Daphne du Maurier – “Don’t Look Now” (1971)

INTRODUCTION:  Daphne du Maurier’s 1971 short story, “Don’t Look Now”, was turned into a horror film by director Nicolas Roeg in 1973.  The two versions are quite similar in general, but the plot and symbolism of the film makes slightly more sense, while psychological realism is stronger in the short story.  I made this brief annotation of passages from du Maurier’s story including connections to the film because I think they’re best taken together.

As I was writing up notes on passages from the short story, I realized that I had been referring to Donald Sutherland’s character in the film as “the husband” and the man in the story as “the father”, a mistake that shows how these two versions parallel each other without entirely covering the same ground.

ANNOTATED DOCUMENT:  duMaurierDaphne_DontLookNow

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Rachel Linn – “The Hedgehog” (2017)

INTRODUCTION:  The text I’ve annotated below is one of my own stories (published last spring in Cease, Cows).  Although I think stories should stand on their own, I’m certainly not confident enough about my writing to think that mine always do.  In this case, there are some good reasons to try explain what I was influenced by and reaching for. 

Recommendation:  I wrote the first drafts of this story before I watched Jordan Peele’s Get Out in January 2017 and I was very humbled by his much more sophisticated / nuanced / you-name-it take on some of the ideas I had tried to put into this fairytale retelling.  WATCH IT.

ANNOTATED DOCUMENT:  LinnRachel_TheHedgehog

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Jacob & Wilhelm Grimm – “Cinderella” (1857)

INTRODUCTION:  As Kathryn Davis writes in her introduction to The Complete Stories of Leonora Carrington, Carrington’s “habit of refusal of the world she was born into began early and she kept at it her whole life long.”  Fairy tales and folklore were a large part of “the world she was born into” and though she could not quite refuse them, she certainly reshaped and revised them.

Carrington’s version of a Cinderella story, for example, features a human-devouring hyena who serves as both Cinderella and prince (see the attached annotated version of the Grimm version of “Cinderella” with connections to Carrington’s short story, “The Debutante”).

ANNOTATED DOCUMENT:  Grimm_Cinderella

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Thomas Hardy – Far from the Madding Crowd (1874)

INTRODUCTION:  It sometimes seems as if Thomas Hardy has it in for the innocent, though it would be more accurate to say that he thought his society did (and he tried to reveal and critique the cruelties of his time through his writing).

See, for example, the scene in Far from the Madding Crowd in which a young woman, cast out by her lover, pregnant, and sick, is helped to safety by a stray dog.  The woman makes it indoors, but the dog is shut out on its own.  Hardy is known for his strong attachment to animals (and his elaborate pet cemetery).  The following annotated text began as an ironic inquiry into what this author has against sheep (which he kills off in large numbers in his novels), but then – as often happens in proximity with Hardy – ended tragically.

ANNOTATED DOCUMENT:  HardyThomas_FarfromtheMaddingCrowd

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Charlotte Brontë – Jane Eyre (1847)

INTRODUCTION:  In spite of ambivalence toward the British education she received growing up on the island of Antigua, Jamaica Kincaid frequently references the books of Charlotte Brontë in her own novels (for more on this, read A Small Place, Kincaid’s nonfiction discussion of colonialism in Antigua).  Kincaid’s connections to Brontë are much more complex than colonized/colonizer – and she doesn’t just choose to tell ‘the other side of the story’, as Jean Rhys does in Wide Sargasso Sea – instead, Kincaid makes the literary tradition that was imposed upon her both her own and not her own all at once.  The following annotated version of the first chapters Brontë’s Jane Eyre (1847) puts the novel side by side with passages from Kincaid’s Annie John (1983).

ANNOTATED DOCUMENT:  BronteCharlotte_JaneEyre_KincaidJamaica_AnnieJohn

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William Wordsworth – “There was a Boy” (1800)

INTRODUCTION:  Introducing his Lyrical BalladsWilliam Wordsworth writes, “Poets do not write for Poets alone, but for men…in order to excite rational sympathy, he must express himself as other men express themselves.”  In the following notes, one can see how Wordsworth seems (arguably) to translate the fantastical story of Echo & Narcissus into a contemporary, relatively plainspoken form, while still maintaining structural and conceptual similarities with the Roman poet Ovid’s version (written nearly 2,000 years earlier).   

ANNOTATED DOCUMENT:  WordsworthWilliam_TherewasaBoy

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William Shakespeare – The Taming of the Shrew (circa 1590)

INTRODUCTION:  William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, about a man who trains his new wife to submit to him, uses the language and techniques of falconry to describe the process of ‘taming’ her.  

Reading passages from the play alongside quotes and examples from two memoirs about training hawks, T.H. White’s The Goshawk (1951) and Helen Macdonald’s H is for Hawk (2014), reveals some of the strange ways that falconry does and does not parallel (or replace) a marriage or other significant relationship.  

ANNOTATED DOCUMENT:  ShakespeareWilliam_TamingoftheShrew

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Elizabeth Gaskell – The Life of Charlotte Brontë (1857)

INTRODUCTION:  Children in British colonies (including colonies current, former, or somewhere in between) have often been taught solely British literature.  In her autobiography, Janet Frame writes of her experience as an elementary school student in New Zealand, remembering, “I felt curious when one member of the class, choosing Katherine Mansfield, was commended by the teacher for choosing a New Zealand writer when none of our English studies even supposed that a New Zealand writer or New Zealand existed” (128).  Frame finds kinship with some authors of the “home country” as she nevertheless strives to find her own voice – as can be seen in these notes, which connect Frame’s autobiography to a brief selection from Elizabeth Gaskell’s The Life of Charlotte Brontë.

ANNOTATED DOCUMENT:  GaskellElizabeth_TheLifeofCharlotteBronte

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Robert Louis Stevenson – Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886)

INTRODUCTION:  What follows is the final chapter of Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, in which Henry Jekyll speaks for himself for the first time. The annotations focus on the precise relationship between Jekyll and Hyde, and they fall into two categories:

  1. Some of the annotations give relevant quotations from scholarly works on the function of the Doppelgänger in literature. The double or Doppelgänger (literally, German for “double-walker” or “double-goer”) appears in all sorts of literary texts throughout history but was a particular favorite of 19th-century writers. (Famous or infamous psychologist Sigmund Freud had a thing or two to say about the double as well. But that’s a topic for a different post.)
  2. Other annotations draw attention to sentences in the chapter that complicate the “Jekyll is good, Hyde is evil” conception of the story – a common but overly simplistic interpretation that does not fit with what Stevenson actually wrote.

ANNOTATED DOCUMENT:  Stevenson_Jekyll&Hyde

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Jane Austen – Sense and Sensibility (1811)

INTRODUCTION:  In Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, Marianne Dashwood becomes seriously ill after an emotional shock.  Is she experiencing intense psychological distress or dangerously physically sick – or both?  Check out these annotated chapters from the novel to see a modern medical professional’s educated guesses about Marianne’s condition.

ANNOTATED DOCUMENT:  AustenJane_SenseandSensibility

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