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Lecture 11: How We Find Out Who We Are


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Slideshow for the eleventh lecture in my summer course, English 10, "Introduction to Literary Studies: Deception, Dishonesty, Bullshit."

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Lecture 11: How We Find Out Who We Are

  1. 1. Lecture 11: How We Find Out Who We Are PATRICK MOONEY, M.A. ENGLISH 10, SUMMER SESSION A 8 JULY 2105
  2. 2. O! that you were your self; but, love, you are No longer yours, than you your self here live: Against this coming end you should prepare, And your sweet semblance to some other give: So should that beauty which you hold in lease Find no determination; then you were Yourself again, after yourself's decease, When your sweet issue your sweet form should bear. Who lets so fair a house fall to decay, Which husbandry in honour might uphold, Against the stormy gusts of winter's day And barren rage of death's eternal cold? O! none but unthrifts. Dear my love, you know, You had a father: let your son say so.
  3. 3. How narrative works Take a look at the beginning of the first chapter of My Son’s Story.
  4. 4. Recognition “There was my father; the moment we saw one another it was I who had discovered him, not he me.” (1) “And then there he was. What are you going to see? he said. But I had seen.” (25–26) “if she gave Sonny everything else of herself, it would have been worth less if she had not kept to herself some fibre of personality as a separate identity.” (5)
  5. 5. “Let’s take your placards into class and rewrite them. When you want to tell people something you have to know how to express it properly. So that they will take you seriously.” (22) “What face did he make me wear, from then on, to conceal him, what he was doing—my knowledge of it—from us: my mother, my sister, myself.” (33)
  6. 6. Education “The boy was Will, diminutive of William. He was named for Shakespeare, whose works, in a cheap complete edition bound in fake leather, stood in the glass-fronted bookcase in the small sitting-room and were no mere ornamental pretensions to culture.” (4) “Sonny and his wife did not covet ‘Granada’ or “Versailles’; with an understanding of Shakespeare there comes a release from the Gullibility that makes you prey to the great shopkeeper who runs the world, and would sell you cheap to illusion.” (8)
  7. 7. “Equality; he went to Shakespeare for a definition with more authority than those given on makeshift platforms in the veld.” (19) “children learn from modelling themselves on others, mimicking at first the forms of maturity they see in their parents and then coming to perform them cognitively as their capacities grow; why should they not be learning something about themselves, for themselves, by mimicking the responsibilities recognized precociously by certain other children—their siblings.” (22)
  8. 8. Work “They found that for them both the meaning of life seemed to be contained, if mysteriously, in living useful lives. They knew what that was not: not living only for oneself, or one’s children, or the clan of relatives. They were not sure what it was; not yet. Only that it had to do with responsibility to a community; and that could only mean the community to which they were confined, to which they belonged because the law told them so, in the first place, and that to which the attachments and dependencies of daily life and the shared concerns that came from living within it, made them belong, of themselves.” (6)
  9. 9. “He no longer had a profession; his profession had become the meetings, the speeches, the campaigns, the delegations to the authorities.” (32) “Where would she find work in Johannesburg? Her kind of work. I suppose I could do― something else . . . get taken on in a factory. Aila was referring to his connections― with the clothing industry, he know; it alarmed him. Unthinkable that through him Aila should sit bent over a machine. Jostle with factory girls in the street.” (35)
  10. 10. Relationality “For what she wanted was, in essence, always what he wanted; and that is not as simple or purely submissive as it sounds. I didn’t—don’t—pretend to understand how. It was between them, and will not be available to any child of theirs, ever.” (17) “He was the pride of the old people and the generic diminutive by which they had celebrated him as the son, the firstborn male, was to stay with him in the changing identities a man passes through, for the rest of his life.” (3)
  11. 11. “A changing vocabulary was accompanying the transformation of Sonny to ‘Sonny’ the political personality defined by a middle, nickname.” (35) “Sonny had had to change his mind about so many things, as his life changed, as the very meaning of his ridiculous name changed—first a hangover from sentimental parents, then a nickname to reassure the crowds at rallies that he was one of them, then an addendum to his full names in a prison dossier: ‘also known as “Sonny”‘. A common criminal with aliases.” (45)
  12. 12. “It was a tactic, displaying high morale to the judge, to confront him day after day with alleged revolutionaries looking like businessmen.” (46) “The message beyond that extraordinary prescience—that would enlarge upon it, confirm a language of shared reference between himself and the writer of the letter—was obviously something she would understand.” (50)
  13. 13. “When did the distinction between black and real black, between himself and them, fade, for the schoolteacher? That ringing in the air, ‘equality’ beginning to heard as ‘freedom’—it happened without specific awareness, a recognition of what really had been there to understand, all the time.” (21) “I spoke to him for the first time. Biology. On― Tuesday. And so there was complicity between― us, he drew me into it, as if he were not my father (a father would never do such a thing). And yet because he was my father how could I resist, how could I dare refuse him?” (27)
  14. 14. The terms of discourse My mother said I looked tired. I think he ought to― be taking Sanatogen.― ―Oh Aila, you don’t believe that nonsense! He― was smiling at her. (26) “And every now and then, in the carefully arranged and guarded life he was managing, when he judged it was time to approach Aila again—to pretend to want poor Aila, oh my god.” (63) “Now I couldn’t help laughing at my sister, how could I give her the satisfaction of taking her seriously.” (110)