Noticing Our Access to Resources And How It Shapes Our Experiences

“My job is to notice…and to notice that you can notice”- Dionne Brand

When I first began Toni Morrison’s A Mercy, I had noticed how different characters noticed and reacted to their environment out in nature when narrating their portion of the novel. I had mentioned this in one of our Canvas chat discussions and Dr. McCoy had asked, “I wonder what you make of it?”. During that class period, I wasn’t really sure what to make of it, but as I read further and began to think further, I thought about how having access to appropriate resources both material, but also intangible, are vital in how one notices and reacts to their environment that then shapes their experience. People who do not have access to the necessary resources are often expelled from these environments where the resources are needed as a result. This is seen not only in Morrison’s A Mercy, but also in the 2008 housing crisis and the current crisis we are living through now.

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The Incomplete Story of the 2008 Housing Crisis

When we first began Michael Lewis’ The Big Short, I was quite apprehensive while reading it as I had no clue about what was happening with all of this business/finance talk. I found myself referring to Google searches or Investopedia trying to identify certain terms to help me understand things a little bit better such as a credit default swap, but it was still difficult to follow along as the material was heavy on the business side of things. I feel as though this was Lewis’ intention, emphasizing the idea that people had no idea what was happening unless you were a banker yourself. While I enjoyed the language (mostly metaphors) that Lewis uses in discussing the events leading up to the housing crisis, I couldn’t help but feel as though the story was incomplete or missing something from it allowing me to feel connected with the work and feel fully satisfied with the story. While we saw what led up to innocent people being hurt by the housing bubble burst, we didn’t really get to see how they were affected and if they recovered from it. Yes, there is some mention toward the end of the book in how the people on Wall Street knew this would broadly affect the average American, but we didn’t get to see beyond that. We did not get to see a more human aspect to it, which as a result added to my sense of disconnect from The Big Short

Directly after reading The Big Short, we jumped into Angela Flournoy’s The Turner House, a novel that turns its attention toward an American family that would be affected by the actions of the investors. To some level after reading both The Big Short and The Turner House, I would say that they work well together to tell somewhat of a complete story and nearly complete Freytag’s Pyramid that we have discussed in class in explaining the housing market crash. Each work tells one half of a version of the story (The Big Short telling the first half and The Turner House telling the second) that nearly completes Freytag’s Pyramid where there is a rising action, a climax, and a falling action, except in this case there does not seem to be any real resolution to complete the pyramid, therefore showing the 2008 housing and financial crisis does not really follow the complete storyline structure we are accustomed to.

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Opening Your Eyes to Different Ways of Seeing

As with anything in life, there are always multiple ways of seeing or understanding things. Take our key terms for the class for example. As we quickly discovered, there are multiple definitions for each of them. Liquid can be defined as a free flowing substance of consistency such as water, but if you spoke to someone involved in finances they might tell you that it can also refer to something that is easily convertible into cash. Someone else might tell you that liquid could also be referring to sound and how it is clear, harmonious and free-flowing. Another one of our terms- swap can be defined as the act of exchanging one thing for another or substituting one thing for another. As with the two terms aforementioned, the word expulsion has varying definitions. One of which is the act of depriving someone of membership in an organization, another is the process of forcing someone to leave a place and a third is the process of forcing something out of the body. Just as there are multiple definitions that people can derive for the same word, there are multiple ways that people can see and feel during a shared experience such as simply being a part of a family, which is evident throughout William Shakespeare’s King Lear as the difference in these emotions lead to different forms of expulsion throughout.

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Moving on From the Either/Or to the Both/And

“My job is to notice… and to notice that you can notice”-Dionne Brand

Something that I’ve always found myself doing is categorizing things as I’ve always thought I was making my life simpler by doing this. However, as I began to engage with the texts assigned for this African-American literature class this semester, I started to realize how incredibly difficult and dangerous it is to put a single definition on something or someone as it causes a sense of restriction on the person or object. As I look back at the incredibly varied literature that we have engaged with this semester I have noticed that we have been presented with different perspectives to look through and it is up to us, as the readers, to notice these differences and then notice that they are all just as valid as one another because there is not just one way in which we can define anything or anybody.

In the context of my semester, this is what I believe Dionne Brand is saying when she says, “My job is to notice… and to notice that you can notice”. One must first notice their own perspective or definition of things. Then, they must also notice that their perspective or definition isn’t the definitive one, meaning that things in life are always open to interpretation and are not to be restricted to a single definition. Continue reading “Moving on From the Either/Or to the Both/And”

The Theatre-Going Experience

In my previous blog post I wrote about making connections across the different classes I am taking. I had another one of those lightbulb moments as we were talking about the theatre and audience’s expectations. I’m currently taking Professor Blood’s Western Drama class in which we read and analyze plays and critical pieces on the theatre. In that class we are just wrapping up a unit on the avant-garde. In Elements of Style Suzan-Lori Parks describes artists of this time by saying, “most playwrights who consider themselves avant-garde spend a lot of time badmouthing the more traditional forms” (8). I find this statement to be accurate after having read Antonin Artaud’s manifesto, ”Theatre of Cruelty: First Manifesto”, specifically in regard to his thoughts on how an audience should consume a performance. Continue reading “The Theatre-Going Experience”

Making Connections (And a Bracelet)

While watching A Raisin in the Sun on Monday, I had multiple moments in which a lightbulb went on over my head and I was jotting things down because it had reminded me of something we’ve already read or watched this semester. Connecting the film to course material from earlier in the semester had reminded me of the first day of class when Dr. McCoy had given each of us three beads and string to form a bracelet. I saw the three similarities I found between the different course material and the film as being representative of the beads and A Raisin in the Sun as being the string or thru line, tying each of the course materials together into one piece. Continue reading “Making Connections (And a Bracelet)”

Yes, This All Mattered!

The first question on the self-reflective questionnaire given to us at the end of class on Friday was something along the lines of ‘Did this process really matter?’. After looking at it for a few moments there was a bit of confusion as to what was being referred to, however Dr. McCoy had told us to interpret it however we wanted. I saw it as referring to the sustainability module as a whole and the answer was quite clear to me- yes this all mattered! Continue reading “Yes, This All Mattered!”

Daring to Differ in the World of Poetry

When Dr. McCoy had asked us to find our favorite poem from Angles of Ascent I thought it would be a daunting task as there were so many poems to look through, however after glancing through the anthology, one quickly stood out to me which was Thomas Sayers Ellis’ “All Their Stanzas Look Alike”.

Ellis’ poem stood out to me the most because of its placement on the page. It is not arranged in the “traditional” manner that I have become accustomed to seeing through my educational experiences which is in formal stanzas. What then appealed to me was the content of the poem. Ellis’ poem is calling for diversity not only in poetry but also in society. In this post I will only be focusing on the poetry aspect. Continue reading “Daring to Differ in the World of Poetry”