Sunday, November 22, 2009

What a Start

My new adventure this week will be reading Anna Karenina.
It begins:
"All happy families resemble one another, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."

I'm only on page 12, so I don't have much to say about the read yet. But, I do believe this statement. Happy families, or groups, or couples, or just people resemble one another. Not that they have the same personalities; quiet reserved happy families can be just as happy as the quirky loud happy families.

Some people think that the house with too many kids and a messy kitchen could not be happy that way. Some people feel bad for the single child with very strict parents and one of those living rooms that has couches you aren't supposed to sit on. To me, it isn't about that. In the end it is about whether or not the people who have to live in that house everyday want to be there. That is how happy families resemble one another. You walk into their house and can just feel that the people who live there WANT to be there.

As for the second half of the statement, I think there are just more ways to be unhappy than to be happy and that leads to families being unhappy in so many different ways. I just mean more diverse ways, not more opportunities. It is easy to stumble on a way to be unhappy because of this. In all directions you turn, there is a way to be unhappy. The anxiety in an unhappy family comes from the constant turning and searching for a way out. But, this also means that when you do figure out how to be one of those happy families or people, it will be easier to keep in sight because all you have to do then is stop turning.

Friday, November 13, 2009

I went to a smart thing.

I'm just going to put things I learn about and think about in this bloggy and have it serve as a good way to document my notes and such.

So, I went to a lecture on Jane Austen, put on by the English Society of course. The professor, whose name I do not know because I am that lame, had a thesis that I actually liked. He said that there is a stable notion developing about Jane Austen, and that perhaps it is not healthy. The notion is that of Austen being reduced down to "chick flick" material alone, and being seen as "lightweight" reading in the literature department. He said that it is not good that Austen is being used as the "old school Twilight" these days. I am not the biggest Austen fan myself, but I agree that it is a misreading of her works to degrade it down to Twilight.

Jane Austen's novels explore three main kinds of "love" or "relationships" in courtship and marriage. The first is that of monetary/aristocracy. This is of course marrying for the pedigree, the name, the money, the politics. Like signing a treaty, or making a bank transaction, marriage's role is to better the status of the families involved. This is the type of relationship that gets changed first in all the movie adaptations of her novels, as it is the one that makes us most uncomfortable today.

The second "love" is the Mentor relationship. Society is pretty creeped out by some grown man raising his neighbor's eleven year old daughter, then declaring love for her at the age of eighteen. But, it is more accepted because at least there is "real affection and feeling", whether or not that is the type of love marriage should be made of. Film adaptations tend to close in the age gap a bit, while leaving the "mentor" part of it intact. Yes, lots of Freud stuff that can be said, but that is not the point this time.

The last is the one that we all adore so much. The Companionate Relationship. This is the equal, loving, soul mate type that transfers to film so readily. The problem is that all of Jane Austen's stories have been reduced to the Companionate Relationship. She is really exploring them all, and not always ending with her characters in a Companionate marriage. This movement to reduce her novels in pop culture has made a whole lot of money.

I don't mind the explosion of chick flicks from Jane, really. The problem is how the English department has let itself be so affected by the movement. Jane Austen has become the soft read. Yes, she can be read for entertainment, but to hold the study of her work as easy work is mislead. She pushed forth the idea of "the novel", and not just as a woman, but as a writer. It is only recently (last twenty or so years) that her works have been seen as lightweight. I do not think that we are suddenly above studying such an influential writer just because movies have put her in a different light. If we start making a cartoon series about Althusser I hope that his writings do not become light reading alone. Ack.

Ok, that is all for now. That was mainly a regurgitation of someone else's ideas. I'll try to put some actual thought into the next one.

I don't know I guess

I don't really know what I want this to be yet, hence the deleting and stuff. I promise I will figure it out.