Silent Empowerment and Utter Blasphemy

 

We see in “The Passionate Shepard” and “The Nymph’s Reply” images of beautiful landscapes, floral designs, jewels, etc. These are tools used in the pastoral genera, which are appropriate avenues for courtly love. In courtly love, men woo women by idolizing them and placing their beauty above all else. As it has always been, women enjoy looking at pretty things: nature, flowers, pretty baubles, etc. This allows for men to easily flatter women by using these items, either by physically giving them gifts or by praising women through exclaiming their beauty is equivalent to that of… (something pretty). We see this in lines 9-12 of “The Passionate Shepard” when the speaker states, “And I will make thee beds of roses/ And a thousand fragrant poises,/ A cap of flowers, and a kirtle/ Embroidered all with leaves of myrtle.” The shepherd tries to gain the love of the Nymph by bestowing her with gifts. And, as any good, courtly woman would, the Nymph is supposed to graciously accept the gifts, although, in “The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd,” she refuses, but I will rationalize this in a bit.

We see in the two poems examples of courtly love. As readers, we want to believe that the shepherd in “The Passionate Shepherd” is being a complete gentleman and wooing a woman, but the Nymph and we are being misled. Lets be honest, the Shepherd just wants to get laid. The speaker begins by requesting the Nymph to be his love. He exclaims that he will bestow upon her many floral and jeweled gifts, as previously detailed and explained. This sounds wonderful, but the speaker has an underlying sexual tone and desire. Likewise, the speaker is flattering the woman and placing her beauty on a pedestal, just as true courtly gentlemen do. In this, we see that women during the Renaissance period were viewed as unintelligent and jaded, although this woman surely is not. Then final lines of this poem read, “If these delights thy mind may move,/ Then live with me and be my love” (lines 23-24). We see that the speaker is not simply asking the Nymph to live with him, he is telling her. This is strikingly similar to how men of the Renaissance would have treated women. At the time, women were viewed as property- something pretty to look at and play with, but nothing more than that. The shepherd sounds as if he is asking the woman to love him, but we see that the shepherd is exclaiming that he already owns her (or so she thinks), so she must comply.

In “The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd,” we are given an unrealistic response to an exclamation of courtly love. The Nymph states, “If all the world and love were young/ And truth in every shepherd’s tongue,/ These pretty pleasure might me move/ To live with thee and by thy love” (lines 104). The Nymph is expressing her understanding of the courtly love tradition of placing women on pedestals in order to gain their affection, thus exclaiming that his deceitfulness and false flattery does not fool her. This entire poem is devoted to the nymph breaking apart his compliments and belittling his wit. Women during this time period would have wanted to give a response such as this, but reality was that they could not. As property, women had to do as their father or husband told her to. Again, this is expressed when the shepherd tells the Nymph to live with him. So, as faithful and devoted daughters and wives, they would comply, although this woman refuses. To women, this poem would have been silent empowerment. To men, on the other hand, it would have been blasphemy.

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Those Darn Women!

From both Morte Darthur and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, it is clear that Sir Gawain is the epitome of a chivalrous knight. One scene in particular exemplifies this to me. As Bertilak’s wife enters Sir Gawain’s chambers, it appears as if she is trying to advance on him in a romantic manner. He tries to fend off her advances in a kind way by explaining that they would both feel more comfortable if he would put clothes on, yet she expresses that she would prefer him naked. She states, “ All right here you lie. And we are left all alone, with my husband and his huntsmen away in the hills and the servants snoring and my maids asleep and the door to this bedroom barred with a bolt. I have in my house an honored guest so I’ll make the most of my time and stay talking” (Line 1230-1235). To me, this is clear that Lady Bertilak’s is a mischievous, conniving woman, yet Sir Gawain continues to fend off her advances, as he does for every encounter they have.

            Although Sir Gawain in chivalrous in most aspects, his desire to serve is ultimately his downfall in both Morte Darthur and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. In Morte Darthur, Sir Gawain’s need to serve leads him to war, which ultimately leads to his death. In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Sir Gawain is primarily concerned with keeping his honor to Bertilak’s wife and himself that he ultimately breaks the chivalric code. The Green Knight states,’ it was loyalty that you lacked; not because you’re wicked, or a womanizer, or worse, but you loved your own life” (Lines 2636-2369). This gives us a lot of detail about him as a character. He has a strong loyalty to honor and duty, yet, as most people are, Sir Gawain is primarily loyal to himself.

            As for King Bertilak, he holds many of the chivalric qualities that kings are supposed to be accountable for, yet he is conniving and deceitful, as Morgal La Fay has made him. King Bertilak welcomes Sir Gawain into his castle with great hospitality, yet he is part of a plot with his wife to destroy Camelot. At the same time, he holds qualities of God. He states, “By confessing your failings you are free from fault and have openly paid penance at the point of my axe. I declare you purged, as polished and as pure as the day you were born, without blemish or blame” (Lives 2391-2394). This is identical to the Catholic sacrament of Reconciliation, where a person is to confess his or her sins to the Father in order to be “forgiven” of all sins. Likewise, King Bertilak tells Sir Gawain to wear the girdle as a form of penance, just as a person is given penance at the end of Confession. We then lean that King Bertilak is under the power of Morgan La Fay (plot twist!), thus alluding that King Bertilak truly has no control. Therefore, it is actually Morgan La Fay who is creating the ideal form of chivalry and honor as well as the seducement from Lady Bertilak. She is the true seductress and manipulator of the story.

            To conclude this post, I must say that, as a woman, I am sick of men blaming women for their own weaknesses. Sir Girwain blames his failures on Lady Bertilak’s, yet he is the one who made the decision to lie to the king. Yes, he was trying to keep her honor, but he ultimately made his own decisions in being false with the king. Similarly in Morte Darthur, Guinevere leads to the demise of several of the knights by asking Sir Lancelot to save her. Guinevere is portrayed as the manipulator, just as women of this time period were viewed. Seeing as women were considered as nothing more than property and play toys to be wowed (mostly because men could not keep it in their pants), they had to place women as the underlying antagonists of stories.

The Horrors of War

While reading this article, I was constantly thinking about the correlation to WWII and the current war we are facing. First off, Hitler was exterminating innocent people by the millions. Likewise, Islamic extremists have murdered millions, weather that be women, Americas, or anyone with interests contrasting their own. Kats states, “For Hitler, technological expediency serves to make mass extermination seem not only necessary, but just and honorable” (265). This is exactly what Islamic extremists are doing to justify the slaying of innocent people. Hitler was determined that anyone who was no part of the “master race” needed to be exterminated as a course of morality. Thus, he considered his plan technically justified, just as extremists do.

I also found the memo at the beginning fascinating. If I had not been told this memo was about concentration camps, I would assume it had something to do with a van needing fixed. Once I realized what it was talking about, I was absolutely disgusted! The way the SS could speak so carelessly without consideration to human life is unthinkable As Katz explains, they used metaphors to denote people as a means of ethical expediency. Horrible! Nazis had no respect for human life. They just wanted a means to an end.

The Problem WIth College Writing

From what I understand of the “What’s Practical About Technical Writing” article, Miller is questioning whether or not technical writing is actually helping students. My answer to this is… somewhat. College is great at educating students, but it’s not so good at giving those students practical field experience. If you ask me, college is a little too focused on the traditional essay format. From the moment we started learning to write, we were instilled with the traditional five-paragraph essay format. And although I think that format is great for middle and high school, it’s not practical for college. When graduates get out into the “real world” they are overwhelmed because they did not learn to properly write for their profession (such as engineers, doctors, and lawyers, as the article suggests). I think the best way to address this is to have writing courses specifically engineered to focus on the aspects of writing for the given area of study. For example, I think engineering majors should have a specific technical writing class designated to writing in an engineering fashion. 

Southern Belle

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I really felt for Gloria Anzaldua while reading “How to Tame a Wild Tongue.” This woman was basically an outcast because she speaks Spanish and had an accent. People would look at her differently and not take her as seriously if she did not learn English and get rid of her accent.

 In a way, I can relate to this. I was born in Fort Smith, Arkansas and lived there until I was five. That was where I learned to walk and talk, and I still consider it my hometown. Then my family moved to a small town in Iowa, where the other children considered me an outcast because I had a thick Southern accent. I specifically remember the first time I met the girl living up the street. The first thing she said to me was, “You talk funny. What’s wrong with you?” As a five year old, those words were absolutely devastating! All I wanted was to make friends, but no one liked me because I spoke differently than them. I quickly learned to hide my accent, and I basically lost it within a couple of months. We moved to Omaha the next year, and I finally had a Midwest accent with a slight Southern twang. Over the years, I have completely lost my accent, but Arkansas will always be close to my heart. The accent still comes naturally to me, and sometimes my twang or an occasional “y’all” slips out. My mom and I went back for a visit last summer, and I picked up the accent again for the week we were there. It felt so natural and right.

 It was hard enough being an outcast in my own country for having an accent, so I can’t imagine being from another country and told you have to lose your language and accent, such as Anzaldua had to do. A line that really struck me from our reading is, “So, if you want to really hurt me, talk badly about my language. Ethnic identity is twin skin to linguistic identity–I am my language.” It hurt me so badly that the neighbor girl made fun of my accent because she was making fun of my identity. Although I haven’t lived in Arkansas for 16 years, I still consider myself a true and proud Arkansas girl.

 

 

 

Shifting America

            Shift in language has been seen consistently over the course of American history. First, the Native Americans were forced to shift from their native language as a way to “civilize” them. Next, the majority of people spoke German in America around the Revolutionary War. Since gaining our independence, America shifted to predominately speaking English. While we were shifting, America was bilingual, speaking both German and English. This can be seen today as immigrants come to America.

            While I was working yesterday, a family of Mexican immigrants bought flowers from me. The mother obviously did not speak English, but her three young children did. The eldest daughter, who was probably in her early teens, completed the transaction and translated for her mother. The children spoke perfect English to each other and me, but they spoke Spanish with their mother. The children will most likely always be bilingual, but their children could shift to English. In this case, they would see a bottom-to-top death of Spanish in their immediate family.

But then again, America could soon be experiencing another shift in language, and those children would never lose Spanish. I personally don’t think America will ever lose English as its primary language and experience another shift, but I do think it will have to make room for other languages. With so many Mexican and other immigrants coming to America, Spanish is becoming a major language. This can be seen in school all around the country. Spanish is quickly becoming a mandatory class for all students, and very young children are learning the language through television shows and other means. I strongly think America will become a bilingual nation within the next 20-or-so years.

Conversation

I honestly don’t know how I feel about Nofsinger. On one hand, I feel as if I spent a lot of time reading an article about basic common sense. Most people already know proper etiquette when it comes to everyday conversation. It’s something that we all practice on a daily basis without even thinking about it. We all understand TRP’s, interruption, overlap, and pauses, but we never bother putting a name to them because they are all so obvious.

On the other hand, I was fascinated with the article. Like most people, I have never really thought about turn organization and etiquette; it’s just something I have always practiced. It was interesting that someone put a name to and studied the various conversational aspects. I found the section over interruption and overlap the most interesting. Everyone has that one friend who can’t keep his or her mouth shut during a conversation and has to chime-in on everything. It’s not always rude, but it sure is annoying! I always get really irritated when I am interrupted, so I thought it was fun reading about it.

While reading this article I kept thinking, “I wonder if other countries have the same turn organization that we do?” I haven’t studied other cultures in depth, so I have no idea how they converse. I think it would be very interesting to study this and see how cultures differ in terms of conversation and turn organization. 

Composition Project

Attached is the URL for my website. My main idea is to persuade professors, primarily composition professors, to stop discussing their personal political affiliations and opinions during class. I also wish to persuade composition teachers to abandon the idea of assigning political writing assignments. I spent a great deal of time and energy creating this website, so I hope you enjoy it!

http://kroduner14.wix.com/politics-classroom

No Politics, Please

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One of my greatest pet peeves is politics in the classroom. If you ask me, it has absolutely no business being there. It wasn’t a problem in my high school because teachers were forbidden from discussing their beliefs. It was a complete culture shock when I came to college and about 70% of my teachers outwardly expressed their political views. In fact, during the election one of my teachers endorsed President Obama nearly every class. Last year I had a professor express that President Obama was a god and President Bush was the devil. I almost walked out of class that day because I was so disgusted! Hairston’s reminded me of this professor because she used her educational power to push her own agenda –including racism, sexism, feminism, and liberalism- onto her students. If you ask me, any teacher who outwardly shows or teaches about his or her political views deserves to be fired.

            That being said, I do not have a problem if teacher want to discuss politics as long as all viewpoints are looked at and analyzed equally. Although, I think a freshmen writing, or English Comp, class should be focused on writing. As Hairston states, “Writing courses, especially required freshman courses, should not be for anything or about anything other than writing itself, and how one uses it to learn and think and communicate.” These basic English classes should not focus on literature or analytical practice, it should be focused on teaching the basics of writing. Later Hairston states, “They do not need to be assigned essays to read so they will have something to write about-they bring their subjects with them: the writing of others, except for that of their fellow students, should be supplementary, used to illustrate or reinforce.” I had a wonderful teacher for my English comp 1 classes who practiced this, and I appreciated it greatly. I learned so much about my writing from her because we focused on writing and critical thinking without using politics.

            Politics in freshmen writing courses, as Hairston explains, is detrimental because freshmen minds are so easily molded. They are typically fresh out of high school and possibly living on their own for the first time. And, if done correctly, they are easily persuaded or manipulated. These teachers are basically requiting students to their own political agenda, and it needs to end immediately. I think one way to do this is to center a writing course around its primary objective, writing. I think readings are important, but in a freshmen course they need to exclude politics. If politics for some reason needs to be discussed, then teachers should to examine all sides of the argument without bias. Let the students make their own decisions. College should be about learning, not a professor’s political agenda.

Be Your Own Person

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I think Gerald Graff’s article is, by far, my favorite article we have read so far. While reading this article I kept thinking, “wow, this guy really gets it!” I love literature, but I hate taking lit classes because the professor is typically very one-sided in beliefs and interpretations. I had a fantastic teacher in high school who told us that there is no one true meaning to most literature; everyone has their own interpretations, and the majority of them could be right.

I had to read Heart of Darkness for a class last semester, and my professor was very one-sided about the novella. We also read Achebe’s essay, but we were still only allowed to believe in our professor’s interpretation about both works. If we had a different interpretation of them and professed it on our test, then we would be downgraded. Unfortunately, I have learned to put aside my own interpretation of texts and write about my professor’s interpretations so I can receive a good grade. This is pathetic considering there is no one Truth to a text. No one person can know the exact meaning on these pieces of work considering its authors are dead. Its not like we can communicate through the grave, that is, unless you are psychic. Graff quotes Mr. Crews in saying, “Literature is a site of struggle whose primary conflicts, both intrapsychic and social, deserve to be brought to light rather than homogenized into notions of fixed authorial ‘values.’ ” This is exactly right. We cannot continue to only listen to our professor’s interpretations, we, as students, need to have our own meanings. I think the best way to teach a literature class is to examine several other interpretations of the text and let students decide which one they think is most valuable. We need to stop believing everything our teachers tell us, and learn to be our own person.

Graff primarily focused on racism when examining Heart of Darkness and how Conrad was racist towards the natives, but I think it goes beyond that. Conrad lived in a time of absolute racism. Teachers should not teach students that Conrad was a horrible person because, typically, most people though Blacks were disgusting creatures who were only meant only to be slaves.  Teachers need to explain that this was how most people of that period thought, and it was accepted to do so. Educators need to let students think of how we have developed and changed our ways of thinking since that period, and make Heart of Darkness into a historical lesson as well as an interpretative exercise.