January 2007 Archives

Eliot, ''The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock'' -- Jerz: EL150 (Intro to Literary Study)
"I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach. I have heard the mermaids singing each to each. I do not think they will sing to me."

At first, I had a hard time figuring out what this poem was about. The language spoke to me, but I couldn't get a grasp on what I actually got out of it. It was like watching a movie with big chunks missing out of it, making it impossible to decipher. After several re-readings of it, though I decided that Eliot was trying to tell the story of an ordinary man in the form of a one J. Alfred Prufrock and his struggles with being ordinary. Prufrock feels he is nothing special, and he feels ridiculous trying to fit in whether it be with a younger crowd or his own generation. Basically he worked his whole life to fit in, and as he grew older and came closer to death, he couldn't see the point of wanting to fit in. As he walks on the beach near the end of the poem, the beach being the brink of death, he sees mermaids singing to other people on the beach. I think the mermaids symbolize angels, whether of Heaven or Hell, I'm not sure. They won't sing to Prufrock though, because he is no one special, or so he thinks of himself. That was how I interpreted it.

Foster (Ch 12 and Interlude [p. 183]) -- Jerz: EL150 (Intro to Literary Study)
"You can't simply say, Well, it's a river, so it means x, or apple picking, so it means y. On the othe hand, you can say this could sometimes mean x or y or even z, so let's keep that in mind to see which one, if either, happens here."

There is a reason why I am an English major and not a Math major. Math is so structured and everything has its set formulas; every problem has exactly one right answer. (Also, I don't like it.) English isn't like that. It leaves room for openness, creativity, interpretation, and one's own ideas. In Foster's chapter on symbols, he discusses how the symbols in literature never mean just one thing. Everything in literature is left up to the reader's imagination, and the symbolic meaning depends on how the reader interprets what they read. In high school, I always thought what the teacher says is right, but Foster proves this wrong. The meaning of the symols is solely what the reader interprets it to be, and there are several different things the metaphor could symbolize. There is technically no right or wrong answer.

Glaspell, ''Trifles'' -- Jerz: EL150 (Intro to Literary Study)
"What Lawrence does, really, is employ geography as a metaphor for the psyche-when his characters go south, they are really digging deep into their subconcious, delving into that region of darkest fears and desires."

I read the Glaspell play before I read the chapters in Foster, and while I was reading the chapter on geography I made some connections with the events in Trifles. The wheels in my head began turning as soon as I got to the section in which the above quote was incoroporated. As I read further on, Foster started talking about the ups and downs in relation to geography. He said lows in literature are associated with things like darkness, heat, unpleasantness, people, life, and death, and that highs are associated with ice, purity, isolation, life, and death. I found this interesting because after reading this, some of the things in Trifles began to make a lot more sense symbolically speaking. During the majority of Glaspell's play, the two women are downstairs while the men are upstairs. As the course of events unfolds, the women continue to make shocking discoveries about the life Minnie Foster led, while the men remained oblivious to her true motive behind killing her husband, let alone the concrete proof that she did, in fact, kill him. Downstairs, the women realized the darkness and unpleasantness that filled Minnie's lonely days; upstairs the men were isolated from the discoveries the women were making. I just thought it was interesting how Foster's text helped me to make those kind of connections within the play. I definitely wouldn't have been able to pick those things out on my own.

Close Reading Diagnostic -- Jerz: EL150 (Intro to Literary Study)
"If the story is good and the characters work but you don't catch allusions and references and parallels, then you've done nothing worse than read a good story with memorable characters."

I had always wondered how my high school English teachers were always able to pick out all the symbolism and knew what was what in every piece of literature we ever read. I thought maybe the things we read as part of the curriculum came with some kind of teaching guide, but some of the things they came up with were so off the wall that I thought that couldn't be right. (I can't think of anything in particular that I could classify as "off the wall" right now as an example because there were so many). Another theory I had was that maybe they learned it all in college or maybe they just knew it all because they were English teachers. However they found out all that stuff though, I wanted to know how they could pick it out so easily. This is one of the reasons that I found How to Read Literature Like a Professor such an intriguing read. The tone is light and humorous, and when I read it, it's like listening to a friend inside my head who just happens to be an expert on picking out symbolic things and allusions in English literature. Whenever I was in middle school and starting out in high school, I could always read anything and not really give two cents about what the symbolism of the bird flying in the rain was, or whatever we were supposed to be trying to figure out. As long as the story was good and I got some entertainment out of it, I was satisfied. Around the middle of my sophomore year, though, I started to care. High school English classes went so much more in-depth with the reading, and I found it fascinating. I really wanted to know how my teachers knew all of that stuff. (I think that's another thing that prompted me to become an English teacher). After reading the first few chapters of Foster's text, though, I've realized it is not knowledge that just comes into the English teacher's head out of thin air; it is a skill that has to be picked up and mastered just like any other knowledgable subject.

Fitzgerald, ''Bernice Bobs Her Hair'' (online) -- Jerz: EL150 (Intro to Literary Study)
"For a second she was near breaking down, and then the picture before her swam mechanically into her vision--Marjorie's mouth curling in a faint ironic smile as if to say:
'Give up and get down! You tried to buck me and I called your bluff. You see you haven't got a prayer.''

By reading Fitzgerald's story about Bernice, I can see that today's social standards are not much different than what they were sixty years ago. There were still the popular kids and the kids who didn't quite fit into that group; there were still peer pressures and the need to feel accepted by the highest social groups. Marjorie and Bernice were from two different social groups. Though they were both in the same class financially, Bernice was socially awkward, while Marjorie was a social butterfly, or a "gardenia," as deemed in the story. Bernice did everything Marjorie told her to in order to fit in with her cousin and her friends. When her popularity rose above that of Marjorie's, Marjorie got jealous and decided to challenge it, thus Bernice's ascension to the barber's chair and her bobbed hair. In today's society, we see the same kinds of things happening in groups of young people and adolescents. We still feel the need to be accepted by our peers, and some of us, like Bernice, will go to any lengths to make it to the top. Sometimes it's not as simple as getting a haircut though. Nowadays it can be something much more serious, maybe involving drugs, alchohol and other self-harming behavior. I think it is interesting how we can relate things in literature written over fifty years ago to things that are happening today; that's part of what makes it timeless. When we can relate to things we read, it speaks volumes to us, and Fitzgerald's Bernice Bobs Her Hair definitely spoke to me.

Lemire, I'm an English Major: Now What? (Intro & Ch 1) -- Jerz: EL150 (Intro to Literary Study)"Happiness is both a condition and a philosophy-an attitude, a perspective, or a way of thinking."

It is my belief that someone can only be as happy or successful as that person thinks he or she is. Lemire goes on to talk about that success is only valued at the degree to which it makes a person happy, and that having a real job is the key to success. I think what a person thinks constitutes as a "real job" is a matter of opinion. To me, as long as a person is doing what they love and making a living from it, that counts as a job. Just because a job is not an established profession in an office building or something doesn't mean a career can't be made from it. If a person can make enough to live off of while indulging one's passion, then that can be considered successful. If someone is happy to do their job everyday, then they are successful.

Blogs? Huh?!

Bethany Bouchard
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Schackner, ''Freedom of speech redefined by blogs'' -- Jerz: EL150 (Intro to Literary Study)
"Completing assignments using blogs allows students to view each other's work and better prepares them for classroom discussion, he said."

Before EL150 I really didn't have any idea what blogs were or how they could be used. I had heard of the term "blog," but I wasn't exactly sure of what they did or what they were for. I knew that blogs could be posted on several different sites, Myspace being one of them, but I was unaware of just how large the blogosphere actually extends. I was under the impression that blog entries on Myspace constitute as some sort of online journal posting or something, and maybe that's what it is, but I still haven't figured it out. After reading Schackner's article I was enlightened. It opened my eyes a little wider to the many purposes that blogging serves, be it academic or not. I had no idea that the blogosphere was so extensive and can reach as many people as it does. I look forward to becoming an active member of the blogosphere and learning more about blogging as the semester goes on.