No Chi for Me

I believe that Okonkwo spent his life believing that his chi, or guardian spirit, was not with him. Probably because he felt so much shame by his lazy father, so he believed he was cursed. Okonkwo spent his entire life trying to overcome the shame of his father, and attempting not to follow in his footsteps, that he ultimately forgot who he was. In some sense, he was not even as equal of a man as his father was. I say this because his father, while being lazy and in many ways worthless, did not deny who he was. Okonkwo did deny who he was. He constantly was not himself because of his fear of what other people would think. His anger was always all-consuming, and this blinded him to so many precious things in life. Even though we know how much he loved Ikemefuna, Ezinma, and Ekwefi from the text, he physically and emotionally abandoned his loved ones to uphold his image in front of others. I believe if he would have stood up for Ikemefuna’s life, cherished Ezinma, and respected and valued his wives opinions, he would not have felt abandoned and the need to take his own life.
I know my own Christian beliefs do not belong in juxtaposition with “Things Fall Apart”, but one verse lands close to describing how I think Okonkwo felt. Matthew 10:33 “But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in Heaven.” Okonkwo felt he had so much retribution to his clansmen to prove he was a “real man” that he denied any emotion before them, and was in turn denied much happiness and insight in his life. He possessed the respect to save Ikemefuna; his wives respected him without needing it beat into them. His anger even eventually led to his Gods becoming unhappy with him when he broke the week of peace, and then to exile from his village. All the events in his life were not due to the absence of his chi, they were self-inflicted. A man that allows his foolhardy pride to restrain him is no better than a man who is lazy. Okonkwo’s story is a tragedy, but only because he allowed it to be.

Jordan Williams

Achebe, Chinua. “Things Fall Apart.” The Longman Anthology of World Literature Volume F The Twentieth Century. Eds. David Damrosch and David L. Pike. New York: Pearson Longman 2009. 765-849.

The Rushdie Effect

How has Salman Rushdie changed literature today? I believe he has made astronomical contributions to literature throughout his lifetime, but specifically to strengthening the ideals of freedom of speech. This man has written things many times that have put his life in danger, and he still contends it was worth it because it proves to people how important free thought is. Weinstein discusses his use of magical realism when the two main characters are falling from miles up in the sky, land in the English Channel, and live. This use of magical realism is Rushdie’s way of showing that Newtonian laws are not what he is writing about. His realism is not necessarily concerned with physics, it’s more about his message which he uses realism to reinforce, to make believable.
I think he is a combination of writing styles. For sure, post-modernist because the way he blends many different styles of writing to make his point and doesn’t really adhere to laws of nature. Post-colonialism is vaguely reflected in his work to me, he definitely abhors fundamentalism in his real life and it creeps into his writings. And of course, magical realism is represented throughout his work. History and details of life are accurately used as a background for his supernatural occurrences, such as his characters being given divine powers.
I did find some Enlightenment age motivation in Salman Rushdie’s writings and his interviews. He was quoted as saying, “Abandon all theory” when starting to read any literature. He never wishes for his opinions or views to be accepted as the only ones, he is just stating things the way he sees them.
And lastly, in a time where it feels like we are walking around on eggshells when it comes to offending anyone, Salman Rushdie just comes out and says whatever he feels. I found it so amusing how he intentionally writes using an Indian dialect. There is so much underlying comedy in his writings, some things you miss the first time through.
Jordan Williams

Rushdie, Salman. “Chekov and Zulu.” The Longman Anthology of World Literature Volume F-The twentieth
Century. Eds. David Damrosch and David L. Pike. New York: Pearson Longman, 2009. 957-966.

Weinstein, Philip. Unknowing- The Work of Modernist Fiction. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2005.

This is How I Know I’m Dreaming

So the question presents itself…am I really writing this? Or am I dreaming that I wrote this and my entire existence is nothing more than a dream? Or is someone dreaming that I wrote this and this “existence” is in their imagination? And lastly, (my favorite) maybe I just thought about writing this and therefore it is recorded in the library that is the annuls of all existence?
These are all things Weinstein made me think of. But truthfully, I tend to think I am really not writing this, especially since this week there is no blog grade!!!!

Jordan Williams

Reason and Rationality

I found it very intriguing how the authors this week try and test the limits of reason and rationality. Through the stories about different cities in “Invisible Cities” by Italo Calvino, we are told of different cities that may or may not exist. They do not seem to be completely imaginary or supernatural, because these invisible cities seem to exist quite easily in your imagination as you read his descriptions. It seems quite real that these places do exist in each reader’s imagination. Weinstein calls it an “Escherian like effect” where these “cities” are understood in our imagination, but where the author tries to explore our physical encounter with them versus our fantasy encounter. It seems to me the desired effect of reading about these cities is to picture them in your mind, to breathe them in and visualize them through the architecture that is described, the people, and the intricacies that make the people unique. It is seeing a landscape that may never exist again, even though it is obviously written on paper. The descriptions seem to flirt with your imagination and create individual stories in your mind that may never exist again. So it is like being on vacation in some exotic land, and you attempt to look at it one last time before returning home, so the image will always be captive in your memory, burned into your mind to live on in your memory and imagination. Even if you do get to return at a later time, no experience will ever be quite like the one you feel right now, in this very moment, and it deserves to be preserved.
Jordan Williams

Calvino, Italo. “Invisible Cities”. The Longman Anthology of World Literature Volume F- The Twentieth Century. Eds. David Damrosch and David L. Pike. New York: Pearson Longman, 2009. 573-578.
Weinstein, Philip. Unknowing-The Work of Modernist Fiction. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2005.

Darkness

The main idea I got from reading Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” is the darkness that exists in people and life in general. It seems to me that Marlow begins as an innocent and naïve boy that truly does want to accomplish great things and explore new lands, but through his doing this he learns how brutal and pitiful life can really be. I really enjoyed in the beginning of the story how Conrad masterfully describes the scenery and how it relates to all things in life. “From glowing white changed to dull red without rays and without heat, as if about to go out suddenly, stricken to death by the touch of that gloom brooding over a crowd of men. Forthwith a change came over the waters, and serenity became less brilliant but more profound.”(61)
I also enjoyed considering that when he described the African shore as they steamed along, it was the exact same landscape that Robison Crusoe observed on his voyages. They both notice how bleak yet enticing it looks, and the reactions of civilized people compared to and with that of the “savages.” Also, Marlow has a couple of moments where he pauses and considers what he is doing early on, before he leaves. The almost premonitions greatly reminded me of Robinson Crusoe.
The last thing I noticed was the disrespect for women in the story. “It’s queer how out of touch with truth women are. They live in a world of their own, and there had never been anything like it, and never can be.”(68) I suppose it was commonplace for the time, but it seemed to really stand out and kind of piss me off a little as I read it. But again it shows the differences between how men and women think, yet again just in a condescending way toward women. Maybe these issues, treatment of women and other human beings is the actual heart of darkness.
Jordan Williams

Conrad, Joseph. “Heart of Darkness.” The Longman Anthology of World Literature Volume F- The Twentieth Century. Eds. David Damrosch and David L. Pike. New York: Pearson Longman, 2009. 61-115.

I’m not a dung beetle!!!!

After reading Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis” I have to admit I am, to say the least, a little disturbed! I was really expecting to read an extremely illogical and confounding story that didn’t make much sense after our discussions in class, but I actually really enjoyed it. I do not claim that it made sense to me, but I did notice some familiar things. I understand his expressions about work in the beginning of the story. It seems work is just something we have to endure and it can be very difficult at times to try and talk yourself into wanting to do it. This seems to mirror Kafka’s own life because he kept working in the legal realm merely to pay the bills while his true love was to write. In “The Metamorphosis”, Gregor feels an almost tangible pressure from his family to keep working to support them, and to live up to some unspoken expectations. This, to me, reflects the idea of him actually feeling like some insignificant bug by everyone around him. I got the idea that he is a very smart man and really unrecognized by his family and his job, making him feel like some cockroach that really doesn’t amount to much thought other than a pest that must be dealt with out of necessity. Throughout most of the story, Gregor can understand everything that is being discussed around him, but no one can hear him. It is almost as if he is condemned to his own prison that no one can sympathize with or reach him in. I did also notice that time is very hazy to say the least in the story. It does not follow a typical timeline that we consider normal, which adds to the anxiety of the reader. As the reader, you are always waiting for something huge and significant to happen.
Also while I do not exactly believe what I am about to suggest, this thought did cross my mind and I believe it is interesting enough to be discussed. Kafka is considered a literary genius even though he wrote very little and few people have tried to match his unique style. It could be because his style isn’t really a style at all. When it comes to art, music, and writing, it can be said that the norm is to understand previous works and master their style before it is realized that a new era can be presented, and understand the effects of something new and what is missing from current works. I’m not so sure Kafka fits into this category. I think he was so unique that he just wrote the way he thought he could contribute. That could be why no one really has matched his ability, because it is so different. Maybe that is also why most of his works were never finished, because when time itself is totally obscured and there is no real beginning, how do you realistically have an end???
Jordan Williams

Kafka, Franz. “The Metamorphosis.” The Longman Anthology of World Literature Volume F- The Twentieth Century. Eds. David Damrosch and David L. Pike. New York: Pearson Longman, 2009. 255-284.

Outside Glimpsing In

It is very intriguing how perspective can evolve and transition when reading literature. Based on what the author chooses to reveal in time, the entire plot or information we think we know can drastically change. In my mind, it’s like seeing a scene or picture with blinders on. The more you read the more is revealed, which may support or contradict any assumptions previously formed. “The Lady in the Looking-Glass: A Reflection”, by Virginia Woolf, is an ideal example. In the story, the only information we receive are descriptions through a looking-glass that turn out to very opaque. Although the lady is never known in the story she is presented in a positive way through the looking-glass, but upon closer examination by the omnipresent looking-glass, she is seen as just an empty shell. We never get to know the real lady; all we know is what she resembled from far away and what was revealed when she approached. We never get to know the reality, the truth. All that is revealed is the changing perspective of the looking glass. I also found it very interesting how things become more mysterious as we learn more about her. “Under the stress of thinking about Isabella, her room became more shadowy and symbolic…” (180). This seems to tell us that we will never understand her; we will never know anymore truth than the quick glimpses, and conclusions and judgments that the looking-glass is capable of providing.
Jordan Williams

Woolf, Virginia. “The Lady in the Looking-Glass: A Reflection.” The Longman Anthology of World Literature Volume F- The Twentieth Century. Eds. David Damrosch and David L. Pike. New York: Pearson Longman, 2009. 179-182.

Inequality vs. Chivalry

It is very difficult for me to have a clear understanding of the comparison and juxtaposition of all of the literature we read this week. I really want to add to our discussions from class this week and I hope that is okay! I truly understand the importance of self-realization, also the profound desire to have equality regardless of sex. What I do not understand is that it is expected that everyone should be utterly equal. Men and women are inherently, very different. That is not to say that a woman should be restricted to a certain role or place in society. That is preposterous to me! I think a woman has every right to be everything she desires to be, whether that entails running a business or being a mother. But what I have a hard time understanding is when a man truly loves a woman, and desires to protect her and provide for her, he can be considered chauvinistic. For instance, Torvald in Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House. While I do not agree with his condescending nature toward Nora, or his attitude that she is his possession, I do believe he truly loved her and in many ways wanted to protect her from the hardships that he would rather endure such as his difficult job. The same applies to Placide in Kate Chopin’s A No-Account Creole. His love for Euphrasie was true and I think he would do anything for her, obviously even leaving for her to be truly happy. The point I am trying to make is while obviously the rights of women is an imperative, on-going issue, we have to be careful not to allow that to eliminate chivalry and protection of someone you love from hardships. I am very blessed to have had many strong and intelligent women in my life. I would do anything for them, and in my mind I do place them on a pedestal. I do not want to view women as equal to men…they are beautiful and marvelous (sometimes mysterious) human beings that should be respected without comparisons or restrictions.

Jordan Williams

Ordinary Literature

What exactly is the definition of realism? At first thought the idea of realism appears obvious, but if you continue to explore it, in reality it can be a little more fleeting and obscured. Given just a moment to consider, one might relate realism to reality. While I believe this is somewhat accurate, I do not believe realism in writing was used to describe the physical constituents we encounter every day. The Longman Anthology of World Literature describes realism as “emerged from a conviction that the social world itself had been set irrevocably in motion. Realists saw that historical change was powered by social contradictions…and they understood that these contradictions didn’t just affect society’s leaders but worked themselves out in everyday feelings and relationships.” (Page 7). It is my belief that realism is more representational of our everyday relationships with each other. This idea of common realistic encounters is also represented in the many works of Kate Chopin’s Bayou Folk. The changing and evolving relationship of Euphrasie, Placide, and Offdean in “A No-Account Creole” definitely shows how social encounters in everyday life are realistic. Also, in “A Very Fine Fiddle” we see how the basic relationship between a man and an object (the fiddle) can change and evolve. It is very realistic and understandable that a man can have a bond with an object that has sentimental meaning.
Jordan Williams

Damrosch, David, and David L. Pike, eds. The Longman Anthology of World Literature: Second Edition. New York: Pearson Longman, 2009.
Chopin, Kate. Bayou Folk. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1894.

Men of Letters…so is he a D.O. or M.D.? Maybe M.B.A.?

Men of letters, defined by Diderot and D’Alembert’s “Encyclopedia” as well read and scholarly individuals that are constantly seeking knowledge and understanding, is a direct reflection of “enlightened thinking”. The Age of Enlightenment was the first time in history that people began to NOT just merely exist and began to seek in-depth understanding of what was occurring in their life around them. For example, Isaac Newton discovered the laws that control gravity, but he was not just an early physicist. He also was the forefather of modern calculus, and applied all this knowledge to his own understanding of religion and his personal proof that God exists. (Longman Anthology of World Literature p. 3, 5) Rousseau was himself a very accomplished man in various arts. He composed music, studied philosophy, and wrote many important, albeit scandalous, works supporting new ways of thinking. The ideal of enlightenment, and the “men of letters” that contributed to it was not to be very wise in just one field. A great mathematician, although respectable, knows nothing more than mathematics. But a great mathematician that can compose music, knows four languages from living in different countries, has studied politics and religion, he is truly a man of letters and could contribute to the age of enlightenment. This higher level of knowledge and understanding is represented in men of letters, and directly defines the age of enlightenment.
Jordan Williams

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