Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Some ECU Resources for Critical Paper #2

Here are a few sources in our library that might be of interest to you for Critical Paper #2. Most are on Naipaul, but some are about the kind of literature we're reading in the second half of class:

DVD* V.S. Naipaul, The Enigma of Writing

BOOKS (in our library) * French, Patrick. The World Is What It Is: The Authorized Biography of V.S. Naipaul. New York : Vintage 2009  1st Vintage Books ed 

* Boehmer, Elleke. Colonial and Postcolonial Literature. 
Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2005

* Lazarus, Neil. The Cambridge Companion to Postcolonial Studies. 
Cambridge ; New York : Cambridge University Press, 2004

* Satrapi, Marjane. Persepolis. New York, Pantheon Books, 2007.

* Yang, Gene. American Born Chinese. New York: Square Fish, 2009.

* Tan, Shaun. The Arrival. New York: Arthur Levine Books, 2007.

A FEW ARTICLES (you can find more on the EBSCO search on the Library website)
* Drawing Strife: Global Conflicts in Graphic Novels. Library Journal Vol. 141

* Gene Luen Yang on Boxers & Saints. Horn Book Magazine. Jan/Feb 2015. Vol, 89

* O'Neill, Joseph. Man Without a Country. Atlantic, Sept. 2011. Vol. 308.

* Sood, Divya. Empire, Power, and Language: The Creation of an Identity in V.S. Naipaul's The Mystic Masseur. Atenea. June 2007. Vol. 27

* Bawer, Bruce. Civilization and V.S. Naipaul. Hudson Review, Autumn 2002.

* Mustafa, Fawiza, V.S. Naipaul. Cambridge ; New York : Cambridge University Press, 1995  

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

For Friday: Naipaul, The Mystic Masseur, Chs.9-11

Answer TWO of the following…

Q1: How does Naipaul satirize democratic elections in a postcolonial nation?  How does the system not work—and how is the very idea of democracy often misunderstood by Ganesh and others? 

Q2: Once the American soldiers arrive in Trinidad, America begins to have a much more profound influence on Trinidadian life than Britain.  Where do we see the “American” influence in its day to day life?  How does Ganesh try to institute “American” popular culture? 

Q3: Once Ganesh enters politics he emulates the reforms and ideals of Gandhi, who liberated India from British control.  But is his ‘mimicking’ sincere or somewhat hypocritical?  What kind of political leader does he make?

Q4: How do you understand the end of the book, when the narrator, now a grown man, encounters Ganesh in London?  Why does he change his name to “G.Ramsay Muir”?  

Critical Paper #2 Assignment: due May 6th by 5pm

Critical Paper #2: To Form and Inform

“Education, sahib, is one hell of a thing.” (Naipaul, The Mystic Masseur)

For your second Critical Paper, and basically your final exam, I want you to explore the idea we wrote about in class: Does the West have the right to “educate” the East? Can a “new” culture teach an “old” culture how to act? All the writers in the second half of class (including Akutagawa) are using Western “education” to write about their Non-Western worlds. Through the novel, short story, or the English language, they are teaching the West about their cultures and teaching their own culture to ‘see’ their respective problems. Every book has a didactic element, which means its ability to teach, instruct, and spread the author’s personal view of the world. How didactic are these works? How much do they want to save, criticize, explain, or explore their native traditions within the context of Western forms and voices?

As you explore this theme, consider some of the following ideas:
  • How do the writers try to justify certain Eastern ways of thought and life?
  • Do they criticize the West or ultimately come out in favor of it?
  • Do they look at the West as a savior, or a necessary evil?
  • Is writing in English (or Western forms) a concession of ‘defeat’? Is it a rejection of more traditional forms and modes of storytelling?
  • Are they telling old stories in new ways, or new stories in old ways?
  • Is being an author itself a Western occupation? Is a novel? Does it translate the “East” out of the book?
  • Do the authors ever make apologies for their culture? Or outright ridicule it?
  • Do the heroes recognizably Western? Or do they follow Eastern morals and values?
  • How do they present Eastern spiritual beliefs and religion? Are these translated “truthfully” or through a Western lens (remember Naipaul’s crack about Hindus?).
  • Are there certain ideas/characters that the authors refuse to translate? In what way are these works untranslatable?

  • Use at least 2 works from class in your discussion, and quote from each one significantly. Find passages that really speak to your conversation and ideas.
  • Find 2-3 secondary sources that help you discuss the works and their context: these could be articles on the authors, their cultures, religions, literature, etc. I’ll share a few articles with you in class and on the blog.
  • Cite all quotations according to MLA or another format, but be consistent.
  • Due on our Final Exam day, Friday, May 6th at 5pm 

Saturday, April 16, 2016

For Monday: Naipaul. The Mystic Masseur, Chs. 7 & 8

No Questions this time around, but read the next two chapters for class: we'll have an in-class writing response when you get back. 

Also, if you missed class on Friday, your Paper #3 is waiting for you. I'll assign the Critical Paper #2 this week, though it won't be due until our Final Exam day. See you on Monday!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

For Friday: V.S. Naipaul, The Mystic Masseur, Chs.4-6

Answer TWO of the following…

Q1: As the hero of our tale, Ganesh undertakes the most heroic task of all: to become a writer of books. What obstacles does Ganesh face on his path? Are these typical to all writers—or would-be writers—or are they uniquely Trinidadian complications? 

Q2: In Chapter Four, Naipaul writes, “It was their first beating, a formal affair done without anger on Ganesh’s part or resentment on Leela’s; and although it formed part of the marriage ceremony itself, it meant much to both of them. It meant that they had grown up and become independent.” What do you make of this scene and others like it? Is this simply part of the “Non-Western” fabric of Trinidad...or does this result from the conflict of East and West on the island?

Q3: Defending his book to Beharry, Ganesh exclaims, “Is a damn good book, you hear.”  Why does Ganesh so overestimate the quality and importance of his book?  What do we see (thanks to the narrator) that he is blind to?  How might this reflect the colonial limitations of this world as Naipaul sees them? 

Q4: In Jamaica Kincaid’s A Small Place (a non-fiction work about the island of Antigua), she writes that “people in a small place cannot give an exact account, a complete account of events…The people in a small place can have no interest in the exact, or in completeness, for that would demand a careful weighing, careful consideration, careful judging, careful questioning.” Why are the people of Trinidad so unwilling to judge and question their world? Is Ganesh the exception to this—or is he just as “small” as the rest of them? 

Friday, April 8, 2016

For Monday: V.S. Naipaul, The Mystic Masseur, Chs.1-3 (pp.1-45)

NOTE: A “masseur” is a term denoting something between a sage, a mystic, a spiritual healer, and a prophet.  Part of the comedy of this work is how Ganesh enters into this profession, and whether or not V.S. Naipaul feels there is anything heroic in his career: can a man with the wrong intentions come out right?

Answer TWO of the following…

Q1: What role do books and knowledge (esp. English/European knowledge) play in Trinidadian society?  How might this play into the conflict between East and West that we’ve seen in previous works?  Consider Ramlogan’s comment, “This reading, sahib, is a great great thing” (34). 

Q2: In Chapter One, Naipaul writes that “I myself believe that the history of Ganesh is, in a way, the history of our times” (18). In what way might Ganesh’s early career mirror the struggle of many citizens in the postcolonial world? Why is it difficult for Ganesh to find himself and establish a career and a life for himself?

Q3: When this novel was written, Trinidad had only recently gained its independence from Britain (in 1962). Yet how is Trinidad still very “British” in its ways and ideas, and how it this often comically portrayed by Naipaul? You might also consider why the society clings to these colonial ideas instead of replacing them with more ‘Non-Western’ laws and ideas.

Q4: Naipaul writes much of this work in dialect, capturing the natural speech of the island and the Indian communities of Trinidad. Why might this be important for a book with such a Non-Western point of view? Recall an earlier class where we discussed the great literary debate of postcolonial societies: which language to write in? How does Naipaul have his cake and eat it, too, in this case? 

Saturday, April 2, 2016

For Monday: Yang, Saints

Answer TWO of the following:

Q1: Why (and when) does Joan of Arc abandon Vibiana toward the end of the novel? Why is it significant that she returns just moments before Vibiana’s death?

Q2: Discuss the similarities between Page 158, with Jesus and the eye-hands, and the similar image in Boxers with Guan-Yin, the Goddess of Compassion. Why does Yang make these images almost mirror images of one another?

Q3: On page 136, Vibiana writes, “Maria was right. The world was about to end. And Dr. Won was all I had left.” Why does she view Dr. Won in this way, and why does she feel betrayed by him in the end?

Q4: How does the end of Saints change how we read Boxers? Why do you think Yang added this scene at the end of Saints instead of the previous volume? Is it more part of Vibiana’s story?