Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Reflective Cover Letter

Throughout the quarter in English 111, I have learned a little more about my writing. Writing is one of the hardest subjects for me just because it’s hard to put my ideas on paper and have anyone who reads it to understand where I’m coming from. However, the only way to get good at it is to practice.

The three homework assignments that I have included have helped me to write more clearly so that people can understand what I actually want to say when I write. The first piece that I have included is the questions we answered for chapter 3 for In Cold Blood. Here I answered some basic question about the book to better understand the text. Then you develop that into more complex answers about the reading. This was good because it taught me to think of theme and language use, rather then just the story point of view. The second piece in my portfolio is a brain storm that I did when I was writing my mid-term. As I read my mid-term I really didn’t formulate a question, but just agreed with the text. Honni gave me some ideas and I just started putting things to the paper and organizing them. This gave me the idea for a question and then I used the lists to formulate my paragraphs. The last piece of writing that I included was a close reading. This was the most important tool that I have learned from this class. This helps to understand what is really going on in a book and also helps in writing a paper. To close read something involves not just reading the words, but thinking of theme, characters, point of view, vocabulary, tone and narrative voice when reading the text. This often helped me formulate my claim in essays and also gave great points to prove it.

I think as a whole my writing has improved just by learning how to close read. This is such an important step in the writing process and even though I was doing it before, I didn’t know I was doing it. Now that I know what to do, I can write an essay more proficiently. This class has taught me there is again more to writing then I thought.

Another thing that I was partial to was the blog entries. It was a pain to post entries into the blog, and sometimes it was confusing to post, but I finally got the hang of it. Also it’s hard to get everyone to post. If everyone in my group posted and commented, then it would be fun, but it was just me and one other member in my group posting at first. I finally got used to the idea of blogs because they are a way to write informal about any topic. This was fun because it left room for exploration and I didn’t have to worry about writing something formal. It also helped in the overall writing process and to get ideas off of other peoples comments and entries.

This class as a whole has been one of my better English classes because I actually learned another format to the writing process. This course has been a great one and the books that we read were fairly decent, although I wish we did more with In Cold Blood. English 111 has helped me with my writing and I will continue to use the methods that I have learned from this course. Thanks for a great quarter!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Reflective Cover Letter

Last quarter I took English 131 and thoroughly enjoyed the more academic focus of the class. The shorter essays and analysis of those essays was challenging, and I grew considerably in my ability to formulate a claim and express the stakes of my argument. This quarter, taking English 111 has been another step in this learning process. I took this class because I wanted to continue to write essays but I was also hoping to explore a new genre of sorts. Reading longer novels and becoming more exposed to close reading has been very beneficial to me in my writing. Over this quarter I have learned a great deal about close reading, and I have especially enjoyed the stimulating class conversations that I participated in. I think my writing has improved throughout the quarter, and I hope that through my revisions and the three shorter pieces that I have selected to include in my portfolio, this improvement and proficiency is apparent.

I chose three pieces for my portfolio that each display different aspects of my writing that I have done for English 111. The first piece that I chose was the first writing project that we did in class on the first day. I chose this piece because it shows a little bit of my personality and how I tried to convey it through my writing. In my leisure time, I often write little biographical anecdotes and amusing observations that have come to me during the day. This first piece is just a small example of the sort of writing that I choose to write in my free time and a little insight into me.

The second piece that I have chosen is the assignment in which we were asked to compare an aspect of the film In Cold Blood to the book. In my essay titled “Dick Hickock: All American Boy,” I show proficiency in my ability to formulate a claim and to refer back to that claim after each point. Also, for this essay I created a clever title and capturing hook to begin my introduction. I was proud of how this paper turned out, even though it was just a short paper. This paper also shows that I can analyze text as well as film and am able to compare and contrast the two genres.

The third small piece that I have chosen to include in my portfolio is a first draft for the close reading of The Bluest Eye assignment. Even though, after gaining a better understanding of the prompt that I was to write towards I completely scrapped this draft and began again, I think that this draft does illustrate my skills in close reading and understanding of different literary devices. In this close reading I show an understanding and analysis of point of view, humor, figurative language, and intertextuality; all things that we have talked about throughout the course of English 111.

The two larger pieces of writing that are also included in my portfolio are good examples of my proficiency in writing more academic essays that enter into conversation with other texts and literary criticisms. The important thing about these papers though, is the revision process that they underwent. Both papers have been extensively revised, and both began with completely different claims and stakes than what they started with. I had a great deal of trouble with both of these papers in the beginning, because I was having trouble compiling all of my ideas about the text into one unified claim, but through revision and conferencing, both papers now display my writing skills and definitely show great improvement from their first drafts.

Not only did I enjoy working on academic papers for this class but I also liked learning about the more informal blog style. At first it was difficult for me to be writing something for a class that was informal and could include colloquialisms and informal speech, but as I wrote more blog entries, I became more comfortable with the genre. Though Honni allowed us to use first person in most of our essays, this was a departure from the types of writing that I was used to, and I attempted to make my blogs somewhat informal while still being informative and interesting. I think that I could still have been a bit more informal and used more humor and interesting hooks to capture the reader’s interest.

Overall, I think that I improved a great deal in this class, especially due to class conversations and simply the act of continuing to write more. Thanks for a great quarter!

Race in Dittmar

Obviously there is a ton of reference to race in this book which is why I think that the whole book is as effective as it is. There are some points in the book where there is a very clear line that seperates whites from blacks. One of the most effective examples of this is the seperation between class. Although not all white people have money and all black people dont, it is portrayed that way in this book with little expection. Dittmar says "violence, madness, and incest are some of the extreme forms of pathology takes here, though the racism which pushes people to such extremes is Morrison's underlying concern (pg 6 in the reader)." I like the way this is put because throughout the book it is impossible to miss all of the negative happenings, but you can feel Morrison's tone of concern when she is depicting all of these for the reader. It helps the reader get into the same frame of mind as Morrison, which helps the point of the book.

Comparing in Dittmar

Throughout the book there is a constant comparing of the characters to those who are more beuatiful, better off, and higher in society. Even from the beginning Claudia looks at Maureen with anger and hatred for no reason because people dont treat her the way that Claudia and her sister are treated. Dittmar lists a couple of the famous people that are meant to measure up to as well as the Dick and Jane passages, saying that it is used to "prescribe an oppressive notion of normalcy." I find this to be an interesting statement because while the Dick and Jane readers somewhat parallel the book, they are quite the opposite of what is going on. Almost a mirror image where everything is the same but opposite.

Oprah article response

I really dont find this article very effective for any reason. Sure, it tells about how it is hard to make it as a black writer and all that, but by this time everyone already knows that. I personally dont think it should be that way, but the world can only change itself and obviously we have come a long way since our early history because there are quite a few black writers out there and many of them like Morrison are very well known. This article seems to only focus on the commercialized effect of the book and that is not at all what is important for this book, so I really dont believe that this article was worth the time I spent reading it.

The Politics of Form response

I found this article to be much more interesting than the Oprah article because it goes far more into depth about the many different points in the book and explains a different point of view concerning them. I really like the way that it helps explain how different people like Shirley Temple and Jeanne Harlow were used as this "yard stick (pg. 6 in the course packet) for personal worth." It helped me a lot to put my own essay into perspective a bit.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Oranges, Apples...Etc.

I have decided to write my paper on kind of a difficult topic which is the role of men in Oranges. I find it really interesting that almost every male character is portrayed very negatively. Even male characters so insignifigant as the man that does voodoo on people at Morecambe or the shop owner where Jeanette meets Melanie are portrayed as mean or evil or beastly. I also find it interesting how Winterson used Beauty and the Beast to explain where Jeanette's reasoning comes from that she doesn't like men. I am having trouble however, finding sources that support my claim in my paper. If either of you have any suggestions or have run across anything while doing your own research I would really appreciate it if you shared!

Monday, February 06, 2006

Response to jazz...

Its really cool that both of you mentioned the idea about the jazz music simile. I have been playing jazz since 7th grade and have been listening to it as long as I can remember, so I really get the connection. When playing jazz there are so many things that can be changed to add style or adjust tone. No way of playing is completely right or wrong, so you are constantly adjusting to make it sound better even though you can never have absolute perfection.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Race and Dittmar...

The Bluest Eye has many race-ism topics intertwined into the readings. The one point that I have found most interesting is when Cholly is at the fair. I've stated this already in my blog titled "Race" so i won't put the quote in, but Cholly thinks that God is a white old man. From this we learn that blacks aren't looked upon as smart and kind, more more of the devil. Dittmar says, "Violence, madness, and incest are some of the extreme forms this pathology takes here, though the racism which pushes people to such extremes is Morrison's underlying concern." (pg. 6 in course packet). This is quite true, because this is only one situation or racism in the book among many others. I picked this passage (again) because Cholly isn't very old here and he already sees what society thinks of him and his race, which isn't much. I feel that he thinks he's worth nothing and that makes me feel sad.

Tone and Dittmar...

The one part in the book that I thought was interesting was when it shows almost a diary entry when Morrison writes about Pauline. In this passage, which is quite intense, It talks about the relationship between Pauline and Cholly. Dittmar says, "Pauline's description on her lovemaking with Cholly is one of this novel's extraordinary passages." (pg. 14 of course packet). I find this to be true because she talks about a passionate night when they were first married, then the last paragraph states, "But it ain't like that anymore." (pg 131). This kills the mood Morrison has set, and in-hand changes the tone.

Article #2 Response

This artice has shown me that not all black author are excepted by publishers. When I hear this i am appalled. This makes me sad that in some business situations, americans are still sterotyping/segregating African Americans. Another thing that I don't get is, and disagree with, the "Oprah effect". Just because she like the way Toni Morrison writes, Morrison isn't going on her show just to sell more books. I mean, sure she's trying to get her name out into the public eye, but I disagree with trying to make a profit off of it. I think she just wants people to know that black authors can write some good things and that everyone should pick up a book and read it. Plus, the Oprah effect doesn't play ahuge roll in society because you don't see everyone driving a Pontiac G6. About a year a two ago, Oprah made gave away 276 Pontiac G6's to her audience. I searched on Google only to find that, "The Oprah giveaway may have generated a lot of buzz for Pontiac, but it hasn’t generated a lot of bucks for Pontiac." (Brand Autopsy.com). This just proves that the "Oprah Effect" doesn't work.

Article #1 response

Although I found the first article kind of dry, it is also very informative. We learn from the passage that The Bluest Eye is the first book that Morrison learned how to write. After finishing the book, the analogy to The Bluest Eye and jazz music actually makes sense. After reading the book you feel as if there should be more, as something has been left out, or as Morrison put it, "There is no final chord" (pg. 4 of the course packet). Also Dittmar talks about how her words are both seductive and elusive. This is true, sometimes during the book, it doesn't give much detail. This happens in the beginning when Morrison talks about Pecola's unborn child. Later you find out the whole story about Pecola, but at first you are kind of wondering if there's more to the story that what it gives you. This, again goes back to the analogy about jazz music.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Race posts interesting

I find it interesting that we all talked about the same sort of thing. Shaun said it the best: you can tell the race of the person without even knowing their skin color. After reading Layne's post I also agree that Caucasian people may perceive African Americans as being poor and violent, but the African Americans don't do anything to change that perception. I find it interesting we touched on different points, but found different pieces of evidence.

"They"

Dittmar in "The Politics of Form" refers to Morrison's writing as an amazing experience where each sentence "initiates an ever-expanding sequence of interrelations." Also, she praises Morrison's use of "they" in a passage about the "brown girls." Another passage from The Bluest Eye that I found particularly captivating is on page 138. This passage also describes "they" but is referring to the older black women in the community and their roles in society. Her emphasis on their hands and arms is so powerful and interesting that I read it several times to fully appreciate it. I encourage you to do the same.

"The Politics of Form" and Intertextuality

The most interesting literary device used in The Bluest Eye is the Dick and Jane intertextuality. Beginning the book with an excerpt from a Dick and Jane book made me think about what kind of book I was going to be reading. I considered what I thought this book was going to be about based on the cover and title and knew that this story couldn’t be as “picture perfect” as the Dick and Jane passage seemed. As I read further into the book, the Dick and Jane passages become crunched together and turn into an almost unreadable mush of words. I think this is showing Morrison’s rejection of the fairy tale life that Dick and Jane live and presenting the lives of the families in her writing as the truth of the world. Also, Dick and Jane serve as a contrast to the families in the book because they are white and privileged and live in a two parent household.
Also, Linda Dittmar in her article titled “The Politics of Form” brings up the point that the Dick and Jane narrative is “a hostile attack” on Claudia’s non-fiction truthful narrative, meaning that it tries to break up the sad truth that Claudia is telling with a canned happy story. Claudia’s story ends up winning out and the Dick and Jane narrative becomes frantic and squished together, conquered by Claudia’s narration.

Race-

Race is defined by Merriam-Webster dictionary by stating, "2 a : a family, tribe, people, or nation belonging to the same stock b : a class or kind of people unified by community of interests, habits, or characteristics". This is how race is perceived in The Bluest Eye. In the book race is a huge part of this book. As you read you notice that the characters don't find themselves beautiful and the only race that they look up toward is Caucasian people. On page 134 it talks about Cholly as a young boy going to a picnic. When he's at this picnic a watermelon is split open, but before it is, Cholly notices something. As the man holds the water melon up to break it down on a rock, Cholly notices that he blocks out the sun and wonders if this could be God, But then he realizes, "God was a nice old white man..."(pg. 134). He then continues to think that it must be the devil since he's black and God is only white. This also perceives people with dark skin to be mean, since Cholly said God is nice. I also make the connection that maybe since the black man is breaking the watermelon, a form of life, that this could also show violence.
This book makes you think in between the lines and make new ideas out of the text that you're provided. As I read this book, I wonder if race is like this now? Do people think of whites being the dominant race? As I see it now, I only think of race being affliliated to what nation you're from, if that at all. We're all American, so it's the American race? The book obviously takes place quite some time ago when segregation was still going on, although I wonder if America is still segregated in its own little way? The book has changed my view, being more open to other peoples perception of all races and asking myself questions on whether things could be taken to offence or not.

Defining Race

The Bluest Eye brings up a number of issues about race. The technical definitions of race are all about defining descendents and geneological roots. This includes plants and animals alike. In Morrison's terms, race is much more than who people and plants are descendent from and to what category things belong. To her, race is a division by color of skin, that determines a person's class and status in the community. She shows that in Lorraine, being white means that people will cast favorable looks in your direction and that teachers will call on you over the other children, and being black not only determines your class and the way that you will be treated by others, but your monetary status as well. All of the African Americans in the book are either unemployed, working for more wealthy white people, or working manual labor jobs. Many of the African Americans also are violent to eachother and a sort of racism exists within the African American population. Not just the Caucasians keep the African Americans down but the African Americans, through their hatred for eachother, keep themselves down. This aspect of inter-racism is something that I never thought of before. I never considered that because the culture frowns upon a certain race that that race would then begin to hate itself.

Race

The cut and dry definition of race would just be the catagorization of a people based on their physical traits and where they come from, but in "The Bluest Eye" it goes far deeper than just where people came from. Race in this book is more of a social class than a blood line. The main characters are poor and black, which seems to mean that they also are prone to great hardship in the process, while characters like Maureen who are white are portrayed as rich and happy. Even when you look at Junior's family who is upper middle class, he is still seperated by race and tends to revert to how other black kids his age are acting. No matter what conditions are present, there is still a possible to tell the race of someone in the book even if you were not aware of the color of their skin.
White people are portrayed as beautiful and happy and rich, while the black community is considered quite the opposite which has lead in the book to a varying degree of closeness in the families.
There is no easy way to distinguish between race when it comes to violence because there is not enough information for both sides in the book. All you are given is the actions of some of the black adults and then the kids who, both black and white, seem to be violent either way. It was said early in the book that the white kids stoned Claudia and her sister and the black boys would trip them in the halls. There is not as much of a racial separation as there is a gender separation.
The novel makes me think about race differently because it shows that it is not just about the color of skin, but it also ties in with a group of peoples situation. In this book a fair amount of the discrepancy has to do with lack of money, but also with the way that people look. Living in poverty effects the black community in this book very negatively. Their attitudes towards everything is generally pessemistic and it shows in the way that they conduct their lives. Claudia deals with this by developing a hatred for beautiful white girls because she knows that she can never change and become what others consider beautiful due to her race.

My response to Article 2

It almost offends me that someone would suggest that “the Oprah effect” would mean that Morrison has “sold out” or short changed her work. I think that she has used Oprah, not as a way to sell more books, but a way to reach more people. Not just African American people should read her books thus her books should not just be advertised for African American people. Without Oprah’s Book Club, Morrison was already a successful writer and she didn’t need Oprah to find success but with Oprah, her books have hit the mainstream. This is not dumbing down the literature; it is bringing a new audience up to its level. Oprah’s “seal of approval” only creates a larger audience for Morrison’s book.

My response to Article 1

It is interesting that the writer comments on that something is being withheld in The Bluest Eye. The book begins by early talking about how the flowers would not grow and neither would Pecola’s baby that was her fathers incestuous child, but not until the end does the reader really find out the true story. Even after finishing the text, it left me wanting, in a good way, to know more. Morrison also relates The Bluest Eye to Jazz music and the way that there is no true conclusion to it as well.

Monday, January 30, 2006

In Response...

It is interesting to see that we all have written very different things. In Evan's post, he talks about the different dialects that are used in the book and how those dialects are used to determine race gender and class. Shaun chose to analyze themes as I did but he chose some different themes to look at. As I said in my comment to Shaun's post, the fact that we both chose to write about themes and neither of us came up with the same ideas just goes to show the depth of the book.