November 2007 Archives

Not A Gentleman


Welles, Citizen Kane
EL237--Writing About Literature

Remember the scene when Kane is being shaked down by Getty's for the governor's race. When Kane is telling Susan not to worry about this "gentleman". Getty's response is priceless:

Gentleman? I don't know what a gentleman is?

The fact is the selfishness on Kane is also very ungentlemanlike, but the problem is that he will not identify that there is a problem in the first place. By Kane wanting the world to love him and everything that he does, he is detached from the rest of the planet. In essence, he is already building Xanadu before he had started by isolating himself from reality. William Randolph Hearst (whom the movie is based on) at that time was looked at as detacted from the rest of the population. I watched a documentary about the clash between Hearst and Welles over Citizen Kane. Hearst at that time was known to be the megolomanic monster that Kane has become over time. We can see Kane as a huge comparison to the media/news mogul Rupert Murdoch, whose business seems to be on the matter of power and opinion than fact. Money seems to blind him from the truth that the people around him showed. He was willing to have his son's name dragged through the mud in order to prove that he could be governor.

Do you think that it was hard for Kane to change his ways because of the position that he was in?

Howl If You Hear Me


Howl and Other Poems, Ginsberg
EL237--Writing About Literature

Poetry is meant to be heard...

Exhibit A... Howl

Howl and the other poems in the chapbook are in itself a resistence to the norm and the destruction of political correctness before there was even a term called politcal correctness. I was just searching in a Wikipedia article at it stated that Ginsberg "saw the destructive forces of materialism and conformity in the United States at the time". That kind of a message needs to be in your face and over the top. The imagery of course is very compact but what about the structure of the poem itself. In Howl, GInsberg breaks almost every rule in the book by having notoriosly long lines and a saturation of repeated words and punctuation. In Canto II, the repitition of the name Moloch (a demon) shows the evil of society by association.

So does Howl has a message that is beyond the words?

I think so, that is the beauty of reading poetry. Once you see the pattern, you wonder how you could ever miss it.

Spiegel is Mirror in German


Huyssen, Of Mice And Mimesis: Reading Spiegelman With Adorno
EL237--Writing About Literature

Of course, there has to be a philosopher that we can follow when we analyze literature. In Maus, the Theodor Adorno method of mimesis could be seen as a magnifying aspect of the the plot. If you don't count the personification then all you can see is an actual veiw on a real aspect of history. Check out Huyssen's quote here:
Spiegelman's project is mimetic approximation not of the events themselves, but of the memories of his parents, and thus a construction of his own "post-memory" (Marianne Hirsch), then this mimesis is one that must remain fractured, frustrated, inhibited, incomplete.

Then there is more to it than the personification to Maus. It is a concentration of a memory of the source of the book (that would be the story of Vladek Spiegelman) and how the author put two and two together and make the connections within the story. In a story like this the question of accuracy in the Holocaust came up. Only direct sources in some of this situations only work, but as we discussed in class, that opportunity is fading away.

How does direct and indirect source affect the truth in a non-fiction?

A Touch of the Metaphorical Past


Staub, The Shoah Goes On and On: Rememberance and Representation in Art Spiegelman's Maus
EL 237--Writing about Literature

How do we see metaphors played out in a story will make or break it. Staub notices that an oral tradition in Vladek's home country made it possible for us to see what is going on in Maus. However, without the comic book format, the metaphor will go over our heads. In Maus I, there is a quote of Adolf Hitler: "The Jews are undoubtedly a race, but they are not human". Staub states that Spiegelman knew what he was doing by making everyone animals after that quote. It was a "straightforward metaphor for the dehumanization of victims that allows genocide to occur". Maybe we are seeing what we should not see about these groups of people via these metaphors.

Does the the races of animals shows the all of the struggles of this story?

As Dead as Disco


Goodbye to All That, Wasserman
EL237--Writing About Literature

The health of a society is always best measured by how it treats its weakest and most vulnerable citizens.

If that is the case, then the society of journalism is one step closer to hell (no offense). In a world that is so fast placed, we don't appreciate what literature does to improve our culture and society. Unless the books has a brand name attach to it, it will be a cold day in hell for a review or an ad for that book to be published. The title I choose is that public discourse about literature is now a dying beast on the side of the road of culture. Books don't bring too much money and that is why not a lot of people write. In my Writing of Poetry class, we discussed how poor writers (espiecially poets) could end up if they do not find an alternative to writing for a living. In the same sense, literature is losing it's fame and it has gone the way of the black and white television. I do have a question however:

Should we trust Journalism with the hope of reviving literature?

Maus II, Spiegelman
EL237--Writing About Literature

There is a paradox that Dr. Jerz had pointed out to me in my last blog. A black hitchiker is being discrimated by Vladek, who was discrimated by the Nazis. Hate seems to be in a unbreakable cycle that everyone is a part of. Even after the war was over, Vladek talks about the story of Gelber, how he tried to return to his home and was killed not by Nazis but by Poles who lived there. We think that when a war ends and the soldiers are off the battlefield that the hatred stays there, dying a slow death in the battlefield.

But the one thing I think that I noticed about Maus II as opposed to the first book is that the need to resist and the need to survive was highlighted. Vladek recalls the foiled plot to destroy one of the creamatorium in Auschwitz. Both physically and mentally Vladek and Art himself have to resist the urge to become the things that hate them. Spiegelman had written an article called Getting in Touch with My Inner Racist, where he fights those inner demons in a way that I was personally offended, but after reading Maus, I know his approach was a little unorthodox with things.

Soften The Blow


Maus, Spiegelman

EL237--Writing About Literature

In this confusing world of literature, we try to decipher when and how an author get his/her point across. In Maus, I see how personification to make certain races of people into a certain animal. With Germans as cats and Jews as mice it made me think of the assumption of the natural order that some people had against the Jewish nation. Like every Holocaust themed literature I read, very few people see Jews as good people. To personify them as mice made the reader sympathize with them because we know that the pigs (Poles) are selfish and greedy, the dogs (Americans) are out of touch on what is going on, and the cats (Germans) are deadly in the world of Maus. In the beginning of book one, Vladek's first line that really hit me was "If you lock them together in a room with no food for a week then you can see what it is, friends". Just looking at the art of the cover, I knew where this book was going. However, I did not expect that it was still at the level of violence as the actual events of the Holocaust. As I started book two, I realized that it should still be regarded as an actual account of a true Holocaust story. Be honest... Do you think that Maus made you pay attention to the story more with the personification or would Spiegelman have done a better job without it?

Prelude To A Graphic Novel

Spiegelman, Maus
EL 237--Writing About Literature

I don't know what to think about reading Maus. I'll tell you that it will be the first time that I will read a graphic novel in a classroom setting and that's for sure. I've always been told that "comic books" are bad for you and it will "rot your brain". I really don't understand how can a graphic novel cannot be use in the higher echelons of literary criticism and canonization. Sure we have Marvel and DC, but they are in the same column as Harry Potter, popular more than useful for literary criticism. Maus could be the thing that blend in popular devices and old-fashioned literary techniques together.