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20100401 The PowerBook, day 1 (Group 1)

Page history last edited by Brian Croxall 11 years, 1 month ago



We began class (outside!) discussing the title.  The originally published title was The.PowerBook, which evokes a technological, internet-related feel.  The intracapitalization also reinforces that while reminding the reader that it is indeed a book.  The technological device the PowerBook was an Apple laptop popular at the time the novel was published. We decided the lack of the period in the US title didn't really detract much and then talked about the different cover art of the book.


We discussed our responses to the writing. After addressing immediate reactions to the bizarreness of some of the scenes (particularly the tulip scene), we talked about the writing itself: the occasionally pretentious-sounding prose and the use of parentheses to convey action. Additionally, we listened to a portion of the text read aloud by the author.


We then talked about gender ambiguity within the novel.  The “I” of the story purposely does not give a gender (the name “Ali” offers no help), and within several of the framed stories the gender of the characters is either revealed late in the story or is contradictory.  This uncertainty is paralleled by most social interactions with strangers on the internet: behind the avatar, there is no way to tell if you’re communicating with a man or a woman, but often assumptions about gender are made.  We discussed gender roles in popular media.  Similar stock characters appear over and over in sitcoms: the stupid male character is frequently married to an attractive, intelligent female.  This is unrealistic and serves as an example of something viewers may desire but cannot attain in real life.  The PowerBook’s plot functions in a similar way; the characters escape to a world they could not achieve in reality, and they participate in gender-bending while doing so.


We discussed how much personal identity is tied to physical appearance. To what extent we are capable of "taking off" an identity, assuming a new one and trying something new. We talked about whether or not we take on new identities at different places and whether or not they are premeditated or identities are assigned to us. We also discussed the structure of the novel: the frame is identified via the chapter titles.  The all-caps titles (which are all computer commands) are the stories within the frame while the lowercase titles are the frame itself.


Word Count: 388




"Nothing is solid. Nothing is fixed. These are images that time changes and that change time, just as the sun and the rain play on the surface of things."

This passage brings ups the discussion that we are able to change our appearance just as easy as the weather changes. Our identity can be edited to fit whatever persona we wish to portray. By saying that nothing is solid/fixed it also suggests that even our personality or definition of who we are is capable of change at any moment suggesting that our identity is a constant change.


"How could Ali barter philosophies when his bulbs were itching?"

During the first story this is the first moment that Ali is referred to as a male. While knowing that he/she was female before the reader is abruptly thrown into Jeanette Winterson's use of gender bending. The gender bending she creates allows us to interpret the ease of changing our avatar/identity as the characters seemingly are interchangeable through out.


Key Terms

floral fellatio -  is oral sex performed upon a flower-shaped penis.



Comments (1)

Brian Croxall said

at 12:37 pm on Apr 23, 2010

Believe it or not, I'm finally getting around to finishing your grades on this part of the class. I apologize for being so slow. Apart from writing 30% more for the summary of our discussion than you're supposed to, you capture a good sense of the things we talked about: the lack of stability to identity when working within a digital environment, the way we shift identity in real life, the way that identity can be tied to our bodies, and the structure of the novel.

You chose two good passages that you explained appropriately. I think the first would have been better if you'd expanded the quotation just a touch so that it's easier to see that the discussion is about appearance.

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