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Honors Conference Presentation

Posted by: Sara Paccione | April 6, 2011 | No Comment |

For the conference, I currently plan on modeling my presentation on part of the Barthes quote mentioned under my name on the “Thesis Titles” document that Prof. Buell sent out. Roland Barthes, in describing Cinemascope, says that

The stretched-out frontality becomes almost circular; in other words, the ideal space of the great dramaturgies. Up until now, the look of the spectator has been that of someone lying prone and buried, walled up in the darkness, receiving cinematic nourishment rather like the way a patient is fed intravenously. Here the position is entirely different… I move effortlessly within the field’s range, I freely pick out what interests me, in a word I begin to be surrounded, and my larval state is replaced by the euphoria of an equal amount of circulation between the spectacle and my body.

I plan, similarly to what I did in my paper, to apply this quote to both movies and video games and to describe how the experiences offered by these two media are both different from and similar to each other. Like my paper, I will also focus on movies and games in the fantasy genre and why this genre has become so important in these media. In the presentation, I will likely focus on one movie or movie series and one game or game series. However, I am not yet sure which ones would be the best examples to use, although I have narrowed it down to a few (some likely choices are movies such as Star Wars and/or The Lord of the Rings and game series such as The Legend of Zelda and Final Fantasy).

I am also not sure exactly how we will be including visuals (whether we use them in individual presentations or as parts of a montage, or both), but I would like to include some sort of image or video, considering the media that I am focusing on are both very visual.

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Abram’s Comments on Vision

Posted by: Sara Paccione | April 4, 2011 | No Comment |

One of the ideas that I found to be the most interesting in David Abram’s The Spell of the Sensuous is in the chapter “Animism and the Alphabet,” when he talks about how we become connected to objects through sight. Instead of thinking of vision as something that allows us to see something, Abram claims that by observing something, our bodies become directly influenced by the object itself. When we see a bird eating a berry, we can almost taste the berry as though we are eating it ourselves, and we can almost feel the pain that somebody we see falling off a bicycle likely feels. While reading this, I realized that in many ways Abram is right, and that vision “induced and made possible the participation of the other senses” (127), even more so than some of our other senses can.

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Posted by: Sara Paccione | February 25, 2011 | No Comment |

These are two different poems about love:

“Merciless Beauty” by Geoffrey Chaucer (late 14th century):

Your ÿen two wol slee me sodenly;
I may the beautee of hem not sustene,
So woundeth hit thourghout my herte kene.
And but your word wol Helen hastily
My hertes wounde, while that hit is grene,
Your ÿen two wol slee me sodenly;
I may the beautee of hem not sustene.

Upon my trouthe I sey you faithfully
That ye ben of my lyf and deeth the queen;
For with my deeth the trouthe shal be sene.
Your ÿen two wol slee me sodenly;
I may the beautee of hem not sustene,
So woundeth hit thourghout my herte kene.


Your two eyes will slay me suddenly
I may the beauty of them not sustain,
So wounded, hit throughout my heart keen.

And but your word will heal hastily
My heart’s wound, while that hit is green,
Your two eyes will slay me suddenly
I may the beauty of them not sustain,

Upon my truth I say you faithfully,
That you’ve been of my life’s death the queen;
For with my death the truth shall be seen.
Your two eyes will slay me suddenly
I may the beauty of them not sustain,
So wounded, hit throughout my heart keen.

“My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun” by William Shakespeare (1609):

My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hatch a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go:
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground.
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she, belied with false compare.

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Final Fantasy X as a modern example of technocriticism

Posted by: Sara Paccione | February 6, 2011 | No Comment |

Many stories feature technology as a new phenomenon but many other stories feature technology as something that was more advanced in the past than in the present.  In addition to real life, in which many people have similar views about ancient civilizations and their advanced societies, this view of technology as an ancient art is one commonly seen in fictional stories.

While I’ve been writing my paper, I’ve noticed storylines like this in many movies and video games, and one good example of this is in the video game Final Fantasy X.  In the game, the city of Zanarkand, which existed 1,000 years prior to the main events of the game, had technology that was more advanced than cities that exist in real world:

Ancient Zanarkand

The beginning of the game, which takes place in a dream replica of this city and includes sporting events, televisions, bright lights, and techno music, seems like an odd start to a fantasy game.  However, shortly afterward, the character finds himself on an island that exists in the “present” time.  It seems as though this present time is less technologically advanced than the past (and the dream version of it), but that this is due to a force that destroys cities that become too large and technologically advanced.  The futuristic city that existed in the past turns out not to have been so “futuristic,” as its real future consists of a pile of ruins:

Zanarkand Ruins

This view presents technology as something that does not necessarily progress consistently over time, but moves in cycles.  After the evil is defeated at the end of the game and the people are allowed to act on their own accord again, technology is free to flourish (and it does in the game’s sequel).  FFX is somewhat strange in that even though misuse of machines and technology led to the downfall of the advanced ancient civilization, the resurgence of technology in the future after an era of very little technological advancement is not completely condemned.  People in the game realized that while technology might have been at fault at the beginning, ancient evil proved to be just as destructive and possibly even worse.

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Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks

Posted by: Sara Paccione | November 21, 2010 | No Comment |

When I look at Edward Hopper’s painting Nighthawks, I actually think that it is sort of a peaceful scene.  While I can see how it can be interpreted as a picture of loneliness and maybe even sadness, I personally find it to be more pleasant than that.  To me, there is something kind of comforting about the image of the open diner when everything else around it is empty and closed.  I don’t think it looks particularly sad or depressing, even if the people in the diner do not seem particularly animated.  It just seems to be a quiet, late night scene in a location where people can go to be with other people but be isolated at the same time.  For whatever reason, this painting makes me think of saxophone music, possibly because of the quiet urban scene portrayed in it.

As a New York City resident, I can imagine myself painting a picture like this with the mood I described.  When I’m on a road trip and I go to rural areas or even urban areas in cities that are not NYC, I’m usually a little bit unsettled by the lack of open stores and restaurants at night (even if it’s not particularly late) and the darkness in every window.  Only after going to other cities have I realized that NYC is, as Frank Sinatra sang, the “city that never sleeps,” and I think that this painting evokes some of that image for me, even if that might not have been its original intended purpose.

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Lights in The Great Gatsby

Posted by: Sara Paccione | November 14, 2010 | No Comment |

One of the reoccurring themes in The Great Gatsby is lights.  In addition to the most well-known example of the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock, there are other references to lights (particularly artificial lighting) as well.  When Nick goes to the apartment with Tom and Myrtle, he mentions that the “yellow windows must have contributed their share of human secrecy to the casual watcher in the darkening streets, and I was him too, looking up and wondering” (Fitzgerald 40).  Like the green light, the lighted windows are something that people would look at and wonder about.  Gatsby focuses on Daisy’s light with longing not necessarily because he is in love with who she is, but because he dreams about what might have been.  The lights, both on the dock and in the windows, show the rest of the world that something is there, but do not give much indication as to what it is.

Nick also discusses lamps near the end of the book when he talks about his old Midwestern home: “That’s my middle-west – not the wheat or the prairies or the lost Swede towns but the thrilling, returning trains of my youth and the street lamps and sleigh bells in the frosty dark and the shadows of holly wreaths thrown by lighted windows on the snow” (184).  Like the other lights, these lights help Nick to create an image in his mind of something else.  While the green light makes Gatsby think about his idealized image of his past with Daisy, the Midwestern street lamps are part of Nick’s now idealized image of his old home.  However, the street lamps and lighted windows seem to be a little more welcoming than the somewhat distant green light that teases Gatsby from across the water.  These lights project images on the snow outside and are seen as something that, even though they are from Nick’s past, have not really gone away.

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Most Disturbing Scene in The Jungle

Posted by: Sara Paccione | November 7, 2010 | No Comment |

Although there are many graphic descriptions in The Jungle that can be very disturbing, I would find it somewhat difficult to pick one that is worse than all the others.  However, there is one passage at the beginning of chapter XIII that I found to be very emotionally disturbing:

“During this time that Jurgis was looking for work occurred the death of little Kristoforas, one of the children of Teta Elzbieta… He was the last of Teta Elzbieta’s children, and perhaps he had been intended by nature to let her know that she had had enough.  At any rate he was wretchedly sick and undersized; he had the rickets, and though he was over three years old, he was no bigger than an ordinary child of one.  All day long he would crawl around the floor in a filthy little dress, whining and fretting; because the floor was full of draughts he was always catching cold, and snuffling because his nose ran.  This made him a nuisance and a source of endless trouble in the family.  For his mother, with unnatural perversity, loved him best of all her children, and made a perpetual fuss over him – would let him do anything undisturbed, and would burst into tears when his fretting drove Jurgis wild” (Sinclair 123).

I thought that this was incredibly unsettling because for most of the book, the capitalist system is criticized for its social Darwinist aspects.  However, this passage shows the family acting in a similar fashion, believing that the sick child is nothing more than a “nuisance.”  I also wonder if there is a hint of eugenicist ideology in Sinclair’s words.  When he says that the child might have been “intended by nature to let her know that she had had enough,” does he mean this in terms of her own health and ability to have children, or does he mean that she is no longer having children that can benefit the rest of the family and society?  Elzbieta’s love for her sick child is even described as “unnatural perversity.”  How is it perverse to love and care for a desperately sick child, no matter how it might affect the family financially?

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Frankenstein: Artist, Mechanic, or Both?

Posted by: Sara Paccione | October 30, 2010 | No Comment |

I think that Victor Frankenstein is somewhere between a combination of a more traditional artist and a mechanical artist.  At the beginning of the book, he is scolded by one of his professors for studying the works of men such as Paracelsus and Agrippa because their “sciences” are obsolete.  Frankenstein’s next professor actually encourages Frankenstein’s reading of these authors, claiming that although they “promised impossibilities, and performed nothing” (Shelley 27), they still influenced the ideas of the more modern scientists.

Although Frankenstein says that he also thinks those old scientists are somewhat obsolete, we see that he is still highly influenced by them.  His creation of the creature is a mix of the imagination of the old scientists and the discoveries of more modern science.  In some ways, he does have an artistic approach to creating his new person.  Even though he is somewhat horrified at the thought of digging up and mutilating corpses, his fantastic vision of creating a living human being overcomes these horrors.  He also thinks that he is helping the world with his discovery, claiming that “Life and death appeared to me ideal bounds, which I should first break through, and pour a torrent of life into our dark world” (32).  Although he is also a mechanical artist in that he builds his human as if it is a machine (even powering it with electricity), he is using this means to achieve the more imaginatively and fantastically artistic “promised impossibilities” that the ancient scientists and philosophers failed to perform.

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God as a Divine Clockmaker, and the Consistency of Clocks

Posted by: Sara Paccione | October 23, 2010 | No Comment |

The idea of God being a divine clockmaker is not an uncommon one.  British theologist William Paley compared the complexity of nature to the inner workings of a clock or watch.  He claimed that people who find a pocket watch lying in a field would assume by its complexity that it was created by another person and did not simply randomly appear there, so a complex thing such as nature and the universe must have been created by a watchmaker-like creator.  Some people have also interpreted this to mean that God built the universe like a clock but lets it run on its own without constant intervention.  The apparently fixed laws of nature and order in the universe are viewed as similar to the fixed and constant motion of hands on a clock.

Clocks are also portrayed in various ways in literature.  Often, they are associated with their most obvious purpose – time.  However, even this might reflect the divine watchmaker idea in some ways.  In J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, time is described in a riddle:

“This thing all things devours:
Birds, beasts, trees, flowers;
Gnaws iron, bites steel;
Grinds hard stones to meal;
Slays king, ruins town,
And beats high mountain down.”

This shows the destructive side of time, but time can also be constructive.  In this sense, time is similar to God – it is both a creator and a destroyer.  The associations between God and clocks/time is also present in C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia, in which Father Time is a giant who sleeps for most of Narnia’s existence, but helps Aslan (the Christ figure) destroy it in the end.  Once Narnia’s literal clock runs out, the world itself dies.

Clocks are also prominent features in real life and pop culture.  The famous Big Ben in London is recognized for its size and reliability.  To many, this giant clock is a structure that has retained a sense of consistency in an otherwise hectic world:

In the movies, there are countless portrayals of clocks, but one of the more familiar ones to many people is probably the clock tower in Back to the Future:

This clock serves as an important fixture in the movie(s), but part of this comes from the fact that it doesn’t keep time (it’s stuck on 10:04) after it is struck by lightning in 1955.  This also might fit with how time itself is sort of broken with the time machine during the same scene in which the clock gets stuck.

The video game The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask revolves almost entirely around a clock:

In this game, the clock (which is located in a town at the center of the game’s world) counts down the three in-game days during which the main character must complete his quest to prevent a catastrophic event from occurring at the end of the third day.  Although the character has the ability to return to the beginning of the cycle as many times as needed in order to collect everything, the concept of time constantly ticking still creates a sense of urgency and can sometimes make things difficult.  Oddly enough, one of the only locations in which time stands completely still is inside the clock tower itself.

In these examples, whether the events surrounding them are positive or negative, clocks generally remain consistent and constant (although there are other interpretations, possibly including the soft, “melting” clocks in Salvador Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory”).  Even a broken clock still reads the proper time twice a day every day.

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Crusoe’s Bible

Posted by: Sara Paccione | October 19, 2010 | No Comment |

On the island, Robinson Crusoe reads a Bible to help compensate for the lack of other people to talk to.  He also uses this Bible as a source of advice when it comes to his thoughts and actions during the story.

Eisenstein claims that “printed books are more portable than pulpits, more numerous than priests, and the messages they contain are more easily internalized.”  This statement is true in some ways.  On an island with only one human inhabitant, there are no priests around to interpret the Bible.  Crusoe becomes his own personal priest in this respect.  He must interpret the Bible for himself.  There are several instances throughout the book when Crusoe contemplates what he had read in his Bible, and he often attempts to think about his actions in relation to what he read.  In this sense, Crusoe is not listening to another man’s words or interpretations and following what he is told he must do.  Instead, he conducts his own “research,” internalizes these thoughts, and determines what he must do for himself.

However, words spoken by a priest can also be internalized by listeners.  Sometimes, a priest’s telling of a story allows listeners to notice a different side of the story that they never knew existed.  They can then take these new ideas and apply them to previous knowledge, allowing for a different interpretation of the story than anything they would have originally considered.  In addition to this, the wan in which a priest speaks to his audience might also have an effect on them.  While they would then be following what the priest says instead of their own personal ideas, they can still internalize those powerful spoken words and think more carefully about their own actions in the future.  Crusoe does not have the advantage of listening to any interpretations other than his own, so even though his experience is very internal and personal, it can also be somewhat selfish sometimes.  He can find ways to justify almost anything he wants to.

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