Monthly Archives: February 2012

Virgina Woolf and “Triple” Consciousness

Present within Virginia Woolf’s work of “Ms. Dalloway” is the apparent demonstration of stream of consciousness writing. This narrative strategy yields a certain amount of psychological realism within the work versus if it did not have this present. Whenever a work is presented with more psychological realism, it is easier to grasp and understand because the characters and situations seem more relatable.

So, whenever I started contemplating the concept of this stream of consciousness writing, I realized that there was another element present that I had previously not remembered: that of the character Septimus. Septimus could be said to be Clarissa’s doppelganger, or her darker, inner self that she is at war with constantly.

If one contemplates the inclusion of Septimus in the proceedings, you would realize that there are three facets to Clarissa to consider. There is her external, social butterfly. Her internal stream of consciousness and the facet of her personality known as Septimus. Realizing that Septimus, insanity slowly bubbling under the surface, and Clarissa’s normalcy exist side-by-side is a terrifying reminder how close we all are to losing our  minds.

Woolf provides a tragic insight into the human condition using the concepts of stream of consciousness and double consciousness in regard to narrative strategy and style. Partially why we still fascinated with this work is the idea that we are constantly at war with what bubbles under the surface, threatening to take us over.




Filed under British Literature, English, School

T.S. Eliot: A Hipster from Another Time?

Dr. Hochenauer posted these thoughts on our homepage for our contemplations over T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land”:

The question becomes whether The Waste Land is meant to be read or studied. The poem creates a super-reader who should know several languages and cultures. It’s literary references and allusions are obscure so readers must also be extremely well read. Even then, the subjectivity of the poem renders it almost incomprehensible. It becomes part of a cult of the obscure. It’s obscurity for obscurity’s sake.

According to the ideas conveyed here, it seems as Eliot is trying to establish a culture of meta-knowledge–a required amount of precursory ideas that the reader must comprehend before his ideas are digestible. Now, as a poet who wishes to convey their ideas to a wide audience to touch a multiplicity of people, why would he wish to do this? As someone who admittedly does not know much about Eliot and his history, it seems as if he derives an extreme pleasure from the concept of knowing that he has such a wide knowledge base beyond the realm of the average individual.

Eliot, in this regard, I believe shares a lot of attributes of the trendy “hipster” youth social group. One popular definition of hipster that has cycled around my peers is that a hipster is someone who tries very hard to appear as if they have gone to no effort at all.

I think that there are elements of Eliot’s poem “The Waste Land” that can be applied to this definition. Eliot makes his poem difficult to understand seemingly for the reason of making it “obscure for obscurity’s sake”, an avant-garde realization made by Dr. Hochenauer. Eliot seems to be re-defining what it means to be a poet and why it means to be a poet in this work in a way that’s purposefully dense to make the reader frustratingly search for answers.


Leave a comment

Filed under British Literature, English, School, Uncategorized

The Greatest Expectations of All

“Great Expectations” serves as one of the noblest forms of social critique: that of one that gives examples of what it means to improve. Dickens uses his writings to comment upon the societal expectations of the day. Pip possesses the greatest expectations: that for himself. He desires to become this lofty gentleman and Dickens uses this to satirically critique the normal way of thinking of the time.

Pip desires an education and wealth so that he can move forward in society, and yet he realizes whenever he receives these gifts that he is no better off than what he was previously. One of the overall themes of this work is the concept that you can receive happiness at whatever level that you are currently at. You don’t have to be the wealthiest or most intelligent person on Earth–those are things that can alienate you even more from the people you care about.

Overall, the Victorian era shifted in its focus from a society reliant upon a Romanticized view of God and providence, to that of hard-work and almost a Darwinian determinism. It is very difficult to rise above one’s circumstances. As we see in the novel, Pip tries to do so and whenever he “succeeds”, he feels ghastly for treating his friends and family members in such an abominable way.

In a slightly related note, this past week was also Charles Dickens’ two hundredth birthday.

I wonder if he expected the notoriety that he received.


Leave a comment

Filed under British Literature, English, School

Mathematical Journey

I have a confession to make: I don’t do math.

I’m sure you’ve figured this out since observing that I am most obviously an English major through the content of my posts. However, for too, too long, I have been using the “Herr derrr English major” excuse for letting my math skills fall into shambles. I took College Algebra freshman year and worked my tail off for the A that I received. Not to be the town-crier for my own study habits, that is also with missing a week of school and two quizzes I couldn’t make up.

However, I am not that awesome at math anymore. In fact, the most mental exchange I have in the mathematics field is whenever I count back change at Chick-Fil-A. After a few embarrassing instances of counting back change at CFA, I am really sick and tired of letting my laziness and excuses hold me back.

So I have decided that I am going to teach myself math.

It’s been nice, also, to be encouraged by my math-major friends, who are willing to teach me Calculus when I get good enough and who will put up with my questions of “So eight plus five is thirteen, right?” (In my head just now, I double checked myself out of uncertainty, still. Force of habit)

I have begun to supplement my education by doing lessons on the glorious website Khan Academy. If you haven’t visited that site, you are really doing yourself a disservice. You can learn almost anything (almost, that is–not a lot of the Humanities field on there outside of Art History) and it is free. You watch videos, then you can do interactive workbooks that give you points and achievements if you do them correctly. The mathematics instructor for this videos–Sal–is perfect. He isn’t patronizing. He isn’t condescending. He isn’t irritated when explaining the beyond basic fundamentals that I’m sure his big brain has left behind in the dust.

I shouldn’t knock those fundamentals, though. It was the lack of knowing the fundamentals that crippled my math journey through high school and gave me the most severe math anxiety known to man. Well, hey, at least I’m not getting panic attacks about math anymore. In almost every class I have ever had where math was a struggle, it would not be because I didn’t understand the concepts presented or the laws or forget how to do a problem, it would because I would flub and say that seventeen minus six is eight, not nine. Harkens back to Trig class, and luckily this wasn’t me, but when one of my classmates messed up on some Trigonometric function, my teacher would yell “There is no inverse property of negative one!”

So far, through the site, I am getting better at my mental math. Sal taught this really great way to do large subtraction problems in your head (borrowing and all) really quickly. I feel enlightened. I’ve missed feeling smart in this regard. It is a different kind of thinking than all the subjective interpretation that I have become accustomed to in my English classes.

Not saying that subjective, grey interpretation is bad, but sometime it is nice having definite answers in your life. I think I’m starting to figure those out.


Leave a comment

Filed under Project Enrichment

Say it over and over and over again…

Say over again, and yet once over again,
That thou dost love me,
Though the word repeated
Should seem a “cuckoo-song,” as dost treat it,
Remember, never to the hill or plain,
Valley and wood, without her cuckoo-strain
Comes the fresh Spring in all her green completed.
Beloved, I, amid the darkness greeted
By a doubtful spirit-voice, in that doubt’s pain
Cry, “Speak once more–thou lovest!” Who can fear
Too many stars, though each in heaven shall roll,
Too many flowers, though each shall crown the year?
Say thou dost love me, love me, love me–toll
The silver iterance!–only minding, Dear,
To love me also in silence with thy soul.

-Elizabeth Browning

It is tempting upon first reading to write this off merely as the insecurities of being female, especially when relating to one’s significant other. It is very tempting to do this as a female who has experienced precisely the same anxieties about feeling loved or being told enough that she is.

However, we should be careful as students of literature to not just slap a label of “oh-well-she’s-a-woman” on this. This is a poem that I think everyone can relate to, even though it was penned hundreds of years ago. And when I mean everyone, I mean everyone.

Although I have not been inside the mind of a male–I’m sure a very frightening place–I can relate from my own experience with my ex-boyfriend that men can be just as insecure about relationships as women can. In fact, I just hate reiterating the idea that this beyond just a female trait. This trait is a human trait. People across the planet are insecure about how they feel about their relationships. If we consider the idea that all gender is a social construct anyway (probably a topic for a different entry) then we should realize that it is perfectly normal and acceptable to have feelings of doubt in this regard. In fact, it is probably very healthy in a relationship to do this. If one was just secure about everything, then I think there would be a lack of willingness to keep trying. Insecurities exist for a reason.

Recently, in my relationship with the gentleman I am dating, I experienced this severe anxiety demonstrated in this poem. After awhile, I had to realize that I should pull myself up out of my pit of dispair to realize that what I was feeling was unfounded. Due to his style of caring not being verbally demonstrative, I had to adjust myself to being in a relationship that mainly demonstrated caring through his actions, not his words.

And I’m okay with this. In fact, I think it’s helping me a lot more than either of us realize.

So, perhaps my suggestion to Browning’s speaker is to keep this concept in mind. Not every syllable he or she utters has to be full of the throws of adoration. People demonstrate love and caring in different ways. Maybe his touch says he loves you? Maybe her smile says she cares? And maybe, over time, they will learn to express how they feel toward you in a verbal way. But if it is unnatural to them, who is to say you should try and change who they are to make yourself feel better?


Leave a comment

Filed under British Literature, English, School, Uncategorized