Saturday, March 15, 2008

Non-Western Literature Student Learning Analyses: The Untouchables on Marquez

I'm experimenting this year with adding blogging into the mix of things students do in my courses. So this semester I'll be posting post-group research/teaching-project learning analyses from students in my Non-Western Literature course. The students' task in this assignment, one dimension of many they're being assessed on in this project, is simply to identify the one or two most interesting things they learned about the text and or writer on which they presented as a result of the planning, research, teaching, and reflection/assessment process they went through in doing the project. These are not meant to be full-blown analytical/interpretive/argumentative critical essays, but instead little personal, subjective pieces on what the text they taught meant to them.

Here's the first batch, from a team who named themselves The Untouchables and lead a great discussion on Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude.


Anonymous #1 leads off:

I learned a great deal about 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I came across many themes in the novel such as solitude, magical realism, and politics. However, the two things that I found to be most interesting was how real life experiences influenced him and how the novel is circular. Overall I enjoyed this novel.

Some of the things that influenced Marquez to write 100 Years of Solitude were the banana republic, his grandfather shooting and killing a man and his grandmother going blind; these were just some of the things that occurred in the novel. He was raised by his grandparents for eight years. His grandfather was a father to sixteen children. Colonel Aureliano represents his grandfather in the novel. There was a character in the novel that went blind just as his grandmother did.

Another thing I found interesting was how the novel is circular which is represented by the characters who travel to different locations but they always end up coming back to the main location which was Macondo. Jose Arcadio leaves with the Gypsies, his ship gets wrecked so he returns back to Macondo. Colonel Aureliano Buendia constantly returns to the town after his fight against the conservatives. The seventeen sons of Colonel Aureliano Buendia always return to the town and end up dying there.

I learned so much about the author Marquez and how his life played a big part when it came to writing his novels. I like how he was very descriptive in his novel; it made me want to keep reading. Through those descriptions I was able to formulate a picture in my mind which helped me to understand what was really going on in the novel.


Katie continues:

While reading the novel One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel García Márquez I found myself thinking about life itself. The novel made me stop and I thought about life, and the things in it. The novel also made me think about what it means to be lonely and what happens to those who find themselves alone. Solitude is one of the themes in this novel and I think that the readers should think more about this theme when reading it.

Solitude is a real subject in life, and it can mean different things to everyone. In the novel One Hundred Years of Solitude, all of the members of the Buendía family experience solitude in one way or another. Each of the members in this family is a part of something bigger that was started by two of the older members. Úrsula founded a new town with some of the other women in the family when the town they were living at kept looking at the family as weird people. The family was involved with incest, and so they were cursed to have a baby with a pig tail. The town was called Macondo and it wasn’t surrounded by other towns, so it was in solitude that way as well as the family members of the Buendías.

While reading the novel more, I found that the Buendías over time were not really with each other mentally. They are with each other in the town but they have their own lives and they do their own thing. Also, many of the Buendías leave Macondo, but then they come back to the town. For example, with Amaranta and how she returned to the town after a while being away. She came back along with everyone in the family who did leave Macondo. It seemed to me like no matter what each member of this family did, they just couldn’t stay away. With many families people do leave and then come together for special occasions, but this family didn’t really do that.

I found that doing research on the book while reading it, that Márquez was in solitude for a long period of time while writing One Hundred Years of Solitude. I thought that that was interesting to know, because his characters had this connection with him. Overall this was a good book to read, because it has several lessons and what it means to be a family. Families interact with each other, and it’s good to have that connection. Also, that solitude is different from one person to the next and it’s not just one person alone with no one else. It can also mean that a person is in the midst of a crowd, yet that person can feel alone. This novel speaks differently to each reader, and the reader has to find out for him or herself what the novel is trying to convey.


Preston adds:

First off, I would like to say that I really enjoyed reading One Hundred Years of Solitude. It really made me think, and look at non-western literature in a whole new light. What I mean by this is the book opened my eyes to what could be considered non-western literature and what could be considered western literature. Not only this, but it makes you think about third world countries in a whole new light. This book gives us a view of people that were not from Colombia. They were brought over by Francis Drake’s voyage. So when we see this book we look at it in a western light because they are Spanish from Spain. However, they are living in a third world country that has been cast down and is in turmoil. So the book could clearly be seen in a western and non-western light; this makes it arguable for either side.

I would like to now direct your attention to the book Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond. He talks about how the winners write the history. So should we look at the Buendia family as winners or the losers? Well by the time we get to the end of the book we can see that they clearly are the losers since all but two have died. The clear winners would be the people like Marquez who escaped out of the town’s solitude. Yet, really the Buendias are a second generation of victims. The first being all the displaced people (Indians) who were in Colombia before Drake came.

I think Marquez is a truly unique author who was able to use the events within his life to make a story. This I find interesting because being a future teacher, I plan to have students write about their own lives. Thus I could use Marquez as an example of how one’s own life can be the ground work in a novel of their own. However, I would personally not use this with any class under 11th grade and would make sure that the students as well as the parents were aware of the themes within the book (incest, violence, etc.).


So there you have it. Next up: Team Ghosh! on In an Antique Land.

[Update 4/3/08: This Wikipedia article on Marquez got "featured article" status and it was done by students of this guy!]

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