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January 31, 2007

She Wished it was True...

O'Connor, ''A Good Man is Hard to Find'' -- Jerz: EL150 (Intro to Literary Study)

"'There was a secret panel in this house,' she said craftily, not telling the truth but wishing that she were, "and the story went that all the family silver was hidden in it when Sherman came through but it was never found...'" (O'Conner 9).

What I like best about this story (and almost all of O'Conner's stories) is that they are somewhat dark and depressing, and yet there are certainly humorous elements. I found the grandmother very amusing. (Oh and anyone else think it is weird that she doesn't have a name? She is THE grandmother and the same is true for "the children's mother." She doesn't have a name either...ok sorry, tangent.) Anyway, so yeah the grandmother is amusing and comical, as well as sort of annoying and I find it unbelievable and childish that she would lie about the house's history and characteristics in order to get her way. What I find most interesting is the way the sentence is phrased it seems that she believes that since she wished she was telling the truth, that made it ok to lie.

Posted by LorinSchumacher at 9:51 PM | Comments (1)

January 30, 2007

Malinger - My New Favorite Word

Eliot, ''The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock'' -- Jerz: EL150 (Intro to Literary Study)

And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!
Smoothed by long fingers,
Asleep...tired...or it malingers;
Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.

To be perfectly honest I just picked this because I didn't know what the word "malingers" meant and I thought it sounded really cool rhyming with "fingers" and so I wanted to look it up and share my new knowledge. Malinger means to pretend to be ill or otherwise incapable in order to avoid doing work. (I am sure you'll remember this word, since I am sure we have all done it to some extent, at least when we were young!) So then my next thought was, well what exactly is malingering? It seems that something is being personified...is it the afternoon and evening? That is the best answer I can come up with, but I am not sure as to why these specific times of day would be personified throughout these lines. Anyone have any brilliant ideas?

Posted by LorinSchumacher at 11:50 PM | Comments (0)

Familiar Comfort

Foster (Ch 12 and Interlude [p. 183]) -- Jerz: EL150 (Intro to Literary Study)

"Moreover, works are more comforting because we recognize elements in them from our prior reading" (Foster 187).

This is how I get from one page to the next when I am reading something very dense and complex (aka just about everything in my upper-level lit classes ;0)...but seriously you should see how excited I get when I can go "Oh wait! This is just like such and such!") I don't know what I would do if everything was completely original and new. I would feel incredibly lost and the writers would be less effective. Even in terms of the plot, sometimes it can be tiring because you think, "ok yeah I have seen this a zillion times," but on the other hand the author needs you to already have seen it before in order for you to get anything out of it. The author often draws a reader in by relating to experiences they are fairly sure their audience will have had.

Posted by LorinSchumacher at 4:34 PM | Comments (1)

January 29, 2007

A First Attempt at Aestheticly Approaching "Benito Cereno"

Ok, well, I have saved this entry for last because I feel utterly lost as how to best "engage directly in this week’s critical approach." But, I'm going to give it my best shot...wish me luck!

"From no train of thought did these fancies come; not from within, but from without; suddenly, too, and in one throng, like hoar frost; yet as soon to vanish as the mild sun of Captain Delano's good-nature regained its meridian" (Melville 500).

Basically, I selected to quote this passage because I thought it was a good example of a passage someone who looked at this work from an aesthetic point of view might use to prove why we should bother reading this particular work of Melville's. I think one could fairly argue that the beauty of Melville's language in this passage is what makes the work significant. It does have a certain aesthetic appeal. Melville uses multiple literary devices, such as the metaphor of the Captain's good nature to the sun, to make this sound good. He could have said the same thing using much plainer, less "beautiful" language, but they would have not had the same effect. Who wants to read "These thoughts came out of nowhere and then quickly left as Captain Delano resumed his usual good-natured state of mind" when they can instead read about a "mild sun" that "regained its meridian"? This isn't how Melville had to write this sentence in order to make his point, but it does get his point across in an aesthetically pleasing way - meaning that the content doesn't really matter as much as how he says it. As the slogan goes, it is "art for art's sake."

I have no idea if that is even close to what we are supposed to do, or if it even makes sense...but I tried...I promise!

Posted by LorinSchumacher at 10:27 PM | Comments (2)

Art Never Improves

Elliot, ''Tradition and the Individual Talent'' -- Jerz EL312 (Literary Criticism)

"He [the poet] must be quite aware of the obvious fact that art never improves, but that the material of art is never quite the same" (Eliot).

At first I thought that any artist, literary or otherwise, might take offense to such a statement. Personally, I view my purpose in life in term of self-improvement. I think of life having meaning if we strive to better ourselves as people, that we might someday, in some small way, better the world. So by telling me that something cannot be improved at first discouraged me. But, then upon further reflection, I decided this could mean that one work of art cannot really be any better or worse than any other work of art. Instead, it is merely different than any other work of art. This makes some sense, since "better" is really such a meaningless word anyway. Yet, why talk about what makes something worth reading if nothing is really "better" than anything else? Perhaps Eliot is just trying to point out that no matter what we decide should be read now, is subject to change, and that it is not because their is other stuff that is an improvement of the old, but because we change and we improve? Does that even make sense?

Posted by LorinSchumacher at 9:08 PM | Comments (5)

The Instability of Literature

Eagleton, ''Introduction: What is Literature?'' -- Jerz EL312 (Literary Criticism)

"No work, and no current evaluation of it, can simply be extended to new groups of people without being changed, perhaps almost unrecognizably, in the process; and this is one reason why what counts as literature is a notably unstable affair" (Eagleton 12).

This reminds me of an essay I read last year for Drama as Literature called Shakespere in the Bush by Laura Bohannon about how when telling the story of Hamlet to an African tribe, the members of the tribe perceived the story in a completely different way than any westerner would. They interpreted it in such a way that if they were to retell the story, I think it would surely be completely unrecognizable by any westerner that has studied it. Before this experience, Bohannon had argued that the basic components of literature are universal in all parts of the world. I think this demonstrates the validity of Eagleton’s statement about the instability of literature. But, it is important that I note that I don't view this instability as a negative thing. It is actually a big part of what makes it so interesting to me.

Posted by LorinSchumacher at 8:21 PM | Comments (2)

Potential for Conflict

Keesey, General Introduction -- Jerz EL312 (Literary Criticism)

"Without clarity, we seldom think well; without provocation, we seldom think at all" (Keesey 7).

Perhaps this is not a very complex quotation specifically about literary criticism, and maybe it is the future teacher inside me that finds this statement so meaningful, but I believe this highlights the importance of our study of the different types of literary criticism. This course is all about different intellectual approaches to interpreting literature so that we may see both the different ways others have chosen to look at it and how we think it is the best way to look at it. If there was not the potential for conflict that arises from the different approaches, we wouldn't bother to think about it at all. To me, thinking is as essential as breathing. (I'm a dork, I know!)

Posted by LorinSchumacher at 7:17 PM | Comments (1)

Litotes - A form of Understatement

Murfin and Ray, Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms -- Jerz EL312 (Literary Criticism)

While reading Eagleton's "Introduction: What is Literature?" I came across the mention of several literary devices, one of which I did not recognize: litotes (top of page 6 if you were wondering). So, I looked it up in my trusty Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms and was extremely excited to realize that it is a device Melville uses very often in Benito Cereno. Basically, it it is a form of understatement that operates by negating the opposite of what is really meant. A good way to remember this device is to think of it as the opposite of a hyperbole and to see an example. So here is one right from the beginning of Benito Cereno (the one I actually noticed before I knew what it was):

"But, in one language, and as with one voice, all poured out a common tale of suffering; in which the Negresses, of whom there were not a few, exceeded others in their dolorous vehemence" (491, emphasis mine).

I instantly noticed this phrase "of whom there were not a few" the first time I read it, thinking wow, that was an interesting choice, but saying "of whom there were many" is not nearly as effective. It is as if there are so many, that coming right out and saying so doesn't really show you how overwhelming the numbers really are. Especially since, at least these days, people exaggerate so often that doing the opposite actually works better and makes you notice this detail.

Posted by LorinSchumacher at 6:51 PM | Comments (5)

January 28, 2007

Inhabiting Spaces

Foster (19,20) -- Jerz: EL150 (Intro to Literary Study)

"Literary geography is typically about humans inhabiting spaces, and at the same time the spaces that inhabit humans" (165-166).

As a military brat who moved around a lot as a kid (although not nearly as much as most) I have witnessed first hand how people are affected by location. It really makes a difference to who you are as a person, and if we remember nothing else from this class please remember that that if something makes a difference in real life, it is probably something you want to pay attention to in literature. To quote Dr. Jerz from good old EL250 "Literature is a representation of reality." As we all probably had to identify and talk about the importance of setting in high school, I know I only thought about it on one level, rather than all the levels Foster explains, such as the link to character, plot, theme - all the major elements of literature. I really like the depth Foster goes into to really explain how important it is and that he gives examples in his book because I know in high school I didn't realize quite how significant it is. But, at the same time as I read it in the book, I think "yeah, of course...I knew that!" But, as Chera said in her blog entry for the first set of chapters we were assigned in Foster's book: "Sometimes you need someone to bring something up in order to know you know it" (Click here to check out the entry if you didn't get to read it before class Friday.)

Posted by LorinSchumacher at 4:15 AM | Comments (2)

Winter - The Season of Death

Glaspell, ''Trifles'' -- Jerz: EL150 (Intro to Literary Study)

"Mrs. Hale: (her own feelings not interrupted.) If there'd been years and years of nothing then a bird to sing to you, it would be awful - still, after the bird was still."

This line reminds me of Foster's chapter on the importance of seasons. Clearly this play is taking place in the winter as the characters keep mentioning how cold it is and how they sent Frank to start a fire in the house before they arrived. Yet, despite the fire, the house is still cold, which makes sense as cold is often associated with death. The canary is significant because it represents spring and all of the things that are normally associated with that season - life, warmth, happiness, love - all of the things that were missing from the Wright's marriage.

Posted by LorinSchumacher at 3:45 AM | Comments (6)

January 25, 2007

The Big Secret

Foster (1-3, 5) -- Jerz: EL150 (Intro to Literary Study)

"Here it is: there's only one story. There I said it and I can't take it back. There is only one story. Ever. One. It's always been going on and it's everywhere around us and every story you've ever read or heard or watched is part of it" (32).

I love this concept and I fully believe it is the truth. It is a hard concept to get your head around...it is so much bigger than you or me or as many people put together as we can even imagine. The world is so big and our knowledge of it so small, so limited. That is why this is so important. Each story is different, yet it is the same. It is a distinct piece of the puzzle (a very complex, multi-dimensional puzzle), yet it is in so many ways connected to other parts of the puzzle and each part is vital to the story as a whole. And the puzzle just keeps growing and it has no definite beginning or end. It is a plane extending in all directions for infinity and we will never really be able to comprehend the vastness of it...but I take comfort in knowing that I am a piece of that puzzle and I affect it, as we all do, even though in just a very small way. So the next time you think that what you do doesn't matter, doesn't affect this world, doesn't impact others...think again.

Posted by LorinSchumacher at 10:02 PM | Comments (1)

What to Say and How to Act in Social Situations: A Difference of Opinion

Fitzgerald, ''Bernice Bobs Her Hair'' (online) -- Jerz: EL150 (Intro to Literary Study)

Chapter II (paragraph 2)
"Bernice felt a vague pain that she was not at present engaged in being popular...she knew that even in Eau Claire other girls with less position and less pulchritude were given a bigger rush. It had never worried her, and if it had her mother would have assured her that the other girls cheapened themselves and that men really respected girls like Bernice."

Chapter III (paragraph 86)
"'If you go to a dance and really amuse, say, three sad birds that dance with you; if you talk so well to them that they forget they're suck with you, you've done something. They'll come back next time, and gradually so many sad birds will dance with you that the attractive boys will see there's no danger of being stuck - then they'll dance with you.’”

I decided to pick these two quotations from the work instead of just one because I thought that they illustrate the contrast between how Bernice and Marjorie think about how to look and act in social situations. Marjorie's lecture in chapter three reminds me of an essay I read in high school called "Well-Informed Circles and How to Move in Them" (I believe by Evelyn Waugh). We read it in my AP Language and Composition class and we were supposed to apply the essay to another of Fitzgerald's works The Great Gatsby. In this part of the story, Marjorie is telling Bernice exactly what she has to do in order to be considered well-like and popular, even if it means saying or doing things for attention, stretching the truth, and overall just pretending to be something other than you are. She tells Bernice that if she can impress enough of the people who “don’t matter,” then the people who do will be curious enough to give her a chance. If I remember correctly, the "Well-Informed Circles..." essay suggested that a person do many similar things in order to seem more important than one really is, and how once they have done that, it becomes easier to actually become known as one who is actually "important."

Posted by LorinSchumacher at 1:39 PM | Comments (1)