HE318, Modern British Literature
Spring Semester, AY2013

Primary Texts


The Norton Anthology of English Literature: 20th Century and After, 9th ed.

E.M Forester, A Passage to India

Ford Maddox Ford, The Good Soldier


                                                    P O S T I N G S

1) Range of Modernism – “Dover Beach”(click) and “The Dover Bitch” (click)

2) Conrad’s steamer, Roi des Belges (click)

3) Impressionism (click)

4) Prompt for short essay #1 (click)

5) Traits of Modernism—Early Exploratory Draft (click)

6) Lists of Narrative Irregularities, Image Patterns, Conflicts and Events in Portrait(click )

7) Sample Successful Student Papers on Short Assignment #1 (click)

8) Study Guide and Topics for A Portrait of an Artist (click)

9) Prompt for “long” papers (click)

10) List of the traits in Yeats’ poetry (click)

11) Lists of details related to themes and characters in The Good Soldier (click)

12) Sample wordy passages from first set of longer papers (click)

13) Sample successful papers on first long paper (click)

14) Prompt for the second short paper (click )

15) Sample successful in-class papers written 25 March (click)

16) I.D. passages from A Passage to India (click)

17) Sample successful papers on second short paper assignment (click )

18) Prompt for long papers, with added option for the one due 1 May (click)

19) Study guide for final exam (click)








Jan   8

Introduction to Course, “The Darkling Thrush” click




Norton: Hardy poems, 1932-39

Hardy’s “world view”?


Jan 11

Norton: Hardy poems, 1940-47 

Modernist style (s)

WK 2

Jan 14

Norton: Housman poems, 2012-15

19th or 20th Century sensibility?


Jan 16

Norton: Conrad, “Preface . . . ,”  1949-51 & Heart of Darkness, 1951-75

Material vs. abstract; the mystery of subjectivity

Short, in-class writing prompt (click)

Jan 18

Norton: Heart of Darkness, cont., 1975-2011

Multiculturalism vs. colonialism; setting as modern psyche

WK 3

Jan 21

No Class—King’s Birthday

Identify three “modern tendencies” in readings so far


Jan 23

Norton: “Modernist Manifestos,” 2056-77; Futurism (click); Wyndham Lewis (click); Cubism (click); Stravinsky (click)

Discuss lists (click); examine imagism and what it departs from;


Jan 25

Norton: Joyce, Araby,” 2278

Old tropes adrift in a new world

WK 4

Jan 28 

Norton: Joyce, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, begin

Narrative voice, discontinuities, “character”

Jan 30 

Norton: Joyce, Portrait, complete first two chapters

Alienation as modern experience


Feb   1

Norton: Joyce, Portrait, complete first four chapters

The modern artist?

WK 5

Feb   4

Norton: Joyce, Portrait, finish

List narrative traits--complete

Short Paper Due (click)

Feb   6

Norton: Joyce, Portrait, review

Discuss short papers; in-class editing (click)

Feb   8

Norton: Yeats, “The Lake Isle . . .,” 2087; “The Man Who Dreamed . . .,” 2089; “Adam’s Curse,” 2090; “No Second Troy,” 2091; “The Wild Swans . . . ,” 2095; “The Second Coming,” 2099

Nationalism and style; personal mythology as response to dislocation

WK 6

Feb 11

Norton: Yeats, “A Prayer . . .,” 2100; “Leda and the Swan,” 2102; “Sailing to Byzantium,” 2102

Poetry of the body



Feb 13

Norton: Yeats, “Among School Children,” 2103; “A Dialogue . . . ,” 2105; “Crazy Jane . . . ,” 2108; “The Circus Animals’ . . . ,” 2114

Into modernity through the past? 

Bring to class list of three major “traits” of Yeats’ poetry (click)


Feb 15

Ford, The Good Soldier, first two chaps.

Discontinuity; deterioration of old forms; stylistic features of modernism

 WK 7

Feb 18

No Class––Washington’s Birthday

“Loveliest of trees, the cherry now . . .” not hewn, at any rate

Feb 20

Ford, The Good Soldier, read through 107

Begin cataloging stylistic tendencies; the novel aware of novels


Feb 22

Ford, The Good Soldier, complete

Impressionism; indeterminism; psychological mysteries

WK 8

Feb 25

Ford, The Good Soldier, review

Themes, characters, narration--lists (click)



Feb 27

Norton: WWI poems.  Brooke, “The Soldier,” 2019; Thomas poems, 2019- 22; Sassoon, “They,” 2023; “The Rear-Guard,” 2024; “Glory of Women,” 2025; “Everyone Sang,” 2025

Where are the lovely cherries now?  Disfigurement of Georgian values and stylistics; patriotism?


Mar  1

Norton: WWI poems.  Rosenberg, “Break of Day in the Trenches,” 2030; Owen, “Anthem for Doomed Youth,” 2034; “Dulce Et Decorum Est,” 2037; “Strange Meeting,” 2038; “Disabled,” 2039

Dislocation, disruption, breaks in form that reflect a world disfigured

WK 9 Paper Due


Mar  4

Eliot, “The Love Song . . . ,” 2524

Carpe diem reconfigured


Mar  6

Eliot, The Waste Land, 2529 ff.

New mythology; revitalization of romance; cultivation of the inaccessible and modernism


Mar  8

Eliot, The Waste Land, cont.

Post WWI world view

Mar 11 -15


Spring Break

R  &  R


Mar 18

Eliot, The Waste Land, finish discussing

Reassemble focus; review; discuss writing issues—“wordiness” (click)


Mar 20

Norton: Lawrence, “Odour of Chrysanthemums, “ 2483

Internal drives vs. external forms

Mar 22

Norton: Lawrence, “The Horse Dealer’s Daughter,” 2496

Psychological and biological drives


Mar 25


In-class exercise—what is modern about “The Rocking Horse Winner”? click


Mar 27

Forester, A Passage to India, first 6 chapters

“East is East, and West is West . . . “ ?

Mar 29

Forester, A Passage to India, complete BK1 (p.132)

“Heart of Darkness” again—mystery and ambiguity?


Apr   1

Forester, A Passage to India, complete BK2 (p. 314)

Colonialism as touchstone for modernism


Apr   3

Forester, A Passage to India, complete

Important passages or patterns; I.D.’s (click)

Short Paper Due

(click )

Apr   5

Forester, A Passage to India, review

Important passages or patterns

WK 13

Apr   8

Norton: Orwell, “Shooting an Elephant,” 2605

Illusions of control and mastery

Apr  10



Apr  12

Norton:  Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway, 2155- to about halfway through

Radical subjectivity; “stream of consciousness”


Apr  15

Norton: Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway, finish

Class, women, love, and war – old vs. new


Apr  17

Norton: Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway, review

Report on important passages


Apr  19

Norton: Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway, review

Report on important passages


Apr  22




Apr  24

Norton: Auden, “Petition,” 2678; “Lullaby,” 2679; “As I Walked Out One Evening,” 2683; “Musee des Beaux Arts,” 2685; “The Unknown Citizen,” 2688


Irony and the Modern World—who cares?

Apr  26

Norton: Auden, “In Memory of W.B. Yeats, 2685; “In Praise of Limestone,” 2691; Thomas, “The Force That . . . ,” 2698; “The Hunchback . . .,” 2699; “Fern Hill,” 2702; “Do Not Go Gentle . . . ,” 2703

Encomium—who cares?  Womb and tomb


Apr  29

Review and discuss final

Paper Due (click)

May  1



May  3

Final Exam 1PM















Notes on Assignments, Routines, and Goals


1.  Goals, Grading Standards, Statement on Plagiarism:  see Guidelines to HE111 and HE112 (click).


2.  Assignments and Grading.  



Percentage of Final Grade

Two out-of-class papers of about 4 pages each (click)

about 50%

In-class writings & quizzes

about 20%

Two short, 1-2 page papers on assigned problem/topic (click)

about 20%

Final Exam

about 10%


3.  Course Policies

a)      You must complete and hand in all papers and announced in-class work in order to pass the course.

b)      Do not assume that I will be reasonable about late papers:  if you ignore the due date, I am free to act capriciously.

c)       You can rewrite—not superficially revise—the first out-of-class essay for an entirely new grade, provided that it is a better than the original version.  You can also re-write for an entirely new grade one of the short papers on assigned topics. The rewrite has to be turned in no later than two weeks after the original due date. I do, of course, encourage you to re-write before you submit an essay.  I’m always happy to help you with drafts before the paper is due. 


4.  Class Meetings.  Classes will unfold as discussions of assigned readings and other projects, punctuated occasionally by short, informal lectures and reports on group and individual projects, as well as quizzes.  Expect a good deal of short, in-class writing.


5.  Office Hours.  MWF 3rd period and T, 9-11 & 2:30-3:30.  I read my e-mail frequently and I'll give you my home number, so you won't have any trouble getting hold of me.  My office phone is 36201.






























HE111-112 Information and Guidelines for Students

I.  Course Description.


In Rhetoric and Introduction to Literature (HE111-112), literature is the springboard for teaching composition.  In the two courses, you study the principles of composition and apply them in written responses to your readings.  This combination of composition and literature provides you with experience in performing diverse writing tasks and challenges you to understand and appreciate the ways in which literature expresses human and cultural values.


During the first semester, instructors assign frequent writing tasks designed to help you master content, organization, diction, style, and mechanics.  They also introduce you to the principles of writing critically about the short story and drama.  In the second semester, instructors require more sophisticated essays in which you write about poetry and the novel, and they will introduce you to using the library's resources, documenting material correctly, and quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing accurately.


II.  Objectives.


1.  To improve your ability to read critically and sensitively various kinds of literature.


2.  To develop your confidence and style as a writer so that you can:


        a.  turn a general topic into a purposeful thesis;

        b.  shape your composition so that it has a beginning, middle, and end and so that its organization and content serve
        its audience and purpose;

        c.  write fully developed and coherent paragraphs employing such methods of development as summary, narration,
        description, comparison/contrast, classification, analysis, and persuasion;

        d. edit your sentences so that they vary one from the other, so that they depend mainly on the active voice and
        avoid wordiness, and so that they are grammatically correct; and

        e.  use the resources of the library to research a topic and document the results.


3.  To enhance your understanding and appreciation of cultural values and basic human issues through the study of literature.


III. Evaluation of Written Work.


Your instructors will evaluate your writing to help you to achieve the objectives described above, reading your essays carefully, commenting on both their strengths and weaknesses, and expecting you to use those comments to improve your subsequent writing.

Part of the evaluating role of the instructor is to assign a grade to your work.  Although not all instructors assign grades to every paper, the Academy requires instructors to report grades about every six weeks, and you should be aware of the following guidelines.


1.     Criteria for Grading Writing Assignments:


  A:  The A essay shows originality of thought in stating and developing a controlling idea or thesis.  It employs the
        most suitable kind and amount of evidence, and this evidence, at every stage of the essay, has a clear purpose.
        In addition, the excellent essay is characterized by careful and effective organization of sentences and paragraphs
        and by careful and effective choice of words and phrases.


  B:  The B essay has many of the traits of the A essay, but is usually lacking in one or two areas such as completeness
        of development or clarity of focus in its controlling idea.  The prose in a B essay can be flawless and clear or a bit
        careless, but its general lack of mechanical errors and its "readability" reveal some successful editing and proofreading.


  C:  The C essay has a central idea and a basic plan of organization, though that organization breaks down at certain

        stages and is often not the plan best suited for the controlling idea.  The C essay lacks development either because it
        does not provide sufficient evidence to support its generalizations or because it lists evidence without providing any
        assessment of that evidence. Though it usually needs improvement in mechanics and wording, the C paper can be
        almost entirely free of mechanical errors.  Whereas the B essay can be quite impressive in an area or two, the C
        essay usually lacks an outstanding feature, though it might have outstanding potential.


   D. The D essay shows little understanding of the topic; it usually lacks a controlling idea, and if it states an idea,
        the body of the essay does little to support that idea.  The D essay often has a random order; its paragraphs unfold
        without a plan; and its sentences, though usually understandable, show little evidence of being revised and therefore
        suffer from wordiness and a distracting number of mechanical errors.


    F. The F essay is unsatisfactory.  It fails to state and develop a main idea, often because it does not respond to the
        assignment.  In addition, several of the major mechanical errors listed below occur repeatedly throughout the paper.


English instructors agree that frequent occurrences of these errors characterize substandard writing:


                    (1)  sentence fragments (Longman, chapter 40)
                    (2)  comma splices or run-on sentences (Longman, chapter 41)
                    (3)  dangling or misplaced modifiers (Longman, chapter 43)
                    (4)  faulty agreement:  subject-verb or pronoun-antecedent (Longman, chapter 38)
                    (5)  faulty use of tenses (Longman, chapter 34f)
                    (6)  substandard idioms or expression
                    (7)  excessive misspellings of common words


See the more inclusive list in The Longman Handbook (47), which adds to these the following four: faulty shifts in point of view, misuse of apostrophe, missing or misused quotations marks, double negatives.


2.     Literacy and a Passing Grade:  Instructors will not automatically assign a failing grade to the paper in which some of the seven faults repeatedly occur, especially when the paper has strength in its content or ideas.  However, if you habitually commit several of these mechanical errors in your essay and do not make definite progress toward avoiding them by the end of the term, your instructor is likely to judge your semester's work as unsatisfactory.  You would do well, then, to study all your handbook has to say about these writing faults so as to avoid them in your writing.  Good ideas deserve good presentation.


IV.  Avoiding Plagiarism.


At the U.S. Naval Academy, the least severe consequence of detected plagiarism is a failing mark on the paper containing the violation.  Since plagiarism is a combination of lying, cheating, and stealing and as such constitutes a violation of the honor concept (see USNAINST 1610.3f), plagiarism could result in your dismissal from the Academy.  The moral:  do not sacrifice your personal integrity and professional potential in such high risk activity.  You would be wise to read the sections on plagiarism and documentation in your handbook, where you'll find the correct way to handle writing and ideas that are not your own.  Look carefully at the following document for more explanation:

English Department Standards for Honest Work


1.  Whenever we directly or indirectly refer to the material we’re studying, we’re more persuasive.  Likewise, research—thoroughly studying and investigating a topic—helps us refine our thinking and writing.  Referring to the text and outside sources doesn’t mean that we’re necessarily out of ideas or that we’re in a position of weakness.  Rather, these references further strengthen our arguments, so it’s important that we not undermine that strength by failing in some way to acknowledge our borrowed material.  To this end, we expect you to observe the following standards and always consult the available resources—your instructor, the Writing Center, your Everyday Writer—if you have any questions.


2.  The Honor Concept states that midshipmen “ensure that work submitted as their own is their own, and that assistance received from any source is authorized and properly documented.”  That is, midshipmen do not plagiarize.  What, then, is plagiarism?  Citing the Council of Writing Program Administrators, The Longman Handbook, page 333, explains that plagiarism,


occurs when a writer deliberately uses someone else’s language, ideas, or original (not common-knowledge) material without acknowledging its source.” . . . Thus, turning in someone else’s paper as your own, taking someone’s original idea or analysis from a book and passing it off as yours, and copying passages or even sentences from a source into your paper without saying where they came from—all represent plagiarism


3.  At the U.S. Naval Academy, the least severe consequence of detected plagiarism is a failing mark on the paper containing the violation.  Since plagiarism is a combination of lying, cheating, and stealing, and as such it constitutes a violation of the Honor Concept, plagiarism could result in your dismissal from the Academy.


4.  In order to avoid plagiarism it is necessary to document your sources to identify ideas, writings, and material that are not your original thoughts.  Not only must you identify the verbatim use of the words of others, but also those instances that paraphrase or summarize another’s material.  If your instructor doesn’t specify which style to use, you may use footnote, endnote, or parenthetical style; consult The Longman Handbook (332-67) for documentation rules and format.


5.  Here are some methods of using reference material:


a.  You may quote a whole sentence or more verbatim, documenting the source.


b.  You may paraphrase or summarize the writer’s idea or information, in language which is unmistakably your own, and give the writer credit for it in your documentation.


c.  You may wish to combine these methods by working into your paraphrase or summary some brief quotations of the writer’s key words or phrases and then documenting the source.  This is often the most effective way to reference material.


Remember:  all the above methods of citation require proper documentation of the source.  Paraphrasing or summarizing what you use from a source does not relieve you of the obligation to give credit where credit is due.


6.  These suggestions for using reference materials while avoiding plagiarism will also help you:


a.  Quotation marks:  whatever you are quoting verbatim, whether whole sentences or merely words or phrases, must, of course, be identified by quotation marks, unless you are using the alternative method of indentation and single-spacing for lengthy quotation.


b.  Anticipating documentation:  it’s generally advisable when you cite a writer’s opinion (e.g., his or her analysis or criticism of a literary work) that you mention him or her, preferably by name, in the text as you begin your citation, making it clear to your reader beforehand that he or she is about to hear from a source other than yourself.  Don’t rely entirely upon documentation at the end of a sentence or a paragraph; establish a context for your reader.


c.  Documentation at the end of each paragraph isn’t sufficient, since it causes confusion concerning how much material is being referenced.  Avoid the practice of “lifting” sizable blocks of material by including original ideas within and varying the sources of information, producing the true research product—a blend of sources and original thought.


7.  Plagiarism encompasses more than the taking of material from published sources without acknowledgment.  It also includes submitting ideas or papers that are partially or totally the work of another person, including another student.  There is no prohibition against having someone else proofread or type a paper, but you must be sure that the corrections or changes made in your work by others do not alter the substance or style of the paper.


























To be or not to be--An Exercise on Identifying Weak Verbs

Steps to take with any paper, late in the drafting process:

1.  Circle all occurrences of to be verbs, except those in quotes.

to be



's, 're (in contractions)

2.  Count all the to be verbs you have circled.

3.  Count your sentences, excluding quotations.

4.  Divide the number of to be verbs by the number of sentences.

40% and below suggests that you have probably taken the time to think about and choose the verbs in your sentences.  You have avoided the following structures:

                          passive voice
                          "it is . . . . that" 
                          "There is" 
                          noun formations--"he is supportive of me"  















Short in-class writing on the first chapter of Heart of Darkness (about 20 minutes)

Write a coherent paragraph in which you point your classmates to something that you find intriguing, interesting, and/or important in this first half of Conrad’s novella.  That “something” could be a pattern, a particular short passage, a character, a structural feature of the story, the setting—you name it and explain for your classmates why they should give it some attention.










































Prompt for First Short Paper


Due date:  6 Feb

Audience:  Classmates and instructor

Length:      about 1 ½ to 2 pages




To analyze some feature of one of the works you will have read by 1 Feb.  In the case of Hardy, you can deal with more than a single poem.




-a snappy title


-an interesting opening paragraph that communicates the controlling idea of the paper


-a narrow focus on something small that you think is “big.”  This feature can be a small passage, a particular image, or a stylistic trait that has importance.  See the sample papers at this link for examples of some of the approaches you can take.


*Please be sure to ask about any questions you have.  To free also to run an idea or a draft by me, if you want to.














































Sample Short Papers



10 “to be’s” /  22 sentences   =  45%

Can Cricket Make You Hurl?

        The first chapter of A Portrait ends in a curious way. Stephen’s classmates celebrate him as a local hero for having told the Rector about Dolan’s unfair punishment of him.  After tossing him on their shoulders in a foreshadowing of the novel’s theme of flight, they leave Stephen alone, ultimately chastened by Father Dolan’s ruthless beating of his hands.  The last paragraph returns in style to the intensely sense-driven and limited experience that opens the novel, as the narrator registers what impinges upon Stephen’s senses:

The fellows were practicing long shies and bowling lobs and slow twisters. In the soft grey silence he could hear the bump of the cricket bats: pick, pack, pock, puck: like the drops of water in a fountain falling softly in the brimming bowl. (2348)

Apart from that limiting, confused sense experience, this passage highlights Stephen’s alienation and his being torn between his recognition as a rebel hero and his lingering desire to regain Father Dolan’s respect. The focus on cricket, though, is particularly interesting and surprising.  And it has powerful implications.

      The cricket sounds occur twice before this final paragraph.  They first emerge just after the account of how Stephen's glasses were shattered when a bicyclist collided with him on the playground.  The description anticipates the one at chapter’s end, focusing on the different ways of delivering the ball to the batsman and describing the sounds as “pick, pack, pock, puck: like the drops of water in a fountain slowly falling in the brimming bowl.” Here the description of the boys playing cricket emphasizes Stephen’s apparent lack of physical abilities, especially because without his glasses he must rely on his other senses.  It also suggests his alienation from the communal experience represented by the sport.  Both this non-athletic weakness and difference from others mark Stephen’s character throughout the book.

       Importantly, the description of the cricket sounds comes just after the narrator’s account of Stephen’s hazy view of the football grounds.  Apparently Irish football is out of season and cricket is in. Unlike this football or the hurling referred to later in the novel during the sections in which Gaelic nationalism and companionship become clear pressures on Stephen (2425), cricket is a distinctly English sport.  In fact in the 1880’s playing foreign games—including cricket—would ban an Irish person from participating in Irish football and hurling, the Irish national “pastimes” (see, for instance, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cricket_in_Ireland).  This passing reference to the football field, where there was no play “for cricket was coming” (2337), implies that the cricket sounds represent the displacing force of English colonialism.  And that force is as steady and almost imperceptibly powerful as the drops of water falling in a slowly brimming bowl.  The next reference to the cricket sounds comes as the boys discuss the impending flogging by Mr. Gleeson of a couple of their classmates (2338).  Thus, the hitting of the cricket balls in the background and the Jesuit fathers’ punishment of the boys, including Stephen later, by flogging are connected by this juxtaposition. They are linked not only because both involve hitting something but because both enact the imposition of one dominant culture upon another:  the English upon the Irish and the priestly and adult establishment upon the relatively untamed boys.

            These early descriptions of the cricket match set up the fitting last paragraph to this chapter, as it establishes two of the central forces imposed upon Stephen’s future development:  the church and more indirectly English culture and language, as represented by the game.  Here at the chapter’s end, the immature Stephen can only feel his predicament on his beaten hands and sense it through the vibration in his ears.  If we attend to the repetition, however, we can understand his alienation and his necessary submission to the two master cultures from which he will try to escape during the rest of the novel.  


Happy at Last?

     "I am content"--Shylock's last words, words that give an eerie sense of completion to his appearances and also suggest important thematic concerns of the entire play.  The word content is the most important one.  Certainly Shylock is not "content" in the normal sense of the word.  But that he has to say the word when in fact he is the farthest he has been in the whole play from contentment, from fulfillment, or satisfaction calls attention to its root meaning, "contained."  Certainly Shylock has been contained--confined, restrained by the law.  Interestingly, this sense of containment is what several other characters seek to avoid:  Portia, symbolically, is trying to get out of the restraining casket of paternalistic control--remember, her picture is in the lead casket and she tells Bassanio, "I am locked in one of them"; Jessica escapes her father's house; so does Lancelot Gobbo.  Other images of containment also occur frequently throughout the play:  Antonio pictures himself as a kind of chest, his "extremest means [lying] all unlocked" to Bassanio's needs.  The letters and contracts in the play are sealed, their messages contained.  The rings themselves seal a contract, encircling the fingers of Bassanio and Gratiano in a kind of containment.  The immortal soul also, which--according to Lorenzo--can hear celestial harmony, is grossly closed in by the body, "this muddy vesture of decay" (212). 

      What to make of these and other such references in the play?  First, it seems that the play is about desire--the repeated uses of "satisfaction" and "surfeit" call attention to this concern.  This play pictures the dynamics of desire in terms of containment and freedom from it.  Antonio is sad at the beginning; he is satis, or "full"; he is "contained," and therefore unhappy.  Jessica, Portia, Lancelot are all contained, but in a different sense:  they seek to escape containment.  In other words they desire.  Antonio, at the beginning of the play is almost without desire.  Interestingly, however, desire seeks fulfillment and, like a moth with light, pursues that which extinguishes it--containment, satisfaction, surfeit.  That is what happens to Shylock as he seeks the law and Antonio's flesh; that is what has happened to Antonio as a merchant--he's achieved all he can; that is what happens to Portia and Jessica as their desire for freedom puts them into the container of marriage and their husband's control, despite their last fling as males outside patriarchal containment.  This underlying theme in the play thus makes this happy ending a sad one. 


Daddy:  Too Much and Too Little in Song of Solomon


     "Daddy."  That's the dedication to Song of Solomon.  It's not the "father" of the epigraph:  "The fathers may soar/And the children may know their names."  It doesn't say "to daddy" either; just "Daddy."  That single word, though, expresses the emotional core of the novel:  the enduring power of that original, early need for the male parent; the sense of an unjudging intimacy that the word "father" lacks; and  the childishness of the term, uttered it seems by someone who is old enough to put together 337 pages of prose.  And of course we can't forget that the very saying of the word "daddy" suggests an attempt to call him into the presence of the voice. 

        This last point seems simple, but it sustains much of the book.  Saying "daddy" is a request for him to be present.  However, the absent "daddy" is the norm in this novel.  All three women in Pilate's household lack "daddy," and they have lacked him from an early age.  Guitar lacks a father.  Jake, aka Macon Dad the elder, is at an early age dropped from his father's arms as he flies away.  Of course he lands in a family, that of Heddy Bird and her daughter Sing, that lacks a father as well.  Even Freddie, we learn, was born two months after his father had died (110).  More subtly, Milkman lacks a "daddy."  He has a judgmental "father," to be sure, but not one whom he could ever call to as "daddy."  Ruth, moreover, lacks "daddy"; he has disappeared into death, something she cannot get over.  This prevailing lack in the book, whether perverse or natural, makes search for "daddy," not "father," its likely central action. 

        It certainly relates to the fact that the word "daddy" implies that the desired thing remains unsophisticated, a product of youth, of childhood, even infancy.  The progression of the novel, not surprisingly then, amounts to a regression, a turning back on the part of the characters to their past.  This holds true especially for Milkman.  He returns to a child-like frame of mind, complete with a sense of magic (Circe the ghost and a great-grandfather who flies) and a lack of sophistication.  In Pennsylvania, for instance, he loses his shoes and walks over the same countryside his father did when he was just a boy. This signals his movement in the direction of Pilate's values, she often appearing without shoes.  In part it also mirrors the image of the peacock having to lose its gaudy feathers in order to fly.  A return to a frame of mind in which it's possible to say, "daddy," is integral, then, to his development.  "Daddy" expresses as much a state of mind that Milkman has to achieve as anything.  That state of mind involves simply a fundamental need from loving protection; and admitting that fundamental need amounts to emotional health. 

     The other, darker side of this nearly infant-like attitude expressed in the word "daddy" emerges in the lack of emotional maturity that marks many of the characters.  Ruth serves as the obvious example, incapable of seeing anything apart from her loss of father.  Hagar, too, displays this immaturity; and not surprisingly the signature action of her character—those repeated attempts to murder Milkman—responds to his having ended their relationship.  Though younger than she, Milkman is as much the father-figure for her as Freud would have most men be of any women.  Her attempt to kill him amounts paradoxically to an attempt to keep him.  The two Dead daughters, Lena and Corinthians, also display the negative emotional immaturity that "daddy' captures.  This appears most clearly in Corinthians, who at 44 still cannot leave her father's house and give herself over to another man.  The two-sided nature of this suggestion of immaturity in the word "daddy," though, shines through in her relationship with Porter. On the one hand she remains emotionally unfulfilled because she remains her "daddy's daughter"; on the other hand, she has to become like a child to Porter, clinging to his car so as to prevent him from leaving her (199), a separation that she couldn't bear.  The language describing her feeling when she gets to Porter's meager room is telling:  "She sank down on [the bed] as soon as she got into the room and stretched out, feeling bathed, scoured, vacuumed, and for the first time simple" (199, emphasis mine).  Though Porter is not literally "daddy," he does serve for Corinthians as the lost thing found, and found as a result of her having given into the simple attitude of almost basic, infantile need for his love and care. 

        At 44 she stills needs something like a "daddy's" love, something unlike her childish captivity to Macon's possessive control of her.  An that's what's so extraordinary about the dedication—"Daddy."  It captures the irreducible importance of the kind of love for which so many of the characters long in this novel.  It places it front and center of a novel obviously produced by an accomplished adult, but an adult nevertheless whose elemental need for parental care and protection endures.  In this way that single word, I would claim, captures the very emotional core of this book—of its characters and even its author.


Gadshill Scene in Henry 4


In Act II.1 Gadshill talks with the carriers and then the chamberlain and in so doing comes by the information about travelers carrying money that he passes on to Falstaff and his fellow thieves.  The scene has that literal purpose, yes; but it also operates as part of the mirroring structure of the play whereby every event--no matter that it is distinguished by the social class of its participants, by degree of privacy involved,  by faction (rebel or loyalists)-- expresses three themes vital to the play’s meaning:  1) time’s impingement upon desire; 2) the notion that all events in the play involve a form of thievery; and 3) the view that much of the activity of men in the play amounts to a wounding and trampling upon the mother-kingdom of England. 

The scene begins in the same way as the play’s first scene in the tavern begins:  “Now, Hal, what time of day is it, lad?,” says Falstaff to Hal.  The scene in the stall begins with, “Heigh-ho, an it be not four by the day, I’ll be hanged. Charles wain is over the new chimney, and yet our horse not packed.”  This notion that there’s no holiday from time’s demands; that time’s “winged chariot is hurrying near,” to use the phrase from “To His Coy Mistress,” saturates the play.  Characters ranging from King Henry (in his opening speech) to Hal to Falstaff to Hotspur’s wife to Mortimer and his new Welsh bride all long for an intermission from the world’s affairs, from “the times,” as it were. 

Also, the preparation of the thieves for the night’s robbery mimicks the apparently noble part of the plot, whose action fundamentally involves an attempted robbery of the country’s throne, which has been robbed previously from Richard II by Henry IV and his confederates.  And some of those confederates—Hotspur and his father, for instance––are now the ones setting up to rob him.  Importantly, the scene—not just my imagination––incites this parallel:  for example, when the Chamberlain suddenly appears out of the dark and says, “At hand, quoth pickpurse,” Gadshill replies in this way:  “That’s even as fair as ‘at hand, quoth the chamberlain’; for thou variest no more from picking of purses than giving direction doth from laboring: thou layest the plot how.”  This response ultimately dissolves the difference between classes, between those who give directions and those who labor, suggesting that the acts are fundamentally the same, no matter the name given them.  This sort of observation—as well as something as seemingly unmeaningful as Gadshill’s “’homo’ is a common name to all men,” at the very end of the scene, encourage us to recognize that the main plot’s apparently noble causes are no different from the preparation for a robbery that goes on here in the stable.  Even the Second Carrier’s lament that the stable “is turned upside down since Robin Ostler died” (10-11) mirrors the turmoil in England following Richard II’s death.

Finally, the scene suggests also that the kingdom’s nobility resemble nothing more than children trampling upon their mother.  This theme emerges as Gadshill brags about the “high class” thieves with whom he hangs outs.  His puning on pray, turns it into “prey”:  “. . . or rather, not pray to her [the commonwealth], but prey on her, for they ride up and down on her and make her their boots.” They are “ripping off,” injuring, trampling on their very mother.  This trope picks up upon the metaphor in the king’s opening speech about the mother kingdom having her fields scarred and her flowers injured with the violence of faction and war.






























Traits of Modernism Traits—First Try




Lack of sentimentality / anti-sentimentality

Distancing from religion and belief in God, even absence of God

Hopelessness / despair

Fascination with the unknown

Dark side(s) of human nature

Lack of absolute moral authority

Importance of unromanticized things

Various expressions of artist/author as elite in bleak world view unshared by common people

Collapse of everything heretofore held as lofty

Indifference of world to man

Absurdity of humans in trying to civilize or impose ideas on other cultures


Lack of thematic clarity






Reliance on the concrete without explanation

Focus more on the mundane and common

Common language and subject matter

Disallusioned tone

Unreliable narrator




Unfulfilled search for ideals (“Can’t get no satisfaction”)

Questioning of almost everything



































Brainstorming Chapters 1&2 of Portrait—Narrative, Events, Imagery Patterns, Conflicts


EVENTS (in order of telling, not chronological)

-Songs and early childhood experience with family

-Early school, pick-on while on the playing field and getting sick from being pushed into the sewer

-Home, during Christmas break, and argument within family

-Back at school, receives lashes from Dolan and tell on him to the prefect

-Summer in Dublin

-Birthday party and infatuation with E.C. (writes poem)

-Waiting to perform and then performing in play as pedant

-Conflict with other boys about preferring Byron over Whitman

-Move to city, as father has lost money

-Loses virginity to prostitute



-retrospective, third person –limited narration

-prose to verse switches

-prose to italicized quotations

-variations in syntax

-non-linear time of story

-impressionistic sense of passage of time

-political allusions/intrusions as almost background stories competing with primary one

-no quotation marks for dialogue

-characters simply intrude and speak or are recalled, without development

-interjections of Latin prayers and liturgy



-political: Ireland vs. England; Parnell vs. Catholic Authorities; York vs. Lancaster

-bullying: Sephen vs. Wells; Stephen vs. Prefect (Dolan)

-internal Conflicts: tell or not tell on Dolan; hormonal urges and lack of emotional and physical                            equipment for them; heterosexual feelings vs. asexual ones;

-father’s reality vs. memories of glowing past

-teachers vs. students

-hot vs. cold

-in reader between urge to know what’s going on vs. subjective experience

-inside vs. outside

-obscene vs. accepted

-Byron vs. Tennyson

-active vs. contemplative

-politics vs. apolitical stance





-religious rituals and rites

-dark vs. light

-self-involvement, such as repetition of tropes of identity and naming


-gross odors and assaults on the senses

-noise of cricket sticks

-kiss / kissing

-references to past times

-pedagogical details

-pastoral images

-words, sudden intense focus on a word (foetus, suck, etc.)




























































Study Guide and Topics for A Portrait of an Artist

(A list of issue addressed or referred to in class discussions)


--“What” is the meaning—the various implications–– of the switch from third person limited to the first person journal?


--See the “tundish” episode as the core of the novel’s concern with language, which gets expressed in some of the following ways/places (to name just a few):


language generally

2349 words as avenue to greatness

2355 false writing

2363 country’s fallen language

2415 words and language

2421 spectral words of Aristotle

2423 “heaps of dead language”

2434 Cranley’s dead speech


words themselves, including punning and basic meaning

2315 “belt”

2316 “kiss”

2316 “suck”

2319 “the universe”

2320 “God”/ “Dieu” ; “politics”

2325 words in the sentimental song

2325 “Dedalus” as a queer name

2329 “turkey”

2332, 2338, 2423  “ivory”

2358 “Heron”

2367 “fetus”

2374 obscene scrawl on urinal

2380 “retreat”

2385 “eternal Word”

2415 “Words”?

2419 “no word”

2422 definitions

2458 “ballocks”


-- Stephen’s discussion of aesthetics and how, or to what extent (or even if), it relates to his development


--Epiphanies, and their nature:  see 2459, “lice epiphany”; 2453, birds in flight; 2417-19, the major epiphany of the bird-girl on the beach; and even 2412, about not becoming a priest


--Identity tropes: see, for instance, 2313, “bay tuckoo”; 2319, name; 2355, face in mirror; 2369, name and father; 2412, “Reverend Stephen Dedalus, S.J.


--Women:  mother, Virgin Mary, prostitute, Eileen, Emma, etc


--Son-father relationships of all sorts, including:  God-Christ; Stephen’s father-Stephen; school masters-boys; Latin authors-Stephen, etc.


--The pressures on Stephen: family; biological growth; politics and Irish culture; English and English language hegemony; peers (friendship); aesthetics and art; religion (Catholic Church and Christian imperatives); popular / sentimental versions of life and art


--Why the villanelle as the chosen form for Stephen’s coming into being as a poet?


--Conflicts: religion vs. secularism; obscene vs. accepted; upper class vs. lower; country (pastoral) vs. city; Byron vs. Tennyson; the active life vs. the contemplative; crudity vs. sensitivity; politics vs. myth of apolitical existence


--Images:  hands (throughout the narrative); gross odors and filth; heat vs. cold; songs and singing; kiss (the oral); colors; the past; pedagogy (learning and teaching)


--Structural issues:  stream of consciousness; associative flashbacks and reveries; mix of discourses and languages; etc (see lists the table that documents our brainstorming of the first two chapters of A Portrait

















































Sample Successful Student Papers on Short Paper #1


Wasting Away in a Wasted Land

                                                                                           Emelie Gidley


When Marlow, the narrator of Conrad’s novel Heart of Darkness, travels to the center of Africa, he is immediately affronted by the squalid state of the African natives.  He wanders towards trees for shade, unwittingly walking into a scene where he sees languishing black bodies, close to death.  Directly afterwards, Marlow meets the company’s chief accountant, a richly attired, thriving white man.  These two encounters directly parallel one another, providing a contrast as disparate as dark and light.  The juxtaposition of the two scenes sheds light upon the vastly different realms of the African experience and magnifies the injustice imposed upon the native Africans.

            When he enters the shade of the tree, Marlow comes face to face with the perishing, hopeless bodies, describing their existence amidst the “greenish gloom” with vivid imagery.  The “greenish gloom” in the first scene parallels “green-lined parasol” held by the chief accountant. Shade is provided in both scenes, first from natural vegetation, and second, from a parasol, the trees’ material stand-in. The progression from trees to parasol displays the whites’ values, where preoccupation with material supersedes attention to nature. The green color in each scene reinforces the contrast; it provides a connecting thread between the passages, yet in context, its connotation completely changes.  Under the trees, green has a wild, vegetative connotation, while in the parasol, it evokes money and greed.  The greedy pursuit of profit drives whites to take advantage of the natives, leaving them in the state that Marlow has happened upon.  They exhaust the land, as with “a scar in the hillside,” and leave destruction in their wake, “a wonton smash-up,” and impose foreign social practices, such as the “legality of time contracts,” to enslave the Africans.

            Marlow sees a boy beneath the trees and notices a white band of cloth around his neck.  He fixates upon it, noticing the arresting contrast between the white cloth and the boy’s black skin color as well as the foreignness of the finely woven fabric in his habitation.  The fabric around his neck amounts to shackles, as the boy and those with him are enslaved by foreigners from across the seas that are just as out of place in Africa as the woven wool on the boy.  This small piece of fine cloth provides a link with the rich attire of the accountant, while the bareness of the boy’s body opposes the man’s flagrant finery.  Conrad’s placement of the accountant encounter directly after this degenerate scene indicates that the man is also out of place in this wild land.

Marlow states that he admires the accountant, yet he describes the accountant in an impersonal manner.  He is introduced exclusively in terms of his attire, “a high starched collar, white cuffs, a light alpaca jacket, snowy trousers, a clear necktie, and varnished boots,” all of which are white or translucent, pointing towards the accountant’s race and his presumed superiority.  Alternately, while the accountant is characterized by his clothes, the Africans are described by human features: bones, shoulders, eyelids, and sunken eyes.  Marlow states that in maintaining his appearance, the accountant displays “backbone.”  Ironically, the Africans, who endure the backbreaking work, are reduced to little more than piles of bone so that the accountant can continue to display his starched attire, a metaphorical “backbone”.  Marlow pays the accountant a compliment, saying, “In the great demoralization of the land he kept up his appearance,” admiring the fact that the accountant looks pristine despite his surroundings.  This comment is double edged in that the accountant maintains his demeanor through the demoralization of the land, not just in the midst of it.  Marlow calls the accountant’s appearance an achievement of character, yet his only achievement involves teaching a native woman to care for the clothes, disregarding her aversion to the task.  Every aspect of the accountant, from his job tracking the profits plundered from the land to his costume is a façade propped up by the labor of those withering under the trees.

The Africans in the shade are in such a decrepit state, they have passed outside the realm of vitality and are “nothing earthly now.” At the same time they are close to the earth, blending into their surroundings, “black shapes crouched, lay, sat between the trees, leaning against the trunks, clinging to the earth, half coming out, half effaced within the dim light.” They are referred to as “creatures,” less than human, described as “moribund shapes” rather than holistic beings.  While the Africans are “free as air,” the accountant could not be more distant from the world outside his walls of “sedentary desk life”.  His venture outside to “get a breath of fresh air” demonstrates his separation from nature, and ironically, while the Africans live with disease, the accountant complains when a sick man is placed on the floor of his office.  He is concerned that the person’s groans will distract him, yet for the Africans, the affliction of pestilence is normal, and groans of sickness and starvation have been replaced by suffering silence. 

When Marlow first happens upon the tree grove, he describes it as “the gloomy circle of some Inferno.” The dim light and despair create an atmosphere indicative of Hell.  Conversely, the subsequent scene is sunlit and bright.  White images harken to Heaven, and the accountant is described as a “vision” and a “miracle.” In this backward land, it is the Heaven which creates the Hell; the civilizing, Christian mission is disseminated to distract from the greed of imperialistic profit. Conrad constructs the scenes of the Africans and the accountant to set up themes that will carry through the rest of his novella.  He explores the differences between the two worlds, providing a departure point as the whites try to procure profit from the natural world by enslaving its indigenous inhabitants.



The Power of Weary and Dysfunctional Details

                                                                                        Ellie Webster


            In his short story, “Araby,” James Joyce dominates his writing with details, specifically details that allude to tones of darkness, dysfunctionality, weariness, and abandonment. For example, in the second line of “Araby,” the narrator writes “An uninhabited house of two storeys stood at the blind end, detached from its neighbours in a square ground” (Joyce 2278-2279). The details, “uninhabited,” “blind,” and “detached” create a lonely and abandoned setting, and the detail, “square ground” also gives the setting an aura of mediocrity. The details in “Araby” are powerful because they set the tone of the work and foreshadow the anti-climax at the end of the story.

            The conclusion of “Araby” is anti-climactic because the narrator’s trip to Araby is a failure, and he is left without any gratification of getting closer to his love interest. The narrator is left feeling powerless and disappointed, which in turn leaves the readers with the same emotions. It is a natural tendency for readers to hope for an uplifting conclusion and climax, especially in a story that is dominated by a dark tone. However, the conclusion is not surprising because the excessive use of mundane details foreshadows an anti-climax. Several examples of the foreshadowing details include the following: the “rusty bicycle pump,” “feeble lanterns,” “dark muddy lanes,” “broken panes,” “high cold empty gloomy rooms,” and “weakened and indistinct” cries (Joyce 2279-2281). An excessive use of details does not anticipate an uplifting conclusion or climax. The narrator does provide a slight contrast to the dark and mundane language when he describes his love interest, Mangan’s sister. However, the lighter and uplifting details are still overpowered and counteracted.

            The details the narrator uses to describe Mangan’s sister alludes to a religious tone and a pious image, as well as cultivating a symbol of light. For example, “She was waiting for us, her figure defined by the light from the half-opened door” (Joyce 2279). In the narrator’s eyes, she is defined by light, and the details make her seem almost angelic. However, quickly following the narrator’s description, he uses the detail “brown figure” in the next paragraph to describe her (Joyce 2279). The word “brown” alludes to an image of mediocrity and dullness. Although the narrator does not see her as ordinary, the detail of a “brown figure” suggests to the readers that she is nothing special. By incorporating details of light into his story, Joyce only makes the darker details more powerful.

            It is clearly indicated by the language used in the story, especially the details, that Joyce was not intending to have a climax, or any uplifting tone to the narrative. The editor’s introduction to “Araby” says “Some of the stories, such as “Araby,” are built around what Joyce called an “epiphany,” a dramatic but fleeting moment of revelation about the self or the world” (Greenblatt 2277). It is not clear what the fleeting moment of revelation is supposed to be in “Araby,” but perhaps Joyce was attempting to reveal a loss of excitement and development in Dublin with the use of details indicating mediocrity and dysfunctionality. In addition, perhaps Joyce was trying to show that there was a loss of piety in his life by counteracting the religious language used to describe Mangan’s sister. Overall, the details in the story indicate a negative revelation about the world, and a lack of light in the narrator’s life.

Greenblatt, Stephen. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 9th Edition. New York: W.W. Norton &         Company, 2012. 2276-2282. Print


Pernicious Silence and Scathing Solitude

                                                                            Austin Gerald


Conrad’s haunting portrait of Mr. Kurtz in his novella Heart of Darkness vivifies the indelible question: how does a successful spearhead like Kurtz rescind all that he previously held lofty and turn to the more carnal allures of the frontier? Marlow tries to piece together an explanation for himself:

How can you imagine what particular region of the first ages a man’s untrammeled feet may take him into by the way of solitude—utter solitude without a policeman—by the way of silence—utter silence, where no warning voice of a kind neighbor can be heard whispering of public opinion? These little things make all the great difference. When they are gone you must fall back upon your own innate strength, upon your own capacity for faithfulness” (1989).

In his monologue, Marlow exposes the chief culprits behind Kurtz’s demise and behind the gripping power of Conrad’s narrative: solitude and silence. These are not the silence and solitude celebrated in Romantic works as the companions of an enlightening nature. To Marlow, they are pernicious and scathing simply because of what they allow to happen, detachment from societal convention. The integration of a policeman and a neighbor as synecdoche for the larger structure of society paints a modern, impressionistic picture of the roots of the collapse of Kurtz. Silence and solitude are strong vacuums throughout Conrad’s novella and serve as situations against which a character’s “innate strength” is measured.

   Even though silence and solitude are given so much power by Marlow, they are discussed and illustrated in plain terms. The grand, expressive style of the earlier Romantics finds itself replaced by an impressionistic style that places its focus on the mundane. A policeman and a neighbor are perhaps the mundanest cogs in the mechanics of society, but Marlow expertly posits that they are the most important. They represent the legal and social rules that hold society together. Marlow associates the police with “the holy terror of scandal and gallows and lunatic asylums” (1989) because they are a key buttress that keeps the status quo propped upright. Fear of scandal, the gallows, and asylums is a small impression Marlow gives as a method to govern the way people behave. Marlow’s belief in the staying power of the law shines through in his description “holy terror”. The fear maintained by the law and its penal infrastructure finds itself elevated because Marlow sees it as one way to stem the tide of the a nature inside everyone “being assaulted by the powers of darkness” (1989).

A neighbor performs a similar function but in a much more subtle way. Marlow believes the power of a neighbor manifests in the “warning voice” and “whispering of public opinion” (1989). Through these two dabbles of imagery describing the function of a neighbor, Marlow evinces the subtler but equal power a neighbor wields in serving as a bulwark of society. A “warning voice” interjects into and implicitly questions the actions and thoughts of an individual. Whether it is the “whispering of public opinion” or harvesting of ivory, a neighbor, simply due to his or her proximity, provides a nearly constant barrier to the entrance of silence and solitude. Marlow does not use whispers in a negative way; instead, he describes the neighbor as “kind” who propagates these whispers, because he realizes whispers’ power to establish a governor and second opinion to control the wild within.

Silence and solitude, “utter” or absolute as Marlow describes them, are so powerful because they are vacuums. They are conditions under which the bulwarks of society, made manifest everyday by a policeman and a neighbor, are absent. In the vacuum they leave, the inner self can run off course as in the case of Kurtz. After all, a policeman and a neighbor are not only external buttresses making sure daily life conforms to the status quo but a set of internal ones as well. The fear and concern for being watched that they impose quiet the broodings of internal thought and allow for internal conflicts to stay static while external ones receive more attention. However, when a vacuum occurs externally, the consistent internal pressures cause any vessel to deform under the disparity in pressure. It could be greed as in the example of Kurtz or something more mundane, but in the eyes of Marlow silence and solitude are facilitators for being “assaulted by the powers of darkness” (1989) or morphed by internal pressures.


Go Out on Top

                                     Adam Jatho


            When A.E. Housman brings up aging in his poems, it is not to cheerfully reminisce as an old man. For Housman, ageing is quite terrifying as it is much better to go early than it is to live without fame later in life. The thought of leaving when one’s time has passed, to depart after one’s apex, is horrifying. Ageing is only worth its cost when one has become accustomed to life’s challenges, and sampled all of her poisons. It is only then that one can hope die in a dignified way, or at the very least, satisfied.

In his poem “To an Athlete Dying Young,” the athlete’s young death, while it would appear tragic to the reader, is actually portrayed as one final triumph. It is the athlete’s way of avoiding the sadness and disappointment “before its echoes fade.” He is lucky, lucky to go at his time, to leave on cue, to exit stage left at the high point of his life. For the speaker, it would be terrible to have hit one’s climax at such a young age only to linger pathetically in the background. This same theme holds true in “Epitaph on an Army of Mercenaries,” where he commemorates the sacrifice of men “God abandoned.” Like the athlete, they do not stick around very long. They would not be commemorated with an epitaph had they all lived to see better days. In dying young, even if it’s just for money, they become part of a legend. Housman uses epic diction to glorify them in their sacrifice, noting that these soldiers stood strong even “when earth’s foundations fled” and “heaven was falling.” It is better “to slip betimes away” while the simple folk in town still bother to lift you above their heads; better to be set down when people still remember your name.

            Housman knows the name Mithridates because he died old. This initially seems like a contradiction, after all, how could he go from envying dying soldiers and an athlete to praising an old man? The secret to living a satisfying life lies, according to the speaker in “Terence, This Is Stupid Stuff,” in being acclimated to life’s poison -- to “sample all her killing store.” Happiness in life is not found by being merry in one’s youth and ignoring reality. Unlike his drunken friends who urge the speaker to lighten up, Terence will age correctly. He will not suffer the letdown of old age and he will definitely not be shocked when he discovers that his drink had been poisoned all along. He will age, content to die having truly known life, while others languish and die.

            Few will ever learn, as Mithridates does, to take life’s poisons with a smile. The rest of us can only hope, like the athlete, to go at the right time. It is lucky to leave while people still know your name and will bother to carry you home one final time. If we linger, we will age and eventually die in a pathetic state. No one will remember our accomplishments, no one will tend to our needs, and no one will come to see us off.
















































Prompt for 4- Page Papers

Due dates:  4 March & 1 May

Format:  double-spaced, title on first page

Audience: classmates and instructor

Requirements: 1) “snappy title”; 2) clear narrowly focused controlling idea; 3) inviting opening; 4) rich use of evidence; 5) persuasive argumentation of idea


Things to Avoid:  mere summary and restatement of work’s theme, or works’ themes


Suggested approaches, though it’s up to you to come up with an idea that is important to you and think would be important to your classmates (click here for sample papers):


a)  do the same thing called for in the first short paper (making a lot of something small) but expand it more fully (must be a different topic);


b) write a problem-solution essay, in which you pose a problem raised by one of the work’s features/characters—say, the switch to the journal entries at the end of A Portrait or escapism in even the grittiest of Yeats’ poems––and address it (the solution might be that there is no solution);


c)  focus on a narrow concern that runs across two or more works, the tradition of the poet’s / writer’s muse, for instance, which seems a vexed matter in several pieces we will have read, or the idea of sentimentality;


d)  if you have a strong personal response to a specific element in one of the works we will have read, feel free to craft an essay out of it.


e)  And for the second paper you have the option of dealing with how either the movie version of A Passage to India or the one of Mrs. Dalloway handles the novel. You’ll need to give this paper a narrow focus on some particular aspect:  a character, a theme, or a particular episode.  You’ll make a claim about what the movie does to the novel with regard to this particular focus, whether it’s good or bad, enlightening or off the mark, and explain to your classmates and me why your claim makes sense.  


Please feel free to run ideas by me before committing to a topic.



















































Killing the Child, or How the Macbeth's Get to the Top

     It's easy to get caught up in Macbeth's focus on what it means to be a man, especially with Lady Mcbeth's request for sex changes and the witches' bearded faces.  Lost beneath the curiosity of that theme, however, is the play's equally important and intriguing concern with childhood--with children as dramatis personae and with images of childhood.  This pattern fleshes out the play's secondary display of an emerging system of primogeniture; and it contributes also to the related but more central theme of evil, which for the Macbeth's amounts to the act of jettisoning childhood from their nature to become as ruthless in their actions as they are in their desires.

     The issue of primogenture simmers just beneath the surface of the play's action and many of Macbeth's musings and speeches.  Primogeniture privileges family and royal seed and devalues individual prowess.  In other words, birth and childhood as lineage figure more prominantly than action in achieving legitimate power.  Early in the play Duncan tells his thanes that he has instituted this practice:  "We establish our estate upon / Our eldest, Malcolm" (15).  And of course the play ends with Malcolm completing the transformation of Scottish war band into the English blood-line system by announcing that "thanes and kinsmen" will "be earls" (98).  Macbeth's climb to power stands against this system.  The emphasis falls more on his and Lady Macbeth's isolation from and antipathy toward offspring, toward children generally.  Look at some of the evidence.  He and Lady Macbeth don't have children, while Duncan, Banquo, and Macduff do.  Macbeth's cruel reign destroys, or attempts to destroy, offspring and the ties between parents and children:  "Each new morn / New widows howl, new orphans cry . . ." (73).  Macbeth also encourages the rumored notion that Fleance, Macolm and Donaldwald are patricides, a rumor that suggests children are not acting as children should.  He has ravaged the Scottish society making it unsafe for women and children; and specifically he has Macduff's "wife and babes / Savagly slaughtered" (81), after creating a situation in which Macduff flees to save his own life, leaving the weak and unprotected behind.  When talking with Macduff in Act 4, Malcolm even assumes that his countryman has approached him in England, after unnaturally leaving his wife and children behind, in order "To offer up a weak, poor, innocent lamb / T' appease an angry god."  Here Malcolm stylizes himself as the child after whom Macbeth has sent Macduff (73).  Appropriately then the second of two apparitions that appear to Macbeth in the first scene of Act 4 takes the form of a "Bloody Child" (65) and "a Child Crowned" (66).  The first image reinforces the destruction Macbeth has brought to the children of Scotland, while the second emphasizes his isolation from power through the emerging system of primogeniture.  As reminders of this system, the children in the play isolate Macbeth's power grab as individualistic, retrograde and, as I hope to explain a bit more, doomed to failure.

     The children and imagery of childhood in the play also define Macbeth's power as unnatural and divorced from the human emotions and connections that childhood represents.  I have already suggested how Macbeth's actions separate children from parents:  he has left orphans throughout Scotland and caused the alarming separation of Macduff from his dependants.  Macbeth has made the motherland of Scotland strange even to its own children as Ross remarks in Act 4:  "It cannot be called our mother but our grave" (79).  Other details in the play's language build the sense that Macbeth's grab for power equates to cruelty to, and even elimination of, children or the spirit of the child in all humans.  In the opening scenes of the play, his problem, at least according to Lady Macbeth, is that like a new born infant, he "is too full o' the' milk of human kindness" (16).  In her famous request to be possessed by evil spirits, the "unsex me" speech, Lady Macbeth asks that the milk in her designed to nourish children be exchanged with gall (16). The key to Macbeth and Lady Macbeths' crime, in fact, is for them to cut themselves off from the children within themselves.  That's why two other vivid images from Lady's Macbeth's speeches are important.  In one she dramatizes her willingness to eliminate the impediment of the child:

                                                               I have given suck, and know
                                            How tender 'tis to love the babe that milks me:
                                            I would, while it was smiling in my face,
                                            Have plucked my nipple from his boneless gums
                                            And dashed the brains out . . . (22)

In the other she betrays how she is weakened by the very child in her that she wants to discard: she remarks to Macbeth that she would have killed Duncan herself if "he had not resembled / [Her] father as he slept" (27).  Even her prodding Macbeth to be "a man" (22) supports what I am claiming about this imagery of childhood.  Though she challenges his manhood, she also challenges him to grow up, to become a man--a person less childishly dependent on that milk of human kindness that so retards his willingness to act ruthlessly.  Lady Macbeth uses similar imagery when she scolds Macbeth for being too afraid of the scene of carnage to return the bloody daggers.  Her logic of ruthlessness runs in this way:  "The sleeping and the dead / Are but as pictures. 'Tis the eye of childhood / That fears a painted devil" (29).  Again, the child's outlook impedes their actions.  Macbeth himself learns to see it that way: when facing Banquo's ghost during the dinner scene, he asserts his manly courage by saying that if he makes a habit of trembling as he does before the ghost, others ought to "protest [him] / The baby of a girl" (54, emphasis added).  And when imagining earlier how murdering Duncan will ultimately create a tide of pity against the murderer, Macbeth, in a soliloquy, describes that pity as "a naked newborn babe / . . . blowing the horrid deed in every eye [so] / That tears shall drown the wind" (21).  Macbeth's words to his wife after the appearance of Banquo's ghost describe perfectly his growing sense of their "careers" as  murderers:  "We are yet but young in deed (56).  Only the little that remains of youth in them makes them tremble at their acts.  When childhood departs, they will be free from fear--or so they think.

     This line of imagery configuring cruelty as the elimination of the child links quite nicely with the primogeniture theme.  In fact the exchange early in the play between Macbeth and Banquo sets up the connection, as Macbeth reminds Banquo, "Your children shall be kings"; and Banquo responds, "You shall be king" (10).  Macbeth will become king singly, without any connection to offspring or parent, "as a man" as opposed to "as a child."  Banquo, the decent, sensible thane who feels, but resists, the ambition inspired by the witches' prophecy, will not be king.  However, he will achieve a vicarious, lasting power through his connection with his child and, by implication, with the child he leaves in place within his own nature.  In short, the metaphorical, emotional, and even actual willingness to slaughter children is antithetical to the momentum the play depicts in Scottish culture toward primogeniture.  The language that Macbeth and Lady Macbeth use to support their remarkably individualistic cruelty shows them working against the tide of a large cultural and even natural force, which finally amounts to a kind of destiny of the child in the play, in spite of their attempts to orphan it away.  In contrast to Macbeth and his spouse, Malcolm discovers Macduff's noble motive--to help him rather than to harm him--when Macduff expresses an authentic love of his country.  Malcolm recognizes that "noble passion" as a "Child of integrity" (76).  The child is authentic.  Moreover, that Malcolm is essentially a child--"yet / Unknown to women" (76)-- makes him the obvious inheritor of the throne not just because of primogeniture but also because he remains a child at heart.

     One complication to this imagery remains, however.  Macbeth uses the image of childhood, oddly enough, to capture the very position of power that he imagines for himself.  He depicts the attitude of cruelty unmitigated by a sense of horror as a kind of childhood.  It is as if he takes Lady Macbeth's prized rhetoric of becoming a man and turns it on its head.  In planning murders and carrying them out, Macbeth comes to a point where he declares, "From this moment / The very firstlings of my heart shall be the firstlings of my hand" (68).  "Firstlings," according to the American Heritage Dictionary, means first born offspring, children, in other words.  His cruel acts are his only offspring.  Moreover, his vision of the perfect mental state amounts to a place where children do not grow older, a place where initial desires never have the chance to get modified by doubt.  Macbeth imagines this psychic nursery of cruelty, horribly enough, as he plans to surprise Macduff's castle and "give to th' edge o' th' sword / His wife, his babes, and all unfortunate souls / That trace him in his line" (68, emphasis added).  Perhaps Lady Macbeth's lingering fear about Macbeth wanting to remain a child was right, only the child he wants to turn into amounts to a grotesque reversal of the child in us all that develops within a setting of dependency, nuture, and attachment.  Macbeth wants to stand alone, unconnected to anything else on his "bank and shoal of time" (20), a place where he can remain a self-centered infant of malice, a place where there's no troubling delay between desire and fulfillment, a self-constructed Eden of evil.                    




"Let Be Be Finale of Seam":  the Edge in A Severed Head

    As Martin tries to come to terms with his suddenly realized love of Honor Klein, he ponders the origin of that love (125):  did it emerge when she cut the napkins in two with the Samurai sword, when he threw her to the cellar floor, when he saw her standing so confidently in the doorway before Palmer and Antonia, or when he glimpsed the "curving seam of her stocking in the flaring orange lights at Hyde park Corner?"  The answer, I think, is the last: his glimpsing the seam of her stocking.  If it does not mark the origin of his love, however, that glimpse does highlight an essential, if rather slippery theme in the novel, a theme at the core of Martin's discovery of profound love.  The theme concerns seams themselves, those sites where parts are joined, the borders of things.  These sites mark off the effort both to peer into and to seal off something mysterious about human nature; they occur where the explored meets the unexplored, where the conventional abuts with the unconventional, and where safety leaves off and fear begins.

    Martin's glimpse of the seam, remember, occurs as he and Honor try to reach Pelham Crescent through the thick fog.  She looks outside the passenger window, as he peers out the driver's window while steering the car.  The scene is loaded with obvious symbolism, of course:  the obscurity of the fog mirrors Martin's blindness to his own nature and what he discovers much later in the novel to be his massive blindness to the game of musical partners that has been going on all around him.  The glimpse of the stocking, though, is vital.  In the context of this scene alone it functions primarily as a reminder to Martin that Honor is a woman.  He needs reminding precisely because what he knows of her from the past and what he first sees at the station suggests either an indefinable, non-human quality about her--"there was something animal-like and repellent in that glistening stare" (55)--or a decided masculine, or at least indeterminate element in her appearance:  "short black hair" (55), a body that sags like a "headless sack," (57), all wrapped in a formless coat of "rough material" (57).  Add these details to the ones emerging earlier from the conversation between Martin and Georgie about Honor:  "there's something primitive about her" (7), she "seemed the Female Don in person" (7), she looks like "a haystack" (7), she carries a lot of "guns" (7).  What we have--and what Martin expects to face--is a kind of "wanna-be-a-guy woman," at least in the terms that Murdoch's descriptions have set up.  In this context, then, Martin's glimpse of the stocking seam--even though it draws his eyes down also to an unflatteringly masculine "stout crepe-soled shoe," nevertheless--implies something, just something, of a sexual nature about Honor amid all the signs of asexuality.  But more importantly it functions not so much to mark what she "really" is--a woman--as to emphasize, almost, her androgynous quality, her being neither one nor the other sex.  In this sense, then, the stocking seam locates not just Honor's femininity, but her position at the very seam, if you will, of the difference between men and women.  The detail emphasizes her indeteminate nature; and, unlike the peek-a-boo thrill of strip tease, which exaggerates sexual differences, it serves to interrogate the boundaries of gender.

    To the extent that it adds to the novel's confusion of gender this detail is important.  The theme dominates the novel, from the female names derived from male ones--Georgie and Antonia--to the otherwise perhaps unnecessary focus on the homosexual pair that works in Martin's office; from the possibility that Martin is erotically attracted to Palmer to the fact that Honor so adroitly wields the obviously phallic sword.  But I think the detail of the seam is more important in the way it draws attention to the seams in life, the apertures through which we glimpse something at once foreign and fundamentally familiar, a kind of haunting reality that everyday existence covers over.  In part the prevalent fog that hangs over the scenery of the novel symbolizes this covering through which Martin must penetrate.  His driving in the car with Honor while trying to penetrate that fog, therefore, is, in retrospect, quiet suggestive.  In fact, just when Martin feels his "ailment," his love for Honor, he finds himself walking along the Thames by Waterloo bridge almost unable to see through this foggy mist. He writes:  "The task of peering through the mist was becoming exasperating and painful.  I cannot see, I cannot see, I said to myself:  it was as if some inner blindness were being here tormentingly exteriorized.  I saw shadows and hints of things, nothing clearly at all" (122).  Even before that, just after he has thrown Honor down in the cellar of Pelham Crescent and follows her out of the house, Martin sees himself enclosed in this impenetrable fog:  "With a choking sigh more profound than silence the fog enclosed me.  I opened my mouth to call out to her but found that I had forgotten her name" (112).  The scene's rather obvious allegory is that in having acted so violently and drunkedly, Martin has forgotten "honor."  However, more broadly the scene continues to define Martin's "job" in the novel as one of getting so that he can finally peer through the fog, the mist, the border between two regions of emotional, psychic experience.

    In some cases it's to peer through the glow, also.  This is what Palmer and Antonia exude, a glow preventing rather than enabling clear sight.  Over and over again, we see Martin describe Antonia as having a glow to her, especially to her hair.  And most tellingly, he describes Palmer and Antonia exactly in this way just as he leaves their bedroom during the episode in which he spills the wine:  "Across the white bed their shoulders leaned together, and they glowed at me out of a centre of white and golden light" (108).  Whether it's fog or this glow, the obscurity comes from Martin ultimately.  He participates as fully as Antonia and Palmer in maintaining the veneer of their lives.  Georgie is a good mistress because she acts so reasonably, by which he means that she does not intrude, penetrate the other part of his life.  She works to maintain the categories and the borders between things.  On the other hand, Antonia wants to break away from Martin without, in a sense, making a break.  So even though her trying to maintain a "loving" relationship with Martin despite her having made a split from him seems to merge categories--lover, husband, friend, even child--that behavior still serves to gloss over the feeling of rupture between people.  The seam in Honor's stocking, in light of this kind of veneered world in which Martin lives and which he urgently tries to maintain, stands hauntingly as a reminder of the seam as both the work of obscuring the horror--or violence, to use Murdoch's term--seething just below the surface and as the opening that is always there to be found onto that subterranean reality of violence and horror.

    All sorts of other details accumulate upon this early image of the stocking to create an overwhelming concern in the novel with that border area, that margin where there occurs, sometimes simultaneously, both the effort to suture and the attempt to cut open.  Take the napkins and the sword, for instance.  In this eerie episode Honor skillfuly bisects the napkins Palmer and Antonia have left behind from their dinner.  These napkins, like all napkins, represent some measure of formality, some effort to civilize the simple animal intake of food.  Honor's cutting them in two graphically depicts what she does to this sort of civilizing convention.  She destorys it--and unconventionally, as she wields the masculine sword while Martin watches.  An emblem of civilization meets with a brutal, cutting power, and the former goes fluttering "to the floor" (97).

    When she does the same thing to the other napkin, moreover, Martin says she "decapitated it" (97).  This particularly extends the image, focusing almost on the rather tenuous connection, the seam even, between the head and the body.  If her act doesn't recommend the precedence of one over the other, it does point out that very area of connection, requires that we ask about that--at least metaphorically.  Of course the novel's title, along with Honor saying that Martin is wrongly regarding her as just a severed head (182), as well as the sculptures of heads in Alexander's studio, further isolate the area of connection as the site of the novel's meaning.  That Honor here seems repsresents the decaptator does not simply mean that the body has to be jettisoned from the head or vice versa.  Her complaint, remember, is that Martin is turning her into nothing more than a severed head, and in doing that Martin practices the conventions of his culture, the western civilization he represents, by valorizing the intellectual over the physical, or perhaps more accurately by fencing the one off from the other.  However, as the behavior of the civilized folks in the novel suggests, that very privileging of the intellect, the rational, the sensible really is a form of denial that lets the body run rampant.  Just below the sedate, organized world of the novel's surface lies all this "brutality," in fact.  As Honor tells Martin, people such as Palmer and Antonia connect spirit not with love, but "with control, with power" (96), those fundamentally brutal elements of human nature, even though the aura surrounding these people appears golden and aloof, even godly.

    More details, though.  Look at the boundaries broken once Honor enters the scene:  Martin essentially breaks into the house and then the room in which Honor lies in bed with Palmer; and then he breaks into Georgie's apartment only to find her unconscious from the overdose of sleeping pills. Martin even explains his breaking into Honor's Cambridge house in terms of a border crossing of sorts:  " . . . I had felt like a man running towards a curtain.  Now that I had so suddenly and with such exceedingly unexpected results passed through it I felt dazed and in great pain but also curiously steady" (129).  In this category of images suggesting limits and the breaking of those limits count also the wine spilling out of Martin's glass while he is, oddly enough, visiting with his wife and Palmer in their bedroom, the fact that Antonia will put a rug over the stain that the wine makes on the carpet if cleaning won't take it away (107), the scratch on Martin's writing table, that he tries to wipe away, and the shattered glass on one of the pictures he had shared with Antonia (145).  The last two of these details suggest the partial ruin, at least, of a way of life, but they also represent an important event in the novel, the breaking through a veneer, a protective and attractive surface.

    Even before Martin meets Honor, he knows he feels a potential to act violently toward Antonia.  Honor, of course, speaks of the healing--or maybe truthfulness--in violence.  She wields the sword, after all.   I would like to claim that the frequent talk of violence, along with the actual acts of violence such as Martin's wrestling with Honor and his rapping Palmer on the eye and breaking his skin, are related to this imagery dealing with border areas, with transgression, with seams as the markers of the civilized efforts to close off the brute beneath, the terror, the ancient forces that Honor in part represents. What is needed in the glossed over world in which Palmer, Antonia, and even Alexander are "stars" is a  good thrashing.  Violence is a rupture in the surface of existence, and the seam on Honor's stocking marks that undeniably fact.

Afraid of the Dark:  Sight and Blindness in The Odyssey

     As I read The Odyssey I find it amazing how well the parts seem to fit together--its focus on entry ways, hospitality, eating, and identity, for example, finally all make sense in and of themselves and also as they get mingled in the closing books.  However, I can't so easily say the same thing for a lesser but nevertheless quite apparent pattern in the work:  that of blindness and vision.  It seems that blindness is both a good and a bad condition, at once a kind of power and also a fatal weakness.  According to tradition, Homer was blind.  In his poem, Homer understandably, then, depicts the highly praised Phaiakian poet Demodokos as sightless, and he also gives Tiresias, the "blind seer," an important and largely positive role during Odysseus' encounter with the dead in the underworld.  On the other hand, Polyphemus' limited vision, with the single eye, and then his complete blindness as a result of Odysseus' escape from the cyclops' cave suggest that blindness symbolizes the brutal life and ignorance, everything antithetical to the Greek value system.  This apparent problem--that blindness can be both a fault and favorable state--does, I think, have a solution, and that solution emerges from an understanding of man's limited knowledge in relation to the gods.

    Before looking at that "solution," which emerges from Odysseus' advice to Amphinomos in Book XVIII, I would like to flesh out what I mean by this concern in the poem with vision and blindness.  Generally the imagery follows an expected path:  sight suggests understanding, awareness and some control of one's circumstances. Difficulty seeing and darkness suggest the opposite.   Meneleus, for instance, uses the metaphor to describe his brother Agamemnon's death:  he was "tricked blind, caught in the web of his deadly queen" (244).   Unwary on his approach home, Agamemnon might as well have been blind.  When Odysseus and his men approach the island on which the cyclops live, Homer emphasizes, as if to foreshadow the later weight given to literal blindness in the episode, the crews' limited vision:  "Some god guided us / that night, for we could barely see our bows / in the dense fog around us, and no moonlight / filtered through the overcast" (306).  Similarly, the remote, foreboding region in the North to which Odysseus journeys in search of the opening to the underworld almost entirely lacks light:  "hidden in mist and cloud," the men in that region never see the "eye of Helios," "ruinous night being rove over those wretches" (331).  Soon after this adventure, as Odysseus and his men face the threat of the Sirens, he levels with them about the threat they will face, and does so while using the metaphor of sight:  "let me tell [Circe's] forecast:  then we die / with our eyes open, if we are going to die, / or know the death we baffle if we can" (352).  Even though he holds back telling them about Scylla, it is quite clear that entering a risky situation with eyes wide open is admirable, even makes the endeavor more heroic.

     In a more concentrated way then these wide-ranging examples illustrate, light (and thus clarity of vision) as opposed to darkness functions as an overarching metaphor within the final books describing Odysseus' homecoming and his plotting against the suitors.  The repeated motif of recognition, of course, involves sight--the nurse and Laertes, for instance, have to see Odysseus' scar, get ocular proof, that is, in order to confirm his identity.  The fact that Athena, not only Odysseus' immortal backer but also goddess of wisdom, is invisible to all but Odysseus and, at times, Telemokhos also supports this theme:  those two can see wisdom, in a sense.  Also in this section of the poem Odysseus becomes thoroughly associated with light and vision.  In Book XVIII, for instance, he--as beggar--tells the maids to retreat to the female quarters so that he can tend to the light as the suitors revel:  "I stand here / ready to tend these flares and offer light / to everyone.  They cannot tire me out, / even if they wish to drink till Dawn" (439-40).  In Book XIX, as Odysseus and Telemakhos stockpile the weapons for their upcoming attack on the suitors, Athena holds up "a golden lamp of purest light" (443).  Telemakhos exclaims, in fact:  "Oh, Father, / here is a marvel!  All around I see / the walls and roof beams, pedestals and pillars, / lighted as though by white fire blazing near" (444).  And Odysseus underscores the importance of Telemakhos' vision by saying, "The Gods who rule Olympos make this light" (444).  Essentially, then, Odysseus' return brings a renewed light and a renewed vision to his manor.  Appropriately his killing Antinoos is described as an act of cutting him off from that light, that vision:  it brings "darkness on [Antinoos'] eyes" (479).   Finally, Penelope's words, on learning of the suitors' deaths, underscore the function of blindness:  "Blind young fools, they've tasted death for it" (493).

     Interestingly, the translator entitles one of these late books, the XXth, "Signs and a Vision."  And this title fits with the point I'm trying to make.  Not only does Homer associate Odysseus with light and renewed vision in these episodes at his manor, but he also intensifies the occurrences of omens, signs.  Some occur outwardly (Zeus' thunder) and some inwardly in such dreams as Penelope has (see 457 and 460) while, interestingly enough, her eyes are closed.  First someone has to recognize, has to see, these signs--something the suitors are incapable of doing.  And then someone has to interpret, or see through to, their essential meaning.  Already in Meneleus' country having proven himself to Telemakhos (399 & 417) as one who recognizes and interprets signs--in that case the one concerning the hawk clutching and plucking a dove in the air--Theoklymenos in Book XXI is referred to by the narrator as "the visionary."  In this capacity he delivers a vision of the future to the reveling suitors.  Importantly this prophecy unfolds in language that emphasizes his sight and the suitors' lack thereof because of the "darkness" in which they live.  He tells them that "night shrouds [them] to the knees, [their] heads, [their] faces" as blood drips from and all round them (466).  "And thick with shades," he continues, "is the entry way, the courtyard thick with shades / passing athirst toward Erebos, into the dark, / the sun is quenched in heaven, foul mist hems us in . . ." (466).  The suitors' response is funny, as it takes up Theoklymenos' metaphor, but ultimately misguided and "blind":  "The mind of our new quest has gone astray. / Hustle him out of doors, lads, into the sunlight; / he finds it dark as night inside!" (467).  Finally, the seer's rejoinder continues this metaphor:  "I have my eyes and ears . . . and a straight mind, still with me.  These will do / to take me out.  Damnation and black night / I see arriving for yourselves" (467). 

     I dwell on the details in this exchange between Theoklymenos and the suitors because they so clearly display the way in which the imagery of sight and lack thereof underscores the poems' judgment of its characters:  Odysseus, who brings light to his manor, and Theoklymenos are good because they can see; the suitors are bad because they remain in the dark, incapable of seeing clearly beyond their basic, elemental desires to consume and possess.  In this way, the epic ends by repeating the terms of the episode with Polyphemos, whose limited vision and then total blindness underscore his alienation from the dominant Greek culture described in the poem.  Vision and all that it suggests, then, stands as a fundamental value within that culture. 

     Two more details further emphasize that point.  First, the brief description of the Greek ships as they approach the island of the cyclops.  As Odysseus recalls this approach for the Phaiakians, he carefully emphasizes the difference between the Greek's forward, progressive, far reaching culture on the one hand and the cyclops' backward, unimproved, random one on the other.  He uses his ships as an example:  their isle is "unplanted and untilled, a wilderness" that is used only to "pasture goats alone.  And this is why: / good ships like ours with cheekpaint at the bows / are far beyond the Kyklopes.  No shipwright / toils among them, shaping and building up / symmetrical trim hulls to cross the sea . . . " (306).   In a footnote to this passage, our editor points out that the cheekpaint on the bows would normally depict "a huge eye" (for examples, click and click).  Not only the sleek hulls, but the eye depicted on the bow seems to mark off the Greek culture, the values that Odysseus represents.  Just imagine how rich an episode this must have been to Homer's listeners/readers:  the blinded, one-eyed Polyphemos tossing boulders at Greek ships that they knew had eyes painted on them!  The other detail is Athena's sudden display of her aegis in Book XXII.  Invariably images of Athena's aegis include the Gorgon (see click), which looks directly at the viewer, eyes and mouth wide opened.  When they see the aegis, the suitors "stampede like stung cattle" (486).  Not only does the Gorgon's gaping mouth aggressively mirror the suitors' uncontrollable consumption; those piercing eyes underscore the fact that vision, in all its suggestiveness, functions as their lethal enemy in these final books.  Vision also stands as the quintessential value of Greek culture that Odysseus and his connection with Athena--the goddess of wisdom and combat--develop.

     Just as this meaning of sight becomes clear, however, the problem with its overall use in the poem looms even larger.  If sight is so valuable, why then are such blind figures as Domodokos and Tiresias given prominence?  The answer lies in the fact that "wise vision" includes the real possibility that it cannot see all that is important.  Look for instance at the key passage in Book XVIII in which Odysseus, disguised as a beggar, addresses one of the more moderate suitors, whom Athena nevertheless chooses not to spare:

                                           "Of mortal creatures, all that breathe and move,
                                           earth bears none frailer than mankind.  What man
                                           believes in woe to come, so long as valor
                                           and tough knees are supplied him by the gods?
                                           But when the gods in bliss bring miseries on,
                                           then willy-nilly, blindly, he endures.
                                           Our minds are as the days are, dark or bright,
                                           blown over by the father of gods and men.
                                           So I, too, in my time thought to be happy;
                                           but far and rash I ventured, counting on
                                           my own right arm, my father, and my kin;
                                           behold me now.  No man should flout the law,
                                           but keep in peace what gifts the gods may give." (435)

However much pride Odysseus--and the Greeks for that matter--take in the forward looking vision, in mastery of the seen world, that vision has profound limitations, even leads to a kind of misapprehension.  The simplest example of this is the episode in which Odysseus is cast upon the sea by Poseidon's storm as he ventures from Ogygia.  While he struggles far from land in rugged sees, Ino provides him with help--the veil that will prevent him from drowning (Is it merely a coincidence that the device is a veil?).  However, he distrusts her and, instead, trusts his own eyes:  "No I'll not swim; with my own eyes I saw / how far the land lies that she called my shelter. / Better to do the wise thing, as I see it."  As it turns out, by trusting in his own devices he suffers much more than he otherwise would have.  His eyes--and here they represent not only 20/20 vision but also the wariness and self-protective suspicion that is so much a part of Odysseus' character--lead him away from the easier course.  Though no one can blame Odysseus for his suspicion in this case, just having gotten free of the crafty Calypso, the episode does display the uncertainty of human sight. 

     For the very reason that such sight is limited by the miseries and confusion that gods can at any time bring on, as suggested by the passage above, the poem depicts those few who have an enduring perspicacity as blind, as entirely independent of the human sight that can sometimes get them through trouble but at others can get them into it!  Demodokos' gift from the muse, his ability as poet, his status as one "whom God made lord of song" (290) is his blindness, oddly enough an ability that enables others to see even that which is not present to the sight.  Similarly, Tiresias can peer into the future and is "forever / charged with reason even among the dead" because, it seems, he is not distracted by normal sight.  In fact the narrator says, "of all the flitting ghosts, / Persephone has given [him] a mind undarkened" (329).  Though not blind, Theoklymenos shares this vision of the numinous world that mere Greek awareness of the physical world, as symbolized by the eye on Odysseus' ships, cannot reach.  Because of this emphasis on seeing the unseeable, dreams occur frequently in the final books of The Odyssey, forewarning of what will come, of course, but also dramatizing the very limitations of human sight.  Dreams come when the eyes are closed; and though some are illusory, others "may be borne out, if mortals only know them" (457), as Penelope says.  Because of this at first perplexing imagery of sight and blindness, then, Odysseus' final triumph as bringer of light and supplier of vision, remains only a provisional one:  after all, his mind, too, must remain as "the days are, dark or bright, / blown over by the father of gods and men."  


Note:  this short essay might give you a sense of the possibilities of the “personal approach” that you can take over the span of four or so pages. 


Uniquely a Part of the Herd

Our first class meeting got me thinking about something that has been bothering me lately.  It's not so easy to say exactly what it is.  The closest I can come is to say that I have the feeling that nothing I do or say is original.  Trouble is,  this feeling invariably arises too late--after I have expressed or done something that I felt was my own idea.  I'm beginning to think that I'm not going to make my mark, whatever that means; or that at best I can construct a story something like the one the speaker in "The Road Not Taken" contrives to turn my ordinariness into something rare.  Or perhaps there's one last hope:  that my awareness of my fundamentally unoriginal nature can in itself make me a rare commodity in a world of self-deniers.

            You might say that my problem is thinking that I can be original in the first place.  You're probably right.  But in spite of your street-wise view, I would bet that on a day-to-day basis you operate as if your choices matter, that you can isolate yourself from the crowd, that each step you take cannot be replicated, just as there are no two snowflakes that are alike.  At any rate, I can trace several cases of sudden revelation of my ordinariness.  It seems congenital:  my WASP parents, thinking they were finding a name that expressed their own individuality, christened me Andrew.  As soon as I became conscious of myself, however, as Andrew I discovered that there were four other Andrews in my preschool group of fifteen.  It continued from there.  When I played football, I got it in my head that I would stand out.  On the day of the first practice in the summer of 1998, I looked around in the locker room and saw that just about everyone, including the kids who had no chance of making the team, had their socks pulled way up over their calves. How did I ever think that that idea was my own?   And since I'm asking questions, however rhetorical, do I need to tell you about my obsession with Teresa, the only girl for me—and perhaps more relevantly the girl for whom I thought I was the only guy?  I learned that I wasn't her only one; not even close!  What's more, when it came time to tell her how I felt about her, what my unique feelings for her were, I came up with the same words used millions and millions of times before and to be used millions and millions of times in the future:  "I love you." 

            Perhaps this is enough to give you a sense of what I mean.  It also might explain why I might belong at this institution of uniformity.  But even here, in my first English class of the semester, I forgot my past, my history, and piped up with one of my own thoughts again.  The focus was Frost's "The Road Not Taken."  The discussion lagged at the issue of what alternatives the speaker in the poem was facing.  The first to address the issue, I raised my hand and with some assurance offered this:  "I think the speaker decides to take the road less traveled.  It's kind of like the choice I made to come to the Academy rather than do something that all my friends were doing—go to the local college and drink their way through school."  I should have known:  when Mr. O'Brien asked my classmates what they thought of what I said, whether they agreed with it, they to a person raised their hands and expressed their solidarity with me.  Buoyed by the thought that I must be "right," I nevertheless felt that old sinking feeling in my stomach, the reaction to discovering that I was once again part of the "mob."  Just line me up with the other lemmings along the cliff—I'll be the first to leap!  

            As the discussion continued I learned that the poem ultimately poses the choice as really one between two roads that are finally the same: "Though as for that, the passing there/Had worn them really about the same,/And both that morning equally lay. . ."  The notion that the speaker took the one less traveled arises from his desire in later years to embellish upon the choice he faced, to make it sound as if he took the one that required more individuality, determination, and heroism:  ". . . and I––/I took the one less traveled by,/And that has made all the difference."   Not only was my response, then, one with which everyone in my class agreed; it was also one that depended on a self-deception that I shared with everyone else.  This self-deception is the heroic myth, the need to recast our past in a way that makes it seem individualistic, full of risk-taking, and, yes, "original."  To be part of the crowd is bad enough, but to join it in self-deception is quite another. 

            Though a small event and just part of one class in what will become a blur of class meetings within a blur of a week and then within the blur of the semester and the overall blur of plebe year, I think it will stick with me for a long while.  In recognizing my self-deception and even the sobering fact that originality may not be my "game," I feel oddly enough a sense of individuality in heightened self-awareness, and individuality, though that is as tinged with a sense of alienation and difference from those around me as it is radiant with the sense of my being special and above everyone else—something I must admit was part of my desire to be unique.

































Important Traits of Yeats’ Poetry




rocks and stone

celestial movements and cycles (“the moon, the stars and the sun”)

rips, tatters, breaks of borders, violence

filth, waste, rot

fabric, clothing, tapestry

birds and flight


Motifs and Basic Tensions


passages to mental lands

bird imagery

fabric imagery

youth vs. age

soul vs. body; or “dualism”

passion vs. intellect

travel as discover and loss

personal vs. universal

permanence vs. transience

sudden announcing of revelation (poetic version of epiphany)

allusion to past as key to present

flawless but unreachable ideal

self-rejection; blackness and internal self-loathing

landscape, outward details, as reflecting the internal landscape



Techniques and Style


dramatization of poet voice (give and take)

prophetic tone

shock factor of crude details

mixture of basic diction with Latinate formulations

complexity in simple wording

questions and rhetorical questions (open-endedness of poems)

“insincere deflection of blame”

mimicry / undercutting of old and conventional forms




love and its destructive power

innocence—its loss and the unavoidable desire to reclaim it

art/poetry as window upon fleeting truth in life

life as suffering

the universal in the particular experience

isolation, loneliness, individuality vs. community causes

nationalism, Irish identity






























Lists of Important Elements in The Good Soldier

Hearthstone (David Guerin)


Hearthstone, fireplace, fire seem generally related to traditional notion so family belonging, comfort, security, and trustworthy human relationships.


p.  3   hearthstone related to “friendly intercourse”

p.  5   “heart” –apparent association of heart and hearth

p.  6   narrating to sympathetic soul in front of a fireplace

p. 94   Leonora as cold, and fire related to La Colciquita’s passion

p. 95   Leonora’s coldness implied

p. 100 association of heart and hearth again

p. 105 association of heart and hearth

p. 107                                  

p. 109                                  

p. 111                                  

p. 126 fire of fire place / hearth

p. 127 association of heart and hearth

p. 130  . . . the burning logs were just logs that were burning and not the comfortable symbols of an indestructible mode of life. The flame fluttered before the high fireback . . .

p. 132 Glow among white ashes


   Edward    (Austin Gerald)

p.67-direct admittance by the narrator that he can't provide an unbiased view of Edward

bottom p.2- the use of castles and tall sailing ships as recurring images sets the novel up to look at both the post and pre-industrial.

p.68-Dowell's description of the internal motivation of a man- an interesting context to put Edward's affairs in

p.15-"For all good soldiers are sentimentalists"

p.16 description of Edward's eyes 

p.28 Quantifying Edward's sentimentality

p.89 Admission by the narrator that "I haven't succeeded at all" when it comes to capturing Edward. 

p.151 Edwards last words and some of his only dialogue. Lack of dialogue backs up Dowell's claim that he fails to capture Edward. 

p.97 "feudal" is applied to Edward. Casts light on the idea that Edward and Leonora's conflict could be a conflict between feudal and post industrial ways of thinking. 


Narrative Logic (Adam Drucker, and Chelsea Schifferle)


Guiding observations:  vague story-telling (beginning in the middle to end of their relationship disorients the reader); this method makes reader fell the unfamiliarity/unreliability in the narrator’s relationship with the Ashburnham’s.  In addition, the consistent changing of topics creates a confusion that again mirrors the confusion of this relationship.

p. 5 about smoking room stories

p. 6  last two paragraphs of the chapter

p. 7 unrelaible, fragmented journeys; mentions an event which brings joy or is beautiful, then quickly moves plot or topic in a different directions

p. 11

p. 12 going off on a meaningless tangent in paragraph 1, causing us to questions meaning of everything he tells us

p. 34 offhanded references to the sort of nihilism displayed by others ?????

p. 40

Florence as a Character (Megan Glancey)


Guiding idea here, as we recall from class, is that Florence is “deceiving, selfish, untruthful and desirous of attention; and she is the only one of the four whose story is never “told” by herself. Her suicide is the ultimate selfish act


“Invalid”—its two meanings


p. 41 her ambition to leave the world a “little brighter by the passage of her brief life” ????

p. 46 selfishly promiscuous

p. 70 her weakness was “play acting”

p. 69 wanted to retain Dowell’s respect as she live with him ????


Ellipses (Adam Jatho)


Three types of ellipses:


a) times of uncertainty ( 3, 5, 102)

b) when narrator gets emotional (107, 46, 30)

c) foreshadowing (29, 35, 54, 57, 66)


Also, no ellipses between 77-101, when Dowell says he will stop talking about Florence (this interesting observation needs to be modified)


Various Betrayals of Self (Emelie Gidley)


Guiding observations:  all reveal passion, even true feelings revealed unbeknownst to characters themselves.  They also mark lapses in, or losses of, control and composure, cutting through an otherwise flawless veneer.  All this shows that characters are not just the social specimens that they portray themselves to be, which indicate an element of reality and fragmentation beneath the smooth, social surface. These betrayals of self end up affecting the course of actions thereafter. (As Emelie explained, what this means is that if it weren’t for the betrayals, the events would not have occurred as they did.  In other words, it’s the unacknowledged part of the human personality, not the “managed” one,  that drives the novel’s action . . . and even, you might say, it’s telling, its narration.  This all amounts to bowing, by the author, to the power of the unconscious, which might be seen as an invention of modernism.)


p. 15 Edward blurting out (“stiffly,” though) the bit about the society of a good woman

pp. 25-26 about Leonora’s loss of control seemingly about Florence’s attack on her being a Catholic, but really about . . .

p. 29 Edward being surprised actually by his actions in the Kilsyte affair, as if they had a life of their own

pp. 29-30 Leonora suddenly hitting Maisie Maiden, but pulling herself together when Florence appeared

p. 61 Dowell’s blurting out—surprising even himself—“Now I can marry the girl.”

pp. 65-66 Edward again being surprised by his sudden sexual attraction to Nancy Rufford



Leonora as Character (Logan Wilk)


p. 26 her Catholicism

p. 57 wanted to keep up appearances

p. 77 controlling of Edward (his money and name . . . and even his sex life)

p. 79 loved Edward, and did everything to win him back to her

p. 83 admired Edward but never fully loved him

p. 85 money-minded

p. 97 & 141 her power and control frightened Edward and narrator

p. 105 tortured by Edwards admiration of her

p. 109 influence of spiritual advisors over her

p. 112 despised Florence

p. 141 normal, but oddly not normal 


Implied Audience (Ben Wright and J Christoper


This issue relates to the hearthstone image in the sense that the pretext is the conversation or story told before the fireplace.  The narrator seems to try to recreate a relation through his story-telling that the story itself seems to render an impossibility—give all the mysteries about human motives and inability to communicate.


Important passages: 6, 28, 51, 54, 57, 69, 72, 89, 90, 95, 97, 105, 108, 117 (along with the casual “you” that occurs throughout the novel)


Also much of Chapters I & II in Part One

The Narrator as a character (Ellie Webster)


The overriding claim by Ellie, as we remember from class is that Dowell has no character, or is no character, at least as we might understand that term from other novels.


Pages 5 & 14 contradictions in what he says


Consider also the following pages, in which the narrator seems to betray something about himself:  35, 69, 71, 108, 109, 112, 130, 146, 150-51


Religion ( Adam Magness)


Adam’s organizing sense of religion in the piece takes this form:


--to classify, group, or stereotype people (34, 130)

--as a point of contention between Leonora and Edward (87, 26)

--as justification for Leonora to remain with Edward, despite his infidelities (110, 34


Adam’s list-- and annotations (all of which I couldn’t include here)-- emphasize the connection between Leonora’s religion and her efforts to control Edward, and also her religion and society’s need for normalcy.  The conflict between Protestantism (“protest”) and Catholicism you might see as an aspect of this tension between what is slightly amiss and what is expected in society.  Other selected passages related to religion:  24ff., 34, 73, 82, 126, 130, 146.


p.   26   Leonora’s Catholicism

p.   58                         

pp. 77, 79, 83-85

pp. 97, 141  L’s power and control, though connection with religion is unclear

p. 105  L’s “spiritual advisors”

p. 109  L’s seeking victory for the Church in her battle with Edward

p. 112  Quaker vs. Catholic

p. 141-42 L as “normal,” needed by society


Sentimentality (Andrew Robinson)


One of the problems related to this topic of sentimentality is that the narrator seems to criticize it—in art works, books, culture and Edward’s behavior, but nevertheless sees it as somehow preferable to Leonora’s conventionality and coldness.


Defintion:  “An over-arching guilded sense that covers thoughts and situations of the past or how things ‘should have’ turned out.” 


p. 2   “a goodly apple that is rotten to the core”

p. 15 “sentimental” used

p. 28

p. 31

p. 33

p. 90  Edward as sentimentalist

p. 94

p. 95  true and the feudal system suggesting sentimentalilty

p. 102

p. 107

p. 130 “aren’t marriages sacraments?”

p. 132

p. 141 Edward normal, but too much of the sentimentalist, something society does not need too much of

p. 143

p. 148

p. 150  Dowell as sentimentalist, like Edward.

p. 151 

What it means to be English (Nikko Linn)


This nationality matter, like the religious one, confounds Dowell.  The English repel and attract him, and he tries to account for the unaccountable in terms of nationality.  In the end he seems to account for the Ashburnham tragedy—or really sad story, he calls it––partly in terms of English manners and conventions.


p. 1  “a state of things only possible with English people . . .”

p. 8  depths of English heart. . . “

p. 11 Edward as typical Englishman

p. 14 “His face hitherto had, in the wonderful English fashion, expressed nothing whatever.”

p. 20 “the modern English habit of taking everyone for granted”

p. 34 “Leonora’s English Catholic conscience . . .”

p. 36

p. 46 Florence’s Anglo/Europhile tendencies

p. 55

p. 56 “confusing “technicalities of English life”

p. 62 “Leonora’s “odd English sense of decency . . . “

p. 82 “conversations English mothers have with English sons”

p. 87 “ . . . Indeed, Englishmen seem to me to be a little mad in matters of politics or of religion.”

p. 89 Edward “had, in fact, all the virtues that are usually accounted English.”

p. 119 English manners

p. 150 Dowell as “that absurd figure, an American millionaire, who has bought one of the ancient haunts of English peace.”

p. 150 Edward as “English gentleman . . . “

p. 151 “goo English form”


The “Young Girls” (Max Johnson)


The Kilsyte Case

-Edward kissed a servant girl on a train

-p29: "[Edward] was driven to it, by the mad passion to find an ultimately satisfying woman"

-p35: The servant girl "was nurse in the family of the [opposing party's] head of the county"

-p35: "The result you have heard.  [Edward] was completely cured of philandering amongst the lowest classes"

-Leonora came to the aid of Edward during the court proceedings, which made Edward happy to have a (at least seemingly) loving wife, and it made Leonora happy to be a (at least seemingly) good wife (p92: "It let him see...)


La Dolciquita

-p94: description of the affair

-Edward took her passionately, but when the affair was over he was still looking for an emotional connection.  "The Dessert," though, was just looking for money.  She eventually felt bad enough for him to take him away for a week or so for a paltry 5,000 pounds.

-This affair brought Edward back to Leonora.


Maisie Maidan

-p29: "the woman [Edward] followed from Burma to Nauheim"

-Leonora paid her 300 pounds per year to be Edward's adultress, though Maisie did not understand what Leonora had intended, which leads to her frantic attempt at escape and subsequent death (p42-43).

-p44: "It was the one affair of [Edward's] about which he never felt much remorse."

-Leonora hit Maisie, which is how Leonora got to know Florence.


Nancy Rufford

-Mother committed suicide because her father abused them.  Interestingly, Nancy still favored her father over her mother.

-Taken in as Edward and Leonora's niece

-Edward loved her like a daughter.  There was never any sexual intimacy between them.  But Leonora felt that Nancy had won Ed over; she felt hurt, dejected, and useless.  p136 Leonora demands that Nancy becomes Edward's, but Nancy refuses on the grounds that she finds him to be a father figure and because such an affair would necessitate them getting divorced- unacceptable in the Catholic Church.

-p128-131 describe Nancy's religious believes and her deep naivety.


Additional quotes

-Leonora took control of Edward's finances after his fiscal fiasco with La Dolciquita.  After he had been with Maisie for a while, and Leonora had hit her, she learned that their relationship had not been physical.  Which led to... p111: "She imagined that, from henceforward, all that she had to do was to keep hum well supplied with money and his mind amused with pretty girls.  She was convinced that he was coming back to her"... except that he was then with Florence.


References to other Books  (Ruthie Bates)


Ruthie’s thesis- Ford references other books because Edward and the other characters lack a grasp of reality and they have to live by what they read.

Other suggested thesis- Ford references other books to try and “shoulder” his way into Literature. The book diminishes itself so as to be competitive with other books.



p. 81 “Scott’s novels or the Chronicles of Froissart”

Background info on Scott:

Scottish 1771-1832; International author; Romanticism



Background info on Chronicles of Froissart

About years 1322-1400; describes condition preceding Hundred Years’ War

Chivalric revival (chivalry)



p. 15 “he would pass hours lost in novels of a sentimental type- novels in which typewriter girls married Marquises and governesses Earls.”


p.148 “‘Thou has conquered, O pale Galilean’”

“It was like his sentimentality to quote Swinburne”

From Hymn to Proserpine by Algernon Charles Swinburne

Final words of Emperor Julian who tried/failed to do away with Christianity in Roman Empire



Edward tries to live in other books.

Sentimentalist; idealistic/Romantic; eventually defeated; tries to make his life more significant by living in books; allows himself to indulge in self-pity. Suicide is the perfect end.



p. 8-9 “That is what makes me think of that fellow Peire Vidal”

(about Florence) “his story is culture and I had to head her towards culture…and it’s so full of love and she wasn’t to think of love.”

Background on Peire given in book.

A man who would do anything to try to impress and get the attention of a woman he loves





p. 132 “She remembered someone’s love for the Princess Badrulbadour; she remembered to have heard that love was a flame, a third, a withering of the vitals.”

Aladdin used a genie in a lamp to marry a princess



p. 132 “She remembered a character in a book who was said to have taken to drink through love.”

p. 132 To the Willow-tree by Robert Herrick


This poem ends with “The love-spent youth and love-sick maid/ come to weep out the night.”


Ford uses the poem to say more than the narrator is able to say.






























Wordy Sentences from the First Set of Longer Papers

1.  No one should wonder why Dowell has such difficulty expressing his thoughts and feelings on the situation.  Emotionally charged experiences tend to have this effect on a person.  People of experience develop sympathetic hearts, meaning that, once again, Dowell is not fool.  Nor is he a sap.  He worshipped the ground Florence walked upon performing any duty necessary.  Problems with his behavior should be reevaluated from a more empathetic point of view.  Many intelligent people make poor choices on the premise of love.


2.  Had she [Leonora] taken an approach in which she at least seemed interested in his troubles, or better yet, if she had divulged some of her uncertainties and feelings with him, Edward would have found her to be much more desireable and suitable as a wife.


3.  Yeats once opined: “We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, but of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry”.  His poem “Sailing to Byzantium” fits in the context of his quote since the poem peers inside the desires of the voice behind it.

4. In "The Man Who Dreamed of Faeryland," the speaker passes through the phases of life, from youthful vigor in the first stanza and "prudent years" in the second to aging in the third and finally death.


5. Although Leonora lives to the end of the novel, unlike many of the other characters, her sacrifice, which many women would identify with, in her love for Edward and her dedication to keeping up appearances, becomes “the saddest story” (1)


6. Yeats uses both the sonnet and the reference to Classical mythology as allusions to traditional concepts in a mimicking sort of way. Instead of using these references in a strictly formulaic sense, Yeats uses them as an ironic device in poetry. He wants to make a mockery of what the normal expectations are in poetic allusions by pinning these traditional ideas to the tragedy of a rape. This is equally offensive for those of us who expect to see love in sonnets and not the disgusting rape of a girl. Similarly, our anticipations in reading about Greek mythology is not to find personal “representations of or response to a visual work of art” (Murfin 135) as a satirical rhetorical device. Instead, my expectations of poetry tend to be the staple reference to the essential Classical hero embedded deep somewhere in a middle stanza usually unnoticed until the second read-through.


7. If Leonora had not been bound by the expectations of her religion, she could have simply divorced Edward when they realized that they were not meant for each other, after she discovered his infidelity, or even after he betrayed her trust multiple times, if they had worked through the earlier problems.  


8. Thomas presents clear-cut and descriptive imagery when describing the nature of the cherry trees. Their blossoms are beautiful but completely ephemeral in nature. The delicate petals flourish in the moment allotted to them and shortly wither afterwards. The setting of the poem seems to be a somber one as the audience looks in upon the still and somewhat poignant scene. This image of an unattended wedding was troublesome as I could not help but come to terms with my own fears. The fear of abandonment and eventually being forgotten surrounded me like the myriad of cherry petals that Thomas describes.


9. Throughout his career as a poet, William Yeats employed a variety of different themes in his poetry such as change and continuity, spirit and the body, paradoxes of time and eternity, and life and art (Greenblatt 2084). In his earlier poetry, Yeats’s poems were sometimes static and composed of symbols describing internal states of mind (Greenblatt 2084). However, his late poetry became more dynamic and settled on themes of lust, rage, and the body (Greenblatt 2084). In over half of his poems, Yeats makes references to several different species of birds. The birds in Yeats’s poems are amorphous, often used as an additional element to depict a certain tone, theme, or setting; sometimes the birds are used to symbolize a certain entity, person, or God. The prevalent use of bird imagery is a strong and important characteristic of Yeats because it stays throughout the evolution and change of Yeats’s poetry, and furthermore, demonstrates the transformation of his poetry over time.


10. Joyce makes note of this rift in a small scene at the Dedalus family dinner table. Stephen, the main character, sits and listens to his boisterous father argue with family and friends about the separation of Church and state in Ireland during a Christmas dinner.


11. The first woman introduced to the reader is Mangan’s sister. Instantly, she is defined in reference to a male, specifically her much younger brother. As she continues to be presented the language remains object oriented. While she waits for the boys “her figure is defined by the light from the half-opened door,” and her hair is described as a rope (2279). The fixation our narrator develops over Mangan’s sister becomes ritualistic. His behavior closely parallels piety. At times “her name [springs to his lips] in strange prayers and praises, his eyes were often filled with tears for reasons he did not know; he goes so far as to say that “her image accompanie[s him] even in places the most hostile to romance” (2279-80). The descriptions of his experiences are laden with religious references, yet his behaviors are not pious, which suggests an effort to compensate. Mangan’s sister is older than the narrator, she disciplines the boys and displays high levels of maturity, but she cannot serve in the place of his mother because the narrator views her in a sexual manner. 


12. In his early work it is fair to say that his poetry had a much more song like feel to it in regards to meter and rhyme. "The Lake Isle of Innisfree" is a good example of his song like writing.  


13. The passage I have selected is, "Marlow tells everything of value for the rest of the story, yet interjections dispersed throughout the story remind the reader that this narrator differs from the one who opens the novel.







































Personal Response to Portrait

What is Your Father?

                                         Ruth Bates


Stephen’s self-absorbed decision to dismiss his father’s personal life in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man causes me to reflect upon my own relationship with my father. I find it easy to label Stephen as an ungrateful son, but I cannot easily ignore the fact that I exhibit some of the same dismissive and abrasive tendencies that he does. Stephen’s resentment towards his father stems from a lack of understanding and a conflict of ideals between father and son. As a daughter who constantly argues with her father, I understand the origins of Stephen’s behavior. I do not, however, sympathize with it. A Portrait served as a warning for me. Stephen has a troubling relationship with his father and I want to identify why so that I do not fall to the same fate. I do not want to have a relationship with my dad like Stephen has with his.

Though I spent most of the novel fascinated by Stephen’s thoughts, I reacted most strongly to the end of the novel when someone asked him what his father was and he responded, “a medical student, an oarsman, a tenor, an amateur actor…and at present a praiser of his own past” (2464). This passage spoke to me because I identified my father with many of these roles. I gleefully circled that passage and underlined all of the words that I could use to describe my father as well. I found the exacting way he labeled his father so amusing that I wrote my own list in the margin. “An Engineer, an oarsman, a tenor, a spanker, a gentleman, a beekeeper, a baker, an Englishman, an American, a classical music appreciator, a “pressure-er”, a shouter, a perfectionist.” I laughed to myself and applauded the precise judgment I passed upon my father. I believed I was perfectly correct in my deduction; I then reflected upon my father’s life and our relationship so as to affirm these roles in my mind.

My father was born and raised in Bristol, England. He is the oldest and only male of four children. He went to Cambridge University for his undergraduate and his doctorate in Electrical Engineering. When he was about 26, his father died of cancer and shortly after that my father moved to America. His sisters and mother still live in England. I always thought of this move away from his family as abandonment.

When he was about 28 he married my mother and over the next ten years had four children. He set very high standards and expectations for my siblings and me, both verbally and implicitly. In elementary school, when I had not memorized my times tables well enough, he kept me up late doing math problem after math problem even when I cried and threw tantrums. If I put my elbows on the dinner table, he smacked them with the handle of his knife. He accepted certain short-comings, though. For example, he sometimes commented, “I remember there were just some nasty boys at school and I just had to put up with them,” or “I remember taking Chemistry and I hated it.” I was allowed to be a social outcast and I was allowed to be bad at Chemistry because he was. I was not allowed to be bad at running, though. When I ran with my father and I slowed down, he yelled at me. He was very good at running. My father left my sister Elizabeth on the side of the road once when she was misbehaving in the car. After 10 minutes, he circled back and picked her up. I do not think he has ever apologized for that.

When I read the scene in which Stephen’s father calls him a “lazy bitch,” I heard in my own head the conversation I had with my father last spring (2420). Youngster year, I wanted to leave the Naval Academy, so I applied to and was accepted to a small liberal arts college in New England. That May, my father and I got in a large argument over the phone. I remember every cruel thing he said to me. I was quitting. I was insufficient. I was insignificant.  I remember saying to my mother, and believing it whole-heartedly, that I would hate my father forever. I should tell my father that everything he said still hurts me and that he made me feel terrible about myself. Instead, at 20-years-old, I screamed into the phone “I hate you” and hung up. I have never apologized for this or told him that I actually do not hate him.

All of this grudge holding and score keeping puts me right where Stephen is at the end of his Portrait. We calculated our fathers’ flaws and mistakes and compiled them in our heads. We have ours lists ready to use in case we need to justify our complex relationships with our fathers. At the end of all my judging, though, I felt unsatisfied and unimpressed with Stephen and myself. Reading Portrait did not reassure me that I have treated my father the right way. Stephen may find comfort in identifying his father’s faults, but I do not. Instead, I identified our own mistake. Stephen and I both fail to include a very important word in our laundry list of roles of our father’s. I believe we forget “a son.” Before anything else, my father was a son.

A son or a child is vulnerable and innocent. He relies on his parents for support. He is not responsible for the care of something else. A child looks to his parents for what is right and wrong. A child is weak. I find it hard and unpleasant to imagine my father as weak. This perception differs from what I have always held.  I struggle to accept that at one point my father was a little boy that belonged to a mother and father; he has not always been responsible for raising four children. That father of his knew him better than he knew himself. He loved him, scolded him, pressured him, and praised him just as my father does me. When I was small, I knew very little about the man that raised my father. The first important thing I remember hearing, my father told me about six years ago.

I was driving with my father and as always we were listening to classical music. Often times when certain pieces come on, my father turns them up and tells me sternly, “Ruth, I’d like to listen to this.” I know that means he would like me not to speak. Sometimes, he will listen to it, pause it, explain to me why the piece was exceptional, and then replay it for me. During this particular drive, a song came on and he reached down to turn it up. I instinctively stopped talking. I heard him breathe in and instead of asking me to be silent, he said gently, “This reminds me of the time when my father was dying.” I didn’t say anything. “Doesn’t it put you at peace? It gives me the sense that everything will end up alright.” I shifted uncomfortably and gave him no response. I did not respond to my father because I was surprised and confused. I thought why is he sharing this with me? Is he still upset? Is my father allowed to be sad?

The song he played for me was “Winter: Largo” by Vivaldi. I have listened to this song countless times since then. As my father correctly said, it puts me at peace. It puts me at peace because I associate it with a release of emotion. I should have, but I have never told my father how much I enjoy this piece of music. I should have, but I have never thanked him for sharing it with me or acknowledged that he expressed vulnerability. Instead I cringed and pretended that my father had not reached out to me.

My biggest flaws in my relationship with my father are that I fixate on his mistakes and that I try and block out his emotion. For a long time I have viewed my father as an enforcer, an intolerant perfectionist. I noticed it while reading Portrait because I believe Stephen does the same thing. As tempted as I may be to define my father by his faults, I do not want to end up like Stephen. Instead, I should fixate on moments when my father allows himself to be sensitive and vulnerable. At one time my father was just a young man sitting by watching his father die slowly and hearing “Winter: Largo.” Before anything else, my father was a son and I must recognize this role, his vulnerabilities, and his flaws if I want to have a relationship with him.


A Fabric of Threads

Emelie Gidley


                                                      “I made my song a coat

                                                      Covered with embroideries

                                                      Out of old mythologies

                                                      From heel to throat;”

                                                                             - William Butler Yeats, “A Coat”

The Fates spin lives on a loom, weaving them together with purpose and direction.  Likewise, Yeats spins poetry, hearkening to mythology and seeking a transcendent purpose in life.  In his poem “A Coat,” Yeats refers to his poetry as a song, fashioned into a garment with painstaking embroidery and detail.  “A Coat” introduces the fabric motif, recurrent in the poems “The Man Who Dreamed of Faeryland” and “Sailing to Byzantium.”  These two poems, written at different points in the life and development of the poet, employ the same image yet adorn it differently as the poet’s thoughts mature.  In both works, the speaker searches for fulfillment and escape.  Yeats looks for release in romance and relationships through “The Man Who Dreamed of Faeryland,” weaving a dreamlike realm that is unfulfilled.  In “Sailing to Byzantium,” Yeats seeks the same liberation, but looks beyond the passions of youth to find fulfillment in the transcendence of knowledge.  The fabric motif facilitates this shift from corporeal to cerebral and extends through each poem in song, representing poetry and the soul.

In “The Man Who Dreamed of Faeryland,” the speaker passes through the phases of life, from youthful vigor in the first stanza and “prudent years” in the second to aging in the third and finally death.  He seeks comfort but is repelled at every turn.  In the first stanza, the speaker pursues a woman and seems to receive a measure of reciprocation, having “known at last some tenderness,” (line 3); however, he becomes disheartened.  Through synecdoche, the woman is represented by a silken dress, a soft and elegant image that is simultaneously slippery and elusive.  The smoothness of the fabric contrasts with the woman’s rough “stony care” (line 4), and this stark distinction illustrates the man’s hapless circumstance.  Yeats reflects the youthful fervor of the man’s feelings, writing that “his heart hung all upon a silken dress,” (line 2).  This statement undermines the man’s solidarity; in hanging his heart, the man loses a measure of himself.  He then turns to temporal dreams and stories, seeking an idyllic, dreamlike world where “time can never mar a lover’s vows” (line 10).  The man desires eternal fulfillment, but pursues it incorrectly.  Yeats writes of a dancer with a “hungry foot” for whom “it seemed the sun and moon were in the fruit” (lines 22-23), illustrating that the speaker’s entire reality, his waking and sleeping, is enveloped in the dance, or desire.  Even in death, the speaker suffers from desire, yearning for a love that is never realized: “Why should those lovers that no lovers miss/ Dream, until God burn Nature with a kiss?” (lines 46-47).  The speaker seeks an escape, but is repelled and left having “found no comfort in the grave,” (line 48).  Nothing is learned and nothing gained.

            In “Sailing to Byzantium,” Yeats searches for something greater and finds it in pursuit of knowledge.  Byzantium symbolizes knowledge and is that place “to north or west or south” that the lug-worm sang about in “The Man who Dreamed of Faeryland” (line 19).  In “Faeryland,” the man heard the singing but “was no more wise” (Faeryland, 24).  One must not only hear of Byzantium travel there for themselves, transcending sensuous pursuits to acquire knowledge and the immortality that it brings.  Yeats departs from Faeryland and desists from dabbling on the shores and wandering “by the sands” (Faeryland, 13) or “beside the well” (Faeryland, 25).  He leaves the “isle” (Faeryland, 8) and “ravelled seas” (Faeryland, 9) of his dreams to take the plunge.  “Therefore,” Yeats states, “I have sailed the seas and come/ To the holy city of Byzantium,” (Byzantium, 15-16). 

            The two poems begin similarly, with youthful passions and the pursuit of love.  There is fruitful, teeming imagery with the “salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,/ Fish, flesh, or fowl,” (Byzantium, 4-5), just as there are “fish who raised their little silver heads,” in Faeryland (Faeryland, 6).  The opening stanza of “Byzantium” stresses that the generations engaging in the song of sensuality are “dying,” just like the speaker in “Faeryland” (Byzantium, 3).  They seek fleeting pleasures, “caught in the sensual music,” and neglect intellect, the only avenue to posterity and immortality (lines 7-8).  Outside of Byzantium, people are caught in a vicious cycle where “whatever is begotten, born, and dies” (line 6). They fall in love and beget children who grow to have other children, meanwhile the love which is begotten dies and people and love both come to an end.  Pursuing this course of action, people are wrapped up in a sensuous cycle that can only be shaken as with a “pyrne in a gyre,” or a whirlwind (line 19).  Yeats calls upon the sages to break this cycle and gather and consume those who are caught.  “O sages… be the singing-masters of my soul... and gather me/ Into the artifice of eternity” (Byzantium, 17-24).  Yeats appeals, “Consume my heart away; sick with desire/ And fastened to a dying animal/ It knows not what it is.”  The dying animal alludes to the first dead animal, made into garments for Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.  The animal skins that Adam and Eve wear are the outward manifestations of the strife that humanity is forced to endure.  Yeats seeks to escape this strife, to transcend the mortal realm with its dissatisfaction and overcome the plague of aging and mortality.  Commensurate with this Biblical fall, our souls themselves adhere to death and desire.  Yeats sees the singing of sages as an escape, and the knowledge and wisdom they provide are that escape.

Engaged in the pursuit of fleeting pleasures, people have no substantiation and will become paltry when they pass on into old age.  Like the old man in “Faeryland” who consoles himself with country stories, the aged man in “Byzantium” is incomplete.  He too is likened to a clothing rack, “a tattered coat upon a stick” (line 10).  The tatters in his “mortal dress” must be filled with singing, but this singing takes on a greater importance: “nor is there singing school but studying” (line 13). Knowledge fills the holes that the sensual singing has neglected and mends the mortal dress, suggesting an avenue to immortality and transcendence.

Yeats steps out of nature and out of the mortal dress, where the soul sings louder and is no longer confined by clothing.  Yeats writes, “Once out of nature I shall never take/ My bodily form from any natural thing” (lines 25-26).  He sets aside the coat and dons “such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make/ Of hammered gold and gold enameling” (lines 27-28).  This brilliant element, gold, is almost translucent in its purest form, and symbolizes the true fair of the Grecians: the pursuit of knowledge.  From his platform of knowledge, the “golden bough” (line 30), Yeats continues to sing, passing into the “gold morning” and “golden… skies” that were only ethereal in “The Man who Dreamed of Faeryland.”  Yeats has achieved freedom from mortal dress and desires, assuming a purer form of being, a transcendence that allows him to sing to others “Of what is past, or passing, or to come,” (line 32).  In “A Coat” Yeats concludes, “Song, let them take it,/ For there’s more enterprise/ In walking naked.”



The Most Romantic Story I Have Ever Heard

                                                                                     Logan Wilk


Set in the early 20th Century, The Good Soldier, written by Ford Madox Ford, invites the reader into a private telling of “the saddest story I have ever heard” (1). The narrator, Dowell, retells the story of his wife’s infidelity in what seems a confidential outpouring of the heart. Dowell focuses his story on his animosity for his late wife, Florence, and his admiration for her lover, Edward, while he portrays Leonora as an emotionless, controlling wife. This initial judgment leads the reader to believe that Leonora had little love for anyone besides herself. But when one examines the motivations behind Leonora’s devotion to her life with Edward, it becomes clear that Leonora’s story is a sad, yet loving one. Although Leonora lives, unlike many of the other characters, her sacrifice, in her love for Edward and her dedication to keeping up appearances, becomes “the saddest story” (1), if not the most romantic one.

While Dowell chose to focus on the tragedy between Florence and Edward, he neglected to acknowledge the importance of a love story.  Leonora fell madly in love with Edward Ashburnham and refused to desert her love. She accepted her arranged marriage to him and her “admiration for his qualities very soon became love of the deepest description” (83). Yet, out of her love came the lesson: “she had been taught all her life that the first duty of a woman is to obey” (83). Because of this lesson she devoted her life to him: “her eyes followed him about full of trustfulness, of admiration, of gratitude, and of love” (83). She is the true romantic of the story. She experienced an overwhelming love for another that most modern women yearn for in their lives. Her love story becomes the original Nicholas Sparks-esque novel, her love for Edward possibly greater and more tragic than any modern love story.

However, her love for Edward became so consuming that she “loved Edward with a passion that was yet like an agony of hatred” (79). Her love became the most tragic, unrequited love. Edward never returned her love, rather he merely “had the greatest admiration for [her]” (83) and wished they “could be better friends” (104). And his rejection of her love caused her to sacrifice so much of herself.

Unlike the other characters who took whatever they wanted, Leonora sacrificed her happiness to love Edward. Florence and Edward had no regard for vows and commitments; they simply took whomever they desired. They remained selfish until the very end, when Florence took her own life by poison and Edward took his by knife. Even Dowell chose “if not to make [Florence] mine, at least to marry her” (45); he intended to take Florence as his wife, with no regard as to whether or not they would consummate their marriage. Yet, never in her life did Leonora take; she constantly gave and is given. Her parents gave her away as a wife. She received Nancy from her friend and raised her. She gave Edward women with whom he could form “friendships”. Even when she had the opportunity to take on a lover, she was “so utterly worn out that I had to send him away” (4). Leonora became the only character who refused to take; she could only give without expecting, only wishing and hoping for, love in return.

Leonora focused on the appearance of the Ashburnham name in order to gain control over Edward and create the illusion of a perfect and happy life. Even with the knowledge of Edward’s digressions of infidelity, Leonora refused to allow her world to fall apart. She strove to keep a sense of normalcy for the public in the hope that Edward “would come back to her” (104). She accepted and even agreed when Dowell stated “Edward...has never, in your absence, paid a moment’s attention to any other woman…he talks of you as if you were one of the angels of God” (57). Rather than free herself from the prison she lived in and declare Edward a lecher, she accepted her role as his companion.

Leonora became consumed with an idea that if she could sacrifice her own happiness, Edward would “return, through gratitude and satisfied love – to her” (106). Like modern women who strive to become the perfect and understanding wife by overlooking their husband’s faults, Leonora had:

The vague, passionate idea that, when Edward had exhausted a number of other types of women he must turn to her. Why should not her type have its turn in his heart? She imagined that, by now, she understood him better, that she understood better his vanities and that, by making him happier, she could arouse his love. (107)

She never gave up on her love for Edward and her desire to be with him. She went so far as to allow Edward to retain mistresses, even when she knew he would seek their companionship over her own.

            While most feminists would see Leonora’s behavior as disgraceful, she refused to give up on her marriage and religious convictions. She saw her marriage to Edward, and her desire for him to return to her, as “a victory for all wives and a victory for her Church” (109). Even when she could have divorced him, and the public would have supported this decision, she would not rescind their vows. She understood marriage to be “a perpetual sex-battle between husbands who desire to be unfaithful to their wives, and wives who desire to recapture their husbands in the end” (109). Perhaps if more modern day marriages learned from Leonora’s dedication to Edward there would be fewer divorces. She understood that “the idea of a pure and constant love succeeding the sound of wedding bells” (109) was not a requirement in marriage. Also, she knew sacrifice was required in marriage; therefore, she gave away an enormous amount of herself: her happiness.

            While reading The Good Soldier, I sympathized with Leonora. I understood her hope that one day, if she accepted his faults, her husband would love her. While the narrator depicts Leonora as “cold and hard” (84), I recognize her desire to remain with Edward and her thought process behind it. While Dowell seldom offers a negative word about Edward, I feel as though Edward is the real villain and Leonora the heroine of the novel. I identify Leonora’s struggle to please her husband while maintaining a sense of normalcy. Her struggle is one that many women face when forming relationships with men. Leonora embodies the every woman; just as Dowell portrays her, she is the “perfectly normal woman” (141).
































Prompt for Second Short Paper


Due date:  5 April

Audience:  Classmates and instructor

Length:      about 1 ½ to 2 pages


Purpose:  to approach a work or author that we have read by 5 April in one of the ways listed below.


a) focus on an important word in a story or poem

b) write a manifesto as if you were one of the authors we have read

c) write an extended footnote to some feature in The Waste Land

c) analyze how a single work or another author is somehow behind a part of one of the works we have read

         d) focus on a detail, character, or pattern (as you did in the first short paper click)




-a snappy title


-an interesting opening paragraph that communicates the controlling idea of the paper


-a narrow focus on something small that you think is “big.”  See the sample papers at this link for examples of some of the approaches you can take.


*Please be sure to ask about any questions you have.  To free also to run an idea or a draft by me, if you want to.





































Sample Successful In-Class Writings on “The Rocking Horse Winner”

Prompt: take about 30 minutes to write a coherent little essay in which you explain how, in one way, “The Rocking Horse Winner” is a modernist story, with inflections(s) peculiar to D.L. Lawrence.  Open book and open notes.

The Improper

                       Adam Magness


    “The Rocking Horse Winner is essentially an examination of the improper.  This is a very broad term, and I chose it because it covers such a wide variety of “improper” occurrences.  Relationships, financial spending, parental/adult guidance, and moral foundations are all skewed from the traditional sense, and death and unfulfilled potential are the results.

     The Mother without motherly love—thus opens a very Lawrentian relationship.  Just as in “The Odor of Chrysanthemums,” the female figure who opens the story lacks the tradtional sentiments prescribed to mothers and wives.  I believe Lawrence chose to open the story with this description as a way to frame/explain the bizarre events and behaviors that occur.  The mother does not love her cildren.  Moreover, the children are painfully aware of this fact.  The boy’s actions afterwards and his desire to be “lucky” (a concept he learns after a conversation with is mother) stem from the void created by this improper display of motherhood.  His drive for money and ensuing madness directly result from her inadequacies.

     The improper financial situation is another modernist hallmark.  As in Ford’s The Good Soldier, the family extravagantly lives outside their means.  The boy, seeking to remedy this situation, earns more and more money, never realizing that no amount of money would satisfy his mother and family.  The idea of a child barely out of nursery providing the luxuries for an unwise, extravagant faimly brings up another “improper” idea—a child as a family’s breadwinner.  His mother’s improper response (rather than hesitate because she knows not where the money came from, she hesitates because she schemes to get all the money at once) cements this idea of the mother acting childishly with the child’s adult-ability to provide.  The man overseeing this operation demonstrates his own improper attitudes, as well.

     The person most able to prevent this tragedy other than the unloving mother was the irresponsible uncle.  Aware of the bizarre methods of the boy, the uncle uses the boy as some sort of horse oracle rather than giving the situation the full attention it needed.  Rather than seek help, his uncle rides the boy’s “hot hand” and treats his own kin as a sort of lucky charm.  This example furthers the case for improper family relationships and mistreatment and mishandling a young life.

     It occurs to me now, perhaps far too late, that a definition of “proper” must be included before I may label so many things as “not proper.”  “Proper,” as I use it here, is in line with the standard societal views up to this point: strong male figure who provides for his family while his loving wife and mother tends to domestic affairs, logic and reason as driving factors for financial decisions, children as benefactors of finance and recipients of elder wisdom and guidance.  Perhaps I miss the mark, perhaps I paint too broad a picture, but these characterisitcs often occur in the modernist writings.

Reversals Galore

                                            Ben Wright


     “The Rocking Horse Winner” is particularly modernist in the way it reverses the reader’s expectations about the characters.  The most immediate and obvious of these reversals is Lawrence’s characterization of the mother.  The stereotypical motherly character is a woman who loves her children unconditionally, and would go to any lengths to make a better life for her children.  The mother in this story, however, appears cold and greedy in the way that she handles the various situations she finds herself in, and is even described as having a hard place in her heart.  She does not love her children, and though she keeps up the appearance of loving them, it is stated that the children know it is a façade.

     Another way Lawrence reverses the reader’s expectations is the way in which the child’s expectations are crushed.  When Paul gives his mother a secret five thousand pound birthday present, he is expecting her to be relieved and happy.  Instead, he gets a cold, greedy reaction.  This unexpected reaction hit me even harder, because I was rooting for the boy to succeed.  It makes the mother seem all the more cruel because she is crushing the dreams of a young boy who was able to do something amazing.  The imperfections of the mother in “The Rocking Horse Winner” are what make it a distinctly modernist story; she is only human, and therefore cannot be perfect.  Her actions and characterization also fly in the face of Romantic notions of chivalry and stereotypes of women; she is cold, calculating, and greedy.  Whether or not she might be justified in her actions is impossible to tell, since Lawrence purposefully obscures the situation by telling it mainly from the child’s point of view.

     A third way that Lawrence upsets expectations and gives his story a modernist quality is through its sudden, inconclusive ending.  Like the ending of The Good Soldier, the end of “The Rocking Horse Winner” is conclusive in that all of the action involving the main characters has stopped.  However, it is unclear whether the poor boy’s efforts yielded anything worthwhile. It is a seemingly sad ending with the most innocent character dying, and it is unclear whether anything will really come of it.  By ending the hero’s life and obscuring the results of his efforts, Lawrence, once again, makes “The Rocking Horse Winner a modernist story.

Needing to Get There

                                          Dave Guerin


     “The Rocking Horse Winner” is strewn with a motif of needing to “get there.”  For Paul, “getting there” has a two-fold meaning:  1) gaining his mother’s praise (Freudian) and 2) “riding” his rocking horse until he “knows” who the winner of the next race will be.  For his mother, “getting there” means having more money.

     Paul’s desire for his mother’s affection grows out of a desire for “luck.”  His mother explains that those with money are lucky.  Unfortunately, she married an unlucky man; thus, the house constantly requires more money.  A Freudian dynamic emerges after this discussion as Paul relentlessly pursues “luck” to replace the unluckiness of his father.  D.H. Lawrence makes it clear that Paul seeks his mother’s affection in a Freudian way, indicated by his “riding” of the rocking horse.

     Nearing the end of the story, the narrator explains that Paul had a “secret with his secret.”  This hidden secret beneath Pauls’ ability to predict the winner of the next race is one of sexual fulfillment.  Paul rides his rocking horse until he achieves a sexual climax, until he “knows,” until he “gets there.”  These synonymous phrases indicate that Paul’s desire for his mother’s attention is certainly less than child-like innocences.  Paul desires to replace his father in more ways than simply providing financial stability.

    The Freudian dynamic seems to be the strongest modernist element of this short story.  The relationship between Paul and his mother relfects Lawrence’s style of writing which tends to focus on the relationships between men and women.  This ususally innocent relationship has a modernist twist as Larence introduces a Freudian dynamic.

O’Brien’s Contribution


     We’ve talked in class about how modernism upsets conventions; and we’ve noticed several times how it undermines chivlaric motives:  rescuing of maidens, noble quests, and heroic, martial deeds.  Lawrence, a peculiar modernist, does a remarkable thing with this chivalric trope in “The Rocking Horse Winner”: he unmodernizes modernism, while preserving one of its salient features, its focus on the subconscious.

     First, the unmodernizing of modernism.  Paul’s uncle refers to him as a “young romancer,” as I recall.  That keys us in on other chivlaric features:  Paul rides a horse (of sorts); he tries to rescue a lady (his mother); he tries to win something equivlaent to the prize of the grail; and (anticipating the psychological dynamic) he counters the monster (the father) who holds his mother captive.  Even a few of the race horses’ names evoke the chivlaric.  “Launcelot” and the middle Eastern, exotic “Malabar.” Lawrence twists these features in an unusual way, at least it’s unuusal in the context of this course.  Instead of making fun of the outdated chivlaric energy driving the lad, criticizing it as a bankrupt world view, as we have seen in Eliot’s “Prufrock” and the WWI poets, as well as in Ford, he uses it to indite the sterility, emptiness, and materialism of the world of respectability and convention inhabited by the adults and particularly the parents.  In short, the story contains almost a regret about the modern world’s loss of a powerful value system, a loss of it to the respectable middle class, as it were.

     Woven into this chivalric pattern is the psychological, or what we’ve called the “uncanny” that typifies Lawrence’s stories.  Paul’s mother intensifies what modern authors raised on a healthy dose of Freud would call the Oedipal Complex.  She says she’s not lucky because of the Paul’s ineffectual father.  Paul’s quest, then, amounts to an attempt to displace his father in his mother’s affections. In a way, this dynamic explains why the father is all but written out of the story by Lawrence.  Paul aims to become his mother’s “lover,” her romantic hero, her knight, just as much as the boy in Joyce’s “Araby” seeks to rescue Magan’s sister by journeying to Araby.  This psychological dynamic explains the almost absurd but highly suggestive climactic and rhythmic rocking of the horse as the mother, described in a sexually appealing way, comes upon Paul in his room when he “arrives” at his discovery that Malabar will win the lucrative race.  Thus, Lawrence takes a worn-out feature of outdated literature—the chivalric ideal—and uses it in two ways: to criticize modern, conventional materialism (“the waste land,” in other words) and to explore the unacknowledged power—however self-destructive—of the unconsicous forces working through us and our interactions with others.
































Sample I.D. Passage from A Passage to India


a.  But suddenly at the edge of hermind, Religion appeared, its divine words from “Let there be Light” to “It is finished” only amounted to “boum.” Then she was terrified over an area larger than usual; the universe, never comprehensible to her intellect, offered no respose to her soul, the mood of the last two months took definite form at last, and she realized that she didn’t want to write to her children, didn’t want to communicate with anyone, not even with God . . . She lost all interest, even in Azziz, and the affectionate and sincere words that she had spoken to him seemed no longer hers but the air’s (166).


b.  Although her hard school-mistressy manner remained, she was no longer examining life, but being examined by it; she had become a real person (272).


c.  If you are right, there is no point in any friendship; it all comes down to give and take, or give and return, which is disgusting, and we had better all leap over this parapet and kill ourselves.  Is anything wrong with you this evening that you grow so materiailistic  (283)?


d.  How can the mind take hold of such a country?  Generations of invaders have tried, but they remain in exile.  The important towns they build are only retreats, their quarrels the malaise of men who cannot find their way home. India knows of their trouble.  She knows of the whole world’s trouble, to its uttermost depth.  She calls “Come” through her hundred mouths, through objects ridiculous and august.  But come to what? She has never defined.  She is not a promise, only an appeal (150).


e.  Here were the English, whom their servants protected, there Aziz fainted in Hamidullah’s arms.  Victory on this side, defeat on that—complete for one moment was the antithesis.  Then life returned to its complexities, person after person struggled out of the room to their various purposes, and before long no one remained on the scene of the fantasy but the beautiful naked god.  Unaware that anything unusual had occurred, he continued to pull the cord of his punkah, to gaze at the empty dais and the overturned special chairs, and rhythmically to agitate the clouds of descending dust” (257).


f.             Esmiss Esmoore

                Esmiss Esmoore . . .  (251)


g.  But it has made me remember that we must all die: all these personal relations we try to live by are temporary.  I used to feel death selected people, it is a notion one gets from novels, because some of the characters are usually left at the end.  Now ‘death spares no one’ begins to be real (293)



































Sample Successful Student Papers on Short Assignment #2


Fear of the Son and Man

                              Emelie Gidley


Sigmund Freud writes, “anxiety is related to a state with no direct allusion to an object, while in fear the person's attention is precisely focused on the object.” In “Odour of Chrysanthemums”, D.H. Lawrence uses fear as a motif: it begins with a wife’s anxious worries about her husband’s homecoming and culminates with her disillusionment at his death.  Revealing the object of Elizabeth’s fears through the introduction of the ‘fear’ motif, Lawrence’s sequential ideations of fear and death, abounding with biblical allusions, shape Elizabeth’s character and transcend the psychical realm.

The first use of the word ‘fear’ comes as “the children played… united in fear of the mother’s wrath” (2487).  Elizabeth’s anxiety compels her children to fear, and in turn, their fear characterizes her, pointing to the bitterness and irritability which are apparent “in the stern unbending of her head,” (2486).  The children’s unease presages the tragedy to come and its transformative effect.  Elizabeth’s resentment at her situation, directed towards her husband, provides a gateway for angst, which soon upsets her as “her anger was tinged with fear” (2488).  Once foreboding creeps into her subconscious, it shapes her character and her cognition.  Elizabeth’s initial fear is nameless, like the anxiety that Freud describes, but it soon penetrates to the core of her being and assumes a greater meaning.

                “When they arose, saw him lying in the naïve dignity of death, the women stood arrested in fear and respect” (2494), a fear far different from Elizabeth’s initial anxiety.  This fear resembles the fear of God, the awe expressed by observers at the crucifixion who “feared greatly, saying, ‘Truly this was the Son of God’” (Matthew 27:54 [KJV]).  The husband becomes exalted and glorified in death, transfigured by his mother and wife.  The mother refers to her son as a lamb, “The dear lamb,” (2495), portraying him as a Christ-like figure, pure and innocent, killed before his time. “‘Bless him,’” she whispers, “‘Dear lad—bless him,’” speaking “in a faint, sibilant ecstasy of fear and mother love” (2495).  Elizabeth is also affected by the sanctity of her husband: “She was afraid with a bottomless fear, so she ministered to him,” (2494).  Rather than using the word ‘administer,’ Lawrence lends a sacredness to the scene, quoting the biblical text of Matthew where “there were also many women there, looking from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him” (Matthew 27:55 [ESV]).  Elizabeth’s tending is not tertiary; rather, it assumes a profound spiritual significance. Elizabeth washes her husband’s body, conducting a vigil that departs from her previous conduct and renders her earlier remark, “he needn’t come rolling in here in his pit-dirt, for I won’t wash him.  He can lie on the floor,” (2487) painfully ironic.  Elizabeth feels herself “countermanded” (2494), and her reaction to her husband shifts as she becomes humbled by fear and respect. “What right did she or anyone have to lay hands on him,” she inquires, as “her touch was humble on his body” (2496).  The body Elizabeth once reviled, she now regards with reverence.

                Elizabeth’s fear soon manifests itself in disillusionment.  After cleansing and sanctifying her husband, regarding him with a fear akin to the fear of God, Elizabeth is convicted by the proverbial version of that fear:  “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7 [NIV]).  Elizabeth regards herself as a fool because she despised the wisdom and instruction of human interaction, failing to realize the value of her husband and acknowledge the expanse between them until it was too late, “Eh, what a fool I’ve been, what a fool!” (2487). Once Elizabeth gains fear and respect for her husband, knowledge comes with it.  She realizes “she had denied him what he was—she saw it now.  She had refused him as himself… she was grateful to death, which restored the truth” (2495).  Elizabeth realizes she was not a fool for marrying her husband and carrying on in her life, but rather for thinking herself a fool on account of those things.  She denounces herself for not appreciating him, for not seeking to understand him as he deserved.

                Elizabeth and her mother-in-law react differently to the dead man on the floor.  His mother’s fear and respect inspires eulogistic feelings for her son, and she becomes exclamatory, fawning over her deceased boy.  Elizabeth, however, realizes she did not love and respect him when she was alive, and is denounced by her realization. His mother declares, “‘clear and clean and white, beautiful as ever a child was made,’” while “Lizzie kept her face hidden,” (2495).  The mother’s “tears flowed” (2494), and Elizabeth “strove to weep and behave as her mother-in-law expected. But she could not, she was silenced” (2496).  Their feelings take a turn toward fear and dread in turn, and “the touch of the man’s dead body gave them strange emotions, different in each of the women; a great dread possessed them both, the mother felt the lie was given to her womb, she was denied; the wife felt the utter isolation of the human soul” (2494).  At this utter isolation, “her soul died in her for fear,” (2495) and she becomes shut out of life, both in its physical consummation and spiritual fulfillment.

Elizabeth’s fear escalates into a finality of horror, “A terrible dread gripped her all the while… The horror of the distance between them was almost too much for her—it was so infinite a gap she must look across” (2496).  An expanse of eternity separates her from her husband, and she thinks that even “in the next world he would be a stranger to her,” (2496).  At this eternal separation, she is forever lost and is condemned to death.  As her husband dies, her hope dies with him.  She repeats, “It was finished,” quoting the last words of the Savior, Jesus, who said “‘It is finished,’” as “he bowed his head and gave up his spirit,” (John 19:30 [ESV]).  Just as Joseph “took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud… And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away” (Matthew 27:59-60 [ESV]), Elizabeth “covered him with a sheet and left him lying, with his face bound… And she fastened the door of the little parlour” (2496).  Elizabeth closes the tomb of her husband, carrying on with life even though she knows that she is condemned.  With this solemn finality, Elizabeth “winced [from death] with fear and shame,” (2496) acknowledging death as the ultimate object of her fear.


Works Cited:

Freud, Sigmund. (1895a [1894]). (1916-1917a [1915-1917]). Introductory lectures on psycho-analysis (Parts I and II). SE, 15-16.



Exceptional Exposition

                                   Austin Gerald


The first paragraph of E. M. Forster’s A Passage to India wastes no time in exposing the central location in the work, the Marabar Caves, but the focus quickly shifts to the surrounding environment. Although “nothing extraordinary”, the environment surrounding Chandrapore becomes the focus of the opening lines, and through careful control of diction and personification of the environment, the narrator simultaneously discredits and emphasizes the important role the environment plays in the work. By emphasizing the lowliness of the environment in the opening lines, Forester emphasizes the roll the environment plays in the course of the novel and alludes to its place as puppeteer of the plot.

The opening lines also stand in stark contrast to their counterparts in the Romantic era. The curt and belittling descriptions of the landscape create a greater narrative distance than the involved, emotional descriptions of preceding eras. The distance can be seen in the phrase, “edged not washed by the river”. Instead of coming into full contact with the river, being washed and therefore run over by it, the shore is only edged, a state much less intimate and more respectful of boundaries. The obvious contrast lies in the move to belittle the environment instead of exposing some of its intricate detail and vivacious fauna, but the opening paragraph is barren in other ways as well. Only the skeleton of the setting is provided. The caves, streets, river, city, houses, mud, and wood appear as the dominant images. There is no foliage in the initial aperture into Chandrapore, only the skeleton of an unexceptional landscape.  Humans do appear in the line, “The very wood seems made of mud, the inhabitants of mud moving”; it is their only expressed appearance outside of the implications made by the mentioning of streets and houses.  Associating the inhabitants with mud harkens back to the ancient creation stories in their assertion that people came from the earth. It sets up the idea that people are one with the environment. Invoking the environment as the base material for mankind emphasizes the place it has in the story and bolsters the case for the environment as a controlling force in the work.

The narrator may admit to the power of the environment, but he is unwilling to celebrate it. In constructions such as, “The streets are mean, the temples ineffective”, “as the Ganges happens not to be holy here”, and “like some low but indestructible life form” the environment becomes a force that cannot be avoided but should not be respected. Treating the environment with such a disgruntled tone only makes the following chapters richer. Would Fielding be as remarkable of an Englishman if his local friend Aziz came from a less squalid place? Placing the environment in such a negative light also plays into British attitudes towards India as a mysterious, unkempt frontier, an attitude evinced by the description “only the view is beautiful”. But by constructing low expectations and playing into prejudices, Forester allows the influence of the environment to grow beyond bounds, acting as overlord of the story’s action.

Debate over the prevalence of the environment as a force throughout the narrative can be prolonged, but in spite of that, credit must be given to the technique used to open up a story so wrapped up its location. By belittling India, Forester gives her the freedom and largess to subtly work her way into all aspects of the novel.



























Prompts to Prepare for the Final Exam (worth 10% of final grade)


The following list attempts to capture the areas on which we have focused.  Its items urge you to put together in your own way some of the elements we have discussed during the term.  I’ll bring to our Sampson 002 on Final Exam day, 3 May, a sheet that has a list with at least half of these topics on it.  I will ask you to write an essay on just one of those.  That essay ought to try to achieve coverage of a representative sample of course material, but at the same time have a sharp focus.  Here’s the list:


--the notion of the muse


--the “foreign”




--the pastoral


--Cubism or Impressionism in the literature




--the past




--self-referentiality in modern British literature