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burning like matchsticks in the face of the darkness
 
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Thursday, February 3rd, 2005

Time Event
10:00p
"Hair is grey, and the fires are burning. So many dreams on the shelf..."
So, finishing The French Lieutenant's Woman at work on Monday was going to mean i got to sleep Monday night, but of course i caught up on LJ instead. And i was gonna make a Blackboard post, but it just didn't happen. I was like, "Sarah is crazy. Yes no maybe. Discuss." Yeah, it was bad.

I have MAT class during the Telling and Retelling film screening, which given my loathing of adaptations troubles me little. However, everyone seems to have hated the FLW movie, which makes me wanna watch it. I'm impressed with myself that i got the book read, but i kinda wish i could have read it more slowly, gotten more of the details. And dude, most obscure slash ever. (Thursday's presentation was on the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. I have geek love.)

Oh, way to go online ordering. I picked up 12 books at the p.o. on Tuesday. [It makes me sad that one of them has an inscription dated 2001 of "Happy 19th Anniversary! Forever Yours"] I also have a shiny new (gold) check card.

I jumped into the commentary on Napoleon Dynamite in offbalance's journal, and was afraid it would go badly, but really i should have known better. As it turned out, the discussion enabled us both to better articulate our problems with the film and we turned out to actually be in agreement on a lot of things. And lo there was much rejoicing.

Conversation in wisdomeagle's journal about (un)popular fannish [Whedonverse] opinions was also good.

Imbolc, though not Groundhogs Day, makes it onto the Smith College Academic Planner for February 2. 6 weeks, what? I always forget that that's the long one. I live in New England, people. 6 weeks only brings us to the "official" end of winter, but New England winter often lasts beyond that.

Surprised by Joy got finished Tuesday night after all. Le bore. And, um, spiritual autobiography? Way more of a regular autobiography than one might have expected/hoped for. Plus, it makes me rather dislike Lewis, whom i had so wanted to like. And the ending? Dude, wtf? ::rages::

Class began with more of "Surprised by Joy: The Movie" (my title) which was worth watching only for the footage of Oxford (focus was on University, Keble, and Magdalen). Mostly i worked on rereading the last 2 chapters of Surprised by Joy to see if i'd missed something in the Conversion Narrative of Crap.

Then CZ did the usual (which Ruhi, listening to me at lunch, dubbed "call and response"). She asked us for items which contributed to Lewis' conversion and wrote each one on the board and talked about it for a few minutes before calling on the next person. There was one time a student said something and she disagreed and i was reminded of Lewis' talk about his father hearing what he thought you said and anyway i agreed with the student and wanted to discuss further but she called on someone else and we moved along.

She wondered aloud about how professors of Western Literature do it, how one can try to give a balance when Christianity so dominates amongs the big deal writers. This gave me an entry point to talk to her after class. I said that it's taught (and understood by many students) as a powerful narrative informing the works of these writers, so you learn a lot about the Christian narratives but it's not like you're being preached to. In contrast to how Lewis talks about always feeling like he has to keep the Christianity in the works of his beloved authors at bay. Yeah, Lewis is kind of psycho. He talks about Christianity pursuing him -- which is why i was surprised by a student mentioning him talking about free choice in his conversion. Yes, i said all that, and then i talked about how i was really frustrated about how the whole book he talks in great detail about everything and how it affected his spiritual growth and everything and then at the end it's basically "And then I converted. The end," and i was frustrated particularly because i'd heard about how he's so legalistic in his defense of Christianity and how he's written so many works of nonfiction with rational arguments for Christianity but the end of Surprised by Joy is such a cop-out and i was so angry. I think i ranted for a good solid 10 minutes. And i could feel the tears in my eyes -- because i had been so furious when i finished the previous night, and i hadn't had any opportunity to properly vent (3 handwritten pages in my reader response journal before i quit, but that didn't have quite the calming effect that actually talking to someone would have). She was glad that someone had such a "fiery" reaction to the book. Oh, and i politely mentioned my dislike for the fact that we have spent so much classtime that could be used for discussion instead watching a video that doesn't tell us much new. And after all this we chatted a bit about the stuff i wanna do in grad school, about stories that get told and retold. So yeah, i felt better.

I was also comforted by an e-mail she sent to the class later that night:
Subject: surprised by the ending of SURPRISED BY JOY?

Dear Inklings,

Thanks for a great class, and for the fascinating entries on Blackboard.

I had an interesting conversation with two Inklings members after class, who said they found the ending of Surprised by Joy a major letdown. After describing in such detail his childhood intimations of joy, his schoolboy pursuits and travails, his atheism and flirtation with the occult, and even his journey to theism, Lewis reveals very little about his grounds for belief in the Christian gospel. He takes us to threshold and drops us there. Why does he clam up at this point?

Also - Why does he speak of being pursued by the Christian God? (even here, one senses a literary imagination at work -- recalling Francis Thompson's "The Hound of Heaven")

Come to think of it, while he has his reader's attention, why doesn't he try to make a convincing case for Christianity? What is the real aim of this book?

I'd like to hear others' views on this during the first ten or fifteen minutes of class Monday.
We'll also have a chance to return to some of these questions when we read Mere Christianity.
And from a later e-mail
Monday February 7
FIRST TWENTY OR THIRTY MINUTES:
Discuss the last two chapters of SURPRISED BY JOY ("Checkmate" and "The Beginning"). We'll pay special attention to the three "moves" in the chess match which Lewis says brought him to Theism. And we'll consider the way his narrative changes (becoming more suggestive and even cryptic) once he begins to describe the move from Theism to Christian belief.
REST OF CLASS:
We'll begin our discussion of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Please read the first nine chapters for Monday.

Weds. Feb 9
We'll continue discussion of LWW. Please read the rest of the book for Wednesday.

You will notice, I'm sure, the connection between the Socratic Professor Kirke in LWW and Lewis's tutor Kirk (Kirkpatrick, or the Great Knock). ("What DO they teach them in school?")
We got our presentation assignments and not only am i doing mine on my own (she had been talking about pairs, which some of them are) but mine is on "C. S. Lewis' Latin correspondence with the Catholic priest Don Giovanni Calabria." How perfect. (And other presentations include The Screwtape Letters, The Four Loves, C. S. Lewis' debate with Elizabeth Anscombe, and Tolkien in popular culture.) I think i'm doing my Lewis paper on C. S. Lewis and T. S. Eliot, and my Tolkien paper on Arthurian legend in LotR.

Me on Wednesday's dessert: "It's good but not great. I mean, it's just puff pastry with vanilla ice cream and Hershey's syrup."
Cat: "You make it sound so vulgar."
Kate: "You make everything sound vulgar, Elizabeth. It's your gift."

I missed RCFOS (if there was any this week) for
Robert Rosenblum, professor of fine arts, New York University, will present "The Art of Reincarnation: Picasso and Old-Master Portraiture," the second annual Dulcy B. Miller Lecture in Art and Art History on Wednesday, February 2, at 7 p.m. in Weinstein Auditorium, Wright Hall. The talk will offer a survey of Picasso’s life-long interest in portraiture and the particular ways in which he resurrects portraits from the annals of art history—works by El Greco, Velazquez, Goya, Ingres, Delacroix, and Manet—and transforms them into the friends, wives and mistresses of his own life.
Quite good, though sadly i was dozing off by the end (sleep-deprived in a dimly lit room...). Listening to Suzannah's introduction, i found myself wishing i had taken art history classes classes, so that i would have more narratives to draw on. And almost immediately in his talk, Rosenblum used the terms "quotations" and "paraphrase," and later on he talked about "translating into one's own language." Most of the artists he talked about (Old Masters i hadn't previously heard of, or contemporaries of Picasso also positioning themselves in an Old Masters tradition) had foreign names i couldn't quite transliterate, so i can't do much of a bullet list.
My favorite bit was that Picasso's "Weeping Woman" is often associated with his Guernica for obvious reasons, but it also draws on imagery of Our Lady of Sorrows, and later there's a sketch of Jacqueline Rocque which very clearly combines the two.
Other notes:
There's a painting of Jacqueline as Manet's Spanish dancer Lola (which also says interesting things about inserting people into nationalistic traditions).
This Picasso self-portrait is like Cezanne. Apparently he often did a painting in homage to an Old Master when one died. There's one that so echoes Gaugin's Spirit of Death Watching.
His portrait of Gertrude Stein was similar to some portraits of hulky men of state, and apparently Picasso joked a lot about her lesbianism and so she's usurping the male throne so to speak.
He also has a woman in an amchair and a woman with her finger on her temple (there are a bunch of these, actually) that echo somebody else -- tthe Ang (sp?) guy Rosenblum talked a lot about, i think.

The article (Robert A. Georges and Michael Owen Jones, Chapter 3, "Survival, Continuity, Revival, and Historical Source, from Folkloristics, 1995, pp. 59-89) we read for this week's seminar was largely rather lame. Example: The article begins with talk about ballads drawing on folklore, which we're going to spend some class sessions on later in the semester and which i'm actually interested in, but stuff like Animals can speak in ballads, notes [Evelyn Kendrick] Wells [in The Ballad Tree], a "vestige of" tometimistic belief in a kinship between them and human beings makes me wanna hit things.

We also read Jan Brunvand's The Vanishing Hitchhiker: American Urban Legends and Their Meanings, a book on urban legends as folklore. One of the discussion questions was
Does Brunvand's research and analysis of urban legends dissuade you from whatever truth you thought/think the tales contain(ed)? Do you believe that the legends grow out of documented or real incidents (for example the Mouse in the Coke and "Alligators in Sewers") or rather (as the author demonstrates so many times) have no discernable origins that we can detect? Do we care whether or not urban legends have a basis in reality, choosing to believe or enjoy them out of a "morbid curiosity" to "satisfy our sensation-seeking minds"? Is that truly the appeal behind the legends?
I am far too factually minded. I feel uncomfortable saying "I've heard..." or "Someone told me..." about anything, always feel the compulsion to fact-check it (though i don't always actually do so). And honestly, most urban legends don't interest me. Either they're obviously fictitious scary stories to be told over campfires or at sleepovers or they just sound like unfactchecked news items (e.g. finding a dead animal in one's food).
Simply becoming aware of this modern folklore which we all possess to some degree is a revelation in itself, but going beyond this to compare the tales, isolate their consistent themes, and relate them to the rest of the culture can yield rich insights into the state of our current civilization.
-page 2
That's the only aspect of urban legends that really interests me.
Legends can survive in our culture as living narrative folk lore if they contain three essential elements: a strong basic story-appeal, a foundation in actual belief, and a meaningful message or "moral."
-page 10

First, it is simply traditional to listen to and to appreciate a good story without undue questioning of its premises. Second, "belief" in an item of folklore is not of the same kind as believing the earth is round or that gravity exists. A "true story: is first and foremost a story, not an axiom of science. And third, the legends fulfill needs of warning (don't park!), explanations (what may happen to those who do), and rationalization (you can't really expect sensational bargains not to have strings attached); these needs transcend any need to know the absolute truth., The appeal and durability of a superb morbid mystery tale is as strong in folklore as in fiction or film, and the significance of a "folk" telling of such events can be as great for a scholar as its appearance in a popular-culture medium or its literature.
-on why urban legends don't get debunked (page 22)
A lot of the book was psychosexual explanations of urban legends, which i'm not a huge fan of, but it was food for thought anyway. (The less psychosexual explanations tended to be the rather commonsense ones that one doesn't need to read a book to think of.) And it was neat to learn that some urban legends have antecedents from ages back (the spider in the hairdo story for example; page 78: a 13th century tale of a woman vain of her hair upon whom the devil descended in the form of a spider).
As if the life history of this legend is not baffling enough, consider that there is a prototypical "Vanishing Hitchhiker" story (not the true ancestor of our legend) in the New Testament in which the Apostle Philip baptizes an Ethiopian who picks him up in a chariot, then disappears (see Acts 8:26-39).
-page 39
::loves:: (And it doesn't hurt that that's one urban legend i'm actually rather fond of.)

The Tatar radio interview started out as a review of stuff i knew, but there was some new stuff as well, so it wasn't a total waste of my hour. She talked about how a lot of the boys are simpletons and a lot of the girls are go-getters, and how various cultures have cinder-lad stories and Germany might well have had them. She said that in the Grimms tales there's always the child as survivor while HCA's are so tragic -- like The Little Match Girl, and she says it's important in a child story that child hero survive. She said that reading fairy tales is a way back into childhood for adults and way to mature for children. She said that good bedtime stories are exciting, and that that's one of her new projects (the sort of tension between the fact that you're reading kids this stuff to get them ready to sleep and the fact that stories they're gonna like are typically gonna be exciting), the other one being "wonder" in children's lit -- Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan. They talked about stuff the whole family reads, with Tatar mentioning Harry Potter, Lenson saying he ran out of gas when they passed 700 pages and mentioning Lord of the Rings from his childhood and Tara mentioning Narnia. Minutes before the end of the broadcast Lenson mentioned fanfiction!!! He asked Tatar if she had heard of it and she had not. He said that readers of stuff like Harry Potter, "They decide they wish they'd written it. And so they do." They write novels, he said. He said he'd never heard of it until one of my students [he's a Comp-Lit professor at UMass Amherst] proposed writing a senior honors thesis on fanfiction. (From his tone, it sounded like he denied said student, but of course i e-mailed him.) Those who say literacy and writing is on the way out are wrong, he said, and Tatar agreed and mentioned book clubs. And at the close of the broadcast, he he encouraged the listeners to buy her new book from your local 'independent, co-dependent, or chemically dependent, but not regular dependent bookstore.'

I luff my daddy. He told the story of a new teacher at NHS mentioning, "My passport says I'm male." and then says, And I almost said, totally seriously, "Did you used to be?" (she's short and "feminine-looking" but she had a number of years between college and starting teaching at NHS so who knows what happened then?) But I didn't, cause I figured she might not take it in the spirit I meant.

And there's an out lesbian at my high school? I'm impressed.

More from my dad:


ats_nolimits 6.10: Girls' Night Out by ladycat777 and mpoetess
The title alone is enough to hook me (which isn't to imply that i don't read every episode anyway) and having read, i approve. Muchly.

Oh, and reccing fic reminds me that i got my website up on February 1 and didn't do a grand pimp because my inner perfectionist is cringing, but i suppose i really should put it out there. Me and the Text. Fics and recs and nothing political that you haven't seen before (assuming you've been here before). I have much love for the setup of Doyle's recs page, but i'm not sure i have the patience to go through and do mine that way. Or the time, really. I know my non-fandom time would be better spent writing feedback and recs blurbs than recoding a huge chunk of my website. Maybe it can be a summer project.

Oh, and amproof wants a rec of your favorite fic of your own.

Eowyn and Theoden vid to Tori Amos' "Winter" by wolfling and mogigraphia
I barely remember the story from the book, but i think the vid is the synopsized version, and anyway it made me cry (not like that's difficult to do).

One ficathon i'm not signing up for but whose concept i enjoy: The Gay (and Lesbian and Het) Sex Challenge
You get dealt 3 playing cards with sex positions on them and write a fic using one of those positions.

doyle_sb4 is an evil enabler. *looks at stagesoflove and 30_kisses* Though i think i'll just bookmark them for the ideas rather than actually signing up.

Who's done that "10 Things You Want to See More of in Fic" thing? I've seen 4 lists so far (doyle_sb4, jennyo, musesfool, fabu) and am culling from these and working on my own list. It's not like i don't have enough fic to work on, but i like the ideas (plus the idea of getting to point someone to a fic and say "See, it includes on of your ten" gives me a happy).

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