Blog from November, 2012

Students in Engl 170-01 Fall 2012: You'll find the main page for the final exam here. I'll be sending you a survey that we'll use to put people into teams, but meanwhile, get started on the Brainstorming page, to which everyone should contribute. And have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Other 19th Century British Writers and the Theme of Poverty

After discussing the theme of poverty in Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol in class the other day, I began thinking about how much of 19th century Victorian-era literature is heavily influenced on the terrible living conditions of the time. The British Victorian era gave us some of the most beloved novels and poetry of all times, including Charles Dickens, The Bronte's, William Thackeray, Robert Browining, and Alfred Tennyson, to name a few.  It was then that I came to the realization just how heavy of an influence the living conditions at the time influenced such esteemed writers. I traveled around England for three weeks two years ago, and visited countless museums and went on many tours of different places in England. I found that it wasn't only London that was a disgusting and horrible place to live, but many other towns in England, too. Along with that, Dickens was not the only writer to be influenced by the horrible living conditions of the 1800's. Take for example, The Bronte sisters. On my travels, I went to Haworth, home of the Bronte's. I learned about how the little town once stank with the stench of disease, and sewers would run out into the streets. The drinking water was so dirty that 1/3 children in Haworth under the age of ten would die. This includes the Bronte's own older sisters, Maria and Elizabeth, whose death inspired Charlotte Bronte's novel, Jane Eyre. It astonished me that Patrick Bronte lived to see his wife and all six of his children die before himself, due to these terrible living conditions and disease. It was hard for me to believe that the beautiful little town of Haworth (see picture below) I was standing in was once so disgusting and deadly. 

Moving on from the Bronte's, William Thackeray's Vanity Fair is a novel that satires society in 19th century Britain. Elizabeth Gaskell wrote novels that painted pictures of people living in poverty during the Victorian era. Dickens, The Bronte's, Thackeray, and Gaskell all had underlining themes about poverty, soceity, and living conditions in the 19th century.

I then found an article,, which explains how London's living conditions inspired Charles Dickens' most famous works, including A Christmas Carol. It was very interesting reading more on sanitation, disease, the law and poverty in London at the time in which A Christmas Carol takes place. In conclusion, I just found it very interesting that Charles Dickens was not the only 19th century major author  to write about the many themes such as poverty, living conditions, and the law, in their classic novels that we still treasure in the literary society today.

Organized Laziness?

I have an interesting thought I would like to share with you guys (It is a bit of a digression) that stemmed from our discussion of Scoorge's rejection or indifference to giving charity. From the text I got the notion that Scoorge is not simply rejecting the donation collector, but feels extensively that he has already given charity indirectly through governmental processes like taxation, which reach the needy in forms of prisons and union workhouses.  We spoke about the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 that Scrooge refers to as well.  From what I understand, the Poor Law created a work environment for the poor which was purposely organized to be terrible in order to discourage them from working there and gaining 'poor relief'. This law follows the ideology that people will choose being pleasent and claim relief other than doing actual work whenever possible, which is understandable enough.  But in thinking about it, this really struck me as it sounded like the government at the time almost wanted the public to be lazy and thoughtless. And lazy and thoughtless we are when we are well-fed and pleasant   And as I thought about this, I started feeling that though we are certainly not under such a law system here, many modern day American can become drones to this lifestyle. I feel like most people will believe whatever they hear, eat whatever is given to them and are easily swayed to attach positive and negative symbols to things and events, no questions asked.  If we see it on the news or are assured something is 'safe', 'harmless' or 'all-natural'by a professional, we believe it without doing any individual research. We have reached a point where we are too cozy in our lives to bother, and are either unaware of how mcdonalized our lives have become or we just don't care as long as we are 'pleasant'.  Why do you think this is, and what causes the similarities between how people are today and how people were in Caroll's time? Or you can share just any thoughts in general about this.

-Atheeqa Aijaz 

Alice by the Generations

Sorry for bringing the topic back to Alice, but...I have been brainstorming ideas for the Paper 2 that is due in a little while. We spent a day asking questions about the topic and what would be a good route to take, but now that I am geting down to writing it I am not sure if my topic is a good one. Professor Schacht said that if we have questions to bring them up in class, but since we already spent one day on Paper 2, I thought I would write a blog post instead, that way whatever contributions any of us have it will be easier to remember since its on the blog website.

The idea I plan to write my "They say/I say" paper on is how each generation envisions Alice in our own way and finds new possible meanings for Carroll's books. I got the idea from when Professor Schacht brought up the idea of feminism in Tom Burton's newest version of Alice and how our generation influenced these features to come out in the movie. I started to wonder what influenced the layout of the other movies that recreate Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, like the 1951 animated film that or the 1972 version was made during the "Golden Age" of child-rearing or the 1972 version made in the middle of the Cold War. I think my "They say" statement will be along the lines of having someone say there is only one interpretation of books or that the meanings of novels cannot evolve as time passes and our society changes. I plan to counter this verdict by demonstrating the static and newer ideas that each generation takes from Carroll's books to prove that I believe books adapt to the generation, or something like that.

So, Professor Schacht, does this idea seem to be on the right track? Do I need to clear any confusion up? Does anyone in the class have any helpful criticism for me?

Hat Trick

In recent weeks in Engl 170-01, we've talked, at different times, about science fiction, copyright law, and the defamiliarization achieved by seeing ourselves through alien eyes.

Apparently all three come together in the newly published Year Zero, by Rob Reid. There's no room in my schedule to read it now, but if one of you is a helpless scifi fan and gobbles it up, please report to the rest of us.