Monday, January 26, 2015


My research relates to a hunt for a lost voice:  I need to find out more about the 'after-life' of Woolf's marketing agent, Norah Nicholls, whose life I've mapped to the 1960s, but through whose grandson, I now know there is more.   Connections need to be followed up at Bryn Mawr, New York city archives, and the Barbara Tuchman family.    Why?  What does this add to what I already know or have published?  Why keep digging?

Chase Russell - passage

My preliminary research indicates that Wordsworth's writing (the content, method, and audience of his writing) actually undermines what he claims his poetic goals to be. For example, he wrote about "common," "rural" people of the country, but to city-dwellers. In fact, he inadvertently specifies his audience as high-class city-dwellers and refers to the urban masses as "them." If the goal of his writing is to restore the more sensitive faculties of human imagination, why does he not address those who, according to him, would need it most? In this sense, it seems that Wordsworth is actually increasing the schism between classes and people groups in England, rather than unifying "the vast empire of society, as it is spread over the whole earth, and over all time." His poetry seems to take on a quite snobbish and empty tone when this context this understood.

"A rogue, after all, may be as self-possessed as a hero and be nonetheless a rogue"


The female hero or heroine is unable to be a classical "hero" of the novel, like their male predecessors. For them, to be a true hero instead of a heroine, they must be classified as a rogue. Their sheer femaleness denies them a blemishless heroism, and puts them in a subcategory blighted by mistakes and audaciousness. Their sex categorizes them as being "self-possessed as a hero and be nonetheless a rogue".  What then causes this distinction between the hero and rogue, if they both are linked by "self-possession"? Emma and Rebecca both have this in abundance, and are chosen by their respective authors as the primary character of their own novels. Why are they then considered rogue-like by their contemporaries? Is it because women are not granted the typical tools of the hero, and must use sexuality and manipulation to achieve their aims, which their predecessors have achieved by shield and sword?


John Hagen's response might be that it is the self-interest of the characters portrayed, rather than their sex, which makes them rogues. It also depends on how we define the hero, if it is a "blemishless hero" of the two-dimensional kind, then Rebecca and Emma will inevitably fall short. Though if the hero is simply the self-possessed protagonist, then the argument could be supported that female heroes are subject to harsher criticism because of the weapons their have in their arsenal. Why do their own authors undercut them? The heroines are brought to book as coined by Hagen, and why is this necessary? 

Susan Lee Johnson's chapter titled "A Memory Sweet to Soldiers: The Significance of Gender in the History of the 'American West'" discusses the transformation the heroin undergoes in late-nineteenth-century literature. She becomes very masculine, or in Johnson's words, a "cross-dressing hunk of a girl who could shoot from the hip like a man." This is an interesting choice of words because it raises the question of exactly how a woman's identity changes/adapts in the American West. Must she become masculine in order to survive or can she recreate herself in a rougher but still feminine persona?   

Friday, January 23, 2015

Melodrama and employment-themed reality television

      The opening credits of Undercover Boss employ strategies of rhetorical excess to frame the economic recession as a melodrama of personal relationships. The evolution of these credits during the first four seasons demonstrates the series' diminishing interest in the socio-economic context that generated the show and the program's increasing focus on the character of the individual boss. During the first season of Undercover Boss, episodes opened with this melodramatically-intoned voice-over narration during the opening credits: 

Narrator: The economy is going through tough times. Many hardworking Americans blame wealthy CEOs out of touch with what's going on in their own companies. But some bosses are willing to take EXTREME action to make their business better.
(Undercover Boss, season 1)

This syntactically awkward opening statement—"the economy is going through tough times"—mirrors the work of the show. It personifies the economy, suggesting that the national or even global economy is yet another individual enduring temporary hardship. This personification, which demonstrates what Hadley identifies as melodrama's "tendency to personify the absolutes like good and evil," (22) minimizes the global recession. It is significant that the word "recession" is not used. At the same time, the indirectness of this statement makes the argument that there is no responsible actor here. The next line, "Many hardworking Americans blame wealthy CEOs," hints that the series may take hard workers, the heroes of old melodrama, as protagonists. The rhetorically excessive statement that follows, however, announces that it is the CEO, not the worker, who will be the hero: "some bosses are willing to take EXTREME action."