Literature and Place

a blog

Directions for uploading your videos

Dear all,

As some of you have already realized when attempting to post your videos to your blogs, the files are too large to be supported by WordPress. Your best option is to upload your video to either YouTube or Facebook and then to provide a link to the video on your blog. Uploading to, for example, is very easy. Simply create an account (you can use your gmail account information if you have one), and follow the on-screen instructions.  

Uploading these videos may take quite a while (around 2 hours), depending on the speed of your computer and the other programs that are running while you try to upload the file. *If you are presenting tomorrow, please do not wait until tomorrow afternoon to try to upload the video.* If you try and find that you still have no success uploading the video, you can save the file on a flash drive and use that for the presentation in class. I will continue to inquire about how to display the videos on a more public platform.

*Special thanks is due to Mahadeo for his investigation of various platforms that might have been able to support our videos.*

If questions arise, please include your question as a comment to this post so that others might see and respond to it. I will continue to check back into the blog as well to provide assistance.

The schedule for presentations of films in POWDERMAKER HALL 208 and 212 this week is as follows:

Tuesday, May 10th (PH 208)                                         Thursday, May 12th (PH 212)

Patricia Alexa
Nicki Brian
Mahadeo Mirana
Franc Chris
Tamar Carl
Xiomara Kimberly
Ricardo Marianela
Charlie Robert
Debbie Vincent
Jay Geena
Scott Peter


After you have presented, please return your flip cam to me packed in its original box.

Very much looking forward to the debut of your films,

Professor Zino

p.s. If you have not responded to the last round of featured blogs (below), please do so. Your comments may include suggestions for how to extend the connections between Tuan and Thoreau proposed by the featured bloggers.

Final round of featured blogs

In this final round of featured posts, you will see four possible blogs to which you can respond. Please focus on one, OR reflect on the collective connections made between Thoreau, Tuan, and the experiential perspective across all four posts.

Blog #1

Henry Thoreau’s “Walking” he talks about how he goes on walks out in the wilderness to experience nature. He just gets up and goes to get away from the village and all of the things that occupy his mind. In Tuan’s chapter “Time and Place” he describes how people in life settle into having routines. They no longer take the time to notice the places they pass through on a daily bases. Thoreau tries to defy these routines of everyday life by going on walks in the forest that don’t have any exact path. Thoreau agrees with Tuan that people create these routines where they encounter the same places all the time.

Tuan describes how people set into routines. “They settle into a routine of home, office or factory, and holiday resort (Tuan 182).” It is like a circle. There is a place to go, and the place to return to. In Thoreau’s “Writing” he agrees with Tunas idea of people having routines. He says “Our expeditions are but tours, and come round again at even the old hearth-side from which we set out. Half the walk is but a retracing of our steps. Thoreau goes on walks to escape the routines, and experience places, and take the time to feel the place he is in.

Thoreau describes that how sometimes when he is on his walks his mind wonders and thinks about all the things he has to do for work. He takes these walks to get away from those thoughts. So when he finds himself thinking about them he feels as though he is not in the wilderness he is walking in. His body is, but his mind is not. “In my afternoon walk I would fain forget all my morning occupations and my obligations to society. But it sometimes happens that I cannot easily shake off the village. The thought of some work will run in my head, and I am not where my body is,-I am out of my senses (Thoreau 264).” People often experience this. We can be somewhere but don’t even take the time to notice where we are at because our mind is somewhere else. You are not truly experiencing a place. Tuan says that a person’s “experience and appreciation of a place is superficial (183).” Even if a person constantly goes to a place or pass through it every day as part of their routine, they may not even pay it any mind, or give deep thought to that place. It is just part of their routine they have become so accustomed to. “In time we become familiar with a place, which means that we take more and more of it for granted (Tuan 184).”  

Thoreau thinks people should go on walks and just let go of their thoughts and truly experience a place “absolutely free from all worldly engagements (Thoreau 262).” Time is constantly moving in life, and Tuan says that “modern man is so mobile that he has not the time to establish roots.” People are constantly moving with time. People need to slow down and pause and take time to notice the places in their lives and truly experience them.

Blog #2

In the essay, Walking by Henry David Thoreau, themes of civilization and wilderness is brought up. Nature is a main idea that Thoreau brings up throughout the essay. Tuan mentions in the epilogue about place and “Routine activity and standard performance do not require analytical thought” (Tuan 200).Thoreau brings up this idea when talking about walking and how it should be an enjoyed activity instead of how it’s usually treated without any thought. As Thoreau says “Half the walk is but retracing our steps. We should go forth on the shortest walk, perchance, in the spirit of undying adventure, never to return–prepared to send back our embalmed hearts only as relics to our desolate kingdoms” ( Thoreau 261).
In regarding wilderness and civilization, Thoreau tries to fund the middle ground between civilization and wilderness, “Let me live where I will, on this side is the city, on that the wilderness, and ever I am leaving the city more and more, and withdrawing into the wilderness” (Thoreau 268). He also tries to draw a connection between Greek and Christianity. By saying that the Greeks called the world “Beauty,or Order”(Thoreau 287),he explains how other cultures saw the world and draws parallels between his opinions and other historic explanations.

Blog #3

“I wish to speak a word for Nature, for absolute freedom and wildness, as contrasted with a freedom and culture merely civil,-to regard man as an inhabitant, or a part and parcel of Nature, rather than a member of society.” (Thoreau page 260). Thoreau had a job which is he had to survey the plan land. After he had finish the survey city builds the building and so on. The world starts to get as a modern world. When the author was walking around his house and he saw the pond he was very depressed because he realize that there is no room for tree and animals. He was thinking rather than built a big building why we don’t leave some place for trees and animals. He tries to give this message all over the world, but only few people understand his point. Rest of the world especially American society was getting in to too much industialized society. As a result American people losing their all natural all view from the American land. Thoreau neither ignores the civilization nor the wilderness. He thought we should follow the civilization and also keep the wilderness. He likes the house and the road with the lot of trees. Thoreau thought the nature is a Holy Land like the Mississippi river he describe as a Holy Land. “the fact that we are oriented in space and at home in place –rather than describe and try to understand what “being-in-the-world” is truly like” (Tuan page 201). Thoreau and Tuan both are deeply focused on the nature. Tuan also said that all the architect planning to destroy the nature and made the building, but Tuan was thinking why they don’t leave the nature the way the nature is.   

Blog #4

In the passage “Walking” by Henry David Thoreau, wilderness and civilization is two main themes that are brought up to his attention. He speaks for wilderness and the old world as an effort on preservation of nature. It is important to take Henry Thoreau’s criticism of society seriously and not take it for granted. Human’s role in nature has been criticized for its lack of efforts in trying to preserve nature. Every aspect in human culture in this era revolves around the modernized use of technology due to the significant changes in this industrialized world.  

     Thoreau is coming from the perspective of supporting the old world; nature. After the Revolutionary war, America has become the new world where industrial changes had great affect in its futures’ building and planning. “I am a good horse to travel, but not from choice a roadster. The landscape-painter uses the figures of men to mark a road. He would not make that use of my figure” (Thoreau 265). This quote I found most interesting by Thoreau because it portray his views as a profound philosopher and a real naturalist. The quote explains that he is constantly escaping civilization. Although the landscape painter designed this path for society, Thoreau has his own views and opinions that differ from the mainstream. Heading into a world of modernization, it seems to be difficult to disagree because as a society, we are advancing and becoming more knowledgeable as a unit. Thoreau is trying to say that it is the best ideal for society. We are living in a world today where America does offer us to live differently and think differently but we as humans are becoming more dependent, relying on the new world’s lifestyle of not learning how to do things manually. Living in the old world allows us to experience the life of nature and appreciate the gratitude of nature’s blessings. The Amish are a great example of a community where they believe that their reluctance to adopt the new world’s lifestyle. It proves that they cherish nature’s blessing and believes that it is only right to preserve the world.

For Thursday, May 5th

Please finish Tuan’s book and complete the final reading and blog post (on Thoreau’s “Walking”) for Thursday. I would like both Tuesday and Thursday groups to post, as we will not be blogging next week.

Over the next few days, I will email you my comments on the electronic copies of the essay drafts I’ve received.

Enjoy Thoreau!

Professor Zino

Structuring Your Third Essay

Dear all,

As we discussed at the end of class today, think in terms of covering the various aspects of the final paper in the following way:

Introduce your particular, literal  “place/space” (which will also serve as an introduction to the broader category–“house,” “city,” “landscape,” etc.–that you’ll analyze in relation to the short stories) by describing it through an experiential perspective. (*Think ahead to how you want to discuss this place in the literary analyses that your paper will feature when crafting your experiential introduction.)

Provide a history of the place. Your research can include interviews with people about the origin/structure/uses of the place or information you’ve found in archived newspaper articles online as well as more traditional scholarly research material you’ve located in books or articles; try starting with “Google Scholar” if you’re aiming for a more academic historical account like one of “women’s private spaces in 19th century American homes.” (*Think about using McPhee’s essay as one model for how to move between a current experiential perspective and a more historical overview.)

Mention how this history makes the place/space one that particular authors have recognized as having experiential importance, which you’ll then develop in your analysis of how this place/space factors into a couple of short stories.

Describe the experiential perspective an author provides (through a character/narrator) in each respective story. Then explain how this experience in the space/place proves crucial to interpreting the overall significance of the story. (*Think back to your own experiential perspective in this type of place in order to critique, osberve similarities between, and comment on differences among these authors depictions of this space or place.)

Try your best to satisfy all these aims in your draft for this Tuesday, May 3rd (please come prepared with three copies for classmate interviews). Also, please use this post as a message board. Talk to each other. If I’ve written something you find confusing, post a comment about it asking for clarification. If you read a comment that you think you understand or have a response to, comment back! (No need to wait for me to answer you. Address all your posts to the group.)

Featured blogs for the week are also posted below. Please comment on one of those, too. You may include responses and questions about the next paper in the same comment. If you have not been reading others comments on the weekly blog posts, this is the weekend to do it!

Wishing you a productive four days and looking forward to seeing you on Tuesday,

Professor Zino

Blog #1: “The Search for Marvin Gardens”

In Tuan’s chapter “Visibility: the Creation of Place”, he analyzes that some particular architectures, landmarks and places can be visible in different meanings. With this idea, the theme of “The Search for Marvin Gardens” by John McPhee can be classified. McPhee mentions that the narrator plays the monopoly with his friends and he describes all the details about the avenue, railroad, jail, hotels, houses and cash flow on the game board. Based on each of particular streets and avenues, the narrator has flashback about the historic event in the past that he has encountered. He has being impacted by those places when his friend or he has related to the game dealing with the building a hotel or earning the interest rate of renting.

     Tuan mentions that “Each pause is time enough to create an image of place that looms large momentarily in our view” (161). This reveals when some place is visible to people, it records the memories of individuals to make the connection between the present and the past in the same familiar location. In the game of monopoly, the names of those avenues and streets are familiar to the narrator and it is significant to him either he has been visited or he has heard from someone. Also, Tuan tells that “The street where one lives is part of one’s intimate experience. The larger unit, neighborhood, is a concept” (170). The concept of one’s experience can be shared with the visible places. People get experience from each other when they have been to those places and classify the concept of experiences as the neighborhood including all events, individuals and materials. It is like the narrator mentions about the things of his friend when his friend occupies an avenue in the game.

Blog #2: “Construction of a Neighborhood”

Officials always have more powers than the average citizen, so it is no surprise that officials also have the ability to create places both physically and figuratively. Tuan writes, “Scientists thus appear to have a certain power: they can create a place by pointing their official fingers at one body of water rather than another” (162). Scientists achieve legitimacy through facts and research, but the government is able to name places without any merit aside from ownership. Often, streets are named after modern heroes and important figures of history. In “The Search for Marvin Gardens” the creator of
Atlantic City is the one to name the streets, “No one ever challenged the name, or the names of Osborne’s streets” (McPhee 11). Then Darrow creates monopoly with one addition: Marvin Gardens. Creators have the utmost power when it comes to naming a place. Since places are an unique experience to each individual, we create our own space that we associate with the place; we are also creators of place, hence we name places. Local places may be described by child by its local stores rather than its landmarks. We may refer to a place’s location relative to another place that is more commonly known, similarly to how we use street signs. We use street signs to give a universally understood location, but these directions are meaningless if one does not understand how the system works, where one can give more easily understood directions by describing the surroundings. However, descriptions of surroundings become vague when more than one locale is found elsewhere. The creation of a neighborhood begins with the intimate experiences of a place. Tuan writes, “The sentiment one has for the local street corner does not automatically expand in the course of time to cover the entire neighborhood” (170). Sentiment for a neighborhood is often lacking, since the knowledge of neighborhood is also lacking thought. One does not often recall their neighborhood unless pressed about it, also making the neighborhood undefined until pressed for a definition.

As we return from break…back in the swing (and spring) of things

Hi all,

We won’t meet on Tuesday this week as spring break runs through April 26th. In preparation for Thursday, please see the latest reading assignment posted on the  “readings” page: John McPhee’s “The Search for Marvin Gardens” (which you’ll read alongside Tuan’s twelfth chapter, “Visibility: The Creation of Place.”)  As one of our final readings for the course, you’ll want to take note of the fact that this piece falls under a different genre than the others we’ve read this semester.  McPhee’s piece is a creative non-fiction essay.  As a result, part of what we might discuss on Thursday is how composers of creative non-fiction (in comparison to those writing fiction) treat “places” and “spaces.”  We can also talk about how McPhee’s essay deals with landscape (in relation to your third assignment).

Below I’ve posted the two featured blogs, which will count for this past week. Though there was no official assigned work for the break, we cannot skip out on a week of featured posts. For Thursday, please respond to one of the posts related to “attachments to homeland” and complete a reading response for McPhee’s essay. I will post another round of featured blogs that will come out of the most recent responses on Thursday evening.

As we’ve done for the first two essays, an “idea map” is listed on our schedule for this Thursday as a brainstorming exercise for the third writing assignment. I will make this third idea map optional–in other words, if you have found these maps useful for the last two essays and would like to create one to bring in on Thursday, I will happily review it. If you would prefer to just get started on the draft in preparation for our peer interviews on Tuesday, May 3rd, please do so.  (**If you have an idea map that you would not mind sharing with the class this Thursday, please drop by my office hours and show it to me.**)

Please be sure you review the assignment sheet for the third essay during these last few days of our break. This 10-page essay combines the literary analysis and attention to an “experiential perspective” that you’ve practiced in the last two essays with a call for you to describe and research an actual place in the same category of possible places/spaces; your discussion of the actual place should makes the fictionalized places/spaces described by the authors come alive for you and your reader.

See you on Thursday,

Professor Zino

Blog #1

In “This is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona” Victor is living on an Indian compound when he leaves to Arizona because of his father’s death. When he goes back to his father’s home with Thomas he remembers different events throughout his life that Thomas and he were previously involved. Because of the power of the compound that caused Victor’s lack of money, Victor needed Thomas to join him in Arizona because of the money that Thomas was able to provide for the trip. Reading this makes me think of Tuan’s chapter “Attachment to Homeland” for a few reasons. Because of the fact that the Indians on the compound are born there, work there, and live there, they are fully dependent and therefore attached to their homeland both emotionally and financially. Victor is so attached, literally, to his home land that it is a struggle for him to even fly to Arizona to claim his father’s assets and ashes.

In this chapter Tuan explains that religion can do one of two things, bind a person to their place or free them from it. In this case, their religion is completely binding them to the compound. “In religions that bind people firmly to place the gods appear to have the following characteristics in common. They have no power beyond the vicinity of their particular abodes” (Tuan 152). This brings to mind two events in the story. One is that when Victor’s father sees Thomas wandering from the compound as a child, he is angry and brings him back to the compound. The symbolism here is that Thomas’ dreams are what caused him to wander in the first place and that in the end both Victor and Thomas want to bring his father’s ashes here is no coincidence. This is because of the second event which is when they are driving back and Thomas starts to drive, he kills the jackrabbit. Throughout the trip out of the compound the common theme is death.  Starting with the whole cause of the trip being the death of Victor’s father, the desert is described as empty, dead, and lifeless. When they do see the jackrabbit it is emphasized that it is the first living thing they have seen, but it is killed instantly.

The fact that there is only death outside of the compound pushes further the point of what Tuan says, showing that the power of the gods that are protecting them on the compound is not in any location outside of the compound that Victor and Thomas travel to. This is obviously not true because in Arizona there is life without a question, but that they see it as dead can only be attributed to the fact that it is because they have left their safety net of compound and are not under the protection that they feel by being there. Both by religion and the highers-up of the compound.

That Victor and Thomas bring the ashes to the place where Victor’s father had unknowingly caused Thomas’ helping Victor to bring back the ashes is following this theme. His dreams, that come from somewhere implied to be heaven, lead him to the place that eventually caused a full circle, their returning with the ashes is Victor and Thomas coming back to their faith and compound with a renewed loyalty, because of the life that they recognize in it, especially after seeing dead Arizona.

Blog #2

In the story “This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona” by Sherman Alexie we see Victor re-establish his ties to his community after the death of his father with the help of an old childhood friend, Thomas. After his father dies Victor is faced with the task of finding a way to get to phoenix Arizona, where his father died, to collect his dad’s ashes and inherited belongings. Since he is low on funds, Victor reluctantly accepts help from Thomas with whom he no longer considers a friend. By going on this trip together Victor allows himself to become familiar with where he came from once again by reminiscing about how he and Thomas were once very good friends. The story proves many of the views that Yi-Fu Tuan writes about in his chapter, “Attachment to Homeland.”
According to Tuan, “attachment to homeland is a common human emotion. Its strength varies among different cultures and historical periods. The more ties there are the stronger the emotional bond (159).” We see that Victor does not have a strong connection to his community through his relationship with Thomas because all Victor seems to view him as is “a storyteller that nobody wanted to listen to (Alexie 475).” We do, however, this bond strengthen between the two as well as victors connection to his community.
The first indication that the relationship between the two is improving is when Victor agrees to accept Thomas’ help despite being too proud to do so. The second happens after getting settled on the plane over to Phoenix when Victor remembers the fight that potentially signified the end of their friendship when they were 15 years old. However, it isn’t until they are at the place that Victor’s father died where we see Victor’s remorse over the situation when he tells Thomas, “I never told you I was sorry for beating you up that one time (Alexie 478).”
The fact that we can see Victor and Thomas getting along better also signifies Victor reconnecting to his community; which Thomas has obviously played a big role in. According to Tuan “a homeland has its landmarks, which may be features of high visibility and public significance, such as monuments, shrines, a hallowed battlefield or cemetery. These visible signs serve to enhance a people’s sense of identity (Tuan 159).” In Victor’s situation, however, enhancements within his identity don’t come from tangible objects but from his relationship with certain people like Thomas. There is not one childhood memory in which Victor cannot recall Thomas being in.
Victors improved relationship with Thomas and his stronger connection to his community can also be seen when we see him give half of his father’s ashes to Thomas. Thomas then goes on to say “I’m going to Spokane Falls one last time and toss these ashes into the water. And your father will rise like a salmon, leap over the bridge, over me, and find his way home (Alexie 482).” Victor agrees to do the same and before leaving agrees to listen to one of Thomas’ stories.
By choosing to re-open these ties to old friends and his home we do see that Victor’s attachment to his homeland grow. Originally his attachment is weary but by establishing his identity further through others within his community and re-familiarizing himself with places he once used to live Victor proves Tuan’s view that people do “consider their own homeland as the center of the world (149).”

On commemoration and the importance of quoting with an attention to context…

Hi all,

As you continue to revise and send me your final drafts tonight, I thought I’d pass along this very interesting piece that a friend sent me about the quotation that will adorn the new 9/11 memorial in lower Manhattan. This article is about commemorating a (former?) place and a space, and it is also a good lesson for all of us who aspire to be better writers and readers. Take a look:

I’ll see you on Tuesday to discuss Tuan on “attachment to homeland” as well as Sherman Alexie’s story, “This is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona.” I have a feeling that thinking about your own experiences in line with these two pieces will generate an interesting discussion.

Looking forward to seeing you soon,

Professor Zino

Featured blogs for this week

Hi all,

You will be reading “Sonny’s Blues” this weekend and continuing to use Tuan’s notions about “intimate experiences” of place to discuss the significance of specific scenes in Baldwin’s story and the themes of the story as a whole. As I have written on the revised assignment schedule, you are not required to post a blog next week as we are not meeting on Thursday and as I expect that you will also be working hard on your second papers, taking into account both my comments and those of your peers.  So, in lieu of that post, you might write slightly more developed responses to your classmates’ posts during this round of featured blogs: What connections have the authors made that are successful? How else might they use the idea of “intimate experiences of place” to make sense of the “The Things They Carried”? (particularly, how do such experiences inform the style, tone, or theme of the story?) If these writers were going to compare how “intimate experiences of place” are treated in “The Things They Carried” and in “Sonny’s Blues,” what types of comparisons might they draw? 

Post #1:  “The Things They Carried”

       Throughout life one may hold on or carry something that has great meaning to them. In the short story “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien, the main characters were U.S. soldiers fighting in the Vietnam War. Throughout the story we see what they carry with them and why they choose to carry that particular item.  Tuan’s chapter titled “Intimate Experiences of Place”, we learn about intimate experiences and attachments. Both Tuan’s chapter and the short story by O’Brien relate with each other because attachment and intimatcy is shown.

       In the short story “The Things They Carried”, the main character is First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross. Cross is in charge of his squad and throughout the main part of the story instead of concentrating on his men he wonders about a girl back home who he is madly in love with. The girl back home whose name is Martha, does not share the same feelings towards him but that does not make him stop thinking about her. During the story we learn why some of the soldiers carry a particular item or weapon with them. Many carry different types of guns with them for protection. Others carried photographs to remind them of their loved ones. Lieutenant Cross carries a pebble that Martha sent him through a letter. Once one of his men is killed however, Cross becomes overwhelmed with this sense of guilt that it was because of him that this soldier died. To get his mind back on the war and his men he burns all the letters and photographs from Martha. Instead of carrying the pebble with him, he now carries a sense of guilt. He believes that because of his unwillingness to pay attention to his squad Ted Lavender was killed.

       In Tuan’s chapter “Intimate Experiences of Place” we learn about attachment and why certain types of spaces are meaningful to us. We also learn about the relationship between a child and a parent. Tuan states “to the young child the parent is his primary “place.” (Tuan 138). The child depends on the mother or father for almost everything. Without the mother or father the child would not be able to survive because who would then feed and nurture them. We also learn that for many the “home” is where most intimate experiences happen. The home is where we live with the people closest to us. The home is our shelter and in it we sleep, eat and become close to the others living with us.

       In both Tuan’s chapter and the short story “The Things They Carried”, an attachment to something or someone is discussed. In Tuan’s chapter we learn that during the early stages of childhood the child is attached to the parents. Only as we get older this attachment with the parents fades away. As we get older we become more independent and therefore we depend less on our parents. As a child when we are hungry we depend on the parents to feed us. As we get older we go out on our own to get food when we are hungry. In the short story the soldiers felt attached to different materials that made them feel safe or happy. Many of them carried different weapons for safety and others carried materials that reminded them of home. From the two literature pieces the reader can learn that without a sense of attachment one can feel lost and unworthy.

Post #2: “The Things They Carried”

   “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien deals with a group of soldiers during the Vietnam War and the objects they “hump” everyday, particularly First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross. The men carry a variety of military items, however they also carry personal items which serve as reminders of what they left behind. Jimmy Cross carries letters, photographs, and keepsakes from his true love, Martha. These trinkets carry him into her world, along the Jersey Shore to where he can picture walking side by side by the water. Lieutenant Cross is constantly distracted by daydreams of Martha. In Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience, Tuan notes that “intimate experiences lie buried in our innermost being so that not only do we lack the words to give them form but often we are not even aware of them” (Tuan 136). Lieutenant Cross’ fantasies of Martha overwhelm him to the point of taking him away from his duties, resulting in the death of one of his soldiers. In an attempt to redeem himself, he burns his memories of Martha. However, his thoughts are still with her. Tuan states that “for most people possessions and ideas are important, but other human beings remain the focus of value and the source of meaning” (Tuan 138). In essence, this means that while objects and structures may make a place, it is the people we associate them with that make it an intimate place and one we can actually call home. Jimmy Cross, being so attached to Martha, feels completely empty and alone in his current environment, craving only to be with her and therefore abandoning his responsibilities as First Lieutenant.

A reminder for this Thursday, March 31st

PLEASE BRING THREE (3) HARD COPIES of your draft of assignment #2 to class this Thursday IN PREPARATION FOR CLASSMATE INTERVIEWS.  Also, please email a copy of your draft as an attached Microsoft Word file to I will respond to drafts electronically.

This week’s featured blogs

Your comments on each others’s posts thus far have been, overall, really thorough and insightful. (I hope the authors of the blog posts are reading them!) Please continue to weigh in this week on these two posts that incorporate ideas from Tuan’s chapter on “Time in Experiential Space.”  

Post #1: “The Snows of Kilimanjaro”

In Tuan’s chapter of “Time in Experiential Space”, he explains how people relate time with space.  Tuan states that people “differ in their awareness of space and time” in the way they develop in space (119).  He also states that {visual space tends to be focused and structured around an object” and continues to mention that “aural space is less focused” (119).  This is evident in Ernest Hemingway’s “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” with the main character, Harry.   This story is also symbolic of the idea of dying.

Hemingway opens the story with a conversation between two people and we learn later on that this conversation is held between Harry and Helen.  We also discover that they are on an African safari and that Harry is hurt and they are waiting for a rescue plane to arrive.  Harry uses his moments of dying to reflect back on his life.  He realizes that he did not do as much as he had wishes he had done in his lifetime.  The author of this book said that this story reflects how Hemingway is having a hard time writing.

As I was reading these parts of the story, I remembered many movies having something similar occur in them.  In these movies, the picture would become fuzzier, until it had changed to another screen, either a flashback or flash-forward.  Tuan describes this mind roaming and he claims that “When we stand before a prospect, our mind is free to roam.  As we move mentally out to space, we also move either backward or forward in time”  (125).

Because “kilimanjaro” means and is symbolic for “The House of God”, I believe the plane in this story, is symbolic of the heavens.  They could have had help come in another form, such as an ambulance, but because the help is coming from the sky, suggests that “the house of God” is sending help.  I believe that the “help” is helping Harry die and go to heaven.

Post #2: “Death by Landscape”

In Margaret Atwood’s short story, “Death by Landscape”, the main character Lois, now an old woman, looks back on her childhood summers at Camp Manitou with her friend Lucy. In an extended flashback, Lois recalls her last canoe trip at the summer camp when Lucy mysteriously vanishes without a trace. With no possible explanation for Lucy’s disappearance, the camp counselor blames Lois, saying that she pushed her off a cliff. As a result, Lois spends the rest of her life haunted by the memory of her lost friend, unable to go near the wilderness without hearing Lucy’s voice. At the end of the story, while looking at her large collection of paintings, Lois begins to see Lucy in all of them and feels at ease, now realizing that “she [Lucy] is here. She is entirely alive” (Atwood 118).

The paintings in Lois’ house symbolize her memories and how no matter how much time passes, they do not change and are timeless. Because Lois can see her friend in all the paintings show that her memories of Lucy are still alive and well. The timeless nature of paintings is referenced in Yi-Fu Tuan’s chapter “Time in Experimental Space”. According to Tuan, paintings and photographs of landscapes leads to “a major reordering of time as well as of space”, meaning that capturing a scene in pictures changes the way we view them. They are no longer constrained by passing time and fleeting memories. For Lois, the paintings don’t just symbolize her memories, they serve as reminders, rejuvenating her memories of Lucy and keeping them alive. This is what Lois means in the last sentence in “Death by Landscape”. Her friend Lucy never died because Lois still remembers her and always will, at least until Alzheimer’s sets in.

This week’s featured blogs

Both featured blogs this week put Tuan to work in interesting ways. How might you expand on the discussion of the symbolic value of the windows in the Usher house (in relation to Tuan’s observations about architectural structures and light) in post 1, and, in post 2, what else might you add to the discussion of public and private spaces in Fitzgerald’s story?

Post #1: “The Fall of the House of Usher”
In the story of “The Fall of the House of Usher” by Edgar Allen Poe, the narrator, who is unknown, arrives at his childhood friend’s house, Roderick Usher. Roderick had sent his dear friend a letter stating that it is imperative that he come see Roderick because he was feeling very ill. When the narrator arrives at the house he notices how glum the house looked. Although it was a very unkempt house, with much deteriorating stones and a crack down the frame of the house, the narrator was very surprised to see it standing strongly in its condition. Upon walking into the room he sees a very pale and visibly sick Roderick. For the next couple of days the narrator stays at the lonely house of Usher to keep him company. His very sick sister dies while the narrator is staying at the house and they bury her under the house. Roderick suffers from great fear because he believes that his sister is haunting him because she was buried alive. In the middle of the night Roderick wakes up the narrator to tell him that his sister is still alive. Suddenly she appears behind the door of his bedroom and attacks Roderick and kills him. The once sturdy, yet decrepit, house split in half and crumbled to the ground.
I believe the house stood as a symbol of Roderick’s comfort. It was the house that he had lived in for a very long time with his family (although many of his family members had died). It was an architectural establishment that supplied him with everything he could need. It put a roof over his head, he had a warm bed, and he had his sister with him. Although the exterior and interior of the house was gloomy, this could have been how Roderick and his late-family wanted it to be. Tuan states, “Historically, interior space was dark and narrow. This was true not only of humble dwellings but also of monumental edifices… Architectural drawings and relics show that interior space was elaborated together with the fenestration of light… The light-flooded interiors of Baroque churches and halls were further efforts to explore the possibilities of a major and enduring concept of space” (Tuan 110).
It is possible that the way Roderick’s house let in light had a lot to do with how he wanted to live. He had a dark house with “vacant eye-like windows” (Poe, “The Fall of the House of Usher”). This means that the windows did not let in much light. They were a bit too small for the house. This was the way the house was constructed yet, for some reason, the Usher family was fond of it. All in all I believe that the Usher family was so dismal because that’s the type of people they were and that they picked their own fate in a sense. They were drawn to the dreary architectural structure of their own home, which had set their fate for them.

Post #2: “Babylon Revisited”

In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “Babylon Revisited,” the main character, Charlie, is attempting to put his life back together after a three-year rough patch that involved alcoholism, the collapse of his marriage, and the death of his wife. Now that he’s been sober for a year and a half and is financially stable despite the crash of the stock market, Charlie’s main goal is to regain custody of his daughter Honoria from his wife’s sister and brother-in-law. However, Charlie’s return to Paris only reminds him of the life he used to lead, and the various settings described in the story are very telling of the relationships between the characters.

            The first place Charlie visits is the bar he used to go to with his friends. It was a busy place, full of life, and now has hardly anyone in it. Tuan says in his chapter on “Architectural Space and Awareness” that “architecture is key to comprehending reality” (102). There is a strong connection between the attachment Charlie has to the physical place itself and to all the memories he has there. The contrast lies in the fact that the architectural space has remained the same, but that so much else has changed. As Tuan says, this forces Charlie to see the reality that, although he is back to where his past took place, much has changed including himself.

            Another important instance of physical surroundings having an effect on relationships is within Marion and Lincoln’s home. Tuan explains that “built environment clarifies social roles and relations” (102). This is especially true when it comes to people’s homes. Charlie notes how protected the children feel in Marion’s house, and it’s extremely significant that Charlie needs to enter someone else’s domain in order to obtain something that is his. At this point in time, Honoria’s guardians are Marion and Lincoln, and they have been more of parents to her than Charlie has. They are the parents of the household, and Charlie feels the strain of the relationship between them every time he enters the building.

            Tuan also speaks of a social awareness that comes with private and public domains. He says that everyone knows of the differences between “inside and outside, of intimacy and exposure, of private life and public space” (107). Unfortunately, some people are more conscious of these differences than others. The turning point in the story comes when Charlie’s boisterous friends from the past take the liberty to find Lincoln’s address and invite themselves over. They come in the middle of what started as a hopeful discussion about Honoria’s custody, and ruin Charlie’s chances of getting his child back. They were completely disrespectful of Charlie’s private life, and their loudness and disregard for someone’s intimate space shows that they weren’t concerned about interrupting anything of importance at all. They blurred the lines of behavior fit for “outside” and behavior fit for “inside,” and because of this, Charlie’s plan is ultimately ruined.

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