GretaCarroll: February 2009 Archives

Faulty Assumptions

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From Gilbert and Gubar’s “’The Yellow Wallpaper’”:

“Imagining himself buried alive in tombs and cellars, Edgar Allan Poe was letting his mind poetically wander into the deepest recesses of his own psyche, but Dickinson, reporting that ‘I do not cross my Father’s ground to any house in town,’ was recording a real, self-willed, self-burial” (260). 

As I discussed in a previous blog entry, on Derek’s blog, and in class, I don’t think that attributing differences in people simply to gender is a very accurate thing to do.  Poe and Dickinson lived very different lives; their differences in writing style could have been caused by innumerable reasons.  It could even partially be because of gender, but that doesn’t been that it is totally because of that.

Also, as Mara pointed out in her blog last week, one cannot just assume that the speaker of a poem or a narrator is the same as the author.  One cannot even assume that the narrator/speaker and the author think and feel the same things.  Authors can create characters and devices which do not necessarily reflect their own feelings.  I felt Gilbert and Gubar’s essay relies almost entirely on unwarranted assumptions.  So it would seem to me that mimetic criticism is not a very strong school.  It also seems like it bleeds into historicism.   

Read more on Gilbert and Gubar’s article.

Alterations are Part of Reality and Don’t Contradict It

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From Keesey’s Introduction to Chapter 4:

“But when we inquire how the artist has achieved this result, we seem to be faced with the paradox that it has been achieved by altering the very reality the artist claims to imitate” (211). 

I think that part of what makes literature so powerful is its ability to mimic accurately the real world and then to alter it slightly, so that those who are blind to the truth are forced to see it.  While this miniscule change to the actual order of things is what causes the epiphany for the reader (and sometimes the characters as well), the mimetic critic views this small aberration as a difficulty.  They see it almost as a bad thing.  However, I don’t think it really poses a problem.  Things in real life do deviate from how we expect them to be sometimes.  After all, how are we to define what is realistic?  If we base the idea of realism on what is normal, this is hardly realistic since there will always be someone somewhere who defies this idea of normalcy.  And if someone exists who breaks these expectations (and is therefore not “normal”), then they must be real, and therefore, are realistic.  I suppose that if one rejects things that are normal, in a sense, they are rejecting the realistic, because in life there will always be people and events which deviate from the norm.  So I guess what I’m saying is that by altering reality slightly, the artist is still realistically representing life, since almost nothing in life is 100% consistent or predictable.   

Read my classmates’ blogs. 

From Words to Action

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Yesterday morning, I saw Seton Hill’s production of Life is a Dream by Pedro Calderon de la Barca.  I thought the actors and actresses did an amazing job and I was really impressed.  The audience consisted of Angela, Kayley, me, a few other random people, and a bunch of high school students.  I really enjoyed the play myself, but as Angela observed in her blog entry, the same cannot be said for the rest of the audience. 

I was really impressed by the way they worked around the first scene.  I read the introduction to the written play and in it, it made a big deal about the beginning and how Rosaura and Clarin go from a mountain (high up) to below where Segismundo was caged (down low).  So I was quite curious as to how they were going to handle this without actually being able to go from high to low.  Instead, they had a part of the set that slide out from backstage which acted as the prison and I thought it worked well. 

While I picked up on a lot of the comedic lines which Clarin spurts while I was reading, it was a lot funnier to see in person.  They were just certain lines like when Clarin stammers, “I don’t yet have/enough courage to run away when I try to” (9), which just kind of feel flat and emotionless in the text.  But seeing them performed in person, they were quite funny.

Also, at the beginning of the play when Segismundo grabs Rosaura and threatens to kill her, in the written work, I didn’t even realize that he had grabbed her so violently and was trying to strangle her.  There is just something about seeing the work performed that makes everything click and become more apparent. 

Even though, they used a different translation to put on the play, I actually found the two versions to be really similar.  Also I think the constant repetition of words involving “fortune” such as misfortunate and unfortunate, was more apparent in the text, but not so much in the production.  But what was really clear in seeing the play was the repetition of “life being a dream.”  This thought was repeated enough and at the right places, that these words and this idea certainly impressed themselves upon the audience. 

Read what others think. 

A Hero’s Fate: Chaucer and Calderon

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First read this passage from Calderon’s Life is a Dream:

Segismundo:      “Ah woe is me! Ah, how wretched I am!

                                Heavens, I seek to inquire—

                                Since you treat me this way—

                                What crime I committed

                                Against you when I was born” (11).

Now read this passage from Chaucer’s Troilus and Cressida (excerpt is not in Middle English):

                                “At length he said, ‘Fortune, what have I done?

                                In what have I offended you?  For pity

                                How could you deceive me thus?  Must Cressida

                                Be thieved away because you have willed it so? 

                                How can you find it in your heart to be

                                So cruel toward me?” (479) *

Do you see the similarities?  While Chaucer wrote Troilus and Cressida in the 14th century and Calderon wrote Life is a Dream in the 17th century, the two passages are extremely similar.  Both focus on a protagonist who ponders the power of “Fortune.”  Both characters ask predominantly again and again, “why me?”  And secondarily, they query, “is it possible to overcome the seemingly impossible?” 

In both of these cases, the one in which Chaucer creates and Calderon’s as well, the characters that do not alter their lives based upon the belief that “Fortune” or “Fate” ultimately has control are usually the heroes.  In Troilus and Cressida, Troilus maintains hope that his lady love Cressida will return to him.  Whereas, Cressida gives up hope and says that it is her fate to be separate from Troilus.  Much in the same way, Basilio puts extreme faith in the stars and fate, whereas Segismundo does not.

Something I found really poignant about the written play, which I missed in seeing the play performed was why Segismundo acted out at times.  Segismundo stubbornly refuses to admit that he cannot conquer his “fate.”  It is when someone for example, servant 2 says, “That can’t be done” (81), that Segismundo picks him up and throws him out the window.  It is the belief that it cannot be done, which spurs Segismundo into action, not some animalistic cruelty.  And Rosaura’s exclamation that, “…it wouldn’t dare—it couldn’t—overcome your respect for me” (93), is what causes Segismundo to lose control of himself with her.  What it really comes down to is a battle to defeat what is expected. 

So my question is this, why do you think such literary greats as Chaucer and Calderon focus so much on this idea?  Is it still relatable to us today, why or why not?  Do you think literary works focus more or less on this idea today?

Read more on Calderon's Life is a Dream

*Chaucer, Geoffrey. Troilus and Cressida. The Portable Chaucer. Ed. and Trans. Theodore Morrison. New York: Penguin Group Inc., 1977:345-555.

Hyperbole, the Easiest Literary Term Ever!

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One thing that jumped out at me as I was reading Life is a Dream by Pedro Calderon de la Barca was the constant use of expressions exaggerated to extremes.  For example, Clotaldo states, “…your mind and reason/will suffer a thousand doubts/…it was in obedience to the severity of fate,/which promises a thousand disasters…” (73). This excessive use of “a thousand” is repeated throughout the play.  Therefore, I decided to choose hyperbole as my literary term of the week.

Hamilton explains that, “Hyperbole (hi-Per-boh-lee, from the Greek word for ‘to exceed’) is a trope in which a point is stated in a way that is greatly exaggerated.  The effect of hyperbole is often to imply the intensity of a speaker’s feelings or convictions by putting them in uncompromising or absolute terms” (54).

Besides the example I gave from Life is a Dream, some other examples would be:

  • The line outside the cafeteria stretched for miles!
  • Penny, my dog, is the cutest beagle ever!
  • I have about a thousand pages of reading to do for Monday!
  • The mid-term will be impossible!

Coming up with examples of hyperbole is very easy.  So you’re welcome to leave a comment with your own example(s).

Click here to learn more literary terms. 

Well this has been an interesting beginning of the semester.  I admittedly have felt quite overwhelmed at times.  I’ve spent hours blogging, doing the readings, and writing casebooks.  I have literally spent almost entire weekends doing nothing but literary criticism.  I’m not sure whether I really am getting things or not.  Sometimes I feel like I’m really getting things and other times I feel frustrated and like I don’t understand anything.  It is truly a roller coaster ride of ups and downs.  However, I really do think that I am learning to see things in a completely different way.  In EL150, I remember Dr. Jerz telling us that there was no big dusty book of answers, and I thought I understood it then, but now I think I really get it.  The non-existence of a “right” answer doesn’t just apply to what something symbolizes, it applies to what school of criticism one uses, and it even applies to what literature can be defined as.  Keeping all that in mind, I do think I am making progress, and there are even times I really like to blog.

Coverage and Timeliness:  I completed all assigned blogs and posted them all on or before the time that they were due.  So here is the list of all my blogs: 

Depth: For the most part, I consider all of my blog entries to be well-thought out.  I spend a lot of time on my blog entries.  However, there are still a few that really went above and beyond.
  • The Pattern on the Wallpaper Represented in Words.  In this entry, I show my mastery of formalism as I carefully analyze a passage from Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper.” 
  • Happily Ever After…or Not.  Here, I argue that the ending of Shakespeare’s The Tempest does not have as happy an ending as some may believe.  I carefully analyze the implications of some of Shakespeare’s word choices.
  • Gender in Not the Only Factor.  In this entry, I both disagree and agree with Kolodny’s essay.  I argue that gender is not the only factor that affects a reader’s interpretation and is in fact no more important than any other of these factors.  However, I agree with her idea of “revisionism.”
  • The House of Mirrors: Finding the Reflections of Pride and Prejudice in Joyce’s “The Dead.”  This is probably my favorite blog entry and you’ll probably see it pop up again later on in my portfolio several times.  I examine the possible existence of an intertextual relationship between P&P and “The Dead.”  I also did outside research to set up the possibility of Joyce’s intention to allude to P&P.

Blog Carnival: Several of my classmates (Derek, Angela, Katie, Kayley, and I) all decided to apply a school of literary criticism to Joyce’s “The Dead.”  It instigated some amazing discussions and some thought-provoking entries.

Interaction: In these blogs, I either help my peers understand something or help to keep discussion going.

Discussion: These are blogs in which I participated in discussions with my peers.




  • French, Anyone?  I picked this blog mostly because I spent a while writing this blog and was proud of it.  I tried to make a connection between my two majors (French and English Literature), by observing an inordinate amount of French-based words in Melville’s “Benito Cereno.”  I also included questions to my peers to help facilitate discussion, but no one ever commented on it.  So I wanted to draw some attention to this ignored blog. 

Previous Portfolios:

Read my classmates' portfolios. 

Come One, Come All to Our Carnival of “The Dead”

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I personally was really excited by how much enthusiasm everyone showed for this carnival.  Derek graciously kicked off our festivities with this blog.  He explained that a group of us from the class EL312 Literary Criticism decided to get together and test our critical lens by applying them not just to the EL312 course material, but also to that of EL309 Advanced Study in Literature.  We all decided that we would apply some criticism to James Joyce’s short story, “The Dead” found in his book the Dubliners.  If you are unfamiliar with “The Dead,” you can click here for a short summary or here for the full text.  However, I think the most obvious learning took place not in the writing of the blogs themselves (although I think everyone did a great job writing well-thought out entries), but in the continued comments and interactions that began last Friday and are still going on even now approaching a week later.  After all, what kind of Carnival only lasts a day? 

The first attraction in our Carnival of “The Dead” was Angela’s “The Horror House.”  She opted to analyze the last sentence of the short story using predominantly formalism.  She considered the alliteration and repetition in the sentence and considered why Joyce would choose these words and put them in this order.  The discussion continued as others considered Angela’s blog.  Others shared their opinions about why Joyce did so and brought up other significant words in the passage which were then considered.  Intertextual relations were considered between “The Dead” and Keats’s “Ode on a Grecian Urn,’ and more.  I won’t give away any more of went on.  If you wish to know more, you’ll have to enter “The Horror House” for yourself.  But beware, it is a Horror House after all.  What you may find, may just suck you into the discussion as well, and you may never get out.

Moving on to our next attraction, we come to “The House of Mirrors,” which happens to be my contribution.  In my entry I considered a possible intertexual relationship between Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and Joyce’s “The Dead” through the connection I saw between the characters of Darcy and D’Arcy.  I also used historicism to help set-up the possibility that Joyce intended this relationship between the texts.  While some of my fellow bloggers agreed my observation was possible, others felt I was stretching too far.  The discussion turned to what is more important, what the author intended or what the reader perceives?  So enter into “The Hall of Mirrors,” but remember things may not be what they seem, and the obvious may become distorted. 

Our next stop is at Derek’s “House of Shoes.”  Here Derek observed a repeated reference to feet and “soles” which he related to Angela’s quote about souls.  He mused about whether this word play was intentional and what it could mean and how it relates to Ireland itself.  His observation shocked some of his peers who had not noticed what he had.  From there the discussion shifted from wonder about whether Joyce intended this or not to the significance of the repetition of walking and how this related to Irish identity.  So now it’s time for you to enter the “House of Shoes,” but make sure you consider that once you put on these shoes, they could take you anywhere. 

Nearing the end of our journey, we come to Katie’s “The Illusionist.”  In this addition to our Carnival, Katie considers the illusion Gabriel has been living and his epiphany.  She discussed the shock that “The Dead” created in the reader as the paralysis presented is much more severe here than in Joyce’s other short stories found in the Dubliners.  A debate ensued as to whether this turning point for Gabriel was meant to be taken in a positive or negative light, and from this position what is the reader meant to take from this tone.  So have a seat, sit back, and observe the powers of “The Illusionist,” but bear in mind some things may only be illusions…

Now we reach our final destination with Kayley’s “’The Dead’ What is dead?”  In her blog Kayley considers the role of the title in the short story and what exactly this death implies.  In fact is it really death at all, or is it instead rebirth?  Disagreements and agreements arose about whether there was death and rebirth and the possibility of Gabriel representing Ireland was discussed.  So enter into the questioning of life and death with “What is dead?”  But remember, not all things that appear dead are so.

Thank you carnival participants for doing a great job and being so dedicated.  And carnival-goers, I hope you enjoyed our Carnival of “The Dead.”  Feel free to comment on our discussions!

French, Anyone?

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I found Herman Melville’s “Benito Cereno” to be very overwhelming.  The story itself was rather long and in this length every single paragraph had so much packed into it, I felt like I was drowning in literary devices and meaning.  Therefore, it is hard for me to focus on any one thing, because I feel like I’m being assaulted by about 20 different possible agenda items, but as I don’t have time to write more than one, I decided to point out a myriad of a certain type of word that I found throughout the story.  And that type of word is…..French!

In the third paragraph, Melville surprised me as I came across, “The sky seemed a gray surtout” (489).  I knew what it meant, since it is a French word meaning “above all else” or “especially,” but it is certainly not the type of vocabulary one usually comes across in reading an American story.  Granted, apparently surtout has another meaning in English (according to it can also refer to “a man’s long close-fitting overcoat”).  Nonetheless, it is still certainly a French world, even if it has an alternate meaning in English.

Nor did the French words end there; Melville uses a plethora of them.  Some of the most obvious pure French words being reconnoiters (502), tableau (491), château (505).  There were also many words which while not strictly French (meaning the French language got them from Latin), the English language nonetheless inherited from French.  These include missal (510), and the overly repeated enchantment (505) and hypochondriac (510).   

At first, I thought perhaps authors just wrote using more complicated language in the 1850s, but now take a look at this quote from the story, “While Captain Delano was thus made the mark of all eager tongues, his one eager glance took in all faces, with every other object about him” (491).  Delano “took in all.”  “Benito Cereno” is certainly full of different cultures and languages.  Not to mention that "tongues" can also refer to languages.  Melville stresses again and again the disparity between the “American,” the “Spaniards,” and the “slaves.”  But under these obvious differences, I am positing that through his unusual word choices there is an underlying reference to the French as well.  And if you really want to come down to it, there could be an Italian one with Melville’s use of words like “grotto” and his repeated references to religion (one of the headquarters obviously being in Italy).  Melville mixes in so many different nationalities and ethnicities.  To some degree he even points out the presence of both men and women aboard the St. Dominick. 

Even if you don’t agree with me about the French reference, there are still certainly three different groups represented in the text: American, Spanish, and African.  So my question is why?  What is Melville’s point in doing this?  Is he trying to point out that in the end all these groups of people all equal?  Is he trying to mimic the melting pot that makes up the U.S. (Melville is an American author after all)?  Or is he doing it for some other reason? 

Read more blogs on Melville’s “Benito Cereno.” 

Not Just Unreliable, But Pretending to Be Reliable

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From Catharine O’Connell’s “Narrative Collusion and Occlusion in Melville’s ‘Benito Cereno’”:

“Readers’ willingness to trust and agree with the narrator is their ultimate undoing” (192).

Whatever else O’Connell’s essay said I can safely say that I agree with her comments on a narrator’s ability to (mis)guide the reader.  I will be quite honest here and admit that while I was reading “Benito Cereno,” I did not even notice the presence of a narrator.  I mean I knew there was one, but I didn’t really think about the affect the narrator was having on my perceptions of the story. 

In EL237 (Writing About Literature), we talked quite a few times about point of view and the importance of where the story is coming from.  I even wrote a paper about the narrator in a Poe story being unreliable (no surprise there).  But usually, these narrators do not pretend to be reliable.  It is very obvious that they are mentally unhinged.

 In “Benito Cereno,” we don’t even know who the narrator is and since there is no major attention drawn to his existence, it is easy to just trust him and go along with his statements as true and authoritative.  If for no other reason, I liked O’Connell’s article simply because she challenged me to be more perceptive when I read and to carefully examine the role of the narrator even if, the narrator seems to be believable. 

To read more of O'Connell's essay, click here

I did not find my literary terms this week from the readings.  Instead, as I was flipping through the Index in the back of Hamilton’s Essential Literary Terms, I saw two terms masculine and feminine ending, which in light of Kolodny’s essay caught my attention.  If we’re going to talk about the differences in perception of male and female humans, why not talk about the difference between the masculine and feminine endings in literary terms?

Hamilton explains that both of these terms are types of substitution meaning, “any variant foot within a line that consists predominantly of another metrical pattern” (202).  This means that both terms are pretty much applied to poetry. 

A masculine ending consists of “lines that end with a strong stress,” whereas, a feminine ending are “lines that end in an unstressed syllable” (203).  And as Kolodny would probably agree there is obvious some bias in the naming of these terms, since they insinuate that “the feminine” is meek, and the “the masculine” is strong.  But regardless, that’s what the terms are.

An example of a masculine ending according to Hamilton is: “I wake /to sleep/ and take/ my wak/ing slow” (203).  Note that the last foot consists of the unstressed -ing and ends with the stressed “slow,” which makes it a masculine ending.

An example of a feminine ending would be: “To be/ or not/ to be,/ that is/ the ques/tion” (203).  In this sentence, the last foot consists solely of the “tion” from “question” which is not stressed, thereby making it a feminine ending.

Learn more literary terms. 

Gender is Not the Only Factor

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From Annette Kolodny’s “A Map for Rereading: Or, Gender and the Interpretation of Literary Texts”:

“…all readers, male and female alike, must be taught first to recognize the existence of a significant body of writing by women in America and, second, they must be encouraged to learn how to read it within its own unique and informing contexts of meaning and symbol.  Re-visionary reading, if you will” (203). 

I admit I had some internal battles with Kolodny’s essay.  I’d like to think of myself as being sensitive to women’s present and past struggles for equal rights and inclusion in society.  However, I found myself through almost all of her essay biting my tongue.  I felt she was so completely focused on the differences between males and females that she missed the greater issue at hand—that past experiences of readers affect how they read, no matter what it is that affects or causes these experiences. 

Kolodny commented, “…that single feature which critics like Iser and Bloom still manage so resolutely to ignore: and that is, the crucial importance of the sex of the ‘interpreter’” (200).  However, I’m not sure that Iser and Bloom would even disagree with her as she condemns them.  I don’t think that they would argue that a person’s gender would affect his/her interpretation of a text.  I think they do not explicitly state gender as a factor, but they do say that a reader’s past experiences do change his/her perspective.  And I consider gender to be a factor in this.

 I felt for most of the essay she was far too willing to only talk about men’s misreading of female’s texts, when the same could be said about so many other groups.  I mean, I as an American, could easily misunderstand a French text, simply because I am not French.  I don’t think that it is limited to just gender. 

I do not mean to say that there was no value in Kolodny’s essay, there were parts of it I liked, for example the quote I chose at the top of my blog entry.  I really like two parts specifically of this quote.  First, I liked how she broadened her argument to “all readers, male and female alike,” because I think all readers need to keep this in mind, not specifically males.  Secondly, I really liked her comments on “re-visionary reading.”  I think it is extremely important for us to constantly be reviewing not just what we read, but how we read.  And this “how we read texts” is really what literary criticism is all about.  Kolodny’s call for this “revisionism” is in a broader sense, simply a call for the reader to carefully consider his/her chosen method(s) of criticism. 

Read more on Kolodny's essay. 

The Best of Both Worlds (Minus Hannah Montana)

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From Wolfgang Iser’s “Readers and the Concept of the Implied Reader”:

“The concept of the implied reader is therefore a textual structure anticipating the presence of a recipient, without necessarily defining him: this concept prestructures the role to be assumed by each recipient, and this holds true even when texts deliberately appear to ignore their possible recipient or actively exclude him.  Thus the concept of the implied reader designates a network of response-inviting structures, which impel the reader to grasp the text” (145).   

So, if I understand correctly what Iser is saying in his article he has just resolved my dislike of both the imagined “ideal reader” and the doubt surrounding an actual “real reader”(see my last blog entry).  Perhaps, I am too impressionable in believing Iser that this is a much better possibility than the others and he was just good at structuring his paper so that I would believe him.  But I honestly didn’t like the idea of those other types of readers, nor did I like the complete disqualification of the text as important.

Iser though seems to have found a happy medium that I can abide with in “the implied reader.”  This allows the text itself to still remain important as the text helps to create (or not create) certain reactions in the reader.  Yet, at the same time, the readers can still react to the text in their own way according to their past experiences.  It makes complete sense to me that the author would intend someday for someone to read his/her work and that therefore the text would set up “a network of response-inviting structures,” yet at the same time Iser leaves the final interpretation up to the reader.  It seems Iser lets the critic have the best of both worlds, taking both the reader and the text into consideration. 

Read more about this topic. 

From Keesey’s Introduction to Chapter 3:

“Assuming, as both critics do, that the poem as independent object is beyond our reach, they argue with some force that no other focus is really available.  Even so, the wary reader may wonder why their extreme skepticism about our ability to understand poetic objects should seem so relaxed when it comes to our ability to understand perceiving subjects.  For in such studies, readers must become, in turn, perceived objects, and objects quite as complex as poems” (137). 

I have a hard time accepting either idea of the focus being placed on this “ideal reader” or on specific readers.  It seems to me like we know just as little about the reader as we do about the poem itself.  As the quote I chose points out, it simply shifts our focus from the complex poem to the complex person.  If we base our interpretations upon actual, real readers, how can one be sure that what this reader cites as their reactions is the truth?  In other words, how do we know they are not lying about it, how do we know they even realize what their reaction was?

 Furthermore, if we are going base our criticism upon a real person who read the story, I think it would be extremely easy to get sidetracked with the psychological aspect.  And if we became distracted by this, our focus would shift more and more from the field of literature.  I don't view this potential shift toward psychology as a good thing, since after all this is literary criticism.    

I do see the hypothetical “ideal reader” as a better answer in that this concept allows the critic to stay concentrated on the literature and what it does, instead of what the reader does to the literature.  Yet, at the same time, I don’t think it’s good to analyze things from the angle of an “ideal reader,” since I think that literature can appeal to and connect with readers who are not experts on “the conventions of seventeenth-century poetry” (137) or some other such thing.

 I guess what it comes down to for me, is that I like the reader-response criticism that deals more closely with the text itself, yet at the same time I see the “ideal reader” as flawed.  I think that everyone does react to literature to some degree because of their past experiences in life and in literature.  And I think that each time we read a work, we have a new experience with it.  Yet, at the same time I still think that there is a certain realm of possible interpretations which a text allows. 

Read what others think about Keesey's Introduction to reader-response criticism. 

I am a huge Pride and Prejudice fan.  Actually, I’m a big Jane Austen fan in general.  And I always like to clarify that I liked Pride and Prejudice before it became a fad with the recent spurt of movies such as a new version of Pride and Prejudice (2005), Becoming Jane (2007), The Jane Austen Book Club (2007), and probably other ones I don’t even know about.  I read it for the first time in 2003 and have read it several times since.  But regardless, my point is that I like it, and therefore am constantly on the lookout for allusions to Pride and Prejudice and I frequently try to find intertextual relationships between it and other works of literature.  I actually wrote a blog entry last February in LA150 in which I related Fitzgerald’s “Bernice Bobs Her Hair” to Pride and Prejudice.  I always jump at the chance to prove how influential and far-reaching Austen’s writings are.  So as strange as it seems, I am going to relate Joyce’s short story (from Dubliners) “The Dead” to Pride and Prejudice.

First, I would like to go over some background.  James Joyce attended the University College Dublin and studied the Modern Languages of English, French, and Italian.  He also participated in many literary circles.  It is a relatively safe-assumption, therefore, to believe that he would have been very well-read.  He would have read many classics and contemporary works, and even if he had not read a particular work, he would undoubtedly have at least been familiar enough with it that he had a general understanding of what the book was about and who the main characters were.  Furthermore, as we discussed in our Advanced Literary Study class, Joyce was not particularly concerned about the Irish language and considered English to be his language.  However, while he valued the English language, he still realized that much of Ireland’s problems were caused by England’s meddlesome hand in Ireland. 

Now, as for Pride and Prejudice, it was published in 1813 (as compared to Dubliners in 1914).  Pride and Prejudice was not an immediate phenomenon when it was published.  According to Wikipedia, most of Austen’s works did not relate well with the Victorian and Romantic ideologies prevalent at the time.  However, as time went on, the intellectual elite (including Henry James) looked favorably upon her book, so that by the time the 1880s rolled around, her works had become immensely popular.  So Joyce, who was born in 1882, would have most likely been familiar with Pride and Prejudice.

On page 184 of Dubliners, the reader gets their first introduction to a Mr. D’Arcy.  Mary Jane informs Miss Daly, “I’ve got a nice partner for you, Mr. Bartell D’Arcy, the tenor.”  Immediately when I saw the name D’Arcy, I thought of Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice.  Indeed, the two names are pronounced in the same way.  Now, if these were the only similarities between the two works, I would simply brush it off as a coincidence.  But, the relations between the two works continue. 

Joyce in fact reverses the dancing situation at the Morkin's party from what it is when Elizabeth and Darcy first meet at a party.  Mary Jane comments, “…but really we’re so short of ladies to-night” (184).  It would seem that at this party there is a dearth of females.  Meanwhile, in Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth stresses to Colonial Fitzwilliam about Darcy that, “He danced only four dances, though gentlemen were scarce; and to my certain knowledge, more than one young lady was sitting down in want of a partner” (324).  So Joyce flips the situation from their being an abundance of females, to a scarcity of them.

Finally, the last parallel between D’Arcy and Darcy is the references to their pride and conceit.  Gretta comments of D’Arcy, “ I’m trying to get that Mr. D’Arcy to sing.  He’s full of conceit, I think” (191), while Elizabeth of Darcy affirms, “From the very beginning, from the first moment I may almost say, of my acquaintance with you, your manners impressed me with the fullest belief of your arrogance, your conceit, and your selfish disdain…” (334).

So the ultimate question is of course, why did Joyce create these parallels between the two works?  What meaning does “The Dead” gain by Joyce attempting to conjure Pride and Prejudice into his readers’ minds?  As we have discussed repeatedly in Advanced Literary Study one of Joyce’s major themes is paralysis and I believe that Joyce so infused his story with this idea, that even the relatively minor character of D’Arcy represents this idea and that Joyce further stresses this idea by juxtaposing this D’Arcy with the Darcy in Pride and Prejudice.  For indeed, anyone who has every read Pride and Prejudice cannot help but see the development of Darcy’s character.  Through his love for Elizabeth and her initial rejection of him, he transforms into a different person, one whose pride is not his predominant characteristic.  However, D’Arcy from “The Dead” shows no such progression.  Granted, his conceit is never so great as Darcy’s, or at least Joyce does not show it to us in that way.  But nonetheless, he seems to be pretty much the same person at the beginning of the story as he is when he leaves the party.  Granted, he does eventually sing, but it is not for everyone.  He tries to hide his singing upstairs in a room with just himself and one other person.  And it is this song after all that causes Gretta’s reverie which eventually causes Gabriel’s own epiphany to his inert position and blindness.  But D'Arcy himself never becomes aware of anything new and comes into the reader's vision and leaves as the same character, unaltered, unchanging, paralyzed. 

Anyway, before I start writing more and make this blog even longer, I will stop.  But I will leave you all with several questions:

1.  First off, do you think that Joyce intended for the reader to take D’Arcy as an allusion to Pride and Prejudice or am I reading too much into it?  Do you think his intent even matters, if I, a reader perceive there to be a connection between the two works? 

2. If there is a parallel between the two works, why did Joyce create it? Do you agree or disagree with my interpretation?  Would you like to add anything to my reading?

3. What do you think of the reversal of their being too many women to not enough in the two works?    

4. And lastly, D’Arcy in “The Dead” asserts that there are as many good singers today as there was in the past, they are simply in “London, Paris, Milan” (200) and not in Ireland.  Do you think this quote is relevant to my reading at all (particularly the reference to London) or the Irish sentiments of the time, why or why not?    

*For anyone not familiar with these works:

Click here for a summary of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice or here for the full text.

Click here or here for a summary of James Joyce’s “The Dead” or here for the full text. 

Works Cited

Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. The Complete Novels of Jane Austen. New York: Penguin Books Ltd, 1983. 224-445.

Joyce, James. “The Dead.” Dubliners. New York City: Penguin Books Ltd., 1993:175-225.

Works Consulted

Jane Austen. Wikimedia. 19 Feb. 2009. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 20 Feb. 2009.                 <>.

James Joyce. Wikimedia. 19 Feb. 2009. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 20 Feb. 2009.                 <>.

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From Chapter 3, “Structuralism and Semiotics” of Terry Eagleton’s Literary Theory:  An Introduction

“What is notable about this kind of analysis is that, like Formalism, it brackets off the actual content of the story and concentrates entirely on the form.  You could replace father and son, pit and sun, with entirely different elements—mother and daughter, bird and mole—and still have the same story.  As long as the structure of relations between the units is preserved it does not matter which items you select” (83).

I am having some problems differentiating between Structuralism and Formalism.  I think (although, I could be mistake) that I have a better handle on the differences between the two now (although, I’m not sure I could put Structuralism into practice).  The quote I chose above helped me understand the difference.  While Formalism and Structuralism both focus on each part’s relation to the text as a whole, Structuralism focuses only on the relations between these things and not the things themselves.  For example, in Formalism, the fact that a character is a father is important.  It could be important because father rhymes with some other word later on in the poem, it could be important because it is alliterative with several other words in a sentence creating a certain feeling, etc.  And it seems to be that this is where the difference is.  In Structuralism, the character being a father cannot matter.  Instead, the only thing that matters is the relation between the character occupied by the father and the other parts of the story.  I really have no idea how this would actually work in an essay though.  How would one determine these relations without basing it on what or who the character or thing is?  How and why would this affect the story?  I think maybe it would make more sense if I read an example of a critical essay employing Structuralism…

Read more on this subject.  

“A Tired and Drained Language”

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From Cleanth Brooks’s “Irony as a Principle of Structure”:

“The modern poet has the task of rehabilitating a tired and drained language so that it can convey meanings once more with force and with exactitude” (90).

I thought Brooks did a really good job writing his essay.  I thought he wrote it at a level which was more easily understandable; he filled it with comparisons, analogues, examples, and some humor which helped to keep the reader interested and on the same page as him. 

However, I’m not sure how much I agree with his comment about modern poets' travails.  He explains of the poet’s audience that they are, “a public corrupted by Hollywood and the Book of the Month Club…a public sophisticated by commercial art” (90).  And I can see what he means about how today’s society has art of all sorts so readily available to its members and this affecting one's perception of literature.  But if this public is a more “sophisticated” one, then shouldn’t they be better able to appreciate what a poet creates.  Yes, a modern day person is assaulted with all sort of language and has all sorts of connotations attached to words, but I wouldn’t say this drains the language.  Doesn’t it just present the poet with new possibilities?  For if a certain word holds certain connotations, by breaking this expected meaning and using it in some new way, doesn’t it jar the audience all the more?  I just think that no matter how used a language is that it will not become unable to “convey meanings…with force and with exactitude.” 

Read more blogs on Brooks’s article. 

Epanalepsis? A Literary Term that Causes Seizures?

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From Russ McDonald’s “Reading the Tempest”:

“I leave it to the reader to note the poetic and rhetorical details, the instances of assonance, alliteration, epanalepsis…” (103).

Here I have listed out of McDonald’s list of eight literary devices, three of them.  I will be dealing with epanalepsis.  If you would like to read more about assonance or alliteration, just click on the links of the words to some of my classmates’ pages about them.

Sadly, when I flipped to the glossary at the back of Sharon Hamilton’s Essential Literary Terms, epanalepsis was not to be found.  I suppose that means it doesn’t hold a spot on the coveted list of essential literary terms.  Therefore, I turned to the next best thing.  I opened a web browser and headed to Wikipedia.  According to Wikipedia:

“The epanalepsis is a figure of speech defined by the repetition of the initial word or words of a clause or sentence at the end. The beginning and the end are the two positions of stronger emphasis in a sentence; so, by having the same phrase in both places, the speaker calls special attention to it.”

Some examples Wikipedia lists of epanalepsis are:

  • The king is dead, long live the king.
  • Severe to his servants, to his children severe.

  • Beloved is mine; she is Beloved.

And for your reading pleasure, my own example that I made up:

  • Literary Criticism doesn’t like me, and I don’t like Literary Criticism.

(Disclaimer: I do no profess to necessarily agree with the feelings expressed in my example; I just thought it would be an amusing example). 

Click here to learn more literary terms. 

From David A. Kent’s “On the Third Stanza of Keats’s ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’”:

“Both urn and ode are finally dependent on a beholder, a reader, to give life to image and typographical symbol—to animate by imagination…All art is, finally, dependent” (115).

Here finally is an essay and author I can agree with.  I didn’t originally like formalism, I suppose partially because I didn’t realize exactly what it was until I tried it.  Once I had, I realized how useful it is.  I think it makes for the most solid argument.  And I really liked Kent’s essay, he kept things short and sweet, yet it was very believable.  He used arguments about specific structural parts of the poem such as Keats’s use of the “interrogative, exclamatory, and phrasal forms” (113) to prove his point.

 But see, here’s the thing that made me like Kent’s essay so much more than McDonald’s.  Kent claimed that Keats used this language in this way for a specific reason, he did it (besides many other reasons such as building a transitional stanza between the second and fourth) to show Keats’s pained rejection that life on the urn is better.  For if there was no one alive to look at the urn (or the ode) these things would have no meaning, as Kent explains, “All art is, finally, dependent.”  In McDonald’s essay, I was never able to find this explanation of why.  He goes through and proves carefully that Shakespeare’s language is ambiguous, but he never provides the answer that Kent does. 

Read what other’s have to say.

From Keesey’s Introduction to Chapter 2:

“Such is the power of context to create connotations, overtones, implications, in brief, ‘meanings,’ beyond those cited in even the largest dictionaries.  And the principle applies to all elements in the poem” (77).

I really like this point that Keesey makes.  Words are not confined to meaning what the dictionary says they can mean.  And by focusing only on the words on the page and what it means in and to the work as a whole makes it is easier to determine what it does mean in this particular text.  In this way, formalism encompasses and compensates for author intention.  It encompasses it because the author may have intended the word to mean something else than the denotation, by analyzing what the word means in this text as a whole formalism takes this into account.  At the same time, the author may have had no idea what they intended when they used a word.  By carefully considering what each individual word means according to the whole then, whether the author used the word they meant to or not is irrelevant, since viewing the word in light of the whole will still reveal the words connotation in relation to the whole.  That’s part of why I like formalism, it allows words to work in not just the realms of their definitions, but in any way as long as they make sense according to the rest of the text.  I think this makes a word so much more versatile and powerful, since it can extend beyond what we even expect it to mean. 

Read my classmates’ thoughts.

Expectancy + No Answer ≠ Pleasure

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From Ross McDonald’s “Reading The Tempest”:

“…it promises much and delivers little, and I propose that it is just this dynamic that makes The Tempest uncommonly meaningful” (105).

Well, I liked McDonald’s essay better than Yachnin’s, yet at the same time McDonald’s essay leaves me feeling unfulfilled.  I found McDonald’s arguments to be much more believable than Yachnin’s.  I was amazed by some of the alliteration, the contrasts between simple and complex dictions, etc that he cites.  I felt he did a very good job setting his argument up and showing through many aspects on the sentence and word level that he analyzed the work well.  But I kept waiting and waiting and asking myself, “yes, yes, I see what you’re saying Mr. McDonald, but where’s the meaning?”  There are these patterns, but why does Shakespeare do it?  I found McDonald’s answer unrewarding.  He tells us that the “meaning remains necessarily elusive” (107) and that Shakespeare purposefully builds up this suspense to cause “pleasure” in the reader from a sense of “expectancy.”  Yet, I find this to be a very unrewarding answer.  I mean, I suppose in many ways this mimics life itself and in fact our very understanding of literature and language.  One will never know for sure, one must always question.  I just find it frustrating to read an essay with a final resolution that everything is ambiguous.  I didn’t need to read an essay to find that out—not that I mean to say there was no value in McDonald’s essay, as I said I found it more believable than Yachnin’s.  But personally, I find no “pleasure” in having my “expectancy” built up only to find there is no answer.    

Read what other’s think.

From Paul Yachnin’s “Shakespeare and the Idea of Obedience: Gonzalo in The Tempest”:

“To suggest this, of course, is not to preclude the possibility of subversive interpretations of the play in Shakespeare’s time; however, it does mean that the normative meaning of The Tempest for Shakespeare’s audience would have been conservative” (44).

So, the average playgoer would interpret The Tempest in a conservative manner, what does that prove?  It certainly does not prove that Shakespeare’s intention was that the audience interpret it that way.  And even if he did want them to think that during the play, who’s to say that’s what he really meant?  He wouldn’t want to be too flagrant in encouraging the people not to obey, for then he could bring the wrath of the monarch down upon himself.  Isn’t the point in this essay to focus on the author’s intention, and not on how the audience understood it?  If we were analyzing The Tempest through the school of reader response criticism how would knowing the audience’s reading of the play in 1611 matter?  Wouldn’t the most important thing be what the play did to the modern reader?  I didn’t find Yachnin’s essay to be very believable.  Honestly, I felt it was more an example of how not to use historical facts to prove something than a good example of how author intention can strengthen one’s argument.  Saying that popular opinion would have been on one side, does not mean that Shakespeare agreed with this side. 

Check out some other’s views on Yachnin’s article. 

Happily Ever After…or Not

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As most of Shakespeare’s comedies, the end of The Tempest is supposed to be a happy one.  Everyone marries who they’re supposed to, everything comes together.  The good live happily ever after and the bad get what they deserve.  Or so it’s meant to be…


However, I am not entirely sure that The Tempest’s ending could truly be considered a happy ending.  I would not say that I am even convinced Shakespeare wanted it to be one.  The most obvious thing to me at the end of the play is Miranda’s impending loss of innocence, which to me is nothing to celebrate. 


At the beginning of the play, Prospero verbalizes his disgust of his brother’s betrayal by saying, “Mark his condition and th’event.  Then tell me/ If this might be a brother” (I, ii, 118).  His statement is more of a rhetorical loathing than anything else.  However, Miranda, in her innocence takes it as a real question and responds, “I should sin/To think but nobly of my grandmother./Good wombs have borne bad sons” (I, ii, 119-20).  She takes his comment literally.  It is unlikely that Prospero was actually insinuating that Antonio was not his brother, but Miranda cannot tell the difference.


However, towards the end of the play, we see a distinct path towards the corruption of her innocence.  When Prospero reveals to Alonso and the others that Ferdinand is in fact still alive, Ferdinand and Miranda are playing chess together.  Their dialogue over their game is the following:


Miranda: Sweet lord, you play me false!

Ferdinand: No, my dearest love,

                I would not for the world.

Miranda: Yes, for a score of kingdoms you should wrangle,

                And I would call it fair play” (V, i, 171-4).


Miranda sees that Ferdinand cheats and instead of being completely shocked and chastising him for his behavior, she admits that no matter what actions he takes, she will turn her eyes away and pretend that he is fair.  She has been with him for only a short period of time and already his outside influence affects her values. 


Shortly after this conversation, upon seeing Alonso, Sebastian, Antonio, and Gonzalo for the first time Miranda exclaims, “O brave new world/That has such people in ‘t!” (V, i, 183).  However, the people that she views (besides Gonzalo) have all participated in or intended to participate in corrupt schemes.  Alonso sent Prospero and baby Miranda off in a tub, Antonio took over Prospero’s dukedom, and Sebastian intended to kill Alonso for his crown.  Yet, when Miranda sees them she sees them as great people.  Granted she is still innocent to some degree and may not realize what they have done.  But combine this cry of wondering amazement with her comment on condoning Ferdinand’s actions and we can see that once Miranda leaves this secluded island of morality, her innocence will not stay long intact.    

Read what others have to say about Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

From George Watson’s essay, “Are Poems Historical Acts”:

“If it sometimes helps, it does not follow that it always helps” (33).

I really like Watson’s essay.  At the beginning I was not so sure I would, but towards the end of his essay things kept clicking in my mind. And I thought to myself, “Ah something finally makes sense!” 

In class last Thursday after having been asked to write an essay using author intention and then hearing many reasons why using author intention didn’t work, I was admittedly confused.  I even raised my hand and asked, “Well, what’s the point in using it then, if it has so many flaws?”  But I think that Watson really answered my question.

 I was beginning to view author intention and historicism as completely pointless.  Hirsch claimed it helped make interpretation less objective but as I explained in my last blog, it seems no more objective than “facts” (which Eagleton showed to be subject to “value-judgments”).  But here, Watson explained the value of historicism to me in a way which I can understand.  His quote above, pretty much sums up my understanding of author intention’s value.  Sometimes some historical detail will be very important in one’s interpretation and reading.  The examples Watson uses being one’s view of Shylock in The Merchant of Venice and what the author wrote the work as (was it meant to be read aloud, is it a play, a novel?).  And then other times, it won’t be so relevant or useful.  Just because “it sometimes helps, it does not follow that it always helps,” so if I feel historicism is useful it can help my argument, but it can still be a useful technique and not need to be used all the time.  Something can have its weaknesses and still have its uses.      

Read what others thought. 

From Donald Keesey’s Contexts for Criticism:    

                “For the belief is widespread that the reader should confront the work with no preconceptions and should achieve thereby an authentic, unmediated response.

                “But in fact there can be no unmediated response” (Keesey 1).

I definitely agree with Keesey that it is impossible to approach anything without some preconceived notions.  Even if we know absolutely nothing about a short story, we will still form opinions about it based upon the author’s name and its title.  For example, I knew nothing about the “The Yellow Wallpaper,” nor did I know anything about Gilman before we were assigned it in this class.  Yet, as soon as I read the title, “The Yellow Wallpaper,” I was already judging the story. 

However, while it is impossible not to formulate certain views on a text which will bias one’s reading of it, I also think that Keesey is overlooking the value of reading a text relatively unencumbered by the baggage of extensive study of the work.  I know that it is detrimental to me to read literary articles before I have thoroughly considered what a literary work may mean.  For example, Keats’s “Ode on a Grecian Urn” was providing me with an extreme challenge of interpretation.  I could not come up with any original readings of the poem.  I had read Austin’s article before thorough considering what I thought the poem meant and this cause me problems.  This is not to say it is impossible to come up with one’s own reading after reading a critical article, but I know from experience that it makes it much more difficult.  Every time you try to analyze a phrase, the critic’s opinion keeps seeping into your thoughts, preventing you from escaping even greater influence on your reading than you would have had otherwise.  I am not trying to suggest that we should not read critical articles, I think they are important.  I just think that Keesey is undervaluing the benefits of reading a text with a relatively unhindered perspective. 

Read more about Keesey’s text. 

Brushing Up on Symbolism

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“It is mainly from this era, in the work of Kant, Hegel, Schiller, Coleridge, and others, that we inherit our contemporary ideas of the ‘symbol’ and ‘aesthetic experience’…” (Eagleton 18). 

I will admit that before I looked up the word symbol, I already pretty much knew what it was.  But I figured it couldn’t hurt to review what Hamilton had to say about it.  There could have been some layer of the definition that I forgot and symbolism is such a common word thrown around by people that it is good to have a clear understanding of what it is. 

According to Hamilton, “A symbol is an object, action, or event that represents something, or creates a range of associations, beyond itself” (86).

Now, I will give you a few examples.  A griffin is a symbol of Seton Hill University.  In contrast, the Bear Cat is the symbol of Saint Vincent.  A yellow smiley face is a symbol of Wal-Mart and a smiley cookie represents Eat’n Park.  We all see and use symbols every day. 

However, interestingly, Hamilton also comments that, “In many literary works, however, a symbol is unique in that its meaning is particular to that poem, play, or story and must be inferred by the reader as the work develops” (86).  This still makes sense.  For example, in the “Yellow Wallpaper,” the wallpaper itself is a symbol, while in another work it may represent nothing.

 My question though is this: if symbols can be unique to certain works of literature, can they be unique to each individual reader?  For example, hypothetically, I may read the “Yellow Wallpaper” and feel that since both the main character’s husband and brother are doctors and because I have had bad experiences with doctors that this means to me that doctors are a symbol of blind heartlessness both in real life and in the story.  Could one argue doctors are a symbol from this or would this be something of a stretch?  Maybe it goes back to what type of criticism you are using.  If I only care about the author’s intentions, then maybe it’s not.  But if I’m interested in the reader’s response, then maybe it is.    

Read about more literary terms. 

Your Definition of Objectivity Sounds Subjective to Me

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From E.D. Hirsch, Jr.’s “Objective Interpretation”:

“It is necessary to establish that the context invoked is the most probable context. Only then, in relation to an established context, can we judge that one reading is more coherent than another.  Ultimately, therefore, we have to posit the most probable horizon for the text, and it is possible to do this only if we posit the author’s typical outlook, the typical associations and expectations which form in part the context of his utterance” (Hirsch 25).

I have rather mixed feelings about Hirsch’s essay.  I am not a big fan of formalism.  I do think that formalism has its place in literary criticism.  Analyzing the words, meter, structure, etc. of a work is invaluable in making a believable argument about a piece of literature.  However, I also do not think it is appropriate to only pay attention to these elements of a work and ignore the response created in the reader or what the author may have intended. 

But, I think Hirsch, like many formalists, is too stuck on the idea of there being one “correct” type of criticism and this same philosophy bleeds into his philosophy of how one can interpret a text.  He is under the impression that there cannot be possible readings of work which are equally probable, and I have an issue with this idea.  I agree with him that the author’s probable intentions are a good way to “verify” the accurateness of an interpretation, but are there not multiple readings which could be verified by the author’s probable intentions?

Furthermore, I take issue with his belief that his style of criticism is so objective.  In the quote I chose from his essay (see above), he discusses the importance of setting up the “probable context.”  But in my opinion, this context we are to set up is going to be subjective to some degree.  This context, like facts, is no real solid basis of objectivity.  Where does one get the information about the author’s outlook if not from us attributing probable actualizations to paroles the author uses in other works which we should not subjectively assign to the words?  There are so many probable’s at each level of the interpretation in this school of criticism that I have a hard time seeing this type of criticism as any more objective than the formalism which Hirsch criticizes. 

Read what others think about Hirsch’s “Objectivity”.

The Pattern on the Wallpaper Represented in Words

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From Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper”:

“I don’t know why I should write this.

“I don’t want to.

“I don’t feel able.

“And I know John would think it absurd.  But I must say what I feel and think in some way—it is such a relief!” (Gilman 534)

Repetition is always key in literature.  And if one observes some sort of pattern and then sees it broken, that breaking is also significant.  And it is for those reasons that this quote really stuck out to me—this pattern is broken in this quote, just as the pattern is in the wallpaper.

 Gilman skillfully juxtaposes three negative statements of doubt to two strong comments of certainty.  The main character has a running commentary in her head, full of negative comments, pushing herself down.  She has little self-confidence which makes her unable to break free from John who completely controls every minute of her day, even when he’s not there. 

By writing her short story in first person, Gilman (in Poe-like fashion) really lets us get a good look into the main character’s head.  The short, sometimes disjointed sentences, contrasted with a longer sentence broken up with dashes, creates in the reader a similar reading experience as the main character has in her head. 

Yet despite all the main character’s attempts at listening to her husband and attempts at not being angry with him, she cannot keep herself completely apathetic.  Every now and then, she has a burst of passionate confidence.  She “must” express her feelings not only with her longest sentence out of the five sentences I quoted, but also with italics, a hyphen, and an exclamation mark.  She denies that she knows why, she insists she doesn’t wants to, and that she is unable write her thoughts down.  But, eventually she admits she does know why, she does want to, and she is able, and, in fact, she feels better having done so.  

More than anything else, I think she is afraid to taste the freedom of emotions that John is constantly trying to make her suppress.  The wallpaper with the continuous pattern that she tries to follow, but never can, is much like her pattern of thought.  She tries to repeat herself over and over and think in the same way, but eventually she breaks with conventional thought just as she loses her spot on the wallpaper and her true thoughts reveal themselves despite her efforts to the contrary.    

Bewitched by the wallpaper?  Read my classmate’s thoughts on the story.

Misleading, Misinforming, Misguiding: The Flip Side of Literature

From Terry Eagleton’s Literary Theory: An Introduction:

"Literature would rehearse the masses in the habits of pluralistic thought and feeling, persuading them to acknowledge that more than one viewpoint than theirs existed—namely, that of their masters.  I would communicate to them the moral riches of bourgeois civilization, impress upon them a reverence for middle-class achievements, and, since reading is an essentially solitary, contemplative activity, curb in them any disruptive tendency to collective political action.  It would give them a pride in their nation language and literature…" (22). 

The invention of the printing press had a most sweeping effect on all aspects of society.  Before the invention of the printing press, knowledge and literacy were still a weapon which could easily be wielded against the lower classes which did not have access to books.  Many people were forced to rely on others to interpret the Bible for them and many other texts.  Even if one did manage to learn how to read and write, books were still so scarce and expensive that access to them was highly guarded.  However, according to my western civilization textbook with the invention of the printing press and thus the advent of affordable books, “ordinary men and women became less credulous and docile than their ancestors” (Kagan 251).*

I would have thought this revolutionized the lower classes into a less easily manipulated body.  I would never have guessed that instead, the upper classes would have further encouraged the spread of literacy in order to oppress the middle class.  I always saw language and literature as tools to liberate people, but it would seem that they can work both ways.  Books also gave the ruling class a powerful tool to misled, misinform, and misguide the people.  It really makes me consider how I’ve been being affected by the things I read… 

As for their intentions of controlling the masses with literature, I find it rather ironic that at the same time that they would not even view literature as a real field of study, they recognized its power and were using it to keep the status quo.  If it was only suitable for poor men and women to study it, then why was it such a powerful force of manipulation?

See what others have to say about Eagleton.

*Kagan, Donald, Steven Ozment, and Frank Turner. The Western Heritage. 5th ed. Vol. One. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, 2007.