January 31, 2005


Ok, I'm going with Moira and Chris here. The London article assigned was less than exciting to read. 27 pages of psychological text about The Call of the Wild? I didn't even understand some of what the author was writing about. As Chris noted, the reader needs to really know psychology to get anything from the article. Now, I think I have a rather decent vocabulary yet I still found myself reading and thinking, "What?" Since the article also did not exactly hold my attention, I also had to stop and start several times, just adding to my frustration.

This article differs from the O'Conner one in several ways. The O'Conner one is written in a, dare I say it, simpler way. I didn't need to borrow my friend's psychology text to understand the O'Conner article. The London article was also unnecessarily long. I think it could have been condensed and made the same point (whatever that point was). I'm sure it is a wonderful psychological article that someone would just get a kick out of reading but as a literary piece? Didn't work.

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January 30, 2005

Warming Up

I remember reading Jack London’s “To Build a Fire” years ago. So when I saw that I needed to read it again, I thought “Ooo! I know what this is about!” Then I realized that it was negative twelve in my basement (ok, not really, but it sure felt like it) and that it was snowing again. How fitting.

As Moira stated, “To Build a Fire” really is “man vs. nature at it’s finest”. A lone man traveling in insanely cold conditions as nature throws all of its fury on him. Talk about your conflicts. The man was far too proud to bring a companion, other than the ever-symbolic dog, and nature was chastising him for it and almost laughing at him for trying. Would he not have run into such trouble had he traveled with another human? Probably not. Since nature is such an unpredictable and unstoppable force, it was almost foolish of the man to try to beat it alone. It is one of the things that make the man vs. nature conflicts so interesting- nature cannot be tamed by anyone. Other conflicts can be resolved (kill someone in man vs. man for example) but you can’t shoot nature.

Now onto the dog. As I mentioned on Valerie’s blog, I think the dog represents the logical side of the man, the side he obviously did not listen to. Dogs instinctively know that a journey of those proportions could not be made alone. Perhaps the man should have listened to his instincts as well instead of letting pride get to the better of him, as it was ultimately his downfall.

Bitter cold, traveling alone, no fire- spells disaster to me. Even in the beginning of the story I knew that no good could come of the man’s journey. That desolate setting and weather just screams death. If it was a nice sunny afternoon, I may have thought differently. Yet wintry weather seldom brings happiness.

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For Every Season

Apparently in literature, something is always standing for something else. As Foster enjoys saying in "How to Read Literature Like an English Professor", "it's never just (insert something here)". I am not disagreeing with Foster, he's completely right. The author wouldn't bother to include an element in her story if didn't stand for something.

Same goes for setting. Why bother making it a sunny summer day in a valley if there wasn't a meaning behind it? Seasons can add a lot to a piece of literature. As most literary students know (or have learned by now) winter is a dreary season invoking feelings of despair or death. Nothing exciting happens in winter and when the world is covered in a large blanket of snow, it can feel smothering. Likewise, summer is a happy sunny time of rebirth and renewal. These meanings behind the seasons are rather easy to understand. If a character is feeling depressed and it is winter, we can make the connection.

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January 29, 2005

Conflict and Nature

As most literature students know, there are several different conflicts that can occur in novels. Man vs. man, man vs. self, man vs. nature, and the list goes on. Writers employ one of these conflicts in their stories because, well, without it, it would be a pretty dull read. One conflict that can be particularly interesting is the conflict with nature. Nature is a force that no one, no matter how hard they try, can control. This lack of control makes natural a valid conflict for writers to use. Nature can also be very unpredictable, adding to any conflict. Readers know the problems that nature can cause and understand the fears of the characters. Somehow, to all of us, nature conflicts are more real because they could happen to all of us. Do you agree? Or is the possibility of getting swept down river a lesser threat than a human attacker?

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It Didn't Make Me Laugh

Apparently Denis T. Askin does not understand comedy. Someone needs to rent her some funny movies and fast so she can learn about it because she finds comedy in Flannery O’Conner’s stories.

Perhaps she has a different meaning of the word. Yes, that is all I can assume after reading her article. Askin isn’t finding “laugh until you cry” humor in O’Conner’s stories but instead a sort of ironic humor. Two opposites are portrayed in the stories, just to show the differences between the two. Corrupt or unjust people end up getting what they ultimately deserve. What they deserve, however, is usually death.

Honestly, I found the essay a little hard to understand, even with a rereading. Askin and I obviously have difference views on what makes something “comedic”. Although I tried to reason that maybe to O’Conner, a southern woman and Catholic who obviously had experienced a lot of pain, I wasn’t finding any comedy. I need more than contrasting characters and ironic situations.

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January 27, 2005

"A Good Man is Hard to Find". That's For Sure...

I wasn’t exactly sure what Dr. Jerz meant by “not getting” ‘A Good Man is Hard to Find’. I thought, “And it begins. Long hard to read stories where the author just talks in circles and we’re supposed to pull miracle analyses out of it.” So I started reading the story slowly and carefully, picking apart each line for some hidden symbolism. Yet as I read further into it, I saw that it wasn’t some highly academic story with vague symbolic meaning. I actually enjoyed it, although I was a bit shocked.

The story started out pretty basic. A family from the 1950s traveling to Florida with the lively Grandmother in tow. Since The Misfit was mentioned early on, I assumed that they would meet up with him somehow. Yet I never expected the meeting to be so brutal. The killing of the family completely surprised me since the beginning was so docile.

After finishing “A Good Man is Hard to Find” I looked for the elements that Flannery O’Conner often included. The southern feel of the writing was apparent. The language used was distinctly southern and fit in with the setting. The religious element is also seen in the ending. While it may not be distinctly Catholic, her feelings on religion were clear. I also noticed O’Conner’s Gothic style early in the story. While the beginning was much lighter than the ending, it wasn’t exactly funny either.

Always searching for the meanings of writings, I looked into the death of all the main characters. The shock and awe factor is obvious. An author does not just decide “Hey, let’s kill off the main characters! Won’t that be a laugh?” There is probably more to it. Unless the author is a sadist. As Chris noted after his reading of “How to Read Literature Like a Professor”, when a main character is killed it means a lot more than if some insignificant one died. Mysteries are always killing small characters just for the sake of the mystery. Yet since we know who committed the crimes, the family’s death must be of more importance. These deaths play on emotions and feelings. We “knew” the characters and probably wanted the best for them. We were given no obvious reasons to dislike them, no reasons for wanting them dead. Everything is suddenly changed and the whole story changes course. We are now feeling confused, alarmed, and a little hurt at the deaths. Is the author showing the brutality of the south? Of human nature? Or just playing with our emotions and showing us we can feel for people who are not real?

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Shakespeare and the Bible

As Thomas C. Foster stated before in How to Read Literature Like a Professor, there is only one real story. Everything else is just branching off of that one story. Apparently, everything is also just branching off of Shakespeare and the Bible as well.

Hundreds of stories, poems, books, plays, etc are incorporating ideas from Shakespeare and the Bible. Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, and Macbeth have been retold countless times in a number of different ways. Yes, each author adds her own variation or twist to the story so it is not exactly the same, but they are still copies of Shakespeare’s original. Same with the Bible. Religious images and themes are seen often in stories although sometimes they can be harder to find. If a reader is nonreligious or unfamiliar with the stories of the Bible, he may not be able to pick out the subtle references to Biblical tales. Sure, there are the easy ones like Adam and Eve and the story of Christ, but others may not be as obvious unless the reader really knows the Bible. What may seem like a regular story, of even a “quest”, could actually be suggesting a Bible story.

While I know Shakespeare and the Bible are incredibly well known and authors will occasionally allude to them, I still wonder- can’t they think of their own stories? Why are there so many novels and stories referring to Shakespeare’s works and the Bible? Maybe it is true that there is really only one story. And it keeps getting retold over and over and over…

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January 26, 2005

Literature Can Be Fun...Really

We've all read them. The long, involved, mind-numbingly boring essays on various works of literature. They are filled with the author's thoughts on the obscure symbolism and deep inner meanings that most students do not understand. Yet reading and interpreting literature does not have to stay this way, well, at least according to Thomas C. Foster. In How to Read Literature Like a Professor, Foster helps explain how to finally make sense of literature and find the meanings that I thought were out of my reach. And surprisingly, it isn't mind-numbingly boring either.

Foster presents some ideas in the first few chapters that honestly, I would not have initially considered thinking about when reading a piece of literature. I admit, I was (and at times still am) a reader that focuses so much on the characters and overall story that I lose sight of the smaller things such as "vampires" and the communion of eating. Apparently, this is why I need to read the book.

What I enjoyed the most however in the chapters I read was that "there is only one story". I've heard this before- that really all literature is just the same story with the same themes retold in different ways. And although there are always exceptions, as with anything, parallels can often be made with other stories or events through characters or places. Something I will have to look for next time I read something.

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Class Link

Another test

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Yo. This is me trying out my trackback thing. Knowing me, and my terrible luck, it won't work. So Moira, hope you get a "ping"...

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January 19, 2005

Word of the Day- "Blog"

Recently (by "recently" I mean "today" was in "I should have done this awhile ago during break but procrastinated so much as per usual") I went to Stanwood Elementary to observe for my teaching class. (For those of you who don't know, Stanwood is an elementary school in the local Hempfield Area School District.) While I was getting my coat and purse at the end of the day from the back office I noticed the "Word of the Day". Being a Stanwood alum, I remembered these were words that students would read over the intercom during morning announcements. I looked through them and saw just typical vocabulary words until...I saw that "blog" was one of the words. Blog! Of all things! All these elementary school children are running around now knowing what a blog is! (Although really, I doubt any of them rememeber. The "Word of the Day" didn't leave that much impact on my life.) I was pretty surprised to see that. I guess blogs have really mainstreamed when even elementary children are learning about them.

I've noticed that I'm always noticing when something mentions a blog now. The word just jumps out at me. My brain has been programmed to notice it now. Ha

Posted by VanessaKolberg at 4:23 PM | Comments (2)

January 11, 2005

Did You Ever...

Did you ever go around all day speaking (and thinking) in a British accent? Then get all your friends to join in? (No, I haven't finally snapped under the boredome. It's jolly good fun. Really.)

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January 1, 2005

New Year's Celebration

Happy New Year! Hope everyone had a good time! Finally, I had a notable New Year's Eve. It started by going over to my friend's house where there were about 50 people. Some I didn't even know, but the champagne made me friendlier. So friendly that I lost all my inhibitions and danced crazy for a group of people on the dining room table. The light sort of got in my way, but I'm creative and actually used it to my advantage. When the ball dropped, I definitly had some guys to share the big moment with. I can't remember much else, but someone drove me home and I added at least 30 new numbers to my cell.

Um, yeah, ok. Only about .02% of that is true (I did go to my friend's house and...well...that's it.). Come on. But it did make an interesting story though, right?

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