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February 28, 2006

holocaust complete?

Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby (1925) -- Jerz: American Lit II (EL 267)

“It was after we started with Gatsby toward the house that the gardener saw Wilson’s body a little way off in the grass, and the holocaust was complete.” (162)

holocaust: 1) a sacrifice consumed by fire. 2) a thorough destruction esp. involving loss of life.

I want to say I disagree that the holocaust was “complete” without Daisy and/or Tom. Gatsby and the two Wilsons does not satisfy my feelings about completeness. Tom used Wilson, the mechanic, as a tool to remove his competition. We learn later that Tom pointed Wilson in Gatsby’s direction, framing Gatsby for Myrtle’s accidental death, when I’m sure Tom also knew Daisy was driving.

Posted by MattHampton at 12:38 AM | Comments (3)

February 27, 2006

Blogging Portfolio 1

Portfolio 1 -- Jerz: American Lit II (EL 267)

Matt Hampton
28 February 2006

Blogging Portfolio 1 for EL267


Frost, “Mending Wall” and “After Apple-Picking”
Posted as a comment as I had yet to learn to blog.

Oster on “Desert Places”

The World Trade Center by David Lehman

A trifle difficult to believe
What if Mrs. Hale is wrong?
Blogs concerning the short play “Trifles” by Susan Gladspell

(Not so) Close reading details
Blog about Roberts, Chapter 2: Writing About a Close Reading

Pocket wisdom
Blog regarding “Bernice Bobs Her Hair” by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Inherent qualities
Blog about Roberts, Chapter 3: Writing About Character

Hey you birds, this just don’t add up.
Blog concerning The Adding Machine by Elmer Rice

Allegory begins with “A”
Blog about Roberts, Chapter 10: Writing About Symbolism and Allegory

Even Stevens …
Blog about poet Wallace Stevens and how his writing frustrated me.

we’ve GOT / rhy-THM
Blog about Roberts, Chapter 13: Writing About Prosody

Sweet William
Blog about poet William Carlos Williams and how I found him easier to understand than Wallace Stevens

Appointee view
Blog about Roberts, Chapter 4 (11th edition): Writing About Point of View. Sadly, no one got my play on words: Point of View/Appointee view – get it? Oh well.

Ashes and yellow windows
Blog regarding chapters 1-3 of “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Scrambled eggs
Blog regarding chapters 4-6 of “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Artful Dodger
Blog regarding chapters 7-9 of “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald

MLA, MLA doo-doo de doo-doo
Blog about Roberts, Appendix B: MLA Recommendations for Documenting Electronic Resources. Sadly, another title that went over everyone’s head (it’s a play on the Menah, Menah song).

Love or money
Blog concerning Chikako Kumamoto’s article about chicken, egg and Trimalchio references in “The Great Gatsby”.


Frost, “Mending Wall” and “After Apple-Picking”
I liked this because it was my first shot at poetry analysis. Our class discussion about “Mending Wall” lead me to do my close reading on “After Apple-Picking”.

Oster on “Desert Places”
My soliloquy on loneliness, but I’m afraid no one knew how to respond to it, so I got zero comments.

Pocket wisdom
The text from “Bernice” that I used garnered some thoughtful comments from Brenda Christeleit and Jennifer DiFulvio, among others. Kudos to them all.

Ashes and yellow windows
I liked this one because I think I recognized one of the key lines regarding Nick Carraway.


Closed Case?
My reaction to one of Sean Runt’s posts regarding the play “Trifles”

A trifle difficult to believe
What if Mrs. Hale is wrong?
In both of these, I tried to defend my point of view, but no one really wanted to buy my alternate view that the speculation didn’t convict Mr. Wright as the canary strangler. At least Jason Pugh gave me some support in the latter blog. We men have to stick together sometimes.

Hey you birds, this just don’t add up.
I respectfully tried to assert Zero in The Adding Machine was as flat as a pancake, but some folks just wouldn’t agree.

It’s important to mention the most popular blogs are not necessarily the best.

Inherent qualities
I got some good responses with this blog, in which I wrote about Robert’s definition of round characters and described the transformations Bernice undergoes in “Bernice Bobs Her Hair”.

A trifle difficult to believe
Much blogging back and forth about whether or not the evidence in “Trifles” was enough to concretely say Mr. Wright killed the canary. I argued there were alternative viewpoints.

Hey you birds, this just don’t add up.
In this blog about “The Adding Machine”, I decried the depressing outlook Rice gave us and basically said I didn’t like Mr. Zero because he was so doggone flat (a la Robert’s definition). And like a good brawl, this one spilled over into class the next day and I ended up conceding in a blog that maybe I sold Zero short.

Pocket wisdom
Another good exchange regarding “Bernice”, but I credit Marjorie’s quote about the difference between personal convictions of the young and old more than I do my own ability. Any time I can get Brenda and Jennifer to weigh in, I’m doing all right.


Hey you birds, this just don’t add up.
Again, many comments lead to a class discussion and my mea culpa. Maybe I should recant … hmmmm.

Inherent qualities
As I recall, this blog fell in line, intentionally or accidentally with our talk in class regarding Bernice’s transformation.

A trifle difficult to believe
It was the start of the semester, we were young and full of energy, we had just learned to blog and this play – generated perhaps the largest gender-based division of anything we’ve read so far. The women seemed to want to believe Mr. Wright killed the canary and the guys (Dr. Jerz being neutral when we could’ve used him) seemed to feel that was a rush to judgment.


honest Nick
My two bit opinion attached to Jennifer DiFulvio’s blog in which I suggested no one can be completely honest, as Nick Carraway says he is in “Gatsby”.

The Gatz outta the bag
Another comment grande on Brenda Christeleit's blog about Nick’s realization that Daisy was all about the money.
I followed that up with a double-shot regarding some idea I had about property being a theme in “Gatsby”, but I guess that goes hand in hand with money, doesn’t it?


Choose either Frost, “Mending Wall” or Oster on “Desert Places”
I poured a bit of myself into these with some personal anecdotes and maybe that wasn’t a great thing to do. It might have scared some people away. I pay more attention to the text now.

I also need to do a better job of spreading myself among my peers’ blogs and paying more attention to some of the things they say. Brenda does a good job at that. I think I can do more than I’m doing at the moment.

Posted by MattHampton at 12:54 PM | Comments (1)

February 26, 2006

Love or money

Article: Kumamoto -- Jerz: American Lit II (EL 267)

The eggs and fowl "are visual analogs for Fitzgerald's ironic gaze, obliguely trained on the bitter abilities of inherited rank and the magic of money to subvert genuine human connectives like love."

That's it, by George -- there are no examples of actual love in this story.

Tom and Daisy, the only married couple, don't really love one another (I'd say). I'd also question whether Daisy, loves her daughter.

To me, there was perhaps romance at one time between Daisy and Gatsby, but I'm not convinced Gatsby doesn't see Daisy as a goal to reach or an achievement. Their romance before the war might have been built on the fact that Gatsby told her he could support her and she believed him.

Nick and Jordan weren't really in love and Myrtle Wilson apparently didn't love her husband.

There's only the love of (or reliance on the comfort given by) money.

Posted by MattHampton at 11:10 AM | Comments (4)

The Artful Dodger

Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby (1925) -- Jerz: American Lit II (EL 267)

“A young major just out of the army and covered over with medals he got in the war. He was so hard up he had to keep on wearing his uniform because he couldn’t buy some regular clothes. First time I saw him was when he come into Winebrenner’s poolroom at Forty-third Street and asked for a job. He hadn’t eat anything for a couple of days. ‘Come on have some lunch with me,’ I said. He at more than four dollars’ worth of food in half an hour.”
“Did you start him in business?” I inquired.
“Start him! I made him.”
“I raised him up out of nothing, right out of the gutter.”

Something about that last line reminded me of Oliver Twist and Oliver’s “rescue” from the streets by Fagin, a Jew who ran a gang of thieves in Dicken’s story. Fagin is often portrayed in a way similar to Fitzgerald’s description of Wolfsheim.

And indeed, Gatsby, after his rescue from poverty, becomes Wolfsheim’s right-hand man, maybe making him Fitzgerald’s Artful Dodger?

Posted by MattHampton at 09:28 AM | Comments (1)

February 23, 2006

MLA, MLA doo-doo de doo-doo

Roberts, Appendix B -- Jerz: American Lit II (EL 267)

"By the same token, it is essential for you. when you are compiling your own list of works cited, to be absolutely accurate in reproducing the URL of your sources." (Roberts 314)

No kidding. I've been on the wrong end of that one before. So now, I make them hyperlinks and check 'em out before I'm done. Sometimes mistakes can be the best teachers.

Posted by MattHampton at 12:24 AM | Comments (1)

February 22, 2006

Scrambled eggs

Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby (1925) -- Jerz: American Lit II (EL 267)

"Who is the Gatsby anyhow?" demanded Tom suddenly. "Some big bootlegger?"
"Where'd you hear that?" I inquired.
"I didn't hear it. I imagined it. A lot of these newly rich people are just big bootleggers, you know."
"Not Gatsby," I said shortly. (Fitzgerald 107)

This exchange comes at the end of one the party Tom and Daisy attended at Gatsby's house.

We've spoken in class about the East Egg /West Egg difference when it comes to wealth. Tom speaks arrogantly about the source of Gatsby's money, but Tom did nothing to earn his except be born into a family of influence in Chicago.

It's never mentioned in the story, but maybe Tom's family earned its fortune a generation or so before as the result of some robber-baron arrangement, which, in some cases, was hardly more savory than bootlegging.

Nonetheless, this East/West division, I think, comes into play at the very end, (and I say this vaguely for those who have not read the entire book) when Nick looks through a window and Tom and Daisy's house and sees them speaking and comments it appears that they're nearly "conspiring".

I think when it all comes down to it, Daisy will align herself with East Egg wealth. This makes me wonder whether he "fling" with Gatsby is not to simply get back at Tom for the dalliances he's had.

Daisy even comments about it at the party I mentioned above.

"Go ahead," answered Daisy Genially, "and if you want to take down any addresses here's my little gold pencil." ... She looked around after a moment and told me the girl was "common but pretty," and I knew that except for the half-hour she'd been alone with Gatsby she wasn't having a good time." (105-6)

Posted by MattHampton at 07:43 AM | Comments (2)

February 20, 2006

Ashes and yellow windows

Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby (1925) -- Jerz: American Lit II (EL 267)

“Every one suspects himself of at least one of the cardinal virtues, and this is mine: I am one of the few honest people that I have ever known.”

I chose this line from the end of Chapter 3 probably due to recency, however, it stuck me with the same feeling as that of the line of advice about judging people in Chapter one. I suppose I felt it was foreshadowing and FSF would eventually tear down this Carraway truism before the book ends.

However, the book is so rich with lines I could post that nearly ever page has something to offer. I particularly like FSF’s descriptions about scenes or situations when he makes (through Carraway) a comparison.

His description of the valley of ashes at the beginning of Chapter 2 comes to mind. It continues on for a page and a half amid the mention of the pair of oversized spectacles still attached to the optometrist’s sign. I also enjoyed his description of the party in Tom/Mrs. Wilson’s apartment.

Here’s a good line: “Yet high over the city our line of yellow windows must have contributed their share of human secrecy to the casual watcher in the darkening streets, and I was him too, looking up and wondering. I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.”

It’s lines like that that keep people reading this book. Lines that are not only well planned and well written, (I can picture him writing that line over and over until he gets it the way he wants it) but also probe our understanding of things. Well done, old sport!

Posted by MattHampton at 10:00 AM | Comments (2)

Appointee view

Roberts, Ch. 5 -- Jerz: American Lit II (EL 267)

“In some works, authors mingle points of view in order to imitate reality. For example, many first-person narrators use various types of the third-person point of view during much of their narration. Authors may also vary points of view to sustain interest, create suspense, or put the burden of response entirely upon readers.”

As I read this, it occurred to me that F. Scott Fitzgerald mingles his points of view in The Great Gatsby. He speaks from the first person in Nick Carraway, who is a subject in the story aside from the narrator (third person). When Carraway becomes involved in a conversation with the other characters, we see a second person point of view (albeit briefly).

I’m not certain I’ve ever written anything worthwhile in the second person, except a greeting card. I imagine it would be very hard to sustain that point of view for any length of time. Roberts points out (perhaps for that reason) second person isn’t used that often.

It was drummed into my head at an early age that I should always use the third person point of view when I write, so I tend to use a lot of “One does this” and “if one feels that way”. Not very adept, am I?

These blog entries can be humbling experiences, if one chooses to use them that way. This reminds me of a scene from the movie "This is Spinal Tap", a spoof of heavy metal bands. In this particular scene, the lead guitarist of Spinal Tap compares his ability to that of real-life guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen, who is very good.

He whines and looks at his guitar and says in his fake-British accent, "Why bother? I may as well use it as a coffee table."

Posted by MattHampton at 09:27 AM | Comments (2)

February 15, 2006

Sweet William

William Carlos Williams -- Jerz: American Lit II (EL 267)

“Williams was a keen-eyed observer who described what he saw in words that, as Marianne Moore nicely put it, dogs and cats can understand. The commonplace, the tawdry, even the sordid, he said, all have their poetic uses if the imagination can lighten them.” (pg. 146, 11th ed.)

Here is another poet (like Wallace Stevens) who had a decent day job. So poetry was his hobby? Despite his philandering, I admire the determination it took to keep writing after the strokes he suffered.

He died in 1963 and Stevens in 1955, so these two were contemporaries yet I find Williams much easier to understand.

Posted by MattHampton at 01:08 AM | Comments (1)

February 14, 2006

we've GOT / rhy-THM

Roberts, Ch. 13 -- Jerz: American Lit II (EL 267)

“It is important to recognize that the formal rhythms of poetry are superimposed on the rhythms of natural speech, creating a tension between the two.”

This, first of all, explains why some lines are hard to read. The metrical pattern is unlike that in a book or short story because it's specifically constructed. I often find I'll stumble over a line and have to back up and run over it again before I can read it clearly.

Also, this (finally) explains why some lines in a poem might seem like they end abruptly and without point and the following line begins in mid-thought. It's the poet aiming to end the line with a specific metrical foot. To a dunce like me, it would appear as though the poet made a questionable judgment in splitting a single thought between two or more lines.

Despite the barrage of information in this chapter (and my inability to soak it all up at first), Roberts' section about prosody reaffirms some of my feelings toward Lehman's "The World Trade Center" . I never got the feeling Lehman was toying with prosody at all.

I'm sure I'll have to read that chapter again to understand it all.

Posted by MattHampton at 11:44 PM | Comments (3)

Poetry Slam 1 helped me understand Wallace Stevens

Poetry Cover Slam 1 -- Jerz: American Lit II (EL 267)

I have to admit when we discussed Terra's and Chris' interpretations of the two poems they read -- I got it. It was like magic and I began seeing things that I didn't notice before.

Now maybe those two poems really lent themselves to what we did on February 14, but it gives me hope just the same.

Posted by MattHampton at 12:34 PM | Comments (1)

February 13, 2006

Even Stevens ...

Wallace Stevens -- Jerz: American Lit II (EL 267)

... left me befuddled.

"His poems, like Faulkner's novels, are fascinating puzzles that reward repeated visits, though they will frustrate anyone insisting on literal meanings." (pg. 109, 11th ed.)

Count me among the frustrated. I wasn't really looking for literal meanings, but I was having a difficult time trying to understand what he was trying to say. I can't say that I ever arrived at a good answer.

I feel there must be something there to appreciate since the preamble in our books alludes to it, but right now, I don't have the Rosetta Stone to figure it out. I'm not looking for easy, but I don't believe I want hieroglyphics either.

I'd read a stanza and think I got something from it, but then the following stanza might as well have been written in Chinese for all the meaning I derived from it. I sometimes thought he was deliberately being cryptic.

I think it made me appreciate Robert Frost's ambiguity even more since you can maybe walk away with one or two meanings from his poems. But Stevens, as frustrating as it was to me, only gave glimpses about what he (might have) intended.

I would like to learn to appreciate Stevens for something, so I'll be interested to hear more about what I can glean from his work.

Posted by MattHampton at 01:53 AM | Comments (0)

My poetry slam reading

Ex 1-2b: Poetry Slam -- Jerz: American Lit II (EL 267)

I'd like to read WCW's "The Widow's Lament in Springtime" for my poetry slam topic.

Posted by MattHampton at 12:35 AM | Comments (0)

February 12, 2006

Allegory begins with "A"

Roberts, Ch. 10 -- Jerz: American Lit II (EL 267)

"Allegories are often concerned with morality and with religion but we may also find political and social allegories. To the degree that literary works are true not only because of the lives of their main characters, but also because of life generally."

So ... an allegory is sort of a moral threaded throughout the (longer) story. I think I get it, but I admit there's a fine line there between symbolism and allegory, as Roberts points out.

So the moral "slow and steady wins the race" (tortoise and the hare) would become more of an allegory if it were tangible in a longer story that a fable ... right?

Posted by MattHampton at 11:54 PM | Comments (2)

February 07, 2006

Hey you birds, this just don't add up.

Rice, The Adding Machine (1923) -- Jerz: American Lit II (EL 267)

“In short, how many souls are there who here, or hereafter, will be able to life up to a paradise – if there is one either here or hereafter – where everything will be of a bliss, of a sort, that such souls can profit in and understand.
To my mind this is the real importance of Mr. Rice’s play. I do not think that for a moment he means to imply that he believes necessarily in the philosophy of the hereafter which is expressed in his play, that his idea is that the Zero soul must of necessity go on and on through endless eternities to end in the endless sameness.”

Holy smoke! I read the play and waited for some sort of moral to jump to jump out at me and … nothing. So I read the foreword (sic) and that’s where I gleaned this little gem.

One thing that struck me is this was (according to the copyright) written just a few years after “Bernice Bobs Her Hair” and what a huge difference between the two. Fitzgerald’s short story dealt somewhat with immorality, but he handled it in a sanitized fashion.

Rice takes people from the other side of the tracks and he really draws a distinction from the upper crust with his characters’ lifestyle, their dialogue, their occupation, and the futility of their lives (he doesn’t even bother to name them – he gives them numbers as if to say they matter no more than numbers on a page). His characters are exceedingly rough around the edges and he places pitiful existences in an endless cycle of reincarnation. What a morbid way of seeing life!

Mr. Zero, his main character is exactly that. When given everything he wants, a paradise and the woman he adores, he still finds something wrong that ruins it all.

Are ALL the characters flat? There isn’t one character who reacts and changes, given his/her circumstances.

This isn’t a country club dance, that’s for certain. Give me a ticket on the next train to Eau Claire!

Posted by MattHampton at 11:08 PM | Comments (8)

February 06, 2006

Pocket wisdom

Fitzgerald, ''Bernice Bobs Her Hair'' (1920) -- Jerz: American Lit II (EL 267)

“People over forty can seldom be permanently convinced of anything. At eighteen our convictions are hills from which we look; at forty-five they are caves in which we hide.” (Bernice Bobs Her Hair, Section II, 20)

I like this line because it rolls off my tongue so neatly. It seems like a bit of wisdom I can stick in my back pocket, but I’m not certain it’s true. There are exceptions to every rule.

I suppose it speaks to the arrogance of youth versus the relatively reserved manner in which people act as they grow older. People can use their convictions like armor plating to prevent them from doing or experiencing anything new simply because the feel “it’s out of character.”

When we're young, all we're concerned about seems to be the superficial things. Clothes, hair, popularity, etc. When we mature and get older, character issues become more important.

The conversation between Marjorie and her mother (while Bernice lingered covertly in the hallway) from which the lines are taken is an example of the different perspectives of a younger person and one who has not only lived life, but also weathered some bad times too.

The neighbor in “Mending Wall” was convinced that good fences make good neighbors and he was determined to stick with that axiom simply because he always had. He was hiding behind his conviction and he wasn't about to put it under a microscope to examine its true worth. No amount of reasoning by Frost’s protagonist could dissuade him.

Posted by MattHampton at 02:21 AM | Comments (5)

Inherent qualities

Roberts on Character -- Jerz: American Lit II (EL 267)

“It is true that, like all human beings, round characters have inherent qualities that the circumstances of a story bring out, and therefore their full realization as characters is directly connected to the stories in which they live their lives.” (Pg. 68, 11th Ed.)

Regarding Fitzgerald’s short story Bernice Bobs Her Hair:

It seems Bernice’s transformation is directly tied to A) her desire to be popular and her submission and attention to Marjorie’s tutelage and B) the realization of the trap Marjorie set for her and her interesting solution for it.

I wonder: Bernice had been such a dependent person at the start of the story. The newfound popularity and attractiveness to boys she developed gave her confidence. That confidence resulted in the necessary amount of inner strength and independence she mustered to cut Marjorie’s braids. Had the old Bernice been faced with this dilemma, she would likely have whined and cried and acquiesced and done nothing about it.

I like the new, improved Bernice and the ending of the story.

Posted by MattHampton at 02:03 AM | Comments (5)

February 01, 2006

What if Mrs. Hale is wrong?

Glaspell, ''Trifles'' (1916) -- Jerz: American Lit II (EL 267)

It seems we've struck a consensus that Mr. Wright got what he deserved.

We seem to agree he was a man rotten to the core who was mean and controlling toward his wife.

But again, our only source for that information is Mrs. Hale, and she's not such a great neighbor, by her own admission. She hadn't visited the Wright's for over a year.

What if Mrs. Wright went loco in la cabeza and killed the canary herself and then turned on her husband while he slept?

What if the reason Mr. Wright didn't seem so nice was that he was a very private man who was dealing with a wife who was mentally ill? Wouldn't that make a person quiet, introverted, to the point people might misinterpret that as antisocial behavior? What if Mrs. Wright's crazy needlepoint is an indication she's dealing with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder?

Even Mrs. Hale admitted Mr. Wright didn't drink and he paid his bills. Okay, so he's not a saint. That doesn't automatically make him evil either.

And if the Hale's and the Wright's properties are adjoining farms in Nebraska (I think they mention Omaha by name), then their homes could literally be separated by miles. So it isn't as though Mrs. Hale can look out her kitchen window and see all the Wright's comings and goings. If she hadn't been there in a year, a lot could have happened in that time.

I say this to only suggest there are a few ways we can look at it. It occurs to me Gladspell gave us just enough information to allow our own biases and speculation to take over.

So without a confession or any testimony by Mrs. Wright, we've become the third party in the farmhouse kitchen and condemned a dead man based on hearsay.

Posted by MattHampton at 09:27 PM | Comments (2)