A Visit to my Fiancé’s Home: A Study

It has been two days here at my in-laws’ house, and seeing my fiancé here makes me scratch much of the assumptions I had previously made about creatures like her. I made an amateur mistake, and I should have factored in the variable of a natural habitat in to the formula of understanding my fiancé. Fortunately, I have taken several notes while I have been here that might help me compose a perfect synopsis of her family and genealogically determined characteristics.

For one, when I first met her father at a BBQ at the park, I noticed he was wearing a baseball cap, so I was very quick to jot that down since the sun was not as shiny as other days. What was his conviction? What could have possibly made him put that hat on before he walked out of his house?

Now that I am here in his natural habitat, I noticed that he does not have hair on the uppermost part of his head. This bewildered me, for he was only 48, while my father is 52 and has most of his hair. When he took his hat off, I gave a quick ocular study of my fiancé to see if she had most of her hair, and she did—albeit she is only 22. However, it struck me as a potential issue if and when my fiancé turns 48. I quickly took out my notebook on the table in front of me and wrote down what I had noticed. When I quickly whipped it out from my luggage in the guest room, and made studious observations of everybody around me, they looked at me with perplexed faces—as if it were unforeseen that I wanted to study them while we all had dinner. I slyly grabbed the adorning centerpiece of the table, and moved it front of me as an attempt to camouflage myself in order for them to act natural. This did not seem to work as I planned.

It was my fiancé, her father and her mother at the table. As I was writing in my notebook in front of me, they all stopped eating, and the only thing that I could derive from this habit, was that these creatures could not eat while I had my notebook out. They suddenly acted outside the natural tendencies of animals to eat when hungry. Any motor function that facilitates eating or digesting was slowed or stopped altogether. The only reason I say slowed, however, is because I noticed the father had food in his mouth already, but chewed very slowly while he looked at me with a confused face. I found it quite troubling in my near future if suddenly my fiancé decided to not eat even if she were to be hungry.

I am finding it consistently more difficult to assimilate to the living standards of my fiancé. Although I am able to find some similarities between our dichotomies, the differences have caused me much to be worrisome about. If we are to get married, what are the chances that I will assimilate to her genealogical determiners?

 

Review:

For my creative project, I chose to mimic the style that Jonathan Swift used in his novel, Gulliver’s Travel’s. I liked the absurdity that Swift used in his novel to make Gulliver seem like a fool despite Gulliver’s ironically objective approach. The fact that he takes it upon himself to study the unknown world around him in relation to his subjectivity makes it the perfect way to expose any type of gaze. From reading Swift’s novel, I learned how arbitrary cultural differences are, and how misconstrued they can get if any outside gaze tries to sum them up into categories.

For my version I chose not to go “political” because I liked more the way in which Gulliver as a character is made to look, and how he could be made into a real person who believes his vantage point is one without bias. The character I created shares this with Gulliver because he tries to breakdown and study his fiancé’s family as if he were there visiting to objectify them. Although the way in which he does it is lighthearted, it is a type of dehumanization because he is sees them in a two-dimensional manner, and the things he tries to relate back to his own background are arbitrary—so in effect, he misconstrues them.

Cesar R

Irish Harp as a Poetic Burden

Thomas Moore’s poem, “Dear Harp of my Country” sways between being proud of being Irish, but also nostalgic or melancholy for the situation the country is in. Thomas Moore tells in line two about the “cold chain of silence” that burdened the titular harp. In the same stanza, Moore talks about his own “Island Harp” as if to say the harp and his country are one in the same. The harp has taken on this epistemological identity of Irishness and with it, one can then relate the sound it makes to the connotation of the country of Ireland. Ironically, “the cold chain of silence” could be a clear indication of the English colonization that may have stripped the epistemology away from the Irish. This is where the nostalgia is evident because it seems to be lamenting over a time when Irishness was more solidified. To be under the thumb of England affected Ireland on a political level, but also on the level of intrahistory–that is, on a personal level, Irish people became subjected to being second class citizens in their own native home.

Tijuana/Rosarito

I chose to write about my visits to Tijuana or Rosarito in Baja California, Mexico because they are famous among Americans for their tourist sites. But when i go, i cannot help but see my connection to these people since i am of Mexican decent. When i go with my family, i obviously feel at home with these people because they remind me of my close relatives, and i could actually conversate with them. However, i still feel disconnected to them because i know our relationship is based on my family and i being tourists. seeing it that way made me see this area in a totally different way. I relate this experience to William Blake’s “London” because Tijuana and Rosarito seem like places for fun, but just like London back then, there is a duality of those who suffer there.

This vacation comes in the form of hot pavement

and big fat pigeons swallowing the leftovers of gluttony itself

from tourists spilling scraps off the sides of their paper plates

then force feeding garbage cans the greasy stacked waste.

 

I look back down at the pavement and think Dalmatian.

There are spots of old blackened gum that must’ve been

Chiclets brand at some point—and I see pigeon shit.

This I cannot say about the people around me, but almost.

 

The people resemble me in their language and skin color

but I notice a layer of difference in their greased faces and eager temperament,

and in the cheap makeup on the girl dressed to impress

the frequent pervert who thinks a shitty grin will seduce her.

 

Baja California screams sunshine and sand

and I hear a man yelling profanities in English

and spilling beer when I go to the beach.

Children selling Chiclets seem to make more money

than their dirt-smeared cheeks and ragged clothes seem to show.

(not done, unrevised)

Exoticism of the Lower Class through Wordsworth’s “We are Seven”

The Romantic era sought beauty in the natural world as a way of responding to the industrial boom that modernized the western world. However, it did not only mean that people were focused on looking toward the horizon for beauty, or searching for the meaning of life in a mountain range, it also meant that literature, art and beauty would be more democratic. It meant that there was a complexity to the lives of the poor working class, and they too were able to express themselves poetically. With that being said, William Wordsworth is one of the pioneers who tried to incorporate the connection poor people had to the world. In his poem, “We Are Seven” there are class markers that the speaker of the poem identifies in the first stanza that mark the subjects of the poem, and even exoticizes them. The first line of the poem sets the tone by beginning with “A simple child” and this signals images in the reader’s imagination immediately about how to understand the family and domestic quality in the poem. Another class marker is when the speaker describes the the little “cottage girl” in stanza two, and these markers help to put into perspective how the cryptic moments in the poem are inherently tied to the class status of the family.  The little girl seems to be confused about what the title of the poem suggests, which is that she believes there are seven people in her household when in fact some of the members have actually died. The speaker of the poem seems to be conflicted about the “cottage” girl’s blissful ignorance because of her “simple” way of understanding the world–which seems to exclude the idea of passing away.

The painting by David Caspar Friedrich, “The Abbey in the Oakwood” is a romantic era painting that embodies the idea of nature vs civilization, but it is also the negotiation between these two concepts in a coexisting manner. This reminds me of how the little girl says “two of us in the church-yard lie” in stanza six when she is referring to their grave sites, which are described as being “green” in stanza ten. This seems to be a deliberate way of assigning a lively color like green to a gravesite, which is obviously to keep the dead. There seems to be a duality here that is much like the painting where wee see a dead trees and an incomplete building because it has been abandoned. However, we still get the natural world working–the painting gives it life as a way of accepting the passing of things a part of the circularity. Although the painting is a little more cryptic, it definitely parallels the poem on how death seems to be in constant movement with nature, and ultimately man.

This duality of death and life looks kind of cryptic when it is attributed to the status of the poor. This could have something to do with the idea of not having tombstones adorned like aristocratic people did, as Wordsworth has alluded to in another poem, but it also has to do with the way in which the Romantics like Wordsworth and Coleridge looked to democratize the poor in conversation with the mainstream. In other words, they tried to de-marginalize the poor by including them in the center of their works. It is actually pretty marxist of them to do so, but it is also shows the gaze that is inevitable when people who do not belong to the working-class try to speak for them. To attribute death and its circularity to the working class shows more about Wordsworth’s gaze, than it might about poor working class people. The painting by Friedrich demonstrates a sort of othering that is attributed to these forgotten or “abandoned” people, as I have mentioned. By looking at this painting, it could be said that Wordworth looked at poor people in this way; he might have found them to be deserving of being brought into the mainstream of culture, but in a way he is also not one of them so he, in effect, has also exoticized them. romantic image 2

Cesar R

Iron Maiden and Coleridge: Transcending Genre

Samuel Coleridge’s poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” has been cycled over the years as an epitome of the Romantic era, where the natural world and love was valued high as a response to the changing industrial world that seemed to dull these sensations. However, Coleridge’s poem seems to have appealed to a metal band like Iron Maiden as an important source of inspiration. Metal usually does not seem to be in the same category as romantic, but this is usually because the way metal is perceived, especially by those that are not familiar with metal. I am not so familiar with metal myself, so from my vantage point, I can see how the specific hard, fast-paced metal sound of Iron Maiden gives them the characteristic of industry—and anything but the valuing of the natural world. In the band’s song of the same name, there is a moment when the sound softens up for spoken lyrics to be said:

“One after one by the star dogged moon,
too quick for groan or sigh
each turned his face with a ghastly pang
and cursed me with his eye
four times fifty living men
(and I heard nor sigh nor groan)
with heavy thump, a lifeless lump,
they dropped down one by one.”

This is directly taken from the poem toward the end of part III, and it almost seems as if the band excuses themselves by choosing to include the poem section without the fast-paced music in the background. However, even so, when put in the context of a metal song, the dark sensory details and imagery have taken on another sensibility. Much like the ballads and the folklore of any society, reinterpretations are the lifeblood of having folkloric art. In this sense, the Iron Maiden song is another reinterpretation that has given the poem another genre altogether with the same material though. When the poem utilized the description of Death and Life-in-Death in the 10-11 stanzas of part III, the audience obviously will think spooky:

“Are those her ribs through which the Sun

Did peer, as through a grate?

And is that Woman all her crew?

Is that a DEATH? and are there two?

Is DEATH that woman’s mate?

 

Her lips were red, her looks were free,

Her locks were yellow as gold:

Her skin was as white as leprosy,

The Night-mare Life-in-Death was she,

Who thicks man’s blood with cold.”

However, the poem gives it a more spectral tone while the song utilizes a lot of the same language but different delivery. As I mentioned earlier, the poem has transcended a different genre through the interpretation done by Iron Maiden. In Iron Maiden’s use of the death-related imagery, the audience is captivated more by the confrontational style of the song since it is basically yelled and aggressive in its delivery. The song however, bears the burden of illegitimacy since some could say it is a rip-off of the poem, but I believe the different characteristics of the song give it a different style, but still valid modernization of the material/language.

 

–Cesar R

Double Consciousness in Equiano

The topic of slavery has always had aspects of sentimentality attached to it, but this political cartoon of the 19th century politicizes the implications it had on the demographic of the countries affected by the slave trade. More than anything, it shows the economic impacts it had on the poor Irish in America in addition to the commercial interest of The East India company. In other words, some of the domestic outcry was that abolitionist movements were not exactly the most benevolent organizations in the ending of slavery since they were being paid by the corporate interest of the East India Co. Money is always in part of the equation when it comes to parties of opposing opinions. While this cartoon implies the rhetoric of abolitionist movements was to appeal to the sentimentality of Americans, the maker of this cartoon is ironically appealing to his audience by using the pathos of the audience regarding the Irish refugees. In Olaudah Equiano’s narrative, he appeals to the sentimentality of the reader as well, but he also uses a type of bias rhetoric to appeal to his readers, largely white. In volume 2, chapter 6, he cites a quote of one of the people that he served to appeal to white readers about his own docile sensibility in order to avoid alienating white readers. The person who oversaw Equiano says, “I consider him an excellent servant. I do certify that he always behaved well, and that he is perfectly trustworthy” (193), and this removes any hostility away from his confronting of the question of slavery. Furthermore, he is, as W.E.B. Dubois would say, putting a “veil” on his own subjectivity by seeing himself as an inherently second-class citizen. By doing so, he is assimilating to the culture of whites in Britain, but not assimilating their full citizenship. This is also emphasized when he alludes to his own slaves as his “poor countrymen” and “poor creatures” when he implies that he will not be there to watch over them (193-194). In effect, he is placing yet another layer of marginalization by lowering his own slaves even further from full citizenship. Equiano is using the benefit of his freedom and economic status to bring himself closer to full citizenship, but he is exploiting the status of his own slaves to imply a sort of hierarchy over them by claiming ownership. However, as Dubois would say, he also has a double consciousness that allows him to see through two lenses of subjectivity: white and black. Although he is trying to exploit his status of freedom, he is also empathizing with his fellow “countrymen” to advocate for the better treatment of them. On one hand he is dehumanizing them by elevating his status, but on the other he is also using sentimentality to appeal to the readers about the better treatment of slaves.

–Cesar R

Sophia and Cultural Capital

Sophia’s exaggeration of the new, foreign world around her marks what is significant in her western gaze and sensibility. In the seventh letter to Arabella, Sophia tries too exhaustively to emphasize the difference in the “nature” of India and her native Britain. She claims the air she breathes is indescribably different, so much so that the British nature is no “competition” to that of India’s “productions” (67). The discourse she uses to describe India place attributes of value to them. The way she describes the competition and how the value of India is like some sort of precursor to capitalist ideas, but most importantly it is early colonialist. The value is found once Sophia has touched down on India, so the real value is in Sophia’s possession of India. The irony of this is Sophia’s attempt to include a quote by poet Andrew Young as an attempt to prove that what she admires of India is more natural and void of greed:

“Can wealth give happiness?—look round and see

What gay distress, what splendid misery”

Andrew Young’s poem criticizes the idea of excess and even alludes to nature just as Sophia has in her letter. However, the difference is Sophia is in a royal setting while she views everything around her almost through a monetary perspective. The “nature” that she sees and feels is a capital she has achieved that her friend Arabella has not. It is no coincidence that she uses words like “productions” and “competition” while speaking of nature because Gibbes is trying to show the audience that while Sophia is encountering culture in India in a royal and political landscape, the only thing she sees is the price value of everything compared to her native country. Even for the poetry of Young, Sophia is placing a price tag on it as if to validate her opinions about wealth.

–Cesar R

The Enlightenment Discourse: A Fiction

Give it up for Samuel Johnson for being maniacal enough to write out the English dictionary. Although some could make the argument that we do, it seems that we do not often question whether our language is fit enough to be considered civilized. It is no surprise that Samuel Johnson prefaced his dictionary as if it were a manifesto ready to civilize the mouths of the English speakers—considering the fact that he is a familiar face of the Enlightenment. Like the other languages of the Western world, English is rooted primarily in Latin, but it also gained influence from other languages that were already fathered by Latin, like French. Johnson takes note of this in page 3 of his book, as he explains how they “had dominions in France.” Interestingly enough, he talks about how church service was ironically still in Latin, while this was going on, which must have created a cacophony of languages and dialects. In other words, English was formed in a crucible of languages, which disturbed people like Johnson who wished to see uniformity in their society.

In retrospect, we can see how the Enlightenment led to colonialism. Concepts like taxonomy and categorization were a solid pedestal where Westerners like the British were able to stand on and cast a gaze on foreigners while taking colonial power. Thomas Babington Macaulay assumes this power way too comfortably in the 19th century when describing “the intrinsic superiority of the Western literature” in his essay “Minute”. Macaulay is writing in response to making English a primary language in India while they were colonizing it, and proudly states he does not know anything about the language but has known enough to make an all-encompassing judgment to render their language inferior. As brutally racist and ignorant as this may be, it is following suit from the bias that Samuel Johnson had for the English language, even though he ironically held it in a lower regard. As Johnson was trying to be objective in describing why he chose to write “entire” rather than “intire” because the latter came from Latin and not French, for example, Johnson reveals that he is actually being subjective and bias. He confuses objectivity with what he strongly believes should dictate the English language, and this shows his dictionary is more a work of his own and NOT the English language. Just as much as Samuel Johnson’s pretenses for what dictates the English language are a FICTION, so are Macaulay’s claims that Western language should dictate the lives of foreigners.

–Cesar R

“Perfection of Nature”

The Houyhnhnms (the horse civilization) in Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels seem like an ideal place in the eyes of the titular Gulliver, as they often seem to be surprised by the problems facing his society. While disregarding the fact that it is a race of horses, Gulliver was venting to his “master” how humans in his civilization “could never have enough” (Gulliver 231) money to spend so they are always in necessity of it because they feel it is the most fundamental basis for life. It is actually kind of Marxist of Gulliver to explain this to his “master,” and it is also kind of Marxist of the talking horse to respond with saying it is a “miserable country which cannot furnish food for its own inhabitants” (232). The Houyhnhnms seem to be the perfect civilization in the eyes of Gulliver, despite having to call one of them “master,” and being subject to the inspection and vetting of them to make sure Gulliver is not a Yahoo.

The Yahoos are a human civilization that the talking horses consider savages, which gives the Houyhnhnms the reason to believe Gulliver is one of them. The Houyhnhnms use their own frame of reference to inspect Gulliver and differentiate him from the Yahoos they have not known to be “teachable,” civil or clean (216). We have to pick up the subtle clues that these horses are not in fact an ideal race, or a city upon a hill, as Winthrop would put it. The reason the horses think of Gulliver as an exceptional Yahoo is because the Yahoos are othered in the eyes of the Houyhnhnms, so they see him as a kind of anomaly and nothing more. In other words, Gulliver is othered as well, because he is still filtered through the original stereotype of the Yahoos. Swift goes as far as to use linguistics to make this race of horses similar to the Eurocentric behavior of the people in England. Gulliver notes how the etymology of the word Houyhnhnm means “perfection of nature” (217) as jab from Swift to the hubris of the elite in his own country. The satire here is that, as readers, we cannot seem to get our mind off the fact that these are literally talking horses. This ridiculous choice from Swift is to play with the subjectivity of the reader.

Cesar Ramirez

War, the Great Veil of Humanism

It is actually quite poetically tragic to see Anne Hutchinson killed by Native Americans after being exiled from Massachusetts, as Thomas put in his blogpost. Some would think it would make the Natives a literal subject and synonym for savagery, like they are in Mary Rowlandson’s story. However, like Rowlandson’s story, history is a fiction. I’m sure for the natives, history for them is one of a oppression coming from the subject of the Europeans. Thomas writes something interesting about Rowlandson’s story in that it is a “fanatic’s fantasy” of the hubris that was common among the colonists. For the most part, it was commonplace to believe the “pagan” natives were in the way of Christian expansion in the colonies, so it all comes down to perspective. Although Rowlandson’s narrative serves to bring a perspective unto the difference in subjectivity between natives and colonists, it is a perspective–no more, no less. And what it does is, it simplifies the natives into the damage that they did to her life. However, the time in which she code-switches with them, one could see the complexity in behavior and the clash of culture when war does not put a veil over the complexity of human nature.

Cesar Ramirez