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].


2 Comments so far

  1.   Chani Rubenstein on March 17th, 2017

    Hey Brandon!
    I think you should keep on running with Oscar Wao. Your analysis of Brooks is deep and detailed. Could you pair her with Ellison or Gilman fairly easily? Also: the hybridity of Oscar Wao might lend itself to Fun Home, which I know you are planning on reading. You could also talk about the double-consciousness seen in liminal spaces. Please feel free to loo at my spreadsheet. I hope this thing can help organize thoughts of others, as well as my own. Enjoy, by the way! I think that you have a solid grasp of the theory bits, which is most of what is driving me insane. I look forward to workshopping next week! Be well, safe travels, and see you soon!

  2.   ikhan113 on March 21st, 2017

    I am going to be stealing a lot of your ideas on Brooks. I didn’t know about the historical part or couldn’t find the article but that was an interesting connection. You have two text that you have pretty solid grasp on. Junot Diaz could be paired with A Midsummer Nights Dream. A lot of gender construct are also subverted in that book and I don’t know if you could find some parallels with it in Diaz’s work. And also Ralph Elison also has surrealist element and plays with gender roles. I don’t know. But it’s worth thinking about. I like your plan. It’s detailed. Need a couple more texts and you will be on cruise control

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