A Funny Kind of Dent

While out driving one day, I pulled into a gas station to fill up. An inconsiderate driver hit my car while I was pumping the gas and caused a dent in the body. I was so furious that I stopped pumping gas at the halfway point. The driver apologized and offered to have the dent repaired at the gas station. There wasn’t anything at the gas station to re pare a dent, so I was confused as to how he would do that. He told me about http://mobiledentrepairlondon.com, which can be used to have someone repair a dent no matter where you are.

The driver contacted the repair specialist and they came right to the gas station. They had a special set of tools to pull the dent out. Continue reading

Had Some Vandals the Other Night

Of course we are prepared for this sort of nonsense. There are at least half a dozen pubs within walking distance of the shop and so we have a full set of hikvision cctv kits installed all around the place. In this case what they caught were about five or six young men, completely bombed out of their minds. It was the night of the football match, I forget who England was playing. However they had a one nil lead until the very end of the match and then they blew it. We had the usual idiots getting into fights over in France and this bunch were apparently convinced that we had something to do with the opponents. They left some sort of mindless graffiti on the walls and they smashed the glass. Continue reading

The Perfect Flat for Me

When I decided to go back to school, I knew that I was going to have to watch my money carefully. I started looking at student flats in Edinburgh even before I made my decision to go through with this, because I knew that would take a large c hunk of my budget each month. It did not take me long to find a really nice flat that would serve all of my needs without making me broke. The flat that I found was really nice not only because of its location and price but also because of how it looked inside.

I was able to look at pictures of the flat, and I was impressed. I knew that I was going to spend the majority of my time studying, so I was not looking for anything luxurious. I just needed someplace to lay my head, where I could study without being interrupted. This did not mean that I have low standards though. I still wanted a nice place that is safe and close to where I would need to go for my classes and shopping. Continue reading

Spent the Day Picking out the New Stuff for the Bathroom

We went to about three or four places before we found all the stuff we wanted. Beth picked out the new shower doors in Essex county NJ and I was pretty happy that she finally found a place which had the thing that she wanted. She kept telling me what it was supposed to look like, but of course you really do not understand what she is looking for at the first. I did not have a real clue what she meant until I actually saw the thing she was looking for. The place we found it was called Glass Plus it is in Vauxhall NJ. Continue reading

Trends and Challenges in Modern Literature

Literature Questions

The world is changing at accelerated pace. It becomes more and more like a giant stage with numerous postmodern screenplays flashing tremendously before our eyes.

You do not share this view? This is just a short reminder of the recent news:

Geneva, 10 September 2008. The first beam in the Large Hadron Collider at CERN was successfully steered around the full 27 kilometers of the world’s most powerful particle accelerator at 10h28 this morning.

A European court says the idea a new supercollider project could create a “celestial vacuum” (nice name for the black hole) and eventually consume the Earth is worth discussing, but the project can move forward on schedule anyway.

We wake up each morning to a cheep 70’s SF movie. Just a mirror reflections of the “state of the art” in human evolution. You have to admit it. We split the atom, the center of everything, and in so doing we created chaos.

The Contemporary Poets reflect this chaos. Postmodern literature does the same thing. Pick out the fragments. Out of the chaos, the modernists and the postmodernists pull fragments of life around them. They then leave it to the reader to put these fragments back together.

But do not let yourself think in traditional ways when addressing Modern and Postmodern literature questions. You have to be open to the experience and it will make sense! The modern author intentionally leaves the work open to the readers interpretation. Endless endings, very much like the world we are living in. Are these just a signs of new artistic tendencies or a definitive literature response to literature questions of a new, altered reality?

Literature Response

It is more and more difficult to make today’s media-savvy new generations to acquire a taste in reading classic literature, given the powerful influence of movies, the Internet, and mentioned circumstances.

You can blog, phlog, vlog and podcast, all for free, and get ready, appreciative readers too. You can write and publish your own books (e-books) at a fraction of the cost of a printed book. You may say this is a bright side of life lyrics. Everybody can be a writer and writing doesn’t look formidable anymore.

There are opinions that chatting on the Internet or messaging frequently over the mobile phones impair our children language skills.

Communication and language skills have actually improved with the arrival of the Internet. Basically as we chat more, be it through the net or email or mobile, so we write more, express more and somewhere the communication skills improve and fear of English, French, German, Serbian or any other language itself goes away.

Emerging Literature Trends and Technologies

Understanding symbolism of new literature medium may seem like a scary experience. First step to understanding is observation. So let’s observe what are the main carriers of literature response in new Millennium.

Collaborative Writing

Wikipedia definition of Collaborative Writing (this famous web encyclopedia is an illustrative example of collaborative writing itself): “The term collaborative writing refers to projects where written works are created by multiple people together (collaboratively) rather than individually”.

There is a sayings “teamwork makes the dream work”. Collaborative writing can often lead to books that are richer and more complex than those produced by individuals. Having many people working on a project has added to the creative process. Also, they can be an immense support to one another.And you never know where the story is going! Endless Endings?

Start recognizing post-modernistic symbols?

Another analogy: Instead of sequential method of plotting in traditional writing, Collaborative Writing brings all means off interactivity in creative process. By using tools of communication like Internet, mobile phones, collaborative writing software etc. , the writing process is deconstructed and newly assembled, managed preferable by the group, community, even readers – the audience, rather then being solitude and selfishly controlled by one person.

Literature born from the chaos. Is it another symbol of postmodernism that we have just discovered in applied literature practice?

This is why, despite many tangible complexities related to Collaborative Writing idea, it presents respectful literature phenomenon. It is here to stay. The main challenge in the future will be how to put it in the write, “acceptable to all” context, rather than keep denying its relevance.

Self Publishing

Because of digital technology and the distribution possibilities offered by the Internet, small publishing is more feasible today than ever before. Independent voices can be affordable made available to the general reading public, providing fresh titles, both fiction and non-fiction.

However, establishing and running a small publishing house may seem like a complicated endeavor. Acquiring International Standard Book Numbers, Purchasing a unique Internet domain name for your publishing house website, Determine a niche for your publication efforts, Locating the book printer most appropriate for your needs, Contacting small press friendly book reviewers and sending attractive press kits, Visiting small press trade shows and network with other small publishers, are just few parts in the puzzle that many independent writers are not ready or not willing to deal with.

While big publishing might claim the majority of the profit margin, small publishing remains more and more alive and well among the small, entrepreneurial set.

Literature Visualization

This is a “hot term”, one of those that can make you look smart in the party. However, the roots of the literature visualization reach back in the first half of the last century. We all remember “The War of the Worlds”, by H. G. Wells, famous radio broadcasting, and few of you also, with nostalgia recalls the Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version with such a star like Richard Burton as the narrator-protagonist.

In its broad context, the literature visualization imply all mans of different media interpretations of literature. From recorded storytelling, popular movie stars children’s literature reading video sessions, end big budget movie project, over literature digitization and e-book publishing, to large international projects like it is project Gutenberg for instance. The industry of Book Teaser Videos is more and more prominent.

Another important aspect and interpretation of Literature Visualization term is related to new, novel writing techniques. Summarized in two words: “Show, don’t tell”. Anticipating growing aspirations of new generation of readers that attend a lot of movies and most think visually, authors tend to think of their books as of a mini-movies, with multi-dimensional characters with a definite point of view.

Social Networks Media Broadcasting and new Copyright Models

In the age of WEB 2.0, the Social Networks create a completely new medium for distributing the message to the masses.

Music Industry was the fist to acknowledge the full potential of the Internet and on line Communities. Many popular music stars and bands published their work on Internet first. They timely understood the potential of live and proximate interaction with their audience and the benefits that it brings short-term and long-terms respectively.

The same processes are developing within the literature community. The major issue of Copyrights was successfully digested by introduction of ingenious Creative Common License that offer creators a best-of-both-worlds way to protect their works while encouraging certain uses of them.

Literature is changing inexorably, following closely the global trends. For literature scholars, authors and consumers, it is important to recognize the meaning of both contemporary literature questions and symbolism of genuine literature response to new-age challenges. This new comprehension will add quality tools to our literature arsenal letting us enjoy it in various, new, exciting ways.

Make Literature Online is Fiction Collaborative Writing community and Social Network.

Bangla (Bengali) literature: Some reflections

The most tragic thing about Bangla (Bengali) literature today is the absence of information about it in Internet. Internet is the biggest place for information and millions of people are browsing for information and entertainment everyday. If you do a search in Google about Bangla (Bengali) literature you will have to feel frustrated. Except Wikipedia and Bangla (Bengali)pedia there are not a lot of information about Bangla (Bengali) literature. This is ia tragic matter because Bangla (Bengali) literature is one of the richest literatures in the world. Rabindranath Tagore, the greatest figure in Bangla (Bengali) literature got Nobel Prize in 1913 and he was the first writer from outside of Europe and America to get this prestigious prize.

Tagore’s achievement did not take place all of a sudden. Rather it came after 100 years of modernization and reformation process in Bangla (Bengali) literature that started with Rammohan Roy, the father of Indian reformation movement. It was Ram Mohan Roy who realized the need to reform the Indian society and embracing the liberal and positive aspects of the western civilization. A little later Michael Madhusudan Dutt turned this concept into reality in to Bangla (Bengali) literature by introducing sonnet and blank verse. Thus social reformation and modernization in literature occurred hand by hand in Bengal. The ground was prepared for Tagore to come and shine in the world literature.

It is true that Tagore almost single-handedly elevated Bangla (Bengali) literature to become one of the richest literatures in the contemporary world. Tagore’s achievement made every Bengali writer proud and it created a new enthusiasm for them. After Tagore got Nobel Prize in 1913 the golden age of Bangla (Bengali) literature started and for the next 30 years it continued with a handful of writers in every genre. Kazi Nazrul Islam excelled in writing poems about social justice and he also successfully used both Hindu and Muslim heritage in his poems. It was in his poems that the idea of unity between Muslims and Hindus was echoed again and again. Sharatchandra emerged as the most popular novelist in Bangla (Bengali) literature. His novels touched people from every background in the society and still today his novels are most widely read in Bangla (Bengali) literature. Jibananda Das caught the attention of the readers for writing poems about nature and Bibhutibhushon Banerje did the same in prose in Bangla (Bengali) literature.

History of Bangla (Bengali) literature is more than 1200 years old and among the modern Indian languages (belonging to the Indic branch of Indo-European language Familiy) Bangla (Bengali) literature is among the earliest literatures. The first text of Bangla (Bengali) literature Charyapada was written perhaps in 9th or 8th century. This book is a collection of songs and poems written by a number poets (mainly Budhists). The poems contained description of everyday social life instead of praise to gods or goddesses. The most fascinating aspect of Bangla (Bengali) literature is that poets and writers from 4 religions have contributed in its development. Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim and Christian writers have their contributions in Bangla (Bengali) literature and Bangla (Bengali) literature has been enriched from these religions too. The presence and interaction among the poets of different religions have made Bangla (Bengali) literature a literature of liberal humanism. Bangla (Bengali) literature influenced its speakers so much that in 1952 Bangla (Bengali)deshi people sacrificed their blood against the Pakistani rulers to uphold the status of Bangla (Bengali).

Philosophical Perspectives on Literature

Literature with the start of the 1970’s underwent a sea of change. Literature started to be influenced with the strands of Philosophical thought. Here I would like to philosophize literature from the various readings I have collected. The various philosophical trends in literature are New Criticism, Psychoanalysis, Existentialism, Structuralism, Post Structuralism, Marxism, Feminism and Post Colonial Literature. I would like to examine each of these philosophical perspectives and their impact on literature by a critical reading of literary works that I have perused.

Now what exactly is New Criticism? New Criticism is a philosophical school of thought that emphasizes those literary artifacts should be read for aesthetic merit. Thus New Criticism emphasizes the figurative concerns of language. Tropes are language sculptures which are the result of an afflatus of the pen. For example if I say that my body is in the Diaspora of a Palestine desert- at a figurative level, the meaning would render into an aesthetic, that is a metaphor which describes the scattering of the body, the libidinal urges into a homeland, a territory which is barren as a desert. This would be the aesthetic effect of reading the metaphor. But reading the metaphor with reference to figurative meanings alone creates also problems of interpretation in singularity. The same metaphor can also be read politically and psychoanalytically. The same metaphor juxtaposes the political and psychoanalytical consciousness and weaves them seamlessly into an enlightened aesthetic of experience. For a political reading of the metaphor we would have to plunge into the history of Palestine which is the voice of the repressed in a struggling political territory which aspires to a homeland. Reading the metaphor through a psychoanalytic lens, we can refer to the theories of Freud and Lacan and rerouting there would make us search the vestiges of the unconscious of the author which is caught up in the prison of sublimating the baser needs of the libidinal ID to a literature of creative expression. Therefore New Criticism cripples readings of interpretative discourse in other fields.

Psychoanalysis is caught up in a monsoon rain of differing showers of intensity. There are two schools of thought, one the Jungian one and the other the Freudian one and also a one which involves a rereading of the theories of Freud by Jacque Lacan.

Now first let me explicate Jungian psychoanalysis and its workings in literature. Jungian psychoanalysis delves into what is famously known as archetypes. Archetypes are models, patterns or traces and according to Jung they are embedded in the collective unconscious of the mind and are universally recurring motifs in the culture of consciousness. Some common examples of archetypes are most commonly found in fairy tales and they include the wizard, the witch, the fairy, the fairy Godmother, the seer, the magician, the demon etc the Father, the Mother etc. To prove the existence of collective unconscious would be too virtually impossible a task. However in an analytic mode these Jungian archetypes exhibit certain personality traits. For example let’s take the case of the Witch. A witch has been classified as ugly, treacherous, covetous, and greedy. It’s very interesting to note that on the other hand Wizards have been elevated on the binary chain to an exalted, virtuous status. It is disheartening to note that during the inquisition witches were hunted, tortured and executed. What happens here is the psychoanalytic archetypal model of Witch becomes a paradigm of creating the ‘other’ who is misunderstood and becomes the other as being culturally oppressed. It needs a post modern philosophy of deconstruction to understand that the witch archetype is a personality type that has been culturally victimized. This victimization would have its unholy roots in the literature of fairy tales which marginalized witches as the wicked other. The archetypal model of the witch would be a misnomer for radically oriented feminists and they would label the attributes of witches as misunderstood products of masculine imagination.

The next psychoanalytic school of thought is the Freudian one and to a later trend, one being revision of Freudian theories by the French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan. Freudian theories of the libido are taken as interpretative constructs for the reading of literature. I happened to be teaching students the famous play of George Bernard Shaw the Arms and the Man. I have been peculiarly surprised by his construct of male characters who are obsessed with oedipal fantasies which they invest on their feminine amours. The lovers especially the feminine are role played upon with dialogues that portray them as lovable nurses and mothers. What is amazing here is that these fantasies are not made by George Bernard Shaw with conscious intent but are manifestations from his own unconscious. This raises the question for feminists-was Shaw Oedipally fixated?

During the 70’s the notorious Jacque Lacan made a sea of change in psychoanalysis with critical rereading of the works of Freud. Lacan created a storm of controversy not only in psychoanalytic circles but also created a problem of interpreting the language which in his psychoanalytic terms disturbs the paragon of the unity contained in a realized self. For him the self was a body of constructs and it has to struggle to establish a coherent unity. Lacan is famous for having proclaimed that the unconsciousness is structured like language. Lacan has introduced his most celebrated concept being that of the mirror stage. The mirror stage is a stage of development in the child where the child is psychologically weaned from a fragmented body to an imaginary body that has the process of a created self. The mirror stage is the stage when the child enters into the realm of language and it marks a separation from comfort zone of the mother which is a lullaby of language which feminist philosopher Julia Christeva calls the semiotic realm, a realm where language is not a judiciary of expression, a realm where language functions with poetic subjectivity. Along with the mirror stage came into expression the concept of the gaze, a concept in psychoanalytic literature meaning more than a casual look, a look with intention that is a look which appropriates. Today literature has acquired many gazes like masculine gaze, the feminine gaze the queer gaze and so forth. The gaze and the mirror image are used as critical interpretative readings in literature, films and advertising.

Existentialism was a philosophy that marked its hay day with an enlightenment that is synonymous in the works of John Paul Sartre and Albert Camus. For Sartre the individual is solely responsible for the choice she or he makes and the responsibility of making a choice for an existential experience fills him or her with euphoria or angst. By shifting the burden of choice to a being or entity like God is resorting to bad faith. For Sartre there is no metaphysical or transcendent being who exercises a will into the universe and in spite of life being meaningless we have to authenticate our existence. According to Sartre negation is great tool for self realization and through negation we can exercise responsibility of our choice and also be condemned to experience angst. A higher meaning or purpose of life would for existentialist be a creative anarchy of nihilism. In literature we can dissolve the fragmentary tropes from their creation and experience creatively a narcissistic anarchy of experience that can be as profound as the mystic and saintly. For Albert Camus we are the ironic tragic, machine metaphor Sisyphus who for an unknown cause is forced to roll a boulder uphill and sadly to his fate it plunges downhill and he is forced to carry out his life repetitive monotony.

Now I would like to analyze structural thought on literature. Structuralism rose into prominence with the works of Ferdinand Saussure. For him all language is a system of signs. A sign is made up of the signifier and the signified. For example if we connote dove as peace, dove is the signifier and peace the signified. The signifier is the physical tangibility and the signified is the abstract idea. Post structuralist philosopher Roland Barthes dissected signs in literature, philosophy, media and fashions. The problem with structural approach is that it overlooks the hermeneutic of the aesthetic in literature and makes literature a mere machine. Literature engages the reader into a phenomenological, experiential aesthetic. It would be sheer madness to read literature as a machine of signs. Literature has to read poetically with cathartic subjectivity.

When Marxian though entered into the hermeneutic reading of literature we came to understand that literature is also a product of ideology. The author, text, and the reader are all ideological apparatuses. Literature can unknowingly promote class consciousness. For example the works of Shakespeare are all bourgeoisie that is they deal with works, lives and cultures of the upper echelons of the society. For a Marxian, the popularity of an author may lie with the fact that he or she wants to promote class interests which again are commoditized with popular culture. What is popular in a culture may be in fact be the hidden agenda of particular society to promote a class consciousness in which there is a dominant class and the class which is dominated.

I would like to write on post structuralism by mentioning its phenomenal pharaoh, the guru of deconstructionism Jacques Derrida. From Derrida we have understood the process of division of language into a binary divide. According to Derrida, it’s normal for language to privilege one term and marginalize another. For example, Man is a privileged term over the woman, and patriarchical discourses marginalize the woman in the philosophies and literatures of the occident. Again we have God almighty in religions identifying with the dominant mode of discourse that is light and heaven while the Devil is marginalized into darkness and hell. It is the duty of the reader to explore and excavate meanings of a text which are privileged. Again Derrida is critical of occidental philosophies which privilege writing over speech.

It is difficult to unify the compartmentalized models of feminist discourse cause there are many philosophers and with never agreeing strands of thought. I would like to take into the field of discourse the narratives of Julia Kristeva, Helene Cixous and Judith Butler. Julia Kristeva evolved a narrative of language as the semiotic and the symbolic. The semiotic is a realm of language that discards syntax but awakens the poetic subjectivity of the interactivity. A classic example of language being in the semiotic mode would be streams of consciousness narrative and this is seen very much in the work of Ulysses by James Joyce. Music and dance can also be realms where the semiotic is engaged. A semiotic realm can also be in language like talking to one self. The symbolic is a realm of language where language becomes judicial, scientific or philosophical or even medicinal. Helene Cixous’s article ‘The Laugh of the Medusa’ opened my eyes to thoughts of how language is: that is the language of the Father. Language is steeped in patriarchal discourse. She encourages women to explore their bodies and their selves and liberate them from phallic mode of discourse. Judith Butler has gone to the extent of creating a feminine phallus, de-signifying Freudian constructs of the women to be oedipal fixations for men. Women are no longer in the dark continent of Freud but liberated messiahs no longer constructed as a self, body and gender by dominant mode of phallic discourse. Women instead of developing penis envy for lack of penis can construct themselves with a lesbian phallus. For her orientation is not being bodily but being gender mute. Orientation is a participatory process for bodily explorations.

Nobody can ignore post colonial discourse. Post colonial discourses aim to analyze the schism of the colonized in colonial texts. Colonies who have become liberated from the colonized have learnt to adapt, innovate and use the English Language to creative conceptions. Many novels though criticize colonial mentality end up ultimately being discourses of colonial rule. Notable are the works of Rudyard Kipling and those of Joseph Conrad. Homi Baba in is post colonial literature has put forth some interesting perspectives. And they are, the relation between the colonist and colonized was based on cultural anxiety. The colonist wanted the colonized to mimic their behavior but at the same time be subservient to them. Edward Said in the ‘Discourse of the Orient’ criticized the way the Orient was constructed as discourse of the Occident. The orient in construction was made an exotic place where culture and civilization are in its lowest ebb. The native in Occidentalism was a dark fantasy. A post colonial reading of a text would be an archaeology of reading where the script is dissected as being a political, religious, cultural subjugation.

It Is Easy to Write a Literature Review – Here’s How

A literature review is a survey of all existing literature in a specific field. It serves two purposes. First is to exhaustively describe research done in a specific area. The second is to evaluate this body of literature to identify established findings, conflicting evidence and gaps in research. A literature review includes research articles, dissertations, conference papers, scholarly articles and other sources.

This might seem daunting to a beginner. However it is easy to write a literature review. All you need is patience and good analytic skills. All literature reviews have a basic structure. There are slight variations in this format, depending on the discipline and the purpose of the literature review.

The first step is to identify a topic on which you want to write the review of literature. Finding a suitable topic is the hardest part of a literature review. You must begin searching for a topic early. This would involve extensive reading. Choosing a personally-relevant topic, which motivates and interests you, will make the entire process much more enjoyable.

Before finalizing a topic, you need to ensure that there is considerable research in that area. So several individuals should have conducted research and written about the topic. As a result you will have various viewpoints to compare and analyze.

Once you are well versed with the broad area of interest, narrow it down to a specific topic. The more specific your topic, the more comprehensive your review will be.

The second step is to begin collecting and reading the articles. While choosing a topic you would have done already condected some preliminary research. Now you would need to systematically build on this initial research. Libraries and online journal collections are good starting points. Interviews with subject matter experts, books, documentaries, and archival data can be used during this stage.

Remember reading academic articles can be challenging and you might be inclined to give up. Here are some tips to make your reading of the literature easier:

1. Begin with the easier articles and then proceed to the harder ones.

2. Read the abstract first. Then scan through the article and identify key themes and elements such as the research questions, the findings etc. Make a note of these elements.

3. Next do an in-depth reading of the literature you have collected. Read each article line by line to completely understand it. Look for hidden themes, contradictions and logical gaps in arguments. Try to link it to other literature in the area.

4. Reading requires time and patience. So plan accordingly and allocate maximum time for this phase.

After you have read through sufficient material, you would need to shortlist the articles to the ones most relevant to your topic. Try to look for connections between the articles, and loopholes in the existing research and consensus regarding the subject matter.

Keep an open mind, and look critically at all the information. Your literature review should not be a simple summary of a couple of articles and books. It should provide a unique perspective on the existing literature, and facilitate further debate. Once you have mapped your ideas, arguments and created a loose structure for the review, you will begin the actual writing process.

You would need at least 15 – 20 articles for a good literature review. However, a literature review can have up to 100 articles. Student literature reviews are typically 20 pages long or of 3000 words approximately.

Make sure that your literature review is well organized. A natural flow makes a literature review easier and more pleasant to read. Most literature reviews begin with the title page, the abstract followed by a brief introduction to the topic. The introduction should include the purpose and questions of the review.

The body usually contains a detailed description of each study, along with observations and comparisons of the studies. The findings are then put concisely in the conclusion, after which the implications of the literature review are mentioned. Implications are your personal addition to the topic based on your reading and analysis. It includes your impressions of what the studies show and the need for further research.

Some pointers while you write your review:

• Write only when you have read all your text and have understood it.
• Take breaks in between writing the review, so that you don’t burn out.
• Always use simple and concise language. Illustrate your points with concrete examples from the text you have read.
• Summarize and paraphrase the articles, instead of using long quotes.
• Edit and review the article, to avoid grammatical and formatting errors.
• Finally never indulge in plagiarism. Use in text citations and references.

In text citations are used when you quote someone else’s idea within your article. It includes the author’s last name and the year of the study. References must include the author’s name, the title of the book, the year of the publication, the publishing house and the location. There are detailed instructions for citations available at all major university websites such as Harvard etc. You could read through them for more clarity on how to write the references.

Now that you know the steps involved in writing a literature review, you will be well equipped to begin your review.

Seema Misra has a Masters degree in Clinical Psychology, and currently works as a freelance writer and copy editor. She has worked with ANSR Source as a Quality Analyst and Content Developer; she worked on creating and editing academic supplements for leading international publishers. Her writing skills include academic writing, technical writing, article writing and web content writing. She is a perfectionist and always completes projects within the required time frame.

Does African-American Literature Exist?

The question of what makes a piece of writing African American literature or not is one that I have never been confronted with before. I have certainly never been challenged to question the entire existence of the genre before taking a course entitled “ENGL 234: Major Writers in African American Literature”. On the contrary, frequent evenings spent perusing bookstores have fortified the notion in my mind that the genre is alive and well. Other literature courses have not touched on this subject at all much less brought this question to light. Through that course, however, I found that it is certainly one worth exploring and one that deserves a definitive answer. I have come to understand the genre of African American literature as encompassing any piece of literature that deals specifically with issues unique to African Americans as a culture.

It is interesting to consider the definition for this genre that our English 234 class came up with at the start of this course. We all seemed to have a general understanding of what it was that we could agree upon. Students said based on what they had read in the past, that the genre was made up of books that seemed more ‘real’ than other books; that there was less fiction in black literature. It was also said that these books had to do with mostly issues surrounding slavery. It did not even seem to be a question that the authors of these books would be African American themselves, that appeared to be a given. It is funny that we were all so convinced that we knew what this genre was at the beginning of the course and how student’s definitions have since completely changed, well mine has at least.

It is surprising to me, upon consideration, that I would agree with the claim that African American literature seemed more ‘real’ than books from other genres. It seems very ignorant to assume that all authors of African American literature actually had all of the life experiences they write about actually happen to them. In fact, most piece of this type of literature are fictional. Though some authors may have drawn from actual historical accounts, many of the stories themselves come from the writer’s imagination. It is still safe to say that African American literature is more real than fantasy. The parameters of my definition steer it away from fantasy and more towards real, human experiences.

The idea that African American literature has to do almost exclusively with the issues surrounding slavery and race were completely overturned upon reading “Giovanni’s Room” by James Baldwin. One might expect the book to deal with race simply because Baldwin was an African American writer. I definitely went into the book with that expectation. This perception extended to the point where I believed several characters in the book to be black instead of white or Mediterranean as Baldwin had intended simply because of the fact that we were reading it in a “Major Writers in African American Literature” class. Though I think the title of the class had more to do with this than the skin color of the author, I can certainly see how his skin color might have given students certain expectations as well. “Giovanni’s Room” did not tackle the issue of race at all. The book was about a white man dealing with his inner conflict involving his homosexuality. Upon reading it I would definitely say that it qualifies as a great work of literature, but it does not fit under my definition of African American literature specifically. Black writers can write about anything, they are certainly not limited to issues of race or slavery. An author’s skin color should not have anything to do with what label goes on that author’s writing.

Writers of African American literature do not have to be black. To fit under my definition the material needs only to have connections to black culture or history. The profession of writing entails the ability to create from many different perspectives. I recently read a book called “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett, a white author, that I would consider an example of this. In the book Stockett writes from the perspectives of several different characters including two African American women working as maids in Mississippi during the 1960s. “The Help” is clearly a book that addresses issues of race and segregation. I would certainly consider it a work of African American literature because of its content. Similarly, the classic work “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” was written by another white woman, Harriet Beecher Stowe. The book discusses slavery and the suffering involved with it. This book would also qualify as African American literature because of its subject matter. This leads us to the question of what “African American issues” really are.

The word “stereotype” comes with negative connotations because it is generally used to describe an off-putting generalization. It becomes necessary though when talking about facets of something like a certain group of people or culture. The other problem with stereotypes is the way they vary from person to person. One person might assume one thing about a certain group of people while another might assume the opposite, making universal stereotyping difficult. It is up to both the author and the reader to determine whether or not a work falls under the category of African American literature. An example of this from class would include Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye”, a book that deals with the issue of skin color as it correlates to beauty and equality. This genre does not have to refer to pieces that deal only with slavery, inequality, or segregation. There are many modern subjects that can be explored through literature besides these. For example, a piece of African American literature might touch on the use of the “N” word in today’s popular culture. It can be anything that either the reader or the writer deems a legitimate African American issue to be as long as there is evidence that one can make a claim for and defend successfully. Critics have argued that this genre no longer exists because American culture no longer has to deal with difficulties such as slavery or the Jim Crow laws. It is true that these things no longer exist per-se, but racism and problems concerning race are still rampant in our society even if they now manifest themselves in slightly different ways.

African American literature includes any piece of literature that deals in particular with issues that are related to African Americans as a people. This does not mean the author needs to be black though, writers of any skin tone can fashion characters with many different perspectives and cultures. The common misconception that this genre includes many works or biography and autobiography is false. Many pieces of African American literature are fictional. Topics that are included in this genre can include slavery and the like, but they can also be more modern. African American literature is a growing category just like any other type of literature.

Preparatory Crash Course in Literature for High School Students in the Philippines

In the Philippines today the length of Primary and Secondary schools is being debated whether to add another two more years in the usual six years primary and four years secondary, making secondary also six years for a total of twelve years in preparation to college education. School principals and teachers alike are divided. Paying parents in the privates schools are resistant while even non-paying parents in the public schools raise their brows on the plan of the government. Many sectors question the program for that would mean paying more and staying longer in school. Parents want their kids to finish school right away so that their children can help them alleviate their poverty. So what’s the use of adding years in the 100-year long educational system when Filipino graduates all over the world are competitive. Below is a proposal based from a study the writer conducted on the Language and Literature program of Famy National High School Laguna, Philippines on the possible solution to help the lack of students preparation and exposure to Literature before they go to tertiary or higher education sans the issue of adding number of years in the secondary school.


After scanning the environment of the students, teachers and the materials available in Famy National High School in Laguna Philippines they both used when they had the English 4, the proponent saw the needs to prepare the fresh graduates from the Famy National High School by giving a preparatory crash course program in Literature to prepare them for the demands and rigors of college Literature courses.

The fourth-year high school students did not have enough exposure in learning Literature because the book they used entitled Moving Ahead in English published in 1999 which was framed on integrative approach hence, mastery of the four macro skills was emphasized throughout the year. The lessons they had in Literature was a mixed of World Literature, Asian Literature and Philippine Literature given after each lesson. Their exposure on Literature was not based on a solid foundation because the focus was more on language and not on Literature. Out of seven lessons, one was only given to Literature with questions focusing on the moral or didactic lessons. The students themselves looked at Literature as springboard lessons to language lessons without value for it as an art form.

The two teachers themselves assigned in teaching the fourth year were passionate teachers teaching the language lessons but they become less energetic when they reach the Literature lessons because students did not read. One teacher was BSE major in English graduate from Union College of Sta. Cruz, Laguna and the other was unit earner in Education with a Bachelor’s degree in Accountancy. Both seldom attend seminars on the recent trends and issues in teaching Literature because of the scarcity of financial support from the school. Hence, their knowledge and strategies were based from their old undergraduate schema.

With these problems, the proponent indeed saw the needs of preparing the students through a crash course program in Literature with the following reasons:

1. inform students about the basics of Literature they never had in high school; 2. discuss literature, not as a springboard of language lessons, but as it is as an art; 3. prepare students to the demands of Literature courses in College and 4. immerse students on the recent trends, strategies and issues in learning Literature.

B. DESCRIPTION OF THE PROGRAM: The crash course program in Literature primarily aims to prepare the incoming freshmen to College Literature courses that they never learned or encountered much in high school, not because they were not taught, but because the approach then was integrative of the four macro skills and Literature was used as springboard to language lessons. The crash course discusses the basics of Literature from concepts, theories, use of strategies, trends and issues in learning literature applied altogether in teaching the students. The program is only a crash course to be delivered in 45 hours with 3 hours per lesson. The fifteen-day sessions either in MWF (Monday, Wednesday, Friday) or TThS (Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday) schedules are devoted to classroom discussion and other recent activities that culminate in a variety show of poetry recitation, dramatization and choral recitation, activities which are also performed in college. It is in MWF or TThS schedule to give students time to read and accomplish their assignments on the lessons before coming to class.

C. PROPONENT OF THE PROGRAM The proponent of the program is Wilfredo M. Valois who is a current student in Doctor of Philosophy major in Literature at the Philippine Normal University, Manila. He has been teaching Literature subjects at the Royal and Pontifical University of Sto. Tomas (UST), Manila for twelve (12) years. He has taught subjects like Philippine Literature in English, Introduction to Literature and Classical World Literature.

D. FRAMEWORK OF THE PROGRAM With the advent of technology specifically the television, radio and internet, people have become less receptive to what is going on around them, rather, they become more dependent on what they watch, they see and what they hear rather than what they read. People’s vision is blurred by the comfort what technology gives them hence forgetting the value of reading, the value of Literature. In the academe, with the focus on the communicative competence and other ever-changing approaches and theories, the teaching and learning of Literature is often dwarfed, minimized or even abandoned by many schools.

Carolina Garcia and Ophelia Diamante reminded readers that Literature must inform and entertain. A good literature must be able to awaken people from ignorance to enlightenment. Furthermore, they said that literature must have intellectual value, emotional value, spiritual value, universality, permanence, style and most of all artistry.

Similarly, Edilberto Tiempo says that literature or good literature is intended to move, it must seduce but a work’s emotive quality must not assault the sensibility, it must be ungirded by reasonableness, by logic, it must complement and satisfy the intellect, it must have the inevitability.

The criteria on how the literary selections in this crash course program on Literature were based from Jose Garcia Villa’s criteria as cited by Edilberto K. Tiempo’s suggestions on what should be included in any anthology of Literature. They are substance and form. Jose Garcia villa said that he followed double standard of form and substance. Substance requires vitality of subject and significant selection of facts. Genuine substance is achieved only when a pulse beats through the correlated facts, for significant substance alone, if without beat of life, remain dead substance. To achieve validity, therefore, substance in fiction should be living as well as significant. The second test is form. It requires vigor of structure although form and substance in literature are a creative one and they are indivisible, still they are distinct. Thus making feasible this test of form. Form, in literature, is the adequate and beautiful externalization of substance. It is not restrictive, mold, but is free, yet artistically disciplined presentation of substance.

Literature liberates the mind and spirit as one reads through the pages. The experience one has in looking at a painting, listening to a classical music or a moving performance in a theatre is similar to the reading of a literary text. It moves the mind to think critically. It touches the heart with that emotive power when one reads poetry or reads a play. All these effects and more are experienced by readers or learners including the enthusiasts when they are arrested by powerful literary texts with beautiful form and substance.

Literature is an instrument to fight illiteracy. People have become dependent on moving pictures and flashed items that they tend to read less. People have become lazy readers if not none readers at all, hence elevating our status of illiteracy. Thanks to the government’s effort in putting Alternative Learning System or ALS in various municipalities and barangays where teachers educate the illiterates. But the efforts are geared towards economic and not artistic. Hence, the debate on the conflict between “art for art’s sake” (autonomy of the art) and “art for social awareness” (proletariat literature) is once again high. The crash course provides an answer to this debate as it hinges on bridging the gap and conflict between the autonomy of art and social awakening by giving students the artistic literary texts that will give them at the same time an awakening along the way in the study of literatures.

The program is designed to meet the needs set by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) to give at least six units of Literature courses across discipline in the general education. Namely, the two courses are Introduction to World Literatures and Regional Philippines Literatures. That when they proceed to college education, incoming freshmen will be more than ready to face the demands of the Literature courses without insecurity and ignorance due to lack of exposure and education in literatures.

E. OBJECTIVES: At the end of the crash course, incoming freshmen are expected to: 1. Define the meaning of literature; 2. Differentiate fiction and non-fiction; 3. Enumerate the five genres of literature; 4. Compare and contrast the features of narrative and poetry; 5. Draw or diagram the structure of a narrative plot; 6. Read a poem with emotions according to its type; 7. Explain the figures of speech used in the texts; 8. Identify characters in the short story, novel or drama; 9. Describe the setting in the short story, novel or drama; 10. Arrange logical sequence of plot in the short story, novel or drama; 11. Synthesize themes from the texts; 12. Trace the causes and effects of actions of characters in the texts; 13. Appreciate the text the culture of a country; 14. Identify an author and his/her work; 15. Analyze a text using different approaches in understanding literature; 16. Write a critique on the assigned literary text; 17. Recite effectively and individually a poem; 18. Dramatize effectively scenes from the text; 19. Mount a variety show highlighting poetry recitation, dramatization and choral recitation.

F. COURSE CONTENT: The crash course includes excerpts from Literature courses that Commission on Higher Education CHED has mandated what each college student should take across discipline. Namely they are:

LITERATURE 1: Regional Philippine Literatures

This course presents a survey of world literatures representing a gamut of human experiences as exemplified in different literary types and forms.

LITERATURE 2: Introduction to World Literatures

This course introduces students to representative literatures from the regions tackling the wide array of Filipino encounters and experiences as these are expressed through themes such as gender, racial identity, class and history


Competencies/Objectives Lessons

1. Define the meaning of literature; Lesson on Introduction to Literature 2. Differentiate fiction and non-fiction; Lesson on Introduction to Literature 3. Enumerate the five genres of literature; Lesson on introduction to Literature 4. Compare and contrast the features of narrative and poetry; Lesson on Introduction to Literature 5. Draw or diagram the structure of a narrative plot; Lesson on Introduction to Literature 6. Read a poem with emotions according to its type; Lesson on Poetry 7. Explain the figures of speech used in the texts; Lesson on Poetry 8. Identify characters in the short story, novel or drama; Lesson in Fiction 9. Describe the setting in the short story, novel or drama; Lesson in Fiction 10. Arrange logical sequence of plot in the short story, novel or drama; Lesson in Fiction 11. Synthesize themes from the texts; All lessons 12. Trace the causes and effects of actions of characters in the texts; All lessons 13. Appreciate the text the culture of a country; All lessons 14. Identify an author and his/her work; All lessons 15. Analyze a text using different approaches in understanding literature;

All lessons 16. Write a critique on the assigned literary text lessons in poetry, short story, novel, drama and essay 17. Recite affectively and individually a poem; Lesson on Poetry 18. Dramatize effectively scenes from the text; Lesson on Fiction 19. Mount a variety show highlighting poetry recitation, dramatization and choral recitation. All lessons


Content/ Topics Teaching/Learning Activities Time Allotment 1. An Overview on Literature a. Definition b. Reasons why we study literature

Group work brainstorming Discussion Timeline

3 hours

2. Kinds of Literature a. Fiction and non-fiction b. According to countries c. According to classification Library research Buzz group discussion Jigsaw puzzle Diagramming

3 hours

3. Seven (7) standards of good Literature a. Samples for each exemplifying each standard

Pair work Collage Poster-making 3 hours

4. Genres of Literatures a. Poetry b. Short story c. Novel d. Drama e. essay Popcorn discussion Diagramming Thought bubbles 3 hours

5. Poetry a. Nature and types b. Elements c. Figures of speech Lecture Chanting Diagramming 3 hours

6. Reading and analyzing of samples of poetry a. “God Said I made a Man” by Jose Garcia Villa b. “The Man of Earth” by Amador T. Daguio c. “Si Lola Isyang at ang Matandang Puno ng Kaimito” d. “Stopping By the Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost e. “I am Nobody” by Emily Dickenson f. A sonnet by William Shakespeare g. “Psalm 23” by King David Discussion Reading of the text Chanting of the text Unlocking vocabulary Role playing Pair work Synthesizing through slogan Write a critique paper 3 hours

7. Short Story a. Nature and types b. Elements Discussion Diagramming Library research 2 hours

8. Reading and discussing/ analyzing of samples: a. “How My Brother Leon Brought Home a Wife” by Manuel Arguilla b. “Harvest” by Loreto Paras Sulit c. “Footnote to Youth” by Jose Garcia Villa d. “The Lady and the Tiger” Anonymous e. “The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry f. “The Necklace” by Guy de Maupassant Literary map Thought bubbles Comics strip Movie poster Radio drama Skit Role playing Tableaux Discussion Write a critique paper

4 hours

9. Novel a. Nature and types b. Elements Discussion diagramming 2 hours

10. Reading and discussing/analyzing of samples: a. An excerpt from America is in the Heart by Carlos Bulosan b. The Pearl by John Steinbeck Literary map Thought bubbles Comics strip Movie poster Radio drama Skit Role playing Tableaux Discussion Write a critique paper

4 hours

11. Drama a. Nature and types b. Elements Discussion Pair work Jigsaw puzzle 2 hours

12. Reading and discussing/analyzing of samples: a. “The World is an Apple” by Alberto Florentino b. “New Yorker in Tondo” by Marcelino Angana Thought bubbles Comics strip Movie poster Radio drama Skit Role playing Write a critique paper Tableaux Discussion

4 hours 13. Essay a. Nature and types b. Elements Discussion Diagramming 2 hours

14. Reading and discussing and analyzing of samples: a. “Heritage of Smallness” (an excerpt) by Nick Joaquin b. “On Having a Stomach” by Lin Yutang c. “Of Studies” by Francis Bacon Mock debate Pair work Buzz group discussion Slogan writing Discussion Write a critique paper 4 hours

15. Culminating Activity through a Variety Show of: a. Poetry recitation of “Stopping By the Woods on a Snowy Evening” b. Skit or Dramatization of “New Yorker in Tondo” c. Choral Recitation of “God Said I Made a Man” Variety show Poetry recitation Dramatization Choral recitation 3 hours

Assistant Professor, Department of Humanities, Consevatory of Music, University of Sto. Tomas (UST), Manila, Philippines

PhD in Literature (in progress), Philippine Normal University (PNU), Manila, Philippines

Municipal Councilor, Famy, Laguna, Philippines

[email protected]

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/expert/Wilfredo_M._Valois/877516