A Response

Reading If This Is A Man (which I’m going to call this book rather than the disgustingly simple title of our book) impacted me in a new way that I hadn’t experienced before when reading about Auschwitz and the Holocaust due to two things: 1) the way that he is dissociated from everything around him 2) While travelling, I visited Auschwitz.

Before I started travelling, I knew that for my own growth and some other unkown reason, that I wanted and needed to visit the Auschwitz camp. The majority of the shoes, clothing, suitcase, eye glasses and hair, are still at the camp in an area called Canada. I know the name and placement and relation of the places/camps he is talking of, and the photo I have attached to this blog is the one photo of the camp that I felt inclined to take. The photo is a memorial that someone (I’m not sure who) created and left at the end of the train tracks in the Auschwitz camp, very close to the cremators, where millions of people were sorted into prisoners, or people to be killed. In the center of the photo, in the distance, you can see the watching towers that have/had a complete view of the camp, where guards watched 24/7. But there is something more that is still in the camp; there is an essence of the suffering of thousands of people, that lingers on the cobblestones and dirt in both Auschwitz and Birkenau (the women’s camp). Just walking through, I experienced a difficult internal fight to not dissociate from what I was seeing and experiencing, because that would defeat the point of going to the camp.

While reading Levi’s work I was reminded of this dissociation through his own struggle for survival and himself. At first, it is almost angering how dissociated he can appear through this autobiography. There are lines such as “of all the others [(prisoners on the train)], more than five hundred in number, not one was alive two days later.” (p.21) where he states the fact with no follow up, and no outrage, that it made me outraged and depressed.  How could he be so dissociated from that knowledge that there is no response from him? Then I remembered my own experience and understood that what I experienced, in a minute way  (I am in no way trying to say that I understand what he went through), he comes to a point where he can’t emotionally respond to this information in order to stay sane. With this understanding, the autobiography became more depressing and left more of an impact, than if I had just read it with anger.

I’m interested in talking about our responses to this autobiography, in relation to how he responds to his surrounding.

“The Metamorphosis” and lack there of…

I had heard of Kafka once before, in Prague on a walking tour where there is a statue representing one of his other books in honor of him. I had forgotten the name of Kafka and just remembered the story. Thanks to Juliana and her blog, I have a different spin on this.

I had trouble with this story; the very apparent lack of actual love expressed to Gregor was fairly appalling considering he lived in such misery for his family’s survival disgusted me. At the end, as the family relaxes in the car thinking of how they see their life now that he is dead, they seem more grateful for his death rather than his sacrifice. I say sacrifice because, unlike Gregor’s father who says “what a life. So this is the peace of my old age.”(p.41) Gregor worked hard and never experienced old age. He wished little other than to be free of the bonds to the employer, to have his parents be happy, and to send his sister to the conservatory, but died before any of these happened.
When I put down this book after reading it, the thought that popped to my mind was that “I dislike basically every character in this story” which is a very strange feeling. Sure, I sympathize with Gregor, but my interpretation of this story led to me feeling as if none of them were written in a way to be loved by the reader. Also, the characters feel very stagnant or “static” in their personalities, their own “metamorphosis” is rather subtle and in the case of the father, there is really only a change of character when Kafka describes how he was in the past. I did enjoy the amount of details that were adorned to each character, and the relationships and hierarchies that were developed between them (the three tenants, the manager, the cook, etc.) in contrast to the family. However, it is only through those  “outsiders” that the family is put in any view that would make me consider pitying them. The way they are treated by other’s is harsh, while they try to be courteous if not merely passive.
Connected to this train of thought, I had another thought go through my head as to why the story irked me: it feels as if nothing happens. Gregor has transformed into a dung beetle, but has no reaction to this fact other than the stress of being late for work. Thinking about this perspective now though, a lot does happen within the story, but the characters mentalities rarely change when interacting to one another, creating another element to how the story progresses (or feels as if it doesn’t).

I don’t know. This story plays with my mind and I still feel like I don’t really understand it. Hope you all fared better with it than I have.

Whose Waste Land?

The first time reading through this, I was curious to read all the footnotes (regardless of reading Kevin’s blog just before hand) because I found them interesting in themselves, and at times useful. Let’s just say that I’m really grateful for my English lit 12 class. However, I was considerably confused at some of Eliot’s transitions and connections; he appeared to flit about suddenly and randomly at times, leaving me still questioning the previous section but there was no answer. But I suppose that is poetry for T.S. Eliot.

After the second time reading this though, I enjoyed the feeling of Eliot creating circles of connections in each segment of the poem. There is the overarching theme of showing a barren emotional wasteland in a city that is portrayed as being magnificent. England and London are usually portrayed in two lights: the established, dignified and what-is-thought-to-bring-you-happiness (wealth, security, companionship), and then the poor, dirty, primitive, “slums” of British society.  I find connecting strangers through their individual stories that all share a common aspect intriguing. Here, I read the poem as connecting all of the different stories, books, plays, etc. that Eliot was alluding to, along with stories that were existing in the everyday life around him. I did find it interesting that a fair amount of the poem was centered around the everyday objects found in both elements of British society, along with women. While he takes time and words to describe innate objects such as a chair “held up by standards”(line 79), he shows intimate moments of women’s lives in brief but descriptive depictions. Why is this important? I don’t know, but it is interesting to see the woman who is “hardly aware of her departed lover; allows one half-formed thought to pass: “Well now that’s done: and I’m glad it’s over.” (lines 251-2) Here a circle is formed: she is stuck in winter. Winter being a place where things can be forgotten and left behind; a mentality that allows for people to be in a situation they don’t want to be in, and survive.  Neither her, nor the “lover”, nor the society that Eliot sees around him, is really living if they are in a place of forgetting what happened in the past, along with everyday life.

So, those are some thoughts from before the seminar today. Can’t say that I really see humor in this poem just yet, but thanks for a new idea of how to look at this, Jon.

Breaking Apart?

To be honest, I was considerably bored with Jekyll and Hyde until page 45 of this 61 page story. However, after page 45 I found the “mystery” more engaging. The exploration of “the two parts” presented in this book wasn’t my favorite (by far), but I do appreciate it. I’m also starting to appreciate the blogs more as well now. Thanks to Kyle’s blog, I understand the framing/narration aspect much better now having a new perspective. So I shall wait to make a decision about the book until after the lecture and seminars. Alas, here are some of the thoughts this book left me with:

Even when taking the mixture, Jekyll never “looses” or disassociates himself from Hyde completely; he always knows that Hyde exists and is still a part of him. The penman-ship of Jekyll and Hyde is an interesting aspect. Hyde has pretty much identical hand writing to Jekyll, or is it the other way around? How can you determine whose handwriting it is, if both parts were once one, but this one physical attribute appears to be one of the only remaining aspects of Jekyll’s being.  Is the cause of Jekyll’s “fall/death” because remnants of the evil that thrive in Hyde, are still present in Jekyll, so he still does not consist of “one pure and one evil” portion, but one evil and one contaminated portion?

But at the same time as Jekyll recognizes his “attachment” with Hyde, he also kind of denounces it as once being a part of him that changes to something completely other. At the beginning of his experiences as Hyde, he completely embraces both personalities and even works to remedy the conscience of the other. However, as he loses his ability of voluntary change, I understood him to recognize Hyde as Satan due to his visit with Lanyon when he says “your sight shall be blasted by a prodigy to stagger the unbelief of Satan”(p.46). This makes me wonder if Jekyll began to see  Hyde as a creature that was no longer just himself, but proof that Satan does exist. This reminds me of exorcisms and an attempt to “rid the body of the evil being residing within”. I wonder if this is story is merely a spin off of old tales of evil spirits, as an explanation for them. It is almost as if Stevenson is trying to say that we all have “Satan” already living within us, and all that is needed is a catalyst for our own form of Satan to appear.


Yes, this is ridiculously late, and I apologize for disrupting the flow of posts on Nietzsche but I feel that it is important to get these thoughts down.

Frankenstein is such a curious tale/story, that I wonder why there aren’t more “recent” interpretations. This was my first time reading Shelly’s work, and it has left me an array of emotions, speculations and questions about the characters and oh how it is still so pertinent in our lives today. I feel as if Margret Atwood’s book “Oryx and Crake” takes an interesting spin off of the quest for knowledge and the consequences of pushing science-life boundaries too far. I say this thinking of the occasional scientific discovery that gets media attention because of controversy brought up by religious groups/the pope.
(I’m not trying to stir anything up by this statement, just trying to articulate a thought)

Science and religion have always been at odds, and I definitely felt a tension between the two in Shelly’s writing. Just as Victor survives the blinding passions that lead to his creation’s existence, the creation becomes the maker of Victor’s ruin. At times, it almost appeared as if Shelly were trying to show, not only what happens when you push the boundaries of knowledge and science, but what happens when a human plays the role of “God”.

Another thought: it was interesting how both Victor and the creation felt that life was more miserable than death, but neither of them could die peacefully without knowing that the other had also perished. But if they were so miserable living, and they wanted to continue the other’s suffering, couldn’t one have them died, knowing that then, suddenly, the other would no longer have meaning for his own life? This goes well with Nietzsche when he says “Man would rather have the will for nothing, than have nothing to will for”. With the creation’s birth and existence, Frankenstein had purpose and meaning to his life. While the creature sought happiness and acceptance but could not acquire them without Frankenstein, so when this became impossible, the creature’s existence only had meaning in the destruction of Frankenstein.

Here again, the relationship between “God” and his creation of man is replicated. In my understanding  of westernized religion, essentially, it is giving meaning to people’s lives. Without the morals and guidelines that are established within religions, there would be no “route to heaven” / no reason to be “good” people. Frankenstein and his creation don’t show this exactly, but I feel as if there are many parallels between the two.

I don’t know, let me know what you think if this sparks a reaction from you.
I hope I didn’t offend anyone.

Being a hermit?

Oh Rousseau, so poetic but almost to a fault. Throughout reading his discourse my opinion on his ideas changed between agreement and confusion at his claims. His statements on evolution morph between questions to statements that are incredulous to me. He says “how can scarcity drive men to cultivate the land unless the land is divided among them; that is to say, until the state of nature has been abolished?”  However, if man during his state of nature lived among wild animals (such as packs of wolves, or coyotes, or bears), in theory he would have had to learn about territory and division of land before interacting with other “humans”. As other animals mark and protect their territory, I assume it would have become apparent after sometime that the animals have their own space they don’t want taken away or trespassed upon. Man’s understanding of a division of land would have started with his instinct and understanding of how to survive amongst wild creatures and therefore would have developed an understanding of the importance of dividing the land.

I realize that there are faults in these thoughts, but I just can’t agree with his theory that the state of nature was as peaceful and calm as Rousseau depicts it because of the wildness of nature. He claims every other creature is exactly the same over the course of thousands of years and never changes, but how can mankind be just as much of a warm-blooded creature as the rest, and be the only animal to have evolved? Yes, humans have made huge leaps in evolution that make all the difference between us and wild animals, but contradictory to what Rousseau claims, an animal/species will change and evolve over the course of a thousand years (although minimally).

Rousseau has interesting thoughts to read, and I have enjoyed reading them but also have difficulty with taking him seriously after certain statements/claims he makes. Kevin, although I challenged you on your own blog post, after writing my own I understand what you were aiming for by deconstructing Hobbes and Rousseau’s theories of “laws”. Rousseau’s understanding of evolution has made me wonder if science has really changed so much of our understanding of the world today, then it did all those years ago.

After finishing Rousseau, I’m still not sure if I enjoyed reading his discourse. The poetic moments were a nice break, but don’t make up for some of his statements.

The Republic

Let me get this out of the way: I hate the Republic and Plato. I find Socrates arrogance ridiculous and his inability to be held accountable for his opinions irritating. Despite how much I disliked reading the Republic, and how it scares me to think of how much our society is built off of his ideas, his book did make me think, which is all I really ask from a book.

I found the debate that Plato brings up about opinion versus knowledge really interesting. The idea of true knowledge is something that has motivated both “good and bad” leaders (politicians, religious leaders, etc.) throughout time. I find his idea that knowledge is the greater, true power that only philosopher kings know form curious because who decides what the true form is?  But, how is a conclusion drawn on what the true form of an object is, unless it is taken from peoples opinions and perspectives. And, doesn’t Socrates demote opinions as being merely the power to opine? Socrates and his cohorts/robots, discuss the virtues and education, but how on earth would he be able to decide what the true form of a cat (per say) is? Perhaps I’m looking at this from a simplistic view, but if he is saying that people don’t know what is real in a grand philosophical approach, and that we are all just looking at shadows on a wall, wouldn’t that include a mundane object such as a cat?

I find his allegory of the cave one and book one of the Republic, the most interesting parts to be honest. This is mostly because of how the first few books are supposedly a mistake and I like to think of what the books impact would be without those first few chapters. If Plato was trying to show how he is all knowing (gee, doesn’t that sound familiar to another very popular book in our society?) then why would he demonstrate how he can be challenged? I found the literary style very convincing for the first few chapters, and felt as if “oh, maybe I really don’t know anything about anything, and this guy has all the answers?” And then I realized that the way he wrote his arguments enabled the reader to be slowly convinced that he is completely confident and right in his “knowledge”. I found it interesting how when the characters just started agreeing with him constantly, and didn’t put up any debate (because all of the debate was lead by Socrates) I questioned his ideas more than when other character’s such as Thrasymachus brought up aspects for debate.

Anyway, that was my rant on Plato, I hope it made you think and not just roll your eyes.


The Tempest

Oh Shakespeare, so much controversy over a curious human being. I love some of his work, and roll my eyes at other pieces. “Romeo and Juliet”, “Macbeth”, and the “Taming of the Shrew” are all ones that make me want to hit my head on a desk repeatedly. However, “The Tempest” and “A Mid Summer Night Dream” are plays that I continue to enjoy a second time round. That being said though, I had some issues with the interpretation that we have read, and found some of Orgel’s change of wording silly. But I guess this goes along with the whole history of the play, and the various forms it has been presented in.

On another note, I’m glad that we read this after Columbus because it allowed me to view Caliban, and character’s reactions to Caliban, differently. When Trinculo first stumbles upon Caliban, he states that “this monster would make a man- any strange beast makes a man. When they will not give a doit to a lame beggar, they will will lay out 10 to see a dead indian.” (p.145) This made me realize that this, Caliban, is something completely strange, new and foreign, and is what Columbus was looking for.  And that, while he brought back indigenous people, they were not the savage beast that had been anticipated.

I find the themes of monsters in the Tempest intriguing because, Caliban can be perceived as having the physicality of a monster, while his goals and reasoning is actually very human. The difference between him and the other’s is that he succumbs to his natural instincts, such as greed, lust and anger in a way that is deemed unacceptable by the other characters, and our society. The only difference between him , Sebastian and Antonio, is that Sebastian and Antonio didn’t succeed in killing the Alonso and Gonzalo, and they didn’t get caught. This also goes along with how perception is used, because if we are judging Caliban by his greed, lust and anger, then wouldn’t Prospero be the most monstrous? He ignores his dukedom for his own benefit, is enraged when he is mutinied or whenever he does not have a person’s full attention/submission.

Along with Prospero and his need for people’s submission to him,comes another prominent theme of sleep. I was intrigued by Sebastian saying what “a strange repose, to be asleep with eyes wide open- standing, speaking, moving, and yet so fast asleep.” (p.138) I like this statement because it alludes to the waking of different characters throughout the play. It is almost as if Prospero is acting as fate, dictating what each character shall do to arrive to their destiny. k


The sight of blindness

From reading some of the other blogs I wonder if I was the only one who had this reading as their first exposure to Oedipus in any light. Sure, I had heard the name Oedipus but had no other context surrounding this book. I (happily) found this to be an easy read after Plato, and was grateful for the guidance from Greek prophecies that seem to add a simplicity to these books.

It is always strange and interesting to see how the prophecies are fulfilled, and of how for Oedipus the road to hell was paved with good intentions. In an attempt to save the lives and honor of the people he believed to be his parents, he ends up doing the opposite and causing more pain for himself and others. There are constant references to how Oedipus is a man destined to suffer, similar to Odysseus and of how his name was said to foretell a future of pain and hardship. Oedipus was not the only one who tried to avoid his fate (and pain), Jocasta had tried to avoid the entire situation by sending him away to be killed soon after birth, only for someone to take pity on him as a child and spare him. Even the messenger tries to soothe Oedipus’ qualms by informing him of his untrue, perceived birthright.  Is this then fate? Is fate what happens even when a person has good intentions and induces their own suffering to avoid other’s? For me, Odysseus had done things that brought on his fate while Oedipus had been trying to avoid harming others and is much less selfish. It seems that through everyone’s good intentions they all suffer as a consequence.

Another aspect that stuck out was the use of sight and irony throughout the book. Oedipus declares that the people need not fear because they have him to fight for them, while he was (unknowingly) the cause of all of their troubles. Looking back, it is the instant in which Oedipus promises to find the murderer that he also begins a journey to discover who his parents were. He makes repeated comments of how his greatest wish is to look his parents in the eye, something he has been doing for a long time without knowing. With this in mind, his self blinding seems incredibly ironic because he was already blind to the truth of his history. It almost seems as if he can’t bare the burden of fully seeing reality, and that he needs to blind in at least one form to continue living.



Some thoughts on Genesis from Kailer

This was my first time reading a whole book from the bible. Up to the age of eleven, my mom took me to a United Church which is the equivalent to a frat when it comes to churches. This is to say that I am familiar with the stories, but have never read them in full. I will be honest in saying  that I may have used Genesis to help me take naps because my eyes just did not want to stay open while reading it. My own moral values and opinions made Genesis a difficult read for me, but when I pushed these aside and read this as literature all I could think was “sweet, only 10 more pages!”.

Despite having difficulties with the text, there are interesting aspects brought forth throughout Genesis. One thought that was continuously recurring in my mind was that The  Lord and god in Genesis is very similar to the gods in The Odyssey. The Lord is seemingly  omnipresent and omniscient, but he also makes a corrupt world that he tries to fix by sending the flood. This is similar to Zeus and his place on the hierarchy of the Greek gods, and of how they seek guidance from Zeus. Zeus and The Lord both have their faults, and quirks that make them imperfect, which typically cause more extreme consequences for the mortals they are dealing with. With this in mind, one could say that Genesis is the modern day Odyssey. I argue this from the perspective that the Odyssey was not a “novel” to the Greeks, but the story of gods who existed and of how they influenced the life of men. If we look at how Genesis (and furthermore the Bible) as the word of God to men, and The Lord’s word and will being done, influencing the life of the human race then there is an easy line to draw connecting the two.

Ok, I don’t want to offend anyone, but I feel as if the whole perspective of God having unconditional love for mankind is contradicted throughout Genesis. God is constantly threatening the men to do Gods bidding and wishes, and rewards Abraham for his dedication and fear of the Lord. This goes along to God’s treatment of women, condoning of slavery and acceptance of adultery by men. This starts with God’s treatment of Eve in the garden, where there is a rather hash punishment on Eve for falling into the snake’s ploy, compared to the punishment placed on Adam. For having unconditional love, God appears a tad biased. This enters into many of the other stories, where women are often portrayed to be the root of men’s suffering and hard work, as is seen with Joseph and his master’s wife. Joseph is one of the few characters who is not led into temptation by a woman, but her own spite leads to his imprisonment for several years. This is a topic that could be discussed for hours, days or years, and I don’t think you would reach any more of a conclusion.

All in all, I’m grateful to have read this just to have some experience with the text, and a bit more of an understanding of another perspective. Alas, I apologize if there was anything within these paragraph’s that offended people, but that is part of my opinion on a somewhat touchy subject.