My name is Dara de Staic and I am currently participating in the Masters in American Literature and Film, here in UCC. As part of the module EN6009, we were expected to set up a blog which was ours to manage and develop as the academic year progressed. I remember when we were told about this part of the module I was both excited and nervous. I had always had an interest in blogging and I see it as a major part of the English language’s future in both the academic world and the everyday lives of people. I saw this part of the course as being something of great use to us later in life as not only does it give us an outlet to show the world what we are doing in our course but it also gives us a portfolio of our own writings that we can use later in life when necessary.
As we had to create our blog I had to come up with a name for it, I wanted something snappy that would also let the viewer know straight off the bat that my blog was going to be about American culture. I settled on a parody of the name of the United States’ national anthem The Star Spangled Banner,and I ended up naming my blog The Star Spangled Blogger. To continue with the all American theme, I chose to use a Edward Hopper painting as my background, choosing of course one of his most famous paintings Nighthawks. With the blog set up. I was ready for my first post, which was slightly awkward to say the least, as I was introducing myself and my aims.
“Hello, This is my first post here. I’m not a blog person, but as part of my University course (Masters in American literature and film) we have been asked to set up our own individual blogs that relate back to our course. This is mine, as you can see. Well here it all goes, I hope to be both critical and fun when it comes to the literature and film I study throughout the course and this is where I shall be keeping you guys updated. I don’t actually know how long the first post is meant to be but I’m going to finish mine here. Talk to you all later.” As the course went by and we began to cover more and more interesting topics in class, I began to branch out of what we were looking at and started doing my own research into the world of literature. One of the first blogs I decided to do was on how the world of American film and literature come together at Halloween.
“Halloween has come and gone but it always finds a way to draw us back into the world of horror novels and films. America is a country where Halloween is massively celebrated, while us Irish like to believe that we celebrate the Celtic Halloween tradition of ‘Samhain’ it is pretty evident that we in fact celebrate the Americanised modern Halloween. In that statement what I am saying is that we celebrate this time of year by watching scary American horror films or by reading spooky novels, a lot of which are now made into films by Hollywood” It was in this post that I first discovered that you could include images in your posts, thus making them appeal more to the viewer. I then decided that I would also use clips from YouTube when necessary in my blog posts, I first used a link to YouTube in my post about David Lynch’s film Blue Velvet, which we studied in class, and how it is still influencing today’s movie makers. The example that I chose to use was the H&M clothing company’s advertisement which pulled strongly from Lynch’s Blue Velvet and involved the singer Lana del Rey.
“This film was not only influential for Lynch himself, but in 2012 the Swedish clothing company H&M had pop-star Lana Del Rey pose for their new autumn collect and the adverts were clearly influenced by Lynch’s film with Lana even covering the song ‘Blue Velvet’ in the advertisements.” It was around this time that I discovered that WordPress had an app that I could download onto my iPhone, thus making blogging, editing, and managing my blog easier as I could do it all from the touch of my phone. As part of the blog we had to blog about two of the Wednesday afternoon seminars, the first of which I found very interesting was given by Denis Flannery of the University of Leeds. His seminar was about the American play Angels in America and how a dutch theater group had interpreted the play and had put its performance to the music of British singer and songwriter David Bowie. I chose to look at this particular seminar because I felt that the links between European performance art and American literature in the form of theater were a fantastic mix.
“On the twenty eighth of October 2013, we had a guest speaker attend University College Cork. Dennis Flannery of the University of Leeds, was here to present to us his body of work that he had completed on Ivo van Hove’s production of Kushner’s ‘Angels in America’. In Hove’s production of the famous play that touches on many important issues in society, such as sexuality, love, and disease, A.I.D.S. in fact, there is also a very clear and very powerful stage presences of the work of singer/songwriter David Bowie. Bowie’s presence is so strong that expect the spoken word, every other sound used in the performance is a sound recorded by Bowie. The music used in Hove’s production is Bowie’s best hits from the 1970s and 80s, with the exception of the 1995 album used for when the angels appear and 1993 Ian Fish UK Heir which is used a lot in the performance. The reason for the use of Bowie’s music is that is shows the character’s emotions and feelings. von Hove wanted to do something with David Bowie’s music for a long time, he wanted to show what impact Bowie had on society, and the fact that Hove chose Bowie’s music from around the period of which the play is set suits this play perfectly and ties in with its themes seamlessly. von Hove wanted this production of the play to be known for it’s big Bowie hits but his musical director Wim Selles wanted music that worked more appropriately for the play, but von Hove sees his work as musical theatre. In the production itself there are 22 Bowie pieces, some are used to set a scene while others are used to highlight certain characters such as ‘ghosts’ The final song used in the performance is ‘Heros’ which is fitting for the end. Throughout the play we can see the importance of the music and it becomes clear to us that Bowie is the patchwork between actors, characters, story, and emotion.
The fact that Bowie was becoming a major superstar in the United States at this time, and that his persona was very ‘Gender-fuck’ seems perfect to highlight how homosexual culture was being to filter into the mainstream culture of America at that time, so by using music that people can relate to but also has homosexual hints to it, von Hove blends the two cultures perfectly and shows that the two are not that different and this helps to get the plays message and emotions out to all audience members.
I thoroughly enjoyed Mr. Flannery’s seminar on Ivo von Hove’s production of ‘Angel’s in America’ and felt that it related wonderfully to the American Literature and Film MA, as both the play and Bowie had such a massive effect on American society, both then and now.” My confidence in my posts began to grow at this stage and I started to create posts that were more of my own research and they were considerably larger than my previous ones. They contained more images that previous posts and they were my own critical thoughts on the world of American literature and film. An example of this would be that one day while looking up information on the 2014 adaptation of Solomon Northup’s book 12 Years A Slave, realised that in the past few years there had been a considerable amount of movies made that focused on the struggles of African-Americans. I decided to blog about this and it was one of my first blogs to receive a lot of positive attention, being notified that people had liked it on my WordPress app.
“In the past few years, we have seen a massive rise in the production and popularity of movies that circle around the struggle or lives of African-Americans in a white dominated society…” I started blogging far more frequently and then began to do sort of analysis of the novels and films that we were studying in class, explaining briefly their aims or the motifs behind that story lines. Themes of immigration for example, where were seen in the novel Bread Givers.
“A novel that is part of our curriculum is ‘Bread Givers’ by Anzia Yezierska. Having read the novel I was introduced into the world of 1910′s, early 1920′s Lower East Side Jewish immigrant Manhattan. The novel has been classified as a coming of age story which highlights the struggles of immigrants coming into the United States in the early 20th century. In the novel we get to experience first-hand the conflicts between those immigrants who found it difficult to assimilate in American culture and those who chose to throw themselves into their new culture. In the story there are clear representations of the “old world” and the “new world”. Reb is clearly seen as being of the “old world” while his daughters, especially Sara represents the values and ideas of “American” and the “new world”. The novel focuses heavily on the poverty in which these immigrants lived and worked in while also highlighting their belief and dependence on their religion in their daily lives. Hester Street in the novel is a great example of the pockets of immigrants that were to be found all over New York at this time, and we can see in the novel that when the family move out to Elizabeth that they suffer a great blow, this can suggest that immigrants that chose to cling to ideas of the “old world” find it difficult succeed in America.” While looking at the theme of immigration in class, we studied a couple of books and two films that also explored this topic of immigration. When we studied the film The Departed by Martin Scorsese, it had a very large theme of Irish-American immigration, which I decided that I would like to further investigate, so I did a bit some research and decided that I was going to blog about Irish immigrants in America and how their perception has changed over the past 100 years.
“This week in class, we watched Martin Scorsese’s ‘The Departed’. We were studying it in regards to the change in how Irish-Americans and those who choose to identify as Irish-American are viewed in society. Roughly 11.9% of the population of the United States identify themselves as Irish-American or as being of Irish accent. From the 1820s onward Irish immigration into the United States greatly increased and soon there were tight little communities in cities such as New York, Boston, and Philadelphia. When they first arrived they had a struggle to find employment with large employers adopting such slogans as “No Irish need apply” which were already widespread in London. In America the Irish were often compared to the African-American people, thus seen as being “not quite as human” as W.A.S.P. America…” The blog post that I felt showed how much my blogging skills have grown is when I blogged about my journey to America in February. I was there for a family event but the whole while I was collecting data for my blog, I was researching the locations and the authors that once lived there. I included a few images in the post and broke it up into small paragraphs so that I would be easier to read and thus keep the reader’s attention for longer. I feel that by putting this much attention and planning into this post that it shows my development.
“ I recently returned from a family trip to the United States. I was based in West Springfield, Massachusetts during my visit. As I began to look into the history of the area, I soon started taking note of all the important authors and poets who either lived in the area or had worked on their most famous works of literature while in that specific area.
West Springfield itself was home to Theodor Seuss Geisel, also known as “Dr. Seuss” who is famous worldwide for his children’s books but was also a poet and cartoonist. Seuss lived here until he attended Dartmouth College.
A forty minute drive north from West Springfield and you enter the town of Amherst. When you think of Amherst, you can of course only think of one person and that is Emily Dickinson, one of America’s most prestigious poets. Dickinson was born and raised in this town and her home is still standing today as a museum to her and her work.
Amherst is also home to Amherst College, which had legendary poet Robert Frost as a lecturer from the years 1874 to 1963, he also retired here.
To the west of West Springfield is the small resort town of Great Barrington. Hidden away in the mountains this town is small, friendly and also the home of W.E.B. Du Bois. Du Bois was a writer and civil rights activist but is most famous for his role in the setting up of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People in 1909. Du Bois was also a major player in The Harlem Renaissance of the early 20th century in New York.
About an hour north of Great Barrington is the town of Lenox. In March of 1850 Nathaniel Hawthorne moved his family here to a red farmhouse. It was during his time here that Hawthorne wrote The House of the Seven Gables and he also published a collection of short stories.
Hawthorne was also very good friends with Herman Melville, who at the time was living in the town of Pittsfield just a short drive north of Lenox. Melville lived in a house named Arrowhead in Pittsfield between the years 1850-1863 which are said to be his most productive years. It is here that Melville wrote his most famous work Moby Dick.
If you travel back down to Lenox you will also find a house by the name of ‘The Mount’. This mansion was referred to as “My first home” by its owner, Edith Wharton. Wharton was a Pulitzer-Prize winning writer and short story author. She resided in the house from 1902 to 1911.
This area of Massachusetts, The Berkshires is saturated in American literary history, and after travelling there I can fully understand how these authors and poets were inspired by the beauty of the landscape and towns in this part of the world which remains a getaway for today’s rich and famous.” This is what I mean by when I say that my blog posts have developed.
From my humble and awkward first post in which I introduce myself, to this post about all the 19th and early 20th century writers which lived close to where I visited, it is very clear that my confidence as a blogger, in both the academic and personal worlds, has grown. Through this blog I have learnt, how to plan and organise my posts, using images that not only relate to the topics but also appeal to the reader. Connecting this blog to my other media sites such as twitter, so that other people who may not use WordPress can find out about and view my blog. The use of tags in the posts and buzzwords in my titles also show the growth and progress throughout the year. This blog will give me something that I can continue on with, and use later in life for prospective jobs and whatnot. Overall I viewed this part of the module as being a very positive one which has had a great impact on my online presence, and on my online confidence. Here is a full link to my blog The Star Spangled Blogger.