November 2016

All my primary sources so far, are autobiographical narratives that use various forms of language to unveil the relationship between their identity and the works they write. In her graphic novel, Persepolis, Satrapi uses the language of art and politics to revisit her childhood self in an attempt to understand the impact of the Islamic Revolution she was a part of. Satrapi recreates moments of her childhood during this period of civil war through her drawings, the language in the gutters and in the panels, as well as the dialogue that occurs inside the panels. She made a conscious decision to tell her childhood story through the form of a graphic novel and I’m excited to explore this form and its contents mainly because I want to investigate how politics as a language can be understood by those of a young age, like Satrapi, with all its complexities and struggles. Also how can this form help the reader engage in the perspective of the writer through the pictures and personal events the writer describes? Fun Home is another graphic novel that explores how art and language come together to understand the death of a father. Bechdel uses literary traditions to understand the life and death of a father who lived a life of secrets. This makes me pose the question of how can literary texts allow the writer to uncover emotions or truths that they were not conscious of or did not understand at the moment? The retelling of a story could be an attempt to understand death and war, this reminds me of PTSD. I’m also thinking of writing about The Hunger of Memory by Richard Rodriguez.

So far two of my primary sources are graphic novels, so I have started looking for secondary sources that give me more background on how they work in the literary stage. My first source is Graphic Narratives as a Challenge to Transmedial Narratology: The Question of Focalization by Kai Mikkonen. This will help me understand the elements of the graphic novel and how it transforms the traditional way of storytelling. As I hope to add more of my perspectives on how this form is necessary in a system that can be very rigid. My next source is Simulation, Subjective Knowledge, and the Cognitive Value of Literary Narrative by Scott R. Stroud. This source will help me analyze how Literary Narrative allows the reader to experience a different reality and in doing so help the reader try and answer the same questions as the writer but can see it through a different perspective. I also found a source by Donald Polkinghorne title Explorations of Narrative Identity. I hope to find more sources that deal with narratives and the effect it has on the identities of not only the writers but the readers as well. As well as how the different perspectives shape the experience and response they have to the narratives.

I am really interested in the relationship between identity and language and the different forms that both can take. I’m interested in this relationship because I feel like in society in general it is really hard for others to step into the shoes of those who are different from them. I believe that literacy narratives are a gateway to converging different perspectives in order to understand one another better. In literature, literacy narratives may just be one form of writing but I think they can have a greater importance in society and in the lives of the readers. Literacy narratives allow us to explore smaller real life stories in order to understand and maybe even accept and challenge the much larger accepted norms.






I’m going to diverge a little from this week’s blog options to discuss how Bagg’s video “In My Language” helped my reading of Bartleby and Rio’s “The Back of My Own Head in a Crowd.” We have discussed in these couple of weeks the process of “othering” and the problems it causes in society and how we perceive those around us who can be considered as “other.” Bartleby was placed in this category as soon as we were introduced to him by the speaker, who made the point to say “[he] waive[s] the biographies of all other scriveners for a few passages in the life of Bartleby, who was a scrivener the strangest I ever saw or heard of.” The reader is already given information that there is something peculiar and strange about him and his strangeness will be described to us by the speaker. After the video we saw last week where Amanda Baggs’ discussed how she communicates with her environment through her own language I wasn’t so inclined to think Bartleby was as strange as everyone around him was. For example there were numerous times in the short story where the author made it a point to acknowledge Bartleby’s actions, “his steadiness, his freedom from all dissipation, his incessant industry (except when he chose to throw himself into a standing revery behind his screen), his great stillness, his unalterableness of demeanor under all circumstances, made him a valuable acquisition.” (line 84-87) I related his “incessant industry” and “stillness” to the way Baggs communicated with her environment, the motions she made with her body, how she would stand still and look outside her window. I can’t say for a fact that Bartleby had the same form of communication with his environment but Baggs’s form of communication resonated with me and made me question how I perceive the world.  There could honestly be a spectrum for anything because there are so many people that perceive, feel, and act very differently from one another. Bartleby acted differently because his mode of communication was different but different shouldn’t mean strange. Murray also mentioned Baggs’ video and its “discussion of a wider autistic self hood, especially the ways in which that self is judged by others.” Bartleby was judged by his coworkers, then the strangers that moved into the building, and even at the end by the prisoner. Bartleby never preferred to change his self hood to satisfy the needs of others, even if he was judged until his death for it.

“The Back of My Own Head in a Crowd” reminded me of Bagg’s video because of all the sensory details and information that was digested by the speaker. Everything she touched aroused not only a physical feeling but also an emotional one. The speaker also reflects a crucial part of Baggs’ video that Murray presents, where Baggs becomes the “subject of her wider political statement. . . It is her own pleasures, preferences, and modes of communication that become the source of her articulation of what autistic subjectivity might be” (34). The speaker in the short story  mentions that because she has “been in so much of this kitchen, so much of it as well is in me. I feel the heat of the toaster, and the sticky sting of the ice” (61). The environment that surrounds her has transformed to become a part of her. She did not transform her self hood to fit the commodities of the outside world, similar to Bartleby’s preference to not do as society expected of him.

Let’s face it, someone always has something to say about everything. Literature, autism, and fictional characters are not are the exception. A response always seems to be made because people view the world, their surrounding differently. We have our own reaction to the stimuli we encounter on a daily basis. Sometimes it’s the same and sometimes it is not but that does not mean our way of perceiving and feeling encompasses everyone else’s. The main arguments of many of the reviews was the author’s injustice towards those who are diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. However, there are reviews who accept the book and its portrayals in a more positive way.

William Shofield, the 18 year old student with Asperger’s syndrome, sees in Christopher many characteristics that he himself does have that are a result of his condition. He makes the short and concise list at the end of his reviews and concludes that like Christopher he too “likes his food separate” he also doesn’t like “big crowds. . .new places” and he finds it hard “to talk to people and make himself understood” (2). This list resonated with me because this list could be on many other people’s list of things they are not comfortable with or like. Sometimes I feel like I am not making sense and people are not understanding me. I do not have Asperger’s syndrome but that doesn’t mean I can’t see similar characteristics of myself in Christopher, just like it doesn’t mean that everyone with Asperger’s syndrome can say they see themselves in Christopher either. The autistic spectrum is a great example of how broad and diverse one diagnosis can be. Why is the spectrum so broad? Because no two people are the same! Mark Haddon could not of written a character that encompassed all the different traits that are associated with the every part of the spectrum. Shofield eloquently states that this story “is a better description of how the mind of a different person with some kind of special need looks upon how things work and come about (1).” In this story we enter a thinking process that is strange to us because it is not how we perceive or view the world. Our identities have not come into contact with this condition and therefore our perception has not been shaped by it either. We can’t say we understand Asperger’s or that we know what it is like for every person who has it because that is not possible. But we are exposed to it and maybe we become inclined to do our own research to uncover more about it in order to better understand it in a way only we can.

I really appreciated Shofield’s review because he didn’t try to sway my opinion about Haddon’s book. He stated his own views and how the book affected his mind and way of thinking. I cannot however, say the same thing about Elizabeth Bartmess’s response to the book. I was not a fan of her review because she seemed to believe she knew my understanding and feelings towards the book. I say this because in one particular line she states, “Haddon encourages the (non-autistic) reader to sympathize with Christopher’s parents -even when he’s supposedly writing from Christopher’s point of view.” The reason this sentence stood out to me is because she was doing exactly what she disliked about the book, the idea that one person represents a whole group. I am non-autistic and I did not sympathize with Christopher’s parents. They were old enough to make their own decisions they knew right from wrong and yet they committed a lot of mistakes throughout. There is also a part where she mentions that “the book normalizes abuse, presents the autistic protagonist as responsible for it, and suggest that he is not harmed by much of it.” This sentence alone reminded me of the controversy over rape and how some people believe that if a woman dresses provocatively then she is responsible for getting raped and therefore she can’t possibly be harmed by getting what she so called “wanted.” This belief outrages me because it’s an excuse to put the blame on someone else for their own mistakes. I do not believe that the abuse did not harm him. Maybe it did and in his own way he was broken by it but could not express it in a “normal” way and to see it as such is a problem because his “normal” is not my “normal” or your “normal.” I know Christopher does not represent everyone who has Asperger’s syndrome and it saddens me to think how much we stereotype and how problematic stereotyping is among us all.

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