March, 2017

Oscar Wao Presentation

Hello, everyone!

My presentation was on the novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. I thought this novel was pretty flexible so I decided to cover as much material so that it could be used to it’s full potential. If you haven’t read the novel, I highly recommend it even for a fun read.

I’m attaching the Word Document to this post so that you can save it in a folder you might have on your computer that covers exam materials: Presentation

The first theory I covered was DuBois’ Double-Consciousness. Oscar is both Dominican and American, constantly being pulled by each side as he gets criticized for not being the Dominican-machismo male the culture expects him to be. This ultimately shapes his identity and could play a factor in the tragic ending.

The second theory is Brennan’s “Transmission of Affect.” Yunior, the narrator of the novel, is one of the many who criticize Oscar for not being Dominican enough. He is always commenting (or complaining) about Oscar and his love for sci-fi and comics. Yet, Yunior himself is affected by Oscar’s love of these subcultures. Yunior is constantly referencing sci-fi and comic book characters to give the reader a better understanding of what he’s talking about. Also, Yunior gets one of the highest grades in a creative writing course he takes with Oscar in college and ends up becoming a creative writing professor towards the end of the novel. He embodies the criticism he gave Oscar, proving that Oscar’s love transmits onto Yunior.

I also covered genre. Daniel Bautista’s “Comic Book Realism: Form and Genre in Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” discusses Bautista’s claim of the novel emerging a new genre: comic book realism. Latin American literature usually brings up magical realism which the novel gets criticized for properly continuing this tradition or not. Bautista believes a new genre emerges overall. But, I believe the novel is a tragicomic because it covers all aspects of what a tragicomic is defined as.

Another genre element is Unnatural narration in Katherine Weese’s “‘Tu no Eres Nada de Dominicano’: Unnatural Narration and De-Naturalizing Gender Constructs in Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.”  Yunior is the narrator of the novel and tells us all about the De Leon family, even going as far back to Oscar’s grandfather’s history. Although Yunior says he talks to Lola, his past girlfriend, about Oscar and their family, it’s still pretty strange how Yunior is able to have this knowledge. Also, the article brings up Jon Alber’s UnNatural Narrative article which I know some people might use for the exam.

I lightly touch upon historical context, but the novel is covered in so much history that it was hard for me to cover as much as I could within the time we have left from now and the exam. The article is by Monica Hanna and is called “Reassembling the Fragments”: Battling Historiographies, Caribbean Discourse, and Nerd Genres in Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. I give excerpts from the introduction that cover what the article is about in my document if anyone wants to head down that path.

Good luck!

Exam strategies

Gwendolyn Brooks’ poems:

Theory: I believe the discussion we had in class that covered the variations of DuBois’ theory of double-consciousness worked well. Rather than using his theory for what it is (regarding race), I can expand on it by saying that within any binary Brooks explores in her poems (wealthy and poor, male and female, black and white), there is a double consciousness mode of thought.

Historical Context: The supplemental readings I added at the end of my study guide by Debo and Stanford can help discuss Brooks’ poems in certain historical contexts. Debo explains how Brooks’ poem “Riot” “connects the 1968 riots to the violence aimed at African Americans in the sixteenth century” (144). Stanford dichotomizes the poem “Negro Hero” by scrutinizing the Double V concept that Blacks are fighting for: the war at home and the war overseas.

Genre: Debo can also be used regarding the way Brooks writes her poetry. She explains how some critics believed her earlier poetry was “traditional,” “accommodationist,” or “white.” I can discuss how Debo believes Brooks’ poetry evolves and follows “what she sees happening in the arts and in politics – it is all politically informed” (143). [Weak, but just writing down ideas].

Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Theory: When we went over Postcolonialism (PoCo) in class the other day, I suggested this text. There are many instances in the novel where characters would bring up how Oscar doesn’t fit the description of what a Dominican is supposed to embody [need to work on this]. Or, as Professor Tougaw suggested, the places where Oscar lives fit into PoCo: he lives in DR a little at a time, a place where it’s constantly hot, little to no AC, etc; he lives at home with his parents who bring that DR essence to the house; as Oscar starts to get more independent and goes away to college in a dorm and then gets an apartment afterwards, it shows how he leans towards the more colonized way of living. [Need to work on this].

Historical Context: The novel reflects on Oscar’s family and their history with Rafael Trujillo who was the President of DR who led them into a dictatorship. I haven’t come across anything yet and this wasn’t really a path I wanted to take, but I will try and find a source that might be beneficial and post it as soon as I do.

Genre: I read this article a few years ago when I read the novel and just saw that Professor Tougaw posted it where our supplemental readings. The article is Daniel Bautista’s “Comic Book Realism: Form and Genre in Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.” Bautista discusses the use of magical realism in Latin American literature and argues that strays away from that tradition into another realm: “Diaz’s mix of sf, fantasy, comic books, and gritty realism subversively reworks a strong tradition of magical realism in Latin American and Latino writing. The result is a new kind of genre, which I am calling “comic book realism,” that irreverently mixes realism and popular culture in an attempt to capture the bewildering variety of cultural influences that define the lives of Diaz’s Dominican-American protagonists” (42). I think I’m going to argue that Oscar Wao is more of a tragicomic. It follows the traditional styles of a tragedy: human suffering, tragic ending. And also of comedy: pitting two groups against each other in an amusing agon or conflict. Northrop Frye defined the two groups as “Society of Youth” and a “Society of the Old.” The old is the Dominican machismo elements Oscar’s mother, Beli, and Yunior try to impose on Oscar. But Oscar is embedded in the new popular culture and surrounds himself with comics, fantasy, etc.

Another article I was looking at is “Tu no Eres Nada de Dominicano”: Unnatural Narration and De-Naturalizing Gender Constructs in Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” by Katherine Weese. Weese discusses how the novel “violates traditional narrative conventions for distinctions between first- and third-person narrators” and how the novel “also participates in the unnatural in its use of science fiction and fantasy literature, and in its representation of logically impossible scenarios” (89).  [Reading this now, might bring it up during my presenation].

Flexibility and Modularity

I feel like DuBois’ theory of double-consciousness works with Brooks and Diaz’s novel. Oscar lives his life as a Dominican-American, constantly being pulled on each side in some sort of way.

I think I can somehow tie together Oscar Wao and The God of Small Things with a PoCo reading. Tracy brought up moments in the text where the twins had to adapt to their new way of life. This is similar to how Oscar slowly adapts to the American lifestyle and not so much Dominican. [Just something that popped up in my head].


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