Story of Evolution/Evolution of Stories
Bryn Mawr College
April 17, 2007
papers are due, in hard copy
and on-line, this Friday, 4/20, @ 5 p.m.
- performances will be held on 5/1 & 5/3
- final paper and portfolios are due @
5 p.m. Sat, 5/12 (seniors); 12:30 p.m. Fri, 5/18 (all others)
The "End" of Literary Adaptation?
Emily: Maybe literary adaptations are not useful at all in the long run...
Becky: Smith's perception is that those in the field of academia spend simply too much time and effort devoted to picking apart what should just be left untouched...these academics... attempt to create stories and meaning beyond what is there.
The Beginning of "Making Change"?
"We've seen to the very end..." (last line of Howard's End)
"...intimation of what is to come." (last line of On Beauty)
What we've seen?
Katie: Howard is rebelling against a tradition of viewing art as a story, insisting rather that art is non-narrative....he's proposing a subversive means of viewing art. Darwin, too, challenged the way we think about science, arguing that science is narrative, an ever-changing flux, rather than a fixed scala natura. Just as Darwin made non-narrative science a story, Howard reduces narrative art...into a set of fixed, predictable, and replicatable circumstances....Belsey attempts to do to art what Darwin did to science - inverting the narrativity.
Intimations about the limits of our language use:
Gaby: our way of speaking has gotten much, much too narrow....defining narrativity as positive...and non-narrativity as negative...there is also the idea of a-narrative that we haven't touched on.
Isabelle: how limiting...it is that we have begun classifying everything as narrative or non-narrative...."Life isn't that simple....You can't just lump everything into these two categories and then just deny everything else!"
Caroline: While it can be argued that giving a word multiple meaning through using it in different contexts gives a word more meaning - in a fundamental way the word also loses power. It losses its ability to make a sharp distinction, to be independent.
We've been thinking about the evolution of place:
Shannon: Genus Loci, or "sense of place", defines the profound attributes which give the perception of different sites their character and identity....Howards End...represents a happy location for connection...In comparison, The House of Seven Gables...produces an aura of fear, burden and anxiety to its inhabitants.
Anne: focus...not just on conserving, but on transforming local places....does the city of London have a genus loci? Does Boston?
We've been thinking about the evolution (out?) of religious belief:
Katherine: Smith's novel appears to me, to be much more complex than Forster's....one of the more interesting themes I found in Smith's novel was the role of religion....in a nation where almost anything is possible, is it logical to believe in God?...Howard...is staunchly against religion throughout the novel...as hindering
Tamarinda: Much like the human tail bone or wisdom teeth, it seems that religion has become a vestigial structure, unneccessary for the continuance of human growth and development....my family seems to contribute to the statistic...the true evolution of this development lies with my grandmother....When times were hard, she would pray, because God seemed like the only answer....
As my father and his siblings grew older...God seemed to become a go-to guy....Protestantism allowed...his family to feel no shame when taking credit for their successes and hard work). Over time, my family assimilated into American culture and religion lost the appeal it had once offered....Perhaps, we Latino immigrants have...slowly lost our need to look up.
Current performance @ the Wilma: Bertold Brecht's play, The Life of Galileo
Early thoughts: An On-Line Forum
The Little Monk's speech: My parents...are simple people....They are badly off, but even their misfortunes imply a certain order....There is a regularity about the disasters that befall them....They draw the strength they need...from the feeling of stability and necessity that comes...of listening to the bible passages....They have been assured that God's eye is always on them - probingly, even anxiously -: that the whole drama of the world is constructed around them so that they, the performers, may prove themselves in their greater or lesser roles. What would my people say if I told them that they happen to be on a small knob of stone twisting endlessly through the void round a second-rate star, just one among myriads? What would be the value or necessity then of so much patience, such understanding of their own poverty ? What would be the use of Holy Scripture, which has explained and justified it all?...Have we got to look after ourselves, old, uneducated and worn-out as we are ? The only part anybody has devised for us is this wretched, earthly one, to be played out on a tiny star wholly dependent on others, with nothing revolving round it. Our poverty has no meaning: hunger is no trial of strength...effort is no virtue....Can you see now why I read into the Holy Congregations decree a noble motherly compassion; a vast goodness of soul?
We've been thinking, in general, about thinking:
Gaby: to get many things done in life, you have to ignore your emotions....but if you're in the humanities, your emotions are significant, because they fuel your ideas....but another great element is that you can forget your emotions, which can bog you down, you can create ideas about something that isn't you; you can transcend yourself and the pettiness of your environment....if you're an actor, or a businessman, or a politician, you have to adopt....but if you're an intellectual, you can explore other options....we're not here to criticize intellectuals....i came here...to learn new methods of analysis....
EB: emotion is socially constructed
Megan: Headlong Dance Theater...wants their audience to...somewhere...between a place where you can make perfect sense of what's going on (making a story) and a place where you have no idea what's going on (a feeling).
Karen: Sometimes it's easier to say things you don't mean- things you wouldn't say face to face- online....Is it...a more theoretical side- a side where you can think, and things can maybe pan out, maybe don't?...maybe...person to person interactions...are...just more socially conscious
We've been thinking about the possible evolution (out?) of racial categories:
Lavinia: Smith raises the controversial question: How should one act in accordance with one's race? Should we fit in to the stereotype...what is the stereotype? If we do not, does it mean that we are going against our race and culture?
Malaya: Forster wants people to have the ability to change, but in actuality, feels that no one can really change.... I feel that Smith agrees. She, however, makes her statements about race instead of class...while a black person can acculturate into a predominantly white society, he or she will always be black, and can never escape that....[Smith,] like Forster, is saying that...change is limited by basic original labels that can never be shed....academia sets up social norms, and creates class lines, by one's ability to have access to it....The excess knowledge that wealthier children attain is used against the less wealthy
Hayley: rights are earned but...opportunities are inherited as gifts. When the top 10 % of Americans collect almost half of the total gross income in this country it seems apparent to me that something is not right.
Gaby: It's...not sensible to compare change in race and class. You can potentially move up or down in class, but you can't have white skin if you don't have it.
Danielle: Smith is using this text to illustrate that there are many ways of being, regardless of race, that have more to do with class standing....using race as a signifier of other elements of personhood is inutile....Smith is playing with this idea....when it comes to blackness not much has changed in essence....Smith is...toying with our ideas of identity formation and perception....there is something to be said for the mixed race individual...Kiki's children...inheriting the university, the analytics, and hopefully a bit of the beauty of their parents.
Nancy Vickers: the College must work harder to foster cross-cultural understanding and sensitivity....words and images...carry layers of historic meaning and power....We must find ways to educate ourselves proactively about racial stereotyping, cultural representations and other complex issues of race relations
We've been thinking, in short, about connections between biological and literary evolution:
Christina: I'm kinda maybe beginning to see the connection...a timing thing....I'm still having a hard time saying that literary and biological evolution are exactly the same. I can't see the randomness in literature.... Literature and art are not organisms
Katie: Also maybe a topic thing?....A good orator...draws from...commonplaces to find his topics...stock situations that an orator can elaborate or manipulate to suit his purpose....Smith uses Forster as a source of commonplaces....this is pretty closely tied with biological evolution. Commonplaces are preexisting genes....Invention is a combination of gene expression and gene mutation. The net result of commonplaces and invention, or genes, mutations, and expressions, are works of literature or species of organisms....Because success of literature is limited to cultural reception and species viability limited to environmental factors, and no work or organism can ever be truly perfect, the only hope can, indeed, be to "fail better."
Evan: I am interested in the difference between...literary adaptation...and literary "trends"....what is prevalent and written about...will...come back which goes against scientific evolutionary patterns as traits usually do not come and go.
Elise: Perhaps the mark of a great work of literature is...the ability to withstand the passage of time....In this way, the life cycles of literature are highly evolutionary....ability to generate new ideas, while still remaining viable in its original form.
Jenn:in the act of explaining the difference, more similarities seem to emerge... I think this is a key difference...the process of biological evolution is something that is completely beyond human control....the original evolutionary source...provides the most insight into every adaptation...therefore it is biological evolution that provides the discourse for other types....So then, is the reason why it's hard to articulate the difference between biological and other types of evolution because there is only one discourse...the original...whenever we attempt to distinguish between biological and other types of evolution it is difficult because there is no vocabulary by which we can effectively do so?
So, tell us: what's our resident neurobiologist been thinking?
Have you been learning anything useful from literary studies?
And what are you thinking literary studies might be learning from biology?
What would you say, in short, is the current state of
The Evolution of the Story of Story Telling?
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Tuesday, 17-Apr-2007 11:47:48 EDT