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Discussion--Week 2

1. What were your thoughts and reactions to the two "Death of a Moth" pieces (Woolf and Dillard)? Why do you think Dillard chose to give her essay a title so close to Woolf's?

2. How are you coming on your essay topic selection? Are you struggling at all to come up with ideas?

Comments

1. I prefered Woolf's more emotional discription of what happened over Dillard's irksome and even inhumane treatment of the moth's poor death. Dillard shows very little sympathy for the creature and magnifies the death in a heavenly comparison which altogether contributes to the absurdity and demented impression of the piece. I find it extremely hard to sit and watch an insect burn and then get real creative about it. Maybe I'm just not very introspective.

Maybe Woolf's was talking about how humans are very much like moths but must use their energy wisely since death comes around really fast. Perhaps Dillard wrote her piece in response to this point to address one way to use one's energy which is writing.

2. My essay topic is coming along just terrible. I have several stories I'd like to share but I can't seem to link them all together to make one revelation. They are all equally important, some more equally so I was thinking perhaps stick with one story and have minor stories around it.

1) I thought both pieces were interesting to read. Dillard's to me was more descriptive but also more disturbing how she described the moth's death. Hers was also more choppy, like she went from looking at a spider web in her bathroom to watching the moth fly into the candle and than to asking her class if they would be willing to die for writing.

Woolf's writing of The Death of the Moth was easier to follow. She also seemed to have a little bit more feeling toward the poor moth that was trying so hard to fight death.

2) My essay topic is coming along pretty good. Now it's just a matter of putting it together. I've been thinking of a way to start it and every time I do there seems to be a better way to start it. I'm not really satisfied with any of the ideas I've come up with yet, but I'm sure I'll figure it out once I sit down and focus on it.

1. I really enjoyed both of the “Death of a Moth� pieces. They were interesting in different ways. Dillard described the moth’s death with a lot of detail, devoting about half a page to the actual death. Dillard’s moth is a martyr, giving her life to create light. Dillard is a writer, giving her life to create her art. The parallels between the moth and Dillard are obvious; both give their lives for something greater. In Virginia Woolf’s story, she focuses more on the struggle of the moth than its actual death. Life is going on as usual for everyone outside while the moth struggles against death. The moth’s life was insignificant to everyone on the farm, but it still struggled to hold on to something that was seemingly worthless. In class we learned that Woolf was a feminist, and I can see that in this piece. The moth’s life is so insignificant, it can only fly around in the window until it dies. A woman’s life was the same, trapped inside the house and struggling even though she will never be able to participate in the outside world.

2. I have a few ideas, and I think with a lot of editing I can turn them into an essay!

1. I really enjoyed both of the “Death of a Moth� pieces. They were interesting in different ways. Dillard described the moth’s death with a lot of detail, devoting about half a page to the actual death. Dillard’s moth is a martyr, giving her life to create light. Dillard is a writer, giving her life to create her art. The parallels between the moth and Dillard are obvious; both give their lives for something greater. In Virginia Woolf’s story, she focuses more on the struggle of the moth than its actual death. Life is going on as usual for everyone outside while the moth struggles against death. The moth’s life was insignificant to everyone on the farm, but it still struggled to hold on to something that was seemingly worthless. In class we learned that Woolf was a feminist, and I can see that in this piece. The moth’s life is so insignificant, it can only fly around in the window until it dies. A woman’s life was the same, trapped inside the house and struggling even though she will never be able to participate in the outside world.

2. I have a few ideas, and I think with a lot of editing I can turn them into an essay!

I enjoyed reading both "Death of the Moth" pieces, but for different reasons. I like the way Dillard writes. It was especially apparent during the actual death of the moth scene and afterwards that Dillard's writing style is very descriptive. While I was reading it, I felt like I could see everything happening in great detail. I didn't like the awkward switch to her talking about her class, however. Although it was relevant to the point she was trying to make, I felt that she ruined the tone of the story; it was done beautifully until she abruptly changed scenes. I think Dillard chose such a close title to Woolf's because for both writers, the death of this smal creature had such a large impact on each of them, though the actual concept of death was used to prove different points in both of their stories.

Though I pretty much liked Dillard's piece, I liked Woolf's version more. I felt like I was sitting right next to her, watching this moth struggle for life in the room. She really takes you inside a story, even if it is as simple as this one. Also, once we learned about Woolf's life and her being a feminist, you could see the parallels she draws from the struggle of the women of her time against society, to the moth struggling against a glass window.

I'm bouncing around a couple of ideas for my essay, but I haven' t figured out which one would work best yet.

It's interesting to me that the sheer amount of detail and careful description in Dillard's piece is, in essence, its downfall. It's an interesting enough piece to read and it holds your attention because of the unceremonious description of the dismal death of the helpless moth, but I almost felt pushed away by the particularity of what she points out. It makes sense given her background, but I had trouble establishing a connection to the piece. I think another component of that was the jumping around in time that, to me, felt a little unorganized and almost scatterbrained.
I think that she chose a title similar to Woolf's because she was presenting a similar story in a very different way. It would make sense to try and draw readers in who recognized the title because it promotes comparison.
Woolf's was easy to establish a connection with because she appeals to emotion and doesn't deal with the details. A story is very easy for people to get into, rather than a factual piece because people are drawn to fantasy and unrealistic attributes like the personification of Woolf's moth. I also think that Woolf's was not conveying as many "morals" as Dillards, giving it a much more focused and central point to get across. It may be possible that Woolf's moral was just more simplistic and easily understood, though.

My essay topics are back and forth depending on the day. Sometimes I look at them and think that they are great ideas, and some days I think they are terrible. Hopefully I'll get one that I can look at everyday and know exactly what I want to do with it and where I want to go with it.

1. Although I recognize both pieces as quality writings, I did not "get into" either essay. Dillard's morbid fascination with the burning moth and detailed explanation of her observances reveal her left-brained curiosities in a right-brain field. I believe Dillard is making a comment on passions and commitment to one's own passion. Her rant at the end of the essay I find distasteful but also necessary. It is a transition from Dillard's position as a reporter to a philosopher.
Woolf's essay approaches the death of the moth as a metaphor for (woman's) existence rather than as an instance that inspired reflection (as in Dillard's). Woolf's writing is more welcoming to read and her compassion in description of the moth more comforting. I am slightly confused, though, by the message she wanted to send with her closing sentence: "O yes, he seemed to say, death is stronger than I am." Is Woolf resigning herself to the thought that men will always be the dominant, head-of-household figure with a dictatorship over the rest of the family? Is she slyly stating the fact that no matter how little power women have compared to men, death will always have the most? I am not sure, it may be something else entirely.
Dillard's choice for her essay title may have been for purposeful comparison reasons. Although both essays deal with a similar situation, they are approached with different viewpoints and goals. Maybe Woolf's piece was inspiration for Dillard's account of a dying moth.

2. My essay....well...nothing is written yet. I find it difficult when assignments are so open ended. I guess I like to know what is expected of me so I can be sure to that I am doing it correctly. I have a topic though (I think).

I did not care for either one of the stories because frankly, I pitied both of the moths. Dillard’s story was too morbid for me to enjoy it. Since the moth died such a gruesome death, I ended up feeling sympathetic towards the moth instead of trying to interpret why Dillard was recalling it’s death. However, I did like how she was able to fully explain how passionate she is about writing. Through the example of the moth dying the audience is able to realize that writing consumes Dillard’s life, it is not just a hobby. I liked Woolf’s story better than Dillard’s because I loved how the moth did not give up the will to live until it had no say in the matter. I think Dillard names her story so similar to Woolf’s because she is relating to Woolf’s struggles. For instance, people didn’t understand Woolf’s plight as a feminist, just like how people don’t understand how Dillard lives to write. Dillard “dies� in order to become a serious writer; she doesn’t put anything else before writing. Woolf also “dies� by never achieving the same power as men had; she just keeps on trying to get through the social barriers.
I have a couple ideas for my essay but none of my ideas are that great.

I found Dillard's essay much more compelling than Woolf's. Although some argue that Dillard's essay is more "inhumane," I think her use of such vivid imagery, however slightly twisted it may be, made her story all the more poignant. Because she was able to write past the overdramatic poetic ideology of the moth's literal death, I think she captured a moment more complexly beautiful than Woolf 's essay. Although I enjoyed both, I suppose I just found Dillard's more contemplative.

1) Both essays were interesting, but for different reasons. Dillard’s imagery and description held my attention while I was reading her piece. While the description of the moth burning alive was very gruesome, it was something that made her essay very memorable. I thought it was amazing that she took something as commonplace and boring as a moth’s death and wrote an essay that her readers will not soon forget. Woolf’s essay was not as memorable to me, but I found her themes easier to relate to. Because I am not as devoted a writer as Dillard, I found her theme more difficult to pick up on and relate to. However, Woolf’s theme of life and death was a bit more universal.
2) I am still in the topic-choosing phase with my essay. However, I think that it would be very interesting to write a “still life� essay that covers one short event, similar to the “Death of a Moth� essays. I have never written an essay in this format, so I figured it would be fun to try something new.

Although I found it poetic at times, such as in probably my favorite line "night pooled wetly at my feet," how Dillard wrote while being knowledgeable about nature was maybe a bit meticulous at times. So Woolf's creative similies tied the piece together and made me think that you don't need to be a naturalist to be effectively observant of the moth. This view of death led to a stronger and direct sense of unity of human experience when Woolf personified the moth, by referring it as "him." Dillard's view of death was less apparent to me; she only wonders about the moth's real life for a sentence, so I'm not for sure on what death referred to in her essay.
I think in writing about trying to explain the life of a writer to her class, somehow Dillard connected it to seeing the death of a moth, then maybe it reminded her of Woolf's essay. But then again I was lost a little bit on how those parts of Dillard's essay came together.
I have one decent main idea for my own essay so far, but not entirely sure its going to work because it's not very far along yet. If and I'm kind of concerned if it'll be long enough. If I throw it out, I do have a couple back-ups in mind.

I found the moth's death in Annie Dillard's piece a lot more moving than Woolf's, and I think this had not to do with either's word choice or writing style (both were vivd and descriptive), but instead the meanings each atrributed to the moths' deaths. Dillard makes her moth a martyr in the quest for knowledge, an Icarus who flew headlong into the sun (or in this case, a candle) and whose sacrifice serves as a means of illumination for other kindred spirits. Pretty powerful stuff.
Meanwhile, Woolf finds a more subtle (granted, equally heavy) message in a moth's death. Rather than discovering death to be a product of some greater purpose or drive for knowledge, Woolf asserts it is nothing more than the quiet, inevitable victory of death over life. Woolf's message of futility is depressing, which is probably what she intended.

I had my conference this morning, and I'm going to try writing about why I explore.