Wednesday, 25 May 2016

“People were always getting ready for tomorrow. I didn’t believe in that. Tomorrow wasn’t getting ready for them. It didn’t even know they were there.”


           A model commentary to Cormac McCarthy's quotation (The Road, 2007), courtesy of Maria Inês.

 O excerto apresentado pertence a uma fala da personagem Ely num momento em que este questiona duas noções bastante importantes na literatura e pensamento americanos que se encontram interligadas. Primeiro, o conceito do “amanhã/manhã” como espaço de recomeço e possibilidade. Segundo, a ideia de que cada indivíduo no espaço americano importa e que pode realmente fazer a diferença, “It didn’t even know they were there.” Desta forma, dois importantes conceitos são questionados através da personagem Ely.
            Esta desconfiança e questionamento de grandes narrativas, típicos do pós-modernismo, podem ser encontrados em outras obras da literatura pós-modernista americana como, por exemplo, “This Property is Condemned” de Tennessee Williams. Nesta obra, o tema da mobilidade e fluidez social, da moralidade e inocência sulistas, e dos fortes valores familiares são questionados ao sermos brevemente apresentados a Willie e à história da sua família, condenada a viver numa propriedade onde qualquer oportunidade de mudança acaba frustrada.
            Um outro exemplo, em que a Verdade é relativizada, é no conto “Recitatif” de Toni Morrison. Onde a narrativa é condicionada pela percepção de quem a constrói, mostrando que não existe uma única Verdade, mas diversas Verdades. Neste conto, o mesmo evento é relatado cinco vezes distintas, sempre de forma diferente, acrescentado ou alterando certos detalhes, demonstrando como o passado é apenas uma narrativa construída subjectivamente.
            Por fim, um outro exemplo literário, que explicitamente questiona as narrativas construídas em volta do passado, é o texto “After Life” de Joan Didion. Nesta “memoir”, Didion expõe a natureza duvidosa/incerta do passado que constrói, colocando o leitor numa posição em que este(a) se encontra consciente de que a narrativa apresentada é uma construção profundamente marcada pela experiência emocional da autora dos eventos relatados. Esta “re-evaluation of and a dialogue with the past in the light of the present” (Hutcheon, 1988) é tornada clara no texto de Didion através da utilização de expressões de modalização e metalinguagem, “I considered adding these words” (Didion, 2005).
            Para concluir, no excerto apresentado, o mesmo questionamento proveniente de uma atitude de relativização e desconfiança perante grandes narrativas pode ser encontrado, pois duas importantes noções para a construção da América como conceito estão a ser questionadas. Tal como nas três obras já mencionadas, Cormac McCarthy utiliza o conceito do “amanhã” para o subverter, assim como desacredita a ideia da excepcionalidade e potencialidade do indivíduo nos EUA.
Nota: O excerto citado de Linda Hutcheon provém da sua obra A Poetics of Modernism (1988).

Monday, 9 May 2016

Feminist Waves, Historical Landmarks

A very good site on Feminism, where you might be especially interested in the division between the 3 waves of feminism: http://www.gender.cawater-info.net/knowledge_base/rubricator/feminism_e.htm


1st Wave
1848: Lucretia Mott e Elizabeth Cady Stanton organized the Seneca Falls Convention

1919: passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, granting women the right to vote in all states.


------
1953: Publication of the English translation of Simone Beauvoir's The Second Sex (1949) - "one is not born a woman, one becomes a woman"


2nd Wave
1963: Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique

1966: Twenty-eight women founded the National Organization for Women (NOW) to function as a civil rights organization for women. 

1968:  Robin Morgan led members of New York Radical Women to protest the Miss America Pageant of 1968, which they decried as sexist and racist

1971: Adrienne Rich, "When we Dead Awaken: Writing as Re-Vision"; Mary Daly, Beyond God the Father
 
1972: Maria Velho da Costa, Maria Isabel Barreno, Maria Teresa Horta, Novas Cartas Portuguesas

1974: Camille Paglia, Sexual Personae
-----------------
 
 1979: Margaret Thatcher, first female prime minister in the UK

1985: Guerrilla Girls






3rd Wave
The third wave has its origins in the mid-1980s. Feminist leaders rooted in the second wave like Gloria Anzaldua, bell hooks, Chela Sandoval, Cherrie Moraga, Audre Lorde, Maxine Hong Kingston, and many other black feminists, sought to negotiate a space within feminist thought for consideration of race-related subjectivities.


Homework for May 12, 2016

Read the poems "Diving into the Wreck" and "Power" by Adrienne Rich, in your anthology, and comment on any of them, with relations to the essay "When We Dead Awaken" (but not only, of course)




Adrienne Rich (1929-2012)

Adrienne Rich, part VII of the sequence "Sources" in

VII
 
For years I struggled with you: your categories, your theories, your will, the cruelty which came inextricable from your love. For years all arguments I carried on in my head were with you. I saw myself, the eldest daughter raised as a son, taught to study but not to pray, taught to hold reading and writing sacred: the eldest daughter in a house with no son, she who must overthrow the father, take what he taught her and use it against him. All this in a castle of air, the floating world of the assimilated who know and deny they will always be aliens.
 
After your death I met you again as the face of patriarchy, could name at last precisely the principle you embodied, there was an ideology at last which let me dispose of you, identify the suffering you caused, hate you righteously as part of a system, the kingdom of the fathers. I saw the power and arrogance of the male as your true watermark; I did not see beneath it the suffering of the Jew, the alien stamp you bore, because you had deliberately arranged that it should be invisible to me. It is only, under a powerful, womanly lens, that I can decipher your suffering and deny no part of my own.



In Your Native Land, Your Life: Poems (1986)

Adrienne Rich, "Planetarium" (1971)

Thinking of Caroline Herschel (1750—1848)
astronomer, sister of William; and others.

A woman in the shape of a monster   
a monster in the shape of a woman   
the skies are full of them

a woman      ‘in the snow
among the Clocks and instruments   
or measuring the ground with poles’

in her 98 years to discover   
8 comets

she whom the moon ruled   
like us
levitating into the night sky   
riding the polished lenses

Galaxies of women, there
doing penance for impetuousness   
ribs chilled   
in those spaces    of the mind

An eye,

          ‘virile, precise and absolutely certain’
          from the mad webs of Uranusborg

                                                            encountering the NOVA   

every impulse of light exploding

from the core
as life flies out of us

             Tycho whispering at last
             ‘Let me not seem to have lived in vain’

What we see, we see   
and seeing is changing

the light that shrivels a mountain   
and leaves a man alive

Heartbeat of the pulsar
heart sweating through my body

The radio impulse   
pouring in from Taurus

         I am bombarded yet         I stand

I have been standing all my life in the   
direct path of a battery of signals
the most accurately transmitted most   
untranslatable language in the universe
I am a galactic cloud so deep      so invo-
luted that a light wave could take 15   
years to travel through me       And has   
taken      I am an instrument in the shape   
of a woman trying to translate pulsations   
into images    for the relief of the body   
and the reconstruction of the mind.

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Closing Statement - Cormac McCarthy's The Road is a disillusioned book, offering little hope for redemption (Gonçalo and Olga)


Gostaríamos de lembrar que ao longo de séculos de história da humanidade e de literatura, se esperaram e escreveram vários apocalipses. Alguns exemplos foram a peste durante a Idade Média, o fatídico ano 2000 que levou ao suicídio de inúmeras pessoas por temerem o desconhecido, as próprias grandes guerras Mundiais, foram encaradas como o fim da Humanidade como a reconhecemos e até a Bíblia fala em apocalipse e como procurar o caminho para a redenção. Existe assim também um conceito de Pessimismo Cultural, um seguimento do declínio da humanidade que se torna a certo ponto irreversível. No entanto, todos estes obstáculos foram ultrapassados por se acreditar na fé das pessoas, fosse ela religiosa ou apenas interior em como algo de bom poderia acontecer. Seguir o “caminho dos bons” não é mais do que ser fiel a valores e éticas que nos são transmitidos por qualquer sociedade. Para ultrapassar todos estes obstáculos, as pessoas tiveram de se unir e ser solidárias. Manter a esperança é a forma de caminhar para a redenção; logo, sem esperança, resta a exaustão.
Nietzche propõe que cada um deve ter os seus próprios valores e ser julgado de acordo com os mesmos. Perante os dilemas morais e na ausência de Deus, o Homem e o Rapaz são os criadores do seu próprio significado de sagrado. “Where you’ve nothing else construct the ceremonies out of the air and breathe upon them.”
Acreditamos por isso que The Road poderia ter um caminho diferente caso o pai não se tivesse desviado dos seus valores morais e tivesse posto em prática aqueles que ensinou ao filho através das suas histórias. Desta forma, talvez no final o pai acompanhasse o filho no caminho para a redenção e não falecesse pelo cansaço como tantos outros na estrada.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

End of the World Disaster Theories


End of the World Disaster Theories
 Particle Accelerators
Physicists have long theorized that particle accelerators could destroy the earth. When electric fields are used to accelerate protons they could collide at speed fast enough to create black holes or bits of altered matter. These small black holes would slowly engulf our planet. The pieces of altered matter, called strangeletes, would destroy any ordinary matter they came in contact with, eventually annihilating the entire planet. Although most scientists assure that none of the particle accelerators being used at the present are strong enough to bring about these events they are unsure of the abilities of the newest accelerator being built. Currently, over two-thousand physicists from thirty-four countries, universities and laboratories are aiding in the construction of The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) located near Geneva, Switzerland. It is scheduled to begin experimentation in May 2008. It is hoped that if black holes are produced they will be small enough to evaporate, but only time will tell.
 

Rogue Black Holes
Although the concept of black holes was conceived in 1915 by Einstein (some may argue earlier) they were not accepted as fact until Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose proved their existence in 1970. From this point on black holes have been looked at with a sense of awe and fear; a place from which nothing can escape, not even light. Even scarier is the fact that our galaxy is full of collapsed stars waiting to turn into black holes, some astronomers estimate there are as many as 10 million. Luckily, most black holes are in orbit around other astronomical masses. However, if one of these black holes was able to pull itself away from orbit and head towards earth we would be clueless since they are almost impossible to see. The black hole wouldn't even have to come very close to earth to wreak havoc, if it even entered our solar system it would distort all planetary orbits causing extreme climate changes, and even expel some planets from the system.

 Gamma-Ray Burst
Gamma-ray bursts are extremely powerful, estimated to have 10 quadrillion times more energy than our sun. They are created by the collision of two collapsed stars. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to visualize collapsed stars making it even more difficult to predict the location of a gamma-ray burst. A burst 1,000 light years from the earth (further away than most of our stars) would create an explosion as bright as our sun and bring a hasty destruction to earth. Although our atmosphere and the ozone would provide protection at first it would soon be cooked away by the radiation. UV rays would kill the photosynthetic plankton in the ocean, which provide most of the earth's oxygen. At least one burst can be seen each day when watching our sky with gamma-ray vision; it can't be too long before there is one closer to home.
 
 Omega Point
This term describes the ultimate maximum level of complexity-consciousness. Philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin believed that the universe is continuously working towards this point. The socialization of humankind, including creating more complex forms of communication and information exchange, increases the collective consciousness of the human race. Just as human beings can self-reflect, one day too the universe will hit the critical Omega Point and the collective consciousness of humankind will be able to reflect upon itself. This divine center of consciousness will draw together the entire universe and end the world as we know it.


Bubble Nucleation
According to the leading cosmological model the universe began as a false vacuum of empty space filled with energy. This incredibly unstable, high-energy state went through the process of bubble nucleation to reach a more stable, lower-energy state. This huge release of energy caused the expansion of the universe. We would like to think that the world we now live in is a stable true vacuum but it is possible that although the universe is at a lower energy level now than it was before, we are living in another false vacuum which could collapse at any moment. If a low energy bubble nucleates in our false vacuum it would expand at the speed of light, once again changing the universe.
Divine Intervention
As with all end of the world theories it's impossible to know if divine intervention is a feasible end of the world scenario. Despite its lack of scientific evidence it gains validity through strong support. Christians look to the Book of Revelation, Jews to the Book of Daniel, and Muslims believe that the coming of Mahdi will bring the end. All religions have a similar story: a divine force will intervene in the world to bring our history to an end and start a new moral order. Even non-believers have something to worry about since some doomsday groups decide to take these matters into their own hands. For example, the Aum Shinri Kyo sect that released Sarin nerve gas into a Tokyo subway station in 1995, killing 12 and injuring more than 5,000. Imagine what would happen if these groups got their hands on more powerful weapons.

Solar Activity (Super-Flares and Decreased Activity)
The sun emits solar flares, also known as coronal mass ejections, towards earth frequently. These flares are large magnetic outbursts which contain high-speed subatomic particles. Luckily, earth's atmosphere and magnetic field protect us from the consequences of these potentially lethal flares. However, evidence has been found that sun-like stars far from our solar system can briefly increase in brightness by 20 times. It is hypothesized that these increases are caused by super-flares, which are millions of times more powerful than the common solar flare. If our sun were to emit one of these super-flares it would literally fry the earth. On the other hand, if our sun's activity were to decrease by a mere 1% (which has been known to happen to many sun-like stars) we would be flung back into another ice age.
Aliens Attack The Earth
The chance of encountering intelligent extraterrestrial life becomes greater every day. As of January 8, 2008, 217 planets have been discovered outside of our solar system and 2-3 new ones are found each month. Famous astronomer Carl Sagan believed there to be billions upon billions of planets in the universe. With such high numbers it is hard, if not impossible, to believe that there is no intelligent life in the universe besides human and that an alien invasion and destruction of Earth is impossible. It is theorized that it would not be a conflict between humans and aliens that would cause lead to our end but that the aliens would exploit Earth for her resources or merely disrupt the planet by mistake.


Global War
Although, tensions between world groups wax and wane causing the public to frequently go from worrying about a global war to forgetting about it, global war is a constant threat. It is believed that there are at least 20,000 active nuclear weapons in the world. A malicious use of these weapons or even an accidental nuclear exchange or misfire could be disastrous for the planet. Even more worrisome should be the treat of biological warfare. Using killer germs is cheap, they are also easy to produce and conceal. Even scarier, they can become impossible to control.
Ecosystem Collapse
Our biodiversity is vanishing. At least 30,000 new species become extinct each year, a higher rate than ever before in history. Every single organism on the planet is integrally intertwined with the life of others. To make our life easier in the here and now we are slashing and burning forests, slaughtering animals, transporting organisms from their original ecosystem to others, and introducing synthetic materials into the environment, just to name a few. We are already upsetting the checks and balances of the global ecosystem but have not yet seen a devastating consequence such as the extinction of pollinating insects leading to widespread crop failure and the eventual starvation of humans. Ecologist use the imagery of a "marginal tree," that once cut will throw our planet into chaos to explain the unpredictability of a cataclysmic ecological collapse.




Monday, 2 May 2016

Cormac McCarthy, "Child of God" (1973) - excerpt

THEY WASN’T NONE OF EM any account that I ever heard of. I remember his grandaddy, name was Leland, he was gettin a war pension as a old man. Died back in the late twenties. Was supposed to of been in the Union Army. It was a known fact he didn’t do nothin the whole war but scout the bushes. They come lookin for him two or three times. Hell, he never did go to war. Old man Cameron tells this and I don’t know what cause he’d have to lie. Said they come out there to get Leland Ballard and while they was huntin him in the barn and smokehouse and all he slipped down out of the bushes to where their horses was at and cut the leather off the sergeant’s saddle to halfsole his shoes with.
No, I don’t know how he got that pension. Lied to em, I reckon. Sevier County put more men in the Union Army than it had registered voters but he wasn’t one of em. He was just the only one had brass enough to ast for a pension.
I’ll tell you one thing he was if he wasn’t no soldier. He was a by god White Cap.
O yes. He was that. Had a younger brother was one too that run off from here about that time. It’s a known fact he was hanged in Hattiesburg Mississippi. Goes to show it ain’t just the place. He’d of been hanged no matter where he lived.
I’ll say one thing about Lester though. You can trace em back to Adam if you want and goddamn if he didn’t outstrip em all.
That’s the god’s truth.
Talkin about Lester …
You all talk about him. I got supper waitin on me at the house.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

The Road (2006 by Cormac McCarthy) and The Road (2009 by John Hillcoat) - script for movie seeing

Please post your answers for next class (May 2)

- How does the change of point of view and person of narration alter the reader's perception of the narrated events?

- Compare the openings of both films.

- Is there any scene in the movie that helps you best visualize an event in the novel? Which and why?

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

William Butler Yeats, "The Second Coming" (1919)

Turning and turning in the widening gyre   
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere   
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst   
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.   
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out   
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert   
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,   
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,   
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it   
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.   
The darkness drops again; but now I know   
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,   
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,   
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

William Blake, "Nebuchadnezar" in The Marraige of Heaven and Hell

Monday, 18 April 2016

Teresa Alves meets Saul Bellow - April 26

Dear students,

I will be away at the biannual conference of the European Association of American Studies, but on the 26th April we will have a very special class, with Teresa F. A. Alves, my longtime mentor and one of the driving forces behind American Studies at the University of Lisbon (along with her "younger sister", Teresa Cid). Teresa Alves will be speaking about the subject of her PhD thesis, the Nobel Prize Saul Bellow, and about the short story "A Father-to-be" by Saul Bellow (anthology, p. 22)
This is an unmissable event and I hope you all will profit from it.
While you read the short story, please think (or comment below) about:
- character(s) depiction: what is shown and what is told
- mechanisms of irony / humour
- symbolism (settings, characters' names, objects, etc)

Meanwhile, because we will shortly celebrate the 25 the of April, here is a video about one of the most discrete figures of mentor Teresa Alves (as a "Woman of the Revolution" - please don't tell her I posted this): http://www.rtp.pt/noticias/pais/mulheres-protagonistas-em-abril_v733313
and below a photo of dear Saul Bellow


Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Claudia Rankine in Citizen (2014)

Certain moments send adrenaline to the heart, dry out the tongue, and clog the lungs. Like thunder they drown you in sound, no, like lightning they strike you across the larynx. Cough. After it happened I was at a loss for words. Haven't you said this yourself? Haven't you said this to a close friend who early in your friendship, when distracted, would call you by the name of her black housekeeper? You assumed you two were the only black people in her life. Eventually she stopped doing this, though she never acknowledged her slippage. And you never called her on it (why not?) and yet, you don't forget. If this were a domestic tragedy, and it might well be, this would be your fatal flaw—your memory, vessel of your feelings. Do you feel hurt because it's the "all black people look the same" moment, or because you are being confused with another after being so close to this other?

Monday, 4 April 2016

HW 12th April - quotation for commentary practice

"We'll work with anybody, anywhere, at any time, who is genuinely interested in tackling the probem head on, nonviolenty as long as the enemy is nonviolent, but violent when the enemy gets violent. We'll work with you on the voter-registation drive, we'll work with you on rent strikes, we'll work with you on school boycotts — I don't believe in any kind of integration; I'm not even worried about it because I know you're not going to get it anyway. (... ) But we'll work with you on the school boycotts because we are against any segregated school system."
- Malcolm X, "The Ballot or the Bullet" (1964)

Saturday, 2 April 2016

How to write a comparative essay in literature (and with other arts)

Here is the best link I could find to help you with your writing for your final essay:

http://www.nvcc.edu/home/ataormina/eng256/support/litcompare.htm

I have 3 additions to make, though:

1) focus on grounds of comparison/contrast: don't forget this is a literature class.  As such try to substantiate at least one of your grounds for comparison with a "reading" of a short excerpt or image detail. Close, careful and critical reading is essential in order for you to develop nuanced readings and interpretations, to bring out similarities and differences between the texts (even if visual or musical texts) you are comparing, and to demonstrate your awareness of the forms, patterns, textures, resonances and ideological purposes of language. This might not be easy to do at length in a short essay as this, and you will have higher-order elements to analyse (e. g. plot, character, context) but try just once: for example: does a movie add or omit lines to a crucial dialogue? in which way does this change tone, register, rhetoric strategies?

2) writing methodology: as this is a short essay (1500 words max) you may use either the alternating or block method for comparison

3) your essay should be presented double-spaced, size-12 letter, and your name should be clearly identified, along with title of essay, class and teacher, in compliance with the more detailed formal instructions that you are going to receive by email, and where it is very important to play heed on how to reference bibliography.

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

HW for April 5 - Malcolm X

Comment on the rhetoric strategies used in "The Ballot or the Bullet" (1964) to create allegiance or non-alignment to different addressees and ideas of democracy.

Sylvia Plath reads "Daddy"


• Non-stop writing during 5, 10, 15 or 20 min.
• Never lift pen from paper

• If you have nothing to write, write "I have nothing to write (or “Eu não tenho nada para escrever”) (as many times you need)
• Pay no heed to grammar, ortography, style or coherence
• Do not cross over or rewrite (write the new idea, but leave the old one)
• This is a personal and private exercise; shraing will depend on the will of the author and will never be for assessment.


ADVANTAGES

• It generally demistifies and makes us comfortable with the act of writing

• Helps to overcome writer's block and self-sensorship
• Perspectivates writing as an activity that is also physical, requiring predisposition and availability of the body
• Helps search for writing topics / brainstorming

• Helps to find motivations for writing
• It is a self-discovery tool, a verbal expression of the I and of empowerment through writing.
• It is useful to define characters, settings or situations

• Indicators point to improvement in writing skills, especially in English as a Foreign Language

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Glossary of Literary Movements

A good resource for diverse Modernist and Post-Modernist (mainly) Poetic movements, including the Beats and Confessional Poetry: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/learning/glossary-terms?category=schools-and-periods

Ted Hughes's Letter to Sylvia Plath (by Ana Fialho and Bárbara Borges)


Dear Sivvy,

Time goes by slowly when you’re lonely. Your child has now seen April Snowdrops, Indian Pipes, everything that was grand or classical, but, my dear, his sky is sometimes without a star. I too see it has none now. Under his eyes there are marks of one who is troubled yet, underneath his worry, underneath his tumultuous anxious gaze lie those dark clear ingenuous eyes, its light sometimes dimmer, sometimes dazzling, sometimes sparking.
Mystery still haunts me as I wonder what it was that made you wring and wring your hands, your body? My dear, how was he not a star in our bedroom’s ceiling?
He is a wrinkled stalk, she is too, I am a stalk stepped on, trampled, cut. You were and we still are in this zoo waiting patiently for colours and ducks. I forever wonder where you were, they forever wonder who you were. 
My dear, I regret how the events turned out. Yesterday, I received a strange package with the date 12th February 1963. Inside, a peculiar letter said the following:

Dear Mrs. Plath,

Once upon a time I was dead too. I did not need to try to be dead. I was dead. Twice for that matter. My brain slowly deconstructed itself and as time passed the emptiness invaded my soul. I was weak, at that time. So fragile that the thinnest drop of water would fill me up like the ocean.
The world looked at me as if I was already the corpse, as if my blood had stopped running and my body was starting to smell like the river bottom, dark green algae, still in space and time. I kept very still, I waited. I waited so long I learned how to become the Berlin Wall. I was the Berlin Wall. I am a wasted Berlin Wall. At a young age I was dead. I survived not to tell the story. Multitudes gathered around not to look at me, though I was dead. And people like seeing the dead. But, like I said, I survived.
I am now old. Too old to live the life that was set out for me. I am an old, quiet woman, I am still. I do not bother the world. The world breathes without me. Two decades in and is now time to see the dead. To feel the dead. I imagined you immortal, at least as mortal as me. You surprised me, I do not believe.
It is indeed “the theatrical”. I was melting, I was dying and people moved along me, didn’t see me, and I saw them. But it wasn’t about me. It still isn’t. It’s about you, who died, and me, who fights to be alive again. It’s about me, the Lady Lazarus. To be.

Yours,
Lady Lazarus, to be.

You can imagine my surprise to read such accounts, which, I suppose, could not complete their purpose. They seem so ironic now that you are gone. I fancy that perhaps if they had reached your hands, if they had been sent a day earlier, they could have saved you. They could have stopped what I could not. 

Questioning, wondering,

Monday, 28 March 2016

Homework for March 31st

Compare "Howl's" part II (Moloch) by Allen Ginsberg with Sylvia Plath's poem "Daddy", considering preferred themes, rhetoric devices, real world/historical references, poetic form(s).


"Arctic Monkeys" - "You're so Dark" (suggested by Ana Ramos)

Considering how important Poe was for Ginsberg, and is for yours truly, Margarida, I especially thank this suggestion.

You got your H.P. Lovecraft
Your Edgar Allan Poe
You got your unkind of ravens
And your murder of crows
Catty eyelashes and your Dracula cape
Been flashing triple A passes
At the cemetary gates
Cause you're so dark, babe
But I want you hard
You're so dark, babe
You're so dark
You're so dark
You're so dark

And you're so mysterious
Got that obsession with death
I saw your driving your Prius
And even that was Munster Koach-esque
You watch Italian horror and you listen to the scores
Leather-clad and spike collar
I want you down on all fours
Cause you're so dark, babe
But I want you hard
You're so dark, babe

I know you're nothing like mine
Cause she's walking on sunshine
And your love would tear us apart
And I know I'm not your type
Cause I don't shun the daylight
But baby I'm willing to start
You're so dark
Got your H.P. Lovecraft
Your Edgar Allen Poe
Got your unkind of ravens
Got your murder of crows

You're so dark, babe
But I want you hard
You're so dark, baby
But I want you hard
You're so dark, oh
But I want you hard
You're so dark, baby

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Literary text analysis of excerpt from "Howl" (Part I) by Allen Ginsberg


Importance of the text within the context of the author’s work and time [as way of introduction]
The excerpt belongs to the first part of Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl”, whose reciting in 1955 and publication in 1956 was a landmark for the Beat Generation, a group of young artists and post-war intellectuals who felt downcast (beat) by world politics (the atom bomb), government control and capitalist society, preferred a marginal way of life and were greatly influenced by the blast and freedom of the jazz scene. Replicating with their typewriters the fury of the improptu beat, they sought also a closer relationship between life and art (more intimacy) and, valuing spontaneity, their writing was often a continuum of the heartbeat.

Structure and form:
Situated near the poem’s beginning, the excerpt fits into the first part, that describes the contrary and frenetic urges (urgency, desire and violence are at once convoked through the poem’s title, “Howl”) of the poet’s peers, “the best minds of my generation.” Following this description, the second part deals with the materialistic, capitalist and machinal worldview that holds its sway over these individuals. The third part adopts a more intimate register to address a particular generation member – Carl Solomon – and to establish a bond with him, and a later footnote recasts the first part’s jeremiad’s tone into a praise, striving for redemption and acceptance.
The excerpt begins by adopting an additional characterization for the “best minds”, “a lost battalion of platonic conversationalists” and continues with the pattern of initiating almost every line with the relative personal pronoun, “who”, an anaphor that permits a catalogue of features (like in Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, an archtypical text for Ginsberg) to be heaped onto this generation, whose actions are also described in an enumerative style, which helps to create a rhythm of velocity. This rhythm, letting one to pause for breath only through the expirational “who”, allows for the lines to be joined together. In fact, thoughout this long poem Ginsberg uses the innovation of presenting the lines as odd paragraphs, with a very sparce puncutation that gives way to free association, mixing poetry with Kerouac’s precepts of “spontaneous prose”.

Subject of enunciation and point of view
From the beginning of the poem (“I saw”) we know this is a first person testimony, although the constant employment of “who”, referencing a third collective party, the poet’s generation, offers such “cry” or “Howl” as representative. This third person shift, occuring throughout this excerpt and in fact to the end of the poem’s first part, creates some distanciation. The colloquial tone, however, unmistakably asserts that the poet was a participative witness in the conversations and ravings of his generation, also potentially contributing to empathy with the reader: “yacketayakking screaming vomiting whispering”.

Thematic threads along with rhetoric devices + symbolism
In this excerpt, the main thematic thread describing this generation is perhaps the excess of drugs, coupling a state of vagrancy, sometimes helplessness, with the paradoxical search for visionarism, beyond the bleak reality of the US 50’s. These simultaneous and contradictory urges are expressed through hyperbole and paradox – in the excerpt’s first line there is sinking and self-destruction but always from higher places (“fire escapes”, “windowsills”, “Empire State”, “the moon”). Redundancy at times achieves the same effect of juxtaposing realities, as in the excerpt’s last line, where the lack of punctuation in “seeking visionary indian angels who were visionary indian angels” allows for the interpretation that the seekers were already what they sought, visionary.
This last line also indicates another theme, the urge for a previous state of innocence or primitivism (“indians”) that would also facilitate a closer relationship to nature, as that propugnated by the “founding” strain of transcendentalism in American literature – hence, perhaps, the allusion to “grandfather night” in the line that bespeaks this generation’s movement in boxcars “through snow towards lonesome farms”.
The reference to boxcars compounds the previsous lines’s “wander[ing]… in the railyard”, and gives centrality to the train, which like the car was crucial to this generation’s apology of movement through space. Dislocation is pictured as aimless (“vanished into nowhere”, “wondering where to go”) but crucial, whether through real transports of through the transportation of drug (ab)use and withdrawal (and free association in writing leads easily from one to the other (“migraines of China under junk-withdrawal in Newark”).
The repetition of “boxcars boxcars boxcars” give us simultaneously a sonorous impression (the bipartition of the consonantic phonemes “b” and “p” replicates the sound of the train “racketing through”) and a visual image of the train – which is perhaps also an ambiguous symbol of modern society and progress, as it can as well be seen as entrapping, inside boxes. Unmistakably oppressive are the mechanisms of control and distribution of power of the poet’s conteporaneous post-war society (“shocks of hospitals and jails and wars”)
While being heavily contextually marked (“Tangerian bone-grindings” most probably refers to one of the poet’s friends, Burroughs, short stay in Tangier, and “postcards of Atlantic City Hall” has the ring of a private joke), the poem at once strives for speed and intemporality. Speed is marked through the absence of commas but also through polyssindotous in the enumerations “facts and memories and anecdotes and eyball kicks and shocks”), as well as through profuse alliteration, which seems to make everything overlap into a screaming instant (for instance the vibrant and nasal sounds in “bonegrinding and migraines”). Also, place is felt at once as compressed and expansible: “the cosmos instintictively vibrated at their feet in Kansas”,  as if the corrosion of space and time categories led to the ideal happening of creation, invoked through a subtle biblical allusion: “in total recall for seven days and nights with brilliant eyes”.

Intertextuality
While “brilliant eyes” might allude ironically to drug consumption, it also resonates with the previous “best minds”, longing for visionary states. The preference for philosophical idealism is present in intertextual references to Plato (in “platonic conversations”), Plotino, while mysticism and supernatural awe are underlined by the references to “Poe” or “St John of Cross”. These overlapping of cultural references serves to show how cultured were the “best minds” but also how permeable to influence from different traditions and times. On the other hand, one may speculate that the author’s Jewishness surfaces in two contradictiory instances: the first seems to align institutional religiousness to socially stratified urbanism – “meat for the synagoge cast on the pavement”, while the second aligns the new musical counterculture (“bop”) with the exegesis of Scripture (“Kabballah”)

Conclusion
“Bop Keballah” is one of the surprising collocations in this excerpt (another being “Zen New Jersey”) that signals this generation’s synchretic hunger for knowledge and revelation. This revelatory impulse was, for its members, compatible with a life of excess and reckless freedom, in opposition to the sense of control imparted by middle-class America and the capitalist ideology of its politics.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Homework for March 29th

Comment on the interconnection between the parts of the poem Howl.
In the meantime, you can listen to Allen Ginsberg reading:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WkNp56UZax4

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

3 quotes and 4 photographs related to Beat Poetry

"Poetry can stand out as the one beacon of sanity, a beacon of individual clarity, and lucidity in every direction — whether on the Internet or in coffee houses or university forums or classrooms. Poetry, along with its old companion, music, becomes one means of communication that is not controlled by the establishment." (Allen Ginsberg, 1996)



"the poem itself must, at all points, be a high-energy construct and, at all points, an energy-discharge. (...)
And the line comes (I swear it) from the breath, from the breathing of the man who writes, at the moment that he writes, and thus is, it is here that, the daily work, the WORK, gets in, for only he, the man who writes, can declare, at every moment, the line its metric and its ending — where its breathing, shall come to, termination.
(...)
It is an advantage of the typewriter that, due to its rigidity and its space precisions, it can, for a poet, indicate exactly the breath, the pauses, the suspensions even of syllables." (Charles Olson, Projective Verse", 1950)



"SET-UP The object is set before the mind, either in reality. as in sketching (before a landscape or teacup or old face) or is set in the memory wherein it becomes the sketching from memory of a definite image-object.
PROCEDURE Time being of the essence in the purity of speech, sketching language is undisturbed flow from the mind of personal secret idea-words, blowing (as per jazz musician) on subject of image.
METHOD No periods separating sentence-structures already arbitrarily riddled by false colons and timid usually needless commas-but the vigorous space dash separating rhetorical breathing (as jazz musician drawing breath between outblown phrases)" (Jack Kerouac, from Essentials of Spontaneous Prose, c. 1953)

Carr, Kerouac, Ginsberg, Burroughs


Sunday, 13 March 2016

Debate #2: Pro-movie Fahrenheit 451 (Gabriel, Ricardo Rodrigues, Ricardo Silva)


Começando por admitir que temos completa consciência de que estamos a defender um filme cuja qualidade e mérito como adaptação sofre significativamente devido a algumas divergências em relação ao livro, fazemos questão de argumentar que Fahrenheit 451 de François Truffaut fez os possíveis dentro das limitações do cinema na década de 60 para transpôr e, por vezes condensar, 159 páginas que cobrem uma míriade de tópicos e conceitos sócio-filosóficos em quase duas horas de filme.

 Concordamos com a oposição na questões da evaporação da essência do Capitão Beatty, uma das personagens mais relevantes do livro, das diferenças da dinâmica entre Montag e a sua mulher e até mesmo do extremismo do filme em equiparar os bombeiros com os nazis sem qualquer subtileza. Constatando que falamos de um filme que nasce da adaptação de um dos melhores romances da história da literatura americana, que levou Bradbury ao estrelato, dentro do género, temos de reconhecer que a transformação da obra pode fazê-la perder conteúdo literário. Contudo, desvalorizamos esta perda por considerarmos que, mesmo tratando-se de uma mesma obra em formato diferente, o filme, com todas as limitações de tempo, económicas ou de produção que pudesse ter, é uma boa adaptação do texto literária e captura o centro das questões no tempo, mantendo-o actual, não sendo de todo necessário ler o livro para entender esta peça cinematográfica como uma obra-prima de Truffaut. Insistimos com o ponto inegável de que o filme, apesar de todas as pequenas alterações efectuadas mantém-se fiel à obra original a um grau em que as ideias e temas principais continuam presentes.

Sublinhamos que as discordâncias entre o hipo e o hipertexto não são sempre os melhores medidores da qualidade de uma adaptação, muito menos os únicos. Voltamos a referir os múltiplos exemplos de adaptações de obras literárias para filmes (Bladerunner; Wuthering Heights), de obras literárias paraséries televisivas (Man in the High Castle), de obras literárias para videojogos (World of Warcraft), e até de bandas desenhadas para filmes (Watchmen), onde a adaptação, com todos os desvios da história original que comporta, continua a ser reputada como uma peça de alto valor. 

Afirmamos, com certeza, que a estética e a banda sonora (Bernard Hermann) são, também, duas chaves importantes nesta construção, que contribuem para um romance que se prende a uma sequência de pensamentos dramáticos debruçados numa sociedade quase pós-apocalíptica, onde assenta na perfeição a inspiração que Truffaut vai buscar ao mestre do suspense: Hitchcock. Alguns dos exemplos que apontam para a importância destes detalhes serão a utilização do vermelho (associado ao fogo, símbolo de purificação e/ou fonte da construção do conhecimento da humanidade) e do cinzento (simbolo de estabilidade, depressão, rigidez ou falta de emoção), ou mesmo a narração dos créditos iniciais, enquanto são filmadas antenas de televisão caseiras, sugerindo à partida a ideia que contempla todo o filme: leitura proibida.
E, concluindo, voltamos a realçar os seguintes aspectos do filme Fahrenheit 451:
- Ao contrário de Spielberg em Minority Report, Truffaut dedicou as quase 2 horas de filme a debruçar-se sobre os meandros do livro; uma abordagem quase científica que não despojou o filme da sua capacidade no campo do entretenimento.
             - As técnicas que tornam o filme uma obra prima de nouvelle vague, através das quais esta adaptação de Truffaut se destaca especialmente pelo trabalho ao nível da cor, do movimento, e do som permitem ao filme equiparar-se ao livro como uma grande obra repleta de referências e simbolismos, e homenageiam apropriadamente a obra cujas palavras o filme traduziu para imagens em movimento.

Debate #2: Pro book Fahrenheit 451 (Ana Ramos, Bruna Duarte, Henrique)



A comparação de um livro à sua adaptação cinematográfica é sempre um tema controverso e difícil de abordar. É inevitável que certos aspetos sejam impossíveis de materializar, devido a limitações tecnológicas, orçamentais ou até morais. No entanto, a versão de Fahrenheit 451 que Truffaut trouxe ao grande ecrã em 1966 peca pela demasia. Apesar do mestre Truffaut, merecedor de grande aclamação por impulsionar a Nova Vaga do cinema francês, ter concebido um filme de grande sucesso em termos de inovação e criatividade, olhando através de uma perspetiva literária, é possível diminuir o seu mérito, em prol da obra original.

O primeiro aspeto a considerar é o modo como as duas obras se vinculam ao tempo. Enquanto que o romance de Ray Bradbury tem vindo a ser estudado através de décadas, fixando-se na história da literatura universal como um clássico, o filme terá uma menor resistência ao tempo, quer pelos assuntos em que se foca (como por exemplo o Nazismo e a Segunda Guerra Mundial) quer pelos efeitos especiais atualmente ultrapassados, e estética peculiar dos anos 60, tal como os figurinos de tendência Mod típica da época, e arquitetura que visava ser futurista mas que acaba por fixar o filme à sua época com mais intensidade. Atribuindo a estes aspetos uma menor importância, considerando-os assim de ordem secundária, devido ao caráter icónico do filme, e ao impacto que proporcionou na carreira do realizador, abordar-se-ão, de seguida, as divergências que poderão ajudar a favorecer o livro.

Vários elementos cruciais para o desenvolvimento da narrativa foram omitidos ou distorcidos, implicando uma deturpação dos sentidos e do simbolismo da história original.

A maior evidência desta deturpação é a omissão de duas personagens extremamente importantes no livro, por aquilo que representam, e pelas emoções que induzem quer no personagem principal, quer no próprio leitor.  Referimo-nos, em primeiro lugar, ao Mechanical Hound, elemento de intimidação e castigo, que representava a opressão governamental. Acreditamos que, sem este elemento no filme, muita da tensão e do medo são perdidos, pois a ausência da ameaça apenas nos faz pensar que quem quebra a lei não vai sofrer grandes consequências.
No extremo oposto deste espectro, temos Faber, que nos momentos mais angustiantes sussurrava ao ouvido de Montag como uma voz da consciência, clara e segura, pronta para o encaminhar na direção certa. Faber serve de mentor a Montag, elucidando-o de como proceder e no fim, onde se dirigir para a sua salvação.
Apesar de se poder argumentar que Truffaut escolheu propositadamente incorporar estes elementos nas novas construções de Clarisse e Mildred, defendemos que este papel duplo (quer literal, quer figurativo) representado pelas personagens femininas se perde pelo caminho. Clarisse foi envelhecida, normalizada e mantida viva, a fim de concretizar a possibilidade de ser olhada como um novo par romântico para Montag, servindo também de mentora, apesar da sua tenra idade e pouca experiência.
Mildred, agora Linda, passou de uma mulher hipnotizada pela Televisão, sem emoções, vivendo à custa de estimulantes, para uma figura feminina atraente e um pouco mais viva. A sua relação com Montag no filme não é tão insípida. Linda chega a oferecer-lhe um presente, e Montag demonstra interesse sexual nela, assim como os técnicos de limpeza ao estômago.

De um modo geral, acreditamos que a falta de emoção e intensidade na obra de Truffaut faz o seu espectador experienciar o filme de um modo mais atenuado, não estimulando uma resposta crítica e reflexiva tão eficazmente como o livro, que acelera a pulsação, e estimula a vontade de querer sempre saber mais, sendo que a única limitação é a imaginação do leitor.