Mascot for #DevilDiss

Mascot for #DevilDiss
Mascot for #DevilDiss

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Prepping for Comps

So, this semester I'm finalizing my Comps reading lists. At this point, I am on track to finish my coursework in the Fall, and will comp in February- one year from now. Two of my committee members are on sabbatical next year (one for the entire year, one for just the Fall) so I'm locking in my lists now so I can spend the summer reading, since February will come so close.
I'm comping in Methodology/Folklore, Middle English, and Early Modern. Right now I have Methodology/Folklore and Middle English lists so I'll read those this summer, with Early Modern slated for fall reading.
So here's my question to the world- what's the best way to read/study for comps?
  • Is it to write short, rhetorical precis type responses for each work?
  • Create a notebook for each area, and take notes as I read?
  • Just read and annotate?
My Methodology/Folklore committee member has told me the four questions will break down as:
  1. one left field question
  2. one based on a discussion we've had
  3. one specific to my dissertation
  4. one that focuses on the methodology
My Middle English committee member has told me the exam will break down as:
  1. identify and explain key terms/phrases
  2. passage ID and close analysis
  3.  Synthesis essays (two parts) that address 3-5 ME works each and scholarly material
I'm still trying to lock down my Early Modern committee member.
I'd appreciate any comments/thoughts on how you prepped, things that worked, things that didn't.

Response to "From Devil to Saint: Transformations in Sir Gowther"

This article, and the text, Sir Gowther, is close to my research interests, so I was looking forward to Charbonneau's analysis. But after reading it, I think she completely misses the point, and I think her misreading has to do with how she tries to classify Sir Gowther. By trying to fit it into definitions of romance, or hagiography, she completely misses the markers of folklore that are at the heart of Sir Gowther, and therefore misinterprets the entire text.

As the preface in the TEAMS text states, Sir Gowther has all the markings of folklore: the Wish Child motif, where a woman makes a wish for a child and ends up with something different than she wanted; the wild behavior of Gowther which can be tied to changeling children stories, and the association with the woods. Gowther displays all the marks of a folkloric changeling child/incubus' child. Yet Charbonneau states that "allusions to Merlin, similarities to Robert the Devil stories, and evocations of incubus lore seem pointless if the reason for the references is not sharply and immediately understood by an audience" (22). I believe this misreading stems from her looking at the text as literature, and not the folkloric nature of the text. Given the folklore motifs in the text, I believe that Charbonneau's assumption that the references would not be understood by the audience is a wrong one. I believe that these elements would have been easily recognizable to the audience of the time, and that the problems Charbonneau has with reading the text has to do with misidentifying a modern audience's issues with the text with that of the original audience.

Because Charbonneau identifies, but then dismisses the folkloric elements, she misreads the text. Gowther is the product of the wish child motif- his mother wishes for a child, and gets one, with a twist- he is the product of a demon, and therefore a changeling. She quotes Bradstock, stating that Gowther is a "contemplation of the nature of original sin" (25), trying to fit the folkloric elements of the story into a religious tale, and later wondering if the author "intended his work as a religious story, a semi-religious story or a hagiographic piece" (26). I believe this misreads the text by not considering that the tale of Sir Gowther has folkloric roots, and (re)tells an earlier, oral tale, and that the religious images, and ending plot, is evidence of this revision/re-imaging.

Charbonneau says that "Sir Gowther is provocative, but not profound; it raises questions, but gives no consistent or satisfying answers" (27). If you read Sir Gowther as folklore, then it is easy to see that the mismatches in genre and plot that occur represent anxieties and tensions about a more primitive, oral culture, and the written authoritative texts as represented by the Church. The people that folklore represents (or how the Church would have the people represented), have to believe that the Church can triumph over the customs, and beliefs of the people. Therefore, the changeling child, born of a demon, has to be able to find salvation. However, the artificial means through which this is achieved point to the fact that there is an underlying tension in this belief.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

MS Junius11 and Satan

Images can be found at
Focusing on p24, 28 and 30

I chose to examine pages 24, 28, and 31 of the Junius 11 MS because of the way the images on these pages revise or rework the same images. Page 24 has wide top, left, and bottom margins. The text takes up the beginning half of the page, with the illustration framed in a box at the bottom. The text is a single piece, not laid out in separate columns. The scene is an angel with dark hair/head covering and a red crown pointing, perhaps instructing Eve. Eve holds a piece of fruit in her hand. The scene is set on Earth, as can be seen by the trees that frame the far left and right side of the illustration box as well as the ground Eve and the angel are standing on. There is a darkly shaded plant that separates Eve and the angel.
          Page 28 mirrors page 24 with the top of the page is taken up with text, and an illustration occupying the bottom of the page. There are no glosses or translations on the page, although p28 has three lightning/S marks about halfway down on the text. There are wide margins on the top, left side, and bottom of the page. The illustration is framed in a box and shows an angel offering fruit to both Adam and Eve. Eve is already eating the fruit, but Adam appears to be hesitating. Adam and Eve are shown naked, so pre-lapsarian, although this illustration would seem to illustrate the moment of the Fall. The angel is shown with wings, but a dark head covering. This appears to mark him as different, although it is not as dark as it was illustrate on p24. This illustration appears to build on the one on p24.
         Page 31 shows a revision of the previous two illustrations. Page 31 has two boxed illustrations on the page, with no text, although there are wide margins on the top and right, with a large empty space at the bottom. The top illustration shows Eve offering Adam the fruit, on the right hand side, with a different angel on the left, observing. There is no dark covering, so the implication is not that the angel is the one that offered Eve the fruit, but rather just observes the transgression. To the right of Eve is a tree, but it does not hold the same fruit as what Eve is offering to Adam. The tree is also different in appearance than the trees shown on p24, it is less stylized.
The bottom illustration appears to be after the Fall. Adam is shown on the left, prostrated on the ground, but looking towards the heavens. A tree separates Eve from Adam. Eve appears to be drinking or eating from something, and there is a smile on her face. An angel stands to Eve’s right, blowing something out of his mouth, and he is shown with dark hair. He has wings, but is also shown with a tail, and is pointing at Eve. At the bottom of the page, in the blank space below the boxed illustrations is an odd faded lion, which appears almost as a watermark, barely discernable.
These three illustrations are found in Gathering 3 lines 235-490 (page 24) and 4 showing lines 491-485 (page 28 and 31) of the manuscript, and cover the text of Genesis B. Genesis B is an interprolated text, inserted into Genesis, an English version of a 9th century German source. The text covers line s235-851 and tells the story of Lucifer’s fall due to pride, his view of Adam and Eve as usurpers of his place, a reward to any of his followers that can get Adam and Eve to rebel against God, Eve’s temptation, the Fall, and their expulsion from the Garden.
Reading the illustrations in conjunction with the text, we can first see that we have two different illustrators, with the illustrations of 24 and 28 belonging to one hand, and the illustrations on 31 as belonging to another. While the images clearly build on one another, the artistic differences mark them as belonging to two different hands. The framing on 24 and 28 is similar, as is the detail and the portrayal of Lucifer. 24 and 28 seem to show Lucifer himself tempting Eve, and then Adam and Eve, as he is shown with a red crown, a mark of his own fall. The dual illustrations on 31 are simpler, and the characterization of Lucifer is different. He doesn’t wear a red crown, but his dark hair marks him as other, as does his tail.  Another argument for the illustrator of 31 being different from 24 and 28 is the portrayal of Eve. The characterization of Eve on p24 and 28 is of innocence, the facial given to her and Adam is similar. However, the expression on her face in 31 points to a more devious, beguiling characterization. Not only is she not looking towards the heavens as Adam is, presumably asking for forgiveness, but she continues to consume. There is also the composition, with the tree separating her and Adam, and Lucifer placed on the right side with Eve, associating one with the other.
The illustrations on 31 also rewrite the story of the previous illustrations. The story as shown on 24 and 28 is that Lucifer offers the fruit first to Eve, and then offers the fruit to Adam and Eve. While Eve is the first to eat, the perpetrator is clearly shown as Lucifer. The illustrator of 31 though clearly puts the blame on Eve as the angel that is shown in the top illustration is clearly not Lucifer, rather just an observer to the transgression, perhaps one of Lucifer’s followers who was able to tempt Adam and Eve to rebel although there are no markers of Other in the illustration, or it could be one of God’s angels set to watch over the garden. It is Eve alone who is shown as tempting Adam to sin.  The illustrator of 31 clearly wants to characterize Eve as the reason for the Fall, and as one who is unrepentant of her sin.
Genesis B is a unique text because it is the first text to present Satan, named Lucifer thereafter by his followers, as an angel that fell from heaven because of his pride, and his subsequent jealousy of man for taking his place. The illustrations of this piece in the MS Junius 11 not only show Lucifer’s complicity in the Fall (not present in the Biblical Genesis text) but also characterize Lucifer as modern readers would recognize- as someone who schemed, and then took great joy in the Fall of man.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Popular Culture as Modern Folklore

K. Shimabukuro
SWPCA February 2014
Popular Culture as Modern Folklore
Jack Zipes argues in Breaking the Magic Spell that “the folk tale was (and still is) an oral narrative form cultivated by non-literate and literate people to express the manner in which they perceived and perceive nature and their social order and their wish to satisfy their needs and wants” (7). He further states that “each historical epoch and each community altered the original folk tales according to its needs as they were handed down over the centuries” (8). However, in seeming contrast to these statements, he also argues that mass media  and the commercial interests of the culture it reflects do not accurately portray the original intent, purpose, or stories of the original fairy tales (140).
    I would argue that by stating that Zipes is missing an opportunity on two counts. The first is his work makes a clear distinction between “true”, original folktales and fairy tales and “less true” modern imaginings. The assumption that there is only one way to read these tales (true or less true) disregards any modern reimagining as being valid, or true. The second is he also draws a clear line between the cultures and societies that originated these tales, and the modern day. Zipes does not acknowledge that any connections can be made between these older, oral cultures, and popular culture today. I argue that due to the intertextuality of today’s popular culture, that it is the first time since the original time of these tales that an era has so closely replicated that of the original. If we substitute “oral-narrative” form for popular culture, then we have new lens through which to view popular culture, that of modern folklore. Further examining Zipes’ definition that the purpose of these tales was for “people to express the manner in which they perceived and perceive nature and their social order and their wish to satisfy their needs and wants” we can specifically look at aspects of popular culture where a groups needs, wants, and fears are addressed, the modern day horror film. The modern day horror film as a reflection of American cultures’ fears and cultural wants has been a focus of recent scholarship, most notably in Projected Fears: Horror Films and American Culture, Horror Film and Psychoanalysis, and Men, Women and Chainsaws. Scholars have also focused on the reimaginings, or revisions of fairy tales and folklore in popular culture.
However, what has not been explored are the ways in which original popular culture functions as modern or new  folklore.
    In order to examine popular culture in this way, I first turned to the motif index of folk literature to identify narrative elements in several popular television shows. As you can see each of these shows has specific narrative elements associated with folklore.
    However, as Koven argues, the methodology of identifying traditional narrative elements in popular culture is highly problematic. Rather than being the beginning and end of analysis, I argue that this identification has to be just the beginning. Instead, we must also examine “how the ethnographic and anthropological materials are being used” (49).
I followed Koven’s approach with looking at how these shows “build new beliefs and then recycle those beliefs back into popular culture” (viii). “Reintroduces the narrative back into the oral tradition” (72)
    Koven argues that “certain popular culture forms succeed because they act like folklore” (7).
  • Buffy: Buffy rewrote the female heroine, presenting the anti-final girl. The show also established the mythology of vampires as demon possessed people with no souls. That vampires turned to dust. It also presented this world as grounded in reality, and not fantasy.
    • Eureka, Friends, The SImpsons, Xena, Charmed, Hannah Montana, Smallville, Gilmore Girls, Farscape, Will and Grace, Daria, True Blood, Dawson’s Creek, Heroes, Being Human, Bones, Family Guy, The Vampire Diaries, Supernatural, How I Met Your Mother, OUAT, Haven,
  • X-Files: Focusing instead on the mythology the show created, rather than the folkloric tales it revised, the X-Files created a whole cloth mythology of aliens, tracing it from Roswell through modern day. It took random, unconnected stories of aliens and created a cohesive mythology from it.
    • X-Files has been referenced in The Simpsons, Family Guy, Supernatural, ST: DS9, Buffy, Angel, Californication, Bones, Castle, Fringe, The Big Bang Theory, Breaking Bad, and Haven
  • Battlestar Galactica: by creating a future where mythology became the basis for religion, BSG used folklore and mythology to shape discussions about current events, particularly the connection and perils of the contrast between humanity and technology.
    • BSG had been referenced in shows such as 30 Rock, The Big Bang Theory, Bones, The Colbert Report, The Daily Show, Heroes, NCIS, the OC, Veronica mars, Robot Chicken, Scrubs and South Park
  • Supernatural: Supernatural is known for the folklore it investigates, but I argue that the new folklore it has created is focused on the presentation of heaven, angels and demons.
As Koven argues, folklore/tales are “One type of narrative content that has stood the test of time; these narratives would not be passed on to subsequent generations unless they had some relevance to the supporting culture” (64).
  • Buffy Buffy’s importance as a symbol of girl power and as a prototype for subsequent female protagonists is often discussed as is Whedon’s storytelling and dialogue on television. But Buffy also provided a look at growing up without nostalgia and in a way that treated the experiences of young adults in a way that did not minimize their experiences
  • X-Files Represented real fears about government control, and in the dawning millenium with the growth of the Internet and technology, what it meant to discover and pursue the truth
  • Battlestar Galactica BSG allowed for big discussions about post 9/11 behavior, torture, war, and what it meant to be human. It also served as a cautionary tale of what can happen when technology outstrips or outruns humanity.
  • Supernatural continues to explore issues of violence, trauma and faith, as well as to play with ideas of narrative, fandom and storytelling.
    While all of these examples show evidence of revising and reimagining folklore, I believe that the argument for popular culture as new folklore can be seen in the way that the ideas, characters, and storylines of these shows have been recycled, revised, and referenced in popular culture since their premiere. How many people have based their ideas of vampires, demons, aliens, and technology on the ideas presented in these shows versus any other source? Terms such as Scooby Gang, Cigarette Smoking Man, “So say we all” or Hunters have entered the lexicon, and become a shorthand for certain people or situations in the same way that myths, fairy tales, and legends have.  While identifying the folkloric narrative elements of these shows is a place to start, I believe that exploring popular culture for the ways it contributes to creating new folklore is a new avenue for exploring these works and analyzing their importance as a mirror of reflecting the issues and troubles of our times.

Works Cited
Brunvand, Jan . The Study of American Folklore: An Introduction, 2nd edition. New York: W.W. Norton, 1978.
Hymes, Dell . Foundations in Sociolinguistics: An Ethnographic Perspective. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1974.
Sims, Martha C.  and Martine Stephens. Living Folklore: An Introduction to the Study of People and their Traditions. Pp. 1-2. Logan: Utah State University Press, 2005.
Zipes, Jack. Breaking the Magic Spell: Radical Theories of Folk and Fairy Tales Revised and Expanded Edition. The University Press of Kentucky, 2002. Print.

The State of Things: My Dissertation Outline

So I have a couple of thoughts I'm going back and forth on with my dissertation outline.
  • Originally I was going to examine the devil in literature, from medieval through early modern texts grouping according to personality, actions, and physical description. I keep going back and forth between doing this to show the variation and more clearly trace the evolution, and organizing chronologically.
  •  If chapter 1, 2, 3 are personality, actions, and physical descriptions, then I had planned for chapter 4 to examine specifically how the character was used, by the Church, and against women. Now I wonder if texts of the Church (usually just available in Latin, and therefore not accessible to lay people) should be the delineation, or if these texts should be integrated into the first three chapters.
  • For the introduction, I'm playing with the idea of mapping Anglo-Saxon migrations and manuscripts that feature the devil over each other on a graphic. Both as a way to clarify my thinking, and as a visual for my introductory chapter. A little digital humanities work. We don't  have anyone in the department that does digital humanity work, but I think this is a small enough project where I could do it on my own.

The Merchant of Venice and Conversion


Originally, I was advised to insert Shakespeare into my dissertation. I thought perhaps I could approach it through how characters were Othered or demonized, or associated with the devil. The Merchant of Venice and Othello seemed like natural places to start. However, after research The Merchant of Venice for my presentation for my Global Renaissance class, I can cross Merchant off the list.
On a happy side note, I'm very interested in the idea of conversion as a tool of globalization.

The class particularly liked my close reading of the title.

Response 2
            In “Heterogenizing Imagination: Globalization, “The Merchant of Venice,” and the Work of Literary Criticism”, Stevens states that globalization functions as a form of cultural memory, in that it is often misunderstood, misread, and glossed into a simplified form of itself. He also argues that “modern Western capitalism was global from its inception” (428). He moves on to a summary Bhagwati’s reading of The Merchant of Venice. In Bhagwati’s reading, “Shakespeare recognized that integration into the world economy via trade could constrain the freedom of domestic action” (Stevens quoting Bhagwati 429), that the play is not anti-Semitic in the modern sense, that Shylock is satirized for not being enough of a capitalist and not his Jewishness.
            The key issue I want to focus on is Stevens’ argument that The Merchant of Venice is “disquieting” (431) because Shylock is “not enfranchised so much as assimilated” (431) through his forced conversion. As Stevens asserts, “Globalization, as seen even by its most thoughtful advocates, such as Giddens, means a decline in individual agency and subjection to a process of homogenization” (431). He goes on to illustrate his point by connecting Shylock and Chakrabary’s work through their alien nature. Stevens focuses on the fact that Shylock’s cultural identity is slowly eroded.  He is robbed, of material goods, as well as his place in the world, and his daughter. Despite clinging to his family, his culture, and his community, he is shut out of all of these things. He is robbed of his reputation and religion in the face of Antonio and the legal system of Venice. He is robbed of his family when his daughter deserts and betrays him, most keenly by her conversion. His forced conversion strips his identity, and reaffirms Stevens argument that Shylock is “assimilated” (431). Stevens points to Chakrabarty’s writing, and the sense of loss (435) inherent in it as echoing the feelings of Shylock. Specifically quoting Chakrabarty’s literary book, “Concepts such as citizenship, the state, civil society, public sphere, human rights, equality before the law, the individual, distinctions between public and private, the idea of the subject, democracy, popular sovereignty, social justice…all bear the burden of European thought and history” (433).
            I viewed Stevens’ argument through the lens of conversion as a tool of globalization. To me, there is an inherent tension in The Merchant of Venice about the nature of conversion. Shapiro argues during this time that there was an emerging sense of English identity, but also a need to distinguish between Christians and Jews as part of forming that identity and “England came to see their country defined in part by the fact that Jews had been banished from it” (42) There were also fears and anxieties about the growing alien population, to which conversion seems to be the solution. If aliens who were valuable to the mercantile sector of the nation-state could have their alien nature nullified by conversion, then they would present less of a threat to the nation-state. Shylock is assimilated into the capitalist culture of Venice in much the same way. He can continue to operate in the city-state, contributing to the good of the nation-state, while the source of anxiety, his Jewishness, is negated by his forced conversion. If Shylock had not converted, then the punishment had to be death, as he would represent too much of a threat.
In addition to the losses of family, culture, and community Shylock is also denied the potential benefits of citizenship, “ civil society, public sphere, human rights, equality before the law” (Chakrabarty 433). As the Duke’s decision confirms, the “distinctions between public and private” and “social justice” (Chakrabarty 433) are erased in order for capitalism, and globalization to be successful. Shylock cannot remain a Jew if the nation-state of Venice is to be successful. Antonio, as the merchant, must be awarded, and Shylock’s identity must be erased. Legally speaking, the Duke could have just found in favor of Antonio. The forced conversion is troubling because it is unnecessary. Rather than view it as anti-Semitic, I believe it has to viewed as a tool of capitalism, and hence globalization. As Stevens quoted Bhagwati’s reading, “Shakespeare recognized that integration into the world economy via trade could constrain the freedom of domestic action” (429). In order for Venice to integrate into the world economy (globalization) then Shylock’s freedom, of religion, and culture, must be constrained, and negated. The forced, and problematic, conversion can then be read as a tool for globalization.

Works Cited
Shapiro, James. Shakespeare and the Jews. New York: Columbia University Press, 1996. Print.
----- “Which is The Merchant here, and which The Jew?”: Shakespeare and the Economics of Influence.” Shakespeare Studies 20 (1988): 269-491.
Stevens, Paul. ““Heterogenizing Imagination: Globalization, “The Merchant of Venice,” and the Work of Literary Criticism”. New Literary History 36:3 (2005): 425-437.