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Additional Information for Readers of What’s Past Is Prologue – Part 3: Literature Referenced - Mo's Journal
August 8th, 2005
02:34 pm


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Additional Information for Readers of What’s Past Is Prologue – Part 3: Literature Referenced
This is the third part of my additional information file for What's Past is Prologue. Part 1 talked about lesbian and gay parenting and part 2 gave more information on the publications referenced in the series. This one covers literature.

In my stories, as in the X-Men movie, Scott Summers is a mutant superhero who also teaches high school. The movie doesn't specify what he teaches, but I've made him an English teacher. Xavier's Academy is a small school with a large variety of classes to choose from. Consequently each of the teachers takes on several different classes. Scott is seen in my stories teaching courses ranging from Shakespeare to Creative Writing to a poetry survey course, when he's not off on a mission. As Scott tells Logan in We’re Not What You Think, it's kind of a strange job. "Sometimes I teach English, sometimes I save the human race," he explains.

With Scott a major figure in most of my fiction, the stories tend to contain a lot of literary quotes, most of them guided by Scott's tastes in literature (which, strangely, mirror my own). It has been my practice to publish a literature guide providing references for the quotes in each series, along with URLs, where available, for those wishing to read the works quoted.


T.S. Eliot. "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"
This poem, which shows up in most of my series, is one of Scott’s favorites. Like Hamlet (and Scott), Prufrock has a hard time making decisions. In previous series Scott has been shown to have great difficulty with “decisions and revisions” related to his personal life, although always being confident and in charge professionally. He confides in Logan in this series that he’s finding the indecisiveness is spreading to decision-making concerning the X-Men, as well. Prufrock also gives the title to the seventh story, which focuses on Adam’s inability to decide what to do about the whole Jake and Jean-Paul situation. The poem is a favorite of mine and can be read at http://www.bartleby.com/198/1.html.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. "The Tragedy of Faust".
Hard to know whether to categorize as poetry or drama, Goethe's Faust is usually referred to as a dramatic poem. Goethe wrote what is often considered to be the canonical version of the legend of Faust, who sold his soul to the devil, Mephistopheles, for knowledge. Scott says at the end that the deal he made with the President feels like a Faustian bargain.. Faust can be found many places on the 'net. A good place to read it in English is the Bartleby site. The version provided there, at http://www.bartleby.com/19/1/is the Harvard Classics edition, translation by Anna Swanwick. The original German text is available at http://turn.to/goethe.

Carl Sandburg. “Happiness.” From Sandburg’s Chicago Poems collection, a brief poem suggesting that it’s simple pleasures that are the key to true happiness. I use it for the title of the final story, since this series has an uncharacteristically happy ending. Read it at http://www.bartleby.com/165/17.html.

William Shakespeare. Sonnet 75. One of the sonnets written to Will’s male lover, the Fair Youth. It’s an unabashedly erotic and sensual poem and I used part of it for the title of the story in which Jean-Paul picks Rick up in a back room bar. Will invented the use of “glutton” as a verb in this poem. This is one of my favorite sonnets and can be found at http://www.shakespeare-online.com/sonnets/75.html.

Dylan Thomas “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night.” Thomas’s famous poem exhorting his dying father to fight for gives the title for the first story, consisting entirely of Charles’s obituaries, recalling Scott quoting it to Charles in the previous series, as he tried to convince him to try Anjuli’s experimental treatment. It’s powerful, simple, and moving. Read it at http://www.poets.org/poems/poems.cfm?prmID=1159

Walt Whitman. “Passage to India.” The phrase “the dark unfathom’d retrospect” to refer to the past comes from this poem. Find it at http://www.princeton.edu/~batke/logr/log_227.html.


William Shakespeare. Hamlet. Perhaps Shakespeare's most read and performed play, Hamlet has something for everyone: love, death, intrigue, theatricality, ghosts. Hamlet’s father’s ghost tells his son that he cannot reveal the “secrets of my prison-house” and that gives the title to the story of the Summer Brothers Reunion in Terre Haute prison. Hamlet, in one of his famous soliloquies says that he has “lost all my mirth.” I use that quote since Scott is in a similar position at the beginning of the series, trying to come to grips with Charles’s death, his new responsibilities, and worry about Rick Kapell’s investigation. In addition he finds he has to deal with his unresolved and largely unexamined feelings about the death of his original father, putting him in as difficult an emotional state as the mirthless prince. The title for the story about Charles Xavier’s memorial service is also from Hamlet, quoting the young prince’s summary of his father’s character and life. I like the Shakespeare Online site for its easy-to-read print and its excellent commentary on the plays and poems. Read the play at http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/hamletscenes.asp.

William Shakespeare. King Lear. A play about a dying old man and the children he leaves behind, this one focuses on filial devotion, both genuine and false. It’s quoted a few times in this series. You can find it at http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/learscenes.html

William Shakespeare. Julius Caesar. Jean-Paul’s statement that he is “as constant as the northern star” is, of course, a reference to his code name. It’s also a quote from this play. You can find it at http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/juliusscenes.html

William Shakespeare. A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The title of the fourth story is taken from a line from this play, “Love and reason will never be friends.” It reflects the relationship between Scott and Logan, which kind of defies logic. Read the play at http://www.bartleby.com/165/17.html.

William Shakespeare. Othello. A tragedy of love and jealousy and imagined infidelity. Scott was teaching it in his Shakespeare seminar in the previous series and RoseAnn wrote an essay on it. This series references Othello’s statement that Desdemona loved him for “the dangers I had pass’d.” RoseAnn wishes that Jamie would view her past in that way, but fears that he will consider it sordid. Read the play at http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/othelloscenes.html

William Shakespeare. Richard II. Cyclops’s line to Adam about the distorting effect that grief has on time comes from Richard II. Read it at http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/richardiiscenes.html

George Bernard Shaw. Mrs. Warren’s Profession. This play contains the line “There are no secrets better kept than the secrets that everybody guesses.” That line, and the subject matter (a character who is hiding her past as a prostitute and her present as a brothel owner) fit in well with a bunch of the secrets characters in this series hide. Read the play at http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/1097.


Alexandre Dumas (père). The Three Musketeers. One of the original “swashbuckler” novels, this is a story of politics, honor and palace intrigue set in 17th century France. The main character, a young man named D’Artagnan, meets up with the three musketeers of the title – Athos, Porthos, and Aramis – when he leaves home to join the royal musketeers. The slogan of the four friends – “all for one and one for all” – has entered the language. Anjuli, Jean-Paul, and Adam had referred to themselves as the three musketeers in the previous series. When Adam references that time, he realizes he’s hurting Jean-Paul and regrets what he said. It’s an exciting and fun book and widely available online. The Project Gutenberg versions can be found at http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/etext98/1musk12.txt (in English translation) and http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/1/3/9/5/13951/13951-8.txt (in the original French).

Miscellaneous Works

Karl Marx. Communist Manifesto and other works. Scott and Miriam refer to Marx’s famous maxim “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” as they are apportioning out work in the first trustee meeting since Xavier’s death. The particular quote comes from Critique of the Gotha Programme (1875), but has been reproduced in a number of collected works volumes. Miriam is a Marxist and Warren jokes afterwards that he thinks she is planning on killing him “when the revolution comes.” Marxist theory was hugely influential in 20th century political philosophy, both to those who subscribed to it and those who reacted against it. Those wishing to read Marx would do well to start with The Communist Manifesto, co-written with Engels. It’s quite accessible and easy to find online, including at http://www.bralyn.net/etext/literature/karl.marx/manifesto.txt.

Declaration of Independence. I love the Declaration as a work of literature and so does Scott. He is seen teaching it as such in a few of the previous series. In this series, it gives the title to the Jake and Adam story. The National Archives website has a wonderful section on the Declaration, including an evaluation of it as literature. Find it at http://www.archives.gov/national-archives-experience/charters/declaration_style.html.

(3 comments | Leave a comment)

[User Picture]
Date:August 18th, 2005 09:49 pm (UTC)

constant as the northern star

You know this is also a line in a Joni Mitchell song, "Case of You" - in the song her lover says it to the narrator (autobiographical, most likely) and she replies: "constantly in the dark, where's that at? If you want me I'll be in the bar."

I love that song.
[User Picture]
Date:August 18th, 2005 09:59 pm (UTC)

Re: constant as the northern star

Is that Joni Mitchell? For some reason I thought it was Jane Siberry. Presumably whoever it was knew Shakespeare...
[User Picture]
Date:August 18th, 2005 10:01 pm (UTC)

Re: constant as the northern star

P.S. Do I know you? I see you're a friend of mamajoan and ww1614 and you live in Brooklyn. Which seems to add up to someone I ought to know...
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