Sunday, March 29, 2009

An Imaginary Life: Relationships to Texts and Today

Publius Ovidius Naso wrote his greatest work on Change. The Metamorphoses revolves around every type and variation of change Ovid could compile into his large work. David Malouf’s fictional account of Ovid’s time in exile reflects the theme that ran through Ovid’s most famous work vibrantly. An Imaginary Life, due to the nature of its protagonist, obviously has close ties to Ovid’s Metamorphoses, the poet being the main character. However, the ties go far deeper than that.

Of immediate notice is the lyrical voice throughout the novel. While still very much prose, the words and sentences flow off the page and, when spoken aloud, slither through the air with grace almost equal to Ovid’s own poetic verse. The elegant yet simple way of telling Ovid’s story lends Malouf a tone very much mythic in feel, just as Ovid’s work portrayed the myths of his culture.
However, the truest tie, the one that binds the tightest, is the change inherent in Malouf and Ovid. Malouf portrays in his novel the metamorphosis of Ovid. “Slowly I begin the final metamorphosis. I must drive out my old self and let the universe in” (96). Ovid arrives at Tomis a civilized Roman, attuned to society and the Roman way of life, but, with help from the intervention of a feral child, Ovid changes into a new sort of man, one far closer to nature and the universe. As Ovid lies dying, he reaches the pinnacle of his naturalization, feeling one with the earth around him. Having moved as far from his previous life as he possibly could have, Ovid has lived through the last of his metamorphoses.

This novel truly brings the methods and ideologies of the classical time period into today, humanizing and familiarizing ideas and people that have taken almost mythological status in modern times. It is through works of a more modern sensibility that one can find any immediacy and modern day important in the works of greats thousands of years removed. Perhaps Ovid’s final change will bring us all closer to discovering the truth found in all myths, all cultures, and all lives.

Apology, Authors, and Maybe More!

First, sorry about the two week break. First spring break, then my girlfriend came up for a week. Yes, the girlfriend I have written about a couple times. We have to spend this one year apart, as she is finishing up her last year of her degree (In Classical Studies, of all things. Yes, I have a little outside help for this class) at Ohio University. I last saw her around the beginning of 2009. All this (potentially excessive) personal note is here for is to explain that, having not seen the girl of my dreams in about three months, there was no way in hell I was going to get much of anything done. I'll claim that I was living the words spoken in the Symposium and at the very least feel slightly better about not being totally with it, for this class if no other. Anyways...

I did some research into the backgrounds of two authors pivotal to our class, both being from the present day, oddly enough.

Ted Hughes seems like a rather odd duck. His wife kills herself by stove. His lover (whom he cheated on his wife with and had one child by him) murders their child then kills herself the same way Hughes' wife, Sylvia Plath, did. Hughes marries a second wife, and cheats on her with numerous other women. Hughes' other child, a son, fights clinical depression and then commits suicide. Very unhappy and dark.

David Malouf led a far less socially noteworthy life, but one far less filled with tragedy. While it seems some of his views have been called racist towards the indigenous peoples of Australia, he has been otherwise uncontroversial. Apparently a very private man, he enjoys solitude, anonymity, and feels it is ridiculous to view him as a role model.

Also, a very intruiging essay on An Imaginary Life.

Next Up: One Pager Time!

Friday, March 13, 2009

We Laugh So That We Don't...

First, a disclaimer: I am not heartless. I do feel sympathy in the right situations. I am not evil. I also hope to avoid getting in trouble for saying what might not be a well loved statement, although I have a feeling that maybe some of you will agree with me.

In class on Wednesday, we watched a couple scenes from Trojan Women. Dr. Sexson noted how we all laughed at Andromache's howl of anguish so that we didn't cry, and sat rapt through her speech as it tugged at our hearts.


I didn't laugh not to cry. I laughed because I found it all ridiculous.


That wail of pain just didn't do it for me. You can't fake one, and a faked one won't work for anyone who has heard a real one. And the speeches, they too fall short. My complaint throughout reading Euripides' Trojan Women was that it was filled with long, declamatory statements, each person working through an eloquent soliloquy in the midst of their tragedy. Anyone who has ever been in a horrific situation, who has suffered through adverse conditions, who has ever had such a shock to their moral centers as might replicate, in part or whole, what these woman went through in the play, knows that grief is not readily expressed that way. You don't create these contrived monologues. You don't even finish sentences. No one would relate these ridiculously long bits in real life in a situation like that. Euripides' play is extravagantly excessive and not even remotely convincing. This was not a problem for a comedic play such as Lysistrata, but for a play that wants to be taken seriously, it rings false and destroys any sense of reality. Far from bowing down to Euripides' ability to be at the heart of tragedy, I question his right to any such claim, and cry out the falseness of his asinine depiction of this horrendous occurrence.

Doesn't everyone love when the college student goes, "Well, if I had written _____, I would have _____," because at that students young age and level of experience, he certainly knows better than the author known for thousands of years. Well, as always, I love to go against that sort of thing, and so, what would I do if I had written Trojan Women? I would have had fragments of sentences, incomplete dialogue, scrambled, nonsensical nonsense that only the grief-stricken know how to babble, and then I would have doused it all with aching, horrifying, heart-wrenching sobs. I would let you witness the complete breakdown of a woman who lost everything. That is more emotional, more traumatizing, than any long speech will ever be, in my eyes at least.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Flyting and "Shakespeare is Dirty"?

Flyting. Fun. My story:

ME: "That is so stupid!"
HER: "I'm not stupid!"
ME: "I didn't say you were, your actions are!"
HER: "My actions define me!"
ME: "Dammit, don't be an idiot..."
HER: "Quit calling me names!"
ME: "But you're being such a bitch, and I haven't done anything!"
ME: "But you're being a bitch...I..."
HER: "Jerk! What is wrong with you? You are being such an asshole!"
ME: "What happened to no name calling?"
HER: "Your being an asshole, you deserve it!"
ME: "'re being a bitch! You are such a jerk, what did I do?"
HER: "You are being horrible! All day, such an asshole, such a jerk, well now I'm mad! I'm mad Luke! I'm mad!"
ME: (busts out laughing uncontrollably) "You're mad?" (laughing harder) "Thanks for letting me know." (snicker)
HER: "But...I'm mad...don't joke..." (giggling) "I'm just so..." (more giggling) "...mad at you, you asshole...stop laughing..." (giggle)
ME: (mock offended) "I'm not an asshole!"
HER: (still giggling) "Yes you are, you asshole!"

Yeah, it ended well. This happened a while ago.

As to Dr. Sexson's mention of Shakespearean insults, I have two comments:
1) My girlfriend bought me "Shakespearean Insult Gum." So awesome. Gum and Shakespearean insults go together surprisingly and hilariously well.
2) I have a copy of a wonderful book, Filthy Shakespeare by Pauline Kiernan, that is full of sexual puns found in Shakespeare's plays. It will give you a very descriptive idea of what was meant when Dr. Sexson said Shakespeare could be "obscene."

Monday, March 2, 2009

Love--Part 3

Comments on class:

Since obscene actions happen less and less off stage, can we change the B to an N?

"Love is not having what you desire," or something similar was said today. Socrates said that love was desire, and desire doesn't exist when you have what you want. Love is far from just desire. Lust is desire. But not love. I'm not saying that desire can't lead to and be a part of love, but it is far from all of it, far from the most important part. Desire can certainly be an aspect. I desire my girlfriend. Most of you probably instantly took that as in a physical sense, and that is part of it. She's pretty, what can I say :) But that isn't what I want most. I desire her mind. The thought-provoking conversations are wonderful. Talking about the big things and sharing our thoughts. I desire her sense of humor, and her really lame jokes. And her smiles, I desire those mroe than almost anything. Thing is, I have everything I desire, but I love her more than ever. I'm going to straight up say what I know a few of you want to: Socrates was wrong!

As to Dr. Sexson's revelation that people weren't really fused initially, and then split to find their other half, I have this to say: I had the scars from this separation, right up there in my mind and my heart, till I found the matching ones. Aristophones was dead right. Just because the fusions wasn't literal doesn't mean Aristophones' lovely little fable isn't true in the less physical realm. I sure feel it is.

It was so sad that only one person got to explain that they had seen someone beautiful. I had such a happy answer picked out!