Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Literature in the Classroom Assignments: Part 4


Here's the first part of the second assignment. While the first assignment just had as giving reflections on pieces we'd looked at in class, the second assignment had as doing experiments of pieces from class. By experiment, I mean we had to take the original and fiddle with it in some way. Examples of our options included fan fiction, prequel, sequel, cross-over, retelling the story from a different perspective, using the style to tell a different story, making a script out of it, putting the character/s in a different setting, making a comic strip, etc.

During this first piece, you'll discover that I do in fact say harsher words than "poop," and am not opposed to using them in an assignment. Because I'm sweet and innocent like that. I got really emotional while writing this, and continue to get really emotional while reading it, which, apparently, means I'm a girl.

Eat your breakfast; brush your teeth; comb your hair; put on your uniform; tie your shoelaces – not that way, this way; take your lunch; class starts at 9:00, morning tea is from 10:45 to 11:15, lunch is from 1:00 to 1:50, school finishes at 3:00; be grateful – life only gets harder after this; do your homework; play with boys; you can play tag, ride your bike, pretend to fight (just don’t let me catch you or when your father gets home you’ll be in real trouble) or use a console; girls are nice so be nice to girls; don’t swear in front of adults; don’t swear in front of teachers; don’t swear in front of girls; if you teach other children to swear you’ll be in real trouble when your father gets home; listen to your teacher in school; listen to your teacher in Sunday school; boy, she sure is pretty; don’t admit that – what, do you want people to think you’re a girl?; don’t be soft; don’t cry; you need to be strong; you need to be tough; this is how you make friends; this is how you get respect; this is how you get power (and boy do you need power); this is how you throw a punch – no, not like that, what are you, a girl?; this is how you take a punch; this is how you dodge a punch; this is how you hit a ball; this is how you catch a ball; don’t drop the ball; don’t be so clumsy; this is how you cut your steak; this is how you chew your vegetables; this food is “junk,” and by junk I mean “treasure”; ignore what they told you in Sunday school – a man doesn’t need God to tell him how to live or repress him; this is how to ask a girl out; this is how to kiss a girl on the lips; this is how to kiss a girl on not the lips; this is how to make a girl kiss you; take your lunch; boy, she sure is hot; that’s more like it; don’t be emotional – you’ve got to be strong and you’ve got to be tough; girls are emotional, men are logical; is that what logic is? are you sure you understand logic?; work hard; work hard; you’ve got to work hard!; women only want men with lots of money; women only want men with impressive careers; women only want men who are tall, dark and handsome; lie to women – do you really think they’ll like you otherwise?; fuck women – fuck lots of women and don’t forget to fuck them over, after all they don’t want you, they only want your money and your status; nice guys finish last; don’t be nice, being nice is weak; this is how to fight your way to the top; this is how fight down those beneath you; this is how to fuck a woman; this is how to love a woman; this is how to fight a woman; this is how to provide for a woman; this is how to get a woman to love you; to love me? she sure is something, but I bet she isn’t even nice enough to give me food or comfort or...; haven’t I told you to take your lunch?

Reflection of Boy

Boy follows the structural style of Girl by Jamaica Kincaid. The diction is generally simple and the instructions are clustered into short phrases in order to make the long, run-on sentence accessible so that the overarching themes would be clear to the reader. The simple vocabulary conveys the central character of a boy internalising the social pressure to adhere to certain male gender roles. Just as Kincaid presents an oppositional discourse in relation to hegemonic femininity in her culture, my central aim in writing Boy is to provide an opposition to what I feel is the hegemonic masculinity on offer to white Australian youth.

Boy is littered with binary oppositions (“be nice to girls” vs “fuck women;” “listen” vs “ignore;” “this is how” vs “don’t;” “junk” vs “treasure”) which occasionally give the character clarification on how to live, but at other times provide only confusion and frustration over what it means to be masculine. By listing the traits of their gender identity, and of the gender identity they feel they’re ‘supposed’ to have, students can gain insight into their worldview. This allows them to identify and challenge harmful or contradictory beliefs.

The phrase “take your lunch” is used repeatedly throughout the text. Through polysemy, the meaning changes each time, beginning as a caring, harmless instruction, but later taking on sexual meaning. In the final use of this phrase, “take” is used in binary opposition to “give,” confirming the social pressure for the boy to prove his masculinity through selfish ambition and treating others as things to lord over. Tasks that encourage students to use polysemous writing would help students to grasp nuance and navigate context in their reading and writing practices.

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