For Blog’s Sake: A Reflection

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In one of our earliest research seminars (EN6009), we were told part of our assignment required that we start a blog. The blog in question was described to us as “an informal way of expressing our academic interests” and a way of overarching those interests outside of college with what we are constantly learning. I like to think of it as a football bouncing off and between two parallel walls. The only question, “Where do I begin?”?

“With this blog, I aim to explore the relevance of what I learn in my MA to my own personal interests in Film and Literature.  I am looking forward to the year ahead the challenges, the outcomes, the surprises and the rewards both academic and personal. Whatever lies on the road ahead.”

My first post was a simple “About” section. Looking back at it, I haven’t changed all that much. Still a cinema nut, still love making and watching movies, but now I feel with my MA, it has meant more to me now then it did then. I feel like as this blog has grown, I must admit, I was not wrong in predicting what lay ahead in the year.

At first I found it difficult to really explore this blog. Perhaps due to my lack of fluency in how to operate WordPress. Personally, I am not a fan of my early work on this blog. My Gone Girl article was my first attempt to fuse something I picked up in our feminism literature classes with texts which I personally enjoyed reading and watching. It is a nice reminded of how I tried at the start and a good comparison to now. As time went on, I found the seminar series held at UCC imperative to how I wanted to compose this blog. I took a lot of influence from how lecturers found their area of interest, invested in texts which both related and (seemingly) unrelated to the topic and asked questions. something I learned to embrace as this blog went on. Asking myself why I was writing and why I wanted an answer to begin with. I am particularly proud of my work on Dr. Tom Birkett’s The World Tree Project seminar, Hillary Lennon’s lecture on “The Irish Literary Letter” and later in January, Dr. Eibhear Walsh’s exploration of Elizabeth Bowen .

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“The most notable part of the World-Tree Project and impassioned part of Dr. Birkett’s presentation was the question of the future and developing upon the progress already made by the program. Leaving with us with the question, what are the most effectives ways of translating and exhibiting resources from the Viking age? To me, this called into question, not just Viking age, but the technical age in general is diversifying as a whole and how online forums, encyclopedic sites and even search engines can and likely will change and improve by the same rationale as the World-Tree Project.”

The subjects of these seminars are all topics which I do not have any vested interest, but which as a result made me think harder about the argument that could be made from my standpoint. Being an outsider to the topics, I myself felt an advantage in conveying my own point of view.

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“Lennon’s argument constantly came back to a matter of change and the chameleon like quality the letter takes as a source of literary and historical work as well as its future. Touching upon the technological innovations beyond formal authorial changes. The question becomes, is it still letter writing or are we now just lamenting the lost art form of which Boland wrote about or has the concept of letter writing transcended pen and paper to become a symbol or an ideal which is no longer bound by form? The world today can communicate just fine, but the real question remains to be seen, can the technological form still convey the beauty of written word? “

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“But the presentation spoke of something louder, how does a pained and fragile writer like Bowen react when many in her position would simply become manifested by the repression they live through. Walshe mentioned A Time in Rome as a perfect example of Bowen’s trauma as a widow struggling while living in Cork, Ireland. Dr. Walshe answered simply, “identity”. Bowen’s Rome is her own interpretation, a singular expression of a place in time played through a sombre mood of mourning. Surely Bowen’s interpretation of the bust she sees in particular divides the landscapes of Rome as welcoming her femininity and Ireland as repressing her without console following her loss.”

I think it is important to mention my article on the movie Safe which marks a shift in direction towards the more refined and objective articles I am currently and have been writing of late. The objective of Safe Are you allergic to the 20th century” was to give a brief, theory supported by a mini argument and yet make it not only academic, but interesting to readers who may be familiar with the movie.  

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By the time January rolled around, I realised it was time to finalize my thesis topic. I knew I wanted to do something on cinema but still relate to the aspects of late Modernism and Postmodernism. By chance over the Christmas break I had watched a considerable number of Charlie Kaufman movies and the originality really ingrained itself in my head. Thinking for days about how these strands related to things on my course that I knew I would be studying soon. As it turned out Charlie Kaufman’s work really intrigued and gave me a heads up with what was to come.Then came the idea of my thesis, I wanted to start making this blog even more relevant to my overall thesis objective. I wanted to use this space to convey my growing familiarity with the different concept I picked up, discoveries I made and things which riveted me. I did not want my primary focus, the works of Charlie Kaufman, to become the central nucleus of everything I wrote. That seemed boring. So instead I opted to use this space to discuss the learnings I felt were relevant to the Charlie Kaufman thesis, but convey them through other relevant texts I found elsewhere, thereby challenging my own perspective beyond simply Kaufman and thinking more critically of how the learnings were used to create something individual in different ways.

Samuel Beckett seminar seemed perfectly timed, Beckett’s relevance to Kaufman was something I picked up on and I am myself an avid fan of Samuel Beckett’s work. The blog article took quite a while to compose fully as I wanted to do justice to Beckett and the people who hosted said seminar.

 

“The shift of character’s thoughts (something which is also prevalent in Endgame) is immediately contradicted by life’s own refusal to give these characters a coda, “We’re waiting for Godot.” (Beckett, Godot 14) there’s no end to the record spinning on the turn table. Didi and Gogo are living life through the moving staves with frequent rests or (silences). How there was no one kind of music, the same way there is no one way of writing. This musicality comes through in his hohostage directions which as Judy and Conor stressed were followed to the note. Beckett did not write to delineate from his original vision. Everything on page was there for to be followed. This amalgamation of lyrical musicality and to the note direction is perfectly illustrated in Endgame’s use of the [pause]. From this example alone, it’s clear to see Beckett’s musicality blends the forms, it’s drama, but there are clear elements of a lyrical verse style and the narrative prose at work too.

Even after the Beckett seminar article, I felt there was more to say and conceptually I had a text which I felt paralleled with Beckett’s approach to the stage. Having the opportunity to discuss how a Talking Heads concert relates to the staging of Samuel Beckett made me slightly giddy. I was taken aback by the liberty of getting to discuss something this interesting and still relate it to my academic work for the first time in my college experience. I think at this point in my blog, I was really starting to embrace my own voice and realised just how cathartic this blog could be and how foolish  I was for not seeing the endless potential which WordPress allowed between personal interest and academic study.

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“I am to understand that the intent of Beckett’s work is to evoke, subvert and question the mimetic medium of the stage which is why I wonder if perhaps Stop Making Sense is, in it own way, trying to do something similar through a rock concert. Much like a theatre play, Stop Making Sense relies heavily upon stage lighting, blocking, exaggerated performance and movements as well as a narrative sequence of unfolding shifts and changes in the band’s dynamic. There are props (most notably a lamp and a pair of reading glasses) and even subtle costume and hair style changes from Byrne. But the comparison to Becket, for me, is Byrne himself and his seemingly intentional decision to never leave the stage. A class troupe of Beckett’s drama and raison d’etre..”

The Editathon from back in February was particularly fun to write about. I edited Alex Garland’s Wikipedia page and did some research on his career and added further parts on to the post. This article change from the usual criticism and argument based work I was trying before. Thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

 

 “I chose Alex Garland, writer and director of the recent science-fiction parable Ex Machina. Garland had only been nominated for an Academy Award two weeks prior and being a fan, I saw his page as a golden opportunity to improve with any new information I could collect. I took the week before our test to re-familiarise myself with Wikipedia’s layout and conceptually drew upon other pages I was studying (particularly director Danny Boyle and actor Michael Fassbender, both of which have very simple, but detailed Wikipedia pages). I composed the formats for three new tables, assigning the new headings for Films, Novels and Video Games. I began the session that morning with implementing said tables which would become the centre-pieces (as I saw them) of the newly revamped page. What I had not anticipated were the potential errors with correct data coding. However, with Donna’s expertises and  the help of the Wikipedia message message board discussion, problem solved!”

cxThe blog article for the mini-conference was a joy to write. It was a little more informal and more narrative based than I had planned, but it really does reflect how emotional the day became.

“Looking at the photos I had taken and the tweets I had written and even remembering the taste of the coffee and croissant I had during break-time, there’s an undeniable sentimentality attached to it all. The mini-conference to me was not a personal triumph, it was a team effort built upon mutual support and friendship as well as the incomparable efforts of our co-ordinators and lecturers. It’s been two weeks since I entered the Western Gateway Building in fearful anticipation, but I know it’s a day that I will remember, unconsciously exaggerate, maybe even recollect on occasion in years down the road, but never forget.”


My Formless Form article came about as a result of a discussion I had with UCC lecturer Dr. Lee Jenkins. When asked if we could think of any later examples of responses to T.S Eliots’ “The Waste Land”. I thought of Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue Album. I argued by explaining how, I personally found his use of improvisation during a period of what I saw to be declining Modernism. I felt Van Morrison was lyrically comparable to Davis and I even brought in one of my favourite artists, Joseph Turner.
kind-of-blueBoth album and poem also subvert conventional form, “The Waste Land” for example alternates from verses of free form run on lines with minimal punctuation to a clear mimetic verse style of romantic origin. Lines 77-93 of “A Game Of Chess” is a perfect example of this literary improvisational style equivalent to what Davis illustrates musically throughout Kind of Blue. Davis’ punctuation amounts to staccato phrasing and musical rest. “Freddie Freeloader” illustrates this kind of controlled improvisational style beautifully in a major key. Most striking of this improvisation and Davis’ phrasing are his use of the imperfect cadence at the end of each piece which seems to string together every song. “The Waste Land”, similarly, never feels like a finished piece of work, but still feels connected not only through its repetition, but its motifs of language, onomatopoeia and exclamation.

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“Unlike Davis, Morrison embraces form within musical structure but uses this form to lyrically build a narrative around a conscious, introverted character (usually the clichéd lover and the scepticism of romance) like a novel. In this way, the listener gets an ulterior monologue or soliloquy akin to say William Faulkner. He similarly makes use of repetition, realism and impressionistic word painting, at times, even abstract details through first person narration. Morrison also breaks meter, rhyme becomes a tangent of vocal improvisation or digressions of thought in the form of more repetition. Take the lyrics to “Astral Weeks” for example, Morrison like painter Joseph Turner an impressionistic picture from a distance. “If I ventured in the slipstream, Between the viaducts of your dream, Where immobile steel rims crack, And the ditch in the back roads stop, Could you find me?” (Morrison) Much like Turner’s art, Morrison’s music recounts a specific moment in time. He shades his vision with interrogation or a subjective eye for the details he recounts and his uses interrogative language which disrupts the music and the seeming blissfulness of what he describes.

Then the idea of “Lynchian” really popped out to me as an area of interest for a blog post. As an avid David Lynch fan it also gave me the opportunity to reread Breton’s “Manifesto of Surrealism”. I thoroughly enjoyed the research for this particular article and I found a lot Lynch’s influence was applicable to, if not directly inspiring to Kaufman. The article also gave me the chance to revisit Freud’s “The Uncanny” which I subsequently used for my final blog post on The Shining.

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“Where surrealism bases itself entirely upon avoiding the mundane, the “Lynchian” manifests surrealism through the mundane and this is where Foster-Wallace’s key word, “containment” becomes an epitome of how we understand “Lynchian-surrealism”, a form of surrealism which is inexplicably embedded in our reality, a contradiction of the manifesto of surrealism yet still perfectly fit to fashion Lynch’s vision. Where surrealism is traditionally manifested internally through the unconscious projection in the way of dreams, hallucinations, Lynchianism transplants it to the external of unflinching reality. In this way, Lynch traps the imagination in a sort of misplaced morality and an obsessive compulsive mystery In short, Lynch creates an exaggerated reality of living through surrealism but balances just enough realistic structure to make the viewer comprehend on an unconscious level. It allows Lynch to accelerate the narrative yet provide intrigue.”

The article I wrote on Nietzsche’s influence over David Bowie’s early work was much more of a tribute to a great musician. Beyond music, Bowie showed how relevant literature was to music and he himself embodied that special kind of individual who didn’t fear mixing the two and making the result completely his own. I had read Thus Spoke Zarathustra before engaging in the idea for the article and I am very proud of the connections and work I did. 

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“So what is Bowie’s real argument on this album? Well “Life on Mars” asks the most relevant question, “Is there life on mars?” why do we not know anything outside of ourselves and why is the world at  present moving in a perpetual loop to appease some misplaced fear of the future? These song’s satirical commentary of lost innocence as a result of  this mentality takes on a poignant irony. And this is where Nietzsche’s revaluation of value comes to light. Where The Man Who Sold The World was preoccupied with illustrating the fault of democracy and power of religion, it also showed a fear for the value individuality. In a song like  “All The Madmen” and the lyric ” Day after day, They take some brain away, Then turn my face around, To the far side of town, And tell me that it’s real. Then ask me how I feel.” (Bowie)”

Truth be told, with such a limited time left before deadline of this blog, I felt the most relevant post I wanted to make was on Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining and it’s portrayal of Freud’s “The Uncanny”. It was a good opportunity to investigate those parallels I had often heard critics talk about and as The Shining is a relevant text on my MA course, I felt it was a good opportunity to begin research into anything which might pop into the Charlie Kaufman thesis considering “The Uncanny” is a shared source of influence on both. 

“It’s interesting that Jack’s uncanny meetings mirror (and I mean mirror both metaphorically and literally) his struggles and repression. His alcoholism is foiled by the bartender who encourages his boisterous behaviour, his sexual desires are teased by the figure in room 237 and his spells of violent anger and discontentment towards his family are mirrored by the projection of the murderous caretaker who encourages he murder them.”


Then finally, there was a special post about the man himself, Charlie Kaufman.

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“I would like to look at Kaufman’s approach to narrative structure and his decisions to parallel and even bridge between the internal consciousness and how he portrays an almost uncanny external unconscious consumer-driven world which his characters are in turn shaped. This will tie in with chapter two’s behavioural study of key characters and again reinforce the idea of identity stemming on a practical level from their worlds as well as Kaufman’s approach to postmodernism. For this chapter I believe Lyotard’s work on the foundations of postmodernism are imperative reading for the understanding of Kaufman’s layered characterizations. Lyotard’s book, The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge which relates the shifting paradigm of the world (and in a sense, the human condition) with cultural change and assimilation. I believe the theories outline by Lyotard play a major influence on Kaufman’s use of satire, parody and pastiche as means of illustrating identity as another changing paradigm. Jameson’s approach to consumer society will also feature in this chapter. his work, Postmodernism or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism and his essay, “Postmodernism and the Consumer Society” will be integral in expanding upon Lyotard’s relevance to Kaufman’s world.”

Twenty-two posts, eight months and one budding scholar later I feel this blog has set my imagination alight. Is it a perfectly crafted work of ingenious and nuanced critical thinking, not at all, but I wouldn’t want it to be. It’s a reflection of  personality, it is a mirror to my interests and myself and regardless of the academic outcome, I will continue adding to this blog after this assignment ends.

 


Work Cited

Beckett, Samuel. Waiting for Godot. London: Faber and Faber, 1965. Print.

Bowie, David. “All The Madmen”. David Bowie. Tony Visconti. 1970. CD. From the album The Man Who Sold the World (1970).

“Life on Mars”. David Bowie. Ken Scott. 1971. CD. From the album Hunky Dory (1971).

Curran, Martin. “Introduction: This Must Be The Place.” Web log post. Marty288: Cinema Fanatic, Literature Lover and Masters Student. WordPress. 22 September 2015. 1 April 2016. Web.

—. “Seminar Series: From Viking Ships to Reading Lists: Connecting Cultures with the World-Tree Project.” Web log post. Marty288: Cinema Fanatic, Literature Lover and Masters Student. WordPress. 22 November 2015. 1 April 2016. Web.

—. “Seminar Series: Irish Literary Letters: Art & Argument” Web log post. Marty288: Cinema Fanatic, Literature Lover and Masters Student. WordPress. 7 December 2015. 2 April 2016. Web.

—. “Seminar Series: Samuel Beckett: From Words on a Page to Actors on a Stage” Web log post. Marty288: Cinema Fanatic, Literature Lover and Masters Student. WordPress. 16 January 2016. 1 April 2016. Web.

—. “Seminar Series: Elizabeth Bowen and the Landscape of Loss” Web log post. Marty288: Cinema Fanatic, Literature Loverand Masters Student . WordPress. 30 January 2016. 1 April 2016. Web.

—. “From Samuel Beckett to The Talking Heads: Performance Art & The Theatre of the Absurd”” Web log post. Marty288: Cinema Fanatic, Literature Lover and Masters Student. WordPress. 10 February 2016. 3 April 2016. Web.

—. “The First Annual UCC Editathon!” Web log post. Marty288: Cinema Fanatic, Literature Lover and Masters Student. WordPress. 29 February 2016. 3 April 2016. Web.

—. “Malkovich, Malkovich, Malkovich: A Reflection” Web log post. Marty288: Cinema Fanatic, Literature Lover and Masters Student. WordPress. 13 March 2016. 3 April 2016. Web.

—. “Formless Form: “Literary and Cultural Modernism as Musical Interpretation” Web log post. Marty288: Cinema Fanatic, Literature Lover and Masters Student. WordPress. 22 March 2016. 3 April 2016. Web.

—. “What is “Lynchian”?: The Auteur, The Fashionably Surreal and The Avant Garde” Web log post. Marty288: Cinema Fanatic, Literature Lover and Masters Student. WordPress. 30 March 2016. 3 April 2016. Web.

—. “From Zarathustra to Ziggy: Nietzsche’s Influence on David Bowie ” Web log post. Marty288: Cinema Fanatic, Literature Lover and Masters Student. WordPress. 1 April 2016. 3 April 2016. Web.

—. “All Work and No Play Make Sigmund a Dull Boy: Freud’s The Uncanny and Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining” Web log post. Marty288: Cinema Fanatic, Literature Lover and Masters Student. WordPress. 3 April 2016. 3 April 2016. Web.

—. “The Works of Charlie Kaufman: An IT and Literature Review” Web log post. Marty288: Cinema Fanatic, Literature Lover and Masters Student. WordPress. 4 April 2016. 4 April 2016. Web.

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The Works of Charlie Kaufman: An IT and Literature Review

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My thesis topic is currently under the working title, “Identity through Postmodernism in the Works of Charlie Kaufman”. For this topic I have thus far looked at a variety of different philosophies and schools of thought from the metaphysical elements relating to being and identity of Martin Heidegger in his seminal work Being and Time to the postmodern theories of Jean-François Lyotard.  But central to all of this is Kaufman himself and his ability to weave so many strands together through narrative driven mediums and create thought-provoking meditations on identity and the postmodern condition.

eternal-sunshineI want to break up my thesis into three chapters, the first will deal with the self-aware limitations of Postmodernism and how Kaufman’s turns these seeming limitations into a more meta-modern approach to writing. I found Heidegger’s Being and Time and Tom C. Smith’s exceptional online essay, “Happiness is a Warm Portal” both give a vast understanding of the cluster of different philosophies at work in any given Kaufman script and the impression that the worlds around these characters are no more stable than the characters themselves. Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind in particular carry this ambivalence to their environments and in turn themselves which I think in a way voices Kaufman’s underlying naturalistic approach towards identity.

being-john-malkovich-drinking-gameThe second chapter will use Sigmund Freud’s “The Uncanny” which I believe will then link this study of the metaphysical environment as it relates to the highly differing aspects of the human consciousness with the worlds created. Kaufman’s use of postmodern troupes such as cynicism, irreverence and most importantly, intertextuality are used as a way of making this identity mutually exclusive to both the individual characters and the personalities of the world’s they inhabit. I would like to read more on Carl Jung whose psycho-analytical work I am unfamiliar with but of whom I believe will give me further and possibly even contradictory insights besides Freud. Freud’s The Psychopathology of Everyday Life is another text I believe illustrates not only the abnormal realities of the characters through their seeming imitations of being human beings at all by simply inhabiting a world where rationality is criticised by an ever expanding universe (the central conceit of Being John Malkovich for example makes everything else in that particular universe, rationality and logic are called into question) and how Kaufman writes his characters as particularly aware of the world around them which evokes a sense that they become less than human when they are assimilated into their world, a theory which could easily be supported by Heidegger.

I believe intertextuality in particular plays a massive part in how Kaufman blends forms on a metaphorical and naturalistic way and gives amazing continuity and dimension to not only his singular movies, but Kaufman’s cinematic universe. Graham Allen’s book Intertextuality has been one of the few texts I have referred to on the matter and I hope to incorporate the relevance which Adaptation plays with a meta-fictitious caricature of its author’s own life and the innumerable fragmented plot strands which change time, perspective and form, from the adaptation itself, to the writer writing his own life into a script. The film is rife with paradox and along with the writer’s own struggle to create a work of genuine realism (a strand Kaufman would later revisit in Synedoche, New York) this use of intertextuality plays with the foundation of identity as lost amidst repetition and comments on the loss of genuine originality and voice through the process of writing and criticism. It also criticizes Kaufman’s narcissism to write a persona of himself into his script and much like Samuel Beckett, take a god like approach to how he manipulates the world his characters occupy. 

tumblr_inline_n8k5egqe7e1qzkqiaI would like to look at Kaufman’s approach to narrative structure and his decisions to parallel and even bridge between the internal consciousness and how he portrays an almost uncanny external unconscious consumer-driven world which his characters are in turn shaped. This will tie in with chapter two’s behavioural study of key characters and again reinforce the idea of identity stemming on a practical level from their worlds as well as Kaufman’s approach to postmodernism. For this chapter I believe Lyotard’s work on the foundations of postmodernism are imperative reading for the understanding of Kaufman’s layered characterizations. Lyotard’s book, The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge which relates the shifting paradigm of the world (and in a sense, the human condition) with cultural change and assimilation. I believe the theories outline by Lyotard play a major influence on Kaufman’s use of satire, parody and pastiche as means of illustrating identity as another changing paradigm. Jameson’s approach to consumer society will also feature in this chapter. his work, Postmodernism or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism and his essay, “Postmodernism and the Consumer Society” will be integral in expanding upon Lyotard’s relevance to Kaufman’s world.

synecdoche2Outside of the printed media I am using, I have also found several articles through the site JSTOR and ProjectMUSE for consideration amongst the groundwork I have thus far provided for my thesis. I wish to find more online based sources for contrary argument to any sources listed below. One source which I am currently looking our for are DVD writer-director commentaries  which in my experience are invaluable when considering the approach taken to create movie. It also gives invaluable perspective from the writer himself. I myself would like to incorporate a more cinematic perspective in furthering and establishing identity. Outside of Kaufman’s movie scripts, I would like to also study his theatre work and how both areas differ and compare in approaching the environments their characters inhabit.


Work Cited

Allen, Graham. Intertextuality. New York: Routledge. 2000. Print.

Bradshaw, Nick. “Welcome to the Dollhouse”. Sight & Sound. 5 February 2016. Vol. 26, Issue 3. 24-30. Print.

C. Smith, Tom. “Being John Malkovich: Happiness is a Warm Portal” Metaphilm. Metaphilm. 31 March 2004. 1 April  2016. Web.

Freud, Sigmund. “The Uncanny.” The Uncanny. Ed. Adam Phillips. Penguin: New York. 2003. Print.

—. The Psychopathology of Everyday Life. Ed. Adam Phillips. Penguin: New York. 2002. Print.

Heidegger, Martin. Being and Time. Trans. John Macquarrie & Edward Robinson. New York: Harper & Row, 1962. Print.

Jameson, Fredric. Postmodernism or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. New York: Verso., 1991. Print.

—. “Postmodernism and Consumer Society”. Modernism/Postmodernism. Ed. Peter Brooker. New York: Longman Publishing, 1994. Print.

King, Geoff, Indiewood, USA. 47-92. New York: I.B Tauris. 47-92. Print.

Lyotard, Jean-Francois. The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge. Trans. Geoff Bennington & Brian Massumi. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1997. Print.

—. “Answering the Question: What is Postmodernism”. Modernism/Postmodernism. Ed. Peter Brooker. New York: Longman Publishing, 1994. Print.

 

 

All Work and No Play Makes Sigmund a Dull Boy: Freud’s “The Uncanny” and Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining

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“… everything is uncanny that ought to have remained hidden and secret, and yet comes to light” (Freud 4)

The Uncanny, much like the maze which a bloodied Jack Torrence and his son find themselves in by the movie’s end, is hard to figure out. In one sense, it encompasses something familiar yet completely strange to the point of immediate, spontaneous and conscious reaction. Freud is quite right to use the German word Heimlich (meaning “home”) to further his discussion of how open-ended the uncanny seems. Though much has been written about Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining from hidden meanings in production to interpretations of minute details, there can be no doubt that Kubrick’s vision takes Freud’s theory ahead of King’s novel. In many ways, one could view The Shining as Kubrick’s challenge to Freud: in producing a work of fiction which respectfully adheres to the theories presented in the paper. To produce something psycho-analytically mimetic through the medium of cinema. But where does that leave the audience? Terrified, as they rightly should be. The Shining aims to do what horror movies up to this point largely failed at: to intentionally use that which is truly terrifying on both a conscious and an unconscious level to evoke an immediate response. So is Kubrick’s interpretation truly a Freudian uncanny?

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To precursor, Freud’s theory states that a truly honest depiction in fiction is defined as a realistic and not overtly exaggerated portrayal of the uncanny.

“The situation is altered as soon as the writer pretends to move in the world of common reality. In this case as soon as the writer pretends to move in the world of common reality. In this case he accepts all the conditions operating to produce uncanny feelings in real life; and everything that would have an uncanny effect in reality has it in his story.” (Freud 19)

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The Shining adheres to this in a number of ways. For starters, the film’s portrayal of the uncanny remains realistic and believable. No single situation with Kubrick characters is implausible and yet it all seems  disturbingly unsettling. As Freud states, “as soon as it (the depiction) is given an arbitrary and unrealistic setting in fiction, it is apt to lose its quality of the uncanny.” (Freud 20) Kubrick’s decision to build upon an undertone of the strange, disjointed and imperfect reality at the film’s beginning allows his depiction to slip seamlessly and grow through an established reality through the events which transpire thereafter, turning mere dramatic exclamation into nuanced and unexplained uncanny. This illustrates Kubrick as a manipulator of the viewer’s perception, approaching the uncanny initially by presenting the anxieties and fears of this family as an individual’s mind does, by repressing, ignoring and blocking them out. The Overlook hotel becomes a manifestation of and a canvas for the inner projections of the uncanny, no longer held back as they were in the society they were controlled under. The Overook shows us a deconstruction of man, something hidden from view coaxed out by the isolation and Jack’s fear of losing his manhood. Jack’s Uncanny stems from his wife’s distaste of his drinking. In this way sacrificing his sense of choice to a woman and in this way repressing his demons as it were under the guise of the happy family man. 

The Overlook in this way shows both a strange liberation through the uncanny as well as a questioning of identity. In fact, K Craig in his video essay quite rightly states that many of the film’s uncanny moments come about through Jack’s own conflict with his doubles (or, to look at it another way, his anxieties and repressions which ultimately manifest through himself) as reinforced by mirrors. It’s interesting that  Jack’s uncanny meetings mirror (and I mean mirror in both a metaphorical and literal way) his struggles and repression. His alcoholism is foiled by the bartender who lends a sympathetic ear while also coaxing his angry  and remorlessly repressed guilt and denial. His sexual desires are teased by the figure in room 237 and his spells of violent anger and discontentment towards his family are mirrored by the projection of the murderous caretaker who encourages he murder them.

The symbolic figure, the bartender being the disguised enabler of Jack’s anxiety

Room 237 and how it symbolically parallels unconscious desire (the sexual) with unconscious fear (death)

 

 “You’ve always been the caretaker”
Kubrick breaking the 180 degree camera rule in this interaction to show how integral it is in respect of the Jack’s ego and his unconscious

These uncanny projections are secondary symbols or in Freudian terms, something closer to dreams which link them to something more symptomatic of the unconscious mind. Room 237 itself becoming a void of the violent reality the uncanny poses.

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Where the Overlook detrimentally liberates Jack’s repressions, the film’s labyrinth motif follows a slightly different symbolic function. For Jack and Danny, the maze represents a struggle to free the mind from the abyss of traumatic repression. The uncanny works as the labyrinth does, puzzling the family through an instinctually primitive temptation or test. Danny, who still possesses a child’s innocence is tempted by the twins through play. His instinctual scepticism helps him fight the illusion and return to the reality that the illusion was a figment of his own uncionscious. The line, “Forever …and ever …and ever” (Johnson & Kubrick, 1980) is even repeated, with a similar intent by Jack.

The labyrinth-like structure of the Overlook forces Danny to escape. The entire movie Danny is running from the impending danger of his father’s repression. Jack is a ticking timebomb. Jack’s own decision to embrace his ego leaves him lost and left facing his unconscious fear of impending death.

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In conclusion to the question, Kubrick’ interpretation is a highly intelligent meditation and representations of some of the key concepts outlined by Freud in “The Uncanny”.


Work Cited

Freud, Sigmund. “The Uncanny.” MIT Press: Cambridge. Print.

K. Craig. “The Uncanny Shining KCraig.” Online video clip. Vimeo. Vimeo. 3 April 2016. Web.

The Shining. Dir. Stanley Kubrick. Perf. Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall,  Danny Lloyd. Warner Bros. 1980. DVD.

From Zarathustra to Ziggy: Nietzsche’s Influence on David Bowie

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The teachings of Friedrich Nietzche have held a profound influence on David Bowie’s early work. Particularly the albums The Man Who Sold The World, Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. Ideas such as the revaluation of values, the Offerman and the free-thinker vs the free spirit are prevalent through Bowie’s song lyrics and vocally changing persona. Nihilism is also very ingrained in what in Bowie’s cynicism of lyric. Nietzsche’s teachings and narrative in his novel, Thus Spoke Zarathustra seems to fit very comfortably into Bowie’s musical progression.

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With The Man Who Sold The World, Bowie issues in a new genre, proto-punk. A music which aims to satirize and criticize the previous decade with reference to Vietnam in “Running Gun Blues” and the dangerous relationship of church and state in “Saviour Machine”. Even the sound is derivative of a Hendrix/Dylan explosion turning from acoustic folk rock into hard bluesy guitar melodies. So why is this relevant to Nietzsche? With a stretch of the imagination, the album itself can be viewed as a retelling of parts (or at least a convenient parable) of Thus Spoke Zarathustra from different angles using social discontentment as the backdrop for a new interpretation while still respecting Nietzsche’s teachings. In this way, Bowie’s vision takes on a very intertextual mode of expression.

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The songs “The Width of a Circle” and “The Man Who Sold The World” seem interchangeable, both speak of encounters. The first, sexual, or possibly outer-body and the second, a Dostoevsky-like encountered eerily familiar though completely strange to the singer(s). Both seem more transcendent, it does not seem like two separate people, but a single medium inhabited by two personas. This plays relevant to Zarathustra’s own dilemma as the Offerman within him. He is internally conflicted between the person he is and the thing people perceive him as. At one point in Fourth and Last Part, Zarathustra seems sorrowful when the old sorcerer likens him to an Offerman, “‘O Zarathustra, I am seeking one who is genuine, upright, simple, univocal, a man of honesty, a repository of wisdom, a saint of understanding, a great human being!’… Zarathustra sank deep into himself, such that he closed his eyes.”(Nietzsche 225) In this way, Zarathustra is split by his own being showing a very human side. Perhaps he fears, as Bowie does on the Hunky Dory track, “Quicksand” the title of prophet not as being a god, but something very lonely which scares the human within him. Perhaps it is in his cave with his friends singing songs and enjoying merriment which Zarathustra wishes for not only himself, but all of mankind (a philosophy very striking of Ziggy Stardust). As we will later see, both figures fear being more than they are despite their teachings. The most interesting discovery I have made which I do not think many critics have not picked up is Bowie’s voice and intentional change between The Man Who Sold The World and Hunky Dory. It comes across lyrically too, Bowie is fighting the persona or the Offerman within him.

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Hunky Dory seems to encapsulate a manifesto of sorts aimed at establishing the free-thinker and free spirit. The thesis of the album can viewed through “Fill Your Heart”, a song of social discontentment Nihilism follows through Bowie’s surrealist imagination as he tries to convey the fragility of the impressionable mind and the dangerous power of belief to that mind. Keith Ansell-Pearson asserts in his essay that Nietzche’s distain for morality is that “it is “the danger of dangers” on account of the fact that it makes the present live at the expense of the future and will prevent mankind from attaining as a species its highest potential power and splendour.” (Pearson 115) Well this parallels Bowie’s lyric in “Quicksand”, “I’m not a prophet or a stone age man, just a mortal with potential of a superman” and “I’m teethered tot he logic of Homo Sapien”. (Bowie)

So what is Bowie’s real argument on this album? Well “Life on Mars” asks the most relevant question, “Is there life on mars?” why do we not know anything outside of ourselves and why is the world at  present moving in a perpetual loop to appease some misplaced fear of the future? These song’s satirical commentary of lost innocence as a result of  this mentality takes on a poignant irony. And this is where Nietzsche’s revaluation of value comes to light. Where The Man Who Sold The World was preoccupied with illustrating the fault of democracy and power of religion, it also showed a fear for the value individuality. In a song like  “All The Madmen” and the lyric ” Day after day, They take some brain away, Then turn my face around, To the far side of town, And tell me that it’s real. Then ask me how I feel.” (Bowie) where the free thinker is oppressed. Or songs such as “Oh! You Pretty Things” and “Changes” which put the value of the future in the youth. The same youth who have the opportunity to aspire to Nietzsche’s Offerman.  “Oh! You Pretty Thing” with its close reference to Zarathustra’s feelings of despair by the novels end, “Pity! Pity for the superior human!’ he cried out, and his visage was transformed into bronze” (287) going on to say, “This is my morning, my day is beginning, Rise up now, rise up, you great midday.” (287) The lyric, “Look out at your children, see their faces in golden rain, don’t kid yourself they belong to you they’re the coming race.” (Bowie) and “The earth is a bitch, w’ve finished our news. Homo sapiens have outgrown their use” (Bowie) seepedthe song towards that Nietzsche-esque rhetoric.

Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars uses a hyper-sexualised surreal reality to convey the story of an alien rock god whose downfall is ultimately his slavery to the very human sins of desire and temptation. Like Zarathustra, he is disaffected by the world around him. Daniel Conway in his essay on “Education and Indirection” describes Zarathusta as, “not entirely sincere in professing his love of life, in a large part because he is not willing to submit to the law of self-overcoming that he so eagerly prescribes to others.” (Conway 95).

Ziggy, on the other hand, embraces the vanity of human existence too much. He assimilates to the point of developing jealousy, cynicism and extreme irreverence and instead uses the excess of “Rock n Roll” to enjoy himself and proclaim liberations of sexuality and identity. This simultaneously contradicts Nietzsche’s teachings of living beyond being human to the point that Ziggyebcomes too human. One could view it as a criticism that something as far removed as an alien is as impressionable as any human. Interestingly, this approach completely contrasts the introverted nature of Zarathustra who spends much of the novel conflicted and relatively passive until he does embrace his own voice. Through making Bowie personification of the larger than life persona of Ziggy Stardust, Bowie’s voice grows to more followers. The idea of cult, which follows Thus Spoke Zarathustra is always prevalent in Hunky Dory and with Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, cult becomes something to be desired.

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As illustrated, Nietzsche’s influence on Bowie has been vast. This article has only touched upon a few of the connections I have made in my research and I hope to revisit Nietzsche’s teachings on Bowie in the near future as it seems a rewarding area of interest.


Work Cited

Ansell-Pearson, Keith. “Free Spirit and Free Thinkers: Nitzsche and Guyau on the Future of Morality.” Nietzsche, Nihilism and the Philosophy of the Future. Ed. Jeffery Metzger. New York: Continuum. 2009. 102-124. Print.

Bowie, David. “All The Madmen”. David Bowie. Tony Visconti. 1970. CD. From the album The Man Who Sold the World (1970).

—. “Life on Mars”. David Bowie. Ken Scott. 1971. CD. From the album Hunky Dory (1971).

—. “Oh! You Pretty Things”. David Bowie. Ken Scott & David Bowie. 1971. CD. From the album Hunky Dory (1971).

—. “Quicksand”. David Bowie. Ken Scott & David Bowie. 1971. CD. From the album Hunky Dory (1971).

—. “Starman”. David Bowie. David Bowie & Ken Scott. 1972. CD. From the album Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1972).

Conway, Daniel. “Does This Sound Strange to You? Education and Indirection in essay III of On the Genealogy of Morals.” Nietzsche, Nihilism and the Philosophy of the Future. Ed. Jeffery Metzger. New York: Continuum. 2009. 79-101. Print.

emimusic. “David Bowie – Life On Mar”. Video clip. Youtube. Youtube. 27 February. 2009. 31 March 2016. Web.

isaac8399. “David Bowie – Quicksand”. Video clip. Youtube. Youtube. 31 March. 2008. 31 March 2016. Web.

lelliesandremains. “David Bowie – Oh You Pretty Things” Video clip. Youtube. Youtube. 21 January. 2006. 31 March 2016. Web.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. Thus Spoke Zarathustra. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005. Print.

 

What is “Lynchian”: The Auteur, The Fashionably Surreal and The Avant Garde

 

eraserhead_hairIn his 1996 article on Lost Highway entitled, “David Lynch Keeps His head”, David Foster Wallace attempted to define the term “Lynchian” as, “refers to a particular kind of irony where the very macabre and the very mundane combine in such a way as to reveal the former’s perpetual containment within the latter.” or as he would later state, “The unbelievably grotesque existing in a kind of union with the unbelievably banal.” (Foster Wallace 1997). Foster Wallace however mandated that, “definable only ostensively-i.e., we know it when we see it.” (Foster Wallace 1996). So what do EraserheadBlue Velvet and Mulholland Drive possess that makes them so Lynchian? What makes them distinct to that categorisation? Academically speaking, the mechanics of the term “Lynchian” is a fusion of the auteur theory and a refashioned approached to the surrealist movement. The result is a cinematic composite of something highly avant garde and distinct. The ostensive attribute of the term is the result of Lynch’s ever developing style and, as Kevin B. Lee has pointed out, his use of the visual cinematic motif which has clearly added greatly to the auteur theory as the examples illustrate below.

 

Lynch often highlights his theatrical style through his use cabaret, red curtain stages and lingering spotlights for an isolated, often awkward effect

 

Focus paid to the mouth rather than the eyes using extreme or medium close-ups and heavy lipstick

 

Bright and colourful daytime exterior shots contrasted with moody and dark night times

 

Soft, intimate practical lighting to create seedy interiors

Lynch’s first feature, Eraserhead remains his most blatantly textbook surrealistic outing. It is also arguably the most distinctively auteur in his oeuvre. The film’s visual aesthetic is like a neo-noir Franz Kafka nightmare on 16mm and the use of tension to build unease is prevalent by the films seemingly disjointed opening shots. From the outset, the film seems to establish itself as a manifestation of the unconscious, though Lynch himself maintains his own meaning and has rejected every theory passed before him to date.

This is why I believe surrealism as a movement gives a defining voice to what we say is “Lynchian”. The nightmarish otherworldly dystopia in which Henry Spenser inhabits, the violent images he views and experiences do not make conscious sense as they are displayed. These are Lynch’s interpretations and to try and give them our own meaning or collective stamp is futile. Critics of the time made the wrong statement regarding Eraserhead, it was not that it didn’t make sense, it was that it was never meant to conform to a rationality or logic as movies typically do. More to the point, Lynch could have asked his critics, ‘Would my dreams make sense to you?’.

But why make a movie if the director is the only one who gets it? Well, the audience might not understand it, but they will react to it. Eraserhead encapsulates Freud’s interpretation of “The Uncanny” perfectly, the images are all familiar to the point of wanting to make those conscious connections and meanings, but we cannot. While the lady in the radiator may look like a person based on appearance, “(She) is frightening precisely because (she) is not known and familiar”. (Freud 2) The manifesto of surrealism denotes logic, even stating mere understanding as a hindrance on imagination. In some ways, Eraserhead is literally pure imagination. Critics who did try to rationalise Eraserhead have written it off as a metaphor for the horrors of unplanned fatherhood and tried to interpret the many nightmares as keys or metaphors. Why is there an alien baby? Who is the man from another planet and what is his influence on Henry’s psyche? The film’s series of visual attacks upon the viewer’s senses show an almost nihilistic intention or criticism reserved for people who do expect an answer. Eraserhead encapsulates the spirit of what is “Lynchian” as a work of true personal unconscious expression imitated on film. The auteur theory is manifested in the purest way possible through Eraserhead and the use of surrealism as it connects to the vision clearly illustrates a true avant garde style.

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Though Lynch may not be a surrealism purist, there’s no question the movement is vital to any understanding of his work. Though at the same time his movies also critique surrealism through their own self-awareness. With Lynch this is typically done through hyper-realism or a lot of the time, black humour. Where surrealism bases itself entirely upon avoiding the mundane, the “Lynchian” manifests surrealism through the mundane and this is where Foster-Wallace’s key word, “containment” becomes the epitome of how we understand “Lynchian-surrealism”, a form of surrealism which is inexplicably embedded in our reality, a contradiction of the manifesto of surrealism yet still perfectly fit to fashion Lynch’s vision. Where surrealism is traditionally manifested internally through the unconscious projection in the way of dreams, the “Lynchian” transplants it to the external, unflinching reality. In this way, Lynch traps the imagination in a sort of misplaced morality and an obsessive compulsive mystery. In short, Lynch creates an exaggerated view of  what atests “normal” through surrealism but balances just enough realistic structure to make the viewer comprehend on an unconscious level. It allows Lynch to accelerate the narrative yet provide intrigue.

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Blue Velvet is a text book example of this hybrid surrealism and a more refined form of “Lynchian” from Eraserhead. The town and the people who inhabit it are built upon a “Lynchian-surrealism”. Everything to be seen, nothing to believed. Think of The Stepford Wives but more unsettling. Conversations play out with unrealistic clarity and an uncomfortable lack of digression or interruption. The town of Lumberton is stunning, but clearly sanitized (the opening cut-aways). The town functions as a human body, lively and awakened by daytime punctuated with memories and activity and contrasted by the seedy sleep of nighttime where the unconscious lurks. The Lynchian connection of aesthetized towns with Twin Peaks cannot be overlooked either. Unlike Eraserhead, Blue Velvet‘s surrealism does not come from an unconscious picture show of horror, it comes from the crime and corruption of a decaying America. The film is a satire of the American values of conformity and harmony from earlier decades deflated by psychopath Frank Booth, a manifestation of the surrealistic, sexually-charged and violent pleasures he seeks out. Though Blue Velvet carries a coherent narrative, the film also carries an undeniably “Lynchian” tone and feel which embraces a more conventional understanding of postmodern cinema in its irony and thinly veiled self-awareness. There is no logic to the events of resolutions of Blue Velvet. the dead man with his ear cut off still stands upright as when he were living. Blue Velvet marks an ever progressive “Lynchian” style, now embracing a more mainstream appeal but keeping true to the director’s auteur-driven vision and moulding surrealism with attributes of unique storytelling.

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Much like Blue Velvet, Mulholland Drive uses that same self-awareness to critique the vapid Hollywood scene and both literally and metaphorically show a dream being destroyed through would-be Hollywood starlet Betty Elms. What’s interesting about Mulholland Drive‘s is it’s use of non-linear storytelling through dream and reality based plotlines. Its authentically Breton in how it perceives and respects the dream as a foundation to build a false reality for the viewer. H
owever it is also completely “Lynchian” in how contained and familiar it all feels. Mulholland Drive marks a Lynch, two decades on from Eraserhead. Now a refined and visionary auteur. Where Blue Velvet felt perhaps too self-aware, Mulholland Drive plays like a traditional cinematic drama (or more aptly, a soap opera). Even the surrealism is trademark Lynch, the Silencio club scene for example is so beautifully positioned, it borders on tragic and yet it’s completely out of the ordinary. The repetitions of scenes, the duality of persona and the dreams all feel like Dostoyevsky’s The Double (which then draws on Freud).

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Lynch’s true avant garde and progressive approach the cinema is why “Lynchian” is deemed a credible form of expression. Lynch is too singular an anomaly to truly have an answer and protesting the term “weird”, synonomous with Lynch’s work, seems is too flippant considering the overarching and far-reaching influence of that which we know to be “Lynchian”.

 


Work Cited

Breton, André. “Manifesto of Surrealism.” Modernism: An Anthology. Ed. Lawrence Rainey. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2005. 718-741. Print.

Chion, Michel. David Lynch. London: BFI Publishing. 2nd Edition. 2006. Print.

David Vaipan, “David Foster Wallace interview with Charlie Rose (03/1997)”. Online video clip. Youtube. Youtube. July 24 2015. March 15 2016. Web.

Fandor. “What is Lynchian”. Video clip. Youtube. Youtube. 11 December 2015. 20 Marc 2016. Web.

Foster Wallace, David, “David Lynch Keeps His Head.” Lynchnet. Premiere Mag., September 1996. March 30 2016. Web.

Freud, Sigmund. “The Uncanny”. Cambridge: MIT Press. Print.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seminar Series: Boy Actors in Shakespeare’s Early Plays

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On March 9 2016, Andrew Power visited UCC and gave a rather unconventional, yet thought-provoking presentation on boy actors in Shakespeare’s early productions. Though primarily focused upon the statistics of boy actors and the background and training they received, I found the presentation also raised some interesting points relating specifically to gender politics in theatre, which following the controversy of the Waking the Feminists campaign and the uproar over lack of gender equal opportunities at the Abbey theatre in Dublin last year still feels apt and timely. Though this argument was never clearly hit upon, it loomed throughout Power’s presentation.

Power, a Shakespearean scholar himself who has worked as editor for a number of Oxford Complete Shakespeare editions prefaced his lecture by introducing the once common place Shakespearean casting chart, an illustrative table of every Shakespeare play, how many boys actors were required per act/scene and what percentage of lines each had in the entire play. Power’s main focus lay within the years 1589-1594, a major boy part could be range up to 2000 words and giving notable examples such as Tamora from Titus Andronicus, Rosalind from As You Like It,  Juliet from Romeo & Juliet and Kathrine from The Taming of the Shrew.

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Comparing Shakespeare’s Two Gentlemen of Verona which required fewer boy actor’s than A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Power then explained how the boy actor’s role in Shakespeare’s work took a central importance to the playwright’s vision before 423573876b7807c259ba10b107b4a55demphasising the importance of that actor’s development and training from casting, (between 13-22 being the ideal range). This argument really hit upon the idea of the actor’s own agency and power.

Though a role was much sought after, the endurance for somebody so young to train as any number of female characters remained an interesting point. How really out of perhaps poverty or familial obligation, their futures were to be sculpted and depending on the individual actor, how their mental and personal development was also being shaped by the female roles they were constantly playing and in some ways assimilating into. Though Power acknowledged it, for me, the seminar did not touch upon the dangers relating to identity enough. Dangers which I do believe may have arisen at some point in the development of an actor that young. That issue is something which I would have liked to have had addressed more in the presentation. I also thought this point played into Power’s own that “A boy could develop the ability to play Juliet.” (Power) and this ultimate achievement was something to drive towards.

The training which these boy actor’s received seemed to stem from stage practice, familiarity of routine and lines as well as constant direction and rehearsal. The life of a boy actor is a Shakespeare production seemed less than glamorous with years of constant training and repetition on top of subsidised education and family commitments.

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Power’s presentation also hit upon another interesting argument, the idea of conventional casting versus boy actor in female roles. Of course, this tradition is still apparent in productions of Shakespeare’s work nowadays and postmodern theatre has, in all likelihood, parodied this convention through a self-awareness of the actors themselves. As Power points out, “drawing a line becomes arbitrary” (Power) and though Power here was simply referring to the line on his casting chart, and with respect to my previous argument of the potential dangers and fragility of a boy actor through this practice it seems that tradition has held true to today.


Work Cited

Power, Andrew. March 9 2016 Andrew Power, “Boy Actors in Shakespeare’s Early Plays” School of English Research Seminar. O’Rahilly Building, University College Cork, Cork City. 9 March 2016. Lecture.

Formless Form: Literary and Cultural Modernism as Musical Interpretation

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Jazz music and its relation to Modernism marks a period of literary and musical transgression. A difficult subject to discuss critically, yet analytically, modal jazz for example defines a period of improvisation and a rejection of conventional form. The same could be said of Ezra Pound’s work which is itself a rejection of meaning attached to words beyond Saussurean expression or, more aptly, Eliot’s strangely organised composite “The Waste Land”. And even more interestingly, the most formless of records, Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, can distil and synthesize these notions and display a similar modernist response beyond words. So how can modal jazz possibly relate to literary modernism?

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Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue (1959)

Well, Kind of Blue could be seen as a response to Eliot’s “The Waste Land” and even modernism itself. Five pieces of music comprise the album, the same number of chapters to “The Waste Land”. In the same way the narrative voice changes throughout the poem, the trumpet does not always lead the melody in Kind of Blue. For example“So What” gives the upright bass a solo part before harmonizing with the core band and “Freddie Freeloader” and “Blue in Green” both contain a prominent piano voicing the arrangement. Alternating and harmonized lead tenor and alto-saxophone parts with trumpet also occurs in “All Blue”. These shifting instrumental personalities give us shifting perspectives beside the shifting moods and shifting seasonal change within the album. In fact Kind of Blue (which uses phrasing) and “The Waste Land” (which uses punctuation and word painting) both evoke synaesthesia through their mood.

Both album and poem also subvert conventional form, “The Waste Land” for example alternates from verses of free form run on lines with minimal punctuation to a clear mimetic verse style of romantic origin. Lines 77-93 of “A Game Of Chess” is a perfect example of this literary improvisational style equivalent to what Davis illustrates musically throughout Kind of Blue. Davis’ punctuation amounts to staccato phrasing and musical rest. “Freddie photoFreeloader” illustrates this kind of controlled improvisational style beautifully in a major key. Most striking of this improvisation and Davis’ phrasing are his use of the imperfect cadence at the end of each piece which seems to string together every song. “The Waste Land”, similarly, never feels like a finished piece of work, but still feels connected not only through its repetition, but its motifs of language, onomatopoeia and exclamation.

Kind of Blue is to music what Jackson Pollock was to painting. Improvisory. Somewhere between intentional or pre-figured, prepared conscious action and repetition and a carefree subconscious action there’s improvisation. This may seem unconventional, but even the recent science fiction film Ex Machina used this logic through  Jackson Pollock’s artwork No. 5, 1948 to explain a similar theory in relation to artifical intelligence, “He (Pollock) let his mind go blank and his hand go where it wanted. Not deliberate. Not random. Some place in-between.” (Garland 2015) The character Nathan than insists that with form and prepared conscious scepticism, Pollock’s art could not exist. “The challenge is not to act automatically. It’s to find an action that is not automatic. From painting, to breathing, to talking, to fucking.” (Garland)

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Nathan from Ex Machina explaining relationship between improvisation and the power of the unconscious mind

Another example of literary modernism as incorporated this time lyrically is Van Morrison’s seminal albums, Astral Weeks & Moondance. Morrison’s albums read to the listener as a modernism work by Eliot or Wallace Steven would to a reader. Concept albums which tell a story from song to song and incorporating stream of consciousness over jazz influenced chord progressions and unconventional instrumental and vocally percussive arrangements as well as
vanmorrisonastralweeks
Building crescendos. Unlike Davis, Morrison embraces form within musical structure but uses this form to lyrically build a narrative around a conscious, introverted character (usually the clichéd lover and the scepticism of romance) like a novel. In this way, the listener gets an ulterior monologue or soliloquy akin to say William Faulkner. He similarly makes use of repetition, realism and impressionistic word painting, at times, even abstract details through first person narration. Morrison also breaks meter, rhyme becomes a tangent of vocal improvisation or digressions of thought in the form of more repetition. Take the lyrics to “Astral Weeks” for example, Morrison like painter Joseph Turner an impressionistic picture from a distance. “If I ventured in the slipstream, Between the viaducts of your dream, Where immobile steel rims crack
And the ditch in the back roads stop, Could you find me?” (Morrison) Much like Turner’s art, Morrison’s music recounts a specific moment in time. He shades his vision with interrogation or a subjective eye for the details he recounts and his uses interrogative language which disrupts the music and the seeming blissfulness of what he describes.

Morrison’s lyrics also encompass a Joycean voyeurism for the romantic through his detail, yet another connection to Turner’s work. In songs such as “Sweet Thing”, “The Way Young Lovers Do” and “And It Stoned Me”, Morrison illustrates a love for the natural. Especially “Into The Mystic” which one could hypothesises is a response to Turner’s painting, The Fighting Temeraire. “We were born before the wind
Also younger than the sun, Ere the bonnie boat was won, As we sailed into the mystic” (Morrison).

These are only a few hypothesises which I have come across through a much more personal research. I hope invesigate the links I have illustrated above even further in the near future.


Work Cited

Amir3793, “Blue in Green by. Miles Davis”. Online video clip. Youtube. Youtube. 2 November 2007. 22 March 2016.

Eliot, T.S. “The Waste land.” Modernism: An Anthology. Ed. Lawrence Rainey. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2005. 123-143. Print.

Ex Machina. Dir. Alex Garland. Screenplay by Alex Garland. Perf. Domhnaill Gleeson, Oscar Isaac, Alicia Vikander. DNA Films.2015. DVD.

Morrison, Van. “Astral Weeks”. Van Morrison. Lewis Merenstein. 1968. CD. From the album Astral Weeks (1968).

Morrison, Van. “Into The Mystic”. Van Morrison. Van Morrison. 1970. CD. From the album Moondance (1970).

Pollock, Jackson. No. 5, 1948. Oil on fibreboard, New York. Painting.

Turner, J. M.W. The Fighting Temeraire tugged to her last berth to be broken up, 1838. Oil on canvas, National Gallery, London.

Turner, J. M.W. View in the Avon Gorge, 1791. Pen, ink and watercolour on paper.