March 2009 Archives
Today it was decided between a few coursemates and I that we want to do this blog carnival on one of our Young Adult Literature books called An Abundance of Katherines.
If you are interested in joining, it's easy. Just follow my six easy steps.
- Read the book and apply a type of criticism to the book. For example, I plan on applying psychoanalysis to the main characters.
- Post a comment below saying that you want to join.
- Write your blog entry by Friday night.
- Be sure to post the web address below so others can read and comment on your blog.
- Read and comment on other's blogs.
- Have fun!
Also, we thought that it would be cool if our titles all had a theme. In honor of the book's title everyone should make the title of their blog "An Abundance of [fill in the blank]".
Katie Vann will then take the reins and finish this carnival with a summary page.
For a refresher on what is required for this portfolio, click here. It will take you to the directions for the first portfolio. The second portfolio is supposed to be the same as the first.
Happy blogging all!
Throughout her essay, Elizabeth Wright mentions the "nodal point" several times. I had no idea what she was talking about so I checked it out on google and found that a nodal point is actually a point in a camera where light rays converge. Also, on dictionary.com it said that a nodal point was "either of two points on the axis of a lens or other optical system, determined by extending an incident oblique ray and the corresponding refracted ray to the axis for the pair of rays that are parallel outside the optical system."
One of the sentences in Wright's essay said, " Finally, here is a remarkable passage which combines the text's literary and psychoanalytic status. It is a nodal point..." (398). It makes sense that she used the term "nodal point" because she's talking about a point where multiple rays, in this case literary ideas, meet and are focused. Clever.
The title is simple and strange I know but talk about your hook.
From Elizabeth Wright's "The New Psychoanalysis and Literary Criticism" in Keesey's Contexts for Criticism:
"This is no mere scene, but a Lacanian scenario, in which a demand for food is about to be transformed into a demand for love" (397).
The "this" in this quote refers to the scene in Benito Cereno where Delano sees the slave woman breast feeding her baby. I thought that the connection Wright made between breast feeding and love was interesting. I had never thought of this scene much except for the fact that this woman happens to be one of few, if not the only, woman that is mentioned in Melville's story. This quote put me into a time machine and reminded me of How to Read Literature Like a Professor in which there is a whole chapter dedicated to communion. Thanks to this quote, I made the connection between breast feeding, love, and communion. Breast feeding would be one of the highest forms of communion for the loving mother is providing the infant with the necessary food for survival while simultaneously forming a strong bond with that infant. I would call this kind of communion a spiritual communion (I believe I just invented that word) for only one of the beings involved is actually feeding, however, they are both sharing the eating experience while also establishing a deep and important spiritual bond.
Why did Delano notice this woman? I believe that he noticed her for several reasons: she's a woman in a sea of men, she's exposed, he loves the innocence of this relationship. The first two reasons are self-explanitory so I won't go into them. The last one is a little more in depth, thus needing to be analyzed. A few paragraphs before this quote Wright said, "Delano's refusal to see difference is grounded in an idealization of another's incompleteness: he loves Bobo's naivete as image of the lack of difference, as the completeness which Delano himself wants to possess" (396). Although she's talking about a different scene, this quote reveals a lot about the story. On the ship, Delano sees what he wants to see. Before I mistook his bad interpretations of events as sheer stupidity, however, if looked at him like he was a human, it makes sense that he ignores those signs for they would seem unlikely. A white man at that time would not want to think of a group of African Americans being in charge so his mind finds ways around it. This is why he notices the little things such as Bobo sharpening the razor blade and never thinks that this could be an intimidation factor and not just a nice gesture to make sure his boss gets the closest shave possible. The woman breast feeding was just another depiction of his own utopian society, the way Delano thought things should be working aboard the ship.
Did you think of Delano's lack of noticing all the signs as stupidity or as a case of seeing what he wanted to see? Why?
From "Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences" by Jaques Derrida in Keesey's Contexts for Criticism:
Quote 1: "Thus it has always been thought that the center, which is by definition unique, constituted that very thing within a structure which governs the structure, while escaping structurally" (354).
Quote 2: "The center is at the center of the totality, and yet, since the center does not belong to the totality (is not part of the totality), the totality has its center elsewhere" (354).
Ladies and gentleman, this is why we proof read our papers. I am not implying that Derrida did not proof read this, however, any idiot could see the lack of variance in this man's vocabulary by these two quotes (that happen to appear two sentences apart). How is a person supposed to to take him seriously when he writes sentences like this, especially in the beginning of his paper? Honestly, I could not get over this fact while I was reading the entire article. Almost nothing he said sunk in or made sense. I would expect this kind of writing from a middle to early high school student, not a published critic. I was disgusted to see the repetition he used because I think that he thought his work was clever. These sentences have a similar effect as the definition of a word in the dictionary which uses itself to define it. When a person looks this word up, they know nothing more than when they started. I expect better out of an essay that is supposed to educate me. I think that I could teach this man a thing or two.
Am I too harsh? Do you agree with me? What were you able to get out of this?
Click here to see what others had to say.
From Keesey's Contexts for Criticism:
"They have then sought, or simply assumed, an 'unproblematic' language, a transparent medium that would contain or express this truth, a 'philosophical discourse' that would rise above the ambiguities of ordinary language and the obscuring rhetoricity of poetry" (346).
When I read this, I thought of Greta's blog "Intertextualism: Practice It, Focus It, Adapt It." In it she argues that intertextuality makes sense to her because it stayed within the literary. When I read both Eagleton's and Keesey's entries about post-structuralism I couldn't help but think that this is philosphophy, not literature. Why would we ignore language? Language is what literature revolves around. In the solar system that is the subject of English, language is the sun. WIthout it, life would not be sustainable. One of the things that makes literature what it is is the ambiguities. How fun would Hamlet be if we truly knew whether or not he is insane? To take away this makes literature...*gasp*....boring. Literature is not philosophy and I do not expect philosophy to be literature although they may overlap sometimes. To make literature philosophy is to miss the point (in my opinion).
If you haven't caught on, I've discovered through what I like to call our "Green Eggs and Ham" approach (trying out different styles to see if we like them) that I like criticism styles that focus on the language. I like formalism. It makes sense to look at the way the words are put on a page because the author put them that way for a reason. I love psychoanalysis (although I do realize that this does involve the outside influence of psychology) because the writer's written characterization is what makes our analysis possible. I also think that reader-response criticism is great because the author can munipulate the reader's emotions to react in a certain way by using different words and phrases.
Back to my main point in picking this quote: To take away the ambiguity is to take away literature's value. And, in addition, to say that we should depend on philosophy and not language, is a definate contradiction for philosophy depends on language. How can one remove the ambiguities of language without encountering these same ambiguities within the explanation of why language isn't enough (being that to explain a concept, language is used)?
Do you agree with me? Explain why I'm right or wrong because I'd really like to hear what you have to say. I think that we could really get a good (and maybe heated) discussion going here.
From Eagleton's Literary Theory:
"That any such transcendental meaning is fiction--though perhaps a necessary fiction--is one consequence of the theory of language I have outlined" (114).
When I was in high school, I remember going over transcendentalism but I cannot remember it at all. Every time I run across the word, I mean to look it up. This time, however, I'm not going to let it fall through the cracks!
According to www.merriam-webster.com, to transcend means:
1 a: exceeding usual limits : surpassing b: extending or lying beyond the limits of ordinary experience cin Kantian philosophy : being beyond the limits of all possible experience and knowledge2: being beyond comprehension
The definition makes sense because the prefix trans means, according to dictionary.com “across,” “beyond,” “through,” and a few other meanings that I found not applicable. The suffix "scend" means to "climb." So by putting the two together, you get to climb through or to climb beyond. I think that reflects the definition well.
Then there is the literary movement called "transcendentalism," which I think we can all benefit from knowing. Merriam-webster said it was:
1: a philosophy that emphasizes the a priori conditions of knowledge and experience or the unknowable character of ultimate reality or that emphasizes the transcendent as the fundamental reality
I don't know about you, but that does not help too much. Next I went to wikipedia where I pretty much learned that transcendentalism was a rebellion against the Unitarian Church. It seemed to be a movement that practiced self-reliance and was strictly founded in the spiritual world. Their beliefs went beyond actual experiences and the church and seemed to focus a lot on nature. Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau are the two most famous transcendentalists.
What do you think? Do you have anything to add?
From Terry Eagleton's Literary Theory:
"'Deconstruction' is the name given to the critical operation by which such oppositions can be partly undermined, or by which they can be shown partly to undermine each other in the process of textual meaning. Woman is the opposite, the 'other' of man: she is non-man, defective man, assigned a chiefly negative value in relation to the male first principle" (115).
This is one of very few sentences in this chapter, actually in Eagleton in general, that made any kind of sense to me. If you're looking for a harsh critique, here it is. I can't stand the way Eagleton presents information. It's long, boring, hard-to-understand, and cloaks the point. I feel like I know less about post-structuralism now than I did to begin with. (I'm not saying he's a terrible writer or anything, and I'm sure there are many fans out there. I'm just not one of them.)
TIme to get back to the quote. The first sentence is interesting although somewhat self-explanitory. Who would have guessed that 'deconstruction' would mean deconstructing the text? I was not too keen on his woman example either. I get why he used it; he does not really mean that women are less than men, however, when I read this, my eyes were burning. It seems that really what Eagleton wanted to say is that post-structuralism is about overturning power structures within literature. Am I right? Can anyone translate Eagleton for me?
I thought that it would be nice if I posted my notes for my presentation on Thursday just in case anyone wants to know approximately what I want to say or someone misses class. This is basically what I plan to use to teach the class all about Bernard Paris's "The Uses of Psychology." As you'll be able to see when you read it, the outline is a mixture of other critics' thoughts on mimetic criticism and realism, Paris's ideas about mimetic criticism, and my own ways of explaining what Paris or the other critics meant. If you have any comments or suggestions to give me before I present, please let me know what you think. Thanks
Presentation Outline for “The Uses of Psychology” by Bernard Paris
I. Historical Build-up
a. Norman Holland
i. Psychology- does not pertain to literature, but mind of
a. Paris believes there are two kinds of minds: minds of implied authors (author solely based on the work) and leading characters
ii. Character study useful only when applied to analysis of audience’s mind
i. Opposes Holland- “retreat from character” - unfortunate because “most great novels exist to reveal and explore character”
II. Paris’s claim
a. “Characters in fiction participate in dramatic and thematic structures” (216)
i. Dramatic- Character’s interaction with the plot
ii. Thematic- Character’s function in filling out “the theme”
1. Meaning of behavior- understood by function in structures
b. Acknowledgement that some characters are stock: stands for something
c. Main claim- Sometimes “it is proper to treat literary characters as real people and that only by doing so can we fully appreciate the distinctive achievement of the genre”(217).
d. Primary values of fiction
i. Mimetic- “representation;” how well it represents real life
1. Novel- Better character development lets us in to psyche a.k.a. “Native Son”
2. “Problematic existential view”- Why are we here? And bigger life questions making more human.
3. Realistic fiction deals with
a. Character- Development of main character such as Bigger who murders one white person who is nice to him. Why? Actions are intriguing and able to be looked at.
b. Social Milieu- Interaction, culture, and social position. Bigger was a servant. His interaction with the girl he killed is interesting because it’s different in a good way, yet he lashed out and killed her.
ii. Thematic- “interpretation;” what the reader learns
1. Moral fable- More focus on “significance” a.k.a. “The Ugly Duckling”
2. “Classic moralistic perspective”- Characters are stock characters as in “Animal Farm”
iii. Formal- “aesthetic patterning of experience;” structure, mechanics, etc.
e. History’s role (218)
i. Sets background for characters and allows reader to sympathize
ii. Notice the use of historicism in the development of Paris’s essay
f. Dilemma of the Realistic Novelist
i. Georg Lukacs- “No writer is a true realist—or even a truly good writer, if he can direct the evolution of his own characters at will” (219).
ii. E.M.Forster- Basically, the characters that are given complete free reign to develop independent of the author “subvert the main scheme of the book”- In order for a book to be realistic, things cannot happen ideally. As life, there needs to be twists and turns. I would describe this as the author is the parent and character is the rebellious child. The parents know what needs to happen and the child eventually gets it but that child buck the parent the whole way.
g. Types of characters (Robert Scholes and Robert Kellogg pg 220)
i. Aesthetic- Villains create formal patterns but lack depth
ii. Illustrative- Pertain to classical moralistic perspective works. Stand for something but aren’t much on their own.
1. Only “fragments of human psyche”
iii. Mimetic- Characters more gray (rather than black or white) as to be life-like.
h. Goes back to first claim about studying and looking into the mind of
i. Character- If they’re realistic, we can look at them.
1. Immerse ourselves in their reality by “adopt[ing] his perspective and experience[ing] his feelings as though they were our own” (221)- Be that homicidal maniac
ii. “Implied author”- Character and story “influenced by [the author’s] own neuroses” (220) a.k.a. They give characters and plot analyzable characteristics because so much self seeps into work.
1. Interpreter of work
2. Paris said that he, in himself, is a “fictional persona” because we see the inside of his mind and his experiences. He, too, is flawed and thus able to be mimetically analyzed.
III. Finishing points
a. Pg. 222 Basically “Formalism NO!...Mimetic criticism Yes! What is pertinent to humanity is not the form, but rather the experience.
b. Points out flaws in author intent by acknowledging that
i. All of author that exists within a work is what is said
ii. Author is flawed, not some god. Even points out own fallibility pg 221 “I have tried to show ”
c. Also ties in reader-response being important to meaning of work. We respond by immersing ourselves in the story, becoming one with the character. We understand them as a real person and can, because of this, mimetically critique them.
If you have any questions about my outline don't hesitate to ask!
For further information about Paris's article as explained by me, click here.
To go back to the course webpage click here.
From "Shakespeare's The Tempest" by Northrop Frye in Keesey's Contexts for Criticism:
"It is clear that this point is the 'peripety' or reversal of the action, and that the play falls into the form of a diptych, the first half tragic in direction and the second half comic" (300).
What is a diptych? Well according to merriam-webster.com, it is a "2-leaved hinged tablet folding together to protect writing on its waxed surfaces." So in other words, there are two tablets. Together, these tablets make one. I found a picture of one on wikipedia's website which may aid your understanding. Frye applied this term in order to show how the two elements of the play work in a tandum. Without one, the other is meaningless.
From Swann's "Whodunnit? Or, Who Did What? 'Benito Cereno' and the Politics of Narrative Structure" in Keesey's Contexts for Criticism:
By Symons "The...doubt about whether a particular character is hero or villain is an essential feature of the crime story, and Vidocq embodied it in his own person" (319).
When I read this, I thought about the comment made in class dissing my favorite movie, Pirates of the Caribbean. It is too painful to recall, however, I have related two of my blogs this week to the WONDERFUL movies because they MERIT being discussed and watched multiple times.
Anyway, with that off my chest I can precede to my point. When I read this, I thought, "Like Captain Jack Sparrow!" One of the most alluring things about Pirates of the Caribbean is the ambiguous nature of Captain Jack Sparrow. One minute, especiallly in the first one, you think that he's a bad guy, the next the nicest character of them all. The truth is, Captain Jack Sparrow wavers throughout the whole trilogy. Recall that in the first one he refuses to help William Turner until he learns his name. We later find out that he only interacts with Will in order to lift the curse with Will's blood because he is the son of Bootstrap Bill Turner.
Captain Jack Sparrow does, however, help Will and Elizabeth throughout the first and second movie. His true intentions are partially known, but not fully. We have to question if he's helping because he's a truly nice guy or if he's merely helping because he sees profit in it for himself. This tension carries through all the movies and is resolved in the final (at least for now for Pirates 4 is on the way) scene when Sparrow puts the dagger into Turner's hand to stab Davy Jones's heart. Sparrow wanted to sail the seas forever. To stab the heart meant an eternity of his dream. (In a way, it would also negate his need to go searching for the Fountain of Youth, the objective of the next film.) Instead of going for what he wanted, he saved his dying friend, leaving him with nothing except for the feeling that he did the right thing and proved where his alliance was.
This mystery would then, according to Symons, make the trilogy a "crime story" for us, as the viewers, have this character who we are constantly forced to review and rereview. Captain Jack Sparrow is a round character, unlike the rest of them (for the most part). Commodore Norrington is the other one for he changes and makes decisions similar to Sparrow's. In fact, I'd like to say that Norrington is actually Sparrow's foil. He has many of the same traits: he changes sides multiple times, he liked Elizabeth, he is selfish, he has good swordfighting skills, and when it came down to it, he gave what he valued most to save a friend, his life.
What do you think?
My other blog that mentions Pirates of the Caribbean.
From "Shakespeare's The Tempest" by Northrop Frye in Keesey's Contexts for Criticism:
"On the enchanted island this dramatic action goes into reverse, Prospero expanding into the real Duke of Milan and Antonio shrinking to a kind of discarded shell...We note in passing the folktale theme of the struggle of brothers, the rightful heir exiled only to return later in triumph" (302-303).
When I read these lines I couldn't help of think of a few intertextual relationships and because that is the topic for this week, I found it appropriate to write about.
It is intriguing how many times in literature this sibling rivalry shows up. In Shakespeare alone, it shows up numerous times. You'll have to forgive me for it has been a while since I've read many of these works but I believe that King Lear and Hamlet also have elements of sibling rivalry. In Hamlet, Claudius kills his own brother to capture the throne. Also, in King Lear the jealous sisters are mean to each other, competing for their father's kingdom.
I've learned that repetition is of merit in literature. I'd assume that a repeated theme would also be of importance. My own feelings about the repetition of the sibling rivalry in Shakespeare alone would be some sort of indication of what Shakespeare had experienced going on around him (possibly even personally) and seen enough of it to write about it several times. This entry is loosly also based in historical criticism, however, I do not have the time to actually look this stuff up for sure. (Breaks...what good are they if you don't actually get a break?) Anyway, I would assume that maybe even some kingdoms in Shakespeare's time were going through this issue. However, I could be wrong for this kind of conflict can even be found as far back as the Bible with Cain and Able.
What do you think about the reoccurance of this theme? If you know anything about history during Shakespeare's time, please do share!
From "Beyond the Net: Feminist Criticism as Moral Criticism" by Josephine Donovan in Keesey's Contexts for Criticism:
"Women in literature written by men are for the most part seen as Other, as objects, of interest only insofar as they serve or detract from the goals of the male protagonist" (225).
This statement, is both offensive and sexist in itself. The way to get someone to side with you is not to hypocritically creating a near catchall for male works. What I mean is that our author choses to use the words "Women in literature written by men are for the most part seen as Other" which indicates that most works written by men are sexist. That is a pretty strong claim, and an offensive claim at that. She could have said that "There are many works by men that portray women as Other." This would indicate that yes, some men are sexist, but this is a two-way street and some women are sexist, too. It is only fair to look at both sides of the coin (unless they are the same like Harvey Dent's coin).
In order to prove my point I will look at my favorite movie trilogy ever (that does MERIT a director's cut), Pirates of the Caribbean. In this work, both male and female characters are stereotyped. Elizabeth Swann starts out as your typical helpless beautiful woman. She needs William Turner to save her from a certain death, thus she is the perfect damsel in distress. As the movies progress, she seems to gain a hint of independence. She can take better care of herself, saves her and the crew of The Black Pearl by betraying Captain Jack Sparrow's trust and chaining him to the ship, and even becomes one of the pirate lords in the third Pirates movie. However, at the end of the third movie her independence is compromised. She is left waiting for her new husband to return to her while she is forced to care for their child without him. Her end is sad, even miserable if you think about it for she is a single parent kept apart from her husband by a curse. She has gained nothing and her future is bleak. All the viewer can do is pity her.
However, if you look at William Turner's character he seems strong, slightly angry, and also beautiful. He is Elizabeth Swann in male form. Just as Keira Knightly is eye candy, so is Orlando Bloom. His character is also your typical male hero. He goes on adventures to save the woman he would be "willing to die for" and in the end, he dies. He doesn't die for her but for his family's honor. Like the new Mrs. Turner, he suffers the loss of being away from his family for long periods of time. Neither character is new and exciting or unstereotyped. The writer has written these characters in for both sexes.
I'm sure that there are other movies that do the same thing. Can you think of any? How do these movies portray typical male/female stereotypes?
From "The Critical Path" by Northrop Frye in Keesey's Contexts for Criticism:
"It often happens that interesting literature is produced by an uninteresting man, in the sense of one who disappoints us if we are looking for some kind of culture-hero" (281).
I picked this quote for two reasons. My first reason is that I couldn't get anything else out of this essay. I tried reading and rereading lines, thinking that I was missing the point but I'm not so sure the man really had a clear point, thus his whole article would be a muddy point for me. Some articles that we read for class beat around the bush and are confusing but come together in the end, this one was different (for me at least). Could someone clarify this for me? What was "the point"? Did anyone else heve difficulty reading this?
My second point (see I didn't forget) is that this quote in particular is what Dr. Jerz has been saying about looking at the author biography all semester. Some authors are just plain boring and so if we want to look at them historically, we need to look at "the social situation from which [the author] springs" (281). We could make a good approximation of what kinds of audiences the author would be writing for, what social conditions (s)he is addressing, etc by looking at this instead. I guess that I'm starting to see the value of historical criticism in literature and I've also realized that I've even unknowingly used it. I wrote about the social conditions during the time that Dickens wrote "A Christmas Carol" as a way of upholding the work's importance to culture.
From Keesey's Contexts for Criticism:
Robert Frost said, "A poem is best read in the light of all the other poems ever written. We read A the better to read B (we have to start somewhere; we may get very little out of A). We read B the better to read C, C the better to read D, D the better to go back and get something out of A. Progress is not the aim, but circulation. The thing is to get among the poems where they hold each other apart in their places as the stars do" (267).
This quote really reminded me of what Azar Nafisi was saying in her lecture: that all works of literature are related and build off of each other. (Click here to see what I thought about Nafisi's lecture.) It is amazing to think that something written thousands of years later ("D") could open up a mind to something new about the old concept ("A"). The cycle of literature is much like the cycle or circle of life. Everything influences other things. For example, when I think of intertectuality, I have to think of "A Pact" by Ezra Pound. We recently studied this poem in American Literature and it is an example how poetry influences you (whether you like it or not). Pound didn't like Walt Whitman, but at the same time understands how Whitman set the stage for him, he "broke the new wood" so that Pound could carve it. Pound, by writing this poem, is recognizing the loose ties between his own poetry and Whitman's, take him or leave him. Because of this, Nafisi, Pound, you and me are all related in this great cycle. Although Pound would never be able to read one of my poems, what I write could help someone better understand what he wrote. Weird, right?
What works can you see an intertextual relationship in?
Of course, just so you know, I'm not the one posing the question "What good is literature?" It is a question I anticipate hearing when I get my first job teaching, and now I have yet another great answer.
Last night I went to see Azar Nafisi, the author of Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books. She was enlightening and shared many intelligent ideas about stereotypes and literature. When she said, that the only way we can respond to the "absoluteness of death" and "fickleness of life" is to show "evidence we have lived" through poetry and literature, my breath was taken away.
We have it here people, the much sought after Fountain of Youth. Now if Ponce de Leon had realized this. She made up my mind that it is one of the goals of my life to become a published author. Dr. Nafisi's advice showed me, even more than I already knew, that "books clear the dust from our eyes" (Nafisi).
She's right if your think about it. Some people just think that books are a novelty and are pointless, however, books are the key to the advancement of our culture. We become acquainted with our past so that we can build on it to create the future. It makes sense that Hitler burned books. He wanted to destroy history and by doing so, destroy hope. He was trying to isolate the people and make them ignorant of all things that could liberate them, take away their greatest possible weapon, their minds. Think of how much valuable literature was destroyed along with the countless lives. Since then, we have written about such events in order to prevent them from ever happening again, so the cycle continues.