Thursday, February 4, 2016

"Jane Eyre" vs. "Wuthering Heights" and Other Literary Analytics

Yesterday I had the kind of soul nourishing conversation with a colleague friend that I so crave and cherish.  We are reading Hard Times together, and we talked about our fear of being those characters--who would want to be Mrs. Grandgrind or Bounderby?  Or any of those characters?

We then talked about Wuthering Heights which character in that book we'd like to be.  My friend voted for the servant, who knows everything.  I said I hated them all.  We then discussed my theory that the world can be divided between Wuthering Heights people and Jane Eyre people.  I am solidly in the Jane Eyre camp--give me solid sturdiness any day, over the characters in Wuthering Heights who run away with the man who murders their puppy.

We agreed that a man who hangs your puppy is giving you clear warning of what lies ahead (for more thoughts along these lines, see this blog post).

Our discussion then meandered to Shakespeare and our favorite plays.  I would have said that my favorite was Macbeth, but I was startled to realize how long it had been since I've actually read the play. 

Once I would have said that King Lear was my favorite, but now it terrifies me, that portrait of aging and the descent into madness on a rain-driven cragginess of earth.  My friend tried to console me by reminding me that I would never divide the kingdom.  We then laughed at imagining our department at work as a kingdom that no one would conspire to control.

The kingdom of paperwork and e-mails--perhaps I'll write a poem at some point.  This morning I wrote a poem based on these lines from yesterday's blog post:  "But the process of sending work out into the world is a kind of light seeking too.  Let my poems find a good home, where they will reflect the light of the creative work around them, where they will then go out in larger groups to bring light to readers."  I wrote a poem using images from the early church, the poems as the early apostles sent out into the world. 

But I digress.  Yesterday's conversation over tea delighted me in many ways, but I particularly loved to feel the literary analysis part of my brain firing again. 

Then it was off to do 2 faculty observations and then home much later than usual.  I decided to keep the critical faculties firing, and so I finished Maggie Nelson's The Argonauts.

I first wrote about this book in this blog post--I am happy to report that she does talk more openly about her spouse's gender transformations.  The book continued to inspire me to think about topics that don't normally occupy a large space in my brain anymore--at least not on a daily basis.

Once I did a lot more thinking about gender as a spectrum, about what's heteronormative and homonormative (although I wouldn't have used those terms), about how we can use our art to illuminate these issues.  This book was a bit like visiting my 30 year old self--it was both wonderful and sadness inducing.  I thought of friends who have been lost--both to death and household moves.  I thought of the critics I no longer read.  I thought of my daily work, which now involves much more constraints than it once did.

And yet, there are the consolations too, as Wordsworth told me long ago in "Tintern Abbey"--the consolations of having survived that turbulence of youth, the consolations of finding others who have rooted themselves in the same texts, the consolations of good conversations and a cup of tea.

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