Sunday, March 28, 2010

Confining Literary Movements

I've heard this theme come up a lot throughout the semester and felt it to be particularly pressing after Thursday's class: we read about literary movements and read about how to interpret pieces of work (such as Andre Lorde's piece), yet is it possible that literature and analysis of writing is too expansive and unique to be confined and simplified into such broad categories? To reiterate Professor Fisher's closing question, what affect does our "knowing" that a particular piece if from a certain literary period or reading Lorde's doctrine on what all poetry is comprised of have on our understanding and interpretation of the pieces of work? Are we more inclined to look for and "find" the elements of a poem that fit Lorde's mold simply because we hold her view in high regard because she is a published writer and thus she must be "right"?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

What defines our generation?

In class, we've moved through several literary movements that are characterized by similar themes in social life and trends in literature. Inequality and racism, the overwhelming effects of industrialization, the harrowing realities of war, feminism, etc. It makes me wonder what will be the issues of our generation, and will we be the future authors that portray these issues?

Lately, it's been hard to turn on the news and not hear some conservative vs. liberal discussion about healthcare (so I don't turn on the news), and it depresses me to think that fiscal policy is the most exciting thing to report on the news. There seems to be no obvious radical, revolutionary social issue that truly defines our generation--but maybe that's just me. What do you guys think?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

"You are who your friends are"

I’m not sure who said it first, but the quote “You are who your friends are” came to mind when reading about Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton. While I have heard this quote before and thought it to be true in some cases, I never believed it to be as true as in the case of Plath and Sexton. Both women were plagued by depression and it seems like they bonded over it too. In “Sylvia’s Death”, Sexton refers to suicide as “our boy” telling us that they had clearly discussed the topic several times. I think it is safe to say they were both obsessed with death. There are so many similarities between the two poets. Besides their suicides, they were feminists who practiced confessional poetry and both from Massachusetts. I feel like it is hard to analyze either poet’s work without thinking about their suicides and basically how morbid their minds were. I know after reading their bios that was stuck in the back of my head. I mean Plath even mentions one of her suicide attempts in “Daddy”, so it is hard not to focus on that.

Overall, I wouldn’t say I enjoyed the poems we read, but since I am from Massachusetts I felt in the loop with the references!

What did you guys find?


I don't mean to detract from Andrew's much more interesting post on Lady Gaga (see below), but I wanted to stir things up a bit.

A brief bit of background: The MLA is currently circulating a resolution to all of its members for commentary. This resolution essentially argues that tenure should be available to all university professors--full and part time. As I'm sure you're all aware, there is a very large mass of part time/"adjunct" professors here at GWU (and elsewhere). In fact, yours truly is one of them.

As I was reading through these comments, I was taken aback by the one that I've quoted, in part, below. The comment is in support of the resolution, but I was struck by some of the reasons why. Here are the reasons that struck me:

"Part-time employees, although not necessarily expected to produce scholarship, are nonetheless an integral part of a department's labor force. They often have more time to devote to students and are fundamental to the development of introductory courses that prepare students for upper-level courses taught by tenured faculty. Furthermore, they are routinely subjected to harsher criticism (and lower scores on evaluative materials) because they teach required courses to non-majors who resent them (for example, non-English majors in a composition course)."

I'm curious--sincerely curious--about your reactions to these statements, particularly the closing ones about non-majors taking courses taught by adjunct professors. I guess what I'm asking is this: What is it like taking a course like ours--an intro level lit course--that is required for English majors but is also available for Gen Ed credit? In cases like these, do you find that being a "non-major" in a particular department is a disadvantage?

Again, I'm not asking you to weigh in on me, our course, or other specific professors (and specific courses). You certainly have plenty of time to reflect on our class--here and elsewhere. I think I'm just interested in hearing about your experiences are as students in the contemporary university. Feel free to weigh in below. And no, none of this will impact your final grades ;-)

Lady Gaga's "Fame"

The more and more popular Lady Gaga becomes, the closer she becomes to being a living proof of her message: that fame corrupts and controls. This video was played at one of her concerts:

There’s something heroic about the way my fans operate cameras. So precisely and intricately, and so proudly. Like kings writing the history of their people. It’s their prolific nature that both creates and procures what will later be perceived as the kingdom. So, the real truth about Lady Gaga fans lies in this sentiment: They are kings. They are the queens. They write the history of the kingdom, while I am something of a devoted jester. It is in the theory of perception that we have established our bond. Or, the lie, I should say, for which we kill. We are nothing without our image. Without our projection. Without the spiritual hologram of who we perceive ourselves to be, or rather to become in the future. When you’re lonely, I’ll be lonely too. And this is the fame."

I think it is interesting how she likens fame to the leadership of kings and queens (her fans) to bring her illusory kingdom. She admits being a "jester", someone who plays games and jokes, no one with any real power.

I don't want to get too far into Lady Gaga philosophy, but I've read many pieces where people believe that Lady Gaga is trying to show us that fame is mind control. For those who have seen it, the Paparazzi video shows Lady Gaga as a slave to the media, killing her boyfriend to gain the limelight back after she had previously lost it. In the Telephone video, she goes on to poison an entire diner full of people while reciting "stop calling, stop calling, I don't want to think anymore", alluding to the fact that she has lost all communication with herself. In one article, someone mentioned that in the video that I posted, Lady Gaga is electroshocked, possibly in an effort to shake her out of her dazed stupor.

The video itself is pretty disturbing, but although the message is cold, it is nice to hear someone acknowledge the illusions of our society in an artful and intelligent way. Is fame just as disturbing as these images?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Consciousness: That Annoying Time Between Naps

Lately I've had trouble sleeping, so I thought I'd just post about it and ask if anyone else has annoying sleep cycles? When I don't get the coveted 8 hours of sleep, sometimes I get a little loopy and altered, and I wonder if some of the authors we've read were sleep-deprived when they wrote what they wrote. Or just laid in bed thinking for a little longer than they should have.

Monday, March 22, 2010

One Art

I found “One Art” to be an immensely sad poem. Elizabeth Bishop begins the poem by saying “The art of losing isn’t hard to master”. I’m sure this first line is something we can all agree with. I know I have lost many times in life whether it’s a material object, a basketball game, or something bigger like friends or loved ones.

Bishop starts with small things that don’t seem to have a huge impact if lost such as door keys. They’re frustrating to lose, but life will go on. She moves on to bigger things as the stanzas progress. Next is “places and names”-- A little bigger than a set of keys, but still not a disaster if you lose them. “Houses”, “cities”, “a continent”—she has lost these things by moving. Many people find it sad to leave the house they grew up in or make a big move to a different place, but with time they learn that it isn’t such a big deal. Then finally, Bishop hits us with the big one—a person. She loses someone close to her, yet is trying to convince us (as well as herself) that although it may look like a disaster at the time, life will go on. We can see Bishop clearly has a hard time accepting the loss when she writes “(Write it!)”. She is forcing herself to accept the loss and move on. She uses the first 5 stanzas to build up to this loss, to try and belittle the feelings of great loss.

I just found it depressing that Bishop deals with the pain of a loss by comparing it to other less significant losses in her life. I guess everyone deals with pain differently… a lot like the Bundren family.


Hey, if no one else is going to promote me, I might as well do it myself.

Here's my contribution to the PopMatters Retroactive Listening series. They gave me the baton first.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

"Battle of the Bands"

Mariss Jansons of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam

In the latest issue of The New Yorker, classical music critic/blogger Alex Ross talks about a recent gathering of the world's most powerful orchestras on Carnegie Hall's stage. The Chicago, Boston, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh orchestras, the New York Philharmonic, and the Royal Concertgebouw orchestra were just a few that were there.

I thought this concept was interesting. Ross points out "The impulse to pit one orchestra against another is as regrettable as it is irresistible. In 1928, Wilhelm Furtw√§ngler, the most relentlessly deep-thinking of conductors, bemoaned what he considered the American habit of “seeing things from the point of view of sport,” but even by then the “Who’s on top?” tendency had become universal."

Sometimes music is just meant to be enjoyed and the superiority of the orchestra should be pushed aside for the listener's own sake. This reminded me of cperkal's post on interchangeable parts and how as Americans, we seem to want to find the most efficient, competitive and profitable model so we can be ready for competition. In the case of simply enjoying music, do these principles still apply?

The New Yorker article can be found here.

Thursday, March 11, 2010



by Carl Sandburg


Hog Butcher for the World,
Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
Player with Railroads and the Nation's Freight Handler;
Stormy, husky, brawling,
City of the Big Shoulders:

They tell me you are wicked and I believe them, for I
have seen your painted women under the gas lamps
luring the farm boys.
And they tell me you are crooked and I answer: Yes, it
is true I have seen the gunman kill and go free to
kill again.
And they tell me you are brutal and my reply is: On the
faces of women and children I have seen the marks
of wanton hunger.
And having answered so I turn once more to those who
sneer at this my city, and I give them back the sneer
and say to them:
Come and show me another city with lifted head singing
so proud to be alive and coarse and strong and cunning.
Flinging magnetic curses amid the toil of piling job on
job, here is a tall bold slugger set vivid against the
little soft cities;

Fierce as a dog with tongue lapping for action, cunning
as a savage pitted against the wilderness,
Building, breaking, rebuilding,
Under the smoke, dust all over his mouth, laughing with
white teeth,
Under the terrible burden of destiny laughing as a young
man laughs,
Laughing even as an ignorant fighter laughs who has
never lost a battle,
Bragging and laughing that under his wrist is the pulse.
and under his ribs the heart of the people,
Laughing the stormy, husky, brawling laughter of
Youth, half-naked, sweating, proud to be Hog
Butcher, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, Player with
Railroads and Freight Handler to the Nation.

Tomorrow I will get on a plane, fly six hundred miles and land at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, which I have considered to be my second home for nearly two decades.

I could have probably gotten away with spending my Spring Break in Florida, or California, or Nashville, or somewhere else just a little warmer and more picturesque. I wouldn't have gone to any of those places if someone payed me. I love Chicago and I love flying in from over it, looking at the lights that seem to extend on forever in one direction and cut off at Lake Michigan in another.

I think there is a lot of truth in this poem. Chicago is definitely wicked, crooked, brutal. It is often an ugly city; deteriorating structures, regular murders, corruption, pungent smells rising from the sewers. It is a flawed, extreme environment. But I think all that is part of what makes it truly alive, and in a way humanistic. I don't think there is more of a realistic amalgamation of what life in the world is really about, with its beautiful sights, ugly blemishes and all.

I will stay for a night in the city proper, go to an Irish punk show on St. Patrick's Day, and go to the Art Institute of Chicago to look at Monets and Renoirs the next day. I couldn't be more excited.

This post will be cross-posted on my personal blog, Kaini Industries.

Interchangeable Parts

After discussing Faulkner in class today, it got me thinking...

What concept could be applied to the Bundren family? Specifically, what concept could be applied to Anse Bundren? After mulling this over for a little while, I have decided that Anse Bundren is inaccurately applying Eli Whitney's idea of interchangeable parts.

If you are not familiar with the man, Eli Whitney is most famous for two inventions. The first being the cotton gin. This machine helped to produce cotton at a much faster rate than before. This also has absolutely nothing to do with what I am trying to point out. The second idea that Whitney came up with, or is given credit for, is the concept of interchangeable parts. This idea was meant to increase the productivity within a factory. Prior to this "invention," each product was essentially unique, and was built by one worker, or perhaps a team of workers. The interchangeable parts concept could be applied to any sort of manufacturing and is the very basic idea that not all finished products are unique. You can take the same part of a product and use it to build other products. An example of this would be a product like cell phones. Each finished cell phone requires a battery, keys, an antenna (could be built into the phone), and other parts to make the phone complete. Whitney realized that you could use the same parts (battery, keys, antenna) to build another finished product. The same parts used in the making of the last cell phone, could be applied to the making of the new one.

In a fucked up sort of way, this can be applied to Anse Bundren. Bundren is applying the concept of interchangeable parts within his family. He loses one wife, and decides that you can insert another female in that role in order to take her place. Since all females are the same in the eyes of Anse, and simply serve the function of producing babies, Eli's theory works perfectly. He can still produce babies, and in the eyes of the production equation, nothing has changed.

Take this for what you will. It is coming from a Business major who somehow wound up in an English class. They teach us to apply business concepts to just about everything...

Let's hear your thoughts...

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

I'm A Sucker for Great Photography!

I downloaded as many reflective photographs I could Wednesday. I had reached a point where Faulkner was getting on my nerves, and reflective photography is just so plain awesome. So much skill and patience is necessary to get the perfect picture. Being at the right place at the right time helps too. What do you guys think?

If you want to see more awesome photography, here's a bunch of links!

Dries van Noten F/W 2010-2011

Dries van Noten's fall collection spoke wonders to me, offering a fantastical distraction from a world of confusion.

After watching a behind the scenes video, I discovered that van Noten used a song from Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo called "Scene d'amour". This is somewhat fitting since Vertigo (although I have not seen it, my mom has described it to me) is about a man who finds himself involved with a woman that has seemingly split personalities- her identity is not concrete.

This made me want to look into the elements of the show. There is a strange, lonely element of the runway; although the surroundings are warm and well decorated, it is still very large and in many ways, very impersonal. The models are introduced in fairly conservative clothing, their heels clicking coldly on the hardwood floors as if there is nothing around them to absorb the sound. They are all alone. The soundtrack, as beautiful as it is, has an annoying shouting dubbed over it, making it hard to concentrate on what is going on around you. About halfway through the show, the shouting subsides, and the strings completely take over. It is at this moment that the designer starts to introduce bright color- the conservative elements begin to fade away and floral patterns flood the eye.

I thought of this change of color and personality as an escape from the confusing world around us. The woman no longer has a conflicting identity crisis as she did at the beginning of the show, where she had to cover up her true colors with plain jackets, coats and puffy skirts. In this moment of clarity, devoid of shouting (you can finally hear yourself think!) van Noten's woman is unafraid to just "be". It is less an act of defiance as it is an honest communication with one's inner self.

I think it's important to note that van Noten is a gardener, so it is quite likely that his idea of a "natural state" is one of floral prints and earth tones.

But enough about what I think... what do you think? I have friends that were not a fan of this collection at all, saying it was "boring" and "uninventive". Personally (if you couldn't tell), I thought it was brilliant.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A Man Behind the Madness?

Recently, a connection between a plantation diary and William Faulkner has been discovered. The diary was written by Francis Terry Leak, a plantation owner, and discusses his relationship with Faulkner.

Not sure if this gives us a ton of insight into As I Lay Dying, but some scholars are calling it a tremendous discovery.

One scholar from the NY Times article felt that:

“I think it’s one of the most sensational literary discoveries of recent decades,” said John Lowe, an English professor at Louisiana State University who is writing a book on Faulkner.

A couple questions that this article brought to mind...well maybe not directly from the article, but questions that I was pondering nonetheless.

-Would you ever consider devoting most of your time and life to researching a particular author? If so, which one?

-Both F. Scott Fitzgerald and William Faulkner had issues with alcohol. They also seemed to have run out of money at some point in their lives. After getting low on funds, both authors decided to venture into Hollywood and write screenplays (because these paid well). Would you consider this selling out, like an Indie artist who goes mainstream (say Kings of Leon)? Or, is this completely acceptable?


I'm stealing my inspiration from Lauren's recent post.

Check out these book covers that should be familiar to all of you by now.

Now, look at this results list.

Did Lady Gaga have a hand in this? Any other thoughts?

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Mondays are NOT my mortal enemy anymore

I used to dread mondays. Not because of it being the first day of the week, or because it was jam packed with classes. I didn't hate it because I had to wake up early or because the water took abnormally long to heat up. No, I hated it because our TV would make CBS all staticky. On Mondays nights, CBS is hilarious!

Starting at 8pm, you have How I Met Your Mother, and I since season 1, I have been in love with NPH (Neil Patrick Harris). The show is hilarious in more ways than one, and if I started listing, I wouldn't do so well on that midterm tomorrow. The show is about Ted Mosby. He's been looking for his future wife throughout the show, but he's breaking down "How I Met Your Mother" to his kids in 2030. Marshall and Lily are in the center, married couple and Ted's best friends. Robin is the gorgeous girl on the bottom right, Canadian, reporter, Ted's best friend, and one time love interest. Finally, NPH who plays Barney Stinson, a womanizer, player, and plain old awesome guy!

Next up is Rules of Engagement. A startling drop in "funny-necessity" (<-- my own word) but David Spade and Patrick Warburton are a great team and make the show bearable.

9pm means Two and A Half Men. In one word, the show is hysterical. Let me break it down for you. Charlie Sheen lives in Malibu, his brother and nephew live with him. Done. SO simple, yet SO funny. The world revolves around Charlie, his brother and nephew are a pain in his ass, mainly because they ruin his one-night stands. Watch it, I DARE YOU TO NOT LAUGH!

Last is Big Bang Theory, which has slowly become my favorite. The show is about four Ph.D's working at CalTech. Brainy, nerdy, geeky, with the hot girl-next door type next door. The five are an amazing group that make Robot Wars, Lord of the Rings, Chinese Food, and Parking Violations hilarious!

Next time you're free for 2 hours on a monday night and your TV gets great reception, give me a call. I need my monday comedy!


It's always interesting to see how movies based on books turn out. Sometimes they can be extremely awesome, other times quite the opposite. In light of Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland (which I haven't seen yet, sadly), I found something that we can all chuckle at.

While this is hilarious (and has nothing to do with Faulkner or modernism, I might add), I have to ask myself: What would poor Lewis Carroll think?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

LOST and literature

So, I meant to make a post last night but LOST happened at 9 PM and, just like every Tuesday night, my brain imploded/exploded/ceased to exist for the rest of the night. I'm not going to rant or rave about how much I love it (which by now should be obvious), but I will attempt to relate it to our coursework. Honestly I just can't get my brain on much else right now.

For any non-LOST viewers, it begins when, in 2004, a plane crashes on a mysterious Island and 40 some survivors attempt to stay alive and get rescued. While stuck on the island for 108 days, we get an intimate view on about 15 of the main character's lives. To make a long story short, 6 of the survivors get rescued and later return, the rest are temporarily and randomly stuck on the island travelling through time, there is a giant smoke monster thing and enigmatic people on the island, and countless historical and literary references throughout the entire show. There's no simple way to explain it.

Somewhere in the small portion of remaining my brain tissue I thought, "Huh, this is kind of like Faulkner." Of course not the time travel and smoke monsters, but the narration style of the television show. Throughout all 5 and a half seasons, the show is constantly jumping back and forth. On the island, off the island. 3 years flashback, 3 years flash forward. And NOW there is a whole other "sideways" dimension in which the characters live their lives as if the plane never crashed! Like Faulkner, no? He jumps from narrator to narrator, writing only jumbled thoughts and occassional long scenes, Darl being the most descriptive and useful. Even though I had read As I Lay Dying in the past, it's amazing how much I missed or didn't pick up on from the unique writing style. Similar to LOST, Faulkner always keeps you guessing and makes you think.

Almost done, I promise! So, because this is an American Literature class, I thought I would share another interesting facet of LOST. Like I said, the show is riddled with historical and literary references. One of the main characters, Sawyer, reads constantly and relates much of island life to the books he's reading. I'm happy to announce that LOST has its own book club. There is a great selection, a lot of it from authors we've read (sadly no Faulkner). It's not every day you find a TV show that combines a love for history, sci-fi, and literature all at once.

Monday, March 1, 2010

In light of last week's discussion of the Harlem Renaissance I am reminded of a book I am reading for a Political Communication course. It's called Black Image in the White Mind.

One part of the authors' theory is that the news media perpetuate negative stereotypes about black people, through their heavy focus on crime stories involving Blacks in local news.

They rest their theory on data gleaned from a survey of the racial attitudes White Americans. The survey data shows that most White people are ambivalent toward Blacks. That is, they would be classified somewhere between "animosity" towards Blacks and "comity or brotherhood" with Blacks.

The authors say the most dangerous characteristic of many White Americans' racial attitudes is their denial of anti-Black discrimination. If people don't think discrimination even exists, the authors say, there is no hope of improving things, because these people will oppose changes and policies seeking to achieve racial equality.

What do you think?

What would Zora and Hughes think?

Eatonville Restaurant

There's a new restaurant on 14th Street in the U Street neighborhood across from Busboys & Poets.

It's called Eatonville as a tribute to Zora Neale Hurston!

Their menu has some classic Southern comfort food like, gumbo, a crispy chicken breast, and pecan pie!!

Sounds delicious, I know I'll be checking it out soon!