I have never been a technologically inclined person. The entire idea of computer programs use to intimidate me…particularly the words “graphic design.” Yikes! I always felt very uncomfortable any time I was required to work with new technology or programs that give me crazy malfunction errors and messages, thinking that I would never be able to understand or figure out how to work with them. And then I enrolled in this class.
From the title of the course “Literature and the Other Arts,” I had absolutely no idea what I was getting into. But being a studio art and art history major, it sounded alluring so I decided to give it a chance and sign up. The first day of class when I realized my misunderstanding, I seriously considered leaving the class worried that I would not be able to handle the technology. That was until I realized the vast amounts of benefits I would reap if I finally conquered my technological aversions. I stayed in the class and I am so glad that I did. The usefulness of all of the programs that we have used has permeated into my other classes, particularly my art classes. This class was an opportunity for me to combine my two main loves, art and literature, into one.
Because of the freedom of choice regarding our topics and Dan’s endless patience, I was able to get excited about practically every project we did, while some were more daunting than others. I qualify this statement because the biggest difficulty I came across was with the podcast since I cannot stand the sound of my own voice being recorded. It never sounds quite natural to me and I always feel ridiculous or slow.
The first project I worked on was my playlist. The first leap. Working on the playlist was a very good introductory project I felt, because it allowed us to dip our toes into the technology so to speak and get used to simply writing, cutting, and pasting in the correct formula and order. “Ok,” I thought, “I can certainly type, copy and paste.”
The next problem was choosing a topic. I decided to work on the story by Kate Chopin called “The Awakening.” This is one of my favorite novellas because I believe that the title truly portrays what it describes, which is the awakening of the heroine Edna Pontellier. It is special to me not only on an artist and human level, but also as a woman going through college because I feel I can put my story next to hers. I relate to Edna as going through college and growing up has allowed me to realize that it is alright to be myself and that no person should ever own or try to control another, which I feel is the heart of the story put in laymen’s terms. I was fairly satisfied with my first playlist, however, as I got towards the end of it I had a more difficult time thinking of songs that were fitting and had an even harder time explaining the connections of the songs to Edna’s final blossoming (despite her eventual suicide, however you would like to interpret that, though I tend to see behind it a beautiful ironic strength of self-value)…
“COURAGEOUS, MA FOI!”
Having gone back to look at my playlist critically again I feel that I should have gone more in-depth with the last four or five songs.
I thoroughly enjoyed working on the playlist and would love to do something like this again someday.
Alright…now the podcast. The podcast was a long, drawn-out and painful process that presented me with the most challenge and the most reward. Cringing at the thought of recording my own voice, since I don’t even like the sound of my voicemail greeting, this project was probably the most difficult for me to complete. Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God was my topic of choice. Many of my projects show the theme of female empowerment, which is one very close to my heart right now after having just finished with a very long and somewhat abusive relationship. Hurston’s novel is actually surprisingly in keeping with this theme. A love story, this book tells the story of a woman, Janie Crawford, who eventually finds herself (her identity and sense of being) after living a life of “security.” Then she finds love, the “flower of life.” I knew I wanted to deal with this novel so that I could read it as much as I wanted. A virtuoso writer, Hurston’s diction is beautifully poetic. In a private meeting with Dan he suggested that I might investigate the performative possibilities of the novel in conjunction with its poetic characteristics, since poetry has a long tradition of being completed through performance. After doing many recordings of different performances of the vernacular in Hurston’s novel, after recording my own voice to the nth time and becoming comfortable talking to a machine, and after finally understanding the technology of the program Audacity, I was able to put together my podcast. Oh joy, what rapture! A large part of my difficulty was trying to find a suitable and interesting opening to a podcast on a somewhat serious subject that had nothing to do with music as most of my peers did. I finally settled on what came most natural to me, pretending to be the teacher. I actually plan to teach high school art classes when I graduate and so I approached the podcast as though I were talking to my future students.
I had no technical difficulty importing the audio files. The only problems I had with Audacity was that at times the computer would not record my voice without an actual microphone plugged into the computer. I also discovered that the program will record audio off of the computer very nicely using the wave-out feature, which records even if you are listening on head-phones…very convenient for working in libraries! The only other difficulty that I had creating the podcast besides my awkward voice was finding a completely quiet space where I could record, and it was very difficult since I share a room with another person. Overall, doing this podcast was very rewarding…
Performing Their Eyes Were Watching God
I would love to come back to this project and work with it some more. If I had more time, I would have added a final section to this podcast of the exact way that I feel it should be read performing it myself.
The collages probably would tie with the playlist when ranking my favorite projects for this class. Since I am an artist, I was able to play with images to portray the spirit of one of my favorite characters in one of my most beloved novels The Sound and The Fury. The important part about Benjy within the context of Faulkner’s novel is that Benjy is the mentally retarded, loving brother, and the most innocent of all of the characters. Completely receptive and responsive to the love of his sister Caddy, I felt it would be very satisfying to dedicate my first collage to him and the nostalgia of better days before tragedy struck the Compson family and Benjy lost the only person who ever really loved him.
Still, I have never worked with collages or anything like GIMP, so working on this project was a completely new experience for me. I was not exactly sure where to start (which I suppose is the hardest part of any project really). It was surprisingly easier than I thought. Since Faulkner writes in stream of consciousness, the feelings and ideas are pieced together so that they flow in a sense of space (and a very confused sense of time) so that everything runs together into a general feeling, and that was the main idea I had in mind the entire time that I continued to work on this project. I started by googling images of the basic nostalgic symbols Benjy associates with Caddy. Those were a fence that Caddy would come home through every day, a tree she climbed up being the daring and bold child in the family, and also a silhouette of trees at night time that Benjy would see before he would go to sleep. I had no problems at all working with GIMP and it was probably my favorite program to work with.
The very first version I made was completely blue and dark to evoke the cold and sadness of his memories, but I felt aesthetically it was not very pleasing. Then I moved to gray, with some of the images in color. This I was very satisfied and I decided to stick with this. The text is very important, and while it would be very tedious to go into an explanation of the symbolism for all of it, I will mention that a quote used by Faulkner from Shakespeare’s Macbeth heavily influenced my understanding of Benjy as a character because I feel he embodies this sentiment: “It is a tale, told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” All of the images running together for the most part, I felt this was very representative of Faulkner’s stream-of-consciousness and Benjy’s character. The only criticism my group gave me as that it might be better to blend the borders between the collected images even more. I tried doing this, and it made little difference, but I stubbornly actually think I prefer my first version. I realize that my interpretation of Benjy through this collage may not be very clear, especially for someone who has never read the novel, and I would certainly be interested in making a different, clearer version. But personally, I like that this particular collage is aesthetically pleasing and not obvious in meaning because Faulkner’s novel is not obvious in meaning either…
The second collage that I made was also on a piece of literature very dear to me, Edna St. Vincent Millay’s The Spring and the Fall.
To be continued...