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.


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Valentine- More Than Just A Universal Day of Displeasure?

In this time of year we are raucously  “greeted” by the  sultry scent of soft roses, the taste of boxed chocolates, and the sight of  little candies with a heartfelt “u r cute” stenciled on it. And every year we think the same thing

“AWW Crap, it’s Valentine’s day again!


From a literary sense the view on love, romance and literature have a very satirical and humorous view, but before we look at that, how do we view these notions today? Did the role of "love" in a societal sense changed since, Oh let's say They're Eyes Were Watching God? What better way to analyze our outlook on "Love" than to view our views on the Holiday that celebrates it, Valentine's Day?

At first I used to think it was only single people that hated it; then I thought it was just me. But upon interviews with several people (in a relationship or not) everyone tended to express this same disgust. Whether you’re single or in a relationship, happy or sad, sober or drunk, Valentine’s Day holds the same unanimous feeling of disgust that churns in our stomachs every year it comes around.

For the taken it is basically an amped up date night; to do the romantic things you normally do (only add a little more “oomph” to the romantic factor…. because “it is Valentine’s Day after all) So for most of the people I talked to, they had a feeling of “obligation” on Valentine’s day; even more so than the annual obligations of Christmas. Our society has deemed it unacceptable to just “chill” or “relax” on a day like this. So we are obligated, boy or girl, to GO BIG! (Or go to the dog house) So for many this feeling of obligation is a trying burden on a couple.

For the "singles" it’s obvious why they dislike Valentine’s Day, they’re alone! Valentine’s Day is just an over glorified day to also GO BIG… at the bar. What’s more frustrating than being alone and everywhere you look you to see a couple? It’s a miserable time to be alone! I received many stories from the people I talked to that could easily become a tear jerking piano song to the tune of Only the Lonely. (I can recall many VDAYS where my only activities were sitting in a car, listening to music, smoking a cig, and sipping a flask)

With such a negative outlook on this day I can’t bring myself to realize why we even celebrate this? Who enjoys this day? Who benefits? Of course there are always the corporations… And I’m pretty sure ABC Liquor makes a killing… But apart from that, why do we even celebrate Valentine’s Day? What is the history?

Valentines Day’s origin is as mysterious as its purpose. But one of the more common theories is that it started as a pagan holiday of fertility in which a male in youth would choose a female by use of giving her a gift (hence the annoying tiny little cards that say “be mine”) Then later the Pope “adopted” the holiday (as is so often done in Catholic History) and used it to celebrate Saint Valentine’s life. However, later, the Pope denounced the holiday (probably due to its venture from purpose… like Easter), but the tradition continues.

The Triviality of Love and Romance In Literature- INTRODUCED

Now I know that was a pretty long tangent but the mechanics of my emotional vomit are standardized to pave the way into a road that can draw this back to my premise of my blog, “literature”. Culturally, the notion of love (at least up until recently) was a notion whose ultimate goal was marriage. I’m not so sure if that is the main goal of men and women today. In fact, I would argue a death of romanticism and even the notion of love in our society is taking place; but, once again, that’s a topic for another blog.

But because the notion of love was often to lead into marriage, it’s interesting to see the portrayal of marriage in some of our most recognizable works of literature. So, in honor of this V-Day (much like D Day), I would love to discuss the triviality of the notions of love and romance in literature. Countlessly the notions of marriage and love are poked fun at and ridiculed in such famous works as Pride and Prejudice, The Importance of Being Earnest, Romeo and Juliet,etc. And that is where my next blog will be focused around.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Befuddle me!??!??!?!?!

*So just as a back story, I was asked to argue with myself on a subject and I chose the "Catch 22". My discussion quickly jumps from the "catch 22" to conditioning and the nature of conditioning.  I decided to just "word vomit" so I apologize for my "overly wordy" diction and skips in thought. It's just word vomit!
Erik-I am constantly brought to a level of amazement at the simple yet continuous realization of observances of thought. Consistently and raucously, often without measure or discern, our minds bring us to an understanding in which the only answer expressed is that there is no answer. The object of the catch 22 befuddles me with how frequently its appearances make a cameo in all aspects of life.
IT- Perhaps your observations are that of obstructions provoked through means of the inescapable culprit of conditioning. It is impossible to measure what knowledge has been given to you, and what knowledge you have come to know through your own device.
Erik- But even so, if conditioning proves culprit to such thinking, and what you say is true, I would certainly be conditioned to many different ideas and modes of thought.
IT- Are you not?
Erik- One could argue so. However, one could also-
IT- One could also argue for the sake of arguing
Erik- If conditioning has lead me to every belief I have come to realize in this short span of life, then I would have to be conditioned to all sides of a situation. Ergo, I would be incapable of making a distinguishment between wrong and right, black and white, etc.
IT- And if this is so, are you really making your own thoughts? Or are you a prophet of regurgitation. A flip flop can stand for nothing.
Erik- However. Even if this case were true, I would still have to mention that by all means, even through grey vision, there are still hues that can be darker than others, and the scale still remains to tilt in favor of one way or another. If what you say is to be true, then I would be entirely unbiased towards either side. However, in all thoughts, I continue to hold a bias
IT- What do you think drives that bias?
Erik- perhaps experience. Is it not my experiences that have molded me? or is it my teachers and lessons taught?
IT- Time is the greatest teacher
Erik- Unfortunately it kills all its students
IT- But are not your experiences molded in part by your upbringing? Your lifestyle, religion, etc. Aren’t those forms of mental conditioning?
Erik- And once again we’re back to the catch 22..

Blasting the Canon!!!.......?

As a prospective teacher it’s important to recognize and stay in tune with certain things that most of the public probably simply overlook. In specific, I’m talking about the canon; the literary canon to be specific. The literary canon is a collection of the greatest works of literature. Because it is often recognized as the “greatest literature” it is also the literature I will be “recommended” to teach. And because I want to be passionate about my work and curriculum (whether I have complete control over it or not) I find it of great importance to myself that I stay up to par with what’s on the menu for teachers.
     The collection is, of course, imaginary; there is no “list” per se, of these books. But even though there are no known recordings of this “list” (if you know differently please share) numerous books are commonly recognized by scholars and “scholarly” individuals, as “canon worthy”. And though there are a lot in common between the neighbors of this collection, there are also significant differences. This cacophony of literature has a wide assortment of books and novels that are “deemed worthy” of becoming known as the idolized literature we now know today. Examples of books that fit this collection are such novels as: The Old Man and The Sea, The Great Gatsby, 1984, Their Eyes Were Watching God, The Light In August, Shakespeare, Hamlet, Fahrenheit 451, Pride and Prejudice, Robinson Crusoe, Lord of the Flies, etc. (Many of the same books we grew up reading in our schools) 

     But what exactly makes a book or novel worthy of this kind of recognition? What would prevent a book, like, say perhaps, Flush: A Biography by Virginia Woolf, from this awarding? In order to understand that, we’d have to take a look at the qualifications of the canon and truly understand what makes something canon worthy; and therein lies the conundrum.
    Why the confusion? Simple, there is no clear definition or set regulations of what makes something “canon worthy”, there are only thousands of views and opinion set up by numerous scholars that are constantly disputed. Debates amongst scholars and writers are almost as diverse as debates on theology or politics (and sometimes just as heated). But with no clear definition by which to hold standards to, it’s understandable why there’s so much confusion; there are no standards! So relevance of literature is determined by the eye of the reader (“beauty is in the eye of the beholder”) and perhaps this is better. But there are some widely agreed on (though still widely disputed) concepts that have to be prevalent to make a work of literature (or art even) worthy of the canon.
      Just like anything that continues to be recognized, something that is canon worthy has to be able to stand the test of time. According to Pamela Caughie they have to “Transcend their time” (Caughie) If something doesn’t stand the test of time than it’s just “history” (I use this term lightly). History is very informative and often entertaining, but perhaps it doesn’t relate to life as it is today (although “metaphorically speaking” it may) So needless to say, the work has to be relevant even by today’s standards. Looking at Fahrenheit 451 for example, the ominous message rings clearly to this day because we see evidences of our world becoming this dystopian wasteland every day. I could go on and on about the similarities of this world to what our world is becoming, but that would be a blog for another day. Caughie also argues that it has to “be a representative of its kind” (Caughie). To put this in “lamen’s terms”, what Pamela is trying to say is that the work has to be a clear representation of its time period and type. For example, books about oppression or slavery would be a clear representation of this. Books about war and modernist ideas would clearly present these ideas in their pages.
    A work also has to be innovative and creative to be “canon worthy”. Just like any work of art, it has to be new different (although there are many exceptions to this rule). But as a friend recently pointed out to me, simply being innovative isn’t enough. It has to be innovative in a way that creates imitators in that style of innovation (Nic Stemm). For example, Flush was clearly innovative (a novel about the biography of a dog used to mirror the oppression and dystopian world created through the aristocracy) but he argued that it was not canon worthy because it had not been imitated. To simply be innovative is good, but to be recognizable, that innovation has to be adapted and replicated by someone else. This is of course helped in cause when the novel gains popularity.

   But all in all, for me, works of the canon come down to the same judgements I have for art, “it’s in the eye of the beholder”. But that quite obviously is not enough, because the existence of the canon is to create “familiarity” and something “to strive for”, where as this diverts from diversity. But the death of the canon would lead to a world of “unfamiliarity” where the best novels are recognized as any novel deemed fit by the individual, and this of course lacks organization (not to mention the inclusion of crap like Twilight into its broken existence). So once again we are at a catch 22, as we are in so many things in life, and once again, that’s a blog for another day.