Friday, 23 September 2011

The Literal Versions of Songs You Know

Whereas most types of film show scenes connected by some form of plot, music videos stand apart. In these, the song which they accompany fills the same adhesive role which means that this visual presentation can be read in quite a different way than the song itself. Just watch:

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Samuel Jackson Reads a Bedtime Book

In March I published a post on James Earl Jones reading out the numbers and the alphabet. This one is quite similar. The earnest children's book for adults, Go the f#ck to sleep by Adam Mansbach, is narrated by Samuel L. Jackson. Enjoy!

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Genotext and Phenotext

Lately I've been concerned with the dynamics of literature and the context in which it figures. Elements of a hypertext may resemble elements of a hypotext (Genette's terms) but the issue on my mind is which of these elements are specific to the cultural context of the hypotext and which are specific only to the hypotext. Literature enters into a contemporary cultural discourse in which several elements, be it motifs, plot structures, issues or conflicts to name a few, are pervasive. Based in this, I wondered what in a hypertext would be elements of direct literary intertextuality and what would be a result of inherited cultural norms, principles and perspectives.

To state it blatantly, is Kurtz in Coppola's Apocalypse Now an echo of Conrad's Kurtz or is he a representation of the cultural stereotype of the brilliant but misguided outcast inherent in Western culture? Is Nick Hornby's socially challenged and alienated protagonists representative of a cultural type or do they hark back to earlier literary social outcasts (Frankenstein, Heathcliff, Dorian Gray etc.)? The main issue is, succinctly stated, whether there is a real, direct intertextual connection between hyper- and hypo-text or whether both are in fact echoes of the same cultural signified.

One approach to resolving this issue which I found helpful was distinction between the semiotic and the symbolic mode of language in Julia Kristeva's split subject, especially as represented through the terms genotext and phenotext. Building on the work of Jaques Lacan's dichotomy of the imaginary and the symbolic and Freud's work on primary processes, Kristeva's split subject concerns concepts of symbolic representation and infancy. The semiotic mode prevails is the infant state where the subject, unable to distinguish himself from the significant other (the mother), understands his environs without the use of language. This state comes to an end as the subject interacts and has to make sense of the world. This can only be done through the language logic inherent in society and thus represents the onset of the symbolic mode of language.

Transferring the focus to texts, Kristeva offers the terms genotext and phenotext. Genotext refers to those elements in a text which appeal to the psychological processes from the semiotic mode, be they love, despair, alienation or other drives. Phenotext, on the other hand, is those elements which tie in with the symbolic mode of language, i.e. those dependent on language, presentation, logic and which try to convey meaning.

This distinction, then, might assist somewhat in the above intertextuality problem area. If we assume a connection between genotext and those latent values, principles etc. in the culture with which hypo- and hypertext engages, phenotext would then be those elements specific to the text. This cojunction, of course, requires an understanding of culture as a form of socially shared psychology and it also represents the extremes of a sliding scale but taking this into account it might assist the researcher of intertextual dynamics in establishing the nature of relevant elements. Thus, when reapproaching an issue such as that of the Kurtz character, we might find that while the elements of character confidence and resistance might be products of culture, Kurtz's situation, action- and reaction patterns are specific to Conrad's hypertext. The social alienation felt by Hornby's protagonists would appear to be an echo of culture, while their interaction with that society could be an echo of earlier literature.

Source: Allen, Graham: Intertextuality, New York 2001

Saturday, 3 September 2011

A Literary Love Song

Here is Justin Edvards from The Consultants' literary love song with my best transcription of the lyrics underneath. If you should happen to know the author in the third verse, please tell me e.g. in a comment.

Too Jane Austentatious

One wet Wednesday afternoon
I saw my lending library lovely.
Raven haired she stamped my Raymond Chandler,
my heart dissolved

So I stayed ‘till closing time,
I reckoned that to make her mine
I’d have to woo her bookishly;
I Danielle Steeled my resolve.

Oh, library lady, would you care to join me for a cup of T.
S. Eliot or perhaps a glass of Barbara Pyms and lemonade?
Harper Lee she gazed at me then locked the door
I took her Wilkie Collins in my hand and we began to promenade.

This was certainly a Mills & Boon,
had I been too Thomas Fool-Hardy?
But she shared my feeling
I was pretty damn Bernard Shaw.

So I told her how I felt,
she dimmed the lights I dropped my Orwells,
she grasped my dictionaries,
we fell J.K. Rowling to the floor

But the library hall is no place to seduce
it’s too Jane Austentatious.
It would be Rudyard Kipling there
we might get seen, Tom Clancy that

So we crept into the reference
section out of view
and there I lay down with my library lady
on the coconut mat

Oh, she said, this itchy floor
is bound to give me a thesaurus.
I built a bed of Mary Wesleys
upon which we could uncoil

With the photo copier light on,
for a pillow, Michael Crichton,
tenderly she placed her hands
upon my Conan Doyle.

She was Oscar Wilde in bed,
like a leaping Salman Rushdie head-
long into passion, personally I was
a bit too Jonathan Swift.

I could have done with a hardback edition
rather than my floppy old paperback Grisham,
but I gave her the full Brontë
And she didn’t seem too miffed.

But our affair had never lasted.
Something went Kingsley Amis.
She found another lover
with a larger print than mine

I was Graham Greene with envy
I was Somerset Maugham and I felt empty,
but my Philip Roth soon passed,
one day I ceased this futile cry.

Now I stand here feeling sorry,
grasping my Daphne du Mauri-
er a Dewey Decimal teardrop
on my cheek once more.

Occasionally I reminisce
and an Evelyn Waugh escapes my lips
remembering by Dickens
our lending library floor.

Friday, 2 September 2011

More Singing Heads of State

I have previously blogged about Putin singing Blueberry Hill. As it turns out, most heads of state like to sing, and some more publicly than others. Here are my favourites:

Clinton Sings "Imagine" by John Lennon

Silvio Berlusconi Sings Some Unclear Songs

And another one, with the song starting at 0:55

Hugo Chavez Sings While Playing the Maracas, Then Sings Some More

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Barry Lyndon Plot Summary, Chapter 19

  • Barry declares that this final chapter shows how his fall is brought on by what he calls ungrateful scoundrels.
  • He buys Bryan a horse. In contrast to Bullington, Bryan's rebelliousness is described in a favourable light. The horse turns out to be quite wild, and when Bryan disobeys his father and rides the horse, he falls off and dies. The sorrow brings Barry and Lady Lyndon together for a few months.
  • Barry sells the ancient oaks of Hackton Castle for a pittance to raise money, then loses it gambling.
  • Barry confines Lady Lyndon to the Castle under the watch of his mother. Now, close to destitution, he describes his mother in a more positive tone than at the height of his career. He intercepts letters written in lemon juice from Lady Lyndon to her former lover Sir George Poynings. Through Barry's secretary, Redmond Quin (the son of Nora and Captain Quin), she plans to escape but Barry finds them out.
  • In constant need of money, Barry is given an offer on his mines from a London firm. They need Lady Lyndon to approve in person at their offices, and so Barry and Lady Lyndon goes to London in spite of Bell Brady's misgivings.
  • The meeting turns out to be another scheme of Quin's. Barry is, after some roamings, thrown in the Fleet Prison where he lives out his days under the care of his mother.
Thackeray's commentator, G.M. Fitz-Boodle wraps up the narrative as follows.
  • After an unsuccessful gambling career on the continent, Barry tries to blackmail Lord George but fails. He tries to get Lady Lyndon to flee with him, but is thwarted in this endeavour by Bullington, the rumor of whose death was false: "Bullington assaulted his step-father [...] and administered to him a tremendous castigation in the Pump-room" (OUP 2008, 308).
  • After this encounter, Barry is sent from prison to prison, living on an annuity through Lady Lyndon. When she dies, this annuity is discontinued. Bullington dies in the Napoleonic Wars and all the Lyndon property passes on to Lord George, heir of the Tiptoffs.
  • Barry dies from delirium tremens brought on by alcohol abuse.