Sunday, November 29, 2015

HYPOTHESIS AND HOW IT IS CHANGING HOW WE READ ONLINE

Hi everybody! Today I just wanted to quickly review an awesome tool called Hypothesis that I've been using all semester for two of my English classes (Currents in American Lit and Critical Theory).

As an extension of your web browser (I use Chrome...does anyone not use Chrome?), Hypothesis lets individuals highlight and annotate any online text of their choosing. By allowing (encouraging it, I daresay) people to comment on texts, a sort of community is born and it's truly neat to be involved in.

The two classes I am in this semester are among the first classes to use Hypothesis in the classroom, and it has been exciting to test this tool, find bugs or problems, and watch the tool itself grow and improve. Though, that is to say that for the most part Hypothesis has proved to be quite user friendly and well programmed.

Personally, I struggle with reading online. I'm a "hold the book in my hand" kind of gal. When I say "reading online", I mean reading a text and actually comprehending it. Anyone can read online, but to get something out of a text that is not physically in front of you can be a challenge. However, I think Hypothesis has helped me to improve my competency and critical thinking skills. 

I like to think of Hypothesis as a literary Facebook, if you will, as my classmates and I not only comment our own thoughts but also reply to each others. Far too often when I am reading a challenging text for class I can't stop dwelling on these questions: "Does anyone actually understand this? Am I crazy for thinking this means ___?" This brilliant tool lets me know that I'm not alone in feeling this way when I can see my classmates commenting in a similar fashion. It's quite comforting. Being able to reply to classmate's comments (with a range of media, no less...gifs anybody?) makes for some pretty entertaining online banter as well. I've laughed hysterically too many times to count whilst reading my classmate's comments (especially when we read Freud...man, that was a comedic goldmine) and I must say it increases the enjoyment I get out of doing my homework. And that's saying something.

At this point in the game, it is safe to say that technology has gradually wiggled its way into the sphere of education and changed it for the better. People were skeptical at first to shy away from traditional modes of teaching and learning, but technology in the classroom has not taken away from the process of teaching, rather enriched it profusely. Tools like Hypothesis contribute positively to the experience of learning, as they promote discussion and help build a community that functions as a collective pool of knowledge and possibility. I like to think I'm apart of that pool now!

Tools like Hypothesis are the future of education.

And I can't wait to see what else the future holds for students and teachers alike.

until next time,

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

WALT WHITMAN'S QUEERNESS AND WHY IT DOES(N'T) MATTER

Hey everybody, long time no talk!

True or False: The famous poet Walt Whitman was gay.

Anybody?

Oh, nobody knows for sure?

And it's not like we can ask him. You know, cause he's dead.

But the most important question we need to ask ourselves is: Does it really matter?


Queer theory, which we studied in Critical Theory, is a lens through which examining literature becomes way more intriguing and possibly a little bit homosexual.

Here are two ways to go about examining a text through a queer lens:

1. biographically

2. textually

More likely than not, the biographical information will be more telling in terms of a definitive answer. If there's evidence that the author was gay, which in Whitman's case there is, it will probably show up in their bio.

Biographical information is great for definitive answers when it is well supported (there is plenty of evidence), but looking to the text can be even more telling than the facts sometimes. Whitman's book of poetry Leaves of Grass is, at some points, quite blatantly homosexual.

Example from "Song of Myself":

"Loafe with me on the grass, loose the stop from your throat…Only the lull I like, the hum of your valved voice"

Walt Whitman talking about blowjobs? Sure seems that way to me. After all, he is quoted as saying that in a nutshell that life revolves around sex. So, coupled with biographical evidence like the love letters, the case for Uncle Walt's queerness is looking pretty strong.

But to return to the question I posed earlier: Does it matter?

After everything is said and done, does it matter if Walt Whitman is gay or not?
Does his supposed preference for the male sex affect how his writing is viewed?
Or how it is read?
Or why?

In my opinion, there isn't a cut and dry answer to this question. This is simply because the concept and functionality of sexuality means something different to everyone.

For Whitman, it is quite possible that his purposed preference for men influenced his writing and vice versa.

For a straight student reading Whitman's work, perhaps "Song of Myself" sparks self-reflection on the subject of identity and nothing else.

For a gay student (who is aware of Whitman's questionable sexuality) reading "Song of Myself", maybe it provides reassurance, confidence, or comfort and reminds them that they are not alone in feeling the way that they do.

until next time,

Sunday, November 8, 2015

HOLY MOTHER OF...

Hey everybody! We recently covered Sigmund Freud in Critical Theory and we touched on some of the weird, traditional concepts like penis envy, the castration complex, and of course the Oedipus complex.

The "Oedipus complex" is inspired by the play Oedipus Rex by Greek playwright Sophocles. The main character murders his father, has sex with his mother, and then proceeds to gouge his eyes out and go blind.

Worst day ever?

As the hilarious comedian/singer-songwriter Bo Burnham says in one of his songs:

"Gay dads blow pops, another sucker,
Oedipus was the first motherfucker"

Freud named his concept after Oedipus because he embodies the violent tension between child and same sex parent and the sexual tension between child and opposite sex parent.

Being the lover of popular culture (TV in this case) that I am, I couldn't help but think of a really awesome example of the Oedipus complex from American Horror Story. None other than Dr. Oliver Thredson from the second season, Asylum.

Played by Zachary Quinto, Thredson epitomizes the Oedipus complex. He is, quite literally, a living testament to Freud's theory. Which is pretty damn ironic considering the fact that Thredson is a psychiatrist.

Disclaimer: I am not a psychoanalyst, therefore my views on Thredson are merely speculation and open to interpretation and criticism. My professor told us we needed to say this before we went around saying crazy stuff about people, fictional or not.


Now Thredson's version of the complex is pretty interesting, considering the fact that his mother was absent from his life from a young age and his father's whereabouts are questionable. Because his mother was absent and therefore neither physically or emotionally present, his desperate need for motherly love morphed into something sinister and also sexual. The Oedipus complex is usually resolved in children when they cease their harboring of negative feelings towards their same sex parent, but clearly Thredson's absent father makes that resolution quite difficult.

Thredson first discovered his sexual feelings towards motherly figures when he was in medical school, more specifically in his anatomy class. The cadaver that the class examines, and Thredson later on is alone with, is a thirty three year old woman, the exact age of Thredson's mother when she abandoned him. In his deluded mind, Thredson believes that the cadaver is his mother.

viewer discretion advised: if rape scenes make you uncomfortable, i would say skip the video

At one point in the season, Thredson kidnaps Lana Winters from the asylum. Lana is a reporter who visits the asylum with the intention of exposing the horrors that occur there, however she herself ends up experiencing those horrors for herself. Thredson tricks Lana into thinking that he is helping her escape the monstrous asylum but little does she know that the home of her accomplice holds much more terrifying secrets.

As the video shows, Thredson claims that Lana is "the one", the motherly figure that he has searched for his entire life. He breastfeeds from Lana against her will and proceeds to rape her while she is in a catatonic state.

Clearly this an extreme case of the Oedipus complex. According to Freud, the Oedipus complex is usually resolved with minimal internal conflict and life goes on without a hitch. The origin of Thredson's neuroses is almost definitely rooted in his unresolved Oedipus complex, however that's not to say that his instability isn't influenced by psychopathy.

I suppose it's only fitting, if not ironic, that he went on to become someone who makes a living telling other people everything that is wrong with them.

until next time, 

 
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