Thursday, February 23, 2006

drama queen

Day 179
23 February 2006

We read Copenhagen for Drama today. Finally, a play I could read without getting horribly disturbed and going to bed depressed. There is some good contemporary drama out there, and I've been very impressed with a lot of the stuff we've read, but I can't really say I've enjoyed most of it. (Stoppard is the exception to this; we read three of his plays, and I liked all three without reservation.) Apparently modern drama is supposed to be disturbing, because that's what forces the audience out of their comfort zone so they start thinking about the issues presented in the play. Well, OK, but if I promise to think seriously about heavy social issues on my own time, can I stop having to read plays where people do nasty things like put out horses' eyes (Equus) or kill their babies and get dragged away to hell by the fairies (The Skriker) or trick other people into killing them with a matte knife (The Gift of the Gorgon)?

Thursday, February 16, 2006


Day 172
16 February 2006

I read the first 76 pages of Maria Edgeworth's The Absentee last night, and I have had an epiphany. I am not going to do my thesis on gender issues in Romantic novels. I am going to do my thesis on parent-child relationships in Romantic novels. The parents in Romantic novels seem woefully inadequate, qua parents. They are either literally absent (Grace Nugent's parents in Absentee), or emotionally absent (Mr. Bennett in Pride and Prejudice), or mentally absent (Mr. Woodhouse in Emma). Why is this? Is it as simple as a plot device to foreground the young protagonists? Is there a cultural component? A literary tradition? Why are the family relationships in Romantic novels so dysfunctional? And don't even get me started on parents in gothic novels.

I feel good about this. I had been kind of worried, because I felt like my previous idea for a thesis was a good one, but I was at a bit of a loss as far as how to get started and where to go from there. I think there's a lot more possibility with this new topic. I can see aspects of New Historicism as well as psychological criticism fitting into it, which will be fun.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006


Day 170
14 February 2006

I had to skip my translation class today, which was annoying, because our translation of Baudelaire was due today. I was very anxious to see what other people had done with it, since I myself struggled with it mightily. Correspondances is an incredible poem, and my French is good enough for me to enjoy it in the original language, which made me very reluctant to translate it. I love certain aspects of translation, but if I could, I would always read everything in its original language. Even when something is gained in translation, something is inevitably lost as well. I was particularly looking forward to seeing what Angela had done with this poem, becuase she is fluent in French. Hopefully I will still be able to get a copy of her translation on Thursday. My translation ... well. I gave up on trying to make it into a poem; it would have been such an injustice to Baudelaire's very structured original. I found that to communicate my impression of the imagery in the original, I wanted phrases like "corrupt, sumptuous, and overpowering," and "having the expansiveness of the infinite," which just didn't seem to lend themselves well to any meter I could think of, let alone fitting into sonnet form.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Olympic update

Day 168
12 February 2006

Olympic update:

ski jumping: boring
5,000 meter "speed" skating: also boring
biathlon: weird

The post-event interviews with the athletes are a little surreal. It's as though the interviewer has four questions she's going to ask, and Chad Hedrick's got four answers he's going to give, but somewhere along the way they got shuffled, and now his answers don't match her questions. She asks how he managed to get his emotions under control after his emotional warm-up, and he talks about how he was inspired during the race by the memory of his grandmother. She asks if the memory of his grandmother was an inspiration to him, and he talks about his drive to compete. She asks about the competitive spirit of the Olympics, and he talks about how he was fated to win this race on this day. And so on. Is either of them even listening to the other? Someone should write an absurdist theater piece using transcripts of actual athlete interviews from sporting events.

Query: why do I know the tune to Germany's national anthem?

Saturday, February 11, 2006

faculty basketball game

Day 167
11 February 2006

The grad students played a basketball game against the grad faculty today. It was a pretty good game. Ugly at times, as you might imagine, considering the fitness level and general athletic ability of the participants. The best part was really the end. With ten seconds to go the score was tied, and the spectators started counting down the remaining time ... nine ... eight ... seven ... six ... five ... four ... three ... with two seconds to go, Frank Christiansen drained an unbelievable jumper, and the faculty won it by two points. I hated to see the students lose (which is why I didn't play) but it was just such a perfect ending to the game.

Friday, February 10, 2006


Day 166

10 February 2006


I'm such a sucker for pageantry. I watched the opening ceremonies of the Torino Olympics tonight, and got all weepy when I saw Chris Witty come in carrying the U.S. flag. Other stuff I liked from the opening ceremonies:

  • the buff guy with the hyperbolically large hammer who kept hitting an anvil, and every time he hit it a huge burst of flame came out. (I forget what that was supposed to symbolize; it was just cool.)
  • the in-line skaters with jets of flame coming out of their helmets.
  • the oddly amusing waltzers in cow-print costumes.
  • Carla Bruni in a shimmering floor-length dress, carrying the Italian flag, and handing it off to an Italian soldier in his very ceremonial-looking uniform. She was so beautiful, and her motions and his uniform invested the moment with so much significance.
  • and the fireworks, of course. You just can't beat Stuff Blowing Up.

I had a bad moment when Yoko Ono got up to recite a bit from “Imagine” - I thought they were going to let her sing it. Peter Gabriel sang it instead, which was exponentially more acceptable, but his performance was disappointing, I thought. He didn't look like he was that into it, and he didn't sound like it either.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


Day 163
7 February 2006

My translation of Horace was a parody. The professor was emphatic in his belief that we would fail to adequately translate this poem, as generations had failed before us; that we would be wrecked upon the treacherous rocks and shoals of the Horation ode ... oddly enough, the Ode we were supposed to translate used the shipwreck image as well, so I decided write about our presumed failure. Instead of a love-struck youth coming to grief on the violent sea of love, I wrote about a student coming to grief while trying to translate Horace. Probably a cop-out, but I did actually put some thought into the execution.

Annoying Boy showed up with a HUGE graphical representation of the poem. It was odd. Not a bad idea, just ... odd.

Annoying Boy: in almost every one of my classes, including the ones I took as an undergraduate, there has been one person who just BUGGED ME. Sometimes the feeling was mutual; I suspect that most of the time, however, they had no idea how annoying they were. I think it probable that many other students have the same experience, and I think that for many people I am the Annoying Person in their class. (I did have a professor once who asked me to stop commenting so often in class, because another student had complained.) So why does this particular guy annoy me so much? His attitude, mostly. It's not just that he always thinks he knows all the answers, it's the way he talks and the way he responds to the other students - he gives me the impression that he thinks we're all idiots.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

George Gordon, Lord Byron

Day 157
2 February 2006

Believe it or not, I managed to graduate from a four-year university, with a Bachelor's degree in English literature, without having to read anything by Byron. So my first exposure to his work came last night, when I read the first Canto of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage. I know the guy was a big noise in the Romantic period, and he sold a hillion jillion copies of his work, etc., but I had to laugh when I read the stuff. Honestly, he just sounds like an overwrought goth kiddie. Observe:

"Yet oft-times in his maddest mirthful mood
Strange pangs would flash along Childe Harold's brow,
As if the memory of some deadly feud
Or disappointed passion lurked below:
But this none knew, nor haply cared to know;
For his was not that open, artless soul
That feels relief by bidding sorrow flow,
Nor sought he friend to counsel or condole,
Whate'er this grief mote be, which he could not control.

And none did love him! -- though to hall and bower
He gathered revellers from far and near,
He knew them flatterers of the festal hour,
The heartless Parasites of present cheer.
Yea! none did love him ..."

... yeah. It goes on like that. I don't question his sincerity, I just think he needed to get over himself.