Monday, April 9, 2012

Conrad, The Secret Agent I

[Posted by John C.]

During our small group session we all seemed to agree that Conrad viewed anarchy as ineffective and seemed to look down on those who adhered to it. One of the things which we mentioned to support this theory was the fact that the idea for the terrorist attack spawned at the embassy, which the anarchists then could not carry out effectively. Do you believe that the reason behind this is Conrad's belief that anarchy by nature leads to inaction or if pressured ineffective action, or do you think that Conrad was indicating that the true danger of anarchy is that it can be exploited by people with bad intentions?

Conrad, The Secret Agent II

[Posted by Thomas]

We touched briefly in class about how Conrad satirizes anarchist folly, by painting them as almost stupid (the novel's subtext is called 'A Simple Tale' or sometimes 'A Novel of Fools'), committing fool's errands on the word and influence by others who rouse Anarchist thought. We saw this in his short story as well, where Anarchist action is the product of drunken musing. But Conrad also show's what he believes to be the absurdity of violent anarchist action more so through Verloc's family. In what way or ways does he show this, and can you find ways in which this, as well as the dynamic of Verloc's family, is reminiscent of Shaw and his views on chaotic anarchy.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Shaw, Man and Superman

[Posted by Ed]

In Man and Superman, gender is constructed in a rather unusual way; females are shown to be much more powerful then men, as they are the ones who coax men into marriage. Even Tanner, who declares that “the first duty of manhood and womanhood is a Declaration of Independence” (Shaw, 53). Then, in act three, Don Juan, who greatly resembles Tanner leaves the pleasures of hell so that he can be independent: “to be in heaven is to steer” (Shaw, 95). This same character despite his resistance to conventions and the Devil, then succumbs to the power of Ann. Do you think women are portrayed positively, or more ambivalently?

Monday, February 27, 2012

Wilde: Option 1

[Posted by Julia]

In the preface, Oscar Wilde makes claims about both art and literature.  He states that "the purpose of art is to conceal the artist," as well as "there is no such thing as a moral or immoral book. Books are either well written, or badly written. That is all."  Is Dorian Gray truly in line with either of Wilde's arguments? How so?

Wilde: Option 2

[Posted by Sam]

After finishing the novel do you feel that Oscar Wilde is writing a cautionary tale that aims at viewers of art, or the painters of part. On that same coin, does Wilde promote the theory "art for arts sake" or is he suggesting that art has a much more profound role in the world."

Wilde: Option 3

[posted by Daniel]

Dorian Gray is concentrated beauty which is personified by his youth. Lord Henry and Basil discuss Dorian's personality but they are merely referring to his visual persona. He is shallow, he is handsome, but above all he becomes more and more corrupted and sinister while maintaining his innocent appearance as the book continues.

Dorian carries numerous aesthetic qualities and gives off an inspirational energy to artists like Basil and yet he becomes an infectious disease to everyone around him.

What is Oscar Wilde saying about the nature of aestheticism? If Dorian is truly a living piece of art, then is art destruction? Is Wilde making a statement of the dangers of vanity or the dangers of art?

Sunday, February 12, 2012


What do you think of the passage “Where, if not from the Impressionists, do we get those wonderful brown fogs that come creeping down our streets, blurring the gas-lamps and changing the houses into monstrous shadows”? Does Vivian truly believe that these fogs have imitated scenery by Impressionists? “There may have been fogs for centuries in London. I dare say there were. But no one saw them, and so we do not know anything about them. They did not exist till Art had invented them.” What is he trying to say?




Why does Wilde's character Vivian so desperately want to save and encourage lying in art? And why does he claim that truth-telling is “morbid and unhealthy”? (172) How does this possibly connect to the idea of the kaleidoscope we’ve discuss in class?

(Maybe consider the contrast between a kaleidoscope view and this line from “The Decay of Lying”: “He has his tedious document bumain, his miserable little coin de la creation [“corner of the universe”], into which he peers with his microscope” (171). Also, drawing from Baudelaire’s “The Bad Glazier” might be useful too.)

Sunday, January 29, 2012


[Gustave Courbet, Portrait of Baudelaire, 1847-48]

Last week we considered how Balzac's The Unknown Masterpiece uses aesthetic language and themes as a means for articulating a political critique of both post-French Revolution anarchy and of capitalist materialism. For this week, choose one of the Baudelaire prose poems and make a brief argument about how the text links aesthetic concerns to political positions. Is Baudelaire critical of the same forces that we saw in Balzac? Does his stance on artistic, social, and political modernity (and the specific social upheavals of the 1840s) seem as conservative as Balzac's or is it more radical?  Feel free to make reference to any of this week's other materials (Proudhon, Marx, Baudelaire) to back up your claim. [Note for anyone interested in working on "The Rope": you might wish to do a bit of research on Baudelaire's relationship with Edouard Manet.]