Cloud Atlas and the End

November 9, 2008

            The novel Cloud Atlas has good points and not so good.  Some chapter though they fit didn’t seem to go with Mitchell’s message such as the Robert Frobisher letters chapters and the Cavendish chapters.  The letters had a lot of information but it didn’t use the society or world as a whole but more information on Robert Frobisher and his individual life.  Also with the Cavendish chapter had a lot to do with getting Cavendish out of this nursing home and him being punished for being a bad publisher.  These two stories have nothing to do with society or the world as a whole as the other chapters do.  And it’s clear that Mitchell wants to say something about the collective group or the world on how he ends his novel.  Mitchell states, “He who would do battle with the many –headed hydra of human nature must pay a world of pain & his family must pay it along with him! & only as you gasp your dying breath shall you understand, your life mounted to no more than one drop in a limitless ocean! Yet what is an ocean but a multitude of drops” (509).  These last two lines sum up the author’s message he wants to convey about his novel.  It is about cause and effect with all the characters and that they understand this relationship, which is like in the Sonmi chapters that she, knows they are going to execute her and she wants that action to make her a martyr to change the system.

            Another thing the last two sentences show is the role of the individual on the whole population.  Adam Ewing is naïve to the fact that his boys are abused or raped on the ship and what colonization really does to a tribe and their people.  His role as a notary to make things legal affects everyone that is being colonized.  In the Luisa Rey chapters she is trying to show everyone that Sixsmith was murdered and prove it is through writing an article in her magazine.  Her role affects the people that are trying to cover it up and the people that are oblivious to what is going on at the plant.  Sonmi is trying to become a martyr for these clones in order the system to change when she figures out about how they are treated.  These clones are slaves to the consumers. 

            This novel was a good read to see the evolution on writing from the notary in the journal, to letters, to dime novels, postmodern novels and more.  But the criteria for it to be in the best read is not met and shouldn’t be considers one of the best 25 novels list.  This novel would be confusing to the American reader because a lot of chapters have different dialogue like the British.  Readers should know about some history like colonization or the comparison in the Sonmi chapters of the Korean women taken  as slaves for the Japanese soldiers during the war with all the Korean names of towns, mountains and in the names.

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Harry Potter’s appeal: Idea for paper

November 1, 2008

            My topic is going to examine the appeal of the novel, Harry Potter and what are the reasons for its appeal.  I’ve already talked to the librarian and found some articles on the appeal to audiences. And found some helpful books in the subject.  The Ivory Tower and Harry Potter: Perspectives on a Literary Phenomenon edited by Lana Whited states, “Roughly 150 people ranging in age from five to fifty-five waited patiently for the doors of our local bookstore to open” (343).  This shows that Harry Potter has such as wide audience that I need to pick a part to study, which I think children or adolescents are a good start.  Whited later talks about that young boys set aside their toys to read Harry Potter.

            One reason I found on the mass appeal is on a chapter in The Ivory Tower and Harry Potter of written by Rebecca Borah who states, “Part of the answer to why Harry Potter appeals to such a diverse range of fans lies in the story of the creator” (350).  Harry as a character is a lot like J.K Rowling herself where their story is about people going from rags to riches.  And this introduces the relateability that Harry as a character has on the readers.   Most people who have never read Harry Potter are introduced by it by their friends or family.  

            The primary text I plan to use is Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone since it would be hard to do the series, which I decided on doing the first book of the series. 

            Also there are books that I want to see to get, which one that was recommended was Reading the Romance by Janice Radway that will give me ideas and research ideas that I might want to do and give me more focus.  Also I found a book called Unlocking Harry Potter: Five Keys to the Serious Reader by John Granger that talks about the narrative and the form of Harry Potter. 

            I have some good ideas but the problem now is to focus on one aspect of Harry Potter and using the first book to talk about a specific audience and idea that has to do with the appeal of Harry Potter. Hopefully with more ideas from the books and getting an appointment to talk about my ideas and maybe get more of a focus from Dr. Middleton.

Cloud Atlas and the Realistic future world of Sonmi-451

October 30, 2008

          One of the other chapters that are in Cloud Atlas is entitled “An Orison of Sonmi-451” which is a futuristic chapter of women that are clones and are given a certain status.  All these women want to do is achieve the higher status like being a pureblood.  As readers this is all given to us by a different form of writing; an interview between one of the clones, fabricants as they all called, called Sonmi-451 and the interviewer, a unanimityman who is like the FBI in our standards.  But Sonmi-451 works as a worker at Papas Song which is like a McDonalds because at one point she describes the golden arches in the description of the place. Here the fabricants are fed soap, which is really a mind erasing drug. And if you are a candidate for a higher status, which like Sonmi that she is slowly taking off the drug and given more memories and consciousness.   Then she is freed into a university as a test subject but by reading books and then when discovered of her progress, which she is then to be sold for the highest bidder.

It’s very interesting that all of this as discussed in class is taken from a Korean utopian world.  It is clear from the beginning with the names of the characters, like Sonmi-451, Yoona and Boom-Sook Kim.  Also the place Taemosan mountain and university all come from Korean terms.  Why a Korean utopian world? It was said that because of the Japanese warriors during the war took Korean women as prisoners is the idea that Mitchell is expressing by the Korean women are fabricants and workers for other people. 

Also its interesting on the specific types of books from the western culture that Sonmi-451 reads in the university during her confinement at the university.  Sonmi-451 states, “I devoured the twelve seminals…the library refused many downloads, of course, but I succeeded with two Optimists translated from late English, Orwell and Huxley; and Washington’s Satires on Democracy” (211).  Later Sonmi states that she is reading Plato’s Republic showing her knowledge on the western world.  She is reading the western canon and Mitchell wants to make it clear that by making a broader reading list that this is where Sonmi gets really smart and increases her status of knowledge.

Everyone has a status and their goal is to achieve the highest goal to gain ascension, which is an elevator ride to the outside world.  As said the ultimate goal is to become the consumers who have a quota that must be spent at a certain time.  It seems that we as a society are heading toward this future.  We can perform plastic surgery and sex changes that can alter a person’s personal appearance.  And we as a society have cloned animals so it’s not far off that humans might be tried next. Already in sports, athletes are coming up with a gene toping project only now in certain countries that is untraceable and can increase performance like steroids.  Science keeps coming up with breakthroughs in genetics and cloning that some day we as a society might become this idea of consumerism and class systems of clones or fabricants.

Cloud Atlas: Chapter of Luisa Rey and Cavendish

October 25, 2008

           The Luisa Rey and Cavendish chapter in this part of the novel seems easier to follow than the first two chapters.  One reason is the change of form from letters to a detective story and then to pulp fiction.  The mini stories end with an open ending.  The first chapter cut off mid sentence and then the letters end in a mysterious way with a bonfire and leaves.  The Luisa Rey chapter ends with her going into the water where the Cavendish ends with him stuck eating cold peas as he cannot escape the Aurora house, the rest home thinking it was a hotel.

            It’s interesting that all the chapters have specific dialogue to show the time period that the chapters are taking place in.  Like the Luisa Rey chapter as the language is the 60s with “wild cat” and references to Joni Mitchell and the Pearl Harbor.  Luisa Rey and Dr. Sixsmith, which is a connection to the last chapter, get stuck in a elevator and that’s how they first know each other and talk.  Then Dr. Sixsmith sends something to Luisa Rey in an envelope but this part shows he is going to die, which is when he says in his head, “What if they get me before I reach it?” (109). After Dr. Sixsmith supposedly committed suicide that Luisa believes that he was murdered and tries to prove that he was.  Mitchell states, “Luisa has reread Sixsmith’s letters a dozen times or more in the last day and a half. They disturb her. A university friend of Sixsmith, Robert Frobisher, wrote the series in the summer of 1931 during a prolonged stay at a Chateau in Belgium” (120).  This shows in this part that all these mini stories or chapters are connected in some way and at the end will show the readers the end of the stories or its connection.  The ending of this chapter with Luisa drowning seems too open ending and hopefully the author will come back to what happened to Luisa in another story.

            The dialogue again changes to the 1980s and British accented dialogue with swearing.  It seems more realistic than the other forms of dialogue.  But a reader has to be familiar to some of the British terms like the queue, which id British for the line and there are some others like nipper, young boy, ruddy or bollocks.  It’s weird that a friend of Cavendish tells him to go to some hotel that turns out to be a rest home. And even though Cavendish tells the staff that he doesn’t belong there or wants to leave that they refuse to let him go.  They insist that he has signed a written permission to be held there and they hold all his valuables like his keys.  But what keys are they?  He didn’t drive there or are they his house keys.  And one of the people tells Cavendish that Aurora house is the best hotel, five star one.  Cavendish states, “I inspected my cell. Door, locked from outside, no keyhole. Window that opened only six inches…Prospects for breakout: piss-poor” (178).  One person states this is a five star hotel but Cavendish describes it as a prison that he wants to break out of.  And it ends with him stuck in this place where if he doesn’t behave that they will medicate him for his own protection.  It sounds more like an asylum but he never was evaluated so it doesn’t make sense that he should be forced to stay at this place.  The author should come back to these stories to answer the questions readers have by these open ended chapters in order to connect all these chapters.

Form has Purpose in Clouds Atlas

October 23, 2008

                First of all I agree with many in this novel is not only a tough read but throughout reading Cloud Atlas that the question pops up, what is the point of this? Especially when reading the first section of this of the Journal of Adam Ewing.  By talking and discussing the meaning of this novel made myself better grasp the point to the section and the purpose of Mitchell’s form of using the different forms of writing in each section.

            The first section of the journal writing was very hard to follow.  It was on one perspective of Adam Ewing, an American notary that seems like a static character.  He watches the tribe of this New Zealand tribe be colonized and tortured and he is naïve to them being human as sees them as animals.  Ewing states, “I confess, I swooned under each fall of lash. Then a peculiar thing occurred. The beaten savage raised his slumped head, found my eye and shone me a look of uncanny, amicable knowing!…I inquired after the nature of the prisoner’s crime. Henry put his arm around me. ‘Come, Adam, a wise man does not step betwixt the beast and the meat” (6-7).  This just shows Adam’s character as a typical male at this time, naïve about these things like beatings and too stubborn to stop it.  I think it was an interesting comparison brought up in class to Beloved and how the white people see the African Americans only as property and treat them and see them as animals.  And then the strange thing is Ewing’s journal stops mid sentence and we are moved to letter writing in the second section.

            Then in the second section we are moved to Robert writing letters to a lover in 1931.  Robert is a composer and his job is to dictate like authorship.  It’s in this section that Robert states in a temple image about his ways of thinking about a civilization.  Robert states, “The masses, slaves, peasants, and foot soldiers exist in the cracks of its flagstones, ignorant of their ignorance. Not so the great statesmen, scientists, artists, and most of all, the composers of the age, any age, who are civilization’s architects, masons and priests” (81).  This idea of Robert is first showing the different class systems that are needed to maintain to keep a civilization going.  And art changes the world and Mitchell is picking certain ideologies at this time of civilizations. 

            At first I was lost with this form that Mitchell decided to use to write this novel.  It is confusing and different to start with a place and time of colonization through journal writing and then to 1931 of letters Robert is writing to his lover.  But the idea brought up in class that the form is used for a purpose.  This purpose is to show the history of the novel.  First writing started with journal writing then into the letters and next pulp novels.  This novel can be difficult with the different forms being used but now I think I can grasp on knowing it is done for a purpose to show us readers the history of the novel.  Also it answers our question on what makes a novel good? And I hope by the end of this novel is either answers  it or some of my questions will be answered to move on to find out the fate of the novel.

Theories

October 16, 2008

                I believe that the theorists everyone did on their presentation were really informative and some helpful for me when I write my paper.  I would like to do my paper either the theory on metafiction and postmodernism by Linda Hutcheon or femininity and ideas of women by Armstrong.

                First off I really liked ideas on Nancy Armstrong.  The ideas of the ideals of women, desire and that women are seen as not female if they break from the norm put on them to be women in the society.  Armstrong talks a lot of gender issues and the idea of the “new woman” unlike the stereotype brought on by Myra.   Also the article that Armstrong writes pulls from a variety of different schools of theory from Marxism, feminist theories, Foucault, Freud that she uses to argue and prove her argument.  These ideas are similar to Jane Austen’s novels or Jane Eyre.

                The one idea I agree with Jameson is that literature is a representation of history.  This goes back to history and fiction are related according to Hutcheon.  Inside the lines through metaphors and fictional stories is history.

Linda Hutcheon’s ideas and theories on metafiction and her idea of history and fiction to be related as in fictional stories lies history behind it.  Hutcheon though not proven to be a postmodernist, but she does use many of their theories to prove her own.  And the idea that authors put history inside fiction, which results in people reading about it question the events and try to find the truth about the history. 

                Also Lukacs ideas are influential to the theory on the novel.  He talks about form and the idea of the epic hero in the novel and that the novel hero has insecurities or flaws.  It seems true that a hero should not be perfect but someone that readers can relate to in their own lives. 

                Bakhtin’s statement that a novel has its own genre and there is no canon.  Also the novel is always changing.  It is a bold statement for someone even a theorist to say there is no canon when a lot of people spend their lives to decide what should be considered a canonical text.  But Bakhtin is saying that every book is in the canon because there is no canon.  This seems true because everyone has different ideas of what is a canonical text and should be in it so therefore, there can be no canon if everyone thinks differently about the criteria for the canon. 

               

Writing Prompts

October 9, 2008

 

           A novel should make the reader think more in depth about concepts or events that are taking place in a novel like in Beloved; Morrison talks about real events like the Middle passage during slavery through a story.  It makes people think more about slavery and the truth behind it all.  A novel should make a reader challenge their own thinking on an idea or issue like identifying about gender and gender identity in Myra Breckinridge.  A novel should be entertaining so people get these ideas and issues through reading a novel like The Uses of Enchantment.

            William Lyons Phelps (1916): “A good story well told.”  This statement seems to broad to talk about a novel.  A novel does so much more than entertain such as it makes readers think more in depth about issues presented in the novel.  It makes readers research and learn more about these issues; therefore increasing thinking over all.  By the novel making a person think more, which in return increases people’s intelligence the more people read a good novel.  Also not every good story is a great novel.  There are many books I have read that were entertaining like Harry Potter but don’t seem to fit the list or criteria of a good novel.  Books like Beloved, Myra Breckinridge and The Uses of Enchantment are examples of good novels that make a reader think more in depth with issues, challenge a reader’s previous thoughts on issues and entertain the reader as well.

Mary as the Smartest one in Uses of Enchantment

October 4, 2008

            Throughout the novel Uses of Enchantment by Heidi Julavits the one character who seems to be shown as an average girl but is in fact the smartest character in the novel.  Even Dr. Hammer notices that Mary is smarter than she is described to him in his case file.  And she is because the entire “abduction” was a planned escape for attention, revenge and that shows people her truth as a wronged woman. 

Mary states, “Mary puzzled this out…She knew that she had ostensibly started this game as an imaginative way to complete a school assignment. But it was more complicated than that-a complication that rose, in part, when she had been assigned, via sheer coincidence, to Bettina Spencer’s former doctor” (127).  Here Mary gives reasons of why she faked her own abduction.  It was to finish the school assignment to “’rescue’ somebody with whom he student felt a deep connection, the idea being that student ‘will discover within herself a wronged woman whom she herself has the power to exonerate” (57).   Mary believes that Dora and Bettina are wronged women and she mimicked their faked abduction to show people they were wronged and herself is a wronged woman.  By faking and lying to be sexually abused and abducted shows in truth that she was really sexually abused by her parents’ friend, Kurt, when she was younger but her mother slaps her and doesn’t believe her.  She wants people to know and she does this by faking her abduction to make people listen to her truth.

But even though she carries out this planned abduction and gets to see a therapist that will listen; Dr. Hammer misses all the clues that Mary tries to show him the truth.  She tells to the guy this when she is being abducted by him.  But in fact she is the one in control. 

Julavits states, “I wonder if she knew something, the girl said. Do you think she knew something she didn’t know she knew?

The real question is, the man said, pointing a half-eaten shrimp at her, if she has to be reminded if she knows something, does she really know it?

Maybe she blanked it out herself, the girl said. She knew if she knew this thing, that someone would try to pry out of her” (78).

This is layers of Mary telling this stranger about her trying to tell the truth about something that deeply affected her to the point that she tried to block it out of her mind.  Through this fake abduction that is a lie but she wants to tell someone the real route of her sexual abuse she suffered when she was a child. 

And the plan works and she is being seen by Dr. Hammer.  Even though Dr. Hammer is watching her and analyzing her, which Mary still seems in control by her asking a question after Dr. Hammer asks one.  And she gives clues to him to show him the truth about her through the stories of Dora and Dorcus.  She pulled the Dora book on one of the sessions with Dr. Hammer and has him tell the story of Dora.  Then she pulls a book about Dorcas.  How many clues does this doctor need to find that she is hinting to him the truth about her relating it to these women?  Then he thinks she is hiding from her behind the book.  She states, “I’m hiding in plain sight, Beaton, she said. Maybe a book is the best place to look” (104).  That is like giving the answer to all his questions about her and if he doesn’t get that hint; then he isn’t smart enough to be a therapist or a doctor. 

Close reading of page 3 in Uses of Enchantment

October 1, 2008

            The passage I chose to close read is on page 3 of the novel The Uses of Enchantment by Heidi Julavits.  This paragraph is about a girl stating at her school called Semmering, which there is a mural contest to show the “triumphs of New England women.”  The winning mural was women tied to stakes being burned and running away from Indians.  The clouds above in this mural were to show women to ignore the injustice of women.  The mural’s title was The Disappearing Women which was nicknamed by the students as The Grin and Bear it Mural. The mural is a representation to the students of how they should approach the world as keeping their sadness to themselves as they live in a town with history of women that were accused of witches that suffered death and torment.

            It’s interesting that the teachers at a private school have a contest to depict the triumphs of New England women and they pick the opposite depiction of women that are seen as triumphant.  The teachers pick a mural that is depicted of “women being chased by tomahawk wielding Indians and tied to stakes” that this is the message they want to convey to young women.  It seems that this depiction sends the message as the girl says to hide their feelings from people because their ancestors went through a lot worse.  And the novel takes place in West Salem where all the women were falsely accused and burned at the stake for being witches.  The clouds are interesting in that they represented injustice to the women and the feminist teachers who chose to ignore it.  This shows that the adults that students are suppose to turn to are depicted as ignoring these young women.  The renaming the mural to The Grin and Bear it Mural shows that the students feel that they cannot come to adults to for their problems and are told through this mural to keep their feelings to themselves.

            By the teachers picking a mural of women being burned at the stake and suffering injustice as the example of women being triumphant shows to these young women that they are to keep their feeling to themselves and continue to feel ignored.  This mural that the young women pass at this private school over and over again that constantly reminds them they are worthless and that makes them feel trapped and ignored.  When all these things are telling these women to stay quiet; all they want to have is attention. And they feel the only way that is to lie of being abducted so they can be talked about and feel important.  These young women at this time in West Salem read articles in the newspaper or watch the televioson news on young women being abducted and being talked about so in return they strive for that attention.  That is why they lie or fake their own abduction to get the attention that in this society that they would not get any way else. 

Myra and criteria of being a Good novel

September 26, 2008

          Myra Breckinridge by Gore Vidal is one of the most twisted and disturbing books to read in a class.  Just with the scenes of the torture Myra did to Rusty and then in the end it was a man doing it all this time; a total shocking ending.  Or the idea of Myra hurts Rusty, Rusty has rough sex with Letitia and then he in the end becomes a homosexual.  All this time Myra is writing to her therapist but he is really a dentist, who confused me because then he can’t give professional advice to Myra. How could Mary-Ann be so accepting of the fact that Myra is really a guy and then just love the man, Myron? It doesn’t seem to fit but it seems Vidal’s choice to end in a wrap-up and happy ending.  But even though this novel was shocking, repulsive, which it got me thinking about gender and representation of it. 

            When a novel makes a person think about ideas, themes or even theories of the novel; it seems to be that is should be on one of the greatest novels list.  A novel should invoke questions about confusing passages in it, historical reference and criteria that fit many different schools of theory.   It does this by having a unique form in its writing, by being a confusing or challenging read that makes a reader go back and think about that confusing passage.  It has to have some research done on the novel in order to research main questions of schools of theory to find out what other people think about the novel.  Or it has to have ideas that can be connected to the novel that doesn’t have to be about people talking specifically about the novel.   So far the novels we have read in class do all these things to make a good novel.  Beloved made me think and brought up many questions to be answered with different schools of theory.  Also Myra Breckinridge didn’t have as much of research but had ideas about the reading involving gender that many researches tried to answer.  Both these texts made me think about the text deeper about ideas and with research tried to answer those questions and made me think more about those ideas.

            In the Theory of the Novel textbook, there are many theories that I didn’t know existed such as the Grand theory in three different parts or the privacy, domesticity and women chapter.  The definition of the novel over against the epic; a deep engagement with the subforms of the narrative and a preoccupation with the relationship between form and content using nature and form with Lukacs is the first part of the grand theory but the second part does all this but in a philosophical and figurative style with Heglian-Marxist.  The third part of this grand theory is through Bakhtin, is that the novel destroys the epic distance that between language and reality.  Bakhtin states, “Language in the novel not only represents, but itself serves as an object of representation” (317).  The other theory privacy, domesticity and women talk about through various theorists that “carries novelistic characterization…to arrive, in the nineteenth century, at the overdetermined and paradigmatic individualism of the domestic woman” (439).  The novel Myra Breckinridge seems to fit in Grand Theory III because Vidal’s use of Myra’s language always represents another idea in the novel.