English 300 - Fall 2004

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

30.9.04

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.

29.9.04

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.

I.

"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.


II.

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.

Education

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.

26.9.04

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.

23.9.04

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.


21.9.04

Sublimity

So besides being a pretty decent band, "Sublime" is the highest achievement of literature. According to Longinus, "...Real sublimity contains muchc food for reflection, is difficult or rather impossible to resist, and makes a strong and ineffaceable impression on the memory" (139). So it is at least somewhat subjective, even though he goes on to say that when many diverse people agree about something then the conviction behind a claim of sublimity is stronger.

Anyway, Longinus gives us 5 aspects of sublimity. (p 140)

1. The Power to conceive great thoughts
2 Strong and inspired emotion
3. Figures of thought and Figures of Speech
4. Diction
5. Word Arrangement

Now there are a million texts I could use here, there really are. But I am going to use a song by Third Eye Blind that really seems to have sublime qualities, at least for me. This song has left a permanent impression in my mind, is so beautifully put together, and really does allow for reflection. So if I were Longinus I'd be able to say it achieves sublimity. Anyway, I'll type the full song out for you at the end of this entry and try to pick a part of it here.

And this is the last time (--)
we'll be friends again.
And I'll get over you,
you'll wonder
who I am.
And there's this burning,
just like there's always been.
I've never been so alone
--alone
and I've
--and I've
--I've never been so alive....


First of all I have the one dash in parentheses because it's unclear what the singer really means. It could mean "the last time that we'll be friends again" or, "This is the last time (something else).... We'll be friends again."

Anyway. So how does this piece of song qualify as something sublime? Let's analyse in terms of Longinus's theory.

1. Power to Conceive Great Thoughts
Now whatever I say here, you could probably argue, "that's not great!" Well, as Friedrich Nietzsche, I would say "nothing is great and nothing is not great because truth is an illusion so go away!"

The "great thought" I see here is "I've never been so alone, and I've never been so alive." Usually we associate being alone with loneliness, death--certainly not living it up. But by being alone physically, being separated from someone he loves (and can love no longer), the singer is SUFFERING--and this is one of the highest experiences (according to Nietzsche and others too) -- so in his torment he is more alive than he has ever been!

As painful as an experience this is, the singer has hit the truth dead-on. Pain lets you know you are really alive. Even though it sucks (for lack of better words), somewhere deep inside, one relishes suffering. At least some of us do.

Like John Rzeznik says in one of his songs, "I found something that was always there: / Sometime's it's gotta hurt before you feel..."

The image of "burning" that is used here also is an interesting paradox: fire consumes and it fuels. I've always loved the symbol/device of fire for this reason. It is destruction and it is empowerment. Same here. His feelings are destroying him but he can use them for strength as well.

2. Strong and Inspired Emotion.

This song is PACKED with strong and inspired emotion! Look, the guy is in love with someone he can never have. He has to force himself to get over her, so they can both move on with their lives. That is one of the hardest things a person will ever have to do--to suffocate true love. In the song, you can hear the building anger, frustration, sadness, and determination in the singer's voice when he says "this is the last time / we'll be friends again / and I'll get over you / you'll wonder / who i am" and is shouting by the time he gets to the part about burning and being alive.

Even the words in themselves are powerful. They are simple but cut straight to the core without any ornamentation--these are raw feelings.

The way he repeats "alone" and "so alive" really puts emphasis on these two conflicting emotions that at the same time augment each other.

3. Figures of Thought / Figures of Speech.

By using the common phrase "get over" for something that is so much deeper, the singer displays that he is overwhelmed by emotion (Plato would like this) and not thinking rationally and planning a unique and well-wrought manner with which to express himself. So there's a figure of speech for you.

For figures of thought, how about the part about burning. This is a concept we see a lot in literature. It can mean yearning, suffering, feeling ardent or passionate, craving, being driven -- and here every one of those senses (and all that I haven't mentioned) are present--all but the actual physical process of burning (i.e. he did not light a match and set himself on fire...at least not apparently.)

This is interesting because he seems so focused at this part of the song on the INTERNAL because that is what is tormenting him. (Later in the song he tries to distract himself by taking a boat out on the water but the song ends with his feelings--they keep drawing him back. Which is what happens with these sorts of emotions.)

4. Diction and 5. Word Arrangement

I decided to put these together because they are somewhat related.

For diction--go through and read the song if you can't listen to it, or at least read the above part of it. Read it like you're reading Beowulf. There is something about the way these words sound that really bring out the emotion. I know that's not very descriptive, but is anyone actually reading this anymore anyway?

The word arrangement allows for some confusion and ambiguity in the meaning--and hey, with emotions you've got confusion and ambiguity all over the place!

Like in the place I inserted the dash. That is ambiguous--there are two meanings you could get from that.

Also he mentions getting over his love and then her wonndering who he is. This implies that once he has gotten over her (and not before) he will be a completely new person. Or, that she will get on with her life, and by the time he is over her, she will not even remember who he is. Lots of stuff going on here.

Anyway, so obviously this song sticks in my mind, I've thought about it a lot, and it brings up some hardcore emotions for me--it's a song I can really relate to and it is so emotionally charged. And if that alone doesn't make it sublime, I think I sufficiently showed how Longinus's properties of sublimity make it sublime as well.

Here's the whole song for anyone who cares. :)

Motorcycle Driveby

Summertime, and the wind is blowing outside
in lower Chelsea, and I don't know
what I'm doing in this city,
the sun is always in my eyes.
It crashes through the window,
and I'm sleeping on the couch--
when I came to visit you,
That's when I knew
that I could never have you.
I knew that before you did.
Still I'm the one who's stupid.
And there's this burning
like there's always been.
I've never been
so alone
and I've
never been so alive.

Visions of you on a motorcycle driveby,
the cigarette-ash flies in your eyes
and you don't mind;
you smile,
and say the world, it doesn't feel with you.
I don't believe you,
you're so serene,
careening through the universe,
your axis on a tilt,
you're guiltless and free,
I hope you take a piece of me with you.

And there are things I would like to do
that you don't believe in.
I would like to build something,
but we'll never see it happen.
And there's this burning
--there is this burning...

Where's the soul?-- I wanna know.
New York City is evil;
the surface is everything,
but I could never do that.
Someone would see through that.
And this is the last time--
we'll be friends again.
And I'll get over you,
you'll wonder
who I am.
And there's this burning,
just like there's always been.
I've never been so alone
--alone
and I've
--and I've
--I've never been so alive....
So alive...

I go home to the coast, it starts to rain,
I paddle out on the water,
alone;
taste the salt and taste the pain,
I'm not
thinking of you again.
Summer dies and swells rise,
the sun goes down in my eyes,
see this rolling wave
darkly coming
to take me
home.
And I've never been
so alone,
and I've
never been
so alive.

18.9.04

Mimesis, Writing, and Painful Representations

...are the topics for today. Jeez, that's just a little heavy. Anyway. Guess I'll start.

How does the poem (by Wallace Stevens) address mimesis--art as imitation?

Well, I mean, the woman is imitating the sea. "...what she sang is what she heard...." But according to Stevens, it is the imitation that is more enticing than the reality, because "...it was she and not the sea we heard...." And though the sea is a very venerable thing, the woman--artist--creator surpasses its majesty because she CREATES a whole new world instead of naturally existing in one pre-made.

"...She was the single artificer of the world / In which she sang...she was the maker...."

We can see that the narrator is in awe at how this woman can create from nothing (albeit she may be influenced by the sound of the sea) an entire new world in which she and she alone perfectly belongs--she is a goddess, orating the world into existence: a tradition seen in many religious myths.

And as impressive as this creator is, her SPIRIT--the soul bringing forth creation, is what at the core fascinates the bystanders:

"...Whose spirit is this? we said, because we knoew / It was the spirit that we sought...."

So the creation goes far beyond the actual product, just as the song is "...More even than her voice...." Concerning mimesis, it is the SOUL behind the creation that is the most fascinating.

*******

What does a better job, speaking or writing?

Speech can be very compelling, filled with emotion and twisted in tone in ways written words just can't. But--and I know many of you could easily argue me down and disprove this, so be it--I find writing more effective.

The main reason why writing does a better job is it can be revised!! "Well, you can plan out a speech," --Sure, but that's usually done by WRITING IT OUT and organizing your thoughts in the most effective manner. You can consider word choice and make changes later--you can't change what you've said.

I find writing still superior because you can come back to it and it will not be altered. If you want to improve a speech, you might not remember exactly what you said in the first place. If it's written, it is exact and not subject to faults in the human memory. And another thing: when something is written, the reader can take his time through it. He can reread a passage over if he needs. He can take a break and come back to it. He does not have such control over a speaker, at least not in normal circumstances.

...As with any of these journal topics, you could go on for 80 pages and still not exhaust the topic, or not. So I think I'll just not. I wish I knew what kind of a grade I've got so far on these journals....

****

What representation have you seen that was painful, but also makes you a better person?

That's not a morbid question or anything.

Ok, well I don't even really know what to say. I mean I've seen/read some pretty disturbing things but it's not always like they contribute to my sunny disposition or anything....

Silent Hill 3 comes to mind....

Ok, well why be limited to representations? Let's take this. When I was 10 or so, my pet kitten got chewed up (killed) by a neighborhood dog, and when I went out to find it I found...quite a mess. At that age I had never seen anything of that nature in real life before--the image still remains in my mind.

Obviously this experience didn't send me off to Yale where I would graduate with honours and eventually save the world. But it did give me some kind of sense of death. This may be cliché, but I really realized how fragile life is and how easy it is to take away. It really made me see the physical body as some kind of a shell trapped in a physical world, while maybe the soul is elsewhere. I don't really know how to explain it. Just that these physical pieces make up something that we treasure so much--but that's all it is: physical pieces of stuff. Isn't there anything more? Aren't we more than just our physical manifestations?

I have to believe that we are.

I don't need therapy or anything :)


14.9.04

Tears!

Describe a text that made you cry.

I could go on forever and sound like a big wuss. Seriously. People were talking in class about Braveheart (yeah I cried when his new wife died AND when he gets his guts ripped out with a hook) or Where the Red Fern Grows (and yes I used to just flip to the end and read that just for the sheer sadness). Ending of Final Fantasy X? Yeah I cried there too.

I've already talked about Crime and Punishment, so I'll leave THAT alone (I just cried because Rodya was going to marry Sonia and was therefore no longer available!!! --Just kidding.)

How about this then. Anyone who has not read anything from John Irving definately should. I remember I cried at the end of A Prayer for Owen Meany--which, by the way, is an EXCELLENT book.

...Wait. After looking at a few other people's journals and taking a break, I think writing about an experience as opposed to a literary work might work better here.

When I was in Germany, we visited Dachau (there was an extermination camp there, you know). First of all I thought it was somewhat of a SIN to make that kind of place into a tourism place. But it wasn't really like that--tourist-like, i mean.

Being in a place where someone died is a really soul-wrenching experience. Now try a place where thousands of people died. The ovens and the tray-type gurneys they loaded the bodies in with were still there. Some of the old walls were still up, and you could see fingernail scratches in them.

Outside the sky was bright blue and blank of any clouds; it was hot; a steady breeze blew but that was the only sound. It could have just been imagination, but if you stood still, you could feel some kind of presence--I can only describe it as one that was deeply saddening.

I wasn't really that aware of the tears in my eyes--I just couldn't stop thinking about all these nameless, unknown people who were destroyed here for their crime: being. We want control so much, and these people had absolutely nothing they could do. They were destroyed by their own country--the place they called home. To throw away so many lives--I wanted to know each person individually, not as a group of "victims" but as individual people who had their own lives, dreams, spirits.

But their stories will never be told. Their incomplete lives will never be found. These people died completely.

No one should have to die this way.




12.9.04

Friedrich Nietzsche



"Gott ist tot."
Hi. I am Friedrich Nietzsche. I am a very scary, angry-looking man who is in desperate need of a moustache-trimmer. I was born in 1844 and went insane around 1890, then I died in 1900.

However, I had TONS to offer to the schools of Existentialism and Nihilism.
One of my key concepts was that we can only "know" things through our own perceptions, so therefore we can never really know "truth." Truth is an illusion that just makes us feel better.

Struggle, pain, and suffering are inevitable and should be glorified in one's life, for the stronger these sensations, the higher quality of life is. Man must love life despite his suffering, and the highest form of celebration of this life is through art. Since there is no truth, power of emotion is more potent than reason, and art and nonconformity provide ways to live with this power. For this reason also, morality and democracy are our enemies--they lessen the independent will of the übermann, one who is genius and superior to the common man.

Anyway, you will find out a lot more about me in the days and weeks to come. I'm sure you're all very excited about that.


In my younger years, I liked to pretend I was Napoleon.

#3 Part 2

Ok, well I just finished reading Aristotle's Poetics, and quite frankly I am not clear at all on how he corrects Plato's opinion of literature. I mean, what he's really doing here is explaining the essential parts of a good work of literature. Maybe thereby he is showing that literature is not entirely useless, untrue, and bad because there is a kind of science to it, and it does take intellectual work--not just emotional spewing like Plato seemed to think.
When it comes down to it, I prefer Plato to Aristotle--he's a lot easier to understand. Maybe his "solution" will become clearer after class; if so, I'll add more then.

11.9.04

Journal #3

TOUCHSTONE

Ok, well the text I chose in the last journal assignment was Crime and Punishment, and the passage I'll pick (it's been a while since I've read this book, so it might not be the best passage) is on page 229 in the edition I've got.

"'People with new ideas, people with the faintest capacity for saying something NEW, are extremely few in number, extraordinarily so, in fact....'"

Not really the most uplifting quote, but it seems to be true. I mean even some of the greatest figures of literature/our time/whatever have not said anything truly new. Take the (worn-out) example of Shakespeare. Romeo and Juliet is basically the old folktale of Pyramus and Thisbee. And so on.

Therefore, what is truly great? Is it the capacity to say something completely new? Is it merely the manner in which something, new or old, is presented? Or is it something else entirely?

Though somewhat discouraging, this passage is very true. So as people and as literature majors, what should we be striving for? To express something new? Or to find what already exists buried deep inside? I don't think I'll ever figure that out.

****

PLATO on LITERATURE/POETRY

As we discussed in class, Plato makes literature look like something Untrue, Useless, and Bad.

Untrue. Writers/poets are only representers of what is real. There are 3 categories of "stuff," (Reality, Product, and Representation) and poets create the representation. Therefore they are two levels away from reality. Furthermore, according the Plato, the writer/artist doesn't even really have to understand what it is he's representing as long as he can make it appealing to his audience! Plato demonstrates this with the example that a painter can paint a picture of a man making shoes, but does not have to understand at all how shoes are actually made. It's just a representation, which is based on appearance rather than reality.
So all this literature business is UNTRUE!!!!

Useless. Well, even though you use literature or poetry for entertainment, I guess that doesn't really count if you're Plato. Things that are useful are chairs or beds or REAL knowledge. An incorrect representation of something that isn't even real in the first place is totally useless. Illusions and lies do nothing beneficial for people.

Bad for you. Yes, poetry is actually BAD FOR YOU!!! Especially if it is by Walt Whitman!!! (Sorry, I really don't like him.) Seriously, though, Plato gets psychological on us at the end of Book X, and explains. There are two parts of the mind, the intellectual/rational and the emotional/irrational. The intellectual part is superior, because it prompts man to take the best actions for himself and allows emotions to be his subjects rather than his king (as Plato puts it.) The emotional part is inferior. It makes man a slave to transient feelings (whereas the rational is constant) and leads him to ultimate instability and unhappiness.

Poetry is bad because it stimulates the irrational emotional part of the brain and makes people more susceptible to allowing this part of the brain to take over when tragedy strikes in real life, thus rendering them less efficient and ultimately inferior, disrespectable human beings. This happens through a person's connecting with the story and experiencing actual emotions attatched to the fake illusions presented in literature or poetry. People grow accustomed to feelings that they should, in real life, master and stifle, and weaken themselves, giving in to pleasure and pain.

Aristotle gives a rebuttal to Plato's view of literature, and I'll write about that after I read it.... :)

8.9.04

Journal #2

What one book would you bring to a desert island and why?

The book I would probably bring would have to be Fyodor Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment. It is my favourite book and reads beautifully even in translation. I find it very entertaining as well.
Besides that, the message of this book (and the manner in which it is conveyed) is incredible, and rather multi-faceted. Multiple readings of the text would continually unveil new things. And if I got REALLY bored, I could map out a life-sized rendition in the sand of Rodion Romanovitch Raskolnikov's surroundings, since Dostoevsky seemed to have a knack for mentioning pace counts and directions of Raskolnikov's nervous wanderings.

Ok, but seriously, the way that Dostoevsky drags and squeezes the reader through several hundred pages of mental anguish only to conclude that mental and spiritual torment are the most powerful against man--then brings in the spiritual salvation through the former-slut Sonia--what a powerful message. The fact that earlier mere seconds were drawn-out eons of torture, and that after a spiritual cleansing, waiting 7 years ("only seven years!" as Dostoevsky writes it) before he can be with Sonia is such a short time.
I guess I could have simplified by saying I love the manner in which Dostoevsky paints the struggles within and between the mind and spirit. Also I am in love with Rodya.
...Um, enough of that.


***


How does the poem (The Idea of Order at Key West) have every element of literature?

Ok, if that's not a huge question...EVERY element? Is EVERY element of literature even known? But I'll do what I can.

I'll start with the four "elements" we've discussed in class. The first being the Text/Work. Okay, well we've got a poem. It doesn't appear to be in any specific format like iambic pentameter, etc. It's a poem, written in standard (pertaining to conventions, I mean. Wallace Stevens is not ee cummings.) English. That's about it, isn't it?

The Artist. Ok, well besides Wallace Stevens writing this, we've got this anonymous woman who is singing, whether she is creating the song on her own or interpreting the song of the sea, she is a creator, an artist. Is this an allusion to a higher creator goddess, orally bringing something into creation (read: God speaks the universe into being with the words "Let there be light.")? Who knows, maybe so.
Like literature itself, the woman's song is both beautiful in itself and has a deeper meaning ("...it was more than that, / More even than her voice...")

The Audience. As an audience, we have the narrator and Ramon Fernandez, whoever that is. I think the author just needed someone to address in his enthusiastic outburst, and Ramon Fernandez has a kind of ring to it. Who knows.
Anyway, as this audience watches and listens in awe to this strange song, they realise that she is creating her song and creating her own world in which she walks. Her world is her song, and she creates this world at the same time she experiences it. I don't really know how to explain it, or if I even totally get it, but it's something like that.
The narrator, then, wonders aloud why he and his companion leave the beautiful intrinsic world of the woman's song (when she stops singing) and enter into the chaotic order of the city: lights and boundaries everywhere.
The narrator/audience is struggling to interpret the meaning of this, the woman's song, her creation, the universe in general! And maybe he doesn't really figure it out completely. But that's the way it goes sometime, in literature as well! As it is the creator's and hers alone, the audience can never fully experience the art in the way the author does.
Meaning is subjective.

Finally we have the World. We have a world being created by an artist whilst an audience observes. This world is a song, and the song is this woman's entire world. This world is superior even to the song of the sea, and, though the entire poem describes it, is rather indescribable and abstract. The sea and the real world become insignificant next to this woman and her creation, which is probably the case for most authors/artists/etc. The created world is one of beauty incomparable to that of reality. And this world is both mysterious and enlightening.

I don't really know what else I should say. I remember Professor Sexson told us we could write 200 pages on this topic and still not address everything. Oh, and to spare everyone the pleasure of actually having to read a journal entry that long. So I guess that's it for now. Bye!


3.9.04

Journal #1

(Not really sure what I'm doing--hopefully this is somewhat correct!)

1. Address a text with religious consolation.

For me, a lot of Kafka's works have this effect, especially the shorter ones. One of my favourite ones is Die Bäume (Trees):

Denn wir sind wie Baumestämme im Schnee. Scheinbar liegen sie glatt auf, und mit kleinem Anstoß sollte man sie wegschieben können. Nein, das kann man nicht, denn sie sind fest mit dem Boden verbunden. Aber sieh, sogar das ist nur scheinbar.

Roughly translated this is:

For we are like tree-trunks in the snow. Seemingly/Apparently they rest standing smoothly, and with a small push shall one be able to push them over. No, one cannot, for they are bound firmly to the ground. But see, even that is only seemingly/apparent.

I like this piece because it really shows how fragile an actual reality is since it is subject to one's perception. Things can seem one way, but in reality they can be another. And that reality can be only apparent rather than actual as well. This is a piece of religious consolation because it reminds me how people can't REALLY know something for sure. Because of our perceptions, our "knowledge" is really just our interpretations. That really has to tie into literary criticism as well. It's impossible to know the "real" meaning of anything, because the work is filtered through our perceptions, and was written through someone else's perceptions. So everything can only "seem" to us; it can never truly BE.

Existentialism really is a great school of thought. :)

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2. Address a work that has changed your perception or sensibility.

Ok, this is harder. I could say how Golding's Lord of the Flies changed my views on anarchy or Quinn's Ishmael changed my views on the modern/capitalistic world, or how certain Bible verses changed how I think about the future.
Ok, take Daniel Quinn's Ishmael. We think that as a modern, technological society, we are an advanced species. But we have destroyed some of the most basic aspects of life. We manipulate nature, making "survival of the fittest" for humans nearly obsolete.
We choose what animals and plants we want, grow them in mass quantities, and leave others to nature while we run our own artificial nature. And instead of viewing death as a natural part of the life cycle, we fear it and search for as many ways possible to defy it. Thus we create a population of people who would not be living were it not for artificial, man-made means, which puts an unnatural stress on society. We destroy ourselves from underneath.

By trying to improve our species with unnatural methods, we are destined to meet a self-induced downfall. Quinn of course stated this all a lot more eloquently. But one of his metaphors was something like this:

We are on the first airplane. Knowing nothing of aerodynamics and such, it is a craft that by the laws of physics cannot fly. But we do not know about these laws. We push it off a cliff and glide for a while, but we are convinced we're flying. However, the ground is rapidly approaching, and unless we discover these laws (of physics, in this case) we will crash.

I'll leave you with that uplifting image. ;)