On page. 174 of the interview there is a clear relationship to what Ellison is saying and the “Battle Royal” scene from chapter one. “When I started writing, I knew that in both The Waste Land and Ulysses ancient myth and ritual were used to give form and significance to the material; but it took me a few years to realize that the myths and rites which we find functioning in our everyday lives could be used in the same way(Ellison).” These rites of passage as Ellison puts it are accepted for just that. They escape the boundaries of whats right and wrong and are blindly accepted by those who engage. The modern day “hazing” that takes place in high schools and colleges across the country is a prime example. “People rationalize what they shun or are incapable of dealing with; these superstitions and their rationalizations become ritual as they govern behavior. The rituals become social forms and it is one of the functions of the artist to recognize them and raise them to the level of art (Ellison).” I feel what Ellison is expressing is exactly what he did in the depiction of the “Battle Royal.” When these “normal” rituals take place it is the job of the artist to strip the taboo of the act and expose it for what it really is. The graphic depiction of the “Battle Royal” is not exaggerated but stated in plain facts. These plain facts rise above the smog of acceptance and reveal something that is horrid and wrong. It takes an outside perspective to see this and an artist to expose it. “This passage which states what Negroes will see I did not have to invent; the patterns were already there in society, so that all I had to do was present them in a broader context of meaning. In any society there are many rituals of situation which, for the most part, go unquestioned. They can be simple or elaborate, but they are the connective tissue between the work of art and the audience (Ellison).” As I stated before rituals ant rites of passage are accepted by us all without any conscious thought. Its just the normal routine. However it takes an artist like Ellison to expose the true graphic nature of what is really taking place.
Holbein’s painting “The Ambassadors” more clearly illustrates a relationship with the book after finishing James’ book. Its hard to believe that the painting was done some 25 years before the book.
Strether’s role as an ambassador is clearly not his suited role. He has not only given up on his ultimate mission of bringing Chad back home but in fact tries to convince him to stay. He is unhappy with his own life and bends to constraints of his world.
However the poor man in the painting takes a side angle view of that “anamorphosis” skull and realizes that death is inevitable rich or poor. In his conversation with Bilham we see that Strether has a change of hearts and a fresh perspective that one must live life to the fullest. Simply being alive isn’t necessarily living and must decipher the two in order to achieve their potential. In this sense I feel that Strether is the ultimate ambassador. He becomes an ambassador for himself. Holbein’s painting represents travel and wealth, the difference in classes and the fact that whether its in one’s conscious or not, death is waiting for us all. However it takes a certain presence of mind to realize this even when “death” is pleasantly presented as a harmless blur sneering in our face.
In James “The Ambassadors” we are introduced to a story through the perspective of Strether. Strether is a man who has not quite lived up to his potential and is seeking Waymarsh in Europe. I feel that these two men represent a connection that James saw in Holbein’s painting “The Ambassadors.” I get the impression that Strether is the less glamorously dressed one while Waymarsh is draped in the finest. Strether to me represents the poorer of the men for a deeper reason than his economic predicament. He represents the poorer of the men because he is underachieved, untapped, and unfaithful to his potential. However to the delight of James there is no clear connection from the painting to the story. One does not reveal the other. The picture serves as an emblem rather than a reflection. I also notice the globes in the painting which represent the voyage from America to Europe. The one thing in the painting that is eerily striking is the skull that lurks below the men representing “anamorphosis.” I find it intriguing how the skull can only be viewed from a certain angle to reveal itself. Otherwise it looks like an inanimate object of some sort. However the skull represents death. Death is inevitable. Strether comes to the conclusion that you must live your life to the fullest while you can. In the end death will claim us all.
“Muybridge was a doorway, a pivot between the old world and ours, and to follow him is to follow the choices that got us here”(Solnit, Rover of Shadows). Muybridge’s innovative technology, capturing animals in motion, and slowing them down image by image has influenced the way we all look at the world. Like it or not, whether we want to admit, anyone who had access to a blog has been touched by technology and its influence. Muybridge paved the road for our movies, actors, fame, fortune etc. He did this all with the manipulation of time. Play, rewind, fast forward, and pause are powers that are incredible when you really think of it. Does a still image freeze the consciousness? William James would adamantly disagree for the consciousness is like a running stream of water. Our consciousness is always in flow as we observe each still image and will according to James never look at the same thing in exactly the same way. Our mood, the seasons, the time of day, day of the week amongst other countless variables can all have an influence on the way we view the same things everyday. However it can’t be disputed freezing a horse in motion offers a perspective that was never previously available. Many artists would try to resist the revolution that Muybridge has sparked. His achievements have isolated the human from the actual reality of their world. Watching a horse move forward and backward is a false representation of witnessing a horse stampede in the flesh. The smells, tastes, perspective are all compromised by the photographer. However true this may be it would be hard to envision a world without the influence of Muybridge. Our DVR’s, netflix, documentaries, Knicks games, reality shows etc., would never exist. In actuality, without the influence of Muybridge, outside the physicality of our daily ventures, it would be hard to envision a world at all.
William James and Rita Carter although coming from two different time periods shared some similar views in terms of the consciousness. Carter seems to argue how our consciousness provides us with a delayed world consisting of mostly illusion. Our consciousness constructs this delayed scene in which we are virtually blind to most of the picture. She used an example of how you could be driving for miles with no memory of it, or read a page and at the end have no recollection of what you read. This “inattentional blindness” primes us to ignore things we are not looking for. This is similar to “change blindness.” Certain things can be altered without the mind being conscious of it. According to Carter, “Within the moment visual consciousness is not, then, the rich and detailed panorama we think it is. It is limited to a handful of clear perceptions, and the apparent detail is an illusion. Our minds are fooled because consciousness unfolds in time, and the construction of the experience depends on merging the consciousness of one moment with that of the next.” Our predetermined perceptions of the world from previous encounters will layer our present visual more than the perceptions we are witnessing of the visual right now. This is why people with Anton’s delusion think they can still see. They are viewing the world from their consciousness just like us except that their consciousness is unable to make the necessary tweaks to the new folds of their surroundings. Our consciousness is prone to approach similar visuals in much the same manner. As James points out something as simple as grass has so many elements in it. Shades of green, smell and length are all characteristics our conscious is prone to skip unless the length of the grass is brought to the attention of the consciousness. “The grass out of the window now looks to me the same green in the sun as in the shade, and yet a painter would have to paint one part of it dark brown, another part bright yellow, to give its real sensational effect…The sameness of the things is what we are concerned to ascertain; and any sensations that will assure us of that will probably be considered in a rough way to be the same with each other.”(James.) This idea is similar to the one Carter makes and the cycle that someone with Anton’s delusion is doing at every moment. Our consciousness is our reality but our reality isn’t necessarily reality in the sense of the word.
Two topics that have not been looked into by Wikipedia as of yet is “image standard” and author “Jonathan Crary.” As far as image standard goes i thought my group could give a broad definition of what this is, examples that exist today, and tools that gave us the “image standard.” As far as Jonathan Crary goes i thought we could give a description of his background as well as mention his publications and the work he has contributed in his field.
Crary believed that a vision or subject was totally dependent on the observer. The visual “materialized” in the eyes of the observer. However the factors that affected the observer had an influence on the ultimate visual. That is where the shift occurs in the 19th century to to technological advancement. Devices like the camera obscura and the stereoscope changed the ways in which the observer interpreted the visual. He described these devices as “points of intersection where philosophical, scientific, and aesthetic discourses overlap with mechanical techniques, institutional requirements, and socioeconomic forces” (8). The previous practices of observation are now applied through a more advanced translation or medium of the visual. However in the case of the camera obscura the observations were more objective, based on facts requiring less use of the cognitive. The stereoscope on the contrary was a subjective device where the observers mind plays a key role in the ultimate depiction. In the case of the stereoscope the ultimate truth of the visual may vary from observer to observer. In the case of Turner, he broke from the trend of clear lines and crisp, precise strokes and substituted this for a more abstract interpretation. Instead of painting an image that would mimic the works of the camera obscura, Turner painted from his own subjective point of view. He painted to his best ability what his eye saw. Not what was captured by the camera obscura, and in modern times not what was captured on someone’s digital camera. He painted what the eye saw. Had the wind blown another way the Snowstorm painting may have take a completely different twist. As an observer of his painting my eye may interpret this in a much different way then the next person. This “modern” form of art was the subject of much ridicule only because the majority were not prepared to observe on such a cognitive level.
Whitman’s account of the civil war takes on a much different direction then Brady and Gardner’s civil war photographs. Whitman’s sense of direction in his writings is the difference. We have a more detailed sense of where we are, the date, who we are dealing with, accompanied by Whitman’s detailed description gives a very disturbing yet vivid depiction of the Civil War and what it is about. We lack that sense of background in Brady and Gardner’s works. There is no denying the power of the photograph and the emotions and pure gore that it can define. However a picture on its own according to Trachtenberg is not strong enough to give a viewer a sense of the times. This goes for any picture. Today’s facebook is a modern day realization of how a valid picture can be manipulated into something far from its reality. A picture of a corpse is without question a disturbing image. However the fact that the corpse was a sixteen year old boy who froze to death fighting for a cause, we get a much more vivid depiction of the times. The fact that Brady bought many of his images off other photographers to construct a sort of collage further illustrates the detachment of the image from the trivial period in America’s history. This sense of detachment is mended in Whitman’s detailed personal accounts with different soldiers who had names and addresses, and family who were struggling with amputation and hemoraghing bladders gives the reader a chilling image that is branded to the mind. Whitman’s first hand encounters with the war, and his ability to bring the smell and digging heels of a dieing soldier to its reader, gives the missing and crucial element that a picture alone just simply lacks.