Archive for October, 2010

Oct 30 2010

the most evil invention ever: “creating life.”

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I think anyone would agree that Victor Frankenstein is quite a brilliant individual. From the beginning of his life, he has always showed interest in learning about magic, and the different sciences. He begins reading outdated books about alchemists that serve as the sprouts for his obsession with creating life. Using both his prior knowledge and modern science he discovers “the secret of life” and brings to life a monster, Frankenstein. He’s more than just a mad scientist.

Not only has he managed to bring to life a creature but he has also done it without divine intervention. I think to some extent that Victor’s “crime” is being punished by a higher power Like Prometheus who was punished for eternity by Zeus for having stolen fire and given it to the mortals. For Victor the biggest punishment is that his creature sets out to kill all those close to him. Victor refuses to admit that it is he who has created the monster. He doesn’t seem to think that his creature is out of control. We see victor change from a brilliant, curious youth to a eccentric man who is set on creating life.

He is fanatical about become “godlike” and like “god” be is not very much in the public eye. It has often been said that “god works in mysterious ways” and Victor to some extent is very similar when he conducts his experiments. He not only lacks a sense of “humanness” but seems to be “god like” in everything he does. It is his pride and arrogance that keeps him from destroying the monster that he has created. He tears himself away from the world and lives in seclusion intent on revenging himself upon his monster. Victor is a creator like many of his predecessors, a mad scientist, with no concerns or boundaries, he does as he wills until the moment he dies.

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on a side note I couldn’t help wonder how similar the novel is to the children’s film Igor

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Igor_%28film%29

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Oct 25 2010

Instrumental Reasoning

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Oct 24 2010

Steam Engines and Clocks

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Response to Walt Whitman’s To a locomotive in winter.

It is clear that Whitman is bringing attention to the locomotive. A Whitman set the setting up from the very beginning and tells us that is winter and that snow is present.  There is a lot of personification taking place. He is constantly referring to it as a person and says “thee “. He also begins to list all its mystifying qualities. He uses Descriptive words to imagine what the locomotive looks like. It’s almost as if the whole poem is dedicated to the magnificence of the locomotive. The locomotive has a “madly-whistled laughter “.Whitman refers to the locomotive as panting and roaring as it makes its way along. It is a “fierce –throated beauty” that plays along to its own tune.

Steam Engine: wheels, requires man to navigate, transporter of sort, steam, smoke

Response to William Wordsworth “Steamboats, Viaducts and Railways”

I’m not sure I got what Wordsworth was speaking about at first but then when I took a second look at the title I realized it’s a sonnet and how much more sense it made. “Motions and Means, on land and sea” is an interesting name to call vehicles/transporters. Be it railcars, ships, boats, or cars. I didn’t many people dedicated poems to celebrate “Steamboats, Viaducts and Railways”. He looks at the new technology as being both a good thing and a bad thing. Sure it “mars loveliness of natures” but it also embraces it. Even though technology has its way of interfering with nature whether it be that it takes natures space and place in society or pollutes  its air. Nature is a part of man just like technology is.

Clock: wheels of some sort?, numbers , tells time, hands , ticking

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Oct 15 2010

Writing for Writing’s Sake ” A way to stay Sane?

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The function of Crusoe’s diary, it seems, is not to anatomize the self, but rather to keep track of it in the modern fashion that Riesman [David Riesman, author of The Lonely Crowd] describes: “The diary-keeping that is so significant a symptom of the new type of character may be viewed as an inner time-and-motion study by which the individual records and judges his output day by day. It is evidence of the separation between the behaving and observing self.”
–Leopold Damrosch, Jr., “Myth and Fiction in Robinson Crusoe”

We find out in Chapter seven that Crusoe has been keeping a journal of events he has gone through. The journal begins with his first post on September 30, 1659 and begins to tell the reader of earlier events of his life on the “Island of Despair”. Even though it doesn’t tell us much of anything that we don’t know already Crusoe is determined to be repetitive and share the information with us; almost like he is reassuring himself. Crusoe also mentions that because he doesn’t know which day is Sunday he is unable to observe the Sabbath as if he is making an excuse for his lack of religious obedience. The journal allows for us to see into Crusoe’s mind as well as the character’s self identity. He refers to himself as “poor, miserable Robinson Crusoe” and this is how we are introduced to him. One can’t help but feel a sense of pity for him. It is confusing as to what type of man Crusoe truly is because the narrative voice is more self assured and inventive.
Crusoe is obsessed in getting everything right but the events recorded do not add up to the real life events occurring at the moment. He writes that he landed on the island on September 30th and that the idea that he should keep a journal didn’t come to him until after having had spent “ten or twelve days “on the island and yet is first entry is September 30th. It is evident that Crusoe is not being as truthful as he leads on. Riesman writes that the journal is “as an inner time-and-motion study by which the individual records and judges his output day by day” . Since he thinks he is the only inhabitant of the island at first he resolves to write down all that goes on around him. His accounts all filled with his accomplishments. The journal is self-serving to Crusoe and gives him a sense of completeness. Every mundane activity is recoded with vigorous enthusiasm.

After he begins to write in his journal “daily” Crusoe seems to have gone through a conversion of some sort. He has many religious moments but seems to disregard them after awhile. For example when he sees the corn sprouts at first he thinks of it as something great but later discounts it as mere luck. Then later when he falls ill he seeks divine intervention and seems very sincere. He imagines seeing an angle that tells him that he must repent for his sins. His hallucination added with the excerpt he reads from the bible seems to be a turning point for him. When he is well, he falls to his knees and thanks God for his recovery. After his “rebirth” Crusoe seems to have changed for the better. He no longer seems the Island as a place of misery and punishment but rather as a place he can call home. And when he starts treating it as such he is a much happier person. It also seems as if he is more sincere in his narrative and accurate. He doesn’t refer to self pity to describe him but rather as a lord and king. And yet only a few pages later he mentions his “unhappy anniversary” of his landing. Crusoe keeping a journal is not only a means for himself to stay sane but also prove t himself everything he has achieved while on the island. Since he is the only one present and out narrator we can only sit back and trust what he tells us to be the truth just as he convinces himself of everything that is going on.

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Oct 04 2010

Techno Criticism of The Tempest

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Hasina Islam

Professor Frederick Buell

English 399w

Honors Seminar

Techno Criticism of The Tempest

October 4, 2010

The Power of Language as Technology in Shakespeare’s The Tempest

In Shakespeare’s final play The Tempest, language is used as technology to drive the plot forward. Written and spoken language becomes the spells and enchantments that Prospero uses. According to the English oxford dictionary magic is the use of ritual activities or observances which are intended to influence the course of event or to manipulate the natural world If we take technology to mean the application of science in a commerce/ industry then can we not call magic some sort of science?. Prospero not only serves as the playwright but also the magician who keeps the audience awed by the tricks up his sleeve; Magic and Prospero go hand in hand.

Prospero learns the art of magic from his books and uses it for his own purposes. He wants revenge from his brother for stealing his dukedom but also mystifies everyone on the island by his use of magic. Prospero’s magic is never in detail rather he is the only one that talks about its affects after he has completed a spell. The first time we get a sense that magic is being performed is in Act 1 scene 2,  when he puts on his magic cloak and says “ thou are inclined to sleep” and Miranda immediately falls asleep.

He is able to alter the condition in which his victims are in. Later he uses his magic to paralyze Ferdinand and “charms him from moving”.

When it comes to his slave Caliban, Prospero  uses a different technique. Instead of magically harming him, Prospero constantly threatens to make Caliban suffer by torturing him. Though we never get to see the tortures Proper promises to Caliban, we hear of them.  Prospero says

“ for this be sure , tonight thou shalt have cramps,

Side stitches that shall pen thy breath up, urchins

Shall forth at vast of night that they may work

All exercise on thee. Thou shat be pinched

As thick as honeycomb, each pinch more stinging

Than bees that made’em”  (I.II. lines 328-333)

It is important to note the power Prospero has over his words and what he is able to accomplish with them, almost as if he has mastered the art of spoken language. Whenever there is another character involved Prospero is able to use words to get them to do as he chooses, such is the case with Miranda and Ferdinand. Caliban on the other hand is the only one who seems to outright defy Prospero. Even then his defiance is very minimal to Prospero. Caliban challenges Prospero’s superiority and says the only thing he has learnt from language is the art of cursing.

       Ariel Prospero’s personal slave is subject to Prospero’s authority over him. But unlike Caliban who possess no magical abilities Ariel is quite the charmer. He is able to use magic language in his songs to create spells and enchantments. An example of this is when Ariel sings into Gonzalo’s ear and tells him  

“while you here do snoring lie,

Open-eyed conspiracy

His time doth take

If life you keep a care,

Shake off slumber and beware

Awake, awake!” (II.II.295-300)

With his proclamation of “now, good angels preserve the King! “(II.I.302). Gonzalo awakens and stops Sebastian and Antonio from killing Alonso. Ariel uses music and song to demonstrate his magical abilities as well as inform Gonzalo of the conspiracy that Sebastian and Antonio are planning. Later when Caliban is kneeling in front of Stephano Ariel mimics Trinculo’s voice and calls him a liar. This creates a disagreement between Stephano who believes it is Trinculo speaking. Unfortunate Caliban who is repeatedly called a liar by the nobles. Poor Trinculo receives a few blows even though he has stayed silent the entire time. Ariel creates discords between Caliban and the nobles thus disrupting their plan to overthrow Prospero.

Caliban says it is through his books that Prospero that he gets is power ; written/printed  language.  He finds out about Sebastian and Antonio’s scheme. The audience learns that Prospero’s magic lies in the books he uses. And again later Caliban mentions to Stephano and Trinculo

Remember ,

First to posses his books, for without them

He’s but a sot, as I am, nor hath not

One spirit to command. They do all hate him

As rootedly as I. Burn his books (III.II.86-90)

Prospero’s magic lies in his books. It is his devotion to studying that made him lose his focus and later his dukedom. Written language is the root of his power. While isolated Prospero has only he and the technology / magic he is studying acquired. It is as if he is given a choice to pick between the world and his magic. At first it was his books and so his brother took advantage and seized the throne for himself. Later on the island he kept his distance from his daughter and spent time alone with his spirits/magic. After awhile he tires of being isolated from the world because of his knowledge and so he vows to let it all go; He wants to be rid of his books and find his place in the world. Even with Miranda Prospero doesn’t quite let her in and therefore she is not well informed about her past and where she comes from. Miranda has no power over language and only knows to speak.

In conclusion it is quite evident that the source of technology in The Tempest is language whether it be spoken or written. Magic as Technology serves the purpose of moving the plot forward as well as understanding the character of Prospero; the playwright. While Miranda learns only speech from language and Caliban profanity both Ariel and Prospero learn technology. They use their new found knowledge of technology to alter situations around them and to their favor. Ariel’s power is limited to song and music while Prospero’s power goes beyond that. He is able not only to utter magical spells but also read them. No other character has the same technological means as Prospero.

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