WIP: Stafford, Porter

This essay has been giving me a headache for over a week now. In trying to draw parallels between Porter’s story and Stafford’s — parallels which I see so clearly and yet am so unable to articulate on paper — I’ve been seeking outside sources that might spark something inside me, or give me a few morsels to riff off of. I have found ONE scholarly article that seems truly helpful, and it is William Leary’s 1987 essay in the Kenyon Review, entitled “Pictures at an Exhibition: Jean Stafford’s ‘Children Are Bored on Sunday.'”

This essay is helpful on a few levels:
(1) It brings the autobiographical source to the forefront
(2) It breaks up the story into its three parts for analysis, which is what I have been trying to do, although with less precision than Leary.
(3) It reminds me that good scholarly writing can be simple: short and to the point.

I’m truly hoping that if I scrap what I’ve got so far, I can come at this from another angle. Maybe I do need to break the paper back into two bits–one for Stafford, one for Porter–even though I’m convinced that the parallels are worthy of comment.


I’m exhausted and just took a sleeping pill.

“Pale Horse, Pale Rider”

I’m having a terrific case of writer’s block, and have been sitting in this damn cafe for well over two hours now wrangling with my theories. I just read a scholarly article that analyzes Miranda’s dream sequences in “Pale Horse, Pale Rider” from a psychoanalyst’s perspective, namely the theory of R. D. Laing’s “The Divided Self” — which I have not read, nor do I know anything about except that Wikipedia lists him as a contemporary Scottish psychiatrist.

The essay is useful in that it takes one step-by-step through Miranda’s hallucinations/dreams, enabling me to pick apart each one without going back through the entire text again. It’s also useful for the way the author (Thomas F. Walsh, writing in the Wascana Review) examines the split identity problem. But I don’t agree with the final assessment that Miranda’s dream sequences are all about her rejection of Adam’s love — I’m way oversimplifying Walsh’s argument here — or how she fits this clinical “divided self” psychological portrait. My main concern is Miranda’s deficiencies in communication, and after a re-read of the story and some browsing of scholarly essays (which frankly there are not many that are useful to me) I am leaning towards the theory that Miranda’s flu-induced aphasia actually permits her more access to truth — more fully enables her to communicate with herself, though not with the outside world — than she was ever able to in the living world. From my notes to myself:

One is paralyzed by anxiety [referring to Emma in Stafford’s “Children Are Bored…”], the other by illness. But the illness is a metaphor by which she can honestly communicate for the first time her anxieties and her judgments on society. Her speech paralysis in real life was much worse, wasn’t it? She frequently didn’t say what she meant to say, or misheard what was actually being said (Adam: “haven’t you heard what I’ve been saying?” when he confesses his love for her.)

I’m wide of my mark but I’m getting closer, I hope. Somewhere in this brain exist the actual words to speak plainly about this idea I have. Ironic, actually, that I now feel I am suffering from a bit of aphasia myself as I try to analyze these character’s deficiencies in communication.