Invisible Man

May 20, 2011

The concept of the invisible man in Ellison’s book does bother me a little. I, as an individual have trouble dealing with indecisiveness. It bothers me, I like things to be black and white, the gray area is something that I rarely stumble upon. The invisible man in this case though, is an individual that enjoys hiding from me in the gray area. The light bulbs, Armstrong’s music, all of it does an excellent job concealing my man. But I have found a chink in his armor, his suit that makes him invisible. It may not be that our narrator is invisible to everyone, but it seems to me that after reading and seeing the interaction that he has with the brotherhood, he may only be invisible to the “whites”, or so he considers himself to be. The boxing scene in the beginning of the book shows this concept of seeing quite well. We see how his eyes are covered, he is set loose in a ring with nothing but sound and instincts to guide him, yet for a moment his blindfold comes down. He realizes though, that he can not be obvious about this, he can’t show that he can see, or be scene. The narrator continues to brawl, being inconspicuous and when reading the beginning of the book, I as a reader didn’t see the importance of that scene. Our man continues to act as if he can not see, he continues to fool everyone while quietly reaping the benefits of his advantage. Is his invisibility an advantage as well. Is this the reason why he is so set on being invisible, because it grants him an advantage? I’m in the process of finishing the book and I’m looking forward to more answers. One thing is certain though, this invisibility act that we have so far in the book is beginning to seem like more and more of a cover, can the reason for this “invisibility” be simply race, can it simply be that he was at the time at a disadvantage because of his skin color? Even though this is probably and it seems to be the idea that everyone is content with it seems that in the formation of our character we see him become more and more involved, for example with the brotherhood. The race topic is an over arching theme of the story, yet the invisibility theme seems to be to complex to only be tied to that. More reading needs to be done!

Ambassadors 2

May 20, 2011

Ok, I admit. After reading the whole text it has become more pertinent to me the ways in which you can as a reader and viewer tie Holbein’s painting to James novel. The main connection that I was able to make was the paintings skull, that is partially hidden from the viewer,and very cleverly hidden in plain sight and Chad’s life. Sterther is surprised when he sees Chad, when he sees how restrained and cultured he looks from the last time that he has seen him. It seems as though Chad has heeded the warning of Holbein from his painting and he does realize he is going to die sooner or later, and it seems that he is making the most out of his life in europe. Europe has transformed Chad, it has refined him, made him what seems to be a gentleman. Strether falls in love with the Parisian life style, he has the desire to stay and the opportunity yet he turns it down. His return to the United States was a foolish move yet it shows the differences between Chad and Strether. Strether is aware that Chad would most likely be better off in Europe, yet he can’t bring himself to convince him to stay, he tries in the final chapter of the book, yet Chad only thinks about the business and how he can improve it. Strether feels “old” when he runs up the stairs to see Chad and that feeling made me think of death. The advancement in age is an advance toward death, toward that skull that we see in Holbein’s painting. It is true that Strether isn’t a great “ambassador” but it seems that he’s the only one that Mrs. Newsome has, and we see how displeased she is with the situation. Yet it seems that a change has occurred in Strether, he seems to have changed during his time in Europe. A change also occurred in Holbein’s painting, after years of false knowledge it seems that the truth may have been uncovered and that the gentlemen in the painting weren’t exactly who everyone thought. That could have been a marketing ploy by Henry James yet we see that change happen in Strether upon his visit to Europe.

Ambassadors 1

May 20, 2011

It was interesting to see the Holbein Painting and then compare it too the text by Henry James. Although they share the same titles, I feel as a reader that these two works are very different. I can’t say that viewing the image hasn’t enhanced my reading of the book and vice versa yet, I don’t feel that it has done as much as it has for everyone else. Strether in chapter two does discuss his “ambassadorial” duties for which he is in Europe and when we learn that he in fact has not much to gain from the situation, that he does it out of fear to not lose what he has, I happened to have lost an initial respect for the character that I have when first reading a text. Back to the painting, Holbein’s 1533 painting of the Ambassadors is rich with detail, when we look up close to the image, we see the markings on the globe, the compass, and other analytical tools that were used in the era. We know that these two individuals are educated, simply because they have the knowledge to use these tools. The individual on the left has a wealthy air around him, from the fine clothing to the fur coat, it seems that we are talking about a wealthy ambassador. On the right though we see a more modest figure, what seems to be a religious individual, someone from the church. In either case we know we are dealing with wealth, intelligence, and power. The skull in the painting though initially didn’t catch my attention, but after it did, that is what consumed my attention. After noticing that I didn’t care about any other details or any other images in the painting, the only thing that I was interested in was the skull, the Momento Mori. At this point in James’ text I am unsure where the skull ties into the text. We meet Waymarsh and Strether and I am tempted to say that Strether may be our individual on the right of the painting simply because we know that he isn’t as financially independent as Waymarsh, simply because Strether’s magazine is in fact being financially supported, he is in Europe doing the bidding of someone else, not exactly an ideal vacation. Overall though, I do not want to jump to conclusions about the figures in the painting and the characters simply because it seems to early.

Trachtenberg and Whitman

May 20, 2011

The main idea behind Alan Trachtenberg’s essay is not an analysis of Gardner and Brady’s methods for the circulation and sale of civil war photographs, but they do play a big part in this essay. We know that Brady’s name is signed on all of these pictures, and Trachtenberg notes that he signs pictures that weren’t even taken by him. Trachtenberg notes on page 289 that Brady “was more an entrepreneur than a photographer”. From the text though we see Trachtenberg does not seem to be to pleased overall with Brady’s work but that is all interpretation. Brady though does compile photos into albums and later tries to sell his collection to congress in 1869, overall we know that he saw a financial opportunity when he saw photography, and seeing how gathering pictures of the war was a new practice he was able to bring images of the war to individuals that hadn’t experienced it. Trachtenberg underlines on page 291 that the compilation of images somehow cheapens the experience that the viewer experiences when looking at a single picture. Apparently being bombarded with visual stimulus in the form of photos can diminish the initial shock and awe of a single photo where as a viewer you have time to dedicate just to that single image. You focus just on that and your eyes do not have the need to wander onto other pictures because there are one. Images of the war though were of an amazing benefit to Americans, Trachtenberg says that “the seeable represented the unspeakable”, these photos allowed viewers to experience what they never have before and this is still true for us today, hence the reason we go and watch movies in cinemas. Holmes though does establish “what a vast branch of commerce” photography has become, in his writings and we see Brady cashing in on this along with Gardner. Whitman says that “the real war will never get in the books” yet that seems to be more of a half truth. Whitman wrote O Captain My Captain, a poem which is one of my favorites by him, and even though the real carnage and brutality that war is can not be placed in a book, his words, Brady’s photos and Gardner’s work all show the same thing but in different aspects and different degrees of severity. Overall though, the war is in the books, the impact though is not.

The Real Thing

May 20, 2011

The “Real Thing” by Henry James was a more pleasurable read and happened to be one of my favorites. The beginning of the story seemed at first confusing put progression through it cleared things up. The Monarchs are a strange couple because we as readers don’t know exactly what happened to them and their finances. The Monarchs are high society, they are classy, yet they don’t have the financial backing, and as the story progresses we see desperation. That is what really bothered me, the desperation behind them, Mrs. Monarch gets up and begins to walk, modeling for our artist, that scene was of amazing embarrassment. The artist realizes though that they have history with photography and supposedly did some modeling before. “I feared my visitors were not only destitute, but “artistic– which would be a great complication.” we know from the beginning that it won’t bode well for the Monarchs but we don’t know exactly how awful it will end up being. James incorporates an interesting bit of irony in this work, we see how the “real thing” aka the Monarchs are actually not the real thing for the artist. yet Miss Churm and the street vagabond Oronte are. This makes us question though what the real thing is, is the real thing what we see on paper, the models, the image? Of is the real thing reality, even if it doesn’t always look like the real thing. The Monarchs had the clothing for the part, they acted the part, yet on paper, as an image they couldn’t seem to personify it. The artist says that “it was very odd to see such people apply for such poor pay”, and it makes sense, Major Monarch was elegant and attractive, yet at the end we see him practically begging for a job. Even though at the end of the story, the artist no longer sees them as the real thing, we have a more appropriate substitute for the real thing, the only problem is that they are lower class, not as wealthy, and not as elegant. This makes us wonder though, what an image can actually tell us. Are images honest? If so how is it that we are confronted with this dilemma when reading the story? The problem is that after reading the story we are left with more questions than answers, and the main one being, what really is the real thing? Is it what we see with our eyes that is tangible that we know that is present, or the image we see on a paper?


March 31, 2011

Viewing Holbein’s painting helped me have an idea of what to expect when reading the Ambassadors. Though, when I saw it I also wanted to view other images and paintings of individuals from the time period that weren’t the same social class as “The Ambassadors”. After seeing a few images I realized that the painting and the book have one very obvious thing in common, they both show wealth and influence. The painting shows both men as heavy set, well fed, and elegantly clothed men. We know from the painting that these men are educated, their books laid open on the floor, the globe laid on the table, all signs of men that are well educated. The painter through the details shows us that these men are wealthy, cultured, and important. Both individuals in this painting look very similar, in fact their faces seem almost impossible to distinguish, what distinguishes them is their clothing and what they hold in their hands, in other words their possessions.

Both seeing the painting and reading the book have helped me develop ideas about each. From the beginning of the book we know that the main idea is wealth and social class, but when I read and began to understand Waymarsh’s character I began to think of the individual on the left side of the painting. For me that is Waymarsh, or at least the way that I see him when reading the book. Extravagantly dressed, wealthy, and educated, that to me is how I see him in both the painting and the book. The second individual in the painting is a little bit harder to dissect, theoretically it could be Strether, but after seeing the image in the painting and reading the first part of the book, I’m still not comfortable enough to make that tie. Possibly as the story develops I’ll be able to do it but as of now no.

Finnaly Up! My first blog!!

February 22, 2011

The problem with sight is the fact that our eyes behold something yet our mind does the interpreting.  I feel that all of us see the same exact things yet the way in which our mind works produces the differences in our perception.  Emerson says that our existence is a “train of moods”, that our mind puts us in different modes that interpret what we see and experience.  The subject of how we see things doesn’t seem to fit, the reason for this is because our mood and state changes and with this change we see a change in what we see.  Let’s take a look at an example, lets have an individual in two drastically polar moods and expose them to an image or to a scene, set these two scenarios at different moments in time but under the same conditions.  We will see a difference in what the individual sees and not because of the fact that the image is different will the results be different but because the state in which the mind is in alters what the individual sees.  Turner paints images of what he sees after looking into the sun, he gives us the after image and we see the affect that it has on the traditional idea of the horizon.  In Turner’s snow storm we see how the perception of Turner’s vision distorts what a traditional landscape would show, by changing the horizon from what was the standard up to then. Crary’s study about the after image of what people see after looking into the sun is to subjective for my taste, this is my blog I want to state what I believe.  People looking at the same object from two different points theoretically see two different things but that isn’t true, they are seeing the same thing.  The fact is that no matter where they look at it from it’s existence is the same, it hasn’t changed simple the perspective has.  Human perspective though should not alter reality, simple because we see or don’t see something doesn’t mean that the existence of that item has altered.  Staring into the sun and viewing the after image doesn’t generate a different perspective or way to look at the sun, it actually hinders the perception of reality and ultimately makes you blind.  Crary also speaks about the modernization of vision, but that again to me seems to be a falsehood, I don’t believe vision has modernized or Turner modernized or did not modernize vision, I believe that our perception and interpretation has become modernized and changed.

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