Friday, March 18, 2011

For Credit: Starting Evliya Celebi's Book of Travels

2011 is the 400th birthday of Evliya Celebi's birth. There's a gorgeous online exhibition about him here. Horseback riding enthusiasts might be interested in this project, to make it possible for riders to recreate one of Celebi's journey, just as this crew is doing right now. A number of different websites inform me that Evliya Celebi has been announced as the 2011 UNESCO Man of the Year (except for the UNESCO website, which doesn't seem to acknowledge that category of distinction at all).

Celebi's Book of Travels presents a different set of challenges than the some of the other nonwestern works that we've looked at thus far. Unlike Matsuo Basho's Narrow Road to the Deep North, Cao Xuequin's Story of the Stone, and Chikamatsu Monzaemon's Love Suicides at Amijima, this narrative is not an explicitly literary one. Whatever its merits, it is not the work of a consciously literary artist working within a recognized genre. In that respect, it may present similar interpretive challenges as the text you've selected from ECCO for your second assignment.

The question for you to address: how does one begin with such a text? What kinds of interpretive questions does it make sense to ask? What kinds of interpretive issues here invite exploration? Respond with some thoughts about how we readers can find our way into this text.

Deadline: Monday (3/28), start of class.

For Credit: Final Thoughts on Gulliver's Travels?

Feel free to post them here.  Then go have a great spring break.

Posts before Saturday (3/19) at midnight count towards Week 9.  Posts after that but in advance of Monday (3/28), start of class, count towards Week 10.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

FYI: Tea Ceremony at Japan House for Disaster Relief

For a while now, I've been meaning to draw the class's attention to the Japan House, an excellent learning resource here at UIUC.  If our readings in Enlightenment-era Japanese literature (Matsuo Basho's Narrow Road to the Deep North and Chikimatsu Monzaemon's Love Suicides at Amijima) have sparked your curiosity about Japanese art and culture, the Japan House is definitely worth a visit.  And for that matter, even if those readings have not been high points on the syllabus for you, a visit to the Japan House and its grounds can be a refreshing change from the fatigues of the semester--I definitely recommend it!

For those who will be around for Spring Break, it's worth noting that the Japan House is holding a tea ceremony on Saturday (3/19) to raise funds for disaster relief in Japan.  Click here for more information. 

For Credit: Just How Bad Are We Yahoos?

As we discussed in class today, although Gulliver is at first eager to distinguish Yahoos from humans, by the time he returns home, he believes they are the same thing.

While in the land of the Houhynhnms, Gulliver spends some time learning about the Yahoos, both from talking to his Houhynhnm master and from observing them himself. Chapter 7 is particularly dense in reflections on their behavior, habits, and characteristics, some of it fairly self-evidently intended (by Swift) as a satire on contemporary English political and social life.

Are there any depictions of the Yahoos that hit particularly close to home? Is it possible for us (as less deluded than Swift) to see ourselves in the Yahoos? Is the portrait a uniformly repellent one, or do the Yahoos have some compensating dimensions for readers who can divest themselves of Gulliver's prejudices?

Deadline: Friday (3/18), start of class.

Monday, March 14, 2011

For Credit: How is the Reader to Understand the Houhynhnms?

From another response thread on the blog:

Do they [the Houhynhnms] represent a virtuous society that humans should emulate, or is he satirizing them for being unemotional and naive? Gulliver praises the Houyhnhnms and wishes "they were in a capacity or disposition to send a sufficient number of their inhabitants for civilizing Europe" (392-3). Yet we also get a sense that they are somewhat naive, for the Houyhnhnms have no word for falseness and refer to it as "the thing which is not" (360). Also, Houyhnhnm family structure makes an impression on Gulliver, for they show "no fondness for their colts or foals" (377). Is their lack of emotion something that Swift presents as a contributing factor to a just society, or is he lampooning their naive outlook and lack of emotion?


Deadline: Wednesday (3/16), start of class.