Capturing the Cascading Permutations

“To be alive in the twentieth century is to be aware of the alternate possible selves, of alternate possible worlds, and of the limitless intersecting stories of the actual world” (Murray 38).

I must admit that theoretical texts and I rarely get along.  While I did manage to make it out of 330 alive last semester, and I suppose I did gain an enhanced appreciation for the function and importance of literary theory, I still try to avoid it whenever possible.  I did, however, find the above quote, taken from page 38 of Janet H. Murray’s Hamlet on the Holodeck particularly.  The idea of alternate or parallel selves is hardly new, as a matter of fact it is highly reminiscent of ideas expressed in Borges’s “The Garden of Forking Paths.”  This generation, however, is the first to have access to technologies that make those ideas a little more realistic.  

The rise of computer technologies he created a generation of decidedly nonlinear thinkers.  Cyber-readers do not simply read one story and then stop.  They read another story, which links to another.  Then that story hyperlinks links to a related  topic halfway through, and yet another story at the bottom, and so on.  There is no right or wrong way to read any or all of these things.

This, along with our expanded knowledge of the world and universe, just throw on one episode of “Through the Wormhole” if you’re not sure how this relates to nonlinearity, has given rise to the sorts of multiform stories to which Murray refers in this section.  Where those stories will take the future or reading and writing I do not know, but I’m sure that we are in for an interesting ride.


Forum Findings

House of Leaves was one of the most elaborate, confusing, mind-blowing, frustrating, and enthralling books I have ever read.  With that in mind, I especially enjoyed cruising through the House of Leaves Forum.  As tempted as I often was to track down literally every single interesting thing about the book, the amount of time it would have taken just made it way too daunting of a task (as we learned from the annotation project!).  An entire community of people so dedicated to tracking down those loose threads and details, then, was perfect for me.  

I could probably spend the rest of the day rambling about various facts and theories, but one in particular jumped out at me.  On page 615 in the Whalestoe Letters, Pelefina once again writes the letter in code.  there is a sequence where, if you write out the first letters of each word, the resulting message is “Dear Zampano, who did you lose?” Mind. Blown.

For the first time in the entire story, there is suddenly a connection between Johnny’s mother and Zampano.  How does Pelefina know Zampano? Why is she trying to contact him? And just who did Zampano lose?

Suddenly, there is a connection between Johnny and Zampano that had not previously existed.  It seems that, in a book filed with astounding “coincidences,” that yet another parallel has appeared between Johnny, Zampano, Pelefina, and Navidson.

As amazed as I was by those findings, though, I am still pretty glad that I waited until after I had finished the book to look at the forums.  Aside from the obvious risk of spoilers, I actually enjoyed being able to piece together my own theories and idea as I read, as incomplete as they may have been.  I think losing that independence would have greatly hindered my experience reading this amazing book. 

Final Exam Questions

Final Exam Question Writing Assignment:

Due:  Monday, 4/23 via e-mail (by midnight) – use .rtf attachment


Compose four final exam worthy questions and give me your answers for each.  Create one (1) fill-in-the-blank, one (1) multiple choice, and two (2) short answer questions.  At least one question should relate to syntax (see presentation on constituents).  At least one question should relate to morphology. Please compose the questions thoughtfully and carefully.   These questions will comprise your final exam, so you want them to be clear and specific.

Chapter 6

I found this chapter very interesting and i was surprised that ethnic and ethnicity now has a different meaning. Whenever I thought of that word I always thought of someone who was different from me or that they were from another country. I see that the meaning has changed and that it applies to everyone now not just minorities. I also never really thought about the fact that I have an accent and that even though I can’t hear it other people can. When hearing someones different accent I just assumed I knew where they were from even though I actually had no prove and knew nothing about them. It’s not something that should just be assumed because someone could be offended by what ethnicity you think they are.

It is strange to think that we are one of the few countries who doesn’t push being bilingual onto the people in our country. In Africa, India, China and other countries it is very important to them to learn the English language and if they master it gain cultural capital over other people. I think that maybe they have a good idea and that maybe because we have started to become the minority that it should be required that we become bilingual. I think that knowing two languages would be good for the people in our country.

Over all i understood everything in that chapter.

Chapter 6

This chapter brought up some great points about the connection between language and ethnicity.  It is important, first of all, that keep in mind that “ethnicity” is not a term reserved for racial minorities.  Soden and Mooney bring up the point that “minority is one of the most familiar collocations for ‘ethnic.’  Nevertheless, just as we all have an accent, we all have an ethnicity (pg. 114).”  In spite of this fact, however, ethnicity has become an increasingly pejorative term as the years have gone on, being reduced largely to an “us vs. them” attitude when it is, in fact, much more complicated.  Unsurprisingly, this combative view of ethnic relations has led to ethnicity becoming a part of power relations within many societies, with some ethnicity domination others.  This could be seen quite clearly in “The Linguists.”  When the linguists traveled to Serbia, they discovered Chulym, a native language so thoroughly frowned upon that citizens were ridiculed for writing it with Russian letters.  This is a perfect example of how ethnic dominance can affect power relations in a society.

This idea also ties in quite interestingly to the authors’ discussion of the relationship between language, ethnicity, and racism.  As discussed, the concept of ethnicity is often misapplied to refer only to minorities, opening the possibility for language to be used to suppress minority groups.  Soden and Mooney discuss a few particularly disturbing examples of this, including some incredibly racist quotes from the Daily Mail, a major newspaper in the United Kingdom.  Such discussions are often qualified in some way, often with a phrase such as “I’m not racist, but…” but the message is quite clear.

I could use some clarification on the authors’ discussion of ethnolect.   

Chapter 6

I really enjoyed reading about the differences in language throughout ethnicities.  One piece I felt was interesting was where the author stated that people who speak multiple languages gain cultural capital.  I guess I have never looked at language being this powerful.  I have always looked at those who speak multiple languages as intelligent or smart, but only because they have learned it.  I, myself am mono-lingual and always wished I knew how to speak more languages so I guess I should have realized that being bi-lingual or multi-lingual can give a person cultural capital.

Another section I found to be interesting was the section where the authors discussed authentic ethnicities. This section caught my eye because we are always very quick to assume where someone is from without knowing their past.  When I hear someone with a different accent than my own I find myself trying to figure out where they are from.  Sometimes this can end badly.  If someone is speaking a different language, especially Spanish, I would not recommend telling them where they are from, rather asking is a better option.  People hold their ethnicities at a high level and are often very proud of where they are from.  Other people who speak the same language are often sure of where someone is from, but if you don’t speak the same language it is difficult to know where the person is from.

While reading this chapter I understood what the author was say when talking about the ethnicities, but I thought it was difficult to follow when they got into deep detail about it.

Chapter Six

This chapter brought up many interesting points. One section which caught my attention discussed bilingualism or multilingualism. We have previously discussed in class how people in many countries speak two or more languages. Even if English is a predominant language used throughout the world, shouldn’t we still learn other languages? After thinking about how many people are fluent in two or more languages around the world, it seems unthinkable that a large amount of people in our country, including myself, are only fluent in one language. I am left wondering how our country would be if everyone knew at least two languages. I am curious to see if and to what extent our country would be different.

Last class, we discussed the goals of the men in The Linguists. We explored why they would want to make a film about dying languages. One of the goals discussed was that this film brought attention to people around the world, making them aware of the importance of conserving languages. The Welsh speaking woman, Gwen, discussed in chapter six further explained the importance of conserving languages. She felt as if the Welsh language was part of her culture and held great importance. Gwen’s interview and The Linguists show the correlation between culture, ethnicity and language. I found this to be significant since both the film and the chapter brought this idea up.

Overall I do not have any questions about the chapter. This chapter explained another influence or factor which shapes our language.


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