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 "Alice in Bed"

One line that particularly caught my interest was during the tea party in scene five, Alice remarks that, "...I forget how weighty it is when you're out in the world. I live so lightly I need to be held down." (47) This automatically reminded me of the play's opening scene, where the nurse is telling Alice that she can get out of bed, for "It's only a question of will power." (7) The idea that the nurse somehow feels it necessary to sit atop a large stack of mattresses in order to keep Alice held down, yet continually encourage her to get out of bed seems rather absurd. This contradiction, however confusing (to myself, at least) does fit the idea of the play though, in how Alice gave the impression that she was constantly contradicting herself throughout her life.

One aspect of this inconsistency is that despite Alice's vast imagination, she remains for all practical intents and purposes, immobile and confined to her bed, even though her ailment is mentally-related, rather than physical. All of scene six is an elongated narration of Alice's invented visit to Rome, which is peculiarly detailed for something that is supposed to have been merely imagined by one who has never actually been there. Also, when confronting the burglar in scene seven, Alice asks him why it is that women do not perform his same profession, adding that, "In my country, in the West, women carry guns and ride horses and perform feats of daring quite unknown in this old-fashioned kingdom of yours." to which he replies, "Funny you talkin' about a woman climbin' walls, an' you in bed all the time." (both 93) But when she later insists that "No I'm really ill. I just like to make fun of myself. I can't even get out of bed on my own." (also 93), it makes me wonder if that is really, truly, her intention in her life-long game played against herself.

 

Class Discussion Notes for January 27, 2010
(Sorry that I didn't include any names in here, I'm still learning to connect them with their faces!)

--A diary written to oneself is going to have gaps without any sort of narrative links within it
- Personal opinion is that diaries are primarily uninteresting unless the writer's life is particularly interesting
- Frustration derived by differences of Alice-portrayals to the point that an active search for diary entries describing Alice's illness was     in order
- Diaries are not typically taught because it is against the usual narrative forms favored by (English) teachers
- One student trusts the diary, while another locked her livejournal entries from high school years after she had written them

--Alice frequently reported her outtings perhaps in an attempt to avoid writing entries such as: "Day 1: Stayed in bed..., Day 2: Stayed in bed..., etc."

--Diaries are sometimes editted before publication, although not this one (so far as we know)
- Except for the last entry, which was furiously rewritten minutes before Alice's death

--"How does one get an accurate view of the interior life?"

--How would you treat Alice as her psychologist?
- If she knew her psychologist would read her diary, she would have written it differently
- "Sense of interiority" because Alice does not explain certain people and places
- Scornful of human activity as "a way to turn the conversation away from herself" and her illness
- Alice was protecting herself from the real world by acting snarky towards it
- Was projecting a sense of self-loathing (George Eliot/Sand passage)

--Read from December 12 entry
- How does education deprive you of 'mental flatulence'?
- Restrains "power of imagination", which was what Henry Sr. had wanted
- 'Exquisite' and 'delicious' were words used in the entry to describe imagination
- "...who would give up the reality of dreams for relative knowledge?"

--Read from January 12 entry (Hmm...noticing a theme, here.)
- Seems bitter that the reactionary would allow for opportunity to slide by
- Implies that she would have wished for such an opportunity
- "Diseased vegetable growth" means the reactionary is a failure
- Laughs at what would make her despair

--Read from January 13 entry
- Changing focus from mental to physical
- Alice and her friend had been sharing common ground, which had then "splintered into the physical" when her friend "removed herself to the planet Mars by asking me whether I was in pain anywhere at the moment."

--Did people like or dislike the diary?
- Liked: it was easy to read
- Did not like it: didn't have any knowledge of gossip, or who the other 'characters' are

--Diaries are not read for a good story; they are jagged in narrative, not to mention subjective
- They are good resources for a project, however

--Read from May 20 entry
- Alice is a "cold-blooded observer" of herself
- Is she "not rebellious by temperament?"

 

"Diary of Alice James"

Loneliness really does seem to be a constant theme with Alice James, but one quote from her diary showed her thoughts on it to me in a different light, "What is there but ugliness in any relation between two beings which doesn't work to soften their hearts and open their minds to their kind? Solitude is surely a flowery path to that!" (June 16, 1889) She writes this after having noted that her brother (as I can only assume 'H' would refer to Henry) received "an affectionate!! letter" (I was also intrigued by her addition of the two exclamation points) from one 'W. H.' whom he has subsequently fallen into flirting with.  I simply find it interesting how Alice would describe a relationship "between two beings" as ugly, while solitude garners the adjective of "flowery", considering the differences of circumstances between her brother and herself.

Another curious aspect of Alice's views on others lies in the entry wherein she writes about the writings of George Eliot's that she had recently read. Her declaration entailing, "What a lifeless, diseased, self-concious being she must have been! Not one burst of joy, not one ray of humor, not one living breath in one of her letters or journals..." (June 28, 1889) strikes me as rather unfair. Whatever her writing style, George Eliot (from my incredibly limited knowledge of her) lived her life in the world, and made it as full as she wanted it to be. Alice, however, remains hidden from the public in her bed, free to judge and condemn as she wishes, with no fear whatsoever as to committing some sort of mistake that others would likewise find in her. I do have to admit that my opinion stems from my skepticism over the very eligibility of 'hysteria' as an actual condition, but it still just seems to distasteful for a woman of Alice's social standing and class to behave in such a way. Just a thought.

As a writer (or at least one whose recreational writing is primarily for herself), I found that I particularly resonated with a sentence Alice had written down to describe a thought that gave her such intense pleasure to think of, "I was thinking of something that interested me very much, and my mind was suddenly flooded by one of those luminous waves that sweep out of consciousness all but the living sense, and overpower one with joy in the rich, throbbing complexity of life..." (July 12, 1889) Rare as it must be to be so 'taken in' by a single thought, I can't help but enjoy the portrayal Alice put forward of such an experience.

One last favorite quote of mine comes from the entry where Alice writes about how her two eldest brothers had come to visit her. Although we had briefly discussed in class about how much Alice and William didn't quite get along, this was the first time I had heard (or read, to be more precise, I guess) in her own words the opinion she holds of William, "He doesn't look much older for the three years, and all that there is to be said of him, of course, is that he is simply himself; a creature who speaks in another language, as H. says, from the rest of mankind, and who would lend life and charm to a treadmill." (August 4, 1889) While I didn't take this to be an outright insult, I found it to be more like a resigned acceptance that one's sibling will never be quite what one believes they 'should' be like.

 

Class Notes for February 24, 2010

--Happiness is...?
- In generalizing the class' responses, they all for the most part shared some form of contentment
- "It's less about where the horse is taking you, but that you're still on the horse."

--Relationship between vision and imagination
- Showed proposal video and discussed interest in them and their contrast in women tending to automatically reply 'yes', and Isabel's own tendency to reject proposals
- There's usually that expectation that the answer will be 'yes', or else the other party would not have put so much effort into orchestrating the proposal
- The only way for Isabel to escape her destiny is to refuse proposals that she was expected to take

--'The Happiness of the World' poem
- "If that's happiness, I don't want to be happy."
- To damp passions is to scale down one's plans; what's the point?

--Discussed quotes on Isabel's imagination
- Her imagination keeps her from the real world, as she prefers it
- Osmond presents himself as an empty page, as Isabel 'writes' on him with her own ideas
- May only have married him because of his emptiness and her imagination

--Plato's 'Allegory of the Cave':
- Prisoners only see shadows played upon the wall as their reality; an escapee finds the sun outside of the cave, and ends up going back into the cave either of a sense of duty, or to tell the others about his discovery
- Very similar to Isabel's position, later on in the novel

--Has Isabel come to learn from her mistake?
- She didn't so much learn from it, than come to accept it

--Looked at two different optical illusions
- Could see the faces/vase easily, but not so much the second image
- Concluded that with the image of the lovers in the bottle/the dolphins, the most familiar image(s) would be the first ones each individual viewer would see

--Read passage about Madame Merle and Osmond from chapter 40
- Isabel finally now knows of their deeper relationship, despite previous hints
- She finally stepped through the door, past the threshold

--Read passage of Isabel's night vigil from chapter 42
- She was using her imagination to reflect upon past events
- She's still learning and trying to think of what she can do, more of a self-assment
- "...trying to incorporate the world with her imagination..."
- "Trying to fill in the gaps of his past, not from her imagination...she's more empirical now..."
- Is this progress?
  - Not so much, Isabel's still using her imagination to understand the world around her
  - If not overly progressive, it's a move into reality

--The "look" shared between Madame Merle and Osmond
- Even if the glance itself did not mean anything, it still "clicked" for Isabel
- It may not necessarily even matter

--What will Isabel now do with her new perceptions?
- Was she trapped or a free agent in entering her marriage?
  - She was only trapped by her imagination
  - It is still her "fault"
    - Osmond and Madame Merle may have taken advantage of Isabel, but she still (willingly) changed for them
  - She was a free agent, since she could have married the other guys, but chose not to choose
  - Isabel liked that Osmond was that "blank page", and that she could make him whatever she wanted, which was something she could not do with her other suitors

--James had us be like Isabel with the missing scenes involving important decisions, filling in the blanks
- Isabel herself still does not understand why she went through with the marriage, as can be seen with her explanations with her previous suitors

--Wai Chee Dimock: interested in studying literature in "deep time", without boundaries as labels

--Is "The Portrait of a Lady" an argument against tyrranny?
- Too many: partriarchy, for example
- Isabel too; sort of puritanical when compared to Madame Merle

--"The world as we imagine it needs to line up with the world as we live it?"
 

"The Turn of the Screw"

First of all, I'd like to begin by apologizing for the lack of postings in past weeks. I don't have much of a viable excuse as to why, other than an utterly incredible lack of organizational skills on my part, and then the inevitably subsequent falling-behind on work. Nonetheless, I'd still like to apologize for this failing of mine.

On another note, I decided to reacquaint myself with "The Turn of the Screw" by clicking on the link in the notes page for and reading "The Accursed Inhabitants of the House of Bly". The deepest impression this piece left on me after having read it was just how immensely different it was from the original text, starting with the writing itself. James' narration, by way of the unnamed governess, is fraught with all manner of vague hints and relatively unexplained instances. This is especially apparent in how James did not expressly state why it is that Miles was expelled from his boarding school, instead preferring to keep the governess' explanation as, "I...opened the letter again to repeat it to her; then, faltering in the act and folding it up once more, I put it back in my pocket." (24) In fact, the question of Miles' expulsion is never really explained; the most we get is his (again, by James' hand) dodging the question, answering in short bits, "Well--I said things...it was only to...Those I liked." (176-177)

"Accursed Inhabitants", on the other hand, set itself as a foil to "The Turn of the Screw" by not only explaining and 'filling in the gaps' that the book was filled with, but by doing so in a very different sort of detail. I won't be pulling out exact quotes, in case anybody reading this would like to go on to read this story, but I can write that the way the narration was for the most part taken over by the ghosts helped greatly to clear up some questions I myself held after finishing 'The Turn of the Screw'. Granted, "Accursed Inhabitants" was not written by James, so the text may not be considered strictly canon, but the fact that the ghosts were the principal narrators at least answered the question of the governess' sanity with the reply that while she may not have been exactly the most lucid of creatures, she at least knew what she was talking about while insisting upon having seen the ghosts (now whether Mrs. Grose really had too is another story entirely, but that one still wasn't covered.)

 All in all, it was a rather good read, and I really enjoyed how several quotes from the original were interlaced within this new story, lending a familiar air to the story that anchored it to James' version. In that way I liked that despite the differences in plot and style, this kept "Accursed Inhabitants" from becoming a completely stand-alone piece.

 

"The Real Thing"

When we were told to go find a contemporary version of Henry James' "The Real Thing", the last thing to have come to mind was the film "My Fair Lady". This was mostly because I had been busy searching for things that either referred to, or had 'The Real Thing' within the title, but had failed to find any that counted as an original find, or one that I could honestly say I understood without having to squint desperately from all manner of different angles. 

In either case, I found that the film and James' short story were similar in that they both featured poorer women (with Cockney accents, of course), who in some form or another managed to pull off a convincing imitation of a lady. While we are led to believe that 'The Real Thing's Miss Churm is a natural at emulating aristocracy, Eliza Doolittle ("My Fair Lady") takes quite some time learning how to do so, although partway through the film she figures out how to speak without her former Cockney accent, and from there achieves a whirlwind transformation in the image of the higher classes.

The film's plot involves a professor of phonetics making a bet with a friend of his that within six months, he could take Eliza to an embassy ball and there pass her off as any sort of lady, duchess, etc. What amused me (as well as the professor) is that after having gone to said ball, rumors were spread that Eliza was certainly masquerading as a well-bred English lady; because she was instead apparently so obviously a Hungarian princess!

I thought this film went along quite well with "The Real Thing", as in both stories, the intended picture of aristocracy that the painter and professor strove to display was best done by the two women who were, in fact, not in the least bit aristocratic. I have included here a clip from the movie (albeit a ten-minute-long one) that entailed her 'test' as a lady at the embassy ball, which in my opinion was perhaps the climax of this theme within the plot.

 

Class Notes for April 19, 2010

--Discussed final performances
- Could take the form of song, dialogue, speech, etc.
- Should know by Monday whether will be performing in groups/solo

--Discussed Grobstein visit
- aseidman better understands as a result what James meant to say, but now only dislikes him more than ever before
- exsoloadsolem appreciated the visual aspects of the visit, such as having the terms set down and the diagram of the frog brain

--Went over abstract of the Bi-Co News article "Keep Personal Anecdotes out of the Classroom"
- Both Anne and James would take issue with this article
- kjmason pointed out however, that it actually helps to ground the discussion

--Now bringing in W.E.B. DuBois
- Studied with William James at Harvard
- Couldn't learn to align his learned philosophical theories with his experiences of racism
- Turned from philosophy to history actually because of William James

--Next up is Gertrude Stein
- Picked out certain passages from "Objects" and discussed our impressions of them
  - You can try to just give up on the meaning and instead listen to the way the words sound
  - Was she synesthetic?
    - Anne decided that she didn't know, but the way her poetry sounded certainly described it as such
    - exsoloadsolem: 'It's like describing people's voices as having a certain color'
  - Took the passage of 'Nothing Elegant'
    - Rose being fenced in is like 'Beauty and the Beast'
    - Could be that in gating in this upright, earnest rose, Stein is attempting to make it logical
    - Sort of like the series of upright lady portraits, followed by the one featuring a sprawled, nude lady; she is 'freeing' elegance by           fencing it in
    - Anne stated that the rose is surrounded by thorns as gates
  - Took the passage of 'A Carafe, That Is A Blind Glass'
    - Sort of stream of consciousness, like William James
    - How the Mad Hatter and Yoda would talk, in circles
  - Next, 'A Piece of Coffee'
    - "A not-torn rose-wood color..." describing the color of coffee simply makes far too much sense

--Stein's words do not quite mean the same thing twice
- Grobstein had also mentioned about how the words James was using really did not truly fit their definitions

--Anne brought forth about how while we read, what we mostly do is skip: we read a word, (think) we know what it means, and then continue to go straight on ahead

--Barzun essay
- Uses James to look at everything
- Highlights question of if you buy James' arguments, what form should education take?
- Calamity pointed out that the whole point of lectures and seminars is to get things done, and not to be like Gertrude Stein and 'not     feel like writing'

 

"The Portrait of a Lady"

The fact that I had already read this novel a few years back in high school was actually my motivation for taking this course. I just simply liked the way James had narrated the story, as well as the plot line and all that other good stuff. However, keeping in mind that it was for a research paper that needed to be written pretty much immediately afterward, I read the book as quickly as I physically could, without much thought as to the aspects of novels that I tend to enjoy. Seeing as back then I ended up reading 'Portrait' for its technical points that I could use in a paper, reading it for a second time actually didn't sound like a half-bad idea; although I do have to admit that the pace we needed to keep up with it was only slightly better in that there was not the impending threat of a paper deadline looming over my head this time.

Having then taken the opportunity to dive deeper into 'Portrait', I found that I began to become better acquainted with each of the characters this second time around, most notably Isabel. As a junior in high school, I opened the novel to the first page with every good intention to follow her as she led me through the events that would come to comprise her story, to sympathize with her whenever adversity struck, to listen attentively to whatever ideas she may have, and of course to celebrate her triumphs whenever plans actually would come to fruition.

But alas, it was simply not meant to be.

In my own defense, I held out as long as I possibly could in my extending a chance for Isabel to make herself likable to myself once more. I can no longer remember at what point I had definitively set down the novel on whatever surface it was in front of me at the time, shaking my head in disbelief as to how such a character could ever make it past the trials and tribulations an author sets before her/his characters as a form of audition for the novel, but then manage to blunder so spectacularly throughout the real thing (no pun intended, I swear!). It was at that point, however, that I had made the assertion that I truly, truly did dislike this character; and that if it had not already been for the fact that the novel itself was enjoyable (not to mention that there just simply was a paper that had to be done), that I would dutifully surge through to the end if for no other reason than to watch her finally suffer for having vexed me so.

(Yes, I was quite the cruel child back then.)

Back to modern times, however; as I was picking up the novel for a second time, I could not manage to shake off me the intense dislike I still held for Isabel. I did manage to resolve this within myself however, with the assurance that I would simply read for the other characters; which since I had been so busy becoming aggravated with Isabel beforehand, had been largely ignored in favor of this [obviously] more rewarding past time, I'm sure. I did find the results to be rather agreeable, too: Lord Warburton demonstrated better to me this time how despite his incomprehensible attachment to Isabel, he was an amiable man to have made the acquaintance of; Caspar Goodwood was fleshed out better as an active player within the novel, and actually proved to be quite a bit creepier and more possessive upon closer inspection; Henrietta Stackpole just about made my day with her starkly contrasting personality to Isabel's, even her initial animosity towards Ralph pulled a giggle or two out of me as I continued to turn the pages; Madame Merle while just about ruthless in her sneaking about, still pulled at my heartstrings somewhat as a woman who despite her best efforts, was still condemned by society to operate primarily in the shadows until she finally had enough and [presumably] left for America; Osmond, while still repulsive to me, explained himself better with his entire obsession of collecting valuable possessions, and how his entire ego, self, and very livelihood was tied into this philosophy (although I still don't like him, either); and of course Ralph, who was my favorite character coming out of 'Portrait' the first time, remained my favorite even after the class had moved on to different reading material.

One last thing I do have to mention before I wrap up this [uncharacteristically] long commonplace post, is that what made the experience of reading the novel for the second time that much more different and rewarding, was in fact the class discussions that went along with it. When I had first come across 'The Portrait of a Lady', it was for an independent research project, so any impressions and such that I would have discussed with a class was instead voided in favor of merely writing my paper and having the entire thing done and dealt with. In fact, most of my more revised opinions of the characters came from the discussions we held on the novel; with none receiving more invigorating treatment than the great Isabel herself. While I still am somewhat wary of her as a character, I found that my classmates, whether knowingly or not, did their utmost to present her in a different, better light than I had bothered to grace her with, and that made a great difference with how I approached the novel this semester. That, in fact, will probably inspire me to read the novel a third time; although not with either good or downright malignant intentions, but with an understanding that explains, not excuses a character's actions. I am hoping to find this a successful experiment, and may perhaps find myself attempting to do this over the summer.

 

"The Varieties of Religious Experience: Conclusions and Postscript"

What a turn in conversation this has been! While I found Alice to have been a bit sparse in material to write about, and Henry was just about bursting with it, considering all the novels and short stories he wrote, William has been a bit of a...how should I say it? A rather perplexing challenge.

Granted, I was at least able to read through this essay and come out of it with a semi-understanding of the point William was attempting to drive across. On that note, I was most interested by the list he began his essay with in order to describe typical characteristics of religious life:

"1. That the visible world is part of a more spiritual universe from which it draws its chief significance;
 2. That union or harmonious relation with that higher universe is our true end;
 3. That prayer or inner communion with the spirit thereof--be that spirit 'God' or 'law'--is a process wherein work is really done, and spiritual energy flows in and produces effects, psychological or material, within the phenomenal world.
...
 4. A new zest which adds itself like a gift to life, and takes the form either of lyrical enchantment or of appeal to earnestness and heroism.
 5. An assurance of safety and a temper of peace, and, in relation to others, a preponderance of loving affections." (759)

Unfortunately, if anyone was expecting any form of inspiring or witty analysis on my part, I am sad to say that there is truly not all that much to be given. However, I did find amusement in the sentences immediately following this list, in which James apologizes to his audience for having given such a long series of more emotionally-driven examples, "The sentimentality of many of my documents is a consequence of the fact that I sought them among the extravagances of the subject. If any of you are enemies of what our ancestors used to brand as enthusiasm...you have probably felt my selection to have been sometimes almost perverse, and have wished i might have stuck to soberer examples." (759) Indeed, I must admit that oftentimes I have come across such similar tones in readings for other classes, only those authors take it a step further in that their arguments of fact are almost entirely based off their subjective dispositions.

In James' case, however, I am more inclined to excuse him for such a fault (if this is truly to be considered a fault at all), for he is not only justified of using them in his essay, but more importantly, he recognizes what he is saying to not be objective in the least. He explains this and takes it a step further in stating that, "To learn the secrets of any science, we go to expert specialists, even though they may be eccentric persons, and not to commonplace pupils. We combine what they tell us with the rest of our wisdom, and form our final judgement independently." (Also 759) Of all the hundreds upon hundreds of statements James had written in this essay, to me that last one was the most important, in that it very well summarizes the essay that comes to follow it. It seems to me that in 'Varieties of Religious Experience', James was advocating a kind of tolerance not only for different religions, but also for those whom differ greatly even within the same creed.

I will freely admit my bias in saying this, but what I have taken from that last statement is that one of the best routes in terms of religious experience, is to take the beliefs from all manner of teachings that one agrees with the most, and to then form their own convictions from there. I say that I am biased because that is what I myself have been doing in terms of forming and expressing my own religious beliefs for quite some time now. It is my opinion that all world religions exist because in some manner, at least one thing it has to teach is correct. For me, it just seems silly to immediately dismiss another set of beliefs simply because it is not the one I was raised in. Of course, that is also to say that I have never in my life as of yet came across a single set of beliefs (religiously-oriented or otherwise) that I agree with in its entirety; so it seemed best for me personally to simply follow what I felt was right, despite whatever creed it may have originated from.

So to end this uncalled-for rant, I will conclude that while much of James' language led me in hopeless circles, his ideas did not, as I found them to resonate with me at least slightly in this sense.

 

"The Ph.D. Octopus"

"And is individuality with us also going to count for nothing unless stamped and licensed and authenticated by some title-giving machine? Let us pray that our ancient national genius may long preserve vitality enough to guard us from a future so unmanly and so unbeautiful!"

Sorry Mr. James, it has already happened. (And may I ask, what is with William's overly copious use of words such as 'manly?)

While continuing to read through this piece, I truly did try to take the middle road of what James obviously thought to be an incredibly controversial debate, but by the end was under the impression that the "sister-institution of learning" he was referring to was quite justified in having set the parameters that it did for his would-be professor friend. Well I mean, perhaps this fellow really is quite the academic wonder, and James was quite right in having vouched for him as tirelessly as he did; but the more I read, the more I was convinced that the only reason James was incensed as he was about the entire situation was because this college rejected one of his friends. (Oh yeah; it's on now, right?)

One of the more obvious instances of this opinion was when James described this friend's attempt to give Harvard a thesis in exchange for his Ph.D.  Speaking truthfully about him, as I'm hoping he was, he explained that, "When the thesis came to be read by our committee, we could not pass it. Brilliancy and originality by themselves won't save a thesis for the doctorate; it must also exhibit a heavy technical apparatus of learning; and this our candidate had neglected to bring to bear." So why, I would like to ask, is Harvard well within its rights to uphold its lofty standards, but the other school is thought to be snobby when it attempts to do the same? This just seems to follow that same old gender double-standard in that Harvard, as "manly" as James would have us believe it is (I do believe it was still an all-mens' school at the time) can do whatever it likes without fear of repercussion; but that an all-womens' college has to settle for less or else be seen as needlessly snobbish.

Maybe I am just running wildly along on a tangent here, but it's obvious that James and I will never agree on this issue. Now, if Harvard's standards were more lax, and they had accepted the professor's thesis the first time, he may have had a solid argument to stand on. But as it is, that was not the case, therefore it is my respectful opinion that Mr. James should kindly keep his mouth shut on the subject.

(Which begs the real question here: where on earth does the titular octopus come into the picture?!)

 

"Hegel and his Method"

In this essay, as one would be able to deduce, William James takes the time to examine the philosophy of one infamous Hegel, and to write just what he thinks about it (Hmm, rather like a certain student at this moment in time?). This time, however, I could not help but notice several similarities between his writing and Hegel's, similarities that of course were negative in nature; or at least as far as James was concerned they were.

For one thing, I was stopped in my tracks as soon as I read this sentence, "Great injustice is done to Hegel by treating him as primarily a reasoner. He is in reality a naively observant man, only beset with a perverse preference for the use of technical and logical jargon." (512) While I can not vouch for any form of naivety on James' behalf, the latter half describing the way he wrote fits the psychologist-philosopher to a 'T'. In fact, one of the many reasons it took me so long to read and attempt to understand all of James' writings was due to his tendency to fill his rather long-winded and unclear sentences with even more field-specific vocabulary.

But wait, it gets better. Far better.

James then later goes on to critique Hegel by stating that, "But if Hegel's central thought is easy to catch, his abominable habits of speech make his application of it to details exceedingly difficult to follow. His passion for the slipshod in the way of sentences, his unprincipled playing fast and loose with terms; his dreadful vocabulary...his whole deliberately adopted policy of ambiguity and vagueness...all these things make his present-day readers wish to tear their hair--or his--out in desperation." (513) All of the previously mentioned, particularly his imagined responses from Hegel's students and followers, seem to describe James (as well as my own reactions to him) so well in fact, that it's somewhat frightening.

This all of course leads me to the conclusion that as a psychologist, James is playing some sort of twisted joke on himself. There is a term taught in most psychology courses known as 'projection', which involves one unconsciously denying certain attributes and instead projecting them onto any other person, object, etc. While I certainly have no proof whatsoever to support my utterly groundless claim, it just seems to follow that maybe, just maybe, James in fact recognizes his own difficulties as a writer, but instead prefers to attribute them to somebody else. Or it may just be my own frustration with dear William that resulted in such a strange theory. I am tempted to think that it may just be a combination of both.

 

 

"Objects"

The way that Gertrude Stein wrote this piece was definitely not what I (or probably anyone else) would call in the mainstream manner. At first I attempted to read the first few paragraphs, frowning at what I found to be quite utter nonsense, but upon reading it aloud, realized that the words actually fit together in a more vocal sense. Aside from deciding "Objects" to be a delightful option for some sort of chant, however, I found there to be a bit more meaning not in the words, but in the way they were positioned.

I remember the words 'free association' being thrown around during a class discussion one day (can't remember which, exactly), which led me to think on the different sorts of psychoanalytic techniques that would take advantage of one's stream of consciousness (yes, I went there) while meeting with a therapist. Basically the patient will talk about whatever may enter their minds, and are highly discouraged from attempting to censor them. This in fact does seem very much similar to what Stein perhaps seemed to be doing with "Objects". Although on second thought, many of the passages have repeating words, which leads me to believe that while the writing may seem nonsensical, there is most likely some intentional (if not entirely abstract) meaning lying in wait behind the plain assertion that sugar is not a vegetable. (My absolute favorite line in the piece, I had to add!)

So why should any of this matter? While I'm not entirely sure that I do have an answer to that, I just liked the connection that "Objects" made with the idea of free association, which is used in the field of psychology, of which William James is oftentimes credited as the father of. Oh, and of course James had Stein as a student; we cannot forget that fact! (I'm terribly sorry-- this is by no means whatsoever an incredibly insightful analysis of the impervious cloud of mystery that continues to hang about our dear Ms. Stein, but merely a moment of the "Hey, would you look at that! It's actually all related!" sentiment that I truly do wish would come pay me a visit far more often than it actually does. I do hope you would not mind humoring me in that effect, please!)

 

Final Performance Script

 

 

After reading aseidman’s monologue regarding Alice’s thoughts on William, I thought it would be interesting to write one from his point of view in response to Alice’s, although not quite in conversation with hers, since the two would be obviously separated. In writing this, I mostly did place emphasis on James' tendency to be incredibly indecisive, mostly since I found that to be the most endearing (and I will admit, amusing) quality of his, so I ran off with it. Please do enjoy!

William: This is all quite vexing, and even worse so for the very reason that there is no need for any of this to continue forth as it does. I wonder why it is that with each subsequent visit to the room in which you are confined, I find myself leaving it with the conviction that I shall never again attempt such a folly? Is it because I indeed fear your becoming worse in health and spirits? Come, you must know me better than that, dear sister. The very reason I gradually came to cease my visits with you was that I could no longer bear to watch you continue to make yourself worse.

No, I am not insinuating that you were the one to bring about your condition initially, but I must reiterate my point that as human beings, belief is the very cornerstone of our will. If you do not truly believe that you will recover, then recovery will simply not be an option for you. It is rather aggravating, I am sorry to admit; that I should find you, with a will so strong and capable that our mutual brother Henry should himself constantly comment upon it, but unwilling to perform the simplest of actions to better yourself. I can only wonder why this is so, for I am afraid I cannot seem to arrive towards any sort of reliable conclusion.

However, if you so do adamantly refuse to form and hold the belief that you may recover, I may have to resign myself to the possibility that you are purposefully doing so, whatever your reasons may be. I would of course like to know what they are, and perhaps someday have a conversation with you to learn of their existence. That does not seem entirely plausible though, not with our conflicting views and temperaments. Not with the way that we have parted after each attempted visit these past several years.

…well, perhaps I shall make a valiant attempt, at the very least. …why now do you wear that expression? This was a perfectly sound decision, one that I made with the greatest of certainty—wait a moment, however; perhaps I shall not. I will prove my argument better should I not endeavor to visit my sister—no, possibly I shall call upon her… (Finishes monologue as voice fades away into a series of muttered grumblings)

 

 

 

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