More on Finding a Job

There was an interesting article in The New York Times by Thomas Friedman on “How to Get a Job” in the current economy. The article was focused on the company HireArt, which matches employers with employees, and which also along the way helps both groups with the transition from college to workplace. Note the two excerpts below:

“The market is broken on both sides,” explained Sharef [one of HireArt’s founders]. “Many applicants don’t have the skills that employers are seeking, and don’t know how to get them. But employers also … have unrealistic expectations.” They’re all “looking for purple unicorns: the perfect match. They don’t want to train you, and they expect you to be overqualified.” In the new economy, “you have to prove yourself, and we’re an avenue for candidates to do that,” said Sharef. “A degree document is no longer a proxy for the competency employers need.”

Added Sharef: “What surprises me most about people’s skills is how poor their writing and grammar are, even for college graduates. If we can’t get the basics right, there is a real problem.” Still, she adds, HireArt sees many talented people who are just “confused about what jobs they are qualified for, what jobs are out there and where they fit in.”

Of particular interest to English majors is the observation about the poor writing and grammar skills that HireArt has encountered. One advantage that an English major has in the current market, it seems, is the ability to stand out from the crowd on the basis of having good writing skills. That is a basic skill that a variety of employers will find attractive, and the market, it appears, is not exactly flooded with good writers.

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Employment Prospects for English Majors

There seems to be a lot of misinformation floating around about the employment prospects for English Majors. However, a series of recent articles (see earlier posts) have been intent on countering that misinformation with actual data. The excerpt below is from an article by Robert Matz, posted on the Inside Higher Ed website. In article, Matz addresses radio star Garrison Keiller: “After yet another joke on ‘A Prairie Home Companion’ about an English major who studies Dickens and ends up at a fast-food restaurant frying chickens, I couldn’t take it anymore. I had to write.”

The article continues:

The truth, however, is that reports of the deadliness of English to a successful career are greatly exaggerated. According to one major study produced by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, the median income for English majors with a bachelor’s but no additional degree is $48,000. This figure is just slightly lower than that for bachelor’s degree holders in biology ($50,000), and slightly higher than for those in molecular biology or physiology (both $45,000). It’s the same for students who received their bachelor’s in public policy or criminology (both $48,000), slightly lower than for those who received their bachelor’s in criminal justice and fire protection ($50,000) and slightly higher than for those who received it in psychology ($45,000).

Another study by the same center paints a similar picture with respect to unemployment. In this study, the average unemployment rate for recent B.A. holders (ages 22-26) over the years 2009-10 was 8.9 percent; for English it was 9.2 percent. Both rates are higher than we would wish, but their marginal difference is dwarfed by that between the average for holders of the B.A. and that of high school graduates, whose unemployment rate during the same period was 22.9 percent (also too high).

Graduation 2013

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Lovers’ Vows

Inspired by an attempted reading of the play Lovers’ Vows in Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park, students in ENG 477 decided to stage their own production of the drama during the final week of classes.

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The acting troupe

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The opening scene (Alyssa Wadsworth as Agatha Friburg and Ian Garcia Grant as Landlord).

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Zoe Estrin-Grele as Frederick

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Mother and Son

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The final scene (Zoe Estrin-Grele as Frederick, Alyssa as Agatha, Abigail Hersom as Baron Wildenhaim, and Cidney Mayes as Amelia).

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More Jane Austen Parody!

Megan Millette

Austen Parody Assignment

My parody focuses on the tale of a young heroine named Katheryn Morlan who is enthralled by her latest reading of the novel Twilight. It is set in present day where she enjoys the noise of the mall while doing her reading. She meets a hero along the way named Hank who helps to show her that history is more than she could even imagine, allowing her to see that all can enjoy it not just men. He also enjoys reading much like herself and fuels her mind enough so to make her believe in creatures that do not exist. She is also trapped at the mall with the dreaded arrogant Jonathan who cannot stop talking even if she begs him to, which she would never do out of politeness. However, the one day she is able to escape him she encounters a man who also turns out to be the villain in her story which is Hank’s army-trained father who is strict and orderly. However, the house to Katheryn is not what it seems as she mixes reality with the simple pleasures of her latest novel. She can’t help but think things are not what they seem. This is what leads to disapproval and an ending where she is left to walk alone until her hero, Hank, steps in to save the day.

My intent with this piece is to show one a way in which the reader can relate personally to the character of Catherine in Jane Austen’s novel, Northanger Abbey. By setting it in present day and using a novel that is very popular in this time frame the reader is able to relate on a more personal level to these imitations of moments in Austen’s novel. They are able to put a fan fiction into the realm with that of the novel getting a clearer, and possibly better, understanding of where Catherine’s character is coming from. Though some believe that Catherine is naïve and childish when she is making up her own stories and scenarios, through my parody I hope one sees how the build up and discussions one has prior help lead one to making up his or her own stories. As one watches a scary movie or feels an eerie sense in a situation, they are apt to imagine things at times because our mind plays tricks on us when we are overly emotional. An overly emotional state can make us see things that aren’t actually there. My heroine Katheryn feels these same emotions after Hank has playfully joked around with her allowing her mind to wander. When the strange sights and sounds are presented, her emotions take over allowing her to imagine something that may not be there. This is my intent to make Austen’s piece more relatable to the reader through a present day imitation of it to show the reader that this is not a foolish story about a girl who makes up what she wants to see but something that occurs throughout life to anyone when emotion takes over. Austen references Radcliffe’s story, which takes place further in the past much like I relate my parody to Austen’s novel showing how it can go from Radcliffe’s time to present day. When terror and emotion take over you never know how one might handle the situation.

It has many qualities that make it a parody of Austen’s original novel such as similar character names though not exactly the same. In Austen’s Northanger Abbey there is Henry Tilney, John Thorpe, and Catherine Morland. In my parody there are the characters Hank Tillnie, Jonathan Thorne, and Katheryn Morlan. However, it is not only the names that are an imitation of her characters, but also the traits I introduce for my characters resemble those in Austen’s piece.  I have imitated some scenes from Austen’s novel. Though I may have altered them a little, they still remain somewhat similar to Austen’s own novel. I have also made sure some of the conflicts were similar but modernized, such as my choice in the popular book the heroine reads. These are the ways in which I took Austen’s piece and imitated it to show a playful rendition of her own work while adding a few differences to set it apart. This is done to entertain the readers so they can enjoy the witty remarks and relate them more closely to the work of Jane Austen. Parodies are meant to tell a story but also entertain the audience because the audience is able to see how it is relatable and similar to the piece it is imitating. It also acts as an innocent mockery of the original to make it easier to understand. Overall, a parody is meant to allow the audience the ability to enjoy the references to the original text while also seeing how it is different in terms. This parody is meant to be an imitation of some key scenes of Austen’s novel, Northanger Abbey, while also allowing the reader to see a play with the present day and the book Twilight.

Katheryn and Vampirism

There she sits content in her own world: this girl, Katheryn Morlan; is our heroine. She is not your typical heroine instead being very plain and ordinary. Katheryn is average and a bit lanky. She has yet to discover herself. She spends her days at a table in the mall with her nose in the latest book-of-choice, Twilight: a teen romance about forbidden love between a vampire and an average girl she can relate to. She enjoys the crowd passing by but more so the pages of this novel that consume her thoughts.

However, with a clash and clang her eyes are able to glance up from the page long enough to see the boy glistening in the crowd by a bag of items that were now scattered across the floor. She was brought back to reality long enough to gaze at Hank Tillnie along with the many others around the mall who left their selfish trance of Saturday shopping to stare at where the noise had disturbed their mundane routine. Hank was a tall figure with a bright look in his eye. He was in her history class and was a very intelligent guy whose fascination with history is something Katheryn wished she could say about herself. Her assumption is that his love for history is only natural of all men because it is their subject of choice according to Katheryn. As he appears closer moving past her table, Katheryn allows his name to slip from her lips “Hank.”

He turns and smiles in her direction. “Hi, Katheryn.”

“You know my name?” Yes, she is the heroine, which should entitle her to some moments of clichéd surprise response. She does focus much of her life on the books she can’t help but place herself in.

“I would hope so since you sit next to me in history and we were in many of the same classes last semester. Let’s hope my response didn’t ruin your diary entry of me considering it did not come out as mystifying and charming as I intended.” A slight playful smile formed.

“Oh, don’t worry, I don’t have a diary. I am pretty sure most girls our age have given up those.”

“Now, don’t be ashamed. I know it is geeky, but I understand that all girls no matter what time they are from keep a diary. Secretly, I am sure Bella Swan even had a diary that may not have been mentioned in the novel.” He nodded in the direction of the book still in Katheryn’s grasp. “It probably wasn’t broadcasted throughout the novel because the reader is not expected to read about how Bella had pages plastered with Mrs. Bella Cullen and hearts. Those pages would just make it all the more predictable then her just pondering about why Edward was never there anymore. Don’t worry, your secret diary is a safe topic with me. I promise no one will find out its existence and that I am the stranger from history class who knows you exist and am geeky enough to know about your reading choice.”

“Again, no diary. Also I am surprised you know this book. Guys are not normally into reading and novels especially.”

“Well, some guys enjoy novels and the excitement of what is to come, which leads them to an enjoyment of reading. I think people who complain about reading and novels are ignorant and don’t deserve an opinion.”

“Interesting.”

            “How interesting? As interesting as history class was last week.”

“I hope you are joking because I never really understand that class much. Maybe it is because it is a man’s subject of choice.”

“Well that’s a lie, since History is exciting to all if we all just look at it as an adventure waiting to unfold. As we discover it our eyes are slowly opened to the secrets that have potential to be fact or fiction. There is no dull moment if you give history the opportunity to share its story with you like you allow novels to do.” Once again he nods toward the book in Katheryn’s hand.

“It is dull because of the way writers write. There is such a dry storyline to follow, and the idea that some aspects are either fact or fiction makes it seem unreliable.”

“Only to the untrained is it unreliable. Half the fun in the hunt for fact and fiction is that it leads the reader on a journey to discover more.”

“Well then maybe you should teach me how I can be as passionate as you when it comes to history because I have not yet discovered that joy.”

“I’d love to! You could come over sometime and we could work on our history projects together, so I can show you that there is excitement in even history.”

“When is this going to happen?” Katheryn, our heroine, tries to sound inquisitive, but comes across as overly excited as any girl would who relies on characters to show her how to act around others.

At that moment a phone call captured his attention and he left with, “I’ll be in touch as long as this all doesn’t wind up in your diary, promise?”

“Promise,” left Katheryn’s lips whether or not he heard it as he was almost out of sight.

***

            Our heroine, Katheryn, spent the next few days trying her best to sit and watch for Hank but being herself she would wind up doing less searching and more reading. She would look out for him until she was engulfed in her story so much so that she lost track of time. That was until a shadow lingered over her long enough one day to force her to take her gaze off the page she was on to be graced with the image of Jonathan Thorne. Luckily for her, she was honored with the presence of an arrogant, pig-headed guy who beamed confidence with his puffed out chest and rather straight stance. Jonathan, though he beamed confidence, remained to leave passersbies with the question of why he had such confidence. He was a plain guy and of medium height. He wasn’t overly tall but not very small either just simply average. He was stout:  just pudgy enough to fit his medium form and fill it out a little extra. Katheryn was lucky enough to find herself next to him when he sat down beside her, though she questioned if she could call it sitting when he dropped into the chair with a thud. Nevertheless, he was in the seat beside her and wasted no time striking up a conversation with her on a topic she didn’t catch. She had no idea what was happening. When she realized she was not getting away from him there was a slight eye roll before she smiled and nodded at what was being said.

She was stuck with him gracing her presence for three more days before she ran into Hank again. She was happy to see him though he was hesitant to bug her and her present company. Hank made his way to the table and asked her if the next day she could come over to work on history projects like they had discussed before. He explained how his family had to go away for a few days over break to visit relatives, but that he was still interested in working on history. Katheryn naturally agreed and Hank left with the glare of Jonathan on the back of his head.

Jonathan continued his discussion about leading the football team to another victory and how he did not know where they would be without him. He told her how he was the top player, and Katheryn, being too nice, just smiled and continued to nod her head politely.

The next day could not come sooner as she sat waiting for Hank to arrive. However, instead of Hank, Jonathan returned and began begging her to go watch his game. He said how he doubted Hank would be there if he wasn’t already waiting for her when she arrived. As she grabbed her bag to follow Jonathan, Hank turned the corner. She left Jonathan but not without him grabbing her arm and trying to drag her along with him. Katheryn, being the polite girl she was, did not rip her arm free but merely slipped it out of his grip and told him some other time she would be fine with going but not today.

Katheryn met up with Hank and followed him as he led the way to his house. As they walked, Hank decided to strike up conversation by asking about Twilight and how the novel was coming along for Katheryn. She concluded that she had almost finished and loved every second of it. The novel was adventurous and full of a romance for the sappy love fans out there. “Could you imagine a world where one falls in love with a vampire and he is nothing like history makes him out to be? He is far from vicious and cares more than most choosing not to drink human blood. Could you imagine living where you have no idea whether the people across the street or down the road are vampires, and you would have no idea?”

“Yes, according to Twilight you must watch out because anyone could be a vampire. For all you know I might be a vampire leading you to a house full of vampires, but you wouldn’t have to worry because like the vampires of the day we only feed on blood bags or animal blood. Could you imagine where we could put all that blood? It is interesting though how they blend in so well with the crowd but if we all blend in so nicely I may as well be a vampire.” He laughed at the thought hoping Katheryn would enjoy his humor with the novel and not take offense to his jokes.

Katheryn’s laugh was more held back. Though Hank did not notice, it was a weary laugh. It was a laugh almost as if she were contemplating the ideas he had suggested but he assumed she had appreciated his joke and went on. “Imagine where my father was like the Cullen father so sweet and friendly, but if some blood was shed who would ever know how he or the rest of my family could react. It is interesting how their family works and their house is so far outside town if a true vampire wanted to blend why not lose the house of glass and move into some suburb perhaps.” As he said this he stopped in front of a two story colonial that resembled a few on his street. It was almost as if they were their own little suburban street with similar houses. Katheryn’s mind began to wonder what may be hiding in these matching houses.

They entered the kitchen where he offered her something to eat and drink. She happily accepted a glass of lemonade he gave her but could not help but notice his lack of drink. A few minutes later he brought out some cookies but once again as she helped herself to a few he sat not interested in the food. Katheryn thought how Edward and his siblings sat at lunch their food laid out in front of them never touched, and she turned to Hank. Heart beating, she stared so intensely that she thought she saw the red in his eyes like those of the characters in the book.

There was a rustling noise downstairs almost as if they were hiding something or someone in their basement. He glanced at the clock and said, “Excuse me for a moment I have to do some chores.” He went to the end of the hall and opened up the door to the cellar. She couldn’t help but take a peek and when she did directly down the stairs was a giant freezer with a huge bolt lock on it. She imagined Hank opening it to reveal to her many bags of blood, which his family enjoyed for dinner. She heard the clank and clatter of what sounded like a cage and she imagined an unruly family member in need of some blood especially fresh blood. As her mind wandered to Hank asking her to follow him down there to see a boy on a leash jumping at her as if she were his next meal, she heard him making his way back towards the steps and quickly went to sit back down at the table. However, he still caught her gaze and the horrified look and tried to show his weary smile. He sat down beside her. “So what did you see? You look like you saw a ghost coming out of my basement.”

“No, it is just you have a huge freezer with a bolt on it.”

“Yeah it is full of meat. My dad likes to hunt.”

An image of dead animals flashed into Katheryn’s brain as she thought that of course they were like the Cullens and drank only animal blood.

“What are you thinking? You have a look of disgust.”

“Is there something or someone else down there?”

“Yes, we are dog sitting my oldest brother’s dog, but my dad has strict rules about keeping him in the kennel. His army ways made him a bit of a neat freak and he is very stubborn in those ways.”

Oh of course a dog would make sense. She had heard a bark but did not associate it at the time because she was so fear-ridden, she thought to herself not realizing that Hank was staring at her quizzically. “So the animal meat…”

“Is butchered meat like you would get at the store steaks and hamburger. My dad has a friend who is a butcher and cuts up his game from hunting season. We store it down there.”

“Oh that makes so much more sense than my thoughts.” The end slipped out even though she meant for it to be only in her head.

“And what did you think?”

“I just thought that like in Twilight and the way you were talking on our walk here how we would never know who is a vampire…”

“And you thought I was one and my house was like the Cullens’. Sorry to tell you this Katheryn but Twilight is just a book and in reality those creatures do not exist. I thought you understood that and was joking with you. I had no idea you took me seriously.” He laughed and his laugh seemed like he was mocking our poor heroine who now felt out of place and stupid.

“Can I use your bathroom?” She tried to hold back the embarrassment but her voice was still a bit shaky.

“Yeah, it is down that hall second door on the left. Don’t worry you will not stumble across our coffins if you find the wrong room.”

His final comment made the tears stream down her face. When she reached the bathroom Katheryn shut the door and sat there crying for a moment. She thought to herself how could she be so stupid to let a book creep its way into reality. No matter how real the story may feel it was never going to be a real story and she was certainly not the Bella to Hank’s Edward in the least bit. She composed herself expecting Hank would ask her to leave offended that she would think of him as an awful creature. However, when she reached the table he was sitting there book open ready to start on their history.

“Hey, feeling any better? Let’s get started on the history assignment. We could look at the myth of vampirism for part of the project and its progression over time if that would be of interest?” He was being nice as if she did not make a fool out of herself in front of him just minutes before. She sat beside him as they plotted out possible project ideas and he worked at opening her mind up to the idea that history could be exciting.

When his father arrived home he was very friendly and even offered for her to stay for dinner. Katheryn was excited at his approval. He asked them nicely to move to the living room and she was more than happy to since he needed to set the table for dinner. As she picked up her bag Twilight fell to the floor. Hank’s father looked at the book and scowled. “I am not a fan of mythologies about demons and monsters. I have this strange feeling that you are not the type of girl I want to see my children around if you are interested in this nonsense. I am a practical man and Hank knows how I feel about that.” Hank’s father gave Katheryn a look of pure hatred. He then asked to talk to Hank alone. Afterward, Hank said he wanted her to leave for dinner. Hank told her to wait there a second he had to go take care of his brother’s dog first.

While Hank was gone, his father noticed her sitting in the living room and asked her to leave saying she was no longer welcome. She did not understand how a man one second so nice could be so mean the next but left just the same. As she walked down the dark road while night time was setting in early because of the season, she knew she had a long walk ahead of her to the other side of town. She wished she could have seen Hank again to thank him for the great afternoon but she did not understand why he did not stand up for her. She didn’t know why he left her at the end. She walked down the dimly lit road telling herself she would not be afraid walking home. A group of boys passed by her hooting and hollering and she got an image of them coming toward her. She imagined that like Bella in the story these men were going to attack her, but instead of in an alley way they would do it on this quiet street. She had to catch herself and remind herself of what Hank had said about it being just a book and told herself she would not let it get the best of her. She had tears streaming down her face hurt by his father’s change in attitude. He hadn’t given her the chance for him to get to know her and sent her on her own not even offering her a ride home. At that moment a car passed her then slowed to a stop and reversed in her direction. The lights blurred her vision and she thought she was in serious trouble now. Katheryn then realized much to her surprise that Hank was in the driver’s seats of the car.

“Get in and I will give you a ride. I want to make sure you get home safe. Sorry for my dad. He is overprotective and has a tendency to overreact all the time.” Katheryn got into the car and Hank drove off into the night. Naturally, only in this story can the heroine get a little piece of her book turn into reality.

Parodies of Jane Austen and Her Works

Students in English 477 were interested to discover that Jane Austen wrote parodies of histories and gothic novels long before she tried her hand at such milestone works of literature as Pride and Prejudice and Emma. Austen’s playful use of parody inspired the students to create their own parodies of the author and her works The History of England and Northanger Abbey. At the most recent UMF Symposium Day, several students formed a panel to discuss how they devised their parodies and also shared samples of their Austen parodies.

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Austen parodists, Cidney Mayes, Lauren Breton, Alyssa Wadsworth, Megan Millette, and Zoe Estrin-Grele.

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The Parodies:

Lauren Breton

An Exploration of Parody in Northanger Abbey through Parody – Critical Introduction

            Throughout time, parody has been used as a means to entertain, inspire, and intellectually stimulate all readers.  For example, authors such as Austen have created works that parody the works of others, such as her re-interpretation of Oliver Goldsmith’s History of England.  Austen’s parody poked fun at Goldsmith as well as at the way that he wrote through her imitation of his writing style.  Since Austen used humor so effectively in both her writing style and in her exaggerations of the monarchs that she described in her version of History of England, she was able to create a piece of writing that was entertaining for her friends and family to read.
Although many might argue that the only goal of parody is to mock and entertain, these people neglect the importance of parody in an educational sense.  For example, Austen was also able to make a statement about the women of history in History of England.  She chose to put a much greater emphasis on the women of the past, not only representing a greater proportion of women in her parody than Goldsmith did, but also by giving women such as Mary and Elizabeth two of the largest sections of the text.  The commentary on these two women takes up approximately one quarter of the text of History of England.  Through this emphasis, she subtly inspired social change and gave women the opportunity to matter, at least more so than they mattered to Goldsmith.  By taking the time to focus on the women who were also a part of England’s history, she gave women a larger semblance of a voice than other writers of her time chose to.

In my parody of another one of Austen’s parodies, Northanger Abbey, I chose to focus on one specific excerpt from the text.  This excerpt was the end of chapter six of the novel, where Austen goes from telling her story of Catherine and Isabella into a completely unexpected rant in order to defend the genre of novels.  This rant also denounces both the public as well as the novelists that Austen felt did not consider themselves novelists.  In this small excerpt, Austen’s tone completely changes.  She goes from telling a story full of humor to writing an impassioned defense of the novel that is full of outrage and anger.  I have captured this not-so-subtle shift in voice by extolling the virtues of my present-day Catherine and Isabella, who love to read young adult novels.

In this parody, I have also captured the outrage that Austen felt by mimicking her writing style.  I have written long, defensive, angry sentences that criticize others.  I have also used small interjections to help capture Austen’s outrage as well as to help the parody become even more over-the-top than it previously was.  I also chose to mock Austen in particular, by giving her as an example of a dry, classic work that the narrator in this rant would consider boring for their readers.  I chose to mention Austen’s works in the same way that she mentions a volume of the Spectator, as an example of what not to read.  By incorporating Austen’s works into my parody, the parody became even more obvious and exaggerated.  Also, by mocking Austen, I was able to directly use Austen’s technique of mocking Goldsmith in History of England.

Chapter 6: The Parody

Catherine and Isabella, these two young ladies, these two almost-women, were inseparable.  They walked arm-in-arm down the hallways at school, they zipped up the backs of each other’s dresses for prom, and they were never to be separated.  They indulged only in the most wholesome activities, and even if the rain kept them indoors, they defied the natural world and met anyway—picking up young adult novels and reading them to one another.  Yes, I said young adult novels; I will not adopt that despicable custom that is all too common with young adult novelists, and consequently, with the public.  The degradation of these texts is caused by the authors themselves.  That’s right, I said it; the authors of young adult literature are the ones that are responsible for the contemptuous response of their works by the public.  These authors join with the greatest enemies of the genre to scarcely permitting them to be read by their own heroes and heroines.   Oh, the shame!  The disgrace!

If these heroes or heroines are reading, they aren’t reading young adult.  They’re reading the classics.  In Speak, Melinda reads The Scarlet Letter.  In The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Chbosky doesn’t allow Charlie to read young adult, he requires him to read The Great Gatsby and The Fountainhead, something much more “respectable” than simple children’s stories for these almost-adults.  These authors simply couldn’t be bothered to allow their beloved main characters to sink to the level of reading the same type of material that they produce.  What message, exactly, are they trying to send to their readers?  Alas, I cannot approve of this degradation of a genre!  It is revolting!

Although these heroes and heroines are never engaged in their education, their authors are depriving their heroes of the same reading material that they are producing.  These authors are not allowing their main characters to read productions that have given more pleasure than any other literary genre in the world!  They are continuing to disgrace a genre of composition that has given so much pleasure to the masses; to people just like they want their heroes to be!  Based on this pride, this arrogance, this conformity to the widely accepted norm that young adult literature is somehow less-than-worthy, the readers of the genre are almost outnumbered by their foes.
And while all of this hatred is being poised against a truly entertaining and re-readable genre, a genre that not only entertains young adults, but also requires them to consider the larger issues of life, the praise for the authorship is being directed towards others.  These others are the people who offer up new editions of Austen classics, people who reassemble and reinterpret Shakespeare, people who take the time to publish another volume of Whitman, or Hughes, or find and publish another paper of Fitzgerald’s, these people are praised by a thousand reviewers—while the young adult novelist’s labors are constantly being devalued.  These labors that only happen to have re-readability, wit, and the power to cause all readers to think more intelligently to recommend them.
When was the last time that you heard a young adult author admit that their genre is the one that they prefer to read?  When was the last time that you heard anyone admit to admiring the genre?  All too often, we hear “I’m not a young adult lit fan—I can’t imagine what teenage novels have to offer an adult like me—This piece of writing is pretty good, considering that it’s only a young adult novel.”  We also often hear a typical response from a reader that they are “only reading a young adult novel” or that a young adult novel is “just some light reading—not anything to make me really think”.  They say that it is “only” Wintergirls, or The Fault in Our Stars, or the Harry Potter series—these are works that only intellectually stimulate, only works that reveal all of the varieties of human nature, that only invoke wit and humor and convey all of these aspects with apt and often poetic language.  And, had this same reader been thoroughly engaged in reading a volume of Frost poetry or an Austen classic, this reader would have proudly showcased their book and discussed its contents, rather than sheepishly admitting to what they were reading.  Although, of course, it would be nearly impossible to find a young reader that would ever be engrossed in Northanger Abbey, since it is filled with ridiculous events, and unrelatable characters, and uninteresting language, too, frequently so bland as to give no favorable notion of anyone that could ever endure it, let alone enjoy it.

Cidney Mayes

Critical Introduction to Parody

            This parody focuses on elements of the moral novel and the ways in which Catherine learns to navigate the rough world that she finds herself in. In Austen’s novel, Catherine is ejected from Northanger Abbey and uneventfully finds her way back home, with the help of the local post-masters, despite the all-too-real concerns Eleanor poses about the dangers of a young girl traveling such a great distance alone. In a moral novel no girl traveling alone would experience such a pleasant journey without having learned at least one valuable lesson. Therefore, the focus of the parody is to teach Catherine lessons in a comedic and serious way that will help her understand the world around her. In creating this “moral tale” in which Catherine realizes the dangers of the her environment with the help of John Thorpe, attention to parody’s educational value and the element of exaggeration for comedic effect were used to craft a parodic re-imagining of the end of Northanger Abbey.

Educationally, the parody seeks to inform the audience concerning the common plot of the moral tale. Typically, this involves the heroine being shown the ways of the world through a series of comic and serious events. Due to Austen’s mention of such novels as Cecilia, Camilla, and Belinda within her vindication of the novel in Chapter V, Volume I of Northanger Abbey, investigations into why Austen mentioned these works other than to urge the authors to proudly uptake the label of novel for their works. Other than these novels having the merit of being impressive works of fiction, it seems strange that Austen should mention them at all when the overall concept of the moral tale does not seem to fit within Austen’s parody of the Gothic. The ending of her novel does see the main character happily wed due to deus ex machina intervention, but this could be a continued parody of the Gothic as well as a parody of the moral tale. This parody of the ending of Northanger Abbey explores the possibility of a shift in Austen’s focus to the moral tale, and what events might have occurred that would have allowed Catherine to grow from an innocent, naive young heroine to a proper lady ready to take on society and live in the adult world.

In terms of the necessary element of exaggeration for parodic effect, this particular parody seeks to exaggerate the dangers that Catherine may have come across on her trip back home from Northanger, the value of the lessons taught to Catherine, and the qualities and characterization of John Thorpe. Events in the parody such as John Thorpe persuading Catherine to travel with him, the nighttime assault of Catherine from a young gentleman who works at an inn, and the duel between Henry Tilney and John Thorpe exaggerate the dangers into which Catherine may have fallen on her journey. However, these events are not so exaggerated that they estrange the reader. In order to create a successful parody, the audience must “enter a comfortable world of shared beliefs” (Wallace 262). Thus the dangers that Catherine encounters are plausible, yet the way in which characters respond to those events out are exaggerated for comedic effect (Catherine typically responds in a Catherine-like way; Thorpe with heroic, collected calm; and Tilney with instability and outrage).

Also exaggerated are the usefulness and value of the “lessons” that Catherine learns on her travels with John Thorpe. These lessons are: never travel alone, always accept the help of acquaintances even though the circumstance may seem questionable, lock your door when sleeping in strange places, and stand behind the man with a gun when a duel breaks out. These lessons will hardly have any application in Catherine’s day-to-day life, yet she can not be thankful enough to John Thorpe for opening her eyes to the dangers and workings of the world around her. As for John Thorpe himself, Austen characterizes him as conceited, arrogant, and prone to exaggeration. In this parody those traits are kept, but the way in which Catherine responds to John Thorpe’s character and actions have been altered so that, despite his public swearing and boastful nature, the lessons that Thorpe teaches her are of greater value than the chivalry that Henry Tilney demonstrates.

This parody, modeled after Austen’s work, seeks to mimic the style and tone of Northanger Abbey in order to preserve a comfortable world of shared beliefs for the audience while taking aspects of the moral tale and Austen’s characters and exaggerating them for parodic effect. Through this parody the value of the lesson learned in the moral tale are scrutinized and their merit questioned through Catherine’s choice of selecting Thorpe as a suitable husband because of the lessons that he teaches her.

 

Chapter XIV.

             As Catherine scurried to the chaise, hiding her face as well as she could with her handkerchief, she thought only of how she was unable to bid Henry farewell, and wondered what he might say, look, or feel when he learned of her sudden departure. She was too wretched to be fearful of the journey ahead of her and leaned into the corner of the carriage, consoling herself with her own tears and bathing in their misery. For some time she languished in this way before she reached the public stagecoach were she, being forced to leave the Tilney’s carriage, waited until the horses could be brought round.

Wearied and full of heart Catherine stood in the cool fog of morning, desolate and inconsolable. She, lost in her own sorrows, did not notice the approach of a familiar and unwanted acquaintance until his voice from close proximity penetrated her thoughts.

“Miss Morland! What in God’s name are you doing here?”

Catherine turned to find the figure of John Thorpe at her side, a dark and strange look in his eyes. “Mr. Thorpe! What a surprise to see you here. I’ve just come from Northanger, and am on my way back to Fullerton.”

“And where might your servant be Miss Morland? Do not tell me such man as General Tilney would allow you to travel without one?” asked Thorpe with harsh sarcasm in his voice when he spoke of the General, but more softly and with concern when the reality of Catherine’s traveling alone caused him pause. He stepped closer to Catherine, looking at her in a manner that she was not accustomed to.

“I merely did not wish to inconvenience the General, Mr. Thorpe,” replied Catherine as smoothly as she could, for she did not wish to damage the reputation of General Tilney’s children, even if it meant protecting the reputation of the General himself.

“Well, Miss Morland, you can hardly be expected to travel to Fullerton alone. Allow me to escort you, if I may. We may even take my own carriage and you will be safe at home in half the time.”

“But Mr. Thorpe, are you not terribly angry at me?” asked Catherine, wringing her hands. “I in no way meant to deceive you, and it was only after speaking with your sister that I had realized that some misunderstanding had occurred between us. I was most sure that you were quite glad to be rid of me.”

“D—, Miss Morland. I could not be angry with you, not I. We shall put the matter behind us, and you will ride with me. Don’t you know it is most improper for a young lady such as yourself to be traveling such a distance unaccompanied? And who better than I, a dashing and handsome acquaintance whom you would trust with your life, to be the very chaperone you require? Come, let us speak no more of it!”

Catherine could not usher a word of objection before Thorpe had ordered round his carriage and she was secured beside him. He lashed his horses to move forward and drove on. It only then occurred to Catherine that she did not know if she were behaving in the most proper manner that a young lady could, for she did not know if John Thorpe qualified as a proper chaperone, or how he had come to be so near to Northanger and what his business here should be. Inquiring about the later matter, Thorpe told Catherine that he was on his way to speak to the General on Isabella’s behalf, having recently met him in London. He had not had time to approach the subject of his sister and the General’s eldest son, Captain Tilney, before he had suddenly quitted the place and was later discovered to have sped off to Northanger under much distress and agitation. Thorpe followed behind in order to bring to his attention the most grievous of sins committed against his sister. Catherine, still upset with Isabella for hurting her brother in such a way, was curious about what John knew about the relationship between Captain Tilney and Isabella. Her curiosity was somewhat satisfied when Thorpe revealed that Isabella had gotten herself into such a position in which it would be necessary for Captain Tilney and his sister to be married without delay. Catherine could only guess at what Thorpe meant by the necessity of an immediate marriage, and supposed it was either an affair of immense shame, or that Isabella’s heart was so broken it could only be mended by matrimony. So selfless were his thoughts! So noble his disregard for his own reputation! Catherine could not help but admire Thorpe’s devotions to his sister’s happiness, and thought that it was all together very respectable of him to risk the improprieties that accompanied a demand for a marriage that would socially and financially benefit his family.

“Why then, Mr. Thorpe, if your business with General Tilney is of such importance then you must simply let me see myself to Fullerton! I would not want to keep you from such a pressing affair,” Catherine cried with much fervor.

“Nonsense, Miss Morland. Speak no more of the matter.” Thorpe said rather shortly. Catherine was quite subdued by his manor, and they indeed did not speak for quite some time. What could Thorpe be thinking about? The loss of an opportunity to secure his sister’s reputation and comfort? Or, perhaps, he was feeling torn between a sense of familial duty and the concern he felt for a young girl who he had strong affections for. Catherine was exhausted from her sleepless night and sank into a fitful slumber after contemplating the motives of Thorpe’s character for a short while. When she awoke it was some hours later and she did not recognize her surroundings.

They were stopped outside of a small inn, the lack of motion from the carriage the cause of Catherine’s awakening. The pale glow of lamplight illuminated very little outside of the establishment, and she looked to John Thorpe who was descending from the carriage. “We shall stop here for the night, Miss Morland. It is too dark to go any further tonight.” Catherine was quite sure that they would have arrived at Fullerton by nightfall, but as she did not know the way back for certain, she supposed she was in error.

“How far are we from Fullerton, Mr. Thorpe?” she enquired.

“Oh, not far at all, Miss Morland. I expect we shall arrive safely tomorrow! Now, come inside and let us be rested.” Thorpe gallantly held out his arm for Catherine to take, and she stumbled against him slightly upon her descent. Righting herself, a small blush creeping across her cheeks, she looked at Mr. Thorpe who caught her gaze and stared at her intensely before quickly turning away.

Catherine, thankful to Eleanor for providing her with sufficient funds for travel, secured a room for herself with the aid of John Thorpe. They shared a small supper together, thought they did not share many words between them. Catherine, full of longing for the comforts of home and the happiness her family once afforded her, was silent with a longing to be with them at last and to try and forget as best she could about Henry Tilney. Though, try as she might, she could do little but think of how he might feel when he realized she had gone. Thorpe was silent as he watched Catherine dine, and made little effort for conversation himself.

Shortly after supper, Catherine was escorted to her rooms by a young man who was employed by the inn. She thanked him and quickly entered her dark rooms with only one candle for light. She climbed hastily into her bed and tried unsuccessfully to let sleep claim her. Instead she allowed her tears to burst forth in torrents as she thought about her shameful expulsion from the comfort of her friends and the generous attentions of Henry Tilney. A single tear or two was also shed for the unfortunate circumstances which the Thorpe family suffered and the uncomfortable feeling that took hold of Catherine when thinking about them, as she did not know whether to hate or be eternally thankful to John Thorpe for his kindness.

She had spent her tears after about an hour and was just settling to sleep when she heard the door of her room open, and saw the silhouette of a tall man in the doorway. Catherine was too fearful to move, and laid in her bed as she watched the figure approach her. It was only when the figure reached the foot of her small bed that she managed to find her voice and scream, which cause the man to lunge at her to smother her cry with his hand. Catherine struggled and heard the door of her room slam open, the room filling with sudden light. John Thorpe stood grandly with a pistol in his hand aimed at the man who was revealed to be the young gentleman who had first escorted Catherine to these rooms not hours before. The intruder saw Thorpe and the gun and tried to dodge past him down the stairs, but Thorpe knocked him to the floor with the butt of his pistol and stood glowering over the now unconscious figure.

“Come, Miss Morland. Dress yourself and gather your things. We are leaving,” ordered Thorpe. Out of propriety, he averted his eyes from the figure of Catherine dressed in her nightgown. Catherine was left speechless and stumbled around the room, trying to collect herself as tears of fear and shame poured down her cheeks.

“Oh, Mr. Thorpe,” she finally managed to say after dressing. “If you had not been here . . .  just to think of what might have happened . . .”

“My dearest Catherine,” consoled Thorpe. “Unfortunately you have learned a valuable lesson tonight. A young lady must always lock her door in a strange and unfamiliar place. I will not always be here to protect you from harm. Now, no more tears, let us be off from this wretched place and see you safely home.”

Catherine found herself thinking of what it would be like to have the company of John Thorpe to protect her from the possible ills that might befall her in a world so cruel as they departed the inn. She all together enjoyed the idea of assured protection, and continued to contemplate the matter as the sun rose and they drove on.

Chapter XV.

            After some hours, Catherine and Thorpe arrived in Fullerton under a clear blue sky. As they pulled into the drive of her own much-missed home, her thoughts of Thorpe and her anticipations at being reunited with her family were distracted by the appearance of none other than Henry Tilney!

“Mr. Tilney! How is it that we find you here?” cried Catherine with hesitant joy. She felt Thorpe stiffen beside her, and wondered briefly why he should suddenly become so cold after their acquaintance had become much furthered since the events of his first finding her cast out from Northanger.

“Miss Morland! I have been searching for you. How is it you come to be in the company of the very man who caused you to be expelled from our house by my father?” asked Henry angrily.

“Whatever do you mean? Mr. Thorpe has merely been escorting me from your home, Mr. Tilney, and it is with most fortune that he did! The dangers of the road are not to be traveled alone by one such as myself, and I am very thankful to have had his assistance for I knew not the way back home.”

Thorpe smiled as she said this, glad that she had learned the lessons of how dangerous the road could be, and that it was better to have the company of some acquaintance than no company at all. However his smile faded upon remembering the accusations against him made by Henry Tilney. “Pray, sir, what do you mean by my being the cause of Miss Morland’s distasteful expulsion?”

“Did you not, sir,” fumed Henry, “enjoy the company of my father while in London, and did you not reveal to him that the claim you had made to him previously; that Miss Morland was to come into a large amount of inheritance and therefore be one of the most wealthy, eligible young women in Bath; was falsely stated?” Henry ended with fervor, anxious to show Catherine of the wrongs that John Thorpe had done her.

“Sir, I did reveal my mistake to the General. I did believe that Miss Morland was to inherit a large sum of money from Mr. Allen. I admit my foolishness, and was happy to set your father right when I saw him and he enquired about Miss Morland,” Thorpe stated rather calmly.

“Is this the cause of my being excused from Northanger so suddenly?” asked Catherine, her eyes welling with tears.

“Yes, Miss Morland. You are guilty only of being less rich than my father had supposed you to be. I must extend my most sincere apologies, and tell you that I have broken with my father in the pursuit of that which would make me most happy. And now you must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.” Henry Tilney uttered the last with much agitation and anxiety, and his words hung heavily in the air.

Catherine, who only a day previously would have cried with joy and rushed into the arms of her beloved was now forced to pause and weigh this new development.

Mr. Thorpe, seeing her hesitation and his hopes of a felicitous union with his beloved Catherine reborn, spoke on his own behalf. “It is true, Miss Morland, that I have shown you discourtesy in the past by presuming your wealth to be above what you never claimed. I must extend to you my own apologies in this matter and allow you to judge me as you will. I said, earlier, that we would speak no more of the matter between us that you had previously misunderstood, but now my conscious will not allow me to proceed without affirming my affections for you.”

Henry, at this last utterance, was utterly enraged and leapt with his fists towards John Thorpe. Thorpe, as smoothly as he had done the previous evening, drew his pistol and aimed at Henry as Catherine watched in horror. The calm demeanor that Henry had previously displayed while at Northanger had vanished, and he appeared frantic and most unlike himself. “Calmly remember yourself, Mr. Tilney,” stated Thorpe. “Miss Morland, are you quite all right? Don’t you know to always stand behind the duelist with the gun when it comes to blows? We would not want you harmed in any way.”

“Yes, Mr. Thorpe, I am all right.” she replied with affection in her voice. How much her knowledge of the world grew with every passing moment in his company! It was true that it was Henry Tilney who had first opened her eyes to the foolishness of her indulgence in Gothic fantasies, but had he not brought on these very notions to begin with on that long-ago carriage ride to Northanger? Yet in the company of John Thorpe her eyes were widened to the dangers of the world around her, and her wisdom of the world grew at a most rapid pace under his care. His calm intellect was shown to be vastly superior in times of conflict and emotion as opposed to the passion and agitation shown by Henry Tilney.

Turning to face him, she addressed Henry. “Mr. Tilney, I do accept you apology concerning your father’s treatment of me. I hold against you no ill feelings concerning it, and wish you could forgive your father, for to hold one’s own family in poor regard is to be somewhat lost in the world. When I had come to first meet Mr. Thorpe shortly after my leaving Northanger, he was on his way to speak for his sister’s behalf to the General, regardless of the harm it may have caused their reputation, a quality I admire most strongly. Not only does Mr. Thorpe place such high regard in his family, but he was also most courteous towards me when I required assistance. I was quite sure that I could make the journey on my own, but what has befallen us on our way has shown me that I do have so very much to learn about the world. Mr. Tilney, I must with great regret tell you that, although I may have once, I can no longer return you affections.”

So it passed that Catherine’s view of the world was dramatically shifted forever. The illusions of her childhood were firmly behind her, and daily Catherine’s knowledge of the world was expanded in every new adventure that she and Mr. Thorpe shared. John and Catherine were married, the bells rang and (most) every body smiled. There was relief that one more girl had been safely brought from childhood to adulthood, though the lessons of life were occasionally hard-learned.

1920s Salon

As the spring semester comes to a close, English majors and English faculty have been involved with a number of campus events. As part of Arts Night leading into Symposium Day, students in ENG 370 The Splendid Drunken Twenties hosted a 1920s-style salon, complete with students dressing in 1920s style, games invented during the surrealism movement of the 1920s, games inspired by surrealism (such as the Haiku Chef), readings of 1920s poetry (in English and French), and 1920s music.

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“Flappers” and surrealist games

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A little ragtime. . . .

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The Haiku Chef assembled freshly prepared Haiku for Salon guests, who were asked to write out a line of haiku (5 syllables or 7 syllables). The Haiku Chef would complete the poem by drawing pre-made 5 or 7 syllable lines from out of her pots, assembling the 3 lines in whatever way made the most (or least) sense, and then reading the completed haiku aloud. After the poem was read, the Haiku Chef’s assistant (the sous-ku chef) added the finished poem to the growing body of freshly prepared haiku posted on the wall.

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More surrealist games. . . .

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. . . . including Exquisite Corpse, a surrealist game that involves several people collaborating to write a paragraph (each person writing a sentence without knowing what the others have written).

The Salon ended with a “choral” reading of Gertrude Stein’s 1926 poem “A Wife Has a Cow: A Love Story”

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With readers upstairs and downstairs, arranged in a partial circle around the open space of the gallery, Steinian sentences such as “Has to be as a wife has a cow a love story. Has made as to be as a wife has a cow a love story” were tossed back and forth and echoed through the Emery Community Arts Center.

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The Splendid Drunken Twenties, Spring 2013.

Appendix I: Exquisite Corpse Paragraphs

I was completely naked, except for a peacock-feather boa (of false feathers), wrapped around my head. A blinking light is shining that prevents sights of others, makes me shudder. Suddenly she saw a light switch in an inappropriate location on the wall. She picked up a few bags of puffin stew at the laundromat and then it was done.

How was I to know she would be carrying an exploding magic ball? Did you have any idea what she was holding? What the hell is that boat? Try the soup before it’s too late, said the cat to the fiddle as he flew to the moon. The squid is laughing uncontrollably about the mistakes of the other people. Their failures created something wondrous, a hideously beautiful creature.

The stranger seemed equally interested in Miss Leslie’s gigantic new novel. Within the book was a hidden compartment, containing a Portal Gun. A wall appeared out of nowhere. I ran toward the Captain Crunch cereal. And I yelled, “Why!!!?” Captain Picard dragged the body across the room, out of breath, with my sensuous banana.

 

Appendix II: Freshly Prepared Haiku

 

Dark, water-mouthed dreams:

dusty fragments of old bones,

cats meow patience.

 

Frosting, so creamy,

cats swimming in cups of gin

–cupcakes of salmon.

 

She reads, she reads, she–

a box of angry ocean,

soy sauce and kindness.

 

Cherry blossoms dance

–I like to paint my long nails–

the horses waltz.

 

Such loud pigeons,

eaten by rabid lobsters.

Vodka, no tonic.

 

Eggplants, cucumbers,

one sweetly curling goatee,

a morning glory.

 

An ill-manner cat

with a tongue of rubbed amber

hates Justin Bieber.