Monday, December 3, 2012

Further Exploration of the Final Paper

So far, my final paper has been broken up in three parts: 1. Exploring Theory of Mind and establishing why it is relevant to how we experience literature, 2. Pinpointing how Austen builds a complex fictional consciousness and 3. Proof through cognitive science in which I hope to find evidence and research or examples to support my thesis. 

Through the course of writing and researching my paper, I have come to realize the brilliant mind-play employed by Austen in order to provide an incredible plot twist. To quote from my paper: "Austen is known in Pride and Prejudice as intentionally misleading her readers based on the conclusions that they have drawn on their own while reading the text, playing with their minds and playing with the knowledge that humans can err when determining and associating actions with what the reader believes to be the underlying cause or motive, thus making a plot twist even more exciting. It is a fascinating ability to turn the reader on herself, thus kicking herself for reading Mr. Darcy’s intentions incorrectly." Here, I establish that Austen is clever in how she set up the reader for an effective plot twist and believe that this is a testament to Austen's talent with words and structuring her novels. I back up this idea with a quote from Lisa Zunshine in her essay called Theory of Mind and Experimental Representations of Fictional Consciousness: "Literary critics, in particular, know that the process of attributing thoughts, beliefs, and desires to other people may lead to misinterpreting those thoughts, beliefs, and desires”. In this case, Austen was relying on readers misinterpreting her own characters for the sake of the action to come later. This is a stroke of genius on her part, especially considering that Austen's style of narrative may have been considered experimental for her time. 

I have yet to find specific quotes within the book since I have been doing a lot of preliminary research and idea-building but I believe that will become especially important in the second part of my paper.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Final Paper Idea

I am very excited to dive into this final paper assignment and investigate form and perform an analysis of the fictional conscious in Pride and Prejudice. I will be evaluating how the narrative functions in Jane Austen's novel in terms of the complexity of the fictional consciousness and "levels of intentionality". I will be utilizing Lisa Zunshine's "Theory of Mind and Experimental Representations of Fictional Consciouness" as a guide for how I should assess the narrative and throughout my paper I will be citing examples of multiple levels of the "levels of inteionality" Zunshine refers to in her essay. I am also going to evaluate how Pride and Prejudice operates within the context of cognitive science, just as she explains why the reader would be "afraid" of Mrs. Dalloway. I hope to lay forth a thorough argument that is backed up by the text, Zunshine's essay and other sources.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

"Most people who have been exposed to traumatic stressors are somehow able to go on with their lives without becoming haunted by the memories of what has happened to them. That does not mean that the traumatic events go unnoticed." -van der Kolk and McFarlane, The Black Hole of Trauma

The Black Hole of Trauma, written by Bessel van der Kolk and Alexander McFarlane, is an interesting study of post-traumatic stress disorder and the systematic processing of information in those who have the disorder. Having recently read Persepolis, I was immediately reminded of the war atmosphere that Marjane Satrapi experienced in her society and how war literally hit close to home. Marjane experienced things that a Westerner couldn't begin to fathom--family and friends who were either going missing, becoming refugees, or killed; bombs in her city of residence in Tehran, a bomb striking her neighbor's house and killing them. All of this is enough to set anyone over the edge and into a "black hole of trauma"; however, Marjane appears to have had the mental stability to deal with these traumatic stressors and overcome the stress, without getting "stuck" on certain events and then going on to write about it. Even in her auto-biographical graphic novel, she is seen moving to a different country and experiencing relatively normal teenage rebellion and confusion, albeit with the added complication of being an Iranian in Europe and having witnessed war. Marjane is truly an unshakeable woman and her ability to overcome the terrors of war are a testament to her strength as a person.

Monday, November 5, 2012

East vs. West-- A Different Childhood

“Marji’s rebellious spirit is much celebrated by reviewers; they often remark on how she—like all children—rebels against adult authority. However, hers is more than just the youthful rebellion supposedly universal to all children; in the specific context of revolutionary Iran, the play and children’s culture depicted in the text take on qualities of political subversion.” –Naghibi, Estranging the Famililar

“We demonstrated in the garden of our house.”
“Down with the king! Down with the king!” –Satrapi, Persepolis p. 10

Estranging the Familiar is an interesting discussion of Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis in which the authors discuss the way in which the Satrapi’s graphic novel was perceived in the West, as well as the dichotomy of the familiar and alien throughout it. It is especially interesting to note the differences between Satrapi’s childhood play and the play of children in the West. It is not typical for Western children to pretend that they are demonstrating against the government or war, whereas on page 10 of Persepolis, Marji and her friends are demonstrating in her backyard, holding fake guns and ammo and shouting “down with the king!” Such activity is not seen in the United States, unless, of course, it is pretend, because war isn’t fought on US soil and there is no regime to protest. To see a different way of life is fascinating, especially to someone who has led a sheltered life, unlike Marji. From a Western perspective, Marji’s way of life in Iran is foreign and almost exotic but mostly it is a sobering reminder that any problems I experience are insignificant and small when looked at from a global perspective.

Monday, October 29, 2012

If Elizabeth Bennet was on Twitter

Lizzy Bennet's Twitter

For the digital treasure hunt assignment, I chose to investigate Twitter for accounts that told an old story. In this case, the first story that popped into my head was Pride and Prejudice since it was assigned in class and it is also among my favorite books.

So I took to Twitter and searched for Elizabeth Bennet. I looked at quite a few accounts before choosing the one that is linked above. The great thing about that particular account is that even though there are not very many tweets, it is very well done. The language sounds as if Jane Austen or Lizzy herself logged onto Twitter and began telling the story entirely from Lizzy's perspective. Unfortunately, the hunt for a Mr. Darcy twitter was unsuccessful, and what a shame, for the story told from his perspective via Twitter would be fascinating.

Incorporating an old classic novel into technology, or re-telling the story to include zombie killing, is an interesting way to get this literature into the hands of individuals who might not read it otherwise. Essentially, it makes the story more accessible. If someone watches the movie, or reads a silly twitter account, it might intrigue them enough to read the book itself. Sometimes people are fooled by the language into thinking that they wouldn't understand the story and therefore not like it, or find it boring. But classics are classic for a reason, they are well loved and analyzed to dig deeply into their value, and getting literature into people's hands is a wonderful thing.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Minor Characters and Commentary

"...a number of minor characters who occupy places in the social hierarchy well beyond the gentry and professional classes where Austen's major characters are situated. She writes no explicit analysis, but by passing details, she fills in the large social picture and provides indirect commentary."
-Juliet McMaster, Class

" is sometimes a disadvantage to be so very guarded. If a woman conceals her affection with the same skill from the object of it, she may lose the opportunity of fixing him...a slight preference is natual enough; but there are very few of us who have heart enough to be really in love without encouragement. In nine cases out of ten, a woman had better shew more affection than she feels. Bingley likes your sister undoubtedly; but he may never do more than like her, if she does not help him on."
-Charlotte Lucas in Pride and Prejudice p. 59

This quote from Juliet McMaster's essay, Class, sounds similar to the Woloch's The One vs. Many but the essay provides an informative analysis of class in Austen's world. McMaster says that certain minor characters in Austen's books provide commentary on society and fill in the "large social picture" through said commentary. Great examples of this are the few times that Mary speaks and the quote from Charlotte Lucas above. Charlotte's discussion is about how a woman should conduct herself when a woman feels affection for a certain man (in this case, the situation between Mr. Bingley and Jane) but ultimately, this discussion is about propriety. In this society, propriety should dictate one's actions and keeps individuals from being perceived as too bold or impolite. Propriety dictates how Jane conducts herself around Mr. Bingley and prevents her from giving a clear message of affection to him because that it would be improper. It is clear that Jane likes Mr. Bingley, but not clear enough. If she wants Mr. Bingley to be aware of how she feels, according to Charlotte, she must show "more affection than she feels". While this is the ideal, Jane is prohibited by being of a lower class than Bingley and obligated by propriety. Austen does not directly say that this is the case, rather it is said through Charlotte and the idea of the importance of propriety is inferred by the reader from the text. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

Elizabeth's Consciousness in Pride and Prejudice

"Her sensation is on a second order of apprehension, the consciousness of someone else's consciousness. Mrs. Bennet 'sees' her eldest daughter; Jane is 'gratified'; Mary 'hears' herself mentioned; Catherine and Lydia 'dance.' But Elizabethe 'feels' Jane's 'pleasure'--so that, in the friefest of sentences, Austen depicts the essential process of consciousness moving beyond itself. We will see that it is this aspect of depth--ultimately a depth of self-consciousness, or a consciousness of her own consciousness...that is the underlying quality of Elizabeth's singularity." 
-Alex Woloch, The One vs. the Many

"She grew absolutely ashamed of herself.--Of neither Darcy nor Wickham could she think, without feeling that she had been blind, partial, prejudiced, absurd. 'How despicably have I acted!' she cried.--'I, who have prided myself on my discernment!--I, who have valued myself on my abilities!...How humiliating is this discovery!"
-Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice p. 226

Alex Woloch argues throughout The One vs. the Many that the flat characters in Pride and Prejudice are just as crucial to Elizabeth's development as a protagonist and that Austen creates a situation in which Elizabeth depends on the flatness of other characters in order to stand out and be distinguished as one with a sense of self-consciousness. The quote from Pride and Prejudice shows Elizabeth's epiphany, in which she was able to step back and evaluate herself and realize that she was wrong wherein she previously believed herself to be right. Epiphany here, then, is not simply a sign that someone is, in fact, the protagonist, but shows that Elizabeth is self-conscious and self-aware, a standout from the other characters who continue on without an evaluation of self. Elizabeth sees how "despicably" she has acted, as well as realizing that her discernment was wrong and she feels humiliated. Elizabeth becomes distinctly aware here of her wrong behavior and attitude, a sign that she is "conscious of her own consciousness".