February, 2011

Claims to Count on

February 22nd, 2011 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 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.

Double-sided

February 7th, 2011 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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