“Towards a Splendid City” Ski Video

Moment of Silence on Thursday, Dec. 11

We will observe a moment of silence in class on Thursday, Dec. 11 at 11 am. Below is the message I received from the CUNY faculty and staff union about the meaning and intent behind this gesture.

The PSC (Professional Staff Congress) Executive Council voted unanimously to call on all CUNY faculty and professional staff to observe a moment of silence at 11:00 AM this Thursday, December 11, in memory of Eric Garner. We have asked for an extraordinary gesture because this is an extraordinary moment. The failure to issue indictments in Ferguson and Staten Island—the decision not even to take the cases to trial—suggests that black and brown lives in the United States continue to be devalued. As educators at a university founded on the premise that “the children of the whole people” are entitled to equal education, CUNY faculty and staff have a special responsibility to challenge the devaluing of any lives in the diverse communities that make up our student body. By observing a collective moment of silence, we will send a counter-message of respect; we will silently make the public assertion that black lives matter.
Please incorporate the moment of silence into your normal work and fulfill your professional responsibilities as usual. The union leadership is not calling for a withholding of labor; we are asking you to observe a moment of silence as you would in other instances, invoking the traditional gesture of respect. By asking all CUNY faculty and staff to observe the moment together, we hope to magnify its impact and open a space for private reflection and public discussion of questions of history, race and justice. Nowhere are such discussions more appropriate or urgent than at CUNY. We also hope to express a connection to our students, many of whom live in communities where people of color are aggressively policed.
The moment of silence is called for 11:00 AM on Thursday, December 11 to recall that the video depicting Eric Garner’s death at the hands of the police showed him saying eleven times “I can’t breathe.” We could echo Martin Luther King’s statement on an injustice anywhere by saying that no one can breathe if anyone can’t breathe.
The PSC has a strong tradition of opposing institutional racism and calling for an end to the overuse of police force. We stand with our students. Many of us have already participated and will continue to participate in public protests demanding justice. Observing a moment of silence together is a way we can share our sorrow and anger about another needless death.

Be part of sending a message that will resonate across CUNY and New York City: observe a moment of silence at 11:00 on Thursday the 11th. Silence, as Audre Lorde said, must be transformed into language and action; collective silence can be a language of its own.

Presentations of Final Essays: Instructions

You’ve already done two presentations this semester: on your blog post and on your annotation work. This last presentation is meant to be informal and fun for all.

This is your chance to share with the class your creative/intellectual contribution to the study and enjoyment of Great Works of World Literature. I hope you feel comfortable enough in the class to speak from the heart and with confidence. Tell us about your ideas, your claims, your work. You may read excerpts of what you’ve written or show brief clips, but I hope you will spend a good chunk of your presentation time speaking to us about your work without reading–just telling us what you did and what you learned along the way. What are you taking away from the process of doing your final essay, and/or what are you taking away from the class overall?

You should each plan to speak for 5-6 minutes. Please time yourself before your presentation so you are aware of how much time you’re taking and limit your presentation to 6 minutes max. This will mean you have to choose one portion of your work to present; you won’t be able to present the “whole” thing.

Since we have to get through 26 presentations in two days, and we also need to talk about course evaluations and have a party, I will be forced to time you and I WILL cut you off at 6 minutes. I don’t want to have to do it; it makes me feel bad; but I’ll do it.

Don’t make me feel bad.

Happy Thanksgiving; peace and love to you and yours!

Presentations of Final Essays: Order

Tuesday December 9

  1. Leandro
  2. Maidi
  3. Bhavana
  4. Xuan (Bonnie)
  5. Luz
  6. Joseph
  7. Symone
  8. Sammy
  9. Michael
  10. Jingru
  11. Steven
  12. Timothy
  13. Sean
  14. Neil
  15. Leonora (if we have time to get to Neil and Leonora today, we will; otherwise, they may be postponed to Thursday)

Thursday December 11   Pot luck class celebration; happy holidays; you are invited to bring a treat to share!

  1. Christine S.
  2. Emily
  3. Cristina N.
  4. Walter
  5. Rashed
  6. Christine Y.
  7. Xinuye (Sofie)
  8. Jonathan
  9. Kimberly
  10. Amy
  11. Ziting

Recitatif, Toni Morrison

Twyla and Roberta were two childhood friends from back when they first met each other in St. Bonny. The two of them were left there for a certain period of time because Roberta’s monster was sick and Twyla’s mother loved to dance all night.  The two of them were identified as separate races the moment Mary told Twyla that “that they never washed their hair and they smelled funny. Morrison doesn’t reveal the either of the character’s race. As Twyla and Roberta grew up in St.Bonny, none of the other children liked them because of how they weren’t real orphans with beautiful dead parents in the sky. Twyla and Roberta were treated and bullied by other grown up girls. Maggie, a person who worked in the kitchen for St.Bonny was also teased by other children in St.Bonny. One day, she tripped and fell and the older girls would then laugh at her. Twyla and Roberta are standing there watching Maggie’s misery because they were afraid the older girls would bully them if they were to help Maggie up. Later on in the story, Roberta would eventually leave St.Bonny thus separating the two of them and Twyla never saw her then.

Years later, Twyla would encounter Roberta when Twyla was working behind a counter in Howard Johnson’s. She sees Roberta with two other guys who were smoking a cigarette and how Roberta’s physical appearance has changed drastically from the last time she seen her. Throughout this stage, Twyla and Roberta are just catching up with each other and ask each other the same questions, “How’s your mother?” Years later Roberta and Twyla would meet each other again in a grocery store called Food Emporium. During the time they met each other, both of their lives were completely different. Twyla is married to James Benson with one child and Roberta is married to an IBM executive who’s apparently rich. When they started to talk about the past, it seems the side of their stories were completely different. Twyla recalled Maggie who tripped and fell but Roberta remembered how Maggie was pushed onto the ground and her clothes were torn off in the orchard by the older girls. This puts Twyla in a state of confusion because this wasn’t how she pictured it from the past. And later on the same question comes back between them, “How’s your mother?”

Years later, a racial strife occurred during this time when kids were being sent from one school to another. This affected Twyla because she had to drive her child to Hudson street and there she encountered a familiar face, Roberta. Roberta was in a group of protestors who were against the forced movement of their child from one school to another. This results to the argument between Twyla and Roberta because they had different views on the racial strife. Then a group of protesting ladies surrounds Twyla’s car and starts swaying her car. The story continues as how Roberta describes Twyla as different from before. She also says that “you’re the same little state kid who kicked a poor old black lady when she was down on the ground.” This starts to drive Twyla nuts because she doesn’t recall Maggie being black and not to mention she didn’t kick Maggie either. Their memories differ from one another and this conflict develops between the two of them. Then again the both of them asked each other, “How’s your mother?”

During Christmas, Roberta and Twyla once encounter each other again in a coffee shop. The two of them were having a conversation about the “St.Bonny and Maggie incident.” Their perspective of the stories differ from each other and Twyla doesn’t recall anything about Maggie being black. This time, they didn’t ask each other the “question” but instead just blurt it out randomly. Twyla’s mother never stopped dancing and Roberta’s mother never got well. After that Roberta was in tears and a state of confusion and wondered what the hell happened to Maggie.

Two questions I’ve posed:

1. Why does the story of the “Maggie incident” change whenever Roberta and Twyla encounter each other? What does this symbolize?’

2. Why does Twyla and Roberta ask each other the same question over and over each other as the year goes by? (How’s your mother?) Is there any meaning behind it?


Speak your mind and save your honour.



“In Camera”, a young innocent girl is victim of  a constant physical and emotional abuse by ten men;  that deprive the victim of her freedom and ultimately her morals as a woman. She has been raped by her impossibility to defend herself or seek for help; however, she manages to fight back with courage by calling “Him” all men figure “stupid” and breaking for first time the stigma that women are subordinate of men. “They only reach the seat of power, my girl, when they are morally deformed and internally corrupt” pg.1108 – uncontrollable men abusing their own power and privileged position in a society that is only led by their horrendous actions and lack of commitment when it comes to the idea of “men and women are equal” in the eyes of God.  But because of the religion, as an excuse, or the stigma that women must follow men “Him, whom God protect to lead this noble nation all his life” pg 1109 – there is a complete avoidance and removal of the main role of women in society and a constant oppression and violence exerted to them – a mother, a daughter, a child; the same oppression and repression men experienced in colonialism, where men were constantly exploited and abused were now being enforced and reinforced in women.

This story travels back and forth from the physical abuse and the psychological impact on the victim. All these events, described while she is being accused pending a judgement from “the authority” which struggles to find the best way to convince the public of her accusation.  While in the trial, she is trying to get a sense of her past life experience and thus, she recalls her interaction with her beloved mother, her shared suffering towards the stigma that women are meant to suffer and the presence of her father resigning not only from his daughter life but his own. “Death was preferable for him and for her now” pg 1113.

Finally, the trial has a turning point where the judge makes a true statement about her accusation and indeed, he acknowledges, in front of the public, that she is about to be sentenced for the same reason she has been abused and deprived for her morals. At this point, the conference chambers “In Camera” serves a a checkpoint that the men’s right must be the law and its subordinates, women must follow the injustice and misfortunes faced in a society that in reality is not far from animal kingdom.

…and the “victim” finally is taken back to where she’d been before] -pg 1115

1. If you were to be in the father or mother position -observing the way she was enduring pain and hallucination on her trial- would you have stand up and claim for her justice even if that was ground for social rejection? How would have being her mother’s reaction different from her father?

2. Under these circumstances, is there any possible way she can find justice within herself (her own justice in search of peace)? any idea for social justice?


Naguib Mahfouz, “Zaabalawi”

The story “Zaabalawi” starts out with the narrator talking about his father and his stories about this saint of God. That if it was not for him, he would have died miserably a long time ago. The narrator also says that he has heard many stories from his father about this saint and the miracles he performed. Whenever he was sick, they could find a cure to it without much trouble, until one day he had an illness that no one possessed a remedy for. He tried everything to find a cure, until one day he thought why not seek the Sheik Zaabalawi and bumps into Sheikh Qamar who was one of those sheiks that practiced law. To his surprise, when he went there, Zaabalawai had left “quarter ages” ago. Then he is told that Zaabalawai is living in Garden City and has an office in al-Alzhar Square.

The narrator proceeds to go there and is told that he was actually living in Birgawi Residence and the narrator graciously thanks him and continues on his journey. He goes to Birgawi Residence, and finds an old man selling books of theology and mysticism. He asks where Zaabalawai is and the only thing the old man can tell him was that how great he was and how long ago he used to live here. Feeling dejected, he asked many of the shopkeepers around the area and a lot of them have never heard of Zaabalawai while some remember the good times they had with him, and others making fun of the great Zaabalawai and how he should go to a doctor instead for the cure of his illness.

The narrator feels hopeless now, with his pain of the illness he has becoming greater, but then he remembers a local sheikh, and asks where is Zaabalawai The man smiles and reveals that Zaabalawai is still alive and well. The man then proceeds to give him a drawing and says that this was his best bet in finding Zaabalawai. The narrator then takes the map and continues on his journey. He goes to the street and finds an old Hassanein and asks if he knows Zaabalawai. The narrator introduces himself and proceeds to say that the he was a friend of Zaabalawai and he says he was, once upon a time. The Hassanein proceeds to talk to the narrator about him but does not offer any help in actually finding Zaabalawai. As the narrator continues, he meets a musician who tells the narrator that it will be hard to find Zaabalawai because he is being pursued by police on a charge of false pretenses. Losing hope, he wanders around and goes into a bar and drinks with a random man. He drinks until he passes out and never finds Zaabalawai.

As the translation by Denys Johnson-Davies, he states that in the folklore “Zaabalawai” the narrator illness is unclear. As well as who Zaabalawai is anyone’s guess. Only some knows who he actually is from the past, and others know of him. The narrator’s quest in finding Zaabalawai can be read as a spiritual one, and that he was looking for certainly and assurance in the face of despair.  My thoughts are that maybe the narrator isn’t sick after all, and he just wants hope. Hope and belief that there is a saint called Zaabalawai and he wants to be assured by him that he will be okay. The narrator is probably going though tough times, and he just needs guidance and who else would be best to give it, than the man his father used to tell him stories about.


1) Was the narrator really in pain, while looking for Zaabalawai? If he really was, how could he find the strength to search for Zaabalawai even though he had no clue where he was? Is the pain actually only mental and not physical?

2) In the end of the folklore, he states that some people regard him only as a myth. Why does the narrator still say he must find Zaabalawai even though some say he’s a myth and doesn’t actually exist?

Zaabalawi, Naguib Mahfouz

Naguib Mahfouz was an Egyptian writer, who was awarded the Novel Prize for Literature in 1988. He was the first Arabic writer to be honored. Naguib Mahfouz was also a screen pay writer; many of his works have been made into foreign films.

Zaabalawi is about a man who has gotten really sick and is unable to find a remedy or cure for his sickness. The narrator’s father had told him about “a saint of God,” Sheikh Zaabalawi, who is able to cure any illness or disease. Therefore, the narrator made it his objective to find the mysterious Zaabalawi. During the narrator’s journey in finding Zaabalawi he encounters a variety of people. The first person he meets is a lawyer who practices religious law, who tells the narrator that Zaabalawi has left years ago. The narrator also meets a bookkeeper who tells him that Zaabalawi no longer lives in this building. Next the narrator takes a visit to a government official and a calligrapher thinking that he must know the whereabouts of Zaabalawi. After meeting with a musician, who is said to be a friend of Zaabalawi, the narrator learns that Zaabalawi is hiding from the police for false accusations. Finally, the narrator meets a drunken man at the bar. This drunken man gets the narrator to drink until he passes out. This causes the narrator to miss Zaabalawi completely. Apparently, Zaabalawi had appeared next to the narrator while he was unconscious.

In the story, the narrator never tells us what kind of illness he has; he merely just says that he has great pain. I think that the narrator’s illness in the story is a metaphor for his lack of spirituality and religion. The narrator searches for Zaabalawi because he needs guidance. I think that Zaabalawi is the figure of God in the story. Even though Zaabalawi has already cured the narrator, the narrator still insists on finding him. This represents the commitment he is making to God.

All of the people that the narrator encounters either have never heard of Zaabalawi or they no longer know of his current location. Moving from visit to visit the narrator learns a little more about the mysterious Zaabalawi. The narrator visits different people; do they represent something? At every one of the encounters the people tell the narrator that Zaabalawi is still alive and they share great things about Zaabalawi causing the narrator to seek harder. However, the narrator never actually gets to see Zaabalawi. This raises the question, whether Zaabalawi is an actual person or merely just an idea.


  1. Who is Zaabalawi? Is Zaabalawi a real man, or just an idea?
  2. What do the people that the narrator visits in the story represent?


I Explain Some Things

“I Explain Some Things” is written by Neruda during the time of Spanish Civil War. In this poem, he paints two pictures. One is full of peace, harmony, and prosperity, which only existed in the memory before the war; the other one, standing in stark contrast, is filled with violence, cruelty and bloodiness, which shows the reality of the war.

In the first half of the poem, Neruda uses a descriptive language to recount the details of the peaceful and thriving life in a neighborhood of Madrid before the war broke out. We can feel how great it was through various images he describes, such as church bells, trees, house of flowers, dogs, little kids, “the light of June”, and fishes and vegetables in markets. Through those images, he portrays a picture with rich colors and delightful smell. However, this harmony picture was broken when the city was attacked. All of those images are destroyed and replaced by the chaos of the war. There is nothing but the fire of riots, the noise of guns, and the vision of blood.

In the second half, the image of “blood” is repeated. It creates the feeling of unease because it represents the brutality of killings and the end of life. When Neruda states, “through the streets the blood of the children / ran simply, like children’s blood,” (65) he repeats “blood of the children” to emphasizes whose blood it actually is. He chooses to use “blood of the children” instead of using “blood of adults” or “blood of animals”. By doing so he makes the passage stronger and more meaningful. People generally tend to feel more sympathy to children when they are injured, especially when it is unjust. Children are innocent and have no control over the policies of their country, but they are most likely to become victims in war. Neruda is stating through this line that war does not only affect the people that are fighting it, but also innocent people, especially children. Moreover, by using the phrase “ran simply”, he is stating that their blood runs down in silence with very little objection. When faced with the brutalities of war, the victims even have no chance to object.

When Neruda repeats the image of blood in the last passage, it is extremely moving. “Come and see the blood in the streets, / come and see / the blood in the streets, / come and see the blood / in the streets!” (67) This sentence is repeated emotionally, with the energy of his anger. And the tone is conversational and straightforward. He is strongly appealing to all the readers to pay attention to the consequences of war and stating his attitude against war.


1) Neruda writes, “Raul, do you remember? / Do you remember, Rafael? / Federico, you remember…” (63) What emotion do you think he is expressing in such a tone?

2) Neruda uses “Moors”, “duchesses”, and “friars” to describe “bandits” who kill children. (65) What does he imply through these words?

20 Love Poems and a Song of Despair

Pablo Neruda’s  Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair showed us someone’s love story. In his compilation of poems, the first nineteen were full of love and passion; however the last of the twenty love poems was about loss. And Neruda ends the book with “A Song of Despair,” the break up.

Pablo Neruda was a romantic; one of my favorite poems from the book was “I Like for You to Be Still.” I feel as if this poem best portrays the deepness of his love for this unidentified woman. He says, “Let me come to be still in your silence// And let me talk to you with your silence,” The speaker is saying that they have a profound love for each other, where they can sit in each other’s silence, without the need to talk and that would be enough. To him, he felt that their love had that the type of unspeakable understanding . However, he loses this love and writes, “Tonight I can Write” to end his twenty love poem series and finishes the book with “A Song of Despair.” In these last two poems, it is evident he has not lost sight of his love for this mystery woman, if anything- these two poems reinforces the readers that the speaker’s love for this woman was true. In these poems, Neruda uses repetition to emphasize the speaker’s grief. In “Tonight I can Write” it is said three times, “Tonight I can write the saddest lines.” The speaker talks about the love he had for her, the love she had for him, and the love that is now lost. And in “A Song of Despair,” the phrase, “In you everything sank!” is repeated many times. This line is powerful because he compares to his ex-lover to the sea and time; he uses this line to reiterate that he has lost everything to her and is now alone, referring himself as “the abandoned one” and “the deserted one.”

1) Not much is said about who these poems are directed towards; however, from what is said about this woman, what kind of person do you think she was? (For example: In the poem, “I Like for You to Be Still,” the speaker says, “you are like the word Melancholy,” what do you think Neruda is inferring?)

2) In what other poems does Pablo Neruda use repetition, and how is it important in that poem?