Feb 02

Currently, I’m facing difficulty understanding the basics in reference to where the quotation marks are placed after quoting an author. From my knowledge, I always understood that after quoting, before closing the sentence with a quotation mark, you would include the reference in parentheses followed by the end punctuation and then the ending quotation mark. However, it appears that the correct format would be to place the quotation mark prior to the parenthetical citation, then followed by the end punctuation. Similarly, I’m confused particularly with specific formats required in the work-cited page. Particularly, I am confused with how one would go about correctly citing differently from an online journal article juxtaposed to an online article from an online scholarly journal or database. Is it as simple as just inserting the name of the database (in italics) for the journal database? However, I’m still confused as what differentiates the two, because they are almost (if not actually) cited exactly the same.

Dec 05

What can I say about What Was She Thinking? [Notes On A Scandal]? It’s absolutely a marvelous read. Truly a page turner filled with mirth and solemnity. The book possesses so many little details that one can analyze and look into; however, I would like to focus on the childlike relationship mirrored between several characters. I would also like to point out, how brilliant a choice this book was as a concluding text for the class; it includes themes from The Scarlett Letter, A Children’s Hour, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (in the way it was written), and especially the movie Easy A. I was very impressed at the moments where I was able to draw such an immediate connection between the context of Notes On A Scandal and moments in the stories/movie mentioned above. Returning to my earlier point from such digression, I would substantiate the theme of preserving ones childhood or childlike behavior in this novel. Initially, we are exposed to the marriage between Sheba and Richard, who is several years her senior. Sheba explains to Barbara, how Richard preserves her youth by surrounding her by elderly people of his age. She also explains the history of her name and we learn that she is named after the Hebrew character Bathsheba. Bath in Hebrew means daughter and there were several moments in the story where Richard refers to Sheba, solely as Bath. Later on, we learn of Sheba’s son Ben who has Down Syndrome, a condition associated with the impairment of cognitive ability and physical growth- almost to say that Ben will remain a child for the rest of his life, needing the assistance of others. Finally, when it is confirmed to the reader, of the affair between Connolly and Sheba, we see a mother- son relationship, where Connolly is seen as Sheba’s son (that she never really had) and Sheba is the mother. At the end of the story, the sculpture made by Sheba of the mother and son, confirms this idea of her relationship with Connolly. However, if we were to truly engage our beliefs in this reading of the book, then we would have to look at it in terms of the Oedipus Complex, by Sigmund Freud, in which the son has a sexual desire for his mother.

Similarly, the relationship between Barbara and Sheba can also be viewed in several different forms, however, to avoid further digression, I think it would be most constructive to focus on the parental relationship between Barbara and Sheba. Initially in the beginning of the book there is a form of respect that Barbara has for Sheba and she immediately takes a liking to her. However, as the story progresses, she grows cold towards Sheba, when Sheba becomes fond of Sue. It almost seems inevitable, however, that Sheba and Barbara were destined to be friends (which is probably the intent of the author, since it is written in the manner similar to Jean Brodie). Having prior knowledge of Barbara’s relationship with her past friend Jenny, the reader soon begins to realize that Barbara is subconsciously seeking a replacement. Her lonesome, desolate ways, reveal that she is in fact unhappy with her lifestyle and as a “mother” in need of a child to take care of, she seeks out Sheba. Although Sheba’s affair with Connolly was her own doing, I cannot help but to feel that Barbara had wanted all along Sheba to be found out, so that Sheba would need someone and Barbara would feel needed. In the very end of the story, it is quite evident that Barbara has adopted Sheba as her own child, and after being the daughter of Richard and mother to Connolly, Sheba is now the daughter of Barbara. Interestingly enough, Sheba’s mother Mrs. Taylor is the only true parental figure that fails as a mother to Sheba.

Nov 16

There is so much to say about Lillian Hellman’s “The Children’s Hour.”  It’s definitely a story past its time, or perhaps it’s just a story that should not be addressed.  Written around the 1930’s, this story delves deeply into homosexual behavior, and what makes it even more unconventional is the fact that it is between two women rather than men.  I found it shocking that the characters in the play manage to direct their concerns to Martha and Karen’s “said” act, yet they never question Mary’s incessant and devilish behavior.  Lying as a child is one thing, but getting pleasure from other peoples suffering as a result of one’s lies, is pure malevolence.  Mary’s behavior to Rosalie, Peggy and Evelyn is almost like a scene from the exorcist. Observing a child, at such a young age, threatening  and physically assaulting her “friends,” calls for a psychiatric ward. Looking at the result of Mary’s extensive lie, leaves the reader wondering whether there was some truth to Karen’s and Martha’s relationship, but it also brings to question whether Martha forced herself to believe Mary’s lie in order to serve justice to their conviction. Regardless of the fact, Mary’s lie resulted in the death of Martha, the separation of Karen and Joe and the heartache of Mrs. Tilford, yet there is no hint of any retribution.  As a matter of fact, it almost seems as though Karen might go on and off herself, and still there is nothing said or hinted that is to become of Mary. The only thing the reader is left with, is the knowledge that Mary will have to grow up as the person she is (devilish, cruel, disgusting, etc.) and whether she will ever feel any remorse for her actions, makes no difference to the reader, because we are left feeling skeptical of her ability to feel any true emotion as a human being.  With that aside, the story addresses an essentially timeless issue, because homosexuality and the act of “coming out of the closet” is still something that is deemed deplorable in the twenty-first century.

Nov 08

Has drafting your prospectus changed your thinking about your topic and research agenda? If so in what ways? Be as specific as you can.

Drafting my prospectus blog has indeed proved to be somewhat of a challenge. Having been fortunate enough to have already discussed my prospectus with Prof. Walkden however, I feel a bit more certain as to the direction I want to take for my final paper. Initially when I drafted my prospectus blog, I had several topics of concern in mind and found myself wanting to address all of them at once. While I am incredibly fascinated with psychoanalysis and specific aspects of literary theory, I found myself wanting to connect these issues with earnestness during the Victorian era (as a movement). Clearly this would prove to be all too much to brazen out in an 18-25 page paper, and is clear to me now that I have to concentrate more specifically on just one topic of concern.

While writing my prospectus, I was very confused at what it was I wanted to focus on and I think my confusion and uncertainty were prominent in my prospectus. It was clear that I was trying to make a connection between three different things, but in order for me to validate such connections, I would have to first conduct thorough research, which I had not done. After sorting out my prospectus with Prof. Walkden, she was able to help me concentrate on one topic, mainly earnestness in the Victorian era. My keen interest in Victorianism is what caused me to really make this the overarching topic of concern in my prospectus. Addressing the other two topics as sub-topics may prove to be useful overall in my paper, but it is apparent I need to concentrate on the main theme and branch out from there. Initially, in writing my prospectus, I was very aware that I wanted to focus on Victorian works of literature while addressing earnest behavior and eventually comparing such behavior to similar manners of the twenty-first century.

Oct 30

After reading the Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, it is interesting to note the writing style of Nathaniel Hawthorne. As a Puritan writer, Hawthorne was much influenced by his Puritanical background and often wrote stories referring to sin and blasphemous acts committed by humanity.  I find it bold, however, that Hawthorne managed to base a novel of this era on an underlying theme, such as secrecy. The irony is derived not from the story or plot, but it is based on the fact that the theme of secrecy and infidelity are such prominent themes still today in the twenty-first century; secrecy is in a sense, timeless. Reading the story of “David and Bathsheba” and comparing it to Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter, one cannot help but to notice the undeniable relationship between the two stories. The biblical story speaks more coarsely about the wants, desires and actions of man, while The Scarlett Letter, gives the reader an underlying explanation and a reason behind the actions of both man and woman. However, in “David and Bathsheba,” Bathsheba is not ever recognized for her crime of infidelity.

In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, Hester Prinn is the main character and  protagonist, and Roger Chillingworth is presented as the antagonist. Comparing The Scarlet Letter to “David and Barhsheba,” we see a role reversal, where the act of sin is more heavily placed on the woman (Hester) rather than the man (David). Why is it in “David and Bathsheba,” David is punished for his sin of having Uriah the Hittite killed in battle and of taking Uriah’s wife for his own; yet the sin of infidelity does not come into play as a means of punishment in the story. God concentrates solely on  David’s betrayal and pays no attention to the fact that Bathsheba willingly partook in the act of infidelity. Looking in retrospect to the story of Adam and Eve and comparing it to the story of David and Bathsheba and also The Scarlett Letter, there is a prominent theme: that is the role women play in the demise of man. In Adam and Eve, it was Eve who was tempted by the Devil and took the first bite of the forbidden fruit; poor Adam simply gave into the pressure of Eve’s seductive persuasion. Similarly in “David and Bathsheba,” David falls victim to Bathsheba who is bathing publicly for him to see, so that when he wakes up and follows his daily routine, he cannot help but to notice Bathsheba in his line of sight when gazing from the balcony of the Kings house. It is odd, that no one realizes that this is the first time David noticed her; she clearly had not bathed there before, otherwise, David might have taken notice sooner. Finally in The Scarlet Letter, Hester Prinn justly falls victim to her crime, yet it seems almost undeserving. While Hester is being punished publicly for committing the act of adultery, Reverend Dimmsdale’s identity is preserved by secrecy. However,through a series of supernatural events (such as Dimmsdale’s pain and mark on his chest), towards the end of the novel Reverend Dimmsdale reveals himself and dies. It is apparent that while the the role of God was more direct in punishment in “David and Bathsehba” and “Adam and Eve,” God played a more clandestine role in The Scarlet Letter, choosing to punish Dimmsdale through physically unexplainable means. By also making the comparison that Hester takes on the role of the man while Dimmsdale epitomizes the role of the woman (based on the two biblical stories previously referenced); I think it is fair to say, that secrecy has engendered itself to be man in The Scarlet Letter.

Oct 26

                   The novel Emma, by Jane Austen, ironically begins with Emma’s last successful pairing between Miss Taylor and Mr. Weston. As the novel progresses and Emma agrees not to meddle in any more relations between anyone, she unsuccessfully attempts to pair Harriet Smith and Mr. Elton. Since Emma has taken a close liking to Harriet, she makes it her duty to find a mate substantial enough for Harriet; Mr. Martin does not come close as an option. It is ironic that at the end of the novel, Harriet (after losing all her men emotionally to her closest friend Emma) ends up with Mr. Martin the farmer and it turns out to be quite an appropriate match since Harriet learns that she is the daughter of a tradesman. The irony continues at the end of the novel, when Harriet and Emma must remain mere acquaintances, rather than close friends (as their current status held) because of the difference of social status. It appears that throughout this novel, after Emma loses her primary confidant, she moves on to Harriet, utterly ruining her emotionally. Yet Harriet never appears as distressed as she is entitled to be and thus, appears to be the boldest character of the female crew in Austen’s novel. The toll taken on Harriet’s heart as an effect of Emma’s manipulation, should have left Harriet an downright mess, however, her ignorance to Emma’s distorted sagacity, is probably what allows her to remain so resolute.

            As a reader, it is important to note (as Casey Finch and Peter Bowen note) that there is no distinction of the narrator, yet the narrator is heavily present throughout the novel. Through Austen’s use of “free indirect style,” the narrator is given the power to throw opinions, inclinations and ideas around, thus, manipulating the reader. Such observation allows us to observe Emma in retrospect, both as the character (Ms. Woodhouse) and in the effects of the novel. Reading a novel of such style, unbeknownst to who, what or which the narrator is, it is apparent that (we), as readers, are being manipulated by the narrator’s inclinations, as much as Emma manipulates those around her throughout the novel. So suffice it to say, Emma and the narrator share a common trait of manipulating those who care to listen to them and as readers, we have no one else to listen to, than the entrusted narrator.

Oct 19

In the novel Emma, by Jane Austen, the main character, Emma, is presented as a severely chaste character, who does not permit herself the liberty of falling in love. Rather, she makes it her responsibility to play match-maker on behalf of those she cares most for; it almost seems to be a hobby for hers. After successfully pairing Ms. Taylor and Mr. Weston, Emma endeavors  to find a match for her newly intimate friend Harriet. However, upon achieving her goal of pairing Harriet with Mr. Elton, she is scrutinized by Mr. Knightly, who seems to know her best. It is ironic to think, while Harriet is her closest companion, it is Emma’s brother-in-law, who knows Emma the best. Not only that, but it’s important to note, that (although Emma’s intentions were for the betterment of Harriet), she manages to (in affect) harm Harriet emotionally, while concealing her true intentions as Harriot’s friend. Through cunning manipulation, Emma is able to prove Mr. Elton to be most favorable in the eyes of Harriet, eventually resulting in Harriet’s refusal of Mr. Martin. This refusal, however, was clearly encouraged by Emma and it is only Mr. Knightly that immediately recognizes this to be her doing. Emma becomes almost a form of excitement for Harriet, in that every time she visits or they are together, the conversation between the two is composed of Mr. Elton. Emma, as a result, becomes the figure (herself) as a form of gossip, so much so, that when she is away from Harriet, Harriet falls ill (as though she cannot live without the presence and idle talk of Emma).

Oct 12

In “The Secret History of the Early American Novel,” by Lenora Sansay, Sansay brings up continuous points in relation to social reproduction. I found that Sansay made a very incredulous comparison with the madras headscarf and how it was suppose to suppress a level of sexual equality with white woman. This headscarf differed for blacks and whites. Where whites were entitled to headscarf made from silk or had the privilege of going bare-headed, blacks were confined to concealing their heads with head scarfs, specifically designed for their race. However, the purpose of the headscarf becomes a paradox, in that “…the madras headscarf became something of a symbol of sexuality rather than a cloaking of it (89).” However, Sansay delves deeper into this observation of the madras handkerchief, later expressing the relationship it holds between women of the creole culture. “The preserved collection of madras handkerchiefs seems to stand in for the creole family that has been killed; the handkerchiefs thus link the creole black woman and the creole white woman, forming something of a common currency uniting the two (91).” So while the madras headscarf was designed as a means of separation between the white and black creole women (in this instance), the madras handkerchief becomes a symbol of unity. Therefore, social reproduction is  firstly the result of culture reproduction, for without a cultural understanding, one cannot form a social connection with another.

 

Oct 05

The Journal of The Plague Year, by Daniel Defoe, is told entirely by the narrator who is a saddler. The significance that this individual holds is only relative to the reader, as he serves the purpose of informing the reader of an “actual” plague that occurred in 1665. However, the narrator becomes an oddity to me, as he does not come down with the plague while remaining in a town heavily overcome by it. It is solely he, who the reader relies on in order to retrieve information as to the specifics of this plague. Throughout the story I found it quite obvious (for the sake of the class) to relate characteristics of the plague to rumor/scandal/gossip. Scandal is often mentioned in the story as a means of describing the double lives of certain plague stricken townspeople, suggesting that either the plague has brought them to their demise or that such people who partake in scandalous activities fall victim to the plague- a justice rightfully served to those who have wronged.  Such instances, for example, depict such ideas as mentioned, for example on page 80 of A Journal of the Plague Year, the narrator remarks,

And this was in part the reason of the general notion, or scandal rather, which went about the temper of people infected: namely, that they did not take the least care or make any scruple of infecting others… I am speaking now of people made desperate by the apprehensions of their being shut up, and their breaking-out by stratagem or force…                        (80 Defoe)

 

This instance expands on the neglectful and inconsiderate behavior of those infected, by avoiding to isolate themselves accordingly and rather, escaping-further spreading the plague. However, there are also instances where bribery comes into effect, as a means of escaping the entrapment that the plague has left infected villagers in. This too can be perceived as a demising state for individuals who mightn’t have resorted to such extremes had they not been infected.

Similarly, at the very start of the novel, when townspeople began realizing that they had been infected with the plague, revealed,

 

many a robbery, many a murder, was then confessed aloud, and nobody surviving to record the accounts of it. People might be heard, even into the streets as we passed along, calling upon God for mercy…saying ‘I have been a thief, ‘I have been an adulterer’, ‘ I have been a murderer…                        (53 Defoe)

 

Such confessions, reveals to the reader, that many who were infected, were in fact, not “good” people at all, for their sins greatly outweighed their guilt and the law. Therefore, the effects of scandal reside in individuals, only to be revealed upon infection of the plague; so that the plague can be seen as a disinfectant of the scandalous and those who spread rumors and gossip.

Sep 21

 

The play Lady Windermere’s Fan, by Oscar Wilde, immediately draws much attention to Lady Windermere’s fan. As a reader who never read this play before, I instantly questioned the purpose of this fan, wondering if it was a metaphoric representation of something greater or if it was a literal, tangible object that held some form of significance. We are introduced to this fan almost instantaneously as the play opens on Lady Windermere preparing for her birthday and upon such occasion, receiving a fan with her name (Margaret) engraved on it from her husband as a birthday present.

Throughout the course of the play there is not much attention paid to the fan, only for some concentrated moments; within such moments, the audience is able to draw a connection between the fan, Lady Windermere and, Mrs. Erlynne (Lady Windermere’s mother). Looking at the fan in retrospect to its purpose at the opening of the play, to the purpose it serves at the end of the play, allows one to believe that it was Oscar Wilde’s intent to have the fan end up in the possession of Mrs. Erlynne. In the opening of the play, the fan was viewed as a lovely gift from Lord Windermere, as a token of his love to his wife. However, as the play progresses and Lady Windermere learns of “the scandalous relationship” between Lord Windermere and Mrs. Erylnne, Lady Windermere threatens to use the fan as a means to inflict pain, insult, vindicate and cause ultimate degradation upon Mrs. Erylnne. However, when Lady Windermere first sees Mrs. Erylnne, she does not attempt any such action with the fan and ends up dropping it. This fan, becomes a symbol of false gossip, for it was present at the time Lady Windermere received the malicious gossip from the Duchess of Berwick, it coward when facing the source as to where the gossip began (when Lady Windermere dropped it), it played a key role at Lord Darlington’s house, finally tarnishing its original intent, where it could no longer be looked upon as a token of love. At this point in the play, the fan had successfully become the victim of gossip, in the possession of the source from which the gossip began (Mrs. Erylnee). I think this goes to show the cyclical pattern that gossip possess and the fan becomes a motif of gossip, ending up in the hands of the gossiped.  This is an important theme of gossip to draw upon, because the sources of the rumor often ends up being found out about (as in Norman Rockwell’s “The Gossip) by the one being gossiped about.

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