245/1030: some narrative technique 

My main goal for this week is to begin drafting something, produce actual writing for the dissertation (and I’m kind of motivated because I’m going to need a 10 page sample for a workshop June 1), but in the meantime I’m still bogged down by old notes. 

Oh well. These notes are useful, because looking at what Bakhtin may mean with dialogism and what this discourse looks like prompted me to look up narrative technique. I’ve meant to do that for a while anyway, since the Germans are really into describing literature with narratology terms. 

In Deleuze and Guattari’s Thousand Plateaus (which I haven’t read yet, but I’m going to sound like I have), Bakhtin’s heteroglossia and dialogism  are presented as a kind of free-indirect discourse, which is one kind of representation of consciousness in writing. Free-indirect discourse is a mix between psychonarration and interior monologue where we have a dual voice of the narrator and the character whose thoughts are represented sometimes as relayed by the narrator and sometimes by his/her own “voice.” One could say that the mindstyle is replicated, even if the language is not always replicated. 

Ideas of replication and representation are worth challenging as they come up, but that’s the general idea. 

By having a solid understanding of what dialogism may look like in literature (there’s a lot of it in Modernist works in general  and Virginia Woolf in particular) I may be able to identify it more clearly in contemporary works and talk about it more clearly. 

I should probably write more than that, but I think I just od’ed on coffee. 

As a sort of non-sequitur: My Dr.. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde post from over a year ago, which wasn’t even a real good essay, keeps getting looked at by readers. Maybe I should try and write more essays about famous works? Or not. I mean, I don’t really have time for that, but it would be interesting to begin applying relevant theory to popular works of literature. 


241/1030: Theories of the Novel and some reflection

I’ve lost some steam again in posting here everyday, but I’m still somehow working at least 4/7 days for a PhD, so I’m feeling pretty good about that. 

Having an office space to go to has been motivating, since I always go with at least 3 hours to work there and can’t leave unless I’ve gotten done my mini goal for the day, though I don’t think I’ll meet my main goal for this week: I want to actually get to drafting something. Instead, I’m still slogging through all the material I’ve collected, and keep getting distracted by other texts connected to what I’m currently trying to read, and I am lucky when I write something in my notes that finds a cohesion between ideas that can be used for my diss. So far, it’s just a lot of fragements, as the menu on the left of the image may demonstrate. Still, yesterday I figured out a possible organization by starting with the focus on the subject/individual in literature, and then moving to the novel, and then moving to Bakhtin. 

I wish I had more of these breakthroughs. 

Part of the problem is that it takes a huge chunk of uninterrupted time to get to some breakthroughs. For example, yesterday I finally (after paperwork, helping someone, chores, errands, workout) made it to the office by 1500. My soft goal was 3 hours, but I found myself finishing the last of annotations for my 2014/15 notes and didn’t want to leave before I’d done that. Of course, the first 1.5 hours, I was looking for distraction in my emails and WordPress, so had I been more efficient with my time, I may have left at 1800. Still, after spending 2 solid hours actually working with my notes is when I was able to make the connection I did above. This pattern is usual for me, and I know this is my writing habit, but I can’t wait to devote all my time to PhD work rather than half the day (when I’m lucky) as I am now. October 2017 is going to be awesome. 

In other news, as far as theories of the novel are concerned, I was surprised to see that Georg Lukács, whose “The Ideology of Modernism” I reread for today, was also interested in the Novel as a genre and form, and that Bakhtin may have actually been informed by Lucács in his own writings about the novel. Galin Tihanow in The Master and the Slave: Lucács, Bakhtin, and the Ideas of their Time (2000) provides a pretty good overview of how this happened. Noticing this connection made me look at Tihanov and read his introduction, and while there are some useful notes about Bakhtin here, and I may refer back to the book, I don’t actually need it now, and that’s the source of some of my problems in productivity right now.

That being said, Tihanov’s emphasis that Bakhtin had an “‘unreserved trust’ in the unity of tradition” (9) isn’t totally useless. It serves as a good reminder of how to approach Bakhtin despite the tendancy of post-colonial critics or deconstructionist. Bakhtin inherited structuralism and Russian Formalism very well, and while his theories disprove many of these ideas, they are in fact meant to support the building they break down. 

Furthermore, and of even more significance for this blog given the title I gave it, “For both Lucács and Bakhtin, the novel became the pinnacle of their efforts to problematize the connections between culture and society” and in their work, “the genre of the novel is a site of intersecting literacy and philosophical analysis which strives to understand modernity and to respond to it” (7). This is not news to me, since I am very familiar with Bakhtin’s theory of heteroglossia, which I understand as a symptom of modernity, but it’s nice to find other scholars who say it better than I can. 

I guess that’s all for today. No idea how coherent it was this time around, but thanks for reading! 

Work Cited: Tihanov, Galin. The Master and the Slave: Lucács, Bakhtin, and the Ideas of their Time. Oxford: Clarendon P, 2000. Web 

192/1030: “Bye noe”

It’s time to return to books. Not those bound things that are basically articles put together based on some sort of logic filled with words academics put together to gain prestige, position, or both (don’t get me wrong, I want to see my name in one of those things one day). I want to return to reading where I forget the work of the activity itself.  I think I’ve been bogged down in theory for so long, I forgot that I actually love to read and there are so many good stories still waiting to be read. I spent my morning in the library  (sounds so studious, until I write that it’s the first time since December). Then, on my way home, disinterested in most of my normal dinner reads, I picked up one of my books again and got lost in Zadie Smith’s London for an hour or so. Now, I feel much more inspired to provide a close-reading analysis than some more theory review. It’s easier, too…

NW is divided into four intertwined stories with the titles “visitation,” “guest,” “host,” and “crossing.” Each story has subtitles in a different style. Leah Hanwell’s story is in simple numbers. Felix Copper’s short life is divided into segments of a map, “NW6,” “(WI),”  and “NW6,” Natalie Blake is numbers and subject titles, quite correct but also fragmented glimpses that try to account for as much of her as possible. Finally, comes Nathan Bogle and another “visitation.” When Nathalie Blake/Keisha leaves her home, she wanders and we read how she goes up “Willesden Lane to Kilburn High Road,” and then “Shoot up the Green to Fortune Green,” traveling over NW. The way space is used in the novel is interesting and definitely worth a return visit, especially in light of some things I read recently in History, Memory and Migration, but wait, I wasn’t going to go into that, today. And talking about those titles wasn’t important at all to get into right now.

There are a lot of intermedial references in NW. We start off with Leah Hanwell considering a line she hears on the radio, repeating it over and over in her mind, hearing a neighbor talk on the phone, thinking about the gloss on a magazine, and papers falling, causing “World events and property and film and music” to lie in the grass (4). This is the internet age, the characters have computers, email addresses, chat spaces, and yet there’s an old school feel. They still get their news from papers, hear about it from one another via word of mouth…

The section that caught my eye for this blog post was chapter “123. Bye noe.” It consists of a web chat between Leah and Natalie/Keisha (there’s actually no specificity of the name, we only get the last name, so I don’t know if it’s Natalie or Keisha who makes this appearance, though it could be Keisha since she’s always Keisha online). Leah is the one who instigates the conversation, her type is bold and Natalie’s/Keisha’s (I’m going to guess that it’s a mix of both, since there’s Leah’s friend and the lawyer in this conversation) is not bolded. None follows capitalization convention, unless you count the fact that Leah cap locks her words when she’s mad and N/K cap locks the moments that are sarcastic. Finally, as far as the medium itself goes, we get the impression of overlapped generation of text, as each interrupts the other’s sentence throughout.

whats happening to
me too
universe?  (244)

Leah is responding to “cant believe you getting hitched” and N/K is already asking her question.

I notice a few significant things about this conversation.

First of all, it starts with Leah acknowledging her hesitancy to download something, I’m guessing its the program to private message. Both are at work, Leah working from a work computer and N/K probably on her phone. They joke and banter, and then Leah leads into the news she wants to share by asking N/K to locate herself in the time space continuum “free may sixth?” and then, after some silly then serious (self-acknowledgement) on N/K’s part, “lady jesus I am getting married” (243).  Leah is excited to tell her friend how it happened, why, how she’s doing it to please her fiance, her mother, “It’s what people do innit,” N/K is kind of distracted by work, wants to know if this means Leah is pregnant or will get pregnant, and then has a question for Leah that is confusing the first time one reads it, but then makes more sense after returning to it later. The question is never actually stated, Leah just answers it because she “iz mind reader for realz.” Something about having to give up people and “when all else fails: http://www.adultswatchingadults.com” (245).

Side note: if NW was an ebook and the hyperlink actually worked, would visiting the site be part of reading the book? Future hypertext fiction questions, my friends!

At any rate, the reference to the hyperlink is something that leads to a sort of climax for the whole novel, and I find it interesting that this moment is instigated by a web chat. We get the impression that N/K doesn’t answer for a while (and never responds directly to that), and then the conversation is over with “bye noe.” Not being a NW native, or even with the British slang, I had to look up “noe.” It’s basically an awesome, wonderful person. Someone you’re happy to be with/around. I guess that’s a fond sign off for the two of them, but I don’t know why Leah puts her “bye noe” in single quotes…

This is the point where I should get into explaining the significance of the intermedial reference (that is, why did this conversation happen in chat, not real time, and how successful is Smith in creating the impression of a chat room? (for example, the characters chose to capitalize their “I”s or use the single quote for the contraction or use txt spk). But, it’s also the moment where this gets hard and it’s 2240 on a Thursday and I already did some decent amount of work today, so bye.

Thanks for reading.

Work Cited:  Smith, Zadie. NW. New York: Penguin Group, 2013. Print.


73/1030: “All Immigrants are Artists”

To start off on a good note, Saša Stanišić’s first novel is not only perfect (it feels like) for looking at the relationship between migration and media, but also just a really good book. Like, if people ask my what my favorite book is, I can now confidently say Wie der Soldat das Grammafon repariert. 

But this post won’t be about that. Rather, it (after thinking I was finding only references to it and not the actual original statement- and then realizing it appeared in 2013 in The Atlantic as a part of a series “By Heart” in which authors share their favorite passages with readers) will be a response to Edwidge Danticat’s claim that “all immigrants are artists.” This claim actually originally comes from Patricia Engel’s It’s Not Love, It’s Just Paris and isn’t really so much a claim as an argument that Danticat finds convincing. While I intend to address this claim, I want readers to keep in mind that there is a push-back against calling literature “immigrant literature,” especially in Germany. One can call literature intercultural, but to declare a certain foreigness in writing written by people whose first language was maybe not German is “passé.” I’ll admit that this is a bit confusing to me, since it suggests that literature continues to remain national even with international contributors, but since people like classifying literature by nation and language, we’ll continue to do so even if new labels may be called for.

Recently, in an article about Yoko Tawada, a Japanese-German writer who recently won the Heirich Kleist prize, the author refers to Danicat in relationship to Tawada, as Tawada being “one of these” artists.

“All immigrants are artists,” Edwidge Danticat has said. Under pressure to make themselves legible, immigrants have no choice but to invent new ways of speaking. And in their reading of the world around them, immigrants uncover the alien that always abides in what seems, for the natives, most familiar. But some people are foreign regardless of geography; they are naturally nonnative, immigrant or not. (Galchen 2016)

People ascribe to the creativity of immigrants theory and don’t find it difficult to associate difficulty with language and expression with new creations. The interesting note about Galchen’s comment is that the opposite is also true. Artists are immigrants, nonnative, or foreign by virtue of their work. This theory I can ascribe to, if only because I identify the ability of some people to stand out from the rest, be picked from the group for characteristics that are different than the “norm.” Fasseler in the original source describes Danticat’s perspective:

trying to start a life in a strange land is an artistic feat of the highest order, one that ranks with (or perhaps above) our greatest cultural achievements.

We can see artistic integration as a cultural achievement, but are these achievements greater than all other artistic creations? One cannot forget that these people are nothing without the others, all with their uniqueness as well. I guess what I’m trying to say is that there does seem to be a certain elitist note in these kinds of comments, and I want readers to be careful about not getting too caught up in the “specialness” because it often gets conflated with “betterness.”

On the other hand, when one considers the original handling of the expression, being an artist by life could be used to dissuade them from actively pursuing it in work, as the father character in Patricia Engel’s It’s Not Love, It’s Just Paris tries to dissuade his daughter:

“Pero of course it is, mijita. All your life is a work of art. A painting is not a painting but the way you live each day. A song is not a song but the words you share with the people you love. A book is not a book but the choices you make every day trying to be a decent person.” (qt. in Fasseler)

This moment resonates with Danticat, who describes her own experiences of being the child of migrants and a migrant herself, and the challenges she faced pursuing the profession of artist. This moment also resonates with her, because she sees the positive aspects of this kind of thinking:

 re-creating yourself this way, re-creating your entire life is a form of reinvention on par with the greatest works of literature. This brings art into the realm of what ordinary people do to in order to survive. It takes away the notion that art is too lofty for the masses, and puts it in the day-to-day.

There is something redeeming in the realization that art is also not just about the products produced, but the ways in which we interact and the beautiful moments that can come from these interactions. I’m reminded for a moment of “the medium is the message” and theories of intermediality and that everything we do is an expression- so I guess this claim connects to my PhD project in multiple ways. Probably a good thing and this means it’s worth exploring more closely. But this was a start.

Works Cited

Danticat, Edwidge, and Joe Fassler. “‘All Immigrants Are Artists'” The Atlantic. 27 Aug. 2013. Web. 20 Nov. 2016.

Galchen, Rivka. “The Profound Empathy of Yoko Tawada.” The New York TImes. 27 Oct. 2016, Imagine That sec.. Web. 27 Nov. 2016.

Disclaimer: this series is a collection of brainstorms and free-writes that are a part of my planning for actual text in my dissertation. Therefore, I am giving myself the liberty to make mistakes, make assumptions (call me out on offensive ones, though!), not tie up loose ends, and generally not make any sense. 

Copyright 2016 Dorothea Trotter: because these writings are planning for actual text in my dissertation, some of this will appear in my dissertation. I hold the right to the words in this post and require that interested parties ask for permission before copying the words or ideas too closely. Obviously, the date of posting is the date of copyright and I reserve the right to challenge suspected plagiarism in my future dissertation submission using these blogs as proof of originality.

36/1030: “On the Road auf slawisch”

Mitten durch den Raum zog sich eine frische Backsteinwand. Irgendwo im hinteren Teil lief ein Fernseher. Im Halbdunkel zuckten blaue Blitze auf und erloschen wieder. Neben der angefangenen Mauer stand ein Billardtisch. Einige Kugeln waren mitten im Spiel stehengeblieben. Ihre Farbe konnte ich nicht erkennen, es war zu dunkel. Ich roch nur feuchten Kalk und Moder. Irgendwo jenseits der Wand, jenseits der Dunkelheit und des Fernsehgequassels hörte man erhobene Männerstimmen. Dann sah ich sie in dem schmalen Spalt zwischen den Häusern. (Stasiuk 21).

The time and space theme is drawn throughout this entire text, so the beginning of this paragraph is not new. However, the television comes in this text as it does in every text I’ve read. There is no text without a reference to another reference, just like all media are mixed media (need to look up the person who said this).

In these in particular, in Andrzej Stasiuk’s texts Unterwegs nach Babadag and On the Road auf Slawisch, one has multiple references to television and nature and the like that I’ve made more detailed (excited, in the middle of class) notes about in my school notebook that I MUST refer back to. There’s something there about nature versus culture versus media versus nation and I have to find it again. So, note to self: find notes from 24. Okt. and use them!

Disclaimer: this series is a collection of brainstorms and free-writes that are a part of my planning for actual text in my dissertation. Therefore, I am giving myself the liberty to make mistakes, make assumptions (call me out on offensive ones, though!), not tie up loose ends, and generally not make any sense. 

Copyright 2016 Dorothea Trotter: because these writings are planning for actual text in my dissertation, some of this will appear in my dissertation. I hold the right to the words in this post and require that interested parties ask for permission before copying the words or ideas too closely. Obviously, the date of posting is the date of copyright and I reserve the right to challenge suspected plagiarism in my future dissertation submission using these blogs as proof of originality.

34/1030:  “Die Küste des Exils” continued 

Mircea Cărtărescu is a Romanian author who was asked to contribute to a collection of writings about the Black Sea: Odessa Transfer (2009). Several other eastern and middle European and Turkish  writers contributed- anyone who had something to say about the Black Sea coast. The themes of the collection are travel and the unrest that comes with the transgression of borders. “Den literarischen Nachrufen auf das Untergehende und Verlorene lassen wir mit Odessa Transfer die Erzählungen vom Leben am Meer und die Reflexion über Räume der Unruhe folgen” (1).  An important part of these contributions are reflection, this thinking back on this region, despite maybe having different intellectual and cultural ideas of this space.

Of course, I can’t help but think about the text in light of my new knowledge of the existence of an anthropological approach to literature (really, how is this different than cultural studies?), but I will try to focus on what I already know.

“Ovid hatte noch geglaubt, der Mensch verwandle sich ausschließlich unter Einwirkung der Götter. Seit Kajka wissen wir, daß dem nicht so ist.”(Unbekannter osteuropäischer Geschichtslehrer)

Something that struck me about this text, as I already mentioned before, are the intertextual references. Was Kafka mentioned because of this quote, one I found in the epigraph to the next text? Or is he significant as an inner exilist? Someone who felt a stranger in his own land, sort of like the guest at the wedding (96).

The other references, of course to Ovid most of all, are significant. He is the original exilist on the Black Sea. He was the famous exiled Roman, sent to live among the “barbarians.” He experienced the loneliness and displacement of an exile, and as a poet, whose magic was in songs and words (the Euripides Chor makes an appereance, reminding of Nietzsche) and who lost the words.

diese Briefe wurden immer ungehobelter, enthielten immer mehr sarmatische, illyrische und getische Wendungen, bis er gegen Ende eine neue, eine unbekannte Sprache erfunden hatte, die Sprache des Unglücks, in der alle wahren Bücher geschrieben werden. (108-109)

While a hybrid language resulted, one of unhappiness and bad luck, it’s the one Cărtărescu says all true books are written in. This, of course, relates strongly to Bakhtin who would argue the same thing. For him, the novel was the most successful art form, since it allowed all kinds of language to base expressed, common and art. Lyric, or poem, cannot reach this.

Und am Ende schrieb er in der getischen Sprache, hatte er die barbarischen Wörter ins lateinische Versmaß gegossen. Das Gedicht fand Gefallen. Und seitdem galt er unter den Barbaren als Dichter. Das Kauderwelsch der Ein- heimischen erldang in zehntausend Sprachen des Meeres, und Ovid, der Dichter der Liebe, der Schönheitspflege und der Metamorphosen, sah sich gezwungen, sie alle zu lernen. (102)

The language of the sea slowly poured into his writing. And this sea had 10,000 languages. And he had to learn them all. There’s something significant about the water image throughout the text, and the ending line: “Denn nach Mallarmé ‘existiert die Welt nur, um in ein schönes Buch zu münden'” (110). The world only exists so as to flow into a pretty book.

I wonder if there’s a connection here to biosemiotics and therefore to the rising understanding of nature in anthropological studies of literature (or vice versa), but one thing is for sure, this is an extremely productive text for my PhD project.

Work Cited:  Cărtărescu, Mircea. “Die Küste des Exils.” Odessa Transfer Nachrichten vom Schwarzen Meer. Ed. Raabe, Katharina und Monika Sznajderman. Frankfurt am Main: Surkamp, 2009. 93-110. Print.

Disclaimer: this series is a collection of brainstorms and free-writes that are a part of my planning for actual text in my dissertation. Therefore, I am giving myself the liberty to make mistakes, make assumptions (call me out on offensive ones, though!), not tie up loose ends, and generally not make any sense. 

Copyright 2016 Dorothea Trotter: because these writings are planning for actual text in my dissertation, some of this will appear in my dissertation. I hold the right to the words in this post and require that interested parties ask for permission before copying the words or ideas too closely. Obviously, the date of posting is the date of copyright and I reserve the right to challenge suspected plagiarism in my future dissertation submission using these blogs as proof of originality.

33/1030: “Ethnocritique”

Today, I visited another class at the Uni to get an idea of other directions I could take my project, and realized I ended up looking at something that’s only a “thing” in France. When you look up “ethnocritique” in Google, all you get are French entries- and it’s because the term, meaning to use ethnographic tools to analyze literature, was only recently (1990) created in France. One looks at the anthropology of language, the cultural influence of artistic expression, and the ethnology of symbols.

However, that doesn’t mean I won’t have use for it. Bear with me, but here’s a French description from French Wikipedia: 

L’ethnocritique se situe dans l’héritage des travaux des « formalistes » qui ont pensé leurs recherches dans la relation à la culture (y compris dans sa dimension folklorique) –Jakobson, Propp, Greimas; des travaux sémio-linguistiques de Bakhtine; et des travaux des ethnologues du symbolique comme Yvonne Verdier, Daniel Fabre, Nicole Belmont, continuateurs de Lévi-Strauss, qui ont travaillé sur les sociétés européennes. C’est de là que la démarche tire son originalité dans le champ plus large des méthodes d’analyse littéraire recourant à l’anthropologie sociale ou culturelle.

It seems that all the things I’m looking at this semester ueberschneiden sich. The Formalists and Bakhtin appear in the Bakhtin and Route and Roots courses, and James Clifford was also in Routes and Routes. Somehow, whenever I learn something new, it appears everywhere.

I actually visited this course because I had a suspicion that the anthropological approach to literature applied to new English and German literatures because of the heavy influence of cultural awareness in these works and how they are studied.

In the US, there have been ethnocritical studies of Native American literature, and Jean Jamin looked at Faulkner as an anthropological writer. I think important to the idea of anthropological literature, and a way it connects to postcolonial literature, is through the process of writing back. One could look at Wide Sargasso Sea as an example.

I don’t know. I actually got nothing to add tonight. Totally unproductive- but I am encouraged to keep attending this class!