Novel Study Check-In

1. “In direct and vivid ways, these three stories reveal Alice Munro rediscovering – as a mature woman and writer- the cultural legacies left her by her family in her home place. Munro’s mother’s presences is only the most pressing and urgent one – more distant ancestors, like the cousins in “The Ottawa Valley” or her aunt and grandmother in “Winter Wind,” reveal Munro’s awareness of the web of human interconnection defined by her home place. She began exploring that web in a new way in her stories when she returned and confronted them, still there, in Ontario.” (pg. 66)
a. Personal Interest
i. I find this quote interesting because it shows Munro’s depth as a writer who is able to create vivid scenes and characters. From the passages I read from her work, this ability to create sharp, vivid scenes really adds to her short stories and novels, and this is what she is most known for. As a writer, Munro probes human emotion and connection while creating scenes of vivid detail, and her small town, mundane stories remind me of Steward McClain’s short stories, with both their takes on average Canadian lives.
b. Canadian Identity:
i. This passage shows Alice Munro’s interconnectedness with her childhood home and her roots, and her ability to draw on her web of Canadian ancestry to craft meaningful pieces of Canadian Literature. In the 1960’s and 1970’s, when Alice Munro publishes these stories, featured in Something I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You, her work is at the forefront of defining Canadian Identity and culture. Munro’s reliance on her experiences growing up in rural Ottawa, and weaving these deeply Canadian stories from her memories, struck a cord when many authors fretted about the invasion of large American publishing corporations into Canadian writing and publishing. Her ability to draw on her experiences and roots from her childhood in the Huron Valley deeply impacts her writing, exemplifying Canada’s need for Canadian work, particularly Canadian literature.

2. . “Recalling her university years, Munro says that she loved her time there, ‘being in that atmosphere, having all those books, not having to do any housework. Those are the only tow years of my life without housework.'” (pg. 261)
a. Personal Interest:
i. This quote is interestingbecause  Munro is reveling in the atmosphere of university and its sharp contrast with her prior experiences. She was expected, as the oldest child and daughter with a sick mother, to take on much of the physical labor and chores in the household. She was also expected to fulfill this role when she married her (now ex) husband. There were certain societal pressures on her, pulling her away from her talents as a writer and into the realm of a housewife. These societal pressures interest me because it is so easy to see the limits and confines of the mold society created, and it reminds me of A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin, where Ged is pressured by his peers to conform to the talents of his peers and not reach his true potential and autonomy.

b. Canadian Identity:
i. This quote shows the expectation and societal pressure for women in Canada to be homemakers and housewives. Munro was no exception to this rule, and actually worked as a maid for one summer while she was still in high school, and completing a lot of work at home for her family. When she could no longer afford to go to university, she was presented with two choices: to marry a man at the university, or to return to the Huron Valley and marry a farmer. This lack of options besides marriage shows that Munro was expected to conform to society’s norms at the time, and she did, marrying a man from her university and moving to Vancouver. From there she lived a “double life”- both that of a mother and homemaker and that of an artist, and this tension between the two causes conflicts in her life and marriage.

3. “Combining marriage and family with ‘the black life of an artist’ as she did from 1952 through the 1970s, this coincidence of births was a fitting one for Alice Munro” (pg. 321)
a. Personal Interest:
i. I find this quote interesting because of the coincidence between this Munro publishing this story and her child being born. Also, this intersection of her two lives allowed her to draw inspiration from one for the other: She writes about her daughter almost drowning and her failing marriage. She manages to combine her lives at crucial intervals, and this intersection of her two lives was no different, blending and merging her two identities.
b. Canadian Identity:
i. This quote shows the intersection of her Alice Munro’s two lives. This quote is talking about the release of her first story in a magazine, which coincided with the birth of her first daughter. This combining of her lives was often an unequal one, with her children and home often taking first priority, and her work taking second, with the exception of the few months where she rented an office space and published only one story- “The Office”. She was often too exhausted to work on her short stories, or too busy, so her passion and work often came second to her family during this time period.

4. . “[Gerald Taaffe] went through the slush pile of unsolicited manuscripts […] and found just one piece he wanted to publish – a story called “Dance of the Happy Shades”. It was, unfortunately, unsigned.” (pg. 403)
a. Personal Interest:
i. I found the extent of Munro’s modest and self-effacing actions incredible. She often sent work to publishers unsigned, and in occasions like this when her work was noticed, the author was unknown. Her modesty also translated into everyday conversations and letters to , like one to her editor where she said “I’m sorry to bother you”. This shows me that Munro was never in writing for the fame or fortune, rather she chose to write because she needed too, because it was a part of her psyche and deeply imbedded in her being. For Munro, “The Peace of Utrecht” was almost painful to write, but she wrote it anyway, to process her mother’s illness and death. I find her motivations and drive vary interesting, and in a way her determination reminds me of Hamilton.
b. Canadian Identity:
i. This shows Munro’s self-effacing, modest quality, which was expected for women at that time period. Her decision to not sign the manuscript reflects her distaste for attention and celebrity. These actions also show the values and norms when she was a child, where in the Huron Valley, modesty and hard work were valued and emphasized in everyday life. This passage also shows the quality of Munro’s work, and the willingness of the magazine editor to include it instead of opting for a more well-known author. This concept of modesty is still reflected in Canadians today, and it is a part of our national identity.
5. . “Munro’s ‘normal life’ was changing. […] She says when asked her occupation she replied ‘writer ‘ instead of ‘housewife’. It was an exhilarating idea to her.” (pg. 483)
a. Personal Interest:
i. I find this shift in Munro’s perspective interesting, seeing her grow from a meek housewife who occasionally wrote short stories to an autonomous woman who is capable of being independent and self-sufficient. During this time she divorces her first husband, and the amount of opportunities she had was incredible to her. She did this all when the views and status of women in society were rapidly changing, allowing her to reach her full potential. In a sense, this change and shift from women as mothers and housewives to autonomous people reflects a revolution and social change, which relates to STEP, which we learned about in humanities.

b. Canadian Identity: What insights or pieces of wisdom might these passages reveal about Canadian values at the time of the text’s publication? What does each passage reveal about what it means to be a Canadian now?
i. This quote shows the shift in Canadian identity and social norms during the 1970’s. Munro’s shift in her view of herself demonstrates the overall shift as women from housewives and mothers to people, who are able to work and contribute to the economy. Before this, working past your twenties was stigmatized and women were criticized because of their supposed inability to find a husband. Munro’s views of herself demonstrate this shift and allow her to reach her full potential as a writer.


Society’s values often dictate how we view ourselves, and a shift in these values allows us to view ourselves in a different manner, allowing us to learn and grow into a new part of ourselves.

I can take away this message from Alice Munro: Writing Her Lives because it was so adeptly demonstrated by Munro herself. Her view of herself and her work shifts when society’s perception of a woman in the workforce shifts, and this allows her to fulfill her true potential as a writer.

In Depth Post #5

Record a short section of conversation between you and your mentor. Transcribe the conversation. Identify the different hats in the conversation.

The last lecture I went to was on Forensic Biology. This is the study of biological substances, like hair, blood, saliva, and so on. The lecture was an hour and a half, so I will put in sections of my notes that exemplify the different hats.


White hat:

What do we know?

One of the topics Dr. Warren touched on was the study of hair. Here are the notes for this section:


  • Class characteristics
    • Shed everywhere
    • Shed all the time
    • Miscarriages of justice possible- hair misidentified, science is not exact
      • Evidence not consistent (human vs. animal hair, DNA extraction not possible)
      • Now only used as corroborating evidence

The entire study of forensic biology is identifying what we know and gathering evidence, then using proven techniques to establish and corroborate facts.

What do we need to know?

One method Dr. Warren touched on was using different indicators to identify blood. Something that I found very interesting was that these indicators (Luminol, Bluestar) glow because of the iron in blood, and false positives are possible if other iron-rich materials are present, so it is important to always corroborate this test with another, confirmatory test. So, we always need to know whether the presumptive test that was used is correct.

  • Presumptive
    • Luminol
    • Haemastix
      • Turns green with blood
        • False positives
          • Bleach rust
        • Interferes with DNA analysis
    • Bluestar
      • Okay with DNA
    • Kastle Meyer/ phenophalene
  • Confirmatory test
    • Only haemachromagen test
    • No false positives
    • Chemicals added to blood sample
    • Turns into crystals
    • Still don’t know what type of blood it is
      • Animal?
      • Human?
    • Precipitin test
    • Commercially available anti-sera
    • Old- blood type
    • DNA testing as of 1985
      • First brought into court
      • Lester, England

What is missing?

Something that was interesting that Dr. Warren talked about was the possibility of false positives with PCR because of the amplification of the DNA. I found it interesting because we don’t have a way to check whether it has been contaminated once run through the machine, and we can only take steps during the collection process to try and minimize this risk.

What questions should we ask?

  • When was the crime committed?
  • How did the crime occur?
  • What happened (classification)?
  • Why (Motive)?
  • Who (DNA evidence, suspect)?
  • Where (secondary location)?

How might we get the information we need?

We can gain the information we need through a variety of presumptive tests, which we in turn corroborate with a confirmatory test. This is true for any biological fluid, including blood. The presumptive test is run first, then the sample is sent off to another lab where a confirmatory test is run.

Red Hat:

Dr. Warren talked about a specific case where the police officers had only used a presumptive test and their intuition to convict an innocent person. She warned us of the dangers of assuming without corroborating our evidence.

  • Might be blood
    • Dingo baby case
      • Australia
        • Family camping in Australia
        • Dingo running out tent with baby in mouth
          • Mother accused of murdering baby
            • Killed baby with nail scissors(?)
              • While everyone was out looking for baby
              • Got rid of body
                • Only used a presumptive test
                • Need to use a confirmatory test
              • Baby’s jacket found in Dingo’s lair
                • Disrupted life
                • Car glowed when sprayed with luminol
                  • because of Iron filings

Black Hat

The black hat is especially important because it can be used to turn a critical eye over any evidence, which is very important to ensure that the evidence is accurate and as presise as possible. One of the tests Dr. Warren talked about was hair analysis, and the limits of it. For example, DNA can only be extracted from hair if it still has the bulb at the base of the hair, because this is the living part. You also need anywhere from 80-100 pulled scalp hairs to precisely determine the person who the hair belonged to, so there are limits to using hairs to prove/disprove a suspect’s involvement. Also, before DNA was used, foresnic scientists used to examine the cuticle and medula, and this led to a couple of wrongful convictions, so it is always important to be critical when using hair as evidence.

    • Not consistent with donor
    • Contained too few hairs?
  • Negative
    • Consistent with donor
  • Positive
    • Comparison sample needed
      • Suspect and victim
        • Need some from victim
          • What if they are from the victim
    • Adequate sample required
      • 80-100 PULLED scalp hairs
      • 30-50 PULLED pubic hairs
      • From all over region
        • Temples vs. Back of head
        • Comparison sample
      • Collect from
        • Partners, victims
  • Hair Collection
  • Hair is considered class evidence
    • Except with tag
      • Loose, extraneous hairs are class evidence

Yellow Hat:

This hat was used to explain the value in using confirmatory tests in addition to presumptive tests. This goes along with the red hat, as value is found in having a correct conviction and ensuring innocent people don’t go to jail. Standardized protocol is used to ensure preservation of this hat.

Green Hat:

This hat was used when Dr. Warren talked about the career path to become a specialist, specifically a forensic biologist.

  • Civilian Scientists
    • B.Sc. (Hon.)
  • Technicians
    • Evidence Recovery Unit (a lab)
      • Evidence Recovery Unit

        • Search technologists
        • Locate and recover important evidence
        • Everyone starts here
        • Presumptive tests
          • Blood? Or other iron rich substance?
      • In lab
        • T-shirt (with blood on it)
          • Blood (possibly) sample cut out
            • Sent to specialist
  • PCR Analyst (3-5 years past evidence recovery unit)
    • Extract DNA
  • Specialist
    • Testify in court
    • Biology reporting office
      • Stats, probability
      • Likelihood of someone matching this sample
  • If no honors –  remain at the level of technician

Blue Hat: This hat was in use when Dr. Warren outlined Forensic Biology at the beginning of the lesson.

  • Biological fluids
    • Hair
    • Tissues
    • Blood, saliva, etc.
  • Human?
    • Can it be individualized?
      • Who?
  • In past- class evidence
    • Hair
    • Use DNA now
  • Present- now use DNA as prefered method of corroboration

What is Canada?

There seems to be a lot of debate over whether or not Canada is a nation. A nation is a group of people who are bound together by their beliefs, values, and collective identity. Does Canada, a country of difference and diversity, fit into this definition? Or are we a post-national state, disembodied from our identity and floating adrift in a world where borders and collective identity are less important and less relevant? I believe that Canada is a nation. We are bound together by our own form of nationalism, quieter than that of the United States, where it is common to flaunt a flag and pledge allegiance to the country, even in schools. Canada lacks this institutional nationalism, instead, we have created something uniquely Canadian: soft nationalism. Nationalism may have a bad name, with many governments using it to justify violent aggressions. However, “Healthy nationalism encourages people to cooperate”, writes Douglas Todd. It encourages us to work to build the best possible Canada, and take pride in the place where we live. When we compare our country to others, we are constantly ranked as one of the best places to live, one of the best places to get an education, one of the best places to be a part of the middle class. We see these rankings and feel a warm, self-assured pride. We really are one of the best places to live. Canada is a nation because of our collective sense of togetherness and pride in our home country. And this is reflected in our national identity. One of the arguments frequently used to dismiss Canada as a nation is that we lack a national identity. Our prime minister, Justin Trudeau, even went so far as saying that there was “no core identity, no mainstream in Canada”. Marshall McLahan says that Canada is the only country “that knows how to live without a national identity”. Is this really true? Or are we confusing our lack of an American-esk nation with not having one at all. Now, national identity is the ” sense of a nation as a cohesive whole, as represented by distinctive traditions, culture, and language” as defined by the Google dictionary. Canada has two languages, English and French; we have traditions: remnants of our monarchy, like our Governor General; Canada Day, where we are reminded of Confederation and the rich and vibrant history of our nation; Remembrance Day, where we thank the fallen soldiers that sacrificed everything to preserve our country. Our culture, our institutions, our achievements, less aggressive and in-your-face than our southern neighbor, but still thriving. Our diversity, our multiculturalism, our different beliefs and views and thoughts and feelings all bind us together. Our differences, and pride in our differences, create our community. They create the nation of Canada.