March 23, 2009
Sylvia Plath: Daddy
Bit my pretty red heart in two.
I was ten when they buried you.
At twenty I tried to die
And get back, back, back to you.
I thought even the bones would do. ---from Daddy by Sylvia Plath
This poem seemed to show conflicting feelings toward what I assume is a father. From the quote I included it would seem that the father or father figure died relatively early during the author's life and so she feels as though she knows little of him as a person apart from the words of others. The poem suggests that while she misses her father she also despises him, which I took as meaning that maybe she resents him for not being there for her--father dies so child wants to die as well? The Nazi/German references made in regard to the father are quite disturbing almost to the point of being comical, although I'm not sure if the author is saying that her father was a Nazi or perhaps this is a metaphor for how she felt about him? I'm unsure about this poem. I feel that I would need to do an authorial inerpretation of it since it seems so personal to the author yet unrelatable to my own life. Simply said, this poem did nothing for me.
Roethke: In A Dark Time
From what I took from this poem, Roethke is writing about the uncertainty of ones own life and the depression or angst that goes hand in hand with contemplating too deeply into the reason for ones existence. What I liked about this poem though is the fact that Roethke doesn't just write a sad or dark or utterly hopeless poem, by the third stanza one feels that there is hope amid all of the unanswerable questions in life. Surrendering to these questions is how to overcome or prevent them from disrupting the beautiful fact that we can even ask them.
"My soul, like some heat-maddened summer fly, keeps buzzing at the sill. Which I is I? A fallen man, I climb out of my fear."(Roethke)
Comments on David Cassuto's Essay
"The flooding that climaxes the novel is thematically situated to provide maximum counterpoint to the drought which originally forced the Joads to migrate west. Disenfranchised and dehumanized, the Joads can only curse the rising floodwaters even as they once prayed for a deluge to feed their parched crops. The cycle of alienation appears complete; people whose humanity was once integrally tied to the land and the weather now care nothing for the growing season or the health of the earth. Their survival has come to depend on shelter from the elements rather than the elements themselves."(Cassuto)
I think Cassuto makes a valid argument in this essay, claiming that: " The Grapes of Wrath represents an indictment of the American myth of the garden and its accompanying myth of the frontier."
He offers an exstensive explanation to his thesis and backs it up with Biblical references as well as quotes taken from witnesses of the plight of American agriculture during the era of The Great Depression. The quote I used from his essay stuck out to me because of the irony we see. When I came to this part in the novel I felt very much like what Cassuto explains. I do however feel that this essay could have been based around a more non-obvious claim, since the lack of water or hydration is such a big aspect of the novel that it is difficult to argue against Cassuto's claim. The length and depth of his research in this essay is probably a tactic used by Cassuto in order to overwhelm the reader with valid fctual evidence in support of his thesis so that they aren't really thinking about how obvious his claim is. The quotation I borrowed from his essay is a section that I felt wasn't so obvious and the close reading that he did was accurate and interesting to think about.
March 19, 2009
The Moral Order
"The events of the work take their place within an order that satisfies one's sene of justice or one's sense of irony, which itself requires a belief in an order beyond the events of the work."(Donovan/Keesey 227)
This, quoted from Josephine Donovan's essay Beyond the Net: Feminist Criticism as a Moral Criticism, is the only worthwhile statement in the piece. Or perhaps it is simply the only sentence that really struck me as true and not attached to an agenda. Donovan's argument that women have been unjustly represented or criticised within literature has been heard many times over. The mis-representation of the "moral reality" of feminine characters has been confirmed, addressed and remedied quite some time ago. Donovan praises her sources that show strong feminine characters in their works and verbally attacks her sources who do not. "Any text which does not recognize the fundamental moral reality of women is sexist."(Donovan/Keesey 226)
"Their works are morally insufficient, for they do not attend to the independent reality of women."(Donovan/Keesey 233)
For Donovan to suggest that American literature today is written and criticised in a primarily sexist way is absurd. Male characters tend to be more masculine and less feminine than women in life, which is why it is represented as such in literature. Many women writers of our time create strong male and female characters in their work. Is Donovan saying that these writers are not attending to the independent reality of women?
March 18, 2009
Psychology and Fiction
The theory involving the use of psychology within literary criticism is made clear within Bernard Paris's essay The Uses of Psychology. He points out that the best way to use this type of criticism is to investigate the minds of both the author and the main character. I agree with Paris's notion that regardless of the plot of a novel, through psychology we are awarded a definitive view of the world or of an experience simply by the interpretation of what the author does within the text. Paris suggest that authors and psychologists are often educated in many of the same fields and thus, have a profound connection within each others works. My feelng is that a work may not necessarily represent an author's precise feelings, ecspecially in terms of a piece of fiction, however, through psychological criticism we can understand more fully certain aspects of an author and can therefore better grasp the work itself. As Paris concludes: "Fiction lets us know what it is like to be a certain kind of person with a certain kind of destiny."
March 5, 2009
Freedom & Fate
Theresa Sears's essay Freedom Isn't Free: Free Will in La vida es sueno delves into the central theme of Free Will encompassing Calderon's play. This essay questions the difference between Free Will and Freedom, stating that judgement is the deciding factor. Free Will is a concept as old as the bible and is thus represented in many works coming from Christian based nations. Judgement is also an age-old phenomenon and as Sears states:
"Judgment implies knowledge, especially knowledge of right and wrong, which in turns implies a hierarchy of values and powers within which the determination of right and wrong is made."
If this is true then it would seem that human invention of right and wrong is the foundation for judgement since it is people who define law and order. Judgement it seems, for Segismundo as for all humanity, is a necessary, yet altogether dangerous practice which can never really be justified by all succinctly--in that respect, perhaps it is of divine origin.
Thoughts on "The Yellow Wallpaper"
Gilbert and Gubar's essay on The Yellow Wallpaper goes on in great detail about the status of female authors prior to the 20th century. The essay mentions many works from these bygone eras, however, from a contemporary or post-modern perspective, it is all really been heard before...many times over. The plight of pre-20th century women in terms of familial heirarchy and whatever other power structure has been well documented, not to mention, remedied. The redundancy of this topic made it all the more difficult to get anything overtly interesting from this essay, however I felt that Gilbert and Gubar's mention of symbolic confinement was something worth studying further--albeit without drifting too far into a feminist diatribe.
March 2, 2009
From the earliest chapters of The Grapes of Wrath I saw the socialist ideology emerging from the words of Steinbeck. Steinbeck writes: "If this tractor were ours it would be good--not mine, but ours. If our tractor turned the long furrows of our land, it would be good. Not my land, but ours"(151). Shortly thereafter: "Here is the node, you who hate and fear revolution"(151). Tom Joad's transformation from a law breaking convict into agragarian revolutionary willing to risk all for the good of all seemed rather shallow to me. The era of the great depression and those who struggled through the sad experience of the dust bowl affected not only those who made their living in the American Mid-West, but all over the country. It is of no suprise that Steinbeck used this communist ideology within his novel. During his lifetime he saw Socialist/Marxist regimes spreading all over Europe and Asia spreading the idea of agricultural reform--among others. Tom Joad is presented as something of a hero to the poor, however he has achieved this status by breaking parole and committing murder...again. At the end of the novel we see that the Joad family has fallen apart. To offset the failed ideology of the Joads, of Communists, Steinbeck offers a plethora of biblical symbolism to give some semblence of hope to an utterly hopeless and mis-directed group of people.