English 375: Previous Student Contributions

If you notice something in one of the works we’ve read that you think other class members would find interesting, send your ideas to me in an email. These don’t have to be elaborate, just brief suggestions for further thought. Any posts like this are welcome.


Salinger and evidence of the influence of T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land

Contributor: Luke Campbell

[January 24, 2018]

In “A Perfect Day for Bananafish,” following Seymour and Sybil’s discussion of Sharon Lipschutz accompanying Seymour on the piano bench, Seymour remarks, “Ah, Sharon Lipschutz… How that name comes up. Mixing memory and desire” (page 11 in my volume, perhaps 13 in others). I recognized the unusual sentence “Mixing memory and desire” as a direct quote from the opening of TS Eliot’s poem The Waste Land. The opening sentence of the poem reads:

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

I think in some ways Salinger’s inclusion of this reference serves as a signal to readers that the following image relates to Eliot’s wasteland. It is in this same breath that Seymour mentions bananafish for the first time. The banafish metaphor fits easily into The Waste Land, as the poem extensively contemplates the decay associated with the consumerist world and the contradiction of natural cycles. The Waste Land was also published directly after a world war. Additionally, connections may be drawn from The Waste Land passage Salinger’s reference comes from (included above) and the Bananafish story.

The thought that April, a month associated with life, rebirth, and joy, might be the “cruellest month” seems consistent with the story of Seymour. The story takes place in Florida; no direct reference to the month or season is made, but the warmth of the outdoors seems in the spirit of springtime. Also, Seymour is still young; there still exists some Spring in his life (or would have). Finally, the country as a whole is currently undergoing a kind of economic rebirth following the war. The positivity of April should abound this story; yet, Seymour takes his own life. This sentiment seems consistent with the struggle of mental illness; more symbolically, Seymour is unable to be reborn into this new, consumerist world following the winter of WWII.

Ironic Rendering of “Happy Days Are Here Again” by Barbra Streisand

Contributor: Emily Furlich

[January 30, 2018]

This is a video of Barbra Streisand singing “Happy Days Are Here Again” in May 1963 on The Dinah Shore Show. Up until Streisand started performing the song it was probably best known for being the campaign song for Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s 1932 Presidential campaign. This version was very fast compared to Streisand’s rendition. I can’t find where I read or heard Streisand saying this, but she has talked about how when she sang this song in the 1960s, it was with a cynical attitude because of the troubling state of the nation at the time.
“Happy Days Are Here Again”  (Streisand version)
Sheila Davis in The Craft of Lyric Writing writes in a paragraph about intentional irony: “You’ll remember how Barbra Streisand burst upon the scene with her uniquely downbeat treatment of ‘Happy Days Are Here Again’; by slowing the tempo and reinterpreting the spirit (without changing a word or a chord), she told us unhappy days were here again for her.”

(By contrast, here is a non-ironic version catching the spirit of FDR’s use of the song in 1932:

 Happy Days Are Here Again 

Vonnegut Reading Cat’s Cradle

Contributor: Ben West
[February 8, 2018]
Here is a YouTube link to Cat’s Cradle abridged and read by Kurt Vonnegut. You can hear him say “Bokononism” just after the 1 minute mark.