Monday, August 27, 2012

Poe: An Ap-peal

In Poe's "The Bells" we hear a musical interpretation of the arc of a life. In "The Black Cat" we can see a prose version of one man's "wild yet most homely" journey from happiness to madness (p 223).

The short, happy time of youth is heard in the "merriment" and "crystalline delight" of sleigh bells (ll 3, 8). All is hopeful in the beginning, like the "docility and humanity" which Poe's narrator claims (p 223).

Married partnership lasts slightly longer and the sounds of wedding bells are "harmony" and "euphony" as the couple begin "in tune" (ll 17, 21, 26). Our narrator is "happy" with his wife as her attitude is "not uncongenial" to his own (p 223). Life is pleasant, if uneventful.

Calm is shattered by the "alarum bells" - our narrator begins to drink heavily and undergoes severe personality changes (l 36)(p 224).  He abuses his wife and disfigures Pluto. The bells' sounds of "terror" and "turbulency" are this household's soundtrack where "danger ebbs & flows" (ll 38, 60). The parallel is even seen in the fire that destroys the narrator's home, although the culmination is his wife's "assassination" (p 229). This is the longest stanza of the poem so far and the majority of the story - of a life.

That is, until the final bells - the "iron bells" - the bells of death begin to toll (l 71). No portion of a life is longer or more feared.  The bells' "melancholy menace" is nothing compared to the "Ghouls: / And their king" who rejoice in our demise (ll 75, 89-90). If the narrator is remorseful or lonely for his wife, it is barely addressed, and his undoing is the sound and sight of the one eyed cat, perched on his wife's head, howling and rejoicing in "consigning [him] to the hangman" (pp 230).

Looking at these works together shows that the melodic bells are accompanying the stages of our lives, and that a seemingly simple story is enhanced when you imagine them tolling the changing emotions in a household.

Peer reviews (form)
student1 → All correct for what I could see.
student2 → Most of the sentences are grammatically correct. There aren't important mistakes but the arguments could be laid out in a clearer way.
student3 → The argumentation is too hard to follow. The comparison of the two works is confusing and the similarities and differences of the two are not made very clear.
student4 → Your form is fine. However, the constant references to lines in the poems are a little distracting and make it difficult to follow your thought processes. Perhaps a few less examples and a little more analysis would have been helpful.
student1 → The way of exposure is not inviting for a reader. This is not an essay about an exact science. I would expect to read something like this in, lets say, mathematics.
student2 → This essay shows a deep understanding of the poems and helps us to get a good one to. Its arguments are persuasive and significant. There are many references so I think it deserves a 3.
student3 → The idea is original and it seems interesting to analyse the message of a writing through sensory information. However the argumentation is too confusing to make an impact.
student4 → Your analysis and connections between the bells and the arc of life is intriguing. It is a little harder to see your connections with the black cat-they are thrown in as though in an afterthought. Perhaps limiting yourself to the one story would have allowed more analysis.
student1 → Your essay is more an enumeration of facts then a structured flowing text. Good conclusion though.
student4 → An interesting contrast. Thank you

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Frankenstein: I cobbled it together

In Frankenstein, Shelly often states that the ideal state for the human is "to preserve a a calm and peaceful mind" (p53). In contrast, Victor often feels a "resistless, and almost frantic, impulse" regarding his work (p52).

Victor tries to turn to nature to calm his mind and find peacefulness, such as when he travels through the Alps following Justine's execution. The "whirlwind passions of [his] soul drove [him] to seek" solace in the solid, eternal mountains (p92).  But even here, while contemplating Mount Blanc's "awful majesty" (p96), the being follows him and asks him to take responsibility for his creation.  Victor's past has not been resolved and he cannot yet find peace.

One turning point of the story hinges on this idea and see that Victor's ideas about his creation have become more developed. He is in the Orkney Islands, sitting "idle" for the night when a "train of reflection" comes to him (p164). He goes on to examine his reasons for creating the first being, much less a second one. This is the first time Victor has stopped to reflect, and only in this state does he consider the implications of his work. There was no such moment before creating the first being when "every night [he] was oppressed by a slow fever (p54). Only in a moment of stillness, the "calm and peaceful mind", can Victor see the risks and responsibilities of his goal to reanimate life.

Victor ultimately decides the risks outweigh the benefits and destroys his work. This does not actually solve his conflict with the being, but it does put his heart at ease that he is not perpetuating the monstrosity. He asks the being "Shall I, in cold blood, set loose upon the earth a daemon...?" and is wholly immovable in his resolve (p166).

Victor Frankenstein is a man too easily caught up in his own passions and does not reflect on consequences.  But in a moment of stillness, reflection brings him to one of the most important realizations of his life.

student1 → The work is clearly split into paragraphs with separate introduction and conclusions. Easy to follow.
student3 → Clear and straight forward overall, with a definite thesis.
student4 → Good structure. A few times, the quotation marks are not closed properly making it hard to tell where the closing of the book quote and author's point ends and begins.

student1 → The argumentation is clearly stated with good examples. One can argue, however, that destruction of the second monster was not that good idea given the results.
student2 → I think you need to have a more concrete thesis to base our essay upon. I understand the point you make and the argument as is was is supported, I would have like it to have been developed more.
student3 → I appreciated all of the embedded quotes, which is much harder to do in such a short essay. Direct textual evidence makes an argument significantly stronger.
student4 → Content is good although maybe a few too many quotes from the book.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Dracula: My Sucky Essay

I was hard up to express what I intended to in this week's essay on Dracula. However, I scored a 4 out of 6 which is still solid (points are 1-3 each for form & content).  Apparently it was not as sucky as I thought.  I do agree with all the points my peers made, but I was ill and short on revision time.  I will make a better effort in the next unit.

My essay:
The conflict at the heart of Stoker's Dracula is one of order versus disorder.  From the earliest pages of Jonathan's journal, the stage is being set for the reader to see that the British way is one of order, dependibility and safety. This is in contrast to the Eastern European way of disorder, superstition and wildness.  As Jonathan nears the castle in "one of the wildest and least known portions of Europe" (p3) , his interactions and experiences are less and less predictable, rational or controllable compared to his well ordered life back home with Mina.  When Dracula arrives in England, we see that he brings this wildness with him and we are forced to examine what the effect of this influence on the "normal" British existence is. Mina's shorthand journal is mordern, rational, scientific and she says it "soothes me to express myself here" (p61). She will need this comfort, for when the Count's ship comes into Whitby harbor "without warning the tempest broke" (p65).  Mina tries to forestall Lucy's sleepwalking, but she escapes and is attacked by Count Dracula late one night. As Lucy's illness worsens we see her fluctuating between a good, sweet English maid and a possessed creature.  She interacts with her friends and mother during the day as usual, but at night becomes a magnet for the huge & mysterious bat that flaps at her window.  She tries to behave normally, but is literally infected with the wildness of the east; a losing proposition. She must be destroyed and only after a stake is driven through her heart is she again the vision of "sweetness and purity" (p180) that a young English lady should be. Desperate measures are needed to set things right, and ultimately the only solution to the Un-Dead menace is to kill the Count himself.  It will not be possible to reconcile or adapt these two worlds; one must destroy the other.

My peer responses (form):
student1 → The essay is grammatically correct and the references to the pages doesn't complicate the reading, and that happens a lot in the essays. Besides, there are a lot of epithets and examples, that makes the whole essay be interesting to read.
student2 → No problem with grammar and usages. However, splitting the content into paragraphs would make absorbing the content and retaining it easier.
student3 → It would be easier to read if you separated your ideas in paragraphs. Quotations are suggested to be in the works cited part of the essay so they doesn't take that much space in your actual argument.
student4 → I like the style, but the lack of paragraphs to organize the text made it suffer. There is also a few mistakes that could be avoided if revised. 
My peer responses (content):
student1 → There are a lot of examples here. Well, may be too much examples from all the text. What I am trying to say is that the essay if full of quotes from every part of the book, so it looks like a retelling. But it was easy to read and had a very good conclusion.
student2 → The basic theme is good, but some of the examples are a bit long. Having read the book, I think you could have consolidated the examples a bit more. On the other hand, the conclusion is very short and a little too concise.
student3 → Your hypothesis is an interesting one but around the middle of the essay it got a bit diluted with the quotes on Mina and Dracula's arrival. I understand the examples were to make a contrast between the established order and the unpredictable of a storm but the point wasn't demonstrated strongly enough in the way it was written.
student4 → The content was well presented, even if it was bland. Nothing new, nothing deep, but well presented.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Martha's Zigzag Wanderer