Cather and Marshall and Woolf, oh my!


I have a somewhat hodge-podge entry for you today, just wrapping up this and that before I head to France tomorrow afternoon. (Exciting!)



First of all, for those of you who haven't had enough of me writing about Virginia Woolf, please check out my guest post over at The Year of Feminist Classics blog. I cogitate a bit on Woolf's theory of the androgynous mind, and hopefully spur some discussion.



Secondly, I've been seeing a lot of Cather posts in my Google reader of late (including Litlove's excellent piece on Cather's use of frames), so I wanted to draw y'all's attention to this post over at my other blog, about a hike David and I took during a 30-hour trip last weekend to the Las Vegas area. Those of you who follow me on Twitter will know that the city of Las Vegas is not my favorite place, but we were there for a family wedding and decided to check out some Cather-esque landscapes while we were at it. Have a look-see! Highlights include big-horn sheep and cool rock formations.

And lastly, have any of you had the opportunity to see Israeli choreographer Barak Marshall's recent modern dance piece Monger? I saw it a few nights ago and am craving a conversation about it. Despite six years of season's ticket holding to Portland's White Bird Dance series I usually don't post about the modern dance I watch, for the same reason I generally don't write up audiobooks, films, and other cultural events: I would burn out too quickly if I tried to capture my WHOLE LIFE on a blog. But Marshall's work was so odd and thought-provoking, and there's a lot in it that offers itself to multiple interpretations. I'd be very curious to hear others' takes.

The piece has a strong narrative component (it's described in the program as a hybrid of dance and theater), and the story concerns a group of servants in the home of a fearsome and sinister mistress named "Mrs. Margaret"—or possibly "Mrs. Margrit." There's a kind of Upstairs/Downstairs-in-Israel vibe going on with it, but in addition there is some very sinister imagery involving a series of female servants who invoke the mistress's wrath, get taken away for a time, and are then transformed into babies and re-born back into servitude. It reminded me of a Shirley Jackson novel: creepy yet familiar, and leaving me unclear but intrigued as to the larger significance of the narrative depicted. You don't get any kind of sense of the technical impressiveness or narrative arc from the above video, but there is a segment with part of the creepy baby imagery.

There are also fascinating motifs involving language: the servants speak English to their mistress but communicate with each other by yelling in Hebrew, and the score incorporates vintage radio advertisements (in English) for Manischewitz and other brands of kosher foodstuffs. "Monger" evokes, of course, selling things, just like these advertisements were attempting to sell Jewish food to the non-Jewish (or assimilated Jewish?) world. Similarly, the male servants stage a kind of auction at one point of one of the female servants, and of course the servants as a whole are exchanging their lives and peace of mind for some kind of currency. Selling is very much associated with power and oppression in the piece, but my mom and I speculated on the way home about the allegorical references: is this a piece about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict (if so, I can't find a very pro-Israel way to read it)? Or, given the 1930s costumes, is it an allegory of oppression of Jews by Germans/Christians? Or about suppression by the Israeli state of individual autonomy? Or the persecution of Israel by other (English-speaking?) nations? Or is the piece a more general exploration of power dynamics and free will?

I don't know. But I highly recommend it to anyone who has the opportunity to see it. And after you do, come back here and comment because I want to discuss the thing!


  • Bon voyage, mon amie! À bientôt.

  • Love you around-Vegas trip. When we went to Yellowstone last year, we drove up from Salt Lake City, and I had never expected to think this rocky, dry country was so gorgeous. I've been thinking about a Utah and/or Nevada trip ever since.

    Have a wonderful time in France!

  • My in-laws live in Vegas which makes me even more reluctant to visit them. It is a city a really do not like. The pictures of your hike are lovely though.

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    link to Wolves 2011 reading list
    link to more disgust bibliography