Tuesday, December 9, 2008

December Literature Circle Posting Assignment (Round Two)

Image: Louise Bourgeois in 1990 with her marble sculpture Eye to Eye (1970) Photo: Raimon Ramis. Taken from Telegraph.co.uk.

This is a 100 point homework assignment.
  • You need to make 4 posts in total. There is a Part A and a Part B to each post you make.

  • All posts are due by December 23rd @ noon., though you should be posting within the next week. Keep in mind others depend on your comments to continue with their own.

  • Please title your posts Post 1-5, Parts A and B, etc.
    Part A: Post your reaction to something specific and thought provoking in the book (though this is not a minimum, your post should be at least a couple hundred words.) Feel free to ask questions in this section as well, since everyone will be reading these posts.
    Part B: You should also respond by elaborating on another comment in the stream (about the same length--a couple hundred words as a minimum.)

You will be graded on the Malden High School Open Response Rubric.

The above prompts are vague because it is up to you as a group to start to develop your own focus. You can feel free to bring in outside research etc, just make sure you cite or give a link to your sources—but I’m most interested in your “philosophical” discussions about specifics in the books and your ability to discuss the writer’s technique and how he or she affects meaning.

Middle Eastern Feminist Literature (Round Two)

Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America by Firoozeh Dumas

Group members:
Sodaba D.
Jenny L.
Vanessa G
Ashley A.

An interesting "conversation" between Khaled Hosseini and Firoozeh Dumas.

Monsters in Literature: Othello (Round Two)

Group members:
Kristen W.
Mario P.
Kayla P.
Emily C.
Tzivia H.

I'll post image and book when you all finalize.

Comparative Theme: The "Journey" (Round Two)

Herman Hesse's "Siddhartha".

Group members:
Michaela I.
Alinne D.
Mary N.

There's tons of info on this book, like the wiki page, but I think it best if you stick to both your philosophic reaction to the book, comparisons to The Alchemist, and passage explications.

Spirituality and / or Philosophy in Lit Group THE INFERNO (Round Two)

Group members:

Mels R.
Matty Z.
Cynthia R

I'll post an image when you give me the translation of Dante's Inferno that you are all reading.

Ibsen's Ghosts (Round Two)

Group members:

Andy V.
Stephen C.
Carla C.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Matt Z. on page 302

Matt Z! said...

Page 302

On page 302 of Tom Phillips' A Humument, Phillips creates a cause-and-effect relationship that explains his philosophical reason for the existence of hell. This view is presented to the audience by his simplistic, yet revealing, use of color and shape that depicts a descent into darkness, biblical references in the form of numerology, and interjections of staccato text, which appear as if they are interjecting thoughts in a degenerating psyche. Together, these techniques create a situation where the carnal emotions of man send the reader on a self-reflective journey to discover the darkest parts of their own nature, and the consequences for acting on such dark emotions.

At first glance, the most prominent object on page 302 of A Humument is, in fact, the only colored object on the page. Sitting in the center of the top of the page against a solid black background is an unnerving blood-red object. This irregularly-shaped spot extends about a third of the way down the page, terminating in a circular shape that oddly enough looks like a flow of blood pooling on a flat surface. The shape of this object both hints at the spilling of blood, and starts the downward progression of the observers eye which leads to the other objects in the image. Additionally, the color of the object (a dark blood-red), in combination with the black background of the piece, gives the entire piece a sinister tone. Phillips use of this specific shade of red is extremely important as well to the overall tone of the piece. Pure red is a vibrant color- used to show liveliness, energy, and passion. Blood-red, however, is a muddy and dark shade of red which hints at the corruption of this energy and passion. It symbolizes all of the darker passions that arise within human awareness, such as hatred, anger, and destructive feelings. Combined, all of these factors demonstrate that it is all of these darker emotions that contribute to the degeneration of the human mind into a hellish environment, which can be viewed as a method of self-induced quarantine.

Directly below this red shape is the most prominent piece of text on the page. In the center, slightly above the horizontal midline of the page, is “CHAPTER XXX” written in all capital letters. This holds a symbolic biblical meaning, as the number thirty (XXX read as a roman numeral) equates to divine order in biblical numerology. Also, these words are surrounded by a parchment-colored oval, which is the only circular object on the page. Circles are also interpreted to have an extremely spiritual meaning, as they represent unity, infinity, and perfection. This further strengthens the religious allusions present in this piece. Divine order becomes the driving force behind the work as a whole, and is philosophically hinted at more prominently towards the end of the observers experience with the piece. This selection of words is connected by two extremely thin parchment-colored lines, reminiscent of a lightning bolts, that shoot both upwards and downwards in order to connect the oval with “sorrow/ materials” above it and “the emotions of men” below it. In context, divine order becomes the unifying concept between all “sorrow/ materials” and all of “the emotions of men”. This reveals to the observer that when viewed through the eyes of a higher power, it is his/her own human nature that causes their own pain and suffering. Diction is also important here, as the blame is only placed upon the emotions “of men”, or in other words, those emotions that correspond to the darker side of humanity. Interestingly enough, these are the same emotions that are connected to the color blood-red.

Descending from “the emotions of men” is another off-white line which juts sharply downward into the black background before forking into two separate lines, each terminating at another piece of text. The eye’s descent down the page is both literal and figurative, as it also represents the descent into the darker realms of existence. One of the paths terminate in a simple phrase, which sounds more like an observation than anything else. Here, the observer learns that “hell is/ torments”, immediately being faced the horrible consequences of their darker “emotions”, which are prescribed by the divine order embodied by the number XXX. Ironically, the second pathway leads to a second observation, stating tersely “tongs, supplied”. Tongs are tools used by blacksmiths to manipulate metal at extremely high temperatures, like those associated with the burning fires of hell. The ironic message transmitted here is that thankfully, although a soul has found itself in hell, tongs are “supplied” so they do not burn themself.

Finally, at the very bottom of the page, is a block of text that is completely isolated. Fittingly enough, this text is “separated/ once for all”, and indeed it is the only text in the entire piece that is not connected to any other block of text. It is the lowest object on the page, and the last thing that the eye is drawn to. It reflects on the divine order theme hinted at by the roman numeral XXX, as well as eliciting a tone of quarantine and preservation.

It is here that a philosophical reason for hell is suggested at as well. When a person’s dark passions overtake them and they are sent down to hell, shown by the downward progression of the words on the page, they are effectively “separated/ once” from the rest of creation “for [the sake of] all”. Here is where the entire rest of the piece is put into perspective; where the cause (“the emotions of men” and all “sorrow/ materials”), the effect (placement into “hell”), and the reason interrelating the cause and effect (separation “for [the sake of] all”) is revealed.

Jenny L. on Tom Phillips page 354

Jenny L said...

Page 354

The lucidity of one’s memories is in a constant struggle against the inevitable darkness that comes with the fading of mortality as Tom Phillips depicts in his artwork. Phillips uses an excerpted page entitled the Human Document, to show the inevitable fade of one’s emotions and memories as time prevails. Through his contrasting use of colors, from vibrant to dark, thoughtful placement of his selective diction, and contrast of the artificial with the natural using specific images, Phillips is able to accomplish a mood of looming darkness and nightfall.

The brightest and most vibrant colors present on page 354 are shades of pinks and reds. These colors, dominate the major portions of the page, just as the most unforgettable memories may dominate the minds of its beholders. Such bright colors symbolize the most vivid experiences in one’s life. The color red possesses a dual meaning: with the brightness connoting joy but the redness connoting pain since it may allude to blood. With this duality in meaning, Phillips is able to portray the pieces that puzzle together to form the memories one holds: the feeling of happiness and pain. However, the bright colors Phillips uses is no doubt contrasted by the inking black that creeps up from the corner and is slowing engulfing the page. This contrast places emphasis on the two forces at hand. The force of the brightness of the piece, pushes for the prevalence of memory against the force of darkness as death slowly takes over. At the captured moment of the artwork, Phillips shows only a small portion of the page covered by the dead black color. Nonetheless, viewers receive an inevitable sense that the black color will soon overwhelm the art work as a whole, swallowing life and its memories along with it.

In addition to the contrast of colors, Phillips contrasts images as well through his use of perspective. He is able to depict life through cartoon like images of drawn flowers on the wall with a vibrant use of color, but he is also able to allude to life using natural colors of life, green and blue, shown through the small window. The perspective Phillips uses to draw viewers’ attention to the outside creates a focus on the distance of life. The outside, portraying an impressionistic image with a blue sky and green hill seems out of place and rather surreal. With the ambiguity of the shapes in the images of the outside, Phillips tries to show the blurring of one’s memories as “night” or rather death, looms near. Phillips shows the engulfing of one’s life along with its memories through the ebbing of the black color on the page, but he also uses a subtle blurring and darkening in the sky to foreshadow nightfall.

Phillips’s piece places words artistically to contribute to the sense of a fading memory of love as words trail listlessly down the page. Meant to illustrate the initial vividness of one’s memory, he groups together the majority of the words in his piece at the top of the page. However, the words soon become loose and separated just as one’s recollection of the past becomes vague and distant. Though death can envelop one’s memories, “loving [someone]…is contained in the record of the…night.” The “love” Phillips decides to incorporate in his piece suggests the immortality of the emotion despite physical death. The “love” is “recorded” despite the arrival of “night.” Phillips draws readers to the strands of words, as it protrudes through and contrasts the colors of the background. The speaker of the words seem to declare that since his memories has been swallowed by “night” he “can’t write anymore” and declares surrender as he “come…away”, departing from his memory. Since the words move off the page of the artwork, openings are created, leading to a leak of memories into the “night” the speaker refers to. The speaker surrenders his memories as the words “night” and “away” ventures off the canvas of the page. Like many of his other pages of artwork, Phillips uses the word “toge” to depict the separation of together. The memories of the past, whether it be emotions or experiences is now detached as death begins to overpower life.

Through the words he selects, he creates a parallel between night and death. Phillips depicts the overwhelming power of death as he uses night to show its fall upon light, leaving a sense of gloom and darkness.

The sunny facade that the picture portrays possesses an underlying and undeniable lingering darkness. Phillips utilizes both words and images to evoke the imagination of his viewers. As day turns into night, and as one’s life draws to an end, the memories one leaves behind must struggle against the darkness to be remembered. With clear distinctions between light and dark, contrasts between images of life and death, and diction placed to visually demonstrate the dominating struggle of the art piece, Phillips is able to develop the idea of not only life versus death, but the ability for memories of emotions and experiences to stay alive despite the death of its owner. As the title of the piece “A Human Document” suggests, Phillips’s art on page 354 represents a documentation of life and death along with the trail of memories left behind that struggles to be preserved.