So I decided to do the summery for two the last two weeks together. Here we go.
Fiction Writing: Story, Structure, and Starting Out
Readings: Workshop pieces. Open forms of narrative and The salt of broken tears by Michael Meehan, Happy Endings by Margaret Atwood, Videotape by Don DeLillo, My life with the wave by Octavio Paz, The sprouting month and The clothes-lining month by Ruth Ozeki, and (Favoured by) babies by T Richards.
Week 10 was spent doing our final rounds of workshopping our classmates' work, then in week 11 we discussed open forms of narrative. Our theory reading talked about how in good literature, the reader ends up wanting to go back and re-read, the final line of the story drives them back to the first line, and the reader is often aware that they are missing a deeper meaning to the text upon the first reading. I can easily relate to this last point. I've lost count of the number of times I've been reading something and thought to myself, There's something in here that I'm not picking up on, and it won't be until I go back and read again that I realise what it was. With every re-reading, a reader comes away with more meaning than they had on previous readings. The meaning will also be different for each individual because of the different ways we understand and interpret what we read, and the reading will be different for the same individual as they re-read at different points in their lives, depending on how their interpretation and understanding changes. We also talked a lot about the creative process, but I would like to make a separate blog post about that.
Poetry: Making it Strange
Readings: Ratbaggery editorial by Duncan Hose (my tutor).
Week 10 focused on ratbag poetry. Ratbag poets are poets who write about other people. They are gossips with an ideal for change. These poems can be callus, rude, direct, naming names and creating caricatures of the people they are talking about. Their purpose, as with all forms of poetry, is to manipulate the reader's feelings, though in this particular case they specifically want you to form a certain opinion about whoever they are talking about.
Week 11 seemed to lean back towards the Australian contemporary poetry, focusing on 'outcrop: contemporary poetry of country'. There were not set readings for the week and I think we spent more time talking about our final assignment and workshopping more than anything else. The two things I jotted down in the good ol' notebook were:
- the only cure for boredom is curiosity, and
- use nouns as verbs.
It has been an interesting and exciting class, though sometimes hard to know if we covered what we were meant to cover. I definitely enjoyed myself.
Literature for Children and Young Adults
Readings: Freedom Writers (Richard LaGravenese, 2007). Twilight by Stephanie Meyer.
I loved the film Freedom Writers, though I could see its flaws even while I was watching and enjoying it. Film is one of the most influential mediums in the world and a vehicle for constructing, negotiating, and resisting dominant ideas. However, while on the surface, a film like Freedom Writers might seem to uphold values such as acceptance of differences (particularly, race in this case), and treating teenagers like adults, some of the passive ideologies that come through aren't so flattering. I'd like to take a moment to acknowledge that while F.W is based on true events, it is not a 100% accurate representation of the characters and what happened, so these criticisms are directed at the film, not the true story. F.W. upholds the 'white hero' stereotype, as if the minority races are unable to help themselves and better their own lives. Speaking of the minority races bettering their own lives, there's another negative stigma; all of the minorities represented in the film are lower/working class with pretty messed-up lives and gang involvement, while the white characters are all upper/middle class with lives that don't seem so bad. Of course there are exceptions, like the main adult-teacher character, Erin Gruwell, who's husband gets all shitty at her for not asking him before she gets a second job and isn't very supportive of her trying to help the kids and ends up leaving her (he was more than a little sexist). Also, casting! Gotta LOVE how all of the white characters scored well-known actors, while the minority roles don't get any big-names. So, is Freedom Writers supposed to be about the students, or about the teacher? Because from the sounds it of, it SHOULD be more about the students, but after watching it, it seems much more centered around the teacher, Mrs Gruwell. I mean, it's not that I don't think Erin Gruwell deserves the credit or recognition for what she did in real life, but I think making the white character the star of the show kind of defeats the purpose.
I'll stop myself there before I rant forever, because there is a lot of stuff to pick at, but that's the worst of it. We studied Twilight in week 11 as our module of popular fiction for young adults. Twilight was HUGE, and not just within the young adult audience. I remember when it was about to be a movie, for Christmas that year, I wanted the books for Christmas so that I could read them ahead of all the other movies. It ended up that I had a box set of the books for myself, my little sister got a box set for herself, and my mum got a box set for herself. So, there were three copies of every book in my house. My mum was the most passionate about them, not myself (who read and enjoyed them at the time, but didn't think they were mindblowing or anything), or my little sister, who I don't think actually ended up reading them, although it was me and my sister they should have appealed to most as far as target audiences went. As I started re-reading the first book for class, I wanted to be sick. I'm actually not sure how I liked these books at all when I was thirteen and now I'm kind of ashamed of myself and everyone around me who put so much as a toe on that bandwagon. In short, Bella is a really flat character and ridiculously damsel-in-distress, especially when it comes to guys. The book condones girls pining after men and putting themselves in dangerous situations in attempts to get their attention and/or please them. Edward is actually a real ... I'm not going to use that word here, but to put it nicely, he's a condescending, domineering, jerk-face. Also, he's a stalker. Like wtf he sneaks into her house and watches her sleep, that is not okay! This book enforces outdated ideologies such as that women should be obedient to men, that men are allowed to be dismissive and generally treat girls like shit, and don't get me started on the virginity metaphor. On the outside, Twilight is a typical though poorly written paranormal romance that attempts to reinvent the gothic novel, and while the virginity thing is outdated I won't knock it too hard because that's a matter of personal choice (though Meyer is crafty and deceptive in the way she disguises its presence), but overall it sets a really dangerous example for young adult readers as far as what they should expect from love and relationships goes. And I was officially sick about Bella going on about how physically beautiful the Cullens were by the end of the third chapter. There's the other thing, Bella with no self esteem and poor self-image, then BAM it's all starting to get better once she's got a boyfriend (not to mention when they get married in the last book and she gets to be a vampire too... sparkle sparkle motherfuckers!). Seriously, could Stephanie Meyer give girls a worse role model?
We interrupt this blog post for Twilight movie sins.
I'm going to shut up before the Twihards come to get me.
Creative Nonfiction: The Personal Essay
Readings: Workshop pieces.
Workshopping aside, we went over some last minute pointers to help us with our final assignment. When writing about true stories, we need to be mindful of how we compress and expand characters and events, whether or not our choices are ethical and whether or not they help get across the messages we intend the reader to receive. It is often appropriate to conduct further research and incorporate necessary information in order for the reader to get the best understanding of the situation you are writing about as possible, and who knows, maybe that research will influence the way you end up writing. Don't be afraid to experiment with the story's structure, and turn the structure into meaning. Also, Margaret McKenzie's Australian Handbook for Writers and Editors is a good resource... well, for Australian writers anyway. Use correct punctuation, etc...
The job of the writer is to make connections between things that people would not normally make connections between. Good class, loved my teacher and my class mates.
So! This concludes Saturday Summaries, at least for this semester. I hope my ramblings have imparted something or other that I've learned in the past 11 weeks to the blogosphere's population. Now, off with me to do my assignments.
Do you find more meaning in a text the second time you read it? What kind of a poet would you be? Will you flay me for knocking Twilight or do I have your permission to continue living? Have you ever written a personal essay?