Lang/Lit II 1
Lang/Lit II: Keywords and Such
“Out in the woods or in the city, it’s all the same to me. When I’m drivin’ free, the world’s my
home when I’m mobile.” -The Who
Key Literary Terms: The Sublime
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It is a conceptual category dealing with an overwhelming sensory experience
o Heavy on the senses, yo
The sublime is an immensely powerful experience of the natural world
o Like an alpine or arctic setting, storm at sea, or waterfall (cataract)
The effects of such an event are aesthetic, spiritual, and psychological
There is an inner struggle and then the viewer emerges with an enrichment due to
the experience (they getz something out of it, yo)
The sublime is a powerful experience defined by terror and awe1
The sublime is an aesthetic feeling created by extremes
o Like standing at the edge of a cliff (see right)2
o Or watching the crashing surf during a storm
For nature writers, the sublime landscape can both cause powerful feelings and reflect
powerful feelings the writer may already be experiencing
Note: the beautiful is always distinguished by calm and pleasure
The Gothic
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The term goes back to the original Germanic Goths (who overran much of the Roman
Empire)
This term was later given to medieval themes3
Gothic art contains danger, violence, the occult, exoticism, and other unconscious
elements
It often contains morbid and erotic themes (oh, that woke up Adrian)
There is an emphasis on the uncanny (the strange which is yet familiar)
It first arose in the arts (before it arose in architecture) as a reaction to
Enlightenment ideals like rationalism
In gothic literature (note: always place in Frankenstein here), the protagonist finds
himself or herself pursued by a mysterious antagonist with violent tendencies
The setting often evokes the Middle Ages (castles, crypts, and caves)
Basically most of the stories written by Poe are gothic
Industrial Revolution
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The historical transformation of the material world that was fueled by the growth of
new technologies
It began in Great Britain in the 18th century and saw the development of new devices
and mass production
There was also the expansion of production caused by capitalism
If you took notes in your British Literature class, you would have recalled this while covering Frankenstein
“Wanderer above the Sea of Fog” painted by Caspar David Friedrich in 1817 (p. 16)
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And people who need a facial makeover and a Abercrombie and Fitch hat under threat of expulsion
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The rise of the exploitation of the non-European peoples for labor and natural
resources
This also caused the depopulation of rural regions, the ride of birth rates and the
expansion of the cities, and water pollution (good times!)
American Transcendentalism
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It began in 1836 with the formation of a Unitarian discussion group (not on-line)
known as the Transcendental Club
It was composed of Boston and Concord smarty pantses with no real definitive
religion
They wished to understand truths that are much deeper than experience would be
able to give
They preferred to gain more insight from Eastern thought (Buddhism, Hinduism…)
Make It New!
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Modernism began in Western European countries just before WWI and lasted all the
up to the end of WWII
It was characterized by a commitment to newness, technical experimentation, and
innovation
This also led to stream-of-consciousness and movements like Futurism4, Surrealism
(like Salvador Dali), and Expressionism (“The Scream”)
There was also the rediscovery of mythology (Yeats’ poetry) and the emphasis of the
psychology of everyday life (think TS Eliot’s poems)
Lots of alienation of the individual (again think “The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock”)
The notable modernists include Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, DH Lawrence, William
Faulkner, Joseph Conrad, TS Eliot, Ezra Pound, Ernest Hemingway, and Gertrude
Stein (she who called them all a “lost generation”)
Postmodernism
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This is the literature after WWII to… well… now, we guess
This was (of course) created in a reaction to modernism
This puts less emphasis on universal knowledge
They stress the small-scale, the local, the particular
Postmodern works often have pastiche meaning multiple
media (mixed media)
There is uncertainty of the setting, persona, and plot
Most novels have an anti-hero
Traditional social and cultural structures break down and
there is displacement, disorientation, and a sense of
vertigo5 (see right)
Remember this started in Italy by those saying that war was needed to re-start society. Well, good luck with that.
Vertigo is one of the best movies ever made with amazing psychological plot twists throughout the second act
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Creative Nonfiction
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Nonfiction writing that uses the craft of the fiction writer as novelist
Lots of personification (usually of animals), the development of a narrative persona,
irony, apostrophe, and symbolism
Environmentalism
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Explicit concern for the effects of human activity on the natural world
It also describes the widespread 20th century movement to limit, mitigate, or solve
problems caused by humans upon nature
Nature Writing
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Nonfiction essays (varying in length) about nature… after the late 18th century
Profound concern for a particular place with spiritual and theological reflections
It is highly evolved from the natural history essay in which a reliable narrator
describes all sorts of natural things from a place or region (like a park ranger)
Nature writing depends on the narrator’s thinking and how it often traces back to the
Renaissance intellects and trying to understand the mind of God through nature
The Initial Summary of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (1974)
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On May 5, 1975, Annie Dillard won the Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction for
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
It had excerpts that appeared in the magazine Harper’s as well as The Atlantic
It was the April selection of the Book-of-the-Month club
It did not sell well (you think?) but its widely appealing
subject matter, sympathetic narrator, vivid episodes, and
crafted prose won her immediate acclaim
She was offered to write movies and even invited to appear
on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson
Today it stands as a classic work of 20th American
nonfiction
Then the Guide just gushes for two paragraphs about her
wonderful novel… I mean, really, how is this supposed to be
tested? I want facts, not opinions.
Relevance
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Heeeeere’s Johnny!
The Guide states: “How is this book relevant to the topic of new alternatives in
energy?”6
Her writing, according to the Guide, is all about energy, in ideas and writing style
Not only does she describe the vibrant use of the natural world, “her writing style
crackles with energy and intensity” 7
This novel investigates the connection between humans their environment
That’s exactly what I am thinking!
Not my words, direct quote from the Guide… somewhere Nicole cannot take this
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The front part of the book contains an epigraph (a brief quotation, just like The Sun
Also Rises has) from the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus8 about the everchanging nature of reality
“It ever was, and is, and shall be, ever-living Fire, in measures being kindled and in
measures going out.”
She initiates the use of the Heraclitean Fire (also used in Gerard Manley Hopkins’
poem “The Heraclitean Fire” which is oddly not in the Guide this year)
Heraclitus was a pagan from antiquity but many of writings suggest of one allpowerful God or being that created the universe
Biography of the Woman, the Legend, the Dillard
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Annie Dillard (1945- ) is the nom de plume (pen name for those of
you who don’t know {Saya} French) for the author born as Meta Ann
Doak in 1945 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
She was the eldest of three daughters and went by “Annie”
She was named after her grandmother Meta9 Waltenburger Doak
Her family had a counter-culture bend to it
Her parents encouraged her to be intellectually independent
Her father Frank’s favorite books were Twain’s Life on the Mississippi and Jack
Kerouac’s On the Road, the latter he talked about a lot with Annie
One of the family pastimes was to memorize jokes and learn how to deliver them well
Her writings contain many one-liners which is reminiscent of her families ability to
deliver epigrams (witty one liners like Oscar Wilde10)
Annie’s Reading
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She is an avid and voracious reader
She loved reading the French Romantics and the WWI poets Rupert Brooke and
Wilfred Owen (so last year) as well as TS Eliot
Her prose tends to short and to the point marked by careful words and syntax
The Young Annie
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She is an avid naturalist collecting rocks and insects
Her love of nature connected her to reading authors like Rachel Carson and the
Canadian Farley Mowat
She draws on her early interest in nature in all of her writing
She wishes to answer questions like
o How can one find meaning in nature?
o Can biology and religion be reconciled?
o How can one respond to the violence and brutality of the natural world?
This year’s novel has many natural history observations mixed with tidbits about
nature, ecology, and ethology
He’s the philosopher who once stated, “No man ever steps in the same river twice.”
Seriously, you think I wouldn’t make a Meta World Peace comment here?
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Again ask your British Lit teacher about him
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Annie and Religion
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She took an initial interest in Christianity
She went to Sunday school and religious services but didn’t feel inspiration She left
the church as a teen (later calling herself “wild”)
Her minister brought her back into the fold by introducing her to CS Lewis (18981963)
He has an deep intellectual connection in his works
Unlike Lewis, she is not an evangelizer, she is more of a questioner and one who likes
to learn about general mysteries about life, the universe, and everything
School Days
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She chose to attend Hollins College in Roanoke, Virginia
They had an excellent creative writing program
Hollins had a lively and accomplished faculty of male professors and a very talented
student body
Hollins produced an unusual amount of writers for such a small school
One of whom was Lee Marshall Smith who won many awards down the line
Sorry, Girls, This One’s Taken
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At the end of her sophomore year, Annie Doak married her writing professor,
Richard Henry Dillard
This would be the first of three husbands11 (she divorced Richard in 1975 but kept
his name)
His love of horror movies might have helped kindle her own gothic nature
Their relationship no doubt inspired her writing ability
Post-Hollins Life
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After graduating in 1967, she also earned a Master’s degree in English at Hollins
(well, I got mine at LMU so there!)
Her thesis was on “Walden Pond and Thoreau”
She discussed how Walden pond is a liminal space between heaven and earth
o Note: liminal is that undefined middle ground between things, like in TS
Eliot’s “The Hollow Men” or in Derrida’s “Differance”
She later caught pneumonia in 1971 and nearly died
This changed her outlook on life and much of following writing dealt with mortality
She went on a bunch of camping trips to western Virginia, usually alone
This was the obvious genesis of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, her most famous book
Celebrity Annie
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She struggled to deal with new-found celebrity after she released the novel
She established her literary stability but not one in her personal life
She divorced her husband and accepted a position as a scholar-in-residence at
Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington (been to that city)
There you have it, the USAD Guide writers are living vicariously through another author
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She would hold that position from 1975 to 1979 and again from 1981 to 1983
She later was a visiting professor at Wesleyan University in Connecticut
Back in Washington, she married an anthropologist Gary Clevidence
They had a daughter but they had a short marriage anyway
She then moved to Connecticut and married Robert Richardson, who wrote a
biography of Thoreau she greatly admired
This was a literary relationship from the beginning
She still continues to write new books
Reviews of her work continue to be published in major newspapers and magazines
Tomorrow!
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Literary Influences
Something Called Theodicy
Organization and Structure
Narrative Persona
And Literary Scandal!!!
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Lang/Lit II Lang/Lit II: Keywords and Such “Out in the woods or in the