Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Wasted Wednesdays! --> Folklore in African Literature Seminar Reaction

Welcome to my first Wasted Wednesday post!  If you are new to Wasted Wednesday's...well, so am I.  :)  Welcome!!

I took two courses that lasted five weeks this summer and I knew towards the end of them that I wanted to write about both courses on this blog because I really did learn a lot and had a bit of fun while learning.  One of the courses I took was Folklore in African Literature which is a seminar course and was the only seminar being held at my school during the first summer session (I never do the second summer session - I need a break!).  Looking back to when I scheduled my summer courses, I remember I didn't want to take this seminar but rather the one being held in the second summer session, and now I can't even remember what the other seminar was!  However, despite my preconceptions I found it to be a course with much enjoyment.  It was the first seminar course I have taken during my college years and I have to take two more before I graduate.  As an English major, seminars require very heavy workloads that include lots of reading and writing and they are best taken during the summer so I'm afraid I got an easy look at what seminars are like.

A lot of things stood out to me while taking this course and I always wrote down my thoughts in a notebook so I could remember them when I came to write this blog.  Unfortunately I won't be able to write down full discussions in this blog so everything is going to feel rushed, just to warn you.  We read a lot of books (and I admit, I only read one of the six) and many folktales (I am proud to say I read them all!).  Class met Monday through Thursday from 10:45 to 12:45.  Two hours sitting in a classroom with the cold air blowing on you and your stomach growling isn't always pleasant but you get used to it and like most things we middle class Americans experience, things could be a lot worse.  Our grade was calculated by a five page paper, two presentations, and attendance.  I wasn't too thrilled about the presentations but found they weren't all too bad (mostly because we were allowed to sit down during them which was such a relief), while the paper was a rushed mess that turned out a lot better than expected. There were 14-15 of us in the class and mostly everyone participated and got along.  We all helped each of out when help was needed and our class discussions were always really interesting (although sometimes boring).

Enough about the class environment though.  Let's get to the actual course material.  So I have a few things I wanted to talk about.  Let's first talk about the author I did my first presentation on.  Our first presentations were biography presentations in which we talked about an author of one of the books we were going to read or about the history of one of the books we were going to read.  The author I did my presentation on was a woman named Amma Darko.  The book we read of hers is titled Faceless (still reading).  I didn't get to finish reading Faceless during the course however so far I have really enjoyed it.  The book revolves around a girl named Fofo who lives on the streets in the capital of Ghana, Accra.  It talks about how street children aren't recognized as people but animals and they aren't given a second thought because people don't want to deal with them - hence they are faceless.  This theme is really powerful to me and seems to be prevalent in Darko's other works.  I can't wait to read her other books and I highly recommend you to read her works!

My second presentation was about conflict resolutions in African folktales and literature.  This was another fun topic to explore because it was very personal and left the presentation to be more discussion based rather than me talking for a whole 15 minutes!  One of the themes I loved was forgiveness which is seen in an epic we read called the Mwindo Epic.  In the Mwindo Epic, the title character Mwindo is sought out by his father to be killed.  His father tries to kill him many times until finally Mwindo escapes and goes on a journey (as most epic heroes do).  Mwindo ends up reuniting with his father but instead of killing his father, he forgives him.  His father tried to kill him and yet Mwindo forgives him!  This theme of forgiveness shows that forgiveness is a trait that lives within a true hero.  Most people assume that a character who has evil living inside them must be killed by the hero but this is not the case. 

Another book we read is a more popular title, Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe.  I had heard of the book before but had never thought much about it.  I didn't even know what it was about.  To my surprise, I found the story to be rather enjoyable.  It had a powerful message and the characters were so real and alive.  The book definitely deserves all the praise it gets.

My favorite part of the course though was reading the African folktales.  Our class discussed all the aspects of a folktale as well as what folktales usually teach us.  We compared the folktales to Western folktales and saw that while many of the lessons are similar, the stories have their own originality that ties to the culture they came from.  One interesting topic we discussed went along with a folktale about a hare.  In the story there is a drought and so the animals decide to all cut off bits of their ear to sell in the market for hoes and shovels to dig a hole and get water that lays below the earth.  The hare refuses to cut off part of his ears yet still drinks the water the animals find and even takes a bath in it, making it all muddy.  The animals make him run away.  The message of the story was that all people must help contribute to society and work together somehow.  This brought up the question - why?  Why do people have to be apart of society?  I, and most of my classmates, agreed that the hare didn't even try to contribute.  It is understandable that he didn't want to cut his ears but he could have helped in other ways but instead he did nothing.  My professor still argued with us though.  He kept asking, but why?  Why must the hare help?  Why do people need to be apart of society?  I can't go much more into the discussion than that but I will leave the question to you.  I personally still believe people need to contribute to society in some way only for the sake of the world.  It is important to remain conscious that our actions affect others, not just ourselves. Society is a bit messed up so at the same time, I can understand why someone wouldn't want to be apart of it but if you don't want to be apart of it, don't be apart of it.  If you are apart of it in secret then you are still apart of society...if that makes sense.

I pictured this blog to appear very scholarly but now that I have read it over it seems very random and poorly written.  But hey, it is a personal reaction to the course.  Anyway, the point of it all is that I thought I'd learn nothing and I actually learned a lot (or rather, became more knowledgeable in the subject of African folklore) and had fun!  Happy Wasted Wednesday everyone!

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