Author Archives: nataliebeyer

Natalie’s Analysis of UMW’s Tartuffe

Tartuffe-26-1-1140x460Last night, I saw the opening night debut of our school’s new play. UMW put on Molière’s Tartuffe, a French play first performed in 1664. This is the last play in UMW’s 15′ to 16′ season and I’m glad they ended on a lighter note after Frozen. Upon a little bit of research I learned that the play’s title is actually French for “the imposter” or “the hypocrite”, which is very fitting for the plot of this play. However, I found myself interested much more in the Marxist commentary this play seemed to subscribe to. The dialogue about religion and monarchy is deeply embedded within all the slapstick physical comedy and lines of clever, rhyming couplets and brings more to this light-hearted comedy than meets the eye.

It seem almost strange that only two centuries divided this play’s opening and Karl Marx’s teachings because his infamous comment that religion is an “opiate of the masses” applies directly to this play. When Orgon, the father and master of the house, falls too far into religion and begins worshiping the seemingly pious Tartuffe, he loses his mind and almost all his material wealth. His brother-in-law, Cléante, warns him in the beginning of the trappings of organized religion. Basically, he sees religion as the idiocratic convention that tells people: if you do not see the world as they do or believe what they do, your soul is condemned for eternity. Also, that people go crazy just trying to keep up with this idea of being “pious” or “holy” enough to fit this conception, like hamsters on a treadmill. The character of Tartuffe represents how even those who participate in organized religion and are high in the religious hierarchy can lead a life opposite of the teachings they preach to their followers. Tartuffe is a religious con-artist who uses religion to distract his victims and indoctrinate them into rebuking everything and everyone else in their life for the sake of eternal life. Those who are not wary (Orgon in this play) fall headfirst into their trap and learn valuable lessons. I must add the actor who played Tartuffe was amazing in this production and did a great job playing the slimy and treacherous villain.

Now I should mention when I researched this play before I saw it, there were numerous mentions to the play’s first performance at the Palace of Versailles. This is an important detail because during the final scene of this play, when The Exempt (played by I.J. Diakité) comes forward as the King’s Officer, he points directly to the audience when he mentions the king. It is as if we, the audience, are the monarchy. The lines The Exempt is addressing to the King are basically flattering praise of how the King always sees through imposters and those who claim to preach true religion but only seek to deceive. It is interesting how the director or actor made that choice to stay true to the context of this play. Before this gesture, the audience would have no clue that the commentary or moral take-away from this scene is almost directed to the monarchy. The King is spoken about like he is the lord of final judgement and the wise monarch who sees and knows all in his infinite wisdom. Pretty much just kissing up to the King watching the original play.

This play was so good! I hope everyone can get a chance to go see it because I promise you will find something to laugh at and our fellow UMW students did a great job on this production. If anyone does see it, did The Exempt make the same gesture to the king? Did it make you view the play differently after knowing who they were pandering to? What did you think about the commentary on religion.

 

Word Count: 625

 

Natalie’s Bridge to the Blog

This morning we touched on the word “metropolitan” and how that related to eurocentrism. I couldn’t help but think about the concept of eurocentrism in relation to the recent Belgium terrorist attacks. Why do we only care about the loss of life in predominately white, European countries? Why are we still in the mind of the colonizer?

Paris, and then Belgium. Every time a European country is attacked it is brought to the forefront of our attention in the western world through media outlets. The president was even criticized for not stopping his Cuban trip immediately and flying to Belgium to “stand with our allies”. But I wonder why we don’t stand by our allies or innocent lives at sake in the Middle East. Why don’t we stand for the loss of human life by heinous terrorist attacks anywhere? Even in the early hours of coverage, news outlets threw out that they suspected the perpetrators to be Syrian refugees. As if the xenophobia toward Syrian refugees wasn’t strong enough, the Western media gave Americans one more reason to fear them.

And what’s worse, European tragedies are used by the media to scare our western sensibilities. An airport and metro was attacked, filled mostly with upper and middle class Europeans, and the western world loses its mind. We like to think we’re safe in our privileged bubbles, safe to jet-set and commute in our “civilized” society. All the news outlets keep saying “what if we are next?”.  And yet, these things happen in the Middle East numerous times. Where is their airtime? It’s clear to support “third world” countries that lose just as much (if not more) innocent lives by the same terrorist groups is not trendy but it was definitely trendy to support Paris as we saw with the Facebook “Stand with Paris” french flag filters. Beirut was attacked just hours before the Paris attacks and yet got almost no media coverage. Paris was covered for days, if not weeks, after their singular attack.

I would just like to say I don’t think the victims of the Paris or Belgium attacks don’t deserve to be mourned because they were and are both tragedies. However, I think it should be noted how eurocentric we can be when it comes to tragedy. Has anyone noticed this too?

Let’s Not Lose Our Heads

47e61a29f490744a06164d6a4edcbfbaAfter reading and re-reading the first part of Passion Play, I kept coming back to the scene with Queen Elizabeth. She orders beheadings just like the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland (just not as often). It made me compare the two characters, though each is based in two wildly different literary contexts (one fantastical and one historical/realistic). Both Queens seem to wield absolute power and love to show it off to their inferiors, but we never actually see them take action. However, the Queen in PP is engaging in religious persecution so we can assume she may actual be killing some of their subjects. Yikes.

Also they are both portrayed in a very shrill manner. Both yell at their subjects in order to get their way and that could say a lot about how we see women in power. It reminds me of the narrative given to Hillary Clinton presently and it makes me wonder if its possible for the whole of society to see women in power and attribute them with more positive terms. When you look at “powerful” beloved women in royalty or power (like Princess Diana) everyone would say she technically had power or was in power but in reality that’s really debatable. Perhaps because she didn’t have any true, dangerous power, the world saw her as graceful, lady-like, etc.

Anyways, those are a few thoughts I had to share. Feel free to comment I’d like to know what people think about this comparison.

Natalie’s Analysis of the UMW Production of Frozen

I got a chance to watch our school’s production of Frozen on opening night and this play did not disappoint. The subject matter is dark and the dialogue is extremely visceral and raw, but it does the play a great service. Frozen opens up many dialogues including: how people deal with loss, how society creates its serial killers, and how forgiveness means forgiving the guilty and yourself.

First, I have to mention the production’s excellent use of lighting and sound effects. The characters speak mostly in monologue form, so they each are bathed in a spotlight when they deliver their lines straight to the audience. This is paired with detailed sound effects that vary from little girls’ giggles to the sound of ice breaking apart and melting.

Ice is a major theme in the play, as the three main characters make several allusions to it in their monologues. Nancy tells the audience a story about her other daughter having a dream in which Rhona, her missing child, is trapped underneath the frozen ice and she struggles to free her. Agnetha, the psychologist, makes numerous mentions to “thawing”. Ralph, a convicted serial killer, speaks on feeling frozen before realizing the horror of his crimes.

This play does a lot of interesting things. With its format of monologues, we get the ideas delivered straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. We also follow the characters over a long period of time, so we can see their character evolution in the years following each of their tragedies. The theme of forgiveness and grief is dealt with heavily in the play and can be seen through three different, psychoanalytic perspectives. One, from Nancy, the mother of a murdered child who has to move on from the loss of a child, come to terms with the fact that she ignored her other child while fixating on the missing one, and learn how to forgive herself while forgiving the man who murdered her daughter. In Nancy’s monologue, we also get accounts, via her perspective, of her other daughter, husband, and mother. Nancy admits multiple times that she has projected her internal feelings of anger and grief onto her loved ones and that has created great strife in the family. Another perspective comes from Agnetha, who turns her grief, after losing her colleague and lover in a car accident, into a psychosexual form of mourning. She finds herself having sexual feelings for the murderer, Ralph, she is interviewing for her study on serial killers. With Ralph, we learn that he was abused physically, mentally, and sexually as a child and has internalized that pain into inflicting pain on others. However, because of his lack of feeling human empathy, it is not until meeting Nancy that he realizes what he has done to other families. By the end, it is too late, and he hangs himself because the remorse he feels is too much for him to mentally handle.

All in all, it was a great play and I hope others got to see it and can share their opinions on our school’s production!

(517 Words)

Natalie Beyer’s Psychoanalytic Analysis of Where the Wild Things Are

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“Draw a monster. Why is it a monster?” -Janice Lee

In a dusty box taken from my closet, I find a torn and tattered copy of Where the Wild Things Are. My favorite childhood book has seen better days; it’s drawn on and some pages are dog-eared unintentionally, but the drawings by Maurice Sendak–the book’s author and illustrator– still are as magical as I remember. And yet, the story takes on a much more deeper meaning as I look at it through the “eyeglasses” (as Lois Tyson calls it in her book Critical Theory Today) of Psychoanalytic criticism.

Where the Wild Things Are opens to our protagonist Max being a total brat in a wolf suit, hammering into walls and chasing the dog with a fork. Max’s behavior compels his mother to send him to his room, with the diatribe: “WILD THING!” and without supper. Max is angry, alone and isolated. Suddenly, as if he is in a dream he floats away to a forest where he meets a ship, sails many days and nights, and lands on the island of wild things. Upon arrival, the wild things try to appear as monsters to Max, roaring and gnashing their sharp teeth. However, they are no match for Max, who takes power over them and the wild things crown him king. A wild rumpus ensues. Eventually, Max gets tired of these wild things and makes his way home despite the monsters’ protests: “Oh please don’t go–we’ll eat you up we love you so!” When he gets back to his little room, he finds a warm plate of supper waiting for him.

When Max gets sent to his room, Sendak vividly illustrates how angry and frustrated he is. Anger, frustration, and alienation are emotions any boy, or child for that matter, has dealings with, but it is clear that with Max it has been an ongoing problem. A problem for which his mother does not know the clear discipline for. In the book, she yells at the boy roughly and gives him the harsh punishment of no food for the night. There certainly is to some extent a battle going on in this house between mother and son. The mother views Max’s actions as domestic terrorism while Max sees his actions as justified because of his need to “release the beast” within him. This remains an unresolved conflict between them until the end of the book where the mother has symbolically waved the white flag and conceded to leaving him a warm meal.

Max internalizes his feelings in many ways, which comes to fruition later with the wild things, but first we see him escape into a very specific part of his subconscious. The id, one of Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalyist concepts, is represented in Max’s imagination as an island where wild things roam. These monsters are allowed to express their feelings by growling, gnashing their teeth, and other scare tactics. However, these monsters are only shadows of Max’s emotions projected on to a scary, ugly face. Max uses projection to deal with his most aggressive feelings, such as the alienation he receives when his mother sends him away. Alienation is something the author and illustrator Maurice Sendak knew all too well growing up Jewish in New York City and also in his later years as an open homosexual. Sendak likely felt the same sense of shame and anger that Max does in the book. Similarly, he would have repressed some of that which his alienation and loneliness yielded because of being Jewish or gay.

In the beginning, Max’s animalistic “wolf” side of himself wants to destroy things and reap havoc, which in reality is just a physical response to all of the built-up, repressed aggression he is begging to express. Young boys often act out with role-play that is violent or aggressive to demonstrate their hyper masculinity. However, anger comes with a lot of shame and guilt that gets repressed. Max responds with frustration when he cannot find an affective method to express his boyhood anger. As Tyson says, “Until we find a way to know and acknowledge to ourselves the true cause(s) of our repressed wounds, fears, guilty desires, and unresolved conflicts, we hang onto them in disguised, distorted, and self-defeating ways” (p.13). For Max, these feelings are disguised and distorted, creating horned, furry, ugly monsters. But after all, isn’t that what all monsters are made from?

Like Max, we create monsters from what we fear most in ourselves. Everyone in society to some extent uses projection. Humans use what they despise most or are running away from in themselves and project that onto monsters. Sometimes projecting even on their fellow man. What we can take away from Where the Wild Things Are is that sometimes the solution to our problems is to face our inner monsters and realize that we have more control over our emotions and fears than we give credit. Perhaps, like Max, we can leave all of our repressed anger, fear, frustration, resentment, and alienation on an island oceans away and come home to a nice, hot plate of dinner.

 

Sendak, Maurice, and Maurice Sendak. Where the Wild Things Are. New York: Harper & Row, 1963. Print.

Tyson, Lois. Critical Theory Today: A User-friendly Guide. New York: Garland Pub., 1999. Print.

 

 

Jay Gatsby: Friend or Fraud?

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In class we discussed the many reasons we read literature and one was the common humanity we can take away from texts. In Gatsby, I found a kindred narrative within the rag to riches story of James Gatz and the creation of his persona, Jay Gatsby.

I think to some extent we all come with a persona and feel the anxiety that comes with keeping it up. When we first come to college, at some capacity we all share a deep seeded fear that we will be “found out”. Such thoughts as: “Maybe they will find out I’m not as smart as I seem.”, “Maybe everyone will find out I’m not good enough to be here.”, etc, etc.

In James Gatz’s case, I found the same. He fears he will be found out by the old-money elite. He shares his past with Nick as if it is a deep, dark secret and that is exactly why I believe he lets the general populous and party guests believe the dramatic rumors they circulate about him (like the German spy one).

So was Gatsby just a fraud? A creation of James Gatz’s dillusions of grandeur? Or do we all to some degree shape our public personas?

The Dichotomy of Daisy

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I’ve read Gatsby twice now and what has stuck out most to me is the change in my feelings toward Daisy after the final events of the book. When I first read the book, I went from loving Daisy at the beginning (she’s such a sweet, hopeless romantic reunited with her long lost love–swoon) to absolutely despising her at the conclusion (what a terrible person!).

The second time around I felt completely different. I now could delve deeper through the many layers that made up the character: Daisy Buchanan. She was a product of wealth, most likely taught that love was silly and idealistic. Money and security was it’s logical equivalent. She was a mother. A woman who suffered abuse at the hands of her only protector in the world, the man with the power to take away everything she had. To me, all of these life conditions are transparent in her decisions and follies. In the end, she could only protect herself by leaving, letting Gatsby take the subsequent fall and then not attending his funeral.

So, with Daisy you can really either love her or hate her. I agree not attending Gatsby’s funeral was in bad taste, however factoring in the lack of options not only Daisy but so many woman had in those times, her actions seem rational. I know now I can say I adore Daisy, as imperfect and flawed a character she is.

Still, I’m curious as to what feelings other people got from Daisy?