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Oh No. Symbolism of Black/Dark.

(9 Posts)
tararabumdeay Tue 31-Oct-17 22:42:34

Halloween and reading some of Frankenstein concentrating on the theme of the unnatural.

I pointed out that the 'creature' had 'straight black lips' and raised a huge issue of how to analyse such symbolism without degrading the terms: 'black', 'dark', 'night'.

The plenary was a discussion about why this occurs in English Language and Literature, and to be honest, back peddling with tales of Celtic culture and long nights.

I don't think I quite dug myself out of that hole with my knowledge and waffle. I feel awful.

How can I avoid doing this again? Please help!

scissormister Tue 31-Oct-17 23:34:16

Honestly? English literature is quite racist. It's not your fault and I don't think you can do anything about it. Acknowledge, counter-teach and move on. As an ethnic minority student (and now teacher of English), that's what I would appreciate. More honesty, less embarrassment. Some practical counter action, like 'And what might John Agard have to say about this, discuss?'

scissormister Tue 31-Oct-17 23:37:15

I mean it's a whole topic for discussion and essay writing in itself. You could get some really good work out of it , depending on your students.

echt Wed 01-Nov-17 03:20:42

The creature had straight black lips because it's made of dead body parts. The whole description of the thing is that of a corpse.

Racism has nothing to do with it, though it can with other texts and contexts.

The wider issue of the connotations of black with night are also non-racist, so not back-peddling on your part.

tararabumdeay Wed 01-Nov-17 06:52:17

Thank you for your replies and ideas.

hesterton Wed 01-Nov-17 07:00:17

Have a look at 'Soul as Black as Coal' - a poem written in response to a well-meant but flawed Russian poet's lament at the death of Martin Luther King. It's a wonderful way of exploring connotation of colour in language.

The Russian poem went something like... although his skin was black, his soul was white as the driven snow...'

Guellin - a Black poet -wrote this response which is wonderful.

genius.com/Nicolas-guillen-what-color-annotated

hesterton Wed 01-Nov-17 07:04:29

I don't think you have anything to feel bad about but you might like to use this as a starter to get students to question these common connotations.

MaisyPops Wed 01-Nov-17 07:10:00

The creature had straight black lips because it's made of dead body parts. The whole description of the thing is that of a corpse.
This.

Racism has nothing to do with it, though it can with other texts and contexts.
This.

The wider issue of the connotations of black with night are also non-racist, so not back-peddling on your part.
This.

Talking about the colour black is not racist, nor is talking about dark or night. If it is then someone better come and report my lessons on pathetic fallacy.

CakeFreeWonderland Wed 01-Nov-17 20:27:56

@scissormister

No, English literature is not "quite racist". For most of the history of Eng. Lit. nobody had invented the modern idea of race or racism. Anachronistic analysis of old literature isn't edgy or clever, it's imbecilic.

What Eng. Lit. teaching and learning Is full of is people who think that calling everything racist is a brilliant move because it shuts down any discussion and avoids anyone having to think.

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