March 2009 Archives

In reading this weeks prologue-1 I found many amazing concepts and theories that Ellison has this narrator tell us.  In the prologue on page 3 it starts out with the title of the book as well as the setting of the tone with the statement by Ellison, "I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me."  This statement made me think of that just because you don't see it, it doesn't mean it's not there.  Are we not learning in close reading that we may not "see" many things in just reading, but when close reading we "see" a different side to many things?  Yes we do, "A matter of the construction of their inner eyes, those eyes with which they look through their physical eyes upon reality." (3) We can see many things in our lives, and we can pretend that we didn't see it if we do not acknowledge it.  Can you convince your conscience though of this?  I believe that Ellison had the narrator of this story feel these types of emotions, because even though he wants to insist on being invisible to please the white folks, his dead grandfather's wish was to learn the younguns that their life is war.  So even though this narrator wants to be invisible, society is not going to let him.  "I remember that I am invisible and walk softly so as not to awaken the sleeping ones.  Sometimes it is best not to awaken them; there are few things in the world as dangerous as sleepwalkers."  (5)  In this statement, does it not speak to many people's emotions that yes we all can walk through life and try not to disturb the sleepwalkers, but where does that get you?  With disruption it is viewed as bad, but if disruption did not happen how can many historical events have changed the world?  It is easy to just walk on by in a state of sleep or slumber, but it is the ones who are awake and react to the world that seems to offer change.  "I believe in nothing if not in action."  In order to sometimes change the world you have to be willing to be seen and take action.  In Chapter 1 however has quite a disturbing start, with the Grandfather dying and his curse that was put on the narrator along with the awful brutality of the battle royal.  This chapter was very upsetting to read and understand that this is fiction, but didn't fiction authors many times take real situations and put their twist on it?  So to imagine that this happened, and probably worse things during this era was quite alarming and sad to read.   "All dreamers and sleepwalkers must pay the price and even the invisible victim is responsible for the fate of all."  (14) We are all responsible in the end, whether we want to believe we are visible or invisible and will either act or react to the situations in life.  

In reading Plath's poems for the selection of poems for this week I found it very sad that so many of these poets were all manic depressants, alcoholics and other conditions.  But to see that Plath died due to her own attempts of suicide, at age 30, was very sad.  How she did this by taping off the children's room and by turning on the gas of the stove was scary, not only did she succeed at taking her own life but she could have taken her children's, and she almost took a neighbors  as well.  She obviously was depressed and saddened by her father and husband.   She felt abandoned and than moving into a marriage where her husband cheated on her was only more to her pain she was already suffering.  In reading the poem Tulips is was quite disturbing.  You can feel the pain that she must have been writing about, I am sure in one of her visits to the hospital since she tried to commit suicide more than once and than succeeding finally.  The many references throughout this poem give that sad very depressing feel to this poem, such as about her family,"Their smiles catch onto my skin, little smiling hooks. ", "A dozen red lead sinkers round my neck.", and "And I have no face, I have wanted to efface myself.  The vivid tulips eat my oxygen."    We can see that Plath feels no desire to go on, and it seems that everyone and every little thing becomes a horrible nightmare that is coming to get her in one way or another.  Her poems may have been very successful but it is also very sad that she fell so deep into her condition that she could not pull out of it. 

Roethke, paranoid, of even plants?

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In reading Roethke's poems for the selection of poems for this week I found it very interesting that so many of these poets were all manic depressants, alcoholics and other conditions.  So it was surprising that they said Roethke was "among the happy poets" when he had a manic condition such as schizophrenia that worsened as he grew older.  He was in tune with nature, that is obvious  in his poems.  The fact that his father and uncle owned a greenhouse I can see where the poem Child on Top of a Greenhouse came from.  This poem was very short and still yet a bit confusing as to his meaning.  As to why would a child be on top of a greenhouse, although I am seeing it as though Roethke saw himself as a schizophrenic person that he always felt watched, as you would be able to see all through a glass house.  I took that this meaning that he as a child growing up in an natural environment with nature and plants looked at everything with a bit of paranoid feelings, even nature.  With his condition, the phrase "The half-grown chrysanthemums string up like accusers", and also "And everyone, everyone pointing up and shouting!", both of these phrases depicts how Roethke probably went through much of his life, paranoid that of mostly everything. 

Killing time or everything thing else! What will work?

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In reading Robert Lowell's poems you can see the evidence of his past, his often absent father and unassertive mother and was born in "this planned /Babel of Boston where our money talks" often shows his candor and hostility.  The fact that many of these poets have a manic depressant condition, such as Lowell did, was very frightening.  To think that he and others took shock treatment to try to control these unhealthy behaviors was disturbing as well.  The poem The Drinker seems to be, "The man is killing time-there's nothing else."  That even drinking cannot make the pain that this man is feeling go away, "No help now from the fifth of Bourbon".  It seems no matter what time of distraction he thinks to use it cannot "kill time" and his mind will not move past this hour that has burdened him.  This seemed to confuse me about the talk of the whale, but the reference to the "barbed hooks fester.  The lines snap tight", all this seems to show that no matter how deep you try to swim in drowning your sorrows you cannot escape them.  As the woman's absence has caused too much pain and the temptations have taken over and he cannot get free of them, no matter how much or what he tries to kill time with.    

Too pretty, dreamlike mimicry!

O falling fire and piercing cry

and panic, and a weak mailed fist

clenched ignorant against the sky!

In reading Elizabeth Bishop's poems it is obvious that she was, as indicated, very meticulous in her writing.  The fact that they stated she wrote "plainspoken" and " an unmannered originality of simplicity" just  seems strange that she, even with poor health, wasn't about writing of misery.  Her poem The Armadillo seemed to speak as many per the blogs interpreted of meteorites, or possibly a volcanic eruption.  There was also reference to fireworks even, but the fire balloons reference makes me lean more toward the thought of meteorites due to her references of other signifiers such as "Last night another big one fell.  It splattered like an egg of fire".  My interpretation of Elizabeth's use of words in this poem makes me think that we all like to watch meteors, which can be so beautiful and mesmerizing but we also forget the damage and devastation it can cause upon impact.  The reference to the displaced and hurt animals seemed to show that it could have even been even a volcano erupting due to the reference of "a handful of intangible ash with fixed, ignited eyes".  The emotions you feel is wonder at first, than you start to see the danger, and then the remorse sets in and reflection can bring on frustration with the amazement of nature and how it works whether it is a meteor hitting the earth or a volcano erupting.  We stand in astonishment at the wonder, but than realize you need to run for safety, doesn't this seem to relate to many feelings or emotions humans feel and the reactions as well? 

It's not all a wash...

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Turning Wine to Water: Water as a privileged signifier in The Grapes of Wrath-

Cassuto, David

 

In reading this article I must admit is seemed difficult to follow, and I know that it is because I am not on the level that a person is that would be writing this type of academic paper, which is fine.  However I did seem to pull some things from what I read.

 

I believe that the obvious is the Garden of Eden, American dream, land of the plenty, the significance of water, laws of nature, laws of the government and capitalism.  What I found to be intriguing was that fact that Cassuto states,

            The sight of faceless corporate "monsters" intentionally destroying the land's

            Fertility moved the tenants to violence.  Yet the Joads and their neighbors had

often planted cotton and were at present sharecropping frenziedly in order to build

up a stake to take west: "The whole bunch of us chopped cotton, even Grampa"

(90).  The differences between the Okies and the banks lay more in scale and

philosophy than methodology and eventual result.  Both sides participated in the

capitalist mechanism, but the banks had better adapted to thrive within it.  (78)

I see this statement as an unobvious claim, I would not have considered the tenants as exploiting capitalism as well, but reading this article it has given me another thought, and I can now see this POV.  I know that I had stated in my paper 1 a quote from page 205 about the tractor being considered the evil enemy of capitalism because it turns the tenants off of the land.  But really this does not support capitalism being evil, as Dr. Jerz pointed out to me, it is a type of communal ownership of the means of production, a type of farm co-op in a socialistic society.  So just because the characters Steinbeck writes of may not seem to intend to take on the selfish role it seemed of capitalism, they often did and Cassuto does not seem to accurse them, even if it was in ignorance.

Cassuto also states,

            This ideological evolution progressed naturally from the dominant myths.  As

industrialism began to dominate the West, the accompanying mindset fit a unique

niche in the Amercian dream of rugged individualism and merit-based

achievement. 

This statement shows that the people have to become educated and leave behind the myths, in order to survive in the new era.  To me Cassuto often confused me, but actually made me think more about certain pieces that he was touching on that seemed relevant to me.  He also did though have many pieces that I just could not relate to, but that is to be expected at my level I suppose.  But I do not consider it a wash, it had good points.

 

 

"It seems to me that if we want to get the most out of our reading, as far as is reasonable, we have to try to take the works as they were intended to be taken.  The formula I generally offer is this: don't read with your eyes."  (228) Foster Chapter 25

 

This statement by Foster in chapter 25 seems to be popular so far in the blogs posted that I have read so far.  It stands out to me because it is so very true.  We all go about our business day in and day out in our own ways, and there is nothing wrong with that, only that we are not seeing the bigger picture that writers are trying to open those views to us with their writing.  This statement is not literal in the sense of the actual act of seeing with your eyes, Foster plays on the words in the sense of your interpretations due to your own ideas, thoughts, beliefs, cultural background, historical knowledge and level of analyzing literature.  It is more about being able to separate the world we live in here and now, and the world and time era that the writer is, or was, writing in and how perception would have been at that point in history.  Our own scenarios in our past will narrow our understandings only to what we know.  We have to open our eyes up much broader, to see more of the picture that the writer is trying to paint for us.  Such as, if you will, beyond our peripheral vision, and look harder and deeper into the text for what is not obvious to us.  We all like the obvious, let's admit it, it is less work to get it that way.  So as we all have learned and continue learning that it takes work, practice and more practice to get us to move beyond our own sight.  We all have to admit that even the most liberal people still have difficulty seeing beyond their own views and really truly seeing others perspectives.  The funny part is Foster also mentions on page 228, "So how much is too much?  What can we reasonably demand of our reading?  That's up to you."  How true is this?  Foster shows through page 232, "We'll miss most useful lessons if we read it through the lens of our own popular culture."  Foster has mentioned before, in earlier chapters, that we must be able to ask the right questions, and this is what prescription we will need to focus our lenses.  Just as we need adjustments on our glasses to see better, we need adjustments on our points of view in order to "see" clearer.    

 

 

Marked in more ways than one.

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"So if a writer brings up a physical problem or handicap or deficiency, he probably means something by it."

 

In reading chapters 21-24 for this week the chapter that spoke to me the most was chapter 21, Marked for Greatness.  Foster helps to understand that that is usually going to mean something if a writer gives a character a different shape, deformity, physical mark or imperfection it is going to probably have a significance to that character and what is going to come.  This may seem to be obvious however I know I have read and seen many stories where characters have such, but did not think that much about them at the time.  Now he presents it is the sense that is simply about being different, "Sameness doesn't present us with metaphorical possibilities, whereas difference -from the average, the typical, the expected - is always rich with possibility." (194)  After reading Matt Henderson's blog about conformity can stand out too, that conformity can almost be a kind of deformity.  After reading his blog it does seem to make sense to me what he said, other than that if all want to confirm to the same, than it is not going to appear to be a deformity, because we all want to look, act and talk the same.  Than we would be the same, would we not?  So I am not sure on that one, but Foster's comment, "The character marking stand as indicators of the damage life inflicts."  "But even the others bear signs illustrating the way life marks all who pass through it."  We all have physical or emotional imperfections or scars that are symbolic to us each individually and has it's own meaning and depth to it.  We will see these totally different than others will, as Alica Campbell's response states that normal is relative, and that normal can be different for the reader as to what is normal for the characters in literary works.  I agree with this and that a writer can use conformity to tell us the same things, but if we go back and think of most stories, or movies, a character is going to have something that sets them apart from the rest, as Henry was trying to do in Act III when he returned from home in Wilders play, The Skin of Our Teeth, "Oh, no.  I'll make a world, and I'll show you."  (111)  This difference is going to speak to each of us as our own personal history allows.

 

Coldest day in August, really?

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"The coldest day of the year right in the middle of August, and you let the fire go out." (12)

 

Wilder's comic and yet bizarre approach to satire in his play, The Skin of Our Teeth, made it a difficult start for me to get into this play.  Once I got moving though, it seemed still a very strange sense of approach that Wilder takes to get his message of the struggles of humanity through to the audience.  His use of all of the famous historical events that most people are at least aware of, if not totally educated on, he counts on our association with these things.  With the quote above Wilder gives a sense that most of the audience is going to think he is off his rocker to say that a day in August is one the coldest days, and who would have a fire going on a day in August, when normally we experience the hottest days of summer.  The sense of puzzlement and confusion set in immediately to me, and I feel most people would think the same.  But if we are following Wilder's set up, he is showing you that his character's statements, such as through Sabina "I don't understand a single work of it, anyway, - all about the troubles of the human race has gone through, there's a subject for you.  Besides, the author hasn't made up his silly mind as to whether we're all living back in caves or in the New Jersey today, and that's the way it is all the way through."  (11)  Wilder's use of repeated statements, settings, etc., such as repeating that it's cold in Act 1, such as the dinosaur says, "It's cold." (15), shows that like the continued life cycle repetition we must always keep that desire to continue on, such as his reference not to let the fire die out, or we die.  Wilder uses certain settings, words, names, weather, characters and events in history and pulls them all together into this crazy little play by appealing to each person in the audience.  Wilder is showing through all of these we all will have a personal story, maybe not directly related due to the era it came from but that we can relate it to, by use of dinosaurs and mammoths, the invention of the wheel, the ice age, depressions, wars, and his characters stopping the play and speaking to the audience.  In all of these methods he is showing that even through each catastrophe humanity can pull through it somehow as long as they desire to.  Wilder shows that the way of pulling through each disaster in time is through Mr. Antrobus and his speeches, such as "We've come along ways.  We've learned. We're learning.  And the steps of our journey are marked for us here."  Wilder's depiction of the many struggles in life, and through all of these time eras proves that it may be a difficult battle for humanity to continue climbing upward but we must never lose that desire to start building again and to begin again.   

Portfolio 1 - Learning to Bog and look beyond what is in front of us.

 

This blog entry is to show what I have been able to post in response to my on reflections as well as others in the literature that we are reading in American Literature 1915-Present EL267.  But not without great difficulty, and still apparently I am still having some troubles.  It is not due to lack of trying, because God only knows I am trying, but here is the best I can do.  This class has opened many new ideas, blogging for one, which as most see I am still struggling with, learning how to close read as well as to understand how textual evidence over the faith and emotional responses is the key.  Trying to put something into a thesis as a non-obvious versus obvious is also been quite a challenge.  I am including my dates if the trackbacks do not work, I apologize, but I am trying and that is all I can say.  The blogging is great but I am just having a lot of difficulty with it, giving much frustration at times for myself.

 

Coverage and Timeliness

"Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar" (1/30)

Imagination Station (2/6)

"All happy families are the same, but every unhappy one has its own story."  Really? (2/20)

 The devil, Gila monster, and California, what's your poison? (2/26)

 

 

Interaction

Rose Knows All (Jennifer Prex's blog 2/19)

Foster's helping me cheat (Sara Benaquista's blog 2/20)

Pluck it from the sky (April Minerd's blog 2/21)

 

 

Depth

Loss of Innocence (2/6)

Nine month's...and counting! (2/14)

Rose of Sharon, blossoms into nobel knowing women? (2/20)

 

 

Discussion

A Turtle in Disguise (Aja Hannah's blog 2/19)