THE COMPARATIVE STUDY

The emphasis in the comparative study will be on ‘attitudes, values, structures and styles’ (Syllabus 6.4 p.17)

To assist the students with their written responses to assignments in this area, the following two questions could be useful in considering the overall focus of the writing.

· To what extent does the student become engaged in the conversation between the texts? (Draft Guidelines p 75).
· What aspects of the students’ writing demonstrate this engagement?
 

Note on the students’ writing.

Questions taken from the Higher level Paper.
Work done within a class period (35-40 mins)
 

Question.

Ideas which challenge those of the reader provide much of the interest in reading texts. Discuss this statement with reference to at least two of the texts you studied for your comparative study.

The student responds.

This statement is certainly true and in both texts there were ideas which are challenging not only to myself but to most members of the class.

My idea of Patagonia before I began reading ‘In Patagonia’ was one of a barren wasteland spread across hundreds if not thousands of kilometres.  I was slightly sceptical when I began, in that all I thought I would be reading would be descriptive passages about the scenary and the wildlife.  Imagine my surprise then when I discovered that Patagonia was, in fact, a haven for immigrants.  These immigrants came from all four corners of the world – India, Spain, America, Scotland, Wales.  Bruce Chatwin (author) gives lovely descriptions about each of the different personalities he met along the way.  The Englishman who had victorian pottery and a portrait of the royal family.  The ‘Scotsman’ called Robbie Ross who couldn’t speak a word of English.  Such descriptions about different cultures and personalities in even the most remote parts of earth really did challenge my ideas of Patagonia.

If ‘In Patagonia’ was challenging to the ideas of the reader, then ‘dances with Wolves’ was even more unbelievable.  Think of the Americans and the Indians and you immediately think of two races who can’t stand each other and are permantly at war with each other.  ‘Dances with Wolves’ is an incredible story about John J. Dunbar, a white, who came to live on the frontier alone during the American civil war.  ‘Dances with Wolves’ tells the story of how Dunbar becomes integratted within the Sioux culture and is accepted within the camp.  Such an idea seems far-fetched and almost unbelievable.
 
 
 

Another idea which is challenged within ‘Dances with Wolves’ is the image we get of the Indian culture.  Having been brought up on a diet of cowboys vs Indians = Good vs Bad, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the Indians were in no way ‘baddies’, but in fact, the race which were being brutally exterminated.  I learnt that the Indians were a peaceful race, believing in their own ideas but were brought to war by the fact that they had to defend themselves.

Brief commentary on the response.

1. Recognises that the chosen texts were challenging to self.
2. Elaborates this as being a challenge to own ideas about ‘different cultures and personalities even in the most remote parts of the earth’.
3. Confronts the notion of being influenced by stereotypical imagery of the Indian.
4. Moves easily between the two texts.
5. Demonstrates an awareness of own learning as a result of the comparative study…moves from ‘scepticism’ in paragraph 2 to an enhanced understanding (‘learnt’) in the final paragraph.
6. A final paragraph providing a sense of closure relating to both texts might have rounded off the writing more successfully.

Question.

Ideas which challenge those of the reader provide much of the interest in reading texts. Discuss this statement with reference to at least two of the texts you studied for your comparative study.

The student responds.

The two texts which I have chosen from my comparative studies course are ‘In Patagonia’ by Bruce Chatwin and the film ‘Dances with Wolves’ directed by Kevin Costner.

‘In Patagonia’ challenges me because it deals with Bruce Chatwin travelling down through Argentina, more preciously Patagonia.  Bruce Chatwin tells us about all the people and places he encounters as he travels along.  He meets many people ranging from peopls and Indians to business men and land owners.  He describes the places and people very well.  He doesn’t miss anything.  He notices every little last detail.

On the other hand ‘Dances with Wolves’ deals with John Dunbar’s trip to Fort Sedwich and his life there.  He waits for his colleuges and as he notices that their not coming he meets some Indians and eventually becomes one of them himself.  He shows us that the Indians are not the bad people who kill everyone in sight.  He shows us that the are human just like everyone else and deserve to be left alone in the own places and in their own cultures.  He shows us that the old western film were very biased and extremelly wrong.
 
 
 
 
 
 

Brief commentary on the response.

1. Demonstrates a knowledge of both texts nominated.
2. Begins to engage at the end of the second paragraph…’he shows us that the[y] are human…’ ‘he shows us that the old western…’
3. Needs to be explicit about the challenge posed to own ideas as a reader of the nominated texts and to test these in terms of the studied material.

Question 2.
Compare the ways in which two of the texts on your comparative course tell their stories.

The student responds.

In Patagonia’ by Bruce Chatwin and ‘Dances with Wolves’ by Kevin Costner are two relatively similar texts.  Apart from the obvious difference that ‘In Patagonia’ uses words and ‘Dances with Wolves’ vision, they are not really all that different.

Both texts are set in wild open spaces: ‘In Patagonia’ across the bogland of South America and ‘Dances with Wolves’ on the prairy during the American civil war.  Both texts are narrated by the author/director with Chatwin using a sequence of stories and Costner using voiceovers and music to illustrate this story.

Both texts are also similar in that they make up a journey.  Chatwins’ is obvious – he describes his journey through South America using his descriptions of the different cultures he met to distinguish what race he in fact belonged to.  Costner is similar in that he uses a journal to describe how he became one of the Sioux.  He too, is trying to find his inner-self and towards the end of the film we see that he has.  After being captured by the whites he has been labelled a traitor and beaten.  However, when asked his name, Dunbar answers in the sioux language that his name is ‘Dances with Wolves’.

Chatwin is undoubtably the more light-hearted of the two.  His story comprises not only of serious passages but of funny ones too.  For example, the story about Paco Ruiz, the eighteen year old South American native who has such a ‘beer-belly’ he could hardly walk.  Chatwin describes the story when Ruiz gives him a lift in his self-confessed partner – a two-year old truck whom he called Rosetta.  Chatwin describes how the truck broke down and how Ruiz tried vainly to fix it.  Ruiz gives up and kicks the motor which prompts Chatwin to comment ‘never kick the woman you love’.

Chatwin also describes a meeting with Robbie Ross, a red-haired Scotsman built like an ox.  Chatwin describes how this ‘Scotsman’ could not speak a word of English and how he broke down crying after being labelled ‘a drunk’ by some of his friends.  Robbie Ross was in fact a small little baby.

It is conceivable that John J. Dunbar would not have been so light-hearted in his descriptions of either Paco Ruiz on Robbie Ross.  Being the straight forward and narrow-minded person he was, Dunbar would probably have helped Ruiz kick his ‘sweetheart’ and would probably have called Ross a baby to his face.  Such straight-forward views are shown in ‘Dances with Wolves’ AS Dunbar tells the story as it is from his reservations about the Indian culture at the start t his proclomation at the end that his name was no longer John J. Dunbar but Dances with Wolves.
 
 
 

Brief commentary on the response.
 

· Paragraph 1 recognises that there are both similarities and differences.
· Issues dealt with are   (a) setting.
(b) technique..’sequence of stories’; ‘voiceovers     and music.
(c) frame…making a journey.
(d) use of descriptions.
(e) device…use of journal.
(f) sense of purpose…trying to find inner self.
· Implicit understanding of the register used by the authors…’Chatwin more light-hearted…’etc.
· Interesting speculation in the final paragraph as to Dunbar’s possible approach as an author in Chatwin’s position and the influence of that on the feel of ‘Dances with Wolves’


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