285 Exam

                                              the disagreements themselves 
                                                       can be the point of 
                                                        Gerald Graff

                    And if fear motivated people to build bomb shelters in  
                                   backyards and persecute the many of the 
                                            country's most creative minds,
                                         why wouldn't fear motivate action 
                                     in positive actions which are no less
                             political but support debate, discussion, and 
                                           dissensus?  I fear inaction....
                                                     Michelle Miller

                                                    As counterintuitive as
                                              it may seem, I now, finally, 
                                                        and wholly believe 
                                                that only with dissent can
                                                 you redefine a community.
                                                       Ellona Wilner

Don't think this wasn't fun for me. It was indeed (though I have been rushed by deadlines). Here I've assembled some wondrous aspects of your work on the exam.

You created some powerful generalizations about what we spent the semester studying, even when you meant to be confining your comments to a particular problem or text. To take a powerfully articulate example: here's Orit talking about the nature of community and organization. "Herein lies a difficult paradox: perhaps the most frightening concept for those who reluctantly relinquish their hopes for a world immune to outside influences in exchange for the notion of the Organization is one that suggests that individuality is irrevocably subsumed by the new system; individuality, though, by its very nature, poses as a constant threat to the status quo, for it suggests the possibility of foreign ideas and the introduction of new meanings. They champion a leader, a guide like McCarthy's Pick Callaway, who is strong enough to support their position despite opposition or alienation, and yet that very leader's individuality is characterized by his practicality, his recognization of the futility of their goal. Thus, they catapult into fickleness." Wow, I say.

Another aspect of your responses to the "customized" exam question I admired greatly: many of you - most of you - actually referred to comments and points of analysis contributed by other members of the 285 group. You took each other seriously. A number of you went to the www'd listserv archive and read over comments made on the listserv in order to find your own fit - now. Molly, asked to review her own earlier paper on Cheever's Lawrence, went to the listserv postings and wrote this:

Yet, as a result of conversations that we have had throughout our classes and Tali's listserv postings, and the responses to them, I have reformulated my opinion of Lawrence. I had seen him as "so gloomy, pessimistic, and disdainful" that I found myself on the side of the narrator in attacking him. In my own ignorance, I assumed that I was not alone in my distaste for Lawrence's behavior. I lost sight of the fact that he was, through the interpretation of the narrator, revealing truths about The Pommeroys that needed to be seen. For example, although it has more symbolic than actual weight, the foundation of the familys house is cracking almost beyond repair. Also, I did not address a point in my paper that is perhaps the most glaring and, possibly important, in the story. I did not say that I think that it is totally unacceptable for Lawrence to say goodbye to his family. (However, I am am aware that it is rite, I find it amoral - it is his responsibility.) My more recent thinking has been in relation to a point that underlies all of our arguments about specific texts. Rachel delineated it on the listserv in regard to this story. She said , after a number of messages debating the importance of Lawrence staying with his family because "kin is kin", "Lawrence's story should be viewed as one of an outsider not being able to live in an inside world." While, I am not sure if the family-aspect of this story can be completely ignored, this way of thinking about it makes an argument on Lawrence, and the fact that he leaves, universally applicable. Tali made two arguments which address the issue of being a Lawrence, or a radical of sorts, which both engendered positions from several people in the class about Lawrence's decision to leave and crystallized my own. The first was one in which she described the response she was met with when she publicly insulted the old boys club formation of Hillel. She saw herself as having "been lawrenced in that she was cajoled to be calm and voice [her] concerns quietly...and not to rock the boat." Although I am unfamiliar with her exact argument, I am in complete agreement with Randy based on the fact that there was (and may continue to be) a lengthy discussion on Tali's post. That, in itself, is a direct indication that she is not a Lawrence, because her unhappiness is being recognized and responded to. The only way she could become a Lawrence in this scenario is if she didnt read or respond to the feedback she was getting, ignored it, and didnt return to Hillel. In her second attempt to recreate a Lawrence scenario Tali brought up the idea of setting off alarms without a specific reason. This is not an entirely analogous situation to the one in Cheever's story, but the postings on the listserv regarding Tali's idea reflect issues relating to it. Most pointedly, Holly said:
1. I just want to say hurray for Tali for setting off alarms.... If youre an individualist and youre in an organization or a system that feels constricting, the only thing to do is to rattle your chains. Rock the boat. Be brave enough to make the small stands that make your dissatisfaction known. 2. Either that or hit the road. Go live in the mountains and become a system of one.
I agree with Holly's idea that if you are in a system that you dont like, you should stand up and make a valiant attempt to change it. That is what we have been stressing the whole semester; it is perhaps the one argument that we have come to an undivided consensus on.

In Rob Jaffe's version of Rieff's version of Rebel, Jim Stark would see beyond the Freudianism of the film, thus making him the radical who won't give up Plato that we tried to imagine in class. And Plato is discerned as most of us discerned him--cruelly repressed and denied by society. Then Plato screams but it's NOT therapeutic. "Thus the ending where Dean understands his father's attempt to place his teenage angst on par with a passing shower, would now change to the three of them speeding away in his black automobile and a shot of Dean looking back as the planetarium recedes and looks ahead and sees the road go on forever. The sequel to this film has similarities to On the Road." Thus triumphing over the triumphing of the therapeutic makes this about rebellion with a cause.

Alex wrote a wonderful screenplay for Graff's remake of Twelve Angry Men. Take a look!

In Rachel's version of Betty Friedan's Margo Channing, "Margo enjoys her life consisting of her career as an actress, as well as the business that she started on the side to help young women become involved in acting careers."

"If the existing venues of dissenting are a tired cliche, no longer effective, then we must create new ways. Creativity requires imagination."--Michelle

Jason has Lawrence rewriting Yellen:

"The Mystic Presences" is a dramatic short story about standing up for your beliefs and for the rights of others. When Eliot calls Harrys attention to the racist practices of their college faculty, the rebellion is on; the two men quest for change. Harry confronts the Dean about the shortcomings of his staff and the university itself in a climactic final scene. Pommeroys debut keeps the pages turning."
And from the text as Jason has rewritten it: "No doubt I tossed a monkey wrench into the Wheel of Fortune. I insisted that Eliot be kept on and promoted, that the unfortunate recruit be hired immediately, and that the university change its backward policy. I had nothing to lose. I am sixty-three (only four years from retirement), Im stuck in a career I detest in a beaurocratic university surrounded by imbeciles and has-beens. So I made a stand. I rammed Eliot down the Deans throat. But the dean never promoted him, the self-righteous bastard, and as for me"(109).

In Dave Marek's version of Mario Savio's version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Miles and Becky run out into the streets of Santa Mira, grab the bullhorn from the pod-planting police, and begin persuading the people to un-pod themselves with rhetoric of love and inclusiveness. And what happens - in Dave's satire of counter-resistance becoming itself a conformity - is that all the people follow Miles:

Miles: (to all, through bullhorn) What are you people doing? CanÕt you see what it is that they are doing to you? Are you so far gone that you can no longer see that you have been completely brainwashed? Oh, People, I have seen a world where men and women live together in peace, where governments protect the minority from persecution, not use itÕs power to persecute. I have been there. Brothers and Sisters of Santa Mira, you, too, have been there. It was here. We were that place. That place was us. I would rather die than have to live in a world without love. You see Becky, well, I love her. Not more than a few moments ago I made love to her. And, Sally, I love you to. (staring at a pretty, young blonde girl loading pods) One day I want to make love to you. I want to see the world in color, I want to love and think and argue and fight and win and lose. (Jack slowly walks towards the police car. The army troops have been given orders not to physically harm the citizens, rather to wait until they fall asleep so the pods can go to work. Jack pushes his way past the line of armed men.) Yes, Jack, join me!

Becky: (Yells from where she is standing next to the police car) Join us!

Miles: ThatÕs right! Join us! We will all do it together. Have they not read the Constitution lately? Do they not know that this country is about freedom? We are the government! It does not control us because it is only as powerful as we allow it to be. Everyone, throw down the pods. Hug your family. Kiss your spouse. Enjoy the sun and the grass. There is no reason to live if you cannot feel.

Slowly more and more of the townÕs citizens walk to the police car. As the day wears on, the police car is completely surrounded by people. So are the Army trucks that carry the pods. Eventually, the soldiers begin to join the citizens around the cars. One angry General uselessly shouts orders that go unheeded. The townÕs members have realized that they possess the power to withstand the brainwashing affects of the pods. The camera slowly pulls away from the group sitting on the ground all singing songs led by Becky, who is playing her guitar on top of the police car.

In Rob Faunce's version of Friedan's All about Eve, "The new ending has an older female come tot he door of Margo's house in the suburbs with a baby in her arms and says that she is a huge fan of her new play. Margo feels sympathy for her and takes her inside for a cup of coffee, and as she is getting the coffee, the aspiring actress is seen in MargoÕs room acting out a scene in front of the mirrors with a maternity dress against her body."

Jenny's Friedan's All about Eve ends this way: The final scene opens, showing Eve and her man locked in an embrace:

Man: Eve, now that you are a successful actress there is only one thing left to do-- Be a success as my wife. Why should you continue with these long hard hours? I want to take care of you. Please, Eve, give me an answer. Is it me or your career?

Eve does not reply. Instead, she looks directly into the camera, a confused, pained look on her face. Dramatic music plays in the background, and the scene fades to black.

Rupa had Lawrence rewrite "The Mystic Presences" and of course Lawrence writes "through" the sympathetic character of Elliot. In this version of the story, Elliot attends a meeting of the anthro department to discuss the recent appointment of an Asian specialist who, it turns out, is black. Rupa writes: "The Dean speaks to the collection of anthropologists and explains that although all the faculty, staff, and administrators of the university will be briefed about the upcoming issue, it is important for the anthropology department to meet and discuss it since it pertains specifically to their department. He explains that six months ago, an anthropologist who recently completed his Ph.D. and was researching in Malaysia, applied for a post to head the new pilot program in the anthropology department for research in Asia and the Middle East. The Dean goes on, A Rhodes scholar with excellent credentials and references and experience in the geographical area, he was interviewed on the phone since he was on location in Asia and the department felt so strongly that they offered him the position. He accepted and had appeared yesterday to start his new duties at which point the university first became acquainted with the fact that he is black. Since the President of the University had his nephew in mind for the post, he immediately ordered for this young man, Bill Harris, to be fired because he was not going to have his nephews career spoiled by some black man. Bill, however, has refused to go quietly and has promised to raise a stink so that the school has decided to issue an official statement regarding lack of funds as the reason forletting him go. This meeting is to inform everyone that that is exactly what you will be expected to say in public.
The Dean looks around the sea of silent faces, and seeing no protests, is about to leave the podium. Eliot stands up and asks his colleagues, more than the Dean, with incredulity if they will let this happen while Harry tries to grab his coattails and make him sit down. Eliot proceeds to walk up to the podium, take the microphone in his hands, and speak about the unfairness of the whole situation. He pleads with his colleagues to join him in not only telling the truth to the press but also going on strike until Harris is re-hired. Hearing no response but stunned and disapproving silence, Eliot says, his voice breaking with stunned rage, Fuck this! and walks out. He then hands in a formal resignation the next day and prepares to leave Cornell. On the day of his departure, he crosses the path of his replacement--a recent Harvard graduate who headed up the Young Republicans there and is interested in researching the social implications of Dennys."

Jeremy wrote Mario Savio's rewriting of the screenplay of Invasion of the Body Snatchers:
"Sneaking back to his office, Mile s attempts to call the national authorities, but the line is dead (much as in the original). Miles and Becky then try to get the nutrients for the pods by going d irectly to the factory and shutting it down. Some of the pods volunteer to be pla ced in front of the trucks carrying the mineral to the factory. When the pods are smashed they turn into a paste which will immobilize the trucks and shut the fac tory down."

Don't say you're surprised that Amy's Savio's Invasion would include a passage like this: "As soon as he notices people becoming apathetic and pod-like, he will start to organize people together to try and stop this. Once he notices dissension (because everyone is submitting) he will do more than try to call Washington -- he will call all of his buddies in towns all over the country and they will do a march on Washington to get the governmentÕs attention on this. And all of these people would sit around singing songs by The Mamas and the Papas and smoking up, making sure that no one falls asleep."

Randi's version of Graff's version of Twelve Angry Men would end in a mistrial because the jury wouldn't agree! And: "Despite the ending of the trial in a mistrial, the jurors' contact with one another would not end. Their discussions, debate and conflict would continue, beyond the jurors' room, beyond the court building, beyond that day."

Rupa, asked to synthesize the role and portrayal of women in the 50s, contributed this excellent analysis of women in All about Eve: "In All About Eve, both amiability and admiration is bestowed on a women in direct proportion to their compliance and complaisance. Margo Channing, the egotistical and spoiled star gets more and more likable as she acquiesces control over her career and her individuality to marry her romantic lead, whose rising success as a director with her retirement is no coincidence. Eve Harrington, on the other hand, gets more and more unlikable as she turns from the Margo idolater to a powerful actress in her own right--witness her concomitant descent from an innocent farm girl/war widow to an immigrant Jewish prostitute. Birdie is made into a sour, suspicious hag while her amazing instinctual knowledge of others is marginalized." And Rupa strongly concludes: "This refutes the justification for financial and intellectual independence since power turns women into unrecognizable fiends, instead of the fecund nurturers that they should be."

"But if Lawrence is trying to rewrite [Yellen's story] according to the way he sees things happen in the world he is forced to live in, I see the men showing up to the tenure meeting in football uniforms and the women showing up in wedding dresses (just kidding)."--Amy

Andrew had Lawrence rewrite Yellen's story by having Elliot narrate in the first person. Elliot of course leaves town: "In the end, I think I bear Harry no ill will, though I suspect that his vote was cast against me, for he has given me the chance to say good-bye to this place, and move on to more important things."

Jeremy's customized question asked him to describe individuals vs. organizations. When he turned to universities, he wrote: 'Ultimately, education ... is not self-directed, is confined in time and space and rewards achievement as measured by grades, not necessarily education. Self-directed education is perhaps inherently anti-Organi zational and it is precisely for this reason that the Organization is unlikely to allow a large amount of it. Yellin's "Mystic Presences" demonstrates the dangers of Organization inherent in a university setting and the fact that even consciou sness of organizational mechanisms does not permit a "working within the Organiza tion" solution, except to literally work against the Organization from within it. It is this action - most likely to be mistaken for the "complete" non-conformity that I defined earlier - that will not be tolerated by the educational Organization.'

Here's Kara's version of Graff's version of what Lee J. Cobb might have said in his final speech - just after he pulls his son's picture out of his wallet a second time, when he's standing alone against the 11 others now voting not guilty:

"We've been here too long. I know all of ya want to get out of this little room and never see each other again. But I'm not going to let you all win. I won't let Mr. Reasonable Doubt over there brainwash me. I'm positive that the kid on the stand is guilty. And all of you can try to convince somehow different, but that man said he heard the scream and so the kid is goddamn guilty!
Maybe you just want me to shut up and weep like a baby cause all of the sudden I see the truth. But that would be fake and silly and I'm goddamn not gonna do it. I am positive of the facts and while it might be easier for me to give in, it wouldn't be the right thing for me to do.
And the rest of you -- you listen to this guy over there like you're sheep. Everything he says, you nod your head and agree. He makes more sense than the fuckin' son of God. But he just wants to see you follow him like the Pied Piper. He doesn't know what he's talkin about.
We don't know the answer to this question for sure. None of us knows. So I've gotta stand up for the rights the ordinary people in the world who shouldn't have to face murderers on the street. Our friend, Mr. Righteous, is trying to complicate a very simple question. Did the kid do it or not? There's a lot of evidence that says he did it. So we have our answer. We don't need to clutter the question with lots of legal stuff. We just need to say yes or no. And I say yes.
There's not really a clear-cut winner or loser here. There's no absolute right or wrong -- except maybe before God. But Mr. Convincing is no God. He showed us that it's alright to stick by your beliefs. Well, by the Lord, I'm sticking to mine. And I have every right to do it.
So let's try this again, shall we. I call for another vote."
Then Kara adds: "The foreman asks each in turn. A single vote for acquittal is cast. The process is over. The outcome -- a hung jury."

Orit, also having Graff rewrite 12 Angry Men, sees that it's possible for Graff's jury to take process over product to something of an extreme - making the jury deliberation so much like a good seminar that it might forget its job (to decide upon the fate of the accused). It's possible to read into Orit's scenario here a mild criticism of the Graff mode: "Imitating the style of many slapstick comedies where the original purpose of an action is forgotten and abandoned in light of an unexpected development in the story, the jurors would be so consumed with the excitement of the actual deliberation process itself, that they would forget to seek an actual resolution, and the case would be placed on the proverbial back burner. Graff would maintain the threat of death for the accused, for the fact that a young boy's life is at stake confirms the danger of agreeing for agreement's sake; moreover, that the notion of conflict is given preferential treatment to the boy's life (even though the compassion and humanity of the viewer would act as a reminder of the underlying purpose behind the deliberation) further highlights the significant purpose and dramatic response to dissent." But in the end Orit wonders if a jury can act as a meta-jury, following Graff's principles: "Perhaps Graff's film would encourage the revamping of the jury system, so that the unanimous decision rule would be replaced by another rule that more accurately represents the conflict and deliberation involved. Perhaps his next film would portray a jury fighting to break out of the confines of the designated deliberation room, striving to build an understanding between their own role and that of the system as a whole."

Ellona, asked to describe the ideal intellectual/academic community, created, in part, a new social contract, an undergraduate Bill of Rights.

As if answering - or echoing - Ellona, though in a theoretical vein, Joan wrote: "Realism is a social construction that is as relative and impure as the concept of beauty, though a sense of reality can be gained by comparison, just as political positions are. Pain and suffering do exist, though they don't have to persist at the degree they do. Life runs according to the chaos theory -- the smallest, seemingly inconsequential action can arbitrarily produce the largest and most consequential reaction."

And here's Orit again, writing about Eliot Wentworth in the voice of Lawrence! "Eliot's chance at survival within the university depended on his willingness to temper his protest action, to attempt submission, to allow himself to be subsumed by the organization. I understood his troubles. He had to have resisted the impulse that has often nearly overwhelmed me, a tenured faculty member whom my colleagues have _affectionately_ dubbed Tifty, to voice his concerns and repair the cracks in the system to prevent its potential downfall. I tried to warn him, especially since I saw so much of myself in him--aware, agressive, progressive. But my warnings were half-hearted; as much as I wanted him to succeed, I saw an opportunity to buck the system, and I knew that if I couldn't be the agent, I would make damn sure Eliot was. No one can blame Eliot for his failure. After all, it's not his fault that he turned out the way he did in the end. All he needed--all we _both_ needed--was a little guidance, a little support from the university community."

In Holly's Friedan's Eve, Karen and Margot begin to realize how unfulfilled they are as housewives, and after confrontations with Lloyd and Bill, they decide to leave, buy an old car, and drive together west. Sound familiar?

Margot: Fasten your seatbelt; it's going to be a bumpy ride. I don't think this jalopy has shocks.

They don't get far before they realize that Lloyd and Bill have reported the money stolen, and the cops are after them. There are many narrow escapes, but they keep going. They plan their little theatre--it'll be all female: women playwrights, women directors, women actors, women stagehands. They head towards Arizona--Karen has always wanted to go there.

Suddenly, as they're nearing the Grand Canyon, they pass a police car which swerves and spins to follow them. Soon there is an army of cops chasing them toward the canyon. Lloyd and Bill are shouting from a car with bullhorns: Come back, all is forgiven.

They pause within a hundred yards of the abyss.

Karen: Did you hear that Eve got married? They say she's retiring from the stage.

Margot: Some women's mag printed her recipe for brownies last week.

Karen: Not us, Margot.

Margot: Damn right.

They drive over the cliff.

Mason imagined a totally different Yellen story, in which Eliot is returning back to the university after some time away. And: "There would be no vote concerning his future at the university, for he would never consider staying. Rather, he would leave abruptly, urging two black job applicants to do the same. Although the reader would never see the next year's outset, he would be expected to infer that it will be the same as the last."

And here's how Mason handles Mario Savio's moving the locale of Body Snatchers to a university:

Mario Savio's new title is _Refuse to Have Your Body Snatched_. The message is as a anti-establishment rally cry, as if to say, "Join us in passive revolt before they indoctrinate you beyond the point of help. The first scene shows the Smith family dropping their son off at his university, which is all one huge, completely square building with a motionless body of water encompassing it. Mr. Smith, dressed in Organization man attire, is busy helping Tom Jr. unpack his three black suitcases, while Mrs. Smith is happily knitting away in the black Town car, slowly exaggerating each stitch so that little Susie can follow. Susan, however, is clearly not interested. As the car departs, passing by all the other families in their black Town cars, Mr. Smith says assumingly, "Don't do anything I wouldn't do, son." As Tom heads into the building, he passes an older student who hands him a flyer saying, "Be sure to read this before you go to bed tonight. Shhh...."

"We need each other in the 285-sense," Joan wrote about her position in relation to that of Dave Markowitz', "The more Dave-like he is, the more Joan-like I am."

'I am indeed still "muddling, sifting, figuring, reconfiguring, and getting a more firm grip on what I think,"' wrote Michelle, 'but that effort no longer constitutes my position on anything. Even those "who claim to be so straight as to the way they view the world," of whom I had been suspect but also admired, are also still in a process of thinking and rethinking.'

"This is what happens," writes Ellona, "to the undergraduate who is rejected by intellectual community: when students are assuaged into believing that they take nothing relevant from a course other than a letter on their transcript, they build an ideology of test scores and essay grades, and grow to love being judged solely by others for the intellectual content of their thought, rather than testing the limits of their own intellects against another persons'."

"A university," Christy writes, "should be a safe place for students to experiment with ideas and to challenge our perceptions of the world...." Alas, she writes, in the current climate the student "quickly learns to keep his mouth shut about an issue until the professor has told him what to think about it. THIS IS NOT AN EDUCATION; IT IS CLASSICAL CONDITIONING AT ITS BEST." So "What needs to happen for such an environment to occur? Student-faculty interaction is undoubtably a place to start. Students need to be able to discuss their ideas and beliefs with people who are more experienced at questioning such issues. Students need to learn to defend their beliefs against someone who knows more about the subject; this will force us to think critically about the issues with which we are working, and ultimately will teach us how to construct and deconstruct an argument. We will begin to understand the world around us in a very real way, and this understanding will provide us with ways to interact with the world."

Someone wrote: "I submit that English 285 is a unique exception to the critics' rule. We would make Graff proud if for no other reason than because we thrive upon cognitive dissonance; we never shrink from conflict, understanding that 'the disagreements themselves can be the point of connection' (119). There have been times that we have yearned for consensus, for closure, but we all agree that the most engaging, the most thought-provoking, sessions have been those left unresolved, both sides of the room ruddy-faced and hot under the collar as we collect our materials for our next class. Yea, Al looked down upon the warring students of room 224, exasperated after ninety minutes of trying to make sense of disparate and clashing materials, of disparate and clashing points of view. And He Saw That The Frustration Was Good."

mail Al.