The Power of Place: Tintern Abbey

The power of place: Tintern Abbey fieldtrip

This post written for my MA in Landscape, Literature, and the Environment.

Tinternabbey-PollardOn the morning of the 5th of November the Landscape, Literature, and Environment Course members went to Tintern Abbey. Our coursework revolves around the word ‘place,’ among others; Tintern Abbey has defined place in many ways throughout the centuries.

Tintern Abbey was originally a home for Cistercian monks and surrounded by the beautiful Wye River forest and hills, it is easy to see why this was once a place for peaceful meditation. The Abbey was later viewed by the writer and priest William Gilpin and he felt it was a prime example of the picturesque. Later, William Wordsworth also viewed the Abbey and wrote a poem ‘several miles’ away, his poem beautifully describes the presence of the Abbey and its haunting combination of nature and mankind.

But, when we arrived at Tintern Dr. Sue Edney asked all of us to set aside our previous knowledge of this place, to let go of the words we had previously read, to not read the informational signs, nor take any pictures, and simply interact with this place as if seeing it for the first time.

This exercise really let the place of Tintern be something completely distinctive for each individual. I felt that my connection with the Abbey and its forms of human and nonhuman nature was much stronger when I let go of the expectations I might have had, whether because of the true history or because of an author’s description. I found a certain imaginative energy in letting the areas of the place be exactly what they were in that moment rather than what they may have been historically. Also, one of the simplest tasks, to not take any pictures, was so much more freeing than I had expected.

We re-entered Tintern Abbey after this first 15 to 20 minute exercise and none of the previous rules applied. During this portion I found myself wanting to retrace the steps I had taken the first time but I couldn’t recapture the feeling and connection that I had had with the place. I would attempt to take a picture and capture the awe and beauty of a large window; instead of stained glass the beauty of the space was through the changing leaves, soft grey fog, and dewy grass. However, none of the striking beauty that I had seen in the first exercise could be seen through my camera lens (the lighting was wrong, the angle wasn’t right, etc.), again I couldn’t capture the same feeling.

Tinternabbey-pollard2These exercises yielded different results for each of us. Some might have found the second more rewarding and some might not have felt much of a difference. But, the exercise showed the power of a place, regardless of history or whether a place may be considered picturesque. The power of Tintern Abbey’s ‘place’ can be as simple as an individual’s perception.

Ntiri-Wayne’s Article

The article “How Minority Becomes Majority: Exploring Discursive and Racialized Shifts in the Adult Literacy Conversation” by Daphne Ntiri-Wayne was very interesting and timely. I say timely because it is a relatively current article (2013) and the entire time I was reading it I couldn’t help but think of the current state of Baltimore’s population. Baltimore’s crisis is something that I had already been thinking heavily about and I had already been prompted to look at it with a larger scope in my African-American Literature class and so this article opened that scope a little more. The most influential section for me was the relating of the literacy pursuits of Latonia and Alphonse and then the summary of these findings. I thought it was striking and again, induced my privileged white guilt, but then also induced a new side of me. My independent research project focused a lot on the different approaches to human rights issues and so I can’t help but relate this article to what I gained from the countless theories that I read for my independent research. While this is a most effective way to examine literacy and a human rights offense it also is a very sharp double-edged sword. The human rights approach constantly walks a fine line of being influential and simply inducing guilt that creates only temporary action. I feel like this article touches on that issue indirectly but I wish that it had been more directly addressed. I know that right now I have my head contained in a box that has been formed by countless theorists (or some might say critics) and so this gives me a great bias right now but I felt like this article was pushing my head into a vat of white-hot-white-guilt and that is not the only thing that is needed to create successful advocacy for human rights issues. I have so many emotions about this article and so many of them stem from genuine interest and a desire to change the world but these are my initial impressions. I think that the issues discussed in this article can relate to my site but in a more parallel than perpendicular sense.

Technology and Reentry

I think that technology and integrated reentry can go hand in hand and I think that was clearly illustrated by both the articles, especially the Tech Behind Bars. Tech Behind Bars clearly shows the negatives in contrast to the positives of keeping the “virtual selves” imprisoned. However, I think that the organization of the 3 parts provides interesting questions, the first part addresses the contraband that is involved with not providing technology in the facility and I think that asks a huge question of “if we don’t provide it are they just going to somehow get it anyway?” Now, this seems problematic to me, if this were the only argument that was presented, but because this is presented the way that it is you can see the argument grow stronger and stronger with each part. I think that the last piece about the Napa County Jail was the most compelling; simply it was providing the idea of a potential concrete solution. But, my favorite part of this section was the respect that was implied towards the incarcerated individuals, but also the responsibility that they were given and I feel that responsibility is one of the biggest issues/or non-issues with a successful integration of reentry. I also found the 3rd part the most interesting because it brought to the forefront one of my biggest issues with LCDC, which is video visitation. Video visitation has been fully implemented, to the point where in person visits are no longer aloud and each session costs 15 dollars an hour. This is a huge problem that is going to heavily impact the psyche of incarcerated individuals and this is not a healthy integration of technology and incarceration; video visitation should be a choice not the only option. The role of technology must be balanced just like other aspects of modern day, successful reentry means that you know priorities and the responsibility that comes with that. However, more than this reentry needs to have an element of knowing the tools on the outside and if not knowing how to use the tools exactly, then knowing the ways to know how to use those tools with little or no cost to you. Those ideas seem very challenging, so I think that the Napa County ideas are still the strongest presented.

Malala Yousafzai and the Presence of Time for Incarcerated Individuals

Beyond Critique: Global Activism and The Case of Malala Yousafzai by Phyllis Ryder does seem to inadvertently invite a lot of questions about how we, as facilitators, can represent our writers versus re-presenting them. Although this piece is focused on one global activist campaign and Malala’s agency, or lack therof, from that; this piece can be easily applied to how we view agency in the workshops that we facilitate. When thinking of the western slant that American’s (and other Westerners) place on activist’s such as Malala, it is easy to see how a great cause can be translated into something else, or owned by someone else very easily, so easily that it can be forgotten whose agency is whose and why that would even matter anymore. However, agency is always incredibly important and when we often are the representatives of our workshops outside of workshop, we need to remember how to present our writers, being sure to give them their own voice and the own options of representation.

As far as The Presence of Time article, I was extremely intrigued by some of the slightest differences between the constructive and destructive language tables. The language that the incarcerated individuals were using needed several readings before I fully understood how negative one could be with only small differences. These tables made me think of when the men discuss being “on the outs” and what that phrase even really means. Obviously in the context of our workshops everyone knows what that expression means and the freedom that that phrase holds, but it is also an expression that can be used in many other contexts and have much more negative meanings. This example definitely made me think about what time is and how these men can hold it and also have it shattered, all depending on the day and the incarcerated place.

I find that relaxing with some soft music and journaling has been the most effective self-care for me this semester. I think reflecting on the whole experience helps my self-care, even on good days, because I am getting all that I can about the goodness and the “badness” of that workshop; truly learning from experience.

UNESCO and Literacy

I feel like literacy as UNESCO has defined it has many limitations. “Literacy is an indispensable foundation that enables young people and adults to engage in learning opportunities at all stages of the learning continuum.” Although this definition is very correct in the idea that literacy is indispensable most of the time, like the idea that you never forget to ride a bike, you hopefully don’t forget to learn how to read or write. Also literacy is the foundation of all learning especially with the five different approaches that they mention on page 21. However, then it says that this foundation provides them with the ability to engage with their community and its learning opportunities. I find this part of UNESCO’s argument to be very flawed because it blatantly ignores the way literacy can, at times, be alienating and also does not control whether a community will accept you into their learning opportunities. Literacy can be very limiting with gender in many countries throughout the world today because some cultures still view the education of women as unlawful. Now, UNESCO slightly addresses the limitation of what they have presented but they are simultaneously using language to further alienate these already alienated communities. Then, looking locally at what CLC is attempting to accomplish with LCDC, Turning Point, and Mathews House, we as interns can see a clear alienation of the populations we are working with. However, with our populations most of the members are literate and very talented at writing, reading, or both. When the men and women we work with are then outside of their programs or the LCDC they are not necessarily accepted into other learning opportunities whether they are literate (and perhaps published) or not. These ideas that I have presented seem to shatter the idea of the continuum that UNESCO has presented us with in this foundational definition that they present. The power of language used when discussing literacy doesn’t seem to correlate properly in my opinion.

Erin Anderson and Street Papers

Anderson’s article provides a lot of positive background to the Street Papers movement. However, she is honest and discusses all of the disadvantages with the movement as well. The beginning of the article mainly focuses on the issue of being unable to have a proper reach as a paper without a more technological advancement. She is drawing attention to the issue of wanting a local movement that can reach beyond the local with its influence, which is something that I think the SpeakOut! Journal struggles with in some ways. We have a small national influence because we do send our journals our to various places but we also have a local influence that can feel limited at times. I understand Anderson’s frustration in the beginning of her article, between wanting to inform the locality and have all the voices be heard by all the people in the area. However, Anderson makes the astute point of saying that only certain people will want to hear what these voices that are normally unheard, she states that politics and other frustrating implications will always be a factor with vendors and readers. The second part of her essay is also intriguing as Kristen works on technologically advancing the SpeakOut 2.0. Although the goal of blogs is the power of publishing in a global framework and creating an “inclusive communicative agency”, Anderson also points out that blogs pose the problem of taking away from the actual physical publishing of pieces of work that is given with journals and street papers. I felt that one of Anderson’s most powerful statements actually came from her section where she does address the issues of technological advancements of community literacy movements, “It is safe to assume that the opportunity to learn new skills, build relationships with peers, and express themselves to a public audience will be enough to motivate those vendors who are inclined to find time to participate” (92). I felt that this quote really embodied our goals with the SpeakOut! Journal and with SpeakOut! 2.0; we are simply choosing to have faith in the thought that the voices that have been unheard are given the chance to speak and others of the community will do whatever they can to hear them after they see the initial value of the project.

Local sex trafficking and literacy update

My research for local sex trafficking and literacy has been going very well. I am not having any trouble finding sources of material to look at through various lenses in order to accentuate my language and literacy sections. For this area I have mostly been building off of information that I found from the sources of my annotated bibliography. I am also able to find interesting cases of reporting local and domestic sex trafficking online very easily. I am now attempting to move to the interview part of my research now that I have a nice basis and I am comfortable with the interview questions that I have created. However, I am having a little trouble contacting my prospective interviewee’s because the organizations I am looking into don’t seem to have a constant representative that I can contact. For now, I am addressing this problem by emailing several different contact avenues for each organization, and I chose to start this process last week. This week I am going to attempt to call all of the organizations to perhaps help with the current challenge of non-responsiveness. Also, I am on the emailing list for Amy’s House, a local trafficking victim shelter that has been trying to open for over a year, is attempting to officially open tomorrow (Wednesday February 18th) and that provides a potential source that I did not foresee happening. Overall, I think that my greatest challenge currently will be attempting to successfully interview all the organizations that I hope to interview. But then, attempting to build a plan for literacy and human trafficking advocacy will be the final challenge that will be the most difficult and I hope that my new chosen pathway (white paper) will be an effective way to help spread awareness for the Fort Collins community.