Posts Tagged ‘weblinks’

News of the Triangular Trade

by   |  11.12.09  |  221-Restoration/18th Century

    After reading the intimate meditations of Donne and Herbert or the introspective sonnets of Milton and Shakespeare, the first impression for readers of Behn’s Oroonoko is the striking scale of her novel. Not content to introduce a single setting or domestic love story, she stretches her canvas to include two continents and characters from three very different worlds.

    Joanna Lipking has speculated on the seventeenth-century vogue for travel writing from the New World in her introduction to Oroonoko:

      Early travelers to the Americas described lands that seemed to recover the first age of the world, the golden or innocent time of both classical and biblical tradition. . . . For those at home, the discoveries brought travels of mind: catalogs of the plant life and strange animals, collections of natural specimens and artifacts, a stage fashion for New World pageantry. (Norton Critical Edition 75)

    Behn’s novel comes after a long career as a popular playwright for the Restoration stage where her success depended on gauging the fashions of public taste. For example, Lipking suggests the original appeal of the novel lay in just the catalogs of New World flora and fauna quickly skipped over by readers today. She implies that one reason to begin the novel in Surinam was to establish a cultural ideal of golden innocence, “so like our first parents before the Fall” (Norton 2184), to prepare us for the contrasts to come.

    The most striking and obvious contrast in the novel appears in the juxtaposition of South America and Africa. As Lipking notes,

      No such idealizing marks the reports of West Africa. . . . Like most Native American peoples, West Africans were without written language and might go unclothed, but they provided no scenes of naked innocence, no trustful, open-handed kings. On the contrary, by a reverse stereotyping passed on from book to book, the received opinion was that African women were by nature lascivious, punishments notwithstanding, and the men crafty or “thievish.” (75-6)

    If the South American setting of the novel’s opening shared an untouched, golden innocence with the first age of the world, Africa represents a people that bring together duplicity and a heroic code of courage and brave deeds. New World simplicity and contentment are replaced by the sumptuous luxury and decadence we find in the “Kingdom” of Coramantien.

    However, the more subtle contrast Behn introduces in the novel’s opening juxtaposes naive Americans with no concept of lying and her civilized readers. Lipking concludes in her discussion of travel writing:

      Most of all, [travel books] brought accounts of “savage” people living without divine or human law, as if far back in time or out of time. For reflective writers in Europe, Montaigne, Swift, and Rousseau, among many others, the simpler New World societies could hold a mirror up to the old, letting civilized Europe view itself in all its habitual corruption and deceit, the whole sad tangle of its history. (75)

    With Behn, and later with Swift, travel narratives question the foundations of cultural superiority on which European colonialism was based. The perfect example of this is the English Captain. Behn feigns objectivity over Oroonoko’s abduction but within paragraphs she has her hero questioning the Christian faith of the Englishman, whose “gods had taught him no better principles than not to credit as he would be credited.” Clearly Behn’s aims in the novel are complex and require careful consideration.

    As we research the complex network of politics, religion, and commerce that fueled the triangular trade, consider how Behn’s presentation of the Middle Passage functions within the novel. Does Oroonoko’s suffering only heighten the sympathy for a tormented hero in a steamy romance novel? Or does the novel move beyond entertainment into social satire or critique with the intent of changing views of slavery if not public policy?

Middle Passage Exercise

    After seeing your first piece based on Behn’s novel, your editors were skeptical about her reliability as a source. (Some critics early in the twentieth century doubted whether Behn had even been to Surinam herself though more recent scholars support her claim.) You’ve been asked by your editors to find other sources to challenge or corroborate Ms. Behn’s description of the Middle Passage.

    Spend 15-20 minutes researching the motives and realities of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade using one or more of the links below. In your notes, record leads which support or challenge the truthfulness of Behn’s portrayal. Be ready to distinguish differences and similarities between the slave trade as practiced by the British in the seventeenth century and by other countries in later centuries. Your editors have asked you to consider writing either a provocative exposé revealing the conditions of the Middle Passage or a business profile recommending a promising investment opportunity, so try to find details to support both anti-slavery and pro-slavery positions from the period.

    A Slave Ship Speaks – The Wreck of the Henrietta Marie

    The Slave Trade in Britain – Norton Topics Online

    Breaking the Silence – Learning about the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade

    Keep in mind that the novel’s main action occurs two centuries before the American Civil War, so you’ll need to develop a definition of slavery particular to the world Behn and her readers knew. Historian Dinizulu Tinnie suggests that

      Perhaps the most challenging aspect of studying a phenomenon like the Atlantic “slave trade,” as it was known, is the realization that such developments are not as monolithic and constant as even their vast scope, verifiable statistics, and widely recognized patterns might suggest. It can be easily overlooked, in examining a phenomenon that endured for more than four centuries, involving tens of millions of individuals, that it is in fact a story of individuals: each person, each voyage, each ship has a different story to tell, a different, but definite, impact on history. (“The Henrietta Marie in Perspective”)

    In what ways does Behn’s novel seek to personalize the slave trade by telling the story of this “royal slave”? Is her novel ultimately about slavery, or does Oroonoko represent some other injustice, social or political, she hopes to consider through her suffering hero?

Hidden Knowledge Exercise

by   |  09.30.09  |  221-Early Modern

    Do you believe there are limits to what human beings can or should know? Before class, make a list of subject areas on the frontier of scientific exploration. You may list either broad subjects studied by scientists (molecular biology) or particular areas of cutting-edge research (nanotechnology).

    Now choose 1 or 2 of the items on your list and search Google News for articles describing recent work in this specific or general area of research. Quickly skim the headlines and lead paragraphs of your first 5-10 results.

    Google News

    In our own age of discovery, what attitudes toward science or scientific research are represented by these articles? Consider not only the tone of each but its source. Do you find stories describing the responses of politicians, church leaders, journalists, or scientists themselves? Why do these authors find particular areas of research fascinating, threatening, or something in between?

    Finally, return to the opening question: Do you believe there are limits to what human beings can and should know? Before you proceed, listen to the following reflections on this question by professors and scientists at ACU:

    Forbidden Knowledge? – Dr. Richard Beck, Psychology

    Genetic Technology – Dr. Tom Lee, Biology

Women in the Middle Ages

by   |  09.10.09  |  221- Middle Ages

    Margery Kempe and the Wife of Bath are far from typical women for their time; however, to understand how each stands apart from the assumptions and expectations about gender most medieval readers brought with them we need to learn something about the life of representative women, highborn and lowborn, living in the world or withdrawn from it.

    Spend 15-20 minutes reading about Medieval Women at the interactive site hosted by McMaster University. As you follow the travels of young Christine, you will learn about the opportunities and barriers that women encountered in the Nunnery and the World. Take notes on anything that might inform our reading of the “Wife of Bath's Tale”, including details on work, education, marriage, or the life-cycle of women, before class.

    Medieval Women Interactive

    (If you have audio or video problems, you'll find a Site Map of the main content with links to specific topics.)

The Televangelists Tale

by   |  09.09.09  |  221- Middle Ages

    At the end of the Pardoner's portrait in the “General Prologue,” Chaucer calls him a “noble ecclesiaste.” Whatever else readers think of him, most surely recognize the personality of an impressive churchman or preacher. The Pardoner's actual “Tale” ends like any good sermon with the rioters’ fate underscoring the main text: “the love of money is the root of all evil.” But neither the sermon nor the tale is over. Listen to the following reading of the Pardoner's final words and how it presents the clergy.

    Pardoner's Closing Invitation – read by Dr. Bill Rankin, English professor

    The Pardoner is a timeless character. In our day he would certainly have been a televangelist. Consider the following short profile from Wikipedia on a leading proponent of the “health and wealth” gospel and see if the pitch sounds familiar:

      Robert Tilton regularly taught that poverty was a result of sin. Tilton's ministry revolved around the practice of making “vows,” financial commitments to Tilton's ministry. When a person made a vow to Tilton (Tilton's preferred “vow,” stressed frequently during his broadcasts, was $1,000), Tilton preached that God would recognize the vow and reward the donor with vast material riches . . .

      One of Tilton's most frequent sermon topics was the Biblical story of Elijah and the widow of Zarephath (I Kings 17:8-16). In the story, Elijah comes to a widow who is almost out of food and asks her to prepare him a meal. She replies that she has only enough food for one last meal for herself and her son. Elijah asks her to prepare him a meal first and then promises that God will not let her food be exhausted. In faith she does so, and her food supply indeed does not run out. Tilton regularly used this story in the context of asking viewers to send money to his ministry.

    For more on the Pardoner's successful successors, consider the following sites, both biased and blessed:

    Benny Hinn on Wikipedia and in his own words

    Reverend Ike on Wikipedia and on his own website

    Robert Tilton on Wikipedia and in his own marketing