Monday, August 31, 2009

Greta Tasedan
Blog 2

Queer Forster and Howards End

Forster's theme of sexual awakening discussed in "Queer Forster" is also found in Forster's novel Howards End. "The encounter with an erotic other, at once threatening and appealing" (Queer 4) is precisely what is found in Helen's story of her brief affair with Paul Wilcox. Forster describes Paul's attraction as simplicity itself, describing how "the heave of her bosom flattered him" (30). The most telling line is the very next where Forster describes Paul as thinking, "passion was possible, and he became passionate" (30). This lines says nothing of emotion, and everything of physical attraction and sexual passion. Had passion not seemed possible would Paul have become impassioned himself? Most likely not. While for Helen "life was to bring nothing more intense than the embrace of this boy who played no part in it" (31), Forster deliberately describes how their encounter had "drawn her out of the house, where there was danger of surprise and light" (31). This passage could be interpreted in several ways. Initially, it seems clear that Forster alludes to the possibility of a light being turned on or a family member surprising the couple in their passionate embrace, yet another interpretation is possible after reading "Queer Forster." Both "threatening and appealing" (Queer 4), Forster could also be describing how Paul is leading Helen away from the house and toward the "danger of surprise and light" (31). Overall Forster seems to be juxtaposing the ideas of love and sex in Howards End.
While Thacker's article, "Forster's Flux" may seem to describe entirely different subject matter, it called my attention to a passage in Howards End which draw's Forster's sexuality in with his understanding and preoccupation with spaces and places. Forster writes of London as

"a tract of quivering gray, intelligent without purpose, and excitable without love; as a spirit that has altered before it can be chronicled; as a heart that certainly beats, but with no pulsation of humanity....the earth is explicable - from her we came, and we must return to her. But who can explain Westminster Bridge Road or Liverpool Street in the morning - the city inhaling - or the same thoroughfares in the evening - the city exhaling her exhausted air" (116).

This description personifies London in a highly sexualized way, describing her inhale and exhale and the "heart that certainly beats." In addition to the highly sexualized language, the Forster theme of sexuality as both "threatening and appealing" (Queer 4) appears as well. There is an almost defeated theme in this passage, which describes a living breathing sexual being, which has "no pulsation of humanity." Thacker notices, "London is defined paradoxically: it lacks color, purpose, love and humanity, and although it does possess intelligence, excitement and pulsation, these qualities are drained of profundity" (51). Words like "gray" and "without purpose" illustrate the familiar juxtaposition of love and sex as dangerous yet irresistible.
Using these examples of Forster's conflicted views of love and sex, what does this say of the modernist view of love and sex in Forster's time? These conflicting views, and their subtle incorporation into Howards End indicate just how modern Forster's ideas were, and just how unusual and shocking it was for this subject matter to be discussed in literature. Forster's willingness to bring these issues wholeheartedly into his published work shows a great strength of character, and a great longing for broader social acceptance and understanding of such issues.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Greta Tasedan
Engl 814

Cambridge Introduction to Modernism

"Of Modern Man I sing" croons Walt Whitman, making his allegiance to the Modernist literary movement indisputable. In the Norton Anthology of Modern and Contemporary Poetry, the word Modern (Latin root word modo) is defined as "just now" (xxvii). Together with Ezra Pound's slogan "make it new," these two phrases encompass the very idea of the convoluted definition of modernism. In the Cambridge Introduction to Modernism so many different contributing factors are mentioned when attempting to describe the development of "Modern Man" with a capitol "M." One of the most important developments of modernism is the leaps and bounds taken in technology. In an era which boasts of the invention of "the electric light, the telegraph, the telephone, the portable camera, the cinema, the bicycle, the automobile, the airplane, and the machine gun (Lewis 11), one of the most important developments was that of easier communication, travel, and overall globalization.
Although the focus of the course is modernism in London, modernism in London might not have thrived as it did without the development of more reliable and speedy forms of communication. Ezra Pound, an expat from America, was instrumental in bringing modernism to Europe. Without the ability to travel relatively easily, Pound may have opted to run the modernist movement from America! Without the developments in communication, Pound might have never discovered his passion for the ideals of Mussolini and may never have been inspired to travel to Italy. How different things might have been.....
In Cambridge Introduction to Modernism, Lewis quotes Russian literary theorist Viktor Shklovsky as saying, "art's distinctive contribution is defamiliarization," (26) meaning that "most people see the world through inherited conventions" (26). These inherited notions are partially the effect of a society with very little communication with the outside world. Before this magnificent modernist era of technological creation and the development of globalization, would Shklovsky's theories have been as readily available for review as after the advent of the telephone?
While these technological developments helped spread the tenets of modernism, is modernism reliant on technology, Shklovsky, or even Ezra Pound for life? Is modernism dead with the advent of post-modernism? In the Cambridge Companion to Modernism Michael Levenson calls modernism the "movement that would never age and never end" (1). Although Levenson makes it clear he believes the modernist era is over when he asks, "Do we call for a return to modernism," (1) he has no idea how correct his statement describing the longevity of Modernism is. With this statement he has summed up the soul of modernism in its entirety. Modo or "just now" implies a state of immediacy, which ends just as abruptly to make room for the next moment of "just now." "Just now" is a state of being which occurs perpetually. At one point romanticism was modern, just as post-modernism is modern in the moment in which a new and revolutionary idea is considered. Thus, we, and all our predecessors back to Milton and beyond, were participants in the greatest literary movement of all time, Modernism with a capitol "M."