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imageCurrently for two weeks, I am participating in program, Literacy Unbound, at Teachers College, Columbia University. The program’s intent is to bring  literature to life through the infusion of art modalities into the analysis of a text. Near the end if the program, all of the participants perform pieces collectively, then we debrief, and plan the next steps for integrating the ideas into our daily practice. We were given a novel, Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, to read. We were also encouraged to reread the text to further our analysis. The Awakening, a previously banned book published in 1899, is the story of Edna, a married woman who seeks to find herself while having two brief affairs. She dreams of a better life without her husband and children. She lives during an era in which her behaviors are not sanctioned. At the end of the text, she drowns herself, in pursuit of becoming her own woman. The text offers much “food for thought” and is the perfect book for an art infused curriculum. After reading the text, we were given twenty invitations to create something via different modalities that relate to the analysis of portions of the text. For example, here are two invitations that were given to us:

INVITATION TO CREATE #9, June 23

“She slept but a few hours. They were troubled and feverish hours, disturbed with dreams that were intangible, that eluded her, leaving only an impression upon her half-awakened senses of something unattainable.” (XII)

What does Edna dream?

INVITATION TO CREATE #10, June 24

“Impossible!” she exclaimed. “How can a person start off from Grand Isle to Mexico at a moment’s notice, as if he were going over to Klein’s or to the wharf or down to the beach?”

“I said all along I was going to Mexico; I’ve been saying so for years!” cried Robert, in an excited and irritable tone, with the air of a man defending himself against a swarm of stinging insects.
Madame Lebrun knocked on the table with her knife handle.
“Please let Robert explain why he is going, and why he is going to-night,” she called out. (XV)

Please let Robert explain why he is going, and why he is going to-night.

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Below are my responses. The first response to the first invitation is a remix of two of Langston Hughes’s poems with words/ phrases from The Awakening and my own words. The second is a monologue that I created based on the second invitation. The third is a monologue that I created based (an additional invitation to write a monologue based on one of the voiceless characters) on the silence of the nurse, called the “quadroon.” Yes, the black characters are voiceless!

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Edna’s Dream

What happens to Edna’s dreams?

To fling her arms wide in the face of the sun

Intangible dreams that aren’t easily won

To dance whirl, whirl ’til the man’s world is done

And rest beside the sea when a new day has begun

 

What happens to Edna’s dreams?

Do her dreams of self-possession leave a lasting impression?

Or dry up like a raisin in the sun

And awaken her senses like a harsh lesson

Do they taste sweet as sugar and then run?

 

What happens to Edna’s dreams?

Edna’s dream may elude her today

But her dreams will one day bud like a flower

In the cool of the early morning May

Wiping away all of her sorrow tomorrow.

 

For her dreams will invigorate the masses

As they serve to liberate all classes.

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Robert Speaks

“Edna, I don’t know how to explain. This is a difficult conversation. Let me begin at the beginning. For days, we have talked. I have sat at your feet listening to you talk. I feel as if I’ve known you for years- that we seem connected in some way. There were so many things that I could have done, but I wanted, no I needed to spend time with you. I’ve enjoyed  our conversations and I see the beauty in everything that you say. But that’s the problem. You see, Edna. I know that I have developed some unspoken fondness for you. Every time, we see each other, it stirs up some emotion, some feeling that can never be uttered. I should not even be saying what I’m saying. I don’t want to be the source of interference in your marriage. Please understand me. I must put some physical and some emotional distance between us. I know that I have spoken about Mexico. You see, I have been thinking about this for a while. I must leave with no misgivings. There is no other way. People may talk. Your husband, your family……What will they think? I may never forget you, but I can’t cause you to be scandalized,  to lose everything because of me. If I’m in Mexico, there is no way that I will act out those feelings. Please understand, Edna. I need you to understand. Your status in the community is very important to me and I will never jeopardize it. If you never hear from me again, just know that you will never be forgotten. Goodbye, Edna.”

The Nurse Speaks

My day was long and hard. I took care of the two children, but Mrs. Pontilier acted as if I was not around. She kept making me feel as if I were in the way, as if I didn’t matter. In fact, she used me to dress them, to brush and comb their hair. I have to brush and part their hair everyday. Have you ever heard of such a thing? One thing I noticed, was that those children love me. They cling to me. Mrs. Pontillier has to pry them away from me. But my day was long today especially because she forced me to sit for hours before her palette, patient as a savage, while the housemaid took charge of the children, and the drawing room went undusted. Something strange happened while I was her model. She kept singing, “Ah! Si tu savais/ ce que tes yeux me disent* ” over and over again. I asked her what it meant. She wouldn’t tell me, but I asked one of her guests. That woman said, “If you knew.” Then I said “I don’t know.” Then she said again, “If you only knew.” But, I said again, ” But, I don’t. One day I will know what it means. It keeps playing in my head. I’m tired. Honey, please give me a cool drink of lemonade so that I can sit in this rocking chair and relax.

*Oh if you knew/ what your eyes do to me

Next week, I’ll follow-up with visual art I created. Comments are welcomed.

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