Thursday, April 22, 2010

Mister hide and dr. jekyll

One- sorry this is posted late; my internet at home went down last night.

What can one say about this novel; it’s a classic- one of the novels that started science fiction. One thing I love about this novel is the duality that exists between the characters. First, the obvious duality between dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde- dr. Jekyll is the up standing, handsome, moral, Freudian super-ego; while Mr. Hyde is the un-moral, animalistic, grotesquely undefinable, Freudian id. The duality between the two characters that exist with in the same frame- is at the core the same man. Mr. Hyde does only what Dr. Jekyll is afraid to do, what society prevents him from doing. Mr. Hyde does horrible things, some of them very vague. the duality that exists in this novel is comparative to that of schizophrenia but sadly- its a willing schizophrenia. I think it does bring some attention to the blight of schizophrenia.
Another duality is the male/male relationship and the severe lack of any significant female role. This was also present in Frankenstein. I think the lack of any female role is certainly something to pay attention to. The hollow male/male relationship between Mr. Utterson and Dr. Jekyll is a perfect example. These men have no pending business, or really anything to say, but because it is routine and the men are ‘old friends’, these men will forego all other social invitations to be with the other man. I also think the lack of any female presence is significant. I think this may be a sexual statement. Women during this time were not in men’s business- and this is a story about the professional Victorian man. I think the separation of the sexes and a woman’s place is loudly stated through its absence and its lack of significance with in the novel. The woman’s place was in the home, a vast realm removed from that of the man’s business world. This is opposite of Frankenstein because though there are no female characters; the want of the monster for a female creation, the want of a mate- creates a ghostly female presence for the novel as a whole. But the only possibility for a female presence is through Mr. Hyde’s vague experiences. Perhaps one of those ‘blocked’ experiences was of a sexual nature.
I think the absence of any male sexual experience is also significant. The Dr. Jekyll character wouldn’t been seen having sex because he represents the ideal Victorian man. He is smart, polished, sociable, and in his own realm; it would have been out of his staunch Victorian character to engage openly in sexual acts. As he is our narrator for a portion of the novel, his sexual experiences wouldn’t be written down for our view. I feel like Mr. Hyde should have sexual experiences, the lack of them is seemingly unfulfilling to me. As it is a Victorian novel sexual experiences are often coded and hidden- but here they are completely absent.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Split Personality

I'm going to write about something very close to my heart and after reading most of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, I think it's completely relevant to things that have happened in my life.

This novella seems to touch on a lot of different themes and ideas that are easy to relate to. The idea of the split personality is something that I can understand greatly. And although I am not writing about someone who suffers from a split personality disorder, I have lived my life with an alcoholic.

Like the characters of Mr. Hyde and Dr. Jekyll, this person used substances to morph into the kind of person that they wanted to be to be comfortable with situations and their life. Dr. Hyde uses the potion to morph himself into someone who has no conscious to try to cope with his bad urges so that he feels nothing for them just like an alcoholic uses alcohol to deal with uncomfortable situations or to suppress feelings of unhappiness or sadness that they find impossible to deal with outside of the use of substance.

After a while though, it becomes difficult to see the difference between the alcoholic and the person that is sober, just as Dr. Jekyll began to morph into Mr. Hyde unknowingly. The potion however, can only be used in higher and higher doses as it seems that it has little to know effect on helping Dr. Jekyll keep himself from changing and morphing into the evil that he always is trying to suppress.

In my life I have found that sometimes as the alcoholic gets further into their disease it begins to take a hold of them. It takes a hold of every aspect of their life and there comes a point where the affects are irreversible. It begins to affect everyone around them without the alcoholic even realizing what they are doing or who they are hurting.

This is exactly what happened with Jekyll and Hyde and I thought that it was a really interesting comparison to make since I have lived first hand with someone who I have seen morph and change right before my eyes into something that I knew they did not want to be but had no control over.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

the end of the editors narrative and the beginning of confessions

First, I want to say I miss-phrased in my past post- the priest is not a Catholic priest but a protestant minister.
After Robert takes George’s place, estate and money- George’s faithful friend, Mrs. Logan, tries to find his killer. She doesn’t think the person accused has actually done any harm to George. She finds a witness to the crime, a Bell Calvert; who is in rather scruffy condition and stands accused of breaking into Mrs. Logan’s residence. After she is acquitted of this crime, she agrees to tell her story to Mrs. Logan. From the story told Mrs. Logan deduces that George’s killer is in fact his devious religious brother Robert. With the information from the witness Mrs. Logan has enough evidence to go to the police. The authorities hurried to the estate where Robert and his biological mother now live, when the authorities arrive; they found both Robert and his mother gone. This is the conclusion of the editor’s narrative.
I find it ironic that the righteous and religious mother and son are the ones running from justice. Also, this brings to mind the title of the novel & how the novel satires the religious fantasism that existed in Europe during this time. The two ‘righteous’ characters are the ones who are actually sinners and on the run for a crime committed. Murder is an offense of the state and an offense of religion. But, the two ‘righteous’ characters still retain their former religious fortitude.
The Sinner’s Confessions begins with Robert’s side of the story instead of the out side narrative voice of the Editor’s Narrative. One would think this portion of the novel would be present to make Robert sound more sympathetic, more appealing to the reader, but in fact it makes him less sympathetic and almost cruel. Robert claims to have had a difficult life, first with his father’s abandonment and then his life living with the pastor. But as a child, he is a cocky bigot and tries to be better than those he sees as inferior to himself and even lies to get credit in the eyes of his elders. He is rough and cruel with his speech, and dislikes most people, even his own mother who he dislikes for her modesty. Although, he does say that he is a sinner, but justifies it because he doesn’t mean to sin it occurs by accident. Robert then tells of the most important occurrence in his life, meeting Gil. Gil looks very much like Robert and acts very much like Robert, only he does not participate in religious things with Robert. In fact, it kind of seems like Gil is in fact the devil or a daemon of the devil, he says that he is not a Christian. But where I stopped reading, the specifics of Gil’s situation are still vague. But I would find it ironic if Gill was the devil, because then not only is Robert an outlaw of the state, but he would be an outlaw of god as well.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Another cain and abel?

In the first half of the book, the focus is on the history of the two brothers, george & robert. Though they are of the same parentage, one is brought up by the biological father and the other is brought up by the priest of the biological mother. The mother who is passively absent from the boys’ life except in birth, was so fearful of her husband’s sinning ways that she split her sons apart. The ironic thing about the split is the son she wants on a righteous path is the one who strays. The son who is brought up in sin and indulgence is more seemingly proper. The brother brought up by the biological father (george) is privileged and the golden child of his father. He has no real knowledge of his brother, only relative knowledge. He knows he has one but not the specifics of the situation. The brother brought up by the priest of the mother (robert) is a religious zealot, who has no poise or grace and is in almost every way the opposite of his brother. The brothers meet during a tennis match where george is playing and robert interferes with the game in any way feasibly possible. He stands in the middle of the match trying to impede play, and even after being hit and discouraged several times, the boy still returns. Though this shows some tenacity in wanting to be a presence in his brother’s life, I think it was gone about in the wrong way. The brother brought up by the priest is very jealous of the privilege and station that his brother george has. He sees it as his right, his place and has very childish wishes and wants regarding the situation. george tries to tell his father of the situation at hand and how his brother is trying to insinuate himself into the life that george has, but the father just tells the boy to let it roll off his back and not pay it any mind. This was a horrible mistake and led to the death of his beloved son. The ‘religious’ brother eventually kills off his other brother in a rage that is reminiscent of Cain and Abel. The father shortly follows the son into the grave leaving robert to inherit what he believed to be his in the first place. The brother of god doesn’t feel remorse for his actions but believes that he has done no wrong either to his dead brother or his dead father. The rage and discontentment that the brother feels is not likely to be soothed with his father’s estate or his father’s money. It also leaves the remaining brother living on the seedy side of life, he has killed his remaining biological family, one directly and the other as a result of his actions. The brother of god feeling no remorse for murder, a religiously punishable offense is interesting to note, one would think growing up in a strict religious background would cause the brother to lead a more ‘straight and narrow’ kind of life, instead of one full of murder, lies and stealing.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Better to be a Cyborg than a Goddess?

Donna Haraway’s article “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century” was extremely difficult to understand. I will not even pretend to understand it by writing an objective summary. Instead, here are just a few of my thoughts on the text.

The title of the text “A Cyborg Manifesto” immediately brings to mind Karl Marx’s book entitled “A Communist Manifesto” which extensively discussed his vision for the working class, and communism as a whole.

Haraway starts off by announcing that her work will be one of irony and blasphemy, meant to be taken seriously. She says “Perhaps more faithful as blasphemy is faithful, than as reverent worship and identification. Blasphemy has always seemed to require taking things very seriously.” By saying this, Haraway is pointing out that although irony and blasphemy come across with a humorous voice, it takes serious consideration and critique, and often involves more dedicated belief than reverence itself.

Haraway defines a cyborg as “a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction” and later says “we are all chimeras, theorized and fabricated hybrids of machine and organism; in short, we are cyborgs.” If her definition of a cyborg is merely the merging of social reality and fiction, then our lives are indeed no different from that of a cyborg. Although we are defined by our natural condition, our “reality”, we go through our lives performing, role playing, and in essence, creating a fiction of ourselves. If our own representations of ourselves are not even truthful, how different from a machine that generates its own identity are we?

The author then launches into a discussion regarding the lack of origin for cyborgs, which I was not able to follow. Since the essay is a reflection for feminism, it may be that Haraway is attempting to point out that the cyborg is a creature devoid of natural origin, however as humans we can point back to a natural origin. This origin has given excuse for generations to reduce women to the role of child bearing, due to the natural functions involved with the human body. This attitude, however, reduces women to a tool, only as good as their bodies.

After a discussion of the mind and body of women as tools, Haraway gives a list of the places of women and how these places have been defined and re-defined through time. These places are: the home where she is at the mercy of men, the market where she is merely a consumer, the workplace where she experiences sexual division of labor, the state where she is used for office work, the school where she is not considered for mathematical intelligence, the clinic-hospital where her purpose of reproduction often brings her, and the church where she is given no authority.

Toward the end of the essay, Haraway makes a comparison on how we can treat machines and organisms. She says “…Machines could be animated—given ghostly souls to make them speak or move or to account for their orderly development and mental capacities. Or organisms could be mechanized—reduced to body understood as resource of mind.” Here is where I believe she makes her chief point of the essay. She uses the metaphor of attempting to “humanize” a cyborg and override the reality that it is a machine to show that the exact opposite has been done to women. Society has turned women into a “lesser object” than men, incapable of legitimized thought, despite the fact that females are endowed with the same mental capabilities as males. If a living, breathing human being with a soul can be turned into merely a tool to reproduce males, then what is wrong with elevating a non-gendered machine to be our companions?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Mary Shelley Frankenstein. Some initial thoughts about it

I have decided to post some thoughts about the novel. The story is something completely different from the Mansfield Park and the poetry that we have discussed in the class. I am not a big fan of science fictions, but this one seems to be very interesting so far.
The preface of every book is very important for a reader. It is something that the author wants you to know before you start reading the story. Usually it contains a purpose, an author’s approach and a method he or she uses in the book. He or she tries to put a reader into a right direction. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley is not an exception.
The event that has occurred in the book is not impossible from the scientific point of view, but the author describes her work as a product of imagination. I believe that some events in science have contributed to Shelley’s decision to create a novel like Frankenstein. It almost sounds like she is apologizing for creating something that contradicts the rules of human nature. The novel could be interpreted as imagination vs. reality. It was created to amuse the readers. She seems to be tired of novels describing every day life, marriage market and attempts to originate the literature of the Romantic period. She reminds me Coleridge and his desire for supernatural forces and powers, only this time it is not a poetry, but fiction.
The letters at the beginning of the book are intended to lead the readers into the beginning of the novel. It also could be introduced as a preface to it. The whole story is flashback of a stranger that Captain Walton met.
The location and social status of the protagonist is distinguished in the first lines of the novel. The story is going to be about a family and events that will occur within it.
The content of the story is not only interesting from the literary and scientific perspectives, but also from the religious point of view. I mean the reaction of Christian world on the production of a human kind using only methods of science. It probably took a while for the readers to recognize this novel as a great example of fiction writing.

imagination vs. images

Last class we met and we talked in great length about this idea of visual versus language. Throughout the Keats section of poetry we saw this theme come up many times in his poems, with describing physical objects. In his poems we are presented with words that depict a physical image. This emphasizes Keats feeling of permanance and the opposition to mortality and temporariness. The images he describes the subject leaving little if any room for our own imagination to explore possibilities. We can relate this to Shelleys arguement over intellectual beauty, and what really makes something beautiful. We can see how Keats feels, there being beauty in permanace and things we can see that inspire us. Keats writes about this one kind of beauty and art, but makes his own by trying to describe it to us which leaves us open to imagine what it could possibly look like. With Ode on a Grecian Urn, we see the sense of permanance that Keats wants us to relate to beauty because the Ode is to what is on the Urn, to what makes it beautiful. At the end of the poem he ends with Beauty is truth, truth beauty. This line does not explain itself in the poem so we are left to wonder, what is beauty and what is the truth in beauty?
That question brought up another in my mind of whether or not the difference between visual and language is more or less determined by values? What does the observer, or reader find more beautiful, or more truthful. Seeing something tangible with beauty already created, or a description of something so the imagniation can create something beautiful. I gave the example of movies and books. Like the Harry potter books, I enjoyed the books much more. My opinion is so because with the books, we were given basic descriptions of what people and places looked like, how situations happened, and how we wanted to view the characters intentions. Yet when the movies came out, although they were pretty awesome :), the characters were already made up a certain way, dressing a certain way, acting a certain way, and what we had imagined was questioned as to being wrong or incorrect. I feel this is the same way with artwork and nature. We can see it and have this feeling of awe and contentment from it's beauty, but what we see is what it is, no more no less. When someone tries to tell us what something or somewhere looked like, our imagination creates it's own image of what beauty is. So is our beauty truth, or truth beauty?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Six Degrees of Separation

Essentially, in his book "Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism", Benedict Anderson is showing us a shift away from the sense of community found in small towns and cities where lives where interconnected and focused around religion, to a new sense of community based on the fact that we feel connected with other people in similar situations as us. He says “Beneath the decline of sacred communities, languages and lineages, a fundamental change was taking place in modes of apprehending the world, which, more than anything else, made it possible to “think” the nation.” Here Anderson shows the shift from a focus on divine influence and the close knit communities formed around it to a more philosophical approach which allowed a sense of nationalism to come out in the minds of the people.

Anderson goes on to talk about the fact that prior to the rise of novels and newspapers, the “common” people were not truly able to think for themselves and really grasp the concept of life. Formerly, the “latin-reading clerisy” or intellectual elite were the only ones who could read. These clerisy therefore defined reality for the illiterate people who trusted in their interpretation. This continued through parish priests who were, in essence, the ones who communicated to God on behalf of their congregation. What the priest received from God was what the parishioners must accept as truth. This kept the communities close together because they depended on that face-to-face connection with the priest in order to define their concept of truth and their understanding of reality.

The impact of the novel’s imagined world was that the reader suddenly had the opportunity to “play God” as it were as they read. The reader of the novel is able to sit back and read a story from the perspective of multiple people and see what is going on in each of their minds, even though none of those characters are aware of each other’s thoughts. This new representation of thought and imagination opened up the idea that even though people do not personally know everyone else living in their community or even country, they are all interconnected by their personal ties, and their lives are all interwoven. In this way, the eye’s of society were opened through the novel not only to the consequences of each person’s life affecting another, but also of a new sense of nationalism, that each person in the country truly was connected, even though they may never meet face to face.

Anderson next described the increase of this affect through newspapers in the modern era. Newspapers created a larger imagined world as people began to see the world and realize that just because something disappears from the headlines does not mean that it has ceased to exist. For example, we know that when the newspapers stop reporting about Haiti, that does not mean that Haiti has recovered from poverty. It still exists, even though we do not personally interact with it.

My understanding of nationalism through imagined community in the chapter came when he described the daily “consumption” of newspapers. You read the newspaper once in the morning and you have consumed it, knowing that tomorrow you will consume another one. But you also know that every morning as you read the newspaper, millions of other people are reading the same thing at the same time, even though you are not reading it in the same room as each other, nor do you even know who they are. This creates a sense of community through common action, although separated in distance. This community is not a community in the same way that a church was a community to those in the middle ages. Instead it is a community imagined by us as we relate to others in the world who are similar to us.

His explanation of juxtaposition throughout the chapter reminded me of what we call “6 degrees of separation”, where we claim that every person in the world is separated from everyone else by no more than six degrees. For instance, if you know me, and I know a cousin of mine in Holland, and my cousin goes to school with a student from Britain, and the student in Britain has met Prince William, then you are only four degrees separated from Prince William. We may not be aware of his actions every day, but he wakes up every morning just as you wake up. Even though you do not talk to him every day, he still exists and can be part of your community.

Anderson summed up his explanations for the rise of the imagined community by describing the following three occurrences which led to it:

  • When people lost the idea that truth was only accessible to a certain group of people. For example the fact that only pastors could contact God or only clerisy could interpret philosophy. Novels and newspapers gave everyone the ability to interpret the world around them, to see the progression of time.
  • When people moved away from believing that society revolved around the social elite, such as royalty and those born to be socially affluent. We see this shift in what we have studied this semester when people began to be less concerned with the outward appearance and more concerned with the inward state. Social mobility became a new possibility.
  • When people were no longer bound by the concept of temporality and saw the past, present, and future laid out as a continuous stream, with cause and effect.

How does this affect Mansfield Park, Jane Austen, and the novel? When the novel appeared and allowed people to see the individual, to see themselves through literature, an extended world was opened to them. It brought a new way of seeing the world as connected. For instance, when Sir Thomas goes to Antigua to perform business, the reader sees now how the lives of those in Antigua directly affect the lives of those in Mansfield Park, even though the two communities may never mix and the individuals at Mansfield Park may not be overtly aware of the actions in Antigua. Although residents of the estate which John Yates leaves before arriving at Mansfield Park may never meet the Bertram's, their attempted performance of a play incites the Betrams' interest in theatre, creating a larger community.

Ultimate, community was no longer defined by land and property connected, nor by the direct interaction of individuals centered around a common action. Instead, individuals were now given the opportunity to imagine a larger community by defining their associations through common thought. Individuals began to identify with others not based on a common interaction, but based on new ties.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Land and tigers and bears

When I first started to read Culture and Imperialism, I was reading it with Kalie out loud and I looked at her and said, I do not understand half of what this Said man is saying. I can understand the part about Mansfield Park, but I could not really connect it. It wasn't until Dr. Bowser started to put the essay in more lame terms and I was able to see some of those connections. While drawing the diagrams on the board today so many ideas and thoughts popped into my mind. Have I been reading this Mansfield Park with the wrong interpretation all along? Have I been watching the relationships take place and unfold, while neglecting the more important ideas Austen is conveying. The title alone, Mansfield Park, is a way of showing us that this was going to be about a "colony". Within a colony many things take place and are to be determined, who is in charge, social order and rules, limits, space, relocation, dislocation. Edward Said connects this so well to the imperialistic actions England took so long ago to conquer lands they wished to improve and make their own. With Mansfield Park, it's run by Sir Thomas, who is a patirarchal and authoratative role in our novel. With his rule, there was a specific social order at the house, and despite Mrs. Norris' objections, Sir Thomas stood strong. The men, Edmund and Thomas knew where they stood in the household, Tom following his father to Antigua which brought on another idea of colonization. With Edmund then the next in command, Fanny saw more respect and attention than she would have if Sir Thomas was there. It's almost as if we can view Fanny as a piece of property. She is just there, no one pays much attention to her, take her for granted. Edmund shows tender, love and care and this bright woman begins to blossom, who ends up becoming a huge asset to his life. As for Maria marrying Mr. Rushworth there is a different transfer there, no love but lust, a concern for wealth and social acceptance. Maria wants to be in possession of land so she feels a sense of worth. The family overlooks the absence of love but sees the inheritance. It is an improvement to their social standing. When we look at the instances that have to do with land in this novel is has something to do with improvement whether it is social status, economic wealth, or personal gain. The imperialistic underlyings in this novel change the outlook of why this novel was so influential and not just another Austen love story.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Miss Mary Crawford

Mary Crawford has been a character that I ignore while I read Mansfield. There are a lot of personality traits that make her stand out. Mary is gives us a view at her desires both internal and external. When we talk about internal desires and self-policing, I think there is an apparent example with Mary and her desire for Edmund. She has this longing for love and relationships and friendship with Fanny but remains in check to who she is and what she wants. She is of higher class and with that expects more when it comes time to pick or be arranged with another. She has ideas of incomes and occupations that will fulfill a certain societal need for her external desires. She even critiques Edmunds name. “ I mean to be too rich to lament or to feel any thing of the sort. A large income if the best recipe for happiness I ever heard of.” (197) Here we can clearly see the difference in desires just between Edmund and Mary and their interpretations of what they believe to be appropriate for their needs. Their differences in upbringings and personalities play a large role in their differentiating views. Mary continues to display a contradictory role throughout the novel playing with Edmund’s heart. She tugs at the corners giving him false hope then attacks him with opinions that are the antithesis to what he believes and holds close. So far in the novel we’ve looked upon Maria as the one who is dangerous with love and lust and her flirtatious demeanor with Henry, but now that she is out of the picture, that new villain becomes Mary. We see this in the play with Maria and Henry and Mary and Edmund are in the background. Mary gave hints that she wanted Edmund to play her complimentary role, and the words literally spell out I love you.
The interesting part of it all is Mary befriends Fanny and takes a liking to her. She gives Fanny the chance to be a person with an opinion and a mind of her own. However, I sense ulterior motives that Mary uses Fanny to one, make herself feel better about herself, and two, to bring her closer to Edmund.
Mary may just be another character in this novel, but to me she is one of the antagonists.

Monday, February 15, 2010

How Novels Think... For Us.

The selection of How Novels Think by Nancy Armstrong was definitely thick to read through and I apologize now if I lose you in my reading of it!

Armstrong started off by explaining that artwork has moved from merely representing a physical image of a person, to beginning to encapsulate the thoughts and emotions of the subject, the artist, and the viewer. This spread from visual art to the form of literature as authors began not just explaining a social fact (such as the novel of manners did), but endeavored to question the mind of society by bringing the reader in to the internal thoughts of the characters.

On the basic level, Armstrong begins to describe the elements of a novel. For instance, she says that “protagonists…had to harbor an acute dissatisfaction with his or her assigned position in the social world and feel compelled to find a better one.” This is represented in the tensions of Jane Austen novels as we see the contrast between the older generations who push for marriage on the basis of changing rank and social class and the younger generation which is slowly beginning to open its mind to ideas of emotions and desire.

The selection is particularly concerned with individualism, and how individualism is both expressed in the novel and in turn shaped within us, the readers. One of my favorite quotes from this selection is when Armstrong says “Novels thus gave tangible form to a desire that set the body on a collision course with limits that the old society had placed on the individual’s options for self-fulfillment, transforming the body from an indicator of rank to the container of unique subjectivity.”
Not only does this express the pursuit of individualism which Armstrong is trying to show, but it also displays the phenomenon that many of us may have felt as readers engrossed in a good novel. When I was younger people joked with my parents that they never saw me without a book in my hand, for the very reason that Armstrong gives here. Novels have become a mode of escape for readers, allowing us to channel our individual desires.

The conversation of individualism is given voice through three different philosophers. The first is Locke who says that the “world supplies raw content in the form of objects, and the mind transforms sensations of those objects into ideas.” For Locke, individualism was being able to apply our own ideas to the world around us, in other words making a “logical inference” about what we see. The problem with Locke’s viewpoint, however, is that in showing us objects, the world may in fact be predisposing us to react not with a unique and individual mindset.

Next is David Hume, who contrasts Locke in that he believed “ideas and feelings are shaped by “custom” rather than logical inference.” In other words, Hume says that we draw on our individualized experiences and how we are accustomed to reacting to things to know how to channel our emotions. The example given in the text is that based on past feelings of anger and love, we determine how to react to situations of neglect and benefit.

Lastly, the author discusses Adam Smith’s outlook by also including work from Rosseau. The basis of their belief is that everyone has it in their nature to sympathize with others. Rosseau’s example is a brutal one in which a person watches a mother as she saw her child mauled to death. Smith says that although a person can see how the mother reacts and react accordingly, the person’s individuality is like a cage separating them from truly experiencing what the mother experiences. He also says that each of us has within us an impartial spectator which critiques how we respond. This “impartial spectator” reminded me of the topic of self-policing, as well as idea of role playing. We see how others react and we process that in contrast to how we react, and in turn evaluate whether our reaction was good or not.

Ultimately, the individual is at odds with thoughts and emotions that emanate from within themselves and the thoughts and emotions that are forced upon them by the world in which they live. The text deals heavily with sensibility, which is their ability to respond to the world around them. The individual’s sensibility and individuality is ultimately the degree to which they are able to apply individual experience to their sensibility.

In terms of the development of the novel through the Victorian era and Romantic period, the defining of individualism created a broader appreciation for characterization. The characters in novels were bound to test the limits of “normative reality” and in doing so created a new platform of thought for readers everywhere. The novels showed a new kind of sensibility that was more about individuality than about logical adaption to society. Through the expression of novels, authors expressed individual thought. In addition, however, it is through the expression of novels that readers see their individual thought take shape. And how, in fact, novels have come to think for us.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


While discussing the variety of essays, it boggled me how they relate to each other in some sort. What two really stuck out were the Foucault and the essay discussing the sense of self-conciousness. The idea of self-survaillance or self-policing reminded me a lot of the idea of the self conciousness. When Foucault writes about new ways for punishment and how they have evolved over time both types of punishment, internal and external, have a self-concious. When someone is in the street they are both mentally and physically aware of those around them, and how they may be perceived. However, when the newer version of punishment was disscused with Baunum's see-You become aware of who you are and what you are doing every second of everyday. This self-conciousness is almost worse, because you never know when someone is watching so we become so meticulous with our actions that we prohibit ourselves from being who we are and doing what we want to do. The poem with the ancient Mariner portrayed both types of punishment, one publicly, where the albatross is hung around his neck, and one internally, that he feels obligated to re-tell his story over and over again, becoming more aware of what he has done. Sometimes I think the more self-concious we are, the more guilt we hold against ourselves, rather than forgiving ourselves. More often then not we punish ourselves worse than the outside, like the ancient mariner feeling as though it was his duty and his alone to retell that story over and over again to maybe teach a lesson to someone that would listen. The idea of self-consciousness is seen in many situations, I think of it when we discuss societal expectations. Society sets up limits and rules for us to follow and we are raised with our parents giving us expectations of what they'd like to see, good grades, winning sports games, going to college, etc... However, when we fall short or succum to failure, we punish ourselves more than we almost need to. If we strive to just do the best we can and let who we are control the situations, we may just succeed without the pressures. We can be mentally aware of who we are and what we can do rather than striving for something that we will aren't or cannot be. We cannot let other peoples expectations guide us through what we want to do. Just like in the Rime of the Ancient Mariner, how we wanted to read this poem with our own interpretations, however, through the glosses, Coleridge somehow expected us or told us what we should be understanding, which made it even more confusing. I don't know if any of this makes sense, but let me know what you think.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

please respond)))

A central idea to Foucault’s Panopticism is the systematic ordering and controlling of human populations through subtle and often unseen forces. I liked his whole idea of discipline, which is the way to organize society. The goal of the modern society is to put things in order and keep them there. Nothing seems to suggest a connection between Coleridge’s “The Rime of Ancient Mariner” and Foucault’s “Discipline and Punishment.” After a class discussion I came up may be with a crazy idea, not sure if you would agree, so please respond to my thoughts.
As it has been already said, it is hard to interpret the mariner’s behavior in the poem. He is like Coleridge constantly feels guilty and tries to get rid of this feeling by telling his story to different people in different places. I believe that the mariner tells his story during the wedding ceremony not just by accident. As we all know, marriage builds a family, a family is a cell of society. May be the mariner tries to prevent the building of this cell,(disturb the wedding) because it is easier to control an individual activity then an activity of a group.
Like Coleridge believed in supernatural agencies, so Foucault believed in power of mind over mind. The mariner tries to tell the story to a big audience. He wanted to make sure that he was heard and seen by a large amount of people and eventually he will be forgiven. So in the modern society, in attempt to achieve their goals, people try to discipline themselves and if they do so, they will be rewarded

Monday, January 25, 2010

"Christabel" by Coleridge

My first reaction was that the poem seemed unfinished. At first I thought Coleridge was portraying homosexuality to be evil, but I think what he was really portraying as evil are women and their powers of deception and persuasion. This poem had many themes, that at times seemed unrelated, and many elements of foreshadowing and metaphors.

Christabel seems “Christ like”, innocent at heart, religious, pure, sexless, a “perfect woman” in Coleridge’s eyes. Whereas Geraldine seems very masculine, a body of a woman and a mind of a man. She is self-aware sexually and acts more like a man would. Even after learning that Christabel is betrothed to another, she is not hesitant to take her virginity, much like you would expect a man to do. In fact it seems to have been part of Geraldine’s greater plan to “ruin” Christabel in order to ultimately ruin her father.

There are many elements of protection of guarding angels and how easily their protection can be taken away. When Christabel meets Geraldine she is prone to think of her as “good” because she is beautiful. She then takes Geraldine to her chamber and in and effort to help her, gives her the wine that her mother has made. Since Christabel’s mother died giving birth, the wine is only meant for Christabel to drink. When Geraldine drinks it, she immediately gains access to Christabel’s heart, soul, and mind. Christabel’s mother said that her daughter’s wedding night would be at midnight, which is when the events are taking place. Christabel’s mother is her guarding angel, but is powerless to protect her from Geraldine and Geraldine is aware of that “off, woman, off! This hour is mine…’tis given to me” Geraldine is the ulitimate evil because she does not care for Christabel, their union is not one of love, but merely a necessary step in Geraldine’s evil plan. Geraldine acts like a man when taking Christabel’s virginity, she even speaks like a man in “low voice”.

It is not the homosexual union that is evil in the poem, but Geraldine. Even after it is over, you still feel empathy for Christabel. Has Coleridge been trying to show homosexuality as evil, I think he would make the reader feel different about Christabel. But you still feel the same about her, and still feel negative towards Geraldine, not because she seems to be a lesbian, but because she is an eery character and it feels like there is more evil to see from her still.

I also got the feeling that Christabel’s father, Sir Leoline is also gay. Geraldine is the daughter of his friend from childhood, Lord Roland. Yet something happened to break the friendship, could it be the union between the two, or a confession of feelings?

When Leoline learns that Geraldine is Roland’s daughter, he is automatically empathetic towards her and welcomes her as his own child. This is where Geraldine is evil, because she seems to be counting on that fact. Leoline then immediately forgets his quarrel with Roland and his feelings of friendship toward him are immediately evoked again “For since that evil hour hath flown…never found I [Leoline] a friend again like Roland de Vaux of Tryermaine”

There seems to be direct correlation between the “evil hour” referring to Leoline’s and Roland’s friendship and the “hour” that Geraldine and Christabel share, which is why this makes me think that Leoline has romantic feelings towards Roland.

It is ironic that Leoline is betrayed by Roland, and it is Roland’s daughter that ruins Christabel. However, the ultimate theme to me is the evil of women. Geraldine represents the evil that women have in Coleridge’s eyes. They have powers of persuasion and sexuality and become evil when they chose to use them with negative intent (like Geraldine) He proves that an evil woman can demolish the soul of not only men but women as well. And as long as a woman is beautiful, no one will ever think her capable of evil deeds. Could Coleridge have been rejected or betrayed by a woman he loved?

At each wild word to feel within...

Although Coleridge’s poem Christabel is long, appearing in two parts, the rhyme and rhythm of the work make it easy to read. In addition, the poem tells a story which draws the reader in.
Despite the fact that the poem exists in stanzas of varying length, the rhyme scheme remains the same throughout with a simple aabb.

As an example of romanticism, the poem draws on a more fantastical approach to exhibiting experience and emotion. After having just read Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience as a representation of the contrasting pre-revolution and post-revolution outlooks, I see a similar perspective in Christabel. The contrast of innocence and experience is first seen in Christabel and Geraldine. Christabel is found praying beneath a tree, unaware of the danger presented by the stranger and unable to detect the warning signs in Geraldine’s character.
The second contrast is found in the presentation of Christabel in the beginning and her appearance toward the end. Even the atmosphere of the poem in the beginning is lighter, when Coleridge says that “The night is chilly but not dark”. By the end of the poem, however, Christabel remains captured by a spell and sunk into dejection, cast off by her father.

The poem also shows a different side of romanticism, a side that the depressed Coleridge was famous for – the gothic romanticism. The typical dark and foreboding gothic castle is featured in the poem, and the horrific tale brings out a darker side of romanticism. In fact, our text says that when Christabel was first introduced it was met with controversy and disgust.

The poem appears unfinished. While Sir Leoline’s rejection of his daughter for Geraldine is certainly a climax, there is no resolution to Geraldine’s role in the castle. The second part of the poem starts off with an ominous foreshadowing with the lines

“Each matin bell, the Baron saith,
Knells us back to a world of death.
These words Sir Leoline first said,
When he rose and found his lady dead:
These words Sir Leoline will say,
Many a morn to his dying day.”

These lines seem to suggest a disastrous ending to Geraldine’s assault on Christabel. In addition, Geraldine’s appearance as a snake to Christabel after her description of Christabel’s fate in the hands of a snake leaves the reader with a sense of additional harm for Christabel at the hand of Geraldine. The end of the poem leaves the reader slightly unsatisfied and anxious as to the fate of the characters.

The conclusions to both parts take a different tone from their adjoining pieces of the poem. The conclusion to the first part shows the transformation of Christabel from an innocent and lovely maiden, to the more experienced and sorrowful character we see in the second half. Like 290 says "A star hath set, a star hat risen/ O Geraldine!..." Stars are usually associated with bright and peaceful images, similar to that of Christabel's innocence. A contrast is presented, however, when Geraldine's "star" rises to shine.
It is interesting to note that the devil in Christianity was known as Lucifer, the morning star, prior to being cast from Heaven. The shining "star" of Christabel's innocence and loveliness is setting, but the light of Geraldine's influence has now come into play.

Poetry is certainly not my strong suit, and as more of a literal reader it is difficult for me to see past the story presented and draw additional conclusions. I enjoyed reading this poem though. I also enjoyed the footnotes of Coleridge's notes from the margin of his text. It helped to see his insight as he wrote the piece.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Just some thoughts
English writers of the romantic period have been influenced by French and German writers and philosophers. They have shared common ideas and often we can find common themes in their literature. After a class on Thursday I decided to find out the central idea E. Kant‘s philosophy and his influence on English writers of the romantic period. Kant’s famous transcendental idealism and empirical realism ideas are:
Reason itself is structured with forms of experience and categories that give a phenomenal and logical structure to any possible object of empirical experience. These categories cannot be circumvented to get at a mind-independent world, but they are necessary for experience of spatio-temporal objects with their causal behavior and logical properties.
I have read “from the Preface from the Lyrical Ballads” by William Wordsworth. I believe that his “Preface” is like an instruction manual for his poetry to the future readers. To be able to understand his poetry we should understand his philosophical ideas and also consider historical events of the romantic period. We can find influence of Kant’s philosophy in his work. Wordsworth wrote:” I might be suspected of having been principally influenced by the selfish and foolish hope of reasoning him (the Reader) into an approbation of these particular Poems…” I think what he meant is that the interpretation of his poetry is possible through the experience of it.
Throughout the “Preface” the ideas of innovation, imagination and excitement are constantly repeated. For Wordsworth poet is a man “who has a greater knowledge of human nature.” I have got an impression that a poet for Wordsworth is not an ordinary man, it is a man who is able to see and hear what nobody else can and a poet’s mind is able to overrule any rules of society and come up with something extraordinary in an unusual way. For Wordsworth, poetry is a spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings.
Wordsworth’s “Lines written a few miles above Tintern Abbey” reminds me of Blake’s songs of Innocence and Experience (Lamb and Tiger).Nature is very important for the writer as well is spiritual connection with it. Perception of nature from the point of view of an adult, an experienced man, but it is clear from the poem that he is familiar with a landscape. Nostalgia and memories of life inspire the author.
Overall I think that the writer's WORDS really WORTH a lot.:)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

G.H Hartman "Romanticism and Anti-Self-Consciousness"

I have just finished reading Geoffrey H. Hartman’s “Romanticism and Anti-Self-Consciousness”. I thought it was fascinating, especially the first couple of pages where he referenced the importance of the fall from Eden and how man perceives himself.

I thought it was much like Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience. They all share the ironic, paradoxical, and very fascinating themes.

For example, Hartman writes that the Romantics believed that “every increase in consciousness is accompanied by an increase in self-consciousness” At first this seems like a contradicting thought. However, it is true. The more intelligent and observant a person gets the more aware they become of their surroundings and of themselves. With knowledge come questions of all topics, especially when your environment is constantly changing. The Romantics lived in a time when many historical and scientific break thous were being made. Therefore it is only natural for them to question the purpose of their existence, to constantly strive for perfection, and to question man’s affection for nature when they are witnessing severe exploitation of it.

It is also not surprising that they would turn to the Bible as well in their quest for answers. The fall from Eden is especially important to them because it signifies the point when man lost his pureness and innocence. To the Romantics, most men have become corrupt and overcome with materialistic and superficial things. Hartman quotes Kleist “…to return to the state of innocence we must eat once more of the tree of knowledge” I think this is a very significant quote. To me, Kleist means that man has gone so far beyond the point of return that the only option is to strive for more knowledge in order to understand what he has lost. However, the ultimate knowledge belongs to God and therefore “…the hand that inflicts the wound is also the hand that heals it”

This quote reminded me of the affection that the victim can sometimes have toward their abuser. Hostages for example, sometimes after their rescue they refuse to give any information about their abuser because they have developed feelings toward them. God has punished man and sent him to Earth, but man still wants to go back to Heaven and does everything in his power to do so. It is because Eden is the most pure and corrupt free place in the eyes of the Romantics.

I also liked the reference to the “Rhyme of an Ancient Mariner” by Coleridge. I think that the Romantics view most men as “mariners” They have had the chance to explore the world, and sail across the seas, and see all the wonders of the world. Instead of enjoying them, however, they have become obsessed and power hungry, making every action destructive. They have destroyed nature (much like the albatross that has been killed) perhaps without knowledge of consequences. Ironically their tries to better themselves end up being more destructive and now they are paying the price. It seems that the Romantics are puzzled with man’s ability to lose humanity. That makes them self-conscious but the fact that they are trying to answer that question makes them conscious.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Close Reading of "Songs"

Poetry has never been a strong point of mine as far as identifying symbols and meanings and looking at the use of the words and the syntax of each of the lines in order to find the bigger more meaningful picture. Romantic poetry is then even more challenging for me because of the language it is written in and all the words and phrases that in this time period, mean very little to me. With that being said, one thing I find very useful in helping me to bring some sort of intelligence to discussions and a greater understanding of the poetry is reading different literary criticisms and critical essays about the works of literature that I am struggling to pick apart myself. I also enjoy other's perspectives about meaning and symbols and sometimes it can open the eyes to themes or ideas that you otherwise may have looked over.

After reading "Songs of Innocence and of Experience" by William Blake, I felt as if I would go to class right then, I would have no comment to make about the poems other than, "Yes I enjoyed them" or "No I did not." Thinking back to our first class and thinking about one of our main objectives in the class being, "close reading," I realized that if I was going to succeed in understanding the time period and what Blake was trying to portray through his poetry that I should do some outside research to better help me understand.

One poem that I thoroughly enjoyed was, "The Chimney Sweeper" and I decided to start my research there, stumbling across a critical essay by Harriet Kramer Linkin entitled "The Language of Speakers in Songs of Innocence and Experience". As I was reading "Innocence and Experience" I was trying to understand which one seemed to have more childlike wonder (Innocence) and the poems of "Experience" did not. It was unclear to me the use of words and their meanings and how it was playing a role in the way that each of the poems are perceived and read and how the two different "versions," meaning "Innocence" and "Experience" were alike but also different.

Linkin makes a great point in of stating why "Innocence" is perceived as being more childlike, by saying that "Blake correlates syntactic structures with patterns of thinking," which immediately struck interest in me on the idea of "close reading." After reading further, Linkin explains that Blake's use of "conjunctions" really classifies the writing between the two different versions as being childlike and more mature. Linkin goes on to say, "Like many young children, the narrator systematically employs a great number of conjunctions: in addition to using "and" fifteen times within six stanzas, he also connects his clauses with "so," "thought," "for," "if," "when," "then," and "while."

This is a great example of the difference between the "Innocence" and the "Experience" poems and how the meanings of words and their use can be interpreted. Although I would never have picked up on this on my own, now my knowledge is a little bit more advanced and I understand not only the meaning of "The Chimney Sweeper" more but also between some of the other poems in each of the versions.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Deep In Thought Over "The Construction..."

"The Construction of 'The Romantic Movement' as a Literary Classification" to me was a very interesting article. Before having read this article and before our class on Tuesday, I had no real knowledge about what the "Romantic Movement" was or even what Romanticism was, who it involved, and how it affected me and my life today in present times.

This article was filled with a ton of different material, a lot if being factual; dates, names, work titles, while other parts of it were filled with ideas from the author and others about the basis of "The Romantic Movement." I couldn't help but turn my focus from the factual information to the bigger ideas of the movement itself.

What I took away from this article, what I thought of to be the main idea of Romanticism during this time was that all of these authors were affected by a common influence, during a common time, and they all had common feelings. David Perkins states that the authors are "citing the manners, institutions, beliefs and historical experiences of the society that produced it" (133). This statement among others spurred my thinking about the present time and how people my age are affected by things going on around us, the new "green" movement, if you will, the election of America's first black president, the role technology plays in our lives and the way that we all communicate with each other.

True there may not be a political revolution happening, but there is change all around us. Could there be a Facebook Movement happening? There is contradiction between the environment that we need between it's resources that we want and destroy for our industries. Are these things happening now affecting the future writers, poets, artists and how will they later affect us just like the artists of the "Romantic Movement?" What will our movement be called? Perkins states himself that, "periodization is currently under searching question." So does this mean that since the times of before, our times now, our generation's times are not making statements? What about slam-poetry, could that be an example of the way that our generation is moving in its art and literature? Although I cannot think of any Authors right now that are really making a difference or a statement, I can think of musicians and photographers that have made art that is helping define our times and inspiring the people around them.

I may be completely off on this idea, but I couldn't help but thinking it while reading this article and thinking about how still hundreds of years later we are sitting and studying the literature of that time period, hoping only that someday, someone will be studying the literature and the art of our time reflecting upon the changes and movements of our time.

BENG 411 Course Objectives

English 411 is intended to engage you in a detailed and thoughtful analysis of some major British literary works of the Romantic period of the late 18th to early 19th centuries. Our analysis of literature will include analysis of the cultural forces and values that influenced the authors and their productions. Because such a task is prohibitively large, we will narrow our inquiry to focus on texts that engage the theme of performance and role-playing. More exactly, we will be considering how a range of British authors complicate the notion of a unified or knowable "essence" of individual identity, and instead explore the extent to which all of our knowledge of "self" is rooted in performance. In taking this as our theme, we will consider the relationship between the themes of Romanticism and the limits of language to convey truth or reality. We will analyze the primary texts alongside a range of secondary texts, some of which will provide historical context, and others which will cover linguistic theory, gender studies, and literary criticism. Throughout the semester, we will be looking at literature a both an artistic production that can tell us something about how generic conventions are used to convey a range of meaning, and as historical artifact that can tell us something about the culture that produced it.