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4/27/2010 Tomorrow's Presentation with FABELHAFT

[sung to the tune of that camp classic "The Princess Pat; or, Rigabamboo"]

 

The Siblings James

MANDATORY AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION

The siblings James

Are super smart

Their IQs are

Well, off the chart.

There’s Alice, Will,

And Henry too.

(Wilky and Bob fought in the war,

But came back too blue.)

These three are

The siblings James.

 

The siblings James,

Now who are they?

They wrote some stuff,

They thought all day.

Their clever pens

They scratched and scratched.

That’s why they’re called

The siblings James.

 

Now Henry James

He liked to write

He wrote some books

They’re really long.

His short stories

Are better though.

He had a point

He drove it home!

He liked info

He thought it best

To have it all

And fuck the rest!  

 

Now William James

He had a bear

Will made a claim:

“The truth will tame”

He wouldn’t run

Not from that bear.

He had no fear

He wasn’t scared.

He thought that we

Should be ourselves

And chase the truth

And not our [bad] habits.

 

Now Alice James

She sat around

And read the news.

And drank some tea

[Well, we assume.]

Some days were good

She went outside

Some days were bad

—The bed was fine.

We’ll never know

If she could’ve made it

Here at Bryn Mawr—

She might have fainted!

 

And these three are

The siblings James.

 

The siblings James.

We read their stuff

And it was fine.

Not too much fluff.

It’s summertime

Now we’ve had enough!

Yet we won’t forget

The siblings James.

 

4/24/2010 Response to William James' "The Gospel of Relaxation"

I disagree with one of James' main points in this speech.  He says:

"Action seems to follow feeling, but really action and feeling go together; and by regulating the action, which is under the more direct control of the will, we can indirectly regulate the feeling, which is not.  Thus the sovereign voluntary path to cheerfulness, if our spontaneous cheerfulness be lost, is to sit up cheerfully, to look round cheerfully, and to act and speak as if cheerfulness were already there.  If such conduct does not make you soon feel cheerful, nothing else on that occasion can.  So to feel brave, act as if we were brave, use all our will to that end, and a courage-fit will very likely replace the fit of fear.  Again, in order to feel kindly toward a person to whom we have been inimical, the only way is more or less deliberately to smile, to make sympathetic inquiries, and to force ourselves to say genial things."

Humph.  All I can take from this is James must not have had too many people towards whom he felt inimical (which cannot be true,) for my personal experience with those sorts is yes, I do force myself to smile, to say genial things, but I know I don't mean them, and I never feel more disposed to liking the person than I did before I said them.  James' words could be distilled into a phrase such as "fake it into being."  I don't think that's a good way to live life--it's as important to feel and understand our emotions than to push them off in a fit of denial and pretend happiness or cheerfulness.  Denial isn't a healthy state to be in.  We don't need to wallow in unproductive or negative emotions, but it is important to understand why we feel that way and what we can do to change it.  That, to me, is more in my line of pragmatism.  I've decided I'm a definition A-1, or B-2, pragmatist [see below]--the practical kind, not the Jamesian kind, with its revolving definitions of "truth" etc.

3/31/2010 As Class is En Route to "What Pragmatism Means"

I finished James' above essay, and thought it might be nice to have up some simpler definitions of pragmatism, since I for one get the two different versions all snarled up.  So, straight from dictionary.com, we have:

 

1. character or conduct that emphasizes practicality.
2. a philosophical movement or system having various forms, but generally stressing practical consequences as constituting the essential criterion in determining meaning, truth, or value.

 

and the American Heritage Dictionary's definition [also found on dictionary.com]:

  1. Philosophy A movement consisting of varying but associated theories, originally developed by Charles S. Peirce and William James and distinguished by the doctrine that the meaning of an idea or a proposition lies in its observable practical consequences.

  2. A practical, matter-of-fact way of approaching or assessing situations or of solving problems.

 

3/28/2010 William James' "The Ph.D. Octopus" and "Conclusions [to The Varieties of Religious Experience]"

This post will be mostly quotes I pull from these essays, quotes chosen for their fantastic imagery, or just because I liked them:

"No two of us have identical difficulties, nor should we be expected to work out identical solutions....The divine can mean no single quality, it must mean a group of qualities, by being champions of which, in alternation, different men may all find worthy missions" (760).

"Knowledge about a thing is not the thing itself" (761).  This quote reminded me of Portrait of a Lady discussions...and the tangles therein.

"The bubbles on the foam which coats a stormy sea are floating episodes, made and unmade by the forces of the wind and water.  Our private selves are like those bubbles,--epiphenomena [An additional condition or symptom in the course of a disease, not necessarily connected with the disease; A secondary phenomenon that results from and accompanies another]...[this is the part I don't like] their destinies weigh nothing and determine nothing in the world's irremediable currents of events" (765).  I think James has great imagery here, but I don't like the thought that nothing we do has any impact.  If nothing anyone does matters, then how do events happen?  www.youtube.com/watch When we had to characterize ourselves in class, I said I am a cynic, but the truth is I'm a romantic cynic. 

Go little bubbles!  Have weighty destinies!  Determine EVERYTHING!

 

 

 

 

"Contrariwise" (765).  I like this word.

"The circle is both convex and concave; it is made by a fixed point and a moving line, which contradict each other, and whatever moves in a circle moves in opposite directions" (766).  This reminds me of Conceptual Physics, a class I took last year.  These brain teasers were commonplace.

"the energy of the posthumous character of Revenge" (766) [in the sympathetic magic footnote]. 

"deanthropomorphization" (767).  Another good word.

"Would martyrs have sung in the flames for a mere inference...?" (770).  I thought this was an interesting point, and also good imagery.

"faith-state" (772).  I know people who live in this state.  It's an apt description.

"anhedonia" [lack of pleasure or of the capacity to experience it].  New word!

The Ph.D. Octopus

I liked his characterization of the Ph.D. as an academic bauble, the imagery of "admit[ting] a common fox without a tail...a degradation impossible to be thought of," Ph.D.s "bespangl[ing] the page as if they were sprinkled over it from a pepper caster", and more generally, James' tone of condemnation and snark--"Next, let us turn from the general promotion of a spirit of academic snobbery."  Ha!  James even made me laugh a few times in this essay.  A rare thing, for William J.

http://images.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/8d/Plankton_creates_sea_foam_2.jpg&imgrefurl=http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Plankton_creates_sea_foam_2.jpg&usg=__LSn0NL6VZVnCeOVXxeToFnsB7VM=&h=1524&w=1777&sz=2778&hl=en&start=2&um=1&itbs=1&tbnid=pSCOZACiYPVKAM:&tbnh=129&tbnw=150&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dfoam%2Bbubbles%2Bon%2Bthe%2Bocean%2Bwikimedia%2Bcommons%26um%3D1%26hl%3Den%26client%3Dfirefox-a%26rls%3Dorg.mozilla:en-US:official%26tbs%3Disch:1

3/22/2010 William James' "The Will to Believe"

Mac alternatives to Paint: Graphic Converter, which comes in the software cds with newer macs, and PaintBrush, which is a free third-party program downloadable at Apple.com under the Downloads page. 

This is a site my friend and I found yesterday: tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/RopeBridge

I have pulled it up to the Rope Bridge trope, which, it turns out, actually exists! 

My favorite thought generated in class today was KyleeMason's synthesis of one of William James' points in "The Will to Believe": we make reasonable, not right, decisions.

I think this is a reassuring argument; it is so realistic, and attainable.  It takes pressure off of making the "right" decision, which is almost impossible, especially considering the individualized character of "right."  I know I can make reasonable decisions--sometimes they may turn out to be wrong for me, but at least I won't feel so intimidated by the idea of making a perfect decision that I do nothing.

I also found this excellent picture of a blueberry muffin, which I think relevant to today's class discussion:

http://gailschwartz.com/west_coffee/assets/muffin.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

House of Wits Class Discussion 3/15/2010

 

Streaming Consciousness

Recaps of midterm class analysis

Anne: thoughts on note-taking—useful? I as an archive maniac like having notes to refer to what was said

Isabel: I didn’t contribute as much to discussion when I was taking notes…how much did you really get [from discussion]

Exsoloadsolem: another class with Anne we recorded discussions; a transcript of class would be helpful

[pause for tech assistance]

Anne: the whole point of a mid-semester evaluation is to fix things; what can we do about note-taking this semester? …We’re sticking with them. Commonplace book is not “common”; no one is speaking to one another there.

KyleeMason: I liked [in another class] that it was a conversation, a place for intellectual arguments

Anne: it feels very insular

Isabel: I like the commonplace books the way they are

Anne: it’s different from what I’ve done in other classes 

Exsoloadsolem: I don’t like it; I get so caught up in the conversation in class by the time I want to post I’ve lost my thought

Anne: let me work on the tech; please do a mid-term evaluation if you haven’t yet; [looking at papers]…Marina found the interesting definition of “lady”

Marina: Lady means “bread-kneader” 

Anne: it might be fun to think about novels that seem to be the children or grandchildren of Portrait of a Lady; moving from Henry to William through Hustvedt’s essay “The Bostonians.” I thought that that notion of the difficulty of describing the flux with words etc. is a great intro to Harry’s older brother William. My understanding is that this book [Principles of Psychology] was an amazing synthesis of what had been happening in the world, gathering the empirical work of people in his field. So! Tell me about the stream of consciousness. Kkazan described the inadequacy of words and language. James wrote this in 1890, now the term is common. Artists have created images for this idea, esp. fleeting images. Do you remember the first week of class I asked each of you to give a metaphor for your mind? With those in mind, let’s start our conversation on the essay “Stream of Thought” by considering if his ideas are applicable to our minds. It’s a theory of the separation of one thing from another and relation of ideas to each other. How would you draw or describe the relationship of ideas in your mind to other minds. 

Passages from James: “In this room…each mind keeps its own thoughts to itself.”

Around the room…starting with KyleeMason

KyleeMason: decaying corpse

Exsoloadsolem: the first thing that came to mind was the junglegym from my old elementary school…thinking about the swings and the tireswing and how they stand independent from the other structures; I saw the swings as the minds of others…who or what doesn’t determine the trajectory of my thoughts

Marina: I thought it could also work as pools or puddles, and over time they seep into the same great pool

Fabelhaft: I picture this as a bunch of kids in a candy store—you can get a piece of candy from the same jar, and two cannot have the same piece of candy, but they’re all pieces of candy.

Calamity: I drew a picture

consciousness

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Isabel: I drew a picture too but I’m going to read something first…having something in your head but the articulation of it…the passage of the forgotten name, it resonated with me as a writer. *holds up picture* I’m this loopy bit, with random parts that don’t connect, and I’m trying to translate to this other person, but there’s a wall.

Anne: In your image, the communication doesn’t happen.

Aseidman: [writing.] My consciousness is like a puzzle when a piece is missing.

Penguins: I have a picture of a bunch of squares with arrows and a bunch of people looking confused. When I was little I tried to retrace my ideas and got frustrated.

Anne: A stream is too connected, among people we can weave back and forth; there is less flow in the stream and more among the streams.

Isabel: I think in the spirit of this conversation we should play a quick game of word association: purple.

Calamity: People-eater

Fabelhaft: eggplant…

Later…

Isabel: Circus

Calamity: Lion

Fabelhaft: Cow

Marina: milk

Exsoloadsolem: cookies…

KyleeMason: Two people can never fully know one another; I feel his explanation was over simplistic but could have been groundbreaking for his time.

Isabel: how do people end up in the same place with different processes?

Anne: an important question James raises.  How does a group/community function/have a conversation ? If each of us owns thoughts independent of others how do we talk to one another.

Isabel: pg 74 “the human race as a whole largely agrees as to what it shall notice and name and what not” …maybe I would leave cheese even though I thought it and go with cookies.

Anne: we’re talking when we speak only in reference as to what’s been said. Is there an argument we should change the way we talk?

KyleeMason: I think it’s a waste [to say all you think]…what determines the “right” process of thinking?

Isabel: I also think we couldn’t have civilization without the conformity of conversation or else we would all be dancing around in fields not talking to one another.

Anne: if each of us just said what we think would you feel you lost out on your education?

Exsoloadsolem: it’s not an independent stream, it has tributaries

Anne: there’s a sense of split-consciousness

Fabelhaft: like when I’m trying to go to sleep and am trying not to think about things

Anne: James gives us a reason why the only thing we can think about when trying not to think about something is that thing. Like a bird’s flight, filled also with perchings and resting places. What is the use-value of the concept of a stream of thought?

Fabelhaft: the essay “Habit”, where you start a new habit and begin a new path, train your mind

Anne: How would you do that [train your mind]?

Exsoloadsolem: I would do self-guided meditation with background noises like waterfalls, having that noise and the underlying rhythms…it felt like it worked.

Anne: James suggests we are never stuck on those thoughts we think we are stuck on. He says other researchers overlook the free water of consciousness. So when going to sleep you’re focusing on the quantifiable pailsful, spoonsful etc. of water when you have a stream

KyleeMason: when I’m stressing doing something monotonous helps, there’s a certain process to it. It seems like a narrowing of thought [quartpotsful] it seems the narrowing is the solution too, thinking of the bigger issue as a smaller thing

Anne: what you’re saying anticipates the essay on habit, which accentuates the selectiveness. What do you think about this idea that the human race splits the universe into two halves: the “me” and the “not-me”?

Exsoloadsolem: I don’t like the image of the two halves given equal weight.

KyleeMason: I feel like it’s constantly in flux, I’ve felt my smallness.

Anne: how is this different culturally? Are there not in the world cultures that think primarily of the group over the self?

KyleeMason: I’m thinking of the tribe mentality

Anne: this feels to me very Euro-centric, Enlightenment centric, etc. How do we communicate with this dichotomy of the mind.

Fabelhaft: I heard over break we recycle the same 800 words each day, this would make it easy to anticipate the thoughts of others.

Anne: if this essay is about reinstating the vague into our lives…how does communication happen?

Exsoloadsolem: physical need

Anne: which is not James’ explaination…In the world of James, what is the relationship between speaking and thought; how do we agree on what to notice,

Isabel: precedent

Anne: how have you learned to follow the shared stream of thought in a classroom?

Exsoloadsolem: discipline

KyleeMason: when other kids laughed if your answer was too far out there; society emphasizes thought as a tool.

Isabel: I’ve been thinking a lot about thought and thought process, and in our education we’re trained to think in a limited context, to say the answer that’s already been given, and that’s not how society moves forward. It’s terrifying to me to have to create new territory for yourself in order to further the field.

Anne: James gives us the mind as a theatre of possibilities…how do we make progress on a shared selection of goals?

 

3/5/2010 Class thus far...

I like the freedom of discussion we have in our circle (though it is hard to remember not to raise my hand!).  I'm getting used to posting to Serendip every week, and our tussles are fewer and fewer as the semester goes on.  I like how creative we get to be with our essays.  So far I've found the books and stories to be more interesting than the articles, but that could change.  I had a hard time keeping up with the fairly brutal reading pace we kept for Portrait of a Lady--I got frustrated easily with the characters, and consequently could only handle them in small doses.  That's all for now, I think.  It's high time for break!

2/28/2010 THE END. 

Mr. Enigma Henry James has once again foiled comprehension.  The ending to Portrait of a Lady left me...upset.  CLARITY, Mr. James, CLARITY.  Be the glass window of the house, not the paneling.  I hardly even care what happens to Isabel any more--my issues are with the last few lines...

"Henrietta had come out, closing the door behind her, and now she put out her hand and grasped his arm.  

   'Look here, Mr. Goodwood,' she said; 'just you wait!'

On which he looked up at her."

What is happening here?!?  Here are my interpretations:

1. Nothing, Caspar just looked up at Henrietta

2. Caspar [finally!] realizes how much cooler Henrietta is than Isabel (which would be unfortunate, since Henrietta is now engaged...oh well.)

3. Caspar can't believe Henrietta asked him to wait, when he just spent the last 6+ years waiting for Isabel to get a clue.  This interpretation sees Caspar's look as sarcastic, as if his expression said "Really?  How can you ask me that?"

I figured out the mystery lies in the look--since James didn't give us any helpful descriptors, we don't know what type of look it is.

Also, practically everyone in this book is an American.  Isabel, Osmond, Ned Rosier, Caspar, the Touchetts, Merle, and Henrietta all originally hail from the US.  James' portrait of Europe features more Americans than Europeans.

2/21/2010 a Portrait of a Lady is not quite "the Real Thing" 

Our class discussion on Wednesday on representation vs. presentation (as I sum it up) got me thinking...I love Magritte, and thought of his surrealist painting of a pipe, "ceci n'est pas une pipe" (or, "this is not a pipe").   If Magritte were presented with James' novel, he would say, "this is not a lady."  It is a portrait of a lady.  Also, I wanted the excuse to put up a picture of my favorite "portrait of a lady," which Gainsborough painted of Viscountess Penelope Lignonier in 1771.  The first time I saw this portrait, I wanted to go back in time and meet Lady Ligonier.  She has such an excellent look--it's sassy, bold, and smart, and takes no nonsense.  She's pointing to her head (which is unusual in portraits from this period), as if to say "I'm intelligent.  Impress me." and her hand on her hip...I love it.  I feel like I know Penelope after I saw this painting (a dangerous thought, because after all, it is only the portrait of the lady...).  She also had a colorful life, which featured a loveless marriage to a man who appreciated his horses more than his wife, an affair with an Italian Count (which she used to get a divorce), and more excitement.  It sounds like a movie waiting to happen.

At this point in the novel and my acquaintance with Isabel Archer, I don't think Penelope would like Isabel.  I don't really like her, either.  Isabel isn't sensible, has too high an opinion of herself, and completely contradicts herself constantly.  She isn't sensible in her refusal of two perfectly good marriage proposals--well, I can sort of understand her refusal of Lord Warburton after he kept talking, but he was a nice sort, and 100, 000 a year seems pretty good to me, but Caspar Goodwood?  Nope.  I would have said yes.  Isabel doesn't seem to understand "independence" as she so often calls it ("I like my liberty too much.  If there is a thing in the world that I am fond of...it is my personal independence" pg. 163).  She could be perfectly independent, and happy, with Caspar (who is, by the way, the only man thus far not afraid of Isabel's mind!  Penelope would say "GO FOR IT ISABEL!").  But no.   Happiness is not her "fate."  And while we're on the subject of fate, Isabel's pretty wishy-washy when it comes to her own.  When she's refusing Caspar, she says "I wish to choose my fate and know something of human affairs" (164) but she also says (to Lord Warburton) "I can't escape my fate" (133).  DECIDE, woman.

Also, these men seem quite great except for their (in my opinion) HUGE personality flaw in liking Isabel.  So for that I can't even like them completely.  Thank you, Henry James, for writing NO characters I can like unreservedly.

"ceci n'est pas une pipe" by Magritte"ceci n'est pas une pipe" by Magritte

http://www.library.yale.edu/librarynews/ceci-n-est-pas-une-pipe.jpg

Viscountess Penelope Ligonier, painting by GainsboroughViscountess Penelope Ligonier, painting by Gainsborough

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_7XLvQTao2k8/Satwn4zbJ7I/AAAAAAAAGTE/qIt7gPRFkk8/s1600-h/Thomas+Gainsborough,+Lady+Ligonier,+1771.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

House of Wits Class discussion 2/15/2010

 

How did it feel to have online responses to papers?

Exsoloadsolem found it enjoyable, felt comments preserved the original paper.

Anne: wanted to ask questions, connect to other related papers, and invite further discussions. 

Fabelhaft: it was a little awkward, uncomfortable, but something to get used to

Anne: wants feedback! Also please respond to other papers.

MissArcher2’s essay=a half-crown [7] of sonnets which has the last line of one as the [almost] first line of the next. Text taken from AJ’s diary and make it a sonnet with the idea “if Alice had been a poet what she would have written”—not saying the exact thing you mean but present the meaning. The half-crown has the circuitry of illness, took Calamity’s idea of poetry and RAN with it.

Marina: focused on imagery in the diary and tried to put the image that might have been in Alice’s head.

Fabelhaft: intrigued by Yossarian of Catch-22 (bombardier in the war, doesn’t want to die so he invents illnesses)’s use of illness compared to Alice’s use of illness; both using it as a tool to get freedom. Comparing their methods, set up essay as a survival guide.  

Kkazan: took Alice’s symptoms and went to WebMD to try to get her a modern, current diagnosis. No final answer. Alice’s symptoms are general, and she doesn’t tell us in detail what’s really wrong.

Penguins: Went back to Alice in Bed and the contrast between Alice James and Alice in Wonderland

Jrlewis: relationship between Alice and the dormouse character Kundry

Begin Portrait of a Lady, 1st ¼ for Wed. and post passages!

Turn of the Screw: is the archetypal story for the over-prepared teacher

Different kinds of learning, teachers need to give students places to hook into to give students opportunities for engagement

What does the title add?

Calamity: ominous

Penguins: timepiece or a torture device?

Aseidman: putting things together, locking something in place

Fabelhaft: thought of the medieval, The Name of the Rose movie, monk torture scene on the rack

Anne: screw is a torture device

Kylee Mason: wood displaced by the metal, 

Exsoloadsolem: drilling into someone’s brain, a Frankenstein image, boring a hole into something,

Jrlewis: screw holds the story together

Kylee Mason: depends on which way you turn it, if to the right it tightens…

Anne: was everyone’s image to the right, tightening the screw?

--yes.

Phrase “Turn of the screw” in the story appears 2x

What does it mean to you to “give another turn of the screw of ordinary human virtue”?

Kylee Mason: you have to put more elbow grease into it, and you’ll get through it.

Anne: she just needs to try a little harder?

Exsoloadsolem: screws loosen over time, evoked an image of her falling apart, needs to be tightened.

Fabelhaft: she has to keep going b/c if she doesn’t, she’ll begin to question and that [will be her undoing]

Anne: it’s an “odd mechanistic metaphor”…my reading right now is that the third turn of the screw is what we do when we read. Speculations becoming conclusions (the tightening of the screw), trying to tighten the reading. We as readers want to get rid of ambiguity and so we tighten the screw, and then leaves no room for shadows, the unconscious, etc.

Exsoloadsolem: sawdust

Anne: we are repeating the governess’ actions by our explicit readings…HJ’s prose described so well by HG Wells with the imagery of a hippopotamus single-mindedly picking up a pea. 

Can talk about modern re-imaginings of the story, HJames essay coming up…

“The Real Thing”

Lesson in the story?

Kkazan: the real thing isn’t always the best thing, a substitution could be better than the actual thing…deals with imagination, the imagination can turn a substitution, but the real thing leaves no room for imagination. [pear example from her page]

Anne: is it a better pear? Better image? 

Kylee Mason: an everlasting gobstopper, but with fruit

Kkazan: looking at it with a more artistic, aesthetic sense.

Penguins: what it’s being used for [as something to look at] it’s better, more interesting to look at that a real pear.

Fabelhaft: it’s more engaging with the layers, it invites you to question, creates something from mixing and matching.

MissArcher2: plays devil’s advocate—the real thing might not be the most convincing. Perhaps a painted wooden pear might be better for painting or taking a picture than one you bought at a grocery store. It’s a story about art, acting and portrayal.

Anne: very different reading. Art might be nearly perfect…

MissArcher2: Jodi Picoult does research and has ability to write creatively about [x] perhaps more convincingly than someone who really went through it.

Anne: why might actors play doctors instead of doctors play doctors?

Jrlewis: the artist’s role is to imagine the character, take some aspects of them but create something from it.

Anne: so this is about the power of art. Kkazan’s looked at the play of imagination. Yours is something different.  

Jrlewis’s example: TV show House episode—psychopath who can’t feel human emotion.

Anne: further readings of what the magnificent message is? James quote, gentlepeople can’t do, they can only be

Exsoloadsolem: I tried to capture this in my post. Trickyness of portraying an identity. Rufus Wainwright song is precisely what the story means. He’s talking about ways to inhabit a certain lifestyle or status and the effort inherent in that performance. 

Anne: It’s about in our real lives, performing. 

Exsoloadsolem: line about flipflops on 5th avenue

Anne: notion of poses suggests there is nothing real that cannot better be represented better by an artist or actor. Exsoloasolem is saying there is nothing real, all is performed.

Exsoloadsolem: The monarchs can’t exist as anything but what they are [upper-middle class].  

Kkazan: but at the end they change their performance, begin to act as servants and clean up, etc.

Exsoloadsolem: but don’t change their style or who they are.  

Anne: Judi Butler says culture asks us to perform and re-perform gender. 

MissArcher2: it’s important to have real as a touchstone, but that real doesn’t have to be based on something that is real.

Kkazan: it doesn’t matter if what we call real is real, we as a group have to call it ‘real’.

Anne: Truth is what a group of people decide to agree on as truth. Now the real isn’t the real, it’s what’s agreed upon.  

Two or more people can declare a reality, but it might not be the reality of others.

Let’s go back to the text!

Retell the story from the Monarch’s point of view; what would change?

Anne: failure of the artist, not models. His art may not have been able to represent them adequately. Every text you read is going to be a representation, and you have to be skeptical.

Jrlewis: educational theory has these as on the same level, the teacher learns from the students as the students learn from the teacher.  

Whitsitt’s argument

Moment of recognition, failure to articulate is the “real thing”

Moments that suggest the unrepresentability of what is going on—can’t paint it, can’t say it…

Story is told retrospectively & he can’t paint/sketch them but can represent them in the short story.

Kylee Mason: gives language power

Anne: language is more capable of representing “the real thing” than painting?

Kkazan: are they completely represented in the story?

Discussion of Calamity’s example

Anne: so the real fills an imagined void.

Fabelhaft: I can’t believe it’s not butter example; reality is subjective.

FIN.

 

2/14/2010 "The Real Thing"

After reading Henry James' short story "The Real Thing" I remembered another servant (go Churm!) who really posed as a lady--a princess in fact.  Her name was Mary Baker (nee Willcox), and in 1817 she fooled a British town into believing she was Princess Caraboo from the island of Javasu.  She claimed she was captured by pirates in the Indian Ocean and had jumped overboard off the coast of Britain to escape them (why the pirates headed straight for England she didn't say).  Mary invented a language for the princess which combined gypsy and imaginary words, and she wrote in a fictive language made of symbols.  After she was revealed by a former employer, "Princess Caraboo" sailed to Philadelphia and continued her con in the US.  I learned of Princess Caraboo from the 1994 film, which I loved as a child.  What is especially interesting to me is that when I was small, I hated everyone in the movie who didn't believe she was a real princess.  Clearly, she was.  She looked like a princess, and acted like one, was classy and elegant and princess-y.  A few years ago I re-rented this movie, curious as to whether it was actually the gem my six-year-old mind remembered.  What I found was this: I still loved the movie, but for a completely different reason.  Now it was more interesting that Mary Baker was a real historical figure, and I loved the con aspect of the story.  I found this great poster for the movie, which has the tagline "Is she or isn't she?  A true story too good to be true."  That's sort of the appeal for the artist's discovery in "The Real Thing"--the Monarchs are actually a lady and a gentleman, "but, somehow, with all there perfections I didn't easily believe in them".  The artist discovers "an innate preference for the represented subject over the real one".  Princess Caraboo was perfectly fake.  

Princess Caraboo 1994 movie posterPrincess Caraboo 1994 movie poster (http://www.impawards.com/1994/posters/princess_caraboo.jpg)  

Mary BakerMary Baker (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Carabu_1.jpg)  

Princess Caraboo's Javasu languagePrincess Caraboo's Javasu language (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Carabu_2.jpg)

info/reminders on Princess Caraboo from wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Princess_Caraboo

 

 

 

 

2/7/2010 Reactions to Henry James' "The Turn of the Screw"

Henry James' "The Turn of the Screw" confused me, but in a good way [I think].  Once I finished reading it, I couldn't tell if the governess was a few bubbles off level or if the children really were evil little minions of the ghosts of Miss Jessel and Mr. Quint.  The governess had some extreme reactions, many of which could have been brought about by her situation as a lonely woman with no friends (I don't count Mrs. Grouse as her friend--the governess manipulates Grouse and also thinks of her as a woman of a lower class than the governess,) in an isolated house in the countryside.  What struck me particularly, however, was Miles' manner of speaking.  Miles did not talk like a ten year old boy, with his "my dear"s and other patronizing habits.  He could have been possessed.  Or not.  It was never made clear if the children were possessed or haunted by the two ghosts.  In any case, I enjoyed "The Turn of the Screw", and I liked reading Oscar Cargill's essay "The Turn of the Screw and Alice James" for its insights and different readings of the story.  I think the ambiguity of the story and the different readings possible were two of my favorite aspects of the paranormal, psychological tale.

1/31/10 The Diary of Alice James

"September 12th [1890]

TWAS NO GO!  I went under on Saturday, August 2nd and administered an electric shock to Harry which brought him...to immure himself, without a murmur, in my squalid indigestions...and by September 2nd had dug me out and transplanted [me] to these comfortable quarters [South Kensington Hotel, London], hoping for a French cook, the only cure for dyspepsia and I feel already much less like a mildewed toad-stool.  There seems a faint hope that I may fizzle out, but the Monster Rebound, which holds me in its remorseless clutch, I am sure will gather itself up for many another spurt.  Dr. Baldwin...has been staying with Harry--I didn't see him but H. and K. both extracted the consoling answer to 'Can she die?' that 'They sometimes do.'  This is most cheering to all parties--the only drawback being that it will probably be in my sleep so that I shall not be one of the audience, dreadful fraud! a creature who has been denied all dramatic episodes might be allowed, I think, to assist at her extinction.  I know I shall slump at the 11th hour, and it would complete it all so to watch the rags and tatters of one's Vanity in its insolent struggle with the Absolute, as the curtain rolls down on this jocose humbuggery called Life!"

--from The Diary of Alice James, page 135

Alice James, in one of those human quirks of character, has refused to take her own life yet she waits, anticipates, and seems to hope for her death at any moment.  I interpret her initial written shout "TWAS NO GO!" as Alice lamenting her continued consciousness.  She seems to think Henry and Katharine wait as anxiously for her death as well, writing that the doctor's verdict that she might die from this episode was "most cheering to all parties"--where any normal person would interpret the same scene as cheerful in that the person might not die, Alice delights in the fact that she might.

At this point in the diary I have sat along with Alice amongst her pillows and shawls for approximately fifteen months, and Alice has referred several times to parasites, sometimes in reference to others and now when referring to herself.  She felt like "a mildewed toad-stool", and earlier in the diary (January 12th 1890,) she acerbically describes herself as living in "black-goggled, greenery-yallery loveliness"--a mottled, nasty picture of "loveliness" (76).  I think at this point in her life she feels like a moldy parasite and she wants to die, but not by her own hand.  Instead, Alice is content to let one of her many afflictions finish her off.

 

1/24/2010 Reactions to Sontag's "Alice in Bed"

My favorite scenes were the mad tea party (scene five) and the burglary (scene seven). 

Scene five allows Alice to interact with several strong female peers, both real and fictional, who both enable Alice to think about her mental and physical ailments and give her counsel.  An interesting conversation on the nature of thinking takes place between Alice and Margaret:

"A: (still agitated) I am betraying myself.

M: (dryly) How inconvenient to be two people.  The possibility of betrayal does in that case I fear suggest itself.

A: (suddenly relaxing) You are right of course.  I am taking myself much too seriously.  Oh.  (Laughs) I'm still two am I not.

...

M: But now I'm not myself.

A: (Laughs) You see.  You too.  Two of you.  It's always like that when you think" (50-52).

Alice seems to be divided within herself, and her two halves constantly at war with one another.  One part of her is sharp, inquisitive, and (like Carroll's Alice) big.  This side takes precedence in scene seven, where Alice's personal space and reality--her bedroom--is invaded by a young man.  Alice's most animated moments in the play take place in this scene--she drinks, argues, and she vacates her bed voluntarily, only to have the man immediately tell her to get back in it.  Alice, in a moment of fortitude, does not bow to this masculine will, and she ends the scene standing.  Yet her final line in the scene is "Out there it's so big" (106); once the intruder has left and Alice has no one to talk to or be honest with, she feels small (again like Carroll's Alice).  This small side is her other half, the invalid, wastrel half that wants to die.  Alice cannot reconcile these two sides, for both are equally strong, and her last line depicts her internal war: "Let me fall asleep.  Let me wake up.  Let me fall asleep" (110). 

----

I also love Alice's retort to the burglar: "Don't be so conventional.  Very few things are really impossible" (88).  I think this line is in the spirit of the play, which merges fictional and real characters seamlessly (even within the protagonist), and both the line and the play remind us to think beyond our realities. 

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Calamity's picture

1/31/10 The Diary of Alice James

"September 12th [1890]

TWAS NO GO!  I went under on Saturday, August 2nd and administered an electric shock to Harry which brought him...to immure himself, without a murmur, in my squalid indigestions...and by September 2nd had dug me out and transplanted [me] to these comfortable quarters [South Kensington Hotel, London], hoping for a French cook, the only cure for dyspepsia and I feel already much less like a mildewed toad-stool.  There seems a faint hope that I may fizzle out, but the Monster Rebound, which holds me in its remorseless clutch, I am sure will gather itself up for many another spurt.  Dr. Baldwin...has been staying with Harry--I didn't see him but H. and K. both extracted the consoling answer to 'Can she die?' that 'They sometimes do.'  This is most cheering to all parties--the only drawback being that it will probably be in my sleep so that I shall not be one of the audience, dreadful fraud! a creature who has been denied all dramatic episodes might be allowed, I think, to assist at her extinction.  I know I shall slump at the 11th hour, and it would complete it all so to watch the rags and tatters of one's Vanity in its insolent struggle with the Absolute, as the curtain rolls down on this jocose humbuggery called Life!"

--from The Diary of Alice James, page 135

Alice James, in one of those human quirks of character, has refused to take her own life yet she waits, anticipates, and seems to hope for her death at any moment.  I interpret her initial written shout "TWAS NO GO!" as Alice lamenting her continued consciousness.  She seems to think Henry and Katharine wait as anxiously for her death as well, writing that the doctor's verdict that she might die from this episode was "most cheering to all parties"--where any normal person would interpret the same scene as cheerful in that the person might not die, Alice delights in the fact that she might.

At this point in the diary I have sat along with Alice amongst her pillows and shawls for approximately fifteen months, and Alice has referred several times to parasites, sometimes in reference to others and now when referring to herself.  She felt like "a mildewed toad-stool", and earlier in the diary (January 12th 1890,) she acerbically describes herself as living in "black-goggled, greenery-yallery loveliness"--a mottled, nasty picture of "loveliness" (76).  I think at this point in her life she feels like a moldy parasite and she wants to die, but not by her own hand.  Instead, Alice is content to let one of her many afflictions finish her off. 

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