Sunday, November 29, 2009

discomfort, assumptions, and tattoos (oh my!)

The number one thing I learned this semester was that usually the discomfort a book caused was not the opinion of the author or narrator that I disagreed with but the discomfort intended by the author to imply a moral or ethical judgment. On the first day of class when we wrote about why we read and what we looked for in a “good” or “great” book, time and time again we came to the conclusion that the discomfort we felt usually challenged us or even changed our perspectives on the world. This experience made us want to come back to books over and over in order that we pick up new challenges and ideas to continue helping us grow as individuals.

In reading Donald Hettinga’s article, “A Wrinkle in Faith: The unique spiritual pilgrimage of Madeleine L’Engle,” I noticed that Hettinga regards the discomfort we seek and enjoy as “troubling” (pg. 3). Hettinga claims that “L’Engle’s refusal to be pingeonholed, her resistance to using evangelically correct language” was a “source of confusion” (pg. 2). I was surprised that something we love acted as a site for criticism. I wonder that if L’Engle’s piece no longer “troubled” us, would we ask ourselves the questions we asked last week, would we consider it a “great” piece of literature?

Hettinga continues by attempting to define L’Engle’s piece, A Wrinkle in Time, through the questions it raises and “L’Engle’s apparent transparency” (pg. 4). Hettinga asserts, “The informal structure and pretentious voice of these books invite the audience to join L’Engle in the sitting room of her mind, to eavesdrop as the author thinks aloud” (pg. 4). Does the author who “refuses to be pigeonholed” get defined by “structure” and “voice” as if she has no separate existence? Is claiming L’Engle’s “transparency” assuming that we understand all of her implications, goals, thoughts and personal questions? I feel like Hettinga’s attempts to analyze the thought processes behind L’Engle’s novel reduce her to a two-dimensional character and I wonder how accurate his conclusions are.

Lastly, I found Hettinga’s claims that I have pointed out highly incongruous with Bob Abernathy’s “Profile: Madeleine L’Engle”. L’Engle classifies herself as “an Episcopal laywoman” (pg. 1) separately from her writing. She says in Abernathy’s interview, “I am a writer. That’s it. No adjectives. The first thing is writing. Christianity is secondary” (pg. 1). If L’Engle claims to separate her own personal faith life from her work, does Hettinga have any right to doubt her? Obviously in separating these two aspects of her life, L’Engle is not defined by her writing, which proves that Hettinga’s assertions are off base and presumptuous.

As far as banning tattoos goes, I wanted to generally hear opinions on this piece as well as excessive tattoos and the idea of banning them. Personally, I feel like it is so hard to ban anything that comes in such a wide variety. My tattoo is quite obvious to anyone who stands behind me now that I chopped off all of my hair, but it means love, an unconditional love that realizes the worth of all human beings. It sits behind me to push me daily to see value in everyone I meet. On the other hand, my brother has a creepy devil’s face on his arm. (I wish I could explain it, but honestly, I have no idea). Thinking about the article about children’s literature, I would not want someone working with children to have a demon anywhere on them, but is my brother’s crown of thorns taboo also? I just want to hear opinions because I feel like this is a hard question that is possibly infringing on self-expression.

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