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Class Summary 3/23 - Alice continued...

sgb90's picture

 Anne began the class with the question of whether assigning people (today, I’m one of them) to take notes on our class discussions has been useful. She raised interesting questions about what happens when different people write accounts of what is seemingly the same experience. The accounts are inevitably different, taken from different points of view, and dependent on what the note-taker selectively perceives and takes an interest in. There is always a gap between what is said and what is heard. In other words, much is lost in translation.

On Thursday we will discuss adaptations of Alice, in film version. Of particular focus will be the difference that genre makes—how does the story of Alice alter? How does the portrayal of time change? Wai Chee argues that literature implies sequence, and thus must have the “measuring tape of time.” How about film? We are still deliberating on what to include on the rest of the course syllabus, though we plan to make selections that extend the dreaming and reality themes we have been focusing on with Alice.

We entered into a discussion on whether a text changes when read online as opposed to being read in physical form. Some students reported that reading a text online doesn’t change how they read, while others protested that the physical experience of holding a book is essentially different. Someone mentioned that a book allows her to retain focus; it also creates a state of mind that is conducive to deep thought. How about listening to a text on audio…does this turn the work into a performance? Many people felt that listening to a text altered the experience of comprehension. We discussed the idea of a spectrum of interpretation, by which reading a written text may allow the reader a greater amount of interpretation, while audio does more of the interpreting for us.

Anne presented some ideas by Sven Birkets, who laments on reading in the Internet age. He argues that our reading has become less immersive, and is now threatened by “circuited interconnectedness.” Our subjectivity is now becoming decentered. He thinks that to read seriously, one needs focus, silence, and deep time. Thus, according to him, there is a need to reconnect with our more reflective and contained selves.

We picked up on our discussion of Alice. It was suggested that Carroll’s works are a rebellion against any specific genre, as well as a parody of quest. Someone asked whether dreams and parodies are similar. Is the subconscious a parody of consciousness? We also thought that in some sense Carroll’s novels could be considered linear, but lacking in the logical consequences that we, as readers, might expect. Throughout his works, there is a profound questioning of many of our most basic assumptions: language as clear mode of communication, consistent identity, etc.…This also makes us more aware of the constructs inherent to all narratives/stories.

Anne raised the point that if the book is a representation of the unconscious, then the nonsensical poems throughout the work are even purer representations, based upon their repetitive and rhythmic nature. Would it be possible for world literature to be organized based on brain activity?

At the end of class, we discussed the ways in which Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass can be read as a profound questioning of realism in the 19th century, as well as of the reality of our constructed universe. It also functions as a satire on education; Alice is at a point in her life when the world is being presented to her as explainable and unambiguous. Carroll exposes much of the ambiguity and absurdity beneath our seemingly ordered, comprehensible world. 



Jen Rajchel 's picture

Context, originality, and fragmentation


I wanted to thank you all for the great discussion of digital media.

I found this great article that I thought might be of interest to you:

I don't agree with a lot of what is posited, but it's an interesting to read. And--the article raises the same questions of originality that were being posted on Serendip and discussion about the DHM!

I posted a bit about about the article on my blog and would love your comments.

Thanks and enjoy,

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