New England Native; lover of traveling, history, fashion, and culture. Student at Salem State University and an aspiring historical fiction writer.
Literary Essay #2: 'Wuthering Heights'
Emily Brontë and her sisters Charlotte and Anne grew up on the West-Yorkshire moors, a landscape which went on to influence their novels and provide a suitable backdrop for their dark, turbulent tales of wild, uncontrollable passion. The Yorkshire moors are a barren and difficult habitat, where it is hard to survive due to the harsh terrain and bad weather, that possess a stark, dramatic beauty. Emily Brontë was an heir to the Romantic and Gothic traditions which favored ruined old buildings and untamed and uncultivated landscapes as a reflection of the tempestuous emotions of the characters. Her only novel, Wuthering Heights, is a prime example of this.
Literary Essay #1: 'Pride and Prejudice,' 'Vanity Fair,' and 'Great Expectations'
Early nineteenth-century England was a country rigidly divided by social class. Whether or not you were “common” (from a low social status or with poor breeding) or genteel (from a high social class or with good breeding) defined how society at large saw you. Those born without wealth or a title envied those who were and did whatever they could to improve their lives through business, education, marriage, or by good luck. No matter how hard a person strived to make a fortune and get ahead, they would never be quite accepted by the upper-crust, who dismissed the socially mobile nouveau-riche as common and immoral. Often the snobbery of the aristocracy was a front to hide their own shortcomings. The themes of social advancement, morality, and the hollowness of wealth and status are themes which come into play in the novels of Austen, Dickens, and Thackeray.
Reading Journal: 'Vanity Fair'
William Makepeace Thackeray took the title Vanity Fair from a scene in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. Vanity Fair is a never-ending fair in a fair in a town called Vanity, which represents mankind’s foolish attachment to worldly things. Bunyan uses the word “vanity” in its biblical/theological sense, meaning things of the world which are trivial and worthless compared to things of the soul. The connotation of the word “vanity” which most people would be familiar with today is an obsession with appearance. Thackeray uses this reference to Bunyan to make the implication that England is a “Vanity Fair,” a place that is preoccupied with worldly gain and superficial appearances.
Reading Journal: 'Pride and Prejudice'
Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is one of the most famous and influential romance novels ever written and established a number of the tropes found in later books and films. The formula we recognize from a number of romantic comedies (a spirited and outspoken heroine who is “not like the other girls,” an aloof hero who eventually warms up to her, and a misunderstanding which leads to dislike and then to love) find their origins in Austen’s work.
A Review of 'Percy Jackson and the Olympians'
A common theme in my reviews is my ability to be unfashionably late when it comes to culture and media. Today’s case in point: Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. My history with these books goes back a decade to when I was twelve. The middle school I went to would give each of the students a book at the end of each school year to read during summer vacation; the summer between sixth and seventh grade the book was The Lightning Thief, the first book in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. I started reading it but never finished for some reason probably because my twelve-year-old self was uninterested because the protagonist was a boy and there was no romance or pretty dresses. Flash forward ten years: In recent months, one of the people I follow on Pinterest has been pinning a lot of Percy Jackson related content which grabbed my attention and piqued my interest in the series. I then found an audiobook of The Lightning Thief on YouTube and had it on while I was doing work.
Sarah Vowell is an American historian and author known for her snarky and irreverent writing style and unconventional way of handling non-fiction prose. My father is an admirer of her and her work and that is how I am aware of it. When I decided to write my term paper on the Marquis de Lafayette and the beginnings of America’s relationship with France, I was reminded of this book and chose to use it as one of my sources. Vowell’s writing is unique among history books in that they have a much less formal and pedantic tone than is typically associated with the genre. Her books read more like Jack Kerouac's On The Road than the history texts students are made to read in school. The structure of Lafayette in the Somewhat United States is based around Vowell’s trips to sites associated with her subjects and she often goes into descriptions of the people and places she encounters on her excursions. As someone with a penchant for history related vacations, I find this format enjoyable.
High School Musical, Heathers, Spring Awakening, and Young Broadway
High School Musical, as insufferable as it is another over the age of twelve, may have contributed something positive to the world: the rise of musicals like Spring Awakening, American Idiot, Heathers, and Dear Evan Hansen.
Heathers: Film and Musical
I have an unfortunate habit of discovering popular culture too late, especially when it comes to musicals. I discovered Rent and Spring Awakening in 2007, when both musicals were set to close, Bonnie and Clyde in 2014, two years after that musical met its demise, and Pierre, Natasha, and the Great Comet of 1812 last summer when it was on its way out. 2014 was also when I fell down the dark, scary rabbit hole that is Tumblr. Some of the people I followed were talking about a musical version of the 1989 cult hit Heathers that was playing off-Broadway. Heathers is a sort of edgier proto Mean Girls, an immensely quotable look at teenage girl drama. A black comedy which satirizes high school popularity culture and how people sensationalize and glamorize youth related tragedies such as teen suicide and school shootings.
The Hamiltons: Part 3
Alexander Hamilton paced back and forth in front of his wife's bedroom door and wished that it would all just be over already. His mother-in-law had told him that Eliza was a healthy young woman and that all was going well. If anyone was an expert on pregnancy and childbirth, it was Catherine Schuyler. The doctor and the midwife had said pretty much the same thing but none of this sage wisdom had done anything to make Alexander worry any less.
Retribution: Chapter 33
Marianne sat in front of the mirror in Hélène’s bedroom while Hélène arranged her hair. The morning before, she had washed it using egg yolks and then sat outside in the sun to let it dry. Lemon juice had been drizzled into her hair before she let it dry outside to bring out its golden highlights. Today, she had spent several hours in wave clamps and curlers. Hélène twisted each curl, stiff and sticky from permanent wave lotion, and pinned to Marianne’s head. The rest of her golden hair rippled in exaggerated waves.
An Album Comparison
I first discovered the folk opera Hadestown a couple of years ago when I was researching the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, one of the favorites, and found that there was a concept album based on this story. The album was available for listening on YouTube and I was instantly obsessed. Unlike your typical concept album, there are different singers playing the different characters in the story. It feels like the cast recording of a musical and my first thought was that there should be a stage production. Sure enough, there was one in New York but it came and went before I had the chance to see it. So I looked up everything I could find of the production online which was tantalizingly little. Then it was announced a few months ago that a cast recording was to be released and I quickly pre-ordered it off of iTunes and waited for the whole thing to be available with a track released every few weeks to wet my appetite.