Literature Review

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New York City, the big apple, the greatest city on earth, and the city that never sleeps. These are but a few of the nicknames given to New York City. New York has always been a powerful location when shooting movies. Depending on the year, the social events happening around the globe, the film’s plot and even director, this city can be shown in various different ways. In his groundbreaking work Celluloid Skyline: New York and the Movies James Sanders shows how the city has been portrayed throughout the years, by various filmmakers, in various ways. This book I found to be extremely helpful when I was looking for literature on my thesis idea. In the book Sanders discusses how Woody Allen used real life apartments in New York in order to achieve a realistic feeling of just how his characters live. (Sanders, 2003). In this way Woody Allen lets the views know what homes in Manhattan and New York are really like. Some directors, according to Mark Shiel and Tony Fitzmaurice, leave the city in which their films are based unknown, but they say that the likes of Allen go to great lengths to show off their hometown.

    “Manhattan’s Woody Allen go to great pains to frame stories about their hometowns”. (Shiel, Fitzmaurice. 2001). Though I thought this statement way very exact in its point about Allen, I found their work Cinema and the City: Film and Urban Societies in a Global Context was overall rather poor when it came to what I was researching for my thesis work, the book itself had very few references to Woody Allen. It is by making sure that you know the film is set in New York that gives the city it’s character and this is, according to Shiel and Fitzmaurice in their other book Screening the City, a major part in Woody Allen’s films, for example when they discuss New York’s role in Allen’s Annie Hall by commenting on the fact that the film is about relationships between the self and the city of New York.

    “Also a film about the relationship between the self (Woody Allen) and the city of New York” (Shiel, Fitzmaurice. 2003). They mention in this book also how the city plays a character that is not always easy to deal with but is always beautiful. The city may not be always easy to deal with but it plays an important part as a site of personal memory and the forging of identity. They mention the city’s characteristic nostalgia. In their book they also make a very good reference to New York’s character, they say that it is a place of intellect and culture and then further strengthen this opinion by commenting on how Allen portrays Los Angeles in Annie Hall. When we look at LA in the film it is shot in very bright superficial lighting unlike how we see New York, and this idea is also commented on by Julia Fox in her book Woody: Movies from Manhattan. In Fox’s books she states that the New York scenes were always shot on grey overcast days or at dusk in order to make the city look more “moody and romantic” as opposed to the LA shots where everyone appears to be evaporating into the light. (Fox, 1996). Fox’s book is fantastic in regards to what I am researching because it gives great indepth views into each of Allen’s movies and the ideas behind them. In the book she also looks at Allen’s characters and how he decided to shoot the movies. She discusses Allen’s love for the city and how he wants to portray that love onscreen.

    In Lost Illusions: American Cinema in the shadow of Watergate and Vietnam, 1970-1979 by David A. Cook, he discusses how Woody loved New York so much that when he was filming Manhattan that he shot it in black and white in order to make the city appear more glamorous and romantic that it really was. Looking also at the comedic side of Manhattanites and their lives

    “…and a biting satire of 1970s Manhattan lifestyles”. (Cook, 2002). I found that Cook’s work wasn’t the best when I was researching for this, mainly because most of his focus was on Annie Hall rather than the two other films. In Stephen Prince’s book A New Pot of Gold: Hollywood under the Electronic Rainbow, 1980-1989 Prince discusses how Allen’s filmmaking has always been extremely literate with its foundation in solid screenwriting but that it was when Allen collaborated with others that he learnt about lighting and presentation, like the shooting in black and white for example. This book I found very poor in its lack of information regarding my field of research and thesis topic.

    While I’ve found interesting literature on my thesis topic, it is clear that more research in the field is needed to be conducted. I found that a lot of the film studies books and the journals online had very little on the representations of New York City by Woody Allen in the three films that I am looking at in my thesis. I will have to continue searching for journals and articles online, while also looking at books for more information on how Allen represents New York and why he chose to represent it in those ways.  

Works Cited

 

1) Sanders, James. Celluloid Skyline: New York and the Movies. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002. Print

 

2) Shiel, Mark. Fitzmaurice, Tony. Cinema and the City: Film and Urban Societies in a Global Context. Oxford; Malden, Mass: Blackwell Publishers Ltd, 2001. Print

 

3) Shiel, Mark. Fitzmaurice, Tony. Screening The City. London; New York: Verso, 2003. Print

 

4) Fox, Julia. Woody: Movies from Manhattan. London: BT Batsford Ltd, 1996, Print

 

5) Cook, David A.. Lost Illusions: American Cinema in the Shadow of Watergate and Vietnam, 1970-1979. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002. Print


6) Prince, Stephen. A New Pot of Gold: Hollywood under the Electronic Rainbow, 1980-1989. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002. Print

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My Online Research Journal

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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.

A surrealist novel that critiques the surrealist novel.

The novel in which I am refereeing to is Insel by Mina Loy. This novel is her own known work of prose. On the 22nd of January 2014, we had a guest speaker, Sarah Hayden, come talk to us about the work that she was doing on Mina Loy’s novel. Hayden explained to us about how Loy worked, in regards to the creative processes she used when writing. One of the most interesting things that Loy did when writing this novel was that she wrote passages from the book on scraps of paper that were all marked with the date in which she had written them. 

The novel itself is a surrealist novel that exposes the workings of a surrealist novel and thus critiques it. Sarah Hayden also spoke about the idea of the artist as degenerate / the degenerate artist in the novel, looking at the figure of the drug addict in the novel. Loy herself was an artist and thus understood the art world, she was writing at a time when the idea of Paris as being the art capital of the world was dying and all the artists were moving to New York. She took notes, watching all these artists move and that is where she got her ideas for the novel. People read this novel as a biography or memoir of the German artist “Ulsa”.

Ulsa left Germany, he was a successful and professional artist. Critics don’t know if this novel is a perhaps a romantic re-imaging of something that may have happened between Ulsa and Loy. It nudges to take it as it presents itself. Though at the time of the novel Ulsa was in training, Loy presents him as a “starving”, literally, artist. He seems to be a movement that you would attach yourself to, a movement that is dangerous. The female character involved with him cannot produce art any more because she is stuck with him, and then figures out that he is also unproductive and pulls away from him.

The novel was discovered by a woman named Elizabeth Arnold who was working on her PHD at the time. Hayden herself also discovered what could be an alternative ending to the novel when she was working on her study of Loy’s work, the alternative ending is a “visitation of Isel”. In this novel we see how the creative people of Europe flood to the streets of New York and Manhattan in order to survive, thus like the original settlers of the new world, America possesses freedom that Europe cannot provide. How surrealism made its way across the pond and found a new home in America. 

The Second Annual UCC Textualities Mini-Conference 2014.

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Last Friday, the 28th of March was the second annual UCC MA Textualities Mini-Conference. The Mini-Conference is essentially where all the English Department MA classes come together and showcase an aspect of each of the student’s main interests through the course or what area they are planning on writing their thesis on. For example I’m hoping to do my thesis on representations of New York City in film, so for the Mini-Conference I was presenting on Representations of Central Park in film. The only thing that the group seemed to struggle with as a whole was the Pecha Kucha style of presenting, it seemed to put a bit of stress on us but it was nothing that we couldn’t handle in the end. The experience was amazing, it left us all on such a high. 

 

As a group, we all had to organise the event, which meant coming up with designs for the poster, organising a running order and choosing who would be chairing each of the five groups presenting. We then had to create a blog for the even and a Twitter and Facebook account for it also. As we conducted our presentations on the day there were members of the group who were taking photos and live streaming/blogging/tweeting them so that we could showcase our event to those who could not make it on the day.

 

The event was a total success with no mistakes or computer meltdowns. We all got an insight into what the other MA classes where looking at in their course throughout the year. The audience and the lecturers appeared to have a enjoyed themselves thoroughly and there was even some very insightful questions during the many Q&A sections of the day. Overall I’m giving the day a ten out of ten.

Hell’s Kitchen, a quick look at its Irish past.

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Hell’s Kitchen is a neighbourhood on Manhattan island in New York city. The boundaries of Hell’s Kitchen are between 34th Street in the south and 59th Street in the north. On the west it is boarded by the Hudson river and on the east 8th Avenue is its boundary.

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At the very beginning of Manhattan’s urbanisation, Hell’s Kitchen was still a rural area with farms and open pastoral lands, but as urbanisation took hold and immigrants began to arrive into New York, Hell’s Kitchen began to change in many ways. Today Hell’s Kitchen is seen as a well to do or touristy area, but up until the 1990s, this part of Manhattan had a gritty reputation, but its proximity to Midtown has changed it over the last three decades.

There are many explanations for this neighbourhood’s name, for example some associate the name “Hell’s Kitchen” with a comment that Davy Crockett made about a different Irish slum in Manhattan but just stuck with this particular area. Regardless of where the name came from, it is clear that it doesn’t carry with it a positive image of either the inhabitants or the area itself.

The name may also have come from the foul smelling industries, such as tanneries that set up here during the industrialisation period of the neighbourhood. This location was perfect for industry as it was close to both Midtown and it had the Hudson river on the west. A railway was built in Hell’s Kitchen so that freight could be carried into the city along 11th Avenue. It is these industries of transportation and tanneries for example that employed so many of the poor Irish immigrants that moved to New York in the mid-ninetieth century in order to escape the famine back in Ireland. The Irish settled among the shanty towns of Hell’s Kitchen and thus began the “Irishification” of Hell’s Kitchen.

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Immigration continued and after the American Civil War the population of Hell’s Kitchen increased dramatically. This area was as I said above a “shanty town” area and many of the poverty stricken locals turned to gang life. Within a few years of these gangs being active, Hell’s Kitchen became known as the “most dangerous area on the American Continent”.

With the beginning of the 20th century, the neighbourhood saw itself under total gang control, these gangs included the violent Gopher gang which was lead by One Lung Curran and later on by Owney Madden. In the early part of the 20th century, prohibition was inforce in America and Hell’s Kitchen acted as one of the city’s breweries due to all its large warehouses. Gradually, the older gangs in Hell’s Kitchen were transformed into organised crime bodies and Owney Madden became one for the most dangerous men in the United States.

The neighbourhood below 39th street was devastated with the construction of the Lincoln Tunnel from 1934 to 1937. In the year 1959 the neighbourhood saw an even further increase in violence when a rumble broke out between the Irish and the Puerto Rican gangs which lead to the infamous “Capeman” murders where two innocent teenagers were killed.

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1965 was when the are was fully under the control of the violent Westies gang. The Westies were a deeply violent gang of Irish Americans who had aligned with the Gambino crime family. They ruled Hell’s Kitchen until the 1980s.

The 80s were also a time of gentrification in Hell’s Kitchen. The long-time working-class Irish American neighbourhood soon began to change as the “Yuppies” started to move in and this changed has continued to this day. The neighbourhood has inspired movies such as State of Grace directed by Phil Joanou, the novel American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis was inspired by the area and Jim Sheridan’s In American is based in the neighbourhood. Hell’s Kitchen in today’s world is an up-scale neighbourhood with a mix of young professionals and some of the old residents, giving it a good diverse mix of population.

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The Berkshires, heaven for an student of American literature.

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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.

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West Springfield itself was home to Theodor Seuss Geisel, also known as “Dr. Seuss” who is famous world wide 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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

Jews Without Money, showing us the true grit of the Lower East Side.

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Set in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, Jews Without Money is Michael Gold’s only novel. Gold, having come from a journalistic background tried his hand at writing a novel and was he right to do so. Jews Without Money was published in 1930, and was an extremely successful novel from the minute of its publication. In its first year alone it went through publication in 14 different languages and it also became the precursor to the American proletarian novel.

The action takes place in a slum which is populated, if not crowded by immigrants, mainly Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. The story is fictional autobiography of Gold’s childhood and takes place from when he is a young child, to age of 21, or around that age. In the novel we get a first hand insight into the wild world of these New York City slums, with such vivid use of imagery it’s almost like you are sitting on the “stoop” with Michael and his gang. The novel itself is an easy and quick read because it is what some critics call “crudely written”. I have to disagree with those critics because I personally think that a novel like Jews Without Money, which is so full of beautiful imagery and socialist themes and motifs isn’t even close to being crude. The novel clearly is an anti-capitalist one, with its depictions of sweatshops and almost slave like labour and treatment of the workers who help to keep this capitalist system afloat.

The success of the novel made Michael Gold a national figure, and often it is said that the success of the novel is due to its release date, the beginning of the Great Depression. The images and themes of the novel appealed to the people of this era, and the struggle that Gold and his neighbours went through, as depicted in Jews Without Money was both reliable and inspirational to the its depression-era readers. As for today’s world, the novel itself is still very powerful and counjours up great reactions in its readers, all while holding strong to its firm believe in equality and revolution in society.

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The change in those who departed from Ireland.

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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 ascent. 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.

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Slowly but surely the Irish-Americans gained the respect of American society and this was most clearly seen in the year 1961 when John F. Kennedy became the 35th presedent of the United States.

In Scorsese’s ‘The Departed’ we get a modern day insight into some of the Irish-American organised crime organisations of Boston and into the two different worlds of the middle class Irish-Americans and the working class Irish-Americans of south Boston. In the film, there are clear class distinctions between the two classes of Irish-Americans. For DiCaprio’s character, who is of both classes, he must prove himself to both, by undertaking rigorous actions. In order to seem believable to the working classes he must have spent time in prison and to show his worth to the middle classes he must infiltrate the world of the Irish-American mobsters. In the film, we are shown how both types of Irish-American live and interact with each other and society as a whole; This is a far cry from the old stereotypes of the early 20th century. Once perceived as sub-human, animalistic, and unintelligent, the Irish-Americans in this film clearly seem to be running the show, in regards to both crime and law enforcement. Films like Scorsese’s are fantastic in the way that they show the changing faces of ethnicity within western society, this is gives the ethnicity more depth than its typical stereotype and helps to open our minds to the idea of growth and acceptance.

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Bread Givers, feeding our interest in America’s past.

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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.

This novel, is easy to read and fairly entertaining but at the same time it has strong themes and helps show the reader the reality that these early immigrants to America faced when they moved over. It also makes the reader question what a true American is? and what makes an American?. The argument of do you leave behind your culture and become American or can you be of two cultures is also addressed in this novel. This is novel is a must for anyone who is of immigrant descent or has an interest in the history of immigrant in New York and American in general.

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A Vogue for all things African-American.

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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. The first one that I’m gonna look at is Kathryn Stockett’s ‘The Help’. Image

This novel was written in 2009, and is a fictional account of a white female college student in the 1960s who decides to write a book based on the experience of the African-American housekeepers of her local town. She comes across hardships as do the women she is writing about but at the end we see that it all works out for her and “the help”. This novel takes a uniquely female outlook on the world of race relations in 1960s southern America, and that is one of the reasons why I think it was such a best seller. In the year 2012 we introduced to the violent world of Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Django Unchained’ Image

This movie is set in the antebellum era of the U.S. South and it follows the freed slave who is played by Jamie Foxx and his friend and fellow bounty hunter, played by Christoph Waltz. In the film they journey across America in order to find and free Django’s wife who is under the control of a cruel plantation owner, played by DiCaprio. The film is packed full of Tarantino’s signature violence but what makes this movie even better is that is basically a modern day western movie. Though the film was criticised for it’s use of the word “Nigger” other actors in the film such as Samuel L. Jackson stood up and defended the film. It was one of the highest grossing movies of 2012/2013. In 2013 The film ‘The Butler’ directed by Lee Daniels

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was released on the 16th of August. The film is loosely based on the real life of Eugene Allen and stars Forest Whitaker as an African-American who witnesses notable events of the 20th century during his 34 years serving as the White House butler. The film starts with him leaving a plantation in the 1920s, then getting hired in 1957 by the White House and finally resigning in the 1980s. In the movie he describes all the events that have gone down in history during his employment in the White House and his struggles through these events such as the civil rights movement and the cold war for example. The film also touches on subjects such as the Jim Crow laws and black discrimination. Having just been released ’12 Years a Slave’ directed by Steve McQueen

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and based on the autobiographical account of his life by Solomon Northup. It is the story of a free born New York African-American man, who in the year 1841 while in Washington, D.C. was kidnapped and sold into slavery and worked for 12 years on a Louisiana plantation before his release. This film and its original text have been seen as a brutal look at American Slavery from the eyes of somebody who was not born a slave but forced into it.

In the the past decade in both literature and on screen, we can see a rise in the popularity of the representation of African-Americans and their struggles, there seems to be a massive interest in their journeys and stories. Not only are these powerful works helping to show us what mankind is capable of in terms of violence and cruelty but they also help to keep today’s violence hungry audience entertained and interested which is why I feel that the slave narrative and the other ‘Black’ works of fiction seem to work so well with the audiences of today, all the violence within them is non-fiction and yet is gory enough for us in the 21st century.