Virginia Adams, Unit 6, Post 1

Exclamation Point: This article points at some intriguing ways in which the term revolution applies differently to literature and science (although, in both senses, the word applies). As Snow writes “literature changes more slowly than science. It hasn’t the same automatic corrective…” (Snow 8), he touches on a crucial difference between revolutions in these disciplines. Much of unit two’s work focused on paradigm shifts and the ways in which scientific revolutions occurred upon discovering a new relationship or disavowing a previously understood reality. Yet empirical evidence or at least objective, repeatable experimentation serves as the underlying commonality within all scientific revolution. Science lends itself to concepts that prove themselves without a shadow of a doubt: in discussions of truth, it remains unquestionable that objects accelerate due to gravity at 9.8m/s/s (a scalar value, some small margin of error). Nonetheless, literature does not offer itself up to objectivity that easily. While literary movements evolve, they do so as a reflection of the culture and world from which they come. Literature does not have a “right answer” and a “one size fits all” movement of literature does not exist. Scientific discoveries and literary movements do not develop as mutually exclusive phenomena. For example, renaissance literature and its increased emphasis on the individual and free stemmed in part from the scientific and technological advancements that increased social mobility and broke down previously cemented divides between aristocracy and peasants. Nonetheless, literature reflects more than science, and its statements on the people about which it reports indicate an inherent imperfection. Literature can begin to expose the world, but it only reveals a certain part of the collective narrative and always with holes. As such, a literary revolution occurs when more of this narrative comes to light.

Question Mark: Throughout his work, C.S. Snow frequently criticizes the British “fanatical belief in educational specialisation” (Snow 17). Despite the attacks on their current model, he does not propose a concrete plan for something new. Would Snow advocate for Davidson College’s Liberal Arts approach, particularly the distribution requirements? While majors certainly provide specialization for liberal arts students, this model of education still emphasizes exploration and intellectual curiosity. Snow repeatedly suggests that not enough intellectual curiosity exists among literary and scientific scholars about the other field. Nonetheless, he also criticizes the American system for its lack of rigor (Snow 18). Although Davidson would certainly not have room for much criticism about its rigor (please do not take my use of this evidence as a request for more homework. It’s not that), this point does underscore the reality that, the wider a net of knowledge spreads, the later advanced specialization comes. Notwithstanding, I think Snow asks an important question of what role specialization can serve if those outside of the respective field of experts cannot understand the findings?

Points of Familiarity:

Theories: game theory, oxygen theory of combustion, plate tectonics, general relativity, quantum theory, evolution by natural selection, heliocentrism

Experiments: “Eratosthenes measures the earth”, “Gregor Mendel cultivates genetics”, “Isaac Newton eyes optics”, “Ivan Pacloc salivates at the idea”, “Robert Millikan gets a charge”

Virginia Adams, Unit 6, Assignment 1

Exclamation Point

Criticisms of Sambo’s happiness and the problematic ramifications of such descriptions unfortunately bring me back to my childhood. As a child, my relative showed me “Song of the South,” a film depicting happy slaves. Watching this documentary has made me wonder about the biases I have adopted self-consciously, beyond the more explicit ones from this documentary. While it clearly presents the extremes, this documentary’s theses can become symptomatic of some subtle ways in which these themes have infiltrated our contemporary beings and ways of living.

Question Mark

The line from the documentary, “successful minstrels play to the tastes of their audiences,” indicates that the performances that this documentary analyzes say as much about their audiences as they do their creators. In looking towards the future and the archive’s role there in, how can a more holistic and just depiction come into existence? What would this even look like? Does society need to change before the archive can, or will a change in the archive change the way society views itself in the present?

Unit 4, Post 2, Virginia Adams

March, page 126

The participation of Al Hibbler, a blind singer, in a Birmingham Civil Rights protest in 1963 demonstrates the immensity of this campaign. However, the graphic novel documenting his appearance, March, by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell, illustrates the opposition that met his activism (126). While his removal by a police officer reinforces the significant role of this organization’s power in opposing the Civil Rights movement, the false pretense of altruism the officer displays creates severe irony. The officer’s pretending to care about Hibbler’s safety only highlights his own awareness of dangers in which an unjust system places these protestors. As such, the officer reveals his support for this system through this affirmation and through the implied actions that he takes against Hibbler. Nonetheless, this panel communicates the overarching nature of the protest, as one microscopic example, Hibbler’s activism, represents a macroscopic reality, systematic racial injustice. Philip Gourevitch, another scholar, utilizes the same approach, and, in both cases, conveying a larger truth through an individual story creates a stronger emotional connection with the audience. Notwithstanding, the severe power disparities shown through this episode’s individualized focus prove the flagrant racial inequality before the law at that time.

The visual depictions of Hibbler and the cop corroborate this stark power dynamic and its consequent implications for the inferior race’s rights. Hibbler, forced to bend down by a smug cop, thus appears much smaller and extremely powerless at the hands of this officer, who grins maliciously. The sizable difference in the visible statures of these two characters and the message on power it generates mirrors the significance of the top of the panel, overlooking the protest. This view from above suggests an overall disregard for this movement of those at which it directs its protests at this point in time, similar to the cop’s disregard for Hibbler as an equal. By underlining “never” in the cop’s statement, the authors emphasize its irony through his somewhat sarcastic somewhat blatantly dishonest assertion. The cop does not expect anyone to believe any truth to his claim, and he only makes it to reinforce his position of power through the overwhelmingly evident irony. Nobody besides those already protesting would have protested if he had taken Hibbler without saying anything. This dichotomy reflects the complete lack of rule of law at this time, which, although not yet complete, this revolution did successfully work to better.

Virginia Adams – John Kasich Commentary

Despite the entertaining opening to the talk, John Kasich’s talk at Davidson’s campus peaked after this vignette. While he pointed out some critical problems facing the United States political system, primarily the pitfalls of our polarized two-party system, such indictments felt trite. I did not find his acknowledgement of this inordinate issue particularly moving, especially because he then called those in the room to spend less time online and more involved in activism. Political change, according to Kasich, comes from this popular involvement. While I do not deny the importance of political engagement, these platitudes felt like an evasion of some crucial issues and responsibilities. I do not claim to have a better solution to any of these issues, nor do I fail to ignore the significant ways our societal polarization hinders the function of our nation’s governance. I do, however, maintain that crucial gaps exist in Kasich’s argument. He pointed, for example, to Greta Thunberg as a contemporary exemplar of his system at work. This assertion ignores that, while her protests have engaged significant movements of youth, they have not led to any substantive political change nor does anything in society indicate that they soon will. The hours people put in on the streets only have so much significance if those on Capitol Hill do not respond with policies. It sounds moving on stage, but the applicability of these theses outside the Duke Family Performance hall remains in question.

Unit Four, Assignment One, Virginia Adams

History deems both Mary Eliza Church Terrell and Ida B. Wells-Barnett as incredibly crucial African American Activists. The accolades of the former, who graduated from college before her illustrious career, include membership in the National American Woman Suffrage Organization, the National Association of Colored Women’s Club (as President), the District of Columbia Board of Education, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and the American Association of University Women. Terrell focused on bridging the gap between white and black women, especially ensuring that suffrage movements petitioned for this right to extend to women of both races. She also served as a proponent for equal education for women of all races, and advocated against Jim Crow Laws and lynchings. Wells, on the other hand, spending her career as a journalist, became known primarily for her exposés on the horrific nature of lynchings (after having gained some publicity for the Federal law suit she lost for her rejection from a first class train). Some cite religious motivations as a key facet of this activism, without explaining from which tradition these motivations stem. Although she also involved herself in suffrage movements, she frequently expressed her frustrations that the primary proponents of this movement did not give lynching adequate attention. She furthermore served in the National Association of Colored Women’s Club and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Terrell’s version of violence centers around instances in Washington D.C. of overt racism, in which the perpetrator sometimes blatantly explains that he or she only justifies this action of subordination or prohibiting access on the grounds of race. Most of her examples tell of individual stories across many facets of society (leisure, education, restaurants, transportation) that segregate and cites that violence frequently accompanies episodes of such discrimination. According to Terrell, such violence ensues because whites do not fear consequences from the legal system. Focusing then on women, Terrell explains how all of these race-base struggles are heightened for women of color, as education does little in providing them more job opportunities (they cannot serve in fields requiring education). As such, she explains how society tells and shows women of color they do not need an education.

Wells, on the other hand, focuses on unpacking how lynching happens due to an anarchy present despite the law. Such crimes derive their justification from an “unwritten law”, frequently as a retaliation for the extension of suffrage to African American males. Wells thus communicates how women especially become the victims of such crimes, because they face repercussions of the rage of a right’s expansion that they themselves still have yet to receive. The humiliation also perpetuates and encourages this cycle of violence, according to Wells, especially when combined with the overall lack of legal consequences these aggressors face.

Beyond the commonality of both authors’ violence stemming from its perpetrator’s lack of fear of the law, these authors both remark how, especially for women of color, a great irony exists between de iure customs and de facto circumstances in the United States. How far both types of violence have strayed from what the United States claims it has believed provide a crucial commonality within these crimes. Furthermore, while neither author proposes specific policy solutions against these aggressions, both suggest that the nation must realign itself so that it places what it claims to value, in actuality, does reflect itself in the focus of its actions.

Macbeth, Virginia Adams

Macbeth, in its essence, presents a tale of hubris, avarice, and a fall from grace, instigated and encouraged by a supernatural presence. The Davidson College performance of this tragedy emphasized the latter’s role in the progression of the narrative through the omnipresence of the witches on the stage, even when not scripted by Shakespeare himself. This interpretation constructs the witches as the architects of the murders and fights occurring, as opposed to framing Macbeth as a victim to his own humanity, and marks a contrast from the other theatrical interpretation I have seen from the Richmond Shakespeare Company (summer 2018). This other production utilized the witches more as an indicator of the actions other characters undertook than as a catalyst. Nonetheless, the divergence between these two interpretations, through constructing a contradiction between human nature and divine intervention, displays how neither force manifests itself as mutually exclusive in executing the order of events and rather illustrates their interdependence.

Literary interpretations aside, this campus event provided an incredible spectacle of staging, especially within the incredible choreography of the fight scenes. Furthermore, the players used the set with its minimalist appearance so elaborately. The delivery of the letters through the trapdoor especially stands out as an exemplar of the creativity that manipulated space to focus the audience’s attention on the characters and their actions while simultaneously continuing to spark interest. The set remains only representative, nonetheless, of the brilliance both of those acting and those constructing the presentation of this challenge to humanity.

Unit 3, Assignment 3, Virginia Adams

Upon discussing how the end of the Rwandan genocide came about and the implications therein, Gourevitch asks the question “who the hell cared about Rwanda?” (Gourevitch 168). This question not only points to weak international responses to this genocide but also asks about the nature of international response to potential future genocides. According to Sontag, the distinction falls on whether those responding perceive a connection to the victims. She posits that “those whom war spares are callously indifferent to the sufferings beyond their purview (Sontag 66) and this dichotomy explores how the western powers, who could not experience empathy for the victims due to a more limited nature of their shared human experience, as such made less than minimal efforts to help these victims. Both authors highlight the effects of difference on the absence of help within this crisis. For Gourevitch, aid would only come if those helping perceived a clear incentive for themselves in doing so and, as such, it did come to the refugee camps of the Hutu power: “an array of more than a hundred relief agencies frantic to get in on the astonishingly dramatic-and yes, lucrative-action” (Gourevitch 165). The returns the media would provide on investing money in these camps, presented as a humanitarian crisis after a war, proved far greater than deploying troops to try to defend the victims in this “war”. Helping the Tutsis in the genocide created a high risk opportunity with minimally beneficial media coverage, whereas sending money to unsanitary camps with starving occupants creates a visual portraying the helping force incredibly well. This complex, nonetheless, demonstrates the value of a positive self-image over truth. Sontag discusses how war images tell a biased narrative, in the use of “images that illustrated America’s absolute military superiority over its enemy (Sontag 66). The inherent manipulation of reality within a photographic depiction inevitably does not give its viewers a full account of what they see, and varying levels of truth exist within every photograph. Whenever trying to distill the entirety of an event into one image, this placement will by nature leave gaps in the narrative. However, this marks a substantial difference from propaganda, which uses photos to defend a singular point at all cost and instead of trying to draw a new conclusion based on new photos. The usage of many western powers of the refugee camps as a media initiative falls somewhere in between these extremes on this spectrum. Nonetheless, the distance these sources have enables them to construct their narratives as such and to emphasize their own interests over the interests of those dying and a consequently blatant disregard for truth.

Unit 3, Passport Assignment, Virginia Adams

With an aesthetically pleasing array of passports arranged by color and tables decked with slightly complicated art supplies, artist Tintin Wulia tasked us with constructing a passport. The conscientious nature of such a task, a natural result of stepping back, slowing down, and taking time to construct something by hand, caused my mind to relax as well, and it wandered to pondering the significance of my mediocre attempts to sew and glue these papers together. A passport, at face value, signifies the identification of an individual by its country as it travels elsewhere. For the holder of a passport, their country acknowledges their inherent belonging there. By owning a passport, the country of the passport makes itself the owner’s home. As such, the greatest strength of this exhibit came from the presence of participants identified as “stateless” within our midst. This contrast, as I sat, desperately trying to fold my Brazil passport’s cover somewhat symmetrically, came to light while Lily told me the story of the stateless identity the artist gave to her. Holders of passports, including myself (referring to my real, U.S. government-issued passport), frequently take for granted the concept of a home, a grounding, and a resulting sense of belonging that this passport provides. The juxtaposition in this workshop, between the citizens and the stateless, highlights a dichotomy frequently forgotten by those not immediately effected by any sort of expatriation due to the self-informed and polarizing circles we as humans create for ourselves. While I do not mean to suggest that a single workshop can serve as a substitute for genuine awareness, the artist’s thesis within the presentation of not only passport creation but also stories of those who lacked such a document posits something important on what gets left out when categories are formed. In this case, categories of nations fail to account for all of the people.

Unit 3, Assignment 1, Virginia Adams

“Banality of Evil”

  • Term was coined in writing by Hannah Arendt on the trial of Adolf Eichmann, a leading organizer within the Nazi party, and on the questions of legality and moral judgement his impressive and unprecedented crime introduced
  • Huge issue of the definition of intention: although he obviously acted consciously in carrying out his actions, he likely was not actively thinking about the fact that he was making a genocide happen 
    • Draws a distinction between intending to do actions that work towards a greater purpose or intending to enact a greater purpose with one’s actions
    • Banal=the unthinking that comes with not reflecting on the external ramifications of one’s actions and their role in a greater plan
  • The great horror of this crime centers around its routine, systematic, and accepted (without major moral issues or objections) nature for those who enacted it and it thus became “banal” to them
  • Arendt argues for a new international system (of laws, courts, etc) because of the revolution the Nazis brought about that does not fit into the old system
    • A new type of crime requires a new response mechanism
  • The Nazis exemplify the result when thinking disappears and how this complex leads to “unthinkable” crimes against humanity that cannot happen with thinking
  • Concern that, when one “I” joins up in a group defined as “we”, the “I” might care more about remaining among the “we” than thinking substantially for itself and this collective action allows for the execution of the goals of a dictatorship, in this case
  • https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2011/aug/29/hannah-arendt-adolf-eichmann-banality-of-evil (source consulted)

Origins of Totalitarianism

  • A book by Hannah Arendt, focusing on Naziism and Stalinism, and how their organization and overall structure gave way to their domination
  • Believes that the establishment of totalitarianism was influenced immensely by historical precedent of imperialism, which uses an ideological racism to allow a perceived superiority to justify the conquest of a land and its people through violence
    • The results of imperialism generate about nationalism, the pride in such a conquest
  • Although neither of these fit with totalitarianism, they illustrate the thinking that preceded it according to Arendt
  • Also, in discussions of prejudice, she establishes antisemitism not as a true hatred of the Jews but rather as a secular construct used in pursuit of destiny and as an explanation of superiority (under the scheme of Naziism)
  • On the theory of totalitarianism, she posits how mass movements define this system and the objectives of a totalitarian regime require loyalty for their execution
  • Totalitarianism works by taking advantage of an environment of uncertainty and of those who feel alone and provides a certainty with promises of a completely new order and system (goal of domination) and provides something to latch onto with this movement
    • A totalitarian movement must mobilize the masses to form
  • Terror defines these movements and totalitarian leaders use it to strip humans of their uniqueness, and freedom (in, for example, mass executions such as those under Naziism and Stalinism)
    • These executions convey the disregard for human dignity the leaders of such movements possess in their efforts towards mass domination (goal is one mass in favor of their leadership, strips humans down into categories and then eliminates the categories undesirable for the mass to help them justify the construction of this mass)
  • Propaganda allows regimes to construe their own realities that work towards the creation of this mass
  • https://memory.loc.gov/ammem/arendthtml/essayb1.html (source consulted)
  • https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/arendt-matters-revisiting-origins-totalitarianism/ (source consulted)
  • https://notevenpast.org/hannah-arendts-the-origins-of-totalitarianism/ (source consulted)

Adolf Eichmann

  • Middle class, an oil salesman who lost his job in the Great Depression and moved to Austria during World War One
  • Joined the Nazi Party in 1932, and made his way up the ranks into an SS office for Jewish affairs
  • His initial tasks were removing Jews from Vienna and Prague
  • He then gained leadership within coordinating a conference in Berlin focusing on the final solution (mass executions of Jews) and this position made him a face for the final solution
  • He primarily organized the acquisition of the Jews and their allocation to camps
  • He fled after the war and Israeli forces captured him in Argentina
  • These authorities brought him back to Israel for trial, but this posed a large question on ex post facto law as Israel did not exist during the time of the Holocaust
    • Idea of retroactively projecting standards that did not exist at the time of the crime’s execution, concern that he could not justly be found guilty of anything under a court that did not exist during the time of his crime
  • Others presented alternative methods of trial such as an international tribunal or in Germany, but the Israel insisted (likely on the basis of pride and out of a desire to send a message)
  • Eichmann denied any personal antisemitism, claimed to have never read “Mein Kampf” or canonical anti-semitic works and instead presented himself as a victim of orders he had to follow
  • He disavowed himself of direct responsibility to the outcome of these camps, positing that despite some awareness the executions did not fall under his purview
  • Exemplified a frequent argument of obedience used by Nazis
  • However, he frequently displayed innovation in doing his job which does suggest a desire to work towards this goal of the camps
  • The Israeli Court ultimately sentenced him to death
  • https://www.britannica.com/biography/Adolf-Eichmann (source consulted)

Unit 2, Post 2, Virginia Adams

Option 2:

From Professor Denham’s and Professor Ewington’s remarks on Thursday’s panel, the overwhelming message that I took away consisted of the idea of translation as “ubiquitous but invisible” and found myself intrigued by the decisions translators make every day, particularly by the idea of the conflict between literal translation and thematic interpretation. Although the translator does not write their own story, different interpretations of the same story can cause vast disparities in meaning. Unless readers partake of multiple translations of the same work, they must take the translators’ decisions and interpretations at face value. As such, the barriers for language represent some lack of accessibility for texts despite the institution of translation, and these language barriers can be symptomatic of barriers in education and status. 

My question on translation stems from these contradictions: how does translation simultaneously put forth democratic ideals of equality with its greater access to texts and their ideas and have those that enact it (the translators) possess a power that perpetuates systematic differences in terms of access to knowledge?

Option 3

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines truth as “the body of real things, events, and facts”; nonetheless, determining the identity of such a body poses many challenges. Questions on whether truth exists and, if so, how does one find it, come up naturally in humes discussions and readings in unit two. Scientists have proven certain phenomena as factual, such as that acceleration due to gravity is approximately 9.8 m/s/s and that the Earth is round. These realities have an indisputable accuracy demonstrated by quantitative evidence, and as such they become true. However, the definition and existence of truth still remains in question. For me, truth is this one big umbrella of knowledge, and humans can discover little pieces at a time, albeit never coming to know the full scope. 

For Plato, education can lead to truth and he believes that humans unequivocally have an innate, even if sometimes subconscious, desire for the enlightenment to some truth that education can bring. The assertion that, once man leaves the cave to discover what more exists, that same man will not want to return to his primitive state of education and being: “‘wouldn’t he or she prefer to put up with absolutely anything else rather than associate with those opinions that hold in the cave and be that kind of human being?’ … ‘prefer to endure everything rather than be that kind of human being’”. This complex reflects how, when man gains access to more truth, in this case upon understanding how more of the world and its nature function, it spawns an insatiable desire to remain in this state and a rejection of previous ignorances that that man once embodied. The conflict between something of truth, with reliably proven accuracy, and between what is presented as a truth despite either factual inaccuracies or an omission of relevant details (or some other cause), espouses itself here as those in the cave know only the cave, its fire, and the shadows it can see. Nonetheless, the expansion of what can be called a personal truth occurs when someone is pulled up to the sun, and the argument exists that people do not want to lose this new personal truth.

Borges, however, takes a slightly different approach to truth with his hypotheses that humans’ desire for truth often blinds them from clear breaches in accuracy, because people care more about believing in something than about the factual nature of this something. He suggests that the patterns presented, particularly at one point in human history, would cause all to want to believe in Tlon: “why not fall under the spell of Tlon and submit to the minute and vast evidence of an ordered planet?”. This interpretation of belief systems and truth indicates that, while humans slowly discover more and more of what can be considered true, sometimes the desire for wisdom impedes this process with irrelevant and inaccurate details that they choose to accept. Frequently the inability to understand so much of what does occur leads to a decision to understand something else solely for the purpose of understanding something more. This view corroborates that of Plato in that humans naturally want to maximize what they know as true, but it departs in that Plato demonstrates a linear tendency between ignorance, the acquisition of knowledge, and the resulting contentment. Borges argues that the impossible nature of knowing that exists in so many questions of the world denies this pattern of Plato, and instead that the search for truth is tantamount to a prisoner lost at sea, grabbing onto any life raft it sees, unbeknownst to him whether it is the life raft of an ally or an enemy.