Sunday, January 23, 2011

Prompts for Thursday's Blog Post

Initial Notes:  Remember, you will have one of these due every week, except on those weeks when a revision is due.  They're due at ten p.m. on Thursday night.  Here's going to be my tentative late policy:  essays should be in by ten p.m.  I'll try to ignore slight lateness (say, a couple hours) as long as you don't make a habit of it.  If blog posts are more than a couple hours late, I will *not* comment on them, although you will still receive credit.  If your essay is more than a day late, do *not* post it to the blog.  Instead, email it to me with a brief explanation for its lateness.

Prompt 1:  Take one of the holy sonnets which is not included in, or referenced by, Wit.  Discuss how the play might have been changed (for instance, in its focus) by using a different one of the holy sonnets, including whether that change would, in your view, have improved or weakened the play.

Prompt 2:  In class, we will be discussing both The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies and The Runaway Bunny in relationship with Edson's play.  After listening carefully to what I have to say about the relationship of one or both of these texts to Wit, read both of them carefully (they'll be easy to find in any decent library or bookstore, obviously in the children's section), and do one of the following.

  • Extend something I had to say about the relationship among texts; that is, make my argument your own, and expand on it.
  • Offer an alternative interpretation of the role played by one or more of these children's books within Edson's work.
Prompt 3:  (This one was added Wednesday night).  Moving beyond the differences we noticed between the Donne poetry does reference and that which she does not reference, identify another feature which is absent from the poetry she selected, and discuss what that absence means.  In class, we mostly discussed the absence of the erotic side of his poetry:  identify something else that isn't used in the play.

Note 2: Generally, I will add an additional prompt within a day after class, based in some way on our discussion.

Note 3:  Remember that your Sunday blogs posted should go as comments to my post titled "open thread...".  


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  3. In the story Wit there is an underlying theme and understanding of death. The appreciation for life and the meaning of it to people is apparent. Vivian is an ovarian cancer patient. The chances for survival are at the very minimum. Doctors make it clear that there is now a timeline on Vivian’s life. Death is an aspect of life that does not make sense to most people or in most cases not even trying to be understood. Making a connection to death and its meaning is difficult for people to grasp. Yet, understanding that in a lifetime there will be an end. In Wit Vivian does not like to speak about the light at the end of her tunnel. The light slowly is dimming for Vivian and as the play continues on you begin to realize her acceptance to this next part of her life.
    I believe that John Donne in his poetry uses a lot of metaphors and allows for a deeper meaning to his words. I found in his poem “Holy Sonnet X,” “Death Be Not Proud,” Donne explains death as time in which he will accept. In line 7 Donne says, “And soonest our best men with thee do go,” implying that everyone in this world will die eventually. I believe in this sonnet Donne helps to assure people that we must come to terms with death, that it is a part of life.
    In the story Wit I believe that Vivian has come to terms with death and accepted that she is under an hourglass. In the play the use of death in Donne’s poetry is not present because death is already present in the story. While reading the play I found myself continuing to wait for the final scene and how Vivian will die. I felt that death is what made this play so interesting. When dealing with death as a predetermined ending to a story the reader or viewer is anxious and that is what makes the play flow. As a reader to see how the character, already knows that she is going to die, reacts and views the last times of her life.
    The most influential scene that comes to my mind is the last when Vivian suddenly dies. The urgency by the medical staff to try and save her life when she in actuality didn’t want to be saved, were they trying to save Vivian for her life sake or for the research aspect end of it all. To me this shows Vivian had come to terms with her light at the end of the tunnel and accepted that there are better things on the other side of the tunnel. On page 29 and 30 Vivian recites the passages from “Holy Sonnet X,” by she is saying these lines to herself. I felt in this scene she is allowing herself to see death in a new vision. Death is something people have a difficult time grasping and accepting, Donne allows in some of his poetry to give the reader opportunities to understand it’s a part of life. Donne tells us death is not going to judge you depending who you are; death will meet you when your time comes.

  4. In Wit, Edson references Donne’s Holy Sonnets to illustrate Vivian’s scholarly personality. The set of sonnets are somewhat confusing and descriptively detailed. As we have talked about in class, this also exemplifies her serious personality. What we did not speak of in class, however, was of John Donne’s angry poetry. Vivian seems to view Donne in a saintly fashion. In some instances throughout the play she refers to him as “the greatest English poet, some would say” (40). However, when one reads more of Donne’s poetry besides the Holy Sonnets, there is a dark and almost morbid side to him that has not been included within the play.
    In John Donne’s poem entitled “The Curse” he speaks about cursing the man who finds out about his (John Donne’s) love affair. The curse gets as gruesome as to have this man succumb to incest and have his children suffer from his own tainted reputation. All of these images are horrid and ill wished. In another poem, entitled “Apparition” he speaks of haunting his ex-lover when he dies. Neither of these poems is included in Wit. Presumably there would be no purpose in including them, but the fact that they are not included attributes again to Vivian’s lack of feeling towards humanity, this time in the negative effect. In addition to the eroticism we had talked about in class, this evil spirit of John Donne makes Vivian appear so innocent. She had no lover, no children; she was innocent in a sexual way for at least the time surrounding her cancer. She was innocent as to be ignorant to Donne’s malicious spirit as well, because she had placed him on such a pedestal. In avoiding his darker works she is just as ignorant as ignoring his erotic work.
    Another effect of excluding John Donne’s ill works almost makes Vivian seem scared of people in general. By focusing on the saintly aspects of his poetry, she is connecting herself with the higher power of the Christian God and alienating herself from dealing with any human emotion. In this she boosts herself towards a level that will not let her relate in any humanly way with those around her. This is much like the previous point that she denies humanity but in a deeper way, because she is scared of it and what it can accomplish. Yes, she may, too, be scared of the sexual advances that humans fall prey to, but also there is a darker aspect she is frightened of and refuses to deal with: human anger. She does not get angry with her professor towards the beginning of the play, she was not exactly angry, was she? She had to sit down, yes, but she never grew cross. And at the end even could see E.M. Ashford’s point (15). I’m sure she has gotten angry like every other human on the face of the Earth but in its dismissal from her play Edson also illustrates the extent of Vivian’s faith.
    With that said, Edson has made Wit also into a Christian proclamation. I don’t know all that much under the Christian faith besides the basics but I can see that by sticking to such sonnets she has made a statement about death. Of course the whole play is about death, but now there is a religiousness tied to the transgression from Earthly to Heavenly life. With the exclusion of Donne’s malicious poetry, Edson could be implicitly defining Vivian as ascending to Heaven. In speaking nothing of any evil idea or creature or poem, there has been no question of Hell. There may also be deeper Christian values or lessons that I do not even see with my lack of knowledge on such a subject.
    In sticking to the Holy Sonnets Edson has created an ironic and even witty play that would have been entirely different had John Donne’s ill-willed poetry had infiltrated.