Schindler’s List, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and “saying about”/”saying with.” Also Spielberg and Kubrick

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Illinois Wesleyan is pretty big on theater, and I ended up seeing a few plays for English classes. I can’t remember at all what the last one I saw was called, but I can vividly remember what it was about. A Jewish family from Poland is separated before the second war when the father moves to America with the younger of the two daughters. Their plan was to wait for him to make enough money to bring over the mother and other sister and her husband, but the war breaks out before that can happen. The play is set after the war, when the older sister is found alive and comes to America to live with her sister in the city.

Some of my friends loved it to death, while a few others agreed with me that there seemed to be something not quite right about it. I think most of my problems came from acting and directing decisions, but I didn’t know how to articulate it at the time, so when my friend asked me how it didn’t tear my heart open, I said something stupid like “There’s been tons of things about the Holocaust. What is there left to say about it?” My friend immediately said “everything.” More

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I started reading Les Mis

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I’m back in Illinois with a couple of jobs now, but, in the interim of moving back home from Washington and figuring out what to do with myself, I had enough free time to seriously get into doing something like reading a 1300 page book. About a year ago, I picked up what was supposed to be a really excellent translation of Hugo’s Les Miserables after another wave of English major guilt made me feel like I needed to read it someday, so, I figured that this was the time. I got a little bit of somewhere in this book with the first week of reading, before I got a job and stuff, but there’s no way I’ll have this done before I stop caring about keeping this blog up. So, Les Mis Part One: the 200 or so pages I’ve read so far and what I think I’ve learned from it about books and things. More

Review of William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, a New Hope, by Ian Doescher, and my first chance to talk about Shakespeare

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This is the kind of thing for which I’ve been waiting a long time but just never realized the fact until I saw it on a bookstore shelf about a week ago.

See, I used to be a drastically different person back in high school. As a little kid, I was painfully shy, and I had about two friends at any given time. Around middle school, I came out of my shell a little too much and actually got myself involved with lots of acting sorts of things. I was never very good at it, but it was what my friends were doing, and I have to admit it was pretty fun. It was especially fun when I got my first big break playing Oberon in our production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream my sophomore year–a production commonly considered among the best if not the best show my high school ever put on. I didn’t know much about Shakespeare before then, but this left a good taste in my mouth and an appetite for a lot more. More

Review of Elysium, and a bit about obviousness in narrative agenda

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One of the first movie reviews I ever wrote for The Argus was of District 9, which was probably a pretty nice one to get started on. It was a well-made and thoughtful movie with a unique story behind its creation giving me tons of material with which to fill a 500-word space, including an attention-grabbing warning that it was probably the most brutally violent movie I’d ever seen. Now director and screenwriter Niell Blomkamp has a second thoughtful and intense sci-fi action movie for me to review, Elysium. And, again, I had no problem thinking of lots of things to say even as the movie was making me cringe with disgust or freeze with tension. More

On reviews and making things worth reviewing

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Fiction narratives have been my passion for most of my life, and that’s exactly what made me accidentally become a journalist in school.

When I came to Illinois Wesleyan University as a freshman, I learned that the university newspaper, The Argus, gives people money to write movie reviews, and that was all I ever needed to hear. One year later, with about ten or so pieces featuring my name in the byline, I was offered a position as Managing Editor. A year after that, I was Editor-in-Chief.

Writing reviews has since been a thing of the past for me. While I was Chief, my Managing Editor and I had to keep the paper’s news section floating by desperately scrounging the 2000-student campus for anything to write about, and, since then, I’ve only had my long-term magazine internship/assistantship working with the editorial team on researching and proofreading and fact-checking.

Now I’m finally coming back to reviews. Soon I’ll have my very first book review published on the Yes! Magazine website, and I also plan to take on a couple of reviews here for some respite after all that abstracted theory and analysis. But before getting into that, I think it’s worth talking about review writing itself and the methods I have used and plan to use. More

Coming to terms with Reader Response theory

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At my university, the English department offers a terrifying trial-by-fire for foolish English majors who suffer the arrogant delusion of thinking they know what they’re talking about. Literary Theories is the kind of experience after which you will no longer fear death, and it was a class I thought I could handle. And I suppose I did handle it, getting out with a B and managing to write the first of my two essays that Professor Chapman would give an A through my three classes with him, but I got my face kicked every day trying to keep up with all of that lit theories stuff.

We read one piece of fiction, James Joyce’s short story “The Dead,” and then spent four months reading essays on every variety of literary theory we could fit in the class. Things like feminist, Marxist, psychoanalytical, and liberal humanist theory were old-hat, but we (I) hit some pretty debilitating snags with postmodern theory, and never ask me to explain what deconstructionist theory is even supposed to be. But the one I struggled with in the best sort of way, as in I could actually understand it and thus grapple with it, was reader response theory. More

Children’s literature and prescription/description

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At the moment, I’m living in a house on Bainbridge Island, Washington thanks to the magazine for whom I’m interning. And in one of the house’s bookshelves, there’s a copy of Martin the Warrior from the Redwall series.

The first night I got to this house six months ago, none of my housemates were home, so I kinda looked around with nothing better to do. When I found Martin the Warrior, that gave me plenty.

Brian Jacques (actually pronounced “Jakes”; he wasn’t the type for pretentious French crap) and his Redwall series is probably the chief reason behind why I was an English lit major and am as in love with stories as I am. More

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