Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Now, how about you take a shot at explaining a work of C21 cultural production to a C18 audience?
Imagine yourself transported to the drawing room where Frances Burney, Laurence Sterne, William Beckford, Horace Walpole, and the anonymous author of The Female American are gathered on a dull winter's afternoon to hear what a time traveller from the future has to tell them about the literary and cultural forms that are going to evolve. You open up your laptop computer, only to find that only one of the C21 texts that you had stored there survived your journey through the time/space/reality continuum:
How do you explain this video? What background information do Burney, Sterne, Beckford, et al. need in order to make sense of it? How might you help them connect to its aesthetic values?
Deadline: Saturday (12/10), midnight.
Monday, December 5, 2011
Sunday, December 4, 2011
Thursday, December 1, 2011
|Madame de Pompadour as a Sultana (1752)|
By 1786, the rules were starting to change (and would eventually morph into the familiar patterns that you had to shed in order to grapple productively with C18 fiction). The interpretive skills, specific to C18 literature, that you have acquired and honed in this course are not as useful for understanding Vathek as they were for the other things that we've read.
In a world that expected fiction to "delight and instruct," Vathek does neither. If it "delights," it also confronts you with the spectacle of violence, gore, and ruthlessness. If it "instructs," it does so in a very roundabout manner: its surface lessons are too trite (avoid eternal damnation!) or bizarre (heaven is an eternity of sexless immaturity!) to be useful.
How do the tools that you bring to bear on more modern literary texts help you in making sense of Vathek?
What would have have liked to say in class today but didn't have the opportunity to?
What would you like to add to today's discussion?
Final thoughts on Vathek?
Deadline: Saturday midnight.
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Thursday (12/1) we will finish with Vathek.
Friday (12/2), part II of your paper is due, via Google Docs (preferred) or e-mail. Some clarification:
- you may write about Shamela for Part II, but you still have to write about three of the other books.
- if you choose NOT to rewrite Part I, you can treat Part II as a continuation of that paper. If you DO choose to rewrite Part I, you should submit both parts together as one continuous paper.
- I will be taking points off on Part II for incorrect MLA citation. If you want to make sure you're doing it right, I recommend the OWL at Purdue, which has an excellent guide to MLA style.
- Also, give yourselves time to do one editing/proofreading pass before you hand the next two parts of the paper in. I (obviously) didn't do any stylistic or grammar corrections on Part I (in the interests of turning them around in a timely manner and giving you feedback on the content of the paper), but by the time we get to the final version I will be marking papers down for careless writing and mechanical errors.
- Questions? Respond to this post with them or e-mail them to me. Or come to office hours Thursday (2 - 3, 321 English Bldg.)
Monday, November 28, 2011
In The Natural Daughter by Mary Robinson, the Gothic novel meets a beleaguered feminist heroine and a marriage-plot-run-amok amidst the French revolution. Our heroine has nothing to learn from the patriarchy but how it can let her down. Passions and drama run high in this tale, which shows its C18 roots but often gets classified with Romantic-era literature (in no small part because of the poems that sprinkled throughout the narrative). Robinson was a well-known poet as much as a novelist, and even more famous for being first a stage actress then the mistress of the Prince of Wales.
There are many more novels I could have chosen from! But these are some of the likely contenders if we weren't reading Vathek, which has its own riches to offer.
Sunday, November 27, 2011
Your study of the eighteenth-century novel has given you several different ways to approach this text. Respond to this post by suggesting an interpretive question to be asked about this novel, identifying an issue in it that ought to be explored more deeply, or observing some feature of the novel that provokes your interest or curiosity.
Deadline: Tuesday (11/29), start of class.
Now obviously, you could answer at surface level that yes, of course you can compare any two novels...if you try hard enough. But I'm asking in a more in depth sense, with all the, for lack of a better term, wackiness, that ensues in Tristram Shandy, is it really comparable to any of the far more subdued novels we've read so far?
For me, I can assert with certainty that nothing else we've read falls under quite the same sphere as does TS. No other novels have had characters that are so difficult to keep up with (that is to say, to understand exactly what's going on with them at all times). Nor do any of the other novels offer such complicated and indirect language in the way they're presented, making it even more difficult, for me atleast, to draw comparisons.
I guess a good secondary question to this would be, do you find the fact that we're only reading selections from the book rather than the entire book itself, to provide difficulty in grasping the whole thing? I've considered several times the possibility that may be a larger aspect to my trouble with the novel than I originally thought.
I'll conclude by saying if there were any other works we've covered so far that I'd even attempt to try and draw comparisons to, it'd be Castle of Otranto. But I'll leave that for anyone else that wants to answer.
Saturday, November 26, 2011
"I am confident my own way of doing it is the best--I'm sure it is the most religious--for I begin with writing the first sentence--and trusting to Almighty God for the second."
"I believe in my conscience I intercept many a thought which heaven intended for another man."
"Pope and his Portrait are fools to me---no martyr is ever so full of faith or fire--I wish I could say of good works too---but I have no."
From my own interpretation of these texts, Tristram seems pompous in his view of religion. In the first quote I presented, Tristram places himself on a pedestal, claiming that his "way of doing it" is the best way. He even puts himself before God, literally, by saying that the first sentence is his, and the second one Gods. The quotes that follow also carry a tone of arrogance towards religion and religious figures. What do you make of these quotes? How do they relate to Sterne's overall presentation of religion? How do the religious ideas that Sterne presents differ or correlate to other eighteenth century novels we have read?
Friday, November 25, 2011
- The order of the syllabus (reading Crusoe for our first primary novel, for instance)
- Presence of homo-eroticism primarily in male-oriented stories
- Use of female-oriented stories as "moralizing stories"
- Sexual innuendo
Thursday, November 24, 2011
I know these blog posts are supposed to be grounded in the reading, but I was just curious...
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Sunday, November 20, 2011
Out of the novels that we have read so far, The Castle of Otranto has been my favorite, and I've been very curious about this genre of novel for a while now. As stated on the back of the book, it is regarded as one of the founding novels of Gothic fiction. Walpole set the stage for novels such as Dracula, Carmilla, and The Blood of the Vampire. If you've read any of these novels, you'll know that they each have the same supernatural feel to them as The Castle of Otranto has. My question is: what function did Gothic fiction have? Why do you think Walpole wrote a novel such as The Castle of Otranto?
Saturday, November 19, 2011
|C18 feast being authentically prepared at Colonial Williamsburg.|
The catch is, I won't be posting any questions. You will need to post the questions, in the same ways that you posted your required blog posts.
You can get up to five additional blog points for posting a question for your classmates, and up to three additional points for responding to a question. You can only post two questions but you can respond to as many as you like. The bonus week runs from midnight Saturday (11/19) until midnight Saturday (11/26)--after which Week 14 blogging (on Vathek begins).
Some ground rules:
1. Questions MUST require answers that are grounded in the reading. So, for example, "Would you date Uncle Toby/Widow Wadman?" will get ZERO credit. "Does Sterne mean for you to find Toby's final reaction to Widow Wadman unfortunate, or not? What makes you think so?" is a credit-worthy question.
2. Questions MUST ask for non-obvious, non-yes/no answers. So, for example, "Is Uncle Toby a good guy?" will get zero credit. "Sir Walter is clearly very different from Uncle Toby; in what ways does Sterne characterize Sir Walter morally? Is he a good guy or a bad guy? What makes you think so?" is more credit-worthy.
3. Answers that essentially repeat or simply agree with a classmate's response will get zero credit, but you may respond to a single post more than once if the conversation develops in ways that give you more to say.
4. Questions that cover material issues already addressed on the blog will get no credit (although questions that productively allude to or build on earlier conversations are credit-worthy).
5. Questions that duplicate a classmate's question will get no credit.
6. Vathek is off limits, but you can blog about anything else covered in the course readings.
Enjoy, and have a wonderful Thanksgiving!
Friday, November 18, 2011
'Good Cursed, Bouncing Losses': Masculinity, Sentimental Irony, and Exuberance in Tristram Shandy -- Secondary Lit Post by Nora Ellis
For my secondary lit post, I read “ ‘good cursed, bouncing losses’: Masculinity, Sentimental Irony, and Exuberance in Tristram Shandy” by James Kim. The article largely focused on the idea of masculinity and emotional expression within Tristram Shandy. Kim looked at Tristram’s reaction to death, as well as focusing on the “veritable encyclopedia of phallic injury” (Kim 9) that describes the book for him. Finally, he discusses the idea of the book as being both satirical and sensitive, something he by no means believes to be true only for Tristram Shandy but that he believes to be a rising theme of eighteenth century literature. Finally, he determines that the desire for both man and woman, satire and sensitivity, are a part of the desire for excess which seized control of the entire novel genre.
The way that Kim examined Tristram’s reaction to death was really interesting. In what can only called the introduction to the article, Kim describes in great detail the black page in volume 1, chapter 12 of Tristram Shandy. One wouldn’t think it possible to describe a black page in great detail, but James Kim sees a great deal in it. For one thing, he takes it as being Tristram’s way of expressing what he feels about Yorick’s death. He says, “An overﬂow of ink, the black page seems to record Tristram’s overﬂow of feeling at Yorick’s death. It is as if, overwhelmed by the task of conveying his sentiments on Yorick’s demise, Tristram tries to say everything at once—and therefore can say nothing at all” (Kim, 4). He adds that it is also Tristram’s way of attempting to put down everything malicious that was ever said about Yorick.
He writes next about whether Tristram Shandy is satiric or sentimental, ultimately deciding that, not only is it both, that is not the point of the piece. The way that sentimentality and satire work together, says Kim, enables the depiction of a man that is both masculine and melancholy. The next section begins to focus on the idea of the multi-natured man. Here, Kim discusses the idea of a man as being both masculine and feminine, as well as the repercussions that would have upon the women of the eighteenth century. He here declares that, “For its part, Tristram Shandy faces sentimental masculinity and its concomitant sense of effeminacy with an attitude of loss and nostalgia” (Kim 8). This returns to the way that Kim interprets Tristram’s voice as being emotional, at the beginning of the paper. This emotion, to Kim, is not a masculine feeling to express. Tristram’s expression makes him effeminate, yet strengthens him as a character.
Part of Kim’s exploration of manliness is the question of whether behavior or sensibility is what makes a person male or female. He wisely does not assume that gender stereotypes are concrete, but does recognize the necessity of some differentiation between the two sexes. He finishes off the section by saying, “I think it would be a mistake to draw any conclusions simply from the air of phallic loss that saturates the novel, for the phenomenology of loss is itself a deeply ambiguous thing, capable of fostering a variety of complex attitudes and conﬂicted responses” (Kim 9). He is speaking particularly of Uncle Toby’s groin wound and the conversation revolving around Tristram’s father setting the clock, here.
Unlike Kim, I don’t read this as being a poem mourning the penis so much as an expression of the fear of castration. However loathed Freud might be, that phrase (fear of castration) is difficult to avoid using. After all, this book is almost entirely about genitals, however much it might pretend not to be. Most literally read, the book focuses a great deal on the fear associated with manliness and the loss thereof being associated with genitalia and the loss thereof. The desperation with which the Widow desperately tries to find out if Uncle Toby is, in fact, intact strengthens this claim.
It is interesting to combine the ideas of the feminine masculinity and the fear of castration. In a book that is, as Kim argues, both sensible and satirical, how much is the fear of the loss of manhood to be taken seriously? Is that one of the most satirized aspects of the novel, or is that something that is actually to be taken seriously? And, how closely does Tristram Shandy relate genitalia to sex? That is, does having a penis make you manly in the world of Shandy?
Kim, James. "'Good Cursed, Bouncing Losses': Masculinity, Sentimental Irony, And Exuberance In Tristram Shandy." Eighteenth Century: Theory And Interpretation48.1 (2007): 3-
24. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 18 Nov. 2011.
Sterne, Laurence, and Graham Petrie. The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman.
Harmondsworth, Eng.: Penguin, 1967. Print.
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
The mistake of my father, was in attacking my mother's motive, instead of the act itself: for certainly key-holes were made for other purposes; and considering the act, as an act which interfered with a true proposition, and denied a key-hole to be what it was-----it became a violation of nature; and was so far, you see, criminal. It is for this reason, an' please your Reverences, That key-holes are the occasions of more sin and wickedness, than all other holes in the world put together. (546-7)
Keeping in mind all of the other references to holes, valleys, etc. as discussed last class, are key-holes just another straightforward sexual allusion to be added in to this category, or is the metaphor more complex than that? What do you believe to be the implications for the sinfulness of 'key-holes' as compared with 'all of the other holes in the world put together?' Given emphasis on the 'criminal violations of nature' and 'occasions of sin and wickedness' brought about specifically by the misuse of 'key-holes,' what can we say about their correct use?
It's been on my mind a lot these days. In fact, we ended up talking about it for the first ten minutes of my other class on Thursday (which meets after ours--so I'd gotten caught up on the news over lunch). Here's a space to offer your reflections, if you would like. Keep it collegial.
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Monday, November 14, 2011
Since we have read many novels now that deal with the concept of love, how is love represented similarly or differently from other works we have read?
Sunday, November 13, 2011
For my secondary literature article, I read “The Hobbyhorsical World of Tristram Shandy”, by Joan Joffe Hall. In her article, she focused on how the irrelevant and the relevant seem to bare equal weight for our narrator, Tristram Shandy. This is why, as Hall argues, the characters in the novel are defined by their “hobbyhorse”, or favorite hobby. For instance, Uncle Toby’s hobby is his obsession with rebuilding fortifications. He thinks in terms of war and forts, and so there is a miscommunication when trim says that the doctor is repairing the bridge. Toby thinks that this bridge is a part of a fort, because one of his bridges had broken, when, in actuality, the doctor broke the bridge of Tristram’s nose, and had to repair it.
Hall argues that “Walter Shandy’s hobbyhorse is his love for hypotheses” (132). You’ll recall that Walter has many theories regarding raising a child, including conception of a child. A man must have complete focus when making love in order to direct the spirit animals. However, it is important to note with all of the family’s hobbyhorses that they never mean anything or allow any sort of closure for the family. Toby’s hobbyhorse creates miscommunication with people, and it also results in Tristram being accidentally circumsized because he took away the metal weights in the windows. Therefore, Toby has no control over his hobbyhorse. The birth of Tristram proves many of Walter’s hypotheses wrong, due to the fact that he could not direct the animal spirits and that Tristram seems fine even though his nose is damaged, which Walter believes is the most important part of the body. Therefore, “Walter’s hypotheses neither predict nor control real events… both men are impotent when they must confront the real world”.
Tristram’s hobbyhorse, according to Hall, is his story telling. His style of writing is what Hall refers to as “train of ideas” (139). This train of ideas, or natural progression of thought processes, is Tristram’s hobbyhorse. Tristram is obsessed with not leaving out any details, and his problem is that he cannot read through what is relevant to plot and what is irrelevant, which results in long tangents and digressions.
Sterne uses this device, the train of ideas, to point out the reader’s hobbyhorse. According to Hall, “that the reader should participate in solving novelistic problems is absurd, because it is the novelist who brings in the reader as a character, who supervises the work of the reader, and who dismisses the reader” (143). So, the reader’s hobbyhorse is trying to decipher the novel. Readers look for a climax, so they try to sort through what is relevant and what is irrelevant to try to find the meaning. Well, Hall argues, Sterne’s point is that being obsessed with this hobbyhorse is never going to lead to a completion, just like all of the shandy’s hobbyhorses never did either. It is the author’s job to lead the reader, and if there is no climax, the author did not want you to find one.
I find Hall’s argument quite compelling. If readers look at novels as a puzzle, looking for that climax, they might miss the point. How is a reader to say what’s relevant and irrelevant? Maybe at the end, everything needs to be looked at equally. This article definitely helped me appreciate Tristram Shandy a lot more.
So what do you think? Is it the author’s job to lead the reader?
Do you agree with Hall, that it is difficult to draw a line between the relevant and irrelevant in Tristram Shandy?
Do you think you’ve been looking too deeply into the novel for that “deeper” meaning?
Hall, Joan Joffe. "The Hobbyhorsical World of Tristram Shandy." Modern Language Quarterly. 24.2 (1963): 131-43. Print.
- At this point in the novel, the narrator has been promising, for hundreds of pages now, to tell the story of Uncle Toby's amours with the Widow Wadman (which took place before Tristram was born). Now at last he can digress no longer but has to start the narrative, which will take him through to the end of the novel (we'll read Volume IX for Thursday).
- Uncle Toby lives next door to Walter Shandy, with his loyal servant, Corporal Trim. Toby and Trim spend their days building miniature military fortifications on the grounds of the Shandy manor (you will recall that it was their need of metal to melt down that caused the weights and pulleys to be removed from the window that fell, circumcising wee Tristram).
- Uncle Toby was prompted to this labor in part by the number of people asking him, as he convalesced from the groin wound that ended his military service, "Where did you get wounded?" The question is motivated by prurient curiosity: people want to know if his genitals are still whole and potent. Toby, however, who is modest and clean-minded, interprets the question to mean "Where on the field of battle did you get wounded?" He's found maps and diagrams inadequate to explain--hence the miniature fortifications.
- Note the "Reading Guide" linked to over there under "Required Reading" in the sidebar! It has an outline of the chapter.
1. What kind of commentary is Sterne making on fiction in general and love stories in particular?
2. What's going on with The Story of the King of Bohemia and His Seven Castles?
3. How would you describe the advice Sir Walter give his brother in the letter he writes him on p. 536 - 538? What does it tell you about Sir Walter?
4. What questions do you have?
5. Would Tristram agree with the sexist humor of the image below, which has been circulating on Facebook?
Deadline: Tuesday (11/15), start of class.