Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Short Story #112: The Trials of Arden by Charles Brockden Brown

Title:  The Trials of Arden

Author:  Charles Brockden Brown

Summary

Charles Brockden Brown - Trials of Arden
A man begins by talking about a recent trial that has grabbed his attention and how it lead to a conversation with a very old friend.  He explains the case to his friend and this triggers the memory of a similar case that the old man begins to tell.  A young man named Arden arrived in the town and despite lacking references was able to get a job as a tutor to the children of Mr. Finch.  The oldest of children was Harriet and she and Arden eventually fell in love.  Some time later, Harriet was found to be dead in a grotto by the river.  Circumstantial evidence leads everyone to believe that it was Arden.  It is presumed that Arden did this because it seemed likely that she was to be married to another local wealthy family.  Eventually, Arden ends up at trial and meets with a hung jury, with one many holding out despite any argument.  Arden is released and flees the area.  However, Loveden, the juror who withheld is all but excommunicated from the town.  Some time later, a man named Mayo is apprehended and he admits to the murdering of Harriet.  It's in the aftermath of this discovery that people seek out to find Arden and do right by him.  It's also at this point that we find out the connection among Loveden, Arden, and another woman that contributed to the curious misunderstandings about Arden.  Eventually, Arden is granted an inheritence of Harriet's family and does live happily ever after.  The old man explains that he has the full manuscript of the events but refuses to fetch them for the narrator and that's where the story ends.

Reflection

One could argue this is an early version of the mystery story.  There's a great amount of mystery involved and the tale is well layered.  The story slowly rolls out and the reader gets bits and pieces that make the picture of what's going on bigger and bigger.  Though we are never told, it appears clear that the Arden's tale has an impact on how he originally conceived of the controversy going on in town at the story's beginning.  

Short Story #112 out of 365
Rating: 3 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  1/7/2014
Source:  I found this story at this site.  Note the link is directly to a Word Document containing all of his uncollected short fiction.

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.


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Other Publications: One Popular Culture Text To Rule Them All

This post was published over on the Northeast Popular Culture Association site. Here's an excerpt, but be sure to follow through to the full article!

Balancing theory, historical context, and theory makes finding the right text for a popular culture course a supreme challenge. Some books offer all theory; others give the straight history (whatever that means). In various renderings of the popular course that I have taught over the last five years, I have tried no less than five different texts with various successes (and failures). This review looks at several different texts that may be useful for teaching a popular culture course.

There are a few things to note about my course that give context to the choices and critiques that follow. The course was originally designed as “Popular Culture and Media,” essentially blending popular culture and media studies. The content proved too much and the course was changed to “Popular Culture in the U.S.” This switch deemphasized media studies (though it still discusses media) and focused particularly on the United States. The course is structured to provide history, theory, and analysis of popular culture through different readings, videos, and activities while moving chronologically forward into the present.  My goal with the course is for students to come through it with a skill set that allows them to tinker under the hood of any element of popular culture they may encounter with a critical evaluative approach, but a nonjudgmental one. I developed and launched the course at North Shore Community College in Spring 2009 and taught it face-to-face until 2011. In 2012, I redeveloped it as an online course.

To read more, follow through with the link and check it out!


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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Short Story #111: Amelia: Or the Faithless Briton by Anonymous

Title:  Amelia: Or the Faithless Briton

Author:  Anonymous

Summary

Amelia: Or the Faithless Briton frontispiece
Amelia and her father, Horation lives with her  have moved away from the fray of the Revolution showing no interest in the affairs.  However, she encounters a wounded soldier and helps him recover.  The solider, Doliscus is a young nobleman from England who was injured in a recent battle.  As he recovers, he sets to seducing Amelia and even tricks her into marrying him under false pretences so he can enjoy her carnally.  He succeeds but is then soon called to return to fighting and leaves, promising her he would take care of her.  However, he is called back to England upon the death of his father.  Realizing she is pregnant and that he may not return, Amelia decides to travel to London to confront him. When she does show up at his hom, he dismisses her and pretends he has nothing to do with the event.  She returnst o her room and the stress of it all causes he to have the child prematurely.  The baby dies shortly after giving birth and sends her into further depression.  She decides to take poison to end her life but just as she is about to drink it, her father arrives.  We learn that the father had pursued her across the world and that her brother, Honorius was to fight a duel with Dolicus.  He wins the duel and slays Dolicus. When Honorius returns to take Horatio and Amelia home, Amelia learns of her lover's death and she too dies.  When Horatio and Honorius return to the colonies, Honorius enters the war and promptly dies, leaving Horatio old and childless.

Reflection

Quite the tragic and dramatic story to be certain but an interesting one, nonetheless.  It's curious to see who dies (and wonder why they had to die).  Is Amelia, "the faithless Briton" or is it Doliscus?  I find her death (nevermind her baby's death) intriguing in the sense that in order to maintain purity that she is supposedly imbued with, her death must occur.  Honorius' death may not be as shocking except in so much as it is an after the main story.  Of course, all the death herein could be the fault of Horatio and he could be "the faithless Briton."  His failure to invest in and support Britain could make him be seen as "faithless" and now he is childless.  That is an unlikely interpretation and yet, it still fits.

Short Story #111 out of 365
Rating: 3 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  1/9/2014
Source:  This story can be found at this site (PDF).

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.


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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Short Story #110: Somnambulism. A Fragment b Charles Brockden Brown

Title:  Somnambulism. A Fragment

Author:  Charles Brockden Brown

Summary

Charles Brockden Brown - Somnambulism
The story is introduced by referring to a newstory about a man who had slept walk and killed a woman without ever knowing it.  Moving from there, we are introduce to Mr. Davis and his daughter, Constantia, visiting the narrator at dinner.  They receive a message calling them away but the narrator, who is infatiuated with Constantia insists that they must stay.  He insists that if they go, they will face uncertain danger.  However, proper behavior prevents him from forcing them to stay.  Despite his insistence, they do leave and he is left to turmoil their fates while at home.  He falls asleep and has colorful dreams but awakens in the morning to find tragedy has struck.  While on the road, Davis and his daughter encountered a stranger who they think is the narrator but not sure.  The person disappears but then they encounter a local man who had some mental developmental issues and often roamed the night trying to scare people.  Later on, they believe the man is following them but some other person disrupts their carriage ride.  It is enough for the carriage to be temporarily ruined and for Constantia to be slightly injured while Mr. Davis goes to seek help.  Just as he's out of her reach, he witnesses her being shot by someone.  The story ends with her dying and the narrator asking the reader why should he linger on it the events.

Reflection

I found the story a bit disappointing.  This was largely due to the fact that the work has been referenced many times as a great early horror tale and I was hoping for more.  The preface gives away the ghost, so to speak.  It should have probably come at the end rather than the beginning.  The story as a whole is enjoyable and well drawn out with the events along the road, but there is a constant knowledge of how the story will turn out.  

Short Story #110 out of 365
Rating: 3 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read: 1/8/2014
Source:  I found this story at this site.  Note the link is directly to a Word Document containing all of his uncollected short fiction.

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.


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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Short Story #109: The Quadroons by Lydia Maria Child

Title:  The Quadroons 

Author:  Lydia Maria Child

Summary

Lydia Maria Child - The Quadroon
The story starts by setting the scene--a cottage in Georgia prior to the Civil War, where two lovers live together, enjoying the off season when there are less people around because the woman, Rosalie, is a "quadroon" while her husband, Edward, is a young white Georgian. The two had married in a church but could not legally marry as it was illegal.  However, they enjoy their marriage and even have daughter, Xarifa.  The three live is peace until the Edward becomes involved in politics and his success leads him to approach his personal life as political.  He decides he needs to marry a white woman in order to secure power, but tries to explain to Rosalie that this doesn't detract from his love for her after she has discovered he is to be married.  She refuses any kind of relationship beyond what they have and leaves.  The new wife, Charlotte, slowly learns of the loveless marriage she has entered into and how Edward still misses Rosalie.  A year later, Rosalie dies and Edward enters back into Xarifa's life, trying to care for her as best as he could.  However, the death of Rosalie wore upon him and he eventually dies in an incident involving alcohol and horse-riding.  In the aftermath of his death, history soons catches up with Xarifa in that her grandmother was not a free woman but a runaway slave--which by default, makes her a slave.  She is dragged back into slavery where she is sold and eventually forced into both physical and sexual servitude.  Shortly thereafter, she commits suicide. 

Reflection

The brutal end of the story is sad for a great many reasons related to American history.  However, the story is still enjoyable in the sense of the grace and sense of self embodied in both of Rosalie and Xarifa.  Things that were less than impressive for the story was the child's name, Xarifa.  This was an anagram for Africa with the "c" replaced by an "x".  The commentary at the end of the story where Child chides the reader and reiterates that this kind of thing is happening all the time in the South is a bit over the top or devalues her fiction and her readership.

Short Story #109 out of 365
Rating: 4 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  1/6/2014
Source:  The story can be found on this website.

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.


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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Short Story #108: The Big Bear of Arkansas by Thomas Bangs Thorpe

Title:   The Big Bear of Arkansas

Author:  Thomas Bangs Thorpe

Summary

The Big Bear of Arkansas by Thomas Bangs Thorpe
The story starts on a steamboat on the Mississippi wherein the narrator is reflecting about the nature of the people he meets onboard.  The  narrator introduces use to the Big Bear of Arkansaw, a man who has all sorts of stories to spin.  Some question the veracity of his tales but he insists on their truth.  He explains that Arkansaw is a wild place where things are bigger and stranger than the rest of the US.  Eventually, the story turns to a "big fish" tale about a bear that he hunted for several years.  At one point, he thinks he has killed it but realizes it isn't the bear he was after.  Shortly after, he has a final confrontation with the bear but rather than being able to kill the bear himself, the bear dies, leaving the man disappointed about not being able to claim it as his own kill.  

Reflection

I often enjoy stories like these that are voyeuristic in nature (that is, the narrator watching the event of storytelling take place) coupled with a character spinning tales.  A story about storytelling is in fact providing commentary about how we create and communicate stories and so valuable to any of us interested in this vein.  It's probably why I like The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County by Mark Twain so much among other similar tales as well as epistolary tales.    

Side note: This selection of stories was read a few months back but I wanted to not post them until after they were covered in the course I was teaching that included them.  

Short Story #108 out of 365
Rating: 3 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  1/5/2014
Source:  The story can be found online for free at this site.  

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.


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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Short Story #107: Chrysalis by Ray Bradbury

Title:  Chrysalis 

Author:  Ray Bradbury

Summary

Ray Bradbury - S Is For Space book coverDr. Rockwell is called in to take a look at a man named Smith by his friend, Hartley.  Rockwell declares him dead and is about to leave when Hartley insists that he check his heart one more time.  When Rockwell checks, he waits a bit longer and discovers there is the slightest of heartbeats.  Hartley begins to explain that Smith went into this state a while back and had not decomposed but just lays there in an inactive state.  Eventually, Hartley also explains that Smith does emit some telepathic thoughts on occasion.  Rockwell is intrigued and takes him to his private laboratory.  Hartley becomes increasingly erratic and pressures Rockwell to destroy it but the doctor refuses.  He slowly makes sense of Smith and believes the man entered into a cocoon like state and would eventually come back in a new form.  Eventually, Hartley decides he must try to kill it himself but before he can, Smith returns to life, which further scares Hartley as he is showing the symptoms that Smith showed prior to his cocoon phase.  Rockwell does tests on Smith and everything comes out normal.  Smith takes his leave and when out of sight of everyone, he lifts up into the air and into space--revealing that he has become the next stage of human evolution.  

Reflection

A fun story and a decent opening for this anthology (I haven't read these stories in order).  I drift towards stories that often have a human/nonhuman at the center.  The essential "other" that looks like us but we believe isn't us and will generate enough fear that push people to want to take life.  The story also has a bit of the Invasion of the Body Snatchers to it and even hits a bit upon elements of Zero Hour to it.  


Short Story #107 out of 365
Rating: 3  (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  4/12/2014
Source:  S Is For Space by Ray Bradbury.  Bantam Books, 1970.

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.


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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Letter to the Editor: Abstinence a failed policy

This is a letter to the Salem News from last week that I had published on sex education.  Enjoy!

"To the editor:

Joseph Sciola (”Condoms have no place in schools,” April 4) advocates abstinence-only education when he asks “Whatever happened to telling kids that sex outside of marriage is wrong, it’s immoral, it’s sinful?” The easy answer is that it failed, and horribly so. It fails to delay first sexual engagements, it fails to prevent teen pregnancy, it fails to halt the spread of sexually transmitted infections, and it fails to account for homosexuals (upward of 10 percent of the population) who cannot marry in more than 30 states."

For the rest of the letter, visit the Salem News opinion page.


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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Short Story #106: Icarus Montgolfier Wright by Ray Bradbury

Title:  Icarus Montgolfier Wright

Author:  Ray Bradbury

Summary

Ray Bradbury - S Is For Space book coverJebediah Prentiss has just built the first rocket.  In the excitement, he is asked what is his name.  This question sends him back through history to the pivotal moments and inventions that led to this moment from Icarus's first flight, to Montgolfier's first flight in an air balloon to the Wright brothers' first flight on a plane.  Finally, he answers the boy that his name is Icarus Montgolfier Wright.  

Reflection

It's a short description but a very short story that again plays on a bit of nostalgia and hero worship for Bradbury.  While I can appreciate homage to the past figures, I felt this was a bit too heavy-handed.  However, as the ending story to this sci-fi anthology--it does make a certain poetic sense.  

Short Story #106 out of 365
Rating: 1 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  4/9/2014
SourceS Is For Space by Ray Bradbury.  Bantam Books, 1970. 

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.


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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Short Story #105: The Flying Machine Ray Bradbury

Title:  The Flying Machine

Author:  Ray Bradbury

Summary

Ray Bradbury - S Is For Space book coverThe story takes place in China in 400 A.D.  A servant comes rushing into the Emperor's room explaining that he has witnessed a miracle that the Emperor must know about.  The Emperor plays coy with the servant but eventually lets the servant explain that he witnessed a man operating a flying machine.  The servant brings him to the man who flew and the Emperor questions the man.  After ascertaining that no one else knows about it and that this is the only one, he has the guards take him into custody and summons the executioner.  He then shows his own technology but explains that his technology just increases beauty whereas the beauty that this man has created would wreak havoc upon the Emperor's beautiful world.  

Reflection

This is a bit of a dark story that reminds me of Frank Herbert's Cease Fire or Theodore Thomas's Day of Succession in its brute force and clear fear of the future.  This attempt to squelch knowledge is a curious one at least coming from Bradbury who is so often fearing the future because of where technology has supposedly led us but also condemning the past for its limitations on the development of technology and knowledge.    

Short Story #105 out of 365
Rating: 2 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  4/9/2014
Source:  S Is For Space by Ray Bradbury.  Bantam Books, 1970.

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.


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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.