Sunday, October 30, 2016

Diagramming Sentences, Stories, and Personal History

Whatever complex activities were involved with the onset of puberty, you knew it was there when it rode roughshod over you, its willing and sometimes unwilling recruit. When the subject of diagramming sentences was first introduced to you, you were more than likely an ordinary student, which meant you were more or less interested as opposed to never interested or always, excitingly interested. 

When the teacher announced that the class was about to investigate ways sentences could be mapped or diagrammed, the effect on you was as immediate and persistent as puberty. You were alert to opportunities, eager to experiment, filled with the impatience to get on with a concentrated probing of the mysteries inherent. 

It is too much a mannered trope to say you were acute enough to equate puberty with diagramming sentences, but it is not mere hyperbole to say you took both on with vigor and determination.

This is not meant to suggest you at any time wished to become a grammarian or what in later years you would equate with the process of copyediting, only to relate how the ability to understand the concept of how elements fit within a sentence, and in particular the ways of word order in English, Spanish, and German set your inner flame of interest at the same intensity as puberty did to that aspect of your coming of age.

When you moved beyond high school, there were occasional courses in what was then known as creative writing, the goal being to express yourself. Had there been a creative writing major when you were an undergraduate, there you'd have been rather than the English major you became.

At the time of your studies, being an English major meant a more or less chronological journey from Chaucer and his contemporaries to an omnibus focus called modern literature, by which was meant a line drawn in the sand after the passing of Thomas Hardy, whom you admired, and more or less running out of gas at the early years of the twentieth century.

Although you'd not expected to enjoy the courses and reading in Victorian literature, the dedicated uses of plot and personal entanglements by authors such as Trollope, Collins, and Dickens caused you to settle in a bit, reading into the poetry and political concerns of the men and women who lived and, indeed, struggled with the Victorian mindset.

All this is backstory to the growing awareness of how Victorian attitudes of morality, philosophy, and politics had an effect on the white, middle-class/working class bubble in which you lived and in which you wondered if you were doomed to remain imprisoned by.

Although you could not recognize it at the time, the years of the Victorian era were a gift to you because of the choices you were aware of when you set foot out of the university and into such worlds as television, motion pictures, and the multifarious worlds of the so-called slick magazines as opposed to the so-called pulps on which your tastes fell.

In brief, you became aware of Victorianism meaning an absurd amalgamation of white supremacy, imperialism, and class warfare, the tipping point being the way colonialism and imperialism denegrated all races but the while race and even then did a pretty convincing job of placing difficult obstacles against the notion of servant and working classes wishing to work their way up the social ladder.

In modern times, you've heard political leaders, heads of state, and scholars apologizing for past attitudes and behavior to entire groups they thought to be their intellectual and social inferiors. During your own lifetime, you'd heard close at hand stories of the first Americans, driven to dreadful fates, all in the name of our own American expansionism and so-called manifest destiny.

This brief ramble through your own history is the personification  of you as sentence diagramer and cartographer, illustrating the forces behind why you write, what you write about, and what your true thoughts are relative to the worlds through which you have had to make your way.

You stand in solidarity with groups for whom you undoubtedly bear some culturally infused animus, hopeful some of the skin of bigotry will shed as you pursue attempts to write, edit, and teach away the bogus cultural propaganda to which you and brothers and sisters have been subjected.

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