Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Grail and Symbols

I find it interesting, and kind of weird, that the in the excerpt about Perceval talks about phallic symbols. The sword and lance that is talked about in the excerpt are phallic symbols, as we discussed in class. They represents the male principle – whereas the female principle would be represented by the cup, the Grail itself. Because the Fisher King is injured, as he is in almost every other version of the story, the kingdom has become a wasteland and infertile...So it only makes sense that he needs to find the Grail to re-fertilize the kingdom and give him back life and rejuvenate him!

Nostalgia in Wasteland

From the beginning of The Wasteland, Eliot uses nostalgic imagery and verbiage. Memory and forgetfulness are mentioned within the first ten lines. I also started to realize a pattern. Almost all the verbs are in the past tense, "surprised", "stopped", etc. Eliot wants us to look backwards. Why? Well if we read the Wasteland as a criticism of cultural disintegration, then it is easy to see why Eliot is nostalgic for more meaningful, more cultural times. The nostalgia felt by Eliot reminds me of the nostalgia felt by the Buendia family, who wanted to get rid of the railroad and go back to the more simple more magical ways of life. When Eliot mentions Madame Sosostris, Tiresias, and other magical figures they seem to be more unique, and more interesting than his more "contemporary" characters.

Slipperiness of Time and Place

 The time and place of The Wasteland is slippery. From Tiresias in Greece to twentieth century London, pinning down a setting in the Wasteland is impossible. The poem is ungrounded, sweeping, and universal. Why does Eliot decide to let time and place cease to matter? I think that by obliterating his setting, Eliot allows his message, which is in itself obscured, to become universal. But Eliot also wants to challenge his reader, educate them, and entertain them. The vast scope of The Wasteland is beyond epic in scale because it abides by no timetable. We learn about London, Russia, fictitious or unnamed places, but throughout we are entertained and curious about what is on the other side of the brown fog that hides Eliot's settings.

Romanticism + Realism = Magical Realism?

I was thinking about the shift from realism to romanticism and the pros and cons of each genre. Romanticism shows an idealistic society, an emotional society, but not an industrialist, capitalist society. Realism covers the industrialism and capitalism. So if you combine both styles of writing you could cover rural and urban life: industrialization of the city through realism and the more simple conservative lifestyle through Romanticism. The city worker in the textile mills and the farmer would both be subjects within one piece. One Hundred Years of Solitude springs to mind when I think of simple romantic lifestyle overcome by a more industrial society. Again in Kafka's novel, which is not magical realism but is close, a very humdrum realistic lifestyle is smashed aside by Gregor's transformation into a beetle- which is of course not Romantic, emotional response that Kafka provokes is.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Hard Times by Charles Dickens

 Our humanities test made me think about some of the authors intentions for their writings, Dickens in particular. His novel Hard Times comments on utilitarianism and how it can hurt society, but it really didn’t seem like he hated it that much. Was he completely against utilitarianism and reason, or did he just want it to be used in moderation? He definitely seems like he is against reason defining society because we would all turn into a Bitzer-like person, but is he completely against it? He also shows how industrialism and utilitarianism can hurt society, but he doesn’t take a definite opinion for either side. What do you guys think?

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Modern Day Jesus?

After reading the excerpt on Magic and Religion I began to think about something that I'm sure is quite controversial, so no offense is intended, although I doubt anything will be interpreted as such. But when they were discussing all of the magical rituals that the priests do and the power they portray to the people, I thought that everything they said was odd and far fetched. That got me thinking about how modern day society would interpret a Christ figure. I'm not talking about the second coming of Christ, but lets say there was no Christianity, do y'all think people would believe someone who came and said they were the son of God? Personally, I think that our society would never believe such a claim, and would be more inclined to doubt and find a reason to disprove his power. In today's world we are so concerned with the truth that we would never be able to believe in a modern day equivalent to Jesus. I know it is a little off topic, but I drew the connection thinking about how rediculous these rituals sounded, and how many other western thinkers would probably not trust anything based on magic or things not backed by science and reason. Anyway, how do you think the world would react to someone claiming to have magical powers, would they have a profound influence like Jesus, or be shunned from society?

Reaction to Gregor as Beetle

I still find it odd that the initial reaction to Gregor's transformation was not one of incredulity, but of acceptance. At the end of Metamorphosis Greta finally says that perhaps Gregor is not a beetle, but maybe the beetle is just a beetle. While Kafka may be referring to some type of "sixth sense", or pure rationality (how could a three foot beetle be in Gregor's room unless Gregor turned into a beetle, or a beetle ate Gregor?) I find it more likely that Kafka has crafted a scenario where there is no solid reading. Or perhaps my oxycodon is making me write nonsense.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Two Ends of the Same Spectrum

We can all generally and confidently agree that there is a similarity between Metamorphosis and Notes from Underground in that both deal with a character that lacks any real purpose due to a social estrangement that goes hand in hand with the "ennui" both authors seem to address in their works. Both Gregor and UM occupy that same state of spiritual paralysis or emotional detachment, but they do so in conflicting ways. UM comes off as a if not selfish, a self-absorbed person due to his ego and insecurity, but Gregor is probably one of the most selfless individuals I've encountered in literature. Nevertheless, they cannot grasp any real purpose in life as they are the sources of their own deterioration. UM can't do so, because he's unable to go beyond himself or his thoughts, and Gregor's purpose other serving others is hollow in that he sacrifices the enormity of his entire life to satisfy the petty comforts of others, in other words he'd willingly die to make someone else happy.

Weston's quest

In From Ritual to bRomance, Weston discusses the origin of the Grail story and asserts that ancient Mystery cults must been behind the story.  It seems like finding the origin of the story to pin down the story’s “character” is as difficult as it was to find the grail.  Did they find it? I have only watched the Monte Python quest for the Holy Grail. Anyway, the whole mystery around this piece of literature is like the mystery surrounding Stonehenge.  How will we ever know for sure how these things came to be? Why is it important? I’m guessing because the more you study people’s creations, the more you learn about how humans work and what makes them tick. 

Sunday in the Park with George

I know we didn't talk about the painting all that much, but George Seurat's painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte always makes me think of the musical Sunday in the Park with George. It's a musical by Stephen Sondheim that was inspired by Seurat's painting and is about the fictionalized life of Seurat and his unappreciated artwork and the painstaking process of creating A Sunday Afternoon. I was listening to the soundtrack the other day and there's a song called "Finishing the Hat" that describes the dedication and determination and time it takes to create a painting that precise and elaborate.
For most of the song, Seurat talks bout how he watches his life pass him by while he's stuck inside working on A Sunday Afternoon and painting one of the very detailed hats, but he's dedicated to his work and loves it and no one will understand why he gives up his happiness and relationships to work on that stupid hat. Some of the lyrics are, "There's a part of you always standing by, mapping out the sky...finishing a hat...starting on a hat...finishing a hat...look, I made a hat...where there never was a hat." The song is very sad and lonely and still rather hopeful, but I felt that it gives us an idea of the ultimate dedication it took these artists to create such elaborate masterpieces. And once I actually pictured Seurat having a life and relationships (even though they were fictional in the musical) and giving them up to focus on his work, I really appreciated these artists a whole lot more.

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Devil Imagery in Baudelarie's "To the Reader"

In Baudelaire's poem "To the Reader" he talks a lot about the devil and him as a puppeteer. The Devil can be seen as a puppet master, or someone who control things.  Each day our sins are worse, and he continues to pull our strings, like a puppet master, making us direct ourselves further to Hell, as opposed to Heaven. Is Baudelaire saying that Hell is inevitable? I think Baudelaire is saying that human nature makes it so that even though we've seen people commit sins that we are committing, we continue to commit those sins, because we're unmoved by the effects. Is Baudelaire making a point about human nature?

Kafka's Metamorphosis compares to Baudelaire's A Carcass

After reading the poem "A Carcass" and Metamorphosis, I noticed that they both mentioned "dust."  A Carcass talks about the dead carcass slowly returning to dust and decaying as it serves as food and a means of life for new living things.  Gregor in Metamorphosis also has an encounter with dust.  As his family abandons him in his room after his change to a bug, his room slowly gets more and more dusty as he withers away.  Although he eventually dies in this dust, his family seems almost reborn.  His father starts to look healthier as he goes back to work and Grete goes off to search for a husband.  Dust seems to be a pretty common symbol for life and death in many works of literature.  Although it may not be shed in a positive light like in the Bible, it does share the same idea that "from dust you were born and to dust you will return."

Thursday, January 24, 2013

categorizing paintings ?

As I've been reviewing the paintings in chapters 18 and 19, it's become evident that it's difficult to place paintings into specific categories or to label them as a part of a specific movement. No painting is purely Romantic, Realist, Impressionist or Post-Impressionist. Each is a combination of characteristics from different time periods. The paintings overlap and seem to sort of cross fade into each other. If someone were to show me Turner's "Rain Steam and Speed" or "Slaves Overthrowing the Dead and Dying" 2 weeks ago, I would have guessed it was Impressionist based on the emphasis on color and feeling rather than shape and form. The book classifies it as Romantic, which makes me think in a way, Impressionism is Romanticism, advanced. Art evolves over time and builds upon the movements before it. Paintings cannot be defined with one movement or identifier. Each is unique based on it's respective artist, time of creation and personal history.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The oppressive company Gregor works for

I was thinking that Kafka probably had a motive behind depicting the company Gregor works for as being so oppressive. That motive, I figured, was probably that he saw a lot of companies like it in society. As a writer, he certainly had time to view his surrounding society and as a law student probably saw the cut-throatness of the law firms and other businesses around him. Kafka wanted to take a few jabs at these companies in his "Metamorphosis". He also was probably affected by companies like this and it may have been a reason whey he decided not to be a lawyer, in addition to not doing it in spit of his father. Also, Kafka probably thought companies like those described above was certainly one of the downfalls of society and he most likely thought these companies were hurting the spiritual and emotional sides of humans who were oppressed in this type of society.

Beetle vs. Cockroach

I've been looking up pictures of beetles, considering another translation describes Gregor as a bug more similar to that of a beetle, rather than a cockroach. Beetles seem to me, much less disgusting than cockroaches- but maybe I'm biased after growing up in New Orleans. Anyway, seeing pictures of the beetles makes me feel even more sympathy for Gregor. They don't look very imposing or grotesque. Their gray/black color makes them seem sort of melancholy, almost pathetic.
Here's a picture of a beetle I thought seemed particularly Gregor Samsa-esque. Lonely, alienated, shameful.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Thoughts on Metamorphosis

Metamorphosis has been hard for me to tack a theme on to. That being said, the impirtance of Gregor's appearance seems to overwhelm his other qualities. What I mean is that people almost forget that Gregor has emotional and rational faculties, excluding Gregor's sister. I also find it very interesting that people immediately assume that a giant cockroach looking thing is Gregor. In stories written before Kafka's time I don't think characters would have been so accepting. I am only half way through the book, so some of this may end up being nonsense.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

EUNUI: A boredom with life... and death

Ok, so I was just going over The Baudelaire Poem: To the Reader, and I discovered something interesting regarding his main focus on eunui. There is a part (which, I can unfortunately not present to you due to the fact that I do not have a copy on hand) where he might perhaps insinuate that society may even not be content with death, much less life. Once again, I'm sorry I can't provide specifics, but he essentially implies that even if those around us were to perish, we ourselves would be rendered to little or no effect, because our souls are not bold enough (perhaps to even feel sadness, or at least genuine saddness.) Actually, considering the masochist inflection we've put on this unit, I would be surprised if the society every one's been bashing would find relief from the sadness (which would be brief) they would derive from the death of someone close.  

Monet's Cathedrale de Rouen

We didn't mention this (these) paintings, but I think they are very noteworthy. We talked in class about how light was really more important to the impressionists than reality was. They wanted to portray the way light was, and Monet definitely showed this desire in his series of paintings of the Rouen Cathedral. He painted over 30 versions of the exact same scene, but at different times of the day, showing how light changes as the day goes on. You can almost tell just by looking at the colors he used in various versions what time he painted that one during. If it is morning, it is a reddish orange, if it is midday, it is a yellowish white, and if it is night, it is a dark blue, almost black. Also, you can notice how the light obscures the structure of the cathedral  itself. Monet's main point was to portray how the eye sees light and what that light does to surroundings. Monet is by far my favorite painter, and the first time I saw these paintings the accuracy of his portrayals of light really amazed me, so I thought I would share this with all of you.

Reactions To The Underground Man

Okay, I absolutely loved the Underground Man and I just had to be sick during the class discussion. It has to be my favorite piece that we read all year. While reading it, I was simply overwhelmed by the layers in the story. Honestly, I don't think I could read it just once and claim to have a full understanding of the Underground Man because there are three different ways to look at the Underground Man. First, you have to read it and just figure out what he's saying on the surface level. He says things about society and about himself. You need to accept everything he says at true. But then, you have to look beyond that because people lie and the Underground Man is not exception. There's someone behind the words he writes on paper who at some times has a completely different meaning than what is said. You have to read the Underground Man doubting everything he says. Then, you have to read it and try and figure out what Dostoevsky is trying to say, because the author can be trying to say something through the contrast of the first two readings. (I hope this is making sense). I mean, you almost have to read any substantial book in such a way, but because the Underground Man is so complex, I felt like I could read the novella a dozen times and still miss so much.

19th Century Art Movements

 Concentration on the Ordinary:
Literature became more focused on the individual, basically the ordinary individual’s experience of ordinary life. Some realist writers like Flaubert paid excruciating attention to details and others like Kafka and Baudelaire worked with symbols. Impressionism seemed to pay less attention to lines and details and allowed colors and brushstrokes to take charge and let the viewer’s eye assemble and interpret the painting. It also depicted ordinary life events.  Perhaps industrialization, scientific discoveries and progress had shifted the focus of the arts onto the rising middle class. Materialism and social re-structuring possibly caused a sense of alienation and uncertainty which inspired artists to explore their rapidly changing environment through their work and depictions of how ordinary people navigated life.

A different view on Underground Man

I think the biggest factor in the Underground Man's contradictions lies in the fact that he is still struggling to find his identity. I agree that Underground Man is insecure about what others think of him, and therefore he often argues both sides of a given argument, however I think that it is also possible that he himself is not sure which one he associates with. This struggle is what contributes to his unhappiness , which we see when he treats Liza in two different ways. At first he tires to console her by telling her that she could turn her life around, but later he insults her and yet he still gives her his address. Does anyone else see this?

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Immortal Carcass

When I was reading Baudelaire's "A Carcass", I felt that the speaker seemed to be forcing himself to see the carcass as attractive. The whole poem contains contrasting images of the carcass as something ugly and then something beautiful. I think that the speaker (and I talk of the speaker as an entity separate from Baudelaire) is repulsed by the carcass, and he knows that there is something profound about the decaying body and he manages find beauty in that, but, in the end, he still finds the corpse to be revolting.

Baudelaire begins the poem where the speaker is recalling the time he and his lover come across the carcass - and he is reminding his lover of this (not the most romantic conversation, but whatever floats your boat). At first, the speaker presents the corpse in a rather casual, almost pleasant manner: "Remember, my love, the object we saw that beautiful morning in June by a bend in the path a carcass reclined on a bed sown with pebbles and stones." The sun is shining. It's summer. He's talking to his love. Even though he's talking about a carcass, the speaker presents the carcass in a relaxed and comfortable manner. But then, in the next stanza, his honest reaction to the carcass comes out. the speakers called the carcass "a lecherous whore, sweating poisonous fumes". I don't know about you, but that is not a pleasant description.

So then, the speaker continues to describe the corpse in a negative manner. He calls the corpse rotten and creates this image of the carcass being cooked in the sweltering hear. But then, after these disgusting images, the speaker refers to the carcass as "a hundredfold gift of all she'd [Nature] united in one." After drawing up this revolting image of a rotting corpse, the speaker goes on to call it a gift. With the direction the poem has been going in where the corpse is depicted as unattractive, the reference to the carcass as a gift can only be read as sarcasm. As though the speaker is saying that this disgusting dead body with maggots and flies feasting on it shows that Nature is capable of creating unattractive things as well as beautiful things. The speaker has continued to portray the corpse in a negative light and he has shown that he is capable of using sarcasm (the sarcasm comes back at the end).

Now we come to the flies. The speaker describes the flies twice and in two very different ways. At first, the speaker describes the flies negatively. He says, "The flies buzzed and droned on these bowels of filth." Not a nice image. The flies are revolting, the carcass is revolting, the whole scene is revolting. The speaker carries on describing just how revolting this corpse is, saying, "It rose and it fell, and pulsed like a wave, rushing and bubbling with health. One could say that this carcass, blown with vague breath, lived in increasing itself." The carcass is moving because of all these maggots and flies and whatever else goes on inside of dead things. Not matter how you look at it, this is not an attractive image. It might just be the worst image in the poem. So - after this repulsive image - where does the speaker go? Back to the flies and their buzzing sound. But what does he say this time? "...this whole teeming world made a musical sound like babbling brooks and the breeze, or the grain that a man with a winnowing-fan turns with a rhythmical ease." The speaker now portrays the flies in a positive way. Their buzzing is a nice, pleasant sound. That is quite the change from the previous image. It's almost as if the speaker gets so intense on describing how horrible and rotten this corpse is - and then remembers that he's supposed to see the beauty in it. (similar as to how he portrayed the carcass in the first stanza).

Now let's look at the last three stanzas of "A Carcass". The speaker is talking to his beloved. We have already established that the speaker is capable of using sarcasm so it should not seem out of place that the last three stanzas are loaded with sarcasm. The speaker uses phrases like "sun of my nature and star of my eyes" while telling his beloved that she too will become a rotting corpse. But then he tells her that while she might be a rotting corpse in the ground, her lover will immortalize her in this poem. (This poem that is mainly about a rotting corpse).  Well, let's look at the facts. 1) The speaker tries to portray the corpse as beautiful. 2) He tells his beloved not to worry when she's a carcass in the ground, because she can tell the worms that she is immortalized in this poem. So then, the speaker does not believe in immortalizing her in the poem, because he considers that being a corpse is beautiful. But then he describes the carcass as "horrible, filthy, undone" which is something men should never say their lovers will be. So, the speaker considers corpses to be repulsive and he tells his lover to brag to the worms that she is immortalized in this poem. But why would the worms care? And, for that matter, why would a corpse care?

My conclusion is this: The speaker thinks the corpse is disgusting. His lover will become a corpse one day. That is common knowledge. The speaker has spent the poem trying to convince himself and his lover to overcome their initial reaction to the corpse and instead come to appreciate that there is more to the corpse in appearance. In the last stanza, the speaker says, "...the worms who cherish your body so tine..." Death feeds life. He can immortalize her in the poem (but as he sarcastically says to his beloved - tell it to the worms) or he can immortalize the carcass that one day we will all become. Yes, the carcass is repulsive. The speaker had to overcome this fact before he could move on and come to understand the beauty of the carcass.

(Okay, this ended up being way longer than I thought it would be. Can this count as three blog posts?)

Does The Carcass have biblical illusions?

In Baudelaire' poem The Carcass, a theme throughout is that although the carcass has died, it serves as food for other life such as the maggots to live off of.  This reminded me of the verse from the Bible, Genesis 3:19 that says "for dust you are and to dust you will return."  The carcass is returning to dust as it serves as food for other life.  This other life will eventually return to the dust too as they eventually die and will service other new life that is born.  As one life dies another is born.

Baudelaire's To the Reader can be compared to the underground man

In Baudelaire's To the Reader, Baudelaire criticizes humanity and how we let the devil control us as we constantly commit sins.  Baudelaire explains to the reader that he is tired of humans acting like this and it just displays life as a bunch of boredom.  I think that the underground man shares the same kind of views that Baudelaire has when he criticizes the reader in his poem.  Just like Baudelaire says the reader sins and doesn't put proper thought and effort into stuff, the underground man distances himself from society due to these same reasons.  The underground man enjoys analyzing life and has trouble understanding the world filled with men of action around him. Perhaps the underground man distances himself due to his boredom and lack of satisfaction with the world.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

kafka and his bug

Today I started Kafka's "The Metamorphosis" and was shocked by the few pages I read. The foreword about Kafka seemed so reminiscent of some of the ideas we discussed in relation to both Notes from Underground and Baudelaire's poems. Kafka himself felt the effects of his century, a period that some felt was over secularized and desensitized to the human spirit. He often had feelings of tremendous guilt, isolation and incapacity for love. In the first few pages of Metamorphosis, Gregor seems overly governed by reason, rationality and sense of duty. He hardly reacts to the fact that he's been transformed into a cockroach overnight. Gregor is concerned only because he's missed his early morning train to work. His response is incredible abnormal- it is without essentially any emotion at all. I believe that Kafka has created a character that show cases the effects of 19th century society on the human spirit. Gregor is simply a "cog in the machine", as Underground Man would say. It's quite fitting that he is now a bug; it's almost as if he's transformed into the thing he was all along- something incapable of valid human emotion.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Dostoyevsky vs. Chernyshevsky

During Dostoevsky's lifetime, the rational philosophies of naturalism and scientism swept through Europe and Russia.  We experienced that side when we read Chernyshevsky's What Is to Be Done? , which advances a kind of socialist utopianism that Dostoevsky, though at one time he embraced, absolutely despised. Chernyshevsky thinks that man can become perfect when ruled by reason and science, but Dostoyevsky disagrees with that optimistic point of view. He says that man is bad and he isnt ruled by any forces, and as a result he can decide for himself what to do, whether it is good for the society as a whole or not. The differences between Dostoyevsky's novella and Chernyshevsky's novella portrays the differences in russia as a whole.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Monogamy vs Open Relationships

I was surprised that Chernychevsky was addressing this question as early as the 19th century; I'd always thought of this as a fairly modern discussion.  I found it surprising that this could have been published given that it is so contrary to Chistianity's code of morality.  It got me wondering if something like this could have been published elsewhere in Europe, e.g. France.  If I remember correctly, the Russian Orthodox church had more or less been under the thumb of the Czar since Peter Great, and the church wasn't as vocal in Russia as it was elsewhere in Europe.  It seems to me that a work like this would have had a much harder time being published in a country like France at this time.  I find it ironic that while in many respects Russia was so far behind the rest of Europe, a small portion of the population seems to have been much more foreward thinking and to have had much more freedom than people elsewhere.

A More DRAWN OUT Contradiction

We all remember when the underground man states that he loathes the city he lives in: St. Petersburg, because he feels it to be "too abstract and premeditated." Well, focusing here on the premeditated aspect, I find it hypocritical that he says this. By premeditated, he feels that it is too boring for him, because he is an overly analytical person. However, the fact that he is an overly analytical person is what makes his statement hypocritical when considering his long and monotonous (boring if I may) plan to bump into the officer. He is shunning a city for being too boring when he himself is oddly enough (considering how he is both a complex and simple or rather, to say the least, interesting, person at the same time) boring as well.  That example just happened to jump out at me, but I'm sure there are others that only reinforce this point. Feel free to state them at your leisure fellow bloggers.

The Underground Man's Guilt

Not sure if I addressed this point in class, but I remember one point in chapter two where the underground man talks about magnanimity, which is a "benevolence" or forgiveness given to those such as a rival or below one's own power, mental or physical. He says that magnanimity is useless even if he possessed it. I just want to explain his potential reasoning here. Consider also that he himself consciously regards both his situation and himself as "hopeless". Add this to how he claims to take offense as a humpback or dwarf (meaning that he often would take offense and be hopeless to combat such ridicule) and we can wholly understand that he considers his hopelessness a sort of disability that would compel him to forgive others (if he had the sensitivity to do it) in such cases as feeling ashamed for being cleverer than those around him. So even he essentially takes a strength of his, his so proclaimed cleverness, and because he has no magnanimity, due to the fact that he feels hopeless, he feels ashamed.

So if I wasn't clear, which I don't think I entirely was, the reasoning behind his opinion that his non-existent magnanimity is useless was that he is not in a position to forgive but instead feels himself in the position to be forgiven, because he feels his hopelessness draws ridicule to himself.

In the process, that explains why he feels ashamed to be cleverer than others around him, because he both feels undermined by his hopelessness and feels that he is still in no position to forgive others "below" him because of that.

Kind of disturbing now that I think of it. Just how psychologically trapped this man feels. (I'm not sympathizing.)

The Underground Audience

I think it’s interesting how although he claims he’s writing only for himself out of boredom and to release his pent up feelings hoping for relief, he considers the audience. He claims it makes it easier to write and keeps his ideas flowing, but he is also trying to justify his behavior and ideas. It is obvious (to me at least) that at times, the audience is a projection of his own fears of being either misunderstood, or considered stupid/foolish, or of being rejected and ignored.  The audience represents society’s opinions too.  I think he is trying to be honest with himself and come to terms with the things he doesn’t like about himself/ his actions; however his preoccupation, anticipation, consciousness of the audience’s reactions probably suppresses his complete divulgence the truth…his fears and insecurities. He writes that he addresses the audience so that he’ll “behave more decently when [he’s] writing things down.” I interpret this to mean that he’ll tell the story in the best light.  He’ll change the story he is actually telling himself to make him feel better about it and maybe the new story will become the new truth.

The Underground Man's Depression

        I feel like the Underground Man is a depressed individual who simply refuses to see any good in life. Instead of looking at the cup half-full, he sees it as half-empty. He does not want to accept some things that one must sometimes just agree with and poses an argument for everything! (Which is not necessarily a bad thing.) Instead of being call the Underground Man, I believe he would be more appropriately named "The Great Disputer", since he argues with everything under the sun. In fact, he’d probably argue with a tree on what color its bark truly was! LOL. 

        He has a very pessimistic and bleak outlook on life, accusing man of large stereotypes. He probably believes that he himself is the most intelligent person alive and that everyone else should just obey and respect his intelligence. An example of this is seen when he writes that man will ALWAYS do whatever society does not want him to, which is absurdly false because more people do what society wishes them not to do due to their desire for personal satisfaction. 

       Does anyone else sort agree with the fact that the Underground Man is insulting society and essentially everyone in society? I know I shouldn't take his accusations personally, but it's hard not to when he's so degrading about everything. 

More like the Depressed Man

Sure you could literally analyze the name, the "Underground Man", to mean a man that actually lives underground. I'd never really thought of why he is called the Underground Man until now. Maybe Dostoyevsky wants to symbolize the fact that he is so cooped up in his little, over-analyzed, psychotic-thinking world that he'd be just as well off living underground, rather than above ground, where every other person lives and interacts with society. I sort of agree with this proposal and think that the Underground Man should live underground and spare the rest of society his insults. Maybe if he lived underground he would come up with the idea that he is superior to every creature under there and be happy with himself, and quit over-analyzing everything he sees or thinks of.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Present Day Underground man.

If you were to see a man out like the underground man just walking around on the street and he started to talk to you how do you think it would go?
I'm going to paint a picture for you; there is a man in the corner of a restaurant sitting alone, hunched over in the darkness. He seems lonely so you go over there to talk to him. He sees you and says hello, but then immediately breaks eye contact and mutters something out of anger for doing so. You talk to him for a little bit and after a while he seems almost overeager just for talking to someone. He follows all of the points he makes with some sort of retraction such as, "that's not what I meant", "I'm only joking", or then again "I could be wrong" as if he is afraid you will leave the table or laugh at him for his beliefs. As the conversation progresses he becomes more and more aggressive and starts to finish your sentences for you and assume he knows what you are talking about. He starts to get angry with you for no reason and has snobby retorts any time you make a point. Finally, toward the end of the conversation he is extremely agitated and acts as if he is upset with himself but making excuses for it, and blaming you for all of his problems. When you at last try to reconcile with the poor fellow, he breaks off any connection he had with you and storms off cursing under his breath either talking to you or himself.
That is how I would envision an encounter with the Underground man (or someone like him) what do you guys think he would be like?

Notes From Middle Earth

I'm going to try and expand my comparison between Gollum and the underground man. Gollum, who appears to be almost bipolar and has talks with his two personalities, which seem to directly contradict each other- namely Smeagol and Gollum. Similarly, the underground man contradicts himself, and holds conversations with himself. Gollum and the underground man's inner conversations are slightly different though: while Gollum tries to grapple with good and evil, the underground man struggles with his place in society. Gollum and the underground are also very isolated, and seemingly "de-humanified" because of their isolation. The underground sincerely wishes he could be a fly, or an insect so that he could be noticed, while in contrast, Gollum is consumed by the power of the ring. I'm probably missing loads of comparisons, but I think the two characters really do have a lot in common.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Notes from Underground

I definitely found the second part of Notes from Underground to be a bit more interesting to read than the first. In part 1 I was initially intrigued by the narrator's distinct voice, but after a while I felt like I was reading the same things over and over again. It did remind me of stream of consciousness work, like that of Virginia Wolfe, which I also sometimes found myself struggling to get through. But part 2 read more like a novel. The underground man's experience with Liza was intriguing and prompted me to continue on. Today during class I wasn't entirely convinced as to whether the underground man is actually insane or not, but after finishing the novella and reading about his encounters with Liza, I feel more certain about my opinion- that being that he is, in fact, insane. His about extreme outbursts of emotion and irrational actions were like that of a madman.

Dostoevsky in "Notes from Underground"

The overhead notes on Dostoevsky mention that his works can be interpreted on various levels, and typically his work has been seen as biographical. I completely agree with this as the narrator of "Notes from Underground" seems to often contradict himself, which is in accordance with Dostoevsky's belief that it is human nature to be torn by its own contradictions. Dostoevsky exemplified his belief regarding human nature himself when he was exiled from Russia in 1849 as a believer in the Petrashevsky circle (an antigovernment and socialist group), however when he returned to Russia in 1859 he a completely new outlook as he became a strong conservative and nationalist. I believe there is a parallel between Dostoevsky and the narrator.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Thoughts on Hamlet

Sooo Hamlet. Because Hamlet was my favorite Shakespeare play we've read, I was excited to see it performed on stage and I thoroughly enjoyed today's performance.
The actors did a fantastic job of bringing to life every element of the play and illustrating the scenes to get the point across. I felt that the actor who played Hamlet (who was REALLY good) showed Hamlet's descent into insanity very well. While I was reading, I would often forget that Hamlet was going crazy until he had some sort of giant outburst, but the actor made a continuous effort to portray Hamlet's mental deterioration in everything he did. I also enjoyed the closet scene between Hamlet and Gertrude. While reading the play, the sexual undertones between the mother and son are only slightly detectable, but the actors made sure to bring that overt sexuality to their scene and physically portray the implied incestual relationship. I also thought Ophelia's descent into insanity was portrayed wonderfully, especially the part with the baby doll and the singing childlike death songs. Very creepy.


I believe that a person's familiarity with a Shakespeare play can completely alter their experience as an audience member. Today I saw a performance of Hamlet with absolutely no preparation or previous encounter with the actual play. I knew the line "to be or not to be" and the fact that Hamlet's father appears as a ghost- and that's about it. During the entire performance, I was struggling to make sense of the relationship between the characters, to remember names, and to decipher the meaning of their words. My experience today was completely different from that of the other Shakespeare plays I've seen (A Midsummer Night's Dream and Macbeth), both of which I had previously read and studied. I truly enjoyed seeing those performances because I understood the significance of the characters actions. I had had time to study the language of the play- to translate his rhymes and riddles. After todays performance I read a plot description of Hamlet and was shocked to see how many important things I didn't quite seem to catch. Having some degree of familiarity with the story makes watching the performance much more relaxed, and for me, much more enjoyable.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

"Consciousness" in Notes From Underground relate to the goals of the 19th century

The man in Notes from Underground seems to talk a lot about how he is more conscious than others who are living in St. Petersburg and society in general.  He explains that consciousness is not necessarily a good thing.  He says that people who are more active and prominent in society and display less consciousness seem to fair the best.  The man seems to have been somewhat of an introvert throughout his entire life.  I believe that the author Dostoevsky is trying to get the point across the 19th century was a time of technological advancement and changing life as the industrial revolution occurred  and realism flourished.  Through his use of the man, Dostoevsky shows that consciousness and spiritual thinking were not as important as they once were and that sporadic thinking and activity in order to come up with technological advances seemed to be what people during the 19th century were looking for.  The man also appears unconfident as he constantly goes back on what he says and is inconsistent.

The man seems to be somewhat of an existentialist.  He separates himself from others and the technological advancement of the 19th century.  He seems only concerned with his individual self and therefore becomes isolated.