Charles Dickens, Little Dorrit, Reading Group

Little Dorrit. Second Installment: Mysteries and Money

Second Installment: Book I, Chapters V-VIII.

One thing you need to know when you’re reading Charles Dickens: He wrote his stories in installments. 

Do you think that he’s a bit much to get through sometimes? That’s because, well, he kinda is. He’s not really meant to be read in one sitting. I mean, if you can sit down and read Little Dorrit in one sitting, then I’m just absolutely impressed with you. Because it’s a solid 850+ pages. So kudos to you. The rest of us need small doses of him. But Dickens has always been among my favorites. In fact, we named our first dog Dickens. 

Here are some helpful little thoughts for this second installment.

~Little Dorrit is a novel full of waiting. I think there are many reasons for this. One simply could be Dickens wanted to keep his readers guessing at what would happen next. Isn’t that more realistic? We don’t know what is going to happen next in our own lives, so it would make sense in a realism novel like Little Dorrit, we as readers constantly guess what might happen next. However, a more interesting and historical hypothesis comes from Jacob Jewusiak.

In an article I’ve linked here, Jewusiak proposes the waiting and mysteries are historically based because of the financial crisis in the 19th century. Dickens warns against “getting rich quickly” by making a long novel full of intricate secrets (Jewusiak 280.)  Jewusiak compares the mysteries in the novel to speculation: neither the speculator nor the reader know the outcome immediately. Jewusiak proposes “Little Dorrit stabilizes character  by rooting it in the temporality of the domestic” (281).

If Dickens wrote to encourage his serial readers to remain wise and careful in their financial decisions, I think his novel is just as  important in today’s digital society. We want to know, and we want to know now, you know. In this installment of Little Dorrit, Arthur Clennam wants to “know, you know” inside the Circumlocution Office. He comes out none the wiser. We don’t have to go inside an office full of Barnacles. We unlock our phones using our fingerprints, and we have access to the World of Information. Do we actually start knowing, though? Or can we simply answer trivia questions? Do we just watch the trailer and read the spoiler and the 30 minutes of news highlights? Or do we really sit and watch a movie, read a book, and digest the news to truly understand what happened?

While the rest of the article makes some extremely interesting hypotheses between the characters as the plot line develops and the financial situations each of the characters finds him or herself bound to accept, it is too early on in the book reading for that to make much sense right now. I won’t bore you with the details. But I will offer a word of advice: Pay attention to money in Little DorritNotice if characters gain money or lose money. How do they react? How do others around them react? 

Questions to Consider for Installment Two.

~Why does Dickens include Arthur’s thoughts in the scene of Maggy and Amy’s interaction? What does this do to the character of Arthur and Amy?

~Do any of the names of people or places stick out to you? Why?

~What questions as Dickens raised in this installment that need answers? What do you think will happen?

And now, time to read installment 3, Book I, Chapters IX-II. 

Happy Reading!

~Izzie

Intro To Graduate Studies, Poetry Blogs, Remix, Thesis, Translation

Today We Read Henry Louise Gates…

…”IMG_2945.jpgAnd it was honestly really interesting to think about how I could draw connections with the article for so many different papers/ideas.

Remix.

I was thinking about this actually the night before class…so last night. At the very beginning of his article, Gates says his theory “is a theory of formal revisionism, it is tropological, it is often characterized by pastiche, and, most crucially, it turns on repetition of formal structures and their differences” (987).  I’m going to break that down and see if I can make this make sense.

When we break this definition down some it suddenly is less intimidating. 🙂 I promise. For starters. “Tropological.” Gate whole paper discusses tropes. So “tropological” is really just a fancy word for the study of tropes. Actually, the OED provides this fantastic definition Gates turns a little on its heels. OED says, “Designating or relating to an interpretation of Scripture which goes beyond the literal sense to find a figurative meaning, specifically one relating to conduct or morals. Hence (more generally): relating to morals; moral.” Gates doesn’t talk about the Bible, per se, but you can get the general idea..plus, if we’re thinking about breaking formulas and traditions, why not do it with traditional definitions of words, right? Or something like that…

Good. One word down. More to go…

Pastiche. Um, one guy in my class forgot the word and said something about a….”pistachio” he mumbled. Nope. Pastiche isn’t a pistachio. Nice try. But wrong. IT’S really pistachio ice cream that HAS TURNED, as Mater from Cars 2 (and being a lover of Japan, that scene in which he mistakes wasabi for “pistachio ice cream” never fails to make me laugh. But that’s beside the point..) Pastiche. Okay it’s a French word. First use in 1677 in reference to paintings and 1787 in reference to literature. But it’s basically “a work, esp. of literature, created in the style of someone or something else; a work that humorously exaggerates or parodies a particular style” (OED). Gates uses it (and a very common connotation of pastiche is) its relationship with black, African American parody/humor. Artists combine different styles and elements. (And it’s not a negative noun/adjective.)

By now you should see how I was thinking about remix when I was reading this sentence. Remix takes different components from various mediums, genres, works, themes, people, political and religious convictions and combines them in ways that break the traditional formula. As a result, the original work changes meaning slightly and the artists creates a whole new work. The new text carries with it all the different, historical meanings of the old work, and then juxtaposes them together in such a way that the new work usually gives a whole new meaning. Sometimes I like remixed art, and other times I really think that arts ruined the original for me. Regardless of my personal opinions of remix, and I do have them!, remix definitely is a perfect example of pastiche, I think! {And, I’m always happy when I think of a real life example of the theory and then the teacher brings up the same exact example. It’s a small validation in my day. 🙂 }

Oh, and the rest of that sentence…I think you can figure it because I kind of combined it all in that last paragraph. Remixers take traditional formulas and twists them. Not too much otherwise the new work won’t make any sense. But just enough so that that reader/view seems something vaguely familiar and also shockingly new (hopefully it’s a pleasant shocking and not an unpleasant one!)

Poetry blogs.

Of course. You knew I’d connect this with poetry blogs. I have to. Poetry blogs are in themselves a sort of remixed way of writing and publishing poetry. So there’s that.

But I was also thinking of this in terms of the signifier and the signified. Gates says “The Afro-American rhetorical strategy of signifying is a rhetorical act that is not engaged in the game of information giving. Signifying turns on the play and chain of signifiers, and not on the supposedly transcendent signified” (989). If you know Saussure, don’t think about his use of Signifying/Signified/Signifier because that’s not really how Gates uses them.

Okay. Gates is saying works don’t have any transcendent meaning. That means they don’t have any absolutes or Truths. “One is signified upon by the signifier” (989). In this way, bloggers are signifiers. And their posts are the signified.

If you flip two pages over to page 991, Gates says, “[Zora Neal] Hurston is the first author of the tradition to represent signifying itself as a vehicle of liberation for an oppressed woman, as as a rhetorical strategy in the narration of fiction.” Now, this part really stood out because I’ve previously research how blogging can help oppressed woman feel supported and empowered. Immediately I made the connection between this passage and poetry blogging. Is blogging a signifying act because bloggers relate their experiences? Bloggers then become the signifiers.

I really don’t know what importance this has on anything, but it was interesting to think about and discuss in class.

Translation.

This is the last section I want to talk about tonight. Ironically, this is  really what I want to focus on, so be prepared for more on this in the near future. I’m interested in this because of my thesis. I’m looking at autobiographies/memoirs written by internationals/immigrants whose L2 is English. And one of the things I’m studying is how writing in English as an L2 loses meaning. I’m wondering if part of the authors depth of meaning  might be lost because there are things that they could really only communicate best in their L1. Anyways, on page 994, Gates says “Ellison’s stress upon ‘the unwritten dictionary of American Negro usage’ reminds us of the problem of definitions, or significations itself, when one is translating between two languages.” How interesting and fascinating! I think that they (Ellison and Gates) definitely have a point there. Idioms change in each culture. Obviously words have different connotations, culture and religion affect/influence one’s use and understanding of words…all of these things. I’m interested in studying this part of the essay–the sociolinguistic implications of Gates article. Meaning gets lost in translation. It’s true.

Well….those are my thoughts. It’s late. The papers need to be written. The books need to be read. The passive voice needs to be avoided. This grad student needs sleep. And she must write without “to be” verbs, “that,” “dead pronouns,” “dangling modifiers,” and the whole rest of that Christmas wish list her professors tirelessly tells the whole class. (I sure hope they never read this blog! It breaks all those rules!) 😳

 

Democracy in Poetry Blogs, high art, Intro To Graduate Studies, Poetry Blogs

Slam Poetry, (cont.), & (?)Democracy(?)+blogs, &Aesthetics

I shared with my class today my idea about the similarities between slam poetry and poetry blogging. My fellow classmates liked the idea. One of them even suggested comparing it to the bathroom graffiti poetry. I don’t think I’ll do that in my paper, but maybe someone else would like to do that. Another one asked me about the aesthetics of poetry blogs–how are they ranked. I realized that we don’t really rank poetry blogs in terms of aesthetics or quality that way. It made me realize that we don’t really rank poetry blogs off of their content. We rank them more by their popularity. And that confused me. Why don’t we rank them in terms of aesthetics? I’m hoping that the more aesthetically pleasing blogs are the ones that are viewed the most so that the most popular ones are really the most aesthetic ones, but I’m really not sure about that. It did cause me to stumble and think hard in class. How trustworthy are popularity votes for poetry blogs? What are people wanting in a poetry blog?

Another classmate, a Briton, asked me if the “democracy” I was mentioning in my paper was the “American Democracy” or was it a different form (maybe he said “Populist Democracy???” I’m really not sure–I couldn’t even tell in class.) Regardless of the other option, I thought it was an interesting question, and it made me realize that most the scholars I’ve been reading have all assumed it was the American form of democracy to which they were referring. It  is an interesting thought, and one that would definitely bear some looking into, to see if other cultures explicitly realize a “democratic” quality to blogging, and if that democracy is American in nature. Is America the implicit model for blogging?  He was wondering how readers could comment on blogs. Were their comments moderated or were they publicly posted? Interesting question and one that I can’t answer. I know that administrators can choose if they will moderate the comments they receive, but it’s not possible for the reader to know if the comments are moderated or not. This would, however, really effect the “realness” and “transparency” of the blogs. It would also change what kind of “democratic poetry blog” the site really was.   I don’t think this is the direction that my paper is going, but it was still an interesting comment from my British classmate. It’s good to have a diverse class because everyone is looking at the same topic through different experiences, nationalities, and ideologies.

Mmmkay. That’s it for now! What do y’all think? IMG_2333.jpg

Intro To Graduate Studies, Poetry Blogs

Poetry Blogging and Slam Poetry

After reading an academic article from American Studies, African American Literary,  “Contemporary “Black?” Performance Poetry,” I believe that I could make a connection between poetry blogs and slam poetry for one of the papers I’m currently writing. I don’t know why I didn’t think of this earlier, but as Birgit M. Bauridl continued writing her article, I found the connection between poetry blogs and slams becoming increasingly apparent.

For one, both blogs and slams aren’t considered a “highart”form. Poetry slams occur in bars and cafes usually and blogs… well obviously anyone can write those. 🙂

Another connection I found is the importance for both poets to make a good impression and build a relationship with their audience. Those performing at poetry slams receive a score from the audience present and poetry bloggers can receive feedback in the form of comments from their readers.

And this brings me to another similarity, both poetry slams and poetry blogs are a type of public performance of poetry. Right? Obviously you can see how poetry slams perform poetry, but I would argue that poetry blogging also performs poetry. Authors post their poems; they design their site; they choose the colors, background, fonts, hyperlinks….this is all part of performance.

IMG_1423

Derrida, Intro To Graduate Studies, Literary Theory

Derrida has got me confused….

In class yesterday we discussed Derrida’s “The Animal that Therefore I Am (More to Follow) .” I’m not super familiar with Derrida’s work, but I do have a general idea of his work dealing with deconstruction and post-structuralism. Personally, I do not care for the extremely postmodern and post-structuralism works, I prefer more [structure/construction] in my literature. However, I know that Derrida’s work is obviously not something to completely wipe off my slate or ignore.

I haven’t. I’ve been pondering and attempting to understand his “The Animal that Therefore I am (More to Follow),” and I feel like I’m struggling to see how the essay as a whole all works together. I feel like I can understands bits of it, but then I lose the argument as I work through the rest of the essay. I’m definitely planning on studying it more over this weekend, but if anyone has comments/insights they would like to impart on this confused student, I’d be extremely grateful.

What I do know is that Derrida was calling for animal rights to some extent. And bringing up the question of what we owe animals. But how this connects with literary theory is a mystery to me. I hope that I can wrestle some meaning out of it this weekend. That’s my hope.

But please, help this girl out if you can. 🙂

 

On a happier note, my professor likes the direction one of my papers is headed…so that was basically the highlight of my day. 😀 IMG_3426

Portfolio

Ideas for Portfolio

I’ve been thinking a lot about what exactly I want to do for my portfolio. I’m nearing the end of the semester and I still need to create an advisory committee/board. I emailed my advisor and asked him if I could meet with him this week for next semester’s classes. Unfortunately, there aren’t very many literature classes offered, so it will be interesting to try to mold the class to my portfolio idea (which I currently have not solidified.)

Probably I need to do that soon.

I know I have an idea… I think. If I just keep digging I eventually will strike gold. Portfolio gold.

I know I want to do something with narrative technique and how authors construct reality in a believable way.

I like 18th and 19th century British and American literature.

How can I combine these? Do I need a more specific genre? I like memoirs, but I also find first person fiction narratives fascinating. How does the author build trust with his readers?

touch the ceiling
Reach for the [sky]