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Lecture: Toni Morrison, Nobel

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Lecture: Toni Morrison, Nobel

Post  Admin on October 1st 2008, 11:39 am



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Re: Lecture: Toni Morrison, Nobel

Post  kconheady on October 2nd 2008, 12:41 pm

It really confused me- I'm not sure how she derrived the discussion of language from the two young people "holding a bird in their hands". I did not understand the link between it, the metaphor of the bird did not make sense.

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Nobel Lecture

Post  Amelia F. on October 2nd 2008, 12:42 pm

I thought this was a really confusing lecture. When I thought I understood it, I became confused once again. She kept posing different questions by the same group of young people, seemingly changing her ideas and opinion every time. It was just very weird.
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Re: Toni Morrison Lecture

Post  CDuBs on October 2nd 2008, 12:46 pm

It was not the metaphor that confused me. For the most part, I understood her use of the bird, the responsibility that lies with the beholder, both for the bird and for language itself. What confused me was her motive. I thought for the majority for the story that she was speaking on behalf of the old woman, promoting and justifying her wisdom and eccentricity, until she all of a sudden pulled out the children's defense! She really went out of her way to challenge the point she had established. That threw me off quite a bit. By the end, though, I think she reiterated her position, agreeing with the elderly woman in the story, but it still thoroughly confused me.
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Re: Lecture: Toni Morrison, Nobel

Post  Meghan43 on October 2nd 2008, 12:46 pm

Reading her lecture I see a lot of statements about slavery. Her parable seems to be not only about language and life but also about our past, what has happened in our country. There is a part in which the children are speaking with the old woman and they speak of slavery and how her past is influencing their lives now. I don't know...I'm confused!
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Toni Morrison Lecture

Post  hdavis on October 2nd 2008, 12:48 pm

There was a lot from this lecture that I really couldn't grasp. However, I thought that Morrison's ideas about how the language we have is not powerful enough explain some of the greatest human tragedies in history were very interesting. I also thought she made a good point in saying that the children with the bird could not be expected to be responsible when they were "waist deep in the toxin" of the past. I found the bird reference confusing and unclear, but I think it has potential to be a very good comparison for our use of language.
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Nobel Lecture--Toni Morrison

Post  cWest on October 2nd 2008, 12:48 pm

This strange nobel lecture is a puzzle--it's hard to understand what exactly Morrison is trying to say. The parable about the old woman and the children with the dead/alive bird is misleading. It doesn't seem that this parable would associate directly with language and its meaning. Her analysis is extremely in depth but confusing. She's not saying what she means clearly enough for the reader to grasp. Morrison is trying to compare the bird (dead or alive) to language, and what she's saying trying to say (relatively unsuccessfully) is that language is in our hands. If it's alive,we have the power to kill it. If it's dead, you could have either found it dead or killed it yourself. This idea is one that confuses us thoroughly. We have no idea what she's talking about. We understand the parable, but we don't get how that connects to the idea of language.

--Caroline and Hayley

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My Impression

Post  pbr on October 2nd 2008, 12:49 pm

I thought that the speech was a bit too much. Her metaphor was a good one at first, but i thought that she delved into it too much and instead of focusing on one interpretation and going with it, she decided to show too many aspects of it.Her main point was that the bird represented language and that if it is killed, all those who used it have contributed to killing it. The old woman said that either way if the bird were living or dead, it was the responsibility of the kids for what happened to it. If it was dead, she blamed them for killing it, but if it was alive, it was on their hands whether or not it was alive or dead. The same, she says, is true of language, that it is either dead or alive depending on your own actions. After she mentioned this, her speech, just kept on going, not making sense at times. If one were to read the speech a number of times, there probably be a number of interpretations that came out of it.
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...

Post  katyreb on October 2nd 2008, 12:50 pm

I don't know that I really understood the metaphor she was trying to make. I understood what she was saying, and the meaning behind it, but comparing the bird to language and the old woman to a writer just didn't make sense to me. And when she went on the describe what the children said, or would have said... I just didn't understand how that was supposed to make sense.
I did, however, think that she had very good points to make about writing within this speech. SHe spoke of how language can be used to cover up truely evil things, "There will be more diplomatic language to countenance rape, torture, assassination... of politics and history calculated to render the suffering of millions mute...Underneath the eloquence, the glamor, the scholarly associations, however stirring or seductive, the heart of such language is languishing, or perhaps not beating at all - if the bird is already dead." She does not believe that language should be used to cover things up, she would see that as the death of writing.
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!

Post  CDuBs on October 2nd 2008, 12:51 pm

Peter, congratulations on graduating to william faulkner!
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Re: Lecture: Toni Morrison, Nobel

Post  pbr on October 2nd 2008, 12:52 pm

CDuBs wrote:Peter, congratulations on graduating to william faulkner!
necessary??
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Nobel Lecture

Post  zjohnson2692 on October 2nd 2008, 12:53 pm

I thought it was an interesting metaphor, and I think I got it, though it might've been a bit of a leap. Morrison is talking about language, and how it is necessary to have different kinds of language, because language is a reflection of culture, and if, say, a nation bans a language, it's like banning an entire culture. She also emphasizes the importance of knowing how much you need language, and what you need it for. I guess that some parts of the speech were confusing, and there were perhaps some references I didn't get, but if it's possible to look at the speech as a whole, without getting caught up on certain, more bewildering and detatched, sections, one can begin to really see what she's saying about the necessity of preserving language.

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Re: Lecture: Toni Morrison, Nobel

Post  Elyssia Primus on October 2nd 2008, 12:55 pm

I was confused! I thought that hear ideas about language were very interesting and intriguing. What I am confused about is her change of subject, and the density of the content of the speech. Certain points in the speech are wonderful, but their meanings are almost lost in the emensity of thoughts present. I love Morrison's descussion of language, but her metaphors make her points hard to decifer.

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Re: Lecture: Toni Morrison, Nobel

Post  Atlantisbase on October 2nd 2008, 12:55 pm

Part of what Morrison is saying is that everything dies at some point in part because it becomes too complex to stay alive. Thus when language become too complex it dies, slowly, as it is reduced, simplified, compacted, to make it smaller and more conscise. In doing so, language dies. It is the youth of the world who ultimatly hold the fate of language. The old woman tells them that they can do with language with what they want, they can either use it as it stands or they can kill it if they haven't already. She wants them, the children, the young people of the world, to decide the fate of literature.
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Re: Lecture: Toni Morrison, Nobel

Post  WKeller on October 2nd 2008, 12:55 pm

Morrison's use of the bird being comparedto language is similar to Shordinger's cat. The Bird can be though of as alive and dead at the same time. The same can be said for language. There are the writers who can't kill language, they only sap engery from it, weakening the power of it. It is times like these when spoken and written word become less powerful than one's actions. You can't always take someone's word for something, because it has no meaning anymore.

However, there are the writers who have such a powerful command over language they begin to revive it. In periods such as the Enlightenment, people began to believe what was spoken, what was written, because it gained meaning, it had power.

Langauge is like the cat in the box. We don't know if its alive. We don't know if its dead. The only way to tell is open the box. These writers, who are thinking outside of the box keep literature alive, those who think inside drain it. At the same time language is both alive and dead. It depends on where in the spectrum you're standing.

The bird is used as a symbol. The bird means life, when at the same time it means death. If the bird is alive, then it is alive, but it can still be killed, just like Schrodinger's cat. If the bird is dead, then it was either found that way, or it was killed.

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Re: Lecture: Toni Morrison, Nobel

Post  mgpicc on October 2nd 2008, 12:55 pm

I thought this speach was very confusing. It is hard to get the jist by only reading it once. I did though like the paragraph about the Tower of Babel when she said it was a heaven on earth, not a post-life heaven. If you took this essay in bits and pieces, there are some very interesting things, but on a whole it is very heavy.
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Re: Lecture: Toni Morrison, Nobel

Post  candice R on October 2nd 2008, 12:58 pm

When Toni Morrison started off her speech she began with a great story about the blind woman and the children. However, as she went deeper into the speech it began to to getter harder to understand how she linked this old women and language together. On the other hand, when the old woman made the statement "...It is in your hands..." the lecture was instantly united. Simply meaning Morrison was able to say that language is in "our" (society as a whole) hands; we have the right to do whatever we please with it. Finally she made it a point to conclude the speech by having the old woman say "...I trust you now..." I by myself interpreted this as her saying that she finally trust us to take responsiblity for language and to do right by it.

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In your hands

Post  Admin on October 2nd 2008, 12:58 pm

The blind woman says, "it is in your hands." That answer must be correct becuase no matter what the visitors are foing it is in fact in their hands. If they had asked, "what's for dinner?", she could have said it's in your hands. If they had asked, "can you teach us a lesson?", she could have answered, "it is in your hands."

Because "in your hands" means "it is up to you", it whould have been a correct response to whatever the visitors asked.

what a great abstraction on such a litteral answer.


Last edited by Admin on October 3rd 2008, 12:21 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Pendle's Response

Post  pfmh on October 2nd 2008, 12:59 pm

I cannot pretend to know everything that Morrison is speaking about of reffering to or teaching in this lecture, but I must say that her thoughts about the suppresion that language can have over human beings is very powerful. It's daunting -- the idea that we are all the holders of thoughts that we must keep to ourselves, that language will never help us to express.
Great Lecture though. I loved the quote that she gave about the youth; they say to the old woman, who is symbolic of all of the elders in the world, "How dare you talk to us of duty when we stand waist deep in the toxin of your past?" Wow. That just about sums up all teenage confusion and anger in one sentence.
Toni Morrison's great.

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Re: Lecture: Toni Morrison, Nobel

Post  Giulia on October 2nd 2008, 8:09 pm

I agree with the others, that this speech was long and a bit confusing. When I first read; it seemed at some points to go off topic but if you reread you can see a certain connection, it’s a figure of speech. I found the beginning of the speech quite odd, but its oddity and simplicity make it affasinating like other of her books. When I read about the children asking the blind woman if the bird they are holding is dead or alive and she responds "I don't know whether the bird you are holding is dead or alive, but what I do know is that it is in your hands. It is in your hands." I was intrigued and found this part very allegoric. They test the blind woman to see if she really knows, but the death or life of the bird depends on the kids that are holding it. The blind woman symbolizes a prophet and the bird is their life. It sounds like there is a hidden story in the story, as if the kids are actually asking what will be of their lives. She writes with such deepness and uses many comparisons throughout the speech from writers to history. The stories moral is to teach us that we hold our lives, make constant decisions everyday which affect our future.

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Morrison

Post  Allie5491 on October 3rd 2008, 2:10 pm

I felt that some of this speech's deaper meanings were lost in Morrison's wordy and abstract descriptions. The idea of viewing language as a life form with vulnerabilities is extremely thought provoking, but I didn't feel I understood her meaning fully because some of her speech was hard to understand. "Official language smitheryed to sanction ignorance and preserve privilege is a suit of armor polished to shocking glitter, a husk from which the knight departed long ago. Yet there it is: dumb, predatory, sentimental" Descriptions such as these, although very poetic, seemed to go over my head rather than delivering the theme clearly. I think that Morrison's fear that language can be lost is very relevant to our society today, as we are seeing more and more children favor t.v or video games rather than literature. Our language today is largely taken for granted, and more and more American are missing the beauty and possibilities that our language has.

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Noble Lecture response

Post  Elizabeth Gombert on October 6th 2008, 11:42 pm

This is a very dense lecture, and thus confusing at times, but I think Morrison's message is clear- we are responsible for the well-being of our language; it's fate is in our hands. The bird metaphor seems a little overstretched in the middle of the lecture, where Morrison branches off into a direct discussion of language. This makes it confusing when she weaves her way back into metaphor to finish the lecture. I was intrigued by the ending where Morrison returns to the story of the old woman and the children. Before that point, I thought that Morrison was merely warning us to be aware of how we use language, to realize both its potential and its failures in expressing the human experience. Instead the end seems to show how the old woman brings about the realization of responsibility in the young people, by making them question her, by making them grow heated in their desire for answers. The old woman knows that understanding of language is not explained but discovered for one's self- and the children proved to the old woman that they were capable of this discovery. However if Morrison considers herself the old woman and her audience the childern, then she has just done the opposite of the old woman- she has tried to explain language. Therefore the whole lecture seems to be a contradiction to its own message! Confusing.

Sorry this took so long Ms. Gamzon- I've been having posting problems.

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Re: Lecture: Toni Morrison, Nobel

Post  chiara on October 12th 2008, 9:31 pm

Toni Morrison is clearly a genius. With that being said, a genius editor was needed to reconstruct her speech into something cohesive and harmonious.

Morrison made some brilliant points about language. (My personal favorite was her statement about how language is used to limit and stifle human potential and inteligence.) What I found most interesting about Morrison's ingenuity though was her ability to reaffirm concepts that the subconcious mind may have already figured out. For example, Morrison said, "Sexist language, racist language, theistic language - all are typical of the policing languages of mastery....". Thus, she takes an elusive and intangible concept and by puting it into words somehow gives it a degree of concreateness. I love that!

However, Morrison's main idea about language being "in our hands" (i.e. we decide how it is used and what it is used for) was muddled by her overextended, far-fetched bird metaphor and her abstract descriptions which seemed to be conjured up out of nowhere. (This is where a genius editor would have been very helpful.) In many ways, Morrison's speech reminded me of a genius off on a tangent. I understood what she was saying but felt confused and frustrated at the way in which she was saying it. I also ended up feeling dissapointed and disheartened because by the end of the speech, instead of feeling inspired and enlightened, I ended up feeling sorry for Morrison that her speech went so badly.

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