Thursday, April 14, 2011

blog on blogs!

So this week we’re going to take a step back from our topic and just examine blogging for blogging’s sake. Come to think of it, this can tie directly back to my topic of literature in our society; after all, blogging is a form of literature… right?  So in implementing this suggestion I would love to just discuss my blogging thoughts and experiences for a while.
In first coming in to this idea of blogging, I’m not going to lie, I saw this whole act as silly. Blogging fell into the same arena as such social “nonsensicals” as “Twitter”. The idea of needing approval, comments, and “followers” on a blog seems to me, silly. Although some readers may object to my thoughts on blogging, I would answer that that’s just the way I’ve always thought.
In writing these blogs, I was exposed to new types of blogs. I was honestly very virginal in my blogging experiences; having had little contact with this new world. So I was first exposed to “educational” and “stimulating” blogs for the first time. I had assumed (wrongly of course) that all blogs were just an area where people (regular people) go to spill their guts on an emotional situation or just a regular situation. To break it down to a simpler form, precariously in my mind blogs were a written scenario of the confessionals seen towards cameras in reality TV shows. i.e. when “Snooky” from Jersey Shore (One of the many shows destroying our outlook on media) faces the camera and complains about how one of the other characters was pissing her off. Because this was my distorted outlook on blogging, it’s easy to see where my disgust grew from.
But I was very wrong. Blogging serves a purpose that differs greatly from my previous thoughts. Throughout my blogging I was able to discuss many different topics that were beneficial, not necessarily for a huge sake, but a beneficial sake none the less. I was able to discuss and review books and their importance in society, literature and its views of different concepts such as love (my look at love in literature), and even attack and praise authors for their uses of different mediums of literature (my comparison of Woolf’s biographies to each other)
All in all, I have a brand new respect for blogging and bloggers alike, and an exceptional amount more respect for those who blog academically about pertinent issues and situation. Not only do these people approach these situations and gather their thoughts together to properly inform a new public (the blogosphere), but they do it while adjusting their style and persona in writing to match the wants and needs of the public (while also incorporating media such as videos and pictures to their blogs). These are some grounds that most writers never have to traverse.
In short, my perspective has entirely transformed on blogging, and I do have a new found “somewhat respect” for blogging. However, I can honestly say, it’s not for me! So for the rest of you bloggers, BLOG ON! And be proud of your blogging, it is a fast growing media that has so much to say and so many places to go! 

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Where are we going???

So I have just read a marvelous book entitled Amusing Ourselves To Death by Neil Postman and as a reader of the book, and an English Education major with approximately 4 years of experience in dealing with this kind of information, I feel I am credited to make a brief summary followed by my take which (with the credentials listed above have shown) I feel is a relatively educated collection of thoughts. The book can briefly be summarized in several aspects. The start of the book is a comparison of two of the most influential dystopian novels of Postman’s time: A Brave New World, and 1984. Just as a brief explanation of these books I will include this comic strip:

In conclusion of this section of the book Postman comes to the conclusion that we are much more like the world of Amusing Ourselves to Death in the sense that the things that we love are destroying us, and that we are drowned in a “sea of irrelevance”. The book than goes on to discuss how as humans we have evolved past a typographical way of thinking and have and become an “image-based” society. The fear of this is that, by becoming a society focused on images, we have vicariously become a society focused on entertainment. And through this action politics, media, and even religion have become centralized around our new medium of “technology”.
In short and Lamen’s terms, that is the brief, very brief, explanation of Amusing Ourselves To Death.(the book was filled with so much information. I HIGHLY recommend reading it!). However, as it is in most books like this, outlooks may appear differently than what is presented in the novel. My views are simple. I entirely see the predictions Postman has made, and see his “future” coming to fruition. But, it’s almost illogical to assume that these changes are bad. They may be different, and even scary, but change is always scary. As I have mentioned in a comment on another blog ( ) as humans we have gone through this before already, and we came out still succeeding in the end.  History always repeats itself, and all we can do is set back, and let it change. Because, in the end, all we can do is sit back, wait, and hope.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Biographies pt. 2 //// Orlando... Magic? or Just plain Weird?

Let’s continue shall we, with another biography from the “amazing” Virginia Woolf. But before we continue I’d like to take a step back and clarify something. I’ve had several readers who have been confused on whether or not Flush and Orlando are novels or biographies. Let me digress for a moment to clarify;

Virginia Woolf is well known for attempting to reinvent many different aspects of literature, including the biography. So as for the question on whether or not these books are novels or biographies, they are both. (ridiculous sounding right? I know, but this is what literary scholars agree on) Besides being a novel for “obvious reasons” (as has also been said by literary scholars, with little to no evidence of why), it also attempts to show relations to the stylized writing of the biography. Woolf attempts to recreate the “art” of the biography through these novels. To put it another way, these novels are recognized as both novels and biographies, and it is for this reason that we are analyzing the strange, innovative, and even “ridiculousness” that protrudes from the pages of Woolf’s biographies.

Now back to the grind, this week we intend to look at another one of Woolf’s novels/biographies entitled Orlando. For those of you who have never heard of Orlando, its… umm… interesting to say the least; very innovative. So as best as I know how I’m going to give you an oversimplified, overly-sarcastic breakdown of the novel/biography Orlando:

Orlando is a 16 year old boy that has very feministic “girly” qualities and has an overwhelming love for poetry. He also has very feministic qualities in how he looks. He is described to be a very handsome/pretty “girly looking” kind of a guy, with slender features. Orlando goes through life trying to “find himself”. He gains the favor of the old queen and serves in her quarters (she kinda has a thing for him) until he meets a “tasty tart” and scores some lip action and more (as it often is in Woolf’s literature) so the queen boots him out of her kingdom. He then goes out and whores himself out to loose women and eventually settles down with a fiancĂ©. But one day he meets some chick that looks like a dude (and he finds that sexy) and makes love to her. But she runs off leaving him behind in a world of melancholy and depression. One day he is magically turned into a woman. (yes, that’s right, I said a woman) And he doesn’t feel any different. He/she feels like its normal. He/she sleeps around with some men, sleeps around with some women, and even pretends to be a man occasionally. Finally he/she settles down and gets married to a man who has woman like qualities. In his/her end of life he/she finally realizes that to find him/herself he/she has to realize that he/she is made up of numerous selves. (yeah, confusing… I know!)

So with this summary, as readers, we can already see the “innovativeness” of this feminist literature. The concept of having a “biography” about a man who becomes a woman seems preposterous, but so is the way of Woolf sometimes. But the plot alone is not the only “ground breaking” stylization in her writing.
Woolf is greatly known for a specific narrative style that many find intriguing (and others find annoying) called free indirect discourse (FID). FID allows the omniscient narrator to enter the thoughts of any and all characters at any given time; almost allowing us to read the minds of the characters as we read along.

This style of narrative writing in the form of a biography was also seen in Flush, but in a novel/biography like Orlando, this style opens us to whole new worlds of thought. In a book like this, where ambiguity in genders (and many other things) is a HUGE role throughout its entirety, the use of FID allows readers to not only gain a momentary perspective of this deep outlook of sexual ambiguity, but also a character’s mental constructs of thought on such subjects.
Another element of Orlando that redefines biographies is in its concept of time. As if turning a man into a woman wasn’t “magical” enough, Orlando also spans a period of 400 years. The main character, as well as several other characters, survive throughout 4 centuries and encounter the historical changes and differences together.
This obviously “unrealistic” idea is strange to toss into something that’s supposed to be more or less “non-fiction” as often a biography should. But by toying with the concept of time, Woolf allows readers to see how arbitrary such social constructs as gender, time, and even ambiguity, can be, and thus, makes an attempt to redefine and reinvent the biography.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Woolf's Biographies... Flush.. pt.1

Woolf’s biographies are very, umm... interesting to say the least. When you think about a biography what do you think about? Usually it’s a life story of a character told from an omniscient view that tells of actions, dealings, and important points in life. I can personally recall having to write a biography that was basically a narrative that summarized important plotted points on a timeline for a character's life. But Woolf does so much more! Woolf’s “biographies” (if you’re so inclined to call them so) are beyond even the categorization of “avant-garde” (or on the front lines). Avant-garde is widely recognized as “pushing boundaries” and Woolf definitely does this in her biographies.. Sow what right? wrong. Woolf pushes new boundaries and opens new doors for future writers to follow.
For those of you who have no idea what it is I am talking about, or who Woolf is, let me give you a brief description (hold all comments until the end please):
 Virginia Woolf is a famous author well renowned for her depiction of gender roles, and unfair treatment to women. In almost all of her novels (at least all the novels I’ve read) she has mention of a lesbian love, and was well known for having a passionate “more than platonic” love for women as well. She wrote two specific, biographies that are quite “redefinining” for the rules of biographies:  Flush, and Orlando. Woolf is widely recognized as a prominent feminist writer, and also a writer who changed writing for many future writers to come!
From first looking at Flush, we are raucously introduced to a new form of biography. Flush is the biography of a dog, about a dog: Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s dog. This is quite unorthodox for a biography already, but what makes it even more so is Woolf’s use of FID (Free Indirect Discourse). FID can only be explained by basically saying that not only does the narrator take on the role of omniscient, but it is also capable of jumping from one character’s thoughts to another! Woolf created a whole new world to explore in biographies, the mind!
Woolf’s exploration of the mind allows us, the reader, to not only view the actions of the characters, but also see their true intents and thoughts behind it! Unlike in other biographies where we are simply told a character’s actions, in Woolf’s biographies we are directly linked to their thinking. By having a direct connection to the thinking of Woolf’s characters we are also vicariously tangled into, not only the main plot, but a mess of emotions, feelings, and thoughts, that cloud the mind of the character. Ergo, we almost become one with the character, and gain a much clearer (or sometimes more confusing) outlook on their actions as they unfold.
What’s more about Woolf’s biography is the sheer “audacity” she has to create a main character as an animal! 
The book Flush is not a children’s book, or a fantastical book, it is meant to be taken as realistic fiction. If we were truly able to see not only from the view of Flush, but also into his thoughts, this is what we are intended to see! So the idea of creating the main character as an animal, especially in her time period, is mind boggling! But, by doing so we are introduced to a whole new perspective; the dog’s.
It’s really interesting to see how a room, or a bed, or a table, or a new person arriving in a door, looks from a dog’s perspective; it gives brand new insight! 
But what’s more is what she accomplishes by doing this. As humans we create a world of classes and “haves” and “have-nots” and so too is it in this world of Flush’s. Even through the eyes of the dog we are able to see this separation of dogs into those with “pedigree” (which is resembled by his pure bred cocker spaniel coat) and those without (the mutts). Throughout the “life-story” of Flush we are constantly shown these concepts and are forced to compare and contrast them to our own views of aristocracy and classism.
Woolf brilliantly uses the medium of the biography to replicate this for us. She shows us and ridicules the dog’s upholding of pedigree only to mirror our own outlook at some of the precious concepts we hold so dear. By putting us into the eyes and mind of a dog in this era, we are able to follow his journey through the pages of Flush, and watch as he realizes (SPOILER ALERT) that the only way he was able to truly find a form of significant acceptance is when he loses his pedigree and becomes a nothing. It is then decided that there is nothing better to be, than a nothing. And thus, as the reader, we are able to directly translate the life and biography of Flush, to our own lives and thoughts on aristocracy.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Love in Literature continued...

Now I know last week I diverged from the path I claimed I was going to write about (love in literature) but this week I plan on returning back to this interesting and quite hilarious subject.  We have already discussed an interesting take on Romeo And Juliet, and the classic Pride And Prejudice, and viewed how love has a very different look in these classics than our original thoughts. Now let’s take a look at a few other classics: Their Eyes Were Watching God, and The Importance of Being Earnest.
As an English Education major I’m required to read a lot of classic literature and these two books specifically struck me as very entertaining! In Their Eyes Were Watching God we are introduced to a very interesting character. The lead protagonist is Janie Mae Crawford and is an African American with “Caucasian” hair. In the beginning of the novel, Janie is described as a black girl who doesn’t even know her own color. We see this in a scene where she sees a picture of herself (at about the age of 9) and for the first time sees that she is black (and suddenly becomes distraught). This comical “poke” at race is a commonly seen concept in modern literature, but what really stood out to me was the look at marriage.
In Their Eyes Were Watching God, Janie becomes married three times; all for different (quite political) reasons. The interesting twist on these marriages is how they appear to be much more like a “job” than an enjoyment. Janie’s first marriage is an arranged marriage to a wealthy “nobleman” named Logan Killicks. Logan treats Janie as a commodity, worker, and a “mule” (read the book to discover the significance of that choice word), so Janie runs away and leaves this marriage behind. She then becomes married again to another man, Jody Starks. Jody plays out as the typical “politician” and “man of power”. To him, Janie is a trophy wife. He has her keep her hair up (this reacts as a metaphor to bondage). This marriage ends quite interesting (even for modern literature). Janie gets fed up with being a trophy and basically yells at Jody; and Jody dies (almost immediately after being yelled at).  Later she goes on to marry Teacake (her only real true love) but eventually has to kill him when he goes crazy after getting rabies. And this my friends, is the portrayal of marriage seen in Their Eyes Were Watching God. It’s quite a different  look then how we think of this institution (marriage/ love).
Oscar Wilde also pokes fun at marriage. One of the important concepts I noticed that was mentioned was in the triviality of marriage, or as it appears to be portrayed, in Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. There are several scenarios portrayed in Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest that show the concept of marriage portrayed in a darker light.
It is quite common for the institution of marriage to be teased and taunted and we see countless examples of this throughout Wilde’s play. We see one mention of this in the dialogue between Chasuble and Miss Prism that pokes a mention at the idea of the wife losing attraction to the husband after marriage:

“Chasuble. But is a man not equally attractive when married?
Miss Prism. No married man is ever attractive except to his wife.
Chasuble. And often, I’ve been told, not even to her.”

We are also brought into Wilde’s hilarity with the way in which Cecily engages Algernon (who she believes to be Earnest) without even Algernon’s knowledge of the matter. Such a concept seems ridiculous, but may in fact be teasing at the swiftness one claims to “fall in love” in these days. But perhaps what is even more discerning is in the importance of having the name of “Earnest” in order to become betrothed. Neither lady would marry simply because they didn’t know who it was they were engaged to. The name was what was important, not the person. Perhaps a reason for this light playfulness of marriage can be caused due to Wilde’s preferences. Because of the ridicule he had as a homosexual, perhaps this was his way of showing us that our institution of marriage is pretty “weird” too. And once again I say, love in literature is quite different from our perceptions of love. Quite different indeed.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Whats the Greatest Philosophical Question? WHY?

The Importance of Literature is a constantly questioned topic; especially in this hustle bustle of a life we’re in. Everything these days is fast paced and instant information. It’s actually quite frightening to see how our works of literature have changed. I was watching one of those old silent film movies (Metropolis) where the actors have no voice, and any significant dialogue or conversation is displayed on an all black screen with white lettering; the mood of the movie is carried by an orchestra. At first the “quiet” was annoying, and the background music became monotonous. But after a while, I got to thinking. There was something really cool about this. Only the main parts of dialogue are actually written out for the viewer, but a large majority of it is left to the imagination. I found this very intriguing. In today’s world everything is so fast paced, we want our answers now, and we want it quick! Now I’m not saying this is bad, but it was quite refreshing to look at things from a new, more relaxed, perspective.

Then I got to thinking… it seems like most of life has followed this same concept of speeding everything up. Have the callings of the Futurist Manifesto come to fruition? Today instead of watching full clips of comedy, we see “snippits” of comedy in quick 30 second “youtube” videos. Instead of reading books for information, the majority of the world looks up quick articles, and instead of searching through a cumbersome encyclopedia to find an answer to something, we’ve all become familiar with the term JFGI! (for those of you that don’t know what that is, you can always Google it)

The concept of working hard and spending vast amounts of time to gain knowledge is slowly disappearing. (Perhaps due to everyone’s ability and ease to access information on the internet) And I began to notice this when I was watching the movie and realizing how much work I had to do in order to simply follow the story. I had to watch each and every overly exaggerated expressions on their faces, and use what I saw, felt, and knew, to come to my own understanding of what was going on in the movie (rather than just having it all spelt out for me). And that’s the way our gathering of information from literature used to be (in my opinion), but it has certainly shifted. It’s really quite interesting to take an anachronistic approach to viewing literature.

Sure literature is constantly changing, morphing, and evolving into a new creature all its own, and for the most part, it’s a really good thing. But if history has taught us anything, it’s that the answer to almost any situation is always moderation. If we completely abandon these old ways of thinking and continue on using only our fast paced “give it to me now” method of gaining knowledge (and I am probably most guilty of this) we are certainly going to lose something very precious from our past. But if we entirely shift back to “old ways” of literature we will never progress. It’s important that we maintain the old, but continue to push new boundaries. And if we do this, I think our literature of tomorrow is going to become something absolutely incredible!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Literature and Love..... pt. 1 (cont from last blog)

 So just as a quick recap of last week’s blog for those of you just tuning in (which I assume is most of you since I don’t have any followers) we discussed the history and outlook of the crazy holiday (if one can really consider it to be considered so) Valentine’s Day. From survey and personal opinion I basically made the argument that most people (at least the ones I interviewed) have either a very skeptical or negative outlook on Valentine’s Day; very few people have the “publicized” outlook of the “Disney kind of love” the movies portray Valentine’s Day and love in general to be.  From that argument (of a negative look at the associations of love) we’re going to take a deeper look into how literature views this “love”. Come with me as we dive deeper into the “literal” (yes pun intended) outlook of love in modern literature.
Let me paint you a picture for a moment… (with words of course)
“The beautiful Indian Pocahontas has fallen in love with the handsome John Smith. John Smith comes from overseas (England) with a group of people in search of Gold, but has soon realized that there is none. In the midst of their affair, war breaks out, but the love of Pocahontas and John Smith perseveres and allows the two groups of people to live without war, and Pocahontas and John Smith live happily ever after”
Now let’s take this same story and add a “literal” (yes I did it again) twist.
Pocahontas is a beautiful Indian girl Pocahontas lives with her tribe until suddenly a group of white men intent on finding gold ravage their land in war and battles. John Smith suddenly finds Pocahontas attractive and wants to have her as his wife (along with his 3 mistresses).  Pocahontas is already arranged to be married to Powhatan (who she doesn’t really love, but was an arrangement created during war between the tribes for peace). So Pocahontas must kill Powhatan in a way that appears to be an accident so that the tribes can remain friends, and Pocahontas can marry John Smith (who already raped her, and she doesn’t love him) in order to create a new treaty of peace between the Indians and the white man!..... Quite a bit different then the Disney version.
Modern Literature’s portrayal of love has an interesting twist in comparison to the views set up by the portrayal seen by the media and what’s on TV.  To help further my explanation and defend it we’re going to take a look at several different (and quite famous) works of literature that are often recognized as great portrayers of “love”. For starters let’s take a peek at perhaps the most “widely known” love story: Romeo and Juliet (my personal least favorite play by Shakespeare).
Now I know I’m probably going to receive wide criticism for my quick summary of this play, but it’s been a long time since I’ve read it, but my memories of the play always pan out the same way: Romeo is an overly hormonal male who challenges everyone to fights (much like a teen) and is deeply in love with this one chick, but then, almost overnight, his love shifts for Juliet. He now falls head over heels in love for Juliet. The only problem is that Romeo and Juliet’s families have “beef” and disagree with their relationship. So Romeo and Juliet have a secret love affair and run off and get married. They secretly get married and one of them fakes their death. The other person doesn’t get the memo, thinks their “love” is dead and commits suicide to join their loved one in “heavenly bliss” and eternity. The person who faked their death finds their loved one dead and kills themselves. And thus the birth of the most romantic story of all time is born (from the depths of two overly hormonal, bipolar, suicidal, and stupid teens).
 This play is almost a “mimic” of love. Romeo jumps from one girl to the next without a second thought, and his “obsession” follows suit to Juliet. Romeo then “stalks” his “love” (like Edward sitting outside a window “watching you sleep”) until at last they come together. Shakespeare almost purposefully teases on the subject of “love” as he (I feel) pokes fun at the reactions of these crazy little pubescent teenagers. This work by Shakespeare is “comic” in its portrayal when you step back and look at it through the right eyes. And many more famous authors and writers share this criticism of love; their ideas and thoughts peer through the pages of many different works.
One of the more prominent ways to look at the views of love is to view the way the author looks at marriage. And commonly (as mentioned above) marriage is viewed as a commodity, and has (perhaps) one of the most “materialistic” views seen in literature. In Pride and Prejudice we are immediately introduced to this view in the opening pages. Austen introduces us to the thought that “a rich single man must be in want of a wife (because that’s just what they’re supposed to do)”. And immediately after explaining this to us (the readers) she goes on to narrate how Mrs. Bennett (the psychotic witch with a capitol “B”) and every other mother in town sees this new rich man as an opportunity to marry off their daughters into wealth.  The act of love is entirely bypassed and set instead into marriage, and marriage is decided in order to “gain” wealth or land, or something, for an individual. So far none of our outlooks is showing a “positive” look on love or marriage. Come back again next week where we’re going to discuss some more views of love and marriage through the eyes of literature.