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Moby-Dick and the Color of the Elusive Mariah Sue Redden
Black Sabbath Victoria Winfree
10 - 13
Writing the Female Experience Elizabeth Zehl
14 - 16
The Modern Breakup Sean Owsley
17 - 22
The Jurymen Katherine Janson
23 - 24
Moby-Dick and the Color of the Elusive By Mariah Sue Redden
After completing work on what would become his masterpiece, discussing literature, however, the term symbol is Moby-Dick or, the Whale, Herman Melville drafted a letter to applied only to a word or phrase that signifies an friend and fellow author Nathaniel Hawthorne, noting: “I object or event which in turn signifies something, have written a wicked book, and feel spotless as the lamb” or has a range of reference, beyond itself...It is an (Coffler 108). In this letter, Melville acknowledges the attribute of many private symbols-the White Whale power embodied in his novel and suggests an interpretive in Melville’s Moby-Dick (1851) is another famous clue in decoding the symbolic complexities of this “wicked example as well as one reason why they are an book,” through his characterization of feeling spotless upon irreplaceable— literary device, that they suggest the novel’s completion. Early in the novel, the colors black a direction or a broad area of significance rather and white are used in their familiar and traditional senses, than, like an item in an allegorical narrative, a but Melville then draws on historical and cultural details to relatively determinate reference. (my emphasis overturn, upend, and further charge this binary to create a 185) sophisticated signifying system throughout the text. At first glance, the novel appears to be a simple but rather lengthy In Charles Feildelson, Jr.’s analysis of Melville’s novel, he documentation of whaling; a closer look, however, shows characterizes the narrative as a symbolic voyage and uses how Melville examines the terrifying realities of society. a traditional interpretive approach. Feildelson contends that Melville describes this voyage as a vision and, consequently, In Moby-Dick completed in 1851, Melville writes of the the lure of the sea becomes a parallel of the mind’s “quest seafaring life, a life he had learned through his own for knowledge” (671). Several scholars have examined experiences. Melville writes in Moby-Dick that “I prospectively within the text of Melville’s novel the meaning of color and ascribe all the honor and the glory to whaling; for a whale- religious symbols, while other scholars have explored race, ship was my Yale College and my Harvard” (122). While society, and other textual and cultural symbols. For example, Moby-Dick may serve as an in-depth look into whaling, Feildelson asserts, “unlike Hawthorne, the Melville of Mobythe novel intellectually provides much more. Ishmael, the Dick does not verge towards allegory, because he locates his narrator, is the reader’s companion and indeed interpretive symbols in a unitary act of perception” (674). Not only does guide throughout the novel, relating the activities of the Melville charge the narrative events with symbolic meaning, characters and his life aboard the whale ship, The Pequod. but he also draws from several maritime disasters to add to Ishmael’s companion and harpooner, Queequeg introduces his signifying system. Melville’s knowledge of these types of Ishmael, and ultimately the reader, to the insight regarding disasters, the dangers of voyages, and the desperation and the topic of race and ethical background of what the western fortitude necessary to maintain life are important elements world regards as the “savage,” theoretically determined by in this narrative, yet the question that resonates throughout cultural factors such as the practice of cannibalism. While the the novel is, at what moral and spiritual cost? Melville seems novel closely examines the development of these two central to answer this question through a complex system of using characters and various others, Ahab and his ambitious colors that operate symbolically and referentially. scheme to kill the sperm whale, Moby-Dick unfolds. Linguistic scholar Ferdenand de Saussure provides a An important aspect that separates Melville’s writing from structural framework useful in examining signifying systems, other writers in his day is Melville’s unique technique of and examining Melville’s use of color. In Saussure’s essay “fusing fact and symbol” (Karcher 2623). While many “The Nature of the Linguistic Sign,” Saussure notes that scholars have read this conflation allegorically, the distinction language is a complex network of various meaning for each between the terms allegory and symbolism is important, and given word. Saussure identifies that “[s]ome people regard particularly relative to this novel. M.H. Abrams explains as language, when reduced to its elements, as a naming-process thus: only — a list of words, each corresponding to the thing that it names” (832). However, Saussure notes that “[t]he a symbol, in the broadest sense, is equivalent to linguistic sign unites, not a thing and a name, but a concept a sign-that is, anything which signifies something and a sound image. The later is not the material sound, a else; in this sense all words are symbols. In purely physical thing, but the psychological imprint of the
sound, the impression that it makes on our senses” (832). By acknowledging the ambiguity of a word’s meaning, Saussure’s theory is used to identify various interpretations and meanings operating behind the symbolism of certain colors in Moby-Dick. In this essay, Melville’s signifying intricacies in a symbolic play of color, particularly the elusive nature of the color of white are examined, which is suggested physically by the white whale’s flight, psychologically by Ahab’s depreciating sanity in chasing the white whale, and ultimately functions to suggest a diminishing sense of spirituality within the borders of humanity. Melville establishes a basic symbolic structure regarding color by drawing on the traditional and highly familiar binary dichotomy of black signifying evil, death, and fear, contrasted with the color’s opposite signifier, white, which typically indicates purity, goodness, and godliness. Melville then infuses these symbols with racial significance based on prevalent mid-nineteenth century views regarding color and racial theories, and then complicates their symbolic function. John Wenke examines Melville’s references to racial theories in his book, Melville’s Muse, and suggests that Ishmael provides an interpretive tool for the reader as an example of cultural and racial impartiality regarding specific groups of people; Ishmael identifies the human race as a whole. Wenke argues “Ishmael does not concern himself with the ethics of cannibalism, seeing instead the cannibalistic nature of humans as a given. Ishmael’s indictment focuses on civilized sham, the masked denial of basic instinct” (128). Ishmael’s relationship with Queequeg illustrates how color especially regarding race, that of white skin automatically determines the power, authority, and a sense of superiority relative to race. What makes the judgment or religious choice of another human being different from another simply because of difference in color? Michel Eyquem de Montaigne in his essay “On Cannibals,” touches upon the Western world’s ethnocentric perspective of other cultures. “Of Cannibals,” recounts Montaigne’s observations regarding his meeting with a cannibal who had been brought to France by the French explorer Villegagnon in 1562 (1). Montaigne writes: “So we may well call these people barbarians, in respect to the rules of reason, but not in respect to ourselves, who surpass them in every kind of barbarity” (5). Through the
physical symbols of race as a reflection of humanity, Melville demonstrates the flaws inherent in judging, evaluating, or simply understanding people according to the superficialities of color, and thus challenges the artificial boundaries created by men to separate men, ideologically, spiritually, and physically. The bond evident by Queequeg and Ishamel’s relationship suggests that humans are the ones who create the boundaries between races, not nature, and not God. This issue of morality is referenced early in the novel. Ishmael notes that “for all his tattooing he was on the whole a clean, comely looking cannibal. What’s all this fuss I have been making about, thought I to myselfâ€”the man’s human being just as I am: he has just as much reason to fear me, as I have to be afraid of him. Better to sleep with a sober cannibal than a drunken Christian” (Melville 26). The last part of the quote that puts into perspective how the limitations of a twosided belief system can create prejudices and ill treatment towards individuals who are different in areas of culture, social concepts, and religious viewpoints. The role of religion in the novel provides an additional layer of meaning also symbolized by color. Melville received the basis of a religious upbringing from his mother; and while Melville was not an avid churchgoer, he was continuously fascinated by questions of religion and spirituality (Delbanco 21). Melville was highly familiar with the text of the Bible, including its literary use of irony and paradoxes and indeed the Bible served as a stylistic and creative example for him as well. With this knowledge, Melville was able to expose the ways in which humans misuse and distort religious intent (Coffler 109). Coffler explains the political and religious issues of the time and notes that Melville’s allusions “reveal the spiritual struggle of a deeply thinking person at a time when traditional ideas about God and the Bible were being challenged and even destroyed by the sciences and by the new biblical criticism coming out of Europe” (119). Melville also tested “troubling theological issues of free will, predestination, salvation, and damnation that so engaged orthodox Calvinists in earlier centuries” by making puns, jokes, and even down right obscene notions towards these ideals (Dunne 65). Considering the historical background of religious upheaval due to scientific background, naturally structures of learned doctrines were questioned. Peculiarly enough, Melville does incorporate evolutionary references into his work testing the waters of his stance even more. Melville writes, “It is also very curiously displayed in
the side fin, the bones of which almost exactly answer to the bones of the human hand, minus only the thumb. This fin has four regular bone-fingers, the index, middle, ring, and little finger” (Melville 289). Comparing the side fin of a whale to that of a human hand would easily rile many religious sanctions by questioning the very foundations of how and where humans where created. In so doing, individuals who believed in this form of science would be viewed as contesting the teaching of the Bible. Melville also relates the behavior of whales in terrifyingly close comparison to the behavior of humans, exploring the differences between male and female. Melville observes: [the] point of difference between the male and the female schools is still more characteristic of the sexes. Say you strike a Forty-barrel-bull— poor devil! All his comrades quit him. Strike a member of a harem school, and her companions swim around her with every token of concern, sometimes lingering so near her and so long, as themselves to fall a prey. (431) Interestingly, if Melville had left out the words “school” and “harem,” the reader may simply assume humans are the topics being characterized. The point Melville is making is actually a question regarding whether or not humans are really that different from animals. Are humans, even more barbaric and even more uncivilized than these untamed creatures of the waters? Naturally, such a suggestion would cause uproar because humans, according to religious doctrines, are made by God in the image of God; the Darwinian assumption of connecting man to animal was considered nothing more than blasphemy. As a result, both of these passages on science introduce how the symbolism in Moby-Dick represented the ongoing disputes between theologians and scientists. Several scholars have also explored the significance of color in this novel. Samuel Otter in his book Melville’s Anatomies recognizes the importance of color’s meaning: Ishmael focuses on the chromatic characteristics of Moby-Dick, singularly and disturbingly white among a species known for its blackness... In Ishmael’s analysis, [white] means elusive ghastliness, nameless terror, the pallor of dead, the expressive hue of the shroud. The devotees of
whiteness, he suggests, may be worshiping not God but the Devil. (137-138) This passage expresses the validity and importance of “reading” color in this text to understand the significance of racial theories, spirituality, and man’s perhaps perilous humanity. However, I argue against Otter’s belief that Ahab worships the Devil; instead I point out the negative aspects of religion associated with the color white and how this perspective in retrospect changes the reader’s understanding of the symbolism behind white and the reader’s understanding of God. Chapter 42 of Melville’s novel, titled “The Whiteness of the Whale” plays careful attention on paralleling the different meanings of the color white. Melville writes: “Whiteness is not so much a color as the visible absence of color, and at the same time the concrete of all colors: it is for these reasons that there is such a dumb blankness, full of meaning, in the wide landscape of snows — a colorless, all color of atheism which we shrink” (212). This passage has great significance for it describes the source of Ahab’s continuous chase of the whale, which is “full of meaning” provided through a signifying “landscape of snow.” Ahab does not “shrink” from the object (Moby-Dick) which is described as “a colorless, all-color of atheism” (212). By using the color white in a context other than its traditional symbols, Melville reveals how a human’s obsession to acquire a certain object (in Ahab’s case, spirituality) can lead to the loss of everything, i.e. morality, spirituality, and humanity. In addition, Melville discusses the traditional meaning and more acceptable context of the color white to describe how cultures honor the context of the color: Though in many natural objects, whiteness refiningly enhances beauty, as if imparting some special virtue of its own, as in marbles, japonicas, and pearls;... and the great Austrian Empire, Caesarian heir to overlording Rome, having for the imperial color the same imperial hue, and though this pre-eminence in it applies to the human race itself, giving the white man ideal mastership over every dusky tribe;... though in the Vision of St. John, white robes are given to the redeemed, and the four-and twenty elders stand clothed in white before the great white throne, and the Holy One that sitteth there white like wool; yet for all
these accumulated associations, with whatever is sweet, and honorable, and sublime, there yet lurks an elusive something in the innermost idea of this hue, which strikes more of a panic to the soul that that of redness which affrights in blood. (204-205)
The above passage helps to demonstrate that what an individual sees is sometimes not what truthfully lies beneath the surface. Furthermore, the reader must once again return to Saussure’s idea of the linguistic sign and that “[s]ome people regard language, when reduced to its elements, as a naming-process only — a list of words, each corresponding to the thing that it names” (832). However, “[t]he linguistic Melville continues with his color analogy, noting that while sign unites, not a thing and a name, but a concept and a the color white may serve as one form of symbol, that sound image” (832). Melville’s symbolic meanings are often symbol may also have a different side of representation. inversions; what the reader may perceive as an object’s Melville does this through his description of an Albino man, meaning may not in reality be the object’s meaning. With describing the elusive unease associated with white, writing: Melville, the meaning often changes and this contributes to the understanding of the intricate system of symbols within What is it that in the Albino man so peculiarly repels and his work. Each symbol serves as its own purpose; however, often shocks the eye, as that sometimes he is loathed by his when looked upon in context with another symbol, that own kith and kin? It is that whiteness which invests him, a symbol’s meaning can change by its referential context thing expressed by the name he bears. The Albino is as well within the novel’s signifying system of symbols and various made as other men — has no substantive deformity”and yet meanings. this mere aspect of all-pervading whiteness makes him more strangely hideous than the ugliest abortion. Why should this In examining the character Ahab, the novel’s signifying be so? (208) system is particularly important. Kenneth Gross in Shylock and Shakespeare compares the character of Shylock to In the essay “‘Warmest Climes but Nurse the Crullest Fangs’: Ahab. Gross explains that “Shylock, like Melville’s vengeful The Metaphysics of Beauty and Terror in Moby-Dick,” Frank Ahab, has here set himself beyond any rational calculation; G. Novak expounds upon this indescribable nature of rejecting any fear that the real cost of pursuing what he himself the multifaceted symbol in which Melville has introduced calls ‘a losing case’ might be greater than its imaginary gain” through the symbolic possibilities of the color white. Novak (72). This brings into context Melville’s symbolic element of contends that “the more beautiful the scene or image the Ahab’s three day chase of Moby Dick. The symbolism of the more ominous and malevolent is the terror associated number three is of high importance in Christianity. In The with it” (333). Does the same fear in which Ahab tries to Evolution Dialogues: Science, Christianity, and the Quest for conquer the elusive “whiteness” of Moby Dick relate to how Understanding, Catherine Baker explains the relationship the Albino man “is loathed by his own kith and kin”? Why between Jesus and God. Christian leaders during the fourth should a color which symbolizes so many things that are century determined, “based on biblical and other writings... considered “pure” be feared, unless the color is honored out that God is a trinity, or three-in-one: Father, Son, and Holy of fear. A hypocritical attitude takes place towards the way Spirit” (Baker 119). Using the three-day chase as a symbol individuals perceive meaning. A similar instance is found in for the Trinity supports the notion that Melville uses Moby the book of Matthew in verse 23, lines 27 under the section Dick and the fleeting nature of the color of the whale as entitled “Seven Woes” when Jesus addresses his crowd and an absence of a religious force, i.e. atheism. In reading his disciples: the chase in this symbolic way Ahab is at battle between saving his soul as a Christian and defeating the whale; or “Woe to you teachers of the law and Pharisees, you succumbing to the “colorless, all color of atheism which we hypocrites! You are like the whitewashed tombs, shrink” (212). However, Melville inserts a twist of plot; Ahab which look beautiful on the outside but on the does not defeat Moby Dick and is ultimately abandoned inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything by the psychological support of the Trinity by receiving no unclean. In the same way you, on the outside you form of spiritual salvation or fulfillment at the end of the appear to people as righteous but on the inside three day chase. The continual decline of the chase leads to you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” Ahab’s deprecating sanity because he sees he has no form
of faith, no form of redemption and yet he cannot conquer the atheism, or absence that has plagued him throughout the novel. In a sense, all hope is lost for man, his ship, and his crew. Returning to Samuel Otter’s work Melville’s Anatomies and his idea that “the devotees of whiteness...may be worshiping not God but the Devil” (138), it is made clear that in no way is Ahab being tainted by an evil force such as the devil - instead he faces a one far worse, that of society. Melville would not be able to demonstrate the hypocrisy that has formed and corrupted the true purposes of religions without his inverted use of color. Melville identifies through this technique that religions are not sanctions to hide behind and to be used but rather guides to live by untainted by politics and prejudices formulated by the human mind. Furthermore, Melville uses the “art” of whaling and the symbols associated with whaling to assert his morphed definition of white. Melville is able to construct a new definition of white, a more tainted one, defined by moral absence instead of the term’s more idealized definition of innocence and purity. From this perspective, the idea of “the other” or a factor of society that identifies something that is different from the idealized, the socially accepted, or simply “the norm” (Dollimore 12-13) is introduced. Melville acknowledges his own fascination with the element of color in his essay “Hawthorne and his Mosses,” writing: Whether Hawthorne has simply availed himself of this mystical blackness as a means to the wondrous effects he makes it to produce in his lights and shades... Certain it is, however, that this great power of blackness in him derives its force from its appeals to that Calvinistic sense of Innate Depravity and Original Sin, from whose visitations, in some shape or other, no deeply thinking mind is always and wholly free. For, in certain moods, no man can weigh this world, without throwing in something, somehow like Original Sin, to strike the uneven balance. At all events, perhaps no writer has ever wielded this terrific thought with greater terror than this same harmless Hawthorne. Still more: this black conceit pervades him, through and through. You may be witched by his sunlight, transported by the bright gildings in the skies he builds over you; —but there is the blackness of darkness beyond; and even his bright gildings but fringe, and play upon
the edges of thunder-clouds...it is that blackness in Hawthorne, of which I have spoken, that so fixes and fascinates me.” (9-10)
to shift. In chapter three, as Ishmael and Queequeg are preparing for bed, Ishmael revels that Queequeq’s behavior can be described as “civil,” “kind,” and “charitable” (Melville 26). Ishmael’s observation causes him to reassess his evaluation system and Ishmael wonders: “What’s all the fuss I have been making about, thought I to myself—the man’s a human being just as I am: he has just as much reason to fear me, as I have to be afraid of him” (26). As Ishmael shows, being of different complexion or society, does not change the fact a person can be civil, humane even. Consequently, further examining how Melville employs the common ideal of white and inverts the traditional meaning of color, leading to a troubling sense of tainted corruptness.
The following interaction of characters demonstrates Melville’s fascination with the color black as described in the above passage, yet more directly in the context of mid-nineteenth century racial discourse as well. Daggoo, a harpooner of Captain Ahab’s crew asks, “Who’s afraid of black is afraid of me” (191). The response given to him is from a Spanish Sailor, who comments: “thy race is the undeniable dark side of mankind—devilish dark at that” (191). By integrating and inverting common stereotypes of the color black into the text, the color white thus becomes twisted and viewed in a different perspective, pointing out not only Ahab’s tragic In spite of the nineteenth century’s commitment to social flaw and the ultimate loss of his internal battle but also the reform, Melville had difficulty writing directly, and thus the struggle humanity must endure. task of writing his novel required the use of his intricate system of symbols. In his book Calvinist Humor, Michael The fascination of the symbolism of the colors black and Dunne describes the issue readers may have whiling reading white for Melville can be further understood and complicated Melville’s work, explicating: through the character of Queequeq. Queequeq is described by Ishmael as a “dark complexioned’ harpooner” and “[f] Few readers in the twenty-first century are likely or all his tattooing he was on the whole a clean, comely to expect perfection from others—including looking cannibal” (Melville 16, 26). Once again, Saussure’s righteous Christians and biblical literalists—and theories of the ways in which signs operate within signifying so few would be shocked to find these others systems provides an interruptive perspective that is strongly mocked by any other author for their-only-tosuggested by Melville’s characterization of Queequeq. be expected human imperfections. In fact, Here, the importance of Queequeq’s skin functions as its own contemporary readers may be so ‘advanced’ as signifying system for it contradicts that of either the white man to blunt the effect of some of Melville’s Calvinist or that of the black man. The tattoos that cover the surface of humor. This is a point raised by Hershel Parker in Queequeq’s skin becomes a unique signifying system within his analysis of Melville’s theology of outrage: ‘The the text’s more complex system of color symbolism. Melville final irony may be that for modern readers able writes: to accept Melville’s darkest meanings Christianity is so ‘diluted’ that they have become insensitive Poor Queequeq! When the ship was about half to his satire and, more appallingly, have lost his disemboweled, you should have stooped over apprehension that the impracticality of Christianity the hatchway, and peered down upon him here; is tragic’...However, even those who never even where, stripped to his woollen drawers, the think about ‘the impracticality of Christianity’ can tattooed savage was crawling about amid that often relish Melville’s insistent skewerings of his dampness and slime, like a green spotted lizard fictional characters.” (81) at the bottom of a well. (520) While this excerpt may suggest that Melville’s writing was In these early scenes, Ishmael “reads” Queequeg from meant for his time period alone, I must strongly disagree. a superficial, external perspective and adds to this outer The art of Melville’s writing and his system of symbols makes interpretation the issue of morality. However, as the novel it possible for readers of any time period to understand progresses and Ishmael gets to know this man, Ishmael’s the impracticality and dangers presented with organized interpretation of Queequeg’s morality and character begins religion, not just Christianity as Hershel Parker states in the
passage. This system also includes the same issues in regards to racism as well, for whether we like to admit it or not, racism still exists in modern times. Texts such as Melville’s Moby-Dick can, however, help alleviate, if not eliminate, ways in which these issues may be identified, solved, and even prevented. In conclusion, Melville’s novel Moby-Dick is an intricate signifying system of colors that do more than simply invert the traditional symbols of black and white. Melville symbolizes white to suggest its elusive nature, which is suggested physically by the white whale’s flight, psychologically by Ahab’s depreciating sanity in chasing the white whale, and ultimately functions to suggest a diminishing sense of spirituality within the borders of humanity. The meaning of one symbol must be unraveled in order to understand another, even more complex symbol, whether the symbol be one concerning racism, religion, or society in general. Melville notes early in his text that “Ignorance is the parent of fear,” (24) yet by creating his system of symbolism, Melville does not expect any of his readers, if read properly, to be lead astray in fear from the presence of ignorance. The understanding of such matters simply lies in the complex nature of the intricacy of symbols and symbolism. Symbols ultimately become tools to learn how we digest and understand, not ignore, the unknowns we, as humans, fear. References Abrams, M.H. A Glossary of Literary Terms, Fifth Edition. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, INC., 1988. Baker, Catherine. The Evolution Dialogues: Science, Christianity, and the Quest for Understanding. Washington, D.C.: American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2006. Coffler, Gail H. “Melville’s Allusions to Religion.” Leviathan. 8.1 (Mar. 2006): 107-119. Delbanco, Andrew. Melville: His World and Work. New York: Vintage Books, 2005. Dollimore, Jonathan and Alan Sinfield. “Shakespeare, cultural materialism and the new historicism.” Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1985. 1-18. Dunne, Michael. Calvinsist Humor in American Literature. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2007. Feildelson, Charles, Jr. Moby-Dick as Symbolic Voyage. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1967. 671-676.
Gross, Kenneth. Shylock is Shakespeare. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006. 72. Holy Bible: New International Version. Colorado: International Bible Society, 1983. Karcher, Carolyn. “Herman Melville 1819-1891.” Lauter, Paul. “Heath Anthology for American Literature”. 5th Ed. Paul Lauter. Boston:Houghton Miffin Company, 2006. 2621-2624. Letterman, John B. Survivors: True Tales of Endurance, 500 Years of the Greatest Eyewitness Accounts. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003. Melville, Herman. Moby-Dick or, The Whale. New York: Penguin, 1988. Montaigne, Michel Eyquem de. “On Cannibals”. Essays. Trans. J.M Cohen. Baltimore: Penguin, 1958. 1, 5. Novak, Frank G. “‘Warmest Climes but Nurse the Crullest Fangs’: The Metaphysics of Beauty and Terror in Moby-Dick.” Studies in the Novel. 15.4 (2002) 332-343. Otter, Samuel. Melville’s Anatomies. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999. Saussure, Ferdinand. “Nature of the Linguistic Sign.” The Critical Tradition. 2nd Ed. David H. Richter. Boston: Bedford, 1998. 832-835. Wenke, John. Melville’s Muse: Literary Creation & Forms of Philosphical Fiction. Kent: The Kent State University Press, 1995.
Black Sabbath By Victoria Winfree
it seem opposed to applying paint to its surface. An artist must spend time manipulating paint to fill these crevices on a canvas, whereas a wooden panel provides a relatively smooth surface upon which the artist may paint freely. Johnson also enjoys the physical aspect of working with wood, as it must be prepared prior to painting, and is sturdy enough to withstand almost any abuse. He began using birch as the support for his paintings after extended experience with woodcut printmaking: Johnson worked as a project assistant at Tandem Press from 1987 to 1989, where he helped other artists produce prints using both experimental and traditional printing methods (Johnson, “Craddock-Terry”). Realizing that he preferred the aesthetic of the carved wooden plates over the actual prints produced from them, Johnson developed a style of painting that relies on carved outlines to give David Johnson further structure and definition to his brushwork. During the For the duration of Randolph College’s fall 2009 semester, compositional phase of carving and painting, Johnson “ofvisitors to the Maier Museum of Art are treated to a special ten let[s] one image suggest the use of another” (Teaching), exhibition, titled Teaching Begins Here: Recent Works by or permits the texture of the wood to influence his decisions. Randolph College Art Faculty. The exhibition showcases the In many of his works, Johnson allows select areas of wood art of the school’s four Studio Art professors. Upon entering grain to show through, or to remain unpainted, though such the Museum’s main gallery, visitors are greeted by the large- is not the case with Black Sabbath. scale, vibrantly-colored works of David Kjeseth Johnson, adjunct professor of Art and Communication Studies. John- Information provided by the Maier Museum gives Black Sabson’s paintings are characterized by harmonious imagery of bath no date, but Johnson recalls painting the piece in the birds, maps, female figures, and plant life. His style is figu- late 1990s, most likely in 1998. Johnson’s serious interest rative, with a twist of “subjective realism” (Johnson, Teach- in art began in the 1960s, when, at age 10, he attended ing). All of Johnson’s works flow together visually--including an Andy Warhol exhibition. Johnson says the show, which two sets of animal-shaped monotypes--until one reaches a included Cow Wallpaper and Silver Clouds, excited and comparatively small triptych painting. This 28 by 34 inch enthralled him, as it was “the first time [he] had seen art piece seems to be of a different time and place, bringing that looked like something someone could actually do” (into mind charming illustrations from antique children’s sto- terview). The childlike wonder of the young Johnson carries rybooks. The image--four young girls playing outdoors, at- over into his work. As Black Sabbath’s appearance suggests, tempting to capture fireflies-- seems playful and idyllic, until Johnson did base the image on an illustration he had seen in one notices the title of the piece: Black Sabbath. Suddenly, an old storybook. In fact, Johnson shares, much of his work the atmosphere of the scene changes from sweet to sinister. includes images from children’s books, antique maps, and One begins to wonder what disaster awaits these children: scientific texts. Books from his own past also influence many how might they lose their innocence? Johnson admits to giv- of his pieces: as a child, Johnson enjoyed reading from The ing the piece a deliberately jarring title. If he had named the Hardy Boys series, as the plots involved “children living triptych Catching Fireflies, Johnson smiles, “would it evoke in an adults’ world, and doing adult things, like chasing the same reaction?” (Johnson, interview). criminals” (interview). While the four young girls featured in Black Sabbath catch fireflies rather than evil-doers, the title Like most of Johnson’s work on display at the Maier, Black is suggestive of more mature content, and the viewer must Sabbath is an oil painting executed on birch. Johnson pre- examine the piece with greater scrutiny in order to find it. fers wooden panels over traditional cotton duck canvas due to the fragile nature of fabric. He explains that the structure The three birch panels of the Black Sabbath triptych are of canvas--individual threads, with space in between--makes joined by brass hinges, and each panel has been sanded
so that both corners and edges have a rounded, imperfect shape. The wood in these areas is tinted with what appears to be a mixture of pecan-tinged stain and brown paint. The effect of this coloration is that the edges effectively frame the piece as an antique-style image, as the birch panels appear to be reclaimed wood--a quick glance at the just-visible back of one of the side panels informs the viewer that this is not the case. The scene itself--portrayed in continuous narrative across all three panels--is composed of thickly-applied oil paint, interspersed with Johnson’s trademark carved outlines. The palette, while vivid, seems more restrained than the luscious tones of the rest of his work at the Maier. The overall impression given by the presentation brings to mind the yellowed, softly-worn pages of the very storybooks which inspire Johnson’s work. The first of the four girls, depicted on the left-most panel, wears a short dress of a pale, nondescript blue-grey. A matching headband keeps her reddish-blond hair away from her face as she leans forward towards a glowing cluster of fireflies. At her feet are two oversized leaves, smoothly painted in autumn tones. An apple tree grows in the background, although on a normal scale. Must one assume that the fallen leaves, each larger than the girl’s torso, were once part of this tree? Johnson appreciates, and makes use of, the “disassociation of scale” found in much of René Magritte’s work (interview); Johnson’s work, like Magritte’s, distorts the scale of objects in a dreamlike manner which taps into the subconscious. Magritte’s The Treachery (or Perfidy) of Images, painted in 1928-29, features a single tobacco pipe on a meditative, larger-than-life scale, punctuated by the caption, “Ceci n’est pas une pipe,” or “This is not a pipe.” This statement teases the mind while demonstrating the emphasis which Magritte has placed on “the relationship of language to the painted image” (Arnason 307), just as Johnson has: like Magritte’s caption, the title given to Black Sabbath causes the viewer to reassess the piece. Likewise, the scale of Magritte’s pipe gives an ordinary object weighty importance. Here in Johnson’s work, a similarly outsized bird rests on the ground to the right of the leaves; its plump body carrying over onto the center panel. The light yellow-green hue of the bird’s feathers provide a lively contrast with the muted, muddy tones of the apple tree: unlike the bird, leaves, and girl, the tree is not outlined with carving; its trunk and foliage are formed by wildly gestural, blurred strokes of green and orange paint. The apples grown here are formed by fat daubs of red paint which are almost jagged in texture: this is not a friendly
tree. Several of the apples, symbols of sin, and innocence lost, have fallen, and lie rotting on the ground near the dead leaves; visually, they lead the viewer’s eye downward to the dark stream that runs diagonally across the first two panels. Fireflies are reflected brightly in the murky water, providing ominous contrast. Rippling indentations in the paint’s impasto surface serve to give the stream a sense of power and strong current, despite its shallow depth. The second two girls appear in the center panel, both standing ankle-deep in the stream. More boldly gestural paint appears in the foreground, this time in the form of decaying autumn leaves. The brunette girl on the left, her back turned to the viewer, wears a dress of peach and grey-green. Her bare legs appear to be muddy, and the cheerful polka dots adorning her skirt add a sense of poignancy to the knowledge that harm may soon befall her. The girl to her right is visible only from mid-torso downward, giving her a decapitated appearance. One’s view of her upper half is obscured by more oversized leaves, as well as the front half of another plump, outsized bird. Lacking eyes and beak, the scarlet-feathered bird is blind and mute. Above this trio grows another gesturally-painted tree, laden with dangerously sharp apples. A white house is in view on the horizon, but it is too far away and too small to provide refuge to any of them. The right-most panel shows more of the same: a foreground of fallen leaves, the back half of the red bird, and a tree with leaves painted in an impasto fashion. A horizontal branch is visible under the foliage, and is grasped by what appears to be a disembodied hand. The fourth girl, walking beneath the branch, does not look up. She gazes instead upon the two oversized, green leaves she carries in her left hand. Her dress is a muted lavender-grey, and her blonde hair is cropped short. Her expression is one of concentration and concern. According to Johnson, the vintage illustration that inspired Black Sabbath depicted this girl carrying a platter of food to a picnic table, which, incidentally, Johnson chose to replace with the cluster of fireflies (interview). After analyzing the painting, viewers still may puzzled why Johnson chose to use beaming fireflies as a focal point in a work titled Black Sabbath. When he was a child, Johnson felt that “certain activities seemed to have more significance, a magical sort of significance, beyond the content of the activities...like catching fireflies” (interview). The girls of Black
Sabbath are engaged in “innocent play,” yet Johnson shows us that children “already have definite ideas of, unconscious ideas of, fears and phobias” (interview). He relates a story about a childhood friend who kept a small, mummified figure hidden behind a brick in his father’s basement. Occasionally, the boy removed the mummy from its hiding spot so that he and Johnson could stare at it. Johnson describes the mummy as “the creepiest thing...it seemed really forbidden for him to have it; something so wrong about it. It threw a pall over other play--everything else was forgotten” (interview). The boy’s father, whose name was also David Johnson, later committed suicide in that basement. In Johnson’s mind (then as now), the mummy represented mental illness, and he still wonders if it bore the same meaning for his friend. Johnson dealt with extreme, unprovoked anxiousness in his own childhood, even a feeling of impending disaster. He observes that his fears were not unique; children simply process issues such as phobias and mental illness differently than adults do. Another boyhood friend of Johnson’s chose to deal with his own issues by scientifically experimenting with ants. This boy was certain that, “if an ant could comprehend the perfect crystalline structure of a single grain of sugar, the knowledge of this perfection would make the ant explode” (interview). When his experiment failed repeatedly, the boy insisted that he had not yet found the perfect grain of sugar. To the two children, this experiment seemed valid, and “bought into the intelligence of ants” (interview). Contemplating Black Sabbath after hearing this tale, one might relate the round forms of the fireflies to the perfectly formed grains of sugar, and the four girls to the ants. The girls, one hopes, are not doomed to die; instead, they will ‘explode’ into young adulthood. The girl on the right-most panel underscores this second theme of maturation: the leaves she carries are not brown and withered, such as those that have fallen. Her leaves are fresh and green, and she carries them in such a way that they cover her abdomen and pubic regions, bringing to mind fertility and sexual awareness, reminders that the she will soon grow into a young woman. The girl’s concerned expression as she contemplates the leaves may be interpreted as reluctance to leave childhood behind. Her maturation is emphasized by her distance from the three girls at play. The leaf symbolism, reminiscent of the Biblical narrative of Adam and Eve, also appears in one of Johnson’s works from 2002, Another Green World. This piece, which shows a girl of teen or pre-teen age, “represents the bewildering complex-
ity of the world and the human effort to navigate it” (interview). The girl stands, hand over heart and leaf over breast in front of a massive nude female figure. The figure seems to sprout leaves and vines from her very fingers, and between her hands she holds a drawing of a tree: Yggdrasill, a Norse fertility symbol. The figure’s groin is obscured by a plant which branches Girls by A Stream, Arthur Rackham out like fallopian tubes. Johnson confirms that the leaves and plants represent the young girl’s full realization of herself as a biological entity, though he admits that this was not his intention when he created the piece--for him, the meaning has evolved. While Black Sabbath and Another Green World depict females in the autumn of girlhood, one may also compare the nature of Johnson’s works to one such as British illustrator, Arthur Rackham’s simply-titled Girls by a Stream (1906): this image, typical of many of the classic illustrations which so inspire Johnson, features young women in the spring of womanhood. These four women, shown in varying stages of undress, represent the progression and future of the four girls of Black Sabbath. As a work of pen, ink, and watercolor, Rackham’s illustration differs from Johnson’s work in terms of texture: the surface of Girls by a Stream is naturally smooth, lacking the physically carved and jagged texture of Johnson’s painted panels. Still, Johnson has managed to echo Rackham’s work in ways which, while not directly intentional, are uncanny. Two of the four young women of Girls by a Stream lounge on the rocky bank of a churning stream--one of them blithely nude--while a third stands with face partially obscured, similar to the “headless” girl of Black Sabbath. The fourth woman has jumped to her feet in an effort to retrieve one of her garments, which has just been stolen by a band of goblins. Standing, bare-breasted, this woman brings to mind Black Sabbath’s “biologically aware” fourth girl, the difference in Rackham’s piece being
an elevated level of maturity: while a goblin leers at her sug- lege Art Faculty. Richmond, VA: Worth Higgins and Associates, 2009. gestively, she stands her ground resolutely, unashamed of Exhibition catalog. her own nudity. Black Sabbath. No date. Maier Museum of Art, Lynchburg, VA. Johnson’s artistic use of psychology also finds a parallel in Rackham’s work. Rackham, being a Victorian artist, lived in an era in which the unconscious was viewed as a sinister being, an “out-of-control beast which could ‘come out’ under the right circumstances” (Atzmon 66). The marauding goblins, therefore, symbolize the unconscious, as well as a “voracious goblin sexual appetite” (Atzmon 77). Likewise, the gnarled, grasping roots which loom over the women indicate a tree which, like Johnson’s unfriendly apple trees, will provide discomfort and fear rather than shelter. A comparison of the titles--the daunting Black Sabbath and the neutral Girls by a Stream--affirms that both artists have named their works appropriately. While Johnson’s girls nervously feel their way through the physically and psychologically daunting journey into maturity, Rackham’s women are world-wise and seem to be calmly accepting both of their own bodies and of the pervasive beast of the unconscious. Whether one chooses to interpret Black Sabbath as a grim interpretation of classic storybook illustrations, as a manifestation of children’s psychological worries, or as a bittersweet homage to the passing of girlhood, one will have reached a correct conclusion. Johnson has brilliantly combined these messages into an image that, at first glance, might appear to be a benign image burdened with a nebulous title--a title which serves as the catalyst to viewers’ in-depth interpretation of the piece. If Johnson had named the triptych Chasing Fireflies, it would be to the detriment of his work. References Arnason, H.H. History of Modern Art. Fifth ed. Saddle River: Pearson - Prentice Hall, 2003. 307. Atzmon, Leslie. “Arthur Rackham’s Phrenological Landscape: In-betweens, Goblins, and Femmes Fatales.” Design Issues 18.4 (2002): 64-83. Johnson, David Kjeseth. Another Green World. 2002. Maier Museum of Art. Lynchburg, VA. Artist statement and resume. “Craddock-Terry Gallery: David Kjeseth Johnson.” 2006. Riverviews Artspace. 18 Nov. 2009 http://www.riverviews.net/NewFolder/Exhibitions/CTGallery/CT%20Artists/2006/ Johnson/2006davidjohnson.htm Artist statement. Teaching Begins Here: Recent Work by Randolph Col-
Personal interview. 19 Nov. 2009. Magritte, René. The Treachery (or Perfidy) of Images. 1928. Oil on canvas. Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles. Rackham, Arthur. Girls by a Stream. 1906. Private collection, London. Bridgeman Art Library. Web. Sept. 2010.
Writing the Female Experience By Elizabeth Zehl
Works that fall within the genre of bildungsroman chart the “advancement and development of the individual,” generally from childhood to, and sometimes through, adulthood (Kunz 2010). Encouraged by “Romanticism’s interest in the phenomena of consciousness and memory,” the genre took root in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (Miles 1974, p990). Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, published in 1847, is a fictional, female bildungsroman firmly established in the canon of Western literature. Hettie Jones’ How I Became Hettie Jones, published in 1990, serves as a nonfictional, modern, female bildungsroman. The nearly 150year distance between the works’ publications indicates the extreme divergence of the experiences of their authors; while Bronte’s life was spent in nineteenth-century England, Jones grew up in New York City during the height of the beat movement. Joint consideration of the works reveals the ways in which How I Became Hettie Jones contributes to the body of literature about the female experience-and in doing so works indirectly to correct and complete Jane Eyre through providing a modern, fully autobiographical account of the intellectual and emotional development of a woman from childhood through adulthood. Despite undertaking a similar effort, Bronte’s novel and Jones’ autobiography differ greatly in presentation and execution. Jane Eyre was originally published as Jane Eyre: An Autobiography, was written under a pseudonym, and is narrated in the first person. Bronte detached herself from the text at multiple levels, while also working to craft a piece of literature that approximated a reality deeply related to her own. How can a woman write intimately about the psychological maturation of a woman without drawing heavily upon her own framework of experience and memory. Indeed, several of the major characters and events within Jane Eyre had clear parallels to her life (Kunz 2010). The very character of Jane Eyre can be read as a radical female figure, expressing not only Bronte’s own uncommon position as a female writer, but also potentially her belief that women should be permitted to engage more actively in the then male-dominated social structure. The ongoing popularity of the novel and its canonization also speak to Bronte’s intricate rendering of a young woman’s growth process, a complex subject she would know little about without her own experience as a female. Bronte sought to write a fictional novel, while Jones chose to write a non-fictional account of her own life. This is a
major difference of form between the works that demands acknowledgement; yet beyond this clear distinction, Jones’ expression of ownership of, and clear connection to, her bildungsroman increases its legitimacy as an accurate account of the development of an individual woman. How I Became Hettie Jones directly announces its purpose and origin: to explain the process by which Jones became Jones herself. This difference in presentation, aside from form, can also be understood in the context of the authors’ placement in radically different socio-cultural realms and historical periods. Jones’ life, while notably marked by sexism and racism, was unhindered by the rigid gender conventions of Bronte’s world. This increased mobility gave Jones access to a wide range of experiences. She was not only able to form platonic and romantic relationships with intellectually and artistically gifted contemporaries, but to have shared experiences with male and female writers, artists, and musicians during a particularly charged period of American cultural and political history. Furthermore, Jones knew that readers in 1990 would not be alarmed by a bluntly personal account of the female experience, whereas Bronte’s 1847 readership required at least a semi-didactic narrative framework.
Thornfield was partially influenced by the opportunity to be “seventy miles nearer London,” while Jones led her life directly within a major urban center, steeped for decades in a stimulating environment Jane could only dream of (Bronte 2001, p75). The root of this difference in experience is contained primarily within the different periods the two woman operated within; Jones’ opportunity to carry the narrative directly into the urban center marks an arrival and period of growth that Jane desired but never fully accessed.
Although Jane Eyre and How I Became Hettie Jones are primarily organized chronologically, a sense of retrospective patterning is at work. The voice of older Jane breaks through the narrative to highlight important moments of internal development, as does the voice of older Hettie. Upon her arrival at Thornfield, Jane muses: “Externals have a great effect on the young: I thought that a fairer era of life was beginning for me, one that was to have its flowers and pleasures, as well as its thorns and toils” (Bronte 2001, p83). Hettie’s older voice freely enters the text from its authorial present to weave careful prose that unites her past and present identity, illuminating the effects of the passage of time and space on identity: “From Fourteenth Street we’d have to salvage...even the kitchen sink. Which like me Structural continuity between the works can be found in the remains on Cooper Square but linked to an earlier time and emphasis placed on moments of self-conscious liminality, place. So that tonight, at the dishes, though twice her age expansion, and change; events of departure and arrival I can also see that person I was at twenty-seven, bathing serve as major structural units for each. Jones’ autobiography in her kitchen sink, with all of downtown at her back, and is chaptered and placed within five sections, four of which the morning sun ablaze in the poverty trees” (Jones 1990, are titled according to the location of her physical home p164). In these instances, a heightened sense of perception within New York City: “Morton Street,” “Twentieth Street,” shapes the text, adding depth and nuance to the process of “Fourteenth Street,” and “Cooper Square.” Similarly, growth that it tracks. moments of geographical transition are highlighted in Jane Eyre when Jane leaves her childhood home at Gateshead to Despite the shared and sustained emphasis on growth and travel to the Lowood Institute, then to Thornfield Manor, Moor retrospection, there is a sharp contrast between the endings House, and Ferndean Manor. When change is manifested of Jane Eyre and How I Became Hettie Jones. Jane concludes in physical movement, moments of introspection are sparked the novel by directly addressing the reader and revealing for both Jane and Hettie. After making the decision to leave that she has written the work ten years after her successful Lowood for a job as governess at Thornfield, Jane explains marriage to Mr. Rochester: “Reader, I married him” (Bronte to the reader that she “longed to go where there was life 2001, p382). She goes on to tell of the birth of their first and movement” (Bronte 2001, p75). While she manages son, who Mr. Rochester was able to see after the impeccably to lead a radically dynamic life despite tremendous timed and miraculous return of his vision. The conclusion to gender and socio-economic restrictions-one which included Jones’ work is more protracted and far less of a traditional education, paid work, travel, and marriage to a partner fairytale. Hettie writes of the dissolution of her marriage to who respected and admired the complexity of her identity- Amiri Baraka (formally LeRoi Jones) brought about gradually Jane’s experiences of “life and movement” simply cannot by mutual infidelity, personal changes, and the stress of match those of Hettie. Jane’s decision to accept the job at celebrity attention. Ultimately, Baraka’s alignment with the
Black Power movement leads him to renounce Hettie and their mixed-race children and results in their permanent separation. Indeed, many of his most powerful plays and poetry are sourced from this hatred of that which is not black. How I Became Hettie Jones culminates in a state of confident separateness, while Jane Eyre ends with relieved union. Jane Eyre and How I Became Hettie Jones are narratives of individual female growth that seek, in both gendered and non-gendered terms, to illuminate the journey of becoming. Shared structural elements-clearly designated locations and retrospective patterning-guide readers through the women’s processes of self-defining their physical and mental position. The interplay between chronology and retrospection further requires each female voice to contemplate the dimensions of identity and self-understanding revealed by the passage of time. The divergence of meaning in the works’ endings, however, discloses an important correction to Jane Eyre. Jane’s expansion beyond her social status forms her into a complex individual, but-with the aid of a simplifying Romantic framework-Bronte uses marriage to neatly reinsert her into the conventional social schema. The ending highlights Jane’s transformation into a wife-a person set in relation to another. The culmination of Hettie’s narrative is not marriage, but rather separation and single motherhood, emphasizing her self-oneness. This correction, as well as the reinforcement of authenticity provided by Jones’ presentation of her work as non-fiction, renders How I Became Hettie Jones a progression of Jane Eyre. REFERENCES Bronte, Charlotte & Dunn, Richard J. (ed.) (2001) Jane Eyre. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. Jones, Hettie (1990) How I Became Hettie Jones. New York: Grove Press. Kunz, Heidi (2010) ENGL256A class meeting. Lecture at Randolph College. Lynchburg. Miles, David H. (1974) The Picaro’s Journey to the Confessional: The Changing Image of the Hero in the German Bildungsroman, PMLA, vol. 89.5, 980-992.
The Modern Breakup By Sean Owsley
The notion of heroes and villains has jumped straight out of the comics and into our everyday lives. In many relationships, it becomes easy to point the finger and label someone as the cause of some great tension or conflict, in other words, a villain. However, upon closer examination of any situation, that is not always true. Take for example the relationship between Tom and Summer in the movie (500) Days of Summer, which offers a fictionalized, but true-to-life example of how a contemporary relationship falls apart. (500) Days of Summer, as the narrator points out is a story of boy meets girl. However, the narrator ends his opening monologue by saying that the film’s story is not a love story. Instead, the film is about a break up between two contemporary characters and demonstrates how the break up occurred by looking at the entire relationship from start to finish. (500) Days of Summer will be used within this study because it provides an arguably true-to-life example of how a contemporary break up occurs. More importantly, the film shows how a break up is not one-sided. Rather, it is because of a miscommunication and imbalance of relational dialectics. This study analyzes (500) Days of Summer through the theoretical lens of relational dialectics theory to see how miscommunication and relational dialectic imbalance, in many romantic, heterosexual relationships cause break ups.
through dialogue, which is seen as an aesthetic accomplishment that creates brief and fleeting moments of unity through a strong respect for the varying voices (Griffin, 2009, pp. A-2). By using relational dialectics theory, this study aims to clarify the reasoning behind a break within many romantic, heterosexual relationships. Instead of a “villain,” there exists natural tensions between the three dialectics that affect relationships: integration-separation, stability-change, and expression-nonexpression. These three dialectics are divided between either internal or external dialectics. Internal dialectics are viewed as ongoing tensions played out within a relationship. On the other hand, external dialectics are the ongoing tensions between a couple and their community (Baxter & Montgomery, 2009). Unchecked miscommunication regarding these tensions causes people to break away from each other. These tensions, as explored by the theory, are naturally occurring within a relationship and should not be viewed as a major problem within a relationship. The theory also provides information on the idea of dialectical flux and the fact that quality relationships are constructed through dialogue. Understanding this notion helps people understand that when developing and sustaining a relationship, it is bound to be an unpredictable and indeterminate process (Baxter & Montgomery, 2009). For this study, internal dialectics will be observed more so than external dialectics because the film is centered on Tom and Summer’s relationship and remains detached from any external dialectics that would play a role in their relationship. Within this study the contemporary breakup as reflected by the movie (500) Days of Summer will be examined under the lens of relational dialectics theory to explore how breakups occur in many romantic, heterosexual relationships. The following Literature Review will further examine what critics and scholars have said about the movie (500) Days of Summer, how Relational dialectics theory (RDT) focuses on relationships breakups can occur, and how other communication theorists and the exchanges that occur within them. It also addresses have used relational dialectics theory. how contradictions/tensions are constant within relationships no matter the circumstance. Em Griffin (2009), author In (500) Days of Summer Tom—a hopeless romantic—meets of A First Look at Communication Theory,offers a summary on Summer—a realist when it comes to relationships and love— how RDT views the world and offers as a good starting point and starts to believe that she is the “one” he is meant to be for understanding the theory. To paraphrase Griffin (2009), with for the rest of this life. However, Summer does not share a person’s social life consists of a multitude of twisting and this belief and actually scoffs at the idea of love. However, turning contradictions, never-ending interactions between the two still end up dating and eventually breaking up. The both opposing and contradictory tendencies that include film moves through both connected and random instances integration-separation, stability-change, and expression- within Tom and Summer’s relationship to tell the complete nonexpression. Strong, long lasting relationships are built story of how they broke up. (500) Days of Summer offers a
fresh insight into the inner workings of contemporary relationships while at the same time paying homage to its predecessors in the romantic comedy genre of movies. Being a relatively new movie there are no scholarly studies of (500) Days of Summer. Therefore, a number of critic reviews written about the movie will be explored, along with reviews about movies that are parallel to (500) Days of Summer such as Annie Hall and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. At the same time, the study will be taking a closer look at how the movie both expresses and relates to breakups within contemporary relationships. Relational dialectics theory will also be examined by investigating how other researchers have applied this theory as well as looking at their critique of the theory as a whole. Originating as the kind of underdog independent film that even the creators have admitted to being a bit shy and/or embarrassed about in their commentary to the film (Webb 2009), (500) Days of Summer distinguishes itself from the common romantic comedy genre to provide us with a simple truth. Life does not need to be portrayed as a fantasy. The majority of critics have enjoyed (500) Days of Summer, and this fact is evident within their reviews. The critics offer insights into how (500) Days of Summer portrays not only a true-to-life relationship but also provides an example of relationships in today’s society. One of the most thought provoking statements about the movie, as far as understanding what makes it so special and how it portrays a true-to-life relationship, comes from Washington Post writer Desson Thomson (2009): Finally, a romance that understands we mark our lives by our scrapes with love, and our defeats, rather than simply whitewedding-cake success. A movie that sidesteps the Pollyanna pornography of Happily Ever After. That dives headlong into the “Any Given Sunday” sport of normal heartbreak. No wonder we feel giddy and flushed (Thomson 2009) Thomson (2009) goes on to offer more connections as to how the movie portrays what real people do when they are either in a relationship or falling out of a relationship. The main example of this that Thomson (2009) uses is the movie’s way of presenting the days of Tom and Summer’s relationship. Instead of just moving in the traditional linear fashion that is so common in romantic comedies the movie skips back and forth between relating events according to
their importance to the story and Tom’s path towards letting go of his relationship. Thomson (2009) ends his review by once again reflecting on how realistic (500) Days of Summer is compared to other romantic comedies. He argues that the old fashioned method of portraying romance in movies has no real application to our lives but that (500) Days of Summer actually manages to travel down a familiar romantic trail that the majority of us have walked before. (500) Days of Summer offers more than just a look into true-to-life relationships, it also offers a look at love. This idea may seem like it would be straightforward but for anyone who has dealt with love knows that is never the case. A. O. Scott (2009), writer for The New York Times, sums up what (500) Days of Summer depicts in terms of love, in that it is “a story about how love can be confusing, contingent and asymmetrical, and about how love can fail” (Scott 2009). Where Thomson (2009) and Scott (2009) bask in the closeness to reality that (500) Days of Summer portrays other critics address at what the film says about relationships today. Chicago Tribune writer Jason Travis (2009) compares (500) Days of Summer to other cinematic examples of women with the upper hand in a relationship. Two of these films are Annie Hall and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Travis (2009) outlines how sometimes in relationships women are the ones who have established control not the men, as is often perceived. By trimming (500) Days of Summer’s main theme down to, “Tom falls for Summer. He’s a hopeless romantic, she doesn’t believe in true love” (Travis 2009), Travis allows his readers to see the connections to the other films he mentions. With Annie Hall, he states that the lead female role does have instant attraction to the male lead but outgrows him and walks away. Describing Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Travis states that the female lead wipes her memories of the male lead because she is over him; the male lead tries to do the same but cannot really let her go. All three of these brief synopses say the same thing, that the woman is the one who ends the relationship and thus leaves the poor sap of a man to feel all alone and miserable for some duration of the movie.
relationship was important to them and what they needed to learn from that experience. The three movies also portray couples that are dysfunctional at best, yet the movies still manage to show how worthwhile that relationship can be to both people involved. Other critics have also referenced Annie Hall in their reviews of (500) Days of Summer. For instance, Claudia Puig (2009) of USA Today states, “Much like Annie Hall did for a previous generation, (500) Days of Summer may be the movie that best captures a contemporary romantic sensibility.” What is meant by contemporary romantic sensibility is that people of today are able to relate to the romance of Tom and Summer as it reflects to their own experiences. Puig’s (2009) main point is that (500) Days of Summer breaks away from the conventional romantic comedy scheme while at the same time allowing a whole new generation of people to witness contemporary romantic sensibility at its best. The dissolution of a relationship serves as a connection between the three movies and adds to their overall effectiveness in portraying true-to-life break-ups, and the most recent of the three, (500) Days of Summer), allows one to see how breakups occur in a modern day setting. In contrast, Annie Hall was set in the 1970’s which was geared towards an entirely different generation, and mainly focused on how the main character’s relationship fell apart. While Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is more recent than Annie Hall, it does not deal with the same maintenance issues as (500) Days of Summer but instead portrays the rebuilding of relationships. (500) Days of Summer is the best film for this study because unlike Annie Hall and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, (500) Days of Summer depicts a contemporary relationship and how difficult it can be to maintain a relationship in the current era. With that in mind, it is necessary to explore breakups in order to gain an understanding of why they occur. Breakups
Breakups are a central part of relationships and it is important to understand how they occur to know how they are a part of relational dialectics. Breakups, like most things are multifaceted: one cannot simply look at a breakup for brief Further review of Annie Hall and Eternal Sunshine of the period of time and know every reason as to why it occurred. Spotless Mind, reveals more parallels to (500) Days of Sum- It is crucial to understand the the determinants and effects of mer. For instance, it appears as though all three male leads breakups in order to comprehend relationships. experience a relationship that not only tests what they know about themselves, but also makes them reflect on why that To start off, attraction serves as a part of what brings people
together in a relationship and is also believed to be an initiator of a breakup. This idea is explored by Diane H. Felmlee (2001), who believes that what attracts us to someone also serves to drive us away from them. These are considered fatal attractions. Felmlee (2001) argues: There is a link between theses seemingly disparate processes of romantic attraction and disenchantment. Like a moth to a flame, people can be drawn to the very aspects of another person that they eventually find troublesome. “Fatal attraction” is one term for this type of disenchantment, where “fatal” is defined as “prophetic” or “foretelling a sequence” rather than deadly; this sequence begins with attraction to a partner quality and ends in disillusionment with that quality (263) Felmlee (2001) goes on to say that the fatal attractions occur in both dating relationships and marriages. Some of the examples she provides include a woman who is attracted to a man who is laid back but is then seen as being constantly late. The other example used is of a man being attracted to a woman’s shyness but then viewing that same shyness as being too insecure (Felmlee D. H., 2001, p. 263). To support her thesis Felmlee (2001) surveyed 125 dating persons and found that 44 percent of those individuals experienced fatal attractions. She also found that one-third of her respondents saw similarities between characteristics that someone is attracted to and rejected by (Felmlee D. H., 2001, p. 263). While fatal attractions may serve as a determinate of a breakup it is not the only factor. Diane Felmlee, Susan Sprecher and Edward Bassin (1990) performed a study to explore other determinants of breakups in relationships and found that several variables serve as predictors for the rate at which a relationship is terminated. To achieve this Felmlee, Sprecher and Bassin (1990) examined “how measures of different factors affected the rate at which a relationship changed from intact to broken up” (Felmlee et al, 1990, p. 15). As a result, variables such as comparison level for alternatives, amount of time spent together, dissimilarity in race, support from a partner’s social network and the overall duration of the relationship were determined as predictors for when a relationship would terminate. In addition, each of these variables suggests that they stemmed from theories in social exchange, similarity and social networking to help contribute to an explanation
behind breakups (Felmlee et al, 1990, p. 15, 26-28).
as a critical sensibility. (188)
In addition to the determinants of a breakup, it is also important to explore some of the effects of a breakup. One effect in particular is the result of having stronger maintenance strategies within a new relationship than one did in the previous relationship. Colleen Hlywa and Katheryn Maguire (2008) performed an investigation that helps to provide why instances like this occur. They tested whether or not attachment style has anything to do with a person’s desire to maintain a friendship after a breakup. For their research, they surveyed 228 college students and found that there is no real connection between attachment style and maintenance strategies but did discover that “respondents did engage in more maintenance strategies with a current romantic partner than a post-dissolutional friend” (Hlywa & Maguire, 2008, p. 1). While understanding the end of a relationship is important, one needs a further understanding of how relationships work and what is being said about relationships. To comprehend this, the lens of relational dialectics theory should be applied.
Baxter also addresses the future of RDT by stating, “the theory itself needs a firmer empirical base in talk between relating parties...future work needs to construct the narrative tale of “multiple voices” in centrifugal-centripetal flux...and future research needs to study discourse through time, studying shifts and transformations in the dialogue of discursive voices” (Baxter L. A., 2004, p. 189). A key fact that sticks out in Baxter’s “morals” is that relational dialectics changes gradually, it is unpredictable. The last idea which Baxter presents is that “theory growing takes place in the utterances between scholars, not in the actions of autonomous scholars” (Baxter L. A., 2004, p. 190). While the history and development of the theory are important, it is also important to look at how this theory has been used in previous studies.
Relational dialectics theory One of the authors accredited for relational dialectics theory in Em Griffin’s book (2009), A First Look at Communication Theory, Leslie Baxter (2004) provides not only her history with relational dialectics theory but also the history and progression of the theory itself in her article A Tale of Two Voices: Relational Dialectics Theory. In chronological order, Baxter moves through her life experiences that played into her development of RDT, such as her experiences in graduate school where her desire to study opposition was first planted by studying the opposite of relationship formation: relationship endings. One of Baxter’s (2004) main “morals,” (as she puts it) to take away from her tale, is to understand the evolution of relational dialectics theory from first-generation to second-generation relational dialectics: First-generation relational dialectics positioned the concept of contradiction at the centerpiece of the theory with other dialogic elements occupying a more muted background. In contrast, second-generation relational dialectics positions the several meanings of “dialogue” with more or less equal footing — dialogue as the centripetal-centrifugal flux, dialogue as utterance, dialogue as aesthetic moment, dialogue
Sahlstein and Dun (2008) surveyed ninety college students that were currently in romantic relationships and asked them to record a discussion of how they manage the autonomyconnection dialectic. The results of this study yielded that eight couples of the original ninety students said that issues with the management of autonomy-connection was part of the termination of their relationship. The two main forms of contradictions that were reflected were antagonistic and non-antagonistic (Sahlstein & Dun, 2008). The non-antagonistic struggles are when partners have problems managing dialectics. In contrast, the antagonistic struggles are based on contradiction, in which each person is aligned with a different pole of contradiction. In other words, people have different views, stances or opinions on arguments and sometimes because of these differences, someone is seen as being the antagonist or “villain.” This fact is important because By looking through the lens of relational dialectics theory this form of contradiction can also be interpreted as a repone can get a better understanding of breakups and how resentation of a villain by either side of the relationship. they occur. The key thought behind how breakups occur is Understanding this idea is key in analyzing (500) Days of that there is a need for autonomy and connection within Summer with relational dialects theory, as it dissects all of relationships to the point where autonomy and connection the tensions displayed within the movie. are viewed as unified oppositions. This implies that if too much time is spent together then a loss of autonomy and in- Thus far (500) Days of Summer, breakups, and relational diadividuality occurs and in contrast, separation puts a limit on lectics theory have been reviewed, leaving one main quesconnection and can cause harm to a relationship (Sahlstein tion which remainss to be answered: how are (500) Days of & Dun 2008). Sahlstein and Dun’s (2008) study focuses on Summer and relational dialectics theory connected? More autonomy and connection to explore why breakups occur. importantly, by looking through the lens of RDT, what can be Sahlstein and Dun accomplish this by setting out to answer said about modern breakups and how does this challenge two questions. First, how do couples talk about their man- the antagonistic view of romantic breakups? This study exagement of autonomy-connection prior to breakup? Sec- plores the natural tensions of a contemporary relationship ond, how do relational partners describe their breakup as while at the same time examining determinates and effects a matter of autonomy-connection struggle (Sahlstein & Dun, of a breakup. By observing (500) Days of Summer through 2008)? While the study does have something to say about the lens of relational dialectics theory these tensions, deterrelationships and break-ups, it also provides another defini- minates, and effects of a breakup become more clear. tion in explaining relational dialectics theory: After reviewing the literature the foundation is laid to exAccording to this approach, various contradictions are at plore how the theory of relational dialectics and the related play in relational life. A contradiction is the “dynamic inter- concepts of antagonistic struggles and fatal attractions applay between unified oppositions.” In particular, individuals ply to Tom and Summer’s contemporary true-to-life breakup. in personal relationships have consistently reported expe- The following analysis explores how three internal dialecriencing a contradiction between their simultaneous need tics, antagonistic struggles and the notion of fatal attraction for separation and integration. This contradiction is central relate to Tom and Summer’s relationship. To begin, a closer during relational termination, as this process is inherently a look at the relationship between Tom and Summer of (500) change from a particular kind of connection to autonomy. Days of Summer is taken while applying the lens of RDT, (38) allowing one to view the key elements of a miscommunica-
tion and imbalance of relational dialectics within Tom and Summer’s relationship. As the movie progresses through the story of Tom and Summer, both parties appear to be happy within their relationship. However, the film mainly reveals the relationship through Tom’s perspective. As a result, at the beginning of the movie Summer appears to be a kind of villain or antagonist for breaking up with Tom. But, as the movie progresses and nears the end, Tom is beginning to move on with his life and is advised by his younger sister to play through his memories again and pay attention to all the bad parts of his relationship with Summer that he had been ignoring for the majority of the movie. Once Tom is able to realize this, he is able to completely move on with his life and realize that there is always another day and another person to meet and fall in love with. By examining Tom and Summer’s relationship one can see examples of how the internal dialectics of the three relational dialects affect their relationship. These internal dialectics include connectedness-separation, certainty-uncertainty and openness-closedness. As stated earlier, internal dialectics will be explored more so than the external because they apply more to Tom and Summer’s relationship due to the fact that the movie is focused primarily on them and not their interactions with the people around them and society for that matter. In general, a primary problem that can be observed in Tom and Summer’s relationship is their lack of ability to balance connectedness-separation. Tom and Summer’s problem with balancing connectedness-separation has much to do with the fact that, according to Baxter & Montgomery, “no relationship can exist by definition unless the parties sacrifice some individual autonomy. However, too much connection paradoxically destroys the relationship because the individual identities become lost” (Baxter & Montgomery, 2009, p. 157). In the film, as soon as Tom tries to define his relationship with Summer and put a label on it everything about their relationship starts to progress more towards the disintegration of the relationship. In other words, when Tom tries to get closer to Summer, because he is convinced that he is in love with her, he makes her question if she is really in love with him. Summer then begins to worry that if something does not happen to change their relationship, she is just going to be miserable and end up hurting Tom. While it is evident that connectedness-separation problems do exist within Tom and Summer’s relationship, there is not much to be said about their own individual autonomy--otherwise known as personal freedom--while they are together, main-
ly because the movie focuses more on Tom’s point of view and his journey towards recovery from the heartache. His journey, however, does show the re-establishment of his autonomy, as he begins to live again without worrying about Summer. It is this progression shows how beneficial it was for him to be in a relationship with Summer. The problems associated with connectedness-separation is not uncommon. As mentioned above, Tom and Summer’s relationship difficulties relate to Sahlstein and Dun’s (2008) study that focuses on autonomy and connection to figure out why break-ups occur in relationships. The results did show that couples labeled connectedness and autonomy as a factor in explaining why they broke up. It also explored the antagonistic form of contradiction, in which each person is aligned with a different pole of contradiction (Sahlstein & Dun, 2008). The antagonistic form of contradiction can be seen as reason to explain how the notion of a villain occurs and seeing as each person is aligned with a different pole of contradiction it is highly possible that people will disagree at some point. Once the relationship ends it is likely that one person will be held responsible in the other individual’s mind and be labeled as a villain. However, seeing as the antagonism is coming from both sides of the relationship, one person cannot be held entirely responsible for the dissolution of the relationship. Instead, it is due to both parties lack of communication and inability to balance their relational dialectic tensions that brought about a break up. Tom’s urge to define the status of their relationship is also linked to two other internal relational dialectics, certaintyuncertainty and openness-closedness. Tom and Summer experience problems once Tom seeks to define their relationship and have a bit of certainty, an example of certaintyuncertainty. Summer is conflicted with the uncertainty as to whether or not she feels the same as Tom feels about her. Part of what adds to this tension is that before Tom and Summer started dating, it was made apparent that Summer does not believe in love but Tom does. To further support this point, when Tom and Summer have a chance last meeting Summer finally tells Tom the primary reason that lead to their break up: Tom: You never wanted to be anybody’s girlfriend and now you’re somebody’s wife. Summer: It surprised me too.
Tom: I don’t think I’ll ever understand that. I mean it doesn’t make sense. Summer: It just happened. Tom: Right, but that’s what I don’t understand. What just happened? Summer: I just..I just woke up one day and I knew. Tom: Knew what? Summer: What I was never sure of with you. (Webb 2009) It is clear that uncertainty played a part in their break up. Summer, someone who did not believe in love, was uncertain about how she truly felt about Tom. Even though she knew she was happy, she could not work through the tension and the relationship suffered. Tom, on the other hand believed in love and was certain that he loved Summer. He also struggled with trying to establish certainty in the relationship because he wanted to know that when he woke up in the morning that Summer was still going to feel the same way about him as she did the night before. As a result of this, Tom has difficulty understanding what Summer was experiencing internally. In short, Tom was certain that he loved Summer and Summer was uncertain that she loved Tom. The tension between both uncertainty and certainty eventually pushed the two apart The final dialectic, openness-closedness, differs from the others in relation to Tom and Summer in that the tension caused by it is the catalyst of all of the other tensions. In a scene where Tom and Summer are talking in her apartment for the first time, the narrator of the movie is quick to point out that when Tom finally gets to see Summer’s inner sanctum, that few have ever been to, Tom begins to feel as though Summer’s thick walls have finally begun to dissolve. This can be interpreted as Summer becoming more open and intimate with Tom. However, when Summer talks to Tom about her dreams and fears, Tom makes himself believe that because he is hearing this information and because Summer states that she has never told anyone her secrets that he is not just anyone but someone truly special to her. However, the irony of the exchnage is that it spurs Tom to try and define what
exactly his relationship with Summer is: are they couple or are they just friends with benefits? Due to the fact that Tom and Summer’s relationship has become more intimate at this point, Tom pushes to establish certainty and connectedness within the relationship, but fails to realize Summer’s uncertainty, separation, and closedness. Overall, the first scene in Summer’s apartment can be viewed as containing what is described as a part of second generation dialectics: constitutive dialogue. This is, this scene and dialogue cause waves of changes in Tom and Summer’s relationship that end up generating tension until the relationship completely disintegrates. Finally, of the other determinates that can play into a breakup, fatal attraction is apparent within (500) Days of Summer.The movie has two different scenes where Tom goes through a list attributes and features that he deems as good qualities that he “loves about Summer.” However, those same qualities when combined with his animosity toward Summer become attributes that he finds to be annoying and unattractive. Tom’s own example validates that the theory of fatal attraction is real, even in the most modern of relationships. When observing relationships, it is also wise to analyze breakups. The determinants and effects of a breakup take their toll on everyone. This point is evident within (500) Days of Summer as the viewer is able to witness firsthand how Tom and Summer’s relationship fell apart, as well as the miserable state Tom is put in once he realizes that he is never going to get Summer back in his life. The way the effects of a breakup connect to relational dialectics is that by knowing the forces behind a breakup allows one to see what started the spiral towards dissolution in the first place. In other words, it makes it clear which dialectical tensions played a part in directing a couple to a certain breakup determinate. Determinates and dialectics go hand-in-hand. For example, a problem with a person’s connectedness-separations can be seen as someone’s decision to breakup with someone because they are not spending enough time with that person. As a whole, break ups are another messy aspect of our lives. Miscommunication and an imbalance of relational dialectics are constant within many romantic relationships. But, with theories such as relational dialects and a variety of studies on break ups, one can begin to work through problems such as miscommunication and dialectical imbalance, thereby allowing one to grow as a person and thus improve their ability to handle relationship.
This study has provided numerous examples to support the argument that miscommunication and relational dialectic imbalance, in many romantic, heterosexual relationships cause break ups by applying the lens of relational dialectics theory to the film (500) Days of Summer. Through the analysis given, one can see how the three relational dialectics (integrationseparation, stability-change, expression-nonexpression) and their internal dialects (connectedness-separation, certaintyuncertainty and openness-closedness) were evident within Tom and Summer’s relationship and how the couple dealt with experiencing the tensions caused by those dialectics. The analysis reveals that it was a lack of balance in regards to the tensions caused the disintegration of their relationship and not that Summer was a robot, as Tom proclaims later in the movie. This study also provides a look at the way breakups can occur and an effect of a breakup. Furthermore, the main concepts and ideas behind this study are not limited to many romantic, heterosexual relationships. These observations can also have implications for various relationships as well, such as the relationships with friends, family, romantic homosexual relationships and so on.
Baxter, L. A. (2004). A Tale of Two Voices: Relational Dialectis Theory. The Journal of Family Communication , 181-192.
In closing, relationships do not necessarily fail because something is wrong with either partner. Many relationships fail because most people do not know how to deal with the natural tensions within them. Nevertheless, tensions are viewed as a problem, and problems make it easier for someone to be labeled as a villain--or a cause of those tensions-because most people do not know how to balance out the tensions within relationships. Once people learn how to balance these natural tensions within a relationship, it becomes easier to achieve a long lasting relationship or at least a cleaner breakup. As Em Griffin (2009) states:
Baxter, L., & Montgomery, B. (2009). Relational Dialectics. In E. Griffin, A First Look at Communication Theory (7th Edition ed., pp. 154-168). New York: McGraw-Hill. Felmlee, D. H. (2001). From Appealing to Appalling: Disenchantment with a Romantic Parnter. Sociological Perspectives , 44 (3), 263-280. Felmlee, D., Sprecher, S., & Bassin, E. (1990). The Dissolution of Intimate Relationships: A Hazard Model. Social Psychology Quarterly , 53 (1), 13-30. Griffin, E. (2009). A First Look at Communication Theory. New York: McGraw-Hill. Hlywa, C., & Maguire, K. (2008). Attachment Style as a Possible Predictor of Maintenance in Post-Dissolutional Relationships. Conference Papers - National Communication Association , 1-28. Puig, C. (2009, July 19). Bask in the warmth of delightful ‘(500) Days of Summer’. Retrieved May 6, 2010, from USA TODAY: http://www.usatoday.com/life/movies/reviews/2009-0716-500-days-of-summer_N.htm Sahlstein, E., & Dun, T. (2008). “I wanted Time to Myself and He Wanted to be Together All the Time”: Construction Breakups as Managing Autonomy-Connection. Qualitative Research Reports in Communication, 37-45. Scott, A. O. (2009, July 17th). Movie Review - (500) Days of Summer - Love at the Greeting Card Company: Best Wishes on Your Breakup. Retrieved April 20, 2010, from The New York Times: http://movies.nytimes.com/2009/07/17/ movies/17five.html?partner=Rotten%20Tomato &ei=5083
Thomson, D. (2009, July 17). 500 Days of Summer Movie I find that many students feel a tremendous sense of relief Showtimes and Reviews on washingtonpost.com. Retrieved when they read about relational dialectics. That is because April 19, 2010, from The Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/gog/movies/500-days-of-summer,1156299. the theory helps them realize that the ongoing tensions they html experience with their friend, family member, or romantic partner are an inevitable part of relational life rather than Travis, J. (2009, July 17). ‘(500) Days of Summer’: She’s just not a warning sign that something is terribly wrong wither their that into you. Retrieved April 19, 2010, from Chicago Tribune: http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2009-07-17/entertainpartner or themselves. (165) ment/0907160458_1_new-boss-dating-oscar Webb, M. (Director). (2009). (500) Days of Summer [Motion Picture].
The Jurymen By Katherine Janson
Classicists and the unspecialized viewer have an interest in learning about these events, however the average viewer The Jurymen is an Old Comedy style play fashioned after has less knowledge about the subject than the Classicist and Aristophanes that discusses the philosophies of ancient therefore is less quick to learn. However, by seeing an imitathinkers, namely Plato and Aristotle. The goal of this project tion of the facts, in this case embodied in a play, the averis to further an understanding of ancient philosophy, drama, age viewer can more easily understand the information. and public life in the most effective and memorable way possible. The Jurymen is meant to serve first and foremost as The subject matter of the play also aims to achieve the goal a teaching tool for both students of Classics and the average of learning. The life and death of Socrates has become one interested person. When assessing how to most effectively of the most well-known stories of the ancient world. Socrates’ attain this goal, and after taking to heart the philosophy of death is an iconic time in Athenian history, and his life seamone of its main subjects, writing a play soon became the lessly encompasses many realms of life of the ancient Atheobvious answer. The two main reasons for this are dialogue nian. A philosopher who was satirized in drama, fought in and imitation. wars, loved a political leader, inspired in others critiques of piety and art, and met his end in the public court systemLife for the ancient Athenians, like life for us, was not divided -Socrates is a prime example of the multi-faceted life in Athup into subjects, with each area of study neatly contained, ens and is therefore an ideal subject for the play. but was more like a tapestry tightly woven together with all areas of life interacting in midst of a thriving culture. People Scholars have argued for centuries over the true character were not conscious solely of art or philosophy or politics or of Socrates. As a modern reader it is impossible to know for drama or war but interacted with all. sure several key details about Socrates and his life or character. For example, the philosophy of Socrates as presented In this same way, philosophy in ancient Athens was espein Plato could in fact be original to Plato, who uses Socrates cially well connected; it actually got out of the house and only as a mouthpiece in his writings. This is the first hurdle in saw a bit of the world. And when it saw something of interrepresenting Socrates in a modern play. It is tempting to try est, it commented on it. Ancient philosophy is an ongoing and continue the search for the “true Socrates” through this dialogue, not only amongst itself, but also amongst those creative medium, but such a feat would be impossible. Inmany aspects of Athenian life: Aristotle’s view on drama is stead, The Jurymen aims to bring together the many ancient a response to Plato, whose view is arguably a response to accounts of Socrates and present them in as comprehensive Aristophanes, who wrote his own response to Socrates. The a way as possible. history of Athens is already an ongoing dialogue; all that the Jurymen aims to do is put the conversation back together The provided commentary connects the play with the texts, again. showing the ancient roots of the characters’ words and actions. The purpose of the commentary is to provide citations As for the way to best educate an audience on these points, for the sources used to write the play as well as background The Jurymen steals its inception straight out of Aristotle. In explanatory information that will further the understanding the Poetics, Aristotle writes: of its references. Introduction: Seeing Plato through Aristophanes
“...to learn gives the liveliest pleasure, not only to philosophers but to men in general; whose capacity, however, of learning is more limited. Thus the reason why men enjoy seeing a likeness is, that in contemplating it they find themselves learning or inferring.” (Poetics, 1448b12-18)
The commentary will also highlight intentional inaccuracies. As with modern movie adaptations of books, there will be times that the play takes liberties with history. For this reason, all deviations from historical norms and the reasons for them will appear in the commentary, so as to prevent confusion or a misrepresentation of the facts without explanation. The first inaccuracy is scene designation: ancient plays had Imitation--i.e. watching action in the setting of a play--is no such divisions of scenes in their plays. They are added not just a mindless delight, but an important teaching tool. here for the sake of footnote numbering. The application of this idea in Jurymen is very similar: both
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