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Hussah's Blog 501

Erikson and the Harlem Duet

October 22nd, 2018 · No Comments · Uncategorized

For this week’s blog post, I will be looking at Erikson’s views on myths from  Shakespeare’s Othello and how they apply with the Harlem Duet play by Djanet Sears. On page 112 of Erikson’s article, he explains that Sears wrote that all of the Othello characters she has created leave their expected black wife for a white woman, which explains the reference he later mentions on page 114, that because of how Othello was portrayed, and how the Duke treats him for his color, Othello tries to convince himself that color does not matter, however throughout the rest of the article, Erison makes arguments that Othello marrying the white Desdemona is him betraying the African wife that he is supposed to marry. In Sears’ play, Othello marries the black wife Billie but leaves her for Mona, a white woman.

I think what most supports this myth that Othello married a white woman so he can change his past, not face it and forget it, so not experience and believe his own reality and actually believe that he can live like a white man is presented in Act 2, scene 3 of the play. The speech that is made by the character HER. The scene takes place in Harlem 1862, with the setting of a late summer night and the characters are that “HER holds HIM in her arms like Mary holds Jesus… there is a rope around his neck and he does not move”. The introduction of the setting itself displays that because the names of the characters are fully capitalized, that gives them more importance and value. Moreover, HER is compared to Mary which is a respected holy figure but what is interesting is that HIM is compared to Jesus the child of Mary. He is still respected but that is a mother-son relationship therefor it shows that if we were to compare Othello and Mona, because she is White, she is on Mary’s level of respect, and Othello being with a White woman gives him the level of respect that Jesus has, but is still beneath her since he is compared to Mary’s son.

Going to the speech of  ‘HER’, it starts with her Caressing him and him is spelled in lower case letters, since she is telling him a story, which is like a bedtime fable read to a child, thus further proving the mother-son dynamic. She explains that a spell was created to help a man become white and enter the whiteness. Othello entered the whiteness through his lover Mona. Him starting a relationsihp with her as his lover shows that through this sexual desire which was previously mentioned in Paula Vogels Desdemona, whom wanted to experience the world through men, here Othello wants to experience whiteness through a white women.

Him experiencing this whiteness made him realize that color does matter but he wants to erase his color. The relationship with the lover made him forget his race’s past and his true color which is the reason why I think that this is why white actors play blackface when playing the character Othello, because being in the relationship with the white Desdemona made him forget his true self, and turn into who he desired to be.  (536).


Adapting Othello Blog Post

October 15th, 2018 · No Comments · Uncategorized

The article “How Desdemona Learned to Die: Failed Resistance in Paula Vogel’s Desdemona” by Dr. Jennifer Flaherty of Georgia College and State University I think perfectly describes this week’s blog post promotes in terms of how in this play, despite the male figures not appearing within the play, they are still mentioned and hold a strong impact on how the women proceed with their lives. In this article, to brief how Flaherty describes this dark comedy, it is a play where the main storyline of Othello does continue, but in the perspective of the women with different situations occurring but still leading to the same result of the Shakespearean play and has the women wanting to resist the patriarchy that they are inferior to, so in this play, Desdemona does cheat on Othello and still has the same ending where she is murdered in her sleep by her husband.

The quite in this article that I would like to focus on that helps explain how men affect women’s lives in this play is found on page 39 of the article:

Feeling frustrated by her life, her marriage, and her position in society, Desdemona rebels in the only way that she can—through her body. She feels liberated by her sexual adventures, as though she can achieve her dreams of travel and adventure through sex with men who have traveled and fought. In an attempt to explain this feeling to Emilia, Desdemona describes it as a way to satisfy her “desire to know the world” (Vogel 20).

This quote itself explains how women can express their voice in Vogel’s  Desdemona,  which to the character Desdemona the ideal way to experience the world is to have sexual relations with different men, thus travel and know the world. If Desdemona did not have these sexual relations she would not have experienced the world, and the stories that she is telling Emilia and the rest of the characters present in the play would not occur, since, without these men, Desdemona would not have stories about her adventures to share. These men are not present, but they have a big effect on how Desdemona presents herself among the women. Without them, she would not be able to tell these stories or share her sexual knowledge with the rest of the women. In fact further int he article, Flaherty explains that Desdemona married Othello because of his color and how marrying his color means traveling more of the world and experiencing the world. Without these men, Desdemona would not know what the world is, which is why despite this being a play from the female’s perspective, it is still heavily impacted by the unpresent males. (447)


Week 6 Blog Post

October 9th, 2018 · No Comments · Uncategorized

Feminism and female agency. How do we define those two phrases? Typically when coming across the term feminism or feminist (anything related to these two categories), one expects to see empowerment and support connected with these terms. In Vogel’s adaptation of Othello, “Desdemona A play about a handkerchief” since this adaptation is written by a female author, one would expect the female characters of the play to be empowered. However, that is not the case. Vogel presents the real definition of what feminism is, which is to raise awareness of societal oppression on females and spurring a reaction from those you are raising this awareness to.

In the article by Jennifer Flaherty, she explains in her abstract that “Although the women of Vogel’s Desdemona are each doomed to fail at their respective attempts to escape the situations that control them, the text still maintains a feminist perspective. The feminism of Desdemona does not demonstrate empowerment, enlightenment, or equality—these positive elements are replaced with a kind of negative empathy” (35). Despite this negative perspective presented by Vogel, she still successfully promotes her feminist approach. The characters do not need a happy ending or are heroes, but they are causing an effect on the audience by ” Vogel asks her audiences to say ‘no’ to constraints on female agency and ‘no’ to female complicity and isolation. By not saving Desdemona, Vogel invites her audiences to save themselves” (35). I agree with this because what the point of making a recreated fictional character power and authority since it is only a character and not real life. The best way to send out a message is to have the story affect the audience. Many expected Desdemona to have power in this adaptation because it is written by a female author but Vogel shows that no matter the gender of the author, that does not change the main point which is that female agency lacked and did not exist due to the oppression of a patriarchal society.

No matter how many adaptations are recreated, everyone can go back and reread the original text by Shakespeare himself since he created these fictional characters. Every adaptation after this is just a meaningless wish of what was desired by readers of Shakespeare in how characters were treated. Many authors desire for the females to have a voice, but Vogel wants the audience to give these female characters a voice, not the text to give them a voice. This voice becomes a community and helps the audience change how society is so that future works based on a specific society can actually refrain from not writing about female oppression since society can actually change how females are treated.

Female oppression existed in a drastic manner during Shakespeare’s time. Adaptations writing different storylines won’t change the truth and this is what Vogel wants. Vogel wants to write an adaptation where Desdemona’s fate is worse, because In Shakespeare’s version because of her high status, she was less limited but ideally women back then were very limited and this is what Vogel wants to present. She presented the truth behind the female life in Shakespeares time, without regarding high status. She does not view status as a source of power but she views the body as a source of power (39) “Vogel presents Desdemona’s aggressive sexuality as an act of resistance, albeit unsuccessful. Feeling frustrated by her life, her marriage, and her position in society, Desdemona rebels in the only way that she can—through her body. She feels liberated by her sexual adventures, as though she can achieve her dreams of travel and adventure through sex with men who have traveled and fought. In an attempt to explain this feeling to Emilia, Desdemona describes it as a way to satisfy her “desire to know the world” (Vogel 20).” In Shakespeare’s version, Desdemona was loyal to Othello and was pure, but in this adaptation, Desdemona uses her sexuality to escape her reality. This is an ideal idea back in that time period because many women were oppressed they acted out in the only way they can which was through their bodies. She sees sexual relations as a way of experiencing the world, this just proves Vogel’s idea that in a patriarchal society there is selfishness, lust, violence, and anger (37). By her wanting to experience life through sex, she is affected by the patriarchal idea of sex and lust.

The only issue with this idea is in Shakespeare’s version, the audience disliked Othello for killing his wife since she was loyal and did nothing wrong but in this version, she did commit acts of adultery, so does this justify him killing her (38)? In this adaptation, Othello believes that by killing her he is saving other men from being hurt by her but this goes back to fighting against the idea that she was inferior to men. Why would Othello worry about Desdemona hurting other men if she is inferior to them so this is where the idea that Vogel presents backfires. She initially portrayed Desdemona and other female characters as having no voice or authority but because of the fear that Othello feels when he discovers of Desdemona’s adultery, he is scared of her authority and kills her. I think the conclusion from this is everyone can have authority, But the authority that you have has a connotation to it. In Shakespeare’s Othello, Desdemona’s authority was through her voice and status which is respected by the audience and her fellow characters, but in Vogel’s adaptation, Desdemona’s authority comes from her body. Her body being used for sexual acts as a desire to escape her reality and experience the world is a negative presentation, This makes the audience sympathize with Othello rather than understand Desdemona and support her. The moral that I saw Vogel wanted to send was that no matter what kind of authority is given to a woman, the only acceptable form of authority is one where she is still respected and can raise her head high and be proud. She made Desdemona an adulterous woman in brothels that still got her freedom but made sure that the audience will still say no and wish for a better life than this, a better authority than this. (1039)


Week 5 post

October 1st, 2018 · No Comments · Uncategorized

For this weeks post, we were asked to find a primary source and a secondary source that can help us analyze Shakespeare, or at least help us better understand him and his works. I myself view that the best primary source that is available online is from the Folger Library site. I used this site and went on to see the works of Shakespeare and focused on Othello since that is what the class text is. What I really enjoyed about this source was that the page offers a synopsis of the work, so it helps the reader have an idea of what to expect to read if they have never heard of the topic before. Furthermore, it lists out the characters in the play and makes searching easier. For instance, if I want a specific scene or quote from a character, I can just write out the phrase or the character and it makes research more efficient and less time-consuming. I chose this source since if I were to do research on Othello, my topic would either focus  on race or gender, so, for now, I will just focus on race, and a simple way to use this source to help me research about race, is to focus on terms used in the play about race, such as “Moore”. If I type out that phrase, it shows me how many times it is said in the play, who says it and any other correlation surrounding the term, so it helps me better create my argument and analyze, which is really helpful.

The citation for the source is:

Folger Shakespeare Library. Shakespeare’s Plays from Folger Digital Texts. Ed. Barbara Mowat, Paul Werstine, Michael Poston, and Rebecca Niles. Folger Shakespeare Library, 30 September, 2018.


For my secondary source, I browsed Jstor, since most of the articles in MLA international bibliography and Jstor are similar, but to me, Jstor is easier to use. I typed out the search bar “racism” then in the other search bar, I wrote “Othello”. I looked at the first source available since the title was intriguing ”

“An Essence that’s Not Seen”: The Primal Scene of Racism in Othello” by Arthur L.Little JR. I read the keywords associated with the article and saw that it would speak of both gender and race which are both interesting to me. I however before reading the text thought that the author would speak of both topics separately, but I did not realize that he would connect racism with gender. He made Desdemona’s gender seem equal to Othello’s color. throughout the rest of the texts, he associates the negativities connected with Desdemonas gender and Othello’s skin. Othello’s skin demonizes him while Desdemona on the other hand, since her honor is unseen, unlike Othello’s skin which is clear to everyone, that also puts her in a negative perspective since she is no longer trusted and not viewed as pure or honorable, like Othello. I just really liked how Othello his race is clear that he will look down on, but with the connection that the author made that even though Desdemona is white because they suspect her honor, which is unseen, that still makes her like Othello, feeling like a minority.

The source is:

Little, Arthur L. “‘An Essence That’s Not Seen’: The Primal Scene of Racism in Othello.” Shakespeare Quarterly, vol. 44, no. 3, 1993, pp. 304–324. JSTOR, JSTOR,



Week 4 Blog Post

September 24th, 2018 · No Comments · Uncategorized

For this week’s blog post, I would like to focus on the first prompt which was to analyze how one of the visual representations presented last class on Othello, changed my initial perspective. I focused on the third option from the list of videos which was the Women in Othello where Olivia Vinall and Lindsay Marshal describe their interpretation of Desdemona/Emilia in the 2013 British National Theater production.

Before I dive into how this interpretation affected how I now look at Othello, let me first describe what my initial outlook was. What made me choose this video was that when reading this play, I always viewed Desdemona as a strong female character. She came from high power, she has more freedom than most women in her time, especially more than Emilia, and she has a way of speaking. Her way of speaking is sort of manipulative since it gets her what she wants which is what makes even character strong and intimidating. That was how I viewed her when reading the play, she was strong, intimidating and smart with words, therefore manipulative. With Emilia however, I always saw her as a weak character due to how abusive her relationship with her husband Iago is. He always bosses her around and she always appears to try to please him. She is very inferior in her relationship to him that she tries to hard to be in his good graces, she is willing to perform actions without thinking the consequences through, such as giving Iago the handkerchief that she knows will cause an internal issue in Desdemona and Othello’s marriage. I always read her as a jealous character since she was ready to cause problems in another marriage since she herself is in an unhappy and abusive marriage so that does explain why she could be jealous of the newlyweds.

I chose this interpretation because it changed how I view these characters. They were portrayed in a completely opposite manner. With other productions, I still view these characters with my same initial perspective however with this one it is completely different which is why I want to discuss the differences. First, in this adaptation, Desdemona seems to be portrayed in a manner to show that she is young and still needs guidance. maybe it was done that way to help show that she is a newlywed and married a man significantly older than her so typically she would need guidance in how her life will adjust to being more responsible, being wiser, being more mature. In this adaptation she was young, she also surprisingly needed advice from Emilia who I consider to be weaker than her however Emilia could have saved Desdemona through her words just by conversing which I found intriguing since in the play, I noticed whenever Emilia would do anything like speak to her husband or explain a thought, she would be turned down and not given time to be heard, so in this adapatation her voice is very strong whereas in my reading of it, her voice was not important. In this adapation Emilia was not jelous, she was only trying to help her husband by also being manipulative in a way which I would expect from Desdomona, not from her. I always saw that Emilia surrenders herself to Iago and here even though he got what he wanted, he still worked for it. Also, I think what made me view Emilia as a strong character was that she was wearing army attire which always makes someone look stronger, so that helped her a lot, I guess it gave her more confidence. What I mostly enjoyed about this interpretation was that in the initial reading I saw that the women did not help each other but in this production, the purpose was to show that the women could have helped each other if they just had a conversation about life. Desdemona could have taught Emilia the strength and the voice that comes from youth and Emilia could have taught Desdemona the struggles and weaknesses she should avoid as a woman in a domestic relationship, they would both teach eachother how to establish their voice and position in their relationships.

The video that I would like to introduce is in fact from the same production, but an explanation of Iago and Othello’s relationship, which I was curious about since there are many readings explaining how they are close and how this closeness affects the status of their relationship, so it is jealousy from one another, is it desire for one another, etc.

My initial thoughts on Othello and Iago’s relationship was that Iago always had white superiority and used it to get what he wants, he did not care for anyone I never saw he cared for god relationships as long as he is happy and treated with the respect that he views a white man should be treated, then he knows how to be fake. People always interpret his jealousy for Othello as him being into Othello but I saw that he was scared of his white superiority fading with time and progression so he wants to reestablish it. He saw Othello rise from the bottom and reach levels higher than him and hold more honor than him which was not typical for a person of color at his time, which is why he reestablishes Othello’s place by calling him “The Moore”. In this adaptation, Othello knows of his limitations but knows he is honored. He worked for where he is now which is similar in the play, in the play he worked and fought to get to where he is now and Iago was always served everything. Othello and Iago’s relationship here, however, is said to be close due to fighting battles together and knowing each other through the years. I think that is what made Iago fear Othello, especially since he refers to Othello as having a charm which I never considered when reading the play. Maybe over the years he saw Othello in action and saw how he might have a charm, therefore he is intimidated by him. What explains this intimidation is clear by the choice of actors. Othello is tall and built while Iago is short and not as built or attractive as Othello, so that would definitely cause esteem issues within Iago as to why he would think his wife would choose Othello over him and have an affair. In the play I never saw that Iago would fear to lose his wife to Othello, I thought he only wanted rumors, but by how the actor stands and acts, its safe to say that he was self-conscious about himself, which is something you cannot interpret from reading the text, you have to see it to believe it. (1135)


Week 3 Reading Response

September 16th, 2018 · No Comments · Uncategorized

For this weeks reading response, I would like to focus on the Chapter 8 reading by Bedford and compare some of the passages with a scene from the play “Othello”. In page 254 of the chapter, Bedford states what makes men and woman different, “That women occupied a position subordinate to men in the early modern period…most thinkers in the sixteenth century took it as axiomatic that men are superior to women”. To relate the gender hierarchy passage to how it relates to most of Shakespeare’s works, especially in Othello, a woman has to get permission from a male figure in order to wed the man that she desires. In fact, in his plays, a woman barely has a say in what she desires since everything is arranged for her. When Desdemona goes to tell her father that she and Othello have eloped, he is against the marriage for several reasons. In this chapter they speak of how patriarchy plays a major role during that time period and this is extremely evident in the plays because Desdemona lived her entire life under the control of her father, which later turned into marrying another man and still needing to ensure that her father still approves of her choices and still has a say in her life. Even though she married another man, you would expect her to not need her father to arrange her life for her and control her since in a patriarchy this control goes to her husband, but no in this play, it does not matter if she got married, her dad will still control her.

I would like to briefly discuss how the patriarchal hierarchy is portrayed in this play. In the play, Othello is a Moore so he is not respected amongst other men, despite him already proving his strength and masculinity by helping them win battles. Because of his race, Iago who is white is more superior than him despite him not having the same achievements as Othello. Because of Iago’s skin tone, this gives him a bigger say in Desdemona’s like that her own husband Othello, since Desdemona’s father is actually willing to hear Iago’s opinions. So in the play, we see that a woman will always be under the control of her father and that even amongst men, their superiority does not come from their achievements but from the color of their skin. In fact, you would expect that since Othello helped with the battles and played a major role, he would be respected amongst these men but throughout the play, they still refer to him as “The Moore”. That reference by itself proves where he stands in the patriarchal hierarchy.


EN 501 Week 2

September 9th, 2018 · No Comments · EN501, Uncategorized

Whenever wanting to learn more about one’s life, the best and most reliable source is to study sources that have come directly from the subject such as interviews or articles they have been in, memoirs they have written, autobiographies they have written, etc. In Chapter 3, of “Research Methods for English Studies” by Gabriele Griffin, he raises the question of how one can be so sure that what is in an autobiography is a true fact?

How I myself would respond to this concern would be to comment on one of his arguments that whether what is written is a factor, not a fact, the writer intended to write so that it turns out the way of which the writer desired the piece to be. To better clarify this note, earlier this week in my history course, we had a debate about memoirs and if they are completely one hundred percent true. What made us debate that memoirs might not be true is because when memoirs are written, the writer is writing about memories from years ago, so the writer might not necessarily transcribe the memory the in total and complete truth, there is a big chance that there might be alterations or issues with the memory that affect how that memoir is written. It is not possible for a writer to remeber the exact details from something that has occured fifty years ago, so there is bound to be some changes. This led us to the conclusion of the debate being that despite memiors and autbiographies holding important facts and truth, it still holds some alterations. Whether the alterations are minimal or grand, they still affect the truth behind the memory.

This conclusion later raised concern towards memiors making us question historical events. For instance, when a Holocaust survivor writes a memior about the time period and the concentration caps and everything, since the writer wrote it form memory, does that make the entire story true? We already achknowledge that the Holocaust did happen so there already is a fact, but we question whether all the stories are true, we believe the brutalities and everything, but during the debate, we questioned whether the scenes described in memiors were in fact one hundred percent true, and if they werent does that then change how to view history and if we infact believe that everything written about history is one hundred person truthful.

My answer is that if there are facts with the argument that there is some truth, but of course there are always alterations and revisions. With autobiographies, I do believe that it holds a lot of truth, however, because autobiographies usually get revised, these revisions are what raise questions. Usually, these revisons are what help the writer better explain how they want to be perceived. Whether it is truthful or not, because the source is directly coming fom the subject, thn we must believe it despite it possibly being a lie. Believing sources form the subject is more reliable than believing sources about the subject.


Hello world!

January 18th, 2018 · 1 Comment · Uncategorized

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