Final Assignment

Aidee Manzano and Emily Decker

ENGL 129 Literature and Cultural Diversity

Sarah Boyd, Dept of English and Comparative Literature

Fall 2018, UNC-Chapel Hill

Course Description:

English 129 – Literature and Cultural Diversity- is a course offered at Chapel Hill that emphasizes studies in four specific racial groups in the United States using US English-language literature. It fulfills the LA (literary arts), NA (North Atlantic World), and literature in the United States The course will only cover five ethnic groups: African American, Middle Eastern, Asian, Native American, and Latinx, but is not limited to these groups. This course will be used to further explore the pain and joy experienced while journeying to discover one’s’ identity as an American and as part of other peoples ethnic groups. Students will see the split worlds of others and hopefully gain a better understanding of the effects rejection/acceptance can have.


This course has chosen to concentrate solely on racial diversity so as to have time to briefly delve into a select number of racial groups. Unfortunately, not all groups can be touched on, which is why only five ethnic groups have been chosen to be the center of discussion. However, so we can look at multiple ethnic groups we will be omitting focus on other areas of diversity such as disability, gender, and LGBT issues. Even if some of those issues will be present in the readings, they will not be the main focus of the class. In order to give each group an equal amount of time, for two to three weeks the class will be structured around a certain group, with each one being assigned either one book and/or movie, and a few supplemental assignments. The supplemental assignments will be used to further enhance your understanding of the material and help you draw your own conclusions, as well as to connect the topics seen in the works with present day issues. The class will first start out by concentrating on Native American culture, with Love Medicine (1984). This book is written by Native American author, Louise Erdrich, and uses various short stories to tell the stories of a family living on a reservation in North Dakota and their struggles with trying to connect to their past and culture, and trying to live and assimilate to the culture around them. The story also makes sure to describe the history and traditions of Native American culture through its interesting narrative style and themes. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down (1997) written by American author, Anne Fadiman, will be used to look at Asian culture. This book looks at how differences in cultural beliefs, and a lack of understanding can lead to disastrous consequences as seen through a real life case of a Hmong child in the US. This book uses every other chapter to discuss the broader themes of Hmong culture, customs, and history, and the issues with immigration as seen with discrimination and assimilation. African American culture will be covered by watching the movie The Help, which came out in 2011, but is a period drama that looks to uncover racism and tell the story that is seen in the South during the 1960s. This section will also be paired with assignments that aim to give you a chance to reflect on racism back then compared to racism now. Middle Eastern culture, which has become a prevalent topic in the United States recently, will be looked at through the book The West of the Jordan (2003) written by Laila Halaby, an Arab and American author. It follows the lives of four cousins, living in either Jordan or the United States, as they struggle to make sense of their national and ethnic identities. The last group that will be talked about is Latinx, and will consist of the book Bird of Paradise: How I Became Latina (2013) by Raquel Cepeda, and the movie Under the Same Moon (2007). Under the Same Moon tells the story of a boy who tries to cross the border from Mexico to the United States to find his mother who illegally immigrated earlier in order to provide for her son. This movie will provide an insight into immigration and the reasons for immigration, topics especially important today. Birds of Paradise: How I Became Latina is the last book because it tells a story that can be applied to all the different racial groups we have focused on. The book is separated into two parts, Part I and Part II. Part I focuses on the author’s childhood and early adulthood in New York. Part II depicts her journey to discover her true ethnic identity in order to help her reconcile her family conflicts and bring closure to her struggle to figure out her heritage. The main purpose of the class is to be able to gain insight into different ethnic identities, what culture and heritage means to these people and their struggles to connect with their own heritage and those of others. Once the class is finished you should be able to create connections between what is read and seen to current events, as well as to become more informed on the topic of racial diversity.


Week 1:

Mon: Love Medicine: start – pg. 70

Wed: Love Medicine: pg. 71 – 130  

        Read Louise Erdrich’s “Indian Boarding School Runaways” and “I Was Sleeping Where the Black Oaks Move”

Week 2:

Mon: Love Medicine: pg. 131 – 190

Wed: Love Medicine: pg. 191 – 250

        Short response due before Week 3

Week 3:

Mon: Love Medicine: pg. 250 – end

Wed: The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: start – pg. 60

Week 4:

Mon: The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: pg. 61- 120

Wed: The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: pg. 121 – 181

        Podcast due before Week 5

Week 5:

Mon: The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: pg. 182 – 241

Wed: The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: pg. 242 – 301

Week 6:

Mon: The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: pg. 301 – end

Wed: Look up information from the actual case described in the book

        Short Response due before Week 7 (respond about similarities and differences, as well as why author chose to tell the story the way she did)

Week 7:

Mon: The Help

        Short response for class on wed. about what racism looks like now, is there still some present or no? Did The Help do a good job at portraying what it was like in the 1960s or no?

Wed: The West of the Jordan start – pg. 60

        Research the history of Jordan and the United States.

        Podcast due before Week 8

Week 8:

Mon: The West of the Jordan pg. 61 – 160

Wed: The West of the Jordan pg. 161 – end

         Short response about whether or not you think the book broke or reaffirmed Arab stereotypes and why.

Week 9:

Mon: Review for Midterm

Wed: Midterm

Week 10:

Mon: Under The Same Moon part 1

Wed: Under The Same Moon part 2

Week 11:

Mon: Watch Under the Same Moon

        Interview POC due before Week 13  

Wed: Birds of Paradise start – pg. 60

        Short response

Week 12:

Mon: Birds of Paradise pg. 61- 120

Wed: Birds of Paradise pg. 121- 180

Week 13:

Mon: Birds of Paradise pg. 181-  230

Wed: Birds of Paradise pg. 231- 280

Week 14:

Mon: Birds of Paradise pg. 280-end

Wed: Start Final Paper
Week 15:

Mon: Look up some info so can participate with guest speaker

Wed: Guest Speaker

       Final Paper Due

Week 16:

Mon: Review

Wed: LDOC Get ready for Final!


Hidden Figures Long Form Essay

In the media, racism is either non-existent or intensely focused upon. In the case of Hidden Figures, a movie about three black women, Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, and Dorothy Vaughan, who struggle to prove themselves in the segregated and male-dominated world at NASA, it leans toward the middle of the two. This middle-ground is a trend that is even seen with recent shows like 2 Dope Queens, a show meant to highlight the talents of those from diverse backgrounds. However, this show falls flat in establishing its desired message, which also occurs in Hidden Figures despite both discussing or showing controversial issues. While Hidden Figures excels at getting the message of racism across, it restricts the conversation it can have on the topic and thus limits the impact of its message because similar to shows like 2 Dope Queens, it resorts to nonconfrontational tones and supporting characters that act as a crutch to the stars true success in order to pander to a wider audience.

Altering a narrative in order to connect to a wider audience isn’t new. It’s been seen in books like Uncle Tom’s Cabin and even more recently with HBO’s special 2 Dope Queens. Uncle Tom’s Cabin was a book written by a white woman that portrayed a tamer side to slavery and ended with the main character, Uncle Tom, gaining freedom through death. Despite causing feelings of indignation and anger from the black community, the white community responded strongly to the story. That’s because in order to get the white public to resonate with the message the author had to create characters that they could empathize with while not feeling like they were being attacked for the institution of slavery. A similar mentality is still prevalent as seen with 2 Dope Queens which premiered on HBO in February of this year.

2 Dope Queens is hosted by two black, female comedians, Jessica Williams and Phoebe Robinson, who invite various guests and comedians onto the show. This show is based on their podcast, of the same name, which focused on promoting comedians and people of diverse backgrounds, such as people of color, females, and those of the LGBT community. However, the show does not fully embrace the original purpose of their podcast and in the first episode, only two of the five comedians were of color, and only one was female. Despite their podcast having a history of success, a lot of major companies are still afraid to solely rely on the success of minorities and resort to using white actors/comedians/etc. as a way to guarantee some form of revenue. Plus, since the show now includes a bigger and whiter audience, they don’t want to make it feel as though they are excluding them from the narrative. In addition, they steer away from controversial topics since as a new show they don’t want to polarize people. This is what causes them to play it safe and include comedy that is neutral and easy to laugh at but doesn’t necessarily make a statement. When they do include a female comedian, who does a routine that discusses some controversial topics they make her go first so as to follow her up with routines that are “safer” so they can end on a positive and non-confrontational note. Ending with a “happy-ending” makes it so people come back to watch again. However, this isn’t the only tactic they use to get people to stay and watch, they also have a well-known celebrity join them, to add credit to their show and entice people to watch. For the first episode, they use Jon Stewart, even making sure to include his name in the synopsis of the episode. Not only is he used to gain more viewers, he also acts as a way to legitimize their comedy, because if a famous comedian supports your show then it must mean it’s good. However, in doing so they are using someone else’s fame to help support their goals instead of relying on their own humor and talent. Relying on someone else is a trap that is easy to fall into. People make it seem like you aren’t good enough the way that you are, so you change yourself or rely on others to make yourself “better”, but in doing so you lose that originality and feature or message that defined you. 2 Dope Queens gave up the amount of impact their message about diversity would have in order to be successful in the eyes of the public and the company. Unfortunately, Hidden Figures is guilty of the same issues.

While Hollywood has more recently begun to trust that a story focused on minorities can and will make money, as seen with such hits as Black Panther and Get Out, at the release of Hidden Figures, Hollywood was still hesitant about giving the story entirely to three black characters. As such, they resort to lessening the impact of segregation and racism during the 1960s and also include a white male figure who acts as a hero and takes some of the focus from the women’s stories, losing some of the message’s impact, just as Jon Stewart did for 2 Dope Queens. This is seen most prominently with Al Harrison, Kevin Costner, Katherine’s boss. They could have given the narrative completely to Katherine and watched as she climbed the ranks and proves herself to her colleagues by her own efforts. Which they do to a point, but they also use supporting characters like Harrison and John Glen, to shoulder some of her burden and aid in her success, making it seem like she couldn’t have succeeded on her own. There is no reason for them to have these male supporting leads provide such a pivotal role to Katherine’s success, especially when they have characters like the Polish engineer who gives Mary the idea that it is possible to become an engineer as a colored woman. But it is Mary herself who determines her own success. She is the one who takes the matters into her own hands and goes to court to defend her position. Even with Mary’s future depending on the decision of a white male judge, he isn’t acting as a crutch that is needed to help her succeed, he instead functions as a roadblock that Mary must overcome. With Katherine, that’s not the case, because Harrison is very likable, understanding, and is seen as caring for the mission more than the differences in a person’s skin color. Basically, Harrison is an idealized character. Which is the other problem the movie has that lessens the film’s impact: resolving all the conflicts and ignoring the reality of America during that time.

As the movie strives to be a feel-good movie, it aims to end on a happy note to get more people to like the movie, again relying on tactics and tropes instead of letting the character’s story speak for itself. The three women accomplish a lot and it’s an amazing success story by itself, but by the end the movie decides to make it seem like people are no longer racist and segregation is no longer a reality, despite it taking several more years for blacks to gain full rights. In one scene, as John Glen is hurtling back to earth, it makes a point to show all these people from different walks of life standing together with a common hope, not looking at their differences but being brought together by the fact that they are all Americans. This is even more obvious when it contrasts with the various scenes in the movie where it explicitly shows only black families watching the TV together, versus those who were white watching the news somewhere else. Then after they show everyone standing together they proceed to resolve most of the conflicts. Ms. Mitchell, the white counterpart, and a roadblock to Dorothy’s success, finally gives Dorothy her rightful title of supervisor and even asks for her help in teaching her own “computers” how to program the IBM. Katherine, through the help of John Glen, gets her job at the Space Task Group back, and Mary is now a certified engineer. It’s a very idealistic ending, and while it does highlight each women’s very real achievements, it doesn’t acknowledge that segregation and racism did continue, even at NASA. As one computer programmer who reviewed the movie said, “the strange thing for me is that I saw more black programmers in this movie than I’ve ever encountered in my entire career… Even today, some of my customers look at me funny when I show up to fix the problem” (Henderson). Meaning there is still an issue with racism and explains why 2 Dope Queens was formatted the way that it was. While the movie misses the chance to really delve into the full extent of segregation, at the very least the times it does focus on it, it does it well.

Hidden Figures scenes of segregation and racism work because they not only contrast scenes of the women alone vs them at work it also emphasizes the microaggressions they face. These microaggressions are what really helps create an atmosphere of tension, and highlights how it’s the small things that can slowly eat away at a person’s patience and tolerance. Most of the examples of racism are seen through the way her colleagues look at her when she enters a room, how they don’t talk to her, or how they get her a coffee pot that says “colored” on it, or even how a white woman hurries her daughter away from a black man drinking from a colored water fountain. The movie even makes sure to highlight how the little things like going to the bathroom, getting a library book, or going to class are much harder for a person of color. When they do acknowledge the historically violent and oppressive moments of segregation, they do so subtly. A brief scene of people protesting with the police surrounding the protestors, a news program in the background, a mention in the pastor’s sermon, or a brief reference to Rosa Parks. They make sure to emphasize these scenes by either making them silent, as with the scene when Katherine first enters the Space Task Group so that you become acutely aware of the stares. Or with a burst of music that highlights the absurdness of the situations they are put in, like Katherine having to run half a mile to go to the bathroom. To emphasize the tension of racism in general, they show scenes that show both the women in the workplace and by themselves. There is an obvious personality shift that is seen between the two locations, so that when they are alone you get to see more of their personalities shine and see them smile and have fun, while at work they are polite, wary, and reserved. It just adds to the effect of how they had to be on constant alert of their situation because one wrong move wouldn’t be tolerated.

The other point they make sure to acknowledge is that racism is dynamic and might not always be obvious, especially to the person who is being racist. Ms. Mitchell, Dorothy’s “villain”, one day tells Dorothy, “Despite what you may think, I have nothing against Y’all” (Hidden Figures). With Dorothy responding, “I know, I know you probably believe that” (Hidden Figures). That scene shows us that despite Ms. Mitchell clearly being prejudiced against Dorothy she doesn’t think she herself is. It creates an interesting new dynamic for a character that at first was only a one-dimensional villain. It gives you some insight into how she views herself. Then there is Katherine’s relationship with Paul Stafford. Paul Stafford is the classic antagonist to Katherine, yet he slowly starts to accept her. He doesn’t have a complete change of heart, as it appears Ms. Mitchell does, but he does begin to grudgingly acknowledge her when she speaks. This is the one time the movie doesn’t have a perfect resolution between a character and their antagonist and shows how very often it is hard for a person to get rid of their prejudices. While they could have overall been more open and obvious about the turmoil that came with segregation, they do portray it as best they can with the limitations they have and highlight that tension and fear that each of the women faced each day.

In the end, the fact that these types of movies are being made is already a step in the right direction. However, the way the narrative is portrayed still leaves something to be desired. It still relies on old tropes like having a happy-ending where all the conflicts are resolved and using more famous actors to support the film. Despite all that, Hidden Figures has a remarkable cast that plays off each other very well and does a really good job at giving the audience a sense of what it would be like to live like and work in the segregated 1960s. Hopefully, now that movies like Black Panther have done so well, Hollywood will no longer rely on cheap tactics to get people to like the movie and instead realize that people will enjoy the story the way it is, without having to change the narrative.


Henderson, Odie. “Hidden Figures.” Roger Ebert, 20 Dec. 2016, Accessed 27 Apr. 2018.

Hidden Figures. Directed by Theodore Melfi, performances by Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe, Kevin Costner, Jim Parsons, Kristen Dunst, and Glen Powell, 20thCentury Fox, 2016.

2 Dope Queens, Directed by Tig Notaro, HBO, 2018.

Day of Disability

Until I spent two days like I was in a wheelchair did I understand just how difficult and inconvenient it was to get around campus. I have seen students in wheelchairs and had some in my classes, so I was surprised just how difficult it is to get places. For one, I tend to take the bus since it’s convenient; however, that’s where the first problem arises. The buses don’t have any wheelchair access, at least not the U and RU, so the bus is no longer an option. The next problem is actually getting into classes. Most of the wheelchair accessible entrances are not immediately seen. In fact, most are on the sides or back of buildings. This is true for both Howell and Bingham. But getting into Phillips is probably the most annoying. You can either go in through Chapman and take the bridge to Phillips and take the elevators or you can take the ramp that is hidden on the side of Phillips. Once through that door, you then have to take an elevator to get to the classrooms. Getting into Murray is probably the easiest since you can just enter through the doors and stay at the back of the room or take an elevator down to the first floor and get in that way. Although the doors at the top are not automated with a wheelchair button. Again, since I’m not actually in a wheelchair I don’t know if it is easy to open up a normal door, but I feel like it requires some finesse and wouldn’t be easy. That is why automated doors are the next big problem. While there might be entrances that don’t require stairs, some of the doors are not automated with a wheelchair accessible button. This is the biggest problem for Hinton James, in fact, you couldn’t live in Hinton James if you were in a wheelchair. First off, the only way to enter the building is to go around the side and use one of the doors to enter into the lobby and take the elevator up. But getting to the elevators requires going through at least two doors, none of which are automated. Finally, I wouldn’t even be able to use the bathroom since there is a step to enter the bathroom. Now, when it comes to eating, Chase is on the ground floor and no stairs are required. Lenoir isn’t that bad since there is an elevator in the back but it’s still not that convenient since you can only enter through the back. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever seen someone with a wheelchair in Chase or Lenoir and now that I’m aware of what actually is wheelchair accessible I can see why.

It just seems odd to me that a lot of buildings are either not accessible or have poor accessibility, considering I do see at least one person a day in a wheelchair. It makes getting to class more of a hassle and you really have to plan out your route. Only after looking at the disability map did I even realize that some buildings had elevators or ramps since I had never seen them before. Doing this opened my eyes to how the age of this campus makes it hard for much-needed innovations to be made. The fact that most of the campus is not accessible for people with disabilities shows that it’s not a priority to the campus, even though there are students that it affects. Especially in this day and age, it seems that a school would be conscious of how they affect their student’s ability to learn. I’m sure if everyone did this exercise some changes would be made; because otherwise, it is easy for people to ignore something when it doesn’t affect them personally.

Comparing Themes from M.L Smoker to Sherman Alexie

Despite people finding issue with the themes and images that Sherman Alexie depicts in his book, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfigth in Heaven, other literary works by Native American authors depict similar scenes. Among them is M.L Smoker’s poem Can You Feel the Native American in Me.

Can You Feel the Native American in Me is a poem that is told in a first person perspective, similar to the chapters like “Jesus Christ’s Half-Brother is Alive and Well on the Spokane Indian Reservation”, where the narrator is never named but the story is told from their perspective. In this story the narrator and her friend/sister, Lara, are at a gas station when a white girl slams her door into Lara’s new car and leaves a dent. Before Lara and the narrator can confront the girl she speeds away. After this happens the story cuts to them sitting in the driveway of their Uncle’s house where their sick aunt is waiting for them as they are there to take care of her.

In this poem themes of community, prejudice and tradition are depicted. The theme of prejudice is seen first. Though not stated directly it can be assumed that the white girl purposely slammed the door of her boyfriend’s car into Lara’s new car based on her and Lara and the narrator’s responses to the incident. This is similar to the chapter “The Approximate Size of my Favorite Tumor” where the white cop pulls over James and Norma because they are Native American and proceeds to take all their money except a dollar. In both cases people went out of their way to be mean toward them because they were Native American. However, the fear that the girl experiences when Lara and the narrator advance toward her, and the enjoyment they find in it, is similar to Victor and the 7-11 manager in “Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven”. Here the manager is wary of Victor because it is the graveyard shift and Victor is dark skinned. Victor decides to have some fun with the guy and pretends he might be a robber and enjoys the uneasiness and fear the guy experiences. He is poking fun at the guy by using his prejudice and suspicions against him. While in the poem the girl gets scared once she realizes that they aren’t going to let her get away with it. Though not quite the same, the girls do laugh at the fear in the girl’s face, just as how Victor laughed at the fears of the 7-11 manager. This fear was brought on because of their prejudices. For the girl it was an obvious and physical act against them, while for the manager it was a subtle and unspoken act. Another theme that is seen in both is the theme of white assimilation and the urge to fit in. In the poem the girls listen to Tupac and hip-hop which contrasts with the traditional music of their culture. This contrast is especially seen when the poems says, “leave out hip-hop beat, add in hand drum” (Smoker, M.L). As they go to take care of their sick aunt they are reminded of their family and tradition and the more mainstream music is replaced with the music of their heritage. This is similar to Junior in college where he drinks with his white dorm mates and makes fun of the past convict despite having more in common with him than his dorm mates. But, because he wants to fit in he goes along with the crowd and forgets his culture and heritage and his past. Just like how the girls were late to take care of their aunt because they had become lost in the world outside of their family. But just as Junior greatly regrets his actions once he is reminded of his roots, the girls express repentance once they see their aunt and uncle. They feel more bad about not being on time to care for their aunt than when they got pregnant and quit the basketball team. Just like Victor feels terrible for beating up Thomas Builds-a-Fire, they feel terrible because they were late to help one of their family members in need. Victor even reminisces on the moment and wonders what in the world happened to their sense of community that he can just ignore and abandon his cousin like that. The differences in the poem and the book are the fact that the girls have enough money to buy a new car for her 18th birthday. In the book there is a constant mention of how they don’t have enough money to buy things or go places. In the chapter “A Drug Called Tradition” Junior’s new car looks good but actually runs terribly. But other than that, they both use drums and basketball to reference Native American tradition, and themes of young pregnancy are also explored.

Even though the poem is short the same themes that are very important in the book are seen in the poem. Neither sugar coat the reality of anything. They both show how sometimes their lives are like a never-ending cycle and how they experience trouble both inside and outside their tribe, but despite their problems they remain a close knit community. Because, despite their flaws they are all going through the same thing and must lean on each other for survival.

Alexie, Sherman. The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven.” Open Road Media, 2013.

Smoker, M.L. “Can You Feel the Native American in Me.” poets.org  Accessed 1 April 2018.

The Doctor and Robin

Robin is everything the Doctor wants to be but can’t and that’s why he is the one that understands her the most, but it is also why she angers him. The Doctor tries to become a beast but can’t because of the past tying him down. Therefore, he can’t be his true self and must instead hide behind a façade. In contrast, in the beginning, Robin is described as a beast and at the end “becomes” one. She forgets her past and lives a life that supports her desire to control everything, despite it being harmful to both herself and others. This outwardly destructive behavior is different from the Doctor where he tries to help people understand their situation, and attempts to point them in the right direction. So, where Robin destroys others to benefit herself, the Doctor tries to mend them but, at the cost of his own sanity. However, it is the symbolism of the dog and the beast that highlights their connection the best.

While explaining his backstory the Doctor mentions some advice he received from Father Lucas where he was told, “be simple, … life is a simple book, and an open book, read and be simple as the beasts in the field” (Barnes 139). To be an animal means you only have to think about yourself. He could be his true self and live day to day, not worrying about his future or past. However, as he continues the story it becomes clear that he is incapable of thinking like a beast. He ends up in a church crying and realizes he can’t escape from his past, since he is a product of it, and thus can’t fully embrace himself either. This idea is seen again in the last chapter, where Robin begins to act like a dog and faces down a stray at a church. This moment was predicted by the Doctor earlier when he says, “…but though those two are buried at opposite ends of the earth, one dog will find them both” (Barnes 113). While this further connects the Doctor and Robin, the last scene in the book emphasizes how Robin has done what the Doctor could not, she has become a beast. She has been constantly running from her past and looking to change her fate, which is why her past is never described to us and is why she is able to stop thinking and become a beast. She can be her true self and doesn’t have to hide behind a façade like the Doctor does. Even the location where this moment occurs parallels each other. The Doctor comes to this realization at a church, as does Robin. The Doctor rejects being a beast and realizes he is chained down by his past. Whereas, Robin accepts being a beast so that she can be innocent of her wrongdoings and finally be free of her past.

The Doctor and Robin’s dynamic is also seen with how they view children. While their views differ, they are both described as children by Nora. The Doctor is very fond of children and wishes he could have children himself. In contrast, Robin has a child yet abandons him. Where the Doctor loves children and values their innocence, Robin rejects them because they show her everything she can no longer have but strives for, innocence. She also abandons them because a child represents attachment and a future, which Robin dislikes, because then she has no control. The Doctor wants that stability, but can’t have it, while Robin has had it, but throws it away.

Their relationship boils down to the fact that Robin is what the Doctor fails to be because while the Doctor lives in the night, Robin is the night. The Doctor looks to the night as a way to express himself, but can only go so far, while Robin is the night, thus, doing what he cannot. That is why he understands her the best, but also dislikes her, and why in the end she is able to whittle him away.


Barnes, Djuna. Nightwood. New Directions, 1937.

Edward Mitchell Bannister vs Duncanson

Edward Mitchell Bannister is a black artist who started creating art in the 1850s, but released most of his work during the 1870s-1880s. His work is reminiscent of that of Robert S. Duncanson from JP Ball’s Panorama. Since Duncanson went to the Hudson River School, a school that focused on portraying a romanticized view of the American countryside, most of his work consisted of landscapes. However, he would also paint scenes of black life in America because he was an abolitionist and wanted to make a statement through his art. Most of Bannister’s work focused on landscape scenes as well, though he goes for a more impressionist style, in contrast to the realism that Duncanson displays. However, Bannister’s paintings don’t contain any signs of racial overtones, and don’t seem to be making any political statement. So, while Duncanson’s work were meant for, and contained, social, political, and racial subjects, Bannister’s message of racial equality was subtler and came solely from the fact that he was a black artist. In fact, he was the first African-American artist to receive a national award, which led some people to try and revoke his award. However, his fellow artists stood by the decision and the award was not revoked. This shows the combination of acceptance and prejudices blacks faced after the Civil War. Despite the fact that slavery was abolished, and they were supposed to be free, while in reality blacks were still being oppressed just in different ways.

Another interesting aspect of Bannister’s artistic career is that he started it because of a newspaper article he read that said that while black people appreciated art, they couldn’t make their own. This is another example of black people being forced to prove their worth and value, and ironically this comment is what propelled Bannister into beginning his painting career, proving the comment wrong. This is similar to JP Ball and Duncanson with the Panorama and how in the beginning of it, JP Ball talked about his career as a way to prove himself in the eyes of the public. Now in regards to Bannister’s work, I think it is because of this degrading comment that he didn’t feel the need to infuse his work with racial or political overtones, because literally the act of him creating art is already a political statement. In addition, his earning of the award was made even more impressive with the fact that he had limited training and schooling. He was the only major black artist during that time who developed his talent without the aid of European painters or influence. This means it was solely based on his work and talents, without any intervention or help from white society. In contrast, Duncanson had schooling and most of his paintings were created before the Civil War. Since most were done before the Civil War he used his paintings as way to try and change people’s minds about slavery. He didn’t just have to prove that black people could paint he was trying to use his art to send a message through his work that everyone deserved to be free. Plus, in his case it worked in his favor that he could say he was educated from a notable school, because it further proved his worth and showed him to be able to be educated, and trained. Since, at that time the idea that blacks couldn’t be taught was still prevalent. While for Bannister, blacks were being educated, so he didn’t have to prove that blacks could be taught, he had to prove that even without schooling and the help of whites, African Americans could create art based purely on talent. Especially since now that the Civil War was over, African Americans now had to prove that they could survive and thrive on their own.

Ball, JP. “JP Ball’s Panorama of Slavery Table of Contents.” 1859. PDF

Bannister, Edward. Approaching Storm. 1886. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington D.C. SAAM Accessed January 2018.

Duncanson, Robert. Waterfall at Mont-Morency. 1864. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington D.C. JP Ball’s Panorama of Slavery Accessed January 2018.

“Edward Mitchell Bannister.” SAAM, Accessed 28 January 2018.