Ripping off the Blindfold

May 24th, 2011
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The scene before the battle royal begins, with the woman dancing in the ring complicates the idea of invisibility, individuality, and identity. “I had a notion that of all in the room she saw only me with her impersonal eyes” (19). I wondered, is there a borderline to being invisible but feeling like the most noticeable person on earth. Throughout the whole actual battle scene the narrator fails to be unrecognized or ignored amongst the fighting sweaty boys. It is undetermined whether or not he stood out because of his race or anything else, but he was a central focus to the antagonizing adults.

This moment with the tortured woman made me question the true nature of the narrator’s invisibility. In the same vain, what set of seeing or not seeing forged his way to be invisible, for when he gets to college, and even in this scene, blindfolds are distributed to be worn by all.

Still the narrator relies heavily on other senses. His extraordinary attention to detail is prominent throughout the telling of his tale. Everything he utters is felt with deepest emotion and accuracy to his vision and his memory. For these senses are his, which makes them all the more unique because he is invisible. And his senses are superhuman, supersonic senses, for he can delve his body inside a Louis Armstrong song and find a Church’s service in its strings of musicality. When thinking of the senses in this way that “Third eye monster” of Ellison’s becomes an almost super hero creature to the narrator’s subconscious. If being blindfolded by school, race, regulations and etc. turned the invisible man into that nameless face than sprucing up his hole with lights or donning a “photographic lens” as a third eye not only gives him the power to see but to be seen. Thus the woman in the beginning stages of the novel is seen through that third lens because she sees him.

And that “third eye” wonderment even appears in Invisible Man during the hospital scene, “and a man was looking out of a bright third eye that glowed from the center of his forehead” (231). It is semi-ironic that the third eye appears in this scene for the doctors.  The doctors are characterized as monsters in a sense, probing and probing the physical and mental body of the narrator. But another way in which it is ironic is that this scene, this chapter, is issued as a transitory one because the narrator is going through a rebirthing process – with literally no identity and no name. Thus there is also a simultaneous fear of the third eye, for now the narrator can no longer see or name himself – for he knows of nothing, and because someone else is seeing him – whether fictitiously true or not. So in this case, the “third eye” is an ominous portrayal of the life and the person that he left behind and the stereotypes of remaking a person.  Still he regains his sense of self by being only “invisible, not blind” (576) and by being “ ‘against’ ” society. Only when he separated from the pack of a forced community, embraced that third eye – which in Ellison’s case was physical – that inner eye releases an inner self, and his identity is no longer invisible.

The Real Real Thing

May 24th, 2011
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The peculiarity of Henry James’ “The Real Thing” is that the unnamed artist that serves as the protagonist is attempting to attain something accurate with his art. However in trying to serve just that purpose the artist casts two robotic and mechanical productions as his muses, who call themselves the Monarchs. Samantha pointed out in her blog that the Monarchs stand as that symbol of upper class, but how that aura has quite diminished, so has their standing in society – which is why they scope out an artist to take their portrait. Nevertheless there is another reading that can be applied to the names ‘The Monarchs.’

The male Monarch came tumbling out like a giant from the artist’s hand and the female equivalent drew as “insurmountably stiff…[and] looked like a photograph or a copy of the photograph” (200). The artist goes so far as to say that Mrs. Monarch could sit or stand still for hours “as if she were before a photographer’s lens” (199), which rendered her role as being painted or penciled in quite unfitting. Thus The Monarchs should be a title that states the idea of mechanical production as what was in the forefront of that epoch. Since the world James was writing in was beginning to rise industrially, photography, and that sort of attainable truth was in more demand than an artist’s palate.

Still the accuracy of the photograph is being challenged by James’ words and by his main character. For the Monarchs then are made out to be cardboard cutouts, replicas of themselves and far from the ‘real thing.’ I believe James was showing us the hot air of photography by making the artist’s models model through the motions, “with their society laugh about nothing” (208). Several times the artist comments on the authenticity and ‘realness’ of the Monarchs, but he contradicts himself by stating the above facts, and thus describing them as culture copies – fake realizations of the ‘real.’ And thus the reality of the literal situation is what ultimately lends itself to making the truth come out, that the Monarchs are servants for the artist in the end. Their true roles are being served.

Alternate Accuracy

March 16th, 2011
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“There was enormous value placed on realistic images and accurate representations” (Solint 15). Solint may be talking about “the Europenan embrace of the empirical,” but she says this in reference to the camera obscura and photography. And later she links the Europeans way of seeing to the American culture.

But what are realistic images? And what is “real time?” Can we record something in actuality? What is actuality or reality anyway? Muybridge’s pictures in motion are the precursor to motion pictures, and I have a theory about the way time works through this acceleration of accurate motion. And this is also my answer to the question of how time and space works in motion picture photography to the 19th century view – but I answered it more so in relation to today.

There are moments when a person can see a two-hour movie and feel like they were sitting in the movie theater the whole day; thus there are two sets of time then. In movies there is “real time” and time created on the screen. And the same goes for space. Time and space are used like taffy. Time is being stretched or shortened, twisted in all that makes “movie time” – or time that the viewer is aware of – not concrete. And motion pictures do not account for space at all because they make it up with frames and pictures. Space is continuously being filled in like a “steam of thought” or as a train moves through destinations – and this makes space less abstract. Now motion pictures and motion picture photography are a metaphor for our consciousness.

Perhaps then Solint’s idea of “consciousness evolv[ing] from [something] utterly immersed in this river to something that clambered onto land” (18), not because we are pulling away from an internal place but rather we are externalizing our internal ideas. And this explains why our culture is “always willing to out run what is with what might be” (Solint 15), because thought is not as concrete as the image is in our warped and visual addicted minds. And we can go further as to say that belief or religion works as another way to externalize the internal. But how much are we relying on other thought that is not our own? I do not think that we have necessarily become a culture that has washed away the stream, but do we practice in our own stream? As an anxiety for the human’s role heightens, the role of the individual is being threatened as well. Thus no wonder why identity was such a crisis in the 19th century. Because time and space were being so manipulated it was hard to tell what real “real time” was anymore, hence it was hard to tell what “real life” was or where they fit in into it. So although images try to promote an “accurate” world they show precisely that there is no such thing as accurate, and it goes beyond subjective vision too.


March 8th, 2011
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Carter and James both say the consciousness is a steady continuous stream; consciousness depends on paying attention, it hones in on what one person notices – it is a “subjective life” (James 239). Both Carter and James argue however that the consciousness is separated by gaps, interruptions, time gaps, or inconsistencies in thought – but the two writers discover that each thought seemingly do not belong together but everything in the consciousness is interlocked and interconnected, “like a string of beads” (Emerson 473). Therefore, the consciousness is a succession of experiences, and as the owners of our subjective lives we select what we pay attention to. James admits that past present and future are interweaved into a “community of self [that] the time-gap cannot break in twain, and is why a present thought, although not ignorant of the time-gap, can still regard itself as continuous with certain chosen portions of the past” (239).
Carter takes these gaps and analyzes them through visual media and experiments. She notes, with this experiment as an example, that when two images are next to each other whether on a page or in time a difference can be noted. However, when the latter image of the pair comes after a time-gap, even if it is just a second, no difference will be detected. This is a form of blindness, which reminds me of Holmes’ “self-blindness,” and like the blind spot that Cater mentions also one does not detect a change until it is brought to their attention. A person with a blind spot may not realize something passes their vision, or what might have passes their vision, without being prompted to guess what the picture is. Carter’s examples here are in conjunction with James’s idea of past and present joining into consciousness, for one might not see the gap from present to past unless one is looking for it.
“Consciousness unfolds in time,” (18) writes Carter, but does that take into account the gaps and time-stills? With Carter’s examples she is highlighting “Our startling lack of consciousness of what is in front of our eyes” (14). If consciousness is so linked in time, and if time literally does not stop, then how do we have gaps in our sight or current stream of consciousness? I noticed that with Carter most of the visual aids to her arguments had an underlying objective to trick sight or to trick consciousness. James made it so we have control over our consciousness, “Thought tends to Personal Form” (225) and Carter agrees to some extent. Still, if visual perception can morph our consciousness into seeing something that is there or which is not, then how much does Carter’s theory depend on our own will to denote sight? Carter kept saying we are conscious of the words we are reading and the page it is on but we are conscious of other thing too, and also not conscious of everything on the page. But what about being conscious of what we are unconscious of, where does that fit in? Does this constitute as a gap? “Does your consciousness flow smoothly, continuously, and in real time? Or does it lurch along, punctuated by jump-cuts and freeze-frames, flashbacks and fade-outs” (Carter 12)? Do these questions constitute as phases of consciousness, because consciousness does not just bring things up along a linear line. Consciousness is not cookie-cutter like these texts suggest; consciousness is a complexity.


March 2nd, 2011
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Horizon Line

Photography as narrative

the Sublime Turn

Techniques of the Observer

Transparent Eyeball

Claims to Count on

February 22nd, 2011
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Trachtenberg is a supporter of the photograph or stereograph image because of its immediacy, but also because of its lack of hearsay. He argues, while using Holmes as a crutch, “[that] photographic remains of [the war] proved too much like tokens of the real thing to be endured…these simulacra of dismembered bodies intruding upon [Holmes’s] interior space somehow reembodied the viewer as one who ‘sickens at such sights.’ As if [the pictures] were the ‘mutilated remains’ themselves” (Trachtenberg 294-5). Trachtenberg is arguing that to describe a vision is one thing but to see it, and even if it is a recorded image, is so close to the “real thing” that it might as well be the thing itself. The image is much more powerful than words or hearsay accounts about the images, than the visions witnessed. However this fragment of Trachtenberg’s piece is reminiscent of Whitman’s saying, “You may hear groans or other sounds of unendurable suffering from two or three of the cots, but in the main there is quiet—almost a painful absence of demonstration; but the pallid face, the dull’d eye, and the moisture on the lip, are demonstration enough” (“An Army Hospital Ward,” Whitman 33). In this way, the literal bodies that Whitman witnesses are working as the “dismembered bodies” the pictures represent. And if Trachtenberg is arguing that to see it brings a stronger presence than Whitman’s vision is the strongest there is (even though there is that lack of an actual vision to his reader).

A way of clumping Trachtenberg’s theory into a category is to say that he is capturing the notion of the objective viewer. Trachtenberg states, again through the voice of someone else – this time a “proclaimed historian [named] Francis Trevalyan Miller,” that “ ‘these time-stained photographs’ are the only unarguable facts to survive the war” (Trachtenberg 287). Trachtenberg then goes on to say that the photographer cannot influence the picture into being read a certain way, instead – as Trachtenberg finds with Gardner – there are a set of questions implied in the picture whether that was intention or not; there is a certain reading drawn into these frames. Those questions being raised are objective ones, ones that any viewer will ask when faced with these striking photographs.

On the opposite side of the spectrum Whitman gives a fresh account, a firsthand account – which is incredibly important – and although he has his biases or his opinions of war (to be less argumentative) he is still just describing events as they unfold around him. Although Trachtenberg is saying that photographs “are the only unarguable facts to survive the war” Whitman’s surviving account is just as poignant to express the feelings that war provoked, and if anything Whitman’s records are more unarguable because they happened to him, in front of him – and he can record every moment, a photographer can only create a finding, one split image of an event not the whole thing. Besides Trachtenberg is talking about other people’s photographs not his ow

It is funny that Trachtenberg brings up Gardner’s way of presenting an image with an accompanying text because Whitman’s words functioned as that text to the pictures Trachtenberg was displaying. Whitman writes,                                     I remember, too, that a couple of companies of the Thirteenth Brooklyn, who rendezvou’d at the city armory, and started thence as thirty days’ men, were all provided with pieces of rope, conspicuously tied to their musket-barrels, with which to bring back each man a prisoner from the audacious South, to be led in a noose, on our men’s early and triumphant return! (“Contemptuous Feeling,” Whitman 23).

The imagery of this passage instantaneously made me think of the image from Trachtenberg’s piece, “The Burial Party” and when centered underneath the headline of “Contemptuous Feeling” there is no wonder why.

“A Vision in a Dream”

February 17th, 2011
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Liza Meyers
Poem 233

A Slash of Blue! A sweep of Gray!
Some scarlet patches – on the way –
Compose an Evening Sky –

A little Purple – slipped between
Some Ruby Trousers – hurried on –
A Wave of Gold – a Bank of Day –
This just makes out the Morning Sky!

Literal representation : the watching of the colors change as the sky is in its sunset and sunrise – the waking up of morning and closing down to night – and how layering of those colors move and unfold.

Tone : her tone is matter of fact, she writes things as she sees them; “This just makes out the morning sky!” However her usage of explanation points shows that she is in awe of the beauty of what she sees, she is captivated by the sublime – perhaps even the sublime turn.

Style : the in between time from sunset to sunrise is rushed with one line, “A little Purple – slipped between.” This is a brilliant mechanism because Dickinson is highlighting the way colors work to create a vision and the transition of the sky, and its multiple faces – its “many colored lenses” (Emerson) – even more so. She is personifying the sky in her metaphor of “Some Ruby Trowsers – hurried on.” Her capitalizations such as “A Slash of Blue!” or “A Wave of Gold – a Bank of Day” are used for emphasis. She capitalizes mostly all the colors she mentions and the sharper sounding words, words that are naturally given more emphasis anyway. Another thing to note is the rhyming pattern, AABCDAB; the point in which the pattern breaks parallels what she is saying. The word painting springs into action from the phrases “slipped between” and “hurried on;” for the lines in which those phases are shown match the action they make. “A little Purple – slipped between” is literally in the center of the poem, and is where the pattern of rhyming breaks, also as stated above this line illustrates that moment of the sky becomes stagnant in morphing.

Figurative Language : The entire poem could be taken as a metaphor for painting; the imagery of the piece’s “sweep of Gray!” and “Some scarlet patches – on the way” is very much so along the lines of Turner. It is as if Dickinson is recreating Turner’s process of recreating to make one of his pictures of art.

Form : Her words and form and rhyme scheme are not used in conventional terms and that mimics the way in which we see her message of vision which is vision as manipulative – and nature as such. But her words are used calculatingly creating an image that picks up on certain cues, however it is not an exact representation either because both objectively and subjectively a vision of a sunrise (set) is never the same, and she gives us portions of that vision anyway, fragmentations – like her sentences.

***Her knowledge, which is at once literal, is a subjective experience and this poem is her process of understanding the image before her eyes – to take it in by recording it. And as she records she can make sense of things she sees. She is showing the messy stuff that the “image standard” omits. Dickinson promotes the creation of the image thyself by writing this poem and by making this poem a fleeting thought to quickly capture; this fits in with Goethe’s method or model of vision and the “after image.” Emerson writes in his essay “Goethe; or the writer,”
This striving after imitative expression, which one meets everywhere, is significant of the aim of nature, but is mere stenography. There are higher degrees, and nature has more splendid endowments for those whom she elects to a superior office; for the class of scholars or writers, who see connection where the multitude see fragments, and who are impelled to exhibit the facts in order, and so to supply the axis on which the frame of things turns (Emerson).
Dickinson’s poem is promoting the action of this passage, she writes fragmented in order to connect the figurative pieces of the puzzle; and that is why the reader recognizes what she writes as the imprint of a sunrise or a sunset – she is drawing on the cues of the objective but she is showcasing a subjective vision. “All Circumstances are the Frame/ In which His face is set –” (Dickinson 1113).
Not only is Dickinson picturing the process of an image unfolding in her mind, she is also tracing an actual picture that is in the state of evolving itself. The sunrise (set) is a metaphor for the “after image” unwinding and reeling through the projection of the brain.


February 7th, 2011
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Someone once told me that Deja Vu does not occur when we have been in a situation twice or when a moment feels the same, but rather that each eye sees images within a microsecond of each other. I do not know if this is true, nor am I stating it as fact, but the binocular disparity made me think of that concept.
The most important aspect to take from “the optical chiasma, the point behind the eyes where the nerve fibers leading from the retina to the brain cross each other, carrying half of the nerves from each retina to each side of the brain” and “the measurement of the binocular parallax, or the degree to which the angle of the axis of each eye differed when focused at the same point” (83 Crary) is that our eyes see two images but our brain receives one. Brewster states that the ” ‘effect of the observer’s experience of the differential between two other images’ ” (84 Crary) is what causes the whole picture at the end. At the same time Helmholtz is saying ” ‘we get the impression, when we actually do see the object, that we have already seen it before and more or less familiar with it’ ” (85 Crary). There really is something ” ‘uncanny’ ” about this reproduction of reality, and Emerson backs up this claim; “Every roof is agreeable to the eye, until it is lifted; we find tragedy and moaning women, and hard-eyed husbands, and deluges of lethe” (472).
I have asked what amount of being an observer is attributed to setting judgments? But both Emerson and Helmholtz makes be question how much is made up of expectations; what image do we expect to see projected before us, and better yet what images do we least expect? And where do those expectations come from, past images or experiences or history?
In this Visual Culture Reader, it was said that we depend mostly upon our eyes, but being observant takes more than that one sense, it takes up the whole body, it takes up the whole person; observing is done within your own capability, thus observing is being analytically perceptive. As Brewster talks about “the play of the optic axes…uniting, in rapid succession, similar points of two pictures” and the different distances from which one sees an image and how that effects the interpretation, I realized that no one image is ever the same, not to the like of us or to one person alone.

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