[This message has also been made available via the class Facebook page and campus e-mail]
As you may already have seen, the grades (partials and global finals) are now available for your consultation.
Let me repeat some of the information I gave you this morning, with some additional remarks:
If you have passed, terrific! Congratulations: happy summer…
- If you have failed, don’t worry excessively. It’s entirely normal throughout a university degree to fail sometimes. If this is your case, please contact me as soon as possible (at David.Owen@uab.cat) and we’ll arrange a tutorial. I’ll also inform you of the re-evaluation date and the format of the re-evaluation task.
- If you think that the grades indicated are in any sense incorrect, please contact me and we’ll discuss the issue more fully. It’s not impossible that there is an error on my part.
- Please be aware that tutorials for approximately the next two weeks will be given over to re-evaluation students (who obviously take priority at this point). If you simply wish to discuss your exam/paper etc., please wait until I have sent you specific information on the exam-review sessions. You will receive this information next week via Facebook, the class blog and campus e-mail.
- If you contact me about the exam results, please be patient whilst I reply. I will always get a reply to every e-mail I receive, but at this time of year it may take a little longer than normal.
That’s it. Bye for now!
This Monday, our class will be given by guest lecturer, Amanda Jones.
Amanda (who has been sitting in on our classes over the last few weeks) is an MA student in our department and a graduate in English of the University of California, Davies. She is now specialising in C19 literature and is currently researching British women writers’ attitudes to slavery in the US of the 1800s.
Amanda has kindly provided us with some class material for Monday, which I’m attaching here: 19th Century Women Travel Writers.
The pdf looks longer than it is, actually, because one of the texts was only available as a screen-capture. I’d be very grateful if you could all give this material your fullest attention for Monday.
The particular significance of Amanda’s session to us at this point in our course is that it will, in effect, allow us to review and consolidate many of the aspects that we’ve observed in relation to the treatment and discussion of slavery, to remark on the varied but particular perspective that women writers may bring to this, and to provide a significant thematic connection with the subject of feminism that we will enter more fully into on reading Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper (which we’ll begin next Wednesday).
I know that you’ll all give Amanda a warm welcome and will do her the deference of preparing your reading well!
The Degree Coordinator has asked me to inform you of the following important information concerning your degree studies. This information has also been sent to you via Facebook:
*Han canviat les condicions relatives a les optatives i els estudiants es poden matricular de les de quart ja a tercer curs (màxim 12 ECTS, amb algunes restriccions que es poden veure a la Guia Docent i al llistat quue publicaré al blog de Coordinació).
*Això vol dir que l’obligació de triar Idioma Modern I i Idioma Modern II s’ha acabat. No obstant, encara es poden fer aquestes assignatures com a optatives a tercer si es vol.
*Si es vol fer la Menció d’Alemany, cal triar Idioma Modern I i II a tercer i fer tres assignatures més a quart curs, tal com es fa actualment.
For further information: http://blogs.uab.cat/grauestudisanglesos/
This week, we’ll begin our study of a novel (Pudd’nhead Wilson, 1894) by the extraordinary Mark Twain. Probably best known—at least outside the USA—for his phenomenally important work, Huckleberry Finn (the C20 US novelist William Faulkner—another southerner, like Twain— called it the first Great American Novel, and also added that all subsequent US literature derives from this novel), his importance for us in this course is also related to his position as a sort of cultural spokesperson for conflicting views on issues of slavery in the southern states.
There are many reasons why his work continues to attract attention. Some of those include Twain’s keen interest in regionalism, emphasising the particularities of the world of the southern US states partly as a means of recording the rapidly vanishing worlds of that place and time. This involved, among other things, the use of the vernacular—in opposition to a more standard form of US English—attesting to a rich variety of linguistic registers that are vital and earthy in ways that a standard dialect can never hope to be.
Many of Twain’s characters are highly significant pointers to the way in which he chooses to symbolise aspects of the southern states. Often, in stark counterposition to the genteel society that represents the governing class, many of these are innocent, unworldly, unsophisticated and uneducated. But they can also be honest, forthright, open and fair, and far more ‘genuine’ than the socially accepted gentlefolk who see themselves as social superiors. This, incidentally, implicitly sets up a comparison between northern politeness and manners and southern directness. The idea often expressed in this way is that the South is more down-to-earth and uncomplicated. Except it’s not at all. For of course there are undercurrents—as we see in Pudd’nhead—of racism, inhumane treatment, terrible prejudices and personal tragedy that obliges mothers to give up their children (with all the attending miseries that this will bring).
Much of this, of the various characters’ trials and difficulties, and their varying conclusions, can be read as an allegory of the South in its struggles to rise again from the Civil War.
Finally—and most controversially—in a great deal of Twain’s writing, there is the issue of slavery, with a great deal of critical attention being given to debating whether Twain is complicit with it by apparently accepting it sometimes apparently humorously as part of genteel southern society, or whether is he is actually suggesting through a delineation of its consequences and the ways that it is still so deeply rooted in people’s lives, that it is an evil against which we still very much need to be on our guard?
In other words, perhaps Twain’s work (and Pudd’nhead in particular, as far as we are concerned) can be read as an allegory of the exploration for a different kind of South, a socio-political discussion about the very nature of the ‘new’ South that was emerging from the ashes of the US Civil War.
Just in case you thought that the references were exaggerated that I made last week to popular culture and elements from Anti-Tom literature, you might be interested to read this Wikipedia entry for a failed Disney film called “Song of The South”. Sometimes, reality outdoes fiction; sometimes, it’s the other way round… and sometimes, they complement each other in the most surprising ways.
This week, we began reading Harriet Ann Jacobs’ Incidents in the life of a Slave Girl (1861).
When thinking about the sort of highly particular autobiographical writing that Harriet’s text reflects, an important thing to recall is that the so-called slave narratives, part of a larger family of captivity literature, appealed and relied on on certain important reader expectations. Particularly, the willingness of the reader to identify with the ideals and values of the protagonist and—in contrast—to reject as barbaric and undesirable the ideals and values of the captors. This was the ‘formula’ that underlies the captivity literature of C16-C18 European tradition and that brought great success and popularity to this literary form. C19 US Slave literature, of course, turns this formula on its head, and the American readers were faced with the uncomfortable position of identifying with a protagonist whose dignity is undermined by the society to which almost all of those readers belonged.
That is, there is a rhetorical, stylistic device at the heart of such writing that has a very specific purpose: it moves the reader towards a sense of identification in which what is paramount is the shared sense of humanity. But wait!! If you start attributing humanity to a slave, you’re in trouble: once you’ve accorded the status of human to such a person, the entire edifice of slavery comes crashing down. In fact, it’s only possible to sustain such a barbarous attitude if you can somehow convince yourself that these poor individuals miraculously belong to another level of existence. They don’t. They never did. They never will. They are, as the image above shows, our brothers and sisters (even today, ladies and gentlemen, even today…). Recall that they are as fully human as you and me, and that’s the end of the story. Slavery cannot be justified. Game over.
The simple yet overwhelmingly powerful key to all is the power of language. Why? Not simply because the slave narrators can tell their story and are given a voice to compensate for the silence that was traditionally imposed on them. Not simply because, in telling this tale, Jacobs can contribute directly and very eloquently to the great debate on the abolition of slavery, though this is of enormous value to the slaves. But, above all, because by telling this tale, Jacobs is enabled to restore the human dignity to herself and her people that slavery has intentionally taken every opportunity to destroy. Her journey from Silence to Story is the journey back to dignity from inhumanity. For all of us, this is the deeper value of Harriet Ann Jacob’s extraordinary work