Tag Archives: Musings

identity crisis

Weird things are going on up in my brain. It is nearly three AM when I am starting this post, what else is supposed to happen?

This blog’s official title is “miss woodhouse: the english major.” Technically I’m not even an English major yet, sense I deferred declaring until I had time to fill out those annoying little major declaration cards, which was not going to happen in the midst of two research papers (A and B+ whoo!) But I feel like I’ve been preparing to be an English major all my life. Even when I thought I would major in History or the crazy three weeks when I thought I would go to UGA to study botany and soil science (my guilty intellectual pleasure), I always came back to English Lit. There’s never been anything I’ve loved more.

The closest I ever came to switching was with Classics and my hatred of translation and inability, after four years, to remember exactly what the ablative does squashed that dream. I’ve mentioned on here before that I am planning on double majoring in Art History but that was because I can. I came into Agnes with a whole semester’s worth of AP credits, and I do better when I take five classes instead of four, so it makes sense to try and get the most out of my college education and double major. But Art History has never been a part of my identity. That’s why I’ve never considered changing the blog title to “miss woodhouse: the english and art history major.”

But now I am looking down the road at the rest of my life and in five, ten, fifteen years, I see myself using my Art History degree more, working in design for PR or advertising, or in a museum. So should I start identifying as an Art History major first and then an English Lit major? I don’t know. Once again my penchant to plan to exaggerated lengths is causing lose of sleep.

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why I rarely “creative write”

I must admit, when I hear someone is an English major, I always feel like they are automatically my kindred spirit. But then they start talking about their fiction writing class. And a little judgmental voice in my head goes off “Oh, you’re English-Creative Writing…”

I kind of hate this. I know creative writing majors are important. If people who were creative writers didn’t exist, I would be out of look my preferred field. I also know that creative writing is a lot of work, and there is no reason to scorn them. Yet I do.

Theories abound to why–probably because of how much I hate creative writing myself, at least fiction and poetry. I am on the staff of The Profile, Agnes’ newspaper, but I really like writing sports stories and of course I have this blog. But I don’t feel like that counts…really. I don’t know why I dislike it so much. I just don’t get what I am supposed to get out of writing fiction. Plus I usually know that my writing is super trite and cliche-filled.

I really would just rather spend my reading and dissecting and writing research papers.

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instability as a positive/a gateway

The Steeple-Jack by Marianne Moore

Dürer would have seen a reason for living
in a town like this, with eight stranded whales
to look at; with the sweet sea air coming into your house
on a fine day, from water etched
with waves as formal as the scales
on a fish.

One by one in two’s and three’s, the seagulls keep
flying back and forth over the town clock,
or sailing around the lighthouse without moving their wings —
rising steadily with a slight
quiver of the body — or flock
mewing where

a sea the purple of the peacock’s neck is
paled to greenish azure as Dürer changed
the pine green of the Tyrol to peacock blue and guinea
gray. You can see a twenty-five-
pound lobster; and fish nets arranged
to dry. The

whirlwind fife-and-drum of the storm bends the salt
marsh grass, disturbs stars in the sky and the
star on the steeple; it is a privilege to see so
much confusion. Disguised by what
might seem the opposite, the sea-
side flowers and

trees are favored by the fog so that you have
the tropics first hand: the trumpet-vine,
fox-glove, giant snap-dragon, a salpiglossis that has
spots and stripes; morning-glories, gourds,
or moon-vines trained on fishing-twine
at the back door;

cat-tails, flags, blueberries and spiderwort,
striped grass, lichens, sunflowers, asters, daisies —
yellow and crab-claw ragged sailors with green bracts — toad-plant,
petunias, ferns; pink lilies, blue
ones, tigers; poppies; black sweet-peas.
The climate

is not right for the banyan, frangipani, or
jack-fruit trees; or for exotic serpent
life. Ring lizard and snake-skin for the foot, if you see fit;
but here they’ve cats, not cobras, to
keep down the rats. The diffident
little newt

with white pin-dots on black horizontal spaced-
out bands lives here; yet there is nothing that
ambition can buy or take away. The college student
named Ambrose sits on the hillside
with his not-native
books and hat
and sees boats

at sea progress white and rigid as if in
a groove. Liking an elegance of which
the sourch is not bravado, he knows by heart the antique
sugar-bowl shaped summer-house of
interlacing slats, and the pitch
of the church

spire, not true, from which a man in scarlet lets
down a rope as a spider spins a thread;
he might be part of a novel, but on the sidewalk a
sign says C. J. Poole, Steeple Jack,
in black and white; and one in red
and white says

Danger. The church portico has four fluted
columns, each a single piece of stone, made
modester by white-wash. Theis would be a fit haven for
waifs, children, animals, prisoners,
and presidents who have repaid
sin-driven

senators by not thinking about them. The
place has a school-house, a post-office in a
store, fish-houses, hen-houses, a three-masted schooner on
the stocks. The hero, the student,
the steeple-jack, each in his way,
is at home.

It could not be dangerous to be living
in a town like this, of simple people,
who have a steeple-jack placing danger signs by the church
while he is gilding the solid-
pointed star, which on a steeple
stands for hope.

We just read this poem about a New England town with a church that has a crooked steeple in Modern Poetry. I usually link to the poem if I am blogging about it, but I loved this poem so much that I wanted the whole text on here. I would recommend getting a published version though because I believe the indentations are a different, and that’s important! Because Prof. Trousdale brought up the Durer allusion in the poem; and the concept of crookedness as a postive/gateway to human truth because the danger sign put up because of the unstable steeple both removes danger and points it out, I thought about art and architecture that actually has crookedness designed into it, purposefully or not.

Four Horsemen of The Apocalypse-Albrecht Durer

Salome-Aubrey Beardsley Art Nouveau and Contrapposto!

Leaning Tower of Pisa-an oops crookedness

Fred and Ginger House-Post Modern Contrapposto

Fred and Ginger, Postmodern Contrapposto

^^^In Prague! Which is my leading candidate for replacing Barcelona as my study abroad location for junior year! It really does have the coolest architecture, art nouveau/art deco/and this stuff! Everyone I know who has gone has said it is their favorite city ever. and I am always looking for a favorite city!

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Filed under American, Art, Hobbies, Literature

mauve-friend or foe?

Why does mauve get such a bad reputation in novels?

Mauve-Just pink trying to purple or unsung hero of tertiary colors?

In 1890, Oscar Wilde wrote in his only novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, “Never marry a woman who wears mauve .” Well Oscar Wilde, you are the not person I would send my dear brother to for marriage advice.

just saying.

But in a few other sources, mauve has this mocking tone of those who use it. In one of my favorite books of all time The Eyre Affair [a must read for any budding English major! it is a twist on Jane Eyre, which I usually hate, but this one is done so smartly!] the main character, Thursday Next (nomination for BEST NAME EVER), has a conversation with her father, a time traveling rogue, who has gone to the future and see that his wife and Thursday’s mother has painted the drawing room’s walls mauve. The Father, as a time traveling rouge, he has no given name, insists Thursday call her mother and sway her away from the color that clashes with the curtains. Of course, as most optimistic science fiction teaches us, time has a way of working things out on its own, and Thursday’s mother, named Wednesday, paints the drawing room mauve at Thursday’s mention of the color.

This wouldn’t cause any alarm to me, except that mauve is always getting picked on. Personally, I don’t like the color much myself. It makes me look washed out, and I feel like this happens to a lot of people probably because mauve tries to a cool color and a warm color at the same time.  In Stephan Sondheim’s musical Into the Woods, Cinderella’s stepsister, Lucinda, exclaims “Never wear mauve to a ball!” Is this because the cool and warm tones would read poorly in the castle’s candle lighting? Or maybe the stepsister reads Oscar Wilde and wants to pick up a dandy at the ball.

Arrangement in Grey and Black: The Artist's Mother (Whistler's Mother)-Picture from Wikipedia

James Whistler is credited with saying “Mauve is just pink trying to be purple.” This statements makes me feel a little sorry for the color. Maybe Whistler is judging it prematurely. Whistler’s paintings don’t exactly explode with color. Even Whistler’s sunsets are more gray than mauve, and mauve is the color used to depict sunsets in stage lighting.

Maybe mauve just came about at the wrong time. The color was invented with a dye bearing its name, mauvine was invented and it is highly associated with the 1890’s, a decade universally regarded as silly and decadent. I think people like Oscar Wilde, who wrote about that time saw the silliness and associated it with a color that was apparently pervading the entire culture. Then people who became disillusioned with the decadence of the 90’s during the World Wars continued the perception that all the decadence was useless, including an admittedly decadent color. So poor mauve, who could never quite be purple, could never quite be excepted seriously either.

My final decision on the color is that it would look nice on a pillow or a wall, assuming it goes with the curtains, but I would still never wear it to a ball.

Gustav Klimt–there’s a man who loved a good mauve.

Primaversi-Gustav Klimt

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Filed under Art, Literature

books that made me

I may be giving the tomes too much agency. But I think most English majors have the book that made them an English major. So I think it is a logical conclusion that books made me into other things as well.

Well, here they are.

the books that made me:

  1. Emma-by Jane Austen: Probably no other book has edited my personality more. I saw the film adaptation in 1996 because I was five and I was very self-conscious about my name NOT being Emily. I really felt my parents had gypped me because I did not know anyone name Emma. But Gwyneth Paltrow was lovely and fabulous and had great hair and period clothing and from that moment on I was in love with Jane Austen. It also helped that Gwyneth wore a pink ball gown right out of my imagination to the Oscar’s that year. Sometimes I wonder where Emma myself really ends and where Miss Woodhouse begins. But I don’t worry about it too much because though Emma Woodhouse is manipulative, judgmental and catty, she overcomes these faults  to learn to accept other people, though she never changes completely like Lizzie Bennett who has “been so blind” and alters her personality for a man.
  2. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler-E.L Konigsburg: The reason I’m minoring/majoring in Art History. If Emma Woodhouse is who I want to be now, Claudia Kincaid is the 12 year old I wanted to be when I was 8. Unfortunately, when I was 12, I was terribly rude and annoying and co-dependent on my equally annoying group of friends, while Claudia is independent and adventurous. I love the quote when she says “I guess I like complications.”
  3. The Eyre Affair-Jasper Fforde: This book convinced me that there were other people who had literary based humor outside of my family. It is set in an alternate universe where jumping into books is possible.
  4. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn-Betty Smith: Francie Nolan and I could not live more separate lives. I grew up in a little bubble of suburbia and Francie grew up of the slums of Brooklyn. But I could read this a thousand times and I still cry every time. Though I grew up wanting to be Emma Woodhouse, I think I’m really much more like Francie Nolan. And I think this mother-daughter relationships is the most realistic ever written.
  5. Little Women-Louisa May Alcott: I haven’t read this book in years because I thought it was the greatest novel ever for the time I was 7 to about 14 and I’m so afraid I’m going to go back and reading it. I was a vegetarian for eight year because Louisa May Alcott didn’t eat meat, so that’s a pretty big influence. Plus Jo March is probably the reason I’m an English major. This book was the first “classic” I read and after it, I read a ridiculous amount of Victorian novels from both sides of the ocean. Thus I read Austen, Charlotte and Emily Bronte and Dickens a lot earlier than I would have in school. And if you don’t want to be an English major after Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights then I don’t think there is much hope for you.
  6. Bunnicula by I don’t know who-This book did not influence me because it was so good, more because it was so bad. This was the first book I ever was supposed to read for school that I didn’t. And with that, I realized that not all teachers were good and kind and smart. Because when Mrs. Johnson chose this idiotic book, I knew she was not looking for my best interest as a 4th grade student.
  7. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez-When I picked this out I knew it would challenge me. This book is probably the most cited as the greatest book of all time, and I knew I wanted to read but it is flat out hard. But it also opened me up to the world of Magic Realism that I absolutely adore. And after I read this, Garcia’s short stories were a lot less intimidating.
  8. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf: I have a somewhat destructive relationship with Virginia Woolf. If I read her when I’m depressed, I get more depressed. But never has an author so captured what I know bipolar feels like. Except maybe the screenwriters for M*A*S*H. I love Virginia Woolf’s novels so much, but this one is my absolute favorite because I feel all the characters are just different manifestations of a single, bipolar woman. The banner on my blog is actually cropped from the Vanessa Bell (Virginia’s sister) cover of Mrs. Dalloway. And because of this book I love Bloomsbury!
  9. Selected Poems of W.H. Auden by W.H. Auden: The book I carry with me always. I love Auden’s poetry so much, I’m convinced he is completely underrated and in the shadow of T.S. Eliot because he is. I cry just because it is so beautiful.
  10. “Whoso List to Hunt”-Thomas Wyatt: But I wouldn’t have that reaction with this sonnet which we read in my AP Literature class. Before this poem, I was super intimated by poetry except for like lyric, Romantic stuff that is full of pretty simple images, like Wordsworth. This poem no one in my class could figure out, including me, but I looked at the text and looked at the words and I figured it out. And I think that feeling of figuring out what an author has down in a novel or a poem is the greatest in the world, and that’s probably why I am an English major because I am always chasing that “a-ha” feeling I get when I find something new in a book or a poem.

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Filed under American, British, Literature

newspapermen in film

Examples of people working in one medium that is being eaten by another.

You know how women whose fathers are doctors always have a thing for doctors? I guess I’m kind of that for newspapermen. I love movies when you can see a newsroom. They always look so exciting. I’m on the newspaper at Agnes Scott, and it isn’t exactly hectic or hard-hitting. But I love it. And I love the way old movies make newspapermen appear as angels of justice and words. But they are also sassy. and nearly always the good guys. Except maybe Citizen Kane. but he is a publishing giant, not really a journalist, per se.

Number one all time favorite newspaper movie? His Girl Friday. Rosalind Russel is the perfect Howard Hawkes heroine and has the best hats ever. As well as 1. gets the story before the bumbling, poker-playing, lazy journalist. 2 makes dirty jokes “shot him in the ads”…”no, ADS” 3. runs after the story, literally, in five inch heels. She is wonderful. Then there is Cary Grant as Walter Burns. He is suave, controlling, manipulative, but only in the sweetest way ever. This movie is also not copyrighted for some reason. So it is on TV all the time. And is now available on instaplay on Netflix and Fancast.

Another oldie, but a goodie: It Happened One Night. Doesn’t take place in a newsroom at all, much less exclusively like His Girl Friday which I believe has a total of three or four scenes that are not in a newsroom/newspaper headquarters. But Clark Gable as a newspaper man and Claudette Colbert as an heiress before they weren’t all cray-crazy? Delicious and witty. Also the ultimate road trip movie. Actually that may be The Grapes of Wrath or Little Miss Sunshine [really the same thing] but those are a bit of a downer. TGoW more so. But It Happened One Night is uplifting and portrays a lovely love/hate relationship between journalist and editor.

Anything with Superman. So Bruce Wayne and Peter Parker don’t always have the best relationship with the press. But Clark Kent IS the press. That is pretty badass.

A more serious movie, All the President’s Men, definitely the best movie about newspaper ever. Also the best/worst political scandal to be uncovered by newspaper. Plus Robert Redford-yum.

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favorite words

I love words. It makes sense that certain ones make my spine shiver a little bit because they are so much fun and purposeful.

10. wooing-I like the oo sound a lot because it is romantic like “oo” and “aw.” And the w is so little in this word, it is like a wooing lover

9. sang-froid- a French word. It means something similar to poise. But I really don’t like the OY sound. hence my French counterpart.

8. crinoline-It may just be me…but I think the word looks like it expanding from the middle, like a crinoline makes a skirt do. and I like that

7. zeugma-My favorite literary device, probably just because of the name. It is when one word with two definitions governs two different words; examples: “Are you getting fit or having one?” Hawkeye Pierce from M*A*S*H, or “Life’s getting my big break
and laryngitis” “Without Love”-Hairspray

6. afternoon-The word bores out its meaning with its parts. And it is my favorite part of my day.

5. aubergine-My favorite color, but I would never call it eggplant.

4. pamplemousse-A favorite word of  a lot people. And not in English. But wouldn’t you rather order “une pamplemouse avec sucre”  than “a grapefruit with sugar”?

3. felicity-A word meaning “an instance of happiness” that makes my mouth feel happy with I say it. Form follows function!

2. penultimate-Just because I like the idea of “penultimate” being my penultimate word.

1. quixotic-Originating from one of my favorite characters who exemplifies craziness. I would rather be quixotic, foolish in pursuit of ideals, than practical without ideals.

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