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


The Chekhovian in Nunn’s ‘Twelfth Night’ (2/1/10)

Upon first view, the film’s debt to a Chekhovian style isn’t as obvious as it becomes with an in-depth look. Chekhov’s plays were largely produced with dark environments, dark tones, sexual tension, and things left unsaid. Nunn’s Twelfth Night achieves many of these Chekhovian notions, but as I will explain, they fade into a much brighter, comic-style film that seems more to reflect Shakespeare’s play itself. “Although Nunn acknowledges his admiration for Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot, his Twelfth Night finds its inspiration more in Chekhov and Mozart than in the world of film” (Crowl, 79).

            The biggest example of a Chekhovian setting within the world of the film is when Cesario is first summoned to the quarters of Olivia, in which she is shrouded in a black veil and there is little but candlelight to illuminate the room. Olivia is in mourning of her brother’s death and simply plays with lines and puns in a melancholy manner in an attempt to get the boy out of her quarters. There are several pauses in this scene which is largely a Chekhovian method, and what goes unsaid on the surface is that Olivia is falling in love with Cesario, who is actually Viola. This sort of tug-o-war of internal conflict with the nature of love occurs throughout, creating what I think is more of a “real world film” than it would be if it was absurd and comical throughout. “Nunn’s film wants to find the proper balance between everyday and holiday. The echoes of Chekhov in the film’s period setting and landscape help to foreground the melancholy rather than the mad” (Crowl, 80). As in this quote, the dark 19th century setting of the film, and the accompanying use of candlelight, creates shadowed figures which are also Chekhovian.

            There is a scene toward the middle of the film where Duke Orsino and Cesario (Viola) are playing cards together. It’s obvious in this scene, as well in many others, that the two characters have strong attraction to one another, yet they cannot pursue it or convey it because they are men. Not only would it be socially awkward for them to address these feelings, but it would be yet another internal challenge to overcome. The sexual tension between these two characters is Chekhovian. Also, Feste reflects the most of underlying darkness of the film. His character, even while subtly dancing and singing on-screen, conveys a hidden melancholy awareness, and I think Nunn uses him throughout as the middle-man between troubled characters like Viola and comically awkward characters like Sir Andrew Aguecheek. “Kingsley’s [Feste’s] somber tone reflects the sober quality of Twelfth Night” (Rothwell, 229).

            Lastly, however, I think the film transforms itself from Chekhovian to resolute as it progresses. The use of low-key lighting in the first half of the film creates shadowed figures and that Chekhovian sense of melancholy, but with the turning point of the duel between Andrew and Cesario (Viola), the film begins to disband Chekhov and greet comedy and brighter environments. Yet, I still view the ending of the film returns partially to Chekhovian style with “Nunn’s decision to focus on the excluded and the leave-takers in keeping with the autumnal atmosphere he has sought to achieve throughout” (Crowl, 85).

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


Angela Carter: An Assessment (3/2/10)

I – Carter’s Life and Works: A New Vision

Salman Rushdie, author of The Prophet’s Hair which we read in class, was an ardent fan of Angela Carter’s work, proclaiming, “By turns formal and outrageous, exotic and demotic, exquisite and coarse, precious and raunchy, fabulist and socialist, purple and black. Her works are like nobody else’s” (Lee, 11). She was born Angela Olive Stalker on May 7, 1940, in Sussex, England. In 1960, she married Paul Carter and began her higher education, graduating from the University of Bristol with an English degree specializing in Medieval Literature. Shortly after her graduation, Carter published her fist novel, Shadow Dance, followed closely by her second, The Magic Toyshop, for which she won the John Llewellyn Rhys prize. “Carter [also] worked for several periodicals and newspapers throughout her life, including the New Society, The Guardian, The Independent, and The New Statesman, but she reportedly enjoyed working as a reporter in Tokyo while living there [for three years]” (Peach, 18). After returning in 1972, her marriage had a falling out and she divorced Paul Carter.

            She began teaching at Brown University in 1979, simultaneously publishing one of her most famous short story collections, The Bloody Chamber. She then settled down with Mark Pearce and had a son, Alexander, in 1983. Nights at the Circus, another of her highly praised novels, was released a year later. Carter then tried her hand at plays with Come Unto These Yellow Sands in 1985 and continued her prolific career through several relocations and awards. Carter also maintained the identity of “writer in residence” for the University of Sheffield, the University of Adelaide, Brown University, and the University of East Anglia and has received several awards, most notably the Somerset Maugham Award for Literature. In 1991, she published her last novel, Wise Children, after being diagnosed with cancer that same year. She died a year later in 1992, and as Rushdie states, “a writer and woman who died too soon, at the peak of her writing career” (Lee, 9).


II – Carter’s Critical Reception: Feminist?

            “Magic Realism, Surrealism, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Gothic, Feminism, Postmodernism – all of these categories apply, and yet all are one-dimensional in their application to Carter; none of them, with the possible exception of Surrealism, encompass the full spectrum of her accomplishments” (Peach, 15). Looking at two reviews of the same stories I will be discussing later, some interesting and innovative ideas are introduced about Carter’s notions with The Company of Wolves and The Erl-King.

            Grace Brox, in her review of The Company of Wolves, says that it’s obvious that “the werewolf [stands] as sexual predator, a symbol for both danger and desire, over which a young girl triumphs, employing her new found sexual power and giving in to the symbol of carnal desire” (1). She goes on to comment on how the protagonist of the story is largely fighting fire with fire. This is to say that the driving force of the story is the lusting maleness of the wolf, as animal, at odds with the heroine’s use of her growth into a woman and the sexual power that comes within that. However, she comments that Carter creates a world where everyone in the village fears the wolf so much that children carry knives, so the masculine lusty quality is intertwined with a murderous one. The feel of the wolf conniving around a village originally places the reader in an olden time, yet “the image of a woman straining macaroni brings the reader jarringly into the present day” (Brox, 2). Then, the victims are criticized by this reviewer in saying that all of them were killed for their own thematic reasoning; how the woman straining the macaroni is bit by “sexual desire” within her domesticity, how the old man strives for God in his mortal need but that his “servile faith” cannot save him, and how the woman with the two husbands receives violence upon her because of her “servile domesticity” (Brox, 2).

            Harriet Kramer Linkin reviewed The Erl-King specifically, but says, “Carter’s revisionary tales in The Bloody Chamber venture through these woods and houses again and again, demarcating paths that may or may not lead to a new aesthetic theory more enabling to the woman writer” (120). She goes on to say that Carter develops environments that mirror the nature-inspired anthologies of 19th-century lyric poetry from Blake to Wordsworth. Within the environment of The Erl-King, “Carter examines not only the ways in which male desire defines and confines the female, but also the ways in which the female desire colludes in erecting the bars of the golden cage for the Romantic as well as the contemporary writer” (Linkin, 120). Originally a Charles Perrault fairy tale of Goeth ancestry, Carter imagines the fiercest of defenses against the devouring male-dominated canon that stands as the Erl-King. The reviewer goes on to say that Carter pits against and compares with her female protagonist to that of other female narrators in strife such as Wordsworth’s Lucy or Bronte’s Jane Eyre. “In the young girl’s search for a voice, she must kill the Erl-King that symbolizes the male-dominated canon” (Linkin, 124).

            However, it also brought up that the Erl-King performs an astonishing number of domestic tasks that include weaving baskets and cleaning spotlessly. The reviewer, as well as myself, don’t know what to make of that circumstance. It would seem that Carter is creating a little bit of controversy within the Feminist community in her protagonist’s killing of a largely androgynous figure; that in her search for a feminist grounding, Carter poses the underlying question of what kind of “self” should women strive to preserve?


III – My Analysis: Canonization and Feminist Theory

            The Erl-King and The Company of Wolves stand as much together as they do apart. Where both have female protagonists striving to gain ground against a masculine force and equally challenge and fortify feminist theory, The Company of Wolves paints a questionable protagonist and The Erl-King’s didactic quality is lost within its Romantic aestheticism. Carter’s retelling of Red Riding Hood ultimately fails because the protagonist gives the male figure what he wants. Many critics can say that the protagonist is “growing into her sexual prowess and holding that over the wolf”, but that doesn’t do it for me. If you preach against objectification, yet create a sexual prowess fallback when objectification flourishes, there’s no preservation of feminist theory or didactic quality. While it is obvious that Carter seems to be simultaneously satirizing the protagonist as well as showing her “coming of age” quality, the wolf still holds her naked in his victim’s bed. I’m hard-pressed to see the “overcoming” quality within that.

            Where The Company of Wolves fails in showing the overcoming quality of women over men, The Erl-King at least attempts that strategy and Carter achieves it well, but places too much concern on imagery. While she is spinning a tale that symbolizes an achieved freedom for all women from men, she loses the effect of her intention within her far too expansive dive into Romantic aestheticism. There are several examples of this throughout the text, the greatest for me being the scene following the semi-climactic scene of seduction, where Carter randomly addresses the Erl-King as a tree. “When he combs his hair that is the colour of dead leaves, dead leaves fall out of it; they rustle and drift to the ground as though he were a tree and he can stand as still as a tree, when he wants the doves to flutter softly, crooning as they come, down upon his shoulders…” (Carter, 3). It’s those tangents, where Carter tries to begin twirling Wordsworthian nature sentiment with a Charlotte Smith melodramatic quality, that I often stray from the author’s intentions. While Carter claims herself as feminist, it is very easily misread for her to be working against such literary movements. However, her writing is very good and I think she should be canonized, if for no other reason than there are much worse within the canon. In my opinion, she’s innovative in challenging the notions of these classic fairy tales and interestingly places a female protagonist in both, and I think I’d like to study her within the canon, rather than it excluding her.

While Lillian Robinson seems to be trying to heighten the awareness and sensibility of both current and future female writers, Angela Carter seems to walk a weary fine line between accusation and satire in The Company of Wolves. I’m not so sure that Robinson would be willing to place Carter in her “counter-canon” or even attempt to get her into the existing “flawed” canon. Her dramatic language and frequently ridiculous character movements within this re-telling of Red Riding Hood, even though that I view them as a movement toward satire and intentional absurdity, still project the objectification of women on the surface. From the subtle jabs at the “place of a woman”, “a woman once bitten in her own kitchen as she was straining the macaroni” (Carter, 1), to the more heightened and obvious last line, “sweet and sound she sleeps in [her] granny’s bed, between the paws of the tender wolf” (Carter, 8), it’s apparent that Carter likes to play with her audience’s original notions. For example, a strongly feminist critic – as ignorant of intentional absurdity as she may be – would say that the pristine granddaughter (protagonist) gives herself to the polar-masculine figure of the wolf in the bed of her grandmother, which he murdered. Not only that, the critic would mention, but the carnal act was committed over the corpse: “the old bones under the bed set up a terrible clattering, but she did not pay them any heed” (Carter, 8). The primarily pornographic reformation would be dishonorable and disgusting to an average feminist critic.

            Robinson’s three ideals are broken within The Company of Wolves. Other than my view of Carter showing the female reader an underlying theme of what not to do in their lives with men, a conspiratorial effort to connect with a female audience is far from obvious and is even opposed on the textual surface. Woman’s culture certainly isn’t predominant in the story considering that everyone, especially women, fear the wolves within that literary world. However, I guess you could say that the theme of power is still conveyed, although it’s debatable. The main character is a “heroine” in the sense that she overcomes fear to express physical passion with a “devilish” creature, yet she fails in the feminist sense with that submission and surrender. Robinson also says that female writers shouldn’t disregard race and class, but I think Carter does disregard them in both of these stories.

            Patrocinio Schweickart, on the other hand, would look at Angela Carter’s style and smile in its originality and magically imaginative qualities. She would appreciate the violent climax against the male figure in The Erl-King, claiming a “Bravo!” at Carter’s underlying address of immasculation. Men among the literary world are the enemy according to Schweickart. The female writer is always subject to the men because the majority of authors in the canon are males; male content and male technique “reign”. She comments on how the people who choose what goes into the canon are male, and are furthermore judging the “submissions” in comparing them with the currently male-dominated canon. This dual hermeneutic enforces immasculation of the female author in achieving the techniques and content of men, essentially making them men, in the literary sense. Schweickart would ultimately praise Carter for creating a world where, if nothing else, the female has the last say and generally “wins” in some way over the male. She would defend my criticism of Carter’s aestheticism by saying that I should weigh her cultural influence in with my critique, as she liked and read many Romantic-era works; how Carter simply places the styles she likes into the text. (In itself that would be a contradiction, because Carter would then be moderately “mimicking” a male influence, giving in to the “inevitable” dual hermeneutic.)

            The author we studied that Carter resembles the most, although it’s difficult to compare them to say the least, is Alice Munro. Munro also uses female protagonists in her works and exposes a “dual hermeneutic” in her work. This is to say that both writers create a male-figure that can both be loved and hated. In The Erl-King, Carter creates a man who both keeps women captive for their beauty as well as pursues countless domestic tasks in his liking of them. He even goes as far as to embrace a feminine nature and “makes salads of the dandelion and flavours them with a few leaves of wild strawberry” (Carter, 3). Carter’s protagonist furthermore disposes of this androgynous creature, which creates controversy. Munro, in her story Walker Brothers Cowboy, creates a rather quirky, nostalgia-like father figure that really gains much of the audience’s support. She works with this idea of the dual hermeneutic even in the few songs that the father sings; at one moment singing thankfully of the expansion of his profession “And have all liniments and oils, For everything from corns to boils” to another shortly after where he darkly jokes of his predecessor’s death “Old Ned Fields, he now is dead, So I am ridin’ the route instead” (Munro, 2781). All in all, Munro presents a father, and husband, that is shown celebrating and drinking with a possible ex-love interest of his with his children present, achieving this rather androgynous movement both for and against feminism. While both these writers are drastically different in style, Munro being rather plot-driven and formal and Carter being rather aesthetic in an informal address of “the fairy tale”, they both seem to be trying to achieve the same themes. 


Brox, Grace.

Sacramento, CA. 2006.


Carter, Angela.

Published by the Penguin Group. New York, NY. Penguin Books. 1987.


Lee, Allison. Twayne English Authors Series: Angela Carter.

Twayne Publishers. New York, NY. 1997.


Linkin, Harriet Kramer. “Isn’t it Romantic?: Angela Carter’s Bloody Revision of the Romantic Aesthetic in ‘The Erl-King’”. Critical Essays on Angela Carter. Ed. Lindsey Tucker. G.K. Hall & Co. New York, NY. 1998.


Munro, Alice. “Walker Brothers Cowboy”. The Norton Anthology of English Literature: The Major Authors. 8 Ed. Stephen Greenblat, Gen Ed. Pg 2778-2788. W.W. Norton & Co. New York, NY. 2006.


Peach, Linden. Macmillan Modern Novelists: Angela Carter.

St. Martin’s Press. New York, NY. 1998


Robinson, Lillian S. “Treason Our Text: Feminist Challenge to the Literary Canon” Falling Into Theory. Ed. David Richter. Pg 152-164. St. Martins Publishing. New York, NY. 1999.


Schweickart, Patrocinio. “Reading Ourselves Toward a Feminist Theory of Reading” Falling Into Thoery. Ed. David Richter. Pg 269-279. St. Martins Publishing. New York, NY. 1999.


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


The Fall of the Vocalist (2/3/10)

Some recent trends in music show a definite loss of vocal emphasis. If you’ve heard late 50s/early 60s “rock and roll”, guitars were prominent but not dominant. A strong emphasis was still placed on vocals. I think that since then and even more frequently nowadays, we are seeing a huge wave of “band” music. By that I mean, all members of a band focusing their talents to the best of their abilities, essentially making the best of the music. In my opinion, the vocals “fall” with these decisions, or aren’t as prominent as they once were. The truth is there’s a bigger market for voice modification and the technological mixtures of vocal soundings, because the artist inherently distorts their voice to make a new and original sound. A mass example of this would be T-Pain’s career, as well as several other recent hip-hop artists, and a slightly lesser known example would be Modest Mouse or Tom Waits. It isn’t that these artists aren’t good at what they do; they are just creating a new trend of voice modification that’s very interesting.

Simply put, the band no longer looks to magnify the singer, but vice versa in most cases. Folk and “Indie”, what I personally listen to most, are great genres that are showcasing this. Low-fi recording is one way that I can think of off-hand that seems to be coming up a lot. The Mountain Goats built the majority of their rather prolific, early recording career on low-fi sound, most notably with the album All Hail West Texas. That album sounds a lot like if you combined a CB radio with their vocalist John Darnielle’s pattern of amazing lyrics. Fleet Foxes, recently in the folk spotlight, create what has come to be called a “gentle wooze” in their harmonic folk, which sounds rather slow and rigid in a loose composition, if that makes sense. Iron and Wine, on the other hand, sort of battles this belief of declining vocals considering the singer, Sam Beam, is the main focus of that music. It shows on their album Shepherd’s Dog, released in 2007 and marking their gradual shift to a style that’s less “folky” and more “indie” in its focus on voice.

However, even with this trend in “band as a whole” movement, the instruments are becoming great windows into the lives of their players. Dead Confederate, who I’m calling a modern-day Nirvana, has a grunge-folk song called Wrecking Ball, by which they actually named their album. It has simple day-in-the-life lyrics with a ballad-type chorus, but in my opinion, shows the true heart of Hardy Morris – from his Seattle upbringing to the project he started the battles Nirvana’s shadow. The simple blues arrangement in a song that grinds so originally at points is sort of a work of genius. Separately, you have artists that are strictly instrumental, as in Andy McKee. McKee works to bind acoustic slaps with well-timed picking to create an amazing relaxing sound, where you are literally left with the name of the song for guidance. Since he has titles like When She Cries and For My Father, his audience receives the notion of hardship. Yet, the majority of his songs end on peaceful tones.

The point I’m getting at is that music is expanding. In the “mainstream” sense music is slacking, creating simple words and power chords that bands like Hinder, Nickelback, and Three Days Grace pounce all over and throw rather unfairly into the teenage ears of their listeners; however, when music is devoured by truth and stands with real meaning, I am forced to look at folk and indie. They stand as the most personal genres and whether they utilize types of voice modification or not, they are carving a new niche and I feel everyone should be a part of it.

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Posted by on September 30, 2013 in Behrend Beacon Articles