Week 5 (Oct.3-6)

We began the week with a thorough exploration of David Reville’s “Don’t Spyhole Me.” We considered tone and style as literary descriptions and looked for examples of Reville’s stylistic techniques.  Reville’s diary also raised the issue of the power of writing and we looked at key passages in which Reville consciously reflects on why he writes the diary, and how the very process of writing moves one’s experience from subjective consciousness to a distinctly objective perspective.  We also have in David Reville an unreliable narrator, a problem inherent in all autobiographical writing and we discussed how autobiography is almost unique in this regard from other non-fiction forms and from all forms of fiction.

From Reville we then met a fictional character with whom the 22-year-old Reville would have shared a great deal of affinity: Winston Smith.  I briefly introduced George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and we talked about dystopian fiction as a genre and considered the cultural impact of Orwell’s novel on a wide range of levels, including the almost-ubiquitous use of the term “Orwellian” to describe any kind of oppressive, intrusive authority structure.

We continued to examine
Northern Ireland as a case study in religious sectarian identity and the power of cultural norms to shape individual attitudes.  I gave you three readings.  One article outlined the basic parameters of the sectarian divisions, one article explored the Brexit-era anti-immigration sentiment in Northern Ireland, and the third article examined the general attitudes towards gay and lesbian people in Northern Ireland, and noted how out of sync these attitudes are with the rest of the United Kingdom.  I showed you two short video segments to illustrate these questions: (1) A brief expository film from PBS News on the post-Brexit tensions between Northern Ireland’s Catholic population and the rest of the UK, and (2) A short episode of BBC Stories about a young gay man named Josh, who described the hatred and anger he regularly faced growing up in Northern Ireland.
Kate Spicer’s documentary film The Ugly Truth About Beauty gave us a fascinating glimpse into the painful–sometimes literally–struggles women face in a culture that tells them repeatedly that they are not beautiful the way they are.  We were reminded of Morrie’s words to Mitch early in the book, “Our culture makes people feel bad about themselves.”  We finished reading Tuesdays with Morrie this week and began putting together a lot of the ideas that Mitch Albom suggests throughout the book: family, community, love, marriage, dying, and finding meaning in ordinary life events.  I showed you a talk Mitch Albom gave in 2013 titled “Making Each Moment Matter.”