Thursday, September 13, 2001
Although today was supposed to be a discussion of the dialect in HF, there was a lot of talk about the language that was used around the events at the WTC and the Pentagon. Essentially, this was a repeat of a lot of things that we talked about in LPG class, which now that I look at it, I didn't blog. It was about language use around the WTC/Pentagon catastrophe, and extending beyond that, language use in talking about how we'll deal with the people that attacked us. In some sense, it was a much more chilling discussion than the one in LPG because the American leaders are beginning to talk about how hard and fast we're gonna hit. It makes me shiver. At the same time, Prof. Fox gave a speech on how we should seek peace and not bring the might of America down on whoever did this, and it makes me mad. I wanted to yell at him in class, and I think a couple of others did, too...but he has a point. I just can't see how, in the world of realpolitik, it'll work. My Poli. Sci. class keeps coming back to me, reminding me of how often times there is not one sweeping solution.
I ramble, yes. Oops. :)
We did get around to a little discussion of dialect later on in the class, in which we talked about ways that dialect is used: for characterization, for humor and deragatory purposes, or to emote more (such as when people slip into their native tongues in order to better express themselves). Prof. Shepard (our speaker for the day) got a little bit into things like eye dialect (in which words are spelled differently but not pronounced differently, like "duz/does"; also, the use of apostraphes to convey a word is spoken dfferently (because = 'cause). She started to get into the social aspects of it, but then class ended. I would comment about this, but I tend to find it rather silly. :) I know, I know, I should be more sensitive, and I try to be, but the rationalist in me just starts crackin' up.
More next time. C-ya!
Tuesday, September 11, 2001
This was the class I found out in. A friend and Poli. Sci major got a call from Washington, from a friend who wanted to tell her he was all right. Then we walked down the hall to watch TV in another room until class began. When I left that room, the Twin Towers still stood. When I saw the news later, they were gone. Unreal.
It also turned out to be the most surreal class of the day, and my first experience with the "Shutting the Door" academic policy. Essentially, the way to survive in a class is to shut the door, close the world out, and focus on the text. Since the first three classes I had were literary, that's how we went.
In this case, we discussed the ending of HF and the controversy over it. Basically, a lot of Modern authors think that the last ten chapters were just *CRAP*. Many call it a farce, and think that Twain just diddled out an ending, reintroducing Tom and turning Huck and Jim into the minor, insignificant characters at the end. They point out that Huck and Jim have matured on their trip down the river, but Tom has not, and by putting them under his wing again, the whole blooming of characters that comes out of the book is severly curtailed.
I don't quite by into this. :) I think the ending is fine, though a little over the top. I think that Huck and Jim both assert superiority over Tom in a more subtle way. Aside from that, I think there's somethings worth noting. Huck adopts the name "Tom Sawyer" during this time, and in that way, reverts back to being more of a boy again. As I pointed out before, there's a dichotomy between Huck on the river and Huck on land, with RiverHuck being more primative and likeable and LandHuck struggling with the constraints of society. Also, Huck has just made the decision to "go to hell" on the account of Jim, to save his friend no matter what society says. Working through that decision in a farcial manner is very much like a lot of people; for example, those who make great decisions in their lives usually factor some sort of humor into it to defuse the reality of what they're doing. I can see Huck and Jim aiding in this comedic escape simply because both realize how much deep water they're actually in by doing this. It defuses that tension, which I think a lot of Modernists really hate. Another thing is that Twain always satirizes something when he goes onshore, and in this case, I think he's satirizing the drawn out escapes of prisoners in adventure novels. Not only that, the fact that the prisoners always leave behind some totally decipherable sign of their identity is mocked as well. I love when the women describe what they found in Jim's cabin, calling him a crazy person. In a sense, Tom is a crazy person--he's crazy with dreams. He reminds me a lot of my little brother.
Anyways, we went around the class and asked what people thought about the ending, then discussed why some of us felt betrayed and why some liked it. A lot of this is influenced by the Modernist thought (minus Eliot, amazingly enough) that predicted this had to end in tragedy. The sudden comedy at the end is a bit shocking in that light, IMO. We discussed then how ending a story can be so hard, and I agree totally. As a writer, I have an amazingly hard time ending stories, or even getting towards the end, probably because there's so much of a feeling of...eh. Let down. That's the end? That's IT?? Then he asked how we would rewrite the ending, and there was no true consensus on what would be a good idea...though no one favored the tragic ending.
Next class is a study in dialect, and my LPG professor shows up to talk about that. Since I'm thinking about looking in depth at the dialects of the book, I can't wait.