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"Monkeys Picking Fleas"

Day 18 of Emerging Genres
"Monkeys Picking Fleas...."

Christina, The Atheist Squirm: no true seeker of truth should ever be happy with their decisions for there is evidence galore, unfounded or not, to betroth and divorce you from your beliefs. Oh my: that is the beauty of life. For if we went through life with the answer, how boring would our thoughts be? With no questions to amuse us, we are but monkeys picking fleas off of one another; the ability to ponder would escape us.

I quite like to watch others squirm, as well...and rather find myself constantly engaged in squirming when I'm confronted with any type of new situation...quite aptly to seeking out these uncomfortable situations upon which to reflect... I plan to approach head-on, in due time, all other squirm-inducing situations I can, uh, wriggle into?

I. speaking of which....
any reports
on the paper-writing process? anything you learned?
were frustrated by? want to do differently next time 'round?
(please be sure you "tagged" your work as WebPaper2;
also: do I have originals of #1 for everyone?)

for next week, keep reading The Scarlet Letter: through Ch. 16 for Tues, Ch. 24 for Thurs.)

II. When we left off, I had just finished reviewing
Derrida's thinking about "the logic of supplementarity":

"there emerges a law: that of an endless linked series...that produce the sense of the very thing that they defer: the impression of the thing itself, of immediate presence, or originary perception. Immediacy is derived....the original is created by the copies."

& Megan was saying....

Marina: I was thinking about theory and how it is endless in its questioning of what we think. That IS intimidating...that is part of the reason I dislike studying theory. The other main reason is that it is always written in a convoluted way. Why can the authors simply state what they mean ....?

Why (would Derrida say) they can't...?

Conversation in the Library:
"I don't like Derrida. I'm a historian.
I just want to know, "Did it happen? Did it not happen?"

Claire: My problem is that...Stowe really did feel that she was writing a realistic story...her intention was to depict these people realistically...then should we still consider these new meanings we’ve given to the work? I’m inclined to say that the author’s intent should be taken into account...

What is Derrida's attitude toward
(our being guided by) the author's intention....?

Expanding our sense of the applicability of genre:

Jessy: I have felt very grudging toward usages of 'genre' which expand the word beyond a strictly literary term....But today, I caught myself wondering whether a particular complex of emotions which I felt for someone was of the genre of love or of madness....studying genre is interesting because the boundaries of genres are fuzzy...I have been discovering just how malleable genre and un-absolute genre is. And so 'genre' seemed appropriate to a pair of blurry categories which categorize something that is certainly not literary (though I wouldn't put art and life on opposite sides of a mirror).

Marina, Genre of a woman's college: The "genre" of them is clearly different from other colleges and it makes me wonder how long they will last.

III. A reminder that didn't get to discuss

Mary Eagleton, "Genre and Gender"

feminist criticism looks at genre in terms of sexual difference
and asks if we can create a criticism which is non-essentialist and non-reductive...

Or: is Hester Prynne a
"Natural Woman"

So: let's see if any of this (Derrida or Eagleton) is useful in examining

Gather yourselves into three groups
(count off by "grades": A, B, C)

here's your prompt, from D. H. Lawrence, "The Spirit of Place," Studies in Classic American Literature (1923):
The artist usually sets point a moral and adorn a tale.
The tale, however, points the other way, as a rule. Two blankly opposing morals, the artist's and tale's.
Never trust the artist. Trust the tale. The proper function of a critic is to save the tale from the artist who created it.

Your assignments:

Group A (Artist): find the artist's moral
(cite three passages in the
text of "The Custom House")

Group B (Book): find the tale's "moral" (cite three passages in
the text of Chapters 1-5)

Group C (Critics): adjudicate between the two: "save" the tale from the author, or (more sophisticatedly/ Derrida-idly):
explain the relationship between the two

does this novel take a stand?
is it confused/paradoxical/contradictory?

what do you make of this exercise?
a novel take a stand? do novels have "morals"?

might they be complex in ways essays/diatribes are not?
if so--what are we to do with such complexities?

Writing About Women Who Are Soccer Moms Without Soccer: “I think maybe there’s almost like a rejiggering neurologically, so you want to go and get the information out, and you can’t do that with a complex novel....I go to a Web site for the polls. But I go to a novel for just the opposite. If you’re going to give me a poll number, don’t do it for a very long, long time. Make it a very curvy, long road to get there, and the road along the way showing life is why you read it.”

D.H. Lawrence, "Nathaniel Hawthorne and The Scarlet Letter," from Studies in Classic American Literature: Nathaniel Hawthorne writes romance....but The Scarlet Letter isn't a pleasant, pretty romance, it is a sort of parable, an earthly story with a hellish meaning....There is a basic hostility in all of us between the physical and mental, the blood and the spirit. The mind is 'ashamed' of the blood. And the blood is destroyed by the mind, is truly a law, that man must either stick to the belief he has grounded himself on, and obey the law of that belief, or he must admit the belief itself to be inadequate, and prepare himself for a new thing....It is a marvelous allegory. It is to me one of the greatest allegories in all literature. The Scarlet Letter. Its marvelous under-meaning! And its perfect duplicity.

Some contemporary applications:

"A New Hester Prynne Who Takes on the Patriarchy": The Scarlet Letter, adapted by Carol Gilligan (NYTimes 9/15/02): the tragic love story is a hallmark of patriarchal ideology, which defines rigid gender roles and prevents us from experiencing true pleasure with other people....Hester and Dimmesdale reject a potentially happy future outside of Boston in favor of embracing patriarchal ideology, with its attendant misery....Her homily pleads for love and tolerance...Ms. Gilligan also added an epilogue that transports Pearl...into the 21st which women can be more open and enjoy sexual pleasures.....concluded that a more faithful dramatization would, in the end, be more provocative. "To hear them in Hawthorne's voice opens up the possibility for a much wider conversation about issues that are central to people's lives today."

In the Blood, a CurtainUp Berkshire review
Fucking A, a CurtainUp review
Suzan-Lori Parks' two plays she calls riffs on "The Scarlet Letter": "In the Blood" and "Fucking A." In both plays, a character named Hester is exploited and humiliated by compassion-
challenged modern societies....a parable, set in a violent dystopia, in which Hester is forced to become an abortionist and branded with an "A." Take the woman, and give her five kids and no money, and you have something to condemn her for."


Cf. Discovery Channel's "'A' is not always for excellence" with
Kobe Bryant's New Number/Scarlet Letter