Featured posts: In this second round of posts, I already see an improvement in the quality of all of your responses. Both of the featured responses for this week show how Tuan’s discussions of spaciousness and crowding, freedom and captivity, are illustrated in two short stories, “The Metamorphosis” and “The Yellow Wallpaper.” The first response looks more closely at a specific scene in Kafka’s story; the second deals with the entire arc of the story. Either of these approaches is fine. The key is that both, in some way or another, consider why the parts they discuss are signifant to the meaning of the whole literary work (again, see the small packet from last week that discusses this as one goal of the kind of literary analysis we’re doing in this course).
**Another stylistic note–please note this for ALL future papers: chapter titles and short stories are indicated with quotation marks because they are parts of a larger work or anthology (ex: “Spaciousness and Crowding” or “The Metamorphosis”). Full works (Space and Place) are italicized.
From Taun’s “Spaciousness and Crowding” and Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis”, we are given an understanding of the limitations or freedom given to us with space. Referring also to defying standards such gravity as Tuan mentioned in last week’s reading “Body, Personal Relations, and Spatial Values”. In Kafka’s work, we are introduced with the character Gregor Samsa as he awoke from bed as a bug. The transformation is unexpected and bewildering to him but he chooses to make the best of his unfortunate situation even though he is reluctant at first. He is confronted with the process of assimilating to his new body and the spaces around him.
The author Kafka already demonstrated Tuan’s “Spaciousness” with the title “The Metamorphosis”. The word metamorphosis is defined as a change of form, structure or substance. Once a man and already comfortable with the laws of gravity and space biologically, Gregor Samsa is reborn as an insect and must learn it all over again. We can see so already within the first paragraph “He was lying on his back, which was hard, as if plated in armor, and when he lifted his head slightly he could see his belly: rounded, brown, and divided into stiff arched segments: on top of it the blanket, about to slip off altogether, still barely clinging” (Kafka, pg.301) According to Tuan’s first reading “Space, Place, and the Child”, Gregor Samsa may well be related to a baby that is first, lying on its back, can lift its head slightly, and kick around its blanket with the control of its limbs (Tuan, pg. 21). As Tuan mentions in “Spaciousness and Crowding”, “ An infant is un-free, and so are prisoners and the bedridden. They cannot, or have lost their ability to move freely; they live in constricted spaces” (Tuan, pg.52) Like an infant on the bed, Gregor is a prisoner of his own body and space.
The change of body form for Gregor has proved to be uncomfortable and laborious. For a person size is the way a person feels as he stretches his arm (Tuan, pg. 53). Since Gregor is an insect, how does his size affect him? How can he expand himself the way we could in terms of speed and distance? (example: bike to car to small aircraft) (Tuan, pg. 53) When Gregor realizes that he is late for work, he struggles to get out of bed. He thought with the help of the maid and his father “All they would have to do would be to slip their arms under his curved back, lift him out of bed, bend down with their burden, and then wait patiently while he flipped himself right side up onto the floor, where, one might hope, his little legs would acquire some purpose” (Kafka, pg. 305) Using the help of others, Gregor is not confident enough to help himself out first and therefore feels vulnerable and exposed (Tuan, pg. 54). This applies to the Western world although, contrast to be open and free Tuan mentions that a claustrophobic “sees small tight places as oppressive containment, not as contained spaces where warm fellowship or meditation in solitude is possible” (pg. 54) This concept could firmly agree with Kafka’s character as Gregor once before was a man of isolation considering he locks doors, even at home. He is challenged with the idea of letting go his solitude in exchange of understanding his new space. The environment of a small room he is given affects his space as he is bigger and wider than humans.
As individuals, we are given the choice to defy gravity and the space given to us. We can expand or limit our space. However it is the expanded space that gives us freedom to do as we please. The transformation that we experience from a child to an adult is a process of assimilation just as it is for Gregor Samsa waking up as an insect.
In the chapter, Spaciousness and Crowding, Yi-Fu Tuan suggests that when it comes to space and place, the themes of spaciousness and crowding do not always have to revolve around their literal translations, or the common assumptions that surround them. They are what Tuan calls, “antithetical feelings.” In broader terms, Tuan points out that limited space does not always mean that a place will be crowded, and just because an area or location contains a surplus of open space, doesn’t necessarily call for the generalization that the place is that of high spaciousness. Tuan’s philosophy about these elements of space of place, is that they have to do with certain emotions and feelings. In my opinion, Tuan’s principles couldn’t be more evident in Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper.”
“The Yellow Wallpaper” revolves around an unnamed woman who appears to suffer from some mental illness, and lives with her caring husband, John in a large house. Because of her condition, John insists that his wife spend most of her time residing in a big spacious room. However, the walls of the room are covered with wallpaper, which the wife is not very fond of. As a matter of fact, she detests it. She finds everything about the wallpaper to be absolutely repulsive. Her negative infatuation towards the paper results in her behaving irrationally and erratically, to the point as if the room is suffocating her to the brink of insanity. This ties into Tuan’s belief that spaciousness does not have to be interpreted based upon its literal area, but rather a person’s inception and feelings.
Tuan further touches upon this idea by stating that spaciousness is closely associated with freedom. “Freedom implies space; it means having the power and enough room in which to act.” (Tuan 52.) In other, words I guess it would be to fair to say that space shares some sort of correlation, with a person’s comfortbility level. The wallpaper in the room is so undesirable in the eyes of the woman, that it holds her captive. She seems to be trapped and the only way out is to peel the papers of the walls stitch by stitch. It is not until all of the walls in the room are bare, that the woman feels free. As a result she notes that she can now creep around as she pleases, and even notions that the room is now pleasant. So in short, Tuan’s ideas of spaciousness not always being revolved around the theme of large areas, is clearly evident based upon the attitude and actions of the main character in “yellow wallpaper.”
Your idea map: Tuan obviously uses maps in a lot of different ways in Space and Place. These maps are not only geographical guides but also often guide a viewer through a concept, a way of thinking about what happens in a space or place, or a person or group’s relationship to it. In anticipation of your first formal essay for this course, you’ll be creating an “idea map” much like the sample distributed in class. As you’ll see, this sample map is for an argumentative essay about animal rights. In the center of your map, however, there will be a different focus:
“How do concepts of ‘place’ and ‘space’ shape our understanding of [literary element: plot, character development, setting, or narrative point of view] in [any story we’ve read so far]?”
Please fill in the blanks as you choose. Consider, too, that this will turn into a five-page essay, so you’ll want to choose a story about which you feel you can sustain a longer discussion. Assuming your idea map is at least as developed as the sample I gave out in class (though don’t be shy about letting it spill over into multiple pages), I will count this as your blog post for this week. Here are the two qualifications:
1) every0ne should come prepared on Tuesday, February 22nd, with THREE HARD COPIES of their idea map (so, if you’re in the Thursday group, you’re submitting on Tuesday this week so that we can all discuss our maps together) and
2) if I feel your map is not reasonably developed when you come in on Tuesday (i.e. if it looks like it has been created in less time than it takes to ride the bus to Queens College or if it does not actually include concrete ideas that can be used in a paper), I reserve the right to ask you to complete a blog post about Thursday’s reading on top of this, as we normally would.
You can create your idea map on the computer (using the Microsoft Word drawing tools) or by hand. You cna alos try using PowerPoint or Prezi. You may want to do multiple drafts of the map. The idea map is a tool for generating ideas and is not a step-by-step “outline” of a final essay.
There are a number of ways to begin to add to the map. Your first level of branches could lead to ideas from Tuan that have caught your attention that you know you want to use OR they could contain specific instances that define one central character (if that’s the literary element you’ve chosen) in a story. Each branch should allow you to follow a train of thought outward until you cannot think of anything else that relates. Then, start a new branch. You can include short sentences or questions but please avoid using brief phrases or single words, which won’t help you to develop your ideas very well.
On Tuesday, before we trade idea maps, I’ll show you a sample idea map I’ve created from your small group responses to Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis.”
How you design this is largely up to you. The important part of the process is allowing yourself to seriously explore the different trains of thought that relate to the topic of your first paper, rather than just settling on the first thing that comes to mind (and, perhaps, discovering later that you don’t have much to say about it).