Featured post

Closing the Semester

  1. The Trethewey paper is due Wednesday, April 20, at midnight.  I am unable to accept any papers at all later than Friday, April 22 at midnight so please be punctual!
  2. The blog is open for posts and comments until Friday, April 22, at midnight.
  3. I will assess any work done on the collaborative projects up until midnight on Friday, April 22.
  4. I will have regular office hours on Wednesday but NOT Thursday and Friday because of the Kemp Symposium, so contact me if you would like a meeting one of those days.
  5. Your final exam times are on the Syllabus.
  6. Consult the assignment for the collaborative project in  Canvas for guidelines on the oral presentations that will take place in the final exam slot.
Featured post


I hope to release the grades for the drama/Ruhl paper sometime today.  But because too many of the papers are not as strong as I’d like them to be, I’m going to move the Trethewey paper deadline back just 24 hours to give everyone more time to look at feedback and see if it will help their revisions on the poetry paper. So the new deadline will be Wednesday 4/20 at midnight.

Postcolonial Theory Questions

Recently, I have been extremely interested in the idea of postcolonial theory as well as other ideas associated with it. For instance, do you all think such a thing as domestic colonialism exists?

The only example I can think of for this type of colonialism would be the Iranian Revolution with the supporters of Khomeini arguing for Islamic Fundamentalism and supporters of Reza Shah arguing for westernization. What do you all think?

Kylie’s Commentary on Tartuffe

What was interesting to me was how the characters interacted and how every aspect of their character reflected the character’s personality and underlying motivations perfectly.

The most interesting way I saw this achieved was through costuming.  For the majority of characters, the costuming is elaborate and at least close to period-accurate.  Orgon was fancily dressed, but rather frazzled and worn in appearance and costume, as well as character.  His appearance, actions, words and demeanor were tired.  Elmire’s costuming is elaborate but tasteful, with a sweeping dress and delicate embroidery.  Her costuming and appearance, her words and actions–they are all poise and composure.  Mariane was dressed, for much of the play, in a pastel pink dress, and was generally dainty.  Her costuming an demeanor showed her adherence to traditional gender roles that still persists today.

All of these were, if not period-accurate, then close enough to the untrained eye.    Tartuffe and Valere, however, were decidedly not in period accurate clothing.  Tartuffe has the correct outfit, the period outfit, except….he was wearing crocs.  He was wearing black crocs.  Similarly, Valere was wearing an Aeropostale jacket as a cape.  I see this as a delibrate costuming choice to re-emphasize the characters’ personalities and to draw attention to parallels of today.

Generally, we see crocs as something lazy and something almost distasteful.  Tartuffe, by all accounts, was both of these.  It was clear to everyone that Tartuffe was using Orgon, except to Orgon himself.  His head was too far up in the clouds to look down at the reality of his feet, as it were.

Valere, on the other hand, had an Aeropostale jacket.  This fit his character quite well, as the stereotype of that is generally spoiled, cheerful, and occasionally petulant–all things that Valere has been at one point or another.  This is especially appearant in the scene where Mariane tells Valere of her father’s plan to marry her to Tartuffe, in which they both act like children.

Carissa’s Tartuffe Extra-Credit

Words: 570

This past Thursday I got to go see Tartuffe, which takes place during the French Renaissance. It is a story about a wealthy family who has taken in Tartuffe, a holy man of God. Tartuffe turns out to be a poverty stricken con-artist and liar who almost gets away with taking all of the family’s possessions, having sex with Orgon’s wife, marrying Orgon’s daughter Mariane, and ruining the marriages of two other people (Mariane and Valere and Damis and Valere’s sister). I am going to look at Tartuffe in three different ways; from a post-colonial, a LGBTQ, and a psychoanalytic perspective.

Looking at Tartuffe from a post-colonial lens, what stands out to me is the distribution of power and how the class system was portrayed. Orgon is a well respected man in his community, respected by his family, friends, neighbors, and those in authority: the court and the king. His wealth not only makes him a respected man in the community, but also in the household. It is interesting to see how wealth made him an important respected figure in his household and society. As a father, Orgon also has authority over his grown daughter. Even though Mariane is an adult and is engaged to Valere, Orgon has the power to change his mind and set up a different marriage that he approves of. A situation like this would never happen in 21st century America.

Looking at Tartuffe from a LGBTQ lens, it could be possible that Orgon is secretly gay. In the very beginning of the show, Orgon comes home from a trip and talks to Dorine and Cleante. Orgon reveals that he does not care about the decreasing health of his wife, or the fact that his daughter is upset about her marriage circumstances, or that his whole entire household is upset at all the changes that Tartuffe has made. Orgon’s sole focus and worry is about Tartuffe, and how wonderful it is that he has been eating all his food, taking advantage of all he had to offer, and making himself more than comfortable during his extended stay. Orgon is one of Tartuffe’s “followers” and is not only taking all of Tartuffe’s advice, but also later gives him all his money and the deed to his estate along with several other important documents. Orgon’s lack of love for his wife and family (he did say that he felt no love for them earlier and that if anything bad happened to them he would not feel anything) could be interpreted to mean that he is gay, because all of his energy, efforts, and emotions revolve around Tartuffe.

Another interpretation of Tartuffe would be to look at it from a psychoanalytic viewpoint in regard to Mariane. Mariane’s id has a strong desire to marry Valere. She shows this by fighting with him and sobbing after the fight when they each think that their relationship is over. She also makes plans with Dorine to prevent her father’s plan for her to marry Tartffe from working out. Mariane’s (super) ego behaves very differently, however. During a chat with her father, she agrees to marry Tartuffe because he is in charge and it is her moral duty to obey her father. It would make her look bad in society as a daughter to not listen to her father, especially since her father is such an important public figure.

Jordan’s Bridge to the Blog

In class on April 7th, poetic terms such as enjambed line, end-stopped line, caesura and scansion were discussed as well as was the sonnet style of poetry. It was asserted during this same discussion that sonnets were usually about unrequited love. We took this assertion and used it in our analysis of Natasha Tretheway’s eighth section in her Native Guard sequence: June 1863.

This poem struck me as relating to the “eagerness” on line 10 of the poem to an unrequited love of recognition and of doing something that matters. In the first two full sentences of the poem it is stated, “Some names will deck the page of history as it is written on stone. Some will not.” The reference to stone can only be assumed a grave. With this interpretation, it is necessary to note that in 1863, segregation and racial inequalities were prevalent- even after death, so the “deck[ing] of history” refers to how people are mourned and remembered differently. History tends to remember the ultimate source of authority and negate even the slightest existence of anyone stemming from lesser power. Regardless, people continue to involve themselves in issues with the hope of remembrance. In the final sentence, “Death makes equals of us all: a fair master” the ridiculous notion of a difference in types of memory is combatted by Tretheway’s assertion that, in the end, we are all remembered, regardless of the way, and we are all dead.

I believe that Tretheway, while recognizing the disparities in the way we, as a society, remember individuals, is trying to show how our unrequited love for warfare and our insane importance on being remembered shield us from the fact that the ways we go about achieving these concepts, often times, lessens the importance of our actions. I am reminded of civil rights leaders and war heroes in this assertion and the increased benefit they could have brought to society if not dead. Our society is so focused on recognition through any and all measures (including death) that we misinterpret the benefits associated with life.

Does anyone else agree? How is unrequited love referenced in a selection about death?

Tselmuun’s Bridge to the Blog

Today in class, we analyzed “Southern Gothic” and “Incident” from the Native Guards, and since these two poems are very rich in meaning I thought I would share some of my interpretations.

In Southern Gothic, Trethewey lays down on the bed that her parents used to share and revisits her childhood in a dream.

“framing the separate lives they’ll wake to. Dreaming,

I am again the child with too many questions – “

Once again she is the child with many questions, however, she is yet to realize that the answers are far more complicated as she contemplates the past in her dream. Trethewey also seems to demonstrate her disappointment at a subject which she didn’t understand upon the time it happened.

“my mother cannot answer, her mouth closed, a gesture

toward her future: cold lips stitched shut.”

In the lines above, her mother is unable to answer her questions because she’s just an image in a dream. On the other hand, the author also seems to imply that her mother’s lips are “stitched shut” because of the consequence already happened and nothing could change the past.

Whereas in Incident, Trethewey narrates about the Ku Klux Klan visiting their house. The repetition of words “no one came”, “nothing really happened” seems to reinforce the message that it the history was retold so many times that it lost its’ impact.

We tell the story every year –

how we peered from the windows, shades drawn –

though nothing really happened,

the charred grass now green again.”

The line that says “the charred grass now green again” could also to refer that the disturbing consequences of history is just an incident because everything is fixed like the charred grass is green again.

Finally, I also want to stress the line “we tell the story every year” which is an opening and ending of the poem. Trethewey could be referring to “we” as the black community and how they tell the story every year in a hope that people would acknowledge the ugly truth of the past. However, the white-supremacists/public are indifferent to the story because the KKK is seen as angels not murderers or criminals.

It seemed the angels had gathered, white men in their gowns.”



These are just my rambling thoughts, what were your opinions?


(Pop) Cultural Analysis of Lolita

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov still has much influence today, specifically providing inspiration for the current Lolita fashion trend and subculture.  This subculture revolves around elaborate, extremely feminine dress and childlike attitudes and looks.  This fashion is popular among 20-somethings, especially in Japan.  People who dress in Lolita fashion wear clothing that would typically be seen in a kid’s dress-up box.  It is meant to be something innocent and childlike yet alluring, turning what looks like children’s clothes into something meant to be ‘sexy’.

lolitadress2   For example, this ‘girl’ is most likely in her twenties.



This perversion of Nabokov’s work is nothing new.  In fact, the very thing that launched Nabokov’s Lolita into pop culture, a movie of the same title directed by the (in?)famous Stanley Kubrick, missed the point entirely.  First, he made the title character, Lolita, much older than she was at the beginning of the book.  In the book, Lolita was a twelve year old girl, while in the movie, she was t least 14.  The actress who played her was chosen in part because she looked much older than she actually was.


Meanwhile, Humbert Humbert, the main character, was played as likable and sympathetic, according to one critic, while the Humbert in the novel was unsound and a pedophile.  Many events were changed in the movie as well, to make Humbert more likable.  Instead of threatening her with reformatory school, he swears to never bring hr there.  Another disturbing aspect of the movie is its genre: dark comedy.  Nabokov’s work is anything but, instead a story of a predator marrying a woman to gain access to her underage daughter, which he then abuses for years. As she grows up during the course of the novel, he thinks she is too old and fantasizes about raping her and then raping her daughter.

This was even used in a perfume ad, sexualizing a child’s body and referring to one of the most famous examples of pedophilia in literature to sell a product that is closely related to sex.  In the ad, Dakota Fanning was only 17.  She is wearing a childlike dress and has the perfume bottle placed in between her thighs.  The designer even said that it was supposed to be “seductive, yet sweet”.  Lola was a nickname for Lolita in the novel, and once again, the designer described Dakota Fanning, still a minor, as a “contemporary Lolita”.   Not only was this profiting off of the sexualization of a minor, but doing so in reference to a novel about the sexualization of a girl who is repeatedly sexually abused and even raped by her stepfather, who is a pedophile.


Nabokov’s intentions while writing this book are well documented, and fairly obvious from the synopsis and characters.  Humbert Humbert, the main character, confesses that he is a pedophile, although not in so many words.  He says of the 12-year-old, in the first line of the book, no less, “Lolita, light of my life, fire of my lions.”  He marries a woman to get to her stepdaughter, Lolita, who is not the first girl he has pursued.  When Lolita’s mother died, he began pursuing and abusing her in earnest, which continued for years before Lolita was finally able to escape, after years of abuse.  Humbert is seen as unhinged, rambling, unsympathitic, and brutal.  He is seen as a pedophile from the very beginning.  The idea of the novel was to show the barbarity of some men, and the horrible acts that they commit.  Nabokov was dismayed at the sexualization of Lolita by pop culture, as it perverses and even defies the point of the book: how horrible the main character really is.


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