Here is what I am working on in terms of a theory of heartbreak: The poems used here are read literally with none of the irony that Millay intended. I just want to use the words she writes to flush out ideas, so this is in no way meant to be a reading of Millay, but rather a thought experiment on heartbreak:

I say, “There is no memory of him here!”
And so stand stricken, so remembering him.”
– Ednay St. Vincent Millay “Time Does Not Bring Relief: You All Have Lied”

The Millay poem quoted captures a feeling of heartbreak and of what happens in heartbreak. After being in love and spending time with a loved one, when that loved one is no longer present, the memory of that person lingers. The heartbroken tries to forget, but in forgetting suddenly becomes aware that the ex-beloved has been forgotten and, in turn, the heartbroken is reminded of the loss, which turns the beloved into an object of contemplation. I believe Martin Heidegger can inform this feeling of heartbreak. The beloved is gone and forgotten, “there is no memory of him”; that is, until the heartbroken remembers that the beloved was forgotten, which leads to the heartbroken standing “stricken, so remembering him.” In the one heartbroken, the memory of the beloved resembles Heidegger’s present-at-hand. Furthermore, the heartbroken’s emotions lose their ontological definition or “ready-to-hand[ness].” Heidegger describes the interconnections of Being and all the things Being interacts with in the world. The tools that Dasein interacts with are what is ready-to-hand. As Dasein moves through the world in average everydayness, the things in the world, the ready-to-hand tools in the world, remain unnoticed. In other words, when things are going smoothly, we become absorbed in everydayness in the world, but when something breaks, we notice the interconnectedness of the world, and we also notice how that previously ignored tool relates to the world—that is, the tool becomes present-at-hand. The longer the tool is broken, the more the tool becomes an object of contemplation; as Charles Guignon describes the situation:

As we adopt a stance in which things are explicitly noticed, we can be led to believe that what have been there “all along” are value free, meaningless objects whose usefulness was merely a product of our own subjective interest and needs. Heidegger’s point, however, is that this conception of reality a consisting of essentially contextless objects can arise only derivatively from a more “primordial” way of being absorbed in a meaningful life-world (13)


Guignon goes on to explain how this is a product of the “disworlding of the world” and is not how the world is actually built. I would argue this explanation Heidegger gives informs heartbreak. When heartbreak occurs, is there not a sense that something is being taken for granted in the relationship? People get comfortable and start to treat loved ones as mere objects in the world, as a tool that is merely ready-to-hand, and then with the dissolution of the relationship and the onset of heartbreak, suddenly, the relationship and the beloved become “a meaningless object” who was only used for our own selfish subjective interest and needs. The relationship and the other become objects of contemplation as if something was broken. However, the heartbroken’s contemplation can lead to a “more primordial way of being absorbed in a meaningful life-world.” In heartbreak, the heartbroken becomes aware of his/her world and the lack of the beloved in it.

In order to understand heartbreak and what happens in heartbreak, it is important to understand identity because heartbreak makes a subject confront his/her identity in a radical way. Heidegger posits identity as Dasein. Dasein is the being that asks about its own being. This being is a being-in-the-world-with-others-towards-death. Within this conception, Heidegger explains that Dasien is always a taking up of possibilities. The structure of being that Heidegger outlines is as an always-already being in the world thrown ahead of itself into its potentiality, but being thrown ahead of itself Dasein still has to deal with the past while always having the potentiality of the end ahead of itself. Heidegger describes it as such:

The ahead-of-itself presented itself as a not-yet. But the ahead-of-itself,
characterized in the sense of something outstanding, revealed itself to our
genuine existential reflection as being toward the end, something that in the
depths of its being every Da-sein is (Heidegger 292, italics in original).

In heartbreak, this ‘ahead-of-itself’ as a ‘not-yet’ is manifested because the not-yet—the possibilities that Dasein can take up in the future—is no longer possible. The other has left and with the other leaving, so to do all the possibilities Dasein had with the other. Heartbreak gives rise to the feeling of life being broken, of identity being changed, and of Dasein looking at its life in contemplation as an object present-at-hand.

— I have more ideas about this– so I am going to leave this here and come back to it. This might be what I explore in my dissertation.


I first read Virginia Woolf’s “A Room of One’s Own” as an undergrad during a Woolf class in which we read To the Lighthouse. It was my first ever introduction to feminism, and the idea that Woolf is analyzing here, fascinated me back then and still does today.While this idea is confined here to a feminist perspective, I think the implications are the same ones that apply to the second half of readings as well as to a certain Marxist perspective of material culture.

It is the culture, after all, that denies Shakespeare’s sister a chance to express her artistic talents, simply for being a woman. It is scary to think how accurate Woolf is in claiming that,

“When […] one reads of a witch being ducked, of a woman possessed by devils, of a wise woman selling herbs, or even of a very remarkable man who had a mother, then I think we are on the track of a lost novelist, a suppressed poet, of some mute and inglorious Jane Austen” (898).

The world has surely lost a number of talented artist for their gender or race or color or location or socio-economic situation. Hurston and Gilman are two examples of writers that were almost lost to society because they were not WASPY males.

Woolf’s second piece anticipates some of the arguments that De Beauvoir’s will make. Woolf asserts that women in literature have only been shown in relation to men and rarely does one see two women as good friends. Woolf goes on to say that relationships between woman in literature have been “too simple.” This is a point that De Beauvior takes up with her analysis of woman: “To pose Woman is to pose the absolute Other.” De Beauvior does an excellent job of pointing out the contradictions in how woman have been portrayed throughout, not just literature, but history. This analysis points out Sartre’s limitations. Sartre says that one can only know himself through the other, but then says that woman are mysterious.

DeBeauviour looks at this myth of woman as mysterious, as virgin, as demon, as idealized, and as always absolute other of man. Her claim, which I believe is more astute than Sartre’s, is that woman is no more mysterious than man is mysterious to woman, and that to make these outrageous claims is just lazy and to promote the patriarchy. Making claims such as this goes against the first tenet of existentialism, in which “existence precedes essence.” That is that woman (nor men) have any essence outside of their actions. These idealized and categorical claims men make on women puts women in an absolute, deny women the ability to make themselves and totalizing them. The point should be, rather, that the relations between men and women are reciprocal, a give and take of subjectivity. In the views of men, the Hegelian dialectic of relations between men and women, women are always the slaves to men.

It is this mystification that Woolf is looking at in literature in “Chloe likes Olivia.” Additionally, I feel that in “Androgyny,” Woolf is calling for this reciprocity that De Beoavior wants. For the dialectic not to be dominated by the male perspective, but rather, that there has to be a true dialectic. One in which a synthesis of “male” and “female” is balanced.

I think I will stop here before I go on too long. My problem is that I am reading a Zizek essay in which he looks at the idea of sexualization. He looks at the idea of “femininity” vs. “masculinity” to show how this are constructed categories– which leads back to the idea I started off with: how much of all we are, of all our identity, and of everything we think of as “us” is really just a social construct that we have been duped into believing?

I’ve read a good deal of Heidegger’s Being and Time, and along with that, I have read a number of intro books on Heidegger, and everytime I read him, it is like reading him for the first time.

Language appears to be an attempt at more poetic language (prose) than Heidgger’s earlier work, as it should be, since poetic language is what the essay is exploring. Like Being and Time, Heidegger is still analyzing preconceived notions of Being, but he is looking at Being in a different way here (moving away from Dasien)—through language; as the introduction informs: “language is the house of Being” (982). If Being is housed in language, then we must understand language.

The problem comes with trying to understand language within language. Humans can only know the world through language; so then how can we know language through language? Once we start to put things into language, we totalize the thing, categorize it, and as Heidegger points out,

“We do not wish to assault language in order to force it into the grip of ideas already fixed beforehand. We do not wish to reduce the concept of language to a concept, so that this concept may provide a generally useful view of language that will lay to rest all further notions about it” (986)


For Heidegger, language is not a fixed concept; rather, “Language speaks.” This speaking grants Being a home because speech is the activity of man; it is expression, and I see language here much like Dasein in that language and Dasein are both concerned with the movement, the gerund speaking (much like the being)—it is something that is always-already moving. Language is more than speaking. Heidegger will go on to show the problem with the old way of thinking about language (language speaks), but he does see a buried approach to this way of thinking about language.

All this explanation by Heidegger is his way into a discussion of language. He contends that while these observations and popular ideas about language might be correct, “…they never bring us to language as language” (988). For Heidegger, the real speaking of language is in poetic language.

In poetic language (and this is an idea Derrida furthers in Rams, his essays on Paul Celan), language speaks by calling object into existence through language that speaks, but this is a non-totalizing call that brings the absent object present while still remaining absent. It is non-totalizing because, “This naming does not hand out titles, it does not apply terms, but it calls in the word. The naming calls, Calling brings closer what it calls, However, this bringing closer does not fetch what is called only in order to set it down in closest proximity to what is present, to find a place for it there” (991). This language, rather, is open.

And then things get a little weird. I’m not sure what the fourfold: earth, sky, divinities, mortals, is, but I read somewhere that language has something to do with them. What I did grasp is:

If language is speaking and showing the world and things, it requires that we listen. It is not possible to hear something that has not been said; listening here is an active listening: “Mortals speak insofar as they listen” (997). Furthermore, we have to hear something so that we can say it. And we have to say something in order for it to be present: “…[speech] bids thing and world to come” and when that is done “purely” there is poetic language. If there is no word for hammer, then there are no preconceived notions of what “hammer” means, but once it is put into words, it bids things to come. There is something about gathering and dif-ference here, that if I understood better and had a larger word count I would go explore further…

I think some of these concepts can be seen in Beloved, where there is a binary set up between poetic/non-representational language—Heidegger’s “pure” language”—and representational/ totalizing language, which wants to categorize and name things. In all honesty, I haven’t finished reading the book yet (though I have read it in the past), and to be honest again, I know this binary is there because that is the way we looked at it in another class I had once, I just have a bad memory, so I am not going to attempt to get into more detail about it.

“…The more there are who would say ‘ours,’/ so much the greater is the good possessed/ be each–so much more love burns in that cloister”(Dante, Purgatorio. XV. line: 55-57).

As I was reading Nussbaum’s article “Cultivating Imagination: Literature and the Arts” I could not help but think of Jeremy Rifkin’s RSA video ( on “Cultivating Empathy” as both of these scholars look at the ability to empathize in society as a measure of a good society.

Rifkin relates a study in which scientist found that all human’s brains are soft-wired with “mirror neurons”– that is to say that if I see someone angry, sad, or going through whatever emotions, the neurons in the brain that control the emotion will fire in my brain as I watch the emotion in someone else. My neuron will mirror the neurons merely from observation.

Nussbaum’s claim then that “Children…are born with rudimentary capacity for sympathy and concern” (96), there is science to back her up, and more so than just Winnicott’s observations.

As an aside, Rifkin believes that empathy must be nourished; that we must build an “empathic civilization” which is not to say utopia, but a society in which we can build solidarity with not just one another but with all animals on this earth. Rifkin looks at how empathy has grown with technology. When humans were hunter gathers, empathy extended only to within tribes and the tribe on the other side of the mountain was an “alien other,” but with globalization, our tribe now encompasses the entire globe. And it seems that the way to create the empathic civilization that Rifkin is discussing would be through the arts, the way Nussbaum is suggesting.

I believe the correlation here between Rifkin and what Nussbaum points out when looking at Ellison’s ideas for his novel are informative for how to build a empathetic community: Rifkin says that humans are soft wired to feel what the other is feeling, and Ellison points out that his novel help us see the relationship with people we encounter everyday (Nussbaum 107). As Tagore is suggesting, as Rifkin is hoping for, as Nussbaum is analyzing– humans are wired to be sympathetic and a way to tap into that sympathy is through the arts and imagination. I am in complete agreement with Nussbaum when she mentions the arts as a way to teach children about “cultural blindspots” (108). As Nussbaum goes on to give examples of arts affecting young people (Chicago Chior, implementing art to psychotherapy, etc), it seems amazing that more schools are not doing this.

This seems like some dated material: “So it is no surprise that colleges and universities, instead of asking faculty members to correlate what we teach and how we teach it, assume instead that each of us will figure such things out on our own.” The school I went to before has what is called a “FIG” program, and while the acronym escapes me now, the point was to get students with a common major and group them together. The idea was that if these students took the same classes together, they would be more apt to learn collectively; it also meant that professors would engage one another and try to come up with topics that would intersect showing students how all these skills, from writing to science to history and math, all related in “the real world.”

This way if the fig class was learning about the 1950’s then in my composition class I would have all the students pick ads from the 50’s to analyze, for example.

While I agree with much of what Graff is saying and while I tentatively agree with assessment, there are some problems I am having with this article; For instance, Graff says:

“In college the contradictory messages intensify with a vengeance, as students go from one teacher who insists that good reading means inferring the author’s intention to another who dismisses authorial intentions as unknowable and irrelevant; or from one teacher who believes that textual interpretations can be objectively correct or incorrect to another who smiles or rolls his or her eyes at the naïveté of such objectivism; or from one teacher who expects undergraduates to employ a rigorous analytical methodology and terminology more or less like the teacher’s own to another who thinks it sufficient if students learn to appreciate a good read in whatever relaxed way is comfortable to them.”

At what point is the student responsible for figuring this out? If this is how universities have taught, and it is this method that has led to the thinkers we have now, then is it wrong to say something IS working here?

” Students thus learn to be relativists at ten o’clock and universalists after lunch. A University of Chicago student summed it up succinctly, if crudely, when asked how he coped with the challenges of the humanities and sciences: “In humanities I B.S. In science I regurgitate.” Professors often complain about the cynicism of this student shape shifting, but such cynicism is an understandable reaction to our curricular mixed messages.” Isn’t this the point? Is a college education not the time to be immersed in a multitude of differing opinions and thoughts? Isn’t critical thinking the ability to figure this out? Studying philosophy as an undergrad, I always understood that what was thought before changes, but if I am taking a class on Eastern philosophy, then I have to understand that Buddhist believe in reincarnation, no matter if the Existentials I learned about the semester before believe in an after life or not. College is the time to realize that there are many answers to questions and many different ways to approach a problem, and college is the time to figure out which way suites you best.

Rather than “desperate rationalization” as Gaff puts it, look at what that fragmented curriculum got him: He was the president of the MLA. I feel that the following paragraphs about the high achievers seeing through the disparate courses and opinions and succeeding undermine Graff’s arguments about connecting courses. For all the reasons that Graff, himself, mentions. This is what “critical thinking” is– this is what I try to teach students about genres; this is what I teach students about reading literature (that there are all these different ways to do it and that there are all these meanings an that none are more right than the other) because this is the kind of bureaucrat b.s they are going to have to decipher when they get out into the real world. The students who don’t get this will be the mediocre employees of tomorrow, but why do we think that all our students have to leave the university as rocket scientist, doctors, lawyers, or English professors? They just need to be able to function in society and hopefully recognize bad political rhetoric and not vote for candidates with empty messages.

I am NOT saying that I disagree with what Gaff is saying and with how he wants to change universities. I completely agree with professors sharing what they are doing and coming up with ways to integrate different subjects and show the connections between disciplines; I just disagree with his reasoning as to why it should be done. I am also continually bothered with the humanities having to justify itself in this way. Why is it that the humanities has to tell society that it is useful because ‘look-at-all-these-ways-the-humanaties-connects-to-other-subject’? I have never used what I learned in pre-calculus or high school chemistry or middle school dodge ball in “the real world”- but I understand these subjects were important for getting me to think in different ways. Yet (outside of dodgeball) no one questions the validity of a business major learning the periodic table. I also worry that assesment might pressure the teacher too much and not put enough of the power in students’ hands. How can we teach students to take responsibility for their education and then turn around and blame ourselves for not connecting subjects for them?

Uhhh… Let’s see; premise: “to set forth beforehand, as by way of introduction or explanation.” Also “in logic, “a previous proposition from which another follows,” Again, I wonder as I read Frank Farmer’s essay on imitation… Why do many of these writing pedagogy people write so… shall we say: uniquely?

A premise is a starting point. If these were my student, I would write in the margins, “Just make the assertion” or something like that. I hate this kind of redundant writing (probably because I see it in my poor writing, but I’m not a “lit” guy, right? I read the stuff; I don’t necessarily write it). Now that I am completely off topic, let me get to the article.

I do like Farmer’s idea of imitation. I am amazed that the hippie expressivist were against imitation. Wouldn’t “finding your voice” and your “true self” be helped with reading people who have found themselves, and with reading text that “speak” to you? Maybe I am too Bloom-anxiety-of-influence-y on this, but doesn’t every great writer find his/herself through imitation? Through grappling with a literary fathers?

Grappling with literary fathers is not to say that the fight is done once King Laius is defeated. Rather, like Farmer says, we should teach students to seek out new fathers to kill because, “…if they have no opportunity to develop new perspectives by entering into, trying on, the perspective of another, then, indeed, we have taught them little more than to be content with the immediate position they assume…” (421); my question to this is: how do we get them to NOT be content with their immediate position–their starting point, their premise, if you like?

I understand that with imitation, students need to realize that the point is for them to “come to terms” with the language of another so that the student can make the language his/her own, but in all of Farmer’s praise of Bahktin, where does Farmer talk about actual pedagogy that can be used in a classroom? And while I agree with Farmer that parody is “…useful because it offers an excellent way to braoch some of the complexities of three enduring staples of rhetorical education: context, audience, and purpose”(425), I have to disagree on purely theoretical terms.

Yes, I believe that imitation is useful, which is why I always have my students read an expert or ‘A’ paper; the idea is that this example is one to be imitated and used to begin to craft a voice of their own– where I disagree is on Bahktin’s essentializing. All this talk of double-voiced discourse as if we could ever be objective. The idea Farmer brings up at the beginning of the essay of appropriating “someone’s else’s words” (416), as if there was ‘somone’ out their who owns the words that students will appropriate. All that said, I repeat that I fully agree with Farmer and the usefulness of imitation. To illustrate how echoing someone else can transform the person echoing, here is Derrida discussing how echo, by repeating the last words she hears, turns the words repeated into her own, which I believe is what students can do in imitation:

“she speaks in her own name by just repeating his words” -Derrida

Reading Lu this week, I can’t help to wonder how someone writing about style could write in such an annoying style. What is it with all the “quotation marks?” And for a writing instructor, shouldn’t Lu know better than to start sentences with “and”, “so”, and to be specific when referring to the “Chinese” language? It is not that I am so old school that I say you can’t start sentences with “And”, “but”, or “so” (although, I would probably argue against the “so”), the problem comes in starting so many sentences in this way, especially when talking about style– is this Lu’s way of challenging the hegemonic discourse?

The other problem I have in Lu’s “style” is that I find it condescending to tell student’s that their mistakes (and I am sorry, but those are errors (oh no! call the P.C. police) are due to the student’s culture. Lu even points out, “The need to write for professors who grade with red pens circling all “errors” [again with the quotation marks] is also real for a majority of our students…” and later Lu says about her pedagogy, “It acknowledges the writer’s right and ability to experiment with innovative ways of deploying the codes taught in the classroom” (316), but doesn’t the latter sentence contradict the former? Students will not have the ability to experiment in their psychology classes or science classes or history classes– they will need to write coherent, grammatically “correct” sentences. So rather point out a mistake and say it is a multicultural “style” choice that can be improved, why not be honest and just say it is a mistake?

This is the problem with the P.C. postmodern world. Slavoj Zizek points this out with a lucid example that I will personally relate. When I lived in California, I would visit Miami every summer, and every summer, I had to go visit my 90 year old great aunt. This visit was awful. My parents told me, though, that I HAD to go. There was no negotiation about it; my parents told me “I don’t care if you like it or not, you are going to go see Tia Maria.” That was the end of it.

In today’s postmodernism, the progressive parents tell their children: “You know your Tia Maria loves you very much, and she does not get many visitors anymore. You also know that it would mean a lot to her if you went to go see her. It will only take a little piece of your day, and it would mean the world to her, but I will leave it up to you to decide if you want to give her this nice, little satisfaction.” The second choice is dishonest, and it seems to me this is the order that Lu is promoting.

Zizek’s video is here:

This takes me back to something else Lu mentions: “Why is it that in spite of our developing ability to acknowledge the political need and right of “real” writers to experiment with “style,” we must continue to cling to the belief that such a need and right does not belong to “student writers”? [First, don’t all the quotation marks undermine Lu’s point? Are we not really talking about real writers but rather “real” writers? Are they not experimenting with “style” or just apparent style? Are we not teaching “student writers” or… I dunno…]. I would answer Lu with what she says next: first the rules must be learned and mastered, and then you are allowed to bend, break, and experiment with them (or for style’s sake, maybe I should just say “experiment”, no?). I say this because when the student goes out to the world, he or she will NOT be allowed to experiment with their writing, and when the student writes a resume, fills out a job application, and writes a cover letter, experimentation will not be appreciated, so they better actually learn all the rules of grammar and academic style, and show me they know these rules, before they start to experiment with them.

In all this writing about writing, why does no one put any emphasis on reading?

I am an ESL student ( or at least I was throughout grammar school), and I learned English through Sesame Street and Curious George and Dr Suess books. I learned English, how to speak it, write it, use it, through reading it. Just like when I was an undergrad, I learned the “academic” discourse when I started reading academic essays and books. Does anyone talk about that in rhetoric and composition?