I wanted to provide some context to the last two posts that I made. Currently, I am in an English 101 course and as a senior at Univeristy, I would rather just write these required assignments with minimal effort and graduate this spring. For our first assignment, we were required to “interview,” or in my case have a friend play a character who I would then examine and write about. As I senior I am used to a fair amount of creative freedom in my work, which I did bring to this assignment. Now as a senior being creative in your writing and examining what interests you is encouraged, but in first-year courses, I have found that this is not the case. Unfortunately, I received a 59% mark on my first assignment as I did not adhere to the strict guidelines that had been specified by the instructor. As a way to vent my frustration, as well as take an opportunity to enjoy the situation I decided to write a response to the situation, which is told in “A L’Avis De Victor : Une Réponse à la Première Essai que J’Avais Ecrit.” I hope that you enjoy this, whoever you are out on the inter-webs, as I had an amazing time reveling in the absurdity of structure.
Professor’s Rubric Response –
You are an excellent writer, and you have a very creative voice. Unfortunately, however, this paper doesn’t fulfill the requirements of the assignment. For this assignment, you needed a brief literacy profile of an individual in a particular field, in order to describe the roles or reading and writing in that field. It sounds like your friend has had a fascinating life, but the details you wrote about in your paper don’t have much to do with literacy, and they aren’t surrounding a particular career or field. What you have written is more of a partial biography of your friend with a few tips about university study woven in. I wasn’t able to use the rubric on your paper due to it not meeting the basic purpose of the assignment. Please let me know if you have any questions or if there’s anything I can do it help you better understand the assignment.
The general dissatisfaction that I had with the mark I had received, compelled me to “re-interview” my friend so that we could bond over my most unfortunate loss. Even though this our discussion had begun as a means to remedy my overall disappointment with the system under which I had been judged, it did provide me with a sense of pride surrounding my work as well as an improved understanding of Victor’s field of study.
I messaged Victor via Facebook to express my discontent at around 12:30, which had been 6:30 in Paris. I was happy to receive a quick response from him, which said:
“Darling I’m almost home, let me tell you about my day. It will make yours seem like nothing. I’ll be on skype in five minutes.”
I smiled and knew that we would have a marvelous session complaining about the insignificant details of our lives.
I put down what I had been doing, placed my phone on my desk, and woke my laptop from its most somber sleep. After entering my password, I logged into skype, to then be happily greeted by skype’s “wheep” tone, which notifies its user that they have a new message. Unsurprisingly it was from Victor, who then initiated a phone call. I answered, to be greeted with Victor’s dark apartment and his unkempt hair, which had to be accompanied by a nearly overflowing glass of two-euro red wine.
He smiled and said, “well darling tell me about your troubles.”
I looked down to say, “well was nothing, it was just a bad mark, and I’ll be able to make it up later in the semester.”
“Yes, too bad you are no longer in high-school when your grades were actually something –
I cut him off “Ah, grades how American of you, even I don’t even call them that anymore”
He glared in continued, “As an Albertan, I take offense in drawing those conclusions, but as I was saying, it’s too bad that those do come more frequently than they once did”
“Yes that is true, but I do have four more essays to improve help improve my mark,” I responded.”
“hmm” …Victor glanced up to then go on to say, “well why don’t we just redo it, it is a shame though as I feel that your essay did capture my, essence.”
I chuckled to then say, “well if you wish dear, we can”
I opened my marked word document to then go through the specific criteria required for this assignment.
“I have it!” I exclaimed, “Okay Victor, let’s start from the top, first question, what ‘specific claim about the literacy (reading and writing practices) in [your] field’ would you make? (Phifer-Byrne)”
Victor smiled to then say, “the study of Anthropology, or rather the study of people has gone through great changes over the past half century. The field’s conception was out of European Imperialism, and with this background, it has and continues to oppress the people it studies. I feel that it has changed to become less oppressive, but the goal of Anthropology is to critically analyze, or judge the people it intends to study and to some that can appear to be oppressive. This analysis is then contained in the various essays that we make on a number of subjects related to our people of study.”
Very good, “Now how and why are you Victor, ‘appropriate for insight to a specific field, (Phifer-Byrne)’ or for your case Anthropology?”
“Well darling you and anyone who read your initial assignment would know how accomplished I am in my field, so I believe we can continue.”
“The next question asked Victor, would be, ‘adequately explore the reading and writing practices of the specific field, considering different variables like: what types of texts and genres are read, referenced, and produced. What methods and and technologies are used to consume, use and produce texts. What work of the field is accomplished through reading and writing? (Phifer-Byrne)”
“Well we do use primary sources, I remember that in one of the papers that I wrote during my master’s program I included a notebook written by this prostitute that I had been interviewing. Materials such as these are invaluable as they act as an account of a multitude of interviews over time, which allowed me to study a number of experiences that my subject had experienced. We can also use visual references, such as photography, or works of art. I know that in my line of Anthropology some Anthropologists have examined Picasso’s “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon,” and Ingres’ Grande Odalisque to understand the historical perceptions of prostitution in Europe over the past centuries. So because of that there are countless forms of expression that we analyze as Anthropologists to gain an understanding of the people we study.”
“Now Victor, I must, ‘include appropriate evidence from the interview to support an analysis (Phifer-Byrne)’ would you mind elaborating on the ‘evidence relevant to [your] main points and [your] overall claim[s], (Phifer-Byrne)’ ‘make evidence appropriate for [your] topic[s], audience, and purpose[es] (Phifer-Byrne)’ that you covered, and ‘provide detailed connection [or] description of how the evidence supports the point [or] reason, [or] claim? (Phifer-Byrne)”
Victor paused and said, “well I guess one could say that Anthropology is the study of people; however, that is the first definition out of your Oxford English Dictionary. I think that what we have learned as a field is how to be more respectful of ‘the other,’ since the mid-twentieth century. All you need to do to understand how Anthropology and Archaeology was used during the third Reich to support Aryan claims to ethnic superiority. I feel like there is much more that needs to be done in that regard as there is still a level of judgement to scholarly superiority in regard to the study of non-western peoples. Because of that I decided to people a social anthropologist as I would be studying sub-groups within the western world, which would help me stay away from issues such as ethnic and cultural superiority that has been the means under which abuse has been committed against non-western peoples. I think that we will eventually become better as time goes, on. Typically, philosophers are the ones that inspire the artists, whose art compels us to become better at understanding the human condition and the pressures we face as members of our world’s various societies.”
I interjected to say “I agree with that opinion. I know that when we had spoken a few months ago about our own educations, primarily in Canada and the United States, there were rituals that w preformed to have a sense of collective superiority. With the arts, which artists do you think have been deconstructing this Euro-centric superiority complex?”
“Oh yes Ted I do remember that, very good point. I think that many of the apparatuses rituals that we have as people and within our western societies help speak to a certain hierarchy, which is common throughout many cultures; however, it is not an essential part of human society as a whole. I remember studying collectivism at University and how many so called ‘primitive’ societies used inclusion rather than deprivation as a means of supporting their societies. I think that Artists such as Marta Minujín, especially in her Destrucción (1963) speaks to how arbitrary our societies place value on certain practices. In her performance, the Destrucción (1963) she destroyed all of the art that she had made throughout her career as an artist to symbolize rebirth as an artist that was free of the so called “high-arts,” an artist that excluded herself from this arbitrary valuation. This performance acted as her first great performance and launched her career as a visionary who challenged our western status quo. I hope that someday the social-sciences, sciences, and humanities at some point might be able to become more universalist, rather than the critical exclusive disciplines that they had originally been drawn out to be. I feel that once our Universities can help shed light on these misfortunes that we might be able to provide a truer understanding of plant’s peoples and cultures. Anyways, sorry for going on is there anything else that I should respond to?”
I looked down to examine the rubric to see I had stayed true to its requirements in order to receive a higher mark, but then realized that beyond proper grammar and syntax that all the questions that I had been asked to question Victor on had been answered.
I looked up at the screen and said, “No Victor, I think that is everything, so long as I remember my student ID number and section number this paper will have all the content necessary for a ‘proper’ mark.”
He smiled and said, “well darling, I hope that it all goes well. I would love to chat longer but I have a gig tonight so I should put get ready.”
“A gig?” I asked.
“Why yes I gig,” he said while winking at me.
I giggled, we then said our good-byes, and ended our call.
As this has been the first one-hundred level course that I have taken at the University of Arizona, I would like to apologize as I am used to having more creative freedom in my writing. I hope that this would answer all of the requirements that I would be asked of for this assignment and I hope that I might be able to improve myself in the future assignments for this course. The problem is that I am typically used to writing a paper around a general topic, that would be covered within a specific course. One example would be one course that I took on Conflict Management and Resolution. The general requirement was to write a final essay that carefully examined a conflict and then provide suggestions and commentary on how this conflict could have been more easily resolved. For this assignment I examined it as an exercise on conducting and recording interview surrounding aspects of academia. In that regard I do believe that I was to some degree successful at that in my first essay that I submitted for this course. Either way I hope that the response above can help show that I am trying to remember how to navigate a first-year course and that I am capable of following a rubric’s specified guidelines.
This would be the first time that I would speak with Victor in a couple of months. I knew that he had some challenges since I was last able to see him during the summer of 2013, but I his unique perspective has always been refreshing, which is why I chose him to be my subject to interview.
I opened Skype to speak with my friend Victor as he is currently living in Paris, France and works as a barista in the 13ème arrondissement. The skype calling tone beeped and booped as our two computers connected with one another, eventually, he picked up and I saw him with his jet black hair, and gaunt face, seated in his disheveled apartment.
I waited for a second to be sure that the connection was secure and said, “salute mon ami,” which in English would translate might say Hello my friend.
And he responded by saying “ouais, salute mon amour” Yes, hello my love.
I quickly switched back to English and asked, “well darling shall we get going with this thing?”
Which he responded by rolling his eyes and in his charming yet sassy attitude said, “well if we must.”
I began this interview by asking, “what is your alma mater, and what was the last University you attended”
Victor paused, as it to reflect upon those years that had gone by and responded, “well, I went to the University of Alberta for my undergraduate degree, and then I did a year at the Sorbonne before dropping out because of financial difficulties.”
The story about Victor’s time just before, during and after the Sorbonne until today has been a turbulent one, but without the trials and tribulations that life presents we would be unable to develop into the people that we are.
Victor was born in East Germany where he was later adopted by his Canadian parents Kasper and Karolina Lewandowski who hailed from Edmonton Alberta. This well to do family would raise Victor, where he would later go to the University of Alberta and major in Anthropology. Upon his graduation in 2010 he decided to teach English in Kraków, Poland, so that he could connect with his Polish-Canadian step-father’s homeland as well as gain a better understanding of the Germany he left behind after the fall of the Berlin Wall. He would later go on to be accepted by the Université de Paris in their master’s program for, Ethnologie et anthropologie sociale, or in English the program for Ethnology and Social-Anthropology.
I asked Victor, “how did he feel about his acceptance to the Sorbonne?”
he responded by saying, “I remember the acceptance and the year and one-half that followed as one of the happiest times in my life, I was doing research that I really loved, I had my first real boyfriend, along with the emotional and financial support of my adoptive parents at the time.”
Victor paused, cracked a small smile, and raised his eyes to gaze off into the distance. I then asked him, what he was been thinking about.
He then continued, “well just what happened, and how terrible it was. You remember, the relationship I had with Marc, that summer where I met you in la Rochelle, and the fall of sorrows when I was disowned by my parents who would later be killed in a car crash, during a vacation in Banff that December. It was a dramatic time, an emotional time, especially when I realized that I could not afford to live in the 8eme and perform my studies. I would have to leave the Sorbonne move to the 13eme, find some sort of employment, and these changes were then worsened by the subsequent death of my parents. The reality that I did not receive any inheritance from them really showed how conservative they were and how much the idea of having a gay son bothered them. I miss them but I just wish that before they passed I could have reached some sort of understanding you know.”
I had heard this story before, but it is stories like these that allow us to reflect on our own hostility. It is through pain, even if it might be more specific to the Global North, but loss, especially loss at the hands of others does speak to the brutal edge of the human nature and condition.
I asked my friend, “What advice would you give to students who are just entering university, in regard to planning ahead, their writing, and could you also elaborate on the work that you had done before you experienced those series of events?”
“Well,” he said, “I would recommend that they have an idea of the future, a general direction. It is great to have dreams, but it is necessary to be flexible with those dreams, especially when you are young and do not have the same level of security that older people might have. As for writing, I believe that reading crucial as you can adopt other writing styles. I remember reading the Walrus and posted copies of McSweeny’s a lot during my university years, and they are two periodicals that I continue to read to this day. The type of analysis, the writing styles, and content that they dealt with are all very common to those that I employed as a bachelor’s student. As for the work that I did in graduate school, I had been working on a study of the Parisian sex-industry. I found the interactions, and the customs around and between prostitutes to be rather interesting. I am continually surprised how aspects of their unique sub-culture have helped me as a barista and server at Café Arobasse.”
Victor and I then went on to chit-chat and catch up on our lives as friends always do. He told me that he was doing better and that he had started to make plans to go back to the Sorbonne. I congratulated him on this, and we then went on to make false promises to go visit each other soon and eventually ended our call to return back to our lives. I left happy about the progress Victor had made and felt that his advice to be rational as well as flexible was valuable to students just entering university as well as for me who will have to plunge into reality this coming spring. Victor’s suggestions came from his own unique experiences and my current situation is markedly different than his. I hope that I might be afforded the luxury to dream, unlike Victor might have had following his parents’ disownment and death, but even so, it is good to have a direction and a rational attitude to one’s future.