It really has been a rewarding experience, kind of like winning a marathon. I'd be a bit more enthusiastic but I lost my entire portfolio again. I tried to save it as a draft and failed, so I'm typing all of this for the second time. All I had left to do was Xenoblogging.
Coverage: As always, I blogged for every assigned reading.
Jumping on the Bandwagon - In this blog, I hypothesize about J.'s name and the significance of never learning it in the book John Henry Days, by Colson Whitehead.
X Marks the Spot... Sometimes - In chapter 7 Edgar V. Roberts' book, Writing About Literature, he writes about analysis of different genres of literature and remarks on the fact that most people feel the need to go "message hunting." I provide my own opinion on the matter.
How is shooting a chicken different from shooting anything else? - This blog reflects on common literary conventions used in Anton Chekhov's play, "The Bear."
You Drive Me Crazy! - For my presentation on Robert Browning's poem, "Porphyria's Lover," I acquired an article, analyzed it, and then did a close reading of the poem itself. This is the outline of my presentation with a commentary on how I compiled everything.
Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing - Instead of assuming Porphyria is the one diseased in the poem, "Porphyria's Lover," I postulate that it's actually the speaker who is physically suffering and Porphyria is affected only through his actions.
My Qualms With Poetry Argon - In this blog, I relate poetry to science and reflect on how both are artistic in different ways. And I have a punny title. Geeky awesome :)
Harumph! - This blog reflects on the criticism English majors get for choosing that major. I then reflect on my own experience in choosing what to do in college.
How Much Food Does One Ghost Need? - Here, I suggest that Dickens is endorsing materialism as long as that materialism is spread to the less fortunate in A Christmas Carol.
Selfishness Prevails - In this entry, I suggest the idea that Scrooge never really changes or becomes a better person in A Christmas Carol.
"Allegory" Is a Pretty Word - After reading chapter 10 of Writing About Literature, I apply what I learned to A Christmas Carol.
Awakened by Chapter 16 - Chapter 16 of Writing About Literature is about considering historical and cultural context when analyzing a work. I relate this to Kate Chopin's The Awakening.
Depth: I always try to be as in-depth as possible with every blog because depth lets me gain more from the experience. The following entries, however, show more depth than usual.
Jumping on the Bandwagon - This blog shows more depth than others because I examine several quotes from John Henry Days and posit several idea to try to reach a conclusion.
You Drive Me Crazy! - This entry shows depth because it was my outline of my presentation. I spent a lot of time analyzing "Porphyria's Lover," as is clear in this blog.
Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing - I believe this entry shows depth because I arrived at a unique conclusion about Porphyria's name in "Porphyria's Lover."
How Much Food Does One Ghost Need? - This entry examines Dickens' description of the Ghost of Christmas Present and questions the message most people get when reading A Christmas Carol. I challenge that view, which is why this entry shows deeper thinking.
"Allegory" Is a Pretty Word - I believe this blog shows a deeper understanding of what I learned because I look back at A Christmas Carol after learning about allegory and then apply my findings to it.
Awakened By Chapter 16 - This entry shows deeper analysis than usual because I apply what I've learned to The Awakening instead of just a book we've read this semester.
Interaction: I was sure to comment on at least two to four of my peers' entries for each assigned reading, thereby inciting/contributing to some out-of-class interaction. The blogs below show this interaction best.
Josie Rush, Reading for the "Right" Reasons - Josie discusses what the right reasons are for reading and whether a reader should go digging for ideas. Brooke Kuehn, Melissa Schwenk, Kayla Lesko, Jessie Krehlik, and I all give our opinions. I relate mine to what everyone else says.
Jessica Orlowski, Can You Use That in a Sentence? - Jess considers Roberts' notion that ideas must be formed into assertions, and she compares that to writing a thesis. Brooke Kuehn, Jess Orlowski, Kayla Le, and I discuss the ways in which we develop our own theses.
Jessie Krehlik, I love you so much I just had to kill you. - Jessie questions the speaker's reasons for killing his love in "Porphyria's Lover." Jess Orlowski, Aja Hannah, and I all speculate on who is ill and what each character represents.
Jessica Orlowski, Where I've Been - Jess comments on William M. Chace's article, "The American Scholar." Melissa Schwenk, Jess, and I discuss the shift of majors away from English and then discuss technology's role in everything.
Gladys Mares, The Ghost of Economic Hardship - Gladys Mares, Jessica Orlowski, Carissa Altizer, and I discuss the socioeconomic theme in Dickens' "A Christmas Carol."
Discussion: While there was discussion on my other blogs, the following entries garnered the most discussion.
How is shooting a chicken different from shooting anything else? - This blog sparked a lot of discussion because I remarked on the common romantic comedy convention of the two people in a couple hating each other at the beginning of their relationship and falling in love in the end. Aja Hannah, Kayla Lesko, and Dianna Griffin had something to say about it.
How Much Food Does One Ghost Need? - I believe this blog incited a lot of discussion because I made a claim opposing the normal interpretation of the spirits in "A Christmas Carol." Josie Rush, Melissa Schwenk, and Carissa Altizer analyze the text with me in the comments.
Selfishness Prevails - As I said in the previous blog, I opined an unusual theory about Scrooge's motives in choosing to be a better person. Josie Rush, Dr. Jerz, Gladys Mares, and Brooke Kuehn all provided their input.
Timeliness: Most of my blogs were posted at least 24 hours ahead of class, as is evident below.
X Marks the Spot... Sometimes - Posted . Needed for class on Wednesday, November 18.
How is shooting a chicken different from shooting anything else? - Posted . Needed for class on Wednesday, November 18.
Harumph! - Posted . Needed for class on Monday, November 23.
How Much Food Does One Ghost Need? - Posted on . Needed for class on Monday, November 30.
Selfishness Prevails - Posted . Needed for class on Wednesday, December 2.
"Allegory" Is a Pretty Word - Posted
Awakened By Chapter 16 - Posted .
Xenoblogging: The following entries were written by my peers. I commented on them in order to add to out-of-class interaction, as was previously mentioned.
The Comment Primo - I was the first person to comment on the following blogs:
Jessica Orlowski, What's In a Name?
Gladys Mares, Oats...Out, Moving on...In
Aja Hannah, Lucky 13
Kayla Lesko, Are There Any English Majors Out There?
Gladys Mares, The Ghost of Economic Hardships
Josie Rush, Let's Do the Time Warp Again
Josie Rush, Movie Adaptations and Benevolent Narrators: God Bless Them, Every One
The Comment Grande - I left long, insightful comments on the following blogs:
Josie Rush, Reading for the "Right" Reasons
Jessica Orlowski, Where I've Been
Josie Rush, Movie Adaptations and Benevolent Narrators: God Bless Them, Every One
The Comment Informative - The following blogs were ones in which I left a comment showing my knowledge of a specific subject:
Jessie Krehlik, I love you so much I just had to kill you.
Jessica Orlowski, Where I've Been
The Link Gracious - In my comments on these blogs, and in some of my own blog entries, I link to the blogs of other students.
Carissa Altizer, J.
Josie Rush, Let's do the Time Warp again
Karyssa Blair, Selfishness Prevails
Wildcard: This blog entry best represents me as a blogger.
Edgar V. Roberts, Writing About Literature
I know that is a much longer quote than I typically use, but I felt like the whole thing was essential to fully understanding the importance of reading something in the mindset of someone from the time in which it was written and applying the ideals of those notions to today's time.
In my junior year of high school, we read Kate Chopin's The Awakening. Spoilers to follow. The protagonist, Edna Pontellier, is married and has two children but feels like a prisoner because of the circumstances in her life. She falls in love with two men (her husband is not one of them) and eventually kills herself because she has no freedom or control over her life in any other way.
No matter what the historical and cultural context, abandoning one's children and committing suicide are things that people have always looked down upon (unless it was some sort of ritualistic thing... but I have no knowledge of that). However, to fully understand the significance of the theme in this book, you have to look deeper. One of my classmates continuously said that she hated Edna because of the above reasons, and she hated the book because of her hate for Edna. I tried to explain to her that Edna's actions meant so much more than what she was understanding.
The Awakening was published at the turn of the twentieth century, a time in which it was normal for a man to repress a woman. While I wouldn't approve of Edna's decisions if I knew her in real life, looking at them in the work's historical and cultural context makes them so much more impacting. In today's society, while the majority of people would disapprove of her actions, it wouldn't be shocking to hear about them on the evening news. Edna's character serves as an allegory for women's freedom because she made such extreme choices at a time in which they were almost unheard of.
Edgar V. Roberts, Writing About Literature
I didn't think about it while reading A Christmas Carol, but the whole story is an allegory. Scrooge represents greediness and the antithesis of the Christmas spirit. Each of the three spirits are also representative of a specific quality in mankind to help Dickens convey the moral lesson about the need for charity to create community.
The first spirit, the Ghost of Christmas Past, represents the need to accept one's past mistakes in order to move on and benefit society. The spirit shows Scrooge specific events from his life that will enable him to realize what he could have done differently, but still accept that it's too late to change any of it. He must accept his past in order to move on.
The Ghost of Christmas Present, the second spirit to visit Scrooge, embodies the ideals Dickens sets forth for every man: charity and goodwill. Even though I still think he had far too many things, he shows Scrooge images that make him want to be better. This is one of the only times, in my opinion, that show Scrooge as actually wanting to make a difference, not just to save himself but to help others (Dr. Jerz pointed this out to me, so I wanted to make sure to mention that).
The last spirit, the Ghost of Christmas Future, kind of reminds me of the Grim Reaper, thereby suggesting the idea that he represents death or possible the fear of death. It is because of the images he shows Scrooge that he decides to change his ways, which is what leads me to believe Scrooge doesn't really change morally. However, I think Dickens intended to show a change in his character through the gained morals from the three symbolic ghosts, which is ultimately what makes this story an allegory.
Any other interpretations are welcome because I think I stumbled with a few of them.
I'm not buying the idea that Scrooge was completely transformed into a "good person," however that's defined. His motivations for honoring Christmas in his heart all year were to save himself, not to benefit mankind. In order to avoid his fate, which would be worse than Marley's, he decides to do charitable acts and start being nice to people. That's just a part of social responsibility in the first place, not something that will save his soul for however much longer he'd be alive. How old is Scrooge anyways? I picture him as being in his seventies, so are a couple years of being nice going to make up for the fifty in which he was a rude and selfish jerk?
Of course, I have no idea what is enough to save a person's soul. However, doing something purely to save oneself doesn't seem to be enough.
PS: I didn't mean for this blog to be so negative when I started writing it. Wow.
ETA: Gladys blogged about class levels in her blog on staves 1-3 and I felt like it fit with what I was saying here. It made me realize that maybe Dickens was saying it doesn't matter if the rich help the poor for selfish reasons as long as society benefits.
That's the message I always get from reading A Christmas Carol. Dickens seems to reinvent the spirit of Christmas into something similar to the way people celebrate now. Obviously I'm generalizing here, because this isn't true for everyone, but Christmas is no longer restricted to Christians celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ - it's about celebrating community. And there's nothing wrong with that because people can celebrate as they wish.
I just find it somewhat contradictory that the Ghost of Christmas Present is this giant man surrounded by a bunch of extravagant food. He seems like the embodiment of gluttony to me.
"The walls and ceiling were so hung with living green, that it looked a perfect grove; from every part of which, bright gleaming berries glistened. The crisp leaves of holly, mistletoe, and ivy reflected back the light, as if so many little mirrors had been scattered there; and such a mighty blaze went roaring up the chimney, as that dull petrification of a hearth had never known in Scrooge's time, or Marley's, or for many and many a winter season gone. Heaped up on the floor, to form a kind of throne, were turkeys, geese, game, poultry, brawn, great joints of meat, sucking-pigs, long wreaths of sausages, mince-pies, plum-puddings, barrels of oysters, red-hot chestnuts, cherry-cheeked apples, juicy oranges, luscious pears, immense twelfth-cakes, and seething bowls of punch, that made the chamber dim with their delicious steam. In easy state upon this couch, there sat a jolly Giant, glorious to see, who bore a glowing torch, in shape not unlike Plenty's horn, and held it up, high up, to shed its light on Scrooge, as he came peeping round the door."
I suppose he can't be seen as totally gluttonous since his whole message to Scrooge is to share with others. It's just a bit baffling to me that this character seems to be endorsing the need for riches in order to share happiness and cheer. We see that isn't the case with the Cratchit family, because of their gratefulness for every morsel they have, so the Ghost does effectively express the need for love among others over greed. I guess I just have a problem with the way he is physically represented, because it takes the reader away from what the Ghost is essentially trying to prove to Scrooge.
William M. Chase, "The Decline of the English Department"
Well... that's not good. I'm glad I have something to look forward to if I ever make it in my dream job.
At the beginning of this article, I just kept selfishly thinking, "Well, it's sad that less people appreciate English, but at least that means less competition for me, right?" However, I didn't take into account that the reason people have stopped studying literature is because of the fact that the amount of job opportunities are declining. I just thought they were more concerned with making the big bucks and that was it.
Now that I think about it, though, I'm getting tired of the criticism I receive when I say I'm an English major. Even more I decided this was what I wanted to study, I was always criticized for considering anything that wasn't related to science. I did flip back and forth between humanities and science, just because I'm interested in everything, so I guess it's understandable for people to have said, "you either want to be a neuropsychologist or... do something with English? Oh," given societal expectations.
In high school, I always went to my chemistry teacher because she was very adept at giving students advice about college, regardless of whether it was for science or the humanities. However, any time I mentioned something other than a scientific field (I guess she had different expectations for me than other students, because she never criticized them), her face would become very serious and I could tell she was trying not to judge me and be supportive in a way. She'd say "oh, I see... well what are you going to do with that?" as she tried to pull me back to chemical engineering or whatever field of study it was during that conversation. Maybe that's why I changed between eight different majors from the time I applied to SHU until the second week of freshman year.
Societal expectations are frustrating.
Edgar V. Roberts, Writing About Literature
Here's another reason to enjoy poetry. I mean, I've always liked to read it, but it was mostly for a "oh wow that's some pretty stuff" kind of reason. It's not hard to understand what's happening in poetry, but sometimes it's difficult to analyze, especially when you have to think about the mechanics of it. Anyways, as I said in my presentation on Friday, I'm beginning to enjoy poetry even more than I have in the past the more I learn about it.
The above quote makes me relate poetry to science. In a previous blog, I described math as a sort of artistic science; now, I'm going to call poetry a scientific art. Some poets might just write what comes to mind without thinking about it; I don't really know since I'm not a poet. However, I know some poets, especially the ones we study for literary value, must focus on the prosody in their writings. There has to be a specific purpose to the choices they make because they bring something to the poem to amplify the theme, or the emotions of the speaker.
This specific technique seems so scientific to me. It involves planning, research, and experimentation in order to make it successful. Since I love science, I love this aspect of poetry and I wish I would have really thought about it sooner than now.
"Porphyria's love: she guessed not how her darling one wish would be heard" (56-57).
Most people speculate that because the speaker's lover's name is Porphyria, she is the person who is physically suffering from the disease, meaning she is the one who has been diagnosed. I offer a different interpretation. As I said in my presentation for this poem, Porphyria shows no signs of actually being sick. Her skin is unblemished, and while some forms of Porphyria do not affect the skin too greatly, most of them do cause blisters and itchiness. She gives no signs of being physically weak; in fact, it is she that starts the fire and prepares everything while her lover waits for her to "[sit] down by [his] side and [call him]" (14-15) to which he does not answer. Which one seems sickly?
My theory is that her name is Porphyria because she does suffer from the disease - just not by diagnosis. He is the one who is actually diseased, but she suffers from it because his mania causes her death. Him being infected also fits with the fact that he is Porphyria's lover (with Porphyria in this case being the illness, not the woman), not because he loves the disease but because he is unified with it. He and Porphyria are one, especially when he's in his manic state. Oneness is an ancient view on love and soulmates, therefore making it logical that Browning would refer to him as Porphyria's lover, especially since Porphyria is a derivative of a Greek word and the Greeks were the first people to believe in the idea of soulmates if I'm remembering correctly from my high school art history class.
I don't know why I felt I should share that. Moving on.
Prior to beginning my presentation, I was unsure about what I wanted to say. I chose not to read chapter 13 of the Writing About Literature textbook until after I finished preparing my presentation because I didn't want it to influence my thinking. It would make me feel as if I were cheating. I did, however, choose to find articles first because then it would be almost like doing a research paper. There weren't many articles available online on EBSCOhost and the Literature Resource Center, but I did find one entitled "Porphyria is Madness" by Barry L. Popowich. It wasn't very in-depth, but that was okay to me because it let me do my own thinking by suggesting basic ideas that needed expansion. One such idea was about the point of view and the way the speaker provides a tainted account of the murder of his lover. This is the angle on which I focused in my explication.
The only really difficult part of the process was finding time to really focus on it. Obviously I did, but it resulted in lack of sleep and an overload of caffeinated beverages when in combination with my other classes. I just had to choose one of the presentation days during the busiest time of the semester. It's okay, though :) It's part of the college experience, right?
Below is my outline for my presentation. It's a rather in-depth outline, if I do say so myself.
I. Reason why I chose this reading
II. Article - Porphyria is Madness by Barry L. Popowich
III. Name Porphyria
a. Comes from the Greek porphyroes for "purple" and causes purple urine
b. Originally porphyuria - purple urine
c. It is the name of a disease that brings delusional madness to its sufferers
IV. Way to read Porphyria's lover
a. As delusions from a Porphyria sufferer
b. Dramatic monologue, which was Browning's specialty. He liked to write about the pathological or people with whom it is hard to sympathize
V. Point of View / Voice
a. The issue of voice in the poem is a complex one of the self and language, of the poet speaking for another, if fictional, self, and of literary history and context.
VI. Possible Themes
a. Michael Burdock says it has an underlying theme for vampirism because porphyria is a "rare blood disease" in which sun-sensitive skin is the main symptom, and was treated in medieval times by drinking blood.
i. Originally titled "Porphyria" in1836, then "Madhouse Cells, No. II" in 1842, then Porphyria's Lover in 1849.
ii. However, because of the title as it is now, people take the poem more literally than from the perspective that he's delusional.
iii. It's likely that Browning had seen it since he visited asylums
VII. My interpretation
a. This is the account of an insane man. Here we have a conflict of point of view because the only perspective we're getting is from the crazy man, the perpetrator in the crime that was committed.
b. What can we do to determine which moments reflect literal happenings or delusional interpretations of the speaker? Close reading of language and structure
i. Words are clear-cut and descriptive in the first third of the poem.
1. "Rain set early in to-night" (1). Very simple, nothing complex or emotional.
2. Descriptions are of external things
a. Porphyria comes in and "laid her soiled gloves by" (12). He describes her actions and the way she looks as she enters, but does not say what either of them are feeling.
3. The speaker hints to his depressed state by saying he has a "heart fit to break," but he doesn't focus on himself yet (5).
ii. There is an abrupt change after line 21. Porphyria admits her love and then the speaker starts talking about internal things.
1. Nothing is straightforward any more. He judges everything about her. His judgments are no longer about physical things but her emotional state, which he couldn't possibly know at such a level.
a. "Weak, pride, vain twice"
2. Porphyria seemed to be decisive and strong when she first arrived. She didn't let the rain stop her and she seemed in control, but now the speaker describes her as weak. This shift doesn't seem likely, which makes me think it was all a delusional interpretation of her actions. He became paranoid after she said she loves him, which was likely because he was the one suffering from the disease that causes mania.
3. He's turning inward instead of focusing on external observations which is apparent by the way he begins to say "made my heart swell" and "that moment she was mine, mine."
4. The only time he goes back to being objective in this section is when he describes the way he strangles her, which to me seems like a way to distance himself from what he did. He doesn't want to make it personal even though it is. This is common in psychiatric problems.
iii. The last third of the poem is where his perceptions are at the height of insanity.
1. He tries to be objective but he keeps including bizarre understandings of those objective observations.
2. He repeats how she felt no pain, but how does he know? Seems like he's trying to convince himself.
3. He describes his dead lover's eyes as laughing and her cheeks as blushing, like they were happy, but it seems to me that her eyes would be bulging from asphyxiation and her face would be red from him touching her.
4. The language gets more metaphorical, much unlike the first third of the poem.
5. The reader says God has not said a word, implying he was either waiting for God's approval/disapproval of what he did or that he thinks God must be okay with it since he hasn't said anything.
6. We still know what's happening, despite the fact that we're getting the story from an insane and biased speaker. The reader has to read between the lines, but it's possible.
VIII. Questions for the Class
a. What were your first reactions to the poem? For me, I was like OMG I can't believe that. Why did he do that?? It wasn't until I did a close reading that I understood why, to an extent.
b. Do you have any other interpretations of the poem?
c. Do you think I missed anything in my interpretation?
d. Vampirism? Any possibility? I feel like that's going a bit too far in analysis.
e. The last three lines, "And thus we sit together now, / And all night long we have not stirred, / And yet God has not said a word!" How do these lines fit in with the rest of the poem for you? He changes to the present tense. I think he's suggesting that he's in a madhouse and there's a physical illusion of Porphyria with him.
f. Why is her name Porphyria if he seems to be the one who is insane? Maybe because she is the one that suffers from his illness. He seems okay with it, like he's not in any pain, he's just insane. However, she is the one who has to physically suffer.
Anton Chekhov, The Bear: A Joke in One Act
This play was rather funny. However, I think I would have liked it more if it were longer. Obviously that would defeat the whole idea of it being a "Joke in One Act," but I would be able to appreciate it more.
It's a common convention in literature for two people destined to be together at the end to hate each other at the beginning. Such a relationship provides more drama and entertainment for the reader, therefore making it a successful convention that really never gets old. However, having it happen in the span of eight pages made their relationship less believable. I suppose that's acceptable in comedy, though, especially in the case of this play since Chekhov established it as a joke.