One thing that has stood out since the beginning of the semester is the prevalent use of rhetoric. And even that, for example, may be an understatement in how rhetorics, and the use of rhetorical devises, are all around us.
In Jill Lepore’s “Encounters in the New World: A History in Documents,” Lepore introduces readers to the very literal definition of history. She describes to readers: “using primary sources allows us not just to read about history, but to read history itself” (6). It is, however, even more complex than that, as Lepore further notes. She says, “the historian uses facts from a variety of sources – some, perhaps, seemingly inconsequential – to build a rhetorical case (6). This statement, in particular, is worthy of reflection, and the way history is constructed and (re) interpreted.
If autoethnographic texts are used to describe how certain groups (often marginalized groups) engage in representations others have made of them, then it seems that mainstream historical reconstruction is just the opposite. How is this the case? Because those who are doing so – that is reconstructing history, are (usually) doing so from a position of privilege. Or in other words, “history is written by the winners” – a very common, often insensitive remark. Biased historical rhetoric can be seen all around us, and Lepore includes images of just how certain rhetoric was used to propagate colonization across The New World.
One example of rhetoric being used in support of colonization across New England, in particular, is visually demonstrated on page 9. The text at the bottom states, “From June 24, 1675, when the first English-man was murdered by the Indians, to August 12, 1676 when Philip the principle author and beginner of the Warr, was flain.” The text is somewhat difficult to read exactly, but that is the general summery of the introductory sentence. The use of the word “murder” helps paint the picture of Native Americans as the specified enemy, and obvious “other.” This use of one-sided rhetoric helps build alliances within a group and help build opposition toward another group.
Another pictorial example of how rhetoric can be used is exemplified in John Gast’s illustration titled “American Progress.” I looked up some background information on this painting, and Wikipedia filed it under a larger concept called “Manifest Destiny.” It was heavily used as a propaganda tool to encourage settlers to expand throughout the continent, which ultimately led to the largest acquisition of territory by colonizers in North America. This highly nationalistic concept is a perfect example of the power of rhetoric and how it can be used to corrupt human decency, to say the least.
If rhetoric can be used to propagate such a destructive agenda it can, however, also be used to bring about significant positive changes, as well. Applying a metacognitive approach to rhetoric, viewers can be aware of agendas whether they take the form of political messages or media advertising. As we can see from just these few examples, rhetoric is here to stay. What we do with the rhetoric we’re confronted with is what really matters.
In this week’s readings, I found the piece “Encounters in the New World: A History in Documents” by Jill Lepore to offer a succinct account of what makes up a historical document, and more importantly the significance that these documents hold in helping us decipher and make sense of the past. She identifies documents as being a primary source, but argues that the definition includes more than just official government documents. Anything that was written in the past counts as a document, even something as ostensibly trivial as a shopping list. As Lepore explains, “using primary sources allows us not just to read about history, but to read history itself” (Lepore 5). History is the understanding of the past, and has often been cast into the role of a narrative. There is a narrative understanding ascribed to history, historical events, and the people whose names we often see in our textbooks.
In my experience with history, I have noticed that certain grand historical narratives exist (Civil War, the Civil Rights Movement, Industrial Revolution) and alongside these events you have certain individuals (Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr, etc) who leave their mark and are studied in the classroom. This is a given as these events and people allow for there to be an understanding of the past, and much like the plot to a story there needs to be characters, motivation, events, etc that help shape and define the narrative. When Lepore made her comment contrasting official government documents to a grocery list, I was reminded at just how much of a role those unseen and unheard individuals who were there for those historical events, are often not included in the official narrative. They were not included, and yet they lived the events just as I and those around me live and experience the current time period. Therefore I look at at history in a two-fold sense. There exists the grand historical narratives and the people we associate with those particular moments in history. And, there exists those of whom history did not include, or sometimes even tries to forget and or repress.
The adage that history is written by the winners has been repeated so much, and yet still holds many truths to it. However, if historical events were also witnessed by those who history may not have recorded, or who are not studied to the extent that other people are studied, the fact remains that they still existed and bore witness to various degrees as to what happened. These little narratives play just as an important role in the understanding of the larger historical narratives. If history is written by the winners, then it can also be written by the victims, or those whose voices were not heard. It is of the utmost importance that these marginalized voices be given a chance to be heard. In the narrative understanding of history, they too can help us learn about our past.
James F. Blandino - 9/30/14, Cultural Rhetoric, Critical Response #4 This one sentence written by Christopher Columbus on October 12, 1492, reveals so much to me about the European attitudes toward the native populations of the New World and about the power structure of the Spanish monarchy at the time: “Our Lord pleasing, at the time of my departure I will take six of them from her to Your Highnesses in order that they may learn to speak.” The capitalization of Lord and Your Highnesses in reference to the King and Queen is in stark contrast to the pronoun “them” used to describe the Native Americans that are to be brought back to Spain. I’m so curious about what these individuals’ names were, but Columbus does not care about their individuality in the least. If he had seen them as people, he would have taken the time to write their proper names. He declares, “I will take” not ask these people if they want to go to Spain “in order that they may learn to speak”. It leads one to believe that this was a kidnapping rather than an amicable meeting between people from different nations. Of course, these people could “speak” before they encountered Columbus, but he doesn’t leave room for that in his description. Nothing is said about their language or Columbus’ attempts to learn it. It reinforces what I have learned about the arrogance of imperialism. I have so many questions about the fates of these six people taken from their native land by people who have no respect for their customs or language, zealots who believe their way is the path of the righteous and leave no room for otherness.
The map of the peninsula of India before British colonization is very interesting. Of course, it was made of various kingdoms and provinces before the British invasion and subjugation. The oppressors draw new lines and label the whole thing as India. This reminds me of the United States. I wish I could see a map of the Americas before the days of Columbus. The territory is enormous and contained so many different cultures and territories now lumped into one giant expanse. Map making, line drawing, categorizing, is a Western obsession. The world is not so easily divided as it is on paper.
“To Be of Use” by Marge Piercy reminds me of the problem with specialization in the modern world. Everything is packaged for us now. We parcel out work and specialize. Our “common rhythm” has been disrupted, food doesn’t need to come in and the fire doesn’t need to be put out anymore. In losing this connection to the earth and our work, we lose a piece of ourselves. The food is frozen on a tray in the freezer; someone who doesn’t care about your health prepared it. Eat up. We sit at desks in front of screens all day doing a piece of a larger job without ever seeing the finished product. This is why so many of us feel unfulfilled at our jobs. People who still make things are considered other, artists, eclectics. The insurance salesperson will never have the satisfaction of making something with a “shape that satisfies, clean and evident.” I think this is why we are, as a culture, fascinated by people who are still connected to real work. We watch reality shows about fishermen, survivalists, and hunters, people who do tangible things. As we become more and more specialized, doing just one facet of a job, never seeing a whole thing through to completion, we lose a sense of accomplishment in our work. We go through the motions of work because it means very little to our daily lives. Piercy uses animals to describe the people “who jump into work head first . . . natives of that element, the black sleek heads of seals bouncing like half-submerged balls . . . an ox to a heavy cart, pull like water buffalo” Animals never ask themselves what they want to be when they grow up, they innately know their work. We have become disconnected from nature in our attempts to control and dominate it. We used to know exactly what needed to be done because if we didn’t we wouldn’t survive in the elements. We were one with nature like animals. This idea is found in Joy Harjo’s poem as well. She writes in her poem “A Map to the Next World, “In the legend are instructions on the language of the land, how it was we forgot to acknowledge the gift, as if we were not in it or of it . . . Once we knew everything in this lush promise . . . we abandoned them for science”. To be of use makes a person feel fulfilled, happy, satisfied. We used science to separate our species from the natural cadence of life, then came the proliferation of psychiatric medication.
I enjoyed the poem, To Be of Use by Marge Piercy a lot. I was immediately pulled into work; I could see them passing the shallows of the water to swim deep into the ocean until they can not be seen. The speaker says, “They seem to become natives of that element”; I love this image but also the idea of this as well. Being so enthralled by the task at hand to the point where you’re practically apart of it is something to be desired. I guess what I’m trying to say, from my understanding of this, is that your ability to do whatever the task at hand is appears to be natural but in reality it’s something you had to work hard for in order to get to that point (of course I’m thinking of sports but that’s just one example). I think our desire of this is what the speaker loves about the people she is identifying because perhaps she wants that for herself. I found it cool that there is an image of an ox that is obviously massive and incredibly strong, whereas it can pull through mud and muck without quitting, and while I’m appreciating the physical ability of this animal, I’m told that it has massive patience and suddenly I start to see it as vulnerable. This theme of a hard worker remains as the poem continues as well as the imagery. The third stanza is clear that the speaker may indeed love these kinds of people, but truly wants this character trait for him or herself. The speaker says, “I want to be with people who submerge in the task,” which doesn’t sound like she necessarily wants to be them, but to me, sometimes you surround yourself with people that you feel make you a better version of yourself. In such a short poem I’m given a lot of imagery and a mini story within each stanza. In this same stanza I can see the fields and the harvest, the bags and people moving in a common rhythm. The speaker makes it clear that all of the aforementioned work is not extraordinary, it is “common as mud” but it has to be done, and if you’re going to do something you may as well do it well. I completely agree with this mindset and the satisfactory feeling that you get from doing something and knowing you gave it your full attention and effort is something to be valued.
I also enjoyed Joy Harjo’s poem, A Map to the Next World. A few things in particular stood out to me. For instance, the line “The soul is a wanderer with many hands and feet”; the soul is considered the essence of a person, and after reading this line, it made me think of how the soul is incredibly complex. You know how people say “look deep into your soul” or something like that and you’ll somehow know what it is you want or need, but what if the soul wants different things and is pulled in different directions or doesn’t even know what it wants? Maybe our soul is as complicated and complex as we are. I mean, if you think about it, we think we know ourselves pretty well at this point in our lives, but I don’t think we ever really know who we are, we just know one version of ourselves. I know that makes sense, if it doesn’t, I swear that it makes sense in my mind. Anyway, this idea of self and who we are is presented a few lines down when the speaker says, “we forget to acknowledge the gift, as if we were not in it or of it (in reference to the language of the land). When we let go of any part of our culture or peoples’ history we lose a part of our identity and that we are and that’s one of the greatest losses. We aren’t the only ones that suffer from this; if you speak a language or have knowledge of your culture and don’t share that with your kids, they suffer; just as, if we don’t speak languages that our families once did, we suffered a great loss as a result of our parents or their parents, etc. My favorite line is “our forgetfulness stalks us”; this connects directly to what I was just saying. It affects us so much that we are unable to possess and further share our history. I mean, it stinks that I can’t speak Hebrew and I don’t know a lot of my family’s history because it’s been lost but I go about my life and days the same way that I would have if I did have that knowledge. However, my personality may be slightly different, the way I see certain things my be different, my ability to appreciate something or find distaste in others could be altered slightly, and therefore although it may be slight, I am a different person and freaks me out, a lot. The fact that I won’t know a lot about my family nor speak other languages that my ancestors did will haunt me, too. That was probably irrelevant and a tangent, but in terms of this poem, their forgetfulness is only a reminder that that they their loss surrounds them and is everywhere, you can’t escape the knowledge that you simply don’t know something. Although I digress
In Encounters in the New World the author gives a very clear definition of she considers to be a document. Enlightening enough she states that “a document is (…) any sort of historical evidence” (Lapore 6), and she lists examples of it. The importance of such documents in unveiling and understanding history is bluntly stated in the book. According to author, through these kinds of documents one understands history in a better fashion compared to trying to understand through official state documents (Lapore 6) because it permits one to play a participative part in “(re) constructing history”, as she states. Nevertheless, to do that one needs to find the information about the document that will facilitate its interpretation and importance in history. I believe that these documents referred by Lapore have the capacity to provide a true version of history, the ones provided by the government that are, basically, part of a prescriptive history. Connecting to all of this, one, while observing the picture American Progress, sees the conquering of America by the white people lead by some kind of angel with scriptures/rules in her hands. What strikes the most in this picture is the fact that not only the Native Americans are fleeing but also nature is fleeing from the European settlers. The area that is occupied and conquered by the settlers is very bright and clear while the area the Native Americans and bear and buffalos are is dark and cloudy. The picture gives the idea of whatever the settlers brought with them was better, brighter and somehow divine contrasting with the dark, unknown and somehow evil traditions and habits found in America when the first settlers arrived.
To BE of Use by Marge Piercy – I am not very inclined, as a reader, to the literature genre of poetry. However, this poem was very appealing and entertaining. I come from a family where labor is sacred and rewarding and that to achieve satisfaction, success or, let’s say, happiness we have to sweat it out. We believe that everything can be possible to one who works and strives. Reading this poem, where the common hard work and hard worker is exalted and appreciated, fills me with joy and satisfaction. The author states that the people that “…jump into work head first without dallying in the shallows and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight” are the kind of people she likes. By saying that, the author reveals that she appreciates people who are not afraid of work, lazy and their duties swiftly.
This week we read two poems, “To Be of Use” by Marge Piercy and “A Map to the Next World” by Joy Harjo; read an excerpt from Encounters in the New World: A History in Documents by Jill Lepore; read a page from the Cherokee Phoenix from 1828; read two translated Massachusett Algonkin petitions, from the Mashpee in Barnstable in 1752 and from Gayhead in 1749; and examined John Gast’s painting “American Progress”.
The speaker of the poem “To Be of Use” values hard work and active participation and identifies with “people who submerge/in the task,…who are not parlor generals and field deserters/but move in a common rhythm/when the food must come in or the fire be put out” (third stanza). In other words, rather than delegate work to others, the speaker prefers to act when action is required. The final two lines, which personify “the pitcher” that “cries for water to carry/and a person for work that is real.” reminded me of the Louise Erdrich piece we read and how, in Ojibwe, a rock can place itself in a person’s hand. I also thought of a short story by Gary Soto, “Born Worker”, which depicts José, in contrast to his cousin Arnie, as a hard worker who takes pride in what he does. This poem is thematically similar to “The Low Road,” another poem by Marge Piercy, which is one of my personal favorites, especially when performed by Staceyann Chin in The People Speak, because it shows how collective action can overcome oppression. I had a harder time understanding “A Map to the Next World” because I am not very familiar with Mvskoke/Creek mythology and do not have any background knowledge on the significance of the fourth and fifth worlds referenced in the poem. In the ninth stanza, I wonder whether the line about how “the map appears to/disappear” means that it seems to disappear or appears in order to disappear. I was just reading about epistemology for another class, so the line about how “They have never lefe us; we abandoned them for science.” is interesting. I also like how the speaker refrains from idealizing the past by saying “we were never perfect”, but at the same time affirms that “the journey we make together is perfect on this earth who was/once a star and made the same mistakes as humans”. In this setup, nothing is broken that cannot be repaired, and there is a nice reassurance in the continuity between the actions of stars and humans.
In Jill Lepore’s work, her definition of a “document” is similar to what we have learned about rhetorics in that it can be “even an object” (6). She also explains that “using primary sources allows us not to just read about history, but to read history itself” (ibid.). This is basically the same argument against assigning too much value to textual rhetorics. In the caption below the image of Beowulf, she notes that it “is physical evidence of the transition from oral to written history” and “also a physical record of the wear and tear of history” (7). This made me think of how archaeologists employ use-wear analysis to glean information about how artifacts may have been used, and it also reminded me of another reading from the course I took in African Art History, Art of the Senses: The Role of Patina by Suzanne Blier, which argues that we learn the most when we explore (art) objects through all our senses and consider how they have been altered by their environments and use. I loved Lepore’s question in response to Columbus’ log entry about bringing Indians back to Spain “in order that they may learn to speak”: “Do they not speak already?” From his perspective, if they do not speak his language, what they do speak does not even count at all.
The most striking part of the Cherokee Phoenix page, to me, was that in the patrilineal descent system outlined, it is okay if one’s mother is White, but not if she is Black. This is not surprising, but it is a sad that they would prefer to identify with the people who mistreated them instead of with other people who experienced the same devaluation. Then again, I cannot read all of this clearly, and I wonder, based on other similarities between this Constitution and U.S. laws, who exactly agreed to these terms. In the two petitions, the Mashpee are asking for assistance because the White people living near them are not abiding by previous agreements on land use and are interfering with their access to fishing and pasture.
John Gast’s painting, as evidenced by its title and the angelic figure in the center watching over the wagons, portrays the western movement by White settlers as having divine support. Obviously, this is a perspective not shared by people already living on the land these settlers are heading toward, but it refl
The article Encounters in the New World is an analysis of what a document is and represents. It starts by asking the question “What is a Document?”, presenting document as something written or drawn, or even an object, from which someone can “extract” meaning and/or information (e.g. a grocery list or a newspaper).
“Using primary sources allows us not just to read about history, but to read history itself” (p.6). The article focuses on documents as primary sources, which means as the “original” documents. When analyzing “original” documents, one can have contact with the “raw” and “unaltered” vision of the source, making it easier to form your own ideas and conclusions about the document (there are pictures of old maps and old literature in order to exemplify primary sources).
Then the articles analyses how to read a document. It states that, “to understand a written document it is important to know who wrote it and for whom, when, and why.” (pag. 8). These are important things to know so that the person who is reading the document can understand the document based on its context in order to “see” what is not being “told” in the sentence. Furthermore, for someone to understand a document it is important to ask the right questions, even questions where the answers are not “inside” the document. Encounters in the New Worls shows how important it is to have access to primary sources in order to ask your own questions and see things through your “own eyes” .
A Map to the Next World is a “riot” against what the world has become. Joy Harjo tries to show his “anger” and discontentment toward what the world and the people are doing and perpetuating. For him, we are walking a path that will lead to destruction and desolation, where we will lose what we have and them memory of those once dear to us. According to Joy, it is up to each one of us to decide and see if something is wrong and needs to be changed. If we decide to change there may still be time as long as we really want, but the clock is ticking.
To Be of use is a poem to the “ideal” people. Marge Pierce describes the kind of people she likes, admires, and wants to be with. She loves people “…who do what has to be done, again and again” or who “…move in a common rhythm”. She then concludes that there are things in this world that were made to be used but somehow end up on museums for people to admire. There are thing that “belong together” but somehow end up separated, even though they are close to one another. People make things look complicated when they should be easy to see and easy to handle.
It is important that the author, Jill Lepore explores the essence of different documents that can be a fundamental part of history. Through illustrative images the author tries to show us that history can be constructed or reconstructed through different sources such as map, treaty, literature…. The map can show the region where something took place; the treaty shows agreement between nations, who signed the treaty; and literature can help us understand the language and how it evolved throughout the time. All these documents are important source that can play a vital role in the context of understanding and telling the history of people, civilizations. In the passage “It allows us to immerse ourselves in the look and feel of an era gone by…” show us the importance of history. History can travel us to era that has gone by and it will enable us to understand the culture, tradition and language of different society.
“To Be of Use” by Marge Piercy. I enjoyed reading the poem, and the way the author starts the poem by giving credit and honor the hard worker is very interesting. “The people I love the best, jump into work …without dallying in the shallows”. The author starts by appreciating the effort done by those who start work early without wasting time. Those people are the one the author loves since they are hard worker and they can give their contribution for the society development. In the poem, the author mentions different working setting and this is shows how the author honors different types of work done by different people. In the third stanza “I want to be with people submerge in the task…” I believe the poem in a certain way it is a criticism directed to the society especial to those lazy people who refuse to work or those who do not engage themselves fully in the task done. Thinking about the people who the author loves the best, reminds me my Cape Verdean people who after independence and up to now have been working hard for the construction of the country under poor condition or in the absence of natural resource.
“A Map to the Next World” gives us the idea of how life will be in the next world. Reading this poem it makes you travel to an imaginary world, to a utopia. The next world it is a place created in the imagination of native people and it can be a place of happiness as well as suffering. In the passage “you will travel through the membrane of death” it gives us a sense that the author is trying to communicate with a spirit, probably a superior spirit. In the passage “The journey we make together is perfect on this earth who was once a star and made the same mistakes as humans”. Here the author uses the personification to describe the earth. I could understand that the author is trying to show that in the beginning the earth was a paradise with its shine and now it is a corrupted and chaos place; not worthy to live.
“Encounters in the New World: A History in Documents,” by Jill Lepore
I found this article to be an interesting read since it encourages readers/researchers to ‘question’ the text. As a researcher, it is important to look beyond the details provided and focus on elements that are not provided. The example from Columbus’ journal demonstrated the value in questioning the text about: time period, setting, overall just asking questions for more information. In other words, not just “read about history but to “read history itself”, in turn, study the “who, what, where, when and why?” of a work. This also made me think back to the reading from a couple of weeks ago “Rhetorical Powwows” and its emphasis on how we should read the history of an object and all it represents. Overall, a very insightful article which made me aware of additional details to be considered when examining texts with my students.
“To be of Use” by Marge Piercy
In this poem, Percy clearly considers the working class the group to aspire to be a part of, as they are the ones that “jump into work head first”. I found the poem interesting in that it categorized the masses and all of its socioeconomic groups and highlighted the “working class” as the best. In my family, it is 0065pected that one will work hard in any and every endeavor. Whether it was previous generations working every part of the farm or newer ones focusing on careers, it is expected that each family member will work hard to not “shame” the family. Overall, I enjoyed this poem and will be incorporating into a future lesson.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.