Reflecting on the Beginning

If I am to take something from this class, I hope that it will be because I have given something in return. I believe that the intended format of this course: the supporting faculty, the importance placed on discussion and collaboration, etcetera, will make this class interesting and add potential discussion time. However, currently, I cannot see what I can offer this course other than contribution to group conversation. I felt incredibly out of place when I was asked to add something to the “Urban Garden.” I am no artist myself and I was rather hoping I could get away with never having to draw. An admittance: I didn’t add anything to the community art project due to my discomfort.

I anticipate this course will be a challenge to me because I still do not have a very good grasp of what the point of this class is. I also have found it challenging to discuss in depth in the small groups because I have not felt that there has been enough time given per the number of students in each group. I hope the coming days give me a better idea of what this course is supposed to be and that I can get used to the structure this course has.

Another question posed by the prompt asks if I want anything from this course. My answer is that I’m unsure what I can possibly get. To borrow a metaphor from Katie Sullivan: this class is like a foggy starry night, there are stars that I can see, some more clear than others, yet I cannot quite yet make out the constellations. To unpack this metaphor, I see a bunch of possibilities regarding what this course can be, but I am uncertain of what I can actually take from it. I do not want to say that I didn’t get anything from the first week of class, but realistically, I find art more difficult of an academic subject than literature, especially without a thorough introduction. I am extremely hesitant to try to analyze any of Prince’s art at this point. That is, it seems to me that Prince has a specific intended meaning for all of his pieces and I am not comfortable deterring from that yet. It was unsettling to speak to Prince about his art, be told what he meant, and then want to say something different. I have never spoken to an artist or a writer about the meaning of their work before and, in my opinion, this practice makes it difficult to “go against the creator” of that work.

Texts have always had a way of grounding me, and I am thankful that the reading assignment for Monday gave me a reason to be hopeful regarding this course. My first impression of “Of the Sorrow Songs” was interest mixed with a bit of horror that I had been instructed to read the last chapter of a book first. I finished feeling sure that I could contribute something to a discussion on this chapter, but found nothing that truly excited me yet. Then I read the Bornstein reading and my thought process flipped on its head. I drank up what I found to be “the tea” of early twentieth century black literature.

Social change is a funny thing. According to Bornstein, when Du Bois originally published The Souls of Black Folk, he was subconsciously influenced by the time’s anti-Semitism.  Disenfranchised peoples are, to this day, at war with one another to be the most downtrodden. This was my main takeaway from the Bornstein reading before I transferred my attention to the Intellectual Humility article. In reading this article I reveled in the rightness of admitting wrongness. To relate it back to the Bornstein article, I perceived that Du Bois himself saw that his own work reflected opinions that he did not share and took steps to right his self-admitted wrong. I find it powerful that he did so a century ago when the psychologist depicted in Intellectual Humility article is doing presently. Du Bois’ usage of anti-Semitism in The Souls of Black Folk may have realistically reflected the political feeling of the early twentieth century, but I don’t think it much matters if the author

Simply the act of rereading and revising one’s own work is a huge part of how I practice intellectual humility. Which brings me full-circle to the first and final point of this post: if we were all right the first time, nothing would ever change. Growth and learning are the result of change. I am already more hopeful about this course given my positive reaction to the texts we have been assigned. In fact, I can even see a constellation starting to appear.

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