Wednesday, February 25, 2009
The novel details the events of the summer and the lives of the members of a lay religious community in Gloucestershire. Next to an enclosed order of Benedictine nunnery, the pseudo-Utopian community of Imber Court attempt to live life closer to the Earth and with a more pure existence. Renouncing all past life and prejudices, the members of the community interact with such subtle triangulations that Murdoch deftly crafts a story about sexual desire that is confronted with religious fervor and prejudice, at least that is my own personal spin on the novel. If you could claim a main character or characters for the text, you would most likely choose Dora Greenfield (an (dis-?)illusioned housewife who joins her academic husband at Imber Court) or possibly Michael Meade (the repressed homosexual and leader of the community). Of course a number of other characters hold just as much weight as these two do, and the figure of the bell, Gabriel, is in itself so captivating that its existence remains more intriguing than several of the characters.
I really how the novel made me rethink emotions. Although you might say that the feminist movement has transformed the plight of women a great deal since 1958 when the novel was published, Dora's feelings about marriage and relationships still hold true to day, particularly her analysis of marriage and how, even today, people feel so trapped by it:
"Dora closed her eyes and remembered her fear. She was returning, and deliberately, into the power of someone whose conception of her life excluded or condemned her deepest urges and who now had good reason to judge her wicked. That was marriage, thought Dora; to be enclosed in the aims of another. That she had any power over Paul never occurred to her. It remained that her marriage to Paul was a fact, and one of the few facts that remained in her disordered existence quite certain. She felt no tears and tried to think of something else." (p. 11)
I also think emotions like greed, shame, and jealousy, which the book explores in relation to the Michael-Toby-Nick triangle are particularly interesting. Until people can learn to love their bodies and love the act of sex, there will always be some loathing of the act and of our own bodies. I had always heard that Murdoch's novels were very philosophical, yet I found this book to be very psychological...very emotional. The Bell explored what it meant to have emotions and express them or repress them and the repercussions on acting on these feelings.
Anyways, it was a really good book, and for those of you that are readers, you should add it to your books-I-will-eventually-read list.
Saturday, February 21, 2009
I was able to get this detail of the painting to share:
One a rather interesting note, when searching for images on the web, I found out that Zbigniew Preisner composed a short instrumental piece based off of this painting for one of my favorite films, Bleu. I can't wait to rewatch the film now and listen to the piece and see how it fits into the score/film.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Sunday, February 15, 2009
"Olive Wellwood is a famous writer, interviewed with her children gathered at her knee. For each of them she writes a separate private book, bound in different colours and placed on a shelf. In their rambling house near Romney Marsh they play in a story-book world - but their lives, and those of their rich cousins, children of a city stockbroker, and their friends, the son and daughter of a curator at the new Victoria and Albert Museum, are already inscribed with mystery. Each family carries its own secrets. Into their world comes a young stranger, a working-class boy from the potteries, drawn by the beauty of the Museum's treasures. And in midsummer a German puppeteer arrives, bringing dark dramas. The world seems full of promise but the calm is already rocked by political differences, by Fabian arguments about class and free love, by the idealism of anarchists from Russia and Germany. The sons rebel against their parents' plans; the girls dream of independent futures, becoming doctors or fighting for the vote. This vivid, rich and moving saga is played out against the great, rippling tides of the day, taking us from the Kent marshes to Paris and Munich and the trenches of the Somme. Born at the end of the Victorian era, growing up in the golden summers of Edwardian times, a whole generation grew up unaware of the darkness ahead. In their innocence, they were betrayed unintentionally by the adults who loved them. In a profound sense, this novel is indeed the children's book."
So, I am like so excited and can't wait. I hope you all think it sounds interesting and might be interested in reading it. I have found that Byatt is one of those under-appreciated contemporary authors that sometimes drifts into and out of the classroom. I hope that I can keep her alive through my syllabi and hopefully get others to read her too. In fact, this whole blog sort of stems from her concept of lamination that is in the Potter Quartet. Anyways, if you haven't read anything by her, put a book on your list. I would suggest starting with something like or Possession or Angels and Insects or The Djinn and the Nightingale's Eye.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Edgar Degas's Dancers at Rehearsal, 1885-1890, is accompanied with a quote by the artist: "Painting is easy when you don't know how, but very difficult when you do."Firstly, I think this painting is quite pretty. I know that Degas has a number of canvases that detail the life of the ballet girls, and before cracking this book, I had not seen this particular one before. According to the text, the painting is housed a the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow, which may have something to do with it not being seen by me; nevertheless, I do think this is one of the more interesting entries in the ballet series. I like the angle of the gaze in this painting. With the little wooden feature that covers the upper-right hand corner, I feel that the view is obstructed slightly because it is almost a clandestine gaze going on. Do these girls know that they are being watched? Certainly, this is a question I had after pondering the image for a while. Another would be, what is the connection between the groups in the painting? The sort of begging, enchanting gesture of the group on the left seems at odds by the nonchalance perpetrated by the group in the far left, and yet, this perfectly captures the sense/schemes of rehearsal that go on.
As far as the quote that accompanies the painting, how true. I think I understand what Degas is saying. When one is a pedestrian in a certain field, it is easy to learn and master because as a newcomer, you know so little. And yet, as a master of a particular field, it is so much harder to learn how to improve because you have often commanded so many skills up until a certain point. In a way, for me at least, Degas's quote sort of explains a little bit of this anxiety I have been having about grad school. It is like you reach this point, and you know there is something beyond it, and reaching the next point becomes harder and more obscure. I'm reminded of a recent blog/note from a friend, "How much can my writing style change by this point?" (I'm paraphrasing/inventing just a bit.) And I have been feeling a little bit of the same. I have been in school for almost 20 years, I have done this whole college thing, and what now?
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
"This is not considered higher education," [State Rep. Charlice] Byrd said. "If legislators are going to dole out the dollars, we should have a say-so in where they go."
Byrd and her supporters, including state Rep. Calvin Hill, R-Canton, said they will team with the Christian Coalition and other religious groups to pressure fellow lawmakers and the University System Board of Regents to eliminate the jobs.
"Our job is to educate our people in sciences, business, math," said Hill, a vice chairman of the budget-writing House Appropriations Committee. He said professors aren't going to meet those needs "by teaching a class in queer theory."
To see the whole post, click here.
It's bad enough that people are losing jobs across the nation, but now Republicans want to eliminated entire academic fields in college classrooms. Disgusting! What does this mean for people who don't "business, math, and sciences"? Are our subject no less valuable? Maybe we need subjects like history and English because they teach acceptance and difference.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Friday, February 6, 2009
"...it wasn't until exploring the "rise and fall" of English in my graduate school department that I realized how vital an education I received at Scholars'. Scholars' overall approach to the Text and Traditions program is actually amazing. My experience in T and T was one that placed emphasis on all disciplines and did not curtail any particular agenda. Likewise, by dividing class into lecture and seminar, having a Fulbright Scholar in T and T to cover art in the Ancient World, and a push for intense research in the final sections of the class, T and T truly did prepare me for graduate school and my goal in exploring textuality as it is conceived in the 20th century. The unique system of voting on classes and controlling the variety of electives that one takes is almost unheard of in other institutions. To be able to tell a professor that you are interested in the connection between psychoanalysis and 20th century feminist fiction and see both a classroom and intensive academic research and theoretical training come out of it is something that none of my graduate classmates are able to claim that they have experienced. Scholars' is great place, a sacred place for the communion between mind and knowledge and between experience and thought. Without my time at Scholars' I would not have been prepared for graduate school. Without Scholars' I would not have been prepared for life."
I don't think words could express how extremely proud I am in this moment. Those of you that were there will remember the day I broke down crying when a certain director-who-shall-remain-nameless told me that this director would prefer for me not to participate in the Scholars' Day functions. I promptly attempted to embarrass Scholars' by wearing my pajamas for a mock T and T class. Well, I guess the joke was on me because no one really noticed.
I am happy to see what has been going on with Scholars'. It is so good that Davina has been hired because having a stable director is really beneficial for the college. It's also great that programs are expanding, funding is being put in somewhat decent places, and people seem to be staying in Scholars' rather than transferring out. (Retention was a huge problem the years I was there. My class started in the 50s and ended up with 12.) I may have had problems with certain administrations both past and present, but I really do stand by what I said above and by so much more. Scholars' truly was this magical place for me, and I hope to return in an official capacity one day.
Thursday, February 5, 2009
Step 1: respond and rework—answer the questions on your own blog, replace one question that you dislike with a question of your own invention, add one more question of your own. Step 2: tag—eight other un-tagged people.
1) What are you wearing right now? Long johns, boxers, black pants, undershirt, t-shirt, flannel button-up.
2) What's the last thing I read/ are currentlyreading? Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson and Genre by John Frow. I am about to start A Room with a View by E. M. Forster and Beloved by Toni Morrison.
3) Do you nap a lot? Of course, I am grad school. I just told a co-worker that I slept from 3-10 to Tuesday. Quite random. But that might not qualify as a nap. I do usually nap at least twice a week though.
4) Who was the last person you hugged? My dear friend Beamish. And maybe hugged through my words, my boss Hall.
5) What's your current obsession/addiction? TV, as usual. Expect a blog entry in the coming weeks on my new found show, Upstairs, Downstairs.
6) What was the last thing you said out loud? "Yeah. No. I don't think so." (My boss just told me I should text this guy to see about a date for Valentine's Day.)
7) What websites do you always visit when you go online? E-mail, EW.com, tvguide.com, abc. com/cw.com (to catch up on missed shows), Current Sauce webpage (my undergrad newspaper), NY Times Book section, facebook...
8) What was the last item you bought? A subway sandwich.
9) What is your most challenging goal? To get healthier and lose weight.
10) If you could have a house totally paid for, fully furnished- anywhere in the world, where would it be? Southwest or Northeast England.
11) Favorite Vacation spot? D. C., New Orleans, or London.
12) Say something to the person who tagged you: T, I feel like we never see each other. I totally planned on getting together for lunch last semester, but I just never got around to it. I kinda got swamped towards the end because the paper for Laird's Directed Study was due the week after the break, and then, things just got out of hand. I would like to know how things are going with you though. Maybe soon karma will bring us together--kinda like this post.
13) Name one thing you just can't resist no matter how bad it is for you: food.
14) You are on the Oregon Trail. How are things going? I am probably not doing to well since I am not that fond of camping, and I've also never played that game in school.
15) If you woke up tomorrow and were a boy, what is the first thing you would do and why? I wouldn't really freak out because I'm a boy already. Hehe.
16) Name one thing you can not live with out: I'm not sure. I would like to be sarcastic and say something like oxygen. I've been thinking a lot about this though, and I kinda think that I could probably renounce quite a bit of things.
17) Has a celebrity's haircut ever influence you on your own hairstyle? Maybe, but not one that would be worth noting, I'm sure.
18) What is your favorite characteristic or quality about yourself [not appearance-related]: ??? Um, I think I can be quite clever. I like to make people laugh. But I also like to have great conversations, too. So, I would lean more towards my speaking skills.
19) What brought you to blogland? I've always been a very unsuccessful journal writer. Blogging just sort of interests me. You can be/write what you want. And I thought it would be an interesting way to act out Laminations of my own. Byatt is my favorite author. (I kind of envision Frederica working for the Huffington Post if she were a real person.)
20) New Question: What attracts you most to another person? Their intellect and usually their appearance.
21) New Question II: If you had to choose between a goose who laid golden eggs for Easter or fizzy lifting drink, what would you choose? The goose. (I want it now!)
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
QUEEN ANNE'S LACE
Her body is not so white as
does not raise above it.
Flowers and sex. I found this incredibly awesome quote about the poem, "Williams shows us how the stem splits into a cluster of stems radiating upward, each supporting a white flowerette which, edging the others, composes the flower's lacy head. When Williams personifies the plant, his rhetoric carefully preserves its unique structure. The sun becomes an ardent male who creates a lover for himself touch by touch [...]" (from "Some Versions of Modernist Pastoral: Williams and the Precisionists." Contemporary Literature 21:3 (1980), 383-406.) My notes certainly reflect this pull of reading the poetry sexually. I annotated lines: "he touches and creates" and the label "sexual" remains above the poem. But there is also some sort of tint in the poem upon rereading of contamination and destruction from "his" touch as well. What is this purple blemish but a bruise that man creates when he touches flowers, alters their shape.
Flowers seem to attract sex poetry, or is it the other way around? By that way, is it me or is this blog becoming like a flower poem blog. Haha. Well maybe this is be the last one for a while. Although, Lawrence's poem, "Snap Dragon" is pretty awesome, and I am sure my boss would get a great big kick out of a blog about the saxifrage. Oh! Mighty Saxifrage!
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
I like this quote a lot though, even though it never found its way into my paper. I guess one reason why was because this quote didn't really impact the second-wave feminist reading of the text that I was going for. However, I think one reason I copied it out was because I was reading this novel during the election season last year. I always think about my own reason for existence and the effective-ness my life has had on people around me. And it seems that at least in this renunciation made by Anna to Molly that they both have to admit their own redundancy, something that people struggle with all that time I think. How much of our life is accident or chance and how much "written"/fated? And is that what truly distinguishes humans from so many other species and even intra-species--that we are nothing more than accidents who think more of themselves. Just some thoughts to ponder...
Monday, February 2, 2009
The films stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet as Frank and April Wheeler, two people disillusioned and maybe reillusioned by 1950s American culture. Plot-wise, the film follows Frank to his city job where he feels like nothing but a machine in a cog, while April remains at home in the suburbs as nothing more than a copy of those around her. Both are jaded by their intellectual understanding of what it means to fit in. One of the lines in the movie suggests that once thought they were above it all, but as April soon realizes, they are not above anything--that they are nothing but copies/machines, things that they hated before moving to suburbia. Of course, the film contains a number of other sub characters, but perhaps the one worth mentioning would be Frank and April's realtor's son, a former mathematics PhD who has been previously committed in a mental home/insane asylum. While seemingly "abnormal," this character, whose names escapes me, acts as the Shakespearean "fool" who contains all of the knowledge, who attempts to inform the Wheelers of the full impact of their decisions, and in fact, seems to be the only one that can understand them and their lives.
Non-plot wise, what I found interesting was the film's indictment/assessment/evaluation of American suburbia. I was able to do a minimal bit of research about the film and the book in which the film is based off of. The film seems to take on not only problems about life outside of the city, but also issues of gender, sanity, economics, sexuality, and parenthood. What does it mean to have children? What causes someone to fall out of love? How much danger is involved in having an abortion? Why do men's desires take precedence over women's in relationships? All interesting questions. All questions tackled with in the film.
Now, the little bit about the film that I truly want to talk about is the ending, which, of course, I know have to give a spoiler warning about. [So don't read on if you don't want to know what happens.] The "climax" of the film seems to be when April gives herself an abortion, post-12 weeks, which the film has repeatedly claimed is dangerous to do after 12 weeks. When April does give herself an abortion, she walks downstairs and stands in the open window way--what we see is Revolutionary Road, we see the street they live on, the world they inhabit. She stands there as if claiming, "Look at what you have done to me. Look what you made me do." As she remains there, the camera shows blood spots on her dress and a pool of blood forming below her. As the point, the viewer sort of realizes that things aren't going all that well. She runs to the phone, calls for help....next thing, Frank is in the hospital telling his neighbor that she waited to long to get to the hospital. I think this is the crux of the film, and for me, something I really want to debate with people. Is she just giving herself an abortion because that is what she wants to do, or is she committing suicide? There are so many signs that suggest the latter. Perhaps that was the only way out of escaping suburbia.
For me the scene echoed a number of instances in Byatt's Babel Tower when Daniel gets calls at the hotline from mothers who abandoned their children, wandering about England and wondering if it was the right thing to do. They were so illusioned as to what life was supposed to be like, what women's roles where supposed to be. This film just made me think about this more and more. Is the only way to escape something is complete abandonment? But it also made me re-evaluate my own desires and my own wants/needs. This is a question that I have continually asked myself, again and again, and I am sure it is a question that I will continue to grapple with more and more in the coming years as I mature into adulthood.
Go out and see Revolutionary Road. Hopefully you will think it is a great film! And if you enjoy it, hopefully you also cried because of how sad it was.