BrainBlog

Qwriting and beyond

Exam Plans

Filed under: Uncategorized — Lisa Patterson Lay at 9:08 pm on Saturday, March 18, 2017

Sorry this is late. I have been under the weather for a few days.

For the final exam, I will most surely be prepared to talk about the following Main Texts (in no particular order):

Incidents In the Life of a Slave Girl (Jacobs)

How Can I Talk If My Lips Don’t Move? (Mukhopadhyay)

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

The Yellow Wallpaper (Gilman)

Fun Home (Bechdel)

The God of Small Things (Roy)

The Importance of Being Earnest (Wilde)

The Tell-Tale Heart (Poe)

The Buried Giant (Ishiguro)

Bartleby the Scrivener (Melville)

Leaves From the Mental Portfolio of an Eurasian (Sui Sin Far)

Gwendolyn Brooks’ poems

Supplemental Reading Possibilities:

Theory: The Souls of Black Folk (DuBois) — for Incidents in the Life . . .

Theory: Liminality and Communitas (Turner) — for Fun Home

Theory: How To Interpret Literature (Parker) — For a number of books

Genre: Comics and Sequential Art (Eisner) — For Fun Home

Historical Context: Reflecting Violence in the Warpland: Gwendolyn Brooks’s “Riot” (Debo)

Historical Context: Some of Arundhati Roy’s non-fiction essays — for The God of Small Things

Historical Context/Genre: I’m looking for essays about Arthurian literature and how There is often a “Christ” representation. This would relate to The Dream of the Rood, Sir Gawain and The Buried Giant.

Flexibility and Modularity Plans:

  1. I can definitely combine Buried Giant and Sir Gawain for obvious reasons. Historical context.
  2. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl could be combined with The Yellow Wallpaper, as both contain a repressed female protagonist. Theory.
  3. Incidents can also be combined with Invisible Man and Gwendolyn Brooks poems. Historical context.
  4. The Tell-Tale Heart and The Yellow Wallpaper on madness. Genre/Theory.
  5. Sui Sin Far’s short story  and Roy’s God of Small Things because the protagonists are young girls finding a balance between eastern and western cultures. This could be Genre (fiction about Asian girls) or used for historical context, since both present glimpses into real worlds. Amy Tan would fit nicely here too.
  6. Fun Home and The Importance of Being Earnest. This would be Theory. Both speak of sexual identity and identity repression. I wonder If I could reference the sexual identities of both authors, and, if so, how?

Bhabha Theory and Harriet Jacobs

Filed under: Uncategorized — Lisa Patterson Lay at 5:12 pm on Wednesday, March 15, 2017

This was the written notes for my Theory presentation on Homi Bhabha’s essay. I chose the Jacobs book from our exam list as my example of his theories.

 

Theory Presentation: Using The Introduction to Homi Bhabha’s Essay

as a Lens for Interpreting Harriet Jacobs’ Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

 

Homi Bhabha reiterates that in human global culture, especially post-modern, post-colonial culture, the tendency to polarize and create cultural binaries, or boundaries abound. He suggests that these manufactured borders, rather than being walls, or end zones, are actually starting lines of new Hybrid cultures. He says, “The boundary becomes the place from which something begins its presence” (Bhabha 7).

The word “hybrid” is important to Bhabha. In his book How to Interpret Literature, Robert Dale Parker tells his reader that Bhabha uses it to mean “cultural multiplicity” (Parker 297). It could also be defined as the overlap of social borders.

Here are some examples of the binaries Bhabha resists:

Black/White                                  Black — White

Male/Female                                 Male — Female

Master/Slave                                  Master — Slave

Urban/Rural                                   Urban — Rural

North/South                                      North — South

Good/Evil                                             Good — Evil

 

Rather than see these social strictures this way, Bhabha symbolically changes the slashes to dashes (/ to –), creating bridges rather than boundaries. He believes the convergence of cultures creates new cultures, and that this happens globally throughout history.

This cross-pollination of cultures happens throughout Harriet Jacobs’ 1861 autobiographical book, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl.

Here is a list of the ways Jacobs’ book illustrates Bhabha’s theories (and his citations of Renée Green) of post-colonial hybridization:

  1. Linda Brent (Harriet Jacobs) lives in two attics for over seven years. The first is a secret bedroom in a white female sympathizer’s house, and the other, more dramatic one was the cramped attic space over a shed. All the while her slave masters and children live below at street level. This is like Renee Green’s architecture analogy of attics and and basements, and stairways as liminal space. Rather than attic/downstairs, it becomes attic — downstairs with emphasis on the STAIRS part, as they are the conduit for Linda’s protectors to bring her food and news of her family’s well-being. Green states “I use architecture literally as a reference, using the attic, the boiler room, and the stairwell to make associations between certain binary division such as higher and lower and heaven and hell” (Sites of Genealogy).

    2)     Linda has a white name and a white pseudonym.

   3)    Linda is biracial. Her maternal grandfather was a white slaveholder who had sex

 

                     With her slave grandmother. Black/White becomes “a light shade of brownish

                      yellow” (Jacobs 8).

4)      Male/Female becomes one as Linda’s symbiotic feelings of suffering with her

         brother William arise, she in her attic cell, he in jail for keeping her secret. (85)

5)       Linda’s mother and her white mistress were both nursed by Linda’s grandmother.

          Linda herself chooses to have two children by a white man, hoping this may be her

        ticket to freedom. They are further evidence of Linda’s hope for (what Franz Fanon

         would call, “reciprocal recognitions” (Bhabha). Linda, who is fully slave, yet has

        so much white in her genes, tries to assimilate and blend the two. It is the white

        culture that wants no part of this hybrid, not the black culture.

6)    Linda’s style of writing is white. There are a number of critics who do not believe a

       mulatto slave woman in 1861 could write such a book. But write it she did,

       becoming an excellent example of Bhabha’s “borderline work of culture” (9). This

     work he writes, “demands an encounter with ‘newness’ that is not part of the

    continuum of past and present. It creates a sense of the new as an insurgent act of

   cultural translation” (9).

Bhabha mentions Toni Morrison’s Beloved as a story of “an affective, historic memory of an emergent public sphere of men and women alike” (7). This same can be said for Jacobs’ book. Linda is like Morrison’s Sethe, and her daughter Ellen, although still alive and well at the end of the book, can be compared to Sethe’s Beloved. Bhabha continues, “Through the death and return of Beloved, precisely such a reclamation takes place: the slave mother regaining through the presence of the child, the property of her own person” (19).

 

Useful Quotes from Harriet Jacob’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

 

“In complexion my parents were a light shade of brownish-yellow, and were termed mulattoes” (8).

 

“My father, by his nature, as well as by the habit of transacting business as a skilful mechanic, had more of the feelings of a freeman than is common among slaves” (11).

 

“I once saw two beautiful children playing together. One was a fair white child; the other was her slave, and also her sister. When I saw them embracing each other, and heard their joyous laughter, I turned sadly away from that lovely sight” (28).

 

“The garret was only nine feet long and seven wide. The highest part was three feet high and sloped down abruptly” (96).

 

“In the midst of these meditations, I heard footsteps on the stairs. The door opened, and my uncle Phillip came, leading Ellen by the hand. I put my arms round her, and said, ‘Ellen, my dear child, I am your mother’” (115).

 

“I had never seen so large a city, or been in contact with so many people in the streets. It seemed to me as if those who passed looked at us with an expression of curiosity. My face was so blistered and peeled, by sitting on deck, in wind and sunshine, that I thought they could not easily decide to what nation I belonged” (132).

 

Jacobs, Harriet. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. Ed. Joslyn T. Pine. Dover Thrift Editions.

2001.

I Feel a Draft

Filed under: Uncategorized — Lisa Patterson Lay at 10:48 pm on Wednesday, February 15, 2017

This is my checklist (not in any particular order) for what I am working on to improve and expand my essay:

  1. Critiquing Grandin’s writing/speaking style, since this paper is meant to be (at least in part) a literary critique.
  2. Adding voices that counter what Grandin and others like her have to say on the subject of autism/animal connections. This will largely come from the neuroscience arena.
  3. Give an intro to the history of diagnosed autism, i.e. Kanner, Asperger et. al. Use Lennard Straus,
  4. Reference those who believe autism is not a disability, but an “other” type of mind. I will include Lucy Blackman, and maybe Tito Mukhopadhay.
  5. Spend a portion speaking about novels that deal with autism and animal/human connections like the curious incident of the dog in the night-time, The Art of Racing in the Rain, The Dogs of Babel and perhaps The Jungle Book.
  6. Using Smith and Watson’s Reading Autobiography, as a guide, hone my writing to be more literarily correct.
  7. Use Steve Silberman’s book NeuroTribes. (Should come in the mail tomorrow)
  8. I want to find graphics for the essay in preparation for the final oral presentation.

I may want to link the autism history with the history of ethology as a single portion. I am looking elsewhere to find smooth links to segue from one section to the next. Asheka suggested I refrain from ending paragraphs with quotes, a rule I learned in English 170W. And Caitlyn suggested I use my own voice more, rather than rely so heavily on quotes from others. Thanks guys!

The God of Small Things presentation

Filed under: Uncategorized — Lisa Patterson Lay at 10:57 pm on Friday, February 10, 2017

This was my oral presentation. I know it’s a lot, but it was a dense book, and I figure that if anyone wants to reference this book on the final exam and are unsure which road to take (historic, genre, etc.) the material might help.I have posted the links to three articles I used as secondary sources. These might prove helpful for the exam! 

GodofSmallThingsPresentation

Roy articles:

https://www.countercurrents.org/us-roy020903.htm

http://www.thehindu.com/2004/04/25/stories/2004042500041600.htm

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/feb/02/pankaj-mishra-arundhati-roy-hindu-nationalists-silence-writers-india

Project Progress

Filed under: Uncategorized — Lisa Patterson Lay at 1:00 am on Saturday, December 17, 2016
  • lisa-and-murray-on-trail“You can’t get anything past a cow” — Temple Grandin in Animals in Translation

First Draft:

Seeing Inside the Animal Mind Through an Autistic Lens

“The problem with normal people is they’re too cerebral. I call it being abstractified” (Grandin 27). This is the opening paragraph of chapter two of Dr. Temple Grandin’s book Animals in Translation. She later elaborates: “That’s the big difference between animals and people, and also between autistic people and nonautistic people. Animals and autistic people don’t see their ideas of things; they see the actual things themselves. We see the details that make up the world, while normal people blur all those details together into their general concept of the world” (30).

For animals, these details are everything. Most dog owners marvel at their pet’s ability to differentiate between the putting on of one’s coat to go to work and the same action to go for a dog walk. The owner sees only the same scenario repeated, while the dog notices subtle differences. The owner may glance at his watch before heading off to work, or may pat the dog’s head before preparing for a walk. He may just sigh or frown when heading to work and smile for the dog walk. Some people believe people even give off slightly different scents depending on their mood and intention, something their dog’s keen nose may pick up.

Grandin claims it took her thirty years of intense animal study to understand this focus on detail. “The first small detail I saw spook a cow,” she writes, was shadows on the ground. Cattle will balk at the sight of a shadow” (31).

“Novelty is a huge problem for all animals, all autistic people, all children–and just about all normal grown-ups, too, though normal adults can handle novelty better than animals, autistic people, or kids. Fear of the unknown is universal” (45).

(Dr. Grandin would make a great CSI investigator. She uses all her senses to find clues as to why animals behave as they do. She literally and mentally gets down on the floor and sees, hears, smells and feels what they feel. Her attention to detail, devoid of expected result allows her to notice what other “normal” people may not notice.)

Note: The preceding paragraphs are my basic attempt at getting my balloon off the ground.

I plan to start my project with Dr. Grandin’s basic philosophy of the animal brain and why autistic people have unique insight into it. Based on the material I have gathered thusfar (I am continuing to find other books and essays) I think I plan to structure my paper loosely on the Ballroom idea, where I will zoom in on each corner and listen in on varying conversations from people who approach the animal/autistic connect from different angles. Then I will zoom to the next, while keeping a thread of the last. I may re-visit Grandin’s side of the room between each other corner. Or not. For instance, after taking about Grandin and her work with livestock, I can then go to Karen Davis, the Poultry expert who has a different, critical view of chickens and how they think. Then back to Grandin and her affinity with dogs, including her belief that pets are good for autistic kids (she has no kids of her own), then swing over to Pavlides, Carlisle and other parents and child autism experts who speak about pets for autistic kids from their perspective. Then over to Zimmer, (he has a lot to say!) etcetera.

I have a few other ideas right now that I need advice on. I have experience as a dog trainer, especially of shelter dogs. I worked at The North Shore Animal League in their Animal Behavior Unit (we worked with the most difficult dogs) and I volunteered for a number of years at the North Hempstead Animal Shelter where I both trained the dogs and greeted prospective adopters, using my knowledge to make good family match-ups. Should I use personal experience in this project? Should I leave my own voice out of it? I can also interview the woman who trained me — she was a K-9 cop for many years. Definitely understood and could communicate with dogs. Should I do this?

Chani lent me an interesting novel called The Dogs of Babel, by Carolyn Parkhurst, about a man who tries to teach his dog to talk in order to get important first-hand information from her. It is as much about human inter-relationships as it is about canine-human ones, and might be useful here.

I do want to beef up my children-with-autism angle. There is much info on this, including some great children’s books, like “Ian’s Walk.” Here, again, I know parents personally who have raised kids on the autism spectrum — from mild Asperger’s to severe non-verbal autism. I could contact them and see if they might add to my story.

 

 

 

937_4387343556970_1378760960_n

I am attaching some personal photos for possible visuals.

Annotated Bibliography for Senior Project

Filed under: Uncategorized — Lisa Patterson Lay at 10:14 pm on Friday, December 2, 2016

grandin-annotatedbibliography

grandin-biblio-final

Senior Project Proposal

Filed under: Uncategorized — Lisa Patterson Lay at 9:51 pm on Tuesday, November 22, 2016

animals-make-us-human

 

I am thinking aanimals-in-translationbout doing my senior thesis essay based around Temple Grandin’s work with animals. I am an animal advocate, trainer and adopter, who has significant intuition on the subject. I would be so bold as to say that I have something to add to this conversation.

Grandin’s unique perspective, as an autistic woman, has allowed her unprecedented access into the minds of dogs, horses, cattle, and others within the animal kingdom. I understand she has a number fo books published about her own life journey with autism, but I am more interested here, in her animal angle.

Grandin says she thinks in pictures, like animals do. There is a whole lot more to it, but I wonder if all people who are visual thinkers have an added affinity with animals? Pets are used as therapeutic tools for a host of human ailments, horses and dogs most especially. Do humans have a special link with these two types? Do autistic people have an even greater link? Are animals like people? Vice versa? What is the connection — among both autistic people and “normal” people?

I understand the term “autism” indicates a broad umbrella. Can the animal communication angle be teased out and studied? I have been a volunteer at dog shelters and a professional dog trainer. I have animals in my home, especially old animals. I have watched their prime and decline, their patient, fearless acceptance of what the future holds for them. My personal insights are relevant in this conversation. Grandin’s insights and work speak volumes to me.

Here are some sources I intend to use:

Animals in Translation: Temple Grandin

Animals Make Us Human: Temple Grandin

Essays by Jacqueline Crawley: (Her work with mice)

Blog: Sherri Matthews about her autistic daughter and her connection with the family cats.

When a Kiss is Not Just a Kiss

Filed under: Uncategorized — Lisa Patterson Lay at 12:05 pm on Wednesday, November 16, 2016

imgres-1  Judas Iscariot told the Pharisees that they would know which man in the Garden of Gethsemane was Jesus, because he was the one whom Judas would kiss. Michael Corleone kissed his brother Fredo before offing him in a small rowboat. These kisses, one of betrayal, one of death, mark literature (if one can count the New Testament as literature) constantly for millennia. In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, kisses dot the landscape. First they are prizes at a New Year’s banquet held by King Arthur. Later, they are part of a deal made by Lord Bertilak with Sir Gawain.

The three-part epic poem is rife with trickery, betrayal and death — sort of. Although the mysterious Green Knight loses his head in a bloody challenge after crashing Arthur and Guinevere’s New Year’s bash, he does not actually die. Sir Gawain seems to be an innocent, mixed up in a revenge scheme meant ultimately toward Arthur himself. The Camelot players are familiar. Arthur, Guinevere, Gawain, and the always nefarious Morgan LeFay. The reader is immediately drawn into this familiar scene, where kisses between lords and ladies is expected.

But fast-forward one year. Gawain, Mister Macho knight slayer, is a guest (sort of) in Bertilak’s castle where that Lord’s wife keeps making sexual advances upon him. Like Joseph in the house of Potiphar, Gawain refuses to consummate, while accepting three days worth of progressively more passionate kisses. The Reader notes his passivity here. The sexual hunter is the lady of the house, not the man. A typical hetero scene. But wait . . . Because of a deal Gawain made with a seemingly friendly Bertilak, the two aggreed to share all they had procured at the end of each day. Bertilak, ever the good provider, brings the game he has hunted. Gawain, ever the honest knight, gives back the kisses, exactly as he had received them. A gay medieval poem! Or is it?

In her essay, “A Kiss Is Just a Kiss: Heterosexuality and Its Consolations in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight,” Carolyn Dinshaw dissects this phenomena. “My project, then, is not to find a homosexual character in this poem, she writes, “nor do I propose that there is in the poem an opposition between heterosexuality and homosexuality. I do argue that the poet presents normative sexual relations as part of a sexuality-heterosexuality-as I’ve said; but the potential actions specified by the narrative logic-produced by the operations of heterosexuality here-are not organized into an alternative sexuality.” She proceeds to summarizes this affirmation: “With the concern to show that heterosexuality contains homosexuality, in both senses of the word, my analysis pivots around the point that the poet entirely precludes the possibility of (male) homosexual desire in the poem.

So Gawain’s kissing Bertilak are just a relayal of information? Dinshaw wonders aloud what might have happened if the poem’s author had chosen to let Gawain and the Lady connsumate their sexual encounter? The honest knight would then have to have sex with Bertilak!

I believe kisses remain in kiss world here. They seal bargains, sell people out, and become the symbol of downfall. Morgan LeFay holds the over-arching eye, seeing the entire plot as it unfolds, controlling nearly all of it. Always the vengeful temptress, she uses others as pawns in her power struggles. She is a mix of Lucifer and Eve. She is Arthur’s half sister, and, in some accounts, the mother of his problematic son Mordred. Ew!

I always thought Arthurian stories to be fabled versions of Bible stories. I could even bring in the modern version of both of these in the Star Wars series. Luke is Gawain, in this analogy, and must fight against all who challenge his idea of who he is, even if that means dueling with his own biological father (Darth Vader).

imgres

 

Reading Minds, or Reading INTO Minds? – Savarese and Murray Manipulate Melville’s Scrivener

Filed under: Uncategorized — Lisa Patterson Lay at 6:36 pm on Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Mark Haddon rode the wave of autistic autobiographers such as Grandin, Williams and Mukhopadhyay in his creation of Christopher. Since the publishing of his Curious Incident novel, its robust popularity has paved the way for more and more stuff on Autism and Asperger’s, including the best-seller’s own Tony award-winning adaptation on Broadway.

Murray, who wrote Representing Autism, seems to warn the general populace (we who are not experts) that what we are reading in any of this does not by a long shot, provide complete and accurate descriptiveness of this thing labeled autism. For years, I was under the impression that the medical field felt compelled to give symptoms names and labels and even serious-sounding acronyms (ADHD, CFS, COPD, and the ever-popular ED etc.) for diseases and disorders they had no clue about. So I imagined the diagnosis, “He has autism,” really meant, “I have no idea what the problem is, but here’s a nice catchall name.”

On the board a couple of weeks ago, Professor Tougaw wrote the quote, “When you’ve met one autistic person, you’ve met one autistic person.” Murray agrees. So why does Melville’s Bartleby enter into the equation? Because he is anti social? Because he is a picky eater? Because he sits alone, seemingly content in his own little world? Savarese also tries to diagnose poor Bartleby. While Murray psychoanalyzes the reluctant scrivener, Savarese tries to find another cause within author Melville’s mind, namely, Bartleby’s stomach. His severe gastrointestinal problems are the cause of his constant preference for ginger nuts, not an autistic need for extreme victual routine. He proves this by showing that another of Melville’s colorful characters – Queequeg in Moby Dick — also ate ginger as medication. Hm. I would treat these hypotheses somewhat gingerly.

This was a re-reading of Bartleby for me. I do not get the autistic angle, nor do I, like some, feel the need to hold Haddon responsible for a scientifically accurate portrayal of an Asperger’s individual. Even in real life, I do not feel the need to compare Tito to Temple, or Amanda to Donna. Investigating these characters from so many angles is interesting, probably educational and possibly a little fun. I hesitate to send all diagnosed autistic people down the same chute, preferring to give them free range and take them one at a time.

I tried drinking ginger tea for morning sickness during my five pregnancies. It tasted awful and didn’t help at all.

On “curious incident:” What (if any) Responsibilities Do Fiction Writers Have When Portraying Disability?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Lisa Patterson Lay at 12:33 am on Friday, November 4, 2016

Mark Haddon’s best-selling novel, the curious incident of the dog in the night-time, has been both lauded and  vilified for its first-person portrayal of a seeming Asperger’s Syndrome teenager. While critics approach his work from a variety of angles, Haddon himself says, in his blog, that he is no neuro expert at all — that he just wanted to tell the story of someone who is different.

This disclaimer may or may not let him off the critic’s hook. Greg Olear, writing for the online Fathermucker, and the parent of an actual Asperger’s son, is one such critic. “To me, curious incident is a gimmick novel,” he writes, believing this to be so even before the diagnosis of his afflicted toddler son. Since that time, Olear has, through extensive research and personal experience, become quite knowledgeable. And his knowledge has made him all the more critical of Haddon. “I’ve come to see what an inaccurate picture of Asperger’s Curious Incident paints,” he writes.

Perhaps it is protagonist Christopher Boone’s stereotypical bursts of violence or intellectual arrogance, or his aloof – almost sadistic viewing of the suffering of other beings that Olear finds offensive and inaccurate. On the other hand, can the parent of an “aspie” be an objective fiction critic? William Schofield, an actual Asperger man seems to disagree with Olear’s critique. In his book review for the guardian, Schofield sees himself clearly in Christopher’s character. He, like Chris, likes his food separated, feels uncomfortable in crowds and oftentimes finds it hard to make himself understood. But there is another major difference in the way Schofield views the book and the way Olear does. Schofield likes the story, the mystery and suspense. For him it is a good read. Olear thought little of Haddon’s story even without the Asperger’s angle, ready to dismiss it as poor fiction, pushing it way back on the shelf, never to be read again.

Does fiction bear the weight of any responsibility to accurately portray its neurologically afflicted characters? Are authors required to become neuro experts? Haddon clearly thinks not. Olear, the concerned father seems to believe a measure of truth should be told. And Schofield, perhaps the most reliable critic, having Asperger’s himself, seems fine with seeing fleeting glimpses of himself in the novel’s first person protagonist.

For myself, I thought Haddon was having a whole lot of fun with Christopher and his adventures. I was reminded of Harry Potter, especially when Christopher was on the train, hiding in the smelly bathroom to effect his escape from authorities bent on returning him to his father – the actual murderer of the poodle Wellington. His close calls with his own version of Voldemort, his calming mental recitations of math equations seemed almost incantational — not unlike Harry Potter’s muttering of pseudo Latin spells. Because Christopher himself tells the story, we see into his unusual mind and follow along on his mental adventures. It is an entertaining book, somewhat thought-provoking and, to my mind, fairly low-maintenance. No neuro expertise needed.

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