An Invisible Man

May 12, 2011

“Invisibility is the state of an object that cannot be seen. An object in this state is said to be invisible (literally, “not visible”).” (Wikipedia)  Where to begin!? With such a large text, many themes and motifs run throughout each page.  I particularly liked this novel, mostly because of the easy read, and it was not so philosophical, nor did it use psychological terminology (although, an “eyeball” or two have shown through in some chapters). The narrator begins by telling us he in an “invisible man” because the world around him cannot see him for truly who he is.  “Nothing has meaning.  He takes it but he doesn’t digest it. Already he is-well bless my soul- behold! A walking zombie! Already he has learned to repress not only his emotions but his humanity.  He’s invisible. “(94)

From the get-go we see the narrator invisible under many things.  He is uneducated, and always a part of someone else’s project—whether Bledsoe, Norton, or the Brotherhood.  No wonder he cannot figure out his true identity.  In a sense, with allowing so many people to rule over him, the narrator chooses to be invisible.  In other senses, the narrator is visible without even trying, simple because of his race.  African Americans are a race that receives attention they do not want; they tend to always be a spectacle.  Working with the brotherhood, the narrator believes he has an identity.  However we soon find out he is being manipulated.  With this brotherhood he truly was only a Samboo Doll.  The question of identity echoes throughout the book, it seems he is always taking a roll, which he thinks will bring about a person in him.   The narrator is invisible because , “people refuse to see me”(7) .  However, he is not complaining, because sometimes it is an advantage to be unseen.  We learn that an individual with little or no identity, will eventually resort to a life of isolation.

The Ambassadors

April 11, 2011

An Ambassador can be defined as “the highest ranking diplomat who represents a nation and is usually accredited to a foreign sovereign or government, or to an international organization.” (Wikipedia) As I finished the novel I tried to relate it to the picture of the Ambassadors that Henry James saw before titling his novel.  I still don’t really understand the relation between the two. But I do have a couple of ideas.  Perhaps, the two men faced the same problem as Strether;  being that the biggest regret of his life was him forgetting that he too will die.  The 2 Ambassadors do not look like they have lived the happiest, fullest, lives either. The picture does however set up the scene.  Strether is also worried about his failures, and these failures are haunting him.  A very nervous guy that carries around with him his past nightmares.  Perhaps James saw Strether in the solemn face Ambassadors of the painting.

This novel shows a great difference between innocence and experience.  In Glorian’s Garden, Strether reminds his young friends to live life to the fullest.  He wants the young to learn from his mistake.  Perhaps this garden can be related to a miniature version of the Garden of Eden.  Characters enter gardens and then learn things that may lure away innocence.

Anamorphosis can be defined as a distorted projection that requires the viewer to occupy a vantage point in order to see the image a different way.  If one looks head on at the Ambassador painting, it is very difficult to see the skull on the bottom of the painting.  Just like if one was to look at Strether above the surface, one may not realize his sorrows and regrets.  Remember you too shall die, echoes throughout this book and this painting.

“He is looking for that quality which you must allow me to call ‘modernity’; for I know of no better word to express the idea in mind.” (40 ). The ephemeral, the fugitive, the contingent, the half of art whose other half is the eternal .  Every age of art is known for a certain kind of beauty.  One must study the old masters in order to learn how to paint.  But that painter of todays generation must understand present day beauty.  One must be an observer of life to understand beauty.   “The idea of beauty which man creates for himself imprints itself on his whole attire, crumples or stiffens his dress, rounds off or squares his gestures, and in the long run even ends by subtly penetrating the very features of his face.” (37). These engravings are either beauty or ugliness, antique or new.

In “The Pupil”, i thought I would be reading of an eye.  Not a student and tutor relationship.  In Morgan’s case he lives in a horrific environment that  is tragically provided by his own family. One of James’ characters falls ill to society and an actual disesase.  This short story can be called a classic tragedy.  There’s no doubt that Morgan is disappointed when he sees Pemberton hesitate about taking him away from his worthless family.  In a sense, perhaps this is what killed him.

“The Real Thing” is everything but the real thing.  James plays with the whole meaning of the ‘real thing’ throughout the plot.  In relating the real thing to the senior seminar class as  a whole, many profound questions come to mind.  Sometimes, one can wonder in life what actually is real.  The pupil’s love for his tutor? or rather is that his last option only because of his family? Beauty in present day? or rather replicated beauty from past generations? Henry James not only is confusing, but he really cracks codes that I would rather have left unquestioned.

Where are we now?

March 20, 2011

“There was tendency to replace the activities of the hand by machine.” Oliver Wendall Holmes

As technology evolves, humans devolve.  Muybridge opened a doorway between the old world and ours and to follow him is to follow the choices that got us her.  Technical reproduction can put the copy of the original into situations which would be out of reach for the original itself.  Above all, it enables the original to meet the beholder halfway, be it in the form of  a photograph or a phonograph record.  The cathedral leaves its locale to be received in the studio of a love of art; the choral production, performed in an auditorium or in the open air, resounds in the drawing room..” -Walter Benjamin Much like Benjamin, William James uses the unseen as a way of dealing with technological advances.  His religious belief is a constructive reality

William James wrote in a letter to his friend, ” The problem I have set myself is a hard one: first, to defend ‘experience’ against ‘philosophy’ as being the real back-bone of the world’s religious life.. and second, to make the hearer or reader believe, what i myself invincibly do believe, that, although all the special manifestations of religion may have been absurd ( I mean its creeds and theories), yet the life of it as a whole is mankind’s most important function.”  James was also fulfilling a pledge in which he told his father he would someday deal with the issue of religion.

William James did not look at religion as it appeared in the object, for instance God, but rather as it appeared in the subject.  William James thought of religion in the sense of believing, doubting, praying and experiencing.  William James was above all a humanitarian.

The Fundamental fact: Consciousness of some sort goes on.

-How?

1)Every thought tends to be part of a personal consciousness.

2)Within each personal consciousness thoughts are always changing.

3) Each personal consciousness thought is sensibly continuous.

4) Consciousness always appears to deal with objects independent of itself.

5) It is interested in some parts of these objects and chooses from among them.

Rita Carter believes that wherever attention goes, your consciousness follows.  Change blindness demonstrates that we are only aware of a tiny bit of a scene at a time.  Even though it most certainly does not feel this way.  Consciousness as Carter put it, seems to arise at the same time as the events actually take place.  We actually live our lives half a second out of synchrony with the external world.  A huge state of our lives is lived, un-reportable. Our inability to remember anything before our attention was engaged suggests that we were not conscious until that moment.  But perhaps, consciousness is always on, even with our eyes open and when we slip into an unconscious state.  The only sort of consciousness that we can ever be sure of is reported consciousness.  This can only arise in which a system is responsible in recording its own state.

Knowing what goes on in a persons mind from moment to moment is impossible.  “The idea-that mind is the basis of reality- is essentially the same as the religious belief that places God as the source of all.”  Much like William James, Rita Carter takes a religious stance when in comes to the human conscious.  Either mind, consciousness, God, is the root of all things, or matter goes right to the bottom and mind is just some special physical state.

Wikipedia Ideas

March 3, 2011

-“dream of reading”

-the horizon line

-visual intelligence

“The volcanic upheaval of the nation, after that firing on the flag at Charleston, proved for certain something which had been previously in great doubt, and at once substantially settled the question of disunion. In my judgment it will remain as the grandest and most encouraging spectacle yet vouchsafed in any age, old or new, to political progress and democracy” , stated Whitman in this text.  Whitman described this experience as National Will finally surfacing for Americans.  Whitman said out of all the days of the war, two stick out immensely to him.  Those occasions were the battle of Bull Run, and Abraham Lincoln’s death.  He says his mother and him barely said a word and could not eat, only silently pass the paper between one another.  The war all in all, was difficult for Whitman.  He sat by bedsides, he visited hospitals,and saw the destruction these battles were actually doing to families.  Whitman visited particular hospitals to soothe patients, a truly kind man at heart.

July 4th, Whitman tells us how he visited more patients.  “I walk’d on to Armory hospital—took along with me several bottles of blackberry and cherry syrup, good and strong, but innocent. Went through several of the wards, announc’d to the soldiers the news from Meade, and gave them all a good drink of the syrups with ice water, quite refreshing—prepar’d it all myself, and serv’d it around.” He reaccounts how he heard the Washington bells ringing in the background.  More weeks pass, the weather becomes more unbearable, and Washington believes they have seen the worst.  “So here she sits with her surrounding hills spotted with guns, and is conscious of a character and identity different from what it was five or six short weeks ago, and very considerably pleasanter and prouder.”

On October 20th, Whitman talks of the stars and a long walk after a long visit to the hospital.  Its remarkable how such things he can still take notice of after all the awful and morbid things he sees during his days.  “Somehow it look’d rebukefully strong, majestic, there in the delicate moonlight. The sky, the planets, the constellations all so bright, so calm, so expressively silent, so soothing, after those hospital scenes. I wander’d to and fro till the moist moon set, long after midnight.”

“During those three years in hospital, camp or field, I made over six hundred visits or tours, and went, as I estimate, counting all, among from eighty thousand to a hundred thousand of the wounded and sick, as sustainer of spirit and body in some degree, in time of need.” Whitman considers these three years the greatest of his life.  These experiences taught him the most profound lesson of his life.  Whitman, during this time, slighted not a soul.  Whitman comments on the thousands of “unknown” graves, this passage simply gave me goosebumps.  One can tell through his writings that he truly was affected in every way by these battles.  “–it is best they should not—the real war will never get in the books.” Whitman believed a race was determined by how it faced death and anguish. “– in the glints of emotions under emergencies, and the indirect traits and asides in Plutarch, we get far profounder clues to the antique world than all its more formal history.”

Trachtenberg argues in the other text we had to read for todays blog, that “how each of these albums (Brady & Gardners) of war confronts this intractable power to depict war as an event in everyday life.”  These illustrations really show us what war was.  Photographs represent actuality.  They show more than an artists hand at work.  “They appear as tokens of a remembered horror, ” states Trachtenberg.  Photos of this war represent the unthinkable, the unimaginable.  “The real war will never get in the books.” -Walt Whitman.  “We think of Whitman’s words as a lament, a loss for which, however, we can find consolation in photographs” says Trachetenberg.  We know that there is different relation between image and text.  However, in Gardners work, he places text under each of his images, along with dates.  The real war, lies in images and texts.  Both tell us of a history we were not present for, but can relive throughout others words and photography. For Whitman’s sake, we can see the real war throughout photos.

Emily Dickinson, as a poet, is not so easy to comprehend. Much of her poetry needs to be read multiple times, and much of what she is trying to say is hidden beneath the surface.  She often writes about her valuing nature, accepting death, or exploring religion. A term in class that we have been concentrating on is the camera obscura.  The camera obscura guaranteed access to an objective truth about the outside world.  This was a device that needed lightness and darkness to function properly, and helped the people of the time think and understand more about vision. According to Jonathan Crary, “the camera obscura was a demonstration of how an observer can know the world uniquely by perception of the mind.”  He goes on to say, “founded on laws of nature- that is, geometrical optics- the camera provided an infallible vantage point of the world.” Much like Dickinson’s poems that describe, “seeing”, the camera obscura shows us a view of  “seeing” the world as well.

In poem 648, Dickinson literally and figuratively describes a dying eye.  In comparing the camera obscura to this poem’s, “seeing”, we can actually start with this “Dying Eye”.  Vision is impossible without the eye, and obviously the camera obscura would be of no use without eyes.  This eye was “in search of something- as it seemed- then cloudier become- and then- obscure with Fog-.” Here is another reference to seeing.  The cloudier the air is, the more difficult it is to see.  Much like the camera obscura would be of no use, if we were trying to use it in a dense fog.  As the eye was searching for something and as it became more cloudy, the fog made things not clear and vague and difficult to view.   She goes on to describe how, “without disclosing what it be ‘twere blessed to have seen-” What I get out of this, is that many take advantage of how beautiful sight and seeing really are.  We are blessed to have working eyes, and a dying eye, should be grateful that he or she has seen such marvelous things.  Much like we should be grateful for the camera obscura.  This device paved the way for advanced technology today.  The camera obscura, like our eyes, showed us the truth and beauty of the world around us.

The camera obscura was one of the inventions that led to photography.  Both words come from Latin, meaning, “darkened chamber or room”.  Which is ironic because photography would not be possible if it were not for light.  “Above all, whether in the work of scientists or artists, empiricists or rationalists, it was an apparatus that guaranteed access to an objective truth about the world.” After reading that sentence three more times and trying to really grasp it, I started thinking about the world without visual images.  With only seeing things in your own life.  No broadcasting of casualties in Iraq, no college basketball games, and no soap-operas! Event though some do not show the truth of the world, our lives would still be entirely different.  Much of the war we are in know, is only known about because of images.  “Observation leads to truthful inferences about an external world.”  The camera obscura was a model for producing truth and image.  Without these small steps towards photography we would never be where we are today.  The camera obscura brought our culture and our observing skills to where they are today.

“I know that the world I converse with in the city and in the farms, is not the world I think. I observe that difference and shall observe it. One day, I shall know the value and law of this discrepance.” Emerson claims this at the very end of his text.  I think he shows us here that everyone sees differently our of their eyes.  No two people are alike, everyone makes judgements, and everyone has predetermined thoughts on people they do not even know.  No two worlds are alike.

Emerson also talks about observing success, and how that is not often as observed as having a good income or a decent job.  We as humans, don’t observe which the world creates.  Perhaps, we are examining all the wrong images.  Perhaps we should return to the camera obscura, for that showed the most truth.

Last Call.

December 23, 2010

I would like to first begin, with English 255 being the first course at Queens College where I was asked to blog.  Whether typing feelings on the novel of the week, or just feelings in general.  At first I was hesitant, mostly because not only did you, the professor, have access to my thoughts, but classmates as well. However, I soon fell in love with the fact that I had a place to go just to type on anything and everything.   Simply having a blog that you spend time on shows positive aspects of your personal character. Another benefit of blogging from this class was the ability to write about what you want to write about. It gives you the freedom to be your own editor, to produce something of substance and develop your craft.  I often found myself looking at blogs not only from the class role but just blogs that were offered for views on the Internet.   The fact that you let us stray away from the proposed assignment was probably what I loved most about this class.  The fact that you were willing to read and grade us on whatever we wanted to talk about in the particular novel was so refreshing.  Steering away from the ten page paper final on something you can not even make three paragraphs about was such a   generous, early Christmas present.

As I finish up this course, I went back over the syllabus.  You stressed how this particular course has considerably evolved over the years, becoming less a course dedicated to presenting the so-called canon to a course offering a greater representation of the experience of women and minorities.  You went on to say, that we will experience a lot in 255, and we will communicate our reactions, thoughts, doubts, and misgivings.  That is what the blog helped me do, especially if I could not make it to class.  It was easy to read an assignment and read at home and then post your thoughts onto your blog.  However, without your guide, this course would have been much more difficult.  If I had not gone to class the week before, during, and after The Sound and the Fury or Heart of Darkness, I would have been completely lost.  Another great thing I received from this course was falling in love with the books you particularly enjoyed.  It was obvious when you expressed your feelings on the Sound and the Fury how much you take pleasure in it.  Your words before reading, only made me more eager to jump into the text.  Overall, your enthusiasm in these works you had chosen for the class, only helped me become more excited to read.  It was obvious you loved the particular texts you chose.

I guess, in conclusion to the course, I “almost” understand the question marks on this 255? Class website.  Which, bottom line, is reading.  A big question mark.  I think that is what I enjoy most about being an English major, the option that you get to love a book or despise it. Thats almost odd, because it almost sounds like being an English major is simple?!

I think that this class was very inimitable. I think that there really isn’t more merit in any type or age of writing. I think that the canon is basically futile.   Everyone is going to have their own opinion on what author they like and do not like. A canon is just some other peoples opinion at base.  What a canon does do is make there less of a chance for new writers to get their work into the class room. No novel is really worth more than another one. Lets face it, work that is in the canon, must be very well written for sure.  But it is not what everyone gets enjoyment from, and that is what reading is about, enjoying yourself.  The Canon refers to the Hemingway and the Elliots of the world, the socially acceptable text.  But that is exactly what I like least about  Literature.  I appreciate the gruesome, the truth, the hard facts, the child getting his face eaten off by a pig as a baby in Diaz’s text, and the sick and twisted relationships in The Sound and The Fury.  That is what keeps me, as a reader, coming back for more. I would say my least favorite text was Obama’s.  Because I could not find any connection with it, it was to plain for my liking.

For future syllabuses, i think there should include more “global” works.  Straying away from American writers, really helps one learn about our world.  We all too often forget that others have it much worse than us. Introudcing other cultures and customs would help enlighten us, and help us look at the bigger picture… Just a thought.  Thanks for your time.   To you professor, and my other classmates, a very happy holiday and healthy new year.