Thursday, September 30, 2010

Terry Dennis Place Essay

You wouldn’t know the place if it was spelled out on a map with and thumb tack in full print. Honestly, anyone who sees Dixon, MO on the map would skip over it just as easy as they would pass through it in their vehicle on the way to nowhere in mid-Missouri. I am convinced that one would have to search my own heart to find the real Dixon; my upbringing and epitome of love and nostalgia. It is a feeling of security, tradition, emotional warmth, and personal connection (Hubbard) that can only be matched by time with God himself. The location generates emotions of love, freedom, togetherness, peace, and ultimately seclusion. The seclusion aids in amplifying all of these emotions, because all the emotions are centered in one small area, making it very difficult for them to escape or even be short-felt.

The town is small, rural. A town surrounded by an abundance of fields, hills, woods, farms and gravel roads off of tiny Highway 13 (barely a highway) between Fort Leonard Wood and the Lake of the Ozarks. It’s been awhile since I have been there. It was three years ago when my aunt had passed away. She was the reason my mother and I even came to Dixon so much. She was a second mother to me. She passed away from an ulcer that burst inside her stomach that leaked into, and eventually through her intestines. We don’t go to Dixon anymore. It’s like the glue that once held this family together passed on along with her. One thing that does still exist is Dixon. Though somber in some aspect, there are always signs that remind me of that place I once knew.

The smell of burning wood through the air reminds me of those warm Christmas nights I would spend with my family at the old house. There is no other place I would rather be at Christmas than that house, thus I’ve had to adapt. The fireplace would glow and shimmer much brighter with each log my uncle and I would stack to the pile. He would have the logs already chopped and stacked in a pile downstairs in the laundry room. That smell of fresh linens would fill the air once the threshold of the downstairs living room and laundry room was crossed. It is a smell so central to my emotional feelings of warmth, comfort, and security; it is my family and my Christmas. The sound of Christmas jingles from the upstairs Christmas tree further sooth the mood of love and family as you listen and watch the soft, fluffy snow start to accumulate on the curvy gravel road outside. It is a sound I had grown accustomed to since the time I was an infant. Christmas in Dixon seemed right. Driving through the town, seeing Christmas lights draped from old buildings, trailers and cottages, watching families build snow men in the snow, attending a church service at the old church down the road to the left helped make and shape my love for the Christmas season. There is simply no Christmas like a Dixon Christmas.

There was a peace to the town. Aside from Christmas, the town rarely came to life except for the annual Cow Days festival in the town square each late September. On a regular day you can find people going to the market in their flannels and boots, going to diners for a bite to eat, or just passing through to fill up at the very Casey’s that my aunt used to work each morning before she passed. The sounds of truck engines, children yelling, the local teenagers reuniting after a long night or just before their night begins are just a few of the diverse sounds that can be heard once you step out of the car. You can catch the teens hanging out in parking lots of the local food markets, or for some reason, the friend’s house that you have to make eight turns on the gravel road to get to their house. Though the town was small, there was never a shortage of pretty little country girls. My family was majority predominately female so that meant a female cousin and her female friends. The house would fill with the scent of cucumber melon lotions with each new pretty face that entered. I’m not sure why this was the scent of choice, but being the lone adolescent teen boy in the household with no one to hang out with, any flowery scent was enough to keep me occupied for hours.

In Dixon, however, it wasn’t enough to just be the only boy at the house besides my uncle. I was also one of three black people in the city while I was there. This was never an issue of mine. I would go places and see familiar faces that I had met through my aunt and uncle’s church and be welcomed with open arms, just as I could hang out with a group of my cousin’s friends and never catch a slang remark. It wasn’t until I was thirteen when I had an encounter, or lack thereof with an elderly woman asking directions. She was riding the street looking for directions, saw me standing there, perfectly capable of navigating someone through town or down the street, and I watched her roll down her window and glare my way, then pass me, only to speak to a white friend of mine that I had brought along for the trip to Dixon that week. Though I never noticed the prejudice until that point, even now, I look back and am still able to distinguish that prejudice apart from Dixon. The Dixon I know is love. The Dixon I know is my childhood. The Dixon I remember is my symbol of security, warmth, and family. A picture cannot do it justice and a song cannot bring out the nostalgia. To truly know Dixon, one would have to be there. One would have to take at least a year to live and love and form relationships there. One would have to know what its like to sit outside on the porch swing, stare into the sky, and just get lost; get lost in the night sky with locusts buzzing wild while the sky breaks to unveil any constellation you could think of. You would have to know what its like to just hang with the gang at the corner store and just reminisce about nothing. No, Dixon is not just a town. It is not just some hole in the pavement that you just pass through on the way to nowhere. Dixon is nowhere…but it is everywhere me.

Caitlin Washburn's Place Essay

The ocean and I have an ongoing long distance relationship with one another. Since before I had memories, I’ve been going to visit it. For a few days the sea and I'd do everything together, but it required quite a financial investment to stay so our partings were always bittersweet. The place I'd meet it once a year was Emerald Isle, North Carolina, when the air is still cool and the magnolia trees are just beginning to blossom. I think it’s too beautiful for anyone to consider just a space; because the moment you see the sun rise above the waving horizon you know you’ll never forget that day as long as you live.

The Emerald Isle is not quite an island so much it is a sandbar known for foiling pirates for decades. It is apart of a larger chain of sandbars known as the Crystal Coast. After Blackbeard’s famous blockade of Charleston he ran his ship the Queen Anne’s Revenge into the Beaufort Inlet (part of the Crystal Coast) and abandoned it there. There is a Maritime Museum located in historic Beaufort that has a map marking all the places where pirates have run their ships aground. This makes the Crystal Coast not only a place rich with history, but literally rich with pirate booty. The residents of this area take pride knowing that their towns were once a hotbed of illegal activity; though it is a much calmer place today.

Place is partially defined by aesthetic value it holds for people. Emerald isle is beautiful in the rarest definition of the word. The beaches are cleaner than any I’ve visited in Florida, and whiter than some in the Caribbean. It is one of those places that seems untouched by humanity most of the year, except when you go there during the summer and you’re lucky to find a spot to sunbathe. I only visit during the Spring when the weather is still cold, but you may be lucky to have a sunny seventy-five degree day. Most people do not associate North Carolina with beaches; in fact I’ve been asked if they have any coastline at all. On the contrary I have walked down their shoreline until I physically could walk no more, and still had miles to go. Unlike many tropical destinations, the water there is always a steely blue and instead of palm trees there are tall shrubs that grow all along the beach. It rivals many beaches for its fauna. On one of the smaller sandbars resides a heard of wild horses; which today are considered much rarer than the toucans you see in the tropics. They spend their days happily chasing one another up and down the shore as on looking tourists take pictures of them from a boat. The whole area has a bubble of calmness surrounding it. Like the sleepy little towns along the Mississippi, nothing is in a rush here; unless of course you are trying to make money off the tourists.

People also partly define the value of the place. This particular beach does not have any major hotels, but instead is lined with houses and condominiums. This is a place where you have to take your time to visit, and do so living as the locals do. My grandparents have been staying at the Isle to escape the cold New Hampshire winter for over twenty years now, and have come to be natives themselves. Once when my fiancée and I were visiting, we were invited over for dinner to meet their friends. We met their landlady who had lived in North Carolina all her life, growing up on a tobacco farm on the mainland. Unlike the southerners I’m accustomed to she didn’t mind northerners whatsoever, as long as they paid the rent on time. While she told her stories about her family and tenants, her husband sat in the corner silently drinking his white lightning. He didn’t talk much, but my grandfather occasionally picked on him enough to utter, “Damn Yankees.” Besides the people at this party we were introduced to so many of the business owners in the area. They all were proud and quite competent in what they were doing. Unlike some tourist destinations, this was their main job and they aimed to please every customer. It’s rare to vacation in a place where a family lineage still exists. It seems that the more people consider this to be their place, the more it becomes a place to outsiders like me who only live there a week out of the year. (The picture is from my last trip to the T&W Oyster Bar in NC with [from left to right]; Rachael's Boyfriend, Aunt Rachael, My Fiancée Ryan, Grandma Bette and Grandpa Hass).

What ties these two factors is emotional attachment to what makes the space memorable. I believe this is completely dependent on the person. Though I am attached to Emerald Isle because of my family, another person could be attached because they got married there. I also don't believe it's limited to the positive. Blackbeard probably didn't like this place much when he ran his boat upon it, however it was still the 'place' he did so. These emotional attachments that make us more inclined to care for a space and turn it into a place. If Emerald Isle was just a beach, there would be no T&W Oyster Bar, no Pebble Beach Condominiums, and no historical districts. Emotional attachment to a space creates the urge to signify that it is a place. Without someone's love or hate, it would just be a sand bar; maybe with some wild horses running on it.

Emerald Isle is much more to me than just land meeting water. It is a place I spent my childhood making sandcastles and getting sun burnt. It is where I first played with horseshoe crabs. It is where I took my first road trip to. Place is defined here as a spot which has emotional meaning for someone. In comparison to space which is something you cut through to get somewhere, place is the destination you’re intending to go to. It’s all relative to your perceptions, and what you find meaningful. This gives truth to the old saying, “Home is where the heart is” and this beach is part of my home.

Paul Judge Place Essay

When I was given the assignment to make an argument for a “space” that has become a “place” in my life, it was easy to choose Loose Park in Kansas City. I don’t think I have had any place affect me over the course of my life as much as Loose Park, and whenever I go there, there is that immediate and familiar recognition of swirling emotions, memories, and nostalgia that makes me sure that Loose Park is “my” place in this world. Loose Park is located just south of the Plaza district in Kansas City along Wornall Road, and it is about a square mile of rolling hills, towering oak trees, ponds, and various different areas such as the tennis courts, the water park, and the rose garden.

To me, Loose Park is definitely a “place” and not a “space”. My personal definition of a “space” is a location in which human behavior and interaction dominates and the locale becomes only a backdrop for what the people there are doing (as in a grocery store, where the physical location is defined by the purpose that it serves in relation to human behavior). I see a “place” as somewhere where human behavior does not necessarily dominate. A “place” is a location that exists independently and (not necessarily) naturally in and of itself, for its own purposes, and people are lucky enough to go there and live some fleeting moments of their lives in the presence of this place.

Loose Park is the perfect epitome of this concept of “place” for me, and for much of Kansas City. Go to Loose Park any day of the week, any time during the summer, and you will see at least two to three hundred people out enjoying the beauty of the park and the bright, wide-open views which seem to encourage a communal sense of peaceful tolerance. One encounters all different kinds of people in Loose Park, yet all are (for the most part) respectful of each other and unobtrusive, because everyone is enjoying the beauty of a perfect summer day in the middle of the city. I think that Loose serves as something of an urban refuge for much of the city’s working class – it is very common to see a businessman pull up to the benches and take a smoke break during his lunch hour, or a large Spanish – speaking family enjoying a picnic – so I think there is something of a communal understanding that time spent in Loose Park is somewhat precious and shouldn’t be disturbed by strangers. You don’t see this same understanding at say, the Chiefs games or downtown in the Power & Light District, where people are much more aggressive and confrontational towards strangers.

The most important features of the park are the pond and the rose garden. The pond is a place where all different kinds of people come to watch the flocks of geese that swim around and walk fearlessly around the park’s visitors, and one can often find children and couples on dates throwing chunks of bread out to the birds. The rose garden is one of the most beautiful places in all of Kansas City, and it is constantly inhabited by couples of all ages taking leisurely strolls, taking the time to appreciate the beauty of the roses and the fountain. It is very common to see weddings, homecoming / prom photo sessions, and various other ceremonies there because the beauty of the rose garden is something spiritual and emotional for a lot of Kansas Citians.

However, I feel that those are the more public and well-known aspects of Loose Park. I have been going to Loose Park all my life, and when I was younger, with my family, we would make the rounds to the rose garden, the pond, the playgrounds, the water park, etc. However, I discovered, as I got older, that there are really two Loose Parks – the one that the public of Kansas City knows about and the one that is inhabited by the high school kids around Kansas City during long, lazy summer days and wild, exciting nights. This is the Loose Park that has really become “my place” to me.

During those long, lazy afternoons, we would avoid the more popular areas of the park and would instead choose the sprawling empty stretches of beautiful green grass. The blazing white sun, the endless, cloudless blue stretch of sky, and the sea of shiny green grass was the ultimate playground of freedom. Kids would lay out and tan, bring guitars and drums and throw impromptu jam sessions, smoke, drink, fool around, or absolutely whatever else they wanted to do, because in the middle of Loose Park there are no rules and there is no one to interfere with you and your friends. It is a place that encourages freedom, spontaneity, and social interaction, because the sprawling vast beauty surrounding you and the clear blue sky above makes it seem that time does not pass whatsoever and this place is ours to fill up with whatever ideas we can come up with.

Loose Park again transforms as night falls. The visitors and families stop going there about 9:30 or 10 o’ clock, and soon after the high school kids begin arriving there. I have no idea how the ritual started or why we all followed it, but it is a Loose Park convention that if you want to come up to Loose and party at night, you park along the west side next to the tennis courts. Certain nights, the parking lot is entirely filled with cars and the area next to the tennis courts is full of two, three, four hundred kids, socializing, flirting, drinking, laughing, sometimes fighting, but mostly living. Loose Park at night is an amplification of what it is in the day – the space for ultimate freedom and youthful experimentation. If you are in the social circle that visits Loose Park for these nocturnal soirees, you know just as well as I know that there is nothing more exciting or important-seeming than being in a big empty park surrounded by everyone you know with the freedom to do anything you want.

For me, my personal attachment to Loose as a place goes so much deeper than the standard social elements experienced there because of the unforgettable memories I have experienced there. My first kiss, my first breakup, my first car accident, my first real fight, my first broken arm, my first time running from the police, my first time getting high, my first time drinking beer – there are almost too many memories to name. They all blend into a sort of overwhelming emotion for me that reminds me that Loose Park is the place where I felt the most free and the most alive during my youth, and it is a place that I will never let go and will never forget. To me, Loose Park is home, because Loose Park gives me the freedom to make my life into whatever I desire.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Beth Millay

Somerset Estates

“Everything Changes but Change itself”

-John F. Kennedy

Everything is changing, that is the one thing in life that I am certain. Although change is inevitable, we are always trying to keep the things that mean the most to us from changing. When looking back on my life there is a distinct place that has never physically changed, however the people within it have. Somerset Estates is the neighborhood where I grew up. It is one of the few neighborhoods in my town that is a “closed” neighborhood that means that there is one entry way and one exit and no development is allowed within in it. It is the only thing in my life that I know will always look the same.

Like I said there is one entrance and one exit to my neighborhood, so no matter which way you leave, which street you turn on, you will always come in and out at the same place. Some people would laugh thinking that an entry way has some significant meaning to me but within 20 feet, there are a million memories that come along with it. The first thing you will see when driving in is a pond. For years, the city has tried to remove this pond and put the classic “neighborhood pool” in but the close family that lives within the houses of my neighborhood will never allow this. I would consider this pond to be bipolar, one day you drive in and its beautiful with the fountain flowing and the next day it is covered with moss. Funny thing is, I could relate to this pond. As I grow older, I see that not every day is a perfect. One day I could be on top of the world and the next have it crashing on top of me, this pond is one of the most ugliest, prettiest ponds you will ever see but no matter what kind of day it is, it will always be there. When I see this pond, I think of my family. I grew up in a very close, tight knit family, I am very grateful that I have parents who fell in love at 15 and have continued to show me that love is real. I have three older brothers, who are the stereotypical older brothers, very protective and throughout my life these incredible people have brought me to this pond, whether it be to push me in or to tell me something that is hard to say. Although I have ton of great memories about this pond, there are a few special ones that stick out. One winter season, there was a horrible snowstorm that left us kids out of school for a week. My brothers thought it would be a good idea to go sledding down by the pond since there is a huge hill that leads to it. When we were kids, we were always competing; who could eat the most, who could run the fastest, etc. So on this particular day we were seeing who could sled the furthest, so as I got ready to sled down, my brother Josh cheated and gave me a little push, the next thing I knew I was sitting in the middle of the pond which was frozen at the time but slowly cracking. I remember the look on my brother’s faces like it was yesterday, the sudden look of shock. I don’t exactly remember the time line of events but within a twenty-minute span, they had left me, got a bunch of supplies at home and were thinking of ideas of how to get me out of the middle of the pond. It eventually came down to throwing me an extension cord and pulling me back to land. It was a scary experience but after I was okay and on land, we laid in the snow and laughed for 5 minutes straight.

After passing the pond you will come to your first street that you can turn on, Ivy Lane. This street is not the street I live on but it might as well be. When we moved into this neighborhood there were ten other families moving in as well, out of those ten, five families had girls my age. These girls are the people I think of when I think of my childhood. We were inseparable, I can’t think of a day in summer where we weren’t all spending the night together, sneaking out and going to different places in my neighborhood or just laying on our drive ways talking about what we were going to be like when we grow up. I always heard the saying, “eventually you guys will grow apart” or “go your separate ways” but I never consider it because in my eyes these girls would forever be my best friends. The sad part about this is that it has been 5 years since I have talked to any of these girls. This is the part of change that I hate, as much as I wish I could say those people were wrong, they were so right. Sometimes when heading home, I take a right on this street even though there are many emotions that come over me. There is a sense of sadness and loss but there’s always happiness that comes after because even though I haven’t spoken to these girls, I know they are off doing something great in the world.

Finally you end up at my house, 1212 SW Wintergreen Lane. I have been writing this address for quite some while but I never really think about how much this short line of numbers and letters mean to me. I fill up with happiness and joy when pulling into my driveway. It is a place where I feel safe. When I’m in the driveway, I see so much of my life there. Whether it be the place where the bus picked me up for my first day of school or the spot where I held a grudge on my Dad for making me practice 10 minutes longer on my free throw shot. I mentioned this before but when living in a city, it’s hard to look up in the sky and actually see stars; this drive way was a place for me to breathe in some of the dark sky. I spent many nights on my driveway, whether it be with my friends or family or alone but there is one night I remember more than ever. It was a night that is permanently marked into my brain and its one I will never forget. My brother Josh was babysitting for my parents one night and a horrible rainstorm had just passed through. I could never fall asleep during loud rainstorms but I was lying there awake at 11:00 p.m., thinking this is the late night for a nine year old but eventually the rain stopped and I drifted to sleep. I remember my brother coming in and looking at the clock to see 11:30 p.m., he look concerned but he said he wanted to talk to me and show me something. I remember walking outside and sitting on the driveway thinking my brother was crazy for letting me stay up this late, the rain had passed and the stars were beaming. He began to say things that at the time I couldn’t comprehend but eventually they began to sink in. I lost a very good friend that night. The next couple days were very hard for me but every night at a certain time, I would go outside and just look at the sky and I remember in my nine-year-old mind that I believed him to be one of the stars. That drive way is just a slab of pavement but to me it’s more than that, it’s a place of significance, a place of meaning.

My neighborhood is a small place compared to many things in the world. From the outside, it looks like just a bunch of houses randomly put together but to me each square foot in my neighborhood has some significance to my life. Change is a weird concept to think about but when you put it into perspective, it’s another lens to look at life through. It gives us a reason to look back, to reminisce and to hope that in the future we will be able to greet change and help it to define the next chapter in our lives.

Page, "Marse Chan"

--This is a sentimental love story, but is most notable in our time for its nostalgic vision of 'slavery days.' How does it depict slavery and how does its depiction differ from your understanding of the institution? How are we to deal with the evident racism here (do you think readers understood how racist this was?)?

--The story is told in dialect by a faithful former slave, with the depiction of regional and racial dialect as one of the major elements of its claim to regional "authenticity" or "accuracy." How does your experience of the dialect in this story differ from that of Jewett's New Englanders? How does it shape your experience of the text?

--The story narrates an encounter between a Northerner and the former slave and thus reflects the major dynamic of this kind of fiction: northerners reading about the south. Why do you think Northerners were so fascinated by the old south after the Civil War? How is the nostalgia about the south similar to or different from Jewett's nostalgia for a faded New England?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Darren Orf: A field of glass and a western wall

I stood in a clearing. The dense forest to my left and right hindered my vision but something had caught my eye. I went to the left pulling tree limbs and hearing the crunch of leaves beneath my feet. It was unmistakable. I stumbled upon a field of rust and glass.

The field was a half-mile hike from any road or building in Branson, Missouri. Cans and pieces of glass littered the ground as if meticulous planted or carelessly thrown away. The glass dazzled in the sunlight and the rusted cans blended with the ground: decades of old pop-top beer cans, baked beans and other cans with labels to faded to decipher. It was a treasure that awakened my childlike curiosity. I was like an archeologist, rummaging through these objects with care. The items were scattered in a 100-foot circle, which descended down a slope. It was difficult to traveled in the wooded field without damaging the artifacts.

While glancing at a particular bottle, supposedly used for medicine in the 1920s, I happened to catch another, rather large object across the clearing. I tiptoed through the field of rust, crossed the clearing and once again entered the woods. After a couple hundred yards, I discovered a house. However, only bits and pieces remained. White, misshapen bricks formed one wall. Much like the Western Wall in Jerusalem, this wall was the only one that was left. Surrounding trees had clung to the edifice as if trying to reclaim the house back to nature. It was hard to discern what precisely could have caused such damaged. Charred pieces of wood lie in the middle of the foundation but could have been a campsite for previous explorers. I now considered myself as joining their ranks.

Both the field of rust and glass as well as the lone wall serve as a place for me. However, this place does not quite fit the definition that Phil Hubbard describes in his article, “Space/Place.” While attempting to differentiate the two ideas, Hubbard states, “Place is often equated with security and enclosure, whereas space is associated with freedom and mobility” (43). There was a sense of “enclosure.” The surrounding flora, the foundation of the house and the wooded field all had a containing nature. The house even had the entryway still intact, inviting travelers within its nonexistent walls. The place ensnared you with curiosity, and once there, would not let you leave. However, “security” was lacking. While my discovery was thrilling, the violent images of the decimated house, the charred wood and the sharp glass provided an air of uneasiness to those woods. With such images, the mind can’t help but try to fill in the blanks. With such destruction and disarray, every story I came up with had an unhappy ending. I thoroughly hunted for evidence to convince me otherwise but the pile of charred wood was all the evidence I could find.

There was no evidence to support that this area could be considered a space. The qualities of “freedom” and “mobility” were not inherent in these areas. I would term this experience as exposed. Much in the same if you were to tear down the walls of your house or live under a pavilion, there is no question that you would feel exposed. That is how I felt as I surveyed the ravaged house. The area contained a duality. The area would contain you with curiosity, not allowing you to just casually walk by but you would also feel exposed, even though no one was there.

The field and the wall provoked a strong emotional response but it wasn’t entirely positive. Hubbard references Yi-Fi Tuan’s work Space and Place, and states, “[Tuan] uses the notions of topophilia and topophobia to refer to the desires and fears that people associate with specific places” (42). Tuan argues that the describing a place is black and white as love and fear. I believe that there is a grey area as well and in my case, it is especially applicable. I was not afraid of this area, my numerous trips to it were evidence for that, but there was a sense of fear of the unknown and the violent images that surrounded me. However, this idea of love is also relevant because the emotional reaction that I get from this area is overwhelming. The best term that I can describe to this place is awe, not truly afraid but not fully embracing. I disagree that the terms of space and place can be defined in such black and whites terms as Hubbard references and Tuan describes.

Despite the grey area in which I resided, I was thirsty for history. Whoever had lived there was now long dead but I still found myself wanting to know more about them. It made me think of the temporal effects on place and space. For this man, woman or family this was a home. Perhaps it was lively with children and neighbors coming and going or perhaps it was a silent as it was today. This unknown area was full with cold beauty and historical importance. I was convinced if I could envision how these people lived I would undoubtedly learn more about myself. That is the essence of history. I had stumbled upon a natural museum. But why did this feel so different. I had seen old buildings and monuments constructed before by brilliant architects and designers. It was just the simplicity of it. The average stone structure nestled away from the public gaze. It was intimate and a more true, natural experience. Perhaps the person who lived here was a simple farmer or blacksmith? Did he or she build this house alone? How long did it take? How many generations had grown up within this house’s walls? What was the catalyst for them to abandon their home? Questions kept pouring from my mind and had no intent on stopping.

With a collection of glass, tin cans and rocks as mementos, I hiked back. The mysteries remained unresolved about who these people were, but it didn’t really matter. What mattered is that they had lived. They had left something behind and influenced another generation through me, or any other fellow explorer who was lucky enough to discover that hidden treasure. As I descended a steep hill, I wondered if anyone would ever find my field of rust and glass.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Twain, Life on the Mississippi, Day#2

--In chapter IX, Twain describes the detailed, analytic and utilitarian knowledge of the river he gained from his training as a pilot and considers whether what he has gained was worth it, coming as it did with the loss of the capacity to enjoy it as beautiful scenery. Consider what kind of knowledge or understanding a place you value more and explain why.

--What kind of experience of a place does steamboat piloting give Twain? How does he convey the South through his view from the river?

--Like Thoreau, Twain's narrative contains or deals with the death of a brother. What do you make of his narrative of his brother's death (one that he narrowly avoided himself)? Compare Twain's version to Thoreau's submerged narrative of mourning.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Patrick Wallace Outside Space/Place Essay

A Baseball Field

Summer. Fall. Winter. Spring. Heat and humidity. Wind and rain. Slippery roads and dry colds. Showers and flowers. The Midwest illustrates all 4 seasons not 12 months with days and hours. Months are measurements for homework and assignments, seasons are experiences to live, love, hate, and restart. But how one starts to describe a natural year in the Midwest could tell their entire life story. Do they start with the awful humidity of summer months, or the blistering dry chills of a January winter? Which season is their natural starting point? In my mind, it has only ever made sense to start with the heat and humidity, the dirt and grass, the summer.

Life’s a journey, and the best two word combination to describe such journey: love/hate. The summer months are very love/hate. Some days we love, some days we hate. Some days we wish we could just hit the restart button. But some days, some days we just live. We figure, “Well, I woke up still breathing, I guess I’ll make the most of it.” When we don’t know why exactly, but we just go through life’s motions and see what happens, and those are the days. The days we feel like we are drifting through air.

On a baseball field in the summer, that’s a season for living. The days I drift through air not worried about a purpose. When the wind softly blows and feels like heaven, the sun reflecting off the bright green grass and the dirt feels soft beneath my feet. It’s a feeling without words, a scenery that can’t help but mesmerize, a place without worry. Time stands still as I drift through the motions of life.

We mention a person’s “place” as something of the past in many ways, something with tradition. It should give that person a nostalgic sense of emotion and warm feelings. Well, what’s warmer than summer? But, that is not my point. Essentially, places invoke emotion, as opposed to a “space” which invokes little emotion or attachment, but rather, a space means freedom and openness. So, if that’s how we define place and space, I suppose a baseball field for most people would be a space. There’s no emotional attachment, one baseball field is the same as any other, grass surrounding a pile of dirt, white chalk and people (players), half of which are more into themselves than beauty pageant wannabes. To me however, a baseball field, rather it be major leagues or a little league field, is my one and only place.

Perhaps I’m simplistic for thinking of a ball field as my place. Hell, a baseball field is about as simple as a place gets: dirt, grass, white chalk, bases and people. By no means does a baseball field display a sense of aesthetic feeling. Rarely is a person going to say, “Wow, that ball field looks so majestic right now.” It’s not about the appearance or emotional attraction though.
There are several aspects involved in a baseball field: Are we talking about the field or the game on the field? Are we talking about an empty field with silence and no one else around, or during a game with the constant buzz of fans surrounding the field? It’s a trick question. It’s everything involved, the sound of the fans and coaches yelling about a bad play, and the silence of walking out on the field after everyone has left. The silence of walking through a park just staring and imagining the game that took place hours or days prior. Envisioning the plays, where the players are standing, the inning, the situation, the score. The field itself, it’s imagined, envisioned in the mind.

Ultimately the baseball field is always silent, and that’s what makes it more than a field or a space in my mind. When I’m on the field, makes no difference if I’m playing, the field is silent. For starters, last I checked dirt, grass and chalk never spoke. Beyond that, when I’m in my place, I remain focused but calm and crowd noise can’t disturb that. I’m there with the mentality, “I woke up, I guess I’ll make the most of it.” It’s a mental game, using an equal combination of brain and brawn. It’s a place for people who may not be the strongest or have the most natural athletic ability, it’s a place for anyone with a little intelligence about the game and quite frankly that’s what I feel a place should represent. Welcoming to all.

From personal to theoretical, as I began in the beginning, a baseball field represents a time for living, drifting by without worries of a purpose and that is why I say summer first when listing the seasons. Summer brings life. Many may believe spring brings life when the sun begins to shine, chills turn to thrills, flowers begin to grow, and that yellow/brown rug in the yard that they call grass, actually looks green again. Not to mention, those damn insects and bees come back and become more and more apparent and aggravating. I feel spring however, is a time to restart. Restart the baseball season, for it was never truly dead (Offseason, hello?). In reality, the grass in your yard never disappeared the life cycle has just restarted following the cold winters. Now the insects and bees, they might disagree with the idea of “restarting” in the spring but I’ve never been much of a fan of their existence anyways.

The sole purpose of this mumble jumble, a baseball field never dies. It never disappears and neither should a person’s place. The dirt may become harder to slide on, the outfield grass may look more like a brown rug, and the aluminum bat may sting the hands a little more, but a place is something a season, or a region like the Midwest can not take from me. Every spring, games will restart and more dreams will become reality. It is truly a field of dreams, pardon the cliché. A baseball field is not a place away from home. It is my home. It’s my place.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Twain, Life on the Mississippi, Day#1

--The narrative begins with a history of the Mississippi's "discovery" by European explorers. What does this history suggest about Twain's vision of American history?

--"Life on the Mississippi" was drafted during the famous 6 year gap between when Twain started and completed "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn." The selection that he includes in chapter 3 was initially included, but then later removed from the novel. It has been read as a version of the classic early form of regionalist literature, the "tall tale." What does this 'tall tale" tell us about the region and its people?

--Twain's narrative of learning to become a steamboat pilot offers a very different version of relation to the landscape than we have seen previously in this class. In what ways is it different? What is the steamboat pilot's attitude toward the landscape? How is his vision and knowledge of the space of the landscape different from Thoreau's romantic appreciator of the landscape?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Jewett, Country of Pointed Firs, Day #2

--What are the "places" here? What sorts of spaces are invested with emotion here? How are they described and what do they tell us about Jewett's vision of the way people inhabit the coastal Maine area?

--Critics have long drawn attention to the ways in which this is a world dominated by women. Compare the ways in which women and men are characterized in this narrative. What do you think Jewett is saying about differences between men and women in this region?

--I mentioned before that this work is often called a "masterpiece," but just as often that praise is modified by the qualifier "minor." To what extent do you think Jewett's avoidance of 'big' topics and rejecting a more coherent narrative arc limits this work? Or do these choices honor the lives of her marginal characters?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Regionalism: Brodhead & Jewett

This image is Winslow Homer's "The Berry Pickers" (1873), which depicts genteel vacationers in Maine, reflecting the dynamic Richard Brodhead describes as central to the literary regionalism of the post-Civil War era in our reading for today "The Reading of Regions."

--How does Brodhead explain why regionalist fiction--about backward or underdeveloped parts of the US--were so popular in the post-Civil War era?

--How does Brodhead explain the "elite" or wealthy interest in regionalist fiction, given that the subjects of regionalist fiction are so often poor people in these underdeveloped areas?

--Brodhead talks about a divide that emerges in this same period between "high" and "low" culture (by that he means entertainment choices, among other things), a divide that helped to establish social distinctions between the rich and poor. To what extent do you think there is still "high" and "low" culture and that it operates to distinguish between classes? In what ways do college classes, like this English class you are now taking (or others), function to teach you to make cultural distinctions (between high and low, good or bad)? Do these classes re-inforce social distinctions?

--On to Jewett: she obviously fits regionalist forms, but how does her vision of New England as a place, a region or a character-type fit with what we've seen from Whittier or Thoreau?

--What is the relation of the observer/writer/narrator to the people of Dunnet's Landing?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Thoreau, A Week, Day #4 (Thursday & Friday)

Please respond to any, but not all of the questions:

--This book is dedicated to and, in many ways, about Thoreau's dead brother John, but he is never named. How, finally, do you see this book as being "about" John and/or his death?

--What purpose does Thoreau's narration of the story of Hannah Dunston--the Puritan woman who escapes (and scalps) her Native captors--serve in his narrative?

--In "Friday," Thoreau wakes up to find himself in autumn. In this way, the trip isn't merely about a "week" (a decidedly arbitrary human unit of time), but also about the seasons, a more natural unit of time. What is he saying about the time-- human and/or natural-- here?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Thoreau, A Week, Day #3 (Wednesday)

Much of this "day" is focused upon the topic of friendship, clearly relevant to Thoreau's relationship with his brother/travel-companion but also much more broadly applicable to his relations with all people and clearly central to the development of a personal philosophy. Respond to any, but not all of these questions.

--What does Thoreau seek from his friends and what does he offer through his friendship?

--At times his vision of friendship seems remarkably intimate (perhaps more closely related to what we might now call love) and yet he also suggests that one need not even speak with the friend: how do reconcile this seeming contradiction?

--Last class, we had Poe's seemingly phobic depiction of the city as a space where one was never alone and yet never truly connected to anyone else. How does Thoreau envision the countryside as the place of friendship?

--Compare your own vision of friendship with that of Thoreau? In what ways do you envision the relation as different and to what extent do you think the different spaces of contemporary life might have affected these differences?

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Arcade Fire & spatializing your home town


This posting is not particularly relevant to 19th century American literature, but interesting in relation to our course and its focus on spaces. The band Arcade Fire has a new "video" which actually a web device that asks for your hometown and splices images of it into a video about adolescent feelings about the place you grew up. You can comment on it as well for credit on the blog.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Edgar Allan Poe, "The Man of the Crowd"

Questions to consider:

--What makes the "man of the crowd" so disturbing, so evil, to the narrator?
--What are some of the things that characterize the city here?
--What kind of space is the city here?
--How would you compare it to the spaces or places of New England that we have studied so far?

Here's a link to the text:

Saddleback & Sublime

Here's the image from the German painter Casper David Friedrich that I mentioned in conjunction with Thoreau's description of his experience on Saddleback Mountain. This is seen as a classic example of a romantic sublime image. But is it really similar to Thoreau's depiction?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Thoreau, A Week, Day #2

Please feel free to respond to one, but not all of these questions--or post your questions or interests.

Thoreau seems obsessed with the place of Native Americans and what could be called their "absent presence" in the places he travels through. What do they symbolize for him and what does he seem to say about their absence?

Compare Thoreau's comments on the Sabbath and Christianity on "Sunday," with his discussion of Hinduism in "Monday."

Discuss the significance of Thoreau's experience on Saddleback Mountain, particularly his view of the landscape in the morning. Try to consider it in relation to the discussion of landscape from Mitchell.

Thoreau's encounter with Mr. Rice is, like the experience on Saddleback, not part of the trip, but somehow reflective or meaningful of the region. What does Rice and his manner tell us about New England and its people?