Up to Snuff #133: What is Literature?

By, Afua Serwah Osei-Bonsu

When looking at literature and qualifying writings or looking generally for “literariness,” what is literature?

What often qualifies as literature is the use of formal elements such as literary devices.  It may appear that it was made for teaching or exemplifying in its use of literary device, such as that of Shakespeare and the example of alliteration.  Another trait that literature has is its attention to its own form, a kind of “self- consciousness.”  Literature is said to be something then, that is meant to be read closely.  It is also something meant to be “laboriously analyzed.”  Text is said to me made of “forms, words and devices.”  Literature is meant for a closeness that is necessary for understanding.  Literature is supposed to be what makes great text.  All of the elements are supposed to work together to make its text whole.  Comparison in literature is supposed to measure up to literary canon.  Where the canon is what has been accepted as great literature, and is as solemn, principled, or holy as “bread and wine.”  Canon was meant to raise the bar and create a standard.  It may come from the old medieval war cannons and the idea of “living under rule.” 

Works cited:

Lit 200 Module Two Lecture Notes, Southern New Hampshire University, 2021

Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition

“Coup d’etat”

“Coup d’etat”

By, Afua Serwah Osei-Bonsu

Family around the dinner table

Dad as he talks to his friend adjacent

“Can you believe it?” “Coup d’etat!”

Said with such excitement

I was wild eyed for their blood thirstiness

Popular among African tribes

In the back of my head I thought

“hot potato”

Someone else without a plan or a skill

Wants to live in the mansion

Drive around the fleet of Mercedes Sedan

Put on the fez

And have all the money

“Hot potato style”

The people they may starve

Or go without electricity

Or air conditioning

Or even worse roads

Or stores

Or even still worse

Famine

That African blood thirstiness

When a dictator has ruled them

Mercilessly

With suffering

When needs were not met

When nations succumbed to epidemics

That blood thirstiness

When they wish to use their last breath

 To overthrow them

“Coup d’etat”

When sometimes the dictator

Will form an opposing group

And overthrow himself

That blood thirstiness

That desperation

The dream of revolution

Then in America

The Expats

Around the dinner table

Said with vigor, passion and revulsion

“Coup d’etat!”

Which lives at the back of the head

Of the children

As they grow up

Not to be the leader

Without a plan

With no bird in the hand

With nothing to offer the people

The next generation grows

Upon this thought

The revolution

It turns out

Is the “spread”

Is the hospitals

Is the schools

Is the restaurants

Is the non-profits

Is the social system

Is the tourism

Is the transportation system

Is the health of the people

Is their prosperity

Is the roads

Is the government

Is the businesses

Is the financial system

Is the nature

Is the knowledge

Is a written language

Is the opportunities

The next generation

Who listened as a child

Around the dinner table

“Coup d’etat”

Prepared their hand

Without knowing it

“Coup d’etat” was a thought

Living and growing

At the back of their heads

Enough and

Enough to give

Not a cinderblock house

But a proper neighborhood

Or community

Not a plastic sheet hospital

But a sterile one

That it will take so much intelligence

For us to survive at all

That we need cooperation

To make it

That we need manufacturing

To make it

That we need security

to make it

Sometimes you put a good one there

And all that bullshit dies

Sometimes you don’t change the old

You build the new

We are always within the “set”

Of our lives

So clearly, even architecturally

We may be oppressed

Freedom may not be what it

Appears to be

The revolution

May look different to the next generation

Then again

You may see those ghettos

As a necessity

Not as oppressive

But as a component of diversity

Economic diversity

And changing wealth

“Coup d’etat”

It turns out

Is the “spread”

You have to secure, block,

Fight, and spread

Up to Snuff #132: Book List, Important Books in Publishing

By, Afua Serwah Osei-Bonsu

Ted Talks The Official Guide to Public Speaking

The Plant, Stephen King

Sociological Imagination, Wright Mills

The Search for Anna Fisher

John Updike

Ha Jinn

Ryszard Kapuscinski

Our Bodies, Ourselves

Why Johnny Can’t Read, Rudolph Fleschs

Dr. Seuss

Gentlemen’s Agreement

South Pacific  (film)

To Kill a Mockingbird

Diary of Anne Frank

Childhood & Society, Eric Erickson

Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, Alfred Kinsey

The Conscience of a Conservative, Barry Goldwater

The Lonely Crowd

The Hidden Persuaders

The Organization Man

Silent Spring, Rachel Carsons

Ecommerce, Paul Samuelson

*** (True Classic) A History of the Book in America Volume 5:  The Enduring Book:  Print Culture in Postwar America, David Paul Nord

Judy Blume

“Primitive Versus Civilized, The Impediment of a Written Language, Consequent Target for Colonialism”

By, Afua Serwah Osei-Bonsu

“Primitive Versus Civilized, The Impediment of a Written Language, Consequent Target for Colonialism”

Title of chosen passage:  “The So-Called Dependency Complex of the Colonized,” by Frantz Fanon (Black Skin, White Masks)

The approach I have selected to view this work is Postcolonial.  Postcolonial critics assess or have chief responsibility with the examination of literature relating to power, hegemony, colonial powers, and views of those deemed colonized by colonial powers or subject to colonization.  Postcolonial analysis may relate ideas about empires, or imperialism, economics, politics, religion, culture, or historical relevance particular to empires such as the British Empire.  Postcolonial writings may perform close readings that look at colonial ideology or subjects relating to things such as “civilized versus primitive cultures” (Fanon, 66).  Postcolonial writings may look at the dissolution of colonial empires or how as in the title of Chinua Achebe book (how) “Things fall apart.”  Postcolonial writings may strive to codify cultures, race, historical occurrences, or things that specify or maintain a semblance of superiority like “first world” or “third world.”  Postcolonial writings may appear racist of lacking in objectivity. 

“Primitivism versus civilized” may have been the ultimate win for the colonials. Primitive nations were impeded by not only primitive cultures that were meant to house and care for the “wild” animals (e.g., African Game Reserves).  Cultures were left undeveloped to maintain what may have been a necessary “rurality” for man’s animal species.  However, what may have tipped the pendulum to swing in the favor of the colonial empires quest, may have been primitive languages with under or undeveloped written components that may have so severely stifled learning that a local news media would provide a shock.  Perhaps it was not a “muscular white skin” versus a black skin without muscle, but the duel of “languages” some written, some not.  It may be said that the speakers, writers and thinkers of a sophisticated English language, and even subsequent British Empire, dominated, speakers of primitive dialects, with almost no intellectual way up, and incognizant. The shortcoming of using such a lens as primitive versus civilized may be that it lacks the necessary delicacy, compassion or range or inclusivity of national accomplishments.

Fanon highlights in “White Skins, White Masks,” “an inferiority complex” (Fanon, 66). He describes how in the case of the Malagasy, “how they drew a closed circle around them” (Fanon, 74). Fanon goes on to describe how a culture can come to have an “interdependence on their colonizer” (Fanon, 74).  Perhaps very often language is a unit, that translates into books and ultimately into schools and education, then advancement, development, wealth and all forms of epiphany, revelation, or discovery.  With each step, a new brick, the notch, and notch way forward. How language impedes primitive cultures or the distinctions that make one more subject to dependence and more vulnerable to takeover.  

A Low Bar,  A High Bar, A Man, A Scholar

Title of chosen passage:  “The Lived Experience of the Black Man,” By Franz Fanon (White Skin, White Masks)

I chose Critical Race Theory to look at the above text.  Some may use Ethnic Studies in place of Critical Race Theory to look critically at texts that involve matters relating to race, the racial experience, race as it pertains to culture, or history and power dynamics.  Some may embrace race or ethnicity through a gender-based lens.  Critical race theory may have been catapulted by the 1960’s American Civil Rights movements as well as American race relations, racial tensions and disparities emanating from barbarism and slavery.  Critical Race Theory looks at representations in literature and makes parallels.  However Ethnic Studies extends itself beyond the African or African American or Black experience and is inclusive of a marginalized racial experience or just plain-diversity. 

A black person may rely on “representation” to liberate themselves from eyes and viewpoints that objectify them.  A black person may steadfastly desire irreverence for his race, to be what Fanon described as “a man among men” (Fanon, 92).  Still further, than a low bar, to be even a man, but a black person may desire scholarship and may create within him this insane desire for an “impossible irreverence.”  Just as he or she is not invisible, neither are the history, the oppression, and the flashing need for immediate resolution.   

Fanon writes how a black person may be impeded by history as “ the grandson of slaves” (Fanon, 92).  How a comment like “Look how handsome that Negro is,” may appear like an absurdity, or a rarity or even radical.  That pasted on to one’s cultural identity is so much adversity, that weighs one’s being down, that radical measures may be required to strip the pasting. 

Literary Theory in this regard represents how canons have excluded marginalized people where there was little if any inclusivity.  Where culture and languages unwritten have eliminated many players from knowledge, from literature, from canon.  Literary Theory is the “tool belt” that Third Wave will utilize in Feminist Theory and that marginalized people will begin to strap on in their intellectual quest to take part and be an included and viable player.

 Works Cited:

Fanon, Frantz, Black Skins, White Masks, “The Lived Experience of the Black Man.” Grove Press, New York, 2008. pgs. 89-119

Fanon, Frantz, Black Skins, White Masks, “The So-Called Dependency Complex of the Colonized.” Grove Press, New York, 2008. Pgs. 64-89

The loveless are hosting a gathering

By, Afua Serwah Osei-Bonsu

The invitation to Sir Snarl’s elaborate gathering promised free “gratis” and fine entertainment.  The guests arrived an old medieval stone castle, where a buffet was laid out and long table was set with beer goblets with caps, fine dishes, and sparkling silverware.   Sir Snarls in his invitation wished to host those in need, in fact it was , “a deed for those in need.”  The entertainment was meant to reflect on disparity and endeavor to lift those so in despair, they may see the world in a new light.  This was an attempt to bridge the enormous gaps between the aristocracy and the poor.  On this day, Sir Snarls wished to see eye to eye with the people, to feel their feelings, to share with them his desires for their labor.  It was a classic bourgeoise and proletariat affair.  It was a very high, high and a too low, low. So, the feast commenced.

 Chorus:  “The loveless are hosting a gathering.  All the food is spoiled.  Lackluster is on the menu.  Air pudding for dessert.  The downtrodden attended the gathering, and now low is now lower than anything.”

 The host, Sir Snarls invited a jester for high sensation and gritty laughter.  He requested also, Lady Agnes, a fine poet for introspection, bird’s eye, and north star.  First, he must slip it in to the “downtrodden” in regards to his need for their labor and warm their hearts with a brief lamentation about his first love now departed. 

Sir Snarls was looking far superior than his guests in a standing collar, perhaps Edwardian.  His  jacket had a fitted bodice.  He had dark undulating hair.  He wore crisp white tights and small shiny gold bars on each shoe in 24 karat gold.  He contrasted the downtrodden, with their flour sacks, potato sacks, patchwork,  borrowed and mended.  One esteemed guest donned a pair of penny loafers.

Sir Snarls welcomes one of his esteemed guests, “Penny loafer I do say!”

After the guests are seated, welcomed and poured beer, Sir Snarls commences the festivities by singing to the downtrodden:

 “Work for me, cook for me, clean for me!…”  “Early man,” he says, “unrefined and uneducated, bellicose and stumbling, whipping and shouting assigned cultures and color coding, the slaughter, the genes, the brain tape and the cloth of the bull fighter was colored!”

Sir snarls gestures himself as a bull fighter.  The downtrodden look back in awe. Sir Snarls has now got the attention of the downtrodden, who are now hungry for more.

The crowd quiets and Sir Snarls attempts to warm the downtrodden’s heart with a brief story about his now departed first love.  “It is now I wish to share with you this heart wrenching story that will deeply tug at your little heart strings, where even the most blackened heart will recall his own true first love,” wails Sir Snarls.  “We begin to share, to relate and consequently to identify with one another.”

“I  recall  this story of my now departed first love, when in courtship, sitting in a garden, much like a fine oil painting, of “Judah and Serwah in the Garden,” when his true loves queries:

“is it time to go, or is time to know, that he doesn’t love me?  his lips lied to me, no little girls or boys for me- no, he’s not picking fruit from my cherry tree,-oh it’s over, it’s over, its over there, somewhere.”

 He replied to his true love he recalls that, “that you better love me! I am going to pick thee a flower!”

“All raise your glasses and repeat after me!” (Sir Snarls)

“Top of her sweetness!” (Sir Snarls)

“Top of her sweetness!” (downtrodden)

“Bottom of her glass!!” (Sir Snarls)

“Bottom of her glass!” (downtrodden)

“Oh blasphemy! Dumlit, bumlit, cumlit!  Dumlit, bumlit, cumlit!”  “Like white lightning , has struck again!”  exclaims Sir Snarls.

“I bring you now the court jester!” roared Sir Snarls with increasing excitement.

“ The finest in all these lands!”  he adds.

Thunderously clapping the downtrodden while sipping beer.

Entering from a hallway on the right comes a classic court jester.  His attire was that of a harlequin in emeralds and dark purples diamond shapes.  He wore a cap, slightly elfin, with three prongs and bell tassels. His shoes also came to a front point and had bells.   He made bell sounds as he moved like reindeer or Christmas.  He entered holding three balls and once in the center before the downtrodden he does a little footwork then begins to juggle.  All eyes follow his balls.  Then finally he pretends to miss his catch and a ball hits “flour sack” in the head.

“Hey!” screams flour sack, “he got me in me head!” 

The Jester does a little curtsey and dance, wiggles his head around as if to acknowledge the flour sack and his first act.  He retrieves his balls and places them in a small matching harlequin sack.

The Jester pointing to two potato sacks in a slow and sensual draw incites:

“He might go to stick heaven, you don’t deliver”

The potato sacks look at each other, “who me?” 

“You mean him?” “To heaven?”

The other potato sack, “To stick heaven?”

The Jester pointing to a patchwork:

“Patch, I‘ll throw the stick and you can bring it back to me!”

Patch responds, “from where?, why?”  “I guess I could sire” 

The Jester pointing to another potato sacker full of mends,

“And you, YOU, “Mend”!” “What is the third stick?  What is the third stick?”

“The third stick?” asks Potato Sack “Mend”, “What is the third stick sire?”

“Oh Bam-lee-bush!,” says another guest, flour Sack.

“What is the third stick?!”  cries out the Jester.

“Bam-lee-bush!” yells back flour sack.

“What is the third stick?” asks potato sack, “oh, it must be bam-lee-bush sire!”

The Jester pulls a small drum from his sack and plays a drum roll….

“Precisely, what is the third stick?”  “Menage a trois!”

“Menage a trois!” roars the court Jester.

Thunderously clapping the downtrodden

Heckling “the third stick,” heckling “menage a trois!” Heckling “bam’lee-bush!”

“Oh, trois!” “Oh, trois!” “Menage a trois!” said the downtrodden.

“There you have it, precisely three sticks!”  says the court Jester.

Court Jester swings left leg up, returns it,  jumps, bows, swings right arm horizontal as if to point right and follows arm as he exits the stage right while the downtrodden continue to thunderously clap and chug beer.

Sir Snarls stands up and appears center, “Oh blasphemy! Dumlit, bumlit, cumlit!  Dumlit, bumlit, cumlit!”  “Like white lightning , has struck again!”  exclaims Sir Snarls. “I say, an insanely wonderful jester and as delicious and this fine feast!”

Meanwhile, the downtrodden serve themselves from the buffet and begin to stuff and gorge their greedy mouths and speak with mouths full of food.  The downtrodden were eager, poorly socialized, and unaccustomed to outings. The feast was inhaled and gorged within minutes. 

Sir Snarls thanks the court jester, “Thank you for you your lovely performance!”

Thunderously clapping the downtrodden.

“Everyone back to your seats for our guest of honor!  Spoons to goblets!”  incites Sir Snarls.

Cling, cling, cling, cling! respond the downtrodden.

“Silence!” halts all the action, Sir Snarls.

Sir Snarls starts to introduce, “Lady Agnes” the poet, who is draped in a long ivory dress, gathered at the waist with a gold rope tie.  She is dauphine, pale.  She wears rope sandals.  She has a small leaf corona upon her wavy and coiled golden hair.  Agnes stands ready to enter with a tear in her eye as she looks out upon the downtrodden.  She wears a gold medallion which catches the eye of the downtrodden as they eat the rest of their food.

Sir Snarls now standing up in from of his seat at the end of the table says with increasing vigor:

“Now we have high in the mountains of success”

“Bright as our radiant sun”

“Glistening like you know where”

“Something for your unworthy ears!”

“A fine poet! The finest in all these lands!”

“Let me hear a round of applause for this fine poet!” “Lady Agnes!”

Thunderously clapping the downtrodden, some clinging spoons to goblets.

Lady Agnes enters from the right slowly and majestically, regally. She is perpendicular to the buffet.

She stands now center stage on slate stone floor in front of the downtrodden. 

Lady Agnes takes a breath, addresses the downtrodden and acknowledges Sir Snarls and briefly closes her eyes, head falls slightly to the right as she begins to speak:

Lady Agnes:

“Oh, celestial skies”

“Oh, heavenly bodies”

“Pancake or Pear? This planet”

“For this invested God”

“I say, for this invested God”

“Where such all prayers go”

“For when the time comes for you”

“For when you are alone”

“For when no one else can”

“For when you have been lovelessly loved”

“For your defiled daughters”

“The perk amidst sorrow”

“The tall poppy you can’t chop down”

“Your pacifiers”

“Yourself forlorn”

“For you, it is for you!”

“When every liquid you bring me, is your beautiful sperm”

“Every liquid is sacred liquid”

“Every flower is her rose”

“For you, it is for you!”

“Down is the tightrope my friend”

“Down is the tightrope!”

“Oh, Fortunate one!”

“You left them on the side of road”

“Down is the tight rope my friend”

“Down is the tight rope!”

“Oh, Fortunate one”

“When the rain has come inside”

“With every step, the crushing of the ants”

“I say to you”

“Who struggles with his own existence”

“To you within man’s preoccupation”

“Searching his depth for the key to his own soul”

“A soul destination”

“Like a parking place”

“Or a lotion”

“Or a smashed glass”

“I say to you:”

(silence)

“You have never had spinach like this before!”

“You have never had spinach like this before!”

A Preferred Existence

By, Afua Serwah Osei-Bonsu

Spanish Artist, Alicia Framis, had an important artwork that was created in the Netherlands around the turn of the century.  As a former, brief artist assistant to Ms. Framis, I was exposed to her, “Wax Maquette.”  “The Wax Maquette” was a kind of conduit where she instructed participants to place their hands within it and envision their ideal life.  The idea was to use an architectural “objet d’art,” as a catalyst that once touched would provoke architectural feelings which would lead the participant to an ideal vision of their preferred surroundings.  It was a kind of “New Performance Art” that she created while resident at the Rijksakademie in the Netherlands around 1995.   

One may use cultural theory where popular cultures magazines like “Veranda,” or “Architectural Digest” present a second vision of ideal or perhaps even taste master ideas.  When one looks to make credible advancements, it is interesting to view a direct method such as Ms. Framis’ “Wax Maquette,”  versus the power of  a magazine to address this type of human desire.  It is as if they exist in two different regions of the brain, where one (“The Wax Maquette”)  taps the imagination and conjures, the other may cultivate or assimilate.

The use of cultural theory allows one to begin to draw parallels between popular culture and art that may have significant results for a viewer to engage deeply with a work of art.  One may begin to make relationships and assess the impact that different media may have on them. 

I think it is like the old “Ouija Board Game” of the 70’s, where you are meant to be inspired and then conjure your own related imagery.  It is as if you were to touch something and let it guide your thought.  It responds to complacency, desire for change, inadequacies, or disparities in housing.  With today’s youth, that are technology and social media driven, it may seem abstract, but could still be effective.  This particular artist had a lot of alternative or unconventional methods for solving social problems.  It is interesting when you compare the viability of different media or objects to accomplish similar things using cultural theory.  The artwork may be a response or spin from the popular French fiction novel by Anais Nin, “Cities of the Interior.”

Works Cited

Framis, Alicia, “Wax Maquette.” Spain, 1995

Architectural Digest

Veranda Magazine

Book Review: A Doll’s House-A New Capacity Approach, Third Wave Feminist Theory

By, Afua Serwah Osei-Bonsu

“A Doll’s House” by Henrik Ibsen, may be viewed through a Feminist Theory lens.  It illustrates and fine tunes what may be some issues for some couples as they delineate their matrimonial roles, when the bar for a woman’s role or education may be too low.  Other woman who have pursued further education, may still be subjected to what I will describe as a “new capacity approach,” where couple roles become defined by their “capacity,” in terms of strength, skill and cooperation.  This woman’s frustration (Nora) or even suffocation within her role, which was described by the character of Helmer as for him she was “wife and child, (Ibsen, 158)”  or in another breath her role was defined as “wife and mother (Ibsen, 157).”  The tension begins when she illustrates for her partner that she is lacking in education and feels subsequently impoverished (Ibsen, 161). Other women may pursue in an educated husband, a partner that is both husband and teacher.  Still others meet and match while within their studies, however many issuers are raised in “A Doll’s House,” like suffocation, or even fear by the husband that the wife’s education is inadequate to educate the children.  Perhaps wife is both mother and governess. Ultimately, Nora felt that it was her husbands fault, that she made nothing of her life (Ibsen, 161).  Perhaps it is at this juncture, that couples conflict when marital roles dominant the time in their life and life does not provide for them their chosen richness.

I chose this theory to engage in advancement of what could now be the third wave feminism.

Works cited:

Ibsen, Henrik, “A Doll’s House.” The Floating Press. 2008

Afua Serwah Osei-Bonsu

Debriefing Leadership Forward Notes

Debriefing Leadership Forward

By, Afua Serwah Osei-Bonsu

It is with great pleasure that I present the forthcoming text, “Debriefing Leadership.”

Perhaps it was a theme in “Confucius,” to train leaders to impact society or the resulting trickle down when one addresses the top of such a pyramid design.  It was imperative to me not necessarily to become myself a leader, but to be one who trained leaders.  Several years ago, I commenced research regarding what should be included in such an undertaking, beyond vision or dreams.  It was recently that I felt a good leader must be a “giver and a caretaker.”  That one must fundamentally “care” for the people.  I began to include then within this necessity for care, “non-profit theory.”  That in the event of a problem where a leader may or may not possess the emphasis on a problem that plagues society, the people must  possess the ability to erect a non-profit to problem solve or remedy an emergent issue that affects them. The leader must create for the people the ability to fund and create new and original non-profits.  Leaders in this regard must possess the ability to plan for a future of problems and empower not only themselves but “the people,” to eradicate the variety of things that come our way.

I chose the theme “training leaders” in a non-fiction paragraph because outside of poetry some of my more serious and relevant writings are non-fiction.  I am hoping to complete a Master’s in Public Leadership with this idea to “train leaders,”  I am working on a book titled, “Debriefing Leadership,” in response to a crisis of leadership in the world.  Very often I find leaders ill qualified or too selfish or unable to grip core issues plaguing society.  We have suffered so many crisis and epidemics and leaders running for office seemed unaware or immune to their gravity.  I am building an outline and research around how to debrief leadership. 

Personally, during the height of the housing crisis, I felt well, perhaps it is down to people like me? I need to get involved, figure out what it takes and feel myself powerful to remedy problems.  I had the idea to write books about the problems to raise money to remedy the problems.  Sometimes you turn not outside, but you start looking to yourself for answers.  I was working in a non-profit in New York City that was addressing housing issues, there were coat drives and outreach.  Sometimes when 20 or 30 years go by and your left waiting for a problem to be solved you must think about starting your own non-profit and letting the government direct money towards you to assist with their remedy.  I have wanted to jump into programs or build credentials or even radical ideas or just work in non-profits on a case-by-case basis. 

Sometimes you wait even 20-30 years and the problem does not go away and people suffer so badly.  We must see what works, what works sometimes, what works every time, what can each of us do? I can make or I can make a maker. I can empower myself or empower each of us for more collective strength.

Works Cited:

Confucius, Harvard Classics Sacred Writings, P F Collier & Son, New York, 1910