Some Final Notes

April 23rd, 2013
  • This blog will close for graded work on Saturday, April 27, at midnight.   Except for your final paper and presentation, no work will be accepted for grading after this time.
  • Your final paper should be submitted to me ELECTRONICALLY (note that this is a change), as an email attachment or google docs link, not one minute later than NOON on Tuesday, April 30.  My comments and your grade will be returned to you by email.
  • Our final exam presentations will be on Tuesday, April 30.  We will start at 9:00 a.m. rather than at 8:30 a.m.

Final Project Updates

April 11th, 2013

I have posted a number of new items under the Final Projects tab above.

  • The conference schedule is on a drop-down subpage.
  • There is a document with advice, reminders, and information about the draft process, including your peer review process.
  • There is a peer feedback sheet that should be used to guide your responses to classmates’ papers, in addition to any comments you put in/on the actual drafts.
  • There are reminders and guidelines for final submission and the oral reports in a last document.

Sarah’s Second Critical Article

April 28th, 2013

In her article “‘It is ours to know’: Simon J. Ortiz’s From Sand Creek” Robin Riley Fast explores the function and importance of “witnessing” (52) in From Sand Creek. She argues that Ortiz represents the history of three different sects of Americans “Indians, white settlers and other white historical figures, and veterans” (55) as “both opposed and related to each other” (55) in order to help the reader witness both the complicity and commonality among these three groups. Fast furthers states that these representations also contribute to Ortiz’s goal of a “re-(or de-) centering” (61) of history to include previously marginalized voices.

Fast begins by discussing the importance of the poet/reader relationship and the assertion that witnessing is something in which both parties must actively participate in order to be effectual. She cites Ortiz’s own commentary on the subject as well as Don Laub’s.  Fast then considers how From Sand Creek’s “storytelling and listening community” (53) is America and the reasons that this is problematic. She notes the larger issue of assimilation conflict as well as the more concrete problem that the term “American” originally referred to what is modernly called Native Americans and only later was claimed by settlers to differentiate themselves both from Native Americans and Europeans. Fast uses these intertwined facets and history and literature to set up the overall argument of her article: that Ortiz recognized and used these facets to re-envision a better America.

Once she states her thesis Fast proceeds to example just how complicated and relative the relationships between the Native Americans, settlers, and veterans are represented in the poem. The Native Americans are quite obviously set up as victims but not only as victims of the settlers but also as victims of past veterans – a consideration that becomes more intriguing when the reader understands that veterans profiled in From Sand Creek at Fort Lyons descend from these victims.  Also Native Americans are not the only group that is depicted as victimized. According to Fast, Ortiz wants his readers to understand that the settlers were “manipulated by the powerful and their ideologies” (55) but that they were still “responsible for their own choices and actions” (55). In a sense the settlers were both victims and aggressors which indicates a commonality with the Native Americans and the veterans but also a complicity in their mistreatment.  Fast also points out that the veterans are likely populated by “descendants of both Indians and settlers” (55) which again complicates the consideration of the veterans as merely victims. Fasts suggest that these “entangled identities” (56) support even more commonality than is explicitly mentioned. Each group has suffered similar, if not equal, hardships and Fast holds that this is what Ortiz is striving for his imagined vision of America to recognize and understand.

Fast continues to provide characterizations from the poem that both set these groups in opposition and invite the reader to look for similarities of condition. She sets up several dichotomies that illustrate her argument rather perfectly: veterans/imperialism, settlers/Native Americans, veterans/settlers, etc. Particularly interesting is Fast’s reflection on the characterizations of the veteran and the settlers in From Sand Creek. She notes that the veterans are often given names, referred to in the first person, and considered as individuals but that the settlers are not given names, referred to in the third person, and considered as a group. This contributes to Ortiz’s attempt to move the center of history, or at least this particular history, toward the marginalized voices of the Native Americans and the veterans.

Fast briefly discusses the role of Whitman in From Sand Creek and points out that it is just as complicated as the relationship between the Native Americans, settlers, and veterans. The most apparent and simple way to interpret Ortiz’s inclusion of Whitman in his poem is to understand Whitman as a “positive precursor” (58) for Ortiz. But, as Fast points out, Whitman was a supporter of Manifest Destiny and if there is a villain in From Sand Creek the political doctrine of Manifest Destiny is it. Fast concludes that Whitman is representative of “both complicity and commonality” (59) and entertains the idea that including Whitman in the poem may have been Ortiz’s way of illustrating the problems of attempting to connect with white Americans.

Fast’s article is both an accessible and intriguing read. Her focus on close reading of the text and her dedication to Ortiz’s own commentary made her assertions all the more understandable and argumentative. The idea that the people Ortiz represents in the poem are so intertwined and yet so different fits well into the doctrine of From Sand Creek that is pushing for the rise of understanding among these groups not despite the differences but because of the commonalities. Fast’s idea that each groups differences are mostly differences of degrees as opposed to differences in character allows for Ortiz’s vision of a more understanding America to become much closer to reality.

Fast, Robin Riley.”‘It Is Ours to Know’:Simon J. Ortiz’s From Sand Creek”.Studies in American Indian Literatures:The Journal Association for the Study of American Indian Literatures:12.3(2000 Fall), p.p. 52-63.

Claire’s 2nd Critical Article

April 27th, 2013

Tanner, Travis J. “Reading “From Sand Creek..” Kenyon Review 32.1 (2010): 142-164. Academic Search Complete. Web. 27 Apr. 2013.

In Travis J. Tanner’s article titled, “Reading from Sand Creek,” he compares Simon Ortiz’s work to Bartolome de las Casas’s A Brief Account of the Destruction of the Indies. His goal in this essay is to show how even though there is a gap of four hundred years lying between these two works, the way in which they both capture the crimes against native people of the Americas proves how “the horrors of the past persist unabated in the present” (Tanner 142).  Though I myself have not read Las Casas’s work, I think it is a wise choice to analyze Ortiz’s work in the context of another, because in some ways it is elusive and its meaning subtle.

However, Tanner also examines “significant differences” between the two texts, which he attributes most to the differences in the style of narration used by each author.  He discusses how Las Casas’s style is much more direct and detailed, with an intense narration of the extreme violent actions he observes, in the “hopes [it] will have a salutary effect” and cause the king to which he is reporting to take action (142).  However, Tanner believes Las Casas to be far too objective, “grounded in factual observation,” and that by “exposing the crimes of the Spanish, he also silences the Indians from…being able to speak for themselves” (145).

After pointing out the flaws behind Las Casas’s approach to exposing crimes against Native Americans, he goes on to discuss why Ortiz’s indirect and less aggressive method of addressing history is more effective.  Tanner breaks this down into two reasons, one being that Ortiz, with his poetry, “situate[s] the reader in the history of the Sand Creek massacre,” and also creates a renewed way of interpreting history that “enjoins Indians and whites in the making of a new historical narrative”.  I like this argument a lot, because it makes the significance of Ortiz’s work far more clear and far more profound.  By first discussing the antagonistic, split-sided view of Las Casa’s work, Tanner is able to more strongly highlight the more “peaceful and sustainable” approach taken by Ortiz, that unifies our history with the Native Americans rather than viewing them as two separate entities (148).

He spends much of his essay following this centering around the ways in which Ortiz, using from Sand Creek, “blurs the line between past and present” (151).  The purpose of this Tanner believes is to make us interact with history and destruction, “not attempt[ing] to overcome trauma” but instead “show[ing] us how to live with it (153-4).  He examines how Ortiz, with the style of his poetry, makes language into a much more interactive process in which those reading it are able to act as “negotiators of the past, present, and future” (154).  This definitely sheds a lot of light on the purpose Ortiz is attempting to achieve with from Sand Creek, which initially seems a bit disjointed and without anything to unify it as a whole.  What Tanner points out shows that history and this poem are rather similar.  They both seem like a series of random events, unconnected, yet the way in which we can interact with them and immerse ourselves in them is what unifies it all. 

Moving on from this idea, Tanner then goes on to discuss how Ortiz “reconfigures the perception that erases Indians from history”.  One example he gives of this is the structure of the poem, and the way some lines move away from the spine of the book.  Tanner says that this structure conveys a change “from a vertical structure of power and domination to a horizontal plane of equality and freedom” (156).  This is an enlightening idea, as we spent much time in class questioning the structure of the poem, and what significance it possesses.  It also seems like this could refer to the mostly blank pages that have horizontally structured couplets, as opposed to the tiered stanzas on the opposite pages.

Winding down his essay, Tanner talks of how Ortiz’s poetry ultimately “fosters the belief that we are all part of history and can change it together,” reading from Sand Creek as a hopeful and optimistic poem about participating in the past rather than observing it (157).  This relates to the arguments we had in class about whether or not we thought the tone of the poem ended on a positive note or a more wary, foreboding.  Though I initially thought when we had that discussion that the latter was true, Tanner’s article has made me second-guess that idea and see it in more of a positive light.  



April 27th, 2013

if you need help on your final paper THIS HELPED ME SO MUCH:

it shows videos on how to find/do everything!

Good luck to everyone!


April 27th, 2013

I just wanted to point out how thankful I am to have had this class ith such brilliant eye-opening people. Everyone taught me so much more than I could have hoped and I was so scared to take this course and I am so glad I did. SO THANK YOU.

As for reflections, I wanted to reflect on how this course as made me questions pretty much every definition ever. Between that grammar article, my final paper on the long poem’s lack of a definition, and the meaning of all the poems we read that I seemed to be wrong about. (I think almost every idea I had was wrong) But at least I learned right?

I remember I thought Langston Hughes was about his past life the first time I read it….hahaha

So to say the least I learned A LOT.

THANKS GUYS! you all have a special little place in my brain hehe.



April 27th, 2013

FOr those of you that did not read this article Professor Scanlon talked about in class you should! It is kinda funny! (NOT crying because you are laughing so hard kind of funny SORRY PROFESSOR!) But I definitely would agree that it is comical and I think everyone should read it and I kinda think all of the points are perfectly worded! My favorite is that explanation points are the same as question marks and how they are unnecessary haha I completely agree! It is just funny to see it argued so perfectly.

I will put the link check it out! 🙂


April 27th, 2013

Critical Article 2
In the article Black Feminist Discourse of Power in For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide, Lamia Khalil Hammad writes about how Ntozake Shange, expresses the body of the female/feminine through dance and musical expression. In her choreopoem, Shange refers to physical harm and violence such as rape to the female body. The body, “must speak and write about rape to express the issue of violence and oppression, otherwise it will not be heard (Hammad 261).” Hammad also reflects on the issues of abortion, to show how black women (all women) are oppressed; they are not only raped, but they need abortion to get out of the hegemonic male discourse. The body,“ is an entity, which shows and tells many forms of oppression (Hammad 262).” Even though it is told that the woman does not have enough power to fight back with Shange she expresses that the woman could fight back by using writing as her voice of power.
The dominant discourse, for colored girls is concerned with the idea of the woman being used for their body and Shange finally trying to express a unison voice for all colored girls. Shange writes as a woman for women trying to find a woman’s voice or and “writes the body.” Her use of language critiques literary and theatrical conventions as a means of foregrounding “the body.” Then Shange even uses the lower case consistently trying to eliminate differences in the power structure, which leaves the title, for colored girls. Shange’s general presentation of males throughout the play leaves audience seeing for colored girls as another black feminist, however, the men, most of the women become involved with, are shallow, inconsiderate, and either incapable of communicating or unwilling to communicate except through sex, violence, or verbal abuse. And, “finally, the accusation of blatant male-bashing might stem from Shange’s efforts to drive home in the ‘latent rapist’ section the complex reality of any woman’s existence: that every man is a potential rapist, that “women relinquish all personal rights / in the presence of a man / who apparently cd be considered a rapist” (Shange 20) (Hammad 261). Shange’s point is to try and acknowledged the black males oppression by a system of racial, social, and economic inequality, one cannot fail to make the men accountable for their abusive behavior. Shange’s message is, “ that some black men have nothing but their phallic object/power, an object they use on as many women as possible (Hammad 263).”
Even the poem about abortion, “abortion cycle # 1,” is not a complete indication or comment about a male doing something wrong to a female. Hammad is just stating, “The indictment is not of a male who abandons a pregnant woman (the father is not even informed of the pregnancy). Instead, it is an indictment of a society of men and women that ostracizes women who celebrate their sexuality freely, a society that makes a woman’s biology her destiny of shame (Hammad 163).” While women’s suffering in the choreopoem comes from their own weaknesses, their failed attempts to find the love Shange insistently characterizes black women as being easily tricked, and as emotionally lighthearted therefore are fooled. To an extent, the women’s emotional needs make them vulnerable but this does not mean they seek out abusive men. When the women are triumphant at the end of the play/poem they find god inthemselves, respresenting there nner strength and greater self. The independence they gain allows for physical and emotional stability for future relationships. They realize that they must love themselves before they can love fully or accept love. Shange explains, “that her “target” in for colored girls is not black men per se, but patriarchy in general, which is universal in its oppression of women. That some men feel under attack throughout the play comes as no surprise because for colored girls is a feminist piece (Hammad 164).” From Shange, we can see feminist issues viewed in different ways she is more concerned with the feminist issue as of female sexuality and how men affect it. Hammad says, “Discourse serves only those who are in power, ignoring that disadvantaged category of women who fight restlessly to gain power (Hammad 263).” Though women cannot change the relation of the male/female relationship, they can write there opinions out in words and put aside their differences to discover both weakness and strengths of each.

Hammad, Lamia Khalil. “Black Feminist Discourse of Power in For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide.”


April 27th, 2013

& she has a british accent which makes her that much better. I like the fact that she talks about hybrid characters. She also thinks it is an epic poem which is interesting.



Some final musings…

April 27th, 2013

I have to be honest. I didn’t really know what I was signing up for when I registered for this class. I needed a Senior Seminar and I saw Dr. Scanlon was teaching one, so I signed up for it. I didn’t bother to Google what a Long Poem was. After all, it seemed a little bit intuitive (I have since realized that this is certainly not the case).

I truthfully have not had a whole lot of exposure to poetry, especially long poetry, before this class. I’m pretty sure I read parts of the Iliad and Paradise Lost in high school, but usually I never read a long poem in its entirety. I have learned to appreciate the genre, its richness, and all the lessons it has to offer us, not only as readers and English majors, but also as people.

Here are just a few of the many lessons I walk away with after this class:

#1. Never ever assume that a work of literature belongs to one genre, one literary period, one style, and so on. We need to strive to set aside the absolutes and cannot be reductive in our study of literature, or the study of anything for that matter.

#2. When time permits, read things twice. I think this is especially the case with poetry. Maybe it doesn’t have to be the entire long poem, but re-reading sections, and re-reading them in a way that is different from the way we read it before, can offer us something new to take away each time we read.

#3. Language is powerful. This semester we focused a great deal on the role of the poet and how they chose to represent a particular time or group of people. The idea of revision and rewriting also surfaced frequently. Every time we sit down to write, we have the power and ability to represent the world through our eyes.

I could go on, but I might be writing forever. The bottom line is I got a lot out of this class. I especially loved our class time and the discussions that we had there. Our class was quite the mix of people and personalities, but I think that’s what made many of our conversations so quirky and interesting.

Thanks for a great semester guys :)! In closing, here’s a favorite quote of mine and more inspiration from our main man, Walt: “Keep your face always toward the sunshine – and shadows will fall behind you.”

Katie’s Second Critical Article

April 27th, 2013

In Thomas Gardner’s article “The End of Beauty’ and a Fresh Look at Modernism,” he addresses Graham’s visualization and process, as well as focuses on Graham’s engagement with Stevens, Frost, and Eliot within her long poem titled “The End of Beauty.” Gardner states that, “In a sense, Graham reaches back across her immediate predecessors to the modernists, drawing from them ways of thinking and moving implied but never fully developed in their work. That return is the central drama of “The End of Beauty.” This provides the reader with a solid understanding of her continuance of her predecessors poetry, as well as laying a foundation for her own.

Gardner first focuses on Stevens “The Idea of Order at Key West,” noting that Graham uses this to show that Stevens idea of an act of representation, and Graham’s idea of the gap/moment of uncertainty are relatively similar. Stevens speaker happens upon an order of representation, and “the song existing alongside the sea without forcing the sea to conform to its voice, what Graham would call a gap or moment of uncertainty is opened up” (336). Graham uses this moment of uncertainty in her poetry, providing similarities between the poets.

Gardner argues that Graham responds to Stevens, referring to his poem in her “Ravel and Unravel” poem in “The End of Beauty.”  Garnder says that “when Graham picks up the poem fifty years later, it’s as if she turns it away from its concluding celebration of the rage to order and back to its acknowledgment of the generative difference of song and sea–the moment when the sky became, by way of the song, “acutest at its vanishing.” Ravel and Unravel,” like many of the poems in The End of Beauty, is a meditation on the moment just before an idea or shape crystallizes. Graham thinks of this as the moment when the mind, absorbed in “process,” is most fully alive and engaged” (338).

Gardner then shifts his focus to Graham’s poem “Vertigo” and Frost’s “Birches.” The importance in these two poems are the actions, in Frost’s, the speaker is kicking his way down whereas Graham’s speaker is slow and subdued while responding to her surroundings. Gardner asserts that, “Birches,” like “The Idea of Order,” is a meditation on form–the voice of the woman in Stevens’ poem becoming what Frost describes as a “small man-made figure of order and concentration” standing against a “background [of] hugeness and confusion shading away from where we stand into black and utter chaos.” “Birches” asks what an acknowledgment of the fragility of form might open up” (341). It’s interesting to note that Frost’s speaker is physically active, kicking, and seemingly assertive, Graham’s speaker is paused, anxious, and hesitant.

Lastly, Gardner addresses the connection between Graham’s “Pollock and Canvas” and Eliot’s “The Wasteland.” Graham questions Pollock’s technique, and responds to “Eliot’s speaker breaking free of that oppressive sense of deadness for just a moment, crying to a friend” (346). Graham imagines herself staring into an open grave within the Pollock painting, and alludes to Eliot’s King Fisher, as well as focuses on the body, hands, and beauty within. Ultimately, the lasting question is if these three poems (“The Idea of Order,” “Birches,” and “The Wasteland,”) had alternate possibilities.

Personally, the most important part of this article was Graham’s usage of her poetry forefathers (if you will) within her poetry. She uses them to further her exploration of poetry/being a poet, and I love that. Her inclusion and furthering of their poetry within hers shows almost a paying of respects, as well as continuance to take the poetry further than ever before. Gardner’s mentioning of the moderns movement and usage of the word “habitable,” helped me to see Graham’s unique ability to build upon their foundations, even if her poetry is a work in progress. Thinking of their poetry as a foundation for and building of a house, and Graham’s poetry a renovation on said house that is in progress,  allowed me to mentally put piece the progress together and respect and value it that much more.

Gardner, Thomas. “The End of Beauty’ and a Fresh Look at Modernism.” Southwest Review 88.3 (2003): 335-49. Academic Serach Complete. Web. 21 April 2013.

Jorie Graham reading

April 27th, 2013


Here is a video to Jorie Graham reading her poetry. I read from a critic that it sounds quite different than when you read it yourself. I agree!