Posts in: Block 8
On Thursday night, as we neared the end of another busy week, the students of German 202, and a few members of the Max Kade house, CC’s German language house, gathered together at Professor Ane Steckenbiller’s house to eat a delicious home cooked, Mediterranean dinner, and to play an exciting German murder-mystery game. The game was set at a dinner party, and was centered around a group of characters, each one played by a different player. Through a series of clues and dialog between players, it becomes clear that the characters all have some connection to one another, and some connection to a murder that’s been committed, and that the murderer is in their midst. The goal of the game was to solve the murder by the time the dinner was complete. It took three hours, but with the help of the two native German speakers who were present, and some ice cream sundaes, we successfully completed the game.
Each week in German 202 our course work is centered on a specific theme from our textbook. The vocabulary, discussions and readings that we do each week usually have some connection to these themes. Past themes in this block include traditions, regional specialties, science, and technology. This week’s main focus was on law and the environment. On Friday, in the spirit of our theme of the environment, our class took a field trip to Red Rocks Open Space. On our way to Red Rocks we stopped to buy some food from Wimberger’s, a local German bakery and deli. After fueling up with delicious German snacks we began our walk through Red Rocks. As a challenge, we tried to speak only German during our time in the park. Many amusing attempts were made using German to try to explain the various natural phenomena that we observed. After about an hour and a half of walking, we stopped by a small pond to eat our German snacks and to read and discuss a series of famous 19th century German poems. This series of works, which included poems by Goethe, Joseph von Eichendorff, Theodor Storm, and Stefan George, all had to do with nature and human interaction with and perceptions of the natural world.
This week in German 202 a major theme of discussion was the German federal state of Bavaria, or as it’s known in Germany, Bayern. Bavaria is known its modern cities like Munich and Nuremburg, stunning castles, and idyllic countryside. As a Bavarian native herself, Dr. Ane Steckenbiller, our professor, was able to provide our class with her own experiences and perspectives about life in Bavaria. Together we were able explore the traditions and history of Bavaria and were also able to unpack some of the common stereotypes that exist about Bavaria, for instance, that Bavarians are more conservative and provincial than other Germans.
I have been fortunate enough to travel to Bavaria on several occasions. In my time there, the thing I have always noticed most, other than the stunning beauty of the region, is the wonderful contrast and balance that exists between the modern and the traditional. I have witnessed Munich transition over a single day from a bustling, impersonal city, to a city in which nearly all the inhabitants had donned their traditional garb, and had transported themselves and their city back through time, to enjoy the celebration of “Oktoberfest.” This same contrast can be seen as you leave the cities and make your way into the countryside. Ultramodern cities and highways gradually give way to quaint towns where the highest building is still the town Church. The dozens of languages that are spoken in the large international cities are replaced by the dozens of different dialects of German that can be heard as you make your way through the countryside. It’s this balance in my opinion, that makes Bavaria a truly remarkable place.
View of the Bavarian Alps Marienplatz: Munich city center
My final blog post is all about Project Poetry! On Monday, Jane had us all over for a class dinner at her house, which was delicious and lots of fun! We talked about poetry, our papers, and what we were all going to do this summer. Then we moved inside to watch an episode of Project Runway (since some of us, myself included, had never seen the show before). Jane chose an unconventional materials challenge where the contestants had to design and make dresses out of old electronic equipment. It was really fun for all of us to watch and eat dessert together!
Now onto our own competition. We had four judges: a former student of Jane’s and three senior Poetry majors, including our class assistant Bo Malcolm. For each category the contestants would stand one by one and read their poem aloud to the judges, then hand them a paper copy so they could look at the poem on paper. Once everyone finished, all the students and Jane would leave the room while the judges deliberated. Then we would come back in, the judges would announce their top three, give feedback, then announce the winner.
The first category to compete was the Ode to Your Age category. Out of six competitors the judges’ top three were Tara, Jack, and Susannah. After some great feedback for each of the three, the winner was…
Here is Tara’s beautiful poem:
The second category to compete was the Eavesdropping Poem category. We only had four competitors for this one, so the judges gave feedback to the top four instead of the top three. These were Kai, Ethan, Ashley, and Jonathan. All the poems were witty and fascinating, but there had to be a winner. The winner was…
Here is Ethan’s wonderful eavesdropped conversation poem:
The third and final category was the Untranslatable Word category. This one had a whopping nine competitors, and the judges’ top three were Sam, Mary, and Jonathan. And the winner was…
Here is Mary’s poem about an untranslatable word she came up with:
Each winner was presented with a prize! Tara won a book of Rilke poems, Ethan won a little notebook and some fun mustaches with which to disguise himself while eavesdropping, and Mary won a book of untranslatable words. Everyone wrote so many beautiful poems, so here are some of the others that people sent me to include, along with some pictures!
Here is Jack reading his Ode to his Age:
Here is Jonathan reading his Ode to his Age:
Jonathan also wrote for both the other categories. Here is his Eavesdropping poem:
And here is his Untranslatable Word poem:
Now for a photo of the top three from the Ode category getting the judges’ feedback:
Here also are two poems by the lovely Kai:
And here is a photo of how we sat in the classroom as an audience.
The final poem we absolutely have to include is Sam’s beautiful Untranslatable Word poem. She wrote two connecting poems, one in Spanish and the other it’s translation in English. Here she is reading it for the judges and the class:
Thank you to everyone who has been reading this blog throughout this class. Thank you to Jane for being an amazing professor and for encouraging our creativity as well as our love of poetry. Thank you to my classmates who made class one of the best parts of my day this block. I’ll miss you all. Have a great summer everyone!
Over and out,
So this week we spent some time workshopping and editing our second papers, and also discussed some dramatic poems on Tuesday. The one we talked about the most was Robert Frost’s “Home Burial,” which is a beautiful and tragic poem about a husband and wife who have lost their child. They’re both coping with their grief in different ways, so their marriage is suffering. One of the aspects of the poem I really loved is how the husband and wife have a whole argument without really communicating or listening to each other at all. The way Frost writes the scene makes it feel very real and tangible.
For Wednesday we read Ian Williams’ Personals, and I think I can say without a doubt that we all loved that collection. Ian Williams is brilliant, and writes everything from clever, witty poems like “” to deeply profound poems like the “Rings” series. Even his witty work is profound and his profound work witty, which is an admirable talent. “Hay,” in particular struck all of us in this witty and profound way:
Then on Thursday we talked about form (not that we haven’t been talking about form this whole time, but today we covered a few specific forms, namely Villanelle, Sestina, and Haiku). We read some great villanelles like Dylan Thomas’ “Do Not Go Gentle Into that Good Night” and Elizabeth Bishop’s “One Art.” Jane’s not really the biggest fan of sestina’s, so we didn’t talk about them too much, which was fine with us because instead we went outside and sat on the grass in the sun and wrote haiku. Here are a couple pictures of us:
My classmate Jonathan spent a lot of his time making a fun flower crown out of daisies, and also wrote some haiku he was willing to contribute.
I also wrote some haiku myself:
Last but not least, Friday we discussed political poetry, looking at poems like Carolyn Forché’s “The Colonel” and Mark Doty’s “Charlie Howard’s Descent.” We talked quite a bit about the interplay of passion and restraint in political poetry, because it’s impossible to write a good political poem about something you have no passion for, but the writer also benefits from exercising restraint and focusing their poetry in a detailed way. Poetry can be used both to work through and explain difficult or traumatic events in a beautiful and haunting way.
That’s all for this week! This weekend we’ll be beginning work on our final papers and finishing up poems for Project Poetry.
Over and out,
Greetings from the Sociology Department… It’s Candy Friday! Both class and campus are buzzing today, for several reasons.
Firstly, the weather. It is sunny and HOT in Colorado Springs, so much so that we had class outside on the quad! Our discussion today was regarding our developing research studies; the first draft is due this Sunday at 5pm. All three groups submitted a piece of published literature that is working to guide our development of a research question and subsequent findings for each of our fields. My group, remember that we observed Penrose Hospital, submitted this article on hierarchies, teams and webs in the medical workplace and how they coincide to ensure efficient patient care and satisfied employees. The second group contributed an article regarding WIFI in community places like cafés, and how it is a factor in social dynamics of the business. They have observed the goings-on at Colorado Springs’ The Wild Goose, a notoriously hip coffee shop (their cinnamon rolls are quite something). The final group is researching gender dynamics and masculinity within men’s lacrosse at CC, and submitted an article that parses out the importance of body and self and meaning within lacrosse.
Going into the weekend, my research team of women has a good idea of how to organize our coded data sets into meaningful, patterned findings. Our paper just hit 25 pages, with a substantial literature review. Excited to see what everyone thinks of it (we’re peer editing on Monday, which is why we read all these different articles today)! Another aspect of the project that is due on Monday is our individual portfolios, filled with our own field notes, analytic memos and a reflection of what it’s like to participate in a team-researched and -written study.
Another buzzing topic is Llamapalooza! CC’s annual music festival is slated for this Saturday, and it looks like the weather is going to hold for us. Palmer Hall, the picture below, is where Symbolic Interactionism has been held all block. Tomorrow, these sidewalks will be filled with colorful students in sandals and sun hats with face paint to go around.
On the topic of symbolic interactions, music festivals are excellent examples of the presentation of self! Think about how students will dress differently and behave differently, based solely on their location at a distinguished event that values sunshine and music and good vibes. What is expected in terms of clothing, food and drink, schoolwork and conversation changes uniquely tomorrow on campus. The majority of CC won’t be in Tutt Library, even though 4th week is looming. More skin will be showing than usual and less responsibility will be felt and projected. Fun isn’t a feeling; it’s a performance.
My next post will be after the final work of 4th week but until then, hoping you’ll be enjoying sunshine somewhere, too! We’ve got the social event of the season, and seeing as how it was cancelled last year due to pounding rain, we’re hoping it’ll be twice as great!
This week we’ve continued discussing more awesome poetry from some great authors. We started off the week on Monday with a Meter and Terminology Exam, just to make sure we remembered all the terms and scansion skills we practiced last week. We also talked about some poems by Native American author James Thomas Stevens. Then that evening we attended a reading by James Thomas Stevens and several other Native American poets and prose writers in Gaylord Hall. It was especially cool to listen to them read because one was Colorado Coffee’s very own Byron Aspaas, who read a short piece from his memoir. A lot of us had no idea Byron was a writer, and were entranced by the beautiful and personal stories he shared with us.
On Tuesday we did a cool project with imagery. Jane gave us this poem, “City Limits” by Joseph Hutchison, and asked two people to draw on the board the image they pictured in their heads while reading the poem. It’s a beautiful description of the relationship between cities and the natural world. Here’s the poem:
Mary and Kai drew on the board for us. This is Mary’s image:
And this is Kai’s:
Both images highlight different aspects of the poem and represent the imagery in different ways. Which image do you feel most connected to after reading the poem? Would you draw your own image differently?
We spent the rest of the week focusing on metaphor, and on Thursday had a great discussion about Sharon Olds’ “Sex Without Love.” Olds uses metaphors of dancers, ice-skaters, religion, and runners to describe people who have sex without love. This poem is wonderful because it does what great poems do: it comes close to saying the opposite of what it says. The speaker of the poem seems to disapprove of people having sex without loving their partner, but she also talks about those people in terms of strong and reverent metaphors, using words like “beautiful,” “great,” and “true religious.” Ultimately, however, she suggests that despite the power and pleasure that can be attained by loveless sex, those people, whether they know it or not, will ultimately end up a “single body alone in the universe.”
Last but not least, on Thursday we also kicked off Project Poetry, a competition we invented inspired by some of my classmates’ love of Project Runway. We brainstormed and came up with several sets of creative constraints, then voted on our three favorites:
In order to compete, everyone has to write at least one of the three poems. We’ll submit them on 4th Monday and have some senior poets come into class to judge and pick the winners. Jane will be our Tim Gunn to give us advice and help us out as we go, and the winners of each category will get a prize! (Exactly what that will be is TBD.) So look forward to more info on Project Poetry come 4th week! (I’m sure everyone will be quite secretive until the day comes for the competition.)
Happy snowy weekend!
The following books have all been assigned over the course of the last week, and we’ve had some interesting follow-up discussions (and an essay to write!) regarding the ethics and efficacy of ethnography and participant observation as a research method. I highly encourage, if you’re interested, that you check these books out. They are written on a spectrum of styles, from first person all the way to third person omniscient and work meaningfully to portray the perspectives of marginalized persons living on the fringes of American life.
These books are all accessible to the educated reader, but I would argue that all three need to be read with a critical eye. That means thinking about who the researcher is, which stories he/she decides to include in the text and why, and how he/she navigates the connection between micro- and macro-sociological patterns. One of the more clear examples of the effect of human, subjective interaction, is from On the Run; the author’s key to acceptance in the community that she is researching is a Black man named Mike. Upon taking her under his wing, Mike describes to Alice (the author and researcher) unabashedly why she is a poor fit for his own community. “First off, my clothes were all wrong – they didn’t even match. My toenails were bare and uneven, and what was I doing wearing flip-flops in January anyway? […] The way that I spoke was strange, and I could stand to get a little more husky. Plus, I didn’t know how to walk or hold my body right” (2014:223). In scenes like this, I can imagine the young Alice Goffman, in her doe-eyed whiteness, sticking out like a sore thumb from a community that she grows to consider herself part of.
Another part of this week has to do with CC’s Sociology Department at large! Today, Friday the 29th, was Senior Thesis Day. Here’s what the schedule looked like:
I attended the second session, “Sociology of College Life,” which had a fabulous mixture of qualitative/quantitative and local/national research completed by three women of Sociology that will be graduating this year. From inclusivity to sexual assault, the three presentations investigated social problems that affect college students around the country as well as the CC student body in particular. One of the main takeaways that connected to Symbolic Interactionism is the way in which the publicized image of CC (supposedly, we all ADORE the outdoors and spend all our free time in the woods, which is ironic given my “About Me” at the bottom of this page) unequally affects students of color in an exclusionary way. It’s research like this that will keep Colorado College a changing place, and one that cannot ignore its social issues thanks to students brave enough to confront them.
Theses are required of Sociology majors at CC, whether they be a research project or literature review, on a topic of their choosing. To be completed senior year, each student plans for two blocks to be conducting research, writing, and editing with the help of peers and an advisor of their choice. What follows are a few photos of the women that so successfully completed and presented meaningful research; I can’t wait to see them walk the Commencement stage in just two weeks!
A final note: I spent my last time in the field at Penrose Hospital observing yesterday. My group has started to more specifically investigate the systematic separation of hospital personnel based on profession (as dictated by uniforms) and how those professions correlate to race. Gender dynamics have also been interesting to observe more closely; the profession of nursing is both largely female and largely social (they chat… a lot…) in the cafeteria.
It’s snowing buckets on campus! Nothing like a late April snowstorm in Colorado Springs!
First and foremost:
Queer Theory is not just for Queer Bodies to participate in.
As I define it, queerness can be as minute as an identity signifier outside of the normative, but it can be as expansive as deconstructing and reconceptualizing our “natural” worlds. Queerness, through subversion, transgression, and the necessity of survival, exposes the artifice of society and what has been assumed to be the essence of humanness. It interrogates the idea of an essence at all.
On the first day, a classmate of mine said
“There have been certain people who have made sense of the world for others..”
Those people in American society have been white, hetero, and male. Therefore, the compulsory understanding of natural has aligned itself with their positioning. A position of power. A position of regulation. And a self-perpetuating, self-sustaining, misconception of naturalness functioning, solely, to reinstate a dynamic power.
“The fallacy of binary opposition” is a phrase I first encountered in Mock Trial. For those of you who have yet to embrace this deliciously nerdy subculture, it is essentially learning a real case, with an assigned position (defense or prosecution), and then competitively reenacting that case in courthouse. Where “binary opposition” asserts itself is in the construction of our team’s argument. We have to believe that we are right and they are wrong. Us/them, right/wrong, prosecution/defense –those are our functioning binaries. However, in order to move forward, we have to learn both sides of the story (high-five debate team tactics)– and this is where the fallacy is revealed. The narrative of opposition between two objects (between us and them) is the one we are creating.
And I think we can all agree that we are surrounded by spectrums and fluidity, not hard lines. Or maybe we don’t agree… but,
LET’S GO FURTHER
Binary structures work as a tool to create power dynamics, founded in an assumed or constructed, irrefutable truth. For example, the gender binary male/female: where male is the dominating force. One of the underlying assumptions is the “truth” that women are weak and men are strong, which gives reason for men to be in a position of power. And (surprise, surprise) these support systems take a binary form: strong/weak, natural/unnatural, sensible/silly.
While homosexuality threatens (or challenges) the power dynamic of the male/female binary, the term was created* in conjunction with its own binary force: homosexual/heterosexual. What this, then, did is reestablish lost power within the heteronormative, where homosexuality is subordinate, unnatural, etc.
Part of this “truth” is grounded in the assumption that the dominating side is the majority, and it’s power is simply a matter of numerical fact. And in some instances, binarisms do follow this narrative. But can dominance be as basic as having the most bodies? How much of it is really the power of numbers or just the reinforcement, and gravitation towards, a larger binary construction for justification. What binary is that, you ask? Majority/minority. But if we think about colonization, which party had the power? The colonizer or the colonized? The majority or the minority?
Or if we think about the dynamics of a plantation house, where the plantation owners were the minority and the slaves the majority. A different binary was put in place to ensure positions of power, white/black, where scientific “truths” of “natural evidence” of inferiority were created to justify claims of necessary control.
In no way am I trying to invalidate the existence, significance, or consequences of oppositional binaries we are swimming in– male/female, white/black, good/bad, etc– but more so wish to illuminate the destructive pattern of thought (its sole purpose being to establish the dominate/subordinate power dynamic). And for those of us who want to move towards balance and equality, or (at least) consensual inequality, we have to strip down the layers of our reality.
So where do we go from here? Well,
TO EXIST CONSCIOUSLY WE MUST KNOW THE WAYS IN WHICH WE HAVE BEEN CONDITIONED TO MOVE, THINK, AND BE.
Queerness, as I embrace and use it, is a resistance to this conditioning.
New this year, CC’s Sociology department has changed the way we take our theory courses for requirements. In Block II, I took the general Social Theory Class with Professor Deb Smith and then elected to focus on Symbolic Interactionism for my specialized theory. Following this, I’ll take either Quantitative or Qualitative Methods and then write my thesis!
Symbolic interactionism is one of the major theoretical frameworks of modern Sociology, and focuses largely on micro-interactions between people of all sorts. It’s all about how we create meanings through interactions, and how, as Professor Vanessa Muñoz’s coffee cup quotes Charles Cooley, “Self and society are twin-born.” As far as class goes this week, we’ve read some philosophy regarding interactions: Mead’s “The Self,” Cooley’s “The Looking-Glass Self,” and Erving Goffman’s “The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life.” From this final book we read a good 100 pages overnight, and one of the main points Goffman made works to counter my title for this post: “All the world is not, of course, a stage, but the crucial ways in which it isn’t are not easy to specify.” In other words, we are all part of society that watches each other and assigns meanings to others’ appearance and demeanor, even though we are not technically on a stage. See the awesome Zits cartoon below for a contemporary example.
In addition to the philosophy aspect of class, we have a field component that will culminate in a final research paper. Let me explain: in addition to reading/discussion, an ethnographic study done by student groups of five on a topic of choice is a large part of the syllabus. Ethnography is defined as the scientific description of the customs of individual peoples and cultures. My group of five women has decided to study the interactions of medical professionals with the general public in neutral spaces, specifically the hospital cafeteria. We have been visiting Penrose Hospital recently and have only begun to observe patterns of interactions that hint to the world of the cafeteria being a stage.
For example, take the “costumes.” White labcoats, patient gowns, stethoscopes, ID badges… All of the characters are identifiable by what they wear in this way. Their appearances affect how people interact with each other in the cafeteria; for example, we sit with those who are like us and give space to those that merit respect. As a student that plans to go to medical school in a couple of years, it’s been interesting to start looking critically at the hierarchy of the hospital… Who are the doctors? Who cooks the food? What does it mean to be an RN versus a PA? What do subsets of employees talk about in their free time?
Obviously I’ve got a lot of questions about my ethnographic study, and I’m told that this is normal. Hopefully, in another week, my team’s observations will guide us to a specific research question and a theory – regardless of how blurry it is. Because Symbolic Interactionism works so neatly with ethnography – watching how people interact and create meanings is the way that we can more clearly theorize on dramaturgical interactions – I’m happy to say that I have no doubts that this first week has just been the beginning! I’m starting to see characters and costumes and stages instead of what I’ve always seen as just plain life… I’m thinking Goffman’s thoughts are on point.