Third Practice IO: A Comparison of Grades

Receiving the grade and feedback for the practice IO was definitely a surprise –  Mr. Dalton’s grading was much more generous than my own. In hindsight, I was a bit too critical in viewing my textual analysis, and I realized that what I had been doing was actually sufficient to fulfill some of the parts the criterion asks for. Furthermore, the balance was less problematic than I thought it was. These differences in grading were possibly due to my own familiarity with my own IO, which has been preventing me from viewing it objectively. With this feedback in mind, I will be focusing more on going into more depth with my actual analytical content when preparing for the next one, instead of worrying too much about the balance.

However, a clear area for improvement both Mr. Dalton and I have identified is Criterion D. Once again, this was a stressful experience, so there was quite a bit of hesitation and stammering, which I felt was hindering my overall argument and presentation. Moreover, the pacing was quite hectic and that seemed to be an issue since it makes it difficult to understand all my points in places. My primary area of focus for next time would be to cut down on extraneous content and practice a more flowing speaking rhythm. As I mentioned in my previous reflection, there really is no other way of mastering this other than constant, continuous practice, which is what I will be doing.

Reflection on Third IO

After listening to the recording of my third IO practice, I gave myself the scores of

Criterion A: 8

Criterion B: 7

Criterion C: 7

Criterion D: 5

which adds up to 27 points, or a high 5. I gave myself these scores because in hindsight, I started to notice some problematic aspects of my presentation that I did not pay much attention to in my preparation.

In terms of my overall understanding and interpretation of the works, which is Criterion A, I believe I demonstrated my familiarity and comprehension of my two works quite well, with my references to relevant details on plot and characterization, and inclusion of relevant background/contextual information.

In preparation, I thought I had included a sufficient amount of analysis, which is assessed by Criterion B, but looking back, I started to realize that still too much of my limited time was spent on describing the texts and (over)contextualizing them, when I could’ve been going into more analytical depth and detail. The one area I’m happy with is the fact that I was able to sustain a good focus on my global issue throughout my IO by making constant, explicit references to it, using the keywords of conformism, individuality, and identity.

As for Criterion C, what I think I did well on was the structuring of my IO. By exploring the global issue itself into fair depth before going into the works, I was able to first outline a sense of direction for my areas of focus, and with the GI already set up, it was much easier to apply what I previously discussed to the works. What I do need to work on is balance. I spent a little too long introducing the GI and the works, and the amount of time spent on Duffy did seem a little excessive compared to Kaka, and I felt like there could’ve been more time dedicated to the comparison and conclusion. In future attempts, I’d like to reduce the number of points I have for each work in exchange for more analytical depth, therefore saving some time. I’d also like to limit the number of points for each work to the same number so there can be a better sense of balance.

Criterion D is the area in which I need the most work. Due to the stressful nature of the task and limited time, I wasn’t able to fully relax and present my arguments without anxiety and uneasiness. As a result, there was quite a bit of stammering and excessive repetition in my IO that arguably hindered the communication of some ideas that could’ve otherwise been more powerfully conveyed. I think the best way to prevent issues from this from occurring in the future is simply to practice more. Rehearsing the oral more, both in front of others and by myself, before the actual assessment would help me substantially both in terms of my confidence, flow of speech, and familiarity with my presentation.

Murakami: the Realistic Idealist

The article “Haruki Murakami: ‘You have to go through the darkness before you get to the light’ by Olivia Burkeman reveals many nuances and striking characteristics of the author Haruki Murakami that helps explain much of the delicate, beautiful characterization in the emotionally rich world of Murakami’s work of absolute brilliance, Norwegian Wood.

Although the article makes it clear that Norwegian Wood is quite a significant change from Murakami’s usual bizarre, surrealist style, the basic components are still deeply typical of his writing, especially the characterization of the protagonist, Toru Watanabe. The typical Murakami protagonist is described as a “detached observer” (Burkeman 1) who is often placid, socially withdrawn” (1). This emotional detachment is one of the key aspects of what makes Norwegian Wood’s characterization so rich – Toru experiences so many opportunities in which he is almost able to form a genuine, deep bond with another individual, but right at the edge of that, he chooses to close up again and use passivity to put a halt to the relationship. However, that is not to say that he particularly dislikes interacting with others – this is where we start to see Murakami himself in his protagonists. Like his characters, Murakami doesn’t seem to have clear preferences or opinions, as he “neither relishes nor dislikes his global celebrity” (1). This is extremely similar to the general indifference Toru feels throughout the book, and as the article points out, that “emotional flatness” is exactly the type of surrealism that makes Murakami’s works such a captivating escape from real life.

Furthermore, the historical context the article outlines is also crucial to understanding some of Norwegian Wood’s themes, particularly the clashing personalities between the main characters. As Murakami points out in the article, he grew up in the 1960s, “the age of idealism” (4). This did seem a bit confusing at first since idealism is possibly one of the last words one would associate with Toru Watanabe, but with more careful examination, I realized that this ideal is reflected in the other more hopeful and emotionally engaged characters like Naoko, Midori, and Reiko. These characters all serve as foils to Toru at some point and often highlight Toru’s stark detachment from his surroundings. Perhaps global issues such as “the false idealism in life that becomes crushed by the realism of adulthood” would be appropriate to explore this text upon. Murakami specifies that the age of idealism was the time he grew up in, and now he lives in a world of realism, though he himself is still something of an idealist who believes in “the better world” (4). However, it is entirely possible that Murakami has witnessed that loss of idealism in both those around him and himself, which contributed to the delicate, complex, yet sometimes almost flat characterization of Toru, and the striking contrast supporting, emotionally rich characters can form around him.

Persepolis – A Closer Look

Here is a less pixelated pdf version of the two-page spread

This two-page spread of panels highlights the naivety and innocence of Marjane’s characterization in its juxtaposition of these childlike qualities with serious, dark, and political topics.

Although the entire graphic novel uses a black and white color scheme, in the panels depicting the exchange between Reza and the British man, Satrapi uses black to fill all the negative space around the characters. This creates an urgent, intense, and almost claustrophobic atmosphere to the series of panels, underscoring the tension and intensity of the conversation, as well as the dark, sinister nature of the British man imagined by Marjane. These choices effectively convey the simplistic views of Marjane. Her imagining of the start of a political uprising is simply two sinister men plotting in the shadows, once again emphasizing the simplicity of Marjane’s naïve characterization. However, some of her attempts at capturing the more nuanced aspects of the political topic can also be seen.

Since Marjane believes Reza is put at a morally ambiguous position, in the first panel, Satrapi chooses to shade half of his face dark while leaving the other half unshaded, capturing the internal conflict of Reza as he makes a difficult decision. This technique appears later in the two-page spread as well. In the second panel, both the British man and Reza have half of the face shaded dark, illustrating their alignment of morally debatable interests and ideas. Reza’s figure is seen once more half-shaded in the fourth panel, capturing his final moments before he gives in to the British man’s offer. This technique is seen once more in the third panel of the second page, in which Marjane’s father reveals the truth of their family’s political history. He is forced to discuss some heavier, more morally complex issues in front of his young daughter, and Satrapi once again captures Marjane’s simplistic processing of complex issues by shading half of the father’s face this time.

Even when confronting such serious matters, young Marjane is only able to acknowledge their existence, instead of fully comprehending them. In the penultimate panel, Satrapi draws Marjane’s baffled expression, and in her speech bubble, she merely repeats what her father told her as a question. This shows how her childlike characterization is unable to process such heavy information, and she is instead left in the overwhelming darkness of the politics, highlighted by the dark background behind her. Her childlike innocence is underscored once again in the final panel, in which she chooses to ignore the intensity and seriousness of what she had just been told, and imagines her grandpa as a fairy tale-esque prince. The panel uses very little dark colors, and Satrapi uses hatching-like techniques instead of the solid colors in the previous panels to establish the lighthearted nature of Marjane’s naive imagination this time. By imagining it in such a fantastical manner, she is able to exploit her childlike innocence to distract herself from and mitigate the perceived intensity of the dark truth.

Second IO

Comparing to my first IO, I felt like for this one, I had an overall much better grasp of what the task actually is, and how to strategically plan my exploration out as the most cohesive and convincing possible. The suggested outline really helped. By having a clear plan and running it over a few times before the actual IO, my ideas were significantly more coherent and organized when I did the actual recording.
When I was practicing the run-throughs, the biggest surprise was actually just how difficult it was to even finish the entire presentation in one go. There was such a large number of points that had to be covered for each work, as well as the comparison between them, and speaking about that non-stop, semi-spontaneously, proved to be really difficult, and again, a few practice run-throughs and a clear outline really helped me guide myself through the otherwise challenging process.
My biggest area of improvement is definitely the structure and organization of my introduction. For this IO, although I introduced the works and how the global issue related, I did not signpost the examiner the specific topics and literary aspects on which I will focus during my analysis. This would be something really important to watch out for in the future since by just a quick, one or two sentence signpost, I would give the examiner a much clearer line of thought and focus that is much easier to follow. Furthermore, there would be less jumping around in the already information-packed, almost overwhelming introduction.

Genesis: Bible vs. Oranges

Genesis, the first chapter of Jeannette Winterson’s Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, is the first of the book’s eight books that follows the rough structure of the first eight chapters of the Old Testament. The choice of juxtaposing the Bible with a modern, feminist story is, without doubt, Winterson’s attempt at demonstrating the relativity of texts, and the importance of recognizing different perspectives in literature. As the opening chapter to the book, Genesis sets the tone and style of Winterson throughout the book, which is a relatively colloquial one that seems to follow her stream of consciousness. The narration isn’t completely linear, with many flashbacks from Jeannette’s earlier childhood and fairy tales from her imagination constantly interrupting the otherwise linear storytelling. Although these episodes seem random, I interpret them as metaphors and analogies of the world and Jeannette’s opinions in her young mind. For example, the story of the princess and the hunchback is a reference to Jeannette and her mother. Her mother is able to give her a purpose to occupy her time by introducing religion, just like the hunchback occupies the princess’ time with duties. Religion is one of the major themes of the book, and in the first chapter, we can see that Jeannette is still very devoted to it; however, we also get indirect references and foreshadowing on another major theme of the book that would later cause Jeannette to turn away from religion: homosexuality. The two women of the paper shop are a homosexual couple, and while the young Jeannette doesn’t understand the concept of homosexuality, it is pointed out by her mother as “unnatural passions”, something that will be said about Jeannette in the later chapters when she discovers her homosexuality.

The book of Genesis and the first chapter of Oranges are connected in many ways. First and foremost, they are both about origins, beginnings, and creation. Genesis from the Bible tells us about how God created space, life, mankind, and much more in the world. In contrast, Genesis from Oranges tells us about the world and morals created for Jeannette by her mother, who is, at this point in the novel, an almost omniscient, god-like figure to Jeannette. Winterson establishes Jeannette’s sense of purpose and identity during that time of her life, which was almost entirely reliant upon Christianity, and her undeniable faith.

Connections Between Poetry and Real Life – GI’s in The World’s Wife and Green Rice

This article is on the death of the husband of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and how she coped with the loss of her significant other. Much of what Sandberg discusses is really similar to what Carol Ann Duffy explores in her poem “Anne Hathaway” from The World’s Wife, as well as “Birdsong in the Rice Field” from Green Rice by Lam Thi My Da. The global issue present here is how the loss of a loved one causes people to lose their sense of direction and purpose in life. Sandberg discusses how she felt lost in a sense of emptiness after her husband’s death. She spent a lot of time trapped in that “void”, unable to move on and find a new purpose. This is similar to what Duffy conveys in “Anne Hathaway”. After losing Shakespeare, Anne spends all her time remembering the greatness of Shakespeare and missing her time with him, while finding no real way to move on and carry on with her life on her own. In “Birdsong in the Rice Field”, the sight of a bird reminds the persona of her lost one, and she sinks back into grief and remembrance, consoling herself by considering the possibility of her lost one still being alive; however, the message of this one is slightly different. I believe the message this poem is perhaps trying to convey is that although we’ve moved on, it is still important to remember our loved ones and have hope.

This article is on the death and aftermath of Kobe Bryant, and how people have used different ways to remember and celebrate him. The death of such an influential, inspiring, and respected figure had the ability to connect and tie together entire communities and countries of people, forming a spiritual memorial for Bryant. It is true that he has died, but his spirit and memories of him live on forever in the minds of people, and in all these ways of remembering him, he is, in many ways, immortalized. The global issue this explores is how we can use our memory, imagination, and our minds to truly immortalize someone who is gone. In Anne Hathaway, Shakespeare has died, but Anne is still celebrating him and his works through her memory of him and the preservation of his works; however, once again, Duffy’s feminist message here would be that Anne is too absorbed into the loss of her husband, and is unable to form her own, independent identity and life after he has gone. Similarly, in “Birdsong in a Rice Field”, the persona uses her hope and imagination to forever remember her lost one, immortalizing him in her own mind as a fond and significant piece of memory even long after he has gone.

When Love Becomes Something Else – Connections in The World’s Wife

Although many of the poems from The World’s Wife is filled with explicit, straightforward condemnation and hostility towards men, Carol Ann Duffy does frequently explore the early, tender, and more harmless stages of love, which are, of course, followed by harsh, tragic reality, full of betrayals, misunderstandings, and disappointments. I believe this recurring pattern was at least partially based on Duffy’s own unsuccessful experience with love, and these explorations of different stages of love really show how her understanding of love grew and developed over time. During my reading, three poems stood out as demonstrating this shift in perception of love particularly well – Delilah, Queen Kong, and Mrs. Quasimodo.

In Delilah, Duffy introduces the relationship of Samson and Delilah as one without love and emotion, and is perhaps entirely driven by sexual desires. Unlike the original story, where Samson’s strength and power get taken away by Delilah after she cuts his hair, Duffy implies that in her poem, Delilah can turn Samson to a softer person, and less of a “warrior.” Delilah, possibly being a reflection of Duffy herself, realizes the flaws of the masculine, materialistic warrior she fell in love with. She realizes how the relationship is nothing but a sexual one and lacks the care and tenderness of true love; however, at the same time, she does show signs of hesitation. The phrase “my warrior” definitely shows her affection for the man he is now. She desires more care and non-sexual love from him, but the fearless, masculine warrior, who perhaps lacks the more gentle qualities, is the man she fell in love with.

Queen Kong is a tale of genuine and passionate love turned into an unhealthy and frightful obsession. Like many of Duffy’s poems and her own experience, the love starts out as something pure and harmless. The mutual love between the giant gorilla and the ordinary man is almost comical, but in reality, it represents the purest, most genuine form of love that breaks all barriers of race or culture. However, as they grow old together, Queen Kong’s affection turns into a very twisted, unhealthy obsession. She ends up stuffing and preserving his body, and I think it was absolutely meant to evoke a sense of discomfort and fright in the readers. She claims that “he would be pleased”, but the sentiments of the man are barely mentioned throughout the poem, indicating that the love had turned into a one-sided, twisted obsession.

Mrs. Quasimodo is among the most violent, graphic, and dark poems of the entire collection, and out of the three I’ve discussed, I see this as the one where classic Carol Ann Duffy really shows. The two Quasimodos meet, and just in the other poems, they start out as a pure, loving, perfect relationship that seems like it could last forever. As they carry on with their lives after they marry, she notices how Quasimodo had fallen in love with someone else – the relationship has once again become contaminated and impure. It is important to note how she only spends a very short passage describing Esmeralda, and a very substantial portion of the poem is focused on her anger at him, and more importantly, her growing self-loath. The poem is about how the ignorant, irresponsible actions of men can destroy a woman. Essentially Quasimodo’s betrayal destroyed her whole life. The bells represent her childhood, her experience, and her love with him, and in the end, she destroys the bells, and loses everything that has ever been important to her.