Mar. 20th, 2012

veemignon: (ghostworld)
As a student who majored in English, it's a good idea to make best friends with any number of online etymology sites (my favorite's here). In one class, I was required to find a word I liked in Paradise Lost, research the history of the word, and then write an essay on why Milton would have used that word, considering the context as well. This breeds great habits in readers (and possibly writers, I hope). When I was reading The Brothers Karamazov, I noticed that Dostoevsky used the word "despair" constantly. After 700 pages, I realized that there were many words Dostoevsky focused on. Susan Howe gave me "categories," considering that she is a collector of words. And while reading The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman, I noticed a particular emphasis on the word "definition." This makes things especially eerie when the word the writer has chosen to focus on is pertinent to their history.

Virginia Woolf was a writer I had every intention to dislike. There was something about her prose that rubbed me in the wrong way when I first read Mrs. Dalloway at the tender age of twenty. I picked it up again at twenty-five, hoping to have my mind blown by all the content I had missed. My mind was not blown, but I was writing furiously, jotting down notes in the margins, looking up the etymological history of words; this is a sign of adoration on my part. I was surprised to find that I loved this book and that it spoke to me in perhaps one of the worst parts of the year. The word that Virginia Woolf focuses on is "plunge."

. . . passing invisibly, inaudibly, like a cloud, swift, veil-like upon hills, falling indeed with something of a cloud's sudden sobriety and stillness upon faces which a second before had been utterly disorderly. )


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