October 2009 Archives

On Setting...

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     I can't really find a quote in Roberts Ch. 6 to place at the beginning of this entry. I almost feel like this chapter was completely unecessary because we, as English majors, know what setting is and there is no new or groundbreaking information or insight offered in the chapter about the subject.

     I do agree with Roberts that Pie does a good job of setting an eeire tone for his story with his descriptions of the bizarrely decorated abbey and the strangely costumed guests. However, I almost feel like the setting is underutilized in The Masque of the Red Death. The closed-in, cloister-like nature of the abbey does get across the inevitability of the plague, but I think that there should be more significance in the decorum of the rooms in the palace. Poe spends so much time describing the decorations and the different colors of the room, but they ultimately have no effect on the message of the story other than to create an eerie mood.

     We have read examples of stories that utilize setting much more effectively in this class, such as The Quick & the Dead. The barren desert setting of the book mirrors the sad, lonely lives that most of the characters in the story lead. However, there are also several instances in which the natural beauty of the desert is pointed out. This conveys the message that no matter how bad one's life may seem, there is always beauty and good to be found... now that's good use of setting! 

The "Mask" of the Red Death

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     "He had come like a thief in the night. . . And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all" (360).

     Edgar Allen Poe's The Masque of the Red Death is kind of the nineteenth-century version of an abstinence pamphlet one would recieve in health class or a National Geographic special on mankind's vulnerability in the event of a pandemic. The way that the being that represents the plague sneeks into the abbey undetected is Poe pointing out that sick people don't always appear to be sick. Besides the phantom's costume being a little more grotesque than the others', the guest have no way of telling him apart from them. This is a message that resonates with readers today with HIV and Aids being the huge problem that they are.

     On a lighter note, I also enjoyed the double entendre in the title. It is called The Masque of the Red Death because of the masquerade ball that the prince threw. But the disease also sneaks into the party in a mask- disguised as just another of Prospero's revellers. 

Hearing through Yiddish... Seeing in Ink...

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     The Holocaust is something that all of us have learned about in school prior to reading Art Spiegelman's MAUS. However, the unique dialogue and story and the graphic novel presentation make it all seem fresh again. 
     Spiegelman's characters, particularly Artie's father in the story, bring a unique voice to the Holocaust. Most of us have only learned about this tragedy through classroom lessons and textbook readings and, even though the characters in this story are fictional, hearing a survivor's retelling of these events is much more personal. I also enjoy the broken English (with various Yiddish words thrown in to the mix) that the father speaks. I almost feel like the awkward and sometimes repetitive words and phrases he uses make the message feel that much more authentic and helps the story come across much clearer since the language is so simple. Just one example can be found on page 32, "It was the beginning of 1938- before the war- hanging high in the center of town, it was a Nazi flag. Here was the first time I saw, with my own eyes, the swastika." These words are written as though an older person were actually telling the reader a story!
     Acompanying these words is a giant ink illustration of a flag- decorated with a large swastika- standing proud in the middle of a group of buildings. I really like the illustrations in this graphic novel. I think that the author/artist's choice to portray the Jews as mice and the Nazis as cats was clever, not only in demonstrating the animalistic and primitive cruelty the Nazis exercised during World War II, but also to almost tone down the gorey nature the novel would have taken on had it shown actual human beings displaying some of the brutal actions that the cats in the story act out. It is almost a PG-rated re-telling of the Holocaust. We get a personal-feeling story that raises our awareness of the tragedy without feeling sick to our stomachs from seeing images of just how cruel mankind can be...

Portfolio 2

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Coverage: Here are all the blog entries I have posted.


This entry talks about some of my fellow classmates inaccurately describing Goodnight, Desdemona as fan-fiction and the frustration it caused me.


This entry talks about author intent and how, even if Macdonald did not intend her play to be a feminist work, it is up to the interpretation of the general public whether it is or not.


This entry talks about the slight hypocracy of Wordsworth's The Tables Turned.


This entry mentions the undertones of existential questions that are brought up by Frost in Desert Places.


This entry looks at Chapter 12 of Writing About Literature.


Blog 1 about The Quick & the Dead: Introduces my theory about what the introductions at the beginning of each book could mean... 


Blog 2 about The Quick & the Dead: Continues to delve into my theory about the introductions at the beginnings of the books... 


Blog 3 about The Quick & the Dead: Explains that my theory is basically unresolved... as is SO much else at the end of this book... 

Depth: These are the entries in which I did outside research or developed my ideas more fully.


This entry represents a more in-depth blog because I had to really think about the fan-fiction that I have read, such as all the novels based off of Star Wars and the Halo games and compare it to what Macdonald did in Goodnight, Desdemona.


I had to read this poem several times through before realizing the slight existential question that is brought up and I am rather proud that I came up with that (messages in poetry usually elude me).



I thought I had some rather clever predictions about what the introductions to the books in The Quick & the Dead could mean... but the author never bothered to explain them...

Discussion and Interaction: Examples of Conversations and "Creative Differences" between my classmates and me.


Above is a link to Jess Orlowski's blog about how John Crimmins was a somewhat Christ-like manifestation in The Quick & the Dead. While no one responded to the comment I posted as it was a little late in the game, Jess and I did discuss it and we decided that it was a valid point so I am putting it in this section.


Here, Carissa and I discuss my outrage at the abruptness of the ending of the story.


A rather humorous discussion regarding Darleen in The Quick & the Dead.

Timeliness: Here are the entries I submitted on time. 


Blog 3 about The Quick & the Dead: Explains that my theory is basically unresolved... as is SO much else at the end of this book... 



In the above entry, Jess Orlowski states: "Was Corvus saved from drowning and death, or was Darleen trying to save her from something else entirely (namely, a life of pain)?" However, after the comments that Karyssa and I left, she seemed to change her tune. It does not appear that Jess changed her actual entry, but it is nice to see that the conversations about the blogs can have and affect on the writer.



I cannot stress enough how proud I was of myself for catching the existential reference. As I mentioned, messages in poetry usually elude me and it upsets me that no one read this blog (but that was my fault because it was a very late entry...).


At first I could not find a reason that Frost could have had for writing Desert Places other than his feeling depressed on a winter day...

But then I read through the poem again and noticed that there is a slight existential issue brought up when Frost writes, "Between stars- On stars where no human race is./ I have it in me so much nearer home/ To scare myself with my own desert places" (370, 13-15). Perhaps the stark, winter night he is observing is bringing up questions concerned with universal and/or even theological themes and when he talks about him being able to scare himself perfectly ON HIS OWN he is saying that he does not want to waste his time thinking about these matters when he has more pressing issues at hand on earth (at home) in his own life... but alas... we will never know for sure...

Roberts Ch. 12

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I do not think that Roberts or the sample essay introduce a new way of thinking, but Chapter 12 does discuss something that we haven't utilized or gone over in class thus far... rather than simply writing about our reactions to a literary work, Chapter 12 discusses how to use literary works to support your argument when writing about a particular issue or problem.

While I have never actually used a work of literature to support an argument I was making (like in a formal research paper), the basic concepts of utilizing sources such as peer-reviewed articles and non-fictional accounts are basically the same. It's good that this chapter gets us thinking about this concept though as we begin to write more in-depth papers for this course.

Wordsworth's Words: Get Off Your Lazy @$$!!

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Despite Wordsworth spending his life writing poems, he advises anyone who reads his piece, The Tables Turned, to put down the dusty, old book they are currently engaged in, which would more than likely be a book filled with his own florid poetry, and go outside and enjoy nature's beautiful bounty. He basically warns the reader that they will become fat if they do not go outside and excercise in the line: "Up! up! my Friend, and quit your books;/ Or surely you'll grow double" (340, 1-2).

I just enjoyed the hipocracy at work in this poem... however, it does fit into the descriptions of romanticism that we discussed in class such as the appreciation of nature and the praise of the common man values... this makes sense since Wordsworth was one of the fathers of the British Romantic movement...

Denounce thine author, and embrace thy feminism!!

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The title of this blog is one that I find rather clever, in that it is based on a line of dialogue from Romeo and Juliet, a line that is also parodied in Goodnight, Desdemona, and that references the actual work itself in a strange way. The author, Anne-Marie Macdonald, has gone on record as saying that she did not write her play with the intention of having it be a feminist work. There is, however, no doubting the tones of female empowerment throughout the play and this brings me to the point of AUTHOR INTENT that we discuss often in class. Once an author publishes their work, it is OPEN for public scrutiny and interpretation. An author could have written a book or play in order to get a certain message across, but it all depends on the people who read the book or watch the play and their reactions to the work that determines how the work will be seen by the general public. Believe me, as an aspiring author (someday...), it really kills me to admit all this, but it is true. If Macdonald did not want her play to be seen as a feminist work, then she should not have included so many feministic elements (such as Constance's finding balance in herself by meeting the love-struck, slutty version of Juliet and the violent, almost savagely brutal version of Desdemona) in her play. ALSO, it is ENTIRELY possible that Macdonald did indeed intend this to be a feminist work and is only denouncing it so that certain people, such as men in general, will not be scared away by the word "feminist" being associated with her play. After all, as Dr. Jerz pointed out in class... "People often associate feminist plays with people dressed up as vaginas screaming at you!" I can't tell you how much I enjoyed it when he said that, but it does drive home the point that certain people are scared away from reading certain works or going to see certain plays because of different stigmas that are associated with the works.

More than just fan-fiction

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It is one of those crazy times in the semester when portfolios are due and I am scrambling to catch up on blog entries that I have neglected... So here goes:

I keep hearing the phrase "fan-fiction" being thrown around in reference to Goodnight, Desdemona and it is rather frustrating. I do not see the play as fan-fiction at all, but a rather creative work that happens to take place partially in the Shakespearean world.

Fan-fiction takes the story, movie, videogame, etc. that it is based on and tells different stories either with familiar or unfamiliar characters to that particular universe. What Macdonald does in this play is tell her OWN story... the story of Constance Ledbelly... and her main character happens to find herself in two of Shakespeare's works. This is COMPLETELY different than someone sitting down and writing about different adventures that Desdemona and Othello went on that Shakespeare never wrote about (an example of fan-fiction, for those of you who didn't catch the drift).

EL 227 Portfolio 2

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Following the News

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I have a few stories that I am going to follow for this assignment:

1. NASA's ridiculous decision to launch a rocket at the moon and blow off a small part of it to see if there is indeed ice on the moon. I feel that the rest of the world should be pretty pissed about this because it is not NASA's own personal moon to just blow up! I really hope this story keeps developing... the reactions should be pretty entertaining.

2. Obama's "earning" the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. While I generally support Obama and did, indeed, vote for him, I really feel like he DID NOTHING to earn this prestigious honor. In an article on this event on the Trib Review's website, they say he earned the prize for some policies he is trying to enact which will reduce Nuclear weapons and make peace with Muslim nations. THERE IS A BIG DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ACTUALLY DOING SOMETHING AND JUST SIMPLY TRYING TO ENACT POLICIES THAT MAY OR MAY NOT BE EFFECTIVE!! I feel that he does not deserve this honor and I hope that reactions outraged reactions ensue...

3. East Hills teacher admits to hitting a 10-year-old student. The woman pled guilty already, but hopefully more new will develop on this story.

Lots to talk about...

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Ok... there are several things I would like to talk about in this blog on the last section...

1. " 'It's a rerun,' her granny said, 'We've seen it all before' " (210).

The fact that Alice's granny says this while they are discussing some particularly gruesome behavior by people they have hear about on the news (such as planes crashing, women eating their mothers' ashes, men shooting loved ones, people doing "smack", and women cutting babies out of other women's stomachs) shows the reader that human beings, the whole wretched lot of them, are capable of anything and now that we have the media constantly showing and telling us everything that every horrible person does we, as humans, have become rather jaded to all of this deplorable violence. I liked this section and I am glad that Williams snuck this message in there!

2. "The hours between two and dawn were like a gift that only a few unwrapped, a puzzling, luminous gift" (217).

I don't have much to say about this... BUT I LOVE IT!! I am a bit of an insomniac so I am definitely one of those people who have unwrapped this awesome gift!

3. My theory about the introductions to each book seems to have not come to fruition... They are basically ignored! Also... I DO NOT UNDERSTAND THE ENDING!! Someone please help me!

Could it be?!

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Ok... This blog is going to be full of here-say and pure speculation, but they are MY speculations and this is MY blog so I am going to do it. Book 2 started out with an equally eerie brochure-like statement from some unknown representative for an insane asylum. However, after reading through Book 2, I think that maybe these introductions to the book are being told by the spokesperson for heaven or hell or some limbo-like state in between them. I think that Green Palms, the nursing home that Alice and Corvus end up volunteering at, serves as a Limbo of sorts... the people there are going to die very soon and this is the place they come to wait while they are being judged. While God, the angels, the saints, Allah- whoever you believe does this- reviews their lives and decides whether or not they should go to heaven or hell, they just sit, half-dead at Green Palms awaiting the day that they can pass on... Perhaps the next little intro at the beginning of Book 3 will provide more insight?!

What does this mean?!

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Ok... so I am making up the first Quick & the Dead blogs before I finish the book.

At the beginning of Book 1, there is this weird little section that reads like a brochure for a mental institution or some kind of hospital. I have been reading the rest of Book 1 to try and make sense of it, but it seems to only be mentioned in the beginning of the book. Also, the fact that on page 5 the author writes, "the spring that Alice would turn 16," makes me think that something bad is going to happen to Alice, as though she is not going to survive to see her 16th birthday. Perhaps there is a connection between the demise that Alica might later meet and the strange introductino to the book?!

Recent Comments

Karyssa Blair on Hearing through Yiddish... Seeing in Ink...: The broken English was such a
Cody Naylor on J. Better Come Through...: Melissa and Aja, I agree with
Dianna Griffin on On Setting...: I agree, this chapter was comp
Aja Hannah on J. Better Come Through...: J. could change and grow, but
Melissa Schwenk on J. Better Come Through...: Cody, I think that J. will def
Jessica Orlowski on The "Mask" of the Red Death: When I saw the link to this, I
Aja Hannah on Could it be?!: That's an interesting idea. I
Jessica Orlowski on For Shame?: Seriously... that interview is
Dianna Griffin on For Shame?: I actually did my close readin
Josie Rush on For Shame?: I always think it's interestin