HMourick: September 2009 Archives

Act it, even if it's not real

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While it may be the hour at which I am doing this, or I am simply fried from working on this for a couple of days, I find this section of the reading to be more difficult than the others.  
There are two specific passages that I pulled out, "I withdrew yet farther into my shell" (CH 13 para 12), and "if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours" (CH 18 para 5).

These two readings had many similarities to the first two.  They continued the nature trends as well as the unique style that Thoreau writes with.  The attention to details still amazes me.  I would not have thought that a male writer could describe something so well as to create a perfect image.  I suppose I am biased against males in that respect as my experience with them in person is limited and I do not often see that capability in those that I know.

I feel that there are many references to being alone throughout his writing as well.  This touches base very well and surprised me that it would affect me so.

Previous Entry

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I have no idea why I cannot change the color of the font to white, but if you highlight it, it's there... hopefully it's not too problematic if you are interested in reading it :)

Flowers and cages, heaven and earth

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"All intelligences awake with the morning" (para 14).


This line was significant to me because, when I am on my normal sleep cycle, I will be up in the morning.  When I need to function and be somewhere, it just happens naturally for me.  Only when I repeatedly tell myself - you don't have to get up tomorrow - and I mean repeatedly, do I manage to get up after 8am.  Getting up at 5am though is easy as eating pie for me.  Thoreau uses so many passages like this in chapter 2 that I had a hard time picking one!  There are many references to music and nature that I just adored!  This one is particular though because he continues to discuss how waking with a dawn within is the important part of living. 


His particular description of nature throughout demonstrates true beauty in my mind.  Being an advocate of "nothing is trivial," the notice of detail that Thoreau uses gives me warm fuzzies.



Chapter 4 was more intriguing to me than chapter 2!  Entitled "Sounds," it seems that Thoreau understands what he is writing - or at least writes in such a manner as to provide the reader with all details needed to see what he saw.

Again, I had a lot of trouble picking just one thing to notice - since all the descriptions of birds stood out.  One reference that was not to birds was this, "I am more alone than ever" (para 14).  This reminded me of a quote from a movie I like, "Thing to remember is if we're all alone, then we're all together in that too" (P.S. I Love You).  I thought this was interesting in Thoreau's work because it was a very small section amidst all the confusion of the birds and bells.  Perhaps even though he is surrounded by nature, he really feels alone.  It is hard to feel together when you are not surrounded by humanity.  Even though the feelings people can get from nature are those of 'being at one with nature,' it is not the same as the feeling we get when we are with others.

On the opposite side, everyone really is alone, which is why the movie comes to mind.  A lot of people prefer to "suffer in silence" as the saying goes.  That makes them alone in that sense, but we have to realize that even when we do this, we are not the only person on the planet doing that, which provides a sense of togetherness. What a weird situation that puts people in.

Roadrunner wins again!

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Wile E. Coyote's falling off a cliff and surviving is as miraculous as flight!?  I know it's not literature, but I automatically thought of Bugs Bunny cartoons when I read this passage, "the act of falling from vast heights and surviving is as miraculous, and as symbolically meaningful, as the act of flight itself" (131).  

I found that interesting as I never really consider flight or falling when reading books.  It makes sense I suppose if you think of Alice falling down the rabbit hole, but when I consider the witches in the His Dark Materials trilogy, I never saw their flight as symbolic.  While I could consider it under the light of them always saving Lyra, always striving to help her and protect her, I feel I would be reaching.  Yes they do that often, but I never saw it as freedom since they are always so suppressed!  Which could also stand for something if you use Foster's method completely.  I am still struggling with believing what Foster has to say on literature.  While some of it makes complete sense, a lot of it seems like a far stretch from what the author wrote. 

The entire section on politics baffled me.  While I am interested in politics on a very basic level, I doubt I would ever find a political reference in my reading - then again that could be that the types of books I read would not have a political connotation to them.  

And really, another chapter on religious references?  Even though it's based solely on the Christ-like figure rather than the entire Bible, I still find it out there.  I do not see self-sacrificing characters as Christ-like.  I know you need to have more than one similarity, but if we looked at all the self-sacrificing characters in literature, I'm sure enough references could be found to make that connection... honestly, I don't want religion in all my books.  While I respect others beliefs and their needs to see that in a story, I don't want to find it in the books I read.

G20 Random Interest

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I found this fascinating.  Really, if the police tell you to disperse, would you stand around?  How curious do you have to be - or really, do these people not know what's going on right near their campus.  How long has this been talked about?  How long have plans been worked on to let this meeting happen in Pittsburgh?  Why are people so intent on breaking rules and boundaries created for their own safety?  and why on earth would you not get back if a police officer tells you?  That just seems like it's asking for trouble right there...

Portfolio 1

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This is the first attempt at a blogging portfolio for my American Literature class at Seton Hill University.  There are a lot of links that take you to direct sections of my blog where I have responded to readings and classmates in the class.  There are also a few random selections of sites that are honest or useful.  Take your time, and enjoy the readings!

Coverage - Here are my responses to the readings that were required outside of class.

How to Read Literature Like A Professor - Thomas Foster - 5, 6, 7

How to Read Literature Like A Professor - Thomas Foster - 8, 9, 10

How to Read Literature Like A Professor - Thomas Foster - Interlude, 11, 12

The Scarlet Letter - Nathaniel Hawthorne - CH 1-6

The Scarlet Letter - Nathaniel Hawthorne - CH 7-13

The Scarlet Letter - Nathaniel Hawthorne - CH 14-21

The Scarlet Letter - Nathaniel Hawthorne - CH 19-24

Young Goodman Brown - Nathaniel Hawthorne

The Yellow Wallpaper - Charlotte Gilman

Bartleby, the Scrivener:  A Story of Wall-street - Herman Melville

Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall-street - Herman Melville


Depth - There are the entries I felt people could easily respond to, or where the topic was discussed in class.

The Scarlet Letter - Hawthorne 1-6

The Scarlet Letter - Hawthorne 7-13

The Scarlet Letter - Hawthorne 14-21

The Scarlet Letter - Hawthorne 19-24


Interaction - Here are comments that I left on classmates blogs.  These are not all the comments, but those that seemed to contribute to a discussion.

The Scarlet Letter - Sarah Durham

The Scarlet Letter - Katie Lantz

The Yellow Wallpaper - Meagan Gemperlein

How to Read Literature Like A Professor - Meagan Gemperlein



Discussions - There were my posts that my peers commented on in such a way as to promote discussion.

Young Goodman Brown - Hawthorne

The Scarlet Letter - Hawthorne 1-6

The Scarlet Letter - Hawthorne 7-13

The Scarlet Letter - Hawthorne 14-21

The Scarlet Letter - Hawthorne 19-24

Bartleby, the Scrivener:  A Story of Wall-street - Herman Melville

Timeliness - These entries were posted with enough time to allow more interesting discussions with my peers.


The Scarlet Letter - Hawthorne 1-6

The Scarlet Letter - Hawthorne 19-24

Bartleby, the Scrivener:  A Story of Wall-street - Herman Melville


Xenoblogging - This early in the semester I do not feel comfortable really posting anything here.  I am not an avid blogger, nor do I really have the time to do it regularly.  I will include one entry that I did comment on because it struck a chord with me.  Knowing that I am not the only person who is having issues with this is settling on some level.

How I Feel About Blogging - by Kayla Lesko - Comments by Heather Mourick


Wildcard - Here is something random that may help others when it comes to organizing your thoughts while doing reading assignments

An image and description of something that seems to be complete chaos.

The craziness that are sticky tabs

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View image

Here you can see what my copy of The Scarlet Letter looks like after an in-depth reading.
Each color represents something different.

Red is for any mention of the letter A or the color scarlet.
Blue represents anything I found to be important.
Green is Dimmesdale - particularly any interesting passages.
Yellow shows where the word or some form of the word "ignominy" is used.
Purple is for any age reference.
Pink shows references to the color black, shadows, or evil.   

Unlike some of my classmates, I can't write in my books, it's just a personal preferences.  Therefore, I have to resort to some other means of keeping my thoughts straight when doing a close reading.  This was the best method I could come up with, given my materials.  While it was suggested that I could use an electronic copy and mark it in a word document, I grow tired of looking at my computer all the time, and it in fact bothers my eyes!  
A book with stickies on every other page is much more appealing to me than a highlighted word document - thus, the creation you see above. :)

Answers, Answers, who's got the answers?

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"Symbols, though, generally don't work so neatly" (Foster 98).

Again, here is something I agree with Foster on.  Symbols have many meanings that can be nearly impossible to interpret!  While Foster does go on to talk about how continued practice at understanding these symbols will help the reader - I must argue that sometimes it is best to not interpret all symbols. 
Symbols can be anything - an action, a phrase, the weather, a location.  There comes a point when overanalyzing can cause problems, perhaps it's raining because it is simply raining.  The character wears green because they chose to, not because it foreshadows something that happens later.
At the same time, there can be significant meaning in certain works.  It is up to the reader to interpret the meaning they get from reading a particular piece.  Every person will get something different out of the same passage.  While everyone may come to the same conclusion in the end, the process of getting there will be different.  The power of words does have ALL the answers, but it's up to the reader to see what those answers are.

Sometimes you've got to give a little

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Bartleby, the Scrivener - Herman Melville.

Let's take a look at paragraph 172.  Now I find the entire thing fascinating as this is where the narrator finally gives in the Bartleby, but this particular line stands out "Since he will not quit me, I must quit him."  Here, after many attempts to get Bartleby to leave, the narrator finally says I'm through and picks up and leaves his own premises to rid himself of the man that does not perform tasks he does not "prefer" to.

I found the last page to be a little odd.  After all the complaints about how Bartleby did nothing and was causing turmoil in everyone around him, the narrator describes his sleep "with kings and counsellors" (para. 249).  Just previous to that he describes the area Bartleby is in as Egyptian.  Perhaps our narrator was not as troubled by Bartleby as we suspect.  He places Bartleby with the kings in death - so what did Bartleby do to deserve this?  
One could argue that he provoked thought in others, which is why so many people say the word "prefer" now.  It's interesting to ponder the reasons why Bartleby politely refused to perform menial tasks as well as why the narrator ends up respecting him so much by the end of the bibliographic record.

Language is not what it used to be

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I am not yet done reading "Bartleby, the Scrivener" by Herman Melville, but I must state that I am truly tired of it!  I have read a mere three pages and identified over 10 words that I did not know nor could translate simply by reading the context!
I hope my classmates are not struggling with this reading as much as I am!

Sometimes crazy can really mean sane

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"Still I will proudly declare that there is something queer about it" (p 1).


I found this quote interesting because she is constantly being told that nothing is wrong with her and that she is imagining things.  This is the first notice that something might actually be wrong with her.

The Yellow Wallpaper

Confession at its finest

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"Pearl kissed his lips.  A spell was broken.  The great scene of grief, in which the wild infant bore a part, had developed all her sympathies; and as her tears fell upon her father's cheek, they were the pledge that she would grow up amid human joy and sorrow, nor forever do battle with the world, but be a woman in it.  Towards her mother, too, Pearl's errand as a messenger of anguish was fulfilled (229)."

I found this passage to be so moving that I had to read it again.  It's amazing how long Pearl has been a symbol of sin.  Here we see the change amid the family.  Dimmesdale's admittance of what he has done, whether people believe it or not, has finally allowed Pearl to see her father and mother, and realize that happiness can happen.  The story follows with a small view of the joys Pearl becomes blessed with.  
It's amazing that this demon child could become human, so to speak, by a simple act of confession.  It's a very moving passage for me.

Pearl sees all, tells all

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"'Truly do I!' answered Pearl, looking brightly into her mother's face.  'It is for the same reason that the minister keeps his hand over his heart (161)!'"

Throughout the story it has been amazing how much Pearl sees and how little she sees at the same time.  Hawthorne continues to point out Pearl's interest in things she recognizes but does not understand.  "Pearl's inevitable tendency to hover about the enigma of the scarlet letter seemed an innate quality of her being (163)."  The reader continues to see that Pearl understands, on some level, what the letter on her mother's bosom means, but that she does not know in full.
We see how close she arrives when we mother lies to her for the first time: "'And as for the scarlet letter, I wear it for the sake of its gold-thread (163)!'"  
Pearl is our window to the truth, whether Hawthorne intends this or not.  She states the connections that should have been made by the time she states them.  If one had not noticed that the Reverend held his hand over his chest earlier in the story, it could not be ignored now.  She asks Hester all those questions that we as readers have to wonder.  She also gives us details that help us answer her questions, even though she has not connected all the dots.

In addition to this, something I found interesting, Hawthorne's description of Pearl coming back after Hester and Dimmesdale have talked.  This particular line caught my attention upon both readings: "A wolf , it is said, - but here the tale has surely lapsed into the improbable, - came up, and smelt of Pearl's robe, and offered his savage head to be patted by her hand (184-185)."  This is followed by a description of Pearl as a dryad, but that quote amazes me.  Why on earth did Hawthorne feel the need to include this improbably account of Pearl returning to her mother?  I cannot begin to describe the images this line creates, as it is likely different for everyone, but it seems to make Pearl even more dream-like than she already is!

Foster is talking about how the story of Handsel and Gretel can be seen in many stories.  While I do believe that to some extent, I particularly like this quote: "Here's what I think we do: we want strangeness in our stories, but we want familiarity too (63)."   Everyone says they love to try new things.  How new are these things really though.  As an example, people who want to try sky diving - falling from very high.  Most people who want to do this have experienced something else, like a roller coaster free fall; that has pushed this desire to the front.  This is the first thing that I can completely agree with Foster on.  When reading the back of a book, I look for a couple of things: first, does the plot sound remotely interesting and second, is this what I'm looking for.  The first point is pretty easy to see, I am often either fascinated or completely uninterested when it comes to that.  The second is a little harder and often depends on what I've recently read, my mood, and recommendations from friends.  An example of this, vampire books have been the basis of my reading selection for probably the past three months.  Currently, when I go looking for a book to read, I find myself in the fantasy/ science fiction section, looking for anything to do with wizards, dragons, and especially vampires.  Why am I currently fascinated by this?  I have no idea, but Foster may be on to something when he says we want new and old in some magnificent combination.

Back to Foster

My Dirty Little Secret

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Hester knows what's ailing Dimmesdale on page 151,"She had witnessed the intense misery beneath which the minister struggled, or, to speak more accurately, had ceased to struggle."

Standing with him on the scaffold, she realizes that the secret is tearing him apart from the inside out.  Even knowing this, she does not know how to help him.  Everything she can consider she has promised not to do.  It will be interesting how she dealing with this upon further reading

The Complexities of Human Nature

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It is amazing how the human mind can prepare itself for many things.  Hawthorne makes a point of telling the reader that Hester Prynne has prepared herself for the future that is ahead of her, "... she had fortified herself to encounter the stings and venomous stabs of public contumely, wreaking itself in every variety of insult... (p 54)."  Here we see that Hester has prepared for the shame she will no doubt feel upon being seen by the townspeople.  Continuing on, "... but there was a quality so much more terrible in the solemn mood of the countenances contorted with scornful merriment, and herself the object (p 54). "  Here we see that she was not prepared for what actually happened.  "...under the leaden infliction which it was her doom to endure, she felt, at moments, as if she must needs shriek out... (p 54)," tells us that the silence of those around her was driving her to a place of madness.  All of these emotions in a short paragraph help bring to light was the mind does on a regular basis.  People as a race mentally prepare themselves for almost every situation, consciously or not.  Hester demonstrates this very clearly in her one moment of dealing with truth.

Connect the Dots

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Foster says "now, where have I seen her before?"  
He continues to talk about how there is no original works of literature.  For example, "his characters fall through a hole in the road...(p.30)" is compared to "Falling through a hole is like Alice in Wonderland (p.30)."  I completely understand that connection.  It makes sense and is very easy to follow.  Anyone who has read, or at least seen Alice in Wonderland will know the importance of her falling down the hole.  Reading another piece of literature with a passage discussing falling down a hole would be easily connected to the original.  
One of the examples Foster loses me is on the very next page, "brown-skinned young woman guiding a group of white men (mostly white, anyway), speaking the language they don't know..." He relates this to "Sacajawea.  If I need to be guided across hostile territory..."  That connection baffles me completely.  I suppose an educated reader could see the resemblance, but I often do no look that deep into what I am reading.  I do not see a strange person, leading a group, as a reference to the history I am know.  
Foster continues with a preview of his next chapter by discussing some references to Shakespeare.  I can very often see those references, but again, I usually make it a focus to not read that into my stories.
From personal experience, I have learned that if the book I am reading is too similar to a story I have heard before, I have a very difficult time finishing the book.  I feel that actively searching for these connections ruins the pleasure I get from reading.  I thoroughly enjoy reading; I do not wish to ponder over details that could or could not stand for something completely different.

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