dc113507 on May 9th 2012
Someone once said all good things must come to an end. Even though I’m sure whoever said this wasn’t talking about a semester long blog assignment for an English Literature class, I really feel like this quote applies to the experience I have had with my blog. When I started my blog I wasn’t sure what approach I wanted to take with it. I’d never had to construct a blog for a class before and I was somewhat uneasy about the considerable amount of freedom we were allowed with this assignment.
What direction should I take my blog in? Should it be formal? Casual? A mixture of the two? I am in no way a tech savvy girl(my 3 year old cousin knows how to use my iPad more that I do) I didn’t know the first thing about imbedding media onto a website and was 100% convinced this blog was going to be an eye sore to anyone who viewed it. Should have just stuck with the ‘teach a text’ option and called it a day.
Those were basically my thoughts going into this project and I have never been proven so wrong! In all honesty this blog has been one of the most enjoyable assignments I have ever had to work on. I had so much fun developing the texts we have read in class and relating them to my theme. I am somewhat sad that it has to come to an end. Whenever we would discuss texts in class I would sit and suddenly become inspired to write on my blog because of something Professor Smith or a classmate had said. Writing on this blog became a relaxing escape. I can truly say that at points it didn’t even feel like schoolwork.
I was inspired to chose this theme because as a reader I feel like I’m constantly trying to find ways to relate texts to my own life. I have always felt that there is a reason that certain novels and plays from centuries ago are still so popular amoung audiences today. They have to hold some sort of universal truth that expands into a contemporary audience, and isn’t just stuck in their century of origin. Some texts are harder to decide than others and students become discouraged and don’t want to dig deeper. It’s hard when you just really don’t understand something but I believe it is always worth it to go the extra mile and challenge yourself. I wanted my blog to expose readers to a different view point to readings that they may have not normally considered. I sometimes faced challenges trying to relate our readings in ways that I felt were in keeping with my theme, but I always managed to find a way to parallel an aspect of a text to a contemporary society in some original way. This blog challenged me intellectually and I enjoyed every minute of it! My experience in this class has been a positive one and I hope you have all been able to take something away from this blog! Thanks for reading
dc113507 on May 9th 2012
With the theme of my blog being contemporary parallels and reflections in world literature I find it so fitting that our semester ends with a text that takes us into the modern day world we know and, sometimes love, today. The World literature texts we have read throughout the semester have given our class the opportunity to become introduced to many lifestyles and societies void of Western world attributes that encompass our lives daily.
Anita Desais novella ‘The Rooftop Dwellers’ switches the analytical gears in the minds of our class readers. Up until this point we have had the task of trying to identify ourselves with characters such as Ivan Illyich, Tartuffe, and we can’t forget Gregor the bug. Desai published this novel in the year 2000. The main protagonist of ‘Rooftop,’ Moyna lives in a time period that we as young adults can more easily relate to. Authors at the turn of the century began to take their own unique approach to the development of their texts. These texts were responses to their surroundings. But this time around their surroundings are ones in which our present day readers can envision themselves living in.
Society is ever changing, and ‘Rooftop’ succeeds in portraying the changes occurring in the beginning of the 21st century. Compared to the prior generations in India, the society Moyna lived in showed a society in which the typical familial and societal roles were starting to change. As an example, the role women were expected to play in society in ‘Rooftop’ differs vastly when compared to the role expected of them during Liusu’s life in ‘Love in a Fallen City’. These changes are much more representative to the lives of modern day readers. A society in which a mother works a 9 to 5 job is a society in which a Baruch college student, or any college student for that matter can more strongly identify with. Compared to the lifestyle of Liusu in ‘Love in a Fallen City’ the lifestyle and ambitions of Moyna in ‘Rooftop Dwellers’ are more relative and relatable to a young audience today. As a young woman I found it difficult to identify with Liusu’s character. When I compare the vast differences between our societies it’s hard for me to even imagine myself in her shoes. From the harsh treatment she receives from her family because of her divorce to the role she is asked to play in her ex-husband’s wake, many aspects of this society would make a 21st century young adult cringe. Obligation to one’s family is something I strongly believe in. But the sacrifices Liusu made for her family, only to receive emotional abuse in return is atrocious to me.
As a reader, I have always felt that it is easier to immerse myself into a literary text that was more relative to my life. To be able to read a story as if you were the protagonist facing whatever dilemma he or she was confronted with allows you as a reader to engage in a completely different level of understanding and analysis. I felt this way when I read ‘Rooftop Dwellers’. Ok ok so maybe I have never had to experience the living conditions of a basarti. And I’ll admit that I’ve never had to wake up at 4:30 in the morning to fill buckets with water for the day so I could shower. But so many struggles Moyna faces as a young woman, coming of age and trying to thrive in a society that is ready to reject her, are so easy for me to relate to. As a young woman, especially a college student trying to work hard in my academics and maintain a life at home, I can almost feel Moyna’s frustrations throughout the novella. Is her basarti glamourous? No, but it’s hers, something she can be proud to call her own, unattached and separate from her family. This independence is something I so strongly admired and valued in her character. Is her job in publishing her dream job? Of course not! But it got her foot in the door and a step in the right direction. Her unwavering perseverance and desire to maintain independence is true of so many young people today who are trying to build themselves from the ground up. The heavy importance her family places on higher education rings so true for young people today. How much more unacceptable is it now for a person’s education to stop at a high school level when compared to a few generations ago? The discrimination Moyna faces as she tries to independently start her own life as a naïve woman is a major change from a society where an ambitious young woman wouldn’t even go as far as to consider attaining a higher education or even a life outside of her husband and family. This struggle is something we all have in common with and I feel this blatant aspect of emerging western life is something that makes ‘Rooftop Dwellers’ so easy and enjoyable to read. My ability to identify with Moyna’s life allowed me to develop a deeper level of attachment to her character which only lead to a greater appreciation of Desai’s brilliant text!
I wonder if this is the kind of rooftop living Moyna had to live in. If so I could get used to it
dc113507 on Apr 30th 2012
“The limits of our language are the limits of our world.” -Ludwig Wittgenstein
What a bold statement to make in regards to the barriers of human intellect. Modestly put Ludwig is asserting the fact that as humans our culture, and inevitably our language bars us from appreciating the literature, arts, and humanities of other cultures to their full extent.
Ever wonder how large the scope of difference in translated text is when converted from one language to another? I’m sure at one point you have gone to Google translate, typed some foreign text in and instead of getting a desired translation what you got was a jumbled version of converted English banter. Sound familiar? Puffs Tissue’s advertising campaign is a perfect example of how words can get lost in translation. Only until after the launch of their product in Europe did the company unexpectedly find out that ‘Puffs’ is slang for ‘whorehouse’ is German. These humorous examples can lead us to ask a broader question: What else is lost in translation, especially in regards to literary texts.
Just glossing through the contents section of our ‘Norton Anthology of World Literature’ book can give us an estimate to just how many texts we read are presented to us in a translated version. As a student it makes me wonder just how much of the true theme and beauty of language structure is lost when reading a translator’s interpretation of a text. Does the translated version of a novel, play or short story fall flatter than the author’s authentic creation? How can we really know what we are missing out on?
As part of our World Literature course I have found myself facing some challenges when reading translated texts. One such challenge is the toil that accompanies trying to follow along with footnotes and annotations provided to clarify a rusty translation. Although tools like footnotes are only there to aid a reader, I often find them a hinderance to a steady and fluid pace of reading. Eileen Chang’s ‘Love in a Fallen City’ is just one text our class has read in its translated form. When reading the biography prior to the story I learned that a Chinese reader, reading the text in its original form would understand the title to mean ‘Love for a beauty that could make a city fall.’ This meaning differs so vastly from ‘love in a fallen city.’ It makes me question what else contemporary students are deprived of when reading translated works. Translation can unintentionally change so much about an original literary work. Vocabulary choice and sentence structure are choices strategically made by an author that inevitably differ in translation. Translation and interpretations make texts that would otherwise be lost on a contemporary audience more available. Translators are left with a difficult task as they attempt to capture and maintain the beauty and genius of an original text, hoping this genius doesn’t get lost in translation!
dc113507 on Apr 23rd 2012
“I’m an excellent housekeeper. Every time I get a divorce, I keep the house.” –Zsa Zsa Gabor
You see it everywhere. The modern day plague that’s sweeping the nation. No, scratch that the world. You can’t turn on the TV without eventually hearing about it. You can’t open a magazine or a newspaper without reading about it. In fact it’s so prevalent in our world today that one in every two people will be affected by it. You’re probably wondering, what is this heinous epidemic, and where should I run to hide from it?! Would you laugh if I told you this ‘heinous epidemic’ was…divorce? Yup, divorce.
From marriages that begin in Vegas and end within the next 72 hours, to the extravagant weddings of the ‘Kim Kardashians’ of the world that barely make it past the honeymoon phase, marriage in a modern day world has been made into a joke, a farce, something people no longer look at as a life-long commitment. It’s just as easy to get a divorce today as it is to buy a new car. Sign a few papers along the dotted line and you can pretend your betrothal never happened.
It’s safe to say that these attitudes towards marriage and divorce have not always been present in our society. Eileen Chang’s short story, ‘Love in a Fallen City,’ makes critical comments on divorce in an ancient Chinese society. In the story’s opening the reader is made aware that the main protagonist, Liusu has divorced and is informed that her ex-husband has just passed away. Through dialogue between Liusu and her family members the shame that Liusu has brought on her family with her decision to divorce is evident. Her sister in law chastises Liusu saying “Is divorce such an easy thing, that you can get divorced anytime you want? If it were really that easy, why haven’t I divorced your Fourth Brother…I too have my own family, it’s not as if I don’t have a place to run to. But in times like these I have to think of their needs too….I still have some sense of shame!” Liusu has caused her family dishonor and added an additional financial burden with her divorce. Her family now has an extra mouth to feed and person to clothe. Through these passages Eileen Chang has stressed the significance and necessity of marriage during this time in Chinese society. During this time marriage was not viewed as a trivial and temporary commitment. It was seen as a life-long engagement that could not be easily ended through divorce without a serious stigma being placed on the man and woman.
When I read ‘Love in a Fallen City’ Zhang’s statements regarding divorce really stood out to me. What a far cry from a society today, where a 50% divorce rate exsis. How has our world gone from a traditional society where divorces were only seen in extreme cases, to a world where 1 in every 5 divorces are caused by, get this…FACEBOOK! This question is a complex one that I think has many answers. Has preoccupation with material drapings and superficialities (see my previous post ‘A Vanity Affair’ for more regarding that!) led to the deterioration of marriage as a sacred union, and in many cases as a holy sacrament.
Our society today is filled with couples and relationships that boast a selfish lifestyle. This lifestyle promotes preoccupation with one’s own well being instead of the well being of their significant other. Husbands and wives tend to forget the hard work and commitment that it takes to make a happy marriage last. They let menial troubles blow out of proportion and dissolve marriages that they simply don’t have the energy to work at. I absolutely believe that in many instances divorce is completely acceptable and necessary. However divorce today has been accepted as so commonplace that it to no longer carries the stigma of shame that it once did.
Do families today have the same reaction regarding divorce as Liusu’s family did? Would a 21st century family condemn and resent a relative who has gone through a divorce? Of course not. Hollywood has allowed for the glamorization of divorce. Turn on the TV and you can watch ‘Happily Divorced’ an entire sitcom dedicated to the mockery of divorce. Browse the magazine gossip rack and covers will scream of the recordbreaking-ly short marriages. The evidence is all around us, blatant billboard signs that society is every changing!
dc113507 on Apr 16th 2012
Scroll over to the sidebar and check out the new link posted ‘Next on the Syllabus: Harry Potter…?’ It is a really interesting article written by high school students in the mid-west. They feel that although the classical works of Shakespeare and his peers have stood the test of time, perhaps contemporary authors of modern day society deserve a chance to be taught in English classes across the U.S. Although I think it’s a stretch to say that Twilight and Harry Potter should make it onto a course syllabus, I think these students raise some interesting points. Maybe there is something worth studying in more contemporary works of literature. Undoubtedly the works of authors like Shakespeare, Bronte, Hawthorne etc challenge young adults to analyze literature and themes in ways that forces them to dig deeper. But perhaps adding contemporary novels to coursework would add a diversity to classes that would keep students engaged and eager to learn. Perhaps contemporary works can fill the gaps missing in so many high school and higher education English classes today!
dc113507 on Apr 8th 2012
“Perhaps this war will pass like the others which divided us leaving us dead, killing us along with the killers but the shame of this time puts its burning fingers to our faces. Who will erase the ruthlessness hidden in innocent blood?”
Divided, tortured, heartbroken and scarred. These are just some words that can begin to describe a people living in a war torn society. Mothers seeing their sons off to fight, knowing they may never come home again, children seeing their father or mother depart for a foreign land, not understanding why they’re going away and being too young to know the enormity of their absence. Writers across time have taken the liberty to write down reactions to the heartache and anguish of war. Literary texts have been written satirizing war, condemning the very nature of its existence as well as the corrupt political heads behind it.
Pablo Neruda’s collection of poetry we read in class is one example of a writer, so fed up with the tragedies of war that he took it upon himself to write reactionary works expressing his disgust. Two such poems that take on an anti war approach are ‘Walking Around,’ and ‘I’m Explaining a Few Things.’ Neruda’s political activist approach in these works expresses the contempt he felt regarding the Spanish Civil War. The reader can see in the poem ‘Walking Around’ that Neruda has had enough of the calamities associated with war. He is ‘tired of being a man..’ He voices his hatred for public government officials when he says ‘..it would be delicious to scare a notary with a cut lily.’ ‘I’m Explaining a Few Things,’ further shows Neruda’s frustration and aggravation with war and society in general. He chastises society for expecting him to write poems flourishing with beauty and decorative language, when he is reminded daily of the horrors of war when he walks in the street and sees the blood of children. Neruda’s poetry forces the reader to see the stupidity and ignorance that accompanies war. Although undoubtedly war has been fought in the past for legitimate purposes, many fail to contemplate the tragedies of war unless if is directly affecting their homes or loved ones, forcing them to deal with it first hand. Neruda’s poem is a reminder of that.
War torn society has been no stranger to our country this past decade. Perhaps you may feel that since the beginning of the War against Terror no writer or scholar has taken the liberty to creatively satirize or ridicule war. However this is not true. The newest phenomenon to captivate our society today, ‘The Hunger Games Trilogy,’ was a result of author Suzanne Collins attitude toward modern day war. Collins was inspired to write ‘The Hunger Games’ while channel surfing the television one day and seeing heinous video clips of war followed by commercials for absurd reality TV shows. Collins is quoted as saying the two sets of footage “began to blur in this very unsettling way,” prompting her to draft ‘The Hunger Games.” The books tackle somber themes that the reader may overlook while burying themselves in Collins enchanting texts. ‘The Hunger Games” makes comments on poverty, oppression and the effects of war on individuals and society as a whole. Twenty-four young men and women, known as tributes, are forced to fight in an arena till their death, until only one is left standing. The entire spectacle is televised for the nation to watch as the drama unfolds. Tributes are forced to adopt a war-mentality, not unlike many soldiers forced to fight in combat in poorer countries around the world today. Although “The Hunger Games” is without question an entertaining, suspenseful book, I think it would be foolish to ignore the warning signs, and critical comments on society being hinted at throughout the books. The heavy importance our society places on trivial Hollywood shows and celebrities is becoming more and more apparent. We all have a tendency to turn a blind eye to the horrors of war and poverty. Similar to Neruda’s poetry, Collins is urging us to see the fault in our neglect of wartime horrors.
dc113507 on Apr 4th 2012
I found a really interesting critical response to an article that described a formulaic approach to writing. The author here criticizes the original article claiming, “Language is the handmaiden of story, not the other way around. Master story. Everything else is gravy.” Take a look.
dc113507 on Apr 4th 2012
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to wake up one day transformed into a beast, a monster, or some sort of alien creature, completely isolated and repulsed by society? The answer to this question is most likely no you have not. In all honesty, the fantastic nature of the question is so bizarre, why would someone, in their daily routine even consider it? Perhaps even the notion of this occurring makes us too uncomfortable to contemplate it.
When I read Franz Kafka’s ‘The Metamorphosis’ I instantly began to compare it to Mary Shelley’s novel ‘Frankenstein.’ Both stories are centered on a strange and foreign character. Both stories are so widely nonsensical that it begs the question, why decades after they were written are these fantastical texts still read and analyzed by English students and scholars alike? Both Kafka and Shelley use the central image of their story to convey a serious theme regarding the effects isolation and rejection by society can have on a person, or in these cases a creature.
The characterization of both Gregor as an insect and the monster as a gigantic hideous creature are key to the illustration of the themes both authors in respective texts try to convey. The characters in these stories are isolated and secluded from society. Gregor’s transformation in the beginning of the story dismantles any relationships he had previously had with his family or coworkers. He is now kept in complete seclusion in his bedroom, hidden from the outside world. His previous life as he knew it is now a part of his past. Not only is Gregor denied the luxury of living life through his daily routine, but his family now begins to resent him. As the story goes on everyone in the household begins to care less and less about the state of Gregor’s health. Their sympathy diminishes and Gregor seems to be trapped in his home in a state on estrangement. Gregor’s family seems to realize their sympathy as limits,and the stress of Gregor’s state wears on them emotionally.
Similarly the representations of the grotesque monster as a central character in Mary Shelley’s novel ‘Frankenstein’ aims to convey the mental and emotional effects placed on someone’s life when they are forced to become an outcast in society. The novel centers around Victor Frankenstein’s creation of the morbid and horrendous monster. The monsters terrifies everyone it comes into contact with and it is forced to exist in complete seclusion and solitude.His rejection by society causes him to endure emotional grief and he consequently becomes violent and unhinged. These effects cause the reader to see, albeit in a fabricated manner, the detrimental effects loneliness and isolation can have on someone, or in this case something’s life.
Perhaps readers are uncomfortable with the fantastical nature of the texts and unrealistic characters of the novel. But maybe readers are uncomfortable with the critical statements made in these stories regarding society’s conduct towards outcasts.I think these texts read in a modern day society force a reader to evaluate his or her daily behavior. This self evaluation is not necessarily something we are always comfortable with doing.
How quick are we to form judgements on a person based on their physical appearance, material drapings, or perceived social standing? How quick are we to make harsh judgements on someone and deem them outcasts or taboo members of society? Although we won’t be eager to fess up, the answer to this question is probably far too quickly. Our society is filled with people who suffer from addictions, illnesses, physical deformities and mental conditions that make them different from your average John Smith and Mary Jane. We are so quick in placing these people in a category that demeans their humanity and insults their dignity. We isolate these people with no regards to their emotions and mental well being. A second thought is never given to the lack of compassion and neglect we show these outcasts.
Authors like Shelley and Kafka write with a purpose. They use such bold plot lines and outlandish characters to gain a firm grasp on the attention of their readers. I feel that they aim to get their readers to evaluate their behavior and actions in retrospect to the text. Okay, so maybe we aren’t faced with monsters, and family members turned insects everyday, but we are constantly faced with people who are different from us in some way. Maybe we don’t show enough compassion or empathy to others, or maybe we don’t even give people a chance to show us who they are. Going to college in one of the most diverse schools in the nation, we can take a lot away from the themes shown in these literary texts. Hard as it may be to admit, these works can force many of us to recognize the need for an attitude and behavioral adjustment in our lives.
dc113507 on Mar 28th 2012
I came across an extremely interesting posting I found to be relevant to the focus of my blog! The author seems to assert the notion that people in our 21st century are not as innovative and creative as the brilliant pioneers, scientists, and artists of the past. It’s an interesting read, as I think he makes some great points regarding the neglect for philosophy and sound ethics in our society today. He draws on flaws in our society he feels correlate to this neglect. It’s a very unique and refreshing approach!
dc113507 on Mar 26th 2012
“But after all, we are a young nation, and vanity is a fault of youth.”- Rebecca Davis
Vanity is defined as “excessive pride and admiration in one’s own achievements and appearance.” Wouldn’t it be difficult to argue that as human beings, we aren’t all entitled to a sense of self pride and accomplishment? Why shouldn’t we be proud of ourselves when we achieve a goal, be it in school, in the work place, or our personal lives? It is only natural.
In our class reading of ‘The Death of Ivan Ilyich,’ Leo Tolstoy tells the story of a man whose pride and preoccupation with materialistic trivialities transformed his life for the poorer. The novella begins with the announcement of the death of the main character Ivan Ilyich. The story proceeds in a flashback manner, recounting the details of Ivan’s life and how his affair with vanity ultimately lead to a dull life, void of meaningful and intimate relationships. Ivan is portrayed as a man whose main focus and goal in life was to ascend a social ladder and gain the acceptance and approval of his peers. Ivan neglects the important relationships in his life. He admits that even his decision to marry was not one that was made based on love and emotion; rather he married because ‘his social circle approved of the match.’ Consequently, his life at home was one empty of any meaningful and intimate relationships. Ivan emotionally neglected his family, and even at the time of his death it is difficult for the reader to find a character who is truly heartbroken by the loss.
Was Leo Tolstoy’s purpose for writing this novella to entertain the reader, and make him feel better about his own life? Maybe, but I don’t think that’s a likely cause. In my opinion Tolstoy wrote this novella with a highly satiric undertone, intended for generations after him to grasp and analyze. Tolstoy is making a direct attack on all those in society that are so occupied with superficial matters that they lead a hollow life, vacant of real emotions and relationships that make life meaningful. Tolstoy uses the character of Ivan as a giant warning sign for his audience. Ivan is viewed as a pitiful character, whose fate no person could envy. Readers don’t finish ‘The Death of Ivan Ilych,’ and aspire to mimic the life of Ivan. I think Tolstoy’s objective in writing this novella was to start to turn the gears in the minds of his readers, and have them begin to evaluate their own lives.
In our society today it is so easy to get caught up in a superficial and materialistic life. Everywhere you turn you are reminded that appearance is everything. Be it on a billboard ad, a magazine ad, a commercial, a picture of your favorite celebrity in a magazine, people are reminded every day of the ‘importance’ of appearance and social standings. But after reading “The Death of Ivan Ilyich’ I think it is essential for people to begin to realize their imminent miserable fate when they have a prolonged affair with vanity.