Summer SAVY 2016 (Session 1, Day 2) – In the Mind’s Eye: Truth vs. Perception
Today was a really thought-provoking day in Truth Vs. Perception. The students challenged themselves in their literary and visual analyses, and in doing so, they brought up some fascinating ideas to expand our understanding of our key concepts. We started the day with Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery.” Right away, students noticed the story’s use of detail to establish its tone and the way in which Jackson’s foreshadowing suggested that despite the light, happy, welcoming details in the first paragraph, all was not as it seemed with the lottery! The ending, in which the unlucky “winner” of the lottery is sacrificed because of local tradition, still packed a punch for many of us! We discussed how Jackson uses literary techniques to create suspense, and we talked about why that helped shape the themes of the book. Drawing on a quotation from Emerson: “fiction reveals that reality obscures,” we talked about how the story functioned as an allegory for understanding the ways in which people can be blinded by tradition. By putting an ancient ritual that no longer makes sense to us in a more relatable setting, Jackson helps show how people can be blind to injustice and resist cultural change.
In the afternoon, we picked up on our discussion of cultural traditions and interpretation, discussing ways in which some traditions or norms that we take for granted have actually evolved over time or may look totally different in other countries. Did you know that in Russia, it is unlucky to give someone an even number of flowers? Or that in Japan, cities are organized by numbered blocks rather than named streets?
Finally, we explored how interpretation is at work in the art world, looking at Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night and series of bedroom pictures. We discussed how art can convey multiple emotions at once, with interpretations varying based on the viewer. We also talked about how different forms of truth might be expressed in art—even when things look different from how they literally may have appeared, they can convey deeper meanings about feelings or ideas.
A highlight that helped sum of the day was the creation of inkblots for a Rorschach test experiment. Students will be collecting reactions from a range of subjects, and I can’t wait to see them present their findings tomorrow!