Sunday, September 30, 2012

Artwork in Literature (Week 3)

Reading through Blake’s Songs of Innocence and of Experience  was a much different read than Wordsworth’s “Ode: Intimation of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood”, but not because the writing style was so different. Rather it was because of the artwork. While both had artwork, Blake’s had much more intense pictures on each page of his work. The whole time I was reading Blake I felt much more engaged and intrigued. In Wordsworth’s, though I did enjoy it, I found myself drifting off from the work itself and thinking about other things (like my German homework and if pizza Lunchables are considered a decent lunch for a college senior).

From this alone I could deduce some very simple theories about art’s interaction with learning and the brain. First, that it stimulates us much more then just a blank page with words. If I hadn’t said that to you before, that just means you haven’t been listening to me. I’ve believed this for a while now (which is the reason behind my obnoxiously bright coloured pens I love so much) and preach it when I can: colour keeps you stimulated and that stimulation helps not only one engage/connect with the text, but helps them remember what one reads. Second, it sets the mood. This may be a more subconscious doing, but let’s face it, if you see a skull surrounded by flames you get a much different feeling than if you see a unicorn sprouting rainbows out it’s rear.  Third, it helps with understanding. Much like comics, it can help some one know what’s happening or at the very least, the themes of a poem. For example, in Blake’s London  we see in the pictures the person we can assume is the “I”, but also the old man who shows the “Marks of weakness, marks of woe” (Line 5). This adds a depth to the work and shows what the reader may not necessarily be able to envision on their own.

While this was just me taking our my rear, much like unicorns have rainbows coming out their rears apparently, there are actually studies that say similar things. Take a look at the links below and see what they say about specifically children and art. 

Art and Children
The Effects of Art on Children,
Fact Sheet About the Benefits of Arts Education for Children
How Arts Training Improves Attention and Cognition
Free Arts for Abused Children
Training in the Arts, Reading, and Brain Imaging

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Meditation: Labyrinths

We’ve got a society full of stereotypes and labyrinths are part of them. We continuously use maze and labyrinth are interchangeable words which while may have been true at one period of time, now is not so true. Who better to describe the main difference, but Wikipedia:

    “In colloquial English, labyrinth is generally synonymous with maze, but many     contemporary scholars observe a distinction between the two: maze refers to a     complex branching (multicursal) puzzle with choices of path and direction; while     a single-path (unicursal) labyrinth has only a single, non-branching path, which     leads to the     center.” (Labryrinth- Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
This is the basic difference: the different designs. But why the different designs? John and I found out when visiting the Grand Hotel back in August.

What the sign basically says is that a labyrinth is a meditative/spiritual tool (sometimes therapeutic which is why there are so many at hospitals and healthcare facilities) and really, it is. When we walked it quietly, I could see how following the simple path was calming and easy which left plenty of space for deep thought and mindless peace… Or I could, if it wasn’t so small (sadly, the photo will not download or I would share it with you). 

If standard meditation is not your thing or walking/hiking is your thing (or you enjoy exploring spiritual rituals), then I would definitely recommend finding a decent sized labyrinth and give it a try!

World-Wide Labyrinth Locator
Labyrinths- A
Labyrinth Coalition
The Labyrinth Society
The Labyrinth Society: Events Calendar

Maze- Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Debuck’s Corn Maze (Loved it when I went there for my birthday last year. Spent all day going through their 3 mazes)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Retrograding Childhoods (Week 2)

“Historians of childhood have debated whether a concept of the child, as an individual with unique needs as opposed to a miniature adult, actually existed.”

This quote from Patricia Demers’s From Instruction to Delight: An Anthology of Children’s Literature to 1850 really struck me the first time I read it. So much so that I read it out loud to my boyfriend (then had him read it to himself when he didn’t hear me the first time). It makes sense, however, that there may not have originally been any idea of what we would consider childhood. Children for the longest time were “miniature adults”, as we talked about last week. They started out working right away and the stories began as a way to learn about the world around them.

Stories moved into a more education based eventually teaching what we would see as things of importance: the alphabet, math, sciences, etc to children and nowadays books are usually entertainment based for children. However, since children are becoming more adult-like ever maybe our stories should be returned to our original fairytale format: teaching children how to survival in the way of the world.

More and more of our youth are returning to how society used to be or acting as adult as they feel possible: sex and pregnancies at pre-teen years, becoming violent, doing drugs, drinking alcohol etc. We can see this through multiple examples from the internet, like Millie. Are we returning to our past where children had no childhood? Is childhood becoming unneeded or even perhaps, unwanted?

If this is the case, will our youth’s stories and readings return to their original fairy tale state?

We already know that several countries never had childhood for their youths, because the children still work immediately or must fight to survive in a harsh world. Does this mean their stories and literature are still much different from ours? Admittedly, I would love to learn more about it myself. Below are some articles are today’s childhood or the lack of it.

Childhood in Britain ‘ruined by lack of outdoor play and aggressive advertising’
Children with no childhood
Theories of Childhood
Children Without Childhood

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Are English Majors All Hippies and Cliches?

 In short, no. We're not all hippies and cliches. In fact, I flinch when people call me a hippie. Though, I do accept bohemian or gypsy or free-spirited.

Here's the longer, rambling answer:

Myself and other English Majors get a lot of flack for being in what is considered a useless major. I could give you dozens, maybe hundreds of websites that tell you all English majors will be working in McDonald’s after graduation. I could, but I won’t. I could also give you websites telling  you what jobs are available (See Links Below). However, we can possibly at least agree that college should NOT always be about finding a well paying job, but about gaining something that gives us self fulfillment, whether it’s the gaining of knowledge, the start of a career, the challenge, or any number of other viable reasons. If we can agree on that, then I can we can get down to real brass tax: What English majors actually do!

We know that mathematics majors study harder and harder math, language majors become fully immersed with the language and the culture, and that any science major learns not only how to conduct an experiment, but while conducting them learn the laws of the physical world. Almost any liberal arts major has a bad rap compared the the “harder” majors like these. What’s the use? What do you study? Are all English majors hippies and cliches?

Really, an  English major could be compared to Sociology major, which is basically the psychological study of a culture or group of people or  Anthropology major, which is like the Sociology of the past, because as an English major we study the development of  human culture. Reading Beowulf  teaches us about how Anglo-Saxon culture: how they communicate, what’s important to them, the roles throughout society, etc. Sometimes books and folklore are the only looks into our former culture that we can find. Clothes rarely survive and bones, as well as other artifacts, can only tell us so much. In reading the literature we can find out the roles of men and women, the type of speech used, the morals of time, and the attitudes of different classes of people, all of these which cannot be found with just bones and dust.

We also get to learn how to communicate effectively on a variety of levels as well as gain the skill of quick thinking/understanding. Reading Shakespeare is much different from reading Slyvia Plath or George R.R. Martin, but reading any of them teaches us about the importance of nuance and quick wit. While learning the important of nuance can lead us to question everything and nitpick on words, it also allows us to gain compassion and even the chance to manipulate the world around us. Take “the right to bare arms”  for example, is it the right to have naked arms or the right to have guns? Or even the right to own a pair of bear arms? We play with words to make them our own, to take them for ourselves, and to find to the perfect set to match our meanings just right.

It’s not just nuance of course, we also tend to have to play hide and seek with our pieces. Ubu Roi by Jarry references Hamlet. Heck, almost everything references Shakespeare, especially Hamlet.  Even modern media, like The Simpsons, makes literally references, everything from Hamlet (of course!) to Neil Gaiman to Harry Potter to almost anything you could have read (See the link below!). Since literature, really stories, have been such a large part of our culture for thousands of years, it’s impossible to escape even on TV.

While yes, some of our classes are a bit unusual (I’ve met in bars, I’ve performed pieces we’ve read, I’ve debated the meaning behind fish in a poem, I’ve picnicked on the grass discussing whether a character is a man, a woman, or gender neutral as well as the difference between sanity and insanity, I’ve come to class in an assortment of costumes and props, etc), but really, most class days are like any other: we read something, we generally blog on it, we discuss it  and then write a big paper discussing it. Not much different from any other class I’ve taken, besides the fact that we really have tests after the 3000 level courses. Being an English major may have some bad stereotypes attached to it, but in actuality, there is much more than the stereotype. I won’t be a jobless burden on society and I’m not too “dumb” to study something more “useful”. In reality, I can do a variety of jobs that society needs while still having studied something that is enjoyable for me.

Job Links for English Majors:

10 Careers to Consider with an English Major

Jobs for English Majors,

Jobs for English Majors,

What Ten Jobs Can You Do With Your English Degree

Career Opportunities for Majors in English (Best Site of the 5)

Fun Links:

11 Literary References People Make Without Realizing It

A Visual History of Literary References on “The Simpsons”

Monday, September 17, 2012

Our Life is a Parody

Today in one of my classes my classmates brought up a good point: We know our cultural through parodies. Jokingly they brought up, Weird Al’s Amish Paradise  and who actually might know what song it was originally. However, this isn’t the first time this has come up in the past couple of days. Yesterday on the way to MIRF I mentioned to my passenger that whenever I heard the latest Goyte  song, Somebody That I Used to Know, I hear several parodies as a mash-up in my head (See List Below).

We see parodies constantly of things we love from songs to movies to books. Our culture has various shows dedicated to it even: Robot Chicken, Saturday Night Live, Mad TV, and even shows wholly dedicated to making fun of a whole genre, like one of Cartoon Networks latest addition to Adult Swim , Children's Hospital. We even make mockumentaries, like The Office. Everything in our culture is up for grabs when it comes to teasing and poking fun. Is it because we’re looking for more versions of something we love so we don’t get bored with them?

If that was the reason, then we would just do what Japan does: make alternate reality versions of their popular cultural icons. Series like Sailor Moon or Case Closed have not only manga series with alternate realities, but anime versions and live action ones as well. We do this to an extent with our more nerdy culture. Star Trek, which has different TV series, but also have novel versions and comics that don’t necessarily concede with each other. The comic book industry (DC and Marvel being the most well known) is also notorious about for it and tend to have multiple alternate versions going on at once: one with the heroes as teenagers, one with them fighting a civil war, one with them as zombies and even unofficial versions with them as pre-schoolers. This obviously isn’t the reason for making of parodies. Those of us who can’t get enough of blue aliens getting seduced by ship captains or laser eyes that burn foes, makes sure that we have so much that we couldn’t possibly get bored any time soon.

So is the need/want for parodies go deeper? As children don’t we mock the different children and make grotesque their features? Is this just an extension of our childhood cruelty that comes out now in normally a more socially acceptable, less hurtful way? I suppose we could think of it like that, but that’s a bit cruel for my taste. We could also see it as people trying to jump on the fame band wagon (just look at all the youtube hits the parodies have). Or is that the best way genre of comedy? Is it the only way to connect over boundaries?

Or is it just darn amusing?

Feel free to let me know your theories or share your favorite parodies!

Goyte Parodies:
Some Song That I Used to Love
The Star Wars That I Used to Know
Some Study That I Used to Know

Other Parodies Worth Watching:
We’re Trekkies and We Know it (My Personal Favorite)
Avengers Assemble  
REBECCA BLACK + STAR WARS Friday Parody 'Primeday'

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Twisted Tales with a Modern Twist (Week One)

Little Red Riding Hood, the symbol of naivety growing into maturity (even if a little prematurely), is played with often these days. Just look up “Red Riding Hood” on Netflix: you get a several horror movies, Into the Woods (a musical), and a children’s cartoon version featuring the creepy Bratz dolls. She’s even a popular Halloween costume.  Because every one is looking for their Big Bad Wolf to blow down their innocence.

But really, she isn’t the only character getting a make over. We’ve probably all seen the make over of Beauty and the Beast  in New York with sewers and a district attorney or the new popular Once Upon a Time or the other legions of remakes. However, the best remakes seem to be in comic style.

A current webcomic called Erstwhile is three young female artists who take turns revising fairy tales in their own words and pictures. They don’t necessarily take the most famous tales either, All Fur  and The Little Shroud  being two of my favorite remakes thus far. The Little Shroud is done with almost complete silence even, only Gina Biggs’s art telling the tale, until the last few pages. Part of why fairy tales done in comic style are so intriguing and genuinely heartwarming (or breaking depending on the tale), is because a soulfully rendered picture can give a thousand more words and much more nuance than a million English majors crammed into one room together.

They can also help create a much different, much more horrifying and still comical fairytale world, like in the Vertigo comic Fables . Here we find our fairy tales heroes and heroines in the throes of an epic civil world which crosses dimensional lines when the fairy tales flee into our world, specifically New York City. The Beast changes into a monster when Beauty is mad at him (which is all the time), Prince Charming is no good cheating rat, and you don’t even want to know what Geppetto is up too. This comic which raises good humor and still puts on a very emotional war, is well delving deep into, even if these aren’t the fairy tales we know and love.

Sure, we find other modern plays on the fairy tales, such as John Connelly’s The Book of Lost Things  (a good read about a little boy who must fight a world of twisted fairy tales to save his mother), but these comic renditions really give us a good view of the other world. Besides that, they help us suspend disbelief: we see the giants, the witches, and the monsters. We have some proof, showing us that what goes bump in the night really can creep up on us.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Newest Blog Project

As many of you already know, I'm an English Major at Wayne State. This means I'm constantly reading and analyzing literary works. Coming close to the end of my English degree (hoping to graduate at the end of Winter 13 semester), I was thinking of starting a literary aspect to my blog.

Well, my Senior Seminar professor ended my debate: At least once a week I need to create a public blog post about our weekly readings. This should create an interesting series considering the seminar is on Children's literature. Here is the timeline we will be following:

Fairy Tales (Week 1)---> Beginnings: "Edutainment" in Print Culture (Weeks 2-4)---> American Children: Historical Figures (Weeks 5-7)---> Writers and Other Wild Things (Weeks 8-9)---> Sci-fi and Fantasy: Escapes and Dystopias (Weeks 10-13)

This is basic outline from my syllabus using the titles of each reading section. I hope you enjoy these next segments of the blog, because I will definitely enjoy writing them.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Feminism and the Hairy Legs

I have never considered myself a feminist. Even occasionally anti-feminist, but never feminist. True, feminism isn’t the same as it’s original connotation: the hairy legged women who hate men as a whole and would happy take out the male population. It still, however, gives me a cringe when I’m called one.

The latest accusal comes from a woman on campus:

Woman: You know, if you shaved your legs you’d get a job and boyfriend.
Me: ...I have a job and a boyfriend.
Woman: Don’t you mean girlfriend, sweetie?
Me: Um... What does my legs have to do with this?
Woman: Only feminists don’t shave their legs.
Me: Being feminist means I’m a lesbian?
Woman: No, but hairy legs mean you can only get a dyke.

If you’re like me, you are just as confused as I am. Being too lazy/busy to shave my legs means I’m not allowed to work or date? If I do date, it must be a woman? Hairy legs immediately means feminist? More importantly, how did this conservative get onto this extremely liberal campus without their spirits being beaten down?

While feminism has evolved into a much different version than it’s stereotype, it’s stereotype is still alive and well. Admittedly even myself and others in my generation for the most part still think of feminism as hairy-legged, man haters. This is why I don’t consider myself a feminist, the nuance is just too severe for my liking.

Instead, I see myself as an equalist or humanist. I believe in equality for men, women, transgender, asexual… Essentially, I’m for the equality of all humans. I’m not specifically tied to just one area of equality, but every area. While I understand that it must each be fought for in separate battles, the fight for equality is still one ongoing war.

Other thoughts on Equalist or Humanist titles:

Why I Don’t Call Myself an Equalist
If I’m To Be Given One Label, Call Me An Egalitarian
FAQ: Why “feminism” and not just “humanism”? Or “equalism”? Isn’t saying you’re a feminist exclusionary?
Feminist or Equalist: The Absence of Equality in Feminism
Should Feminism be renamed Equalism?

More info on Equalist Movement:
Summary of the Equalist Philosophy
About Equalist