Sunday, December 7, 2008

Modernism: What the period tells us

The modernist period began in the 19th century and ended in the early 20th century. It is characterized as being a period where authors went outside of the normal boundaries of writing. Some of the characteristics that are known for the modernist writers are different kinds of subject matter and playing with the rules of language, making it much more difficult to understand. With what I have experienced thus far with modernist writers I have found that they all seem to be making statements about their ideas of life or critiquing the way that society is at the moment. They are using their voice to share with the readers what they feel about a certain subject, people or entire way of life. The way that they write makes finding their messages difficult, but challenging content is one of the characteristics. In Paris France by Gertrude Stein, Nightwood by Djuna Barnes, Querelle by Jean Genet and Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust I have found that each of these writers is trying to send a message about something that they felt strongly about.

In Paris France Stein comes up with an interesting way to get the reader to see things differently. With her strong use of rhetorical strategies she is able to persuade the reader to look at war-time differently. Instead of from the battlefield she shifts it to the homes of the people going through the war. She used repetition in her novel and this was the way that she was able to get the reader to think differently. At the end of the novel she uses metaphors for the 19th and 20th century. She explains to the reader the significance of each century but because that is a difficult thing to grasp she compares them to a life. From childhood to death and the readers are able to more clearly see this idea.

Djuna Barnes is perhaps the most difficult writers of the four that I am experienced with but what I have found within her novel is a questioning of love. Throughout the novel one character named Robin goes from person to person without seeming to feel any emotion, but what is more interesting is that she goes from man to woman. Djuna Barnes had once had a lover who she claimed to be in love with but not to have been a lesbian. She simply said that she was in love with a woman and that was that. It seems as though with the character Robin she is defending the ability to be able to just love someone without having to change your sexual preference.

Jean Genet makes a huge statement in his novel Querelle by critiquing the importance of beauty in society. Throughout the entire novel there is an obsession placed on one physically perfect character who happens to also be a murderer. While reading this novel I found that Genet was trying to show the reader that society was wrapped around the idea of what is beautiful and by also using the self obsessed character of Querelle to show them that being so focused on your looks is an affect of the societal pressures to look good in order to fit in.

Lastly Proust makes what seems like fun of society people and almost creates a large section in the book to feel like a scene in a play. While watching these characters you find them to be almost fake or acting a part. I find that Proust is trying to show the readers what society has constructed us to do in certain social situations. He is showing us how we are all just actors in the same world and playing a part to get something or somewhere in life.

What all four of these authors have in common is a message that they are trying to send to their audience. Like most modernist writers their writing is difficult to get through and it breaks many rules of the language. I found it very interesting that within each of these novels is the author trying to reach out and tell the reader their truth about life. They are trying to help the problem and do their part by giving the audience the opportunity to see their truth. Modernist authors created a new way of writing and it gave the opportunity to voice their ideas and views within their stories. 

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Swann's Way (222-333)


In this section of the novel Swann attends the dinner parties held by Mme. Verdurin. Proust details the parties are we learn more about the budding relationship between Swann and Odette. At one point Odette insists on Swann coming to earlier to the dinner because he usually arrives after the meal. Swann declines and Odette suggests that they have dinner just the two of them. When Swann asks Odette what she will tell Mme. Verdurin if she does not attend Odette tells Swann that she can just lie. Right here is when Swann should have realized than Odette was not an honest person. When she showed him how swiftly she could make up a lie and say that she was or somewhere else or that she had other obligations. He should have realized sooner that all the times they were supposed to meet or she said she wasn’t home she could have, and probably did lie about it. This is an example of Swann’s ignorance. It seems so obvious to the reader that Odette is dishonest and is using Swann just for the salary that he gives her but he is unable to realize that.

            Later on in the text when Odette is knocked over by a scared horse Swann helps her readjust her rumpled dress. She was wearing Cattleyas on her dress and he asked her if he could fix them for her. He had to touch her bodice to fix the flower but was so awkward about it. He kept asking her a million questions like: Is this okay, is it uncomfortable, is it bothering you, can I do this, am I annoying you? Odette handled this awkward moment well by just smiling and politely shrugging her shoulders. In this scene Swann makes himself look insane and acts as if he has never touched or spoken to a women before. For a character that is notorious for being a bit of a ladies man, he sure seems to go about it like he has never done it before. He is awkward and continues to be awkward throughout the relationship.

            The rest of this section continues with dinner party conversation and then a private conversation about Swann, Forcheville and Odette that happens between Mme. Verdurin and her husband. M. Forcheville blatantly states that he thinks Swann is stupid. Mme. Verdurin chimes in that she thinks that Odette prefers Forcheville anyway and that he is a better choice for her. She says that Swann is not direct and is cunning. He is always between ideas and that is just the opposite of Forcheville, who is straightforward and tells you the truth.

            What is interesting to me is that Mme. Verdurin picks up on the image that Swann tries to create for himself. She can tell that he is looking to keep a name and impress people with what he does and who he knows. She refers to him as a society man and I feel the exact same way about him that she does. I can see right through Swann and I don’t know why more characters can’t.   



Thursday, November 13, 2008

Swann's Way

This book begins in a really interesting way; Proust starts out by introducing the character in bed and describing sleep. He describes the darkness and how when he is awake he isn’t sure he is asleep. The way that he obsesses over it makes him seem a little compulsive in his thoughts. He begins to imagine his pillow turning into a woman and then the character starts to talk about how he longs for his mothers kiss. You don’t know right away that he is really a young boy until he begins to go on about his mother.

 For quite a while he describes his longing for his mothers kiss upon his cheek and how much he adores it. But because of his father and the way he frowns upon kissing his mother he is afraid of him. When reading I felt bad for the young boy and the fact that his father would not let him kiss his mother. It was really annoying and I didn’t see what the big deal was with him kissing her goodnight. What I did think was strange though was his obsession over it. The way he described his mothers kiss and his lips on his mother’s cheek totally crept me out. I felt like this little boy was obsessed with his mother in the way of Oedipus. I became clearer why the father had been so stern on him not kissing his mother because of this but he was only a little boy. Sometimes fathers try to make their boys grow up faster tot “protect” them from being too emotional but instead of protecting him he is straining their relationship.

I didn’t understand at all why the little boy could never join the family for dinner. The father would never let him join and purposely eat late so he had to miss out. I wasn’t sure if it was too late for him or not but I thought that this was odd. It reminded me again of the Oedipus story because they were competed for the attention. His father was shooing him off to bed, but the mother would sneak him kisses sometimes.

When Swann was introduced I was surprised by the way that he was described, not so fabulous in my opinion. I began reading the book thinking the young boy was Swann and was disappointed to find out he was not. It was an observation of Swann. I don’t feel very connected with Swann and feel like he is portrayed awkwardly. It may be just me but I don’t really like him at all and he kind makes me suspicious. I enjoy hearing more about the tales of the young boy than I do of Swann’s life. He seems like an odd sort of person. He is said to have money and seems well cultured and to have a very nice life. He is also very intelligent but they way I feel about him is he is one of those people that has things and does stuff to impress people, make “friends” and to preserve a status quo. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2008