Thursday, May 22, 2008
I’ll admit, when we started the year off with “Red Shift,” I got a little worried. I came into the paper about it feeling very confident in my writing but not in my ideas, but despite receiving a high grade, I learned that my analytical writing still needed work. I think I truly found my niche at analytical writing when we wrote the explication of The Stranger. It was easier for me to find the deeper meaning and purpose in the text of a book or novel than in the poem, most likely due to inexperience working with poems. After finishing the Ted Berrigan poem, however, I started to feel slightly more comfortable with poems.
My college essay also proved to be a growing experience. I always thought that nothing remarkable had ever happened to me, that I was just the run-of-the-mill student. But, when I wrote my college essay, I found something inside me that made me different and made me think deeper about myself. It was an honor to write about my cousin and his impact on me, and maybe one day I’ll be brave enough to let him read it.
Then, when we moved on to independent reading, I was so excited to choose a book that interested me. I chose Reading Lolita in Tehran and it had a profound impact on the way I view things. That book took me inside what life is like for the women in Iran, and I gained an appreciation for my own life and my own ability to read and get an education. The assignments that went along with it, namely the creative piece and explication, were some of my best work of the year, and I am very proud of them.
The most difficult, challenging, and thought-provoking unit of the year, by far, was A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. When we first began reading it, I knew that getting through a James Joyce novel would be a feat in itself. Using the dialectical journals seemed to help focus my thoughts, but learning about the criticism also was very useful in analyzing the text (once we understood it). The paper that we wrote for Portrait was the hardest paper I’ve ever written but turned out t be one of the best. Incorporating the feminist criticism and the psychoanalytic criticism was a skill that I had never learned before, but it is something that I can use in the future to write papers in college. As I said on my blog, it was the only paper that I stayed up past 1 a.m. to finish, so I hold it in a special place as a deeply challenging, yet successful, paper.
Hamlet was a welcomed relief, and turned out to be one of my favorite Shakespeare plays. Reading it together in class really helped me get everything out of it that I had hoped. From past Shakespeare experiences, reading it at home and then discussing it in class was the worst method for me, so the fact that we experienced it together as a class really helped me understand to my full potential. My Hamlet notebook was a guiding tool to help me remember what I had read and learned, so I feel as though I got everything out of Hamlet that I could.
Last but not least, the research paper was a great way to learn how to organize, categorize, and compile a successful paper that utilizes a wide variety of sources from different subjects, topics, and mediums. I never thought of myself as much of an art person, but I gained a new appreciation for the work that my artist Vik Muniz does. It doesn’t seem that analyzing art is that different from analyzing text. It’s all about the hidden meaning within and learning to interpret it with evidence. It was the longest paper I’ve ever written, but I found it easier than the Portrait paper because I found my own evidence to fit my original thesis, and that made it a lot easier to process.
Overall, my year in English has been very successful. I’ve been challenged to my fullest extent, and I especially enjoyed doing the work on the blogs. I think it is a very useful tool that classrooms should take advantage of. I will be ale to take all the skills I learned in this class and put them to good use in college. Thanks for a great year, Mr. G!
Monday, May 19, 2008
Contemporary artist Vik Muniz was born in São Paulo, Brazil in 1961. In the late 1980’s he left Brazil, moved to New York and began his career as an artist. When his interest in art first began, he was fascinated by sculptures and therefore, had ambitions to become a sculptor. However, as time went on, he began to transition to photography. He would photograph his art and sculptures, and before long, he turned his back on sculpture and focused solely on his photographs (“Vik Muniz.” Museum of Contemporary Photography.) During this time, he also worked in the advertising industry. In an interview in Verona in 1998 with Charles Stainback, Muniz remarked that “[working in] advertising made me aware of the dichotomy between an object and its images. This sort of tension has always been part of my work” (Stainback). Through working in advertising, he truly gained a new perspective in respect to art and modern icons.
According his biography from the Museum of Contemporary Photography, in the last 12-15 years, Muniz has been most widely known for his creative mediums, which consist of unusual, yet common, items, ranging from thread, to chocolate, to garbage, to dust. These pieces of art, however, are not completely of original origin; they are recreations of masterpieces that already exist or other pieces of art that a different artist has created. He arranges these various objects and substances in the shape of these previously-existing works, which range from “Narcissus” by Caravaggio to “Venus and Cupid” by Correggio. He also manipulates photographs by delaying the exposure long enough to create abnormal images within the photo, such as clouds in the sky created by the emissions of an airplane in the collection “Pictures of Clouds” from 2001 (Gallery. www.vikmuniz.net).
In 1997, Muniz ventured back to Brazil for a special reason. He volunteered his time and services to a newly-founded school called Axe. There, Brazilian educators create a safe and friendly environment to keep children and teens off the streets and in school. In an interview with Bomb Magazine, Muniz commented that “children for me are very important. They are in the same class as people who understand power, like magicians and con men,” (Magill). With this inspiration from the Axe school, he returned to his New York studio to create the collection “Aftermath” in 1998, which depicts the children he saw there created out of garbage.
In 2000, Muniz traveled to the town of Clayton, Pennsylvania to recreate images from the late 1800’s to early 1900’s. In the collection entitled “Clayton Days,” Muniz catches a glimpse of life in America at the turn of the century. It profoundly impacted him in that he truly got to experience the lives of these people and expand himself as an artist (Feitlowitz).
Currently, Muniz lives and works in New York City. His most recent collection, created in 2008, is the “Gordian Puzzles” series, which consist of famous icons and symbols created out of puzzle pieces. He continues to thrive and generate art, claiming that he has tried many different mediums that have not worked, but will try anything once. His work has been displayed in museums and galleries all over the world. His first exhibition was at Wortlaut: Konzepte Zwischen Visueller Poesie & Fluxus Galerie in Schuppenhauer, Cologne, West Germany in 1989. Since then, he has exhibited in his work in Spain, Italy, the United States, Holland, France, his native Brazil, and most recently, in 2008, Japan. He has been granted three awards in his career so far, including the “Líderes Latino Americanos para el Nuevo Milenio” [Latin American Leaders for the New Millennium] from CNN in 1995, “Ayutamiento de Madrid: Premio Villa de Madrid de Fotografía” [Advancement of Madrid, Award of Photography in Madrid] from Kaulak in 2005, and “National Artist Award” granted by the Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Aspen, Colorado in 2005 (“Biography”).
Overall, Muniz is very deliberate in his choice of medium, even though it may not seem so. By creating these replications of well-known images with common mediums, Muniz calls his viewers to reconsider these pieces in a different light, from a truly different perspective. “Marilyn Monroe” from the Gordian Puzzle series, “Small Change” from the Monads series, and “Socrates” from The Aftermath series all utilize this strategy; “Marilyn Monroe” is made of puzzle pieces, “Small Change” is made from pennies, and “Socrates” is made of pieces of garbage. Because the viewer recognizes items they see frequently in his art, he or she becomes more receptive to the image and ideas that it stands for. In creating this feeling in his viewers, Muniz allows the viewer to generate a new perspective on an idea or theme that has always been held as commonplace.
Artists like Muniz often draw inspiration for their theories regarding art from many different sources, both past and present. In his essay “The Unbearable Likeness of Being,” Muniz acknowledges the philosopher Aristotle and his beliefs about art. Muniz writes that “Aristotle (perhaps out of annoyance) considered that form could only be known through its content and content through its form” (Muniz). Muniz’s art is founded in these principles in that he places an emphasis on the materials that he uses and what they come to represent. Furthermore, Aristotle defined art as “the realization in external form of a true idea, and is traced back to that natural love of imitation which characterizes humans and the pleasure which we feel in recognizing likeness” (“Art.” Aristotle.). This is also characteristic of Muniz’s style because he chooses works of art to reproduce based upon their familiarity with his viewers. The final aspect of Aristotle’s definition of art is that it should “portray events which excite fear and pity in the mind of the observer to purify or purge these feelings and extend and regulate their sympathy” (“Art.” Aristotle.). Art, therefore, is heavily tied to playing on the emotions of the viewer by using a subject that will arouse sympathy or pity. This is a major foundation of Muniz’s piece entitled “Marilyn Monroe” from the 2008 Gordian Puzzle series.
Marilyn Monroe is easily one of the most recognized faces in America. In 1999, she was acknowledged by Time Magazine as one of “The Time 100 Most Important People of the Century.” According this article that chronicles her life, rise to fame, and tragic downfall, “there have been more than 300 biographies, learned essays…tattoos, and Warhol silk screens,” (Rudnick) of her. “She has gone from actress to icon,” Rudnick concludes. Therefore, Muniz uses such a readily recognized face in order to create an emotional connection to the viewer and exemplify the complexity and intricacy that surrounds the image. “I favor images that are mainstream,” remarked Muniz in an interview, “easy to know. Or images that people don’t feel threatened by,” (Feitlowitz 6) he added. Monroe is one such image. Her face is so popular to viewers young and old that she can convey a message to anyone, “not just [in] a private world of the artist,” (Rosenberg 181).
The original photograph of “Marilyn Monroe” was taken on May 6, 1957 in New York City by the photographer Avedon. Upon first glance from far away, the new image that Muniz created from puzzle pieces looks so real that it is hard to tell that the pieces are even there. However, closer up, the pieces become more evident. They are lined up so meticulously that the lines between colors and shapes are not blurry, but perfectly straight. The use of puzzle pieces as a medium for an image of Monroe implies that there is a complexity and depth to her; there are many different ‘pieces’ that make up who she was. These many facets include the fact that she “died a suicide at 36, after starring in only a handful of movies” (Rudnick). The viewer, therefore, relates to the piece because he/she feels empathy at the tragedy that surrounded Monroe’s life. As for the puzzle pieces, they also reflect the theme of they are not arranged so that they fit together in the typical fashion. They are layered in multiple directions so that the defined shape of each piece is more prominent. They almost appear to be thrown haphazardly onto a board and then painted. The picture, however, contains all three dimensions of her figure, as compared to some older style portraits that seem very flat.
The background is varied shades of grey, with the lightest grey accenting around her body and face. It is darker, almost black, toward the edges of the photograph. Her skin is very pale in contrast to her dress and the background, but her lips are the darkest feature on her face. Her eyes are also very much defined in contrast to her light, flawless complexion. Her hair is textured in curls that frame her face, while her dark, halter-style dress is low-plunging with sparkles on the top. The dress is somewhat revealing for the time it was taken. Monroe’s expression is vague, as if she is distraught or confused. However, this longing stare is very common in her images that can be seen all around the world. According an essay about the emergence of the Pop Art movement, which featured Monroe as a highlight of Andy Warhol’s silk screens, “the sense of hidden meaning is enhanced by public tragedy. There is the gay, familiar, open-mouthed face. Surely lurking somewhere behind it is some cue, some information communicating a private agony,” (Antin, 288). This look is meant to draw the viewer into her world of tragedy through a new set of eyes in order to understand the complexity of her life.
Overall, Muniz thrives on the fame of Monroe to embellish the intricacy of her life and the downfall of a Hollywood starlet. When it comes to “popular culture imaging and its highest-performing icons,” (Benitez Duenas 148) which is a prime focus of many of Muniz’s works, Monroe is a strong example of this. As author Roland Barthes concludes in his essay “That Old Thing…Art,” “nothing is more identifiable than Marilyn,” (Barthes 371). And that’s exactly what Muniz was looking for in his quest to create a strong connection with the viewer and create a likeness to an image that would trigger a viewer to take a deeper look from a new perspective.
The theme of a change of perspective is not only prevalent in the Monroe piece, but in Muniz’s other collections, as well as his life. He draws a large amount of influence from the tale of Metamorphosis by Ovid. “I read it everyday,” (Feitlowitz 6) he remarked in an interview. Ovid drew his inspiration from the changing rule in Rome and Europe. In a lecture on Ovid, Professor Ian Johnston clarified that “Rome’s very success led ultimately to the city’s downfall. The northern Germanic tribes, once Christianized, moved in to establish medieval Europe out of the remnants,” (Johnston). Therefore, in a time of political chaos, Ovid made his feelings known about the changes that he was experiencing living in Europe. However, it is the first line that grabs Muniz the most. “‘My mind is bent to tell of bodies changed into new forms,”’ said Muniz, “What a perfect way to start a work of art!” (Feitlowitz 6). This philosophy of change is evident in Muniz’s art in that he desires to change an existing piece of art from its original form into something new so that it can take on new meaning of its own.
To carry on the sense of “change” both literally and figuratively, “Small Change” which was created in 2003, is representative of Muniz’s critical view of change in society. The picture shows the figure of a quarter. The interesting catch, however, is that it is composed of different types of change, namely the penny. Because the large coin is made up of a quantity of small pennies, Muniz suggests that like the Monroe piece, there are multiple components that make up an image, and in turn, satirizes the plummeting value of American money.
The coin has all the trademark symbols, words, and images of a real quarter. Across the top of the enormous circle is the “United Sates of America” with the image of the profile of George Washington located in the center of the circle. It also has the trademarks “In God We Trust” and “Liberty.” Most of the design is made up of copper pennies, but there are some places that reflect silver, whether they are from dimes, nickels, or quarters. Since its inception, “the penny has been known as the cent, the pence, and minor (for minor or insignificant coin),” (Geer). This is quite appropriate as there are countless pennies that make up the one major image. Also, due to the composition of the piece, Muniz is punning on the value of money and the penny in American society. The composition of the penny was “pure copper from 1793 to 1837,” then to “97.5% zinc and 2.5% copper” (“A Brief History of the Penny.” USA Today.) in 1982. Overall, “the penny has gone through six different compositions since 1793,” (“A Brief History of the Penny.” USA Today.). Because a less expensive metal, zinc, has taken over the original composition of copper, it represents the change that both Muniz and Ovid sensed in society. In recent years, the value of the penny has dropped significantly. It now costs more to make a penny than a penny is worth. A penny costs “1.32 cents” (Geer) to manufacture. Consequently, an innumerable amount of pennies make up this one larger coin, reminding the viewer that something that is so common in everyday life like the penny is still changing and evolving with society.
The details of the coin appear to be in proportion to one another as compared to the realistic version of the coin. The background is completely white so that the places that are left blank for the words and image can be seen brightly and clearly. There are only two dimensions to the image, as it does not appear as a three dimensional coin. It is simply a flat, circular shape. Also, there are two lines left open around the outside of the coin to show where the texture of the metal changes on a quarter. Unlike the Marilyn Monroe, the lines are not as exact and distinct, given that coins are round, but they are fairly accurate. There is a thicker white outline on the left side of the quarter to give Washington a slightly raised effect, but overall, it still looks flat and two dimensional.
Author Marshall McLuhan explains money in the best way that shows Muniz’s take on society, as he writes that “money, like language, a store of work and experience, acts also as a translator and transmitter,” (McLuhan 131). Muniz therefore uses something universal, like money, that appeals to everyone, seeing as money is essential to survival. It is also easily recognized, as the penny can be found anywhere as one of the most common coins. McLuhan concludes with a line from A Treatise on Money by J.M. Keynes, which explains that “gold has ceased to be a coin, a hoard, a tangible claim to wealth, of which the value cannot slip away so long as the hand of the individual clutches the material stuff,” (McLuhun 131). This is clearly indicative of Muniz’s view on money because in this piece, a penny is no longer a coin, but a part of something larger: a new image that surpasses it in value and significance.
Muniz’s work, in light of being a manipulation on an original into something new, has been compared to a substance known as “ruin marble,” (Winston). Ruin marbles are stones that are created by layers of sediment to create “joints, healed joints, and color bonds, which create the ruined character” (Marko et al 243) of the stones. The stones are so similar to Muniz’s work because they “used to be very popular in the manufacture of luxury furniture from Renaissance to succession times,” (Marko et al 241). So, something that looked broken was changed into something new and meaningful, just as in Muniz’s pieces transform commonplace items into reproductions of original masterpieces.
This choice of medium as highlighted by “ruin marble” comes into play most importantly in the third photo is entitled “Socrates” from the collection “Aftermath.” Created in 1998, the piece depicts a young, African-American boy standing in the middle with a vague expression, staring to one side, while holding something in his other hand. The picture is created from countless pieces of “junk” arranged on the floor and then taken a picture. A review of this collection states that “the materials are chosen because the medium has some strategic and critical relation to the concepts of formal problems that concern Muniz, or a social relation to the subject matter,” (Leslie 154). With respect to “Socrates,” it is more likely a social relation because Muniz is highlighting an actual experience that he had. He volunteered his time at a school in Brazil called Axe, which helped children stay off the streets by engaging them in activities ranging from art, to sports, to games. It was from these school children that Muniz drew his inspiration for the Aftermath series.
The boy in the center of the picture seems to be created out of dust or dirt. It is a very grey color with some darker black lines. There are some places that appear to be shaded, which could have been done easily with dirt or dust. The lines are fairly straight, with a slight bit of shading around the edges and in the folds of his clothing to make it look more three dimensional. Muniz explained the choice of making the children out of dust in an interview, where he clarified that “the children [in the Aftermath series] are the same color as the city. They’re dirty. They literally absorb the atmosphere,” (Feitlowitz 8). This exemplifies the children before the influence of the Axe school, which brought them into the light and away from the “junk” surrounding them. In relationship to the whole image, the boy is the brightest image there, and Muniz acknowledges that as well. He also explained that “people referred to them as the garbage children, and I said no, they are the Light Children. They are made out of light, not garbage,” (Feitlowitz 8). Therefore, the children who have entered the program, like the boy in “Socrates” represent the knowledge and truth that they have come to know. They will be the future of Brazilian society, as they will be pulled away from the remnants of their once broken lives and pulled toward lives of fulfillment and education. Muniz concludes, “Children for me are very important,” and this is evident in this collection.
More specifically in the image, the boy is standing up and his legs are crossed. He seems to be holding some type of pole and container, with the pole stretching around behind his back and out either side. His clothes are too big for him, with a baggy sweatshirt and oversized shorts. He has bare feet with no shoes. He has fairly short black hair, and one of his hands is not visible in the picture, as it is behind his back. There are two black, dark lines across his shirt in the upper right hand corner, which could be smears of dirt. The boy looks weary and tired, as if he is unsure of what he is doing or is exhausted and fatigued. The object that he’s holding is unclear, but it is made of a substance that is a different color from the boy. It is a more orange, light brown, almost clay, color, as compared to the gray on the boy and the pole. The boy, overall, seems to be positioned exactly in the middle of the image. Though this exact image may have only been a photograph before Muniz created it from garbage, the image of an impoverished child is a sight that many people are used to seeing or hearing about, whether it be on the news or on televeision. Muniz reminds in a personal interview that “I am not using the images themselves. I am only using what we know about them as raw material,” (Muniz). From the children, he extracted their innocence, their influences, and their struggle to make it in society, and captured them in the light amongst all the dark.
The junk in the background is made up of so many colors that it is hard to differentiate which item is which, but there are a few areas of color that stand out. For example, there seems to be a piece of green hose or tubing running down the right hand side of the image, which looks eerily reminiscent of a snake. There are also some red dots here and there that stand out from the rest, similar to red lights from a stop light or apples straight off a tree. There are many small areas of white, but they are not as noticeable in the primarily dark background as the other colors, including a few lavender points as well. Overall, however, the image has a very dark feeling. In his essay “The Impossible Object,” Muniz defines this dark quality as the following: “We know from experience that everything decays and changes, yet we fail to recognize this in images; their fading or tarnishing does not seem to affect the subjects they portray. The damage is often perceived as simply superficial,” (Muniz 36). By creating the image out of dingy garbage, Muniz brings out this “fading” and “tarnishing” and “decay” of society’s effects on the children in Brazil. They are surrounded by it everyday, just as the boy is in the image, but in the end, they are the light that can pull through and overshadow the darkness.
Muniz drew the name for the piece from a famous philosopher, Socrates. The Greek philosopher “wrote nothing because he felt that knowledge was a living, interactive thing,” (Hooker). In the case of Muniz’s work, the boy represents knowledge because he literally is the living thing that is meant to carry on the knowledge into his future. Socratic thought is also described by “the truth being pursued, rather than discovered,” (Hooker). The child in the image is characteristic of this search for the truth because the child is set on a path to redeeming their life from harsh conditions, not just told how to be. The program allows the child to forge their own path, which is perfectly in line with Socratic thought. Muniz reminds the viewer that “I want to make you aware of how much you want to believe in the image, to be conscious of the measure of your own belief, rather than of my capacity to fool you,” (Muniz). As a result, the image of a child that many viewers would be sympathetic to is supposed to draw a change in perspective. Even though a child is born into tough circumstances, they can still overcome them and develop into their own successful person, and Muniz wants his viewer to see that.
In his essay “Surface Tension,” Muniz divulges that “faith has little to do with pure interpretation. As surfaces emerge, new rituals should follow. The role of the artist is to adapt ritual material to contemporary surfaces,” (Muniz). The new material, garbage, has been regenerated with a new meaning, as a medium for a work of art. He strives for the viewer to place their faith in him to put a new, contemporary twist on conventional thought. Art, therefore, is evolutionary, and changes with the time, just as surfaces do. In “Socrates,” the surface is the key to the piece. After the shock factor has worn off, it provokes many questions in the viewer’s mind, just as Muniz wants.
To justify and defend his purpose, Muniz remarked, “I tend to believe in Gombrich’s theory of schemata,” (Muniz). Schemata is defined as “a continuously active organizer of knowledge structures,” (Lawler), and Gombrich’s specific theory “argues that every existing image is a copy of another image ad infinitum,” (Muniz). Many of Muniz’s critics see his work as no less than mere attempts at mimicking or mocking the masters who originally created them, as purely simple copies, but Muniz’s art takes an image in this way and replicates it with a new twist. Gombrich also believed in “avoiding ideology, plain iconography mere sociology of art,” (Gombrich’s Legacy: Art History as Embodiment of Values). This is very similar to Muniz, who wants to create new meaning through new form, not through simply coping something that already exists.
In conclusion, Muniz relies on familiarity to connect with his audience. He uses images that are easily recognized so that the viewer is more receptive to them and is less likely to shy away from digging in for new meaning. He makes his intentions very plain in an interview about his purpose as an artist, revealing that “when people look at one of my pictures, I don’t want them to see something represented. I prefer for them to see how something gets to represent something else” (Muniz). His medium, therefore, is just as important as the image itself, as the process he took to create the image is the most important. “Change” is a major theme across all of Muniz’s collections, whether it is social, emotional, or physical. The materials used are far different than any other artist, and though his works physically change the original form of the image, he challenges the viewer to take on a new perspective and “change” old ways of thinking.
Monday, April 14, 2008
Vik Muniz’s “Gordian Puzzles” are a collection of pieces that are comprised of puzzle pieces arranged into representations of famous works, one of which is a photograph of Marilyn Monroe. It was taken on May 6, 1957 in New York City. The photographer was Avedon.
Upon first glance from far away, the image looks so real that it is hard to tell that the puzzle pieces are even there. However, closer up, the pieces become more evident. They are lined up so meticulously that the lines between colors and shapes are not blurry, but perfectly straight. The background is varied shades of grey, with the lightest grey accenting around her body and face. It is darker, almost black, toward the edges of the photograph. Her skin is very pale in contrast to her dress and the background, but her lips are the darkest feature on her face. Her eyes are also very much defined in contrast to her light, flawless complexion. She has a vague expression on her face and looks either confused or distraught. Her hair is textured in curls that frame her face, while her dark, halter-style dress is low-plunging with some sort of sparkles on the top. The dress is somewhat revealing for the time it was taken.
As for the puzzle pieces, they are not arranged so that they fit together in the typical fashion. They are layered in multiple directions so that the defined shape of each piece is more prominent. They almost appear to be thrown haphazardly onto a board and then painted. The picture, however, contains all three dimensions of her figure, as compared to some portraits that seem very flat.
The second of Muniz’s photos is “Small Change” which was created in 2003. The picture shows the figure of a quarter. The interesting catch, however, is that it is composed of different types of change, namely the penny. It has all the trademark symbols, words, and images of a real quarter. Across the top of the enormous circle is the “United Sates of America” with the image of the profile of George Washington located in the center of the circle. It also has the trademarks “In God We Trust” and “Liberty.”
Most of the design is made up of copper pennies, but there are some places that reflect silver, whether they are from dimes, nickels, or quarters. The details of the coin appear to be in proportion to one another as compared to the realistic version of the coin. The background is completely white so that the places that are left blank for the words and image can be seen brightly and clearly. There are only two dimensions to the image, as it does not appear as a three dimensional coin. It is simply a flat, circular shape. Also, there are two lines left open around the outside of the coin to show where the texture of the metal changes on a quarter.
Unlike the Marilyn Monroe, the lines are not as exact and distinct, given that coins are round, but they are fairly accurate. The one thing that’s missing, though, is the small letter below “In God We Trust” that indicates where the coin was manufactured. There is a thicker white outline on the left side of the quarter to give Washington a slightly raised effect, but overall, it still looks flat and two dimensional.
The third photo is entitled “Socrates” from the collection “Aftermath.” Created in 1998, the piece depicts a young, African-American boy standing in the middle with a vague expression, staring to one side, while holding something in his other hand. The picture is created from countless pieces of “junk” arranged on the floor and then taken a picture.
The boy in the center of the picture seems to be created out of dust or dirt. It is a very grey color with some darker black lines. There are some places that appear to be shaded, which could have been done easily with dirt or dust. The lines are fairly straight, with a slight bit of shading around the edges and in the folds of his clothing to make it look more three dimensional. The boy is standing up and his legs are crossed. He seems to be holding some type of pole and container, with the pole stretching around behind his back and out either side. His clothes are too big for him, with a baggy sweatshirt and oversized shorts. He has bare feet with no shoes. He has fairly short black hair, and one of his hands is not visible in the picture, as it is behind his back. There are two black, dark lines across his shirt in the upper right hand corner, which could be smears of dirt desired to look like the dirt or like something else. The boy looks weary and tired, as if he is unsure of what he is doing or is fed up with what he has been doing. The object that he’s holding is unclear, but it is made of a substance that is a different color from the boy. It is a more orange, light brown, almost clay, color, as compared to the gray on the boy and the pole. The boy, overall, seems to be positioned exactly in the middle of the image.
The junk in the background is made up of so many colors that it is hard to differentiate which item is which, but there are a few areas of color that stand out. For example, there seems to be a piece of green hose or tubing running down the right hand side of the image, which looks eerily reminiscent of a snake. There are also some red dots here and there that stand out from the rest, similar to red lights from a stop light or apples straight off a tree. There are many small areas of white, but they are not as noticeable in the primarily dark background as the other colors, including a few lavender points as well. Overall, however, the image has a very dark feeling.
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
“I find thee apt;
And duller shouldst thou be than the fat weed
That roots itself in ease on Lethe wharf,
Wouldst thou not stir in this. Now, Hamlet, hear:
‘Tis given out that, sleeping in my orchard,
A serpent stung me; so the whole ear of Denmark
Is by a forged process of my death
Rankly abused: but know, thou noble youth,
The serpent that did sting thy father’s life
Now wears his crown.”
When the ghost of King Hamlet comes to visit Prince Hamlet and tell him of his betrayal by his brother, he tells the story through a series of symbols, allusions, and imagery, which emphasize the treachery of the act. King Hamlet alludes to hell and the Adam and Eve story from the Bible in order to connect his murder with original sin. Also, he characterizes Claudius, the murderer, as a devil figure in order to tie him in with sin as well.
King Hamlet begins by admitting that his son is “apt” or capable, of comprehending his story and carrying out what he will eventually ask him to do. He wants Hamlet to stay sharp and attentive, unlike the “fat weed/ that roots itself in ease on Lethe’s Wharf.” Though his betrayer is not mentioned until later, this is King Hamlet’s first description of his murderer, Claudius. Lethe is the river that flows through Hades, or hell, so he is implying that Claudius is solely a lazy man who does not deserve to be where he is. It also implies that he came from hell, similarly to the devil, which creates the image of Claudius as the devil.
Then, King Hamlet begins the story of the day of his murder. The allusion to this day is the story of Adam and Eve, where Eve took the poisonous apple from the serpent, or the devil, despite God’s direction not to. Thus, she created the original instance of sin. In comparison, King Hamlet is “sleeping in [his] orchard” when “a serpent stung” him. Though it seems to sound literal at this point, he continues to say that “the serpent that did sting thy father’s life now wears his crown.” Claudius now wears his crown as King of Denmark, so this solidly explains that it was he who killed his brother. Alluding to serpents is typically connoted with evil, but in this instance, it is referring to the devil himself, as indicated by the Adam and Eve story. King Hamlet, therefore, feels that his brother’s betrayal is equal to that of Eve’s betrayal of God and the creation of sin. King Hamlet, evidently, must have been very startled to believe that his brother murdered him if he could compare it to this type of sin.
By the end of his father’s story, Hamlet is completely set against his uncle and must avenge his father’s death. Because he is supposedly trying to take on the devil, or Claudius, this also sets Hamlet up as a type of Christ or God figure, as he is the ‘good’ force pitted against an ‘evil’ force. King Hamlet believes Denmark is being “rankly abused,” just as the devil would abuse any of his followers. It is as if Claudius has a spell over the people of Denmark just as the devil enchants mortals to sin, as he did with Eve.
Thursday, March 27, 2008
At the beginning of the poem, the speaker starts to describe the setting; this is the most concrete information in the entire poem. He states the time, “8:08 p.m.” (line 1) and describes the “biting, February” (line 2) air. The speaker clarifies that it is a “winter streetscape” (line 3) that he is painting in the mind of the audience. He describes his body as an “ample, rhythmic frame” (line 1) while the wind does “fierce arabesques” (line 2). He clearly defines the setting in order to establish a base of where his thought process began. Without a starting point, it would be impossible to follow the train of thought. It proves that the configuration of the poem is methodical, not random.
The first shift in tone occurs two lines further, at the point where the speaker is able to “lean/In,” (lines 5-6). It is the bridge between the foundation and the memories that will substantiate the rest of the poem. When transitioning between two such things, the clarity level decreases, because memories can never be remembered to perfect accuracy, as time morphs and distorts them. He also begins to sound disillusioned and reminiscent, commenting that the “streets look for Allen, Frank,” (line 6). These two names symbolize two of Berrigan’s contemporary beat generation writers, and according to the following line, “Allen/is a movie” (lines 6-7) and Frank is “disappearing in the air” (7). This suggests that Allen has become very popular, like a movie, and Frank is gone, essentially from the world. Thus, the speaker seems depressed and lonely, feeling as though he has been abandoned. This is a sharp contrast to the beginning of the poem where is describing the setting in an upbeat tone.
Consequently, from this point on, his thoughts seem to wander farther and farther away from where he began; each thought takes a turn from where it was originally going. He begins with a question, asking “Who would have thought I’d be here,” (line 13) and that indicates a shift in topic and tone. He then elaborates that “love, children…money, marriage/ethics, a politics of grace” (lines 15-16) are “up in the air” (line 16), which implies that the ideals that were once held are no longer there. The “up in the air” reference, that was used previously to describe Frank, suggests that the views that once held true no longer exist around him, and he is frustrated because of it.
The boy with eyes that “penetrate the winter twilight” (line 20) is his first answer to the question, and the first sense of anger in the poem because the word ‘penetrate’ has a connotation of deep-seeded emotion; his gaze is breaking through the setting that the speaker created at the beginning of the poem, which is also representative of that shift in tone. His second answer is a “pretty girl” (line 21) who is “careening into middle-age so/To burn & to burn more fiercely than she could ever imagine” (lines 22-23). Fiercely also represents the anger and tenacity of the speaker, and he sounds as if he knew that events would turn out in such a way, and the people whom the events were happening to had no idea that it was happening. He could have been angry because of their refusal to believe in the situations that life was presenting them with.
The next answer is the “painter” (line 24). The speaker says he will “never leave [the painter] alone until we both vanish/into the thin air” (line 25). The air reference means that he is intensely devoted to this other man and nothing can tear them apart. The painter, consequently, will never leave the speaker “not for sex, nor politics,/ nor even for stupid permanent estrangement” (lines 27-28). This represents his deep attachment, and almost obsession, with the painter, because neither of the most popular reasons for two people to no longer have a relationship/friendship will ever tear them apart. He is holding on so tightly that it is becoming overbearing, and that is what he portrays in this segment of the poem.
The last eleven lines are the most irate of all, and this tone comes to the forefront when the speaker discusses death. He firmly states that he “will never die” (line 31) and will “never go away” (line 32). Because of his strong sentiments here, the speaker is afraid of death in a way, because he says he is “only a ghost” (line 33) and “you will never escape from me” (line 32). This attempt at speaking directly to the audience begins here, and so does the high level of ambiguity. He says he is “only pronouns” (line 35) and that is the biggest key to the vagueness at the end of the poem because he uses a multitude of pronouns that do not always have antecedents. In this aspect, the speaker is leaving the interpretation up to the reader of the poem, because it had a certain meaning to him, but it may have other meanings to whoever reads it. He says “now nothing/will ever change/That, and that’s that” (lines 37-39). The short, choppy sentences with very few syllables reflect his anger because the complex thoughts from the beginning and middle of the poem are no longer in use. He just says whatever comes into his head.
The last lines show the outcome of the speaker’s anger and his internal struggle. He says that he “slip[s] softly into the air” (line 41), which defines his ascent from the world. He is finally leaving his anger behind. Overall, the multiple shifts in tone reflect the thought process. A thought can trigger a repressed memory, and that memory causes one to diverge completely from his or her intended path and stray into the realm of thoughts that reflect hidden emotions of anger, frustration, and fear. Such is the case with “Red Shift.”
The first instance of his insensitivity is at Maman’s funeral. Her friends, the other elderly residents from her nursing home, come to keep vigil around her casket. Meursault first mentions them as a “rustling sound that woke me [Meursault] up” (9). In his eyes, they are nothing but a mere noise, completely insignificant to what he is thinking about. He observes that the women all have “bulging stomachs” and he says that he “never noticed what huge stomachs old women can have” (10). Elderly people are often highly respected members of society, and younger generations have a natural tendency to speak of them with courtesy. Meursault, on the other hand, uses rude, disrespectful terms, such as the aforementioned bulging stomachs, or “toothless mouths,” (10). Camus chooses these words because it reveals the first sign of Meursault rejecting emotion. Meursault has “the ridiculous feeling that they were there to judge [him]” (10) and because he thinks that about innocent people who came to pay tribute to his mother, it is an indication of his insecurity.
Meursault’s insecurity grows further on in the passage as well. He emphasizes multiple times that one woman “kept on crying” (10) and he wish that he “didn’t have to listen to her anymore” (10). This woman comes to the funeral to pay her respects to Maman and to express her sympathies to Meursault. This act of compassion is met with resistance; Meursault, annoyed by her crying, is only concerned for himself and not for her. He does not want to face the sadness of losing his mother, and hearing crying, a sound of sadness, might trigger emotion, so he dismisses it as an annoyance. His sentences are very short and choppy, structured with simple subjects and verbs, and their directness conveys his agitation. The caretaker of the home tells Meursault that the woman was a very good friend of Maman’s, and that now she “hasn’t got anyone” (11) but that is the last that Meursault speaks of the woman in the passage. The commentary about this woman stops here because Meursault does not want to deal with the feelings that might stir within him if he interacts with her. By acting like he is tough and does not care about the woman, who could conceivably be one of the only links left to his mother, Meursault is putting up a masculine façade in order to divert the emotion.
After this point, Meursault shuts down; his diction and tone are more inappropriate and reckless, as he tries to overcompensate for his lack of emotions. Meursault states that the woman “finally shut up” (11). The phrase ‘shut up’ is usually used by teenagers or children, not adults talking about their elders. He complains about being “tired” and that his “back was hurting” (11). This physical need overtakes any other feelings or emotions, and a stereotypical man puts his physical needs, desires, or feelings before anything else. A “strange noise” (11) then aggravates him, and he identifies it as a “weird smacking” (11) sound that the elderly people are making by “sucking at the insides of their cheeks” (11). The connotation of this description is more like animals than it is like humans, so Meursault cannot relate to them directly. His diction here is demeaning, and it is particularly so because these people are hurt by Maman’s passing, and attend the funeral to support him and mourn the loss of his mother. His final thought of the passage is that “the dead woman lying in front of them didn’t mean anything to them. But I think now that that was a false impression,” (11). He refers to his own mother as a ‘dead woman’ and that shows that he is indifferent to the whole situation, almost as if he is looking in on these events from the outside. He is a stranger to emotions, as the title of the book suggests, and his coldness covers him up so that emotions cannot penetrate within him.
On the whole, the diction of the passage shows how Meursault hides his emotions behind a wall of overcompensated masculinity. A funeral generally brings about emotions in some way, but his complete lack of feeling, coupled with a desire to put his own physical needs above his emotional needs, Camus exposes this character flaw in Meursault. This is not the only time he does this, however. He takes another emotional situation, one of abuse, and confronts Meursault with it.
Meursault and Marie are having lunch at Meursault’s house and they hear Raymond having a fight with his girlfriend. They rush outside to see what is happening. They hear “thuds” and his girlfriend screaming “in such a terrifying way” (35). He acknowledges that the woman is in trouble from the beginning, but this acknowledgement is strayed away from; he does not want to have to confront it. Marie is concerned, and asks Meursault to find a policeman to help, but Meursault refuses to because he “didn’t like cops” (36). His inactions here reflect his chauvinistic sentiments, but he must lie to get his way out of helping the woman because he does not want Marie to see how he truly feels about women. Meursault’s sentences are shorter and more direct again after this; they dictate the events of his afternoon with Marie that leads up to his conversation with Raymond. Meursalt “finished fixing lunch. But she wasn’t hungry; I ate almost everything” (37). Marie has clearly been affected by the events that she has seen because she does not want to eat. Meursault however, is completely unconcerned with what he has just experienced, and eats his lunch like nothing happened. Camus shows this contrast between men and women here, because Merusault acts hardened, like the stereotypical man, while Marie acts emotionally, like a stereotypical woman. Meursault does not want to dwell on the event, because he is outrunning guilt. If he does not think about what he has done, it will not affect him.
The feeling comes back to haunt him, however, as Meursault finds Raymond at his door later that day. Raymond recounts the events of the day, and in order to play along with Raymond, Meursault comments that “she’d gotten her punishment now and he ought to be happy” (37). Raymond has a strong influence over Meursault’s behavior because he is acting very masculine about putting a woman in her place. The terms he uses to describe the event are not very graphic, so Camus stores Meursault’s memories away and chooses to only tell what makes Raymond appear to be the victim of the situation. So in order to fit in with Raymond and not allow his emotions to get the better of him, Meursault puts on the act that he condones the beating and that Raymond was correct in his actions. Meursault eggs the behavior on even more when he “agreed to act as a witness” (37) for Raymond. Though Meursault acts like testifying for Raymond “didn’t matter” (37) to him, he clearly tries to remain indifferent to the situation. Raymond abused his girlfriend, but Meursault, who wants to side with a ‘man,’ decides to help him out.
In both instances, Camus describes Meursault as a stranger to his own feelings. In his indifference, he sails through some very difficult events, including his mother’s funeral and an assault of an innocent woman. To keep from feeling these emotions, he puts up a wall around himself so that he does not have to feel sad, upset, angry, or hurt; acting like a man makes up for his inability to have feelings, and he can use his status as a man as validation for his actions. Camus exposes that tendency in men, as opposed to women, who bare it all. The woman cries at Maman’s funeral, and Marie cannot eat after witnessing the attack. This is one of the main differences between the sexes, and Camus differentiates between the two with the reactions to these events.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
(1.1.21-39) Focus: Character foreshadowing Hamlet
At the very beginning of Act 1, the guards mention to Horatio that they've seen a ghost. Horatio tells them that it was their "fantasy" or imagination, and is quick to discredit their information. He emphasizes over and over again that "t'will not appear" and that they are being foolish. I think in this way Horatio is foreshadowing the inability to trust in Hamlet's personality. THough the men witness the ghost twice in a row, Horatio still does not believe it until he sees it. Hamlet, therefore, might be very wary of who he places his trust in and who he believes is a credible source for information. Maybe he was betrayed by one whom he trusted, and that caused him to become so unable to trust others.
Entry from Act 2 Scene 2
(2.2.96-150) Focus: Polonius' Character Development
When Polonius tells the King and Queen about Hamlet's letter to Ophelia, he just won't get to the point. They accuse him of "art" or flowery speech (rhetoric), which is indicated by his lengthy introduction to what he's even talking about. This shows the reader that Polonius is unconfident because he feels that he has to act in a way to impress the King and Queen. In this way, Shakespeare characterizes Polonius as someone who wants to impress others and get approval from them. He cannot stand on his own. He needs his flowery diction to hide his insecurities. From what I learned about rhetoric last year, a writer will often disguise their weaknesses in different strategies, such as repitition, like Poloius does when he says " 'tis true, 'tis true, 'tis pity, And pity 'tis true.." He seems to be rambling, but in his mind, he thinks he's sounding intelligent and worthy of speaking to the King.
Entry from Act 2 Scene 2
(2.2.359-419) Focus: Words, Words, Words, along with Polonius
As Hamlet welcomes the players to Elsinore, he refers to the King and Queen as his "uncle-father and aunt-mother." Hamlet is definitely confused and disillusioned by their marriage, as he doesn't know what to call them or what their relationship to him actually is. So, it is evident that Hamlet is really feeling the separation between himself and his 'family.' When Polonius arrives with delayed news that has already happened, Hamlet calls him " a great baby...not yet out of his swaddling clouts." Though this could refer to any baby, the main image in my mind is of the baby Jesus who is typically known to have swaddling clothes. So, Hamlet may be implying that Polonius, despite his royal ties from working for the King, is not accepted by everyone or is looked down upon because he hasn't accomplished anything (like a baby). The allusion to Jephthah is also very interesting, as he must sacrifice his daughter as the result of a vow he made in war. The daugther's wish was to lose her verginity before he did it. So, this relates to Polonius because Hamlet is implying that Ophelia has been with Hamlet and may be lost for a sacrifice. This, to me, is foreshadowing Ophelia's death at the hands of her father.
More to come...
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
To begin the page, Phillips first describes his character’s realization that something is not as it seems. He writes that “at the time arranged” he “abandon[s] all.” Though the time was arranged, which indicates some sort of methodical thinking, he still must abandon everything he knows, in this case, his reason. Then, “he at once…drove off to…the dim regions of Bloon,” which is the area where sanity and insanity meet. Dimness implies that this location is the convergence of these two realities because when something is dim, it is neither light nor dark, but an area in between. Thus, Phillips’ character approaches the brink of his sanity. The pathways of pale yellow that highlight the text and connect the words to each other are also indicative of this route because they look like winding roads that connect one end of the image to the other, just as the characters’ road is connecting sanity and insanity.
Phillips’ character continues his path to realization a bit further down the page. He “had found…the loss of all events,” which suggests that he no longer remembers what occurred in his past or his past thoughts, which are both a part of his sanity. The only thing he knows, however is that, “he was…he knew…heavy for ever.” This heavy feeling symbolizes the weight that his torn feelings are pressing down upon him and the fact that these feelings are with him for eternity. The solid black border of the image further exemplifies this feeling because it is the darkest color in the image and because it surrounds all the other colors, it suppresses and entraps the rest of the image, just as the heaviness does to Phillips’ character.
Phillips’ character reaches his final destination toward the middle of the image. As he continues on, he “entered the dirty passage leading to his…condemned cell.” The words used in the imagery of the ‘dirty passage’ create a dank, dark impression of his location, making it seem to be very undesirable and unpleasant. The ‘condemned cell’ is his insanity because he is on the cusp of falling into a different type of reality and he has no power to control what is happening. The black border also represents this cell because it encages the rest of the image and is shaped like a cell, with no curves or bends, just straight lines. The pale yellow pathways could also represent this path. Though they are not dark, the yellow represents hope and a path toward the light, or truth. Therefore, this represents the characters’ path to insanity because it is something he cannot control and is what he is destined to do. Thus, he is continuing on to the truth.
To end the page, Phillips’ character comes to terms with the two realities he faces. He “thought of the lake, the starlight.” These are familiar sights to him, as they are the only things he can remember as he transitions between reality and his insanity. They are both relaxing images in comparison to the dark, dirty pathways. The starlight is similar to the pale yellow color in the image because the light is illuminating his path toward the reality he is about to enter.
Lastly, at the end of the page, Phillips’ character sees “both realities…once.” The ‘once’ may really mean ‘at once’ because of all of the dualities presented in the image. The word ‘once’ is separated from the rest of the text by a long pathway which represents the final step of the path the character takes between his two realities. This final moment of contrast can also be seen in the primary colors in the image. They consist of long stripes of tomato red and grape purple that run the length of the page. The red and purple are indications of a contrast in the image between the different realities because they are both extremes in different types of color; red is part of the ‘warm color’ family, while purple is part of the ‘cool colors.’ Upon first glance, they immediately clash, as they are not typically seen together in nature. This is also indicative of the craziness because it varies from what is natural or normal. Also, red has certain connotations of anger, while purple is more relaxing and tranquil, consequently reflecting this contrast.
Overall, Phillips creates an image of contrast to reflect the convergence of two different realities: sanity and insanity. To a sane person, life is reality. However, an insane person also believes that the way he lives is reality too. Therefore, reality has a different meaning for different people. Phillips’ character’s reality in A Humument is the path toward his pending insanity, as exemplified by contrasting colors and imagery, a fate he cannot alter.
The soliloquy begins with the roaring of the dark sea from the top of a cliff and Hamlet looking down onto the ocean from atop the cliff. Hamlet is at a very rough point in his life, so the sea represents the turbulence and turmoil he is battling through. The music swells in intensity, and the camera zooms all the way into the top of Hamlet’s head until the screen goes black. It is almost as if the camera delves straight into the mind of Hamlet in order to better understand his inner feelings that proceed in his soliloquy. Then, in a blur, the scene of the ocean returns as Hamlet recites the famous line “to be, or not to be, that is the question” (3.1.55). The blurriness of the view emphasizes Hamlet’s feeling of disillusionment because his mind is swarming with mixed emotions. He does not know if it is “nobler in the mid to suffer” (3.1.56) or “to take arms against a sea of troubles” (3.1.58). The reference to his troubles as a sea fits right in with the image of the raging sea.
As he concludes with the phrase “end them [troubles],” (3.1.59) he reaches into his pocket and pulls out a dagger, indicating his possible thoughts of suicide. He cannot decide whether or not he should “die” (3.1.59) or “sleep” (3.1.59), because each has its own way of ending the troubles he has in his life. During this section of the soliloquy, Hamlet does not physically recite the lines; rather, he strains his face as though he is thinking very hard and as he is thinking, a voiceover reads the lines. This is extremely effective because Hamlet is struggling so deeply within himself that it flows nicely coming from in his mind rather than being recited out loud. He then returns to recitation with the phrase, “perchance to dream” (3.1.64) and with it, he is snapped back to reality from the trance-like state he was previously in. He continues with a slow paced tone, but softens his voice at the mention of “the pangs of despis’d love,” (3.1.71) which shows that he’s probably referencing his love for Ophelia that no one else seems to agree with. The softened tone indicates the feelings of emotion and affection he has for her.
The next transition occurs when Hamlet mentions the “bare bodkin” (3.1.75) and at this line, pulls out a dagger from his pocket. He uses this line and reference to the dagger as one possible pathway out of his conflicting emotions: death. Hamlet then, as a result, toils again with the contrast between life and death. He realizes that what lies beyond death is “undiscover’d country” (3.1.78) that no one can understand ad one that “no traveler returns [from]” (3.1.79). Because humans cannot understand what lies beyond a mortal life, a person “would rather bear those ills” (3.1.80) than end their lives and enter into the mystery of the afterlife. Hamlet’s tone during these lines is also soft and subtle, indicating that Hamlet is intimidated and fearful of death, even though he sees it as an option or way to get out of the struggles and conflicts he faces in his life.
Hamlet then concludes his soliloquy as he stands up and walks around, looking over the edge of the cliff. He describes that the “currents” (3.1.86) of life “turn awry” (3.1.86) as he looks down at the sea, which ties into the reference to his thoughts as a rough ocean. His wandering hints that he feels lost and confused, unsure of which way to go. Clearly, his mind has been swayed because he realizes that taking his own life will not improve the quality of his life or the events in his life. As he finishes his line, he walks off into the fog with the music swelling around him, indicating that he is off to ponder his new thoughts. The film is black and white, so it is often hard to distinguish darkness from grey, but the shadows in the background of Hamlet hint that the scene is meant to be darker than normal to show that he is still shrouded with doubt, despair and unsure thoughts.
So, I just finished the book, and I have to say, WOW! There were so many twists and turns at the end, and I couldn’t believe how successfully Flaubert fooled me. I didn’t expect half of what happened!
Now that I’ve gotten my amazement out of the way, I’d advise that if you haven’t finished, stop reading this post so that I don’t ruin the end. However, I want to continue posting, so I’ll answer Sarah’s question and then off I go to the end-ish of the book…
To address Sarah’s question, I think Flaubert wants to build up this struggle between Emma and Charles. Emma tied her emotions and feelings for Rodolphe so deeply into her everyday life that she physically could not stand to lose him. Charles deeply loves her, yet she pushes him away. So, to build this tension for an event that is going to happen later.
This leads me to the first passage that I want to bring up. It is the last paragraph of Chapter 7 in Part Three. “Emma made no reply. She was gasping and staring wildly around her; the peasant woman, frightened by her face, stepped back instinctively, thinking she had gone mad. Suddenly she clapped her hand to her forehead and uttered a cry, for the memory of Rodolphe had just burst into her mind like a great flash of lightening in a dark night. He was so good, so sensitive, so gorgeous! And even if he should hesitate to help her she could easily make him change his mind by reminding him with a single glance of their lost love. And so she set out for La Huchette, not realizing that she was now rushing off to offer herself to the same thing that had made her so furious only a short time before, totally unaware that she was about to prostitute herself” (304).
I think this could tie into Sarah’s comments because while Emma is in a crisis about where to find money to pay off her debt, she finally digs down into her soul to the one person she never thought she would see again: Rodolphe. It hit her so hard that she could feel it, so I think she was holding back feelings about him, but the fact that she says she is going to ‘prostitute herself’ implies that she no longer has feelings for him and is going to see him purely out of need of money.
This leads me to another passage, her reaction to Rodolphe refusing to give her the money:
“But I would have given you everything, I’d have sold everything, worked with my hands, begged in the streets, just for a smile or a look, just to hear you say ‘thank you.’ And you sit there calmly in your chair, as if you hadn’t made me suffer enough already!...You made me believe it: you led me on for two years in a sweet, wonderful dream…” (307-308).
I think it’s very interesting how Emma finally voices her opinion about how much Rodolphe hurt her. She normally keeps everything inside, but to see her explode in desperation was kind of relieving to me because this is the first time we actually see Emma’s personality and her ability to stand up for herself. What do you guys think this means to the plot and to what Flaubert is trying to accomplish with the book?
ANOTHER SPOILER WARNING!!! Read no further if you have not finished!
Well, Michelle, you’re right on! That is exactly what I wanted to discuss here. I thought it was interesting that Emma chose arsenic poisoning as her method of killing herself because I’ve seen on crime shows (they’re my favorite) that women are more likely to resort to poison for murder/suicide because their nature is to create the least mess and the least chance to have it traced back to them. Sure, it’s stereotypical, but in Emma’s case it holds true. I just thought that was slightly interesting.
Moving on, I want to say first and foremost that unlike Michelle, I couldn’t catch on to the idea of Emma committing suicide. I was completely unaware that it would happen because even thought Emma was so lost and unable to find herself, I saw her as determined to get what she wanted. Taking her own life was the “easy” way out, and I feel a little disappointed now because I always hoped she would overcome her outlandish ways. I guess this is really why she is called a tragic heroine. She had her downfall and I was wondering what you guys feel it actually was. Pride? Fear? Shame? Inability to persevere? Let me know what you think.
There is a passage, though, that I want to bring up about the last few hours of her life. Charles finally finds out what she’s done to herself, and he asks:
“Why? What made you do it?”
“I had to, my dear,” she answered.
“Weren’t you happy? Is it my fault? I did everything I could!”“Yes…that’s true…You’ve always been good!”
She slowly passed her hands through his hair. The sweetness of her touch brought his grief to a climax; he felt his whole being collapsing in despair at the thought of having to lose her just when she was confessing more love for him than ever before. And he could think of nothing to do; he no longer knew anything or dared to try anything: the need for immediate action had thrown him into a state of utter bewilderment.
This moment is so bittersweet because it’s the one moment Emma is starting to realize how wonderful Charles was to her and what she missed out on while she went on all her escapades. When people are on the brink of death, the reality of what they’ve endured throughout their lives comes out, and Emma is spurred to admit her feelings. At this moment, I also realized that Charles’ fate is really tied to Emma’s. He lives his live solely to please her and take care of their child, as all of his actions are made to benefit the family as a whole. After Emma dies, I knew it was a moment of foreshadowing for Charles’ future.
Katie, I want to answer your question as to why Flaubert kills of Emma. We are told from the beginning that this story is a tragedy, which I did not believe up until the end. Emma digs herself into such a deep hole that there is no way to get out. She is overwhelmed by debt, consumed by the illegitimacy of her marriage, and unable to prioritize her life. She lets her greed and desire for wealth and pleasure take precedence over her family and the people who truly care about her. So, I feel that Flaubert had her commit suicide because it really exemplifies her weakness and her inability to face the consequences of the actions she makes during her life.
Anyways, I wanted to bring up a passage similar to one point Katie made about the black coming from Emma’s mouth after she dies:
“Emma’s head was turned toward her right shoulder. The corner of her mouth, which remained open, was like a black hole at the bottom of her face; both thumbs were bent inward toward the palms; her eyelashes were sprinkled with a kind of white dust; and her eyes were beginning to disappear in a viscous pallor that was like a fine web, as though spiders had been spinning on her face. The sheet sagged from her breasts to her knees, rising again at the tips of her toes; and it seemed to Charles that in infinite mass, an enormous weight, was pressing down on her” (325).
This passage, Flaubert’s imagery of Emma’s corpse, was probably the most intense scene for me. I don’t know how many of you (besides Katie) have seen The Lord of the Rings movies or read the books, but this description reminded me of The Return of the King when Shelob stabs Frodo and wraps him in her web, and Sam stumbles along and finds Frodo and thinks he’s dead. The way Frodo looked at that moment, pale white with a vague look in his eyes wrapped in the web, completely reminds me of this imagery. Though Frodo wasn’t really dead and Emma was, Sam really believed Frodo was dead. So, this imagery of being eaten by a spider (very creepy) might symbolize the realization that a loved one is dead, because right after this scene, it finally sinks in for Charles that Emma is gone. (Did anyone else notice the use of the word viscous in that passage, because I did =])
I’m not sure what I think happened to Berthe in the factory, but it seems that she’s suffering the repercussions of her parents’ poor decisions. She’s paying for their actions because they couldn’t handle life anymore and chose to leave it all behind. I honestly don’t think Emma or Charles took Berthe into account in any decision they made, especially to take their own lives. She was never a priority for them, and I was wondering why you guys thought Berthe was the last person to be thought of, when parents, no matter how inept they may be, normally put their children first?
I completely agree with Michelle; Flaubert ends the novel quite abruptly and almost sweeps Charles and Emma under the rug. I think he does this and concludes with Homias toward the end because the reader can get a good sense of what the town is feeling as a whole through him. The town just seems to go on as usual, and I think that Flaubert is trying to show the reader that even though the Bovary family endured so many hardships and so much pain and confusion, life will continue to endure regardless. After Emma dies, Charles is forced back into the routine of life, suggesting that the world will not stop for him to grieve and that he needs to continue on. Maybe this is similar to the situation at the end. Flaubert might be hinting at the insignificance of an individual life in comparison to the greater good here, but I might just be a little cynical.
I also thought it was a little insensitive that Berthe was just sent off to work without so much as thought into what she’s feeling without her parents. I think in this way, Flaubert may also be emphasizing that feeling of insignificance because Berthe is never discussed in detail after she sees her mother for the last time. It’s almost as if the entire family disintegrated after Emma died; she really was the common thread that held it together, despite her adulterous actions. She kept Charles close because he was so in love with her, and she paid attention to her daughter only when it suited her. However, Charles would continue to love her and Berthe would always call for her mother, so in essence, without Emma, the Bovary family ceases to exist.
What other themes have you guys seen throughout the book? I’d be curious to see if anything you guys got was similar to what I related to or found in the story. Can you guys relate to Emma or any of the characters? Out of sympathy? Pity? Empathy?
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
n the case of Stephen,ation has been made between the mother and the father. , when they are first learning language, and thisIn the passage in Chapter 1 when Stephen recalls the boys at school stealing wine from the sacristy, Joyce contrasts Stephen’s different takes on sin and religion through the religious or “ecclesiastical” (Henke 331) mother and his departure from it. Stephen first explains that “it had been found out who had done it by the smell” (Joyce 54). The sense of smell is tied very heavily to memory, so the fact that the boys are caught by sense of smell implies that the memory of what they did is potent enough to stick with them because it essentially brought about their demise.
When Stephen next addresses the issue of sin, he declares that it “must have been a terrible sin” (Joyce 54) to “steal the flashing gold thing into which God was put on the altar” (Joyce 54). So, it is Stephen’s first instinct to see the sin in this situation, which implies he has been brought up with morals that reflect his religion. The image of flashing gold represents the power the chalice holds, as gold is normally connoted with power, authority, and masculinity. In the idea of dichotomies, religion is typically related to the feminine side, but the reverence Stephen has for the gold chalice suggests his fear of God as a paternal threat. According to psychoanalytic criticism, “a series of father figures…knock Stephen down” (Brivic 282), and God is the one that Stephen fears the most.
However, Stephen challenges this authority with curiosity and confusion. Stephen logically and innocently states that “God was not in it of course when they stole it” (Joyce 54). Though it shows that he is beginning to think more rationally, it also shows that he is starting to question the beliefs that he grew up with. Stephen also calls the boys’ actions a “terrible and strange sin” (Joyce 54) that “thrilled him” (Joyce 54). This is a sign of Stephen’s insecurities and confusion because he realizes his inner conflict between what he has been taught and what he is developing in his own mind.
Stephen further goes on to explain the memory of the smell of wine that made him “feel a little sickish” (Joyce 54). Similarly to the boys who stole the wine and were caught by the smell on their breaths, Stephen recalls his “first holy communion” (Joyce 54) when the rector “had a winy smell off [his] breath after the wine of the mass” (Joyce 54). This imagery of smell is tied strongly to one of his earliest religious memories, and in the Catholic religion, the first communion is supposed to be the “happiest day of your life” (Joyce 54). This is a childhood memory of Stephen’s, and he remembers calling it that because his family or other religious influences at school referred to it as such. Stephen also acknowledges that Napoleon said “the happiest day of my life was the day on which I made my first communion” (Joyce 55). His recognition of Napoleon’s beliefs indicates that he also sees Napoleon as a strong paternal figure. Thus, the contrast between the feminine connotation of religion and the male influence of a renowned leader like Napoleon also develops Stephen’s confusion regarding religion.
To end the passage in between the religious references, Stephen describes the connotations he has of the word wine. He says it is “beautiful” (Joyce 54) and makes him think of “dark purple because the grapes were dark purple that grew in Greece outside houses like white temples” (Joyce 54). Calling the word beautiful suggests that Stephen is starting to find an appreciation for words because beautiful has a strong tie with things that are heavenly or unable to be described in any other way. French feminists tie language to the “period of fusion between mother and child” (Henke 300) and the eventual “separation” (Henke 300) of mother and son. So, as Stephen is learning to be independent and have his own thoughts, he is forsaking what he has been brought up with, namely what his mother taught him. His appreciation for language and words is indicative of the art he wishes to pursue, and in turn, to follow his dream, he must let go if his past and start anew.
Also, drawing on the reference to Greece and using the simile to compare the houses to white temples also suggests a heavenly feeling because of how spiritual temples are. The contrast of white houses and dark purple grapes through color imagery is also indicative of Stephen’s confusion because he is battling between conflicting feelings. The white of the houses, as in religion, represents purity and the feminine, while the dark purple represents the darkness or sin that often tries to overtake the purity, as with the grapes growing over the houses. The imagery here could also relate to Stephen’s mind. A “temple” (Joyce 54) is also a part of the head typically associated with the brain, so the “grapes” (Joyce 54) represent the growing thoughts within Stephen’s mind that are overtaking the ideas he originally had.
Though Stephen is fairly young when the wine incident takes place, he cannot help but feel the struggle between boyhood and adolescence. He battles with the aforementioned religious topic, as young adults often become more quizzical and question what they have been taught. Later on, he also toils with the location in which he lives: the “political” (Henke 331) mother.
In Chapter 2, Stephen’s family is facing financial problems, so they are forced withdraw him from his school and move to Dublin. In Dublin, Stephen looks to find adventure and answers to his complex questions. He sees himself through the story The Count of Monte Cristo and imaginarily falls in love with the character Mercedes. He looks up to the character of Edmond Dantes as “his model” (Henke 322) because he sees Dantes as “an isolated hero who eventually conquers the woman he loves through a complex process of amorous sublimation” (Henke 322). Therefore, he battles with differentiating fantasy from reality because he can only picture himself the fantastic setting of Dantes’ world.
With the new territory of a new city comes a new liberty. Stephen becomes “freer” (Joyce 70) and roams the city, looking vainly for Mercedes. He makes a “skeleton map of the city in his mind” (Joyce 70) in order to trace the streets, describing his passage as “unchallenged” (Joyce 70). The word unchallenged suggests that Stephen is completely unrivaled, with no one checking his actions and the ‘skeleton’ reference indicates that he sees the area as barren, cold, and empty. This is very different to what he experiences at school, where he is constantly monitored. Now that his family has transitioned into a new home, he is able to do as he pleases, and these new privileges bring about conflict because he does not now how to handle it.
As Stephen wanders through the streets of Dublin, the “vastness and strangeness” (Joyce 70) of life hit him again. This pair of nouns reflects Stephen’s ambiguity and confusion regarding his surroundings because he looks at it in terms of its massive size, but also how foreign it appears to him; he seems very uncomfortable. He walks from “garden to garden in search of Mercedes,” (Joyce 70) passing by the “bearded policeman” (Joyce 70) and the “bales of merchandise stacked along the walls” (Joyce 70). This vivid imagery of the town shows how overwhelmed Stephen is in a new city because he was very sheltered in the small community at his school. However, as he reminisces back to his old town, he misses “the bright sky and the sun-warmed trellises of the wineshops” (Joyce 70). In this way, his very intricate memories manipulate his thoughts. The warmth given off by the shop in contrast to the cold feeling of wandering the streets alone suggests that even though he is in a new place that will bring him adventure with fantasies like Mercedes, he still dreams of the comfort of his old home. Stephen then remembers the feeling of “vague dissatisfaction” (Joyce 70) but “continued to wonder up and down day after day” (Joyce 70). Though he knows that she is not real, he still continues to sulk around looking for her, a wild figment of his imagination. The repetitive back and forth motion, which can be interpreted as a pair as well, ultimately relates to both his futile search for Mercedes and his inner conflicts over what reality really is.
As the novel progresses, Stephen is shrouded in doubt and cannot seem to grasp a single, solid feeling. He continues to struggle between the “binary pairs” (Henke 300) he encounters throughout his final years at school, especially with regards to his feelings about women. Even as the novel comes to a close in Chapter 5, Stephen continues to brood over the duality he feels in his daily life, especially with his confusion between love and lust.
In Chapter 5, Stephen develops feelings for a girl named Emma, but he is unsure of the intentions of these feelings. He experiences many lustful images of women, but believes to a degree that his feelings for Emma are stronger than that. She walks past both Stephen and Cranly, but only acknowledges Cranly. Stephen notices a “slight flush on Cranly’s cheek” (Joyce 206), which infuriates him. As a result, he “could not see” (Joyce 206). Joyce suggests that Stephen is blinded by his anger, and according to psychoanalytic criticism, “the loss of eyes is an image of castration” (Brivic 281). This moment, therefore, is indicative of Stephen’s feeling of losing his masculinity. He is unable to elicit a reaction from Emma, while Cranly is able to garner her attention. Stephen even goes as far as to call Cranly’s actions “rudeness” (Joyce 206) because he had once trusted Cranly with his “wayward confessions” (Joyce 206). Stephen is constantly let down and chastised by the male influences in his life, so Cranly’s ‘betrayal’ reminds him of when he “dismounted from a borrowed creaking bicycle to pray to God in a wood” (Joyce 206). However, “two constabularymen had come into sight round a bend” (Joyce 206) and “broken off his prayer” (Joyce 206). Stephen already sees God as a paternal threat, but men who approach him intimidate him so much that it halts him in mid-prayer. By using this comparison, Joyce juxtaposes Stephen’s fear of paternal threats that are both divine and mortal.
Stephen questions for a moment if Cranly had “heard him” (Joyce 206) but then automatically responds that “he could wait” (Joyce 206). Though the pronoun “he” is ambiguous, it is most likely referring to Cranly because Stephen incredulously questions Cranly’s intentions but automatically shifts his attention back to Emma. She “passed through the dusk” (Joyce 206) as the “air was silent…and therefore the tongues about him had ceased in their babble” (Joyce 206). It seems as though those tongues are the voices in Stephen’s mind that present him with constant struggles and conflict. Emma “provides a substitute for the mother” (Henke 334) because as previously mentioned, Stephen is enduring a struggle to remove himself from his three different mothers and has nowhere to turn in his time of need. In place of the three that he is separating himself from, Stephen is looking for a culmination of protection, strength, attraction, love, and lust, and he believes he has found it in Emma.
The conflicting voices in Stephen’s head, however, are pacified when he acknowledges the darkness. Stephen then misquotes a poem by claiming that “darkness falls from the air” (Joyce 206). The original line of poetry had “brightness” (Joyce 206) instead of darkness. Darkness and brightness, typically two opposites, do not often work interchangeably. However, Stephen replaces the word because he feels more comfortable in darkness. The brightness blinds him, as in the aforementioned paragraph, so the darkness settling in signifies that he is becoming more comfortable with his thoughts. He continues his path toward the darkness as “he walked away slowly towards the deeper shadows” (Joyce 206). Stephen can take solace there because he knows that there is no threat and he is in control.
Once Stephen reaches the darkness, however, his eyes “open from the darkness of desire” (Joyce 206). Any time the eyes open, it signifies a rebirth or reawakening, so at this point Stephen begins to see differences between himself and Cranly and how differently Emma sees both of them. Although Joyce explains that the darkness represents desire, Stephen still feels the most comfortable there because desire is all he knows. He cannot create a meaningful and lasting relationship based on emotions or feelings, so he chooses to live his desires through fantasy. Stephen, though “horrified by the realization that he has besmirched the icon of his beloved Emma by making her the object of his…fantasies,” (Henke 326) continues with his thoughts of her; he cannot resist the temptation. Stephen then “tasted the language of memory ambered wines” (Joyce 206). This implies that he is looking into his past, which has aged over time to develop into the feelings he has now.
This is further exemplified by Joyce’s juxtaposition of two different types of women. He sees “kind gentlewomen in Convent Garden wooing from their balconies” (Joyce 207) who are nuns or other types of religions women, and “poxfouled wenches of the taverns” (Joyce 207) who are women that are looked down on by society like prostitutes similar to the one he experiences. The women of the Convent are described with more delicate diction, like ‘kind,’ but the other women are referred to as ‘wenches,’ which is a word with a very strong connotation of dirtiness and impurity. According to Freudian thought, boys see “two aspects of women” (Brivic 287), one being the “virgin” (Brivic 287) and one being the “temptress” (Brivic 287). Stephen examines both types, as he can “dictate his actions” (Brivic 287) to the virginal type but can “find expression” (Brivic 287) in his fantasies of the tempting type. Unable to decide which he feels about Emma, Stephen realizes how both types of women “yield to their ravishers” (Joyce 207). In the religious women’s case, they answer to God, while the others answer to men who seek comfort in their bodies and sin. Stephen realizes that he “sees both in Emma” (Joyce 287) because he both fantasizes about her and can see himself in a relationship with her, but he continues to remain torn. Stephen’s ability at the end of the novel to make this distinction shows how he has developed into a young man, but it is this ability that tears Stephen away from women and pushes him toward his art.
Stephen’s conflicting feelings stem from the contrast between opposing forces. The Greek god Dionysis is a perfect example of this dichotomy that Stephen faces. Dionysus is the god of wine, but is also the god of intoxication. This contrast clearly represents Stephen’s situation because he is caught in between what he has been taught and what is logical, between the real world and his imagination, and between feelings of love and lust. The wine that Dionysus represents is a pure substance, as it is used in sacraments in the Catholic Church as the blood of Jesus. However, too much wine can cause a person to become drunk, and being under the influence elicits a person to think or say things they typically would not think or say otherwise, just like Stephen does when he contemplates the theft of the wine, Mercedes, and Emma. Overall, these pairs rule Stephen’s life and his decision making process because he is unable to see one side of something without another side to compare it to.
In Reading Lolita in Tehran, author Azar Nafisi and a group of her students meet secretly to read and discuss literature. Though her bond with these girls is strong, one of the most supportive yet unrecognized relationships that Nafisi relies on is her marriage to her husband Bijan. In one brief chapter, Nafisi recounts a conversation between herself and Bijan, and she uses metaphors and detailed description to capture the nuances of the moment and represent the dramatic change that takes place in their relationship as their surroundings change.
The conversation between Nafisi and Bijan begins with would typically be an awkward topic between two people, but Bijan is genuinely interested. She comments that “living in the Islamic Republic of Iran is like having sex with a man you loathe,” (329) and this comment takes Bijan slightly aback. He notices everything around his wife, her “student’s notes scattered on the table and…a dish of melting coffee ice cream” (329). Normally, having the coffee ice cream is one of Nafisi’s favorite things to do in the evening, but the fact that she has ignored it and let it melt warns Bijan that she must have been “feeling rotten” (329). Because he knows his wife so well, he is able to be sensitive to her seemingly random comment, and by asking her to “explain a little” (329) about what she means, he is enticing her let her emotions out. Through their dialogue that is not in quotation marks but rather in average sentences, Nafisi suggests their conversation is fluid and casual, as opposed to their former, argumentative conversations. This emphasizes the deep connection they have with one another and their mutual understanding and tolerance of each other’s feelings.
Nafisi then goes on to explain how she and Bijan came to be so understanding of each other; her heartfelt and intricately powerful words reflect this power of their relationship. She describes his many “silences” (329), as they can be “disapproving,” (329) “appreciative,” (329) or “loving” (329). Her knowledge of these subtle differences in his moods shows how well she knows him, because the words she chooses are specific to each individual feeling and she would be unable to pin them down so well if she didn’t understand him. They began this process of understanding as they discussed how they “felt about Iran” (329) and they finally “began seeing the matter through each other’s eyes” (329). The turmoil and obstacles they face in Iran was finally enough to bring them together to talk it out. Though they have different perspectives about Iran, Bijan’s being more “traditional and rooted” (329) while Nafisi’s is more “portable,” (329). The words she chooses to describe Bijan’s attitude are more concrete, and would typically be used to describe these types of feelings of nationality and pride in one’s country. However, the use of the word portable makes Nafisi’s feelings seem like an object that just be moved without consequence. Through these words, Nafisi emphasizes the difference between her own feelings and her husband’s feelings.
Nafisi, in the subsequent paragraph, has a moment of realization that suggests that the country that pushed them away from each other for so many years finally pulled them back together. She suddenly feels a “little lighter” (329), as if a weight has been lifted off of her. Physically and emotionally, her family has been ruled over by the Iranian government for so many years, and now, at this moment, she realizes that her marriage is stronger than the pressure they have been put under. Bijan goes back to her analogy, elaborating that her “girls must resent that fact that while you’re leaving this guy behind, they have to keep sleeping with him,” (330). Because he relates back to her analogy, he is trying his best to connect with how she is feeling, but he reminds her that “the memory” and “the stain” cannot be “slough[ed] off” (330) when she leaves. The word stain suggests that the impact her country has had on her will not be easily forgotten, while sloughed off hints that she does not take their leaving as seriously as he does. His warning has two parts: he is partially trying to help her understand the consequences of leaving, but he is also revealing his solid, traditional beliefs. Iran has made a lasting impact on the two of them, and he is not as easy to let it go.
Bijan’s final comment is a question to Nafisi about her effect on those who have impacted her, and his strong answer provides the motivation they both need to move on with their lives. Bijan says that the “relationship is not equal,” (330) between Nafisi and Iran, and by calling it a relationship, he defines the mutuality of “the good and the bad” (330) between the two. Nafisi always saw it as one sided because she was directly impacted by the actions and policies of the Iranian government, but she never realized that she, as a female professor, made an impact on Iran as well. Bijan believes that though the government has “the power to kill us or flog us,” it “only reminds them of their weakness,” (330). The weakness would be their cruelty and inhumanity because there is rebellion stirring within the country and the power of rebellion is much stronger than that of oppression in their eyes. His words are short, but they are sharp and powerful. Their connotation adds to Bijan’s point that the classes Nafisi teaches are her own form of rebellion, and that they have made a difference in Tehran.
Throughout the chapter, Nafisi dictates this dialogue in paragraph form without quotation marks, which adds to the fluidity of the text and highlights the melting of her thoughts with her husband’s thoughts. Bijan and Nafisi’s relationship is not always directly mentioned, except in places where they argue, but in this instant, they are able to connect together as they once did before all the turmoil began, and the manner in which they speak to each other reflects this mutual understanding in a tough situation.
Again, comments are very much appreciated!