The “Intimate Public” of Mommy Blogs: A Genre Study By Chelsea Lonsdale

The “Intimate Public” of Mommy Blogs: A Genre Study

Motherhood has been culturally recognized as a distinct social position, though its status is often considered within the context of other systems. With the emergence of digital writing and online communities, motherhood has become a unique phenomenon taking the blogosphere by storm, simultaneously bringing both an intimate and social perspective to the forefront of mothering research. In this paper, I will provide an overview of the content scope, participants in, and implications of the subgenre of blogs known as “mommy blogs,” a framework within which women writers nurture an “intimate public” through deliberate and communal interaction.



Women have remained the subordinate half of a patriarchal system, causing a distinction between the public and private spaces that they occupy. Mothers in this system have been selected as caretakers and domestic preservers, leaving them little room in which to explore or process issues beyond the private home. In certain societies, such as those with low socio-economic status or less industrialized economies, women-centered kinship networks provide substantial support for the community as a whole. However, in mainstream, middle-class American society, mothers have a delineated path that they are expected to follow; one that both controls and presents ideals by which these women are supposed to abide, encompassing the many expectations placed on mothers that define culturally what “good” and “bad” mothering look like. These myths are often presented under the guise of parenting “experts,” who have published numerous books that populate the shelves at bookstores and libraries, or through websites that promote certain parenting styles in a hyper-idealized format. All the while, women who consume this information do so from a point of solitude; whether they stay at home or opt for a career, they are expected to embody an impossible number of identities and roles that severely limit the honest representation of what a mother really wants. Without the solidarity provided in the past by collaborative groups, such as women-centered kinship networks (Cherlin, 2009) or such groups as ladies literary clubs, mothers become isolated and cutoff from the intimate bonds necessary to survive. Mommy blogs have provided both a window into and a means to cope with the daily demands of mothering from an honest and evolving perspective; by both sharing their own experiences and having access to the experiences of others, women gain emotional and social support that is otherwise absent in our current social structure. Lauren Berlant (2008), in her book The Female Complaint, calls this “intimate public” an achievement:

Whether linked to women or other nondominant people, it flourishes as a porous, affective scene of identification among strangers that promises a certain experience of belonging and provides a complex of consolation, confirmation, discipline, and discussion about how to live as an x (p. viii).

Because blogs are characterized by their interactive nature as well as their intentionally small audiences, they also provide qualitative insight for researchers on the realities of motherhood and mother identity that would be otherwise unobtainable through interviews or other traditional forms of data collection. Researchers are

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actively involved in the subgenre of mommy blogs through participation and observation; several of the articles used to support my claims have been written by self-identified mommy bloggers, who are also working in the field of sociology.


How Blogging Works: The Who, Why, and How

In a 2008 ‘State of the Blogosphere,’ Sifry found that out of 133 million existing blogs approximately 36% of women and 16% of men published regularly about family issues (as cited in Lopez, 2009, p. 729). This points to the notion of “mommy blogging” as a qualified subgenre within the larger field, though this term has not always been received by its participants with pride. The participants within this “intimate public,” a term coined by Berlant (2008) in The Female Complaint, are generally white, middle-class, heterosexual females who are of childbearing age (Lopez, 2009). Lori Kido Lopez’s (2009) research focuses on the “radical” notion of mommy blogging, particularly its persuasive entrance by females into a male-dominated field. She challenges the domestic, or private sphere that women have been assigned to, acknowledging the digital space

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that this evolving community has settled within that has provided a venue for honest and provoking conversations pertaining to family subjects. Such topics include childbirth options, childcare, discipline, feeding, medical and health information, as well as parents-as-partners, single parenting, and mental health. Despite a failed representation of all mothers due to socio-economic restraints that limit access to technology (thus explaining the demographical data), mommy blogs shed new light on topics that have been marked as inappropriate for public discourse, which thus unpacks the myths of motherhood that the genre of parenting literature generally perpetuates.

Aimee Morrison, a self-identified mommy blogger and author of the paper “’Suffused by feeling and affect’: the intimate public of personal mommy blogging” (2011) explains in detail the rhetoric of mommy blogs, considering audience, purpose, and delivery as essential to understanding the affective nature of this subgenre. Morrison associates mommy blogs with network theory as these blogs rely on collective production and circulation, or a mutual and non-linear model of interaction between authors and their readers. She contrasts this with broadcast theory, which would involve a small group responsible for production of a text that is given to and received by consumers. Morrison (2011) identifies through an anonymous survey that more than 80% of respondents reported their readers to be other bloggers. This points to the unique property of mommy blogs, and blogs in general, that require an immediate and interactive response on behalf of the audience in order to flourish. Even more so, mommy blogs navigate this “intimate public” by maintaining small audiences and limiting their search-ability, relying on readership and network-propelled circulation to nurture their community. I find this to be incredibly interesting when compared to the communities that have provided a similar sense of companionship prior to or beyond the Internet, such as ladies literary clubs or women-centered kinship between families or neighbors; the community of mommy bloggers seems to have roots in these localized practices despite their international and often semi-anonymous presence.

Morrison (2011) continuously emphasizes the properties of an intimate public, those being a controlled audience (generally small and selective, as well as interactive) and the intimate, personal disclosure that determines topic choice and the amount of detail included. Therefore, though the authors maintain a certain degree of autonomy, the subgenre of mommy blogging is participant driven and thus forms a subculture within the genre. Mommy blogs are autobiographical by nature, updated frequently, and are accessible freely by anyone with an Internet connection (Lopez, 2009). Readers check in habitually, and authors use informal and narrative language producing a conversational tone (Lopez, 2009). Blogs are also often tagged, using keywords assigned to entries that associate entries with shared tags into searchable entities, which Lopez (2009) believes gestures to the “fragmentation of identity represented in blogs” (p. 738), though I will take this further and claim that fragmented identity is a concept associated specifically with the female identity, as evidenced by the many unattainable expectations placed on mothers and the many roles women must balance on a daily basis.

In terms of topic, what distinguishes mommy blogs from personal blogs written by women is the “recurrent theme of writing about children” (Lopez, 2009, p. 734); a choice that has led to marginalization even within the community of female bloggers. In a BlogHer 2005 conference, a conference attendee named Alice Bradley, claimed that ‘mommy blogging is a radical act’ (Lopez, 2009). This controversial statement at a conference for female bloggers that originally aimed to challenge misconceptions that females only blogged about children earned itself a session at the 2006 conference with Bradley’s claim as the session title (Lopez. 2009). Perhaps what Bradley calls attention to is the identity of mother and its need for reform and reclaiming: according to Lopez (2009), “the entire concept of being a mother is overwhelming and imbued with failure. Once women become mothers, their lives are taken over by society’s strict sets of rules and expectations.” This “new-momism,” a term attributed to Douglas and Michaels (as cited in Lopez, 2009, p. 731), is evidenced in the barrage of parenting literature thrown at new and expecting parents, in the social

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practices surrounding motherhood represented in the media (television shows and advertising), and institutionally through maternity leave and lactation policies. These examples all serve as places for these rules to be taught and reinforced. Though mommy blogs intentionally limit themselves from broader public discourse (which Morrison argues is a hindrance to achieving social change), their presence in the blogosphere is growing and with that comes continued uncovering of the hyper-idealized image associated with motherhood identity.

What is at Stake for Families?

May Friedman (2010) in her essay “On Mommyblogging: Notes to a Future Feminist Historian,” says that “maternal isolation has directed many different waves of feminism” (p. 197). In placing the feminist movement on a timeline we see that these waves coincide with the societal elevation of women, and consequently the shift from women-centered kinship within communities to a more individualistic environment. Andrew Cherlin (2009), a prominent family sociologist, recalls the nineteenth-century ideal of True Womanhood which focused on the private, domestic lives of women that came to define the woman’s sphere; while this distinction limited women in terms of social clout, it provided for a network that included other female relatives and/or members of the community that became impractical to maintain when the boundaries between gendered spaces were challenged. Community in general, but particularly for women who have been subordinate in a patriarchal system, fosters identity development and empowerment through reflexivity. Created kinship, or the actively constructed ties that individuals create with others, provides emotional support and personal satisfaction common to both modern expectations of relationships as well as communal values. This type of connection found amongst mommy bloggers counters individualism by providing a new accessible space for those who may otherwise be limited by their lack of local resources.

While mommy blogs are collectively working to redefine aspects of motherhood identity, these blogs also serve as educational tools and are becoming recognized sources of reliable data. In an article titled “’Motherbirth or childbirth’? A prospective analysis of vaginal birth after caesarean blogs,” Dahlen and Homer (2011) discuss findings from a survey conducted by analyzing blogs to gather data pertaining to VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Caesarean) decisions. Like the other studies considered in this paper, Dahlen and Homer (2011) used Google Analytics to search for specific terms and themes in blogs which provided them a sample from which to begin analysis. Mommy blogs thus not only serve as the thread by which communities form and are held together, but also provide entirely subjective information for their readers. When faced with heavily implicated decisions pertaining to childbirth, childrearing, parenting, and partnership, women often turn to the internet to find answers. Blogs provide a unique take on the information usually presented objectively by medical professionals or other trusted authorities on parenting issues.


Despite their limitations, mommy blogs hold the power needed to access social change through solidarity, expounding on the “intimate public” and creating a space where both the public and private aspects of family life are engaged. These blogs illustrate contemporary motherhood identity as well as the social construction of expectations placed on parents while maintaining a space on the fringe of mainstream media. Through what Friedman calls “women’s storytelling” (p. 199), honest accounts of motherhood are given to the public as living data and thus an evolving archive is born through deliberate, consciously created communication. The subgenre of mommy blogs within a larger digital space, as well as the genre of parenting media, holds the potential for radical redesign that considers the actual dynamic needs of contemporary American families.


Berlant, L. (2008). The Female Complaint. Durham and London: Duke University Press.

Cherlin, A. (2009). Public and Private Families: An Introduction. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Dahlen, H. & Homer, C. (2011). ’Motherbirth or childbirth’? A prospective analysis of vaginal birth after caesarean blogs. Midwifery. 1-7.

Friedman, M. (2010). On mommyblogging: notes to a future feminist historian. Journal of Women’s History 22(4). 197-208.

Lopez, L. K. (2009). The radical act of ‘mommy blogging’: redefining motherhood through the blogosphere. New Media Society 11(5). 729-747.

Morrison, A. (2011). “Suffused by feeling and affect”: the intimate public of personal mommy blogging. Biography 34(1). 37.

In Another Life By Chelsea Lonsdale

in another life I am

tender leather,

is someone cryin’ on the other side, mama? she says

but then I am

a curling ocean wave, covering pearls and

shark’s teeth

I am hope

soft bird feathers in a nest with

yarn and silk covered

birch bark

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tears melting sand to a pool of

murky moats and a

toothpick drawbridge

tight strings stretched over the neck of a


horse hair gathered on a

bow, a song

a slow pull.

a quick dance.

is your bed made?

is your sweater on? did you remember to

brush your hair?

in another life, I am

a hair dresser

I have three girls

close in age

I am chained hands raised in


there are four seats around a table

each holds a quilted cushion

each cushion tells a story

of the last few days in summer when the nights are

cold and we put on our wool socks

with a beer in our hands in the


sharing bar food and

looking forward to the

forward motion

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rocking, mama, rock me

back and forth

back and forth

I weave you in the thread of my hands

you are the warp, I am the weft, or is it

that I am still while you wrap your

baby fine hair around my


you are the river in a paper cup,

I dreamt I had bought you a map,

a map for my heart wandering free

outside of my body

with pride comes sorrow

with pride, comes sorrow.

Gender as Performance as Communication as Rhetoric By: Chelsea Lonsdale

I’ve got nothing. Well, that’s not true – I’ve got somebody else’s something.

Like this thought:

By looking at delivery from an evolutionary perspective, delivery no longer becomes a tool of rhetoric, but the technology of rhetoric, evolving over time in the same way the system of rhetoric itself has evolved.

I’m looking forward to reading this person’s dissertation.

I’ve been

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sour over a post I had composed last week during a desperately needed two hour nap time from the little (monster) one. Two hours. Of nap time. I couldn’t even remember what I had written by the time I hit publish; you know those periods of writing when your hands take on a life of their own and your mind follows as quickly as it can? One key point that I do recall is on Joseph Williams stylistic aphasia, which is explained in his book titled Style: Toward Clarity and Grace as a regressive stage where a capable writer is reduced to using abstract terms with vague prepositions as a means of navigating an unfamiliar subject or genre. I’m taking a Native American Literature course. I’m finding myself completely unable to express my thoughts in a coherent fashion, both in class discussion as well as in written assignments. This is paired with the problem of privilege; as a white female, I really have little more to offer than the white girl’s perspective on a marginalized people – I am the Indian lover who collects memorabilia bought on the internet as if it somehow makes me more earthy, more centered. I am the twenty something shopping at Orchid Lane thinking I’m practicing sustainability, preaching on fair trade and simplicity. I am the privileged white female who has cable television and more than one

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pair of shoes, I attend college, and my daughter will have food every day (most of which gets tossed in the trash because she doesn’t eat it). I am not only trying to navigate a new genre, I am handicapped by the white (wo)man’s privilege. What words do I have, to critique or comment on the practices and traditions of a people whose life I can’t know? I am limited by my own existence, by my own breath and my own waking, and it’s not only projected onto this particular subject area.

I don’t know if I’ll get to gender as performativity here; it’s more a concept that is permanently housed in my head and it gets thrown in behind everything I do. This week in my other class, we’re looking at “word” and “image” and whether or not they exist as a dichotomy in rhetoric. Wysocki asks what is gained or lost over various communication mediums; how perception factors into the value of those forms, and how they are socially and historically constructed. Her essay is titled “awaywithwords,” and here’s a link with more info from my professor’s blog, (almost) ironically the first link to show up in a search, except google knows that I was on this blog earlier – there’s another topic, actually: how google/chrome can modify search results in order to provide a highly desired outcome and how that plays a role in delivery as technology and vice versa.

Anyway, I’m struggling to come up with anything substantial to write in my Lit class, is my point, and the class was over today save for the final on Thursday afternoon, which is essay based. I’m a grown-up white girl, and I’m complaining about limitations as the paradoxical result of excess.

Here’s another link, on perfectionism, intimacy, and evolution.

I’m writing within the narrow hallways of affordable space and I don’t know how to unpack that.

Jellybean By Laurie Stevens


Baby, are you coffee bean or tangerine?

Cinnamon spice

when I thought, when you seem


I’m on the lookout for tell-tale speckles

masquerade the flavor behind freckles

cute as can be lull me

make me trust you.

Give me a bag of magic beans and I’ll

pick out all the green ones

but you really shouldn’t do that

with people.

I’d avoid licorice and stick my fingers deep

in the bag, drag to find the ones I like the

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but we can’t just wish away a person’s


But with you it’s not that I’d change a thing.

I like your taste, your sugar gleam.

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Do those crushed ones ever taste quite right?

Honeybee By Laurie Stevens


The most hollow definition of beautiful is one

you clearly aren’t a fan of, and I can understand that.

Shoved in the skin of a person you aren’t and then cat-called

is not something I’d be comfortable with either.

But I desperately want to call it you because

to me it means the quality of a

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soul who

emits light, who greets baristas like they’re old friends

and kisses me a thousand shining times

when I’m face down from

singing embarrassment.

The recognized definition is as follows:

the quality present in a thing or person that gives intense

pleasure or deep satisfaction to the mind, whether arising

from sensory manifestations (as shape, color, sound, etc.)

or something else (as in a personality in which a

high spiritual quality is manifest)

And that sounds pretty applicable to me.

I have always been a fan of

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the dictionary

But you are b e a u t i f u l

because there’s nobody in the world that lights me up like you do

(I mean, I’m writing

POETRY and I don’t think you understand)

and I just feel like that deserves a few compliments and

it is, after all, one of my very favorite words

so forgive me, please.

Another, favorite word, that is,

is one you don’t hear

too often where we live up here in

Yankee country but even so


sounds like golden summer days and you to me

so how could I resist running my tongue all over it?

And when bees keep buzzing in all the radio songs

like my damn windmills and foxes it’d be wrong to

ignore this just like I feel that it’s wrong for my mind

to take a breath in between thoughts of you.

I find myself

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racing my words across this apartment

to this page because they drip like water but don’t taste

quite as good as the sweat on your shoulder

so sometimes I forget them for a moment in memory’s favor.

Poetry’s not something I do so well but

disclaimers aside my mind insists on dwelling in

the sound of your laugh and the size of your hands and

the few times you’ve sounded scared of me,

and I assure you there’s no need to be, not when I’m

the one who’s surely

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The Surrogate of Film: West Side Story and Shakespearean Otherness By Phillip Park

The Surrogate of Film:

West Side Story and Shakespearean Otherness

Art is ever changing, constantly adapting to popular thought and using its power to interrogate, or further social norms. Every artist is faced with the choice to agree or disagree and tell a story from that chosen perspective. But what happens when the art created is based on works done over 350 years earlier? How does an artist embody popular thought well enough to interrogate it? This is the exact conundrum faced by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins in their 1957 film production of West Side Story. In it, two rival gangs face off in the streets of the west side of Manhattan fueled mostly by the difference of race. Through the many similarities of plot points, West Side Story has become a very close representation of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. But how and why did this belief come to pass? What was seen by critics and moviegoers alike that made it so obvious that Wise and Robbins were interpreting life in Manhattan as if it were life in Elizabethan England? Star-crossed lovers, two feuding groups, a “nurse” character and violence coat both pieces of art, but underneath these issues lies a deeper, more important correlation that the filmmakers had to grab hold of, and that is the psychology of a period centuries before. In the context of 16th century England,West Side Story is a film that portrays the idea of the “other” with the same fear that Elizabethans would have, but before those correlations are made, more must be understood of the word “other” as it was represented in the period of 1558-1603, the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.

In general, the immigrant population experienced little interference from the crown, as long as there was nothing to be politically gained by disenfranchising and even deporting these individuals. As long as they proclaimed their Christianity, they were not interfered with. Even without her interference, life was not easy for the immigrant in Elizabeth’s England. In her article titled “Too Many Blackamoors: Deportation, Discrimination and Elizabeth I,” Emily C Bartels describes their lives stating “although they could gain some rights of citizenship, the Crown taxed or restricted their residency whenever political or economic expediency warranted” (305). For those affected, land, property, possessions, business or capital was constantly in danger of being seized for the good of the Queen. What exactly was behind her decisions to allow immigrants to stay or go? It was in fact dependent upon the Spanish. History shows that England defeated the Spanish Armada in 1588, marking the height of tension between the two naval powers. In 1596, Elizabeth began to deport immigrants to the Spanish in hopes of exchanging them for the release of English citizens held in captivity by the Spanish (Bartels 306-307).

Ideologically, immigrant people were merely a commodity for the Crown to manipulate in order to further her own efforts, but there were other attitudes that dominated English culture to further separate themselves from the rest of Europe. As a writer, Shakespeare set his plays in a variety of different lands outside of England, places such as

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Denmark, Scotland, Italy, Greece and Egypt to name a few. In his book Shakespeare’s Cross-Cultural Encounters, Geraldo U. de Sousa makes light of Elizabethan attitude toward Venetian culture in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice. In it, he describes Venice as an open ground for all walks of life and cultures to interact because of its mercantile nature. To the Elizabethan’s, he sates, “Venice embodies a contradiction…Venice as an open or cosmopolitan city whose citizens mingled promiscuously with the peoples of the world” (71). Elizabethans feared the idea of free alien interaction because it was seen as an opportunity for their own culture to be lost. Shakespeare’s Venice was then the embodiment of that fear, seen as “contaminated” by the presence of so many foreign tongues and religions (71). In simple terms, acceptance of the other and invitation into its culture would spell certain doom for the advancement of English culture.

This idea of contamination made its way into the realm of Elizabethan drama and manifested itself in the atmosphere of sex. Popular belief was that if cultures mixed in a mercantile scenario and caused contamination, to mix sexually would surely produce an outbreak of other among the culture. In her book Racism, Misogyny and the ‘Othello’ Myth, Celia R. Daileader lays out the three main rules to be followed in Elizabethan drama regarding the other and sex. She states “inter-racial sex is a prospect to be avoided by all means, in the minds of all characters…inter-racial sex is rarely raised as a possibility – and if so, is it emphatically thwarted…inter-racial sex never involves a consenting and a sympathetic white woman” (16-17). Preventing contamination meant restraining from or avoiding altogether the situations which may possibly

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raise the option of the races combining sexually. The purpose of drama was to reinforce such ideology, which Shakespeare draws on in Othello regarding race as well as the English feeling of the dangers of mixing religions in Merchant of Venice.

While all of this is relevant information as to the plight of foreign people inside the English territory, how does all of this play into a story of rival gangs consisting of Polish Americans and their Puerto Rican enemies? The answer lies in the relationship of the Spanish and Elizabeth’s England. 1588 brought the greatest defeat in battle during the time of Queen Elizabeth. Horribly outnumbered in ships and man power, the English managed to defeat and force the retreat of the mighty Spanish Armada, and from that came constant pressure to stay ahead of and

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aware of the possible repercussions of that defeat. By 1596, some of Elizabeth’s closest advisors were worried that her fervor toward the Spanish had waned, making England susceptible to possible attacks. Because of this, it was advised to capture a Spanish ship travelling in the Panama Canal with a great deal of treasure on board. Fearing that the Panama Canal was too far from home, Elizabeth instead approved a raid on a ship ported in the city of San Juan, Puerto Rico said to carry over two million dollars of treasure (Bartels 309). The mission may have failed, but the scar would remain. Tension between the English and Spanish in Puerto Rico would continue for the remaining years of Elizabeth’s reign on the throne. Puerto Rico, and its people, became tools of trade between the two countries and a point of conflict between the diplomatic exchanges of prisoners.

Puerto Rico is still in the same predicament today. It belongs to the common wealth of the United States, but is afforded no rights of a US territory. Frances Negrón-Muntaner writes of this fate in his article “Feeling Pretty: West Side Story and Puerto Rican Identity Discourses” saying that “the legalistic struggle over Puerto Rican subjectivity and representation is linked to the broader issue of colonial relations. As constituted by the legal apparatus, Puerto Ricans born in Puerto Rico are American citizens who cannot vote for president or have voting representatives in Congress. Puerto Rico itself belongs to, but is not a part of, the United States; it is bound by the law but has no rights under the law…Puerto Ricans are in point of face outside – or besides – the law” (86-87). Furthermore, as Keith Suter says in his article “Puerto Rico: Beyond West Side Story” “They have no power to make ultimate decisions to change their own constitution…but they can be drafted to serve in the US armed forces. As they say in West Side Story “Nobody knows in America, Puerto Rico’s in America” (443). This sentiment can be transferred to the Puerto Rico of the 16th Century. Constantly being torn between the Spanish colony that it was, and then being transferred eventually to be a colony of a country called America. It can be described as the rather famous idea of “separate but equal” that would permeate America in the years following the release of the film. This sets up one of the underlying tensions in the film, that of citizenship vs. rights and the separation of the two rather than the combination of them. The is the same binary set up by Elizabeth when she first involved Puerto Rico in her fight against the Spanish empire back in the 16th century.

Puerto Rico’s search for identity lasted long after Queen Elizabeth’s death in 1601, continuing into present day 21st century, which would include 1961 and the film of West Side Story. An entire nation, belonging to a United States but being separated in rights and responsibilities. It is subject to standards not of its own kind, but has no say in those standards in the organized government they must follow. Much like the early days of Puerto Rico’s involvement with the English, and eventually Americans, independent cultural identity has been hard to come by. Putting the intention of each character aside, the focus of the film should not be on the truth of the situation as far as who is more guilty than the other in the violence of the film ,”but rather on the levels of deception, displacement and uncertainty that constitute identity formation processes and cultural production. The

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film also allows an inquiry into the ambiguous relationships between Puerto Ricans and the United States; the Latinization of New York culture and, through it, all American culture” (Negrón-Muntaner 87). The correlation could easily be made that in the late 16th century, Puerto Rico was experiencing the same problem with the English rather than the United States. In picking up on this, Wise and Robbins demonstrate a very important aspect of adaptation while keeping the dominant ideology of the period intact.

Dominant ideology in England was quite clear in its view of the other among them, which was to avoid contact, allow limited rights and use as a commodity in order to further selfish purposes. What was Shakespeare’s stance in all of this other talk? According to his book The Tainted Muse, Robert Brustein touches on the depth of racism that Shakespeare himself may have had. He says “Shakespeare’s prejudice towards minorities, as one might expect, was less inflamed than that of other writers of the day. But it existed, even though Shakespeare managed to overcome his preconceptions at times through his special qualities of humanity and compassion” (173). Armed with this information, Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins achieved the exact same goal from their film adaptation of West Side Story. While there was obvious racism among the characters, the film manages to humanize and sympathize with the other, in this case the Puerto Rican gang of the Sharks. Film can be used to transform the written word into visual stimulation, and it can focus attention on one aspect of the plot, or the author’s intention, but the best films do either while still maintaining the original as its source of creativity.

In order for their film to be successful, not only did Wise and Robbins have to remain true to the original plot of Romeo and Juliet, but also had to remain true to the ideology of the period to produce the most realistic product possible. Both directors were following the idea set forth by Thomas Cartelli and Katherine Rowe in their article “Adaptation as Cultural Process” in which they describe that every work adapted is not separate from the original, but birthed from it, in a sense mothered and nurtured by it. They say that “a work is properly

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understood as a series of texts that may include print editions, textbooks…as well as non-print texts such as performance, opera…screen versions…and so on” (27). Film is hardly a stagnant box with defined parameters that all films must fit inside to be “good.” Rather film is a tool to redefine, or reinvent an original idea while paying reverence to that original through similarities with the original. Cartelli and Rowe describe this as “an adaptation, in that it reframes prior versions of that work in new environments, periods, materials, and for new purposes” (28). In the case of West Side Story, that new period was 1961 Manhattan in the environment of a civil rights movement that was sweeping the nation of America.

In essence, what directors Wise and Robbins were doing was keeping Shakespeare and his text as the “surrogate” to their creation of West Side Story (Cartelli, Rowe 31). Samuel Crowl says in his article “Shakespeare in Film” that directors must provide “narratives that not only speak powerfully over time to our own age but, even more important, seem to spring naturally from our own cultural milieu” (144). This is not to say that film should ignore the text as it was originally created, but that every text, no matter the medium it is presented in, should tell the same story reimagined and produced out of the culture of the current time. Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins demonstrated this by their use of Shakespeare’s language. Marjorie Garber writes on the correlation between Tony and Riff, Friar Lawrence in Romeo and Juliet and the idea of family reimagined in the film. She writes “Riff and Tony’s ritual greeting ‘Womb to Womb!’ ‘Sperm to worm!’…appropriating Friar Lawrence…by translating his words into a sexier, racier idiom…’The earth, that’s nature’s mother, is her tomb; / What is her burying grave, that is her womb’ (2.2 9-10)” (48). She continues by saying that only when Bernardo is killed is the idea of family among the gang of the Jets made making “the Shakespearean plot…clearly recognizable – part of the point was to have the audience see the relevance of then and now” (48). Only a difference in time was seen, not a difference in plot, and not a separation of Shakespeare’s original work from the film West Side Story.

The film also succeeds in its embodiment of the three rules of inter-racial sex laid out earlier. Maria is the object of Tony’s desire, but among all characters, it is frowned upon that he spend any time with her, let alone enter into a sexual relationship with her. Second, every opportunity that the two have to spend time by themselves is thwarted by some outside source. Whether it is Maria’s parents, or the death of Bernardo, some event intrudes in the development and cultivation of their relationship through quality time. Last, Maria is not a white, sympathetic woman, but the obvious other trying to survive in a world she does not agree with, but must be complicit with. By following the laws of early modern drama, and using that ideology to comply with the dominant ideology in America, Wise and Robbins embody the argument of Cartelli and Rowe that Shakespeare and his works are to be revered as the original text by the combination of elements of society in the then and now.

Film is equipped with great power, a power that lies in the eyes of directors. This set of men and women can decide what the viewer will be allowed to see, to focus on, and draw from them certain emotions. Textual writings have chapters, and in some cases several books to advance a story, while film has just the opening credits to express the emotion and direction a film intends to take. With Shakespearean film, all of the conventions and prejudices that the public has of Shakespeare enter the theater along with the viewing patrons, making the amount of time for directors to engage an audience exponentially smaller. In his article “Shakespeare in Film” Samuel Crowl describes directors with the task “to create a visual landscape, tone and atmosphere that imaginatively express the film’s Shakespearean narrative. They also want to establish the formal elements that will come to distinguish their personal style in translating Shakespeare into film” (161). In this case, underneath the spectacle of dance, music, acting and intention, lies the history that was drawn upon to create and bring to life West Side Story. Inside the film lies the history of a nation and its complicated relationship with two nations. The idea of other as separate but equal has been a concept that has survived from the years of Elizabeth and into the 20th century in America, represented by the story of Puerto Rican citizens and their Polish American rivals in the west side of Manhattan.

While it may be awkward to think of Shakespeare as a “surrogate” of sorts, when it comes to productions adapted from or harkening to his original works, it is an idea that needs to be respected. Throughout the history of our world, clashes of culture have resulted in harmony, prejudice, and civil war. The idea of supremacy based on a single determining factor was learned from the early days of humans as upright, speaking beings. Be it based on skin color, religious belief or political standing, humans have been subjecting each other to persecution for centuries. The plays of William Shakespeare certainly did have much to say on religion, race and politics. A voice that is still heard and adapted in today’s modern culture. As long as Shakespeare is adapted for the medium of film, he is the “mother” of the text that will create the text of film. West Side Storytakes the Elizabethan ideas of other and presents it in a new and interesting way, while still allowing Shakespearean thought and persuasions to be represented in dialogue as well as character representations. That is not to say that the original text is bastardized or discredited in any way, but rather that the original text, in this case Romeo and Juliet, is brought into the modern idea of “now” and reimagined for a broad audience.

Works Cited

Bartels, Emily C. “Too Many Blackamoors: Deportation, Discrimination and Elizabeth I.” Project Muse. 2006. Web.

Brustein, Robert. “Racialism: The Moor and the Jew.” The Tainted Muse. New Haven: Yale UP, 2009. 173-204. Print.

Cartelli, Thomas, and Katherine Rowe. Adaptation As a Cultural Process. PDF.

Crowl, Samuel. Shakespeare and Film: a Norton Guide. New York: W.W. Norton &, 2008. Print.

Daileader, Celia R. “White Devils, Black Lust: Inter-racialism in Early Modern Drama.” Racism, Misogyny, and the Othello Myth: Inter-racial Couples from Shakespeare to Spike Lee. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge UP, 2005. 14-49. Print.

De Sousa, Geraldo U. “Textual Encodings in Merchant of Venice.” Shakespeare’s Cross-Cultural Encounters. New York: St. Martin, 1999. 68-96. Print.

Negrón-Muntaner, Frances. “Feeling Pretty: West Side Story and Puerto Rican Identity Discourses.” Project MUSE. 2000. Web.

Garber, Marjorie B. “Romeo and Juliet: The Untimeliness of Youth.” Shakespeare and Modern Culture. New York: Pantheon, 2008. 33-61. Print.

Suter, Keith. “Puerto Rico: Beyond West Side Story.” Contemporary Review 289.1687 (2008): 442-48. Academic OneFile. Web.

Comparison/Contrast Film Response By Phillip Park

Comparison/Contrast Response

Amelie Memento

Colorful storytelling Black and White to move plot

Sequential beginning to end

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Sequential ending to beginning

Third person narrator First person narrator

Throw away characters All characters accounted for in plot

Amelie & Memento

Camera focus on minute details

Character on cryptic journey

Use of photo/text combination to further plot journey

Speeding up or slowing down of action to increase significance

The lists above constitute my thoughts on the differences and similarities that I find most significant between the two films. I want

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to focus on one (or maybe more) from each category that made me not just appreciate the product, but love it thoroughly. First, I found the style of narration, though different in each movie, to be suited perfectly to each main character. Amelie made no decisions for herself, and lived a life that was totally dependent on being seen and not heard. For that reason, it made complete sense that a third person would narrate her thoughts and intentions throughout the film. In Memento however, the choppy nature of Leonard as narrator brought the viewer into the world of a man with “his condition.” Second, is the chronology of the plot. I absolutely love when directors make

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the choice of telling a circular story, as in Kubrick’s Lolita, but Christopher Nolan actually tells a story backwards in a cyclical way. For me, that choice only brings the viewer in closer to the action of the film. Every detail is lived, in some cases, many times, yet no detail is left out of the ending of the story, such as the bullets on the seat of the truck seen in one of the movie’s opening scenes as well as one of the final shots. By contrast, Amelie uses a great deal of surrealist tactics in its linear telling of the story. Several moments in the film felt very cartoonish in its presentation, outside of the moments when Amelie is clearly manipulating her world through her imagination.

There are a multitude of qualities that make these two generic films similar, the starkest contrast that I saw was in the realism of time and place. Amelie is set in Paris, and it is known that all action takes place in and around the city; however, there were times whenI felt that realism was being tested. The arrows which guided Nino’s path up and through a maze of staircases that seemed to lead to nowhere gave me a feel of a Dr. Seuss story rather than a film. Amelie can be described as very avant-garde in its aesthetic because of the way that it challenges the idea of time and place by including points of surrealism into a seemingly normal, recognizable world. This switch sometimes conflicted with the films overall mise-en-scene for me. While watching an aesthetically beautiful piece, it was very difficult to wrap myself around the distinction between Amelie’s imagination with her real world activities. In Memento however, it was quite obvious when we as viewers were being fed information that was integral to the development of the characters as well as the plot. I never once felt the whip-lash from such jarring changes in the real to the imagined. What made both films so special was their commitment to the risks taken in their execution of the plot. Both films could be classified as a product of the Modernist movement by their inclusion of Realist and Surrealist aspects. Both experiences required an open mind and a keen eye for detail. While the characters and the plot was important, so was the aesthetic of the background. Color, costume, camera angle, and character perspective were all used as tools just as important as typical Hollywood eye candy and fitting into a genre mold. Both films were incredible, and films I will recommend and return to because of their similarities and differences.

Nona By Lesa Doa

Off to see my Nona,
I immediately think of Italy.
From the moment I smell the food
I know this will be a delicious visit,
with many members of family,
gathering together, me just a child.
She cares for any child,
thats what Nona
does for the family.
This is the way in Italy,
cooking and caring at every visit,
letting us enjoy her food.
Our Souls feed on her food,
even as a child
on a visit
to see Nona
I feel Italy,
as does the whole family.
Sunday outtings as a family,
we would enjoy the food,
with all the flavors of Italy.
No child
would turn up their nose to Nona
and what she prepared for the visit.
Ending our visit
my family
all lined up to hug Nona,
praising her food,
each sounding like a child
whose had their first taste of Italy.
Even now when someone mentions Italy,
I long to visit
like I did as a child,
along with my family,
awaiting great food
all thanks to Nona.
Remembering Nona, the

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essence of Italy,
her food, enjoyed at every visit
my family took when I was a child.


-As a child I spent almost every Sunday visiting my Great Grandma, or my Nona. Those days still hold some of my fondest memories. This is my first attempt at a Sestina and I very much enjoyed the process of composing it.


My Walk With God By Diana Micu

Before I start, I would like to give you a little introduction to our faith and what we believe. Our branch of Christianity strongly believes in the Trinity between God (the Father),

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Jesus (the Son), and the Holy Spirit. There is baptism through both the water and the Holy Spirit; many of my friends and I were baptized in the Holy Spirit before we were baptized in the water. Baptism in the Holy Spirit is a personal baptism where our eyes are “opened” so we can truly experience God. Baptism in the water is more of a public confirmation to the church and everyone else that you are openly committing your life to Christ and choosing to follow Him for the rest of your life…

My “Spiritual Experience” began when my parents first brought me to church for my dedication 18 years ago. It wasn’t until about four years ago in 2008 that I actually began to take it seriously. As a little girl, I grew up in the church, made friends at church, knew all my bible stories, learned how to pray to God, memorized verses, and even sang for the congregation. I grew up fully exposed to the customs and practices of our church and went along with it, but I was mostly just going through the motions. I didn’t feel personally (emotionally and mentally) involved and I guess I can give some consideration to the fact that I was probably still too young to understand. When I was 14, I began to think more seriously about my faith and if I’m really, in fact, doing my part. I desired to become more involved and to feel more connected with God than just the distant motions I was doing until now. Many of my friends were in the same boat, so we all decided to make this change/decision in our lives together. April and May of 2008 changed majority of our lives because between these two months, hundreds of us were baptized with the Holy Spirit and our attitudes and outlook on our lives were changed forever.

As I stated in the intro, we are connected through several different churches so when I say hundreds of us received the Holy Spirit, I am not referring only to my church; it was a collection of the youth from all the churches in southeast Michigan. We often look at these two months as a time I like to call: the outpouring of the Holy Spirit because this is not something that happens often (in this capacity). May 7, 2008 was the night I was baptized and ever since, I have become so much more aware and conscious of everything around me. I was able to sing and speak in tongues and for the first time felt a true connection to God. It was also an encouragement to see all my friends receive it and on September 7, 2008 we all made a public decision to give our lives to Christ by getting baptized in the water (there were roughly 30 of us at my church; it was one of the biggest baptisms in our church’s history).

Little did I know these events would be the beginning of my spiritual journey. I’ve heard from several people that everything would get so much harder because “going through the motions” was no longer an option. From now on everything we did and said was supposed to reflect Christ in our lives and this required a real effort to try to become holy for God. This meant: repenting from our sins, making a conscious attempt to stop sinning (which is extremely hard) and fleeing from temptations. This is when Satan attacks us the most because his whole purpose is to “steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10). He hates to see people give their lives to God, so his attacks become brutal when we are born again in Christ, and if we are not alert and properly prepared we fall badly in our spiritual walk.

The extent to which we fall depends on each person and their strengths; as for me, I did not fall too badly. At first I felt strong and alive and ready to take on the world, but I was not properly preparing myself to endure trials and trust in God at all times. This caused me to stumble, occasionally at first, then more often than not and I began to focus on the desires of my flesh rather than the desires of the Spirit living within me. I began compromising with things such as the music I listened to and the movies I watched and I even walked right into my “rebellious stage” with my parents. By the time I was 17, I reached a point of depression and loneliness which I believed I would never get out of; the happy, vibrant, confident girl I was three years prior got lost in the lies Satan threw at me which I allowed myself to believe. Lies such as “I’m not good enough” or “I have no value in God’s eyes” or “nothing I do will ever be worthy of the love God has for me so why bother trying.” These questions (along with several others) rang in my mind like a broken record player and I started to feel trapped and lost with no one to turn to. I lost my confidence in myself and my self-esteem plummeted; even my friends noticed a change in my

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behavior. Looking back now I see that God was with

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me, in fact, the whole time and all I can say is that I’m grateful that He cared about me so much to protect my heart. He never let me get into drugs, drinking, partying or falling in and out of love; he kept all of that away from me; it was simply something I never desired. Loneliness was my biggest enemy (sometimes I struggle with it even now). The feeling that no one was/is there for me, that I cannot count on anyone, broke my heart (especially when people really did let me down) and forced me to believe the lie that I am very much underappreciated. I stopped reading my bible, turned to non-Christian music as comfort, questioned why God didn’t let me meet someone who would be there for me while everyone else (my brother and now sister too) around me seemed to be getting into long term relationships and finding a companion. To this day I’ve still never had a boyfriend, but I’ve always wanted one. Finding a great guy and falling in love has been one of my only dreams since I was a little girl. Not being able to accomplish this dream made me feel like a failure and I kept questioning God, asking Him why things just never seemed to work out for me. I know this all seems silly, but when all you want to do is love those around you and they don’t receive it, nothing really hurts more; it’s hard to explain. My friends would always tell me that I didn’t need a guy in my life, that I have God and it’s all I need and I would agree with this, but in all honesty I was not convinced. God isn’t a physical being who could hug me when I need it most or speak to me directly like a physical human does (these were the excuses I kept coming up with; at the time I did not know how accessible God can be if we just reach out to Him in faith).

In May of 2011, I went to Chicago for a Romanian youth convention where my life took an unexpected turn and led me to meet one of the most amazing guy I know today. I will not give his name for several purposes, but I will tell you a little bit about him. Over the course of the following summer we got to know each other very well. I really began falling for him and believed he was the right guy for me. He was everything I prayed for (and more) in a guy, however, due to complications we never exactly dated, but we did remain really good friends; I actually consider him to be one of my best friends. He has taught me so much over the past year and has really showed me what it means to be “all out for Jesus.” He’s changed my life for the better and I do not regret anything that has happened because with each day that passes I find myself learning something new with every situation we faced. He’s not perfect, he’s not a saint, he’s merely a human, but he loves the Lord with all of his heart and is not afraid to show it. God is his number one priority and I admire that about him. Through him, God changed my life. He used him to show me how mighty He is and through this man, reminded me that God must come first or nothing else we desire in life will come true. Matthew 6:33 states that we must first seek the kingdom of God and only then will we receive our hearts desires (paraphrased).

I now know what it means to truly be born again. It’s a concept which I find hard to explain and can only show you by being an example. Our purpose is to live as Jesus did, in love and peace, and until recently my objectives were directed towards the wrong goals. I find that each new day I learn more about my God and myself and the fullness of experiencing God never ends. There’s always room for improvement and expansion in the Spirit and this is one of the things I absolutely love about my faith. There is no such thing as fully understanding and comprehending God’s love and devotion for us. Each new day stands as a testimony to His grace and mercy. The only reason majority of us don’t see it is because we do not know what we are looking for and don’t know how to reach for His hand, which is always stretched out and ready to catch us.


“At least you have your health.”
– isn’t that what they say?
But what about you, as you pray and decay,
You haven’t got your health,
nor your wealth,
nor your youth,
Neither have you gotten the truth.

It took your hair,
It even took your fair –
skin. Reshaped, remade,
removal of the infection, for what you paid.

But this wasn’t what you paid for,
& now those things they told you, that lore –
What was if for?
What was it –
for five years, if you’re lucky?
Hold out for that 17% chance, if you’re plucky.

But It took that too,
& all that’s left to take is you,

& you are all I’ve got
left to hold

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to, not
to be forgot.

For, you are

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what I’ve got;

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I won’t let It take
you to that place we forsake.
I won’t go there,
I refuse to despair.

So forget

your health
& your wealth,
Forget your youth
& the truth

– you thought you knew
but you don’t, so don’t stew
in what was, or could have been, in another life;
this is your lot, rife with strife –
I’m so sorry, so … So, I’m
nauseated most of the time,

But, I won’t let it take me there
Even through tears, I’ll refuse to despair.
I’ll refuse, even when it comes
to take you, & it drums
your last beats, I’ll refuse.

& if they

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ever try to accuse
you of giving-up, living
you better believe I won’t be forgiving.

& I’ll live everyday defending
this idea we have of unending
Grace, even if we are pretending.
– as if it’s not impending,
this ending.