ENGL 111-01: DPP Am Lit: Lit, Med & Racism
September 25, 2023
Throughout these classes, I’ve experienced quite a few things that have brought light to how I perceive certain instances I am currently experiencing. It’s giving me a new perspective on topics and enlightenment on my thought process whenever the topic is relevant for discussion. The epigraph of the class is “My job is to notice…and to notice that you can notice.”–Dionne Brand. First off, the main thing that has me thinking is what this quote truly means. From previous lessons in this class, I’ve learned that phrases and questions have a vast quantity of meanings. I feel that it means that Dr. McCoy’s main job is to analyze us and see if we are understanding and able to expand and bring context to conversations.
Now, throughout all of the classes that we’ve had one thing I noticed is that I’ve rarely seen Dr. McCoy say that something is wrong. I wouldn’t be inclined to say that there are NO WRONG ANSWERS, but certain notes are heavily influenced by Beth’s deciphering or reemphasizing what a student has said. One of our first discussions in class was how Dr. McCoy will eventually be “irrelevant” or in a way, fade out of class discussions throughout the semester. Having us split up and reason why she would say such a thing, lead us to believe many things. What I mainly believed was that most of the class would be heavily group-based where we generally discuss the topic at hand and brainstorm most of the ideas ourselves to the point where Dr. McCoy is no longer needed to start discussions. We will eventually form a rhythm that allows us to know where to jump back into discussion to continue yesterday. But of course when I say this I truly don’t mean that Beth will become irrelevant. To further expand on my full meaning, she will always have a very important and involving role throughout the whole semester; I just feel that later on her role won’t be as impactful as it was within the first few weeks. To generalize, we came up with “independence, self-discipline, and freedom exploration”. In a way more simplistic way than the way I stated its meaning and in which many other students had similar answers. In the same class, we then moved on to what I felt was a more important point, and that is how areas of literature and medicine relate. This question had me stumped for a little and had me thinking. Thankfully for the members in my group unfortunately I’m really bad at remembering names but I believe it was Liv who brought up many great points, one on how both literature and medicine can be used to help and harm others in physical or mental ways. From there, the groups came together and added how literature is also a key component used in medicine. Such as describing what the medicine does for you or whether you think that literature is used to heal someone the same as medicine can.
The next class was a little lesson about ethics that should be heavily practiced in class. These were put under two categories Good Faith and Bad Faith. First Beth started class with a story about “a student some semesters ago talked about a literary character in terms of CSA, which the student understood as standing for “Child Sexual Abuse” but I also understood as “Community Supported Agriculture”. Further, it gives the example of how people of different cultures can define certain things in many ways whether they’re hurtful or misinforming. Instances such as this have to be taken and accounted for and Beth said she should’ve been more descriptive to avoid offending the student and better get her point across. Then, we split into groups to first touch on examples and traits of good faith such as honesty, respecting others, using first names, admitting to falseness, etc. Moving on the bad faith, things such as interrupting, harmful intentions, ignoring, denial, etc. To little surprise, we managed to come up with more bad faith exercises than good. As said in the notes from September 8th, “Harm can be caused by right intentions.” I do agree with this statement because it is a difficult task to please people, and words stated can be viewed in many different ways. A very common saying that I think of a lot is that the “truth hurts”. Going back to Good Faith practices an example that was given was honesty, said in other was “honesty is the best policy”, which is a great thing to practice because liars are worse. But sometimes people are left in denial and even though it is the truth, it can be very hurtful to the person on many levels, so even though the intentions may be good, it can still hurt a person.
Transitioning, we first touched on a book called The Invention of Race in the European Middle Ages reading a small section called Inventions/Reinventions and how Heng, the author, refers to the word race, in her eyes described as “a name we retain for the strategic, epistemological, and political commitments it recognizes — attached to a repeating tendency, of the gravest import, to demarcate human beings through differences among humans that are selectively essentialized as absolute and fundamental, to distribute positions and powers differentially to human groups” (Heng). In other words, race has a heavy influence on stereotypes and how some people are careless to even define a person by what they look like and not who they truly are as a person. With this topic in mind, this leads to a video shown later in the week with TED talk speaker Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s presenting “The Danger of a Single Story”. Better explained by Nirmeen Shumpert from the University of Maryland “Adichie argues that single stories often originate from simple misunderstandings or one’s lack of knowledge of others, but that these stories can also have a malicious intent to suppress other groups of people due to prejudice” (Shumpert). The targeted stories touched upon by Adichie were children’s books and how it’s wrong to have such an intention to be placed in such books. With minds so young and undeveloped, want to learn grow and suck up as much information as they can, leaving them “impressionable and vulnerable” (Adichie 01:43). Then connecting with a book reading in class, Medical Apartheid by Harriet A. Washington, on how medical researchers take advantage of African Americans in ways with medicine either not give them the same medicine as a white person or “Such research has played a pivotal role in forging fear of medicine that helps perpetuate our nation’s racial health gulf” (Washington 21). Relating to what Adichie has been talking about has proven how people take advantage of those who are unfortunately and unfairly considered weak. Children and at unjust times in history, African Americans, are treated differently by the way they look or their maturity levels.
One last book we went over is named Fortunes Bones by Marilyn Nelson which uses poetic honoring of the life of an 18th century slave. The story even relates to the last on how African Americans during those unfortunate times, were unfairly treated almost not even being considered a person in some lines. Coming back to the beginning, throughout most of these topics we have taken notes and in almost every class we break into groups to discuss the various topics I have mentioned throughout this essay. Relating to the class epigraph, it makes a lot more sense in the case that Beth is trying to see how much we can retain from this class from discussions we have to further prove to her that we can understand and notice improvement and overall understanding of the material we go over.