Friday, September 28, 2012

Disillusionment in Joyce's "Araby" - A Posting by Students Dan C., David R., & Caitlin W.

"The syllables of 'Araby' were called to me through the silence in which my soul luxuriated and cast an Eastern enchantment over me."

Some Thoughts on "Araby" by Dan C., David R., and Caitlin W.

"Araby" concerns the infatuation of a young boy with the girl next door, yet mirrors a heroic monomyth more than it does a simple romance. The boy, our narrator, does not describe Mangan’s sister beyond her “white... neck” and “brown figure” nor does he even tell us her name. This story shows the boy’s epiphany at discovering, perhaps, his own sexuality and attraction to someone he had not previously thought of in that manner. For this reason he is unable to describe her very well; he is only able to say that he is in love with her and cannot even really explain why himself. The lack of description implies a sort of transient, immature love - this is definitely his first. His love is of the idealized, youthful form - he says “O love!” to himself over and over and cries without knowing why, perhaps showing that he is emotionally developing. At the same time that he makes this discovery, he also makes the discovery that he is too paralyzed by various factors in his life to be in love. For one thing, he nearly does not make it to Araby because of his Catholic aunt; he also has too little money to buy anything of value; finally, the bustling bazaar that he had pictured is in reality a small, quiet affair. Perhaps then disillusionment is the story’s theme - after all, the narrator cannot stop thinking about Mangan’s sister and how great it will be to win her heart, but realizes by the end that his quest was for naught. He may not have realized the general immaturity of his infatuation, but it is likely that he will soon afterwards.

Questions to answer:
1. What would you have done were you in the narrator’s situation?
2. Do you think the narrator’s goal of buying a gift from the bazaar to endear himself to Mangan’s sister realistic? In other words, does he actually have a chance of getting in a relationship with Mangan’s sister? Does he understand what constitutes a relationship?
3. Are there factors outside of the narrator’s control, excluding those that prevent him from buying a gift, that keep him from loving Mangan’s sister?
4. While Dubliners’ main themes are considered to be epiphany and paralysis, Araby seems to show disillusionment as well. Could this be considered a third theme?

What good company we are!

Yesterday we at Greenhill took some time to review the six stories we've read as a group--Araby, Eveline, After the Races, Two Gallants, A Little Cloud, and A Painful Case. We wanted to give you a sense of the spirit of our class--including the music & humor.

Click here to enjoy, and at your earliest convenience, please respond.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Eveline and the Issue of Change - Presented by Students Maren M., Taryn S., and Lejla K.

By Taryn, Lejla, and Maren 

During a discussion over "Eveline" earlier this week one of our classmates mentioned that Eveline is not so much afraid of making decisions as she is of change. After rereading the story we realized that Eveline has had a number of traumatic "changes" in her life, including the deaths of her mother and her favorite brother. The one potentially positive change in her life was Frank, although the reader, along with Eveline, is not sure whether or not they can trust Frank to keep his promises once they leave Dublin. Maybe if Eveline was more confident in her feelings for Frank, she would have been less afraid of the dramatic change he would cause in her life. 
As far as we could tell, the only time Eveline described her feelings for Frank was with the phrase "pleasantly confused" which is not the phrase one should use to describe the feelings you have for someone you are going to marry. Ultimately, Eveline's problem does not stem from her inability to defy her father, she had, after all, continued to meet with Frank after her father refused to allow her to see him again, but her inability to trust herself to make the right decision when a drastic change to her life is involved. After so many negative changes in her life, some of which she may wrongfully blame herself for, Eveline's ability to make decisions had been "paralyzed" by events outside of her control. 
Joyce even goes as far as to state "everything changes" within the story and since Joyce was never one to waste words, we can only assume that this phrase represents a major theme of "Eveline." Although he does not allow Eveline to specifically state how she feels about change, we feel that her decision to not leave with Frank at the conclusion of the story shows that she feels like she cannot bring herself to trust the change in her life that she so desperately wanted. 
Questions for readers:
-Do you agree with our conclusion about why Eveline could not leave Dublin? 
-Do you think Eveline returned home from the docks or did she go somewhere else?
-Do you think the story reflects Joyce's view of women? And what is that view?
-Is Frank a real prospect of change? Or is he just another man that will potentially try to control her?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Mr. Garza, Hockaday, Araby, and Eveline

And Mr. Garza, both I and my students thank you for all you added to the conversation, especially the challenging questions you repeatedly raised. I am sure Socrates, somewhere, was smiling! We all learned much from you, and, as a teacher, I thoroughly enjoyed the dialogue between you and my students as well as between you and me. What fun!

As Mr. Garza points out, one dynamic of the conversation arose from the philosophical base from which my students (and I) are approaching these texts, given the necessity of doing so in this Literature and Philosophy course and where Dubliners naturally falls in the calendar of the curriculum. However, another dynamic (in my view) was that the students, as young women, were reading these texts as women, meaning they read as resistant readers of a male text, seeking subtexts that made sense to them as women.

I saw this in their analysis of “Araby,” showing a reluctance to understand the young boy's infatuation with Mangan's sister as an encounter with "Love" in the terms Plato offers (sometimes) as an experience of Enlightenment in the Forms. As you point out, Mr. Garza, many students did see the boy as immersed in the world of the particulars, and if I heard them right, they also wondered to what extent he objectified the girl to suit his needs. Not as silent as I might have been, I'm sure I encouraged this view in that his idealization of her seemed to fill his own needs more than do anything to understand her. As Mr. Garza points out, however, his “love” of her might be the first rung on Diotima's ladder, and if we want to invoke the chariot metaphor, perhaps we can understand his infatuation as his soul's reminder of its original "life" in the Forms, so that in experiencing her he is "remembering" what he already knew. Finally, I think these Hockaday students were a bit suspicious of his experiences in that they saw this young guy as still in the Cave, duped by shadows. Mangan's sister was just Mangan's sister, but he thrust upon her a construction of (religious) representations rather than seeing her as who she is (whatever that might mean).

As for "Eveline," I'm not so sure the Hockaday students felt that Frank was the door to freedom--in spite of the rhetoric of his name, to which Mr. Garza called attention, balancing the conversation in doing so. Speaking for my students (I hope) and definitely for myself, the fact might be that Joyce understands Frank as a way out of Eveline’s stifling world full of duty, but for her the trip with Frank might have just been a step into another world where her duties are merely to another man, not her father but her husband. Is this freedom? Those seas that "tumble her heart" signal to her "he would drown her," suggesting that she fears an obliteration of the self in spite of Frank’s good intentions.

Whether these interpretations derive from text or subtext I'm not sure, for certainly Joyce, presenting these stories, distrusts love as an escape from the particulars of life. If we might imagine love can release us from the Caves of our lives in the phenomenal world, we are doomed for disappointment. While Plato might suggest that Eros can lead to the numenal world of Beauty and Truth, Plato blindly discounts the power relationships that are part of lived experience between men and women--and this power relationship might be something Joyce reveals -- in spite of himself. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

An Encounter--visiting Hockaday on behalf of Greenhill

As a kind of practice for Oakridge's colloquium in February, Mr. Colley, Dr. Moreland and I have tried to get interschool dialogue started now about Joyce's Dubliners. This morning, I visited Dr. Moreland's philosophy and literature class and, although I thought I knew the stories well, I was energized and challenged by the philosophical readings that Hockaday's students brought to the conversation.

I brought with me from Greenhill's students a few questions related to "Araby" and "Eveline". Echoing the colloquium’s prompts, our concerns relate both to the text and to our lives. As for the text, how precisely does Dublin paralyze these two would-be lovers (“Araby”’s quester, and Eveline)? Also, what if anything about Eveline has changed? As for our lives, we asked two things. First, what does one need to be truly free? (For example, can Eveline care for her family in Dublin and, in some meaningful way, be free?) Also, what is the relationship between love and self-control?

Immediately, Dr. Moreland sought to ground our terms in the material of her course. Which Platonic image of eros was borne out by the stories--the unwieldy horse of Phaedrus' chariot allegory (246a - 254e, link) or the transcendent ladder of Diotima (related in Symposium 210a-211b, link)? Clearly Araby's narrator views love in sacramental terms--see the chalice he bears, his confused adoration, his prayerfully murmurred "O love! O love!" Still, Hockaday students were reluctant to call the narrator a lover, or even a would-be lover. So exaggerated is his quest, so inappropriate is the object of his love, they argued, that he clearly allowing his chariot to be drawn by the wrong horse. In vowing to bring Mangan's sister some token from Araby, he grounds their not-yet-relationship (infatuation? crush?) in the world of the particulars, a purchase Socrates would advocate only under the condition that it served as the first rung on a ladder of transcending, true love of wisdom.

Similarly precise and Platonic was Hockaday's critique of Eveline. I do not remember a Phadrus-focused critique of her choices--perhaps they might have argued that it is the horse of reason that leads Eveline to keep her promise to her mother despite the crushing boredom, the physical danger, the shabby surroundings, the apparent friendlessness, etc. They were persuasive in suggesting that Eveline might not be in love either; instead "She had consented to go away, to leave her home." Hers is a tale of frustrated escape, not tragic loss of love.

After this conversation (which I have captured poorly, I'm afraid), Dr. Moreland and her students suggested two questions for reflection: Is eros a way out? Can one be saved? (See the interior monologue "Frank would save her. [...] He would save her.")

Thanks again to Dr. Moreland and her students. We look forward to your adding your own interpretive angle to these stories. Perhaps you've seen the film version of "The Dead" (IMDB link). Perhaps you would like to describe the role of faith in the stories, or the role of women, or some other angle not mentioned here.

We'd love to have you join the conversation.

Attention Oakridge and Hockaday Students: Here's a Link to Greenhill's Thought Pieces on "Araby" & "Eveline"

Via the link below, Greenhill's AP Lit students have provided some very insightful comments and insights on the stories, "Araby" & "Eveline." At the end of the document, there are four questions intended for both Hockaday and Oakridge students. Take a look; here's the link:

Greenhill Thought Pieces

Thanks again Mr. Garza, and thank you Greenhill students for stimulating such a fascinating conversation!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Symbolism in James Joyce's "Sisters"

I've decided to post periodically some comments, insights, and questions about the stories of Dubliners on the site over the next few weeks. I have personally crafted the following posting, but hopefully, students and fellow faculty colleagues will want to make some of the posts on other stories in the near future.

The Sisters

I reread “The Sisters” yesterday afternoon. My first thought was how Joyce’s writing in the story remains so controlled!  There is so much left unsaid in the boy’s tale, yet so much gets suggested as well. Of course, the story’s aura of suggestiveness predominantly centers around the figure of Father Flynn, the deceased Priest; It is here where we as readers locate the greatest concentration of textual richness and meaning, and it is the figure of the Priest, therefore, that deserves our closest reading.

The Priest haunts our story, yet his character has little “stage time” in the presented narrative. His image and his presence, however, remain in the text like an ever-looming specter. Death too as a concept saturates the text, enhancing its mood and theme, and all of it is being related by a boy who tells more than he realizes while withholding enough information to sustain the text’s suggestive mystery for the reader.

The text reveals much about Father Flynn: he is well-educated (the reference to his education in Rome), but he is from the poorer districts of Dublin (the reference to his old home in Irishtown). We might conclude, therefore, that he was a strikingly intelligent man who showed great academic and spiritual promise.  We also sense that he was a somewhat frustrated clergy member, dissatisfied perhaps with the routines of his parish-related duties (one can gather this most clearly by closely reading the comments of his sisters and other adults). We also know that he had contracted some kind of paralytic-related disease, which also seemed to cause significant mental instability as well (the reference to his state of laughter in the confession box). Many have speculated as to what his sickness may be - some positing syphilis, for instance, which leads to our final observation: it is suggested that the Priest is deeply ridden with feelings of guilt or remorse most likely due to some significant act of sin in his past; even the boy picks up on this fact if one recalls his troubling dream (also, references to the Priest’s need for rites, his odd visits to confession, his attachment to his prayer book, and his discussions about the hierarchy of sins with the boy all suggest his conscience-plagued torment).

Immediately when one begins reading commentary on this story, one detects the popular tendency to speculate the Priest’s background story - a concrete fact that Joyce intentionally leaves unsaid.  Although it would be wrong to pass this over in silence, I do think it less interesting - and perhaps misguided - to spend one’s time and mental energies trying to supply this ultimately unknown backstory. Ultimately, the Priest is less than a character in the story, but this does not make his presence any less meaningful. As said before, he consistently haunts the text and enhances the meaning of the story, but he seems to do so more as a symbol and less as a character. This is why speculation about the specifics of his sin remains less interesting than say unpacking the symbolic meaning his "character" embodies in the narrative.

The question, my readers, is the following: what does he symbolize? 

How is he as a symbol made more complex by all the "troubling" facts listed above?

How does the boy’s perspective of this symbolic character add complexity to the overall meaning of the symbol?

How does Old Cotter’s perspective of the Priest add to the symbol’s meaning?

What about the Sisters’ perspectives and why is the story named after seemingly minor characters?

Feel free to comment and enjoy the discussion!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Here's a Great Podcast that Focuses on "The Dead"

Thanks to Dr. Moreland of The Hockaday School, I recently discovered a wonderful online podcast that investigates one of the more daunting texts of the Dubliners collection, namely "The Dead."  Here's a direct quote from the site:

This audio podcast series showcases James Joyce's short story 'The Dead' from his collection 'Dubliners' and explores themes within the story drawing on scholarly research and connecting it with the archive collections in UCD, the National Library and the National Archives. The project is designed to draw users into further reading and research with both the original text and archival documents. Joyce's Dublin; An exploration of 'The Dead' has been commissioned by the Irish Virtual Research Library and Archive (IVRLA) at UCD and produced by Athena Media. The series is presented by Barry McGovern.

Here's the link:

Joyce's "The Dead" Podcast

Once again, thank you Dr. Moreland!!!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Even More Resources on Joyce!!

This summer, Gordon Bowker published a more recent biography on James Joyce. Here's an interesting article review of the book from the Economist:

Economist Review of latest Joyce biography

I haven't read this one, but the article perked my interest. (Also, this biography is only a measly 600 pages instead of 800!!). Enjoy!

James Joyce: A New Biography by Gordon Bowker
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2012
ISBN-10: 0374178720 ISBN-13: 978-0374178727

More Resources for Studying James Joyce’s Dubliners

Many thanks to Mr. Garza of Greenhill School for forwarding me links today for free online text and audio copies of Joyce’s stories! Here’s the link to free text copies of the stories (the resource provides helpful annotations as well...):
And here’s the link to download audio files of the stories:
Once again, thank you Mr. Garza!!
James Joyce’s Dubliners may be described as Joyce’s “most accessible” literary work, but that says more about late works such as Ulysses and Finnegan’s Wake than it does about Dubliners itself.  The stories are deceptively complex and can be difficult to make sense of at times. References to Irish history and culture, for instance, make this seemingly short book a great task for American 21st century readers. That’s why it’s good practice to pay close attention to annotations and footnotes provided by various scholarly editors. Here’s a few recommended editions that provide informative notes and some scholarly commentary for both the beginning and the advanced reader:

Joyce Annotated: Notes for Dubliners and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man 
Edited by Don Gifford, University of California Press, 1982 
ISBN-10: 0520046102 ISBN-13: 978-0520046108

Dubliners (Norton Critical Edition)
Edited by Margot Norris, W. W. Norton & Company, 2006
ISBN-10: 0393978516 ISBN-13: 978-0393978513

For the brave few that really want to dig deep in their research of Joyce’s life, I recommend the mammoth, biographical tome, James Joyce (Oxford Lives) by Richard Ellmann. The writer, R. Ellmann, is indisputably lauded as the authoritative biographer of Joyce. He was known for his studies of Oscar Wilde and William Butler Yeats as well, and his study of Joyce won the prestigious National Book Award in 1959. This one’s a great addition to any scholarly library.

James Joyce (Oxford Lives) by Richard Ellmann
Oxford University Press, 1983ISBN-10: 0195033817 ISBN-13: 978-0195033816