January 2009 Archives

Mother was Right Again...You Need to Get Your Sleep!

| | Comments (4)

From Keesey's Contexts for Criticism:

"I'm feeling ever so much better!  I don't sleep much at night, for it is so interesting to watch developments; but I sleep a good deal in the day" (Gilman 536).

My mother always stressed the importance of sleep.  My freshman year, I didn't think that it was that important to go to bed and not spend all night talking with friends or watching tv.  Since then, I've grown to rediscover the importance of sleep.  I've found that if I get the recommended eight hours, I don't get tired at all and keep my sanity.  This ability to stay awake, especially in night class, is like having a super power.

Our main character first seems like a sleep-a-holic.  Everything makes her tired: writing, controlling herself, the Fourth of July party, having her husband read to her, staring at the wallpaper.  We all know that repetition usually indicates importance in literature and this story is no different.  The sleep is correlated with her disorder which we are left to assume is post partum depression.  When the story begins, the main character seems to want to sleep a lot, pretty much anytime she does anything, day or night.  As the story progresses, however, her sleep patterns change.  This pattern had a connection to her aversion to people.  The first time she says she didn't sleep when told to on page 536, she admits to no longer trusting John and her daughter two short paragraphs later.

She switches to a more nocturnal lifestyle in order to be less intimate with people, and more intimate with the people in the wall and the depths of her infected imagination.  The ones she loved in sickness are turned into adversaries that she would rather kill than let know about the girl in the wall.

The chosen paragraph is the last instance where sleep is mentioned.  With this paragraph, Gilman demonstrates to the reader that the remainder of our narrator's sanity has disappeared and she is now completely one with the darkness literally and figuratively.  If it's light outside, she sleeps, ignoring the family and human contact.  If it's dark, she's alone with her imagined friends.

Back to the course webpage!


Speaking of Muddy Points...

| | Comments (1)

From Literary Theory:

"The mistake of the Western metaphysical tradition has been to see Being as some kind of objective entity, and to separate it sharply from the subject; Heidegger seeks rather to return to pre-Socratic thought, before the dualism between subject and object opened up, and to regard Being as somehow encompassing both" (Eagleton 55).

So I have a confession...reading this chapter was excruciating because I was so lost.  I felt as though I was taken into a dark forest and left to find my way out.  When Dr. Jerz said that there would be some methods you would like and some you wouldn't, he wasn't kidding!  I think that even if I had understood and been able to comprehend what I read, I wouldn't have liked it.  Trust me, I'm far from a philosopher.  Philosophy is like Mexican food, it doesn't agree with me.  (Insert horrified gasp here)  That's not to say that I don't ever look at the philosophy beind something, or that I hate philosophy, it has just never been that appealing to me. 

It's especially disinteresting (to me) when the author refers to many philosophers assuming that us English majors know what he's talking about.  Have I heard of Descarte, Kant, and Socrates?  Certainly!  I took a college class in high school about philosophy but I don't remember the significance of these guys.  His points would be more apparent if he used easy-to-decode language.  If he cut some of the stuff that was minor and added more information to aid the reader, the chapter would have been more effective.

Having said that, I think that trying to look at the philosophy behind a text could be a useful tool in a person's "tool belt" (if you can figure out how to do this).  Does anyone understand this chapter and can put it in simplier terms for a simple mind?

Now that I feel stupid and bad for cutting up on Eagleton who is, for the record, much smarter than me, I need to get some shut eye.  *Yawn*

But as a last thought, and so this blog isn't a complete drain on your intellegence and is worthwhile to the reader, I wanted to provide an example of chiasmus I found in the text.  "There is no object without a subject, and no subject without an object" (Eagleton 50).  For those who don't remember, a chiasmus is just a phrase that when turned around, holds a different meaning.  For the record, that's my definition, not any book's.  Now interpreting this sucker is a little different because it's philosophy.  My guess is that all objects, for example a sentence, have a subject.  And all subjects have an object, or a purpose if we're still talking about a sentence.

Good night or morning if you will...

In the Left Corner, Weighing 200 Pounds, is T.S. Eliot!

| | Comments (3)

From "Tradition and the Individual Talent" by T.S. Eliot:

"Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality."

I'm not quite sure what T.S. Eliot meant by this statement.  It seems that he is simply saying that poetry, emotion, and personality are three separate entities.  To that, I have to say that just as the definition of "literature" is debatable, so is the definition of poetry.  Poetry seems to be (sometimes) whatever you want it to be.  An example of a poem that Iis debatably a poem is "The Red Wheelbarrow" by William Carlos Williams.  The whole poem is so short, I've rewritten it below and actually have it memorized:

 "so much depends


a red wheel


glazed with rain


beside the white


Why is this poem famous?  I remember reading it in high school and honestly, my nephews who were 6 at the time could have produced this poem.  This poem reminds me of the artist who got famous for painting a canvas white.  Getting famous for such little work seems genius of them, but stupid of the admirers.

Back to the point, a poem is whatever you want it to be.  I guess that even the example above counts, even though someone with no talent could write it.  I'm not saying that William Carlos Williams has no talent, but simply that that poem in particular is a joke, but nevertheless, has its impact.  After all, I do have it memorized for its ridiculousness.  If you write a poem to express an emotion such as love, this statement that poetry is "not a turning loose of emotion" is certainly false.  And when one writes poetry, little bits of herself or himself manages to trickle through and onto the page no matter what.  

Even the reader of a poem's emotions and personality can show by what he or she chooses to read.  If sad, I may choose to read Emily Dickinson.  If in love, I may want to turn to a Shakespearean sonnet.

When it all comes down to it, I think Eliot was mistaken.  Poetry can be what it wants to be, there is no discrimination. 

Back to the course webpage!

Mortality Squares Off with Immortality...And the Winner Is!?

| | Comments (1)

From "Toward Resolving Keats's Grecian Urn Ode" in Contexts for Criticism:

"Grecian urns were, in fact, consecrated, originally used to preserve the ashes of the dead and to depict scenes of vibrant life" (Austin 53).

The "Urn" really embodies this quote, whether or not Keats intended that the Urn was a container for remains.  In this quote, Mortality and Immortality coexist creating a strange paradox.  When faced with the death that the urn may represent, Keats gives us life.  In the scenes on the urn we see lovers in hot pursuit, spring, and beauty. 

The lovers mentioned in line 17, "Bold lover, never, never canst thou kiss," maintain their innocence, curiousity, and sexual intensity.  Although they are obcessed with each other for the moment, they will never get the chance to act on this passion, forever keeping their love new and fresh.

Keats then mentions the spring, as representative of new life, "Thy song, nor ever those trees be bare" and "Ah, happy, happy boughs! that cannot shed/ Your leaves, nor ever bid the spring adieu" (lines 16, 21-22).  Although in real life, fall will bring weakening and winter will bring death, the paintings on the urn capture eternal life and new opportunities. 

Lastly, the girl mentioned in lines 19 and 20 "cannot fade" for she will forever be "fair."  She will never meet her mortality and will be forever imortalized for the beauty she is, never wrinkling, never weakening. 

These pleasant images are amongst another, not so pleasant image that appears in the fourth stanza: "Who are these coming to the sacrifice?/ To what green altar, O mysterious priest,/ Lead'st thou that heifer lowing at the skies" (lines 31-33).  But even the cow that is sentenced to death will live on forever in this moment, still ignorant, still alive, still happy. 

Keats depicts life and hope for all who appear on his urn, an interesting concept for something that is a keeper of the dead.  Like the quote I picked emphasizes, this urn reminds people of the life, not of the death that it contains bringing the two worlds together and giving them a chance to intermingle.  To the reader of the poem, Keats gives hope that the afterlife will bring more moments of pleasure.  Even if there is no eternity, if death is really all there is, the person will live on through the artwork on the outside of the urn, continuing to share his/her story.  Either (or both) ways, we are given a reason to not fear, and to look forward to eternity. 

Back to the course webpage.

Metonymy and the Steelers

| | Comments (4)

From Literary Theory:

"There is no literary 'literary' device--metonymy, synecdoche, litotes, shiasmus and so on--which is not quite intensively used in daily discourse" (Eagleton 5).

   I'll admit that I had to look up all the words in this sentence almost, but the one that appealed to me the most was "metonymy."  The definition of the word "metonymy" is "a trope which substitutes the name of an entity with something else that is closely associated with it" (Hamilton 41).  With Super Bowl XLIII fast approaching, and my hometown team partaking in the action, I cannot help but draw some parallels between what I have learned and the Pittsburgh Steelers.  To anyone watching the game on Febuary 1st, the "steel curtain" is a metonymic synonym for the "Steelers' defense."  The "Steeler fans" are known as the "Steeler nation."  The Steelers' quarterback, "Ben Rothlisberger," is sometimes called by his nickname "Big Ben."  The former Steeler player known as "The Bus" is Jerome Bettis.  And the late Steeler defensive end, multiple Super Bowl winner, and former Seton Hill board member (and the sole reason that I visited this small school) Dwight White was known by the metonymic synonym "Mad Dog."

To anyone interested in finding out more about the Super Bowl click here.

To go back to the course web page click here.

The Formalities of Formalism

| | Comments (3)

From Literary Theory:

"The Formalists started out by seeing the literary work as a more or less arbitrary assemblage of 'devices', and only later came to see these devices as interrelated elements or 'functions' within a total textual system.  'Devices' including sound, imagery, rhythm, syntax, metre, rhyme, narrative techniques, in fact the whole stock of formal literary elements..." (Eagleton 3)

   This section of the text helped me understand, or I think it did anyway, what the Formalists are all about, what makes them tick.  It seems that Formalists are comcerned with the words themselves, not the story or characters.  The literature itself is secondary, only a coral reef if you will, made up of thousands of smaller organisms that give it a semblance of one giant mass.  The divers can come and check out the reef, seeing all the pretty colors and fish, but not realize the real composition, what gives the reef its shape.  The reader of a piece of literature is like the diver, examining the work and seeing the plot, but many times missing the building blocks that make the story, the words.  This focus on the words themselves, rather than the story, allows the reader to see what it was about the author's word choice and use of literary devices works for the story and allows it to be effective.  The formalists, like biologists, like to break down the whole into pieces, dissect it, to see exactly how and why the work has a certain desired effect.

To get back to the course webpage click here