Interdisciplinary Connections on the Limits of Language

** preface – this is about the inability of language to accurately capture and convey ideas, which really comes through in the writing of this post, so please bear with me**

As I sat in my political science class discussing postpositivist international relations (IR) theory, I was struck by the similarities to the conversation that we had on Wednesday about the inability of language to capture concepts/beliefs/ideologies. Continue reading “Interdisciplinary Connections on the Limits of Language”

Touching on the Importance of Numbers in Dant3’s Divin3 Com3dy.

I’m going off of a lesson on Inferno when I took Hum I back in the summer of 2014, but I feel this is an interesting aspect worth sharing.

Dante is big on numbers throughout The Divine Comedy, especially with the number 3 and the “Perfect Number” (100). Almost everything is in sets of 3. The Divine Comedy is split into 3 books (Inferno, Purgatorio, Paradiso), each consisting of 33 cantos (With the exception of Inferno, which has 34, but I’ll get to that in a moment), with each canto made up of lines in sets of 3. That’s 99 cantos overall, and with the aforementioned introductory canto of Inferno, which, as it’s only an intro and doesn’t technically count as a part of the whole, existing almost outside of the work, the count is brought to 100.

One of the most surprising aspects of this, however, is the syllable count. Every line of Inferno was 11 syllables (That’s 33 syllables for every set of three lines now) and the translation (At least the Mark Musa one I had at the time) was respectful of this. That being said, the trend seems to be less prevalent in Paradiso, and I’m having some trouble finding reliable (Not on Wikipedia) information to develop this further. If anyone knows anything else about this, feel free to chime in. I found it fascinating, and I haven’t really had a chance to study it since the last two years.

In any case, it highlights Dante’s meticulousness when it comes to language, which we mentioned in class. I’m also curious if we’ll see anything similar in Morrison’s Paradise–specifically with numbers, as the attention she pays to words is startlingly apparent throughout her work.

Shadows and Lights

While reading the first nine Cantos of Dante’s Paradiso, I was reminded of shades/ombras/shadows by the contrasting lights.

When he spoke with us, Dr. Herzman referenced the biblical Paul’s letter to the Romans, how it mentioned that God left traces of himself in the universe to lead us back to him. With this, we were discussing the first few lines in the first Canto:

The glory of the One Who moves all things
penetrates all the universe, reflecting
in one part more and in another less. Continue reading “Shadows and Lights”

(Re)mobilizing Death: Ghosts, Zombies, and Memory as Biopolitcal Dispositive

After a helpful discussion with Dr. McCoy regarding my last post—specifically my comment about Tupac in The Devil in Silver—in which Dr. McCoy suggested that I consider similar strange intertextualities as “ghostly allusions,” the specifics of my research project have seemingly fallen into place.  At first, I wasn’t entirely sure what to make of these “ghostly allusions,” so I went home and did some research on the significance of ghosts in literature; I found a dissertation titled “Ghost Novels: Haunting as Form in the Works of Toni Morrison, Don DeLillo, Michael Ondaatje, and J. M. Coetzee,” and although the essay focused on ghosts as a postmodern reproduction and repetition of images created by various visual technologies, its focus on the theoretical discourse of ghost narratives and hauntology was supremely insightful, and synthesized many sources that I otherwise would have had to labor over on my own.

Continue reading “(Re)mobilizing Death: Ghosts, Zombies, and Memory as Biopolitcal Dispositive”

Tony Morrison teaches us Humanities

On Monday Dr. McCoy put us into groups and asked us to discuss any remaining questions we had about Jazz, after we had finished reading the last chapter in class and finishing the novel. We began talking about who/ what the narrator was in the story, we came to the conclusion that the narrator was actually the book talking to us. At one point in the beginning of the novel when the narrator is introducing itself to us it says something along the lines of being used to not being used until after dinner, and when it is used the person often falls asleep before they can finish using it (I can’t remember the exact page we found this evidence on). Also when we finished reading the final chapter aloud it finishes with the words ” But I can’t  say that aloud; I can’t tell anyone that I have been waiting for this all my life and that being chosen to wait is the reason I can. If I were able I’d say it. Say make me, remake me. You are free to do it and I am free to let you because look, look. Look where your hands are. Now.” (pg. 229). As a group we believed that this was the book telling us that we are the ones with the power to change who we are the book will forever ever the same words it can never be changed, but the book can change us as people. Alpha had the thought that Toni Morrison writes black humanities. She puts stories that can help to show us the defaults in humans, and what we can do to change it. She is the modern day Sophocles, Dante.

Because Morrison wrote her Trilogy based on Dante’s divine comedy, I decided to do some research on how Dante’s Divine Comedy has been related to humanities. I found an article in the Wall Street Journal titled ” The Ultimate Self-Help Book: Dante’s “Divine Comedy”, written by Rod Dreher. The author said that calling “The Divine Comedy” a self- help book “is almost the point of blasphemy”, but he goes onto say that Dante believed this himself which was shown in a letter he wrote to Can Grande Della Scala, in the letter he said “to remove those living in this life from a state of misery and lead them to a state of bliss.” How Dante does this according to the author is he makes us reflect upon our own life’s when reading it, which I believe can also be said about Toni Morrison’s Trilogy.

The article:

On the discourse of punishment…

Bryan Stevenson is a lawyer and activist that fights for what goes unnoticed in our justice system. But alongside this, Stevenson works to reteach American history… Stevenson forces his audience to remember the amount of black bodies that have been lynched and enslaved in our country’s history by demanding that we build them memorials and museums. One of the ways I was introduced to him was by watching this TED Talk at the museum I worked at last summer. It motivated me to rethink the ways that my education has been framed and I hope it will do the same for those of you who choose to watch it as well.

A Morrison Interview and a New Take on Jazz

In my discussion group, we entertained the question of Morrison’s trilogy. Why are these three works considered her trilogy, as opposed to her other works? Did she intend for them to be a series from the outset? Did she introduce them as a trilogy or was it her editors? I did some searching, and I couldn’t find out when the term trilogy was first introduced to these three works, but I did find an interview in which Morrison calls them the trilogy (at this point, she was still working on Paradise.) In this interview, Morrison provides some insight into her writing process, as well as her perspectives on writing Beloved and Jazz. Among many very insightful and clarifying statements from Morrison, I found an excerpt about Jazz that I found particularly interesting in relation to the last chapter of Jazz. Continue reading “A Morrison Interview and a New Take on Jazz”

Slavery and the Prison System

Ever since we read the article in class, and made the connections between the prison system and slavery, I’ve been interested in reading further into this. And so in the process of researching, I found this awesome article detailing how slavery and prison can not only be described in like terms, but also how the two two institutions are directly historically connected.

Following the Emancipation Proclamation, the South was a violent and turbulent place for people of color, particularly because of the various laws, such as Jim Crow Laws, that were enacted to virtually halt all reform that might have been possible. Reformation following the Civil War was a failure. Technically slavery was abolished, but the oppression that previously supported the institution remained, making it nearly impossible for freed African Americans to exercise their rights to the same political, social, and economic freedoms as their white counterparts. The article discusses how, while the African-American population went from one situation of intense oppression to another, a new institution replaced slavery as the hands on the plantations- the Convict Lease Program.

The Convict lease program brought a new way for freed slaves to be once again taken advantage of. The incredible and terrible influx of new oppressive laws in the South brought mass imprisonment to a new level, and as the article explains- “mass imprisonment was employed as a means of coercing resistant freed slaves into becoming wage laborers. Prison populations soared during this period, enabling the state to play a critical role in mediating the brutal terms of negotiation between capitalism and the spectrum of unfree labor. The transition from slave-based agriculture to industrial economies thrust ex-slaves and “unskilled” laborers into new labor arrangements that left them vulnerable to depressed, resistant white workers or pushed them outside the labor market completely.” And so thus, many victims of Jim Crow south went from one form of slavery to another, and those who didn’t had almost an equally difficult time assimilating.

Here’s the article if you’re interested in reading and learning more:

Jazz music and “Jazz”

I like the connection Daisy ( makes between the reactions based on listening made between musicians on this bandstand and between the characters in Jazz.  Harris highlights that this conversation between artists on a bandstand sometimes stems from what some people perceive as “mistakes”.  He asserts that “the only mistake is if… each individual musician is not aware and accepting enough of his fellow band member.  If we don’t allow for creativity”.  This creativity results from individuals’ ability to listen and react to people they are with.  Violet’s decision to stay with Joe is, in part, a response to a (violent, harmful) mistake he made.  Through her interactions with Alice, she gains awareness and accepts her fellow band member, Joe, resulting in the creativity in their relationship that the reader sees at the end of the book.  I wonder what other meaning we can make if we see Jazz and Jazz as a conversation between musicians (lovers?) which invites creativity.   Continue reading “Jazz music and “Jazz””

Relationship Violence in a Culture Obsessed with Property

This weekend, Geneseo’s Student Athlete Advisory Committee–of which I am a member–received training on relationship violence prevention through the One Love Foundation. That this seminar took place the very weekend following our completion of Jazz was purely coincidental–but my recent analysis of Violet and Joe’s possessive dynamic added greater depth and context to the seminar.

The theme of the seminar was escalation, and it generally focused on a more reactive approach: recognizing the warning signs of an emotionally abusive relationship and preventing it from intensifying to the point where it could be dangerous. In this regard, I felt it was an appropriate response to the fact that many college students might not know exactly what signs of domestic violence look like. However, a large component I felt was missing from the session was the entire cultural aspect of it: the idea that relationship violence is, to an extent, normalized in a culture obsessed with property–something we have discussed in depth with regard to Morrison’s Jazz.  Continue reading “Relationship Violence in a Culture Obsessed with Property”