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Tools of Thought

 John Eisenberg states, “Thought is so intimately associated with the conventions of a technology, that it is hard for users to see that different media are independent means for the expression of thought.”  He then further explains this idea in terms of the transformation alphabet users made in adopting a new system of communication.  He states, “Alphabet users have a hard time giving up their literate intuitions, for the adoption of writing systems transformed human thought.”  It seems as though Eisenberg speaks of a time when the only means of communication was orally, whether it stories that were passed down, or even medical treatments that were used through the ages—they were all originally communicated orally.  We see a proactive movement taking place as this oral form of communication eventually leads towards advancements in forming alphabetical characters, and using these characters to form a ‘writing system.’  This itself shows the origins of not only language, and written communication, but also the origin of technological communication.  Ancient civilizations used thought, and were able to pass down advancements in their thoughts and ideas, technologically, through the use of writing systems.  People themselves are a form of technology that use thought to ignite more advancements in technology (such as an oral language, and then a writing system), which is then passed down through generations that also add to this snowball effect of technological advancements.

Through the relationship between technological advancements, and its origins, there is a sense of innate connection between all living creatures.  This is revealed in David Abram’s “The Spell of the Sensuous,” as he analyzes our reactions towards other animals, and forms of technology in this techno sphere.  He states, “When we attend to our experience not as intangible minds but as sounding, speaking bodies, we begin to sense that we are heard, even listen to, by the numerous other bodies that surround us.  Our sensing bodies respond to the eloquence of certain buildings and boulders, to the articulate motions of dragonflies.  We find ourselves alive in listening, speaking world.” This is a very interesting observation, as it shows a sense of unity in all of creation, as parts to a mechanical masterpiece.  Our reactions and thoughts towards other creatures, serve as a tool in understanding the habitants of the world around us.  This creates a form of harmony with mankind and all other creations, as parts to a greater functioning masterpiece.

Footprints of Life

Having been born into a Christian family, I’ve been taught at a very young age the importance of Faithful living.  In a world filled with uncertainties and doubts, it takes Faith to rise above the unknown with assurance of a greater good to come out of the twists and turns of life. 

Christianity plays a major role in my life, and I can’t fathom a life without God being the center of it. There is a popular poem, by an anonymous author, that I’ve held close to my heart since the very first time I read it, known as “Footprints in the Sand.” This poem talks about a man’s dream in which he is walking on the beach with the Lord, throughout his life on earth. Looking at the footprints in the sand, the man notices only one set of footprints during the difficult stages of his life and questions the Lord on where He was during those times. The Lord replies, that it was during those difficult times in the man’s life that the Lord was carrying him, and that is why he had only seen one set of footprint.

This poem impacted me on a more personal level, as I’d recall the many times I’d doubt God’s presence in my life during the rough, chaotic phases of my life.  I then remember His promises, that He would never leave me, or harm me, and that during suck difficult times in my life, He will carry me through the hurdles. 

In remembrance of this poem, I wear a ring with footprints engraved around it. I never leave the house without it, and it serves to be a reminder that whatever each day may hold, through the good times and the bad times, there is a Higher Being, the God Almighty, that carries me through my walk of life.

Here is a copy of the poem:

FOOTPRINTS

One night I had a dream–
I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord
and across the sky flashed scenes from my life.
For each scene I noticed two sets of footprints,
one belonged to me and the other to the Lord.
When the last scene of my life flashed before me,
I looked back at the footprints in the sand.
I noticed that many times along the path of my life,
there was only one set of footprints.
I also noticed that it happened at the very lowest
and saddest times in my life.
This really bothered me and I questioned the Lord about it.
“Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you,
you would walk with me all the way,
but I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life
there is only one set of footprints.
“I don’t understand why in times when I needed you most,
you should leave me.”
The Lord replied, “My precious, precious child,
I love you and I would never, never leave you
during your times of trial and suffering.
“When you saw only one set of footprints,
it was then that I carried you.”

 

 

(from http://www.amandashome.com/footprints.html)

The British Novel: 20th Century

  • The great overshadowing events of the 20th century include:
    • World War I
    • The Great Depression
    • World War II, including the Holocaust and the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima
    • The Cold War
    • The launch of Sputnik and advent of space flight
    • The end of colonialism and the rise of Third World countries
    • The reshaping of the face of world Communism
    • The twentieth-century novel experienced three major movements. High modernism, lasting through the 1920s, celebrated personal and textual inwardness, complexity, and difficulties. High modernists like Woolf and Joyce wrote in the wake of the shattering of confidence in old certainties. The 1930s through the 1950s saw a return to social realism and moralism as a reaction against modernism. Writers like Murdoch and Golding were consciously retrospective in their investment in moral form. By the end of the century modernism had given way to the striking pluralism of postmodernism and postcolonialism.
    • Although there were major innovations in Continental drama in the first half of the twentieth century, in Britain the impact of these innovations was delayed by a conservative theater establishment until the late 1950s and 1960s. Samuel Beckett played a leading role in the anglophone absorption of modernist experiment in drama. In the shadow of the mass death of World War II, Beckett’s absurdist intimation of an existential darkness without redemption gave impetus to a seismic shift in British drama. The Theatres Act of 1968 abolished the power of censorship that had rested in the Lord Chamberlain’s Office. Wole Soyinka and Derek Walcott, two eminent poets from Britain’s former dominions, helped breathe new life and diversity into English drama.
    • Another of the twentieth century’s defining features is radical artistic experiment. The boundary-breaking art, literature, and music of the first decades of the century are the subject of the topic “Modernist Experiment.” Among the leading aesthetic innovators of this era were the composer Igor Stravinsky, the cubist Pablo Picasso, and the futurist F. T. Marinetti. The waves of artistic energy in the avant-garde European arts soon crossed the English Channel, as instanced by the abstraction and dynamism of Red Stone Dancer (1913-14) by the London-basedvorticist sculptor Henri Gaudier-Brzeska. Other vorticists and modernists include such English-language writers as Ezra Pound, Wyndham Lewis, and Mina Loy, who also responded to the stimulus and challenge of the European avant-garde with manifestos, poems, plays, and other writings. This topic explores the links between Continental experiment and the modernist innovations of English-language poets and writers during a period of extraordinary ferment in literature and the arts.
    • Major Authors:
      • VIRGINIA WOOLF (1882-1935)
        • English novelist and essayist, whose fiction featured stream-of-consciousness technique
        • Major Works:
          • Mrs. Dalloway (1925)
          • To the Lighthouse (1927)
          • A Room of One’s Own (1929) a book-length essay about a woman’s need to find a space to do her own creative work

**SOURCES:

http://books.wwnorton.com/books/courselist.aspx?tid=1362&cid=1380&sortparam=Featured&lastpage=4&currentpage=1

http://ethnicity.rutgers.edu/~jlynch/Lit/20th.html

http://www.readbookonline.net/prize/20century/4/

Discontentful Gloom

Edward Hopper’s famous Nighthawks (1942) ignites a sense of melancholy which is also revealed in Hemingway’s “A Clean Well-Lighted Place.”  The painting gives off a feel of loneliness, as you see the man sits alone in a late night bar for a drink.  There is a contrast in the lighting of the painting, as the bar is the only place that is giving off light, whereas the rest of the surrounding is shutdown and asleep in the darkness.

The painting is much different from the ‘newly modern, electrified, urban world,’ as Manhattan is known to be busy and full of light.  The night time in fact is the liveliest and well lit time in the cities like Manhattan- however, here we see an inactive urban environment that is quiet, clean, and dark.  This is contrary to what most people would view city life.

The gloom that penetrates this picture brings a sense of curiosity as to what exactly the author tries to portray here.  The three customers at this bar seem to be well off, but at the same time dissatisfied with life- there is a sense of unhappiness.  The bar being the only place lit reveals that this place is the only place that these people find a sense of hope or satisfaction in their hectic dissatisfying lives.  The proper and clean environment gives off a sense of order in the picture- a type of constrained order in which the people are forced to live by in discontent.

Larger than Life

Technology is shown to be a relevant part of one’s day to day life, as we do not know a life without it.  The time period of which F. Scott Fitzgerald’s, The Great Gatsby takes place is during the summer of 1922 in Long Island, New York.  Though there is a sense of wealth and prosperity amongst the lives of the characters of Fitzgerald’s work, there is also an underlying portrayal of decay in the social and moral values of the characters of the story, and the crumbling of the American Dream in the process of such reckless living.

There is a clear separation between the lifestyle of the East Eggers and the West Eggers, as the East is portrayed to be a ‘fast paced lifestyle, with decadent parties, crumbling moral values, and the pursuit of wealth.’  It is a lifestyle associated with an upper class way of living, with extravagant lights, music, fancy cars, and all sorts of technological aspects that calls for a larger than life sort of vibe from the society.

The lifestyle of the West and the Midwest however, are of ones that are associated with more ‘traditional moral values.’  This is what leads Gatsby to strive in living an East Eggers’ lifestyle of parties and higher class living, in order to impress Daisy, as this was his American Dream. In chapter 6, Nick gives a description of Gatsby’s past and concludes: “So he invented just the sort of Jay Gatsby that a seventeen year old boy would be likely to invent, and to this conception he was faithful to the end.”  Gatsby had taken a technological approach on himself, as he transforms himself to meet the lifestyle of his beloved, despite the obstacles that society reveals to the fulfillment of his dreams.  This desire for change was a genuine desire of Gatsby’s for it was only for a the sole purpose of winning his beloved’s attention and consideration; however the lifestyle of the East, being consumed by money and worldly possessions leaves no room for an innocent heart like Gatsby’s to survive in such immoral conditions.

Gatsby however was not meant for this high-tech, upper class lifestyle of the East Eggers, for his heart was meant to be a West Egger.  Nick realizes this in himself in chapter 9, as he states: “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).  The simple appreciation for life and the simplicity of technology in itself isn’t appreciated in the same manner with the East Eggers.

As the fast paced, New York City lifestyle took over them, they seem to lose their sense of humanity, their sense of social and moral values.  Nick arrives at a great understanding of such loss of values as he makes his decision to leave the East Cost and return to Minnesota, as the infeasibility of Nick’s Midwestern values in New York society mirrors the impracticality of Gatsby’s dream to fit another lifestyle in order to be with his beloved Daisy.

The destruction of the American Dream is clearly revealed throughout the plot of The Great Gatsby.  Fitzgerald implies the death of the American Dream, in the death of Gatsby and his genuine desire to make his dream a reality.  His re-invention of himself to fit the technological realm of the East Eggers, shows the power technology holds on one’s lifestyle within the society we live in today, which makes technology larger than life.

19th Century vs. 20th Century

God-like Science

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein displays the character of Victor Frankenstein as a unique creator, who is instilled with the power to create life- which is unlike any technological artiest we have encountered earlier in our coursework.  Frankenstein plays a God-like role in his creation, of which is greatly relevant to the story of Adam and Eve in several aspects of the story.  Frankenstein’s eagerness to gain knowledge to his fullest potential and his curiosity to apply such knowledge in his own scientific advancement and discovery, paves the path for the reader’s understanding of Frankenstein to be a character with the capability to achieve more than what one may normally set out to do with one’s abundance of knowledge and theoretical views.

“So much has been done, exclaimed the soul of Frankenstein—more, far more, will I achieve; treading in the steps already marked, I will pioneer a new way, explore unknown powers, and unfold to the world the deepest mysteries of creation”(33).

Frankenstein is very self-driven and motivated to utilize his knowledge, as he gains a firm understanding from his professors and alchemists of whom he researched thoroughly about science.  Frankenstein’s curiosity of the “secret life” leads him to put together a mysterious creature out of old body parts.  His ability to give life goes past understanding- as he defines the word “creator” itself.  He has the power to create and provide a sense of being, to what were once bones that were decaying and old.

Frankenstein plays a God-like character, as he is the one to give life to his creation.  Just as God is seen to create Adam out of dirt- which is an inanimate object; Frankenstein, likewise, creates this monster out of bones of what was once life, but is now inanimate.  Such powers, shows dedication and work in part of Frankenstein, as he had put much effort and care into his creation- whether his underlying motives may have been through curiosity and wonder.

As a relevant figure to the Biblical God, Frankenstein is also asked by his creation for a counterpart, just as Adam longed for his female counterpart in the Biblical story.  Frankenstein’s creation also shows a great sense of anger, and emotions, just like the Biblical God’s creation has shown throughout the Bible. 

Victor Frankenstein is indeed a different creator than ever seen before, but as we venture onward in the reading, his curiosity, wonder, and eagerness leads him to his own destruction, as such longing for a power that is beyond human control and understanding is shown to be far greater than any human can handle.  Frankenstein’s creation of a monster, not only destroys himself, but also those who are closest to his relation.  The God-like powers of which Frankenstein sought after, and achieved is revealed to be perhaps too much for even the creator, such as himself, to be able to maintain, even while playing a God-like figure.

Angelic Clock

In choosing this image of a clock, I was marveled by the work that was made around it.  The golden image gives off a sense of royalty as though from an ancient time.  There is an angel or a cherub that stand at the top of the clock, embroidered with what appeared to be a shape of a har.  To the right of the clock sits a young woman, of whom seems to be of a higher class structure.  She sits in peace, pondering over the angel above her.  The clock is embroidered with several leaves and flowers, and distinct design as well.

There is a mechanical display of cooperation between two levels of being in peace with one another.  The angel of the heavenly realm, and the young woman of the world, are amidst each other in peace, just in the same way the clock works functionally in ordered fashion that controls stability throughout time.

A Biblical Enlightenment

One might compare the effects of listening to a Gospel passage read from the pulpit with reading the same passage at home for oneself.  In the first instance, the Word comes from a priest who is at a distance and on high; in the second it seems to come from a silent voice that is within . . . . I think that the ‘deep penetration of new controls’ to all departments of life becomes more explicable when we note that printed books are more portable than pulpits, more numerous than priests, and the messages they contain are more easily internalized.  . . . In so far as they were internalized by silent and solitary readers, the voice of individual conscience was strengthened.

–Elizabeth Eisenstein, The Printing Press as an Agent of Change (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979), pp. 428-9.

The above quote taken from Elizabeth Einstein’s The Printing Press as an Agent of Change is portrayed as a critical approach through Daniel Defeo’s Robinson Crusoe, through the lens of a reader-response criticism.  The reader-response criticism “studies the interaction of reader with text, holding the text as incomplete until it is read.”  This draws a deeper connection between one’s outer surrounding and inner self.  A relationship is developed between the mind and what is tangible as a physical text, which is shown through the use of the Bible in the development of Robinson Crusoe; as he is a character whom develops a more enlightened and positive outlook of his surrounding and circumstances, by allowing the Biblical text penetrate into his mind, body, and soul.

Einstein demonstrates two versions in receiving a Gospel passage: one of being told of the interpretation of the text by another party, and the other of gaining a personal understanding of the text by oneself.  Defeo’s Robinson Crusoe reveals a man who follows his heart’s exploratory desire of setting off to sea, when told by his father not to do so.  Through Crusoe’s father’s interpretation of life, it is wiser for Crusoe to stay home and study law so that he may be able create a safe and modest life for himself.  The father’s advice for Crusoe’s life is seen as Einstein’s reference to “the Word comes from a priest who is at a distance and on high;” as this is a form of receiving a text or in Crusoe’s case, advice on life; and although this may create an impact towards the receiver of the text or advice, it does not hold a personal interpretation and connection with the text or advice, which may perhaps serve more of an impact.  Crusoe’s father is seen as the priest, in that he serves as one manner in which Crusoe receives guidance- through his words of wisdom.

As the story progresses, Crusoe develops a ‘deep penetration of new controls’ in which he acquires a deeper understanding of the literary text of the Bible- of which he continues to implement in his own thoughts and way of life. As Crusoe is stuck alone on an island, he develops a personal understanding of the text of the Bible, which draws a greater impact on his life than the words of his Father, of which who could not form such an intertwined connection with.

This greater understanding of the text portrays as using a reader-response criticism towards the Bible.  He continues to apply a lifestyle of what was taught to himself through the Bible, in his the struggles he faces in his day to day life.  He finds a deeper understanding and appreciation towards the circumstances he undergoes, through the consummation of the texts from the Bible.  Crusoe states amidst such hopeless times, “…after I saw Barley grow there, in a Climate which I know was not proper for Corn, and especially that I knew not how it came there, it startled me strangely, and I began to suggest, that God had miraculously caus’d this Grain to grow without any help of Seed sown, and that it was so directed purely for my Sustenance on that wild miserable Place.”  (78)   Crusoe’s analysis of God’s deliverance in his time of struggle, vividly displays the deep penetration the Biblical text has over his mind and being.

There comes a point in Crusoe’s conquests, that he spends time in personal analysis of the positive and negative outcomes of his journey.  He states, “I have no Soul to speak to, or relieve me.”  Then he looks at this negative position he is left with, and finds a deeper purpose within it as he states: “But God wonderfully sent the Ship in near enough to the Shore, that I have gotten out so many necessary things as will either supply my Wants, or enable me to supply my self even as long as I live.” (66)  “Upon the whole, here was an undoubted Testimony, that there was scarce any Condition in the World so miserable, but there was something negative or something positive to be thankful for in it;” (67)

Crusoe carries his interpretation of the Bible as a portable text that is implemented in his thoughts and his actions.  This gives a deep impact of a textual content within the life those who internalize the overall message of the text.  Crusoe serves as a model of such reader-response criticism as he internalizes the Bible, in a manner in which it becomes a part of him, and lives within him and is portrayed through his thoughts and day to day to living.

A Techno-Controller

 

Throughout time, technology has become more and more within the reach of human race in its availability and use. We are conveniently granted control through several man-made creations that can make our lives simpler than a life without such advances in technology. The power of technology lies in the hands of those in control over its technological being. The use of power on technology is portrayed in William Shakespeare’s, “The Tempest,” in which Prospero, the artist and technician, uses control through his mystical arts to manipulate Miranda, Ariel, and Caliban, as his technological controls who all help satisfy Prospero’s need for control in a convenient manner.

The lack of control in which Miranda has over her own life, shows the impact her father- Prospero, has over her. Prospero becomes the controller and master of his creation in which he uses magic to manipulate the world around him.  Prospero is portrayed as a technological controller, as he is shown to be manipulative through his magical abilities. Miranda in return is seen as the creation, or a form of technology that is utilized by Prospero, in that she is constantly forced to act in ways against her will.  She shows a loss of self in that she has no say in the way her life is played out.  She is revealed to be a very passive character that simply does what she is told, and follows her Father’s imposed lifestyle upon her, whether out of fear or genuine respect.

Prospero does not allow Miranda to even choose her own husband.  Against his daughter’s knowledge, Prospero uses his magical powers to conjure a spell through Ariel, his mystical assistant, to have her fall in love with Ferdinand, who equally was spell-woven to fall in love with Miranda.  While Miranda lay asleep, Ariel is told to receive Ferdinand to carry out the task of a love connection between himself and Miranda as the controller of his creation, Prospero uses magic to control Miranda, just as one may use electricity to control technological devices.  Miranda is used as a tool, a form of technology that Prospero, the controller of her technological being manipulates to work out her life in a way in which is pleasing to him.

Technology as we are familiar with in our times is not solely for the purpose of convenience but also for the desire for control, as we long to be masters of our world, and the lives of those we hold close. This same manner is relevant in Miranda’s portrayal of being technological aspects of Prospero’s life- as Prospero controls her being, for no actual benefit in return to gain from her- just mere desire to control.

This use of control on Miranda however impacts the relationship she has with Ferdinand.  She feels as though she’s unworthy and controlled.

“[I weep] at mine unworthiness, that dare not offer
What I desire to give, and much less take
What I shall die to want. But this is trifling,
And all the more it seeks to hide itself
The bigger bulk it shows. Hence, bashful cunning,
And prompt me, plain and holy innocence.
I am your wife, if you will marry me.
If not, I’ll die your maid. To be your fellow
You may deny me, but I’ll be your servant
Whether you will or no” (III.i.77–86)

The character of Miranda is shown to be that of one that is offered to be used for the better of others.  She is a form of technology as she offers her being and her control over to her Father, as well as her husband later on in the play.

            Likely, Ariel, in his loyalty and efficiency is presented to be yet another technological force in which Prospero takes complete control and use over.  Ariel is a spirit upon whom Prospero constantly calls upon to carry out tasks throughout the play.  There is a sense of helplessness that Ariel reveals throughout the play.  He shows a wanting of freedom, but is in some way trapped from being able to achieve that opportunity.

            Towards the beginning of the play, after carrying out the task of causing a storm, Ariel reminds Prospero of the deal they had made, which entails that Ariel would receive a year off of his servitude towards Prospero, if he is to carry out the given tasks without complaints.  Prospero then becomes quick to show his sense of control and ownership over Ariel, as though he is his property, his tool for service.  Prospero reminds Ariel that he was rescued and freed from imprisonment due to Prospero rescuing him, and that he should stop complaining or else he would suffer twelve more years of imprisonment.  Ariel, out of fear, follows Prospero’s orders, and abides by what he is told.  The control Prospero has over Ariel, for his own selfish gain, shows a sense of technological possessiveness that Prospero has over Ariel.

            While Ariel is more of an “airy-spirit” that tends to Prospero’s needs, Caliban is a character within the play that is seen as more of an earthly servant towards Prospero.  Likewise, Prospero shows severe ownership and control over Caliban, in the way he talks to him, and treats him, in more of technological aspect.

            Prospero views Caliban demeaningly, in a way in which that Caliban should be grateful for the effort Prospero had put into educating him, and teaching him about living a civilized life.  Prospero in his perspective “created” Caliban, to be the being he is.  This sort of ownership and care is deemed to be respected and grateful for, in Prospero’s eyes.  Caliban however, views Prospero to be an oppressor.  He states:

“You taught me language, and my profit on’t
Is I know how to curse. The red plague rid you
For learning me your language!”  (I.ii.366–368)

Caliban seems to be ungrateful for what Prospero has done for him, from time to time.  He views the knowledge of what Prospero and Miranda teaches him, to be a force of intimidation that portrays  his difference from both Prospero and Miranda; therefore he shows resentment in his gratefulness towards them.

            Just as Prospero interrogates Ariel, for the favor in which Prospero had done for him, likely Prospero constantly reminds Caliban of what he does for him- in order to keep him in check; in a way to show that Caliban is now obligated to serve and respect Prospero.

            Prospero’s forceful attitude towards Miranda, Ariel, and Caliban, all show his sense of control and ownership over their being.  Prospero is then the creator, and controller, as Miranda, Ariel, and Caliban remain his technological creation, on which he imposes rules and commands, for his own self-fulfillment of desires.  Therefore, the characters of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” clearly portrays a technological lens towards the play, and how it is then carried out.  Technology is shown to be used not only for convenience, but also for the purpose of fulfilling a desire of power and control over another part or being.

 

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