Monday, May 4, 2009

Oh, but I was so much older then; I'm younger than that now.

^Bob Dylan wrote that. I think the Eagles made it popular, but I forget. Great song.

Also it is 1 am and I accidentally fell asleep at 8 pm or so and completely intended to blog on time. Anyway,

The question of which of our texts will stick was pretty difficult for me. I suspect that the answer is Lolita, but I felt like that was a cop-out because we spent so much time on it. The more I think about it, though, the more I realize I have legit reasons. Nabokov's prose is so rich and beautiful; how could such brilliant imagery NOT remain with me? For the rest of my life, when anything tangentially related comes up, so will pictures in my mind of Humbert and Lo in some random location in the Northeast, him over-protectively watching her by the poolside. Or perhaps Humbert coming into his bathrobe while she sits in his lap, completely unaware. (Ha, I said it. Just try and get that out of your head!)

Additionally, I'm a long time fan of ee cummings, so I'm bound to run into one of his poems we studied again. When I do, I will of course think of the particular analysis that we did to them. I'll probably be with other people and want to sound educated and say something like "you know, this is actually about war... mhm, the unrefined girls are cannons... yup..."

Blue Velvet: I already find myself yelling "Heinekin? FUCK THAT SHIT! PABST BLUE RIBBON!" on occasion. This seems like a pretty juvenile, uninspired thing to take from the movie, but really, every time I yell this and look around for a buddy that got the reference, I won't just remember that line--but many more bits of Blue Velvet. Frank raping Dorothy, Dorothy stark naked and frightened in Jeffrey's lawn, etc. Like Lolita, the imagery in Blue Velvet will remain with me always.

The Wire and NWA have changed my view of inner-city and the ghetto sort of together as one entity (more the Wire than NWA, however). Mentions of drugs, drug dealers, drug wars, ghettos, the projects, and homicide units currently evoke that little false world in false Balitmore. As time passes, my list of "tags" will probably shrink to half of those listed, but that's not bad. Mainly, I (probably incorrectly) feel like I have a handle on such things. I feel more enlightened about how things there "really" are.

Truly, though, I shall never forget the epic set of all-nighters I am about to pull exploring the Wire, and then subsequently arguing for my grade. :P

Last blog post in this blog EVER?,
Deanna Christine Marie Louise Kilgore III Esq.

Fifteen Years

Taking this class made me realize how much I enjoy English. It is a totally different thought process than my major, finance, but there are also similarities. It is more like the speculative aspect of finance-taking the information you are given and analyzing it for a result. Different people will infer different things from the same texts.
I was wondering if I would enjoy a different major more, with more interpretation and less formulas (although Eagleton opened my eyes to literary formulas). I realized that perhaps the fact that this class was not my ultimate major is why I enjoyed it. There is something about having freedom that makes things worthwhile.
From this class, I learned a lot about analyzing everyday texts and literature. I will continue to read for enjoyment, but hopefully I will get more out of what I am reading. Perhaps I will actually take a moment to reflect on things. I am more about reactions than reviewing. That is what I hope to take most from this class, thinking with a purpose. I can learn things without reflecting on them, but maybe wisdom is being able to put the learning into words and pass it on.

fifteen years

In fifteen years assuming I am not dead or worse subsumed into middle class America with a white picket fence and 2.5 kids, I am sure I will still be thinking about the exact same things in merely a different light. There will still be people who can't see the strange beauty and complexities behind something refuse to understand, because it is so important to maintain that train of simpler thought. I am sure I will still be finding broken people and patching them back together as best as I can. I am sure I will still sleep outside just to escape the noise of so many people that I will never know.

Blue Velvet affected me profoundly in that my ideas of right and wrong were completely turned inside out and around. I watched the "Candy Colored Clown" scene numerous times and turned the absurdity about in my mind and still wonder about how David Lynch does it. Blue Velvet was a lovely segue into Lolita another of my pet projects from this class.

Lolita disturbed and excited me. It is certainly a novel that I shan't forget and will definitely reread in order to catch all of Nabokov's nuances. On the surface of this masterpiece one certainly has to admire the incredible wordplay. Deeper one has to admire the mindplay. Kryzs and in turn Lolita taught me one vital thing about becoming a better reader and in turn a better writer, not everything is about you. Sometimes you have to separate yourself from the content in order to get a more (dare I say it) imaginative view. It isn't about the content, it's about using your imagination to delve deeper into something that can be beautiful.

The Wire was another particularly disturbing bit for me as I had a great deal of trouble separating myself from the content. I guess as one who was raped as a child might a bit of difficulty finding sympathy for our beloved Humbert, I had trouble sympathsizing with Omar until anticatharsis where I gathered up all of that baggage and instead looked at the story as it was, real, complicated and accurate. I will carry the moment where I was able to relinquish control and just slip into a story in which I had so much vested with me until I don't remember it anymore.

This class has been for lack of something less cliche, a blessing. Therapeutic and provoking, vicious and strange, but most of all the most useful English class I have ever had. Thanks guys.


If the way I remember the material from this class is anything like the way I remember my high school classes, I think what will stick with me will not be the details of each work, but the general themes that ran throughout the class. So assuming that the Mayans were wrong and time continues beyond December 21, 2012, what big themes will I associate with this class in 15 years?

One theme that really resonated for me was the duality and interdependence of good and evil. This has already been touched on in other blog posts, but this idea was brought up in Areopagitica, and then expanded (much more accessibly, in my opinion) in Blue Velvet. This whole “good cannot exist without evil” thing is hardly a new idea, but our class discussions were the first time I was every really forced to sit down and contemplate and discuss it seriously. Considering it’s one of the loftier metaphysical ideas around, I have no doubt our discussions will serve to enlighten future conversations and add layers of depth to other works and texts. So while I may not remember Frank Booth, Jeffrey, or what’s-her-face in 2024 and I’ve already purged a good portion of Areopagitica from my brain, I’m confident that the ideas about the nature of good and evil that these texts brought up will stick with me nonetheless.

This has also already been expanded on by others, but I’ll definitely think of this class whenever I hear the question “What is Literature?” This question was pervasive throughout the semester, but I’ll especially remember On the Pornographic Imagination’s discussion of the artist as “a freelance explorer of spiritual dangers”, someone “making forays into and taking up positions on the frontiers of consciousness”, not least because it makes being an English major sound really exciting, but also for bringing up the idea that no subject is necessarily unliterary. I’ll even begrudgingly remember Literary Theory, especially since I have a feeling I’ll be referring back to it in semesters to come. The metaphor of the different theories as lenses through which to view a text is a good one, and I definitely added some lenses to my arsenal this semester. This class also definitely helped (read: forced) me to reevaluate my definition of Literature, something that I’ll definitely remember as my personal definition solidifies in years to come. But even more, I’ll now start recognizing literary qualities in many more non-text works, as our work with Blue Velvet, The Wire, Straight Outta Compton, and Highway 61 Revisited, has taught me to do. While the subjectivity of what is considered Literature was a bit scary at first, I now see that it is one of the qualities that makes Literature such a interesting subject to study, and I’m glad that Eagleton left the “what is Literature?” question open, so that we could write the next chapter. (Sorry that was really cheesy, couldn’t resist)

Another theme I noticed was the “everyone’s playing some sort of game” theme that stretched across The Wire, Good Old Neon, and Lolita. What I mean by this is the way all these works focused (some more than others) on the aspect of life that’s just putting on a show for other people or just playing their games. While this is certainly most evident in Good Old Neon, reading that short story sort of opened my eyes to this theme in other works. In Lolita, we really get a personal look in H.H.’s mind, or so he’d like us to think. As we read, we must be wary of H.H.’s game, and keep his motives (to persuade us that he is innocent) in mind. This complicates the novel, and really adds another layer of depth when you realize just how cunning H.H. is being. In The Wire, we must keep track of each character’s motivations and the difference between who they appear to be and who they are. Even though D’Angelo actually wants to get out the drug business and is a pretty softhearted guy, he must play the role of hardcore thug; even though Avon is running the town, he’s still scared when he sees his brother lying in the hospital, etc. etc. The difference between who people are trying to appear to be and who they actually are is an important concept not only in literature but in everyday life. As Krzys brought up, even being a student is just a game, in a way. Throughout our career as students we struggle to get a X on our SAT, or keep a GPA above Y, to show people that we’re good students or smart or whatever. But it’s all just a game we’re playing to get into college or make dean’s list or get a job or whatever, these numbers only have the meaning we give them. Life exists without all these little rules and all this pretending to be something we aren’t, and we’ll be a lot better off if we can know when we need to play the game, and when we need to pull an Omar and play the game by our own rules.

In conclusion, this is by far the most interesting class I took this semester (although there wasn’t much competition) a lot of it thanks to everyone’s good insights in class or on the blog. So whether you said something I hadn’t thought of, showed me a different side to an argument, or even just posted a funny link on twitter, thanks a lot. Seriously (and double thanks to YOU, person who reads to the end of other people’s blogs, even when they’re long and rambling). I’ll see some of you around campus I’m sure, but otherwise, good luck to everyone, in whatever games you choose to play.


I will be thirty-four in fifteen years, which seems closer than I had realized, the more I think about it. The ultimate dream I suppose would be to live in Brussels or Antwerp or somewhere in Belgium, working as a journalist or in international relations. Key word being 'dream'; I kind of have to get through that whole non-fluency in French problem first. We'll see.

It's difficult to pick out a few works from the whole list of things we studied. I feel like everything was so interconnected, as if joined by this invisible network of threads (in good 'ol Post-Structuralist fashion), but some works were more striking than others, especially when side by side.

1. I really think I'll always remember facets of Nabokov's "Good Readers and Good Writers" and Azar Nafisi's lecture. I initially really struggled with the concept of sympathy versus empathy as a reader and how they were different, but I think now I can distinguish the two and use this lesson to improve my skills as a reader and see literature as "the space in which we all recognize each other."

2. Oh, "Areopagitica" and Blue Velvet... Really made me not too fond of Milton for a bit, but when we started talking about Paradise Lost in class, the idea that good cannot exist without evil, although rather simple (and elegant in its simplicity) was actually almost a revelation to me. Then David Lynch and Blue Velvet really helped to embed the idea further in a truly unforgettable fashion.

3. Little Lo and dearest NWA. Just the very fact that both this beautiful, intricate prose by a master of language and this marketable, catchy pop culture product share so much in common really amazes me. Before taking this class, I never would have been able to see the similarities between them. Going beyond just these two works, a foundation has been set in my mind that I think will help me to see the similarities between other seemingly dissimilar works as well.

4. Literary Theory. At times this was so difficult to get through, and it took me a very long time to catch up, but I finally did it, and in the end I was glad for it. It really helped provide a nice historical perspective on how analysis of literature has evolved. It also shows that we should keep our minds open and maybe regard our current way of analyzing literature as just another step toward the "best" way, although how it can evolve further is beyond me.

All right, some massive reading to do on some terribly depressing subjects like Palestinian refugees.

When I'm 64 (minus 28)

Fifteen years from now I'll either be working as a speech therapist somewhere in the US, most likely wherever I end up going to graduate school, or I will have escaped to some other country, either barely scraping by teaching English as a foreign language or maybe fixing people's talking problems in a different language. My father assumes the former. Whatever the case may be, I think the one idea that I will definitely keep with me is one that has been present in most, if not all, of our material this semester. It is the idea that everyone really is always playing his or her own game. It's something we've all probably heard a thousand times: "Don't judge others, you don't know what they are having to deal with in their lives." But all the LITERATURE  we have discussed in this class made that point somewhat less cliché by outlining the presence of both good and evil in everyone. All people have their own agendas, and if you ever want to really understand someone you have to be able to see things from every perspective. 

In Lolita, we read the beautiful prose of a serial child rapist. Humbert's actions are unforgivable, yet we were given the opportunity to hear his side of the story and at least gain a little bit of understanding of his motives. Humbert was a player in the game of love, it was just unfortunate that his particular brand of love is deemed sinful by most societal standards. Can we really blame him for this? 

In Blue Velvet, Dorothy is viewed as a mysterious, dark woman by the whole neighborhood. It isn't until Jeffrey delves into her personal world that we find out about her very real and very serious problems. We see that she isn't just a weird, scary woman, and Jeffrey sees it also. This also leads us to see that Jeffrey isn't just an innocent suburban boy. Things are never what they seem on the surface.

Jimmy McNulty in The Wire is supposed to be the "good cop", and in most cop shows we would probably only see that side of him. However, The Wire does a great job of showing us that McNulty is indeed playing his own games. He is in the middle of a divorce because he cheated on his wife, and he is all about getting some personal recognition. The Wire also shows us that not all of the "bad guys" are completely bad. Omar may be a murderer, but he always obeys his own rules, and we even see a softer side of Wee Bey, who seems to be, in my opinion, the most unfeeling character on the show.

Overall, it is important to remember that every story always has more than one side. Everyone always has his or her own battles to fight and games to play. If anything could ever be "fair", you'd have to look at all situations from every possible angle. This can never be, but perhaps I'll always have that idea in the back of my head.

Over the course of this semester, we’ve read, listened to, and watched a wide range of things. Come fifteen years from now, I won’t remember the texts as much as I will the new perspectives and concepts that they showed me.

Since I started this class, I’ve done a pretty good amount of pleasure reading in my spare time. Nabokov taught me the value of rereading and the importance of reading with an open mind. Most of all, he taught me the power of the imagination with Lolita. The close reading techniques I learned in this class I applied to the books I read in my leisure. From e.e. cummings to The Wire, this class taught me to close read and those skills will stick with me through the years.

Blue Velvet will stick in my mind as the movie that made me distrust movies. I can’t help but overanalyze any movie I see now. All those hours spent watching and re-watching it and constantly thinking about it have just changed the way I watch movies. I certainly drink more Pabst Blue Ribbon than I used to (though I was a fan prior to Blue Velvet).

The details may fade, but the new perspectives and ways of thinking I picked up in this class will stick with my through the years.