A Story that Doesn’t Exist: Nausea and Transcending Retrospective Interpretation

Essay completed 24 October 2016

Growing up in a Calvinist church and a conservative evangelical school, I was taught that everything in the world has inherent meaning. Those institutions maintained that every aspect of the natural world correlates to an absolute spiritual truth. I was told that the knowledge God has revealed to humankind is all that I would ever need to know. Nature exists as it does to exemplify God’s greatness. I have selfish impulses because I inherited Adam and Eve’s sin nature. Humankind’s fallen nature explains every act of immorality ever committed. This manner of interpreting the world through cause-and-effect allegories was comforting to me because it gave me a definite identity. I knew who I was and why I was here. For most of my life I believed that my worldview determined my identity and the nature of the world around me. Continue reading “A Story that Doesn’t Exist: Nausea and Transcending Retrospective Interpretation”

Demystifying Interpersonal Barriers in “Interpreter of Maladies”

Originally submitted 6 February 2016

The beginning of Jhumpa Lahiri’s “Interpreter of Maladies” is familiar. Older, spiritually grounded Indian native Mr. Kapasi meets the first-generation American immigrant Das family. Indifferent to her husband and children, Mrs. Das is unhappy and unmaternal, seemingly personifying American materialism with her plump figure and bulging bag of possessions (448). If one is to predict the story’s conclusion from its introduction, the resolution seems obvious: Mr. Kapasi will deposit a pearl of mystical Eastern wisdom that will show Mrs. Das the path to enlightenment, to motherhood, and to happiness. Lahiri raises expectations for a cross-cultural interaction story through Mr. Kapasi’s first appraisal of the Das family. Their cultural differences are evident from their introduction. Continue reading “Demystifying Interpersonal Barriers in “Interpreter of Maladies””

Public Faith: Perpetua’s Countercultural Defiance

Image by Grady Pearson

Essay completed 24 February 2016

According to The Martyrdom of Saints Perpetua and Felicitas, a group of Christian prisoners was brought before a regional governor in 3rd century Carthage. Governor Hilarianus gave each the opportunity to perform a sacrifice to the emperors to escape public execution. Each refused to take part in a ritual sacrilegious to their faith. Before the governor could question the final prisoner, a young woman named Perpetua, the woman’s father appeared in the crowd of spectators, clutching her infant son and begging “Perform the sacrifice – have pity on your baby!” (The Martyrdom… 58). The governor echoed the old man’s plea for Perpetua to give in, but the young Christian refused to obey. Without a true picture of Perpetua’s motivations, her decision makes her seem suicidal and at worst, insane. In light of her social and religious reasons for refusing, however, her decision is understandable and compelling. Perpetua is unusual because she defies the patriarchal and religious systems of her culture and chooses to die as as a member of a persecuted, countercultural movement. Continue reading “Public Faith: Perpetua’s Countercultural Defiance”

Engendering Confusion: Hermaphroditus, Bacchus, and Male Identity

Image by Grady Pearson

Essay completed 22 January 2016

The story of Hermaphroditus and Salmacis seems to upend the motif of male-on-female rape that runs through Ovid’s Metamorphoses. In the story told in lines 4.392-424, the nymph Salmacis falls in love with Hermaphroditus, the son of Mercury and Venus. After the boy rejects her offer of marriage, Salmacis attempts to rape him in a spring. She refuses to let go despite his struggling and asks the gods to never separate her from him (4.409). The gods answer her prayers and she and Hermaphroditus become “blended” into one body (4.410). Ovid’s exploration of role reversal and identity make this story unique from all the preceding rape narratives he tells in Metamorphoses. The motifs of violence, transformation, and gender fluidity in the story demonstrate the power of Bacchus in the epic, even though the god does not appear in this story. Continue reading “Engendering Confusion: Hermaphroditus, Bacchus, and Male Identity”