Monday, September 28, 2009


On Friday, we'll be reading "The Ghost of John Wayne" and, if we have time, Oscar Casares' "Yolanda." Both of those stories deal with nostalgia in different ways. In preparation for that discussion (to be led by Jessica), look up the word "nostalgia" in the Oxford English Dictionary. Comment on this post with the definitions you find, including the etymology. How do those definitions relate to the historical, cultural, and/or maturation narratives we find here?


  1. The definitions I found of nostalgia were: acute longing for familiar surroundings; sentimental longing for or regretful memory of a period of the past. The French word "nostalgie" is defined as: a denoting longing for a particular thing. In the short story "The Ghost of John Wayne", nostalgia plays a big part in different ways for the various characters. The Vargas brothers along with some of their fellow soldiers have a longing of returning to their homeland, but their spirits are "stuck" in the Alamo. The ghost of John Wayne longs to be "stuck" in the Alamo, since he is a ghost he is fully content with his state and continues to return to the Alamo. For Texans, much of their history is based off of the Alamo, there is always a returning to that battle whenever this history of Texas is mentioned. Although there isn't a longing of returning to that battle, there is always a remembrance of it..."Remember the Alamo".

  2. One definition of "nostalgia" is: "[a] sentimental imagining or evocation of a period of the past." It comes from the German word "heimweh", meaning "home-sickness". Initially, I applied "nostalgia" in a literal sense, only applying to past memories that envoke a certain emotion in someone, such as in the beginning of the story when Tony enters the Alamo and is reminded of his childhood days when he attended church with his mother and abuela. I also thought "nostalgia" could only be felt by those who can sense emotions, so ghosts and other inanimate things would be ruled out. However, upon a closer read, the Mexican soldiers' spirits can feel every bit as nostalgic as a human can. They long for closure; an end to their eternal suffering. It is because that they are spirits, according to Benson, that they "want to transform themselves". In other words, the soldiers' spirits will finally feel at home by becoming ghosts and be in a "neutral" state like John Wayne's ghost.

  3. One definition of "Nostalgia" is a "sentimental imagining or evocation of a period of the past." This follows from the Greek root "nostos" that means a return home. Nostalgia can stir in us a longing for a past place, experience, or feeling and I think nostalgia functions in all three ways in "The Ghost of John Wayne." The story begins with Tony finding a story in the newspaper - a classic example of a trigger for nostalgic remembrance of news or stories once "forgotten" and now brought back to the surface. Tony is in some ways "home-sick" on behalf of the lost soldiers, as is seen in his impetus to go look for the psychic at the Alamo. Through his search , he comes to see the nostalgia of the spirits who cannot rest "because of the way they died." The spirits of the brothers are nostalgic to leave the Alamo because it is not their home - sadly, their pride and honor is not celebrated their in the same manner that a movie-star is revered, and John Wayne's ghost can rest in that place, but theirs cannot.

  4. When I looked up "nostalgia" in the OED, one of the definitions that struck me was a "sentimental longing for or regretful memory of a period of the past, esp. one in an individual's own lifetime; (also) sentimental imagining or evocation of a period of the past." A closer look at the etymlology led me to "nostos" from the ancient Greek word "vόoros" which means to "return home." The word is generally used to describe "a homecoming or homeward journey" of troops from war.

    The work talks about how the Vargas brothers had died together in battle and their spirits are "trappied in one of the rooms of the chapel. They cannot find eternal peace because of the way they had died." Tony went on to wonder "how many hundres of souls were trapped forever under the endless lines of tourists." That section, along with the etymology, hit home for me because there seems to be a nostalgia for the time where people held reverence for sacred places where people died (unlike the city of San Antonio that is "crowding" the mission)and a time when the Alamo wasn't so commercialized. There also seems to be a sad air about the soldiers. They are in an endless purgatory, trapped in the last moments of their lives, and can't find the peace they seek. Their souls, along with those still trapped in the Alamo, are doomed to remain, unable to return home, unable to reach their eternal resting ground.

  5. The definition I found for "Nostalgia" is a sentimental imagining or evocation of a period of the past. The etymology brought me to the root word /nostos/ which means a return home. In "The Ghost of John Wayne" the definition is best seen as longing for home or familiar surroundings. In the story Tony begins to remember his childhood days when inside the Alamo. It states, " For a moment it reminded him of his childhood days of going to church with his mother and abuela every Sunday." This is an excellent example of nostalgia in that the church brings back these emotions that Tony once felt when he would attend church with his mother and grandmother. The soldier's spirits also show nostalgia in that they cannot return home and find eternal peace because of how they died. These spirits are forced to remain trapped in the Alamo.

  6. Nostalgia: 2. a. Sentimental longing for or regretful memory of a period of the past, esp. one in an individual's own lifetime; (also) sentimental imagining or evocation of a period of the past.

    I think this definition is the most relevant to the narratives we have read. In "The Ghost of John Wayne" you could say that nostalgia is personified in the ghost. Their regretful memory of the past is so strong it is anchoring them to the Alamo. In another context, the character who was hassling Benson and Tony in the story is shaken by idea that Mexican spirits haunt the Alamo. This is probably because in his mind he has his own idea of the Alamo, and the Mexicans who haunt the place challenges the memory that he wants to keep.

  7. Looking up "nostalgia" in the OED, I found a few definitons.
    1. Acute longing for familiar surroundings, esp. regarded as a medical condition; homesickness.
    2a. Sentimental longing for or regretful memory of a period of the past, esp. one in an individual's own lifetime; (also) sentimental imagining or evocation of a period of the past.

    Many charcters in the story ""The Ghost of John Wayne" experience this feeling.

    First and most obvious to me, was when Tony enered the Alamo and was reminded about his childhood with his mother and grandmother. That eevent brought back emotions from Tony's past.

    Another would be the soldiers longing to return to their homeland, which is a clear example of homesickness.

  8. The Oxford English Dictionary gives three different definitions for the word "Nostalgia," but the one I feel that is most prevantent to the short story, "The Ghost of John Wayne" is; Something which causes nostalgia for the past; freq. as a collective term for things which evoke a former (remembered) era. In this short story, there is frequest use of of the idea of Ghosts and Spirits, in particular, Mexican spirits who are trapped and unable to become free. This idea, in my opinion, really plays to the idea of nostalgia because. first of all, they are spirits inside of the Alamo. This makes the reader immediatly think about what happened in the alamo many years ago. And second, the idea of spirits and ghosts usually refers to an idea of a longing or unfinished buisness in a certain place, in this case the Alamo, to which they haunt on try to recieve attention.