Tag Archives: experience

Wanting an Experience

Characters in four of the novels we have read are all looking to feel or have something new. They all want to be a part of an experience that is away from what they have already done.

Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad (1899): ” I wouldn’t have believed it of myself; but then-you see- I felt somehow I must get there by hook or by crook” (Conrad 109).

Notes: Here, the main character, Marlow, discusses how he much he wants to travel to Congo (Conrad 108). The author shows how important this experience would be for Marlow in the way he describes it.

Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. New York: Oxford University Press Inc., 2008. Print.

“Melanctha” by Gertrude Stein (1909): “Melanctha always had a strong sense for real experience” (Stein 73).

Notes: In this book, once again, the main character, Melanctha does not allow much to stop her from getting the “experience” she thinks she wants to have (Stein 73).

Stein, Gertrude. “Melanctha.” Three Lives and Q.E.D. Ed. Marianne DeKoven. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc, 2006. 53-147. Print.

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce (1916): “He burned to appease the fierce longings of his heart before which everything else was idle and alien” (Joyce 83).

Notes: Readers are able to see the importance of going through something different because  the author writes how Stephen “…burned…” for an experience (Joyce 83).

Joyce, James. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. Print.

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf (1925): ” He pursued; she changed. There was color in her cheeks; mockery in her eyes; he was an adventurer, reckless he thought, swift, daring, indeed…” (Woolf 53).

Notes: In Woolf’s book, Peter Walsh suddenly decides to follow a woman (Woolf 53). It is a new experience because he describes it as “…daring…” (Woolf 53).

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. Orlando: Harcourt Inc, 1925. Print.

Literary-historical trajectory-  Through this pattern, I can see the idea of experience going on even as time continues. I think this shows how different characters in different books, all seem to want something more.

Portrait of Innocence

O, I say, here’s a fellow who says he kisses his mother every night before he goes to bed. The other fellows stopped their game and turned round, laughing Stephen blushed under their eyes and said  –I do not. Wells said: –O, I say, here is a fellow who says he doesn’t kiss his mother before he goes to bed. They all laughed again. Stephen tried to laugh again. He felt his whole body hot and confused in a moment. What was the right answer to the question? (pg 7)

His mother kissed him. Was that right? (pg 11)

Joyce, James. a portrait of the artist as a young man. New York City: Dover Thrift Editions, 1994. Print.

Notes: Both passages show Stephen confusion as a young child who feels lost in a new environment. He is a new student and cannot seem to fit in and does not know what the other children aspect of him so that he could fit in with the rest. His innocence is very apparent in both passages because as a young student in a new school he just wants to make friends and fit in with the rest of the students. These passages can be related universally because everyone has been through this kind of experience.

Poetry as a language

To intimate things rather than state them plainly was thus one of the primary aims of Symbolism. (…) The assumptions which underlay Symbolism lead us to formulate some such doctrine as the following : Every feeling or sensation we have, every moment of consciousness, is different from every other ; and it is, in consequence, impossible to render our sensations as we actually experience them through the conventional and universal language of ordinary literature. Each poet has his unique personality ; each of his moments has its special tone, its special combination of elements. And it is the poet’s task to find, to invent, the special language which will alone be capable of expressing his personality and feelings. Such a language must make use of symbols : what is so special, so fleeting and so vague cannot be conveyed by direct statement or description, but only by a succession of words, of images, which will serve to suggest it to the reader.

(…) And Symbolism may be defined as an attempt by carefully studied means – a complicated association of ideas represented by a medley of metaphors – to communicate unique personal feelings.

Edmund Wilson, in Axel’s Castle, A study of the imaginative literature of 1870-1930, Farrar, Straus and Giroux Editions, p18-19

Feeling life

The power to guess the unseen from the seen, to trace the implication of things, to judge of whole things of the pattern, the condition of feeling life in general so completely that you are well on your way to knowing any particular corner of it – this cluster of gifts may almost be said to constitute experience, and they occur in country and in town, and in the most differing stages of education. If experience consists of impressions, it may be said that impressions are experience, just as they are the very air we breathe.

Henry James, “The Art of Fiction”, in Major Stories & Essays, Library of America College Editions, p581

Experience

Experience is never limited, and it is never complete ; it is an immense sensibility, a kind of huge spider-web of the finest silken threads suspended in the chamber of consciousness, and catching every air-borne particle in its tissue. It is the very atmosphere of the mind ; and when the mind is imaginative – much more when it happens to be that of a man of genius – it takes to itself the faintest hints of life, it converts the very pulses of the air into revelations.

Henry James, “The Art of Fiction”, in Major Stories & Essays, Library of America College Editions, p580

Which Comes First: Reality or Art?

It goes without saying that you will not write a good novel unless you possess the sense of reality ; but it will be difficult to give you a recipe for calling that sense into being. Humanity is immense, and reality  has a myriad forms ; the most one can affirm is that some of the flowers of fiction have the odour of it, and others have not ; as for telling you in advance how your nosegay should be composed, that is another affair. It is equally excellent and inconclusive to say that one must write from experience ; to our supposititious aspirant such a declaration might savour of mockery. What kind of experience is intended, and where does it begin and end ? Experience is never limited, and it is never complete ; it is an immense sensibility, a kind of huge spider- web of the finest silken threads suspended in the chamber of consciousness, and catching every air- borne particle in its tissue. It is the very atmosphere of the mind ; and when the mind is imaginative much more when it happens to be that of a man of genius it takes to itself the faintest hints of life, it converts the very pulses of the air into revelations (pg. 387-88).

-Henry James. “The Art of Fiction.” In Partial Portraits. New York: Macmillan, 1894. Internet Archive. (http://archive.org/details/partialportraitsoojameiala.)

Notes: What is true definition of experience; experience vs. reality; art vs. reality; experience becomes art

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Cyril. Nature follows the landscape painter then, and takes her effects from him?

Vivian. Certainly… For what is Nature? Nature is no great mother who has borne us. She is our creation. It is in our brain that she quickens to life. Things are because we see them, and what we see, and how we see it, depends on the Arts that have influenced us. To look at a thing is very different from seeing a thing. One does not see anything until one sees its beauty. Then, and then only, does it come into existence. At present, people see fogs, not because there are fogs, but because poets and painters have taught them the mysterious loveliness of such effects. There may have been fogs for centuries in London. I dare say there were. But no one saw them, and so we do not know anything about them. They did not exist till Art had invented them (40-41).

-Oscar Wilde. “The Decay of Lying.” In Intentions. New York: Brentano’s, 1905 (Internet Archive. http://archive.org/details/intentionsdecayo00wild).

Notes: Life imitates art; Humans create Nature, not Nature creates humans; perception vs. reality