am pleased with the way the course went this semester. Like many of my classmates, I wanted to study big books of american literature because it was an opportunity to read the classic books. I feel that by reading these texts and analyzing them that I have learnt more in a semester than I would have learned in any other class. These big books have been an enjoyable read and it is no wonder why they are called the classics. Our readings raised so many interesting questions, thoughts and ideas and I feel that was the beginning f our learning experience in this course. These classics do not only serve as our key to the past but a foundation for a better future in writing.
Date: 2003-05-16 12:20:49
Link to this Comment: 5704
I have learned knew ways to look at texts and to read from this class. I really would have liked to spent more time on Moby Dick. Other than that I have no complaints and know that throughout this semester I have learned how to better express myself.
At the beginning of the semester I was so afraid to speak in front of the class. Although I still get nervous occasionaly, I am not half as hesitant as I was at the beginning of this semester. This class has been more than just an accademic experience for me it has been a personal one in which I have begun to figure out who it is that I am and what it is that I believe in.
|many steps forward|
Name: Taka Kawan
Date: 2003-05-16 16:28:37
Link to this Comment: 5717
This is from the preface of my portfolio:
Since I came to the States only a year ago, I was simply interested in learning more about the complexity of this country; race, class, and religion that I have never discussed in depths while living in Japan. Therefore, my initial intent on taking this course was to "obtain" or "receive" information about the American society through reading the classic literatures which "should've been" read by American citizens. However, this notion has changed during the first few weeks due to the nature of this course that, I cannot be just a passive recipient of the information; I had to be the active sender of information as well. At first, I was anxious about the "relevance" of my non-American perspectives when we are talking about the issues regarding American society. Gradually, this anxiety resolved as I followed the course requirements, which we assessed individual perspectives in the classroom, on paper project, and on the web forum, and I started to reflect this process as my participation into the American society. As long as I remained as a passive recipient, I would always remain as a mere "guest" from a foreign country, and thus it was important to be actively think and act in order to position myself in this society.
Each participant's role was to provide his/her perspective and supplement information to the class, and those of mine was classified as "male" "Japanese" and "scientific" ones. I don't know how well I have conveyed my thoughts but I did what I could. Looking back each time period throughout the course, each paper served as an effective tool for organizing my thoughts at the time, and now I am making connection with each other. I started from defining/positioning myself in the course as well as the society, and I eventually started imposing question on its system. With a little self-praising, it was a big development as for my attitude toward this society; in order to participate, we must actively express whatever they have to other member of the society, and we are then allowed to become member while there is capacity for them to reside. This should have been the traditional beauty of this country and its people during the long history of immigration, and hope them to retain that notion so that they can truly "lead" the discussion of a large classroom amongst other classmates of the world.
I had a great time in this course. Thanks everyone, and hope to see you again sometime!
Name: Gene E.
Date: 2004-10-06 16:39:57
Link to this Comment: 11033
A few weeks ago I upgraded to Finale 5. After opening the program, in about 10 minutes, it slows dramatically, by a factor of 10 or so. It doesn’t make any difference whether I’m performing an operation or the program is sitting idle, it still slows down to a crawl, taking ten minutes to simple safe and close the program. I usually opt to simple turn off the computer and re-boot. There are no there programs running. I don’t have this problem with any of my other “high-end”, memory -intensive programs. I did not have this problem with Finale 4. Any suggestions?
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