December 8, 2006

Heba's Poem - "A Lesson in Drawing"

A Lesson in Drawing
by Nizar Qabbani

My son places his paint box in front of me
and asks me to draw a bird for him.
Into the color gray I dip the brush
and draw a square with locks and bars.
Astonishment fills his eyes:
But this is a prison, Father,
Don't you know, how to draw a bird?
And I tell him: Son, forgive me.
I've forgotten the shapes of birds.

My son puts the drawing book in front of me
and asks me to draw a wheatstalk.
I hold the pen
and draw a gun.
My son mocks my ignorance,
Don't you know, Father, the difference between a
wheatstalk and a gun?
I tell him, Son,
once I used to know the shapes of wheatstalks
the shape of the loaf
the shape of the rose
But in this hardened time
the trees of the forest have joined
the militia men
and the rose wears dull fatigues
In this time of armed wheatstalks
armed birds
armed culture
and armed religion
you can't buy a loaf
without finding a gun inside
you can't pluck a rose in the field
without its raising its thorns in your face
you can't buy a book
that doesn't explode between your fingers.

My son sits at the edge of my bed
and asks me to recite a poem,
A tear falls from my eyes onto the pillow.
My son licks it up, astonished, saying:
But this is a tear, father, not a poem!
And I tell him:
When you grow up, my son,
and read the diwan of Arabic poetry
you'll discover that the word and the tear are twins
and the Arabic poem
is no more than a tear wept by writing fingers.

My son lays down his pens, his crayon box in
front of me
and asks me to draw a homeland for him.
The brush trembles in my hands
and I sink, weeping.

December 4, 2006

Stephanie Black's Life & Debt

You can read more about the film on its website or by reading an interview with Stephanie Black on BuzzFlash or by looking through a section about the film on PBS.Org.

  • What "argument" is Stephanie Black making in Life and Debt? What, if anything, is she trying to persuade you of?

  • How does she go about building her argument? What are her most successful tools? Her least successful tools?

  • What do you feel you learned from the movie, if anything?

  • Did this movie affect your attitude toward tourism? More or less than A Small Place? Did it affect your attitude toward agricultural policies, the IMF, the World Bank?

  • Why does Stephanie Black show us a Jamaican watching news footage instead of just showing the news footage? What effect does that create?

  • Why does she choose to spend so much time showing the riots?

  • What was the role of music in the film? What about the Rastafarians?

  • That's enough from me; your questions and comments?

December 3, 2006

Rawan's Selection, "On Love"

"On Love" from The Prophet
-By Khalil Gibran

Then said Almitra, "Speak to us of Love."

And he raised his head and looked upon the people, and there fell a stillness upon them. And with a great voice he said;

When love beckons to you follow him,

Though his ways are hard and steep.

And when his wings enfold you yield to him,

Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you.

And when he speaks to you believe in him,

Though his voice may shatter your dreams as the north wind lays waste the garden.

For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.

Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun,

So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth.

Like sheaves of corn he gathers you unto himself.

He threshes you to make you naked.

He sifts you to free you from your husks.

He grinds you to whiteness.

He kneads you until you are pliant;

And then he assigns you to his sacred fire, that you may become sacred bread for God's sacred feast.

All these things shall love do unto you that you may know the secrets of your heart, and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life's heart.

But if in your fear you would seek only love's peace and love's pleasure,

Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love's threshing-floor,

Into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears.

Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself.

Love possesses not nor would it be possessed;

For love is sufficient unto love.

When you love you should not say, "God is in my heart," but rather, I am in the heart of God."

And think not you can direct the course of love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course.

Love has no other desire but to fulfil itself.

But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires:

To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night.

To know the pain of too much tenderness.

To be wounded by your own understanding of love;

And to bleed willingly and joyfully.

To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving;

To rest at the noon hour and meditate love's ecstasy;

To return home at eventide with gratitude;

And then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart and a song of praise upon your lips.

November 28, 2006

Poem from Enseeia, "Eye to Eye"

Eye to Eye
-by Gihad Ali

Look into my eyes
And tell me what you see.
You don't see a damn thing,
'cause you can't possibly relate to me.

You're blinded by our differences.
My life makes no sense to you.
I'm the persecuted Palestinian.
You're the American red, white and blue.

Each day you wake in tranquility,
No fears to cross your eyes.
Each day I wake in gratitude,
Thanking God He let me rise.

You worry about your education
And the bills you have to pay.
I worry about my vulnerable life
And if I'll survive another day.

Your biggest fear is getting ticketed
As you cruise your Cadillac.
My fear is that the tank that just left
Will turn around and come back.

American, do you realize,
That the taxes that you pay
Feed the forces that traumatize
My every living day?

The bulldozers and the tanks,
The gases and the guns,
The bombs that fall outside my door,
All due to American funds.

Yet do you know the truth
Of where your money goes?
Do you let your media deceive your mind?
Is this a truth that no one knows?

You blame me for defending myself
Against the ways of Zionists.
I'm terrorized in my own land
And I'm the terrorist?

You think you know all about terrorism
But you don't know it the way I do,
So let me define the term for you,
And teach you what you thought you knew.

I've known terrorism for quite some time,
Fifty-five years and more.
It's the fruitless garden uprooted in my yard.
It's the bulldozer in front of my door.

Terrorism breathes the air I breathe.
It's the checkpoint on my way to school.
It's the curfew that jails me in my own home,
And the penalties of breaking that curfew rule.

Terrorism is the robbery of my land,
And the torture of my mother,
The imprisonment of my innocent father,
The bullet in my baby brother.

So American, don't tell me you know about
The things I feel and see.
I'm terrorized in my own land
And the blame is put on me.

But I will not rest, I shall never settle
For the injustice my people endure.
Palestine is our land and there we'll remain
Until the day our homeland is secure.

And if that time shall never come,
Then we will never see a day of peace.
I will not be thrown from my own home,
Nor will my fight for justice cease.

And if I am killed, it will be in Falasteen.
It's written on my every breath.
So in your own patriotic words,
Give me liberty or give me death.

November 22, 2006

A Small Place, pp 23-81

  • What do you think of the "sackcloth and ashes"? How badly should the English feel about colonialism, about slavery? Should they make reparations? Should they wear hair shirts and beat their breasts? Should we? I am not quite serious about the hair shirts (nor do I think Kincaid was entirely serious about sackcloth), but I do mean this as a serious question.

  • What do you think about Kincaid's comments on page 41? About Johnson's article? Were Antigua, African nations, Latin America, Asia "better off under colonialism"? Is "recolonization" the way to go?

  • To what extent are Kincaid's comments about "the kids in Antigua today" what you could hear out of most anyone once they've reached a certain age? To what extent are they different?

  • How do you think Kincaid would read Ngugi wa Thiong'o? What does she mean when she says, "For isn't it odd that the only language I have in which to speak of this crime is the language of the criminal who committed the crime" (31).

  • What do you make of her condescending remarks about Antiguans on pp. 52-53? Is this a legitimate expression of her disappointment? Or is it caricature?

November 21, 2006

A Small Place, pp 1-23

  • What is your reaction to the first section? Why do you think you reacted that way?

  • Why does Kincaid use such long sentences and paragraphs? What is their effect?

  • Why "can't she get beyond all that"?

  • What do you make of the cover of the book?

  • Does Kincaid seem to be saying that people should never leave their home countries? This has been described as an "antitravel" memoir. Is Kincaid against all travel, or a certain sort of tourism?

November 17, 2006

The Little Girl Who Sold the Sun

Most of these questions are cribbed from Newsreel.

  • Some viewers find that The Little Girl Who Sold the Sun has an abrupt endingn. Why do the vendors scatter as Sili Laam (the little girl) and Babou Seck (her helpful friend) approach and we only hear their footsteps? What is the meaning of Sili's final words in the film, "We continue"?

  • Consider the opening scene. A woman is arrested in the marketplace. The market people surround her, watch her humiliation, but do nothing to assist her. Might there be a parallel between the market people as spectators, and us--movie viewers--as spectators?

  • The woman protests that she is "not a thief." She says that the country is crazy and that she is a displaced princess. Senegal is her land by right and, yet, she has been rendered a beggar in it. Is she crazy or speaking a truth?

  • Why has Mambety picked as the heroine of this film, a child, a female, a member of a despised social caste (Laam is often the name of those who handle animal skins - outcasts in many cultures) and a paraplegic?

  • In La petite vendeuse de Soleil the newspaper vendors cluster around a ferry dock marked "Goree." Goree Island was one of the most famous "slave castles" in West Africa from where enslaved peoples were deported to the Americas. What is its significance here?

  • Why does Mambety create this film in an almost "fairy tale" style?

  • What does Mambety mean when he refers to (in this film), the "gravity of innocence"? What is the role of "innocence" in the film? For that matter, what is "innocence"?

November 14, 2006

Leila Ahmed's "The Veil Debate"

  • Why do you think that a figure such as Lord Cromer believed that the veil was "the fatal obstacle" standing in the way of Egyptian men's "attainment of that elevation of thought and character which should accompany the introduction of Western civilization"?

  • Is this related or not related to figures like Britain's Jack Straw (leader of the House of Commons) not allowing veils in his office, requesting that they be removed in meetings? BBC Story What about Prime Minister Tony Blair's statement that veils are a "mark of separation" which make "people from outside the community feel uncomfortable."

  • Apparently, in Britain, Straw's comments have led to an uptick in veil sales. Why do you think this is?

  • Can you draw any connections between this article and Battle of Algiers?

  • What does Leila Ahmed mean when she talks about the veil's "master narratives" and how the meaning of the veil has been defined in our time? Can you put this into your own words?

  • Other questions, comments, thoughts...

November 13, 2006

OPTIONAL: Persepolis Paper Topics

What suggestions do you have for Persepolis paper topics that could sustain a literary analysis paper? Do you have an idea you want others to comment on? These are topics that could work for the second literary-analysis paper, due the last day of class.

  • What does it mean that Satrapi learns about communism from a comic book, and we learn her story from a comic book? What might this say about the simplification of her ideas, and what’s missing from Persepolis? (This idea belongs to Shawna, but you certainly can comment on it.)

  • Why are there no images of Khomeini, or specifics about him in the way there are specifics about Reza Khan or the Shah? (This idea belongs to Dave, unless he chooses to give it away, but you might help him out with your thoughts.)

  • Is Satrapi trying to sway readers to a particular position, for or against the use of the headscarf/veil?

  • What are the blind spots of a child narrator? In what way is this an effective or ineffective tool in this story?

  • What is Satrapi’s relationship to religion in this book?

  • Your ideas below...

November 9, 2006


  • Why has Satrapi chosen to emphasize in her childhood? In what ways is Persepolis similar to a Western "coming-of-age" story? In what ways is it different?

  • Why, when she's explicitly trying to get away from the conception of Iranians as "fundamentalists," does she begin with religion?

  • What are the different roles of religion in this book? What might Satrapi be trying to communicate about religion?

  • How are class and class differences portrayed in Persepolis? Is Persepolis primarily a middle-class story? What does this mean about the impressions we form about the Iran of the book?

  • Does Persepolis distinguish between "good revolutionaries" and "bad revolutionaries"? How?

  • What are your questions?

November 2, 2006

"Douloti the Bountiful," Sections V-VII

If you haven't finished the story and don't want any spoilers, don't look here.

  • Why does Mahasweta Devi construct the story so we continuously hope some man will come take care of Douloti? Did you believe that good things were on the horizon for Douloti? Until what point?

  • "Douloti understood some and didn't understand some" (91). This happens throughout, that she understands only parts of conversations, only part of what is going on around her. Is our understanding (or lack thereof) supposed to imitate Douloti's?

  • At the bottom of 81, Singhi (Douloti's then-john) calls Douloti "a good girl." "Whores do this work for the lust of money. You never lust after money." Then, nearly at the end, "Douloti smiled in a timid way like any other country woman" (92). Even when she's being condemned to death, she smiled politely and timidly. Is Devi telling us something here? What?

  • Was there a way out for Douloti? Why didn't she take it? (What does it have to do with the internalized-gender-roles-confused-as-ethical-choice Spivak refers to in the introduction?)

  • Why does it end with Douloti "all over India"? She is in the schoolyard of Mohan Srivastava, the one-time ally of her uncle Bono, but now returned to the school. (He's the one who beleives so deeply in police, government, education.) Why does she die on Srivastava's map? Why on the date of India's independence? (Independence here ironic?)

"Douloti the Bountiful," Sections I-IV

  • Why so much history about Bono and Crook before we get to Douloti? The narrator says, "So many things came up as I tried to tell you how Ganori Nagesia became Crook Nagesia. These things must be said. In the world of Seora village, Bono is just as true as Ganori." Why must these things be said? Who is this narrator? What kind of person is telling us this story?

  • What do you make of the more "technical" features of the text? Why does she run some dialogue together (and not use quotes)? Why does she use line breaks, like poetry, in some places, such as 49-50? Why so many short sentences? Do you have any advice for your peers about reading a story like this?

  • Why does Spivak translate the word for upper-caste men as "god"? Some translators shy away from this. Why does Spivak embrace it? What effect does it have?

  • Other things you notice, questions about what's going on, etc.?

OPTIONAL: Spivak's Introduction to "Douloti the Beautiful"

  • Why is Spivak arguing against the demonization of the U.S.? What does that have to do with the idea that, "East is East and West is West"?

  • Has Spivak changed her mind? Does she seem to be saying, now, that the subaltern can be heard? Under what circumstances?

  • Most interesting (to me): What does Spivak mean when she says "internalized gender perceived as ethical choice is the hardest roadblock for women the world over"? Presumably this is the "choice" to be sweet, innocent, and virtuous that's noted on the previous page.

  • Other questions, comments about her introduction?

October 31, 2006

Kidlat Tahimik's Perfumed Nightmare

Try to shy away from "like" and "dislike" as much as possible, or at least, don't have that be the only thing you post about. Some possible questions:

  • What role does laughter play in the film? The characters' laughter, the viewer's laughter, etc. To what purpose or end does Tahimik employ humor? (For instance, when he says, "The five of us had become men." Or when he makes goofy expressions for the camera.)

  • Why does the American speak so oddly?

  • Why does Tahimik focus so much on individual sounds and images? What is the effect?

  • What's the deal with the unsteadiness of the camera at certain points?

  • What is the social or political message of the film, if there is one? Why does he repeat "progress" so much? What does that word mean in the context of the film? What happens at the end?

  • What is the relationship between Philippino and American that's being sketched out here? What is the significance of the chewing gum?

  • Your questions...

October 20, 2006

VERY OPTIONAL: Possible Foe-related paper topics for Paper #2

  • What is Friday's silence about? Is it resistance? Is Friday refusing to communicate, or is he unable? Is he communicating, and we are unable to hear him?

  • Is Coetzee trying to undermine or criticize Western feminism? (Are Susan and Friday "equally oppressed"?)

  • Why does Coetzee choose to tell his story from the point of view of a female narrator who is "erased" in Daniel Defoe's version, Robinson Crusoe? Why does he choose a white woman and not, for instance, Friday's perspective? Or Daniel Defoe's perspective?

  • What is this "child" that is stalking Susan? Is she a bad mother? Is it a not-real, "father-born" child?

  • Why does Susan need to have her story told so badly? Is it just about money?

  • Add your own as you think of them...