Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Extra Credits for Finals!

Here’s another chance for you to earn extra credits!
Watch any of the following productions at the Cultural Center of the Philippines:

Die Fledermaus , an Operetta (see details by clicking this link: )

Niel de Mesa’s “I Laugh You”
“Mga Obra ni Maestra” (Philippines’ 1st Animé play)

I am giving away extra credit of 20 points for class participation if you are going to see this one. There are only 3 requirements before you earn the contingency credits: 1. Inform me of the date when you are watching it (that means you are responsible in taking care of securing your own ticket booking.) 2. Watch it with your parents/guardians (This saves me the hassle of getting a parental consent. You may also consider this an opportunity to bond with them.) 3. Show me any proof that you saw it, otherwise, be prepared to answer my Q&A regarding the play. Your parents might want to read a review of the play before taking you. I post the article below sourced from clickthecity so you can read the other information about it.:

Koiné One Acts’ award winning play on courtship will be onstage at the CCP for Valentines! Niel de Mesa’s “I Laugh You” comedy and “Mga Obra ni Maestra” (Philippines’ 1st Animé play) will be onstage at the Huseng Batute on February 9 and 10.

Niel de Mesa’s Palanca award winning and critically acclaimed comedy, “I Laugh You” is back due to insistent public demand. A romantic farce about the psychological foibles of courtship, this “laugh-trip” play couples old Tagalog wordplay with speed dating. It will feature Koiné’s best actors; Eliza Agabin and Evert Gandarosa.

The one-act play will run in tandem with the revolutionary multimedia animé play, “Mga Obra ni Maestra”. Considered as one of the best plays of 2007 (PDI Dec 2007), this “Obra” earned standing ovations and accolades at the third Virgin Labfest which was held at the CCP last July 2007. The story revolves on three teens—with funky superpowers under the tutelage of the invincible Maestra. After receiving a text message that their nemesis, General Phorab, is on a rampage, the novice heroes eagerly muster their resolve to the society at large. The only “thing” discouraging them from doing so—are their parents. Will their stubborn resolve to save people suceed in the end or will the fear of being grounded overcome them? This play features the Koiné Elite Scholars; Nympha Gonzalez, Cashlyn Cuarez, and Abbey Gonzalez (cited as one of the best stage actresses of 2007). Both plays were designed by famed haute couturier, Edgar San Diego (President of FDAP). So bring your V-day dates or kids because there will definitely be something for everyone when Koiné comes back onstage this February.

Call 4337886 or (0917)972-6514 to reserve Koiné’s limited seats. Reserved seating only. You can vist Koiné One Acts at or email them at Tickets paid before January 15, 2008 can avail of our Php150 per ticket “early bird” promo price. Reserved and tickets bought at the CCP FOH / Box Office after January 15, 2007 will already be Php280 each. (NB: PLEASE ASK FOR STUDENT PRICE. DAPAT MAS MURA. 50% OFF siguro)

Week 10: Telephone Conversation by Wole Soyinka

Week 10 Dividing lines: Differences in Class, race, Gender and Ideology

Telephone Conversation
by Wole Soyinka

The price seemed reasonable, location
Indifferent. The landlady swore she lived
Off premises. Nothing remained
But self-confession. "Madam," I warned,
"I hate a wasted journey—I am African."
Silence. Silenced transmission of
Pressurized good-breeding. Voice, when it came,
Lipstick coated, long gold rolled
Cigarette-holder pipped. Caught I was foully.
"HOW DARK?" . . . I had not misheard . . . "ARE YOU LIGHT
OR VERY DARK?" Button B, Button A.* Stench
Of rancid breath of public hide-and-speak.
Red booth. Red pillar box. Red double-tiered
Omnibus squelching tar. It was real! Shamed
By ill-mannered silence, surrender
Pushed dumbfounded to beg simplification.
Considerate she was, varying the emphasis--
"ARE YOU DARK? OR VERY LIGHT?" Revelation came.
"You mean--like plain or milk chocolate?"
Her assent was clinical, crushing in its light
Impersonality. Rapidly, wave-length adjusted,
I chose. "West African sepia"--and as afterthought,
"Down in my passport." Silence for spectroscopic
Flight of fancy, till truthfulness clanged her accent
Hard on the mouthpiece. "WHAT'S THAT?" conceding
"DON'T KNOW WHAT THAT IS." "Like brunette."
"THAT'S DARK, ISN'T IT?" "Not altogether.
Facially, I am brunette, but, madam, you should see
The rest of me. Palm of my hand, soles of my feet
Are a peroxide blond. Friction, caused--
Foolishly, madam--by sitting down, has turned
My bottom raven black--One moment, madam!"--sensing
Her receiver rearing on the thunderclap
About my ears--"Madam," I pleaded, "wouldn't you rather
See for yourself?"

Nigerian poet Wole Soyinka uses irony to depict the absurdity of racism in his poem, "Telephone Conversation.


the use of words to convey a meaning that is the opposite of its literal meaning: the irony of her reply, "How nice!" when I said I had to work all weekend.

a technique of indicating, as through character or plot development, an intention or attitude opposite to that which is actually or ostensibly stated.

(esp. in contemporary writing) a manner of organizing a work so as to give full expression to contradictory or complementary impulses, attitudes, etc., esp. as a means of indicating detachment from a subject, theme, or emotion.

Irony, sarcasm, satire indicate mockery of something or someone. The essential feature of irony is the indirect presentation of a contradiction between an action or expression and the context in which it occurs.

In the figure of speech, emphasis is placed on the opposition between the literal and intended meaning of a statement; one thing is said and its opposite implied, as in the comment, "Beautiful weather, isn't it?" made when it is raining or nasty.

Irony differs from sarcasm in greater subtlety and wit.

In sarcasm ridicule or mockery is used harshly, often crudely and contemptuously, for destructive purposes. It may be used in an indirect manner, and have the form of irony, as in "What a fine musician you turned out to be!" or it may be used in the form of a direct statement, "You couldn't play one piece correctly if you had two assistants." The distinctive quality of sarcasm is present in the spoken word and manifested chiefly by vocal inflection, whereas satire and irony, arising originally as literary and rhetorical forms, are exhibited in the organization or structuring of either language or literary material. Satire usually implies the use of irony or sarcasm for censorious or critical purposes and is often directed at public figures or institutions, conventional behavior, political situations, etc.

Some examples:

When something bad has happened:
"This is just great," or "That was just perfect."
In response to a bad joke: "That's just so funny," or obviously feigned (and often weak) laughter "Ha. Ha. Ha. NOT."
When a boring statement has been made: "Wow, great!"
When someone has thoroughly botched something: "Great job!" or "Congratulations!"
When somebody accuses another of something bad/wrong: "Do I get bonus points if I act like I care?"
Used when writing: I love school

The speaker of the poem, a dark West African man searching for a new apartment, tells the story of a telephone call he made to a potential landlady. Instead of discussing price, location, amenities, and other information significant to the apartment, they discussed the speaker's skin color.

The landlady is described as a polite, well-bred woman, even though she is shown to be shallowly racist. The speaker is described as being genuinely apologetic for his skin color, even though he has no reason to be sorry for something which he was born with and has no control over.

In this short poem, we can see that the speaker is an intelligent person by his use of high diction and quick wit, not the savage that the landlady assumes he is because of his skin color. All of these discrepancies between what appears to be and what really is create a sense of verbal irony that helps the poem display the ridiculousness of racism.

"The price seemed reasonable, location / Indifferent"

The first sentence of the poem includes a pun that introduces the theme of the following poem and also informs us that things are not going to be as straightforward as they appear. "The price seemed reasonable, location / Indifferent"

If we read over these lines quickly, we would assume that the speaker meant "Being neither good nor bad" by the use of the word indifferent . But, indifferent is also defined as "Characterized by a lack of partiality; unbiased." This other definition gives the sentence an entirely different meaning. Instead of the apartment's location being neither good or bad, we read that the apartment's location is unbiased and impartial.

However, we quickly learn in the following lines of the poem that the location of the apartment is the exact opposite of unbiased and impartial.

The speaker is rudely denied the ability to rent the property because of bias towards his skin color. This opening pun quickly grabs our attention and suggests that we as readers be on the lookout for more subtle uses of language that will alter the meaning of the poem.

"Caught I was, foully"

After this introduction, the speaker begins his "self-confession" about his skin color (line 4). It is ironic that this is called a self-confession since the speaker has nothing that he should have to confess since he has done nothing wrong. He warns the landlady that he is African, instead of just informing her. "Caught I was, foully" he says after listening to the silence the landlady had responded with.

I hate a wasted journey—I am African

Again, the word caught connotes that some wrong had been done, that the speaker was a criminal caught committing his crime. By making the speaker actually seem sorry for his skin color, Soyinka shows how ridiculous it really is for someone to apologize for his race. To modern Western thinkers, it seems almost comical that anyone should be so submissive when he has committed no wrongdoing.


Her goodness is seemingly confirmed later on when the speaker says that she was "considerate" in rephrasing her question (line 17). Her response to the caller's question included only "light / Impersonality" (lines 20-21). Although she was described as being a wealthy woman, she was seemingly considerate and only slightly impersonal. The speaker seems almost grateful for her demeanor. Of course, these kind descriptions of the woman are teeming with verbal irony. We know that she is being very shallowly judgmental even while she is seeming to be so pleasant.

The landlady, on the other hand, is described with nothing but positive terms. The speaker mentions her "good-breeding," "lipstick coated" voice, "long gold-rolled/Cigarette holder," all possessions that should make her a respectable lady (lines 7-9). These words describing her wealth are neutral in regard to her personal character, but allow that she could be a good person.
"How dark?,"

After recording the all-important question, "How dark?," the poem pauses for a moment and describes the surroundings to give a sense of reality that shows that the ridiculous question had really been asked (line 10). The speaker describes the buttons in the phone booth, the foul smell that seems to always coexist with public spaces, and a bus driving by outside. His description gives us an image of where the speaker is located: a public phone booth, probably somewhere in the United Kingdom.

The "Red booth," "Red pillar-box," and "Red double-tiered / Omnibus" are all things that one might find in Leeds, the British city in which Soyinka had been studying prior to writing this poem). In addition to the literal images that this description creates, a sense of the anger running through the speaker's mind is portrayed by the repeated use of the word red. This technique is the closest that that the speaker ever comes to openly showing anger in the poem. Although it is hidden with seemingly polite language, a glimpse of the speaker's anger appears in this quick pause in the conversation.

In the end, the landlady repeats her question and the speaker is forced to reveal how dark he is. "West African sepia," he says, citing his passport . She claims not to know what that means. She wants a quantifiable expression of his darkness. His response, feigning simplicity is that his face is "brunette," his hands and feet "peroxide blonde" and his bottom "raven black". He knows that she just wants a measure of his overall skin-color so that she can categorize him, but he refuses to give it to her. Instead he details the different colors of different parts of his body.

"wouldn't you rather / See for yourself?"

As it was meant to, this greatly annoys the landlady and she hangs up on him. In closing, he asks the then empty telephone line, "wouldn't you rather / See for yourself?" The speaker, still playing his ignorance of what the lady was truly asking, sounds as though he is asking whether the landlady would like to meet him in person to judge his skin color for herself. The irony in this question, though, lies in the fact that we know the speaker is actually referring to his black bottom when he asks the woman if she wants to see it for herself. Still feigning politeness, the speaker offers to show his backside to the racist landlady.

Throughout the poem, yet another form of irony is created by the speaker's use of high diction, which shows his education. Although the landlady refuses to rent an apartment to him because of his African heritage and the supposed savagery that accompanies it, the speaker is clearly a well educated individual.

Words like "pipped," "rancid," and "spectroscopic" are not words that a savage brute would have in his vocabulary (lines 9, 12, 23). The speaker's intelligence is further shown through his use of sarcasm and wit in response to the landlady's questions. Although he pretends politeness the entire time, he includes subtle meanings in his speech. The fact that a black man could outwit and make a white woman seem foolish shows the irony in judging people based on their skin color.

Wole Soyinka's "Telephone Conversation" is packed with subtleties. The puns, irony, and sarcasm employed help him to show the ridiculousness of racism. The conversation we observe is comical, as is the entire notion that a man can be judged based on the color of his skin.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

TRIFLES by Susan Glaspell

The lecture below is based on the following papers:

The Treatment Of Women In Trifles
by Adam Krentzman

The Use of Symbols in Trifles
by A. Dawn Baire

Major Theme

Sexual: In this play women are pitted against men--Minnie against her husband, the two women against their husbands and the other men. The men are logical, arrogant, stupid; the women are sympathetic and drawn to empathize with Minnie and forgive her her crime.

Politics of Gender

The play, Trifles, which was originally entitled "Jury of Her Peers," was a vehicle for the expression of Glaspell's views on the treatment of women in the 1900's.

Through "Trifles" Glaspell is able to bring attention to the poor conditions women faced, and the sexual inequality they encountered.

The way that Glaspell accomplishes this is through the conversation of two women after a murder. The murder is that of John Wright. It is being investigated by the County Attorney and the Sheriff. Both are men and both believe that John Wright's wife killed him but they can't prove it, so they go to the house with Mr. Hale, who was first on the scene, looking for evidence. With them they bring two women, Mrs. Hale, Mr. Hale's wife and a neighbor to the Wright's, and Mrs. Peters, the sheriff's wife.

The men when they go into the house see a very different picture than what the women see. What the men see is a messy house that is poorly taken care of, but no reasons why Mrs. Wright would kill her husband.

Dirty towels

Broken jars of preserves

To the men such things are just " women's trifles" but the women know that Mrs. Peters must have worked hard to make the preserves. Mr. Hale just says, "Well, women are used to worrying over trifles." This is just another example of how the men saw women as inferior and the often hard work that they did as frivolous.

In the end the men are unable to find evidence but are going to convict Mrs. Wright anyway. However the women have found the evidence and know what happened. They conclude that Mrs. Wright was treated poorly by her husband, as many women of the time were, and she just couldn't take it any more. Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters feel bad because they never visited Mrs. Wright and they both knew from experience how lonely it can be for a woman who has no children. The men could never come to this conclusion because they can't see a man treating a woman poorly.

The first symbol is found in Minnie's quilting.

Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale stumble across some squares that Minnie had sewed, all of which were sewn in a neat and orderly fashion, except one which was sewn haphazardly and carelessly. This befuddles the women and they wonder why she had evidently not cared about this particular square. "Why, it looks as if she didn't know what she was about!" Mrs. Hale comments. The women discuss it for a few moments and impulsively, Mrs. Hale decides to rip a few stitches and resew the piece. Mrs. Peters, who "is married to the law," is upset over Mrs. Hale's abrupt decision, wishing instead that she would leave things alone.

The women discuss whether or not Minnie hoped to quilt it or just knot it and decide she was probably going to knot it. Knotting is not only the easier of the quilting techniques, but is also the way in which John was killed. Minnie tells Mr. Hale that "he died of a rope round his neck" while he slept. Everyone feels this is a strange way to kill a man. Mrs. Peters notes "It must have been done awful crafty and still."

The other symbol is found in a dead bird wrapped in silk

Mrs. Hale says that "[Minnie] was kind of like a bird herself..." She also says that "when she was Minnie Foster, one of the town girls singing in the choir," she was full of life and probably a very happy and pretty girl. The women decide John would not have liked the bird because he was "close," "hard," and like a "raw wind that gets to the bone."

Mrs. Peters exclaims "Somebody-wrung-its-neck." Mrs. Hale says of Minnie, "She used to sing. [John] killed that, too." Although it is never implicitly stated, it is obvious that John killed the bird and because of the "stillness," isolation and loneliness Minnie felt, she killed John.
As previously stated, Glaspell uses symbols to further her theme. Had the men not degraded the women and their "trifles," they may have found the evidence they sought.

Why trifles?

The little things, the "trifles" that the men dismiss, are all that the women need to discern what happened to John Wright. The little bird with its neck wrung parallels John Wright's death. The same knots used in quilting are inferred to have strangled John, and the lack of attention he paid to his home, much less his wife, clearly shows that this man was like all the rest of the midwestern men--uncaring.

The uncaring concern and the lack of attention for detail are what Mr. Hale, the Sheriff, and the County Attorney do not have in their quest for evidence; therefore, everything else around them is petty and insignificant. This distinction includes the women as well.

"Trifles" emphasizes the actual dismissal of the women. If women were not merely relegated to running the farm, then perhaps they would not resort to killing their husbands in an effort to bring some peace into their lives.

Study questions

1. In Trifles how does the physical location of the characters help develop the theme? Who are more fully developed, the two women or the three men? Indicate several ways Susan Glaspell conditions the audience to accept the final decision.

2. In the play, Trifles, women are pitted against their husbands and other men. How are the men and women portrayed?

3. The play has mythic elements: the setting is a bleak landscape; the main characters are never seen on stage; the struggle between them is echoed by the two women and three men on stage. Do these elements lift the play, from its regionalism, and give it a universal importance?