Week of October 20-24
This week you will work on the Final Draft of your essay. I asked you to write a 2nd Rough Draft last Thursday, and to walk away from it for a few days. Not looking at an essay for a few days is very important. It gives your brain a break. And then when you come back to it, you can see things that you want to change. Things that don’t sound right.
No journals this week 🙂
Monday–Reading Your Essay Out Loud
So the first thing I want you to do on Monday is read your essay out loud to someone in your family, like your mom. As you read you will notice moments where you will want to say things differently out loud, than you wrote them on the page. Pause, and write on your paper the changes you want to make. Then keep reading.
Next, have a member of your family read your essay out loud to you. What you are hearing, is how the essay sounds in someone else’s head. Look for places where they sound confused, or they are not saying it the way you wanted them to. You might want to fix those places.
Then ask your mom to look for punctuation and spelling errors. She can mark them with a red marker or pen or colored pencil.
Then walk away from your paper. For the rest of the day.
Tuesday– Read The Introduction to African American Folktales and Watch the Following Video
The Trickster in African American Literature
Almost every oral tradition in the world has trickster figures, and African American culture is no exception. Tricksters dominate the folk tradition that peoples of African descent developed in the United States, especially those talesthat were influenced by African folk tradition, landscape, and wildlife. By definition, tricksters are animals or characters who, while ostensibly disadvantaged and weak in a contest of wills, power, and/or resources, succeed in getting the best of their larger, more powerful adversaries. Tricksters achieve their objectives through indirection and mask-wearing, through playing upon the gullibility of their opponents. In other words, tricksters succeed by outsmarting or outthinking their opponents. In executing their actions, they give no thought to right or wrong; indeed, they are amoral. Mostly, they are pictured in contest or quest situations, and they must use their wits to get out of trouble or bring about a particular result. For example, in one African American folktale, Brer Rabbit, the quintessential trickster figure in African American folklore, succeeds in getting Brer Fox to rescue him from a well by asserting that the moon reflected in the water at the bottom of the well is really a block of cheese. Brer Fox jumps into the other water bucket, descends into the well, and, in the process, enables Brer Rabbit to rise to freedom.
Though trickster tales in African American culture are frequently a source of humor, they also contain serious commentary on the inequities of existence in a country where the promises of democracy were denied to a large portion of the citizenry, a pattern that becomes even clearer in the literary adaptations of trickster figures. As black people who were enslaved gained literacy and began to write about their experiences, they incorporated figures from oral tradition into their written creations. In fact, some scholars have argued that the African American oral tradition is the basis for all written literary production by African Americans. To get a sense of this influence and these interconnections, it is necessary to explore the African American oral tradition.
People of African descent who found themselves enslaved in the New World, and specifically on United States soil, were not brought to the West to create poems, plays, short stories, essays, and novels. They were brought for the bodies, their physical labor. Denied access to literacy by law and custom, anything they wanted to retain in the way of cultural creation had to be passed down by word of mouth, or, in terms of crafts, by demonstration and imitation. After long hours of work in cotton and tobacco fields, therefore, blacks would occasionally gather in the evenings for storytelling. Tales they shared during slavery were initially believed to focus almost exclusively on animals. However, as more and more researchers became interested in African American culture after slavery and in the early twentieth century, they discovered a strand of tales that focused on human actors. It is generally believed that enslaved persons did not share with prying researchers the tales containing human characters because the protagonists were primarily tricksters, and the tales showcased actions that allowed those tricksters to get the best of their so-called masters. In some of these instances, as Lawrence W. Levine notes, perhaps the actions of the characters did indeed reflect the actions of those enslaved.
The records left by nineteenth-century observers of slavery and by the masters themselves indicate that a significant number of slaves lied, cheated, stole, feigned illness, loafed, pretended to misunderstand the orders they were given, put rocks in the bottom of their cotton baskets in order to meet their quota, broke their tools, burned their masters’ property, mutilated themselves in order to escape work, took indifferent care of the crops they were cultivating, and mistreated the livestock placed in their care to the extent that masters often felt it necessary to use the less efficient mules rather than horses since the former could better withstand the brutal treatment of the slaves.1
Levine makes clear that there was a short distance between trickster tactics in life and those that constituted the tales black folks created.
Brer Rabbit as the primary African American trickster may have been an adaptation of the African cunnie rabbit, a small deer, and/or of Anansi, the well-known African spider trickster. Animals that appearfrequently in the tales about Brer Rabbit, such as elephants and lions, are also believed to be African transplants, since these animals are not native to the United States. From these adaptations,enslaved African Americans created worlds in which animal actions mirrored human actions during and after slavery. Their kinship to fables thus enabled the seriousness of the tales to be overlooked at times. That is one way to explain the popularity of Joel Chandler Harris’s Uncle Remus stories, which were first published in 1881. The violence and comeuppance that characterize these tales, frequently with larger animals (whites) being bested by the smaller Brer Rabbit (blacks), were passed over as readers focused more on the fanciful portrayals of imaginary animal worlds. It was not until the 1880s and the founding of the American Folklore Society that collectors observed a strand of tales that did not disguise the actions between blacks and whites. They uncovered the “John and Old Master” cycle of tales. In these renderings, John, as representative of enslaved blacks, manages to get the best of Old Master in almost every situation in which they are pitted against each other. Contest dominates their interactions in a world where the weak and the witty always triumph over the powerful and the presumed intellectually superior.
Wednesday–Brer Rabbit Stories
So have you ever went on Splash Mountain at Disneyland? Well if so, you have cruised through the story of Brer Rabbit. That was an oral folktale told by African American slaves as passive aggressive stories of the oppressed tricking the oppressor! I love it!
Please enjoy these stories today. And remember they were first told orally to each other. They were not written down and published in some cute little book. They were passed down from generation to generation, the oral tradition.
Please write a comment below about which story is your favorite and why.
Thursday– Final Draft
Look over your essay one more time. Make sure your paragraphs are developed nicely, your sentences sound right, your words are spelled correctly, and your essay is properly formatted. Please have a parent read over it one more time. This should be your BEST WORK. Here is a Final Draft Checklist that you might like to go through.
Organize all of your work to bring to class tomorrow:
- Your first rough draft (with underlines and notes)
- Your second rough draft (with underlines and notes)
- Your final draft (with perfection)
- Your paragraphs from last Friday, about atheists and God.
- *Also, make sure you posted your paragraph about the Afua Cooper video last week in the comment section for week 5. And a comment this week, in the section below about which trickster tale is your favorite and why.
I hope you enjoyed a lighter workload this week, and some cute little stories. I really enjoyed studying the African American trickster tales in college. I had an amazing teacher for African American Literature. Anyways, I wanted to give you less work so that you would be able to focus all your energy on your essay. There is no reason why your essay shouldn’t be amazing!!! I can’t wait to read it.