All posts by AG

About AG

Associate Professor, Department of English, Rutgers University, New Brunswick

Blog assignment: make a historical line

In lieu of commonplacing this week:

Write a blog entry with short notations (a few words) about four works we have read in relation to a single specific theme, device, problem, or pattern. Note the dates of the works as well. Then write at least two sentences about the literary-historical trajectory you see: continuity? sudden change? gradual evolution? opposing tendencies?

Due Sunday, December 1, at 5 p.m.

Commonplace and analyze

Choose two passages from the Stein reading to commonplace. Look for passages that seem to you connected in some way—by a pattern in language, a shared image, a common problem. Put both passages in a single blog post. Then, in the same blog post, write a paragraph connecting those passages in as many ways as you can. Pay close attention to Stein’s technique as well as her themes: consider syntax, vocabulary, and rhythm; think about what she omits as well as what she says; think about the ordering of events (or non-events) in the text. Do not summarize plot or talk about character psychology.

This is an ungraded exercise, but it is required. You have until 5 p.m. on Sunday 9/22 to complete this assignment for credit. As usual, it is possible to do valuable work in the commonplace book even if you have not yet completed the whole text. Focus on the details of Stein’s sentences.

wilde james (mjn)

(posted by AG for MJN)

“It is not expected of the picture that it will make itself humble in order to be forgiven; and the analogy between the art of the painter and the art of the novelist is, so far as I am able to see, complete. Their inspiration is the same, their process (allowing for the different quality of the vehicle), is the same, their success is the same. They may learn from each other, they may explain and sustain each other. Their cause is the same, and he honour of one is the honour of another” James, Henry. Major Stories & Essays. New York: Library of America, 1999. Pg.378.

I’ve heard similar statements from musicians and music critics. The arts are interconnected according to James, but then again, the question of what art is in the first place is always somewhat dicier.

“Nothing is more evident than that Nature hates Mind. Thinking is the most unhealthy thing in the world, and people die of it just as they die of any other disease. Fortunately, in England at any rate, thought is not catching.” Wilde, Oscar. “The Decay of Lying.” In Intentions. New York: Brentano?s, 1905. Pg. 5.

wilde/james (aa)

(posted by AG for AA)

“Certainly not! Art never expresses anything but itself. This is the principle of my new a æsthetics; and it is this, more than that vital connection between form and substance, on which Mr. Pater dwells, that makes music the type of all the arts.”
Oscar Wilde, “The Decay of Lying,” in Intentions (New York: Bretano’s, 1905)

Notes: Art from within, aesthetics, form and substance, Non Representational Art.

“One can speak best from one’s own taste, and I may therefore venture to say that the air of reality (solidity of specification) seems to me to be the supreme virtue of a novel–the merit on which all its other merits (including that conscious moral purpose of which Mr. Besant speaks) helplessly and submissively depend.”
James, Henry. “The Art of Fiction.” In Partial Portraits. New York: Macmillan, 1894.
Notes: Realism, Art representing the times, Henry James

wilde/james (gmd)

(posted by AG for GMD)

“When I look at a landscape I cannot help seeing all its defects. It is fortunate for us, however, that Nature is so imperfect, as otherwise we should have had no art at all. Art is our spirited protest, our gallant attempt to teach Nature her proper place” (4).

Oscar, W. (1905). The decay of lying. (p. 4). New York: Brentano’s. Retrieved from

“The successful application of any art is a delightful spectacle, but the theory too is interesting; and though there is a great deal of the latter without the former I suspect there has never been a genuine success that has not had a latent core of conviction” (573).

James, H. (1999). Henry james: Major stories and essay. (1 ed., p. 573). New York: Penguin Putnam Inc.

Notes: I have never really thought of nature as “imperfect,” and I am so interested that Wilde believes that without this imperfection, art would not exist. Additionally, I also found James’ quote so interesting because I too find myself interested in why an artist would choose to create a certain piece: researching the inspiration behind it is always fascinating.


He stayed away, after this, for a year; he visited the depths of Asia, spending himself on scenes of romantic interest, of superlative sanctity; but what was present to him everywhere was that for a man who had known what he had known the world was vulgar and vain.

Henry James, “The Beast in the Jungle,” in Major Stories & Essays (New York: Library of America, 1999), 484.

Notes: romantic? Also–why “spending himself”?