November 26, 2007

Reaching for the Stars and Landing on the Moon

"I'm the one who gets the raspberries!"
Susan Alexander Kane (Dorothy Comingore), Citizen Kane

Charles Foster Kane has trouble dealing with the truth - to the point that it almost destroys Susan. The scene that Susan exclaims, "I'm the one who gets the raspberries!" throws back to the lengthening of the breakfast table with Kane's first wife, Emily Monroe Norton Kane (Ruth Warrick).
Both women are expressing disgust with Kane and his schemes for grandeur, especially their own. Emily morns her displeasure at Bernstein being allowed in the nursery and ends up reading the Chronicle. Susan cries out more dramatically with a suicide attempt.
I don't think that Kane really intended his wives to 'get the raspberries,' but he was stuck in his own experience with his own 'raspberries' that he didn't pay much attention to other people's. Even when told about them, he could defer them off as not being as important as his own.

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November 19, 2007

The Insane and the Shallow

"When can I go to the supermarket and buy what I need with my good looks?"

Allen Ginsberg, "America," Howl and Other Poems

Poetry makes love to words; Allen Ginsberg's poetry rapes them.

Reading Howl and Other Poems was like repeatedly slamming a hammer on my thumb to see how long it would take to not feel the sensation of pain with each hit; then admiring the distortion of the limb. I can't say I've ever truly experienced that feeling while reading before now.

The lines are quotable and hideous, but quite possibly ingenious. The vulgarity of it is necessary. The faster the words fly across the page, barely pausing to give the reader an anchor, the higher the demand for their presence.

Perhaps the sense of the words has been lost on me, for example, "When can I go to the supermarket and buy what I need with my good looks?" There is no answer to such a question. The shallowness of American culture make that step a probable thought, as good looks buy everything else.

The sense is completely lost - and that is its ultimate value.

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November 15, 2007

For the Sake of Comedy

"Humor in the ghettos and camps was a psychological response to danger and oppression; it functioned as both a coping mechanism and a means of resistance. As a literary device it has lent credibility to witness literature and functioned aesthetically to make the unfathomable accessible to the minds and emotions of the reading public."

Cory, Mark. "Comedic Distance in Holocaust Literature." Journal of American Culture 18.1 (Spring 1995): 35-40. MLA International Bibliography. EBSCO. Reeves Memorial Library, Greensburg, PA. 15 November 2007. http://search.ebscohost.com/.

Humor (or even more so laughter) is a defense mechanism. I've used it before, I admit. In Holocaust literature it isn't so different.

If Holocaust literature didn't include comedy, I doubt it would be read as fully. Comedy makes everything more substantial, just as looking at an individual's tale helps more than statistics ever could. Comedy keeps it real.

I think that is the role of the comedy in literature - during the actual event (thank goodness I don't know for sure) I think it helped to maintain the distance and make it into the absurd.

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One of the Greatest Films of All Time

"The historian's task is complex and demanding: a single word does not explain a man's life, nor does a newspaper headline, a radio report or a densely composed film frame. All are sources which must be treated with the utmost scrutiny but which taken together can reveal significant 'truths' about elements of the past, truths which are often not what we would like to learn."

Street, Sarah. "Citizen Kane." History Today 46.3 (Mar. 1996): 48. Academic Search Elite. EBSCO. Reeves Memorial Library, Greensburg, PA. 15 November 2007. http://search.ebscohost.com/.

Reading Sarah Street's article on Citizen Kane made me wonder about the difference between finding meaning in film and finding meaning in literature. (Or perhaps this is the influence of next semester's 'Books to Film' class with Dr. Wendland.)

Originally I wanted to write about Citizen Kane - I had success with Bladerunner, why not Citizen Kane? Especially when it is (I think) a much more groundbreaking film with a more interesting script.

While this article was interesting and didn't focus too much on "Rosebud" as I feared most critical articles I looked at would - I don't know if Citizen Kane is going to work out for me. My thoughts are running wild in the need for an underdone topic concerning Citizen Kane. (I swear I'll scream before writing about William Randolph Hearst.)

How can one of the greatest films of all times be so limiting?

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Reading Actually

"The truth is that many people everywhere are interested in almost everything."
Steve Wasserman, "Goodbye to All That"

The power of the masses started with the ability to read.

Interests. Not everyone had the same ones - if we did, it'd be a pretty boring world. I'm not going to claim to be an ideal reader, (most of the reading I've been doing lately has been required reading, my pleasure book has been sitting on my shelf almost all semester) I am going to claim that I love to read. And, to quote (or at least paraphrase) Dr. Jerz - Zoologists don't only play with cute animals.

Of course everyone is interested in almost everything. I don't think that there is a subject out there I could think of that didn't at least have somebody caring about it.

So Steve Wasserman, I agree, but I also don't think the point is very valid - it's like saying that the truth is there are a great many fish in the sea who are interested in almost all water.

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November 5, 2007

History or Humanity

Maus.jpg Art Spiegelman, Maus I: My Father Bleeds History

After a long battle with the technology available through the Seton Hill Academic Computing Labs, I managed to capture the final page of Art Spiegelman's Maus I: My Father Bleeds History.

I think that this kind of attitude peppers through history's horrors. Memories that some want to forget and others want to charish.

I also thought it interesting that Art turns the idea of murder on his father for burning his mother's words. It's as if destroying the memories of the trials she lived through was what killed her. The value isn't even placed on her life and death - but rather the life and death of history. Which one is really more valuable? I think that Art's character is saying history, but the way he takes pains (in the novel) to show the value of evey aspect of his father argues the opposite.

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Of Mice and Men

"Maus compels us to bear witness in a different way: the very artificiality of its surface makes it possible to imagine the reality beneath." Newsweek, Review of Art Spiegelman's Maus

My first experience with Art Spiegelman's Maus took place at Penn State's University Book Centre (now Got Used Bookstore). I shelved literally hundreds of copies under their respective assigned courses. But, like all the books I shelved, I didn't have time to really look at it - except to see that it had a swastika on it alongside some mice.

Years passed - three actually - and Maus snuck up on me again. One of my good friends had it assigned for class (oh the irony - I could have shelved his copy). He loved it; and spent quite a long time explaining the concept to me.

The Jewish community is portrayed as mice - the Nazi officers as cats - get it? Isn’t it great? I'll really have to tell you all about it. The style of the pictures is so interesting - especially when compared with the events going on around them.

Yes, I answered, of course it sounds wonderful - inspired actually - I'll read it eventually.

Well that time has come - it's time to throw these first impressions aside.

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November 1, 2007

Always Living In The Past

"Even Antoinette's nostalgic fantasies of community and place seem to guarantee her progression toward Thornfield Hall and madness - a progression toward becoming Bertha Mason."
John J. Su "'Once I Would Have Gone Back . . . But Not Any Longer': Nostalgia and Narrative Ethics in Wide Sargasso Sea"

John J. Su discusses how Antoinette's is constantly living her life with a sort of nostalgia - she wants the past. She always wants the past. A past that never really existed to begin with.

I thought that this was an interesting approach towards Antoinette's character. With nostalgia it is hard to imagine present life. Antoinette has that very problem. At the novel's conclusion, Antoinette is hardly even aware of her surroundings, claiming that when she is allowed outside that she went on a visit to England. She is completely living in the past.

One example that John J. Su uses is her final reflection on Tia. Tia is a figure of her past - a figure who at their final meeting tried to hurt her. But still Antoinette thinks of her with favor: very nostalgic. It is only after this dream that Antoinette burns down Thornfield Hall and kills herself. She can only be unhinged when she lives in the past.

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Space/Time Continuum

"As long as Antoinette can remember and order the events of her memories into a temporal or causal sequence, create even an illusion of sequence and maintain a measured space and time, then she can hold her life and self together."
Kathy Mezei, "'And it Kept its Secret': Narration, Memory, and Madness in Jean Rhys' WIde Sargasso Sea"

I'd never really thought about holding your life together based on the ability to navigate your way through time and space. Kathy Mezei's claim that that is what Antoinette is doing makes perfect sense.

While Antoinette is still within her comfort zone (on the island with an unaware, un-judging husband) she has it all together. Not once is it implied that Antoinette has any sanity left in her when she is in England - in either Rhys or Brontë. The fact that she was comfortable kept some semblance of "the events of her memories [in] a temporal or causal sequence."

When she steps outside that comfort zone - I think first brought on by her visit to Christophine - she starts to lose it. When she visits Christophine she is asking to try and save her marriage by knowing she is destroying it - Rochester never forgives her - something she knows will happen going in. I think that was really her first step outside of a "temporal or causal sequence."

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