Experiencing the concert – kallisti: Queen of the Ether

People are sometimes interested in words that do not have single meaning: Kallisti is a Greek word that has its rich mythical origin imprinted in “the apple of discord”. Ether, for most individuals, represents the endless sky and universe; for organic chemist, it is a group of substance that was named for its anesthetic properties, creating alternative states of consciousness. Out of curiosity, I went to hear the concert, kallisti: Queen of the Ether, to explore how the performers synthesize mystery into their performance. I found out this concert was indeed filled with riddles. Its exclusive use of female singers reshaped my perception of them in the field of singing. Its experimental style also gave me insight into appreciating distinct music forms.

CPMC Concert

This concert took place in Conrad Prebys Concert Hall. The room was filled with irregular firm wood walls, creating unique effect to resonate the sounds. The platform was big enough to contain an orchestra of one hundred people. Near the front row, the platform also spans out to expand our vision, making the concert like a cinema. It is also noteworthy to mention that the comfortable seats were made of dark red color, hardly interfering with my focus on the performance.

One of the most interesting aspect of this concert is its lack of instrumental accompaniment. Except for the percussion that only appeared in third song, other things were merely the female voices. This setting makes the concert like a pure A Capella show. Though a bit disappointed at first, because I myself was fond of songs that have beautiful melodies played by instruments, I was progressively intrigued by the great virtuosity. I realized that the singers’ musical skills were the spotlight of the concert, and instrumentation would only hinder me to appreciate their skills.

Indeed, each performance had its characteristic virtuosity. The first song, Vive faville, seemed to toy with quietness. It featured four sopranos that has their own low-volume weird voices such as wind-blowing, chit-chatting, and pure singing. They often sung by themselves, with occasional unifying harmony and complete silence. The second piece, Sequenza III, was sung by an omnipotent solo singer. Besides her display of unstable emotions, from mummering and sighing to laughing and yelling, she also synchronized actions into her singing, thereby depicting a vivid person who was easily influenced by different events. The third performance, Puksanger/Lockrop, seemed like two country women, standing in both sides of a mountain, having a worldly conversation. There, the male percussionist helps to set up the grand scene. The fourth song, Vishentens lov, sounded like a group of scholars trying to answer philosophical questions. The fifth, Six Songs for Sirens, was set in a more celebratory tone. Afterwards, the encore Do Not Fear the Darkness lightened up the atmosphere, comforting me with the softening lyric, which is its title.

kallisti brochure

The program provided a pamphlet that was helpful for understanding the music. Even if it does not translate all the lyrics into English, I could confidently anticipate how the songs go down. The director of this concert, Susan Narucki, also aided my perception by telling stories. She also acted as the conductor when she was singing, which I thought helped her better direct the group.

From above experience, I learned that female voice, when played along, could go beyond the stereotype, and show many skills that I did not know before. Besides its commonly believed smooth nature, the voice could mimic an object perfectly, change its volume variably, shout out words recklessly, and do something usually done by men. The concert, by showcasing music pieces that can be described as different art forms, also broadened my vision of music. Not all beautiful music requires instrumental accompaniment or at least acoustics. In fact, as can be traced back to Hildegard’s work, only using female voices could be strong enough to vibrate people’s feelings.

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Summary of the conversation again

To what degree does political humor change the society? This question sparks an interesting conversation among the course readings. McGraw and Warner stand for the optimistic side. They refute Christie Davies’ claim that jokes only indicate political discontent and may possibly relieve the rebellion. By exemplifying “laughtivism” in which people overturned their leader through mocking at him,  McGraw and Warner asserts that comedy can bring about positive political change. This change is furthered by Anna Louie Sussman, who presents Egyptian uprising to show humor’s immense ability to improve the situation.  She thinks humor “build community, strengthen solidarity, and provide a safe, thug-free outlet for Egyptians to defy the regime” (Sussman 166). In this sense, Sussman argues that comedy breaks people’s fear, and provide them with different perspectives to view the reality . Bassem Youssef  verifies this argument with his career as a comedian . In his comedy show, he turned down Mubarak and Morsi, both presidents disliked by the public. By making people laugh at their hidden flaws, Youssef engaged people in changing the society. When Sisi became the president, Youssef continued making jokes. But since Sisi had people’s support, Youssef’s show was canceled. Still, as Youssef says, “pulling the show off the air is a victory” (Bager 172), he brings beloved leader to his country, and proves that humor can greatly impact the political world.

However, Iain Ellis observes that, though political humor plays a vital role in politics, people should not be too optimistic. He uses a three-way dance to illustrate how politicians, media, and the public interact. Ellis posits that the dance involves comedians spreading the truth to the audiences, thus engages the public in political issues.  But he claims  that politicians, on the other hand, also use “spin” and “obfuscation” to make up their self-images. Indeed, Ellis agrees with McGraw & Warner that humor is important, yet he thinks that it decides the presidential election is not a good sign.

Ramon Lopez flips the argument, discussing Jon Stewart’s negative effect to the society. Although Lopez acknowledges Stewart’s broad influence, he criticizes Stewart for promoting cynicism and using straw men. “Comedic straw men degrade the opposition not only by twisting and misrepresenting their arguments, but also by ridiculing them” (Lopez 159). He illustrates that Stewart always misrepresents opposing ideas, and completely deny them. This absolute denial, as Lopez construes, will make people become cynical about the government without considering its benefit. Still, Lopez encourages Stewart to rethink his presentation by offering John Oliver who is doing political humor correctly.

Stephen Marche consents with Lopez that political humor affects the society negatively, but he adds more nuances into this idea. Marche says that Americans are living in a post-truth generation in which people believe in emotionally appealing information . While the post-truth has become a widespread ailment, Marche points out that humor “turns the news itself into a joke” (Marche 165), making people trust comedians blindly. Marche furthers the blind trust by asserting that humor makes people pleased with ridiculing at others. He posits that,  through “the pleasure of otherings” (Marche 165) , people can only  break things apart, but never build things up.

 

Works Cited

Bager, Jasmine. “Egypt’s Jon Stewart is Not Done Laughing.” New Republic, 3 Apr. 2017,www.newrepublic.com/article/141572/egypts-jon-stewart-not-done-laughing. Rpt. in The Essential Guide to Analytical Writing with Humor Readings. UC San Diego Bookstore,2017, pp. 170-172.

Lopez, Ramon. “Why Jon Stewart is Bad for America.” The Federalist, 5 Dec. 2014, http://www.thefederalist.com/2014/12/05/why-jon-stewart-is-bad-for-america/. Rpt. in The Essential Guide to Analytical Writing with Humor Readings. UC San Diego Bookstore, 2017, pp. 156-162.

Marche, Stephen. “The Left Has a Post-Truth Problem, Too. It’s Called Comedy.” LA Times, 6 Jan. 2017, http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-marche-left-fake-news-problem-comedy-20170106-story.html. Rpt. in The Essential Guide to Analytical Writing with Humor Readings. UC San Diego Bookstore, 2017, pp. 164-165.

Sussman, Anna Louie. “Laugh, O Revolution: Humor in the Egyptian Uprising.” Atlantic, 23 Feb. 2011, http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2011/02/laugh-o-revolution-humor-in-the-egyptian-uprising/71530/. Rpt. in The Essential Guide to Analytical Writing with Humor Readings. UC San Diego Bookstore, 2017, pp. 166-169.

Analysis of the conversation in McGraw’s and Ellis’s articles

McGraw Graphic OrganizerEllis Graphic OrganizerPeter McGraw and Joel Warner, in the article The Humor Code, Entry 6: Can Comedy Bring About Real Political Change?, assert that humor, when used strategically, can greatly improve the society by engaging the public to politics. Iain Ellis, on the other hand, claims that political humor is basically an interplay among politicians, media, and the public. The public have gained great power in shaping the politics, and politicians need to play with humor to promote their positive self-images in different media.

I am interested McGraw’s point that humor can effect real political change. I agree with McGraw because he address some key premises for humor to change the society. He uses Popovic, an example which shows political humor works under optimal condition. Popovic’s jokes fit well with McGraw’s benign violation theory, which states that laughter arises when a joke makes something threatening appears funny, thus alleviating the fear of the audience. “People were afraid, and humor was useful in breaking that fear” (McGraw 148). By joking, Popovic embarrasses the president, and weakens his political power. Still, I wonder if satire that occurs in small country turns out to be more effective because it can spread out quickly over the nation. In this case, the counterargument somewhat makes sense in it addresses that joking in USSR is not effective enough to make big political change.

Works Cited

Ellis, Iain. “Political Humor and Its Diss Contents.” Pop Matters, 14 Oct. 2012, http://www.popmatters.com/column/163983-political-humor-and-its-diss-contents/P1/. Rpt. in The Essential Guide to Analytical Writing with Humor Readings. UC San Diego Bookstore, 2017, pp. 150-155.

McGraw, Peter and Joel Warner.Entry 6: Can Comedy Bring About Real Political Change?” Slate, 30 Mar. 2014, http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/culturebox/features/2014/the_humor_code/daily_show_colbert_report_can_political_comedy_affect_real_political_change.html. Rpt. in The Essential Guide to Analytical Writing with Humor Readings. UC San Diego Bookstore, 2017, pp. 146-148.

Summary of The Dark Psychology of Being a Good Comedian

In the article The Dark Psychology of Being a Good Comedian, Olga Khazan, by exploring facts and arguments of puns about tragic events, presents us with an insightful perspective: Good comedians, given the optimal conditions for telling jokes, can violate audience’s feelings while making them laugh. For example, after 9/11, the comedy industry received critical receptions, in some individuals, such as The Onion staffers who ridiculed the hijackers using derisive words but with inner anger, getting more applauses than others. To address this phenomenon, Khazan employs psychologist Peter McGraw’s “benign violation” theory, which states “comedy is equal parts darkness and light” (113). This theory asserts that great comedy never goes into the two extremes. To be successful comedians, they should first make the audience uncomfortable by aptly addressing something sorrowful and unsettling; then, when the jock comes out, they start to laugh as if there are nothing to be worried about. Gilbert Gottfried failed to accomplish this task for his joke was so threatening that he did not consider how audience feel about it.

Despite the subject matter being told, geography, distance, time and comfort, too, contribute to receptions of some comedy performances. Warner claims in some places, jokes are free, while in other locations, they are plainly unacceptable (114). Comedians need to realize this factor to choose where they will be performing. HURL lab has found “tragedies … are funnier when they’re either physically or socially distant. ‘Mishaps’ meanwhile, are funnier when we’re closer to them” (114). This aspect is important to manipulate the extent to which they are miserable. The lab also discovered event that is neither too close to be dangerous nor too distant to be unfamiliar is the most suitable material for comedians to make jokes (114). There is a point when the event is neither too threatening nor too unfamiliar that is best for comedians to joke about. Finally, Warner posits that “it’s best if the audience doesn’t get too comfortable” (115). Such atmosphere render audience a nonmalignant threat and let them pay more attention to the comedy. Therefore, should comedians grip these conditions wisely, their careers will be with success and appreciation.

 

Work Cited

Khazan, Olga. “The Dark Psychology of Being a Good Comedian.” Atlantic, 27 Feb. 2014,www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/02/the-dark-psychology-of-being-a-good-comedian/284104/. Rpt. in The Essential Guide to Analytical Writing with Humor Readings. UC San Diego Bookstore, 2017, pp. 112-115.

 

Acknowledgement

       I hereby thank my groupmates Shuli Zhu for the writing program, who helps me in organizing my summary structure and points out some unconvincing arguments for me to fix, and Yuye Huang, for correcting grammatical mistakes and reading through the essay. Finally, I would especially appreciate instructor Karen Marie Gocsik and mentor Sarah Ardell, for guiding our group discussion and reminding me of adding the Acknowledgement Page, which is vital in analytical writing.

The Logic of Causes

Logic is everywhere in our life, and it is very useful in solving some complicated problems. Practising logic is also a good way to enhance our understanding of certain concepts and make groundbreaking discoveries.

I have long been interested in logicology for its pragmatism. When I witness an event, I always attempt to find out its causes. In other words, I want to deduce in what conditions do something happen. There are three types of causes that I regularly consider about.

A precipitating cause is the most direct and subjective description of what makes something happen. We can identify the subject who is acting on the object, and then combine them into one sentence by basic language rules. It is the most understandable (and maybe the most detailed) cause and is generally employed in the field of arts, humanities and social sciences.

A necessary cause is the premise for an event. Only if the result happen can we deduce some conditions are met. Without these conditions, the event cannot take place. However, it is notable that even if the cause exist, there will be possibly no corresponding result. In mathematics and natural sciences, the necessary cause is vital to investigate and analyze many intriguing phenomena.

A sufficient cause is not necessary, but contribute to the event’s occurence. Some conditions can make the incidence of the result, but without them the event may still occur. The sufficient cause can be used to predict what things will happen so that we take actions to alter its impact on the event.

Here are some self-made examples of events and their corresponding causes:

Event: A tsunami in 2004 caused mass fatality in Indonesia.

Precipitating cause: Consecutive huge waves of water striked the ground and hurted many people along the coast.

The cause can be regarded as a witness telling us about how the tsunami takes people’s lives away. The waves of water is the subject that is acting on people, the object, who receive the physical damage.

Necessary cause: There were a lot of visitors and dwellers in the shore of Indonesia.

We can see that when a lot of people are nearby the sea, it is very impossible for something to cause their death. However, should the fatality takes place, there must be visitors and dewellers in the shore to let the tsunami strike.

Sufficient cause: Earthquake in Indian Ocean provided enough energy for water to travel in high speed and immediately attack the ground.

A tsunami can be caused by earthquake. However, other causes, such as volcanic eruption, typhoon or hurricane, and some meteor event, may also lead to its occurence.

Event: Tom got an “F” in General Biology course.

Precipitating cause: During final exam, Tom’s teacher saw him glancing at other students’ answer sheet.

Oops. It’s unfortunate for Tom to fail the exam because he is cheating. This behavior is observed by his teacher, who angrily let him fail the course. (By the way, abide to the academic integrity!)

Necessary cause: Doing something that violates students’ rules.

Assume the school has all smart students. Then, to fail the course, they should violate the policy. The violation may not be observed by teacher, so some students get passed the course without penalty. Well, still, I personally do not encourage that behavior.

Sufficient cause: Cheating on exam.

Cheating on a final exam will automatically give Tom a big F. However, other factors, such as not submitting assignments, missing quizzes, being absent from classes, can also make him receive this embarassing grade.

Event: Bright, shiny and hard diamond became black, dark and soft graphite.

Precipitating cause: Heating of the diamond changed it into a black, powdered substance called graphite.

This is a phenomenon that we can directly observe in real world. The color change is very rapid so that we can say the heating process changes the diamond into the graphite.

Necessary cause: The reaction is thermodynamically favored.

Gibbs free energy change, ΔG°, is calculated using Hess’s Law: ΔG° = ΔH° – TΔS°. It determines the direction of the reaction. Because the entropy change, ΔS°, for the conversion of diamond into graphite is positive (the energy in carbon atoms becomes more dispersed), the higher the temperature, the more negative the Gibbs free energy change will be. The reaction goes to the direction in forming graphite.

Sufficient cause: The heat applied made the reactants exceed the activation energy.

Giving heat to the reactants increase their internal energy, possibly breaking the boundary to change them into transition state. The reactants are said to reach their activation energy, and the reaction can proceed. Of course, there are other ways to change diamond into graphite, like using catalysts, putting pressure on it or just let it stay for millions of years, as indicated by some research studies.

From the examples I mentioned, we can see the logic of causes applies to all the aspects of our life, though the lines among the three types of causes may be not clear if the phenomena have a lot of factors to consider about. Overall, the skill of analyzing the causes is essential. It can not only help us to ace an exam, but also propel our creativity to make benefit to the world. I am sure to keep employing and refining this mindset.

Analysis of the sources employed by O’Hara and Khazan in their writings

To persuade others of certain arguments throughout an article, credible evidence is required to support them. Evidence may not come from the writer itself, but is given by the stakeholders who have something agrees with the writer. Both O’Hara and Khazan used this technique to make their claims sound.

In Mary O’Hara’s A Serious Business: What Can Comedy Do?, there were a lot of guests with different occupations that are interested in the issue of humor’s effects on people. Maeve Higgins, a comedian, was the first guest to speak in the conversation. She said, “Laughter is a lubricant and is expected, and it’s really hard not to do it.” This sentence tells the audience to think of humor positively. Then, Jon Ronson, a colleague of Higgins, asserted comedy makes people connected, better their feelings. Peter McGraw & Joel Warmer, in their work The Humor Code: A global search for what makes things funny, explained that ancient Greek scholars contemplated about comedy and set the basis for Western philosophy at the same time. The writer also invited some historical figures to represent humor. “Charles Darwin looked for the seeds of laughter in the joyful cries of tickled chimpanzees. Sigmund Freud sought the underlying motivations behind jokes in the nooks and crannies of our unconscious.” Of course, John Hobbes, a philosopher, was the guest the writer wanted to challenge because he claimed “humor is ostensibly about mocking the weak and exerting superiority,” opposing the writer’s argument, and also the cognitive neuroscientist Scott Weems’, which thought humor is a great way for human evolution by letting them not use actual weapons to hit others.

Despite the comedy’s ability to deal with interpersonal relationships, there were certain invited guests who thought humor has social functions. Avner Ziv, a scholar, insisted comedy, along with satire, is potentially useful in reforming society. Negin Farsad furthered the idea by saying humor is a platform for advancing social justice. Josie Long had her own insights when performing her comedy since she believed that comedians have a role to play in articulating and challenging some of the most pressing issues of the day. “Satire is to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.” This saying is meaningful that it addresses what we concern. Sophie Quirk, on the other hand, proved Long’s point by giving out the fact that comedians are always focusing on social issues and try to resolve them. For instance, John Fugelsang had political comedy be righteous in it delivers the truth to the audience. Stephen K. Amos, on the other hand, told us he does explicit work in affairs that matter to himself to fight against stereotypes. Alfie Moore, also thanked his comedy career in bringing his vocation – policing – to the eyes of the viewers. Liz Carr also entertained a lot of topics and ideas that are related to the disabled to break the barriers with the “normal” people. (In fact, she is also one of them.)

O’Hara invited a few more stakeholders to express their ideas in convincing the readers to take comedy seriously. Sharon Lockyer, a social scientist, examined disabled comedians and observed that comedy industry has made the disabled change from those being mocked to those mocking someone or something else. From the detail inside the field of comedy, there are, to a larger scale, lots of comics who are making a lot of money distribute comedy into diverse ways and forms. Sophie Quirk and Scott Weems made a reprise to this discussion. Quirk claimed that there is more value in humor even it is not linked to serious subject. And Weems, based on relative research studies, discovered that comedy has benefits to people’s health and well-being. Finally, Jamie Masada ended this conversation by saying that comedy can make people’s relationships better, and it has positive effect on resolving social issues, summarizing all the assertions made by various supporting stakeholders.

In Olga Khazan’s The Dark Psychology of Being a Good Comedian, a different argument is held, and there is one recurring guest, psychologist Peter McGraw, that accompanies the writer to come up with the conclusion about the comedians’ psychology. There are also other stakeholders that impacts the writer’s claim. Firstly, Lorne Michaels, a comedian, during the first show after 9/11, expresses his own distress of not wanting to perform in the context of the huge disaster. Gilbert Gottfried, on the other hand, is criticized because of his frivolous joke about the event. The Onion staffers feel hesitant about the risk of publishing humorous news, but after publishing the reports, they are found successful in reliving the terror of readers. This fact reflects McGraw’s theory that comedy is half-dark and half-light. Hobbes and Plato suggested that making fun helps people feel superior to others. People opposing this idea were Kant and later psychologists, who thought humor is a cognitive strategy in mocking others to make oneself feel better. Freud speculated that humor is a component of the id that outcompetes the protesting superego. Daniela S. Hugelshofer held the similar idea by saying humor acts as a buffer against bad emotions. Some other evolutionary psychologists posit that humor can endow males with better fitness in sexual selection. McGraw quoted what Mark Twain said, “The secret source of humor itself is not joy, but sorrow.” and furthered this sentence with evidence from the former part of the article. Warner, McGraw’s co-author, noticed that different geographies have different perspectives about humor; besides that, different times, and even different people have varied thoughts of jokes, thus marking comedians as careful in preparing for what they are going to say.

One of the specific sources that I want to articulate about is Josie Long, who intends to answer the question about whether comedy can change how we feel, what we think or even what we do. In attempting to refute potential misinterpretation of jokes, she said “It’s vital to understand the job comedy can do in actively providing a counterbalance to bigotry and prejudice.” Normally we think comedy can only make us laugh, but Josie Long, being experienced with the humor, has her own credible idea of comedy. The writer incorporates this source in order to proceed and exemplify the discussion of humor’s role in human society after Negin Farsad’s generalization that “comedy provides a platform for advancing social justice”.

 

Works Cited

O’Hara, Mary. “A serious business: what can comedy do?” Mosaic, 23 Aug. 2016, http://www.mosaicscience.com/story/comedy-humour-jokes-political-satire-taboo.

Khazan, Olga. “The Dark Psychology of Being a Good Comedian.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 27 Feb. 2014, http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/02/the-dark-psychology-of-being-a-good-comedian/284104/.

The Reason, Process, and Meanings behind Gregor’s Transformation in the Metamorphosis

The Metamorphosis presents a story about a man’s alienation from his family: Gregor, working arduously for his family, suddenly turns into a bug, and progressively gets abandoned by his parents and sister. However, beyond this abrupt event, Gregor already is a social “vermin” – justified by his inability to execute individuality; his transformation is, in my opinion, also a gradual process that not only symbolizes the changes in his perspectives toward his surroundings, but also the alteration of his family’s thoughts about himself.

Gregor’s transformation illustrates his problems about general isolation from modern society that put expectations to his hard-working. Long before Gregor turns into a vermin, he has wished to get equally well-treated with his colleagues and family members but fails. As Gregor says, “That’s all I’d have to try with my boss; I’d be fired on the spot. Anyway, who knows if that wouldn’t be a very good thing for me. If I didn’t hold back for my parents’ sake, I would have quit long ago.” (1.5), he is constrained by the working conditions that force him to get up early while seeing other workers enjoying their breakfast. Turning into a giant bug seems a fulfillment of his will to get rid of this job. In addition, he is the only one who can support the family, but after this transformation deprives him of the ability to work, every member attempts to expel him without considering his contribution, further suggesting his verminous position before the metamorphosis really takes place.

The establishing process of transformation stems from Gregor’s tedious lifestyle. Working as a traveling salesman, he can presumably get to know a lot of things from outside world. Instead, he complains that there cannot be long-enduring relationships with other people around this business. Besides, he cannot have the time like his family members to get relaxation from reading newspapers, playing music instruments, etc. Such monotonous life mode makes him distasteful, as depicted after his waking up: “His room, a regular human room, only a little on the small side, lay quiet between the four familiar walls.” (1.2) Though Gregor is familiar with the room, he feels uncomfortable about it, as emphasized by the phrase “regular human room”.

Despite Gregor’s literal transformation, there are more, symbolically, transformations about his entire family. His father most directly shows the outrage toward Gregor, and as he returns to his job, wearing up the clothes, he regains the authority of supporting family and controlling Gregor’s will. His mother, being stunned by the moment as she sees the vermin, feels desperate about her son’s mishap but later turns in to suppress her anxiety. What’s more is about Greta’s transformation: “She had in fact noticed that Gregor needed plenty of room to crawl around in; and on the other hand, as best she could tell, he never used the furniture at all” (2.22). As Greta notices her brother’s needs, she comes to be more decisive in taking care of Gregor, accompanying the decrease of Gregor’s agency. This is even testified later when Gregor scares the boarders away, it is Greta who makes the ultimate decision to get rid of Gregor as the family is dealing with a kitchen bug.

Summing up all the points about the why, how, and what about his transformation, Gregor is unhappy about his situations, living with a verminous lifestyle. The transformation makes him lose respect and the ability to support family, but also changes the entire family’s roles, as exemplified by Greta’s increasing agency of making decisions.


Works Cited

“The Metamorphosis.” by Franz Kafka. Trans. David Wyllie. Sweden: Wisehouse Classics, 2015. Print.

Image

Project of Albert Camus’ The Plague

Above is our masterpiece!

(We received the project assignment at the right beginning of the new semester. This project instructed students to interpret one of the four levels operated in Albert Camus’ The Plague: Literal, political, metaphysical, and existential. We chose metaphysical. Through a week’s work for it, we accomplished an artwork. Here’s our project reflection, and two corresponding quotes that help us create our painting.)

Part 1: Reflection of The Plague Abstraction Project

Literary ideas could be simply expressed using abstract objects, such as the different levels of thoughts made in The Plague. This book operates on four lens: literal, political, metaphysical, and existential, each of which could be interpreted using different viewpoints. We selected metaphysical level to create our abstract work through the project.

This process took us about half a day to accomplish our goals. First, we brainstormed about the structure of this artwork and its corresponding properties, like colors, shapes, and some highlighted objects. Then we bought the required materials: a piece of A3 paper, pigments, water, and a paint brush. While three other students of our group have done the purchasing or explaining the ideas behind our creation, Blake worked for painting and finished it before school.

The artwork we created so far was revolved around the metaphysical lens that generally emphasizes the presence of evilness and people’s reactions toward it. Therefore, through this understanding, we attempted to create a scene that there was a red bloody background – symbolizing the deaths in The Plague – and a bar that represents Oran’s isolation. Within the bar exists a black solid circle, which is the plague itself, accompanied by various things that stretch out of the circle symbolizing different people’s reactions.

In my opinion, our portrait of this lens was successful in capturing the metaphysical lens through the coloring, shaping, and highlighting of this artwork. We could envision many different reactions in respect to the plague simply through the objects themselves. Besides the red background and the bars, the gloomy color tone also makes the audience aware that the plague puts the entire town into distress. However, since most of our objects that are attached to the black circle were based upon the main characters, our work could also be misinterpreted as portraying literal lens of the novel.

Nevertheless, I gained deeper understanding about different ways to view the novel The Plague. Instead of focusing on the written texts, I tried to convert the main ideas expressed in this novel into a simpler, abstract painting. Through the project, therefore, I knew to make what seemed complex into a vivid imagery. Moreover, I got to appreciate other groups’ works, and understood that there were other lens successfully portrayed in their paintings. Their works gave me insights about expressing different levels of meanings through abstraction.

Part 2: Analysis of quotes from The Plague in metaphysical level

Quote: Generally speaking, they did not lack courage, bandied more jokes than lamentations, and made a show of accepting cheerfully unpleasantnesses that obviously could be only passing. In short, they kept up appearances. (Part 2, Chapter 10)

Analysis: While the plague is expected to put the whole town into silence and fear, there are certain citizens who, surprisingly, would express their feelings in an extreme way. Instead of focusing on the plague, they seem to be indifferent toward its existence, pretend to continue normal lifestyles, and even accept the truth. This absurdity of actions makes us aware that different people conceptualize the world in different aspects, and thus behave distinctively to the society they perceive. They surely are the observers of this entire catastrophe, but they have different perspectives about it.

Quote: Rambert said he’d thought it over very carefully, and his views hadn’t changed, but if he went away, he would feel ashamed of himself, and that would embarrass his relations with the woman he loved. Showing more animation, Rieux told him that was sheer nonsense; there was nothing shameful in preferring happiness. (Part 4, Chapter 20)

Analysis: Confronting this plague, people may differ in their reactions throughout the passage of time. Rambert, though occasionally attempts to escape the town to seek his wife, changes his decisions through the impact of Rieux. The dynamism of his changing actions imply the transformation of his original viewpoints about the plague and the isolation of Oran. The interaction between the two characters also illustrates that in the face of evilness, they both decide to fight against the plague, though Rieux regards it as a necessary duty, while Rambert does this job through a moral conflict between rightness and wrongness.

The Interpretation of Dreams Journal 7

In the book “The Interpretation of Dream”, Freud puts forward his theory that the dream is the fulfillment of unconscious wishes, and he elaborately introduces the process of how unconscious wishes are concealed and how they endeavor to break through the consciousness: On its way to consciousness along the path of the thought processes, the unconscious wish is always distorted by the censorship, which transfers it into a recent material, and thus appears unrecognizable to us. Its further progress is then checked by the state of sleep of the preconscious, a system protects the unconscious wish from the diminishing excitations. Therefore, the dream process of regression takes place in the sleeping state and in so doing acquires representability.

While other writers attribute the occurrence of the forgetting of dreams to the mutually alien character of the waking and sleeping states, Freud believes that it’s dream-censorship that makes people forget about some parts of dreams, a way of resistance to the penetration of the dream-thoughts into consciousness. Upon this situation, Freud suggests that we direct our attention to a single element of the dream and find out the involuntary thoughts associated with this element. After we repeatedly do the same process with different component of the dream-content, we will finally come upon the dream-thoughts from which the dream originated. In other words, we should open a new path in our waking state and, along this path, run back from the dream-elements to the dream-thoughts instead of completely focusing on the interpretation-work of nocturnal dreams.

Before the explanation of regression, it’s important to first look at Freud’s interpretation of “psychic apparatus”, which he considers as a compound instrument containing two “systems” – the initial system receives stimulus of perception but retains no memory, while the second system lied behind the initial system transforms the temporary stimulus of the first into lasting traces. According to this structure, because thought-relations are contained in the second system, where they forfeit expression in the regression to the perceptual images, all those thought-relations of the dream-thoughts either lost in the dream-work or have difficulty in achieving expression. Freud conclude this phenomenon of regression as “the structure of the dream-thoughts breaking up into its raw material.”(Chapter 7, P277) At the end of this section, Freud puts forward a much more significant theory upon the regression, saying that we can have insight not only into the phylogenetic childhood but even into the evolution of the human race because dreaming is on the whole an act of regression to the earliest childhood.

Because the nocturnal thought-process stops working during sleeping in order to let preconsciousness have some rest, Freud assumes that the sensory surface of consciousness, which is turned toward the preconscious, is far more difficult to be excited than the sensory surface turning toward the perception in the sleeping state. However, dreams have a waking effect that can stimulate parts of the quiescent energy of the preconscious. Under the influence from this energy, dreams experience “secondary elaboration”, which patches together fragments from materials that seem to be contradictory in order to further disguise the unconscious wishes, just like piecing the cine film together. The absurd dreams, so frequently mentioned by Freud, also experience this secondary elaboration.

Negating the commonly held opinion that consciousness is the general basis in the course of psychic events, Freud considers unconscious as true psychic reality, comparing the unconscious to a larger circle including the smaller circle of consciousness. In addition, although most psychologists think that there are two kinds of unconscious, Freud maintains that one of them is the “unconscious”, which can not turn to the consciousness, and another one is “preconscious”, capable of reaching consciousness after passing through the censorship. Freud also vividly describes preconscious as a screen between the consciousness and the unconscious. Based on the knowledge I learn in class and the analysis in this book, I agree with Freud’s opinion concerning the relationship and the distinction between consciousness and the unconscious. The process such as the regulation of blood pressure works without our awareness, and it must be the unconscious. But sometimes, memory accessible to consciousness only after something calls my attention. For example, I can only remember my experience during childhood until my parents mention the details. According to Freud, those memories that I can only recall with stimulus must be preconscious.

 

References

Freud, S. (1997) The Interpretation of Dreams (Wordsworth Edition.). New York, NY: Wordsworth Classics of World Literature

The Interpretation of Dreams Journal 6

As to Freud’s thoughts, the dream content has a lot of backstories to tell about: “It would of course be incorrect to attempt to read these symbols in accordance with their values as pictures, instead of in accordance with their meaning as symbols.” (Chapter 6, P121) And there exists dream-work that makes the dreamer’s subconscious latent. Virtually, this work comes into two parts: condensation and displacement. Condensation means that even a single fragment of the dream has more than one thought about the dreamer, and the various thoughts attach to it. On the other hand, displacement transfer the dreamer’s thoughts about certain subject to another one, for the purpose of escaping from censorship. Moreover, symbolism also connects certain objects to other meanings. To address the mechanism of dream-work, Freud proposes some types of dreams, of which there are three major subcategories: arithmetic, speech and absurd dreams.

For the arithmetic dream, Freud says that “What the dream-work consists in, and its unceremonious handling of its material, the dream-thoughts, may be shown in an instructive manner by the numbers and calculations which occur in dreams.” (Chapter 6, P198) He points out that the digits are representative of the dream-work that makes something obvious unexplainable. Still, these numbers are not nonsensical, but possess certain traits the dreamers are await. Freud exemplifies this principle through a typical dream: The dreamer perceives himself as a policeman with a mission, and he sees his supervisor has an armlet with number 22 and 62. In fact, the dream is a high class general, with the same number on the armlet, but he wishes to get higher to be a supervisor. Through further investigation, Freud knows he only serves for 22 years, and two years plus two months are needed to get a satisfactory retirement pay. If he does so, he can get all the payment, just like his colleague, who retires in age 62 recently. Therefore, it is still that the dream subconsciously has the wish to be at a higher position as well as that of getting more money, and Freud’s account of the nature of dream is thought to be feasible.

I also have a dream about arithmetic: When I am traveling in a forest with a zoologist, I sees a lot of squirrels. Suddenly, as the zoologist calls out a signal, the squirrels become obedient to him and even stand in certain locations to make the entire team looks like a number “five” in front of my eyes. If Freud’s argument is true, it should be obvious that there is a wish: I dream of becoming an expert in biology. I do like squirrels, and they never come to be so agile inside this scene. But for more things about number, I guess it conveys me information that I need to study for at least five more years to profess in this field of study.

The second typical dream Freud mentions about is speech. “No matter how many speeches and answers, which may in themselves be sensible or absurd, may occur in dreams, analysis always shows us that the dream has merely taken from the dream-thoughts fragments of speeches which have really been delivered or heard, and has dealt with them in the most arbitrary fashion.” (Chapter 6, P200) This applies to the dream-content measure mentioned in previous chapter, which explains why dreams include fragments of various events happened in the past. Freud furthers his opinion about the speech dream by pointing out another dream. In this dream, the dreamer is posited inside a big yard, where many corpses are burned. As he says, “I want to leave here, this scene is unbearable,” the butcher’s two kids appear and is asked whether the taste is good. One of them says, “No, it’s not good at all.” Supposedly, this meat comes from humans. But, as Freud explores deeper inside the dream, he discovers a context which completely alters the meaning of the dream: When he is visiting an old granny, who is not welcomed by others, with his wife, she just finishes the meal and forces him to taste her dishes. He politely rejects, with saying about his lack of appetite. But due to the granny’s urges, he tries and does feel good about the meal. However, when he is getting alone with his wife, he complains that this neighbor is too stubborn and cooks bad. Therefore, we can see that the dream really plays a magical role in carrying out the true thoughts about dreamers. Like this example, his bad feelings about the granny’s meal is transferred to the seemingly horrible content of the dream, though the words changed a little.

For me, this type of dream is rare, but I still can remember one: I works for a farm with a tool that remove the weeds. Though being tired, I still whisper to myself that working for a farm is far more “fortunate” than studying. As my cousin comes in, he says, “Your work is great, but you would rather study for a while.” This dream interesting because it provides me with confusion about my attitude toward studying. For no reason, I prefer reading books than doing farm works, and this should not be a direct wish fulfillment. However, as I start to think that maybe the word “fortunate” in Chinese is similar to “painstaking”, I recollect back some memories with my cousin that we really have great times in my hometown. But the farm works are actually tedious. But during present time, I also have gotten tired occasionally, so I transfer this feeling to the dream, with a complete change in the meaning of a word.

The last type of dream Freud talks about is of absurdness. To be more precise, it is the category that collects all the supernatural scenes into the dream-content. Even though the absurdity really intrigues a lot of thoughts about the nature of dreams, Freud still maintains his idea: “The dream-thoughts are never absurd and the dream-work produces absurd dreams, and dreams with individually absurd elements, when the dream-thoughts contain criticism, ridicule, and derision, which have to be given expression.” (Chapter 6, P215) Specifically, there is a dream Freud deals with for a patient who has a father died earlier: His father experiences a severe accident. When the train is traveling at night, it suddenly gets off the track and squishes his father’s head because the seats are distorted. Then, the dreamer discovers his father is in a bed with a clear scar. He is surprised by his father being involved inside an accident. In fact, this dream appears because of recollection about memories with his father. He asked for an artist to make a sculpture for his father, and he discovered a bust after several days when he checked the progress. Moreover, the scar inside the dream actually corresponds to his father’s frown of sadness, and as he finds out his picture, he accidentally dropped it, forming a scar piercing through his sister’s eyelids. The background for this dream seems very odd, but it still plays a major role in modulating the dream-content.

 

References

Freud, S. (1997) The Interpretation of Dreams (Wordsworth Edition.). New York, NY: Wordsworth Classics of World Literature