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Literature Guide and Additional Information for Summers in a Sea of Glory - Mo's Journal
June 13th, 2006
06:20 am

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Literature Guide and Additional Information for Summers in a Sea of Glory
In my stories, as in the X-Men movies, Scott Summers is a mutant superhero who also teaches high school. The movies don'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.

Poems

William Blake. “Night the Ninth.” As they travel to the Bronx Zoo to avert disaster, Scott recalls his last trip there, with Hank’s biology class. They saw the World of Darkness exhibit, which is an ingenious display of nocturnal animals. World of Darkness has very bright lights all night, so the animals are fooled into thinking it’s day time and sleep, and low lighting during the day so they are active when visitors can see them. Scott says that he quoted Blake by saying “Nature in darkness groans” and Jubilee complained that they shouldn’t have to listen to literary quotes on a biology field trip. See the context at http://www.bartleby.com/66/38/7438.html

Rupert Brooke. “Song." This is a lovely, sad poem about learning to love after heart break and then getting one’s heart broken again. It gives the title to Jean’s first person piece. Read it at http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Delphi/7086/brooke6.htm#P8

Robert Frost. “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” This is a poem every school child in the U.S. seems to learn at one point or another. Short and simple, the poem has four stanzas of four lines each. It has an unusual and very effective rhyme scheme, where the third line of each quatrain foreshadows the rhyme in the next stanza. The poem’s narrator talks, as the title suggests, of stopping near woods while on a journey and reflects on life, with metaphors of life being a journey. The last stanza, since it has no follow on quatrain to foreshadow, merely repeats the final line, emphasizing it by making it third and fourth line:

The woods are lovely, dark and deep
But I have promises to keep
And miles to go before I sleep
And miles to go before I sleep

I used that last repeated line to title the third story, when the mission against Magneto begins. The X-Men at the beginning of a mission often have miles to go before they sleep, both literally and figuratively. And most of the characters in this series feel the weight of promises to keep, of one kind or another.
You can read the poem and some commentary, focusing on the metaphor of sleep as death, on the Minstrels site at http://www.cs.rice.edu/~ssiyer/minstrels/poems/155.html.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson. “Home They Brought Her Warrior Dead.” I’ve used this one before in my X1 fiction. It’s a poem that I like a lot, full of emotion without over-sentimentality. It tells the story of a young widow whose warrior husband has just died in battle. It seems to me very applicable to the X-Men, who are often in danger. It gives the title to the sixth story of this series, and can be found at http://www.bartleby.com/42/628.html


Plays

William Shakespeare. A few of Shakespeare’s plays are quoted in this series.

Henry V. One of the most popular of the histories, this play is known for its stirring speeches in battle. The line “Once more unto the breach” – title of the eighth story - comes from one of them. It can be found at http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/henryvscenes.html

Henry VIII. The series title comes from a speech by Cardinal Wolsey in this play, on the dangers of excessive pride. I liked the quote because of the way that pride stops both Scott and Logan from revealing what each is feeling. I also wanted to use a title with “Summers” in it, both to go with the seasonal pattern of the first two series in this saga (After the Fall, Returning Spring) and because it’s Scott’s name. Read the play at http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/henryviiiscenes.html

King Lear. Scott’s line “That way madness lies. Let me shun that” comes from Lear. A play about a dying old man and the children he leaves behind, this one focuses on filial devotion, both genuine and false. You can find it at http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/learscenes.html

Macbeth. Scott says that – as Lady Macbeth said of her husband – he had “let ‘I dare not’ wait upon ‘I would’”. One of Shakespeare's most popular plays, it is also considered to be very bad luck for those who perform in it. It is routinely referred to by actors as "the Scottish play" since even mentioning the title is said to bring misfortune. Read it if you dare at http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/macbethscenes.html

Othello. A tragedy of love and jealousy and imagined infidelity. This one gets quoted a number of times. Logan’s suspicions about Scott and Jean-Paul and about Scott and Jean, in the face of Scott’s insistence that nothing it going on, echo Othello’s obsessive refusal to believe Desdemona’s telling him the truth. Quotes from the play are sprinkled throughout the series. Read the play at http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/othelloscenes.html

Sophocles. Oedipus Rex. Scott tells Charles that he wants to pluck his eyes out, like Oedipus. Of course Oedipus wasn’t a mutant, and he didn’t take out his eyes because of optic blasts, but because he found that he had killed his father and married his mother. And you thought your family was dysfunctional? Read the play at http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/toc/modeng/public/SopOedi.html.

Miscellaneous

Plato. Symposium There are several references to one of Plato's dialogues: Symposium. Often referred to as "Literature's most famous dinner party" it consists of a bunch of people at a party discussing the true nature of love. The "army of lovers" piece that both Logan and Scott mention comes from Phaedrus's speech in Symposium. Also potentially of interest in Symposium is a legend that tries to explain why some people are sexually attracted to members of their own sex and others to members of the opposite sex. Like Scott, I like the Jowett translation. It can be read at http://plato.evansville.edu/texts/jowett/symposium.htm.


Patton and Burke. Scott is not just an English teacher and a mutant; he’s the leader of a combat team. As such he has studied military tactics and strategy. He and Charles quote General Patton and Admiral Burke on the importance of acting quickly even without complete information in the pre-mission meeting in Charles’s office. I thank the Army War College instructional staff for providing me with the quotes.



And not a quote, but I have to put in a plug for one of my favorite places, one where some of the action in this series takes place:

The Bronx Zoo. It’s a truly wonderful place, full of fascinating animals cared for with an understanding of their natural habitats. It’s a rare event when Magneto terrorizes the Skyfari. You can stay all day and just see a small amount of what’s there. It’s open 365 days a year. Go soon, if you’re near New York. If not, visit the zoo at http://www.bronxzoo.com/.

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