On the Rocks

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These are interpretations of essays by eminent authors. The essays are related to postmodernism, literature, politics, economics, science, and aesthetics,

Submitted: December 11, 2017

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Submitted: December 11, 2017

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Analysis of a Collection of Short Stories

At the end of the Mechanical Age by Donald Barthelme

The protagonists of the story are Ralph and Ms Davis. The story portrays the contemporary age as being dull and boring. But the mechanical age has got its comfort zones. Ms Davis a widow gets married to Ralph. The marriage ceremony is witnessed by God who makes them take an oath: ‘you wedded husband and life promise to make whatever mutually satisfactory accommodations necessary to reduce tensions and arrive at previously agreed upon goals both parties have harmoniously set in the appropriate planning sessions’. The story is vague and lacks depth and form. It resembles an incongruous abstract painting.

Petition by John Barth

John Barth in the Petition writes an epistle to a renowned person from Thailand who is visiting America for a surgery. Barth is very much drawn to Eastern Mysticism and Eastern religions. He extols the virtues of the foreigner’s history. He also describes the contemporary culture of America in ironic terms. One can’t find the essence of a story in the petition by Barth.

Balthazar’s Marvelous Afternoon by Marquez

The Cage made by Balthazar is a fascinating and mysterious story about Balthazar who makes a cage and sells it for sixty pesos. As soon as he collects the money, he buys booze for his friends and gets inebriated. His wife waits patiently for him to come home. The story carries a moral about a person who doesn’t know to handle large sums of money.

The Shore by Grillet

The shore by Grillet describes the movement of three children on the beach. Grillet describes the motion of the waves, the flying sea gulls and the movement of the wind. The author has a lurking fascination for the three children, a strange eerie aura of attraction.

Like a Bad Dream by Heinrich Boll

In Like a Bad Dream, the protagonist invites the Zumpens for dinner. He was thinking of the prized contract that the Zumpen would make. But the Zumpens left without saying anything. Bertha the wife of the protagonist told her husband to visit the Zumpens. Mrs. Zumpen gives him an envelope and told him to raise the price as the price quoted by the next bidder was much higher. The story ends with a happy note with the protagonist being awarded the contract.

Axolotl by Cortazar

Axolotl describes a morbid fascination for them by the author. The author becomes ruminative about them. The story is Quixotic and has no meat of a plot.

In Dreams begin responsibilities by Schwartz

In Dreams Begin Responsibilities the author describes about the relationship of the father with the mother.  The relationship is a long lasting and pleasing one.

Solipsist by Brown

In the story the Solipsist Walter Jehovah has an imaginary conversation with God. Solipsism is a philosophy that an individual alone exists. In the conversation Jehovah becomes seduced by the grandeur of thought—he alone exists as God.

Gogol’s Wife by Tomanso

In the story Nicolo’s wife is described as a balloon. As years pass by, Nicolo’s disgust for his wife increases.

The End by Beckett

In the End is a story that describes the solitary life of an unknown person. The description portrays his angst.  The story has no proper beginning and end and the narrative is haphazard.

The Waiting by Borges

We find Vilari the protagonist settling down in his new lodgings. In the end of the story, a surprising one we find that Vilari is killed by a stranger.

Borges and I

The author differentiates the fictional Borges from the real Borges. The fictional Borges is acclaimed in the news and has a marvel for hourglasses, sixteenth century maps and labyrinths.

Everything and Nothing by Borges

Everything and Nothing by Borges is a fictional rendition of the biography of Shakespeare. He mentions Shakespeare having been initiated into the rite of sexuality by Ann Hathaway.  In an imaginary conversation with God, Shakespeare is revealed by God that he is a theater, he is a mask, and he is everything and nothing.

 

 

Analysis of the Portrait of the Artist as Young Man by James Joyce

James Joyce heralded the birth of the modern novel. He is known for bequeathing the genre of writing in Streams of Consciousness. Portrait of the artist as a young man shows the gestation of Joyce’s soul. Joyce’s literature is marked by anti-realism.

 The novel bears the traces of impressionism. The novel belongs to the genre of the Bildungsroman which denotes the formative influences of artist’s life.  However the novel is also a Kunstlerroman showing the artistic developments of the novelist. Joyce uses epiphany as a mode of narrative. For Joyce Epiphany is a spiritual manifestation. The novel is inclusive of the late nineteenth and the early twentieth century political and cultural landscape of Ireland.

In the novel Joyce tries to link smells with ideas. His mother put an oil-sheet and it had a fetid odor. His mother had a nicer smell than his father. The sensation of smells is put into epiphanies of ideas. Using smells as a motif we get to understand the workings of the consciousness of the writer.

The novel begins with Stephen’s life in college and his saying goodbye to his father and mother. One incident that happened in school is worthwhile mentioning. Joyce gets caned for not doing his work. The excuse that he has lost his glasses does not bear convincing fruit with the Jesuit.

Again in the novel Stephen encounters the word ‘suck’. For him it is a queer word and he births it into a nourishing intellectual catharsis. Stephen is homesick in college and longs to be at home.

There’s an episode in the novel where his fellow colleagues end up teasing Stephen for having kissed his mother while going to bed. The kiss becomes a song of embarrassment for Stephen. On other hand like Proust, Stephen remembers the kiss of his mother with metaphoric fondness. Soft, tender and wet is the kiss for Stephen.

Stephen recollects the discussion on Politics which has taken place at his home. The discussion is about Parnell the Irish liberator who had to quit politics when he became accused of illicit promiscuity. Parnell becomes a shameful hero, an ugly toad of tempest brewing in the minds of Irish people.

There is a description about Stephen’s passionate encounter with a hustler. Her embrace was passionate as poetry. Going to bed with her was a honey of ecstasy. Stephen becomes confronted with Christian virtues and becomes confessional before a priest. Stephen writes a remarkable epiphany of guilt and passion. Probably this incident would have led to the generation of the artist in him.

There are some remarkable views on pity, terror, art and aesthetics in the novel. Let’s examine the Joyce’s narrative on pity and terror.  ‘Pity is the feeling which arrests the mind in the presence of whatsoever is grave and constant human suffering and unites it with the sufferer. Terror is the feeling which arrests the mind in whatsoever is grave and constant in human suffering and unites it with a secret cause’. Pity is treated on a lower dimension and resembles Aristotelian notion of catharsis. Terror on the other hand is deep rooted in angst and resembles the experience of nausea in existential philosophy.

Rhythm for Stephen is the ‘formal aesthetic relation of part to part in any aesthetic whole or of an aesthetic whole to its part’. Stephen’s idea of rhythm is similar to Nietzsche’s theory of art which speaks of the Dionysian element of rhythm.

‘Sound, Shape and color are the prison gates of our soul—an image of beauty we have come to understand that is art’. This is in tune with Ezra Pound’s definition poetic imagism as an ‘image which is an intellectual and aesthetic complex’.

‘Art’ said Stephen ‘is the human disposition of the sensible or intelligible matter for an aesthetic end.’ For example the smile of Mona Liza is known for its aesthetic sense because of its mystic mysteriousness. ‘Beauty’ for Stephen ‘is the splendor of truth’; this can be familiarized with Keats’ dictum: ‘Truth is beauty: beauty truth’.

There are three forms of art for Stephen, the lyrical, the epic and the dramatic.  A lyrical form is where ‘the artist presents his image in immediate relation to himself’: the epical form is the one where ‘the artist presents his image in immediate relation to himself and to others’: and the dramatic form is the one where ‘the artist presents his image in immediate to relation to others’.

 

Analysis of Jaguar Smile by Salman Rushdie

The Jaguar Smile by Salman Rushdie is his first nonfiction work written about his experiences in Nicaragua. Rushdie reviews the political situation in Nicaragua.

Much of Nicaragua’s early politics is characterized by rivalry between liberal elite of Leon and the conservative elite of Granada. This rivalry led to civil war. US born adventurer William Walker arrived in Nicaragua and won the war of the liberals. He took over the country and anointed himself President. Fearing his plans for expansion, several Central American countries waged a war and executed him. The conservatives then ruled Nicaragua.

Taking gain out of the rift of the conservatives Jose Santos led a liberal revolt that brought him to power.

Nicaragua has long stints of military dictatorship. Prominent amongst them was the Somoza. The Somoza family came to power as a result of an US engineered pact. One general which resisted this US attempt was Agusto Sandino.  

After the withdrawal of US from Nicaragua, General Sandino and the Sacasa government reached an agreement in return for agricultural land and retention of armed forces. This was followed by bitter faction between General Sandino and Somoza Garcia. Sandino was assassinated by the National Guard.

Following the death of Sandino, Somoza took control of the country. Rigobertro and Luis Somoza took reigns of the govt. followed by the death of their father.

Luis Somoza died of a heart attack. Then power was taken over by the Rene Schick who was a puppet of the Somoza. Somoza’s brother, Anastasio Somoza succeeded presidency after Schick. Carlos Fonseca adopted General Sandino as his hero and formed the Sandinista Liberation Front or the SLF.

The SLF gained many Nicaraguan sympathizers as the Somoza failed to rebuild Nicaragua after the earthquake and also for their mismanagement of the economy and rampant corruption.

The SLF took advantage of the worsening economic crises. The murder of Joaquin a prominent newspaper editor led to the people being distraught against the Somoza.

The SLF took the reins of power in 1979. Somoza fled to Argentina where he was sent to the grave. SLF developed a program of a National Literacy Crusade. The Regan administration cut of all ties with SLF as they were supporting FMLN rebels in El Salvador. Regan also imposed an embargo.

Due to these effects Nicaraguan economy took a turn for worse. The US supported a clandestine group—the Contras and they aimed to topple the SLF government. However the Soviet Union and Cuba were funding the Nicaraguan army. The US support for the contras met with flak all over the globe. The international court of justice passed a verdict against the American government.

Daniel Ortega was elected President in 1984. Right wing opposition parties did not participate claiming that the SLF was rigging the elections. The US government offered amnesty for Nicaraguans to settle in America. The International Court of Justice ordered America to pay 12 billion as reparations for violating the sovereignty of Nicaragua.  

 

Analysis of the Poverty of Philosophy by Marx

Karl Marx known as the father of Communism is a philosopher known for his lasting contribution to the rise of the proletariat by means of revolution and establishment of egalitarian Communism all the over the world. However his ideas have miserably failed and doomsday examples are the defunct Soviet Union and the market friendly, autocratic China. Even Cuba which had the vestiges of Communism is veering towards capitalism.

The poverty of Philosophy begins by what constitutes value? Value of an artifact is defined by its productive capacity and its value to be transacted as a commodity that will earn profit. Value is identified purely in economic and materialistic terms. Marx points out that this is the root problem of a bourgeoisie capitalist society.

Marx again espouses that production is based on the division of labor. Let’s take an example: in an operation theater in a labor room there are nurses and doctors tending to a lady in the last stages of pregnancy. From a Marxian point of view, the division of labor into nurses and doctors and is based on an unjust remuneration and falsified division of labor. In capitalist societies, value and division of labor is based on the level of skill. A skilled white collared worker will be eligible for higher remuneration.  

Again Marx goes on to say that production leads to exchange and exchange is marketable. A marketable product implies that there is the earning of profit. Communist societies which have emulated to equalize production with zero profits have failed miserably. It is also wrong to assume that profits are entirely shared by the Capitalists and the workers are exploited. For example engineers in the software industry earn a staggering sum as wages.

Again Marx brings out the erroneous view that the exchange value of a product falls as supply increases while the demand remains the same. In a capitalist system exchange value is determined by price. The price mechanism brings demand and supply to equilibrium. Marx is true when he advocates that exchange value with scarcity. It is true that human needs are unlimited where as the means to satisfy them are scarce. Communist societies which have sought to eliminate profits became corrupted by a gargantuan bureaucracy.

Marx is right when he says that the force that acts as an intermediary between exchange value and supply is price. Price mechanism sets in balance the forces of demand and supply. However in Capitalist societies prices can be manipulated by the producers. Let’s take an example of oil producing countries like the OPEC. In order to raise prices they regulate the supply of oil. Monopolistic manipulation of prices is a flaw in Capitalist societies.

The consumer determines the utility of the product. This is only partly true and applies only to affluent consumers. The market says that the consumer is the king. Today with the spread of transnational corporations and the resurgence of the global economy, the choice of the consumer is endless. Marx is true when he says that a consumer’s freedom lies in the social position he or she occupies. For example I can’t even dream of buying a BMW. Marketable value is the corner stone of the economic structure of a society.

Exchange value is determined by two sources: from scarcity and from the quantity of labor required to produce them. It’s a fact that resources are scarce and economics puts the resources to the best use of production. I would like to disagree with Marx when he says that exchange value is determined by the quantity of labor required to produce them. For example: a sweeper in a school might spend more hours of work than the principal but will be paid lower wages. In a way to make it blunt, it makes a capitalist society is an ugly fang.

Next Marx goes on to say that wages and profit have an inverse ratio. But that it is not true in Capitalist societies. Greater the profit, the greater will be the wages dished out to workers.

Next Marx treats labor as a value and not as a commodity. Marxian idealism is not practicable in an economic system. Labor is given wages according to the skills possessed by them. Greater the skill, greater will be the wages. It is classic to point out that why did people from East Germany try to escape to West Germany? The unification of Germany signified a death knell for Communism.

Next Marx tells how to determine equality in production? How can institutional structures in a society be revamped? The argument by Marx is specious. For example an engineer in an automobile plant would be paid more than an ordinary worker.

Next Marx questions how money became sovereign value of exchange? Again Marx goes on to say that money is not determined by labor time. With regard to money there is universal consensus that it is a medium of exchange. Again the level of skill possessed by a worker determines the wages he or she will earn.

Next Marx goes on to say that the workers will rise up and there will be a revolution which will ensure in the setting up of a just and egalitarian society. Marx’s prophecy bears the bells of Cassandra.

 

Analysis of Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking

Brief History of time is a book written by Stephen Hawking. In it he discusses the origin, structure and the eventual progression of the Universe. He also converses on time and space and the basic building blocks of the universe like quarks, the Big Bang phenomena and Black holes. He also discusses the theory of general relativity and quantum mechanics.

In earlier days it was the conception that the earth  rotated around the sun. Copernicus and Galileo disproved this concept and proved that that it was the earth that was rotating around the sun. Kepler also proved that the earth had an elliptical orbit. Newton with proved this with his complex mathematical equations. The origin of the Universe was a subject of contemplation. The religious view was that it was created at a particular point of time. Edwin Hubble in 1929 discovered that galaxies were moving away from each other. Today scientists use the general theory of relativity and quantum mechanics to explain the workings of the universe.

Next the analysis goes on to explain space and time. Newton discovered the laws of motion to explain the working of movements in the universe. Newton believed that time was an independent concept of space. However this does not work for objects near the speed of light. Scientists used ether to explain the speed of light. But that was not an adequate explanation. Events can be explained using light cones. The top of the cone tells us where light from the event will travel. The bottom tells us where light was in the past.

In this section Hawking talks about the expanding universe. He uses the Doppler shift to explain the idea. There are two types of happenings in Doppler shift, red and blue shift. Red shift is happening when something is moving away from us. This is caused by the wave-length of visible light reaching us and the frequency decreasing. Blue shift happens when something is moving towards us. Hawkins uses the Doppler shift to explain that the universe is getting bigger.

Here Hawking discusses the Uncertainty Principle. Uncertainty principle states that the speed and position of particle cannot be determined simultaneously. The uncertainty principle disproved the idea that the universe was deterministic.  Quantum physics states that light acts as waves and particles. Light waves have crests and troughs. The highest point is the crest and the lowest point is the trough. Sometimes they overlap and that is when colors occur.

In this chapter Hawking explains elementary particles of the Universe. The universe consists of Quarks and anti-quarks. There are six types of Quarks: they are: up quark, down quark, strange quark, charmed quark, bottom quark and top quark. Quarks are the building blocks of matter. All quarks have something called the spin. For example a particle of the spin 0 looks the same in every direction. A particle of spin 1 looks different from every direction. Strong nuclear forces are that keep the protons and neutrons together.

Here Hawking discusses about Black Holes. Black holes are stars that have collapsed. Black holes devour things into their center because of their strong gravity. Black holes can be shaped differently. Black holes will be spherical if they do not rotate and will bulge in the middle if they rotate. Black holes are difficult to find as they do not emit light. Disorder known as entropy is related to black holes. The scientific law dealing with entropy is the second law of thermodynamics.

Here Hawking discusses the origin and fate of the universe. The universe originated with a Big Bang. When the Universe started to become bigger, things started to cool in the universe.

Here Hawking proposes a unified theory of physics. In 1984 there developed the string theory among scientists where objects are not particles but two dimensional strings. The universe could be multi-dimensional. However unified theory of physics is still in the offing.  

 

Analysis of the Portrait of a Lady by Henry James

Henry James is the master of realist fiction and the portrait of a Lady was published as serials in the magazines: Atlantic and Macmillan. Literary critics hail his work as one his best pieces of fiction.

The protagonist of the story Isabel Archer is invited by her maternal aunt Lydia to visit her uncle’s home in London. There Isabel meets her invalid cousin Ralph and a neighbor Warburton. Isabel declines the offer of marriage made by Warburton and also a gentleman named Casper Good Wood. Lydia’s uncle grows ill and leaves her with a large legacy which she uses to travel to Florence. There she meets Osmond an American expatriate and marries him.  Their relationship becomes one of sour grapes due to genuine lack of affection to Lydia by Osmond. Lydia wants Pansy the daughter out of Osmond’s first marriage to marry an art collector. But Osmond is more interested in marrying her to Warburton. Isabel then hears the news that her uncle is dying and she also comes to know that Pansy is the daughter of Madam Merle who had an adulterous relationship with Osmond.  The ending of the story is rather cryptic leaving the reader to figure out whether Isabel would return to Osmond and also rescue Pansy from his clutches.  

The novel cannot be considered as a masterpiece of fiction. The art of realism fails to achieve its aesthetic touch. There are several flaws in the story-line. One can hardly imagine it to be a fitting story. Tropes are sparingly used. There is no depth of character in the protagonist Isabel. As a work of literature—the oeuvre of art tends to be limited to a sparing minimalism. The novel lacks in philosophical content. Is Isabel a caricature of wounded feminine? Is she an archetype of the 18th century womanhood? A Marxian critic would dismiss the novel as being related to the life of the bourgeoisie. Does Isabel as a character in the novel want to pursue an independent feminine life? Why does she reject the proposals of her suitors? Why does she finally accept Osmond as her suitor? The male characters in the novel are very effeminate. The novel is intensely subjective. The novel does not adhere to any school of philosophical thought. The prose of the novel is pedantic and stultifying. The novel signifies the fin de siècle of century. Looking at the novel through the Nietzsche’ prism of art, one encounters only the Apollonian elements of melody and not the Dionysian elements rhythm and beat. There is no Aristotelian sense of cathartic consciousness in the novel. The novel does not satisfy the literary analyst Bakhtin’s sense of the dialogic. The novelist is not versatile in the usage of prose. Isabel’s relationships with men in the novel can be traced to the Freudian Electra complex. Isabel was looking for father figures in her life. The contemporary culture of the 18th century is not very conducive for aesthetic development of the human psyche. The novel does not have any suitable endings. The story of the novel is warped in the consciousness of disunity. The novel is a fragmented piece of prose. The novel does not provoke the psyche of the reader. As a literary work of art, the novel lacks aesthetic merit.

 

Some Philosophical Ideas which have fascinated me

For a long time, I have been reading literary and philosophical texts. I would like enumerate some ideas which have fascinated me.

When I think about Socrates I am astounded. He was the wisest man alive. His famous dictum is: ‘know thy self’. Looking at it philosophically, one really cannot know the self to the fullest extent. Still one is fascinated by the idea of the self and its knowing. I marvel at Socrates who became a martyr all for the sake of being a philosopher.

Next I am astonished with the Plato’s allegory of the cave. He has used this allegory to explain the theory of forms. All men live in a dark cave and from its wall, they can see a bright light penetrating them. What Plato meant was there is a super-sensible world outside the existence of a sensible world.

Next I would like to take the concept of dialectics. Dialectics is as old as Socrates. He used dialectics as method of question and answer and there by arriving at the truth. The concept of dialectics was transformed by Hegel. For Hegel there was a thesis, an anti-thesis and synthesis. The idea of dialectics was further transformed by Marx into dialectical materialism. For him all history was based on the idea of production. The producers were the capitalists and the workers were the proletariat.  All the super-structure of the society like its legal, political and cultural institutions stemmed directly from a materialist base that is the productive capacity. In a capitalist system the proletariat becomes exploited. Marx believed that a revolution would take place and communism would be established on the ends of the earth.

Next I would like to take up Nietzsche’s theory of Art called as the Birth of Tragedy. Art occurs when the Apollonian and Dionysian elements coincide. Apollonian elements consist of melody and the Dionysian elements consist of rhythm and beat. Art is born with the merger of the two.

Next I would like to take Camus’ Myth of the Sisyphus. Sisyphus was person who was condemned by the Gods to roll a boulder all the way up a hill only to his angst he finds that it rolls down again. Camus’ portrays the dreaded monotony and angst of human life. It is for this reason that Camus became an atheistic, existential nihilist.

Next I would like to take up Sartre’s idea of being-in-itself and being-for-itself. Being-in-itself is a primary consciousness and being-for-itself is a consciousness that is directed towards objects. For Sartre existentialism is a philosophy whereby we have to place responsibility for our actions. Relying on God or others is considered by him as an act of bad faith.

Next I would like to take up the Freudian concepts of the Id, Ego and the Super Ego and also his dream analysis. The Id is the primary seat of our passions, the ego is the culture that is brought into existence by our parents and the super-ego is the laws of the society. A self has to tight-rope-walk alternating a balance, an equilibrium between the id, ego and super ego. Dreams for Freud are based on condensation and displacement. Condensed dreams are a fusion of varied symbolic imagery. Displacement in dreams is escapism. The follower of Freud, Lacan said that all dreams are structured in language. Dreams are metaphors and metonymies. According to linguist Roman Jacobson, metaphors occur on the syntagmatic axis and metonymies occur on the paradigmatic axis.  

Another fascinating concept that influenced me deeply was Saussure’s concept of the sign. A sign is made up of the signifier and the signified. The signifier is the visual, tangible element whereas the signified is an abstract idea. For example in a sentence: dove is peace: dove is the signifier and peace the signified.

Next I am moving on into Derrida’s concept of deconstruction. According to deconstruction, signs in texts privilege some and marginalize others. For example: a native English speaker is preferred in an International school over people from decolonized countries. For Derrida, the aim of reading a text is to unveil its structural oppositions.

Next I would like to take up Lacan’s concept of the Mirror Stage. The mirror stage is a stage when the child becomes to learn the self and learns to disassociate its bonding with the mother. When the self is realized, for Lacan the problem begins. Desire and lack enter the realm of the self.  From a world of plenitude the child comes to understand scarcity. The mirror stage is widely used in film studies and dissects how the spectator becomes enchanted with the spectacle of the cinema. Laura has said that Cinema must incorporate gay, lesbian and feminine gazes into its themes.

Next I would like to take up: Kristeva’s concept of the Semiotic and the Symbolic. The semiotic is a realm where syntax and grammar are avoided. For example: we encounter the semiotic in dance, music and streams of consciousness narrative. They symbolic is a realm where grammar and syntax and the rules of language adhere. Legal, political and medicinal texts are symbolic in nature. For Kristeva art is a fusion of the semiotic and the symbolic.

 

Literary Analysis of Essays on Literature

Interpreter’s Freud by Geoffrey Hartman

Poets leave the trappings of their mind in the unconscious and from this creativity flows. Freud’s way of interpreting dreams becomes a powerful way of hermeneutics. Dream analysis is a science. Joseph in the Old Testament of the Bible gains fame as a dream interpreter. Dreams are structured as language and most dreams are metaphors and metonymies.

Rootedness: The ancestors of tradition by Toni Morrison

The autobiographical form of the novel is classic in Black-American and Afro-American Literature. The birth of the industrial revolution saw the rise of the novel. I incorporate Black culture into my fiction. Black Literature is rooted in ancestors.

Englands of the Mind by Seamus Heaney

Ted Hughes the poet relies on Anglo-Saxon and Norse traditions. Hughes poetry is enmeshed with personified metaphors. For example: stones cry/horizons endure/dreams are the fetus of Gods.

The Exile of Evaluation by Barbara Smith

New movements have emerged in literary studies like New Criticism, Structuralism, Feminism, Postmodernism and Gay literature. Literary studies in America have been shaped by positivistic philological scholarship and by humanistic pedagogy.

The Hollow Miracle by George Steiner

Brecht, Kafka and Mann did not succeed on mastering their own culture but they found themselves to be eccentrics.

The Text, poem and the problem of the Historical Method

The 20th century gave way to new methods of criticism. According to Roman Jacobson, poetics deals with the problems of the verbal structure.

History and Fiction by Laurence Lerner

The novel is a total invention with delusory approximations to historical reality. History is a form of fiction. The weakness of realism as a theory is that it does not show what is specific to art.

Introduction to meta-history by Hayden White

There are three levels of conceptualization and they are the chronicle, story and mode of emplotment. Chronicles are open ended. The aim of the historian is to uncover stories buried in chronicles. Emplotment is a way by which sequence of events fashioned into a story is gradually revealed. There are four types of emplotment and they are romance, comedy, tragedy and satire.

When was post-colonialism the limit by Stuart Hall

Colonialism exists as a binary division between the colonizer and the colonized. There’s an ambivalence in the discourse of colonialism. Post-colonialism is a reconstruction of literature, its meaning and value. English literature assimilated the cultural traditions of the colonies. Is the concept of colonial meaning Euro-centric?

The Babel of Interpretations by E D Hirsch

No single meanings can interpret the meaning of texts. There are possible interpretations and compatible interpretations. Interpretations of a text vary from age to age.

 

Literary Analysis of Selected Essays

The Laugh of the Medusa by Helene Cixous

Women must write about their selves and put women into writing of texts, in areas where women have been violently displaced.

Women’s writing is unique especially when they speak about their bodies—the sacred feminine sexuality. Women must express the areas of the repressed.

Women must detoxify Freud’s classification that a woman’s sexuality is a dark continent. Woman’s body, her erotic sensuality should be put into the catharsis of expressing the soul. All of her writing emanates from her body. The unknowable, mysterious, mystic woman is a passion in textures of writing.

Helene takes a gibe at publishing houses that censor and don’t publish woman’s writing.

Men in history have abused and molested women. Writing from the 18th century has been male-centered. Women have maintained a mask of their libido.

Women—write your body—your self must be heard. Woman’s writing should be made up of transgression. She should challenge male-centered phallic-language.

Women should yield their bodies to women. They should become passionate flowers of meaning.

Death of the Author by Roland Barthes

When writing begins, the author enters into a realm of death. Capitalist ideologies have attached great importance to the author. It is language that speaks and not the author. In place of the author, Barthes uses the scriptor. Writing is per-formative in nature and marks the expression of the body.

The text is a tissue of quotations drawn from innumerable centers of culture. Reading is a phallic penetration of interpreting the text.

Colonialist Criticism by Chinua Achebe

The aim of the colonialist was to contain and suppress the native population.  Writers from decolonized nations educate themselves and become acquainted with European culture and express their wounded psyche and their repressed bodies.

Imaginary Homelands by Salman Rushdie  

A novel disturbs the truth of political, legal and military machinery of the state. For example the declaration of emergency in India by the Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was marked by one of forced sterilizations.

The Indian writer abroad looks at India with guilt tainted spectacles. Rushdie says he is a Muslim who eats pork and is thoroughly westernized. Writers live in multiple identities and multiple homelands. Salman Rushdie questions what it means be Indian and what it means to be outside India. Rushdie again says that my writing does not have a reader in mind but is shaped by ideas.

Writing Reading and the Public by Jean Paul Sartre

A writer expresses himself by disclosure. It is in love, hate, indignation, hope and despair that a writer’s world is transformed. By writing, the writer enters into the universe of meanings. A writer speaks about freedom that has been denied. A writer must transcend race, class, gender and nationality. Writing is also history but writing has to transcend history.

What is a Classic by T S ELIOT?

The word classic implies highest praise or contemptuous abuse. Eliot describes Virgil’s work as being a classic. A classic occurs when a civilization is mature. One of the signs of approach towards a classic is a style that aims at the complexity of the sentence.

Marxist Criticism by Terry Eagleton

Marxism begins with a historical analysis of literature. The capitalists and the proletariat make up the economic structure of the society. The function of ideology is to legitimate the power of the ruling class. All literary works are products of ideologies. Literature occupies the super-structure of the society. Terry Eagleton takes an example of T S Eliot’s poem: the Wasteland. The poem is directly determined by the spiritual emptiness, bourgeoisie ideology which springs from the crises of imperial capitalism.

 

 

Analysis of Tropes found in Rilke’s Poetry.

Rilke is a famous German poet who has modernized poetry. His poems are intensely subjective and poetically lyrical. He has written on many themes like religion, elegies, nature and love.

‘I find you Lord in all things and in all, in a tiny seed and you sleep in what is small’. This is a beautiful metaphoric comparison. God is placed within a tiny seed. We can also look at this metaphor biblically. For example: if you have faith as a mustard seed’. God sleeps in the seed and makes it grow and flower.

‘A wondrous game that power plays groping in roots and growing thick in trunks and in tree tops like rising from the dead’. Here power is compared to the rising of the dead. May be Rilke makes intrusions into religion. It is true in Christianity that dead will rise and resurrect. The roots and trunks of the trees are considered to be risen and resurrected.

A simile used by Rilke is: ‘a star that beams like a white city’. This is a beautiful comparison, so poignant with richness and depth of thought.

‘Lord it is time; the huge summer has gone by, now overlap the sundials with your shadows’. Here Rilke makes a reference to God being present with the temporality of time’s spaces.

‘The sky puts on the darkening blue coat’. This is a beautiful metaphor that suggests the ending of evening and the coming of the night. 

‘Every morning when sunlight comes into your house, you welcome it as a friend’. Rilke is using personification. Sunlight is portrayed in anthropomorphic terms.

‘Blood is the hardest, hard as stone’. The metaphor shows that humans are cold blooded and have no feelings that are humane.

‘My soul has no garden, no sun in it hangs on my twisted skeleton and terrified it flaps its wings.’  Here Rilke uses multiple metaphors to bring out the angst of the body. There is no garden of beauty in the soul; there is no glistening sun in Rilke’s body. Though this metaphor, Rilke brings out the pathos of the human body.

‘My hands are not of much use; they are like toads after the rain’. All of your features pass in simile’. Here Rilke is talking about a dwarf. The simile like toads in the rain is a puzzling one and I think it is incongruous.

‘Yet wholly images like the ark of God’. The ark of God refers to God’s tabernacle. May be it’s a simile making an allusion to the purity of the body.

‘Whirling faster and faster, fans her dress into passionate flames from which like startled rat-snakes, the long naked arms uncoil.’ Here Rilke makes a reference to a dancer. The comparison is an interesting one. Her dress is like flames and her arms like rat-snakes.

‘His senses felt as though they were split into two; his sight would race ahead of him like a dog’. This simile is a zany one. Does Rilke mean that he will be able to see quickly?

‘She had come into new virginity and was untouchable; her sex had closed like a young flower at nightfall’.  The comparison, a simile between the young girl and the flower is an interesting one.

‘We cannot know his legendary head with eyes like ripening fruit and yet his torso is still suffused with brilliance from inside like a lamp.’ Here Rilke is making similes about God Apollo. The eyes are sparkling and ravishing. The torso of Apollo is compared to a shining lamp.

‘A shriek, envy shakes the parrot cage.’ Here Rilke is using the figure of speech called personification.

‘The gravity of some old discontent has dragged you back to measurable time—this often startles me out of dreamless sleep at night like a thief climbing in my window.’  Here the comparison made between sleep being a thief is a hazy one. The simile is not lacks sensibility.

‘You beloved, who are all the gardens, I have ever gazed at’. This metaphor is similar to the romantic verses of King Solomon, the Song of Songs. 

 

 

Analysis of the Discourse of the Orient by Edward Said

Edward Said is a postmodern writer known for his penetrating insights into oriental studies. He was deeply sympathetic for the liberation of Palestine. The discourse of the Orient is a critique about how the Western world perceives the Orient.

 The Orient is a philosophical, sociological, cultural and political construct. In the words of Said: ‘orient was almost a European invention and had been since antiquity, a place of romance, exotic beings, haunting memories, landscapes and remarkable experiences’. For Said: the orient is a self contained narcissistic construct of the Western world. The 18th and 19th centuries witnessed the large scale colonization of large parts of the Orient by many European countries.

From the Orient is born the Philosophical idea of Orientialism. Orientialism is a concept introduced by Edward Said.  What does Said mean by Orientialism? Orientialism is an academic discourse. The Western tradition makes a sharp distinction between the Orient and the Occident. To speak of Orinentialism is to understand the archeological epistemology of Franco-British involvement in the Orient. For the West –the Orient is a historical idea that is connoted disparagingly.

The relationship between the orient and the occident is of one of hierarchies of power and domination.

Gramasci has made a distinction between civil and political society, in which the former is made up of schools, families and unions while the latter is made up of army, police and bureaucracy. Culture is found operating within the civil society where the influence of ideas of institutions works not through domination but through consent.  Gramasci has given hegemony as an indispensible tool for understanding cultural life in the West. European colonialism in Asia and Africa has resulted in the operation of hegemony. 

Under the general heading of Oriental knowledge, there emerged a corpus of studies, and display of cultural artifacts.

The idea of the orient burgeoned on the sovereignty of Western Consciousness. The whiteness of the white became an authoritarian discourse speaking on the oriental life and culture of men.

Said has also written extensively on the issues of the Palestine problem. Palestine is a cultural other of Western democracies. The occident supports Israel and negates the attempt by Palestine to become an autonomous country.

For Said the whole history of the Orient has been created as a fanciful relic. The understanding of the Orient by the occidental world is based on magic realism.  After decolonization there has emerged writing by many authors on how the Orient was belittled. Oriental writers have deconstructed the notions of the orient by Western writers. 

 

Analysis of Camus Stranger

Albert Camus is a prominent French Philosopher noted for his philosophy of existential nihilism. Notable among his philosophical works are: The Myth of the Sisyphus. He has also published various works of fiction. The Stranger is a work characterized by his philosophy of existential nihilism.

The protagonist of the novel is Mersault. The novel begins with Mersalut being informed about the death of his mother in an old-age home. He travels by bus to the old age home and sees her body and takes part in the funeral proceedings. His feelings for his mother remain neutral. The inmates are allowed to watch the funeral proceedings.

He arrives back to Algiers and becomes engrossed in work. He has a girl friend named Mary with whom he has an affair. They go swimming in the sea. Then in the Stranger we come across a man who is a pimp. He gets arrested by the police for abusing a woman. Mersault has many friends and notable among them is Raymond. Later on in the novel we find Mersualt shooting an Arab and he gets arrested. The trial lasts for a long time and he gets imprisonment. 

The novel does not deserve merit as a great aesthetic artifact. The novel is not a product of a literary genius. The philosophy of existential nihilism is interlaced into the novel. One is puzzled as to why the protagonist does not grieve the death of his mother. Why does he treat her funeral with cold indifference? Mersault’s relationship with Mary is also one of strange conjecture.  When Mary asks Mersault whether he would marry her, he replies affirmatively no. When Mary asks whether Mersault loves her: he says there is no such thing as love.  Mersault is only interested in making love to her. The narrative about the pimp is an interesting one. It is not sure as to why: Mersault has to kill the Arab.

Mersault is a character who experiences Camus’ Myth of the Sisyphus. Sisyphus is condemned by the Gods to roll a boulder all the way uphill only to his aghast to find that it rolls down. Sisyphus is forced to do the act again and again. There is very little usage of tropes in the novel. It’s a wonder to me as to why Camus names the novel: Stranger. Human relationships are so fickle. Existentialism is a philosophy of vanity. The novel does not carry much of philosophical content. Camus intellectualism does not pervade in the novel. One does not feel gratified when reading the novel.


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