A Brief Guide to the Many Traps of Octavia Butler’s Fiction

The students of ENGL 431/Octavia Butler and Social Ties have requested that I post their collaborative statement that they conceptualized and crafted independently of the instructor. Click here for a version with live links.

ENGL 431 Final

by Sandy Brahaspat, Sabrina Bramwell, Kevin Burke, Sandra Ching, Gabby Cicio, Elana Evenden, Devin Flaherty, Emma Gears, Denis Hartnett, Jonathan Kalman, Clio Lieberman, Jennifer Liriano, Linda Luder, Brendan Mahoney, Sean McAneny, Catherine McCormick, Steven Minurka, Nolan Parker, McKenna Parzych, Raina Salvatore, Samantha Stern, Emily Sterns, Katelyn Sullivan, Veronica Taglia, Elizabeth Verrastro, Davina Ward, Sarah Werth, and Sarah Westbay

 

Toni Morrison’s Jazz and Dante Alighieri’s Purgatorio: Out in the Open

As Erin Herbst‘s and Brianne Briggmann‘s posts indicate, we along with Ron Herzman are taking the first steps towards a collaborative essay exploring how Toni Morrison’s Jazz recapitulates and revises Dante Alighieri’s Purgatorio.

The project is an offshoot of Fall 2016’s Toni Morrison’s Trilogy course where the class concentrated on the relationship between Morrison’s Paradise and Dante’s Paradiso, and we hope to do much of the thinking towards it in public.

There are risks to doing so, of course. For instance, anyone from anywhere can read this, scrape our interpretations, and use them elsewhere without credit or citation. Continue reading “Toni Morrison’s Jazz and Dante Alighieri’s Purgatorio: Out in the Open”

Space to live and credit score

At the request of an anonymous community member, I share this important post.

A heads up to all of you: Beth wasn’t kidding when she said that landlords check your credit score. A friend of mine was looking for rentals in an area with a particularly competitive housing market. It is the norm for landlords to ask for $30 to complete a credit screening. The rental application also asked for a blank check and information not just about debts owed, but also about how much money is currently in one’s checking account and savings account. This is verifiable information because the landlord now possesses the account and routing number from the blank check. Additionally, landlords sometimes ask for links to Facebook and LinkedIn profiles, and sometimes, this is explicit in the Craigslist ad.

When this friend finally received an offer, the landlord had not checked any references but only spoke to the friend and checked the friend’s credit score. The landlord said,  “Your credit score is low, but your personality is excellent.”

This friend is unspeakably lucky. This friend now has a place to live and time to improve the credit score and hopefully to obtain a positive reference from this landlord. But, this might not even matter if the next landlord only checks one’s credit score and “personality.” I imagine that not everyone is so lucky. Seriously, check your credit score and keep your utilization rates low.

What harm can innovations like AirBnB do?

I’m Facebook friends with a nun who serves in New Orleans, and it just so happens that today she posted regarding this awareness-and-action campaign about how what AirBnb whole-house rentals can do to neighborhoods, especially historically black neighborhoods targeted for gentrification in Katrina’s wake.

As it’s JazzFest time, many folks should be thinking about this. Here’s a quote:

Ok, so what’s the problem? Who cares if tourists now have more options to chose from when deciding where to stay? Because now, tourists aren’t limited to the Central Business District or French Quarter (where all the hotels are). They’re moving out of tourist-engine downtown and getting AirBnB’s in more traditional neighborhoods (Mid-City, Marigny, Lower Garden District, Bywater) and most notably, historically black neighborhoods (Seventh Ward, Sixth Ward, Central City, and St. Roch). This shift just so happens to be in line with the City’s new tourist marketing strategy [see right]. When mass amounts of tourists come into traditional neighborhoods, they have both negative short and long-term effects.

Here comes the Atlantic (again)

Subtitled “Along parts of the East Coast, the entire system of insuring coastal property is beginning to break down,” this new New York Times article examines how rising sea levels are creating another kind of housing crisis, another kind of liquidity trap. You’ll note how the ghosts we’ve examined in the course (e.g., the Zong massacre) haunt the article’s invocation of insurance and risk. The whole thing is worth a read for many reasons, and not least the emergence of metaphor in the quote below:

This is the hardest reality to discuss, Stiles said, and a reason flood insurance is serving as a kind of advance scout into a more difficult future. “When you go out to the end of the century, some of these neighborhoods don’t exist, so it’s hard to get community engagement,” he said. “Nobody wants to talk beyond where the dragons are on the map, into uncharted territory.”

Two paths to dehumanizing human beings

I was just reading this interview with Matthew Desmond, whose book Evicted just won a Pulitzer. I haven’t read the book yet and am hoping it’s not in the tradition of Alice Goffman’s On the Run.

But given Dominion‘s deep and complicated human characters, this line really jumped out at me:

“There are two ways to dehumanize: the first is to strip people of all virtue, the second is to clear them of all sin.”

Sometimes when I can’t find something, something equally useful pops to the surface

I was trying to find  Mother Jones article from about 10 years ago because it made a claim that when a house (or apartment, or any dwelling) approaches about 2800 square feet (I think), it becomes impossible to clean that place on one’s own. Someone else must be hired to do the cleaning.

But I can’t find the article, but in the meantime, Google yielded this article from a 1908 Ladies’ Home Journal. It’s titled ‘“I Want to Build a House’: An Architect’s Frank Talk with the Man or Woman Who is About to Build.”

Maybe it’s worth a read!

“Metaphor is Hard Science” by Valerie Prince

As we are listening to the This American Life episode “Toxie” during class, and as I’ve asked you to attend to all the literary concepts roiling and churning through the episode, I invite you to read Dr. Valerie Prince’s brief but important essay “Metaphor is Hard Science.”

A key passage:

Rather than standing around with its lip poked out insisting upon its continued relevance in an increasingly diverse and divergent society, the humanities should orient its curriculum around the study of metaphor. After all, metaphor is central to human cognition. The cognitive psychologists know it. So do advertisement agencies. Folks who are working on prosthetic devices, drones, and robotics rely on metaphorical thinking for innovation. Economists, politicians, information technologists— it seems everyone except the ones specializing in language usage appreciate the value of a good metaphor. And when I say “value” here, I’m not merely being metaphorical. Most of us English majors received that old adage, “You don’t study English for the money” as a virtue. There is a lot of virtue in the study of literary artistry. English majors find benefit in decoding messages, articulating meaning, admiring beauty, balancing design. Metaphor is one, albeit significant, literary device studied among many,treated as an ornamental embellishment that helps us use language to demonstrate wit and craft. The rest of the world— those who majored in finance, physics, biotech fields, for instance — see a good metaphor and know how to turn it into profit.

Continue reading ““Metaphor is Hard Science” by Valerie Prince”