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Tutor profile: Franziska H.

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Franziska H.
Award-winning fiction and essay writer
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Questions

Subject: Writing

TutorMe
Question:

What is the difference between metaphor and metonymy?

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Franziska H.
Answer:

A metaphor is a figure of speech that refers to one thing by means of another. For instance, William Shakespeare famously wrote, "All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players." Of course Shakespeare is not saying that the world is literally a stage populated by hired actors; he's making a comparison for rhetorical effect. A metonym is also a figure of speech in which one refers to something by means of something else, but unlike a metaphor, this 'something else' is not linked by similarity but by proximity. You might for instance reference a speech made by a senator by saying, "The Senate has announced..." Obviously saying 'the Senate' is not the same thing as saying 'this particular senator'; the senator is a part of/has proximity to the Senate.

Subject: Literature

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Question:

Using a poem or excerpt of a poem, analyze how rhythm can complicate or produce meaning in verse.

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Franziska H.
Answer:

As detailed in Layli Long Soldier’s introduction to her book Whereas, the Congressional Resolution of Apology to Native Americans is a document which claims to acknowledge and apologize for atrocities committed against Indigenous Americans by the federal government of the United States of America. This document was signed by US President Barack Obama in 2009, and Long Soldier’s Whereas engages directly and critically with this text. I intend to analyze one particular poem from this collection—“[WHEREAS when offered an apology]”—by naming and complicating the ways in which Long Soldier uses language to characterize settler-colonialism and to challenge the assumptions of the imperial and genocidal ‘logics’ which constitute our country. Long Soldier’s attention to visual dynamics—her characterization of whiteness as surface, blackness as depth—and her use of line breaks and rhythmic disruption to rupture the ‘logics’ of reading and interpretation work to create a poem which resists assumptive frameworks of whiteness, control, and subjectivity. “[WHEREAS when offered an apology]” begins by antagonizing our conceptions of nouns. Long Soldier writes, “WHEREAS when offered an apology I watch each movement the shoulders / high or folding, tilt of the head both eyes down or straight through” (1-2). To understand what is happening here—the effect of these words, and how this effect is produced—I ask that we consider each noun in these lines, how we come to recognize (or not recognize) certain words as nouns, and how when our recognition—our categorization of units of speech as functioning differently from other units of speech—is complicated by rhythmic disturbances that call into question the function of certain words, our notions of reading and naming are disturbed, antagonized. First of course the speaker contextualizes the ‘event’ from which the poem is responding: The speaker has been “offered an apology” (1). An instant later the reader is unsettled; does the ‘watching’ undertaken by the speaker refer to their scrutiny of the apology or to that of the author of this apology, to this ‘other’ speaker? Is there a difference? This all hinges on rhythm. Obviously pauses are necessary in clarifying the subject of a clause, and Long Soldier’s decision to refrain from using commas or other methods which ensure that the reader ‘stops’ in order to assume recognition, naming, of the noun being ‘acted’ upon, the word now subject to interference, governed by intervention, destabilizes our notions of subjecthood. How are we to assess the act of ‘watching’ in the first line? We read: “WHEREAS when offered an apology I watch each movement the shoulders” (1). Without a comma for guidance, there are several interpretations available to us. ‘I watch’ might be acting on or ‘governing’ the ‘apology’—as in, this is an apology I watch; there are apologies I don’t watch, but this isn’t one of them—or it might exert control over ‘each movement,’ in which case we know that there is an apology offered to the speaker, and that this apology demands the witnessing of some movement. The first reading—in which the speaker watches the apology—locates the author of this apology as present in some capacity; how else would one witness speech? The second reading renders the nature of this apology—and the speaker’s reaction to it—as ambiguous. If the speaker is merely watching movement, we have no real basis from which to conclude that this movement is made on the part of the apologizer; it could be the speaker’s movement; in fact it could be anyone’s movement, and thus the apologizer is potentially physically absent when the speaker receives the apology. So what do we do with this? What is the effect of creating an ambiguous subject in a poem grappling with the question of political subjects? In order to answer these questions, I ask that we consider the visual narratives at play. Idioms conceived within the English language often locate light as a source of depth, salvation, and rigorous understanding. We assert that one has ‘seen the light’ when one comes to an understanding of the world that we consider truthful, objective. Obviously such habits of speech emerge even within texts that aim to avoid cliche. Literary fiction and poetry often culminates with an ascension into lightness, an ascension meant to signal some recognition of a higher power or hard truth within the speaker or narrator. Of course when light is intimately described—and indeed it often is within works categorized as high art—it frequently becomes inseparable from whiteness; if the light is not itself white, it retains a certain proximity to whiteness, always characterized through its association with objects or elements of nature we name as white. Here of course I am speaking of whiteness as a color and not a social construct used to categorize people within hierarchies, but nevertheless I contend that this linguistic pattern is racial, and was produced by and continues to perpetuate white supremacy. I also contend that this pattern of speech—though deeply engrained in the English language—is far from fixed; one can subvert and contest this visual schema, and in doing so challenge the foundations and (un)logics of whiteness itself. I argue that Long Soldier successfully undertakes this task by inverting our constructions of whiteness and darkness through the poem’s imagery. She writes, “Pages are cavernous places, white at entrance, black in absorption. / Echo” (11-12). Whiteness is located as a kind of door or threshold one must cross through, must leave behind, in order to access those ‘cavernous places,’ to seek depth characterized by blackness. When we consider this inversion in the context of the poem’s syntactical efforts to complicate the naming of a ‘subject’ governed by verbs, we arrive at the poem’s subtextual discourse on the question of political subjects. Given Long Soldier’s recurring and explicit engagement with a legal document regarding the treatment of Indigenous Americans, I think we can read the final stanza as addressing not merely the subjugation of Native Americans but more specifically their exclusion within legal language, an exclusion produced through a grammar of suffering which categorizes white settlers as political subjects and colonized peoples as invisible, as “crouched in footnote” (14). Here the speaker questions how legal language addresses their subjectivity: “If I’m transformed by language, I am often / crouched in footnote or blazing in title. / Where in the body do I begin;” (13-15). The speaker posits themselves as a potential subject of legal language—I argue it is legal given the reference to ‘footnote,’ and of course given that these poems are written in response to a legal text—but contends that even if they have the capacity to be ‘transformed’ (governed) by state-authored documents, they are never present in the ‘body’ of these texts.

Subject: English

TutorMe
Question:

"Though Danny was frustrated with the story he'd written for class, he resolved to swallow his pride and submit the assignment to his professor." Given the following three choices, which alternative could best be substituted for the word 'resolved' in the sentence above, and why? A) Decided B) Attempted C) Proposed

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Franziska H.
Answer:

First, let's consider the overall construction and meaning of the sentence and how the word 'resolved' functions within it. The first clause presents a contradiction—Danny is unhappy with what he has written, but because the sentence starts with the word "Though," we understand that his dissatisfaction will not be enough to deter or inhibit whatever action is taken in the next clause. Even though Danny expresses frustrations with the assignment he has completed, we learn that Danny ultimately chooses to submit the assignment anyway. In this context, "resolved" means that he has made a choice. "Attempted" won't work here, because even though the sentence would still make sense, it would change the meaning: if Danny only "attempted to swallow his pride," then it's unclear whether or not Danny has actually made the decision to submit the assignment. "Proposed" is a little closer to the original meaning, but usually the word is used to signify the presence of an audience or another person to whom the 'proposal' is being made. The word "decided" is closest to accomplishing the original meaning because it leaves no room for doubt that a choice has been made, and it doesn't carry any detracting connotations.

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