A Voice From the Shadows...

Hallie O'Donovan hallieod at indigo.ie
Wed Jan 19 03:42:39 EST 2000

Welcome, Alice, and what a wonderful introductory post!  No one *needs* a
claim to fame to participate here, but yours is a great one anyway.
Delighted it wasn't diluted by your saying you'd been the one claiming
Prufrock WAS about prostitutes (I'd be fascinated to hear some of the pro
arguments, actually - it quite boggles the mind).

Becca (my 13-year old temporary invalid ), from her sofa of pain, wants me
to add her welcomes.  She's another great Alexandra admirer.

hallieod at indigo.ie

>Okay, I've been putting this off too, too long. I meant to send a proper
>introductory message, but compiling the relevant details about myself
>takes time and thought, so I'm just going to plunge in now and introduce
>myself later. I will reveal only two things:
>a) I was introduced to this delightful list several months ago by my
>dearest friend, Alexandra, since which time I have been thoroughly
>enjoying your discussions and always meaning to join in...
>b) my claim to fame on this list must be that it was I who introduced
>Alexandra to DWJ.
>But the reason I suddenly decided to write is to make a late addition to
>the thread about teachers and interpretations of literature and whatnot.
>I must admit I have been fortunate in this respect, which is probably
>one of the main reasons I have gone on to study English (there, I've
>revealed another detail about myself) but I do have a funny story to
>relate. An antidote, really, to some of these awful accounts of teachers
>forcing their opinions on students. My Grade 13 English Literature
>teacher was one of the best: a wonderfully pleasant and mild-mannered
>British man with an extreme fondness for _Hamlet_. He let us voice our
>opinions and have nicely rambling discussions. We had a heated debate
>over whether "The Love-Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" was about prostitutes
>or not. (I confess that the discussion was heated mostly because of my
>vehement efforts to argue that it was NOT. Overparticipate? Moi?) We had
>a group assignment at one point to invent a plausible plot for a Thomas
>Hardy novel (my friends and I got really into it, and came up with
>something convincingly ghastly, replete with pointless coincidences and
>appropriate place-names from the map of Wessex). So you get the picture
>-- this was not a teacher to squelch or belittle student's opinions and
>ideas. But everyone has his or her limit. We had read the following
>poem, called "Erosion", by the Canadian poet E.J. Pratt, and we were
>discussing it in class. I include the full text for your enjoyment:
>It took the sea a thousand years,
>A thousand years to trace
>The granite features of this cliff,
>In crag and scarp and base.
>It took the sea an hour one night,
>An hour of storm to place
>The sculpture of these granite seams
>Upon a woman's face.
>So we were talking, in the vague way that one does in highschool
>classes, about what the poem meant, and so on. Everyone seemed to have a
>general consensus on that; everyone seemed to "get it", so to speak.
>Except for one girl, who bravely put up her hand and voiced a different
>opinion. She thought the poem was about a cliff falling over and
>squashing a woman. Our English teacher, in the most polite and
>apologetic way imaginable, replied that perhaps, though it was always
>good to keep an open mind, it was possible to say of certain
>interpretations -- such as, for example, this one -- that they were...
>well... wrong. It was the only time I remember him ever making such a
>statement in class, and it stands out in my memory for that reason.
>Well, that's my story. Eventually I'll write a proper introduction, and
>abandon the electronic shadows for once and for all! Wa ha ha!
>P.S. Elise wrote:
>'I just can't get past the idea of Julius Caesar saying "Weni Widi
>Do other people know the little book _1066 And All That_? It's an absurd
>account of English history, and the humour of it is something of an
>acquired taste, I think, but I can't resist quoting the following
>"Julius Caesar was therefore compelled to invade Britain again the
>following year (54 B.C., not 56, owing to the peculiar Roman method of
>counting), and having defeated the Ancient Britons by unfair means, such
>as battering-rams, tortoises, hippocausts, centipedes, axes and bundles,
>set the memorable Latin sentence, "Veni, Vidi, Vici," which the Romans,
>who were all very well educated, construed correctly. The Britons,
>however, who of course still used the old pronunciation, understanding
>him to have called them "Weeny, Weedy and Weaky," lost heart and gave up
>the struggle, thinking that he had already divided them All into Three
>P.P.S. I just finished rereading HMC, and I have to ask -- how many
>other people got out their calculators and divided 10 000 by 365 to find
>out exactly how old Howl is? He's older than I thought.
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