The End of Endgame (It did end!)
Watching the film version of the play certainly helped me to picture and understand what was going on in the text. Originally, when I had started reading the text, I pictured Clov as much older. The description of his uneven gait contributed to my imagining him as a frail old man. I had trouble picturing the movements of the characters because they were so repetitive and strange. As I continued reading, it became clearer that this was the point. The conversations between Clov and Hamm were full of repetition and seemed to go nowhere. Hamm asks if it's time for medicine. Clov says no. Hamm frustrates or mistreats Clov in some way, Clov leaves, and Hamm says to no one, "We're getting on." Learning in lecture that Hamm and Clov represent the relationship between a colony and the colonizing empire was incredibly enlightening. I had thought perhaps they were representations of the relationship between man and God, but understanding Beckett's intention cleared things up. The more I thought about it, the more I appreciated his metaphor. The colonizing empire once was once powerful, but at a point is not longer necessary or viable. The relationship between the two is one of mutual dependency; a blind old man dependant on a young man who once relied on his help to survive.
Continuing Endgame (I'm beginning to doubt there is even an end)
We discussed the heavy use of irony in modernist works that serve to critique the Victorian Era. Sometimes, irony is present in the title, like with T.S. Eliot's The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock. I feel like the title may be another example of this irony. Hamm tells stories that have no end. There is only variation. Clov talks of leaving, but never does. They look outside as if expecting some change, but all there is to see is gray. There is zero. I wondered as I read if maybe Hamm represented God. The exchange between the two characters where Hamm says, "You don't love me." Clov replies, "Once." Hamm responds, "I've made you suffer too much." I'm not terribly sure, and I don't think I will be until the end (if it ever actually does end), but I think that the characters do represent the relationship between God and man. Hamm served as Clov's father and his house became his home. Hamm keeps saying, "We're getting on" following moments where he most certainly does not appear to be getting along well with Clov. Clov expresses that he is there because there is nothing else. He hasn't finished Hamm because he doesn't know the combination. He talks of leaving, but never does. He still follows orders and comes when whistled for. It's all very cyclical. And it's all still a little confusing.
Samuel Beckett's Endgame
I read the first 13 pages of the text and I'm not very sure what is going on. I thought it would help to have an idea of what the setting looked like, and maybe even the characters, since there seemed to be very little description. I found this:
It's still a little confusing. It seems like the play is about these 4 characters in a room while the world is ending. Nothing really happens. Objects are moved around and there is dialogue, but ultimately, it doesn't seem like anything is being accomplished. And it feels like the characters have been going through this for a long time. A word that kept coming to my mind was "perpetual." The way Hamm moves back and forth, not appearing to do anything and the feeling that these characters have not seen much change in a very long time makes the scene feel never-ending. This felt a little humorous with the title being "Endgame." It feels like the play is about the end of times that never comes. Hamm has Clov push him around the room and then put him directly back where he was in the exact center of the room. There is repetition. He asks over again if it's time for medicine. He expresses his love for the old questions. I wonder how long this has actually been going on. The characters are old and frail now. There is talk of the end, but when will it come? They talk about yesterday as though it was something ages ago.
I can't say that I'm very confident in my ability to interpret these poems. I did find Eliot's writing style intriguing and I thoroughly enjoyed the works. The first poem, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," in the beginning, seemed to be about impulse and making mistakes. Later, the poem explores the question of whether these decisions were worth it. The second poem, "The Hollow Men," has a much darker feel. At first, I was expecting the Hollow Men to be some kind of characters to be found in a horror story. Like men, but lacking what made man man. Conscience, emotion, compassion. Instead, I got a picture of scarecrows from the text. They are stuffed, filled with straw. Quiet and meaningless. It seems like the Hollow Men must be representations of someone. Maybe a critique of sorts. I am very interested to learn more in class. I can't stop reading these poems.
On Memories in A Portrait of the Artist of a Young Man
Since I've already written a post about the final chapters of the novel, I thought it would be okay to write about one of the things I found very interesting in the story. The acquisition of knowledge and identity. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man starts with the memories of a young Stephen Dedalus. He recalls an old story his father used to tell about a moocow and a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo. Stephen identifies with the young child in the story. Some of his earliest memories are of his father's hairy face and how he looked at him through a glass. He also remembers the smell of his parents. His mother smelled better than his father. He learned a lot of what he knows from Dante. Her green and red brushes representing Irish patriots also stood out in his memories. Stephen makes associations to process the world around him. Growing up in Ireland in a Catholic family played a big role in these associations. Stephen often refers to the Virgin Mary. When he talks about a young girl, he says tower of ivory, house of gold. These terms that are used to describe Mary are applied to the young protestant girl. He understands them that way. As a child, it makes sense that Stephen's father would have a great impact on how he views the world. When there is a division within the family of loyalty to God or country, Stephen looks to his father. Later, upon realizing his father's faults and shattering picture of him being a hero, Stephen will be forced to question his own beliefs and determine his own identity. Something that remains consistent in the way Stephen processes the world is the importance of art. In the beginning, he remembers songs and stories. Later in school, Stephen tries to see poetry in the vocabulary sentences assigned to him. Finally, when he decides that he will not be satisfied with purely the physical or spiritual, he turns to aesthetic beauty. From the very beginning, it seems Stephen Dedalus was destined to be an artist.
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (Final Chapters)
Stephen is a teenager now. He no longer attends Clongowes as a result of his family's financial struggles. In past sections, Stephen has a great respect for his father and looks up to him as most young boys do. As we read on, it looks more and more like Stephen has become embarrassed by his father. Mr. Dedalus' drinking, financial problems, and old stories annoy the young man. Since his high regard for his father likely influenced his ideas on religion and politics, it would be understandable that at the point that Stephen begins to see Mr. Dedalus as flawed, he would question those same ideals. At the end of chapter 2, Stephen has his first encounter with a prostitute. Up to this point, he has always seemed to be a fairly spotless character. His friend even comments; – No, said Heron, Dedalus is a model youth. He doesn't smoke and he doesn't go to bazaars and he doesn't flirt and he doesn't damn anything or damn all.
It was a shocking development to see Stephen go from the little boy being teased for kissing his mother goodnight to the young man walking the streets in search of a companion for the night. His religious standing is just as flexible. He starts out influenced by his school, Dante, and his parents. He's a proper Irish boy and is a good catholic. After the Christmas Dinner discussion, he sides more with his father and less with Dante and her loyalty to the priests. After falling quite far from his fearful obedience to the teachings of the church, he returns once more. Stephen becomes very concerned with his salvation and dives back into the Catholic church. He even considers priesthood. However, his devotion to the church being fueled seemingly completely by a fear of hell rests on an empty and fragile foundation. When he falls away once more from religion, it's not as much of a surprise.
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (Continued)
In class, we were told that the Christmas Dinner argument was very important and served as a social critique. The family sits down for Christmas dinner and the topic of politics and religion comes up. Stephen's father and his friend, Mr. Casey, believe that the priests should not preach politics from the alter. Parnell, a man who they considered a hero, had been abandoned by the church after he was involved in a scandalous affair that was made public. They believe that the behavior of the priests led to Parnell's death. Dante is angered by the discussion and defends the church and the decisions of the priests. Religion is more important to her than politics. If I remember correctly, she was once a big supporter of Parnell. Yet, she believes that the church was right to abandon him. When one of the men states that all men are sinners, she still persists. The argument escalates to the point that Mr. Casey begins yelling blasphemous things and Dante storms out of the room. Stephen witnesses the whole exchange.
I have not taken the time to research much on Joyce and his beliefs, but from the text, I think he is critiquing not only the church, but the division between the people of Ireland. There is a division at the dinner table at Christmas, not between Protestant and Catholic, but Catholic and more Catholic. The whole thing just reminds me of Gulliver's Travels. The Lilliputians were divided into two sects: Big-Endians and Little-Endians. The divide between the groups was based solely on whether or not to break boiled eggs on the little or the big end. Two practices that varied in a seemingly minuscule way split the Lilliputians into two very stubborn groups. I can't help but look at the argument between Dante, Mr. Casey, and Stephen's father and see two sides quarreling, unable to realize it doesn't matter which side you break the egg on.
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
The first thing that stood out to me about this section of reading is the style in which it was written. It was a little confusing to follow at first. We seemed to be reading along with the somewhat scattered thoughts of a young boy in real time. In the beginning, I thought it was a little strange, but the more I read, the more I appreciated the writing style. It's very interesting to read a story with so much insight from the protagonist. We not only get information about his environment, other characters, and events, but we see what he thinks about them and how he interprets them. When I got to the part where he rushes through his bedtime prayer before the gas lowers, I appreciated how much we learn about Stephen just from these few lines. He was trembling because his prayers were an action taken for fear of hell more than anything else. The main character doesn't fit in very well at his school. He is teased by the other boys about his name and given a hard time when answering whether or not he kisses his mother at night. In class, he appears to be a bit of a daydreamer. When asked to find a difficult sum, he starts to think about the color of roses and whether a green rose is possible. I did a little bit of research on the story and found out that Stephen is James Joyce's alter-ego. An important aspect of the story is the conflict between Stephen's own thoughts and the expectations of those around him. He attends a catholic school, has a strict family, and his own thoughts don't completely line up with theirs. As a child, he told his parents he would marry a girl who was protestant and their harsh reaction had him hiding under a table. In this section, he already stands out from his classmates in action and in thought. I expect this divide will continue to grow from this point on.
Essay on Incest and Trafficking of Women in "Mrs. Warren's Profession"
There were many points made in the essay that I agreed with, and only one in particular that I questioned. First, the essay captured very successfully the warped nature in which men view(ed) women as objects to be possessed. All discussions of interest in Vivie took place when she was absent because her opinion simply didn't matter. Crofts, Frank, and to a lesser extent, Praed all have some interest in Vivie, even though this means disregarding the complication of possibly being related. In Praed's case, it seems likely that the fatherly feelings towards Vivie are not a result of him actually being a possible parent to her, but they still do not stop him from inviting her to Italy in the final act. Even Vivie's mother claims some ownership over her daughter in the final act. She attempts to manipulate Vivie's decision by telling her she has a duty as a daughter to care for her in her old age. Mrs. Warren insists that she has a right to her daughter. What did not necessarily have me convinced was the idea that Vivie's decisions were completely positive ones. Perhaps her desire to put distance between herself and her mother is justified, and certainly her determination to be independent financially is understandable. However, I don't believe, as the essay seems to state, that her total break from all things romantic and beautiful is necessary to her assuming her role as a "New Woman." She throws her whole self into her work and claims that she will never take another holiday as long as she shall live. The essay talks about this break from romance being a part of the progressive cause. Marriage and romance had to be given up in favor of education and intellectual work. It feels like she is giving up on so much, though. The last we see of Vivie, she seems content with her decisions, but I just wonder how long that contentment would actually last.
Acts III and IV: Mrs. Warren's Profession
In Act III, Vivie and her mother are on good terms. Frank observes that she has her arm around her mother's waist as they approach. He is surprised and disappointed at the development, as he later expresses to Vivie when they are alone. In this Act, we learn Croft's involvement with Mrs. Warren's line of work and that they are still in business. Crofts proposes to Vivie, and after being rejected, insulted, and then threatened by Frank, he reveals that the two are half-brother and sister. When Vivie first learns of the way her mother made her fortune, she is understanding and even a little proud. Her mother did what she had to in a society that gave her little other choice, despite the way it would look down on her for it. However, upon hearing that she is still in business, Vivie is very upset. It is no longer a matter of harsh circumstances. When she expresses her disapproval, Crofts is quick to remind her that she lives off of the money Mrs. Warren's business brings in. Vivie is taken aback by this revelation, and that of her relation to Frank.
In Act Iv, Frank visits Vivie while she works. Crofts has left, unhappy with the way matters ended with Vivie. Praed stops by to say farewell before his trip to Italy, and to invite Vivie to join him. Vivie clearly expresses her disinterest in the romance of Italy or anywhere else. She says she shall never take another holiday. She revels to them her mother's occupation and the men recognize that Mrs. Warren is about to walk into a very unpleasant conversation with her daughter. They attempt to warn her when she shows up by letting her know that she is a sparrow in the path of a steam roller. Unable to help, they leave when Vivie insists on talking to her mother alone. Vivie explains to her mother that she will no longer be taking any money from her and she wishes to avoid seeing her again. Mrs. Warren tries to persuade her to reconsider, but Vivie persists. She cannot accept that her mother lives one life and pretends to live another. Mrs. Warren's sister left the business, and she doesn't understand why her mother couldn't do the same. Vivie points out that they are very similar and that she is her mother's daughter. She does not wish to be away from work. Only she recognizes how different their lines of work are.
Mrs. Warren argues that Vivie has a duty as her daughter to care for her in her old age, but Vivie rejects this. We talked a little bit in class about how the mother daughter and father son dynamic played an important role in the story, so it seemed very important to see her directly refuse this. Something else that I found interesting was that Frank, who I assumed was only after Vivie for her money, did decide to let her be, but only because he did not want to be a financial burden on her. I took him to be a gold digger, but besides the incest, he appears to be one of the more decent characters in the story.
Act II: Mrs. Warren's Profession
When we first met Mrs. Warren, I got the idea that she seemed much more conventional, and perhaps disapproving of her daughter's level of independence. Now that she has revealed to her daughter the unconventional way in which she has made her fortune, I see her a little differently. We discussed in class the "mask of normalcy" and I believe Mrs. Warren's attitude and actions show she is certainly hiding behind such a mask. She wants her daughter to marry, and marry rich judging from how she told Frank that he could not marry her because he cannot support her. Mrs. Warren also tells her daughter she will not be returning to college. All of the secrecy as far as her occupation and Vivie's father also suggests that Mrs. Warren's desire for her daughter is that she can live a life of leisure and blend in with society's expectation of her. Vivie wants to work and does not at all seem interested in becoming a wife. When her mother reveals her occupation, Vivie appears to be proud of her. Perhaps because she sees that they are both independent and unconventional.
Mrs. Warren's Profession
What stands out most in Mrs. Warren's Profession is the behavior and attitude of Vivie, Mrs. Warren's daughter. What we have learned about women of the time period is they were expected to be graceful, exceptionally polite, reserved, and delicate, among other things. Vivie does not much appear to be any of these. She doesn't concern herself with finding a husband or romance. She is very direct with her guest and views his attempts to please her as a sign of weakness. Her handshake is strong, so much so that the men that wish to court her are left with nearly numbed fingers after greeting her. She seems to violate every rule put forth for women at the time. Vivie enjoys cigars and whisky. She is referred to as "unconventional" by one of her guests and he seems concerned that her mother may not be pleased with the way her daughter has turned out. Vivie does not respond to the efforts of guests and she doesn't need to. She is very well educated and able to take care of herself. She has no pressure to settle and tend to the every need of a husband, and she certainly has no desire to do so either. What is strange to me is that despite her unconventional ways, every man that approaches wants to win her over. With Frank, it seems obvious that he is after her money, but maybe it's significant that these men are not more put off by her blatant disinterest.
The Idylls of the King
I am looking forward to discussing the answers to these questions in class since I’m not certain that I am getting them quite right. In the introduction to Idylls of the King, it is stated that “the appeal the Arthurian stories, like the legends of Robin Hood, and stories of the American West, is that they represent the struggle of individuals to restore order when chaos and anarchy are ascendant, a task performed in seemingly overwhelming odds.” It goes on to describe the overall design of the poem as being “more ambitious and impressive.” The two sections that we read, “The Coming of Arthur” and “The Passing of Arthur”, follow Arthur’s rise to power and then later tell the story of his death. Arthur seems to be a pretty ideal King, especially following those that came before him. In the beginning, we learn how the kingdoms were divided, at war, and making a pretty big mess of things before he came along. I feel the fact that Arthur was not raised as nobility, but instead by Sir Anton, an old knight who took on the boy as his own, is a significant detail in the story. It seems like this may have made him more relatable to those lower in the hierarchy of the time. Another factor that may have blurred these class lines is Arthur’s round table. It seems to drive home the idea of equality. I tried to do some research to better understand the connection between England at the time and the Arthurian Legends. One thing that I found interesting was the idea that Arthur reflected the Victorian Age, an era of reform and moving forward. This did confuse me a bit when the story ended in such a dark way. There was betrayal, battle against his own people, and in the end, Arthur makes a remark about how he is king only among the dead. The introduction mentioned something about how Western Civilization will either need to face the possibilities of a renewal, or face apocalyptic extinction. I hope it will all make a little more sense after the lecture, because I feel like there is a lot more going on that I’m missing.
The Old Nurse's Story
The Old Nurse’s Story turned a little frightening towards the end. The speaker was telling a tale of a young girl that was under her care. She loved the little girl and would do anything for her. When her little girl’s parents died, she moved with her to a large estate owned by relatives. The people there seemed cold and distant, but hardly anyone could resist the sweet little girl. She brightened the estate almost from the very moment she arrived. Everything seemed fine until the winter came. The large pipe organ could be heard playing at night, though when she asked about it, the speaker was called silly for thinking the sound of wind was the organ. She persisted and finally was told that the organ music was played by the ghost of a man who once lived there. Later, another phantom tempts the little girl out in to the cold and nearly kills her. The speaker wishes to leave and take her little girl with her, but she is not allowed. We learn the dark history of the estate and the message that you cannot undo the past.
Mill and Mediocrity
Since I have already written about Elizabeth Barret Browning's sonnets, I felt like it would be appropriate to discuss Mill's On Liberty. In class, we talked about Mill's point of view that society tends to ostracize the extraordinary while accepting and valuing conformity. This type of mentality keeps a population from advancing. When we act and think en masse rather than as individuals, we stay mediocre. Perhaps, what is most disappointing about exploring this concept is realizing how comfortable in this mediocrity and how resistant to change we can be. An example that we discussed in class is in our political parties. The main two seem to be the only contenders. While it was illegal, several other parties were excluded from ballots and debates. This was overlooked because it didn't seem they had much chance anyway. Maybe if we allowed for more options and encouraged voters to explore the values and motives of these parties as well as their own values and motives, the effect would be a public better fit to elect and candidates better able to represent.
Mill writes about how we tend to ask less what we would prefer and more "what is acceptable to society?" Dr. Balint talked about how we are uncomfortable without structure to fit into. Humans avoid chaos. However, this pressure to be accepted by society and to fit in holds us back and is detrimental to society itself. I was very much reminded of a film called Pleasantville. It's about a brother and sister who are transported to a fictional town from a television show where everything seems to be ideal. The weather is the same every day, everything is in black and white, and everyone is pretty much the same. When the newcomers begin to question the way of life in Pleasantville, change is heavily resisted. The townspeople are comfortable in their black and white, mediocre society. Those that begin to think differently are feared and rejected. I feel like the movie pretty perfectly illustrates Mill's idea of societal pressures holding us back.
This is the trailer for Pleasantville.
Finally, we also talked about how when people hold beliefs that they did not reason themselves, they lose the ability to reason. Like a muscle, this ability must be exercised in order to stay strong. I can see how this idea makes sense because I have personally had to explore the idea of reasoning for myself fairly recently. Having grown up in a very strict household, my beliefs were not so much mine as those of my parents passed down to me. I was not given the option to think about things critically and discover what I believed. Instead, I remember simply asking my parents what they thought about an issue and that was taken as law. It wasn't until my first semester of college that I realized my opinions could and did differ from those of my parents. I learned pretty quickly that other people have different and sometimes beautiful views that I once thought were flawed and for no reason. Having such a close-minded past, I now find a lot of joy learning what others believe and becoming better educated about different views. I don't reject everything that I grew up with, but I do regret not realizing sooner that those who don't think like me are not wrong, and that there is value even in just the experience of exploring and understanding the views of others.
Elizabeth Barret Browning's Sonnets
Of the four sonnets assigned, 21 and 43 were definitely my favorite. Sonnet 21 seemed to describe the importance of not just saying "I love you," but being able to convey that love without words. She compares the phrase to a cuckoo's song, something described in the footnotes as a repeating call. When the speaker talks about a doubtful spirit, to me it seems like the more she hears the words, the more doubt she has about their sincerity. But she continues by telling them to keep saying that they love her, despite the repetition. The speaker reminds her partner to remember that they must not simply state their feelings, but remember to "love me also in silence with thy soul."
The second of Browning's sonnets that we examined was sonnet 22. The speaker is addressing her Beloved once more in this poem. This appears to be an intimate moment between the speaker and her partner. She asks "what bitter wrong can the earth do" that they "should not long be here contented." Should the angels "drop some golden orb of perfect song Into our deep, dear silence. Let us stay rather on earth..." No matter what distraction is offered up on earth or by heaven, the speaker wishes to stay with their beloved.
In sonnet 32, the speaker seems to be expressing concerns of love moving too quickly. "Quick-loving hearts... may quickly loathe." She seems to be saying she isn't worthy of his love. She compares herself to an out of tune viol that will spoil a song and be laid back down "at the first ill-sounding note." Maybe he will realize that he acted with haste and grow to regret his decision. It sounds like she very much cares for this man, but thinks he may be too good for her and will realize his mistake in the future. She sounds uncertain and worried, but it seems like normal anxiousness and self doubt. I can relate to the feeling of the poem and I think many others can as well.
The final sonnet by Browning that we looked at was very familiar to me. I recognized it from the first line, feeling like I had heard it many times before. The speaker is addressing the one she loves. She answers the question, "How do I love thee?" Her answer details a love that stretches nearly infinitely, through all of her life and beyond. With all of her soul, passion of past grief and childhood faith, "with the breath, smiles, tears, of all my life..." she continues, "I shall but love thee better after death." Her words describe such a far-reaching and nearly endless love for her partner. I've loved this poem from the first time I heard it because of the beautiful imagery of something that it doesn't seem possible to capture with words. She succeeds in painting a picture of a true and pure love.
We have been looking at works and writers from the Romantic Period. The poets used a lot of natural imagery and emphasized the importance of nature in a time when man was forgetting its power. With the Victorian Era, Industrialization was taking off and the rights of man were becoming more and more an issue. Following events like the Peterloo massacre, literature of the time starting to have a theme of revolution and the need for change. There is a transition going on with reform and the effects of urbanization. Early on the Victorian Era is described as a time of trouble, with improvements coming later.
The reading we were assigned for Shelley seemed much different from the works we have examined before. While Smith's and Wordsworth's works contained beautiful imagery, and Wollestonecraft's writing was smart and purposeful, I didn't get the same feel from Shelley's work. Learning more about the time and state of England when Shelley wrote helped me to understand his style a little more, but I still did not enjoy it nearly as much as previous writers we have covered. In England in 1819, Shelley describes a broken and suffering country. It calls for change and revolution. The theme seems to show up in most of his work. Though The Mask of Anarchy was not in my book, I looked it up online and while I again did not enjoy reading it as much as other works we have read, I can imagine that at the time it was written, it was a very powerful piece. After reading To Night, I changed my mind about Shelley a little. While the message remained the same, the poem shared some of the style of past romantic poets. When I think about it, I suppose some of what I didn't like was the shift from natural imagery to images of bloodshed and descriptions of a corrupt country. After learning more about what was going on during this time, I did find some appreciation for these poems. Understanding the history gave me a better grasp of their importance and the effect they likely had on the readers they were directed to.
Wollstonecraft writes in A Vindication Of The Rights Of Woman of the unequal treatment of women. An excerpt that stood out to me is in the second paragraph of chapter two. It reads, "Women are told from their infancy, and taught by the example of their mothers, that a little knowledge of human weakness, justly termed cunning, softness of temper, outward obedience, and a scrupulous attention to a puerile kind of propriety, will obtain for them the protection of man; and should they be beautiful, every thing else is needless, for, at least, twenty years of their lives." Wollstonecraft writes of how women are viewed as though they are in a perpetual state of childhood, "unable to stand on their own." The frailty and weakness seen to be a trait of women is something that Wollstonecraft wishes to change. "I wish to persuade women to endeavor to acquire strength, both of mind and body..." She also points out that while men are expected to prepare for professions, the only way women are to "rise in the world" is to "marry advantageously." This reminds me of the Bennets in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. The girls' only goal in life seems to be to marry someone wealthy. When Elizabeth appears to want more out of life than marrying a wealthy man, she is met with resistance by her mother. Continuing with Wollstonecraft's work, another powerful line is in chapter four. It states that women "have acquired all the follies and vices of civilization, and missed the useful fruit." While at the present, there are many women who have escaped these holds, there are still those who would question a woman's choice to work rather than be a stay at home mother. In my medical sociology class, a presentation discussed how though there are women doctors, they are sometimes seen as less of an authority figure than their male colleagues. While not as extreme as in Wollstonecraft's time, the unequal perception of women is still around today.
Wordsworth: The Tables Turned
Part of our assigned reading was a poem by Wordsworth called The Tables Turned. The idea behind it was a very direct call to the student to put away their books and learn from Nature. There is a lot of natural imagery as the speaker makes his point that Nature has so much to offer that books cannot teach. Wordsworth writes of the cheerfulness, wisdom, and beauty that we could find if we just took the time to observe. There seems to be a very "stop and smell the roses" theme in his works. I am reminded of our discussion in class about perception only being part of an experience, but value that we give those experiences and what we do with them is what makes us unique. Wordsworth wants people not just to observe nature, but perceive and value it at a level deeper than aesthetic.
Wordsworth: Memory and Human Nature
In Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, Wordsworth places a great deal of importance on memory. He had visited this same area described throughout the poem 5 years earlier. In line 23, he writes that though he has been absent from the banks of the Wye, he has far from forgotten them. The memories of this place have often been revisited and provided "sensations sweet, felt in the blood and felt along the heart" in times of loneliness or weariness. He later states that he has often, in spirit, turned to the Wye. He turns to these memories as an escape and a source of "tranquil restoration." Later, Wordsworth says the memory is a "dwelling-place for all sweet sounds and harmonies." Of course, the content of these memories is also important. He writes about how Nature does not betray the heart that loves her. It is there to "impress with quietness and beauty" and keep the dreariness of everyday life from disturbing "cheerful faith." Throughout the poem, the reader gets more and more a sense of the power of nature and of memories. They serve as an escape and sources of peace and tranquility in a chaotic and busy world.
Jaclyn Bates’s post about Charlotte Smith’s use of natural imagery makes some good points. She mentions how nature is being used to mirror human life in Written at the Close of Spring. The spring is meant to reflect youth and innocence. I agree with the view that nature in this sonnet expresses the human cycle of life. Smith does this by reminding us of the flowers’ return with a new spring. She uses this to contrast the lack of a second spring for humanity.
Smith’s collection of sonnets are Elegiac because they mourn for the end of something. In class, we discussed various styles of sonnets and their forms. They are Petrarchan, Spenserian, and Shakespearian. The forms are 14 lines, iambic pentameter, and a volta or turn. The volta is what Smith uses to make the transition from aesthetic natural imagery to figurative.
The Sonnets of Charlotte Smith
Charlotte Smith’s poems include strong natural imagery. This imagery paints a picture of the fading away of the beauty of spring in Written at the Close of Spring. Aside from reflecting on the spring and lamenting its close, the imagery also seems to be comparing the season to youth. In Written in the Church-Yard at Middleton in Sussex, Smith describes the moon’s light and bones scattered along a beach. Her description of the sea, “o’er the shrinking land sublimely rides. The wild blast, rising from the Western cave,” seems to be less about beauty and more about its power. At this point, I thought maybe the speaker was observing the sea with some sort of reverence. However, as the poem continues, it seems as though she views it with some fear. The sea is described as breaking “the silent Sabbath of the grave!” and tearing the village dead from their place. Smith appears to be using this image of a destructive and violent sea to represent the suffering of life. This is revealed as the speaker expresses envy for the dead that no longer hear the warring elements. She says she is “doom’d- by life’s long storm opprest, To gaze with envy on their gloomy rest.” It seems that while serving aesthetic purpose, Smith’s use of natural imagery is also figurative.
Since the syllabus says we should post daily or almost daily, regardless of assignments, I suppose I will go ahead and make my first post. Following what was said by a classmate today on the topic of breaking down the barrier between highbrow and lowbrow, John Green is an excellent example. To me, Green’s works merge these two worlds by writing about seemingly ordinary people in an entertaining, but simultaneously deep and thought provoking way. These novels continue to show great success because they appeal to so many different readers. Technically young adult writing, his books are read and enjoyed by an audience spanning from children to college professors. The appeal to such a diverse group of readers does not surprise me. While a teenager may enjoy reading Green’s first novel, Looking For Alaska, for the story line, involving school pranks of epic proportions, an adult may thoroughly enjoy the philosophical questions or perhaps the journey of the main character towards understanding. John Green makes many references to figures in science and great contributors to literature. Will Grayson, Will Grayson discusses Schrodinger’s cat, a scientific thought experiment used to show the problem of the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics on everyday objects. His most recent and bestselling novel, The Fault in Our Stars, finds its title in a line from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar; “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.” A band in the same book is called the Hectic Glow. This is borrowed from a quote by Thoreau and his description of Tuberculosis. “Decay and disease are often beautiful, like the pearly tear of the shellfish and the hectic glow of consumption.” The novel itself, while on the surface being about children who play video games and watch America’s Next Top Model, also has deeper themes, such as the idea of romanticizing death and illness. The interesting thing is how John Green manages to present the reader with thought provoking and beautiful writing while also including moments that are downright silly. "Ma'am," Augustus said, nodding toward her, "your daughter's car has been deservedly egged by a blind man. Please close the door and go back inside or we'll be forced to call the police.” I can definitely agree with my classmate’s point that John Green’s works are a great example for the breaking down of the barrier between highbrow and lowbrow in the modern world. I also couldn't pass up the opportunity to write about one of my favorite authors.
If anyone is interested, I'll try to link to his website.