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Watson’s Fun Home

Posted by: michellegtokh | November 10, 2010 | No Comment |

I believe that Watson’s main argument in “Autographic Disclosures and Genealogies of Desire in Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home,” was that Bechdel’s Fun Home was a book that is a “multimodal form different from both written life narrative and visual and photographic self-portraiture.” Bechdel’s book provides a visual word to parallel the written one through the use of graphic comics. Watson refers to this when she writes, “As a result, Fun Home, invites – and requires readers to read differently, to attend to disjunctions between the cartoon panel and the verbal text, to disrupt the seeming forward motion of the cartoon sequence and adopt a reflexive and recursive reading practice.”


 Just like the book Dictee, which presented words and diction intertwixt with vast stretches of blank space in between them, I believe that Bechdel’s work also creates the same dynamic regarding inter-textual narrative and visual work. Readers reading Fun Home also must adopt a more “reflexive” attitude towards the break in the narrative with comics in the same way that Dictee played around with narrative form by presenting pictures as well as vast stretches of blank paper.  

I agree with Watson, since I also believe that this form of “autographics” and inter-texual hybrid allows readers to better explore the “complex formations of gender and sexuality”, and other themes that Bechdel talks about in her autobiography, like suicide and a difficult family life. By integrating this hybrid, it forces the reader to take a closer look at the strategies those graphic memoirs uses, which are only possible through the use of visuals.

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Prospectus and Annotated Bibliography

Posted by: michellegtokh | October 29, 2010 | No Comment |


Tim O’Brien: The Things They Carried

Tim O’Brien: If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Ship Me Home


TOPIC:  Analyzing both of Tom O’Brien’s texts; his short story “The Things They Carried” and his autobiographical memoir of his experiences in the Vietnam War, “If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Ship Me Home”, through both a psychoanalytic and deconstructive approach, and finding parallels in both texts regarding the blur between reality and fiction, which he calls “Verisimilitude,” as well as the themes of the dissolution of individual identity and the traumas of war. In my essay, I will argue whether or not the fictional results of “story truth” in his short story realistically captures the war experience better as a whole than the “happening truth” in his autobiography does.



When I found out that Tim O’Brien had written an autobiography on his experience in the Vietnam War, I knew that it would be an interesting book to read and compare to his short story, “The Things They Carried.” O’Brien is known for his use of the term “Verisimilitude”, which is defined by Britannica as “the semblance of reality in dramatic or non-dramatic fiction.” I feel that O’Brien explores that world of “story-truth” and “happening-truth” in “The Things They Carried” and I would like to compare passages in both books and specifically discuss in my essay the parallels of real account experiences to his fictional creations. Tim O’Brien is quoted as saying that, “story-truth is sometimes truer than happening-truth.” I find this to be a very interesting quote which tells me that Tim O’Brien extracted experiences from his autobiography to incorporate into “The Things They Carried” and amplified certain ideas, feelings or thoughts through plot, character development or through the use of diction that he feels that “happening truth” did not capture sufficiently.  I feel that by reading his autobiography, I will have a deeper understanding of his short story, “The Things They Carried” and find many interesting parallels of “story truth” and “happening-truth” and how these two worlds of non-fiction and fiction collide.

One of the ways that I will do this using his story “The Things They Carried” is by analyzing the diction and structure of his short story. The structure and diction was one of the first things that I noticed about “The Thing They Carried.” Two of the paragraphs in this story begin with “They things they carried ….” In addition, the phrase “They carried” is repeated in one paragraph many times, “They carried USO stationery and pencils and pens. They carried Sterno, safety pins, trip flares, signal flares, spools of wire, razor blades, chewing tobacco, liberated joss sticks and statuettes of the sniffing Buddha, candles, grease pencils, The Stars and Stripes, fingernail clippers, Psy Ops leaflets, bush hats, bolos, and much more…” I feel that O’Brien is using this to not only portray the linear and monotonous life of a soldier, but also to portray his ideas on a soldier’s self-identity during times of war. Through the repetition of “They,” O’Brien is stressing that war is not something that an individual goes through, but something that a group of men go through as a team. The idea of team-work is stressed several times in the story, as well as the idea that only through working as a team, do they have any chance at surviving the war. Also, I noticed that the repetition of the word “They” becomes more and more prevalent near the end of the text, just as the horrors of war are getting worse and worse, and the men are suffering more and more physically and psychologically. By using “They” more near the end of the text, O’Brien is showing that team-work and unity between the men is more important just as the traumas of the war are getting worse. This is one way that O’Brien deconstructs the text, since he cuts the paragraphs in his short story to display different themes. This breaking down of the text, as well as the diction and repetition, allows readers to better understand the minds and inner psyche of the men. I will find the parallel text in autobiography that stresses team-work and see if they are any consistencies between the two texts, and which ideas he created and amplified, and I will speculate what his intended effect on the reader was on why he made those particular textual changes.


#1- O’Brien, Tim.  “The Things They Carried”.  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt;  20 Anv edition, March 2010.

This will be the primary text for my essay. This is a relatively short text and I will use this text to show how through the use of different literary technique like repetition, character development, psychoanalytical analysis and plot, O’Brien is able to portray the horrors and traumas of war. I will also be using this text to show how O’Brien blurs “Story truth” with “happening truth.” I will show how he took scenes from his autobiographical book and amplified certain ideas, themes or feelings in “The Things They Carried.”

#2- O’Brien, Tim. “I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Ship Me Home.”  Marion Boyars Publishers Ltd; First Edition September 27, 1973.

I will use O’Brien’s autobiography to better understand what he meant by “verisimilitude.” I will find passages that I will specifically cite in my essay and parallel them with parallel scenes in “The Things They Carried” in order to show how O’Brien blurred two worlds of “story truth” and “happening truth” and if the end fictional result better captures the realities of war.

#3- Wesley, Marilyn.” Truth and Fiction in Tim O’Brien’s “If I Die in a Combat Zone” and “The Things They Carried“, College Literature, Vol. 29, No. 2 Spring, 2002, (pages 1-18).

This is an extremely useful article which talks about exactly both of the texts that I will be writing about in my essay. Wesley starts off her articles with the sentence, “The requirement of truth as a faithful portrayal of unique experience is the standard most consistently applied to the literature of the Vietnam War.” In her article Wesley discusses how the dramatic structure of the story, through violation and resolution, emphasizes the emotional burdens of the men through the physical manifestation of the objects they carried during the war. Wesley also analyzes the scene when Cross feels personally responsible for Lavender’s death and cites this as a scene when “experiential disorder, the way the events of war feel to the soldiers in the field, and fictive order, the way popular representations suggest they should respond?” helps to reveal the “truth about Vietnam and the issue of the “impossible responsibility of power through a violent landscape” (6).  An analysis of Wesley’s text will be crucial in my essay since her essay shows how the truth in the text is a merging of the fictional and real word, and how “fiction and “nonfiction” dissolves in the world of story-telling.

#4- Anderson, Linda R. “Autobiography”. London: Routledge, 2001. Print

I would like to use Anderson’s text to further explore the “fragmented” self that is presented on page 75. “The fragmented self- image – the body in bits and pieces, to use Lacanian terminology – can only, paradoxically, in the end be known and represented from the perspective of an imaginary wholeness. Fragmentation, cast in the form of a rhetoric of fragmentation …. “ I believe that I could delve into this more and look into how this idea of fragmentation could somehow be tied into the loss of identity and the deconstruction of identity through the text in “The Things they Carried.”

#5- Tresch, John. “Potent Magic of Verisimilitude’: Edgar Allan Poe within the Mechanical Age, The British Journal for the History of Science, Vol. 30, No. 3 Sep.1997, Cambridge University Press (pages 275-290).

 I feel that a background on the term “verisimilitude” is also necessary for my paper, since I will be discussing it in my essay. According to Britannica, “verisimilitude” is defined as “the semblance of reality in dramatic or non-dramatic fiction.” In his essay, Tresch discusses whether or not the idea of the “relation between the printed word and the reader or between different domains of discourse is a historically persistent one” (275). Even though my paper will not be about Edgar Allan Poe, and that’s what Tresch discusses in his essay, I still feel that his essay provides some general ideas about the term “verisimilitude” that I should explore and see how it fits into my essay about Tim O’Brien. Tresch discusses the validity of our ability to take the author’s text “as the fully determined product of the author’s biography or of his political and economic circumstances (275)”. I believe that at best, Tresch will provide some interesting views of how the idea of “verisimilitude is viewed in literature by other writers and give me some interesting facts to consider as I am writing my own paper.

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Posted by: michellegtokh | October 27, 2010 | 2 Comments |

The apologia is “a written defense or justification of the opinions or conduct of a writer, speaker, etc.,” according to the Oxford English Dictionary. In writing, it often takes the form of the writer justifying their stance on a particular subject. The definition of the word “apologia”  is largely due to J. H. Newman’s work,  Apologia pro Vita Sua.

The apologia is mostly an archaic form of writing and it is no longer really used in modern writing. The significance of the form apologia is that it is one of the forms of the autobiography, since it provides a first-hand confession or self-justification of particular author’s thoughts.

The apologia was used by classical writers and Ovid was one famous figure who incorporated it into his writing. Ovid’s Apologia is contained in his book Tristia. Ovid’s Tristia contains 578 verses, was contained in 5 books and written in the elegaic couplet. The book overall discusses gloomy ideas and themes and converses about Ovid’s exile and his grieving wife and family. The interesting thing about how Ovid structured this is that it is divided into 2 parts. The first parts, about lines 1-206, are structured as a plea, and the rest of the book, lines 207-578, are an “elaborate defense.” The last book, Book5,  is entitled “Ovid’s Apology for the Work.”  

An excerpt of the first lines of Ovid’s Tristia Book 1 and the last lines of Book 5 are below:

‘’Book TI.I:1-68 The Poet to His Book: Its Nature 

Little book, go without me – I don’t begrudge it – to the city.

Ah, alas, that your master’s not allowed to go!

Go, but without ornament, as is fitting for an exile’s:

sad one, wear the clothing of these times.”


Book TI.XI:1-44 Ovid’s Apology for the Work

Every letter you’ve read in this entire volume,

was composed in the troubled days of my journey.

Either the Adriatic saw me scribbling these words

in the midst of the waves, shivering in icy December”

Other writers who incorporated the form apologia into their work was Augustine. In his autobiographical book Confessions, which was published at around 397 and 398 A.D. was divided into 13 books, Augustine’s discusses his journey as he becomes more and more religious. In his book, he provides an account of his former religious beliefs and a justification of his new religious beliefs and why he believes in them.

Another very important author who is primarily responsible for the term “apologia” as a whole was John Hemry Newman. In his autobiography, Apologia Pro Vita Sua, which was first published in 1864, he wanted his apology to “give the ‘true key’ to his life in order to “show what I am, that it may be seen what I am not” (Newman 11-12). Just like Augustine, he wanted to give a personal account of his own experiences.

Other forms of apologia include the poetic form. This poetic form of the apologia is a more modern form of the apologia, rather than the prose counterpart. One poem I found that was composed as an apologia in poetic form was Gaylord Brewer’s “Apologia to Anne Sexton. “ The apologia in poetic form condenses the apology into a few lines and presents the poet stance on a particular subject.


Apologia to Anne Sexton — By: Gaylord Brewer

So I tried to be delightful to Anne Sexton, and a lover of life (which I’m not), and I drew her this diagram of the story of Cinderella . .. ?Kurt Vonnegut

Not an unusual morning tableau for our cabin

 in the woods: I am perched on a closed commode

with a mug of organic shade-grown coffee,

 a good steaming cup, looking down on my wife

 in the bath with hers. She is filling me in

 on her night at the theatre, grading dinner

 at my favorite restaurant. And here is the thing:

 she has placed your book on the tub’s

 edge, so to speak to me without distraction.

When I glance at you, intentionally grainy

as if sizing me through a screen, your face

 is a watery mess: gash on the cheek, long tear

 in one eye, drip precisely from mouth’s edge,

tourniquet at the forehead. I am trying to follow

the politics of the play but am disturbed

 by your pretty, upside-down, clear-eyed sadness.

Wounds of water, not blood, but I have to

 do something so swipe at them, smear the cover

of this volume of dwarfs, wolves, ovens,

worsen your suffering. Then, dunce though I am,

I do what I should have done: lift the book,

 turn it, and dry your face on the wool of my leg.

Another form of the poetic apologia is Floyd Dell’s poem entitled “Apologia”


APOLOGIA By: Floyd Dell

I think I have no soul,

Having instead two hands, sensitive and curious,

And ten subtle and inquisitive fingers

 Which reach out continually into the world,

Touching and handling all things.

The fascination of objects!

The marvellous shapes!

Contours of faces and of dispositions,

Hearts that are tender or rough to the touch,

 The smooth soft fabrics in which lives go clothed

 Hope and pity and passion:

All these as I touch them delight and enchant me,

And I think I could go on touching them forever.

 But the impulse comes into the nerves of my fingers,

 Into the muscles of my hands,

To give back this beauty in some shape

Confessional of joy.

And so I make these toys.


The Classical Journal”: The Classical Association of the Middle West and South. Vol. 32, No. 2 (Nov., 1936), pp. 92-10 <http://www.jstor.org/stable/3290830>

“Oxford English Dictionary”  <http://dictionary.oed.com/cgi/entry/50010381?single=1&query_type=word&queryword=apologia&first=1&max_to_show=10 >

“Ovid: Tristia”. Translated by A. S. Kline, 2003. <http://www.poetryintranslation.com/PITBR/Latin/OvidTristiaBkOne.htm>

ELH, The Rhetoric of Newman’s Apologia. Vol. 29, No. 2 (Jun., 1962), pp. 224-238, The Johns Hopkins University Press <http://www.jstor.org/stable/2871856>

Peterson, Linda. “Newman’s Apologia pro vita sua and the Traditions of the English Spiritual Autobiography” PMLA, Vol. 100, No. 3 Modern Language Association, (pp. 300-314), May 1985. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/462084>

Dell , Floyd. “Apologia” Poetry, Poetry Foundation,  Vol. 6, No. 2 (page 67), May, 1915.http://www.jstor.org/stable/20570378

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My Life Post

Posted by: michellegtokh | October 13, 2010 | No Comment |

Like some other people in class, I also choose the passage on page 75-76, “Fragmentation, cast in the form of a rhetoric of fragmentation, comes only after the mirror stage and the constitution of the subject through the illusory recognition of unity, even though it attempts to represent what came before. What appears, therefore, to disperse the unified subject is simply a further projection of it; the violent shattering of a unified identity leads back ‘docilely’ to the primary identification of the subject in the imaginary. It is still the case, of course, that the mirror stage produces only an illusion of identity, and imaginary wholeness, but both past and future representations of the self are necessarily rooted in it. There is no way back through the mirror; nothing or no one exists on the other side” ( Anderson pages 75-76).

I found this passage very interesting and felt that Anderson was making a remark on the process of self-discovery and the difficulties that occur when that process is hindered. I believe that the passage is saying that through the “fragmentation”, one is finally able to create a unifying whole holistically. Anderson refers to this as “an imaginary wholeness.” In addition, what I also found interesting was that Anderson also stresses the difficulty of unification of these fragments, when he says, “the mirror stage produces only an illusion of identity.”

I feel that this ties into the idea of autobiography, since these fragments displays different aspects or experiences of ones life that remain isolated from the others, yet continue to add to the whole of the whole life and autobiography. The process of self- revelation occurs when the person understands and accepts that, “There is no way back through the mirror; nothing or no one exists on the other side”, or the moment when they are able to see the unifying whole despite the fragments.

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Potential Topic

Posted by: michellegtokh | October 6, 2010 | 1 Comment |

I would like to write about Lucky and compare it to Shakespeare’s Rape of Lucrece and Titus Andronicus. I feel that Lucky provides a very subjective look at rape, one that shows that mental thought process of the one who is dealing with it and how it affects the ones around her. I would like to compare this to a more objective view of rape as a political and social act, and one where the one getting raped has almost no power in the process since the subjective thought process of communication to the read is absent. Literally, the woman getting raped in Titus Andronicus loses her power of speech, which does not allow her to express what the rape did to her psychologically. However, this is a very tentative topic and if this falls through I would like to write about The Things they Carried.

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Ephron’s Essay

Posted by: michellegtokh | October 6, 2010 | No Comment |

I believe that Ephron’s essay was a very funny piece that displayed Ephron’s training as a writer, as well as her ability to use some intimate knowledge that she later incorporates into her screenplays. I first IMDB.com Nora Ephron and found out that she had, by 2006, 3 huge motion pictures to her name. She wrote Harry Met Sall in 1989, Sleepless in Seattle in 1993 and You’ve Got mail in 1998. I feel that since she had so much training as a screenwriter in primarily romantic comedies, that she understands that comedy works best if its short and sweet. Many of Ephron’s passages are very short, and do not really go into the subjective feelings that Ephron is experiencing or feeling, but rather in statements. For example, on page 102 , when she comments that she has small breasts and that this is what makes her a writer. I find it interesting that unlike other autobiographies, which are drenched in personal subjective details, Ephron keeps her essay short and under 3500 words.

I also like how Ephron intertwines her personal experience with that of her screenplays. When Ephron just moved here and knew no one, she writes that if she died no one would notice and her rotting body would lay alone in her apartment. She then later incorporates this into the Harry met Sally screenplay, where Harry is that one speaking the lines. She also integrates into her autobiography what her mother said when she said, “Everything is copy.” In this way, Ephron blends that lines between life, fiction and her autobiography and allows herself to dabble freely in all in order to make her fiction more real and relatable. I believe that this is the reason why her screenplays are some of the most beloved movies in cinema history, since the characters in the movies experiences come from very human sources.

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