EN 220, Week 1 Notes
EN 220, Week 1 Notes EN 220
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This 6 page Class Notes was uploaded by Rhiannon Hein on Thursday January 21, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to EN 220 at University of Alabama - Tuscaloosa taught by Dr. Christopher Love in Spring 2016. Since its upload, it has received 33 views. For similar materials see Honors American Literature II in Foreign Language at University of Alabama - Tuscaloosa.
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Date Created: 01/21/16
1/19/15 Huckleberry Finn Day 1 Notes Pgs. 130204 I. Importance of rivers in American literature a. Mississippi river and Ohio river in Huckleberry Finn i. Vehicle to freedom, realistic method of transportation to the ideal place II. Types of realism: a. James realism and Twain realism i. two different styles of writing that use the same methods or look at the same problems III. Realism and Naturalism (18651914) a. Mark Twain, Henry James (realists) b. Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Jack London, Edith Wharton (naturalists) c. Naturalism is a kind of realism d. Realism and Naturalism are artistic, philosophical, political, social and economic responses to Romanticism e. In literature, Realism and Naturalism begin around the 1830s in Europe, though characteristics of Realism began much earlier i. By the time Romanticism gets to America (around the 1840s), Europe’s already beginning realism 1. America makes these movements, which they get from Europe, as their own. These movements are Americanized. f. Realism in American literature is evident in the 1850s; however, becomes much more prominent after the Civil War g. Naturalism comes later (around the 1880s) and was tremendously influenced by Darwin’s theories on biology and biological drives underlying behavior i. Darwin’s influence changes realism and influences the movement toward naturalism ii. Naturalism is not to be confused with “nature worship” or the idealization of nature h. Naturalist writers see nature as indifferent, callous force, concerned only with survival and propagation of the species i. Very cynical view of nature IV. Romanticism vs. realism a. A romantic view of nature from the British Romantic William Wordsworth: “Nature never betrayed the heart that loved her” from the poem “Tintern Abbey” i. Nature as innocent and unspoiled, a reflection of God’s grace from which humanity could commune with God or see aspects of God and derive artistic inspiration from God through Nature. ii. Romantics were spiritual and mystics. iii. Nature is benign, a force of God, and therefore good. iv. Romantics believe that nature can be brutal, but see this as a result of humanity’s corruption of the natural world and their own corruption. v. That’s why so many characters flee corruption of society and retreat to the innocent natural world. b. A Realist/Naturalist perspective from the British Realist Alfred, Lord Tennyson: “Nature, red in tooth and claw” from In Memoriam c. Realists portray nature as how humans experience it in their daily lives. d. They are more interested in nature as the everyday experience rather than the more philosophical, mystical “Nature” e. Naturalists see Nature as strictly biologicallydriven, absent of spirituality f. Humans are born neither good nor evil, but driven by survival and sexual impulses. V. Realism and Naturalism a. Portray society and human nature as “it is” rather than idealize b. Attempt to represent a recognizable, familiar world of the reader; few, limited supernatural elements, or at least try to rationally explain such c. attempt to capture how people “really” speak rather than in formal or elevated language i. One of Twain’s groundbreaking accomplishments d. Social Realism: Social forces are the predominant influence over people’s lives and fate rather than free will (Realism) e. Naturalism: Biological forces drive human behavior and society (survival, sex, food, shelter, competition) f. Romantics believe in the individual will, where naturalists and realists believe that individual will means nothing, and an individual’s future is controlled by forces outside of himself. g. Realists and naturalists also believe in the limiting factor of ignorance: one cannot be aware of all the factors that play into his fate. i. Free will is strongly downplayed in realist and natural writing. h. Realists and naturalists give us a romantic protagonist and then crush them. i. Rather than portrayed as heroes they’re portrayed as naïve ii. Idealistic protagonists often meet with tragic endings and portrayed as naïve, successful heroism, triumph is downplayed or nonexistent i. Emphasize psychological complexity of characters and the biologicallydriven irrational nature of the human mind (naturalism) j. Realism and naturalism look to science and natural causes rather than divine intervention or Providential explanations; skeptical of spirituality, God, religion k. Realism and Naturalism look to expose how the society and human behavior is fundamentally structured and how and why it operates and how individuals are caught up in its machinery i. The lines of freedom, how do we approach complete freedom and when is freedom too much freedom? ii. Romanticism never gets into these questions, it remains in the abstract VI. Form of Realism and Naturalism a. Classic Realism and Naturalism often proceed methodically and chronologically, with little shift in time or perspective i. Naturalism makes more use of the mind’s experience of time rather than from an external third person perspective 1. Start to get more psychological with the individual experience and more in the mind (new type of narrative) b. Very detailed and attempt to represent a common experience c. Represent the common, everyday, and often mundane experiences of life i. Contrast this with the heroic, extraordinary, unique, exotic experience of Romanticism) VII. Twain and Realism, Naturalism, and Romanticism a. Twain blends Romantics elements with Realism and Naturalism; though, the novel Adventures of Huck Finn is mainly a work of Realism b. Romantic elements of Huck Finn include the adventuretale aspects of the story, Huck’s innate goodness, his natural sense of morality, and that his worst traits are a result of learning from corrupt adults and corrupt society i. Huck is very impressionable c. Twain’s portrayal of the peaceful, serenity of nature exemplifies Romantic traits; however, Twian’s recognition that this is temporary tempers this idealization especially through Jim, whose goals are not the same as Huck’s i. Who was reading Twain in the 19 century? He doesn’t want to be controversial in the relationship between Huck and Jim ii. He has to take on questions of morality, race and slavery and doesn’t want to alienate his audience, so he actually puts the book away for 7 or 8 years before it was finally published in 1884. 1. Very different from Tom Sawyer, which had no moral growth or controversial issues d. Twain’s use of regional dialects, frank confrontation of racism, and realistic, earthly portrayal of its characters closely align the majority of the novel with Realism i. Entire novel relies on regional dialects. This is part of what makes the dialect distinctly American. ii. Regionalism will be important in the rest of American literature 1. All regional writers are influenced by Twain iii. Realism directly attacks certain social or political controversies, rather than Romantic novels 1. After slavery is destroyed, there is no abolitionist movement. Twain sort of picks up and confronts the issue again (which not many writers do) e. Except for Huck and Jim, most characters behave out of greed, moral blindness, and hypocrisy i. Twain’s writing gets more critical and dark as he moves along in his career. ii. Humor is used more for satire iii. Twain also touches upon child abuse, a controversial issue to talk about in the late 19 century iv. Miss Watson is a Christian, but also owns a slave and is willing to sell Jim down the river despite her promise not too. f. The novel resolves ambiguously rather than heroically or over dramatically g. For Huck, freedom is abstract i. There is no clear definition for freedom or what it can be, only certain moments and activities that make him feel free ii. Freedom is elusive for Huck, he constantly searches for it without ever quite catching it. 1. The quest for freedom is beautiful, according to the Romantics. For Twain, however, the quest is not sustainable a. Huck can’t actually live forever on the Mississippi river iii. Jim has a very concrete idea of freedom, and a very concrete plan for that freedom, where as Huck’s idea of freedom is abstract VIII. Toni Morrison’s Defense of Huck Finn a. Without Jim, Huck never would’ve learned a sense of morality b. Jim plays an integral role in Huck’s moral development and coming of age c. “It is the controversy that it raises” i. This book is what people are arguing about. ii. Jim is never referred to as a man—Twain knows what he’s doing by using the “n word” over and over again iii. It doesn’t resolve the racial tension, it brings it to the surface but doesn’t attempt to solve it. 1/21/15 Huckleberry Finn Day 2 Notes I. Should the “N word” be banned—should Huck Finn be altered? a. To edit the “n word” to slave changes the meaning b. Takes out a valuable teaching moment c. We shouldn’t be able to tell an African American student what they’re feeling. We can’t say “Twain used it for a reason so you can’t feel offended” d. Is there a difference between reading it and saying it out loud? i. Can you read the word but refer to it as the “n word” in discussions? e. The “n word” still means something—it still holds a lot of power. Thus, there is still something to be learned. f. Often times when Huck is reciting derogatory sayings about black people, he’s actually poking fun at his readers without them realizing it. i. We as 21 century writers are in on the joke but 19 century readers would’ve perhaps agreed with Huck instead of recognizing the ridiculousness of what he says. ii. Huck Finn marks a turning point in Twain’s career—his humor gets darker and more satirical after this point. II. Huck’s internal struggle a. At times, Huck does believe the stereotypes i. He repeats racist thoughts throughout the texts. He vacillates between what he’s been taught and what he feels. b. He refers to Jim as “which” instead of who, demonstrating how he views Jim (and his family) as pieces of property. c. Struggle of turning Jim in or aiding him in his escape i. pg. 184 ii. Huck accepts the system as it is—that Jim must be doing something wrong according to the rules of society. III. Difference between Huck’s quest and Jim’s quest a. Huck’s quest is an abstract notion of freedom, that certain actions or conditions— not really explained—will bring him some sense of freedom. Huck only feels free after freedom has been attained, he has no clear goal of how to attain freedom. b. Jim has a very concrete idea of freedom; he wants to escape to the north and later by his wife and children. Jim has a goal for freedom and knows how to attain it. IV. Significance of Jim as a character a. Before Twain, black characters rarely speak (if at all). b. A black person’s voice was never heard—they were not permitted to speak. i. This prevented black people from ever taking center stage in the discourse of the text. c. Jim is serviceable to Huck. Huck becomes a moral person because of this black man who is never actually called a man. d. Twain gives Jim context by giving him a family and giving him stories—such as the story where Jim hits his daughter who actually had gone deaf. i. These stories allow Huck to realize that these people are like him, are capable of caring about their children just the same. V. Huck’s moral development on pg. 260 a. Huck decides that he should turn Jim in to Miss Watson so at least he can be a slave near his family. i. This decision comes after Jim is already captured and turned in, and Huck finally understands that Jim would be better off near his family as a slave than all by himself. b. This demonstrates how Huck is starting to see Jim as a person capable and deserving of love and affection. c. Huck decides that he’d rather go to Hell than turn Jim over and do what society expects (pg. 262). i. This is a romantic moment, he does the right thing and turns away from the corruption of society ii. He has a moral instinct despite everything he’s been taught and how society has tried to ingrain on him what the “right” thing to do is iii. His friendship with Jim makes him tear up the letter. VI. Why is the discussion of race unique to American literature? a. Our country was built upon slavery i. Our agricultural system was contingent upon the use of slaves b. England was predominantly white, while America has had to deal with a lot of racial diversity i. Extent of American diversity not seen in Europe
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