Writer's Block? Try this.

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            Within the last couple of weeks, I feel like I've made a huge improvement in my writing.  Not necessarily in my skill level or grammar, but in my efficiency.    I frequently find myself suffering from writers block.  Sometimes I can’t put together my ideas, organize a paper, or I just get stuck in the middle of writing a paragraph.  I’m sure everyone at one point or another has had this problem.  Recently while having a discussion about writing, I came across what I would consider to be the cure to writers block… at least for myself.  When I encounter a difficult paragraph to write or idea to discuss I found that it is best to ditch the formal language and either pull up a word document or take out a note pad and start throwing out ideas as they come.  Forget about order, grammar, spelling, flow, even if they make sense.  Just write, and when you got all of your ideas out and in front of you, you can then go back and throw out bad ideas or highlight good ones.  You can put ideas in order and then go back and use them as a guideline to rewrite the paragraph in a formal, academic way.  I really found this method to be effective.  As proof, I was able to write 28 pages in less than a week and a half.  I strongly recommend that anyone, English major or not, try this method when dealing with writer’s block. 

Podcast Reflection

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Peaches & Theresa's Podcasts


Peaches interpretation of Emily Dickinson's "He Touched Me So I Live Now" and "I Gave Myself to Him"

The audio in this podcast was so clear and Peaches did a really good job of speaking clearly as well.  I LOVED, how "He touched me" was repeated it was so eerie so that shows how Peaches interpreted this poem to be sort of mysterious and creepy.  Peaches changed her speeds and tones and I found her reading to be so believable.  (seriously Peaches this was awesome)  She really got in depth with breaking down the lines and their meanings during the break from the poetry.  I feel that she kept up the emotion in her readings throught the second poem as well.


Theresa's interpretation of "Cassandra"

The audio was a little difficult to hear clearly but I completely understand because I had the same problem.  The calmness and mysteryiousness Theresea adds to her reading of this poem lets the listener know how she intereprets the author's message.  I like that she explains why she chose this poem to read before her interpretation.  Choosing to talk about the poem after it was completely finished was a good choice for this reading because as a listener we got the full effect of an entire read through the poem.  I had never heard that poem before so I was glad to hear the whole thing. 

Analyzing an Academic Source

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In this academic source, critics are immediately introduced.  The second sentence states “Critics predominantly believe that this story is not about morality or ethics but about the powerful anatomy of a dark mind” (Magdalen).  This statement is also not a fact, but an opinion, which makes this essay a literary argument.  The writer also makes a judgment that “The Black Cat” is ethical, and that the narrator is mad because he deviates from the norms of traditional ethics.  Throughout the essay I saw very little plot summary and a great deal of discussion about the literary argument and opinions/facts to back it up.  Many critics were introduced as well to support the literary argument.  While I feel that in most cases literary critics are very useful in a paper, I almost feel that there are too many critics and different opinions being presented here that I am unable to keep focused on the argument presented by the thesis.  It seems as though the writer actually loses focus and goes on a bit of a tangent from time to time.  While I’m sure this information is very well-planned and the result of serious analysis, it doesn’t help me in the topic I am looking at. 


Ki, Magdalen Wing-Chi. "Diabolical evil and 'The Black Cat'." The Mississippi Quarterly 62.3-4 (2009): 569+. Literature Resource Center. Web. 15 Nov. 2010.

Paper 2 Annotated Bib

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Works Cited

Poe, Edgar Allan.  “The Black Cat.”  The Portable Edgar Allan Poe.  Ed. J. Gerald Kennedy.

            New York: Penguin Books, 2006.  37-42. Print.
Primary text. “The Black Cat”

Stark, Joseph. "Motive and meaning: the mystery of the Will in Poe's 'The Black Cat'." The
            Mississippi Quarterly
57.2 (2004): 255+. Literature Resource Center. Web. 3 Nov. 2010.

Discusses the narrators motives behind his actions in “The Black Cat”

Matheson, T. J. "Poe's 'The Black Cat' as a Critique of Temperance Literature." Mosaic 19.3
            (Summer 1986): 69-81. Rpt. in Nineteenth-Century Literature Criticism. Vol. 196.
            Detroit: Gale, 2008. Literature Resource Center. Web. 3 Nov. 2010.
Begins with Poe’s personal life and his consumption of alcohol

Olson, Greta. "Reconsidering unreliability: fallible and untrustworthy narrators." Narrative 11.1

            (2003): 93+. Literature Resource Center. Web. 3 Nov. 2010.
Discussing unreliable narrators.

Nadal, Marita. "Variations on the Grotesque: From Poe's 'The Black Cat' to Oates's 'The White
            Cat'." Mississippi Quarterly: The Journal of Southern Cultures 57.3 (2004): 455-471.
            MLA International Bibliography. EBSCO. Web. 3 Nov. 2010.
The grotesque element of ‘The Black Cat”

Bliss, Ann V. "Household Horror: Domestic Masculinity in Poe's 'The Black Cat'." Explicator
            67.2 (2009): 96-99. MLA International Bibliography. EBSCO. Web. 3 Nov. 2010.
Discusses masculinity/femininity and their relationship to violence.

Gilman's insane, yet inspiring story.


After reading "Why I Wrote The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, I gained a new respect for people who write about events that actually happened to them.  I think it takes a very brave person to put so much personal information into a story because it will undoubtedly be judged.  People will say, "I hate this character" and the writer will know that that person is actually saying that they hate the author because the character is a reflection of the author.  Gilman explains that during her unstable times, her doctor told her to '"have but two hours' intellectual life a day,'"(Gilman).  This statement struck me as so demeaning and discriminatory.  The doctor then went on to say, '"never to touch pen, brush, or pencil again,"'(Gilman).  Not only does this story offer insight into the life of Gilman, but also insight into the lives of every woman who was oppressed or mistreated due to the fact that it was always the social norm to look at women as inferior to men.  I always find myself writing about the oppression of women caused by men.  It's just a topic that can really heat me up and I find myself always ready to debate about it.  Just today in EL 237 Writing About Literature, Dr. Patterson started a class discussion about Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar, and by the time the class period was over I had gone on a rant about stereotypical women and the roles they are expected to play.  I also related it to our lives today, by saying that boys everywhere are allowed to hook up with however many girls they want and as a result that boy is considered "the man", but if a girl does the same, she is obviously a complete slut.  It is SUCH a shame that women are forced to endure these double standards.  (men don't take offense, i am not at all saying you don't have things to endure as well) But anyways, I was happy to see almost every female head in the room bobbing up and down in agreeance to my example. Along with the classroom discussion, here is a short fragment of my reading response on The Bell Jar:

Esther Greenwood is angered at the fact than men are not forced to make these life changing choices.  Because they are considered dominant, they are able to have multiple outcomes without having to make sacrifices.  Unlike men, women are forced to sacrifice their life’s goals to tend to the needs of their husbands.  In the 1950’s it is considered the social norm for females to be dominated by their male partner.  Esther’s inability to choose which direction to go in life suggests that she is fighting an internal battle in which her desire to be an individual and distance herself from the oppression of men must overcome the pressures she faces to fall into a typical female role. Despite the pressure Esther feels from those around her, she refuses to succumb to a man and fall into the role that is expected of her.

Yes this is just roughly done, but it’s an example of how women are oppressed by men throughout different periods of time.  And yes I am aware that I went on another rant completely off topic of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper.  Needless to say, I was inspired by Gilman’s “Why I Wrote the Yellow Wallpaper”.


What's with Poe's narrators??

I am a big fan of Edgar Allen Poe's short stories.  So far I've read a handful, and to me "The Black Cat" by far was the most disturbing.  On thing I have noticed in Poe's stories is his use of strange narrators.  Whether the narrators are unreliable, unstable, or mentally disturbed, they all add so much to the disturbing effects of the stories.  I also often find myself having little or no remorse for these narrators.  The narrator of "The Black Cat" is now at the top of my list for most hated characters.  Poe's narrators always make trouble for themselves because they are so mentally insecure.  I feel no remorse for them because they create their own problems.  How am I to feel towards a character who kills cats and his wife and feels NO remorse for doing so? It's clear that alcohol plays a big role in this story.  The narrators drunken mood swings leaves him unpredictable and growing more and more mad.  Animals also play a huge role in Poe's work.  It seems odd, in this story, that the animals are well-behaved, but the human is not.  Typically it's the other way around.  Perhaps Poe is purposely switching these roles for a purpose.  He even has the human become a murder.  Killing can be seen as more acceptable in the animal world because that is a part of animal life.  Poe seems to be giving the narrator animal-like characteristics.  It is possible that Poe is demonstrating how inhuman murder really is, and by having the narrator feel no remorse, the sense of inhumanity is intensified.

In Literature, Violence is more than just causing Pain.

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After reading chapter 11 of How to Read Literature Like a Professor, the sections on violence stood out to me.  This section stood out in particular:

"Violence is one of the most personal and even intimate acts between human beings, but it can also be cultural and societal in its implications.  It can be symbolic, thematic, biblical, Shakespearean, Romantic, allegorical, transcendent.  Violence in real life just is. If someone punches you in the nose in a supermarket parking lot, it's simply aggression.  It doesn't contain meaning beyond the act itself.  Violence in literature, though, while it is literal, is usually also something else.  Tha same punch in the nose may be a metaphor." (Roberts 221).

This idea of violence is similar to Robert's idea about weather and how in literature it is much more than that.  If you recall, rain isn't just rain, it can stand for cleansing if a character is walking home in it soaking wet.  Anyways, violence is the same way.  In real life, most violence is spur the moment and based on anger and being heated in the moment, but in literature violence is carefully planned and executed by the author.  Perhaps in a novel we have two characters, one character is the protagonist who is constantly oppressed by something.  The antagonist could be a contributor in this oppression.  If the protagonist punches the antagonist it is not only seen as agression towards that individual, but also towards the oppressor, and even moreso towards oppression as a whole. 

The Purpose of Research

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I am researching "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman because I have already read this story and am very interested in it.

My first article is called "Marking her Territory: Feline Behavior in 'The Yellow Wall-Paper'" and it was written in 2007.  I found thsi article extremely intesting because it linked Gilman's love for cats into the the story's heroine.  The thesis is "Gilman's use of feline imagery to portray the narrator makes a valuable framework for understanding the feminist politics of her story."  I found this quote to be informational: 

"Gilman's advocacy of euthanasia, which placed her at the forefront of the humane movement, reveals her desire to spare animals a painful death and was quite progressive at the time even though today, in light of the no-kill movement, Gilman might be seen as unsympathetic toward animals, which was certainly not the case" (Golden). 

Earlier in the article the author explains Gilmans attempts throughout her life to put cats to death.  At first this idea was appalling because not only do I love cats and have 4 of my own, but putting animals to death is a big problem.  After reading further I learned that Gilman does this out of sympathy.  She wants cats to be put out of their misery if they are ill or dying.  This shows how much she really cares about cats, and by her relating her character to a cat, she must really care for her character.

Golden, Catherine J. "Marking her territory: feline behavior in 'The Yellow Wall-Paper'." American Literary Realism 40.1 (2007): 16+. Literature Resource Center. Web. 25 Oct. 2010.



My second article is called "The Yellow Wallpaper and Joseph Henry Hatfield's original magazine illustrations", written in 2005, and by the same author as the previous article.  I am struggling to identify the thesis for some reason, but the article is mainly getting at the fact that this story is a feminist text.  The incoorporation of the illustrations in the essay is throwing me off.  

I found this quote to bring forth a question:

"The Yellow Wall-Paper" projects mental derangement onto a middle-class wife and mother. Conventional Victorian ideology aligns hysteria with the female gender, but Gilman places the source of madness in the sacrosanct sphere for dutiful women" (Golden). 

This quotation raises many questions.  Why might Gilman choose to create mental problems within women?  Why would she choose wives and mothers in particular? Why does she often give mental illness to women who seem to lead a perfectly normal life?  A possible answer to this question could be that Gilman wants to show that many things are influential and detrimental (men could be one of those things because feminism is a theme in her works) and that they could turn a perfectly healthy woman ill.

Golden, Catherine. "'The Yellow Wall-Paper' and Joseph Henry Hatfield's original magazine illustrations." ANQ 18.2 (2005): 53+. Literature Resource Center. Web. 25 Oct. 2010.



My third article titled "Gilman's Arabesque Wallpaper" is written by Marty Roth.  While this article was written in 2001 and is not considered to be recent enough, I still chose to use it because I find it really informational.  The paper is devoted to uncovering all of the elements of the arabesque aka Oriental art in this story.  I just did a research paper on Poe where one of my articles went into great detail with Oriental art so I am somewhat familiar with this.  I found this quote to evoke an interesting idea:

"In the course of the tale, the wallpaper is transformed from a two- to a three-dimensional form: the figure of a creeping woman emerges from behind the florid arabesque" (Roth).

This quotation brings up the idea that the wallpaper is actually a lot more than just imagery.  It is as though the wallpaper is a functioning character because of the conflict it causes to the characters. 


Roth, Marty. "Gilman's Arabesque Wallpaper." Mosaic [Winnipeg] 34.4 (2001): 145+. Literature Resource Center. Web. 25 Oct. 2010.
There are many purposes of academic research.  One purpose is to make your claims more debatable.  You can find a critic that you can argue with or against, which proves that your claim is argumentative.  Academic research can be used to support you ideas or raise new ones as well. Academic articles are much better than using something like sparknotes because sparknotes typically states the obvious.  One cannot make a debatable claim through ideas that are common and typically what one should take away from reading a story or book.  Personally, I don't enjoy the process of researching and reading lenthy articles to sometimes only find small amounts of usable info, but I enjoy coming across the really important articles loaded with information.  These articles are great for papers because they can be used to argue or even bring up a new point and run with it.  Research in your paper makes it seem really educational, well-planned, and though out.  I also really enjoy learning new things within articles, even if the info isn't all that related to my topic. 


Tom Sawyer's Cruelty

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At the conclusion of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, I find that many of the stories details stick out to me, one of them being Tom Sawyer's character.  At the end of the novel the reader discovers that Tom is even more manipulative and cruel than we previously thought.  Tom was already aware that Miss Watson had freed Jim in her will, yet he continued to treat him no better than a slave's master.  Tom paying Jim $40 dollars does little to make up for his manipulative ways.  In fact giving Jim this amount of money in my opinion is rude.  He feels as though $40 is enough because Jim really has very little importance to society.  Clearly Tom does not see that he has done anything wrong because he tells Huck that they will go on other adventures. 

Deformities in Literature

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After reading chapters 6 and 21 in How to Read Literature Like a Professor, I became very interested in an idea discussed by Foster in chapter 21.  The idea is about deformities, imperfections, handicaps, or other physical characteristics.  Foster states “First, the obvious but nonetheless necessary observation: in real life, when people have any physical mark or imperfection, it means nothing thematically, metaphorically, or spiritually” (Foster 229).  In other words, when someone has any type of physical characteristic, whether it is common or unusual, it means nothing.  He supports this idea by saying that a Grateful Dead tattoo on a person doesn’t have any hidden or in depth meaning, only perhaps that this person enjoys this type of music.  He continues on by saying someone who has scoliosis simply has scoliosis and that there is nothing to analyze or consider about it.  However, when looking at literature the rules completely change.  If you give scoliosis to a character like Richard III and “viola, you have something else entirely” (Foster 229).  In literature, physically characteristics and imperfections are meant to be analyzed.  These physical characteristics can tell the reader a great deal about what type of person that character is.  Forester states “Richard, as morally and spiritually twisted as his back, is one of the most completely repugnant figures in all of literature” (Foster 230).  Typically when a character has a physical deformity, they also have a moral deformity.  This idea can be found through analyzing the characters in many works.  For instance, I have looked into the use of the deformed and the grotesque in Eudora Welty and Flannery O’Connor’s southern literature. 

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  • Cassie Ellson: As I read The Yellow Wallpaper I thought about Plath's read more
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  • Peaches Ostalaza: Thank You Stephanie. I really wanted to put forth emotions read more
  • Dennis G. Jerz: Good work. You've made a clear case for why you read more
  • MaryJaneStano: I haven't read Poe until now, that I can remember. read more
  • PatrickSchober: it's interesting that you mention killing being more acceptable in read more
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  • Dennis G. Jerz: Yes, it is always most rewarding to find a nice, read more
  • Dennis G. Jerz: Oh, yes, Flannery O'Connor is a great example of this read more