March 2009 Archives

Another Stop Along The Way...Portfolio 2

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Looking back on the entries of this portfolio and the comments, my main observation is that personally I am beginning to really struggle with not so much the concepts, but many the applications in this class. It appears that others are starting to encounter some difficulties as well whether it is with the concepts or with writing the casebooks. From this portfolio, I can see where I am struggling and what I need to try to accomplish and overcome before the final portfolio and especially the final research paper. Hopefully, from this portfolio to the final one, I can compare how far I have come.

~ Coverage ~

Here's a little bit of an introduction to my blogs. This category gives a wide variety of everything that I have blogged about so far in this course in my Portfolio One.


~ Depth ~

The blogs in this category were ones that I put a lot of time and thought into. They touched topics that I felt strongly about as well as topics that I was a little unsure about.

~ Blog Carnival~

It was a challenge to follow up such a great blog carnival as our group had last time, but we managed to pull it off. This time, our topic was a little more lively. We chose to apply a type of Literary Criticism to An Abundance of Katherines. Check out our carnival and see how it worked!

~ Interaction ~

The blogs listed below are packed with discussions with peers, linking to their blogs, and some comments that I left on other blogs. See how our class interacts to help each other understand each week's material.

~ Discussion ~

Some of my blogs were starting points for on going discussions with my peers. See what the hot topics were.

~ Timeliness ~

The links listed below are examples of blogs that I posted before their due dates.


In some of my blogs I linked to other websites and other blogs. See how these links helped out with my own discussions.


Something fun!


Thanks for checking out my portfolio. Let me know what you think about it!



Turn Wright at the Green Light

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"Lacanian and Derridean theory has enabled me to see patterns which undermine the stable meaning of the text, which I might not have seen and would certainly not have been able to make clear to myself otherwise" (Wright 399).

From the end section, I got the impression that Wright used Derrida's and Lacan's approach to postructuralism in order to derive some meaning from a text. From what I learned from Derrida, you can only get meaning out of a text (or anything else) using postructuralism if you ignore the fact that there is a never ending cycle in the search for a "complete meaning" or the origin of meaning. In other words, you can't take postructuralism to its full potential I guess or nothing would have any meaning.

Wright made another point in her essay that I related immediately to Young Adult Literature, which some of us are currently taking. Wright stated:

"Instead of treating the author virtually as an egoist we are treating him as the subject whom we could enlighten. We do this not by gleefully uncovering hidden meanings, but by helping new meanings to grow, meanings of which he had only a blurred view, because no on can project perfectly and infinetly into the future. Nevertheless, we should remember that it is the creative activity of the artist that has produced the text from which we can generate such a wealth of meanings" (399).

I immediately thought of An Abundance of Katherines by John Green. In one of the interviews we read from Green, he talked about how his readers know as much about his story and characters as he does and can probably read his book better than himself. In other words, I think author's interpretation of their own works are biased because the remember who or what they based each character or event off of and what they were thinking while they were writing. However, a reader who doesn't know this information could possibly have a completely different interpretation of the work because their view is not influenced by that impossible "origin of meaning" which according to postructuralism doesn't exist. So, I think I disucssed author's intent more than I did postructuralism with this one. Oh well.

Anyways, my muddy point for this article was when Wright was discussing Babo in relation to Delano. I especially didn't understand this quote: "The uncanny force of the shaving scene resides in the slave's actions being both signifier of his good intentions to Delano, the new master, and at the same time signifier of his bad ones to Cereno, his old master, whose death is the moment he anticipates" (Wright 396). What did she mean by stating that Delano was to be the new master? I got completely confused on this since I originally thought that Babo was trying to get rid of Delano and Cereno. Also, I got really confused around pages 397 and 398 when Wright started talking about the "father". I just didn't get it.

Overall, I still don't understand how I would apply this myself. It's still not coming together completely.


Derrida Interprets Interpreting Interpretation

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"Thus it has always been thought that the center, which is by definition unique, constituted that very thing within a structure which governs the structure, while escaping structurality. This is why classical thought concerning structure could say that the center is, paradoxically, within the structure and outside it. The center is at the center of the totality, and yet, since the center does not belong to the totality (is not part of the totality), the totality has its center elsewhere.The center is not the center" (Derrida 354).

My head was spinning after this article, even though I think I understood some of it. Derrida was interpreting the act of interpreting interpretation. A little confusing to say the least. I think Greta's explanation was helpful in pointing out that he is like us and looking at all his options and evaluating them. A lot of what he says makes sense, in that in order to criticize something, you have to have some knowledge of it and use that knowledge to make the critique. The quote above causes me to think just as Derrida claimed people think when discovering a center: here is the center, where did it come from or what created it? So, as he points out, its a never ending battle when thinking this way to try to determine what the "final center" is.

I started getting a little confused as the discussion progressed after introducing to us the idea of bricolage. I understand the original definition given of bricolage: "the necessity of borrowing one's concepts from the text of a heritage which is more orless coherent or ruined" (Derrida). I also understand the example given of the engineer. However, after this point is where things get a little complicated for me. I got lost when Derrida started talking more about history and about totalization. I think this is the area where my muddy point will be.

Even though I think I did understand some of what Derrida was discussing, I don't feel as if I could apply anything I am learning. I could look at a passage from Derrida and say what it means to me, as I did above, but I don't think I could apply the meaning to use it, not even to think up of an example from literature. So, although I feel as if I am able to understand these weekly essays more and more, something still isn't clicking. And, looking at our syllabus, my time to finally be able to understand how to apply what I'm learning is running out, especially before the final research paper.

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Keesey Has a Muddy Point Himself

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"Deconstructive criticism, then, is postructural in at least three senses: it comes after structuralism; it deconstructs the central concept of 'structure'; yet at the same time it continues many of the key ideas of structuralism, among them the ideas that humans are signifying creatures, that human cutlure is a system of sign systems, and that the source and pattern for those system is language" (Keesey 350).

It seems like Keesey is a little confused himself on how to create a definition for postructuralism. He points out all the characteristics of it, including deconstructive criticism, but it seems all to lead to the same observation: that if you were to take the actual definition of postructuralism literally, nothing in our world would have any meaning. Ever. Since everything is created by signs, including our culture, these signs have to rely on other signs/symbols to exist which in turn rely on other signs, and so on and so on. So, it seems to me Keesey is trying to create an explanation that could define postructuralism in a way that would give it the characteristic in finding meaning in something. He manages in way to define it, by saying that it pulls the text apart (deconstrutive criticism) to see how it works. However, even in his last paragraph, he notes that there is a key to forcing postructuralism to find something that has meaning: "By following the premises of our interpretative systems to their paradoxical conclusions, they remind us that we often achieve our insights by turning a blind eye to those impasses where our line of thought turns back upon itself" (Keesey 351). In other words, to stay sane not only with literary criticism, but with analyzing your life in general, you have to ignore trying to back track the never ending line of symbols that have to support each other and cause explanations to only run circles around each other.



"Meaning may well be ultimately undecidable if we view language contemplatively, as a chain of signifiers on a page; it becomes 'decidable', and words like 'truth', 'reality', 'knowledge' and 'certainty' have something of their force restored to them, when we think of language rather as something we do, as indissociable interwoven with our practical forms of life. It is not of course that language then becomes fixed and luminous: on the contrary, it becomes even more fraught and conflictual than the most 'deconstructed' literary text. It is just that we are then able to see, in a practical rather than academicist way, what would count as deciding, determining, persuadingm certainty, being truthful, falsifying and the rest -- and see, moreover, what beyond language itself is involved in such definitions. Anglo-American deonstruction largely ignores this real sphere of struggle, and continues to churn out its closed critical texts" (Eagleton 147).

There was a lot to learn from this Eagleton chapter. I think I got most of it, its only a matter of reorganizing all the information I learned and making sure everything falls into its correct place. First of all, I think it is important to understand that postructuralism is: "seeing it [the text] as irreducibly plural, an endless play of signifiers which can never be finally nailed down to a single centre, essence or meaning" (Eagleton 138). In other words, it is impossible to find any definate meaning in any literature or any explanation of literature. Even this blog entry I am writing could be deemed as meaningless because everyone who read it could have a different interpretation of it can it also could be taken apart and have nothing positive or useful left in it (deconstructionism).  

Poststructuralism's affect on society was that it brought up the idea that society really didn't have any solid truths, laws, or rules to base itself upon. This was caused by revealing the relationship between language and society: they are directly tied to each other and since language was determined as a kind of "failure" by poststructuralism because of its lack of a solid meaning, society itself had no solid foundation to stand upon. Eagleton related language and society's "signs" to each other in how they are both interchangeable and how the value placed on any one sign various from person to person. Eagleton stated, "Ideology seeks to convert culture into Nature, and the 'natural' sign is one of its weapons. Saluting a falg, or agreeing that Western democracy represents the true meaning of the word 'freedom', become the most obvious, spontaneous reponses in the world. Ideology, in this sense, is a kind of contemporary mythology, a realm which has purged itself of ambiguity and alternative possibility" (135). Through this quote, Eagleton describes that like language, society's values can be determined by interpretation of what is good and worthwhile and what should not be valued. The example of saluting a flag which is deeemed a value in our society, could be looked upon by someone else from another society and viewed as meaningless. In a way, this idea is a little scary in that it really made me look at personal values and some of our society's value and look at why they were so. These values are able to be questioned and changed perhaps because what they are based off of can be questioned and changed as well, just as with language and interpretation. For example, segregation was once valued; now it is no longer because what was basing the value of segretation is no longer deemed as right or moral. The same can go for personal values. Someone who is Christian and bases their values off of their faith can also have the possibility for change and questioning because others may study that faith and determine it meaningless or interpret it in another way. I feel like I could go on forever with this explanation and I'm only hoping that I'm not completely off the mark with explaining what I read (if I am let me know!!!!). 

However, despite the meaningless that appears from postructuralism, the original quote I picked above points out how society can put some meaning into truth, rules, and laws. This meaning, as Eagleton said, is created from what people actually do. I think we can go back to the example of segregation on this one. Segregation was once valued because it prevented one race from being socially permitted on the same level as another race. It was eventually devalued because of the negative consequences it had on people, from what this social value did. The negative effects segregation had on people wasn't necessarily all through language, but could be visibly seen as well through actions. This source of meaning is what prevents from society having a free for all because of ideas such as postructuralism; in a way it provides some sort of guidelines.

Eagelton's explantion of Postructuralism reminded me alot of our recent class. I could relate to Erica's article and presentation, Dr. Jerz's comments on the internet's effects on literature, and alot of connection to Dr. Jerz's explanation of Platonic Theory and the idea of the "perfect circle". I felt almost a little familiar with the information already because the style of the explanations were already so familiar to me from our past class.

There were several sections throughout this chapter that I noticed were very similiar to some of Erica's explanations about her article (which she did a great job with while underfire, by the way). Eagleton discussed that although many signifiers are used repeatedly, they don't necessarily have the same meaning everytime they are used.Eagleton said:

             "The fact that a sign can be reproduced is therefore part of its identity; but it is also what dividies its identity, because it can always be reproduced in a different context which changes its meaning. It is difficult to know what a sign 'originally' means, what its 'original' context was: we simply encounter it in many different situations, and although it must maintain a certain consistency across those situations in order to be an identifiable sign at all, because its context is always different it is never absolutely the same, never quite identical with itself" (129).     

I think Erica explained some of this in her presentation in how nothing written is really new because we are using the same symbols over again, just in different contexts.

Eaglton's discussion of changing symbols also related a little to the discussion of how the web has affected literature: "...a sprawling limitiless web where there is a constant interchange and circulation of elements, where none of the elements is absolutely definable and where everything is caught up and traced through everything else" (129). The web is like language, in order to explain a text, you have to use more text, just as to provide more information on a word or phrase on a website, you have to link to another website.

Finally, Dr. Jerz's explanation on "the perfect circle" kind of related to what I wrote above on how Eagleton explains how we find meaning in a society that appears to be meaningless. The perfect circle is an ideal that we base other circles off of, just as some truths and values in society are ideals as well. I might be stretching a little on this one, but thats what I thought of as I was reading this chapter. What did you think and what do you think about my explanations? 



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"It is the fundamental task of literary criticism to teach them, first by explaining what they need to know and then by showing how they may most efficiently acquire that knowledge. What they need to know, of course, are the conventions of literature, and here the only singing school is studying the monuments of themselves. That is, in the intertextual view, the study of literature cannot be based on psychology, anthropology, sociology, or biography, nor can it be grounded in religious, economic, or political history" (Keesey 271).

Well, it seems that Keesey throws some guidelines out there for us to try to figure out how intertextual criticism works. It seems we have to eliminate a lot of distractions when using this type of criticism. Once again, at least for me, I think it will still be hard to eliminate looking at the works historically. I just always think at some point in that kind of mindset, I think because it was the most easiest for me to follow.


Great Title

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 "The function, then, of this myster story is to enable us to read this sentence -- to re-read the whole story in order to set it in the right, hidden narrative. All through 'Benito Cereno' sentences change their meanings on re-reading" (Swann 324).

I loved the title of this essay and this sentence especially. I definately needed to re-read the entire story in order to find the hidden narrative because I missed most of it the first time around. Swann is right, "Benito Cereno" was a mystery in a way because it had the reader leaning one way in favor of a certain character or characters, when actually there were many hidden interpretations and messages.


No So Useless

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"As often in Shakespeare, the characters in The Tempest are invited to a meeting to be held after the play in which the puzzling features of their experiences will be explained to them. This seems a curious and unnecessary convention, but it is true to the situation of the drama, where the audience always knows more about what is going on than the characters do" (Frye 303).

Although Frye states somewhere in this paragraph that moments like these in a Shakespeare play aren't really necessary, I think they are useful because for the reader or the play audience, it helps to sum everything up even if it was obvious to them. All the plot lines that were interweaving and overlapping each other can be connected and brought fully to the surface. I think it also gives the audience a chance to pick up on something if they have missed it.


He Didn't Mean That...Did He?

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"In other words, women characters in film are usually presented as objects or as Other to the male protagonist and for the pleasure of the male viewer. Such objectification is mitigated only when strong women film personalities take over the role, making of it something not intended by writer or director" (Donovan 226).

It seems like everyone else thought was Donovan was pretty crazy, and I have to say this seemed a little out there. So is he saying in this quote that in movies when women are not portrayed as objects or as having a role less than the male actors involved, that this is caused only by the actress taking on the role and not originally inteded by the writer or director?


They Aren't Real

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"No study of character should ignore the fact that charcters in fiction participate in the dramatic and thematic structures of the works in which they appear and that the meaning of their behavior is often to be understood in terms of its function within these structures" (Paris 216).

Sometimes when I am writing a paper on a work, it is hard for me to refer to the work's characters as to what their imporance was in the work and their relation to it in general. I sometimes end up analyzing them or refering to them as if they had once actually existed. I know that for my final paper in this class, if I want to discuss any characters in my paper, this is one weakness I will have to look out for. Most of the time I do it without even realizing it.


Same Leads Way to Individuality

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"It is identity that makes individuality possible: poems are made out of the same images, just as poems in English are made out of the same language" (Frye 283).

 So Frye is saying that through some kind of identity, an individuality for a poem can be reached. Does that mean it has to identify with a certain kind or type of poem from the past, or does it mean just similar themes and images? How can haboring similiarity foster individuality? Does this similiarity(s) help with intertextual criticisim? I guess it would because in order to compare the two or use one to criticize another, they would have to have some similiarities.

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"An epigram (from the Greek word for 'inscription') has come to mean a witty saying in either verse or prose, concisely phrased and often satiric...originated in ancient Greece, where it was a brief verse intended for inscription on a monument" (Hamilton 19).

Hamilton also gives an example of an epigram:

"Words are like leaves; and where they most abound,

Much fruit of sense beneath is rarely found" (Hamilton 19).

So its a small little saying, poem like thing. Cute.


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"That is, in the intertextual view, the study of literature cannot be based on psychology, anthropology, sociology, or biography, nor can it be grounded in religious, economic, or political history. None of these contexts can directly tell us much about how literary conventions carry meaning. For similar reasons, the traditional genetic categories of author, period, and nation often often prove less than ideal organizing forms for the study of literature. From the i (271)

Words for Application

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I really enjoyed listening to Azar Nafisi. She seems like she manages to stay down to earth despite how intelligent she is. As an english and education major, her thoughts were very relatable to me and very inspiring for not only like me but for others who are staring at the future of a classroom of students in a time of economic crisis and having to persuade them that Shakespeare is important. I think my favorite part was when she touched upon the topic of "political correctness" and how all of us are offended too easily in this society we are living in. I couldn't agree with her more.

She made so many interesting points that I don't know which ones to talk about in my blog. Her point that we need to look beyond the culture and religion of a nation to the people, in reference to the standards women are forced to follow in other countries, really had an impact on me. I thought of our present situation with Iraq. Having several friends over seas and a few in Iraq right now for our military, I hate to say that my original opinion of Iraq's culture and people had been tainted by a one sided perspective. However, after taking what Dr. Nafisi said, I can see more purpose in what we are trying to achieve over there. I still won't admit either way if I agree with our presence over there or not, but Dr. Nafisi's point that we have to give more credit than what we do to that nation's history, culture, and especially its people is true. There is probably more to that culture than beating women for not dressing in heavy garments from head to foot or for preventing women from becoming uneducated. But now I realize that anything potentially good in Iraq is overshadowed by what we want to see. Many Americans view Iraq as completely bad, as something that cannot be made good without our interfence. Others see Iraq as something dangerous that we should stay away from. It seems like only the destruction and bad aspects of Iraq are always highlighted, but there is good. 

For the first time since the war in Iraq began, I happened to meet someone this year that helped me realize there is so much more going on over there than what we see. This meeting just so happens to relate alot to what Dr. Nafisi was talking about. I met Rafeef, a young teenage girl from Baghdad this year. Rafeef became an exchange student at the high school I used to attend. She explained to several of us her home life in Baghdad which was littered with nearby bomb explosions and unhealthy living conditions. Violence and poverty surrounded her, yet she and her family raised the money for her to come to America in order to receive a chance at an education. Here was a young girl who came from a country where education for women was almost completely prohibited, and yet her family still wanted her to get an education and found the means to do so. Her family was not reaching to violence to solve their problems, but rather to the younger generation and education. As Dr. Nafisi was commenting on the neglect of libraries and books, books is where Rafeef and her family were turning to for hope for their country and lives.

In relation to our class, I think alot of the points that Dr. Nafisi made are examples of how much interepretation of literature affects our lives. For example, she pointed out that for the economic crisis we are in today, politicians and economists are turning to the texts of the past in order to look at the successful processes used in to help our country regain build/regain its confidence in past hard times. Also, her story of how she taught an underground class of women the books that were considered forbidden in her country show that the interpretation of literature is not only important to learn about other ways of thinking and others' lives, but is even seen as dangerous and threatening to some countries.  

 Dr. Nafisi also gave some solid ground for me to stand on and actually accept that it's ok for me to have an English major. As Dr. Jerz mentioned before, I do have a practical side that tends to flare out at why I'm not doing something in the medical field that is more useful and work with material that is more tangible. However, Dr. Nafisi's speech did remind me of how imporant majors like English and majors in the humanities area are. So...I'll admit...I actually don't mind being an English major....for today at least.   

That Was Long

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"Segismundo's exchanges with Clotaldo and Basilio reveal what he has made of the law. Educated in the principles of sovereignty, he is well aware of the "rights" he enjoys through "natural law." The "grandeur" of power is something he possesses by right; Basilio, in assuming the authority to grant or deny this right, has acted as a "tyrant." Segismundo's knowledge of the law allows him to understand that he has been injured. He realizes he could call his father to account for denying him not only his patrimony, but also the most fundamental of human liberties. His understanding is, however, dangerously one-sided, in that he does not recognize limitation of any kind on his own conduct. In threatening to kill Clotaldo with his own hands he casts aside any sense of justice to satisfy his personal anger, in suggesting that Basilio has released him only because old age and senility forbid the old king from continuing to govern, he assumes that others act, as he does, to serve their own desires and interests" (Rupp)

Ok, so in this quote Rupp is saying that Segismundo originally reacts to people in a hostile way because he only knows that people have been hostile towards him and he thinks you can do whatever you feel like? I understand from part of the other online article that locking Segismundo in the tower had taken his free will away and had caused him to go crazy when presented with both free will and freedom. However, is it also caused by because once he learns who his father really is, he believes he could do harm to others to satisfy himself because his father had done harm to him to satisfy himself?

I liked in this article the comparisons between The Tempest and Life is a Dream. I definately didn't see all the connections when I originally read both plays. 



Not Completely Convinced

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"When 'The Yellow Wallpaper' was published she sent it to Weir Mitchell, whose strictures had kept her from attempting the pen during her own breakdown, thereby aggravating her illness, and she was delighted to learn, years later, that 'he had changed his treatment of nervous prostration since reading' her story" (Gilbert and Gubar 263).

"'The Yellow Wallpaper', which Gilman herself called 'a description of a case of nervous breakdown', recounts in the first person the experiences of a woman who is evidently suffering from a severe postpartum psychosis" (Gilbert and Gubar 262).

I happened to pick out one of the same quotes as Angela, but I had a different take on mine. Althought there was a lot of information in this article talking about the different writings styles between the genders, I noticed there was a lot of different approaches that Gilbert and Gubar took towards interpreting "The Yellow Wallpaper". First of all, they used Gilman's own claim on the story to determine what the theme of the short story was (we learned earlier that this doesn't always work because an author's personal intent will change over time and may not acutally cause the result that they intended). Another thing I noticed was the use of historical background which was shown by the first quote I have listed above. I thought both of these approaches had an interesting effect on the outcomes of Gilbert's and Gubar's determination of Gilman's intent.

On the actual discussion of gender in writing, I have to agree with Greta on this one. I don't think you can make the assumption that there are certain writing styles between male and female writers only because of their gender. Yes, there can be differences, but I don't know that there always can be definate differences based only on gender. Most of us kind of had a disucssion on gender recently when we read Stephen King's Carrie  in our Literature for Young Adults class. King was able to pull off writing about a young girl who in a sense was trapped in the torment of her community. If male authors can write from the view points of females and women write from the view points of males, then I don't think claims such as the one listed below can be made: "Women authors, however, reflect the literal reality of their own confinement in the constraints they depict, and so all at least begin with the same unconscious or conscious purpose in employing such spatial imagery" (Gilber and Gubar 261).



Over My Head... Again

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"Psychological critics, for example, though they often focus their attention on the author, and sometimes on the audience, will also frequently operate in the mimetic context. Whether followers of Freud, Jung, Lacan, Maslow, or some other leading figure, such critics bring to their reading a fully developed theory about the way people really behave, and why; and this provides a standard by which they can measure the accuracy of the poet's representations. Such critics are often pleased, but not at all surprised, to find that the great poets' vision of human nature agress with their own" (Keesey 209).

Does this mean that you can take any author's work and usualy mimetic criticism, can interpret to make it fit your own personal meaning? I don't understand how this approach works at all. What I do understand (at least I think, I'm not really sure) is that art can't really show a true demonstration/description of anything. Or something like that. I really didn't understand the rest of it which is unusual because I can usually understand most of what Keesey is saying (although I can never apply it correctly). How would I go about using this type of criticism? I can't tell if I really don't get it because I just don't get it or because I'm not understanding it because this library is so loud that I can't hear myself think anymore much less read. Anyways, now that I got that out of my system, how does this type of criticism work? If someone can help me out, I will really appreciate it.

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Not Much of a Difference

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SHU's production of "Life is a Dream" was good, although very slow moving. I think that's just how the play is supposed to be, very slow with little sequences of action every now and then. What I noticed also around me was that people complained a lot that they had no idea what was going on. Had I watched it without reading it first, I would have felt lost as well. I don't think it's one of those plays where you can watch without having any prior knowledge of its plot and still be able to follow along. Once again, it wasn't hard to follow because of the actors, but because of the script itself. There were several long monologues that I think were hard to follow because they provided so much important information all at once. I noticed that several people in the audience complained that they could not keep track of who was related to who....for example it took a while for them to realize that Segismundo was Basilio's son or that Clotaldo was Rosaura's father. Overall though, the actors were really good and if not for them the play would have really dragged.

I noticed that there where several differences between the translation we read and the translation the play used. However, I don't think anything was so majorly different that it changed the audience's take on anything. For example, when the soldiers were trying to mistakenly make Clarin prince, instead of using the soles vs. souls pun, instead the term was just "feet" and "footless". There were other instances such as where Segismundo met Astolfo for the first time and said "I'll say next time may the devil keep you" rather than "Next time I'll ask God not to keep you". Like I mentioned before, I reallly don't think any of the translation differences really had a huge impact. Maybe they did and I'm just missing something. Did anyone else notice something that was different and really made a difference to interpretation?

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