Archive by Author

Makeup Blog: Stoker

1 Jun

In the San Francisco Chronicle’s review of Dracula, the writer focuses heavily on the realistic and believable nature of the text, stating that “the story is told in such a realistic way that one actually accepts its wildest flights of fancy as real facts” (Stoker 367). The critic clearly felt that Stoker had a way of making the unreal seem plausible and that though the reader is aware that vampires are not real, they are still willing to accept the facts of this novel to be true because of the way it is written. These elements of realness can be attributed to several characteristics of the text, most prominently the incorporation of modern technologies, such as phonograph recordings. By using a number of different mediums to communicate the plot of the story, Stoker creates an entire world for the reader to enter, making the text seem more realistic.

The medium of a diary is interesting in the case of Dracula, because the text is essentially a fantasy tale, but the format of a diary implies an intimacy and an honesty between the reader and the characters who is writing. A reader is more likely to trust a narrator who is writing or recording something simply to remember it, rather than a narrator who is aware that they are speaking to an audience. For example, Jonathan Harker’s journal begins as a very fact-based piece of writing, serving the purpose of documenting where he is and how he had gotten there. The first sentence, reading “Left Munich at 8:35 p.m. on 1st May, arriving at Vienna early next morning, should have arrived at 6:46, but train was an hour late” (9). The attention to specific, concrete details sets the tone for the novel being realistic and feeling almost like a written documentary. Beginning the novel this way also plants a level of trust within the reader for Jonathan Harker. His concentration on stating things factually and directly displays that he is not likely to exaggerate or romanticize the events that he records, but rather that he will tend to write them exactly as they happened. A diary could be considered risky as a source of truth, as diaries are generally a place where people express themselves and record their emotions, but in Jonathan Harker’s case, the diary is more of a scientific document than a work of sentiment. 

Another element that enhances the believability of the novel is the use of the phonograph. The phonograph is something material and concrete that the reader can clearly see is being referenced int he text. Before Dr. Seward’s diary entry even begins, the reader is informed that he keeps his diary recorded with a phonograph. The scientific nature of Jonathan Harker’s journal is maintained through Dr. Seward’s contributions as well, because his job is to observe people and write very specifically about their behavior. His role as a doctor makes him appear to be unbiased to the situations that he witnesses, as the emotional or sentimental opinion of a doctor is irrelevant to the process of medical evaluation. The manner in which Dr. Seward’s testimonies are recorded, even if they were simply written, is very obviously technical. Within his first entry, Dr. Seward is going over his notes on a patient, R.M. Renfield. In talking about Renfield, Dr. Seward is strictly concerned with the facts, stating that he has “sanguine temperament; great physical strength; morbidly excitable; [and] periods of gloom” (62). Like Jonathan Harker, Dr. Seward mentions nothing about how he feels about the situation and makes no effort to narrate the information he is providing beyond the straight facts.

A third characteristic of the text that separates it from the realm of fantasy is the incorporation of newspaper clippings. One of these clippings is found in Mina Murray’s journal and documents the progression of a storm. The actual content, though valuable to the novel itself, is not as important to the realness as is the fact that the clipping is from a newspaper. Despite the fact that the clipping is fabricated, the knowledge that it came from a newspaper gives it some validity as a source of information. The presence of a newspaper clipping brings in a familiar element of the real world and makes it a part of this fantasy world, bringing a sense of actuality to the rest of the novel. Just like Dr. Seward’s phonograph, the newspaper clipping gives the reader something concrete on which the information they are receiving is based. 

The scientific feel of the novel, in addition to the incorporation of technologies and media such as phonographs and newspapers bring the reader a realistic tone that the critic from the San Francisco Chronicle picked up on. These real-world media give validity to Stoker’s writing, despite the fact that it is clearly based in fantasy. 


–Madeline Turner

Blog 7: Unification in Under Milk Wood

24 May

In Thomas’s Under Milk Wood, the dynamics between the various characters are representative of the cohesive future that Britain is hoping for. The tension that is present throughout the play is essential in helping listeners to understand the concept of a national identity and what defines it. The friction is expressed through the diction and use of alliteration found in the text. The quick pace of the play, in addition to the frequent  overlapping of characters’ voices demonstrates that at a certain level, tension can result in unification.

An example of alliteration and diction being used to create a balance of tense and united is the description of Miss Myfanwy Price and one of the boys’ mothers. When speaking about the mother, Thomas uses phrases like “milky mum,” “cowbreath,” and “fat birth-smelling bed” (Thomas 66). Directly after this description, Miss Myfanwy Price is described as “a puff-bosomed robin” with “gobstoppers big as wens that rainbow as you suck, brandyballs, winegums” (66). These descriptions clearly oppose each other, but the manner with which they are delivered makes them flow together. The alliterations and almost list-like format of the phrases make for a quick pace, so that the descriptions of the mother transitions effortlessly into the description of Miss Price. The contradictions between one woman and the other are unified by the oral delivery, mirroring the possibility for opposing beliefs or lifestyles to be brought together by a single commonality.

One of the most interesting examples of this dynamic is between Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard and her two dead husbands. The diction is repetitive, as the husbands begin most sentences with “I must” (16). Both men list off their tasks, and in the audio track, the pace seems to quicken as the list continues. Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard jumps in occasionally to give specifications, but the back-and-forth nature of the husbands’ lines creates a rhythm that is both strained–as they begin to overlap one another–and fluid at the same time. Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard’s bossy demeanor seems to be accepted by her husbands, as they acknowledge her role as the dominating spouse. Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard’s nagging, though it presents a touch of conflict, is an integral element of her relationship with her husbands. Without that slight discord, perhaps the relationships would not have worked; thus, the dynamic needs some tension in order to work the way that it does.

This understanding of one’s role in the scheme of a larger interaction parallels the concept of a national identity. After World War II, Britain was searching for a way to reunite the British people and rebuild the British identity that had once been so distinct. Under Milk Wood gives the listener a vision of a town that has its share of discrepancies, but that has common ground in the fact that they live in the same place. The variation of characters is vast, which is evident simply in the size of the cast. The gossiping and judgmental nature of the townspeople would appear to result in a divided, anti-social environment, but it creates quite the opposite. The entire cast is connected by where they live, and the setting of a small, closely-knit town plays a crucial role in relating this to the existence of a British identity. It shows that even if a group of people do not necessarily agree on every issue or lead similar lifestyles, they can still inhabit the same place and form a collective identity based on their shared environment.

The characters in the play and the bond they share as members of the same town alludes to the opportunity for Britain to rebuild their national identity. It displays that differences are important elements of a unified community and that where one lives is enough of a reason to feel connected to others.

–Madeline Turner

Madeline Turner: Blog 1

6 Apr

Katz and the Disembodied Voice

Katz’s “Causes” focuses on the effect of presenting an auditory experience without a visual accompaniment and the way in which the two have been paired together. The article argues that people find it unnatural to listen to something without viewing an image that correlates with it, and presents a number of reasons why this is the case. To hear sound seemingly coming from nowhere is disorienting and creates anxiety within the listener. The construction of context within music is crucial to an understanding and an appreciation of it.

On page 27, Katz asserts that the music played in churches capitalizes on the idea that “the removal of visual cues, certainly no accident, separates the body from sound, heightening the sense that the music comes not from humans but from heaven.” In this case, the listeners inability to see the musicians is calculated as part of the overall experience of being in the church and observing the service. While listening to the music, any anxiety that arises within the churchgoer will be directed toward the visual cues that surround them, such as crosses, statues, and the priest himself. Thus, the listener is given a visual display and a performance of sorts, even if he or she cannot actually see the musicians. The listener is able to hear the music, while automatically relating it to what they are looking at, taking in the entire scene as a unified experience. The reason why this works is because though the listener is unable to see where exactly the music is coming from or who is playing it, they are within an environment that provides sufficient context. 

The anxiety that comes with hearing music and not having a visual accompaniment is a result of the listener being unaware of the context. People naturally put things into context in order to understand them, analyze them, and enjoy what is being offered. In literature, a lack of context could be an undiscussed setting, or an empty backstory for a character. In the case of music, the listener wants to know things like: what kind of instrument the music is coming from, what the artist who made the song is like, whether the musicians are a group or if it is just one singer with nameless band members. This is where music videos and band posters come into play, as they provide a level of context by informing the listener about who is making the music. An example of the effect of the anxiety that comes from a lack of context is not knowing the gender of an artist while listening to their music. If a person is listening to a piece of music with vocals, and they believe the singer to be male, they will attach a certain image to that song when they listen to it. If and when the listener discovers that the singer is actually female, it will disrupt the context that they had created for the song and can disorient them. People may not understand the importance that they put on context until something like this happens to disturb it. After discovering that the singer is in fact female, it will seem very difficult to imagine them as a male. 

The ability to see an artist and connect their image to their music is just as important for the artist him or herself as it is for the listener. The listener needs this context in order to make sense of what they are hearing, while the artist needs it to control the way that their music is interpreted. Musicians create their music on their own terms (most of the time) and generally have a specific message or purpose that the music is meant to communicate. Their personas are an essential element in the creation of the message, so if the listener is allowed to create their own context and image for the music, the artist’s work becomes obsolete. The promotion of the musician’s image becomes necessary for them to make the context they have created unavoidable, as once the listener has a defined image in their head, it will be difficult to block it out and create something new. 

The concept of a disembodied voice produces anxiety because of the lack of context, which keeps the listener from understanding what they are listening to and what it means. The connection between music and visual accompaniment is not important solely because the listener wants to see the music actually being played, but rather because they need to be able to attach some kind of intention to what they are listening to. An artist’s promotion of their own image serves to maintain the context that they have created around their music, and prevents the muddling of their image due to listeners having too much mental freedom.