Literary Criticism

This site contains my work during the course of English 300 at Montana State University-Bozeman in the Autumn of 2004.


I am a senior at Montana State University working for a degree in history with a teaching option and also a minor in English. Currently I am working with the students at Bridger Alternative here in town and I am loving every minute of it. I can't wait to get out into the field and teach.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Our Term Paper Presentations

Zak: there is no truth-that itself is not a truthful statement
Andrea: there is no outside of the text-reform education
Matt: taking wisdom and comfort from the reading-everything happens for a reason
Debbie: poets create worlds better than our own
Katie W.: a way to interpret ourselves and the world around us-Walter Pater p. 841
Ed: expression within a work is important
Tristan: people will see what they want to see-first level of Reader Response:literary crit-see bigger picture
Nancy: a well-lived life is full of helping others more disadvantaged than you are.
Lindzee: literary criticism provides a better understanding of the text and the world
Amanda: take as much experience from each situation you can
Brian: what if prominent people in history had been influenced by just one other person. e.g. Hitler going to Art School
Dan: well-lived life is one who has reached meaningful understandings-except for Math
Nikole: Words are powerful tools, rhetoric successful, people are communal histories
Katie S.: Objectivity and Immersement (classicism and romanticism)
Laura: fictional books offer us experiences that we wouldn't otherwise experience
Ray: all aspects of literature are important
Becky: Reader Response from Structuralists and Deconstructionists
Jennie: English majors think about the world
Opai: the Matrix, racial reading and the Well-Lived Life
Francoise: Canon needs to be more multicultural
Megan: strong emotion, growth from new perspectives
Ben: read and recognize other perspectives
Brian D.: Poetry is what we see with poetry seeing eyes.
Susan: once you've studied criticism you can't go back.
Yoshie: feminism and why she left Japan
Mandy: each critic's opinion influential
JR: English opens up to new views-wants to look smart and hot
Jamie: meaning of literature and meaning of life-find your own God
Dustin: intense struggle in language when talking to a Deity
God is what we see with God seeing eyes.

Literary Criticism, the Well-Lived Life and Angel Tree Toppers

Literary Criticism is influential in our lives whether we like it or not. Everything we do, see or experience we judge or criticize. This may apply to something literary or something else entirely. In this way Reader Response is the ultimate criticism in that we as the audience interpret the text and that everything including the author can be read as a text. Regardless of what the feminists, deconstructionists, formalists, structuralists or post colonialists have to say they still must go through the process of Reader Response to form their criticisms. How else would they become critics?
This paragraph is my Introduction to my Term Paper, "Literary Criticism and the Well-Lived Life. As you can guess, my paper covers the idea that everybody is a critic regardless if we mean to or not. The first point I made in my paper was my opinion on Angel Tree Toppers. I discussed in class how I believed Angel Tree Toppers were better because they could be decorated in any color to match any decor. Yet I also pointed out that after Santa we needed a prominent female figure for the Christmas tree. Using this I argued that this may be my opinion because I'm a woman or it may be because I have studied feminist criticism this semester in this class and am now utilizing it no matter where I go. Yet I pointed out that even after all of this, I'm still using Reader Response as my ultimate device of criticism.
My paper goes in the fact that anybody and everybody can be a critic, but anybody and everybody can also be a writer. Everybody should just keep in mind that we all have our opinions and in writing and critiquing and that we should not be afraid of anyone else's ideas. In this way we can all live a Well-Lived Life. Especially if we decorate our Christmas trees with Angel Tree Toppers.

"Our Play" as Presented by Group Two

This play was inspired by our four themes given to us at the beginning of the semster: Drama, Author, Feminism and Medeval Theory.
3 Actors sitting in front of a table.
Author follows Director in.

Author: "You can't interpret my play like that! It wasn't written that way! This is an outrage, an intentional fallacy I say!"
Director: "That is your problem! You only wrote it down! I am the interpreter! I am the director! I am the Dramatist! I think outside of the box!"
Author: "Well! You should interpret the drama correctly! You're making my play sound absurd rather than the serious myster it ought to be!"
Director: I've interpreted your play using Archetypes, yes! Full of archetypes your writings are, all writing is, just watch the wonderful actors I've picked out! Great dramatists! You! (Pointing to the first actor sitting). Improvise, on...oh, I don't know...Feminism! Improvise on Feminism!
Actor One: "We women need and value rights! Throughout history we have been denied the same rights as men, only until recently have we had similar privileges! Look at the classrooms today! Women are being educated like men! Some of us have loosened our straight jackets and have written personal, feminine-inspired narratives! We even have theories on the "male gaze" and how it affects audiences! The feminist movement has advanced incredibly and has increased our awareness of women in society!"
Author: "WHAT! What does feminism and its movement have anything to do with my play! My play is a mystery! the play I WROTE is a mystery!"
Director: "You, you, you! Its all about you and your intentional meaning of the play! I had the actor act out feminism to show you what talent I have here!"
Author: "Precisely! ACTOR! A male acting as a female feminist to prove to me that you have talent here to act out my play! How about a little mystery here? THAT is what my play is about!"
Director: "You don't find feminism a little mysterious? Besides, only in error is there truth!"
Author: "W-w-what? NO!"
Director: "Fine! Maybe you'll find this a little mysterious! You! (pointing to the 2nd actor) Improvise on Medieval Theory!"
Author: "WHAT! are you on something, drugs perhaps?"
Director: "Wait...this should be interesting."
Actor Two: "Our faith and reverence should be to God! All of our writings and paintings should be about God! Chivalry? Did you mean chivalry? All acts of chivalry are made in God's name! Think of the quest for the Holy Grail! Monty Python said it best when God spoke from the Heavens and yelled, 'Arthur! King of the Britons!' and sent him on a quest, a chivalric quest for the most Holy Grail!"
Author: "And that, has WHAT exactly to do with my play?"
Director: "There is no medieval theory in you play?"
Author: "Have you even read the play?"
Director: "Well, yes, at the bar...the other evening...where I met you!"
Author: "For your clarification, medieval theory is NOT found in my play, and medieval theory is even further from feminism! What on EARTH are you trying to prove to me!"
Director: "Medieval theory and feminism are related, and so I give my actors true freedom! And in so doing, they have the ability and freedom to invent themselves! As modern women in patriarchal times. It will be a blockbuster of a play! Let us prove it to you! You! (pointing to the 3rd actor) Improvise on feminism IN medieval theory!"
Actor Three: "But...Director..."
Author: "Good Grief. Not even your actors know what you are trying to do."
Director: "Wait, she just needs to compose herself. It takes a little time to re-invent the gender image."
Actor Three: "There weren't any feminists in the medieval age. We weren't allowed! Women were expected to be subordinate to men as ordained by God! The most mention of women in stories and histories are of damsels in distress! Surely you wouldn't find feminism in medieval theory! As for you two, (pointing at the Director and Author) you need to figure out the roles of Dramatist and Author!"
Author: "Oh! All right! You and your "intertextuality" as a dramatic Director may interpret my writing, but for my sake, please, read the TEXT of my play carefully!"
Director: "I think you are experiencing anxiety of authorship."
Author: "Out! Get out! And don't come back until you can read my play with "play" reading eyes."
Actor One: "May I suggest a pharmoacon? It really helps me get to sleep at night."
Author: "No!"
Actor Two: "Oh, this is such bad 'aura'! I can't work under these conditions! I'm going home to meditate existentially on my meaningless existence."
Author: "My play is tattered to shreds by inaccurate interpretation, the actors are "free to invent themselves" whatever that means. The director is a Loon! My carreer is over!"
Long sigh.
Everyone stands and watches as the Author slumps down into a near by chair, depressed. Lights fade.

An Opinion on Censorship

Censorship can be considered both a good and bad thing. I think it is appropriate for those below a certain age, take the movie ratings for example, I agree with those as a form of censorship. However, I believe that when one is older than the age of 17 they should be able to handle almost any image, etc. I believe that when they see these sorts of grotesque images that it is almost a Catharsis or a "cleansing of emotions". If they see these then as the ideas of Pharmakos go the public would be less likely to act on any of these grotesque notions that may be illustrated in pictures or the movies, etc. Yet again I am not a psychologist, I only call it as I see it from my studies of History and English.

Rebuttal of the Canon

I personally do not like Canons because books should not be categorized according to the best of anyone's opinion. Besides, if one goes by any Critic's standpoint, each would have their own list of what was best or not. To do this, they would need to use Reader Response and this could never fit everyone's opinion, so to attempt to make a list of the best is ridiculous. I personally would rather walk into the library and just take in the smell of all the books and then go about my berry choosing.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Jacques Derrida

Derrida believed there is no reading outside the text, this became a radical, new definition of how to study a text. Yet people as texts are also to be read, as are cultural phenomena.
I do not agree with Derrida on this because as a history major, events are analyazed by events that occur around them, including people, time, religion, culture, etc. By splitting texts, people etc. into different types to be analyzed is foolish, because how can one fully understand one without the other?
  • Literary Criticism 40 years ago was easier because it was only the analysis of the text, and not of gender, race, class psychoanalysis, etc.
  • Realists-real, substantial link between word and word represented
  • Nominalists-words don't mean anything, they're just names, an arbitrary collection of words

p. 1817-1818 "There is nothing outside the text." Everything is textual, everything can be read and interpreted, therefore there is no outside to the text, writing is superior to speech for Deconstructionists.

  • New Criticism: everything is language, everything is text
  • Logocentrism: reason-a western privilege, truth, reality, facts
  • Phonocentrism: Spoken word is better than the written word, from Plato
  • Transcendental Signify: abiding nostalgia for the perfect world that we need to reclaim, but Derrida says there is none, there is nothing that determines us, world is very much random and absurd
  • Writing is fundamental, especially in the western world, even Plato who wrote speech was better than writing had to write it down.
  • King of Egypt named writing pharmakon (drug) which means "remedy" as well as "poison"
  • Deconstructionists had to turn argument over to prove the opposite was true. Is this what Zak is attempting at his website with the abortion issue? Check it out at

Shrek, the archetype of a guy bidded to get another guy's woman.

The Third Seven Days of Class plus Notes on our Review for the Test!

October 19, 2004
Migraine strikes again, sorry guys.
October 21,2004

  • Deconstructionists understand the text to be unstable-when one finds the right words they are still not the right words.
  • Forever-you don't know forever-it's an illusion
  • it's also not how you feel

Northrop Frye should be considered a structuralist-deep structures of narratives and literature.

  • The miracle is that we understand each other as well as we do-with the wrong language that we use.

The Archetypes of Literature

  • Frye needed to see it in its largest possible picture p. 1450
  • a universal model that we follow
  • repitition is important, as well as genre
  • can't just enjoy the story-must pay attention to the genre (e.g. detective story)
  • we can apply the same stuff we know about psychology and apply it to literature

New (Formal, Technical) Criticism: got away from analyzing poets and characters in poems-history, psychology, and sociology not important-the text is important

  • The reader should work through all the pieces then figure out the archetype-such as "Falling Angels" based on the Oedipus archetype
  • One can find the crudest archetypes in fairy tales-look at the Grimms Brothers-they are not welll written at all
  • The reader enjoys the story because they know the archetypal structure on a very deep level
  • Descent and uprising is a repetitive old symbol such as death and rebirth
  • Shrek is an archetype-one guy bidded to get another guy's woman
  • Look at Antigone, Agamemnon, Odyssius-the Greeks and Shakespeare are all archetypes
  • p. 1456-seasonal changes, affect the moods, part of the archetypes

October 26, 2004 We met in our groups today.

October 28, 2004 THROUGH November 18, 2004 These are run together because of all our presentations. Under each author I will have the notes I took during the presentation, and the 'pigeon hole' and quote we gave each one during our review session in class. I hope this will be helpful not only for you to read but for me to review. ;o) I apologize for misspellings of names, I only have my notes handy.

  • Ralph Waldo Emerson: Transcendalist. "Hyperbolic estimation of the power of the poet," "inspired poet" poets must bring out true beauty, importance is writing and not reading, man is half self and half expression
  • Paul Du Mann: Deconstructionist. "Language is rhetorical interpretation," grammar and logic support each other, rhetoric, persuade audience with style, invention, direction, metaphors, allegory, symbolism, getting inside a text, poetry-most advanced deconstructive texts
  • Friedrich Von Schiller: Romanticist. "Spiritual and physical freedom," "In error only is there truth," "the muses drained me dry," Ode to Joy German language not known to literature until Schiller wrote about freedom against dictatorship p. 571
  • Tsvetan Todorob: Structural Analyst. "The important part of the text is simple clauses to form a plot," narratology: Structural Analogy of Narrative, sequence of clauses makes a finished story p. 2100
  • Mary Wollstonecraft: First Feminist. "Educate Women like Men," rebelled against Victorian man, mother of feminism, rose against philosophers like Rousseau who stated that women should be educated so they would be pleasing, more education would mean less power over them
  • Jung: Depth Psychology. "Archetypes of the collective unconscious," STAR WARS
  • William Wordsworth: Romanticist. "poetry-powerful feelings" claimed to not be a critic, acknowledged literary history, man should show his tender side-personal experience and self exploration, nature important, poetry on the level that we speak everyday, poets obliged to defend work against scientists p. 665 and 661
  • Edgar Allen Poe: Classicist. "Literature should have a single effect," "Great literature should be short," wrote backwards-begin with the outcome you want to achieve, the ideal length would be one sitting, beauty will create a person succumbing to tears-melancholy is the most legitimate mood for poets, poems need complexity, a locale and a symbol
  • Jane Thompkins: Feminist. "Writing should be personal, female inspired writing and not male objective writing," "Cut off your straight jacket" form of writing that comes from your gut, writers should cast their own shadow and not hide in an impersonal voice-a voice that no one listens to p. 2129
  • Laura Mulvey: Feminist. "First theorist to use Freud and to analyze the "male gaze" of women," film and movie critic, female body beautiful, the "male gaze" in a film needs to boost his own ego, oral connectedness with the mother: fetish with the breasts, men and women prefer to see women naked p. 2179
  • Julia Kristeva: Feminist. "Merged colleagues' disciplines," "Semanalyisis: linguistics disolve the sign," "Intertextuality," Semiotic: science of science, language as units, Symbolism creates repressed personality by conflicting natures of id, ego and superego which creates anxiety, Phenomenology: the study of development of the human consciousness p.2165 and 2169
  • Roland Bartes: Structuralist. "Language speaks and not the author," the author dies because the text lives (a lot like Hamlet), Neurosis: is why you gain pleasure from the text, blissful, seductive, suppress and remove the author p. 1461
  • Mikhail Bahktin: Structuralist. "Monologic is a single form of speech while Dialogic is a mobile dynamic language," more of a linguist, words are important since poetry is not spoken, it is inefficient, the written word is dead, the only attempt at dialogue should be in the novel, tension between words: "it was 'cool' but then it 'sucked'" when spoken there is tension between these two words, but when written there is not, Beavis and Butthead p. 1189
  • Jean Batisto Vico: Original. "Characterized writing into the AGES: Gods, Heroes, Men and Chaos," knowledge of good and evil-a science called a muse p. 399
  • Friedrich Nietzsche: Existentialist. "God is a fiction, existence is more important than essence," "Truth is a mobile army of metaphors," humans don't have truth, Sprachkrise: inadequacy of language, language is created by society and set standards, 1.) man of reason, 2.) man of intuition, 3.) stoic-these three are wrong, people should live by energy and search for this in literature
  • Terry Eagleton: Marxist. "Literature plays social and political roles in the cultural sphere," reproduction of literature influenced by society, modernity concentrates on sexual content and not on literary content p. 2240
  • Horace: No pigeon hole, no quote. Poet from first century B.C.E., Roman who didn't want to be influenced by the Greeks, poetry is a craft, decorum-unity of the piece, can't add one thing beautiful "The Purple Patch", everything must fit, characters must be cast in characters they are known for, poet cannot be afraid of criticism and must start with a base of wisdom p. 121
  • Simone de Beauvoir: Canonical Feminist, wrote 2nd Sex. "Women should be absolutely free to invent ourselves, but women through history have been identified by men," he is the subject and absolute and she is the 'other', one is not born but becomes a woman p. 1403
  • William Wimsatt: Formalist, New Critic. "Intentional fallacy: the meaning the author intended is wrong," "Affective Fallacy: relevant notions to you mean nothing," text is independent of all outside sources p. 1371
  • Sandra Gilbert and Suzie Gubar?: Feminists. "Females experience the anxiety of influence and males the anxiety of authorship," Snow White is dumb: angel of the house-she can stay in the house if she cooks and cleans, no room for women in the patriarchy system, women categorized as the inferior sex, The Mad Woman in the Attic p. 2021
  • Henry Lewis Gates: Deconstructionist. "Race is a text," concerned with the future of the Black race and its culture, created the Norton Anthology of African Immigrant Stories, preserve the race and see how people treat the race, Talking Black p. 2421
  • Michele Foucault: Post Structuralist. "History and power are 'discourse'," discourse is not simply talking or speech-"What is an author?", ecriture-writing has signifiers (words) and signified (objects or subject), writing about writing, author is dead, poet a way to categorize texts, author denoted by one set of ideas
  • Thomas Love Peacock: Romantic Satirist. "Critic of poetry," poetry is a waste of time, Coleridge and classical poetry are the only good poetry, 4 Ages of Poetry p. 682
  • Schliermacher: Romanticist. "Hermoneutics-a way of interpreting, author and relation to the Bible," interpreting the text through analytical procedures, grammatical principle and the psychological principle SCIENCE OF INTERPRETATION p. 610
  • Hugh of St. Victor: Classic Theologian. "Function of literature is to teach, to be didactic," "Berry picker," Di dascalicon-new way of learning, everybody can find wisdom in the reading and the hiding place in their hearts, more knowledge creates radiance, understand the ultimate text to understand God p. 200
  • Homi Bhabha: Post Colonialist. "Break down the western binary opposition of 'haves' and 'have nots'," East Indian, resistance in a culture in inevitable, built upon deconstructive critics, nationalities are dialogic, narratives that don't fit into mainstream imperialistic west should have more attention paid to them p. 2377
  • Judith Butler: Feminist. "Gender and sexuality is a costume," male and female roles should be set up as a single idea, used Freud's ideas to understand gender ideas, gender ideas shouldn't be static, Gender Issues p. 2485
  • Cleanth Brooks: no pigeon hole, no quote. new criticism-the text itself and poems should be the object of study, The Well Wrought Urn p. 1350
  • Stanley Fish: Reader Response. "Poetry seeing eyes," "Meaning of text is whatever interpretive community thinks of it," poetry displays linguistic characteristics by act of response p. 2067
  • Stephen Greenblatt: New Historicist. "Cultural poets is a chronology," "History is a text and text is a history," prefers 'poetics of culture', cultural meaning deduced from a text, history mixed into an imaginary narrative, Learning to Curse p. 2250
  • John Dreyden: no pigeon hole, no quote. restoration dramatist, translation, Fables, Ancient and Modern p. 379

Derrida will be written of later.

Walter Benjamin, a Social Historian, a quote to remember him is: "Our perception of aesthetics and their 'aura' changes with social history."

Notes from my Walter Benjamin Presentation

On November 09, I gave this presentation to the class, but in case I was hard to follow, this is what Walter Benjamin is all about!
Quote: "One of the foremost tasks of art has always been the creation of a demand which could be fully satisfied only later." -W. Benjamin
  • Walter became a qualified cultural critic by the age of 28, he wrote on communism, industrial production and modern conceptions of aesthetics.
  • He visited Moscow between the years of 1926 and 1927 and decided that the Bolshevik revolution didn't go far enough.
  • He joined the German Communist Party during the 1920s and 30s.
  • He was exiled to Paris because of his beliefs, yet Germany invaded France in 1940.
  • He attempted to cross the border into Spain to take a flight to the U.S. but was turned away at the border.
  • Afraid of being caught and forced to a concentration camp, he committed suicide instead.
  • He had a concept of "AURA": the quality of artwork that would be equivalent to a sacred object in a religious ritual.
  • Yet the status of artwork is not timeless, it instead changes in its value according to capitalistic production
  • Technology and therefore time alter perceptions of what is aesthetically pleasing. Because of this film and photography have advantages over painting
  • Yet film abolishes its field of AURA and authenticity because it creates participation with the audience instead.
  • Reproduction of art is a forgery, which is not necessarily bad because it makes the piece available to everybody and therefore is a type of communism, or communal sharing.
  • Photography has reproduced prints, asking for the authentic would be unreasonable.
  • Overall, human sense perception changes with humanity's mode of existence, nature and historical circumstances.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Yet another Text that Consoles Me

I have recently been introduced to the poem by Wallace Stevens: Sunday Morning. This poem has so touched me that I only wish I had known it last spring to take full comfort in it because of the death of my Grandma. I have since mostly recovered but when I read this poem it makes me feel so much better and so I had to put it up on this site:
Sunday Morning
Complacencies of the peignoir, and late
Coffee and oranges in a sunny chair,
And the green freedom of a cockatoo
Upon a rug mingle to dissipate
The holy hush of ancient sacrifice.
She dreams a little, and she feels in the dark
Encroachment of that old catastrophe,
As a calm darkens among water-lights.
The pungent oranges and bright, green wings
Seem things in some procession of the dead,
Winding across wide water, without sound.
The day is like wide water, without sound,
Stilled for the passing of her dreaming feet
Over the seas, to silent Palestine,
Dominion of the blood and sepulchre.
Why should she give her bounty to the dead?
What is divinity if it can come
Only in silent shadows and in dreams?
Shall she not find in comforts of the sun,
In pungent fruit and bright, green wings, or else
In any balm or beauty of the earth,
Things to be cherished like the thought of heaven?
Divinity must live within herself:
Passions of rain, or moods in falling snow;
Grievings in loneliness, or unsubdued
Elations when the forest blooms; gusty
Emotions on wet roads on autumn nights;
All pleasures and all pains, remembering
The bough of summer and the winter branch.
These are the measures destined for her soul.
Jove in the clouds had his inhuman birth.
No mother suckled him, no sweet land gave
Large-mannered motions to his mythy mind.
He moved among us, as a muttering king,
Magnificent, would move among his hinds,
Until our blood, commingling, virginal,
With heaven, brought such requital to desire
The very hinds discerned it, in a star.
Shall our blood fail? Or shall it come to be
The blood of paradise? And shall the earth
Seem all of paradise that we shall know?
The sky will be much friendlier then than now,
A part of labor and a part of pain,
And next in glory to enduring love,
Not this dividing and indifferent blue.
She says, "I am content when wakened birds,
Before they fly, test the reality
Of misty fields, by their sweet questionings;
But when the birds are gone, and their warm fields
Return no more, where, then, is paradise?"
There is not any haunt of prophecy,
Nor any old chimera of the grave,
Neither the golden underground, nor isle
Melodious, where spirits gat them home,
Nor visionary south, nor cloudy palm
Remote on heaven's hill, that has endured
As April's green endures; or will endure
Like her remembrance of awakened birds,
Or her desire for June and evening, tipped
By the consummation of the swallow's wings.
She says, "But in contentment I still feel
The need of some imperishable bliss."
Death is the mother of beauty; hence from her,
Alone, shall come fulfillment to our dreams
And our desires. Although she strews the leaves
Of sure obliteration on our paths,
The path sick sorrow took, the many paths
Where triumph rang its brassy phrase, or love
Whispered a little out of tenderness,
She makes the willow shiver in the sun
For maidens who were wont to sit and gaze
Upon the grass, relinquished to their feet.
She causes boys to pile new plums and pears
On disregarded plate. The maidens taste
And stray impassioned in the littering leaves.
Is there no change of death in paradise?
Does ripe fruit never fall? Or do the boughs
Hang always heavy in that perfect sky,
Unchanging, yet so like our perishing earth,
With rivers like our own that seek for seas
They never find, the same receding shores
That never touch with inarticulate pang?
Why set the pear upon those river-banks
Or spice the shores with odors of the plum?
Alas, that they should wear our colors there,
The silken weavings of our afternoons,
And pick the strings of our insipid lutes!
Death is the mother of beauty, mystical,
Within whose burning bosom we devise
Our earthly mothers, waiting, sleeplessly.
Supple and turbulent, a ring of men
Shall chant in orgy on a summer morn
Their boisterous devotion to the sun,
Not as a god, but as a god might be,
Naked among them, like a savage source.
Their chant shall be a chant of paradise,
Out of their blood, returning to the sky;
And in their chant shall enter voice by voice,
The windy lake wherein their lord delights,
The trees, like serafin, and echoing hills,
That choir among themselves long afterward.
They shall know well the heavenly fellowship
Of men that perish and of summer morn.
And whence they came and whither they shall go
The dew upon their feet shall manifest.
She hears, upon that water without sound,
A voice that cries, "The tomb of Palestine
Is not the porch of spirits lingering.
It is the grave of Jesus, where he lay."
We live in an old chaos of the sun,
Or old dependency of day and night,
Or island solitude, unsponsored, free,
Of that wide water, inescapable.
Deer walk upon our mountains, and the quail
Whistle about us their spontaneous cries;
Sweet berries ripen in the wilderness;
And, in the isolation of the sky,
At evening, casual flocks of pigeons make
Ambiguous undulations as they sink,
Downward to darkness, on extended wings.

The Second Seven Days of Class

September 23, 2004

  • Today we started off with some brief definitions, as we were discussing the Sublime as written by Longinus. We went over:
  • Misprision: made a mistake, to read something in a wrong way
  • Sublime: lofty, noble, reverence, elevation, transport, goes beyond the beautiful, awe (I already have a journal entry on what I think is sublime if you would like to read it below.)
  • Liminal: on the periphery of existence
  • Ecstasy: ec=outside stas=stand together they mean "stand outside yourself"
  • awful: full of awe (funny how terms change for what they mean...)
  • The FIVE POINTS OF THE SUBLIME ARE: noble feeling and a lofty mind (which are interior) and figures of speech, diction, and word study (which are exterior)
  • Plato had anxiety of influence-he hated Homer because he loved Homer while Aristotle liked literature representative of human nature that is "just right". Aristotle's tragedy was Oedipus because the play was done cleanly, efficiently, and organically and is very serious, it doesn't have any loose ends.
  • Aristotle also suggests that Oedipus is universal: a story of the human resource and yet a perfection of a work of art
  • Oedipus can be likened to Luke Skywalker and Superman
  • To have time lapses destroys three things: unity of action, unity of time and unity of effect

September 28, 2004

  • Stories and Poetry may discuss horrific events, the reader should check for historical accuracy because the events may truly have happened and the author wants the public to know what happened. (This is why I love being a history major!)
  • Classical Tragedy will make an imprint on your mind. (This is true, has anybody seen Ladder 49 yet?
  • Plato would want scenes like Oedipus gouging out his eyes censored because it is a bad influence on society while Aristotle saw it as a Catharsis; it is absolutly essential for us to see them so that we may be educated by them.
  • "We are not moved by someone who only has a few inches to fall but rather those that have a long way to fall." -Dr. M. Sexson
  • Again, referring to the above, it illustrates what happens in Ladder 49.
  • Things are censored because the censors feel that the material has no contribution to social construction.
  • The job of the poet is to not represent the particular but the universal, (they say the particulars are up to us historians and philosophers.)
  • Plato likes the book to end happily (just like me!) while Aristotle likes the worst possible situation for the true tragedy to end. (Oedipus).
  • The artist understands that every part of the text is important though tragic (no happy endings :P) because Tragedy is a supreme work of art because crying and fear cleanse a person (Catharsis).
  • DEUS EX MACHIUS: the main characters are in situations they cannot get out of but a miraculous means of solving the problem comes about. (Kind of like MacGyver episodes, somehow a rubberband and a banana peel could solve any problem...just kidding.)
  • Four Levels of reading according to Dante: 1.) literal interpretation 2.) allegorical 3.)moral 4.) anagogical

September 30, 2004

Today I had a migraine and could not make it to class, but I'm sure other students have their notes posted to check theirs. Soon I will figure out how to create links to allow access to the other students websites.

October 05, 2004

Today we discussed mostly out of our anthology and so I don't have as many notes except for important page numbers with authors by them and consequently I don't have my book with me, so for now listing page numbers will have to do until I can come back and correct this matter.

  • Sir Phillip Sidney pgs. 362, 330 (dresses nature up-poet idealizes the world) pgs. 333, and 334-35 (historians and philosophers are boring) I think I might take this as a personal offence... and p. 348 (the poet never affirms anything)
  • Samuel Johnson p. 466 (poetry is the highest learning) p. 467 (general truth)
  • Romantics-beauty is all you need to appreciate the world. p. 676 Coleridge

October 07, 2004

Today we reviewed material that would be found on the test, but since I'm writing this after we've taken the test, I have already thrown out that material, much apologies for this.

October 12, 2004

Test taking day!

October 14, 2004

Today we had a brief discussion about our tests and how we thought they were too difficult, Dr. Sexson allowed us to remove ten questions that most of us missed and we also graded them in this process. It wasn't pretty. Other than that we did discuss:

  • Plato saw Sophists around him-those that could debate with him over issues.
  • "Sweetness and Light" by Matthew Arnold
  • The candidates for the National Book Award this year are all female!

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Catharsis, also known as Cleansing of Emotions

Catharsis: a cleansing of the spirit, getting it out of your system.
When we were first given the assignment of finding a piece of literature that made you cry, I had a hard time, because normally I'm the kind of person who looks for the comedy or the story with the happy ending. YES! I am one of these people who avoid the tragedy sections! YES! I know that they are probably very good stories (until the ending). But after a hard week of school, homework, work and every other possible stressful thing, I need that happy ending to relieve tension and make life better. So this assignment was hard for a person like me who doesn't like tragedy and instead RUNS for the comedy section. Then along came this movie. The previews made it look like such a good action flick with lots of men running around to put out fires plus it looked like a solid movie; and it was, and then the ending appeared. But before I discuss the ending, I would like the audience to know that I am talking about the film Ladder 49 so if you have not seen it, you may not want to read about the movie; just a forewarning. Anyway, the movie has the classic tragic ending (which is really sad and it should have ended happily). The film itself shows a young firefighter: Jack (Joaquin Phoenix) and how he succeeds in becoming a firefighter, a husband and the father of two children (a boy and a girl of course). Yet it also shows one of his colleagues die in a fire, and it shows another having his face practically steamed off. Yet all that they are showing are memories as he moves in and out of conscious, as he was in a factory on the 12th floor rescuing people when the floor collapsed and he fell a story below. The action is that the fire continues to rage around him as passes in and out of this state of limbo. While he's conscious, he talks to his fellow firefighters on the outside and on the inside as they attempt to figure out where he has fallen. At this point, the viewer knows that there is a good chance that they will be able to get him out of there because while he's unconscious and running through his memories, the viewer gets close to the main character and hopes the best for him. Then the cliffhanger: Jack is told to make it to the Control Room in the center of the building, and his colleagues will be able to open an access door to the room that separates them. His colleagues attempt to open the door, and the room has virtually exploded with fire, there is no way for them to get to Jack, meanwhile he makes it into the Control Room and sees the other room through the window and knows that it would be impossible for them to save him. He then radios his captain: Mike (John Travolta) and tells him to call off the search and to tell his wife that he loves her. There was not a dry eye in the house when the movie ended. Guys were wiping their eyes with their coat sleeves so that their significant others wouldn't see that they had teared up while the girls, (myself included) bawled openly. This was certainly an excellent movie, even though I think he should have lived at the end, but that is just my craving for the happy ending. I suppose we have to have tragedy as well. ;o) I highly recommend to anyone to go and see Ladder 49; it's the best movie I've seen in a long time.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

From Walter Benjamin HIMSELF!

"The tradition of the oppressed teaches us that the 'state of emergency' in which we live is not the exception but the rule. We must attain to a conception of history that is in keeping with this insight. Then we shall clearly that it is our task to bring about a real state of emergency, and this will improve our position in our struggle against Fascism. One reason why Fascism has a chance is that in the name of progress its opponents treat it as a historical norm. The current amazement is that the things we are experiencing are 'still' possible in the twentieth century is not philosophical. This amazement is not the beginning of knowledge--unless it is the knowledge that the view of history which gives rise to it is untenable."
--Walter Benjamin, "Theses on the Philosophy of History," (Spring 1940) trans. Harry Zohn
This quote by my literary personality has impressed the real me in the sense that I am a History major and that I completely agree with his theses. History needs to be learned by the masses in order for our past mistakes to not be repeated. We need to learn from our history, otherwise it is a repetitive, vicious cycle that would not exist if we only took heed. History is extremely important, and this is why I look forward to teaching it and using literature to demonstrate the effects it had on society. (This is why I have the English minor.)

Sunday, September 26, 2004


What is the sublime? Sublime can be defined as: (n.) A grand or lofty style of speaking or writing; a style that expresses loft conceptions. (I'm sure Dr. Sexson would love for us all to reach this expectation.) (n.) That which is grand in nature or art, as distinguished from the merely beautiful. (superl.) Lifted up; high in place; exalted aloft; uplifted, lofty. (superl.) Awakening or expressing the emotion of awe, adoration, veneration, heroic resolve, etc.; dignified; grand; solemn; stately; --said of an impressive object in nature, of an action, of a discourse, of a work of art, of a spectacle, etc.; as, sublime scenery; a sublime deed
You get the picture. Anyway, a work that I feel has reached the level of SUBLIME is also, from my favorite band Aerosmith, the song itself is known as Livin' On The Edge and the lyrics are as follows:
There's something wrong with the world today
I don't know what it is
Something's wrong with our eyes
We're seeing things in a different way
And God knows it ain't His
It sure ain't no surprise
We're livin' on the edge
There's something wrong with the world today
The light bulb's getting dim
There's a melt down in the sky
If you can judge a wise man
By the color of his skin
Then mister you're a better man than I
Chorus: We're livin' on the edge
You can't help yourself from fallin'
Livin' on the edge
You can't help yourself at all
Livin' on the edge
You can't stop yourself from fallin'
Livin' on the edge
Tell me what you think about your situation
Is getting to you
If chicken little tells you that the sky is fallin'
And even if it wasn't would you still come crawlin'
Back again?
I think you would my friend
Again & again & again & again & again
(end X2)
Something right with the world today
And everybody knows it's wrong
But we can tell'em no or we can let it go
But I would rather be hanging on
Livin' on the edge
Livin' on the edge
Livin' on the edge
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Livin' on the edge
You can't help yourself from fallin'
You can't help yourself at all
Livin' on the edge
You can't stop yourself from fallin'
Livin' on the edge
You can't help yourself
You can't help yourself
Livin' on the edge
You can't help yourself at all
You can't help yourself
Livin' on the edge
You can't stop yourself from fallin'
Livin' on the edge
The sublime aspect of this song is that it illustrates for me the conflict and confusion that we humans create on our own planet as we fight for what we believe is right and in the end also hurt others that we may or may not have necessarily meant to. Though it was written before our current situation, it gives me great comfort as I listen to the nightly news and attempt to analyze all the different articles, news casts, etc. put before me. That is why this song is so sublime.

Friday, September 24, 2004

The Text that Consoles Me, or rather, the Song that Consoles Me

The song that consoles me is by one of the greatest bands. This of course is none other than Aerosmith!!! Their song Dream On is one of the most soulful and emotionally fulfilling songs as it describes getting older, all the mistakes one makes, and yet the possibilites of one's dreams coming true. When I hear this song on the radio, I turn it up; when I have the CD in my car, it's on repeat. Truly it is one of the greatest songs ever. I have on the Album: Aerosmith's Greatest Hits but I'm sure the song can be found on others. The lyrics are as follows:
Everytime that I look in the mirror
All these lines in my face gettin' clearer
The past is gone
It went by like dust to dawn
Isn't that the way
Everybody's got their dues in life to pay
I know what nobody knows
Where it comes and where it goes
I know it's everybody's sin
You got to lose to know how to win
Half my life is in books' written pages
Live and learn from fools and from sages
You know it's true
All the things come back to you
Sing with me, sing for the years
Sing for the laughter, sing for the tears
Sing with me, if it's just for today
Maybe tomorrow the good Lord will take you away
Dream on, dream on
Dream yourself a dream come true
Dream on, dream on
Dream yourself a dream come true
Dream on, dream on, dream on...
Sing with me, sing for the years
Sing for the laughter and sing for the tears
Sing with me, if it's just for today
Maybe tomorrow the good Lord will take you away

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

The First Seven Days of Class

Aug. 31, 2004

On the first day of class we were introduced to Dr. Sexson in a tight room in Roberts Hall. We brought in benches from the hallway just so everybody would have a place to sit. Dr. Sexson then informed us about what the course would be like and his expectations for everybody there. We all then proceeded to have a picture taken criminal-style with our names held underneath our chins.
Sept. 02, 2004
Dr. Sexson amazed all of us today as he alreay had our names and faces memorized. We were also moved to a bigger classroom in Wilson Hall where could all have our own desks. We then discussed that Criticism is a reflection on what our imagination pulls from the reading. The central elements of Literary Criticism are as follows:
1.) Text: or anything that can be interpreted
2.) Creator of that text: the artificer which also gives the impression of being artificial
3.) Reader: receiver or audience
4.) Cultural Context: WORLD
Sept. 07, 2004
Today we were assigned our critic personalities. I was given Walter Benjamin, there will be more to follow on him as I progress in my research. We also created a table on how different approaches are taken towards varying elements in literature:
Element Period Approach
work modern objective "formalistic"
artist romantic expression "Shaman"
audience neo-classical pragmatic "use?"
world ancient/classical mimatic "represent"
Sept. 09, 2004
Today we discussed different definitions of Criticism as quoted in our anthology, The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism copyright of 2001. Matthew Arnold in his: The Function of Criticism at the Present Time states that: "a disinterested endeavour to learn and propagate the best that is known and thought in the world." Yet Walter Pater has a distinctly different idea as he states in his: Studies in the History of the Renaissance: "...the love of art for its own sake, has most. For art comes to you proposing frankly to give nothing but the highest quality to your moments as they pass, and simply for those moments' sake." I personally like Walter Pater's idea much better. ;o)
We also discussed today the Platonic Philosophy, which is we all used to fly around on wings and know everything, yet when these wings dropped off we were born as human babies and we have forgotten everything that we used to know. Our mission in life is to recall everything forgotten and the only way to do this is through true beauty.
Sept. 14, 2004
Following this idea, Plato does not care for literature, that it is untrue, useless and bad. He believes this because stories speak through fables and myths and aren't anywhere near philosophy. The artist doesn't know what they are creating and therefore should not be responsible for their own work. They are simply an empty vessel for God to speak through and they are themselves when they compose, are inspired, etc.
Sept. 16, 2004
Today we were given a direct quote from our anthology on what Plato thought was good. This is found on p. 36: "For Plato, the only good memory is anamnesis, the recollection of spiritual truths through genuine, living wisdom: that is, through philosophy. Another quote to illustrate Plato's belief can be found at the bottom of p. 81 to 82 of his Phaedrus when Socrates philosophizes with Phaedrus and how bad the written word will be: "You have not discovered a potion for remembering, but for reminding; you provide your students with the appearance of wisdom, not with its reality. Your invention will enable them to hear many things without being properly taught, and they will imagine that they have come to know much while for the most part they will know nothing." For Plato who utilized Socrates as a character, written words are dead words, one cannot argue with dead words. Real wisdom can only come through eye contact as one debates with their opponent. From this discussion of Plato we moved to discuss the differences between him and Aristotle they are two different psychological personalities. Aristotle is more scientific and his "Poetics" are essentially a manual on poetry, which is a strain to read. Yet this work is one of the most influential for literary criticism today.
Sept. 21, 2004
In class we discussed how the artist does not mean to merely mimic, but to create. In a sense this is true because artists, poets, etc. also help to form our views of the world: what we think is likeable, what is pretty. The notion of the "self" is a construction of society, parents, education and friends. This is where your taste stems from and maybe yourself needs to be deconstructed if you don't entirely agree with Plato. He didn't agree with people having different tastes. For Plato, one simply had the wrong taste and he was going to show them the right one. This is illustrated in his Book Seven of the Republic as the one who ventures outside is the one who knows the truth and wants to share it with others. This also relates to the difference between Plato and Aristotle, Plato knows one big thing while Aristotle proves many little things. In this sense Plato left a ghost, Aristotle left a skeleton, a framework for us to discover our own many little truths. In a sense, Aristotle was dialectic: we all correct each other until we find a truth. For Aristotle Tragedy was the best form because it " an imitation of action that is serious, complete and has a certain magnitude," (Dr. Sexson). There are six elements in Tragedy: 3 internal and 3 external. The external is not as important as the internal and the most important internal element is plot (mythos, the story), followed by character (ethos), and then theme(dianoia).

Monday, September 13, 2004

The Special Text that would Accompany Me to a Desert Island

The text I'd bring would be The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. Not only does this book discuss travel to unusual places in general but it also has a sarcastic sense of humor that always keeps me entertained, no matter how many times I read it. The introduction alone cracks me up as it discusses point blank the problem with earth today. It reads as follows:
"Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun.
Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-eight million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue-green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.
This planet has-or rather had-a problem, which was this: most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movements of small green pieces of paper, which is odd because on the whole it wasn't the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy.
And so the problem remained; lots of the people were mean, and most of them were miserable, even the ones with digital watches.
Many were increasingly of the opinion that they'd all made a big mistake in coming down from the trees in the first place. And some said that even the trees had been a bad move, and that no one should ever have left the oceans...."
The text continues with such witty and furtive comments that I am usually unable to put the book down. It discusses with humor the causes of the human condition and what the galaxy might possibly be like out there using the characters Arthur Dent from earth and Ford Prefect from around Betelgeuse. Incredibly funny book, I'd highly recommend it for anyone looking for a light-hearted book to read.

We should ripen like fruit. :o) Posted by Hello

The Touchstone: Also Known as a Consoling Passage

My Touchstone is an anonymous quote. Some would consider it sappy, yet for me it provides an important message for all of us in how to make our lives better. Maybe if we could accomplish being happy by using these simple means; we wouldn't feel the need to be such a self-serving society and instead attempt to live in harmony with people of different cultures, races and religions. This quote means all of that to me and much more:
"Love is the sunshine of the soul.
Without it we get hard and sour, and we never grow into what we could be.
Love sweetens the bitterness of experience and softens the core of selfishness
that is inherent in human nature."
In other words, we need to ripen like fruit.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

A Work that has Changed my Perceptions

The movie, "The Passion of the Christ" changed my perceptions of the world. I have always been a person of faith and knew that Jesus suffered for our sins. Yet I guess I never realized just how torturous his suffering was that he endured. Since seeing the film, I have looked at the world with a more appreciating gaze and realize how lucky I am to be here and to be able to do the things I do. I recommend for everybody to see the film, no matter what religion you are, just to see the story of what English Academics call part of the Christian myth.