A Bit About My Final

Since I’m so late, this post will serve to replace my final proposal and be a reflection on it as well. When I first came up with an idea for my Final I wanted to use social media to delve into subcultures. We see subcultures all over the internet. I find all the different subcultural identities fascinating. Some stem from music, others are more centered on fashion and even fandoms on the internet have their own jargon and “subcultural practices”. Being an outsider, these groups do seem to have their own culture. The internet is very powerful in its ability to connect people and allow voices to be heard and I think that’s why we see these subcultures emerging online.

One of the most interesting things is that while the internet gives these groups the space to be themselves it also makes their subcultures accessible to outsiders like me. I wondered what it would be like if I created a Twitter, Tumblr or instagram account and pretended to be a goth or a “directioner”. Even if I didn’t exactly fit the part, the internet still gives me a way in to these lifestyles to look and observe at the very least. And who knows, with sites like deviantart, fanfiction, and YouTube giving me all the tools I need to inform myself about a subculture, how long would it take for me to be “inducted”? These are all sites where people part of a subculture create novel media using music, film, animation or whatever relates to their subculture.

For example, anime fans make AMVs (Anime Music Videos), and plenty of goths on YouTube make videos discussing goth culture, what it means to be goth to them, and the history of goths. A popular tag among this community is “ungoth confessions” in which goths list qualities they have which may not fit the goth stereotype. While it is easy to feel like an outsider from these small groups the internet is not only bringing them closer together but educating us outsiders. As you can see, what I called insider-outsider phenomenon, was one of my biggest preoccupations. I changed my idea into a paper in which I researched through reading what others, usually sociologists it seems, had to say about subcultures on the internet.

Besides learning that a lot of what gives the internet this sense of community and connection finds its roots in capitalism/consumerism (of course!) luckily my main focus was uncovered during the research process. And, the answer had more depth to it than I may have been expecting. The fact that subcultures have their own logic, language, and even shared behaviors that the “in-group” participated in made it appear to me that keeping the lines clear about who was an outsider and who was an insider was meant to create that feeling of exclusivity that makes being part of the “inner circle” feel so special. However, without this insider-outsider logic these groups might not even have become subcultures at all.

“Othering” is a big part of what shapes a subculture. It is how subculturalists establish their subcultural identity – by constantly reaffirming what is and is not part of their subculture. It’s the same way we make notions of “race” and “gender” apart of our experience of reality. A subculture doesn’t have a set form, but appears to always be shifting and changing and othering is part of that process. In the “spirit” of the Internet it makes sense why subcultures seem to be at every corner when we go online. People within some of these subcultures, of course, first saw themselves as divergent from mainstream culture. The internet is a place where people can go when they are the “other” IRL.



Happy Trails

Just a quick note to say that I’ve just finished evaluating your final projects (and everything else). It was a real pleasure to see the amazing, creative work many of you did at the end of the course. I hope everyone has a great summer and look forward to seeing you around campus in the fall (and perhaps even in English 390, “ABC of Modernism”?).

A couple of notes:

  1. You’ll get a link via Google from me to the same doc I’ve been using to share evaluations with you. There you’ll see comments on the final project and on other aspects of the course. In some cases, you’ll get links to essays with marginal comments or comments via hypothes.is. Feel free to get in touch if you have any questions. There’s a final grade at the end (or there will be by about 2pm).

  2. I’d love the liberty to post or link to your projects on our course site. If you want to OPT OUT of this, feel free to do so via email. Otherwise, if I can get organized, I’ll put together a little showcase of your work for future students to see.

  3. Speaking of opting out, remember that our course site and our hypothes.is feed are open to public view. If you like, you are welcome to delete any or all materials from those platforms. If not do not do so, that’s great, and I might even share your brilliance with future students now and then.

That’s all for now. Good luck with the end of the term!

Reading as an experience

Turns out people watch shows and movies multiple times in the form of dvds and reruns for example. These experiences are not always the same and you discover new things each time. It is to my initial thought that people ought to do things once and once is sufficient enough to cherish the moment. That is, I felt like fitting more different experiences is more important than to go over what you already know. I made more sense when I first thought it and it wasn’t wrong per se but it becomes a trade off. One might be very well verses in Dickens while I know more broadly about him and focus on the genre or time period of the literature. While both thoughts are equally good and valid, I was so wrong too. In fact, sometimes it’s not even the case and you will have different experiences and need constant reviewing. There are many ways to do the same activity. There is nothing new under the sun.

So when reading “Reading Dickens in Four Ways”, it brought to my attention that there are advantages, disadvantages, perspectives, enhancements and limitations to every reading experience. She has read it in four ways. The way audio books are it allows multi tasking: she cites some examples of multi tasking:

‘You can listen while you are walking around.

You can listen while driving.

You can listen while applying makeup.

You can listen while you are cooking.

You can listen while you are in the dentist’s chair.”

I think multi tasking is the best skill a human can do because I believe it raises productivity but not when done in haste. Now, when it comes to audiobooks, I do wonder many things. For one, we cannot annotate in general unless we get creative. Also, would an audiobook make you a better listener? I mean I could argue that people nowadays have terrible listening comprehensions. This also plays into the magic that was explored in the storyteller.

Some people have preferences when it comes to reading experience and some argue that you’re missing out and certain aspects of it and all that. She mentions how Kindles don’t really create the paper feeling readers adore. I can concede to their compelling arguments but I hold firm to this belief: just as with music, some keys sound better than others for some particular pieces, some books and reading are better with certain mediums. Or as she says it, action driven plot is better suited for narration, audiobook.

Lastly, I don’t think reading a book is useful unless you talk about it or develop and share ideas about its morals, themes and messages. Thus, I conclude that reading and writing complement each other. I don’t think that was the purpose of books and written materials. I mean yea we talked a lot about the implied reader and multiple readers as one way communications but as with everything, I feel that the art is in the community. I mean Shakespeare wrote his plays for everyone to see and share. Not just for playwright to any man and hoped he get some message out of it.

I could sum this all up in these words: I’ve never thought of it that way before.

The theory of Note Taking

This was an interesting article for me because it’s not something we think about and appreciate on a daily basis. Especially since I love being able to write things down (especially very thorough and complete) that sometimes, I take the time to redo and try to specialize for myself. In this, I strived to compile an ‘encyclopedia.” That is, a codex that can generate contains a whole bunch of information. It can become its own mini library. Along with annotations, you can add a whole bunch of side notes too. This has become a complex library ecosystem!

Note taking may also take form in a research paper. The truth about reading and writing is that it is an art form but we have become conditioned to seeing it as something we, literate people, must do. We all fail to appreciate the things we do have. After all, research can just be thoughts, observations, hypothetical situations and reminders. The human brain, while able to hold a lot of information and memory, it does have limits but note taking does not. The vessel may sink but the preserved words do not cease (unless destroyed/lost). This goes back to annotations and close reading strategies too! This even goes into blogs, oh the irony!

She says, “Attention to note taking can shed new light on the mnemonic abilities for which scholars were so widely praised in the early modern period. One of the most frequent ways of praising a scholar was to praise his memory. Jean Bodin, to name but one example, was praised by Henry III for his ability to pour out on any topic of conversation “an abundance of most beautiful things from his excellent memory.” ” In fact, we tend to forget that scribes was an actual job description and people took a career and lifetime to master these arts. Today, it evolved to archivists, book preservers, etc.

Blair mentions the history of note taking and preserving of knowledge because back then. It comes as oral, written or electronic. Oral is easy to get distorted and lost (for example, death of languages). wWritten information is also easily destroyed, lost or manipulated, book burning or just lost books. Today, we have stronger/more efficient note taking methods (although there are still strong efforts to destroy/censor information), hacking.

I do admit though, while note taking and good information is good, there is also bad information out there and poor note taking ethics. In fact, sometimes, not all papers and compositions will be read and sometimes, they’re not worth reading. It’s insulting but it’s the truth; there is so much bad written material that we don’t actually for its artistry anymore. For example, for some reason, children’s, young adult and classical literature stand out more than adult literature. I personally don’t like adult literature and think it’s written badly most of the time. The flip side is the good ones almost go unnoticed/read as well…In fact, most famous people are not famous until after they are dead. It is hard for my head to wrap around this fact, now that I’ve come up with it.

She says “These two basic methods of note taking can be identified throughout the European tradition from the ways in which authors refer to other authors, by quoting them or summarizing their arguments, and from the genres of writing that offer ready-made the results of note taking in order to spare others the effort of taking notes themselves”

Marginalia & Marginalia & Marginalia

I realized that I was a missing a blog post on annotations, and I’m pretty sure there’s an old English major proverb that reads “better late than never.” Regardless, here we go.

As one can tell from a cursory look at my annotations, I often expressed different sentiments during the annotation process. At times I wrote in favor of removing annotations from view when initially reading a text, yet, in other instances I found this practice beneficial. Although it’s essential for every person to bring their own understanding, point of view, and scholarly knowledge into a new text, it’s imprudent to believe that texts don’t have essential, fibrous parts that everyone will annotate. Sure, every reader may find their own, small part within a text that they deem especially affecting or important, but for the most part, readers will flock to the meat and potatoes of a text. For example, if everyone in our class was to annotate “The Dead” by James Joyce as an assignment, I would bet money on the fact that most of us would highlight or mark the closing paragraph where Joyce refers to Michael Furey’s grave. This passage is often regarded as one of the most beautiful passages in the English language; however, despite the fact that all criticism and merit is objective, without a history of annotation, critics have paid attention to this specific part of the text.

Understandably, we have to ask what this means. Surely, we can establish that (most) texts have parts that are going to appeal to a vast majority of readers that will understand that those specific passages are, in some way, integral to the text. But does this change the way we annotate– and should it? In one of our class readings regarding the switch to e-books the author brought up a poignant point that in the twenty-first century, a world rife with intangibles, we are paying for an experience rather than a product. We are no longer paying for “books” or “CD’s”, rather, novels and music. The fact that the word “book” has become synonym with “novel” as “CD” has with “music” is very telling, and likely explains why most people don’t take file-sharing as seriously as they ought to. Regardless, does the act of reading marginalia scrawled upon a text for the first time add to that experience or devalue it? This is, largely, a rhetorical question (obviously) that can be answered with a multitude of different answers. For me it depends on the text. The annotations of Lolita saved my life and my GPA. However, if I read an annotated version of Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants,” I would feel robbed of Hemingway’s distinctive writing style.

Adding to these conflicted thoughts I have is Twitter– a constant dialogue that I tune in to during almost any life event that I take interest in. In fact, I can’t imagine watching a sporting event go terribly wrong without seeing the plethora of things said by critics, sportscasters, and fans all over social media. This is marginalia that has not and will not spoil an experience for me, but why? How is this different? Perhaps it’s the old (mis)conception that reading is a solitary experience– perhaps it’s very much about the feeling of personal discovery. Sports, on the other hand, are meant to be a communal experience. People become sports fans to feel like they’re a part of the team, to forge fraternal sentiments

Regardless, as screens and VR becoming increasingly important parts of our lives, marginalia is going to grow. I’m certain that it will eventually find it’s footing, securing a solid, respectable place within the classroom and the baseball field.


Annotation Project Reflection

When we were annotating Benito Cereno, it was interesting to dig up articles, artifacts, documents and much more to relate to the text. At first I thought the text, while realistic, was mostly fabricated. It turns out that there are a lot of references to events, places and people in history. For one, i did not know Amaso Delano was a real person and the ship was real and some of the events indeed happened. The revolt and insurrection did not occur however. I also learned about the time, situation and place of 1799 slavery: slaves died to diseases and were crammed into horrible conditions for example. Real storms happened in those days. It makes me feel like a historian, detective, archivist and other fascinating careers of the like. It also puts a new perspective in academic research. Prior to this, I always thought that academic research was boring and same went for writing. However, I appreciate that we are able to annotate, add references and key details and what not to study the text more nicely and effectively. I definitely feel like I missed out a lot on annotations as I have not have had used it before and feel as though I ought to use it more frequently now. I in fact will practice this in future readings.

For me personally, I enjoy how language and literary elements fit together. So using annotations can also add notes and details of narratives (reading as a writer). Exploration of words, etymologies and etc can come in handy.

In essence, annotations will improve reading and writing, as they both should go hand in hand, together. All in all, the power of annotation is tried and true and I can’t fathom how I live life without utilizing such powerful tool.

Audiobook Reflection

The idea of a do-it-yourself audiobook struck me as very much within the scope of an English class seeking to both honor its roots in a certain literary tradition but to extrapolate vastly forward into the technological age we live in. I have perused LibriVox only a handful of times, once having downloaded a few dry works of Continental philosophy like some kind of self-help serum that goes down easier through the ears. However, my time with the works was fairly short lived, and I recall their quickly serving me more as a sleep aid than anything else. In my younger years, though, I once had a very positive experience with an audiobook in the car of an English teacher who took me on a summer camping trip—this one, as I recall, had a single narrator who very deftly took on voices of various characters, considerably unlike the tone of the narrator in the LibriVox work I encountered. Anchored in this positive memory, and also recalling the juvenile eagerness with which I always volunteered to read out loud in elementary school, I was pretty enthused at the idea of working on an audiobook.

Like many others in the class, I felt considerable alarm at the prospect of a group project. I scratch my head, but fail to recall the last instance in which it was necessary to collaborate with others on schoolwork. Like many others noted as well, I quickly became aghast with the sound of my voice—it is probably good that I waited till all my takes were done to listen back to any single one, because I fear that the anxiety induced by a single listen would have tainted the quality of the work moving forward. Surely, this feeling is not unique. However, upon listening to the work of my group mates, I felt greater pleasure at the quality of their narration than of my own, and hoped perhaps someone in the group might have a parallel sentiment as a way of soothing myself.

The editing work was probably the most fun part of the entire process. I enjoyed the multitude of bodily sounds—gurgles, slurps, throat noises, phlegm—that had been afforded by the very sensitive iPhone microphones we opted to use. Luckily, cleaning these kinds of things up was fairly simple—in a digital rendering of the sound files, little bumps in the wavelength corresponded to these minor disturbances and a quick scan made it easy to locate and eradicate the unwanted byproducts. I contemplated amplifying them and embracing the absurd humor of such an act, but I figured the rest of the class might not find it as funny as I do. After several rounds of cleaning, I proceeded to check that each portion of audio ran comfortably (meaning, no awkward pauses within a single file, or uncomfortable gaps between portions of text, and smoothly running transitions between narrators), and lined everything up. Finally, I added a track by Nils Frahm to augment the emotional weight of Ezra’s reading of the book’s conclusion.

All in all, a fun attempt at a forward thinking exercise that hit mark in remediating a traditional text that benefited from its sonic treatment.

On playing MANTRAP

This was way more fun than I could have possibly conceived at first thought.

At least for Benjamin Britten, it was an occasion to buck all of my other work and dive into a veritable wealth of secondary literature. I didn’t really think so many had written on it till I fired up the library databases and what I saw shocked me. The two books that I had pulled off of the cart populated by Professor Allred were a more-than-sufficient compendium of scholarly work. The first of the book was about Britten himself, and a few small snippets were fairly relevant to his staging of Billy Budd and the appearances (seemingly, in hindsight) of homoerotic love that took subtle but considerable forefront in a few of the works. The literary philosophy of Crozier, too, was made mention of, because apparently the trope of eros-turned-violent was something that he deployed from time to time. The second was a Cambridge Opera Companion, specifically on Billy Budd, and when you see how detailed this thing is, you remember– someone’s employed at Cambridge to put the work in. An overview of the libretto, then of its staging, changes in staging, reception, ephemera, personal drama. It was lush. I couldn’t possibly work all of that information into my game.

There is certainly something, though, to the idea that “embodying” a text can provide a really rich interpretive experience. To be discerning, I must note that because Britten is strictly paratextual, my re-interpretation of the work was less of an internal calibration but more akin to the process of making visible the scaffolding that exists around works of art. And by that, I both mean stories about material circumstances that enclose the narratives and stories about the personal circumstances of the author. As well, stories about staging and reception in those instances (like this one) in which a work leaves one mode of performance and is realized in another. Getting so well acquainted with this whole second life of Billy Buddy, especially provided since it’s opera– which, in my petty bougie fantasies, I feel like it’s fun to get acquainted with despite its high barrier to entry/palatability– was a really novel experience outside of the kind I’ve had in many literature classes. And nearly inevitable fodder for a cocktail party one day.

CERENO and building the honeycomb/ On Intertextual Annotation

This seemed like a fairly successful endeavor to me, and one especially helpful if the alignment of the annotation coincides with a pithy slant of the reading. In hindsight, I realize that the annotations I made seemed to be more hypertexts than intertexts (or maybe just a source of confusion on my end), but it seems that my class mates were largely successful in their own annotations, especially when they were able to foreground certain pieces of language or narrative turns in the work with their close counterparts in other famous slave revolt accounts that would have undoubtedly have swayed Melville. Reading some of the other ones reaffirming a Textiness about the work when one encounters iterations of its narrative that pop up in Delano’s personal account, and then in newspapers reporting secondhand, and finally within Melville’s arrangement of the whole thing. Improvements would have come (though this seems a little like a Pandora’s Box) from our having elaborated the scope of what we wanted to construct through our scaffolding of annotations. Had we, for instance, did bits of research prior to a moment in which we sat down together and relegated who would write on what, then all feelings about disparate information could have been combated.

My reading of the work, laden with intertexts, created this interesting experience in which I would be submerged within the narrative of the work, but then, to follow a certain annotation would be like coming up for air and being momentarily transported into a parallel realm, from which my return back into the text was made to be especially peculiar through the heightened feeling of shuttling between dimensions (one ostensibly historic and the other more textual) between which the divide was not all too huge. What obviously differs with something like the Norton is that a critical edition is more coherent in its scope and writing style; there was nothing inherently unifying between our individual comments other than the fact that we are working towards the common end and are flying the same flag, even though our individual modes of approach and pieces of information selected may have lent to small dissonances (not that this is a problem, but maybe just that piecemeal quality that sometimes comes out of group work on a time crunch). A critical edition probably involves several relays of editing that serve similarly to adjusting the sharpness on a photograph, and through collective re-working, it’s possible that our annotations work would have been refined into a particularly harmonious corpus.

All this translates into the fact that an idea for an alternative approach would work a little less like a free-for-all, and would involve more internal direction and group vetting: it’s hard to say whether another category of research would have yielded a different character of final outcome, but it would have been interesting to, as mentioned before, to have aggregated all of our sources before and then to break up into task forces such that each person would only need to chew and digest a small amount of external work. While I quite enjoy the layered annotations that hypothes.is creates, a number of alternatives have been mentioned (allusions to computer front end I’m unfamiliar with) and it interests me to see how that may have been implemented.

Benjamin’s “The Storyteller”

“This patient process of Nature… was once imitated by men. Miniatures, ivory carvings, elaborated to the point of greatest perfection, stones that are perfect in polish and engraving, lacquer work or paintings in which a series of thin, transparent layers are played one on top of the other—all these products of sustained, sacrificing effort are vanishing, and the time is past in which time did not matter. Modern man no longer works at what cannot be abbreviated.”
In his discussion of oratory tradition, Benjamin makes this note about a fundamental way in which temporality and artistic process has changed. I can only take guesses as to what has contracted modern man’s patience, but my best guess will be something about a shift in the mode of production, and one’s relationship to land.

Benjamin’s notion of the storyteller is bimodal, being the combination of the land-bound artisan who stays permanently in place (on the land: fixed spatially but thus hyperaware temporally) and the sea-farer who brings with him stories of far-away (here, the temporal dimension is somewhat suspended but the spatial changes are what engender the storytelling). But the scale of time they are working with seems to be pre-modern, or of antiquity. Just as a craftsman prior to industrial-mechanized-automated labor worked as a lifelong process of improvement, the oratorical traditional was like, as Benjamin figuratively describes, many thin transparent layers of lacquer culminating in an organic enrichment of the story. Works handed down over generations (religious texts strikes me as a good example) seem to engage a passing of time that feels supernatural in scope—in the Biblical voice, the feeling of time is somewhat timeless, a procession of events that cannot be pinned to any temporal marker comfortable to our modern minds. The works handed down over the years exist in relationship to their setting, where the craftsman has been fixed, subsisting from the Land to whom these stories belong.

When Benjamin notes that “modern man no longer works at what cannot be abbreviated”, it feels like a jibe, and disingenuous dismissal of modernity (even he, later in this essay, seems to concede that literary time enables, like a Futurist or Cubist artwork, the colliding of multiple time-perspectives). The relationship to the land (or at least the immediacy of that feeling) seems to be lost; humans no longer think or feel out in the world—perhaps labor alienation has caused them to withdraw deeper into their own psyche, where I feel the realm of the novel is situated. And a more inner, psychological assessment of time feels timeless (not in that monumental Biblical sense mentioned earlier), all senses and scales of time compounded and folded into a single point of access within one’s mind, from which one can travel back, forth, and dilate at will. I would argue that perhaps it is not that modern man fails to have patience at anything that can’t be truncated (though I would argue that perhaps over time, our attention spans have narrowed—and this discussion is more than pertinent to Digital Humanities if it seeks to grapple more with our relationship to technology), but rather that modern man no longer sees the need to conceive themselves in sweeping arches of time that emanate from Earthly posterity. In conceding to the thought of Lukacs and his idea of “transcendental homelessness”, it feels that Benjamin does certainly grasp this symptom of modern man and thus the novel, in which “the meaning of life”, and its unity, can be “compressed in memory”.