JeredJohnston: October 2009 Archives

Blog Portfolio 2

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Foster CH 13-15

Thoreau Ch 2 and 4

Thoreau Ch 13 and 18

Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven

Edgar Allan Poe Selections

Emily Dickinson Selections

Emily Dickinson Selections 2

Uncle Tom's Cabin

Adventures of Huck Finn (up to Ch 10)

Foster Interlude 21, 22

Adventures of Huck Finn 11-35

Intro to AHF


Thoreau Ch 2 and 4

Thoreau Ch 13 and 18

Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven

Emily Dickinson Selections 2

Uncle Tom's Cabin

Adventures of Huck Finn 11-35

For this portfolio I do not have anything by way of Interaction or Discussion; this was due to my absences both from class and the online class community, this is something I truly will have to improve upon in the future. 


Adventures of Huck Finn 11-35

Intro to AHF

I admit I have not been exactly keeping up with the blogging represented on this portfolio, I am ware that this is a beneficial and neccessary component of this class and that I will have to improve upon this in the future.


Once again an aspect of my involvement in the online aspect of class upon which I must improve.....shouldn't be too hard.


Tried to tie it into class a bit this time.

The Sons








One Story

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In Foster's How To Read Literature Like A Professor he often speaks of there being 'one story' and all of the literature, poetry, film, music etc. is all part of it and often builds off of previous installments.  He often also draws parallels to previous works which are often the inspiration for a 'new and original' story.  Sometimes these can be a very basic element of the plot and other times it is a blatant reworking.  Very rarely in my experience do these reworkings ever really strike a chord or recieve any note worthy acclaim; something truly special has to be done to "breathe new life" into the story especially if it is a classic or a very well-known story; which it usually is. 

That being said; I have found a new reworking of a classic story that has truly impressed me and not just for its interesting take on a classic but also for it simply being a terrific work all its own.  This work that I speak of is Sons of Anarchy.  To put it very, very simply its Hamlet on motorcycles. In it Hamlet is not a prince in Denmark but Jax Teller, the young vice-president of an outlaw motorcycle club in California.  Gertrude, or Gemma Teller-Morrow is a fierce matriarch hell-bent on protecting her son in this violent chaotic world.  Ophelia is now Opie Winston a life-long friend of Jax and long time member and enforcer of the club.  And King Claudius is now Clay Morrow (masterfully played by Ron Perlman) the short-tempered, ultra violent president of the club, Jax's step father, and "brother" to Jax's late father John Teller who communicates with his troubled son from beyond the grave through an old collection of memoirs he wrote in his youth before his untimely, and mysterious death.....Jax of course is oblivious to the circumstances surrounding his father's demise and so is any fan who never read Hamlet for that matter.  The parallels are all there, its a terrific reimagining I highly recommend it for anyone who loves Shakespeare or biker gang dramas hahaha.  Though I should mention it is not 100% loyal to the storyline of Hamlet, some things have been added and some omitted (o and its incredibly violent and some pretty coarse language so be forewarned) but all in all I'd say its worth it. So for anyone who is interested it airs Tuesdays at 10 on FX. 

Tools of the Trade...

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"If you want your audience to know something important about your character (or the work at large), introduce it early, before you need it." (Foster 205)

I enjoy the little tips Foster throws out in each section of the book.  Following a pretty lengthy example, or series of examples he just spells it out plainly, somerthing I usually hate in my reading but for this style of writing it works, and Foster has a knack for sounding effortlessly personable in his writing.  I've always had an apprehension toward wordy, dry, text-book-esque, "look-how-smart-I-am" writing which most books of this style come off as but Foster avoids that and really can be enjoyable if not just informative.

Its All in the Details....

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"I had been to school most of the time, and could spell, and read and write just a little, and could say the multiplication table up to six times seven is thirty five, and I don't reckon i could get no further if i was to live forever.  I don't take no stock in mathematics, anyway." (Twain 82)

The amount of detail in Huck Finn is astounding, I honestly don't know how an author can put so much into one novel.  Each page has a myriad of details that flavor this wondeful work of literature.  There is so so much it was truly difficult to narrow it down and i think the above quote does a good job of illustrating the attention to detail in Twain's writing.  The character of Huck is a 13 year old boy with very limited education and the story is being told through him so he is bound to mix a few things up along the way and i love that Twain was so attentive to the details that he adds quick little treats like these throughout.

Children as the source of light

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   I feel sad for our poor people; they love me dearly, and they are all
good and kind to me. I wish, papa, they were all free!

Even though she is dying she has such selfless wisdom.  Not only has she completley 100% accepted that fact that she is going to die with gace and dignity but she is so undaunted by her impending death that she is more worried for others who were kind to her in life.  I often take notice as to who is the source of "light in the dark" in a work of literature but there is something powerful when it is a child.  Children can be so effortlessly brilliant in their love for others that they almost seem a natural fight to be the voice of reason or beacon of hope in a work of literature.

Its too big to outrun...

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"To fit its sides, and crawl between,
Complaining all the while
In horrid, hooting stanza;
Then chase itself down hill" (Dickinson)

In the poem The Railway Train Dickinson personifies a train with the characteristics of some natural creature, it is never clearly stated as to which one in particular, if any, that she had in  mind.  I always enjoyed personification its just so, well, so poetic.  I think the meaning behind this particular instance of personification is to imply that yes we are becoming more and more technologically advanced and in turn moving awy form nature (whether voulntarily or involuntarily) but we will never truly seperate ourselves from it, escape it, or leave it behind because it is so much a part of us, in fact thats wrong, it is not a part of us we are part of it [nature].

She Gets It

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"A precious, mouldering pleasure 't is
To meet an antique book,
In just the dress his century wore;
A privilege, I think," (Dickinson)

It is evident when one reads the above quote that Emily Dickinson truly did love literature.  She understood literature and absolutely loved it.  I read Dickinson's poetry and I think, man, I don't think I'll ever love anything as much or as fully as she loved literature. 


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"Thy hair is lifted by the moon    

Like flowers by the low breath of June!" (Poe FairyLand)

The above quote is from Poe's FairyLand.  I just love the way Poe uses such beautiful fantastical descriptions in this poem to describe the simplest things such as a woman's hair and how it moves in the soft night breeze. Whenever I read something this wonderfully written I can't help but  sometimes wonder why someone would rather watch MTV or reality televsion; I just wanna say that those people who say they are bored by poetry aren't reading it right.   

"Who alterest all things with thy peering eyes! Why prey'st thou thus upon the poet's heart, 
Vulture! whose wings are dull realities!" (Poe Sonnet to Science) 

In this poem Poe makes a claim that I think lends itself so well to poetry; that science has ruined fantasy and imagination- the two most important things in the mind and heart of a poet.  Simply put, its more fun to believe in fairies, goblins, dragons, angels, and demons etc than to succumb to the dull realities of science.      

Not Just the Cold and Flu Season...Dun Dun Dun

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"Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor." (Poe; The Raven)

The above quote from Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven shows the mood of the poem, dark and daunting as if something terrible and petrifying is about to leap at any second.  Poe was the absolute master of horror, suspense, etc and just a quick side note it just tears a hole in me everythime I hear people like John Carpenter or Wes Craven referred to as such but I digress.  I found it interesting that in this poem of a dark foreboding it is said to take place in the month of December in the winter a season which calls upon feelings of cold darkness.  I also found it interesting as this technique was mentioned in this week's reading of Foster Ch.20.  

Just Do It!

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"I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that 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." (Thoreau Ch 18 Para 5)

Throughout Walden, Thoreau has emphasized the necessity of action and deed over the notion of word or thought (while he ponders in the medium of written word...hmmm).  Nonetheless, the above quote is a good summary of Thoreau's philosophy and one that I have held true in my own life and try to uphold in everything I do.  While I have disagreed with quite a bit of what Thoreau has said (or at least what I think he was saying-gotta admit this was a tough read haha) I agree wholeheartedly with this chosen quote because if you never try to achieve the things you've dreamed then what by way of true happiness have you known but when we move toward attaining our dreams and making our lives spectacular, damn the risk and damn the consequences then we've already succeeded.

Thoreau Ch.2 and 4

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"Their train of clouds stretching far behind and rising higher and higher, going to heaven while the cars are going to Boston, conceals the sun for a minute and casts my distant field into the shade, a celestial train beside which the petty train of cars which hugs the earth is but the barb of the spear."

Throughout both chapters 2 and 4 (more so in 4) Thoreau is very critical of the technologically advanced world that is, much to his chagrin, growing quite rapidly around him.  As men become lazier and more reliant and dependent on their convenient ways rather than on the sweat of their own brow and the strength of their own backs Thoreau takes notice and I felt this quote was one (of many) good examples of his disdain in regard to it.  He describes that train as a spear which savagely cuts through the natural world around as it pollutes the skies blotting out the sun all in the name of  indifferent careless lazy convenience.

Politics, politics,politics

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"I do think, though, that most works must engage with their own specific period in ways that can be called political.  Let's say this: writers tend to be men and women who are interested in the world around them." (Foster 115)

I feel that all writers are absolutely influenced by the times in which they live and a work can definitely call upon details specific to that time.  I feel in this way that writing is political whether it is meant to be or not.  There are certian values and ideals of the society in which the work was written that can be found in nearly every work of literature, whether those values are upheld and praised, violated, or even critiqued they are still there; its practically inevitable. 

Its all in the Details Part II

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"In Huckleberry Finn as in Wordsworth's Lyrical ballads, the language of literature gains a new life by being violently torn loose from its established moorings." (Smith)

Probaby my absolute favorite thing about this work is the language which is masterfully manipulated and molded by Twain. The story is great, the characters are wondeful but for me at least, the language trumps them all. The accents used in the narration and dialouge are, in my opinion the best part of the book, they just add so much. Without them the book would be so much poorer, it would be like watching a film were each actor spoke plainly, with no depth, emotion, or feeling at all.  The malopropisms are some of the things I look forward to the most in this story; such as when the king and the duke are practicing their stage performance and the king mentions  an encore and it is spelled correctly but when the duke asks what an encore is it is spelled "onkore".  Little touches like these make this book for me.

Metaphors galore in the Fog

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"When it was daylight, here was the clear Ohio water in the shore, sure enough, and outside was the old regular Muddy!  So it was all up with Cairo." (Twain 158)

I found this particular event in the story to be a coupling of possible metaphors.  Firstly, and perhaps more obviously, Huck is in a perpetual fog throughout the story as to whether he should do the "right thing" and turn Jim in or help him escape slavery and do the "wrong thing" and whether these are in fact right and wrong respectively.  And it is in a literal fog that Huck and Jim lose their way.  Coincidence; I think not....

The second possible metaphor I thoughtof when reading this section is that Huck and JIm are attempting to reach the north (freedom) but they have been doing so by simply following the current.  Freedom cannot be attained by simply following the current, it must be fought for with all of one's energy and heart.  So it is the current that ulitimately keeps them form freedom and in fact takes them further from it.

December 2009

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