March 2009 Archives

Hamilton: Books Books Books

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"...the novel of character, in which the primary interest is in the Protagonist's thoughts, feelings, and motives and in the ways that the characters develop" (Hamilton 9).

I am reading a book right now for World Literature that is this type of novel.  Actually it is quite interesting and i would recommend that others give it a read.  The books title is Kafka on the Shore , the author is Haruki Murakami.  Synopsis:  two/ partially three stories being carried at once.  The first is about a teenage runaway in Japan, the second about a man who can talk to cats, the third, interviews with Japanese citizens following the WWII in which an entire class of elementary students falls unconscious for no apparent reason.  It is kind of cool how all three come to meet one another.

"Reading a text is no longer considered an innocent activity.  Post-structuralism undermines the notion that the text contains a stable meaning" (Wright 393).

How can a text contain a stable meaning.  The author intended meaning A, but reader recieved meaning B.  If there is a stable meaning, then who got it, and how can we prove it?  I am growing very weary of circular arguments, much like a dog chasing their tail, the end result should they catch that tail is a taste of their own ass.

Near the end of the essay we are given another quote, "...meanings of which [the author] had only a blurred view" (Wright 399). 

It is true that the author can only "intend" so much in their work, and it is unfair to hold them accountable for any new meanings that might be found in difference to the meaning that was intended, but I still have trouble seeing why the author's intended meaning is the most "useful" and "best" meaning that can be found.

"Where and how does this decentering, this notion of the structurality fo structure, occur?" (Derrida 355).

I got nothing from this article.  I hate to say it, but intellectually i wasted my time reading this, I have tried twice now to figure out what this man was trying to say, and have nothing.  If anyone can help me out please do.

Keesey: Chapter 6 Introduction We are Words

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"For, as we have noted, the necessary condition for any meaningful utterance is that it be structured according to a system that is, in Derrida's phrase, 'always already' in place and quite independent of the speaker - already 'written,' on might say" (Keesey 347).

I found this section quite fascinating, only by having a set structure to work from can we have a structure to build on.  Writing is only possible because we have a basis for it in speech, but speech is, at least in my own opinion, enhanced because we have writing.  We as readers, writers, and speakers of our language, are simply biproducts of a system long ago set down.  We work with this system because our brains are structured to do precisely that, play a part of this verbal/written system.

Hamilton: Personification

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"Personification is a figure of thought in which an abstract concept, animal, or inanimate object is treated as though it were alive or had human attributes." (Hamilton 39)

This thought could be extended into human type objects...such as replicants.  As close to human without being human.  In some instances as we hear about in the movie, they were designed to be more human then human.

Bladerunner: More human then human

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I love this movie, although as most often is the case, the book was better.  The question that appears in the movie, but even more so in the book is, what does it mean to be human?  You have on the one hand, the humans themselves who are doing their best to kill all of the androids, while at the same time barely paying attention to their own lives.  On the other hand you have the androids who are fighting for their lives just to try and enjoy those few fleeting years that they are allowed to exist.  Running for their "lives" and striving for the freedom that the humans take for granted. 

Another question that pops up during the movie, is who has more humanity, the humans or the androids?  Remeber that the last act of the final replicant that Deckerd must destroy, is to save the man trying to destroy it. 

"...committed to a belief in some ultimate 'word' presence, essence, truth or reality which will act as the foundation of all our thought, language, and experience.  It has yearned for the sign which will give meaning to all others-the 'transcendental signifier'-and for the anchoring, unquestionable meaning to which all our signs can be seen to point..." (Eagleton 113).

     Well good luck finding that one.  There is not now, nor shall there ever be one foundation upon which we can rest human experience, literature or any experience.  There is no single word that can cover it all.  Besides, even if that word were to be found, Eagleton points out that it needs to be something seperate from our language in order to describe the language, so once it is found it immediately becomes part of the language and loses all of its ability to act as a foundation for the language.  Am i getting this right?  This whole Post-Structuralism seems alot like tryign to pick up a turd by it's clean end.  There is no way to grab it that you won't get dirty, and smelly.

JR Lohr : My in class presentation

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I plan to present on Keesey's Chapter 4 Introduction.  In this section, Keesey discusses in general terms the use of Mimetic Criticism, it's strong points as well as drawbacks.  For my presentation I used this website:  http://wwww.ksu.edu.sa/colleges/art/eng/461-Eng/Literary%20Criticism%20Map.htm  which gives a good definition Mimetic Criticism.  This website is part of KSU Department of English.

Some of the Quotes I plan on discussing are as follows:

1.  "Mimesis...explains how the artist must look past the accidents, the individual peculiarities, to discover the essential or characteristic form that underlies them.  The artist gives us the essence of a character, a situation, an action." (Keesey 208).

     I chose this quote because I do believe that art of any sort works in many generalities.  In order to function this is almost a necessity.  If an author presents us with a scene that is incredibly foreign to what we are accustomed too, it is hard to find relations, but if this scene is tempered by the generalities of human emotion, among other things, we find a common ground upon which all viewers of this work can meet.

2.  "Newton's apple and Humpty - Dumpty obey the same 'laws,' whcih can be stated in compact formulas to describe an infinite number of specific cases.  But, replies the literary critic, such description is too general.  It is too abstract to describe the4 heft and the feel, the smell and sound and sight, of the world as we actually experience it" (Keesey 209).

     I liked this one alot, but in truth generalities are what artists use to attempt to make their messages universal.  For instance, if a poet speaks of first love, they are describing something that most people can recognize and remember.  Even if they have only experience love from a distance, and never had that love returned to them.  In another example, in science, H2O will always be water, but this does not do when it comes to describing a waterfalls power.  It doesn't describe the beauty of the rainbow formed by the light reflecting thropugh the mist, nor any number of other sensory observations.

3.  "How does the poem, in conforming to a reality already known, give us knowledge?  Or, if the reality is not already known, how can we be sure the poem does in fact conform to it?" (Keesey 210)

     In this question we have a wide range of possible answers.  For the first question, I don't believe that it is so much knowledge of the reality that we gain, as much as a realization of what we have been overlooking.  When was the last time we sat and watched a sunset?  When was the last time we laid down in the grass and looked for shapes in the clouds?  These are just a few instances in which poetry can redirect our attention to those mundane things in which so much beauty can be found.

     As for the second question, I am not certain that the reality being described needs to be something that the poem conforms too.  Is a love story any less enticing if it takes place in a space shuttle, rather than in Victorian Times?  Do we really need to understand the reality in order to understand the emotions and context?

One should try to remember that it seems that Mimetic Criticism deals with generalities, not specifics.  This is why I find it so fascinating.  We have been trying all term to find an approach that will lead us to the "Truth" of a text.  I don't believe that a truth exists.  By searching for generalities we are allowing for more discussion, this discussion then leads to more ideas.  I find it hard to believe that we as readers, would have anything to discuss if texts were written in such a way as to negate multiple readings.

 

Hamilton: Theater of the Absurd

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"...the theater of the absurd, which questions the meaning of life in a universe seen as godless and which has overthrown such accepted conventions as a well-established setting, logical dialogue, and a fully resolved conflict" (Hamilton 6)

I looked this up because I noticed that it's coming up on the syllabus...assuming our syllabus doesn't change again without our being notified.

Swann: I'm Confused who did it?

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"The mystery/detective story, involving as it does so clearly questions of crime and punishment, confronts questions of authority in society" (Swann 317).

I think one of the things i love most about "Benito Cerino" is that the first time you read it you arent really sure what is going on.  I like the questioning of authority in society, and that is very much what i saw when i first read the story.  How could the slaves really be in charge, not because they are unable as people, but because it seems so unusual for the type of story that i expected to read. 

Frye: The Tempest is back

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"In Shakespeare's day, if a cultivated person had been asked what a comedy was, he would probably have said that it was a play which depicted people in the middle and lower ranks of society, observed their foibles and follies, and was careful not to diverge too far from what would be recognized as credible..." (Frye 299).

This just goes to show how comedy has changed...take a look at Monty Python and The Holy Grail. 

Culler:Thanks for the definition...finally

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"If one wished to distinguish between structuralism and semiology (and the reasons for the distinction are historical rather than logical), one could do so in these terms:  structuralism studies the structures or systems of relations by which cultural objects are defined and distinguished from one another; semiology studies cultural objects as signs that carry meanings" (Culler 289).

Just wanted to say thanks for there finally being a clear definition given on any of the articles that we have read. 

Frye: The Critical Path

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"As long as the meaning of a poem, let us say for short, is sought primarily within the context of intentional discourse, it becomes a document, to be related to some verbal area of study outside literature" (Frye 281)

This section amazed me...why would anyone think that because a poet is a great poet, that means they must have been a great person.  That's as crazy as saying that because a person can do math in their head, they must be rich.  It makes no sense, just absolutely no sense at all.  Can anyone explain this too me?

Paris: The Uses of Psychology

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Holland:  "The 'three possible minds to which the psychological critic customarily refers' are the author's mind, a character's mind, and the audience's mind..."(Paris/Holland 216)

I'm not certain how this is a defecite.  Later on this same page, we are confronted by a theory that "...character study is not legitimate" because we are trying to see the characters in the story as being real.  Why can't we see them as being real.  If there were no believable parts in these character, things that we as readers and members of the "real" world could grab on too, what reason would we have to care about the story.  I have always been a firm believer that above all else in a story, characters come first.  Without believable characters that the reader cares about, plot, setting, and all other parts of the story become for the most part useless.  Being that the character's mind often plays a very important role in a story, how is it any less legitimate for us to try and figure out this characters mind?

Keesey: Chapter 5 Introduction

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"The mirror may tell us what we are; memory may tell us what we were; but only the imagination can tell us what we might be" (Keesey 268).

I really like this quote.  Without dreaming, what would our lives really be.  Every person is living a life that is not exactly how they planned it to be.  As a child i spent so many hours dreaming of what i was going to be when i grew up.  As an adult, i spend many hours trying to figure out how i can make those dreams come true.  I believe that it is only through our minds that we can find the answers we are looking for.  It is only our own imagination that determines what is real and what is not.  Once it was thought that men could never fly, but we found this to be wrong when two men used their minds to figure out a way of making this happen.

Dr. Nafisi's Speech

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Toward the beginning of Dr. Nafisi's speech, i picked up on a quote that really stuck with me.  The quote was something along the lines of  "A book makes connections and puts you with the people you should be with."  I loved this quote because as a world traveler, i have found this for myself.  I never realized before i traveled to Germany that there would be so many people just like myself.  Same hopes, same dreams.  I guess this is why i have such a fascination with reading, it allows me to travel to places that i may never be able to go to again, and see myself in these people that seem to be so distant from myself. 

My in Class Presentation

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I was hoping to do my in class presentation on Thursday March 19th on the Keesey Chapter 4 Introduction.  If this is ok, please let me know Dr. Jerz.  I was unable to find any other presenters for this class time.

Sears: I've always heard that freedom isnt free

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"If free will argues that those who possess it 'do not have to make the choices they do; they have the ability[...] to choose otherwise" (Double 12).

I love arguments concerning free will.  In this instance, free will and freedom are being compared.  As with Segismundo, we see that when he gains his freedom, his free will does not know how to control itself, and he becomes a tyrant.  However, when he recieves his freedom for a second time, he seems to realize that with freedom and free will comes great responsibility.  If we do have free will, then we must balance it with good choices.  This at times can be very difficult to do since more often than not, the easier path is the wrong choice. 

Rupp: I got no quote to hold me down

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I know we are supposed to find a quote from each text that grabs our attention, but i didnt find that in this article.  There were some i could have chosen, but instead im going to write about an idea this article brought to me that i had no thought about while watching, or reading "Life is a Dream".

I had not realized that in "Life is a Dream", there is an appearance of both Machiavelli's Princes.  The first, "the is it better to be feared prince", appears in the beginning of the play during the dream sequence.  He is the one who throws people out of windows, sometimes wish i could that.  The second prince, "the is it better to be loved prince", appears at the end once Segismundo realizes that it was not a dream, and he better clean up his act if he is going to be a good ruler. 

Not sure why this so interested me, but it did and i hope some of my classmates picked up on this as well.

Hamilton: Anaphora

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"Anaphora is the intentional repetition of words or phrases at the beginning of successive lines, stanzas, sentences, or paragraphs" (Hamilton 64).

The example given in Hamilton for this comes from Jesus' sermon on the mound.  Blessed be the...Blessed be the.  I can't think of any off the top of my head right now, but i think the definition is enough to get the point across.

Life is a Dream: Reading was much better

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"Let no one prevent me, for it would be wasted effort; and , as God lives, if you interpose, I'll throw you out the window" (Barca 75).

This was my favorite section in the play...it made me wonder what kind of ruler i would be since it seems so much has gone bad in my life.  There are definitly times, and if asked i could name the people I would like to throw out of a window.  Alas, there is no point in pondering the situation, for life is but a dream, at times a nightmare.

"To become literally a house, after all, is to be denied the hope of that spiritual transcendence of the body which, as Simone de Beauvoir has argued, is what makes humanity distinctively human" (Gilber & Gubar 261).

I liked the idea of this section.  I had never thought about the main characters seclusion in her house in quite this way.  It is a striking comparison.

Brann: Take a picture of a poem

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"Thus, after nearly two and a half millennia, language and visual imagining draw apart; for their mutuality depended on the understanding that visual arts depict something, the very thing the poetic arts describe.  And that is just what neither artists or critics any longer take for granted" (Brann 247).

Im not certain other than according to the critics, that these two things are changing.  Is it not still the job of the poet, and the painter, to create something that their audience will enjoy.  I think the change has been greater in the form of painting than it has in the realm of writing.  I still dont understand how some paint thrown on a canvas, whether according to design or at random makes art.  I can still see that just as it has always been, it is still the writers job to take their audience to a believable place away from "true reality".

"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" (Donovan 225).

I just have one concern in this quote.  I am not even going to begin to argue that this is not true, but is it not also true that men are placed in the same light when found in a story written by a woman?  Was not the main characters husband in "The Yellow Wallpaper" "...detract[ing] from the goals of the...protagonist"?   

Bernard: Have You Ever Though For Yourself

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"...three possible minds to which the psychological critic customarily refers...author's mind, character's mind, and the audience's mind" (Bernard 216).

While this quote was actually borrowed from a person named Norman Holland, I found it interesting anyway.  I found while reading this article, that it seemed difficult to find any hints of who Bernard Paris actually is, or what he thought.  It seemed at times that every other line was a quote.  Im not certain this is necessary, is it not possible for Mr. Paris to think for himself?

Anyway, as far as the quote is concerned, Mr. Holland believes that it is only by studying one of these minds that a critic can find any "bonafide method" (Bernard 216).  I would have to strongly disagree with this idea.  Why is only the audiences mind that can be analyzed throug a psychologic approach.  I understand that we can gain the most information by doing actaul interviews with people directly after reading a work, but I do have one point to make in my defense.  If a psychologist is given a file, are they not able to make a rudimentary diagnoses of the possible afflictions of a person?  If so, can we not look at a character being built up through a story as not just a file on the person, but a more in depth look at a person, even imaginary, because we watch and witness the situations that change them and lead them down a certain path?

just a though

Life is a Dream: Hope I dreamt It

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I was sorely let down when watching the production of "Life is a Dream".  I'm still not sure what i expected, but i had hoped for more.  There were a few shining stars in this stage production.  The two actors who played Segismundo and Rosaura both did well in their parts.  I was not however overly impressed.  I feel bad having not liked the production being that i know how difficult it is to learn a part, and how it is even more difficult to put yourself out in front of an audience.

"...mimesis...it explains how the artist must look past the accidents, the individual peculiarities, to discover the essential or characteristic form...The artist gives us the essence of a character, a situation, an action" (Keesey 208).

     I love this idea, this acually sounds like something that might hold water.  It is the artists job to create a general meaning, a situation that could and probably does happen to all at some point, and state this in a way that a majority can understand.  I don't feel that this necessarily has to be done in a realistic manner.  Two astronauts fighting over a martian girl has the same ability to create a believable and universal situation as two teen boys in a 1950's high school fighting over the head cheerleader.  It is not so much the setting that makes the difference, as it is the potential found in the situation.  Maybe Gilman wasn't writing about her character going insane as much as she was writing about how we as humans all fear that being ignored will lead us down a dark road.  How if we as individuals cut ourselves off from the living world, we will only find dark shadows creeping all around us.  We as humans want to be part of a group, the main character did not feel as though she were a part of her husbands world, therefore she became part of her own.  It might have been in her imagination, but nonetheless she found a place where she felt she belonged.

     Wow...i think i really like this approach to literary criticism...guess i found out which camp i should build my fire in.