Monday, February 28, 2011

Matisse- "The Joy of Life"

Since we have a test Thursday, I think it is benifical if we discuss some of the art Mrs. Quinet showed us. This is Matisse's "Joy of Life"- He is using different colors that weren't normally seen during this time. This painting comes from the Fauvism period, which lasted from 1905 to 1907. Matisse's wide range of colors and interesting concentration made this painting purely his perspective. This painting was excatly what was going through Matisse's mind. The response to this painting was that critics thought Matisse was insane. What else do yall have to say about this painting?

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Another Harry Potter Reference (sorry guys....)

While we were discussing Perceval in connection with the origins of the Holy Grail, Harry Potter immediately came to my mind. In the seventh book of the series, Harry and his friends search for the Deathly Hollows, which are three sacred objects, including the Resurrection Stone, the Invisibility Cloak, and the Elder Wand. This expedition relates to Perceval’s journey to acquire the Holy Grail. Just as Perceval matures throughout his quest, Harry discovers himself while looking for the hollows, and both characters’ selflessness enables them to succeed. Can you all think of any other connections between the story of the Grail and literature or culture?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Picasso's Guernica

Pablo Picasso's Guernica happens to be one of my favorite paintings, so I decided to elaborate upon what we learned in class on Thursday. I have circled some of the "hidden" elements of the painting (you might have to click on the image for a full-size version, as the circles are very thin). The red circle around the horse's mouth contains a human skull hidden in plain view. Immediately to the left, in the background of the painting, sits a bird, perhaps a dove, circled in light blue. This symbol of peace juxtaposes with the symbol of death, though its relative obscurity suggests that an end to fighting might still be far off. The dead soldier's arms are circled in violet; they are covered in distinctive scratches and piercings known as stigmata. Stigmata are characteristic of crucifixion wounds, suggesting that the soldier is a martyr of sorts. It is also interesting to note that the broken sword held in the soldier's severed right hand is upside down. Though I do not know if holding a sword in such a way has any traditional symbolic meaning, it is a powerful image that suggests vulnerability. Finally, circled in green, there is the mysterious face of a second bull which emerges from the horse's front leg. Picasso included the horse and bull characters in the painting as symbols of Spain; however, this hidden bull appears much more sinister. Its horn points directly toward the horse's wounded side. The meaning of this face (and of the horse and bull imagery in general) has been much debated by critics. Picasso explicitly declined to comment on the significance of his imagery, and no definitive conclusions have been reached. What do you all think of these elements? What do they mean? Can anybody find other features of the painting that I may have missed?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Birth Control and "The Wasteland"

Today in class we discussed birth control in connection with the section of "The Wasteland" in which Lil complains that abortion pills have caused her to look older. I found this article by Margaret Sanger online that outlines why women should use birth control. Her arguments are sound and well organized. She asserts that leaving either abortion or abstinence as the only options for women is cruel and unhealthy. Also, she argues that it is not fair for the children whose parents are not ready to raise them or do not want them.
I think Eliot evokes a controversial issue of his time by including this reference to abortion pills. Lil's state of mind and appearance seem to be as gloomy and ominous as the rest of the characters and descriptions in the poem. Why do you all think Eliot included this detail, and do you think it is significant to the poem as a whole?


I think Cleopatra is a very fascinating woman and I wanted to do some more research on her to clarify after our discussion today in class. While serving as Egypt's pharaoh she became involved with Julius Caesar. She later had a son with Caesar named Caesarion. After Julius Caesar's assassination in 44 BC, she started up a relationship with Mark Antony in opposition with Augustus. Cleopatra and Mark Antony had twins, Cleopatra Selene II and Alexander Helios and another son Ptolemy Philadelphus. After losing the Battle of Actium to Octavian's forces, Mark Antony committed suicide. Cleopatra then killed herself on August 12, 30 BC. She was briefly outlived by her son Caesarion, who became pharaoh, but he was killed by Octavian's orders.


I found our discussion today about mistletoe in connection to Eliot's character, Lil, quite interesting. As we discussed Lil's use of medication to trigger an abortion, we mentioned that mistletoe was once used for this purpose. I decided to do some research to determine why the plant has this effect.  I discovered that the flower, fruit, leaf, and stem of mistletoe can sometimes be used as medication. However, if ingested by a pregnant woman, the plant can induce abortion as it causes uterine contractions. As we also brought up in class, mistletoe is the plant known as "The Golden Bough." Frazer wrote a study on mythology and religion with this title, which Eliot consistently alludes to in the poem. Do you all think Eliot intentionally alludes to "The Golden Bough" by including the story of Lil's abortion remedy in the poem?

Chess as a Sex Symbol

We were debating today in class about the two Middleton plays Eliot references: A Game at Chess and Women Beware Women. I decided to research them both to set things straight. A Game at Chess opens up with an actual game of chess that is supposed to be an allusion to the relationship between Spain and Great Britain. At the time, there was an arranged marriage in the process between Prince Charles and the daughter of the Spanish King. Although we were confused at first as the game of chess a reference to Middleton's play with a strategic sexual seduction, the reference to the play A Game at Chess does use chess as a symbol for a heated relationship. Women Beware Women also parallels a game of chess with a relationship. In this play, as the footnote states, the relationship is more about sex and erotic escapades. The women are taken advantage of in a series of steps.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Frazer and "The Golden Bough"

After today's class, I kept wondering why Frazer would use the "golden bough" from Vergil's "Aeneid" as his title for his analysis of religion, magic, and science.
The Sibyl tells Aeneas in Book 6 to seek the golden bough, which is sacred to Proserpina (Persephone), the queen of the underworld. His acquisition of the golden bough allows Aeneas to travel through the underworld safely to meet his father, Anchises. I think it is interesting that the Golden Bough connects to the Sibyl, who is a prophetess similar to Madame Sostris in Eliot's "The Wasteland."
Perhaps Frazer calls his work "The Golden Bough" to link the mysterious talisman type object symbolizing life in midst of death with his ideas of magic and religion. In Book 6, Vergil creates an epic simile comparing the golden bough to mistletoe, considered a magical plant because in the dead of winter when everything else appeared dead, mistletoe still flourished. The “golden bough" that still flourishes may stand for magic, since Frazer discusses the infallible nature of magic in the excerpt we read today. Or perhaps the “golden bough” represents something else. What do you all think?

Scientology... magic?

In light of our in-class conversation about the relationship between magic, science, and religion, I thought I would post something about scientology. If anyone wants a humorous recap of scientology doctrine as factually retold by South Park, check out this video:

Using Frazer's defintions of magic, science, and religion, how much science and how much religion do you believe are involved in scientology? And furthermore, how much magic do you think is involved?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Hinduism in The Wasteland

In Eliot's "Wasteland", he writes "shantih shantih shantih" at the end of his poem. Since Chrissy and I are currently studying Hinduism in religion, I thought I'd research this line a bit more. "Shanti" means peace, and is the basis of Shanti mantras found in the sacred text, the Upanishads. Reciting "shanti(h)" over and over again is supposed to calm the person and remove obstacles from the physical, divine, and internal. Shantih is associated with meditative and contemplative knowledge. Thus, I find it interesting that Eliot included this in his futile-feeling, work about emptiness and nothingness. Why do you guys think Eliot incorporated this sacred Hindu mantra in his poem?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Heart of Darkness + The Hollow Men = Apocalypse Now

Now that we have read both Heart of Darkness and The Hollow Men, I’d like to talk about Apocalypse Now. I highly recommend watching Apocalypse Now; it is a brilliant movie that truly displays the pensive, solitary side of Modernism. Apocalypse Now transfers the story of the Congo into a setting of the Vietnam War. In this story, Kurtz is an army colonel who has lost morality and taken over some of the indigenous areas with violent force. Marlow’s character has become Captain Willard, a man sent to assassinate Kurtz for the murders he has committed during the Vietnam War. The irony of his mission is obvious: assassinating a man for committing murder during a time of war. I feel this concept is similar to the futility of life in many modernist works. Also, Colonel Kurtz reads the Hollow Men before his death. As we’ve read in class, the Hollow Men begins with a reference to Kurtz. As I watched Apocalypse Now, I began to think of connections between the two works. Kurtz is similar to the Hollow Men. He hopes that other people remember them as they go into death.

There are many other similarities between the two works, which ones are most striking to you guys?

The Waste Land

I did a little research on T.S. Eliot's poem and found a few facts I thought everyone might find interesting. It was published in 1922, and is considered "one of the most important poems of the 20th century." Eliot's originally idea for the title was "He do the Police in Different Voices." He eventually decided to go with "The Waste Land" and apparently stressed the importance of the definite article "the" in the title. These were just a few little facts I found intriguing.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Hollow Men Review

As I am sure everybody knows, The Hollow Men deals with many of the same themes we examined in Prufrock and Hamlet (namely, the inability to act). Therefore, I thought it would be good to talk about two other features of the poem which might be more unique.

Eyes are a recurring motif in the poem, and their function reminds me of the Existentialist concept of the gaze. In section II, the hollow men want to stay far away from the eyes, which are like sunlight on a broken column (perhaps them men themselves?). They do not want to face their fate and sentence in the twilight kingdom. Later, in section V, we see the Shadow, which separates the minds of hollow men for reality. Such a mechanism reminds me of Bad Faith. Other Existentialist concepts are no doubt on display in this poem. Can anyone offer a more?

I think the children's rhyme verses in the poem are very interesting. We are provided with a footnote which helps to explain the significance of the verses at the beginning of section V. However, I think that something similar should be said for the verses at the end. The two sets of verses clearly serve as "bookends" for the section; it would be reasonable to assume that Eliot based his poem's final lines on a children's rhyme as well. If not "Here we go round the mulberry bush", perhaps "This is the way we clap our hands"? If we accept the imagery of going around in circles ("Here we go round the prickly pear") as a reflection of the lives of the hollow men, perhaps the bookends serve a similar purpose. How do you interpret the verses?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Fight Club

Yesterday in class, I mentioned that the movie Fight Club was in many ways like Freud's studies of the conscious and subconscious. Freud essentially breaks down the structural model of the life into the id, ego and super-ego and in many ways, the protagonist of Fight Club, Tyler Durden represents all three parts of this physic apparatus. In the movie, Brad Pitt and Ed Norton play different parts of Tyler Durden's consciousness. Brad Pitt represents the id, the subconscious, the part of us that seeks pleasure at all costs and has no morality. Like suggested in Notes From the Underground, Brad Pitt’s character find pleasure in pain and thus develops a fight club in order to achieve this delight. Also, Freud explains that the id is where man’s aggressive nature originates and in Fight Club Durden’s aggressiveness is definitely unleashed. Ed Norton’s character embodies the super ego and ego of Tyler Durden. The ego is responsible a person’s defensive mechanisms, self-control and reasoning and, Norton’s character exemplifies all of these characteristics. In the movie, Brad Pitt and Ed Norton’s characters co-exist and often Norton questions and reprimands Pitt’s destructive behavior. There are many situations where Tyler Durden’s dual personalities (the id and ego) conflict with each other. For example, in one scene, Ed Norton is driving his car with Brad Pitt and they dispute speeding and allowing their car to crash. Norton’s character reasons that he could ruin his car and possibly die while Pitt’s character simply seeks the thrill and pleasure of pain resulting from the car crash. According to Freud, the super-ego strives for perfection and is involved with society’s expectations of values and morals. Tyler Durden demonstrates his super-ego when shopping for Ikea furniture. In the film, Durden yearns for an ideal living space because he wants people to be impressed by his creative style and therefore meticulously searches throughout Ikea catalogs for the perfect furniture. This instance demonstrates Durden’s super ego because he wants to both impress society and strive for perfection.

What do you all think about all this?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Freudian Psychology

After reading the Freud packets, I decided to do some more research on his theories of the "pleasure principle."  As stated in the packet about dream analysis, Freud believed all behavior was motivated by desire for pleasure. Freud believed that humans had two instincts: sexuality and aggression. Additionally, Freud identified the "id" as the source of "libido", or sex drive, the only structure in the brain at the time of birth. After birth, part of the id becomes translated into "ego". Freud also  believed the brain was composed of an Oedipal complex, developed in the "phalic stage" of children ages 3 to 6. Freud definitely had interesting views on humans' sexual needs and conscious/subconscious sexual desires.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


I wanted to post a picture of Nietzsche on Samantha's post but it won't allow you to comment a picture. So this comment goes along with Samantha's post- I think that any one's mental health influences their writing. Nietzsche's philosophy most definitely could reflect his mental health and made an affect on the way he viewed the world.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Since we haven't read biographical material about Nietzsche yet, I decided to blog about his background. Nietzsche, widely renowned for his influence upon existentialism and nihilism, and often considered one of the most famous 19th century philosophers, was born on October 15, 1884 in a small town in Prussia. In fact, his parents named him after King Frederick William IV of Prussia, who turned forty nine on the day of the philosopher’s birth. In 1864, Nietzsche became a theology student at the University of Bonn. However, he soon lost his faith and then changed his course of study to philosophy. Although Nietzsche wanted to serve in the Prussian artillery unit, a riding accident and his poor health prevented it. Over the next several years of his life, he served as a professor of classical philosophy at the University of Basel, despite his young age. However, because the state of his health continued to worsen, he was forced to resign from this position. At this point, Nietzsche traveled across Europe, formed relationships with other philosophers, and accomplished most of his writing. On January 3, 1889, he suffered a mental breakdown and was sent to a clinic in Jena. Although his mental illness was originally diagnosed as tertiary syphilis, it is highly debated by historians. In fact, many argue that his mental illness was related to his philosophy. Nietzsche suffered two strokes the year before his death that left him nearly paralyzed, and he finally died in 1900 of a stroke that was brought on by pneumonia. Do you all think his mental illness could have been related to his philosophy?

Dostoevsky and Nietzsche

"What is great in man is that he is a bridge and not a goal: what is lovable in man is that he is an over-going and a down-going." When I read this in the Zarathustra excerpt by Nietzsche, I thought of Dostoevsky's point in "Notes from Underground" that man enjoys the journey rather than the destination. The Underground Man philosophizes about man's tendency to create and destroy, reveling in the process rather than the achievement.
I also was reminded of the yin yang symbol when I read this quote in the Zarathustra excerpt: "The body is a great wisdom, a plurality with one sense, a war and a peace, a flock and a shepherd." It appears as if Nietzsche is saying that the body is both a follower and leader; the seemingly disparate parts of the body come together to form "a great wisdom".
Can you all find any other similarities between Nietzsche's works and literature and concepts we have discussed?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Rabbit Proof Fence

This weekend I re-watched an incredible movie called "Rabbit Proof Fence." Below is the link for a tribute trailer that explains the plot and shows images from the movie. As I thought about the trials that these Aboroginese girls had to endure, I was reminded of the "White Man's Burden" and even the futility of life that we have discussed in connection with Dostoevsky and Elliot's works. At one point in the movie, white missionaries try to indoctrinate the Aboroginese children, often cruelly punishing them and forcing them to become "civilized" using very uncivilized methods. The fact that this has happened in Australia, Africa (as shown by Conrad's Heart of Darkness), and in various other countries seems to support the Underground Man's belief that humans do not progress and in fact are more barbarous than before since "Previously man saw justice in bloodshed and exterminated whomever he wished with a clear conscience; whereas now, though we consider bloodshed to be abominable, we nevertheless engage in this abomination even more than before" (553). Prufrock also seems to think humans cannot progress, stating, "I should have been a pair of ragged claws scuttling across the floors of silent seas" (982). This image of a crab implies a sideward movement, rather than forward. What do you all think about Dostoevsky and Elliot's questions of human progress? Can we as humans ever move forward, or are we just "pairs of ragged claws scuttling across the floors of silent seas"?

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Prufrock Question

In class on Wednesday, we discussed the epigraph at the beginning of Eliot's poem. To paraphrase the verse, Guido tells the Pilgrim that he will never tell his story to somebody who can leave Hell and damage his reputation. Therefore, if Prufrock is a pilgrim in a more modern version of Hell, are we to conclude that this is a Hell from which there can be no escape? Let's discuss.

Thursday, February 3, 2011


With our upcoming art test I thought I would bring back some of Goya's work. This is "Saturn devouring one of his sons." Since we are having an essay test, I thought it would be good practice to discuss the painting.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

T.S. Eliot

Thomas Stearns Eliot was born in 1888 in St. Louis, Missouri. However, after attending Harvard University for his graduate and undergraduate degrees, he moved to England and became a citizen twelve years later in 1927. Eliot suffered a religious crisis and a nervous breakdown in his early years but regained mental balance after reclaiming his Christian faith. As a result, Eliot’s early poetry, including “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” deals with conflicted, spiritually exhausted people. In addition to being one of the most famous modern poets, Eliot began the modern literary tradition of using allusions in order to create a sense of order within chaos.
T.S. Eliot in 1906, at age 19

"The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" Illustration