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Ben Miller - English 300
Friday, 12 December 2008
5:06 pm thoughts, I'm late for work!

I admit it.  This class has been my favorite.  I wasn’t sure what to expect at the beginning of the semester but from day one I knew it was exactly what I was interested in: the amazing religious power and purpose of literature, especially poetry ‘for she was the maker of the song she sang! The ever hooded, tragic gestured sea was merely a place by which she walked to sing!’ courtesy of Wallace Stevens.  The mountainous atmospheres that we see every day don’t help us understand who we are or what the mountains are until we see them with the spectacles of literature.  The mountains are surreal because I wrote them so.  Every time I charge down a white slope, surfing through tress and aiming for air, I can’t share that experience unless I use literature, language. 

            In the beginning of class we were asked to think of the critic as a parasite, and it is exactly so.  Criticism is letterally made of the same thing it criticizes!  We have all become parasites: talking and writing about literature is the next best thing to reading and writing it.  Maybe equal.  But when you think of criticism as what we talk about when we talk about literature than criticism is natural, as natural as talking about a friend or instructor – some students are already extremely passionate critics.

            This Survey of Literary Criticism class, English 300, with Dr. Sexson was too much fun.   People galloped with Don Quixote, discussed anagogy and monads with Frye, impersonated previous literary critics, celeberties, DQ and Sancho, and did all this in public; all the while learning and having fun.  It must be exhilarating to be Dr. Sexson and see all these innocent college students bloom into experienced literary buffs and critics.  And we couldn’t have done it without him.  I still plan on writing one more blog on Saturday; I’m heading to work right now.  I want to explore Alice through the spectacles of anagogy.  I don’t care if it’s late; it’s about the experience.         

Posted by bmcycleski at 4:06 PM PST
The end of one class leads to the beginning of another...

Review Day / Last day of class


Final Exam is on Thursday, Dec 18th at 8am.


Last Paper Presentations:

           Chris and his power.  Scares a man with his destination.  Heavy immovable ruby. Finds a castle.  Staircases all around, even hairy ones.  Monsters that speak beautifully.  Amazing hair, but they smell funny.  He talks to them about his power: recites the story of his journey.

  Jon’s poem, live in the leaves.

  Alex’s apology.  No non-english majors should apologize.  Music is poetry.  We still learn even if it isn’t true.  Writing is the best way to live.  It’s all encompassing.  Where’s the lasers, flowers, and ladies in distress.


Review for test. 


Sexson’s 12 minutes:  Hooked on his pencils. 

            Six  group presentations

 New Critisism aka Fromalism, values technique, saty inside the text. Unity in text.  “Well wrought Urn” by Cleanth Brooks, modeled on Keats’ Grecian Urn.  Meter, Rhyme, Structure


Deconstructionism affirms and deviated from new criticism.  No meaning possible from texts.  Deconstruction says there is no outside the text.  Everything is a text to be read.  A story.  We read people, weather, animal intestines.  How can you stay inside a text if everything is a text.  There is no such thing as a unified whole. No such thing as outside the text.  Frye’s quote that started class “all structures of words are partly rhetorical and hence literary.”  Frye is a deconstuctionist. 


Feminism:  Reductive vs. Expansive.

            Reductive: only looks at feminine aspects, women in texts, treatment of women, power of women.

            Expansion: domination within texts, similar to Marxism, Bell hooks in presentation.


Reader Response: metaphor of spectacles.  Different spectacles present work differently.  See selves in work of literature.  Bring on experiences into texts.  We can’t help it.  Santa Clause in “Walking through woods on a snowy evening.”


-Tangent: Sexson nearly ruined the Christmas program; the poem is about death!! -


You can’t make a poem or anything mean whatever you want it to mean, that’s anarchy!


Psychoanalysis: Don’t make fun of Freud.  HE created your ‘ego.’  One of the great inventors by saying the truth is unseen

 Marxism: We do not see the things around us as they really are.  Social truths that reveal underlying economic and social.  Marxism looks at what’s hidden underneath the text that implies social hierarchies and economic class structures and struggles.  


Questions –

 What’s the difference b/w a complaint and criticism? From DQ. 

 Harold Bloom believes that Edith Grossman is the  ______ of translators?  Glen Gould

 What enchanted thing does Don Antoino tell DQ about truth?     The  enchanted head  

 Don Quixote of the Stain, the stain-glass window.  Spanish verb Manchar – to stain.

 What happened to DQ in the cave of montisimos?  Add years to life, genre of the cave

 What was the name of the knight that defeated DQ?  The knight of the White Moon.

 Who really was the knight of the mirrors, the white moon, and the knight of the wood?  Bachlor Carasco. 

 DQ page 804, “To believe…” quote

 Frye, who owns more spectacles than anyone, on page 346 writes, “The culture of the past is not only the memory of mankind, but our own buried life, and the study of it leads to a recognition scene, a discovery in which we see, not only our past lives, but the total cultural form of our present life.  It is not only the poet but is reader who is subject to the obligation to ‘make it new.’”

 To be original go back to the origins!!


‘She sang beyond the genius of the sea,

The water never formed to mind or voice,

Like a body, wholly body, fluttering

Its empty sleeves, and yet its mimic motion

Made constant cry, caused constantly a cry

That was not ours, although we understood,

Inhuman, of the veritable ocean.”      

Posted by bmcycleski at 11:54 AM PST
Updated: Friday, 12 December 2008 11:59 AM PST
Essay on Alice
















One of our textbooks for children’s literature was Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass by none other than Lewis Carroll.  Imagine what my friends from other departments thought when they asked, “What do you do in children’s literature?”

            And I answered, “Read Alice in Wonderland.”

            Every one was so surprised they would shout thoughts at random, “Oh I remember that book!  Didn’t the author write that while he was on acid?”  One of my good friends even surprised, and impressed, me by reciting the beginning of You are old, Father William!  He admitted he was shy about knowing the poem because it was from a children’s book.  I told him children’s book or not it’s one of the best books of all time, and no one should be ashamed of referencing such a classic and iconic figure in literature. 

            A quick history of my reencounter with Alice goes like this.  Unfortunately, before this class, I hadn’t been exposed to this book in years and that annoys me.  When Dr. Sexson fist mentioned that Alice would be another text for the course I grew ‘curious.’  What I remember about Alice from my childhood is watching the Disney version and distant snapshots of my mother reading certain chapters to my siblings and I before bed.  One chapter she must have left out was the hookah-smoking caterpillar.  When I read that this semester I was practically rolling on the floor laughing! ““Who are you?” Said the Caterpillar. … Alice replied, rather shyly, “I – I hardly know, Sir, [caterpillars prefer to be addressed as sir, Alice knows this] just at present – at least I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have changed several times since then.””  If Charles Dickens could have know perfect bliss by marrying Little Red, I could known perfect bliss by marrying Alice.  Is that weird since my grandma’s name is Alice? 

            So from my childhood, before this class, I didn’t know Alice very well.  Now, after a journey down the rabbit hole, through the looking-glass, and all around Sunderland I can’t help but find Alice references everywhere.  One morning this semester I was having breakfast with my mother – yeah, you could call me a mama’s boys but she’s the strongest person in my family – at Main Street Over Easy.  Hanging on the wall directly beside our table and over our heads was a series of pictures depicting eggs.  But these weren’t ordinary eggs, they were seated in cup that resembled candlestick holders, and some had two legs.  I believe there are garments painted on the eggs too; it felt as if Humpty Dumpty, Tweedledum, and Tweedledee were all sitting around my mother and I laughing and socializing and teasing the server – almost like a dream. 

            If I had to choose one chapter that’s my favorite I don’t think I could.  The whole book is incredible.  Reading it again in college with a better understanding of archetypes, patterns, connections, levels, and modes, and phases in literature not only presents the text from different perspectives but makes it easier to enjoy it for what it is, an amazing story, and appreciate it with both a conscious passion for literature and a child’s innocence. 

            The Mad Tea-Party is hilarious.  The hatter, hare, and dormouse banter in a way that stumps, teases, and astounds you at the same time.  In Through the Looking-Glass I thought the way Carroll used nature in The Garden of Flowers to manipulate and confuse is fascinating.  And the way the Queen and Alice somehow or other began to run reminds me of Mary Malone’s experiences with the mulefah’s way of traveling. 

            In the Chapter titled “It’s my own invention” Sir Don Quixote and his impersonator arrive, tumbling and battling over their fair dulcinea, Alice of Tobosa de Wonderland.  “Another Rule of Battle, for knights errants, that Alice noticed, seemed to be that they always fell on their heads; and the battle ended with their both falling off in this way, side by side.  When they got up again, they shook hands, and then the Red Knight mounted and galloped off.

            Sir Don Quixote said, “It was a glorious victory, wasn’t it?””

           I am also curious as to how Frye might analyze Lewis Carroll’s masterpiece.  I’ll will ponder this throughout the day and try to posy something before the deadline, though I may not quit blogging till Saturday, up until I go to work.





Posted by bmcycleski at 9:50 AM PST
Thursday, 11 December 2008
To the Apologies and Defenses




Since I had the entire day off I decided to read as many apologies as possible.  The presentations were fantastic and pairing that with the actual papers was fascinating, inspiring, and apocalyptic.  Nice job everyone.  I know I missed some classmates; however I was incredibly impressed with the amount and quality of work that was completed this semester.  If you think about everyone’s blog as a composite pile of all the thoughts, ideas, emotions, homework and assignments, passion and art put into this class – lead by the one and only Dr. Sexson – the result is impressive to say the least. 

            We had one peer who was taking this class with English as her second language!  And because Jiwon has that bilingual edge she’s a step ahead of us monolingual folk, myself included unfortunately, for now.  The crisis of literature in Korea, where students are avoiding literature for more ‘practical’ degrees, is unfortunate.  I commend Jiwon for taking the different path, especially in a different country.  Her idea of reading for fun and literature as modes of self-perception is interesting.  Whether literature provides the glasses or perceptions of someone else’s life, a fictional character, a war, a desire or other emotion, literature is a way of examining the most intimate aspects of life.

            “Will that money really make them truly happy?”  Good question Dustin, and I agree that all the money in the world isn’t going to satisfy people, they’ll always need more until they discover the enchantment of literature.  You’ll make a great English teacher – make sure you share the story about asking out ladies as Don Quixote did with your students. 

            Our resident film major Claire showed-up the entire class with her reading speed through the first half of DQ.  And ironically she is taking her time finishing it, as am I; to read that Don Quixote and Sancho Panza’s adventures come to an end sounds devastating, but there will be a new beginning, as always.  Claire and Kyle both proclaim their love of stories.  Kyle is right when he says that with each new technology all we are doing is creating new ways to tell stories.  I can’t wait to see some of Claire’s films.

            I thoroughly enjoyed George Lukacs’, err, Lisa’s thoughts on Keats’ chambers.  I almost want to feel sorry for those other students who are stuck in the chamber of maiden, almost; and at the same time it’s somewhat exciting to think of us English majors as fugitive prototypes that those maiden-chamber students only wish they could be.  Lisa even compares lit to drugs and that we are addicts, “Only English majors can accept the fact that, yes, we can become “high on literature”.”  Though that type of reputation isn’t as common as it should be, it is certainly true. 

            Judson has an excellent intro to his paper, “There exists something in the mental engagement with literature.  It’s not coherent or overtly recognizable.”  He’s on to something here, something many poets have discussed, ‘it’ in W.S. Idea poem.  Judson’s analysis of ‘abstract reason’ and literary allusion’ is insightful and intricate.  Read it.  I really enjoyed Chris’ crazy story about the crazy ones, hairy stairs.   We all have the power to create, with our minds and our words.  Chris also mentions literature’s ability to give perceptions of reality.

            I cannot sympathize with Heather since my parents were actually kind of excited I became an English major.  Yet Heather is the strong one for not retreating and pursuing her passion as far as possible.   Her passage about how some people ‘have become as close to a robot as a human can become,’ is powerful.  Why people want to get up every day and do the same job over and over, abide by all rules, regulations, schedules, propaganda, and politics, makes no sense to me.  Indulging in literature and art is a way to escape from this monotonous world we call reality.  Everyone’s reality is as real as their dreams and the books they read and write.  It’s all real, and unfortunate that some people don’t realize that.

            Joan and Kayla have incredibly natural and fascinating writing styles.  Joan says she ‘tangents a lot’ and ‘words drain into Kayla’s soul.’  Kayla’s apology is sublime; I would classify it as a Poetic Essay as we classify Shelley’s Defense as poetic too.  Joan may tangent a lot but they are smooth, natural, and effective tangents, not to mention entertaining listening to her debate her daemon.  She said it is pointless to defend lit but probably only because she hates being forced to read and write.  I was the same for a long time and then I realized, as reading and writing became passions, that being forced to read and write as homework is a lot better than math problems.  Joan also has a passage that explains the ‘it’ well.  When she writes about the Japanese theory of Kotodama where words have a power, or dust consciousness of sorts, that releases into the world as a physical force that affects everything upon being spoken or written it is anagogy at its finest. 

            Kevin and I literally stumbled into each other on Bronco face at 7 in the morning last Friday.  We exchanged high-fives and laughs about how we were both going to tell the other we went skiing.  ‘Channeling the Barman Poet’ was my favorite title out of all the apologies.  I can relate, thought I’d probably change Barman to Linecook.  “We specialize in the extraction of knowledge from language.”  I couldn’t have said it better myself.  Kevin also introduced us to Stanley Fish, someone who I also now have high admiration for.  At first the idea that the humanities provide no use whatsoever is disheartening; but when you think about that in the terms of music, appreciating it for what it is and not what it means, and then all art, including literature, poetry, even film in the same terms than the humanities can be nothing other than their own good, for greater, better and everything in-between. 

            Ahh Sancho, you should wear that sombrero more often Sarah!  I too have found myself arguing with fellow friends and collegiate peers who don’t understand the value of literature.  It’s fun to tweak with their thoughts, get them to realize literature’s importance in terms of music.  Whether you’re an English major or not the passion and aesthetic qualities of literature rival the enchantment of the aurora borealis.

            Jake gets my vote for best organization in the paper.  Literature, one, teaches us how to think, think so well I think it frightens some people.  Two, the study of literature develops good communication skills.  And three, literature provides insight into human conditions, conditions that stem from emotions.  Literature is invaluable. 

            Rosanna and Gabby created their own literature for their term paper.  If you were unfortunate enough to miss them I feel sorry for you.  Gabby’s story was great, it satirized the sciences and meandered through caves, exploring light bulbs and touchstones and dreams.  Rosanna’s poem “ The Defense of Little Hood Goodie” deserves 3rd, 4th, and 5th rereads.  The intertextuality she plays with is far beyond impressive, intricate and creative.  It has a gorgeous flow to it, rhythm that picks up at the end, “Where all meaning is slaughtered / And remains the empty possibility / Of hope.”

            Maggie, I am also from Colorado, Aurora – hmm – outside of Denver.  My family only lived there for a year.  My brother was born in Steamboat and then we moved to Bozeman when I was three.  So, sadly, I don’t remember and miss it as much as you.  The lonely mountains of Montana have become my sanctuary.  Yet I think you word the use of literature as “not only a highly educational experience but a spiritual journey as well,” very nicely.  The touchstones we discussed in class were interesting and revealed intimate aspects of each student, whether they realized it or not.  Maggie’s apology is full of excellent quotes including, “What a valuable education I can get if I only read!” and that with literature we’ll ‘never cease from exploration.'  Oh and Maggie should write a book titled Soap Bubble Galaxies. 

            And to William Blake, or Carly as the class knows her, I too share a bit of your envy of DQ, as I’m sure most of the class does.  His ability to live books to their fullest extent is a quality often only found in dreams.  But remember what L.C. wrote: Life, what is it but a dream?  Though you wouldn’t acknowledge it Carly, you have fulfilled your obligation to sing your own praises, and done so as impressively and eloquently as your hero the man of La Mancha himself Sir Don Quixote, in a well-written apology for literature.

            To those students I didn’t mention, it is perhaps because I couldn’t find your apology or I found something else in your blog to read.  For instance Jessi has outstanding coverage of the critic presentations, use her blog for reference.  It may also be that my fingers are merely tired form all these writing binges Dr. Sexson inspires.  But no matter.  Through literature we have been acquainted and got to know each other, perhaps better than many of our non-literature friends know us.  In a way literature is a secret society of people who recognize its anagogic power that ‘floats, though unseen amongst us.’  Literature encourages people to celebrate life at the circumference where more people, perceptions, and natures can fit than at the tiny center.  We are a society that flounders through adventures and life with uncertainty about its purpose and we are happy about it.       

Posted by bmcycleski at 9:05 PM PST
Updated: Friday, 12 December 2008 8:35 AM PST
So many stories, so little time

Since December started I’ve been living in the world of Ferraro’s more than I’d like.  With the holidays come business dinner parties and other fun Christmas excursions.  The other night we had a lady call an hour before her reservation and tell us that twice as many people might show up; sure enough, what was a 50 top turned out to be almost 90 people.  Because of all this redundant cooking my blogs have sagged.  So many thoughts, so little time.  As I progress through college I find myself more involved and passionate about my academic life than my  ‘real job.’  Alas, what is a job? A book in the bible?  Get a job.  I would almost always rather do my schoolwork than work.  Why does it all have to be work?  After a stint of working a job I find myself yearning to indulge in some literature, art, or sport: any sort of exertion that I can explore at the circumference, as I’ve learned many of my classmates enjoy too, judging from all the excellent apologies.  At work it’s life at the center, telling me what and how to cook it.  I shouldn’t bitch too much; we do get to be creative with specials sometimes.  But literature; with literature the freedom abounds, and the imagination soars.  


Friends and I joke on good pow days that skiing should be illegal.  It’s too much fun.  So is literature and art.  And think of how awful it would be if literature and art were illegal.  I know it’s far-fetched but we’re at the circumference… why does that metaphor work so well?  Frye!.!.!.     


My mother’s passion for literature finally germinated within me over the last few years.  Now all I need to do is cultivate it as much as possible.   She has a master’s degree in library science and more children’s books in her basement than my dad would like.  Anyways, this blog post actually pertains more to 304.  I felt my 304 blog was incomplete on the final day – which I of course was working on, damn job affecting my education.   So there may be a few kid lit blogs throughout my last 300 ones, but tangents are fun… 


- Six -

            On an April 20ith (you pick the year) before breakfast a boy started dreaming about a girl, at least he thought he was dreaming.  The beginning was hazy, there were rows and rows of small lights stacked 3, 5, and 7 high.  The lights were on each side of the portal that resembled a hallway.  The girl, nearly out of sight, walked and walked.  She appeared to float, hovering forward with no movement of her legs.  After a lengthy stint of walking the boy noticed the lights growing dim and a faint outline of a door ahead.  The girl reached it first, opened it and rushed through.  The glimpse of a landscape beyond was soothing and the boy increased his step.  But the lights all-of-the-sudden grew brighter and the door shot away becoming a spek on the horizon, a mini atlas.  The boy stopped for a sec and shook his head to make certain his sight was sure; he had moved backwards or the door had moved forwards.  Either way the distance was twice as long as it had been.  The boy began his steps again. 

            Another shift of distance didn’t happen.  When the boy opened the door the rush of cool wind smacked his face and he smiled.  There were mountains in the distance.  The clouds broke around them and slid along faster than any the boy had witnessed before.   He was on a grassy hillside.  After turning around, looking down the lighted hallway one last time he closed the door and surveyed the landscape for the girl.  She was not in sight so he walked down the hill into the trees. 

            The trees were shady and cool, spaced nicely an average of five feet apart.  The leaves underneath the boy’s feet crunched, which he smiled about.  One leaf contained thousands of colors, some he’d never seen before.  He reached a small clearing in the glade.  Sitting on a stump was a raccoon chewing on a twig.  It looked up and said,

            “I’m running late but I’ll show you the way to town.  It’s a rather odd path but you may enjoy some of the scenery.  My name’s Trisarica, hurry up, time’s a ticking, follow me!”

            The boy replied, “Ok, thank you.” And humbly followed, now positive he was dreaming since animals usually don’t talk.

            “We can find some berries and roots to eat on our way.  I know where there’s a tasty berry patch.”  Trisarica said as they exited the clearing. 

            After a quick snack Trisarica said she found the trial and around the bend, tucked in a cavernous puncture in the mountainside the first notable bit of scenery presented itself.  In the half-cave, three human type creatures were busy scribbling on the walls with rocks.  One of them was clearly in charge and stopped grunting when the boy and Trisarica walked by.  No sounds were exchanged but glances certainly were.  The boy tried to look as happy and harmless as possible because the beast-people seemed so real he felt they could attack and harm him even if it was a dream. 

            Trisarica shuffled on, zigzagging through trees, over cricks, and through fields.  In a grove of aspen trees the boy noticed a gang of monkeys all wearing an identical leaf in their fur.  The monkeys were also shuffling about, some on two legs for extended periods of time, using their hands to stack sticks into a measly building.  With the slightest weight applied from any monkey the stick building collapsed but the foundation had started. 

            “It’s been a long time since I’ve been to town,” remarked Trisarica, “I headed to the mountains for some peace and quiet, where order is natural.”  She plodded along at her coon pace.  The boy had decided the raccoon was a girl because she talked so much.  But he liked her voice and was eager to listen to anything about this world.  And she reminded him of the girl he was initially trying to catch, a girl he didn’t’ know or did, in his dreams.

            All of the sudden the town came into view at the end of the mountain.  Tall towers breathed enormous breathes of filthy fumes.  The noise escalated with each step as the boy and Trisarica neared the town. 

            “Hurry up, I’m back on schedule now that we’ve arrived.  I’ll leave you at the limits of the town and you can peruse at your pleasure.”  She scurried on; her human-like front paws, with five fingers, scraping on random rocks. 

            When they reached the town, Trisarica dashed under a fence and down a dark alley.  The boy halted and looked around.  The town began abruptly, with dense forest merely feet from buildings at certain parts of the circumference.  The boy walked into town.  The first buildings were huge warehouses and production plants, gigantic noisy boxes.  As he rounded the corner onto a street he nearly tripped someone who didn’t even pause to acknowledge his apology.   Then he saw the girl from the hallway.  He saw her well, her figure, face, and aura.  She looked directly at him for one second, turned and floated down the street.  He rushed after, tossing people off him as they wouldn’t get out of his way.  Finally, one man didn’t take the boy’s haste and effortlessly halted his run with a single hand to the throat.  He picked the boy up and tossed him into a nearby fountain.

            When the boy surfaced the water the man was right there to grab his shirt and drag him out.  “You’ll do just fine,” he said as the boy shook his hair, “you just done volunteered yourself for a little errand there boy, after all that nuisance you caused ‘dem citizens on the street.  Get up! Let’s get going, no point in wasting time.”

            As the man walked the boy down the street he explained to him his task.  On the other edge of town there was a bridge that didn’t span a waterway.  It curved up and over the most rugged mountain in this world.  On the other side there was a series of ponds, some big, some small.  At one of these ponds lived a wise elderly couple; they were the boy’s destination, if he could find them.  The man warned the boy that the bridge was old, so old that it swayed and creaked with the slightest wind.  And when it rained the bridge became so slippery that only animals maintained good footing. 

           “In fact,” remarked the man, “it’s been at least a century since a person successfully traversed the whole bridge.  Most people get shaken or slide off and plummet to their death.”  The smirk on the man’s face meant he was telling the truth but the boy thought he was leaving something out. 

            The boy was extremely confused.  He looked around for the girl but she was nowhere.  He thought he’d wake up soon, especially if things were starting to get treacherous.  He didn’t feel he could explain to someone that he sprained an ankle or separated a shoulder in a dream. 

            The man’s huge hand grasped his arm and started pulling, “hurry up now kid, time’s a ticking.  I’ll lead you to the bridge, then you’re on your own.”  The man pulled the kid behind, his little steps barely able to keep up with the man’s gigantic strides.  The boy realized he had to obey.  This man had the force to crush him into a small ball and toss him into a wastebasket like a crumpled piece of paper.

            As they trudged through the city the boy noticed many unusual sights.  Tucked in dark alleys and slums homeless men grappled over forks so they could eat their canned beans.  On the other side of the street, prestigious looking ladies exited shops and stores, their arms loaded with brimming shopping bags, their expensive dresses waving in the wind for the homeless to glare at.  One haggard looking man approached a lady and asked for some food or clothing to help cope with the approaching winter.  She laughed in his face and continued walking.  The homeless man lunged and snatched one of her bags, nearly             toppling the lady and all her purchases.  As the man began to retreat with his stolen goods, the lady pulled a pistol form her purse and shot him, a direct shot in the back of the head.  When the man had finished bleeding she picked up her stolen bag and walked away.  The boy nearly fainted.  He felt so dizzy he couldn’t talk and so he submissively walked on with the man. 

            The massive bridge came into view around a corner that held a dilapidated school.  The bridge was suspended from cables that towered into the clouds.  It swung gently in the slight breeze and the man said, “There’s the bridge, massive useless thing it is, but it was built so long ago no one dares try to tear it down.  There’s a ladder a little ways farther where I’ll leave you, where your real errand begins.”

            “What exactly is this errand?” asked the boy.

                “No time to ask questions boy,” the man said sternly, “you’ll learn as you go.”

            When they reached the ladder the man stood next to it and motioned for the boy to get climbing.  The ladder looked so old the boy was worried it wouldn’t hold his weight, but after witnessing the homeless man get shot he didn’t want his fate to be the same.  He grabbed the ladder and went up.

            The climb took hours and after a couple the boy glanced down but couldn’t see anything except smog.  Suddenly he stepped up onto the bridge.  It was big, big enough for multiple lanes of traffic, however there wasn’t a car in sight.  The bridge was rusty and rickety and deserted.  The boy realized his footprints were the only ones in the dense ash that carpeted the bridge.  He walked.  Some of the suspension cables were broken and swung uselessly, dangerously near to the boy who could easily be swept off the bridge by a swinging cable.  It was a rather easy walk though.  Luckily for the boy the weather was decent; but there were ominous clouds off in the northwest, or at least where the boy thought the northwest was.  As the boy walked he could tell he was nearing the crest of the bridge.  Mountain peaks poked through the clouds on either side, so close the boy thought about jumping to one.

            Then the bridge began sloping down.  The boy’s shoes were so covered in ash he couldn’t keep himself from slipping, and before long he was sliding out of control.  If he put a hand down he could slow himself but couldn’t stop, if it had been raining he thought it would have been impossible to even remain standing.  Out of nowhere, the end of the bridge came into view.  There was a large gate at the end but the boy wasn’t slowing down, he was still accelerating.  He threw both hands into the ash in a final attempt to slow down to no avail.  When his feet hit the gate his body slammed into the bars, shaking the whole bridge, and the boy slumped into a bruised pile of flesh and then he slid underneath the gate.  He sat up and found himself sitting on the end of the bridge.  There was another ladder, not nearly as long, that reached the rugged terrain below.  The boy yearned to walk on solid ground and quickly descended the ladder. 

            A familiar voice met him as he took his first steps on land again and looked about in a circle.  “Good, you made it.  Hurry up now, time’s a waiting for you to keep going,” said Trisarica sitting nearby on a stump.  She scrambled over to the boy who reached down to pet his unusual friend.  The coon purred slightly then said, “No time, let’s get going.”

            The first pond came into view quickly and sitting on the opposite bank was the girl.  She was dipping a bandanna in the water and lightly pressing the moisture to her forehead.  She looked up and saw the boy; she smiled, gathered her things and walked backward into the trees.  The boy didn’t hesitate.  He dove into the water and swam to the other bank.  By the time he reached the trees the girl had already started climbing the biggest tree around.  He reached the big tree and peered up at the girl folding her bandanna. 

            “Where are you going?” He yelled.

            She giggled and replied, “Down, climbing down to go swimming in the aurora.”

            “Climbing down? What? Aurora what?” Stuttered the boy. 

            The girl sighed: a gentle, elegant sigh and said, “Yes, climbing down; if the world’s a circle than aren’t you climbing down at the bottom of the circumference?”

            This time the boy hesitated, he didn’t know how to respond.  Meanwhile the girl smiled once more and climbed on, up or down the boy couldn’t tell.  But he followed, and followed, and kept the girl in sight though she was a much more efficient climber.  When she reached the top of the massive tree they both paused.  She stood up on the very top, looked at the boy once more with a coy smile and dove into the mingling colors. 

            When the boy reached the top he saw her floating with the current of the borealis.  She seemed to be a part of it, her body moving and flowing with the watery colors.  She laughed with delight, rolled onto her back and let the aurora take her away.

            At the moment the boy attempted to jump into the flowing lights a noise grew behind him.  It started soft and escalated into a terrible buzzing. 

            The boy reached his hand behind him and hit the alarm clock.  He sat up in bed and looked around for the girl.  He rubbed his eyes and heard his mother call him for breakfast, he checked the calendar and it was April 20ith.  He was starving, so he sauntered down for breakfast with his parents and spent the rest of the day expecting to see the girl meandering around town.             

Posted by bmcycleski at 12:15 PM PST
Wednesday, 10 December 2008
DQ Movie Blog

On the saturday that group 5, marxists, recreated Don Quixote and Marxist Literary criticism, the whole day seemed epiphanic.  In fact when I got home I immediately sat down and typed a out a blog entry about the filming process.  I didn't post it so the movie wouldn't be spoiled and now it's time. Enjoy, with pictures interspersed. 

On Saturday, November 22, 2008 I witnessed the resurrections of Sir Don Quixote of La Mancha and his squire himself, senor Sancho Panza.  For on that day 6 people conspired and imitated the mighty knight and his squire, their adventures, their misfortunes, and their enchantment.  As we, group 5 Marxists, discussed our challenge: entertain and inform, something happened.  Apart from all the tangents: paper presentations, teacher evaluations, and work; we spent an entire day devoted to Cervantes’ epic and became so engrossed that for about 4 hours people changed; not to a completely new and different person but to a different tangent, a tangent they either didn’t know they had or hadn’t seen since childhood.  Imaginations ran wild.  Coleridge was rejoicing with beer in hand, happily arguing with the ever-talkative Karl Marx.  All the while Sancho and DQ ran wild themselves, stretching adventures to their farthest circumference. 


At 9 in the morning Heather was Heather; Sarah was Sarah.  But at 1 in the afternoon Heather was an alternate version of herself that strangely resembled Sir Don Quixote of La Mancha.  And Sarah found herself at ease sharing snowy boots with Don Quixote’s squire, his belly, his Sancho.  Sarah is Sancho: Don Quixote is Heather.  As our presentation slowly plodded through adventures we couldn’t help but pass between worlds.  Don Quixote found himself purchasing champagne at the local T &’n C foods.  Remember, Knights may drink wine but they never eat or sleep for their adventures require so much attention that nearly an entire day can pass without realizing it.  Am I writing like Don Quixote talks?  Is his anima swimming in my fingers and pouring into the text with each button pressed?  Do we communicate with authors’ animas and their daemons through the words they arrange?  What is a Child? Nature? Book?  What happens when we die?  Two words from our good, deceased friend Mr. John Keats: Negative Capability.  Be uncertain, know you are and feel good about it.  Know that you don’t completely understand why you’re dressed up as an elderly man in a book who’s dressed up like a knight errant, or squire, from ancient and sacred chivalric literature. 



          And as the evening eased away and the festivity dwindled, a flame reaching its last bit of spark, a light bulb flickering its last bit of insight, the Marxist group, number 5, was sad the adventures were over.  One member was even heard to remark: ‘I don’t think I could have spent my Saturday doing anything better.’  Perhaps it was Sancho, perhaps it was DQ, or the innkeeper, could it have been Karl Marx, Lucas, Darth Vader or the cameraman? But no matter, because that day people realized that at the circumference of nonsense the hypothetical becomes a reality.

Note:  In this last picture you can seem me in the bottom left with camera in hand.  It is from the scene in the beginning where the camera pans away from the plastic horse, swings to DQ who says to Sancho 'we're off to find adventures,' to which Sancho replies 'I will follow you till the end of the earth senior!' in classic Sancho fashion. 






Posted by bmcycleski at 3:11 PM PST
Updated: Wednesday, 10 December 2008 3:34 PM PST
Thursday, 4 December 2008
'Suspend the Disbelief'

On wednesday I went to Irving to hang out with my CAP kid, Darian.  When I arrived the students were in the process of writing their own ending to a story they had been reading over the week, Dogzilla - the kiddy version of Godzilla.  I sat down with Darian and his partner and helped them finish thier ending.  To solve the Dogzilla problem they thought the mice of Mousopolis should build a catapult and put things that Dogzilla would chase in the basket: bones, cars, and furniture.  When the catapult flings the items towards the volcano, where Dogzilla lives, he would chase them back into the volcano.  Then the mice could use the wood from the catapult to build a fence around the volcano incase Dogzilla tried to escape again.  

After all the students finished their alternate endings the class gathered around and presented their stories.  The third graders were all excited and nervous to present, there was two cap mentors present including myself so it was a big deal to them.  About halfway through the presentations the teacher asked them to remember what kind of genre they were writing.  They all yelled excitedly, "Fantasy!"  

I couldn't wipe the smile off my face as I thought of our discussion in class about how fantasy needs to be stressed more in school.  The teacher continued and said, 'and it's ok if they aren't real, remember we're working with our imaginations, suspend the disbelief.'  Click.  Lightbulb!  I asked the teacher about it before they went out to recess and brought up Coleridge and his 'willing suspension of disbelief.  Her face lit up as she remembered her own college class.  And she told me a story about taking classes somewhere in England.  One of her professors was obsessed with the romantics and Mrs. Sutton, the elementary teacher, loved this teacher.

That thirty minutes was absolutely awesome.  So many ideas and themes came together so effectively, and in a elementary school, that I was almost inspired to change my lit option to teaching that day.  Maybe I will teach someday, but I really hope I can reach out to people in a similar fashion through writing, for kids and adults. 

-P.S. Free Plexico!!! 

Posted by bmcycleski at 12:15 PM PST
Tuesday, 2 December 2008
"They're all jealous" -Dustin

Dustin is completely right: students in other majors may seem confused and baffled when we tell them we're english majors but they're all so jealous that's the only way they can react.

As I was sitting in the sub reading and writing, somehow I found myself surrounded by students all struggling with some sort of math homework.  There was probably 5-8 students at any given time, all working on the same homework and gearing up for a test on wednesday, and all within earshot of me.  They sounded miserable, cursing their homework, class, and instructor - don't worry Dr. Sexson we esteem you to same position as god - one student even mentioned giving up, kind of joking and kind of not.  They were working on the center, the center of what their instructor and major wanted them and required them to do.  I felt sorry for them, slightly, as I walked with DQ and stretched my imagination to the circumference.  Center vs. Circumference; it's an interesting battle.  But it makes sense that it's possible for more things to happen at the circumference.  Think of a circle and a dot.  There is a lot more surface area on a circle, a dot is simply a .  

Yet I don't think these students studying numbers are necessarily wasting their money.  One fundamental result of higher education is the ability to hone complex thinking skills.  Listening to these physics or engineer majors discuss with words, literature, their problems and experiences is very interesting as they laugh at each other's difficulties and experiences, talking about derivatives and when they get to problem eight.  The smirky smile across my face is slight enough that they won't notice how much they're helping me practice my writing skills.

 The snowstorm today inspired me to scribble some poetry, winter always does, it's by far my favorite season of the year - and never long enough.

Walking Around Campus on a Snowy Evening  -bm


Icicles hang from firery poles protruding out of the earth.

Snow arriving late means no cleanup crew to clear

The lost sidewalk smothered in white.

Tracks meander meaninglessly, merging into others

And then veering straight across a glistening flat field.

Even in the evening falling snow seems to

Produce an ambient glow out of nowhere,

A subtle light that lingers beside each flake,

Each particle of frozen moisture.

But the clouds are so close they’re edible.

The light isn’t coming from above,

It’s born from light poles, cars sliding through intersections,

And store displays.

The snow reflects it, light, life, thousands, millions,

Billions of times, and then off the ground once more.


Winter’s glow signals the purgation ahead.

The blanket of frozen death, resurrected

Each year with the coming of warmth.

Each flake chills the earth slightly,

Cuddling it into sleep.


The earth dreams during winter,

Dreams of what color to be next year,

What weather to bring

And how to punish its punishers – people,

People who sit on sofas

And stare, ‘bored’ they say into yet

Another tube of light, only that

Portal isn’t mind tingling.


The portal outside is mind tingling, so much so its

Seems surreal, hypothetical, like something you’d read

And dream.

Walking down the campus mall I’d like to say I could

Count each flake as they flip and flop and flutter in circles,

White midget butterflies striving to

Reach their circumference where the sublime

Survives and flourishes. 

Some students shudder in hoods, some students

Can’t wipe the smile off their face, can’t help themselves

From dancing and falling, waving their arms and legs,

Angels of snow swimming in the clouds on earth.


Posted by bmcycleski at 7:25 PM PST
Updated: Saturday, 6 December 2008 1:51 PM PST
Saturday, 29 November 2008
My Apology for Literature and Poetry

A Defense of Literature and Poetry -Ben Miller

            Walter Pater said, “All art aspires to the condition of music;” so I put my headphones on, let the music fill my ears, and began writing.  The first song that started playing was Tool’s Third Eye from their Aenima album.  This album is dedicated to the comedic satirist Bill Hicks and Third Eye begins with a clip of Bill Hicks comedy.  But that’s not exactly what startled me about this song, which I’ve listened to many times; what really startled me was a verse sung in a whisper after the Hicks clip.  I know I’ve heard this verse before but I guess I’ve never contemplated it enough.  The whisper says, “A child’s rhyme stuck in my head. / It said that life is but a dream. / I’ve spent so many years in question, / to find I’ve known this all along. “  It’s good to know there are still some people in this world, even if they’re hardcore rock bands, who value and share their literary experiences.  Tool’s lyrics intertextualize with a large body of Alice literature and I bet they knew what they were referencing and that they understand the power of words; ‘words, words, words’ said Shakespeare.   In his book Anatomy of Criticism, Northrop Frye writes on page 350, “… that all structures in words are partly rhetorical, and hence literary, and that the notion of a scientific or philosophical verbal structure free of rhetorical elements is an illusion.”  The effect and power of words is daunting, practically divine as Percy Shelley says in his defense, “Poetry is indeed something divine.  It is at once that center and circumference of knowledge.”  This paper is another apology, or defense, for literature and poetry.  My apology joins the long chain of apologies that for unknown, ridiculous reasons never seem to propel poetry to the status it deserves.

            Perhaps the reason literature has such an odd, yet fundamental reputation stems from the time consuming process it takes to create and experience this art.  Percy Shelley explains this phenomenon precisely,

    In the infancy of the world, neither poets themselves nor their auditor are fully aware of the excellence of poetry: for it acts in a divine and unapprehended manner, beyond and above consciousness; and it is reserved for future generations to contemplate and measure the mighty cause and effect in all the strength of their union. (Paragraph 12)


But even if the effect of poetry takes awhile to sink in there is no reason for people not to practice and analyze this art.  For if this art is time consuming you will never run out of things to do, to read, to say and write.  I once had a wise professor who encouraged his students to spend their time doing something that gives it the highest possible value.  Literature is one of the best, if not best, options a person can indulge in to give their time its highest possible value.

            If literature gives us the highest value for our time – which it takes a lot of – it must do something, it must effect or influence its listener or reader.  For Shelley ‘poetry is divine, and ‘acts in a divine manner;’ “A poem is the real image of life expressed in its eternal truth” (Para. 9).  Unfortunately there are people who haven’t read enough poetry or don’t give it enough credit and so don’t accept its ability to display certain truths.  Or maybe some people don’t accept the truths poetry is displaying.  Either way, and whether religion is a factor or not, literature and poetry, as Frye said, ‘encourage tolerance.’  With every book and poem read a person becomes slightly less ignorant, and they may not even consciously realize it. 

            Now even among literary critics there are disagreements as to what poetry does and should do.  These disagreements are not drastic though, but more like differing personal opinions.  As I’ve quoted already, Shelley feels that poetry is divine and “it is at once the center and circumference of knowledge.”  We find a similar quote in Frye’s book on page 119 where his is discussing anagogy or the divine aspect of literature; Frye writes, “Literature imitates the total dream of man, and so imitates the thought of a human mind which is at the circumference and not at the center of its reality.”  For Frye literature imitates the center of reality in modes he titles low mimetic and ironic; while the higher modes of myth, where anagogy goes, and romance imitate the imagination, located at the circumference.  Now lets throw another popular quote down by Oscar Wilde, “Life imitates art.”  It’s reasonable to say that since life imitates art or poetry, and literature in the divine sense imitates human thought and the imagination at the circumference; than it’s reasonable to say that a person will never be completely satisfied with their life at the center of reality until they participate in their surreal life at the circumference, a circumference only attainable through the arts, especially literature and poetry.

            Literature connotes fiction, the life of the imagination at the circumference.  In the literal phase of his theory of symbols Frye writes, “Literary meaning may best be described, perhaps, as hypothetical, and a hypothetical or assumed relation to the external world is part of what is usually meant by the word ‘imaginative’” (74).  Shelley would agree, “Poetry, in a general sense, may be defined to be ‘the expression of the imagination’: and poetry is connate with the origin of man” (Para. 2).  Literature is the portal to another person’s imagination where not only their fears and desires dwell but their daemons as well.  This portal can simultaneously lead to intimate and dark friendships, loving and hatful experiences shared between author and reader.  To read someone’s literature is become intimate with that person’s deepest thoughts.

            To reject the world of imagination, and dreams, is to reject a part of one’s self.  Besides, why not indulge in your own imagination, beyond the casual thought, and others’?  The experience is fun, challenging, and sometimes didactic but always entertaining.  Reading about Don Quixote and Sancho Panza concocting a magical balm that merely makes them vomit is not incredibly didactic, along with most of their adventures; but it sure is fun.  And who hasn’t wanted to run around in the woods naked proclaiming their love for another; or help free some galley slaves no matter how angry the government gets; or sword fight two lions at once; or create their own world?  Literature is the only medium where anyone can create his or her own world, people, animals, plants, books and poetry.  Returning to anagogy with Frye, he writes “When we pass into anagogy, nature becomes, not the container, but the thing contained, … Nature is now inside the mind of an infinite man…” (119, woo woo passage).  In Wallace Stevens’ poem The Idea of Order at Key West the singer creates her own world through art, her voice, “Then we / As we beheld her striding there alone / knew that there never was a world for her / Except the one she sang, and singing, made.”  With literature, any person - even characters in the work - can create their own nature, make their own world more beautiful,and share another person’s nature or at least their perception of it.  Those people who refuse to indulge in poetry and literature are only waiting to die. 

            “All structures in words are partly rhetorical, and hence literary” (Frye 350); this statement sums up the necessity and importance of literature exceptionally well. Whether it is the next new poem, book, or lyrics to a Tool song words are mandatory.  Even in advertisements, conversation, mail, or two mathematicians talking about a new theorem, they couldn’t explain themselves without words, letters, and symbols.  The study of literature and stories that aren’t true are valuable because the reader and student learn the absolute necessity and power of words, words that explain our emotions, thoughts, and life.  Wallace Stevens has been quoted to say, “All of life is an affair of weather.”  In Montana the weather changes quickly and drastically.  Words don’t change as quickly or drastically but they do change, over time, even more time than it takes to read and write them.  Because words don’t change as much or as easily as the weather they don’t seem, on the surface, to be as significant - unless you learn how to change them around, on the page, yourself.  Therefore I would claim that all of life is an affair of weather and words, words, words.      

 Works Cited

Frye, Northrop. Anatomy of Criticism. New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2000.

Shelley, Percy. A Defense of Poetry. English Essays: Sidney to Macaulay. Vol. XXVII. The Harvard Classics. New York: P.F. Collier & Son, 1909–14;, 2001.

Stevens, Wallace. The Idea of Order at Key West. 25 November 2008. <>

Posted by bmcycleski at 9:44 AM PST
Tuesday, 25 November 2008
Paper & Presentation

On wednesday it's my turn to present and turn in my paper, so this is an idea of what you can expect.  Towards the beginning of the semester when Dr. Sexson explained what the apology paper was all about he said we'd be writing our own apology for literature and addressing the question, "What's the use of stories that aren't true?"  He suggested we reference the Wallace Stevens poem, Don Quixote, Frye, and any of the critics we've been assigned to read.

Over the semester I have been thinking a lot about what to write in my apology but I actually found it somewhat difficult to write because there was so much to say.  An apology for literature could easily go on and on for pages but we're more or less restricted to 3-5 pages.  So I narrowed down my focus to mainly two critics: Shelley and Frye; and I also tried to incorporate some DQ and the poem.  There are also a couple random quotes from other critics including Stevens and Oscar Wilde.

As for my presentation I have some work cut out for me it seems.  All the presentations on Monday were excellent, even moving and powerful.  So as Dr. Sexson would say 'the bar has been set rather high.'  In my presentation you can expect to hear a couple personal experiences that inspired me to become an english major and cultivate it as much as possible.  Then I'll explain my paper a bit as well as elaborate on some quotes and touchstones that I enjoy, and I hope you will too.  

 See you wednesday!    

Posted by bmcycleski at 10:05 AM PST
Thursday, 20 November 2008
DQ progress

It’s been rather fun bouncing between worlds: for a while I’m riding around finding adventures with DQ and Sancho; then later I’m running in and out of other worlds with Lyra and Will; and meanwhile I’m cooking pizzas at Ferarros or mountain biking, soon to be skiing, in the Bridgers - an incredibly unique world in itself depending on the seasons.

 As for my progress in DQ, I’m in the middle of the cave of Montesinos.  Throughout the second part I’ve wrote some page numbers down where I found interesting passages.

 In the beginning of the second part when DQ learns that his adventures have already been written down he is somewhat alarmed and excited.  On page 473 he has a little debate with himself as to whether the account of his adventures was by a friend or an enemy.  “Even so, he imagined that some wise man, either a friend or an enemy, by the arts of enchantment had printed them:  if a friend, in order to elevate them and raise them above the most famous deeds of any knight errant; if an enemy, to annihilate them and place them lower than the basest acts ever attributed to the basest squire,” I thought this was interesting because as a man of literature, DQ certainly notices the benefits and downfalls as to whether a friend or enemy relates a story about someone.  This goes right along with a quote I remember, I think from one of our visiting critic presenters, who said ‘truth is a construction.’  And that construction will definitely influence DQ’s reputation. 

 On page 476 I got a good laugh at the bottom of the page when DQ tells Sancho he’s crafty and he has no lack of memory when he wants to remember.   To which Sancho replies, “When I would like to forget the beatings I’ve gotten, the welts won’t let me, because they’re still fresh on my ribs.”  Poor, poor Sancho, he’s always in some sort of pain whether physical, mental or just painfully hungry.

 When DQ and Sancho run into their imitators, the irony and laughs abound.  I really enjoyed the passage when The Squire of the Wood tries to convince Sancho to fight, “I say this so you’ll know that while our masters are fighting, we have to fight, too, and smash each other to pieces.” (p. 541) The sparmagos tension is thick; especially when the reader learns the Squire of the Wood is Sancho’s neighbor.




Posted by bmcycleski at 1:38 PM PST
Wednesday, 19 November 2008
Don't Forget to Blog!

An instructor in another class said we only get three exclamation points (!) to use in our life time.  If that's true I just used two of mine, so I guess I'll save the last one for a special occasion...   Well, I've been reading so much the last couple weeks I've been slacking on my blogs.  I had to force myself to step out of Don Quixote's and Lyra's worlds back into my own so I could blog.  There should be blogs in those worlds too.  

Anyway this entry will be about my thoughts on the last test and some Frye.

I didn't think that last test was too bad.  I remember taking it and noticing how the questions got progressively harder towards the end, concluding with, of course, the essay.  Since I memorized The Idea a while ago I wasn't worried about that part but knew that Sexson would be also expecting some insightful commentary, which is always somewhat difficult.  I received a 4 for my essay which means it could have been better, the max points being 5.  But with time constraints and the non-avoidable stress that always tags along with tests, it's hard to guess exactly what the instructor is expecting.  I on the other hand was not expecting the characters that we were supposed to assign with the phases of the seasonal cycle.  It seems to me that we didn't spend much time on that, but then again with the cold weather setting in I could have been daydreaming about skiing - it's known to happen.  

Since we won't be spending a lot more time with Frye this stuff may not come up in class but still deserves a little attention.

When discussing the fifth phase of comedy in the mythos of spring on page 184.  These comedies tend toward romance and can contain tragedies.  "The action seems to be not only a movement from a 'winter's tale' to spring, but from a lower world of confusion to an upper world of order...  not simply a cyclical movement from tragedy and absence to happiness and return, but of bodily metamorphosis and a transformation from one kind of life to another.  The materials of the cognitio of Pericles or The Winter's Tale are so stock that they would be "hooted at like an old tale", yet they seem both far-fetched and inevitably right, outraging reality and at the same time introducing us to a world of childlike innocence which has always made more sense than reality."  Whew, that was quite a quote.  

Though I'm unfamiliar with the works Frye uses as examples that's not exactly what stood out to me.  'A world of childlike innocence... has always made more sense than reality.'  That these works are 'both far-fetched and inevitably right.'  This may be a long shot but if we take a look at a well-known fairy tale, a world of child"like" innocence - the quotations are key - such as Jack and the Beanstalk we can kind of see what Frye is explaining.  The tale is far-fetched in that Jack grows a huge beanstalk which he can climb into another world, one among the clouds and interestingly or coincidently a lower world to an upper one, talks with and steals from a giant and then kills him by chopping down the bean stock when he's on it.  Ok...  so if Jack and his mother are the lower class commoners, the giant is a metaphor for the upper class, the rich.  I think this is working.  Jack lives in a lower world of confusion where he probably doesn't understand why he and his mother are poor.  Visiting the upper world, where the rich giants live, Jack notices there is more order: riches, gold, harps, hens that lay gold eggs, and an abundance of food.  It is only natural that Jack would want to steal from this world in ORDER to bring ORDER to the lower world with his mother.  (I love the irony that the rich giant gets his wealth from hens that lay gold eggs - it isn't even his wealth after all.)  This tale is certainly far-fetched but, inevitably right.  Well put Frye.  

On page 192 Frye recaps the four mythoi and corresponds each one to an archetypal theme.  This passage really helped my understand Frye's theory of myth.  Here's a quick breakdown since this blog has become much more exhaustive then I anticipated.  

Agon or conflict is the archetypal theme Romance; conflicts lead to 'a sequence of marvelous adventures.' 

Pathos or catastrophe is the archetypal theme of tragedy where we see triumphs and defeats.

Sparmagos or tearing to pieces is the archetypal theme of irony and satire where the "sense that heroism and effective action are absent, disorganized or foredoomed to defeat, and that confusion and anarchy reign over the world.

Anagnorisis or recognition of newborn society is the archetypal theme of comedy where the new society rises in triumph around a still somewhat mysterious hero and bride. 

And there you have it, agon and romance; pathos and tragedy; sparmagos and irony; and anagnorisis and comedy.  I think I'll try to memorize these correlations so that when people ask me why and what I study in English I can baffle them with some Frye

Posted by bmcycleski at 9:18 PM PST
Tuesday, 11 November 2008
Walter Benjamin on hashish

Benjamin was born in 1892 in Berlin to a wealthy Jewish family.  He was educated in boarding schools and then on to universities.  

When the first world war broke out, Benjamin did not want to be drafted.  He and his good buddy Gershom Scholem stayed up all night the night before Benjamin's medical board exam and Benjamin consumed vast amounts of coffee.  He had heard the coffee would simulate a weak heart, which it did, and Benjamin skirted the army.  

After Benjamin's second dissertation, on The Origin of German Tragic Drama, was refused he started writing for journals, magazines, newspapers, and whatever he could find since his parents finally stopped supporting him financially when he turned 33.

Benjamin's most important contribution to criticism was his word 'aura' which he developed in the essay "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction."  By 'aura' he refers to a piece of art's uniqueness, centripetally and centrifugally.  The aura of a piece of art include qualities the viewer feels while in the presence of the art, which evolves throughout the art's history by ritual and tradition, how many hands the art has been passed through: the reason the Mono Lisa is so powerful when a viewer stands in front of it.  Thinking about the tradition and ritual of a piece of art means to think about the arts ability to be as unique in one context as another; with ritual goes how the art came to be created, magically, religiously, or just crafted.  A work of art's existence, with reference to it's aura, is never entirely separated from its ritual function.  

The aura of a piece of art involves it's history, tradition, the ritual it came to be by, as well as each viewer's, or reader's, sense of awe and amazement in the presence of the art.  BUT in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction a work of art's aura dwindles if not completely disappears because it can be copied and pasted, copied and pasted, copied and pasted, and copied and pasted. 

Oh, and Walter Benjamin performed a series of 'protocols' or experiments on drugs, particularly hashish and opium.  These he conducted as strict experiments in rooms with other critics and friends who also 'experimented' and provided material.  Though Benjamin intended to write a book based on these experiments, he never accomplished it.  However, just recently in the early 2000s a book of Benjamin's protocols was published based on his notes, journals, and essays that were published based on drugs, I believe one was called Hashish in Versailles.  This book is titles "On Hashish" and has a picture of Benjamin smoking a hookah with a caterpillar, err.. no just him smoking a hookah.  

Benjamin's death is also interesting, yet ambiguous.  He and some rebels were trying to flee france I believe since the Nazis were ruling and burning Jews.  Anyway, their visas were rejected one night focing them to remain fugitive for another night.  It has been more commonly thought that Benjamin committed suicide by an overdose of morphine or opium.  But there is also evidence that Benjamin could have been murdered because of his radical stance against the Nazi party and some writings of his.  Hmm. Murdered over his own writing; kind of spooky isn't it... 

Posted by bmcycleski at 8:36 PM PST
A story

I posted this in my kiddy lit blog but then started discussing it with my Marxist group and decided I'd post it here too.  I thought of this story at work - you'll read how that fits in - and then just let myself run with it.  I hope my fellow students get a little relief reading this since I sure your as busy as I am and so can relate, especially if your in 304 too.  Enjoy!

 The Roses on The Mantle

 With all this reading going on at once I find myself getting lost between books.  The other night I swear Don Quixote marched into the Jordon College where he and Lyra discussed his next knightly errant.  First they were going to solve the gobblers gobbling problem, then go rescue Alice from Wonderland by way of the looking glass.  Meanwhile Sancho Panza, Northrop Frye, and Jack from the bean stock were chatting about the seasons and islands somewhere in La Mancha: Frye picking through the ashes of books in search of a title for his next essay and Sancho doing the same but without any understanding as to why. 

            And while all this is going on I’m at work starting a ferocious fire.  As I searched for kindling in the woodshed I found two small plastic roses, no bigger than a dime.  To find roses in the woodshed seemed odd, or maybe lucky, I wasn’t sure; but either way I choose to take the roses inside.  Once the fire was flickering and I cleaned off the ashes from the mantle I placed one rose on each end.  They didn’t stick out at all, in fact they looked like they belonged there and fit in with the surrounding decorations in the dining room.  I thought myself clever for this and wondered if anyone would notice the roses.  As it turned out I did quite a bit of pizza cooking that night; at one time there was seven hungry people feasting on pizza at the bar around me, everyone oblivious to the fairy tale they were submersed in – the eyes of the roses watching their every bite.  After the pizza rush I hopped back and forth between the kitchen and pizza bar, checking in on the new chef and simultaneously milking the customers for tips; I was a white-chef-rabbit, always late, checking the time, and wondering when the queen, err boss, would reprimand me, or worse: off with my head.

            The night spiraled down to only display the stars and darkness, little fragrant portals, dimly starred among a larger one.  I hadn’t eaten all night since I was too busy busting out pizza, lamb chops, halibut, fettuccini, deep fried calamari, salads, crème brulee, and spumoni for all the starving people; but that was no matter for a hatter, I still had a bike ride home where I could stop and find some roots and berries, beer and bread.  The treads teemed underneath me, humming louder and softer depending on the pedal stroke.  Coasting through Cooper park, a group of caterpillars were dancing around a picnic table performing a ‘pillar ritual which involved an elaborate blue and green hookah with three straws for sucking smoke.  A silver cord spiraled up the hookah continuing into the smoke that sailed away in the form of a nasty pirate ship.  The caterpillars didn’t notice me ride by and I heard one say, ‘but if it was only the spirits of the trees, that talked and taught, who showed us the way to immortality, it would have been heavy wind, the grunting weight of wind and leaves…’ The ‘pillar’s voice trailed off as I coasted out of the park and realized that nobody noticed the roses on the mantle.              

Posted by bmcycleski at 8:24 PM PST
Friday, 7 November 2008
My Touchstone Passage

Though I briefly discussed this poem earlier this semester in relation to Heather's blog about it, along with Wordsworth's Ode, I'll never stop thinking about Percy Shelley's "Hymn to Intellectual Beauty."
Hymn to Intellectual Beauty
By Percy Bysshe Shelley  (1792–1822)


THE AWFUL shadow of some unseen Power
  Floats though unseen among us,—visiting
  This various world with as inconstant wing
As summer winds that creep from flower to flower,—
Like moonbeams that behind some piny mountain shower,        5
    It visits with inconstant glance
    Each human heart and countenance;
Like hues and harmonies of evening,—
    Like clouds in starlight widely spread,—
    Like memory of music fled,—       10
    Like aught that for its grace may be
Dear, and yet dearer for its mystery.

Spirit of BEAUTY, that dost consecrate
  With thine own hues all thou dost shine upon
  Of human thought or form,—where art thou gone?       15
Why dost thou pass away and leave our state,
This dim vast vale of tears, vacant and desolate?
    Ask why the sunlight not for ever
    Weaves rainbows o’er yon mountain-river,
Why aught should fail and fade that once is shown,       20
    Why fear and dream and death and birth
    Cast on the daylight of this earth
    Such gloom,—why man has such a scope
For love and hate, despondency and hope?

No voice from some sublimer world hath ever
  To sage or poet these responses given—
  Therefore the names of Demon, Ghost, and Heaven,
Remain the records of their vain endeavour,
Frail spells—whose uttered charm might not avail to sever,
    From all we hear and all we see,       30
    Doubt, chance, and mutability.
Thy light alone—like mist o’er mountains driven,
    Or music by the night-wind sent
    Through strings of some still instrument,
    Or moonlight on a midnight stream,       35
Gives grace and truth to life’s unquiet dream.

Love, Hope, and Self-esteem, like clouds depart
  And come, for some uncertain moments lent.
  Man were immortal, and omnipotent,
Didst thou, unknown and awful as thou art,       40
Keep with thy glorious train firm state within his heart.
    Thou messenger of sympathies,
    That wax and wane in lovers’ eyes—
Thou—that to human thought art nourishment,
    Like darkness to a dying flame!       45
    Depart not as thy shadow came,
    Depart not—lest the grave should be,
Like life and fear, a dark reality.

While yet a boy I sought for ghosts, and sped
  Through many a listening chamber, cave and ruin,       50
  And starlight wood, with fearful steps pursuing
Hopes of high talk with the departed dead.
I called on poisonous names with which our youth is fed;
    I was not heard—I saw them not—
    When musing deeply on the lot       55
Of life, at that sweet time when winds are wooing
    All vital things that wake to bring
    News of birds and blossoming,—
    Sudden, thy shadow fell on me;
I shrieked, and clasped my hands in ecstasy!       60

I vowed that I would dedicate my powers
  To thee and thine—have I not kept the vow?
  With beating heart and streaming eyes, even now
I call the phantoms of a thousand hours
Each from his voiceless grave: they have in visioned bowers       65
    Of studious zeal or love’s delight
    Outwatched with me the envious night—
They know that never joy illumed my brow
    Unlinked with hope that thou wouldst free
    This world from its dark slavery,       70
    That thou—O awful LOVELINESS,
Wouldst give whate’er these words cannot express.

The day becomes more solemn and serene
  When noon is past—there is a harmony
  In autumn, and a lustre in its sky,       75
Which through the summer is not heard or seen,
As if it could not be, as if it had not been!
    Thus let thy power, which like the truth
    Of nature on my passive youth
Descended, to my onward life supply       80
    Its calm—to one who worships thee,
    And every form containing thee,
    Whom, SPIRIT fair, thy spells did bind 

To fear himself, and love all human kind.

I know this blog isn't exhaustive, and more will come, but after I reread Shelley's Hymn again, I thought I'd share a quick reflection.  This poem is soothing, it reaffirms our ability to breathe in the various emotions us humans feel, in love, hate, despondency and hope.  For someone like myself who doesn't attend church or believe in much religious babble - I still can't get myself to finish the biblical studies class - Shelley's poem feels religious to me.  It accounts for that awful power that makes us human, a power we can't control and neither can religion.  In classic Romantic fashion, Shelley meditates on nature: the seasons and the elements.  And most importantly he never wavers from this spirit, he doesn't second guess his thinking, or refer to any biblical references as support.  It is truly Shelley's "Hymn to Intellectual Beauty," an intellectual beauty we may not be able to define but we know it exists.   

Posted by bmcycleski at 9:30 AM PST
Updated: Friday, 7 November 2008 9:51 AM PST

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