2 Minute History: The Bloomsbury Group

Hey, I made a quick video about the Bloomsbury group, linked here.

Sorry about the massive watermark, but this is the only video making program that I could get working for me.

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Mazy Modernisms

For this project, I tried my hand at a podcast! I call it Mazy Modernisms. I made a segment where I’m podcasting reading Modernist poems and stories. For today I read The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by TS Elliot.

Click here to listen to an analysis and dramatic reading of the poem!

 

 

The Other Plot on “The Other Boat”

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On the surface E. M. Forster’s “The Other Boat” seems simply like a tale of lust and forbidden homosexual love. The coming together of Lionel and Cocoanut even seems to be a fated event, as the two knew each other briefly in boyhood. However, there is much more going on behind the tragic homosexual love story. In fact, there is even a devious subplot, that positions Cocoanut as the main character of the story as opposed to Lionel. As many of the clues sprinkled across this short story lead us to believe, Cocoanut is plotting Lionel’s downfall since before they meet on the second boat.

If we are to assume Cocoanut as the main character of the seedy subplot of this story, we should get a thorough look at his character. Once we are on the second boat, one of the first descriptive actions of Cocoanut that we get is him “climbing about like a monkey” (“The Other Boat” 2127). While this may allude in some way to his physicality (small, brown), we get the direct action of Cocoanut acting like a monkey. Monkeys, being small, nimble creatures are seen as being mischievous in many legends and mythologies. In places such as (ironically enough) India, monkeys have been known to play “harmless tricks,” such as stealing money, food, or… car parts.

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Monkeys do whatever suits them in the moment. Yet, they also play tricks. Cocoanut acting like a monkey is important to the rest of the subplot. Our actions become us, they are the mark of our character. If he acts like a mischievous little monkey, then he carries that mischievous, tricky quality with him.

When it comes to Cocoanut, mischievousness seems to fit the bill. Most honest men are straight-up about who they are. They have no angles. They can tell you any old fact about themselves off-hand. However, Cocoanut has an ease about keeping his identity a secret. Not even the reader knows his real name until the end of the story, and even this is a guess.

“For Cocoanut possessed two passports, not one like most people, and they confirmed a growing suspicion that he might not be altogether straight…. The information on the passports was conflicting, so that it was impossible to tell the twister’s age, or where he had been born or indeed what his name was” (“The Other Boat” 2132).

The fact that Cocoanut has two passports is suspicious in and of itself. However, what’s worse is the use of the word “twister” here. The way it’s mentioned in the text does not directly mention that it is Cocoanut who twisted the information. Yet, it is heavily implied by talking about the same two passports that are within our monkey’s possession. The word “twister” connotes a rearrangement, or a lack of clarity here. When someone says that you “have something twisted” it means that you have a bad understanding of the situation, or were misinformed. Yet, here it is Cocoanut who is causing the misinformation. He purposefully changes, creates, and utilizes two passports. It is also important to note that when someone lies, there is something to hide. Cocoanut is creating a cover, a fog or smoke, to cover something up. But what? Lionel even alludes to the very shadiness of the situation. He is suspicious of Cocoanut after knowing he has two passports. However, Lionel only sees this as an oddity, and does not seek to clarify things.

We get another view into Cocoanut’s character after he and Lionel have finished their “business.” He notices Lionel’s groin scar, wondering how it was acquired, and suggesting revenge. Lionel disagrees and Cocoanut answers: “‘Oh Lion, why not when it can be so sweet?'” (“The Other Boat” 2131). If we weren’t already suspicious of Cocoanut, it would be hard not to be here. He specifically describes revenge as being sweet, like candy. Things that are sweet (candy, pastries, honey) are made for the purpose of being consumed. And the purpose of eating is to sustain life. It is something we must regularly do, multiple times a day. To Cocoanut, revenge is a sweet cake, partaken of every now and then, but bordering necessity. But why would Cocoanut seek revenge? And on whom? We have only seen him, at least on the second boat, interacting with Lionel.

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As lovers do, the two continue their after-sex chat about various things. Lionel’s father even comes up, and it is mentioned that he “went native” and found a wife in Burma. Naturally, Cocoanut asks: “‘Might not therefore there be offspring?’ ‘If there were, they’d be half-castes‘” (“The Other Boat” 2134). Once Lionel finishes his thought about any illegitimate siblings, the next paragraph starts: “The half-caste smiled as the warrior floundered” (“The Other Boat” 2134). First, there is a doubling of the use of the word half-caste. It often means mixed race. Yet, since India has a caste system in their society, the term connotes that the person in question is half Indian, or has one foot in the caste system. Given the ties India has with Britain, it’s not any sort of leap to assume that the majority of half-castes had an English parent as well. That is certainly what Lionel means, when talking about the joining of his father with his new wife. However, the text decides to juxtapose Lionel’s mention of half-caste siblings with the mention that Cocoanut is half-caste. That seems strange. We go straight from siblings to Cocoanut. Huh. He is also seen smiling, while he watches Lionel “flounder.” Lionel is floundering over the thought of his father going native. Yet, Cocoanut is calm, collected, and… happy about Lionel struggling. There seems to be something Cocoanut knows that Lionel doesn’t, and something that may not be clear to the reader. The text is, however, giving us a message about the relation of the two. They’re not just lovers, they’re brothers.

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Need more? Time to head back to the first boat. As the children are all playing together, Olive rushes up to her mother and a gentleman, both of whom instantly start talking about Cocoanut. “‘Touch of the tar-brush, eh?’ ‘Yes, but it doesn’t matter on a voyage home. I would never allow it going to India'” (“The Other Boat” 2123). Two things are of note here. Firstly, it is stated that the boat is headed “home.” It is also stated that they’re not heading to India. So home must be Britain, since those are the only destinations of our two boats. It may not be uncommon, but it is certainly odd that a young Indian child is going to Britain. Especially since we now know that Cocoanut is half-caste. Still, this could be any parent taking their child to England. What’s stranger is that the mother states she “would never allow it going to India.” While racism is alive in this text, it’s not what stops the Mater from letting her children play with Cocoanut. There seems to be another implication behind the children playing together on the way to India. She is suspicious of someone seeing them all together, perhaps. Her former husband, as we know, is still in India. Surely, she wants nothing to do with the man who abandoned her. It is also likely that people in India know her husband. Seeing his children from two different wives playing together would be quite the scandal. If we are to assume that Cocoanut and Lionel are blood relations, it would explain the Mater’s specific disdain for Cocoanut, and her barring any India-bound playing.

Yet, what is it that Cocoanut is truly planning? We know by now that he has lured his half-brother into bed, repeatedly, and is basking in his incestuous revels. But we still don’t know why revenge is relevant. There is an incident just as the two are about to turn of the light and head to bed. Lionel checks the door and realizes that it was unlocked the whole time. This shocks him severely, given the illegality of their midnight romps. Of course, they then get into a fight over the necessity of the door being locked. Cocoanut, who cares little about the door being locked, starts to cry.

“He was weeping because he had planned wrongly. Rage rather than grief convulsed him. The bolt unbolted, the little snake not driven back into its hole — he had foreseen everything else and ignored the enemy at the gate” (“The Other Boat” 2139).

Cocoanut is not crying because he and Lionel are fighting. His plan did not go accordingly. That much is directly stated. What plan was that? It is stated that “rage rather than grief convulsed him.” If he were grieving, it would have to be over fighting with his lover. Yet, this is not the case. Instead, his is angered. There is another driving force. His plan has been foiled. If it were a plan simply of love, he has attained this again and again. There would be very little reason for anger. No, there is something more for Cocoanut to be angry about. The bolt is specifically mentioned. Lionel did not think to lock the door. Yet, Cocoanut says “‘I knew it was unlocked all the time'” (“The Other Boat” 2137).

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This was purposeful. Something about being caught is important to Cocoanut. Especially that night. It should be noted that homosexuality was illegal in both Britain and India at this time, and could be severely punished. Lionel even mentions that he could be court-martialed if he’s caught. This is likely what Cocoanut wanted. If Lionel was caught, revenge would be short in coming. And we know how slimy Cocoanut is. Even though homosexual acts were illegal in India, he could have easily faked his identity with one of his two passports, or found some other means of escape.

In the end, Cocoanut’s attempt at revenge on Lionel is foiled. They both die tragically. However, Cocoanut may have succeeded. Yet, why was he plotting any revenge at all? Mostly, this can only be assumed. Since the two are brothers, it could be that Cocoanut is jealous of Lionel and his life in Britain, of his apparent wealth and status. It could be that he believes he deserves something of Lionel’s based on shared blood. Still, one thing is certain: the monkey, behind the scenes, was plotting his lion’s downfall.

Works Cited

McGhee, Beth. “Homosexuality in the First World War.” WW1 East Sussex, 8 Feb. 2016, http://www.eastsussexww1.org.uk/homosexuality-in-wwi/.
Military.com. “Courts-Martial Explained.” Military.com, CodyUnderwood, http://www.military.com/benefits/military-legal-matters/courts-martial-explained.html.
Military.com. “Courts-Martial Explained.” Military.com, CodyUnderwood, http://www.military.com/benefits/military-legal-matters/courts-martial-explained.html.
“The Other Boat.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature, by Stephen Greenblatt et al., W.W. Norton, 2012, pp. 2122–2142.
Sinai, Roy. “Gay In India.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 11 July 2012, http://www.forbes.com/2009/07/06/gay-homosexual-court-decision-opinions-contributors-india.html#2c10b43fddc9.
“Symbolic Monkey Meaning and Monkey Totem Meaning.” http://Www.whats-Your-Sign.com, 26 Apr. 2018, http://www.whats-your-sign.com/symbolic-monkey-meaning.html.
“A Timeline of Gay Rights in the UK.” The Week UK, The Week UK, 27 July 2017, http://www.theweek.co.uk/87213/a-timeline-of-gay-rights-in-the-uk.
“Twister.” Dictionary.com, Dictionary.com, http://www.dictionary.com/browse/twister?s=t.

Bloomsbury Group Two-Minute History

Hey everyone,

Enjoy my allergy voice discussing the Bloomsbury Group.

For some reason, wordpress isn’t letting a hyperlink happen here so I apologize for the ugly link at the bottom of this post.

 

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Even The Americans Are British: T.S. Eliot

According to poets.org, T.S Eliot was born as Thomas Sterns Eliot in St. Louis, Missouri in 1888. He lived in Missouri until leaving to earn both undergraduate and master degrees at Harvard. He then traveled to Paris, until returning to Harvard to gain a
doctorate degree in Philosophy. He did not move to England until he was twenty-six years old. He did not become a citizen of Britain until 1927. Why is Eliot’
s background important? Well, what makes British Literature and American Literature differ in this sense? Although Eliot had both a citizenship of England and America, he is always noted as a British writer, being anthologized in the Norton Anthology of British Literature we use in class. Through understanding Eliot’s works readers can understand what it means to be a British writer.

File:Thomas Stearns Eliot with his sister and his cousin by Lady Ottoline Morrell.jpg
Morrell, Lady Ottoline. Thomas Stearns (‘T.S.’) Eliot with his sister and his cousin. Digital image. Wikimedia.org. National Portrait Gallery, 1934. Web. 14 May 2017.

Due to Eliot living in England during both World War I and World War II, a lot of his work shows the darkness that England, and most of Europe faced during this hardships. His poem “The Hollow Men”, sheds light on the dark times of England. The poem starts out with two different Epigraphs. The first is a quotation from Joseph Conrad’s novel we read earlier in this time period, Heart of Darkness. By starting out with “Mistah Kurtz- he dead” (Eliot 2543), it shows the death of an older man who agreed with Western imperialism. Although this time is “over” due to Mistah Kurtz’s death, by starting the poem out with this allusion, points out the fact that the troubles of England have been ingrained for a while, and are still going on even though imperialism died with Mistah Kurtz. The second Epigraph is referencing to children begging to pennies to guy fireworks to kindle scarecrows for Guy Fawkes’s day, a national holiday for England. These scarecrows, are to represent Guy Fawkes who was a traitor to the British. A holiday basically for kids to set fire to a symbol of a traitor; talk about some national pride! Both of these epigraphs show the death and doom that life in England have. First the imperialism (and death of) and the death of the traitor, we can tell this poem is not light stuff.

In Line 15 and 16 of the poem, the speaker give allusion of parts of Canto 3 of Dante’s Inferno. In Dante’s Inferno, groups of souls were excluded from Hell because they were not bad enough. In Eliot’s poem is states “Remember us- if at all- not as lost violent souls, but only as the hollow men” (Eliot 2543). They cannot take a side, so they are basically in Purgatory. This makes the reader think if the speaker is referring to Britain as a purgatory. The men aren’t lost or violent, they are just- there. The poem also references Dante’s Inferno in line 60 as the speaker states, “Gathered on this beach of the tumid river” (Eliot 2543). The term “beach of the tumid river” gives understanding that this river, most liking the Acheron River, which is a branch of the mythological River Styx, is swollen. Swollen shows that the river is overfull, just how the London streets must have felt to Eliot at the time of his writing. The term “beach” makes a reader think of a vacation, yet this is not a vacation at all. It is the life of these hollow men.

In lines 77, and 91-94 there are references to the Lord’s Prayer that many Christians still know by heart. “For Thine is the Kingdom” (Eliot 2543), refers to Heaven. This is a drastic switch from talking about Hell in previous lines. This relates to how difficult living in England is, especially during the World Wars and how the “kingdom” meaning heaven is the goal, yet it is rather unreachable. This plays into the purgatory idea again, that they are neither in heaven or hell. They are just there. Also, “For Thine is the Kingdom” starts the end of the prayer, which is a prayer often read right before someone passes away, if the death is imminent, and could have meaning that the speaker might be close to death or that they know someone who is. It might also mean that England as a whole is just people close to death.

“This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but with a whimper.”

(Eliot 2543)

Many scientists believe that the world started with a bang- the big bang. Yet, with this the speaker is showing that war (the bang) will not end the world, but the whimper of the dying will. Although this poem is not very uplifting, I suppose this ending can give the reader a sense of hope that war won’t end the world, yet that’s a stretch.

So, how does this poem show that Eliot is a British writer? Although America also has hardships, this poem relates itself to many different British epigraphs and metaphors. Throughout the entire poem, it relates “the hollow men” to those who are stuffed just like the scarecrows about to explode.It shows the pain living in England has on people, and how it feels like they are living in purgatory. The important of British Literature, is not about the country in which the author was born, but how their literature helps solidify history and culture of the country.

Works Cited
Eliot, T.S.  “The Hollow Men” The Norton Anthology English Literature. Vol. F. N.p.: n.p., n.d. 2543. Print.
IgniterMedia. “The Lord’s Prayer.” YouTube. YouTube, 03 Feb. 2014. Web. 14 May 2017.
Morrell, Lady Ottoline. Thomas Stearns (‘T.S.’) Eliot with his sister and his cousin. Digital image. Wikimedia.org. National Portrait Gallery, 1934. Web. 14 May 2017.
“T. S. Eliot.” Poets.org. Academy of American Poets, 02 Oct. 2015. Web. 14 May 2017.