Niki’s Bridge to the Blog 11/14

Today in class we discussed the different elements in African American Criticism, by categorizing them in terms of three branches: Materialist/Ideology, Literary and Critical Race Theory. The following picture is the diagram including all the ideas and concepts we identified as being associated with African American Criticism:

Picture of a white board containing the classroom diagram of African American Criticism

Picture of a white board containing the classroom diagram of African American Criticism

Within these three branches, and the overall diagram, we see that there is definitely an overlap in ideas and terms, but towards the end of class discussion the question was posed, “What other critical theories do you see or recognize in these themes?”  We mentioned several different examples in class, but I found myself really relating African American Criticism to Lesbian, Gay and Queer Criticism based on several terms and ideas.

First of all, much like African American Criticism, LGBTQ criticism can stem from essentialist ideas. For African Americans, the belief is that whites are superior, thus leading to racism or racalist. For LGBTQ, people can either believe that sexuality is determined at birth, biological essentialism, or that it is social constructed. This leads to my next point, that both sexual identity and race are socially constructed.

We discussed in class today how race is a social construction, appropriate gender roles are also constructed in our daily lives by the expectations that we set forth for males and females. As with African Americans, society determines what it means to be African American, and they also create black and white definitions of what it is to be male or female. When it comes to the U.S. Census there is no in-between answers or grey areas for gender identification or sexual orientation, it simply asks male or female, much like in terms of race you are either black or not.  People who do not identify with either of the options society gives to them are left out and made into a minority—this affects African Americans as well as the LGBTQ community. The feeling of being left out can lead to another term shared by the two theories: Internalization. Internalization is the dislike or hatred of oneself based on the way society perceives and (mis)treats those belonging to the minority group. Are there other questions on the Census or other questionaires that only offer black and white answers when there are legitimate grey areas to choose from?

I also think that it is possible to make the argument that Interest Convergence plays a role in the discrimination against the LGBTQ community. I know that when it comes to the subject of same-sex marriage and rights that go along with them, people opposed to same sex-sex marriage argue on the basis of inequality. For example if a couple of gay men adopted a baby, and they both were able to take paternal leave from their jobs, some people have a problem with this because neither man actually birthed the baby—if the couple isn’t legally married, some say that both men do not deserve paternity leave. It could also be said that the point of sex is procreation, and that in the interest of same-sex couples, they are not furthering society’s interest like heterosexual couples do in the form of repopulating the planet. Can anyone think of any other examples?

When analyzing African American Criticism, under the literary branch, we noted that the author has a social role/responsibility to identify racism, celebrate their culture and to protest the mistreatment of others. Could it not be argued that those authors in, or those writing about the LGBTQ community are also driven by this same force?

Another term of African American Criticism, Voice of Color, the idea that people of minority groups have a better way of writing about their own injustices because they have authentic firsthand experience- can be skewed to represent LGBTQ groups, perhaps “Voice of Sexual Identities.” While Tyson says not to discredit LGBTQ works by heterosexuals, I do feel that whatever message or meaning is conveyed in an LGBTQ work would have more of an impact on me if it came from someone who actually experienced the oppression and discrimination themselves. This leads me to my next point about identifying the struggle of the LGBTQ community.

In class we talked about the term “Negritude” which states that families of African Americans all over the world experience the same things. I think that it is quite possible that everyone who considers themselves as a part of the LGBTQ community could argue that they to have this shared feeling among their community in all parts of the world. While I support the LGBTQ community I do not identify myself as someone belonging to this community and for this reason, I do not feel comfortable giving this potential unanimous feeling any specific name without having experienced this feeling myself. If there is anyone out there that does have an idea and would feel comfortable naming this idea, I’d welcome any ideas!

We also mentioned in class the idea of intersectionality in which we define a person by multiple identifying factors, while race may be one sect in which we analyze a person, sexual identity or orientation is another determining factor that should always be taken into consideration in a literary analysis.

This point can be linked to several of the other theories discussed in Tyson’s book. For instance we said that internalization could also be linked to Feminist, Postcolonial and Psychoanalytic Criticisms. Ideology/Hegemony can be linked to Marxist and Postcolonial Criticisms. The social construction of race can arguably be demonstrated in Deconstructionist and New Historical Criticisms. Are there any other connections within African American Criticism that you can link to the other theories that we’ve explored in Tyson’s work? Does anyone have any more connections that I’ve missed in terms of LGBTQ Criticism?

Christina’s Bridge to the Blog

Today in class we talked about common terms found in poetry and two specific poems from Trethewey’s Native Guard, “Photograph: Ice Storm, 1971” and “Myth”. We also briefly talked about the context of the poems and Trethewey’s background with her mother and step-father.  Not knowing Trethewey’s background before reading her poems makes all the difference once you know.  I thought her poems were just about death and sadness but knowing who has been taken by death and the reasons why makes the poems stand-out and have a greater meaning than before. I feel like the meaning found in Trethewey’s poems is significant and produces an imagery that attains to not just senses but emotions and values. One of the main reasons for this is the way Trethewey composes her stanzas.  She uses end-stops (line with good, strong ending that forms a type of closure or pause), enjambement (how the line pushes forward, or continues, to the next line), and caesura (a cut in the line by a strong punctuation).

For example, the first line in “Photograph: Ice Storm, 1971”, “Why the rough edge of beauty? Why” shows enjambement.  Why is repeated twice to have that “why” agony that comes with something not wanted.  This is just one example of the imagery seen that creates a state of uncertain for the reader and a type of anticipation.  What happens next? What’s the difference between the actual and the appearance on top? The reader is the one being asked these questions even though the questions are to the poet, herself.  Having such distinct visuals creates an automatic relationship between the reader and the text/poem. What do you guys think?

The other poem we talked about in class was “Myth”.  I love the mirror aspect to this poem.  There is a huge difference between the interpretation of the first part and the interpretation of the second.  A good example of this is the emphasis of “still trying” compared to “–still, trying–“.  The first still trying is more of something one does regularly, something shown with little thought on emotion; while the second still trying is something that has more emotion and a sense that someone REALLY is trying to hold on and is trying to grasp whatever it is they are trying to reach.  Someone mentioned in class that the second part of “Myth” was out of desperation.  While they may have valid points for that, I feel like the second part has a larger connection with the reader.  I feel like the second part is stronger in a way that shows the emptiness felt in the poet by the death of this person.  The second part is more of a process of closure than desperation.  Death is hard to recover from, especially when it occurs at a young age and is someone who is valuable to you.  The sense of holding on to what was lost seems more appropriate than using the word desperation.  What else do you guys think about the mirror affect of this poem and the meanings between the two parts? Which section do you think has more meaning?

Here’s a picture to not end on such a sad note about death and other sad things 🙂cute-puppies-and-kittens

Claire’s Bridge to the Blog

Today in class, we began our discussion of Natasha Tretheway’s Native Guard with “Photograph: Ice Storm, 1971” and “Myth.” I was disappointed at how little time we had to discuss “Myth,” and thought I’d see if we could continue our discussion here. Right before class ended, I commented on two different ways to interpret the poem, especially the way Tretheway mirrors the text in the second half. We didn’t have a chance to discuss the two readings in class, so let’s do it here!

In the first reading, the use of mirroring can give the reader a sense of despair. The poem begins with the statement “I was asleep while you were dying,” and it ends with the same statement. No matter what else in between the two lines, whatever else Tretheway says in the poem, she ends up exactly where she started, doomed to repeat the cycle of guilt, grief, loss, and re-loss. Another aspect of the poem that supports this reading is the phrase “again and again,” as if Tretheway is recognizing the re-loss of her mother is something that she’ll never escape.

Can we see the mirror aspect as hopeful? I mentioned this at the end of class, and I want to hear what you all think. The grief that we go through when we lose a loved one is incredibly difficult, and varies from person to person. However, we tend to believe we’ll  feel a sense of closure when we “get through” the grief process. Sometimes, you have to get to a low place and get back again in order to experience a sense of peace. It’s necessary to process what happened in order to get out of the low place. Perhaps Tretheway’s mirror construction and the reversal of her words reflects her desire to process her loss and get back a sense of who she is.

This is certainly a pretty optimistic reading of the poem, and there are other aspects of the poem that could be analyzed, such as its word choice and the way the punctuation changes the meaning in the reversed version. I find that both of these seem to support the more hopeless reading of the poem, and this is in fitting with the other poetry in the volume. Tell me which reading you support and why; I might be totally off the mark with the optimist reading!


Kelly’s Bridge to the Blog

We started class doing the thesis workshop which was pretty helpful but not interesting to talk about so I shall quickly move on.

Once that was done it was time to crush the patriarchy with Feminist Criticism. Feminism, which contrary to popular belief is not about women taking over and making men slaves (hatred of men is called misandry), is a very complicated topic with a lot to discuss. Professor Scanlon talked about the different types of feminist critique and the different levels of critique. There is the gynocriticism which mainly deals with how women are objectified in literature and other mediums of pop culture. We also discussed French feminism. French feminism is more concerned with the body and the use of feminine language. Thinking of language as masculine is a little hard to do but try to imagine how many times you were told to man up or to grow a pair. I’ve heard both plenty of times and I’m a cis female. Just those two sayings instill in us that men are strong and independent and to be less than that is like becoming a woman. (and who wants that?) There are many more subtle examples of masculine language. French feminism leads us to l’ecriture feminine(women’s writing). In women’s writing they focus on the sensory experiences of a woman more than a man which leads to plots with more than one climax as oppose to a story whose whole point is to get us to that one moment of intensity then to drop quickly to exposition.

The three main names to know are Cixous, Kristeva, and Irigaray. Irigaray’s idea that women are meant to be men’s mirror and not an individual person is really interesting to me. An idea I thought connected to that theory will is a popular feminist movie test called the Bechdel Test. The test has only three points to show if a movie did a good job handling its female characters. The first requirement is that it has to have at least two [named] women in it. Women are about 50% of the population and all women have names so it is really sad that two named females is the standard we are shooting for. The second is a little harder but it’s basically that two of the women need to talk to each other. Basically, the women need to interact with someone other than men at on point. Again, not a hard qualification at all. The third, and my personal favorite, is that when the women talk their conversation has to be about something other than men. I know, I know, how ridiculous is it that some people think women have ideas and thoughts other than about men? Nonsense! If you are sitting there thinking that this test is ridiculous and unnecessary because there are certain situations where female characters do not fit in and sure that might be some but the situations are rare and not common enough to support the amount of movies that miserably fail this simple test. Think about your favorite movies, do they pass the test? chances are it does not and that’s because media treats women characters as being useful for males.

In idea that we touched on in class is what being a feminist means. Does it mean being strong and powerful or is that just trying to be a man? Is it feminist to want to be a mother and follow traditional gender roles? If feminism is all about celebrating women why does it seem most feminists view overly feminine women as holding them back and supporting the patriarchy? When did feminists begin to hate the feminine? All intense and interesting questions with no real answers. I leave you with a feminist poem that is super amazing and everyone should listen to it.


Julia’s Bridge to the Blog

Lately in class we have been discussing different Tyson theories and how we can use them to interpret different readings. Though today we rid ourselves of Tyson and dove into Passion Play with no tools for analyzing but our minds. Today’s class discussion touched on many topics in a very short amount of time.

We began class Dr. Scanlon asking us to think of words that best described this play. The list of terms were endless; passion, violence, control/power and sacrifice. But the words that were discussed most during our class were the following; evil, authenticity, reality, delusion, responsibility, and scripting verses choice.

To start, the class discussed how different Act 3 was than all the rest. In Act 1&2 the play was portrayed as a more faith based, wholesome creation but we see a dramatic shift in Act 3. The play becomes more of a modern, commercialized production. The professionalization of the production thus changes its realness, reliability and authenticity. Therefore, we able to conclude the changes in eras and what was valued in society.

The next topic of discussion started with picking out certain characters and discussing their function within the play. The first character discussed was Violet. Violet is a character containing many layers; she is a wise women/little girl who in all the Acts represents freedom of choice, reality and new ideas. Though, throughout the play she is seen as mad, a fool and naïve to others, she is one of the only characters who have a health grip on reality. Violet, during parts of the play, mocks the religious aspect exposing the emptiness of religious entities. It is Violet who ultimately predicts that the play will become/ is becoming more of a performance rather than an important religious play. Another character we touched on was P; P represents the evil in society. He plays a homosexual and a cripple, both of which are looked down upon by the “religious” characters of the play. In Act 2 P has an issue with his character playing the hero. He thus proceeds to change his line in the script to take complete responsibility of sentencing Jesus to his death. He is so overcome with guilt that he hallucinates blood on his hands. In this scene alone we see disillusion, script verses choice and responsibility. Other characters, such as Mary, were discussed very briefly and opened the question of delusion and also miracle verses science/magic.

Our class discussion was cut short, in which Dr. Scanlon assured us we would continue on Thursday. It was hard to talk in depth about each character due to time constraints but it left me wondering a few things. Is there a clear line drawn between reality verses play? Or do these themes overlap and intertwine? And is Sarah Ruhl saying it is a good thing to question and change the script? And when would it appropriate to follow the script (blindly or not)? And how influential are characters to one another? Do characters seem to transform over Acts or do they keep the same ideologies throughout?

Karista’s Bridge to the Blog

Earlier in class today we had a long discussion of Deconstructive Criticism and what it entails. First and for most, Deconstructive Criticism is all about the text. It does not have to be a text in a novel, but in anything essentially…even Miley Cyrus who we brought up in class as a very “complicated” signifier. Anything in our world can be turned into text regardless of what it is. It was also mentioned that Deconstructive Criticism is post-structuralist, meaning that language seems to be a chain of signifiers and can be very unreliable. Going on with the whole idea that language is unstable and unreliable, this criticism strongly adheres to that fact that we as human beings are strongly shaped by our own ideologies in our world. An example that was talked about in class today, but also in the Tyson book, was the pioneers discovering the Grand Canyon. These people could not believe how deep it was and the river below, so they sent people down truly believing that they would return. Well not surprisingly to us (but surprising to them), they never returned. Another concept that needs to be mentioned is differance is a combination of deferral, which is that words are truly unreachable and have an almost fake meaning, and difference, which is that one word only has its meaning because of a relationship to another word. Going off of this idea, it brings me to the idea of binary oppositions which is two unstable opposites in which one side seems to be favored more. Lastly, and finally, I want to mention the logocentric idea. This is a Western philosophy that states that there is an ultimate truth no matter what. Well, my favorite part of this discussion is being able to say that is 100% nonsense in the eyes of a Deconstructionist.

Okay so yes there was a lot of ideas and definitions thrown out in class today that have to do with Deconstruction Criticism. But, before I start laying out all of my questions I first want to make clear that even though this theory seems to be very dark and ultimately negative about our world, it is my absolute favorite and I see no problem with it.

I might be a little biased because I really do like this theory, but I am in an introduction to logic class also this semester and I could not help but thinking of this class when we were discussing the logocentric idea. In logic it is said that A is A, and B is B. Well I completely disagree with that and so does Deconstructive Criticism. Am I the only one who thinks this? Let me drive my point home with an example. Lets say that A stands for French fries and B stands for chips. Well if you are in America A is not B, and if you are in England A is not B. This is because of their ideologies. But, my question is do you really think A is not B in this case? Because in America fries are fries, but in England chips are fries right? So, do you agree with me now that our culture is completely based on ideologies and not the actual meaning of a word?

Lastly, do you really believe that this theory is dark just because it states that nothing has originality? Can you think of something, anything, that you might call one word, but another culture calls it something different? If you can do that, then how can you say that our words do not come from our own experiences and beliefs?

Rachel’s Bridge to the Blog

In class, we briefly addressed the idea of authority and authority figures. I noticed that in Alice in Wonderland, authority over situations and over Alice, herself, switches very often between characters. When looking closer, I realized that there is a rather consistent pattern.

Whenever Alice is in the presence of other characters (no matter who they are or how intelligent they seem to be), she immediately looks to them for guidance, and gives them authority over the situation, as well as authority over her. In certain situations, it does not even take another character for Alice to transfer authority away from herself. For example, when she encounters the bottle with the label that says “‘DRINK ME,’” Alice is very eager to give the authority to the bottle, so to speak, and follow its instructions (she does so without much thought) (Carrol 10). Similarly, when the Rabbit mistakes her for Mary Ann and orders her to go back to the house to fetch gloves for him, “Alice was so much frightened that she ran off at once in the direction it pointed to, without trying to explain the mistake that it had made,” which reveals Alice’s strict habit of listening to authority figures, even though she is the one who allows these figures to have authority over her in the first place; why else would she feel obliged follow orders given to her by a rabbit? (26). Such situations arise with most of the other characters with which Alice interacts (so far, these characters include the mouse, the caterpillar, the pigeon, the Footman, the Duchess, and the Cheshire Cat).

On the other hand, Alice seems to be quite uncomfortable when she is on her own and forced to make her own decisions. This is made especially clear when she says, “‘I do wish they would put their heads down! I am so very tired of being alone here!” (16) Notably, this feeling of uncertainty would seem to be a natural instinct for a little girl who is very lost, so in most cases, such fear would not seem be worthy of discussion. However, the way she copes with this fear makes it appear that, when she is alone and finally forced to make her own decisions, she does not simply make the decisions and act upon them, as a normal person would. Rather, she seems to actively transfer the authority over her and the situation in which she is (usually authority that is controlled by somebody else) from the absent authority figures to herself in such a way that it seems as though there is a part of Alice that is in charge, and a part of Alice that is following Alice-in-charge’s orders. This is clear when she talks to herself: “She generally gave herself very good advice (though she very seldom followed it)” (12). She seems to adopt so much authority over herself that she even disciplines herself when she believes that she has misbehaved, such as the times when “she scolded herself so severely as to bring tears into her eyes; and once she remembered trying to box her own ears for having cheated herself in a game” (12). The situations in which she looks to herself for guidance occur very frequently within the text.

This vein of thought could get pretty interesting when psychoanalytically reading Alice’s double personality (is she transferring her parents’ roles onto herself and other characters in the story for some unexplored reason?), but do you think that it could also just be her subconscious’s final resort at attempting to find an authority figure in herself (or a portion of herself) when a reliable external one isn’t present?

Adrienne’s Bridge to the Blog: Queer criticism

Today in class we discussed the multifaceted (and often quite confusing) world of Queer terminology and criticism. We touched on things like camp, compulsory heterosexuality, identity politics, and the difference between sex and gender. Within the last is the difference between gender, and gender presentation or expression. Lastly we touched on the “coming out narrative” the many LGBT* youths experience today, and the signifiers that make it easier for others within the community to identify each other. Although I brought the subject up briefly during discussion, I didn’t feel like it got the play time it deserved.

Gender expression is the social ways one shows masculinity or femininity. A significant marker for gender expression in our society is for women to have long hair. The issue of hair is actually kind of near to my heart as I have none by choice. I am a self identified feminine woman so my choice of this facet of my gender expression is an unusual choice. I have my good reasons for shaving it originally, but I have since been shaving my head simply because I like to. It is remarkably less work, cooler in the summer, and the style just looks good. That being said, I am frequently misgendered (mistaken as a boy) in public spaces. When I first shaved, I worked hard to be extra femme so no one would make that mistake. I have had that problem before and it stinks to be misgendered when you aren’t used to a new haircut.

to help with the concept of gender and misgendering, here is a link to stuff about sexuality and gender and sex and the difference. It talks about a lot of col things I’m not discussing too.

There are many other ways that dress and personal grooming can be specifically gendered. As we discussed in class, touching of the hair is often considered to be a feminine gesture, while certain movements of the shoulder while walking are considered masculine. I’m not really sure why these gender norms are a thing, but I would think it’s to help us bash our bits together without the confusion of androgyny. Has this blog post turned into a rant about queer things? maybe. I don’t mind. Identity politics are what happens when who you are and the way you express that get on the news (an over simplification but I think it works). Also the coming out narrative is interesting especially in books by queer authors about their own experiences (I actually just realized that I’ve never read such a book). There aren’t that many out there; and those that are, aren’t youth cannon. What does that mean? Why might LGBT* books get published or publicized?



Nicole’s Bridge to the Blog – Gay, Lesbian, & Queer Criticism

In class we discussed the different binaries of GL&Q criticism. We discussed the meanings and uses of Essentialist vs. Constructionalist perspectives. Essentialist is “nature” one is born a certain way with a specific sexuality and gender role, whereas constructionalist is “nurture” claiming that society forms sexuality and gender roles.  This leads into gender vs sex, gender being largely cultural and fluid and sex being physical and set.

Marketing reinforces societal beliefs of gender/sex and gender roles. My small group discussed the effects of toy marketing for children in particular at length. Walking down Toys-R-Us one can’t help but notice the division of “girls” toys and “boys” toys – even the recently girl-including “boy toys” have been changed so that girl’s nerf guns are hot pink, or pink camo. Which clearly magically transforms it into a “girl toy”.


As to the Great Gatsby we thought that while some of it was enlightening – such as the women defined-woman – using GL&Q theory to understand the meaning of the work was irreverent to the text and was too forced. Jordan and Daisy very easily fell under women defined-woman in that they seem to spend a good deal of time together and operate as (the strongest) support for each other. We thought it was interesting how, and here we thought more in queer theory, of how this related to all of us. We’re all very close to girlfriend(s) who serve as primary emotional support despite our own sexual preferences, and many boys are very close (here we discussed “bros”) also independent of sexuality. Saying that Jordan was possibly queer however seemed a little far given the evidence. This was the same way we felt about the interpretations casting of Gatsby as possibly gay. The main reasoning of his alleged homosexuality seemed to be that he is well groomed and wore pink. However we discussed how neither should be considered markers of homosexuality. Gatsby is a successful self-made business man most of which are well groomed (no one wants to do business with someone who looks unprofessional, its not a safe investment). Furthermore at the time pink was not considered feminine, in fact at the time the book was written it was considered masculine.

Did anyone agree with Tyson’s analysis? Why/Why not?

What other ways does the media reinforce gender roles and stereotypes?

Any thoughts on the queer continuum?

Jake’s Bridge to the Blog 9/12

Today we covered Marxist criticism. Marxist criticism is focused far on more on the basic social and economic impact of a work. They judge a work by its reflection of the society in which the work was created. Also they judge a work buy is economic impact, meaning how many people buy or “consume” the work and by whither or not the work proms people to buy something else.

One of the two aspects that we covered in class is the fear that ideology raise in Marxists. An ideology is “visionary theorizing”. For Marxists and ideology is threatening because it makes things “seem normal and natural”. Also ideologies are powerful and invisible, they can define and motivate and even structure a society without most of the society being aware of them or rather acknowledging their existence. This creates some other problems for Marxists because schools, family, art and the media are the primary ways that ideologies deceminate (spread or disperse, especially pertaining to information). Also in Marxist theory the material world; work, product, and money, make art and religion possible. Thus as these are products of work their value can be measured similarly to how work is valued.

Personally I found the idea of faults consciousness (an ideal that has failed but does not go away) to be most interesting. It begs the question of what failed ideal we still hold on to as Americans. Or if ideals ever truly die? Do they only recede into the collective social unconsciousness? They can certainly be drivers of society when they are present. Is it worth seeking them out and banishing them into their true grave? What effect would that have on our society? Would it make it better or worse?
Another point that I found interesting in the discussion during class what the idea of “Supreme Fiction”, that there is not real order in the world and that we only create order in our minds and project it into our vision of the world so as to enable us to function. I disagree with this idea on a fundamental level. The world is, in contrast to this theory, rather orderly. In-fact there are patterns in everything and can be seen everywhere we look. These patterns are not only in our imagination. Now this is not really a part of literary criticism and belongs in a philosophy or biology class but if anyone else has something to say about this or to add to it, lets make a new post and discuss it.