an Interview with Louise Erdrich

In the vedio clip, you can see Louise Erdrich's interview in which she talks about the importance of local independent bookstores, her latest book The Plague of Doves (April,2008), her view of the recent presidential election as a native American, and so forth. Please take a careful look of this vedio clip and write down anything that has drawn your attention and is of interest to you. For example, how does the fact of being a mixed-blood person affect her view upon things in American society? What is it like for a native American community to come to terms with the historical trauma of being mistreated and violated?


Why I Write About Mexico

Why I Write About Mexico:
A Letter to the Editor of The Century

I write about Mexico because that is my familiar country. I was born near San Antonio, Texas. My father lived part of his youth in Mexico, and told me enchanting stories of his life there; therefore the land did not seem strange to me even at my first sight of it. During the Madero revolution I watched a street battle between Maderistas and Federal troops from the window of a cathedral; a grape-vine heavy with tiny black grapes formed a screen, and a very old Indian woman stood near me, perfectly silent, holding my sleeve. Later she said to me, when the dead were being piled for burning in the public square, "It is all a great trouble now, but it is for the sake of happiness to come." She crossed herself, and I mistook her meaning.

"In heaven?" I asked. Her scorn was splendid.

"No, on earth. Happiness for men, not for angels!"

She seemed to me then to have caught the whole meaning of revolution, and to have said it in a phrase. From that day I watched Mexico, and all the apparently unrelated events that grew out of that first struggle never seemed false or alien or aimless to me. A straight, undeviating purpose guided the working of the plan. And it permitted many fine things to grow out of the national soil, only faintly surmised during the last two or three centuries even by the Mexicans themselves. It was as if an old field had been watered, and all the long-buried seeds flourished.

About three years ago I returned to Mexico, after a long absence, to study the renascence of Mexican art—a veritable rebirth, very conscious, very powerful, of a deeply racial and personal art. I was not won to it by any artificial influence; I recognized it at once as something very natural and acceptable, a feeling for art consanguine with my own, unfolding in a revolution which returned to find its freedoms in profound and honorable sources. It would be difficult to explain in a very few words how the Mexicans have enriched their national life through the medium of their native arts. It is in everything they do and are. I cannot say, "I gathered material" for it; there was nothing so mechanical as that, but the process of absorption went on almost unconsciously, and my impressions remain not merely as of places visited and people known, but as of a moving experience in my own life that is now a part of me.

My stories are fragments, each one touching some phase of a versatile national temperament, which is a complication of simplicities: but I like best the quality of aesthetic magnificence, and, above all, the passion for individual expression without hypocrisy, which is the true genius of the race.

I have been accused by Americans of a taste for the exotic, for foreign flavors. Maybe so, for New York is the most foreign place I know, and I like it very much. But in my childhood I knew the French-Spanish people in New Orleans and the strange "Cajans" in small Louisiana towns, with their curious songs and customs and blurred patois; the German colonists in Texas and the Mexicans of the San Antonio country, until it seemed to me that all my life I had lived among people who spoke broken, laboring tongues, who put on with terrible difficulty, yet with such good faith, the ways of the dominant race about them. This is true here in New York also, I know: but I have never thought of these people as any other than American. Literally speaking, I have never been out of America; but my America has been a borderland of strange tongues and commingled races, and if they are not American, I am fearfully mistaken. The artist can do no more than deal with familiar and beloved things, from which he could not, and, above all, would not escape. So I claim that I write of things native to me, that part of America to which I belong by birth and association and temperament, which is as much the province of our native literature as Chicago or New York or San Francisco. All the things I write of I have first known, and they are real to me.

Katherine Anne Porter, 1923

Excerpted from Katherine Anne Porter: Collected Stories and Other Writings by Katherine Anne Porter. Excerpted by permission of Library of America. All rights reserved.


To eat or not to eat, that's a question.

In today's class, we discussed Kafka's "A Hunger Artist" (1922) as an allegory of the misunderstood artist in the age of alienation. The modern artist becomes the "fallen" artist because he can no longer have a reciprocal rapport with the world and the public; he feels alienated from the world which no longer appreciates his art. Once upon a time there was no fallenness; poets in the past were deemed as "prophets" who could enter the superior realm of the sacred and the ideal. The fallen status of the artist is caused by the sense of isolation triggered by the modern age. The artist symbolizes a "grand refusal"; he is a martyr figure who refuses to compromise with the shallow, vulgar, sensation-and-spectacle-hungry fellow human beings. Therefore, the question of eating should be examined symbolically and to eat or not to eat becomes an ontological question. In a world without spiritual values, starving is a piece of cake for the hunger artist who cannot find the sustenance he needs.

In today's society, the symbolism of hunger is still prevalent. Although we have arrived at capitalism's "promised land" in which commodities are abounding and material developments are unprecedentedly advanced, we are also living in what is possibly the most emotionally depleted society in history, where the only "satisfactions" seem to be sunk in materialism or consumerism. The more we buy,the more we consume, the more we feel spiritually depleted.

An interesting question arises: if we can use a more dialectical way to look at eating disorders--the most self-destructive body project in today's youth culture, how do we make of the phenomenon of the starving women who embody the extremity of hunger that terrifies us, and who insist that they are not hungry? Could it involve a more complicated tangle of cultural or ontological issues? Instead of blaming those women for blindly obsessing with thinness, could we say that anorexia is really something deeply symbolic of what is wrong in our culture?

In her documentary Thin, director Lauren Greenfield explores the deadly desire to be thin. In the interview with the director, we can listen to her exploration of the issue of female physicality in the US culture. What do you think when Greenfield argues that anorexia is not just about the food or the body image, it's about something more complicated?


On Black Masculinity

In this video, you can see the documentary done by Byron Hurt and his view on the shifting paradigmn in the definition of "black masculinity" after Obama's winning bid for the U.S. president. Write down anything that's interesting or inspiring. For example, why does Hurt think Bush affects the same macho posturing as the rapper 50 cent?

web resources:Black Public Media


Obama's Speech on Race

The outcome of American presidential election just revealed: Barack Obama was elected America's 44th president. He is the nation's first black president, which is a landmark in American history that has been steeped in racial tensions. His impressive victory says a lot about America.

Obama often discussed his biracial biography — son of a mother from Kansas and a father from Kenya — and argued that he could bridge the country's long-standing racial divides. The following link will lead you to Obama's famous speech on race:http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/03/18/obama-race-speech-read-t_n_92077.html
And here is his victory speech.

You can see how charismatic he is as a speaker. Feel free to write down anything that draws your attention.

Lost in Translation

In Sophia Coppola's 2003 film Lost in Translation, the situation of two outsiders plunged into an alien Japanese culture is vividly depicted. In Angela Carter's "A Souvenir of Japan," although the narrator does not need translation and seems to be more savvy about Japanese customs and rituals than the protagonists in Lost in Translation, she is equally tormented by loneliness and alienation.

How does Carter explore the theme of culture shock in "A Souvenir of Japan"? Do you agree or disagree with her portrait of Japanese culture or her feelings toward Japan? Or have your ever been in a situation of an outsider, feeling dislocated and alienated as Carter's narrator feels?


Doris Lessing Revisits/Rewrites The Past

The following link will lead you to an interview of Doris Lessing, in which the 2007 Nobel laureate talks about her latest book, Alfred and Emily, her childhood memory in Zimbabwe, her life after receiving the Nobel Prize in literature, and so forth. Listen to it and write down anything you feel interesting in this interview.



I Have A Dream

James Baldwin's "Sonny's Blues" (1957) is a story about an agnst-driven balck boy growing up in a racist society. Sonny has a talent for music and wants to become a jazz pianist; however, to his pratically-minded brother, this desire is merely a pipe dream. The reconciliation of the two brothers is finally reached when the narrator begins to understand Sonny's music and his anguish.

Sonny's motto can be put like this: "I play, therefore I am." In other words, his existence hinges on the insuppressible desire to produce art, to get people listen. Growing up in the impoverished neighborhood of Harlem and breathing the poisonous atmosphere of racial discrimination, Sonny has a visceral experience of pain, discontentment, and profound frustration resulting from social injustice. As he says to his brother: "It's terrible sometimes, inside..., that's what's the trouble. You walk these streets, black and funky and cold, and there's not really a living ass to talk to, and there's nothing shaking, and there's no way of getting it out--that storm inside" (105). This "storm inside" triggers him to produce art, since artist is a soul in turmoil.

Sonny has a dream, a dream that is unconventional, daring and even provocative given his socio-economic situation. What is your dream? Does your dream conform to the mainstream expectation of our society? Or do you dare to dream an impossible dream that does not follow the standardized idea of success? If you are still unsure of your dream, maybe you can talk about what you have learned from reading "Sonny's Blues." What has the story inspired you?


Trauma and Recovery

In today's class, we talked about the traumatic memories of someone who lived a wartime childhood in England. The story of Penny and Primrose is the story of different adaptations to traumatic events. The "thing" they witnessed in the forest is the combination of many things: it is historical terror; it is death; it is an embodiment of pain and of misery. Like traumatized people, Penny and Primrose were haunted by the horrible creature they had witnessed in the woods and found it difficult to find a language that conveys fully and persuasively what they had seen. Penny grew up to become a child psychologist, while Primrose became a storyteller who entertained children at kindergartens and shopping malls. They represent the different ways peopel dealing with trauma. Primrose used the act of storytelling as part of her healing process. For her, "sharing is solace" (42)--in other words, telling stories is an act of sharing which can create a sense of community. Storytelling can assuage pain. However, for Penny, "sharing" is not solace. She prefers approaching truma solitarily; she chooses to re-enter the woods to confront the source of the terror and to relive the event.

Here comes the question. Horrible events refuse to be buried. What would you do to cope with trauma if you were in their situation? What if you were in their shoes?


How to post a meaningful comment

I have already indicated that the purpose of this blog is to provide us with a platform to discuss and exchange ideas about literature, culture, and other beautiful things. All comments are welcome and it is important to bear in mind that we must be open-minded to those opinions that might be different from ours. One thing I require is that when you post your comments, you need to be a responsible person who is sincere about the comments you post. The following link will lead you to the website of TIWA and some brilliant comments on the photo exhibition displayed on our campus in the last few weeks. The comments are posted by senior students who take Prof. Wang Chunchi's Friday course (文化批判與理論). They give us an example of how to post a meaningful comment that exhibits a spark of insight: comments on 2008移工攝影巡迴展




這些大哉問,事實上在Adrinne Rich的詩裡都可以獲得解答,而詩人本身也以肉身去試煉,告訴我們革命無罪、造反有理。







我想起美國遭受恐怖攻擊的9/11那天,當天曼哈頓一片混亂,大家都還不知道發動攻擊的元兇是什麼恐怖組織,我早上九點還得去上課,中途休息學校宣佈停課,回宿舍後趕緊扭開收音機,電臺一個歇斯底里的女人call in大罵:"We treat them good and accept them to come to our country, but they did this thing to us!!!!!! We Americans never go to other countries to do such a horrible thing...."




最近在學校湖畔中庭展出的「凝視驛鄉:Voyage 15840移工攝影巡迴展」,也提供我們另外一種看世界的方式,讓我們跳脫過去習慣看外勞的刻板視野,嘗試貼近底層移駐勞工(migrant workers)的視界,從他們的眼睛看他們如何表達他們在台灣的勞動生活,身處異鄉的心情、與親人別離的苦楚、雇主資方仲介國家機器的多重壓迫、成為全球化底下當代奴工的感受與處境。







攝影展地點:國立東華大學湖畔中庭 (花蓮縣壽豐鄉志學村大學路二段一號)



地點:原住民民族學院新大樓 階梯教室137

與談人:影像工作者 江敬芳

台灣國際勞工協會秘書長 吳靜如



地點:原住民民族學院新大樓 階梯教室137

與談人:《阿草向前衝》紀錄片導演 許英慧

中正大學法學院助理教授 郭書琴






地點:原住民民族學院新大樓 階梯教室137

與談人:東華大學民族文化學系助理教授 謝若蘭

台灣國際勞工協會 理事長 顧玉玲

原住民藝術創作者 哈拿‧葛琉



地點:原住民民族學院新大樓 階梯教室137

與談人:台灣國際勞工協會顧問 陳素香

    東華大學英美系助理教授 王君琦

Adrienne Rich, a poet who dares to dream (deadline for posting comments:Monday, 5/12, 12pm)

As we talked in today's class, Adrienne Rich's poetry is saturated with her utopian visions and her commitment to feminist/LGBT/anti-war/civil rights movements. As a poet who dares to dream, she shows us the power of imagination, which can be strong enough to make us question, challenge the status quo and conceive of alternative becomings. In the following video,you can see an interview with Adrienne and her inspiring talk on poetry, love, human relationships, and imagination. Take on any topics she mentions in the video (love, poetry writing, the unspeakable, etc) and try to draw any possible analogies/connections between the topic of your choice and the poems we discussed today.


The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa of Avila

"Beside me on the left appeared an angel in bodily form . . . He was not tall but short, and very beautiful; and his face was so aflame that he appeared to be one of the highest ranks of angels, who seem to be all on fire . . . In his hands I saw a great golden spear, and at the iron tip there appeared to be a point of fire. This he plunged into my heart several times so that it penetrated my entrails. When he pulled it out I felt that he took them with it, and left me utterly consumed by the great love of God. The pain was so severe that it made me utter several moans. The sweetness caused by this intense pain is so extreme that one can not possibly wish it to cease, nor is one's soul content with anything but God. This is not a physical but a spiritual pain, though the body has some share in it -- even a considerable share." (Teresa of Avila, Autobiography,
ch. 29).

As you can see in the picture, the ecstasy of Saint Teresa of Avila is shown in this famous Bernini sculpture. How do you relate this motif to John Donne's Holy Sonnet XIV ("Batter my heart, three-personed God")? In Donne's poem, have you found any similar paradoxes that conflate sexual violence with spiritual/religious epiphanies?

To His Coy Mistress--Any Questions?

As we talked in class today, "To His Coy Mistress" is a famous carpe diem poem, in which the speaker lures the lady (called "mistress" not for her adulterous relationship with the speaker but for her social position or power over her wooers)to sleep with him. The theme of the poem is the transience of time: beauty will fade and youth will flee, so what is important is to "seize the day" and to savor the present as if there were no tomorrows.

The poem follows the three stages in logic: (1)If we had all the time in the world...(2) But we don't...(3)So let's have sex.

Krystal is the presenter of this poem, so if you guys have any further questions, don't hesitate! Post your questions and Krystal will answer them for you.


Song of the week--I'm Your Man by Leonard Cohen

The focus of this week (and also next week) is on Donne's poetry, in which LOVE is repeatedly presented as something positive in a dark world. The capacity of LOVE is so intense that it can eclipse time, space, and the conventional demands of custom and society. As a poet who praises human love for its almighty power, Donne is the best! Although his cunning and slipperiness make us frequently doubt if he is serious or tongue-in-cheek, he indeed has the power to have his readers totally carried away.

Below is our song of the week, a canonical love song written/sung by Leonard Cohen, a Canadian poet, novelist, singer and songwriter. It is also about LOVE,but is with a modern streak. The second video is a queer rendition of Cohen's "I'm Your Man," a performance punctuated with transgressive sexiness and titillation.


The wife's firmness draws his circle justly

Please take a look at the following video, which is an interpretation of John Donne’s “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning.” After viewing the video and digesting the poem, put yourself in the position of the female role being addressed by the speaker. Do you think the speaker is a witty and charming person? Is he convincing? Or if you were the lady being addressed by the speaker, what would be your reaction? Would you like to be a stay-at-home wife, while your husband happily “roams” outside and claims that he still loves you?


Welcom on board

Welcome to this new blog, a place for literary collaborators to create writings and exchange ideas.