Shaun Tan’s Inclusion of the Reader

In class today, we talked about how Shaun Tan’s book, “The Arrival”, includes the reader in the process of this narrative. One way in which he does this is exhibited in the photograph below. This is the first page of the book, and it shows items in isolation from the protagonist’s home in his country of origin. It is the reader’s job to make a mental cohesion out of them, and to see these items as you would the items in your own home. The objects are seemingly indistinguishable from everyday ones but just personable enough that if they were in your own home — the cracked tea pot, the curvature on the clock — you would associate nostalgic feelings of home with them.

Shaun Tan also includes the reader in the protagonist’s feelings of displacement and confusion by creating a fictional city for him to immigrate to with a nonsense language.  As a result of this, no one reading this book can be a native of this new country with more knowledge of it than the main character– everyone is an immigrant. Every page, we learn as he does about his new home — the types of food, the traffic, the ways of life, etc. It allows us to empathize in a more authentic way with the main character than we could if he was moving to America or even a different country that we may know more about.

And the fact that it has no textual narration means that readers have to pay close attention to the emotion on the protagonist’s face, his reactions to the new context that he’s placed in. We are guided by him and see everything through his lens, and therefore we are constantly empathizing with his emotional experience.

Peter Rabbit as a Coming of Age Story?

While reviewing “Peter Rabbit”, our class discussed to what extent it was a coming of age story. Like many books of this genre, there is a young protagonist who is accustomed to a certain way of life but wishes to break out of this pattern and to embark on some kind of adventure. This journey can take many forms, but its main literary objective is to instill an evolution or development of sorts within the protagonist, so that, by the end, he or she has learned something about themselves or their relationship to their surrounding world.

Taking place in the Victorian Era and encouraging the lesson of conforming to social norms, we have to wonder how much this book is about individuality the way that other coming of age stories are. Peter is warned by his mother about the dangers of the outside world, and those cautions come to fruition for him. Instead of overcoming the obstacles that he faces with wit or connections, Peter escapes only by sheer luck. He comes home with his proverbial tail between his legs and is punished for it. He is ultimately re-confined in the safety and limited beliefs of his domestic space.

This makes me wonder if this was the extent of a coming of age story in the Victorian Era or perhaps just for Beatrix Potter — that it takes going out on one’s own to have the traditional beliefs and social structures confirmed for an individual. This kind of story, to me, would reproduce these fears and cautionary behavior in Peter, or in the generation being read to.

Collage Workshop

I really enjoyed working on my collage today during the workshop. I found that, in accordance with our definition of collage, I combined the pictures and fragments I collected to create an entirely new whole with a distinctly separate meaning from their originals. At first, when looking at all of the magazines and materials, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to create the image I already had in my head. But I found that something that helped was collecting similar images – things with the same color and theme that could begin to form cohesive patterns. Sometimes, in order to do this, I had to keep my eyes peeled for even the most minimal images such as a small illustration of tree tops or a little boy’s face peeking from behind a curtain. I also found that the degree to which I cut an image had a significant effect on how it would appear in the new illustration. These delineations affected their new place in the dissimilar context of my project. I feel that I have laid down good base work, but I know I need to add more layers of images and meaning to fully convey the passage that I am working with.

Julia Jacquette’s Exhibit

Looking at Julia Jacquette’s pieces made me think a lot about depicting the ‘personal’ in art. After going through some of the pages of her book and walking through her exhibit with the guide, I wondered how each aspect of this experience must have been like for her. The first aspect I thought about was endeavoring to distill your experiences and emotions into something tactile and possibly stagnant in its movement (paintings for example). Was it incredibly stressful to try and show that? Does everything she’s created feel perfectly honest and an accurate depiction of what she imagines in her head? Are the stakes of all of these perfections and truths higher because this is about her and about the people she loves? When she depicts her mother, for example, does she worry that she will offend her or offend her own memory of her?

A second stage I thought about was pitching these ideas to other people, trying to get them to take her work professionally. If work was ever rejected, did that feel like a personal rejection of her life story and the way she decided to show it? Of course, most art has a degree of ‘the personal’, but I imagine that memoire work is more directly so.

A third quality I imagined was the way that the public reads your work once it’s out, their degree of personal interest or enjoyment of it. Did she worry that people wouldn’t associate the same objects that she depicts with the exact emotions that she cites? Was it more important to her to show how she felt or appeal to something that she hoped others felt? The work below is an example of this – the sensuous quality of the cream and the sweetness of the dessert could possibly be associated with intimacy for anyone, but it’s application seems to be one that’s specific to her own experience.

A Gorey Kind of Funny

While reading through Edward Gorey’s “Amphigorey”, I found that most of the stories were characterized by either gloomy subject matter or satirical commentary. What results from this, I think, is the communication of frequently used story lines and narratives in a completely new form and sometimes, with a dissimilar ending. For example, the Bug Book tells a story dominated by social stratification of groups with the exclusion of those who do not conform. But instead of ending the story with this morality or somehow allowing justice to be had for the ostracized bug, the story ends with the it being killed by the others. Consequently, they are able to continue acting the way they do at the expense of and with the exclusion of others. This is also displayed in the alphabet section entitled, “The Gashlycrumb Tinies” , which categorizes each letter by something somber in nature. One example is, “C is for Clara who wasted away”, another one being, “I is for Ida who drowned in a lake”. Gorey uses format of a child’s learning tool – the alphabet, the very basis of our language – and characterizes it by different forms of death. What are the implications of this choice? Is this simply a stylistic choice, or is Gorey trying to communicate something specific to the reader?

Romare Bearden’s Collages

In class today, I found it super interesting to look at the comparative methods of collage that different artists used. One example that caught my eye especially was “Tomorrow I May Be Far Away” by Romare Bearden whose collages captured and commented on African American life. After doing some additional research on him, I found out that his work was influenced both by high modernists like Henri Matisse and by African slave crafts such as patchwork quilts and the usage of random materials due to the lack there of. If we think about Bearden’s work in the context of the definition provided to us in class today of collage – a form of visual art that assembles different forms resulting in a new whole – we can see how he collected different fragments, torn photographs and magazines, to create a powerful message on the African American experience.

Below, I’ve attached a small selection from his larger work called “The Block”, which depicts an entire block of buildings made from collage.  I found this one particularly interesting because of how he depicts different figures with different materials. The figures on the ground, carrying the coffin to the car and congregating outside, don’t have features that are distinguishable and are made from the same blue and white print-like material. This is juxtaposed to the face imbedded into the building on the left, which is an African American human child’s face. It makes the viewer wonder if that face, which is of a completely different scale and material, is meant to be more representative than literal.

Works Cited:

Working Title/Artist: The Block
Department: Modern Art
HB/TOA Date Code:
Working Date: 1971
photography by mma 1992, transparency #3c
scanned and retouched by film and media (jn) 8_25_04

Printing Press – Placement of Text

One of the things that my group had to take into consideration most during this activity was the placement of our quotation on the page from “My Name is Red”. While we haven’t actually made the print yet, we had to decide if we should center some of the lines or keep them aligned all the way to the left side. It made me think about how the way in which something is printed can affect its reading and interpretation. Top of the page or bottom, positioned toward the left or centered, quotes can be given different levels of importance. We decided that we will probably place the quote all the way to the top left, so that it catches a viewer’s attention immediately but does not necessarily dictate how they interpret picture that we will draw below it in the way that a centered quote might. We thought putting it to the side may imply a more loose or even fluid connection between the two ideas.

Our quote from “My Name is Red” is: “Try to discover who I am from my choice of words and colors, as attentive people like yourselves might examine footprints to catch a thief.”

The connection between this quote and the picture we plan to draw is the concept of differing perspectives, opinions, and writing/artistic styles of each of the characters that we read the narratives of throughout the novel.

More of Eko’s “Don Quixote” Woodcuts

After looking at Eko’s woodcuts in class, I was curious as to how some of his reoccurring thematic images were used in his other depictions of scenes from the book.  As we noticed from the woodcut showing Don Quixote ‘losing his wits’ being too entrenched in his stories, his head and torso were depicted as one large hand. I was interested to see that this portrayal of him reappeared in contexts outside of the context of him reading inside his house. In the second and fourth images below, he is on a horse throwing a spear and locked in jail, but the iconography of the hand suggests that these are figments of his imagination or at least a further sign of his madness. The imagery of books is omnipresent – either placed somewhere in isolation within the scene or imbedded into other objects such as the face of the lion in the first woodcut or the body of the horse in the second.

I included the windmill woodcut that we looked at in class specifically because I hadn’t noticed at the time that it included books as well. The combination of the book and hand imagery (as well as the receding checkered floor which is not included in these woodcuts) suggest that Eko may have chosen to depict this story, in its entirety, as Don Quixote’s descent into madness – or at least, a consistent narrative of his mental state absorbed in the stories he reads.



Visual Depiction of Don Quixote’s Imagination

As evidenced by Gustave Doré’s works that we looked at in class today, an artist depicting scenes from Don Quixote has to constantly consider how to represent the dichotomy of the protagonist’s imagination and reality. The two works below tackle this challenge. The first one, a visual from Terry Gilliam’s film, “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote,” shows the scene in which Don Quixote believes that the windmills are giants who he must defeat. The artist chooses to portray Don Quixote’s imagination as contemporaneous with and equivalent to his reality, including his envisioned identity as a knight. He makes Don Quixote’s confusion viable by giving the giant certain characteristics that closely resemble a windmill. While he does give credence to these ideas, the background of the painting also reveals the differing reality of the situation by showing windmills without giants.

The second illustration, by Daniel Torres, displays a shadow that embodies Don Quixote’s idealistic self-image as a confident knight with armor and a sword. His real identity in the world is depicted as a disadvantaged man wearing ratty clothing and sitting atop an animal that more closely resembles a donkey. This version of the protagonist looks out into the world of the viewer, shielding his eyes from the sun, as if preparing to confidently encounter the reality of his world with an imagination that contradicts it.

Blindness in “My Name is Red”

One prominent theme in Orhan Pamuk’s My Name is Red is sight and its opposite: blindness. These two terms each have certain connotations depending on the context and who is speaking about them throughout the novel. In class, we noted that Master Osman scrapes away the eyes in some paintings since eyes can symbolically connote individuality and uniqueness of an artist’s lens and the subject of their depiction (321).

Many characters explain the Eastern theory that the masters among the miniaturists should be able to go blind from their strenuous work and still be able to depict things in Allah’s perspective due to their memory and the imbedded nature of the craft, which they’ve done for so long. Some like Olive, in his Three Stories on Blindness and Memory, go as far to say that blindness actually helps them in seeing this: “‘Since my eyes will no longer be distracted by the filth of this world, I’ll be able to depict all the glories of Allah from memory, in their purest form'”(77).

I wonder if you could see this idea of blindness in a reverse perspective – while allowing miniaturists to focus on Allah’s perspective and the craft they’ve trained themselves to know, it also disables them from seeing anything outside of that. As it’s typically thought of in the Western perspective, blindness is restrictive. And if Master Osman ultimately tries to blind himself because he wishes to see in concepts, then he is also allowing himself to not be tempted by any other possibly contradictory perspectives. In the Eastern perspective pushed by certain characters in the book, there is a power to limiting the extent of the world that you can see (and deem as important) through physical blindness and selective memory.