Wittgenstein's Mistress is an incredibly unique piece of work that talks about so much, yet nothing at all. Even the narrator seems to recognize this as she says "I do wish that last sentence had some meaning, since it certainly came close to impressing me for a moment" (126). This seems to be her feelings about most things throughout the novel. What was Markson's intent when he wrote this book?
Since we've talked and read a bit about post-modernism-
In what ways could "Wittgenstein's Mistress" be considered a post-modern novel? Also-what are some of the themes, techniques, concerns etc. it shares with what we've recently read ( especially "The Crying of Lot 49")? How is it different from the others novels we've read?
The Crying of Lot 49 raises issues of communication, or rather failures of communication, in a chaotic and fragmented world. It also focuses on issues of science (i.e. Nefastis's machine and Dr. Hilarious's experiements), a study which exemplifies a highly ordered and comprehensible system. What is the significance of Pynchon's juxtaposition of these two worlds? Does communication in one world affect the other? Could he be showing how one world undermines the other?
Communication is essential to the novel, but the means to which these characters communicate stands out. W.A.S.T.E. is one of the main secrets kept throughout the novel. Interestingly, their symbol is introduced on page 38 as a trumpet with a mute in it. Does this have any connection to the lack of communication throughout the novel? For example the American Deaf-Mute Assembly on page 80. If so, what does this secrecy emphasize in the novel?
What are the sexual and gender-realted implications surrounding the infidelity between Mucho and Oedipa Maas? How does this relate to the Tristero concept of isolation?
1. We've discussed the mirror symbol in class, but what is to be made of the reflections Esther sees? At different times in the novel, for example, Esther sees herself as "a sick Indian" and a "smudgy-eyed Chinese woman". What is the purpose of these images? What does this say about Esther's identity?
2. Throughout the text, important events -- the execution of the Rosenbergs, the attempted rape by Marco, having Marco's blood smeared on her cheek -- are downplayed by Esther. What does this say about Esther? What does this say about the way she interacts with the world?
The revised course schedule for the remainder of the term is posted under Course Documents. Please be sure to note the changes posted to the schedule. Also, remember that the topic for the journal on The Bell Jar is open, so please pursue whatever thread is of interest to you. This journal, you will note, is worth 20 points rather than the regular 10 points, so do take some care with your journal entry.
Esther's main psychological problem in the novel seems to be depression, which she struggles with her entire life, even up to her eventual suicide. Her suicide attempt in the story is taken as a form of neurotic psychoses, and she is labeled as "insane." How does this relate with our current understanding of human psychology? Are the treatments she endures adequate to her mental state? And how, if at all, do they help her cope with her problems? Can she really be labeled insane?
Whether or not this pertains to gender and sexuality will, I suppose, depend upon your answer, but… Why does Esther, on her last night in New York, throw her clothes from the Amazon sunroof? Are the clothes symbolic? If so, what do they represent? What is Esther really throwing from the roof?
You will find the assignment sheet for Paper #2 here.
Reading Journal #5
Due Tuesday, 10/28
1-2 Pages Typed, Double-Spaced
What is the role of Shrike to the larger themes of the novel (religion, gender, etc.)? Does he serve to tempt Miss Lonelyhearts from his path like Satan tempting Christ in the wilderness? Does he undermine Miss Lonelyhearts' masculinity? Explain.