Monday 2/17 post-River Meng

Observation from Snow’s “Two Cultures”: On page 8 of his article/lecture, Snow argues that “literature changes more slowly than science” for it “hasn’t the same automatic corrective”. This is an interesting point that I’ve thought about before and it’s nice to see someone resonate with me here. In my opinion, there is a certain object standard within science that makes it more “changable” compared to the subjective standards used in most of the non-science subjects.

Question: As science/technology advance rapidly nowadays, are the roles of traditionally non-science subjects being reduced?

Out of the top 10 revolutionary scientific theories, I recognized the Game Theory, Wegener’s Plate Tectonics, Special Relativity, General Relativity, Quantum Theory, Evolution, and Heliocentrism.

Out of the top 10 scientific experiments, I recognized Mendel’s Genetic experiment, Marie Curie’s work on radioactivity, and Ivan Pavlov’s experiment with the dog.

Unit 5 Post 1-River Meng

Birns’ reading talks about some of Ralph Lemon’s counter-memorials approach in performance. We talked about memorials as an instrument to arouse resonance in the viewers’ emotions last week. But memorials, in most cases, do not serve as a media to make the viewers not only appreciate but understand the importance of the events they memorialize due to the lack of information and explanation. Interestingly, Lemon aims to use his pieces to help his audience “understand that the performance is an outgrowth of a larger process and not an inevitable event”. Another interesting part of Lemon’s performances is his incorporation of local performers from West Africa in “Geography” and dancers from South Asian dancers in “Tree”. The article briefly mentions that Lemon is able to avoid both “exoticism and a self-conscious status as an outsider” in an “investigation of cultural difference that was able to” view these foreign countries with a percipient clarity. My question is that how is Lemon able to achieve an “investigation of cultural difference” that would allow his audiences to view the foreign countries with a “percipient clarity” in such a short performance? If his original aim doesn’t work out, wouldn’t his performance only aggravate the problem of exoticism?

Schneider’s essay questions her readers that are we limiting ourselves to a western logic of the Archive if we consider performance as ephemeral? Personally, I’ve never even thought about the question because I’ve always assumed all kinds of performance are ephemeral because of their nature. Reading this article opens up a brand new perspective of viewing history for me. I realized history should be studied as a collective memory rather than the written documents only. My question is that since most performances happen so fast, how can we preserve them in our memories instead of just let it disappear?

Unit 4 Post on March Book Two-River Meng

                                                Page 147, March Book Two.

This page of pictorial depiction accurately depicts the meeting that President Kennedy and his cabinet had with the leaders of the civil rights movement to discuss the March in Washington. The artists of the graphic novel decide to add in plenty of dark color by drawing shades on characters’ faces. The frequent utilization of dark color in most of the panels on this page, along with the dark background on the page before which introduced A. Phillip Randolph, suggests the intensity of the meeting. The very first panel, which occupies almost half the space on the page, depicts an overall settings of the meeting. It shows a dozen or so men sitting around a table, all dressed in jacket and tie. President Kennedy is shown sitting amongst his staffs and advisors on the right side of the able. On the left side of the table, across from President Kennedy, sit the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement. This specific sitting arrangement in panel one suggests the division of members of the meeting and the subtle attitude President Kennedy had towards the Civil Rights Movement. Moreover, the facial expression of the characters indicates the meeting was not going smoothly. This meeting was essentially a negotiation between the United States government and the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement. However, looking at the face of every one of the character, one can easily tell that nobody in that room is satisfied with the current situation and yet no one is willing to compromise. The second panel is a solo portrait of President Kennedy. With his eyebrows clenched together and mouth wide open, most likely yelling, this panel depicts President Kennedy as a intimidating negotiator who was using the passing of the Civil Rights Bill as a leverage to threaten the black leaders to give up the march.

Besides visual element, the arrangement of the text on page 147 also help to illustrate the intensity in the meeting room. The artists bold several words throughout the page to emphasize the tone of the speaker. For example, in panel one, Randolph says to President Kennedy that “THE BLACK MASSES ARE RESTLESS, MR. PRESIDENT. WE ARE GOING TO MARCH ON WASHINGTON.” Here, by bolding the words “restless” and “going”, the artists are able to emphasize the extreme anger shared by African Americans and their determination to march on Washington to demonstrate their aim. 

Unit 4 Assignment 1-River Meng

Mary Church Terrell was a charter member of the NAACP and an early advocate for civil rights and suffrage movement. Born in Memphis, Tennessee, Terrell was perhaps most well known to be one of the first African-American women to earn a college degree(Oberlin College). As an activist, Terrell criticized the unequal educational opportunities for African-Americans, especially African-American women. She argued that unfair educational opportunities are as bad, if not worse, than direct violence against African-Americans and pushed for an integrated public school system. 

Ida B. Wells was an African-American investigative journalist famous for her exposing of lynchings in the South in the 1890s. Wells was born into slavery in Mississipi and was freed by the Emancipation Proclamation during the Civil War. Like Terrell, Wells was also a founding member of the NAACP. In her autobiography, Crusade for Justice, Wells argued that the logic behind lynching wasn’t criminal but economic. She contended that lynching and general violence against African-Americans were tactics of economic subordination, used to protect the economic dominancy of the white population. 

Based on each woman’s comment, one common root for these different kinds of violence is the idea of alterity, treating a group of people as the “others”. In this case, African-Americans were treated as the others because of their skin color. And the different kinds of violence were means that white people have utilized to force African-Americans into subordination, both socially and economically. Women’s rights is a common focus of both Wells and Terrell since both had to battle sexism in their time. Both Wells and Terrell were huge advocates for women’s suffrage movement and they pushed for more education opportunities for women. Terrell’s proposed solution to anti-black violence is through education. She argued that only through an equal and integrated education system could anti-black violence be stopped. On the other hand, Wells’ method of combating anti-black violence was to raise the public’s awareness by exposing horrendous images of lynching happening in the South after the Civil War. 

Campus Event Commentary-A Night with John Kasich

Last night I had the pleasure to attend Gov. John Kasich’s talk in Duck Family Performance Hall. And I’m glad I’ve decided to go because it was a great talk.

Different from what I’ve expected, Governor Kasich did not start his talk with some demagoguery as we have seen from candidates in the past couple of years. He actually started his talk by telling personal stories to make the point that politics is not about parties or power but to change people’s lives in a better way.

I did not know much about Governor Kasich other than the fact that he ran against Donald Trump in the Republican Primary in 2016 but lost. But after last night, I’ve gained a lot more personal respect for this man. As a Republican himself, Governor Kasich is not restricted by the boundaries of party politics and at one point said he would challenge his party on the issue of global warming.

One more thing that I’ve remembered from Kasich’s talk last night was he said something about you don’t have to donate 1 billion dollars to help someone. Sometimes making other people’s lives easier only requires a tiny act from you.

Passport Workshop Reflection-River Meng

This workshop is an awesome experience for me, especially as a “stateless” person. I’ve vaguely heard this term before the workshop, but I never know what does this word really embody. I learned today that being “stateless” means no right to vote, no guarantee for human rights, and daily exposure to danger. The number of stateless people during session was far greater than I’ve imagined, which is perhaps an accurate reflection of the stateless people in real life. This session has exposed me to this brand new social issue and I will definitely pay more attention to people who are identified as stateless in the future.

The cover my travel document issued by Chinese government in 1946
Description of Stateless

Unit3 Post2-River Meng

Sontag Chapter 1 Summary: In Three Guineas, Virginia Woolf challenged her readers this notion of “we” after being asked, “how in your opinion are we to prevent war”? Sontag then continued on this subject and reasoned that viewers with different identities can come up with different feelings when looking at horrifying war pictures. Sontag concluded the paragraph by almost mocking artists who believe that if the horror could be made vivid enough, most people would take in the insanity of the war. She listed several of these artists and sarcastically ended the paragraph with the sentence “and the following year the war came”. 

Sontag Chapter 1 Description: Identity/context matters when a viewer looks at a picture.

Sontag Chapter 2 Summary: Sontag started the chapter using the examples from Plato’s Republic Edmund Burke, and Georges Bataille to testify that people sometimes enjoy looking from far away(like in a photograph) at other people’s suffering. She then went on to talk about compassion or sympathy is an unstable emotion which needs to be translated into action for it not to die. She ventured to call sympathy an impertinent if not inappropriate response because it proclaim our innocence as well as impotence. 

Sontag Chapter 2 Description: According to Sontag, if we set aside sympathy, we are more able to be connected to people’s suffering.

Sontag Chapter 3 Summary: Sontag argued that remembering is an ethical act, therefore, to make peace is to forget and to reconcile is to have limited memory. She then claimed that the frustration we get when looking at pictures depicting atrocity is translated into an “accusation of indecency” of regarding such images. 

Sontag Chapter 3 Description: Even though it seems there is something morally wrong with simply looking at pictures depicting atrocities, Sontag is telling us that there’s nothingh wrong with that. 

Unit 3 Post 1-River Meng

Hannah Arendt’s concept “Banality of Evil”

  • Hannah Arendt was a German Jew who moved to the United States during WWII, becoming a naturalized citizen in 1950.
  • Arendt reported on Eichmann’s trial for the NewYorker magazine, and her investigations eventually led to an entire book, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil.  
  • She discussed that the Nazis who committed atrocities during WWII were not maniacal sociopaths but rather, ordinary people who weren’t able to question their actions. 
  • Arendt was surprised to find out that the motivations behind Eichmann’s choices during the war were shockingly banal. 
  • Arendt believed that Eichmann was a product of a system that had somehow prevented him from thinking critically about his own actions and the results they produced for real people.
  • Eichmann’s evil was, she claimed, banal in the sense that it was the evil of a bureaucrat, of an office manager, rather than a devil. 

Adolf Eichmann

  • 1906-1962
  • Eichmann was a German Austrian SS-Obersturmbannführer.
  • He was known as one of the major organizers of the Holocaust, referred to as the “Final Solution to the Jewish Question” in Nazi theology.
  • He was tasked by Reinhard Heydrich with facilitating and managing the logistics involved in the mass deportation of Jews and extermination camps in Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe during WWII.
  • Eichmann was captured by the Mossad(Israeli version of CIA) in Argentina in 1960 and was executed by hanging in 1962. 

The Origins of Totalitarianism

  • Hannah Arendt seeks to explain why European were amenable to totalitarianism in the 20th century and to identify what factors distinguish modern totalitarian regimes.
  • As a Jew who escaped Nazi Germany, this book is Arendt’s attempt to better understand the tragic events of her life. 
  •  Arendt argues that anti-semitism, race-thinking, and the age of new imperialism from 1884-1914 laid the foundation for totalitarianism in the twentieth century. 
  • Arendt argues that the origins of totalitarianism in the twentieth century have been too simplistically attributed to nationalism, and totalitarianism has been too easily defined as a government characterized by authoritative single-party rule. 
  • According to Arendt, the appeal of totalitarian ideologies is their ability to present a clear idea that promises protection from insecurity and danger. After World War I and the Great Depression, societies were more receptive to these ideas. 

Unit 2 Post 2-River Meng

Option 2: Thursday’s lecture on translation by Professors Denham, Ewington, and Jankovic was overwhelming for me. Before the lecture, I’ve never thought of translation as that important when reading texts from other languages. I realize that different versions of translation can give readers different tastes or impressions on the same text. A question I have on translation is that should literature translators focus more on the accuracy of word-on-word translation or reflecting the overall tone?

Option 3: Translation is a great tool. It gives the readers an opportunity to read text they otherwise would not understand. But sometimes the translation version of the text cannot reflect the original culture in the text very well. Take the French word “lyceé” for example. It translates to “high school” in English. So English-speaking readers might associate “lyceé” with their impression of high school in their own culture, i.e. crowded cafeteria in American public high schools. However, in French lyceés, students have to choose their “paths”—science, economics, literature— and they will take a standardized test at the end of lyceé based on their paths to determine which university they will study in. A simple translation of “lyceé” as “high school” cannot reflect all of the French culture behind the term. 

Campus Event Commentary #2(Tchaikovsky’s Symphony #5)

On the evening of Wednesday, September 25th, I had the pleasure to go to a concert by Davidson Orchestra in which they performed Tchaikovsky’s Symphony #5. Though I consider myself a relatively big classical music fan, my main go-to pieces are mainly from romantic musicians, like Mozart. I had never actually heard music by Tchaikovsky before, so I was really excited about this experience. As the first movement started, I was overwhelmed. Tchaikovsky started off the piece with a kind of solemn sentiment, by repeating the theme over but each time with deeper notes. As the piece progresses, the mood became brighter and brighter. It reached its peak during the fourth movement. As the sound goes up, my body starts shaking with the music and my feet start tapping according to the beat. At that moment, I truly felt like I was in the middle of the story that this symphony was trying to tell. This experience has truly been amazing and I wish I will go to more orchestra performances in the future.

Now I’ve decided to write my research paper on Russian music, I found this experience even more valuable to my understanding of Russian music. Tchaikovsky composed Symphony #5 in 1888, which is kind of the end of the glory of the Russian Empire. However, Tchaikovsky, because of his achievements, is an epitome of the Russian or even European classical/romantic music genre and can provide us what the popular taste of music was during the Imperial Russia Era.

We can still there’s a clear change of music style after the Soviet Revolution. Before the communists took power, popular Russian music is very close in style with the rest of Europe. Composers like Tchaikovsky were greatly influenced by their counterparts in rest of Europe. After the communist took power, however, the regime attempted to differentiate itself culturally with the rest of capitalist Europe by imposing a unique Soviet culture. Leading artists under the Soviet Union, such as Sergei Prokofiev, had to erase the “bourgeois” elements in their works and politicize them by glorifying either the wit of the Soviet people or the leadership of the Communist Party.