All posts by amysandberg

Things Fall Apart and Masculinity

When reading this novel one of the first things that really stuck me was the blatant integration of gender roles into the Igbo culture. Whether it’s the crops specific to each gender (coco-yams, beans and cassava vs. yams), or even the characterization of varying crimes, essentially all aspects of daily life are gendered. Additionally, sexist stereotypes and ideals of hyper-masculinity are heavily emphasized and ingrained into the culture.  Okonokwo spends a majority of his time attempting to rise above his father’s legacy and his perceived “weak” image, by overcompensating and acting out in increasingly violent manners. Although Okonokwo does go on a seven-year exile in order to get in touch with his feminine side, this journey proves to be futile after it only reinforces his idea that men are stronger than women. Ignoring the inevitable harm that sexist stereotypes cause, Okonowo’s biggest fault exists in his inability to seen the value in feminine characteristics such as peace and the valuing of family. Okonowo’s various struggles and eventual downfall reveal not only the harm in gender stereotypes and gender role assignments, but also demonstrate the need for a balance within the culture between “masculine” and “feminine” qualities.

The Mill on the Floss”

One thing that really struck me about The Mill on the Floss was Eliot’s unique and elegant writing style. As mentioned yesterday in lecture, Eliot’s narrator has many different voices, but for me that’s not what really grabbed my attention. Instead, I found myself getting caught up in her vivid descriptions and sensory detail. For example, I found her description of the winter/Christmas scene in ch. 2, book 2 particularly captivating.

“Snow lay on the croft and river-bank in undulations softer than the limbs of infancy; it lay with the neatliest finished border on every sloping roof, making the dark-re gables stand out with a new depth of colour; it weighed heavily on the laurels and fir-trees, till it fell from them with a shuddering sound; it clothed the rough turnip-field.”

The scene, although simple, has a romantic quality that gives me feelings of nostalgia for a place I’ve never been. Even after Eliot shifts away from the romantic imagery to a darker images, she’s still able to maintain her stylistically soothing tone.

“The gates were all blocked up with the sloping drifts, and here and there a disregarded four-footed beast stood as if petrified […] the heavens too were one still pale cloud – no sound or motion in anything but the dark river, that flowed and moaned like an unresting sorrow.

On a bit of a tangent, another thing I noticed about Eliot’s writing is that she writes/uses really long sentences, yet somehow I don’t find myself becoming overwhelmed or losing track of what she’s saying.

Lyrical Ballads–Wordworth and Coleridge

One thing that particularly struck me about the preface was Wordsworth’s discussion on metre and the overall format of poetry. He states that “in one case the reader is utterly at the mercy of the poet,” whereas in the other (when the metre obeys certain laws) both the reader and the poet “willingly submit because they are certain” (Wordworth 170). Maybe it’s just me, but out of (what little) poetry I’ve read I have never notice much of an emotional response to the format of the poems, and I’ve yet to feel distracted by the unruly “passion” that is demonstrated in a poem that does not follow a proper structure (Wordsworth 170).  So, I disagree with Wordworth when he says that a small part of the “pleasure given by poetry depends upon the metre,” but I wonder if anyone does agree with him.

Also, on a side note, why does he capitalize Reader, Poet and Poetry??

Silencing the Past

The first thing that struck me, even just as I was reading the preface, was Trouillot’s eloquent narrative (I’m not sure if that’s the right word) style. There’s a natural flow and a certain amount of grace in his writing that extremely captivating. I find that he’s a lot easier to follow than Hobbes, Plato or even Rousseau, but perhaps that’s simply because this was written in 1996.

According to Trouillot, “at best, history is a story about power, a story about those who won” (Trouillot 5), and his ultimate goal is to expose the “many ways in which the production of historical narratives involves the uneven contribution of competing groups and individuals who have unequal access to the means for such production” (Trouillot xix). While I completely agree with Trouillot’s argument, I wonder if it’s applicable in a more modern context. For example, although Darren Wilson (the police officer who shot Michael Brown) not being sentenced for murder came as a huge loss for any minority (and arguably anyone) in the United States, Darren Wilson will not be the one writing this piece of history; instead, it will be written by the protestors, the demonstrators, the underdogs.

Leviathan and Self Worth

One of the interesting things I found in Leviathan was the discussion on the Power, Worth, Dignity, Honour, and Worthiness of man (in ch. 10). In paragraph 16, Hobbes makes the claim that the worthiness of man is essentially determined by others. While I completely agree with Hobbes,  I wonder how many other people would. Growing up, we’re often told that it doesn’t matter what other people think of us as long as we’re happy with ourselves, and that we shouldn’t let other people determine our self worth. To me, this notion is completely unrealistic, and I think Hobbes presents a harsh yet honest concept on the value of a person. How often has someone gotten a particular job simply because they think that they are qualified? Never. The person is only able to get the job because the hirer sees potential value in hiring them. However, I also think Hobbes’ argument can lead to other problems as well. For example, his idea could be presented as a justification for slavery or the Holocaust.

The Tempest and Shakespeare and the Magic

I think it was somewhere in the introduction of the play that the author mentioned the common belief that certain aspects of the central character Prospero were intended to mirror certain characteristics of Shakespeare himself. In particular, the final farewell speech that Prospero gives is often thought of as Shakespeare’s final farewell to play writing as well. Magic plays a huge role in the play in influencing the people’s opinions, thoughts, and emotions. Additionally, magic is seen as a craft that is learned and perfected, rather than an innate ability. Propsero as perfected his craft and soo then if Shakespeare is characterizing himself as Propsero, then is he directly comparing himself to a magician? I’m sure more people would agree with him than not, but is this final play then an attempt leave his playwriting career with an elevated status? Is Shakespeare calling his own work magic??

Is Antigone a Tragic Hero?

From what I learned in high school when reading Greek literature, there are five key qualifications for a tragic hero:

a. Noble Stature: Since the tragedy often involves the “fall” of a hero, the central character must have a lofty position to fall from, or else it’s not considered a tragedy, but rather just a misfortunate event (for example we only consider it a tragedy when someone famous dies but not when it’s just a random man).

b. Tragic Flaw (Hamartia): The tragic hero must “fall” due to some flaw in his own personality. The most common tragic flaw is hubris (excessive pride), something that we are familiar with from the Odyssey and Odysseus.

c. Free Choice: While there is often a discussion of the role of fate in the downfall of a tragic hero, there must be an element of choice in order for there to be a true tragedy. The tragic hero falls because he chooses one course of action over another.

d. The Punishment Exceeds the Crime: The audience must sympathize with the hero. Part of what makes the action “tragic” is to witness the injustice of what has occurred to the tragic hero.

e. Hero has Increased Awareness: The tragic hero must understand what’s wrong or unjust with the situation before he/she comes to his/her final decision and eventual fate.

f. Produces Catharsis in Audience: Catharsis is a feeling of “emotional purgation” that an audience feels after witnessing the plight tragic hero: We feel emotionally drained, but overall satisfied with the course of events.

So there’s no doubt that Antigone meets the criteria, but for some reason or another I still feel uneasy with the idea of calling Antigone a hero. Something about Antigone suicide doesn’t settle well with me. In a (somewhat) more modern context, Antigone to me is very similar to the monks who set themselves on fire as a means of protest. While although those monks certainly raise awareness, I still think they would be of more value to the community if they were still alive and were able to actually do something; there’s nothing you can do to further your cause once you’re dead. Thoughts?

Plato’s Republic Book V


Book V begins with Polermarchus expressing to Socrates that he thinks he is “slacking off” (bk V, 449a-450b, p. 123) and cheating them since he isn’t exploring more practical questions regarding the state. Polermarchus wants Socrates to address social concerns such as education, the family, and community. Although Socrates does not want to addresses these issues, his audience demands it and he eventually gives in and describes an ideal society where the children should be raised by the state rather than by their birthparents. Socrates also introduces the idea of a “sophisticated lottery” (459d-461d, p.135) where citizens with higher values will be paired up with one another and more “inferior people” (459d-461d, p.135) will end up with one another. There will be festivals specifically for the mating and abortion will be legal if the child is deemed inferior. The idea behind this system is that because everything is shared and there is a strong unity, a citizen’s individual pain or pleasure can be shared with the greater community. 

In the second half of Book V, Socrates attempts to clarify the definition of “philosopher” and “king.” Socrates begins by defining a philosopher as someone who is a lover of knowledge, however then comes to the realization that the term knowledge actually needs to be distinguished from ignorance, and from an opinion. Eventually, Socrates is able to come to the conclusion that knowledge is the agent that enables a philosopher to see absolute truth and absolute beauty. I’m not quite sure if he ever comes up with a concrete definition of what a king is, but I am under the assumption that he simply views them as ruling bodies of a city/kingdom of some sort. According to Socrates, the connection between these two terms is that philosophers themselves should be the leading men and the ones ruling the cities, since they are the ones who truly understand the ultimate truth. 

One thing I thought I should note is the potential for a feminist reading or interpretation of this book. Towards the beginning, Socrates advocates that the two sexes (male and female) are fundamentally the same, and therefore should receive the same education and opportunities. What makes me hesitant to say that this could certainly be read from a feminist lens is the statement that Socrates then makes subsequently after his bold comment. While both men and women share identical pursuits, according to Socrates, men still do and potentially always will do better than women. I suppose this could be a legitimate observation simply because (I imagine) many of the pursuits Socrates was alluding to were physical or athletic ones, however I still remain slightly skeptical that someone of that time could have such a modernized view of women. 


Birds in the Odyssey

While reading the Odyssey, one of the key things I noticed was the use of birds as a means to foreshadow the outcome of the final conflict between Odysseus and Penelope’s suitors. As the epic begins, two eagles are seen flying through the sky until they begin to attack one another and then eventually tear one another apart (Book 2, Lines 165-169). Then in book 15 a giant eagle flies by with a dove clutched in its talons (Book 15, Lines 588-590), and later on Penelope asks Odysseus (who she believes is a random stranger from Crete) to interpret her dream about a great eagle snapping the necks of twenty geese (Book 19, Lines 605-608). At the beginning of the story, both Odysseus and the suitors are represented as eagles. To me, this alludes to their equal chance of getting to Penelope—Odysseus is far away trapped by a Calypso, and Penelope has no intention of marrying any of the suitors. However, as the story progresses and Odysseus gets closer and closer to making his way home and back to Penelope, the potential and power of the suitors diminishes. This explains why as the epic progresses, one of the initial eagles deteriorates into less powerful birds in each instance. Another thing to note about the bird motif, is that Athena also takes on a bird shape as well. I’m not completely sure what the implications of that mean. 

On a side note, one thing that really struck me in the lecture was the idea that the Odyssey could have a feminist twist to it. It was something that never occurred to me in the slightest and I just found it really neat that something as old as it could be read with that lens/perspective.


Hi my name is Amy Sandberg, and I am a first year student at the University of British Columbia. Home for me is in Portland, Oregon where I’ve spent the past 18 years riding horses, singing in one of our city choirs, and of course, sporting some pretty snazzy Birkenstocks. I grew up with a community of people who didn’t find it was odd to have an impromptu marriage at our 24 Hour Church of Elvis, and who weren’t fazed in the slightest by the idea of someone going to great lengths to return a lost hula-hoop to it’s original owner. If these brief two snippets are enough to intrigue you about my wonderful city, then I highly suggest that you check out the show Portlandia on IFC (I’ve inserted the link below) and fully immerse yourself in all the quirkiness my city has to offer.

As for me, in high school I attended the only single-gender high school in the entire state. Needless to say, I was thrilled by the prospect of having male interaction as a part of my day-to-day college experience, however I wouldn’t change my high school experience for anything. During my senior year, my high school celebrated it’s 155th anniversary and I was even fortunate enough to escort one of its oldest living graduates at our Founders’ Day Mass; she was from the class of 1938! I loved being apart of something that was so rich in its history and tradition.


Well that’s about all for now.

Until Later,