Web Wednesday 11/30

November 30, 2011

Excerpt from page ten of The Marriage Plot:

‘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.’

Madeleine’s relationship with her father when it comes to tennis is a great metaphor for the theme of mania that appears so often throughout the novel. Mania is something that is not easily beat, and we see Madeleine struggling without success to beat her father at tennis. Even though she’s better than Alton, he always wins– this further represents the struggle with something that threatens to consume someone, even if the person is theoretically ‘stronger’ than the mania. Eugenides even goes so far as to say that Madeleine ‘fell apart’, which is certainly applicable to mania as well as a tennis game.

Alton’s taunting may represent personal insecurities– even though Madeleine is stronger than the ‘mania’ her inner thoughts turn ‘intimidating’ and disparaging toward herself, and due to the drop in confidence she cannot win. She fears that this is the standard, and that this is destined to happen forever. This causes her to both lose hope and to tense up, and as a result she cannot defeat her father/the mania.

How did the white majority in America not only aggressively but, more importantly, subconsciously assert their dominance over Native Americans during the nineteenth century through media and day to day life?

To do this, I would need to find articles written in or about this time period that concern Native Americans. My short story is perfect for this thesis, as the language is very loaded. I could find articles that describe government campaigns at portraying Native Americans as savages as well.

(Click for larger image)

Column A: Deception
Column B: Imprisonment
Column C: Emotional Reaction
Column D: Bartering
Column E: Rejoicing/Greed
Column F: Demands
Column G: Protagonist taking proactive route

Myth tends to repeat its ‘mythemes’ over and over. Lévi-Strauss suggests that this is to render the structure of the myth apparent. He goes on to describe how when different versions of one myth are put together they create a kind of slated effect. There are many different versions of Rumpelstiltskin floating around, but through repeating the same basic points over and over the basic structure of the story remains the same. The daughter may not be a miller’s daughter in the next iteration of the myth, but she will always be locked into a room several times by the king. It repeats so much to preserve the story even through repeated tellings.

Dreams

November 2, 2011

“A dream-thought is unusable so long as it is expressed in an abstract form; but when once it has been transformed into pictorial language, contrasts and identifications of the kind which the dream-work requires, and which it creates if they are not already present,can be established more easily than before between the new form of expression and the remainder of the material underlying the dream. This is so because in every language concrete terms, in consequence of the history of their development, are richer in associations than conceptual ones. We may suppose that a good part of the intermediate work done during the formation of a dream, which seeks to reduce the dispersed dream-thoughts to the most succinct and unified expression possible, proceeds along the line of finding appropriate verbal transformations for the individual thoughts.”

-Sigmund Freud

Using the above quotation, we can find two concrete tasks for the purpose of interpreting literary texts from the point of view of Freud’s Dream-work:

1.) Metaphors can be represented in many different ways. Freud mentions ‘pictorial language’, an example of which might be the usage of a mockingbird to represent innocence. We must analyze the imagery described and see if there’s a deeper meaning in it.

2.) Metaphors are useless unless they can be identified. If we are unfamiliar with the images being put forth, we will not be able to understand their meaning, and as such we must understand what exactly a mockingbird is before we can conclude that it represents innocence.

In short, we must search for meaning in imagery and we must be able to understand what said imagery is.