Anglo-Saxon + Norman French = English……American English + Dominican Spanish = ?????

In this week’s reading, we read an Excerpt from The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Oscar Wao is an example of the New Englishes-that is a global trend where English is combined with another local language. In reading Oscar Wao, I better understood the concept of the New Englishes. Oscar Wao is mainly in English but Spanish words are sprinkled throughout. I am a fluent speaker of Spanish but was surprised when I came across many words in Oscar Wao that I did not understand. These were words that although they were Spanish, belonged to Dominican Spanish. This really highlighted the fact that the New Englishes are the first step towards the development of entirely new languages.
As this is the last blog entry of the year, it made me think of the begining of our course when we studied the ENlgightenment. The Enlightnment saw the development of dictionaries of the European languages, it also laid the groundwork for European domination of the world. These dictionaries and European colonialism, it can be argued halted the development of new languages as regional dialects and variations of languages were removed through the use of dictionaries and European languages. I believe that with the development end of colonialism and the increased immigration from the third world to the developed world, we are seeing a return to a pre-Enlightenment development of language, that is one where languages are constantly mixing and evolving to form new languages.

Forget Okonkwo, be like Nwoye

For this weeks reading, we read Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. I was very intrigued by the relationship between Okonkwo and his son Nwoye and their actions with regards to the white men. I see this part of Things Fall Apart as a call for what Achebe wanted the post colonial people of Africa to do.
On the one hand we have Okonkwo who wants to drive out the white men. Okonkwo is firmly rooted in the old ways, he strives to be a great titled man among his people and fears they are turning from warriors into women. Unable to live in a different world, one where his people bow to the demands of the District Commisioner and let the white man’s religion displace the old ways, he hangs himself.
Opposite Okonkwo is his son Nwoye. Nwoye is very troubled by some of the darker aspects of the Igbo culture. The story highlights two instances that weigh heavily on him. The first is the murder of Ikemefuna by Okonkwo, who Ikemefuna saw as his father (and saw Nwoye as a brother). The second is the crying of twin babies left to die in the Evil Forest. These two tragic memories drive Nwoye to abandon the old ways and join the missionaries, ultimately going to the Christian school and converting his mother, brothers, and sisters.
But while Nwoye joins the missionaries, we are also told throughout the story that he really enjoys the folk tales and some of the more celebratory elements of the Igbo culture. It is hard to see Nwoye completely dropping his love for these elements upon joining the missionaries, largely due to them not being a threat of hindrance towards acceptance of Christianity. So I think that Achebe is trying to tell his audience, African readers, that while they should celebrate their pre-colonial cultures, they should not be like Okonkwo but like Nwoye and accept some of the European traditions. I believe that with Nwoye, Achebe is preaching the creation and acceptance of a new culture/identity, one consisting of both pre-colonial and European elements.

Different Path, Same Destination

In this weeks readings, I noticed some similarities between A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and a previous reading, Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis. Both of these stories begin with the presentation of a supernatural character. In A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings, we have the old man hindered by his seemingly useless wings. In Metamorphosis, we have Gregor Samsa who has been turned into a bug. In both stories we see these characters struggle and suffer. The old man is caged up and treated like an animal on display. He is placed in a chicken coop where chickens peck at him, he is very uncomfortable, and people throw rocks at him. Even after the crowds leave him alone, the old man’s troubles continue. He is described as “dragging himself about here and there like a stray dying man” and the family “drive him out of the bedroom with a broom.” I found this very similar to Gregor’s experience in Metamorphosis. Like the old man is confined to the chicken coop, Gregor is confined to his bedroom. When he leaves, he is attacked until he goes back.
Upoon further thought, I saw elements of Realism with regards to both of these stories. In class we talked about Realism as giving credible clarification of an entire life, made possible by coming to know one’s world better and thus oneself. In both of these stories, we the reader come to know our world better. We see how easily our relationships with family can change. Gregor was the breadwinner of the family but when he is no longer useful, the family treats him differently and in the end seem glad and relieved that he died. In A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings, we can see the old man as playing the role of an elderly family member. He is caged up and even though the family profits from him, they do little for him. Comparing these stories helped me to see Magical Realism as another way towards the truth.

Realism + Post Modernism= Post Modernism

In this week’s readings, I was very interested in The Garden of Forking Paths by Jorge Luis Borges. In reading this text, I saw the main plot as containing many of the elements of Realism. We are introduced to our character, Dr. Yu Tsun, and come to know him. We are told his relationship to the world (Chinese professor of English who resents European domination of China) and we are told about his ancestor. Yu Tsun also travels through highly specified ways through space and time. The plot is pretty straightforward and follows a straight line of events that lead to the stories climax. Also Yu Tsun gains knowledge through the story. He mentions early in the story that he is a coward. He comes to know himself as a coward but also comes to know that his ancestor wasn’t crazy and this lifts his thoughts about himself.
So in the main plot of The Garden of Forking Paths, we have a familiar subject that travels through lawful space and time and comes to know himself. But within the main plot there is another story that leads to a rejection of The Garden of Forking Paths as Realism. The secondary story involves a book written by Yu Tsun’s ancestor where there is no straightforward plot. In this book, all possibilities happen. So you have several different plots occurring together and sometimes converging with one another. This text within the text is very experimental and contains a very dysfunctional space and time-making it more like post-modernism. So the combination of a post-modernist text within a realist text made me see the complete text as very radical and playful with regards to the play between the two texts and thus a post-modernist text.

Kurtz, the white man’s burden

While doing this week’s reading, Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, the text struck me as a direct criticism of European imperialism. In order to justify their acquisition and exploitation of territory throughout Africa and Asia, Europeans developed the idea of “the white man’s burden”, the idea that they were bringing civilization to the people of these areas. But as we can see in Heart of Darkness, this was merely a front and the reality was that the Europeans were the same as the conquering Romans that invaded England that Marlow mentions at the beginning. Kurtz represents the idea of Europeans as the guardians of the native peoples. He lives around them in their environment and constantly talks about his vision for them. There is also a hinted native love interest of Kurtz. The other employees of the company represent the reality of European imperialism, that of ruthless exploitation. They beat the natives, work them to death, and as they leave Kurtz station they shoot at the natives for their own pleasure. Ultimately Kurtz dies and the ruthless manager ends up with Kurtz haul of ivory. After Kurtz death we see a foreshadowing of the problems that Europe would experience once this myth of “the white man’s burden” was exposed as false. Several people visit Marlow in Belgium asking about Kurtz fate. Kurtz death (i.e. the rejection of Europeans as bringers of civilization) is shown as greatly affecting things back in Europe as the revelation of the true nature of European imperialism would later greatly affect Europe.

The Love Song of the Lady or J. Alfred Prufrock in the Looking Glass

In this week’s readings, there was a similarity between the Lady in the Looking Glass and J. Alfred Prufrock. Both characters are empty and alone. Both are alienated from the society that surrounds them. And both of their stories have a tragic ending.
In the Lady in the Looking Glass, we initially get this description of the Lady as rich and well travelled. Her drawers are full of letters from her many friends: “Long letters of intimacy and affection, violent letters of jealousy and reproach, terrible words of final parting.” Through the looking glass, provoked by her picking flowers in her garden, we see her deep in thought on the issue of life and death. But as she walks towards the looking glass in the stories climax, we ultimately see the real her: “She had no thoughts. She had no friends…As for her letters, they were all bills.”
In the Love Song of J.Alfred Prufrock, Prufrock is on his way to a social gathering and is contemplating wether he will speak there. We get this image of an indecisive and fearful man. He asks himself if he dares to speak and if fearful of what others will think of him if he does speak. At the end Prufrock resigns himself to not speaking : “I am not a Prince Hamlet”(Hamlet is known as a wind bag). He ultimately retreats to an imaginary world to be forever alone and empty.

Helmer and Armand, Peas in a Pod

In class Tuesday, we talked about how A Doll’s House is seen as being favorable to feminist concerns. Last week, we talked about Kate Chopin’s writings as being feminist as well. While reading A Doll’s House, I noticed a point of intersection between it and Kate Chopin’s Desiree’s Baby that highlight the feminist nature of both works.
In both stories we begin with a seemingly happy married couple. Helmer and Nora are merrily preparing for Christmas and their lives are on an upswing due to Helmer recently starting a good job. In Desiree’s Baby, Armand and Desiree have recently had a child, whose arrival has softened Armand (we are told that he no longer beats his slaves). But in both stories, when things go badly, we see the true narcissistic nature of both husbands and we, as well as both of their wives, come to realize that neither one really loves their wife. In both cases the husband only cares about the injury to their reputation. In A Doll’s House, Helmer tells Nora “no man sacrifices his honor, even for one he loves” and in Desiree’s Baby we are told that Armand “no longer loved her [Nora], because of the unconscious injury she had brought upon his home and his name.”
By the end of both stories we have a situation where the wife has left the husband. This leads us, the reader, to question the relationship between husband and wife. Both husbands end up alone, and probably miserable, because they “loved” as men love, selfishly and with conditions.

“At the Cadian Ball”, Not Real

At the beginning of chapter 3 of Unknowing, Weinstein gives us a brief overview of some of the attacks on realism. He talks about how realism has been described as merely being an instrument of the established authorities to police society. Realism is called “sheer ideology masking as objective representation”. While doing the readings for this week, I found myself agreeing more and more with this argument against realism.
In class we discussed how Kate Chopin’s stories can be called realist because she writes in the vernacular of the Creoles and African Americans of Louisiana. She also focuses on the separtaions between race and class. But while reading “At the Cadian Ball”, several points in the story made me think of the attacks on realism and I ultimately saw “At the Cadian Ball” as not really being realist.
One point was after Alcee’s rice crop was destroyed. He seems to get depressed and goes out because he wants a “li’le fling” and is “in a mood for ugly things” but he ultimately does nothing and just goes back home with Clarisse. Instead of getting into trouble, Alcee does the most conservative thing a person can do he goes back home with a love interest.
Another point was how the characters end up associated at the end. Although Alcee is flirting heavily with Calixta, he ultimately goes away with Clarisse. We are told early on that Alcee loves Clarisse and at the end of the story we are told that she loves him as well. After Alcee leaves Calixta she agrees tomarry Bobinot. So we end up with a situation where the two poor Creoles are to be married and the two well to do white southerners are in love with each other.
These two points really made me see “At the Cadian Ball” as not realist.

The Slave Trade

In his Encyclopedia entry on the slave trade, Louis Jaucourt defends several arguments that the ruling elites in Europe would find radical, seditious, and dangerous. Although the entry is about the Negro slave trade, Jacourt introduces several ideas that go above the slave trade. These ideas would be considered very dangerous to the stability of the European monarchies and one would think would add to the attempts to censor the Encyclopedia.

 “There are some authors who set themselves up as political legal experts and who boldly say that questions relating to a society’s condition must be decided by its national law……Is it their [ magistrates] deference to a law, which obliges them to nothing, that forces them to trample on the Law of Nature, which obligates all men in all times and places?

In this entry, Jacourt is attacking the argument that societies should be governed by their own national laws. Instead, Jacourt argues through the asking of several rhetorical questions, Natural Law should be observed everywhere. This is an idea that would be extremely dangerous to the monarchs of Europe, regardless of their position on the slave trade. An attack on the slave trade through the defense of inalienable rights is something that even the most abolitionist European monarch would not be able to accept.

Another hidden argument in Jacourt’s entry is an argument against the economic exploitation of one group of people by another.

            “Who is permitted to become wealthy by robbing his fellow men of their happiness? Is it legitimate to strip the human species of its most sacred rights, only to satisfy one’s own greed, vanity, or particular passions?”

When applied to the slave trade, this argument does not seem too dangerous to the monarchs of Europe. But the idea behind this argument would be considered radical and dangerous. What if this idea were applied to serfdom (which still existed throughout Eastern Europe), or to Britain’s Indian colonies, or to the peasants throughout western Europe who broke their backs on rented land for the gain of others.

In closing, Jacourt’s entry shows why the Encyclopedia would be considered radical, seditious, and dangerous to the established order of Europe and why it was constantly being censored and its publication delayed

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