Thursday, 28 April 2016

The Road (2006 by Cormac McCarthy) and The Road (2009 by John Hillcoat) - script for movie seeing

Please post your answers for next class (May 2)

- How does the change of point of view and person of narration alter the reader's perception of the narrated events?

- Compare the openings of both films.

- Is there any scene in the movie that helps you best visualize an event in the novel? Which and why?

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

William Butler Yeats, "The Second Coming" (1919)

Turning and turning in the widening gyre   
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere   
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst   
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.   
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out   
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert   
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,   
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,   
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it   
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.   
The darkness drops again; but now I know   
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,   
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,   
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

William Blake, "Nebuchadnezar" in The Marraige of Heaven and Hell

Monday, 18 April 2016

Teresa Alves meets Saul Bellow - April 26

Dear students,

I will be away at the biannual conference of the European Association of American Studies, but on the 26th April we will have a very special class, with Teresa F. A. Alves, my longtime mentor and one of the driving forces behind American Studies at the University of Lisbon (along with her "younger sister", Teresa Cid). Teresa Alves will be speaking about the subject of her PhD thesis, the Nobel Prize Saul Bellow, and about the short story "A Father-to-be" by Saul Bellow (anthology, p. 22)
This is an unmissable event and I hope you all will profit from it.
While you read the short story, please think (or comment below) about:
- character(s) depiction: what is shown and what is told
- mechanisms of irony / humour
- symbolism (settings, characters' names, objects, etc)

Meanwhile, because we will shortly celebrate the 25 the of April, here is a video about one of the most discrete figures of mentor Teresa Alves (as a "Woman of the Revolution" - please don't tell her I posted this):
and below a photo of dear Saul Bellow

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Claudia Rankine in Citizen (2014)

Certain moments send adrenaline to the heart, dry out the tongue, and clog the lungs. Like thunder they drown you in sound, no, like lightning they strike you across the larynx. Cough. After it happened I was at a loss for words. Haven't you said this yourself? Haven't you said this to a close friend who early in your friendship, when distracted, would call you by the name of her black housekeeper? You assumed you two were the only black people in her life. Eventually she stopped doing this, though she never acknowledged her slippage. And you never called her on it (why not?) and yet, you don't forget. If this were a domestic tragedy, and it might well be, this would be your fatal flaw—your memory, vessel of your feelings. Do you feel hurt because it's the "all black people look the same" moment, or because you are being confused with another after being so close to this other?

Monday, 4 April 2016

HW 12th April - quotation for commentary practice

"We'll work with anybody, anywhere, at any time, who is genuinely interested in tackling the probem head on, nonviolenty as long as the enemy is nonviolent, but violent when the enemy gets violent. We'll work with you on the voter-registation drive, we'll work with you on rent strikes, we'll work with you on school boycotts — I don't believe in any kind of integration; I'm not even worried about it because I know you're not going to get it anyway. (... ) But we'll work with you on the school boycotts because we are against any segregated school system."
- Malcolm X, "The Ballot or the Bullet" (1964)

African American Affirmation in the US - an overview

1859-65 - Civil War, Slavery Abolished

1870 - 5th Amendment: African American men are granted the right to vote (women would only earn it in the19th Amendment of 1920).

HOWEVER, the conditions to be eligible for voting (ballot-toll, literacy, etc) prevented in practice the majority of Afro-Americans from casting their votes. 

1910 - Foundation of National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) with the monthly magazine Crisis 

1914 -
Marcus Garvey establishes the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), whose motto is 'One God, One Aim, One Destiny'. 

1919 - W. E. B. Dubois organizes de Pan-African Congress in Paris

1920-1933 - Prohibition 

1920's: the jazz wave hits Beale Street (Memphis Blues: Armstrong, Muddie Waters, Albert King...)
  1921 - Langston Hughes enrols in Columbia Univ (will leave one year later on account of racial prejudice) and publishes  "The Negro Speaks of Rivers" in Crisis.

1920's: emergência da onda do jazz na Beale Street (Memphis Blues: Armstrong, Muddie Waters, Albert King...)

1922 - Publication of the anthology The Book of American Negro Poetry.

1924 - Countee Cullen wins the Witter Bynner Poetry Competition

1925 - Anthology The New Negro (ed. Alain Locke), with Countee Cullen, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston. consecrates the Harlem Renaissance.

1930 - Foundation of the Nation of Islam, associated with Black Nationalism

1934 - Elijah Muhammad directs the Nation of Islam

1937 - Zora Neale Hurston publishes Their Eyes Were Watching God.

1952 - Malcolm X earns parole from prison and 1952, quickly rises to become one of the Nation of Islam's most influential leaders

1954 - Brown v. Board decision declares segregation in public schools illegal. However, desegregation was not a peaceful choice (neither for whites nor blacks, since the former preferred racial balance to open social arrangements of where to study, work, live, etc.)

1955- The Montgomery Bus Boycott begins on December 5 after Rosa Parks is arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white man on the bus.

1957- The Southern Christian Leadership Conference establishes and adopts nonviolent mass action as its cornerstone strategy to gain civil rights and opportunities for blacks. Working initially in the South under the leadership of Martin Luther King, by the mid 1960's King enlarges the organization's focus to address racism in the North.

1963 - March to Washington and "I have a dream" speech.

1964 - Malcolm X delivers "The Ballot or the Bullet" speech, after having parted with the Nation of Islam, but still defending separatism rather than integration.

1965 - On February, Malcolm X is assassinated. On March, blacks begin a march to Montgomery in support of voting rights but are stopped at the Pettus Bridge by a police blockade. Fifty marchers are hospitalized after police use tear gas, whips, and clubs against them. The incident is dubbed "Bloody Sunday" by the media. The march is considered the catalyst for pushing through the voting rights act five months later. 

1968 - Martin Luther King is murdered.

Saturday, 2 April 2016

How to write a comparative essay in literature (and with other arts)

Here is the best link I could find to help you with your writing for your final essay:

I have 3 additions to make, though:

1) focus on grounds of comparison/contrast: don't forget this is a literature class.  As such try to substantiate at least one of your grounds for comparison with a "reading" of a short excerpt or image detail. Close, careful and critical reading is essential in order for you to develop nuanced readings and interpretations, to bring out similarities and differences between the texts (even if visual or musical texts) you are comparing, and to demonstrate your awareness of the forms, patterns, textures, resonances and ideological purposes of language. This might not be easy to do at length in a short essay as this, and you will have higher-order elements to analyse (e. g. plot, character, context) but try just once: for example: does a movie add or omit lines to a crucial dialogue? in which way does this change tone, register, rhetoric strategies?

2) writing methodology: as this is a short essay (1500 words max) you may use either the alternating or block method for comparison

3) your essay should be presented double-spaced, size-12 letter, and your name should be clearly identified, along with title of essay, class and teacher, in compliance with the more detailed formal instructions that you are going to receive by email, and where it is very important to play heed on how to reference bibliography.

Friday, 1 April 2016

Debate #3: Confessionals vs. Beats - Allen Ginsberg and Diane di Prima (Bruna and Claudia)

“I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness…”
Ginsberg, Howl
            A primeira línea de “Howl” marca o início de uma ode a um movimento que ultrapassa os limites impostos por uma cultura enraizada em ordem e controlo tanto social como literário, chegando aos apogeus da transcendência espiritual, social, psicológico e filosófico.
“The best minds”, somos nós, os escritores que criaram The Beat generation, grupo de “wannabes writers”, no entanto não aceitados pelas normas da sociedade impostas na década de 50 num contexto de pós-guerra, sofremos uma vida de decadência de vícios e manuscritos de viagens.
Somos uma geração influenciada por poetas decadentistas como: Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Whitman, Charles Olsen, Neal Cassidy, Miller, e de movimentos literários de princípios surrealistas, dadaístas, assim como do carácter impressório do jazz.
Vagueamos nas correntes do misticismo tanto oriental como ocidental (nomeadamente o budismo) e a ascensão espiritual.
Quando o Jack criou o termo como a referência à nossa geração, Beat- mind game, ele pensou numa espécie de teia de aranha que interliga conceitos como: music beat, individual clarity beatific, heart beat, intensidade da vida, o beat da máquina de escrever, beated como conceito de destruição e beat down como droga em mau estado.
Constituído por jovens cultos, com um nível de ensino superior à maioria, com interesse pelo conhecimento desde o clássico de Whitman, a importância da não interrupção do pensamento como no meu poema “Howl”, a continuidade de pensamento, usando uma pontuação própria. Liberdade de expressão que tentaram destruir em tribunal no julgamento no meu livro mas que a nossa arte soube ganhar.
Nós temos uma valorização da arte como coisa empírica, queremos apurar os sentidos e não nos minimizar ao poder confessional, trancado em quatro paredes.
A nossa subjetividade perto da provocação por vezes caracteriza o nosso movimento.
Defendemos a liberdade artística; não há temática da que não se possa escrever e sim a uma forte crítica de uma sociedade capitalista do consumismo extremo.
As mulheres Beat, ainda que num segundo plano, foram aceites e valorizadas artisticamente dentro do grupo e o exemplo mais claro é Dianne del prima com o seu livro “Loba” que mais tarde eu estabeleci relação no meu poema.
Ainda que a literatura beat seja considerada de misógina é preciso ter em conta o contexto do ideal de liberdade pessoal, que inclui a liberdade sexual vinculada à promiscuidade e à procura frenética de experiências diversas. 

Aliás, muitas das mulheres beat participaram da mesma abertura nas práticas sexuais que os homens e também escreveram sobre elas de forma explícita e obscena.
Ao contrário da poesia Confessional, a poesia beat está a procura de mudar e não só denunciar os valores da sociedade e nesta tentativa são precisos dois elementos: ação e comunidade.
Nós, os escritores beat, temos as duas coisas: uma escrita que, embora não esqueça a individualidade, usa o “we” e tem noção do concento de grupo; e por outro lado, além da denúncia à repressão e à injustiça social, assim como o protesto a favor da livre escolha sa forma de viver fora dos padrões marcados; conciliamos todo o nosso grito de protesto com a nossa atitude inconformista e transgressora.
 No contexto beat, a emancipação da mulher é protagonizada pelo proclamar da liberdade sexual e pessoal que ajuda ao nascimento de um novo modelo de mulher forte, ativa (tanto sexualmente como intelectualmente) e independente.
 Não foram tantas mulheres a participar no movimento beat como homens devido à pressão social que a mulher padece agora nos anos 50, deve-se a uma dificuldade no entendimento da sua independência comparada com a do homem, sendo que a dificuldade e a coragem requerida para fugir de casa dos pais tem ainda mais valor.
 Não é difícil reparar com que facilidade uma mulher solteira fora de casa dos seus pais é associada à prostituição, ainda que tenha recebido uma boa educação, como é o nosso caso.
            Aliás, a experiencia de fazer parte da geração beat tornou possível um intercâmbio artístico que deu nascimento, por parte das mulheres que integraram o grupo, à criação de uma poesia que explora, desde uma perspetiva feminina, questões tradicionalmente associadas ao papel masculino como a experimentação sexual, a vida boémia, a independência pessoal e monetária, interligadas com temáticas propriamente femininas como a maternidade.
A junção de temáticas literárias, associadas tanto ao cliché masculino como ao feminino, faz da escrita das mulheres beat um primeiro passo para desfazer os estereótipos de género e integrar as mulheres na categoria de escritoras, assim como de pessoas com o mesmo direito profissional, politico, sexual e social que os homens.

Debate #3: Confessionals vs. Beats - Robert Lowell, Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton (Diogo, Tereza, Ana Margarida)

My name is Robert Lowell. I’m an American poet, and my book Life Studies was the first collection of poetry to be called “confessional”, for being extremely personal and self-revelatory. For instance, in my poem Skunk Hour, I wrote the lines “My mind’s not right” and “I myself am hell”, openly referencing my struggle with manic depression. This influenced the writing of my two colleagues, Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton, and as such, we decided that I would do the opening statement.
First, we must say that, in a way, it might seem impossible to compare beat poetry and confessional poetry: the themes we write about are fundamentally different. While the beats are anti-conformist, and their writing is most often a protest against society and social norms, confessional poetry is much more introspective and personal – we often write as a form of therapy, to discover ourselves. However, it could be argued that all poetry serves to understand humanity; also, the themes in our poetry can often be concerned with society as well, and we have also made a social impact through our writing – because of that, and also because we are contemporaries, it is not unreasonable to compare us. But what we are here to discuss today is our poetry’s attitude towards the female gender, and the impact it had on the way HOW society viewed women. For that matter, we will be focusing on my colleagues’ poetry, as female poets, and not my own.
So, on one side, we have Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton, female confessional poets. They mostly write about their lives, and their poetry is extremely personal, often very specific to themselves (something for which confessional poetry has been criticized). But, by being personal, their poetry is also universally appreciable, and not so constrained by the writers’ historical and social context, reaching a wider audience. This means that these strong female voices, pledging their independence and value as individual people, have the ability to reach the minds of anyone who chooses to read them (not just the educated members of society who are used to reading poetry), and in this way, they have the power to actually change people’s idea of the female gender and its role in society. This is not only art for the intellectual, but for all women to feel empowered and all people to rethink their prejudice. As an example, let’s remember Plath’s powerful end to her poem Lady Lazarus: “Out of the ash / I rise with my red hair / And I eat men like air”.
On the other side, we have the beat poets. They write about their experiences as well, but in a way that is much more specific to their own lives and their social context. They support social change, and consider themselves to be fighting for it, but when it comes to women, their actions are highly misogynistic. One of the greatest examples of this is also one of the greatest examples of beat literature, Jack Kerouac’s On The Road, where female characters are seen exclusively as objects for the men to satisfy their desires, and not at all as individuals who deserve the same respect and freedom as their male counterparts. These writers are perpetuating and exacerbating a very harmful view of the female gender in their society.

The beats may argue that they let women join the beat movement and that they were thus acknowledging women's equal status. But this argument fails at two points: first, the women participating in the beat movement were only a small fraction of all women the beats encountered, and if they only behaved nicely to these few women, it still does not outweigh their predominant misogynist attitude; second, the women who participated in the beat movement tend to oppose the notion that they were treated as equals to the male beats – for example, Joyce Johnson, Kerouac's girlfriend, writes in Minor Characters: A Beat Memoir: “The whole Beat scene had very little to do with the participation of women as artists themselves. The real communication was going on between the men, and the women were there as onlookers. You kept you mouth shut, and if you were intelligent and interested in things you might pick up what you could. It was a very masculine aesthetic.”
In addition to that, when we consider both our movements together – their “larger” purpose, as poetry, being to come to an understanding of humanity – we can say that confessional poets dare to venture much deeper into themselves, their perspective is more profound – often even having therapeutic effects –, while beat poetry can often be superficial and immature. So if the common purpose of our movements is to understand humanity, then we are serving that purpose better.