October 2009 Archives

Wiki Wiki Wack*

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I've actually read this chapter twice before now, when writing the first research paper.  It was really useful in helping me learn how to develop a good topic on something I could talk about for 6-8 pages.

"By using search engines to gain access to sites on the World Wide Web, you can also discover special topics directly related to your subject.  [...]  The well-known Google search engine yields startling and overwhelming results" (262).
                Edgar V. Roberts, Writing About Literature

This was the only part of the chapter that confused me.  Aren't we supposed to use only scholarly, peer-reviewed articles and other works?  Google would only provide sources guaranteeing a reduced grade.  However, after thinking about it, I realized that using a Google search could be beneficial to me because it could provide some more basic information that I normally wouldn't know.  I couldn't site those sources, but they could inspire ideas for my paper that I could then explore further using EBSCOhost.  

Another good idea is to do some research on Wikipedia.  One should never cite Wikipedia since anyone can edit it, and it can therefore be highly inaccurate.  However, the people who do put correct information on the site sometimes use genuine peer-reviewed articles and cite them at the bottom of the Wiki article.  By looking into those, I could find even more useful information for my paper.

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* I have rapping skills.

Of Golden Leaves and Furry Things

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Obviously, I should be a poet.

It was clear while reading Katherine Mansfield's short story, "Miss Brill," that the author put a lot of thought into every single word she used.  Her word choice was creative mostly in its subtlety, because I didn't really notice her detail in foreshadowing the first time I read it.  One such instance of this creativity exists in Mansfield's use of the season to symbolize Miss Brill's age and loneliness.  I suppose it's not the most original idea, to use the season as a symbol for a person's age, but the literary device was unique in this case because it was not the sole focus of the story.  Mostly, she focuses on the importance of the fur.

"Although it was so brilliantly fine - the blue sky powdered with gold and great spots of light like white whine splashed over the Jardins Publiques - Miss Brill was glad that she decided on her fur.  The air was motionless, but when you opened your mouth there was just a faint chill, like a chill from a glass of iced water before you sip, and now and again a leaf came drifting - from nowhere, from the sky.  Miss Brill put up her hand and touched her fur.  Dear little thing!  It was nice to feel it again" (348-349, emphasis mine).
            Kathering Mansfield, "Miss Brill"

At the beginning of the story, the setting is rather pleasant and symbolizes the bright, vibrant days of a person's life.  "Spots of light" filter through the "blue sky."  However, Mansfield begins to show the change in Miss Brill's perspective of herself, but especially the perspective of others regarding the character.  Miss Brill seems aware that her life is no longer as exciting as it was when she used to wear her fur, as is evident by the fact that "the air was motionless" - it's almost like she's trying to pause life and stay in her past.  However, she can't fight life, so an occasional leaf comes "drifting - from nowhere, from the sky," like a cosmic reminder that her life is different now.

The fur represents her connection to her past.  Miss Brill needs it to try to prevent getting older and out of fashion, alienated from the younger crowd in her surroundings.  She touches it and holds it, letting the memories come back to her.  No matter how much she wishes she can, she can't fight the aging process.

"Behind the rotunda the slender trees with yellow leaves down drooping" (349).

Here we see another piece of evidence signifying Miss Brill's age.  She prefers to watch the younger people passing by, but she's surrounded by the elderly that she finds "odd, silent."  The slender trees represent the youth around her, whereas the yellow leaves "drooping" from them represent Miss Brill clinging to something she can no longer have.  When she finally puts the fur away at the end of the story, the reader knows that Miss Brill has accepted the differences in her life.  She's not happy about them, but she accepts them nonetheless.

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Absence Makes the Heart ... Sad.

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"But if the while I think on thee, dear friend, / All losses are restored and sorrows end" (13-14).
        William Shakespeare, Sonnet 30

The reason this sonnet intrigues me is the ambiguity about the recipient of the poem.  Is the speaker addressing someone he's lost to "death's dateless night" (6), or is he speaking to someone alive but currently away from him?

On lines 3-12, the speaker laments over lost chances and lost friends, suggesting the recipient is one of those lost friends when the speaker changes the tone of the poem in the last two lines, a trademark change in Shakespeare's sonnets.  Since the speaker seems to be strolling down memory lane, it seems like the addressee has also died but the speaker is so grateful he was able to know this person that it makes up for his loss.  As Tennyson later said, "'Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all."

However, the first line slightly suggests the idea that the addressee is still alive and that he is simply away from the speaker, leaving the speaker in "sessions of sweet silent thought" (1).  The speaker then realizes that he shouldn't be upset about times past, because he has someone to make up for all of it.  Both interpretations are plausible.

PS: I hope I didn't knock anyone out with my amazing title this time.

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(d/dx)(x^2) = Waterworks

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"Then felt I like some watcher of the skies / When a new planet swims into his ken" (9-10).
            John Keats, "On First Looking into Chapman's Homer"

The reason this poem appealed to me the most is because it reflects a sentiment not restricted to literature.  For me personally, since I've never read the Odyssey or the Iliad,  I first thought about reading Chaucer.  It takes a while before you become familiar with the language, eventually giving you an "a-ha!" moment when it finally makes sense, just like an astronomer would feel when he realizes that mass in the sky is a planet.

However, the subject in which this feeling has been most prevalent for me was always math.  I love the study of math because it's kind of like a scientific art.  Despite that love, in high school, it always took me a couple problems and many tears before I could understand a new concept.  I would literally just sit in the classroom and cry while the teacher taught her lesson, and luckily I had the same teacher for 3 of my 4 years in high school so she was used to my occasional tears.  (Poor college algebra teacher... he never had the chance to get used to it and I'm sure it must have been rather awkward for him).  

Anyways, my favorite part about math class was the moment when it all made sense.  I remember in my senior calculus class, when we were learning how to graph the limit of a function, I cried while I did the entire worksheet packet.  I just could not understand what the point was at all.  However, the assignment finally made sense and in that exact moment, I felt like the entire world made sense.  Of course, I don't think the world could ever make total sense, but at the time, I was so enlightened that I felt like it could.  

I guess I'm getting a little ramble-y here, but this poem really reached out to me because it let me relive a bit of my past.

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Anned One More Mention

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"Another and better way of communicating joy is the following simile: "She felt as if she had just won the lottery."  Because readers easily understand the disbelief, excitement, exhilaration, and delight that such an event would bring, they also understand - and feel - the character's happiness.  It is the simile that evokes this perception and enables each reader to personalize the experience, for no simple description could help a reader comprehend the same degree of emotion" (140, emphasis not mine).
                                     Edgar V. Roberts, Writing About Literature

I feel like I'm always blogging about this, so I'm only going to mention it: Roberts details a different aspect of showing versus telling.  I had never heard of it before this year, so I'm starting to doubt the quality of my high school education since both Dr. Jerz and the textbook emphasize the idea so much.  Moving on...

"When I left Queen's [College] my future seemed to stretch out before me like a straight road.  I thought I could see along it for many a milestone.  Now there is a bend in it.  I don't know what lies around the bend, but I'm going to believe that the best does.  It has a fascination of its own, that bend, Marilla.  I wonder how the road beyond it goes--what there is of green glory and soft, checkered light and shadows--what new landscapes--what new beauties--what curves and hills and valleys further on."
            L. M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

It's probably extremely geeky to have a favorite simile and metaphor, but since I like to embrace the geek in me, I will admit to having one of each.  The reason I love this paragraph from chapter 38 of Anne of Green Gables is Montgomery's use of both simile and metaphor to express Anne's opinion at the time.  When Anne graduated from college, she was awarded a full scholarship to Redmond College to pursue a B.A. in English.  However, unfortunate circumstances got in the way and she decided to give up her scholarship to stay at home and help her guardian, Marilla.  In this paragraph, she explains her acceptance of the circumstances around her using simile and metaphor, something he does basically every time she speaks or thinks.

If Montgomery had written this paragraph as, "When I left school I knew what I was doing.  Now I don't, but I'm going to hope for the best to happen," the passage would be extremely boring and less artistic.  However, the simile and metaphors allows the reader to feel a bit of what Anne is feeling.  The possibly upcoming changes seem much more exciting and positive rather than unfortunate.  It almost makes me want to experience change, just so I can feel that "fascination," and that's the success of the metaphor.

PS: Thanks to Josie, I am now aware that there is a previously unpublished ninth book to the Anne of Green Gables series that was published on Monday, October 26 entitled The Blythes Are Quoted.  Who else is excited?

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Opposing Opin- Oh... Nevermind.

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An editorial from the New York Times, entitled "View From the Bridge," discusses the study of meteorological observations from the past as a means to understand the implications of the "pace of our changing climates."  The author provides background information about meteorology, specifically the inaccuracy of "meteorological data until the 19th or 20th centuries" and the contrasting accuracy of data from ships centuries beforehand.  Besides being exact, the data from captains' logs represents meteorological information from across the entire planet.  The University of Sunderland in Britain is going to attempt to "digitize the meteorological records from some 300 ships' logs dating back to 1760" so meteorologists today can study them with greater ease.

This editorial interested me because it's not what I expected in an editorial, yet it has to be one if the New York Times published it.  I guess I was just expecting a piece filled with opinions, which this editorial didn't really have until the last paragraph in which the author says, "the real impetus is getting a clearer vision of our planet's past in order to have a clearer vision of its possible future."  The author's word choice suggests his dedication to understanding the earth and taking care of it.

I read several other editorials before choosing to write about this one, and the major difference is that most of the editorials involved the author making an opposing claim to something and trying to persuade the reader to agree with that claim.  This editorial was more about informing the reader of a situation, not a controversy, and therefore required less opinions on the matter.  After all, who would argue that we shouldn't study meteorological data?  Studying it isn't going to hurt anyone or inhibit anyone's rights, so there's no need to fight against it, and therefore no need for the author to try to persuade people that studying meteorology is the right thing to do.  

Since I don't know much about editorials, and I've never been involved in news writing, I don't know if this is a good example of an editorial or not.  That's the exact reason I chose to blog about it, though.  Do you think this is a good example of an editorial?  Why/why not?  Even if you think it's well-written, do you think it belongs in the editorial section?

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Masquerade! Paper faces on parade...

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I've read this story five times this week to think of something to blog about.  I know the assignment is just to write a short little reaction, but I can't do that.  My geekiness threatens me and tells me that it will disown me if I do anything below two well-thought paragraphs, so... here they are, finally, though they aren't as creative as I wish they were.

"There were buffoons, there were improvisatori, there were ballet-dancers, there were musicians, there was Beauty, there was wine" (357).
                Edgar Allen Poe, The Masque of the Red Death

As I was reading this short story, I noticed that Poe capitalizes the word "Beauty," and it's the only word in the sentence capitalized (other than the first word).  Through close examination, it became obvious to me that Poe contrasts beauty with ugliness to expound on the results of vanity.

Throughout the short story, Poe focuses on detailing physical appearances, such as that of a victim of the Red Death.  A victim has "profuse bleeding at the pores" and "scarlet stains upon the body and especially upon the face," and because of those physical ineptitudes, he is "shut ... out from the aid and from the sympathy of the fellow-men" (356-357).  Such a person cannot fit in with Prospero's beautiful companions and is therefore abandoned in the disease-infested community.  

Poe also suggests that beauty is merely a facade, a "masquerade" (357), by his repeated use of words relating to masks.  Poe's insistence on the idea that the outward visage is unimportant is clear when the mask on the embodiment of the Red Death is found "untenanted by any tangible form" (360).  The mask covers nothing, just as the beauty of all of Prospero's guests does nothing to protect them from their deaths.

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Set the Symbolism for Dinner

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"If the scenes and materials of setting are highlighted or emphasized, they also may be taken as symbols through which the author expresses ideas" (112).
                Edgar V. Roberts, Writing About Literature

Immediately after reading this, I was reminded of Frost's poem, "Desert Places."  Frost really emphasizes the setting in the poem, so much so that it's in the title, making it the first thing the reader sees before doing any reading or analysis.  In high school, I was taught to examine the title in conjunction with the overall scope of a piece of literature in order to get a deeper analysis.  Therefore, when I read "Desert Places" a couple weeks ago for class, I had already examined the setting in the poem.

The speaker in "Desert Places" is removed from the setting.  He is simply going past it, and his absence from the actual scene is symbolic because it represents his disconnection from the world.  A lonely place is less lonely than his own being, and the snowy, deserted field represents that solitude.  The fact that the field is covered in snow is also representative of his emptiness because white snow implies blankness.

Even though I did analyze the setting when I first read "Desert Places," I don't always do that for every piece of literature I read.  I probably only did it for this poem because Frost made me realize the significance of the setting right from the title.  This chapter in Writing About Literature was a good reminder for me when it comes to how I read a story based on setting.

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Is He Eyeballing Me?

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Artie: What cartoonist could you know?  ...  Walt Disney??
Vladek: Yah!  Walt Disney!

            Maus by Art Spiegelman, page 133

This page of the book literally made me laugh out loud.  Again, I paid close attention to the illustrations as this scene takes place.  What amazes me is Spiegelman's ability to express emotion in the characters' faces just by adjusting their eyes.  For the most part, the characters don't have mouths (occasionally they have little marks at the end of their snouts on close-up shots, such as the one of Mala on page 132), so we never see them frowning or smiling.  All of the emotion is present in the characters' eyes, which is impressive because the eyes are mainly just little dots, angled differently to show the different emotions.

In the fifth square on page 133, Artie's eyes are simply little dots, no real expression in them as he goes through his bag, likely trying to stay out of Vladek's and Mala's squabble.  His eyes change in the sixth square, as he turns his head quickly (indicated by the line of action coming from where his head used to be in the previous square) and looks to Vladek for an explanation about which famous artist he could possibly know.  After all, as we learned earlier, Vladek didn't originally approve of Artie's career choice, so there's no wonder why Artie would be surprised that his father actually knows of a cartoonist.

Jokingly, Artie asks Vladek which cartoonist he knows in the seventh square.  "Walt Disney?" he asks.  Without the change in Artie's eyes, the reader might not realize that he's originally joking when he says Walt Disney.  The double question marks could suggest that Artie is angry, or getting defensive about the conversation.  However, because of the way his eyes are slanting down, the reader can tell that he's laughing a little.  This expression in his eyes continues in the eighth square as he goes to write down the conversation so as never to forget it.

Maybe it's not a big deal that Spiegelman paid this much attention to the detail in his illustrations, because all cartoonists might do the same in their work.  Nonetheless, it impressed me, and I found this scene in particular to be important to the rest of the book because it showed a little humor in an otherwise sad story.  It was kind of like a little symbol for hope; even after you've been through the possibly worst situation of human history, you can get to a point where you can still enjoy life.  That really spoke to me on an emotional level.

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Portfolio 002

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Funny story: I worked on my portfolio on Wednesday night, and was almost done with it.  All I had left to do was the xenoblogging section.  I saved, closed my laptop (though it was still on), and went to bed.  Today, when I got back from lunch, I open my laptop to learn that it restarted itself to install updates.  Not only did it not restore my portfolio file on Word, but it reverted everything I had saved back to its original... which was my first portfolio.  I didn't know it could do that!  Okay, so that wasn't quite so funny.  It was more unfortunate.  

I had a nice little intro blurb and everything saying how much I like blogging, but sometimes find it to be an inconvenience.  I wouldn't really call it an inconvenience - it's more like I find it difficult to always comment or blog on time since this semester got really work-heavy.  However, after I've done it, I always feel satisfied and accomplished with what I've done.  It's like the quote Josie once told me by Dorothy Parker: "I hate writing.  I love having written."  Except for me, it would be: "I hate blogging.  I love having blogged."  Now that my online class is over, I should have much more time to sleep and eat and other such things in addition to my homework :)

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Coverage: As I said above, I posted some of my blogs a little later than I wish I had.  Still, I blogged about each assigned reading and I put a lot of effort into each blog.

What's In a Name? - This blog examines the symbolic significance of Constance Ledbelly's name in Ann-Marie MacDonald's play, Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet).  Jessica Orlowski references my thoughts from my blog, which I also said in class, in her blog titled "Finding That Balance."

Insert Witty Title Here - Lame title, I know.  The blog itself, though, evaluates the success of MacDonald's feminist message in Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet).  Josie Rush links to my blog in her blog on the same topic, titles "Violence, Blood, Feminism, and Other Words that Scare People."

"Nature decays, but latinum lasts forever." - Symbolic imagery is such a pertinent element of William Butler Yeats' poem, "The Second Coming."  In this blog, I attempt to understand that symbolism.

'Member?  You 'member! - After reading chapter 12 of the Writing About Literature textbook, I reflect on my ability to write about a problem as well as my past experience with such writing.  I also examine the sample essay Roberts provides and how it helped me understand Robert Frost's poem, "Desert Places."

Meaningful Nothingness... Huh? - This blog examines the meaning of "Desert Places."  I also found some other analyses, so I use one written by Albert J. Von Frank to further my understanding of the poem.

Can Someone Fill Me In? - This was my favorite blog to write.  I noticed a specific reference and theme in Part One of Joy Williams' The Quick and the Dead and presented my research on the reference in this blog.  Josie refers to this blog in "Who Saw that Coming? We Did."

Infuso-what? - This blog covers The Quick and the Dead, Part Two.  Williams used a word in this section that I had never heard before, so I looked it up only to discover that she used it incorrectly (although I think it was an intentional mistake).  I expand on my thoughts about that word in this blog.

Symbolism Abounds - Again, the symbolism in The Quick and the Dead confuses the heck out of me.  Regardless of my confusion, I try to understand Williams' specific allusion to Greek mythology.

Review of a Review - In this blog, I examine a book review of Haruki Murakami's book, Kafka on the Shore.

I also blogged on the first four chapter of Maus, chapter 8 of Writing about Literature, and Masefield's poem, "Cargoes."  However, I thought those should be on the next portfolio since they aren't due until tomorrow and Monday.  I hope I'm correct in this assumption.

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Depth: I put a lot of effort into all of my blogs.  However, these blogs show me at the top of my game.

What's In a Name - The reason I think this blog really demonstrates depth is because of the research I put into it.  I examine Constance's name through research on topics ranging from the meaning of words to scientific facts and link to my resources.

Can Someone Fill Me In - I noticed the way Williams uses Latin in her writing, as well as a recurring image in the specific page I examine.  In this blog, I did even more research than I did in the above blog, examining her specific words and the symbolism behind them.

Infuso-what? - Even more research!  Williams uses a word I was with which I was unfamiliar, and instead of just skipping past it, I looked it up and discovered that she used the word incorrectly.  After doing the research, I examine why she would make an intentional mistake.

Symbolism Abounds - This blog illustrates, again, my ability to research and gain insight from outside sources.  Williams makes an allusion to ancient Greek mythology and I examine its significance after studying the mythology itself.

Review of a Review - I put a lot of thought into my analysis of Janet Maslin's review of Kafka on the Shore.  Additionally, I linked to more information on Haruki Murakami, the author of the book, as well as a tutorial on writing a book review.

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Interaction: I'm going to put some of my peers' blogs in this interaction section, because I feel like interaction and discussion are the same if I do them both on the conversations taking place in my own blogs.  Therefore, the following are my classmates' blogs that I returned to in order to provide more interaction amongst us. They are only the ones that I returned to the most while commenting.  Though they are not all listed here, I always commented on 2-4 of my classmates' blogs.

Jessica Orlowski, Foolscap... Hankie... Whate'er It May Be - Jess wonders how accurately MacDonald utilizes Shakespearean language in Goodnight Desdemona.  I looked in my Shakespeare anthology to see how close MacDonald was to Othello and Romeo and Juliet and told jess what I discovered.  I then asked her for her opinion on my discovery, return after she answered, and then provided my own opinion on the matter.

Melissa Schwenk, The Significance of a Birthday - Melissa examines the character of Constance Ledbelly and explains what she believes the significance is of the end of the play.  I provided my insight on the character, asked Melissa a couple questions to keep the discussion going, and returned to answer with my own thoughts after she replied to me.

Jessie Krehlik, Transcendental War, Anyone? - In my comment, I linked Jessie to one of Josie's blogs, hoping to spread the discussion to more than one blog.

Josie Rush, It's Repetitive.  And Redundant. - Josie makes a claim about "Desert Places," I politely disagree with her, she justifies her claim some more, and I realize that I don't feel as strongly as I originally did in my first comment.  It was a learning experience!

Josie Rush, "Your work is only as good as your concentra...Hey look--A cloud shaped like Snoopy!" - Josie and I express our opinions on Williams' use of stream of consciousness and try to determine its purpose over a rather long blog discussion.

Jessica Orlowski, A Slightly Angry Review of Another Review - Jess received a comment from an outside reader and I tried to jump in and support her because she didn't mean to make anyone upset by her review.

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Discussion: The following blogs inspired more discussion than others.  I was a bit disappointed in the lack of discussion for two of my blogs: What's In a Name? and Can Someone Fill Me In?  No one commented on the first, and only Carissa and Josie commented on the second, but I put a lot of work into the blogs themselves.  Ach!  I shouldn't complain.  I'll just go ahead and post my blogs with good discussions.

Insert Witty Title Here - I didn't think this blog was anything inspiring, but Josie came back to comment on it anyways.  Kayla responded to the blog giving her opinion on the feminism in Goodnight Desdemona as seen through Constance, and Josie returned to challenge her claim.

Can Someone Fill Me In? - As I said above, I was disappointed in the lack of discussion in this blog.  Yes, Carissa and Josie responded, but I felt like more people should have because I was so proud of this one.  Regardless, Carissa and Josie both provided very insightful comments.  Carissa even did some outside research herself!

Infuso-what? - Brooke and Josie bring more insight into my ponderings over Williams' intentional incorrect use of a word.  The discussion made me more aware of the significance of it.

Symbolism Abounds - I think the reason this blog received a lot of discussion was because the subject matter was interesting.  Not many people know about Greek mythology, and it's even more interesting when it's a symbol in another book.

Review of a Review - This blog likely inspired discussion because of the fact that I provided a tutorial on how to write book reviews.  Josie and Jess discuss what should - and shouldn't - be allowed in a book review.

Also, an outside reader (not one of my peers) commented on one of my older blogs, Confusion At Its Best.

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Timeliness: As I mentioned earlier, I fell a little behind for the blogs for this portfolio.  I like to think I made up for it by always being thorough in my blogs, but I know that doesn't make up for the lateness on some of them.  The following were completed in a timely manner:

What's In a Name? - Posted on Sunday, September 20, 2009 at 6:40PM.  Needed for class on Monday, September 21.

Insert Witty Title Here - Posted on September 22, 2009 at 1:33PM.  Needed for class on Wednesday, September 23.

Can Someone Fill Me In? - Posted on October 02, 2009 at 1:49AM.  Needed for class on Friday, October 02.

Review of a Review - Posted on October 12, 2009 at 12:34PM.  Needed for class on Wednesday, October 14.

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Xenoblogging: These are examples of my attempts to help the blogging efforts of my fellow students.

The Comment Primo - I was the first person to comment on the following blogs:

Ashley Pascoe, Get used to disappointment!~Westley, The Princess Bride

Josie Rush, Violence, Blood, Feminism, and Other Words that Scare People

Melissa Schwenk, Untrodden Politics

Josie Rush, Problem is Such a Strong Word...Let's Go with Exciting Logical Exercise. It'll Catch On

Carissa Altizer, The Monkey On Your Back Has Climbed Into Your Brain

Brooke Kuehn, What Lets You Do Bad Things?

Jess Orlowski, Charlotte's Web and Alice in Wonderland...

Kayla Lesko, Thank God That's Over With

Josie Rush, Writing a Review when the Book Puts No Step in Your Groove

The Comment Grande - I left long, insightful comments on the following blogs, with many of them linking to other websites and blogs.

Jessica Orlowski, Foolscap... Hankie... Whate'er It May Be

Melissa Schwenk, The Significance of a Birthday

Jessica Orlowski, Juxtaposition: Dancing Daffodils and Lustful Swans

Josie Rush, It's Repetitive.  And Redundant.

Josie Rush, "Your work is only as good as your concentra...Hey look--A cloud shaped like Snoopy!"

Jessica Orlowski, The Art of Drowning

The Comment Informative - The following blogs were ones in which I left a comment showing my knowledge of a specific subject.

Kayla Lesko, OMG, DISNEY PRINCESSES!

Brooke Kuehn, Sleeping in a Nursing Home

The Link Gracious: In my comments on these blogs, I link to the blogs of other students.

Jessie Krehlik, Transcendental War, Anyone?

Josie Rush, Walk the Line, Corvus, Walk the Line

Wildcard: This blog entry best represents me as a blogger:

Symbolism Abounds

BONUS: I wrote a tutorial on how to make embedded links on Seton Hill's blogging system. 

Must Have More Historical Graphic Novels!

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I now know how much historical accounts interest me, when written in the narrative form.  When I was younger, I loved historical fiction, but once I took eighth grade American History, I lost all interest in anything historical.  Some things still caught my attention, but it wasn't the same as when I was in elementary school.  Anyways, I read Persepolis last year in Topics in World Literature and I absolutely loved the experience.  It's hard to say that I "loved the book," because I feel insensitive to say that I loved a book about a real person's unbelievable struggles.  However, saying I loved the experience is absolutely true because I learned so much in a valuable way.

Persepolis and Maus are both graphic novels detailing the experiences of real people during extreme hardships.  Persepolis is about a girl growing up during the Iranian Revolution, having her rights taken away from her and her family.  I highly suggest it if you feel like you're gaining a lot from Maus.  It's similar in style, and it taught me so much about Iranian culture and history that the media tends to hide from us.  Anyways, let's move on to Maus specifically.

One of the main reasons I value this novel is the detail Spiegelman puts into every illustration.  It helps me understand the events of the book in such a profound way, an understanding I don't thing I would have from reading a straightforward history textbook.  On page 12, for example, Spiegelman focuses the illustration on his father's tattoo of his prisoner ID from his time in a concentration camp.  He doesn't have to point it out by words because the reader can see it.  I thought this is one of the defining moments regarding the details of Spiegelman's drawings because it allows him to show an important aspect of his father's story, without detracting from the current flow of the narrative.

Spiegelman's detail isn't present only in his drawings, but also in the narrative itself.  I got a sense of his father's personality throughout the novel so far, almost as if I know the man personally.  I've noticed that he gets sidetracked a lot, and it made me wonder: is it because of old age, or because he has so many traumatic memories that it's hard to keep everything straight?  Perhaps it's both.  I could never imagine being in his situation, and I admire this man incredibly, even though I don't know him personally and the only image I have of him is an illustrated mouse.  From that opinion alone, it's obvious this book is making a huge impression on me.  I have to buy Maus II!

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A How-To on Embedded Links

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I don't know if there's a tutorial for this somewhere on the SHU blogs, but since I wrote it for Jess, I figured I'd share.

If you don't know what an embedded link is, it's when you link to something like this instead of: http://blogs.setonhill.edu/KaryssaBlair/2009/10/symbolism_abounds.html

Here are two ways to do it:

1) When you go to create a blog entry, if you look on the right under the Title box, you should see a drop-down list with the word "Format" before it. It looks like This.

If you're in rich text format, it's less complicated to make an embedded link. Just type words, highlight them, and click the little button that looks like a linked chain here.

This box will pop up. Just paste the link, hit OK, and your text should now look like this. You now have an embedded link!

2) Now, when you're commenting on the course website to link our classmates to your blog, you don't have the shmancy option of rich text format. You just have to use plain old HTML code. It actually takes less explaining, but it takes longer to remember how to do it I guess.



Here's an example with one of my blogs:

 


Once you post it, you get this: Symbolism Abounds

If that makes no sense to you at all, you could always just go to the create entry page, make an embedded link like the first way I showed you, and then change the format from "rich text format" to "none." It will change this to this for you. Then you can just copy and paste that on the course website :)


Scope for Imagination

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"Shakespeare's speaker in 'Sonnet 73: That Time of Year Thou Mayst in Me Behold' (pages 102-103), for example, emphasizes that he is getting older and therefore closer to the time of his death.  Rather than stating this idea so uninterestingly, however, Shakespeare dramatizes it through the introduction of images of autumn, evening, and a dying fire" (130).
                    Edgar V. Roberts, Writing About Literature

As Roberts details in this chapter, though not in these exact words, imagery is the key factor in showing versus telling.  Shakespeare could have simply said the speaker was dying, but that would be hardly interesting at all.  By providing the imagery of things that relate to death in some way, the writing has a greater impact on the reader.  Instead of just acknowledging that the speaker is dying, the reader gets a deeper understanding of that death through the imagery.  He was once like a bright day, until twilight comes "after sunset fadeth in the West."  These words are much more effective because of the emotion behind them - an emotion the reader can feel instead of just read.

"In effect, you [the reader] are recreating the work in your own way through the controlled stimulation produced by the writer's words" (129).

The reason to show instead of tell when writing is to allow the reader to do their own interpretation.  As people have said in class (I think it was Josie, specifically), a writer's work belongs to the reader once it's been published.  I, personally, can't feel that connection and attachment to a piece of writing unless there's room for me to determine how the piece relates to me based on my own interpretation.  If Shakespeare, in the above sonnet, had said "this speaker is dying," that plainly, I wouldn't really care.  However, through the imagery, there's so much more room for imagination, and I can put myself in the speaker's or listener's place, thereby making my bond to the poem much stronger.  Does anyone else feel that way?

Here's a quote from L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables that seems to fit the mood of this blog: "Isn't it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about? It just makes me feel glad to be alive--it's such an interesting world. It wouldn't be half so interesting if we know all about everything, would it? There'd be no scope for imagination then, would there?"

Check out Melissa's blog for a different, but very valid, opinion.

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Dirty Rotten Symbolism

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"Dirty British coaster with the a salt-caked smoke-stack, / Butting through the Channel in the made March days" (Lines 11-12).
                John Masefield, "Cargoes"

I think Masefield wrote this poem as a way to question society of his time.  The three stanzas of this poem serve as reflections of three types/times of civilization.  The first stanza describes the cargoes of ancient ships as carrying "ivory, / and apes and peacocks, / sandalwood, cedarwood, and sweet white whine" (Lines 3-5).  Everything sounds grand, and almost regal since peacocks generally represent pride and whine gives the sense of the upper class.  Even the ship's destination is described as a "haven in sunny Palestine" (Line 2).  Nothing in this stanza displays negative imagery.

The second stanza, though depicting a different civilization through its cargo, also provides positive imagery to the reader.  This ship's cargo is full of "diamonds, / emeralds, amethysts, / topazes, cinnamons, and gold moidores" (Lines 8-10).  Again, the reader is given the sense of royalty and riches through the description of jewels and other valued items.  The ship journeys through the "Tropics by the palm-green shores" (Line 7), further suggesting a peaceful, wealthy trip.  I do not see any negative imagery here at all.

In the last stanza, however, the imagery is much darker and grimier.  Right away, Masefield describes the British ship as being "dirty" with a "salt-caked smoke-stack" (Line 11), suggesting the degradation that has occurred over time in society between that of the previous two stanzas and that of Masefield's England.  The ship's cargo seems poor and inferior to the cargo of previous, richer societies, a fact that is emphasized through Masefield's imagery.  The ship doesn't move as smoothly as the previous ones seemed to sail, as the British ship is described as "butting through the Channel in the mad March days" (Line 12).  Perhaps Masefield is using this imagery to suggest that British society has lost some of the better qualities of previous civilizations during the time Masefield was alive, when the steam engine was the world's most efficient means of transport.

Melissa provides a different but very interesting interpretation in her blog, Passage of Time.

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Review of a Review

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Kafka on the Shore, written by Haruki Murakami, was a success in Japan before it was even published thanks to the existence of preordering.  Its success quickly spread to other countries around the world once it was translated into English.  Janet Maslin, a journalist for the New York Times, published a review of Murakami's novel on January 31, 2005.  (NOTE: You may need to register to view the review.  Registration is free and you can do so here).

In her review, Maslin jumps right in and quotes a character's explanations for himself and his actions, without specifying which character she's speaking about and without citing the page from which she acquired the quote - I suppose she does this in order to prevent exposing spoilers.  She uses this quote as a means to introduce background information about the book.  The quote is rather strange and symbolic, like most of the novel, and by using it, Maslin is able to include other opinions on the book, such as the publisher's perspective.  

Throughout the review, Maslin continues to include strange, ambiguous quotes that make the reader wonder, "what is she talking about?"  However, that is beneficial for a review of Kafka on the Shore because the book itself makes the reader wonder the same.  Maslin even examines how the typeface adds to the confusing experience of reading Murakami's book.

A shift occurs in the sixth paragraph when Maslin begins to divulge more information in the form of plot summary.  She doesn't reveal too much, but just enough to hopefully pique the reader's interest.  She writes the rest of the review in this style.  

This review differs greatly from the other genres I've read.  It's unlike an essay, because it simply states occurrences from the novel without analyzing them or revealing too much of the importance of those occurrences to the overall meaning of the work, thereby preventing reader spoilage.  Also, the language is much more sophisticated than a book summary, or a Sparknotes page, because it is aimed at people who like to read and therefore have a more sophisticated vocabulary.  Maslin was obviously very familiar with the plot and Murakami's little intricacies, such as the symbols throughout the novel.  Of course, she didn't necessarily have to understand what those symbols meant, because this wasn't an analysis.  She did, however, let the reader know they're there so that he can be aware of them when he goes to read and analyze the book himself.

For more information on Haruki Murakami, check out his official website (Just FYI, music plays on the main page and I found it to be good music listen to while doing homework, such as while writing a book review).  If you wish to write book reviews yourself, look at this helpful tutorial from the Los Angeles Valley College.

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Symbolism Abounds

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"Carter had started thinking of the girls as the Three Fates.  He didn't know why this image should have lingered in his mind, except that he was a classical sort of fellow" (199).
                        Joy Williams, The Quick and the Dead

If Williams isn't going to just tell us why Carter thinks of the girls as the Three Fates (which is probably a good thing - how interesting would this book be if she told us everything she didn't?), we're left to wonder why.  Carter saw Annabel as Clotho - The Spinner, Alice as Atropos - The Cutter, and Corvus as Lachesis - The Measurer.  Interestingly, the only one of the Fates who's name he remembers is Atropos, the one who represents Alice in his mind.  Perhaps this thought foreshadows Carter's later request for Alice to kill his already dead wife since Atropos cuts the life of mortals.  The fact that he knows the name of Atropos signifies her later importance in this matter, unlike Clotho (Annabel) and Lachesis (Corvus).

Carter's comparisons foreshadow events not only for Alice, but for Corvus and Annabel as well.  The fact that Carter compares Corvus to the Measurer is especially intriguing, and perhaps answers some questions that I know I had while reading Part 3, such as: what happened to Corvus when she went to Green Palms that last time?  Lachesis, the Measurer and Corvus' counterpart, measures how long a person's life should be.  Maybe this symbolizes Corvus' power to determine her own fate, thereby implying that she chooses when her life should end by going to Green Palms.  I don't know if she literally ended her life when she went there, or if she only did so metaphorically.  Williams wants to keep us guessing.

Annabel's connection to the Clotho the Spinner was the most confusing to me.  When comparing her to Clotho, Carter describes Annabel as "good-hearted, a little unaware of what she was doing" (199).  Since Clotho was the creator of life, the one responsible for birth, Williams implies that life shouldn't even begin.  Clotho means well, but life doesn't always end well.  I'm not sure how this connects to Annabel, so I'm hoping someone will have an opinion on the matter.  Yes, Annabel is the most optimistic and good-hearted of the bunch, as we see in the desert scene with Ray.  However, I don't see the connection between her and the beginner of life.  Anyone else have an idea?

For more information on the Fates, go here.

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Infuso-what?

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Daisy: "Isn't water a remarkable element?  It's exempt from getting wet.  It's as exempt from getting wet as God is exempt from the power of love."

Alice: "I've heard that.  The first half anyway, somewhere."

Daisy: "I wouldn't be surprised.  Thoughts are infusorial."

                    Joy Williams, The Quick and the Dead (Page 169)

I originally intended to analyze the repetition of Daisy's sentiment about water, since Sherwin says the same thing earlier in the novel.  However, the meaning was once again above me, so I decided to analyze the reason Daisy calls thoughts "infusorial."  At first, I thought infusorial was just a word I had never heard before because it was from some sort of sophisticated vocabulary.  However, the reason I had never heard it, is that it typically doesn't apply to anything other than protozoa.

According to Dictionary.com, infusoria is "any of various microscopic organisms found in infusions of decaying organic matter," with infusorial a word describing something related to the infusorians.  What, then, does that imply about thoughts if they are infusorial?  Are thoughts "found in infusions of decaying organic material?"  The part about decaying organic material would somehow fit in with the theme of the rest of the book, so I'm sure it has to make sense somehow.  

Another possibility is that Williams used the wrong word, but that seems unlikely to me.  Since I don't understand a lot of what happens in this book, I can't say the following with absolute confidence: I still feel like Williams was extremely precise in what her characters says.  I don't think she would use the incorrect word unless she intended the character to say the incorrect word for some higher purpose.  Yet again, I'm thinking this is just another metaphor I can't understand.  Thoughts?

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Can someone fill me in?

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"Corvus saw owls falling.  This was how she felt it.  Her own soul witnessed it in this way; their great soft falling, the imago ignota of their alien faces" (93).
                The Quick and the Dead, Joy Williams

There are so many metaphors in this book.  I feel like I'm completely missing something as I read (but I have been enjoying the book nonetheless).  Therefore, this blog is an attempt to analyze the symbolism in this short paragraph, which occurs while Corvus burns herself and her house down.  I'm hoping some of my peers will try to provide some insight for this because I really think there must be some underlying meaning here.

Corvus is a Latin word for raven and it is also the name of the genus representing ravens and crows.  Owls are the number one predators of crows at night.  Is this significant somehow?  There must be some specific reason Williams chose Corvus as a name because really, how many people do you know named Corvus?  And the owl imagery on page 93 is so specific.  From what I've gathered, owls are not the victims of shootings so much as they are the assistants in capturing lesser birds in the sport of falconry.  Why does Williams describe the sound of Corvus's burning house as the sound of owls being shot?

Additionally, the fact that Williams uses a Latin phrase in this passage appears to represent something deeper to me.  Perhaps since Latin is technically a dead language, and death is the most prominent theme throughout this book, Williams chose to associate it with the girl who is surrounded the most by death (at least until this point).  Imago ignota means unknown image in Latin.  Why does Williams describe the owls' faces as being "alien?"  And why does she see "it," which I assume means her death, as the "great soft falling [of owls], the imago ignota of their alien faces" (93)?  I want to provide some speculation for all of this, but honestly, I'm baffled.  Any thoughts?  I think it would be great if we could get a real discussion about this, or any other part of the book that you thought had to mean something more that you were unsure about.

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