Robert Walton’s Sieve of Nectar

The influence of Coleridge on Mary Shelley’s Characterization in Frankenstein

by Alyssa Rittinger

“Work without Hope draws nectar in a sieve, And Hope without an object cannot live”

(626, “Work Without Hope”)

“The die is cast; I have consented to return if we are not destroyed. Thus are my hopes blasted by cowardice and indecision; I come back ignorant and disappointed. It requires more philosophy than I possess to bear this injustice with patience.”

(Frankenstein, 24.37)

It is reasonable to presume that Mary Shelley was, by some extent, inspired by the works of Samuel Coleridge. His works are alluded in various ways throughoutFrankenstein. From an interpretive stance, Robert Walton is often compared to the Wedding Guest of Coleridge’s disconsolate poem “Rime of the Ancient Mariner.”  There are so many correlations with the Ancient Mariner poem that are explicitly alluded in Frankenstein that further comparison cannot be avoided. But Coleridge’s emulation of characterized hopelessness is one of the more distinguishing factors that compares directly with Shelley’s novella.  The epigraphs highlight the two excerpts in such a way that perfectly encapsulates this thematic correlation.

Coleridge’s “Work Without Hope” is a poem that juxtaposes the speaker’s perpetual depression with the optimism of nature making its gradual return to spring.  As beautiful and purposeful as life appears, the speaker feels somehow set apart, as though still stuck in a winter wasteland where he wilts away into idle uselessness.  The speaker alludes to having lost his sense of purpose.  He has nothing to hope for, nothing to strive for.  The world just continues on without him.

Frankenstein similarly expounds on the emotional ramifications of men who are overzealous with their own ambition, all of which liken to this form of helplessness.  With Victor Frankenstein, his pride constitutes as a primary consequence for his downfall.  For the creature, his desperation for companionship ends up eliminating any chance he may have had (or, arguably, could never have) in securing a loving dynamic with a human being.  Robert Walton, interestingly enough, represents a bitter marriage of these two qualities.

Walton, as a tertiary character, may not seem all that relevant to the direct context of Frankenstein’s cataclysmic ordeal with his creation.  Yet Walton still narrates a significant portion of the novella. His reflections on the morbid tale are what bring thematic questions to the forefront of the story. There are questions of exploration, hubris, family, companionship, fatality, etc.  All of these circumnavigate the events of Frankenstein and his creature, and culminate in the form of Walton himself.  His inactivity seems to be his only safeguard from complete ruin; however, the yearnings he has are conspicuously and intricately aligned with that of Frankenstein and his monster.  Frankenstein and his monster had both lost everything worth living for, and thereby lost themselves in the process.  Walton, being the second-hand audience of their tribulation, feels overcome with his own internalizations.  Whether it’s out of mimicry or relatability, Walton suffers the contagion of the same helpless melancholy that afflicted both Frankenstein and the creature. In this way, the conclusion of Frankenstein’s tale represents a parabolic harbinger for the ambitious seafarer.

Unlike Frankenstein and the creature, however, Walton still has a life to live for.  He has a sister waiting for him back home, the promise of returning to a land of warmer weather instead of succumbing to an icy sea.  Yet despite these optimisms, Walton now feels “ignorant and disappointed.”  He seems almost willfully blinded by the fact that his life still bears the promise of beauty, renewal, and solace.  The tumult of Frankenstein affected Walton’s perception of the world and his place in it.

That being said, Walton won’t necessarily be stuck in this proverbial rut for long.  His emotions seem to sway in accordance to those he surrounds himself with.  He is even influenced by the members of his crew, who convince him to give up the trek through the arctic and return home.  Walton explicitly recognizes that he will forsake knowledge in favor of safety, which is the lesson that Frankenstein was unable to learn.  Walton may have little inhibition with keeping his heart on his sleeve.  But there’s a keen awareness there that ensures Walton’s capability to adapt as the situation dictates.  So while he may feel like his limitations render his voyage impossible, like “drawing nectar from a sieve,” Walton still has a life that he can live. A home to return to, to a sister he cares for.  He can find a new “object” to center his “hope” on in such a way that was no longer possible for Frankenstein.

The Search For Truth

 

The Search for Truth:

An Exploratory Essay on the Metaphysical and Mimetic Significance of Christopher Marlowe’s ‘Doctor Faustus’

Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus brings a very wide assortment of knowledge to the forefront of the story. This is due, in part, to the premise of the play—that being Faustus’ ambitious desire to acquire all forms of knowledge. This is also due to the nature of Renaissance drama…Stories were formulated to mirror and reflect that of other archetypes, tropes, and literature. This was a means to demonstrate how smart the playwright was.  Shakespeare’s plays held formulaic storylines with predictable outcomes, as did Marlowe’s. It was a cultural indicator that showed their knowledge in the creative arts. Doctor Faustus pays particular attention to parallelisms between the protagonist, theological literature, and classic Greek mythography.  Marlowe paid very special attention to the correlations of these stories. It becomes evident that Faustus’ fascination with Greek mythology, and his hubristic dismissal for the dogmas of Christianity were both stemmed by his desire to obtain knowledge. Despite his biases, both of these spiritual domains were irrefutably connected by Faustus’ curiosity.  Marlowe boldly brought these allusions to light throughout the play’s progression, oftentimes in very literal forms. Noting their obvious importance, I couldn’t help but wonder how intricately the two belief systems correlated within the context of the story.  My inquiry on the matter started out being a very broad question—vague, even. All I could conjecture was that there was a definitive link between Christian theology and Greek mythos.  At first, I couldn’t quite articulate what specifically made it pertinent as a research topic.  But the more material I investigated, the more I discovered just how prominent the comparisons of the two cultural belief systems were within the text.   I consulted a myriad of scholarly sources in this endeavor. The ones I will be highlighting will be from essays written by scholars such as Michael Rudasill, T. McAlindon, and A.N. Okerland, among others. I also sought insights from a chapter discussion in Elias Shwartz’s novel on mimetic theory.  By the time I’d exhausted my efforts in trying to discern my question, it finally dawned on me:  The juxtaposition of these allusions were designed to reveal the truest extent of where Faustus went wrong in his quest for knowledge. The agreement in this was universal in my search. The parallelism of Christian theology and Classic mythology “melds myth so thoroughly and thrillingly into a diversity of structures: a Christian scheme, a medieval mystery, a Renaissance hunt for knowledge, and other pagan paradigms like the Icarus story” (Wessman, 413).

            Michael Carlton Rudasill composed a scholarly thesis for Florida Atlantic University titled “A Study of the Significance of Marlowe’s use of the Unforgivable Sin as a Plot Device in ‘Dr. Faustus.'” In it, he explores the extent in which Faustus’ blasphemy holds him spiritually accountable and thereby destroys any hope for redemption.  He also makes a commentary regarding how this demise parallels that of Greek tragedies.  Rudasill concedes that “the many scriptural allusions and references alluded to overtly or subtly inserted into the play by Marlowe provide more opportunities for research than can be readily handled in any single thesis (Rudasill 1).  And yet he managed to hone in on a very strong critical idea that supplemented my own exploration on the topic. There was one statement that rang particularly true in regards to my exploration: Rudasill highlights one of his sources, Judith Weil, who writes that “wisdom remains a strong presence in the world of Faustus; it is the grace that he repeatedly rejects, the intuitive love of God which, but for his folly, might have informed his learning and saved his soul” (qtd. in Rudasill 7). This agrees with the inevitability of Faustus’ fall from grace, and provides reasoning as to how his endeavor damned him. Rudasill takes this notion one step further and adds that Faustus’ casual dismissal of the discipline of divinity, a discipline and system of belief that was commonly treated as fact in Elizabethan England, shows the depth of his frivolous disrespect of a key part of his cultural heritage (27).  Faustus does indeed remove himself from his own culture and cultural doctrine…He does so by immersing himself in the romanticized incarnation of classical philosophies.  Rudasill draws a very apt conclusion in regards to the archaic structure and formulas of the Grecian classical era. He points out the necessity of the Chorus as a classical device, which then reinforces the association of Faustus’ tragedy with the tragedies of the classical tradition (26).  Because his accumulation of knowledge is gratified in a very selfish and selective manner, Rudasill concludes that “the overreaching Faustus will not only know the torment of the knowledge that he deliberately cast aside paradise, he will also know the pain of another literal abode of eternal torment” (33). This led me to believe that Faustus’ fascination with the classical era was very deliberate on Marlowe’s part, as a means of further accentuating the nuances of Christian theology that Faustus neglected to accept. Furthermore, the correlation between the two faiths demonstrates an imitative foundation to further illustrate the nature of Faustus’ demise.

I came to learn that there is a theory that expounds on the protagonist’s mimicry of theological formulae: Mimetic theory. This theory originates as an Aristotelean thought, which states that art, by nature, imitates art.  Meaning that what has been created, is then recreated by other means. This includes art of all forms, be it musical, lyrical, visual, etc. Elias Schwartz clarifies in his novel Forms of Feeling that, in the case of Faustus and literary theory, the prominence of theological allusions are meant to provide a comparison that Faustus himself is trying to imitate.  He lacks authenticity, and that perhaps plays a key role in influencing his eventual demise. Noam Reisner further explores this theory in his comparative essay “The Paradox of Mimesis in Sidney’s Defence of Poesie and Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus.”  Reisner summarizes his key claim as follows:

 

“Faustus’s magical art, like the hell from which it draws its power, is an instance to prove the truth of theological absolutes which otherwise exceed mimetic representation, but it is a truth Faustus can never see. Ironically, however, Faustus’s inability to see this truth in a sense also liberates him from it. [. . .] Marlowe has Faustus fight the implications of this [mimetic] paradox by gradually emptying his magical arts of any practical or ethical content” (343).

 

Faustus has depicted the realm of metaphysics in a very selective and self-prescriptive way. This severely limits the scope of reality in which the absolution of truth resides.  Reisner articulates that “Faustus has no choice but to embrace the illusory yet entertaining nature of his power,” which thereby separates him from glory of God’s promise of eternal life (344). As much as Faustus scorns the Christian God and his heavenly conditions, he still has a desire to dwell within a realm that exceeds the limitations of man: “Faustus loses himself absolutely in Homer’s imagined world for its own sake” (345).  Reisner concludes that “the fatalism of Faustus’s position is thus not theological, but mimetic. Indeed, mimesis is all that he can cling to. Faustus uses his magical art to fritter away what little time he has, as he indulges in low level trickery and pseudo-humanistic parlour games” (346).  Upon decoding what role mimesis had in the role of literature and theater, it suddenly became clear to me as to why the correlation of Faustus’ religious fancies were so blatantly and repeatedly expressed.  The two literatures align in virtually every respect. The key difference lies in which one bears the Truth that Faustus must believe in order to truly achieve otherworldly knowledge.  One provides a truth that Faustus is unsatisfied with, while the other is laced with the lure of desire:  “Marlowe latches on to the idea that it is the mimetic act of imaginative conjuration itself which secures the truth-value of that which it cannot contain” (342).  In other words, just because Faustus is interested in one brand of faith, doesn’t mean it is the true faith.  When it becomes evident within the play’s canon that Christianity is indeed the right faith, Faustus is limited with the illusionary magicks that Lucifer seduces him with. Every conjuration Faustus makes is in its imitative form. There is no truth or tangibility to what he produces. It’s an indicator of the falsehood he’s immersing himself in, thereby furthering his blasphemous demise. Professor T. McAlindon agrees with Reisner’s perception of Lucifer’s coercive influence: “In rejecting theology [. . .] he embraces the devil’s most seductive manifestations, magic and mythology. Heavenly has come to seem hellish (equivalent to envy, cruelty, and despair); and now the old gods and magic serve to make hellish seem heavenly, by providing new rites, gratifying self-esteem, and offering satisfactions which are readily perceptible to the senses” ( McAlindon 215). Reisner brings to light perhaps one of the more quintessential examples of this from within the text: “Faustus’s wish to play out the part of Paris for his conjured Helen later in Act V (‘I will be Paris, and for love of thee / Instead of Troy shall Wittenberg be sacked’, V. i. 98-9) is merely a literalisation of the same idea through a process of reverse mimesis which allows the conjured image to compete for a claim on truth with the merely shadowed reality of heaven and hell” (345).

In his essay “‘I’ll Play Diana’: Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus and the Actaeon Complex,” Christopher Wessman further explores Faustus’ mythical re-imaginings and the consequences that come of that.  Specifically, he does so in a close reading of the scene where Faustus victimizes Benvolio in a reenactment of the myth featuring Actaeon and the goddess Diana. Wessman finds it “entirely appropriate that a myth involving the secrets of knowledge and self-consciousness […] should be used as a vehicle for self-examination” (Wessman 419).  This ‘knowledge’ Wessman speaks of, is in relation to Actaeon’s unintentional knowledge—stumbling upon Diana in her naked and vulnerable state.  Wessman says that “Marlowe connects Diana’s divine power (and Actaeon’s transgression) to necromantic and theatrical prowess, interrogating and ultimately problematizing divinity, magic, and theater” (401).  Of the multiple interpretations of the myth, one of them deems Actaeon’s punishment as justifiable, due to Sartre’s ‘Actaeon complex,’ which is a loose interpretive meaning of: ‘to know is to devour with the eyes.’ Wessman explains that “Faustus’s goal at the outset is a visual penetration and consumption of divine secrets; his language expresses this voracious hunger,” not so unlike Actaeon himself (411). The irony here, is that Faustus casts himself in the divine role of Diana, but his fate aligns more similarly to that of Actaeon.  Wessman points out that in Act Five of the play, “Faustus’s diction betrays the mythological trappings of his end” (411). This includes phrases such as ‘rend not my heart,’—a homophone to imply the ‘hart’ that Actaeon was transformed into, ‘brutish beast,’ etc. All of which serve as mimicries of Actaeon’s own fate.  This suggests that even though Faustus eventually came to the final realization of God’s Truth, he still yearned for a romanticized and glorified death that imitated the classical tales he held in such high esteem.  His lesson remained unlearned, and that is what inhibited him from true redemption.

In contrast to the mythical perspective, Jay Zysk focuses primarily on the Eucharistic embodiment of Faustus’ moral dilemma in his essay “The Last Temptation of Faustus.”  He uncovers how Faustus’ disdain for the notion of God was due to his selfish compulsion to become his own God in a very literal and physiological way. Zysk says: “While Faustus does not reveal a desire for transubstantiation outright, his compulsion to effect substantial change through magic is related in part to such a priestly power [. . .] What he lacks in the capacity of priestly confection he locates in magical conjuration” (348).  This shows that Faustus’ has a very agnostic perspective in that he withholds any belief in a God unless he himself can become one.  God’s promise is of eternal life, not of eternal Godhood. Deified transformations, as it happens, are seen much more commonly in the mythography of the classical era, which Faustus then conceptualizes as his own brand of intellectual faith—one that suits his own ideals and motivations, as described by T. McAlindon: “Demons always seek to be worshipped as gods, and sometimes promise their follower that they too will be gods. The belief that magic is synonymous with idolatry and mythology is, in fact, clearly discernible” (McAlindon 216).

A.N Ockerland’s “Intellectual Folly of Doctor Faustus” agrees with Faustus’ selective faith, and highlights his delusion from an intellectual standpoint.  As ‘scholarly’ as Faustus makes himself out to be, Okerland proves that Faustus is just as flippant with intellect as he is with divinity: “Faustus profanes the intellectual process by selecting only those data which substantiate conclusions predetermined by desire. Increasingly, his actions reflect a tendency to hear only what he wishes and to see only the evidence that confirms his preestablished vision” (Okerland 261).  Even Faustus can’t deny it, as Okerland points out, that “his final cry, “I’le burne my bookes,” records all the anguish of that comprehension, of the knowledge so blithely ignored during the euphoria of his self-delusion” (277).  In violating the principles of the intellectual dialectic, Faustus is left with no other form to turn to except the metaphysical, which expounds knowledge in a way that either provides the truth, or lies about it. Okerland states that the “angels present a classic problem of whom to believe-and what to believe when contradictory statements are uttered as fact” (267).

  1. McAlindon’s essay “Classical Mythology and Christian Tradition in Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus” was one of the first scholarly articles that I found in doing my research, but it was one that I felt needed to be reread with the most care, since the title suggested just how important it was in relation to my topic. The relevance imparted in the essay was very eye-opening, and it tied all my other sources together quite nicely as a whole. So due to that, I felt it necessary to discuss McAlindon’s findings last before transitioning to my own conclusions. McAlindon expresses his central claim right off the bat, stating that “basically, mythology and magic are conceived in Dr. Faustus as pseudo-divinity” (McAlindon 214). Meaning that Faustus’ acceptance of “theological attitudes to the classical gods and their fables [. . .] serves to emphasize a spiritual evaluation of the ambitions and passions which destroy the erring theologian of Wittenberg” (214).  McAlindon agrees with Okerland’s stance on the “intellectual” influence of the inner angels, as well as Wessman’s claim on Faustus’ God complex.  McAlindon says the fact that “[Faustus] is confronted with a choice between theology and mythology is nicely demonstrated by the persuasions of the Good and the Evil Angel, one urging him to read the scriptures and avoid blasphemy, the other pressing upon him ‘the damned book’ which would allow him to be ‘on earth as Jove is in the sky, / Lord and commander of these elements’ (i.75-76)” (216).  McAlindon’s key argument is that classical mythology and Christian traditions aren’t meant to coincide, so much as they are meant to oppose each other.  He concludes that “there is never any fusion of classical ornament and Christian doctrine; when confusion arises it has a dramatic significance, and in reality they are as opposed as the Evil and the Good Angel” (223).  McAlindon states that once he “rejects” the ideals of Christian divinity, “the old gods invade [Faustus’] mind with (in the theological view) complete inevitability” (216).  Hedonists of the 16th century, contemporary to both Faustus and Marlowe, were executed by means of fire. It is most fitting then, says McAlindon, that “the very last image in the play is one of fire, and it marks, most poignantly, the simultaneous end of the old gods and of one who aspired to be like them” (222).

Based on my research, I came to the conclusion that Faustus made two crucial mistakes on his quest as the play progressed. His first mistake was in formulating his own brand of faith…Faustus selected parts that he liked about anything he sought to learn and believed only what he fancied. He elected only to know what he wanted to know rather than what there is to know. This course of action blasphemed against heaven, which is deemed as the “unforgivable sin” in Elizabethan times. Faustus’ second mistake was not recognizing his accountability once he had accumulated all knowledge—It’s been long debated among scholars that Faustus never acquired the knowledge he sold his soul for…But I am of the mind that he did come to know all things, regardless of whether or not he accepted them as truths. One of the key reasons Faustus didn’t obtain the rewards of heavenly immortality because he disregarded certain truths. Faustus didn’t want to be held accountable for anything…but that’s the consequence of knowledge, as seen in the Fall of Man depicted in the book of Genesis. This dismissal of responsibility is what made him incapable of redemption. He didn’t accept the Truth until his descent had already begun. All of this not only mirrors Christian theology but it also parallels Lucifer’s own fall from grace, which is alluded in the Icarus myth that makes appearances throughout the play.            The endless parallels between these archetypal themes demonstrate how Faustus represents a dire consequence for being selective with what you choose to believe in.  Faustus has a superficial designer faith in mind—one where God doesn’t exist, yet God’s enemy does. Where a higher power is deemed ridiculous, but magic and myths can be made true. His beliefs all run contrary to each other.  And his persistence and hubris on the matter are what ultimately turn the tide against him.  He reimagines and reenacts the stories he revels in, at the cost of blighting others.  He glorifies himself and his prestige for attempting to outsmart those that gifted him in the first place.  He asks to know of God, Heaven, Hell, and the cosmos; yet he scoffs at what he disagrees with—or feigns ignorance at what he wishes not to be true.  All of these traits are hyperbolic representations of what we as human beings possess at our own internalized levels. And Faustus’ demise cautions us against falling prey to our own inner demons—which can instill pain and pleasure in equal fervor.  For me, coming to this conclusion awakened a deeper appreciation for the definition of Truth.  As stated in the book of John, the truth, while it may be ugly at times, will ultimately “set you free” (John 8:32).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WORKS CITED

 

Anderson, David K. “The Theater of the Damned: Religion and the Audience in the Tragedy of     Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus.” ProjectMUSE. 54.1 (2012): 79-109. Web. 12    November 2014.

 

Hammill, Graham. “Faustus’s Fortunes: Commodification, Exchange, and the Form of Literary             Subjectivity.” ELH.63.2 (1996): 309-336. Web. 17 November 2014.

 

Li, Li. “The Inevitable Fall: Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus and the Icarus Myth.” Studies in             Literature and Language.  5.3 (2012): 24-29. Web. 12 November 2014.

 

McAlindon, T. “Classical Mythology and Christian Tradition in Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus.” PMLA.          81.3 (1966): 214-223. Web. 12 November 2014.

 

Okerland, A.N. “The Intellectual Folly of Doctor Faustus.” Studies in Philology.  74.3 (1977):

258-278. Web. 16 November 2014

 

Ornstein, Robert. “Marlowe and God: The Tragic Theology of Dr. Faustus.” PMLA. 83.5 (1968):

378-1385. Web. 17 November 2014.

 

Reisner, Noam. “The Paradox of Mimesis in Sidney’s Defence of Poesie and Marlowe’s Doctor      Faustus.” The Cambridge Quarterly 39.4 (2010): 331-349. Web. 17 November 2014.

 

Rudasill, Michael Carlton. “A Study of the Significance of Marlowe’s use of the Unforgivable Sin as a       Plot Device in “Dr. Faustus.” Florida Atlantic University, 1992.  Ann Arbor: ProQuest. Web.

16 November 2014.

 

Schwartz, Elias. “Literature and Belief.” The Forms of Feeling Toward a Mimetic Theory of

Literature. Ed. Eugene Goodheart. Port Washington, New York: National University

Publications Kennikat Press, 1972.106-116. Print.

 

Wessman, Christopher. “‘I’ll Play Diana’: Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus and the Actaeon Complex.” English Studies. 82.5 (2001): 401-419. Web. 16 November 2014.

 

Zysk, Jay. “The Last Temptation of Faustus.” Post Medieval: A Journal of Medieval Cultural Studies.        43.2 (2013): 335-367. Web. 12 November 2014.

 

 

 

 

A Societal DEvolution

Enthused seduced deduced and brought back to life with spring sensations building unraveling and slowly deteriorating the common wealth of malignant tides underneath vacant skies to betroth or diffuse the salient signs unwilling and barreled within the canvas of our lives bewildered and underwhelmed with majority ranking highs. Unannounced solutions partake the unmasked conclusions of wrought hide infusions in societal devolution. Working up a rampant of contrived barricades that bridge, rape and slander the, oh so high alidades which brought to us the scientific and neurotic explorations of today’s episodic vengeances.

When deduced and refused with nothing left to lose what then shall we use to throw out the abused or resurrect the pre-accused?

Zahra Hayder

Dabble Poetry

A Slughorne Contribution

by Joshua Parker

When I was twelve years old my great grandfather passed away at the age of 96. For as long as I knew him he was living in an assisted living home, and slowly but surely deteriorating. My finial three memories of him are the last time I saw him, in which he insisted I was a girl, which wouldn’t have been so bad if my cousins were not there and tormented me with this fact until months later, the last time my mom saw him in which I refused to go because “I had better things to do”, and the day he died. My younger sister and I had just returned from school and I was eager to meet up with some friends and do twelve year old things. My mom called my sister and me into the living room and sat us down. This had never happened before and I was rather anxious. “Your great grandfather passed this morning, he was asleep, he didn’t suffer, do you have any questions?” My eyes welled for the man I had barely known. I choked and sob for my mistakes. I had never lost anyone until this point in my life and I had deemed my twelve year old life too important only weeks before to see him one last time. This is the moment I first felt empty. I left my house went to a friends and through a fog of events had my first fist fight. I tell you this because the empty feeling never really left. It isn’t constant but it wiggles its ugly face into my day to day often enough. It was particularly difficult when I was in high school, and my teenage angst added to the severity of my problems. When I was sixteen a friend of mine called my father and told him that she was afraid that I was going to hurt myself. That was the first time that he and I had a pleasant conversation in a long time (I had a lot of angst) , and it ended with an embrace, tears pouring from four eyes, and “I love you Josh.” Within a few weeks I was in therapy. That only lasted for a few months; it just is not for me. The reason for this confession is because books were and are my escape. The reason literature is important to me is because when I do not see a reason to get out of bed in the morning, or my chest feels hollow and as if it is one continuous mass at the same time I was able to escape into the words and worlds others had created. I could sit on the couch opposite my mom and dad and read a book. Books may have been enough to stop me from following through on my thoughts of suicide when I was a teen. Even now when I struggle to find a point in life I can lose myself for a while.

To Absorb or to Ignore

by Amber Chapman

 

I wake up everyday in a community that I was not raised in. I observe the ideas of my peers that race has become the rooting question in every class room and every piece of social media. Are the minority speaking for a new revolution, a demand? Not for new laws or new entitlements, but TO BE SEEN, TO TEACH THE HISTORY AND STATS, TO MAKE THE WORLD EMPATHIZE WITH OUR EXPERIENCE.  As a result, the minority is aware of injustices, the minority will see a black person as a human with a certain experience…not as a criminal, not as a “African American” who made out of poverty, not as a statistic. Sometimes I want to scream and tell people to awaken and be more self aware. It’s crazy because I have never felt the pain of race until I was a identified “black body against white walls.” Rankine describes this as “What does a victorious or defeated black woman’s body in a historically white space look like?” The white walls of Ann Arbor, soon the white walls of a educational institution. That both don’t expect me to succeed. How can you not question your experience, question this world that pushes people against white walls in a white society. My question is when placed against the white walls of society how do you express or explain yourself, do you withhold your culture or unapologetically be you.

 

I challenged my self in my senior seminar, I questioned how can I tell my peers the feeling of watching everything that you do so that you won’t be a stereotype? So that you won’t be placed in a box. Rankine writes “Another friend tells you you have to learn not to absorb the world. She says sometimes she can hear her own voice saying silently to whomever—you are saying this thing and I am not going to accept it. Your friend refuses to carry what doesn’t belong to her.”

 

To absorb, what is there in the world that Rankine writes should be “learned to not to absorb” it should be ignored and not accepted. I believe absorbing does not always mean making it apart of you or allowing words that don’t “belong” or “apply” to you affect you. I believe that you must absorb so that a stand and an observation can be taken and the “whomever” must hear those silent words. I question why are those words silent.

I find my self in a high rise of those “silent words” I always fall on silent words…seriously you cant some up the oppression of a entire race in every conversation where race is brought up.

 

What is the experience of being a conscious black person:

Being black is having to explain that saying African American sounds more racist than black because it’s an attempt to being morally correct or trying to defend racist thoughts. I’m just black.

Being black is writing on being black, and trying not to use the word “we” because you want to speak for you race without grouping like the white society does.

Being black is having to be aware of what you watch at white couple’s home when you baby sit because you don’t want to seem “too black”.

Being black is feeling that when your black experience comes out in conversations with other races you limit it what you say.

Being black is being asked is nappy the right terminology for natural hair.

Being black is having to try to keep the present “be” out of your casual conversation with whites… because you can’t say “I be running” without looking uneducated.

Being seen as disrespectful when you don’t recite the Pledge of Allegiance or the National anthem, because it wasn’t written for us anyway.

Being black is having to be better then the next white person because you will forever be compared to the “black lazy” stereotype.

Being black means you must be on time for everything or you will be seen as being on CP TIME. (color people time/always late)

 

What Rankine is saying in the novel is that there are moments when you can remain silent and ask “why do you feel comfortable saying this to me” or correct the ignorance of a society who only knows what is taught in schools and the media.

What happens when blacks in entertainment paint those white walls black, will society “allow” them or fight back? To not fall on silent words.

Recently that white wall has beginning to turn…to a small shade of light grey and America can’t take it. Recent artist that are popular among all races have made a strong black stand and the whites socialist are outraged.

Artists like Kendrick Lamar created the first pro-blackness album in main stream hip hop. His entire album stabs at the “black experience” he writes in his song the blacker the berry:

“You hate my people, your plan is to terminate my culture

You’re fuckin’ evil I want you to recognize that I’m a proud monkey

You vandalize my perception but can’t take style from me

And this is more than confession

I mean I might press the button so you know my discretion

I’m guardin’ my feelin’s, I know that you feel it

You sabotage my community, makin’ a killin’

You made me a killer, emancipation of a real nigga”

What was the response?

Shock…black shock because there was no silence

Shock…because its unknown for an artist to have such an in your face message.

Shock… because the only response is that “you can appreciate the words, without the experience”

 

[The experience is what the words are trying to give.]

That’s what music can do for you sometimes. It can make you see things differently. Make you want to apply it reality. This powerful message was either “absorbed” or not because people “refuse to carry what doesn’t belong to them”

Kendrick was at his most confrontational and unapologetic in this music and fans like myself. Who is black, cried at the lyrics when they laid upon my ears…because I have never felt such truth then I did in his album.

 

Should be absorb what is said to us? Or remain silent because we feel like the words being said does not “belong” to us. Or Do we unapologetically correct the world?

Unpredictable Demonstrations of Literature

by Zahra Hayder

Procrastination under the impressions of academics can assume a position of inferiority. Although, the truth behind the procrastinators behavior is, lack of motivation. Pedagogical authority impedes on those who are uncanny and honest. A past work of literature that could potentially (re)produce a new structure of words such as this piece will be considered only in light of, effort. Lexicons, dictionaries, and simple elements of a beset narrative are all obsolete in the face of old tradition or new certifications. Procrastinating infidelities of this work leading to the next, without a familiar presence, within the clock-work narrative, of time, might venture into a category of its own. The steadfast cause of unpracticed originality, in the face of immortality, can be seen as a getaway to thoughtless, reality. So, what then should we accustom ourselves too? Time management or knowledge based narratives which seem ultimately obsolete when a grading system is in place? Either way we cannot foresee the elements that place our work in the hands of others who categorize and inform the unprecedented audience.

Availability heuristics are the things we know (according to social psychologists) as being integral parts of our cognitive structures. Which means, the knowledge we have available in our mind is simply what we tend to use right away rather than, deliberative thought processes. This idea is very much similar to the unfocused narrative of our writing. When writing becomes overtly synthetic and unaware, we tend to recognize it as a piece acceptable by the majority and dependable according to new certifications. New certifications, in this sense is a kind of unraveling of academic approvals. What is deemed acceptable and appropriate within the writing process and/or the narrative itself. A pedagogical referent to our writing within the academic world is basically the route to success. However, is this a fair attempt at originality?

Procrastination is not an easy process to overcome and the handling of new ideas needs to be filtered through a mind, based on academic teachings. The unpracticed originality of a writer(s) text is simply because the writer wants their work to outlive their vessel, thus the writer becomes ‘immortal.’ The writer’s history and/or legend literally lives on by way of the written word, only the written word. No person lives on after death as does their writing. The written word has kept legends of the ancient world alive such as Mutanabbi, Socrates, Hammurabi, Plato and so on. From philosophers to potent warriors, the name lives on by way of generated text. An intimate relationship between writer and reader turns into a deflowering of knowledge that has been acquired by the writer then permeated to the reader/audience. The exchange between all parties according to pedagogy should maintain specific structure in syntax and form yet claim originality. How can this be achieved without rumination which ultimately leads to confusing procrastination?

For purposes subject to this narrative I shall proceed with defining of rumination in context. The obsession over negatively charged ideas as the direct result of inequitable gambit put forth by ‘proper’ education is the very meaning of rumination within this flailing clock-work narrative! Whether we operate on the availability heuristic or descriptive thinking the dyer goal subsequently, is, to have a steady balance between varying terminology and styling of the written word as approved by higher priests. We have various academes that would implore the use of specificity even, with reading of texts! Not only is this a staled attempt to control the writer(s) contrived text, but, it is infringing upon the very nature of the process and development of the written word. Thus, procrastinating is deemed practical among the impractical grading system in the academic world.  According to rhetoricians, a piece such as this before you may have no place in the pigeonhole categories of a ‘good’ or acceptable piece. How so, you may ask. Well, for starters it has no argument or persuasive aspect to it.

Not unless the writer is willing to generate a plausible argument opposing their own ideas. Why shall a writer contradict their thought process, endeavoring to a wildly displaced augmentation of knowledge? Presently, combining old and new curriculums that are rapidly building to block personal expression seems to echo the academic problems of the beat generation. All (literary novices) know the problem with the beat generation was that their (the beats) work had no place in the ‘academic’ world. Since the wordsmith(s) narrative(s) of expression, were not deemed acceptable enough for the higher priests. The distribution of numerical agendas does not guarantee execution of a stamped article validating the knowledge of the wordsmith. Therefore, innovation lacks implementation when immortality breeds negligence. Remember, in the beginning of this piece we spoke about how a person can outlive their vessel? By way of the written word, only! Many would ‘argue’ a person’s legend may live on through consanguine relatives, however, names gradually get phased out of lexicons when atoned alphabets are unavailable. We see rhetoricians in propagated combat with politicians, and romanticists in due battle with humanists, yet no one contributing to the forlorn literary “novices” whom, are only referred to by way of lectures. Respectively, the higher priests audit and categorize the literary “novices” as articles of mischief dedicated to procrastination while soliciting sympathies.

Last I understood writing and the process of said writing needs to be unique, structured, interesting, and boldly controversial; if of course that kind of thing suits your personal tastes! Writing in today’s world as defined by the academe is formed in “genres” which are “determined by the narrative technique, tone, content & by critics’ definitions of genres”. Notice the definition from wiki[pedia] states that the content actually does matter. The content of course must align with a specific Subcategory under the ‘genre’ umbrella as in mystery, comedy, tragedy, fantasy and so on and so forth. Yet at the same time the defining statement claims that critics’ definition pigeonholes the narrative. Basically, the wordsmith themselves do not contribute to the validation or categorization of their personal writing. In retrospect the matter is not of originality, nor of content within the scope of perceived knowledge it is a matter of priests within the academe who have complete and utter control over the grading and finalizing of the writer’s own work! Well, let us examine this a bit deeper, if the content of this piece you are reading now does not reflect either ‘genre’ nor does it supply any critic with due taste, how then is the procrastinator supposed to manage without rumination? I leave you with this thought, once an answer is achieved do shed some light on this horrid exposé of an individual’s thoughts.

 

Comparative Analysis of “Who Goes There?” and It’s Adaptations to Film

by Christopher Atkinson Jr.

In a time where Hollywood debuts less original stories, and produces more adaptations and retellings of stories, the discussion of how well the story is retold is an ever prevalent and growing topic. Opinions on every single film released are varied, especially if the source material from which the film was adapted already has a fan base. In this case, the opinion and critique of the film can be in depth and sometimes harsh. On the other hand, films like Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy set the standard for literary translations to film very high (as well as setting the bar high for films in general!). Nonetheless, the analysis of  these adaptations continues to be an important factor in watching film, discussing film, creating film, and of course, writing about film.
John Campbell’s “Who Goes There?” is a 1938 novella about a shapeshifting alien found during an expedition in Antarctica. The story has been adapted to film three times: Howard Hawks’ 1951 film The Thing From Another World, John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982), and Matthijs van Heijningen Jr’s film (also titled The Thing), which serves as a prequel to Carpenter’s film. All three films follow the same story line, but all three maintain their own tone and changes to the original material. Before  discussing such changes and differences, it is important to define what kind of literary adaptations exist, and apply to the translations of Campbell’s original work.

In his book, Understanding Movies, Louis Giannetti identifies three types of literary adaptations in film; loose, faithful, and literal. A loose adaptation is one that would take only part of a story, or a certain aspect, and translate it to film. There are dramatic changes made to the story, such as the setting and cast. A faithful adaptation is an adaptation that respects the original work to only omit what is deemed redundant or unnecessary  for a general audience, as decided by the individuals adapting the work onto film. The story at large remains the same, while subplots, smaller roles, and some dialogue are left on the cutting room floor. The third type of adaptation is a literal adaptation, which Giannetti explains is almost only reserved for stage productions that have made it to film. In fact, the only  usual differences between the two is the inclusion of cinematography, and the fact that the performance isn’t live. These three categories of adaptation can be used to determine how well any movie derived from a literary source, was translated onto film. Looking at 1951 and 1982’s literary adaptations of John Campbell’s “Who Goes There?” , I have determined that Howard Hawkes creates a loose adaptation of the film, while John Carpenter managed to successfully produce a faithful adaptation.

Differences between the original story and it’s adaptations are noticeable from the first scene or both movies, as both took a departure from the original starting point. “Who Goes There?” starts off with the crew looking down upon the recently unearthed (or rather, un-iced for that matter) extraterrestrial, and discussing it’s origins, capabilities, and possible threat to the camp. Carpenter’s take on the story sets the tone for the film, which involves a lot of looming uncertainty and mystery. It follows a dog being chased by my in a helicopter over the tundra. The 1951 version of the film is the most drastic of the adaptations, beginning with the crew being assigned to investigate a possible plane crash near the north pole. While the beginning point in the story isn’t so much a determining factor of how to gauge the translation, it is interesting and reflective of the film maker, to see how they wanted to initially present the characters, setting, and plot to the audience.

Howard Hawks’ 1951 adaptation of Campbell’s novella suggests itself to be a loose adaptation of the original piece. Not only is the cast of characters replaced with a strong military presence, but there are also two characters included that push the film into a departure from it’s original genre of mystery, suspense, and science fiction. One of these characters, Scotty, is an ambitious and thin-skinned journalist who seems more worried about his career during the whole ordeal than the present danger of an enraged extraterrestrial. The other cast addition is that of one female who seems to serve no other purpose than to be a damsel in distress, and a love interest for the male lead. These two characters and their unintentionally passive attitude (which the entire cast can be considered guilty of) take away the suspense and uncertainty that came with the source material. While “Who Goes There?”  carried with it a darker tone, “The Thing From Another World” fails to carry the horror aspect onto the silver screen.
Not only did the 1951 film adaptation fail in it’s translation of character and tone, but it also missed what is possibly the most important aspect of the film; the Thing. In this adaptation, the thing does not shape shift like it does in Campbell’s text, nor does it try to build it’s own escape craft. The mythology of the Thing is tossed aside, and replaced with am alien, humanoid plant that requires blood for survival. In addition to the science fiction aspect of this literary translation being excluded, it seems as though the movie was geared for a broader audience. In Campbell’s novella, he goes into detail within the dialogue about how the creature acts, survives, and where it may have come from. The dialogue in the film is much more watered down, especially during the scene in which thermite explosives were used in an attempt to remove the space ship and it’s inhabitants. The intricacies of the excavation were overlooked, and made for an unintelligent display of power on behalf of the characters.  Katherine Schulten goes on to elaborate on why things such as this are changed in the process of making a literary adaptation; “There are three main reasons a filmmaker or screenwriter might make major changes in adapting a literary work to film. One is simply that changes demanded by a new medium. Film and literature each have their own told for manipulating narrative structure. In a novel, a new chapter might take us back to a different time and place in the narrative; in film, we might go back to that same time and place through the use of a flashback, a crosscut, or a dissolve, such as the various techniques the filmmakers in Wuthering Heights employ to keep the complex narrative coherent.” (Shulten, 16). Although, the aspects of the Thing may have been limited by the technology of the time. It would have been very difficult for filmmakers to convincingly create something such as an alien in the midst of transforming into a dog.

While all this holds true, it could be explained that this movie was ‘watered down’ and made into more of a simple action adventure for the audience it was presented to. There wasn’t a broad choice of movies to go and see at the theatre in the 1950’s, and looking at the two addition characters previously pointed out, the lighter tone, and the less sophisticated antagonist, “The Thing From Another World” seems to conform to the exact same tone and plot development as any other movie of it’s era. As Katherine Schulten explains in her book, Masterpiece: Film in the Classroom; “. . . the third main reason for a filmmaker to make dramatic changes to an adaptation, and it is one that anyone who works on a MASTERPIECE classic is motivated by: how to make a classic story ‘new’ for a contemporary audience.” (Schulten, 17).

As for a contemporary audience in 1982, it was an easier task to translate to film the horror, paranoia, and often gruesome imagery illustrated by John Campbell. Carpenter succeeds in translating the source material to film, while maintaining much of the original story.  The major differences reside in both the lean in genre between science fiction and horror, and the emphasis on concepts such as trust, paranoia, and uncertainty between the characters.

Carpenter’s adaptation does change the events in the story, but he does so with good reason. The first being that he needed to pace the story as a movie. With a novella, the pacing is controlled by the reader. With a film however, the director controls the pacing for the viewer, a tool many filmmakers of the horror genre use to their advantage. “The Thing” was adapted into a horror movie by Carpenter, therefore, he needed to change not only the events that happened in the story, but how they occurred. For example, in the novella’s blood test scene, fourteen men are shot and killed upon discovering that they have been turned into Things. Carpenter uses the horror movie method of killing off the cast gradually over the course of the movie to stretch out this scene. His cast dies over time, each in a creative and gruesomely appropriate way. This stretching out of the killings also is an example of Carpenter’s goal of creating a film with fantastic suspense, and exemplifying the paranoia presented by the situation of a shape shifting alien.

While analyzing these two films and the original novella from which they were derived, it has become apparent that not a translations are defined by how faithful they were to the source material. Although including much of the story is important, filmmakers are often limited by budget, technological constraints, and delivery to the audience. Carpenter has demonstrated that not using the original novella as his screenplay is not to be condemned, but commended because he omitted, changed, and edited parts to his advantage of achieving his goal. It was the Carpenter’s goal of making a specific horror film adapted from Campbell’s work that made his changes from source material to film make sense.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography

 

Louis Giannetti “Literary Adaptations” Understanding Movies, Chapter 9: Writing, 2011,                           Accessed November 5th, 2012

 

Katherine Schulten, “Adaptation: From Novel to Film” Masterpiece: Film in the Classroom A                                Guide for Teachers, 2011, Accessed November, 17th, 2012

 

What One Makes of It

 

by Kaily Daida

There once was a wizard who gave each of the royal children a bag of tiny balls.

 

“Make of them what you will. Such is the characteristic bestowed upon your gift,” he said.

 

The eldest prince brought his black spheres to his artillery, where they learned to explode the balls from the ends of barrels. He brought down many foes and ruled his part of the kingdom with fear.

 

The eldest princess used her golden globes as a fiat currency. She stored the value of her land’s goods and services. Although they were objects without intrinsic value, her golden orbs became highly prized.

 

The second prince planted his brown balls in the soil and promoted the growth of plants. His land was the most bountiful in all of the kingdom.

 

The second princess illuminated the darkest alleys with her white marbles. From the shadows manifested the plights of orphans and widows. She destroyed the feudal system and built guilds of free people. A middle class developed and created a prosperous economy.

 

The last prince placed his red balls in glass cases and told his subjects that they were the eyes of god. His subjects worshiped his god dutifully.

 

The last princess used her green globes as a token of recognition. Possessors of a green ball were considered to be part of a distinguished society. She held secretive councils to discuss the affairs of the earthly and heavenly realms.

 

If you are reading this story, then you too have been given a bag of colored marbles. You hold the sovereignty to learn what you wish and say what you think. Through literacy, you can be an agere, someone that produces an effect. Literature is what one makes of it.