Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Asking More of Voltaire Than He Can Provide?

If Voltaire's Candide is primarily a philosophical tract to discredit Gottfried Leibniz, Voltaire certainly succeeds. However, if we seek practical answers to the problem of evil, the sins of men, and extreme social inequality, Candide comes up short, raising more problems than solutions. Kasaipwalova, Grace, and King, with echoes of Candide, offer inspiring (if not perfect) solutions.
At the apex of the novel, Candide and Cacambo are free to remain in the peaceful and equal city of gold. However, Candide misses Cunegonde, and furthermore, Candide realizes that borrowing the “pebbles,” the “yellow clay” of El Dorado will make them “richer than all the kings in Europe” (46). Candide desires to live in an unequal society, and the King of El Dorado happily obliges their request for treasure-laden sheep. The reader may sympathize with Candide's innocence in the first half of the novel, but now Candide is undeniably wealthy and somewhat selfish in his motives. Now when Candide, who can throw around enormous sums of money to achieve his ends, is the victim of thieves such as the Venice-bound skipper and the seductive Marchioness, it's difficult to sympathize with our hero. But Candide isn't without heart. When he hires Martin for companionship, and when the denied companions complain of “injustice,” Candide throws money at them to keep them quiet (51). At the novel's end, Candide and Cocambo realize their desire to own their own kingdom—a human-created Eden. Voltaire succeeds in convincing both Candide and the reader that the world is far from perfect.

Perhaps Candide's response to inequality and suffering can then be summarized as charitable giving and isolation. Neither of these responses are satisfying under the standard of true justice. The mother in Thomas King's “Borders” refuses to deny her ethnic heritage, changing hearts and laws in the process. John Kasaipwalova gives us a David-and-Goliath story for the post-colonial era. I am struck, and torn, by the response of Patricia Grace's characters to losing their native lands. This story, like many of the destitute characters in Candide, reminds me of the classic moral scenario in which a hungry man is justified in stealing a loaf of bread. Many of the characters Candide encounters live in similar situations, and the philosophy of Leibniz (as well as the pennies thrown to them by Candide) don't resolve the injustice, but only dull the pain. While I don't know if I agree with the route taken by Grace's characters, they provide an example of positive action, rather than hiding from suffering. Voltaire suggests that suffering is caused by the sins of men (and there are plenty of those in Candide, especially in Paquette's sexual repression). But Candide, as well as these short tales, also raise questions of structural justice—including civil disobedience or finding loopholes in a law. Is suffering a result of structures or individuals, or both? The answer to that question—and the practical solutions to injustice—might not be found in the Garden of Eden.

Embracing the Intentional Fallacy

Though I have been warned throughout my career as a student of English literature to beware the intentional fallacy, to let the literature speak for itself and to leave the author’s biography out of analysis, I am now finding that the evaluation of satire is inextricably tied to an understanding of the author’s motivations. In determining the effectiveness of a piece of satire, one must understand the author’s desires while writing it. Assuming that each individual satirizing colonization wishes to restore the proper power balance between natives and their colonizers will lead to a fundamental misevaluation of the work.

For example, Patricia Grace has said she does not write about the Maori people with a political agenda in mind. Though some of her works may be more political than others, she does not feel personally oppressed or angry and is not trying to inspire a revolution. Therefore, we should consider her writing not for what particular progressive feelings it arouses in us but rather for what it portrays about contemporary Maori life.

In contrast, John Kasaipwalova is in fact trying to inspire a revolution. Understanding that he essentially quit writing to more actively subvert the powers that have oppressed his community is crucial to our interpretation of Betel Nut is Bad Magic for Airplanes. In this case, we ought to consider how strongly it motivates us to feel angry about the injustice and become part of a larger process of social change.

King falls somewhere in between the radical and the passive writings of Kasaipwalova and Grace. He desires awareness for the land disputes facing Native Americans, but not necessarily a revolution. In Borders, he reveals the tensions between Native Americans and “whites” without the anger that cloaks Kasaipwalova’s writing. Therefore, his satire ought to be judged on how clearly we come to understand the issues of stolen nationality for the Native Americans.

Satire within literature is writing with a specific purpose rather than a mere expression of art. Our evaluation of it, therefore, must involve moving past our Formalist roots to a new role which involves an understanding and an appreciation of the psychological and historical mindset in which a humorist was writing. 

Lost in Translation

Catlin Castan
Dr. Ellis
Humor Studies
29 September 2014
Lost in Translation
            As we encounter different types of humor, we can all agree that it is generally quite different from the type of language used by the structures in which these writers wish to deconstruct. Many humorists and satirists—like Voltaire—stray away from the conventional, expected use of language and instead, supplement their areas of emphasis with humorous diction. By the use of humor, we are able to engage in the—at times—tragic context of a situation, without positioning ourselves on the “wrong” side. Voltaire’s insertion of Dr. Pangloss serves as a perfect example of this manipulation of language. While Candide adheres to Pangloss’s wacky and warped perception of the world, through satirization—specifically exaggeration--Voltaire makes it clear to us as readers that Pangloss’s philosophy is absolutely absurd and therefore not to be taken seriously. A conclusion that we as readers may have bee unable to reach without Voltaire’s controlled use of language to convey his humor.
            Similar to Voltaire, in the introduction portion of “Betel Nut Is Bad Magic for Airplanes”, by John Kasaipwalova, the critic (unnamed) explains that the “conflict between the Aussies and the Papua New Guineans is largely verbal”(613). We also learn that the narrator in “Betel Nut…” is mistreated as a result of his refusal to severe ties with his traditional culture; he refuses to fully assimilate into the culture being forced upon him by his oppressors. In an effort to preserve his cultural context, he finds that, “one way of retaining that context is verbally, by refusing to give in and use the oppressor’s language, except in the instance of necessity”(613). As we read Kasaipwalova’s piece, we become fully aware of the cultural nuances via his use of Pidgin English as the predominant language throughout the text. As a result, we feel as though we are apart of the collective culture—the collective “we” used even when the narrator is referring to himself as an individual.
            Similarly, the retention of certain indigenous words is essential because it shows the inability of language to fully translate—sometimes the meaning of a word between languages is lost in translation. In this same way, certain cultures are also unable to fully adopt a new cultural framework, certain elements of their indigenous culture will likely abstain from change, and instead, work their way into a modified new culture—a culture that accepts change but that also encompasses fragments of their old culture. For the narrator, continuing to speak his native tongue is the way he is able to preserve his tradition. While he speaks Pidgen most of the time, each time we see the narrator’s anger reach a point where it  “wants to stand its feet”(614), we observe that an articulate dialogue systematically follows. While adhering to the oppressor’s language is important from a linguistic standpoint, it also highlights a fundamental flaw within the oppressor’s culture—it shows that while the narrator can speak and converse in their language, their oppressors are unable to reciprocate this level of aptness and comprehension. This creates a dimension of ignorance and serves as an extreme social commentary on colonization.
            I also noticed this same notion of “lost in translation” in “Ngati Kangaru”, specifically with the use of certain quoted phrases throughout the text, such as “high and holy work” or “peculiar aptitude for being improved”—here, we notice that while these quotations makes sense in the context in which that are presented to us—as trained readers, we are able to detect that something is slightly off with Grace’s usage. Instead, it seems as though these people are taking excerpts of specific quotes from legitimate documents, removing them from their “correct” context and inserting them into a framework that justifies their actions. Here, we see that although we are not dealing with two different languages, we experience a similar result with the original or intended meaning of each phrase being lost in translation between two different contexts.
            Similar to certain words that we find are unable to be fully translated—words that exist in somewhat of a liminal space—when asked about her citizenship, the narrator in “Borders”, also finds herself in this “in-between” space. Unable to identify fully with the American or the Canadian side of the border, King’s narrator is faced with conflict when trying to cross the border to visit her daughter. Classifying herself as a “blackfoot”, she refuses to be pigeonholed or stuffed into a category that only partially meets the definition of who she is. Just as we see in Kasaipwalova’s piece with his narrator refusing to fully translate foreign words into English, because of his refusal to compromise the “full” meaning of what he intends to say, King’s narrator is unable to translate her “blackfoot” identity in terms of the American or Canadian culture—it would be an incomplete translation.

The Line Humor Draws Between Help and Harm

Previously in our seminar, we’ve discussed how humor could be utilized as a tool for justice.  Paradoxically though, we also raised the question of whether humor and laughter can truly bring about any positive societal change, or if it merely placates the indignation of the oppressed sects by catering to their accusations of injustice without really addressing them in a substantial manner.  It is my opinion that our readings for today are more of a testament to the latter classification of humor as an ineffectual medium for change.
The texts form Kasaipwolova, King, and Grace are all written from the perspective of a native individual who is disenfranchised to some degree by the intolerant ‘other’ who has colonized or altered their environment in some regard.  Each of their narrators are viewed as primitive and somehow lesser by the new inhabitants; they are often, both figuratively and literally, laughed at.
In Betel Nut Is Bad Magic for Airplanes, the narrator is shown injustice in the form of racism.  The humor the reader derives from this short story comes from the juxtaposition of the black character’s inner monologue, which is seemingly quite uneducated and backwards, and his speech when addressing the ‘white papa dog’ and ‘the important man,’ which contrasts dramatically in its eloquence.  When the readers examine why they find this shift humorous, it implicates them along with the privileged white racists in the story, as they also (probably subconsciously) held the expectation that a native person is inherently less intelligent.
            King’s story Borders also deals with the tension of identity in an environment that has been usurped and reconstructed.  The guards at the American border who stop the narrator and his mother are initially amused by her identification as simply a ‘Blackfoot,’ but “It didn’t take them long to lose their sense of humor” as she consistently refused to adhere to the Canadian or American binary [King, 138].  Their preliminary entertainment speaks to a trivialization of these great issues of the native peoples’ sense of self and adjustment within a vastly altered world.  It is only after the guards stop finding the situation funny that any development takes place in the plot.  The character Billy in Ngati Kangaru explicitly laughs at the “more normal, more cunning crookery, something funnier- like lying, cheating and stealing” and the “high and holy work” of those in power [Grace, 27 & 28].  Laughter, in these regards, seems to facilitate the expression and acceptance of injustice.

          The novel Candide ends with Candide, the na├»ve and trusting optimist, declaring about the state of his society: “All that is very well…but let us cultivate our garden” [Voltaire, 87].  This is a trifle of wisdom unexpected from the main character and something I think it integral to the study and implication of humor for social change.  Voltaire is making an appeal to the use of humor in an imperfect world, but cautions that it must be done with the betterment of the ills it illuminates always in mind.  There is a way for humor to be productive, but if not regulated properly, it can just as easily pardon the evils it brings to light.

Sweet Victory.... or Victimhood(?)

          While reading the ending of Candide, I couldn’t help but think about what role it is exactly that Candide plays in his story and our understanding of it. Throughout the book, Candide seems to be pushed around like a ragdoll, constantly a victim of circumstance, but despite all of the terrible things he goes through, he always ends up okay, allowing for him to be a humorous character rather than a tragic one. This realization reminded me of an essay I read last year by Ruth Nevo titled “Toward a Theory of Comedy,” in which she writes of the comic hero as “at once victor and victim” (328).
Candide appears to be the perfect epitome of this characterization. While he falls victim to the most horrific of situations, he always comes out on top and ultimately, by the end of the tale, he changes, realizing his true potential and ability to change his situation and work toward a better one. If Candide did not grow throughout the book or did not make it out of his many calamities okay, he would be a character that warranted pity more than laughter and therefore would not fulfill Voltaire’s comic pursuit.
We encounter another comic hero in John Kasaipwalova’s short story, “Betel Nut Is Bad Magic for Airplanes.” While Candide, gave us a third-person narrative telling the many adventures of our comic hero, Kasaipwalova writes a first-person narrative from the very perspective of the hero. This first-person presentation allows for even more comedy as we are given the perspective of the person at the root of the comedy. Even with this difference, though, the narrator still can be seen as both victor and victim as he is oppressed by the police and their “law [that is] laid down by the lawful government in the book”  (615) (I found this line particularly hilarious with its redundancy) but in the end comes out a victor chewing his betel nut in the back of the police car as they drive him back to the university.
In Nevo’s essay, she writes particularly about comedy of manners, wherein the comic hero is portrayed as a victim of vice and is driven entirely by one overruling moral flaw which puts them in unfortunate situations (much like the narrator’s mother in King’s Borders with her pride), but by looking at other texts, I think it is clear that this victor/victim theory can apply to much more than just that. For example, to go back to King’s story, I would say that the narrator is also a comic hero being made a victim, not of his own vice, but of his mother’s while in the end becoming victorious in his finally being able to visit Salt Lake City.

This duality of comic characters is crucial to the success of the humor of a tale; a character cannot be all one or the other, because the entire tone of the piece would change drastically. If Candide were all victor and no victim, then Voltaire would have written a small epic, while on the other hand, if he were completely victim, it would be a tragedy. Instead (and lucky for us), Voltaire created a character with a certain balance of both qualities which allows us to feel a slight sadness or disgust at his follies but also to laugh when, despite his hardships, he jumps right back up again, (almost) unscathed.

Cultivating Gardens and Changing Expectations

            All of the stories today (minus Candide) had the common thread of pride in nationality. In the Kasaipwalova story, the pride that comes with chewing the betel nut and standing their ground for their native culture instead of backing down in the face of the big bad white man. Similarly in Grace’s story, Billy and his family sought to bring back their native roots by renaming areas of land and streets to reflect their cultural pride. Once again this theme continues in King’s short story by not getting through border control because his mother stubbornly refused to see herself as a Blackfoot only and not as a Canadian-Blackfoot, or American-Blackfoot, not putting her country in front of her culture.
            But I think that this theme stretches beyond just cultural pride to make an otherwise non-humorous discrimination humorous through incongruity and changes of perception throughout the stories. Kasaipwalova’s character, in the way he speaks and describes things makes him seem uneducated. This stereotype through his words and choice phrases is perpetuated throughout the whole story until he begins to speak to the cop in perfect, advanced-phrasing, English. This moment of change makes the reader laugh and find humor in the fact that this man seems to  be keeping his secret knowledge quiet. His funny phrases such as “puppies” when describing the officers, “dimdims,” and even “the important man” make us laugh but the unexpected language twist in the story not only makes us laugh harder for being ignorant towards this character but also combats and defeats the issue of racial or culture discrimination perpetuated in the story: we come to realize, as the cops should but don’t, that our stereotypes and assumptions are not always right.
            The general notions of laughter visibly described as “hee hee” and “har har har” in Grace’s story make the reader laugh almost as an effect made by a laugh track in TV shows. It is through reading the story to the end however that we realize the issue at hand and that the laugh track we followed earlier in the story were a coping mechanism for Billy throughout his cultural issue. Similarly in in King’s story, we are amused with the Blackfood intentions by the mother and while it does change in the end and she is let through it is only for the media: and we, as readers, realized through our satisfaction that this issue is serious and not humorous. Changing expectations is what Candide is all about and these stories relate to the last line of the book where he tells back-from-the-dead-Pangloss that we must “cultivate our garden”—we must be in the moment and then reflecting realize that we must only focus on one thing at a time. We must worry about the small things in life—a cultural difference—and address it (through humor in the case of these stories) in order to make a change, rather than trying to fix all the problems in the world. 

Humor as Necessity?

All four stories that we read for today focused on a question posed last week: how does one respond to suffering?  In “Sky People”, “Betel Nut is Bad Magic for Aeroplanes”, “Borders”, and Candide, all four authors respond to this question by advocating for some sort of protest for social change and each character succeeds to varying extents.  In other words, all four recognize suffering in the form of a social problem and all four respond in somehow protesting or challenging the status quo.  In “Sky People,” the native Maoris are protesting against the “holidayers” who built houses on traditional Maori land and it is implied that the Billy succeeded in getting the land (kicking out the holidayers just as the white people kicked out the Maoris).  In relation to the other three stories, perhaps this story shows the danger of the oppressed becoming the oppressor and in that way, no social change occurs because the cycle of oppression just continues.    

                If “Sky People” has protest but no social change, “Betel Nut is Bad Magic for Aeroplanes” was semi-successful in achieving change.  The main character aggressively protested the Betel Nut law and racism which resulted in some social change by the end of the story (in that they were released) but it is debatable whether he changed the minds of the white police officers or if he really challenged racism as a whole versus just winning his case with the gum chewing because the officers were still begrudgingly against the main character by the end.  In “Borders,” Laetitia lead a successful peaceful protest in that it was sheer perseverance that led to social change, judging by how the border patrol agents reacted to her.  She challenged the status quo in a peaceful and intentional way and it seemed like the border patrol agents understood her point by the end of the story, so she was completely successful in getting her point across and affecting some sort of social change. 

                Candide is the big case study with the topic of social change and enduring suffering.  Now that we have finished the novel, it seems like Voltaire is suggesting the main way we respond to suffering is by experiencing it so we are living conscientiously, but after identifying suffering, we should somehow find peace and solace in just cultivating a garden and not overthinking things seems to be his antidote to suffering.  Out of all four authors, Voltaire is the only author who uses humor to convey the larger point.  We always say that humor is a coping mechanism for suffering, another response to suffering, which is definitely true for Candide.    
                So, the next question is to what extent do we need humor to respond to suffering?  Humor plays a crucial role in Candide in making these issues accessible, and humor is used as an appropriate response to suffering.  As the audience, we are basically meant to laugh in place of crying because the suffering is so constant.  But to what extent is humor necessary in these texts?  Is there ever a time where humor is a necessity to effectively get the point of the story across or is it just a literary device used to add flair to the story?  It is debatable which story displays the most effective form of social commentary as they all demonstrate challenging the status quo in different ways.  But, perhaps humor does add another layer of complexity to Candide which “Borders” or another short story lacks.  Maybe humor is a necessity in Candide because to discuss complex issues like suffering, Voltaire should use a complex writing style.  

Laughing at the Status Quo

            Humor has often been used as a tool for highlighting incongruities in the status quo. When the underdog pokes at the party in power, we laugh; when the powerful stab at the weak, we cringe. This dynamic is especially helpful and effective in discussions of colonization. Imperial European colonization of indigenous peoples has destroyed many livelihoods and nations, leaving the original inhabitants without land and, often, without recognized identity. The stories of King, Kasaipwalova and Grace take some action to reassert that ownership of the land and of the national identity, and they do it largely through humor directed at the oppressing power.
            King’s story, “Borders,” deals largely with this issue of displacement in the colonized world. The mother here refuses to give up her Blackfoot heritage by identifying herself in terms of the arbitrary borders of the United States and Canada. She obviously knows on which side she lives, but she will not recognize the right of the border patrol to classify her as such. She is a citizen of the Blackfoot nation, and only of the Blackfoot nation. Her small act of civil disobedience draws media attention and forces those in power on the border to question their insistence that she declare herself.
            “Betel Nut is Bad Magic for Aeroplanes,” by John Kasaipwalova, also portrays an act of civil disobedience, executed by the oppressed against the oppressor. The university student narrating the tale chooses to use his native dialect when recounting the events, but his words to the authority are in perfect standard English. He does not conform to the laws or customs of the new regime, except when helpful to his cause. He uses his mastery of their language to flummox the police, who are described with lower-than-average mental capacity and higher-than-average lust for power. By not adhering to any arbitrary whim of the police, he causes both those in power and those oppressed to question the laws and the ownership of the nation. He announces, in hearing of the crowd that this is “[a]lways like you white racists. Each time you know you or wrong or want to bully us black people, you have to use the police on us” (616).  These incendiary words suggest that the power here comes only from force, and not from any admirable source. By drawing attention to this phenomenon, and thus drawing the support of all the angered onlookers, the student beats the weapon-laden police at their own game.
            Patricia Grace raises a similar incongruity in “Ngati Kangaru.” When her characters take over the vacation homes of foreign holidaymakers, they do so without legal permission of any kind. They bolster the communities by placing yearlong inhabitants and they return thousands of families to their native land at negligible cost. When the holidaymakers return to find their homes occupied, the local businesses and most people who address this topic side with the indigenous, interloping inhabitants. This raises questions about the status quo and forces us to wonder who is imposing on whom in this situation.

            All three of these tales address issues of colonization, displacement and power dynamics. By refusing to submit to the legal proceedings of the oppressing power, the indigenous people are able to assert their own identity. When they are laughing at the parties in power, they are winning.

Breaking Down Borders

In Thomas King’s short story “Borders,” the twelve-year-old narrator witnesses his mother’s staunch commitment to maintaining her identity as a Blackfoot. The narrator and his mother end up spending a few days in limbo between the American and Canadian borders, which is symbolic of the discrepancy between their cultural identities and the bureaucratic standards that are being forced upon them. King is trying to point out that there is little to no space left for those who hold their connection to their heritage as something more important than an (arbitrary) political boundary. 

As we have often talked about in class, humor is a tool that can be used to broach a subject or issue that may otherwise be uncomfortable to discuss in a straightforward manner. There is certainly nothing funny about the border guards’ displaying their dwindling respect for the narrator and his mother’s Blackfoot heritage. Even then, it is evident that the guards’ sudden “mercy” towards the mother is only for show after the television crews show up.

This story is not laugh out loud funny, but there is still a comic element to it that falls in line with incongruity theory of humor. There is something absurd about the mother’s interaction with the first border guard. After the mother asserts that her citizenship is truly Blackfoot, the guard turns away and then back again in an attempt to erase the previous conversation and start anew, even saying “Morning, ma’am” all over again.

Although the mother’s motivation is a serious one that leaves the story tinged with a slight sadness, there is also something genuinely absurd about the idea of a person infinitely driving back and forth between two border stops. It could convincingly have been the plot to an episode of Seinfeld or a deleted scene from National Lampoon’s European Vacation, but because of the cultural and political conflict bubbling under the surface, the takeaway of “Borders” becomes something different. It forces the audience to pause and reflect instead of just chuckling and moving on. Whether the effects of “Borders” and other stories like it are the indicators of a burgeoning shift towards social change is something that remains to be seen, but at least it encourages the beginning of a conversation.

Humor From Below

            Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve spent some time in class discussing whether or not satire can be an effect engine for social and political change. I’m conflicted on this topic, and that’s why it interests me so much. This week, we’ve gotten some readings that seem to really ask us to reconsider our own assumptions and beliefs. Some of the stories for this week are not satires as much as they are pieces of absurd speculative fiction—but maybe we should reevaluate why their premises appear so ridiculous. For instance, “Ngati Kangaru” imagines a mass re-colonization of New Zealand beachfront property that had once belonged to the Maori people. The image of the somewhat incompetent Billy and his companions taking up posh vacation homes is humorous, but why? As residents of a modern settler state, we Americans live on stolen land; of course, we make concessions to indigenous peoples, but those concessions will only go so far. Because we live comfortably, we do not permit ourselves to feel guilt over the original conquest that afforded us the property we now own or fret over the possibility that that property rightfully belongs to someone else. Patricia Grace allows the Western world to see its own horrors doubled back on itself, as Billy carries out his “high and holy work” in the renaming and redeveloping of reclaimed places.
The humor and absurdity of reclamation is evident in the other two short stories that we read for this week. First, in Thomas King’s “Borders,” a mother figuratively reclaims a space for herself when she refuses both American and Canadian citizenship and declares herself a citizen of the Blackfoot nation. While the border guard tries to coax the mother into giving a “real” nationality, the narrator’s eyes are fixed on the gun holstered at the guard’s hip. So even though the guard operates by legal mandate, the distinctions between American and Canadian and Blackfoot are backed up with a history of violence. The way that the mother stubbornly toes the line of citizenship is a little absurd and amusing, but it gets us to ask real questions concerning history, conquest and politics. Are the political borders of the modern world so concrete that we cannot allow for those who do not properly fit within them? Of course, the “borders” in the story are not only political boundaries, but also cultural distinctions: the Blackfoot natives speak two languages, inhabit two cultures and remember two distinct histories. And yet they can only belong to one political nation, as if the other had completely vanished. We see a similar thing in John Kasaipwalova’s “Betel Nut is Bad Magic for Airplanes.” The narrator similarly insists on the existence of his own unique way of life, even as its manifested in the mindless habit of chewing betel nut. Like the characters of “Borders,” Kasaipwalova’s narrator inhabits two distinct cultures: speaking in a broken English as a Papua New Guinean, but in proper “Queen’s English” when he confronts the ruling Australian authorities. In this, we find a profoundly modern absurdity: we are expected to have one coherent identity as individuals, even as we are made up of an amalgam of different places, cultures, and histories. Of course, this has dire political and social implications.

It is because Voltaire so rarely confronts these dire implications that I think Candide fails as a piece of political satire. Rather than exposing the mechanisms that allow bad things to happen, or investigating the reasons why bad things happen, Voltaire merely demonstrates that bad things happen. Candide is a philosophical satire; Voltaire uses the misfortune of the oppressed and marginalized to score a metaphysical point against Leibniz, all the while neglecting to cast a critical eye on his own position. In fact, I would say that Candide does more harm than good, especially in its treatment of women, the people of the Arab world, and the indigenous peoples of the Americas. The three short stories that we read for today come from displaced voices, and so their humor hopes to ameliorate the plight of the less fortunate. I think Voltaire has too much of a privileged place to truly speak critically of the world as it is.

Michael McGurk