Thursday, February 28, 2013

Sexual Innuendos

Guildenstern and Rosencrantz seem to give impressions throughout the play that exhibit sexual innuendos. In terms of their own bodies, they don’t have a sense of their own physicality. They get up to “stretch their legs”. There are sexual implications as well as Rosencrants of them offering to stretch Guildenstern’s leg. In addition to sexual innuendos they also seem to have a lot of anxiety and are still aimless even when they have been given directions. They are disoriented. Uncertainty pervades. They have no sense of direction and are really just idiots. They don’t know where North, South, East, and West are. They can’t tell where the wind is coming from.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead gives you a new take on the original play, Hamlet

As we have been discussing Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, I noticed how it really causes you to think about the original play, Hamlet, in a different light.  Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are not mentioned much in Hamlet but in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, they are the main focus.  In Hamlet, I always thought Rosencrantz and Guildenstern were just simple characters, however, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead caused me to learn a lot more about the characters and actually feel some sympathy for them.  We have seen this same type of thing in literature before.  Last year, we read Beowulf, which was the story about a monster named Grendel attacking a town.  This made Grendel look like a horrible monster.  However, after when we read the actual story of Grendel, we learn more about Grendel himself and actually gain sympathy for him.

Existentialism, hay

When I read Act 3 of Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead, I noticed a whole bunch of existential philosophy thrown in. Specifically, there's this one part where Rosencrantz recaps all the information they know so far and tries to decide where to go from there. That reminded me of the existential theory of facticity of situations. In Existentialist theory, one is advised to consider the facts that he or she knows (even though that may not be all of the information), work with what one has, and make a decision as best as one can based on the given information. I feel that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern did this several times throughout the play. Although they rarely make solid decisions, they continually attempt to deal with situations and take the best course of action that they can figure out.

Is England Real?

At NOCCA, we read the Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys. And at one point in the book, the central character, Antoinette, discusses England. She says that she does not know if England exists or not. People have told her much about it, but she has never seen it for herself, so she has no way of knowing if it exists. So when I was reading Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, Rosencrantz says that he does not believe in England to which Guildenstern responds that "You don't believe in anything till it happens." (108) I thought it was interesting that the two novels written in the same year (1966) express the same idea that there's no way of knowing if something is real, even if you've heard so much about the place, except by seeing it with your own eyes.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

pg 66, act II

Player: Relax. Respond. That's what people do. You can't go through life questioning your situation at every turn."
Guil: But we don't know what's going on, or what to do with ourselves. We don't know how to act.
Player: Act natural. You know why you're here at least.
Guil: We only know what we're told, and that's little enough. And for all we know, it isn't even true.
The bottom of page 66 in Act II of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead really struck me. The entire play is composed of playful banter and clever puns which often relate to the philosophy of existentialism. But this particular exchange seems to be the epitome of the existentialist view of life. Rosencrantz and Guidlenstern are indeed, actors in a play- who know nothing beyond their actions and duties regarding Hamlet. However, Stoppard uses their situation as a metaphor for human existence. We are born into a world for no apparent purpose. The only instruction we receive on how to "proceed" about our lives is provided to us by the people and environment around us. Which is both subjective and variable. Although some may seek a way to define the purpose of their life or a direction for existence, we essentially, have no purpose or guidance; we are sentenced to an existence that is absurd. Here lies the humor in the play. We laugh at Rosencrantz and Guildenstern's disorientation and confusion because we identify with the absurdity of their situation. We are living it. 

Saturday, February 23, 2013

No Exit and Freud's "Subconscious"

I was just thinking, the ending of No Exit really has many directions to consider. The most dynamic part of it would have to be the laughter by all three characters at the "absurdity" of their situation. We talked in class about how in life, one has the ability, the freedom to make decisions, but in Sartre's version of hell, one does not. This lack of freedom can be likened to a lack of control, making this certain atmosphere of hell similar to an external projection of Freud's idea of the subconscious, (or rather the reaction to it from the public perspective) something which we have no control over. Just thought that this was an interesting comparison. Feel free to make others.

Dadaism and Anarchism

Dadaism is purposely illogical, and destructive. It attempts to disrupt the "old order" and culture of the pre World War II days. Anarchy and Dadaism seem to go hand in hand, and both were on the rise after World War II, which is only natural after the governments in place allowed millions of young lives to be lost. Dali himself, who was a leader in the Dada movement, was also an anarchist and a communist, but later switched and became an anarchist and a monarchist-a very strange combination of left and right political allegiance. It's not clear whether Dadaism influenced early anarchists or whether anarchists influenced early dada artists, but it is evident that the two movements are very similar. It is not an anomaly for art and politics to cross over: realist art in the form of realism and photography complimented Realpolitik and liberal movements nicely.

Freedom of Choice: Responsibility and Morality

Existentialism places a high regard on freedom of choice, but along with the freedom comes responsibility for others because of our interdependence. Existentialism doesn't mention god, yet it contains morality since it recognizes humans’ interdependence. Garcin says, “If you raise your hand….Estelle and I feel a tug.  Alone, none of us can save himself or herself; we’re linked together inextricably.” You do the right thing or choose not to harm others, not because a god commands you to, but because you are not supposed to limit others’ choices and cause them discomfort.  Since we are all connected, a harmful action really harms everyone. Making a choice results in a domino effect because that choice changes the circumstances of others prompting them to make a choice. 

Friday, February 22, 2013

Life is absurd.

Life is absurd might mean that some of the things, arguments, or problems we encounter in life are pointless and really do nothing but set us back or depress us. Some people might feel, I know I certainly do not, that life is pointless because of this absurdity. They might feel like fate is working against them just to make things more difficult for them. They also might feel that life is meaningless in that if they accomplish something, 100 years from then it will be pointless since they’ll be dead. We can’t answer the question why we are here and why we are on Earth. Also, people cannot prevent random events from happening and these things might prevent us from doing what we want or accomplishing our ideas. Why would having a different life even matter if we are all going to die. The world itself is irrational, inhospitable, and, at times, hostile. 

Cubism and Futurism

I personally never liked modern art because I never knew how to look at it, but after learning more about the motives for movements like Cubism sand Futurism it makes much more sense to me. I understand what Cezanne was saying when he said all things always simplify down to shapes like circles and cylinders and other rounded figures. Also, in terms of Futurism, I recognize their enthusiasm with the future. I too see many possibilities in the future, and the Futurists simply put those feelings into art. The cubist method of disassembling various scenes and then leaving it to the viewer to interpret the art for him/herself is very engaging and interesting. It is fascinating how looking at the seeming unrelated shapes can make ones mind put them together into the form they were decomposed from.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Garcin's Bad Faith

In class earlier today, we discussed Garcin's bad faith. When he knocks on the door and the Valet finally opens it, he doesn't leave. The Valet tells him that there is nothing out there but more hallways and doors that lead to rooms like the one he finds himself in. Garcin has an ego problem and wants people on Earth and in Hell with him to believe that he is not a coward. I think that part of Garcin's reason for not leaving through the open door was that one, he is truly and coward, and two, he doesn't want Estelle and Inez to think he's a coward by fleeing through the open door (however, it seems to me that embarking upon a great journey through the unknowns of Hell is mighty brave and courage as opposed to staying in a room where no one can get him, anyway, that's beside the point). I think, that he thinks, that staying with Estelle and Inez will give him the opportunity to convince them that he was not a coward in his actions on Earth and is not a coward in Hell either. So, once he convinces them that he is courageous, he will be able to reassure himself that he is indeed not a coward. This ties into the Gaze and the fact that he lets the Others' perceptions and views determine how he thinks and in turn, his essence.

Dante’s Inferno and No Exit share the recurring use of “3” to explain Hell.

In Dante’s Inferno, the recurring number 3 kept coming out throughout the poem.  For example, there were three parts of the poem, three members of the Trinity, and three heads on Satan at the bottom of Hell.  Dante played on this usage of number 3 to show how Hell was the polar opposite of Heaven.  While reading No Exit, I noticed a similar coincidental usage of “3” again in the play.  Although the play is from a much different time period than Dante’s Inferno, it is interesting to see how the “three” characters in the play cause themselves so much torture.  The Hell in No Exit has no tortures that the characters do not cause themselves.  All torture is the product of the three characters Garcin, Estelle, and Inez.  This goes along with the play’s existentialist theme of choice.  The characters choices in life and their choices while together in Hell cause themselves torture.  All three characters are so different that they fight while together and make themselves miserable.  If there were only two characters in the Hell of No Exit the fighting would not be as bad, however three characters together leaves one person out which always leads to fighting. 

hell is other people

If man existed in a world by himself, he would not be subject to the judgements, values or interaction with others. The human condition is incredibly influenced by interaction with community. It is often that our worst feelings: heartbreak, inferiority, insecurity- are stemmed from the actions and opinions of others. To coexist is an arduous task. Other people create a sort of psychological hell. We fear them, their actions, judgements, etc. We desire them. They often control our opinion of ourselves. They have the power to control us and our emotions. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


When I used to hear the word "existentialism", I used to think of some ultra progressive, lofty and leftist philosophical concept. I had heard it defined ultra simplistically, in that was the idea that basically life is meaningless and we therefore should do whatever it is that makes us happy. After truly studying it, I realize my previous conception of existentialism was wildly different from it's actually principles and characteristics. Now I see existentialism as a rigid philosophy, one that holds humans entirely responsible for their actions, and that shows little sympathy toward the human condition. Existentialism feels hyper-rational: you are your choices, that is that. You always have a choice. I happen to disagree. I think that where, when and whatever situation you are born into influences who you are. I think of slaves in the antebellum south, jews in fascist europe, and incredibly poor people in third world countries today. Do they have true freedom to be the person they want to be? Not everyone has the power to choose.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Different versions of hell

As I was reading "No Exit" I kept thinking back to the different versions of Hell that we have come across in the literature that we have read. It is interesting to see how each version of hell varies from being mythical, to our mode vision of Hell, and to he one presented in "No Exit". "No Exit"' presented a hell that was simply like an ordinary world with a few modifications. I realize that "No Exit" is and existentialist novel which make me wonder of it influenced Sartre's depiction of Hell, given that it seems as if Sartre intentionally made his Hell simple because having a mythical factor like everyone else was not significant.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Realism and modernism

The general feeling of the modernist era was that the world is dying and everyone's focus on individuality and lack of respect for society as a whole is the cause. Many of the realist pieces that we have seen reflect the pre-modern values that we see in philosophy. I don't know how much the are compared by art critics, but you can certainly see parallels between late realist art and early modernism. Do y'all see any of these comparisons? Or am I just misinterpreting something?

Women in the wasteland

 All of the women in the wasteland seem to be regarded as second class citizens, even though independent women were starting to gain traction. I don't know if Elliot is trying to put down this feminist "revolution" so to speak, but he is definitely not supportive of women's rights as he references women as tools for reproduction and property of man. Freud was also somewhat of an anti-feminist, and I'm sure many of their values would cross over. I don't know if these parallels are related, but women's rights was a controversial topic of the times. 

Freud and Nietzsche

I see many similarities between Nietzsche and Freud, mainly through their common nihilistic thread. The thought that God is dead is essentially Nietzsche's, however I would argue that Freud shares this belief. I don't know if Freud was necessarily an atheist, but this pessimistic view of life is something that Freud may have. What do you guys think about their similarities?

Friday, February 8, 2013

Freud's Civilization's and its Discontents

In this essay, Freud refers more directly to the world that he lives in and how he thinks it is wrong. He implies  that no society can cure the aggressiveness that mankind naturally has. Neither communism nor free society, nor religion seems to have any effect on the aggressiveness that causes conflicts like WWI, the crusades, and monsters like Ghengis Khan and Tamerlane. He ultimately says that nationalism is the problem and that it causes the aggression in different people to come out and show itself. Ultimately, Freud has a contempt for society as a whole and the aggression that accompanies nationalism. Remarkably, Freud even predicted the coming of a person like Hitler, who would use his charisma to woo an entire nation and cause a wave of aggression to overcome the world.

Frazer's Ideas on Religion and Science in Relation to Elliot's "The Waste Land"

In Frazer's excerpt "Magic and Religion", taken from his work, "The Golden Bough", he goes into deep discussion regrading the differences in magic and religion. Frazer believes the common bond between human beings is magic because we can’t determine if we are going to Heaven because it’s God’s choice, not ours, so we don’t necessarily believe in religion, instead we believe in magic. If you were to consider a transition from magic to religion, he says that we all came from this same belief and that humans can alter the world and make things happen (this magic seems like religion). I believe Elliot also tries to demonstrate such a belief in his "The Waste Land". This can be seen when Elliot uses Christian references when Perceval, Jesus, God, and baptism. Elliot also makes references to Buddhism, the Upanishads, and the Sermon on the Mount, which are different world beliefs that he combines into one. This can also be tied into what Cassidy said about the cubism of "The Waste Land" and the fragmentation seen in the poem. 

Elliot's use of different religions and beliefs in his Waste Land

While reading the poem, I thought back to the handout that we read a few days ago by Jesse Weston, "From Ritual to Romance."  She says in the handout that "to determine the origin of the Grail, not to discuss the provenance and interrelation of the different versions" is what is important.  I think that we also see this approach through Elliot in his Waste Land.  For example, we see many Christian influences in his poem as well as mentioning of Buddha's Fire Sermon and What the Thunder Said.  Fire is often mentioned in the poem whether it have a relation to Christianity or a rejection of desire through Buddha.  No matter what religion is mentioned, it is important to remember that Elliot's goal was not for all the religions to agree with each other, but to serve his purpose of explaining his poem, The Waste Land.

"Death by Water"

I think the title of Section 4 of "The Waste Land", "Death by Water" is not very fitting for what the passage has to say. The passage talks of how Phlebas was killed in the ocean because he drowned. However, I believe this is kind of a contradiction to what Elliot is trying to say about the lack of water. Phlebas drowned in an ocean, which is a ton of water, however, the Fisher King cannot seem to find any water. It seems almost like an oxymoron due to the fact that talk of so much water shows how badly water is needed in the Waste Land. Then, in Section 5, "What the Thunder Said" there is talk of no water and only rock, which gives the image of a barren place where water does not exist, as opposed to the ocean in Section 4, where the abundance of water is almost as bad as the under-abundance of water in the Waste Land.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Waste Land = cubist?

Eliot's poem is often described as "fragmented". The multiple voices and layers of allusions make the reader feel disoriented and uncomfortable. There's no linear structure, it is composed of various bits and pieces with similar themes to form a larger concept. The poem reminds me a lot of the collage/cubist work of the early 20th century. Cubism was born in 1907 with Picasso's "Las Senoritas de Avignon", which revolutionized the art world. Cubism is both an intellectual and an artistic movement in that the artist tries to capture the essence of the object; they communicate their knowledge about the subject rather than just to visually represent it. Cubist work is choppy and fragmented, just like Eliot's poem. It also, like the Waste Land, was influenced by ancient african and iberian art work (specifically masks). Both Eliot and the Cubists were inspired by the past in order to create their Modernist art. Reading the Waste Land, for me, is very similar to looking at the work of Picasso, Braque or Gris.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


As I'm reading Lewis's essay on The Waste Land, I notice that Eliot is often quoted and in his quotes he seems rather bitter towards his own poem and interpretations of it. At one point, he says, "Approving critics said that I had expressed 'a disillusionment of a generation,' which is nonsense. I may have expressed for them their own illusion of being disillusioned, but that did not form part of my intention." Which I take to mean that all the people who interpret his poem as addressing the issues of post-WWI society are wrong. Eliot says that his poem was not written to address that at all. In fact, he does not even consider this generation as being disillusioned, but rather that they like to imagine themselves as disillusioned. But I suppose a lot of generations like to create images of themselves, most often superior than previous societies, whether these images are true or not. I think that Eliot says that this WWI generation considers itself to be superior to previous generations, in that they have experienced this trauma and all the fanciful ideas of the Romantics and the idea that human society can do anything are only imagined by the 19th century society.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Silly Pericles Lewis

While I thoroughly enjoyed most parts of Lewis's essay on The Waste Land, there was one part of his essay that bothered me: the role of the speaker versus the role of voices. If there are multiple voices, can there be a single speaker? And if there is a single speaker, wouldn't that speaker have to be a man or woman, thereby breaking the speaker's neutrality on the topic of sex? The answer is yes, unless the person is Tiresias. I find that multiple voices necessarily means that there are multiple speakers, which is mentioned, but not discussed sufficiently on page eight. But on the bottom of page four Pericles specifically refers to the speaker as a male "[...] Eliot's speaker seems to align himself [...]". Well, if the speaker is a male, then Eliot's poem is a sexist, and possibly misogynistic piece of work. I fail to fully believe that Eliot's piece is either. The typist in The Wasteland is an independent, albeit mechanic, woman. What a progression from the 18th century depictions of women as beautiful objects to be written about for their superficial beauty. Eliot breaks away from the 19th century depiction of women in the workplace or at home tending for others by depicting a single, hardworking woman at home-an under-represented population in literature. Eliot is writing about a hardworking woman just as he would about a hardworking man. The typist is making her own living, eating "tuna from a can", airing her dirty laundry for whoever visits to see because she simply doesn't have enough time to do everything. We see the same pattern in the lady who is having an abortion. While she is currently half dependent on her husband, she wants to become independent from her husband and seems to revel in the idea of breaking free from the bonds of marriage.  So Pericles Lewis, I challenge that the Wasteland's speaker must be impartial to the sexes, but involved in their "chess game". The speaker of Eliot's Wasteland, in my mind, must be Tiresias who is sort of a hermaphrodite.

Vivenne Eliot as inspiration for female characters

After talking about Eliot's personal biography today, I wondered if his depictions of women were influenced by his unhappy marriage to Vivenne Haigh-Wood Eliot. Some critics consider her to be a sort of "femme-fatale" character that seduced Eliot in a turbulent and disastrous marriage. Her and Eliot met while she was working as a governess in Cambridge and were married 3 months later. They were married until her death in 1947, but her physical and mental illnesses plagued their relationship during the entirety of their marriage. Eliot arranged for a formal separation after learning of her affair with philosopher Bertrand Russell. Five years later she was committed to an asylum. I feel that she influenced the female characters in the Waste Land, who are often depicted as apathetic temptresses. Many of the females are also characterized by their inability to maintain meaningful connections with men and barrenness. Perhaps this obsession with fertility was relevant due to the fact that Vivenne suffered from heavy, irregular menstruation that often impeded her daily life and sexual relations. Eliot's sister-in-law Theresa once said, "Vivienne ruined Tom as a man, but she made him as a poet."

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Should it really be called Modernism?

I find it interesting that this literary movement is called Modernism, as most modernist writers seemed to desire a rehashing of old cultural themes and motifs. The Modernists did not really favor modernization nor the new problems it brought to society. For example, World War I seemed to just bring chaos and havoc to countries world wide, along with death and other horrible atrocities that accompany war. The Modernist tried to aliens and fragment the parts of society they opposed, which is seen in Wilfred Owen's "Dulce et Decourm Est". In this poem Owen attacks the common misconception of the heroism in connection with waging war and how it's not as heroic as the "old men" say it is, as the only reason they want war is for their own economic and pitiful benefits. 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Lady on the Throne

We open up 'A Game of Chess' with the lady, who sits upon the chair. Remember how she's apparently talking to someone but isn't receiving any answer? Well, I might have a theory regarding this scene, one that supports my response post to Tejas' thread "Chaos" (I suggest you read that one first). I recall in class that we noted that this lady sounded paranoid, definitely desperate. We established that she seeks some sort of connection with whoever she's vainly yelling to. My take on this is that she is on the way to falling into her own spiritual wasteland, if not already in or close to one. Consider that she isn't receiving a response, logically suggesting that in the future, she will recognize the futility in wasting her breath and eventually cease both her speech and simultaneously a subconscious attempt to reach out for some sort of connection. With her motivation gone, she inevitably becomes an empty shell, much in the sense like we considered the Underground Man to be. Secondly, I want to point out the fact that at the very end she resorts to a new strategy of trying to talk to whoever refuses to answer her. Her strategy goes from a question to an insult, hoping to provoke a response. This strategy falls even with the desperate nature we've classified her with. Essentially she lowers her standards. She stops requesting specific responses through questions and begins simply wanting a response (any kind of response) through insults. Not only does this lowering of standards attribute to a sort of degeneration we see common throughout the rest of the poem as it describes our slow decay towards a wasteland, but her desperation can be likened to a sort of delusion, in that logically her new method to illicit a response (an insult) has the risk of also driving the other individual away. It's definitely a stretch, but delusion is pretty similar to the disorientation we associate with the wasteland Elliot presents.