Monday, January 31, 2011

western philosophy

I just "stumbled" upon this really cool link. It breaks down several sources of literature and takes you to certain authors' wiki pages. check it out

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Dostoevsky and Freud

While reading Freud's "The Anatomy of the Mental Personality," I recollected the Underground Man's views of pain and pleasure. On page 556 of the Norton Anthology, the Underground man declares, “Don't you see: reason is a fine thing, gentlemen, there's no doubt about it, but it’s only reason, and it satisfies only man’s rational faculty, whereas desire is a manifestation of all life, that is, of all human life, which includes both reason, as well as all of life’s itches and scratches.” Freud discusses how "id" or "untamed passions" can take over the ego (reason). He constructs a metaphor comparing the battle for control between id and ego with the power struggle between a horse and its rider. Like Dostoevsky's Underground Man, Freud recognizes the power of passion and its constant struggle with logic. However, Freud seems to think the ego can be strengthened through psychoanalysis to overpower the id, unlike Dostoevsky's Underground Man who questions what our "best interest" even means. What do you all think?

Conrad's Guilt

I found this interesting book review of "Heart of Darkness" that examines the novella as one inspired by guilt. Tim Butcher, the author of the article, states that although many have different opinions about Conrad's stance on colonialism and his tone, he believes Conrad wrote "Heart of Darkness" principally out of guilt. Like we read about in the article Mrs. Quinet posted last week, Butcher describes the persecution of prisoners, whose hands were cut off when they misbehaved to set an example. The author contends that Conrad was scarred by these experiences and wrote "Heart of Darkness" to purge himself of shame and ponder how humans could be so cruel towards one another. What do you all think about this argument?

Saturday, January 29, 2011


Hello Everybody,
Yesterday was my birthday and I find it only appropriate to blog about it. I started my day out basking in the sun, contemplating life and relating it to the life of many of the interesting protagonists of the novels we have read. I realized my life is quite uninteresting in comparison with Charles Marlowe and Hamlet and that I should probably sail down the congo rivers and become a prince sometime in my life. I also share my birthday with Thomas Paine, General Henry Lee III, Oprah Winfrey, Elijah Woods and Aaron Carter.

Which famous historical people do ya'll share birthdays with and which protagonists do ya'll best relate to?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Joseph Conrad

As we are reading Heart of Darkness I am amazed that Conrad's first language was not English. By Conrad writing such an impeccable novel in a language other than his native language, it shows that he is truly a genius. I could never image writing a novella in another language! Conrad continues to amaze me with his writing and intelligence.

T.S. Eliot and Conrad

While reading "Heart of Darkness" last night, I realized that I remembered the line "Mistah Kurtz is dead" from the T.S. Eliot's "The Hollow Men." Both T.S. Eliot and Conrad are writers with modern outlooks on life and the twentieth century. Below is the beginning of the "Hollow Men."

Mistah Kurtz—he dead.

A penny for the Old Guy


We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar

Monday, January 24, 2011

Marlow and the Underground Man

Today in class we talked about how Marlow stays sane through his adventures in Africa by focusing on steering the steamboat, or in other words, by having a task to accomplish. On page 803 in the Norton Anthology, Marlow asserts, “When you have to attend to things of that sort, to the mere incidents of the surface, the reality- the reality, I tell you- fades. The inner truth is hidden- luckily, luckily.” By focusing on piloting the ship, he does not allow his emotions to overcome him. In contrast, Dostoevesky's Underground Man lets his thoughts and memories conquer his life. His inaction (another form of action, according to existentialists) and lack of purpose lead to his bitter unhappiness. Both Dostoevesky's Underground Man and Marlow become disenchanted with society but differ in the ways they handle their disgruntlement.
Do you all see any other similarities or differences between Marlow and the Underground Man?

The Congo River

Because the focal point of Heart of Darkness is Marlow's journey up the Congo River, I decided to do some research. The largest river in western Central Africa, the Congo serves as the most powerful river on the entire continent. Although the Nile is overall the longest African River, the Congo comes second with a length of 2,900 miles and holds the title of fifth longest river in the world. Discharging 1.5 million cubic feet of water per second, the Congo has the second largest flow in the world.
In 1484, the Portugese explorer Diogo Cam became the first European to enter the Congo River, and he claimed the area for the king of Portugal. It wasn't until 1876 that parts of the Congo were claimed by Belgium.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Baudelaire's "Her Hair"

Although I was intrigued by his beautiful descriptions of the woman's hair, it was hard to ignore the poet's levels of objectivity. He made no attempt to write about his love for the woman, another human being. The romanticized language that Baudelaire employs illustrates his reverence for esthetically and sensually pleasing imagery. However, in "Her Hair,"  he shows no sign of human connections (which reminds me slightly of the Underground Man). Do you think the lack of reciprocation from the woman in "Her Hair" is a reflection of Baudelaire as a writer, or perhaps, as a man?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Flowers of Evil

I found this article on Baudelaire's religious ideals. It, too, says that Baudelaire doesn't really explain what he thinks. However, the article gives some insight into his mind.

Manet in New Orleans,r:0,s:0&tx=82&ty=108

Here is the painting of the Cotton Factory by Manet that Mrs. Quinet talked about in class today. I think it is interesting that Manet stayed in New Orleans and chose to depict this scene.


This was one of my favorite pictures of the trains we saw today. I think it is interesting that trains were so predominate in art. I think I liked this image the most because it focuses more on the way light hits the train.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Series of Unfortunate Events

While rereading Baudelaire, I realized that his dark poems reminded me of Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events. Both Snicket and Baudelaire express an obsession with death and despair in their writing. The last name of the children in Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events is Baudelaire, possibly a reference to the poet. Snicket's ironic references, realistic outlook on life, and modern personality all remind me of Baudelaire. Can you all see any other similarities between Baudelaire and Snicket or their works?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Freud and His Legacy

Last week, Mrs. Quinet mentioned that we might look at Freud and psychoanalysis in connection with Notes from Underground and other Realist works. I recently read a pair of editorials in New Scientist magazine which discussed the value of Psychoanalysis from a scientific standpoint. The question is compelling: is Freud's legacy more important from a Humanities standpoint than it is to the field of Psychology?

Since I could not find the editorials online, I typed them up and put them on Google Docs. Here is the link:

You can read the pair in under five minutes.

Does Freud still matter? If so, is it only in a purely literary-historical sense? Let me know what you think! Maybe we will talk about it sometime next week?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Money = Happiness

The excerpt we read last night by Balzac talked about how Goriot's happiness was defined by money. Goriot no longer has a relationship with his children because he has lost all of his money. He says that money is the cause and solution for his problem. I really like this statement because I feel like even today money is a problem for most people but it is also a way to fix the problems. Money is such a big part of society that people allow it to determine their happiness. What did yall think about the reading and the role money plays in society?

Twisted Relationships

We have obviously talked about disgusting relationships, often sexual, in most all of the literature we have read. For example, incest has come up in several different readings. Does anyone else suspect a bizarre relationship between Bounderby and Louisa?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

Since we talked in more depth about the poem today, I thought it might be helpful to review the poem. We discussed how both Prufrock and Underground Man live in urban environment, loathe themselves, and feel alienated from society. Both are also restless and fail to progress.
In addition, we talked about how both "Notes from Underground" and "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" use yellow to convey stagnation and pollution of the environment and mind. In addition to the yellow snow, I also thought of the "lemon colored" gloves that the Underground determines are not as sophisticated as the black gloves. He says, "'That would be too glaring, as if the person wanted to be noticed'; so I didn't buy the lemon-colored ones." (570).
Can you all notice any other similarities between "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" and "Notes from Underground"?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Role of Liza, The Prostitute

Since we haven't fully discussed Liza's role in Notes from Underground in class yet, I thought we could talk about her signifiance on the blog. I believe that Liza's character and her interaction with the young Underground Man serve to justify his withdrawn and defeated personality at age 40. Although it is possible that the Underground Man loved Liza, he was incapable of demonstrating care and affection toward her. Instead, he chastised her. This attack could have been an extremely brutal attempt to save her from debauchery, or rather, a vicious attempt to assert his authority over an individual in order to gain power. In fact, the Underground Man himself expresses this inability to engage in a loving relationship as he explains, "With me loving meant tyrannising and showing my moral superiority...Love really consists in the right – freely given by the beloved object – to tyrannise over her...I did not imagine love except as a struggle. I began it always with hatred and ended it with moral subjugation, and afterwards I never knew what to do with the subjugated object." I believe that the Underground Man's choice to attack such a compassionate person prevents the reader from sympathizing with him. How do you all think Liza adds to the dynamic of the novella?

Prufrock, The Underground Man, and Dante

I found this article that relates Prufrock to themes of Existentialism, The Underground Man, and Dante.
I think it's interesting that the article relates several topics that we've discussed and already studied!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

2 times 2 =... 5?

I thought this quote from "Notes from Underground" was extremely interesting: "I agree that two times two makes four is a splendid thing; but if we're going to lavish praise, then two times two makes five is sometimes also a very charming little thing." (page 559) Throughout "Notes from Underground," the narrator challenges not only Romantics but also logic and reason. He calls into question what we believe to be true, while also asserting his own intelligence. What do you all think Dostoevsky intends the reader to think about 2 times 2 equaling 4 or 5?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Oskar and the Underground Man

As I was reading Chapter 1 of Part II of "Notes from Underground," I, like Samantha insightfully said today in class, was reminded of Oskar from "The Tin Drum." The narrator's antisocial tendencies and insecurities seem to mirror Oskar's. Also, both Oskar and the narrator of "Notes from Underground" take pride in their intelligence. Do you all see any other similarities between Oskar and the Underground man?

Dostoevsky's Antisemitism

I found this article about Dostoevsky as an anti-Semite. I thought it was interesting that he, like Voltaire, expressed his anti-Semitism. However, he never admitted to being an anti Semite, perhaps out of guilt because of his Christian morals.
Today we talked about how Dostoevsky included characters in his works of literature that mirrored people in his life and his historical background. The article states that Dostoevsky was first exposed to Jews in Siberia during the eight years he spent there in exile. This quote is from Dostoevsky's "The Devils": "The Jews lived solely in expectation of the true God, and they left this true God to the world...A nation which loses faith is no longer a nation. But there is only one truth; consequently, only one nation can posses the true God...The sole "God bearing" nation is the Russian nation..." Dostoevsky's strong faith in the Orthadox religion led him to disdain Jews, but it is ironic that he criticizes Jews when he wrote abundantly about the human condition.
What do you all think?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Dostoevsky Article

I just wanted to post this interesting article about Dostoevsky. Mrs. Quinet brought this issue up in class yesterday. The article discusses the controversy over decorating the walls of a metro station with illustrations inspired by Dostoevsky's work.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Eric is gone...

How do yall think the dynamic of the class will change now that Eric has left us?