CPB Reflection for 3/27/20
The Picture of Dorian Gray
This week, I read a few commonplace book entries from my classmates: Jen, Paige, and Caitlyn. When comparing them to my own, I found there seemed to be a central topic/idea that all of us found to be intriguing and include in our books. Most of our entries included a deep focus and character analysis of Dorian Gray himself. The most pressing idea found in these entries was this quote from the novel about “the terrible pleasure of a double life” in relation to Dorian Gray. It seems that this concept of a double life is proving to be a common theme within this novel and within other gothic novels in the genre (for example, when viewing Dr. Jekyll as having a double life as Mr. Hyde). Viewing the possible monster as having a double life creates a few more questions. If the monster lives a double life, does this mean there are two monsters? Or, instead, do both lives represent a good and an evil? It might seem right to consider Dr. Jekyll as good and Mr. Hyde as evil, but does it make sense in Dorian’s case with himself and the portrait being two separate lives? Is Dorian “good” in any life of his? Does viewing the monster, for example, Dorian, as having two separate lives release any of the blame towards him? In other words, would he be able to blame his evil behavior on his “other self”? However, this just leads back to my earlier question of whether there is even any good in Dorian to use in his defense.
CPB Reflection for 4/3/20
Overall, the entries that I saw this week proposed a lot of questions in my mind. I noticed that many of the entries focused on this idea of Egyptian culture as a possible theme within the novel. For example, Jen’s entry included a lot of artwork and commentary about the Egyptian culture from the same time period as The Beetle was written. Caitlyn had an entry with critical commentary about the novel, entitled, “English Interest and Involvement in Egypt.” So, my question here is, what was going on during this time period that striked such an interest in the Egyptian world? Why is this Egyptian character in The Beetle so intriguing? Additionally, both Jen and I mentioned the idea of Victorian anxieties that inspired the plot of The Beetle. Both of our entries pulled a quote from the commentary included in the Broadview edition of our novel about the historical, cultural, and political fears that arose during this time and shaped literature. This makes me think about Paige’s response to my discussion question posed in our forum this week. I had asked about this idea of duality within gothic novels, and Paige referenced the idea of fear being the monster of these stories. It seems that these anxieties are not only representative of the people in the novel, but also those outside of it. I think that this idea of anxiety or fear is a large theme in every one of our course texts so far. My question here is: What is it that people fear? What exactly is considered “fearsome” or “anxiety-provoking” in these novels?
CPB Reflection for 4/10/20
As the commonplace book is meant to do, most of the entries I reviewed this week helped to contextualize this novel in the time period it was written in. For example, Jen’s entries covered a lot about the topic discussed by Professor Frank this week, early examples of the English Vampire. Jen covered a wide range of instances where the figure of the literary vampire occurred, covering some of the ones Professor Frank mentioned as well. Personally, before reading and hearing about these examples, when I heard the word “vampire” in literature, I immediately turned to Dracula as the best example. However, after learning a little more about Byron and Polidori, for example, I am able to see that this figure of the vampire appearing in literature was present before Stoker wrote his novel.
Additionally, both Caitlyn and Jen’s entries included images or videos from the film adaptations of the novel. I touched on both the 1931 and 1958 versions in my commonplace book, and I saw that Caitlyn included these posters, and Jen included actual clips from the adaptations. I thought this was important to analyze, as we can see how different directors or producers were able to execute the storyline in slightly different ways. As for the posters for these films, I found that this revealed what each producer/filmmaker found to be most intriguing about the story. The 1931 film’s poster focused on the idea of Dracula preying on women and portrayed an image of them caught in his “web,” while the 1958 poster focused on the scariness and uncomfortable feeling the story will give viewers. So, analyzing these elements from an advertising stand point, it tells us something about our culture and what would make people want to view these films. My question is, why is this gothic genre, as a whole, so fascinating for readers/viewers, when it makes us feel so uncomfortable? Is that the beauty of it? Why is it that such a “dark” genre is so successful? What can that tell us about what we are interested in, as a society?
CPB Reflection for 4/17/20
I found that this week, the entries that I read were scattered, and I encountered a variety of topics. While my entries particularly focused on an analysis of Dracula himself, Paige touched on Mina’s character, Caitlyn discussed the gothic genre as a whole, and Jen included a lot of psychological analysis, such as information on the unconscious mind (Freud). This just proves all of the different pieces of this novel that my peers find interesting, and that I continue to learn about. Particularly, I will focus on Jen’s post about the psychological aspects within this novel, because I will be able to draw in some of my own thoughts and Caitlyn’s entries on the gothic genre. Jen’s entry included commentary and a diagram about the unconscious mind. Specifically, as I did in past entries, and how Franco Moretti did here, it allows us to link Frankenstein and Dracula. When analyzing both of these texts, we find that an unconscious fear of ours is that in which affects our family, “A sociological analysis of Frankenstein and Dracula reveals that one of the institutions most threatened by the monsters is the family” (438). It seems that the plot of these novels seems to threaten and target family. As Freud explains, this fear was most likely placed in our unconscious mind by our conscious mind. Additionally, Caitlyn discusses the gothic genre as including certain details that make readers feel uneasy, such as certain places that are viewed as threatening. This is entirely linked to the concepts Freud discusses, such as the connection between fear and desire – it intrigues us as readers. This also reminds me of Cohen’s 6th thesis, “Fear of the Monster is Really a Kind of Desire.” All of this leads me to the following question: How does Stoker feed off of these cravings (from readers) for fear and desire in this novel? It seems that fear and desire could be considered opposite feelings; one drives us away from wanting to know more, and one keeps us wanting more, so how can an author achieve both of these? How does Stoker do it?
CPB Reflection for 4/22/20
My comment on Caitlyn’s blog…
Caitlyn, I have been following your CPB for some time now, and I just recently looked over your entries again. I have noticed some trends within your entries; however, I’ve also noticed your use of a wide variety of sources and material (you’ve touched on several different viewpoints/lenses). It is evident that, like my entries, you were interested in mostly medical, science, and/or social critiques and contexts about the readings. You included several sources that revealed something about the time period of the novel, whether this was a medical discovery/analysis, or a more social critique. I found, throughout this whole process, that our entries were quite similar. Also, you included several quotes from the novel that revealed your focus on certain characters (Paige did this, too). I am particularly interested/fascinated by the way you organized your entries because it made this whole process feel a lot more authentic. I found that several of your entries came from The British Library and the commentary located in our novels. Reviewing your entries has caused me to wonder, what does the way in which you organized your book (meaning, how you physically kept a CPB), say about you?
My comment on Paige’s blog…
Paige, I’ve been keeping up with your entries each week, and after just reviewing them once again, I’ve noticed some trends. I think the biggest thing that interested you throughout your entries was the novel itself. Most of your entries were filled with direct quotations from the novel, and even some analysis of your own. I think this shows your curiosity to work with the text and attempt to grasp what it is saying. You also seemed to include a lot of visual entries, possibly showing the type of media you are drawn towards. Personally, I found myself to also enjoy these visual entries because that is the learning style I prefer most. As for topics, I noticed that most of your entries were based on a certain character and providing quotes that attempt to analyze these characters further. I was interested by your use of Google images, as I noticed that a lot of your images came from here; I did not think to utilize Google, but you seemed to find some good photos from this search. Your entries make me question, how does this passion of yours to analyze characters translate into something reflective of you? In other words, you seem to focus on the characters and their development, so what does this mean about you?