Thursday, April 24, 2008

The relationship between Catholicism and the Centaurs

When reading the book “The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman” by Angela Carter, I found myself trying to figure and analyze the books meaning. The passage and chapter that I really experienced this thought process was the chapter about the centaur people and their religious beliefs. During our previous class we discussed the link between the centaur’s and the Houyhnhms. By looking further into the chapter I discovered that Carter also intertwined a religious connection to the centaurs. The centaurs were extremely religious creatures, which resembled the Catholic religion almost exactly. Both of the religions are monotheist, they both revolve around the written word, they both are built upon the hierarchy of individual males, and they both are very heavily influenced by nature and the world around them. In the book, the centaurs worship the Sacred Stallion, very similar to the way the Catholics worship the one single God figure. In Catholicism, everything that is presented for the religion is written within one sacred text, which is the bible. The centaur’s have many sacred texts that they follow and add to, much like the bible. In the centaurs religion we are shown, the male hierarchy within the church. The centaurs have the Scrivener, the Smith, the Cantor, and the Tattoo master. Carter even goes as far as describing them as cardinals, exactly like the Catholic Church. Throughout my reading of this section, I kept on finding myself trying to determine why she would include such a vivid allusion to the Catholic Church. Through my interpretation, Carter isn’t trying to make a statement about the Catholic Church. I felt that Carter was trying to show how a religion can over take a human being or a civilization. Now, this is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is not always good either. By connecting the centaur people with a religion very similar to Catholicism, she created a connection between the reader and the centaur characters in the book, because almost everyone has heard about and experienced some interaction with the Catholic Church. Her focus on religion in a way humanized the god like centaurs. It made them real and more believable to the average reader.

Modernism in The Infernal Desire Machines of Dr. Hoffman

Angela Carters novel The Infernal Desire Machines of Dr. Hoffman is has both post modernism and modernism structure. I believe it is predominantly a modernism critique. Modernism is the deliberate departure from tradition and the use of innovative forms of expression that distinguish many styles in the arts and literature of the 20th century, such and The Infernal Desire Machines. I believe this writing is innovative, and a departure from tradition. This book is wild in the sense of almost every theme, and chapter. Modernist themes are hierarchical, structured and ordered. In this quote Desiderio shows how it is environment is ordered which would make the structure ordered; “ However, the transmitters sent out their beams high over its battlements and did not affect the fortress of the enemy itself. Here everything was safe. Everything was ordered. Everything was secure.” (pg.197) I believe this book is more modern than post-modern, but share similar qualities.


When looking at postmodernism one thing stood out in my mind, that was Dali's work "clocks".
In this we can see many huge clocks dripping almost like they are melting. What I take from that firstly  is that: we can see the main aspect of the painting, obviously the clocks but we can also see the postmodernist theme, the dripping, melting clocks that stand out to the viewer.
This reminds me very much of Angela Carters Dr. Hoffman. We have the characters that show many instances of what we would call "real life" but there is also that postmodernist theme throughout. 
So my argument would be that Carter's work, similar to Dali's postmodernist piece is a clear postmodernist text. As there is both the reality side to the story and the unclear, unexplainable, postmodernist view to her text. Much like Dali's melting clocks. 

Modernism Desire

I was almost convinced by the guys who were in the middle, however I still believe that the book is ultimately modernism. To me, the postmodernism group was a little confusing. I couldn't quite grasp their over all idea so I will describe it how I view the story. On page 22 the minister states, "The Doctor has invented a virus...we will!- discover the antidote." This supports modernism because they are searching for the solution to the problem. That solution is innovation. There are many examples such as this in the book which I think represent the entire story. Desiderio leaves the sort of tradition of Dr. Hoffman's world by defeating the Doctor and restoring order to the city. There is innovation in the sense that the city is changed from bad back to good.

Angela Carter Debate: Modernism vs. Postmodernism

Let me preface this blog post by saying that I agree with Professor Brewer: While it is difficult to classify books as completely modernist, postmodernist, etc., The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman seems largely postmodernist. With that out of the way, the following would be my argument, from the postmodernist side of the debate.

As we know from class, modernism subscribes to the concept of hierarchy, which connotes order/structure. Thus, it seems modernism can only exist by itself; otherwise, it loses its essential modernist structure and ceases to be modernist, by virtue of its having non-modernist qualities. Postmodernism, on the other hand, subscribes to anarchy, which is the lack of a central authority. Thus, because Carter's book has both modernist and postmodernist qualities, it is automatically postmodern; it has no central authority, meaning that the book exhibits anarchy and, thus, postmodernist qualities. We all agreed on this today: The book has both modernist and postmodernist qualities. So, why is there still a question? How could it be modernist alone? Moreover, we might even question whether or not modernism exists, for how can a text "embody" (rigid/structured/hierarchical) modernism—as we so eloquently put it during the debate—if it also has postmodernist qualities? (Someone said that all books have both modernist and postmodernist qualities, and if all books do this, technically, they are postmodernist).

One can argue that, because Carter's book also features hierarchy/order, it cannot be postmodernist. However, it is still postmodernist because such hierarchy is non-hierarchical; it is unpredictable, unordered, because of the surrounding postmodernist qualities. That the Minister believes "a societal structure is the greatest of all the works of art," that he endorses hierarchy, only clashes with Dr. Hoffman's desire (and eventual ability) to rip the world from reality/structure/hierarchy (35). A better example would be to think of the point that the modernist side brought up (I think Tim and someone else mentioned it): the linear structure of the story. This argument does not seem to hold, because it is, in fact, too logical for postmodernism. Yes, there is order to the chapters and the events, and Desiderio even says early in the book that he "must gather together all that confusion of experience and arrange it in order, just as it happened, beginning at the beginning [...] [he] must unravel [his] life as if it were so much knitting," meaning that he arranges the story linearly (11). However, the key words are "as it happened" and "knitting." We, the readers, (probably) go through the story in a linear fashion; however, we do not know that this is the way Desiderio experienced the events. Like he says, he has to unravel his memories like "knitting," which suggests that they are all jumbled together. The Desiderio that is "writing"/narrating the story exists in the post-machine world, the one with order/reality; thus, he, of course, rearranges the story from its original form as an unordered mess of "knitting," deciding to tell it in a linear fashion so it will make sense to the reader. Thus, the story is a (crazy, wild, anarchical) postmodernist one, told in a modernist (structured) fashion, using both modernist and postmodernist qualities/themes/etc. So, how can it be purely modernist?

(It can't; and I've already established that postmodernism can exist alongside modernism because of its idea of anarchy. Be that as it may, as I said in the beginning, I also do not think the story can necessarily be only postmodernist. The qualities can and often do mix together, creating very interesting, complex works of art such as Angela Carter's The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman. On a final note, such works may even be intended to create debates like ours, to get us all to realize that rigidity/structure (in defining works) is not conducive to literature. Hey, wait! That takes me back to my point that modernism may not even exist!)

Religious Criticism in Infernal Desires

The question arose in class the other day as to whether or not Angela Carter was criticizing religion in the chapter entitled Lost in Nebulus Time. My first reaction to this chapter and the centaurs actions was the belief that she was criticizing the pointlessness of religion. On page 183 we are given a description of their religious lives. Desiderio describes the "whole point of their activity" as "endless," suggesting no progress is ever made toward achieving...well what they are trying to achieve isn't exactly clear, possibly simply appeasing the Sacred Stallion. He also admonishes their horse tree on the Holy Hill as "no more than a kind of anthropoid vegetable clock." If we can take Desiderio's words to be also Carter's then it appears she is callous towards this religion, its inability to achieve anything production, and its false idols. Yet, a further reading suggested otherwise to me. I believe she is simply comparing religion to history in this passage, which at some level all religion is a history. Desiderio points out that they create and adapt their religion to fit the situations around them, thereby shaping not only their religion, but shaping their history. From this viewpoint Carter is linking religion and history together in that they both describe the past, sometimes with more or less truths or more or less mysticisms, but always at least presenting the past.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Count Looks Inward, as do we all.

At the tragedy of the thousands of deaths of the city on the mountain, the only response that the Count could offer was a solitary cuff on Lafleur’s fragile body and a glorification of the ‘spectacle’ as being nature’s coup de theatre.
Although most humans do have some sense of compassion, (as exhibited by their natural inclination to never relate a disaster as a mere spectacle), the Count is indeed present in all of us.
He is, in Desiderio’s words, a passionate convictor that “he was the only person in the world.” Therefore, the Count is, as I will go to postulate, “raw vanity, with all of its splendor.”
If it were possible to, we would, as a result of our own greed and self-love, deny the reality of others, and enter our own world… In shaking off other’s desires, and only adhering to our own, we would heighten our own adventure.
But, by closing off other avenues, we would adhere to the reality of our own. Our self-confidence, in that manner, would be a good thing, one which could throw off the yoke of the Desire Machine and Mr. Hoffman. Perhaps that is why, as Albertina would later state, the Count was a danger to Dr. Hoffman: His character was inherently aversive to the puppet show of non-reason that Dr. Hoffman played.
When he is asked, Is there anything in the world that you [do condemn], the Count is put into the position commonly deemed “between a rock and a hard place.”
This pause is put on by Carter to emphasize his response: He disdains the “death-defying” “double somersault” of love.
Love is, in some degree, the ultimate connection of two beings. In that it acts as a unifier, it would thoroughly disgust the Count. He would have reason to be disgusted by the antithesis of his world: Two is a private invasion of oneness.
I imagine the Count to be a closed box. All the sides inside the box reflect on themselves. In that they are perfect in their looking inward, they have nothing to fear, nothing to tremble from, nothing to react from… besides themeselves. That perfect confidence and swagger (in all their glory) is why admirers can view the Count in anything he does, and intermittently be smitten upon his conviction.
We all want that. We all want to not be affected by a world which “threatens our existence.”

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Saints and Strangers: More Magical Realism in Carter's Work(?)

Today's discussion reminded me of a story—and I think this is the one—called "The Kiss," by Angela Carter. It's in the book of short stories called Saints and Strangers. If this is the story I am thinking of, I read it in one of Dr. Castro's classes (probably Women in Fiction) a year or two ago. Anyway, the story is about a love affair, and the end result is that the man sprouts wings and flies away; he never sees the woman again. As we mentioned in class, stories with magical realism in them often have very rich descriptions, and this story is a perfect example of that, as it starts with a 1- or 2-page description of the city (Samarkand, I think), and the rest of the story is only another page or two. It's an interesting story, and I certainly recommend it. I only hope I got the title and author correct. Perhaps I'm thinking of something else. I'll post a blog later this summer if I can find out where the story is (my copy of Saints and Strangers is at home, so I can't check, right now).

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Office - 17 April 2008

I just thought I would mention that tonight's episode of The Office features a short scene that is relevant to our class discussions regarding Angela Carter's Infernal Desire Machines. Two employees set out to perform a task and vow that they will not let Michael (the boss) down. Michael replies that they can't let him down because he doesn't care whether they succeed or not; he has no DESIRE for them to complete the task. 

Any comments on THIS example of desire versus the lack thereof? If Michael has no desire for the two employees to complete the task, even though he suggests it, does the task still exist as a "goal"? What else can we draw from this scene, if anything?

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Thoughts Concerning Buddha of Suburbia

I've a habit of thinking for a long while once I finish a book.  Usually it concerns the emotions of the characters in the book as I try to empathize with them and attempt to understand what drove them to do the things they did.  This usually follows a particularly good book with well-developed characters, I most assuredly put Buddha of Suburbia on my list.  All of the characters in the book were, I thought, outstanding.  My favorite though, and the one I considered to have the most depth apart from Karim was that of his fat crippled friend, Changez.  This guy absolutely blew my away at the end of the book, and the entire time he was in it.  His story arch was astounding.  My assumption of his motives to go to the west were that of finding a loving wife and being able to settle down.  He always seemed a bit discontent, but tried to, it seemed, fool himself into contentment.  By that I mostly mean his prostitute friend/lover.  The guy was just so ignorantly innocent the entire time I at first thought he was just simply dumb and content.  This proved obviously to be far from the truth as was shown near the end of the book.  I was most deeply affected by him and sat around just thinking about all he had to go through and I felt terrible for the fellow.  His "loving wife" wanted absolutely nothing to do with him, he lived first in the slums then with a bunch of political radicals who he, as it appeared, just didn't understand fully.  I can't help but be crushed along with him at the end with his act of brazen desperation.  All of his hopes and dreams were crushed or just simply did not come to fruition, he was a wreck it turned out who just wanted the love of his wife, who routinely slept with others, often in the next room.  I was forced to feel even worse for him with how he took it all with a grain of salt, still talking to Karim and being friendly even after finding him in bed with his wife.  After I finished reading I thought not of Karim and his search for himself but instead I thought of Changez and the relatively horrible existence he found himself in when all he had before were hopes of happiness.  An example of a fine, round (pun intended) character in a fine book.

Buddha, Alienation, and A Sexual Revolution

Buddha of Suburbia presented some particularly interesting perspectives on life as an individual in a turbulent time. The novel was set in a time period where America was undergoing its own cultural awakening and changes - from civil rights to cold war politics; the British development, though, seems to be just as angst ridden and reflective of a social schism.

I, being as white-bread run-of-the-mill American as one can get, appreciated the peculiar insights to Karim's experiences as a member of a culture but an individual of a society. His journey through England and adolescence seemed, to me, something of an odyssey. He left, so to speak, a comfortable and unanalyzed lifestyle when his father, by becoming involved with Eva, forced Karim to reconsider life as a half-Indian, a sexual being, and even a professional.

I find particularly of interest that Karim eventually settles on not being settled into an identity. Rather than buying into a strictly enforced culture, like that of Anwar's or Changez's or even Larry's, or subscribing to a fluid notion of self-existence amongst the "others" as Jamila does, he simply suspends judgment of himself. To what extent is this noncommittal, poorly definitive stance satisfying and why does Kareishi end the novel on such a note?

My beautiful laundrette

The parallel between this film and the Buddah of Suburbia is undeniable. Having seen the movie and read the book, I am not confident that I know what issues Kureishi found most important. We have learned that Karim, the main character in Buddha of Suburbia, was a somewhat auto-biographical character for Kureishi, and I see some of the same aspects in Omar. Both characters are young Asian men trying to find their way in England. They both have very interesting sex lives involving men to some degree, and they both struggle with the path of their lives. The importance of family is also a theme that spans the two works. Family members play a large role in the lives of both characters, specifically the father. Both works appear to be somewhat auto-biographical, at least symbolically, and intended to highlight the important issues in England in the 70s and 80s, specifically for the Asian community.

A Steamy Situation

As we were asked to read the book, Buddha of Suburbia and watch an occumpaning video one scene directly sticks out in my mind. As the productions feature a very steamy sex seen in the opening moments of their productions, it seems as if this ideology is carried throughout the plot. For instance we know from the movie that the man in sex seen is suppose to be a happily married man. As his wife and son are presented in a scene before. This then raises the question are writters at this time trying to redefine societial temptations. For instance, the man is suppose to be married and have lived a life of a religious man, yet he runs of with a better looking young woman and intimately recieves. While this is going on, his son is messing arounf with another young man and his manhood is questioned by the audience as he continues go back to the situation in which he "feel in love." I have a feeling that these scenes are the preface to the reality of both productions as both seem to question the societal ideologies that many people have placed not only on affairs, but the role of homosexuality in society. I would also argue that these productions question the morals and ethics of British society, as they are presented in a very negative light.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

My Buddhaful Laundrette

Set in South London, MBL has a surprising number of shared themes with BOS (as noted by other bloggers.) You have a young Pakistani (Omar) struggling throughout the ranks of British society to establish himself while sharing the companionship of Johnny, and Englishman who eventually becomes his lover. Also you have somewhat of a rebellious indifference to people around him in the character of Omar, very similar to Karim. What is slightly different from BOS however, is that the initial job provided to Omar is from his Uncle, who is a wealthy Pakistani. Eva, as well as Shadwell and Pyke in contrast were wealthy British folks. There is then an interesting dynamic between Omar and his uncle Nasser who represents something very different from Eva in BOS. He says to Omar after giving him a job, "You will be able to only afford a shirt but at least you are with your own people." At one point he also gives Omar the advice "In this country, which we all both hate and love, you can get anything you want, but you have to learn to squeeze the tits of the system." I think this aptly answers the questions many had as to why the Pakistani's didn't return home. There is a greater prosperity they thought could be achieved. However, it was an exchange that more often than not caused them to lose their identity and become "homeless" in a sense. Later another Pakistani says defensively "This is not my home, how could anyone consider this little island their home." Many of the characters also consider themselves confused and hating this confusion, one character demands that people "make up their mind where they are," and that she was "sick of the in-betweenness." I think this aptly captures the mentality of Hanif Kureishi, who frequently found himself caught between cultures and personalities. I wonder how much this sentiment is reflected by immigrants into other countries (say those who immigrate into the United States for example) or if there was something distinct about British culture that made it more difficult for immigrants to get along. Overall though this movie held far more in common with BOS than different and I found some of the themes at this point perhaps a little overused. MBL was written first though, which makes me think that maybe it was the precursor that allowed Kureishi's later work of BOS.

Identity Crisis

Kureishi's My Beautiful Laundrette (MBL) reeks of many of the same themes as Buddha of Suburbia. Asian/White relationships, economic struggle, homosexual tensions all pervade MBL but the continuing Asian/English identity crisis within the pakistani community takes the cake. In MBL we see this struggle play out between the two brothers Nasser and Papa. With Papa we see a reliance on old mores for Pakistani immigrants-- emphasis on education for advancement but retention of "Paki" cultural identy at the same time. Nasser is the opposite, he proffeses new world ideologies that promote hard manaul labor, money and success at all costs, and taking up western values at the expense of traditional customs. And Omar is caught in the middle, with no real guidance on which path to take, but seems to side with Nasser by running his Laudrette and shacking up with white (former) fascist Johnny. Basically, I concluded that Kurieshi either really struggles with these themes or he simply ran out of creative inspiration for Buddha.

The Laundrette

Hmm, sounds familiar? The titles of the two pieces wouldn’t give it away necessarily … but having watched the film right after reading the novel, Buddha of S., tingles me. I am confronted directly with the striking similarity between Kureishi's first novel and his first film script. (If you don't believe me, examine them both and find it for yourself, as I did. I tell you this because that is not my objective in writing this piece...)

As such, does the messages in Kurieshi's first novel lose their meaning, or novelty, once they are heard and repeated a second time again in his first screen script ?

: Does Omar's cross-racial same-sex exploits merely shadow Karim's free-lance adventures?
If they were a mere shadowing, then we could write them off as similar and be on our merry way. That however, is not as strikingly easy as it may seem.

Arg. A: They are the same: both homosexual relationships (Karim with Charlie; Omar with Johnny) were developmental while, at the same time, self-explorative. This is modeled in the unsteady growth of Karim's excitement with Charlie, and Omar's feelings for Tania preceding his relations. Likewise, they are repetitious.

In response to Arg. A:
Omar, as had been previously mentioned, had a especially meaningful relationship with a single person, opposite of Karim with his multiple sexual exploits (A counterargument could be made at this point that Omar had another especially meaningful relationship with Tania).

Who is correct?
I am a deep advocate that Kureishi wouldn't repeat his characters, or their relationships, so they aren't the same. Game Over, Good match.

My Beautiful Launderette

It’s hard not to watch “My Beautiful Launderette” and not be reminded of “The Buddha of Suburbia” in one small way or another. This goes particularly for the cross culture clash that was one of the major themes of the film and the discussion of social identity. Both Omar and Johnny had to struggle to find their place in both of their own worlds and the one they were helping to shape together, just as with Karim and his journeys through life. The fact that Johnny and Omar were in love with each other, but never found out, was one of the more fun, and sort of fairy tale esque aspects of the film. While I’m not sure if Karim will ever end up with Charlie come “Buddha’s” end, I’m sure that if the book keeps on the realistic track that it is on right now, that might become a more difficult issue for the lead characters than it was for Omar and Johnny. It would have been nice to see some fallout from that. But then again, the fact that they have a true love they can share is always the prettiest of pictures.

My Beautiful Laundrette and Buddha of Suburbia

Through watching "My Beautiful Laundrette", I was able to get a better understanding of the book "Buddha of Suburbia". The movie had a lot of parallels with the book "Buddha of Suburbia". For one thing they both focused on the challenges of growing up as a Pakistani immigrant in London. The main character in both was a boy that wanted something in life, but did not quite know what it was he wanted. They both portrayed a father who was very wise, but not really attentive to their sons needs. And, they both focus on a Pakistani family with important and powerful ties to their homelands. Since there so many similarities, I was able to picture the book in the movie. It was almost like they were happening simultaneously in my mind. By, watching the movie I was able to better see the world that Karim saw in "Buddha". I was also able to see what England was like during the Thatcher reign as Prime Minister. The book opened my mind up to the world of the immigrant in London, and the movie made it real because I could actually see it with my own eyes.

Infidelity in My Beautiful Laundrette, The Buddha of Suburbia

What I found most interesting about My Beautiful Laundrette was its moral imagination, that which decided the consequences of choosing pleasure over duty. Similar to the conflict of Haroon in The Buddha of Suburbia, though perhaps without as much guilt, Nasser chose pleasure over duty by his adulterous affair and so effected Tania's running away and Rachel's skin rash. Kureishi comments, then, on infidelity: as Haroon becomes conflicted in his guilt, so Nasser loses the respect of his daughter and his mistress acquires a skin affliction. Infidelity has a ripple-like effect for Kureishi - it first afflicts the doers, then their most immediate relations, and outward until it reaches the edge of the pond. Yet what moral code does infidelity breach? Kureishi slashes traditional moral codes, portraying his characters as enlivened by drugs and sex and general rebelliousness. Thus his attitude towards infidelity cannot come from these.
It seems there's some connection to cheating on your spouse and cheating on your racial heritage in Kureishi's works. His protagonists, Karim and Omar, must cope with their dual-ancestry like his adulterers, Nasser and Haroon, must cope with their dual-wants, that of fidelity and that of pleasure. As Omar is thrown into a world that does not match his skin color, so Nasser and Haroon are caught in a marriage that does not match their lustful wants - yet each, extending Kureishi's consequences for infidelity, must live not by their desires but by an enduring acquiescence.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Race and Stereotypes in My Beautiful Laundrette

Hanif Kureishi's My Beautiful Laundrette (1985), directed by Stephen Frears, puts a lot of emphasis on race and stereotypes. The name "Powders Laundrette" (why isn't there an apostrophe?), for me, is a great example, a symbol, of the racial tension in the film. Because Omar's laundrette carries this name, it is an example of subverting the racial hierarchy. "Powder" evokes connotations of whiteness; when I think of the word "powder," I think of Victor Salva's Powder (1995), with the main character being an albino, and thus VERY white, man. Thus, because Omar and Johnny, a "Paki" and a white man, respectively, are the owners of "Powders Laundrette," they are (perhaps subconsciously) challenging not only racial tensions but also the notion of racial impurity, or the mixing of two races. To me, the use of the name says, "We are just as normal, pure, and human as anyone else," and it challenges the so-called Thatcherism of the era. Finally, this subversion method also works along the lines of sexuality. I find it interesting that the film depicts both men as quite "masculine" (whatever that means, right?), eschewing the "traditional" stereotypes of gay/bisexual men. Of course, challenging/discussing stereotypes is Hanif Kureishi's specialty, or at least it seems to be, considering the themes we have already seen in Buddha of Suburbia.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Wind Chasing Buddhas

Toward the end of class, the idea came to our discussion that Karim's "courage" to follow whatever made him happy and satisfied his desires was something to be praised, to be envied, to be modeled in our own lives by seeking whatever it is we like best and pursuing that end with no regard to the means.
This idea seems unhealthy to me. Unedifying. While the thrill of very youthful "self-actualizing" late nights and spontaneity is, yes, thrilling, I think a lifestyle defined by those thrills hastily and selfishly overlooks what, ever since the writer of Ecclesiastes wrote all was "a chasing after the wind," has motivated both winsome and fulfilling human lives: service, love, duty, identification with something higher and more important than yourself. It seems to me that the whole lot of these buddhas in suburbia are to be pitied for feeling so self-important. We see in chapters 8 and 9 via Karim's omniscient narration that he is beginning to see such blinding self-importance as a grand sham, a magician's illusion, one that will ultimately like the vanishing rabbit leave you with nothing.
But it's all so very tempting! The rush of late nights, the vigor of youth, loudness without a care, no thought of tomorrow - but like all temptations, I think it proves fruitless. To what end, these adventures? What are Charlie and Karim chasing? Late night euphoric moment after late night euphoric moment, to be sobered by dawn, "a chasing after the wind."

Stream of Conciousness in "Blanc"

I know I might be stretching this a bit. but, if you can apply what you learned in class to something at all, that's a lesson well learned am I right? Anyway, last night I watched the film "Blanc" (presented by Professor Brewer herself). The story revolves around a Polish man who is is divorced by his French wife and left with nothing. With no other options left, he returns home to Poland to think about what to do next. The rest of the plot can't be explained without significant spoilers so I'll leave it at that. The reason why I relate this movie to the concept of Stream of Conciousness is that the French/Polish coupling, at first glance, doesn't seem like it will play another role besides it's setting up of the story itself. The movie, after the divorce trial, then goes off in several directions and thoughts, so many it was almost hard to keep up with at times. However, every so often, the lead character, the Polish guy, would have a brief thought about his ex-wife, obviously missing her. So while the story does tend to go off on several tangents, they all gravitate towards the couple, even though they are seperated for much of the film. This style of story telling, to me, mirrors that of SoC as it starts off with one thought, then heads off in several directions while making brief returns to the starting thought evey so often. Again, it is a bit of a stretch, I understand, but I think this theory works. Check out the film and see if you agree with me.

The Sound of Digging

Heaney's poem "Digging" describes amongst many things the sound of his father working. The second stanza of the poem emphasizes this theme. Heaney's father is sinking his spade into the ground and the sound it makes is described as "a clean rasping sound." The act of digging in my mind is usually not associated with the idea of clean. In fact it digging is dirty. Heaney uses "clean" not so much to describe the physical act of digging but of what it stands for: a good, simple, clean life of the past. Also in the second stanza Heaney uses the alliteration of "spade sinks" and "gravelly ground" to create the sounds of digging. "Gravelly ground" in particular gives one a sensation of a shovel being pushed into gravel and the accompanied grinding sound of grrrrgrrr.

Heaney: Digging

After reading the background information on Seamus Heaney, Digging has a very full feel. The intro explains where Heaney gets his ideas for writing these bog poems. The poem uses a geneological history to glorify his father and grandfather... paying reverence to their skills in life. But not of how great people they were, or what great things they achieved. Rather, he paid homage to their skill of doing what was needed in life, like cutting sod for fuel in their homes. Also, the bog poems are inspired by the bodies found in bogs of Northern Ireland. They were the bodies of men who died for the Mother Goddess in ancient times. Heaney equates that to men who die for Mother Ireland trying to win her independence.
The first thing I noticed about the style of the poem is that it isn't completely rhythmatic. Many poems that deal with monotonous work, like digging, have a very strict rhythm, alluding to the rhythm that is gained when doing such chores. But this poem is quite different. In the first stanza, the first line is a solid 8 syllables; the second line is 8, but divided into two sets of 4. But the stanzas are not uniform, the vary in length from 2 lines to 8 lines, and the syllables per line as well. The rhyme scheme is loose, using slant rhymes occasionally, and sometimes stanzas are written in free verse, giving the poem a feeling of an amagamation. Lots of individual things put together to make one work. In my eyes, I see this as the dirt. Some of the sod is grass covered, some is dark, some light, some is heavy and dense, others are loose and light. Some clods are large, others are small. Just like the dirt, the stanzas and lines give the feeling of the mixture being brought together within in one single work.
Heaney ends the poems saying.
"But I've no spade to follow men like them.
Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I'll dig with it."

This final ending alligns all three men in the poem. The writer is living in a different time and place from his father and grandfather, and needs not to go cut sod for fuel, instead, he writes to make his living. His writing is his occupation, and by doing his job as his father and grandfather did, he will achieve personal greatness in life.


The aspect of the form of Seamus Heaney's Digging that popped out at me is the number of lines in each stanza. The number of lines in each stanze is 2, 3, 4, 5, 2, 8, 4, 3. This appears to me to follow intensity of the poem. As the stanzas get larger through the first half of the poem, it gains in intensity. It picks up as his father's work is described more and more, and then there is a brief moment of reflection in the two-line stanza. The moment is taken to transition from the father to the grandfather. The poem then picks right back up in intensity to describe the grandfathers work. It then tapers off into a tone similar to the one found at the beginning.

Content and Form in "Digging"

The form of Seamus Heaney's "Digging" is quite irregular, on the surface. In total number of syllables, lines range from having 4 to 12 syllables. What I find more interesting, however, is the number of LINES in each stanza. Using a specific number of lines in each stanza, Heaney creates an interesting connection between the form and content of the poem. If we look at the following (rudimentary) visual depiction of the lines, we can see that the lines form a hole (note that I have changed the font to Courier because it treats every character as being the same size, which makes the picture much clearer):

8           -
7           -  
6           -
5       -   -
4     - -   - - 
3   - - -   - - -
2 - - - - - - - -
1 - - - - - - - -

Here, I have put a hyphen for each line in the poem. Basically, what I am asserting is that, if we put each stanza in the poem to the RIGHT of the one before it, instead of right below it, they form a hole. The fifth stanza is the one that forms the bottom of the "hole," as it is very short (it is only a thin layer of "dirt," since the diggers have already dug most of the dirt out):

"By God, the old man could handle a spade.
Just like his old man."

To more clearly understand my meaning, consider the following visual depiction, starting with stanza 4, just before the "hole" begins, and going to stanza 6:

                                                       Than any...
                                                       Once I...
       "The coarse...                       Corked...
       Against the...                       To drink...
       He rooted...                        Nicking...
        To scatter...       "By God...     Over his...
       Loving their..."   Just like..."   For the..."

As we can see, the lines form a hole, and there is perhaps a little bit of left over dirt at the top of the right side (Lines "My..." to "Once I..."), or maybe the lines represent a pen about to fall into the hole, or perhaps a potato ready for planting. Whether this amazing aspect of the form of "Digging" was intentional or not remains to be seen, but I find it fascinating and inspiring.

*NOTE: I hope this looks right on your computer screens. It took a bit of work to get it to come out right, but it is worth it if I can share what I see in the poem.

The Meaning of Digging

By God, the old man could handle a spade.
Just like his old man.

In these lines Heaney is putting his father and grandfather on a higher pedestal. He notices how hard his father strains to do his work. He also views how persistent his father is as he drinks some milk and right away gets back to digging. Heaney uses his father as an example of a good work ethic, wanting to be a hard worker also. Even though he does not use a spade, Heaney implements the same digging mentality with his writing.


The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.

The sound and diction of this portion touches upon the deeper feel of the poem and heightens Heaney's piece. When referring to the "squelch and slap of soggy peat," these chosen onomatopoeias act to "awaken [themselves] in [Heaney's] head," and likewise the reader's. This subtle move by Heaney then reveals an exposé of painted living imagery. As such, they highlight the stark reality inherent in Heaney's father and grandfather's work , before transition smoothely into the vaguely different, yet similar, work of Heaney and his "squat pen." As the onomatopoeias are not provided for Heaney's "finger and [his] thumb, [and where] The squat pen rests", then we can only deduce there is an intrinsic difference between the work of him and his father/grandfather.


The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.

The sound and diction of this portion touches upon the deeper feel of the poem and heightens Heaney's piece. When referring to the "squelch and slap of soggy peat," these chosen onomatopoeias act to "awaken [themselves] in [Heaney's] head," and likewise the reader's. This subtle move by Heaney then reveals an exposé of painted living imagery. As such, they highlight the stark reality inherent in Heaney's father and grandfather's work , before transition smoothely into the vaguely different, yet similar, work of Heaney and his "squat pen." As the onomatopoeias are not provided for Heaney's "finger and [his] thumb, [and where] The squat pen rests", then we can only deduce there is an intrinsic difference between the work of him and his father/grandfather.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Not so Close Analysis of that BUDDHIST NOVEL. Or Buddha of Surburbia

This will be an exercise in close analysis and (hopefully) interpretation, maybe even resulting in some poetic flares and explosive prose.

Where can we begin from such a hectic book? I guess the sexual revolution would be a base point, whereby the world thus discovered the intrinsic pleasure in the opposite sex, and/or their own genitals. I guess the Queen and her conservative pomp-naught had previously locked down all freedom and expression, effectually banning all of the not-so-conventional type, when suddenly someone ventured underground and noticed that breasts were to be admired, not hidden (and thus he spread the ‘infectious diseases’ outward, probably from the tip of his own very cock). As a result, the Buddha, or God, can claim “Eva’s apparent closeness” as a sufficient reason to herald the imminent breakup of the family.

Then perhaps this leads to the discussion regarding the rotting perversion of the institute of the family. When morals dip low, so does the bench of the family standard – for not too soon, it was sunk. Page 69, the young Karim is deeply wanting to subvert the family, rock the boat further to unstabilize the convention (“I wanted to encourage Dad and Eva to get together.”) I wonder if Karim’s every wish will come true in this book (Suprisingly I’m writing this blog post-reading the entire novel, and I still am lost as to where I can conduct a three paragraph blog).

And then there is Karim’s eventual and painful transition from a “young hippie” to something else. At the beginning, all he would do after-school would be “going home to [their] mothers, to our rissoles and chips and tomato sauce, to learn French words and to pack our football gear for tomorrow” (70); this triviality of his schooling life resembles the nonchalance and innocence of ours: there was a shield protecting us from the outside world.

But is Charlie the outside world, outside the nest of innocent Karim? Is he a byproduct of the outside and intoxicated London-esque world? Where does Jamila fit in this?

As seen, this blog is surely not a close analysis, but a broad outlook and summation of the novel, so continue with me, and we’ll see where it chooses to end.

One event that is particularly flagrant and you, as my reader, should take great particular heed is the whole choice by Jamila to flamingly resign herself to a life with arranged marriage with that fat-piece-of-wad Changez (which by the way, remains one of the novel’s most loveable and insightful dopes). At the time when she makes the decision, on page 77, Jamila chooses to sacrifice her life and succuumb to her father’s beckon. That doesn’t remain the situation, for on page 82, Karim interprets the event as a “rebellion against rebellion,” which is later modeled by Jamila’s multiple sexual exchanges with Karim, baby with Simon, and love for her woman, Joanna.

I have viewed Jamila as the most correct person in the novel. She was an observant actor of whom Karim always turned to for advice. Her maintenance and constant outspoken input molded Karim in ways unbeknownst to other characters: Page 108, she exclaims the profusion of “people needing sympathy and care, oppressed people, like our people in racist [Britian], who face violence every day” which would later foreshadow Karim’s involvement with the Pyke movement and race theater.

Empassioned, her character spoke the word of the poor.

And Charlie! O how Charlie ran ahead of Karim (he breaks ground, staying one step ahead of Karim) until Karim’s final departure towards the end of the book.

Probably the most depressing move was Karim’s ignorance towards his mother and his little brother Allie. I counted and Allie was mentioned probably only four times throughout the novel. But Allie was the symbol for dropped Indian heritage, and English or Western acceptance (he was involved in style, and not of religion, of Italian and France, and not of Anwar’s flat), whereas Karim was battling over the dual identity.

I only choose to describe characters because that is how the novel was presented. As an adventure of X amount of Characters dropped into a shifty, shady time period.. .and their results are the novel of Hanif Kureshi.


As Heaney depicts his hardworking grandfather and father through out his poem Digging, one is able to see the values that are viewed as significant in his life. One is able to see that work ethic is moral issue that the Heaney family holds to a great value. This is a very important part of Heaney's life because he uses the symbol of a spade, which is able to produce all that is needed for the family from wealth to the ability to substain life with food. As this spade is used in a symbolic way, one is able to see that a pen is the spade in Heaney's life as he wants to be able to support his family and produce children with the same ethicsaas his father has engrained with him as well as supported him in things he has done. One Ideology that many people dont think about is the fact that Heaney views his father and grandfather to a mythical stance or as heros. I would argue that Heaney in fact represents a lot of these characteristics as he presents many values that he finds creditible in his father and Grandfather.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

That 'Literating Spade

"Under my window, a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down"

The image of Seamus inside, at his window, looking down upon his father digging into the "gravelly ground," reinforces the main contrast of the poem: Seamus works inside with a pen, while his father works outside with a spade. The alliteration in the stanza, "spade sinks" and "gravelly ground," is connected with the description of his father working below in the field, not with him at the window writing. This might seem odd: alliterations are the tools of authors, not diggers. Why then use them to describe his father?
Looking at his other clear use of alliteration in the poem in stanza 7, we see again that not to describe his writing but to describe his father's digging is alliteration used. "Squelch and slap of soggy peat" and "curt cuts" describe the world outside, not inside, and by using a literary tool to describe his father's work Seamus connects the pen more intimately with the spade. As the spade is reaching into the context of his writing, so his writing form is reaching into the digging of a spade. By applying his literary skills to the description of his father's trade, Seamus further defines the link between pen and spade, so that as the pen can dig, so can the spade alliterate.

Having fun Digging with Seamus Heaney

If one wants to go for basics on the topic of sound influencing content, then one of the simplest approaches to take with “Digging” would be the overall tone of the poem itself. Hinted at slightly in the beginning, yet taking full form from line 15 onward, the poem’s tone is definitely that of a ode or a fond memory of two very important idols in the authors life, especially his Grandfather, whose awesome digging skills are the main subject of lines 17-24. And, as we pointed out in class when we discussed this poem, while the author cannot continue in the digging traditions of his father and grandfather as they dug to keep the past alive, Heaney states that he can still continue their proud digging in his own way, by writing. This poem gives both of them plenty of well deserved respect from Seamus Heaney’s memories and judging from the sound of the lines and fluidity of the poem, he had a lot of fun in writing these fond memories down on paper to share with the rest of the world.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Pound Lecture.

I'm a little late on this, but here goes.

I didn't really enjoy the talk as much as I would have like to. I found slightly--empty. I was hoping for an in-depth discussion about Pound's teaching carreer and how he was accepted in this small town around the turn of the century. But, unfortunately, little was really discussed on this matter. The professor didn't seem to know too awful much about the details of his school career other than that he was quite bohemian in nature and not as conservative as many of the fellow professors would have liked him to be. Most of lecture was on how his months in Crawfordsville affected his writings later in his life. I found some of his findings interesting, but to tell the truth, they weren't groundbreaking, and frankly, some of them were a slight stretch. All in all, I think his first five to ten minutes were the most interesting, the rest was just... filler. he may have been more interesting if we would have had him in a more personal setting, but as we discussed in class, that didn't seem to help really at all.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

O, Ezra .. Where has the art gone?

O, Ezra .. Where has the art gone?

I will not rant on for another second,
Or wasted description, for pictures are not pure,
Muddled only .. when fighting with nonsense.

O Ezra, memories of your trip to us could
Not be Analyzed
Not be Discussed
Talked on about, talked around about, the sounds of how,
You were misplaced on
Our campus walls -- we walled you in.

But that is home to you?
And that is important to you?
For Paris was not the cultural center, and neither was Crawfordsville, how true!

Even today.
Enough already,
with draining your dead corpse of its thoughts,
I am sick of hearing mongrels discuss (with smirks!!) your talented limitations.

And who can compare to you, manifested in your red scarlet robe of Images and
Language, Rhythm and Rhyme,
For even you said,
"Pay no attention to the criticism of men who have never themselves written a notable work."

-- This poem was in response to the gentleman's speech about Pound. I know that he was not critical of Pound or his work, but nevertheless I was deeply disturbed by his blather, critics in general, and their misplacement of the artistic valor of others.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Pound At Home

The title "Pound at Home" for Dr. James Longenbach's lecture is perfect. The lecture focused on how Ezra Pound found solace and his sense of home, when he was alone and as far away as possible from his native Idaho. Longenbach argues that "home," for Pound, meant being someplace where he was with others of his own kind--Artists interested in putting their life's work to creating another renaissance, a renaissance of the renaissance as Longenbach puts it. Indeed, it seems Pound's lifelong ambition was to rejuvenate western culture, to remember the past but also feel its layers, to embed the past into the texture of the present. All the while, "Pound was stuck in a world that refused to acknowledge the poets power to make the world a better place." Thus, he was at home spreading his renaissance, when he was the most alone. He was never in exile, Pound was at home in Paris, London, Rapallo, even Crawfordsville. He was at home when he was spreading his dream, and if you look at it that way and consider he did that all his life , Pound was the luckiest man alive.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Longenbach on Ezra Pound

Professor Longenbach's lecture "Pound at Home: The Crawfordsville State of Mind" filled in some blank spots in my knowledge of Ezra Pound's brief tenure at Wabash. While I knew the story of the "lady-gent impersonator," Longenbach's rendition opened my mind and paved the way for an interesting, and at times humorous, lecture/discussion of Pound. It was interesting to read from "Three Cantos II," knowing that it takes place in our very own Crawfordsville. The story of Fred Vance, in the poem, is intriguing because, before I read it, I had been under the impression that Pound did not like Crawfordsville (which he really DIDN'T) and had no friends here. Moreover, the poem draws connections between Vance and Pound: in Pound's eyes, both he and Vance were "noble" failures, and both lived in a place they didn't choose (Crawfordsville), dreaming—not living—their respective "Renaissances." What I found most interesting about the lecture was that Pound associated the "Crawfordsville state of mind" with good writing; it was only when he was in that "miserable" state of mind that he could suffer enough to write something of any value, and Pound could only get into such a state while he was in Crawfordsville, London, or Paris. Venice, for example, offered him no misery and, thus, nothing about which to write. Lastly, I was also interested in Pound's maxim "make it new" and the fact that he used language in a way that made common translations fresh and exciting (Old English in "Canto I," from a Latin translation of a Greek translation). I wonder if we lose much when we read it in modern English; this was one aspect that Longenbach did not discuss, and I only JUST realized that it would have been a good place for elaboration/elucidation.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Ezra Pound Lecture

The Ezra Pound lecture by Mr. James Longenbach (forgive me if I misspelled his last name) was a pleasant surprise to me. My attention was quickly captured by Professor Hudson’s introduction of Pound and Mr. Longenbach’s subsequent facts and findings. I was most surprised to hear about Pound’s exile-esque way of life, which sort of hit a cord with me considering I just did a paper of the pros and cons of the life of an exile for my Postcolonial Literature and Theory course. What I really liked about the presentation as a whole is the possibility of placing all of Pound’s poetry into a singular volume and calling it the Artistic Biography or Ezra Pound as each poem in one way or another illustrates a key moment in his life right up until his death (as I realized with Contos 20 which I read after the lecture). What I find kind or ironic and sad is how little Pound thought of himself and his accomplishments throughout his life. While he never achieved the “Renaissance” utopia he dreamt of his entire life, he is still a revered author and one of the greatest literary minds of our age with a large list of accomplishments and places traveled, including here at Wabash. This lecture helped to instill this thought in my head and actually feel sorry for the poor guy. If only he could see today just how much of a profound affect his works have had on the literary community and English courses everywhere. All in all, it was a hell of a good time. Good work Mr. James.

A Flimmaker's Apocalypse

Since I leaning towards doing my final paper of Conrad's Heart of Darkness and Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse now, I figured I'd do a bit of long awaited research into the making of the latter. I found in the library a 1991 documentary film comprised of homemade footage from the time Coppola and his wife spent in Vietnam making the film. Let me tell you, if HoD and Apocalypse Now are both stories about men going made and confronting their own demons in the darkness, then this story fits right in with that little genre of story telling. The filming process, as it turns out, was hell. It took almost three years of filming to get a properly finished cut, the one that made it to theaters. And during those three years, Coppola was at odds with everyone, screenwriters, actors, the film studios, all because the constant changes in story and direction nearly sent, or rather did send, Coppola over the edge. An interesting sidestory is the filming of the openign sequence, where Martin Sheen as Willard dances crazily around his room, toiling in anguish. This sequence was filmed while Sheen was still a heavy drinker and smoker, all of his reactions in the scene, even the unexpected breaking of the mirror, are all genuinely real and not scripted. A perfect example of confronting ones own demons. And that's just the beginning of the many side stories that plauged the films production. So many, I can't put them all in this one blog. You just have to check it out for yourself.

The name of the film is "Heart of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse" and it is on our VHS rack in Lily Library. I highly recommend it for anyone who loves the film and wants to know just how hectic is was to get made. No disappointments here.

Penance in Paris, London, and the Trenches

In Orwell's writing and life I think we see a better reaction to colonialism than that presented by O'Brien, Conrad, McKibben's analysis and Achebe's criticisms. Like O'Brien and Conrad, he lived in the fields of colonialism, serving in Burma a post that showed to him the "futility of white man's presence in the East." However, in contrast to the two mentioned above, Orwell seems more morally and intellectually offended by his country's occupation of the East, and because of this reception molds his future life to, in a way, pay penance for the Burmese woes. Instead of calling the rich to give to the poor or lamenting the poor in public speeches or writings, he seeks to understand their situation and so falls willingly into poverty. He trades a comfortable life for a "down and out" toil in Paris and London.
We see a similar move by Churchill of comprimising his comfort and luxury to relate and justify himself to the people when, after his failed military plan turned into a massacre, he enlisted in the trenches. Such was his penance. Such is real empathy - not to damn privilege, but to willingly forgo it and so, by choice, live a life without it.

Orwell Vs. Churchill

The Documentary that was presented enlighted its audience to very profound comparison and contrast between one of the greatest authors of all time and one of the greatest leaders of all time. It was evident that while many people today view these two as great, in their own respects, it was not the overwelming majority as their popularity grew in their respective time frames. Orwell was seen as to far fetch and radical where Churchill was to traditionally based, yet both of their theories were able to coincide almost uncompetitevly. Both of these men were able to produce greatness through too completely different mind sets. This is where Orwell and Churchill are able to be compared. Both men through their own vehicles are able to establish great common support and are able to establish belief systems that allow for them to succeed.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Two Winstons

From the movie, I learned a great deal about the two Winstons. On one hand there was Churchill, who even though made mistakes was able to lead England through a rough period of war. Then there is Orwell, who influenced England through his writings. One thing I found fascinating was the savior of England Churchill. Even though he went through upsets in his wrongful decisions, he was able to get back up and stay strong leading the English. Great men become better through learning from their mistakes. I also found that Orwell was a self made accomplishment. Quite the opposite of Churchill's lavish childhood, Orwell came from a poor neighborhood and later established himself as a great writer.

The Two Winstons

I was surprised at the parallels between Churchill and Orwell's lives, especially in their early years. Both of their boarding school days seem to have had a profound affect on their lives and future actions. Although both had clearly different views on this experience. The movie demonstrated that Churchill became fascinated with history in school, while Orwell was the opposite, he despised the pointlessness of memorizing dates. After school their parallel lives continued with their first failed attempts in the military or police, and then they both dropped out of society in a way. Orwell literally, and Churchill forced out due to his military miscues. I expected this intersection to be the last in their lives, as Churchill eventually becomes one of the greatest figure heads of a nation, and Orwell an author appalled by big brother government. From what little of knew of these two men's histories and their writings, I expected them to have an ideological clash at the very least. Needless to say I was very surprised when they were able to come together in a way, through their mutual fear/hatred for communism and socialism, ideologies taking over and destroying continental Europe at the time.

The Two Winstons

The Two Winstons was a lot more enjoyable then many of the other documentaries that we have seen in class. First of all, one of the reasons why I enjoyed the video so much was the fact that 1984 is one of my favorite books. I first read this sophomore year in high school and I still find myself going back and reading it. So being able to learn more about the author really made me pay attention. I thought it was quite weird that two men from different backgrounds live the beginning of their live parallel to each other. But it was their families that made them go in different directions. What I mean by this is that Churchill’s family was rich and a lot better off then Orwell’s. This is what led to Churchill to politics and Orwell to writing.

The Two Winstons

The Two Winstons presented George Orwell and Winston Churchill in a way that I never would have pictured them before. I knew of each man's importance individually, but I had no idea that they were connected in even the most remote way. It was interesting to see how both men came from similar circumstances to hold similar ideals yet approached things in such different ways. Both men came from middle to upper class families and were sent to boarding school for a large portion of their childhood. Both men also grew up to care a great deal abou the British well-being. However, they tackled the issue in different ways. Churchill dove right into the fray and got involved with politics. He eventually climbed the ladder and was elected prime minister. From this position, he continuously strove to improve the British condition. Orwell chose to educate the population about the negative possibilities out there through his literature. This was a much less direct approach, but it was none the less effective.

Dos Winstons - Double the Trouble, Cancel Out the Trouble, or Wicked what?

Dos Winstons - Double the Trouble, Cancel Out the Trouble, or Wicked what?

Hmm. I have to say, regardless of others and their opinions, that those two men are modern Heroes. Their vivacity -- quite extraordinary.

However, as the film pointed out, they were inevitably on the other side of the fence … with regards to even their own homeland. One, a pudgy looking bulldog and the other a sharp snappy willow branch.

But that description fits them quite adequately: One relied on the cuff of his sleeve and the brute power of such…. Which was inevitably referring to his spoken voice - the loud boom. The other, waited and took the quieter approach, silent until bam -- inspiration flooded his pen and boom .. On the paper.

What was quite interesting however was the fact they were on opposite sides …
One would have given himself to the Motherland, knowing with every fiber in his body that Mother England was the only thing stopping the world from falling.
And the other would hope that the Motherland would fall, knowing also with every fiber that England was totalitarian in other respects, holding the Imperialist Empire as she did.

One wrote Novels and parables, the other Rhetoric and tirades.

One however, was born before and died after the other…. Mostly all the while in the public eye.
The other died early and was born late… the death occuring slowly, coldly and silently in the Cotswold Sanitorium (

Both would work often with pen in hand. But only one descended purposefully to the depths of the poverty, so that he may truly acknowledge "how the other half lives."

Both would change the world. But only one stood up bravely against all those ((in charge of his nation)) solely for her defense … So that Her golden flag should proudly flap.

In the end, I ask… where they are Double the Helping, Cancel out in smithereens in their Graveyards, or Divinely what…?

Canings Without the Promise of the Perks

I thought that it was very interesting that both men went to boarding schools very young and had little to no contact with their parents. Think about that, To have a child and then, basically, sent them away and hope the mold to become a good person. It is a wonder to me how successful boarding schools really are. It was also very interesting how the film marvelled Orwells accomplishments and brought a shinning light to them, but with Churchill I felt that they down-played him until his infamous speeches. It was interesting because the narrator said that both boys "were put to the cane", but Orwell had them without the promise of the perks. The perks are suppose to shape a man for the real world, as it did for both Churchill and Orwell. The great part about comparing these two, was as the documentary suggested both Winston and Orwell appealled to their respective classes. Churchill was the aristocarat, and Orwell was the middle class.

The Two Winstons Reaction

The Two Winston’s was a pretty interesting story of two respectable men who are on different sides of the social spectrum. In a way it was a classic team up of sorts as both men wound up lending their skills to fight a common cause in order to protect the country their both hold dear. Yes, their methods and allegiances were different, Churchill to the high officials and Orwell to lower class society, but in the end it was both of their amazing skills that brought England into a new and prosperous age. I’ll agree with Nolan on this being far superior to “The Empire of Good Intentions.” If we had more men like Churchill and Orwell influencing England at the time of that documentary, the world would be a far better place.

The Two Winstons

The chapter of Simon Schama's History of Britain entitled The Two Winstons essentially speaks to varying perspectives of British history in the early 20th century. Through the lens of two very different, though equally historically focused men, The Great Commoner Winston Churchill and the acclaimed novelist George Orwell, Schama presents a tumultuous history from the both the top and the bottom of the socioeconomic hierarchy. These two men helped to shape the history they were to live-- "reading it, writing it, making it." From Churchill we see the Britain of the political elite-- snobby, sure, and intensely patriotic. From Orwell we see the under side of the British Empire, ruthless imperialism and impoverished destitution and these notions become evident to Orwell while he acts as a police officer in India. Orwell notes, "I realized the hollowness and futility of the white mans dominion in the East...and how I was an absurd puppet." But eventually, the two men would come to agree on one thing at least, the need to defend England against tyranny, oppression, and slavery in the form of Nazi Germany and the need for victory at all costs. Schama concludes the program with a thought on history...its not meant to revere the dead, rather, its meant to inspire the living. And I think that is the essential purpose of his chapter. Much like Orwell's detestation of boarding school peers for not understanding the meaning behind the history they were so apt to memorize, Schama expects his readers/viewers to realize the importance of history...not on the past, but on the present and the future. To steal a line from Schama, "I think that neither Churchill nor Orwell would have minded that very much, and as a matter of fact, neither do I."

The Two Winstons

I found this chapter of “History of Britain” to be a lot more enjoyable than the last. The comparison of Winston Churchill and George Orwell at first surprised me, but then I found myself seeing and looking for ways that they were alike. I found it fascinating that two people that were polar opposites had so much in common. In my mind both Orwell and Churchill were so alike because they both lived their history. When Orwell wanted to write “Road to Wigan Road”, he went out and experienced the coal mines and he threw himself into his research, experiencing what the characters in the book were experiencing. Winston Churchill did the same when he was fired from the position of First Lord of the Admiralty; he joined the front line and fought in the trenches during World War One. Both men reinvented themselves throughout their lifetimes. In the end of their lives they both outgrew their own godlike lives. Orwell escaped it, while Churchill embraced it. The two Winstons opened my eyes to the real people of the real people, not just the godlike figures.

The Two Winstons

This movie was somewhat enjoyable. I enjoyed the way they made parallels between Orwell and Churchill. It was fascinating how their lives were oddly alike, but also very different. They seemed to be paralleled opposites of each other, which was very interesting to see in the film. Both men had wealthy parents, Churchill's was royalty, a Duke, and Orwell's father was an opium mogul. Both men went off to boarding school. However, Churchill was very interested in History, to go as far as it was nearly his religion. Orwell wasn't that interested in History, or anything else for that matter. Where Churchill was excelling in school, Orwell couldn't care less. He was indifferent and became slightly rebellious in his academic apathy. Churchill pulled his strings and got to be in the action of WWI, but Orwell couldn't, and felt a guilt for not experiencing the horrors of war. While Churchill was working as the First Lord of the Admiralty the first time, Orwell was in Burma, working for the police. He defected from the police to become an author, and became a homeless tramp to gain experiences to write about. Likewise, Churchill's fame was dwindling, and his party was tired of his politics. Having been demoted, Churchill began to write books himself. Oddly enough, Orwell went to Spain during this time to help train rebels fighting against the fascist socialists taking over Spain.
Their entire life interetwined in an oddly parallel way, at least, through the eyes of the movie. The film did a great job of comparing the two men, though the similarities and intertwinement may have been exaggerated.

Response to "The Two Winstons"

Watching the "Two Winstons" section of Schama's documentary, the first significant idea that grabs my attention is that of the Chinese opium "habit." I use quotes here only to emphasize that "habit" may not exactly be the correct word; by using this word, and failing to elaborate, the documentary puts a more-than-deserved negative slant on the Chinese, failing to mentioned that it was the British and Indian governments that instigated the Chinese addiction to opium in the first place. Once opium was officially outlawed in China, and many Chinese were already addicted, Britain and India continued to sneak it in, which was infuriating, as the Chinese government (and many commoners) found opium use to be immoral and unhealthy, an alarming trend that needed to be eradicated. However, the illegal British/Indian triangular trade with China—in which the British could avoid coming into contact with the Chinese at all by using Indian ships to do their "dirty work"—continued for years, and this lead to the Opium Wars. See John Fairbank and Merle Goldman's China: A New History (2006; Belknap Press) for more/specifics, especially pages 196 to 200. Jonathan Spence is also very good.

With that out of the way, I should probably focus on the actual topic of the documentary: Winston Churchill and Winston Smith. Honestly, the "Two Winstons" aspect of the documentary is difficult to follow. Eric Blair and "George Orwell" (a pen name) seem to be interchangeable in the documentary, and this makes the viewing experience rather tedious. Perhaps I missed Schama's first allusion that Eric Blair WAS, in fact, George Orwell; as such, the realization that Blair and Orwell are one in the same needs to be made clearer, and from the very beginning. I often find myself wondering who Schama is talking about. Who is this Eric? I also find myself wondering why the documentary strays away from the Winstons. In fact, it does not (well, not really, anyway), and I do not realize this until at least twenty minutes into the documentary. Upon realizing that Blair is Orwell, and Orwell is Blair, I further realize that the documentary provides essential historical/biographical insight into Orwell's writings; had I had time to read the optional Orwell assignment, this information might have been vital and/or enlightening. As such, for me, the documentary merely provides historical insight into British history and biographical insight into Winston Churchill (e.g. ideas about writing and democracy), as well as an introduction to Orwell, who I now know was born Eric Blair. In all, the documentary provides a fairly in-depth look at Churchill (e.g., I did not know that the "majority of his party" mistrusted him, at least during the evacuation of children), but it seems that identity confusion hurts the Orwell aspect of the film, making the "Two Winstons" connection more difficult to see/understand (at least for me, that is). Furthermore, in Schama's treatment of the Chinese as well as that of America, his bias as an Englishman definitely shows—which Kyle pointed out.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Dueling Winstons

While I think this episode of the documentary is slightly more agreeable than the last I still have some minor complaints. For example, the obvious glorification of Churchill and Orwell is perhaps merited. I think it is perhaps distorting however, because the build up of the British state of desperation in WWII only to mention in passing the involvement of America in the war and in a disdainful way upsets me slightly and makes me think these movies were made solely for the glorification of Britain under the guise of fair historical treatment. I kept waiting for the mention of American involvement and the result was one passing and pejorative comment "if Britain had to be the unwilling sidekick of America in order to fight off the oppression of fascism then so be it." This statement hurt me as an American citizen. First it made it sound like world war II was fundamentally a British conflict and in effect their "crusade against evil" and that American involvement was an inconvenient dulling of British pride that had to be swallowed. With all these grandiose description of Churchill as the pinnacle of British culture and the savior of Britain in a time of need you would think that a few words could be spared for American involvement in the war. It is not difficult to believe that without American involvement in WWII Hitler would not have been taken down, and yet the movie seemed to make the statement that without Winston Churchill Hitler would not have been brought down. Even though it is a documentary on British history rather than American I still hate the slighted way the movie treated this. How long does disdain for American involvement in World War II have to last?

Monday, March 17, 2008

Passage to India

This movie is significant especially in the realm of indigenous people film. As we can see through out the movie steretypes of people are being portrayed. You have you indigenous people who fight of the oppression as well as the contradictory group who see nothing wrong with what is going on. This all changes however when the young girl accuses the man of rape, as we then see all the people who are being oppressed engage in a "revolt" or overthrowing of the oppression. As man scholars would announce this as a very traditional film, one is able to see that many problems still occur in a modern day society.


Patrick Long
Professor Brewer
Gaelic Passage

The Importance of Gaelic

Pg.44 "It really was rapid... Gaelic of all is well-nigh unintelligible.”

This passage is relevant as our author presents Gaelic in a very negative tone. Our author is presumably from Ireland yet during this story, he points to Ireland original language as jargon or “swearing drunkenly.” At this point our author feels that the language that was spoken by his ancestors and the people of the west is nothing more than a drunken man swearing at him with no relevance or systematic thought. This quickly turns as in the very next sentence our author develops Gaelic as a very difficult language to understand and to speak fluently. By doing this the audience is able to see that while the author feels that Gaelic is not so much the fact that it sounds like a drunk blabby it is the fact that Gaelic is very hard to understand and unfortunately if you are not used to this form of language you are going to be very frustrated and unable to understand. This is when our author makes the biggest stance of all. He states “Good Gaelic is difficult but that the best Gaelic is well-nigh unintelligible. Here our author furthers his stance that if you have no encounters and are not used to the language that even with someone who speaks good Gaelic you are going to be lost and with someone who is fluent you are going to have no recollection of anything that is being said.
The question however still remains, is Gaelic any different than any other second or third language that a person is trying to learn and that has very little training in the art of language. For instance many students are forced to take a second language even if they have not intent on ever studying it any further than a first year student. But do they still not have these same instances of struggle. I can remember looking back on much of my Spanish training and thinking that I have no idea what this person is saying yet I had been studying the language for three or four years. I can understand where our author is coming from as our story teller is presented as a man from Ireland with little experience with his native language. So inherently without studying the language our story teller is obviously going to find someone speaking Gaelic to “swear drunkenly.”

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Blog On Orwell. Or A Lesson In A Beauty.


As an author, Orwell was simplistic. I scrutinized his style and hoped to find something out of the ordinary: nothing came. But, on the contrary, perhaps the fact that Orwell navigates without a 'superfluity' in style is a style, in and of itself. He was, after all, one of the twentieth century's keystone authors.

But maybe he attained his title for other reasons. As an author, Orwell would elucidate elusive points for his audiences, maneuvering political and social impasses with ease. As the imperialist "elephant" slaughterer, he paralleled every Englishman at that time, squeezed betwixt the grip of the Queen and the glares of the natives, wherever they may be.

Why didn't he slaughter a tiger, or some predator? Why did Orwell's story deem him to attack a useful and "costly piece of machinery?" (81) If it had been a predator, then Orwell would have been useful and a grace to the Burmese natives. But that wasn't what Orwell attempted to say: He sent for the rifle initially, only to "defend [himself] - if necessary" (81). The elephant wasn't a 'threat,' either. Though he was influenced by a state of "must," the elephant, at the time that Orwell chose to shoot him, was passive, or "took no notice if you left him alone, but he might charge if you went too close to him" (82).

Therefore, as I propose to you, perhaps Orwell was writing to truly espouse once again the inherent damage of his presence as an 'imperialist'. The underlying protest against the "dirty work of [the] Empire" (79) was modeled by Orwell's choice, as an author, to force Orwell, the narrator, to shoot a working Burmese elephant. The author's choice was conscious and deliberate, and suggesting that the Empire was intervening incorrectly outside of its jurisdiction.

Nevertheless, there is evidence suggesting Orwell wrote not for the above reason, but rather to outline another side of his dilemma: the Indians' reciprocal and reactive psychological pressure. As the piece began, the narrator Orwell waged an internal war, battling the Indians' devilish, antagonistic ways and "sneering yellow faces of young men" (79). Likewise, leading up to the point of noticing the crowd (bottom of 81) he was a rational actor, resolute in his decision in opting "not to shoot [the elephant]" (81).

Afterwards however, in the aside seemingly interspersed throughout the next page , Orwell discloses the truism that "every white man's life in the East was one long struggle" (82). This is elemental. His life was a battle, and after noticing the immensity of the crowd, had to "act like a sahib… resolute [and] knowing his own mind" (82). But only if Orwell, the narrator, could know his own mind, then perhaps the elephant, wouldn't have died "very slowly and in great agony" (83).

For my own bewilderment, I pose this question to you: Does this jostle the mind of another author we have read? Is not Orwell reminiscent of Conrad?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Poor Mouth

In the opening chapters of this book, an audience member could place themself in the grandfathers house, sitting on the big red footstole, listening to him tell stories about his life. In the opening chapter one recieves a very interesting background of our story teller. One understands that our storyteller is from Ireland and that he speaks in Gaelic, or the traditional language of Ireland. We also learn that he is brought up by his grandfather and his mother on their farm. This chapter sets the presedent for many more of the stories that will further develop our storytellers life.
In Chapter six one is able to see many of the traits allow the audience to see the time in which our storyteller is presenting his lifetime. The audience must note that our storyteller is living during a time that women are deemed to be insufficient to men and objects for marriage rather than an object of love. This is most easily to be seen when our storyteller tells the story of when he asks his father where the best women are going to be found. He then discovers that the best women will be in the rose bush and he quickly attends to find a perfect women for him.
Through out this novel, one is able to see that the author is trying to portray the life of a young man in Ireland through out the turn of the century. Many of the stories seem to have a brief moment of sattirism in them yet, one can still see many of the same traits in a grandfather to grandson story today. As the life of our storyteller develops, so does the understanding of an Irish life, atleast as it is presented to the audience.

Poor Mouth

It may be relatively obvious that the Poor Mouth is intended to be humorous, but despite its obvious nature, the use of humor is very important to the book. It is used to probe into the minds of the truly Gaelic to reveal their thoughts and feelings about their heritage and to poke fun at the unrelenting Gaelic sense of pride. The most prominent theme in the book is the Gaelic mindset that everything that can go wrong will go wrong. Irony is probably the most effective means of highlighting this theme, and is seen at virtually every twist and turn of the story.

There are innumerable examples of the Gaelic everything that can go wrong will go wrong mentality, but a few are the most obvious and useful. The first is the Gaelic feis. It is intended to be a huge celebration, but although there is celebrating, a number of people die. Eight died simply from dancing too much. This shows that even in times of celebration the Gaels can not escape their fate. A second example is Bonaparte O'Coonassa's, or Jams O'Donnell, marriage. Again, when things are going great tragedy strikes. He is finally married and even has a baby boy, and basically out of no where his wife and child die. A third example is O'Coonassa's fate at the end of the story. He becomes very rich when he finds the gold pieces hidden in the mountain with Maeldoon O'Poenassa, but he ends up being falsely accused and convicted of murdering an English man and gets 29 years in prison.

Although to a lesser extent, the book also makes fun of the strong sense of Gaelic pride. The author makes fun of Gaelic names giving every character a surname of O'blanknassa. He also repeatedly points out that the native land of these Gaelics is a place that no one would ever want to call home. And he makes fun of the fact that all Gaels are dirt poor. But he also gives a sense that the Gaelic people are content with their situation and that they basically own it because it is part of what makes them Gaelic. If they were to escape the hardships and find prosperity, then they would no longer be able to call themselves truly Gaelic.

George Orwell's Elephant

The Shooting of an Elephant by George Orwell turned out to be a very fascinating read. I enjoyed the beginning the most, in which the soldier (I wasn’t sure if this was Orwell himself or the event of a fellow soldier he happened to witness) goes into detail about his being torn between his duty to the empire and his massive envy for the people who hate him the most. It is one of the first texts I’ve read in this course in which the British Empire is badmouthed from within for a change and not sugarcoated with supposed goodness a la Empire of Good Intentions. But what I really liked about the essay was Orwell describing the soldier who chooses to do his duty for the sake of non-embarrassment, “here was I, the white man with his gun, standing in front of the unarmed native crowd…I perceived in this moment that when the white man turns tyrant, it’s his own freedom that he destroys. He becomes a sort of hollow, posing dummy…for it is the condition of his rule that he shall spend his life trying to impress the “natives” and so in every crisis he has got to so what the “natives” expect of him.” (2381-2382) It reminded me of two things: 1. “The Hollow Men”, the power they gain destroying them from the inside, making them aloof to the chaos they cause for victory; and 2. A popular student who will pull off any kind of dare in order to stay popular and not show fear of losing.

Politics and the English Language

Orwell repeatedly mentioned in his essay the risks of cluttering sentences with Greek and Latin-derived polysyllabic words, saying that these, instead of communicating a precise meaning via an image, muddle meaning in a fog of abstraction. "...Latin words [fall] upon the facts like soft snow, blurring the outlines and covering up all the details" (2391). He then, rightly so, says Latin-drenched sentences usually come from the mouths or pens of politicians and lawyers - and it is strange then to think what reasons are given to young pupils to encourage them to study the classical languages.
If my Internet were working now, I would pull up a quotation from a page I viewed months ago when first deciding to study Greek, but I think the example so familiar that a quotation would be needless. Greek and Latin are encouraged for those interested in pursuing law or political occupations. It is obvious, then, that such diction would come from the mouths and pens of lawyers and politicians. However, if such diction muddles meaning, and students are encouraged by educators to study Greek and Latin so that they may later use Greek and Latin etymology to bolster their sentences - why are they encouraged? Should they be encouraged?
It seems that students, then, are encouraged to study Latin and Greek for the wrong reasons. Rather than appeal to future lawyers and politicians on the basis of the languages' ability to boost their vocabulary, educators should emphasize the rhetoric that flourished in ancient Roman and Greek oratory and the literature to which ours pales in comparison.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A Passage to India

If you look at just the first portion of the movie, it presents an interesting difference in the attitudes of the British characters. It seems those that have been in India for an extensive period of time have become the embodiment of imperialism. Characters like Ronny exhibit these attitudes of oppression and a sense of being better. However, characters like Adela Quested present a very different attitude. She is very excited to see how the Indians live and to meet Indian people. She seems to have no oppressive ideas whatsoever. Now, this all being given, the movie tells a lot about human nature. Eventually, Adela loses her feelings of benevolence and accuses Dr. Aziz, a good Indian man, of rape. This shows that humans are affected by their surroundings. When Adela began to see small reasons why others held oppressive attitudes she began to change her views. It was almost if she was falling back into the safety net of her British brethren. The strange country and people changed who she was.

A Passage to Oppression

In the movie A Passage to India, the themes are oppression and the dominance of one people over another group of people. The movie takes place in India under British rule. The British treat the Indians very poorly. For instance, at the beginning of the movie two Indian men riding bicycles were run off the road by British officials riding in their cars. It's the first visit to India for Adela Quested, but she is quick to oppress Dr. Aziz by accusing him of rape. This shows the lack of respect the British had towards the Indians because Dr. Aziz was ridiculed and had his personal business thrown out into the public. Then Adela decided to drop the charges for no reason. And even though she dropped the charges, it still seemed like she believed that Dr. Aziz was guilty of the crime. 

A Passage to Oppression

Monday, March 10, 2008

L. of Inish...

... began by intentionally and obviously opening up a new conclusion for the parable of the good Samaritan. Donney, an Irish lad inclined to sniff shoe polish and daydreaming, upon finding a battered cat in the road, doesn't pass by like, come to find out, he should, but instead picks up the thing and turns a dining room table into its hospital bed. This, as the play continues, will prove to be a mistake that will cause a gross amount of blood to later color the stage - and so from the beginning we see the "good Samaritan," Donney, not being so celebrated. Further, instead of being celebrated, the ensuing treatment of Donney the tenderhearted cat-carer brings a Lennon tune to mind: "If you had the luck of the Irish, you'd be sorry and wish you were dead..."
And death wishes - or, rather, death warrants - came quickly. Not just your neighbor's cat, the battered cat in the road turned out to be the very beloved cat of one crazed Padriac, member of the Irish Republican Army and notorious madman. What agony Padriac inflicted on those who happened on his bad side was the equivalent of the affection he dealt and felt for his cat.
So the play continues, absurdly piling up futile efforts to escape what was presented as inevitable violence and efforts by others to inflict violence. By the end of it, the "luck of the Irish" was Irish luck indeed, when, after five or so deaths and a kitchen "repainted" red, Padriac's cat meows and crawls from the kitchen corner. Thus the cat who sparked the triggers was not the Helen-of-Cat at all, and what very small reasons for gratuitous violence the play and characters presented were dismissed by the curtain fall as even more absurd.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Self -centered

I too saw a parallel between A Passage to India and A Heart of Darkness. The British in both story lines have a view of the other race at being less because of social differences. The British believe that everyone should be like them and that’s the only normal way. What they are ignorant to is; other cultures are able to survive and be “normal”. Normal for one culture is the ability for it to work efficiently and be accepted by the majority of the people. When a stronger culture sees a difference they believe that it is not right, much like the British in both story lines. The British saw black people as being uncivil in Heart of Darkness and also they saw themselves as superior to the people of India. Basically, the British are self centered when is comes to their beliefs. But isn’t everyone? So can we really blame them for judging people of different cultures? Don’t we (as in Americans) do that as well?