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English Paper #2 - Reynolds 1 Greg Reynolds Chris Chen...

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Reynolds 1 Greg Reynolds Chris Chen English R1A 7 November 2008 Thematic Connections Upon one’s first observation there is very little linking the restricted yet playful Sleeping with the Dictionary by Harryette Mullen and the open-ended, often confusing Dictee by Theresa Cha. But as a reader delves past the striking differences in tone, style and structure the two works become interconnected by their common themes and content. This commonality is most palpable in both poets use of mimicry to show the difficulty of speech, their emphasis on internal race and nation conflicts and finally the uniting idea of the cheapened nature of language and culture in the modern environment. Although these books seem to be opposites due to their readily apparent dissimilarities, the common threads of ideas weave two books together creating an underlying unity. Cha’s Dictee has a unique style that leans heavily upon the portrayal of real or realistic events. This portrays create a collection of semi-related stories that change forms and central meanings constantly going from a denouncement of Japanese occupation of Korea in the Clio section: “we, the common people of Korea, have lost confidence in the promises of Japan” (Cha 35), to mimicked catechisms “ For the Dwelling of God Housed in my body and soul must clean…Hardly worth the mention. Sins all the same ” (Cha 16). The format allows Cha to employ an expansive amount of stylistic devices that she does not hesitate in using, leaving a trail of poetic and prose mechanisms throughout Dictee . On the other hand Mullen employs a style based on constraints and procedural writing in
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Reynolds 2 Sleeping with the Dictionary . Although the constraints vary from poem to poem, the style is in sharp contrast to that of Dictee . By keeping the poems to a short length and using a variety of procedural constraints Mullen creates brief and playful poems. Staying in the realm of word games keeps Mullen away from the sweeping style of Cha and makes the two books feel unrelated, as it is hard to compare Mullen’s homonymic translations to the letters Cha infuses into her book. Dictee is a book of nine large sections, each for a different category of literature; these sections flow together in a mix of styles from prose to the more traditional line and stanza-based structure. Cha’s work seems confused at times as she explores many different stories ranging from the tale of her mother to that of a Korean resistance leader against Japanese occupation.
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