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"FIELDING" RETURNS:
STUDENT WORK (5): STUDENT L

Here instead of looking at a whole group together, I'll follow just Student L from her serve through its three returns from group members Q, O, and G to climactic emphasis on the different ways she fielded their returns in the second of the three posting cycles in this unit.

L was in the top 3-4 students in the class, consistently excellent -- and a person who consciously changed her style of writing from "essayish" to "postish" as she absorbed the goals of the project.   Her "head was in the game."  Q showed flashes of fresh insights, but he was inconsistent.  The role he played most in class was that of a  free spirit, a jokester.  O was another one of the top 3-4 in the class -- always on the ball, always prepared, always thoughtful.  Neither L nor O were very vocal in class.  G was a rather shy student at first who seemed to gain confidence on the discussion board as the class progressed and ended up deciding to be an English major.  Her expression could be rough and tentative, but she always showed sensitivity and engagement.

1)  L and Q: clarifying and re-focusing

Step 1 -- L's serve to Q: "Ouch, who's up for a good stretch?"


While reading, I stumbled across a passage which struck a “synthesizing” cord in me, calling to mind Edna’s experience in The Awakening.  The passage is from the chapter entitled, “The Blacksmith”.  Recall that Melville’s blacksmith is a old and broken man.  Tragedy struck him and his family when they were victimized by a burglar.  The blacksmith became consumed by guilt after the event, believing himself responsible and his life fell apart.  His home fell to ruins and his wife and children left in shame.  The blacksmith was left alone without refuge and consequently decided to seek comfort in a life at sea.  I felt there might be some basis for comparison between the blacksmith’s sense of desolation, emptiness and hopelessness, and the similar emotions which Edna experiences at the conclusion of The Awakening. However, it was Melville’s commentary on the allure of the sea that really solidified the parallels for me. Ishmael says of the blacksmith, “Death seems the only desirable sequel for a career like this; but Death is only a launching into the region of the strange Untried; Remote, the Wild, the Watery, the Unshored” (529) Melville’s use of diction here seems to compare death to the sea; the passage continues, “therefore to the death-longing eyes of such men, who still have left in them some interior compunctions against suicide, does the all-contributed and all-receptive ocean alluringly spread forth his whole plain of unimaginable, taking terrors, and wonderful, new-life adventures” (529).  Melville seems to be saying, instead of opting to commit mortal sin, a suicidal individual may take to the sea: “Come hither broken hearted; here is another life without the guilt of intermediate death; […] Come hither! Bury thyself in a life which, to your now equally abhorred and abhorring, landed world is more oblivious than death” (529).  I found the phrase, “a world more oblivious than death” to be extremely telling.  The term oblivion implies a lack of memory and consciousness.  Is this not what Edna craves?  Does she not feel as though her current life is nothing but a sort of “intermediate death”?  She ultimately opts for death as she feels it is her only route of escape from an empty life, a life that leaves her downtrodden and craving infinitely more. Perhaps this partially explains the attraction to the sea that is referenced throughout the novel: “The voice of the sea is seductive, never ceasing, whispering, clamoring, murmuring, inviting the soul to wander in its abysses of solitude” (529).  Perhaps this is what the blacksmith seeks at sea; perhaps it is ultimately what Ahab seeks as well.  Thoughts?

My reflection on L's serve to Q:

Did I just say that L changed her essayish ways?  Ha!  Well, we certainly see signs of the ol' L here.  This is a very carefully crafted, lengthily developed synthesizing serve right down to the direct quotes and the page citations.  The tone is user-friendly, however, indicating she stumbled on the passage and asking readers to recall the context, and especially user-friendly in the way that she poses the core point as a question now ("Is this not what Edna craves?") rather than as a declarative statement, as she may have back in her truly essayish days.  Her climax is couched in a "perhaps" as she invites response.  A good serve.  Excellent content, well presented.  Gets the thread off to a good start, I think.

Step 2 -- Student Q's "disagreeing" return to L:

So Ahab and Edna both want death?  I think Moby Dick and The Awakening are two verrry different animals.  Edna was a whining complaining rich spoiled annoying character that got everythig she wanted and still was not happy.  Ahab is an ambitious scarred man with a lot of character.  I don't think he is looking for death per say, but death finds him and everything he touches.  But maybe I should take a deeper look, because it is quite a similarity that Edna did die in the sea.  “Death seems the only desirable sequel for a career like this; but Death is only a launching into the region of the strange Untried; Remote, the Wild, the Watery, the Unshored”  I see this line a little bit differently than you do.  It seems to me to be a line of hope and excitement.  You are toying with death, you are going to unchartered territory. You are looking death in the face, not inviting him in!

My reflection on Q's return to L:

Q goes to the heart of things quickly.  He immediately establishes his general disagreement in a clear topic sentence ("Moby Dick and The Awakening are two verrry different animals") and then shotguns two specific instances.  He sees Edna and Ahab as different, and he reads a key line in L's argument in a different way.  I always would like to see longer and more developed posts (never satisfied, Gallagher, never satisfied), but it seems to me that Q has "read" L's serve perceptively and has addressed her in a way to clearly make his position known, signalling where she might focus her attention when she fields the return.  Pretty good second step as well in this thread.

Step 3 -- L fields Q's return:

Interesting interpretation, although I think you may have misinterpreted my post.  I did not mean to imply that Ahab craved death per se, rather, that he craved the "world more oblivious than death" that I referred to in my post.  I do not believe that Ahab believes that death would quell his inner torments.  What he seeks are answers and if they cannot be found, isn't "oblivion", a total lack of consciousness a better solution?  I think Ahab goes to the sea to feed his obsession (Moby Dick) but I also see it as a way of attempting to escape a world that is impossible for him to live in.  That said, I feel as though Edna experienced similar feelings of being unable to cope with the realities of the world and also sought solitude at sea, albeit eternal.

My reflection on L's fielding of Q's return:

Ok, back at you, Q!  L's aim is to disagree with Q and to defend her original position.  Her strategy is to clarify her position and to more precisely re-focus Q on her key idea.  In a sense, then, Q's return has forced her to isolate and highlight what her key idea is.  And that is "oblivion."  But, in a way, I'm wondering if she isn't kind of saying the reason you didn't get it, Q, is your fault, try again.  Now, ever unsatisfied, I would have liked to see an example for both Ahab and Edna accompanying those last two sentences, but L has more finely sculpted her position in this third step and pushed it back to Q for further play.  L is nicely conscious of keeping the conversation going in a meaningful direction.


2)  L and O: crying uncle

Step 1 -- L's serve to O: "Ouch, who's up for a good stretch?"


While reading, I stumbled across a passage which struck a “synthesizing” cord in me, calling to mind Edna’s experience in The Awakening.  The passage is from the chapter entitled, “The Blacksmith”.  Recall that Melville’s blacksmith is a old and broken man.  Tragedy struck him and his family when they were victimized by a burglar.  The blacksmith became consumed by guilt after the event, believing himself responsible and his life fell apart.  His home fell to ruins and his wife and children left in shame.  The blacksmith was left alone without refuge and consequently decided to seek comfort in a life at sea.  I felt there might be some basis for comparison between the blacksmith’s sense of desolation, emptiness and hopelessness, and the similar emotions which Edna experiences at the conclusion of The Awakening. However, it was Melville’s commentary on the allure of the sea that really solidified the parallels for me. Ishmael says of the blacksmith, “Death seems the only desirable sequel for a career like this; but Death is only a launching into the region of the strange Untried; Remote, the Wild, the Watery, the Unshored” (529) Melville’s use of diction here seems to compare death to the sea; the passage continues, “therefore to the death-longing eyes of such men, who still have left in them some interior compunctions against suicide, does the all-contributed and all-receptive ocean alluringly spread forth his whole plain of unimaginable, taking terrors, and wonderful, new-life adventures” (529).  Melville seems to be saying, instead of opting to commit mortal sin, a suicidal individual may take to the sea: “Come hither broken hearted; here is another life without the guilt of intermediate death; […] Come hither! Bury thyself in a life which, to your now equally abhorred and abhorring, landed world is more oblivious than death” (529).  I found the phrase, “a world more oblivious than death” to be extremely telling.  The term oblivion implies a lack of memory and consciousness.  Is this not what Edna craves?  Does she not feel as though her current life is nothing but a sort of “intermediate death”?  She ultimately opts for death as she feels it is her only route of escape from an empty life, a life that leaves her downtrodden and craving infinitely more. Perhaps this partially explains the attraction to the sea that is referenced throughout the novel: “The voice of the sea is seductive, never ceasing, whispering, clamoring, murmuring, inviting the soul to wander in its abysses of solitude” (529).  Perhaps this is what the blacksmith seeks at sea; perhaps it is ultimately what Ahab seeks as well.  Thoughts?

My reflection on L's serve:

Did I just say that L changed her essayish ways?  Ha!  Well, we certainly see signs of the ol' L here.  This is a very carefully crafted, lengthily developed synthesizing serve right down to the direct quotes and the page citations.  The tone is user-friendly, however, indicating she stumbled on the passage and asking readers to recall the context, and especially user-friendly in the way that she poses the core point as a question now ("Is this not what Edna craves?") rather than as a declarative statement, as she may have back in her truly essayish days.  Her climax is couched in a "perhaps" as she invites response.  A good serve.  Excellent content, well presented.  Gets the thread off to a good start, I think.

Step 2 -- Student O's "disagreeing" return to L:

I definitely see and agree with your comparisons of the view of the sea in the two novels, but at the same time I'm having a hard time comparing the characters and their intentions by turning to the sea as an answer.  I guess maybe Edna and the blacksmith are both seeking sort of the same thing in that they're looking for an escape from their life, but I think it's a big difference that Edna actually commits suicide while the blacksmith doesn't.  I think Edna uses the sea as a way to reach her ultimate freedom through death while the blacksmith goes to sea to sort of start a new life.  Ahab I think is a completely different story.  I don't see him as going to sea to seek oblivion or as an escape.  I see Ahab more as going to sea as a result of his obsession.  I don't think he's trying to escape his life as much as he seems to be trying to find answers for it.

My reflection on O's return to L:

Q disagreed with L, and now so does O, but I think O's return is more complex and complicated -- a step above Q's.  In a sense O uses L's serve to sort out the characters in a very clear but distinct way.  Edna's seeking freedom through death (oblivion), the blacksmith a new life (escape), and Ahab answers to his current life (answers).  Now that is nicely and succinctly discriminating.  The simple, taut return belies, I think, the thought behind it.  I rather doubt O did this on the fly -- the impression that so many posts give (and which is often ok with me).  Excellent return.

Step 3 -- L fields O's return:


Well I did say it was a stretch...no but in all seriousness, I understand your confusion with my comparison. I think what I was trying to show was that in both works, the sea may be seen as some sort of escape outlet, as a place of refuge, a sanctuary of sorts.  Yes Edna does use it to free herself but I would argue that Ahab does too.  Edna is driven to the sea (and suicide) by a societal standards that she cannot conform to.  Ahab too is unable to function in the society in which he lives (albeit for very different reasons).  Nevertheless, he looks to the sea (and to Moby Dick) to free him.  The way I see it, freedom for Ahab is finding the answers to questions about God, fate, etc.  I hope that helps to clarify a bit.

My reflection on L's fielding of O's return:

Ha!  O makes L cry "uncle" a bit, but only for a moment.  She goes on the defensive, still trying to hold on to the previous position.  But though she might not realize it (yet), she has moved considerably from her serve and, for instance, her previous stress on oblivion in the post to Q.  Here she stresses that what Ahab is after is clarity not oblivion.  In fact, I think she is actually agreeing with O.  O says about Ahab: "I don't think he's trying to escape his life as much as he seems to be trying to find answers for it."  And now L says about Ahab: "The way I see it, freedom for Ahab is finding the answers to questions about God, fate, etc."  I don't see much difference there.  So I definitely see interesting moves in this exchange between L and O.


3)  L and G: condescending

Step 1 -- L's serve to G: "Ouch, who's up for a good stretch?"


While reading, I stumbled across a passage which struck a “synthesizing” cord in me, calling to mind Edna’s experience in The Awakening.  The passage is from the chapter entitled, “The Blacksmith”.  Recall that Melville’s blacksmith is a old and broken man.  Tragedy struck him and his family when they were victimized by a burglar.  The blacksmith became consumed by guilt after the event, believing himself responsible and his life fell apart.  His home fell to ruins and his wife and children left in shame.  The blacksmith was left alone without refuge and consequently decided to seek comfort in a life at sea.  I felt there might be some basis for comparison between the blacksmith’s sense of desolation, emptiness and hopelessness, and the similar emotions which Edna experiences at the conclusion of The Awakening. However, it was Melville’s commentary on the allure of the sea that really solidified the parallels for me. Ishmael says of the blacksmith, “Death seems the only desirable sequel for a career like this; but Death is only a launching into the region of the strange Untried; Remote, the Wild, the Watery, the Unshored” (529) Melville’s use of diction here seems to compare death to the sea; the passage continues, “therefore to the death-longing eyes of such men, who still have left in them some interior compunctions against suicide, does the all-contributed and all-receptive ocean alluringly spread forth his whole plain of unimaginable, taking terrors, and wonderful, new-life adventures” (529).  Melville seems to be saying, instead of opting to commit mortal sin, a suicidal individual may take to the sea: “Come hither broken hearted; here is another life without the guilt of intermediate death; […] Come hither! Bury thyself in a life which, to your now equally abhorred and abhorring, landed world is more oblivious than death” (529).  I found the phrase, “a world more oblivious than death” to be extremely telling.  The term oblivion implies a lack of memory and consciousness.  Is this not what Edna craves?  Does she not feel as though her current life is nothing but a sort of “intermediate death”?  She ultimately opts for death as she feels it is her only route of escape from an empty life, a life that leaves her downtrodden and craving infinitely more. Perhaps this partially explains the attraction to the sea that is referenced throughout the novel: “The voice of the sea is seductive, never ceasing, whispering, clamoring, murmuring, inviting the soul to wander in its abysses of solitude” (529).  Perhaps this is what the blacksmith seeks at sea; perhaps it is ultimately what Ahab seeks as well.  Thoughts?

My reflection on L's serve:

Did I just say that L changed her essayish ways?  Ha!  Well, we certainly see signs of the ol' L here.  This is a very carefully crafted, lengthily developed synthesizing serve right down to the direct quotes and the page citations.  The tone is user-friendly, however, indicating she stumbled on the passage and asking readers to recall the context, and especially user-friendly in the way that she poses the core point as a question now ("Is this not what Edna craves?") rather than as a declarative statement, as she may have back in her truly essayish days.  Her climax is couched in a "perhaps" as she invites response.  A good serve.  Excellent content, well presented.  Gets the thread off to a good start, I think.

Step 2 -- Student G's "disagreeing" return to L:

You definetly bring up an interesting point.  Hopefully I understand it well enough to make a good response.. Part of me wants to say that Edna wasn't even thinking when she went out to see that day.  It seems like, to me, that if she was thinking, she would've turned back and swam to shore.  I don't really feel that Edna saw suicide as an escape, i don't even know if she knew what she was doing or not.  I sorta have the same feeling with Ahab.  Part of me can't except that Ahab would still go to find Moby Dick knowing that it would lead to his death.  I do agree with you though that the sea has some sort of attraction to these characters.  Maybe there is something noble in dying at sea?  I think, especially, as with movies, a death at sea is a noble way to an end.

My reflection on G's return to L:

Here's the third disagreement with L's serve, this perhaps the most tentative of the three.  G's disagreement clearly rests on her vision of both Edna and Ahab as non-thinking characters.  Though she  concludes with agreement on another point, I think G is simply politely gratuitous here -- she didn't want to leave without saying something positive.  The point about the characters is the serious one (groan! why didn't she expand?) , and I would expect L to go there when she fields.

Step 3 -- L fields G's return:

Oh I have to disagree with you when you say that you don't think Edna was thinking at all when she went out to sea and took her life.  In my opinion, Edna was simply overwhelmed with a life that had grown intolerable for her.  She knew exactly what she was doing when she went out to sea that day.  We may not agree with/condone her actions, but that doesn't mean that she had no justification or reason for doing what she did.  As for Ahab, I did not mean to imply that he went to sea ultimately seeking death.  Sure, death was a possibility, but I don't think he wished it.  I saw Ahab as going to sea as a means of cleansing himself of his inner demons.  He needed to chase after Moby Dick.  He could never be content to live a safe and sheltered life in port.  He needed answers, he had passion.  But thank you for your insights.  Its enjoyable to hear differing perspectives on the same issue.

My reflection on L's fielding of G's return:

Yes, L goes after the character issue, as I expected.  L defends her point about one character and clarifies another.  I don't think she defends the Edna point well, though.  Instead of going to the text for evidence (why don't the students do this more?), L assumes that G disagrees with Edna because of a moral issue.  I'm not sure on what basis she makes that assumption.  I think her case would have been stronger and perhaps provide more incentive to keep the conversation going if she had brought in the text for support.  As is, L, in a sense, offers pronouncements about both characters that sort of signal the end of conversation.  That's interesting when you think of my comments about the way her serve turned from essay style into a more social style.  I wonder if that social style only serves for the serve and that in additional stages of discussion, especially when one is faced with disagreement, that the social style gets replaced by the authoritative one.  That might be something to watch out for in threads by others.  In any event, L seems to be signaling the end of conversation here when I want them always thinking of continuance.  In fact, the last lines ("But thank you for your insights.  Its enjoyable to hear differing perspectives on the same issue") are a bit condescending, no?