September 2009 Archives

Quit Being so Selfish!

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EL 266

"But if you want to read like a literature professor, you need to put aside your belief system, at least for the period during which you read, so you can see what the writer is trying to say" (Foster 120).

So many times I find myself at the very basic analysis stage of literature, relating it to myself. While that can be good sometimes, in order to develop a greater understanding of the work, I must put aside myself. Not every author was trying to write something that directly relates to me. They don't even know me!

It is more important to take a step back, forget what I know and what I believe, and simply take the work for what it is. Then I can really see the ties it has to other literature and compare it with other works, instead of myself.

Quite frankly, I don't find this type of reading enjoyable, but I know that it is necessary as an English Literature major. When your professor gives you an essay test on more than one work, he is not looking to see how much you felt the literature related to you,but instead how you relate the works using specific examples. Sometimes it just has to be done. 


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EL 266

"While England endeavors to cure the potato-rot, will not any endeavor to cure the brain-rot, which prevails so much more widely and fatally?" (Thoreau, ch 18 paragraph 7)

Yes, I agree once again with Thoreau. I think his point here is that society focuses to cure problems that may appear to be the most important, but in truth are not. He was referring to the Great Potato Famine that occurred in Ireland during 1845 -1852. The famine not only caused people to starve, lose jobs and economic status, but also caused a wave of English and Irish immigrants to America.  England, who received many crops from Ireland, was concerned about this problem on an economic scale. Their focus was on solving this problem, not educating the public.

I can see this happening today as well. Because of the "economic crisis" we are struggling so hard to put money into Federal Relief funds such as grocery assistance, cash assistance, and housing assistance. Our focus is on building up these programs so that those who have lost jobs (or those who live off the system) will be supported during this tough time. We should instead be focusing on educating them, so that when minimum wage jobs are cut, they can go to college, earn a degree, and find a better, higher paying job.

Many people believe that because they qualify to receive government benefits, they are entitled to them for life. They simply feel that they cannot go back to work for one reason or another. Our society has made it so easy for this to happen that almost anyone can claim that they are "unable to work." This is exactly the kind of brain-rot that Thoreau was speaking of. With a little bit of education and a shove, many more Americans can find themselves contributing to society.

The Choice is Ours

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EL 266

"I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavor" (Walden chapter 2)

I have heard the first quote many, many times throughout my life, and each time it seems to have a different meaning. In this great world, man has been given the ultimate choice of where he will end up. That is what keeps us going, right? I mean, why else would we be going to college? Working at our jobs? Doing anything else that pushes us forward? We work hard in high school to get into a good college, then we work hard in college to get a good job, then we work hard at that job to get a raise, and the list goes on. Throughout each season in our life, we are able to reach higher levels of pay, education, and the quality of life we life. But is that it?

No, I think Thoreau follows up on this quote in chapter 4 of Walden when he says, "Will you be a reader, a student merely, or a seer? Read your fate, see what is before you, and walk on into futurity."  We have the choice to determine not only what we do but who we are. It is up to us to be all that we can be.  I don't believe that we were fated to become something.  The choice is up to us. If fate were an issue, I would most definitely NOT be at Seton Hill. Life has a way of putting blocks in our way, making things difficult, but it us up to us to make it happen.  We can be merely students, passively pursuing our academics, or we can elevate our lives by our own choice. Hard work and conscious effort go a long way, and I am glad that Thoreau agrees.

Down to the Wire

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As Dr. Jerz mentioned in his recent email, everything is coming down to the wire.

The semester seems to be in full swing, and each class is demanding more from its students. When I ask fellow classmates how they are doing I normally get the reply, "busy". Everyone seems to be studying, writing papers and working on group projects. While part of me loves this, the other part of me is thinking, "why did you get yourself into this?!"

Don't get me wrong, I LOVE all of my classes. School has always been something that I enjoy. If I could take more classes, I would, but I tend to over- commit myself when it comes to work. I thought I could handle 30 hours at Wal-Mart, 12 hours as the Internship Assistant in CareerWorks, driving back and forth, and 17 credits. What the heck was I thinking!?!?!

This especially came to mind as I was revising my paper today. I like to read what I wrote aloud to make sure it flows well and makes sense. Honestly, I have no clue why I wrote half of the things that I did. I must have been half asleep when I was creating the first draft. Luckily I was able to catch all of the nonsense in my paper and didn't have to submit the original draft.

Thank goodness for revision!

Blogging Portfolio

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This entry contains the Blogging Portfolio 1 for the Fall 2009 semester of American Literature. I have included links to entries from my own blog as well as from classmates blogs. The portfolio demonstrates coverage, depth, interaction, discussion, timeliness, xenoblogging and a contains wild-card entry. Hope you enjoy!

Coverage: A compete list of blogs thus far.

Just a little Faith: Not only was Goodman Brown's personal faith being tested, but his faith in his wife was as well. "Young Goodman Brown"

Behind the Mask: The masked figure in "The Masque of the Red Death" is the personification of death.  "The Masque of the Red Death"

Life and Death: Are these our only commonalities? How to Read Literature like a Professor (1-3)

Shelter: Hester Prynne was able to find shelter despite all eyes upon her. The Scarlet Letter (1-6)

No Sunshine: Because of such harsh circumstances, there was no sunshine for Hester Prynne to behold, or to bestow upon Pearl. The Scarlet Letter (7-14).

Thunder, Lightning and the Bible: Sometimes, no matter how hard we search, meaning evades us. How to Read Literature like a Professor (6-8).

Set Upon the Heart:Whether the mark is worn in public or it is set upon the heart, it burns the same. The Scarlet Letter (14-21).

Red Flames:Secrets burn like red flames in the dark. The Scarlet Letter (19-24).

Strangeness and Familiarity: I hate to read the same stories twice. How to Read Literature like a Professor (8-10).

What a Creeper: The woman in the wallpaper, and our author happens to be one in the same. "The Yellow Wallpaper"
Judgmental: The author of "Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street" happens to be very observant and judgmental. "Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street"

In the Eye of the Beholder: Different view points have a habit of making literary discussions interesting. How to Read Literature like a Professor  (Interlude, 11, 12)

Depth: Blogs that I have gone into detail about and have drawn specific conclusions about plot, characters, or the story in general.

Shelter: The Scarlet Letter (1-6)

Set Upon the Heart: The Scarlet Letter (14-21)

What a Creeper: "The Yellow Wallpaper"

Just a little Faith "Young Goodman Brown"

Interaction: Comments I have posted on the blogs of peers that have sparked discussion or added insight into what was being discussed

Jamie Grace - Meaning of Reading
Heather Mourick - My Dirty Little Secret
David Wilbanks: Real Vampires Don't Sparkle

: Blogs of mine that have sparked discussion online or in class.

Behind the Mask:  "The Masque of the Red Death"
Shelter: The Scarlet Letter (1-6)
No Sunshine:  The Scarlet Letter (7-14)
Set Upon the Heart: The Scarlet Letter (14-21)
Strangeness and Familiarity: How to Read Literature like a Professor (8-10)

Timeliness: All of my blogs have been posted before the deadline, but these have been posted early enough to spark discussion before class.

Behind the Mask:  "The Masque of the Red Death"
Shelter: The Scarlet Letter (1-6)
What a Creeper: "The Yellow Wallpaper"
Judgmental: "Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street"

Xenoblogging: These are comments I have left on the blogs of peers that demonstrate an understanding of the post and promote or encourage discussion.

David Wilbanks: Real Vampires Don't Sparkle
Heather Mourick: Answers, Answers, who's got the answers?
Kayla Lesko: A Vampire that Doesn't Suck Blood
Wild Card: An entry of my choice!

Down to the Wire

In the Eye of the Beholder

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EL 266


"The authority I bring to these readings is that of my own background and experience.... One of the pleasures of literary scholarship lies in encountering different and even conflicting interpretation" (Foster 105)

Elementary my dear Foster, Elementary!

I could not agree more with this point. I actually believe this is what convinced me to become a literature major. Where else could you take classes and discuss literary works with a roomful of other people who all share different experiences and backgrounds?! Each person brings a new perspective to the work, and we are able to be enlightened by a new point of view.

It is up to us to decide how seriously to take each interpretation, because as shown in class, many different claims can be made about a work. There must be evidence to support its validity.


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 EL 266

"I am one of those unambitious lawyers who never addresses a jury, or in any way draws down public applause; but in the cool tranquility of a snug retreat, do a snug business among rich men's bonds and mortgages and title-deeds" (Melville 1).


For a very unambitious lawyer, this elderly author seems to be quite judgmental. He goes into great detail describing those who work for him, speaking little of their positive attributes and much of their eccentricities. The lovely nicknames, "Turkey," "Nippers," and "Ginger Nut" attest the fact that this author focuses on the eccentric aspects of his employees.

Turkey gets his name from his red face and crazy actions after noon, while Nippers is very testy and irritable. Ginger Nut likes to put various nuts in his drawer.

By pointing out these attributes his employees the author tells us a lot about himself. First, he notices detail, and he also pays more attention to his workers than to his work. In the quote, he even seems to mention the fact that he is rather lazy. He doesn't particularly like to work, but would rather observe what is going on around him. 

He may not be a great lawyer, but he is an excellent observer.


What a Creeper

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EL 266 - The Yellow Wall Paper

"The color is repellent, almost revolting; a smoldering unclean yellow, strangely faded by the slow-turning sunlight" (Perkins-Gilman 1)


Even though the author of this story appears to be describing the ugly yellow wall paper that has transfixed her attention, she is actually describing herself.

First, her demeanor seems to be repellent. It is almost as if she does not want people around. Toward the end of the story, the author even asks that Jennie, the maid, leave her alone to "rest." This has been asked numerous times, all because the author wants to be alone. Even her husband stays far from her, although his avoidance is much less intentional as is the town doctor.

The author's complexion is a rather sickly pallor, much like the "smoldering unclean yellow" of the wall paper. In adaptation, the author believes that the wall paper forms the shape of a woman, "stooping down and creeping about" (5).  This is not the first time the word 'creep' has been used and in fact the author says, "I always lock the door when I creep by daylight" (8). 

From the beginning of the story, multiple connections are made with the "woman in the wall paper" and the author. Both women are behind bars and the author seems trapped not only in the summer house, but also by her own delusional mind.


Strangeness and Familiarity

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"Here's what I think we do: we want strangeness in our stories, but we want familiarity, too." (Foster 63).

I could not agree more with Foster. I HATE to read the same stories twice, and even hate to see a movie twice. I guess I just think I could be reading something new with the same time that I was using to re-read the old. Also, if a story reminds me too much of another story, I will immediately put the book down because I most likely know the ending, and I don't really want to know the ending.

However, when reading through any book, it is interesting to compare and contrast it to works that I have read previously. The stories are generally different, but have commonalities (as most do).

Red Flames - Scarlet Letter (19-24)

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"We may all see it in the sunshine; and it glows like a red flame in the dark."

Mistress Hibbins was speaking to Pearl and Hester in the market place when she said this comment about the scarlet letter. She understood that Hester bore her shame in public, but it was seen in the sunshine. It seems that showing the scarlet letter in the sunshine would be much less harsh than keeping it in the dark. The first piece of the sentence gives a much brighter connotation than the second, mentioning "red flames."

It is possible she was referring to the flames of hell, or to the flames of passion. Either way, she was pointing out that when the secret is hidden, its burn is much more intense. For Dimmesdale, who had no outward expression of his shame, the secret seemed to burn his very soul. So much so that he had to torture himself for his shame and that he became physically ill.

Set Upon the Heart - The Scarlet Letter (14-21)

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"Is it because, when the minister wrote his name in the book the Black Man set his mark in that place? But why does he not wear it outside on his bosom, as thou dost, mother?"

Here Pearl asks the questions that everyone else was thinking. Why doesn't the minister wear his mark on the outside and bear his sin to the world? For that matter, does he even have a true mark? And how would Pearl know about his self-inflicted torture? Or is she speaking figuratively about the mark of the, "Black Man"?

All of these questions can be raised by a few simple sentences of Pearl's speech. It seems as if Hawthorne included her speaking in the story to voice what the readers are asking themselves. Almost the whole story I was wondering why Dimmesdale did not just confess to being the father of Hester's child. Then all of his suffering would have been over and he would have been able to come to terms with his guilt.

Also, was it really Satan that was making the minister suffer? I don't believe that for one minute, because he minister was making himself suffer. He was not concerned with the actual sin, but with the fear that the public might find out what he had done. This made Chillingworth's task much easier because he could pay on the minister's guilt. Dimmesdale was making his situation much worse by refusing to own up to his own mistake.

Thunder, Lightning and the Bible

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" Something subtle happens there, but no thunder and lightning" (Foster 55)

At times I find myself searching so hard for meaning in text, especially when I am reading for a class and would like to say something interesting or at least have an insight to present. Foster suggests that while we may see references between the work we are reading and one we have already read, fireworks may not always happen.

I feel the same way. At times I find similarities between works, but when analyzing them my words just get jumbled. I think it is more important to look at what light the outside story can bring to what I am currently reading. Does this make the characters actions have a different meaning? What about the plot? Is it a parody or does it suggest something else?

When comparing to the Bible, similarities are much easier to recognize for our society. We have been so used to hearing Biblical references for most of our lives, so these cues seem to come naturally, regardless of our individual beliefs.

No Sunshine (Scarlet Letter 7-14)

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" 'No my little Pear!' said her mother. ' Thou must gather thine own sunshine. I have none to give thee!" (Hawthorne 95).

Even though this was said to discourage Pearl from touching the walls of Governor Bellingham's house, Hester said, "I have no sunshine to give thee." Indeed, Hester had no joy to share with her daughter. Almost every word she spoke to her daughter reflected a harsh tone. The whole story thus far has had such dark tones and there has not yet been any sunshine for Hester or Pearl.

Shelter (Scarlet Letter 1-6)

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"Dreadful as it was, she was conscious of a shelter in the presence of these thousand witnesses" (Hawthorne 58).

One of the biggest fears today is public speaking and standing in front of an audience. Unfortunately for Hester Prynne, she not only had to be afraid of standing in front of the public, but also facing their scorn. The whole town had come to bear witness to her shame. Even the students were given a half-day of school to see the spectacle. (Hawthorne 50). This meant that hundreds of eyes would have been upon her, the Scarlett Letter embroidered on her dress, and her infant daughter.

As dreadful as her punishment was, Hester had somehow found shelter from the gaze of the townspeople. Her first form of shelter was in her own memory, as she tried to forget the reality of her predicament. Then later, her eye caught that of a stranger, someone whom she seemed to recognize from her past. When looking at this stranger, all else seemed to fade away. When their eyes met, "all other objects in the visible world seemed to vanish, leaving only him and her" (Hawthorne 58). Even Hester's own daughter seemed to vanish from her view. This definitely suggests a strong connection between the two.

For Hester, there was an escape to her punishment. In her own mind and in the gaze of the stranger, she was able to find shelter from the eyes of the town.

Life and Death

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"Next to our morality, which comes to great and small equally, all the differences in our lives are mere surface details" (Foster 14).

Foster points this out to make us realize that all people's lives follow the same basic pattern: we are born, we live, and we die. The only thing that really changes is how we live. In the same way, when creating characters in a novel, we first create them to serve a purpose. The details are up to us. Do we want them to be good? To be happy? Moral? Immoral? Well-Liked? Oppressed?  But despite all of our planning, each story generally has characters moving through time, and their lives often follow patterns.

The author points out that death and life are all things we share, and sometimes it takes a good story or character to make us realize that fact.

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