Friday, May 24, 2013

Becoming a Writer: Aeschylus’ Agamemnon

Clytemnestre hésitant avant de frapper Agamemn...Image via Wikipedia

The trilogy called Oreteia, of which Agamemnon is the first play, deals with a series of crimes and their retribution in the house of Atreus.  

Events leading to the Tragedy of Agamemnon

It all started when King Atreus had unfairly kept his brother Thyestes from the throne of Argos.
The abduction of Helen by Paris, causes the war against Troy. Agamemnon —King of Argos— became the commander in chief and leader absolute of all the Greek army and navy. To renew the winds —which had been quieted by Artemis, who had been angered when a sacred deer was killed at Aulis— Agamemnon’s sacrifices his daughter Iphigenia. With favorable winds, Agamemnon sets off toward Troy. At home, however, Clytemnestra and Aegistus were plotting against him at home.
Aeschylus portrays Agamemnon as a play heavily crafted with war, politics, and personal vengeance. The Chorus exclamations are ambivalent. At times it bemoans the loss of life of the Greek youth in an unwanted war and much less for a woman (Helen) of ill repute; it also disapproves of a father sacrificing a daughter. Yet, at other times the chorus is quite loyal to King Agamemnon.

Agamemnon returns from the war

When a herald arrives at the palace announcing that the war has ended and that Agamemnon is in Greece and soon will return to Argos, Clytemnestra pretends to be happy that soon she’ll be reunited with her husband. Yet, she knew all along that she plans to kill her husband.
Welcoming her husband, she orders handmaidens to lay down a path of finest purple cloth for Agamemnon to walk like a god on from his chariot to the palace. Agamemnon thanks his wife for her greeting but declines her invitation, explaining that to do so would be offensive to the gods.
Cassandra, the Trojan prophetess whom Agamemnon has brought as a concubine, prophesies that she and Agamemnon both will die if she sets foot inside the palace, and that in turn the murderers also will be killed. She accepts her fate and goes in.
Humiliated, rejected, and discriminated as a barbarian, Clytemnestra together with Aeigstus murder Agamemnon. So violent are the murders that the audience doesn’t see them, but learns of them through the words of the chorus. When the chorus confronts Clytemnestra of plotting such a dreadful act, she answers that she was only a vehicle of retribution against a man who had condemned himself by his own base actions. 
 
Clytemnestra and Aegistus
Clytemnestra’s hatred for Agamemnon started when he sacrificed their daughter Iphigenia, and it festered for the ten long years of the Trojan War. Murder sets in her heart. Although she was a strong woman —ironically, she is often described as manly, while Aegistus womanly— she seeks Aegistus’ help in her vengeful plans. By this liaison, Aegistus would become king and she would be his queen, which they did temporarily: “I and thou will rule the palace and will order all things well.”

To become a writer I write essays every day. Since English is my second language, in writing essays I consult Mary Duffy's Toolbox for Writers.


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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Virginia Woolf's To The Lighthouse - Summary

Available in amazon.com


Contents
Section I — The Window
1 — She was the most
     beautiful person   
2 — Odious little man          
3 — Only Lily Briscoe         
4 — William Bankes
5 — Her beauty and splendor
6 — Mr. Ramsay:tyrannus
7 — His son hated him         
8 — Mr. Carmichael shrank
9 — Lights and shadows      
10 — The Eight children     
11 — To be silent
12 — So they strolled
13 — The spell was broken
14 — Grandmother’s brooch
15 — Prue answered
16 — Boeuf en Daube          
17 — Immune from change
18 — She would be woven
19 — Still like a tree
Section II — Time Passes
1 — Lights out          
2 — Nothing stirred
3 — Divine goodness
4 — The empty house
5 — Mrs. McNab
6 — Prue and Andrew Ramsay
7 — Summer, winter, spring
8 — The abandoned house  
9 — The house is ready        
10 — The beauty of the
      world came murmuring  
Section III — The Lighthouse
1 — He never gave;
     that man took
2 — He tied knots.
     He bought boots.
3 — Life stand still here
4 — Fight tyranny
5 — A light needs a shadow
6 — The body was still alive
7 — The waters of annihilation
8 — The other Lighthouse
     was true too          
9 — They were gone forever
10 — She was safe
11 — She took one's breath away   
12 — Mr. Ramsay was seventy-one
13 — An old pagan god, shaggy


Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own




A Room of One’s Own
Virginia Woolf

Contents
Introduction by Marciano Guerrero
Brief Biography        
Chapter 1 — The poverty of our sex           
Chapter 2 — England is under the rule of angry
              Patriarchy    
Chapter 3 — Not indifference but hostility
Chapter 4 — The psychology of women novelists
              by a woman 
Chapter 5 — That spot the size of a shilling
              at the back of the head        
Chapter 6 — Not a wheel must grate, not a
              light glimmer."        


Introduction by Marciano Guerrero

Brief Biography

Virginia Woolf (1882 – 1941) was born into a privileged English household, where she was home-educated by her free-thinking parents. Apparently, like many girls of her age she had a happy childhood and adolescence, but as she recounted later, she had been sexually abused when she was six years old.
When her mother died she went into a period of depression, which was aggravated when her sister Stella also died two years later.
Despite her bouts of suffering, for four years she took classes in German, Greek and Latin at the Ladies’ Department of King’s College London. It was during this period that she developed her feminist stance.
After some turbulent years of psychological disorders, and after being institutionalized, she committed suicide at the age of 59.

About a Room of One’s Own

In a lengthy essay, the narrator explores how the different educational experiences privilege men over women. Spending a day in the British Museum Library perusing the scholarship on women, she concludes that most of it —if not all— had been written by men in anger and hostility. The study of history was of no help. So she constructs in her own imagination what she imagines was the plight of women; to this effort she explains the impediments Judith Shakespeare —Shakespeare’s sister— would have encountered.
She then analyses the achievements of the major women novelists of the nineteenth century, reflecting on the importance of tradition to an aspiring writer. Following up with living writers, she takes a close look at a novel by one of the narrator’s contemporaries.
Using a curious metaphor: “a spot the size of a shilling at the back of the head,” she urges women to be original, and to write about what others don’t see and miss; and that the writing must be smooth and clear: “Not a wheel must grate, not a light glimmer.” In one word: writing that is incandescent.
The problem as Woof sees it is that to accomplish that fine writing a woman must first achieve intellectual freedom as granted by having a room of one’s own and five hundred a year in income.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse




Virginia Woolf (1882 – 1941) was born into a privileged English household, where she was home-educated by her free-thinking parents. Apparently, like many girls of her age she had a happy childhood and adolescence, but as she recounted later, she had been sexually abused when she was six years old.
When her mother died she went into a period of depression, which was aggravated when her sister Stella also died two years later.
Despite her bouts of suffering, for four years she took classes in German, Greek and Latin at the Ladies’ Department of King’s College London. It was during this period that she developed her feminist stance.
After some turbulent years of psychological disorders, and after being institutionalized, she committed suicide at the age of 59.

To the Lighthouse (1927)

To the Lighthouse is Virginia Woolf’s novel considered the epitome of high modernism, that by abandoning the traditional psycho-narration (he said, she said—as told by the narrator), transforms the genre with the new technique of stream of consciousness.
In one sentence: the text focuses on the Ramsays and their friends and their visits to the Isle of Skye in Scotland between 1910 and 1920.
The novel contains three sections (or movements): in the first we see the Ramsays and their friends spending and an afternoon and evening in the Isle of Skye. The second section is an interlude of ten years which memorializes not only the great beauty that was Mrs. Ramsay, but also the house and its surroundings. The third section shows how the family and friends have changed as they make a final visit ten years later, and how they feel when they finally reach the Lighthouse.
Lord Francis Bacon said in one of his Essays: “There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion.” In this light, Mrs. Ramsay is an excellent beauty because she displays an elusive strangeness that some see (Mr. Carmichael and Lily Briscoe) and that others don’t.
Mr. Ramsay, though a fine looking man owns a certain ugliness of soul exacerbated by a frustrated desire to be admired, and a depraved indifference for others. His thoughts and actions make him the villain of the novel. Hated, vilified, and feared to the bitter end, he never changes.
For language addicts the novel is a veritable display of incandescent prose; for artists, scenes of surreal nature whose colors cannot be captured by the brush of Lily Briscoe; for philosophers: ultimate questions of existence that have no answers.

Lautreamont's Maldoror



A new translation soon to be available in amazon and barnes and noble.

Isidore-Lucien Ducasse (1846-1870), Comte de Lautréamont
Chants of Maldoror

Brief  Biography

Isidore-Lucien Ducasse, an Uruguayan-born French poet wrote  Les Chants de Maldoror and Poésies,  unique literary works that have had a major influence on modern literature, unlike any other poetic work, considering that he was only twenty-four years old when he died.
Not much is known about the life of Isidore Lucien Ducasse, the name that lurks behind the pseudonym Count Lautréamont. The son of a French consular officer, Isidore was born in Montevideo where he passed his early years.
Later, he was sent to France for highs school, studying at the imperial lycées in Tarbes (1859–62) and Pau (1863–65). He set out for Paris in 1867, to attend the École Polytechnique, but soon he disappeared into obscurity.
Fifty years after his death, Lautréamont is resurrected by the Surrealists, who in their manifesto declare that it is their only real source of inspiration, saying hyperbolically: “Lautréamont is to the surrealists, as Jesus Christ is to Christians.” That is just one example among countless others.

About the Chants of Maldoror

Defiant, Insolent, and irreverent, the Chants de Maldoror, by the self-named Comte de Lautréamont, depicts a sinister and sadistic world of unrestrained vulgarity, savagery, and brutality. This poetic narrative follows the experiences of Maldoror: a master of disguises pursued by angels, animals, and monsters for being the incarnation of evil.
The author knew his work dealt with evil as he wrote to his publisher:
“Let me begin by explaining my position. I have written of evil, as Mickiewicz, Byron, Milton, Southey, A. de Musset, Baudelaire, etc., have all done. Naturally I have exaggerated the pitch along the lines of that sublime literature which sings of despair only to cast down the reader and make him desire the good as the remedy.”
While ordinary people live in the midst of reveries, daydreams, common dreams, and nightmares, Maldoror lives in a continuous psychotic hallucination in which he encounters angels, gravediggers, hermaphrodites, lunatics, prostitutes, and innocent and not so innocent children, whom he victimizes—prey of his self-proclaimed pederasty.
Delirious, erotic, blasphemous, yet seductive and grandiose in language and imagery, this hallucinatory novel captured the imagination of artists and writers as diverse as Verlaine, Gide, Breton, Octavio Paz—and Salvador Dali in painting. Readers seeking a conventional narrative will be surprised, for the author spares no effort to dislocate linear time, disguising voices and appearances, to penetrate the depths of animate and inanimate sojourners on their way to death.