Wednesday, October 27, 2010

To Change or Not To Change...

The cowry economy is in full swing, including payments for hall passes and earnings for blog comments.  I'm anxious to see where this goes and if it is something I will attempt next year.  We're collecting ideas for how to "spend" cowries when we're finished so keep 'em coming. 

As for plot, the missionaries have come to Umofia and caused quite a stir.  Okonkwo just wants to take a machete to them, but is advised not too.  The poor guy is just itching to kill someone and his eldest son might want to watch his back since his conversion to Christianity.

We've had some great discussions about Okonkwo's situation and more insights should be evident in the essays that are due on November 3 (click the link below to get the assignment sheet; you're welcome).

Essay Assignment Sheet

Consider this:
  • Why do you think Nwoye converted?
  • What do you think about the spiritual beliefs of the Ibo tribe set against the ideas set forth about God by the missionaries?
  • Do the women play a subordinate or supporting role to the men in this culture?
  • How do you predict Okonkwo will handle all of these changes and new ideas?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Crazy for Cowries

Greenbacks. Moolah. Dough. Sawbuck. C-note. Cowries?  Yup, cowries.  In true African style, we established a cowrie economy in class today.  Students received a small amount of genuine money cowry shells (straight from Florida!) and have a chance to earn more and spend some as class continues.  They can earn cowries by making insightful comments, earning high grades on weekly quizzes, and keeping up with class work.  There are also costs for borrowing books, complaining, and making irrelevant comments. Students will be able to cash in their cowries for valuable items at the end of it all.  So, it should be interesting. Within 15 minutes of placing value on these small shells, emotions were high and kids got very protective of their "money."  The psychology student in me would really like to dive into this one!

We also had a great discussion today.  Keep it up.

As for the novel, things are certainly collapsing around Okonkwo.  Currently he's in exile in his mother's village and trying to get a grip on his life while his oldest son has converted to Christianity thanks to the white missionary church leaders who have come to the area. Predictions?

  • Do you think Okonkwo has made this life for himself because of his attitude and arrogance or is it all just coincidence?
  • Do you feel sorry for him in any way?
  • Will he and his clansmen survive the influx and influence of the white men?
  • What parallels are their between gender roles in Okonkwo's tribe and gender roles in our American culture?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Culture Clash

We've begun Achebe's novel "Things Fall Apart." Okonkwo and his world are beginning to take shape for us.  What is interesting for me as an instructor is to watch my students' reactions to a culture that is so vastly different from ours.  We had a great discussion yesterday about gender roles in our society and in the Ibo tribe.  Maybe it's not such a bad thing that parents monitor their children's activities and are involved in their lives...And the support system around us needs to be strong - neighbors, friends, grandparents - in order to thrive and find our place in this world.

Okonkwo rules his family with an iron fist and no one is sheltered from his wrath.  His wives carry out the daily chores as do his children and Okonkwo tends his large farm, making sure the staple crop of yams thrives.  Whether you believe he is run by his vices (abusive, selfish, arrogant, short-tempered, macho, cold-hearted) or his virtues (respected, successful, confident, manly, unemotional) there is no doubt his is an impressive figure.

Don't forget to keep up with the reading schedule and take note of those proverbs.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Our Eyes Are Watching the Film

Whew!  We are officially done reading Hurston's novel, but the fun isn't over yet!  As we watch the film version, it's interesting to see what is eliminated and what is embellished in the name of entertainment.  For one, I think the details in the book about Nanny's relationship with Janie is severely lacking in the film.  And we don't get near as much about Janie's inner thoughts on screen like we do in print.  But overall, I think it's worthwhile to see the film.  However, as is usually the case, the book is highly recommended and a much better story than the film. 

Off to read the fabulous essays...