As we wrap up our study of world literature, I can’t help but take a lesson out of Achebe’s book in regards to the importance of languages in literature.
Achebe argues a great number of things on the topic of language in literature, specifically, in African American literature. He argues that there is a fine line between that which is considered national literature from that which is ethnic literature, and the differences between the two yield different types of literature. As he progresses in his writing, he makes arguments for and against the usage of the English language in literature for those authors of whom English is not their native language. The arguments he raises are thought provoking, and urged me to consider them beyond just African Literature. What effect does the art of translation have on literature in general?
Considering translation as an art, I believe, is key. When a piece of literature is translated, the process of transforming everything within the original word into another language, is in fact, an intricate process deserving of an artistic title. This entails, translating the word in all its’ meaning; experiencing the feeling which the word actually evokes. Beyond the word itself, pieces of literature contain their own individual soul, belonging to the particular cultural experience or region. Can anyone outside of the region hope to understand everything as well as the original bearer of the piece did?
Our exploration of world literature, and those works which are considered world literature, have lead me to Jose Rivera’s peculiar play, Marisol. In the play, a shy, weak and timid, Marisol Perez, who has worked her way up into an acceptable position of society, is ever reminded of the harsh reality of the world in which she lives in, represented through the crude conditions of her neighborhood in the Bronx, New York. She is safe, comfortable even, knowing that she is always protected by her guardian angel, who threatens to turn anyone and anything that threatens Marisol’s happiness, into a heap of salt. However, when the angels decide to wage war on the weak and unfit God, hell breaks loose and Marisol’s world is flipped upside down.
Rivera’s Marisol contains elements of Magical Realism which make the play itself difficult to follow and understand upon first glance. The audience is tossed back and forth between a world that is very real and easily related to, to a mystical and very strange world in which angels have love affairs with mortals and wage war on God. According to traditional beliefs on magical realism, Marisol fits in very well with the description, as it juxtaposes that which is real, with those things that are quite magical and difficult to truly grasp.
As the play progresses, complete insanity has ensued. Men are having babies, people are looking for their missing skin, food tastes like salt and Rivera has the mortals, who have been driven to extreme hunger and corruption, living in constant fear of Nazi skin-heads and exceeding their credit limits, join forces with the angels in a war against God. These magical elements of the play make it more magical than real, as it becomes harder and harder to relate to it as any form of reality the audience can ever hope to understand.
As we further delve into our exploration of World Literature, we begin our study of Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. Within this Realist text, we explore the life of our main character, Okonkwo as he seeks to gain redemption from the flaws and faults of his father. Through this, he establishes himself as an abusive and anger driven man, hungry for power and status.
The story itself, follows a traditional Realist outline. Set in west Africa in the late 19th-early 20th century, Chinua writes about the West African Pre Colonial Igbo society in a way differing from others. While most texts of this nature explore the struggles the society in question faces at the time of colonization, Chinua documented things differently. He does not establish that the Igbo society was perfect at the time of colonization, in fact, he establishes the opposite. He included many elements of the society as barbaric, such as Okonkwo’s violent nature and the tribe’s questionable practices. In this, he establishes the society in a more realistic way as he documents those things which have not been documented previously.
Through our study of magical realism, specifically, through the close examination of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Light is Like Water, I have realized that the best way to approach such a genre of writing is with a completely open mind. One must not read these pieces with the close-mindedness required for completely objective writing, but instead, read them as if the magic within may actually happen. These works transcend the traditional definition of what is considered real, by making reality itself, magical.
In Light is Like Water, the children characters of the story discover this fact early on. They grasp the idea that like water’s ability to flow upon command, light yields the same result. And so, every Wednesday night, upon their parents’ convenient date-night, the children sail the seas of light.
Marquez writes in a way that encourages the reader to see the beauty of the simple things as they can be complex. He encourages us to utilize our own imagine in order to drive us to see the magic present in everything around us.
As we continue to explore Weinstein’s Unknowing, we delve into the Freudian aspects of the work. When paralleled to Freud’sInterpretation of Dreams, (which I have just began exploring in another class), I cannot help but further realize Freudian aspects ever present in Weinstein’s work.
In class, we explored the ways in which Weinstein utilizes Freudian concepts such as, “the Uncanny”, “trauma and deferral” as well as elements of “the self.” We delved into these ideas as a sort of explanation and justification to show space in time in Weinstein’s work. Weinstein interprets Freud’s work as on in which space “appears no longer as orientational but rather uncanny…time is no longer progressive but rather ‘traumatic’ and “the subject emerges as no longer individual but plural,l but plural, inhabited invisibly by other(s) encountered—and unknowingly introjected—in the past.” Here, it is established that Freud’s “unconscious” has no regard for time. An individual should not and cannot be concerned with the present or the future when considered with a traumatic past.
While the literal meaning of “metamorphosis” implies a physical transformation of sorts, is his work, Franz Kafka explores a deeper transformation than that which simply meets the eye.
Initially, we are thrown into Gregor Samsa’s precarious situation with the first line of the story: “When Gregor Samsa woke up one morning from unsettling dreams, he found himself changed in his bed into a monstrous vermin.” (255) The calmness and subtlety of this statement does establish much drama for the readers and although this physical change would be shocking, it strikes the reader as ordinary. Perhaps then, the meaning behind the change lays much deeper than the physicality of it.
At the beginning of the story, while Gregor’s body has been completely transformed, his mindset is still the same. Essentially, he is a human being inside of an over-sized insect’s body. However, with the progression of the story, his personality changes to suit what is evident on the outside. He became isolated within the confines of his morphed body and his attitude and psychological way of being followed suit. “…He could see the whole family sitting at the table under the lamp and could listen to their conversation, as it were with general permission; and so it was completely different than before.” (275)
As we delve into the Nineteenth Century, we are introduced to various new concepts that will be brought to life through the literature of this time. Romanticism, Realism, new ideas regarding science and technology all defined the Nineteenth Century as an Age of Empire.
Rousseau’s Social Contract, influenced a new idea in the Nineteenth Century. A quote mentioned in the text from his Social Contract reads as follows: “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains.” This idea was prominent in the past and a very large mood of the Nineteenth Century was to perhaps change this idea. “Clearly, a whole new kind of energy was on the loose, accompanied and symbolized by the power of steam and the speed of railroads…”
Through Romanticism, new ideas and tendencies were born. As also mentioned by the text, an evident idea in Romantic literature and art was the idea of individual psychology as “mass movements to the destinies of civilizations.” Romanticism sought to bring out histories and traditions that had not been mentioned or utilized in the past.
With our introduction into the world of Realism, it was mentioned that “Realism didn’t result as one might think, from a sudden unprecedented desire to see the world clearly and accuratly.” Realism sought to actually define the modern world as a society that was fueled by social contradictions that would influence every aspect of their world.
As we further our exploration into the Nineteenth Century, we can assess that it will prove to be a time full of change and progression through literature, art, and thought.
A main theme of the Enlightenement concerns reason; that is the expansion of one’s own mental repetoire through the useage of imagination and reason. In the encyclopedia entry for the word reason, the idea of reason is explored through various notions, including a purely religious one.
According to the entry, reason can be applied on “broadest sense that natural faculty with which God endowed men to know truth, whatever light it follows…”, which is particularly interesting as this, in it self, is a very “enlightened” idea. During the Enlightenment, people were encouraged to challenge previously construied notions regarding everything. This notion, in itself, mentions that, with the use of the God-given reason, one must follow whatever reasonable path in order to find “light”, or even perhaps, truth.
The encyclopedia entry stresses, however, that reason is a God-given right upon man. It reads, ”God, in granting us the light of reason , did not forsake the liberty to give us, as he saw fit, the assistance of revelation in matters where our natural faculties cannot reach…” So while ideas of the Enlightenment stress thought beyond what is already known, it does, in a way, by this definition of reason, condemn challenging the word of God, or those things which we cannot possibly hope to understand. Here, faith and reason are opposing forces which should not be meddled with. The encyclopedia article stresses the boundary between the two as a main principle for establishing what is reasonable and what is not.
Though the Enlightenment stressed challenging preconcieved notions and ideas, it did, as seen in the example of reason, draw a vague line before the challenge of one’s faith, since there are some notions, that, even when challenged, cannot actually be understoof through reason.
Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, illustrates the precarious situation in which Crusoe finds himself in upon following his decision to abandon his family in the pursuit of happiness, a main theme of the Enlightenment. Defoe writes, “As I had once done thus in my breaking away
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