Sunday, May 6, 2012

The end of a quest

Looking back at me blogs from this semester has definitely been strange. Reading the first ones I realize not only how much I’ve changed and grown in my life, but also in a semester. I think it comes with practice and a narrowing of focus to decide what I should write about.

One of the things that definitely improved my writing and analysis was that I started to bring in more things from outside the class and even finding the connections of things from the class. Instead of just reading and connecting the stories of that week, by the end we could connect stories from that week with stories from other weeks.

Having the guest speakers definitely helped with that aspect of the course. I found myself paying more attention to the guest speakers and also thinking more about what they said, especially as many of them mentioned something about literature that was not written down, something that we said was a contradiction earlier in the semester. My blogs from speakers such as Dr. Rust, Dr. O, and Dr. Mian were all much better and better thought out than my other blogs. It was probably the fact that the stories and traditions of these cultures are so much more interactive and audience-engaging than the other ones we read, especially as some encouraged behavior that would help you survive while still fitting in versus the strict civilité lessons of the tales from Western writers.

 It’s almost hard to believe that we learned where so many stories began, learned some of the background information for them, and learned about ones from so many different cultures. The history lessons that we got for some such as the parallels between Germany and France in Little Red Riding Hood were really interesting. I really enjoyed most of the stories, even if I didn’t always enjoy the perspectives from which we were analyzing them, especially when the analysis got sexual, but a lot of that was due to my classmates finding it humorous and running with the idea for every single story even if it didn’t fit. I also enjoyed examining differences in how tales are even written such as The Lady and the Tiger and Bluebeard’s Egg which were modernized versions of fairy tales that were much deeper with flushed out characters than the tales they were based on. Learning how to characterize these different characters and others such as Snow White versus her evil queen was also quite interesting.

I’m still not a huge fan of the psychoanalysis, but I can definitely understand how some people might find it useful for therapy, whether it is the writers or the readers. There are too many stories where too many great things happen for readers to not identify with the characters. Even if you don’t need it as therapeutic you still probably want to be a character for one reason or another, especially if you are a child. I know I constantly wanted to be a princess, although perhaps one of the Disney-tized ones and not one of the originals, I’d rather not have to suffer some truly, truly horrible things before my happy ending.

My enjoyment of certain things versus other probably had to do with the difficulty level of the class for me. It was not very hard to read and think and connect certain things, however, it was at times difficult to make the connections and analyses that I simply did not wish to make. That has more to deal with my personality than my ability to read and think critically though. Sometimes it would have been interesting to have been more challenged, but I don’t really know how one would do that short of having to share a selection of fairy tales or perform an accurate version that combines many of the different types into one tale. There were definitely some weeks where I spent more time reading the tales than I did in other weeks, but that was mostly based on how the readings were set up. Some of the ones on Blackboard were difficult to read visually on my screen, and that’s how I prefer to do it. If I had changed that it might not have been so bad. The different kinds of stories also changed how much attention I paid to them while reading. I spent much more time on the classics or more mystical ones than I did on those that were more realistic with small tricksters. I prefer big fantasy to short mostly-realistic. Either way I enjoyed reading fairy tales for a class and definitely learned more tales than I thought I would. Learning where they came from and the originals was one of my goals, and that was definitely accomplished along with some extra information that made them more meaningful.

And with this I have completed the majority of my fairy tale tasks; all that stands in my way of finishing my quest is a final. I will use my magical helpers of notes and tales to study and will vanquish the evil final. With that I must say

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Cuentos de hadas y una historia triste

This week we watched and discussed one of my personal favorites: Pan’s Labyrinth or El laberinto del fauno (2006) by Guillermo del Toro. Unlike many of the other fairy tales we have read, this one is blatantly an adult fairy tale as it combines the history and fantasy genres.

Many of the tails we have looked at so far have had historical undertones such as the early Grimm stories when France had taken over Germany, however, the historical content of Pan’s Labyrinth makes up a major theme of the movie. The movie is set in 1944 Franco Era Spain after the fall of the Republic which forced the members of the Socialist party into the forests and mountains. Because of this the situations, such as that with the rationed bread, seem that much more possible, adding to the realistic switches between the real world and the fantasy world.

 The movie also has social commentary that can apply to multiple situations outside of the restrictive fascist Spain of the late 30’s into 40’s. It applauds three kinds of thinking: independent, critical, and moral, all of which can be seen through the different rebel characters.

Ofelia steps outside the traditional female role of passivity to go against what her mother, step-father, and faun servant tell her, all to eventually end up in her rightful place as princess of the underworld because of it. She rebels against her mother by not falling for the charms of the Captain, a position that symbolically relates to the conflict in Spain as she shakes with her left hand (representing the leftist socialists who were driven into the woods) instead of her right (which represents the rightist fascist rule). She also goes against her mother by dirtying her Alice-in-Wonderland dress to defeat the evil toad poisoning the tree, also symbolic of the poisonous fascist party destroying the mother country., although she did try to keep it clean...
She disobeys the Captain by taking back her baby brother and sedating him which comes into play during his defeat., can't you feel the familial love?

The most important rebellious attitude she takes is toward the faun., why would you ever disobey this? Also this shot is eerily similar to the one with Captain Vidal, exposing the villainesque qualities of the faun.
First she picks the small door other than the one that his fairies insist on in order to find the dagger. Not so coincidentally it is also the leftmost door. She also disobeys the command “no comáis ni bebáis nada” (don’t eat or drink anything) which ends in the death of two fairies and the disappointment and departure of the faun. The fact that she disobeys this order by eating grapes is connected to the relative food deprivation in Franco’s Spain as everything was rationed. Poor Ofelia was tempted by a feast and fell in order to eat at all. I know you're hungry but, oh no don't do it, it's right behind you! Also you'd have to be pretty desperate to eat anything prepared for or by this guy...
Ofelia’s final act of disobedience toward the faun is during the final trial in which she refuses to let him prick her baby brother. This works to her favor as she chose correctly because “no princess would allow innocent blood to be spilled over herself” and she gets to go back to her kingdom complete with new Dorothy shoes as there is no place like home., so this is the Underworld, huh...
By disobeying those around her that are in power, Ofelia establishes her place as a strong thinker who aids in the vanquishing of the villain in the real world and is welcomed home in her fairy tale world.

 Mercedes and the Doctor also show these three different kinds of thinking to disobey the world around them. Mercedes also breaks out of the traditional passive female role found in fairy tales to actively aid the guerrillas in defeating the Captain. She steals supplies, gets information, and wounds the Captain., trust me, she's not as sweet as she looks.
She also actively goes against his desires for her to tell his son about his death. She is a strong heroine who does what she thinks is right. With her is Dr. Ferreiro who is also aiding the guerrillas. He is there to heal the rebels so that they may continue fighting, although in the end his aid gets him killed., hey wait a minute...
He further delays the villainous Captain by euthanizing a guerrilla who was being tortured for information. When asked about his betrayal he responds that it takes a certain kind of man to blindly follow orders, something that he would not do. These independent, critical, and moral thinkers do what they feel is right instead of listening to a higher power, something that ends up in some slight misfortune on their part but ultimately ends in the greater good winning.

Del Toro uses his understanding of what a fairy tale is to make this commentary which can also be applied to situations such as September 11th when everyone was convinced there was no gray area in the aftermath, only evil Muslims and god Americans according to Dr. Deveny. This is because his tale is what Jack Zipes would describe as subversive as it has its blatant themes and the more inconspicuous ones that drive the movie from behind. Any of the scenes and happenings can be applied to many of Vladmir Propp’s 31 functions (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, and 31) whether they are happening in Ofelia’s fantasy world or in the war-divided Spain that she actually inhabits.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Not so different as you'd think, and the stuff of nightmares

This week Dr. Shabbir Mian from the McDaniel Physics department visited to teach us about tales from Bangladesh.

It was interesting to closely examine literature from an Eastern culture, even more so since the professor had grown up with these stories instead of being an expert on them; I enjoyed analyzing the story with him as he did not already have preconceived ideas and we were able to teach him some as well.

Dr. Mian started the lecture in the best way possible by giving us some background information about Bangladesh. He told us why the Taj Mahal was built (as a mausoleum for a Sultan’s wife) and how that story in itself is like a tale. Then the geography of Bangladesh was explained and given importance: the tales reflect the geography. As such there are many stories involving water thanks to the Indian Ocean and river deltas, lush forests, flat land but some hills, hot weather, and monsoons. These elements along with some from the neighboring countries of India and Burma as well as early trade with China all combine to make up the stories of Bangladesh in an easy to see way.

Many of the stories come from the Rupkotha. There are generally no fairies, something that has been quite common in the other fairy tales that we have read. Most of the stories seem more like what we have classified as folk tales as the majority of them were passed down orally and therefore have slight variations in character. This concept was seen in the different versions of Blue Lotus and Red Lotus that we read/saw, especially as the plots themselves were slightly different. Other stories come from the Panchatantra from 550 AD Sanskrit, the Jataka from 5th century BC Ceylon, the Lal Behari Dey English translations of older tales from the late 19th century, and the Grandmother’s and Grandfather’s Bag which emphasizes the importance of the old passing stories down to the young. There are also more modern tales that are just as imaginative as the older ones; keeping the stories and ideals alive, even bringing in the western fairy tales which are novel to that area.

These stories are generally full of life lessons, much like the other stories that have been read, although not in a civilité manner. Virtues are rewarded, like in many stories; and evil is punished as it is in many of the darker versions of stories that we have read. There are almost always demons and monsters, talking animals, and magic. Sometimes there are ascetics which happily offer help and ask nothing in return, somewhat like a fairy godmother.  Another common feature is the jealous co-wife which takes over the role of the evil stepmother. The characters of these stories can be from many different racial and ethnic backgrounds thanks to the constant involvement of other countries in the development of Bangladesh.

The story we read, Blue Lotus and Red Lotus, shared very many themes and ideas with many of the earlier stories that we read while remaining seemingly new and refreshing. It could be classified as AT type 720 as the Blue lotus’ demon mother slew him, although she also ate him (instead of the father) and buried him for later rebirth (instead of the sister). This rebirth reflected the prized trait of virtue. The hero had to go away on a quest, as one of Vladmir Propp’s conventions, and later had to return home to regain his power. The importance of colors was brought up, although examined to be different from those in the other stories we have read since red is pure in this case instead of passionate or evil. There was a possible tie between both cultures in the treatment of the mother figure. In most tales the mother figure must be pushed away for personal growth to occur. The mother is defeated; however in Bengali culture mothers are extremely important. This conflict is possibly cured by the fact that she was killed indirectly through the murder of the hornet instead. Another difference was that the father’s health was restored instead of the son taking over as would be expected. Family is obviously praised more in the Bengali culture than in others.
Overall, it just goes to show that perhaps cultures are not as different as one would think. Jung was touching on this idea with his universal archetypes; however it is much more interesting to see the ideas in play through reading and seeing them through my own eyes. Don’t fail to read something just because you think it’s going to be too different and weird; it may be more similar than you’d think.
This week I'll be ending with the video Dr. Mian showed us that genuinely terrified me, as I'm sure it would also terrify children who watched it; although maybe not.

To make you feel a little better, here is a video I found of some adorable kids covering Sonne by Rammstein:

Sunday, April 15, 2012

I wanna see them, wanna see them... dancing!

This week we’re supposed to analyze how the tales of Hans Christian Anderson fit into our family tree of fairy tales. His tales came in after he had already been able to read many that were written by the brothers Grimm, even being included at one point. Hans Christian Anderson evolved and transformed what fairy tales could be, much like the beloved character of the Little Mermaid transformed. 
HCA goes beyond the traditional fill-in-the blank fairy tales to create characters with depth. True, this limits the amount that people can insert themselves into stories, however it also makes it more possible to insert yourself into a beautiful world and escape for a bit. Heck, that’s why I spent so many bath/shower times of my childhood imagining I was a mermaid who was going to meet a wonderful prince. These journeys are possible because his stories go beyond the simple imagine-it-yourself images to paint beautiful pictures in your mind (or for your artwork).
A common theme from the traditional fairy tales and those of HCA is the inclusion of religious ideas, although he idealizes suffering and the protestant ideals much more than your average fairy tale.
 In The Little Mermaid the mermaid is searching for an immortal soul, something that humans have, but apparently mermaids do not. Heavily preoccupied with this, she decides that she must be human in order to have one, although I believe her true motivation is to be with the man she loves and to fulfill her curiosity of what lies above the sea. If she was really only interested in having an immortal soul, I believe that the writings would not have focused so heavily on her depression due to the lack of recognition from the prince. To become human she essentially sells her mermaid soul (as symbolized by her voice) to the devil (as portrayed by the sea witch). She is not accepting of her “god-given” form, and is not accepting of it because she cannot be satisfied with her own kind. In some strange way I suppose you could also comment on subtle tones of bestiality as she is half fish, an idea that can be shared with The Beauty and the Beast. She fails to gain the love of the prince which would have allowed her to remain human, thus leading to her death. She could have saved herself by murdering the prince with a knife procured by her sisters from the sea witch; however her selfless love for him forces her instead to commit suicide and accepting her fate as sea foam. Because of this she is given the opportunity to travel the world for 300 years in penance in order to gain an immortal soul. The religious aspect of her journey is placed back into the spotlight in the end and is used to help enforce the morals of the story: do not try for upward mobility if you are not ready for the trouble and suffering. HCA also subtly adds in the lesson that children should behave for their parents in order to shorten the amount of time that the little mermaid must suffer, a technique only slightly less blatant than that of Perrault who explicitly gives the morals in his stories.

The Red Shoes is another religion-centered tale by HCA, although to a greater extent than The Little Mermaid. An orphaned girl named Karen, who has no proper shoes except for a scraggly pair of red shoes, is eventually adopted by a rich older woman who throws away her red shoes. This woman goes to buy her new shoes and Karen “tricks” her into buying new red shoes fit for a princess and continues to wear them to church despite the protestations of the churchgoers and the paintings. It is said that this is because she coveted the shoes and then focuses her attention on the shoes, moving away from God and religion because she is in love with the shoes. Eventually the man holding the door seemingly curses Karen and when she dances in the shoes she cannot stop. At first they can get them off; however when she goes back to them again she cannot and misses the rest of the life of her mother and cannot go to church as the shoes prevent her. She must have her feet chopped off and tries to go back to church due to her suffering; however the shoes still stop her. Eventually the church is brought to her and in happiness her heart bursts and her soul goes to Heaven. This story is supposed to teach that we need to move away from the love of material possessions and pride; however it just makes me feel bad for Karen. I imagine that she was not very old and she was an orphan. All she wants is a pair of nice shoes and sees those of a princess and wants to be like her. This idea is similar to that of starving children being given food for the first time: they overeat. I will admit that her re-donning of the shoes is appropriately punished in fairy tale terms as she did have a chance to escape and repent; however she did not. Perhaps if someone had explained to Karen why it was wrong to be wearing bright red shoes in church it would not have been a problem. Either way, HCA managed to write an entire story based around the profuse Christian Ideals of his time and as a continuation of the more subtle Christian additions to the Brothers Grimm.

Both of HCA’s tales have spurred other interpretations just like the other fairy tales, they even have about the same amount of change to become suitable for newer generations such as the lack of death in other versions of The Little Mermaid and the lack of foot amputation in some versions of The Red Shoes (although it can still be found in many of the ballet versions and the Korean horror film).
Overall, HCA’s tales can be seen as the next step (or many unplanned dance steps) in a fairy tale journey.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Super stories and the methods of telling them

If I say to you: Paokwa

Then you should respond to me: Pakawa

Why? Well because that is how to start stories in Swahili (albeit probably spelled incorrectly) as passed down by the amazing professor, Dr. Ochieng’ O.  K’Olewe, who came to visit our class. He shared with us the traditions and facts about oral literature (once again that question comes up about how it’s literature if it’s oral, check out my earlier post about ASL)in Kenya, in which interaction and audience participation is extremely important, especially as it's the main way of keeping records due to a previous lack of writing. Keeping the audience active is one way to keep them attentive, something that can be important when you want to get a message across. Another way is to keep them in the dark; however this method served multiple purposes. Kenya has many agricultural communities and therefore nighttime, when it is dark, is when all the work is finally done for the people. The darkness also allows for imagination and the empowerment of the voice and its intonation. Characters can be extremely easy to voice and the story takes a life of its own. When Dr. O was telling us the first story in the dark conjured up an image in my mind for sure:
Yes, that is a monkey riding a shark, they both eventually ended up trying to trick each other, but more on that later.

Now remember that before I said audience attention is important, but why? In Kenya stories are used to convey a community’s origin, as determined by history and myth, its social foundation, the reasons behind current beliefs, and affirmations of what they are. These stories, goals, and rules can also be communicated through song (our song and dance was probably my favorite part of the lesson, possibly my favorite thing from this entire year. I tried to find a video of one of the ones we sang but sadly was unable to).

The community origin aspect is important because it helps strengthen the community itself. These experiences are shared (hey guys, Jungian ideas and archetypes!)
He's so happy we're listening to him
and communication is intergenerational due to the importance of the elders in the telling of the stories.

The communication aspect also allows for acquisition of language skills, the teaching of observational skills, the acquisition of rules and taboos through the asking of morals, intellectual growth and sharp memory. But then we must ask ourselves, why do these things need to be taught? The African setting is extremely competitive and those with wit are celebrated. It is easier to learn through stories, especially when the lessons are things such as how everything is interconnected, even if you think it doesn’t pertain to you and be thankful for what you have, especially if you don’t deserve it.

The most interesting part of these stories is that they can also be used to tell origins of natural and historical things such as the maintenance of order and why things happen. Everyone has heard of why the mosquito buzzes in the ear due to its previous infatuation with the ear and its current I’ll-show-you-how-pretty-annoying-and-fun-I-can-be-after-the-breakup attitude. It is less likely that you’ve heard the origins of Somali pirates finding canoes as young boys and selling them for money, eventually evolving into taking them hostage.
Go from this:

To this:
After this presentation I could not help but wish that more lessons were taught through story and song in Western cultures. This is definitely something I plan on doing as much as I possibly can when I have my own classroom. I know that doing things this way keeps kids entertained and in an active mindset to relate things back to themselves and learning. As Dr. O urged us to continue, I too will encourage you to keep oral tradition alive: tell a story at your next social event, it may be the most entertaining thing you do.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Bluebeard vs Wife: Who's the Real Troublemaker?

So this week we could either write about Bluebeard as a villain, write about the Jewish fairytales we read, or comment on other people’s blogs. Now, while the idea of commenting on the blogs of others sounds fun to me, I would rather talk about Bluebeard and how my position on his villain status changes. All quotes are from The Classic Fairy Tales edited by Maria Tatar.
Let’s look at the inconsistencies in Perrault’s version, the version that is recognized as the first:

The first thing that is upsetting about this version calling him a villain is that “this man had the misfortune of having a blue beard, which made him look so ugly and frightful that women and girls alike fled at the sight of him” (144). So within reading the first paragraph we already know that some sad man will be forever alone just because of his beard color. When the two daughters do not want to marry him, they add that he had previous wives that disappeared without a trace. Ok, so that’s a bit more villainous. Bluebeard has to go on a trip and urges his new wife; the youngest of the two sisters who thought that the lavishness would make the marriage ok (does anyone else think of a gold digger here?), “to enjoy herself while he was away…to stay in good spirits” (145). He wants her to stay happy and even allows her to have friends over. The trust he puts into her even at this point is amazing; those friends could include male friends, and six weeks is a long time during which an affair would be completely possible. The next great moment of trust is the transfer of the keys, including the secret forbidden key.
Gustave Doré
I agree that he should have never given the key to her if he did not want her to open it, and he especially should not have said “ if you so much as open it a crack, there will be no limit to my anger” (145). This action could either be seen as him wanting her to open the door to see what is inside so that he could punish her, or it could be seen as him testing her trust to listen to him. The analysis that you pick determines how villainous he is. The problem is that for the wife “the temptation was so great that she was unable to resist it” (145). The woman falls once again from temptation, lines that are clearly parallel with the story of Adam and Eve. I do not want to cast all the blame on the woman, especially since I am a female; however she makes it difficult to not, although is helped some by Bluebeard’s initial giving of the key. What she finds is indeed horrifying; the bodies of all the previous wives hanging from the walls over a bloody floor.

Hermann Vogel

Ok, so that is pretty horrifying and points towards the villainy of Blubeard. Either way, she drops the key because she brought it in with her for some dumb reason and then tries to lie to Bluebeard about it instead of owning up to what she  had done, although I understand that fear will do that to most people. She tries to clean the key, lies to him about being happy of his return, delays bringing him the key, and then lies about not knowing why there is blood on the key. Bluebeard is angered and decides his wife can “take [her] place beside the ladies whom [she] saw there” and that, even though she was “so beautiful and so distressed that she would have melted a heart of stone” it would not work to beg forgiveness from Bluebeard who “had a heart harder than any rock” (146).
Walter Crane
Maybe his heart is so hard because this is the nth time of many that a woman has betrayed him, after all we have no idea why the first wife was murdered unless we are to understand it’s just because that’s what he wanted to do. It is amazing that he does not kill her right then in there instead of letting her run to pray which she uses to tell her sister to call her brothers. The brothers come and murder Bluebeard as he tries to run for his life, no such thing as imprisoning him for questioning in this time.
Gustave Doré
Then the wife inherits Bluebeard’s entire estate based on the fact that he had no heirs and she was the most recent wife, even though the reason for his death was that her brothers killed him. It is possible that this is what she deserves because he was about to kill her and she somewhat outsmarted him, but it still seems wrong that she inherits it all.
Perrault himself even seems to have a hard time determining the villain of the story as illustrated by his two morals:

Curiosity, in spite of its many charms,
Can bring with it serious regrets;
You can see a thousand examples of it every day.
Women succumb, but it’s a fleeting pleasure;
As soon as you satisfy it, it ceases to be.
And it always proves very, very costly.

If you just take a sensible point of view,
And study this grim little story,
You will understand that this tale
Is one that took place many years ago.
No longer are husbands so terrible,
Demanding the impossible,
Acting unhappy and jealous.
With their wives they toe the line;
And whatever color their beards might be,
It’s not hard to tell which of the pair is master.

The first suggests that it is the woman’s fault for being curious; an obvious position in the time of Perrault, where women were looked down upon and everything was their fault. The second suggests that the story is old and men are no longer like that. It is aiming to calm the fears of girls that are forced to marry terrifying older men.

 I still find it difficult to determine how I feel about Bluebeard and where I stand on his villain status. In fact I probably believe that the fault falls on both parties, although gray areas are not supposed to exist in fairy tales. Either way, this is how I feel.

 By the way, we’re supposed to say our favorite version; mine would have to be Bluebeard’s Egg by Atwood, but that would be far too much to analyze in one blog post. I like it because of the complexity and in depth look into feelings, things that make it not so much of a standard fairy tale, especially as it seems to mostly use it as a base. Either way, I wrote about Perrault’s Bluebeard, the one that started them all in a way.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Bippity Boppity Boo! The rich life for you!

Cinderella; we all know the classic rags-to-riches rise tale where the beautiful noble girl (or boy) is mistreated by the family, but ends up marrying the royal due to help from a magical friend. For the sake of this entry I’m going to be referring to the female. The question for this week is whether or not something like this is realistic through magic or marriage. How could a girl stuck in the most demeaning work make it out to live happily ever after?

First of all, magic is not very realistic at all, so that excuse flies out the window already, unless you’re talking about the magic of luck. The common stories like to say that Cinderella makes it out due to her patience, virtue, and persistence. All of that sounds nice; however this explanation leaves out something key: the help that she got from many things. In the Grimm story she receives help from birds, in the Perrault she gets help from a godmother, in The Black Cow he gets help from the cow, and others receive help from various other trees, mysterious people, and creatures. All of these protagonists have major help from someone else and that person’s magic, which again is not very realistic in our realm. Another main factor that sets these Cinderella figures apart is that they were in positions of power before their fall. Simply by being a former noble Cinderella had a huge advantage, especially when she could take the beautiful dresses and gold with her. In these cases she never truly loses everything. This question reminds me of the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. In his book, Gladwell emphasizes that many famous people such as Bill Gates, professional hockey players, and the Beatles are all famous due to their connections and luck at being born at the right time to the right people. Cinderella was born to nobles and provided with the many things she would need to later impress a prince and the people involved in his life. Her marriage is not as simple and lucky as everyone may have thought, thus reducing the likelihood of increasing status through marriage for those who are actually poor to begin with. Therefore, the true rags-to-riches scenario is much less believable in my eyes. A true example would involve a girl born into the peasant class who was then found and married to someone in power with money, and while I’m sure stories like that exist, they are not the ones that were read for class.

So… if it is so difficult for something like this to happen, why does the story exist? Bettelheim argues about the positive effects it can have on sibling rivalry and the guilt a child can feel during youth. That’s entirely possible. The story provides an outlet for the guilt and the idea that things get better. Another possible explanation is that it’s an idea that many can identify with. Who wouldn’t want to rise from poverty and humiliation to something more? As a child it is a fantastic idea that one day you could meet that right person and suddenly be whisked away to a life full of grandeur. Heck, I was determined to become a princess when I was younger, to which I was told that I’d have to marry Prince William or Prince Harry, but I guess now we have Kate Middleton in the way…I enjoyed the idea of being a princess so much that I was even Cinderella for Halloween back in 1995:

And wasn't I cute?! Although I suppose I was lacking the necessary rags before-shot...

So why does something like this exist? Because deep down I think many people across the world would enjoy earning that happy ending, especially if it all it involved would be patience, virtue, and a bit of menial labor. Perhaps the idea of Cinderella is to make the situation seem so grand that we want to attain the riches through working and staying patient, however it also makes it seem unattainable to such an extent, so we’ll make do with just a bit less and still be happy. The extreme unlikelihood of a Cinderella story can be motivational, but perhaps we’ll make our own magic or try harder to find that magic marriage, gold diggers watch out.  

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Visual literature? How does that work?

This week we were visited by Dr. Mark Rust, an ASL professor at McDaniel. He presented to us ASL: Seeing the Voice to explain to us how literature can be presented in ASL . He described it as being literature for the eyes, not the ears.  HOLD UP! Previously we have learned that literature is written and not spoken. As soon as I heard it being called literature, I will admit that I was taken aback and confused. Part of what confused me the most was that the deaf can still read the words on a page; it’s just the hearing part that is different. I suppose it makes sense that for reading aloud it can be performed differently, I was just somewhat confused.

So after my general confusion I decided to just listen and keep my mind open. We learned that ASL was not recognized as a language until 1996. The deaf community was questioning the idea of a phonocentric belief system when one man told them there was after his search. I feel that because of the questioning within the ASL community, I’m allowed to question when I’m told that it’s still literature based on what we have learned. As a note, I’m not trying to say that the stories aren’t still stories with all the same parts; I’m just using what we’ve learned in class as a definition. However, in being open to the idea it is important to further explore.  

In regular poetry there is a written image with margins and incantation sin the speaking voice. In visual literature, that which is used in ASL, the hands, face, and entire body transform to create images and shapes to give the poem. Since rhyme can’t be heard the same idea is given with the facial expressions, speed of signing, and repetition of the signer. In prose images are created by paragraphs, chapters, and books. In visual literature reading becomes viewing, books (a recorded version) becomes video, and papers become performances. Now I still don’t understand why it is considered different, but it certainly seems more interesting. So on to exploring the different styles of visual literature I suppose.

The first major category that was explained to us is the narrative. There are personal narratives, which can be funny/punny. The narrative we were told involved a hearing friend attempting to get out of a ticket by pretending to be deaf, and eventually it caught up to him when the officer could sign. This story and others like it are humorous, yet the butt of the jokes is often the oppressor, usually a hearing person. I understand that there is probably some resentment and some hearing people can treat the deaf community in awful ways, but I get somewhat sad if the same idea is felt all over. I feel that communities being divided based on characteristics are just depressing, and jokes do not really help. Another form of narrative is a cinematographic story which incorporates features of film like close-ups, angles, slow-motion, and more. We watched a clip where a man was describing a ninja and mimicking the shots we would see while signing to give a complete and enthralling story. Folktales are included in this bunch and incorporate the values of the visual language.  

Other major styles are translated works that turn a printed text into a visual language, which can be difficult with literatures such as Lewis Carroll’s The Jabberwocky, and original fiction.

Perhaps the most interesting thing we learned about was the usage of visual language in songs. Apparently in the deaf community bass is quite appreciated since it can really be felt. When translating songs the signs need to carry the same rhythm and should be translated conceptually and not literally in order to be fully appreciated. Seeing the kids sign for the White Stripes song was really cool and the Galludet fight song was also interesting and seemed much more involved than many. I can see why the crowd got so excited.

The next cool bit consisted of stories with constraint. The first kind was an ABC story where the letter signs are used to tell a story. Quite common and fun, they are used in many ways such as telling a story about a snowmobile where an a, e, and s can all be used for hands on the steering bit. In limited handshapes the signer tells a story using just a few handshapes such as a commercial warning to not text and drive. Number stories are similar to ABC stories, but using numbers instead. Fingerspelling is used to personify something, such as coffee and how it makes you feel. These different and quick stories are fascinating to watch and try to understand what is being said.

After the main presentation we were open to asking questions. As a Spanish major I was of course super interested in how signing is in other countries. There are different sign systems for different countries. Apparently many of those other countries need sign systems to a much greater extent. In developing countries it is often the case that 10% of their students need a sign system due to the lack of proper health care. Many missionaries go to these countries and start deaf schools; however this can be a major problem due to the cross-germinating language infiltration. In Zimbabwe alone there are 3 different schools with 3 different sign systems due to 3 different kinds of missionaries. In the Dominican Republic there is an argument going on about how to sign the days of the week: should they use the sign for Monday with an M or and l based on the Spanish word for Monday: lunes. Things like this are hard to get past and can further divide an already fairly divided group of people.

 I hope that all of this is fixed eventually so that many groups can come together and no longer be divided, including the hearing vs the deaf. I still never really decided how I feel about visual literature being literature if it can still be read, but in the end all that is important is that it exists and it is super interesting.

Here’s the story of Luke in Spanish sign language!

Here’s an Argentinean sign language story

And the same story from Paraguay
This is what I find most fascinating, and I hope you do too.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


So just as a not real blog post that has to do with Snow White, here are links to not one, but two (!) new Snow White movies: One that looks kinda fun: and one that looks kinda gritty
I may be much more inclined to go see these now, especially since they don't seem like they'll be all that bad. Hopefully if they are they'll be so bad it's funny.

That's all for now!

Monday, March 5, 2012

The treasures of the blog of another

So for our midterms this week we’re supposed to read the blog of a classmate and make some comments about it. I had the utmost pleasure to read Once Upon a Time: A deeper look at fairy tales created by Hanna, found here:

So first off: What did I like about her blog? What was I impressed by?

                Hanna, the English major that she is, is talented at organizing her thoughts in a logical way that didn’t have me rereading sentences four or five times like I sometimes have to. I also really enjoyed how she could get so involved with the blog post, yet still providing evaluative information. She also gave many relevant examples from society today to back herself up, especially in the Little Red Riding Hood post, arguably the most involved and probably her favorite to write based on the amount of detail put into it. Hanna is also really good at providing a summary of information such as in the ‘what is a fairy tale?’ and psychoanalysis posts. I’m also impressed by the layout of the blog, especially with regard to the pictures and comments beneath them. Perhaps what I like the most about Hanna’s blog is that you can get to know what she cares about by reading it, and that is truly impressive.

All of that being said, I have to say the things that I think Hanna could improve upon.

First off, I really hope that the disenchantment with fairy tales does not stick, especially since she was such a fan of them at the beginning. It is sad to see such a loss of interest in things once one is made to analyze them in every single way instead of merely enjoying a tale every once in a while. It is true that some things can be enjoyed even more once a deeper analysis is made, however that is not usually the case when what is being read is so against everything you feel. Perhaps to avoid this disenchantment Hanna should try to find some feminist fairy tales? There might be some here, but I’m not sure, I didn’t read them too deeply, but hopefully it actually is something: I’d also like to see some more laid-back or humorous elements in Hanna’s posts, it’s really interesting to read them, however sometimes a lot of information and passion can be a bit bogging, although the “SHE”S THEIR DRUGLORD” comment was really funny, so I guess more stuff like that.

                Overall Hanna can have really excellent blog posts when they involve things that she is interested in , and I hope some of that disenchantment transforms into enchantment once more.  

Friday, March 2, 2012

Snow White and the (six) Dwarves is finally an appropriate title

So this week we’re comparing Rammstein’s music video for Sonne with the Snow White tales that we have read. I want to know how many music videos these guys have made that relate to fairy tales written down by the Brothers Grimm.

So I started watching the video and noticed right away that these gritty, dirty, beardless men are supposed to be the seven dwarves (although I must admit that I did not count them to make sure). 
All photos are screenshots from the music video

 It is interesting that the video starts out with them and not with the birth of Snow White or with the wicked queen/stepmother like the stories do. In fact, there is no evil queen/wicked stepmother in the entire video, nor is there a huntsman to save Snow White! Finally there is a story that could actually be labeled as Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, although our “heroine” has not yet entered. When she finally does burst in there are two things that are extremely different from the tales:

1)      The dwarves are at the table

2)      She is definitely not 7 or 13…
Unless she's hit early puberty due to all the stuff in the food... But look at that fist of fury!

Our normally passive Snow White just barges right in while they are dining and one of them offers the lady a piece of gold (apparently cocaine rock in this video) and she swats this tiny “dwarf” onto the table in an extremely unladylike fashion. Next thing I know one dwarf is on her lap and she is spanking him while the others watch, waiting in fear (and I think that other emotion could be read as excitement?) for their turn.
Their faces say it all... Although her shadow shows the extreme dark side of her.
This is another very unladylike thing that the tales’ Snow White never would have done in her super passivity to male dominance. She also automatically has a more sexual relationship with the dwarves in this manner. To add to her dominance we see Snow White sitting in front of a mirror (!) and showing her stockings while having her hair brushed by a dwarf. While the usage of the comb/brush is similar, it is not this that puts her to rest as it does in the stories. Once again she is wielding her power over them, and they seem completely ok with obliging due to her ...assets. We also see apples sitting in a basket and being cleaned by one dwarf, however they do not receive more importance than that at the moment. Snow White at this time is straight up snorting gold dust that came from what the dwarves were mining as she sits at the head of the table in a position of power usually reserved for males. Then they all start feeling her up and treating her as an unattainable beauty and sex symbol, something that was TOTALLY seen in the originals, except not, although she was objectified by pretty much every male. She also looks somewhat like Jesus right here. another one of those coming to life deals.
Oh...uh...sorry to interrupt your private moment...
Also, in fueling her drug addiction they are not protecting her, rather harming her. Next up she’s in a tub oozing her sexiness and is dead from an overdose, her form in perfect passivity finally. She is seen in a glass coffin, dressed meaning they saw her naked and dressed her (oooh scandalous!), and they put her up on a hill, just like in the tales.
Finally so peaceful...
 There’s a HUGE difference here when one dwarf just starts jamming on an oversized guitar on the mountain in the snow, although perhaps that happened in the Grimm’s tale while the lone dwarf was up keeping guard.
Rock on, little man!
Eventually an apple falls and breaks the coffin and she catches it, suddenly alive once again. It is interesting that and apple is received by her to break the rest as opposed to the apple being dislodged to do so. That’s how the video ends. There’s no horse, no dancing in hot iron shoes, just dwarves jamming out to zombie Snow White.

I'd also like to note the cultural tranfer here as she's dressed as Snow White from the Disney movie. Overall, while strange, I personally find it to be an interesting version and would have liked to see the beginning and ends of the story as we know it, so having that other female and the birth and the prince and the shoes and all of those good things. Although I must say they did an excellent job making Snow White into the queen on her own, it made her a much more interesting character, something that basically all the critics claim she lacks. There is, after all, no one who can harm you more than yourself.  

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Grasping at strands of a Beast's mane- comparing Cupid and Psyche to La Belle et la Bête

So this week we’re supposed to compare the old Greek myth of Cupid and Psyche found at with a version of the fairy tale (although that definition might not apply here due to this version's structure) Beauty and the Beast that we’ve read. I’d like to compare it to Jeanne-Marie LePrince de Beaumont’s La Belle et la Bête from 1756. Be prepared for an overwhelming usage of the word “both.”

Cupid and Psyche, the ones with super young Cupid were really freaking me out

It was really hard to pick, so I used two Beauty in the Beast images, oh well...
Our beauties are subject to major misfortunes; Beauty must deal with her father losing his fortune and Psyche must deal with the mortals calling her lovelier than Venus, which sends the vengeful goddess into an absolute fit and cursing Psyche so that no mortal will ever love her, because she’s nice like that. Both ladies go to their respective beasts “willingly” and end up at giant beautiful palaces far from any semblance of civilization (so nobody can hear their screams…except not really). They both also require magical aid, such as the sleep transport and the winds of Zephyr, to make it to their abodes. Once they are there both beauties are treated to magic that can fulfill their every desire, however they cannot see their beasts often. Beauty gets to see hers at a certain time, and therefore does not have the curiosity of what he looks like. Psyche only knows of her new husband’s voice and that he wants only love, well unless you count her having seen Cupid when he was cursing her and she had him wound himself with his own arrow. They are married based on someone else’s wishes.  Beauty’s beast is cursed, unlike Cupid. In fact the person who is cursed in Cupid and Psyche is Psyche. Also, Psyche’s “beast?” he’s never a beast… 

In both stories the sisters play important roles, although awful sisters seem to be a common piece of fairy tales... Beauty and Psyche both have three sisters, Beauty even has brothers. The sisters in both stories are less beautiful than their youngest sister and are far more involved in the world around them. They get their own husbands, but become jealous of the beauties and try to get the riches for their selves, eventually causing their downfall through a fall to their deaths (Cupid and Psyche) or an eternity spent living as a statue unless they can change their attitudes (La Belle et la Bête). The sisters cause both beauties to almost ruin their relationships; Beauty through getting her to stay and almost kill the Beast and Psyche by convincing her to try and kill her beast. In doing so both beauties injure their loved ones; Beauty by the Beast’s starvation and Psyche through dripping hot candle wax. They have to redeem their love by going on their own “searches” as the AT system would describe, although Psyche traveling to so many places would definitely be considered a quest in my eyes. The fact that Psyche must actually go on a quest is due to her foolish curiosity, something that Beauty does not have.  In that way I don’t really feel bad for Psyche like I do for Beauty. Psyche could have asked Cupid to see her and try to get him to be more of a companion, like Beauty looked forward to her 9 o’clock dinners with Beast. Both beasts have magic to help their ladies return to them, and at the end the ladies end up with their respective beautiful husbands, Belle’s Beast having gone through a transformation thanks to the same fairy that cursed him. Hooray, we have happy endings, and that seems to be a fitting way to end this post. You all can read happily ever after now that this blog post is over, transformed like those from the story. I know I'm certainly happy because it's 2 AM and I'm finally done this because I have no time to do it tomorrow.
As a side note: does anyone remember that show Beauty and the Geek produced by Ashton Kutcher? I do, and they definitely gave the geeks makeovers so they could transform as well, although some of them were still jerks and lacked virtues unlike the wonderful Beast. Anyway yea, just wondering if you guys remembered because it's what I've been continously thinking of while reading these.