Posts Tagged ‘Bridge to the Blog’

Sarah’s Bridge to the Blog

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

In class today we briefly talked about the mythological backgrounds of the characters referenced in Omeros so (because I took five years of Latin and am currently in a Greek Mythology class) I decided I’d dig deep to see if I could find even more curious connections between some of Walcott’s characterizations and the characters themselves. Hope this is enlightening:

Achilles was the hero of Homer’s Illiad. He was a great warrior whose only bodily weakness was on his left heel. Achilles was killed by an arrow to his left heel shot by Paris, son of the King Priam of Troy. He was the son of Peleus and the Nereid Thetis. Thetis attempted to render him immortal by dipping him in the River Styx but was unsuccessful because she left his left heel dry. (It was prophesized when he was an infant that he would be instrumental in the eventual fall of Troy.)

Hector was King Priam’s eldest son and became Achilles’ greatest enemy when he killed Achilles’ companion Patroclus in the Trojan War. Some accounts have Hector mistaking Patroclus for Achilles because Patroclus was wearing Achilles’ armor. (In this version of things, Achilles was sort of having a hissy fit and not fighting with the Greeks because Agamemnon had taken his war “prize” Briseis from him.) Mistaken or not, Hector was killed by Achilles who then dragged Hector’s body behind his chariot as retribution for Patroclus’ death and rejoined the war effort. King Priam was forced to beg Achilles for the return of the body of his son.

Helen (of Troy) was said to be the most beautiful woman of her time. Helen was married to the Greek Menelaus but later either ran off with Paris or was abducted by him (accounts differ).  This triggered the Trojan War. The Greeks were lead by Menlaus’ brother Agamemnon. Polydeuces and Castor (the Dioscuri) were her brothers. (Fun but irrelevant fact: She had a daughter named Hermione! Gah! Harry Potter!)

Philoctetes sailed with seven ships to lay siege to Troy along with his fellow Greeks. He was wounded en route on an island by a snake. Because the wound was festering and apparently smelly his comrades abandoned him on another island, Lemnos, for 10 years. He was the possessor of the hero Heracles’ bow and arrows (which apparently never missed their mark). A prophesy stated  Troy would not fall without the aid of this bow and as a result Philoctetes was rescued, taken to Troy and healed by Machaon.

Machaon was a well known healer (along with his brother Polidarius) who led a group of Thessalonians in the Trojan War. As mentioned above, he was responsible for healing Philoctetes’ wound upon his arrival to Troy.

After her two brothers, Eteocles and Polynices, fought and killed one another in a battle for her father’s throne Antigone disobeyed the new king Creon by performing a ritual burial for Polynices (the brother who the new king has stated would not be afforded that right because he has attacked the city of Thebes). At the end of her story, she has committed suicide which then leads to her betrothed, Haemon (Creon’s son) committing suicide which then leads to Creon’s wife, Eurydice, committing suicide.

Achilles led a large group of Myrmidons in the Trojan War. The Myrmidons came into existence when Aeacus (one of Zeus’s many sons) begged Zeus to populate and protect the island Aegina while gazing at an ant hill. Aegina was apparently created at Zeus’ behest as well. He had a son named Telamon.

The Argonauts were the men (and maybe women) who accompanied Jason on his quest for the Golden Fleece. Included among them were Heracles (great friend of Philoctetes), Telamon (son of Aeacus and brother of Peleus), Peleus (father of Achilles), Polydeuces, and Castor (brothers of Helen).

(Source (for the most part): www.pantheon.org)

 

 

 

Isun’s Bridge to the Blog (Late)

Friday, February 22nd, 2013

Based off of the queries in class as to why these three stones were named by H.D., I decided to look them up and see what superstitions, powers, and/or myths were associated with them.

Onyx – Onyx was very popular with the Romans and Greeks, and anything that is popular in the classical world had a myth created to explain its existence. Onyx is not apart from this tradition. It is said that Cupid once cut Venus’ nails with one of his arrow heads while she was sleeping, and littered them across the sand of the Earth. The fates, seeing this, turned the nail clippings into stone so that they would not lose their divine quality. The name itself comes from the Greek word for claw or fingernail. It was also a material heavily used in Egypt for creating pottery and in Greece for making cameos and the like.

Onyx also is one of the founational materials in John of Patmos’ vision of New Jerusalem in the apocolyptic text of the Book of Revelation. There are twelve gates into the city, there are twelve materials used in the building of the city – jasper is the first material mentioned (I’m saying this because she speaks of her walls maybe being built of jasper), and onyx is the fifth. In newer translations, however, the fifth is agate, and onyx is not mentioned… Interesting, huh? Who knew stones were important in the Bible? (Answer: Not me. Sorry. I’m quite ignorant on the whole matter, hopefully to be fixed over the summer!)

Another fun fact about New Jerusalem – there is a New Jerusalem Church of God in Christ on Moravia Street in New Castle Pennsylvania. I found this from trying to see if New Jerusalem was at all important in the Moravian sect. Then again, it kind of fits even if it isn’t something that may have been emphasized in H.D.’s religion. A post-apocolyptic city that comes down after crises (“end times”) with walls made of jewels – jasper, onyx, agate, sapphires, emeralds… with walls that will not fall. A sacred, heavenly place.

Opal – While the etymology of the word is debatable, “Opal” seems to have come from either one of few places. The first would be a namesake of Ops, the wife of Saturn and a goddess of fertility. The widely celebrated Saturnalia festival (celebrated around modern-day Christmas way back when) had an Opalia built into it to celebrate Ops. There are two other potential origins – the word for “seeing” (like where we get opaque from) and the word for “other”(as in an “alias” or an “alter” to vageuly synonymize). In Russian superstition, Opal does indeed represent the evil eye like was mentioned in class by Kristen(sp?). But, it was also associated with luck and bringing luck because of its many colors during the Middle Ages.

Obsidian – This stone can be found wherever there have been volcanic eruptions, generally. It is easily shaped, carved, and very sharp; it is common to find obsidian arrow heads, plates, etc. from the past. The material is even used to make scalpels today. Obsidian would also be used to make amulets and talsimans from – they were believed to keep away negativity. Obsidian can lessen stress, suppress aggression, and protect from mischeif; more specifically, it protects from the “evil eye” (I know, right?). The material was considered very strongly protective of women, especially.

Based on all these things, I believe H.D. put a great deal of effort into this single line (she seems to have put a great deal of effort into every line, actually). Materials that can be alchemized, precious stones, multi-colored, protective, evil, volcanic, and/or apocolyptic, they all have some relationship to what is really going on in the poem. Every time I read another lyric from this book I’m more and more in shock and awe of how much I’m reading in a single page.

Bridge to the Blog

Friday, February 15th, 2013

So, i’ve been sitting here with my dinner trying to decide what to post as my “bridge to the blog” for an unacceptably long amount of time. Mostly because i feel as though we did a pretty great job at discussing several of today’s topics to exhaustion.

to begin with, i have to ask: anyone else notice that the last few lines of Easy Boogie are an AWESOME penis joke? just sayin’.

(more…)

Alison’s Bridge to the Blog

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

             Today, we spent the majority of our time discussing genre and movements. While genre theory is definitely worth discussing, we have already read quite a bit of information on the subject, and there isn’t much that I’d like to say that Jen didn’t already do a good job covering this morning. I decided to look more at the Decadent Movement and Modernism.

What I found when I examined these movements, is that I could definitely see “The Waste Land” fitting into both of them. First I looked at some basic definitions of the Decadence Movement, since I wasn’t as familiar with this movement as I was with Modernism. What I gathered is that the Decadent Movement was centered around stylized language being used to describe themes such as depression, war, moral concerns, and death. Right away, I noticed many similarities between the definitions I found on the Decadence Movement, and the list we created about the uncertainty that goes alone with Modernism.

The word that kept coming back to me this evening was “aesthetic” (Interestingly enough, some even define Aestheticism as its own artistic movement, so there’s another we can add to out list!). Based on how I’ve looked at aesthetics in terms of literary movements before now, “The Waste Land” felt like aestheticism being turned on its head. Until now, I had thought of it as the celebration of beauty, but also just an extreme focus on beauty above everything else. Obviously, there is not much that is beautiful about the land described by Eliot in “The Waste Land.” However, Eliot does use beautiful language, he just doesn’t paint a pretty picture. For example, right at the beginning, Eliot intersperses images of a blooming spring with feelings of depression. In fact, “April is the cruelest month,” and the lines that follow it have stood out to me since I first read this poem. Other than the meanings we have discussed in class already, the picture it paints for me is of an individual who is missing a loved one who has died- watching the world come back alive, and knowing that they will never have that loved one back. I just think that it is so worth noting, that amidst all buds of spring, there is such sorrow in this waste land created by Eliot.

Of course, works generally have to meet certain criteria in order to fit into a movement. However, sometimes these criteria differ from critic to critic. That’s one of the reasons I feel the discussion of movements is interesting to consider. What movements do you feel The Waste Land falls into? Are there maybe even some we haven’t considered yet?

Jen’s Bridge to the Blog 1/24/2013

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

Although I am a reader who does not typically give an unnecessary amount of attention to authorial intent, I have concluded that one cannot read “Song of Myself” without understanding the historical context in which Whitman wrote, as well as giving thought to his political and social agenda. As with most literature, “Song of Myself” is a response to historical events. As we have discussed in class, Whitman was writing during a time in which the union was being threatened—people were forgetting about the democratic values on which the country was founded and society was increasingly plagued by evils like slavery and “the mania of owning things” (line 688).

I believe that Whitman thought it was his duty as a poet to address these social ills, rectify the material body and the spiritual soul, and bring society back to a state of faith. In class, we have talked about Whitman as a prophet-like figure who brings a spiritually important message to the American people. In this way, “Song of Myself” becomes what we learned is referred to as a “jeremiad,” a long work that laments society’s wrongs named for the prophet Jeremiah. When pointing toward his society’s verge of spiritual collapse, I think that Whitman makes it clear that his message is about egalitarianism and democracy, values which he saw as the unifying forces needed to mend the ever-thinning ties that held the nation together. In fact, in a very prophetic moment, Whitman says, “I give the sign of democracy;/ By God! I will accept nothing which all cannot have their counterpart of on/ the same terms.” As we discussed today, his message of equality can also be seen in his use of parataxis in listing the “common” people of America. In all, there seems to be strong evidence for this theory of Whitman as prophet.

However, we have also gone further and touched on the idea of Whitman as a Christ figure, especially when he refers to his own “crucifixion and bloody crowning” (960). When Dr. Scanlon asked us at the end of class about our thoughts on Whitman’s repetition of the “I am…” mantra (beginning with “I am the hounded slave…” in line 834), I immediately thought of the phrase as an allusion to Christ’s frequent use of the phrase to describe both his humanity and divinity (e.g. “I am the Bread of Life.” “I am the Way”). In addition, according to Christian tradition, “I Am” was the first name of God. However, I wonder if Whitman, in light of his democratic message, wants to highlight the divinity of one man or entity. Instead, his message often seems to be that of pantheism—the belief that God is found in all people and things and that everyone and everything are equally divine. Thus, there definitely seems to be some tension between Whitman’s desire to be prophetic and reformist and his simultaneous desire to reinforce the values of American egalitarianism. Essentially, this is my question: How can Whitman claim to have this sense of prophetic or divine authority without subverting his own argument that no one person should be subordinate to another?

Walt Whitman Bridge

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

Is an actual place on I-76 in Delaware that connects New Jersey and Philadelphia.  Walt Whitman and his work has been so significant that people have wished to commemorate his honor with structures that we imagine to be as everlasting as his influence.  What made Whitman so significant is easy to see but sometimes hard to describe.

In class today we touched on a lot of aspects of Walt Whitman’s life and work.  We learned the details of his biography including his relationships and geography.  Kristina opened discussion on some major topics like mind/body relationships, epiphany, and sexuality.   Our classmates mentioned gender polarity and indulged Whitman’s homoeroticism that lead us to explore the roles of our bodies, the transcendence of our souls, and the manifestations of our desires.  I found a few quotes that we missed in class that I think have a lot to say about these topics:

“Out of the dimness opposite equals advance, always substance and increase, always sex, Always a knit of identity, always distinction, always a breed of life.”
and..
“I have said that the soul is not more than the body,
And I have said that the body is not more than the soul,
And nothing, not God, is greater to one than one’s self is…”

 

One subject we didn’t cover in as much detail was the “witness”.  I find myself thinking about what it means to be a witness—to the world, to my community, to my loved ones, and to myself.  A witness holds account of things going on around them.  Based on our discussion about Whitman’s life and his experience witnessing the pain of soldiers—an experience that left him somewhat emasculated and significantly more observant— I am left to wonder how witness plays a role in our reading of the work.  Are we the intended audience, are we witnessing Whitman, or is he witnessing himself, or expecting us to witness him witnessing himself in order to inspire us to call attention to ourselves?  In my opinion it’s just his ploy to get us thinking about it

Song of Myself  is an obvious celebration of human life. Whitman’s poem provides an epic commentary on humanity as a whole and as an individual at the same time.  This is the unity we talked about.  He explores beauty and nature through the eyes of a conscious witness. It is evident in the evolution of Whitman’s writing that his experiences influenced his art.   Eventually we are left to wonder who is to bear witness to whom or to what confused by speaker and point of view.  In my opinion it’s just his ploy to get us thinking about the nature of wholeness and being which is, to me, a combination of sexuality, appreciation for nature, and giving witness or providing record.