Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Oral Traditions

What I gained from this class was a sense of what the oral tradition and the oral culture is and was. Sometimes it made me a little sad, there was a constant feeling of nostalgia looming over the Ong and Kane books. But I guess those books and classes like this are keeping the oral tradition alive. Not only is the oral tradition still alive in our modern, everyday lives, but it is highly relevant as well. This is probably the most valuable thing I've learned from this class: the relevance of oral cultures and memory in my life. It makes me think of knowledge, of what it is, in a completely different way. Knowledge and wisdom are traits that one inherits and internalizes through learning and through experiences. It's always in you although you may not always realize its there. This is where memory comes in, to invoke internalized knowledge and to shape experiences. What does experience mean unless you have the knowledge to give it meaning? The meaning applied is what transforms into personal knowledge, which is then used as a tool for living a valued life. I guess the most prominent aspect of Ong's 9 characteristics, for me, was orality's agonistic qualitity. Adding and building upon knowledge is what will ultimately lead to wisdom. Our memories are so amazing this way because we can store knowledge and keep it there, if we learn how. By the time I'm 80, I'll(hopefully) have a plethora of knowledge and it will all make sense to me. I will then write a book of everything I learned and pass on my anticipated wisdom.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Papers

Today we listened to some more paper presentations. I was especially interested in both Ed's topic and Mick's, because they were rather closely related. Ed discussed how oral narrators think they are recalling things verbatim when actually their stories are constantly changing. Ed said something that really stuck out. He talked about how traditional oral storytellers would absorb their information, intimately, sort of get to know it and deeply internalize it before they presented it while today's literate culture tends to "cram" a bunch of information into their minds and then regurgitate it just to forget it later on. Obviously the former method is more effective, and I've often thought so, especially in college. In college, there is a mass amount of information being directed at the student, about all kinds of subjects. I feel this way every day, and I often get frustrated because I don't have enough time to think about what I learn, so I often feel like I don't know anything. That's why I love spring break, or summer break especially. Then, I have time to think over what I've learned and internalize it in my head, and organize how I feel; only then am I able to figure out a way to apply it to my life. Then it becomes truly useful to me.

This relates to Mick's paper. He investigated what we've learned in this class so he could better understand it. Writing a paper definitely helps to further understand and internalize the topic on which you're writing. Interesting stuff, once you think about it.

Oral vs. Written Stories

I googled "oral storytelling" and found a site by author Steve Denning on Oral versus Written Stories. In it, he writes how oral stories are not like written stories in that they are not descriptions of an event or events that took place at a time in history. Instead, oral accounts are assumed to be taking place in the moment, and are therefore in constant motion. He writes that the renewal of oral stories requires participation to create new aspects of the stories, and in writing, the story ends up with a sense of fixation; it's static.

What he later argues that I don't necessarily agree with is that oral accounts lack authenticity. What is more real than present, active participation in the telling of history? This is a narrow-minded opinion that, unfortunately, several apply to. If it's not in writing, or tangible, then it's not real. I argue that the authenticity of a written document is just as questionable as the authenticity of an oral account. The search for truth, or what is considered truth, is ongoing and will probably never be settled or agreed upon.

If anyone would like to read this, check it out at www.stevedenning.com

Friday, April 22, 2005

Sherman Alexie

I really enjoy Sherman Alexie's writing. It's real, it's funny, and it's honest. Lastnight I saw him speak (as I'm sure many of my classmates also did) in the SUB. My face hurt by the end of his speech from laughing. It was a stand-up comedy act rather than a speech, yet he projected some really strong messages at the same time. I liked how he made his audience realize how great our country is. Compared to the way things used to be, we've made a lot of progress. It's hard to concentrate on these positive things sometimes, particularly during a war. I also liked his perspective on the war. His "they're just jealous" approach made sense while being very funny as well. His final message, to develop a sense of humility within ourselves, was, appropriately, the strongest. He advised his audience that the next time you find yourself so sure of something, to say to yourself, "I might be wrong." What a concept.
What I like most was his outspoken-ness. There were no barriers between him and us, he didn't set it up that way. He was venting, he was letting us know how he felt and, oddly enought, how some of us felt. He cut through all of the surface appearances of things and went right to the core of the matter, from his perspective.

Here is Sherman Alexie's official website: www.fallsapart.com

Thursday, April 21, 2005

After the fact

Today groups 1,2, and 3 presented their papers. Once again, I was very impressed. Mick gave his demonstration of Bobby Fisher's "best game of the century." That would be so hard to memorize. Faith talked about her audio story experience, and that, nowadays, audio books are practically one of our only links to oral cultures. Heather's paper was inspired by the movie "Waking Life." She talked about the symbolic quality of words and how this becomes problematic when trying to express emotions. Maybe that's why I cry so much; I just can't find the words, maybe they don't exist. I liked the Indian music that Josh played for us, and I thought his topic was really intriguing. I went today, and unfortunately I choked. I couldn't find the words to express my thoughts. I blanked, lost my train of thought, and couldn't get back on track. All I wanted to do once I got up there was sit down. Oh well, these things happen and I'm willing to bet I'll forget about it in no time. Gotta go, I'm going to watch Sherman Alexie speak tonight!

Paper Presenting

I'm really nervous to present my paper to the class today, and I don't know why. I think, maybe, it's because I am so LITERATE! I can write and write and write, but when asked to talk about what I'm writing; I can't! Why is this? This is happening in one of my other classes too. We've been working on these articles for so long, and tomorrow we're supposed to tell the class what our stories are about and every time I try to articulate it, I end up saying something like, "well, it's kind of about relationships, or...the evolution of love, or just, basically, what love has become in our society." What am I talking about? It is hard to get out of your own head, especially, I think, for literature students. We spend most of our time with our heads in a book or with our heads in a paper, and don't do enough talking. I see the engineering students and business students working together all of the time on their work, and I think, "gee, that would be kind of nice," but then I realize that if I was not alone while doing my work, I'd get nothing done. Ong talked about this, how writing promotes isolation. It's true. I really like what Ong has to say, most of the time. His ideas are so fascinating, they make me think...I like that.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Fun sites

Here are some websites that I visit frequently:

www.snocountry.com
www.nytimes.com
www.npr.com
www.astrologyforlife.com
www.candletech.com
www.freetranslation.com-- this one is very helpful for my Spanish class.
www.bartleby.com-- this one is helpful for finding books
www.sierratradingpost.com-- I buy a lot of Christmas gifts from these guys

Just a few that are worth checking out.

Representations

The literate culture concentrates a lot on representations like symbols, langugage, writing, and so on. But, when you think about it, everything is a representation. That is why being an English major is so interesting, because we study these representations and discover what is behind them, what constitutes them, and why they represent what they do. For example, I, me, myself am (in a sense) a representation. My identity represents a multiplex of categories: woman, student, runner, pet-owner, single, daughter, sister, consumer, etc...the list goes on. If a culture doesn't represent anything, then there is nothing to be studied. If there is nothing to be studied or investigated, then there is nothing to be known, and thus no knowledge. So to characterize something isn't necessarily labeling it, it's just placing it in a known category so it can be investigated further. So in a sense, categorizing something means to create a platform for to study it further; in other words, to analyze it.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Tomorrow we have another oral memory presentation. The assignment was to memorize a list of 50 items and recite them in front of the class. A couple of weeks ago, I came up with the idea of memorizing 50 different kinds of wildflowers. Then I thought I would memorize them by state. I imagined I was going on a road trip through 5 states, including Montana. Along the way, I notice 10 different kinds of wildflowers that are native to the state. I thought that maybe, somehow, a geographical element might assist me in my memorization.

I did a memory palace, just like I did for the bookmark presentations. But this time, I found it much harder! I don't know if its because these flowers have (somewhat) complicated names, or if it's because I'm using a similar memory palace: my house. I've got 30 down so far, but it took me longer to memorize them. There is a lamp in my house that I've designated for the Smoke Tree flower of Idaho, but as I was designating it, I found myself saying, "Wait--that's Don Quixote!" So I'll continue to search my house for new loci, trying to find new assignments for my household items.

More Memorizing

Tomorrow we have another oral memory presentation. The assignment was to memorize a list of 50 items and recite them in front of the class. A couple of weeks ago, I came up with the idea of memorizing 50 different kinds of wildflowers. Then I thought I would memorize them by state. I imagined I was going on a road trip through 5 states, including Montana. Along the way, I notice 10 different kinds of wildflowers that are native to the state. I thought that maybe, somehow, a geographical element might assist me in my memorization.

I did a memory palace, just like I did for the bookmark presentations. But this time, I found it much harder! I don't know if its because these flowers have (somewhat) complicated names, or if it's because I'm using a similar memory palace: my house. I've got 30 down so far, but it took me longer to memorize them. There is a lamp in my house that I've designated for the Smoke Tree flower of Idaho, but as I was designating it, I found myself saying, "Wait--that's Don Quixote!" So I'll continue to search my house for new loci, trying to find new assignments for my household items.

Friday, April 15, 2005

More Presentations

I thought that the groups that presented yesterday, 4-14, were terrific. I was especially touched by Valerie, Wayne, Juliet, Cindy, and (I hope I'm not forgetting anyone) Opai's group. The blindfolding made me pay closer attention to what they were presenting; I wasn't distracted by props or people. I must say, listening to all of those conversations was frustrating at times, but I think this was part of the point. OVER STIMULATION occurred, and that is good. I compared this experience to sitting, for instance, in a crowded train station. Waterloo Station in London comes to my mind instantly. Normally, all of the sounds would blend together into one hum of commotion. But if I closed my eyes, I could hear bits and pieces of conversation, cell phones, babies crying, people slurping the last of their soda, high heels on the floor, the announcer announcing the next train leaving from whichever platform, someone spilling their bag (and then swearing), toilets flushing, etc...I could go on and on. My point is that one sound, or song, can be deconstructed into the separate sounds that come together to make it. I was more than impressed with this presentation. I walked away from class saying in my head, "Now that is education." Thanks guys.

Expand

I wanted to expand on the "movement" blog I published the other day. I was talking about how language was the vehicle of thought. But then I got to thinking; what then, is the vehicle of language? I think that language is motivated by several forces. Within the individual, there are unconscious and conscious desires that cause a need for language. We need things, both tangible and intangible, that we can most easily obtain with some sort of language. For example, I spent a couple of weeks in Baja, Mexico over the 2003 winter break. My Spanish was very limited, and I was in a place where very few people spoke English. Each day I needed something different, whether it be food, a bathroom, or just conversation. To obtain what I needed, I had to learn and utilize the language. Learning the language helped me to understand (a little) more of what the culture was like; it helped me to think in terms of the Other, which in this case, was a Mexican. So if language is the vehicle of thought, then desire is the vehicle of language. What is the vehicle of desire? That is going a little too far for my knowledge, and too abstract.
Here is a link to one of the surf camps I stayed at: www.pescaderosurf.com