Formatting/Citation issues

February 5th, 2012

The main issue I am having when dealing with the works cited page is how to list the television shows/series I have viewed. Do I only cite the episodes in which I quote from? Should i cite the entire series considering I have viewed each and every episode? And, if that is the case, do I cite each episode individually or cite the series as a whole only once?

The second issue I am having with citation is how to cite the images I use in my paper that have been found off google. the images are pertinent to my paper and I would hate to lose them, however, there are no credits to the creator of these images. How do I work around this issue?

Mary or Rosemary’s Baby?

November 15th, 2011

Call me crazy, but I absolutely adore the character of Mary in “The Children’s Hour”. She is absolutely diabolical, scary, demonic, manipulative, and cruel but hey, she gets sh*t done. Hellman creates a child character that is so much like the child in the film Orphan or The Omen. Mary’s character is so purely evil she almost seems possessed. However, Hellman makes Mary completely believable. Never once does the reader stop to question the believability of Mary because Hellman manages to keep her devilish ways somewhat innocent and childlike. Mary’s outbursts of physical destruction and harm are horrifying but still read as childish and immature. The reader sees Mary for what she is– a spoiled child acting out because she cannot get what she wants. This seems to be Mary’s one redeeming characteristic—her childishness. Even though Mary is literally and figuratively a murderer, one cannot hold her completely responsible for all the chaos in the play (even though she is). The circulation of the lesbian rumor and the public fallout Karen and Martha suffer because of it is, in the end, completely blamed on Mrs. Tilford. It is she that seems to be the scapegoat for the circulation of this (at the time) “terrible” accusation. However, can one really blame Mrs. Tilford for the downfall of Karen and Martha? Probably not. One cannot blame an adult for doing what he/she thinks is best for his/her child, no matter who it effects. If I knew an illicit love affair was happening a few feet from my childs bedroom, lesbian, gay, heterosexual, or otherwise, I am getting involved. One does not assume, especially in the time frame of this play, for a child of 8 or 9 to know about lesbianism and “lovemaking”. It is Mary’s delivery that makes it clear because even she is unsure of what kind of noises are made in the schoolmistress’s bedroom. It is also not uncommon for parents to explicitly take their child’s word over that of another adult or authority figure. Parents also do not want to think that their child is capable of lying so blatantly, ferociously, and heartlessly; it would mean that his/her child is not “perfect”. In order to prevent having to face this admission of fault in a child, the only option a parent has is to become an advocate for his/her child. That is precisely what Mrs. Tilford did. She took action not necessarily against Martha and Karen but advocated for Mary. One can even say that because Karen and Martha decided to take the slander suit in “public” by taking it to course, the outcome of events can be rightly blamed on them. There could have been another way to prove their innocence privately with Mrs. Mortar, Karen, Mrs. Tilford, and Martha. So, in the end, Mary’s name should be cleared from almost all blame from this unfortunate situation. Is Mary a disturbed child, most likely. Did she plant the seeds of destruction? Absolutely. Could she have possibly known just how far her lie would take her? No. Her lie was “watered” or nurtured by Mrs. Tilford and the other characters that believed Mary’s initial lie. It was really intriguing, interesting, and awesome to see the characteristics of Iago, Roger Chillingworth, and the abortionist from Summer embodied by this little girl.

The Blog About the Prospectus Before the Paper

November 9th, 2011

The title of this blog sums up how I felt sitting down to write my prospectus– confused.

I had been in a bit of a panic in the preceding weeks just thinking about committing to a topic so swiftly. There are so many varyied and intriguing aspects to the all encompassing theme of gossip and secrecy. Initially I thought that turning my blog on “distancing language” in The Journal of The Plague Year would be the most genius topic to choose and would  allow me to really focus on my own theories of secrecy and the need to spatially separate oneself from it. However, I decided to wait a bit longer before really “buckling down” on a topic. That was the best decision I could have made. Thanks to my extensive television viewing (and always having the thought of gossip and secrecy on my mind) I had a prophetic experience while watching an episode of Dexter and spent the rest of my night jotting down ideas, concepts, and questions I had about the relationship between America’s favorite serial killer and his secrets. This start was great but it was missing one key “ingredient”- the literature. I had yet to read a novel that really encompassed the darkness and the fear that secrecy instills in people and literary characters. This was very disconcerting but I was determined to stick with my topic. At the point of writing my prospectus, I had absolutely no idea of what texts, other than Macbeth, would suit my paper. Writing about and handing in a paper filled with very raw and abstract ideas and questions scared the crap out of me. At best I felt the prospectus was scattered and unclear. At worst it was complete garbage.

While waiting to meet with Prof. Walkden, I considered what literary texts I could use to tie into this paper. Thankfully, The Scarlet Letter and Summer had been assigned and literally answered my prayers. The “abstractness” that once induced fear dissipated. The texts that were decided upon helped illuminiate the inital thoughts on my topic and I realized that my paper was not as abstract and unclear as I had previously believed. The prospectus and the meeting with Prof. Walkden is the best preparation I have received before writing a paper. In hindsight this prospectus was probably the best “thing” that could have happened to me.

Hester Prynne: Lindsay Lohan before Lindsay Lohan was Lindsay Lohan

November 2nd, 2011


This is my third time reading The Scarlet Letter and, I must admit, that I fall in love with it a little bit more every time I read it. Hawthorne’s writing style and the psychological insight he offers the reader is perfection. In my eyes, it is he and not Freud that is the “father” of psychology.

It is due to the amount of times that I have analyzed this novel that, this time around, I was able to take a step back from that mindset and really just enjoy it. One thing that kept popping into my head while reading and accumulating all the instances of public shame was: why the hell do celebrities complain about their public image in today’s society when stuff like this was commonplace in a newly colonized America? If one was to read this novel as an exact example of public crime and punishment in Puritanical America and compare it to the celebrities of 2011 and the public scrutiny they are under, those suffering public humility in puritanical times definitely win the “who had it harder” game. In fact, I personally wish that the stocks still were a valid form of punishment this way I could see the Justin Biebers, Paris Hiltons, and the Lindsay Lohans suffer and actually pay for the crimes they commit against society merely by existing. If the biggest problem in their multi million dollar lives is a picture of them eating a double cheeseburger from McDonalds gracing the pages of the most recent gossip magazine, I think they should be thankful. It is rather sad to think about it in this context and see the actual decline America has made in its legal system. To clarify my previous statement, I do not think that Hester Prynne deserved the treatment, scrutiny, and isolation she received simply because she had a moment of human weakness. Furthermore, I do not think it should have been made public business especially because Hester was not a “public” figure. When celebrities become celebrities, he/she should expect to their private life to become public because he or she is asking to be a public figure!  Today, a celebrity can literally be found guilty for drug possession, DUI’s, theft, etc… and walk away from the American legal system with less than a “slap on the wrist” and be given another opportunity to commit more crimes. Somehow it is the same celebrity that commits a crime that complains about the crime being written about in the paper. Yet, when that same celebrity has a new movie coming out or is about to release a new CD, he/she expects to be on every television channel and on the front page of every printed piece of news in existence. If having an illicit love affair/love child was a crime worthy of punishment at one time, I would love to see today’s American celebrities suffer the same kind of treatment Hester had to endure. In short, Hester messed up and was publicly chastised for it. She was the Lindsay Lohan before Lindsay Lohan was Lindsay Lohan.

On another note I would also like to say that Roger Chillingworth is by far one of my most favorite villians in literature. He has every characteristic one would think a manipulator of secrey would have. He is a hybrid of the Hunchback of Notre Dame and Dr. Frankenstien. His psychological characteristics leaves one “chilled” to the core and is quite the appropriate character to be introduced to right after Halloween.

The Secret History- Not so Secret or Intriguing as One Would Hope

October 12th, 2011

This epistolary novel is actually the first novel read thus far that was dissatisfying. Having the word “Secret” in the title gave hope that there would be some really interesting revelations exposed throughout this work. However, after completing the novel, it seemed to have started nowhere and ended at the same place even though the narrator traveled from place to place; I wish the story would have followed. The reason for this dissatisfaction is simple but not unwarranted: There were absolutely no revelations of secrets. The promised “secret history” of Haiti could have come from any historical text. When one compares Mary to H.F from The Journal of the Plague Year, Mary seems cold, distant, and somewhat unconcerned with the political movements taking place at this time. This is doubly odd considering that Sansay actually lived through these “horrific” experiences and saw their consequences first hand. H.F is a fictionalized character and Defoe did not personally experience the effects of the plague. Why is this? One reason may be that Sansay needed to distance herself from the memories of the dreadful events she experienced and Defoe was able to fully immerse himself into an imaginary world and speculate on how he thinks he would have felt living through the plague. Sansay writes: “It is not often in the tranquility of domestic life that the poet or historian seek their subjects! Of this I am certain, that in the calm that now surrounds us it will be difficult for me to find one for my unpoetical pen” (Sansay 93). For Sansay and Mary there is not much of a difference between a poet and historian. The two, in this case, are not mutually exclusive. Having an “unpoetical pen” implies that there is a lack of emotion in Mary’s letters which allows her to report factually without much room for errors behind her facts. However, Mary does not seem so focused on factually reporting on the uprising in Haiti but reporting on those that surround her. This is also the crux of the situation- Mary may not have any “poetical” inclinations about the revolution but cannot help but have emotions and “poetical” feelings for the friends that are affected by the trying times. It also could be that living through any political movement, unless one is an active member of it, diverts much of their attention to the aspects of everyday life that he or she is directly connected to. In other words, Sansay reports on the way those around her lived their everyday life during the time of this revolution. This then leads to a secondary issue held with this text. One would expect to read this novel through the lens of postcolonialisim yet, as one reads further on, it seems as though this text should be read through the lens of feminism. Mary’s letters tend to report on the horrible experiences women, of each race, have to experience. This is blatantly obvious because of her constant coverage on her sister Clara’s personal life. The secret history seems to be women’s lives in general. Many of the names of women are dashed out and the reader is unaware of the narrator’s name until letter XXVIII. Clara herself is not given her own voice until this point either. Also, the fact that Mary comments on the “private” life of these women implies that there is a secret to their public persona that only she knows the truth about. The public vs. private theme expressed in this novel are the most interesting. The women that allowed themselves to be public figures (like Clara, Clarissa, and Madame le Clerc) are openly addressed and “called out” on their lives and their mistakes. It is also interesting to note that these public women suffer the most- many of which actually lose their lives. The “dashed out” women are the most private and Mary keeps their anonymity. It may also imply that their names are not even worth mentioning because they lead such good, “moral” lives.

In the end, the novel was not completely dissatisfying because of the novel itself but because it was somewhat unclear which way to approach reading this work.

Curiosiy Killed the Cat (or at least thousands of people in London in 1665)

October 5th, 2011

Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year reads like a mix of the movies Zombieland, The Book of Eli, and The Happening. The reader is exposed to characters that have oozing boils and tumors (much like zombies), that blame/praise God for their “Providence” (like saving the Bible in The Book of Eli), while being struck dead by an unseen enemy (as in The Happening). To say this “Journal” is apocalyptic would be the understatement of the century. However, what is even more telling in Defoe’s novel is the fact that it seems that gossip, or at least the need to talk, is what leads to the spread of disease. The speaker/writer of this “Journal”, H.F, remains unscathed throughout this plague but is not above the basic human need to gossip and speculate- after all, isn’t this journal one big piece of speculation?

Initially it seems as though H.F wants the reader to believe that the plague, much like gossip, is a “poor man’s” disease. H.F., however, is a businessman and seems to be a member of the upper/upper middle class. H.F. is also the writer of this journal which is completely based on gossip- right down to the “bills of death” he references to “prove” his facts. It seems as though H.F builds a binary and then chooses to break it. On one hand the poverty stricken people are solely to blame for the spread of this horrendous plague yet the fact that H.F bases his “facts” on the “word of mouth” breaks that thought. Then, as if to reduce the effect of H. F.’s gossip, Defoe chooses to use what I’ve come to call “distancing language” in order to remove H.F a little further from the gossip that fuels him. Defoe chooses to use many prepositional phrases throughout this novel that seems to distance the speaker (H.F.) from the gossip. H.F becomes a mere conduit for the gossip to pass through. Defoe writes consistently that: “It was thought” (63), “It was reported by way of Scandal” (55), and “it was reported” (131) in order further remove or distance H.F from these facts in case they are wrong. These factual reports are usually followed by H.F’s personal opinions on the facts. The reader is expected to believe H.F. over the “facts” H.F himself- which places the reader in a bit of a conundrum. If the facts that H.F reports are false, can anything he says be true? Is there really a difference between what he reports and what he sees? I think this can be answered by referring to the merchants that H.F speaks of. If one is to believe that H.F is safely locked up away from the plague in his house, how can he know, for sure, what the merchants in Turkey, Italy, and Spain are doing (or not doing) for London?

The reader sees just how susceptible H.F is in his need to converse during the “scene” in which he crosses paths with the waterman. H.F’s “Curiosity” literally moves him out of his house for a walk where he observes the goings on of his town. When he meets this “honest” and God fearing waterman , he decides to actually go near him and go aboard his boat. It seems as though through a few moments of verbal affirmation that H.F’s need for human companionship and the desire to talk overpowers the need to preserve one’s life. The reader almost expects the waterman to let H.F abroad but the reader does not expect for H.F to actually go through with it. This is especially true because up until this point in the novel H.F. makes those that converse with others sound like complete idiots for doing so or malicious “devils” that openly choose to spread the disease for his/her own specific reasons.

It seems as though aside from the physical human need for communication there is a very big emphasis for communication to prove and disprove the facts of the plague itself. The poor are placed in positions to account for others deaths and those infected are told they must account for themselves to report any initial sicknesses they endure. However, the consequences of these forms of accountability are severe. The poor that drive the “death cart” do not really count the amount of bodies they “pick up”. The watchmen of diseased houses sleep or get drunk on the job and physically “lose” those they are supposed to watch. The infected men and women do not always know that they are infected and cannot testify to the fact that they are sick because they do not believe themselves to be so. There is also a chance with those infected that the risk of honesty is too high and would prefer to go about as if nothing at all is wrong with them.

It is also interesting to note that “Curiosity” is constantly blamed for the desire to speak to others. Being “shut up” in houses for days on end seems to fuel the fire (pardon the pun) that makes people go into the streets and help to spread the disease. H.F himself blames “Curiosity” for the times in which he somewhat ignorantly left his house and conversed with others. It is not hard to make the connection that “Curiosity” sparks the need for gossip which then leads to the spread of disease- or possibly rumors and scandal. It seems as though Defoe is trying to say that ones Curiosity can “trump” ones desire for self-preservation. If “curiosity killed the cat but satisfaction brought it back”, those in London during the plague were killed (obviously not brought back) but satisfied in a moment of human connection.

“Oh the Horror. The Horror”

September 21st, 2011

From the sharing of secrets and the repercussions that follow to the manipulation of “truths” in order to maintain or increase ones social/societal standing, Lady Windermere’s Fan has many themes and motifs that one would expect in a play about gossip and scandal. Even though Wilde inverts the final result of the characters gossip, there was not much in the play that takes one by surprise. However, the one theme that was not expected was the theme of horror. Wilde uses words like “misery”, “anxiety”, “monstrous”, “hideous”, and “horror” repeatedly throughout this very concise play. One has to stop and ask: What are the implications Wilde wishes the reader to see with his word choice? Is gossip itself “monstrous” or are those that participate in the act of gossip the “monsters”? Although it is difficult to know for certain what Wilde’s answers would be to these questions, one simply cannot help but try to decipher whatever message Wilde tries to send to the reader.

The first time the reader sees a reference to horror is when the Duchess goes to speak to Lady Windermere in Act One. While speaking about Mrs. Erlynne the Duchess says: “Oh, on account of that horrid woman. She dresses so well, too, which makes it much worse, sets such a dreadful example…It is quite scandalous, for she is absolutely inadmissible into society. Many a woman has a past, but I am told she has at least a dozen, and that they all fit” (Act 1 Lines 215-222). Wilde explicitly writes that Mrs. E’s reputation alone induces horror in the women that hear about her. The next few sentences offer the reader an explanation of as to why. Wilde suggests that her physical appearance alone is either so “off” or “improper” that that alone causes dread in those that see her. Wilde further explores the repercussions of Lady E’s actions and it seems that the most fearful characteristic is that she is “inadmissible into society.” It is the Duchess’s inability to “place” Mrs. E into a uniform category that literally horrifies her. This fear is emphasized through the lack of introduction the reader (and Lady W) are given. At this point in the play Mrs. E is like a phantom- a ghost- an unrecognizable creature that is spoken about but has yet to be seen. Wilde’s choice to introduce Mrs. E this way is almost cryptic and it also helps to build tension for the characters and the reader.

What/Who is “monstrous” fluctuates depending on which character is speaking. Later on in Act One the Duchess of Berwick, still speaking to Lady W, says: “Pretty child! I was like that once. Now I know that all men are monsters” (Act 1 Lines 314-315). By evoking images of a child and aligning that with images of monsters, one cannot help but think of “the Boogeyman” or “the monster in the closet” that children are so afraid of. So, is Wilde suggesting that for women, once they are “of age”, men become “the Boogeyman” to them? That is probably a bit of a stretch-yet there is some truth to this thought process as well. Working within the confines of this play, it seems that the only two things that can hurt a woman are men and rumors/scandal. Men can cause the rumor/scandal and (in terms of infidelity) and rumor/scandal can turn men against their wives (for lack of morality and virtue). This being the case, men become something to fear. If a man causes rumors, a woman cannot leave her husband because of their lack of property rights and financial security. If a woman stirs up her own rumors, a man can leave and turn against his wife- again leaving her with nothing.

From a man’s perspective, specifically Lord Windermere, feels as though it is merely the suggestion of infidelity that is “monstrous” (Act 1 Lines 452-454). This fact is proven when Lady W goes to Lord Darling in an effort to leave her husband. The consequences of this mere “suggestion” are “monstrous” because it has the ability to bring down a household and ruin a marriage.

It is understood that Wilde speaks in hyperbole for dramatic effect- however it is important to note the fear that gossip and scandal can produce.

It’s a Man’s World!

September 12th, 2011

In William Shakespeare’s Othello, women propel the play into motion. This may seem a bit strange considering there are only three women in the play- Desdemona, Emilia, and Bianca. At one point or another, each woman becomes a source of frustration for the men they are associated with. Even though women were more like second class citizens during Shakespeare’s time, they speak and see more truth than any of the men in the play. Desdemona, Emilia, and Bianca are not given any credit for this. They get treated in the exact opposite manner and are even blamed for the men’s overreaction and rash decisions.
The leading female character, Desdemona, is the faithful wife to the Moor general Othello. At first, they are completely in love and their bond seems unbreakable. They tear through Venetian society’s unspoken boundaries together. Desdemona speaks in front of the councilmen and publicly professes her love and undying faith to Othello over her father (Othello 1.3 179-187). Although Desdemona believes this act to be a sign of: loyalty, love, trust, faith, and dedication to Othello, it is also the first act that “proves” her to be capable of turning on Othello. Iago’s constant persistence in convincing Othello that she has slept with Cassio is what makes other characters perceptions of Desdemona change. Iago blatantly manipulates facts to fit his arguments against Desdemona which is why his lies become so believable to Othello.
Desdemona manages to maintain her composure and faith in Othello even though he becomes increasingly cruel to her. Desdemona’s care and devotion to him seems to increase as Othello’s cruelty increases. She never falters in the love for her husband. Instead of fighting with him or “setting him straight”, she tries to “talk through” the different accusations against her like a shining example of a Shakespearian wife. In Act 4 Scene 1 lines 230- 251, Othello hits Desdemona. Her response was to simply walk away from the situation and not push Othello into a deeper rage. It is also important to realize that it is Iago that “fuels” Othello’s resentment for his wife and her reactions to Othello’s behavior are irrelevant. His suspicions already exist but it is Desdemona’s “strange” behavior that “proves” Iago’s observations to be true.
Othello openly questions Desdemona about her unfaithfulness during Act 4 Scene 2. (He states,) “…I took you for that cunning whore of Venice…”. Throughout the entirety of the scene, Othello reveals to Desdemona that he believes she is a philanderer. Even though Othello only accuses her of extreme dishonesty and being a “strumpet”, these are not his only reasons for his turning on her. (Disobeying her father, marrying a black man, and her insistent persuasion to help Cassio, had all been turned into fatal flaws in Othello’s mind.) Again, Desdemona holds herself together, ever the dutiful wife, and remains calm throughout the flying accusations. (Othello 4.2.89).
Desdemona even takes it as far to say “Lay on my bed my wedding sheets…” to Emilia with the hope of winning her husband’s favor back. (Othello 4.2.103). It is Desdemona’s way of remembering the happier times of her short marriage. It is also a sign that she intends to hope for the best when it comes to her husband’s behavior. She intends to wait out Othello’s rage and be there for him when he returns back to his normal self. It is in this way that she plays a hopeless romantic. Even though it is Iago’s participation in gossip and scandal that cause Othello’s behavior, it is Desdemona’s actions that cause Othello to continue on with his depravity.
The second key female character in the play would be Emilia. Being the dutiful wife of Iago must not have been an easy task. She is smart enough to realize that there is a devious person looking for a promotion working behind changing Othello (Othello 4.2. 129-143). However, she does not sense that it is her own husband. It is because of her being blind to her own husband’s character traits that makes her seem quite naïve. She is yet another of Iago’s puppets. Her actions and reactions throughout the play help “prove” Iago’s accusations against Desdemona.
Emilia knew there was no need to give Desdemona’s handkerchief to her husband and questioned whether or not she should. In the end, she goes against her initial instinct and hands it over to her husband.(Othello 3.3. 293-301). In doing this, she also seals the fate of every character in the play (Othello 5.2. 223-232). She did this solely to be the dutiful wife and satisfy her husband’s wishes (Othello 3.3. 293-301). It is a bit disappointing when Emilia does this because she advises Desdemona so eloquently during Act 3 Scene 4 on how to handle Othello‘s strange behavior. She always managed to ease Desdemona’s nerves during Othello’s outbursts. It is due to the truth in Emilia’s advice that the reader would believe that Emilia was intelligent enough to avoid succumbing to her husband’s cunning.
The final female character in Othello is Bianca. She is the sometime girlfriend to Cassio. She is described by Cassio and Iago as a “loose” woman and seems to have more of a typical Venetian demeanor. This is so because her character is the lustiest of all of the women in the play. She is sultry, attractive, and brass- especially during the handkerchief confrontation scene. She is unafraid of confronting Cassio when she finds Desdemona’s handkerchief in his bedchamber (Othello 4.1. 143-153). Even after Cassio dismisses her, Bianca returns, angrier than ever and is not afraid to tell her lover off. She hopes for a marriage with Cassio even though he shows little interest in her. She is deemed a nuisance by both Iago and Cassio and is easily dismissed by both men as just a “fun and loose” woman. (Othello 4.1 116-131). She acts as a foil character to Desdemona and Emilia.
Othello does not give the greatest portrayal of women. The women are strong and smart but only to a certain extent. They are smart enough to see devious behaviors and recognize that their husband’s behavior is cruel and unnecessary, but do not do anything to stop them. Each woman is abused either mentally or physically by the men they are tied to. Desdemona (once an equal to Othello), Emilia, and Bianca were reduced to second class citizens and never fought their way out of that placement. They accept the boundaries that are placed around them, not as much from society, but from their loved ones, and are complacent in that.
Desdemona and Emilia console their husband’s and their friend’s and seem to be the only character’s really seeing through all the injustices being done throughout the course of the play. As smart as they are, they are still inactive and fated to stand by their men regardless of the accusations against them. Desdemona and Emilia sealed their own fates through their inactiveness and their willing blindness to their husband’s wrongdoings and gossip.