Wednesday, July 19, 2006

geekin' out

I've been re-reading The Scarlet Letter during the past week. I read most of it in high school for my junior English class, and I remembered really liking it, but I had forgotten most of it. So I thought I'd give it another shot and see what I think ten years later. So far I'm really loving it. There were plenty of things that just didn't hold the same meaning for me earlier. I'm anxious to read some commentary about it (my favorite site for that is SparkNotes) and see what insights they may have that I've missed. But I can't read anything yet, since I don't want to spoil the ending for myself.

WARNING: Spoiler ahead. I have "inviso-texted" the following paragraph, since it deals with an important plot spoiler. If you would like to read this paragraph, please use your cursor to highlight the text between the asterisks; otherwise, just move on, my friend.


I'm especially interested in the way that Hawthorne treats the character of Arthur Dimmesdale. I remembered from last time that he was Hester's partner in sin, so I didn't experience the shock of figuring that out as I read this time. But Hawthorne drops that information in with such subtle pervasiveness, I had to wonder when I would have realized it if I hadn't already known. There are several subtle clues along the way, and they grow stronger and stronger, until -- without ever saying anything quite explicit -- the conclusion becomes inescapable.


I'm also struck by the simplicity of the story. The plot involves so little -- so few characters, so few twists and turns -- but at the same time it is a deeply complex novel, dealing with deeply complex themes of the human experience.

Oh, and there's also the question of onomastics and reference, which I've been really interested in lately. There is so much characterization that an author can sneak in with this seemingly harmless technique, just by the choice of what to call his characters and what to have his characters call each other. I'd like to do a short paper about this sometime soon, probably using some short stories of James Thurber's. But I've found it very interesting in SL as well -- for example, Chillingworth is almost exclusively referred to as "old Roger Chillingworth". And the narrator so rarely refers to anyone by just their first name, except for Pearl.

We all love to instruct, though we can teach only what is not worth knowing. (20 points)

Monday, July 10, 2006

Having received a number of complaints recently from my regular readers, I have decided that I'd best update my blog. So here's the low-down:

Still working at the Management Department as a receptionist. Still OK with that. Still ready to start teaching again in the fall.

Planning a trip to Cedar City at the end of July for the Shakespearen Festival. Way pumped about that!! What could be better than Shakespeare and Gilbert & Sullivan all at the same time?!

Planning a trip to NYC at the end of August with Katie. Also pumped about that! Immediately after NYC, going to Idaho for a few days. (I miss the old days, when I could so grab a book, hop on a train, and spend the weekend travelling with so little trouble ... Ah, so many things I miss about England!)

Geeking out these days about stylistics and LDS literature studies. I've been reading articles from the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies online and finding some interesting fodder for research. Also some good (OK, flimsy, but existent nonetheless) excuses for learning ancient languages like Egyptian and Akkadian. :)

Getting really excited for my Old English class this fall. It's one of the two classes I'm registered for that I know will be held (I'm always on the edge of my seat wondering about the linguistics classes -- they frequently get cancelled due to lack of interest, which is really frustrating, but more on that later). I keep getting all het up about the English language and how wonderful it is, and how we were writing all kinds of things in our own vernacular tongue -- including even sections of the Bible -- centuries before the other Western European countries started to do so. I tell you, there are excellent reasons why English is the language of the Restoration, and it was no accident that that's the language Joseph Smith spoke and the one he used to translate the Book of Mormon. Anyway ...

So I've been getting a bit frustrated with the Linguistics division down here. As I mentioned, there are not that many of us taking linguistics courses, and it's always a bit of a crap-shoot trying to figure out which ones are going to end up being cancelled. I've been looking into the idea of transferring to U of Chicago, but for one thing I'm really not so sure that would be able to get in there. For another, though, I got thinking the other day, along these lines: My faculty advisor here is Haj Ross, who is quite well known in linguistic circles, and he has a lot of clout with the department. His philosophy is that he is here merely to facilitate the student's research, and he is perfectly willing to help me out in any way necessary. I already know that he is willing (among other things) to help me get permission from the graduate chair to take extra courses in Special Problems (aka independent study). I might be able to work things out so that I could take most of the rest of my Linguistics coursework as independent study, which would allow me to highly personalize my degree to what I want. That is, I could do a course on metaphor, or one on LDS Literature Studies, or on corpus-based stylistics, or ... the list goes on. I could then use all of that as a springboard for my directed research and dissertation stuff. That might be the best thing I could possibly do for my particular interests. So, I'm also strongly considering staying here. Even though I hate the climate. Hey, if I were doing independent study, I could also conceivably leave a lot earlier and start getting settled someplace else. Someplace where it's not so hot all the time.

I am also considering doing a pass-through Master's degree in English Literature while I'm here. And I've even been considering the possibility of doing two dissertations, one at UNT and one by distance education at Lancaster Uni, and getting two PhD's. That would be interesting ... but it would also be A LOT of work, which I'm not sure I'm up for.

The last quote was from Gilbert & Sullivan's HMS Pinafore. "... Britannia's sailors rule the waves! And shall we stoop to insult? No! NO!" *sigh* I'm so excited to see it at ShakeFest!

Arrows that continually glanced off from [his] breast and fell harmless at his feet, might, I knew, if shot by a surer hand, have quivered keen in his proud heart -- have called love into his stern eye, and softness into his sardonic face; or, better still, without weapons a silent conquest might have been won. (81 points)