ENG 300 Journal

Thursday, October 14, 2004

10/14: Moderns and Feminism

Quotes of the day:

(from Modern Fiction) "'The proper stuff of fiction' does not exist; everything is the proper stuff of fiction, every feeling, every thought; every quality of brain and spirit is drawn upon; no perception comes amiss." -Virginia Woolf

(from Professions for Women) "...you may not know what I mean by The Angel in the House. I will describe her as shortly as I can. She was intensely sympathetic. She was immensely charming. She was utterly unselfish. She excelled in the difficult arts of family life. She sacrificed herself daily. If there was chicken, she took the leg; if there was a draught she sat in it - in short she was so constituted that she never had a mind or a wish of her own, but preferred to sympathise always with the minds and wishes of others. Above all - I need not say it - she was pure. Her purity was supposed to be her chief beauty - her blushes, her great grace. In those days - the last of Queen Victoria - every house had its Angel. And when I came to write I encountered her with the very first words. The shadow of her wings fell on my page; I heard the rustling of her skirts in the room. Directly, that is to say, I took my pen in my hand to review that novel by a famous man, she slipped behind me and whispered: 'My dear, you are a young woman. You are writing about a book that has been written by a man. Be sympathetic; be tender; flatter; deceive; use all the arts and wiles of our sex. Never let anybody guess that you have a mind of your own. Above all, be pure.' And she made as if to guide my pen. I now record the one act for which I take some credit to myself, though the credit rightly belongs to some excellent ancestors of mine who left me a certain sum of money - shall we say five hundred pounds a year? - so that it was not necessary for me to depend solely on charm for my living. I turned upon her and caught her by the throat. I did my best to kill her. My excuse, if I were to be had up in a court of law, would be that I acted in self-defence. Had I not killed her she would have killed me. She would have plucked the heart out of my writing." -Virginia Woolf

The first quote above I included both to further refute the idea of formalism, and to sum up the Moderns.

Sorry that the second passage is so long, but I felt every word of it was important for all to read. This essay was written in 1942, a significant time for the progression of women. Not only does in illustrate what was expected of women of the time, but it reiterates my belief that there must be feeling in writing. (No, I'll never let the formalists alone!)

There is something that Virginia Woolf does better, in my opinion, than any female writer I've read. She urges women to stand up and be strong without saying all men are terrible oppressors and must be castrated. This is very important. Like my entry about war, men, like soldiers, do what has been ingrained in them, so do women. People are always going to follow patterns set by those before them, whether that means expecting your woman to bring you a beer and tell you you're wonderful, or expecting your man to dismiss your thoughts. In conclusion, don't blame the men, blame the system. There are too many women sitting around bitching about how they've been terribly oppressed by pompous men (and I am by no means denying that these men exist and need to have their egos bluntly severed). Women's time would be better spent doing something about it as Virginia Woolf did 60 years ago. There is no reason in the year 2004 in America women cannot attain their goals.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

10/12: Student's Remorse

A few things I really wish I'd known for today's quiz....

Wallace Stevens' poem "The Idea of Order at Key West"; there's something to be said for listening on the first day of class!

Coleridge's definition of the imagination: "a repetition in the finite mind of the eternal act of creation in the infinite I AM." Still not sure I understand that one...

All those darn Greek words: hamartia, amathia, deus ex machina, dianoia, can grande, Deus Insidus, Grosse Anima, Catharsis, anamnesis... yada yada ya.

That so much depends upon a red wheelbarrow... this seems like kind of a cheap shot!

The all-important chart:

Element Period Approach
work modern objective
artist romantic expression (of course I knew this one...)
audience neoclassical pragmatic
world classical mimetic

Thursday, October 07, 2004

10/7: The ever-present deeper meaning

For today Prof Sexson asked us to write a little using quotations... such as when people are talking and the make the quotation gestures with their fingers suggesting an alternative meaning deeper than the superficial. I really got a kick out of this class discussion today.

Next week we have a "quiz" in English 300.
Next week there will be a big, fat, ugly, menacing test and if you blow it your life is over. But maybe if I call it a quiz you'll still give me a nice teacher evaluation.

I did not have "sexual" relations with that woman.
Of course I did! But you can't touch me - I'm the president... What's that you say, I'm under oath???

Yes I "did" all of today's assigned reading.
Real meaning - are you kidding me? I "skimmed" it, I read the first and last sentence of every other paragraph on every third page... after I got home from the bar. If I read one more page of Aristotle my eyes will permanently cross.

I'm late because I had a "flat tire."
I'm late because last night I had 18 Fat Tires.

I "respectfully" disagree.
You're a raging liberal, go hug a tree.

I "respectfully" disagree.
You're a power-hungry Republican, why don't you hop in your SUV and kill the rainforest.

Disclaimer: I would like to note that I have "never" used any of the above excuses.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

10/5: Formalism... ugh

Quote of the day: (Absurd quote of the century)

(from Tradition and the Individual Talent) "Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality." T.S. Eliot

What is formalism in a nutshell? "Formalist criticism is not interested in the feeling of poets, the individual responses of readers, or representations of "reality"; instead, it attends to artistic structure and form." -Noron Anthology

Only someone who wrote The Wasteland could have written the above quote about turning loose of emotion. I must argue that there is always emotion. Some may be able to hide it well, but the thought that we can completely voluntarily depart from emotion is absolutely false. Yes I am a raging Romantic, but hear me out.

First the formalist idea that emotion should be omitted from art: pure rubbish. Are you serious? If there is someone reading this who can defend this view by all means please leave a comment and explain yourself. I will never make sense of this on my own. I'm really struggling to even grasp this enough to tear it apart. If an artist nonchalantly creates something, putting absolutely no feeling into it what has he done? And if the reader or listener or viewer takes in the art without considering how it makes them feel, has he had a lobotomy?

The idea that feelig should be omitted is prepostorous, but I would more urgently argue that it is impossible. If one cares enough to write something down that is feeling in itself. I'm no visual artist, but even if I'm drawing a goofy stick man jumping off of a cliff I'm still attempting to convey his loss of sanity. Is that attempt in itself not emotion?

To cure what ails all formalists I suggest they read The Giver by Lois Lowery. It is a society who tries to eradicate all differences. Jobs are appointed, mates are randomly selected, history is locked away and there is an absence of weather, color, topography, and in effect, laughter. No good can come of squelching feeling, it is unnatrual. I have no more time to waste discussing such an absurdity!!!