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Category Archives: Scholarly Essays/Responses

These selections are articles that I’ve written for class assignments. Some of them may sound somewhat out of context as they may have been responses to specific questions, however, most are cohesive and original responses to entire works – whether novel, film, scholarly analysis, or shorter work.

Branagh’s ‘Henry V’ (2/2/10)

There are several moments where Henry’s ruthless nature challenges the notion of his heroism from the point of view of the film’s audience. However, I think within the world of the film he’s ultimately seen as heroic. Branagh uses several techniques within Henry V to emphasize not necessarily Henry’s ruthless nature outright, but genially creates an underlying question of the king’s heroism.

            Branagh often uses close-ups within the film to emphasize emotional moments, most notably in the beginning hour of the film. As Henry is delivering the initial speech in response to the gift of tennis balls, you can see his anger and passion better in those close-ups. Shortly after that scene comes the scene with the French King and Dauphin where there are several close-ups on the Kings rather ragged face, similarly throwing the audience into his disparity and uncertainty. “Branagh managed to achieve both intimacy and scope in his use of the camera” (Crowl, 34).

            Probably the biggest moment within the film where Henry’s heroism is challenged is in the scene where Bardoph is hung for stealing from a church. Branagh uses not only the aforementioned close-ups in this scene, but he shows a flashback of when Henry and Bardoph were drinking together. This creates the assumption that they were close friends and now, as Henry is King, he lets Bardoph be hung for a crime in front of his eyes. Flashbacks are often utilized within the film to show relationships with Henry, and I find it interesting how they are created very gothically and with ominous dialogue at the end to suggest disconnection and guilt on Henry’s part. “The film surprised, too, because it included, graphically, some elements from the ruthless side of the young king excised from Olivier’s more heroic portrait” (Crowl, 34).

            I also agree with a third point that Crowl makes, “The score romanticizes the English victory in a way that the battle’s images do not, opening the door for Branagh’s detractors to accuse such moments in his films of being ideologically unstable and politically pernicious” (Crowl, 30). This explains the point I was getting at earlier in the essay of his heroism being emphasized within the film versus the audience’s reaction which, in my view, is strongly less heroic and ruthless. The battle scenes within the film also show Henry’s ruthlessness in that he ordered the action of the war. Branagh’s techniques on the cinematic battlefield depict violence in nearly every way possible. It all comes down to what I think Branagh was trying to portray about war; that if you put country against country someone will lose, if you put sword to sword, someone dies. There’s no getting past it.

            Lastly, it was also interesting that Branagh left in the last chorus that discusses how Henry V’s actions were pretty much pointless because the throne of France was lost soon after. Olivier left that last chorus out of Henry the Fift, losing that use of Memento Mori – or reminder of death. All of these techniques lead me to believe that “by a shrewd merger of art and commerce, Kenneth Brannagh magically resuscitated the Shakespeare movie just when everyone was announcing its death at the hands of television” (Rothwell, 234).

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Posted by on September 30, 2013 in Scholarly Essays/Responses

 

Response to Whitman’s ‘Leaves of Grass’ (2/10/10)

I’d first like to state that Whitman was the first poetry that I was semi-extensively exposed to, and I love it. I think his descriptions of the world around us are over-powering, yet simple in their text. He creates peaceful universes while in actuality not striving far from the real and everyday. My favorites were songs 20, 42, and 47; the first two for the existentialist properties and inquisitive quality and the latter being what I view as being derived from religious themes.

            In Song 47, Walt Whitman’s artistry is truly exposed, or at least his ability to recreate himself in grander positions than his own. I feel that he addresses his audience from the point of view of God, or possibly to a lesser extent, himself as God. It could be an earlier, not yet homage-like, tribute to modernism and the idea held within it of “the artist as God”. Either way, the poem deals with what seems like a spiritual transition into some common lives at the end. I feel as though he’s speaking as God in this, “The driver thinking of me does not mind the jolt of his wagon, The young mother and old mother comprehend me, The girl and the wife rest the needle a moment and forget where they are, They and all would resume what I have told them” (Whitman, 1053).

            I don’t think I would’ve generally thought of this personification unless Whitman had used the descriptive words and phrases that he did earlier in the poem: “Unrequited love”, “I teach straying from me, yet who can stray from me?”, “The farm boy plowing in the field feels good at the sound of my voice”, etc. The poem just seems to make sense more and connect to me better if it is from that divine perspective.

            However, Whitman could also be playing with notions of poetry itself, and maybe personifying himself as poetry, even. Some of those lines, for example: “And I swear I will never translate myself at all, only to him or her who privately stays with me in the open air.” There it seems like he’s exalting poetry and the appreciation thereof, but for some reason, I digress to the religious theme. Especially with the connection to “the nearest gnat is an explanation,” granting the idea that the narrator created life. Song 47 is difficult like many of the rest, but these are the themes I came up with.

 
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Posted by on September 30, 2013 in Scholarly Essays/Responses

 

Response to Loncraine’s ‘Richard III’ (2/14/10)

Generally, I responded to Richard III’s 1930s setting with mixed feelings. I think that at points the imagery and character portrayals work very well, even to be called grippingly artistic in some scenes, as the one where Anne delivers her speech to the three-generation Elizabeth lineage near the wine garden. However, for the most part in the exception of those few scenes, the 1930s setting is awkward for me. I am one to agree that the 1930s do seem as “ancient and obscure” as the fifteenth century, but I would’ve much rather seen a fifteenth century setting for the artistry; not in the same right as Olivier made his films, but a modern film set in those times, like Shakespeare in Love, for example. Yet, I am also one who tends to think that Shakespeare’s plays should stay “within” that time period on screen.

            As far as deciding whether the setting created a gimmicky feeling, I’m not sure. The costuming was exquisite and Loncraine pulled off a modern approach to war well, but the choppy quality of the story really threw me away from its captivity. For example, the scene in the play where Richard kills off Anne’s husband, and furthermore, almost every death that Richard orders with the exception of Clarence, isn’t seen in the film version. I think that greater connections, less confusion, and less awkward chops would be the result of Loncraine placing those scenes in the film. They show Clarence being murdered and the audience really gets that sense that Richard is ruthless.

            After viewing the film, I realize that observation of the mixture of British and American accents. Many critics have debated which is better to perform Shakespeare with, and it seems that the American accent, as reported in class, is much closer to the tongue of the people that performed Shakespeare’s plays at the Globe. However, the 1930s setting works better in a British context than it would in an American one. This is due to the monarchy that still exists in England and is seen in Richard’s coronation in the film, where he dawns crown and robe along with all of his subordinates in their crowns and robes. It just simply isn’t as nonsensical in England as it would be in America.

            “The genre that Loncraine most relentlessly and effectively exploits is the 1930s American gangster film” (Crowl, 115). This is seen best in the last scene homage to White Heat, where Richard dies in the same right that Cagney did, an explosion. “Critics reaped scorn Richard’s uttering, ‘A horse, a horse! My kingdom for a horse!’ while anachronistically riding in a jeep” (Rothwell, 224). I think that scene, while others including the final duel do not, works within the world of the film. Since there were horses introduced in the film, and though unlikely that he would actually get away from a tank on a horse, his jeep is broke down and Richard wishes for a horse. It makes sense. 

 
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Posted by on September 30, 2013 in Scholarly Essays/Responses

 

A Response to Samuel Johnson (2/15/10)

It seems as though Samuel Johnson has a tendency to prefer realistic elements with nature included, but only with sufficient study. He viewed that the Romantic period was all but dead in Rambler No. 4; that if imagination and flowery language are taken away from these writers, then they are left with nothing. He states that prose should be based in observation and root itself in the nature of mankind and the psychology thereof. He criticizes Shakespeare in that, among several other critiques he was too flowery with his language and abandoned his plots near the end of his plays for money. He also states mainly that Shakespeare disregarded and played with times and places to create his own poetic law, which furthermore, Samuels feels is inexcusable.

            It’s difficult to demonstrate how Samuels would react to Oroonoko by Behn, but I’m not sure that he would be delighted in it. He’d criticize the drama of it and relate some fault to its play with time and place, as well. The story’s violence, he would construe, as a play against the audience and a chief effort in plot. As Johnson praises Milton so highly, the “epic” aspect of this story would certainly raise his delighted brow, but the minimal characterization and multiple points of view would have him reeling. However, I think there are underlying beginnings of Feminist theory in Johnson’s work, and that he would appreciate that equality of women writers, especially in the sense of Oroonoko with a female narrator. In his essay on Milton, that seemed to be what Johnson was getting at; that new and challenging ideas are essential to great works of art. Yet, he contradicts himself at points when he creates the sense that poetry should be compared to the Greats in how “estimated powers are measured by an author’s worst work” and “excellence is achieved through comparison”. So, in that right, I’m not exactly sure where Johnson would side on Oroonoko, but I view that he would approve of the originality of narrator even though it plays with time and mythology instead of sticking to realistic elements.

 
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Posted by on September 30, 2013 in Scholarly Essays/Responses

 

Discovery and Evolution: Understanding Anne Moody (2/23/10)

I think that the High-School section of Anne Moody’s Coming of Age in Mississippi is the most essential in understanding her life and reasons for writing the book. Many would argue that the Movement section stands as the most essential part considering the massively historical element to the novel, but those people could also potentially say that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s greatest understanding came from his speeches at Washington and other places. However, I’m one to believe that past experience generally acts as the motivation that shape a person’s actions later on in their life. In that right, Moody’s account of her experiences during her high school years stand out.

            The section detailed a time where she was starting to both realize her surroundings as well as what she wanted to do with her life. As the racial prejudice and tensions built around her, you begin to see her feelings expressed in these chapters. It begins rather darkly with the event of Emmett Till’s murder for whistling at a white woman. In reaction to that, Anne begins her quest for answers that, in my opinion, drives her throughout the book all the way to its close – where she still hasn’t found an answer, “I wonder. I really wonder” (424). Her mother shoots Moody down a lot, too, by means of protection, I feel. “Eddie them better watch how they go around her talking. These whit folks git a hold of it they gonna be in trouble” (130). Anne’s mother says that at the end of their discussion about the Till murder, and I view this as largely encompassing of her mother’s belief that white people are all out there waiting to snatch up any black person or child that does anything that isn’t to their white liking. This is an odd role model to have as a child, and I think Anne Moody realizes it in this section that she has to get out or surrender if she ever wants to be her own person.

            Anne Moody also first finds out about the NAACP in this section, when she stumbles upon Mrs. Burke and her friends speaking in rather “conspiratory” tones. This sparks her interest and she asks her teacher, Mrs. Rice, for an explanation. Their conversation, I feel, sparks Anne’s desire to join the organization. “Mrs. Rice got to be somewhat of a mother to me. She told me anything I wanted to know” (135). She goes on to talk about the shamelessness of both races and paints a picture of what seems like a “southern hell”. She talks about her disgust with white men that sexually pray on their black maids and get away with it, but that a black man who as much as whistles at a white woman is killed. This High-School section is also the point where Anne decides to work a bunch of different jobs and move around during the summers to her various relatives. In my view, these moves and jobs demonstrate, respectively, her diverse influence and work ethic that also propels the rest of her journey in the south. Moody realizes that amidst racial tensions, there are also tensions of class, illustrated best in the scene where she works at a chicken packing plant. “I worked at the chicken factory for about a month. Within that time I saw the entire place… I couldn’t think of eating chicken for years after” (181). In those chapters, she gets a position only because the people who already work there are striking for more pay. Moody feels like a “traitor” but has to do what’s necessary for money; commenting on the violence of the strikes outside the plant and how they were dark-skinned just as she was.

            She is also exposed to homosexuals for the first time in this section of the novel. “I couldn’t wait until I got outside to ask Winnies about Lola and Lily White and the others” (189). Lola and Lily White are gay men who dress like women and work in Winnie’s restaurant. Winnie explains it as “this place is filled with ‘em”, but moves casually on as if to say it isn’t a big deal and that, in my view, she concludes with acceptance. In short, Moody graduates from high school and is reunited with her mother, and this section rises above the others as an understanding of the author’s life and character. You can’t deny that she was shaped by the climactic racial tension seen in Emmett Till’s murder, the discovery of the NAACP, class issues being placed on top of racial ones, and her discovery of homosexual people leads to her more well-rounded, rather jaded character at the end of the book and truly begins her quest for answers that drives the memoir.

 
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Posted by on September 30, 2013 in Scholarly Essays/Responses

 

Devoured by America: Two Stories of Immigration (Chin and Alvarez) (2/23/10)

Immigrant experiences are probably generally bad in this country, considering that our country, for the most part, is damn near intolerant with foreign people. The experiences detailed in some of our assigned texts are rather shocking, yet some are more profoundly so than others. I’ve decided to examine Julia Alvarez’s How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents and Marilyn Chin’s How I Got That Name.

            In Julia Alvarez’s story excerpt called How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, the audience immediately gets the feel that the Garcia family is different with the line: “The day the Garcias were one American year old, they had a celebration at dinner” (Coming of Age in America, 226). I originally thought this would be odd in comparison to the rest of America, but then I remembered new years and how we all do celebrate every year as Americans. For some reason though, getting drunk and watching an expensive, shiny ball drop every year, seems to be a lot less important and honorable than the traditions of other countries. Regardless, the main character, Carla, doesn’t believe in the celebration, because she’s scared and doesn’t have faith in her family’s assimilation, as she states, “’Let us please go back home, please,’ she [Carla] half prayed and half wished” (227). In that right, the differences between her own culture and the American one she was thrown into are immense. Carla has a couple of odd experiences with the English language in text, the first time being, “PRIVATE, NO TRESPASSING. The sign had surprised Carla since “forgive us our trespasses” was the only other context in which she had heard the word” (227). The other is her obsession over the phrase “by heart” and how she relates many parts of her life to knowing them “by heart”.

Carla also goes through several conflicts with her schooling, all spurred by a subconscious desire for some Americans to “help those who aren’t like us”-type mentality where her mother is informed by other local parents, “Public schools, she had learned from other Catholic parents, were where juvenile delinquents went and where teachers taught those new crazy ideas about how we all came from monkeys” (228). Carla would also get bullied at school by groups of boys. They would “pelt Carla with stones, aiming at her feet so as not to cause bruising, saying ‘Go back to where you came from, you dirty spic!’” while another would “yank down her socks, displaying her legs, which had started to grow soft, dark hairs” (229). I thought it was both horrifying and interesting how Carla was experiencing immigration at the same time she was going through puberty. It must have been so hard, not even knowing why her body was going through those changes in terms of her own language, let alone in the English language. Lastly, there was that experience with the pervert in the green car, and the officers that handled the case. I don’t believe that the sexually explicit incident happened because of her nationality or immigration, so I won’t be addressing it. However, the way the officers dealt with her situation was strongly racist at points. Although, I can see where they are coming from; where “a small, accented woman’s voice is barely heard among the booming, impersonal American male voices that interrogated her” (233). I think that line gets directly to the point, how officers see so much stuff and deal with so many people day in and day out that they develop a certain impersonal and desensitized quality. I’m not saying that Carla is wrong in her descriptions, comparing the officers to the mean boys who tease her, I just think that there is more to it than that; similarly, that this particular scene is way more about cultural misunderstandings than it is a scene of racism.

Secondly, I’m going to examine Marilyn Chin’s poem, How I Got That Name. This immigrant experience seems more developed, in the sense that Chin is writing it from an older standpoint than Alvarez, yet it comes off as way more angry and bitter. It seems like her main idea here is that of cultural pride and subsequently how she feels that her culture, family, and even her name, have given way to “surrendering”, in a sense. She talks of the several ways in which her family gave themselves over to American culture and how she resents them for it, “when my father the paper son / in the late 1950s / obsessed with some bombshell blonde / transliterated ‘Mei Ling’ to ‘Marilyn’” (Unsettling America, 134). She goes on about her father, “Hong Kong trash – / a gambler, a petty thug, / who bought a chain of chopsuey joints / in Piss River, Oregon” (134). Essentially, she’s saying her father gave up his cultural identity and exploited its traditions for money in another country, or at least that’s how I think Chin feels. She resents her name, saying she was “named after some tragic / white woman, swollen with gin and Nembutal” (134). This is obviously a reference to Marilyn Munroe. Chin then moves on to relating her immigrant condition to her ancestors, “the Great Patriarch Chin / peered down from his kiosk in Heaven… And I, his least favorite – / ‘not quite boiled, not quite cooked, / too listless to fight for my people’s destiny” (135). This seems to be talking about how the author doesn’t feel that she discredits her heritage or does anything to particularly help it, either. In the last stanza, she seems to be acting out her funeral in a sort of self-satire, “So, here lies Marilyn Mei Ling Chin, / married once, twice to so-and-so, a Lee and a Wong…sister of a dozen, cousin of a million / survived by everybody and forgotten by all” (136). I think she achieves a bitter climax here, as well as a certain contentment. It seems almost to say that even though she’s been through so much, that she still has her free will and time to tell.

 
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Posted by on September 30, 2013 in Scholarly Essays/Responses

 

A Quick Response to Gordimer’s ‘Julys People’ (3/1/10)

The relationship between July and Maureen seems strained, like many of the relationships within July’s People by Nadine Gordimer. It would seem the Maureen tries to preserve an awkward balance of servant respect as well as chastisement, for lack of a better word. She seems to want to maintain a friendship with July, as she did with Lydia, but she feels that the traditional master-servant relationship should still be enforced strictly. As July arguably tries his best to maintain that difficult relationship, he still feels as though the Smales family owes him greatly for what he’s done for them. I would agree with July but I feel that his irrational way of going about getting what he deserves causes untimely conflict within the world of the novel.

            In the scene between pages 71 and 73, July has confiscated the keys to the Bakkie, believing that he deserves the vehicle out of all the work he has done for the family within the Smales household. His feelings seem to really come out in this scene, that he doesn’t disapprove of their situation, but wishes Maureen would go about their relationship differently: “You looking everywhere, seeing if everything it’s still all right. Myself, I’m not say you’re not a good madam – but you don’t say you trust for me” (Gordimer, 70). As July continues, criticizing Bam and Maureen for certain mistreatments in his eyes, Maureen attempts to explain all of them out of the master-servant conflict in an attempt to relate to July as a man. “You worked for me everyday. I got on your nerves. So what. You got on mine. That’s how people are” (Gordimer, 71). There sort of marks a turning point in July’s demeanor. In his quick construction of a denial to servitude, he is blindsided by Maureen’s remark: “If all you can think about is what happened back there, what about Ellen?” (Gordimer, 72). Ellen is July’s “townwoman” and what seems like his mistress, or at the least another love interest than his wife. Maureen holds their relationship over July’s head for the keys to the Bakkie, but the tense scene ends with July becoming quiet, placing the keys in his pocket, and leaving the hut.

 
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Posted by on September 30, 2013 in Scholarly Essays/Responses