In class on Monday we briefly touched upon the unique ways Lewis Carroll varies point of view throughout The Adventures of Alice. Carroll engages his audience through changes in point of view and in some instances directly addresses the reader. Carroll's ability to insert his audience directly into the story affects the perception of the reader as they are able to take in the full experience of "Wonderland" and imagine themselves immersed in an alien world. Mary made a great observation in class that her perception of The Adventures of Alice changed from when she was read the story as a kid to now as her analytical capacity and ability to comprehend reality has grown. Alice's world taken at face value wouldn't seem as strange to a 6 year old, as it would to 18 year old college english students in a 170 class. Obviously we can better understand the subtleties and witticisms of Carroll's masterpiece than a 6 year old but that carefree innocence and amazement is lost. The bottom line is that the perception of the reader matters when analyzing texts, which brings me to this article I first read in my high school world lit class. It analyzes the cultural practices of the North American Nacirema tribe which ties into our earlier cultural discussions. How does perception affect the studies and writing of Professor Horace Miner in this article? The link to the pdf is below. Cheers


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  1. Unknown User (mrb21)

    It's interesting - perhaps it's just the way in which I read the article - but Miner's tone seems almost condescending when he talks of the Nacirema tribe in the opening paragraph. It's as if he's saying "I'm hardly surprised by any behavior anymore, I've seen such a multitude of other people's exotic, barbaric behavior... but THIS tribe, they are WACKO!" Later on, he seems to imply there is something wrong with the entire group's psyche, saying of the holy-mouth-man "a certain amount of sadism is involved" and of the people of the tribe "shows definite masochistic tendency". He seems incredulous, like the culture he is witnessing is unbelievable. Yet, his last comment seems to go against that build-up of condescending tone, when he references Malinowski's quote "Looking from far and above, from our high places of safety in developed civilization, it is easy to see all the crudity and irrelevance of magic. But without its power and guidance early man could not have mastered his practical difficulties as he has done, nor could man have advanced to the higher stages of culture. Hence the universal occurrence of magic in primitive societies and its enormous sway."

    Clearly his perception as a member of civilized and developed society influences his writing as he adopts that condescending tone. I do think it's important he recognizes that he is looking down on the Nacirema people when he references Malinowski) but its still clear that his natural bias shone through in his paper as he details time and again the gruesome and sadistic features of these people that he seems to find completely fascinating. I'm sure the Nacirema people would find the Geneseo smoking community fascinating (or perhaps a better word - horrifying), as well as the way modern media objectifies the female body, turning it into a sexual object (half-naked at least most of the time).

    Edit: Woah. Cool. So I totally missed the whole 'Nacirema' is a 'American' backward thing. This really brings this piece into perspective for me (pun fully intended). I don't want to delete what I said earlier because I think it almost highlights how my own preconceived notions of what the article would be about and my own perspective got in the way of me understanding the satirical nature of the article. Fascinating, really. Cheers.

  2. Unknown User (jca4)

    This reminds me of the dihydrogen monoxide scandal that ravaged the internet a while ago. Here's a link to an informative website on the subject...

  3. Unknown User (ser13)

    Sorry to post this so long after the original post was made. This sort of links to Jay's post about interpreting nonsense, so I wasn't sure where to put it!

    Like Jay, Mary, and Greg talked about in response to Greg's post about interpreting nonsense, our perception really affects our interpretation of a work. I started to wonder about how our perception of a piece of literature or other art form may affect our seeing "substance" when there really isn't any. Since I'm interested in science, I naturally turned to the scientific world for an explanation.

    According to recent scientific studies, we all have our own ways of seeing the same thing. Take, for instance, looking at different colors. Though we all recognize something deemed "blue" by society as "blue", are we actually seeing the same shade of hue when we look a so-called "blue" object? Scientists in the UK (link below), claim that our sensory perceptions are controlled by neurons that are not predetermined. In other words, we all have a distinct, individual shade of color in mind when we hear the word "blue".

    I started wondering if the same principle applies to literature. An author, artist, etc. has a specific idea in mind when creating their work. Yet even though this idea may be articulated to us through comments in the margins, research into the creator's life, or even by the creator himself, do we perceive something just a bit differently when we look at the same work? As we mentioned many times in class, our own perceptions can change with age and experience. So isn't it inevitable that my perception of the same work differs from someone else's? These slight differences in how we see something allow us to create individual meaning, and as Mary said, help us to sort out or expand upon our own ideas. I think that's why so many people have speculated on the various underlying meanings, allegories, or implications of the Alice books. I recently read something about how the Alice Books can actually be interpreted as an allegory for mathematics, for Carroll was actually a mathematician in his day. I honestly don't know how to think about this, or even the other proposed allegories of Carroll's works. Are we devaluing his creative genius by proposing these or are we simply finding our own interpretation and seeing the works in our own "shade of blue" by doing so?


    Sorry I forgot the link! Here it is!