December 5, 2012

Signing off the blog ...

Dear ENG 4020 Classes:  Thank you.

Signing off the blog,
-Dr. Graban

December 3, 2012

Native American Women as Shrill

For my final SCD, I am continuing my analysis of Heilbrun's Writing a Woman's Life. When I read Johnson's A Strong Race Opinion, it reminded me a lot of Heilbrun and her idea of shrillness in women's writing. Heilbrun said that women are always thought to be shrill and overrun with their emotions. That's how they are portrayed in literature, and that is how they have portrayed themselves. Johnson details how everyone stereotypes the Native American woman as even more shrill than just the typical woman:

 She is always the daughter of a chief, signaling that she is somewhat royalty in her tribe, yet she is not content. This is why, upon meeting a white explorer, she falls head over heels in love with him (had she been content in her tribe, she would have probably already been happily married). The white man and Indian woman never marry in these stories.

Up the Yangtze

Before viewing this film I assumed that this was going to be a mundane film that one views in a scholastic setting, but I was wrong. Up the Yangtze was a very interesting film that I found thought provoking. The film covered what we were learning at the time (which was her intention) and brought up some of the former rhetorical theories we have discussed throughout the semester. The terms that we just went over that were prevalent throughout the film were alterity and hegemony. Alterity means the fact of being other or different, otherness. Hegemony means the social, cultural, ideological, or economic influence exerted by a dominant group. Each of these terms can be found on many levels of the film.

Looking at Representation

While watching the movie "Up the Yangtze" I found that there were many levels of representation at play. The movie was of course heavily biased and we can see that by the particular groups represented, yet the people in the documentary themselves seemed very aware of the situation and we can observe them trying to control how we they were viewed. We see this the most on the cruise, where the employees were being told how to act and what kinds of things they were allowed to say, but more than that we see them adhering to old traditions and acting in a way that is not Western or Chinese but is rather the Western idea of the Chinese.

Privilege: Up the Yangtze

I liked when we were discussing Up the Yangtze in class the other day and we arrived at the concept of privilege.  We spoke earlier in the year about understanding the world around us through metaphors, in terms of other things we can relate or identify with.  I believe that privilege functions as a barrier to identification or understanding between different groups created by class.  The dominant or privileged class establishes the norm or standard upon which all else is compared, their own database of metaphors/comparisons to draw from.  If they don't have to worry about a certain issue, they are blind and un-empathetic to it because it is not something they are familiar or accustomed to dealing with.  For example when Cindy's coworkers we talking about her on the boat they were saying she should just work harder to fit in and earn more money to send to her parents.  Her coworkers don't have to send money back home to support their families, they were raised differently and accustomed to a different lifestyle.  They can't relate to the struggles Cindy has to face, the worry about her families home being flooded, the fact they may starve without her help, why she can't buy nice clothes like the rest of them, etc.  These barriers to communication and identification are a direct result of the class system set up by the concept of privilege.

the now

The documentary was very involved with the present. I really enjoyed the style of filming for this narrative. I was so involved it felt like it could be happening right now. Perhaps if it had been directed by someone else it would've felt dated, or not as relevant. The sense of urgency was like nothing I had ever experienced watching a documentary. I feel like this film revived an old situation I used to be very active with. In high school I used to go on mission trips to the same little town in Ecuador. I feel like I had lost a lot of the feelings and lessons I got during these trips. The documentary gave me a direction for my final project. Although I am not going to make a documentary, I want to incorporate immediacy in it and not just make something that feels past before it is even finished. I want to make a painting, so I am not sure how I am going to go about this but I am going to try.

"Dr. Graban's" Rhetoric.

I have never written a proposal.

Thank You.


One Last Post

Well, a couple days into December and I have a lot on my plate, especially when it comes to rhetoric. I do feel a sense of relief though, seeing as it's been about a week since I had to give my term "Alterity" a run down for the class using the readings from Gates. It was a tough term, it wasn't in the Bedford Glossary, but I made due and utilized our favorite technology: the internet.

The concept of Alterity is really neat to me, because I personally believe it requires a sense of empathy. For those who don't know it translates to "otherness." It's this idea where one can inhabit the mindset of another individual. For example, I'm Asian, but I've lived in America for awhile and I have a lot of Caucasian friends. I often times feel that I've diverged from my Filipino heritage because I inhabit this world of "whiteness." I don't know if I would call it a terministic screen. It's tough, because I feel like this is just who I am, but people often switch terministic screens. It's almost as if people are a set of terministic screens. It's probably a question I'll ponder for awhile.

Representation and Identification

Watching Up the Yangtze, I was struck by a particular problem I have had all this unit dealing with representation and identification. I often find that it is disrespectful to completely "whitewash" certain works of art by not putting the modifier of "black" in front of poet, which was one of the examples that we looked at in class. If we are to put these works up against the cultural criticism which we have spent a great deal of time defining in class, then we must look at the "black" poet through the lens of a cultural critic. Therefore, their race and their experience living as a minority in society should go into the way we look at their works of art. After all, no art exists in a vacuum and the situation in which they wrote it in must be taken into account.

Raising Consciousness

I feel that Up the Yangtze as a film is doing that same thing that Gate's article did just a week back. Raise Consciousness.  By filming Up the Yangtze, the director gave the people of the film a voice while showing the "otherizing" not just from the American tourists but within the Chinese society and families as well. In Gate's article  "Race and the Difference It Makes", he proposed the idea that there is a problem with identification. He brings up the idea of why does a black poet have to have the word "black" in front of it? Why can't he just be a poet?  He wants to raise consciousness of the problem posed here. Is race a plurality? How can we define all these pluralities? How does this work into our idea of identification? 

Up The Yangtzee

This last film brought a unique light to what I intended to do with my final project. The terministic screens in this film are hardly clear and very noticeable. From the start we get a glimpse of a poor family struggle in comparison to a ship filled with wealthy traveling tourists. This alone creates a huge divide between the characters we see but this has little to do with how this family lives in comparison to others in their own country. There is also a significantly larger number of interviews with the workers on the ship than the family members. The question and answer portion of this video make it apparent that one is being guided on what to say, a loss of trust in the cinematographer comes into mind there. We have studied all semester how we may rhetorically produce a question to garner an intended response, the lack of purity in just filming their actions the whole time like they did with the family shows corruption in the intent. The lack of an in depth explanation of the need for the dam and what its monetary or other gains for the country were leaves it seeming purposeless except to damage the lives of those living by the banks.

Understanding Comics after Understanding Terministic Screens

I wanted to take a step back for the final journal entry and take a look at Understanding Comics again after we have discussed Burke’s Terministic Screens. I feel as though Burke’s essay helped break down what was being explained by McCloud in Understanding Comics. The concept of a terministic screen seems closely tied to the topic of symbols; during this entry I would like to pay particular attention to putting Burke’s essay in conversation with the idea presented by McCloud on pages 29-32. The idea McCloud is presenting states that cartoons and symbols become more universally understood as they become simplified because a person has the ability to feel more connected to it. The inverse is also true; a more detailed cartoon is harder to become affiliated with because there are so many defining features to make identification with said cartoon difficult.

Up the Yangtze

Up the Yangtze and terministic screens so obviously go hand-in-hand. The representation of the Chinese people through the different socioeconomic standpoints, ages, genders, and jobs are all related to identification of the Chinese culture and how it should be represented towards different groups of people. I thought it was interesting the representation they wanted to give to the others - those not of Chinese origin - while on the ship. While there were some Chinese guests, mostly the guests seemed to be from other nations and seeing what it was like to be a real Chinese person, being shown only certain aspects and most certainly a specific representation of that. I do however, think the class sold Cindy short when discussing her representation of the Chinese culture before and after working on the boat. I think it is easy to see in the film, the juxtaposition between before boat Cindy and after boat Cindy and I think it's easy to say that the boat changed her, debatably for the worse.

December 2, 2012


Up the Yangtze is a film that wanted to show an audience the changes in Chinese culture and the attitudes that are shown around it. We can all say this is a general description of the movie but how would you explain it to a friend or just anyone in general interested in watching this particular documentary. Would you put in a positive light or give a negative impression? We discussed in class how it seemed cruel that people were being forced to move out of their homes and they would have to start a new life because of the government (one could take away from the film) but by our class discussion we found out that the dam was needed in order to provide the country with electricity... I'm sure I wasnt the only one who thought that we need to take a step back and wonder what other things we might be missing.

Late Discussion Leading

For my post this week I would like to take a step back and look at our first section and the term deconstruction. Due to the fact that I never shared this in class I would like to discuss it here instead. According to the Bedford Glossary, deconstruction is a word describing how texts can contradict themselves. For example, texts would say A and not A. They on the other hand DO NOT say A and not B.  Basically, it is saying that there is no one possible meaning for a text. This term rejects the formal idea that literary works are unified from beginning to end or that they are organized around a single idea. Readers must look closer at a text and see if there is a subtext that is contradicting the main meaning of the essay. Basically, it seems that deconstruction reveals the inconsistent ideas that are in an authors work.

American Them and Chinese Other

Watching Up the Yangtze, I couldn't get the concept of terministic screens out of my head and Burke's concept of the Other. We talked in class about the rampant stereotypes present in the depiction of the American tourists. The reason they have taken a cruise is to experience the Other. To see it for themselves, as a Them. There is a stark differences from seeing a culture/country on your own, rather than in a group specifically designed to cater to your sense of unified American-ness. When you explore a country on your own, you are the other. You are the different one. This cruise is specifically designed to keep the American's sense of Them intact, and make China seem Other, despite being in China.

The depth of race

I found Gates' reading very interesting in that I was slightly unaware of the depth of the idea of race in the sense of intelligence. The line, "We black people tried to write ourselves out of slavery, a slavery even more profound than mere physical bondage" (12) really hit home with the content of the reading. Whites did not think of blacks as just a different race but as potentially a different species that was perhaps destined for slavery: "Blacks were 'reasonable' and hence 'men,' if-- and only if-- they demonstrated mastery of the 'arts and sciences.' the eighteenth century's formula for writing" (pg 8).

"Up The Yangtze" and Terministic Screens

For the past couple of days since our film viewing, I have been thinking about the way that the movie was filmed, and the effect that it had on the audience. It is clear that the producer of the film had a bias towards the government. He thought that displacing thousands of people for the good of the economy was wrong, and used heart-wrenching stories of poor families in the area to get his point across. However, if he had been on the side of the government, he would probably not have shown this side of the story, and would have merely shown the great strides that the government was making in order to better their society.

Diaspora, a Question of Morale?

I believe that the film we recently watched, Up the Yangtze, was a great example of diaspora which Wiki defines as the movement, migration, or scattering of people away from an established or ancestral homeland. In the film, Cindy's poor farming family were forced into leaving their homeland and transferred 200 meters upland in order to make room for the government order Three Gorges Dam. Cindy's family as well as thousands others were not given a choice in the matter, therefore qualifying as diaspora.

What Motivates Action? Need vs. Want

Up the Yangtze made me think about what motivates action. Cindy had no choice but to work on the ship because her family did not have a solid form of income. Cindy was not happy with this and it was tough for her to adjust, but her need to support her family trumped all of that. She fought through it and learned how to Westernize herself so that she could better perform her duties. On the other hand, Jerry's family had enough money to send him to school if he wanted to go, so it was almost like he was working on the ship just to keep busy or because that was what he wanted to do. He did not put forth enough effort to mesh with the Americans or hide his arrogance and when he was fired because of that, he did not seem to care very much. If Jerry's family was in the same situation as Cindy's, do you think he would have worked harder to please the tourists out of pure need, or would his innate arrogance overridden his efforts and gotten him fired anyway?

Up the Yangtze -- Erasure and Trace

During the discussion after the film screening, someone mentioned erasure, and that got me thinking -- it's hard to think about erasure without thinking about trace.

So what is being erased? Could be physical homes or a Chinese culture. The physical homes were completely erased by the rising water -- we saw that time-lapsed in the film. And Chinese culture is being erased -- or perhaps masked or transformed -- by the Western culture influence.

Up The Yangtze--Stereotypes

I think this was a very interesting topic discussed in class. There are many different types of stereotypes presented in the film. But, I think it is important to discuss and realize that there may be a difference from stereotypes presented and stereotypes that are enhanced. Everyday, we see people live up to stereotypes that are put on them-not that this is necessarily a bad thing- and I think that this was done in the film a lot. But, there are also instances and people in the film who it seems that the director enhances what we would characterize them on based on their race, culture, or role.

December 1, 2012

Up The Yangtze

Something I found interesting about Up The Yangtze was when the narrator in the beginning said something about the people going on the river cruise to see what they thought was the "Old China," when in fact it was disappearing right before their eyes. The hybridity of cultures on the boat and their perceptions of China gave the documentary depth because they all were experiencing a different China.

The Chinese employee on the boat were working as their home disappeared around them, like in the case of the young girl, Yu. On the other hand, the western passengers were given an entirely different view of China since for most, it was their original perspective.

November 26, 2012

Terministic Screens meets Gates

We ended today's class with,

"Is Gates’ critical concept of  “race” simply another example of Burke’s  terministic screen,” or should we call it something else? We were discussing in class that according to Gates, African-Americans have historically felt obligated and restricted to speak as Anglo-African writers. “Ironically, Anglo-African writing arose as a response to allegations of its absence" (Gates 11). But does one have to know their race to write about it?

Dialectical Materialism

When it came to defining the term "Dialectical Materialism", I went to the the OED. They gave me this definition:

"Belonging to, or of the nature of, dialectic in its later philosophical developments of meaning. spec. dialectical materialism, the theory propagated by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels according to which political events or social phenomena are to be interpreted as a conflict of social forces (the ‘class struggle’) produced by the operation of economic causes, and history is to be interpreted as a series of contradictions and their solutions (the thesis, antithesis, and synthesis of Hegelian philosophy)."