Musings on Media

Wintertime has arrived. I’ve already experienced three snowfalls, as befits someone who was actually excited to leave the West Coast and return, if only for a bit, to the nosebitingly cold East Coast. I miss my palm trees, yes, but my chin has finally thawed from this morning’s excursion and there’s nothing like sitting inside with a mug of tea and fuzzy slippers while the snow falls down outside…although the nature of qualia are that they are not like anything other than themselves. There’s nothing quite like accidentally spilling boiling tea over your left thumb either (she says from rueful experience).

Winter has many features in my life; one of the odd ones is that its the only time of year I really bother to see movies. Disney movies tend to come out during the winter, as do Peter Jackson’s walking tours of New Zealand and I will go and see those no matter what. I’m three for four in terms of this year’s crop of movies; the fourth is not really out yet, but I’m sure I’ll be seeing it soon. The four movies of this season are, in order of release:

Thor 2: The Dark World


The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Saving Mr. Banks

I am more than willing to admit that I lack “sophisticated” tastes in film. If the acting is good and the story holds together, my requirements have been met. What I care about is whether the story can draw me in and win me over. (This is actually not much of a surprise; my current research is on how forms of New Media affect us emotionally and create connections between work and reader/viewer/user/player. Of course I care about movies that emotionally affect me.) Beautiful visuals are a plus. So, with that in mind, I present Liz’s well thought-out and most definitely not off the top of her head thoughts on the three films she has already seen. Conveniently, one of them exactly met her expectations, one fell short and one completely surpassed them. As a note, I will consign all spoilers to the footnotes. And I’m assuming that you’ve read the Hobbit and Anderson’s “The Snow Queen” at some point and that content that appears in there does not count as spoilable.

Thor 2  – this movie was exactly what it said on the tin. Assuming the tin said “Superhero movie with snarkiness provided by Tom Hiddleston”. I enjoy the kind of superhero movies that Marvel has been producing recently precisely because they are unabashedly superhero movies. They’re a bit over the top and occasionally absurd, but that’s the nature of the genre. Superheroes are supposed to be larger than life and the Thor movies capture that exceedingly well. There have been some interesting conversations online about why we’ve reached an era of superhero movies right now (which assumes that a) they’re not a cinematic constant and b) Disney backing Marvel isn’t a good enough reason). The one I enjoy the most is the argument that superheroes are the incarnations of myths and gods in our age, the archetypal stories that get rewrapped in the clothing of their times. They as resonant as ever and we enjoy watching the epic battle of good versus evil play out every time we see it. The mark of our age is that we have a tendency to destroy Manhattan, L.A. or London in the process. Usually Manhattan.

Speaking of the epic battle between good and evil, let’s move to the film that disappointed me. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug was a perfectly fine movie, but I’m used to being blown away by the Lord of the Rings movies (can we agree to call all 6 films Lord of the Rings Movies because “The Middle Earth Hexology” sounds like the wizard’s guide to spell-casting?) and I just wasn’t this time. It might have been that Peter Jackson has finally discovered the point past which I will no longer tolerate deviations from the original text and sped on past that point with impunity. On that note, he might have surpassed the number of times I will tolerate elves turning up to save the day. This movie is about dwarves. They’re not perfect dwarves, but it is their story and they should have been the heroes more often. This was the first of the LOTR movies that requires the qualification “very loosely based on JRR Tolkien”. The first Hobbit was expanded beyond the original source material to incorporate Peter Jackson’s interpretations of the appendices, but the story itself remained more or less unchanged. There were extra orcs, yes. And the fact that I’m defending the authenticity of the first movie should tell you just how far off this one was. So, yes, the fact that this movie didn’t feel like a visual dramatization of Tolkien’s world was jarring.

It wasn’t a bad movie. But it was a movie whose value exists almost entirely in the excellence of the cast. I love Martin Freeman as Bilbo; his ability to be awkwardly expressive is one of the most adorable and wonderful features of both films. And Richard Armitage still does a great Thorin Oakenshield. Honestly, all the dwarves were excellent. They each have personality and the movie would feel poorer without each one. I was less impressed with the elves (except Lee Pace’s Thranduil, which was entirely over-the-top and perfectly right in being so), but I’m not sure whether that’s because Legolas has exactly two facial expressions or because all he is allowed to do is stand still and kill things.* And Smaug was a sight to behold.

My favorite scene was probably the escape from Thranduil’s halls in the barrels. That was amazing and was one of the few scenes (along with the unexpected dinner party in the first movie) that really captured the tone and feeling of the book. And many of Jackson’s alterations really work.** But it was, as my sister pointed out, mostly filler and so much of it was just unnecessary. Jackson hasn’t successfully convinced me that this needed to be three movies yet.

But onto happier things. Frozen was amazing. After first seeing it, I had decided it was good, albeit a bit flawed, but the more time I spend thinking about it, the less I see the flaws as flaws or even see them at all. Josh and I were discussing how we felt about Frozen and one of the issues that came up was how every movie currently made felt the need to be a little bit meta, a little fourth-wall-breaking. We can no longer be earnest in cinema (cue Oscar Wilde joke). We have to have moments when we are explicitly reminded that what we are watching is a performance and is in dialogue with previous performances of a similar kind. Frozen does something of this sort in that it reminds you that you’re in a fairy tale by pointing out or even slyly mocking fairy tale tropes. This bothered me far less the second time around (did I mention that I saw it again?) because disconcerting breaks lose their force via repetition. When you know a character is about to do or say something that does not quite fit with the very well developed fairy tale world, it’s no longer jarring. (I realize this makes me Queen of Pedantville, but one of the songs mentions fractals and, based on the clothing and weaponry in the movie, the idea of fractals had yet to be discovered. It bothered Josh as well, which I suppose makes him the King) So, on the second viewing, the film’s earnestness rang truer for me and I loved it more.

I was also a bit disappointed at first that it was less like 1990s style musical (and, thus, in the style of The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast) and more like a 2010s style musical. I held out for about 12 hours before buying the soundtrack and have since listened to it…oh, about 15 times. The songs were even better than I’d realized. Unlike Enchanted, this film does not waste Idina Menzel’s talent.

The flip-side of Frozen’s slightly meta approach is that it’s actually possible to spoil this movie. I cannot remember the last time a Disney movie had a substantive and unpredictable plot.*** But this movie is great and it lets Disney address some of the critiques that have been leveled at it over the years. They get a lot of things right, especially with their portrayal of female characters.****

It’s not Lion King, as my mother pointed out. Few things are. But if Disney meets this standard for its next few releases, I will be absolutely thrilled.

So there you have it – three movies, three different reactions. And while I think that verbalizing my reactions goes some way towards explaining why I feel the way I feel about these movies, I wish I knew whether my original emotional responses were actually based in the reasons I list above. Was I just unconsciously aware of these critical interpretations and my emotions were ahead of my abilities to cogitate about them? Or am I inventing connections between how I felt then and what I’m thinking now? How I feel about them now is certainly influenced by this post, but were my earlier emotions equally based in these ideas I had yet to articulate?

Bah, humbug.

(Oh, yes. That reminds me. Neil Gaiman dressed up as Charles Dickens and performing a live reading of “A Christmas Carol” out of Dickens’ own prompt copy of the book was amazing! I may even be able to call it research.)


* I was fine with the elves turning up to scare away the giant spiders and I was even okay when they hunted down the orcs during the barrel riding scene. Their third appearance in Laketown was just absurd. And the Kili/Tauriel thing was cute (and a nice presage for Gimli’s massive crush on Galadriel), but is there a reason that Bofur couldn’t have saved Kili? I mean, really? Aren’t the dwarves allowed to do anything themselves? Because the constant reintroduction of elves saving the day makes it look like the dwarves are completely incompetent. Which is unfortunate, because they really are the better characters (and, in my opinion, better actors).

**The thing with the arrow and giant bow, for example, is a far neater way of handling Smaug’s future death than having the thrush report an overheard conversation to Bard, who can inexplicably understand it.

***Prince Hans? Seriously? Well played, Disney. Also, whoever was in charge of the marketing fell down seriously on selling this movie, but the way that they use Hans to make it look like a double romance on the posters was genius.

****Elsa ends the movie in full control of her powers without losing either her magic or her sense of self. She basically learns that bottling up her emotions and pretending nothing hurts is unhealthy and that she’s supposed to show her feelings and embrace them. And no one ever has any problem with her being Queen even after accidentally freezing the kingdom. And she even gets to keep her new dress and hairstyle. Rather than Brave’s ending, which shows a kind of compromise between Elinor and Merida, Elsa does not need to change anything about who she is. For all that she suffers during the movie, the only characters who try to punish her for being powerful are the villains. And then there’s Anna. While Elsa was probably my favorite character (or possibly tied with Sven the reindeer), Anna was also amazing. She saves herself! She actually gets to perform the act of true love that saves her and it’s sisterly affection rather than a true love’s kiss. God, I’ve been waiting for years for Disney to do something like this!



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A Short Collection of Updates

In no particular order:

My parents rock! Last week, they participated in the Alyn “Wheels of Love” bike ride to raise money for Jerusalem’s Alyn Children’s Hospital. (My dad, I should note, broke his wrist two weeks before the ride and did it anyway!) If you want to see the archive of their adventures, my mom’s blog can be found at Climb Every Mountain and my dad’s at A Wristed Development.

And this marks the second week in a row that I’m cheating by linking content from another blog (not even my own this time!) to take up space.

I’m developing a system for working on my dissertation project that seems to consist primarily of meeting with people so that I can attempt, once again, to explain my ideas. With each explanation and subsequent questions, I somehow manage to come away both with a slightly better yet different idea of what I want to do AND with significantly more work and reading on my plate. If you would like to volunteer your time to my education–either because you are actually interested in my work OR because I’m entertaining when I’m speaking so quickly that I lose track of my sentences–you know how to contact me.

Recent forays into critical literature can be summarized by the statement “everything new is old again”. The history of books and media is rife with people discussing linked texts, tagged note-taking, the weird way that global news both does and does not transmit emotions, how many wars were called the Great War and so on. Oh, and the discovery of weather forecasting, although that was a rather odd chapter. I kinda want to build a note closet,* paint it green and then paint the Evernote logo on top of that. Performative scholarship at its finest.

Speaking of note closets, I caved and bought more bookcases last week. The current two are no longer sufficient for the quantity of books I have bought, borrowed and occasionally outright adopted. I also have a bad Inter-Library Loan habit and a tendency to assume that the number of books I could read in a week is equal to the number of books I will read.**

On the bright side, the books themselves have been really interesting and, now that I’ve started taking baby steps in the direction of thinking about myself as a future author of a book-length monstrosity, I’ve been paying attention to writing styles and organizational structures as well as content. What kind of a writer do I want to sound like?

And, finally, my excuse for the disorganization and haphazardness of this blog post. I think I’ve caught a cold. Bah! It’s not even COLD in Santa Barbara. I feel like I should be spared the indignity of sniffles when the temperature is 70 degrees and sunny.

Tune in next week for something with, I hope, more structural integrity.

*, the second image on the left sidebar.

**Between three social networks, the absence of takeout dinners, the absence of a dishwasher and the fact that one of my professors(!!!) pointed me to a site that hosts old gameboy games for you to play online (and several hours of my life disappeared into the abyss that is Pokémon…I will send you the link, but only if you ask for it), I have read less this week than I meant to.

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The all-seeing and un-seeing eye

That title is far more pretentious than a post about installing a webcam and getting new glasses deserves to be.

Welcome to academia.

I originally signed up to do this digital humanities thing out of some misguided idea that I could stick it to post-modernism through the power of the software. (If you’re imagining a humanities major holding up a motherboard and screaming “The power of computing compels you!” at the dark forces of French philosophy, then you think like me and you might want to get that checked out.) Which is amusing, because my pursuit of digital humanities is what led me to UCSB and two+ years here has actually brought me to terms with most of post-structuralism’s excesses and led me to practically embrace post-modernism (I blame Mark Danielewski’s House of Leaves in particular for the latter). So DH has not been what I expected. I somehow assumed it would mostly consist of finding interesting questions by plugging numerical data generated by one incomprehensible piece of software into another equally baffling program and then interpreting the results.

So, here’s a short list of things I was wrong about:

  • You’re expected to understand the software. (I’m beginning to regret spacing out during college when my engineering friends would insist on explaining their homework to me.)
  • If the software doesn’t exist, you’re expected to put it together yourself. Riiiiiiiight.
  • That’s only one very small corner of the DH world. There are so many other approaches that focus on the (im)materiality of new media, the philosophy of hacking or of F/OSS (Free and Open Source Software), the History and Future of the Book, and anything else that had a chapter heading on my exam list.
  • There’s a certain practical element where you may find yourself very quickly learning Applescript while the head of the head of your lab is up among the acoustic tiles attempting to figure out the best place to put our new webcam.

The story of the webcam is fairly simple. We want to record all our events (all the cool labs are doing it!) and, because we are the Digital Humanities lab on campus, we should have an easy setup that requires minimal effort on our part so that the video is simply captured for every event. Think Apple’s “It just works” on a shoestring budget and with the world’s ugliest carpeting.

So that meant we needed a camera in place at all times, preferably cheap (see budget) and mounted on the ceiling because there is no space in the lab at the moment (nor will there be in the foreseeable future). And we needed to set the camera to record automatically so that our capture of a given event would happen whether or not those of us in charge remembered to start recording at the beginning.

Our fearless leader took care of the former part, experimenting with 101 ways of sneakily snaking cables up the walls and across the ceiling to make the camera as unobtrusive as possible. By the end, we achieved a certain NSA-esque, spy-cam-coming-out-of-the-tiling vibe that fits in well with the slightly shady air that DH has in the academy. As my boss said – “If we’re not being a little bit sketchy, we’re not fulfilling our role as the dark other in the department.” (Why yes, I love my job.)

But we still needed the camera to turn on, record and stop without our intervention, which is where I came in. Apparently, most people who want cameras to automatically turn on and off at certain times or intervals are interested in home security. There’s a ton of clunky, over-engineered programs for spying on your house and practically nothing light and simple for what we wanted. That’s how I ended up in Automator, following a set of fairly simple directions online for linking a recording to an iCal event and renaming it as you go. That last explains why I was frantically learning just enough Applescript to automatically name the new recording with the center name, date and time.

And it worked. We had our first event on Tuesday and, apart from one glitch which will be fixed now that I know to use a designated iCal calendar for this sort of thing, it performed exactly as advertised. We now have the seminar captured and have already excerpted out a short clip to post on our website (which won’t exist in a usable form until next Tuesday, but one thing at a time). Our next job is to wrestle with two more pieces of terrible software, Quicktime and iMovie, to turn the raw footage of the whole event into something upload-able. Yay.

So I feel like I accomplished something this week – which is good because this whole “Learn R” thing is not exactly calculated to make me feel as though I am making grand strides in the world of statistical programming. I can generate charts of the relative frequencies of every word in Moby Dick (although, since there are 16,873 unique words in Moby Dick (higher than average, yes), I don’t know why I would WANT to). For those of you wondering why the whale, it’s because the book I’m using uses Moby Dick as its teaching text and its easier to make sure that I’m on the right track if I’m getting results that look like those in the book. So, yes, that’s crawling along and between the Learning of R, the running of my first event and the attending of the inaugural events for “Literature and the Mind” (which were amazing and everyone in charge of planning and running them deserves a high-five or a hug based on their preferred form of interaction), it felt like a productive week.

Which was good because I’ve read nothing this week. Well, other than the assigned readings for today’s colloquium and one or two really interesting things on Twitter. That’s because I left my work-ethic in the month of June my glasses were at the optometrist’s being fitted with new lenses. So my options have been contacts or nothing. Most of you are well aware that I wear my contacts all the time (some of you may never have seen me in glasses). But I’ve been trying to be good about taking them out at night and reading while wearing glasses. This developed into something of a habit, where I would take my lenses out around 10 and then go to bed at 12 after reading (she says optimistically, knowing full well that most nights are spent laughing at gifs on Buzzfeed). When 10 rolled around this week, though, I couldn’t take my lenses out because I can’t see without them and my eyes were tired and annoyed and refused to do something productive like read a book because that required effort. So instead of finishing this book that I’ve been working on for over three weeks, I listened to about 15 episodes of a podcast that I’d been meaning to start. Which was nice, but not…productive.

But now I have my new glasses (same as the old glasses, but with a better prescription). When I put them on at the optometrist, I must have been blinking rather foolishly, because the gentleman assisting me asked “Is everything okay?” and I answered. “Yes, I’m not just not used to being able to see when I wear my glasses.” The absurdity of that remark dawned on me only after I said it. What I meant was that I was not used to being able to see with my glasses as well as I could with my contacts. This is strangely disconcerting when I’m on the computer because the clarity is contact-lens-like and then I look up and see that border of fuzziness in my peripheral vision and am reminded that I’m wearing my glasses, not my contacts.

So, yes, I am pleased with the new lenses. I have valiantly decided to wear them for the rest of the day and give my eyes a break, which will undoubtedly shock a few people who have never seen me in them.

So, in closing, I will do that thing that I do every week and let you know what I’m writing about on my academic blog. This week, I ponder the purpose of blogging within an academic context. Go forth and read.

I Blog Therefore I Am…Doing Something

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I Went to the Library to Get a Book

And I left with six. This was after I went to the University library the day before to get a book and left with three. What constantly baffles me, though, is not that this happens all the time, but that it doesn’t. Sometimes I walk into the library and leave without any books at all. Those are sad days. Sometimes I only walk out with the thing I went in for. And sometimes the book monsters sneak into my bag and insist that I take them home with me. It’s not that I object per se. I just want some warning so that I can bring a spare bag for them.

Anyway, one of the books I picked up is Avivah Gottleib Zornberg’s Genesis: The Beginning of Desire. It was sitting near another book about Genesis by an author whose last name starts with Z (the one I had actually gone in for) and the name sounded vaguely familiar so I checked her bio. Hmm, Ph.D. from Cambridge, taught at a place I’ve never heard of, taught at Midreshet Lindenbaum–at which point I stopped reading and just grabbed the book because I had heard enough to know how I knew her name and why I wanted to read the book. Also, while I don’t have any serious objections to trying to finish at least one novel every weekend, having this around would hopefully provide some incentive to read something religiously valuable as well. And, since it’s conveniently about Genesis and we were about to read Lech L’cha when I picked up the book, it was perfect.

What I didn’t check was what the book was actually about. (This is  the second time this has happened to me this quarter. The first time was when I picked up the real life version of the Monster Book of Monsters. It’s a book about historical methods of managing too much data that is, in itself, an attempt to manage too much data and entitled “Too Much to Know.” No kidding.) Zornberg is writing as an academic–which I had guessed–so I was hoping for Biblical exegesis in the style of literary criticism. Which her book is, in a way, but Zornberg’s readings don’t draw primarily from the Biblical text itself, but from the Midrashim that have grown up around it. Rather than using her academic training to understand Torah, she uses it to read Midrashim as literature.

Once I figured out what was going on, I got really excited. Why hadn’t anyone thought about doing this before? Because Zornberg breaks the literal/metaphorical dichotomy that dominates any conversation about Midrash–the tension between the idea that Midrash was (and, in some cases, is) understood as what really happened versus the approach that all Midrashim are parables meant to teach a particular lesson and cannot be understood literally. By moving it into the realm of literary criticism, Zornberg successfully borrows all the unspoken rules of literary interpretation along with it, most importantly that weird kind of bracketing of what-the-book-REALLY-means that is necessary to making literary claims.* Which is just to say that literary criticism doesn’t rise or fall based on whether you accurately decode the author’s intention, but on whether you find something interesting to say about the text. Which, realistically, puts Zornberg closer to the “metaphorical” end of the spectrum (if we’re still on it), but without the pressure to decode the Midrashim accurately. As with literature, the emphasis is less on what the Midrash was originally written to do and more on what it does for her and, hopefully, for her readers.

Or, as one of my teachers in Lindenbaum was wont to say “This is true, regardless of whether or not it actually happened.”

The problem with Zornberg, though, is that she’s writing as an academic and in academicese. She speaks it well, to be sure, but…well, if you enjoy reading the Rav, you will find her a breeze. But I find myself wondering what the impetus is behind Zornberg’s situating of her critique within this discourse.** (For one thing, it’s contagious.) Do you need to put on the trappings of academic criticism in order to discuss the parallel texts of Torah and Midrash without addressing things like “truth-claims” or “reality” (though she comes down pretty solidly on the side of creation not being a factual account. Then again, so do most of the Medieval commentaries)?

There are two sides to that question and I will leave you with both of them.

  1. What’s at stake in this conversation? When we skip automatically into the realm of the academic, we are spared any real dialogue about which things we believe are true (in the actually happened sense) and which are meant to be interpreted. The lit-crit approach allows us not to talk about it – to put everything in the category of interpretable without undermining its claims to truth, merely bracketing it. And, with fiction–which is fictional by definition–this is fine. But is there anything keeping us from beginning a discussion about Biblical and Mirashic text with an explicit statement that “For now, it doesn’t matter whether this happened”?  What do we save by refraining from having that conversation? And, just as importantly, what do we lose?
  2. There’s also the very literal interpretation of my question. Can we have this conversation without scholarly language? Do we have the words and means to discuss these ideas without drifting into academicese? And, if we don’t, should we?

If you have no interest in any of that, may I direct you to my other blog, which, despite technically being my academic blog, is way more comprehensible this week. If you’re interested in 19th Century Literature, Topic Modeling, what Digital Humanities can do for you or, like Gaston, you prefer reading things with pictures, it’s the way to go. And, yes, I will probably continue to link to that blog at the end of all my posts because this is the cool stuff! (And, um, watching the number of views increase is nice.)


(Also, there’s a JAWS reference in that post).


*Husserl uses the term epoché to describe the phenomenological act of setting aside what you know “is” in order to accurately describe what you see. Literary criticism is kinda like that: you put aside what the book “is” in order to describe certain effects it can have.

**Because this is published by an academic press as an academic text, so writing it in academic language is necessary? But let’s bracket that proximate cause because, like most practical answers, it’s not very interesting.


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A Link to the Present

A new year, a new set of responsibilities, a new feeling of guilt for ignoring the blog…

Though last year’s problems with regular posting have mostly disappeared (Exams are over and I am no longer logging in to my other WordPress account for my course blogs), I am not yet sure about this year. Interesting things that other people would like to read about need to happen first. More than anything else, this is  the “The Blog Lives!” post and an invitation.

See, I have another blog. Well, I share another blog. I’ve cross-posted from in before and will continue to do so (with impunity I might add). So a fair number of this year’s posts, I warn you in advance, will be short snippets like this and a link to Ludic Analytics where I’m documenting my ongoing forays into different kinds of digital work. If you’re interested in what I’m doing academically (OR what I think I’m doing OR what I’m doing wrong OR the book that I’m doing it to), feel free to drop in.

This week, we’re going to back to Daniel Deronda and experimenting with a tool called MALLET.* Yes, everyone else in DH got to the hammer jokes before I did. No that didn’t stop me either. So if you want to see what I did to Daniel this time or just want to find out why I was asking about turning large text files into smaller text files (for fun and profit), the link is below.

The puns continue next week (I hope) with a pirate’s favorite statistical programming language. R!!!!

*”I’ll turn it into a .txt. A harmless little .txt. And then I’ll turn that .txt into smaller files. And then I’ll turn those files into smaller files and then I’ll email those files to me and I’LL SMASH IT WITH A MALLET! It’s brilliant, brilliant, brilliant I tell you, genius I say!”

In entirely unrelated news, The Emperor’s New Groove is now on Netflix and my sister and I have already rewatched it.


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This Is Your Mission

Should you choose to accept it…

Most of you are absolved from reading this post. But some of you may be wondering what the social network graph of a William Faulkner novel looks like and some others of you might just be interested in what I am up to.

If you find yourself intrigued, feel free to look at the entire post. I needed to think through the results from my experimental graphing and I liked the idea of keeping a blog-record of my visualizations, so I revived our mostly defunct blog from last spring and posted some of my more interesting visualizations there, along with my thoughts on them. I’ve copied the majority of that post to this blog, so you can either read about the social network graph of William Faulkner’s Light in August  there or here.


Continue reading


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Stream of Consciousness

This weekend marks the end of week 8 of the quarter, which means several things.

  1. If I finish both The Portrait of Dorian Gray and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde before I go to sleep tomorrow, I will be on track for two of my three reading lists. (I’m halfway through the former and relishing the opportunity to reread Wilde.)
  2. Which is really a corollary to 1, I am going to spend most of Passover/Spring Break catching up on my literature and the mind list, which I cannot seem to get through at a reasonable speed. I’m suffering from a surfeit of incomprehensible French philosophers.
  3. My students’ papers are due in 10 days. I’m looking forward to quite a few of them.
  4. My final paper is due in two weeks and I just started working on it. The nice thing about a fair amount of digital work is that there isn’t much research that needs to be done because you’re interested in developing new techniques for analysis and then, maybe, comparing it with old results. The downside is that you begin with several hours of work in Excel spreadsheets. I suppose I could have chosen something a little less busy-work intensive, but  I just…really like social network graphs. So I’m making one for William Faulkner’s Light in August. I’ve already needed to think up rules for people talking about conversations they overheard from other people, which might actually be a stylistic choice to look into. How much of this novel is told from these embedded perspectives?

On a mostly unrelated note, I just finished reading Elizabeth Gaskell’s Mary Barton and really enjoyed it. It was not, in my oh so humble opinion, as good as North and South, which is her masterpiece, but it was good. It’s Gaskell’s first book and it shows especially in her inability, as narrator, not to interrupt the story and defend her poor characters (who she sets in opposition to her presumed-rich readers). And, having read both North and South and Wives and Daughters, I can’t help but notice that Gaskell has this thing for jealous mothers of men. Many of her parents resent marriage and losing their children, but the mothers of men in particular are loathe to let their sons go and, though they often couch it in terms of their belief that the man’s intended is not good enough, the occasional insight in the characters’ minds makes it seem deeper than that.

I have no idea where I was going with this, it just struck me as something interesting about Gaskell. If you’ve read her work (or not), feel free to chime in. Now I’m going to go back to recording character interactions in Light in August while watching the BBC adaptation of North and South starring Thorin Dreamboatshield.


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