… Sabrin's scattered thoughts …

April 6th, 2011

“A word spoken by chance…might have strange consequences”

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“A word spoken by chance

might have strange consequences.

It would suddenly come alive

and what people wanted to happen could happen–

all you had to do was say it.

Nobody could explain this:

That’s the way it was.”  (P.g 87)

These lines above seemed very interesting to me because it made me think about how technology and language relate to one another. When I think about a weapon that’s more powerful than any other weapon known to man, nothing else comes to mind other than a weapon that is not manmade, but it is one that is diguised as a killer, is quick as a bullet and deadly as a rifle…what can it be? One hint: It resides in our mouth. You’ve got it. Yes, it is nothing else but the restless monster that lives in an ocean of drool behind our teeth known as the tongue. Astonishingly,  this tongue gives us the ability to communicate, to express our feelings and emotions, to converse, to yell, to shout, to speak in different tones etc…and all these are said/put out through words. These words that roll off our tongues give us the power to either make or break someone, it is a weapon that has been in existence since  the creation of mankind…a weapon that if “spoken by chance/ might have strange consequences”. These words that aren’t “alive” suddenly “become alive/ and what people wanted to happen could happen” just by the actions that they take due to the powerful snide remarks created by others.

The unwanted words that slip off the tongue give people the amazing power to create wars between countries, families and friends, ruins relationships, friendships, reputation, and wrecks homes, all of which builds onto more hatred in the world.  It made me think about all the cynical statement that slide off of peoples’ tongues through gossiping, lying and backbiting that lead to rumors and eventually have outcomes of torturing and bullying…all which is and can be done through just words of the tongue. It can create a destructive world as these words “suddenly come alive” to the ones who receive such harrassments. To me, I believe that this is what gave start to the human mankind, the weapon which was not manmade but a weapon that is innately built in a human. Through this weapon, our tongue, we have the power to communicate through not only words but also sounds, all we had to do was “just say it” and we cause a spark in another humanbeing. “Nobody can explain this, that’s just the way it was” then and just the way it is now.

BTW, just look at these two, how one causes a spark in another just by the sound communication <3

Click here: Twinsssss

February 8th, 2011

Technology’s everywhere.

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quote 2010

November 17th, 2010

Doom and Gloom…change it by becoming like the “lights” you see.

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In Edward Hopper’s famous Nighthawks (1942) painting, I felt as if the idiom “gloom and doom” was represented in every corner of the picture starting with the very right side where the bar is situated. The idiom “doom and gloom” is expressed as a feeling that a situation is bad and is not likely to improve. The people in the bar, even with their fancy clothing show that perhaps even with a party that they’ve attended earlier during the day or earlier in the night couldn’t get rid of their bad situation and their sitting structure depicts that.

The picture just outwardly reminded me of Guy de Maupassant’s short story The Necklace in which a middle class girl desperately wished that she was wealthy; she had the looks and charm but had the bad luck to be born into a family of clerks. The girl, Mathilde is so convinced that she’s meant to be rich that she detests her real life and spends all day dreaming and despairing about the fabulous life she’s not having. As her and her husband finally gets invited to a fancy ball thrown by his boss, she throws a fit for not having the jewels to go with the beautiful dress he has bought her. She is able to borrow a gorgeous diamond necklace from one of her rich friends and feels like a stunner with it on.

However when the night of the ball arrives, Mathilde has the time of her life but nevertheless brings more doom and gloom to her life without knowing. As she rushes out in the dark with her shabby coat so the riches don’t see, she makes the horrifying discovery that the diamond necklace is gone. This brings the ultimate doom and gloom that they have initially bought upon their lives as they spend their entire life paying back for that necklace…a necklace that was thought to be real…but after the debts for the necklace are finally paid, she finds out an even horrendous news that the necklace her and her husband spent 10 years of poverty for was nothing but a fake necklace that had been worth only five hundred francs.

Now to come back to the painting, I couldn’t help but to associate that woman in the red dress as Mathilde from Guy De Maupassant’s story “The Necklace”, as Mathilde went to the fancy ball to show off her dress and jewels, this woman came to the bar as to do the same. But they wouldn’t be able to if ‘light’ didn’t give them the permission to do so. Mathilde lost her necklace due to the weakening of the light and the darkness of the night. Light gives such a strong sensation to everyone that without light, life becomes gloom and doom. The woman in the painting to me, with the light shining so strong feels that she is being seen by people as what she is portraying herself and is trying to hide herself from the real gloom and doom that she perhaps is dealing with in her life. Light gives her the immense power to do so as it brings out her external features to the people and hides her inner feelings.

Cities like Manhattan are incomparable to this painting. With the electrifying lights of Manhattan, one just feels the dazzling joy running through their veins as soon as they see the lights spark up. But in this painting, even though the light is shining so bright and the people in the painting are dressed high-class, their face expression show otherwise. Conversely, with cities like Manhattan, the different auras of light give of varieties off feelings that it’s hard to stay gloom even if one tried to. The light in the painting is that of white light, which Hopper in my opinion shows it as a way to express one’s true pure hidden feelings just as he does in the painting. Even the waiter in the painting seems to be an old man who has no one to go home to but to stay in the bar serving drinks. The streets are empty, the feeling of lonesome hovers all over the painting, even with four people present in the bar. They look so deadly, lacking energy where as people in cities like Manhattan are so vibrant and lovely. This painting in my opinion, depicts a world where Hopper shows that the four people in the painting are situated with a life that keeps getting worse no matter how hard they try to make it better. It just won’t get enhanced until perhaps…the lightening is changed to the different rays of color like the city of Manhattan 🙂

November 10th, 2010

“We want no part of it, the past”, he wrote, “we the young and strong Futurists!”

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As mentioned vaguely about “isms” in class by Professor Buell, I couldn’t help but to remember “futurism”. I believe that futurism revolves around spirituality. Before diving into how a technocritic could focus on “futurism” in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, it is first essential I suppose, to briefly give an overview of what “futurism” is and how it came to be. The founder of futurism was an Italian writer named Filippo Tommaso Marinetti. As stated in Wikipedia, Marinetti abhorred everything that was old, especially things that were political and of artistic tradition. “We want no part of it, the past”, he wrote, “we the young and strong Futurists!” Speed, technology, youth and violence, the car, the airplane and the industrial city were all admired by the Futurists.  This partly comes from the subject matter involved in the field of futurism: which tends to surround ideas of technology and scientific progress.

In Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, a technocritic can proudly tackle the theme of displaced spirituality. As The Great Gatsby opens, we see that Nick Carraway, the story’s narrator remembers his upbringing and the lessons his family taught him. We as readers learn of his past, his education and his sense of moral justice as we also learn the story of Jay Gatsby. If a technocritic viewed this through the lens of futurism, he would know that these past events were important to know in order to unfold the story of Jay Gatsby. But Fitzgerald writes this in such a way where the present events have no effect to those of the past; they have ‘no part of it’ and whatever took place in the present were the outcome of the ‘future’. Readers get the notion of the world in The Great Gatsby as they see that it is one of surfeit, madness and bliss, a world where people are so busy living for the moment that they have lost touch with any sort of morality and end up breaking laws, cheating and even killing. When a technocritic looks at this through the lens of “futurism”, he can more or less compare it with those who work for their lives becoming machines themselves as opposed to working withmachines for a better “future”, thus in a way becoming futurists themselves through the use of technology.

In The Great Gatsby, with the world around the characters being so chaotic, they have not abandoned spirituality altogether but have in a way “displaced” their spirituality just as the people working ‘for’ technology haven’t abandoned spirituality because of that ‘hope’ to attain the American dream and wish for an enhanced future. Likewise, one may be inspired by the aesthetics of these hardworking men, women and children in the workforce, just as how we readers are inspired by Nick’s opening statements in Fitzgerald’s novel. He is introduced to us as an honorable and trustworthy man but his reason for being so isn’t made entirely clear until readers are introduced to the people with whom he interacts. Fitzgerald reveals that Tom Buchannan is not only having an affair but he doesn’t try as hard to cover it up and his wife has come to accept his ways. We see that those in East Egg discuss things of such great importance as what to do on the longest day and why living in the East is ideal. They clearly treat people as objects, and are unconcerned with whether their actions slow down anyone else’s…just as how workers would be treated as ‘objects’ (machines) in the workforce by their bosses who lived just slightly better than they did. All throughout the novel, I felt as if Fitzgerald had been suggesting that society has been so drawn into their “displaced” spirituality and has fallen so far away from teachings and from knowing what truly matters that people have lost all faith by trying to be “futurists” by all possible means and can only misread the significance of the material world around them.

As Fitzgerald describes the distinct communities of East Egg and West Egg, we as readers can tell that their differences are largely socioeconomic and that the West Eggers stand somewhat above the East Eggers. Whereas no one in East Egg has any virtues to renew themselves, West Egg does have Nick who has been the one character in my opinion, who has a fairly good sense of right and wrong. As it had been pretty apparent to the readers that Fitzgerald sees the Midwest as a “land of promise” and acknowledges that it is less glamorous and exciting than the East, I couldn’t help but to think of all the homesick immigrants who have thought of America as the “land of promise” but now think otherwise and would pretty much agree that even though their country back home isn’t as ‘glamorous’ as America, there’s just a pureness about it that America lacks. But alas! America does them in just as all the characters in Fitzgerald’s novel come from Midwest, but in the end, the East does them in. Fitzgerald presents a world in which value systems have gone out of balance, by people trying to be “futurists”, displacing their spirituality and forgetting who they really are. Reading this, one gets that notion of encouragement where Fitzgerald sends out a message for the readers to stop and take inventory of their lives and not to become “inventories” themselves by trying to ‘change’ the future while paying little mind to the past and present. Fitzgerald is urging a re-examination of where society is and where it is going, just as a technocritic would urge a reassessment of where technology is, was and where it is going.

November 3rd, 2010

“It is only through Beauty that man makes his way to Freedom”…True or False?!

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The Chicago Stockyards.

Jasper Francis Cropsey, The spirit of Peace, 1851. Oil on Canvas.

Jasper Francis Cropsey, Days of Elizabeth, 1853. Oil on canvas, The Newington-Cropsey Foundation, Hastings on Hudson, New York

Looking at these 19th century American Landscape paintings and the photograph of the Chicago stockyards in the early 20th century, one can see that there are some similarities in these representations of very different eras of technology and nature in more than obvious ways. What strikes us today is the spiritual cohesiveness of the vision of nature and man’s place in it. The aesthetic quality is occasionally found wanting, the spiritual purity of these works reaches out to us today with more urgency than it did perhaps to nineteenth-century Americans. Genesis instructed these nineteenth century artists that, when God created the Earth, Seas, Heaven, Sun, Moon, Man, Woman and all living and growing things, he saw that it was good: “And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.”

This process of creating and seeing was repeated each time, until at the end of the sixth day, “God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good…and he rested on the seventh day.” The human ability to see, judge, to comprehend the universe, was understood to be part of the divine spirit. Seeing implies on aesthetic function, and this can be seen through these 19th century American landscape paintings. We see, judge, and comprehend the universe in a total different way when we look into these paintings…how beautiful and serene it looks…as the a famous quote goes “the greatest thing a human soul ever does in this world is to see something…all in one”. These paintings enable us to see what the artists of the 19th century have seen with fresh eyes: the beauty of nature, the glory of God and the virtue of AMERICA.

Likewise in the photograph of the Chicago stockyards in the early 20th century, when looked at it with fresh eyes, one can see that the building of the stockyard have been made and created with the beauty of nature, the glory of God and the virtue of America: the clear blue skies, the cattle, just everything in the picture looks so perfectly made and defined. But these are just photographs. This ‘beauty of nature, the glory of God and the virtue of America’ are all diminished when looked at the workers’ “place” of these stockyards and how they are faced with the harsher truth of America. Nineteenth century Americans believed in the interdependence of culture, religion and virtue and that was clearly shown in their drawings, however for the Chicago stockyard workers, this is far from being true. A popular book on education of that period stated: “Nothing can be more important than to give the youthful mind a perfectly clear and intelligible perception of the way to salvation.” If all improvement in the aesthetic sphere proceeds from ennobling of character, how is character to become ennobled when the state itself no longer provides the proper education?

Friedrich von Schiller provided an answer in The Aesthetic Education of Man: where he said to “It is only through Beauty that man makes his way to Freedom.” Men were taken by the beauty of nature and technology itself, ignoring the misery and pain that beauty can bring. In both of these paintings, we see that not one of these people are left alone to just watch the beauty around them in awe but they are busy with their surroundings and daily work, beauty of nature is gone when men become so busy with work. In the Chicago Stockyards, the beauty of the buildings and cattles are what attracted these men to WANT to work there and but soon after they saw what tragic  this beauty could bring, freedom was sought by looking elsewhere. Not by their surroundings but what they their inner personal beauty, beauty that brought them joy. Thus, this enabled them to seek the proper education and create machines of their own instead of working like machines and becoming “machines” themselves. The power of inventing and creating gave them the freedom and beauty that they wanted and sought from America. Only this led them to really ‘seeing’ and it was only through that and proper education that had made these men walk on their path of freedom.

October 26th, 2010

If God is seen as the Clockmaker, then Victor Frankenstein’s gotta be seen as the ‘Monster’maker!

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How can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe, or how delineate the wretch whom with such infinite pains and care I had endeavoured to form? His limbs were in proportion, and I had selected his features as beautiful. Beautiful!—Great God! His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black and flowing; his teeth of a pearly whiteness; but these luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same colour as the dun white sockets in which they were set, his shriveled complexion, and straight black lips” (pp 34)

What sort of creator is Victor Frankenstein? We have seen artists and mechanical artists, yes, but what sort is Victor Frankenstein? A new sort? Yes. What sort? I’d say a sort who tampers in God’s domain…but fails…because a human is not what he produces…or creates…but a monster..a kindhearted monster…but artistically turns it vicious..he is a ‘monstermaker.’ Victor Frankenstein produces a “technological” creature that is the real danger in a time of technological advancement like we have never experienced before. He is a creator who sought God-like powers, one who created his “son” the Monster, and thereby completed the act of reproduction without the need of a woman. He is a creator who in a sense assumes a woman’s traditional role. Building his “offspring” in the laboratory, he combines his artistic talent and the “mechanical tools” of his monster to perhaps create a new race..a race of monsters.

Sitting in his laboratory one evening during his efforts to make his offspring a mate, Frankenstein ponders what he is doing. Just as Robinson Crusoe ponders upon the thoughts and advices of his father as he invents through the tools he comes across, Victor begins to reason with himself about the morality of new labors and considers, “she might become ten thousand times more malignant than her mate”. And “she might turn in disgust from him to the superior beauty of man”, finally, “one of the first sympathies for which the daemon thirsted would be children, and a race of devils would be propagated upon the earth.” Here all compassion has been transformed into mistrustful fear. Victor Frankenstein has not heard the monster’s story at all and now he  translates it in to a demonic desire to populate the earth with a new race…

Was it not Frankenstein himself who had hoped that his science breakthrough would make him the creator of a new species? “A new species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me. No father could claim the gratitude of his child so completely as I should deserve theirs”…And as God creates a clock, composed of wheels and counterweights, observes not the laws of nature when it is ill made, and points out the hours incorrectly, than when it satisfies the desire of the maker in every respect; so likewise if the body of man be considered as a kind of machine, so made up and composed of bones, nerves, muscles, veins, blood and skin that although there were in it no mind, it would still exhibit the same motions which it at present manifests involuntarily. If God is seen as the clockmaker…then Victor Frankenstein’s gotta be seen as the ‘Monster’maker!

October 15th, 2010

ooo-weeeee, look at this mechanical clock from the Sixteenth Centuryyy!

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Mechanical clocks were an important type of machine in the everyday lives of sixteenth and seventeenth-century Europeans. Europeans of the 16th and 17th century used these clocks as means of order and power; they were at the core of the two most important medieval concepts of the nature of God. These geared clocks however, in contrast to the power of the large force-multiplying machines of the early industries, had only limited use in the workplace and served instead as a symbol of cosmic order in the preindustrial era. Rural communities lived by the length of the day, seasonal cycles and work rhythms but by 1500, with commerce flourishing, tower and cathedral clocks began to direct the civil life of most European towns. With that said, most parishes had invented church clocks by the late sixteenth century and as shown in the figure above, these early clocks had only an hour hand, were inaccurate and needed sundials for resetting.

They were powered by hanging weights and regulated by escapements with a foliot. Even though these clocks were inaccurate; they were also remarkably beautiful, adorned with eye-catching, mechanical trimming. Extra dials displayed the movements of planets. Clocks were crowned with delicate miniature gold, bronze, and silver statuary. The complex wheels and gears of these clocks became a metaphor for the solar system, for the universe, for the mind of man, and for the very nature of God. Due to the addition of the pendulum and the minute hand, these clocks had become much more precise by the 1700s. Because of their expense as well as their inadequate industrial function before the eighteenth century, these clocks mainly grasped the imagination of the aristocracy.  Instead of using these clocks as a dictatorial device, the mechanists created these clocks with their own timings in accordance to their own basic needs and religious purposes.

October 13th, 2010

Approaching Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe through Reader’s Response

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One might compare the effects of listening to a Gospel passage read from the pulpit with reading the same passage at home for oneself.  In the first instance, the Word comes from a priest who is at a distance and on high; in the second it seems to come from a silent voice that is within . . . . I think that the ‘deep penetration of new controls’ to all departments of life becomes more explicable when we note that printed books are more portable than pulpits, more numerous than priests, and the messages they contain are more easily internalized.  . . . In so far as they were internalized by silent and solitary readers, the voice of individual conscience was strengthened.

–Elizabeth Eisenstein, The Printing Press as an Agent of Change (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979), pp. 428-9.

Elizabeth Eisenstein’s quote from her book The Printing Press an Agent of Change embodies a reader-response Criticism. Before diving into Eisenstein’s quotation and relating it to Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, one must know that this approach takes as an essential principle that “literature” exists not as a piece upon a printed page but as a matter between the physical text and the mind of the reader. It goes above and beyond in attempting to describe what happens in the reader’s mind while understanding a text and reflecting that reading. Reading response critics say that these “literary texts do not contain a meaning; but that meanings derive only from the act of individual readings.”

In Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, we come across a man who takes his own word over his father’s. His quest to seek out an adventure on the sea doesn’t stop him even from hearing all his Father’s reasoning and lectures but overcomes all the obstacles he faces through his own ‘printed books’ that were far more portable to him than the words of his Father. Eisenstein says that “In the first instance, the Word comes from a priest who is at a distance and on high;…”, when relating this to Robinson Crusoe, one can take it as the Priest being Crusoe’s own “Father”. As a priest is also called by Father from the churchgoers, we see that in the beginning of Defoe’s novel, the only time the words of his Father’s touched Crusoe’s heart was when he had mentioned God, “….he said, he would not cease to pray for me, yet he would venture to say to me that, if I took this foolish step, God would not bless me, and I would have leisure hereafter to reflect upon having neglected his counsel when there might be none to assist in my recovery.” Defoe specifically states that Crusoe had “observed in this last part of his discourse, which was truly prophetic” “….I was sincerely affected with this discourse—as indeed who could be otherwise—?— and I resolved not to think of going abroad anymore, but to settle at home according to my father’s desire”.  (Crusoe, 7) Crusoe’s mind changes for a ‘few days’ due to this “prophetic discourse” from his father, but “alas a few days wore it all off; and, in short, to prevent any of my father’s further importunities, in a few weeks after”, he resolved to run quite away from him.

It was until Crusoe faces and goes through the disastrous environments throughout his journey that enables him to listen to his ‘silent voice’ that had been within his soul the entire time. Eisenstein mentions that as the second instance where she believes that ‘the deep penetration of new controls’ to all departments of life becomes more explicable when we note that printed books are more portable than pulpits, more numerous than priests, and the messages they contain are more easily internalized…” As Crusoe faces the harsh conditions around him while being on sea, he finds to be frequently blaming himself for disobeying his father’s advice. Yet we see that he doesn’t go back home yet still continues on his journey. Although he learns a few of life’s lessons, for example being thankful and finding comfort in something no matter how miserable it is, making the best out of life’s worst situations and creating tools out of complete scratch, all these lead to Crusoe’s self-determination for him to seek the “voice within” himself. Defoe mentions that it was not until the ‘cure’ he found for his soul and body, which were the few books that he found in his chest. We find Crusoe to be contemplating about religion and God throughout his journey as he cries out loud a few times for the Lord to look upon him, to pity him, to have mercy upon him, but he admits that he had ‘alas! No divine knowledge’. It was that conscious that had directed him to find the books, one of which was the bible.

After Crusoe reads the bible, here in fact, he takes a Reader-response criticism himself as he tries to make out what was on the text of the bible itself with what was going on in his mind due to his situation and conditions. Reading the bible had set the ‘deep penetration of new controls’ to Crusoe’s life as he says that God had delivered him but he had not glorified him, that he had not owned and been thankful for that as a deliverance, and how could he not expect a greater deliverance? The same Crusoe who seemed to have ‘disobeyed’ his father turns out have the most humblest of characteristics where he shivers in gratitude to God even though he had neither food, house, clothes, weapon, nor a place to fly to and in his despair of any relief, saw nothing but death before him. As Eisenstein mentions in her quote as printed books and being more portable than pulpits, more numerous than priests, we see that it is indeed the Bible that changes and touches Crusoe’s heart where we find him to immediately kneel down and give God thanks aloud of his recovery from his sickness.

“In the morning, I took the Bible, and beginning at New Testament, I began seriously to read it, and imposed upon myself to read a while every morning and every night, not tying myself to the number of chapters, but as long as my thoughts should engage me. It was not long after I set seriously to this work, but I found my heart more deeply and sincerely affected with the wickedness of my past life. The impression of my dream revived, and the words, ‘All these things have not brought thee to repentance’ ran seriously in my thought. I was earnestly begging of God to give me repentance, when it happened providentially the very day that, reading the Scriptures, I came to these words….”(Defoe 82).

In the quote above, Crusoe clearly states that it had been this book, this bible that contained all the messages that he easily internalized. As he read the verse for repentance “He is exalted a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance, and to give remission” (83), he says he threw down the book, and with his heart as well as his hands lifted up to heaven, in a kind of ecstasy of joy and cried out aloud “Jesus, thou Son of David, Jesus, thou exalted Prince and Saviour, give me repentance!” (83) The necessity of repentance for him becomes valid after reading the bible, where else in the beginning his ‘pulpit’, also known as his father had asked the same from him but it had not worked. Yet, this book, this bible illustrated the potential of his newfound control through the messages it contained. This however brings out Eisenstein’s last sentence to her quote in which she says that these printed books with its profound messages ‘were internalized by silent and solid readers, the voice of individual conscience was strengthened.’

This is indeed true as we see that Crusoe mentions that after reading the quote of repentance, it was “the first time that I could say, in the true sense of the words, that I prayed in all my life; for now I prayed with a sense of my condition, and with a true Scripture view of hope founded on the encouragement of the Word of God; and from this time, I may say, I began to have hope that God would hear me”. (83) His ‘individual conscience’ was braced in such ways that in contrast to before, even though his father’s ‘prophetic discourse’ deeply touched him, it faded away within a couple of weeks. But this new discourse that had touched him genuinely caused him to look back upon his past life with such horror where his sins appeared so dreadful that his soul sought nothing of God but deliverance from the load of guilt that bore down all his comfort. He says, “As for my solitary life, it was nothing; I did not so much as pray to be delivered from it, or think of itl it was all of no consideration in comparison to this. And I add this part here, to hint to whoever shall read it that whenever they come to a true sense of things, they will find deliverance from sin a much greater blessing than deliverance from affliction”. (83) After this repentance, he finds himself to be complaining less about his sad fate and views everything around him more positively. Before reading the bible, Crusoe asks himself “Why has God done this to me? What have I done to be thus used?” (80) He ponders upon this question as he greatly admits “ my conscious presently checked me in that inquiry, as if I had blasphemed, and methought it spoke to me like a voice: Wretch!…” (80) shows that after reading the bible, Crusoe was successful in strengthening the silent voice within himself.

Thus going back to what was mentioned in the introduction of this interpretation, we see that Eisenstein’s quote perhaps does take a Reader- response criticism as Robinson Crusoe takes that approach with the text of the bible himself. His self-awareness and the need for his repentance came within himself because he reflected the messages of the bible with his own conscious. He creates meanings out of the verses in the bible due to his own experiences where we see that this bible, this printed book was more portable than his very own pulpit, ie his father, more numerous than what priests can ever preach about and the messages it contained could’ve not been sought out to Crusoe by anyone else but only by himself ….to his own self. This ‘silent and solitary’ reading that Crusoe has done for himself had directed him to get in contact with the ‘silent voice’ within himself which then had led to his achievement in fortifying his individual consciousness.

October 11th, 2010

“We become what we behold. We shape our tools and then our tools shape us”: The Tempest

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Sabrin Abedin

Professor Buell

English 399W

October 9, 2010

“The Tempest” by William Shakespeare

Prospero’s career as a magician in William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” delineates perfectly three phases in the use of his magical art, phases that we are familiar with still today because they characterize our relationship to technology. In the first phase, Prospero uses his ability to release Ariel from his prison and give Ariel powers like invisibility through his ‘magical art’. In doing this, he makes Ariel his ‘tool’ and he becomes Ariel’s ‘inventor’. In the second phase, we see that through his powers of invisibility, Ariel’s presence adds an ethereal quality to the play; even though Prospero stands as a distant, god-like figure, Ariel is able to execute Prospero’s thoughts and actions. Prospero shapes Ariel in such a way through his magical art where he finds himself to be dependent on Ariel and through him, gets what he needs accomplished. This leads us to the third phase where we see that this ‘power’ that he gives Ariel then opens up the full glorious potential of Prospero’s ‘magical art’, potential that he wasn’t aware of before in which leads Prospero to his final restoration to his position as duke. Just as the usage of technology in our world leads us to becoming who we want to be and to accomplishing our goals and dreams, it also guides us to the realization that this outcome happens in part because these technologies have reshaped us. Thus, though Prospero has shaped Ariel through his power of magical art in the beginning, towards the end, this ‘tool’ of his ends up shaping him as well.

In the beginning of the play, we see that it is Prospero, who, by his magical art has raised the storm and endangered the ship. This was not done by him alone, as he gives power and audience to Ariel who is “a spirit too delicate”; Ariel reports that he has done a very good job of raising a storm, frightening both passengers and crew, and then calming everything down without harm to anyone. Prospero is pleased but takes occasion to remind Ariel of his past history and his obligations. He points out that, if it were not for Prospero, Ariel would still be a prisoner in a “cloven pine’ where he was left by Sycorax, a witch who formerly ruled the island, thus making Ariel his servant and using him as his ultimate tool to perform his magic works. When Ariel first appears in the second scene of Act 1 he says:  “…All hail, great master, grave sir, hail! I come/To answer thy best pleasure; be ‘t to fly, /To swim, to dive into the fire, to ride/On the curled clouds, to thy strong bidding task/Ariel and all his quality.” (Act 1, Scene 2) Prospero is seen as his ‘inventor’ and Ariel as his ‘tool’ when Prospero answers back saying “Hast thou, spirit, Performed to point the tempest that I bade thee?” which shows that without Ariel, Prospero’s want of the tempest would have not been made possible.

The idea of Prospero as an ‘inventor’ is by the creation, within The Tempest, of the figure of Ariel as his ‘tool’.  Just as mankind uses the tools of technology in creating and accomplishing their illusions and dreams, Prospero does the same with Ariel. Ariel serves as a great tool as he performs the tasks for Prospero through songs and dances. Although Ariel has the ability to complete Prospero’s illusions through his powers, Ariel needs Prospero’s thoughts through his magical art first for Ariel to actually give form to the illusions. Similarly, we find ourselves having the same relationship with technology, our thoughts are carried out by us putting our technological tools into use just as Prospero’s thoughts are carried out by Ariel’s actions. When our technological tools are used in such ways where our thoughts are being carried out just the way we want it to be, this leads us to being highly dependent on technology. Likewise, we see Prospero becoming greatly reliant on Ariel which directs us to the second phase.

It is apparent that through his power of invisibility that he gives Ariel, Prospero stands detached, godlike, viewing the fulfillment of his design; his world transforms as he loses himself with the power that he gives Ariel and through him, foresees his own world and upcoming events. Prospero’s wants and desires are fulfilled by Ariel as whatever tasks he needs to get accomplished is fulfilled by Ariel. In the same way with all these inventions in the modern-day world, we, human beings become so dependent on technology because it makes our lives easier by being able to get things done much rapidly. Prospero uses Ariel in the same way to get all his tasks completed and becomes reliant on him. The first task that Prospero gets done by Ariel is the violent storm, or tempest, of the opening scene which gives the play its title. In the second scene of Act one, it is by Prospero’s design that the storm endangered the ship, that the passengers and crew nevertheless escaped, that Ferdinand is brought to Miranda, and that the two fall in love. Prospero, through his tool, Ariel, carries out his will.

In Scene 1 of Act 4, Prospero calls Ariel to present the masque which he has promised Miranda and Ferdinand as entertainment celebrating their betrothal. In the end, Prospero suddenly remembers Caliban, Stephano and Trinculo who are on their way to murder him. Prospero thanks Ariel for all that he has done and calls him “my bird”. “This was well done, my bird./Thy shape invisible retain thou still. The trumpery in my house, go bring it hither, /for stale to catch these thieves” (Act 4, Scene 1) to which Ariel obeys saying “I go, I go.” Prospero mentions again that he has all his enemies in his power and reiterates his promise to Ariel that he will have his freedom in a very few hours not knowing that this final action of Ariel’s, opens up the full magnificent potential of Prospero’s ‘magical art’, potential that he wasn’t aware of before which leads us to our third phase.

Through Prospero’s magical art in shaping Ariel, he finds himself to be shaped by Ariel in the same way, if not greater. Correspondingly, with the advent of new inventions and technology itself, our world has changed with the internet, with television, with cell phones, and with the development of mutual culture and its training manuals filled with consistency procedures. Assistive technology is transforming the way we envision and describe the world we live in, shaping us for a better and richer environment. Likewise, Prospero’s technology ‘tool’ Ariel helps him out in an encouraging way which shines a brighter light in Prospero’s life as Ariel assembles Prospero to become his own master. This leads to Prospero making his own decision where he destroys his own ability to use magic towards the end and forgives the other characters for their wrongdoings.

Ariel: “Your charm so strongly works ‘em

That if you now beheld them, your affections

Would become tender”

Prospero: “Dost thou think so, spirit?”

Ariel: “Mine would, sir, were I human”

Prospero: “And mine shall”. (Act 5, Scene 1)

While he sends Ariel to bring all his enemies forward, Prospero declares that he intends now to give up all this magic, break his magic staff, bury it deep in the earth and sink his magic book deep at sea. It is Ariel who brings Prospero to forgive his enemies, something which is often looked by mankind as very difficult to do. This ‘bigger and harder’ task is something Prospero has accomplished because he learned from Ariel, which finally leads him to his final restoration to his position as duke. This in a way is ‘magical’ itself. It comes from the lesson Prospero learns from Ariel and it is the final outcome of Prospero’s ‘magical art’. And this bond that we see between Prospero and Ariel characterizes our relationship to technology where it provides us with tools for letting us become who we want to be, accomplishing our goals and dreams which then therefore leads us to our careers just as Prospero’s tool had led to his career as a duke again.

Prospero sets Ariel free, “Then to the elements be free” (Act V, Scene); Ariel also does the same for Prospero by shaping him in a way where Prospero realizes his potential and magical art. Prospero learns to forgive with the help of Ariel and sums up the play when he says: “The rarer action is/In virtue than in vengeance” (Act 5, scene 1).  Likewise, though technology is man-made, we are shaped by our tools as we become knowledgeable through the many benefits of technology in business, communication, education, healthcare, and society. It has evolved and transformed our lives and society, overall bringing about a tremendous growth and benefit to mankind reshaping us human beings to reach out for our goals and achieve our dreams. As a famous saying goes, “We become what we behold. We shape our tools and then our tools shape us”, we see that Prospero invents Ariel, making him his ‘tool’ by giving him the power of invisibility, lets him execute his thoughts and actions and then Ariel shapes him opening up the full glorious potential of his ‘magical art’, just as we invent the tools of technology, let it take over our lives and then come to the realization that technology does indeed shape our lives by letting us become the great individuals we once aspired to be.

Works Cited

Shakespeare, William. “The Tempest.” Ed. David Horne. London: Oxford

University Press. 1955

September 12th, 2010

A brand-new ending

Posted by sabedin100 in Uncategorized

There is no doubt that technology has transformed the world in which we live. Many consider these developments a gigantic step to help make our lives easier. It is true that through technology perhaps our lives did become easier as the lives of many where changed during the Industrial Revolution. But technology, in reality exposes people to a higher stress level as many new things are invented through technology itself, not just materialistic items but the human mind expands as technology itself advances. Where and how else would the chaotic man in Sharon Olds’s poem “Summer Solstice, New York City” who is filled with paranoia get the idea of going up “…the iron stairs through the roof of the building”? (2) or “…put one leg over the complex green tin cornice”? (4)  It is through technology that the “iron stairs” and the “complex green tin cornice” were made. In fact, the whole world is made out of technology as just when the man gets ready to end his life, “the huge machinery of the earth began to work for his life” (6).  Olds presents this man adjusting his steps using technology as a personification in a method of anticipating death and fear, “…and said if they came a step closer that was it” (5), all he needed was technology by his side to get the work done.

Looking through the lens of technocriticism in this poem, I interpreted this poem of Olds’ as presenting technology through personification as good vs bad; the good sides to technology as opposed to the bad sides of technology, which can also be looked as the angelic view of technology and the devilish view of technology. The society around him are swayed through the angelic technology where they use it for beneficial causes where else this suicidal man chooses to listen to the devilish whispers of technology and uses it as an attempt to end his life.  The people around him had all used technology as an angel to direct them as the cops came in their suits, one who “put on a bullet-proof vest” (8) to save his own life which shows a materialistic item of technology used with great reasoning. As all the people took preparation, they use technology as the “hairy net with it’s implacable grid was /unfolded near the curb and spread out and /stretched as the sheet is prepared to received birth.” ( 20, 21, 22) How did these people learn to prepare for the suicidal attempt like this? This shows that as technology progresses so does the human brain. Human conscious played a great role as the man “stepped down” (29) or backed away from the devilish whispers of technology and gave in to the whispers of the angelic technology. Certain morals can be learned from this theme as even though the speaker had “thought they were going to beat him up, as a mother whose child has been/ lost will scream at the child when it’s found” (31,32), he was surprised to see that the man was accepted through open arms “as they took him by the arms and held him up” as a way of saying that God does accept those who return back to the righteous path and with that said, the past is forgotten and the man, even though he cannot go back to initiate a brand new beginning, he can begin today with his lit cigarette as he burns away the ashes of his past to craft a brand-new ending.

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