My Journey of Life and Learning (with occasional digressions)

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Monthly Archives: March 2016

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Up for Air and Back Down

Somehow, I survived the Holidays, and most of Winter!

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Alright! Welcome to nobody who doesn’t read my blog. I KNOW it’s been awhile since I got on here and wrote anything. I don’t believe I even posted anything from my Studies in Shakespeare or Gender Studies class. Maybe I’ll go back, find one or two of my posts and share them here.

My bottom line on Shakespeare – I’ve always loved to read and watch his plays and I STILL really need to watch a live performance. At least by really studying, instead of just “reading for pleasure,” I feel I have a much stronger grasp of the subtleties and wordplay he so masterfully used. In my final paper, I tied Sonnets to specific scenes in a few of his plays. Seems most scholars love to go after the whole “gender” topic (which was basis for my ORIGINAL thesis, thank you James!) but that’s been severely analyzed, almost to the point of  cliche. Since I’m not usually one to “shrink” from a task and I remarked the common veins I noticed between the Sonnets and plays, with one week left in the course, I dove right in, worked my way through the paper and earned a good mark. Awesome experience all the way around. I’ll still read his stuff from time to time for fun, but now I have a whole different way of viewing it.

Gender studies – I was intimidated as hell. Only three men in the class, I was the only straight one. I guess if the whole point was to examine and see how authors and feminist philosophers can shake up the “hegemony,” all anyone would have to have done was interview me! My prof was very supportive, though, and nobody flamed me for anything – in fact all the feedback was very constructive. I learned about quite a number of very gifted authors and their works as well as some interesting philosophical views. My final paper focused on how “Offred” becomes a woman, as based on Simone de Beauvior’s writings, through her ordeal in Magaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Seems with that novel that everyone is worried about it “happening here,” especially in view of this upcoming election. Well, I saw much of the totalitarian government imposed on people in the Warsaw Pact during my Cold War time in West Germany and West Berlin. I guess, in a way, I kind of know how THAT story ends.

Then, I enjoyed my week between classes. Fifty two years old and just last Monday spent the entire day fishing entirely on my own. I always wondered about guys who did that and spoke so fondly about it. Well, I can attest that I attained a wonderful state of relaxation during the day – heck, didn’t matter to me if I even caught a fish.

Now I go into my study of WORLD LITERATURE!! Woo hoo! Hey, I really am excited! My prof seems excited to facilitate studies in the subject, which is quite a bit more than I can say of one or two profs in my recent past (ahem). But, I’m still relaxed, so I’m not going to rant (now).

First reading is by Thomas Mann, “Death in Venice.” One thing I already notice and I’m sure I’ll work into this week’s discussion somehow – Mann is German and in a footnote on page 82, mention is made to our protagonist’s name, “von Aschenbach.” The footnote claims that the “von” was reserved for nobility, which is not absolutely true. The name may be attributed to a person belonging to a family of note but nobility is NOT a prerequisite nor does anyone need to have “von” conferred upon them, though the German administrative procedure necessary to legally change a name is exhaustive and the Court would have to “grant” one the name change. More than likely, Mann could be making a swipe at Aschenbach. Historically there has always existed a regional rivalry between the predominently Catholic Bavaria and Protestant northern Germany. Mann is from Luebeck, which was a member of the Hanseatic League which was essentially a Plutocratic alliance of several European states. These merchants always held some degree of  contempt for those who were considered “nobility” by birth, though they (the merchants) were quite nepotistic themselves.

This observation is based on my three years of High School German instruction from a dear lady from Rheinland-Pfalz (Rhineland Palitinate), my eight months of studies at the Defense Language Institute with Frau Albrecht (eine huebsche Hamburgerin mit wunderschoene blaue Augen), Herr Doktor Professor Schulz (from somewhere in Florida) and my eight years service, speaking mostly German, in Germany. A good portion of my time was spent in Bremen, which was another member of the Hanseatic League, as was Luebeck. I was required to learn quite a bit about the history of that organization while working there. The German cities of Bremen (with its better known exclave of Bremerhaven), Hamburg, and Luebeck each still hold the title of “Free City” and have the same rights as the larger States.

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