John Bunyan (1628-1688)
March 6, 2012, 10:45 pm
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In consideration of literary history it is important to mention the life and works of John Bunyan, a 16th century English Christian writer and preacher particularly famous for The Pilgrim’s Progress. Bunyan was the son of a poor Bedfordshire tinker, raised with little schooling he was destined to follow in his father’s footsteps. After the death of his mother and sister young Bunyan enlisted in the Parliamentary army leaving his family his home. Shortly after, Bunyan returned to his former trade as a tinker. Early in his adult life Bunyan turned towards Christianity and shortly after started preaching. In 1656 he was appointed minister at St John’s church, and a year later he became a deacon. As Bunyan’s popularity grew, he became a target for slander and libel. In his early thirties, as England returned to Anglicanism Bunyan was arrested for his religious practices and teachings. While serving his sentence in Bedford County Gaol, Bunyan perceived the idea of writing, The Pilgrim’s Progress .

Arguably, The Pilgrim’s Progress is one of the most translated and recognized allegories written. During its time, Protestant missionaries translated The Pilgrim’s Progress as exceedingly as the Bible. The Pilgrim’s Progress was very widely read, regardless of age, class, or school of thought people were mesmerized by the work. The allegory describes the adventure of Christian who travels the Kings highway, where he encounters bears, giants, hobgoblins, and “the angel of the bottomless pit”. The work is a metaphor that presents life as a journey wrapped in the story of adventure. Bunyan published about 60 other works, several of which were also r successful but less known: The Life and Death of Mr. Badman, The Holy War, Grace Abounding to the Chief Sinners.

Citation Concerns
February 5, 2012, 11:39 am
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While working on my paper, I stumbled upon the issue of properly using in-text citations when quoting from The Children’s Hour. We used the acting edition of the play, and this version does not have the lines numbered. I tried to do some quick research, and looked for citation examples of this particular scenario, but had no luck finding anything. Since I strictly worked with this copy of the play, how can I correctly site within my paper? Would listing the author’s last name followed by the page number, both enclosed within a parenthesis, a correct way to cite a play with only three acts and no line numbering?

Another concern I have is citing from a work that references another work, perhaps when an author quotes an outside source. How would I give credit to that outside source/ referenced author/ work the author in the article has mentioned? I have encountered this problem several times when debating to quote from an article that refutes or accredits an outside position. Since I have this citation issue, I usually find myself reframing from quoting such examples. I feel that not knowing how to do this particular type of citing properly works against me and becomes a handicap me as a writer.

Humanizing Sheba
December 5, 2011, 4:24 am
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When we tune into media coverage of a local scandal, whether it’s a report of statutory rape, murder, or theft, we automatically may prescribe the individual to a monstrous subhuman category. By doing this we exclude any association with the person on a communal basis, concluding that they are nothing like us. Perhaps this is what’s troubling about Notes on a Scandal, because even as a sex offender Sheba is humanized and prescribed the characteristics of a sensitive, caring and vulnerable human being. As readers, we are expected to understand Sheba, as a character who’s in a vulnerable state when tempted by Connelly, and we forgive her by attributing her mistakes to her humanity.

In many moments of the book I actually felt myself side with this character and it can be troubling to identify with a sex offender. I had conflicting views about her relationship to Connolly, and whether this was a love affair or some type of displacement of maternal emotion. I found myself justifying my lack of disgust in her actions through the fact that Sheba did not initially seduce Connolly. However, now that I think about it, didn’t she? Wearing see-through skirts and meeting him privately for art lessons, can’t this to Connolly be an opening to request a romantic relationship? Regardless, of anyone in Sheba’s defense, as an adult she is responsible for her actions.

It is through the narrator’s description of Sheba, that she is represented as the victimized character, manipulated into a relationship by Connolly. I wonder if anyone actually finishes the novel pitying Connolly. I also wondered if feeling bad for Sheba is a personal resort to sexism, and would I feel the same pity if Sheba was instead a male teacher? The novel did bring up this point through the perspective of Connolly’s mother, who viewed that Sheba was judged too lightly. She might have been on point about that assumption, because her comment brings to mind a moment in the novel where a group of men made a sexual joke out of Sheba’s assault. As I think upon this topic of favoring female over male sex offenders, I don’t think it makes a difference on the sex. I recall feeling disgusted reading when in the paper that a female teacher seduced her student, and perhaps my remorse for Sheba is really set in identifying with her as a person who’s allowed to make mistakes.

Open Secrets
November 20, 2011, 12:00 pm
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The Children’s Hour, “Esther” and “Where Do You See Yourself?” had me thinking about the relationship between these pieces of literature. I felt that all three were very much focused in the process of revealing a dark secret. Each literary work had a different outcome, as well process of revealing something that can be a social taboo. The secret was revealed before either Martha, from The Children’s Hour, or narrator, from “Where Do You See Yourself?”, even realized that they were possibly homosexual, and through an oral transmission both conceived an inception an of this self that they never considered before. Both Martha and Wier’s Narrator seem to never gain control within, they are subjected to live their secret in the open before they were even ready to. Both characters seem powerless, drifting through their stories, with an inability to gain control over their secret. The secret of their sexual orientation becomes an open secret both for everyone to look into. This is why Maratha fears to leave the house to go shopping, she is afraid that others might see right through her, because unlike Karen, she actually is gay. Similarly, when the narrator is being teased during his improve performance; he feels his body is as an open floating text, fearing that the audience has the power to look into him.

In “Esther”, the secret of Esther’s Jewish identity was concealed until she felt it was time to reveal it. Unlike both Martha and Weir’s Narrator she was empowered with her secret, using it to her advantage. Ester is depicted as a heroine because by holding control over her secret she is able to control king Ahasuerus’ perception of her, use it to defeat Haman, and save her people. Unlike Ester, Martha and the Narrator are victimized and made powerless because knowledge of their secret was spread against their will, and they held no control over it. The distinction between revealing a secret and having it revealed for you brings me question the power an individual is granted when revealing a secret.  Would Esther’s story change if her secret was revealed for her?  When a secret is revealed by an individual who originally holds, it transfers a certain power over their destiny and the way their society might view them. However, when a secret is revealed against the individuals who it is about, how can this method of revealing the secret interpret the way other’s view this individual?

Reflecting on Writing the Prospectus
November 12, 2011, 11:01 pm
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The beginning of any assignment is perhaps the most intimidating, especially if it involves doing something new, different, and challenging. Formulating an idea wasn’t what made this a difficult task for me, it instead was committing to one narrow scope that brought up feeling of uneasiness. The final prospectus that I handed in was actually the second draft that I had written. My original draft was infused with vague ideas of all the possible ways that language can function in literature, in fact when I looked it over with professor Walkden it became apparent that my thoughts often swayed and lead to different topics that failed to connect.

When revising my proposal I was able to sum up my overall focus on what I would like to call “the breakdown of communication”, through which I would like to explore the acquisition and authority of the use of language in literature to represent the breakdown of sanity, reality, and identity through the loss of meaningful communication. I’m not completely satisfied with the final revision of my topic description, I feel that it could be still be more specific, but perhaps some vagueness is necessary to allow room for research.

When it came to organizing my thoughts I did find it helpful to construct a research proposal, maybe it is still a jagged representation of what my overall paper will concern, but nevertheless this was a good exercise to construct ideas that I would like to explore. When writing the topic description, I approached it as a free write exercise that I later revised and cut down. I found myself exploring ideas that I haven’t considered yet and used it as a stepping stone discovering my topic of interest.

Often I find it frustrating when I think of the next direction that my research paper will take. This is probably why I found it difficult to come up with the four questions when writing my proposal. I am used to working with an outline that directs my research and essay, and I am feeling uneasy because I don’t have an organized plan for tackling on this assignment. My main concern at this point is whether my topic would be a successful to research and find connections with on other literary works, or whether it is still too broad of an idea.

The Society of Highbury’s Women is so very Obliging!
October 31, 2011, 5:12 am
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The class consciousness among the affluent characters in Jane Austen’s Emma makes the novel an entertaining read. Marrying well is one of the major focuses within the female social circle, because it is marriage that allows them to move up in social class. Early on, Emma’s personal decision to never settle down with a man who is anything other than exceptional is a decision influenced by her social status from birth of being very well secured in a high class position. However, her strict decision of not settling down doesn’t interfere with her pleasure in matchmaking, and helping women who are less fortunate in birth status  move up in class.

Emma’s personal interest in improving Harriet’s both through character and marriage presents a constant obsession of high society and proper characteristics for a lady. In the beginning, Emma’s relation to Harriet parallels Mrs. Elton’s interest in securing Jane Fairfax a higher social status and both women make a project out of helping their less fortunate female counterparts. The likeliness of Emma and Mrs. Elton are striking and perhaps explain Emma’s strong dislike of this woman. The characteristics of the two self involved females only vary in their behavioral conduct, where Emma thinks highly of her social standing internally, Mrs. Elton expresses her assertion of self publicly.

The opinion of vulgarity and self obsession of Mrs. Elton’s public image remarks on the excepted social norms that draw a thin line between the public self and the private self. Mrs. Elton’s loud self expression relates her very much to Mrs. Bates who lacks a proper filter when it comes to conversation, where as Mrs. Elton lacks a filter in self expression of her opinion. Throughout the novel the consciousness of marrying a counterpart or a superior in society is presented in the characters’ interest in potential mates, this is often an anxiety present in conversation of proper courtship and ill paired matches. Mr. Elton’s refusal of Harriet for example was due to her social rank in Highbury, and his infatuation with Emma was influenced mainly by her class, breed, and fortune. Marrying Mrs. Elton was a safe choice for Mr. Elton because of her well perceived social standing and small fortune of $10,000, his personal interest in her is arguable. The anxiety of marrying well comes from the desire of social acceptance, and otherwise Frank Churchill’s engagement to Jane Fairfax wouldn’t have been kept a secret for so long.

Behind Dillon’s Analysis
October 24, 2011, 4:42 am
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From our reading selection of Elizabeth Maddock Dillon’s, “The Secret History of the Early American Novel: Leonora Sansay and the Revolution in Saint Domingue”, there seem to be several questions that Dillon might have speculated when analyzing Sansay’s novel, “The Secret History”. For one, Dillon spends a few pages analyzing Sansay’s decision to heavily situate the novel in the domestic sphere, as means of reflective on the socio-political engagement of the French in Haiti. After the mention of the high end life style for the aristocratic French society in Haiti, we are almost instantaneously given the stark reality of warfare. This juxtaposition between the domestic and militia affairs seem to lead to a particular two part question, “What relation does the power struggle in Clara and St. Louis’ marriage have to the liberation movement in Haiti, and how does this work of literature frame itself within the tradition of American novels?”

Another possibly question of Dillion’s would be framed around the female society, “What is the role of women in Haiti and, what was there means of gaining capital within their new social framework? Dillion appears to be very interested in the transformation of social reproduction in family and marriage in relation to the shift of British economy, which changed from an agrarian feudalism to a more a mobile and commercial system of exchange. Within this new mobility is the female’s ability to move in social-economic status through marriage, and thus gaining their equity through coquetting.

Perhaps another distinct question might be “What is the racial and cultural structure of the Creole women and what social stigmas are attached to them? Creole women are typically thought as mixed race women, possibly a mix of French or Spanish and black descent. These women were stigmatized as having heightened sexual appeal, while believed to be unable to successfully have children. The voluptuousness of the Creole women, as described by Dillion, may pose a social threat to European women, and therefore Creole women were required to wear madras handkerchiefs. This code of dress presented a unique culture available to the people of Haiti, because these madras handkerchiefs heightened sexual appeal instead of covering it they also became popular among the European women in Haiti.

Letters: the Spread of Private Gossip
October 17, 2011, 4:05 am
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As my generation pulled themselves up by their Huggies and waddled out into the world, letter writing, as a form of correspondence, slowly disintegrated. Everyone, including my grandmother, has switched over to e-mail, texting, Facebook, Google + and all the other social stalking sites out there. Reading Secrete History; or The Horrors of St. Domingo left me thinking about the generational differences between someone from Leonora Sansay’s generation and mine. In particular, I wonder how privacy and the spread of information functioned.  The narrator described a lot of personal and situational details in her letters, not only pertaining to the social world around her, but also about the advancement of the war in Haiti, I assume, letter writing was one of the only ways to spread information privately between individual, but within this medium how was privacy enforced? When it comes to a sealed, handwritten letter, privacy seems to be the prevalent issue especially during Sansay’s time. Just the thought of not being able to password protect letters is enough to give anyone in this generation goosebumps.  Perhaps, this system of passing of information requires assistance of a reliable mail-carrier. Was it even possible for letters to remain exclusively private? Or was secrecy the only way to shield classified information from lurking eyes. Perhaps my ignorance is showing, but I just can’t seem to wrap my head around the idea that people didn’t snoop through letters to find information. For example, someone like Clara’s husband, the typical jealous husband afraid of being cuckolded, would snoop through the writings of those closest around him for possible evidence.

Rumor, gossip, and the spread information are all present attributes in letter writing. Through the use of letters a recipient would be informed about all the social functions of life in Haiti. One interesting notion that stuck out to me is that such forms of correspondence provide the recipient with schemata and stereotypes of people and industrialized nations. For example, the narrator describes the Creole women of Haiti and assigns to them distinct attribute, thus differentiating them from herself: “The Creole is generous, hospitable, magnificent, but vain, inconstant, and incapable of serious application; and in this abode of pleasure and luxurious ease vices have reigned at which humanity must shutter” (Sansay 70). The recipient of this letter therefore builds additional schemas and is acquainted with these women’s traits without ever leaving the country. The use of letters in Secrete History; or The Horrors of St. Domingo to spread information reminds me of Max Gluckman’s article, where in particular, he analyzed the social relationships developed through gossip in Jane Austen’s novel, Emma. “These were people living on land, rents and gilt- edged shares, marking themselves off from others by talking about one another. And talking about one another was what helped maintain them as a group- an elite-in the wider society in which they lived.” In Gluckman’s interpretation of Emma, gossip serves as a means of staying connected and relating to the world around you. The narrator in Secrete History; or The Horrors of St. Domingo allows this vicarious representation for her reader, who is allowed to reside in the narrator’s world with her, but through association.

Uncertainties within the Plague Epidemic
October 3, 2011, 4:02 am
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Following the various anecdotes that appear throughout Journal of the Plague Year, it seems that Daniel Defoe’s narrator, H.F periodically uses these short recollections not only to illustrate the behaviors of the people affected, but to drive home his personal views about the actions taken to prevent the epidemic from spreading. In particular, the narrator has a strong opinion against the locking up the houses of the sick individuals, because he believed that the threat of confinement encouraged panic among the people who in result attempted to escape from afflicted towns. On many occasions, H.F. pointed out that the plague continued to spread due to the movement of the families who had nowhere to go, left to wander, and in result infected others and eventually died themselves.

In many of the anecdotes that H.F. recalled there seemed to be an evident trend linking them to a particular main point, that since infection is mainly spread in crowds where even the sound, unknowingly, could have been infected. Therefore confinement of those that already had the symptoms was not necessarily a preventative. An interesting story focused on the escape of three men who with an additional party of thirteen others desperately headed anywhere as an attempt to avoid the pandemic afflicted areas. The party of survivors constantly met with dead ends and peril situations that called upon their wit and survival skills, but this group was an exceptional party and this was why they survived.

This particular story seems to moralize the idea of escaping confinement and preserving good health, but it results in contradicting itself in several ways. First as an attempt to prove the point that movement was just as risky as remaining in place, H.F. stresses that escape was mainly possible for those that had somewhere to go to or to those that had the money to take them far away. Individuals that did not have either money or people to shelter them were the ones that shouldn’t have left at all: “but those who were empty, suffer’d, as I have said, great Hardships, and were often driven by Necessity to relieve their Wants at the Expence of the Country… tho’ even then they scarce knew what to do with them, and were always very backward to punish them, but often too they forced them from Place to Place, till they were oblig’d to come back again to London” (Defoe 129). However, the party of refugees in H.F.’s anecdote was from a poorer class of people, and they had neither money nor anywhere to go to, and they were able to survive. Second, the narrator’s decision to stay in London and trust God to preserve his health, contradicts his argument that precaution and avoiding people are important means of avoiding infection, because while in London he often puts himself in dangerous situations such as wandering the streets at the height of the epidemic. However H.F. often points out that the poor were the first to become infected because they swarmed in crowds and put themselves in dangerous situations, trusting God to prevail them, now this seems to again contradict the idea of God holding power over the lives of the people. When considering whether God or precaution is the ultimate means for prevention, the main point gets lost in the narrators own personal uncertainty.

The Inconspicuous Fan
September 21, 2011, 3:31 pm
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In Oscar Wilde’s play, Lady Windermere’s Fan, there is a placed importance on an exclusive upper class society, filled with scandal and unauthentic personalities. Principles of 19th century social etiquette are present throughout the play. These social principles can be overlooked by the 21st century reader, who might not be accustomed to such subtle forms of social conduct, and for this instance the first few footnotes prove to be useful. However, in all other instances, the footnotes seem to flood the play, filling it with unnecessary noise. Yes, the footnotes do show the amount of work that Wilde put into the writing and revision of the play, providing insight on the many editions and versions that exist of Lady Windermere’s Fan, but with such emphasis on footnotes the editors seem to shove this notion down the readers’ throats.

From arranged dances to Lord Darlington’s friendship with Lady Windermere nothing seems to be done without an ulterior motive. With this social structure in mind, I question the motives behind Mrs. Erlynne’s actions. For one, Mrs. Erlynne obtained a substantial amount of money from Lord Windermere, which doesn’t quite add up if she was a well established women prier of meeting him. Besides being asked to supply marriage dowry, the mention of Lord Windermere’s monitory assistance to Mrs. Erlynne was a subject that wasn’t heavily touched upon. Another strange request from Mrs. Erlynne was to be invited to her daughter’s ball, where she spends her time socializing with a number of well known women. Mrs. Erlynne’s reputational sacrifice for her daughter’s marital stability gives her a more motherly persona, but it further mystifies her overall intentions. Not being able to figure out Mrs. Erlynne’s true intentions frustrated me and left me questioning her character towards the play’s end.

Prop placement was one of the cleverest aspects of this play, and the use of the fan in Lady Windermere’s Fan reminded me of the symbolic representation of the handkerchief in Shakespeare’s Othello. In Othello, the handkerchief was a representation of Desdemona’s sanctity to her marriage, and loosing or regifting this handkerchief was the equivalence of infidelity. Similarly, this fan was a token of Lord Windermere’s affection for his wife. In the second act of the play, as Mrs. Erlynne’s makes her entrance, Lady Windermere drops the fan a sign that her husband’s actions are negligence to their marriage. In the third act of Lady Windermere’s Fan, on the sound of approaching footsteps, Lady Windermere hides behind a curtain but leaves her fan in plain sight. The placement of the fan on Lord Darlington’s table suggests infidelity, and this is perhaps also why Lord Windermere’s disapproves of his wife keeping the fan after its return to her. On another interesting instance, in the final scene of the play, Mrs. Erlynne hands the fan to Lord Augustus, stating “Won’t you carry the fan Lord Augustus…You’ll carry it so gracefully. You would carry off anything gracefully, dear Lord Augustus” (Wilde 87). With the fan’s symbolic meaning in mind, Mrs. Erlynne handing it to Lord Augustus holds suggestion of erotic relations between the two characters.  This fan seems to give the play a suggestive sexual undertone that seems to be a missing element amongst the characters.



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