October 12, 2004

Pulling It All Together

All marriages are mixed marriages.
Chantal Saperstein

Its time to look back at the huge blogging frenzy recently experienced on "A Storybook of Quotes."

Well, it is obvious that I've been a busy bee when it comes to classic American literature. Poe, Emerson, Hawthorn, Bierce, and Melville; what can I say other then I'm an amazingly apt procrastinator. (Hence the frenzy.)

I do think that several of the blog entries I've writen have been of note however.
For example:
In Emersoned Out I expressed why I feel the way I do about the transcendentalist movement, much to the disappointment of my fellow classmate Stephan Puff.
Then in A Workaholic, I compared the classic work of Herman Melville with our modern day counterpart, the movie Office Space.
I also have to mention When Emotions Get In The Way. The most outside research went into this blog entry comparing abuse with the relationships in The Scarlet Letter.

Not all of my blog entries come straight to my mind. Sometimes it helps to be a member of the blogging community of Seton Hill.
Paul was able to help develop my idea for An Interesting Occurrence.
A comment I made on Tiffany's blog spawned In Over His Head.
Emersoned Out was also my reaction to the class discussion.

I know that I can't manage all of my blogging without the supporting or disagreeing comments from my classmates. I can't be a hypocrite however, so I do the same for them.
The best example of me sharing the little insight I have is found on Tiffany's blog on Edgar Allen Poe.
However, I also offered my opinion to Nikki Moses for her "An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge" entry.
But I didn't stop there! Oh no, I went on to comment on Puff's entry on the same topic. (Presented in a different format of course.)

It is nice to pull everything together. : D

Posted by Diana Geleskie at 12:24 AM | Comments (0)

October 11, 2004

Emersoned Out

Too many people are thinking of security instead of opportunity. They seem more afraid of life than death.
James F. Byrnes (1882-1972)

I have to admit it, I am sick of hearing about Ralph Waldo Emerson. Every time I am asked to look at American Literature, I am asked to look at Emerson. I haven't gotten any more out of his works since the first time I looked at them.

The best way to live is the simple way. I get it, I understand. Why this huge need to overstate it? Now you are most likely expecting me to pull out his views on government and society. So I won't.

I really need to understand, what is the big deal? I understand that he was one of the key movers and shakers in the transcendentalist movement. What I don't get is why everything he believes in must be repeated to us when we aren't changing the system. If we were using his work to change the system, that would be something worth talking about. We aren't. We talk about how the system should be changed and what Emerson has to say about it and that is about it.

Posted by Diana Geleskie at 11:17 PM | Comments (5)

In Over His Head

"This is either brilliance or madness."
"Remarkable how often those two traits coincide."
Pirates of the Caribbean

I must pause and take a minute to quote my fellow classmate, Paul Crossman, "Edgar Allen Poe was a seriously cracked out guy."

This is true. I think that it is safe to say that Edgar Allen Poe was one of the greatest literary minds of all times. It is also safe to say that he was truly nuts, at least in some aspects. How else could the great works such as "The Raven" come about?

I began this particular blog entry on Tiffany's blog entry concerning "The Raven." I don't think that the raven featured in "The Raven" is a real bird. Beyond the obvious point that real birds cannot speak, this bird is out of place with the rest of it's presented environment.

What has happened in "The Raven" is the narrator has got to the point were what he feels internally is being outwardly expressed in a fashion he couldn't have possibly imagined. In other words, the narrator is in such an emotional turmoil that what he is seeing with his eyes is not something that can be trusted.

Edgar Allen Poe is such a literary genius that he can express this in terms that leaves the reader in the narrator's mind. The narrator sees the raven as a real bird, so we too see the raven.

Posted by Diana Geleskie at 10:49 PM | Comments (1)

A Workaholic

Anyone can do any amount of work provided it isn't the work he is supposed to be doing at the moment.
Robert Benchley (1889-1945)

They saw that there are stories everywhere you look if you are creative enough to pursue them. (I'm not, which is why I'm not in journalism.) Herman Melville, however, found one in an unusual place and followed it until its end. The result is "Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall-street."

Bartleby is the kind of guy that everyone knows after a fashion. He is the person that everyone has a tendency to overlook until he forces himself upon you. The kind of person we all wish we didn't actually know or be forced to associate with.

The perfect example of this is found in one of the classic movies of our time, Office Space. Just look at Milton. Nothing screams Bartleby more. (For a little fun see which Office Space character you are most like.)

Bartleby is that poor sucker who you feel for, but would just rather do without.

Posted by Diana Geleskie at 10:25 PM | Comments (0)

An Interesting Occurrence

1. Never tell everything at once.
Ken Venturi (1931-) - Ken Venturi's Two Great Rules of Life

That is the rule of thumb found in Ambrose Bierce's "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge." The story would not have the same effect if we knew that Peyton Farquhar was not going to survive the ending at any other point then the ending. Yes, it is possible to argue that the ending can be seen coming. However, there is a difference between suspicion and the cold hard fact, "Peyton Farquhar was dead; his body, with a broken neck, swung gently from side to side beneath the timbers of the Owl Creek bridge."

There is no way that this story could accomplish the same reaction in readers if the ending was not a surprise. Personally, I took a huge gasping breath after reading the ending for the first time. Just like a well-written poem, I wanted to go back and re-read the story. (I didn't have time for that, but I did re-read the last page.)

Again like a poem, every word chosen by Bierce forwarded some aspect of the story. Paul points out that even the title keeps the reader's interest, "Before you even looked at the work, you really wanted to know exactly what the hell was going to happen at Owl Creek Bridge." Bierce does an amazing job of stripping the story down to the bear essentials and nothing more. That is what makes "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" a successful story.

Posted by Diana Geleskie at 9:31 PM | Comments (0)

A Devil of a Word

Say what you will about the Ten Commandments, you must always come back to the pleasant fact that there are only ten of them.
H. L. Mencken (1880-1956)

The Devil's Dictionary vs. The Cynic's Word Book

Divil: the major personified spirit of evil, ruler of Hell, and foe of God
Dictionary: a reference book containing an alphabetical list of words, with information given for each word, usually including meaning, pronunciation, and etymology.

Cynic: a person who believes all people are motivated by selfishness.
Word: symbolizes and communicates a meaning and may consist of a single morpheme or of a combination of morphemes.
Book: a set of written, printed, or blank pages fastened along one side and encased between protective covers.

definations by dictionary.com

Taken from the author's preface to The Devil's Dictionary:

"This more reverent title had previously been forced upon him by the religious scruples of the last newspaper in which a part of the work had appeared, with the natural consequence that when it came out in covers the country already had been flooded by its imitators with a score of 'cynic' books — The Cynic's This, The Cynic's That, and The Cynic's t'Other. Most of these books were merely stupid, though some of them added the distinction of silliness. Among them, they brought the word 'cynic' into disfavor so deep that any book bearing it was discredited in advance of publication."

Which title is more appropiate?

The Devil's Dictionary and religion

RELIGION, n. A daughter of Hope and Fear, explaining to Ignorance the nature of the Unknowable. "What is your religion my son?" inquired the Archbishop of Rheims. "Pardon, monseigneur," replied Rochebriant; "I am ashamed of it." "Then why do you not become an atheist?" "Impossible! I should be ashamed of atheism." "In that case, monsieur, you should join the Protestants."

What was going on in the Catholic Church while The Devil's Dictionary was being written?

Pope Leo XIII publishes two Papal Encyclicals, Diuturnum, on the Origin of civil power; and Licet Multa, on local controversies.

Pope Leo XIII publishes three Papal Encyclicals, Divinum Illud Munus, on the Holy Ghost; Militantis Ecclesias, a tercentenary of St. Peter Canisius; and Affari Vos, on schools in Manitoba. In this Encyclical, the Pope sent Monsignor Merry Del Val to treat in his name with the Government concerning the obnoxious Manitoba School Law.

1899 - 1900:
The Boxer Rebellion. Many Catholics suffered martyrdom during this revolt in China. A secret society of Chinese, which westerners called the Boxers, began terrorizing Christian missionaries, mostly Catholics. In 1900 these attacks culminated in the violent Boxer Rebellion in Beijing, which claimed the lives of many Chinese and foreigners. The Western powers sent a relief expedition which occupied the city and ended the rebellion.

Pope St. Pius X publishes four Papal Encyclicals, Vehementer Nos, addressed to the French Bishops on French separation Law; Tribus Circiter, condemning the Mariavites; Pieni L’Animo, on the clergy in Italy; and Gravissimo Officii, forbidding Associations Culturelles.
The United States Supreme Court ordered the property seized by the Aglipayans to be restored to the Catholic hierarchy. The schismatics complied with the Court’s decision.

How is this reflected in The Devil's Dictionary?

ARCHBISHOP, n. An ecclesiastical dignitary one point holier than a bishop.
If I were a jolly archbishop, On Fridays I'd eat all the fish up — Salmon and flounders and smelts; On other days everything else.
Jodo Rem

CARMELITE, n. A mendicant friar of the order of Mount Carmel.
As Death was a-rising out one day, Across Mount Camel he took his way, Where he met a mendicant monk, Some three or four quarters drunk, With a holy leer and a pious grin, Ragged and fat and as saucy as sin, Who held out his hands and cried: "Give, give in Charity's name, I pray. Give in the name of the Church. O give, Give that her holy sons may live!" And Death replied, Smiling long and wide: "I'll give, holy father, I'll give thee — a ride."
With a rattle and bang Of his bones, he sprang From his famous Pale Horse, with his spear; By the neck and the foot Seized the fellow, and put Him astride with his face to the rear.
The Monarch laughed loud with a sound that fell Like clods on the coffin's sounding shell: "Ho, ho! A beggar on horseback, they say, Will ride to the devil!" — and thump Fell the flat of his dart on the rump Of the charger, which galloped away.
Faster and faster and faster it flew, Till the rocks and the flocks and the trees that grew By the road were dim and blended and blue To the wild, wild eyes Of the rider — in size Resembling a couple of blackberry pies. Death laughed again, as a tomb might laugh At a burial service spoiled, And the mourners' intentions foiled By the body erecting Its head and objecting To further proceedings in its behalf.
Many a year and many a day Have passed since these events away. The monk has long been a dusty corse, And Death has never recovered his horse. For the friar got hold of its tail, And steered it within the pale Of the monastery gray, Where the beast was stabled and fed With barley and oil and bread Till fatter it grew than the fattest friar, And so in due course was appointed Prior.

CHRISTIAN, n. One who believes that the New Testament is a divinely inspired book admirably suited to the spiritual needs of his neighbor. One who follows the teachings of Christ in so far as they are not inconsistent with a life of sin.
I dreamed I stood upon a hill, and, lo! The godly multitudes walked to and fro Beneath, in Sabbath garments fitly clad, With pious mien, appropriately sad, While all the church bells made a solemn din — A fire-alarm to those who lived in sin. Then saw I gazing thoughtfully below, With tranquil face, upon that holy show A tall, spare figure in a robe of white, Whose eyes diffused a melancholy light. "God keep you, strange," I exclaimed. "You are No doubt (your habit shows it) from afar; And yet I entertain the hope that you, Like these good people, are a Christian too." He raised his eyes and with a look so stern It made me with a thousand blushes burn Replied — his manner with disdain was spiced: "What! I a Christian? No, indeed! I'm Christ."

CLERGYMAN, n. A man who undertakes the management of our spiritual affairs as a method of better his temporal ones.

DECALOGUE, n. A series of commandments, ten in number — just enough to permit an intelligent selection for observance, but not enough to embarrass the choice. Following is the revised edition of the Decalogue, calculated for this meridian.
Thou shalt no God but me adore: 'Twere too expensive to have more.
No images nor idols make For Robert Ingersoll to break.
Take not God's name in vain; select A time when it will have effect.
Work not on Sabbath days at all, But go to see the teams play ball.
Honor thy parents. That creates For life insurance lower rates.
Kill not, abet not those who kill; Thou shalt not pay thy butcher's bill.
Kiss not thy neighbor's wife, unless Thine own thy neighbor doth caress
Don't steal; thou'lt never thus compete Successfully in business. Cheat.
Bear not false witness — that is low — But "hear 'tis rumored so and so."
Cover thou naught that thou hast not By hook or crook, or somehow, got.

MARTYR, n. One who moves along the line of least reluctance to a desired death.

MINISTER, n. An agent of a higher power with a lower responsibility. In diplomacy and officer sent into a foreign country as the visible embodiment of his sovereign's hostility. His principal qualification is a degree of plausible inveracity next below that of an ambassador.


Do you think that Ambrose Bierce was using The Devil's Dictionary as a means to change what was going on in the Church?

Do cynical writings work towards change?

What statements is Ambrose Biere making about organized religion?

Posted by Diana Geleskie at 4:35 AM | Comments (4)

October 10, 2004

When Emotions Get In The Way

Books have the same enemies as people: fire, humidity, animals, weather, and their own content.
Paul Valery (1871-1945)

Our interaction with other people is a source of grief, even if it is a necessary one. Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter offers us several different examples of people making each other miserable. The best stnad-out example is the relationship established between Hester and the rest of the community. However, the internal struggles that people are able to establish can be just as damaging. The one relationship in this novel that is purely emotional abuse is the relationship between the Reverend Dimmesdale and Roger Chillingworth.

Emotional abuse comes in stages, or else we would not be built up enough to allow such abuse to continue. The way abusers are able to go about is by taking their victim through a brainwashing process. Chillingworth does this to Dimmesdale, filling his head with lies.

Like the rising and setting of the sun, abuse comes in cycles.
Symptoms of Emotional Abuse

Even without looking at such materials, it is obvious that Chillingworth is abusing his relationship with Dimmesdale. In this case, Chillingworth starts the abuse as a perverse form of revenge. Even after looking through some different explanations, I cannot figue out why, once the victim is aware of the situation, abuse is still allowed to continue. I pose this question to you. Why once we know what is being done to us do we allow it to continue?

Posted by Diana Geleskie at 11:47 PM | Comments (4)