March 2017


Happy Snow Day to you all! I hope you all keep warm during the days to come. Now to talk about the beginning of my strategy for this exam.

Theory

For the theory section I’m still deciding on what my options are but I was interested in pursing Queer theory and how it connects to Fun Home. However, I’m still trying to figure out what other texts I can use with this because right not its not evident to me. I was also thinking about liminality and using Fun Home as well along with The Buried Giant. I did both my presentations on both works so I already have a sort of outline on how to use it for both works. If I need another work, I might also be able to use Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao because it also comments on the theme of identity and the difficulties of teenage years. I could be able to talk about how all three different characters (Bechdel, Edwin, and Oscar) deal with their liminal stages and how this affects their interaction with their environment and relationships with others.

Genre

I’m a little worried for the genre section because I want to reuse Fun Home. I don’t want to seem too repetitive but it could also work. I’m thinking about using Fun Home, “The Mark on the Wall,” and maybe Emily Dickinson’s “I Felt a Funeral in My Brain.” The genre of the elegy is evident in Fun Home but less so in the other two works. After doing the presentation with “The Mark on the Wall” as an elegy I realized that I could present a unique interpretation. I can definitely use Smythe’s work. I just have to be very careful to make sure my point are met. Dickinson’s poem could also be interpreted through the elegy. I will use Sack’s work to make my argument. Again, the elegiac form is not as evident in this poem as it in in Fun Home but there are still images, like the procession of mourners, and the lack of consolation that could comment on the genre. However, if it comes to it I could also use Milton’s Lycidas and maybe use it as a comparison to how the form of the elegy has transgressed and transformed.

Historical Context

For me this is the hardest section because I’m not sure how to incorporate the history into my essays without sounding like I’m writing a history book. I have thought about working with   Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl mixed with The Invisible Man and talk about slavery and division of class and race. I found this article titled “Nineteenth-Century African American Women’s Autobiography as Social Discourse: The Example of Harriet Ann Jacobs” by Johnnie M. Stover that discusses the marginalization of the black woman in literature but society as well. I could talk about how women are also marginalized in Ellison’s work and the ways that their status in society affected the way they presented the female character. However, I feel like I might be venturing into a more feminist point of view that leads more to theory so I’m still trying to see what I can do to avoid that. As of now, I think this is my less developed and the one I have the most trouble writing.

 

Flexibility and Modularity

The book I have the most knowledge or confidence in is Fun Home because I did my thesis on it, but also because it’s a book that encompasses so many different genres, forms, and theories. I know I can already use it with different text for the genre and theory section. With each section, expect the historical context, I try to have three texts that I can work with in case the question wants me to do more than two. I also feel like Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl can be used with theory and historical context, possibly also genre with the autobiography narrative. I have a lot more organization left to do but this is all a good start to get my ideas flowing, I hope.

 

Thank you for all and any feedback!

 

“The Mark on the Wall” is a short story written by Virginia Woolf. This short story employs the stream of consciousness, the same mode of narrative that Lodge’s Thinks . . . did. The story is told through the stream of consciousness of a female narrator who notices this strange mark on the wall and begins to question what it could have been caused by. We don’t find out what it actually is until the end of the story when the narrator’s stream of consciousness is interrupted by another person’s voice. Within a span of a couple years she watched her mom, half-sister, dad, and brother die. According to many scholars her work is often a reflection of her  depressed state. Woolf committed suicide at the age of 59. “The Mark on the Wall” is a short story written by Virginia Woolf. This short story employs the stream of consciousness, the same mode of narrative that Lodge’s Thinks . . . did. The story is told through the stream of consciousness of a female narrator who notices this strange mark on the wall and begins to question what it could have been caused by. We don’t find out what it actually is until the end of the story when the narrator’s stream of consciousness is interrupted by another person’s voice.

The genre of elegy is most known as a “poem about mourning and consolation” (Sacks 2). Peter Sacks outlines the conventions of the genre in his work, The English Elegy: Studies in the Genre: From Spenser to Yeats as the following:

Pastoral Contextualization
Use of repetition and refrain
Reiterated questions
Procession of mourners
Traditional images of resurrection
Movement from grief to consolation
Elegists’s need to draw attention to, consolingly, to his own surviving powers

One of the most widely known elegies is Milton’s Lycidas. Karen Smythe’s Virginia Woolf’s Elegiac Enterprise explores how various works of Woolf, including “The Mark on the Wall” challenge the elegiac genre. Smythe coins the term “fiction-elegy” to describe Woolf’s choice to use the “novel form in [her] exploration and alteration of elegiac conventions (such as incantation) that originated in in poetic technique” (64). While Woolf does challenge the expected conventions, she also embraces the aspect of reflection that elegies strive for. As the speaker begins to reflect back on everything that changes in life, she reflects on the house and how it has changed as the owners change. She believes that the hole might have been caused by pictures that were hung by the previous owners and mentions that “one will never see them again, never know what happened next.” There is this idea of a fleeting moment that leaves and can never be returned again. However,Smythe fails to comment on how Woolf’s use of  “steam of consciousness” adds to the reflective element of the elegy. The form allows her to have multiple reflections and thought without interruption.

Woolf also uses pastoral setting widely in her writing. There are many references to various flowers and meadows, and a particular allusion to Greek mythology.

“Why, if one wants to compare life to anything, one must liken it to being blown through the Tube at fifty miles an hour-landing at the other end without a single hair pin in one’s hair! Shot out at the feet of God entirely naked! Tumbling head over heels in the asphodel meadows. . .Yes, that seems to express the rapidity of life, the perpetual waste and repair; all so casual, all so haphazard. . .”

The world “asphodel” refers to an immortal flower. This immortal flower and the term “asphodel meadows” is a reference to Homer and the place”where the spirits of the dead dwell” (Reece 1). According to Steve Reece, a renowned professor and writer, the asphodel meadow has recognized “throughout Western literary” as a “pleasant and desirable place” (1). However, this pastoral setting does not provide comfort to the speaker. On the contrary, it makes the speaker uneasy about life. There are instances where the speaker comments that Nature is supposed to counsel and “comfort you” and that “if you can’t be comforted, if you must shatter this hour of peace, think of the mark on the wall”. The speaker can’t be comforted by nature because she keeps thinking about the mark on the wall herself. Her thoughts always go to the mark on the wall. The constant repetition of “the mark on the wall” and the rhetorical questions about what the mark can be that is widely used in elegies. However, Woolf challenges the convention by not finding consolation with the pain, instead she seems to be acquiring more. The repetition of “the mark on the wall” reminds the speaker and reader about the absence of what once was but no longer is and the trouble one has with letting the past go. Therefore, this becomes an elegy to mourn time and moments in life that are gone and vanish.

However, according to Smythe the image of the snail is “a living thing, but it figuratively ‘writes’; it is a mark that ‘marks’ and leads the speaker and reader toward consolation through meditations and questionings” (69). While it is true that the speaker finds consolation in knowing what the object was, the speaker and reader is not consoled because they are left with more profound questions than simply wondering what the mark on the wall is. Spoiler alert! The mark on the wall, as we learn from the voice that interrupts the speaker, is left from a snail. Ironically, the snail represents life and the speaker mourns how fast life passes by and the moments it takes with it. Just a couple of lines before the speaker insisted that “everything’s moving, falling, slipping, vanishing.” The speaker isn’t consoled by knowing that the mark is a snail because mourning the snail, she was mourning the rapidity of life, what once was and no longer is. Woolf’s short story transforms and embraces the form of the elegy.

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