Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Recreating the Mystery of Shakespearean Sonnets


Over the course of the year, we've been dealing with a lot of poetry, perhaps without even recognizing it.

As we have done this, you may not have been aware of the underlying structure in such poetry for establishing cadence (that is, tone), rhythm, and meaning.

We must keep in mind the importance of learning to read poetry by writing it ourselves.

That said, I ask you to take on the 14-line, Shakespearean sonnet formula (iambic pantemter; ABAB CDCD EFEF GG) while modifying the text to suit your own needs and subject matter related to the deeply emotional experiences presented in Shakespeare’s sonnets:

· Time
· Death
· Love
· Friendship

Your focus should be centered on issues of RELATIONSHIP!

Thus, you will want to evoke a whole range of emotional experiences from joy to despair; from love-loss to the fulfillment of love; from loneliness to peace; from depression to happiness.Be sure to pay attention to how Shakespeare uses the sonnet to “bring the fundamental experiences of life—time, death, love, and friendship—into tight focus" (TV 250).

DUE Friday, May 15 by class time: blog or hard copy.

Below is an example from my own in-class writing on the theme of spiritual transformation (from life to death to life):

The promised land awaits in the silent
Growth of the fruits of God's great love.
On this Western front all time is thus spent
In the white mist of reverie above

Wherein I seek only what's beautiful
In scope of truth in sound that sings a song--
This melody is a momentary lull
Into scapes of dreaming so deep and long,

Where human deserts become oases.
Barren and dry hearts are like thirst quenched.
Where sullen countenance of death ceases
To shade all that was once prefigured

In the advent of your second coming--
A story of death to birth succumbing.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A Freudian Analysis of the Brave New World


According to Sigmund Freud's psychoanalytic theory, the human psyche (or mind) is constituted of ego, superego and id. The ego is the rational part of the mind that is ultimately responsible for channeling (sublimating), repressing (frustrating) or releasing the aggressive and sexual demands of the id (or libido/blind animal instincts). The superego, meanwhile, is that part of the personality system involving the conscience and morality, demanding total abstinence of the individual in the interests of the work ethic (Schindler, "Introduction to Freud" 1). The healthy, well-adjusted individual is one who meets the demands placed upon him by external forces such as work. We call this the reality principle. As Ronald Schindler says of this "principle of constancy": we must learn, through the functions of the ego, to "postpone and modify pleasure and its pursuit to fit the needs dictated by reality" ("Introduction to Freud" 4).

Accordingly, the individual who is not well adjusted, otherwise known as a neurotic personality, is subject to anxiety and frustration as he has not learned to properly channel his sexual energy into such things as work, play, or creative means of expression such as art. The individual's anxiety can develop into severe forms of "neuroses" including a complete break from physical reality called, psychosis. Interestingly, the indvidual's childhood experiences play a key role in how he develops and functions psychologically and socially, or psycho-socially, later in life.

Freud developed a theory about what he called the Oedipal complex, basing it off of the Greek tragedy of Oedipus the king who incidentally killed his father and married his own mother unbeknownst to him. Accordingly, Freud theorized that the young male child, in growing into a self-aware indvidual, must learn to reconcile with the authority his father represents while gaining independence from his reliance on the protection and nurturance that his mother represents. If this issue is unresolved, says Freud, the individual's pscyhological growth will be stunted, leading to anxiety issues and sexual perversions. All the frustrated energy of childhood sexual instincts will eventually manifest themselves in symptoms of agression, ascetism (extreme self-discipline and self-denial, including forms of self-abasement and, at its worse, self-destruction), masochism, sadomasochism, sexual dysfunction and generalized anxiety. Ultimately, a healthy, adult ego will find some balance between the pleasure and reality principles, establishing an equilibrium between repression, sublimation and gratification of sexual urges natural to the animal instinct within man.

This brings us to a discussion of the superego, or conscience, which manifests itself socially in the moral codes such as those of the world's great religious traditions. As Freud would have it, religion is essentially a barbiturate (opiate or narcotic) for the masses; it is a way to keep individuals within society stablized, giving them the "mass delusion [of] substitute gratifications [in place] of pleasure and the acting out of aggressive impulses" (Schindler on Civilization and its Discontents 3). Religion is a function of the social order within a given society that maintains a system of checks and balances so to speak, along with other institutions such as government, family, and industry. All civilization is the result of a given culture's attempt to find a balance between the will to love and the will to violence (represented in Freudian psychology by the Greek gods of Eros and Thanatos respectively).

Generally, as Freud says, individuals within society are discontent as they must undergo the constant pain of adjusting their instinctual drives to the value systems provided to them by their superego and its moral codes. Social aggression in the form of war and conflict thus stems from a breakdown in the equilibrium between the satisfaction or sublimation of the sex instinct and the aggressive instinct. If there is an imbalance in the dual energies, then the unbridled release of frustrated or repressed aggression and sexual energy can lead to destruction on a social level, including that of genocide.

And so we must now consider two things, which I would like you to develop in an at least five paragraph essay due Monday, May 11, 2009 on hard copy according to MLA format.

They are:

1. A Freudian analysis of John Savage according to Freud's theory of psychoanalysis and Civilization and its Discontents.

2. A Freudian analysis of the World State according to Freud's Civilization and its Discontents.

We will discuss more in class, but for now, you should begin applying aspects of Freud's theories as they pertain to John Savage and the society of the World State. I expect you to engage both the Freudian fun pack and the actual text of Brave New World in order to expound your insights fully and thoughtfully. This is a 25 pt. assignment.

Dr. Peach, FSC

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Home Stretch: Crafting Criticism


The aim of any literature class is to enhance one’s own ability to analyze a text through a critical lens—essentially, to heighten one’s critical thinking ability. Literary criticism, then, is concerned with searching a text like detective to a mystery for deeper meaning, to “read between the lines” and thereby discover a world of themes that pertain to the human experience. To root out such themes from the text involves a search for and understanding of literary techniques such as irony, conflict, figurative language, symbol, imagery and dialogue—each indicates a certain something more that is going on beyond what is presented by face value of mere words on a page. Every story communicates something unique and everything unique is important. To do a work of literary criticism is serious work, but, as the poet Rainer Maria Rilke says to Mr. Kappus, the subject of his Letters to a Young Poet, “But they are difficult things with which we have been charged; almost everything serious is difficult, and everything is serious” (35).

To begin our own search, I want to invite you first to consider topics for discussion that will inform and dictate your 5-7 page piece of literary criticism with a works cited page that includes the primary source and three other secondary, scholarly sources (non web-based). These topics should revolve around one of the major works read in class this year, which are as follows:

· Beowulf
· The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
· Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
· The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
· The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare
· Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis
· 1984 by George Orwell
· Brave New World by Alduous Huxley

Once you have invented a topic for the purposes of completing your work of literary criticism, I would like you to craft a thesis paragraph that will set out to examine at least three aspects of the topic to be discussed. You may treat this paragraph as a more informal topic proposal or prospectus. I will discuss specific format for such an assignment in class. Due, typed and according to MLA format, Wednesday, April 22, 2009.

After you have generated a thesis paragraph, you are responsible for re-typing it and crafting an outline to give a skeletal frame to the piece. Please list the works you will be using for research along with the title of the work itself on a separate works cited page, due with the ouline. Due, typed and according to MLA format, Monday, May 4, 2009.

Lastly, once the outline is finished, you will be responsible for fleshing out an actual draft of your essay, which I will accept for review before you turn in your final work.

The due date for this thesis project is Wednesday, May 20, 2009.

We will begin discussing ideas, expectations, and format guidelines for the paper and the constituent assignments leading up to its final submission as the quarter carries on.