Come One, Come All to Our Carnival of “The Dead”

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I personally was really excited by how much enthusiasm everyone showed for this carnival.  Derek graciously kicked off our festivities with this blog.  He explained that a group of us from the class EL312 Literary Criticism decided to get together and test our critical lens by applying them not just to the EL312 course material, but also to that of EL309 Advanced Study in Literature.  We all decided that we would apply some criticism to James Joyce’s short story, “The Dead” found in his book the Dubliners.  If you are unfamiliar with “The Dead,” you can click here for a short summary or here for the full text.  However, I think the most obvious learning took place not in the writing of the blogs themselves (although I think everyone did a great job writing well-thought out entries), but in the continued comments and interactions that began last Friday and are still going on even now approaching a week later.  After all, what kind of Carnival only lasts a day? 

The first attraction in our Carnival of “The Dead” was Angela’s “The Horror House.”  She opted to analyze the last sentence of the short story using predominantly formalism.  She considered the alliteration and repetition in the sentence and considered why Joyce would choose these words and put them in this order.  The discussion continued as others considered Angela’s blog.  Others shared their opinions about why Joyce did so and brought up other significant words in the passage which were then considered.  Intertextual relations were considered between “The Dead” and Keats’s “Ode on a Grecian Urn,’ and more.  I won’t give away any more of went on.  If you wish to know more, you’ll have to enter “The Horror House” for yourself.  But beware, it is a Horror House after all.  What you may find, may just suck you into the discussion as well, and you may never get out.

Moving on to our next attraction, we come to “The House of Mirrors,” which happens to be my contribution.  In my entry I considered a possible intertexual relationship between Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and Joyce’s “The Dead” through the connection I saw between the characters of Darcy and D’Arcy.  I also used historicism to help set-up the possibility that Joyce intended this relationship between the texts.  While some of my fellow bloggers agreed my observation was possible, others felt I was stretching too far.  The discussion turned to what is more important, what the author intended or what the reader perceives?  So enter into “The Hall of Mirrors,” but remember things may not be what they seem, and the obvious may become distorted. 

Our next stop is at Derek’s “House of Shoes.”  Here Derek observed a repeated reference to feet and “soles” which he related to Angela’s quote about souls.  He mused about whether this word play was intentional and what it could mean and how it relates to Ireland itself.  His observation shocked some of his peers who had not noticed what he had.  From there the discussion shifted from wonder about whether Joyce intended this or not to the significance of the repetition of walking and how this related to Irish identity.  So now it’s time for you to enter the “House of Shoes,” but make sure you consider that once you put on these shoes, they could take you anywhere. 

Nearing the end of our journey, we come to Katie’s “The Illusionist.”  In this addition to our Carnival, Katie considers the illusion Gabriel has been living and his epiphany.  She discussed the shock that “The Dead” created in the reader as the paralysis presented is much more severe here than in Joyce’s other short stories found in the Dubliners.  A debate ensued as to whether this turning point for Gabriel was meant to be taken in a positive or negative light, and from this position what is the reader meant to take from this tone.  So have a seat, sit back, and observe the powers of “The Illusionist,” but bear in mind some things may only be illusions…

Now we reach our final destination with Kayley’s “’The Dead’ What is dead?”  In her blog Kayley considers the role of the title in the short story and what exactly this death implies.  In fact is it really death at all, or is it instead rebirth?  Disagreements and agreements arose about whether there was death and rebirth and the possibility of Gabriel representing Ireland was discussed.  So enter into the questioning of life and death with “What is dead?”  But remember, not all things that appear dead are so.

Thank you carnival participants for doing a great job and being so dedicated.  And carnival-goers, I hope you enjoyed our Carnival of “The Dead.”  Feel free to comment on our discussions!

3 Comments

Derek Tickle said:

I want to begin by saying thank you all for being such wonderful carnival members. I think that we have discussed many different meanings of the text and applied criticism to just about every booth we encountered! The cost seemed minimal, but the outcome was extravagant.

Thank you all for your dedication, hard work, and for making the 2009 carnival season a great success!

Wow! We really made this carnival a successful one! Thank you Derek for kicking it off and Greta for wrapping it up! Everyone, the conversations shed a lot of light on "The Dead" and I think that we'll all probably do well on this story on our midterm. I can't comment on the rest of the the test though...

Kyle Humbert said:

Sorry I missed your Carnival. I could have told you about Irish playwright Anne Pigone's feminist intertextual ploughing of The Dead - called The Ugly. Same story only all the characters got a gender switch!

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