“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.

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An intro of sorts

*A brief note:  my intention is to have two main sections to my essay–what I have posted here is the introduction to the first section.  In my final draft, something will definitely come before the summary paragraph (which currently is the first paragraph) but I thought that would be much easier to write once I have everything worked out.  I’m planning to have a complete draft of the first section done within the next two weeks.  I have a good chunk of it done now, but at the completion of a draft I usually discover a much more logical way to organize the essay, so I’d prefer to present the body of this section in one large chunk to avoid any overly disjointed, incoherent writing.   I also expect this section to change quite a bit by the end, as introductions usually do.

I.The Devil in Silver chronicles Pepper’s stay at New Hyde Mental Hospital, a horrendously underfunded psych unit that is home to a monster that the patients call the Devil; the Devil, a patient by the name of Mr. Visserplein, lives at the end of Northwest 4, a hallway of New Hyde, behind the silver door.  The Continue reading “An intro of sorts”

Big Family Trees

When we first started reading The Turner House I was immediately hit with a rather strong sense of déjà vu as I came across in the paratext the family tree that Angela Flournoy prefaced her novel with. I took note of the many branches extending from the Turner patriarch and matriarch and saw an immediate correlation to my own extended family. My dad is the seventh child out of fourteen and grew up in a household that was a little bit different from the typical household at the time comprised of two parents and three and a half children. I felt the desire to compose my own family tree for a visual representation of the similarities that I see my family to have with the Turner family. Viewing that family tree laid out with three generations of Turners really reminded me of my family and prompted me to give a closer look to the sibling relationships within my own family.

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Gluttony and The Terror of the Great Outdoors in Lelah’s Eviction

As I traced Lelah’s story of eviction and homelessness throughout the five weeks of Spring 2008 in The Turner House, my mind kept returning to an excerpt we read in the beginning of class from Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye.  In it, Morrison attests that:

“Outdoors, we knew, was the real terror of life. The threat of being outsiders surface frequently in those days. Every possibility of excess was curtailed with it. […] There is a difference between being put out and being put outdoors. If you are put out, you go somewhere else; if you are put outdoors, there is no place to go.”

Morrison’s excerpt is particularly harrowing in light of the story of Lelah: who, after being evicted from her apartment, spends much of the novel building upon lies to hide her homelessness while squatting in the Turner house as a buffer to avoid the terror of being put outdoors. The part, however, of Morrison’s analysis that interested me most in connection to Lelah was her description of outdoors as a curtailing of excess. In The Turner House, Flournoy dedicates much of the first chapter novel to narrating Lelah’s humiliating and painful eviction, in which she has two hours to pack her belongings into her car under the watchful eye of two bailiffs. Flournoy writes, “Mostly, all Lelah did was put her hands on the things she owned, think about them for a second, and decide against carrying them to her Pontiac.” Ironically, rather than trying to cram as much of her possession as possible into her Pontiac, Lelah chooses to leave the bulk of her belongings behind. Flournoy clarifies that “Furniture was too bulk, food from the fridge would expire in her car, and the smaller things–a blender boxes of full costume jewelry, a toaster–felt too ridiculous to take along.” Here, the restriction Lelah places onto herself harkens back to Morrison’s intriguing observation that being “put outdoors” means to curtail every possibility of excess. Lelah’s possessions–the sum of years of accumulating “ridiculous,” but surely meaningful, artifacts–become reduced to triviality through the act of eviction.

The relationship between Lelah’s eviction and the curtailing of excess, of course, reminds me of a point made by Roach that we’ve returned to multiple times throughout the semester–his insight that “violence is the performance of waste.” It is not coincidental that when Lelah is evicted, the sum of her possessions that she can’t take in her Pontiac (her furniture and countless objects she trivializes as ridiculous, among others) will be disposed of in a dumpster. Her eviction, then, effectively performs waste: as the collected material value of the objects in her apartment aren’t going to be recycled or repurposed into further use, but are instead reduced to trash. The eviction also performs violence onto Lelah–a point that Morrison exemplifies in her excerpt exploring the terror and fear of being put outdoors. There’s a lot more to say on this subject, but for now, both Roach and Morrison have informed my own previous reading of Lelah’s eviction and prompted me to think about the ripple effect eviction causes in both paradoxically promoting violence and restricting the gluttony of material excess.

A House Analogy Related To The Turner House

While thinking about progression in The Turner House last class, I remembered an analogy that I had stumbled upon before even starting the class. I found this analogy in a horror game called “ANATOMY.” At $3, the game is a surprisingly eerie and tense interactive story, revolving around finding and listening to cassette tapes in an old and dimly lit low-fi house, which teach you about, as described by the indie developer Kitty Horrorshow, “the physiology of domestic architecture.”

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