Thoughts on Metamorphoses by Ovid, and Paradise Lost by John Milton

I’ve been diligently reading through some ancient literature this summer. Some strange urge has come over me to read every notable epic poem in existence, particularly the ones my professors neglected or didn’t have time to teach during my time at school. Recently I read Ovid’s Metamorphoses as translated by David R Slavvit, and Paradise Lost by John Milton. Ordinarily I would provide thoughts on these works individually as an act of synthesis and reconciliation. I guess that’s what this post is. I’ll be comparing both works in an arbitrary fashion.

Metamorphoses is total chaos of tales. I had some idea of what to expect before reading it, knowing that there was no real primary narrative and that it was a collection of intertwined stories more than one great plot line. I found reading Ovid’s work is very difficult, because I traditionally rely on connecting plot points in a narrative to form a particular structure of how I remember the story as a whole. Metamorphoses jumps from story to story, using ancient Greek and roman myths, gods, and heroes is its primary subject matter. Ovid pulls from Homer, Hesiod, Virgil (i think), and certain Grecian playwrights as well to form his miniature narratives. Ovid’s twist on these familiar tales is the transformation of the characters in these stories, typically as the plot line comes to an end. There are a lot of transformations into birds and trees. Apollo and Zeus pressure (or force) many mortals into sex, Athena sucks at sewing, etc etc.

I’ve heard that Metamorphoses has had a vast impact on art and literature throughout history, but after reading the work itself it has becoming blatantly clear just how influential it really is. A few months ago I read The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie, in which the two main characters transform into Satan and the archangel Gabriel. But beyond the easy implemented transformation theme, The Satanic Verses also divides its main plot lines with a collection of stories that are inspired by ancient lore, much like Metamorphoses. These side narratives in Rushdie’s novel, which can ultimately be referred to as “dream narratives,” is a point of controversy and confusion for some readers. The dream narratives seem out of place since they do not progress the main plot line in any way. However, if Ovid has taught us anything about literature, storytelling, and art in general, I think it is quite clear that a main narrative doesn’t even need to exist. In my opinion, Rushdie implements the idea of mini narratives ingeniously.

Paradise Lost by Milton is obviously influenced by Metamorphoses as well. In Milton’s famous poem, he rewrites part of Genesis in epic verse. The story of Satan’s fall from heaven, and his journey to Earth in order to corrupt Man are the building blocks of the main story line, with very little deviation (of course there is an epic digression in which the angel Raphael tells of Satan’s military coupe and failure to Adam). Milton uses the transformation theme from Ovid, by giving Satan and the angels the ability to change their shape. In this way, Satan reflect the godlike figures in Metamorphoses, since Zeus Apollo, and many other gods use their powers of transformation to seduce and confuse mortals. The metamorphosis of Satan into the serpent that seduces Eve directly reflects the seduction of Grecian gods in the ancient myths. Near the end of Paradise Lost, Satan’s host of evil angels transforms into an army of serpents against their will, in what seems like a punishment from the Almighty. This is also clearly an influence drawn from Ovid’s work, because many of the transformations in Metamorphoses are bestowed on mortals as punishment from the gods.

 

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Thoughts on Alexander Popes translation of The Odyssey

My posting frequency has decreased dramatically due to overwhelming responsibilities in my life. Lately, I’ve been wanting to write daily, but its difficult to find the time. It’s pretty distressing actually. Not having time or energy to write feels terrible. And so the stagnation sets in.

As far as reading goes, I’ve attempted to digest The Sound And The Fury by William Faulkner, and met with supreme failure. Reading the first section of this book is jarring, because of its narrative complexity. Faulkner’s stream of consciousness style is hard to follow at times, so I re-shelved him for now. In its place, I began reading Alexander Pope’s English translation of The Odyssey. I’ve read other translations of this text before, but Alexander Pope’s version is quite incredible. For those who might not be familiar with this piece, perhaps the most notable aspect of Pope’s translation is his use of rhyming couplets throughout the whole work. Pope’s word choice also fascinates me; his translation is by far my current favorite. Flowery language and verse aside, I’d like to share a few unremarkable notes on the structure of The Odyssey.

The Odyssey begins with Odysseus’ son Telemachus and his struggles with a party of suitors. Upon first reading the story, the way this story begins might seem questionable. Because the narrative follows the Hero’s son for a considerable length, it feels like a needless digression. In part, The Odyssey is a coming of age story due to the immense stage time Telemachus possesses. He quests for knowledge about his father, attempts to regain control over his filial palace, and the goddess of wisdom attends him along the way. However much a digression this at first seemed to myself, I believe The Odyssey would be a less powerful story without it. The early books that detail Telemachus’ toils establish the ending. In the same way Odysseus makes a round trip from Ithaca to Troy, and back to Ithaca, the reader follows the same course by way of the narrative structure. This round trip builds significance in the story because after experiencing Ithaca, Telemachus, the suitors, and Penelope, etc, the audience gains an understanding of just how important Odysseus’ return is. It’s actually quite mind blowing how vital the event of Odysseus’ return becomes; it involves being absent twenty years, being afflicted with miseries of war and loss, being tossed at sea relentlessly by sea monsters, and discovering a party of boisterous losers courting his wife in his own home.

The early books of the Odyssey also build a considerable amount of tension and anticipation. The introduction of the hero is delayed, and talked of as if he were a legend by both men and gods. By centering the narrative away from Odysseus and placing him in the peripheral, the audience is expectant of his inevitable introduction. I think this element of anticipation makes The Odyssey incredibly interesting. The audience wonders about Odysseus, and cares about his experience before he is even introduced into the story. The peripheral nature of Odysseus expands his presence in the story – he gains critical mass, ascending to the position of celestial influence as the audience gains knowledge of Ithaca and his toils at sea.

Anyway, that’s all I have for now. I’m suffering from a fatal case of writers block, so if any of my readers (what readers?) have any suggestions for a topic or project I should tackle, let me know. I’m open for any and all suggestions. PEACE.

 

What can Jane Austen show us about the 21st Century?

I’m not exactly sure why I enjoy reading Jane Austen’s novels. Her work almost entirely revolves around marriage plots within 18th century English nobility. To many readers of my generation, the subject matter of Austen’s novels can be very boring. The narrative moves slowly, and nothing particularly exciting captivates our short attention spans. I enjoy reading Austen, but I don’t want this declaration to sound arrogant. After all, I really have no idea why I like reading about the marital status of rich people from another era. I just finished reading Mansfield Park by Jane Austen. This is the third work I’ve read by her, and I believe I am now capable of slowly beginning establish some observations about the world she describes in relation to our modern world.

It is apparent in Mansfield Park, and Austen’s work in general, that marriage and sexuality is topic of incredible significance. This stems from the value of inheritance in the English nobility. Optimally, when a young woman from a noble family is prepared for marriage, potential suitors have to meet certain standards (This is obviously also the case for men seeking women as well, but most of Austen’s protagonists are female). Money is obviously a key factor in seeking a desired mate – In Austen’s opinion, this obviously is not the most important factor in marriage, and she typically illustrates a character’s obsession with wealth as a flaw. Manners and morals are also important factors – this is actually a huge part of Austen’s work, because it is clear that as an author, she seems entirely alienated from lower and middle classes. Beauty and intelligence are also vital in relatively smaller degrees. In Austen’s plots, the most desired matches are the love interests that sprout within the English nobility. The attributes lightly detailed above are usually inherent in the families of baronets, barons, viscounts, etc. From what I can tell by reading Austen, it is this class system that enables interest in her readers. The English nobility is always the overarching principle or rules in which the gears of Austen’s novels operate.

I’d like to focus on one particular aspect of what is expected of an Austenian English noble, and how it might relate to how we conduct relationships in the twenty first century. Manners are a vital part of how the nobility are expected to act. I’d argue this is especially apparent when men and women form attractions to each other. In Austen’s novels, a degree of restraint is expected from a potential suitor. This is exemplified in Mansfield Park with the character Mr. Crawford, who is in the possession of a lot of money and independence, is intelligent, gallant, attractive, charismatic, and energetic, while also conforming to accepted notions of how to conduct oneself in the presence of English nobility. These attributes make him nearly an ideal match for almost any woman who interacts with him. Marrying such a man promises an exciting and secure existence. However, his flaw is in his tendency to be flirtatious. Mr. Crawford’s courting and flirting with particular characters in the novel is portrayed as a major breach in moral conduct (The effects of this breach is magnified by the fact that he flirts with women who are already engaged to be married). By our modern standards, Mr. Crawford’s flirting wouldn’t be considered at all improper. He flirts by way of his charisma in his conversations with ladies, and by showing a sense of attachment and friendship. The most sexually heated moments in Austen’s work are conversations between characters or, sometimes, the holding of a hand. The effect of all this in a literary work, is that illustrating the values of this restraint (which some characters lack) adds to the significance of the marriage plot. Sexual repression is quite obvious in Austen’s work, but I think this is partly why she is a powerful writer.

Similar to this idea of restraint in the manners of English nobility, is the immense sensitivity that seems to bleed from Austen’s writing. Too often I think we are too jaded in our modern times. Technology has dulled our senses to the (almost) utmost extreme. In Austen’s 18th century England, it is apparent that in addition to the fragile and strict structure of manners and morality in the English nobility, a degree of sensitivity also adds to the significance that is built in the marriage plot. The protagonist of Mansfield Park, Fanny, is perhaps Austen’s most sensitive character.  She was born to a rather poor family, but was brought to her rich uncle’s house at the age of ten in order to be, more or less, assimilated into the English nobility. Fanny arrives at the impressive Mansfield Park grounds with nervousness and reluctance. She is caught between her impoverished past, and her incredibly prosperous future, and constantly struggles with feelings of guilt because of her innate sensitivity and good nature. Throughout the novel, the reader follows Fanny’s life and changing situation at Mansfield Park. She is often the most powerless character, but she feels the most intensely. This is shown in how Austen simply describes how Fanny reacts to every notable event in the novel. Fanny trembles, blushes madly, cries, smiles, and loses sleep over what seems like trivial matters. A lot of what she reacts to has the importance of the English class system behind it – in other words, dire consequences having to do with place in society, money, etc. In this sense, it is understandable that such a sensitive character should react passionately. But Fanny reacts passionately to everything – she sometimes cries due to the guilt and shame of others. Fanny might be an extreme example of character sensitivity in Austen, but such intense responses can be observed in almost all of her characters. I think this sensitivity also adds a great deal of significance and interest to Austen’s work. Today, it seems as if human emotion is a mere shadow of what it once was in Austen’s time.

Thoughts on Herman Melville’s Moby Dick

Well, I survived my finals for the Spring 2016 semester. I’m quite proud of my performance in my classes. Although my final project for Weblogs and Wikis has ended, I’m still going to make an active effort to publish content on this blog. I’m starting to notice that I’m generally a happier person when I write regularly. Today I’m going to share a few thoughts about the novel Moby Dick by Herman Melville.

I’ve been steadily making my way through the English Lit canon, attempting to accumulate a body of knowledge about what is essentially a history of writing fiction. I consider myself to have a particularly refined taste when it comes to reading literature. I hope the previous statement doesn’t sound too arrogant. What I mean is, I generally enjoy reading classics – the masterpieces. The oldest works, in my opinion are typically the best. So when I decided to read Moby Dick, I was expecting to love it. This particular novel has what seems like a legendary reputation (at least in American Lit). I thought The Scarlet Letter was a masterpiece. I love Thoreau, Whitman, and Emerson. Of course I’ll love Melville – who hasn’t read Bartleby the Scrivener?

Initially, I did enjoy reading Moby Dick. The writing style was compelling; the first person narrative of Ishmael and Queequeg seeking a whaling voyage was interesting. Melville establishes many themes and plot lines very quickly, and as a reader, I couldn’t stop reading.

Of course. by the time the narrative shifts to the actual whaling voyage, the text shifts so dramatically that it blows my mind just to think about such a jarring change in a piece of literature. For those who have read Moby Dick, you know what I’m talking about. The narrator, Ishmael, goes off on long tangents about the logistics, history, strategies, etc of whaling voyages in the 1800’s. The novel becomes what is essentially a strategy guide for killing whales. The narrator considers Sperm Whales to be the most grand of all whales (and fish, generally). This brings the novel in a strange direction in which Ishmael praises the Sperm Whale for its potential wealth (Spermecetti from a Sperm Whale was an extremely valuable resource in those days).

Running parallel to the factual information  described above, there is of course, a primary narrative or plot line in the novel. The main focus of this plot line is captain Ahab’s obsession with the great White Whale, Moby Dick; because that godlike monster of the sea took Ahab’s leg. The reader receives many descriptions of Ahab’s thoughts and moods, while also describing relevant scenes about slaying Sperm Whales and interactions with other whaling vessels.

Obviously, Moby Dick is well written, and perhaps my biggest complaint about reading this text is particularly minor. The juxtaposition between encyclopedic information and main narrative is powerful – after all, without an extensive amount of information about whaling voyages, it would be nearly impossible to fully grasp the main plot line of Moby Dick. In this way, the novel is genius, and the departure from the main narrative can be considered necessary. However, in some ways, I feel as though the encyclopedic information totally eclipsed the main narrative.

Somewhat related to my last point, I noticed that the narrator Ishmael almost entirely disappears from the novel – his presence on board the Pequod is only useful because of his power as a narrator. Many times during this novel, I’ve asked myself: why doesn’t Melville just use a third person narrator? Why does he tie his narrator to this meaningless character Ishmael? After all, Ishmael narrates scenes and details that no human could possibly describe. He knows all about private conversations, soliloquies, deep feelings, thoughts – he’s godlike. However, since the whole God and knowledge theme is pretty blatant in the novel, Ishmael’s omniscience is not too surprising. At the moment, I’m considering Ishmael to be a physical manifestation of the Divine Being on board the Pequod. If this is a popular theory on Moby Dick, I would like to know about it. The most fascinating aspect of this novel has been trying to figure out just exactly who the narrator is.

I’m not quite finished reading Moby Dick, but I certainly have mixed feelings about this work. Perhaps my interest in it is waning due to my slow reading pace. I just started reading Mansfield Park by Austen. Oh Well.

Project Final Write Up: Mapping The Blogging Genre

Proposal and Method

My final project for Weblogs and Wikis (ENGL 3177) was titled “Mapping The Blog Genre.” In my project proposal, I detailed a strategy in which I would proceed with my so called “mapping.” Very briefly: the process included selecting a blogging topic, reading three to four weblogs, posting notes and analysis on various elements of those weblogs, and writing a compilation essay in which I drew on the aforementioned notes. At the end of each week, I was essentially hoping to define each blogging topic. I was looking for particular tendencies and similarities within each blogging topic in order to get a more clear idea about specific types of blogging. I was surprised to find that I was able to follow this format for the whole five weeks of this project. On each note-post, I divided my analysis into three sections: Identity and Theme, Multi-modality, Tags, Categories, Content arrangement, and Content Analysis. My Compilation Essay’s began with an introduction, followed by body paragraphs in which I detailed the most prominent or important similarities and observations among the blogs. I used this format on six blogging topics: Art, Creative Writing, Travel, Politics, Lifestyle, and Food.

What Happened

When I began this project, I was happy to discover that my posting format made it rather easy to keep up with posting. As long as I chose a blogging topic that was quite prolific in the blogosphere, I never struggled with producing posts. My project became stable in the sense that during most weeks, I wasn’t scratching my head for what to write about. I’m actually quite proud of this stability, because I’m guessing it means that my planning/proposal was rather well done. For the most part, the project was smooth sailing.

However stable my project was, from week one I was starting to think my work was trivial. The reason for this, was the simplicity and superficial nature of my note taking format. I thought of myself as an observer of the obvious. I took notes on the theme and about pages of certain blogs, mentioned multi-modality, tags, categories (a rather pointless observation in the end) and content. I felt as though many of my posts were boring to write and read, because it was all surface information that was simply being drawn from elsewhere – nothing new was being created. I think I expected this at first, since my “creation” was meant to be piled into compilation essays. Regular posts were meant to be surface level notes (in the beginning). While I do think my compilation essays were more interesting, I think I restricted my project in some ways by thrusting too much importance on them. About halfway through my project, I contacted our professor MC Morgan about switching projects simply because I thought this project was boring and trivial. He pointed out my lack of analysis in many of my posts, and that’s when I tried to modify my approach to lean towards analysis as much as I could. In my notes, I began speculating on why bloggers chose particular themes, methods of content arrangement, and content.

During these five weeks, I’ve received what I would consider a fair amount of interaction from the WordPress community. Early on in my project, I had a rule in which I would contact each blogger I took notes on. This sparked many comments from bloggers who expressed interest in my project, and gratefulness for having been written about. I also had a pretty “high” viewership at times. I’m guessing that most of the interest that individuals took in my project stemmed from the fact that I was basically promoting blogs. Even though I wasn’t in the act of promoting or reviewing blogs, I believe the mere mention of specific blogs drew readers to me.

What This Project Means for Me

I think I’ve learned a lot from this project. The discipline required for a post frequency of five posts per week is very demanding. After calculating the word-count out, I discovered that I was writing almost ten pages of material per week. That means this entire project has produced over fifty pages of content – to me, that’s insane. This schedule has made me realize that writing every day forms a valuable habit. I’ve also learned a lot about my waning interest in writing during the later stages of this project. At times, I began hating writing because I was so sick of the project. Again, this might have been due to my terribly boring process at first, but I think it becomes natural for any writer to eventually despise writing – it’s just something we can’t stop doing at some point.

I also believe I’ve collected a lot of valuable information about the elements of blogging. Throughout this project, I started to position myself as a reader; I began to analyze what impressions certain themes, content arrangement, and content would have on me. A theme becomes very important as an introductory statement. Organizational structures and sidebars have a convolution threshold before they become too confusing. By no means do I consider myself a blog connoisseur, but I do think that this information will assist me in creating a more efficient blog in the future.

What Does This Project Say About Blogging?

In a lot of ways, this project was an experiment of sorts. I wanted to see how I could define specific blogging topics much in the same way one would define the word “blog.” I would consider my results rather unreliable since each week consisted of a low sample size. Four blogs from one blogging topic is nothing compared to the hundreds or thousands needed to accurately define the tendencies of a blogging topic, especially since I restricted my search to WordPress (just for simplicity’s sake). In spite of this, I do think that I’ve pointed out some attributes of these topics that are actually quite valuable. My compilation essays address these attributes, but here I’ll attempt to articulate what I think it all means.

One example of a trend I noticed during my observations was the use of virtual galleries in art blogging. Two out of the four bloggers I covered formatted their blogs in such a way to showcase their artwork efficiently – either on separate pages or on their home page. As an artist, I believe there is tremendous value is presenting one’s work in this way since it’s organized, emphasizes images, and highlights artwork by removing superfluous elements such as text. I would say that virtual galleries in art blogging is tremendously useful and generally just a good thing to have. However valuable virtual galleries might be, does a blog that chooses not to use them becomes less of an art blog? Certainly not. What this means is that I think my project ultimately became less of an effort to define, and more of a effort to judge particular aspects of blogs. As a reader, I more often than not pointed out elements that were advantageous for a specific blogging topic instead of defining the topic as a whole. Virtual galleries are only one example of this.

Some of my observations were more definitive than others. For example, travel blogging almost always uses photography. In this blogging topic, it is so common to see bloggers sharing images of their travels that the line between photo album and travel blog has become blurred. Similar to virtual galleries, photography in travel blogging is advantageous for content and popularity. People are attracted to photos since they require less effort to interact with than whole bodies of text. Are there travel blogs that use no images? I’m sure there are, but I would argue that using images improves the travel blogging experience. In this way, my project has become a body of information that catalogs these various “advantageous” attributes. Creating a blog – from everything to theme, about pages, and content – is a very deliberate process. I think good blog authors should spend an enormous amount of energy on making important design choices. The information I’ve collected with this project might help others realize that the choices they make about their blogs matter, and maybe in my compilation essays they will discover what works for a particular blogging topic.

Pink candy floss.

Do Over?

If I were to do this project again, I don’t think I would change much of anything. As I said before, I believe my proposal was quite thorough in detailing my process. The minor change I would make to my posting format would be to remove the “Multi-modality, Tags, Categories, Content arrangement,” section, and simply add “Content Arrangement” with “Identity and Theme.” In my very last posts on food blogging, I’ve already practiced this revised format. The reason for this change was the fact that the Multi-modality section totally lacked in substance and meaning for my project as a whole. I felt like the section didn’t offer opportunities for meaningful observations aside from the fact that some bloggers do not know the difference between tags and categories. In this sense, I felt as though I was ridiculing the bloggers I was writing about. However, I do believe analyzing content arrangement was important, which is why I would merge this element into my Identity and Theme section. Also, removing the word count from that useless third category provides more space for the most important aspect of my project: content analysis.

I might also change the method in which I approached searching for my blogging topics. The hardest part of generating my content for this project was coming up with a satisfactory blogging topic to write about. This made each week’s success relatively uncertain. Many of the topics I covered have had very prolific communities. However,  political blogging was an example of a topic that was not only hard to find blogs for, but it was also extremely difficult to write about. So in terms of deciding on topics, I definitely wish I had planned my course out more clearly. I might have also benefited from searching other blogging sites for potential blogs instead of remaining on WordPress.

Food Blogging Part Two: Storm In an Egg Cup

Today marks the beginning of the last week of classes this semester. I’ve had a particularly jarring weekend in which all of my good habits have been obliterated. Today, I’m going to continue winding down with my project by providing another fascinating analysis of a food blog. I most likely will not engage myself in a full blown analysis of this type of blogging. Instead of a typical four posts +compilation essay this week, the post following this one will most likely be totally unrelated to my project. I will also be writing a project final write-up very shortly.

Today I’ll be looking at Storm In an Egg Cup, otherwise referred to as Frankie.

Identity, Theme, and Content Arrangement

Frankie’s theme is similar to Cooking Without Limits, in that it is colorless. Her page is entirely white, and the only aspect of her thematic choice that really stands out is her title. The name “Storm in an Egg Cup is presented with a unique font. I believe that Frankie has chosen these elements very deliberately, for reasons similar to Cooking Without Limits and Art Blogging. I’m starting to notice that food blogging uses images quite often, so a simple colorless theme serves to highlight the presence of these images and draw readers to the real content of the blog.

Frankie’s content arrangement is very simple as well. Her blog uses a menu with only three options: About, Contact, and Categories. The category “Recipes” is the only category shown on this menu. Besides this, Frankie doesn’t use any other means of content arrangement or organization. Again, this is similar to Cooking Without Limits – These simple choices push the reader onto the actual content of the blog instead of diverting them with superfluous means of “organizational” clutter.

The About page on Storm In and Egg Cup is surprisingly detailed. This page provides readers with some biographical information about Frankie, including her name, place of residence, passions, and studies. She also provides an image of herself, making it quite clear that she is a woman. Her about page makes it clear that Storm In an Egg Cup is a blog about food and recipes, but she doesn’t rule out the possibility of writing about random topics.

Content Analysis

When I wrote about Cooking Without Limits last Wednesday, I noted their very strict post format that centered around food recipes. In contrast, Storm In an Egg Cup seems to defy a set formula. I think this speaks to the diversity of approaches to food that Frankie tends to practice.

Frankie’s posts almost always include images of food. The way these images are arranged varies from post to post. Sometimes she includes images at the beginning of her post as a means of introduction – sort of like a featured image. Other times she accompanies her recipes and other writing content with stage by stage images of her food and cooking process. I believe this diverse use of image is actually rather unique. I’m not exactly sure why she does this. For now, I’m guessing that most of her recipe posts use the featured image approach more than her other content.

I’ve already alluded to Frankie’s content diversity. She posts recipes, in which aspects of her personal life tend to leak into her introductory paragraphs before detailing ingredients and cooking process. However, Frankie also tends to post about practically anything food related. This includes lists of snacks that she enjoys eating (typically healthy choices), and sometimes food/cooking accessories. In her post “4 Items That Can Make You Healthier,” she lists food storing and carrying devices that may help in incorporating healthy foods into one’s diet.

Food Blogging Part One: Cooking Without Limits

As my project comes to an end, I find myself reflecting on the potential blogging sub-genres that I haven’t had the chance to write about. At times, this reflection prompts some regret, because I feel as though certain sub-genres promise more productive analysis than some that I’ve already written about. I accept this as a natural side effect from this project, since the internet is a big place which encompasses a vast variety of topics. As part of my winding-down process, I’m going to address the blogging sub-genre of “food blogging.” I’m tackling this topic, because it’s somewhat related to the last sub-genre I covered (lifestyle blogging). I’m also going to modify the typical layout for my project by merging the “Multi-modality, Tags, Categories, Content arrangement” section with the “Identity and Theme” section.

Today I’ll be looking at Cooking Without Limits

Identity, Theme, and Content Arrangement

Cooking Without Limits prefers rather quiet thematic choices. Their blog’s color scheme consists of a white page, with no header image or extensive use of color or design. The most provocative element of the theme is the use of red hypertext, which stands out against the white background. This simple and quiet theme resembles what I’ve observed in art blogging many weeks ago. I noticed that in art blogging, an author usually decides on a nearly blank theme in order to emphasize their art. Ordinarily, a blogger might choose a more colorful and detailed theme to express a particular personality or style. However in this case, the lack of these details emphasize the images and writing content posted on the blog. In this sense, Cooking Without Limits most likely deliberately chose simple thematic choices to emphasize their tagline: “Food Photography & Recipes.”

Aside from thematic elements and content, it is difficult to ascertain the identity of the author of Cooking Without Limits. They do not have an About page, which means readers are deprived of practically all biographical or personal information from the blogger. However, I do believe this works in favor of the blog, since leaving out this information (which ends up being irrelevant in blogging) further adds to the simplicity, which emphasizes content. In this way, Cooking Without Limits quite literally forces readers onto their content, simply because that’s all there is. The most “About” this blog really needs is the tagline “Food Photography & Recipes” which describes its content concisely.

Content Analysis

Photography is a defining aspect of Cooking Without Limit’s content. Every post of theirs contains at least one image, but never exceeds four images. Since this blogs defines itself as a food photography blog, I find it interesting how there seems to be an unspoken limit on the use of images. I think this blogger’s goal is to maintain a delicate balance between writing content and photography in an attempt to divide both elements equally. An overbearing amount of images tend to drown out recipe, narrative, and description in the same way writing might drown out the presence of images. Of course, it seems quite natural for photography to be part of food blogging because as some might say “People eat with their eyes.” Cooking Without Limits appears to put a lot of time and energy into their photography; the image quality seems very professional. The detail and presentation of each food item is presented with incredible elegance.

Cooking Without Limits uses a particular structure in their writing content, which is often repeated throughout many of their posts. The author typically begins with a brief introduction which announces the food item/topic of the post. The author never incorporates their personal life, or other unrelated topics or digressions into their content.  After the introductory sentences to each post, the blog’s content is almost strictly a recipe with cooking directions. And of course, images display the completed food product with stunning detail. This makes Cooking Without Limits a very focused blog – which is a characteristic quite rare from other blogging sub-genres I’ve written about.

Compilation Essay: Week Five (Lifestyle Blogging)

This is compilation essay in which I discuss interesting correlations, connections, observations, and conclusions about the sub-genre that is “lifestyle blogging.” This is part of my project for class in which I analyze a myriad of blogging sub-genres. Last week when I discussed the topic of political blogging, I had trouble discovering blogs that precisely fit my definition. This week has faired slightly better, however defining lifestyle has still be rather tricky. As my project is coming to an end, I’m considering posting a final write-up about all of the blogging sub-genres I’ve covered and what I’ve learned through the whole process.

Blogs I’ve looked at this week:

Lifestyle as Fitness and Health

Early on in my blogging career, as I was just discovering the world of blogs and the vast array of blogging topics, I noticed that the word “lifestyle” gets thrown around a lot. This observation has more or less led to this week’s focus. Personally, I consider lifestyle blogging to be the most bloggy type of blog out there. In other words, whenever I hear the word “blog” the first topic that enters my thoughts is lifestyle. However, lifestyle is very broad and general term, and I’ve eventually noticed an interesting division in the sub-genre of lifestyle blogging.

After writing about Simple Living Over 50 and The Shriveling Sisters this week, I was starting to realize that most of what bloggers thought of as lifestyle was a general improvement in one’s health/life. I draw a connection between these two blogs, because their content is very focused around health improvement, diet change, and fitness. Simple Living Over 50 provides periodic updates about his weight and blood sugar, as well as detailed content about his weight loss goals and diet plan. The Shriveling Sisters post in much the same way, by providing updates about their weight loss, exercise, diet plan, etc. These factors are certainly considered lifestyle blogging – these individuals are writing about the ways in which they’re changing how they live their lives. This approach to lifestyle is rather specific, and it has very clear goals in mind. The defining aspect of these type of blogs, I believe, is that they’re self-oriented – meaning they’re not too concerned about rhetoric, audience, or popularity.

Lifestyle as Morality, Beauty, Fashion, and Pretty Much Everything Else

MC Morgan pointed out in a comment on my The Shriveling Sisters post, that lifestyle encompasses morality in addition to physical health factors. He cites Benjamin Franklin’s 13 virtue experiment. I think this observation strikes at the heart of lifestyle blogging, because it illustrates just exactly how broad this topic can be. In fact, I’m inclined to believe that many bloggers fail to realize that lifestyle includes more factors than just diet and health.

A great example of lifestyle blogging that is concerned with morality and ethics, is of course, Inside Ethical. This blog’s content is not concerned with an improvement in lifestyle, but tends to advocate and give details about a particular lifestyle. Inside Ethical’s content is defined by two major factors: A vegan diet, and the ethical treatment of animals. Both of these elements are interconnected, and express the larger overarching theme of the blog – Ethics. Inside Ethical approaches the moral questions of lifestyle, and thus reaches beyond the question of physical health. Again, all of this serves to show that lifestyle blogging has an endless amount of topics and approaches in of itself.

Lastly, KellyHeart’s blog gives a particularly interesting insight into lifestyle blogging due to it’s wide variety of content. To be honest, Kelly’s blog was difficult to define at first. Her initial presentation gives a reader the impression that her blog is just a blog -that it has no focus. However, I feel confident in defining Kelly’s blog as a lifestyle blog, because most of her content is centered around the general question of how people live their lives. I image that Kelly will approach practically any topic that interests her, making her blog the epitome of lifestyle blogging by showing readers just how vast lifestyle can be (especially in a globalized culture). Diet, skin care, makeup, beauty, dress, travel, exercise – these topics define but don’t limit Kelly’s broad content.

Importance of Diet

Now, aside from the glaring variety of content in lifestyle blogging, it’s clear that the subject of diet seems to unite all of these blogs to some degree. The interesting thing about this observation, is that when I was searching for blogs to write about this week, I found myself coming into contact with many vegan blogs. I was beginning to think I could write for a whole week about vegan blogging alone. I’m guessing the popularity of a vegan diet is just another wave of health/ethical popularity that seems to be sweeping through our Western culture.

In the case of the two health improvement blogs I’ve written about, their diet changes are more drastic and typically include a large portion (maybe 1/3 or half) of the blogging content. These bloggers go as far as to read books about diet and weight loss strategies, and implement these strategies in their daily life. Simple Living Over 50 has blogged about a “window fasting” strategy, and The Shriveling Sisters have recently been keeping up with a juice fasting diet. With these blogs, diet occupies an experimental position within their content.

A vegan diet is at the center of Inside Ethical, and serves as a primary identifying characteristic of blogger and content. In this blog, the diet of blogger becomes a character trait. It is a static element that is consistently referred to as the blogger writes about their personal experiences. Katie (Inside Ethical) writes a great deal about new vegan foods and restaurants, as well as other challenges she faces because of this diet (i.e people questioning her diet choice). In this way, a reader receives a particularly detailed insight into a vegan lifestyle. Katie’s main point is that in today’s society, finding food options as a vegan is not very difficult.

The last approach to diet is KellyHeart’s conspicuous fascination with food. It is not apparent whether or not Kelly adheres to a specific diet. Kelly writes food recipes and and writes about her daily eats. In this way, diet finds a quiet place on Kelly’s blog.

Lifestyle blogging certainly has unifying characteristics – precisely in the way that I’ve shown with diet. However the diversity in diet alone shows just exactly how hard it is to define lifestyle blogging. Even in terms of life topics – fashion, health, diet, exercise, beauty – lifestyle content varies wildly. However even within these separate life topics that define lifestyle blogging, there’s an incredible (practically infinite) amount of diversity. The approaches are quite honestly endless.

Lifestyle Blog Four: KellyHeart

This will be the final post this week for my project before I write a compilation essay on lifestyle blogging. My goal in defining these blogs has been particularly difficult, because as I’ve stated before, lifestyle is an extremely broad topic. My compilation essay will most likely address this wise variety of blogs. However I’m starting to realize that defining blogging sub-genre’s is really quite senseless because blogs have a tendency to morph and change.

Today I’ll be looking at KellyHeart. Otherwise referred to as Kelly.

Identity and Theme

Kelly uses the Adelle theme on her blog. I would describe it as feminine, since it uses a combination of pink and black. Kelly also uses a header image on her blog to present the title of her blog. This image features her tagline which is: “Korean skincare, beauty, lifestyle.” along with the outline of a heart, which houses Korean letters. The impression a reader gets from all of these thematic choices is that the blogger has a feminine identity. I also find it incredibly interesting that Kelly uses this header image, because this makes her the third lifestyle blogger this week to use a custom image or logo for her home page.

Kelly’s about page provides some biographical information, along with detail about her interests. She states that she doesn’t usually wear makeup, and that she is mostly interested in skin care. This point on skin care is interesting, because its a particularly unique approach to lifestyle and beauty; this facet of Kelly’s personality also affects her content substantially. She also states she has an interest in food, but her diet is not specified.

Multi-modality, Tags, Categories, Content arrangement

Kelly uses a fair amount of image and writing in all of her posts. Practically every post of hers contains a featured image, which is typically modified with text. Her categories consist of various lifestyle elements such as: food, beauty, home, personal; her tags provide more specific descriptive elements. The most notable part of Kelly’s organization structure are her menu options which provides readers with a map for her various content which has to do with lifestyle. These menu options are more or less Kelly’s various categories.

Content Analysis

As Kelly alludes to on her About page, most of her content is centered around skin care. She writes a lot of reviews in which she details a particular skin care product. In these posts, she features an image of the product, information on the product, and her experience using the product. She ends every review by giving  a breakdown of the product’s pros and cons, and a rating out of 5. Since Kelly has to use the product in order to give adequate information on it, she talks a great deal about her own skin condition. In this way, she incorporates elements of her own life into her blogging content.

In terms of beauty, Kelly also makes many miscellaneous posts about hair and makeup. These posts include much of her own experience in these beauty techniques, as well as popular or new methods and advice for her readers to try.

In terms of diet, Kelly never explicitly states what her diet includes. One can assume from her content that she is an omnivore. Her interest in food is mainly shown in the form of recipe posts, in which she illustrates a step-by-step cooking process (sometimes with many interesting photos).

Past these major points of her content, Kelly blogs about her travel experiences (most recently in Europe), weight loss and exercise strategies, and interests in entertainment and pop culture. Because of the vast variety of Kelly blogging content, its almost too difficult to define her blog as a lifestyle blog – no topic appears to be off limits to her.

Lifestyle Blog Three: Inside Ethical

In yesterday’s post, I wrote about my changing definition of lifestyle blogging. I stated that in terms of lifestyle, my project was going to focus on blogs that primarily write about improving health via exercise and diet. Today however, I’m going to revert to broadening my definition of lifestyle blogging. The main reason for this, is that I’ve discovered a blog that I believe fits into the category/topic of lifestyle without swerving into the radical sub-category of weight loss and major life changes.

Today I’ll be looking at Inside Ethical, otherwise referred to as Katie.

Identity and Theme

Katie uses a very conservative amount of color and image in her theme. Her header is dominated by the color green along with an image of green stacked hearts that also displays her blog title. The rest of her blog’s layout is entirely white. I believe this theme choice gives an impression that reflects Katie’s content rather accurately. The color green most likely symbolizes a passion for conservation of the Earth, which also connects with the symbol of compassion that is demonstrated in the image of hearts. In terms of header image, Katie’s choice is interesting because it is somewhat similar to Simple Living Over 50’s use of header image. Both bloggers use an artistic representation instead of photography to form a logo for their blog.

Katie’s theme choices definitely reflect identity more than her About page. In her About page, she simple states her name, age, and her love for all things ethical.

Multi-modality, Tags, Categories, Content arrangement

Katie uses a combination of image, video, and writing in her posts. Almost every post is accompanied by a featured image, even if the post itself contains no image. She uses few categories to organize various aspects of her content, however many posts typically fall into multiple categories. These categories are: Beauty, Conservation, Fashion, Lifestyle, and Food and Drink. Although lifestyle is one category, I believe that almost all aspects of Katie’s content are essentially about lifestyle. Tags are uses similarly to categories.

Content Analysis

As I’ve alluded to before, Katie’s content has little to do with drastic lifestyle changes for health improvement. This point could be argued substantially, because much of Katie’s content revolves around her diet – she is vegan. I’m sure there are heaps of health benefits to a vegan diet, but from what I can tell, Katie is much more concerned with ethics on this point.

The central lifestyle change that more or less defines Katie’s blog is most definitely her veganism. Most of her posts are related to this choice in diet. Katie will post about vegan restaurant’s she has visited in which she details the food she has eaten. She also has an ongoing series in which she opens her monthly delivery of “The Vegan Kind,” (A subscription service in which you receive vegan food items). In these posts, she incorporates photos of every food item she receives and explains precisely what they are.

Aside from diet, Katie also blogs a great deal about conservation and animal cruelty. In these posts, she usually provides background information on a subject along with her opinion. One great example of these posts is her “Orca Captive Breeding Ended” post, in which she explains that Sea World has decided to stop breeding Orca’s in captivity, which is accompanied by a video by PETA. All of this content relates to her ethical theme.

Lastly, Katie blogs about her feelings. In this sense, Katie’s content is very much connected to The Shriveling Sisters and Simple Living Over 50. In her post “Feeling Gloomy,” Katie talks about her mood, and offers advice and various techniques for potentially improving one’s state of mind.