“It’s only possible to betray where loyalty is due.”

(The title is a quote from The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie spoken by Sandy on page 136)

I’m so glad I got the opportunity to read both The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and Notes On A Scandal for class because I’m very interested to see what direction the class discussion will take. There are obvious parallels between the two: the young, naive protégé ruled by an older, god-like woman, a severe fall from grace for both participants in the aforementioned relationship, the secondary role of men as supporting characters to the women’s strong leads, the sexual nature that seems to fuel both stories to their precipitous ends.

Yet Sheba and Miss Jean Brodie seem to resemble each other whereas Sandy and  Barbara have the exact same slithery feeling about them. In order for this to fit into the older woman controlling the younger statement I mentioned above, they roles would be defined by age but it doesn’t seem to apply. Sheba always saw herself as the youngest; she said so in relationship to Richard and all of his friends. She explained her stunted feelings regarding her own maturity; she never had to grow up and become an adult because she had always been taken care of. Miss Jean Brodie’s closest confidantes are ten years old. She clearly has some issues concerning appropriate student-teacher interactions as well. Now for the schemers. Sandy and Barbra are seek, parasitic people who manipulate others in order to justify their perceived superiority over others.

It was only once Sandy perceived an “impurity” in Miss. Brodie by kissing the married art teacher Mr. Lloyd did Sandy lower Miss.Brodie from grace, first in her mind, then in reality. The narrator must also hate her because there are just way too many references to her “small, pig like eyes” for comfort. There is something very off about that child and how she observes and understands the psychological workings behind human motivation at such a young age. Sandy was a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The sly, nefarious machinations of her brain were unnoticed until Miss.Brodie was caught in her “nesty” web.  The irony of her becoming a nun within the one religion shunned by Miss. Brodie but according to her observations, would have been most suited to her romantic nature, is a sick sort of penance. Also she is the only nun who presses her face against the grille when visitors stop by. Are her piggy little eyes ailing as she gets older? Is she trying to connect in a way she is no longer to with human nature? Is she trying to psycho analyze her visitors by exerting full use of her twisted powers of observation? Is she still looking for the face of Miss. Brodie int hat of others, like Lloyd’s paintings did years ago? What could this mentally deranged mastermind possibly want by pressing her face into the grille?

Barbara sickness hides behind her crusty, proper exterior of an icy but very respectable school teacher instead of beady little eyes. She is a closeted lesbian if I ever saw one. But there is a plaintive touch about her actions; she’s terribly lonely in that tight fitting suit of armor she has constructed for herself. No one is good enough, everyone is dull, demented, or plain dumb. She has a cat, Portia, the poor woman. That’s all. That and the pathetic memory of her mother’s belief in denying her children immediate, or any kind really, of gratification. That is the patient force that drives her to continue her “relationship” with the disillusioned and broken Sheba. The hope of receiving some gratification, however much delayed it arrives. Sick.

There is so much more going on in both texts but I’ll end with the endings; Sheba and Miss Jean Brodie were charmed creatures. Both were leading comfortable lives and held fast to some sense of self-entitlement. By the end of both novels not only did Miss. Brodie die but Sandy was the person who destroyed her prime, a much more tragic transgression. Brodie lost her job, both men, her girls, and her prime because Sandy wanted a turn at shaping someone’s future and subsequent demise, not very different from Brodie herself. It was something that was as life-giving to Miss. Brodie as air or substance, and Sandy annihilated her when she took away her prime. Once she had disposed of her she equally tossed away Lloyd, citing boredom as her reason and carried on in search of some new host. Funny how she found comfort in the Holy Host.

Barbra found her pleasure in shredding Sheba’s last tendrils to the past; she demolished her statue and pictures of Connolly. And the cretin had the nerve to wave at Sheba as she did so. Sheba was left an ethereal wandering shell of a human in Barbara’s clutches. She’s suffering a fate worse than death by living under Barbra’s thumb while her husband leaves her and Connolly finds himself a replacement. Alas, the final page states, ” ‘Barbra’s here.’ I felt her droop, as in surrender….And she knows by now not to go too far without me.” Yikes.


“Seldom, very seldom, does complete truth belong to any human disclosure; seldom can it happen that something is not a little disguised, or a little mistaken; but where, as in this case, though the conduct is mistaken, the feelings are not, it may not be very material.”

This is Emma’s response to Mr. Knightley’s proposal and the quote is extremely telling on their relationship and what is truly important within this novel. Emma prides herself in being an infamous busybody that seems to know everyone’s secrets and, keeping a few of her own, she discloses a shard of hard truth to the only person she feels is worthy of hearing it. The fact that the only viable ending for a girl of Emma’s status was a marriage to a much older man, a man older then her elder sister’s husband, is a revolting representation of a societal norm and the restrictive nature of life for women.

Often throughout the course of the novel many actions are misinterpreted by Emma, whether intentionally or innocently only she knows, yet the omnipresent narrator relays the facts in a way that manipulates the reader to question both Emma’s intentions and the accuracy in her reporting. There is no way to check the facts; we must imbibe what is presented by the narrator because of her elevated position as the omnipresent source. Emma, for her faults, invited us to focus on her meddlesome machinations while the narrator does her own form of manipulation. It’s the only real social control these women have or mobility within this male dominated society.

The Scarlet Letter

The re-reading of The Scarlet Letter in comparison to Easy A  yielded a strange yet interesting outlook of an American classic. Olive enthusiastically draws inspiration from Hester and revels in the attention she receives from parading around ton with a scarlet A attached to her breast.

I wonder if Nathaniel Hawthorne is rolling around in his grave . To see his work debased in a matter that reformatted his tragic tale into a movie that pokes a great deal of fun at its original concepts is pretty sad. Or is it the genius of Hollywood revisiting a classic we’re all required to read in the U.S and adapting the plot to fit our generation?

Whatever the motive behind the retelling of Hester and her shame, Easy A shows how America and the values we consider important have evolved over time. The main issue in Hawthorne’s Puritanical Boston colony is Hester’s transgression of cheating on her husband and having another man’s baby. Easy A is a smorgasbord of transgressions. Sex before marriage is the new norm, teachers cheat and sleep with students, Olive prostitutes herself by selling her “favors” for a profit, and the passive acceptance from her parents is truly incredible. I took the comparison and viewed it in an almost anthropological evolution of social standards and how they have degenerated. America today is no longer as shocked by a married woman impregnated by her priest.

Prospectus Reflections

1.   Which component of the draft prospectus (topic description, statement of motive, research questions) did you find most productive for exploring or organizing your ideas?

I always knew what I wanted to research since the first class. Once we were informed about picking out keywords for our oral presentations and I saw “libel” “slander” “scandal” and “speculation” among others a seed of an idea was planted, however cheesy that may sound. I thought of journalism and only journalism. How stories are gathered and constructed. Of court cases claiming libel and slanders against journalists and media corporations. I had become obsessed with all the connection made in class through gossip that reminded me so much of journalism. Then we read Defoe and my mind was set. I wanted to track the shift from gossip to journalism and how the two serve similar functions within different societies. So back to the question. I found going to class and picking up keywords to be very, very productive in exploring different ideas for my research paper.


5.   What’s the number one question about the research process (from beginning idea to finished essay) that you’d like to see discussed at greater length?

I would like to be able to see papers from former honor students that received any kind of honors in order to get a feel for what we should be aiming for. Also maybe a concrete outline of how many pages, references, ect. we should be using on our paper. I don’t know if we will receive some sort of guide in the future, but it would definitely help the process. This isn’t answering the question…my number one question about the whole process is how in depth are we expected to go about any one book, comic, scholarly article, ect? Are we expected to follow an idea to it’s original source each time we use it? For example if a book uses a Tocqueville quote must I go back to its source and explicate its relevance every time that comes up?

Those were the only two questions provided by Professor Walkden  that I felt I could answer. My reasons for this paper are extremely selfish and centered around my own desire to know the answers. I’m wasn’t catering to an audience of brilliant English professors when I chose this topic, I was writing for myself. I very badly want to know the origins of my future profession and I hope I can pull this off! This blog post must seem ridiculously annoying because I already know what I want and where I want to go with it but I’m feeling overwhelmed by all the research that must be done. I would hate to miss anything =[

I Never Dreamed You’d Leave in Summer

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cxPtkwhsaOI- Awesome Stevie Wonder Song.

Classic Edith Wharton ending to a semi-decent romance. Introduce Boy. Introduce Girl. Introduce Boy TO Girl. Cue illicit love affair and baby out of wedlock. Allow them, and us the reader, to fall in love with them and then introduce a completely tragic, dissatisfying ending. Why the disconnect Wharton? Every time, why o we allow our emotions to be toyed with? Charity was a royal pain. Who works at a library, any library, and doesn’t feel the need to crack open a single book. She feels like Emma in a sense that she is a character readers cannot full sympathize with. Another similarity is the use of letters to pass along gossip, in this case a direct way for Charity to communicate actions she wants Harney to take.

She is a weak person but Lucius Harney is worst of all because we are led to believe that he knows better. The sickening ending is beyond twisted in an inevitable way; Wharton makes me feel there could be no other ending to this story. She had to end up with lawyer Royall. Of course the dreamy out of towner married the society miss. I’m sure there is beauty in her style of writing, the comparison of wilderness and nature to Charity’s character is a main theme throughout but everything is suffocated by such a terrible ending.


This will be my second time reading Emma and once was more than enough. For some reason this book isn’t as satisfying to me in the same way as Pride and Prejudice is and since Austen created the character of Emma with the intention of making her unlikable I feel even more apathetic towards the novel. Some moments are worth reading, any scene that involves Mr.Knightley is entertaining but that isn’t enough to recommend the novel. My Norton’s version introduction attempted to define Austen’s brilliance lies in how she manipulates the commonplace and creates a scintillating current of energy underneath; deep within the dull drudgery of her character’s lives.  I agree completely with this assessment of her writing style; it would be almost impossible to become entangled with the lives of the inhabitants of Hartford.

An interesting contradiction that is evident from the very first page is Emma’s relationship to Miss. Taylor who becomes Mrs. Weston. Within the span of a couple paragraphs she is described as being a surrogate mother, a little more than a sister, and finally reduced to being very close friends. These erratic jumps shade the novel in an indecisive and not quite all knowing voice which is very interesting in the development of the novel. Again, we cannot rely o the narrator for an accurate depiction of what is occurring through out the novel. This adds to my disappointment in Emma because for once I’d like a clear cut description of events. But alas, “One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other”, Chapter 9 from Emma to Mr. Woodhouse.


Two Can Keep a Secret When One of Them is Dead…or Imaginary

This particular book felt more like a gothic novel than any real historical account of what was occurring during the Haitian Revolution. Self absorption seems to be the running theme throughout the novel. Our guiding voice, Mary, is not who she seems to be. Mary has chosen to split her identity into two different characters in an extremely manipulating narrative. She, the author, has incorporated the defining themes of a gothic novel; the helpless heroine, the inescapable “house” (In this case its both the country of Haiti and her physical house) and the “villain” that she can’t escape- her abusive husband. Another classic element of the italian gothic novel is that the heroine always attempts to escape her wretched circumstances by delving deeper into the “house” in this case the circumstances that are keeping her from freedom and happiness to begin with.

I kept comparing it to Charles Brockden Brown’s Wieland (which I discovered can be pronounced with a W or V) because the main characters (both named Clara) seemed to be struggling to assert themselves within a world that offered limited resources to women of their intellect and beauty. Both women were touted as being the most sensible, beautiful, adored, and intelligent (interestingly the main character for each book was the narrator) but they led horrible, oppressed lives. They were stifled by overbearing brothers or husbands. Their light was snuffed out by the oppressive male or “villain” found in gothic novels. They are both very different novels, to be sure, but the theme of a woman that is extremely bright but doesn’t have the resources or recourse until tragedy has struck and there is literally nothing left but to start a new life. Jamaica is the escape that Mary required from her oppression in Haiti. A country that she represented in her struggle for sovereignty.

Call me Ishmael

The introduction to my particular version of “A Journal of the Plague Year” by David A. Johnson in 1966(SO OLD) focused on Defoe’s achievements as not only a prolific writer, but a journalist as well. I normally don’t read introductions because I would like to be able to form an unbiased opinion about whatever particular book I am reading and then go back and read what someone else has to say. But this time I did. And couldn’t get the idea of Defoe as a journalist out of my head throughout the entire reading. Great.

The title of this blog post comes from one of Herman Melville’s most famous novels, Moby Dick, and those three little words open up a can of worms of people’s different literary interpretations. It breaks down a wall between reader and narrator, pulling the reader further into the story because of the conversational tone implied. This style of writing also acknowledges that you(the reader) are completely dependent on this one person for the rest of the book. We as readers are at their mercy; they can tell lies, half-truths, slant events, forget events, edit and we have no way of really knowing. The objectivity has been compromised and I feel Defoe does this within “A Journal of the Plague Year”.

Our narrator deliberately draws a line between himself and everyone else. He challenges all other people and portrays himself as the only sane, rational person during the plague. Every one else is panicking. Everyone else is dying, leaving, lying about the number and cause of the deaths. Our narrator does an amazing job disconnecting the reader from viewing the world he inhabits in any other way but how he sees it to a ridiculous degree.

When people are buying  potions against the plague or  seeking soothsayers to guess their futures our narrator is looking around in disgust at these reactions. Like a good journalist, he is reporting what is happening around him and providing statistical numbers to back up his claims. But he is subjective; it is a book after all and H.F. knows this. And as responsible readers, we can’t forget to take every number and account with a grain of salt.

We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.

Oscar Wilde is one of my favorite playwrights/poets/dandy of all time so it was a real treat to get to read Lady Windermere’s Fan for class. The play was an entertaining and easy read filled with brilliant one liners that stand alone making profound commentaries on marriage, love, society, and of course gossip. A line that stood out among the rest because of its relevance to the class was Cecil Graham stating” My dear Arthur, I never talk scandal. I only talk gossip.”…”History is merely gossip…” Within that quote is highlighted the new perception I’m discovering about gossip. It is everything and everywhere. It’s history, it’s journalism, it’s media, it’s the basis of storytelling and any platform that spreads information. And within this play it exhorts good people to behave badly, it manipulates every single character, it is the basis of reputation; society and the gossip mill that runs it are supreme rulers that no one can escape.

Its interesting how the Duchess of Berwick suggests the country as a safe having for a roaming, faithless husband. Is the country not also the only viable escape from the tediously hideous gossip machine that is Lady Windermere’s society? I believe so. The Duchess is far more changeable than quicksilver in opinion and manner; she manipulates every situation to serve her own purposes leaving people in her insipid, gossipy wake. What a character!

Another interesting feature in this play is Act Three allows us a glance into the gossiping practices of the men, something that is not always highlighted in literature. Of course we see and expect the women to gosip but the oppurtunity to view men engaging in the gossip as well is a nice change from what many believe to be a woman’s activity.


My copy of Shakespeare’s Othello came from an online source with a surprise fun fact brought to you by Google. The amount of lines for each character had been provided and Iago’s lines far exceeded Othello’s. Desdemona came in a far and disappointing third. But wait, should’t the title character have more to say then the dastardly scandal monger (in a non-anthropological way)? Judging by those numbers, I’m taking guessing Shakespeare made the character of Iago far more important than the tragic Moor; more lines mean more stage time. It’s almost as if Iago has a lot of the same traits that Shakespeare had during his life. Guys, I can explain. Hopefully.
Iago takes on the role of playwright and actor throughout Othello; he weaves different lies and half truths then feeds them to people who are easily influenced by his stories. Iago is so convincing because he has an understanding of human nature and emotions that he used to destroy those around him. Every single successful playwright must have the same skill in order to make a living. The skill to be able to create work that will affect and engage an audience on an emotional level, not to destroy those around them. Iago also slips in and out of his many roles of loyal friend and gracious second in command to Othello while scheming to eradicate him. Although he is an odious character, his lines are so witty and funny that the reader can;t help but to look forward to what he’s going to say next. This blog post is starting to sound like a defense of Iago but he really is the most interesting character because he’s always plotting, backstabbing and spreading rumors, which for some reason translates into some seriously good entertainment.

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