Saturday, December 3, 2011

Candide on Broadway

I didn't know how Candide would translate into an operetta then I saw this video...
It might not be completly "accurate" but it's definatlly in the spirtit of Voltaire - the high inquisiter is Donald Trump for instance. This made me laugh.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Innocence = Stupidity ??

When I first read Candide, Candide came across to me as very trusting and naive. I thought that Candide was very childlike in that he so easily trusted everyone and brushed everything off as just another bump on the road. Although Candide is traveling the world and faced with many imposing problems, to him it just seems like a happy, carefree adventure.
This was the picture I had of Candide. Then we started discussing Candide's character a little bit in class and most people seemed to believe Candide came across as dull and unintelligent. After some discussion, I agreed as well. However, I still thought that Candide was very innocent and trusting of others. I don't really like how Candide's innocence leads to his stupidity. I guess Blake was right, we can't always stay in a state of innocence. That naive, ignorant bliss is only appropriate for a small window of time in childhood. Everyone, including Candide, must mature into a state of experience. Since Candide is still in an innocent state, he came across as dumb.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Weapon of Choice

Today, we were talking about how Claudias usually chooses poison as his weapon for murdering others and how poison seems to be a more feminine choice. I just wanted to share that I've once heard that in suicide, women tend to choose poisoning, for example carbon monoxide or overdosing, while men tend to choose hanging or shooting oneself. Just to back myself up, I found a little blurb summary of an intensive study on this topic which i have linked below. It's interesting to note that many of the articles I read just now on this topic say that many women choose poisoning because they are hoping for a chance that someone will save them. I guess in sharing this information about suicides, I'm just trying to exhibit that poison really is more of a feminine choice. What does that say about Claudias?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Globe Theater

The plays during Shakespeare's time were extremely different than today. It was interesting that the one specific group of actors would stay together for most of their career and the playwright would travel with them. Whereas today the director has most of the power and has the ability to choose which actors to cast. But, often times the writer will write scripts fit for specific actors. I found that Shakespeare's Globe Theater was fascinating in the presentations Tuesday. I did not understand why the public theaters were open and the private ones were closed. Does it cost more money to create a closed theater? Maybe I am just overthinking it. Nevertheless, it is all very interesting.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Withnail and I

Hamlet has been really influential on Western culture. I saw Withnail and I last week and it's one of my new favorite movies; it's about a failed actor his roomie, a struggling actor, and it's hilarious. It's an English comedy and George Harrison produced it (Harrison also produced Monty Python; he took a mortgage on his house to do it, and without him Monty Python would never have existed.) This is the final scene in the movie where Withnail, finally realizing he's never going to be a lead actor, drunkenly delivers one of Hamlet's Soliloquies to caged wolves. In some ways this is kind of a crazy movie; watching this scene wont ruin the ending or anything.

Anyway it's interesting to me that Hamlet references are still popping up in modern culture.

Don't know if anybody's ever seen this movie/cares but this is the trailer:

Mary Poppins is very unrealistic...

Besides the never-ending bag aspect, and floating around with an umbrella, Mary Poppins has other fantastic qualities. For example, chimney sweeping seems a lot more harmless from Disney's point of view. Basically, paupers sign off their children (some as young as four) to chimney sweeping apprenticeships. It's low paying, dirty work. And very fatal. Supposedly, they wore top-hats and tails because they got most of their clothes as cast-offs from funeral directors. Also, it gave an air of distinction to the demeaning work they performed. The scariest/saddest thing about it to me, it how these little children could die from either inhaling too many poisonous substances, or getting stuck like in this picture (the one on the right).

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Why I am basically Hamlet...

When reading the Introduction of our addition of Hamlet, one thing really struck a chord: Hamlet's tragic flaw. I think Hamlet and I may share the same one. The introduction states that it is commonly believed that Hamlet's downfall is procrastination. I can certainly relate to this. Hamlet reasons through every situation instead of acting purely on instinct. I do the same thing. I tend over-think and over-plan. Sometimes, things would be so much easier if I would just do what I ought to do in the moment instead of putting it off indefinitely. I'm sure Hamlet would agree.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Hamlet = Freaking Mad Genius

As Ms. King pointed out in class, traps are most definitely a motif in Hamlet. So far my favorite trap by far is Hamlet's when he stages the play. He is a freaking mad genius. As i was reading Scenes 2 and 3 of Act 3, I was super impressed by Hamlet's oratory skill. It even reminded me of Socrates in the Apology of Socrates written by Plato. Of course Hamlet's genius is really Shakespeare's genius.(Well, I guess we'll have to see after the presentation on Tuesday or after watching Anonymous.) I think I've always only been told how amazing Shakespeare is. Now, however, reading Hamlet, I have really realized Shakespeare's genius on my own and how great he really is! I think it's a combination of Hamlet being really awesome and the fact that we've now had several years of English and, at least for me, have come to appreciate and understand literature more and more!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Time Lapsed in Hamlet

So it turns out that Hamlet really does just occur in a few days. According to this timeline I found, the play starts on May 14th and ends on the 23rd. Don't really read into it though, since it tells you what happens.

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern..... are dead?

When I was reading the character list at the beginning of Hamley, two names sounded oddly familiar: Rosencrantz & Guildenstern. I have never read Hamlet so I knew I didn't recognize them from their place of origin. So where else had I heard these names? I researched it and I found that they are the protagonists of their own play, Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead. Stoppard's play was created in the 1960's, so clearly much later than Shakespeare's rendition. The plot is actually really cool. It uses the viewpoint of these  two minor characters that aren't present during all the action that goes on during Hamlet. One source describes it as "in the wings" of Shakespeare. It was also made into a movie in 1990. Yet another one for the list....

WWDT (What Would Dante Think?)

As I was reading Hamlet, I found myself musing over what circle of hell that, by Dante's definition, Claudius might be found in. I came up with the ninth circle - treachery (more specifically, treachery to kin). I thought this classification was the most appropriate, though he possessed some adulterous characteristics, because he slay his own brother. Treachery is worse than lust in Dante's Inferno so I think he would automatically be bumped down into the lower levels. Now where would Hamlet be? It's hard to say because I have yet to finish the play. I'll leave this question unanswered until then.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

This is a clip from Sir Laurence Olivier Hamlet circa 1948. It's a good movie; I saw it this weekend. It's interesting there are so many versions Hamlet and that the play is still so influential. I mean, everybody knows "to be or not to be" even if you don't know where it came from. Modern Hamlet references pop up movies and TV shows all the time, it's funny how ingrained it is in our culture.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Power of the Stars

When we were talking about the power of the stars today, we mentioned that monarchs and etc. can more easily overcome fortune. I was thinking that maybe this is why heroes in many stories can sometimes overcome fate (for example, death). This is maybe because they are further up in the "hierarchy" and therefore able to resist and even change their fortune..?

Elizabethan Life

Although Tillyard gives a great idea of commonly held beliefs in Elizabethan times, he never goes into details about life during the Elizabethan era. I think that an important part of understanding people's beliefs is understanding how they lived. I found this video made by a student (I didn't even realize until the end since it was so well made) that I believe illustrates Elizabethan life in a relatively succinct manner.Enjoy!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Elizabethan World Picture

It may just be me (and somehow I doubt that), but the Elizabethan World Picture is not the easiest read. It's not just the wordiness and old British style, as we discussed in class. It's more the allusions to works that I haven't read before. Those make it kind of hard to follow...

So far I understand this (brief summary):

intro - the elizabethan times were not as secular and humanist as some people believe

order - I'M CONFUSED ON THIS ONE! Anyone want to chime in?

sin - struggle with sin vs. redemption (and the optimism that comes with the idea of redemption)

chain - everything has a purpose in the universe, nothing is superfluous, and God is at the top

Saturday, November 5, 2011


When I was reading the Inferno, it occurred to me that Dante's since of humor is sometimes pretty raunchy. I think it's sort of funny that such an important work of western literature has fart/butt/poo jokes running through it to break the tension. The Divine comedy is such a collasal, well-written piece of writing that it's sort of funny to me that Dante decided to throw in these not-so-highbrow/aristocratic jokes in there too. Literacy was so low back in the day, it seemed like Dante's only audience would be those from wealthy Italian families or those connected to the church. I wonder if the clergy that read this found this kind of funny or if the "ass-trumpet" sort of turned off the scholastics.
What I'm talking about didn't happen constantly, but it's defiantly in there, hidden among epic similes and poetic language. In the Inferno, gluttons were lying in a river of crap (like pigs,) the butts of head-on-backwards sinners were mentioned specifically because I guess Dante just wanted to put that in, and something weird happened in the snake canto when a giant snake took over a sinners body... I'm not going to go into detail but there was an explanation of the transformation of every body-part, including this weirdly placed penis reference/simile that made the whole horror move feel of the canto seem sort of South Park-like.
I feel like when reading this, we are not filled with horror and we don't fall to our knees in repentance; it seems like a modern comedy. It's certainly funnier and less-scary than some other descriptions of hell like the devout puritanical sermons we read sophomore year. There are a lot of elements of satire in there as well, like putting popes and political enemies in hell for example. Maybe fart jokes were put in there to break the tension making this into more of a dark comedy than a call to repentance (which I think would happen if this were only a description of hell, I think it would read a lot like that bit in the middle of Portrait of an Artist last year and that there would be less "Virgil is awesome" and a lot more fire and brimstone.) I really like the Divine comedy and I'm glad it maybe wasn't deadly serious the entire time, things in the Inferno stayed interesting and readable. I sort of like that and I wonder if Dante was an influence on Voltaire.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Washington National Cathedral

When Ravin bought this up in class the other day, I was thinking the exact same thing! I don't know if you guys remember this from our 8th grade trip, but as we were studying Romanesque and Gothic architecture, the Washington National Cathedral immediately popped into my head. The cathedral is built in the Neogothic style which is essentially a resurgence of Gothic style in the 18th and 19th centuries. 

File:Washington National Cathedral in Washington, D C 1.jpg
Looking at the cathedral now you can clearly see the rose windows and lancet windows below them. They are strikingly similar to Chartres Cathedral.
    Washington National Cathedral                                                            
            Chartres Cathedral                

In the first image of the National Cathedral, you can see other characteristics of Gothic style such as the flying buttresses. The Cathedral also has several vaults.
Finally, due to the earthquake earlier this year, the cathedral is truly Gothic in that it is continually being built.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Dante vs. Milton

As we mentioned briefly in class today, I think it is interesting to note the discrepancies between Milton and Dante. In Paradise Lost, Milton wrote that since God was omnipotent, he knew that Lucifer would rebel against him so he already had hell created for them whereas in the Inferno, Dante said that Lucifer created hell through impact from his fall. Another difference is that in Paradise Lost, Satan was free to move around and converse with the other devils and they even built a palace, but for Dante, Satan was frozen still in the center of the Earth.
I used to think that part of why all these epics were such a strong literary tradition was because they built upon one another and thus created a strong set of beliefs to work with in the literary world. However, today I began to realize that this is not necessarily true. Although epics draw on the same conventions and mythological creatures, they most definitely hold differences as shown through comparison of Paradise Lost and the Inferno.


I think our discussion today in class about Satan was very thought-provoking. It's interesting how Dante portrays the devil as such an essentially irrelevant character. One would expect the final level of hell to include a terrifying confrontation with the frightening Evil One. However, it the actual meeting is quite lackluster. He's as scary as, or maybe even less scary than, the other guards of the circles, like Cerberus or Minos. He also seems to have about equal power with these minions. To me, I find that Satan is just another punished soul. The only thing that distinguishes him is that he was the first to betray God. He's so powerless which leads me to believe that he is more just the "face" of hell than the real power behind it. I think in Dante's Inferno, God actually determines punishment and merely uses Satan as a guise in order to evoke fear... and maybe even keep his reputation??

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Music as Math

I remember thinking as a child when I was learning to play the scales on the piano how much it was like math counting the intervals and such. Then I remembered thinking how foolish I was because I thought that music was an art and it could in no way be a math. Anyway, I just though it was really interesting that music in fact is influenced by math. In fact, it is not only influenced by it, but heavily based on it. When I read this for the first time in the Greek chapter of Fleming, I was presently surprised!

Man on the Moon

I was looking up the man on the moon, and this is all that I found when I Googled it. Apparently it is just a household tale that Dante alludes to. Cain apparently was forced to circle the world as the moon and see what he could not have due to his betrayal.

One medieval Christian tradition claims him as Cain, the Wanderer, forever doomed to circle the Earth. Dante's Inferno alludes to this:
"For now doth Cain with fork of thorns confine
On either hemisphere, touching the wave
Beneath the towers of Seville. Yesternight
The moon was round."

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


We discussed this a little bit back in August when we were talking about our summer reading books, but it seems to me that ants are a common symbol of decay and death in literature and art. In One Hundred Years of Solitude, the ants appeared as the house was decaying and as a symbol of ultimate decay at the end when they consume the last Aureliano. The Buendias have been destroyed by ants. Also in The Tin Drum, the ants appear when the Russian soldiers enter the cellar where Oskar and the others are. This is the scene where Matzerath dies, but Oskar is solely focused on the ants.
I am blogging about this today because we talked briefly about Dali's The Persistence of Memory in class today. Dali painted this in the mist of the turmoil between the two World Wars. I think it is interesting how most critics noted that Dali is emphasizing the relative nature of time with the melting clocks. Furthermore, I think that the ants on the clock could signify the end of "man-created" time. Ants are certainly a powerful symbol.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Dante's Inferno Study Guide

Let's try make a Dante's Inferno study guide..

Circle, Sin, Punishment, Monster, Representative Sinners, Notes.

At 35 years-old on Holy Friday, Dante awakes in dark wood and faces the three beasts: lion, leopard, and she-wolf. He cannot make it to the top of the hill and then meets Virgil. He tells him to make a journey through Hell with him.

Sin: Neutrals - couldn't choose a side, denied from both Heaven and Hell
Punishment: They must continually chase a banner and are also being stung by insects
Representative Sinners: Pope Celestine V, neutral angels
Notes: They encounter the Gates of Hell. Vestibule is also called the Ante-Inferno

1st Circle (Limbo):
Sin: Being a pagan or not being baptized (includes everyone born before Jesus)
Punishment: Not really a punishment. They can have friends and live in a nice castle.
Representative Sinners: Virgil, Homer, Ovid, Horace, Lucan, Euclid, Cicero, Socrates, Plato, Julius Caesar, Camilla, King Latinus, etc.
Notes: Also called Limbo. It is somewhat unfair to go to Hell, but they have an Elysian Fields sort of Hell. Virgil lives here, but he can travel with Dante along the different circles via the decree from many female figures (Virgin Mary, Beatrice.)

This is the trailier for the 2008 movie "Dante's Inferno." I'm not sure how closely it follows the book because I know its a modern variation of the "Inferno" but it looks intresting anyway.

Dante Paper

This is a video project by someone who had to do a modern Dante's Inferno. It's really funny and, though he did all seven circles of hell, it's well done and pretty similar to our paper.

Friday, October 21, 2011

"There is nothing new under the sun."

As once written in Ecclesiastes, "there is nothing new under the sun." As we read more and more works, I'm beginning to realize how true this verse is. The Divine Comedy was inspired by Virgil and Virgil was inspired by Homer. They all share similar mythological creatures and characteristics of an epic. Furthermore as Meredith pointed out in class, many elements of the Harry Potter series can be seen in these classics.  Other things, like the Roman architecture and art were also inspired from the past, the Greeks, who were in turn inspired by the ancient Egyptians and Mesopotamians. Maybe like Marquez suggested in One Hundred Years of Solitude, time really is circular. Well, at least to some extent.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Dante in today's world

This is the official website for the official Dante's Inferno video game. It was not rated so highly, but after checking out the website it does provide a good bit of information.
In the section "The Poem" it gives a lot of historical dates.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Devil's Number?

As I was reading the intro for Dante, I kept coming across references labeled "Aeneid 6" which were obviously referring to Book 6 where Aeneas journeys through the underworld. However as I kept looking at this citation I began to wonder if 6 became associated with the devil's number because Aeneas travels to the underworld in Book 6.
So, I did some research. Wikipedia tells me that it was actually from the Book of Revelation of the New Testament. Furthermore, as most of us already know, the devil's number is actually 666 as mentioned here. Wikipedia also told me that this was mentioned in Chapter 13. Is this why the number 13 is considered unlucky in pop culture?
It's pretty interesting when you start to question some of the origins of popular beliefs. I don't think I've actually stopped to consider the significance of the things we associate with numbers. I'm pretty amazed right now.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

"Courtly Love"

I found the whole "courtly love" thing very interesting. It's kind of cool to think that it was almost acceptable for women to cheat on their husbands during this era. Though it doesn't seem like a big deal (men have been notorious for all sorts adultery throughout history) this must have been a big step for women of the time. Even if it was acceptable only in literature, it's a step towards having women be equal to men.

Friday, October 14, 2011

King Mark

King Mark was certainly an interesting character. I definitely feel pity for him throughout the story since he is a very innocent character. King Mark never did anything wrong by the story we know yet he is betrayed by both his most loyal vassal and his wife. Furthermore, although the 4 traitors were right, throughout the story he seems to be at the whims of their suggestions. It is definitely interesting to consider the tale from his perspective.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Iseult with the White Hands

I just wanted to say that I thought that Iseult with the White Hands was evil. She listened in on Tristan's conversation telling his friend to go fetch Iseult the Fair for him. She was portrayed as conniving and vengeful, as many women were in literature (Medea). When Iseult the Fair and Tristan could be reunited once more for the last time, Iseult with the White Hands betrayed him and caused his death by telling him that Iseult the Fair had not come. I did not expect the story to play out this way, but it definitely was more interesting.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Pitiful Irony

I found some lines of Tristan and Iseult's dialogue very intriguing. The lines of special interest to me are the ones when they realize King Mark is listening in the tree. I've included a couple of short excerpts from page 65:

"But the felons of this land made him believe this lie, for it is easy to deceive the loyal heart." -Iseult
"The cowards would remove from the King's side all those who love him; they have succeeded and now mock him." -Tristan

I felt a lot of pity toward King Mark because as Tristan and Iseult are saying all these remarks about others deceiving him, when it is actually them who are deceiving the king. This irony is so obvious to the reader as Tristan and Iseult know that they are manipulating the king because he has a "loyal heart" and they are "now mock(ing) him."

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Roman Art

I think that the Romans, although they seem barbaric to some, were the smartest civilization. They used the method Iron Fist to basically conquer everyone. Their empire was very large at a time. In regards to art, the Romans basically copied from everyone else and built upon it. When they defeated the Etruscans, who were great collectors of Greek art, the Romans absorbed the Etruscan art. So, much of the Roman artwork was inspired by the Greeks. They also thought highly of the the Greeks by making copies of their statues and even building Greek libraries. They were also very practical in their ideas, especially in architecture. In sum, the Romans were extremely smart in their strategies and ideas and that's the reason that they built such a large empire.

Friday, October 7, 2011

James Franco & Isolde


I don't know how accurate this is yet, but I guess I'll find out......

Trajan's Column

Personally, I think that the most impressive piece of art that we have studied so far was Trajan's Column. The level of detail that went into making it is simply incredible. It was over 100 feet tall and showed the entire story of Trajan. The artist was very talented in the use of low spiral relief. I cannot even imagine how much time and effort went into created this thing. He also had to be creative in representing the different scenes and ages of Trajan. He was differently depicted many times with armor or body shapes. The artist had to figure out how to symbolically represent certain things that would've been to hard to carve, such as wavy lines for the ocean or lines in the background for a mountain. I am truly impressed by this column and would like to visit it one day.

Monday, October 3, 2011

"Imitation is the Highest Form of Flattery"

As I was commenting on Meredith's post, I came to realize that the Romans certainly lived up to this cliche. The Romans were notorious for copying elements of culture, art, and architecture from previous civilizations such as the Greeks, Etruscans, and other groups of the Mediterranean. However, I think it is important to note that the Romans not only copied ideas and works of other cultures, but they improved these works. For example, the Romans were the first to use concrete. They used concrete in the columns of the Colosseum which previously would have been made of marble. Moreover, in the Roman appreciation of other cultures, they have preserved many elements of Greek culture for scholars today to study. For example, many of the sculptures of the Hellenic and Hellenistic period that we have been studying only exist today through Roman marble copies. Without these copies, we may not even be aware of these pieces except through ancient texts which were also preserved in Roman libraries. The Romans tendency to imitate and improve elements of past civilizations certainly helped evolve sculpture and architecture and preserve other ancient cultures for our study today.

Columns & Superiority

I thought the fact that the Colosseum had 3 levels with 3 different kinds of columns, 1 variety on each level, was really interesting. So I found this:

Most buildings (and most clients) are satisfied with just two orders. When orders are superposed one above another, as they are at the Flavian Amphitheater - the Colosseum - the natural progression is from sturdiest and plainest (Doric) at the bottom, to slenderest and richest (Corinthian) at the top. The Colosseum's topmost tier has an unusual order that came to be known as the Composite order during the 16th century.

I think that maybe this goes back to the superiority complex that I talked about in class. The royal residence in Pergamon sat at the highest point of the city so that they could experience a feeling of domination.Corinthian columns (the ones at the tops) are the most ornate, and the most artistic, so therefore they would deserve their position at the top. Whereas, in Athena's precinct, only doric columns were used, this was to preserve the graceful simplicity of the structure, which was much smaller than the Parthenon and the surrounding temples. In conclusion, art can give insight to the thoughts of society in ancient Greece.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Comparing Epics

Last year I had to read Gilgamesh for NOCCA and it interestingly bares a lot of similarities to the Aenid. Gilgamesh, a Mesopotainian epic written in cuneiform on stone tablets, follows a Tyrannical king, his Wildman companion, their completion of several herculean tasks, the death of the companion, and Gilgamesh’s journey to the land of the dead. (While this is dramatically different plot-wise from the Aneid, there are many subtle thematic similarities between the epics.) Gilgamesh is comprised of 12 stone tablets similar to the twelve books of the Aeneid. Gilgamesh is a demigod like Aeneas, and Enkidu, the companion, was created by the gods as Gilgamesh’s equal. All three men are godlike mortals who complete herculean tasks that involve monsters. In both epics, the heroes receive prophesy in one form or another; in Gilgamesh, heroes receives prophetic dreams and Aeneas has to wrestle with his fate as revealed to him by Mercury. Gilgamesh’s experience with the Netherworld is quite similar in many ways to Aeneas’s journey through Hades; first both are only allowed through the gates of the underworld because of their half-god statuses, second, they both come to a river of the Dead that morals cannot touch and only a ferryman can cross, third, both must convince the ferryman to take them across the water to the land of the dead with foliage/trees (Gilgamesh has to cut hundreds ferry poles while Aeneas has to present a golden bow of a magic tree.) Both heroes cannot pass into the land of the dead (Elysian Fields or further into the Netherworld.) Both heroes are motivated to journey to the Netherworld to both see their lost loved ones (the companion/Aeneas’ father) and ascertain their own fate (Aeneas must found Rome, Gilgamesh must die because he will never attain the immortality he seeks.)

Also, thematically there are similarities; priestesses have prominent roles as guides in both epics (the Sybil, and a temple prostitute that “civilizes” Enkidu) and there is constant intervention/sacrifice to the gods along the way. Both heroes travel by sea or river and both have a love interest that ends badly (Dido’s death or an enraged goddesses wrath.) Fate plays a major role in both epics; Gilgamesh faces mortality and Aeneas must found Rome. Fighting in both epics is seen as, in some places, futile and a distinct part of the human condition however both heroes are ironically champion fighters whose tragic flaw is hubris.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Michael Gagarin on Medea

I found it interesting in the article, "Flow Backwards Sacred Rivers", that it seems that Euripides was following a pattern when it came to making the subordinate female into a dominant figure. Sophacles did it with Antigone, Aeschylus did it with Clytemnestra... Why did these poets have the desire to finally let the female character speak up? Was it a change in the culture? Did they finally realize that women were being oppressed?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

On Teaching Euripides' Medea

I found this article by the same guy who wrote On Teaching Sophocles' Oedipus Rex and I thought its was pretty interesting. I just read bits and pieces but I think a lot of what he has to say is pretty accurate. I really like how he shows the various aspects of Medea's character and at the end he says that Medea really is the ultimate performer putting on which ever persona she needs to gather sympathy (Jason and Aigeus) or empathy (the women of the chorus) from the people she is conversing with. Medea truly was clever.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Creon vs. Kreon

I looked up the difference between Creon and Kreon. This is what I found (keep in mind that the Creon in Antigone is the same as the one in Oedipus):

Are they the same?

No, Creon in 'Medea' wasn't the same as Creon in 'Antigone'. In the first case, Creon was the King of Corinth and the father of Princess Creusa. Both father and daughter were killed by Medea, who didn't want to let go of her husband Jason.
In the second case, Creon was the King of Thebes. He also was the father of Megara and thereby father-in-law to Heracles. He was killed by Lycus, who was Nycteus' brother. Nycteus was the father of Nycteis, who married Theban King Polydorus. Their son, Theban King Labdacus, was the father of Theban King Laius, who married Creon's sister Jocasta.

I hope this helps.

Monday, September 26, 2011


I looked up a synopsis of Antigone since I had never seen the play. 

My summary:
Basically, Creon, the king, wants to bury Etocles properly (he was on his side) and humiliate Polyneices (rebelled against him). Antigone wants to bury Polyneices properly even though it is against Creon's orders. She does anyways and Creon figures out that it was Antigone. Ismene also commits to the crime to die alongside her sister. He decides to spare Ismene and bury Antigone alive in a cave. Tiresias prophesies that Creon will lose a son, because he did not properly bury Polyneices and left Antigone to die underneath the Earth (which is apparently bad). Creon, afraid, decides to bury Polyneices and release Antigone. Eventually, Creon's son Haemon kills himself, because initially Creon would not listen to him to try and save Antigone's life. Also, Antigone and Eurydice (Creon's wife) have killed themselves. He is still king, but Creon has acted against the gods and has thus lost his son and wife.

I wish I would've watched the play, because it sounds very interesting.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Greek Sculptures, Chatsworth, and Pride & Prejudice

Okay so I'm really obsessed with Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice. Along with reading the book, I've watch the movie at least 12 times. There's one part in the movie where Elizabeth walks around Darcy's estate and views his sculpture collection. When we talked about Greek art in class this week, I immediately thought of this one sculpture.

I THINK IT'S SO COOL. How do they get the face to look like that under the veil? Yeah it's kinda creepy, but it's solid art.Anyway, I did a little research on the artwork (specifically Greek sculptures) found at Chatsworth, and this is what I came up with. There's also a great sculpture of Achilles.

Saturday, September 24, 2011


One thing I thought was really intresting about Oedipus was that he was relatable as a charactor. I think one reason this play is considered so well done, and maybe one reason people still read it, is Oedipus's accesible character. One thing that screen writers always tell you is that in order for an audiance to react to the material, they have to relate/sympathize with the characters. Oedipus is a man struggling with his frustrations at heavy responsiblity because he tries to take on too much; he's very human, his macho ego forces him not to accept defeat. Oedipus seems not to want to let anybody down, he has a lot on his plate but his decides he will handle it "like a man" because this seems to be the macho thing to do and Oedipus, as a king and leader, considers himself to be a tough-guy. (Maybe that wording trivilizes it, but I think Oedipus has charactoristics of a typical male charactor struggling to admit weakness in the face of insurmoutable adversity.) Oedipus struggles with this faith, being maybe a rationalist (even though he act irrationally towards other characters) he knows his people cant wait for a miracle and he take it upon himself to solve his peoples problems without sitting back and praying which he may intrepret as defeat (because he feels it's his responsiblity to make things happen.) Oedipus seems to be a pretty well rounded charactor to me, his flaws make him human I think.

Thursday, September 22, 2011


I've really enjoyed reading Oedipus Rex in class. I feel like reading it allowed and having different people act as characters helps me to understand the entire story and really see all the facts that are hiding. I think a main theme is the idea of fate vs. free will. Oedipus thinks that he has been living in free will, but in reality the oracle that was predicted for him is completely true. This relates back to the Aeneid, and Aeneas' fate to found the city of Rome. He was happy staying in Carthage and being involved with Dido but he had to be reminded about his destiny and then he was on his way to found Rome. Oedipus (at the point we are at) still does not believe that the oracle has come completely true, but he is definitely worried that it may come true. It is almost unbelievable that could forget that he killed a man. What do you guys think?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Roman Replicas

So I was a little bit curious about how the Romans made marble copies of the Greek statues. Metal (mostly bronze) copies made a little more sense to me since then were just poured into plaster molds. According to this brief article (, to make marble copies they would cast plaster figures of the original and then take exact measurements. 
I thought it was interesting that they would add other elements to suit the patron's taste. Much of what we know about Greek sculptures are from these replicas which could be very far from the original. Furthermore it was interesting to me that they had to add supports to marble copies. In my opinion, something as simple as a support added could ruin the entire aesthetics of the original piece even if they are beautiful in their own right. 

Arthur = an epic poem?

Okay so this isn't exactly the Aenied, but the whole time I was taking the test, I was thinking about this episode of Arthur. I didn't know it when I was seven, but now I can tell they copied the Odyssey a little. I think it's kind of funny.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Oedipus Rex

I thought this was pretty good and accurate, although I didn't finish watching it because I don't want to ruin the play for myself. In all honesty, it does trivialize Oedipus Rex a little bit, but I still think it's interesting and pretty well made. Check it out sometime next week after we finish reading the play!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

"Busy as Bees"

I wonder if the phrase/cliche "busy as bees" came from The Aeneid? I saw the epic simile on page 9 describing Carthage as "a tumult of bees" and I wondered if this common phrase came from that epic simile or maybe the phrase already existed and that's where Virgil got his idea from. Any ideas?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Oedipus: a character study

Oedipus's character is fascinating. I can't tell if he's short-tempered and power-thirsty, or genuine and just in over his head. I kind of think it is the latter. I think so far this book serves as a good lesson for me. Sometimes, like Oedipus, I take on too much. If Oedipus took a step back and listened to the Tiresias, he would know the answers by now. But being stubborn and determined, he didn't allow himself a minute to realize what is going on. Can't wait to continue...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Plato's Play-Doh

In general, I think Plato's philosophies are fascinating. The whole concept that what we perceive is not what really exists and we have no idea that it is just a copy of the ideal. I would have to agree with Ms. King that these concepts are interesting, but I do not believe in them. I believe that everyone perceives reality differently, but it is still reality that we can comprehend and see. I think that the perfect form that Plato speaks of is relative. For example, the idea that someone might be beautiful in appearance is something that is relative to the appearance of others. I do not think that there is some perfectly beautiful person in another realm that triumphs everything we can see on Earth. Plato's definitely teaches some interesting things.

Cave Picture

I thought this was a good picture to show Plato's cave. It helped me understand what was going on inside of the cave and understand the story better.

Amazon Myths

As I was researching the Amazon Warriors, I came across an interesting myth. It was said that they formed their own kingdom and government. Men were not allowed to come into their kingdom, but once a year, the Amazon women would visit the men's neighboring kingdom to ensure that their race would not die out. I thought this was significant because in the Aenied, women were portrayed mostly as bad and usually said no words, but the Amazon women were very independent and didn't even allow the men into their kingdom ever. Also, I found that in the Illiad, the amazon women were called Antianeirai, which means "those who fight like women."

Amazon Warriors

The Wikipedia Amazons page:

I found an interesting tidbit on the page talking about how the warriors would cut off their breast  to be able to shoot their arrows easier:

Among Classical Greeks, amazon was given a popular etymology as from a-mazos, "without breast", connected with an etiological tradition that Amazons had their right breast cut off or burnt out, so they would be able to use a bow more freely and throw spears without the physical limitation and obstruction; there is no indication of such a practice in works of art, in which the Amazons are always represented with both breasts, although the right is frequently covered.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Amazon Warriors

I found a little blurb on Amazon Warriors. Although it doesn't really address the feasibility of the myth, I thought it was interesting that it said that Amazon Warriors removed their right breast, and not their left like The Aeneid said.

Quote to ponder...

As I'm reading The Apology of Socrates, the following quote really struck me:

"You see, fearing death, gentlemen, is nothing other than thinking one is wise when one isn't since it's thinking one knows what one doesn't know. I mean, no one knows whether death may not be the greatest of all goods for people, but they fear it as if they knew for certain that it's the worst thing of all." (Page 659)

I thought this was definitely a new (well, new to me) way to think about death. It's really intriguing to me, although I'm still not quite sure what to think of it.

 Did you all find any of Socrates statements that really struck you?

Allegory of the Cave video

I found this great youtube video for the allegory of the cave. It makes it really easy to follow the progression of the story and also allows one to easily visualize the story. The language is kind of confusing, but this video definitely clears it up. Enjoy

Arms and the Man

This is kind of a random post, but did anyone else notice that chapter ten is titled "Arms and the Man" like the comedy that is supposed to be performed at stm later this month.... I was just wondering what the significance was.

Initial thoughts on The Apology of Socrates

I thought The Apology of Socrates was very good. Socrates totally shut down Meletus in his speech. Especially when he uses the example about the horse. He basically says horses, like humans, only have a few people they can go to that will actually benefit them. Meletus says all the Athenians can benefit the young, but Socrates says no, there are certain people who are teachers that will truly benefit them. This is a brilliant point that Socrates makes. Also, when he curses them it seems like he may have lost it, but he makes a reasonable and good point. That's all.

Saturday, September 10, 2011


One of the things I love about The Aeneid is the fact that it often references the Odyssey, which we've read and thus can understand the allusions! One example I really liked was in Chapter 3 when Polyphemus shows up on the seaside. I thought it was really interesting that he was blind in The Aeneid because of Odysseus and his men. It gives a sort of timeline by comparison. Odysseus was traveling home after the Trojan War, but obviously got to this location before Aeneas. It's pretty cool!

prevalent quotes in the aenied

I'm always amazed by how many everyday phrases come from literature - especially ancient literature. My parents and grandparents both use the phrase, "Rome wasn't built in a day." Also, I liked speculating the origin of "don't look a gift horse in the mouth." I never realized it referred to the trojan horse. Has anyone else seen any popular quotes?


The Aeneid potrays Aeneis as a new kind of hero. A traditional Roman or Greek hero would have stayed in the Trojan war and fought to the death however Aeneis decided to leave the war because he had a greater destiny that is to lay the groundwork for the founding for a new city, Rome. Aeneis has the quality of pietas or loyalty to ones state. Aeneis is loyal to the gods in the sense that he follows their orders and decree and his loyalty is an important aspect of his character

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The House of the Spirits

While watching the movie yesterday in class, I saw many similarities to 100 Years Solitude, especially when it came to magical realism. Most of the magic is involved with Clara. She has obvious magical powers, as seen when she is moving things around with her mind. During the first scene in the movie, she moves the vase without raising a finger and also has people waiting in lines to get some type of advice from her. She also has the ability to predict deaths. She also just decides to not speak for a certain period of time. Another similarity between the two is all the secret love affairs. In 100 Years of Solitude, there are a lot of examples of incest, and while the affairs in The House of the Spirits are not full of incest, they are very secretive. An example of this is Pedro and Blanca; they have a secret meeting place each year and are having a constant affair, without her father knowing. Another similarity I saw was the hacienda that the family was living in. Much like the Buendia's house, it started off as barely anything and transformed into a very successful place for the family to grow and thrive in. What other similarities did yall see during the movie?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

How come we never discussed this quote in class...?

"I don't want you to sketch this cripple, this freak of nature, I want you to slaughter him, crucify him, to nail him to your paper with charcoal!" -Raskinlokov

This is one of my favorite quotations from the book. I underlined it as soon as I read it. I can't beleive we never discussed it in class. It's so full of emotion, and I think it's the most perfect, unsubtle reference to Oskar being Jesus. Plus, it also includes art.. bonus points. Basically, Raskinlokov is asking his pupils to crucify Oskar with the use of art. Being such an intriguing thought, this brings back the whole "is art constructive or destructive?" debacle. All around, I think it's pretty genius.

Judas baby

More so than the parallels between Oskar and Jesus or Satan, I liked the Oskar-Judas relationship. His betrayal of his three (that's wierd to think) parents is such a strong part of the novel, that it's no surprise he is compared to yet again, another notorious biblical character. On page 229, Oskar refers to Jan's capture as his own "Judas performance". This is because he sold out his presumptive father, which inevitably led to his death, making Oskar's description an accurate one. Also Grass writes on page 338 that the statue of Jesus says to Oskar, "Dost thou love me, Oskar?" just like Jesus said to Judas. This second parallel again points to Oskar filling the role of not only the messiah and the devil, but the betrayer that turns over his lord to be crucified. Maybe this means Oskar is self-destructive...? I mean he does seem to want to keep himself in a asylum/prison... Also Judas betrays Jesus 3 times (THREE!! TRIANGLES!!) and Oskar betrays 3 parents (ANOTHER THREE!!) so the symbolism is pretty undeniable.

"Judas! Juda-a-a! Judas! Juda-a-a!"

^a little Lady Gaga..

Thursday, September 1, 2011

If I were going to write an essay....

I love Pink Floyd. As I was reading The Tin Drum this summer I felt like there were maybe some thematic similarities between Pink Floyd the Wall and The Tin Drum. The Wall basically chronically a man's decent into madness and how that madness is perhaps a product of several influences; WWII, his mothers protectiveness/his inability to some extent to cope with adulthood and a recently ended romantic relationship, inability to cope properly with difficult emotions associated with post WWII era, drug abuse, the tedium of the school system, and the concept of sexuality verse love. Ultimately the protagonist Pink (who is based on Syd Barret, real former bandmate) hits the wall, is left unable to express emotion, insane, and trapped at the bottom of a metaphorical well with no means of escape. The movie explores one man's psyche and possible social/societal causes of his madness. I think the progression of madness, specifically the literal/metaphorical wall that builds brick by brick throughout the movie is thematically similar to the Black Cook/Black Witch in Oskar's life; it creeps up slowly then becomes inevitable and unavoidable. Also its interesting to note that both deal with enigmas associated with WWII, specifically fascist/communist symbols. Also thematically, surrealism is used in both works.
This video right here is reflective of the difficulties of growing up in a post WWII Europe and uses music, WWII enigmas, and surreal images to portray the moral confusion of the war and probably more specifically the Blitz (since Floyd's and English band.) The juxtaposition of a blue sky with a war stricken black sky full of bombs as well as soft uncertain vocals against a back drop of death and destruction make this one of the most enigmatic pieces in the movie. It depicts a white dove changing into the dark Nazi falcon and ripping the skin off Europe as a thousand falling bombs are changed into the white crosses that mark the graves of veterans. Then the Nazi symbol changes into something like a giant carbuncular Moloch-like worm that sits over Europe while little creatures with gas-masks for faces hide in the subway tunnels. There's a strikingly post-modern feel comes from Pink's trouble finding morality in the mess here depicted. (The movie is set, I think, in the 70s so this would be looking back - similar to Oskar as he looks back on his childhood experiences in WWII.) This link doesn't work anymore but I stuck a new one on the comment section... yeah it's Goodbye Blue Sky and it's an awesome song...

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hiding the harm

As we discussed the different sections of the book today in class, we talked about the play in pill boxes during the Tin Drum. While the play is going on, Lankes open fires on a nun. (which is just morally wrong.) But Grass uses the play to diminish the tragedy of the murder. I thought this was similar to the Massacre in 100 Years. Both authors use magical realism to cover up horrible events. No one believed that the massacre even occured in Macondo, and they all thought Segundo was just making up the whole story. While in the Tin Drum, although we know the murder did happen, Grass tries to make light of the situation by adding the element of the play to distract us from fully understanding what just occurred.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

There Was Once A Drummer...

Here is a trailer for the 1979 movie The Tin Drum.

Oskar is a small child who has the tin drum and glass shattering voice. It depicts scenes from Oskar's life such as his schooling, his two "presumptive" fathers, his affairs with mistresses, the fizz powder scene, the Nazi rallies, and his traveling troupe. The scenes with older women are really weird, because Oskar is a little boy and he is in bed with a grown woman. From what I can tell, it looks like a really disturbing movie. I think it does, however, accurately portray the insanity of Oskar.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Lost in Translation?

After today's class, I became intrigued by translations of literature, particularly for The Tin Drum. So, once again I began looking around on the internet and found this video of Gunter Grass and Breon Mitchell:

It's a bit hard to understand Grass in the beginning, but if you listen carefully you can hear him comment on the problems of translating the Danzig slang he uses in the novel. For example, later in the video Mitchell begins speaking about how he had a lot of trouble trying to place his finger on a synonym for the Danzig word "girl" other then "girl," because it didn't sound quite right.

I think this really poses the question of how true translated literature can really be compared to its original form. We can't possibly learn every language of the world so translations will just have to do. A citation regarding the novel says, "Mitchell makes us aware that even good work, such as Ralph Manheim's respected earlier translation, bears improvement..."( This just goes to show that translations can never be one hundred percent like the original.

Friday, August 26, 2011

All About the Symbols

So I was looking around online for something interesting related to One Hundred Years of Solitude and came upon this video:

It was a project created by a student for a graphics class. Other then the technical specs, what really impressed me were the simple symbols the creator used. Although text was used, not a single word was spoken and the artist managed to represent many of the key characters through a symbol or significant event the Marquez has linked with the character. For example, Aureliano was, quite obviously, represented by gold fish but more creatively, Meme was portrayed with her lover and a flow of butterflies.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

If I Were Going to Write an Essay Topic

If I were going to write an essay I'd probably pick biblical themes/symbols. I think these symbols are important to the novel especially because religion is important to many of the characters (like Ursula and Fernanda in particular), to the culture of Macondo and the culture of the region it represents. I'd write about Macondo as Eden with Jose Arcadio (I) as Adam like we mentioned in class. In the beginning it all seems pretty ideal in the beginning especially with that line about the world "being so recent it was necessary to point" which goes back to Adam naming everything. Also Jose Arcadio is similar to Adam again when his search for knowledge ends in his eventual madness with him tied to a tree. The next point might be Amaranta's virginity and her connection to the Virgin. When death visits and speaks to her near the end of her life when she's sewing her shroud, Death comes to her in the form of a woman in blue and white (Mary's colors) and I think this is probably a symbol for Mary and fate. On her deathbed Amaranta says she has nothing to confess which may be because she feels sort of vindicated by the specter of Death that visited her which would maybe hint at some intervention by the Virgin herself. The third biblical theme might be the allusions to the bible through out the book. The years of rain are similar to Noah and at one point I think one of the characters said something about it felt during the rains as if he 'married Noah's wife' (I think it was Aureliano Segundo...) Anyway another allusion was made about Aureliano (Meme's kid) when Fernanda told everybody in the house that he was found in a basket floating down the river. Finally I think Remedios the Beauty's ascension is pretty important symbolically. I think the reaction Fernanda and Jose Arcadio (the one who was supposed to be the Pope but turned out to be kind of a creep) is pretty important to note. Those who, who claim to be the most pious in the entire family, are the only two that resent the ascension (maybe out of secret jealousy); Fernanda is indigent that she took her sheets with her to Heaven and her son, the one who was supposed to be Pope, even tried to use his priestly powers to ask that she be sent back to earth at one point. What's kind of ironic is that the characters most closely connected to organized religion seem to be less religious than the ones who don't go to Church like Jose Arcadio (I) for example (with the exception being Ursula.) This is a much longer post than I thought it was going to be....

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Essay Topic

To me, the most interesting aspect of the book is the magical realism.
The author has no boundaries and can really get a point using magical realism. One example is that was mentioned in class is Remedios ascending to heaven versus the massacre. The author makes a strong point by using a fantastic event to show how history alters human perception.

My essay topic

I would write my essay about the house as it's own character. It goes through changes as the people change. The house starts off as small just like the other houses but it becomes a mansion. This is reflective of the Buendia family's rise to power in Macando. Also, the furniture that goes into the house brings in western influence. Lastly, I would discuss that in times of poverty the house becomes decrepit and in times of wealth the house looks almost regal.

If I were to write an essay...

I would write about Ursula and her many roles within the novel. Ursula in a way is the backbone of the Buedia family. She is the more level headed member of the family and counter acts Jose Arcadia's (the patriarch) free spirit. I would analyze her behavior and how she maintains a stable home for the rest of the Buendia family. This would lead me to the topic of Ursula and Jose Arcadio's love. I feel that even though Jose Arcadio is mostly isolated due to his scientific experiments and search for new things, Ursula still loves him and cares about him. Specifically when he stays out by the tree for long periods of time; she still takes the time to go out and tell him about everything that is going on the families life, and she still wishes he would help guide the family. One example of Ursula's level head is on page 13. Jose Arcadio wishes to move away from Macondo and Ursula takes charge and does what is best for the family.

If Ursula was not as strong willed as she is, I feel like the family would have fallen apart long before it did.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

If I were to write an essay...

If I were to write an essay right now, I would probably examine the idea of Macondo being a microcosm. Specifically, I would focus on the techniques that Marquez uses to maintain the microcosm effect such as: the portrayal of time, incest...

Both of these factors really do the same thing. By skewing time, and having characters that seem to live for ever, surviving near death experiences, and overcoming old age, the story stays constant character-wise. It's the same with incest. Because Marquez's character breed amongst each other, it narrows the character base down significantly. It keeps Macondo small, and it focuses all the attention down to a single, in-bred family, making it very obvious whenever there is an outsider in their midst.

I also would touch on the why Marquez would choose to employ a microcosm in his writing. There are lots of reasons: to have a clean slate (it gives the author total power over their story), to be able to mimic latin american countries without having to include all the historical factors that Mrs. Quinet talked about today, to be able to mimic a creation story...

It's late. I hope this made some sense...

100 Years to Live

So, I am making the second blog post of the year in response to Ms. King's question about writing an essay on One Hundred Years of Solitude.

My first thoughts about writing an essay about this novel would be to write about the outside influence, such as technology, into Macondo. I believe that Marquez wanted to negatively portray the West to show that it does not always bring positive influences and can lead to the end of a civilization. The gypses represented the first contract that the Buendias had with the outside world. They are the links to the outside world and bring new technologies to the town that drive some men crazy such as Jose, the patriarch, and also his son Colonel Aureliano, who retreats to his workshop towards the end of his life. I would also talk about the railroad and the banana plantation’s impact on Macondo. The railroad’s era is the duration of when Macondo is very closely connected with the outside world. The railroad represents the turning point for the town, because before it the town was “progressing” and after its creation the town began to degenerate and start to crumble. The banana planation also shows that industry can lead to death and turmoil. The workers eventually revolt against the imperialism and they are killed and unfortunately are forgotten. I believe that the modernity trumps the tradition that characters like Ursula tried to maintain in the home. I could probably also include other symbols such as ice, the English encyclopedia, or even the piano (it is a positive part of the West). Also, I thought of the townspeople as similar to the Native Americans and their fascination with technologies that explorers brought over to the New World, such as metals, clothing and horses. But, the explorers also brought about diseases that the Indians couldn’t handle and caused many of them to die out. These diseases could be compared with the insomnia that Rebeca brought to Macondo. Just some thoughts…

- Ravin

[There’s never a wish better than this when you only got a hundred years to live...]

If I were to write an essay...

Alright, so I guess I'll go ahead and make the first blog post of the year in response to Ms. King's question about writing an essay on One Hundred Years of Solitude.

If I were to sit down right now and write an essay, I think I would choose to analyze the characteristics and traits of each of the characters and how these play into their repeated names and relationships among each other. For example, I would describe the distinct nature of the "Aurelianos" versus that of the "Jose Arcadios" except of course for the Segundo twins. This would lead me into discussion about how most of the "Aurelianos" such as the Colonel isolated themselves from the world. Colonel Aureliano avoided forming emotional relationships such as when Ms. King mentioned that he did not even seem effected after Remedios' death. Furthermore I would discuss the boisterous nature of the "Jose Arcadios." For example, Jose Arcadio Buendia (the patriarch) exhibited characteristics distinctive to his namesake when he hot-handedly slayed Prudencio Aguilar. His son, Jose Arcadio also displayed such characteristics when he quickly ran off with the gypsies and returned with a disruptive nature and married Rebecca who was still engaged to Pietro Crespi.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Closing Up Shop

As this is presumably the final blog post of the year, I decided that I would post something lighthearted (and relevant!) that I think you all might appreciate. Here is the link to a very brief interview with Salman Rushdie himself:

That's right... In the future, we can watch Midnight's Children, the Movie! Though my initial reaction to the news was skepticism at the possibility of ever doing the original text justice, I have to admit that it makes sense after brief consideration. As we said in class, Rushdie is very cinematic in his style; scenes quickly range from small, individual details to panoramic views. Just think of how he describes Bombay as its own character with actions that mirror Saleem's. Furthermore, movie references abound in Rushdie's book, likely as a result of Bollywood's importance in India. One has to respect Rushdie for making his novel into a Bollywood movie rather than a triple-A Western title. Hopefully he will have as much success as Grass did when the Tin Drum was turned into a movie (which won several awards including an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film).

Incidentally, I believe all of the Tin Drum is on YouTube in the event that any of you want to bring your year full -circle.

Time to take the Last Supper picture and get around to graduating.
Ecce Finis Laborum (Behold the end of our labors)!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


I was reminded of Margaret Sanger today when we discussed Indira's emergency. Under her plan, vasectomies were commissioned to men whose families's could no longer economically support a bigger family (with more children). It is directed at lower income people-making it seem as if they are trying to get rid of this specific group. As we discussed previously with Margaret Sanger, her push for women's birth control could have been seen as a racist ploy to purify the race. Although personally I don't think Sanger was pushing women's rights and birth control as a means to eradicate the minorities, Indira's plans could be suspicious. She was accused of election fixing so do you guys think that her vasectomies were aimed to exterminate the lower income people or to really benefit the greater good of India?
Also, sterility is a common theme in Rushdie's novel. For example, Saleem can't use his two "pens" can't be used at the same time. Could it be that Rushdie is referencing Indira's programs?


I recently stumbled upon a website that displays minimalist movie posters. This reminded me of previous class discussions about well-known minimalists such as Frank Stella, the artist of the Quathlamba series. As a reaction against Abstract Expressionalism, Minimalist artists reduce a work of art to its most fundamental and necessary elements, while still expressing the entire meaning or idea behind it. Here, in these posters, minimalism is taken to its extreme. Some of my favorites are 15. Spider Man, 39. Planet of the Apes, 40. Dracula, and 41. The Wizard of Oz... Check it out:

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Midnight Children's Conference

Saleem's descriptions of the Midnight Conference mirror the current state of India and allow the reader to gain insight on Saleem's character. He originally desires for the Conference to benefit the rest of India; he believes the midnight children can make a difference. However, through his adult perspective, Saleem views his childish hopes as part of the "disease of optimism." Rather than helping India in creation, he ominously refers to their destruction.
Saleem wants the Conference to be "a sort of loose federation of equals, all points of view given free expression" (252). As a foil to Saleem, Shiva discounts Saleem's views. When Saleem claims that the Midnight Children must have a purpose, Shiva declares, "What purpose man? What thing in the whole sister-sleeping world got reason, yara? For what reason you're rich and I'm poor? Where's the reason in starving?" (252). Shiva's points resonate with me because I think about these questions often. How can there be reason and fairness in the world when people are starving? Rushdie raises the questions that many people in India during this time were probably asking themselves through Shiva.
I think it is interesting that Rushdie depicts interactions between Saleem and Shiva. By portraying Shiva as a realistic but violent poor person and Saleem as an idealistic but passive rich person, Rushdie displays how these viewpoints and personalities conflict in India. I think their interactions deeply influence the other children as well, although Rushdie does not write as much about this.
What do you all think about the Midnight Children's Conference and the relationship between Shiva and Saleem?

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Gandhi Biography Controversy

Speaking of Gandhi, I mentioned a new biography about the Mahatma earlier in class this week. The book, which has not yet been released, is already the focal point of a fair amount of controversy. Critics claim that the author, Lelyveld, suggests that Gandhi was a bisexual individual. As a result of this charge, multiple Indian states are planning to ban the book, despite potentially violating the author's right to publish.

I heard the story on NPR. You can find the audio file and the printed transcript of the feature by clicking here.

I think that these events take place at a convenient time for our class. One is able to observe quite directly the supreme reverence India's people have for its former visionary. In fact, multiple Indian politicians and states are prepared to violate the democratic right to freedom of the press in order to defend the symbol of the new, powerful country. Such a ban reminds me of Islam's declared fatwa against Rushdie for his book The Satanic Verses. At the same time, however, very many Indians are making a valiant effort to fight for the other side on the issue by defending the press, thus demonstrating the wealth of societies and cultural values dispersed across the wide region of the globe. India's diversity is exceedingly clear. Can anybody else integrate this news story into the broader framework of Rushdie's novel?

Incidentally, the newly unified India clearly retained many of its earlier colonial states!

Gandhi's Absence in Midnight's Children

I am intrigued by Gandhi's pronounced absence from Book I of Midnight's Children, which covers the years and events leading to Indian Independence in 1947. Throughout the world, Gandhi has become a symbol of tolerance and nonviolent protest; he was the hero of India's independence. Therefore, it makes no sense that Rushdie would leave out such an important and beloved character without specific reasons to do so. It is possible that Rushdie simply didn't see the use in celebrating an individual whose reputation was already so spotless. Perhaps Rushdie didn't feel the need to put effort into retelling such a popular story. However, I think that a large deal of Gandhi's absence must be attributed to Saleem himself. After all, Saleem is telling us his story; within this metafictional construction, the omission is truly Saleem's, rather than Rushdie's. Perhaps Saleem sees himself as a competitor or potential replacement for Gandhi. Saleem holds hundreds of millions of people together, just as Gandhi managed to do in the midst of a colonial crisis. Now, after independence and with Gandhi killed, the stage is set for Saleem and the rest of the Midnight's Children to take the reins and serve as models for the character and society of India. The implication that Saleem is focused on himself reinforces that concept of the postmodern anti-hero who has ulterior motives and cannot be trusted as a narrator.

Modern Art and College Visits

Hello, everyone! I feel as though it is time for me to contribute something new to the blog. I know this post's topic is a little after the fact, but I still think that it is worth the time. When I was touring Princeton, I came across the sculpture pictured above. Around five seconds after first glancing at it, I did what must have been a rather hilarious double-take. With excited curiosity, I approached the work and confirmed my suspicion: that this was a member of David Smith's Cubi series. The sculpture above is none other than Cubi XIII.

The experience definitely made me appreciate Mrs. Quinet's attempts to improve our cultural literacy. However, I think that the event is interesting for still another reason: how was I able to recognize Smith's work without ever seeing it before? How does an artist manage to find a distinguishable style amidst the proliferation of Minimalist and Abstract Expressionist art? Smith's sculpting material (steel), use of geometric shapes, and configuration of disparate elements is simultaneously commonplace and characteristic of his art specifically. I suppose this dichotomy points to the modern artist's ability to appeal to subtle and subconscious psychological processes for pattern recognition and analysis. In other words, the artist toys with our presuppositions and takes full advantage of our ability to think symbolically. What do you all think?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Saleem's Search for Identity

As we continue to discuss Midnight's Children, I have started to think about how there is so much chaos going on in the life of Saleem, and that it must be extremely difficult for him to feel as if he has a true identity. I don't know if any of yall are feeling this way but if I had 3 potential fathers, I would be a pretty confused person. As Saleem recounts the life of his family, which should identify him, he discusses the various confusing elements of his life that in my opinion would make him question himself.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Heart of Darkness and Midnight's Children

While we were discussing Methwold's character in class, I kept thinking of Conrad's Heart of Darkness. The colonizers in Heart of Darkness, like Methwold in Midnight's Children, act as if they are above the natives, yet perform vulgar actions. This divide between the West and India blurs, leading the reader to question the true differences of the two cultures. Just as we tried to decipher the source of the darkness in Conrad’s novella, we have attempted to determine whether the positive impact of the Europeans outweighs the negative effect. Rushdie seems to reject binary thinking, and thus he narrows the gap between Indians and Westerners. What examples does Rushdie give to refute traditional, binary ways of thinking?