Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Symposium Week

Project Length: 5-7 minutes

For the final week of our course, each of you will present a brief summary of your research to the class. You may choose to summarize the central argument of your paper by reading your thesis and one or two of your close readings of passages. Or, you might decide to read sections of your paper that you most enjoyed writing. The format and content of this presentation are left entirely up to you. But, keep in mind that the point is to generate questions in and between members of your audience. If you have any questions in the meantime, please let me know.

Good luck!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Reflecting on Howl: Language and Image

When I first read Howl, I had quite a hard time understanding what Ginsberg was trying to get across to the audience. But after watching the film, I feel like I have a much better understanding of him as a person and what he was sharing in his poems. Originally, like many others, I did not see the literary merit in his poems. I can’t say that I completely understand his poetry but I can at least acknowledge his style of poetry. In the movie, he acknowledges the trouble that most people have with understanding his type of poetry: “The problem when it comes to literature is this. There are many writers who have preconceived ideas about what literature is supposed to be but their ideas seem to preclude everything that makes them most interesting in casual conversation. Because they think they’re going to write something that sounds like they’ve read before instead of what sounds like them or comes from their own life.

What happens when you make a distinction between what you tell your friends and what you tell your muse? The trick is to break down that distinction. To approach your muse as frankly as you would talk to yourself or to your friends.”

Most of our initial reactions to his poetry is that it is far too vulgar. However, it seems necessary. As an individual, he grew up at a time that homosexuality was portrayed as a sickness (at least much less accepted then than now). His experiences seem to really influence his style of writing. He couldn’t express the way that he felt explicitly so he would turn to his poetry in order to express his emotions. This is where he reveals himself to the world that he is gay. Throughout the movie, this actually is quite apparent with the amount of times that he speaks about it as well as all the animations that were portrayed. Other than the explicit mentions, there were more subtle images of penises throughout the animations. Around the 30th minute of the film there were trees that were growing that ultimately took on the form of a penis as well as the shooting star that seemed to visualize one as well.

Although his poetry is quite vulgar and repeatedly mentions the image of penises, his message is often misinterpreted. Ginsberg informs us that “the poem is misinterpreted as promotion of homosexuality. Actually, it’s more like promotion of frankness about any subject.” I appreciate how he tries to break the distinction between his muse and his friends. This gives his poetry a more genuine feeling to it since he tries to give his audience a portrayal of who he truly is rather than euphemizing himself through words. I really enjoyed this film since it gave a better understanding of this poet, especially since it was quite difficult to understand his style of writing.


Monday, November 29, 2010

X-Men: Referencing the Battle of Alcatraz

X-Men: The Last Stand was a movie that was supposed to represent the guards versus the inmates. The mutant resistant were the inmates and the guards were the few mutants who were trying to protect the people. Everything went into chaos when the resistance tried to destroy Alcatraz. This fight can be thought of as the Battle of Alcatraz, the largest prisoner escape that went wrong on Alcatraz. The battle went on for 3 days and was the bloodiest Alcatraz has seen it. When looking back on this escape attempt, how the guards were outnumbered and taken by surprise until the Marines showed up, it can relate to X-Men. The mutant resistance wanted to destroy the vaccine that would get rid of the mutant gene. With the resistance storming Alcatraz that represented
the inmates taking control of weapons and taking control for the first part of the siege. Then once the the guards and the mutants helping the government came, that represents the guards realizing what has happened and them fight back. This plot line is not a very strong one, in my opinion but it makes a good action flick. Referring back to Alcatraz, they chose a good spot for a final battle, trying to represent the Battle of Alcatraz, was a smart idea.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Women Scorned: The Position of Women in X-Men

Perhaps at a glance you might think that in X-men: The Last Stand, women are finally given some credit as capable figures, movers and shakers. Phoenix is the most powerful of the Mutants, Storm is the new headmaster of Xavier’s school, and female Mutants generally can get things done just as well as the males. But you can also see that a significant part of their portrayal involves proneness to unplanned emotional impetus and to the influence of male leads.

Jean Grey is completely emotionally unstable; whenever anything makes her upset she goes on a destructive rampage. She ends up disintegrating her beloved boyfriend, immediately tries to have sex with another guy, and asks him to kill her when he says no. She disintegrates her mentor and joins forces with her ideological adversary, and ends up needing that other guy to go ahead and help her suicide. Not the strongest of
characters after all.

When Mystique gets abandoned by the man she’s devoted herself to, she goes and gets arrested by her ideological enemies just so she can betray him. Cunning Magneto anticipates this reaction and outsmarts her.

Even Storm, seemingly the most authoritative of the women in this film, acts largely on a reactionary basis. Her initial plans for the school she inherited were to close it, since she didn’t feel confident without Xavier. Only because a needy youth serendipitously walked in right at decision time did she decide not to just give up.

Females on the battlefield, at least, seem to be equally competent as their male counterparts (not to mention present at all) – a big step up from being a worried pregnant fiancĂ© who isn’t even present in the action. Kitty beat blockheaded Juggernaut and saved the little kid!


Monday, November 22, 2010

Frenemies: Magneto and Charles Xavier

While watching X-Men III The Last Stand the relationship between Magneto and Charles Xavier was what I found most intriguing about the film. Once old colleges, they fought for mutant rights and programs for mutant education. They worked as a team recruiting mutants from all over the country offering acceptance and shelter from the one sided view of mutants in the general society. But eventually Magnetos’ values shifted after slow success following Charles’ ideals to help mutants. Magneto believed that mutants should band together and fight violently for their rights. Although they are enemies they share great respect for one another. Xavier and Magneto are striving for the same goal yet taking different paths. The two would never directly murder one another as their history has intertwined so thoroughly that killing the other would be killing a part of themselves. Each also has gained invaluable perspective, knowledge, and insight from one another.

As Jean Grey AKA the phoenix is levitating Charles, about to what seems like evaporate him in this apocalyptic scenery Magneto is watching on in terror. He cannot believe what he is seeing and at one point a look of regret comes over his face of what he has unleashed. Right before Xavier is killed Magneto bursts out an urgent cry “Charrlleesss!!” and then he’s gone.

“Charles Xavier did more for mutants than you’ll ever know; my single greatest regret is that he had to die for our dream to live.” – Magneto


"Unto our climatures and countrymen" : Hamlet on Alcatraz:

This Saturday I went to watch Hamlet on Alcatraz, the weather was nice up to the point of the ferry ride. That is when the chilling wind started to blow. Once we landed we were greeted by more freezing winds, the trees appeared to be mad which served the scene quite adequately (the ghostly figures were appearing). It appeared that throughout the play, the environment was another actor in the scenes since it enhanced the mood of the play and it made the production more dramatic.

The rain began to pour down on us when Rosencrantz and Guildenstern were introduced. After a couple more scenes we went inside. We were in for quite a while that we did not realize how drastically the weather had changed. When we were outside for the last outdoor scene (I do not remember which one) the weather was terrible. From the moment I stepped outside the entire surrounding landscape had disappeared, it was hidden by
the fog, it was as if we were in the middle of the ocean. We were taken somewhere for a scene and all that I could here were the crashing waves on the rocks and the thunder. The rain was pouring hard on us and the wind was so strong it literally pushed us and there were times when I moved solely because of the wind’s will, not mine. There was also lightening that illuminated the area, just enough to see the people around us. Finally, we were led back in.

The next scene was where Hamlet confronted his mother. Then the ghost of his father appeared, he was hidden behind some opaque windows. His appearance was illuminated by the lightening, making the scene creepy. Then at the moment when Hamlet struck Polonius there was raging thunder. The thunder, rain, lightening, and winds continued onto the final scene where most of the characters died. The audience, I included, were overcome by the special effects offered by the climate. It definitely made the scenes more vivid.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

X-Men: Parallels between Mutants and American Indians

There are quite a few parallels to notice between the mutants of the X-men universe and the American Indians. They are both repressed minorities fighting for the rights and status of their respective constituencies, at odds with government stances of intolerance and even termination/assimilation. Whether Indians are Americans / Mutants are Humans is controversial, and causes cognitive dissonance. In X-men, there is a governmental “Department of Mutant Affairs” whose role is to manage the policies and relationships with Mutants, but whose actual influence is seemingly not so strong. We see the various groupings of people in Like a Hurricane reincarnate as Mutants too. There are the those that try to serve their kin by joining the BIA/ DMA, trying to affect change from inside the government; there are AIM / Magneto’s vigilante-militant group that takes over places like Alcatraz, and strongly opposes the government’s handling of their affairs; and generally there are the Indians/Mutants that feel distant from the rest of the country and live off in their own communities.