Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Lanval by Marie de France Discussion

I read Lanval in its entirety and throughly enjoyed it. I found it very similar to Sir Gawain and the Green Knight however reading it was much easier to handle that the other. Lanval is a great love story and it depicts the steps of courtly love.
1. Attraction to the lady
2. Worship of the lady from afar
3. Declaration of passionate devotion
4. Rejection by the lady
5. Renewed oath of virtue
5. unsatisfied desire
6. Heroic deeds of valor
7. Consummation of the secret love
8. Endless adventures avoidingdetection
In Lanval, the knight fell in love with the most beautiful faerie maiden in the land and she superceded the beauty of the queen. He was chosen because of his valor by the maiden and she told him that he was to conceal his love for her and never tell nayone or he would never see her ever agin. He argued with the queen because the queen was "hitting" on him and he accidentally told her that he was in love with a maiden that was far more beautiful that she ever was. The queen was very upset and told the king a lie in order to kill Lanval, but at the end of the story, the maiden came to the rescue of Lanval and showed herself to the king in order to free Lanval from getting hurt. When she left the town, he followed her and left with her. "Lanval made his leap, at full speed, up behind her, unto her steed, with her hes gone to Avalon, or say so the poets of Breton".
Both of these stories involve the use of courtly love and both of these stories involve King Aurthur and the Knights of the Round Table.

The Wife of Bath Discussion

1. This tale is trying to convey the message of authority. This tale is intertwined with the message of who is the authority in a marriage. According to this tale, the wife is the authority and takes control in a marriage. I kind of like this kind of control, sometimes.

2. If I had to cast an actress from today to play her, I would choose Kathy Bates. This is the first person that came to my mind when I read the tale and knew I had to answer this question. The reason I chose her is because the kind of roles that she plays is more of an authoritarian , womanizing role. She is not the most beautiful woman and she is similar to the character in the tale in her presentation. I keep thinking about the movie the Titanic and she played the boisterous rich widow who was on the cruise because she had nothing better to do. This parallels the Wife of Bath because they are similar in character and physique and they own alot of land and riches due to thier dead husbands. And if I remeber correctly, they were both married many time in the movie and the tale. Like I answered in the prologue discussion, I like the way that Chaucer develops his characters and describes them, it almost makes them real and easy to put a face from today to it.

3. Marriage is inferior to polygamy, therefore, it is OK to have many wives. In the Wife of Bath, it seems Ok to the characters as long as the woman is widowed first, then she may remarry again. Sexuality is a big part of this tale and according to the characters, it is a big part of marriage, because as long as you please your husband until he gives you all he has, when at that point it is not necessary to please him anymore, sex is important. Women are superior to men and they are the authority according to this tale.

The Prologue Discussion

1. The Canterbury Tales are a collection of stories by Geoffrey Chaucer that is told by a group of pilgrims on a pilgrimage from Southwark to Canterbury. The pilgrims were going to visit the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket at the Cathedral. The themes of the tales involve courtley love, treachery, avarice, deception, lust, sexuality, marriage, and they describe the traits and faults of these vises in human nature.

2. Chaucer approaches the topics of marriage, fidelity, religion, and economics through a mixture of humor, satire, humiliation of the characters and through the general faults of human nature.

3. The most captivating part of the prologue is the attention to the detail that Chaucer gave to each one of his characters. The desciptions make for a realistic imagination of how we see the character today. You can almost imagine someone you know fitting the parts of each of these characters and this is the most intreguing part of reading these tales. I found that I had a hard time putting them down once I had started to read them. Subsequently, my husband really enjoyed reading these when he was in school and would like to read them again, thanks to this class.

Happy Halloween to the class - please read...

As anyone who knows me can tell you, I've always been a huge fan of Medieval History. I have a large collection of Medieval weaponry, tons of books on the subject - basically it's my biggest hobby. So now that I have a 2 year old son, I couldn't resist passing my love of all-things-Medieval on to him. He's already fascinated by the dragon books and other magical stuff we have around the house, and this year his Halloween costume followed suit. For a little laugh (and a little fun in our studious class), I invite you to check out my little guy (his name is Dane) at the link below. Happy Halloween, everyone!



Monday, October 30, 2006

Module 3 (Chaucer): Mini-essay

A comparison of the Pardoner's Tale and the Nun's Priest's Tale:

It is appropriate that the Nun’s Priest’s tale is told to us immediately following the Pardoner’s tale, as the significant differences between the two mark a shift of mood in Geoffrey Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales”. While the Pardoner’s story is told with a more serious tone, creating an eerie mood and telling of three wicked men plotting to steal gold that is not theirs, the Nun’s Priest’s tale is reminiscent of a child’s Sunday School story featuring humanized barnyard animals as the main characters.

The contrast between each story’s teller as an individual is interesting to note as well. The Pardoner, an admittedly corrupt and thieving man himself, presents his story of treachery as if he takes it very seriously. In fact, true to the fake presentation he always performs in his travels, he even finishes his parable by asking the group for contributions (even after revealing to his fellow pilgrims that the relics he carries are false). The Nun’s Priest, however, is not presented to us in great detail as a character, so we are left to draw our own conclusions about what kind of person he is through the writing. Chaucer’s treatment of his tale seems to suggest he looks upon the Nun’s Priest with less disdain than the Pardoner, and that he may be a more intelligent, humble man.

From a literary standpoint, the Nun’s Priest’s tale is also more biting satire of Chaucer’s time than that of the Pardoner. The Pardoner’s tale is told primarily to emphasize the ironic differences between the Pardoner’s holy occupation and who he is as a man. But the second story told by the Priest has far wider scope, lampooning the overly dramatic style that was typical of romance stories of the time. Not only is the concept of talking animals ridiculous, but are we really supposed to believe that a simple barnyard rooster would dream of his own death at the fox’s hands and discuss it at length with his hen-wife? Considering the courtly, romantic love stories that were common to the era, Chaucer does an excellent job of poking fun at this genre while also delivering a the solid moral of never trusting a flatterer (in this case, the fox whose jaws Chanticleer narrowly escapes).

This is not to say there are not some similarities between the two tales. While the Pardoner is shown to be a very sinful man, there are also elements of the Priest’s tale that suggest he is not the purest of heart for his vocation. Considering Pride is one of the seven deadly sins in his religion, his description of the rooster’s beauty and the admiration he seems to convey of the rooster are not typical of a man who should treasure life’s simplicity. He also goes into considerable detail about the polygamous relationship and courtly love rituals Chanticleer has with his seven hen-wives, most notably Pertelote. One line, describing a sexual marathon between the couple (“He feathered Pertelote full many a time, and twenty times he trod her ere ‘twas prime.”) is certainly not the subject matter one would expect from a man of the cloth.

Module 3 (Chaucer): The Wife of Bath

1. What message is this tale trying to convey?

Contrary to the male-dominated mindset of the time, the Wife of Bath asserts that a woman's sexual and mental control over her husband is the key to gaining his submissive obedience. To add credibility to her claim, she quotes several passages of Scripture. Her tale establishes her as a self-proclaimed authority on marriage (due primarily to her 5 marriages since the age of 12 and many affairs besides). The main message we are sent is that women can truly obtain complete control of the men in their lives by exercising their sexuality.

2. Imagine you had to cast a current actress to play herr; who would you pick and why?

I gave this considerable thought and finally arrived at Madonna. Not only has Madonna personally made a career out of her sexuality and power over her male audience, but on a more superficial note the fact that both she and the Wife of Bath have a gap in their teeth makes this role PERFECT for her. Madonna is also at the perfect stage of her life to portray this role. A younger Madonna lacked the "experience" conveyed to us in Chaucer's story. But the 21st century Madonna has almost become a real-life portrait of the character. Just as with the Wife of Bath, Madonna has been scorned by others for the number of men she's kept, exerted tremendous sexual confidence to bend men to her will, and has become quite rich in the process. Life truly does imitate art.

3. What is Chaucer's position on marriage (if we can assume this tale presents it)?

If this tale gives us Chaucer's take on marriage, it would seem he is against the institution as a whole. Still, the way the Wife of Bath tells her story, she seems to believe that marriage is necessary (if only as a mechanism women can use to control men). Perhaps Chaucer felt that women and men need eachother for mutual gain, but ultimately nothing resembling "true love" is the result. He almost portrays marriage as a contest of dominance between the sexes - men must endeavor to please their wives, while women continually craft new, challenging ways to be pleased.

Module 3 (Chaucer): The Prologue

1. What is the point of the Cantebury Tales?

The point of this tale is to offer different social commentary on Chaucer's time from the perspectives of very different characters. Through the fables and stories each character tells, we not only receive life lessons, but are also able to contrast the morals taught with the person(s) telling them. This reveals many different human characteristics such as honor (in the Knight's case), hypocrisy (as in the Pardoner's tale) and even hints of sexual promescuity (as with the Wife of Bath).

2. How do you think Chaucer will approach topics like marriage, fidelity, religion, economics? Are there any hints in the text? if so, what are they?

Initially, with the beauty and grace used to describe the Spring season they are entering as well as the pilgrimage itself to the holy place of Canterbury, I thought Chaucer might be very gentle in his treatment of marriage, fidelity and religion. But early in the Prologue we are given hints that Chaucer holds a certain contempt for people of the cloth. The Prioress is a nun, but she seems more occupied by keeping up the appearances and behavior of royalty. The Friar and the Monk characters are blatently corrupt and are almost proud to say so. Later in the story, the Pardoner happily reveals the false nature of the relics he carries, yet still asks for contributions from the group as if it's a part of his "script" he cannot avoid.

3. What is most captivating about this piece?

The Prologue of the Canterbury Tales stands apart from other stories (even ones in more modern times) because of the tremendous detail we're given about its characters. Just as much of this story is spent describing minute details of each character as is spent telling their individual tales. As one example, Chaucer spends a significant amount of time describing the Prioress's table manners and how regally she behaves. He also makes specific mention of how she interacts with her pets. All of these elements come together to create a very realistic character that the reader can identify with. This detail is also found in his description of other characters (the Squire's young, handsome appearance; the loud, ringing bells of the Monk's bridle; etc.). I personally feel this is why this story has survived so strongly through the ages. We're planted firmly among the group's members, and the realism of their portrayal allows us to connect with them as real people.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Defending the Defense of Grendel's Mother

But is Grendel's mother really evil?
Or is this hearsay? (sorry, a bad oral tradition joke)
That is, I question whether she is truly wicked
or the victim of subjective labeling
because she is 'different'.
Aside of avenging her son, it seems that this
(possible) warriorqueen was pretty much minding
her own business.
Actually, according to societal norms of the time,
as sole remaing kin she is compelled to take revenge.
In some ways, I feel she is just as heroic as Beowulf -
and a lot more humble.

The Defense of Grendel's Mother...

I just have to put this out there... I found the Defense of Grendel's Mother assignment pretty difficult. It wasn't the reading, or the writing, but the premise. I think most of us tend to pretty clearly define what's right and what's wrong, and having to defend the purely evil mother of a murdering monster was a challenge. Personally, I don't truly believe a lot of the defenses I put forward in my essay, but I've known some attorneys in my life and I'm sure many have defended people they knew were 100% guilty. I'm not complaining, quite the contrary - I enjoyed having to fight my personal instincts and defend something purely evil. Thank you for the challenge, it's always good to step outside of yourself from time to time and try something new. But did anyone else in class have the same challenge? Just figured I'd open it for discussion.

Reese Badman

(I know what some of you are thinking, how does a guy with the last name "BADMAN" have trouble defending evil???)

Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Lady of Shallot letter

Now, here's a bit of doggerel...no disrespect intended.

"To the noble lord, Sir Lancelot,
I left heart and home for Camelot
'Twas your love and lands that I sought
But, by the wicked mirror's plot
Between wide worlds I was caught
I pray thee, sir, forget me naught.
Your humble Lady of Shallot"

Saturday, October 14, 2006

What I have read

I enjoy reading, although I haven't always been able to say that. In high school, which ended for me about 15 years ago, I was supposed to have read a few plays by Shakespeare, and Chaucer sounds familiar, but I wasn't very good about getting my work done back then. For most of my teens and early twenties, I was more into Stephen King. Fortunately, these days I am a much better student and really appreciate a great book. I still have a lot of trouble reading Shakespeare, although I have seen some on the stage and really enjoy the comedies. My reading interests now are primarily based in non-fiction, although I actually have been reading in the last couple of years some American classics like Catcher in the Rye and Slaughterhouse Five because I have been interested in catching up with the great stories that I should have been reading way back when. I have a book of Poe's works, but I only have a chance to pick it up occassionally. I could name many great books I have read in the past few years, however, I still don't have much experience reading any British authors and I am sure that this course will help broaden the scope of my reading.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

what i have read

In high school I read some plays by Shakespeare. They are Julius Ceasar, Romeo and Juliet, and A Midsummers Night Dream. I've read many stories by Edgar Allen Poe. Also I have read The Iliad, The Odyssey, Aeneid, and Oedipus. That's about it. Good luck to every one!!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Brit Lit Blog

A short and spotty resume of my experiece with British literature would probably begin with somewhat cryptic nursery rhymes followed by Mary Poppins, Oliver Twist, and Alice and Wonderland.
More formally, in elementary school we read "The Odyssey of Homer" and, as a special project, I tried interpreting Yeat's unsettling poem, "The Second Coming". In junior and senior high schools - which was a long, long, time ago - I do remember anaylzing two rather joyless pieces: Dicken's "Great Expectations" and Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice" (just what one needs in adolescence - more angst).
Over the years, I have seen and enjoyed many of Shakespeare's plays and recently particpated in a poetry class which examined his sonnets, along with pieces by Donne, Cooleridge, and Wordsworth. Interestingly, I do not recall studying Beowulf or Chaucer.
Recreationally, I have read several postmodern authors, including Woolfe, Golding Burges, Huxley , and Orwell. Admittedly, I am a bit of an anglophile and have often wondered how a small country like England fostered such a wealth of outstanding artists.

What have I read

I have read some Shakespere, some in High School, can't exactly remember what it has been so long. I just read The Tempest for my Intro to Drama class. I also read The Canterbury Tales in High School, again so long ago that I don't remember which tales. I took Brit Lit II last semester, so lots of old british poetry.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Authors :)

I've read a lot of British authors so far. I read Shakespeare and Chaucer along with many others. Most of my Biritsh reading was done in high school, so I don't remember all of the titles of work. Although, I have read a good percent of the stories that we will cover in this class.

I'm interested in forming a study group. The only problem is that I'm not close to the LCCC Main Campus. I'm actually in NJ but would be willing to travel to the Allentown area. I've created a personal blog that tells a little more about me which includes my email address (I think it's in my profile) if anyone else is interested in a study group.

Best of luck to everyone in the class!