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20100413-930 Alexie and Harjo (Group 3)

Page history last edited by adrienne.k.rankin@... 10 years, 7 months ago



Today in class we spent the majority of our time on Sandra Cisneros’ “Woman Hollering Creek.” The story focuses on the struggles of Cleófilas, a woman trapped in an abusive relationship with her husband, Juan Pedro Sanchez. Growing up in a small town in Mexico, Cleófilas watched telenovelas where she developed an exaggerated and dramatic view of passion and love that is omnipresent in soap operas.  Cleófilas's experience with these telenovelas shapes her perspective on the female narrative and constantly leaves her (rightly) longing for something more.  In the story's conclusion, in which our protagonist escapes with the help of a more independent woman, we see women working against the dominant ideology to form new roles for themselves.     


The story's pertinence to the class stemmed partly from its examination of code-switching, which was also examined with Anzaldua.  Whilst Anzaldua engaged in code switching with her language (quickly transitioning between Spanish to English), Cisneros does so with stories that would only be relevant to a specific group.  Reading the story before understanding the cultural implications of those anecdotes and archetypes, the reader either misses out on or understands differently the story.  


We spent the last few minutes talking about Sherman Alexie's "The Exaggeration of Despair". In this poem, Alexie copies the style of Walt Whitman in his long sentences and use of catalog.  It is also reminiscent of Ginsberg's "Howl," showing not only terrible occurrences but how these occurrences are perpetuated by Indians. Furthermore, we briefly touched on the villanelle "Sister Fire, Brother Smoke," but only discussed its structure (see key terms).  


Word Count:  261




"The men at the ice house . . . They are dogs chasing their own tails before lying down to sleep, trying to find a way, a route, an out and - finally - get some peace" (Cisneros 3167).

The men in "Woman Hollering Creek" are also trapped in a dominant ideology, making them more similar to women than they may admit. Anzaldua discusses how one female role is helping men deal with feelings of shame and inadequacy. This does not operate as an excuse for the men that the treat the women in this way but it does act to comment on the social implications of the system as a whole.  Yes, the men are responsible for how they treat women but on a larger scale, the difficult life of the men imposed on them by society carries with it some causality for the abuse.  


"and this is my sister, who waits years for a dead eagle from the Park Service, receives it / and stores it with our cousins, who then tell her it has disappeared / though the feathers reappear" (Alexie 3243). 

Unlike many pieces of "ethnic" literature, "The Exaggeration of Despair" depicts violence and disruption amongst Indians - not violence coming from an outside culture.  Alexis' poem is very similar to Ginsburg's Howl.  Instead of the best minds of a generation it is the indian instead, but all the same, there exists a catalog of horrible offenses.  Just like the madness that wrought despair upon Ginsburg's generation, Alexis seems to be suggesting a perpetuation of the cycle by the Indians themselves seen in the cousins who unrepentantly steal the feathers.   


"Everything about this woman, this Felice, amazed Cleofilas. The fact that she drove a pickup. A pickup, mind you, but when Cleofilas asked if it was her husband's, she said she didn't have a husband. The pickup was hers. She herself had chosen it. She herself was paying for it" (Cisneros,3171)

This passaged showed Cleofilas there was another role outside of the traditional one that she was used to seeing. This passage also shows Cleofilas that there are more roles outside of the the three (La Virgen, La Chigada, La Llorana) that she was led to believe she had to choose from.


Key Terms


Code-Switching-The process of telling a story that involves references or languages that are difficultly explained cross culturally.   

Dominant Ideology - a set of common beliefs that frames people's thoughts; e.g. passion and women in "Woman Hollering Creek"   

La Llorona - "the weeping woman"; in Mexican legend, woman who drowned her children and searches for them in the afterlife

Villanelle - a poetic form with 19 lines, ABA rhyme, and 2 repeated refrains

Telenovela - Spanish for soap operas.


Comments (9)

Luukas Pekkala said

at 3:07 pm on Apr 14, 2010

Gotta go to class now.
I put in a super short summary, and one key term.
I'll tweak it later.

anmorri@... said

at 5:53 pm on Apr 14, 2010

working on it right now to add what I can

anmorri@... said

at 6:37 pm on Apr 14, 2010

I added/reworded some of the summary. I changed that she grew up in Mexico not Texas, because I'm pretty sure thats what happened but correct me if I'm wrong. I also think that the last paragraph of the summary is a little vague and needs more analysis. Other than that I just fixed up the formatting and added the accent to Cleófilas name.

nroth@... said

at 11:22 pm on Apr 14, 2010

I've added to the summary and am still trying to find another passage.

nroth@... said

at 11:41 pm on Apr 14, 2010

i added some of my analysis to both parts, not sure really how to integrate my last section of the summary with the rest of the material. maybe we should move away from simple plot summary and focus on summarizing the ideas that we broached in class, i.e. the code switching, the self exploitation of the indians.

dpriver@... said

at 12:30 am on Apr 15, 2010

I added a passage from Cisineros and talked about what we talked about on Alexie

adrienne.k.rankin@... said

at 8:03 am on Apr 15, 2010

like Nick, thought the summary too plot-based. I'm working on it.

adrienne.k.rankin@... said

at 8:13 am on Apr 15, 2010

Cut out pretty much all of the plot summary (sorry to whoever wrote it - it was very well-done) and added analysis.

Brian Croxall said

at 10:25 am on Apr 23, 2010

This is a very good set of notes for Cisneros and Alexie. Between all three sections of the notes, you manage to cover all of the topics that I thought were most important from our day's discussion. You got Cisneros's code-switching, the way in which Cleofilas escapes not only abuse but the roles that women (and men) are placed into within the Chicana culture, and how Alexie's "Exagerration of Despair" echoes both Whitman and Ginsberg and identifies the violence that Indians do to one another. One thing with the Alexie that I think would have been worth mentioning is the note of hope that comes in to the poem at the end, where he invites the wind inside. As we discussed in class, this is a shift from how Howl works.

Otherwise, this is exactly the sort of work--accurate, well-written, and collaborative--that this assignment is designed to create.

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