Hello, This is my English Literature Blog. Through this blog I hope to gain perspective as well as a deeper understanding of what literature means to me, how it effects me, and what it tells me about the world I live in.
The title of the blog will change depending on my current book.
It feels like I have a secret. Something weighing heavy on my heart, and I’m itching to tell it. The problem is; it only feels like I have a secret. There’s nothing there. Nothing at all. I’m trying to figure out what it could be, or what it could have been. Did I misplace it? Did I forget it? Did it fall out? I can’t tell. I’m itching for vulnerability. For love. For lust.
These past few days I’ve been reading Confessions by Saint Augustine. He has such a longing for love. Such a connection to love. He says, Love is his weight. It’s what moves him any direction. Sometimes it is towards a girl, sometimes towards the Lord. Sometimes it leads him to a religion that helps him come to understand the conflict within himself. How can he make peace with the struggle within himself? Find something that consoles him, tells him that how he’s feeling is supposed to be that way and he might as well ignore it and indulge the good. This is my rudimentary summary of the first five books and what my tutors and lecturers have said. It’s a bit crude, it’s a bit of a bad paraphrasing, but this is how I’m coming to understand him.
See, he has this great big ball of tension pulling at him inside. He wants to be good, but he wants to be bad simply because in being bad it is a rebellion against the order of the world and through that it affirms himself. It gives him authority over something in this world. He does bad actions for the satisfaction of themselves and no other good. And to him that’s more evil than murder which is done of a perverted necessity.
These are his confessions, his accounts of figuring out things in his life. The story of him making mistakes over and over and what he makes of them. There is a lot of lust. There is a lot of Augustine simply wanting to be loved because he’s in love with the idea of love. Burning passionate love. Of being idolized and to Idolize someone, and he’s willing to pay the price of the jealousy, because one knows it’s impossible to ever fully know that they love you completely.
He’s a bundle of mess. And when you feel like a bundle of a mess, it’s reassuring that one of the most brilliant men in time has felt as you did, especially when you know it was in a time so long ago.
Inside me there’s this conflict, and there’s nothing provoking it, not really. Perhaps stress, but it doesn’t feel like that kind. It’s this longing. It’s like Augustine’s weight. It’s a longing for love.
but, I’d like to keep up with this blog. I am after all taking a ‘crash course great books’ year next year, and prepping in the summer using this blog would be fantastic. :)
Long story short, I’m not gone.
“Man’s Longing for Paradise is Man’s Longing not to be Man.”
- Milan Kundera
I can remember clearly as a young child thinking that every decision I made was important. I would spend hours collecting, browsing, reading backs and covers of books to try and decipher which book was really worth all that time, energy and emotional investment in. That said, sometimes I would allocate my time to books just to simply be engaged, immersed and swallowed whole by a posh little fantasy world. Other times, I just took too long to decide and my mother grabbed a book out of the pile and forced me to read it; the story of how I came to read six of the twelve lavish Gossip Girl books by Cecily von Ziegesar. (You get hooked after the first one.) Mostly when it came to the kinds of books I read when I was younger I always wanted there to be something challenging with them. In grade five I read Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin which tells the story of a girl who dies in a bike accident and finds herself in an afterlife where everyone ages backward till they return to earth. As a ten year old this was an idea that grabbed my imagination and forced me to look on my beliefs and question “what happens after you die?
The following year I read Feed and Thirsty both by M.T. Anderson. Feed to this day remains one of my favorite novels, it tells the story of teenagers in a future where computers are directly inserted into our brains. They allow us to message telepathically, watch television in our head, and get news on the latest sales as we walk in malls. On the surface the ‘feeds’ in their heads seems like a good idea the book had me questioning how safe technology is, and it gave me a paradise lost convention. Of course I didn’t really know what that was at the time, but I was starting to make connections. The main character, Titus, falls in love with a girl he met on the moon named Violet. After a clubbing accident with a hacker all their feeds go temporarily down, all recover well except Violet who had the ‘feed’ microchip installed in her head a lot later in life then her new friends. The damage is slowly killing Violet and Titus has to watch. It posed the question of what will happen to our society if we keep moving along with these ideas of consumerism. Obviously the books views were negative, but it gave me a chance to question them. It was and still is haunting the lack of control they were given over their own minds, brains, bodies, thoughts and lives.
In grade six or seven, I read this ridiculous book by Pete Hautman called Rash. It’s quite possibly the most preposterous, ludicrous story I’ve ever read, but the concept. The abstract ideas behind it are horrifying. The basic plot is : it’s the year 2074 and all contact sports have been made illegal, one is only allowed to run indoors on a track made of squishy foam. The protagonist, Bo, finds himself in a prison for spreading a rash around his school. The prison is in the canadian tundra where he is forced to make pizzas everyday and his cell mate is there because he’s too fat. The two of them end up on an illegal football team while they’re there and in the end Bo’s rouge computer science project attempts and succeeds to bust him out of jail. This sounds nuts, and it was especially insane to read, but because it was so fast of a read there is a lot of time afterwards to process just exactly was the message was. Hautman caused me to reevaluate people’s obsession with safety. The overbearing protectiveness, the whole concept that someone knows what’s best for you and how to look at authority.
These are all books I read in middle school or before, but it’s evident what stuck with me. The stories that made me think. That engaged my imagination to conceive a world slightly different from my own and conjure up the ideas that came along with the slight changes. I was forced to think of life after death, of consumerism and just in control are we our own minds and thoughts, and to question what is safe and who do I listen to ? A reoccurring theme in all of my childhood favorites is this longing instilled in the stories that the past is better. The present is a possibility to change these possible futures.
I’d lost the password to this blog, please forgive my lack of updating !
I have a post in the works which will talk about literature ( my favorite books ) and how it can expand the mind both in intellect and in imagination.
( this will be a short post )
We had our discussion on Catcher in the Rye today. The really cool one where everyone’s parents came in and gave us other perspectives on our lonely character . They seemed to stress the idea of Holden having a mental illness, and whether or not that meant we were seeing mental illness through the lens of an adolescent or adolescence through the lens of mental illness. They looked closer at the parenting, and how didn’t his parents see there was something going wrong, because he clearly showed signs of a manic episode. But at the same time, how did they not see the signs when they were teenagers, he smoked, he drank, he barely ate or slept…ect.
It was interesting. The more the book went on, the less the general population of our classroom seemed to relate or admire or even like Holden as a person.
Hopefully, you’ll forgive me because of the head space I’m in. Well, it’s because of the head space I’m in that allows me to write this post, and ( here’s the tie to English Literature ! ) understand Tess from Tess of the d’Urbervilles.
I hope you recall I mentioned that I was about to have Day 2 of my assessed discussions on Tess as well as another novel, Alias Grace by Maragaret Atwood. There was an outline of questions that we were to discuss or use as a tool to start a conversation and keep it going. My group went all over the place, in both days of the discussion from ” which book has more redeemable male characters ? ” to ” which book has a stronger sense of hope at the end? ” (Note * there will be spoilers and Note * there were also other questions that weren’t such either or based )
Hope. Which one had a greater sense of hope, I suppose that means I’ll have to start by telling you what Alias Grace was / is about.
Quick Summary : Atwood wrote a book about a true murder case that took place in the 1850s in Toronto / Richmond Hill. James Mcdermott and Grace Marks were convicted of killing her employer and his mistress. James was hung, while Grace escaped the death sentence and was left to lead the rest of her life in asylum and in a penitentiary. ( what happened to quick ? ) The novel takes place mostly in first person perspective of Grace’s head and Dr Simon Jordon who is trying to analyze her brain. ( I suppose…I’m still working on effectively summarizing things ) Back to Hope. In the end of Tess, she is captured and most likely put to death for committing murder, while Grace is free to go and marries little Jamie in the countryside. It sounds obvious which was more hopeful, but I stood strong with my sappy little point.
( Sketches of James Mcdermott and Grace Marks )
After the event in which Alec raped Tess (we are taking this for fact, though there is some debate) all Tess ever really wanted to do was die. She was suicidal. Examples are numerous.
To name a few :
1) After her baby sorrow dies and she wonders about the date of her death
2) When she speaks to Angel about the wall of days before her shouting ” beware ! Beware “
3) After Angel rejects her and she says was was going to hang herself
4) when Angel sleep walks her to her grave and she wishes she could fall into the river and drown in his arms
5) At the d’Urbervilles grave and she says she is on the wrong side of this gate
Lets Toss away the side of that most people, including me (some of the time) see angel as a -insert curse word here- and didn’t like it when he came back for her, Tess enjoyed it. Tess after all her miseries was allowed some happiness, and then was allowed peace to die. Inferred from the ” I am ready ” she speaks as she willingly walks to her doom.
It was frustrating to most people, but to me, it was somewhat hopeful. Tess after all is a classic Tragic hero where the tragedy is bound to happen because of their fatal flaw.
It is restful, tragedy, because one knows that there is no more lousy hope left. You know you’re caught, caught at last like a rat with all the world on its back. And the only thing left to do is shout—not moan, or complain, but yell out at the top of your voice whatever it was you had to say. What you’ve never said before. What perhaps you don’t even know till now.
- Jean Anouilh (Antigone 1943)
( Above, a nice summary of the original trilogy of which Antigone fits into, you know with courser language…it’s last one in case you were wondering )
Perhaps it’s not hope, but just utter peace as ‘The Chorus’ in Anouilh’s adaptation of the Classic Greek Tragedy Antigone suggests.To me, it felt this way because Tess was depressed, even when she was happy. She couldn’t stop feeling like she shouldn’t feel as she did. She took no sympathy, not that much was offered to her, though she displayed it to others, such as when she broke all those dying birds necks. Tess keeps living because unlike those birds who have been shot, she feels and is told that what she has suffered was of her own fault and has NO right to feel that way, and she beats herself up further for feeling as she does. It’s that tension that makes it a relief.
And this is where you’re all going to rant at me, and get really mad. It’s that emotion ( watch my words) that I can relate to. No, I can’t relate to being a fallen women in the 1890s with rigid social conventions that won’t allow me to have severe depression after the death of my child that was born through rape. Fortunately, I have never been raped. But I understand that feeling of feeling horrible and feeling like you have no right at all to wish such awful things upon yourself. If you have that emotion, it really amplifies Tess’s strength not to harm herself and to even accept happiness for the short period in which she agrees to marry angel and hasn’t yet felt guilty. She can’t let herself be happy, because she feels that her previous ill emotions over ‘nothing’ ( for it was her fault * winces over how untrue that statement is* ) don’t allow her to have happiness. She needs to pay for both the act and the emotions.
A lot of people in my discussion group felt as if Hardy’s character’s fell flat and were two dimensional and therefore they couldn’t relate to them. While I agree that Hardy’s main focus was the plot and that Tess seemingly is there just to perpetuate that ‘modern tragedy feel’, Tess is dimensional, and so is Angel Clare. ( if interested I may make another post because I did find some brief evidence ) It’s both Hardy’s delicate imagery & subtle ( something that made me mad ) symbolism, as well as his characters that have made me make three posts on this novel. That being said, Hardy really should have stuck to Poetry, he really is good at that. ( More to come on that ! )
( Thomas Hardy. Look at the mustache ! )