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Final Days Before Honors Exam

  • What are you doing to finalize your preparation for the exam?
    • I am going to finish reading the last bit of texts and annotate them as much as possible. I am also going to re-read the theories and highlight what we’ve discussed in class, so that I become better acclimated with the ideas. In preparation during these last few days, I am going to go over last years’ exam and try to answer every question, drawing connects between the texts and the theories presented in that exam.
  • What are you most worried about as the exam approaches?
    • I am concerned that I’ll freeze up during the exam and not be able to make any inferences or comparisons between the texts. However, during Spring Break, I will be making notes in the cover of my texts so that it can help jog my memory in case I freeze.
    • I am also worried that I may not know the texts as well as I think I do. I’m worried that I will psych myself out and diminish my analytical ability.

Genre/Literary History – Question 2

Personification is the act of giving animals, objects, or even ideas, “human” qualities. This notion is closely related to the pathetic fallacy where the natural phenomena has been denoted the attributes of human feelings. For example, “The sea is a cruel mistress” can represent personification as well as pathetic fallacy. There is a broad attribution of emotions and humanistic capabilities given to any inanimate object. More specifically, it is assumed that personification solely exists in poetry. While this may be true to an extent, writing in prose, such as novels or even plays, can use personification to help draw out the intention of the author’s plot. “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” by Edward Albee and “The Flea” by John Donne are perfect representatives of the inanimate object being given humanistic attributes.

 

The physical encasement of these stories is the not inanimate object that observes personification, instead, the plot uses this literary device to strengthen the storyline. In this sense, personification becomes apparent as an idea rather than an inanimate object taking on humanistic characteristics. Edward Albee’s play, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” tells the story of a couple, Martha and George, who host an evening party in their home after returning from another party at the university where George works. Inviting a couple who were guests at the university party, the couple welcome Nick and Honey, who immediately feel a sense of discomfort based on the way Martha and George speak to one another. There is degradation and disgust, as well as mockery, where the two are unable to spout words of kindness to one another.

However, there is a son that they mention throughout the play, but never really speak about. He is almost a figment of their imagination. The way the couple regard this child, we see the instability of the house unfolding in this play. In the 60s—when this play was written—the concept of family stability is highly treasured, but through the use of personification, Albee toys with this idea, almost mocking its hold on society. This perception of what the typical American family should look like is further dismantled when we are told of the couple’s imaginary son. Martha and George personified their son by making him an actual human being even though he never existed. This furthers twists the plot of the story as we see how dysfunctional the couple really is, further steering away from the ordinary American family through personification and the notion of imagination.

Contritely, “The Flea” by John Donne does not demonstrate personification through ideas, instead, it is giving animal humanistic capabilities. The title suggests that this poem will be about the flea is some way. Already, the flea is being given power. The poem is about a man using a flea to coax a woman into being with him sexually because they are connected through this insect. The first stanza demonstrates this power as the flea sucking blood allows lovers to be connected, for their blood has become one inside the flea. The narrator even suggest that the flea is the lover and the beloved. He suggests that the flea is what has married them, and they are destined to be with one another. However, in many ways, the flea does represent an idea. It is representative of love, which is an idea being personified in this poem.

The form of these two works suggests that personification is still possible and evident in literature regardless of how the work is portrayed. Various means of personification, whether it be the act of giving animals, objects, or ideas human qualities, it can be achieved despite genre as the play, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” by Edward Albee and the poem, “The Flea” by John Donne explicitly shows. Nonetheless, it is easier to show personification in a poem as opposed to the play because poems are usually shorter and more visually explicit when detecting personification. Even the language clearly shows the resurrection of the animal taking on human abilities. Moreover, prose can show personification in its language as well, but sometimes it is not always clear, more often reveal itself as an idea being personified. Therefore, personification can be evident and used in various genres as “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” and “The Flea” demonstrated in their texts.

The Unreliable Narrator

An unreliable narrator can affect the reader’s understanding of a love plot in several ways. There can be moments of what psychoanalysts might call projection or displacement. Other narrative moments might showcase the characteristics of the narrator as she/he are emotionally involved in the plot. As a result of this, they may not be able to tell the story exactly as they see, but instead as how they’d like it to be seen. This type of unreliable narrator is not constricted to time period, however still remains present in many stories ranging from the Victorian era to Contemporary fiction, such as Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë and The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The narrators Lockwood and Nelly and Nick Carraway, respectively, tell us of iconic love stories but do not remain impartial in their telling, thus affecting the way we perceive the stories and the characters their narration is about.

For example, Wuthering Heights is a notable love story that follows the romance of the story’s central characters Catherine and Heathcliff. We are introduced to this narrative by Lockwood, a Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange visitor who sees spends the night in Catherine’s bed, observing her remaining belongings. When he has a dream and is woken in a fright, he replays these images to Heathcliff and instantly realize that there was a severed connection between the two. Wanting to know more, he enlists the help of the housemaid Nelly, who has witnessed Catherine and Heathcliff grow up, to learn more about the romance of Catherine and Heathcliff.

As Nelly is introduced and plays a more active role as a narrator in this story, her influence in the way the story is presented becomes more apparent, as we see that she doesn’t really care for Heathcliff, regardless of his initially circumstances; being adopted at an impressionable age. Her side comments throughout her narration leaves impressionable marks on the reader as she projects her disdain for Heathcliff her telling of the story.

 

 

The Impersonal Intimacies Within Literature

Leo Bersani and Adam Phillips examine the notion of “impersonal intimacies” in the chapter, “The It and the I” from their book Intimacies.  This chapter discusses the potential for a relationship to exist without desire or sexual longing. As a result, the participants of this relationship are forced to talk to one another, thereby allowing one to discover some potential that resides within them. Novels such as Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë and plays such as The Tempest by William Shakespeare, draw on the idea of a couple having impersonal intimacies in the way the couples are not engaging with one another sexually, instead, they are forced to verbally communicate and simply dwell on the characteristics they learn from the other when courting.

The beginning of this chapter says, “Psychoanalysis is about what two people can say to each other if they agree not to have sex” (2). The romance between Catherine and Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights chronicles an unrequited love where the two were never able to physically be with one another. Similarly, Ferdinand and Miranda from The Tempest had recently met, without any time to know each other physically. Instead, they are only granted an opportunity to admire one another and fall madly in love based on the few conversations they had together. As a result, the couples in these two texts are forced to engage in a sexually neutralized encounter as a way of becoming intimate with one another.

Wuthering Heights is an excellent example of a romance that is built on the conversations had. Although Catherine and Heathcliff grew up together in their mischievous ways, they were never given the opportunity to be physically involved with one another. Their romantic relationship was solely a product of the way they spoke about one another and the way they simply to each other. For example, in Catherine’s iconic declaration of love for Heathcliff, she says to her handmaid Nelly, “I am Heathcliff! He’s always, always in my mind; not as a pleasure, any more than I am always a pleasure to myself, but as my own being” (Brontë 100). Bersani and Phillips might examine such a declaration and consider it the “unearthing and resolution of psychic conflicts” in Catherine’s confession to Nelly. As the clinical method of psychoanalysis seems to be effective, Bersani and Phillips might argue that Catherine’s proclamation is her way of excavating the feelings she had she Heathcliff that she had to bury due to her brother’s disdain towards Heathcliff. However, we still see the longing and the desire for intimacy with Heathcliff, it is just obvious that such a relationship cannot exist.

In The Tempest by William Shakespeare, there is contrast in the way psychosexuality works. As we noticed in Wuthering Heights, Catherine was able to express her love for Heathcliff, becoming intimate and vulnerable as she unconsciously spoke of her feelings in what is called a clinical method of psychoanalysis. In this play, however, we see that the couple speak directly to one another. As a resident of a stranded island, Miranda has never met anyone other than her father, Prospero and one of his servants, Caliban. As Ferdinand, prince of Naples washes onto the island, he and Miranda fall madly in love at first sight. Upon seeing her, he says, “Most sure, the goddess on whom these airs attend!” He is astonished by her beauty, that he calls her a goddess for she is the first person he sees after he hears music that reminds him of his father.

As they speak more, and their love for one another grows, they decide to marry when Miranda says, “…by my modesty, the jewel in my dower, I would not wish any companion in the world but you…” (III.I.53-55). As she falls more in love with Ferdinand, Miranda isn’t able to imagine herself without him, even though she just met him. Ferdinand replies by saying, “The very instant that I saw you did my heart fly to your service, there resides to make me slave to it…” (III.I.64-66). Gladly, Ferdinand is offering his life to her. Through words, he was simply able to love Miranda and draw closer to her. Their relationship strengthened. As a result, they wished to be married. Phillips says that psychoanalysts will interpret this to be “a new way of being present to another person in a way that freed them to think and feel and speak freely”. This type of liberty ensured a development of intimacy in Shakespeare’s The Tempest where sexual longing was absent allowed the couple to discover the potential of a partner that resided within the other.

Revision Progression

1. This week, I am working on my introduction. By this, I not only mean the first few pages that set up my argument, but I am working on the very first paragraph. My peers have expressed that there is no “hook” and that I jump straight into the paper. While this is good and very straightforward, my paper as it was, did not immediately capture the attention of the audience. This is something that I am really working hard on.

2. Here are the things that I need to work on going forward:

  • Re-work my introduction
  • Section my paper by “topics”
  • Edit the existing body of my paper
    • Make sure there is cohesion
      • Use the techniques demonstrated in class
    • Work on transitions
  • Incorporate my voice into the existing paper
  • Be conscious of my diction and wordiness
    • Get to the point without flowery language
    • Take the reader on the mental journey with me
  • Continue to write the remaining bits of my paper
  • Edit it
    • Maintain the cohesion
    • Allow my thoughts to flow with ease and effectiveness
  • Be happy with my final product

Thesis Reflection

Writing my thesis for this course has proven to be beyond difficult. With hardly any time last semester, I wasn’t able to write as frequently as I had hoped, let alone conjure any pliable thought that was worth jotting down. When my thoughts finally came together, and I had a semblance of an idea for my paper, I just kept writing. I wrote, and wrote, and wrote, but my thoughts weren’t as neatly organized as they should have been. So, I sought assistance from various sources, and the outline of my draft came into existence. A great place to start right? Sure, but with that came various insecurities in my writing and my literary voice. I lost the inspiration I had only tapped into when writing my paper.

Reading the comments from Bill, my insecurities worsened. His comments weren’t bad, but they weren’t what I had hoped they’d be. After all, what could I expect? I gave the paper the amount of time any person could when juggling a boatload of classes, a job, and various other extra-curricular activities. For the most part, I was satisfied with my work. Then, on Tuesday, after our discussion in class and reading my classmates’ work, I found a new sense of inspiration. I wanted to immediately sit at my computer and begin editing. Their comments weren’t any different from what Bill had been trying to drill into my mind all semester, but workshopping our papers gave me hope. I was inspired again.

That isn’t to say that I have a lot of work ahead of me. My biggest struggle in editing my paper is maintaining my paragraph structure throughout my writing. I have to remember the principles of the Uneven U and bear in my how I’d like to sound when writing. What is my voice? How can I get my voice to project beyond the words that present themselves on the paper? My group mates raised a great point regarding my introduction; I don’t need to dive right into my piece, but instead, I can work my way into it. I need a “hook”. While this seems fundamental, I think this can executed well with style, a skill I hope to develop throughout this process. Beyond the flaws of my paper, I have an outlying structure that can be further developed. However, development would not be able to take place without there being a skeleton to work with.

 

Why Poetry IS a Luxury?

Poetry serves many purposes in our every day life. It is the song that you listen to in the morning that makes you feel like something special, it is the words on a love note that you send to your beloved when your passion for them takes over your entire being. So why did Audre Lorde title her article, “Poetry Is Not a Luxury?” It is something that make us feel good, but isn’t easy to achieve.

Lorde describes poetry as being an illuminating force that allows us to analyze our lives, thereby providing us with the ideas to make sense of it all (1). Before that point, poetry had no name, it was formless until this realization pulled it from its swollen essence. But I still don’t understand, how can poetry not be a luxury in this sense? If it possesses the capability of bringing meaning to life through the written word, then this is a luxury, as it is something not everyone can do. To others, this illumination may not come as easily or may be harder to find.

Perhaps, they have not learned to bear intimacy with the analysis of their world. Lorde says, “For each of us as women, there is a dark place within where hidden and growing our true spirit rises, ‘Beautiful and tough as chestnut as chestnut/stanchions against our nightmare of weakness’ and of impotence” (1). Can our true spirit rise through poetry? As I read this line, I wondered, how can poetry help women navigate through this dark place where their true spirit rise. I must admit, going through something dark and troubling does help me see the “light” and run to it in written prose. Others can’t do the same. So why isn’t this apart of what the luxury is?

The object of possibility resides in darkness. Many artists can attest to this; Lady Gaga or Jimi Hendrix, or even my beloved, Prince, for example. In their darkness, they fall asunder to the pain that comes with it, and delve into drugs. This actually they might have argued that the darkness is where their art came from, and the minute they sprung out of it, they lost their art. Lorde argues, “These places of possibility within ourselves are dark because they are ancient and hidden; they have survived and grown strong through darkness” (1). I think the growing strong through the darkness does not always happen. They fall too deep in their darkness and eventually succumb to it. However, artists like Lady Gaga had the luxury of using her poetry to ascend from the same fall that tormented her.

So, I ask again, how is poetry not a luxury?

Paper Proposal

For my final paper, I would like to use a metaphysical approach to explore the connection between Catherine and Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights as a direct mirror of their destructive environment and how this in turn causes them to be destructive to themselves and one another. To do this, I will begin with establishing what ideal love resembled in the Gothic/Victorian era. This image will be present in both literature and real life figures that had a prevalent presence in England. I will then use this as a standard to which the Catherine and Heathcliff’s love will be held to, to determine it destructive or not. However, the metaphysical lens will prove itself useful after I have presented the history of Eros during the Victorian Era. As this is a Gothic/Victorian novel, using a lens that is something other than Psychoanalytic will be a rather refreshing means of research.

There hasn’t been much written on this topic. However, one of the prolific writers in this field who has been considered to have altered the way in which the novel is viewed, deeply believes the theme of Wuthering Heights is metaphysic. His name is Lord David Cecil, and he wrote the book, Early Victorian Novels proposing that the novel’s main conflict is between the calm and the storm. He believes that Wuthering Heights is the storm and Thrushcross Grange is the calm. Other critics have written about Cecil, either disclaiming his theory, or praising it for its innovative thinking.

There is a gap in the current understanding of what I am proposing, in that, this is a topic that hasn’t been entirely explored. Upon researching like-minded critics of this work, I found a handful worthwhile that simply mentioned Wuthering Heights and the term “metaphysics” in the same sentence. To write a research paper exploring the Catherine and Heathcliff’s relationship as destructive in comparison to their surroundings, will be an attempt to close this gap. Many people steer towards Psychoanalysis when one hears of Romance and the Gothic, but to explore something a bit more unconventional such as metaphysics will be exciting and will add to the research of this unknown topic.

My focus for this paper will be primarily on the first half (first 17 chapters) of the novel. Specifically, I will pay attention to the opening description of the two domains. I will also look at Lockwood’s dream at Wuthering Heights and Heathcliff’s reaction to Catherine being left behind at Thrushcross Grange with the Lintons. Again, paying close attention to Heathcliff’s reaction, I will use the passage in which Catherine professes her love for Heathcliff and her reasons for not choosing him over Edgar. I will also draw a parallel to the way in which the atmosphere of the kitchen is described as well as the tumultuous storm that occurred during the conversation. Paying attention to Catherine’s reaction when Heathcliff comes back after three years will also be worthwhile and finally, when Catherine is on her death bed, the conversation that transpired between the couple will also be something to look at closely. In these scenes, I will take note of the atmosphere, connecting key elements of metaphysics to this work and how it predicts the way Catherine and Heathcliff interact.

Works Cited

Hume, Robert D. “Gothic versus Romantic: A Revaluation of the Gothic Novel.” PMLA, vol. 84, no. 2, 1969, pp. 282–290. JSTOR

Hagan, John. “Control of Sympathy in Wuthering Heights.” Nineteenth-Century Fiction, vol. 21, no. 4, 1967, pp. 305–323.

Mum, Edwin. “The Victorian Novel THE Reputation of the Victorian Age.” The Spectator Archive, 28        Dec. 1934

Madden, William A. “Wuthering Heights: The Binding of Passion.” Nineteenth-Century

Fiction, vol. 27, no. 2, 1972, pp. 127–154.

Mills, Pamela. “Wyler’s Version of Brontë’s Storms in Wuthering Heights.” Literature/Film Quarterly, vol. 24, no. 4, 1996, pp. 414–422.

Is “The Problem of Old Harjo” really a work of Romance?

Upon reading “The Problem of Old Harjo” by John M. Oskison, I began asking myself if this work really added to the Romance genre. Given everything that was discussed in class, this story is not as obvious in the romance department as one would imagine a work would be in a class called Bad Romance. But, as I continued to read, I noticed that the Bible, and the way it was interpreted at the time, played a big role in the meaning (moral) of the story. As I further understood the biblical parallels of this story, I also saw many terms from A Lover’s Discourse by Roland Barthes being explained.

At the beginning of the story, we are introduced to Old Harjo, a Native American, who has converted to Christianity from his Cherokee religion. However, he is not fully “accepted” by the Mormans in his village, because he is considered a proclaimed bigamist with two wives. Interestingly, he is likened to Abraham from the Old Testament of the Bible. Abraham is considered the father of the ancient Hebrews (Oskison 531). Comparing Old Harjo to Abraham seems fitting, considering, they are both patriarchal figures in their villages and they also had two wives. However, the Mormons decided to see past this fact in the story, and still would not allow Old Harjo into the faith. This is where the first term from Barthes’ discourse comes into play. “Embrace” is described as, “the gesture of the amorous embrace seems to fulfill, for a time, the subject’s dream of total union with the loved being” (Barthes 104). Miss Evans, the young missionary who helped Old Harjo see that he was a sinner and urged him to repent, believed that he was genuine and that the “Spirit of the Lord of the Lord” had descended upon him (Oskison 531). Old Harjo wanted to be baptized and do everything he can to be closer to God because he was enraptured; there was a moment of affirmation where Old Harjo felt fulfilled. (Barthes 105). But, this wasn’t enough.

In the eyes of the Mrs. Rowell, a missionary who deemed herself more experienced with the ways of the unchangeable Indians, Old Harjo’s soul was not good enough to be apart of the Christian faith (Oskison 532). He could not lay himself at the feet of the Lord. Here lies the mode of alteration, another term defined by Barthes. It is, “abrupt production, within the amorous field, of a counter-image of the loved object. According to minor incidents or tenuous features, the subject suddenly sees the god Image alter and capsize” (Barthes 25). Barthes also draws reference from a passage by Dostoevsky, “I perceive suddenly a tiny speck of corruption. This speck is a tiny one: a gesture, a word…something unexpected which appears (which dawns) from a region I had never even suspected…” (Barthes 25). This definition and example are present in Ms. Rowell’s insistence of breaking apart Old Harjo’s family. But why is this a big deal when he is willing to offer his heart and soul to God? This is a counter image of the loved object. In other words, in order to be apart of which Old Harjo desires, he must give up what he also loves, even though his “bigamy” was accepted in the Old Testament during the time in which Abraham, his spiritual brother existed.

What I took from this, based on what the biblical references and Barthes’ insight, is that you should not force your definition of love on someone. If you do not understand the love someone has for something or someone, that is okay. They are in full comprehension of their own emotions and feelings, and so it should be left to them. Forcing Old Harjo to choose one wife over the other in order to stand in the presence of the Lord, is outrageous and Miss Evans felt it too. If someone is genuinely in love with his spiritual development, allow it to be; allow the person to embrace it wholeheartedly, because the references used from Bible spoke nothing but love for faith regardless of external situations. Perhaps this is a romance after all.

Works Cited:

Barthes, Roland. A Lover’s Discourse. Hill and Wang, 2010. Print.

Oskinson, John. “The Problem of Old Harjo”. University of Virginia, 1907. Print.

Final Essay Rough Proposal

This part of the semester is particularly hard because I have to discuss in detail a topic and text of my choice. While there are many other papers that I would like to expand upon, I think I am going to write about Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. This time around, I am more interested in the character development as each character in different ways managed to suck me in.

My focus will either be on the connection that is shared between Heathcliff and Catherine or the love triangle between Heathcliff, Catherine, and Edgar and why she was drawn to Edgar physically, but emotionally and spiritually drawn to Heathcliff. I think the Talia Schaffer reading will prove especially useful as I develop that question.

I am also thinking about researching the parallels between the couples, Catherine and Heathcliff and Cathy and Hareton. These pairs would be rather interesting to discuss because of how similar, yet how different they are from their predecessors in the way they look, they behave, react to situations, and above all love each other. Based on what our intended focus should be, either the notion of love, intimacy, attachment, or romance, I see bits and pieces of each of these concepts in my ideas. But, I am still unsure as to which argument will be the most worthwhile.

 

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