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On Passion

An Introduction to Feeling

I am a Scorpio. Generally, my zodiac sign is entirely irrelevant to an academic paper, but in this case it has some bearing. As a child, I was deeply uncomfortable with being a Scorpio, due to what I read was the inherent nature of Scorpios: passionate. I felt squeamish of the term, which to me had very sexual connotations. As such, I resented being told that I must be a “passionate” person. I was not passionate, my childhood self would have told you adamantly. In fact, I might have said so passionately.

Several weeks ago, when our class began reading The Orchid Thief: A True Story of Beauty and Obsession by Susan Orlean, the subject of passion came to the forefront of our group conversation. I found myself thinking again of my childhood zodiac qualms as we debated the nature of passion. This time, it was not the sexuality of passion that was being questioned, but its ability to last. Is passion, by definition, a passing feeling, or is passion something that can endure? Additionally, we wondered if passion is something that only some people have, or if it is more universal than that.

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Apostles of Mercy: Aliens and Agency

A note on citations: The War of the Worlds is in the public domain; as such, I read it online, in a digital edition that lacked page numbers. This makes citation somewhat tricky. I have chosen to cite by chapter number, as consequence, both for The War of the Worlds and (for the sake of consistency) for Slaughterhouse Five. Thus, in Slaughterhouse Five, parenthetical citations are author and chapter number (Vonnegut 1) and in The War of the Worlds parenthetical citations are author, book number, and then chapter number (Wells I, 1). If this is unacceptable, I can change it. However, I find that I rather like this form of citation. Considering the differences in pagination in various editions of the same book, it does not make things much more difficult to reference than page numbers would; either method would involve some flipping through pages to find the quotation cited.


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Gutters: An Evolution in Thought

Before I began this class, I would have said that I am not genre-ist.  As I have mentioned in earlier posts, I read, and have respect for, much-maligned genres such as romance, science-fiction, and comics.  And yet, in some ways I do believe that I am genre-ist: not prejudiced against content, but against form.

In Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art, Scott McCloud speaks of mistaking the message (content) the messenger (form) (McCloud 6). What I have been doing is similar – not disregarding the message because of the messenger, but rather keeping the messenger locked up in a little cupboard of literary analysis all its own.  While I have thought of comics in terms of prose literature, and used non-comics based terms and ideas to think of comics, I have not done the opposite.  Comics have remained in their cupboard.  I have not used concepts of phrases that specifically come from the world of comics to look at literature in non-comic form.  This impulse sprang, I believe, from a deep-seated belief that one format was inherently better – more literary.  It was genre-ist.

It was also, of course, wrong.

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Stereotyping genres

In Chapter One of Understanding Comics, Scott McCloud writes of his youthful assumptions about comics; he "knew exactly what comics were.  Comics were those bright, colorful magazines filled with bad art, stupid stories and guys in tights.  [He] read real books, naturally" (pages 1-2, emphasis omitted).  This genre snobbery -- the idea of "real books" and other, lesser forms of reading material struck me, and it came to mind during part of our discussion in class on Tuesday.

Romance novels popped up in this discussion when Anne mentioned Jeffrey Eugenides' The Marriage Plot and whether, in fact, this literary genre/storyline is still relevant today.  I said that I think it is; after all, romance novels are one of the best-selling genres out there.  Anne agreed that romance feeds a certain emotional requisite for some people.  A few minutes later, she mentioned that romance novels may "fulfill emotional needs for someone who has just been divorced or can't find a partner."

Aha!  I thought, writing it down in my notes.  That's a stereotype.  (And, I should add, one very widely-held, though untrue.)

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Conversations across Mediums: LiveJournal, Cleolinda Jones, and Digital Transversions

LiveJournal is a blogging website founded in March of 1999 by Brad Fitzpatrick, a student of computer science.  In 2005, it was purchased from Fitzpatrick by the American blogging software company Six Apart, and in 2007 the Russian company SUP purchased it from Six Apart.  Although academic research on LiveJournal is limited, a December of 2008 study ranked it as the sixth most popular website, among American college students.  LiveJournal offers uses personal blogs (or weblogs, online journals) and the option of creating LiveJournal “communities,” which link multiple bloggers together.  One LiveJournal blogger of note is Cleolinda Jones, whose blog is called Occupation: Girl.  Jones began her LiveJournal in 2003, at the age of twenty-four, and is still blogging on it currently.  In her first entry, Jones said, "I swore, when I was in high school, that I was going to grow up but I was never going to grow old, popular cultur

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Academic Essays in English

As an English major, the college essays that I have thus-far written for my field have all been based on other people's work.  The topic may be as specific as a single poem, or cover several different works of literature, but the point is to make an argument about a specific idea or theme found in the work(s) being written about.  The style is very detached; while I am putting forth my own opinion, I still need to write in an unemotional way, basing my statements on quotations and facts.  The paper is my own interpretation of the work(s) involved, and it is written to be -- if not outright persuasive -- at least a sound argument.  Still, everything is far more clinical than, for example, the Jonathan Lethem essay that we read in class, "The Ecstasy of Influence: A Plagiarism."  Like an academic essay on English literature, Lethem made an argument and supported it with literary examples, but his tone was far warmer and more informal that both anything I have found myself called upon to write and the vast majority of academic essays that I have read -- though it was similar to non-fiction books, which generally have more of their authors' personalities than do essays.

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