Monday, 25 February 2013

Week 15 (Mon 4 Feb)

In today's lecture, we watched the 1943 adaptation of the classic novel, Jane Eyre, directed by Robert Stevenson (best known for his work at Disney in the 50s and 60s, helming many beloved childhood classics such as Mary Poppins, In Search of the Castaways, The Absent Minded Professor and laer, Island at the Top of the World in 1971), and featuring legendary actor Orson Welles as Mr Rochefort. The film details the struggles of Jane's life, from unhappy and tormented child, to a relationship with the wealthy Rochefort, who hides a dark secret from his own past. Welles made for a commanding screen presence, as expected from him, thanks in part to some brilliant lighting that added a ton of mood and made for a beautiful black and white film that oozed with atmosphere, and made you forget you were looking at backlots and painted sets (this was during WW2, when there were very strict limitations on filming in Hollywood).

After, in the seminar with Cottis,we looked at Novels and Novelistic Narrative, the concept arising in England and France during the 18th century, which also coincides with a historical movement that sought to challenge conventional ideas and beliefs, the Enlightenment, giving the individual rather than the government more power and freedoms. This new type of writing concerned itself with details, and the specifics of time and space relating to the story (making more efforts to adhere to the chosen time period and setting, proven by the tendency of novelists to write a lot of description in their tales, something not as common in previous types of story telling).

Other aspects that form part of the novel's way of writing include first-person narration (which can create mystery, identification or dramatic irony, depending on what the author desires), the Picaresque novel (which often had a questionable/roguish protagonist on a journey (some argue it inspired the 'road movie', which emphasized the journey rather than the destination, again playing to the descriptive nature of the medium) the bildungsroman (the moral and psychological growth of a character over the course of the story), the Pathetic Fallacy (what gives inanimate objects emotions/reflects the situation in the scene i.e. raining at funerals emphasizes the loss and sadness) and objective corrality (a term coined by famous writer T.S. Elliot, who saw it as an object representing something subjective i.e. a family portrait informs us of that character's relationships).

For the exercise, we had to go off, in groups, and come up with a Picaresque story: my group came up with the idea of a young writer who hitchhikes with a young woman, who reveals herself to be a rogue and robs him. Eventually, the two meet up again, the tables turned, and the two begin a relationship ala Bonnie and Clyde, the writer deciding to live the adventure he so often imagines for his stories. Then, after brushing up on some Oliver Twist and briefly discussing Dickens (whose writing style was very filmic, often being very atmospheric and tightly written, much like a movie), we then ha d one last task, which was to be the basis for this week's assignment: make up eight characters to use in a sprawling narrative ala Nashville, Magnolia, Prarite Home Companion etc. My team came up with the following:
  • Lawyer
  • Transvestite
  • Builder
  • Unemployed mother
  • Two school children
  • Retired actor
  • Wealthy widow
To close off, today's work was quite jam packed with many details and interesting concepts: the novel has a surprising amount of depth and styles to it, something often forgotten when some of the less-than-stellar works (Twilight) gain a lot of attention despite lack of artistic merit, and it was good to refresh ourselves and really go back to the heart of novels and how they began.

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