Reading Critique Weekly Write-Up Samples


M.'s Response #7 Paz and Barthes: Sexual Metaphors

As I have been reading The Pleasure of the Text in this class, I have also been reading Octavio Paz's Monkey Grammarian in another class.  They both share similar sexual metaphors which really helped my understanding of both books.  What follows is a comparison.

In the Republic, a second and a third are not the Platonic ideal; the carpenters table and the painters painted table cannot compare to the perfectly formed table of God.  But outside the world of wooden and metal-made structures, we create other things, and though they are Platonically fallen, they are made through a powerful force.  For Plato, we as babies would be steps down from the ideal, but in Paz and Barthes' worlds, we are like Gods who can create our own Adams and Eves, and from those spring forth infinities of other creations.  In these worlds, sexual expression is just as essential for our survival as we know it to be, and along with the necessity for creating life, there is also the need for creative expression.  Without people and some form of language, we would become extinct.  Language and life-cycle are similar in their ends: life and death, and it is in life and death that everything is concerned.  Everything is with in the creation/destruction life cycle.  It is through language and sex that one creates a potential "harvest of monsters and marvels" (Paz 33).

The Pleasure of the Text is prefaced with the idea of a French vocabulary of erotic language.  The preface is the place where the reader first begins to realize the relation of sexual pleasure and pleasure from experiencing a text.  We can become aroused by language (feeling euphoria/orgasm) in a way that makes us want to create our own texts or copulate with a text--to lay on it; have it as our own; bring children from it.  Barthes says, "Does the text have human form, is it a figure, an anagram of the body?  Yes, but of our erotic body" meaning that we have an erotic relationship with the text (17).  Barthes also says that "writing is: the science of the various blisses of language, its Kama Sutra" (6).  Through writing the poet can work in the language of good love making, intercourse, life, living and death.  The example of Sade pushes this point of the euphoric experience in writing or reading even further.  Sade hands himself, experiences an orgasm and cuts the rope all at the same time achieving bliss.  As readers we can conclude that bliss contains all of these elements and the only thing to accurately compare it to is sexual experience.  Also as a reader, one becomes one with the text just as two partners become one in the individual they create together.  The reader's self-awareness becomes lost to the text and it's author.  "The text is fetish object, and this fetish desires me...but in the text, in a way, I desire the author: I need his he needs mine" (Barthes 27)...


M.'s Response #4 Ha Jin's "A Young Girl's Lament"

This poem is an incredible poem for me because it tells a story or gives the reader a scene an image by showing and telling.  The telling however isn't boring telling; it still remains in a poetic telling form.  "Four months later all my toes/ were pressed against the soles except/ my big toes, which were bound too,/ the narrow cloths forcing them upward/ into the shape of a new moon."  Ha Jin gives the reader details by telling, yet the details are still detailed.  They are specific and unique.  I've noticed that Pat (student in the same class) sometimes does this with her writing.  She gives great detail that adds to the story, gives the reader information, yet the detail isn't your every day detail.  Other times, Pat, like the rest of us, tells using ordinary details and as a reader I immediately feel a let down (especially in my own writing).

Ha Jin's use of details tells the entire story while none of the details are really broad.  "In the summer my feet smell of a chicken coop;/ in the winter they are icy cold for lack of circulation. On each foot/ the toes curl in like dead caterpillars."  Reading these sorts of details reminds me also of Marcus Cafagna's poem "Gloomy Sunday."  His image of the white extension cord is branded into my brain forever.  Now, right next to that smoldering mark burns Ha Jin's characters puss-dripping feet, three inches long and with "folded soles."

Perhaps the line that I read twice on the first time just for the pleasure of hearing it again was the line, "My feet felt on fire and I couldn't sleep."  Whether Ha Jin meant it or not, the alliteration is striking for me as her words sound like an actual fire with all the f sounds coming from the words, with a sizzling sound toward the end of the line with the word "sleep".  This way Ha Jin's poem creates a balance between showing and telling.