Thursday, September 26, 2019

Week Six Storybook Lab

For this week's storybook lab, I am doing some research for my storybook project, which, as you probably know from my previous posts, is going to be over the lais of Marie de France! The following are some sources and brief notes on what is known about Marie de France herself, some of which I will likely include in author's notes in the storybook project itself, and some of which may influence my retellings as well.

  • Firstly, a definition of a "lai" (or "lay/leich" depending on your language preference): Essentially, a lai is a poetic/musical form that was popular in the Medieval period, especially in France and Germany. It is a rhymed poem; certain rhyme schemes were common but overall the structure was in some ways less rigid (or, at least it seems, less rigidly adhered to) than many other poetic forms we might study today, such as a sonnet or a limerick. Marie de France's lais did not utilize the traditional musical setting, and differed in that they told stories, much like fables. (I gleaned this information here)
  • Marie de France, from Britannica: She was the earliest known female French poet, which is pretty cool. Not much is known about her, however, though her title "de France" indicates that she was likely a Frenchwoman residing in England.
  • Marie de France, from She is believed to have written between the years 1160 and 1210. Her reasons for coming to England remain a mystery, but could have been for marriage or her career (she was extremely well-connected in England's literary world!). She was quite well-educated, and well-respected in the royal courts of England. She was also extremely well-known for her fables, but it was her lais that earned her the respect of her contemporaries, and which are considered her greatest masterpiece. (A side note from my own personal knowledge from what I've learned in my classes: The lais deal with something called "courtly love" (amour courtois, in French!), which was a popular philosophy in her time. Courtly love had several rules, but perhaps the most important - and, I think, the one which most influenced her lais - was that being married was not considered an acceptable reason to forsake true love if it came along. I believe there has been some contention as to whether Marie upholds this idea, but the subject of infidelity is unquestionably one which she hoped to explore in her writing, as ten of her twelve lais include it.)
  • Marie de France, from New World Encyclopedia: This source states that she is believed to have been born in Normandy, France, and to have moved to England after her childhood. Additionally, it mentions that some have proposed that Marie may have been the illegitimate half-sister of King Henry II, which is a rumor I have seen mentioned elsewhere as well, and which would seemingly fit well with some other aspects of my research: her move to England and her astoundingly good connections there, her presence in the royal court, and her interest in infidelity as a subject matter. That said, there is not, to my knowledge, any evidence to support this, and so I will file it under numerous other unsupported rumors I have come across as to her life (I have also heard that others believe she was a nun or abbess! Quite the difference, no?). There are only five known manuscripts existing that include her lais, and only one of them includes all twelve. Her lais range from 118-1184 lines long, and they are told in octosyllabic rhyming couplets. She also wrote 103 fables. This source includes a list of famous Marie's from that time who could have possibly been her, including the king's half-sister and multiple abbesses, but, of course, no one knows for sure. So we simply call her Marie de France, after a line she wrote: "Marie ai nun, si sui de France," which translates from Old French to mean, "My name is Marie, I am from France."

Painting of the main characters in Marie de France's lai, "Chevrefoil"(which translates to "honeysuckle") by Edmund Blair Leighton

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Week Six Reading Notes Part A - Sindbad

Source Story: "The Voyages of Sindbad" from Arabian Nights' Entertainments by Andrew Lang, illustrated by H. J. Ford (1898).

  • "First Voyage"
    • Sindbad tells of how he was on board a merchant ship and, with others, stopped to explore an island. The island turned out to be the back of a sleeping whale, and when the whale dove under he was left behind accidentally by his fleeing shipmates, only to float to another island, where he finds some men caring for the horses of that island's king.
  • "First Voyage (cont.)"
    • The king takes him in and takes care of him, then his old ship shows up and aims to sell his possessions and give the money to his family, thinking he is dead. After he convinces the captain that he is Sindbad, the captain gives him back his things. He gives gifts to the king and receives some in return, then trades out his stuff and continues to trade successfully all the way home, where he sees his family.
  • "Second Voyage"
    • Sindbad sails with another merchant ship but finds himself forgotten on a deserted island, where he finds the nest of a gigantic bird. He ties himself to the bird's foot and it flies him to an island, where he disembarks, that turns out to be filled with huge diamonds and huge snakes.
  • "Second Voyage (cont.)"
    • Sindbad realizes that there are merchants throwing down chunks of meat in hopes that diamonds will stick to them and be carried up by eagles, so he collects a bunch of huge diamonds and ties a chunk of meat to his back. An eagle carries him up, and he is saved from the eagle's nest by the merchants. The merchant who owns that nest takes only one of his diamonds for helping him. Then he goes to an island with giant camphor trees, and sees an elephant and rhino fight each other only to be carried off by a roc. He returns to Bagdad and gives money to the poor.
  • "Third Voyage"
    • Sailing again, Sindbad and his crew are attacked by hairy dwarves, who steal their ship and drive them onto an island. There they find a cyclops, who roasts and eats their captain, then goes to sleep.
  • "Third Voyage (cont.)"
    • Sindbad and several others stab the cyclops in the eye, blinding him, after making rafts for escape if need be. Instead of dying, the cyclops returns with a horde of other cyclopes, who sink all the rafts except the one on which Sindbad and two other men are riding. They end up on another island, where a giant snake eats both of Sindbad's companions.
  • "Third Voyage (end)"
    • Sindbad builds a shelter to keep the snake away, then gets the attention of a passing ship, which rescues him. He discovers that the captain of the ship from his second voyage is there, along with Sindbad's own merchandise, because they believed him to be dead. His stuff is returned to him and he trades successfully, then goes home and gives money to the poor.
  • "Fourth Voyage"
    • Sindbad and his crew are shipwrecked onto an island full of cannibals, who capture them. Sindbad sees that they are feeding his crewmates to fatten them up and eat them, so he refuses food and becomes too lean to eat, then escapes. He finds some men and returns with them to the city where their king lives, and teaches them how to make and use saddles and bridles, so he becomes rich and important in their city.
  • "Fourth Voyage (cont.)"
    • The king asks Sindbad to marry a beautiful woman he has picked out and to stay in that country forever. Sindbad marries her but still plans to escape, when he discovers that a law in this country dictates that, if one spouse dies, the living spouse must be buried with them. Soon, Sindbad's wife gets sick and dies, and he is buried in a massive tomb with her and a little food and water.
  • "Fourth Voyage (end)"
    • Sindbad survives off his food and water until someone else is buried alive, who he kills so he can have their food and they will have a faster death. He does this several times before he notices a small animal in the cavern and follows it through a narrow passageway onto the beach. He goes back in and collects the riches from the floor of the cavern, then hails down a passing ship and goes home to Bagdad.

Illustration of Sindbad's encounter with the giant by H. J. Ford

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Week Five Story: The Merchant's Book

Once upon a time, there was a poor merchant who, though he had but the shirt on his back and a small hovel to call his home, possessed a heart which was noble and good. His kindness and uprightness of character were such that a generous spirit took notice of him, and decided to reward him.

"Poor merchant," the spirit told him, "I have seen the goodness that resides in your heart, though your life is hard and lonely. Take, therefore, these three gifts, and be happy."

Whereupon the spirit gifted the man with three blessings. Firstly, where his tiny hovel had once huddled now towered a glorious palace, glimmering proudly in the sunshine. Secondly, a storeroom appeared, overflowing with cascading mountains of gold and silver, precious jewels and expensive spices. And thirdly, nestled in a box of sweet-smelling cedar, the spirit gifted the man with a book.

"What manner of book is this, that is full of naught but empty pages?" Asked the merchant, bowing deeply in humble gratitude.

"That you shall find out for yourself, dear merchant," said the spirit before wisping away on a breeze.

And so the merchant entered his new home, joyfully exploring each room, and invited all his neighbors to come and join him for a feast. For many weeks the kindhearted merchant lived generously, helping the members of the town with any plights they encountered. A widow from the street nearby came to him when a rebellious wind tumbled through her house and ripped holes through her roof; the merchant built her a new home, stronger than the last. A neighbor boy knocked upon the door, begging for a scrap of food for his ailing mother; the merchant gifted him with ten gleaming rubies to sell and purchase food and medicine and whatever else she might need.

But the time came, as it does for all men who suddenly find themselves the recipients of great quantities of gold and riches (even, dear reader, those men so kindhearted as our beloved merchant), the merchant found himself more hesitant to part with the riches which had been gifted him. At night, as he slept under silken sheets in his grand new palace, he was troubled with grave dreams, in which his neighbors came knocking and knocking again, and the glinting storehouse grew emptier and grayer until the golden mountains had passed, piece by piece, entirely out the door and into the greedy hands of others. In his dreams, too, the palace crumbled and shrank, until he found himself once more living in a filthy hovel, the cold of winter biting through to his bones, the shelves barren of food. This fear gripped him, and as the storehouse grew ever emptier, he thought more and more of closing his doors forever upon his neighbors.

When the storehouse had emptied about halfway, a crippled girl, carried by her father, came to his door.

"Please, kind merchant," begged the father, "I have heard of your generosity and goodness, and have come to ask for your help. I shall repay you in whatever way you deem fit, to the best of my abilities, but please, can you help us? We haven't any food."

"Let me think on it today, and I will answer you in the evening," said the merchant. So confused was his heart by fear of returning to his old poverty after having tasted so good a life as this that he actually found himself considering turning them away. It was at that moment that he remembered the book in its cedar box.

Fetching the book from its keeping place, he opened it to find that many of the once-blank pages were now full. He began to read what was written there, and found on the first page a story that told of a widow whose home had been blown down by a vengeful wind. The woman was hopeless, with nowhere to turn, and so she huddled in the streets each night alone, until finally the bitter winter cold claimed her life. On the next page was the story of a poor boy whose sick mother succumbed to her illness, leaving him alone in the world. The merchant realized that these stories were what would have happened to the neighbors he'd helped if he had closed his doors to them.

Reminded of the value of his generosity, he quickly called the father and his crippled daughter to his storehouse, bidding them to take whatever they needed. After that, whenever a neighbor would come to him seeking help, he would look back at his book, filling up more and more with the stories of what would have happened if he had chosen greed over goodness, then he would offer them anything they needed.

The day came when the storehouse emptied, and the man was filled with sorrow. But the sorrow was not, as he had expected, for the loss of luxury, but rather for the book he held, whose stories he could no longer replace with happy endings.

"Dear spirit," he called out, "please, if you could, let me help just a few more." The generous spirit, pleased by the merchant's actions, caused the storehouse to refill, and from then on it refilled as soon as it emptied, and the book grew fat with stories.

*Author's Note: This story is based on the story of Miemun and Khojisteh, and the parrot who prevents Khojisteh from committing infidelity by distracting her with stories. The main element that I drew from the original was the idea of stories preventing someone from giving up their good values for evil deeds. In the original, Khojisteh truly loves Miemun at the start, but is swayed by temptation when he is away. In my version, the merchant is good-hearted, but he is tempted by greed. As usual, I insisted on giving it a happier ending, though!

Bibliography. "Tales of a Parrot" by Ziya'al-Din Nakhshabi (1801). Web Source.

Image of an open book from Pixabay

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Week Five Reading Notes Part B - Tales of a Parrot

Source Story: Tales of a Parrot by Ziya'al-Din Nakhshabi (1801).

  • "Of a King and His Sons"
    • Again Khojisteh wishes to go to her lover, but the parrot keeps her from her adulterous act by distracting her with the story of a prince who walks past a snake that had just caught a frog. He saves the frog and gives a piece of his own flesh to the snake to eat instead. Both animals transform into men and ask to serve him. The prince enters the service of a king, and the snake and frog each perform a task for him which pleases the king, then they return to their own habitats.
  • "The Merchant Whose Daughter Was Lost"
    • Same thing. A merchant's beautiful daughter insists that she will only marry someone very wise or very skillful. Three men offer themselves up: one who can find anything that is lost and tell the future, one who can make a flying wooden horse, and one whose bow never misses. The girl is kidnapped by a fairy and each man puts his skill to use in saving her, but in the end the archer wins her hand because he is the one who risks his life to save her.
  • "Of a Brahmin Falling in Love"
    • Same thing. The story is of a brahmin who falls in love with the daughter of the king of Babylon. A magician disguises him as a woman and convinces the king to take "her" in to stay with his daughter. When the daughter realizes who he really is, they steal her father's riches and run away together, and the king never finds them.
  • "The Son of the King of Babylon"
    • Same thing. The son of the king of Babylon falls in love with a beautiful woman and promises an idol that he will cut off his head as a sacrifice if she will marry him. They do get married, so he goes back to the temple and cuts off his head. His brahmin comes in and sees him dead, and so cuts off his own head. The woman comes in and is about to cut her head off as well, but the idol tells her to reattach their heads to their bodies and they will live again. She accidentally puts the wrong heads on the wrong bodies, and the men argue about which one of them should be her husband. The parrot tells Khojisteh that the man with the head of the prince should get her because the head is the "seat of wisdom."
  • "The Merchant's Daughter"
    • Same thing. A merchant has a beautiful daughter whom he offers in marriage to the king. The king sends his viziers to see if she is beautiful enough for him to marry, and they lie to him, telling him she is unremarkable, because they worry that he would neglect his royal duties if he married someone so beautiful. So the girl is married to someone else, but the king happens upon her one day and falls in love with her. He accepts his advisers' reasoning, but when they tell him to demand that the woman's husband give her up to him, he refuses, choosing instead to die of lovesickness.
  • "The Nobleman With a Snake"
    • Same thing. A snake is being chased by a man who wants to kill it, so a nobleman allows the snake to hide in his sleeve. Once safe, the snake tells the man that he shouldn't have trusted a snake, and now he will kill the man before leaving. The man distracts the snake and kills it.
  • "The Soldier and the Goldsmith"
    • Same thing. A soldier entrusts a goldsmith with some money, but the goldsmith hides it and pretends the soldier never gave it to him. The Cazy hides two people in the goldsmith's house, and they overhear him confide to his wife about stealing the money and where he hid it. The soldier gets his money back and the goldsmith is hanged.
  • "Of the Merchant and the Barber"
    • Same thing. When a rich merchant gives away everything he has in charity, he is blessed with a dream saying that a brahmin will arrive and, if he hits the brahmin on the head with a stick, the brahmin will turn into infinitely regenerating gold. He does this, but his barber witnesses it and starts hitting a bunch of brahmins on their heads with a stick, thinking they'll turn into gold. The merchant is called before the judge after the barber tells his story, but they believe the merchant, who says the barber has gone crazy.
  • "The Frog, the Bee, and the Bird"
    • Same thing. An elephant knocks a bird's eggs out of her nest while scratching himself on the tree, so she joins together with a long-billed bird, a bee, and a frog, and they together manage to kill the elephant. They do so by having the bee buzz in his ears to distract him will the long-billed bird plucks out his eyes, then the frog leads him blindly into a place he can't escape from, where he dies of hunger and thirst.
  • "The Elk and the Ass"
    • Same thing. A donkey and an elk are friends, and they sneak into a garden to graze at night. The donkey wants to sing, but the elk warns him that his braying will wake up the gardener, who will catch them both and make them prisoners. The donkey sings anyway, and the gardener wakes up and takes them prisoner.
  • "A King Falls in Love and the End of Khojisteh"
    • Again the parrot distracts Khojisteh from going to her lover by telling the story of a king who pillages Rome to gain the marriage of the Roman Emperor's daughter, whose father forbids her to tell her new husband that she leaves behind a son from a previous marriage. She misses her son, though, so tricks the king into bringing him there, but the king suspects that the boy is her lover, and has him killed (but the murderer hides the boy instead of killing him). An old woman helps the wife tell the story truthfully but blamelessly to the king, who is delighted to hear that his wife has been faithful and that her son is still alive. After this story, Miemun returns and the parrot tells him that Khojisteh has fallen in love with someone else and has killed the other bird. Miemun kills Khojisteh, the end.
"Parrot Addressing Khojasta" by Akbar 

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Week Five Reading Notes Part A - Tales of a Parrot

Source Story: Tales of a Parrot by Ziya'al-Din Nakhshabi (1801).

  • "Miemun and Khojisteh"
    • A great prince longs for a son and is finally blessed with one, whom he names Miemun and marries to a beautiful woman named Khojisteh. The two of them are incredibly close. Miemun finds a parrot in the marketplace and buys it after it gives him good business advice foretelling which spice will be in the greatest demand and earning him a good deal of money. Miemun also buys another bird, called a mina.
  • "Khojisteh and the Parrot"
    • Miemun leaves for a long time on a business trip, and while he is gone a prince from another country catches Khojisteh's eye and tells her that he will present her with a ring if she will come to his house at night for four hours. She plans to do so, but asks the mina bird first, who is a female. The mina bird tells her this would be a heinous action and she shouldn't do it, so Khojisteh kills the bird. Then she turns to the parrot, who realizes that if he rejects the idea he will also be killed, so he distracts her with a story.
  • "The Parrot of Ferukh Beg"
    • The parrot tells her a story about a merchant who leaves his wife and house in the charge of his own parrot. His wife cheats on him and when he finds out from a neighbor, assumes the parrot told him and tries to kill the bird. He survives, though, and helps her to make peace with her husband, pretending that God sent him back from heaven to convince him of her fidelity. And so Khojisteh spends the whole night listening to the story and doesn't have time to go to the prince.
  • "Goldsmith, Carpenter, Taylor, and Hermit"
    • Again, the parrot distracts her from going with a story. The story tells of the four men mentioned above who, in tandem, create a woman out of wood, gold, clothing, and prayers, then argue about who gets to marry her. Three other men claim she belongs to them, so the matter is taken to a Decision Tree, which opens for her and swallows her up, given that she was made out of wood. Again, Khojisteh doesn't have time to go to the prince.
  • "The King of Kinoje and His Daughter"
    • Same thing with parrot and Khojisteh. The story is of a derveish who wishes to wed a princess. The rajah says he may have the girl if he can produce an elephant load of gold, which the royroyan generously donates. So the rajah requires the head of the royroyan in return for the girl. Again, the royroyan acquiesces, going willingly with the derveish and offering up his head. The rajah is moved by the royroyan's generosity and offers the daughter to him to give to the derveish in marriage.
  • "The Fowler, the Parrot, and Her Young Ones"
    • Same thing. The story is of a parrot who is captured by a fowler but tricks him out of capturing her young, planning to escape him and return to them later. She gets him to sell her to the sick king, telling him that she is a trained doctor. She half-heals the king then tricks him into letting her go, whereupon she flies away to her young and never returns.
  • "The Merchant and His Wife"
    • Same thing. The story is of a man who travels a long time for work while his wife cheats on him at home. He returns home to find he can't get into his house, so he lodges elsewhere and sends a procuress to find a beautiful woman for him to sleep with. It so happens that she sends his own wife, who claims she came because she knew he was there and has neglected her. They make peace.
  • "The Old Lion and the Cat"
    • Same thing. The story is of a lion who keeps getting woken up at night by mice, so he hires a cat to keep watch and scare the mice away. The cat doesn't kill them so as not to lose her job, but one day she has her kitten keep watch while she is away, and the kitten kills them all. The cat loses her job.
  • "The Commander of the Frogs, and the Snake"
    • Same thing. The story is of a well full of frogs who have a ruler named Shapoor. Shapoor is not a good ruler, so they elect a new one and he leaves, seeking assistance from a snake. He gets the snake to eat all the frogs in the well as revenge, then tricks the snake into letting him go.
  • "Four Rich Persons Who Became Poor"
    • Same thing. The story is of four rich friends who become poor and go to a philosopher for help. He puts a magical ball on each of their heads which is to fall when they reach their destiny, and they are to dig where it falls. The first man finds a copper mine and offers to share, but the other three keep going. The same when the second man finds a silver mine and the third finds a gold mine; the fourth man keeps going. He finds an iron mine and is dissatisfied, so he tries to find his friends again and join them, but cannot, nor can he find the philosopher.
  • "Besheer and a Woman Named Chunder"
    • Same thing. A man named Besheer sleeps with a married woman named Chunder, so her husband takes her far away. Besheer goes with his Arab friend to see her, and the Arab pretends to be Chunder with her face covered so Besheer and Chunder can spend the night together. He takes a massive beating from her husband, which makes her feel bad, but he sleeps with her sister without telling her.
Image of a parrot by Angie Toh from NeedPix

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Storybook Plan

Storybook Theme: 

In many (read: nearly every single one) of Marie de France's lais, infidelity/adultery is a present theme, but often it is something which is presented as neutral or even positive. I am considering taking this theme but altering it to show the negative side of infidelity, perhaps by adding or emphasizing negative consequences for those in the story who partake in it, or by including some of the stories which already have negative consequences but focusing more on them. Or, I could take another route and explore what these stories would look like if the infidelity never occurs, which might be interesting as well. So, I guess my theme would be the wrong of infidelity, or something along those lines. (That said, there's a chance I may choose to go with a different theme, in which case I will probably choose either the influence of the supernatural/mystical on the stories of Marie de France, or on the inclusion of nature in her stories.)

Story Styles:

I'm really not sure what story style(s) I'll end up using yet. I'm kind of notoriously indecisive, and it's difficult for me to choose exactly how I want to write my story before I actually sit down to write it. That said, there are a few things that I will most likely do. First, I'll probably keep a similar tone to the originals, which remind me of a troubadour's tales. They have a very magical, fairytale feel to them, and I'd like to capture that in my own writing. Consequently, I want to be sure to maintain the supernatural/magical elements that Marie de France uses - werewolves, magical ships, talking animals, etc. In fact, writing this has sparked an idea: I may actually create my stories as though they were being told by a troubadour or bard, and have that be an overarching idea that runs through all the stories. Just an idea, though, which I will likely toy around with for awhile before deciding for sure.

Story Possibilities:

For now, this will be the same as the ones I mentioned in my last project post, as I have yet to narrow it down (and, actually, am struggling greatly not to enlarge it instead! - there may end up being an inclusion of a fable as well or in place of one of these). So, the possibilities so far remain: Guigemar, Lanval, Les Deux Amants, Bisclavret, and Le Fresne.

Source for Story Possibilities:
The five stories I have mentioned above can be found here, though I may split them up and use separate sources later on, if I can find a translation I prefer, or I may just use the original French for my own purposes.

Comment Wall

My own image of my cat, Atticus, enjoying a post-rain walk. He welcomes you to my comment wall.
My storybook project is here!

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Week Four Story Laboratory

For this week's Story Lab, I decided to explore the website "Writers Write." Immediately, the post that jumped out at me was "20 Myths to Use as Writing Prompts" because, obviously, it fits really well with this class!

The article begins by defining what a writing prompt is (a word/phrase/idea/etc. designed to spark a writer's creativity and direct their writing, especially for writing exercises) and what a myth is (a traditional story including superbeings/ancestors/heroes, often to explain some kind of natural phenomenon). It goes on to list twenty myths that could serve as interesting writing prompts.

When I started reading this article, I expected it to list specific, pre-existing myths, such as the stories of the Greeks, or any of the things we've been reading this semester. Instead, it gives specific circumstances and prompts the writer to create a myth around them. For example, "Write a myth to explain why the sky is blue." Although this wasn't what I expected, it was still interesting to me, so I'll include a couple of my favorites here:
"Write a myth to explain why leaves change color."
"Write a myth to explain how bees got their stings."
"Write a myth to explain why birds fly and fish swim."

Despite not being what I thought the article would be, I still feel as though these could be interesting writing prompts for a story, and I may take them into account for a later story for this class!

Another article I explored was "5 Instances When You Need to Tell." This one caught my attention because, in every writing course I've taken -- and I'm an English Writing minor, so I've taken several -- the concept of showing versus telling in storytelling has been a permeating subject. Generally, of course, it is considered better to show and not tell, which means that you should let your reader see what's happening through action/dialogue/scene/etc., rather than just describing everything to them.

The five instances it lists are when you need to gloss over unnecessary conversations/connect scenes, when you need to report events/gloss over unnecessary characters, when you need to show time passing, when you want to focus on emotion but can't actually show it at that time, and when you want to add backstory. Of course, none of these are hard and fast rules, as, for example, sometimes you might want to show backstory by way of flashbacks, or something along those lines. But essentially the idea is that sometimes, if you try to show every tiny conversation and every passing character, the reader will get kind of bogged down with all that detail and it will distract from the actual story, so telling/summarizing can help you move past some of the extraneous stuff without it feeling disjointed or unclear.

Fountain Pen Writing Photo by Pixabay

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Week Four Reading Notes Part B - Homer's Iliad

Source story: The Iliad by Homer (retold by Alfred J. Church)

  • "The Rousing of Achilles"
    •  The Greeks and the Trojans fight over the body of Patroclus, and Hector puts on the armor of Achilles, which angers Zeus. Achilles's two immortal horses weep for the death of Patroclus, but Zeus bids them leave so that they won't be taken by Hector too. Finally, the Greeks send Antilochus to tell Achilles of Patroclus's death.
  • "The Rousing of Achilles (cont.)"
    • Achilles is heartbroken by the news, and his mother offers to get him new armor from Hephaestus to wear into battle to defeat Hector in vengeance, although she tells him that when Hector dies, he will soon die, too. In the meantime, he yells across the trench and Athena makes his voice terrifying, so the Trojans fall back and the Greeks recover the body. Then Hera makes the sun set early so the sad day will end. Hector says he will meet Achilles in battle.
  • "The Slaying of Hector"
    • With his new arms, Achilles rejoins the Trojans in the fight and nearly overtakes the city, but Apollo interferes and saves the Trojans. Priam calls to Hector, begging him to come inside the city gates so that Achilles will not kill him.
  • "The Slaying of Hector (cont.)"
    • Hector weighs his options and decides to stand against Achilles, but at the last moment is terrified and flees. They run around the city three times, and the gods discuss whether or not to help Hector, but they decide against it (though Apollo attempts to help him anyway by helping him run). Finally Athena tells Achilles to catch his breath and she will make Hector come to him.
  • "The Slaying of Hector (end)"
    • Athena pretends to be Hector's brother and tricks him into facing his death at the hands of Achilles. Hector begs Achilles to send his body back to his father and mother, but after Achilles kills him, he drags his body back to the Greeks behind his chariot. Andromache is heartbroken when she finds out.
  • "The Ransoming of Hector"
    •  Achilles has the body of Hector drug around his friend's grave daily, but finally the gods tell him he must sell it back to the Trojans. So Zeus sends Hermes in disguise to guide King Priam with all his treasures unseen to the tent of Achilles, where the gods have made Hector's body remain unblemished.
  • "The Ransoming of Hector (cont.)"
    • Achilles agrees to ransom the body of Hector, and after eating together and agreeing on a nine-day truce between their armies for the burial and mourning of Hector, Priam sneaks away in the night, guided by Hermers again, with his son's body, to avoid getting caught by the Greeks in their own camp. They are able to bury Hector well and nobly.
"Achilles Dragging the Body of Hector Around Troy" Mezzotint after G. Hamilton

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Week Four Reading Notes Part A - Homer's Iliad

Source story: The Iliad by Homer (retold by Alfred J. Church)

  • "How the War with Troy Began"
    • The king of Sparta had a beautiful daughter named Helen, who married Menelaus. Menelaus became king, and Paris, prince of Troy, carried off Helen and quite a bit of treasure. All the men of Sparta had agreed before Helen had married that, whomever she married, they would come together to get her back should this exact situation arise. So for nine years they attacked Troy but could not get through the walls, and they began to pillage nearby cities.
  • "The Quarrel"
    • The god Apollo rains death upon the Greeks because they stole a daughter of his priest for Agamemnon, and refused to return her. A prophet tells Agamemnon he must not only return her, but give up some of his spoils as well. He refuses, and he and Achilles get into an argument about it. Achilles threatens to leave, and Agamemnon bids him go, but says he will take Achilles' portion of the spoils as his own. Achilles prepares to slay him, but Athena stays his hand, telling him to wait and Agamemnon's actions will bring their own consequences. So he says his final words and lets it be.
  • "The Quarrel (cont.)"
    • Agamemnon takes the girl who was given to Achilles to replace the girl he had to return to the priest (who prays and stops the plague). Achilles is kind to the heralds who unwillingly come to fetch her, and she goes to Agamemnon against her will. Then Thetis (daughter of the sea) hears Achilles weeping and agrees to go to Zeus for him when Zeus returns from a feast and convince Zeus to make the Greeks flee before the Trojans, so that Agamemnon will miss Achilles's help and realize that he has wronged him.
  • "What Thetis Did for her Son"
    • Thetis convinces Zeus (against his better judgment and much to the anger of Hera) to make the Trojans beat the Greeks in battle at least for awhile to do honor to Achilles. So Zeus sends a Dream to Agamemnon to convince him to go into battle against the Trojans right away without Achilles.
  • "Hector and Andromache"
    • Prince Hector of Troy comes in from the battle to convince Paris to come fight. He asks his mother to make an offering to Athena to ask for her help, but Athena rejects them. Paris agrees to come to the fight, and Hector goes to search for his wife and child to say goodbye to them in case he dies.
  • "Hector and Andromache (cont.)"
    • Hector and Andromache talk about what will become of them; he tries to comfort her, for she says that Achilles has killed all her family, so Hector is the only family she has now. Hector prays that his son will grow up to be a great warrior, then tells Andromache not to worry, because he will only die if it his fate, and no one can escape fate anyway. Then he and Paris rejoin the war.
  • "Embassy to Achilles"
    • Ulysses, Phoenix, and Ajax visit Achilles to try to convince him to come back and help, because without him the Greeks are losing. They feast together. Agamemnon has sent with them all kinds of gifts as an apology for his behavior, and Ulysses accuses Achilles of being too proud and being the reason for so many Greek men dying.
  • "Embassy to Achilles (cont.)"
    • Achilles rejects Agamemnon's gifts and says he will not help him. Instead, he plans to return to his own country and settle down with a wife. He tells that his mother Thetis told him to choose between life (if he returns to Phthia, he will grow old but not be famous) and fame (if he attacks Troy, he will die). He asks Phoenix to join him and encourages Ulysses and Ajax to go to their own homes and avoid Troy, because it is "dear to Zeus."
  • "The Deeds and Death of Patroclus"
    • Patroclus, Achilles's companion, convinces Achilles to allow him to lead Achilles's people into battle in his stead, wearing his armor, so that the Trojans will retreat a little and give the Greeks some breathing room. Achilles relents, but tells Patroclus not to get cocky and approach the wall, but to stop fighting after saving the ships from burning.
  • "The Deeds and Death of Patroclus (cont.)"
    • Patroclus stops the burning of the ships but (shockingly!) forgets Achilles's warning and pushes towards the wall of Troy, slaying Trojans as he goes. He kills the Trojan hero Sarpedon, who calls out with his dying breath to Glaucus, asking him not to let the Greeks take his body.
  • "The Deeds and Death of Patroclus (end)"
    • Patroclus tries to overtake the city but Apollo pushes him back, saying it is not for him or Achilles to do this. Hector fights Patrolus and wins, destroying the armor of Achilles and killing Patroclus.

"Achilles Against Hector" - From Nikos Karakasidis on Flickr

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Feedback Strategies

For this week's feedback assignment, I read two articles: "Be a Mirror" by Gravity Goldberg and "How to Provide Great Feedback When You're Not in Charge" from Farnam Street.

In Goldberg's article, she talks about the importance of "being a mirror," which means that our feedback should offer a reflection of someone's work in a nonjudgmental way. She references Carol Dweck quite a bit, and talks about how this can go hand in hand with the "growth mindset" idea of Dweck's. This article seems to be directly mainly at teachers who are helping their students with reading, but the feedback ideas are applicable beyond that: be specific, focus on what the person is doing (rather than what they're not doing), focus on the process, make sure it can transfer (make sure your feedback will make sense to them in a broader sense for improving future work as well, rather than only a particular detail of this assignment), and keep yourself out of the feedback. The last point on that list was the most interesting to me. She says instead of saying "I like how you..." or "I think you..." etc., teachers should say something that doesn't involve themselves. Her idea is that this will avoid reinforcing the idea for students that they should be seeking to please adults, rather than the idea that they should be seeking to better themselves/learn.

In the article on Farnam Street, it talks about the types of feedback. It lists three: appreciation, coaching, and evaluation. Appreciation, according to the article, is essentially expressing our approval for whatever work we are giving feedback on. Coaching, on the other hand, is offering specific advice about how to improve something about the work, and evaluation is ranking the work against similar works by others or against a set of standards. Each of the types is important, but we must be strategic about when and where we use each type. Appreciation is perhaps the easiest to give, and the article recommends using it as a motivational tool. Everyone likes to hear what they're doing well, because it makes them feel good about themselves. Coaching should be used to help someone improve specific points of their work - it is important to let them know what they did well and what needs work, and to be very specific about it. According to the article, evaluation should be used infrequently and is often not productive, but is sometimes necessary. This, I don't totally agree with. I have often found that a healthy competitive spirit can be highly effective in motivating people to improve themselves, and that can't be done without a method by which to compare themselves. For example, let's say I enter a writing contest and place poorly. For me, this gives me a sense of where I am compared to others who are at a similar level as I am, and not only motivates me to improve, but also gives me examples of people whom I can look up to as I work to better myself. Finally, the article recommends putting yourself up to receive feedback first if you're in a leadership position to set a good example.

"Feedback Group Communication" by Tumisu at Pixabay

Topic Research: Marie de France

For this segment of my research, I actually decided to include five stories, because I couldn't quite pick between them. I did decide (tentatively) that I think I want to go with the lais of Marie de France, since, as a French major, her work is duly interesting to me. All of them are available at this link (much thanks to Professor Gibbs, who helped me find several English translations!) I haven't decided if this is the version I'll end up going with in the end, but it's currently the version I have saved that included all the texts in one place, so for convenience I've included it here. So without further ado:
  1. Guigemar - The story of Guigemar is very much akin to a classic fairy tale. It includes true love, a beautiful young woman locked away in a tower, and a fair bit of magic. Unlike many fairy tales, however, it also includes (and glorifies) adultery. For so many reasons, I dislike this aspect, so I think it would be interesting to do a take that either cuts the adultery out, or in which the adultery results in negative consequences of some sort, rather than positive reinforcements.
  2. Lanval (or Launfal, depending on the translation) - This lai is especially interesting because it is set in the courts of King Arthur, but told by Marie de France, a French woman living in England. In this story, a noble knight of King Arthur named Lanval falls in love with a beautiful and magical lady, but she tells him that if he ever speaks of her, he will never get to see her again. This is fine until Queen Guinevere tries to seduce him, and to defend his pride and honor he tells her that he already has a lover far more beautiful than her. Guinevere is angry and chaos ensues. This story is just such an interesting take on the court of King Arthur that I think it'd be fun to retell and play that different perspective up even more.
  3. Les Deux Amants (The Two Lovers) - This is one of (I think) the only two lais out of the twelve which Marie de France wrote that does not include adultery. It does, however, have a tragic ending for two young lovers, and again includes many aspects of classical fairy tales - magic, princess locked away in a castle, etc.
  4. Bisclavret - "Bisclavret" roughly translates to "werewolf" in Old French, and that is the topic of the story. Bisclavret, our main character, has a wife, who wants to know why he disappears so frequently for extended amounts of time, thinking perhaps he has a mistress. She gets him to divulge that he is a werewolf, and she gets him to tell her his secret weakness: if he cannot find the clothes he was wearing when he turned into a werewolf, he cannot change back. She betrays him, and he ends up stuck as a werewolf for a few years. In the end, all is well and the treacherous (and adulterous) wife is duly punished.
  5. Le Fresne (The Ash Tree) - This is the only one of these five that I had not previously read, but I ended up being really interested by it. It involves a secret royal twin, true love, and all the makings of a fairy tale.

Photo of an Ash Tree from Wikimedia Commons, taken by Frank Chandler

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Week Three Story: A Beloved Sister's Betrayal

Amara was born as the middle sister of three princesses, and the saying "each more beautiful than the last" was literal in their case. When the eldest of the three sisters was born, she was named Antheia, and the king and queen said, "She shall be as a flower, sweet and delicate, desired by all." And as she grew it was determined to be true: she was as lovely and adored as the first blooms of spring.

After several years, the queen bore her second daughter, and she was named Amara. The king and queen said, "She shall be eternally beautiful for all her days, and time will not mar the grace of her body or her countenance." And as she grew it was determined to be true: with each year of her life she grew more beautiful still.

Finally, the third princess was born, and she was named Psyche. The king and queen said, "She shall be the true form of Beauty, as a cooling breath of air upon the mind and soul." And as she grew it was determined to be true: her beauty far outshone that of her sisters, and she was looked upon as Beauty incarnate, daring even to be compared to Venus herself.

Now it came to pass that the three sisters grew older and came of marrying age. The lovely Antheia was given to a lord who was as wealthy in years as in gold, and the gray of his hair withered his wife. Like a flower, her beauty faded quickly and left her, but she was happy in her foreign home with her old but doting husband and her shining castle.

Amara, too, was given into a royal marriage by her parents, but her husband - a king, no less! - cared only for her outward beauty, and married her because he knew she would be beautiful forever, and she became like a decorative doll upon her queenly throne. Her face showed nary a mark of the passage of time, but her heart grew sad and weary.

At last, Psyche was given up into marriage - but rather than a marriage, it was a funeral. A mysterious prophecy was delivered on a scroll to the king and queen, which decreed that she must be offered up to a marriage that would be her death, or the fate of the world should suffer. So, tearfully, Amara and Antheia clung to her until they were drug from her side atop the mountaintop where the ritual was to take place, and they went down and saw her no more.

Antheia went back, saddened to her loving husband, whose kindness saw her through the darkness of her loss.

But Amara's husband was furious, raging about the way her tears left her eyes puffy and red, and how the wrenching of her face as she cried detracted from beauty. Why else was she here, he wanted to know, if not to content him with the pleasure of enjoying her lovely face? So, he announced, he would spend the evening instead with his mistress, who was far more cheerful and not as given to fits of unseemly emotion. And so Amara stole away in the night to let flow her tears at the site of her sister's sacrifice.

But Psyche had deceived them. She was not dead, but had contrived the prophecy herself to rid herself of the family whose lesser beauty was below her. She had allowed them to grieve her loss, but all the while she had married herself to a god - and Cupid, the god of love himself, no less! - and was living quite happily in a golden castle with invisible servants to tend her every whim. Yet, she lied to her sweet husband, that adorable winged god, and betrayed his trust time and again.

When Amara came to the mountaintop, she was met by Zephyr, Cupids faithful servant who takes the form of the wind. Zephyr explained to her in deep concern the sad state of affairs which his master unknowingly suffered - a shallow but beautiful wife who stirred up trouble between he and his mother and denied his few requests.

Amara was deeply injured, and wept anew, but this time out of rage. So Psyche did live up to her name, after all: she was a cooling breath of air, which put out the loving flames in the hearts of her family and doused the trust in her husband's mind. Furious and heartbroken at her sister's treachery, desperate not to return to the prison of her husband's home, Amara threw herself off the mountaintop, hoping to end her life.

But, gently, Zephyr caught her in his winds and delivered her to the gate of Cupid's palace.

"Do not toss aside your life so easily, beautiful princess. You may yet know happiness," he told her. "Even now, I have sent one of my breezes to tell Juno of your husband's infidelity. As the goddess of marriage, she surely shall not let him see another day. And as of your sister, Psyche, let us together tell Cupid of her deceit, and she shall receive the reward which she deserves."

So Zephyr and Amara flew together to Cupid's palace, and told him of his wife's deceit. Saddened, he told them he would love Psyche no matter her flaws, as she had pricked him in his sleep with his own arrow. Still, he felt gratitude to them for hoping to guard his heart, and so he granted between Zephyr and Amara a deep love.

And so Amara and Zephyr were married, and he carries her eternal beauty across the skies in his strong winds, and at last they both knew happiness.

Author's Note:
This story is a retelling of the story of Cupid and Psyche. I have changed much of the original, in which Psyche is the heroine and Cupid the hero. In the original version, Venus is jealous of Psyche's beauty and tells Cupid to make a terrible man fall in love with her so she will be miserable. Psyche is sacrificed, as in this, but at the decree of an oracle. Rather than dying, however, Cupid whisks her away and makes her his wife, but she is not allowed to see his face or know his identity. Against his urging, she reveals herself as alive to her two sisters, but they are treacherous and convince her to betray Cupid's trust in her. When all is revealed, Venus puts Psyche through a series of tests, and she is eventually made into a deity. Psyche also tricks the two elder sisters into killing themselves. So, as you can see, this story is much different. I thought it would be interesting to see it through the eyes of one of the sisters, who are (in the original) both married to very old, rich men and are very unhappy, and who are made to believe their sister is dead for a time. I got the ideas for/the meanings of the names of the three sisters here and here.

Bibliography. "Cupid and Psyche" from Apuleius's The Golden Ass, translated by Tony Kline. Web Source.

"Psyche Showing her Sisters her Gifts from Cupid" by Jean Honore Fragonard

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Week Three Reading Notes Part B - Cupid and Psyche

    Source story: "Cupid and Psyche" from Apuleis's book The Golden Ass (translated by Tony Kline)
    • "Venus and the Goddesses"
      • A seagull tells Venus of what Cupid has done, threading the story with gossip and lies to make his actions out to be worse than what they were. Venus is deeply angered, and goes home to chastise Cupid. She tells him she will either bare another son to replace him or adopt one of her slave boys for the purpose, and that she will have the goddess Moderation clip his wings and shave his hair and ruin all his godly gear. Juno and Ceres show up as she leaves and try to make her see reason, but she is just more angered that they don't support her.
    • "Psyche's Prayer"
      • Psyche is searching for her husband and stumbles upon two temples. At the first, the temple of Ceres, she tends to the temple and Ceres shows up. She begs Ceres to help her and protect her from Venus, but Ceres sadly states that she is unable to do so for fear of offending Venus. She then finds the temple of Juno, whom she begs for the same and from whom she is met with the same result.
    • "Venus and Mercury"
      • Psyche resolves to surrender to Venus and hope for mercy. Meanwhile, Venus has been unable to locate Psyche on earth, so she enlists Mercury to spread the word that Venus will reward whatever person can bring Pysche to her with seven kisses and "a caress of her tongue." Psyche goes to the appointed place to turn herself in.
    • "Venus and Psyche"
      • Venus has servants torture Psyche, then takes a turn beating her as well. Once Psyche is truly destitute, Venus also threatens that she may decide to kill the baby in Psyche's womb as well. She decides to test Psyche by bringing in a huge pile of different sorts of grains and telling her to sort them into piles by type by evening. After Venus leaves her to her impossible task, an ant notices Psyche's plight and takes pity, and so brings an army of ants who do the task for her and then depart.
    • "Psyche's Next Task"
      • Next Venus tells Psyche she must gather the golden fleece of a nearby flock of deadly sheep. Psyche goes and plans simply to kill herself by throwing herself into a river, but a reed prophesies to her and tells her not to commit suicide but instead to hide in wait until the sheep are in the mid-afternoon shade (they soak up the sun and become angry, attacking and killing people who get close), then to go into the woods where the sheep had been and simply collect the fleece that came off on the trees. Venus is still angry, though, and assigns her another task: to collect a phial of the freezing water from the black spring that feeds the rivers Styx and Cocytus.
    • "The Third Task"
      • Psyche sees the impossibility of the task: she cannot hope to reach the source of the water, and snakes guard it on all sides, and the water itself is alive and threatening. Luckily, Jupiter's eagle has helped Cupid before, and offers to gather the water for her. He takes her phial and flies past the snakes, tricking the water into not attacking him by claiming he is gathering it on Venus's behalf.
    • "The Jar of Beauty"
      • Once again Psyche seeks to kill herself after Venus tells her of her next task: going to the underworld and trading the phial of Stygian water for a jar of Persephone's beauty. But the cliff she intends to throw herself off of speaks and tells her not to kill herself, but to follow his advice on how to navigate the underworld without falling into any of Venus's traps. She follows his advice and receives the jar of beauty, but fails to follow his last piece of advice: not to open the jar of beauty or look inside it at any cost. She thinks instead that taking a drop for herself would be wise and would help her to please Cupid.
    • "The Sleep of the Dead"
      • The jar, instead of beauty, contains Stygian sleep, which immediately causes Psyche to collapse. But Cupid, who is now healed from his burn, breaks out of his mother's house and flies to Psyche, wiping the sleep off of her and putting it back in the jar for her to take to Venus. Meanwhile, he goes to Jupiter to beg his favor and support. Despite his better judgment, Jupiter agrees to offer his support on the condition that "you beware of making me your rival by giving me, in payment for this favour, some other girl of outstanding beauty."
    • "The Wedding Feast"
      • Jupiter arranges a wedding for Psyche and Cupid and makes Psyche into a goddess. Venus is placated by Jupiter, and Psyche bears a daughter named Pleasure. We then return to the story of Lucius the man/donkey. He relates that the robbers have returned with a lot of loot, and run him to exhaustion carrying it. They discuss the idea of killing him, as they think he is the cause of their bad luck and he is going lame besides, and then they go to bed.
    • "The Escape"
      • Lucius resolves to escape rather than be killed, and so he breaks his bonds. But the old woman grabs his rope as he flies past her, and holds on tightly. The captive girl wrestles the rope away from the older woman, mounts Lucius's back, and they ride toward what they hope will be freedom, praying to the gods all the way.
    Woman and Donkey by a Roadside Shrine (John Gadsby Chapman)

    Monday, September 2, 2019

    Week Three Reading Notes Part A - Cupid and Psyche

    Source story: "Cupid and Psyche" from Apuleis's book The Golden Ass (translated by Tony Kline)
    • "The Captive Woman"
      • In this first story we are introduced to the main character of the book - Lucius - who has been turned into a donkey. He is being used as pack animal by a gang of robbers, and so he happens to witness them returning from an attempted night of thievery with only a captive noblewoman for their spoils, who they plan to hold ransom. She thinks to kill herself, but the old woman with the gang of robbers threatens to see her roasted alive if she doesn't settle down.
    • "Her Dream"
      • The captive woman explains to the old woman that she was kidnapped on her wedding day, and that she has just had a dream of the robbers killing her husband-to-be. She is greatly distressed, so the old woman offers to comfort her with a story.
    • "Psyche's Beauty"
      • We learn about the legend of Psyche, a princess so beautiful that the people began to worship her as they did Venus. Venus is, of course, deeply angered by the idea that a mere mortal woman could usurp some of her praises and glory, and so she calls her son Cupid to make Psyche fall in love with a miserable, wretched man. She then bestows a very disturbing kiss on her son and walks off onto the ocean, with all the ocean-dwellers following along and singing her praises.
    • "Oracle of Apollo"
      • Unfortunately for Psyche, she is admired by people the world over, but has no suitors, as people view her more as a work of art than as a marriageable princess. So her father goes to an oracle, who tells him she must go to a marriage ceremony of death, essentially. Her parents resist, but she tells them it is for the best, rather than having her go on living in sadness at being alone. So they take her to a rocky crag and leave her out in a red wedding veil to await her supposed husband. After all the other people leave her there alone, she is lifted up by a gentle breeze and placed on a soft bed of grass.
    • "Magical Palace"
      • Psyche awakes outside a glowing magical palace, in which she finds treasures of all kinds. Invisible servants explain to her that this all belongs to her, and that she may sleep in her room and bathe. She also sits down to eat a "sumptuous" meal, served again by invisible servants and followed by music by invisible musicians.
    • "Mysterious Husband"
      • Psyche is visited night after night by her husband, who has marital relations with her but never lets her see who he is. He warns her that her family grieves for her and that her sisters might soon come to try to see her, but that she shouldn't look at them or talk to them or she'll make him very sad. But of course she is sad, so he agrees to let her speak with her sisters as long as she doesn't take any advice from them about trying to figure out who he is. She then professes her love for him and he departs.
    • "The Jealousy of Psyche's Sisters"
      • Psyche's sisters do indeed come to visit her, and Zephyr (the wind which brought Psyche to her palace before) brings them to her palace. They are overjoyed to see her at first, but when they leave with gifts of gold and jewelry, they are overcome by jealousy that she should be so rich and have a god for a husband. So they determine to devise a plan to have her cast down from her castle.
    • "Psyche's Husband Warns Her"
      • Once again, Psyche's mysterious husband warns her that her sisters are bad news, but agrees to let her see them again so she won't be so sad and lonely. He also tells her that she is pregnant with his child, and that if she can keep her husband a secret, the child will be born a god; if she can't he will be born mortal. He warns her once more that if she ever tries to look at him, she will lose him forever. She reassures him that she will keep whatever secrets he asks her to keep.
    • "Fears and Doubts"
      • Psyche's sisters realize that she has been lying to them about what her husband looks like, so they determine that she must not know herself. So they convince her that he is actually an evil serpent (as was mentioned in the oracle's prophesy), and he will eat her as soon as she gives birth. They convince her to hide a lamp in her room and a blade under her pillow, and to look on him and kill him when he falls asleep.
    • "Psyche's Husband Revealed"
      • Psyche carries out her sisters' plan with the lamp, but stays her weapon when she realizes her husband is Cupid himself. She then accidentally pricks herself with his arrow, causing her to fall even more deeply in love with him. She admires him for awhile, but then the lamp drips oil on him and he awakes, and flies away. She holds onto his leg and is carried along, but eventually falls. He explains to her that he defied his mother and married her, shooting himself with his own arrow, then says he must punish her sisters, and he must leave her.
    • "Psyche's Despair"
      • Psyche attempts suicide in her despair, but the stream she throws herself into fears Cupid and keeps her from drowning. She has a brief encounter with the god Pan, who advises her to seek Cupid's favor if she is suffering from heartache. Then she goes and tricks each of her sisters into jumping to their deaths from the rocky crag from which Zephyr usually carries them on their way to see Psyche at her palace. She tricks them by telling them that her husband was really Cupid, but upon her betrayal, he declared he wished to marry her sister instead.
    "Psyche Honoured by the People" - Giordano

    Sunday, September 1, 2019

    Growth Mindset: "What's A-Motto With You?" - Timon, The Lion King

    Words added by me
    For my motto, I chose "Fortune favors the bold" - I've heard my husband say this a few times, as well as a few other people, and I really like the idea behind it. Complacency and fear are so commonly the excuses people have for not doing the things they're passionate about, but imagine how little the human race would have accomplished if we'd all thought that way. Life requires a certain boldness and willingness to step outside our comfort zones to see what possibilities there are, so I'm going to aim to do this more frequently!

    Famous Last Words: A Clean Home and a Peaceful Mind

    This summer was a lovely one for me - we were living in Maryland for my husband, Alan's, internship at NASA, which left me with very little in the way of time commitments. I did babysit for the neighbors a few times a week for most of the summer, which kept me somewhat busy, but mostly I was able to take the first legitimate, relaxing break I've had in who knows how long. It really was fantastic - the couple we were staying with dropped by usually at least once a week to kidnap me and take me on some fun excursion, and I had time to read for fun for what feels like the first time in years!
    Getting back here to Oklahoma was pretty hectic, though - our car broke down in Tennessee and we ended up stranded there with some friends of friends until my father-in-law could come save us, then we had to find a new vehicle in the two days we had left before classes and work started back up, so there was a lot of stress as the semester began. Since then we've been trying to find time to finish unpacking and finally feel like we've settled back into our lives here.
    So, this week has finally been an accomplishment in that regard! Today, my husband and I spent half the day just unpacking, cleaning, and generally de-cluttering our home, and I feel like a new me. It's amazing how much of a difference it makes to live in a well-organized environment, isn't it? It got me thinking about some of the things we've been talking about in this class, as far as setting ourselves up for success. We've talked a little bit about being in a good mindset, and I was just marveling at how much I feel like my mindset changes when I feel comfortable and homey in the place where I spend most of my time. It does so much for me to be able to have a little haven to return to at the end of the day, where I can just feel peaceful, and a clean apartment is a huge part of that. I'm looking forward to a much more organized week!

    Cleaning Bucket

    Wikipedia Trail - From Chevrefoil to Containment Booms

    For this week's Wikipedia Trail, I began my search with something related to one of my possible Storybook ideas:

    I began with "Chevrefoil" - the title of a lai of Marie de France. Chevrefoil is an altered version of the French word "chevrefeuille," which translated to "goat leaf" (their term for honeysuckle). Like most of Marie de France's works, it focuses on an adulterous relationship - one between Tristan, a knight, and his uncle's wife, Iseult. Tristan and Iseult's love has been told in many stories, but Marie de France is unique in that she sets the story in South Wales, rather than Lyonesse.

    This leads us to "Lyonesse." I had never heard of Lyonesse before, but it turns out that it is a land mentioned in many folktales, which is said to have "sunk beneath the waves" long ago. It is believed that the tales of Lyonesse demonstrate an amazing "survival of folk memory of the flooding of the Isles of Sicily and Mount Bay near Penzance." Its Cornish name, however, derives from the Cornish name for the Seven Stones Reef, which was the tragic site of the wreck of the Torrey Canyon.

    This brings us to "SS Torrey Canyon." When the Torrey crashed in 1967, the oil tanker was the "largest vessel ever to be wrecked" up to that date. She spilled 110,000 tons of crude oil along the coast of poor Cornwall after striking Pollard's Rock on the Seven Stones Reef. In an effort to contain the spill, the oil was lit afire - multiple times, as the tides and waves continued to put it out.

    This leads us to "Containment Boom." A containment boom is essentially a big floating barricade used to contain spills in water. The goal is not only to contain the spill to protect nearby areas from pollution, but also to keep it concentrated in hopes of recovering as much as possible with vacuums and skimmers.
    Photo of a containment boom

    Feedback Thoughts

    This week I read two articles about how we deal with negative feedback:
    "Why It's So Hard to Hear Negative Feedback" by Tim Herrera of the NY Times and "Make Good Art" - which is advice by Neil Gaiman on feedback in the creative world.

    Reflecting on both of these calls me back to an art class I took my sophomore year at OU, which has been to this day one of my favorite classes with one of my favorite professors. And the reason for that might seem strange: I loved that class because my professor was harsh; if your work was garbage, he was going to let you know it (I mean that in a good, now-I-can-improve way). But he did humorously and tailored to each student. For students who were more likely to be hurt by hard negative feedback, he would be more gentle; for those who, as Herrera put it, "craved" that negative feedback, he would be quite open (and often very funny) in his delivery. Yet, if he ever sensed that a student was genuinely feeling that their art was hopeless, he would build them up and defend them with voracity.

    Similarly, I have had a few writing classes here where the class setting has been cultivated into one where genuine negative feedback is offered by all the students in the class on each other's work. These have been my favorite writing classes here, too.

    The reason these classes have been some of the best I've taken here is that I actually really enjoy receiving critical feedback on my work. Granted, the pleasure I take in receiving it can vary greatly depending on how it's delivered and in what setting, which again goes along with what Herrera has to say, but in the way these classes have been set up, getting this negative feedback from my peers and professors has been immensely helpful to me in improving my work. Here's a shocker: you can't fix what you don't know is broken. If not for my professor pointing out that I need to work on the composition of some of my art, how would I know that was an area I needed to improve? Of course, potentially I would have reached that realization on my own, but it certainly would have taken much longer and would have required quite a few frustrated drawing hitting the floor of my trash can. Or if my peers didn't point out an inconsistency in a story I wrote, how much longer would it have taken me to catch it, if I did at all?

    All this said, you do also have to filter carefully through the critiques you receive. There have been times when I have received feedback on my writing that is either a matter of opinion - in which I, as the author, have to make the ultimate say - or I can say with certainty that the person offering me the feedback is plain wrong (like if someone tries to correct what they think is a grammatical issue, but I know is actually correct as is). Not all critical feedback is useful feedback, but some of it is. It's up to us to sort out the difference.

    Ultimately, it's best not to sugarcoat things, but to be honest about what needs to be improved (and be open to hearing what you can improve).

    "Sugar Free"PC Mark Morgan