Archive for September, 2012

Through the Looking Glass – Coursera Essay

Posted September 26, 2012 By Jandy
Our second week of the Coursera class focused on Lewis Carroll’s work. Here is my essay.
Lewis Carroll’s famous stories can be read as delightful children’s tales. Carroll was also canny enough to write them for adult appreciation, with symbolism throughout. In Through the Looking Glass, Alice finds herself talking to flowers in the garden. After her initial shock, Alice has a conversation. Flowers have meanings that add a layer to the story.The Tiger Lily is the first to speak to Alice. The symbolism for tiger lilies is pride and wealth. The flower’s tone is superior – “We can talk,” said the Tiger-lily: “when there’s anybody worth talking to.” The Tiger Lily retains a haughty attitude throughout the conversation with Alice and the other flowers.Symbolism for roses is found in their colors. The Rose mentions that Alice is the right color, so it is probably pink or peach. Pink roses depict gratitude, appreciation, and admiration. Peach roses mean togetherness or closing of a deal. Alice’s Rose tends towards appreciation but is more direct. Yet Rose graces Alice with comments of “that’s not your fault” when it observes Alice isn’t a proper flower.

Daisies symbolize innocence and loyal beauty. Innocence portrays the idea of young children. These Daisies start all talking at once when they join in. They try to outdo each other in their knowledge and shouts just as children will. It takes the authoritative Tiger Lily and Alice’s threats to make them quiet down.

Two other flowers make brief appearances. Violet was hiding. Violets’ symbolism is of faithfulness and modesty. This Violet is rude, yet quickly retreats when Tiger Lily speaks harshly. Larkspur stands for levity or lightness. Larkspur warns Alice that the queen is coming. With the warning, it adds the fun sounds of the Queen: “I hear her footstep, thump, thump…”

The levels of Carroll’s novels appeal to all. Even the gardener can appreciate his work, using the symbols of the flowers to speak.


Works cited:———————————————————–

Grimm’s Fairy Tales – Coursera Essay

Posted September 16, 2012 By Jandy

I hope Aravis meant it. After her request I decided to post the short essays I’ve been writing for the Coursera science fiction and fantasy class. The first week we read a copy of Grimm’s Fairy Tales grouped together in an edition from the late 1800’s called Household Stories, available free through the Open Library.


Ignoring Cultural DifferencesEurope, including Germany, was comprised of many small political regions during the 18th and 19th centuries. There were culture clashes on all sides. It is easy to develop an “us vs them” attitude. The city states and communication limitations fostered that mindset. Some of the Grimms’ stories address the differences by ignoring them in some animal stories.

“Bremen Town Musicians” is a good example of “people” working together. They have something in common – they are old and in danger of being killed. The ass offers to help others who aren’t any threat to him. But the next three, the cat, the cock, and the dog, are enemies. Dogs chase cats, cats eat birds, and cocks strike out at anything that threatens them. When this group has an opportunity to improve their lives, they work together. They trick the robbers by their wits to trick, attack, and repel the men.

“Old Sultan” is another story of unlikely animals working together. When Sultan thinks he was about to die, the dog visits his friend the wolf. Their first trick uses each of their own natures as they work together. The wolf “steals” the baby – expected for a wolf. Sultan rescues the baby. That is part of the nature of a trusted family pet. After the wolf and dog’s misunderstanding about the sheep, the wolf challenges the dog. He brings a boar as his second for a duel. The dog brings a cat – again, different natures working together. The wolf surrenders after the cat chases away the boar. The wolf and dog become friends again despite their nature.

Although these types of stories are not common in the Household Tales, they are not common in real life as well. The stories illustrate that people can overcome their culture and prejudices to come together.


There are many morals throughout the Fairy Tales. This is the theme I chose for my essay.

Studying Science Fiction and Fantasy

Posted September 13, 2012 By Jandy
Grimm’s Fairy Tales
Alice in Wonderland
and Through the Looking Glass
The Invisible Man and The Island of Dr. Moreau
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s and Edgar Allen Poe’s short stories
Princess of Mars and Herland
The Martian Chronicles
The Left Hand of Darkness
Little Brother

That is a short list of Who’s Who in fantasy and science fiction over the past 300 years or so. That is also the syllabus for the Coursera Science Fiction and Fantasy online course I’m taking right now. It is taught by Eric S. Rabkin, a professor of literature at the University of Michigan. All the Coursera classes are free and taught through respected universities.

First, I have to admit I’m out of the study habit. No, I’m not getting a grade or college credit for this course. Even so, I want to pass on the pass/fail scale. It means reading a novel (or the equivalent) each week. I have read most of these books. But a few are new to me. Although I know the basic story, I hadn’t read Bram Stoker’s Dracula. I’ve read The Invisible Man, but not The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells. I’d read all of the Poe short stories assigned, but hadn’t read any of Hawthorne’s short stories before this – only his novels. Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland is the only novel in the group that has never crossed my SF radar at all. I also haven’t read anything by Cory Doctorow, let alone Little Brother.

There is the challenge of a novel a week – plus a short essay, plus judging four (or more) essays by other students. There are also discussion forums and video lectures that are posted after we submit our essays. Silly me, I still want to read other things as well.

I quickly gave up on And the Ladies of the Club by Helen Hoover Santmyer. It’s 1000 plus pages, and is the book by real life book club is discussing next week. I still listen to books in the car and at work, so have kept up my mysteries. I still read a romance novel for a while before bedtime as well. So yes, I’m still getting a lot read.

It is very interesting, though, to re-read these books in a different light. Now I have to evaluate them – or some aspect of them. I’m reading them with a different mind set. I knew when I read Ursula LeGuin’s The Left Hand of Darkness the first time that I missed a lot. This time through, though, I’m seeing other interesting things. For example, it is written from the point of view of two outsiders who are trying to work together by the end of the book. I hadn’t thought about it before, but that is a different perspective and puts the book in a whole new light. Will my essay next week be about that? Who knows, because I’ve discovered other things as well. Re-reading a classic or loved novel is always enlightening. It’s even more so when you concentrate on the subtleties you missed the first time.

I’ve enjoyed the challenge. I’m also looking forward to reading books I don’t have to think about, just enjoy.

If you need a school fix without the challenge of the classroom, check out Coursera. The classes are free and range over more than 100 topics.

Burning Books? Library Video

Posted September 12, 2012 By Jandy

This is good. The Troy, Michigan, library was looking at a defeat of a tax increase that would keep them open. Someone came up with this idea:

Troy Library from Jennie Hochthanner on Vimeo.