Category Archives: Literature

How might we interpret Sylvia Plath’s symbolic portrayal of a father figure in ‘Daddy’

Sylvia Plath throughout Daddy employs a range of symbolism in order to create a persona through which to project her feelings, by divulging the most intimate parts of her psyche. Through the use metaphor, the persona may purge herself of the emotions felt by her father’s untimely death. David Lodge asserts that ‘Literary symbolism tends towards a rich plurality, even ambiguity’ the symbol of a father figure is employed to reveal the nature of the persona’s relationship with her father and expand on the reality of her experience. There are many ambiguous images injected throughout the poem as the persona reconstructs her father’s image and reconnects with society.

Firstly, a sense of traumatic childhood experiences are invoked as we witness nostalgic tones and a sense of oppression through the child-like language of the poem. The innocence and childishness of the persona is presented through the peculiar vocabulary the persona uses throughout the poem: such as onomatopoeia in ‘Achoo’ and ‘Chuffing.’The sense of the childhood melds into a suggestion of Jewish persecution and terror as shown through the line: ‘It stuck in a barb wire snare.’ It is through this that the child’s feelings of intimidation become clear as the persona’s imagery frequently alludes to the Holocaust to symbolize the fear and pain she endured during this time. The atrocities of Nazi Germany are used as symbols of the horror of male domination as the Germanic ‘Daddy’ makes himself felt by his authoritarian aura. By accentuating linguistically using the heavy cadences of nursery rhyme such as ‘I could never talk to you,’ the persona is insinuating the innocence of youth torn quickly apart by the images and language of Nazism as the next line reads ‘the tongue stuck in my Jaw.’ By retracing her infantile traumas through the use of symbolism, the persona is conveying to us the yearnings of a young tortured woman trying to escape from the mental abuse and corruption of a dominate father. The persona wants to recreate with immediacy the child’s view by outing a simple perspective reflected through facile language.

Moreover, continuously throughout the poem, phallic imagery in Daddy is implied. First of all, the poem title preference of choice being ‘Daddy’ rather than the more mature expression of ‘Father,’ sets up a direct address from the persona to the character of the father she has created. This gives an ambiguous expression of a child wishing to be dominated. Daddy is a depiction of feminine and masculine energy, where the persona mythologies the figure of her father.In the fifth stanza when the persona states ‘Put your foot, your root’ the foot is a symbol for a threatening, suffocating object, symbolizing that her father is sexually brutal. Thus conveying to us that the persona is powerless to stop his overriding authority as she asserts ‘I could never speak,’ a structural echo linking to the previous stanza where she utters ‘I could never talk to you.’ Unresolved and paradoxical feelings of pain and love about the persona’s parent, Otto Plath, who left her at a young age, are the sole reason she enforced himself on her memory–to perpetuate his image and continue her sexual longings. These lines express the constant and crippling manipulation of the father figure, as he introduces oppression and hopelessness into her life. A father’s authority is intertwined with the abuse of power as it occurs in the real world and the persona’s feelings of abandonment and despair are mirrored with those of Nazi’ as she states ‘I thought every German was you.’As the poem progresses, it is symbolic of the transgressions of the poet’s life as she grows older, the persona moves from desiring her father: ‘I used to pray to recover you’ to fearing him: ‘I have always been scared of you’ to hating him: ‘brute heart’. The gentle nature of the poem title ‘Daddy’ juxtaposed with these violent images shows the persona’s internal struggles with her father’s subconscious, arrogant and dismissive nature. Eventually, the sexual pull and tug of the absent figure from her childhood allows us to grasp that she is sexually obsessed with her father.The suggestion of incest is embellished in the poet’s implication as she allows herself to develop sexually aggressive feelings as she says ‘I made a model of you..And said I do, I do, I do.’

On the other hand, as David Lodge states, symbolism is a ‘nice balance between realistic description and symbolic suggestion.’ As a result, Robert Phillips claims that the persona‘frequently uses elements from her experience as the starting point for imagistic and thematic elaborations.’ The ‘black shoe’ the persona refers to is an example of these imagistic elaborations. The use of the colour ‘black’ connotes death and darkness intertwined with a bind of claustrophobic suffering and suffocation. This kind of ethereal and dark imagery arrives as the poem progresses and the colour palette suggests that the poet has a cage of suppressed emotion. The ‘black shoe’ is a metaphor to express how her life is trapped in sorrow like a foot is trapped in a shoe. However, by also mentioning later in the poem controversial Nazi imagery ‘every woman adores a Fascist,’ it symbolises the persona’s reliance but also fear of her father; the persona is at first desperately seeking a return to the traditional roles of father and daughter. As demonstrated, the ‘foot’ is ultimately a metaphor for the feelings weighing the poet down in all her years of being unable to express her anxieties and communicate with her absent father figure. This view is further highlighted through the line ‘the black telephones off at the root.’ The persona begins to realise the need to reject the traditional roles and her desire for emancipation from her father is the reason for the denouement of the poem: ‘daddy, you bastard, I’m through.’ This line is ambiguous in its interpretation: It is symbolic of the fact that the persona has severed ties and is ‘through’ with ‘daddy.’ Yet, the use of the communicative device of the ‘telephone’ and the repetition of the colour ‘black’ suggests that the persona is actually through to him. So, in substance, although the poet begins to shrivel emotionally by being unable to come to terms with her father’s death, the ‘telephone’ is symbolic of how the persona leaves the imagistic elaborated world she has created and reconnects with reality.

Alternately, one would argue that in Daddy the persona finally castrates the image of her father’s memory and becomes an independent self. It is in ‘Daddy’ that through a metaphorical murder ‘Daddy, daddy you bastard, I’m through,’ she breaks completely free from being a perceived victim and from the power and influence of men. By branding herself as a ‘Jew’ the persona is dramatizing the war in her soul in addition to appreciating as well as accepting her submissive position. This position intensifies her emotional paralysis before the image of an ‘Aryan’ father with whom she is both connected and at enmity. The persona transcends this by ceremonially killing her father: ‘There’s a stake in your fat black heart and the villagers never liked you. They are dancing and stamping on you.’ This killing is not just an individual one, but is part of a ritual joined in by the ‘villagers.’ When the persona drives the ‘stake’ through her father’s heart; she is not only is exorcising the demon of her father’s memory, but metaphorically is killing him also.The process of doing away with ‘Daddy’ in the poem represents the persona’s attempts at psychic expurgation of ‘the model’ of the father she has constructed. The lines serve as a way of describing the ability of her father’s influence to strip the persona of her own sense of consciousness. The poet employs what Freud would call after-effect – she kills her already dead father again in the mental world in order to accept his death and free herself. Therefore, ridding him is a symbol for the empowerment of the persona and the strength she establishes as the poem progresses.

Word Count: 1,531

N.B: I am still alive, I apologize for my lack of posting.
I have always wanted to explore Sylvia Plath, so here you are (whoever you maybe) There is a bibliography/webography so ask if there are any concerns about copyright etc I just didn’t want to bore you with names of texts you will properly never read. Thanks for your time, I will still continue to post, promise.

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Shortlist.com: The 40 Coolest Characters in Literature

Shortlist.com has recently compiled their list of the 40 Coolest Characters in Literature. I’ve got to admit, I was very happy to see a few of my favorite characters made it onto the list. However, there were a couple as to which I couldn’t help but wonder why they were shortchanged (who WOULDN’T want to get a pint with Stephen Dedalus?!) Alas, to each his own.

 

That said–what do you think of the list? Any characters not make the cut that you think deserved to be on there? Got any gripes with any of the characters currently on there? What exactly makes a literary character “cool”? I, for one, think it’s pretty damn interesting and–dare I say it–cool to see some of the best works of literary fiction ever presented on a very entertaining level. I’m a sucker for seeing the juxtaposition of entertainment and high literature!

So, what’s your opinion? Discuss!

 

 

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Centrality and Vulnerability of the Female Form in Gothic Literature

Hello, readers! The Halloween season is upon us, and I uncovered an essay I wrote a few years ago on Gothic Art and Literature, which I originally published on Yahoo! Voices. In keeping with the theme and season, I thought it was appropriate to re-publish it here! Hope you enjoy it, and Happy Halloween!

In Gothic literature, women long for as well as resist male approval. This focus on the centrality and vulnerability introduces a new type of character made popular by the Gothic genre: the “damsel in distress.” The “damsel in distress” is a chief character in Gothic literature, where she is typically incarcerated in a castle or monastery and terrorized by a sadistic nobleman, or members of the religious order. However, though these female characters are portrayed as feeble and powerless, the “damsel in distress” character often seems to ultimately offer a threat to the power of the patriarch. Two examples of this are Matilda in Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto, and Antonia in Matthew Lewis’s The Monk. In contrast to this, Marie Antoinette is portrayed as a “damsel in distress” in Edmund Burke’s Reflections on a Revolution, as a means of critiquing the horrors of the Revolution and the loss of the “age of chivalry,” yet also praising the patriarchal state existing in France at the time.

In The Castle of Otranto, the “damsel in distress” is best portrayed through the character of Matilda. Matilda is the daughter of Manfred, the villainous patriarch. After the unfortunate “crushing” accident of his son Conrad, his wife Hippolita sends Matilda to take care of her father, but he cannot be bothered. He does not want to see his daughter—it is a son that he desires and lacks. Matilda is affected by her brother’s death and she is hurt by her father’s cruel actions. Manfred’s control over his family and Matilda’s ultimate and unwavering loyalty to him seem to make her a vulnerable, weak character.

Though Matilda is portrayed as weak because of her loyalty to her father, there is a shift in her character by the end of the novel. When Matilda releases Theodore from the dungeon, she subverts Manfred’s wicked plan in the name of charity and love. In doing this, she threatens Manfred’s patriarchy, leading him to fatally stab her. Even in this time of ultimate physical and emotional weakness and vulnerability, she has the strength to forgive him for his digression:

“It will not be,” said Matilda— “commend me to Heaven: —where is my father? —forgive him, dearest mother —forgive him my death; it was an error —Oh! I had forgotten —dearest mother, I vowed never to see Theodore more— perhaps that has drawn down this calamity—but it was not intentional— can you pardon me?” 1

By doing this, Matilda thus takes on a Christ-like form.

This same type of vulnerable, fatalistic character is portrayed in Gregory Lewis’s The Monk. The Monk is what is known as a “male” Gothic novel. A “male” Gothic is a novel in which the central character is male and controls everything. Since the main character is male, the violence and horror are grounded in the “other” i.e. the female. This idea of the “male” Gothic consists of a perversion of chivalry, fundamental misogyny, and a focus on the “male” gaze. The only truly pure woman in a male Gothic is a dead woman. The vulnerable female character in The Monk is Antonia.

Antonia is a pure virgin who was brought up in an old castle. Upon the first description of her, she is veiled so that the young men cannot see her face which, in turn, increases their desire:

Her features were hidden by a thick veil; but struggling through the crowd had deranged it sufficiently to discover a neck which for symmetry and beauty might have vied with the Medicean Venus. It was of the most dazzling whiteness, and received additional charms from being shaded by the tresses of her long fair hair, which descended in ringlets to her waist. Her figure was rather below than above the middle size: it was light and airy as that of an Hamadryad. Her bosom was carefully veiled, her dress was white; it was fastened by a blue sash, and just permitted to peep out from under it a little foot of the most delicate proportions. A chaplet of large grains hung upon her arm, and her face was covered with a veil of thick black gauze.2

Her veil becomes askew, but the reader can only “see” her in bits and pieces. When her face is finally revealed, it too is described in ornate and over-embellished pieces. This is a centralization as well as dissection of the female body. This idea of portraying the woman in “pieces” was also popular in Gothic art history.

Portrait of a Woman with a Man at a Casement, ca. 1440–44 Fra Filippo Lippi (Italian, Florentine, ca. 1406–1469)

Filippo Lippi’s “Portrait of Man and Woman at Casement” c.1440  and Domenico Ghirlandaio’s “Portrait of Giovanna Tornabuoni” c. 1448, both portrayed women as fragmented, only drawn as profile portraits. This “piecing” of the feminine form creates a fetishized object of desire and degradation for the male viewer.

Domenico Ghirlandaio, Portrait of Giovanna Tornabuoni, 1489-90

The ultimate “male” view of Antonia is possessed by the monk Ambrosio. Ambrosio’s power manifests itself in his language. His words penetrate into Antonia’s soul and, through language, emotion imprisons her, rendering her weak and vulnerable. Lorenzo, one of the young men who desire Antonia, dreams of an unknown force that grabs Antonia before he can touch her. This is a foreshadowing of the terror that is to come, producing a victimization of the woman. During this time, Antonia longs for Ambrosio to be her confessor. She eventually does get to confess to him, and he fantasizes about her.

Ambrosio is fully aware of the extent of his degradation. He feels a “gentle violence” toward Antonia3 and uses ambiguous language to seduce her. When Elvira sees Ambrosio hug Antonia and disarrange her clothing, she warns him to stop coming to their home, to which he vows revenge. He later uses a magic mirror to see his desires, and in it he sees Antonia getting ready for a bath. The reader is then given a description of her naked body:

The scene was a small closet belonging to her apartment. She was undressing to bathe herself. The long tresses of her hair were already bound up. The amorous monk had full opportunity to observe the voluptous contours and admirable symmetry of her person. She threw off her last garment, and, advancing to the bath prepared for her, put her foot into the water.4

Antonia is depicted almost like a piece of artwork. Ambrosio decides to weaken her to her most vulnerable state: he plans on putting her into a deep sleep so that he may have his way with her.

Ambrosio arrives in Antonia’s room and, in her moment of terror, Antonia is eroticized:

Her mouth, half opened, seemed to solicit a kiss: he bent over her: he joined his lips to hers, and drew in the fragrance of her breath with rapture. This momentary pleasure increased his longing for still greater. His desires were raised to that frantic height by which brutes are agitated. He resolved not to delay for one instant longer the accomplishment of his wishes, and hastily proceeded to tear off those garments which impeded the gratification of his lust.5

When Antonia awakes she is then given a juice by Matilda so that she will be unconscious for forty-eight hours. Ambrosio finds her and addresses her, believing that she is dead. He places responsibility on her for his committing murder. When she awakes, she believes that Ambrosio will be her savior. Ambrosio rapes Antonia and again he puts the blame of his transgression on her. Then, in a fate very similar to that of Matilda’s in The Castle of Otranto, he fatally stabs Antonia, saying that she has been “defiled” and she is killed before she has the chance to marry Lorenzo.

While Ambrosio has exerted his power of Antonia, she still poses a grave threat to his patriarchal standing. After her death, Ambrosio is unmasked and tortured. He is condemned for rape, murder and sorcery. When Lucifer arrives, he tempts Ambrosio and tells him the secret of the birth. It is then that the reader finds out that Antonia was actually Ambrosio’s sister. From this one can see the full extent and horror of Ambrosio’s sin. Lucifer then does God’s work by killing Ambrosio, thus killing the villain. Though Ambrosio may have reduced Antonia to her most vulnerable state, she ultimately robbed him of his patriarchal power, even after her death.

While in most novels the female is portrayed as vulnerable, yet still a threat to the patriarch, Edmund Burke’s work offers a variation of this view. He opposes the “male” gothic by critiquing the end of the “age of chivalry.” In Reflections on the Revolution, he poses Marie Antoinette as the “damsel in distress” —a role in which she was often not viewed. Edmund Burke firmly opposed the French Revolution. His championing against the Revolution made him a focal point of many artistic political commentaries of the time. Cartoonist James Gillray’s (1757-1815) Smelling out a Rat shows Edmund Burke “sniffing out the activites of the notorious radical clergyman Dr. Richard Price.”6 Burke is reduced to a fantasmagoria of superstition, emerging from a cloud, holding up tokens of the Church and State, masking himself with his own Reflections on the Revolution. Though Burke’s work is an intellectual and historical one, he fuses in many Gothic characteristics. He rewrites the horrific events of the Revolution as such to give a Gothic view of history. Burke does this as a means of undermining the radical impulse of the Gothic mode. He appropriates sentiment as a means of propping up the monarchy. One way in which he does this is by portraying Marie Antionette as the “damsel in distress:”

From this sleep the queen was first startled by the voice of the sentinel at her door, who cried out to her to save herself by flight…A band of cruel ruffians and assassins, reeking with his blood, rushed into the chamber of the queen, and pierced with a hundred strokes of bayonets and poniards the bed, from whence this persecuted woman had but just time to fly almost naked, and, through ways unknown to the murderers, had escaped to seek refuge at the feet of a king and husband, not secure of his own life for a moment.7

During the graphic and violent French Revolution, the reader gets an image of Marie Antoinette rushing away, almost naked. She becomes an object of pleasure for the viewer. Burke imagines Marie Antoinette as a beautiful prisoner who is suffering, yet still has great faith. This contrasts the popular view of Marie Antionette at the time. She was often portrayed as cruel and unjust. There were many portraits done of her execution, such as Jacques Louis David’s, as well as harsh portraits such as her head on the body of a hyena and the like. Burke chooses to portray her as a “damsel in distress” to show how the fall of the Queen represents “chivalry gone wrong.” The villains in this “Gothic” are the populous, who should have defended Marie Antoinette. While they are chided, the nobility and clergy are glorified, venerating the idea of the patriarchal state.

In Gothic literature and art history, women were often viewed as meek, helpless beings. The creation of the “damsel in distress” character stresses the feminized form, which asserts the dominance of men during the time. However, though the women in “male” Gothic novels are “helpless” and fetishized, this only forces the male gaze upon them, causing the male characters to do evil. The central character may be male, but the violence and horror is always grounded in the female. In the Gothic line of “otherness” even the most vulnerable female character works in the line of evil. The evil-doings of the male characters typically bring them to their eventual downfall. Therefore, the vulnerable “damsel in distress” poses the greatest threat to the patriarchs in Gothic novels.

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To what extent does the past have upon the future?

I have always been interested in History, and it particularly angers me when people refer to the subject as ‘dry.’ Tell me, what can possibly be dry about History? The foundations of our countries, nations, even the world were founded generations and generations ago by our fathers, our ancestors, and built up from nothing more than ash and dust into solid brick and mortar. Monarchies have been built, empires destroyed, countries and regimes lost and democracy established. Wasn’t it said that we must know the past to understand our future? However, I have been considering for a considerable amount of time now, to what extent does the past directly make an impact on the decisions of the impending future? Of course this question can incorporate a wide variety of responses. If we were to simply ask the question in relation to a wide political and social issue such as The Holocaust or even further back to The Slave Trade, then of course the implications of those fateful days, those haunted years, have made are making an increasing amount of change on issues this current day, and will for years to come. So, in order to engage correctly with this question, you need to inject into yourself a degree of sensibility and almost dumb yourself down and ask it on a superficial note.
You see, dear, dear readers is that when it comes to the past I’ve always preferred to ignore its foreboding presence, I do not wish it to cling on in such a rapacious manner to me like a slave oppressing my constant rioting emotions. But then why am I so dedicated to learning about History, about the foundations on which our glorious, corrupted world was built upon? Graham Swift (hats off to this remarkable novelist) did once state that “often the future we dream of is built upon the dreams of a long imagined past.” In essence I agree with him, but I think a whole part of it comes down to manifesting your misguided fantasies and facing up with blinding reality, to let go of your aspirations, how cruel and cold it may seem. We can hide behind the past, if you so wish it, but Charles R. Swindoll once wrote “We cannot change our past. We can not change the fact that people act in a certain way. We can not change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude.” Granted what you decide to do with your time and life is up to you, I often base my decision based upon snippets of prose and monologue I read in a novel and I do wonder to myself if it is credible to allow what some author inked down over 100 years ago to allow my actions to be as ripe today. You can let go of the past, eventually, as long as you make peace with it first only then can L.P Hartley’s famous line “the past is a foreign country, they do things differently there” (taken from The Go Between, absolutely fantastic novel, go and buy it if you haven’t already obtained a copy) come into play. I do not understand people, therefore, who hide from their past, it is only what you do with the time now that you can be judged, what we are never changes but who we are does.
I apologize that this isn’t literary criticism, if you look at who’ve I’ve quoted you could say that I am potentially scrutinizing their works, but I have nothing negative to say in particular regarding the authors that I have mentioned.
So, to close, in general, face up to your past, buy Waterland and The Go-Between and then live a peaceful and ideal existence not getting caught up in your own self-conscious dreams that might not even happen.

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Fun With Grammar

Hey, all! I feel like I’ve been severely neglecting this blog, and I want to apologize because that is not my intention. I’ve just been busy working on some creative writing projects, some non-fiction as well as reading as much as I can so I can better update this very blog! I promise (though I feel like I say that all too often) that I will get to a new, thought-provoking (at least I hope) post soon, but for now I thought I’d compile a fun one based on a few things I’ve learned as of late. Working as a proofreader, I’ve spent a lot of time agonizing over words and punctuation. I have a BA in Literature and have been an English/Literature enthusiast since grammar school. However, years and years of writing, rewriting, revisions and editing surprisingly do not prepare us for all the grammatical errors we will encounter in later life. Proofreading has also taught me that grammar is ever-changing.

I consider myself pretty affluent in spelling, grammar and punctuation but I’ve been knocked off my high horse many times for having such thoughts. There are certain things in the English language that I just never really gave a second thought to, or  as it is in many instances, have just been doing wrong all along. And while the internet is a great resource for correcting errors, one will find that it’s hard sometimes to get the  various sources to agree on the same topic (will the MLA, AP and CMS ever agree?!). This has led me to another discovery: grammar is not only evolving, but also way more flexible than one might think! Sure there are plenty of “rules” in grammar (and many that can often be broken in creative writing–with sufficient knowledge of them first), but there are also plenty of instances where the writer has much more control over what to use and how to use it; That’s where the “fun” part comes in.

So, as I’ve been going along I’ve been taking note of certain grammatical tips that I find interesting, and many I’ve made notes of as a reminder myself to keep a keen eye for–not only in proofing, but in writing as well. (Can we skip the part where we go back and count how many I’ve goofed on in these prior two paragraphs?–I’m still learning!!*) I’ve decided to share the notes I’ve made on here, as both useful tips for myself and for anyone who reads this. I’m going to try my best to put these in some kind of readable order, but bear with me; I’m working from notes I’ve jotted quickly in passing.  This is, of course, just an abridged version of grammar and syntax tricks and tips and there’s much more out there to learn on the topic. Below the entry I will include all of the sources I look to most for further reading. That said, here are my notes:

**Keep in mind, these rules are strictly for American English, many of them will differ in British English, etc.**

Our Friend (and Foe): The Comma

  • The Oxford/serial comma boils down to a matter of taste. I suggest always using a serial comma when listing names, especially when crediting them with a piece of work, so no one feels as though they’re lumped in with another person or that two people worked as a team instead of individually. (e.g. “Kevin Mitchell, Jonie Watson, and Michael Tulley,” and especially when only last names are used, so it doesn’t end up sounding like a law firm!)
  •  While listing inanimate objects, it’s okay to omit that extra comma: “please pick up milk, butter and bread.”
  • However, it is best to drop in a serial comma in order to eliminate any ambiguity/confusion: “I’d like to thank my parents, God and my cat” (your parents have some mighty interesting names)  does not read as well as “I’d like to thank my parents, God, and my cat.” But remember: it is always best to be consistent. Oh, and about that whole AP dropping the Oxford comma for good debacle? Just a misunderstanding. Here’s a great article all about it, as well as all about the comma itself.
  • Do not use a comma to replace the word “that.”

Colons v. Semi-Colons  

  • A semi-colon is used to separate two main clauses that are closely related to each other, but could stand on their own as complete sentences.
  • The purpose of a colon is to introduce or define.
  • Do NOT use a capital letter after a semi-colon, unless it is followed by a proper noun.
  • The semi-colon and the colon are the only two punctuation marks which should be placed after closing quotation marks when they follow a quoted text.
  • After a colon, more often than not, the following sentence should start with a capital letter. A few exceptions to this rule include: if the independent clause is a quote, if the explanatory statement is more than one sentence, if the introductory phrase is very brief, or if the second clause expresses a rule.

Santa’s Helpers a.k.a. Subordinate Clauses

  • Subjunctive: “Wishful” sentences call for the subjunctive mood of the verb “to be,” so the right choice is “were” instead of “was.”
  • The subjunctive “were” is hypothetical in meaning and is used in conditional and concessive sentences and in subordinate clauses after verbs like “wish.” The form is “were” for all persons.
  • “Was” is used when supposing something that might be true, but it all depends on the context of the sentence.
  • Conditional mood: Indicating a conditional state that will cause something else to happen. Marked by the words might, could and would.
  • Concessive clause:  A subordinate clause which refers to a situation that contrasts with the one described in the main clause. For example: “Although he was tired, he couldn’t get to sleep.”
  • Subordinate (or dependent) clauses are groups of words containing both a subject and a verb, but cannot stand alone as a sentence. Some examples include: if, although, as, because, since, though, unless, whenever, whether.

Em Dashes, En Dashes and Hyphens–Oh My! 

  • The em dash is an elongated or double dash: ““ or “– –“ (it should be the length of the typed letter “m”).  Always use in formal writing as opposed to a hyphen (“-“).
  • Spaces should typically not be used around an em dash but can change based on dramatic emphasis or the publication it appears in.
  • The en dash is a shorter dash, but longer than a hyphen: “–“ (it should be length of the typed letter “n”). It is only used to denote amount of time or numbers (e.g. “the years 2001–2006,” “April–May”).
  • Do NOT use the en dash with the word “from,” instead use the word “to.” For example, you would write “from April to May” as opposed to “from April–May.”

Apostrophe Catastrophes

  • Apostrophes ONLY indicate a contraction or possession.
  • Apostrophe after names that end in “s”: Classic pre-CE names only need apostrophe, not ‘s. The same goes for names ending with a z-sound (Adams’), and for plural nouns (e.g. cats’, boys’, men’s). But in most other cases, “‘s” is correct. The idea is to convey the notion of possession without creating an awkward pronunciation. Though this can be chalked up to a style choice.
  • Possessive of singular nouns ending in an S or Z sound are usually formed by adding ‘s, unless the next word begins with an S or Z sound.
  • When writing out an abbreviated version of decades:  the apostrophe should only go BEFORE the first number, and nowhere else!
  • The apostrophe at the beginning of the number should be pointing in the direction of the omitted numbers, it should look almost like a small number 9: “ ’80s”
  • Possessive of plural nouns ending in an S or Z sound are formed by adding only an apostrophe, e.g. churches’.

 Verb Agreement

  • Collective nouns are nouns that describe a group, such as “family,” “band” or “couple.”
  • When you are thinking of the individuals within the group as separate things, use a plural verb. (The couple are travelling home in separate cars.”) However, when you think of it as a single unit, use a singular verb. But there is no real rule attached to using was/were with collective nouns.
  • “None” can be singular or plural. It can mean “not one” and followed by a singular verb, or it can mean “not any” and take a plural verb.

 Miscellaneous Musings

  • “Somewhere” is classified as an adverb, but actually has a noun-like function.
  • The phrase “somewhere where” is not necessarily superfluous since “somewhere” can be an antecedent of a relative clause (e.g. “where”).
  • The word “farther” indicates physical distance, while “further” is used metaphorically.
  • In certain cases, “further” and “farther” can be used interchangeably, but if you can’t decide which to use, you’re safer using “further” because “farther” has some restrictions.
  • Avoid using wordy phrases in place of “because.”
  • “Internet” is capitalized because it is a proper noun referring to a specific network, “website,” however, is not.
  • “Web” as a proper noun can be either.
  • Dropping the “had” in “had better” is acceptable only in speech or recorded language.
  • The word “yet” is what’s known as a coordinating conjunction. Others include: for, nor, but, or and so.
  • “i.e.” stands for “that is,” while “e.g.” stands for “for example.” I.e. is used to further clarify a subject, while e.g. introduces examples. Example: “Michelle likes reading old mystery novels (i.e. And Then There Were None and The Hound of the Baskervilles).” These are the only two novels of the genre she likes.  “Michelle likes reading old mystery novels (e.g. And Then There Were None and The Hound of the Baskervilles).  These are just two of the mystery novels she likes.
  • The word for this punctuation mark “?!” is called an interrobang.

And just remember: it is always important to BE CONSISTENT. If there’s anything to take away from this it’s the one major rule of writing, consistency comes first. So, if you choose to stick to an MLA-approved style while writing, make sure you don’t waver between that and Chicago style. If you want to include the Oxford comma in lists, do so every time.  It can be a pain to have to go back and check every time, but it’s worth it for the end result of having an intelligent and eloquently written piece of work. Hope this helped in some way even if it was a bit scattered! I promise to have a part two when I encounter even more grammar tips! The links for all your writing needs are below the cut.

*I’m kidding, of course. Actually, if anyone who’s read this would like to point out any errors in the body of this text, please feel free to comment and chide me. Grammar, syntax, punctuation, spelling–it’s all fair game! Sometimes the hardest work to edit is one’s own, so I’m completely open to fixing my errors and learning in the process. Also, if anyone wants to point out any errors, updates, or other ideas and suggestions in the notes I’ve made, please do so! I’d love to hear what everyone has to say!

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Filed under American Literature, Literature, Publishing, Thoughts

Happy Flash Fiction Day! – NEW ROLLING DEADLINE!

For those who might not know, today is the first-ever National (and International!) Flash Fiction Day!  Coined in 1992, the term “Flash Fiction” indicates very short stories usually created with writing prompts.  For all you could possibly need to know about Flash Fiction and the day itself, be sure to head on over to the National Flash Fiction Day website!

For more info and ways to get involved, read Flash Fiction Chronicles’ interview with National Flash Fiction Day founder/organizer Calum Kerr, check out all the awesome stories at FlashFlood and be sure to get some awesome prompts from  The Write-In! (NOTE: The Write-In Contest is now closed, but still be sure to go there to read all of the great stories and get some prompts for your own writing!) You can also follow along with Facebook and Twitter! And of course, I wouldn’t know about the day if it weren’t for the great people over at Every Day Fiction, so be sure to give them some love too!

EDIT: NEW LATER DEADLINE! While this is primarily a UK event, I’ve decided to get in on the Flash Fiction Day action as well! Indecent and Immortal will be hosting our own Flash Fiction Write-In! With a NEW ROLLING DEADLINE, feel free to send in your own fiction of anywhere from 150-800 words based on the writing prompts featured below! Any genre, any subject, any style and any perspective allowed and encouraged! All entries must be submitted to jamier.iib@gmail.com and will be featured on this blog once we get enough entries!

Here are your prompts:

Seasick nanny

Inexpressible doubt

Leather sofa

A peculiar noise

“Way to go, bastard”

Nosy children

A bad luck charm

A Dangerous Sex

“It will be a scream!”

Puny

Korean Barbeque

Collection of dusty old comics

The taste of your own blood

Cherry Motel

A moldy sandwich

Baroque Pop

“The position has been filled”

The Archies Greatest Hits

Paint-Your-Own-Pottery

Olympic-sized swimming pool

Sheep skin

Matchbox Car

Red red lips

An empty roll of toilet paper

Clay basin

Miniature poodle

Super Mario Brothers

No more rain

I need seed

Blister Kisser

Again,  submit those entries to jamier.iib@gmail.com! Be sure to add a little something about yourself (if you wish) or a link to your own blog/site to be added along with your Flash Fiction! And most importantly–have fun with it! Happy Flash Fiction day, everyone!

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Filed under Fiction, Flash Fiction, Literature, Short Stories, Uncategorized

A personal response to ‘Waterland’

If you have never heard of Graham Swift or his fantastically riveting book ‘Waterland’ you must stop what you’re doing and go and buy it, now. Seriously. I was a bit apprehensive at first, especially when a stoner recommended this novel to me (he probably made spliffs from it or something, I’m not sure I didn’t hang around to ask) but I found myself at the end of ‘Julius Caesar’ (another beautifully written play) and decided to give this novel a go not really sure what I was expecting, providing I’d never heard of Graham Swift before and I was somewhat diversifying from my classic literature (I define this from around 1520-1960’s, many inspiring works were written before of course I’m just merely summarising the bulk of literature in to these years) to a ‘new breed’ of Literature. This novel was first published in 1983 how ‘old’ you class literature is I guess up to you but I am actually begging you to read this novel.

When I enjoy a novel I usually ponder over it for a few hours and mull over it in the confines of my mind but yet, only this book and ‘The Great Gatsby’ have captivated me so much into propelling me to actually translate my thoughts into words. ‘Waterland’ is apparently best known for its setting ‘the fenland’ Swift lyrically takes us on a journey upon these mournful uncertain lands and we are submerged into his imagine. ‘Tom Crick’ a history teacher at a school in London is losing his post for reasons that will later become clear and we are sent on a voyage in to his haunting melancholy past, this quickly becomes a novel of both political history, family and personal history. I must say there is a lot of history and my respect for the subject has increased since reading this.

The prose is constantly lyrically, but yet subordinate clauses riddle their way through and loop their way back to earlier clauses and points, whilst each one maintains its own agenda, its own history within the book. The narration can be cause confusion but once you get to grips with the structure we see the overwhelming sense of powerless mankind faces when faced with reality and the concepts of morality. Needless to say this book explores the past on a level in which I have never experienced before. Not only has this but it contained one of the most though provoking lines I have ever stumbled across:

‘often the future we dream of is built upon the dreams of a long imagined past’

My God that is one of my favourite quotes, only beaten by self-conscious narratives of D.H Lawrence F.Scott Fitzgerald and Arthur Miller. Not that this book is without its faults it does sometimes lose its direction and aimlessly wander, however I compare this to Dickens and Melville, the description is lively, poignant, sometimes even beautiful. The novel forces us to look into our own lives, our own past and question our mental state. Swift forces us on an exploration of uncertainty. The uncertainty of history and of storytelling and the ultimately unfathomable nature of the motives of others. I don’t wish to give too much of this plot away, anything at all in fact I want you to pick up the book! But the chapter with the witch is certainly worth the 200 plus page wait (only spoiler you’ll be getting) it is a mystical tale filled with suspense and a shockingly heightened realism.

And the twist. The twist. I had to sit in a darkened room and almost cry.

9.8/10

If nothing I have said intrigues you just think to yourself that I have enjoyed this book too much that I actually want somebody else too as well.

P.S.  Apologies if found in my other blog I posted it there first by accident.

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Filed under Books, British Literature, Literature, Opinions, Reviews