Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Final Exam! Happy summer Everyone!

Elesa Knowles
Dr. Juniper Ellis
Travel Literature
May 5, 2015

The Loyola Honor Code governs the exam, like all work in this course.  Before you take the exam please sign the Honor Code pledge.  Cut and paste the following statement at the beginning of your exam: 

I attest, in keeping with the Loyola Honor Code, that all work on the exam is my own; I am writing it right now without reference to any pre-existing notes, books, or electronic resources.  Signed, [Elesa Knowles] 

How does a traveler find healing or reconciliation, no matter what the circumstances?  And what does that tell you about the traveler and the circumstances?  Discuss all works since the mid-semester exam, and include literary form.
            Despair is contagious is the belief of many a people who endure hardship, forcible change, and immerse prejudice in the early and late 20th century. In the era of Post-Colonialism, a collection of people and bodies of land have emerged from out of the shadows of their colonizer’s influence and beliefs. Although the acts of oppression have passed, the despair induced from inheriting a legacy of violence and self-loathing exists. In awesome turn of events, this despair brings about the greatest hope in the present and future. A traveler who voyages through despair to discover hope is similar to how many authors and narrator find healing and reconciliation regardless of the circumstances in many stories of tattoo, Oceania, and Caribbean literature. This progressive pattern shows the universal spirit to live and thrive on Earth as well as not merely to survive and mourn eternally on earth. This pattern can be highlighted in particular in the texts of Wendt’s “The Cross of Soot”, Danticat’s “Kirk? Krak?” and Spiegelman’s “Maus II”. This pattern of hope springing out of despair through the means of travel can be seen echoed throughout Hauo’fa “Our Sea of Islands”, Wendt’s “Tattauting the Post-Colonial Body, O’ Connor’s “Parker’s Back”, and Kerouac’s “On the Road”.
            A boy travels into a prison system and literally is confronted and befriends despair in the forms of human chained for murder and rape. This eight-year-old amidst the chaos is treated well by the men who do not take advantage of his ignorance. One of the prisoners regardless of being imprisoned chooses to define his circumstances through own skin. He is a tattooist. When the boy asks him for a tattoo of a star, he decides to mark the child with this optimist symbol of a star, a fleeting yet intense light on the hand, to convey their new founded friendship. His parents summon the boy; thus, the tattoo remains unfinished. Most of the prisoners see this act as a marker of their relationship. A prisoner and a child would have a dis-connect, but when they try to create something together it ends up a disaster. When the boy’s mothers see the tattoo, her reaction is a beautiful disaster. The unfinished light star is the outline of a cross. In the context of Judean-Christian, the cross a unifying symbol of life over death. A boy leapt into a prison of despair and climbed under the gate into his unlocked home with hope tattooed upon his hand for all to see.
            In Danticat’s works, one story of a mother and wife’s response to despair is “A Wall of Fire’. His husband and father commits suicide in the Haitian community publicly by filling up a hot air balloon and jumping out in front of his son. His son’s play was highlighting the hypocrisy of the current regime in Haitian nation in particular its relative freedom amidst the violence of the Dominican Republic and Haiti. In spite of being proud of his son’s accomplishments, the fathers sees his own son’s educational success not as an extension of himself but rather his son’s success in a limited sphere as his own failure as a man and provider. He then takes his son’s lines from the play literally and decides to die in fires rather taste freedom. His wife’s response was to protect his son but she does not abandon or disown his husband’s body. She maturely asks his son to come with her to reclaim the body. In addition, she could have pretended she did not know him and grieve privately. Instead of avoiding the despair of the situation, she confronts it and seeks the hope of letting her husband’s life not a single act define him. She tells the police and hospital official to let him have his eyes open because he always wanted to be looking at the sky. She acknowledges his despair that consumed her husband but is not absorbed into it. She walks through her own home that has become the jury and executer of her husband and travels to the place of understanding as the healer seeing the hope admits the chaos.
            Spiegelman’s “Maus II” sees the despair traveling from family member to family member. Art, the son, asks his father about the most despair-inducing event of the early 20th century and sees oblivious resistance. The father in spite of having his wife commit suicide, after her brother who was a Holocaust survivor dies of natural causes, continues to witness the Holocaust for his son who is stained by the despair of the past. The father in his means of speech and interview sees hope. Even in the car rides to the Shop Rite he sees the hanging bodies of the girls from the camp, he still smiles and jokes over 50 cents over Special K cereal. He does not focus on his past and even stops his son from poking too much. In the comic cut away scenes, he focuses on his love of his wife and not once brings up her suicide as an excuse for not enjoying the world he lives in the United States. He could have focused on the Nazis that tortured him or the people who disowned him during the war, but he focuses on facts and being re-uniting with his family. He celebrates the world and he remembers seeking letters to his wife, receiving letter from his wife and rejoicing, and his final memory conveyed to his son is that of re-uniting with his wife. The last page is father and mother being side by side unified through the hope of their son created after the despair of the war to preserve this legacy to create a beautiful not a disastrous world after the Holocaust.
                   The literary motif of hope through travel is highlighted through the perspective of the narrators. The narrators in all the stories chose to focus on the positive and see the forcible travel or restricted circumstances induced by war, poverty, and systematic oppression. The travelling in the mind is chosen while the physical travel is enforced upon them. Likewise in Hauo’fa “Our Sea of Islands”, the narrator could have viewed the insulting logic of little islands in the sea as simply diminutive. He could have been consumed by the hatred and despaired over the forced illogic of the rhetoric of Eurocentric powers. In instead, he utilized his environment rhetoric and transformed it into a great critique and praise of Oceania’s legacy of hope and courage in the context of entire world not just Europe. He did this so well that this article’s hope triumphing over despairing insults travelled all the way to Baltimore in North America in the Unite States, which is an impressive feat for “non-influential islands in the sea”.  In Wendt’s “Tattooing the Post-Colonial Body”, challenges the rhetoric of tattoos of being modern graffiti and being rebellious. The narrator focuses on the positive communal culture of tattooing opposed to the trendy representation.  The narrator does allow the Samoan literature legacy to be forgotten in O’ Connor’s “Parker’s Back” or Kerouac’s “On the Road” texts. O’ Connor invokes the communal Judea-Christian context of Jesus’s eyes and travelling on a person’s skin. However in O’Connor’s context the unifying aspect is not understood by the wife of Parker compared to boy’s mother in Wendt’s “Cross of Soot”. Even in American road trip word surfing format of Kerouac, the narrator seeks hope in the intoxicating pattern of travel. This chosen travel in spite of it being engrossed in drugs, sex with random partners, and violence is for the hope of adventure and understanding. Most narrators did not choose their circumstances but choose how they react thus their travel resulted in healing or reconciliation with the exception of the narrator of “On the Road”. Despair is contagious; on the other hand, with help of travel internally or personal decisions, hope is contagious in most of all circumstances that absorbs most of despair of any singular event.     

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

An Author's Responsibility

Brendan O’Brien
EN 385
Maus II Post

            The Holocaust is undoubtedly one of the most significant acts of prejudice and atrocity in human history. Many authors, writers, and survivors have attempted to capture the horror of this event through their works. Books like Eli Wiesel’s Night and the film Schindler’s List have both given first hand accounts of the daily struggles of the Jewish people as they lived throughout this nightmare. Art Spiegelman’s Maus II in many ways does the same as the aforementioned works, but furthermore, his graphic novel is about the act of framing these horrific events in a way that the average reader can pick up his book and relate to them.

            The entire book is filled with stories that are difficult to read and almost impossible to imagine. But perhaps one of the most upsetting scenes in the book is Vladek’s racism directed towards the hitchhiker. Francoise is considerate and does the good deed of stopping and giving the man a ride, but Vladek immediately expresses his outrage once the man gets out. He exclaims, “I had the whole time to watch out that this shvarster doesn’t steal us the groceries from the back seat!” (Spiegelman 99). Art the narrator is quick to denounce this racism and points out that Vladek is talking of the man in the same manner in which the Nazis regarded the Jews. It is difficult to sympathize with Vladek’s character due to his constant complaints and this instance of racism. It is also difficult to reconcile how he could be so prejudiced when he himself experienced prejudice at its worst. Spiegelman could be suggesting that one, it is important to recognize that everyday regular people who had flaws and their own prejudices were the victims of the Holocaust; and two, that racism, sexism, prejudice, etc. are naturally part of the human condition. For Spiegelman, it is important to leave no detail out of his depiction of the Holocaust. Like the role of the tattoo artist or the Pacific cultural author, it is his duty to depict the Jewish tradition in every aspect possible, even if it reveals some negative attributes. Writing a book like this, and especially any form of travel literature, requires the author to abandon all biases and approach a topic, culture, or event from every angle possible.

Maus II

Molly Erlanger
Dr. Ellis
EN 385D
7 April 2015
Maus II Analysis
            The Maus series by Art Spiegelman tells the story of one man trying to recapture the story of his father’s experience during the Holocaust. Maus II details Vladek’s time spent in the concentration camps, and how he was able to survive. The narration bounces back and forth between World War II and the Holocaust and modern day, when Vladek is reflecting on his experiences and recounting them to his son. This split in narration provides an interesting twist to the story, in that the reader is given both Vladek’s personal account and memories from the Holocaust, as well as Art’s perception of how Vladek is telling the story.
            Memory is an incredibly interesting thing to consider. Multiple times in the story, Art interjects while Vladek is talking to bring up some sort of secondhand account that he had read recently concerning the Holocaust. He tries to fill in gaps for his father, such as when Art claims, “I just read about the camp orchestra that played as you marched out the gate” to which Vladek replies, “I remember only marching, not any orchestras…from the gate guards took us over to the workshop. How could it be there an orchestra?” While Art insists there was an orchestra, Vladek comments, “At the gate I heard only guards shouting” (Spiegelman 54). It is easy to consider that every Holocaust victim and survivor essentially went through the same thing, but memory does not work like that. All people perceive things differently, and their stories are made that much more personal by what their memory chooses to notice and recall for them. For Vladek, whether there was an orchestra or not in the moment was not important to him as he was in the middle of fighting for his life. For Art, however, looking back on something that he did not experience directly, he can easily take this account and allow it to shape how he tells the story of the Holocaust.
            Recounting the events of the Holocaust is no easy feat, especially for Art. In certain ways, perhaps it is seen as his duty since he is Jewish and his parents went through the concentration camps. However, his memory of the event is twisted by all of the different versions he has heard. It makes it increasingly difficult to make sense of a horrible event that was never meant to make sense in the first place. In this way, I think Spiegelman utilizing the form of a graphic novel and his animal metaphor is his way of trying to deal with telling a very difficult story. There are some things that are too horrible for words to describe, and sometimes drawings and visual depictions need to step in.
            It is easy to allow our own perceptions of people to cloud our judgment of the stories they tell, which I think is why Spiegelman includes the parts when he was trying to record his father’s story in the 1970s. Having not actually gone through the Holocaust, Art sometimes has a lot of trouble understanding why his father is the way that he is. His frustration with his father is apparent, but in comparing the way he acts in the 70s with what he dealt with during the Holocaust, it is easier for the reader to see the bigger picture. Instead of being frustrated with this man, we instead see what the horrors of war can do to a person’s character and the lasting effects it can have on the way they live their daily life.

            People affected by tragedies have these sorts of biases all the time; there are plenty of Americans who lived through 9/11 that will get very nervous if they see someone that looks like they are Middle Eastern on their flight. My father, who worked in downtown Manhattan at the time, has a very different story to tell from that day than I do. All of our stories are colored by our personal perceptions, and it seems important to share these in an effort to get a full understanding of any tragedy. The memories of people who actually experienced such things are the most important of all; secondary sources sometimes word things to make it more literary or easier to swallow for readers. Telling a story the way that someone actually experienced it, though sometimes hard to hear, is important because it could possibly help prevent atrocities in the future. Stories of tragedies shouldn’t be swept under the rug, because then people will never really appreciate the full extent of what occurred.

A Taste of Tragedy

Dana Stubel
Maus II Travel Blog
A Taste of Tragedy
            At one point in the graphic novel, Maus II, by Art Spiegelman, Art’s therapist attempts to describe the horrors of Auschwitz to Art by saying, “What Auschwitz felt like? Hmm… How can I explain?... BOO!... It felt a little like that. But ALWAYS! From the moment you got to the gate until the very end” (46). Much like Art, we are unable to truly grasp what it would be like to be in the Holocaust. Even though Vladek gives us vivid descriptions of the atrocities that he and his family members and friends faced, we are not completely able to transport ourselves to that time and place because the travesties that occurred are too unimaginable.
            Even though Art tries to understand his father’s past and current life through hearing his stories about the Holocaust, he can never fully travel into his father’s shoes because he is from a completely different lifestyle. For example, when Art juxtaposes events in his life to events in his father’s we are able to see the stark contrast between them. Spiegelman says, “In May 1987 Francoise and I are expecting a baby… Between May 16, 1944 and May 24, 1944 over 100,000 Hungarian Jews were gassed in Auschwitz. In September 1986, after 8 years of work the first part of MAUS was published…In May 1968, my mother killed herself” (41). Art knows the tragic facts of his father’s life, but still must live in the present moment and deal with his own problems. He struggles with his newfound fame, the media, and his father. Art also says, “no matter what I accomplish, it doesn’t seem like much compared to surviving Auschwitz” (44). At this point, Art is depressed and feeling unfulfilled, but it is understandable that he feels that whatever he does will never compare to his father’s amazing tale of survival. The two men are on completely different playing fields and as much as Art tries to understand and capture the feelings of his father from the Holocaust, it can never truly be accomplished. Vladek’s descriptions of the beatings, deaths, work, and people he encountered while in Auschwitz give a chilling picture of what it would be like to be a prisoner in Auschwitz, but it is only a small taste of what it would actually be like, since we are able to remove ourselves from the book. It seems that the events of the Holocaust are simply too horrid for a human to understand unless he or she was actually there.  

A 'Snap' of History

Valentina Viscardi
7 April 2015
Travel Literature

A 'Snap' of History

            I love going home for holiday breaks.  I look forward to entering my home and reacquainting myself with all the family photos I haven’t looked at, in what feels like years.  Every time, I take a new set of older and maturing eyes, I find something different to notice about it.  For instance, I see resemblance between my mother and her grand parents.  I look into the eyes of my Nanny and see my round blue eyes looking back.  Although generations apart, we are connected through that little 2x2 picture that is proudly displayed in my mother’s china cabinet.  Even if I can’t recreate the memory that is captured in that particular photograph, my mom or my grandmother take great pleasure in detailing the moment in time.  It is how our history lives on, one picture at a time, one story at a time.
            Similarly in Art Spiegelman’s MAUS II, the use of photos and comics portrays the relationship of the author and his father as well as his father and mother’s survival account of Aushchwitz.  Spiegelman’s retelling of his Father’s story is artfully crafted into a comic book, in which he utilizes the technique of breaking the frame, in order to connect his story of his father, to himself today, as well as with us as readers.  This becomes apparent on page 114 through page 115 of the text.  Notice on these pages, Spiegelman is going through his family’s photos.  But, these photos are not confined to the frame, they seep out and become the background to the entire page.  To add, on page 134, Spiegelman includes a real authentic photo of his father that is quite drastic to his cartooned, mice version of his family. 
            Admit the retelling of his mother and father’s story in Aushchwitz, Spiegelman struggles to identify with his family.  He recalls the photo of his deceased brother that hung in his parent’s bedroom, “They didn’t talk about Richieu, but that photo was a kind of reproach.  He’d have become a doctor and married a wealthy Jewish girl…the creep” (15).  From this line, it can be understood that Spiegelman doesn’t feel like he belongs to the family for he lacks their common denominator—the Holocaust.  In a way, Spiegelman is jealous of their experience at the very beginning of the comic.
            However, when Spiegelman and his Father take out the family photos, Spiegelman is suddenly a part of the family as the reader can tell by the way he portrays the falling pictures out of the frame.  They are not confined to just a frame that encompasses his Father’s speaking or character, it involves Spiegelman, and it also involves us as readers.  This is especially true when we are introduced to the real photo of his father.  At that moment in the text, we are face to face with a photo that is similar and familiar to us.

            Spiegelman, like myself, tries to place himself within his own family history.  He paints himself at his desk wearing a mouse mask with a human body in order to try to recreate the feeling his parents and brother went through (41).  In a similar manner, I always manage to ask my grandmother, to tell me how I am similar to my grandfather I have never met.  I try so desperately to imagine his voice, or ask my grandma if I do any thing to mirror his quirkiness.  Apparently I walk like him (a peppy sort of walk).  Thus photos are able not only to seek the physical resemblance between the viewer and the person in the picture, but it creates a special kind of oral story telling.  The story of that particular photo is passed from generation and generation.