Rather than making separate posts, I decided to just make one long post that is labeled. These are discussions about most of the books we read for class and the prompts we were given.
- What is your overall response to A Mercy ? How does the novel inform your ideas of the settlement of the US South and/or the US in general during the colonial period?
- The way Toni Morrison writes in this particular novel is so chaotic and sometimes difficult to follow. However, after a while, I got used to it and it actually was slightly enjoyable. Toni Morrison was able to teleport her readers back in time to the colonial period and life for slaves “up close”. Slavery is a difficult concept for us modern day student to imagine but it’s still important to remember our past and to learn from it. I found myself realizing more and more connections between this novel and Place, considering that A Mercy is located in the south. It’s also interesting to see how some of the factors within A Mercy such as socioeconomic status, race, and gender still play a minor role in some minds within the south.
- How does Morrison depict the new settlers going about creating “place” in the new territories they are encountering in the way that a social geographer like Cresswell describes? How does the conception of “place” differ from the perspectives of the characters who are colonial settlers versus the characters who are indigenous to the area?
- Place isn’t just about forests, beaches or mountains as Cresswell explains. Toni Morrison expresses place and socioeconomic status as one entity. The white men had these elaborate mansions while the indigenous people had the polar opposite. Places goes further than that, as white men saw The South as “their place”. They were superior in that territory and made sure that everyone knew that it was their place and where others fit in their place.
- What are some ideas about gender or sexuality norms that you encounter in the novel? Do these gender norms vary across cultures?
- From my former history studies, it seems that Toni Morrison was historically accurate on her gender norms during this period. Women faced various forms of violence from physical to sexual. Women were only around to serve men, even when it came to slaves. Slave women were slaves to slave men. Slave women had less freedom than slave men. At the end of the day, women were simply property to men.
Grade received: 100%
- When someone talks about Native Americans in the US, what region of the country first comes to mind? Why do you think this is?
- I know that Native Americans come from all over the United States and that are tons of reservations in modern day America. However, I do find myself typically thinking of Native Americans being in the North Eastern part of the United States. The reason I think I may instantly refer to this portion of the United States is because I know from past history courses that the original settlers made a life for themselves in New England.
- What do you know about indigenous cultures that lived here in the Southeastern US?
- I’m aware that the Southeast was/is home to Cherokees. Sadly, that’s about the extent of what I know.
- What do you know about any beliefs regarding gender or sexuality that were held by various indigenous cultures in the US during the pre-colonial period? Anything? If not, what do you think some of the gender norms and/or social values/norms were regarding sexuality? Don’t worry if you don’t know. Take a guess!
- I have absolutely no clue but I’d guess that women were able to much less in comparison to men in every aspect. I would guess that women had the duties of taking care of the home, kids, and animals.
- Discuss 2-3 items you learned about the gender beliefs of one or more of the indigenous tribes after reading the text.
- I initially thought that gender beliefs in indigenous tribes would be similar to most societies: men being at the top and women suck being the housewives. In “Nought but Women”, Slater describes how femininity and masculinity were viewed in different societies. Women, rather than being forced to stay at home and do chores, were actually viewed as “guardians” and that they had an air of “chastity, humility, and piety.” There was a sense of almost reverence for women of that period rather than treating them as a tool or commodity. It was also extremely bizarre to me to read that Native American men were deemed at lazy in the chapter titled “Subverting Gender Roles in the Sixteenth Century.” I would have imagined prior that it would be the opposite way around.
- Discuss 2-3 items you learned about beliefs regarding sexuality after reading the text.
- When reading “Subverting Gender Roles in the Sixteenth Century,” I was a bit saddened to hear about how sexualized the Conquistadors were, albeit not surprised. For example, Columbus wrote about the earth as if it were a breast, then compared the Indies to the nipple. They had also compared the New World to a “virgin bride”. It was also saddening to read how Native American women were seen as “voluptuous, sensuous, insatiable, lust-filled” and more. Everything about the conquistadors seemed hyper sexualized. In the chapter “Womanish Men and Manlike Women,” it was really interesting to read about Boudash, a seemingly transgender figure, who was able to take on a wife and embody the phrase “Manlike Woman.”
- Some of these chapters focus on cultures of the US South; whereas there are also a few chapters that feature cultures and groups that lived in the south at one time but were then forcibly removed and/or cultures that were always primarily outside of the south. How did you find that the sense of place that each culture came from shapes their beliefs or identities after reading the text?
- In the chapter “Who Was Salvadora de los Santos Ramierz, Otomi Indian?”, Salvadora had interactions within Spanish cultures and Indian cultures. Her story gave a very good sense of place and allowed us to have an inside look into the challenges she faced with these two cultures. In the chapter “Hannah Freeman,” it describes a Lenape woman and her neighbors, which were Quakers. The chapter describes her lifestyle and challenges, much like the chapter on Salvadora.
Grade received: 100%
- Pick three chapters that you enjoyed the most in this text. Please explain what you learned, what you liked, and what you found interesting.
After reading this book, I have found three chapters that I enjoyed the most. For starters, Part 1 “A Woman’s World” was a great starting place for the rest of the book and provided a lot of important information to keep in mind. For example, the idea that men didn’t control women was lovely to hear. It’s nice knowing that not all cultures regarded men as the supreme gender. It was also interesting to read how their beliefs came about with Selu and Kana’ti. Women had most of the work from crops, land, and raising children. They were allowed to have a status of their own that wasn’t dependent on their husband and could have economic power. I also found myself chuckling at the idea that women were viewed as powerful and dangerous when they were on their period. I think I really like that mindset.
The second chapter that I found interesting was Part 2 Chapter 3 “Trade”. It was interesting to me that Natives really wanted and even depended on what Europeans had because their goods were all around better than what the Native counterparts were. It was also disheartening to read that women were more likely to be slaves where there was initially a lack of control. However, it also made sense since women had many handy skills compared to men. The children from women were instantly slaves and made for cheap work. Indian slaves also destroyed their population and forced warriors to take Europeans and ransom them. While it’s an important part of their history, it’s an extremely sad history to read about.
Finally, I found Part 2 Chapter 6, “Women in the Early Cherokee Republic”, interesting. It explained the roles women had in their government during the early 19th century. Surprisingly, women could actively participate in decision making unlike most societies. They also decided to create “a bifurcated system of property holding”, which meant that the land itself was owned by the Nation and any personal items, slaves, etc. belonged to the individual. Women, while they started out as these powerful workers, became rather stationary in the 19th century while the men did pretty much what you would expect: hunt, trade, fight. However, Cherokee men and women had the ability to own private property.
Grade received: 100%
- So far, what is your general response to the book?
- I have actually read Beloved in Dr. Rice’s course last spring. I remember it being quite sad in regards to Sethe.
- What are some commonalities you see between this text and Laboring Women?
- There is still heavy racism that can be found in this text, especially concerning Schoolteacher. Female slaves were still more important due to them being able to reproduce.
- What are some differences you note between this text and Laboring Women?
- This text is not revolving around such a faraway time period as the majority of Laboring Women was.
- Now that you’ve finished the novel, what is your overall reaction to it?
- Much like the first time I read this novel, the second time reading it also made me incredibly sad for Sethe. I understand why she tried to kill her children. Sethe had a first-hand understanding of the dehumanization that happens when you’re a slave and she felt that death was a better route than actually being a slave. It was also really difficult to see how Paul D and Sethe’s relationship took a huge turn once he learned of her eldest daughter’s death.
- What are some beliefs or norms regarding gender you observed the various characters discussing and/or living out?
- How did these norms/beliefs/behaviors differ depending on the race and/or gender of the characters?
- One of the gender norms I saw was through Sethe. She was relatively dependent on those around her and pretty helpless. She depends on Paul D emotionally and cannot do anything when schoolteacher’s nephews violate her. She is the typical, helpless protagonist in the beginning. While male slaves in this time period had to endure suffering, it was a different type of suffering. Men were less likely to be sexually violated. For example, Sethe had the milk from her body taken by schoolteacher’s nephews while Paul D had an iron bit in his mouth. Both are terrible acts of injustice but they are different forms of injustice.
- How did these gendered and racial norms shift as the characters moved north, out of the south and out of slavery?
- Sethe became more empowered. She fought for what she felt was right. She took on this strong motherly instinct where, even if many wouldn’t agree, she attempted to murder her children for their safety. She gained some independence away from men.
- Finally, since you’ve just finished two texts that discuss women’s experiences with slavery, but one was non-fiction and the other was fiction, talk about strengths and/or weaknesses you think each genre/text brings to the subject. Which had a greater impact and why?
- Both the fiction and non-fiction novels we read were extremely powerful in regards to expressing the true nature of slavery. Beloved really pulled me in with its intensity and allowed me to almost see life through the eyes of Sethe. Laboring Women provided a lot of real facts from our nation’s history that helped to drive the ideas Beloved had home. I am someone who personally gets fairly bored with non-fiction so I feel as though Beloved was an easier read for myself and possibly most people. Meanwhile, Laboring Women helped readers to see exactly what was true in Beloved. Both have their place.
Grade received: 100%
- Write a paragraph explaining what you learned from reading the Intro and Chapter 1 of the book.
- The Introduction to this book was quite interesting. It described the different neighborhoods including the Cotton Kingdom and how “slaves were essential to local planters’ hopes for the region” (page 3). The intro also details the use of watercourses, such as being used for transit and even leisure. The sentence on page 4 that says “making places is always a process” really hit me. It can obviously allude to our first book, Places, but it also hit me during these weird times facing COVID-19. A lot of people have been uprooted and making a new place can be really difficult. The intro talks about how neighborhoods were almost like what we know of neighborhoods today. They had a place for work and a time for leisure. Neighborhoods could face collaboration or even strife. I think the intro was a great start for the rest of the book.
- What is the author’s main pint, thesis, or argument in chapter 3?
- This chapter, which is called “Terrains of Struggle”, focused on the actual struggle of slave neighborhoods facing punishment since there were no distinct lines between neighborhoods.
- What are some examples or pieces of evidence he gives to back up his assertions?
- At the end of page 120 into page 121, Kaye describes slaves killing their own slave owner.
- What’s something you learned about gender roles in this chapter?
- Men were focused on plotting plantations while the women would take up the male role at the household as well as the typical female duties.
- What’s something you learned about beliefs and norms regarding sexuality and/or marriage customs in this chapter?
- Men had to ask their owners for permission to live with a woman or marry her.
- Tell me about something you found particularly surprising, enlightening, or just especially interesting in this chapter.
- It really was a crazy world to live in. You had to prioritize yourself over everyone else if you wanted to make it. It was really sad to read. There was no real sense of community because of it.
Grade received: 93.33%
- How do you, as a student who has been through this class, think you read this book differently than someone of a general audience would? In other words, how have our other texts and topics informed your reading of this text?
- Because of the prior knowledge gained in this course, I was able to really look at the historical context of the text and the way gender roles played a part. Drusilla embodied a woman who wasn’t afraid to break the typical gender norms. She seemed to be an all-around badass but it took a bit of a turn when she was scrutinized for the way she dressed and acted by everyone else. I understand the gender norms but there are also different gender norms like the female Cherokee warriors that were essentially revered for not fitting the social norms of other communities. Then there’s Granny who fit the kind and warmhearted Southern stereotype but then ended up not being the entire stereotype.
- What are some ideas about “proper” masculinity and femininity that the characters discuss or try to live by? How do these ideals differ across the races of people you encounter?
- Drusilla didn’t embody “proper” femininity whatsoever. She constantly fights how the typical Southern woman should be and was even forced to marry just to be somewhat “normal.” These stereotypes play a larger role for the white community. They have a constant need to fit that cookie-cutter mold. Yet the non-white folks didn’t feel that same social requirement.
- Discuss at least two characters who trespass against these social norms of gender and/or sexuality. What are some of the prices they pay for doing so?
- Like I said before, Drusilla is the biggest breaker of these social norms. She throws aside the feminine dresses and instead prefers the masculine attire and wants to fight like the men around her. She is chastised by Granny and other women for her desires but still goes forth with her desires. She pays for this by being chastised which fuels her to go crazy. There’s also Granny, who is callous and isn’t afraid to go head to head with anyone, including soldiers. She ends up paying the price for this by losing her own life.
- How does Faulkner portray the war as shaping norms and behaviors related to gender and/or sexuality?
- Women had to bend to the world around them. They were spoken for and told what to do while the men went off to war. Women didn’t get the choice of what they did. Then there’s them men. Men were expected to not only fight but WANT to fight. They were expected to essentially prove themselves through war.
- Conversely, how does Faulkner portray the norms of gender and sexuality as affecting the war itself?
- Going back to the previous bullet point, the men were expected to want to fight. They were expected to be almost passionate about war and about proving their masculinity through war.
- Finally, how do you think this text echoes what you learned from Southern Manhood? Is there anything else you’d like to say about the text after reading The Unvanquished?
- It echos how masculinity was portrayed through war. Men were supposed to want to fight and not having the desire was not manly. I also wasn’t a fan of this book.
Grade received: 100%
- Choose three chapters and discsuss.
- The first chapter I looked at was “The Lady of Cofitachequi: Gender and Political Power among Native Southerners.” She was referred to as “The Lady” and impressed the Spaniards with her power. A woman with such power wasn’t typical over so many males, which is why they were so impressed. It was interesting to see that her gender within her own community was disregarded and instead she was seen for her power. The Spaniards viewing her for her beauty and femininity shows a distinct divide between the two. It was also extremely impressive for me to read about how she managed to escape her capture from the Spaniards so easily to go back to her community and continue her rule.
- The second chapter I read was “Mary Fisher, Sophia Hume, and the Quakers of Colonial Charleston: Women Professing Godliness.” On page 41, it shocked me to read how “church fathers claimed that as daughters of Eve, all women had a share in the Fall, and they turned particularly to the writings of the apostle Paul who insisted that women should be silent in church and that only men should teach and govern.” Then there’s the Quaker named George Fox, who believed that “gender inequalities were one of Satan’s tools.” This gave way to Mary Fisher, who was one of the most famous female preachers in the Quaker religion. She was imprisoned for 16 months for being a female preacher but that only gave way to her having a bigger influence on the community, including the freedom of two horse thieves. She even went as far as to visit the Ottoman Empire to preach. I might be an atheist but I am always interested in headstrong women like Mary Fisher. Despite being a woman, who was shunned for having an active role in most religions and was even thought to be a witch for her preaching, she did it anyway and had many impacts within the Quaker religion.
- The last chapter I read was “Mary-Anne Schad and Mrs. Brown: Overseers’ Wives in Colonial South Carolina.” This detailed the role women had in regards to plantations and specifically lower-class white women, which was a relatively unknown side of history before these two women. These women were “farmers, skilled craftswomen, nurses, midwives, supervisors of slaves, and business partners to their husbands” (61). They were “highly valued members of the plantation community” (65) which was extremely impressive for the period. Most women had little responsibilities but these two lower-class women had so many and were even respected for it.
- (Sidenote: I chose to write about the chapters “Judith Giton: From Southern France to the Carolina Lowcountry”, “Dolly, Lavinia, Maria, and Susan: Enslaved Women in Antebellum South Carolina”, “Rebecca Brewton Motte: Revolutionary South Carolinian”, and “Elizabeth Allston Pringle: A Woman Rice Planter” for my final project. I HIGHLY recommend looking at “Rebecca Brewton Motte: Revolutionary South Carolinian” because she’s kind of a badass lady.)
Grade received: 100%