“Song of Ourselves”

Coming off our final unit on Romantic poetry, specifically a deep dive into Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman, we wrote a final send-off poem together, inspired by Whitman’s send-off in section 52 of “Song of Myself.”

Here is the text version of our “Song of Ourselves.”  And here is our video:

Stefon: An Unexpected Love Story for the Ages

We have all heard of SNL. The long running late night comedy show has been running for about four decades and offers comedy in many forms such as satire, sketches, news updates, and more. One of the most popular story lines, however, is that of a guest star on weekend update: Stefon.

When Seth Meyers hosted Weekend Update, Stefon came on as a guide to New York City, offering crazy tourist advice covering parties, activities, and food. But Stefon became way more than just a side character, as the skit went on to receive multiple reiterations and formed into a full blown story.

Dramatic Comedy as applied to Aristotle’s definition (at the least) is a meaningful art form because it allows us to see humanity in exaggerated circumstances, and it is open enough to shape to what society wants. Stefon is an extremely exaggerated character, pointing out the almost absurd hipster customs and lifestyles of certain New Yorkers, as well as mocking the way they talk and dress. But despite the completely ridiculous satirical sketches, the audience started to become very connected to Stefon as a character, specifically when it came to his relationship with Seth Meyers. As the seasons went on, people watching the show recognized a flirtatious attitude forming between Stefon and Seth Meyers. Noticing this, the skits started to shape towards that potential romance. And in the pair, the audience members found a story to hold on to. Stefon as a concept is funny on his own, with the talents of Bill Hader and the writing of John Mulaney supporting the character, but he is also very human. And, what started as just a characterization, turned into a comic hero, with the story reflecting what society wanted.

What is so cool about this “dramatic comedy”, is that the story was never set in stone, perhaps because it was never really supposed to be a full story. But, as the sketch went on, and the people responded, a story was created out of it. Because of this, a very real very natural romantic comedy was formed out of almost nothing. And what is also wonderful about this example is the writers/actors ran with it. The comedic form is very open, and allows for these kinds of spur of the moment twists and changes. Stefon could have just stayed a simple side character, but instead turned into a whole character with a love interest and, (spoilers) in the end, a husband. When Bill Hader left the show, the writers concluded the skit the way it had built up until that point, with a dramatic episode ending in the marriage of Stefon and Seth.

The sketch for Guns-SNL

A Sketch for guns created by SNL was created to show the impact and importance guns have on Americans; in a funny almost overboard representation of it. The skit is designed to show how life can be going good or bad but once you include a gun it will make everything more extraordinary and amazing. during the time period of 2015 guns were a big topic in politics since they were seen as dangerous to others and useful to others; satire is used heavily to show that guns can be there with you in your first love or in big moments in life and how guns are always going to be there to stay by your side.

Hyperbole is used throughout the skit the women is speaking on different events that transpire in our lives. She says things like ¨Wherever life takes you guns were here to stay. she says this in a very soothing almost therapeutic tone. It shows that it is a serious topic but spoken about in a comedic manner. The skit also uses Irony when saying ¨Guns unit us¨ it is said in a tone that is very in a funny tone. And that In most cases people feel guns do the complete opposite and that we cause more damage to each other with them then if we did not have guns. 

The Invisible Third Person in Saeed and Nadia’s Relationship

Saeed and Nadia’s relationship is not one we often see in novels or movies. Compared to many representations, which come off as spontaneous and easy, the two characters relationship reaches depths of pain, irritation, and fear that is rarely ever shown. But, more rare, is seeing the death of a relationship. And a “death” is exactly what occurs in “Exit West”, or at least how it is portrayed by Hamid.

Hamid writes the relationship of Saeed and Nadia like a third person, complete with multiple facets and an ability to be born and to die. Throughout the book, this new person goes through so many changes and shifts: innocently childlike and playful at the beginning of the book; hopeful but weighed down as the two start travelling across the world; broken and tired nearing the end, but somehow still aware. Just as the two characters grow, so does the relationship, but it almost seems as though the relationship is responding in accordance with it’s environment, as a person interacts with their environment, and not as a result of the characters individual actions. And in the end, just as a person dies, the relationship must as well. Nearing the end of the book Saeed and Nadia bury a drone, and soon after part ways and start separate lives. This burial isn’t just the literal burial of the drone but seems to represent an understanding of the end of another life, their relationship. Something Hamid does well is make the end natural. A natural death, just as it was a natural beginning. Because although this third person died, it shouldn’t prevent a celebration of it’s life or an acknowledgment of it’s existence. Hamid makes sure of this.

Is Mersault Just Crazy?

The Stranger, a novel by Albert Camus, has one of the most interesting, strange, analyzed characters in literary history, Monsieur Mersault. What separates him from the rest of the character world is his pessimistic viewpoint of life, that it is absurd for everyone and that its only certainty is death. He clearly lacks the basic morals and emotions the rest of the world has, not mourning the death of his mother and killing a man for no reason other than it was hot outside.

Many critics of the story would say that Mersault’s indifferent viewpoint on life is the key to true happiness, defeating the systems of social power brought upon us by our ancestors, seeing the book as Camus’ guide to lead a good life. But is it? Or is it a counter-example to how to lead a life? Imagine a world where killing people for no reason is common, nobody cares for relationships, and the only thing on people’s minds are death. There is no doubt that there is power in the morality system, shaming the people that are not able to control themselves, but is it not necessary to avoid chaos?

Monsieur Mersault is showing himself in the story to be a complete Nihilist, and a pessimistic one too, far away from the existentialist and the optimistic Nihilist. It is true what Mersault thinks, life really does not matter because we are all going to die, but it is not worth still living it to the fullest?Even if life does not matter, is it not a good idea to make it a better place? His actions in the novel, firing off at the priest at the end, killing the Arab without remorse, and showing no respect to women throughout (except for fulfilling his desires), all point to the behavior of an absolute sociopath that really does not care about anyone, not even himself.

Life might not matter at all because we are only here for a short time, but that does not mean people like Mersault should be around to ruin it for all of us. There might be systems of power Mersault is fighting with his strange viewpoint, but the ones he fight are the ones that keep evil and dullness from taking over the world. Camus in this story is showing the audience the extreme existentialism that could be dangerous and that sprouts from his teachings and is telling us not to be Mersault.

It Isn’t Just in Your Head, the Mutual Recognition of “Escape from Spiderhead”

George Saunders’ piece, “Escape from Spiderhead,” conveys an essential message that appears at the end of the reading as Jeff, our narrator, reflects on his past and lets go of his struggles.

“Escape from Spiderhead” takes place in a futuristic prison clinical that test new drugs on criminals instead of having the criminals put into an ordinary jail. The reading follows along with Jeff’s perspective and his thoughts about the events he endures. Jeff experiences a particular experiment, which tests his morals, and he learns more about himself and other than every before.

The specific drug tested, in the time we are with Jeff, is a drug that makes two random strangers fall entirely in love without having been interested before. Furthermore, the drug can turn off the passion, drug-influenced or not. In the beginning, there is no resistance and maybe even some enjoyment, but it starts to make Jeff question many things. He doubts the reality of love and reflects the emotions felt, were they even real? Matters are made more difficult for Jeff as the scientists force him into furthering the experiment to prove the drug to be successful.

Through the experiment, Jeff reflects on his feelings towards others as human beings, compassionate, sympathetic, and understanding. He sees them as his equal even after discovering the horrifying crime they had committed. Jeff’s recognition toward them grew more present over time. It isn’t until the experiment is taking too far that Jeff realizes the truth he has been missing.

During the time of the trial and his “fateful night,” Jeff’s mother had always been there for him, protecting him and trying to put him in a better place. Even after Jeff was convicted, his mom still saw him as a human similarly to how Jeff saw the others during the experiment.

Overall, some may assume mutual recognition is seen when Jeff connects with his fellow mates. But it is not until the end when Jeff decides his fate and thinks of his mother and himself as not a criminal anymore. It is the relationship between mother and son that has evidence of seeing each other as equals and human beings that makes mutual recognition visible.

The Stance “Bloodchild” Has on Gender Roles

After reading through the story for the first time, my mind was filled with questions such as: “What did I just read? Why did T’lics have children by implanting Terrans (Humans) with eggs? Who make a story like this?”

The story sets us up in this unknown society on an unknown planet where Terrans (Humans) and T’lics (Aliens) live with one another in peace. We’re given some backstory as to how the Terrans and T’lics eventually came to be living with each other. They both, at one point, hated each other. Terrans would shoot to kill T’lics while T’lics would assassinate the Terrans at night. However, after years of fighting each other, both groups came together to discuss peace between the two groups. New laws were set among both groups and that leads us back into present day in the story. We follow Gan throughout the story as he discovers the truth about T’lic implantation. Gan was chosen from the day that he was born that he was going to be a NT’lic. NT’lic were designated Terrans that would host and give birth to Grubs, T’lic babies. One thing that struck me was that they typically only went for males.

After analyzing the story a second time, it came to my mind that this story experiments with gender roles. The story introduces this new land where men were giving more births than women just so that the T’lic population could continue to increase. You begin to realize that T’lic seem to have more control over the Terrans. It’s hidden in the words, but each species has a specific role that they’re expected to carry on throughout their life. Besides the point of survival, you come to a generalization stance where you wonder if T’lics only keep Terrans alive because they can be used.

T’lics saw it that men were either expected to have children with other Terrans or give birth to Grubs. For women, they were expected to have more children in order for T’lics to choose who would be the next chosen one to give birth to Grubs when they got older. T’Gatoi, the T’lic that lives in Gan’s home, states in the story that they actually prefer women to birth Grubs because they had more fat in them; however, they choose men so that women can have the ability to birth their own children. T’lics use Terrans only for the mere benefit that they implant their eggs inside of them and have them give birth to the next generation of T’lics.

This story plays with the idea about gender roles in our society and questions: What would happen if men obtained the ability to give birth? Octavia Butler does a good job diving deep into this idea while also telling a story like no other.