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.