September 2009 Archives

Thoreau: False Romantic

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"The animal merely makes a bed, which he warms with his body, in a sheltered place; but man, having discovered fire, boxes up some air in a spacious apartment, and warms that, instead of robbing himself, makes that his bed, in which he can move about divested of more cumbrous clothing, maintain a kind of summer in the midst of winter, and by means of windows even admit the light, and with a lamp lengthen out the day. Thus he goes a step or two beyond instinct, and saves a little time for the fine arts."


Okay, this is from the guy who has been going on and on and on and on about how much better living simply in nature is, and spurning society. When he talked about how bad the railroad was, did he not get that the main point of it was to speed up the transit time for both people and materials, and thus save a LOT of time for the fine arts? Much of the stuff he does, which other people did not do themselves is avoided so that one might save TIME. By not spending 4 hours wandering about the forest foraging for food, and just buying some at the market, he could save plenty of time. By buying wood, rather than gathering it himself, he could likewise save time. If he got a DVR, so that he could fast-forward through commercials, he could AGAIN, save time. In this passage, in a book that is more or less anti-technology, he pretty much praises one of the biggest, most obvious points of technology.

I love irony. 


"As I have said, I do not propose to write an ode to dejection, but to brag as lustily as chanticleer in the morning, standing on his roost, if only to wake my neighbors up."

-------Chapter 2, Thoroeau, Waldon

Oddly enough, right as I was thinking "Wow, this is all pretty arrogant. Not all of us can just buy some land in the country and frolic in the woods contemplating the trees and rocks." This line hit me. First, theres the fact that he admits to his bragging. Which to me makes it come accross as less condescending. For a little while, I was getting the impression he was wondering why all the farmers were ruining their land by planting crops rather than frolicing in the bushes. (Yes, I'm seeing how many times I can use some form of the word "frolic" in this blog....thats 3).

Anyway, I like that he admitted he was boasting like the sort of fool-hardy rooster, who would ignore ominus dreams and land on the ground only to be approached by a fox, who would then trick him into shutting his eyes so that the fox can catch him, and then later escape by getting the fox to talk, thereby opening his mouth and releasing him....yep, its Chaucer. The Nun's Priest's tale.

This is an especially interesting allusion, as it relates more to the meaning of Chauntecleer's name, "He who sings with a clear voice," than anything that I mentioned in the last paragraph. In fact, as a cynic, I'll point out that there is no clear sign that he ever actually read The Canterbury Tales...though he probably did whilst hanging out in the forest. It's not like there was a whole lot of lit. available at the time. Anyway, the implication of this allusion, in light of the name, is that he's suggesting that his writing, (and he writes with a clear voice) will wake up the others, getting them to likewise frolic in the woods, appreciating nature's beauty.

So, in light of that, I return full-circle to my original reaction: pretentious, and arrogant. It honestly reminded me of the scene in an episode of South Park, "Butt Out," when Rob Reiner (who is the spokesman for some anti-smoking organization) tells a working-class guy in a bar that instead of smoking, he should do what he does to relax and go to his vacation home in Hawaii. Seems off topic, (I'm sleep deprived), but the tone is reminiscent of Thoroeau, in his suggestion that farmer's improvements ruin the land...he seems to ignore the fact that few people are as financially secure as he, and can afford to own something as expensive as land to serve as decoration.       

Wordsworth and Yeats.....or something more clever than that.

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After the discussion on Romanticism and Modernism, it is pretty ridiculously, obviously and overtly apparent what catagory these two fit in: Romanticism.

Besides the constant references to nature, the most apparent example in Wordsworth's poetry, is probably in "The World Is Too Much with Us." While he seems to capitalize oddly (as "is" is capitalized in the title, there were some other interesting capitalizations in this poem that suggest a strong reverence of nature. The word "Nature" is capitalized, along with "Sea" and "God." Most people capitalize the word "god," is it is frequently used as a proper noun. By using both in the same poem, as proper nouns, Wordsworth elevates both the sea and nature to a level similar to god. It suggests that in some way they are sentiant forces, with a will of their own. He likewise capitalizes "Fountains, Meadows, Hills, Groves, Clouds, Moon, Rose and Nature" in "Ode." Again he seems to be suggesting that nature is some sort of god-like force. He also capitalizes "Soul, Philosopher, Child, Beast, and Creature," which again seems to suggest a special reverence for these romantic images/ideas.

The most obvious "Romantic" motiff that appears in Yeats' work is the references to Greek mythology. "Leda and the Swan" is a story about Zeus raping Leda, and thus concieving Helen, (as well as Pollux, one of the twins in the Gemini constellation) who would eventually be the legendary cause of the Trojan war, and many of the events surrounding it, which Yeats references when he says "The broken wall, the burning roof and tower/ And Agamemnon dead." Agamemnon was one of the Greek generals, who is killed by his wife Clytemnestra, Helen's non-divine half-sister, after the Trojan war. The most notable telling of this story is in The Orestia by Aeschyulus.   


The Weasel Under the Cocktail Cabinet

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"The thing referred to is likely not reducible to a singel statement but will more probably involve a range of possible meanings and interpretations" -- Foster (98)

While "the weasel under the cocktail cabinet" was famously used to answer the question "what are your plays about?" (Harold Pinter) I feel the same phrase aptly answers the question "What does this symbolize?" It's whatever you want. Foster points out that if a symbol means only one thing, it is allegory rather than symbolism. Thus symbols, by their nature, are beholden to the reader's interpretation. Any meaning you can think of is completely valid, provided it is meaningful. i.e has some sort of reason behind it. As Foster, and Dr. Jerz both frequently say, there is no big dusty book of literary meanings. If you want, and can find reason behind it, Moby Dick, Frankenstein's monster, excalibur, the red 'A', that radio the proffessor made out of coconuts on Giligan's island and the football that Lucy prevents Charlie Brown from ever kicking all represent the weasel under the cocktail cabinet.

Actually, the scarlet letter obviously represents the ferret under the sofa.  

Shakespeare is everywhere

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In How to Read Like a Proffessor, Foster points out that Shakespeare is probably the most common person to borrow from in the literary world. Shakespeare's stories can be found in many different forms. Overtly, some works relate to his work, such as the play "Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet)", which offers a new look at characters from Othello and Romeo and Juliet, or Christopher Moore's novel Fool, which is a parody of King Leer, told from the perspective of the fool. Others often borrow quotes from Shakespeare's work, this is obvious from a great many titles Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury, Huxley's Brave New World and Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes. In many cases, even some of the words that we use were first coined by him.

As Foster says: "When in doubt, its from Shakespeare"

The Masque of the Red Realism/Romantic Death

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Um, apparently I somehow failed to write about this a month or so ago when I was meant to. However, I was fortunate enough to bring it up in class tonight, during the romantic/realist/modernist/post-modernist discussion. In light of this, I had some new ideas about the overall meaning of the story.

Taken in the most literal sense, its pretty obvious that death WILL get you. There is some pretty obvious reference to a certain other plague that was refered to as some color followed by the word "death" as well. Partially because of Poe's poem about science, I get the feeling that he is somewhat conflicted between realism and romanticism. For this reason, the Masque of the Red Death can be seen as two seperate conflicts between the two, with opposite victors.

The first conflict sets up Prince Prospero's party-castle as a symbol of romanticism. His attention is placed on making the place fun, and asthetically pleasing. He springs for the sort of oppulent decor that requires a great amount of text to describe. Despite this, reality in the form of the Red Death, crashes the party. Thus, the emotional and idealized is crushed by the cold hand of the Red Reality.

The second, opposing conflict paints the isolationist strategy of Prospero as the rational and scientific, as most know that quarantine   is effective against infectious diseases. In this case, the Red Death symbolizes the romantic and natural, giving the impression that no amount of reason and science can prevent fate, nature, God or any other "romantic" forces from getting to you.

I feel that both interpretations are equally valid, as their cancelling out gives the impression that both schools of thought are important in someways, and wrong in others.     

Puritans, Vampires and Wallpaper....oh my?

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....and now for a quick explaination of what that title means. It has to do with some topics I've blogged about so far in American Literature 1800-1915, which looks at a variety of American literature, and also looks at techniques for writing about literature (also, we're going to read The Wizard of Oz later). For this reason, the entries that will be referenced here are a blend of responses to text-book chapters, and responses to various works of literature, though much of it is dominated by Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter.

This portfolio is designed simply to showcase the work I've done so far. To begin with, I'd like to present a few blogs that I feel are reasonably well written, in terms of addressing the literature, and providing insight about the material. One entries, entitled The Masque of the Red Realism/Romantic Death, offers an in-depth examination of Poe's short story "The Masque of the Red Death," though I admittedly failed to make any sense of the meanings behind the room colors, and thus left them out of the discussion. Slippery Slope and Action v. Intention, both relate to the Scarlet Letter, and are the place where I first came up with some of the ideas for my paper on that book. 

 The reason we blog, rather than write lots of little essays, is that they offer a chance for discussion. Blogs are an online conversation, rather than a work of writing. These next few are blogs of mine that show some interaction and discussion with my peers. My blog, Real Vampires Don't Sparkle was about a section on the vampire in literature in our text-book, How to Read Like a Professor by Thomas Foster. It inspired a lot of debate on Twilight by Stephanie Meyers.Ah, the slow descent into madness..... , which discusses Gillman's story "The Yellow Wallpaper" got a comment (I expect more as I recently posted it). My blog on Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown," which mentions some ideas that I used in writing my first close reading for the class, also got a couple Why does Hawthorne always beat the reader over the head with meaning?,

With any communication, it is necessary for it to go both ways. Thus, it would be remiss of me to not mention other people's blogs that I participated in discussions on. I participated in discussions of "The Yellow Wallpaper" on Kayla Lesko's blog What's Up, Doc?. and Peaches Ostalaza's blog Scared and Confused!?!. I also talked at length about Strangeness and Familiarity in literature, in Katie Lantz's blog by that title. 

 To increase the chances for communication, it is important that my blogs are done early enough that others get a chance to comment on them. Why does Hawthorne always beat the reader over the head with meaning? Real Vampires Don't Sparkle, Slippery Slope and Action v. Intention were all posted at least two days before class.


We were asked to pick a favorite blog, and it need not even be related to this class. I selected a blog on some poetry by Billy Collins that we read in another class, Writing About Literature, entitled The Abuse of Poetry.

To sum everything up, here is a list, in order, of every blog required for the class so far:

 Why does Hawthorne always beat the reader over the head with meaning?  on Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown"

Real Vampires Don't Sparkle on the concept of the vampire, from Foster

The Masque of the Red Realism/Romantic Death on Poe's "The Masque of the Red Death"

Shakespeare is everywhere on allusions to Shakespeare, from Foster

Apparently cowardice is NOT a sin on Dimmesdale in the first part of Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter.

Hey man, nice shot on Hawthorne's take on religion in The Scarlet Letter

Oh, yeah, this IS reading for a lit. class on the use of familiar stories, from Foster

Slippery Slope on the change in Dimmesdale in the last part of The Scarlet Letter

Action v. Intentions on Roger Chillingworth in The Scarlet Letter

The Weasel Under the Cocktail Cabinet on symbolism, from Foster

Ah, the slow descent into madness..... on Gilman's :"The Yellow Wall Paper"

I'd Prefer Not To on Melville's "Bartleby the Scrivener"

Rapid Cross-Dressing

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To respond to a comment from Aja on my last Goodnight Desdemona blog, I looked up productions of the play. This is because I left my copy of the play in my car, and I wanted to find out exactly which male characters are played by women. We were discussing the multiple roles of the characters and how it was interesting to have women playing men (they went the other way too, though not as much), as it is the reverse of Elizabethan theater.

 However, from a drama standpoint, this multiple roles for characters (which seems necessary as it adds to the plot), can be pretty hectic for the actors. I hadn't thought of this until I noticed it in an otherwise positive review written by an actor, who pointed out an actor can spend much of the play out of breath.

I also found several lists of cast for upcoming (or at least they were when they were posted) productions of the play, in which DIFFERENT (often gender appropriate) actors play each character. To me this seems wrong. Not only is it altering the author's original intent for the work, but it actually affects the effect of the play. Without the automatic facial recognition, all of the sudden Proffessor Night is no longer Othello, Tybalt or Juliets nurse. While the astute observer may make some vague Night/Othello/Tybalt connection, by their character, his role as Juliet's nurse is lost, along with a good joke. I highly doubt even the most astute reader would make the Jill, ah Julie/Cyprus Soldier connection. Doing this may make the actor's lives easier, but it cuts away many of the threads connecting the fabric of Constance's fictional worlds to one another, and her reality.   

Ah, the slow descent into madness.....

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EL266   Yellow Wallpaper

"I tried to lift and push it until I was lame, and then I got so angry I bit off a little piece at one corner--but it hurt my teeth."

Yep, she's crazy. I do enjoy the progression though. I really like the way Gillman's character's own writing, as well as her behavior, gets progressively more delusional and obsessed. All underlying themes aside, (talked about those the first couple times I read it), the writing is interesting in and of itself. That is one of the pleasures of first-person writing, beyond simply telling a story, the writer gets the chance to show a change through the telling of the story, as well as the story itself. It reminded me a bit of Flowers for Algernon...Keyes I think wrote that....forgot the first name. Anyway, the main character, the narrator, is mentally handicapped, but becomes gradually smarter after some medical experiment, this is reflected in his writing. Overall, I enjoyed the story.

I'd Prefer Not To

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"In that direction my windows commanded an unobstructed view of a lofty brick wall, black by age and everlasting shade; which wall required no spy-glass to bring out its lurking beauties, but for the benefit of all near-sighted spectators, was pushed up to within ten feet of my window panes."

I really like the short ironic descriptions that Melville uses in "Bartleby the Scivener." The line above is one example. Suggesting that if anyone wanted to admire the beautiful wall, they were in luck since it's so close to the window, is a lot more entertaining than just saying "the window offered only a crappy view of a wall."

The way he described Turkey's habit of getting drunk on his lunch break was hilarious, as he just overtly alluded to it without saying it. Only that he his face curiously got redder and he got clumsier. I loved the line where he said that a man couldn't afford to have such a lustrous face, as well as a lustrous coat. It's just funnier than saying "he spent all his money on booze."

Oh, so that didn't happen.

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Ambrose Bierce's "Occurence at Owl Creek" is a fascinating story about a hanging man, who imagines his escape vividly in the moments before his death. It reminded me a bit of "Bullet In the Brain", the author of which I have momentarily forgotten. It was also reminiscent of those annoying dreams I have where I dream that I get out of bed and start to get ready, leave for work/class, and then wake up finding myself still in bed, and running late. Bierce uses impressive imagery and a slightly varied point of view to make the readers identify with Farquar, despite the objective details that paint him as a bad person, such as the fact that he owns slaves.  

Alright, now that a few weeks of school have sped by, it is time to pause for a speedy glance in the rear-view mirror to check out what I've been doing. The class, Writing About Literature,  is pretty much about, as the title suggests, writing about literature. For this reason, the entries that will be referenced here are a blend of responses to text-book chapters, and responses to various works of literature, including short stories, plays and poetry. The collection of literature has been entertaining for the most part, and especially varied, as there is no set genre, form, time period or any other governing factor for the collection, all that matters is that its literature, and can be analyzed, and thus written about.

This portfolio is designed simply to showcase the work I've done so far. To begin with, I'd like to present a few blogs that I feel are reasonably well written, in terms of addressing the literature, and providing insight about the material. My very first one for this class, entitled The Perils of Lying About Losing Other People's Fake Jewelry , discusses, in reasonably decent depth, "The Necklace" by Guy de Maupassant. This brief discussion is actually where I got the idea for my most recent essay. The Tale of Lieutenant-General Lord Arthur Scoresby, V.C., K.C.B., etc., etc., etc., is about "Luck" by Samuel Clemens, and "The Man He Killed" by Thomas Hardy. Despite the fact that they are vastly different, one is a poem rather than a story, I was able to make some connections between the two. Back Before Photo ID is about "Three Strangers" also by Hardy. Besides relating some of the funniest bits of the play, I discuss point of view, and its significance to the story. The Abuse of Poetry discusses some poetry by Billy Collins, including "Introduction to Poetry," "On Turning Ten" and "Sonnet."

 The reason we blog, rather than write lots of little essays, is that they offer a chance for discussion. Blogs are an online conversation, rather than a work of writing. These next few are blogs of mine that show some interaction and discussion with my peers. A play that explains why women so rarely get convicted of murder, discussed the play Trifles, and sparked some comments. How many sylablles are in "Perceiv'st"?, talks about one of Shakespeare's sonnets, and likewise got some response. Shifting Perspectives, which talks about the chapter in our text about point of view even managed to get some comments, despite the dull title. The Perils of Lying About Losing Other People's Fake Jewelry also got a few comments, which may or may not verify its depth, which I already mentioned.

With any communication, it is necessary for it to go both ways. Thus, it would be remiss of me to not mention other people's blogs that I participated in discussions on. On Aja Hannah's blog on Trifles All Tied Up  I participated in a large discussion of the women's reason for their silence. On Jessie Krehlik's blog on Chapter 3 of Roberts, Fiction = TrueLife? Roberts, CH 3  , we discussed character development. On Josie Rush's blog The One that Got Away , we discuss Hardy's development of the characters and plot in "Three Strangers." A Confession, a Theory, and a Message Walk Into a Blog... ,  , Karyssa Blair's blog about Billy Collins' poetry, I joined in a discussion about the meaning of a poets words.

 To increase the chances for communication, it is important that my blogs are done early enough that others get a chance to comment on them. A play that explains why women so rarely get convicted of murder was a full 4 days before it was due. How many sylablles are in "Perceiv'st"?, Back Before Photo ID, and The Tale of Lieutenant-General Lord Arthur Scoresby, V.C., K.C.B., etc., etc., etc. were all posted the day before they were due, and early enough that there was reasonable time for them to be commented on.

We were asked to pick a favorite blog, and it need not even be related to this class. I selected Action v. Intentions, which is about the character Roger Chillingworth, in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter. This blog was written for my American Lit class, EL266. 

To sum everything up, here is a list, in order of every blog required for the class so far:

The Perils of Lying About Losing Other People's Fake Jewelry-- On "The Necklace" by Guy de Maupass

Hey, I got the book!...thus, without further ado: Chapter 1 --- On Chapter 1 of Writing About Literature by Edgar Roberts, which introduces literary writing.ant.

The Tale of Lieutenant-General Lord Arthur Scoresby, V.C., K.C.B., etc., etc., etc.--- On "Luck" by Samuel Clemens and "The Man He Killed" by Thomas Hardy

Why the numbered Illustrative essay rocks!--- On the type of essay detailed in chapter 2 of Roberts' text.

A play that explains why women so rarely get convicted of murder---- On Trifles by Susan Glaspell

Characterization 101----- On character development, which is discussed in chapter 3 of Roberts.

The Abuse of Poetry----- On poems by Billy Collins

Oh, so that didn't happen. ---- On "An Occurence at Owl Creek," by Ambrose Bierce.

Shifting Perspectives ---- On different points of view, as discussed in chapter 4 of Roberts.

Back Before Photo ID ---- On "Three Strangers" by Thomas Hardy

How many sylablles are in "Perceiv'st"? ----- On Shakespeare's "Sonnet #73"

Plot 101 ---- On plot as discussed in chapter 5 of Roberts.

Daddy/Nazi Issues? ------ On poetry by Sylvia Plath

"No, you're it." -----On Goodnight Desdemona, (Good Morning Juliet) by Anne MacDonald







"No, you're it."

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Goodnight Desdemona was a ridiculously funny play...and I really want to see it performed. While I've seen the whole 80's style "character gets somehow pulled into a work of fiction" thing countless times, Macdonald's play really offers much more. Through this device MacDonald gives us an interesting look at several well known literary characters. It was a perfect choice for a writing about literature, as this particular blog is actually writing about literature that was written about literature.

I think my favorite thing was the way MacDonald exaggerated the main traits of each of the characters. Desdemona is a border-line psychotic, Romeo instantly falls in love with anyone and Juliet is in love with death. I love how the plot unfolds, keeping these characteristics in mind, taking seemingly rational steps in light of Constance's revelations. It's especially entertaining to read with the mix of modern language, and direct quotes. Also, I just loved the Ghost responding "No, you're it" when Constance says "Yorick," nothing like a terrible pun.  

The one thing that was difficult to pick up on is the links between the characters. The same actors are supposed to play some of the Shakespearian characters, as well as the real-life characters, Tybalt, Othello and the proffessor are the same actor for example. I think this would be a lot more significant in an actual production, rather than reading it. I tried to keep it in mind, but it would be far easier to see, than to read.    

Plot 101

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Ah, more from Roberts. This time its plot...and its still relatively obvious, and there is nothing I feel like quoting. Stories need conflict, otherwise its just, well not a story. The chapter did have some nifty terms for describing the various bits of the conflict, which I may as well relate to you. Exposition is the setup, the complication is the onset, crisis is where the tension reaches its highest point, climax is the peak of the story and the resolution is the end of it. It gets a bit dicey trying to determine the difference between climax and crisis. The big difference between the two is that the climax is a reaction to the crisis. Imagine a guitar string being tightened. The crisis is the split second of maximum tension before it snaps, while the climax is the actual snap itself.

Characterization 101

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 This chapter was on characterization, and I couldn't find an interesting I just won't use one.  Apparently some characters are flat, while others are round and developed. It also talked about how some characters are dynamic, and change through the story. Overall, it was pretty basic, and I don't really know what to say about it. I guess the bit on verisimilitude seemed kind of wierd, since writing about characters who are totally normal, seems pretty boring. If every character in literature were realistic, reading would be pretty dull. I understand the need for characters to be true to their own characteristics, (Sir Gawain can't just suddenly decide to get wasted and head to the brothel). However, it doesn't seem all that necessary for them to be true to life. As I recall, Beowulf fought sea-creatures underwater with a sword for a rather impossible amount of time, the main character in "Luck" was ridiculously lucky. This isn't really true to life, but it doesn't matter.  

Daddy/Nazi Issues?

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Wow, I'm getting the impression that Sylvia Plath might have had a less-than perfect relationship with her father, who might have been a Nazi, or possibly a vampire. She certainly uses a whole lot of holocaust references for an American-born writer born in 1932, which seems sort of wierd. I guess she would have been thirteen at the end of World War II in Europe, so she it might have somehow impacted her. That somehow relating to her father seems a bit questionable if he died three years before that.  

Her poem "Daddy," is impressive as it combines a whole lot of dark, yet vivid images, with some lines that I doubt I'll ever understand. Oddly enough, these lines that I'll probably never understand like "The black telephone's off at the root" or "With your Luftwaffe, your gobbledygoo," still carry the poem along, and seem to fit. I guess I get what they're saying, I'm just not sure why she decided to say it that way.

Oh, yeah, this IS reading for a lit. class

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"I've been talking here as if you're the writer, but you know and I know that we're really readers." --- Foster, (63)

Okay, that's not entirely true. However, it did make me realize that much of what I've read in this chapter, as well as this entire book, I've examined from the prospective of a writer, rather than reader. My first thought after each chapter, (and often during the chapter) has typically been either "Wait, I do that." or "I'm totally going to start doing that."

While Foster suggests that this book is intended for readers rather than writers, I know of very few writers who are not readers as fact, I really can't think of any. I really think that this book is probably just as benificial to me as a writer as well as a reader, if not more so.     

Slippery Slope

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"Such was his sense of power over this virgin soul, trusting him as she did, that the minister felt potent to blight all the field of innocence with but one wicked look, and develop all its opposite with but a word. So- with a mightier struggle than he had yet sustained- he held his Geneva cloak before his face, and hurried onward." (200-201)

Seriously? One sin, and the decision to commit another, and all the sudden Dimmesdale has the urge to go about blighting fields of innocence? I guess Hawthorne is trying to suggest some sort of continuing corruption, or something, but the way in which it is shown seems kinda silly. It's a bit like DARE propoganda suggesting that a single hit of marijuana will eventually lead to a heroin addiction.

The only way in which any of Dimmesdale's desired indescretions can seem plausible, is if they'd been long-time desires of his, that he'd forced himself to avoid. I can buy the idea that a couple cracks in the wall holding back desire can cause the whole thing to collapse. This version would come accross as far more realistic, and plausible. It's a bit more like a scenario wherein a former heroin addict gets high once, and then finds themself off on a binge.

Doing something one normally forbids themself from doing, can eventually lead one to do other things they likewise forbid themself from doing. However, doing something one normally forbids themself from doing, will not lead them to do other things that are wrong, unless the desire was previously present, yet suppressed.

Action v. Intentions

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"We are not, Hester, the worst sinners in the world. There is one worse than even the polluted priest! That old man's revenge has been blacker than my sin. He has violated, in cold blood, the sanctity of the human heart. Thou and I, never did so!" --- Arthur Dimmesdale, to Hester Pryne (179).

Alright, I'm willing to concede that Chillingworth is kinda creepy, and we know he isn't really Dimmesdale's friend, but fakes it. Still, I'm not seeing either of those things as quite as bad as cheating on someone. True, the intent is more sinister (as Dimmesdale says), but the effect of his vengence seems to be nonexistent, unless one inculdes the side-effect of prolonging Dimmesdale's life. In which case, the sum result of Chillingworth's "revenge" is positive. In all honesty, he has to be the most useless, ineffectual villian in the history of literature. In fact, I cordially invite all of my enemies to secretly hate me, while being outwardly nice to me and taking whatever measures they can to prolong my life. Next time I get a parking ticket, rather than making me pay it, I invite the courts to punish me by having someone pretend to be my friend and personal physician, while secretly despising me. 

Seriously though, unless Chillingworth murder's Dimmesdale's parents, cooks them into a batch of chili and then feeds it to him within the next few chapters, he'll still be at least the second most ineffectual villian in the history of fiction, next to Wile E. Coyote.

I guess I have trouble buying into the idea that intention matters more than action. As I recall, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions."  (Couldn't figure out who said it, but apparently it is often incorrectly attributed to Samuel Johnson, who said something similar) If hell isn't something tangible enough: good intentions, coupled with ill-considered actions have cost countless lives, and caused immense suffering (Just check out the western-world's involvement with Africa).

While not hurting someone when trying to is worse than not hurting them without trying, I still can't see any reason it should trump hurting people through lack of consideration. Chillingworth, is vindictive, but doesn't really do anything. Hester doesn't intend to hurt him, but does so by ignoring his feelings and hooking up with Dimmesdale anyway. Dimmesdale was never married to Chillingworth, so I guess his worse sin is pre-marital intercourse. Overall, actions are far more important than intentions, if a careful assesment of the actions leaves one with a tie, then intentions might matter...Dimmesdale's suggestion of this not being the case irked me enough that I had to stop reading and start blogging.

One further adendum: Intentions do matter when the results of the actions are determined by something that the actor had no control over, or something that the actor had no way of knowing. EX1: If you make someone cookies and it turns out they have an allergic reaction, (because you had no idea they had an allergy) it doesn't count as an assasination attempt. EX2: If you buy someone plane tickets to meet you in Las Vegas for an awesome weekend of debauchery and the plane crashes, its also not your fault (You had no control over that aspect of the situation).

How many sylablles are in "Perceiv'st"?

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I contend that the word "perceiv'st" has three sylablles, making the second to last line ("This thou perceiv'st, which makes thy love more strong")(103) have eleven sylablles, which means Shakespeare broke form, and thus failed to write a sonnet. At very least, swapping a v'w'l f'r 'n 'p'str'ph', in order to reduce sylablles is kind of a cheap, shameless tactic. (especially when there are tons of shorter synonyms available for use.)

That said I will certainly keep that tactic in mind as soon as I have to write a sonnet in poetry class (I am not at all above the use of cheap and shameless tactics).

Overall, I'm unimpressed by this poem, like many sonnets. Yes, I see that most things go away, so we love them more, but I guess I didn't really need a poem evoking three seperate images to tell me that. That might just be me, as I was one of the few kids who felt that Sam-I-Am should probably just leave the speaker alone after the first stanza, as he seemed quite resolute in his refusal of green eggs and ham. I really have no need for elaboration of simple ideas, even if one can almost put it into the form of a sonnet.

Back Before Photo ID

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I really can't imagine being able to pull this off now, at least SO easily. It's kind of wierd to think about how much more useless and inneffective police could be if they didn't have access to pictures of their quarry, let alone facial recognition software, and all the other tools they now have. As the story shows, relying on one's intuition and interpretation of the actions of others, has certain drawbacks. 

That said, I really enjoyed the story. It kinda reminded me of that one scene in "Catch Me If You Can," when the main character tells the FBI agent who is after him that he's another government agent, etc. in order to escape.

I also really enjoyed the following quote:

"Your money or your life!" said the constable sternly to the still figure.

"No, no," whispered John Pritcher. "'Tisn't our side ought to say that...." (338)

 Small funny bits like that really helped to build to the eventual ironic twist that ended the story. They kept the story funny, and light-hearted enough that the reader knew something was coming. The constable who couldn't keep his lines straight, would undoubtedly fail to aprehend the fugitive.

This was also a good story to read, following up our discussion on point of view. Throughout, despite the third-person view, the reader tends to remain on par with the guests. I noticed in one case, when describing how the first stranger approaches the door, the narrator only speculates about what the man is thinking. In other passages, the narrator is far more conclusive in describing the thoughts of the Shephard's wife. In this way, Hardy keeps the readers distanced from the strangers, while giving them a degree of familiarity with the invited guests and hosts. In all fairness, I probably wouldn't have noticed this had we not just talked about point of view, but it still seems worth mentioning, in the interest of raising a literary point beyond "stupid cops entertain me."


Good choice to read based on our  

Shifting Perspectives

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EL237 Writing About Lit


"The most direct presentation of an action and dialogue is the dramatic or objective point of view." Roberts, Edgar. Writing About Literature (83)


While this point of view is technically more direct, do not direct with "easy to follow," they are not at all the same thing. If you disagree, I dare you to read either Seeing or Blindness by Jose Saramagoo. He uses the super-distanced dramatic point of view. While the dramatic view-point my be described (based on the name) as that of a member of the audience watching the events unfold, like a play. Saramagoo's viewpoint of these books is that of the guy on the balcony of a building about a block from the theater, watching the play through the window, yet somehow catching bits of dialogue. For this viewpoint, Saramagoo uses no names, or quotation marks (making it difficult to figure out who is saying what). At one point during the beginning of Seeing he consistently refers to two characters as "the election clerk who had gone to the door earlier" and "the election clerk who had not gone to the door earlier." It gets pretty confusing at times, but in such a way that it actually adds to the story.

Anyway, all the discussion of viewpoints, got me thinking about some of the more impressive ones, and what made them different. When it mentioned the potential for unreliable 1st person accounts I thought of Bromden, the schizophrenic narrator of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. While he doesn't necesarily lie to alter the story, he does blend reality with his halucinations. Orhan Pahmuk likewise offers a viewpoint, in My Name is Red that the reader must constantly question, in order to assertain the truth. His viewpoint shifts among the main characters, as well as a picture of a dog, a tree and other objects.

Hey man, nice shot

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EL266 American Lit

"Skillful men, of the medical and chirurgical proffession, were of rare occurence in the colony. They seldom, it would appear, partook of the religious zeal that brought other emigrants accross the Atlantic. In their researches into the human frame, it may be that the higher and more subtile faculties of such men were materialized, and that they lost the spiritual view of existence amid the intricacies of that wonderous mechanism, which seemed to involve art enough to comprise all of life within itself." (109) Hawthorne. The Scarlet Letter

I like subtle, clever barbs a whole lot, and this particular one caught my attention. Losing the spiritual view is such a subtle, seemingly polite way to say, "haven't anymore need for religion." It works really well because the word "lost" has a negative conotation, despite the actual intent of the passage. While Hawthorne is essentially saying that few skilled doctors are religious fanatics, because their understanding of the body leaves little need for religious explaination, it comes accross initially sounding as though the doctors are the ones lacking something.

Honestly, at this stage in the novel, I think I'm more entertained by Hawthorne's narration than by anything actually happening in the story.  

Apparently cowardice is NOT a sin

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EL266: American Lit

Okay, I first read this a long time ago, and really, really, really hated it.

Now I'm actually enjoying, which is nice, though its slightly spoiled by knowing the plot already. SO, if you don't know the story, and don't want any of the suspense ruined, don't read my blogs....I let things slip.


"Take heed how thou deniest to him--who, perchance, hath not the courageto grasp it for himself--the bitter, but wholesome, cup that is now presented to thy lips!" -- (63)

Translation: I am so spineless and pathetic that the only way I'm taking any heat is if you rat me out.

While it may seem like Dimmesdale is giving her an oppurtunity to rat on him, this isn't really the case. The ONLY time anyone (with half a brain) EVER suggests that someone should harm him, is to look pathetic and humble, so they that they'll do the opposite out of pity. It's always harder to choose to let someone else suffer when they clarify it as your choice, and then invite you to do it. Surrender is a powerful tactic. By placing power over you in the hands of another you can often envoke mercy. Hester would have been WAY more likely to talk if he had snuck over to the jail and said, "seriously, you better not rat me out. This is your fault."

Still, he really should have just admitted before being caught, perhaps after spending a month giving a whole lotta sermons on forgiveness and mercy, and told the story of Jesus saving that one harlot from stoning several times.

Alternatively, they could have fled to another colony, and pretended to be married. It was the 1600's. As a priest, he could have even made a legit marriage license, using aliases, and the "Smith" family could have lived happily ever after.

Since he just sits back, and lets her take all the heat he annoys me.

On another note, I hadn't previously picked up on all the really, really obvious foreshadowing, like Hester catching Dimmesdale's eye, and saying her daughter will have a "heavenly father." I have no idea how I initially missed that.

The Abuse of Poetry

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Writing About Literature (This is a new thing I'm doing in order to avoid confusion, thus it is very exciting.)


I'm quite suprised I've never read Billy Collins' poetry before. The poem "Introduction to Poetry," should, as the title suggests, should probably be read as an introduction in every class that involves the analysis of poetry. The images it uses to describe analysing poetry are both funny, and accurate. I especially liked the image of tying a poem down to "torture a confession out of it" or "beating it with a hose to find out what it really means."

The stanza "I say drop a mouse into a poem/ and watch him probe his way out." was especially clever, and seemed to remind me of something someone said about the essay being a writer's laboratory. I have NO IDEA who said that (Dr. Jerz), but I will forever associate it with shoving a mouse inside a poem in order to observe his behavior.

"On Turning Ten," was one I could at first relate to, and then actually take solace in. I know I never felt that way about turning ten, however, starting at 22, I've been feeling like each birthday is "the beggining of sadness." (Part of the reason for this is that I tend to spend my birthdays either driving back to School, or in orientation. August 22nd is a terrible day for a birthday). Anyway, as much as the past is over, etc. Hearing/reading the speaker sounding about as bummed out at getting old, at the age of ten, is kind of reassuring. I guess since I know that 11-24 were pretty fun ages, now, I really have no reason to expect that 24- will be all that bad, despite massive changes. Plus in a year my car insurance will go down.

"Sonnet" was a fun poem, I especially liked the phrase "iambic bongos." This deconstruction of a sonnet, reminded me of a sonnet I wrote in high school at one point (except my teacher did want to get all Elizabethan and make us play those iambic bongos, and use rhymes). I did a similar thing, and wrote about how I disliked the restrictive nature of the sonnet, and threw in a few lines similar to the ones that count how many lines were still required, and did the same thing with syllables in lines once or twice. I also liked the fact that Collins was able to stick the line "take off those crazy medieval tights" in the poem, as well as the reference to Laura and Petrarch. Through all the little details, Collins effectivelly saterizes the sonnet.