On October 19th, 2021, we started class with Dr. Foss’ short five questions quiz about the readings that day. The questions were about “The Secret Garden”, “Comrade Luxemberg and Comrade Gramsci Pass Each Other in the Congress of the Second International on the 10th of March 1912”, and finally Kenny Fries “Beauty and Variations”. After the quiz, Dr. Foss announced an extra opportunity that involves an author we have been reading about for some time now. Kenny Fries was going to speak at Mary Washington and Dr. Foss encouraged us to attend and was going to make sure if a recording of the zoom call was going to be posted or not. After clearing through that, we began class where the main topic was how society and the environment can impact people with disabilities. We began this topic with small groups talking about the first 10 chapters of “The Secret Garden”.
In my small group, we discussed a lot about Mary, Colin, and the Garden itself. With Mary, there was lots of talk about how she was described when she was born. She was described as ill, sickly, yellow, and even malnutrition. With her attitude in India, we agreed that Mary traveling to India can be seen as a place to “cleanse” her and problematic that is. We also discussed how Mary’s attitude towards the servants. In India, she was rude and seemed unbearable to the servants but once she arrives in England, it shifts, and we watch her develop a friendship with Martha. Overall, Mary was having a better life in England since she was being “cleansed”. We moved into Colin and noticed that was a parallel between him and Mary when she was in India. We also mentioned their disabilities and how they are both physical ones. Finally, we noticed that The Garden can be depicted as this heal-all magical place and as a comfort zone for those whose mental health needs help. First, the heal-all aspect, we saw this as very problematic since having a place to heal everything isn’t progressive and one just can’t cure everything with magic.
After small group discussions, we came back as a class and Dr. Foss started by asking what we thought about Mary. As a class we talked about how Mary is physically ill, spoiled, self-absorbed in addition, she can be described as ugly both on the inside and outside, but it is problematic, to say the least. Dr. Foss then raised the question about how class can play into Mary or even Colin. A fellow peer mentioned Mary’s attitude but also how she isn’t independent enough which ties with the class she’s since can’t fully be independent with servants at her aide. We moved on to Colin and how The society around them has made them believe they are less than what they are, claiming that Colin needs “fresh air”. In Colin’s case, we talked about how he may have a psychological disability that makes him believe that he is physically disabled and how Society makes him worried making him disabled by his environment. We then mentioned Chapter 15 about the gawking and staring at Colin and how the people pitied him. The people from the outside respond to him as if he was physically disabled which another student made the comparison of Colin to Boo Radley both have this “ghostly” figure in their communities. We ended the conversation of “The Secret Garden” talking about the garden itself. As mentioned, the garden is seen as a place of comfort especially for those whose mental health isn’t at its best, it is a place of warmth and freeing.
As we wrapped up that discussion, we continued over to Kenny Fries’ “Beauty and Variations”. Since the poem is in 5 parts, Dr. Foss decided to break each part down and ask what we thought. In the first part, we see how the speaker is questioning himself where the partner is beautiful and abled in contrast to him in their relationship. We dug more into the line “Can only one of us be beautiful?” (Fries 107) and how this creates a complexity of love. There was a mention about how inner and outer beauty is always together but when disability comes in, it creates a complexity of beauty. We were able to start tying back to society and how the speaker may feel that society has raised him to think of himself to be not beautiful in contrast to his partner. As we continue, we saw that in Part 2 they seem to feel different, part 3 speaks on smooth skin and secrets, Part 4 talks about self-love and/or the partner understands that he’s beautiful while ending on Part 5 where he starts to see himself as beautiful.
To wrap up class, we decided to end in small groups talking about Anne Finger’s Comrade Luxemberg and Comrade Gramsci Pass Each Other in the Congress of the Second International on the 10th of March 1912”. With the little time we had, we were able to mention how society is always quick to judge on appearances and make assumptions without interaction with those with a disability. We all agreed that it is such an issue that in our society we have plenty of people who judge those just by appearance and how that can negatively affect those with a disability.
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“I pledge”- Brian Cruz-Lovo