Arts of the Contacts Zones

We began this class with reading Mary Louise Pratt’s essay “Arts of the Contacts Zones”. We soon learned that this essay was going to be the building block of all our work for the rest of the year. By reading this essay, I was able to understand the meaning of being able to read a text through the lens of a theory and I was able to use this concept of writing in each of the papers that I wrote throughout the year. The first essay that I wrote was “On the Other Side” dated February 12, 2010.

I was able to use Pratt’s theories of writing and her ideas of “contact zones” as a way to develop my essay about being a female hockey player who was no longer considered to be in the dominant culture. I incorporated my own experiences with “contact zones” and explained the affect it had on my life. Seeing as though this was my first essay of the class, there are many areas in this essay where I could of expanded my ideas and taken my thoughts further.

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A specific area where I could of done this was when I stated how “I slowly began to disassociate myself from hockey because I couldn’t deal with the judgments and stereotypes I kept being labeled” (Gray 4). After this statement I moved onto new ideas and thoughts. If I wanted to make this essay stronger, I believe I should of looked deeper into why I wanted to dissociated myself from this culture and how I was able to do so. This would have given my argument not only more support, but it would have expanded it as well.

In addition to reading this essay, I found it quite odd at the fact that I never mentioned marginalization, which is another term that Pratt had incorporated in her essay. I was talking about being in the marginalized culture throughout my paper and the affect it had when you’re not in the dominant culture. I believe if I had brought up marginalization, it would have given my paper more power and foundation of Pratt’s theories. Even though I used a lot of Pratt’s concepts, I had no direct quotes from Pratt’s essay, which can be really important in a paper to not only add evidence, but give support as well.

While there are obviously areas I could have improved in, I believe I did an overall good job of reading against the grain instead of summarizing my experience. I was able to go in depth of why I felt the way I did due to the fact I was not in the dominant culture and gave examples of experiences I went through where I felt this way. The second essay I wrote was “Othello Syndrome” dated March 22, 2010. In this essay I explored the parallels between racism and jealousy and how it ultimately can lead to violence.

I was able to use the lens of Anne DuCille and write about the character Othello and how his actions were parallel to those of O. J. Simpson. I was able to incorporate a lot of DuCille’s concepts like “browning” and the “Mandingo Syndrome” into my paper to support my claims as well as incorporating quotes from Othello. I noticed that I used a lot more evidence from the reading than I did in my previous paper. The transition between paragraph to paragraph seemed to flow much better and not be as choppy. In every ending sentence of each paragraph, I incorporated that idea into the beginning sentence of my new paragraphs.

An example of this is when I began a paragraph explaining what exactly the O. J. Simpson trial was after I had just ended the previous paragraph with “In her essay, DuCille examines what effects interracial relationships have on the people involved and relates it to the O. J. Simpson Trial” (Gray 2). Even though I found many strong areas, there were still areas that seemed weak. As I read over this essay, I realized that I struggled with doing deep analysis and found myself almost summarizing at times. An area where I found myself summarizing is when I talk about the play Othello and seemed to be retelling the plot of the play instead of analyzing why each incident occurred.

The last essay I wrote was my research paper, “The Outsiders” dated April 30, 2010. In this paper I incorporated a majority of the reading throughout the semester and used them as evidence for my topic of how the marginalized cultures in society are forced with a struggle everyday of their lives due to the dominant culture. This seems to be my strongest essay due to the fact I did a deep analysis of marginalized cultures and used numerous amounts of evidence from past readings to support my claims.

I compared the amount of quotes I used as support in this essay compared to last essay on Othello and realized it was almost double the amount of quotes. The fact that I incorporated so much support in my claims, made the reader more convinced of my argument I wrote about and in the end really made my paper stronger. I believe that I had a strong introduction that pulled the readers in because I wrote it in a way to connect with the readers by talking about an experience that a majority of us have gone through. I began it saying “We all remember the first day of high school” (Gray 1).

By doing this I was able to get the reader involved in my paper as well because I was trying to make them relate to a common experience. Another area I believe I did well in was the fact I was not afraid to take risks with my arguments due to the fact that a majority of people are in the dominant white society and my paper looks into how this society is the reason as to why marginalized societies suffer. I was able to use Pratt yet again as the building block of my paper, since she incorporated the whole notion of “marginalization” as well as “contact zones” in her essay.

By using novels like Tortilla Curtain and Reservation Blues, I was able to compare these novels and show how they are both parallel with each other in showing the struggle the marginalized cultures has due to the dominant cultures. In the essays I have written this year, I presented many arguments that mainly had to do the “marginalized society” and the “contact zones” they are involved in by looking at them in alternative viewpoints. I have seen my progression as a writer from being able to not just summarize my ideas anymore, but deeply analyze them.

I also seemed to gain strength in my ability to support my arguments by using quotes and concepts from the the texts I have read. Even with all this progression as a writer, I still see areas I need to work in like my ability to produce a counter argument, which is what I struggled greatly with in my research paper. I see my work as part of an academic project, since I am able to see the progression I have been making in this project as well as be able to see the areas I can still work on in the future.