Author Archives: sdpost



1. How does your view of the main character change throughout the course of this film? What does this movie say about its the themes of motherhood and justice? And what do you think the mother’s small tin of acupuncture needles symbolizes?

My view of the mail character did not change significantly throughout the course of Mother. That is, my judgement of her did not change significantly but the film did provide opportunity for more detailed understanding of her character and her motivations as the film progressed. From the beginning of the film you can see that this mother is a bit obsessive, and at the end of the film you can pretty much see that this mother is a bit obsessive. The meat of the story tells us that this mother is obsessive with a criminal twist, and that she herself may be responsible for her son’s cognitive limitations. They do not let us know if his cognition was delayed prior to being poisoned at age five, but if he was not and that did happen as a result of her attempted infanticide/suicide then her obsession with his safety and wellbeing makes more sense. I think that this movie is either a bit misogynistic in it’s constant disrespect for her actions or intentions, or this movie is commenting on cultural and perhaps misogynistic tendencies to disregard women and mothers of her age and social status. Perhaps the film is also commenting on that society’s justice or law enforcement systems by asking us to think about how many things were unfair socially for the victim of the murder, the mother, and the son. I think that the mother’s small tin of acupuncture needles symbolizes her secrets. The tin appears several times referencing her illegal use of them as she is not certified to be a practitioner with those needles in use. They appear again when confronted with her son’s painful memory of being poisoned by his mother and as she confronts her shame about this secret as she wants to use the needles to release those memories. Finally, they are a component in her meeting with the old man she ultimately murders and burns. I am curious about this old man’s picture on the girl’s phone. Was he a John? Did he engage in sex with a teenager? I think that question leaves more questions about her actions that we think were done out of preservation for her son’s life outside of prison. Even if she killed that man only out of preserving that secret (once again the needles are present), was he a nice old man or a pervert? Finally her boy preserves her secret as she did for him by collecting that tin of needles from a crime scene. She is shamed by this in the last scene of the movie before getting on the bus and performing acupuncture on herself. Mother was a pretty weird movie.

DQ 14

1. In Silko’s “Yellow Woman,’ what do the stolen beef and the Jell-o have in common? How do these elements break the prevailing mood?
I think that perhaps both the stolen beef and the Jell-o are both symbols of modernity. In this story, the main character is struggling with being identified as the Yellow Woman and sort of hangs on to clues that she is still in fact in her own day and age where things exist that did not exist in the days of these ancient tales which included the Yellow Woman. She references vehicles, there is mention of the kidnapper’s Levi’s and so forth. I think those things serve to break up the prevailing mood of being in this sort of eerie ancient story. Stolen beef is only stolen beef because in the modern day there are such things as cattle ranchers, and Jell-o certainly is not an element of folk lore. I think these elements exist in the story exactly for the purpose of breaking the prevailing folk lore-ish mood.
2. After reading Saadawi’s “In Camera,’ how do you feel about Leila Al-Fargani’s father? Upon what evidence do you base your judgement?
The main character in this story semi-regularly references the anti-authoritarian views of her father and that he purposely taught these political views to his daughter. For me, this makes me feel affection for Leila Al-Fargani’s father because he took her seriously enough as a person to convey these lessons even though she is his daughter and not his son. When in court he does not claim her and rather behaves sort of cowardly, I didn’t loose affection for him immediately because it’s hard to see what good this would do. Upon retrospect however, had he stood and declared that he was her proud father, this may have served Leila’s spirit. Even though she was searching and searching for her mother, had he spoken up it may have given her the assurance of her mother’s love as well and this would have been a good thing for her. Ultimately, while the father seems decided that both she and him would be better off dead because of his perceptions of her lost virtue, I still don’t loose all affection. He was a dad in a horrible situation, probably doing his best and unknowing of how best to handle it.
3. What is the importance of the title of the story “Death Constant Beyond Love’? What does it tell us about the stories central thematic concerns?

This story seems to be really concerned with the Senator’s looming diagnosis and impending death, as this is the theme that opens the story. I’m not even very convinced that the Senator really loves this girl he meets, but rather that he is grieving his own mortality and searching for something to feel good about. Throughout the story, death is constant and love is barely there, though he does make a last ditch effort to have it. I think the title suits the story but isn’t a very complex one.



1. It is clear through Kafka’s descriptions of Gregor’s life at home that his relationship with his parents lack warmth. Kafka descriptions clues the reader in that while the family was initially grateful that Gregor was able to provide for them, it eventually became a simple transaction. Gregor’s relationship with his father is mostly that of a financial provider. Kafka describes Gregor’s father as an elderly man who can no longer work. Gregor, left with the burden of being the only one in the household who is able to support the family financially, feels pressure from his father.

Figuratively speaking, the hissing sounds coming from Gregor’s father represent Gregor’s feelings of hostility and pressure coming from his father. As Gregor’s father tries to push Gregor into his room with his cane, Gregor cries out “If only there hadn’t been those unbearable hissing sounds issuing from his father! They caused Gregor to lose all orientation.” The hissing sounds coming from his father echo the pressure that Gregor feels from his father.

2. In the opening section of The Metamorphosis, Gregor has transformed and the story explains some family dynamics. Those dynamics change as Gregor’s condition becomes less of an incident and more of a permanent state. They come to support themselves without him and eventually come to sort of live apart from him, who they consider to be an “it”.

3. While it may have been useful for Akhmatov’s Requiem to be available as a protest during the relevant time, I think most good social or political commentary is extremely valuable in future generations as history unfolds to really be imitations or attempted corrections of the past. We are always fighting the last war.

4. Rilke’s command at the end of his poem “Archaic Torso of Apollo” can be interpreted as a call for the viewer of the sculpture to carry with them the significance of of the “brilliance from inside” that Rilke describes as radiating from within the sculpture. The godlike description of Apollo in this poem evokes a sense of the watchful eye of a godlike presence. This poem rests on the concept that the beauty of the sculpture comes from the fact that we cannot understand the Apollo’s brilliance. Rilke’s refrain of “otherwise” tells us that the power of this sculpture comes from the fact that we cannot know the significance or the nature of the “brilliance from inside” that glows in Apollo’s torso. This godlike power is brilliant because we are not able to understand it. The viewer, having witnessed this power, must now live their life differently. Rilke commands us to live our lives in awe of the things we cannot understand.


1. Is Felicite a saint or a simple-minded servant? Or is she both? Or is she neither? Outline your perspective of her character as compared to Mme. Aubain’s. How do they differ?

I sort of think she is both a saint and a simple-minded servant. Everyone knows that nobody is really a saint, maybe even saints aren’t really saints, but there are people in life or in stories that sit well in your heart, and I feel like if there is ever a character like that it is Felicite. Her character is much more pure and simple compared to Mme. Aubain’s.

2. How are women imagined and characterized in the poems you read? What attitude is implied? Is it dual or contradictory? Does Baudelaire give similar weight to the description of men? What definitions of womanliness are depicted, affirmed, or criticized in his work?

I think Baudelaire’s work is pretty much obviously misogynystic as he writes women FOR the men, which belittles the characters of both sexes.

3. How are Chidam and Chandara distinct from Rama and Sita?

They differ in terms of levels of subserviency, which probably has to do with modernity.

4. Pick a Yeat’s poem and discuss what it communicates to you and why.

When You Are Old is short and sweet. For me it communicated a sense of gratitude that in life maybe I can appreciate that at some point my partner and I will be old and one of us will go first, and we can be thankful now that we were loved by the other in youth. I thought it was sweet. But I could have not interpreted it too well either.

DQ 11

1. Is Tartuffe in fact anti-religious, or does it only attack corruptions of religion?

I don’t think that Tartuffe is anti-religion in the sense that the play is putting down religion itself but it is a progressive work in terms of pointing out that there are aspects of organized religion that were then, and perhaps will always be corrupted. Any extremely wealthy entity is likely to be vulnerable to corruption because of the association with power. In Tartuffe, the commentary is absolutely focused on that corruption of power where the primary symptom is hypocrisy, and where that would be ineffective without the blindness or foolishness of those who blindly follow power.

2. In what respects is Hugo’s Satan a heroic figure? How does Hugo’s account differ from Dante’s?

I feel like if we look at Hugo’s Satan in terms of what we have studied about the Hero’s Journey, then yes we have to call him a heroic figure. This is especially true when you look at Hugo’s account of Satan’s transformation, or journey. His fall from heaven, and this is also exactly the way that it is distinguished from Dante’s account where the devil was sort of a stationary figure. For Dante, the character of himself was the journeying hero and Satan made an appearance.

3. Discuss and compare the images in any two poems assigned for this week.

I suppose one of the clearest images to pull out of these poems is the concept of death as discussed in poems by Heine and then Leopardi. There’s also a ton of references to the natural world in poems by these two. In Heine’s Ah, death is like the long cool night, he really speaks of the coming end as a break and relieving gift, as does Leopardi in To Himself, although Leopardi whines a little more about why it will be such a relief to kick the old bucket.

DQ 10

1. As I understand it, Machiavelli is pretty well known as the great granddaddy of political science, focussing far more on what it takes to maintain power over people than on the wellbeing of a nation of citizens. He describes some pretty cut-throat tactics.
Most of us are probably recovering from midterm election hangovers at the moment and there has been plenty of evidence in our view of how far reaching those Machiavellian patterns of contrast between political ideals and concrete realities really do apply. The most obvious example that comes to my mind is the mass coercion that has recently take place by big money from both parties to either keep their guy in or get their guy in. Getting out the vote is important on many levels, but the barrage of commercials that we all just survived was unreal, and it was controlling! I’m an enthusiastic voter, but that election was ballistic and it interfered with my life in a negative way. However, even though it wasn’t good for the people necessarily, all of that fighting had to happen so that there could be decisions about who will “rule”.
Machiavelli is credited with the seed of the much debated idea that ends might justify the means, as in that it may be necessary to approach difficult scenarios in ways that might be immoral, violent or disturbing if the intended result will be considered worth it. Other Machiavellian concepts include a wide array of devious tactics that may have to be employed in order to rule effectively. He suggests that if you’re in charge, you might have to take people out. I think that if you look at intelligence operations, negative advertisements, and war itself you will see evidence of all of that.

2.  The first thing I thought of in regards to this question was Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. The character Fantine becomes so desperate for income that she is forced into prostitution and the selling of her possessions and even her teeth and hair. This is seen as particularly tragic because of the quality of her hair and teeth. Hugo even says that Fantine had gold and pearls for her dowry, but the gold was on her head (presumably the quality of her hair) and the pearls were in her mouth (teeth). These events, and the shaving of her head are closely associated to Fantine’s death following an assault. It’s almost as if when Fantine sold her hair she had given up hope of living life and just began selling herself for parts until the end.

I think the symbolism of a woman’s hair across cultures is a complex issue and I don’t dare try to simplify the issue or boil it down at all, but among many other things I think the reason hair has such a significant place in the stories of women in liturature is because of the link between feminine beauty and a woman’s worth. Hair is beautiful, almost undeniably, across the earth. Women are valued for beauty and maternity and sexuality, almost undeniably, across the earth. To loose ones hair is to loose value as a woman, and perhaps in some circumstances this is an extremely liberating thing.

3.  The best I could make of it is that flowers might be the warriors who have died with honor and song might be whatever god is going to then take care of their souls or what the Aztecs may have thought of as a soul. So perhaps this is from the perspective of that god, who is clever with the knowledge that these warriors have fallen and are going to be taken and is asking those still in the war to seek honorable deaths and respect those who have been killed?

Lesson 9 Discussion

1. The Tenth Story of the Tenth Day: Why is Griselda being tested?

I think that in a sense, Griselda is initially being tested because of Gualtieri’s boredom, although this is later transformed into a sort of more complex set of Job-like events that prove her character over time. Before the more extreme fake child killings and so forth, Bocciaccio writes, “…Gualtieri was seized with the strange desire to test Griselda’s patience, by subjecting her to constant provocation and making her life unbearable.”. He starts out with a little verbal abuse before moving on to the torturous acts of taking her babies away. Bocciaccio’s motives for this probably had something to do with claims that these stories were lessons for female readers to learn, that these men and women, but mostly women, who took refuge from disease wanted to convey in their stories for women to learn from for their own safety and well being.

2. Compare the frame tales in the Decameron, and The Thousand and One Nights. In each case, what is the reason for telling stories? Do the stories accomplish the purpose for which they are intended? How important is the relationship between the tale and the teller?

Shahrizad has a much more noble purpose in her story telling than the narrator of the Decameron in my opinion. She is telling her stories to teach a murderer compassion and forgiveness while simultaneously saving lives, literally. With each night of teaching lessons and telling stories she is preserving her own life and the life of another woman. That’s sisterhood. Shari’a does accomplish her purpose, both within the frame tale and in terms of the stories preserved in The Thousand and One Nights. I think that Bocciaccio via his narrators is less successful simply because Shahrizad’s purpose was so noble. The seven women and three men who make up the tellers of The Decameron are portraying lessons and also telling jokes, providing an account of life in that part of the world at that time. The stories there serve that purpose. I think the relationship between the tale and tale teller is as important as the piece and the writer because it holds a lot of information about motive, whether economic or social or religious.

3. In Laustic, what does the nightingale symbolize? Explain your answer.

I think that the nightingale symbolizes the tragedy of love lost, or perhaps grief. It seems that this would be a question with many answers, all true in their own way. The nightingale serves as a way to communicate a break up, and then the receiver of this information treats it as a keepsake. The fact that he puts this bird in a tiny coffin which he then carries with him could be seen as both a constant reminder of his love for her, or a constant reminder of his grief that the relationship never got a fair chance and had to end. Either way I think this is a symbol for emotions we all have regarding past love and loss.

What did Dante learn?

I think Dante probably learned about the depths of hell and the consequences of sin. I suppose that’s a pretty obvious answer, but that’s what I see in the poem. When Dante and Virgil are climbing out and back towards earth the poem says, “We never thought of resting while we climbed”. So after nine circles of some serious trauma exposure, as exhausting as that must have been, the journeying men are booking it out of there. Dante the character was exposed to evidence that there is corresponding punishment in hell to one’s sin on Earth. More broadly, there is corresponding consequence to our actions in life. Dante learned that this is not the sort of thing to take lightly, either because it will result in damnation or because our actions and behaviors in life matter and have effects.
What I learned from this poem is that through the lens of Dante’s day and time, the view of sin is very absolute and lacks the perspective that I think is necessary to really judge what consequences of actions may or may not be. We all know that decisions are complex, that most situations lie in a shade of grey. That is not to say that right and wrong don’t exist to some extent or that there aren’t real consequences to what is referred to as sin in this context, but I think extremism can be really dangerous and I see this story as sort of extremist viewpoint in terms of sin and sinners. For instance, in no worldview of mine is there the possibility that “sodomites” are swimming in any part of hell for homosexuality.

Week 7 Discussions

1. How are we to understand Shahrayar’s madness? Does it make sense to you? That is, are male egos in macho societies that frail, or is his a special case?

I think we are supposed to understand Shahrayar’s madness as related to trauma, and yes it does make sense to me. While I do think that his behavior and level of trauma related to his wife’s infidelity portrays this character as a baby-man, when bad things happen to people their reactions are theirs and while those reactions can be judged, they cannot be changed. He was scorned, and it really hurt him bad. From where I stand, male egos in macho societies are ABSOLUTELY that frail, Shahrayar is no special case. Having been cheated on is a chronic and played out excuse for men to do wicked things across time and cultures. It is the most outstanding response men give in defense of themselves being abusive to women and I guarantee if you work a few shifts at any women’s shelter or read a handful of DV police reports you will see that this is true. It’s absurd and it’s been happening for centuries.

2. Both the vizier and his daughter, Shahrazad, tell tales that surround their human characters with important animals, but the animals play different roles in the imaginative worlds of father and daughter. Compare and contrast the powers attributed to the animal world in The Tale of the Ox and the Donkey and The Tale of the Merchant and His Wife with those described in The Story of the Merchant and the Demon. How may these differences reflect the contrasting visions of gender relations so central to The Thousand and One Nights?

In The Tale of the Ox and the Donkey, and The Tale of the Merchant and His Wife, the stories told by the vizier attribute powers to the animal world to have conversations amongst each other, to make plans and conceive of tricks and punishments. The donkey has an ability to foresee what actions a human might take if the ox takes his advice to not perform his oxen duties but, not knowing that the merchant understands the plan is unable to foresee himself being a victim. In the second tale told by Shahrazad’s father, the animals are simply conversing amongst each other, aware of what is going down in the larger household. The merchant is then able to take the incredibly misogynistic advise of the raping rooster. Whereas in the vizier’s stories the animals are animals by birth and simply have language amongst themselves, in Shahrazad’s The Story of The Merchant and the Demon, animals exist as having been previously human and are made animals as some sort of punishment. The animals in her story are either victims as in the merchant’s mistress and son, or perpetrators who have been caught in their bad act and are now living as deer and dog as punishment. I suppose when thinking about how these differences reflect the contrasting visions of gender relations in the stories, you sort have to look at the larger story. The vizier’s stories have animals coming up with tricks and acting badly, not foreseeing what the real consequences of their actions might be. Like women perhaps? In Shahrazad’s stories, animals are former people who are either victims of other’s crimes or have committed their own, however their punishments are not death even though it is suggested in most cases that death will be what happens to them. Instead, they have to live as animals. Maybe she is suggesting that there are punishments less severe than death.

3. Do you believe the penalties suffered are appropriate to the sins committed in Dante’s Inferno? Why or why not?

In one sense, no of course I don’t think the penalties suffered are appropriate to the sins committed in Dante’s Inferno because I don’t subscribe the worldview where these correlations are presented. I don’t believe in hell and don’t really believe in sin in the way that this story presents sin. I don’t think that suicide and being non-Christian or not baptized warrant any form of hell. On the other hand, I do appreciate the fact that the sins committed (being an unbaptized pagan vs. the sin of violence) have penalties residing in corresponding worse and worse realms of suffering (a lesser heaven vs. a river of boiling blood).

Discussion 6

I find Rama just as, if not more, interesting than the other heroes we have reviewed. His calm attitudes and code are more aligned with what is familiar to me as being a good path, and so the study of those values within a hero are easier to digest than some of the other ancient text. There are indications in our readings that Rama’s perfection is not totally innate and that his way of being is a state that takes an ongoing practice to achieve. It is described quickly in our reading, in ayodhas’ 17 and 18 that Rama experiences significant anxiety as he approaches his father before being told what will soon happen. He worries about what he has done to anger his father, and seems to be not at all in a peaceful place but in a fearful one. Kausalya is also experiencing fear and anxiety I think, shortly after in ayodhya 21 when she tells Rama that he must not do as he has been ordered because of her own fear of not being able to survive without him. I don’t know if I understand the question, “How would that be consistent with the Hindu religious beliefs that imbue this work?”. There’s a forest dweller piece to the four stages of life.
Arjuna’s hesitancy to go into battle are seemingly more righteous than that of either Achilles or Medea. His hesitancy is based on his sense of morality and devotion to the divine, and it is not until the divine intervenes on his sense of right and wrong that his mind is able to change about going into battle. On the other hand, warriors such as Achilles had hesitancy that were based on things like strategy, glory, and self preservation. Codes of behavior according to Krishna are in terms of devotion, whereas it seems that codes of violence in the other examples mentioned might have more to do with things like honor or revenge.