Archive for November, 2011

Eugenides close reading

“Madeleine had been trying to beat Alton [in tennis] her entire life without success. This was even more infuriating because she was better than he was, at this point. But whenever she took a set from Alton he started intimidating her, acting mean, disputing calls, and her game fell apart. Madeleine was worried that there was something paradigmatic in this, that she was destined to go through life being cowed by less capable men. As a result, Madeleine’s tennis matches against Alton had assumed such outsize personal significance for her that she got tight whenever she played him, with predictable results. (10)”


Eugenides builds the story of Madeline’s tennis follies from the begining, and by doing so lets the reader feel as if they themselves are going through a journey like hers.  With every mistep, we are driven closer to the ultimate goal, much like Madeline, and then snatched back at the last moment, burdened to try  again.  By using words like “beat”, “without sucsess”, infuriating”, Eugenides begins his annecdote by introducing us to Madeline’s view and struggle. 

Tennis is a game played for recreation if not professionally, and since there is no hint of Madeline being a professional, tennis here is meant as a way for her to play for her, not for money.  This is why the words ‘beat” and ‘without sucsess” are important.  These words indicate that there is more at stake then pleasure, and they start the snowball effect that tennis has on Madeline’s manic state. 

Madeleine worries that her shortcomings on the court will have a “paradigmatic ” effect on her life.  This word choice is important because it has to do with the study of linguistics, one studied in english theory classes that the main character so thoroughly enjoys.   

The author makes purposful note of Madeline’s “tight”ness when playing these games, a word choice important for its multiple meanings.  “Tight’ can mean physically her muscles can tighten, causing her to be slower on the court; it could mean that she got emotionally upset, and that her clouded mind prevented her from having physical success.  The word “tight” also implies a surroundedness and the feeling of enclosure, or trapping.  Madeline could feel tight under the web of her father’s sucsesses agaisnt her, this sense of defeat fueling her manic obsession to spring free from the trapping every time she gets thrown back below it.    


Web Wednesday Nov. 16

Poe’s The Gold-Bug is a work of fiction based on a small South Carolina island that revolves about a recluse’s obsession with code-breaking and the finding of buried treasure.  My question – Is there any evidence to suggest that Poe’s writing on these topics has any connection with a real-life experience that he crutched on for inspiration?

To answer this question, I will need to find information on the biography of Poe, including his upbringing, life-experience and the details of his professional career.  Where did he grow up?  What sparked his interest in writing?  How was his writing received during his career?  Was he poor, perhaps?  Did he personally have any experience with code-breaking, and if yes, where did he learn the skill?  I will need to research these details, using phrases like “Poe’s past”, “Poe – inspiration”, “Private Life of Edgar Allen Poe”, and others of the sort.


What Levi-Strauss assets about the use of repitition in myth is entirely accurate in the case of Rumpelstiltskin.  The pattern which sees the daughter continuously trading goods for help from the small man is an obvious one.  Even when after her tasks are completed and the man returns again, there is a series of deals the two make that basically defines their relationship as one based solely on the notion of qui-pro-quo.  Do this for me, and I’ll do something for you, an eye for an eye, etc.

The constant repeating of this main theme serves as a vessel that builds the structure of the piece as it progresses, and it is this structure that brings tension along with it.  The results of the first few exchanges between the characters turn out peachy for all involved, yet after seeing this, readers can accurately predict that the plot will continue to be based on similar deals until one of the agreements goes awry.  There will come a time in the piece, eventually, when both characters again run the gauntlet of their unstable relationship and only one comes out on the other end – in essence, the growing tension of the piece overcoming and collapsing its structure.

And this is exactly what happens.  The relationship between the daughter and manikin reaches a point of no return when the little man asks for the now-Queens’ daughter.  It’s a heavyweight battle – the Queen versus a savvy traveler who believes he has this battle of wits won.  All of the past repetition in the piece, the repetition that built the structure and allowed the growth of the work, leads up to this climax.  And it is a powerful one, where the tension produced from the structure and growth proves too much, causing the manikin to burst and crumble in front of our eyes.

Analyzing “Rumpelstiltskin” with the Orchestral Method

Web Wednesday Nov. 2

According to Freud’s writing, in order to mimic the way he interprets dreams in the reading of literature, we must first separate the abstract and turn it pictorial. To do this, we must take large ideas and condense them into more succinct pictures. These pictures then represent the larger ideas at hand.
That being said, Step 1 would be to take the text and interpret what it is on the surface. What is actually happening? Literally?
Next, for Step 2, we would have to take all that is happening and condense it into smaller ideas that can represent the entire picture.

Spam prevention powered by Akismet

Skip to toolbar