Saturday, March 29, 2014

Off to the English Symposium

I love having a day for English lovers to congregate and share thoughts and ideas. This past Friday, I got to attend the session titled "A Whole New World: Disney, Adaptation, and the Americanization of Fairy Tales". I went to this session because I was personally interested, and was pleasantly surprised when some of it pertained to my research paper.

The first speaker spoke about the history of fairy tales and how Disney taints it. Her last point was that Disney took control of the American culture through its children. His stories, although adapted from folktales of other countries and histories, were altered and stamped with his name. He therefore erased their true origins. And through these stories he catered especially to children. When young, the most important lessons are learned and remembered. Disney has been very much remembered.

The speaker quoted a critic about Disney's role by saying, "authorship is control." This excited me, because that's exactly what I am trying to prove in my paper! When an author writes something, he has control over that story. It is great to think of Disney, and other great influences like him could be just exhibiting control.

What's Up Next For Morrie and Kate

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Credit to ToniVC
For the first time in a while since writing this paper, I know exactly what need to do next. Actually, there are two things.

1. I need to set aside some time to really work on this paper. I have tiny little sessions with it, and I get little specks of work done, but I need to feel like I'm making some progress, and in order to do that, I need to put in the time. Finding it will be the hard part, because this week is going to be absolutely crazy (I can already tell), but it needs to happen.

2. Next, I need to sit down and read some Tuesdays with Morrie. Partially because it relaxes me and re-centers me, which I need, and partially because now that my ideas are starting to gel and become a semi-cohesive argument, it's time to settle in and find some hard evidence in the text. It's time to dig into the primary text again and find what I need.

It's good to have a game plan. Go team!

A Very Harry Potter Symposium

If you get the reference in the title, kudos to you :)

Me at the Harry Potter Studio Tour Experience in London.
So I attended the symposium workshop on Harry Potter, which was more relevant to my course of study than I had expected!  I thought that I was just going to go, sit in, and listen to Harry Potter nerds talk about Harry Potter to Harry Potter nerds like me.  But this was on the pedagogy of Harry Potter (pedagogy meaning style of education), and since I am an English teaching major, I found this very interesting.  I particularly liked the analysis on Professor Lupin's teaching style, and I discovered there was a lot to be learned from professors like Lupin (A+ professor), McGonagall (another favorite), Lockhart (honestly, he's just an idiot), and Umbridge (I won't even delve into the depths of my hatred for this creature.)

credit & Warner Bros Studio
Lupin is a prime example of an excellent teacher because JK Rowling created him to be the teacher that she had never had growing up.  Something that was brought up at the symposium was his first day lesson plans: he told them to put their textbooks away and to pull their wands out, because they were going to be doing something constructive.  According to the speakers at the symposium, teachers that engage their students immediately on the first day set the standard for the rest of the year.  Contrast this with Umbridge, who told them to pull their books out and put their wands away, and then proceeded to instruct them to read chapter 1.  Not exactly an engaging professor.  Not only that, but she was abusive and demeaning to her students.  Even though Umbridge and Lupin taught the same subject, their teaching methods were vastly different.

And with that, I leave you with the truth on the left.  Because no one can deny that it's true.

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Symposium...

I attended the three o'clock session Milton: Paradise, Politics, and Catharsis, overseen by Professor Burton. I attended this specific session because I had personal interest in finding out how Milton's Paradise Lost and religious writings influenced Christianity since their publication. I've never been able to wrap my head around Paradise Lost, even though I greatly enjoyed his poem "Il Penseroso" and "L'Allegro", because biblical figures were so... human. There is great freedom in the portrayal of each character, but I still couldn't help but think the book a little ridiculous. From what I know, many people from this period were significantly influenced by Milton's writings... and I couldn't understand why.

However, as I was listening to the second speaker (Andrew Price), I was surprisingly drawn in by the analysis of Satan, and how similar he is to us (humans). I was especially fascinated with the comparison of Satan's force and Christ's passivity. Satan eventually fell with force and Christ overcame with passivity--his complete reliance on God and unquestioning devotion. In my mind, I was starting to argue against this--not with the fact that Christ's passive heroism superseding Satan's forceful heroism, but the definition of Christ's passivity. Did Christ really follow God's instructions not knowing His reasons and purpose? Is that really Christ's passivity? I don't argue that Christ trusted God completely, but did Christ really (sometimes) not know why God instructed him in certain ways?

I know this is a weird thought to have while listening to a topic on how English Restoration and Milton and Oliver Cromwell's own experience influenced Milton's works, but I couldn't stop thinking about this.

To connect my question to my what I'm writing (which I'm struggling with)...  In my paper, I'm trying to write about the difference of blind faith and really knowing and acting upon it. I feel that at times, we do need to follow instructions without questioning them, but I also feel that we need to intuitively know and feel right about following certain instructions.

... I feel lost now. Am I making any sense?

Anyway, I've found Andrew Price's essay online! Here is the link. 

The Mark of Good Writing

Creative Commons License 2.0 / Adam Groffman
Today I attended a panel of the English Symposium here at BYU called, "Write of Passage: Coming of Age Through the Personal Essay." As suggested by the title, each presenter read a personal essay centered on the theme of coming of age, although each approached the prompt very differently. Although all three were phenomenal, my personal favorite was entitled, “In the Passenger Seat” by ShelliRae Spotts. She spoke of the passage of time, road trips, and seeing her past reflected in her daughter, who was just learning to drive. The prose was thought provoking, smooth flowing, and beautifully written. Although she and I are at very different stages in our lives, the narrative still struck a chord with me and I felt nostalgia for the life I'm currently living, imagined from a life I haven't yet lived. I gained a new perspective, a vicarious piece of life, and I felt inspired to write something myself as I listened to her read. That's the mark of good writing, I think--to make people feel something, to move them, to inspire them.

The Sumptuous Symposium

I'd never attended the BYU English Symposium before, and it was a real treat to go! I went to the panels titled "Creative Writing Contest Winners" and "A Whole New World: Disney, Adaptation, and the Americanization of Fairy Tales." I was hoping that these subjects would help strike me with inspiration.

Creative Commons License 3.0, Wikipedia
In the Creative Writing session, one essay caught my attention. Laura Marostica gave an essay on pizza. (Yes, pizza. The food.) But it was such a poetic essay, with an almost playful tone which made it really fun to listen to. I could tell that she had thoroughly enjoyed writing that pizza essay. (It make me hungry, actually.) I thought to myself: "Self, when you write your essay, make sure you enjoy it! Choose a thesis that interests YOU! It will make the paper so much easier to write!"

For a while now I've been seriously reconsidering my thesis -- At first I wanted to analyze the Hero's Journey in The Phantom Tollboth, but even though it would be interesting to do that, I keep hitting a wall. I decided to steer my thesis in a direction which I loved and which plays a huge part in the book: LANGUAGE. Specifically, words, wordplay, and the perspective that comes with the use of language. (And I'll probably end up sticking the Hero's Journey in there somewhere.)

I still don't know for sure what my thesis will be, but as I am rereading the book I'm finding loads of material that I'm itching to use. I feel ready to write up 4 to 5 pages of my paper, though they won't be the first 4 to 5 pages. It's weird, but I'm ready to write the middle even though I don't have the beginning or end figured out yet. But I think that's okay, because now I'm finally going to enjoy my paper.

...maybe I should read more about pizza when I'm down.

Super(hero) Symposium

From Deviantart
I had the opportunity to go to the BYU English Symposium for the first time. I didn't have a schedule in hand so I just walked into the first auditorium that I could find. The topic was about Superheroes and how they relate to our modern society. The topic sounded interesting so I stayed.

The first presenter spoke about how Sherlock Holmes was the first Superhero. I had heard similar arguments in the past, but his approach was interesting because he linked many aspects of more modern superheroes back to Arthur Conan Doyle's literary hero.

Speculation About Punishment and War Literature...And Morrie

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So, I love the BYU English Symposium. I really love it. I got to go to the panel chaired by Dr. Westover entitled "How We Talk When We Talk About War: Language and War Literature." It was so interesting, and I loved listening to the three women present their papers. One was about Robert Frost, the other alluded to Billy Joel and the Wicked soundtrack as well as neuroscience, and the last was a compelling paper about profanity in war literature.

For some reason, as I was sitting there listening to thsoe presentations about war literature, I started to speculate about the language used in Tuesdays with Morrie, and I remembered something that Morrie said about society. Mitch mentioned something about how difficult it is to be a good person in today's society, and Morrie said something very insightful--in a nutshell, if the society doesn't work, don't buy into it. Easier said than done, of course, but a fascinating idea. If you don't agree with something, don't go along with it. I started considering this and trying to figure out if I should backtrack through my paper and try again, writing about the language.

Then, during the presentation about profanity in war literature, I started to think about the different types of words we use to punish people--the kind of language we use when we say harsh things. I'm not sure how (or if) this ties into my paper at all, but it's been lurking at the back of my mind all day, so I'll try to pay some attention to it over the weekend and see what I come up with. Basically, attending the English Symposium gave me tons of ideas, but I'm not sure how to use them in this paper. But I had a lot of fun!

Harry Potter and the Pedagogy of Teaching

I attended the English Symposium performance of "Teaching Harry Potter." It was a really interesting symposium presentation about how education is taught through young adult literature. They go through different examples throughout the books of how education is approached at Hogwarts. I just loved this presentation especially because of the subject matter. It was fascinating to learn how learning and education values are presented in the Harry Potter books. 

Creative Commons License 3.0 / Wikimedia
What I noticed the most that could help me with my own paper was the organization of the presentation. They focused mostly on their topic and then used examples from the book to support their main topic. This was interesting to me because I think that in a literary class like ours it is easy to focus more on the literature rather than the topic itself. I thought it was interesting and helpful to see how the group in this symposium used the literature to back up their topic, rather than their topic to be added in to their literature analysis. I also thought it was fascinating how the group in this symposium connected their topic to the real world, and made it matter to other people, even those who may not have ever read the book. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Is Anyone Listening?

I am feeling a little bit in line with Richard right now, in that when I wasn't looking for it, finding social proof for my work and research was easy. Finding enthusiasts for the things I am interested in came to me more often than not. But the second I begin to search for it, it's like I jinxed myself and all of the sudden NO ONE has any professed interest into what I am looking into.

Despite reaching out, I've received quite minimal feedback on my topic. I've posted on Facebook, Goodreads, this blog, and I've reached out to specific friends who might be interested. Nothing. So I'm going to try again, and this time I'm going to take a different approach now. Who is interested in Greek mythology?  Zeus sleeping with women, Hera and all her revenge schemes, the battle of Troy, the voyage of Aeneas, love stories, people changing into trees and ponds and cows, anyone?  Ancient Greece and Rome had one thing going for them for sure (probably many things, but this one in particular). They know how to tell a story. The ancient myths of Greece and Rome are fascinating. I am looking for anyone who would be interested in that. That is what I am researching. Allusions to these myths are all over the place in our culture today. I could peronsally point out 15 of them in the first Harry Potter book alone. They are in literature, they are in televsion, they are in movies, they are in the very words that we use, they are in the basis of our language, they are everywhere. I need to find people who would be interested in that. I'm going to stop asking people to talk to me about The Count of Monte Cristo, because I've gotten nowhere with that.

Who likes ancient Greek and Roman mythology? Who wishes they could go to Italy and see the ancient temples, the beautiful architecture, the statue of Michelangelo? I need people like you to listen to me, because even if you have never read the novel I am researching, I promise you will be interested.

Research in Wonderland

I've started to do some research about the general topic of my thesis--language in relation to thought. Professor Burton pointed out the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis to me in a comment on a post from a little while ago, so I decided to do a bit of additional research on the theory itself. I found a few articles about the theory and its relevance today, as well as, to some extent, its use in literature, so I think that will be really helpful.

Enthusiastic about The Book Thief

Finding enthusiasts to talk to about my paper hasn't been exactly easy for me, but then I talked to one of the guys in my ward. He was incredibly enthusiastic about The Book Thief. We had a long conversation through Facebook. He offered so much information about The Book Thief, Death, and even gave me some great insights about Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. He reminded me about Jabberwocky and the Walrus and the Carpenter poems and how they deal with death. He was very helpful. Part of our conversation is shown below.

Thank You's For Enthusiasm

I have tried to contact a few literary enthusiasts this week, and while I haven't had a response yet, I am confident that I will get at least one reply.

However, I have had some success getting sources from classmates, which is fantastic! I haven't had the chance to look at the sources yet, but Morgan posted on my mini-paper post and suggested I look at Cyclopedia of Literary Places. Her interest in my topic and helpfulness is reassuring, and I think using this source would be a great way to strengthen my argument about authority affecting the development of children.

Cristiano also gave me a great source to use on my annotated bibliography. It has to do with the evolution of the portrayal of the family from the Victorian era to the Modern era. Perfect! This will put my analysis in context, and I'm excited to see what I can find in this book.

Thanks to both of you, and to everyone else who has commented!

Enthusiasm About Feminism

Most of the enthusiasts I've reached out to were very responsive, and had very positive things to contribute.  One of them is someone that I know is very outspoken and political, and, as I had expected, she had a lot to contribute on the topic!  
Ah I'm so happy you included me on this!
I honestly don't know a great deal about middle eastern women issues today. After the Bush administration I realized that my perception of women's issues in the Middle East was kind of wrong. I think that in American culture this is very true. Women are constantly blamed for being raped in this country. Whether it's because of what they wore or because they were out too late. My mom actually took a women's studies class a few years ago and a Pakistani women in her class said that the rape culture in the US is much worse than it is in Pakistan. I think women around the world are given a great deal more responsibility and therefore blame. For example in the US when a women has an unexpected pregnancy it's her fault for having sex yet we rarely talk about the male contribution. In Somalia female genital mutilation is a huge part of the culture and a huge cause of death in Somalia. If a women has not been circumcised she is seen as a disgraceful, unclean women. Women are expected to have many children one after another. If a women is unable to produce many children quickly enough she has lost her worth and more often then not women die before they can raise their children. That's not really an accusation from men but it's definitely a deadly burden they are given.

I was also pleased to see how many people have been posting on my blog posts, because it gives me a major confidence booster! Tori in particular gave me several resources to use in her comment on my last blog post. Also, a huge thank you to Cristiano for suggesting this blog to submit my final paper to.

Be Enthused! Please?

So, this finding enthusiasts when I want to seems to be harder than I expected.  I find enthusiasts for things every day for literally anything.  I can be on the bus.  I can be waiting in line for some burger.  I can be looking at a poster in the HFAC and strike up a conversation about composers with two random girls.

The thing is, finding enthusiasts is easy until you need to.

But, I have talked to a person I know going to university somewhere in Australia.  I have not gotten a response back for a little more than a day, but we were talking about books being like old friends that you love to meet again and again.  Long story short... I need to work on my transitions.

I have tried contemplated posting in a couple of random forums I know of.  And now... I am kind of lost on how to find other enthusiasts.  Any suggestions?

What Walt Disney Never Told Us

J. Howard Miller's "We Can Do It!" poster from 1943
My favorite way to find enthusiasts is by contacting the authors of articles that have been helpful in my writing process. I wrote an email to one such author expressing my appreciation for her work and explaining how it has enhanced my own paper. Her article explores the male-directed film adaptation of Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine arguing that the film eliminates the feminism that is present in the novel, and also explores feminist fairy tale media in general. I have been researching feminism in Gail Carson Levine's fairy tale adaptations Ella Enchanted and Fairest. This article has inspired me look more closely at why in some parts of the novels, feminism makes way for the sake of the fairy tale. The article's bibliography also led me to several more helpful sources.  I explained to the author I would be citing her article in my paper.

The reply was enthusiastic to say the least. She offered me links to even more related sources, and advice for how to keep things organized. I again expressed my appreciation for the time and effort she was exerting on my behalf. We messaged back and forth on Goodreads until I felt comfortable asking her if she would be interested in reading a few pages from a draft of my paper. Her reply, "I'd love to see a draft of your paper. Thank you again for reaching out."  She often thanks me for "reaching out" and continually mentions how much she appreciates that I found her article, read it, enjoyed it, used it, and asked her questions about it.

As a result, she feels a desire, rather than an obligation, to read my paper too and give meaningful feedback. It's amazing what happens when we take the time to care about someone else's work.

The most exciting discovery that I have made recently is an article in The Journal of American Folklore called "Things Walt Disney Never Told Us". This article is the reason I have decided to include Fairest by Gail Carson Levine in my paper about Ella Enchanted because it directly addresses Cinderella and Snow White and the messages they teach society. This is exciting because I have a direction and can really feel the momentum now.

The article explains how the two princesses really aren't people at all when their characters are analyzed. This is going to help support my claim that these two fairy tales oversimplify women and in both cases, Levine restores feminine balance and reality to these stories. 

The Song Remains The Same

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For this week's build to enthusiasts, I went the route of posting on another blog about Watership Down. Fortunately, I did get a response in short amount of time, but unfortunately the author who responded didn't know anything about Lewis Carroll and really had nothing to offer me that I didn't already know. No worries though! It was nice to get a reply. It furthered my faith in the probability of getting feedback through blogging. Here's the conversation:
    Hi, I just read your post and I admire your enthusiasm for Watership Down. I really liked the insights and quotes from the author your provided from the introduction to the 2005 edition. This book has been among my favorites since a high school teacher first recommended it to me several years ago. Currently I’m working on comparing Watership down to Alice and Wonderland, and I've found several comparisons between the two and they’re a lot more similar than I would have thought. In addition to literary comparisons, I’m doing biographical comparisons between the authors. However, I don’t know how to tie the two parts together to make it an interesting topic. I’m thinking about arguing that the similarities between the two authors is responsible for the similarities of their writing, but I don’t know if it’s strong enough. Do you have an suggestions for an angle I could take, or an interesting way to tie biographical comparisons with literary comparisons? I would appreciate any feedback, or ideas you may have.
    Thanks for writing your blog. I’m excited to see what new discoveries I can make here.
    • Thanks for your kind comments about my blog and the Watership Down post. I am intrigued by your work on comparing the book with Alice in Wonderland and investigating the common themes of the authors’ lives. I know next to nothing about Lewis Carroll, so I can’t help at all there! Richard Adams, however, has given many interviews and, of course, there is his autobiography for research sources. Please check back in to let me know about your progress!
    • Fortunately, I still had a lot of time left to find feedback so I posted on another blog that was comparing Tolkien's Lord of the Rings with Watership Down. Perfect! I explained how I was also doing a literary comparison and asked specific questions about how my thesis and topic could be improved. Unfortunately, I received no rely and seem to be in about the same position as I was before. However, I remain optimistic that I will get some good feedback in the next few days (hopefully also from my peers who have yet to comment and give feedback on my previous post *cough *cough.)

Perks of Finding New Sources

Each time I go to the library, I spend more time in there than I originally planned. There are so many options to choose from and it takes a while for me to narrow down my choices. I'd also like to thanks the wonderful librarians who have helped me along the way. Without them, I would still be pretty lost. Searching for more sources can be difficult but that's how you know you're getting somewhere. Trying out different ones to see if they work or not is part of the process. Familiarizing myself with the library has also helped me tremendously in my researching. The more I visit, the better I get at this!

Here's my updated thesis statement: (still want to change it a bit...)

The concepts incorporated in the novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower are equally expressed in the film adaptation which was directed by the author Stephen Chbosky, making the film and novel necessary to each other for the complete experience of the story.

Finally Caught a Break

My email to Allie
Hey, everybody. Did you know that this whole "social proof" thing works? I had a really helpful experience. I discovered a blog called The Hemingway Project during that one class when Professor Burton ditched us for a half hour to go to lunch. Instead of sitting there thinking, "Man, I'm jealous. I wish I were at lunch right now, too,"I started conversing with Adam and Kimberlee. I expressed some of my concerns about my trouble with getting good feedback, and they helped me find this blog about Hemingway. It looked perfect, so I resolved to send the editor an email. I read some of her interviews and essays regarding related topics and finally decided to reach out. What I got in return was better than what I could have possibly hoped for. 

I sent out this email to the editor, Allie Baker. I mentioned that I had enjoyed reading her blog posts and then asked if she had any knowledge regarding my thesis. I tried to sound professional and smart. My question was specific and interesting to a Hemingway enthusiast. Luckily for me, she responded fairly quickly and gave me some help that I could not have expected.

Allie's reply
Allie was very gracious and helpful. She expressed her interest by pointing me to a Hemingway scholar named H.R. Stoneback. She interviewed him for her blog and asked him some questions that were related to my thesis. I am definitely going to check that out when she posts it. She recommended one of Stoneback's books that could be useful for my paper.

One really important thing is that now I have an "expert" to reach out to. I can become familiar with his work, mention Allie's recommendation, and then propose my question. I no longer feel like I am reaching in the dark thanks to Adam, Kimberlee, Allie, and Professor Burton's long lunch.

And they all lived happily ever after.

When You Give a Girl a Library...

Public Domain CCO / Pixabay
All I had to do was browse the Faulkner section of the library, and it was like themes of family, childhood, and parenthood started to launch themselves at me. Needless to say, I found several new sources for both Faulkner and Carroll's portrayals of authority and themes of family in their works. I couldn't help but check just a few out to take home with me...I feel a bit like a literary hoarder.

At any rate, here is a new and improved list of sources:

THESIS: Just as Alice is ridiculously scorned, mislead, and reprimanded by the authority figures in her journey through Wonderland, the offspring of Addie Bundren represent the precarious condition of children that do not have reliable authority figures in their lives in the novel As I Lay Dying. Lewis Carroll and William Faulkner's works identify the damage caused to children by dysfunctional family environments and autocratic adults.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Sources are the hardest thing for me to choose

Well, I said it. I actually enjoy writing papers and I enjoy using sources to establish a paper. However, I have a very passionate dislike for finding the sources. I like sending the time searching for a source, but I hate feeling let down when a source isn't what I originally thought or if a source that I desperately need is unavailable in one form or another. That being said, here is my working annotated bibliography.

Tuesdays with Friendly People

This is how my imaginary scowl looked.
Creative Commons License 3.0; credit to natsumi88
Over the course of the last few weeks, I feel like everybody has been writing about their great success finding friendly people that love to talk about literature and are just thrilled down to their toes to discuss fun literary topics with anyone and everyone. And I gave those friendly people an imaginary scowl because where were my friendly people?

So this week, I stuck my neck out a little. I felt determined to find myself a friendly person or two for myself, because everyone deserves some friendly people in their lives (besides their actual friends, of course). On Friday, I discovered Mitch Albom's official website, which was exciting. I created an account so I could post in the discussions and forums and went straight to work reading old things and drafting my own little post. Unfortunately, the site seems to have gotten a little run down, and looks to be largely obsolete now. So I went looking for other friendly people.

Now We're Getting Somewhere

I spent a lot of time wrestling with my thesis statement over the weekend. I tried to organize it so that it would be clear and helpful for forming my paper. I got some great feedback from my peers and enthusiasts that helped me redirect my thoughts toward the main idea that I wanted to present. My new thesis is this:

Ernest Hemingway wrote The Sun Also Rises during a time when many people felt confused about commonly held notions about society and human nature. The Great War, in all its rugged and harsh brutality, had altered the perception that humans were naturally good and noble creatures. Many people struggled to find meaning and identity during these years and became part of a Lost Generation in the process. Although Ernest Hemingway suggested otherwise, the characters from The Sun Also Rises become part of the Lost Generation as they habitually run from their painful reality that was caused by the traumatic Great War.

Snow White and the Seven New Sources
In writing my literary analysis paper on fairy tales and feminism, my focus has shifted to include more of the novel Fairest as well as Ella Enchanted. Fairest is a retelling of Snow White by the same author: Gail Carson Levine. As I have been reading Fairest, I have become convinced that I need to write about it along with Ella Enchanted.

Here's an updated thesis:

The novels Ella Enchanted and Fairest are both fairy tale adaptations written by Gail Carson Levine. The young female protagonists, Ella and Aza, teach opposite lessons than the fairy tales they are retelling, redefining a woman’s beauty, success, and happiness as a result of hard work, wit, and determination rather than the effect of external actions, people, and circumstances.

As I was trying to research, I felt like I had already exhausted my efforts to find new sources. That is before I had a wonderful chat with a BYU librarian at 11:30pm. I couldn't believe it. My husband was amazed that there was someone willing to help me so late at night. I'm telling you guys, talk to the librarians if you haven't already done so. It was so helpful. I was led to these a source that helped me uncover all of these new sources below (and more).

The Game is On!

My research day was productive, but also frustrating. I am earnestly looking for a Count of Monte Cristo Concordance and a good Encyclopedia about France in English not French. While I am still on the hunt for these, I did find a couple other texts that do talk about the religious and social atmosphere in the 19th century in France, which is wonderful. Anyways, so here is my working thesis (I’m still wondering if I have too much going on):

Creative Commons License 2.0/Super Furry Librarian
In the 19th century, scientific discoveries and new social constructs caused a surge of existential confusion. It led to doubts and questions about the power of an individual in relation to society and God. These questions echo in Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo and in Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in their similar battle for individual control and meaning over society and God. Edmond Dantes claims to be acting in the stead of Providence throughout much of his journey in The Count of Monte Cristo, but his tirade of vengeance and refusal to connect with society result in the gradual displacement of God, and the substitution of himself in the role of justice. Similarly, the Queen of Hearts displaces Alice, the dreamer of Wonderland, as an authority figure and also distances herself to rule over society. Ultimately, the restoration of the rightful ruling power in both texts presents the futility of man in creating their own existential meaning independent of an established outside center. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Research Material...

What do you do when you can't find any critical essays or research materials on the book you are writing about? I have plenty of texts and essays analyzing Alice's Adventure in Wonderland, but I can't seem to find any text analyzing the text I chose. I did, however, find many short reviews on blogs...

  • Rackin, Donald. “Alice’s Journey to the End of Night.” PMLA 81. 1996. Print.
  • Williams, Sidney Herbert and Madan, Falconer. A Handbook of the Literature of the Rev. C. L. Dodgson (Lewis Carroll). Oxford University Press, 1931. Print.
These are some materials I will be using for Alice's Adventure in Wonderland. I think I will be using more of my own ideas and ideas brought up when I was talking to some of my friends as evidence. I've been able to get pretty good feedbacks from my Korean friends, who have read Sara in Korean translation. I will be updating again as soon as I get everything lined up... (I hope).

The Revelation in Research

So while I was researching my topic, I stumbled upon a review articles entitled, "Death, Resurrection, and Fall in Dumas' Comte de Monte-Cristo." I began researching Christ figures in The Count of Monte Cristo, hoping to find something to tie in with Abbe Faria and get me going on further research. When I found this gem, it opened up a new door for my topic, which I am so excited about!!!

Alexandre Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo is a complex novel with many themes in it. Dumas uses biblical and mythical allusions to add a religious context to the novel and add depth and meaning to the characters. Dumas was well-versed in Greek and Roman mythology, and he first learned to read with the Holy Bible. Throughout the course of the novel, Dumas alludes to Greek and Roman myths, Christ, and biblical stories. These allusions add depth to his characters and a profound religious meaning to his novel.

Severson, Marilyn. Masterpieces of French Literature. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2004. Print.
This source gives a summary and brief analysis of The Count of Monte Cristo. Marilyn Severson looks at plot development, character analysis, narration, and many other things. What I found to be the most useful in this was the character analysis, particularly with Edmond Dantes/the Count of Monte Cristo. Her analysis points out how the count lost his humanity by becoming so obsessed, and later regrets that he thought himself God's equal. This would be helpful for me in looking at Christ figures in The Count of Monte Cristo as well as looking at whether or not the Count was actually an agent of Providence or not. 

Marinetti, Amelita. "Death, Resurrection, and Fall in Dumas' Comte de Monte-Cristo." French Review. Vol. 50, No. 2, pp. 260-269. Web. 
This source inspired my new research topic! It talks about Dumas' biblical and mythological allusions in The Count of Monte Cristo, pointing out significant instances and talking about how they connect to ancient ideals. Absolutely perfect! 

The Holy Bible, King James Edition London, 1611
This is a source I will use when citing the biblical allusions that Dumas' makes. Useful, helpful and necessary.

Stoneman, Richard. Greek mythology: an encyclopedia of myth and legend. London: 1991.
I will use several of the entries in this encyclopedia to reference the Greek and Roman mythological allusions in The Count of Monte Cristo

What's next on my to do list is to start compiling instances of these allusions within the story. I'll need to spend some time in the library refreshing my knowledge of Greek and Roman mythology, and then I will need to start looking at biblical allusions in Lewis Carroll's Alice works. 

A New Thesis and More Sources

And to think I wasn't going to go to class last Friday.
Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons

I am so glad I did, for we paired up and I was able to bounce ideas off of my classmate, Morgan. She helped me find a new, better way to approach my ideas and research. Shameless shout-out, I know. 

Anyways, I have altered my thesis for the better. Here is my working first paragraph:

An author writes to the best of his ability, to portray what he imagines. Therefore, when an author uses visual aids, such as illustrations or motion picture, he is exerting control over the reader's ability to imagine differently. Lewis Carroll was very particular about the illustrations in his Alice works because he wanted them to portray his view of Wonderland. Similarly, William Goldman, after writing the novel The Princess Bride, also wrote the screenplay in order to make sure his ideas were portrayed in the way that he originally meant them to be. The relationship between an author and a reader is one of trust, but when an author uses other mediums to aide his text, he is infringing on the imagination of the reader.

I have done some extra research on these ideas. I even used the "instant library chat" thingy for the BYU library. It worked really well. The librarian was able to lead me to a source that had a bibliography at the end with lots of other helpful sources. 

This was my short, yet helpful conversation with a librarian over chat. 

The annotated bibliography follows:

A Thousand Splendid Peculiarities

Pembroke College, Cambridge University. Photo cred MEEE.
So as I was doing my research in the library today, I realized how heavily I focus on the author of the book I chose.  Khaled Hosseini.  I wondered if I could possibly bring in more of his works to support my thesis:Male authors are the most powerful in the feminist literary movement, as it is male authors that people take the most seriously; in Victorian England, Lewis Carroll wrote about a young girl that broke all social norms; in A Thousand Splendid Suns, it was Khaled Hosseini, a male author in a Middle Eastern culture, that wrote about the oppression of women.  Ironically enough, this shows why feminism is necessary: until women can write about their own problems and be taken seriously, the women of the world will almost always certainly have to rely on men to be the journalists and authors of their inequality.

I decided to revisit The Kite Runner, the first book that Khaled Hosseini had published. It was also the first of his that I had read, back in senior year of high school. While skimming it, I found a passage that I had found peculiar at the time. "Poison tongues would flap.  And she would bear the brunt of that poison, not me—I was fully aware of the Afghan double standard that favored my gender.  Not Did you see him chatting with her? but Woooooy! Did you see how she wouldn’t let him go?  What a lochak!” (Hosseini, 146).  In this passage, a young man is talking to a young women, asking for the whereabouts of her father.  Then he asks what book she is reading, and suddenly, all eyes in the marketplace turn to the two of them because they were "chatting."  I thought that this was an interesting interjection, but now I see the reason for it.  Hosseini was already aware of where he wanted to bring his writing next: to feminist Islamic issues.  And so, I wanted to gain a better understanding of Islamic feminism and its history.

Thank Goodness for Encyclopedias!

Creative Commons 2.0
Before I get to my research and my new-found love for encyclopedias, my new working thesis deserves an introduction. Recently I was introduced to several other ideas about how I could possibly compare The Book Thief to Alice in Wonderland. One of them led to me an article one of those Sparknotes-type websites, where I found a comparison that changed how I thought about my comparison to the two novels. This article described the Queen of Hearts as the Goddess of Death. That made me wonder if there would be some way to compare the Queen of Hearts in the same way that I’m comparing the narrator Death. Could the Queen of Hearts be compared to past interpretations if I portrayed her as a Goddess of Death? Could she be compared to the female representations of death found throughout the world? If I could do that, how would she then compare to Death, the narrator? What type of contrast would that include?

Over The Hills And Far Away

Expedition of Columbus
I had a very productive day at the library doing further research for new sources to incorporate into my topic. While spending two hours in the library searching for new biographical sources I could use to support my thesis, I not only felt like Christopher Columbus sailing around the world, I came up with the idea to include the literary movements of each author as part of my analysis. This led me to books on Modernism and the Victorian Era which characterize Adams and Carroll respectively. Here is the latest version of my thesis statement included in my introductory paragraph:
"Everyday, individuals all over the world are experiencing new things. These experiences shape the way these individuals think, and contribute largely to who they are. The same is especially true of writers. A writer's environment plays a major role in the perspective he takes when writing a novel. As seen in the examples of Richard Adams and Lewis Carroll, the similarity in their country of origin, family background, and social status all play a significant role in the similar themes and ideas these writers convey to their audiences, as evident throughout each of their texts."

The following is a list comprising my annotated bibliography:

Bibliographies and Poetry and Such

Working thesis: Despite the difference in age and experience, Alice plays the role of Morrie in the lives of the creatures she encounters in Wonderland.
A quote from Morrie's favorite poet, W.H. Auden.
Creative Commons License 2.0: credit to Debra.

Illustrious Illustrators and Authors

Illustrious Illustrators and Authors

How Conversations Spark Ideas

The hardest part of writing a paper-- finding the "so what?" It's not that hard to write a well-researched and somewhat interesting paper, but it can be difficult to find a reason why it would matter to the reader. I was talking with McKay on Friday, discussing the frustrating brick wall we've run against trying to find the implications for our paper, as well as good "enthusiast" sources. As we talked and bounced ideas off of each other, I remembered a very valuable well of information that I had previously overlooked-- teachers! If those people are not enthusiasts, I don't know who are. My paper talks a lot about colonialism and I remembered I had taken American Literary History from Professor Cutler, a super helpful professor who loves talking and helping with papers and is also extremely knowledgable and passionate about my topic. He previously helped me write a rather fantastic essay on early American folk magic. Today, I plan on emailing him to give him a heads up that I will be coming in to visit him during his office hours. I'm sure that he could help me find other enthusiast sources (and just other sources in general) that I hadn't previously considered. For those who haven't read my brief, working essay on my topic, here is a link.