My Final Project

Hey y’all,

I’m really going to miss this class. I have never enjoyed a class this much, so I’m glad I got to experience it with all of you! I thought I’d post my final project which is just one spoken words poem and a love song. I’m really proud of this song, I spent way too much time writing it, but probably not enough time actually recording it (oh well, sorry for the weird balance issues with the parts).

Final Project

Song Recording

On Paintings and (a bit about) Cannibalism

I’m not sure if anyone else had to do this, but when Nighthawks and The Raft of the Medusa were mentioned I had to look them up to get any semblance of what Dante was talking about. Though I realized I had seen Nighthawks before, but I definitely have not seen or heard the supposed story behind “The Raft of the Medusa.” If you remember, Dante wrote in his letter to Ari the following: “Did I ever tell you what my favorite painting was? It’s The Raft of the Medusa by Théodore Géricault. There’s a whole story behind that painting.” Today  I just wanted to explore that story a bit and see how it could relate to the novel.

The painting the Dante loves so much is, by most art historians, believed to be an icon of Romanticism. The painting depicts the wreckage of a French frigate off the coast of Senegal in 1816 while carrying over 150 soldiers on board. Géricault got inspiration for this painting by talking with two of the survivors of the wreck. The French Royal Navy frigate set sail in 1816 to colonize Senegal. The captain of the ship had not sailed in twenty years, so from his lack of practice, he managed to ground the ship on a sandbank accidentally. Because of this failure, the soldiers were forced to take lifeboats to the nearest shore, however, due to a shortage of lifeboats, the remaining 150 soldiers were forced to make a raft out of materials on the marooned ship. After 13 days at sea and making that death trap, only 10 soldiers survived of the initial 150. There was a lot of cannibalism that ensued while they were stranded for those 13 days.

Questions:

  1. Many believe that the painting The Raft of the Medusa “stands as a synthetic view of human life abandoned to its fate.” What do you think the author is trying to say with that being Dante’s favorite book?
  2. Is the painting Nighthawks important to the narrative at all? What affect does this allusion have on the narrative?

The History of “Lesbian” and Other Things

As Dakota said in his post (“The Fun of Reading Fun Home”), Fun Home has been my favorite book we have read so far. I’m not sure if it is the illustrations and how the characters are drawn, or how the story is not a strictly linear progression, or maybe all of the literary references. Bechdel also seems to have a unique relationship to words, seeing as there are a few panels that are just close-ups of a dictionary definition of words. These words (“eighty-sixed” on p. 106, “lesbian” on p. 74, and “queer” on p. 57) all have to do with her (or her father’s) sexuality and the consequence that came with having a sexuality that did not fit in with the heteronormative world. Because of Bechdel’s obvious fascination with words, I decided to do a little research into one of the words she chose to highlight in the memoir: lesbian.

The first recorded use of the word lesbian was in 1609 to describe a building on the island Lesbos, found in the northern part of the Grecian archipelago. The first ever use of the term lesbian (as an adjective) to describe women who were sexually attracted to women was in 1890 by John Shaw Billings in The National Medical Dictionary. The first recorded use of lesbian being used as a noun for women that are sexually attracted to women was in 1925 in a letter from Aldous Huxley. This is surprising seeing as the word “gay” (referring to homosexuals) wasn’t coined as a term until 1922. I have always thought that the slang form of “gay” has been around for ages, but the word “lesbian” was coined about 30 years prior.

Here are a few questions I’ve been pondering (sorry they don’t relate at all to my post):

  1. From “It’s a Wonderful Life” to The Great Gatsby, there are constant literary and cultural allusions sprinkled throughout the frames of this book. How do these allusions affect the narrative as well as the audience’s perception of the story thus far?
  2. Just like in Zami, the story is told from the perspective of only one person, and a very biased person at that. Because of this, how close do you think the narrative is to Alison Bechdel’s life? Does this tragicomic fit into the genre of “biomythography”? 

Understanding David’s Father

After reading the first two chapters of “Giovanni’s Room” I knew immediately that I wanted to write about David’s relationship with his father and how that relationship mirrors tropes found within many other narratives.

From a very young age David’s father (who is not name for what I am assuming is a significant reason that I cannot see at the moment) is the only parent David can look up to; Ellen, you could say, would be another, but from the time she is given in the novel, she seems to be more of an agitating force and her only effects on David are temporary. Like in most narratives, David looks up to his father as a role model until one event sparked a defiance in him. For David it is the one night where his father returned drunk and began arguing with Ellen (“From that time on, with mysterious, cunning, and dreadful intensity of the very young, I despised my father and I hated Ellen.”). This same sort of event happened in Rita Mae Brown’s “Rubyfruit Jungle” in which Carrie told Molly of her bastard-ness (not a word, but just go with me).

I also find it interesting how this narrative comes to a quasi-conclusion when David crashes his car while driving under the influence of alcohol and wakes up to his father mourning for him. It’s amazing how much influence our parents actions have on us, even though neither party may realize that there was an influence. From the narration, it is unclear if either party realizes in the moment that the accident was a result of David’s father’s drinking habit, but due to the juxtaposition of the two stories, it is obvious David connects the two events later.

 

Some questions to spark conversation:

  1. How much influence do you think your parents’ actions have on your development/choices in life? And
  2. If you were to ever have kids, what steps would you take to ensure your child grows up in a healthy environment?

 

Excited to hear the discussion that brews in class over these chapters.

~Jim

On Anger, Oppression, and Terrorism

Though both “Queers read this” (Anon.) and “The Uses of Anger: Women Responding to Racism” (Lorde) address anger in their own way, Audre Lorde is much more transparent about the subject. This shows not only in the title of each reading but in the tone.

Lorde’s work focusing on anger towards racism is written relatively calmly, given the nature of the topic. The entire piece is more an essay on how to use your anger effectively to promote change. Though the title suggests the discussion focuses on racism and intersectional feminism, the themes presented about controlling anger are very applicable to any sort of oppression (whether based on race, gender, sexual identity, or socioeconomic status). Her anger while writing seems to be tempered in a way that she is able to constructively promote a discussion on how to use anger for the purpose of ending oppression.

Her focus near the beginning is establishing credibility by listing experiences of oppression (both personal and institutional) from her own life. She then goes on to establish that the audience should not be afraid of anger by explaining the difference between hatred and anger, saying “Hatred is the fury of those who do not share our goals, and its object is death and destruction. Anger is a grief of distortions between peers, and its object is change.” This quote also establishes her stance on how anger should be used; a person’s anger should not promote death and destruction, but instead should initiate change. This change can be achieved through non-violent means, after all, fighting violence with further violence does nothing to achieve peace.

The anonymous work “Queers read this” seems to have a completely opposite stance on the use of anger compared to Lorde. The work is written directly to the reader and riddled with calls to action, therefore giving the impression of a manifesto for the gay rights movement. Like most manifestos, the work is full of hatred and the misuse of anger. The target of this hatred is blatantly described, saying “Until I can enjoy the same freedom of movement and sexuality, as straights, their privilege must stop and it must be given over to me and my queer brothers and sisters.” This along with many other instances throughout the work pegs “the straights” as the problem and must be hated and punished. The work refuses to acknowledge the fact that the only way to win a war is with allies, so attacking all heterosexuals (even if they are allies to the cause) only hurts the movement at large. The work also seemed to refuse to address any diversity amongst the queer community (racial, sexual, or gender-related) and the only time bisexuality is mentioned, it is in a negative tone (conversion therapy). I will not even go into the implications of terrorism on the first page (“Straights must be frightened into it. Terrorized into it.”) or the numerous occasions throughout the work that the solution proposed was violence, because there is too much to get into to be able to explain how wrong that mentality truly is.

 

I read “Queers read this” first; throughout the work, I was scared that some people think that way and finished thinking there should be a comma in the title (Queers, read this) as an indication of the directive. After reading Lorde’s essay, I felt much more at ease with the mindset she used and her uses for anger. Here are a couple questions I would love for you all to answer:

  1. As a person that identifies as bisexual, I brought my own expectations and experiences to “Queers read this”; I was wondering if anyone else had expectations of the article coming in and how that affected your attitude or understanding of the manifesto?
  2. In what ways do you manage your anger and how do you use it throughout your life? Are you more similar in approach to the author of “Queers read this” or are you more akin to the views of Audre Lorde?

I’m excited to hear your responses!

-James “Jim” Hall