Memo to Self...

Thursday, September 27, 2001

Amer. Lit: We discussed Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, and Jean Toomer. The past coupla days we've been watching "Long Day's Journey Into the Night," which is FANTASTIC, so I haven't felt a need to Blog it. These notes are very disjointed, but essentially Hughes was an un-Modernist Modernist, McKay Modernist in themes but not in style, and Toomer in both themes and style. Toomer, BTW, writes VERY cool stuff.
Lesse what I can pluck out of this...our Prof. started to use some questions of Modernism to compare the three authors.
1. What to make of a diminished thing?
-Modernist sense that civ. was going down the tubes; take what exists and make something better out of it.
Hughes: uses a non-traditional form to change shape of poetry, bring to it a new rhythm and structure. Also proclaims justice on his side.
McKay: Shouldn't try to cover flaws, but look for what there is to love and value. Simultaneously hates treatment ofd him, but still finding a way to turn it to his advantage. Tradtional form for non-traditional ideas--rejection of the cultural monument of Shakespeare (since he uses a Shakespearian sonnet). Hatred-->personal strength.
Toomer: Fragmentation and connecting ideas. Cane's gone back looking for roots. Follows modernists in with fragmentation, moving towards a cultural wholeness and unity, drawing fragments up together. Blends literary forms very well.
2. How to make it "new"?
Hughes: Musical and speech aspect. Brings jazz into poetry.
Toomer: Images and fragments, all oddly imagist. Uses "voicelessness" as well. "Fern" exists as someone whose looked at, and she's never allowed to speak for herself. By the end, still important, but only wants to give to her something for himself. To make him feel more complete.
McKay: Attitude towards U.S.; using a very traditional verse form and takes over traditional language, grants that *authority* to his poetry.
4 (since we didn't answer some of them). How or where do we find meaning for our fragmented existence?
Hughes: Finds meaning in tomorrow, looks into the future to see hope for change, something to live for.
McKay: Fighting for the present to make the future.
Toomer: Finding life and the focused movements in fragments.

Writing Fiction: More plot stuff. Where does one get a plot from?
Borrow a plot from life--in this case, take the core of those instances and run free! and wild! with it.
Work backwards from climax--find your turning point, and then make up stuff that flows into it.
Work forward from an intial situation, which is what we've been working with. Start with a conflict, and then run it to the climax.

More Gardner--short story vs. novella vs novel.
Short story is 30,000 words or less. Novella is 30,000 to 50,000 words. Novel is, then, 50,000 words plus.
A short story is one single peak, one climax.
A novella has more conflict and a few more climaxes.
A novel is a sort of combination--more conflicts, but often one big climax and maybe a coupla smaller ones.
A novella is a tone poem, a novel is a symphony.

Epiphany (Joyce! My man, JOY-CE!): a moment of realization; large or small, it's a sudden moment of awareness, when all of a sudden, the light from heaven falls and either angels sing or devils cackle. It's like a light bulb being turned on. To quote the movie "Hook" about such things, "Lightning...has struck my brain." These are the "small" climaxes, or the antecedents to a climax. A character can either accept or reject their epiphany.

David Hartley and his psychology:
When two things are linked--say, chocolate and happiness--the next time chocolate comes up, it'll bring a murmur of happiness of some sort. First impressions are really important, and these connections feed on each other in the piece.