Category Archives: Literature

What I’m studying, and personal reviews and examinations

Revisiting: From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konisburg

Sorry for the lack of posting lately. I’ve been sick and the Phillies have been taking up a lot of my time.

But happily, I am feeling slightly better, and sadly the Phillies’ season is over, both which mean blogging with be back on track.

In my illness fog, I took the time to reread my favorite book from my childhood. I don’t think From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler was ever actually my favorite book. But it definitely hold the honor of being one of my favorite books for the longest.

Two siblings, Claudia and Jamie Kincaid, run away from their suburban life to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Living there a week, the two children initially have the desire to learn everything about everything in the museum, but with the discovery of a special sculpture, Claudia makes the executive decision for the children to learn everything about this sculpture. The sculpture is a new acquisition from one Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, known for her bizarre are eye and hodge-podge collection. Claudia and Jamie learn a lot about art, each other and what is means to have an identity.

As a child, I had a large reverence for museums. This hasn’t changed since I’ve grown up, but it started at a very young age. My family spent a lot of time going to the High Museum to see this painting:

Portrait of Anne, George Bellows, 1915

The little girl in the painting is my grandmother, who passed away before I was born. When we went to the High, we went to go see Grandma Anne. Maybe that is why the concept of  “museum as home” worked so well for me in the book.

Claudia also was the oldest girl in a family that lived in suburbia and all she ever wanted to be different. Plus, though Jamie is younger than Claudia, their relationship always reminded of me and my twin brother. She has the big adventurous plans and he is very practical.

But most of all, the biggest theme in the book is the idea that knowledge makes you special and different. Claudia learns a secret about a piece of art and then she gets to go home different. Though I didn’t know it at the time, this desire is eventually what would lead me to my interests in literature and art. I feel like when I research and study art and literature I find out secrets that aren’t apparent at the first glance.

This is one of only children’s books that I think really holds up for adults as well. It still makes me cry every time I read it.

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Filed under American, Literature

fickle mcgee

So…I’m an English major again.

I was never officially not an English major. I was just planning on not completing my major and getting a minor. But when I was buying books for this semester, I was really sad that I wasn’t buying any English textbooks.

Plus I realized that after I get back from Florence, my Art History major will pretty much be completed. So why not?

The only thing I am anxious about is two senior theses to write in one semester. But my goal is to do most of my art research in Florence and over the summer.

One of the main reasons I thought I didn’t want to be an English major was because I didn’t feel as compelled to write about anything in literature as I did in art. But looking back at sophomore year, the literature classes I took weren’t really in my research interests. I took Jane Austen, Perspectives on Literature and British Literature after 1700. I loved all the classes, but Austen has never been what I wanted to research because I love her so much and my research interests very seldom overlap my personal interests. And it is hard to go back to big, survey classes like Brit Lit after being in small seminar classes.

But now I am in Medieval Romance which is amazing and wonderful. And I get to think about all my favorite things in literature (gender dynamics, voyeurism, religion) in the context of literature that is actually compelling to me.

I am also thinking about my senior seminar for English. I am thinking I am going to return to my Villette research from my first year class called “The Women Question in Victorian Literature.” Previous blog posts about this research are here, here and here. I focus on the protagonist’s, Lucy Snowe, relation to both theater and the Catholic Church as a voyeur to both and how her being a temporary voyeur in both situations allows for her to stop being a voyeur in her actual life.

I don’t know if I am going to stick with Villette or look at the continental Catholic Church in other Victorian novels. But that’s where I am starting!

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Revisiting the Top 5: Movies and Books

So this is something I will be working on all semester. Some of my favorite blog posts to write are when I look at something and I enjoy and try to figure out why.

What I am going to do is look at my top five favorite books and movies and reassess my opinion of them and how they fit into my life.

For the record my top five of each are:

Books

  1. A Room with a View-E.M. Forster
  2. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn-Betty Smith
  3. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler-E. L. Konisburg
  4. Mrs. Dalloway-Virginia Woolf
  5. Emma-Jane Austen

Movies

  1. The Graduate
  2. Bringing Up Baby
  3. North by Northwest
  4. His Girl Friday
  5. A Room with a View

I don’t know if I am going to alternate between books and movies or just do all of one and then the other. I guess we’ll see!

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Harry Potter and the Conflicted Fangirl

I love Harry Potter. And I hate Harry Potter.

I love Harry Potter because I have a high appreciation for poorly written fantasy books with cultish appeal (see my appreciation for LOTR and Twilight, though LOTR is slightly better because of the thoroughness and Twilight is slightly worse for the misogyny and one dimensionality of the characters). I like being on the outside of these groups and appreciating something ridiculous. Just like my appreciation for Star Trek. I just love things that engage people.

I hate Harry Potter because the “cult” of dedication to it, is composed of 90% of the world. And the other 10% either didn’t like it or didn’t read it. And when a cult surrounding popular fiction gets that big, people can be become disillusioned into believing that Harry Potter has value beyond the pop cultural appeal. (Which is indeed a value, but I firmly believe that is where Harry Potter should stay.)

My relationship with Harry Potter is probably the most complex of the fandoms that interest me. Not just because I feel like I have to qualify my interest in it, but because Harry Potter sometimes makes me very angry. I can’t just say “I love Harry Potter!” because I don’t in the way that most people love Harry Potter. I feel like that is easier to do with something like Star Trek because it is understood to be a little cheesy and…bad.

So here’s a list of both reasons why I love Harry Potter and reasons why I can’t say I love it in the same way most people do. The list alternates from reasons I love it to reasons I don’t.
1. The women are kind of awesome. Hermione, admittedly was my spirit animal for a long time. She is probably why I kept up with the books for so long and feigned interest when speaking with my peers. Though, I much prefer book Hermione to movie Hermione. I don’t think Emma Watson is an awesome actress, though it does get better after the HP and the Goblet of Fire (or Emma Watson and Her Overactive Eyebrows). Plus, I will never forgive anyone for cutting out the potions scene in the first movie. Or Peeves for that matter. Luna Lovegood is also amazing. I just hate that she always shows up with Harry is being the whiniest. Also the Lovegoods are my favorite family unit. And let’s not forget Bellatrix. I think she is more evil than Voldemort because she doesn’t even have bitterness towards her family for motivation. She is just pure evil. And I love that. Plus, Helena Bonham Carter wins everything, every time.

Lovegoods high-fiving a million angels

1. As a child, I was busy reading other books. I read Harry Potter when they came out, starting with Prisoner of Azkaban, I think. But I read them once and was done. I just wanted to know what happened. The ones I have repeatedly read are Sorcerer’s Stone and Prisoner of Azkaban. I hold absolutely no nostalgia from my childhood concerning Harry Potter. Little Women and Anne of Green Gables? Yes. A lot of the appreciation for Harry Potter from my friends that I see is longing for memories from childhood. And honestly, I associate college with more Harry Potter memories because that’s when I became interested in cultish pop culture things. Between the ages 6-14, I was busy reading books set before 1900, going on road trips with my family, and having no real friends. It was awesome! I am still totally nostalgic for that period of my life. I loved old books and I loved my family. Plus, I developed a Victorian morality that definitely helped my parents when it came to discipline in high school. But nostalgia does not equal quality. Are Little Women and Anne of Green Gables still among my favorite books? No, because I’ve read other books since then that I identify more with now.

2. My favorite part of the books and movies are the ridiculous wizard stuff! And in the later books, we get less of that because its already been established and Harry has other things to do. But still, creating the different spells and potions and devices is a strong suit for Rowling, so I wish she hadn’t waned so heavily by the end of the series.

Favorite moment from all the movies, Harry Potter under the influence of Felix Felicis
Nearly Headless Nick

Hermione wins everything (when the category is being annoying)

2. I HATE the way J.K. Rowling writes. There are two parts to this. I don’t mind Rowling’s style, in say, the first three books. She writes like a children’s author. But that’s okay! These are children’s books. Somewhere around The Goblet of Fire, I think, she bit off more than she could chew and it attempted to get real dark–and real epic–real fast. I understand the argument that the darkness and the maturity is about growing up with Harry. But, I don’t think Rowling is capable of writing that type of epic stuff. Clearly, I don’t mind super detailed fictional universes, as I love LOTR. But there is a heavy-handedness with which Rowling adds in the background that makes me uncomfortable. Plus in LOTR, there are all these different inter-weaving stories and mythologies that come together throughout the story, plus all those characters that have those stories. I think maybe Rowling’s writing style is really character driven, opposed to story driven. So it is like she writes a character and feels the need to tell us everything about them, even if they have a relatively small role within the story, or that background isn’t actually relevant to the story. I love character driven stories too (Jane Austen is my favorite author!), but if an epic journey is what she is going for, that should always be the focus. Also I think the transition between children’s book to epic is a hard transition that is jumpy and uncomfortable between the third and fourth book.
3. Movie only: The expressions of Rupert Grint. Rupert Grint is not the greatest actor in the world. But that’s okay. Because I am pretty sure that Rupret Grint is Ron Weasley. For Ron in the movies, it was the perfect combo of a character I liked in the books, and the perfect casting. I loved Hermione, but only recently began to appreciate Emma Watson and still don’t like her in the first few movies. And I don’t like Harry, even though Daniel Radcliffe does a good job as Harry. Ron is just perfect. Weasley is Our King.

3. Plot problems. Some things in the books and movies just don’t make sense to me. Here are some examples.

Why is everyone useful in the same house? I hate the vilifying of Slytherin and glorifying of Gryffindor. It doesn’t make sense to me. Each of the houses are supposed to have a trait, right? It seems like, within each house, there should be potential for good or for evil. My suggestion for improvement:  Hermione, why not be in Ravenclaw? Neville could’ve been in Hufflepuff, and somehow Draco could have had a better redemption plot.

Peter Pettigrew. All right, JK, let’s play by your rules when it comes the houses. Then why did Peter Pettigrew betray his friends? When Gryffindors, the golden retrievers of the wizarding world, are so loyal? Let’s say he just got caught up in the threats against his life. If you are going to prioritize Gryffindors for their good qualities, why not make Pettigrew’s refusal to kill Harry and ultimate death self-motivated? Instead he dies a coward’s death. So he proves to be neither loyal, nor brave.

Harry Potter as underdog. This is how he is portrayed right? But let’s look at the facts. He gets preferential treatment all the time because of his name, his house and his parents. He is a jock. He is famous and rich. He has really great friends and a supportive group of allies. So stop with the whining, ya big baby.

Dumbledore and the mysterious clue to your past. I love Dumbledore. I feel like I should qualify this next one with that statement. Because I may come off sounding a little harsh. But Dumbledore may be the least useful “old man guide” is the history of everything. There are so many times when I feel like it would make so much sense for someone, anyone (namely DUMBLEDORE) to explain something to Harry. But that never happens. I understand JK’s motivation to keep Harry in the dark because he grows more as a character but I’ve never understood Dumbledore’s motivation. He simultaneously expects Harry to be able to deal with all (literally all) of the evil in wizarding world, but refuses to sit him down and say “this is what I, the greatest wizard in the world, think is happening right now.” At least Gandalf from LOTR admits that he doesn’t know what is exactly happening! Dumbledore proves to usually know what is happening and still feel the needs to keep the (underaged) person, whose destiny is linked with that of the entire wizarding world, in the dark.

As far as plot problems go, here’s what I think happened: JK Rowling has shown the world her extensive notes on the Harry Potter universe and clearly a lot of thought went into that. But I think when she was writing, she may have been writing like a fanfic writer. Like she didn’t want to go off her own headcanon, even when it made sense for the story, to either change something or leave something out.

4. I love Snape. I really do, I love Alan Rickman and I love the trope of teachers who you think are out to get you but are really protecting you/teaching you how to learn. I am not necessarily supportive of Snape and Lily love because he was kind of a jerk to her. But anyone who puts Harry Potter in his place occasionally, all while ultimately being good, is amazing in my book. I kind of wish JK hadn’t allowed for the potential romantic relationship between Snape and Lily because then the love that theme of the book, the love that triumphs over evil is the always the same type of love, of protection, willingness to do anything for someone else, and to die for the greater good.

For my last problem with Harry Potter, I’m just going to be simple and a little crass.

4. Ginny Weasley is annoying and I hate her.

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Filed under British, Literature

Two Things: Research Topic and Costume

And we’re going to do them backwards.

I’ve picked my research topic (and my title) for my Jane Austen paper about Emma. Here we go…”The Frivolity of Frank and the Frankness of Mr. Knightley.”  I was pretty pleased with the title.

Behind that punny title is a look at the discourse between Frank and Emma and Mr. Knightley and Emma and what it reveals about the men in her life.

Also, here’s a look at my Halloween costume! I don’t know if I have ever been prouder (except maybe in relation to the title of my Jane Austen paper)

Pineapple-The Sassiest Fruit

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bleeg blah blorg

I should re name my blog “Miss Woodhouse Goes to College and Never has Time to Do Fun Things (like knit/crochet, blog, color, watch Bones).”

This month has been so crazy. My part time job is starting to get really busy. I feel like I am either going to class, doing homework or catching up on sleep.

So here’s what I’ve been up to.
1. Making lots of money and spending lots of money. HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE? Last year with one super-part time job I felt like I had just enough money to do all the things I wanted to do. And now when one super-part time job and another more time, but still part-time job, I still feel like I am only barely getting by. But I am making like three times as much.

2. Reading about nepotism and popes: Which is just about my favorite thing in the world. Barberini, don’t get cocky though, the Medici still have my Italian heart.

3. Applying for summer jobs

4. Applying for study abroad in Florence!

5. Learning to budget money. Which is becoming a new obsession. I SPENT 50 DOLLARS THIS MONTH ON FAST FOOD. too much money when I am on a dining plan.

6. Reading a lot of Contemporary Art Theory and thinking about Hitchcock and voyeurism. (who am I kidding? I always spend a lot time thinking about Hitchcock and voyeurism. or voyeurism in general. It has become like my go to topic for research papers. Especially in relation to the Catholic Church)

7. Watching a lot of Hitchcock.

8. Being excited and then forlorn about the Phillies. This is honestly probably the number one reason this month has been hard. While a usual 50% of my time is devoted to school and like 25% to fun and another 25% to sleep/eating, during postseason I feel like 90% of my time I spent thinking about the Phillies’ stats and checking up on games and what not. So I had to squeeze sleeping/eating/school/fun into 10% of my thinking time, which was only made harder by midterms. I am still really upset about the Phils’ lose. you probably shouldn’t talk to me about it. I am kind of welling up right now.

9. Talking about Judith paintings with a guy friend of mine. Which was kind of a surreal experience. First, this guy has no background in art history whatsoever, and has never studied any sort of feminist theory. I mean he is an engineer. But he has the most insightful things to say about the paintings and was so interested in what I knew about the paintings, and how they changed from the Renaissance to Baroque to later depictions. I was just pleasantly surprised. Sometimes, at Agnes, I forgot how useful and charming men can be. But for realsies, I do not miss men in my classes. I cannot imagine talking about the masturbatory impulse of Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice in a room with a bunch of college guys. Though, my Jane Austen class would probably consist of mostly young women even at a coed school.

10. making plans for a halloween costume. hint: it soon will be coming to FRUITion. PUNS BLOWING UP YO MIND.

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Filed under Art, College, Film, Hobbies, Literature

Jane Austen: A summary in opinions

Plus it is nearly 3 AM and I am very bored.
1. Favorite Austen heroine.
Emma Woodhouse. Clearly. I just love the Emma’s transformation seems the most self-motivated of all the heroines. Mr. Knightley points out her faults, but only when she wants to change and even when she believes she has no chance with Mr. Knightley she wants to be a better person, without his validation.

Plus she is so judgmental, which I identify with too much for my own good.

2. Favorite Austen man.
I would want to marry Mr. Knightley. But I really like to read…eh, Mr. Knightley. I am sorry that I am so one sided! I just can’t see any faults in Mr. Knightley. My second favorite man is probably Mr. Hurst, Mr. Bingley’s brother in law because he is so funny. Or Mr.Woodhouse, also hilarious.

3. Favorite Austen book.
Emma.

4. Favorite quote from the books.
It is such a happiness when good people get together—and they always do. by the adorable Miss Bates in Emma
or
Certainly silly things do cease to be silly if they are done by sensible people in an impudent way by Emma

5. Favorite moment in the books.
When the narrator reveals that the Perry children partook in the wedding cake

6. Favorite movie adaptation.
My first–the 1996 version of Emma with Gwenyth Paltrow and Jeremy Northam. 1. Gwenyth’s dress at the Oscar’s is the reason I love Austen, 2. to me, Jeremy Northam IS Mr. Knightley, 3. and while they romanticize the relationship too early it has the best soundtrack, Harriet and other secondary characters I have ever seen.

7. Favorite Austen couple.
Other than…Emma and Mr. Knightley…I really like Mr. and Mrs. Bennett. I think they are so cute and funny is the way they speak to one another. Or Elinor and Edward. I like how they show that Jane’s books aren’t all about lovey-dovey gooey love. Sometimes they are really just about people, who usually happen to fall in love.

8. Least favorite couple.
Henry Tilney and Catherine Morland. He is so condescending and I had such trouble liking him!

9. Most hated foe of a heroine.
Lucy Steele. I hate that she abuses her privilege of confidence so much with Elinor. Irks me every time.

10. Most frustrating family member.
Maria Bertram.

11. Least favorite book.
Northanger Abbey, but I haven’t read Persuasion in a while.

12. Least favorite Austen heroine.
Catherine Morland

13. Least favorite Austen man.
of the “good” guys: Henry Tilney, of the bad guys: Willoughby.

14. Favorite love confession from the books.
“If I loved you less, I’d be able to talk about it more”

15. Favorite love confession from the films.
I feel so unlike a purist, but when Darcy confesses his love in the 2005 Pride and Prejudice. WHATEVER, it makes for good movies. Either the rain scene or the one in the field. I love the both. AND GUESS WHAT? I like Matthew Macfadyn better as Darcy too. Colin Firth is too clean and always looks like he has something in his mouth. But I still love Colin.

16. Least favorite film adaptation.
Cinematically, the BBC ones aren’t that awesome. But they are good for plot and dialog. And while 2005 P&P is a crappy mirror image of the book, I think JA fans need to look at the movies separately from the books.

17. Moment that made you sad/cry while reading.
I don’t know if I’ve ever cried during a JA novel.

18. Moment that made you smile/happy while reading.
Every time Mr. Woodhouse opens his mouth. Or when Edmund falls in love with Fanny.

19. Moment that made you laugh while reading.
Every time Mr. Woodhouse/Mr. Collins speak

20. Moment that made you mad while reading.
Most of the times Henry Tilney speaks.

21. Favorite Jane Austen-related photo.
Can’t find a good picture of it. But my favorite screen shot is potentially when Mr. Darcy flexes his hand after he helps Elizabeth get into the carriage in the 2005 film.

22. Favorite Austen female casting decision.
Kate Winslet as Marianne Dashwood
She is so young and romantic and wonderful!

23. Favorite Austen male casting decision.
Alan Cumming as Mr. Elton
No one does smarm better.

24. Favorite supporting character.
SO MANY: Mr. Woodhouse, Harriet Smith, Frank Churchill, Miss Taylor, Miss Bates (do. you. see. a. pattern?) Also, I really like Mrs. Jennings in S&S

25. Favorite family connection (i.e. sister-sister, mother-daughter, brother-sister, etc.)
Emma and her father, the one thing I liked about Northanger Abbey is James and Catherine Morland’s relationship

26. Favorite casting cameo from the films.
I don’t think this is a cameo, but Hugh Laurie in S&S.

27. Favorite quote from the films.
“A picnic. At Delaford” (hat sweep!)-Colonel Brandon, Sense and Sensibility
“the Nile is in Abyssinia!-Margaret Dashwood

” I do not profess to be an expert in the field of fashion (though my friends say I have quite the eye) but I can tell you, there is a shocking lack of satin! ” Mrs. Elton, Emma

28. Favorite moment from the films.
I like the long opening shot of Pride and Prejudice 2005. It is a pretty cool way to look at the family, and see immediately where the center of life is.
OR
When Mr. Knightley and Emma are arguing about Harriet and Mr. Martin’s potential engagement and after she shots a misplaced arrow he says “try not to kill my dogs”

29. Character you most relate to
I think that is pretty clear that is Emma Woodhouse. An important part of that book is realizing what faults you have, and I share a lot of my faults with Emma. I always thought Lizzie too selfish for me to identify with her really. Emma’s problem is that she can observe others, but cannot see her own feelings truthfully, or use her feelings to understand others. Eleanor is too staid, and Marianne is too concerned with marriage. Also a great thing about Emma is that she doesn’t WANT to get married. Sure, she is financially stable, but she shows that a woman could imagine herself with a life without a man and be happy. Other novels aren’t as clear about the fact that women could be happy without men, if only they could receive some money.

Emma is just the best and that is the rest I am going to say.

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