What Has Been Missed

March 5, 2012

Looking at the study guide topics, I noticed that Early American Literature was not fully covered.  Genres such as the seduction novel, like The Coquette or Charlotte Temple, and the author Charles Brockden Brown were not assigned.  Maybe it was just me, but I encountered that area of literature in more than one class so I thought it could use review. I also happened to really like Weiland when I read it.

Citation Question

February 6, 2012

My citation questions are: how to cite pictures correctly and how to best incorporate the pictures into the paper?  I’m thinking that I will include some stills from the films that I used in my final draft to go along with my analysis of those moments.

What Was She Thinking?

December 7, 2011

Notes On A Scandal certainly causes the reader to think.  The novel asks the reader questions that he or she may feel uncomfortable about answering.  In these times of hypersexual safety (which sadly, is often necessary), who is to blame for a relationship such as the one depicted in the novel, between a middle aged woman and teenage boy? Someone must be to blame; at least that is what our social guidelines tell us.  The story leaves the reader in doubt, as to Sheba’s guilt and responsibility, the supposed “harm” she has done to Connelly, and his role in the matter.  To narrate this whole drama, is the disturbing and possessive voice of her trusted friend, Barbara.  Sheba’s character is the object of gossip from the very start, her arrival at the school. Due to her “otherness”, being of a higher social class with a wealthy upbringing and her newness to teaching, her colleagues are eager to learn more about her.  When she does not readily offer all the information they seek, they begin to haphazardly put together what pieces of her biography they can come upon in order to construct their own version of her life.  Their interest in her is what eventually leads to her betrayal by Barbara, as she is misled to believe that someone wished to have a lunch date with her only to find out he wanted inside information on his crush, Sheba.  Being that she was on the outs with her obsession at the time, and stung to realize that Bangs did not want her actual companionship, Barbara spitefully reveals the part of Sheba’s life that she is most protective over: her affair with Connelly.  Barbara seems to have a strong desire to be talked about; to have the affect on others that Sheba does, and hopes that proximity to her will accomplish this.  All this does is magnify her own diminutive existence, as she never quite achieves her goal, so she must cling even more so to Sheba, the object of her obsession and source of identity.

Mary, Mother of Lies

November 16, 2011

The Children’s Hour was chilling.  Mary’s incriminating lie, born from bratty behavior and a dirty book fresh in her mind, brings about the ruin of two young women and the eventual death of one. It is evident in the play that, in gossip, the truth does not matter; an accusation is enough to do harm.   The implication of a lesbian affair is all that is necessary for Mrs. Tilford to feel the right to take away from Karen and Martha everything they have worked for.  She behaves “righteously”; disregarding their lives and the irreversible damage she is about to inflict upon them, in the name of doing what is best for “the children” by removing them from that environment.  Martha makes an interesting observation at the end, after revealing that the trial has made her realize she did have feelings for Karen, that Mary chose the one lie with a hint of truth in it, albeit still a lie, but the most believable of any of the ones she could have thought up.  This applies to gossip as well: the most powerful is the kind with a whisper of truth in it, quiet enough to be heard but never loud enough to drown out the lie.

Writing up my draft prospectus and organizing my ideas definitely helped me along towards further cementing my plans for my thesis.  I found the research questions very helpful.  In other prospectuses I have written, having definitive questions you need to answer in your research was much more useful than having a bunch of gray ideas you want to explore.  During my meeting with Professor Walkden, it became clear that two of my questions needed either major revision or to be thrown out.   I realized that I was writing a Prospectus for a history based project, whereas I want to focus my thesis on visual and artistic aspects.  Refining these questions so they really inquire into the areas I want to research will help form the backbone of my project.  Through the draft, I realized I need to do a lot of research into what my project is on, film studies, and basically refresh and re-teach myself.  I’m going to meet with a faculty member and, with his assistance and input, find the texts to learn even more about this area of study I am very interested in.  The most frustrating aspect of this assignment was expanding my central idea.  My entire project was born from a singular film and I needed to make my thesis one that could incorporate and dissect other films.  A worry I had was that I wasn’t giving myself enough material to research and investigate, which caused me to go down the history route, but then that would make this project different from the one I am hoping to write.  A question I would like a reader to answer for me is if my project is cohesive, and not just a scattering of ideas related to film.  In all, I know that this first draft is going to change, and with its changes, I will gain a better understanding of what exactly it is I am doing and become more confident in my ability to do it.

 

 

 

Also, Summer left me speechless.

David, the Golden Boy

November 2, 2011

The Biblical story of David and Bathsheba and The Scarlet Letter was an excellent pairing for this week.  Both deal with a man and woman partaking in an adulterous affair and the consequences of their sin.  In the story of David and Bathsheba, Oriah, Bathsheba’s husband, is premeditatingly (yes, that is not a real word, but it should be) send into the frontlines of battle by David in order to be killed.  God then avenges the  Oriah’s murder by killing David’s and Bathsheba’s son seven days after he is born. Hester Prynne and Dimmesdale’s punishment is slightly different.  Rather than dying without knowing of his wife’s infidelity like Oriah did, Chillingworth, Hester’s husband, arrives in town just in time to witness his wife’s shame.  He, then, decides to play God and punish Dimmesdale by mentally and emotionally torturing him.  In contrast, as well, the child who lives (unlike David and Bathsheba’s) becomes a tool for retribution, torturing Hester with her inhuman unruliness and fascination with the symbol of her mother’s sin, the scarlet letter.

 

What I found interesting in the story of David and Bathsheba, though, was God’s lax response to David’s sin.  The God of the Old Testament is an angry God, a jealous God.  He is smiting people, covering the earth in water, destroying cities, and yet when his golden boy becomes not only an adulterer, but a murder as well, all he requires is David to admit he has sinned, and then the newborn dies (which wasn’t uncommon so I don’t find it to be a very harsh punishment).  After David hears of his son’s death, he is even pretty cool with it.  He brushes off his shoulders and continues with his day.  I can almost picture him getting off of the floor and thinking, “That’s it? I’m not getting any more punishment for doing that?”

 

Oh yeah, then God helps him win the war and David kills and enslaves the people there.

Single Clever Female

October 26, 2011

I agree with Alex’s post, from the beginning to end.  I was also at once irritated with Emma and completely invested in her next step.  However, her ability to morph reality to suite her internal thoughts is an actual psychological condition that could very possibly use treatment… but that’s for another time.  Emma is deemed “clever” many times, it is the central reason Mr. Knightly falls in love with her, and yet I found myself constantly searching for examples of this cleverness.  It is certainly not clever to completely and continually misread everything that occurs around you, it is not clever to be take over the agency of your “friend” to the point where you almost leave her without any promising future prospects, and it definitely not clever to insult a poor, sensitive friend (although I found this joke to be the closest thing to cleverness because it was, at least to me, funny).  Where, then, is Emma so very clever?  It seemed to me, that her cleverness was based upon the fact that, at times, she did not think like a “woman”, which was in itself fused to her apparent decision not to marry (which, of course, does not last forever).  She did not let silly things like attachments to undeserving men cloud her head or her heart, therefore allowing her to articulate herself “cleverly”.  In that case, marrying the deserving Mr. Knightly may then be the most unclever thing she ever did…  Hmm, food for thought.

Gossip, m’lady?

October 19, 2011

Gossip certainly has its place in Jane Austen’s Emma.  I found that gossip was not merely a pastime or distraction in the novel, but a right.  It is the people of society’s right to gossip about the other people in society, and to be informed about the past, character, or mild occurrences in the life of others in their society.  Even as Emma disdains this habit, she calls visitors of Harriet “Highbury gossips! – Tiresome wretches!” (57), she partakes in the very same activity in every interaction she has with anyone who shares her company.  Topics that I would assume to be improper to talk about, such as someone’s complexion, are free reign within this group.  Jane Fairfax’s complexion is not only remarked upon and then defended, but also thoroughly dissected between Emma and Frank Churchill.  Jane Fairfax is an interesting character because of her unique disposition, one that does not participate in gossip.  Emma’s perception of her due to this quality is not a positive one. “And then her reserve–, I never could attach myself to any one so completely reserved” (190).   Frank Churchill looks upon this reserve, her lack of gossiping with them as others do, a bit more strongly.   “It is a most repulsive quality, indeed… Oftentimes very convenient, no doubt, but never pleasing.  There is a safety in reserve, but no attraction.  One cannot love a reserved person” (109).  Safety can be found in a reserved personality because one cannot get oneself entangled in the treacherous gossip of idle talk but it is, in these talented gossips opinion, a “repulsive” and unattractive quality.   She will not allow them to draw her into their pastime, a right of passage into their society, and thus rejects entrance into their high esteem.

Leonora Sansay’s Secret History follows the trials and tribulations of the forgettable Mary and her sister, the vivacious Clara, against the backdrop of the Haitian Revolution.  Elizabeth Maddock Dillon, in her article “The Secret History of the Early American Novel”, plays the marital abuse occurring in Clara’s marriage to St. Louis as a reflection of the revolution occurring during the time of the letters.  Their relationship is a symbol of the political unrest of the revolution in addition to the subversive oppression that women sought to escape through the independent scattering they experienced after the revolution.  I agree with these readings but believe it can be read as well as a metaphor for the woman-on-woman crime that was occurring at the time between the European and Creole women.  St. Louis abuses Clara because of jealousy.  He forbids her from balls, locks her up, and threatens to disfigure and kill her, all to control and keep her within the confined definition of what he believed her place to be.  Some of his jealousy is inspired by her coquettish nature, according to Mary, the rest is because… well, he crazy.  This dynamic sounds strikingly similar to the tense relations between the European and Creole women.  The European women’s rage over the Creole women’s natural “voluptuous” sensuality led them to demand the enacting of a law that governed how the native-born women could dress.  The law also forbid them to leave their hair uncovered, all due to the jealous and watchful eye of the European female ego.  Just as Clara’s escape from the oppression of her husband was necessary for her autonomy, maybe the Creole women’s escape from the patriarchal dominance of Saint Domingo was just as essential as their freedom from the controlling and jealous reign of the European wife.

Cover Your Mouth

October 5, 2011

Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year was a surprising choice for our seminar but as I read, (having only read excerpts in my British Literature class) I realized how fitting it was for our topic.  The pestilence travels by word of mouth just as gossip does.  Where it has hit, which neighborhoods are safe, who has been affected: all information gleaned through word of mouth.  The Bills of Mortality are like the plague tabloids, addictive to read but not exactly accurate.  The act of speaking is so important in these times when the world seems to be at a standstill and sharing anything someone else has touched is feared.  H.F. describes the sounds of the plague year, the sick crying in the streets, family members shrieking in locked up homes as they witness their loved ones die, crazed Londoners calling for confession.  The only thing the people can do is listen to the sounds around them, something they can trust as immediate and real, and believe what they are told as the rest of their world dissolves.

 

Additionally, I agreed with Saadya’s urge to read the text as a metaphor for gossip and sin. The incident when the narrator sees the ships anchored in the harbor, with families aboard attempting to escape death, is particularly interesting.   When read through this lens, the scene illustrates how gossip and sin are so pervasive that the only way to seemingly protect oneself from them is literal isolation.   Those locked up with someone with the plague were most likely doomed, as though proximity to gossip inevitably leads to involvement and being taken down by it.  To be safe from such vices is to be cut off from them entirely; cut off from seeing, knowing, and speaking to anyone who partakes.  What is the first thing we are taught to do as children to avoid spreading sickness? Cover your mouth.