History of World Lit II

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Native Tongues

November 29th, 2012 · Uncategorized

Unlike many of the previous novels, short stories, and other texts we have read, Diaz’s “The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” is a slang-ridden contemporary text dealing with the idea of assimilation, desertion, curses, and love. It manages to encapsulate so much in only an excerpt. Most interestingly, though is the consistency of world literature to maintain the use of colloquialisms and footnotes.
The lingo of “nerdom” here is easily comparable to other world literature texts we have read in this class. Rushdie’s “Chekov and Zulu” constantly refer to Star Trek and use terms one might not be familiar with, lest they find the series just as fascinating. Conrad’s formal narrative “Heart of Darkness” also uses language that requires footnotes and terms of the people that one may not completely understand without supplemental readings. Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart” is probably one of the readings most speckled with footnotes, vernacular native to a specific tribe, and a need for constant explanation. It seems to be a consistent theme in world literature (specifically colonial, post-colonial, regional, and immigrant texts) to use a specific jargon to appeal to a certain audience or accredit authority to the author. This is not to say that the use of certain terms does not appear in other genres, but seems to tactically pervade world literature texts.

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Power of the Lower Niger

November 21st, 2012 · Uncategorized

Of the multitude of aver-arching themes in imperialistic themed literature is the idea of power, even past the pages of the text. Achebe’s Things Fall Apart deals with the transference of power within and without the plot and characters of the novel. Naturally, the novel must deal with a certain amount of power as the general idea behind the text seems to center around the life of the Umofia and how their tribal system worked pre-colonization and the theft of this power (in the sense of rights taken and culture dismembered and shunned) by colonizers.
This notion of power within the tribe is clearly seen throughout the beginnings of the novel where Okonkwo speaks of his father and his father’s complete lack of sense and power within the tribe. He discusses his hatred of the powerless his father had in the tribe and how shameful it was to have a father who has no titles and nothing to pass down. The constant use of “woman” as a derogatory term as well as the beating of the women shows a power imbalance between the men and women. The white colonizers take all the power from the tribe in their conquering of the Umofia people and their shaming of their elders when they take them to court and starve and beat them. All these power struggles within the story are what most would find in any colonization tale, the power within and the power taken from without. What Achebe does differently, that has become a rather popular notion recently, is the use of language.
One of the main issues with World Literature has been the power of language; the desire to have your work written by those with power, but also maintaining a power of position for your own culture. Achebe deals with this by writing in the language of those in power (English, in the case) but writing from the perspective of the tribe. For example, he constantly uses terms of the Umofia (agadi-nwayi, nno, ochu…) and writes of the traditions from a position within. This is in severe contrast to other colonization novels written by those in power (Heart of Darkness, for example) from the position of power. Achebe even mentions another sort of colonial writing, those that write about the tribe from outside of it, through the Commissioner’s idea for a book (a common tool of Othering). Achebe finds a balance between the desire to have one’s work read widely, while also staying true to the culture and giving the perspective from within, a balance of power.

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Rushdie’s Prisoner Policy

November 9th, 2012 · Uncategorized

Rushdie’s “Chekov and Zulu” handles a very prominent idea in post-colonial literature, one that pervades most any cross-cultural-colony work. As Chekov so brutishly states “Their museums are full of our treasures, I meant. Their fortunes, their cities, built on the loot they took. So on, so forth. One forgives, of course; that is our national nature. One need not forget” (Rushdie, Pg. 960). While there is the rather flagrant notion of the colonizer stealing (quite literally pilfering goods in this sense) from the colonized, there is a slightly more complicated theme of the colonized borrowing (not necessarily gaining or losing culturally) from the imperial emporium (even if this be rebels intellectually bred across the pond, as Chekov refers back to mid-story and at the very end).
Throughout the story, Chekov and Zulu are constantly referring to Star Trek. This Trekky lingo saturates the story alongside Punjab phrasings that must come with references. Much like a foreign language, not everyone knows who Spock is or what the Clingon policy on prisoners is. In this sense, the colonized have taken on aspects of the colonizers culture, used it to dash their own conversations with, made this a part of themselves and a part of their culture, to an extent. So, while one does physically steal the goods from another, it is not without a mutual theft (this is not to claim either is better, worse, or equal to the other). This is a concept Weinsten and Said both discuss reverently, nothing particularly new to the idea of post-modern literature.

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Defining Heart of Darkness

October 25th, 2012 · Uncategorized

Conrad’s Heart of Darkness is one of a multitude of literary works to experiment with the idea of colonialism and to do it in such a fashion as to focus on the conquerors, rather than the blighted plight of the natives and to still attempt a sense of familiarity and fairness. Conrad uses a very simple technique to his narrative, one that seems recurring with colonial narratives and that lends a sense of authenticity (a desired effect and feature); this feature being the narrative within a narrative (this tool also frequents horror narratives such as James’ Turn of the Screw where a sense of credibility is desired). This device lures the reader into a sense of familiarity, where the story seems more sound and comfortable. This paired with the logical chronological order of events (sans the story frame) creates all the needs for a basic colonial narrative with the addition of a recently chartered wilderness and a few natives, cannibals, and savages. These sort of staple uses of literary devices are not exclusive to colonial narratives, each genre and period of literary significance seem to lend certain characteristic to their works, little hints to allow themselves to be categorized accordingly. The point of exploration here is to question if this categorization of literary works by certain defining attributes is correct or even necessary. Or do classifications come from simply being told they are a certain genre or type of literature and the readers are left to pull defining elements for a sense of logic.

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October 4th, 2012 · Uncategorized

While Henrik Ibsen’s “A Doll House” is most definitely a product of that close look into humanity, a poster-child for Realism. However seemingly proto-feminist this play may seems, I am going to argue quite the opposite; “A Doll House” is a look into a family and into the humanity of a single person in that family [albeit the protagonist (to use that term a bit loosely in some sense) does happen to be a female] and not as a campaign for women’s rights (a quick glance at Mrs. Linden and her seemingly essential desire to care for another should squash most of those proto-feminist ideas).
The play begins in a comprehensive manner with Nora being introduced in the first scene of the first act with her as the main component. There is little doubt on whom the play will be centered no clutter of confoundedness as to where this is happening or who is speaking. This immediate clarity is a staple of most Realist works (according to Weinstein and most scholars). Chronologically the play is sound and runs in fair set-time (quite unlike post-modern works) with no confusions as to how many days or hours have passed. The time is often quite reminded to the reader by Nora or one of her servants. But what really makes this play a true bambino of Realism is in its self-realization and character based change. While the play does center on a scandal of sorts, most of the work is one of morality. We, the reader, are constantly put in the position of understanding Nora’s position and the position of the law and her own duress in justifying her actions of love. Her change is so inculcated into the play that it must end that way. The realism works never end with a bow and puppy, but mostly with a large change and significant realization from the protagonist.

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The Three Movements-Detailed 9/20/2012

September 20th, 2012 · Uncategorized

While The Enlightenment seems to be very definitive in its time (well, as definitive as a period of literature, culture, and politics really can be), tools of thought (the rise of the novel, travel narratives, smatterings of ideas collected in anthologies), and minds (such as Pope being noted as non-Romantic); Realism, Naturalism, and Romanticism seem to all share and rather intrude upon one another more than any other era of ideas and systems, and all seem to be poised as a reaction to the radical revolutionary time of The Enlightenment.
“Romantic striving takes many forms, all of them intense, but not all noisy” (LAWL, E, Pg, 2) seems to be the general and easy way to classify romanticism and to allow it to encompass parts of Realism and Naturalis m which are described as not taking “a major break with Romanticism” (LAWL, E, Pg. 7). Romanticism is mainly the focus on the lowest class (such as Shepards i.e. pastorals), especially when conglomerated with an idea of nature or the natural world and a sort of glorification of this lowly working class. Blake, Byron, Wordsworth, and Keats exemplify this idea through most any of their poems, especially the popular ones (which are mostly ballads and pastorals).
The main difference between Naturalism and Realism is how both look at the lowest class, the industrial workers at this point (for there is a slight change in social class and mechanics between the beginning of Romanticism and the emergence of Naturalism and Realism). Naturalism detail describes the grime upon the face of the industrial worker and even the STD’s of the town prostitute (though she rarely features as a main character), while Realism will go as far as to admit both workers exist but denies the reader of the details. This is also the time of resting for the closet novel, a place where the dramas are meant to be produced, not read alone in the comfort of one’s own chair or in a meadow.
With these definitive distinctions between the three, one can now look at how they function as a reaction to The Enlightenment, an era described as full of revolution, unrest, political disturbance, and mind-breaking ideas and subsequent arrests. After most periods of disturbance and war there comes an era of calm and peace, a relaxation point (such as the Romantic era) where most calmly put aside their instruments of war, their pens, their radical ideas (this is not meant to ignore the wars and empirical battles, but to focus on the lack of literary charge). But out of this there is always the disturbance of too much time, the endless boredom of philosophical peace that leads to such movements as Naturalism, where in times of semi-calm it becomes easiest to look at the grime and filth of such radical changes as the Industrial Revolution. This is where the darker poets come out and write their Lyric Poems about the lost fingers of chimney boys and loose hosiery of young women.
The point of this is to examine not only what these three major movements are, but how they interact with one another and how the writings illustrate this, while also looking at all three movement not only as a reaction to The Enlightenment, but as a reaction to one another.

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Robinson Crusoe

September 6th, 2012 · Uncategorized

“He bid me observe it, and I should always find, that the calamities of life were shared among the upper and lower part of mankind; but that the middle station had the fewest disasters, and was not exposed to so many vicissitudes as the higher or lower part of mankind.” (Defoe, Pg. 2, Para 1).
Though this speech is near the beginning of the novel, it seems to encapsulate much of what The Enlightenment and works produced during this time were concerned with. In this passage Crusoe’s father is attempting to keep him from his desire to see the world and float the oceans, something that is both beneath and above him. He warns him to stay comfortable and keep in the middle class (a growing class at this time, but also a very relaxed situation where not too much is to be expected or denied). Creative works produced during this time often dealt with the idea of this growing middle class, but also warned to not become content as Crusoe’s father attempts to persuade him to. Kant seems to directly argue with this in his essay “What is Enlightenment”:
“Thus it is very difficult for the individual to work himself out of the nonage which has become almost second nature to him. He has even grown to like it, and is at first really incapable of using his own understanding because he has never been permitted to try it. Dogmas and formulas, these mechanical tools designed for reasonable use–or rather abuse–of his natural gifts, are the fetters of an everlasting nonage. The man who casts them off would make an uncertain leap over the narrowest ditch, because he is not used to such free movement. That is why there are only a few men who walk firmly, and who have emerged from nonage by cultivating their own minds.”
While these two speeches seem to lead a discussion on the idea of the growing middle class and the freedom from the rules of man (I am reluctant to say nature as Kant clearly states nature as one of man’s natural liberties, nothing to chain him down with). Defoe’s novel explores this conversation in many ways, through the father and Crusoe’s own misadventures at sea and upon his island. To keep this brief, this novel and especially the aforementioned quote seem to create a certain plexus of what The Enlightenment challenged and sometimes affirmed.

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