DUFFY MARBL: “Valentine”

After looking at Carol Anne Duffy’s notes for “Valentine”, the first thing I noticed is that there are several versions of the poem, each with the same title, namely “Valentine”. In the first version, Duffy writes, “Valentine/ Today we say, is commercialized/much more to do with money than with love”. She continues in the second version, “the rhyme in Valentine cards are crude or trite, but you’ll expect one anyway”. From these initial lines, I feel that Duffy was attempting to write a poem about the failure of the ‘Valentine’ to truly express the meaning of love. I feel like she wants to criticize the tradition of the valentine, as she calls valentine cards crude or trite and she says the valentine is commercialized. After these two versions, Duffy writes a version that more closely resembles the final version. The initial notes, however, do contain some of the same metaphors utilized in the final version. For example, the imagery of a “satin heart” and the onion metaphor are present through every version of the poem. From this, it seems that she had some idea of how she wanted to express her interpretation of love. The context of the poem, however, eluded her until the third version of the poem.

In my previous blog post, I noticed several poems that were thematically connected to each other and one of these poems was “Valentine”. Through this string of connected poems, I feel that Duffy is attempting to express the birth, conflicts, struggles and dramatic death of a relationship. In “Valentine”, Duffy writes, “I give you an onion. /It is a moon wrapped in brown paper. /It promises light/ like the careful undressing of love” (2-5). Duffy uses the image and description of an onion as an object that conceals within it a greater meaning. According to Duffy, as you delve deeper into a relationship or ‘carefully undress it,’ one will experience much more than what he/she may expect initially, as there is a greater meaning within. Based on this, I think that Duffy had a clear vision about what she wanted to achieve by writing this poem. Based on these initial versions and the final version of the poem, Duffy is making the point that love is inherently contradictory, and as a result, it is a complicated phenomenon.

DUFFY MARBL: “from Mrs. Tiresias”

While looking at Carol Anne Duffy’s notes for “from Mrs. Tiresias”, several things stood out. The first observation I made was that there were several drafts of the poem, with each draft being altered slightly. From the first draft, however, the general structure and message of the poem remained the same. One of the more interesting observations, however, was her insertion of the word “whistling” in the latter drafts. It did not seem significant until I looked up who Tiresias was. According to various sources on the Internet, Tiresias was a prophet known for his blindness. It seems that whistling may be important for someone who is blind. From the notes, however, it is apparent that she wanted to insert the word somewhere in the poem. On a similar note, as I delved deeper into Tiresias’ story, I found that he was not born blind but rather had his blindness given to him as a punishment for watching Athena bathe nude. Additionally, as a result of this blindness, Tiresias was able to understand the language of birds. These facts bring light to some of the language present in the poem. For example, Duffy writes, “He liked to hear/the first cuckoo of spring” (10-11). In the notes, Duffy also wrote but scratched out “He relished the bird watching”. Furthermore, the reason why Tiresias was given the punishment explains why Duffy uses sexual language in some of the verses. For example, Duffy writes, “And this is my lover, I said…and watched the way he stared/at her violet eyes…at the slow caress of her hand on the back of my neck” (75-83).  It seems that there is some context to the flirtatious nature of the character. I think Duffy’s use of a blind prophet for her wanting to transform a man into a woman is quite smart. Duffy is using the transformation from a man to a woman to criticize the misrepresented perception men have of women. This point is illustrated when Duffy writes, “if she had his way…telling women out there how, as a woman himself, he knew how we felt”. Additionally, Tiresias’s literal blindness contributes to Duffy’s criticism of that perspective as wrong.

Consistency and Continuity in Mean Time

After reading the second half of Mean Time, I noticed that certain parts of Mean Time contain a string of connecting poems that express and describe various aspects of a relationship. From poems such as “Crush”, “Valentine”, “Adultery” and “The Suicide” (not exhaustive), it seems that Duffy is expressing the birth, conflicts, struggles and dramatic (and possibly literal) death of a relationship. In Valentine, for example, Duffy writes, “I give you an onion. /It is a moon wrapped in brown paper. /It promises light/ like the careful undressing of love.” Duffy uses the image and description of an onion as an object that conceals within it a greater meaning. According to Duffy, as you delve deeper into a relationship or ‘carefully undress it,’ one will experience much more than what he/she may expect initially, as there is a greater meaning within. This does not necessarily mean that the meaning is positive, as the onion’s “fierce kiss will stay on your lips, possessive and faithful…Lethal. Its scent will cling to your fingers, cling to your knife” (34). There are several things going on in this excerpt in terms of imagery. After reading the rest of the poems and coming back to this, these images of lethality and knives foreshadowed what I noticed in poems such as “Havisham” and “The Suicide”. Poems like “Valentine” and “The Crush” are similar in that they both represent similar parts of a relationship, namely the start of the relationship. As a result, these poems have similar tones, as they are both evoke emotions of excitement, innocence, joy, etc. (more applicable to “The Crush”). In contrast to these poems, “Havisham” and “The Suicide” have significantly darker tones. In “Havisham”, for example, Duffy writes, “Beloved sweetheart bastard. /Not a day since then I haven’t wished him dead…Give me a male corpse for a long slow honeymoon” (40). This is one of the more creepy lines in the entire collection and not surprisingly, is in stark contrast with some of the earlier poems. Here, we see Duffy using very strong language to illustrate the end of a relationship. The language of death and murder is consistent with earlier descriptions of the meaning behind a relationship in “Valentine.”  Additionally, from strong language such as this and earlier themes of nostalgia, confession, etc., I feel that these poems are connected to Duffy on a personal level. I don’t know enough about her life to make a claim, but she could possibly be venting about certain dark times in her life through these poems.

Moderate and Extreme Feminism

So far in my reading of Carol Ann Duffy’s The World’s Wife, I’ve been noticing themes regarding two types of feminism, namely an extreme types of feminism (women better than men) and moderate (woman and men are equal). In some cases (in poems such as from Mrs Tiresias and Pilate’s wide), we see a more extreme form of feminism. In the poems, male characters are depicted as women. In “from Mrs Tiresias”, for example, Duffy writes “All I know is this: he went out for his walk a man and came home female” (16). To me, it seems like Duffy is saying that the man has transformed after his “walk” into another persona. Especially when journeys are associated change and self-empowerment, I feel that this depiction of the transformation shows some insight into Duffy’s opinion on womanhood. Although there is some argument to be made here, I do not think it is the primary belief of Duffy. I notice the more moderate feminism being more prevalent in her poems. In Mrs Midas, for example, we see a representation of the struggles women feel in their designated domestic role. Duffy writes, “I served up the meal…. He asked where was the wine. I poured with a shaking hand…then watched as he picked up the glass, goblet, golden chalice, drank” (11). In this quote from the poem, the male character is represented as some form of king who is expecting to be served by his woman. The imagery of the ‘golden chalice’ is indicative of what Duffy thinks about some of the problems inherent in the relationship between men and women. Later, the female character in the poem decides to leave and describes her counterpart using the phrase “Pure selfishness” when she thinks about her relationship with him. I interpret this part of the poem as Duffy’s belief in women empowerment. By making the decision to leave, the female character has empowered herself and escaped the clutches of the traditional (skewed) domestic partnership. In the end, however, we see the female character regret her decision by her venting about how much she misses “ his warm hands on [her] skin, his touch” (13). In this part of the poem, I feel that Duffy is saying that although asymmetry exists between males and females, there is something to appreciate in the interdependence of the relationship. I think Duffy uses this part of the poem to call for a more symmetric relationship between men and women, rather than dissolving the relationship completely, as there is some value to having some form of stable domestic relationship between men and women.

African Origins Evaluation

Reza Bhiwandiwalla
Tarun Ramayya
Digital Humanities Project Evaluation – Dr. Croxall, English 389
The African Origins project is an online database that could help trace the origins of more than 100,000 slaves. It helps give many African slaves an identity, while also providing us with valuable information about the background of many of the early Africans in the United States. The site and database were created at Emory University under a team directed by Dr. Eltis. The website includes information about the migration histories of those Africans who were forcibly carried on slave ships into the Americas. Information on over 9,000 Africans from the “Courts of Mixed Commission” provides geographic, ethnic, and linguistic data about Africans who were forced into the slave trade during the European colonial expansion into the Americas. In terms of the interdisciplinary field of digital humanities, the website provides detailed information about the lineage of various African names and by doing so, those who are reading about characters or people who have African names will be able to find important background information that may reveal novel information about the characters. This is similar to the type of information that our mapping project provided about geographic and geometric information about London. Similar to providing background information about locations in London, the African Origins project provides background information about people who have African names. By doing so, both projects provide unique information that may not be included in the original print texts.
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Mark Sample’s post is consistent with all of my blog posts about defining the digital humanities. Finally, we see a push toward integration in the digital humanities rather than exclusion.  I feel this post is most similar to the Katherine Hayles essay. In her essay, she concludes that we must integrate close reading, hyper reading, machine analysis, and whatever other tools scholars have at their disposal to ultimately find new and exciting ways to expand and improve scholarship. Specifically, she says that an integrative approach to scholarship is very important, as it maximizes our effort (as scholars) to expand our knowledge.

We’ve been reading so many articles about what digital humanities includes (Ramsay’s essay, for example), and I feel like digital humanists who attempt to separate and branch out are undermining the entire purpose of digital humanities. I think that digital humanities can be a powerful thing, especially in our changing culture. In order to be powerful, however, it must embrace the traditional tools and reach some form of synergy. Sample, in his post, says, “The ‘builders’ will build and the ‘thinkers’ will think, but all of us, no matter where we fall on this false divide, we all need to share”. Here, he is referring to the division in scholarship between those who build digital tools (Ramsay’s definition of the digital humanities) and media and those who study traditional humanities using digital tools and modern technology.

I feel like the main reason why digital humanists want to separate themselves through exclusive definitions is related to a logistical problem, rather than a scholarly problem. Specifically, I think that digital humanists, by defining themselves, wish to receive proper funding and recognition in the university system. Apart from this conflict, it seems that the digital humanities are a perfect medium through which we can achieve the goal of sharing and integration. For example, our mapping project exemplifies how the digital humanities are inherently integrative and maximize new ways to represent knowledge. By using a digital tool (Google earth) to study Mrs. Dalloway, we were able to extract unique information about the novel that may not have been accessible without the digital tool.

Remediation… an analogy for digital humanities

When reading about remediacy, I could not help but compare what I was reading to the relationship between the humanities and digital humanities. Immediacy is a way to immerse audiences into a real world depiction of an event by dissolving the idea of a medium of communication, while hypermediacy is a way to use the always-advancing technologies to create mediums to drive immediacy. An example of hypermediacy is if the director of a movie utilizes various editing technologies, special effects, etc to maximize the probability of completing the goal of his/her movie, which is to create a direct real world experience (the same goal as immediacy). The difference between hypermediacy and immediacy, I feel, is the means through which they achieve their goals, namely no-medium vs medium. In my opinion, this is analogous to the relationship between new technologies and their possible incorporation into the reading of humanities texts. The goal of humanists and digital humanists is the same, but the means through which each achieves their goal is quite different. I feel that Hayles does a good job of exploring the effects of these new types of technologies and our reading of various texts. Specifically, her claim that integration of all the types of reading machine analysis, close reading, and hyper reading is necessary to truly advance scholarship and is very applicable to the idea of remediation. Like the new technologies in humanities, hypermediacy attempts to drive immediacy (the old “non-medium”) by utilizing a medium for communication. Remediation is the representation of one media with another, where we begin to see the idea of integration of old and new starting to take place. Because immediacy (no media) is an abstract phenomenon, we can consider it to be the old media. Remediation use new types of media (which change as a function of technological change) and are related to the concept of hypermediacy to represent the old media (immediacy). For example, if an older media is represented in digital forms (Blue ray or 3-D images of old paintings). The conclusion of remediation is the same conclusion that Hayles draws and the same conclusion that digital humanists should draw when contemplating what their purpose is, namely that incorporation of the old and new are vital to advancing scholarship.

Integration- a virtue for digital humanists

I completely agree with the conclusion drawn by Katherine Hayles. In her essay, she concludes that an integrative approach to digital and print texts is necessary in a world where the digital is becoming entrenched in our culture. One of the main areas where she addresses this is when she explores the differences between close reading and hyper reading. Close reading, I feel, is related to the traditional ‘print’ culture of academia, while hyper reading is related to the contemporary ‘digital’ culture of academia.  When I read the essay, I interpreted hyper reading as having, to a certain extent, a negative connotation (among the more traditional scholars), where hyper reading is perceived as a lesser skill than the traditional humanist approach of close reading. Although I agree there is a connotation, I disagree with the connotation. Although some aspects of hyper reading are not very useful, there are aspects of it that are useful. For example, in a world of information overload, hyper reading is an effective way to address the changing culture and to provide people with new skills to utilize the modern developments that are occurring at an increasing rate. Additionally, non-utility is not unique to hyper reading; in fact, there are aspects of close reading that are also not very useful. In her conclusion, Hayles argues that both hyper reading and close reading have their own benefits, and it is important to understand how and when to use each of these techniques. Hayles also introduces another type of reading, namely machine analysis. This includes things like wordle, distant reading (as explored by Moretti), and various other tools. Specifically, Hayles says that “machine analysis opens the door to new kinds of discoveries that were not possible before and that can surprise and intrigue scholars accustomed to the delights of close reading”. Because our culture has changed so much and will continue to change, Hayles concludes that we must integrate close reading, hyper reading, machine analysis, and whatever other tools scholars have at their disposal to ultimately pioneer new and exciting ways to expand and improve scholarship. I find that this should be the ultimate goal of digital humanities. We’ve been reading so many articles about what digital humanities includes, and I feel like digital humanists who attempt to separate and branch out are undermining the entire purpose of digital humanities. I think that digital humanities can be a powerful thing, especially in our changing culture. In order to be powerful, however, it must embrace the traditional tools and reach some form of synergy (as Hayles puts it) between ‘print’ and ‘digital’ scholarship.

Definitions can be a scary thing

Stephen Ramsay, in his speech, attempts to define  “digital humanities” as building things. Specifically, he argues that  “digital Humanities is about building things…. the discipline includes and should include people who theorize about building…if you are not making anything, you are not… a digital humanist.”  He later goes on to claim that having opinions such as these is good for scholarship and more specifically claims that discussions like this allow retention of collaboration and cooperation. I believe that categorization and exclusion of certain types of scholarship from digital humanities defeats the purpose of the idea of digital humanities as explained by Flanders and Unsworth. Specifically, it undermines Flanders and Unsworth’s argument that the digital humanities, in part, exist to promote multi-disciplinary integration. By doing so, the digital humanities are able to integrate vastly different fields of scholarship in order to promote and improve the overall quality of academic scholarship. Although having discussions such as defining digital humanities, as Ramsay does in his speech, does promote thinking and keeps making us think (Flanders’ conclusion about scholarship in general), the specific definition Ramsay uses undermines one of the primary goals of digital humanities. To be fair, Ramsay’s definition does allow for integration of different fields of scholarship, as his definition only specifies that digital humanities as a certain type of scholarship. I believe, however, that having definitions such as these justifies worse exploitation of ‘digital humanities’ as a type of scholarship. Definitions could emerge that completely segregate the digital humanities as a separate form of scholarship, and as a result, those types of definitions would undermine the multi-disciplinary integration that the digital humanities hope to promote. Additionally, this segregation could exacerbate the unease that exists in the status quo. Although Flanders argues that this unease can be a good thing, expanding it to such an extent may be harmful to the digital humanities and more generally to every field of scholarship that exists today.

Evolution of Scholarship

In The Productive Unease of 21st-century Digital Scholarship, Julia Flanders creates a dichotomy between two institutions “digital” and “non digital”. Specifically, she argues that there is an  “unease about institutional and organizational containers for professional identity [, and it] is a related concern with published expressions of professional identity and the question of how we evaluate new forms of communication and scholarly work”. I disagree with Flanders’ characterization of academic scholarship as having two contradicting institutions. Because technological progress is inevitable, the digital integration into academic scholarship is also inevitable. Although Flanders does conclude that progress toward digital scholarship is already occurring and is a good thing, her separation of scholarship into digital and non-digital is wrong. Academic scholarship is something that characterizes many schools of thought. Although these schools may be different (science, humanities, etc), they all have the same intent, namely to progress society by expanding our knowledge about various phenomena. Academic scholarship, like any institution, is subject to change. For example, religion, as an institution, has evolved through time as a function of societal and political changes. Like religion, academic scholarship has also evolved, and digital scholarship merely represents another phase of evolution. To characterize digital scholarship as different from non-digital scholarship, Flanders inhibits one of the primary goals of digital scholarship and one of her main arguments, namely to promote multi-disciplinary integration. I do agree with Flanders that there is a friction and unease between those that support the traditional methods and those that support the new methods (digital scholarship). I do not believe, however, that it is necessary to differentiate these two types of thought as different institutions. In fact, I feel that distinguishing the digital and non-digital to such an extent may undermine the natural evolution of academic scholarship, as it may exacerbate conflict between those that support digital scholarship and those that do not support it yet.