Reflections upon the Old and Infinite Books of the Perry-Castañeda Library

Written by Luis De La Cruz  

“Where else in all of America are we so symbolized / As in this hall?”

–“The Congressional Library,” Amy Lowell

Sometimes, when I walk through the Perry-Castañeda Library, I’m reminded of some literary works that center on libraries and illuminate the library’s relationship to its faithful patrons. Charles Simic begins his poem “In the Library” with a reflection upon the old and unread books that live within a library: “There’s a book called / ‘A Dictionary of Angels.’ / No one has opened it in fifty years, / I know, because when I did, / The covers creaked, the pages / Crumbled.” (I’ve actually encountered a book entitled the Dictionary of Angels in the PCL—I don’t know if it was the same one as Simic’s—and I can attest that the book was quite old and had “angels and gods huddled” in it.) These books, which hold “great secrets,” go decades without use, gathering dust “on some shelf Miss Jones / Passes everyday on her rounds.” This representation of the library as a repository of arcane and esoteric knowledge isn’t necessarily incorrect; I certainly have had the experience of looking through the PCL stacks and wondering when the last time anyone has read a particular book—especially ones that look as though their knowledge might be outdated, or those that haven’t aged well. But despite their disuse, these books still inspire and inform today’s scholars and thinkers. Randall Jarrell, in his poem “A Girl in the Library,” imagines the library as a sacred space:

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Intergenerational Violence in The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

Written by Brandi Carnes

Racial oppression causes a disruption of motherhood, often resulting in an interruption of girlhood. Matriarchs of Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye adopt poor mothering tools that they themselves learned within the household, and often pass those behaviors down to their daughters. Claudia reveals her internalized racism using the intergenerational violence she learned in the home. Violence is a mode of rebellion against situations in which black females may experience victimization under slavery and/or racism, but is a form of escapism often redirected toward themselves or others. For example, Claudia redirects her frustrations with a lack of representation in popular culture by dismantling her white baby dolls. Echoing the verbal assaults passed between members of her family, Claudia restores power by refusing radical and gendered expectations of society.

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Nathaniel Hawthorne Doesn’t Want You To Be A Perfectionist, But You Probably Are And That’s Okay

Written by Caitlin Smith

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Birth-Mark” is an 1843 short story that primarily deals with issues of perfection and self image. With today’s perfection-seeking culture, where we tailor our lives to fit societal expectations on apps like Instagram, Snapchat, or Twitter, this story is especially relevant. It follows Aylmer, a scientist dabbling in alchemy, as he tries to remove a birthmark from his wife’s cheek. He is the only one who sees a flaw in her, and his overzealous attempts at perfecting her lead to her death.

In classroom discussion, I noticed that everyone seemed to be condemning Aylmer with ease, but this passage from the end of the story gave me pause:

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E-book Pirates Ransack the Publishing Industry

Written by Morgan Southworth

Earlier this year, Joanna Penn, author of several fictional thrillers and nonfiction books marketed to other authors (like How to Make a Living with your Writing and How to Market a Book) wrote that “the idea that piracy costs authors money is based on a mistaken premise.” In her writing, she went on to outline three different scenarios: one where a reader happens to accidentally stumble across an illegal copy of your book online and downloads it out of curiosity; one where a reader with no money to legally buy the book instead illegally downloads a copy; and one where a reader with money to spare illegally downloads your book because they’re a jerk.

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The Faint Words of an Intergalactic Jazz-Being: Sun Ra’s (Overlooked) Poetic Output

Written by Luis De La Cruz

“Love and life / interested me so / that I dared to knock / at the Door of the Cosmos…” “Door of the Cosmos,” Sun Ra and his Intergalactic Myth Science Solar Arkestra

The relationship between jazz and poetry is incontrovertible. Major figures in the American poetic tradition have engaged with jazz forms and philosophies in their works—think Hughes, Ginsberg, Scott-Heron, Ferlinghetti, Baraka, Cortez. One figure in particular sits squarely (and rather conspicuously) in that wonderful juncture between jazz and poetry: the eccentric, cosmic, and always mind-expanding jazz man/poet/philosopher Sun Ra. While primarily known for his fiercely experimental, avant-garde, Afro-futuristic jazz compositions (though none of these terms adequately illuminate just how brilliantly strange and novel-sounding his discography is, even today), Sun Ra’s engagement with poetry was significant on its own —it would be a severe understatement to claim that Sun Ra simply dabbled in poetry.

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The Bones of Stesichorus

Written by Julia Schoos

“What difference did Stesichorus make?” asks Anne Carson in the beginning of Autobiography of Red (3). For years, Geryon’s story lived in the mouth of the people focusing solely on Herakles and his journey, with Geryon merely an hurdle to be overcome during his labors. First and foremost a creation of folklore, the tale of Herakles’ acquisition of the red cattle, as well as his slaughter of Geryon, traveled through oral tradition long before it reached antique pottery and eventually the written word. The narrative carries every trademark of the traditional heroic journey, as told through the eyes of Herakles. However, Stesichorus’ approach was different. Titled Geryoneis, which roughly means “The Geryon Matter,” the surviving fragments

tell of a strange winged red monster who lived on an island called Erytheia (which is an adjective meaning simply ‘The Red Place’) quietly tending a herd of magical red cattle, until one day the hero Herakles came across the sea and killed him to get the cattle (Carson, Autobiography 5).  

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Fanny Fern’s Obscurity and Male Dominance in Literary Circles

Written by Julia Schoos

Fanny Fern wrote as if the Devil was in her—or so spoke Nathaniel Hawthorne. Born 1811 as Sarah Willis, Fanny Fern was the first female newspaper columnist in the United States, and by 1855, the highest-paid columnist of the 19th century. However, while her contemporaries Thoreau, Whitman, and Emerson are considered household names, Fern’s name is almost shrouded in obscurity. Her works, now lauded as dynamic and potent, are most often encountered in collegiate classes with an eye on feminist literature—a bizarre turn of events, considering that she outsold all of her male contemporaries during her lifetime. Is it really such a bizarre turn of events?

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