English 300 - Fall 2004

This is my class journal for Professor Sexson's Critical Theory class.


English 300 Paper

Following is the paper I turned on Literary Criticism and the Well-Lived Life. I wrote it as a short story (I was kind of happy to hear Brian wrote his as a play--so maybe I'm not the only crazy one!), and I don't know how effective it is (really I don't like it 100%, but I'll deal with it), but time simply did not allow any more.

There are problems with it, but take it as you will. :)
PS: There is mention of a suicide and some details thereof included, just to warn you.

In the beginning there was life, and life was the beginning, but there was no real meaning until Irene met God.
In the master reality that prevails over all perceptual realms, he was not God, but Garridan Michaels. However, to Irene it made no difference; he was God to her and she loved and adored him as such. After all, the one who brought her such joy and made her feel so alive, one who understood her and gave her strength—he had to be God. And so he was.

I. By Blood Are We Destroyed

Her King abandoned his throne.
“I have to leave you,” came his raspy voice. If historians are bound by facts, God was no historian. I want to be at your side forever, echoed his voice in Irene’s mind. Why was he not bound to the laws of the Pantheon?—Greek gods could not break their vows.
He must have been a superior God.
“You can’t do this to me!” she had begged at his knees, grabbing at his hands. “I love you—you’re everything, my entire world! I love you! Do you not still love me?”
Garridan remained in his same stance, his head drooped, staring, unfeeling, past his once-sworn lover. Her question he ignored. “I have to leave,” he repeated, withdrawing his hands and taking a step backwards. If poets cannot lie because they never affirm, God was a poet. And a liar.
Irene only wept, shaking her head and groping at his clothing.
“I mean it,” he whispered sternly. God’s love changed to wrath. He drew his pocketknife and snapped out the blade, meaning only to scare her—but as he did, she reached for him. The sharp rip was the flesh on the underside of her forearm cleaving.
Garridan swore under his breath; Irene gasped and twisted her arm abruptly, staring numbly at the deep red mess emerging from her arm. She felt nothing, yet, but the blood told her she should soon be in pain. As she shrunk back, watching with wide eyes as the blood left her veins, God disappeared from her sight, and Garridan’s words floated past her—she did not hear them, though they were plain:
“I’m sorry. For everything.”
What she did hear was the gunshot. A powerful clap that shredded the silence for an instant but rang through the air for a prolonged moment. Irene didn’t know how she found herself on her feet and running around the corner, into that alley. His body alone was she aware of; crumpled on its side, streaked with blood and crimson gore, a bullet hole in its temple and a pistol still clutched in its right hand.
Her superior God had managed the impossible; her God was dead.

II. Der Tolle Mensch[1]

A month passed like a dream. Alcohol could not erase him; pills could not distance him; prayers could not revive him. Bandages and long sleeves only hid the mark of her destruction—the scar on her arm—from anonymous others.
When Garridan had been the God of her life, everything had meaning, for everything was Garridan and Garridan was everything. Irene had never considered, even imagined, looking outside of her God; outside of him existed nothing.
Now, outside of him existed everything. But all of it—all of it was meaningless.
She slept late into the morning and spent the afternoon wandering through the dirty city, trying not to think—trying merely to exist. Without meaning, existence is all that remains.
“Ich suche Gott! Ich suche Gott!” came a desperate voice. Immediately a man clothed in rags, carrying a lantern, stepped directly in front of Irene.
“What the—?! You crazy—”
The man, upon hearing the girl’s utterance, spun around and eyed her curiously, holding up his lantern as if he needed its aid to see her face in the broad daylight. “Ich suche Gott!” he said again, after a pause.
Irene sniffed. “God is dead.”
Astonished, the man jolted, took a step backwards. Scrutinizing the girl, he began to nod. “Wir haben ihn getödtet.... Wir alle sind seine Mörder![2]
Sighing, Irene attempted to step around the crazy man. But he stepped again in front of her. “Riechen wir noch Nichts von der göttlichen Verwesung?[3]” he continued, his voice crescendoing. Irene turned around and began to run. But the man’s voice followed her.
“Auch Götter verwesen! Gott ist todt! Gott bleibt todt! Und wir haben ihn getödtet[4]!”
The man’s voice faded as Irene turned a corner. But his final words stung her heart; she felt sick. “Diese That ist dir[5] noch ferner, als die fernsten Gestirne, —und doch hast du selbst[6] gethan![7]
You yourself have done it.... What human has the power to destroy God?
As Irene slowed to catch her breath, she noticed the small church on the corner. The doors were open, seemingly in invitation. Somewhat unsettled, she paused, then went in.
The stained-glass windows weakened the outside light as it entered; the myrrh-like smell of incense hovered in the cool air—the air was just as cold inside as it was outside. The idea of a sepulcher[8] came to mind, along with sense of infinite sadness and loneliness. She sunk down onto an empty pew, staring at the wooden floor.
Gradually she became aware of a presence beside her. But the church had been empty, hadn’t it? She turned to her right, and gasped: a man dressed in a suit and hat was sitting next to her on the pew with a rather thick book in his lap. He seemed to enjoy himself thoroughly, simply observing the interior structure of the church and partaking in the act of breathing.
“You’re troubled,” he said, without looking at her. “What’s missing from your life?”
Irene would rather have asked the man who he was—how he so silently appeared next to her. But something prompted her to answer him. “...When I knew God, my life had meaning. But now that he’s dead...now I see nothing around me; I feel nothing but my own pain....”
“Well,” said the man, smiling, “at least you’re aware of the hierarchy.”
“What hierarchy?”
“The hierarchy to which you just alluded—the hierarchy of order in the universe. At the top is God, underneath is meaning, then the world, and finally, at the bottom, you yourself.”
“—Why thank you,” Irene interrupted, somewhat offended that a stranger would rank her at the very bottom of the universe.
“Each level of the hierarchy is, of course, strongly connected to those adjacent to it,” the man continued, undeterred. “Losing one level inherently causes you to lose all levels above it—like removing the bottom book from a stack. And that lost level also throws some confusion into the levels below it.”
“I realize that,” Irene said bitterly.
“However,” the man went on, still looking only straight ahead, “if God is dead, as you claim, then you have been mistaken. God must be eternal and infinite. Perhaps you were only stuck, if you will, at the ‘world’ level, thinking you had found God, when in fact, you had found but a mere man.”
Tears began to well up and burn in Irene’s eyes, but they did not fall. “That’s not true!” she replied. “When I had him, my life had meaning! According to your stupid hierarchy, if it was only a world-level thing, meaning would be impossible!”
“Oh, but did it have meaning?” the man asked, turning to look at her intently. “I do not doubt it had purpose, but meaning? There is a difference! Did you have an endless supply of food for reflection? Were you enticed to contemplate something impossible to resist? Was there a strong and ineffaceable impression on your memory –one of subject matter that transcended the physical world?[9]
“What are you talking about?! You sound like some crazy professor talking about some book or something!”
The man’s face remained serious, his eyes steadily holding their gaze at Irene. “What’s the difference?”
“What’s the difference?” the man repeated with the same fervor. “If your life were a book, and you were the reader, would you be reading only at a literal level? Or would you find something beyond—something allegorical, moral, even anagogical[10]?”
Irene shook her head, sighing. “You’re crazy. You must’ve been reading too much of that stupid book you’ve got there.”
“Look at this ‘stupid book,’” said the man, and he slowly opened it to the middle. On the left side were words printed in structured paragraphs—it could have been any book and any page. On the right, the pages were blank, and the centers had been cut out, leaving behind only the picture-frame shape of the pages and a deep hollow—like a hidden storage space.
Irene stared at the odd book for several seconds, then shrugged. “What does it mean?” she asked carefully.
“You certainly don’t do much thinking for yourself,” the man commented, then tapped the left side of the book. “Here is the structure, the formulas, if you will, for a good book. If this were your life, this side is all that happens to you.” He moved his hand to the right side of the book. “Here is the place for what you come away with after reading. In your life, this is what you decide to make of your experiences: how you consider them, in what regard you hold them, what you use them for.
“You are both the reader and the author. You must create meaning as well as discover it. This is what will bring meaning to your life. And meaning is what brings you closer, I think, to God.” As he finished speaking, the man closed the book. “Transcend the boundaries of yourself, experience the world with ardor and transcend too its boundaries. Allow yourself to fall in love—not just with someone, but with ideas. Combine everything with energy and passion. This is the only way to live.”
He rose, tucking the tome under his arm, and walked toward the door. Irene half-expected him to disappear at the threshold, but he exited the building and entered the streets like any normal person would.

III. By Blood Are We Reborn

An ascending phoenix came to mind as Irene stepped through the doorway and onto the sidewalk. A cool breeze sighed; the sun shone strongly. With a deep breath, Irene rolled up her sleeve and looked for the first time at the mark[11] on her forearm. Of course, she had seen it before, but every time she’d quickly pulled her glance away from the symbol of her destruction.
It was her death as much as it was Garridan’s.
But now, as she looked at the scar on the underside of her forearm, she could almost see the blood streaming from her veins again.
Maybe it was not only my death...but my life as well.
She had lost the love of her life, but gained the freedom to discover this life. She lost his physical presence, but gained his eternal memory. It was too soon to fall in love with another man. But she could fall in love with life and living—this would bring her strength and meaning and joy...everything she had from her love of Garridan.
“Ich suche Gott! Ich suche Gott!” The crazy man’s voice emerged among the crowd as Irene passed through the city the way she had come. He’s starting at the wrong end of things... she thought. And then, fully aware of the world around her and the people gawking at her, Irene shouted, “Ich suche auch Gott! Aber zuerst such’ ich mich selbst und die Welt, und die Bedeutung von diesen![12]’’

[1] 1. This chapter’s title and all quotes in German are taken from F. Nietzsche’s Die Fröliche Wissenschaft, Kapitel 125. Translations are my own.

[2] “We have killed him.... We all are his murderers!”
[3] “Do we smell nothing yet of the rotting of God?”
[4] “Gods also rot! God is dead! God remains dead!”
[5] original reads “ihnen” – “them” instead of “you”
[6] original reads “haben sie dieselbe” – “they themselves have”
[7] “This deed is infinitely farther from you than the farthest stars, and yet you yourself have done it!”
[8] In reference to the last line of Kapitel 125: “Was sind denn diese Kirchen noch, wenn sie nicht die Grüfte und Grabmäler Gottes sind?” – “What, then, are these churches yet now, if they are not the graves and sepulchers of God?”
[9] Elements from Longinus’s On Sublimity
[10] Elements of interpretation from Dante’s The Letter to Can Grande
[11] The mark of Cain was a symbol of his blessing (God’s protection from murderers) as well as his curse.
[12] (Not from Nietzsche): “I am also searching for God! But first I’ll search for myself and the world, and the meaning of these!”


Responses to LitCrit Presentations

I found all of your presentations so far outstanding, really! So I want to take a moment (or however long it takes me) to just respond briefly to each of you! Good work, everyone :)

ZAK: You talked about how truth must exist. Nietzsche would have to disagree with you, but he's dead. I believe, as you do, that truth does exist. Example: No matter how much you believe that gravity does not exist, if you step off a cliff you will fall and die. So there must be some overall master reality--truth--to which we are all bound. I think you said that poets create the standard by which we judge truth. Really, art (writing, etc.) is the only realm in which we can defy these master truths and create our own reality and thereby our own set of truths. While we cannot CHANGE truth, we certainly can change how others perceive it--or erase their belief therein entirely. Your presentation was right on. :)

ANDREA: I really liked how you used the can of Pepsi to tie into Derrida and education! If someone had asked me at the beginning of the year what Derrida, a can of soda, and the illiteracy rate have in common, I would have said: a) who is Derrida? and b) I have no clue.
Since everything is a text, it is so true when you say there are millions of people that cannot interpret life! I mean, when I think back even to elementary school, we were certainly literate, but did how much of a grasp of meaning and interpretation did we have? Through further education and LITERARY CRITICISM we learn how to find the real meaning in life and everything around us. By reading we learn to discover the world around us, and by writing we edify others and incite change. I wonder then, which school of criticism you prefer, Derrida's or something more like Reader Response (because of the reader's connection with his world)?

MATT: You talked about getting the wisdom and insight from literature that can help you through hardship. Also you talked about finding strength in what remains behind. I think this is one of the most important things in life. We encounter, throughout life, what seem to be persistant "removals"--but instead of focusing solely on the loss, there is something left behind, or some growth resulting therefrom. It's easy to overlook. I think by literary criticism we begin to find this in literature, and sometime after, in our own lives. Sure, our lives may not be filled with unified symbolism (or are they?), but there is meaning behind everything.
Suffering is such a common element in literature because it is so frequent in life. "Was mich nicht umbringt, macht mich staerker" comes to mind: "What does not bring me to demise makes me stronger." I think this is a truth that is manifested in literature to help us deal with it in life more.
And, as the Phoenix, sometimes the greatest rebirth of all comes from total destruction.

DEBBIE: If I understood correctly, you said something to the extent that poetry allows us to have an emotional discussion in a rational sense. Do you think this is the origin of allegory and symbolism? When things are too emotional, people want to distance themselves to be able to process them. For example, it may be too painful to talk about the death of a loved one, but to describe the destruction of your fortress or encountering an Angel that must return to Heaven (bear with me, i'm trying to pull something off the top of my head) makes for a great story, with the meaning and emotion of the loved one's death at the root of the story. I don't know if I'm very clear. But maybe the author cannot POSSIBLY be dead, and all literature stems from emotions--conscious or otherwise--of the author.

KATIE W: You talked about giving each moment the highest possible value and the quote by Walter Pater. I definitely agree with you about this. Really, it's just the energy, passion, and total conscious presence that makes life worth living. A question that might arise then could be, "why would you want to read literature then, instead of going out and experiencing the world for yourself?" Does it matter if your enjoyment of life comes from life itself or through proxy--through a mimesis of life?

ED: Poor Thomas Love Peacock. :) Anyway. You talked about how the best writing is that which is fueled by energy--that energy/passion is the most important aspect of life and people can intuitively find reality for themselves. Minus the reality part, Nietzsche would give you a thumbs-up. By energy and passion you know you're really alive. In the song "Always Know Where You Are," there's a line that goes "Sometimes it's gotta hurt before you feel." And have you noticed that even when you're suffering, even if it's deep down inside, you feel more alive than when you're stuck in a dull everyday routine with no highs or lows?
Just as life without emotion is mere existence, writing without passion is only an empty framework of grammar and words.

KELLY: "Reader-Response influences all criticisms" -- Initial response: What? No, that can't be right. -- Two seconds later: Wow, of COURSE it's right! Maybe this was obvious for some people, but I never thought about it this way until you said it. And it's so true. You CAN NOT totally erase yourself when delving into a piece. I don't think man is capable of 100% objectivity, though he may be able to be close. But every critic is influenced by something inside himself--it's inevitable.
When you said not to let critics influence us as writers, I think that's very important as well, though the world of critics is certainly intimidating. But take Chuck Palahniuk for example. He wrote Fight Club basically to piss off his editors after they trashed his first work. It became a modern classic and a movie. Taking the risk is definitely worth it, even if you gotta fail first.

TRISTAN: After using A Modest Proposal as an example, you said it would be a morbid world without literary criticism (or something to that extent). I think you're totally right. It's criticism that lets us distinguish truth from fable and intelligence from mere opinions in literature--and why not in life as well? People reading the Proposal with no sense of literary criticism would a) not understand that it is a mockery, and b) probably be highly offended.
I truly believe that you have to CHOOSE to be offended by something. With so many contradicting ideas and thoughts in our world, if one felt threatened by whatever he did not agree with, he probably would give himself some kind of complex. With criticism even attacking itself (different schools of thought, etc.), it's easy to see that an opposing viewpoint must not necessarily be a threat to yours. So how do you see past all the controversy to what is real? You probably can't, 100%, but learning to take things in an intelligent, educated manner instead of personally will definitely clear the path.

NANCY: What? Nietzsche would not inspire you to volunteer in a Romanian orphanage?? What about the presence of so much SUFFERING and ENERGY of those crying out for aid in that orphanage? Experiencing and sharing that suffering is the highest emotional level we can attain, therefore bringing the most value to life! What about, seeing that our existence is meaningless, trying to establish meaning in ANOTHER PERSON instead of in the metaphor-plagued world?
:) I'm just kidding, mostly.
Anyway, intent versus action. You said that criticism is more of the "intent." I agree; in itself it is only a thing of intent. But it most likely inspires other people to a) write "good" literature by their critic's formula or b) write criticism of that other criticism.... If we get in a cycle of intents (so, taking route b)), then all of it is meaningless.
So would you say that literature is an act of intention or action? I'm probably not being very clear. Basically, is literature something useful because it can inspire action? Or is it not useful because, by writing, we have DONE nothing (eg. fed the Romanians).

LINDSAY: The three main points of your paper, you said, were that Literary Criticism: 1. Helps one to solve problems in the text
2. Helps the reader to choose from many interpretations
3. Allows the reader to judge the work.
I agree with you on all of these points. But when you choose which school of critical thought you're going to use, aren't you ultimately influencing what meaning you're going to get out of the piece? In other words, do you agree with Kelly in that all criticisms are ultimately influenced by reader-response?

AMANDA: You said both literary criticism and the well-lived life are based on a person's attitude. I agree with you, so a well-lived life for one may not be well-lived for another. A life spent communing with nature and reading thoughtful poetry might be ideal for Emerson, but Hell for Thomas Love Peacock. So do you think there are any universal standards in life or literary criticism?

BRIAN: ...Who's to say Hitler WASN'T a demon? :)
Anyway. The vast realm of influence. It's really fascinating to think, not only how the important leaders might have changed history with different influences in life, but what about the seemingly insignificant people as well? One could think endlessly about it: how different would we be with even one different influence? To what extent do WE influence the influences we come across? Once upon a time, I was a computer science major--would my life have a different meaning had I stayed in that field? (I'm glad I didn't...most of the time :) ) As soon as I finish typing this, I'm going to go read your whole play.

DAN: Amen to doing without math!
Anyway, you talked about taking the pieces of criticism you like and blending them into your own theory. I think that's the best way to go. It seems to me that the most interesting pieces of literature are not always the hardcore extreme one-way-or-the-other pieces, but the ones that are a perfect blend of elements from all sides. Take Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: a hero trapped between a shame and a guilt culture, torn between traditional paganism and quickly-spreading Christianity. You'll find elements of each side in the poem. It's mixing together the best of what already exists that allows us to come up with something new and, perhaps, purer than its predecessors, don't you think?

NIKOLE: "Words, Caravaggio. They have power." (Forgive me if i slaughtered the spelling of that name.)
People reallly don't seem to understand the power of words. You'll hear a lot "I'm just saying that" etc., when someone tries to dismiss something he said as mere words, a neutral idea.
Do you think you can really strip a word of its power and force? Its implications?
As much as Nietzsche would insist words are just sounds we make or scribbles we draw to convey our metaphors, I believe words have power. Think to the origins of most religions: the deity speaks or sings the universe into existence. Gods cannot break any vow they utter. Men are cursed by their tongue, or saved by it--and later, by their pen as well.
Which reminds me: "the pen is mightier than the sword." Now, what do you think is more powerful: the spoken word or the written?

KATIE SP.: Objectivity and Immersement. You seem to have discovered another Hermeneutic Circle! You cannot objectively analyse the piece without totally getting into it (immersing yourself), and you cannot immerse yourself fully in the text without considering the objective aspect as well. So where do you think one should start? With the objective aspect, or simply immersing oneself in the text? I found your topic very interesting.

LISA: You said a well-lived life is well-informed, and the text brings us experiences that enrich life. Also, more standards are involved in good literature than just reader-response. I think you're right about that. All too often, judging a book only by your own feelings about it can lead to "I like this book" or "I don't like this book" with little appreciation for the intricacies and artistic qualities.
This is especially important in real life, then. Instead of a plain response: "I feel sad" -- one can find meaning in his emotions and experiences. Why sadness? To what degree? What will come from this situation? And so on. By being well informed, one better understand life, is able to better interpret and appreciate the meaning therein, and thereby lives better. Great topic. :)

Response to Zak

The following is my response to Zak concerning the pictures on his website, which I did take the time to view.

So here we come to the issue of censorship versus ethics or propriety. Personally, I think you have not transgressed in posting those pictures and should not be obligated to remove them. What these pictures portray is reality. It may not be a part of reality that we like, or encounter often, but that does not change the fact that it is real.
Hiding all portrayals of this reality does not make it go away. Taking away the pictures changes nothing but your website--the reality remains even if people choose to ignore it. I think coming to terms with even the most grotesque of reality is important, even if it makes one uncomfortable. Sheltering oneself forever from everything one does not approve of puts one in Plato's allegorical Cave--a false, dark, but secure reality.

One of the more dangerous things in the world is to become comfortable.

People die every day because those around them refuse to leave their comfort zone to help.

My advice to you: do not allow yourself to be censored. I do not mean to offend anyone. But censoring out the horror of life only hides the problem, and lessens its chances of being addressed.


Presentation Follow-up

So today JR and I did our presentation; thanks to everyone for being a polite audience. :) I didn't really say all I wanted to say or could have said on EITHER piece (was it that interesting? I almost felt like i was boring you guys) so, for anyone who would care, here are my notes I had for the presentation. Good Job on these, everyone! :)

(Prestuplenie i nakazanie)

as great of a text it is, I can't reproduce it here for obvious reasons. if you have not read Crime and Punishment, I recommend you DO!!! :) It is by Fyodor Mihailovitch Dostoevsky.

* Russian novels of the time tended to be sad and psychological with a cynical, rebellious, morally conflicted or flawed protagonist. See our idol, Rodion Romanovitch Raskolnikov.

- Nietzsche says that energy is the most important thing in a piece. Energy comes from emotion, whereof suffering is the highest. This book is ALL ABOUT suffering, let me tell you.
- Bhabha, I recall, talked a lot about the conflict between people who have and those who have not. This is what starts the novel; Raskolnikov, a poor student, kills a rich old pawnbroker.
- Poe said that good works have to be short; sorry Poe: I disagree. Though I do love your poetry :)
- Fishyfoo talked about reader response. I think that will be a big part of what you get from Crime and Punishment.

* Axe: often associated with the Russian peasantry, and the murder weapon. Symbol of peasant unrest, class conflicts.
* Sonia reads to Rodya the story of Lazarus, a man who was raised from the dead. Raskolnikov spends most of the novel dying, then in the end is saved (by Sonia) and resurrected, ironically enough, in prison--with the hope of new life and salvation. Sonia brings him a Bible in prison, and she influences him to recognize God instead of always denying Him.
* Yellow: colour of rot, decay, melancholy appears often in the text. Rodya is surrounded by rot/corruption: of spirit, sanity, morality, and his country.
* Air: associated with the spirit. Often stale or "bad" air is mentioned and Raskolnikov is always wanting fresh air, just as his spirit needs to be "freshened."

* Raskolnikov (Raskolnik in Russian = "schism")
* Dmitri Prokofitch Razumikin (Razum = "reason, intelligence")

* Of Crime: Physical/Legal = Murder
Mental/Ideological = Proletariot winning over bourgeousie
Spiritual = Rodion has in a sense killed himself.

* Of Punishment: Physical = Raskolnikov's persistant illness
Mental/Emotional = Torment and anguish
Spiritual = Guilt, separation from God

* Faith vs. Doubt: Rodion asks his mother and Polenka to pray for him, but has no faith in God himself. Sometimes he doubts God's existence. Why does God allow suffering and yet he is the only one who can save you from it?

* Guilt vs. Innocence: Sometimes he feels guilty about and even regrets his crime; other times he says there WAS no crime!

* Indecision: To Kill or Not To Kill? Where to go now? To confess or not? Indecision is constantly plaguing Raskolnikov.

*Life vs. Death: Being condemned to one square meter of darkness with no room to move would be better than death--but later Rodion renounces this belief. He says it's better for Katerina Ivanovna to die, even though she is a single parent of many poor children. He finds prisoners value life more than free people. WHAT IS THE VALUE OF LIFE???


*First thing Sonia says when Rodya hints that he is a murderer: "What have you done to yourself?" -- It is himself he has destroyed even more than the old woman, because he has only destroyed her physically--on the lowest level of existence.

* The Extraordinary Man Speech
(compare with Nietzsche's theory of the Uebermann...)
Longinus might value the "idea" of this speech.
Extraordinary man can overstep moral boundaries and the law should not apply to him because his actions are for a greater cause that normal people cannot understand.

Prestuplenie (Russian word for crime) when directly translated, means "to step over."


-Michael Drayton-

Since there's no help, come let us kiss and part.
Nay, I have done: you get no more of me,
And I am glad, yea glad with all my heart,
That thus so cleanly I myself can free,
Shake hands forever, cancel all our vows,
And when we meet at any time again,
Be it not seen in either of our brows
That we one jot of former love retain.
Now at the last gasp of Love's latest breath,
When his pulse failing, Passion speechless lies,
When Faith is kneeling by his bed of death,
And Innocence is closing up his eyes,
Now if thou would'st, when all have given him over,
From death to life, thou might'st him yet recover.

* Woolf said that the gender is irrelevant: I believe either man or woman can relate to this poem in the same way.

* Love: comes from the heart, now failing
* Passion: energy, overflow of emotion and words, now silent
* Faith: kneeling at deathbed, about to die
* Innocence: wide-eyed but seeing no evil, now closing his eyes for he has seen evil and is no longer innocent.


-parting from a lover is full of conflict, and so is the poem and narrator:

* One last kiss: the difficulty of cutting off the relationship physically
* Begins by saying "Since there's no help"--knows logically that the situation is hopeless, but the mind and the heart are at battle.

* "Nay, I have done" -- an argument to the lover asking him to stay
* "You get no more of me" -- almost as if he feels he has been used or wasted

* Says he is glad, is telling himself he is glad, likely an attempt to convince himself.
* Will show no trace of their former love: it may not be SEEN but it is still there. Conflict between the surface level and truth.

* At the end, sounds like second thoughts: "If thou would'st...though might'st him yet recover"
* Hope, uncertainty...it is out of his hands and in his lover's.

* The last two lines being indented seems to emphasize the bit of hope/uncertainty retained: as these lines are pushed inward, so are these thoughts of seccond chances.

* Tries to distance self, makes the relationship sound like a voided business deal: "shake hands forever, cancel all our vows"

* Brings up seeing each other again: inner vs. outer world conflict: other people may not know when he pushes the feelings inside himself, but does he make these feelings not EXIST by doing this?

the end of love is like the end of life...

- All vows are cancelled, everything done on earth is meaningless
- No love (or LIFE) remaining in his face.
- "Cleanly free" from the body and earth.
- Hope that he might be brought back once faith, passion, and innocence are gone. These are characteristics of life...once life is gone, there is hope for an afterlife?


So there are my notes; let me know if you have questions/comments. I gotta get started on my paper now!!!


The Anti-Canon

Ok so speaking of canons....Is it really necessary, once the top 100 (or however many) is established, to argue what ORDER they should be in?

I mean seriously. It comes to a point where it's all subjective. And ordering is an objective thing. You could sit around all day and argue that Alice in Wonderland should be #3 but even after all your reasons, it's a subjective matter and there's no universal right answer.

Why not just have a list of the top works and say "these are important. Read what you will."?

Anyway, while we're on the topic of canons, why not an ANTI-CANON? Like the 100 WORST works that you either 1) should never waste your youth reading or 2) could read just to see how BAD literature can be. I think it'd be great.


Dante's 4 levels of interpretation

Before we begin I just thought I'd point out that it seems Dante's 4 levels of interpretation are the same as the Mediaeval Levels of Allegorical Interpretation that we read in the introduction to the anthology:

1. Literal / Historical
2. Allegorical / Spiritual
3. Tropological / Moral
4. Anagogical / Mystical

So. Isn't that interesting. Anyway. There are two different very short passages with which I think I'll TRY to do this. Don't know how it will work out.


"Es ist oft besser in Ketten, als frei zu sein." -Franz Kafka, Das Schloss. In English: "It is often better in chains than to be free."

1. Literal
So the literal here is pretty easy. I mean, you can't even really paraphrase it. He's just saying it's often better--whether this means easier, more beneficial, whatever, it's "better" to be chained in some way than it is to be free from chains.

2. Allegorical
This one might be a stretch, but from what I know about Kafka's struggles with Judaism and Christianity--I think it works. In the Bible it says that God's followers are slaves to the Holy Spirit. Chains are a pretty good symbol of slavery. So it is better to have some kind of master and be in chains--for this master will provide you with SOMETHING, and if it's the right master, you get eternal life--than to be "free" but have nothing spiritually. See what I mean?

3. Moral
You know, these last three are kind of hard to differentiate. Ok.
I guess what we get here in the Moral sense is that a chained heart/being with boundaries or limitations, and thus SOMETHING to cling to, is better than one completely free, unfettered and ungrounded, with nothing.

4. Anagogical
Is there an anagogical level? I guess if I had to make one, it would be that the idea of chains is actually more liberating than the idea of freedom from them--as much of a paradox as this is. Think about it. It kind of works. At least in my mind.


Dare I try this with a passage from Choke (by Chuck Palahniuk, of course)? I think I will.

"...I'm so full of my own shit.... Now I'm an orphan. I'm unemployed and unloved. ...my guts hurt, and I'm dying anyway, from the inside out...."

1. Literal
Victor (the narrator) is quite literally full of his own shit. He is a sexaholic, and during one of his encounters, the girl shoves a string of rubber balls up his ass, and when she pulls it out, two of them are stuck inside him, backing up his whole system. He's an orphan, because his mother has died (and she wasn't even his real mother) and so on....

2. Allegorical
Spiritually, Victor is full of his own shit. He had convinced himself that he was somehow a descendent or a reincarnation of Jesus Christ after talking to a psychotic mental patient disguised as a nurse (you gotta read this book.) But in his convincing himself, he corrupts the attributes of the Christ he is. He is "dying anyway, from the inside out," because spiritually he is a rotting pile of...you know, excrement. He has corrupted his soul and now it festers.

3. Moral
Morally, Victor is again full of his own shit. He makes money by pretending to choke in restaurants. He lets people think they are heroes, that they have saved his life. He rationalizes, saying this is his good deed to the world; everyone should feel like a hero. But his main motivation behind the deed is money. He is also a sexaholic--he screws people not because he cares about them, but for his own physical pleasure. Morally, he is a pile of crap. Really. He is dying from the inside out because he realises this and for once is feeling some kind of guilt that is eating away at him.

4. Anagogical
Again, is there always this level? Maybe I just don't fully understand it. His old self is dying--the self that was trapped in an endless cycle of corruption and empty pleasure-seeking. As this old self dies (and the shit built up in his system is expelled) he will have purged this self and be ready to try to rebuild himself--or to find the self he has choked away.

Ok. Well. This could probably be elaborated upon, but I have to go. Thanks for reading. Bye.


Why do some people not want to be educated?

Why? Because it's so much EASIER to be ignorant! Ignorance removes responsibility (in the eyes of the ignorant one), worries, contradictions, discrepancies, and thought in general. And if you don't have to THINK life is much easier.

It's also not really life.

I mean, come on. You can go through life not thinking, not experiencing anything, just going through like a zombie or a sheep or something. A Zombie-Sheep. But that is not living; that is existing.

Life comes from learning and experiencing. From struggling, being torn between two ideas, from suffering. It is not until we are confronted with conflict that we realize who we really are--what composes us.

People also don't want to learn because then they may change. Isn't consistency comfortable? When everything is constant? I think some people are afraid of what they might discover through education.

Like maybe what they think they believe isn't true at all.

Or that they don't even really believe what they thought they did.

Maybe that they are not who they thought they were.

Or that they don't know who they are. At all.

It's amazing what you can discover. And it's not always happy and uplifiting--something you can smile afterwards about and say "well that was nice. Now time for some beer."

But it is through such harrowing, straight-up truthful lessons that we get a better grip on reality--no, we get a better grip on OURSELVES. For there is no universal "reality" or "truth"--as much as we'd like to have one to cling to.

All we really have is ourselves.

And when you find this out--that you really are alone--you'd better know damn well who this "self" is that you're stuck with, because aside from this entity, there's nothing.


Copying Violence

How does Aristotle provied opposition to Plato's saying that if you see violence in plays you will copy it?

Aristotle says that people are drawn to such DEPICTIONS even if what the thing is that is being depicted is not so pretty. But that does not make us like the ACTUAL thing!

People seem to want to experience bad stuff as well as good--but what is harmful to the self is more favourably experienced vicariously. This is why people like to watch violent stuff but not necessarily go copy it. I mean there are always exceptions, but for the most part.

I don't really know what else to say about this. I mean as Nietzsche would say, suffering is one of the highest experiences. But as great as it is, it still sucks to have to go through. So if people can suffer without really suffering, they're kind of getting the best of both worlds.


Sublimity #2

This is just a follow-up. In class today Dr. Sexson asked why is that song called Motorcycle Driveby (...or "Motorcycle Drag Queen" as he later said!!!)

Anyway, this is the best I can think of:

People who ride motorcycles are commonly seen as being wild and free, riding around the country (or wherever) and not stopping for too long at any particular place.

The singer's love is described as untameable ("...careening through the universe / your axis on a tilt / you're guiltless and free...") and unwilling to devote herself to him and "build something" meaningful ("...I would like to build something / but we'll never see it happen...").

So this wild girl who will not settle down DRIVES BY the singer figuratively--she is with/by him for a moment, but continues driving--she will not stay with him.

Thus the title, Motorcycle Driveby. At least, that's the best I've come up with.