CarlosPeredo: March 2009 Archives

Play on...names?

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So, my blog isn't necessarily about the work itself but more about out author. If you didn't know, the book was written by Ralph Waldo Ellison. Ellison was named for another, extraordinarily famous American writer by the name of Ralph Waldo Emerson. I point this out only because I think it is important to establish our authors pedigree.

Ellison clearly comes from two parents who are very well read, well schooled, and well educated. Though his father died at a very early age, Ellison was always raised with the understanding that his father dreamed of Ellison becoming a poet. It is quite apparent that Ellison was, for lack of a better phrase, bread to be a writer. It is in his blood and in his name. And with that backstory, we read Invisible Man.

By the way, to everyone, there is no THE in the title. It is simply Invisible Man. That's how you tell it apart from H.G. Well's novel.

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The perfect example of what not to do?

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 Thoreau had a decent start I thought. He at least had a thesis that seemed to fit the proper mold. Water as the absent signifier seems to be the sort of thesis that we've all been striving twoards. It was certainly non obvious and, though Thoreau argues it, it is debatable. However, I think that Thoreau begins to fail as the article goes on.

First and foremost, there's the simple fact that the diction made my eyes bleed and the syntax put me to sleep. The author routinely makes up words such as "metamor-phosed" and brings up terms that are often unfamiliar to the reader such as "neo-baconian atlantis"

But still, the real problem with the paper is that he does exactly what Dr. Jerz has taught us not to do. We are supposed to make a claim about the work itself, not use the work to make a claim about history; which is exactly what the author has done. He is using first The Grapes of Wrath and then details about Steinbeck's life and other books to make a claim about poor government decisions in the depression era.  A few pages in he leaves the novel behind and starts quoting biograpbhies of Steinbeck or works that are historical analysis.

Overall, as I read te article I got the impression that it was being written by person with the intelligence of a Grad Student but the maturity of a high schooler. The vocabulary is advanced, the idea is thought out and the claim is both mature and well proved. However it simply doesn't relate to the work enough.

That being said, it's possible that Throeau didn't WANT it to relate to the work. It is possible that he simply wanted to write an article that was a historical criticism and used Steinbeck as a main point of focus. If that was his intention, then I apologize to him for my critique. But I got the impression that he was attempting to analyze Steinbec using history, and if that was the case then I'm afraid he did it backwards.

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Epic Fail

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I read them all, I figured there'd be at least one that I could blog about. Now I'm not so sure. Plath seems to be way over my head. In my failure though, I did however, identify a pattern.

Plath seems to start her poems in a way that directly relates to her title. Her first few lines or even the entire first stanza seems to be quite simple and easy to understand. It makes sense within the context that the title has given you. After that? The metaphors begin. This is where I often got lost. She breaks from lines that directly relate to the title and instead indirectly alludes to the message presented in the title. This made it much more difficult for me to follow because of her syntax. Her lines often move quickly and with a sense of urgency, making the reader need to analyze the meaning in rapid fire mode. Though not impossible, Plath is certainly more frustrating than the other authors we've been covering this week.

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The "Southern Cross" reference

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The poem that stuck out to me especially was The Amardillo. I'm not quite sure what the illegal fire balloons are. At first I thought of hot air balloons but as the poem went on I was reminded of the paper lanterns used in certain Asian cultures. Knowing that gunpowder was invented in Asia I immediately wondered is balloons of fire refers to some more ancient practice that I might not know of.

However, there was one piece of the poem that I was able to shed light on definitively. The poem makes reference to the lanterns floating between the kite sticks of the southern cross. For those that don't know, the southern cross is the equivalent of the big dipper to us. It is the constellation that harbors the "south star" which never moves in the sky much the way the north star is always fixed for us in the northern hemisphere. Thus, in much the same way that northern navigators were able to manuever themsleves in the open ocean lacking a compass, the southern star enables sailors in the southern hemisphere to do the same. Thus, the constellation of the southern cross (which also looks like a kite, as the poem points out) is extraordinarily important to the southern hemisphere history. In fact, the southern cross even appears on the Australian flag.

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Not what you'd expect

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When I first started reading My Papa's Waltz I got the impression that the poem was going to be about how the narrator resented his father for getting drunk. I thought that there would be the usual theme of frowning on the person who drinks and that the poem would paint the father as a terrible patriarch for spending his time and money on whiskey. I think society today has trained us to believe that a father who drinks is ALWAYS an alcoholic. And of course, in today's world we ALWAYS think of "alcoholic" and "wife-beater" as interchangeable. It seems that to us in this modern era we often associate one with the other.

The narrator presented a very pleasant image that sharply contrasted my preconceived notion of his poem. He remembers his old man with a very warm fondness. The whiskey is not portrayed as negative in any way. Instead, it seems to loosen the old man and make the experience more fun. The narrator seems to enjoy stumbling about after his fathers missteps. I found it quite refreshing to have the narrator involve alcohol in his poem without making it the focus of the cause of any negativity. Instead the alcohol appears only briefly.

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Historical Background

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I thin that one of the reasons that illness appears so often in literature is simply because of how often it appeared in life. Until the later half of the last century, illness was something that was really common. People often died of FLU epidemics. That's unheard of to us. Until the most recent hundred years illnesses such as the flu, cholera, typhus, and tuberculosis, often ravaged through towns and tore families apart.

But it doesn't stop with germ like illnesses. Other ailments such as herniated disks, pinched nerves, arthritis, and many of those other joint related problems could destroy families. When you're family depends on the income that you make from farming and you slip a disk in the lower back, you're done. There wasn't even modern surgery to fix it. Crooked backs or lame hands often appear in literature in the form of ailments that seem very rare to us now.

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Being Marked for Greatness

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A long time ago I was looking through several short story contests with a writers group. One of the contests involved writing a short story in which nothing unusual happened at all. The task was to take the main character and simply make them be a normal and average person with absolutely nothing strange or unique about them. No super powers, no life changing event, nothing. Just a perfectly normal and every day character.

After sitting around and thinking about it everyone pretty much agreed that it was impossible to write a story with reading that was like that. Every character is somehow marked for greatness or has unique and ridiculous circumstances befall them. The closest I think that any writer has ever come to succeeding at this challenge is Holden Caulfield in Catcher in the Rye. Now I will personally argue that the lack of anything ever happening makes the book suck, but besides that; it could still be argued that Holden does have very unique characteristics about him and is in fact normal.

So my question for the class is this. Do you think it can be done? As Foster says, our heros are often marked for greatness. Is it possible to construct a character that is just like everyone else and has nothing unique about him? Even in The Giver the main character, who should be identical to everyone else, finds uniqueness. Can it be written? And if it can, would it sell? Would it be successful?

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Too Forward? I think so...

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Whatever happened to writers using literature to hide the meanings of their work? Remember when we had to break down the symbols in order to argue over the author's message? Remember the ambiguity of these messages and the arguments that would be sparked from these symbols? I don't see it out of Wilder...

I think Wilder is too upfront with his messages. Sabina comes right out and says "We're all just as wicked as we can be, and that's the God's truth." Then there's the whole scene between the Antrobuses where they discuss losing their desire to start over again. Wilder just comes right out and says it. Sabina is painted as a negative nancy from the beginning and nothing changes. She's the perfect Hobbes. The world is all evil and blah blah blah. Now, there's nothing wrong with making a character be that way, but I think that it should be hidden behind their actions and subtly worked in through their words. Their lines shouldn't just come right out and say "This si the message that the author wants me to deliver to you."

Maybe it's just me, but I think that if you say your ideas behind symbolism and actions then it's literature, and if you just say them up front then it's activism or philosophy. I felt like Wilder just went right out and said it and left little to be interpreted by the reader.

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Close Reading in a Nutshell, Portfolio 1

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Below I have included a list of all of my blogs in order to compile a portfolio. They have been categorized as Dr. Jerz asked them to be.

Coverage- These are all of the blogs that I have done since the first assignment.
Frost- An Environmentalist?
Feminism I like? Nope, I was wrong
What Doesn't Kill You Makes you Stronger
When a man is broken
The sea is all powerful


Timeliness- These are just a few of the blogs that I have posted that have been on time. Actually, they all have been on time but these are just some of them.
Liberal Arts Education?
Feminism I like? Nope, I was wrong
When a man is broken

Interaction- These are the few blogs of mine that have sparked the most conversation
Liberal Arts Education?
Frost- An Envornmentalist
Feminism I like? Nope, I was wrong

Depth- These blogs are the ones in which I have gone into the most depth.
Liberal Arts Education?
Frost- An Envornmentalist
Feminism I like? Nope, I was wrong
The sea is all powerful

Discussion- Here are a few blogs where I have left good comments for other people
The Bank Monster
Character Analysis
Poetry Analysis

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Recent Comments

April Minerd on Too Many Ideas: I like that you chose this quo
Alicia Campbell on The Ambiguity of Flight: Although I took Foster's chapt
Julianne Banda on The Ambiguity of Flight: I also agree. Like Andrew said
Jennifer Prex on The Ambiguity of Flight: I agree with Andrew in the sen
Dennis G. Jerz on Wonderfully Unique: I'm glad to hear that you foun
Chelsie Bitner on Wonderfully Unique: This book is exactly how you d
Andrew Adams on The Ambiguity of Flight: I don't think he meant to pres
Christopher Dufalla on Wonderfully Unique: The story progresses in an int
Carlos Peredo on Wonderfully Unique: On the one hand, I agree. I ha
Matt Henderson on Wonderfully Unique: But don't you find that when y