Thursday, August 27, 2009

Dickens Universe 2009 - David Copperfield

Every summer, UCSC hosts a special event called the "Dickens Universe." The Dickens Universe is put on by the Dickens Project staff, John Jordan, Murray Baumgarten, JoAnna Rottke, and Jon Michael Varese. This event is held every August and invites students (UCSC or other), faculty, graduate students, general public fans of Charles Dickens, elderhostel, teachers and more. The events include lectures given by scholars, discussions groups , performances, book-sales, tea-time, and more. This seven-day event is a mixture of social gathering and scholarly conference and gives everyone a sense of community, no matter your level of familiarity with either the author or his writings. Students truly appreciate the challenging discussions among mixed groups.

The 2009 Dickens Universe selected David Copperfield to read. The 882-page book was assigned at the end of last year's conference, so there was plenty of time to read for those who attended last summer. However, since I had only signed up in May, I allowed myself a much smaller window of time. And, of course, having the audio version (abridged) and the PBS video to watch, I found that I was swimming in David Copperfield details. Once I was in attendance, however, the immersion truly began. The daily schedule consisted of: group discussion at 8:30 a.m., 9:45 a.m. lecture, 11:15 a.m. discussion group, lunch, 1:30 p.m. discussion group, 3:00 p.m. Victorian Tea, 3:45 p.m. lecture, 5:30 p.m. dinner, 6:30 Post Prandial Potations (seriously!), 7:30 p.m. lecture, and wrapping up the evening was a 9:30 p.m. film-screening. Whew! What a schedule that is for six days! Granted, not all of the events were required for the students taking the course for credit, but when you only have one week of school, it's hard to justify leaving early, eh?

This course was a wonderful opportunity for me to learn not only about an author that I knew absolutely nothing about prior to the course, but also for me to read a novel which I had never read. In fact, the only other novel of Charles Dickens' that I had ever read was "A Christmas Carol" as a child. David Copperfield is now everywhere for me. I see Mr. Micawber in someone across the street, Rosa Dartle lies in wait of her Mr. Steerforth to come towards her at the grocery store. And Uriah Heep? Well, I don't even want to tell you just how many of him there are in the Bay Area, slithering their way down streets and alleys. The Dickens Universe introduced me to a completely new world of language and rich details, bringing Dickens' characters to life in the first few lines of his book. While I will no longer be a student at UCSC next summer, I do hope to attend next year's event. We will be reading Sketches by Boz and Oliver Twist. I've already got my copies, do you have yours?

For more information, please visit:
Feel free to help the program continue on to see its 30th year. The program's funding has run out (as of July 2009) and was able to continue for it's 29th year despite the lack of funding support. Without help from the Friends of the Dickens Project and other generous supporters, the program will be unable to continue. Please visit to contribute your time and/or donation to a wonderful opportunity for students, teachers, and the community.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Ocean or The Mills?

Journal No. 17
English 48A
Dr. Scott Lankford
Authors I chose: Herman Melville and Rebecca Harding Davis

In Herman Melville's "Moby Dick," Ishmael is a lonely figure. The only passion which he discloses to his readers is his obsession for the sea. Though he has great passion for the sea, we don't learn much more about his feelings. Ishmael requires the sea to live but despises the fact that he needs it. He seems to justify this necessity by turning around and explaining how all man-kind needs it just as much.

Contrastly, in Rebecca Harding Davis' "Life in the Iron Mills," Wolfe's feelings are exposed at great length towards the end of the story. In his life, he had not desired much until the obvious moment where his world changed. He suddenly realized that his life was crap and that he needed to do something to get away from it. Of course, the opportunity that he was given was a curse in the end, but he did not have the ability to see the potential bad outcome. We learn a lot about the shift from accepting without understanding to desiring without achieving. Wolfe's tragic character is doomed to a sad existence, no matter which way you look at it.

So what do these two stories have in common? I believe that they have a strong connection. To me, they both seem driven either by their passion for something or by their hatred for something. Either way, they both are married to their professions. Of course, Ishmael chose his profession because of his love of the sea and Wolfe did not have a choice in his profession. However, it is clear that these two men - who are often solitary figures - ended their lives because of their jobs.

Wolfe saw that being a mill-worker was a requirement to just barely survive. He paid his measely little bills and drank at the bar. Other than that, his work was all that he had to belong to. Yes, there was Old Wolfe, Janey, and Deborah who were part of his family and his circle. But these were trepidatious relationships at the least. He simply felt sorry for Deborah (since that was his personality), his old man was a drunk and he never interacted with him, and Janey was just a poor kid who had become friends with the wrong person. She deserved more in life! So Wolfe needed something to belong to. To truly belong to. He put all of his time into his job and wanted nothing more than to exist in it without any troubles. He loved to sculpt but didn't see that as something that he could do all of the time. Perhaps he would have found that to be his passion at some point in his life if he had continued to work there without the interruption of the "businessmen." Who knows?

In Moby Dick, Ishmael's character was a man who loved his profession. He simply wanted to find ways to pass the time until the next chance that he got to go on a whaling expedition. He felt that the sea was an extension of his own body, in a way. He loved what he did and he loved to share it with the good people around him. Other than that, we don't know very much about his feelings. We never really learn much about his feelings for Captain Ahab. Yes, he observes that he has mood-swings and that the rest of the crew respects him, but we never learn what it is about him that Ishmael admires (or is repulsed by). He simply tells their stories.

In both of these instances, their jobs are the things that they live for - either out of necessity or want. In both, however, they are connected to their profession because it is their identity. Having your identity taken away from you can be one of the most devastating and lonely events in your life. You think that you know who you are and what you stand for until you realize one day that it no longer defines you. This can be a hard event for anyone, no matter what their chosen (or not) profession. I think that Ishmael and Wolfe both had struggles with this fear frequently in each story. This seems to be a strong connection between the two.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Secrecy and Shame?

Journal No. 16
English 48A

Dr. Scott Lankford
Author I chose: Nathaniel Hawthorne

One of our essay questions wanted us to explain why secrecy had such an important role in Hawthorne and Poe's writings. Below, I have expanded on some of my thoughts about the role that it has played in "The Minister's Black Veil."

I. "He has changed into something awful, only by hiding his face."

II. A parishioner sees Mr. Hooper approaching the church newly adorned in a black veil, covering only his face.

III. Nathaniel Hawthorne has used many different elements in the story "The Minister's Black Veil." He writes about a minister who appears one day wearing a black veil, which he does not take off for anything. The parishioners are all appalled by the idea of a clergyman wearing something so... daring? It appears as though he may be in mourning since this would be a traditional way to dress for a woman in mourning. However, since the minister is a man and he does not seem to be in mourning for anyone in particular, the sight of him is quite frightening to many.

When I initially read this story, it seemed to me that Hawthorne intended for Mr. Hooper to be wearing the veil as a protest or a statement. I felt that Mr. Hooper wanted to point out to his parishioners that they judged people too much by what their appearances were and did not accept people for who they were beyond appearances. In re-reading the story, it seemed that he was making a statement for the parishioners to model themselves after. He encouraged people to repent their sins - even on their deathbeds: "Dying sinners cried aloud for Mr. Hooper, and would not yield their breath til he appeared" (Hawthorne 1318). Is this his intent with the black veil?

Hawthorne leaves the meaning and purpose of the black veil a mystery to the reader, just as it was to the parishioners. Is the black veil representative of something different for everyone who reads about it or sees it? Does it symbolize our worst fears or most hidden secrets? Do we shudder at the sight of it because it reminds us of the evil within us? His writing purposely plays on these "insecurities" and deep sins within to create images much more potent than any that he would be able to describe in words alone.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Pure and Beautiful

Journal No. 15
English 48A
Dr. Scott Lankford
Author I chose: Rebecca Harding Davis

I. "As he might be! What wonder, if it blinded him to delirium, --the madness that underlies all revolution, all progress, and all fall?"

II. Wolfe is realizing what potential he has to be a "strong, helpful, kindly" man.

III. Wolfe has spent time wandering around, deciding what he must do with the check. He doesn't want to return it right away so instead contemplates what life would be if he could "buy" his freedom. He sees that he is a talented person and that he could take that talent (and the stolen check) to make his life liveable. He would create a world in which he could thrive, not just survive. He would have clean air and clear waters surrounding him. He would earn the respect of fellow artists and businessmen. He would fall in love with someone else who had dreams and aspirations just as big as his. He would create a world that he could only now dream of - all because of this stolen check. This truly was the "crisis of his life."

Of course, Wolfe failed to acknowledge the possibilities of failure that lay ahead of him. He ignored the possible consequences of running away not only from his job and home, but also away from the person whose money he had in his possesion. He was setting himself up to live in another prison, similar to that which he was threatening to leave.

Which prison would end up being the end of Wolfe? If you lived in a world which has beaten you down until you are just above surviving, would you really want to know what lay beyond your world? Would it benefit your senses to understand what beauty lies beyond the hills that are hidden in soot and smoke?

The Making of Men

Journal No. 14

English 48A
Dr. Scott Lankford
Author I chose: Rebecca Harding Davis

I. "If I had the making of men, these men who do the lowest part of the world's work should be machines, --nothing more, --hands. It would be kindness. God help them!"

II. Kirby is referring to iron-mill workers and wishing that they could be machines.

III. Rebecca Harding Davis writes of the "compassion" that Kirby has for the iron-mill workers. He is alarmed and ashamed for the people upon whose lives he is looking. He observes the lack of muscular form that Wolfe has and the bed of ashes which Deborah lies upon. He sees these things as the ultimate signs that their lives are torturous and meaningless.
In evaluating the opinions of Kirby's, the reader is challenged to scope out their own feelings and figure where they stand themselves. Do we feel sorry for Wolfe and Deborah? Is Kirby being insensitive to the true design of their lives? I believe that the reader is shown that Kirby was being sensitive to the fact that only "machines" should do such work. To reveal another life to the workers and people who live in the iron-works town is cruel. Seeing another possibility for a different, better life, Wolfe is only left feeling rejected and discarded. Had he continued in the fashion he had prior to meeting Kirby and the other businessmen, he would have existed merely to exist. But he would have known no additional cruelty and torture. Kirby simply wanted the men and women of the iron-works town to be able to do their duties without feeling the pain of the rest of the world beyond them. They would not be aware that there existed things to want and desire. They would not be teased with imagined scenes of clear skies and clean water. They would have no hope.

Slow Stream of Human Life

Journal No. 13

English 48A
Dr. Scott Lankford
Author I chose: Rebecca Harding Davis

I. "I look on the slow stream of human life creeping past, night and morning, to the great mills. Masses of men with dull, besotted faces bent to the ground, sharpened here and there by pain or cunning."

II. Rebecca Harding Davis tells the story as the narrator and describes the sad stream of people constantly flowing past her window.

III. Davis is able to tell how sad the lives of these people are not only by the stained clothing soot-covered faces, but by the features of the people themselves. She sees in the angles of the features a pain and desperation that has lived there all of their lives. From birth to death, she sees that the iron-mill workers have nothing to live for beyond work and pain. In the faces of the people of the town, there are stories to be read. Sad stories, but ones that are hard to ignore when looking into the eyes of people who have lived here for so long.

Davis further describes what she perceives to be a desperate situation beyond what the "average" reader might be experiencing in their more comfortable lives: "Breathing from infancy to death an air saturated with fog and grease and soot, vileness for soul and body. What do you make of a case like that, amateur psychologist? You call it an altogether serious thing to be alive: to these men it is a drunken jest, a joke." Reading this, I felt that I was challenged to look deeper into how I really felt for the characters Davis was describing. I was forced to connect with the true level of empathy which I was feeling. Was I feeling pity or disgust? Did I judge these men and women for the lives that they "chose" to live and the climate in which they did so? I found that I was obligated to be honest with myself about how I felt. I was drawn into the story even more because of this. I connected myself to the characters in the story at a level that I might not have had I gone on and asked "Why?"

Blossom of a Look

Journal No. 12

English 48A
Dr. Scott Lankford
Author I chose: Herman Melville

I. "More than once did he put forth the faint blossom of a look, which, in any other man, would have soon flowered out in a smile."

II. Herman Melville describes Captain Ahab in Ishmael's voice.

III. Ishmael observes that Captain Ahab is almost always in a foul mood. He often hides out in his cabin for days on end. However, once the weather becomes a little less gloomy, Captain Ahab's personality slowly starts to shift as well. He is connected - like a vein - to the conditions of the sea and of his ship. As Melville describes Ishmael's observations, he compares Captain Ahab to the changes of the seasons. "As when the red-cheeked, dancing girls, April and May, trip home to the wintry misanthropic woods; even the barest, ruggedest, most thunder-cloven old oak will at least send forth some few green sprouts, to welcome such glad-hearted visitants; so Ahab did, in the end, a little respond to the playful allurings of that girlish air" (2337). As the weather changes, not even the moping captain can escape the effects of the sunshine and the calm seas.

Captain Ahab is described to the reader as a flawed, brooding person whose emotions shift with the directions of the winds. The reader would most likely expect the captain of a whaling ship to be outgoing and commanding. However, as we see in Captain Ahab, his human qualities fall far below what his men expect of him. Perhaps it is his obsession with Moby Dick, perhaps it is another ghost which haunts him even more. Either way, Captain Ahab's shifting moods remind us just how vulnerable we all are.

Cataract of Sand

Journal No. 11
English 48A

Dr. Scott Lankford
Author I chose: Herman Melville

I. "Were Niagara but a cataract of sand, would you travel your thousand miles to see it?"

II. Herman Melville speaks of the desire of all human kind to seek out and to be near the water.

III. Melville writes in amazing detail about the agonizing relationship that he has with the sea and about the search for the connection with the sea that human kind is eternally conducting. The falls of Niagara are so vast and grand, yet they are "only water." What is it that draws us to their vistas? Would we truly be attracted to the same geographical location if there were but mere rivers and cataracts of sand? Melville asks the reader to search for their true feelings about the ocean. He is confident that everyone else has the sea in their souls, as well.

Melville's eloquent descriptions of the longing - no, obsession - to be near the sea lure the reader into a trance. As I read these pages, I felt as though Melville were speaking directly to me. I grew up in an ocean-side town and have never been able to shake away the need to smell the salt air and to hear the screeching of the gulls. The sounds of buoys and fog horns are just as familiar and comforting to me as the intake and exhalation of my own breath. The smell of the creosote covering the wooden pier pilings is as delightful to me as the feeling of the sand around my toes. The sea has imprisoned my soul and I can only escape it for brief moments in time. I am most unhappy when my warden sets me "free." Where else can I find the same happiness? I am best suited staying imprisoned, waiting for those brief reprieves in which I can keep as souveniers the sand stuck to my shoes and the salt crusted on to my bathing suit.

Doesn't everyone feel this way about the sea?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Sufficient Food

Journal No. 10

English 48A
Dr. Scott Lankford
Author I chose: Harriet Jacobs

I. "My mother had been weaned at three months old, that the babe of the mistress might obtain sufficient food... When they became women, my mother was a most faithful servant to her whiter foster sister."
II. Jacobs recounts, painfully, how her mother's duties were determined even as a small child.

III. Just as Douglass reflects on the cruelties of slavery, so does Jacobs. Jacobs did not realize that she was a slave until she was around six years old. She had experienced the loss of her mother and was thrown into her world upon her death. Reflecting on the treatment that her mother had received while still alive, she is told by people around her that her mother had been "a slave merely in name" (1811). Contrary to what Jacobs is told, it seems to me that Jacobs' mother was treated with cruelty as a baby. The priorities of a slave-owner are so much different than what we might consider "normal" today. If a mother needs to nourish her child, we would consider it amazingly cruel to force the mother to stop feeding the child. However, as Jacobs describes, her own mother's life was considered much less important than that of her own future owner's life. Jacobs' grandmother fed both children at her own bosom and was asked to treat her flesh and blood as a second-rate being and hope that the baby would be able to find nourishment without milk. What a cruel society! On top of this most horrible behavior, Jacobs' mother grew up to be the slave of the very same child who received nourishment from Jacobs' grandmother. This defines the morality of the time, for me. This description of events really puts things into perspective. Yes, the beatings and raping of slaves is so incredibly cruel, but to me, it is just as cruel to put a child at risk of death in order to sustain the life of another child which you deem more worthy of living. Who are we to say that one child should suffer in order for another to thrive? Do we continue to choose one life over another in our "modern" society?

Born To Be A Chattel

Journal No. 9

English 48A
Dr. Scott Lankford
Author I Chose: Harriet Jacobs
I. "The slave child had no thought for the morrow; but there came that blight, which too surely waits on every human being born to be a chattel."

II. Harriet Jacobs speaks from her personal memories about what limitations a slave grows up with.

III. Jacobs provides her readers with an intimate look into the lives of slave children. Growing up without a mother or father, many of these children are unable to connect with their families. If a child does get to stay with a family-member, it is likely that they will eventually be separated and sold off to another slave owner. Family is where children are able to get the most support and encouragement. When children do not have families (even non-biological families) to encourage them to thrive, they may not have the spirit or the will to do it on their own. In addition, slave children see their loved ones (friends and family) sold off or beaten for the slightest actions. When these children are forced to witness these cruelties they slowly become less optimistic and less motivated to live life. Not to be too cliche, but their spirits have been broken, in a sense. You have no ability to get the education that you see your white peers receiving, you'll always have the same raggedy shirt (and often no pants, as Jacobs points out), you'll never be allowed to keep your own children for long, and you may never be able to leave on your own free will. On top of that, if you were able to leave the plantation, you would never be able to apply for the better-paying job, no matter how much more qualified than your white counter-parts you might be. The world of this time was so cruel and abusive towards slaves that children were not spared the "ideals" that the masters had set forth. The world that they lived in usually began at birth and you never questioned what your lot in life was. I suppose in some ways, having no hope as a child was easier to live with than having hope that was cruelly crushed over and over again.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Kind Masters

Journal No. 8

English 48A
Dr. Scott Lankford
Author I chose: Frederick Douglass
I. "Slaves, when inquired of as to their condition and the character of their masters, almost universally say they are contented, and that their masters are kind."

II. Frederick Douglass explains that the brutality of slavery hides itself.

III. Douglass described an instance where a slave was encountered by his master. The master and the slave had never met since the master had so many slaves in his ownership. As the master went past the slave and asked how he was doing and how his master treated him, he was honest. Colonel Lloyd listened as the slave explained that he was treated poorly and worked too hard. The colonel then asked the slave to whom he belonged. "To colonel Lloyd." After the colonel hears this, he waits a while before deciding to take his revenge out on this slave. Lloyd was so viscious and cruel to this slave that many slaves heard about it and realized that they could no longer be honest. Fearing for their lives and realizing that spies were sent in to test them, slaves would answer questions with suppressed truths rather than revealing what really happened in their painful worlds.

This is one of the many painful ways that slaves were forced to live in order to survive. It took this poor man a horrible lesson to realize that he would never be able to speak his own opinion, no matter how honest. Speaking out against any white man would have been forbidden. Even if this had not been Colonel Lloyd's slave, I'm sure that he would have still found a way to punish him. He, like so many other men, felt that to insult one man of the white race was to insult all of the white race. If he had insulted the women - well, that would have definitely been a lynching!

Blood-Stained Gate

Journal No.7
English 48A

Dr. Scott Lankford
Author I chose: Frederick Douglass

I. "It was the blood-stained gate, the entrance to the hell of slavery, through which I was about to pass."

II. Frederick Douglass is recounting to his audience the first occurrence of cruelty that he saw bestowed upon a slave - his aunt - by his owner.

III. Douglass is vividly describing the moment in time in which he left boyhood and crossed over into the "hell of slavery." This was not only the first time that he observed such great acts of cruelty, but this was also the first time that he had witnessed cruelty to someone that he loved. This occasion left unseen scars that ran deeper than any physical scars ever could. Douglass uses very bold and effective images of blood and flames to remind his readers of how "wrong" these actions (and slavery itself) are. His audience may have consisted of mostly white, male slave-owners, but they would have had some conscience within them to even listen to his speech or to read his book. There would have been something compelling them to listen and/or read what he had to say in the first place. Douglass needed to write and speak of the truth bluntly but still keep his standing with this somewhat skeptical and reluctant audience. Douglass' ability to master this fine balance plays out well even by today's standards.

Douglass literally went from being a young, innocent child who had witnessed hardly any cruelty or violence first-hand to becoming a tainted, oppressed young man. He no longer had the ability to believe in the naievete that he had understood for so long. He now knew that slavery was something that turned ALL people involved - slaves and owners both - into creatures that had to fight to survive. These were no longer people, they were creatures. In Douglass' own words, his master "was a cruel man, hardened by a long life of slave-holding" (2074). "He would whip her to make her scream, and whip her to make her hush." Mr. Plummer had succumbed to a world of eternal hatred and misery. In order to become a slave-owner, you had to sell your soul to the devil.

House of Identities

Journal No. 6
English 48A

Dr. Scott Lankford
Author I chose: Edgar Allan Poe
I. "While I gazed, this fissure rapidly brain reeled as I saw the mighty walls rushing asunder -- there was a long tumultuous shouting sound like the voice of a thousand waters -- and the deep and dark tarn at my feet closed sullenly and silently over the fragments of the "House of Usher."

II. The fissure in the House of Usher has widened and the house implodes and falls into the earth.

III. The main character of the story is fleeing the House of Usher and looks back as he hears a sound only to see that the house itself has fallen to pieces. This image reminds me of a person who is struggling to be able to tell the difference between the real and the imagined. This is perhaps what happens in the mind of someone who is getting therapy for psychosis or schizophrenia. I believe that this person has created these characters and situations in their minds to avoid reality. Roderick and Madeline Usher could both be figments of the main character's imagination. When Madeline dies (or Roderick believes that she is dead), her death seems to be a representation of a specific portion of the main character's psychology that is missing or dead. When she returns or comes back to life, perhaps the main character is acknoweldging that part of his brain again. Roderick and Madeline then die together. Is this where the main character is losing more of his well-built fantastical world? As he flees from the home, the house destroys itself and falls deep into the ground. This could be the final representation of a mad man gaining sanity back, though to him it seems as though his whole world has literally come crashing down around him. He does not know where reality ends and where madness begins.

As I was reading the ending of the story, I was reminded of a recent account of the same situation. In the movie "Identity," ten characters all meet at a hotel, stranded in the middle of the night in the rain. One by one, the characters are killed off. At first, these seem to be people who are dying in brutal ways. However, we later realize that these are not individuals but instead the personas created by a man with schizophrenia. As each of these personas are exposed, they die off. There is a good cliff hanger at the end, though, and the murdering schizophrenic man gets away with murder. To me, the movie is clearly based on "The Fall of the House of Usher." It was not quite as well written, though. :)

Moss-grown Burial Stone

Journal No. 5
English 48A
Dr. Scott Lankford
Author I chose: Nathaniel Hawthorne

I. "The grass of many years has sprung up and withered on that grave, the burial-stone is moss-grown, and good Mr. Hooper's face is dust; but awful is still the thought, that it mouldered beneath the black veil!"

II. Even after his death, the parishioners and people surrounding Mr. Hooper did not remove
the veil to reveal what is beneath.
III. As Mr. Hooper dies, the people present at his death-bed wish to have him remove his black veil. He becomes angry and insists that the veil stay. Nathaniel Hawthorne is creating a dramatic image of the rotting body wasting away while the strong fabric of the veil continues on for eternity. This is perpetuating the symbol of fear that everyone else wanted to remove. If the veil is around for many generations to come, so are the sins and fears which prompted it's placement in the first place. If the veil lives on, don't the reasons for it's existence live on, too? If Mr. Hooper had intended to place the veil for symbolic reasons and to remind society of their sins, then the sins would only last as long as the veil did. People are inclined to still wonder why it existed in the first place if it continues to be so important even after Mr. Hooper's passing. The citizens would therefore continue to judge Mr. Hooper many years after his death simply because he wore a veil. I imagine that the veil acted more as a net or a sponge than an actual veil. Perhaps he was trying to keep something out (hatred and hypocrisy) rather than keep something in (hiding his own sins and fears). He has turned the tables on the people who judged him the most by keeping the veil in place, even long after his own body has been consumed by and returned to the earth.

Drawn Darkly

Journal No. 4
English 48A
Dr. Scott Lankford
Author I chose: Nathaniel Hawthorne

I. "Even amid his grief, Mr. Hooper smiled to think that only a material emblem had separated him from happiness, though the horrors which it shadowed forth, must be drawn darkly between the fondest of lovers."

II. Mr. Hooper understands (and even expects) that the veil will offer an opportunity for even those who are closest to turn on him in judgment.

III. Though Mr. Hooper is expecting Elizabeth to stand by his decision, he believes deep down that she too will leave him. He has chosen to believe in something that is out of the ordinary and uncomfortable for most people. The mystery that many of his parishioners have turned away from is the same mystery which has Hawthorne's readers turning pages for more. We, too, want to know what is "wrong" with Mr. Hooper. What did he do to pledge the rest of his life to secrecy and devotion so strong that he can not share even with the woman whom he loves? It is implied that he must have sinned. He could be repenting these sins by wearing the veil as a commitment to God. It is also possible that he could be hiding from his sins. Had he murdered someone, he might be grieving not only the loss of that person but also hiding away so that the rest of the world will never see the guilt in his face. He could also be hiding away to prove the sins of others around him. Is he really committed to making such a point that he has intentionally isolated himself from society for the rest of his life? These are just a few of the theories as to why Mr. Hooper is leading a lonely, defiant life. This is why this story works so well. The ominous intention of the veil is to not reveal but instead to present even more questions. Why?

Friday, November 2, 2007

Far-off Foes

Journal No. 3

English 48A
Dr. Scott Lankford
Author I chose: Henry David Thoreau
I. "I quarrel not with far-off foes, but with those who, near at home, co-operate with, and do the bidding of those far away, and without whom the latter would be harmless.

II. Thoreau points out that the local merchants are more threatening to the lack of humanity in the current society than are those who come from other countries.

III. In Thoreau's speech, he is stating that the local merchants who abuse human rights are much more oppressive than any war which the United States might engage in with another far-off country. These men and women who support slave labor and other dehumanizing acts are on the surface saying that they believe in freeing slaves and ending the war. However, their actions do not support these fragile and thin promises. Thoreau is crying out for forward momentum and would like to see his supporters demand the same change and action. He is desperately looking for change that can be felt across the board- not just in the pockets of politicians and businessmen. Thoreau warns people of the dangers of passing the buck. In order for action to happen, you must take it yourself. If you want to see change, make change happen yourself. "They will wait, well disposed, for others to remedy the evil, that they may no longer have it to regret" (1861). Thoreau's words are delicately placed in order to encourage action but to avoid raising suspicion or frightening anyone away. He made efforts to be thoughtful while calling for a massive movement against the standards that the society had accepted until then. He was in the midst of witnessing great change - and he wanted to help in leading that change in the right direction.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Lacks Nothing

Journal No. 2
English 48A
Dr. Scott Lankford
Author I chose: Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca

I. "This land, in short, lacks nothing to be regarded as blest."

II. Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca finds the Americas to have plenty of wealth and richness of culture and fertile soil. He believes that though the native peoples have very little in terms of European standards for riches, they have more than what most people could wish for.

III. Cabeza de Vaca speaks of a land that he has found himself stranded on and of a people with whose customs he is unfamiliar with. Yet, he understands the wealth that lies in the richness of culture and fertile land. While Columbus found no virtues in the Americas, Cabeza de Vaca finds beauty and wealth in spite of all of the troubles that he and his men have been through. While we can not help but be at least a little hesitant in believing the writings from these first explorers of the Americas, it seems that Cabeza de Vaca has the most to lose in championing his cause for a land of which he knows very little. However, Cabeza de Vaca places himself in jeopardy many times by deliberately disagreeing with those above him in great positions of power. Becoming a prisoner for speaking out about his beliefs, Cabeza de Vaca shows that he has not his own best interests in mind, but those of a people who can not stand up for themselves. This is certainly as different a position as you can find from that of Christopher Columbus'.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Nothing of Importance

Journal No. 1
English 48A
Dr. Scott Lankford
Author I chose: Christopher Columbus

I. "They traveled three days' journey and found an infinity of small hamlets and people without number, but nothing of importance."

II. Christopher Columbus is writing to Luis de Santangel about his journeys into the Americas. He has sent two men to search for "a king or great cities" (Columbus 32).

III. Christopher Columbus has been paid by Spanish monarchs to travel to other countries to obtain wealth and riches. Upon his travels, Columbus writes frequently to narrate his journey to his benefactors. During this time, Columbus writes of successes frequently and downplays (or even completely alters) any mishaps. However, as Columbus is writing to his financial supporters, it seems as though his lack of enthuisiasm requires no effort. He seems to flawlessly "act" as though people have no importance and that the only riches are those of monetary value. I may be judging him too quickly and I may be biased due to the revelations of his true "conquests" since the original letters, but I do feel that even as a diplomatic reader, it would be hard not to believe that Columbus feels that the people that his voyage has affected do not matter. Disrupting the lives of countless people and traipsing through their land as though it belongs to you should conjure up a bit of remorse. I sense none in Columbus' letters and don't believe that he truly saw much beyond furthering his own career for the sheer purpose of obtaining more of his own wealth and fame. I understand the value of what he did for the Americas, but I'm not completely sold on the ideals that so many others have placed on him.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Shakespeare's Marlowe

While my uncle is creating art on canvas and in sculpture, my husband (Aron) has an uncle who creates written art. Uncle Bobby (Robert A. Logan) teaches English at University of Hartford (in Connecticut) and has a loving obsession of Shakespeare. Recently, Bobby released his much anticipated book that compares the lives of William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe. The book discusses the influences that the two had on each other and theorizes on what might have become of each writer had Marlowe lived as long as Shakespeare. I am very excited to read this new book since I do not know very much about Christopher Marlowe. To me, learning of the reltationship between the two has put an entirely different spin on the works of William Shakespeare.

If you are at all interested in learning more about this pair, you can purchase Shakespeare's Marlowe. Yes, it is quite expensive, but if you enjoy Shakespeare, it may be worth it. Oh! And even better: Bobby's partner, John Wright, designed the cover. Since John is my favorite uncle-by-marriage, this makes the book even more special! :)