Capstone Journal

A record of thoughts for the English Capstone class.

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Thursday, September 20, 2001
Today we had a fascinating lecture on editing, tossing in tidbits about the Pierce Project (Peirce?) and the various screwups that have occured in printing. Now I don't feel so bad about nitpicking novels and such that I read, finding the little errors that jump out at with a right cross to the novel's dream, knocking everything on its side for a moment. Very cool. Actually took notes, too, for one of the first times in class, on the differences between editing to present original text and editing to present the author's original intent. There's not many of them, so I won't put them here; they're in my easily accessible notebooky, after all. :)

I probably should discuss project ideas. I'm kinda torn in two, perhaps three, directions on this whole deal. In an attempt to incorporate more of my linguistics concentration into English, I want to do a study of Twain's dialect. Actually, it'd be more like a research paper, presenting if this is actually a pretty fair interpretation of those five dialects spoken in the South. I'd also enjoy reading other versions of the Huck Finn story, be it the letters in the back of the back or the "True Adventures of Huck Finn" or even the Jane Smiley book, perhaps. Then I'd do a sort of critique on them based on the novel, how they diverge, what sort of new themes this brings up, and how they reflect our modern times. Lastly, there's the censorship iussue. I'd love to take a look at how texts prepared for classrooms are bowlderized and why, or why school districts are so very rigid on what kids can read. Hell, we read Martin Eden in AP English, and somehow I wondered how that got past the board. Chock full of good stuff, yes, but it's not a popular London book, from what I can tell. But I never heard of Huck Finn in our curriculum...strange. Perhaps I could check out the English curriculum of my high school or several high schools around here, and ask them why or why not they have or don't have Huck Finn on the list. There's an idea...

More than that, all of these would safely cover all three aspects of English: Lit, writing, and linguistics. It's just a lot of work in a semester that's going to be a lot of work. *sigh* This keeps up, I will have to quit my job.


Tuesday, September 18, 2001
It's such a gray day out. Rain, clouds, little sun. I kinda like it, though. Suits the mood, and perhaps is more conducive to discussion, since the bright days distract people thoughts from classes. I think...:)

Class, class, class. Today we discussed the Lester article in connection with race issues. Lester's article is not a lot of fun to read, because it has such a low opinion of how Twain treats race. It's hard for me to give his ideas credit when I have some knowledge about how Twain felt about racist issues. A hard critic of democracy he was, but of democratic ideals...I think he held them fully. I think he truly believed that people should be held equally. However, I do have to consider Lester's arguments in their context of this time looking back on the book. T.S. Eliot did make a good point when he said that literature from the present/future DOES reach back and change the way works of the past are looked at. The same works for concepts and ideals of the present/future reaching back and coloring the works of the past. A guy in class made a very good point about how looking at Huck Finn through a racial lens will distort the overall picture. It brings to mind Goblin Market,which was a Victorian poem I read for class last semester. It used to be called children's literature, but now it's anthologized at higher levels because there are so many OBVIOUS sexual and religious connotations, including seduction of a woman, rape, and lesbian overtones, as well as a female Christ figure. To the 20th century readers of our class, it was flat out AMAZING that anyone would let children read this poem. But to the Victorians, it seemed all right. I'm sure these sorts of splits will come up more and more between literature of the present and past.

As for my views...well, I'm horribly ambivalent on the whole racial issue. As mentioned earlier in this log, the rampant use of that "n" word was simply amazing to me. I never adjusted to it, even as the book progressed. On the same token, I don't think Huck Finn can really be taken as a racist book. It is a reflection of the time it was written in (well, the time before it was written), and I think it gives a fairly accurate description. I also think that Twain really did layer some subtle irony in the book, especially around racial portrayals. All in all, Jim is the best moral character in the book--even the protagonist can hardly be seen as someone to emulate. Jim is the bastion of family values and free values; the Duke, the King, Huck and others along the river are all somehow flawed in this respect. (Which makes the one author who used Jim's son to write a letter to Huck about his telling of the tale much more credible in his assertions, IMO.) However, there is some stereotyping...but again, I can't help but wonder if this was stereotyping or simply versimilitude. *throws up hands* So it looks like I'll never have a firm, set opinion or side to take on this racist issue. And technically, I don't really care. It's not my primary focus when I look at the book. I'm more concerned about the authorial technique and dialect than I am about analyzing the personality of Twain through his novel. I know it's a good focus to have, but I cannot adopt it because of my ambiguous attitudes. I apologize if I am supposed to find all issues equally fun...I just don't.

I'll end on that lovely note. Ta!