Passion Play And Theatre Elements

I’m working on an extra credit assignment for my theatre class about Sarah Ruhl’s Passion Play, and I was wondering what you all thought about the protagonist/antagonist/and especially the climax might be? What’s interesting about this play is that it is separated in three Acts, but repeating the same kind of story line in each [although the era’s are different]. I thought about exploring the idea that maybe the Village Idiot would be considered the protagonist and antagonist might be Pontius?? The climax is interesting though depending if you look at the acts as separate plays or take all the acts into account and try to analyze which would be considered the climax.

Any thoughts?

Film feminism, or motion picture patriarchy

I have been researching and writing a paper for my FSEM (Hollywood Films and History) on the historical accuracy of Kathryn Bigelow’s films, The Hurt Locker (2008)and Zero Dark Thirty (2012), both Academy Award-winning.  She is the only woman director to have won an Oscar for Best Director, which was for The Hurt Locker.

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It only just hit me now:  why is the only female-won Oscar for Best Director awarded for a very masculine film?  Does a director have to make masculine films to win an Oscar?  Or were all previous female directors just not the “best”, and it is coincidental that a masculine film was the first to break the mold?  Such questions go back to the canon dilemma.  How do you decide what films or literature are the “best” when the “judges” are unavoidably biased by an ideology?  (Are they unavoidably biased?)

Early is the new trend!

In light of Thanksgiving Break falling right before our final essay and collaborative articles are due, I thought that this short clip might lighten the mood 😀

And if you are wondering, yes, I am trying to write my essay now while I was searching and then watching this clip.

Mason’s Bridge to the Blog

Today in class with Professor Scansion we took a stab at interpreting lines from Natasha Trethewey’s book of poetry, Native Guard: Poems, because Dr. Scanlon wanted to see if we though Trethewey’s use of meter was as confusing for us as it was for her. The confusion arose from the poem “INCIDENT” in lines 1-4 where Trethewey has introduced lines with 13, 11, and 9 syllables and an uneven amount of feet. We had plenty to say about where and what was sufficient in our scanning of the lines, but the more complicated issues dealt with acephalous and catalexis lines. What are they you say? Professor Scanlon described acephalous as (the heresy of paraphrase) the decapitation of an unstressed syllable, but do not get confused by what that means like I did. The unstressed syllable is not even visible. It is an intended reduction of syllables by the author where a line starts with the foot, /, and continues in a normal fashion such as the classic iamb pentameter, U/|U/|U/|U/, except the beginning syllable, U, is cut off, like Maria Antoinette would do in here time, and like the Queen of hearts who failed to do so within her existence. However catalexis differs, because it is not the beginning where the chop occurs, rather it is the tail-end getting chopped. And yes, do not get confused as I said before, it is like the acephalous in that it is an intentional deletion on the author’s part such as, in the line, in Trethewey’s Native Guard, “the charred | grass now | green a | gain” (unstressed, stressed | stressed, stressed | stressed, unstressed | stressed, invisible, tail-end chopped unstressed syllable) (Trethewey 41 line 4). As you can see we talked a lot about how stressing it is to pay attention to the patterns and usage of scanning within a text such as to analyze how it functions in an interesting way or how it supports the tone, scenario, or theme of the poem.

However, I want to know more about how scansion functions within Natasha Trethewey’s Native Guard. Does she extend her use of forms such as the one in “INCIDENT”, the Pantoum , a rare form used in English and originating from Malaysian culture. Does her extension of poetic form tend to relate interestingly or supportively with her use of scansion? Do they relate to each other in a similar function supporting the poem’s theme, or do they resist and cause tension? We already talked today about how scansion and form are supported in the poem “INCIDENT” such as how the repetition of lines in the Pantoum form creates a sense of comfort, habituation, and tension. And we talked about how some scansion functions better than others in purpose such as “in their gowns” versus “els had gath” (Trethewey 41 line 10). I just wonder and wonder and wonder, because form is so intricate, subtle, obvious, and exciting like a treasure map. Does Natasha work like Wilfred Owen or is it just a whim? (WC 505)

Emily Dickinson && Poetry

I’m in American Romanticism and we are reading Emily Dickinson and discussed in class about how to read the poems.

Our professor suggested to read any of her poems with the tune of Yellow Rose of Texas

Good news, after she played the tune over and over again, it worked when we read the lines!

Since we are talking about poetry, I thought this might be a relevant blog post 🙂

Applied Theory

The latest theory we covered in class was African American Criticism. There are many aspect to this system and it can have many applications. One of these is analysis of film. A prime film for this analysis is the Princess and the Frog. Of all the movie companies and their messages, who would expect Walt Disney to be promoting a racial stereotype? Well, this is exactly what they are doing in the Princess and the Frog. The main villain of the movie is a black voodoo man where as the hero and heroin are not exactly white but clearly not black. By using a black villein in this movie, Disney is promoting a type of racial stereotype in young people and helping to color their view of race and its separation.  The movie is also set in Louisianan and portrays several other negative stereotypes as well. One of these is the reinforcement that the Cajun swamp people are slow witted and stupid. This is inaccurate but the movie makes no attempts to rectify this view, but rather promotes it.  So part of the subconscious message that this movie is teaching to children is that black people are evil, Cajuns are dumb, and one has to be at least racialy ambiguous to be a hero or heroin.

He’s Got Game, Applied Theory Post

He Got Game” is a 90’s film about a young black high school basketball player, who’s father murdered his mother, and is the number one prospect for his recruiting year. The film produced and directed by Spike Lee caught my attention because it showed a lot of examples where African American Criticism could be implemented.

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The film stars Denzel Washington (Jake Shuttlesworth) and Ray Allen (Jesus Shuttlesworth); who are the two main characters of the story. Jake Shuttlesworth is the father of Jesus Shuttlesworth, the number one prospect in the nation for basketball. Jake is currently serving a long sentence over the murder of his wife, which happened 10 years prior. News comes out that Jake is the father of  Jesus and the Governor contacts the warden of the Jail to settle a deal with Jake. The governor being a huge Big State University fan, agrees that if Jake is able to convince his son to commit to Big State University that his sentenced would be reduced. Jake agrees and is released for a week under surveillance of two cops. Jake tries to reconnect with the family but has a hard time talking with his son. His son Jesus, neglects Jake on ever being his father and gives him a hard time in returning back to his life.  Jesus has a week to decide where he wants to go and through out that time, he meets a lot of people that try to take advantage of him and his talent. His father is there with him the whole time and teaches Jesus to always remember where he comes from.

 

Jesus was made out to be a stereotypical African American when people in his town told him that he wasn’t ever going to leave his hometown and go anywhere in life. The internalized racism in his community is seen through out the movie with image of Jesus being seen as a dumb negro who isn’t worthy in getting into college. Spike Lee is stereotypical with Jesus’s father by putting him in jail for killing his wife, because of how people associate African Americans with crime. Towards the end of the movie Jake also tells his son Jesus, “Son, don’t be a n***** like me, be someone else, be Jesus”. The stereotype of African Americans being criminals is implanted in the quote because of his father being a convict. There is also a huge presence of interest convergence in the film with Jake and the warden. At the end of the movie, when Jesus decides to go to Big State University, the warden ends up not having the power to grant Jake his early sentence. By the deal being done by closed doors, the warden was able to get what he wanted without delivering what he promised. Simply, because Jake is an ignorant African American convicted felon who has no power over his oppressors. Another good example is that, many of the African American characters in the movie aren’t well educated allowing many of them to be taken advantage, like Jake. The everyday racism is also apparent in the film, Jesus is constantly held down from everyone, and everyone in the school he attends that is African American is projected to fail. Spike Lee using basketball or a sport for Jesus to get into college also allows Jesus to fall under another African American stereotype made by white privileged america. He Got Game is a great film and shows a lot of the obstacles that African American culture goes through and the reality behind it as well.

 

Christina’s African American Analysis of The Princess and the Frog

Princess and the Frog is a newly added addition to the historic Disney collection of princess movies.  But what’s the history behind the making of The Princess and the Frog? Why did it take so long to make an African American princess? These are a few questions that arise when developing an analysis of the movie.

To start off, we’ll talk about the history of making the animated film.  The film came out in 2009 and is about a young African American girl (Tiana) who has dreams to start a restaurant with her father.  Her father dies in WWI, but the commitment for building a restaurant is even stronger in the now young woman.  The young woman is best friends with a white woman (Charlotte) who’s family is very wealthy.  Tiana’s mother is the seamstress to Charlotte, and Tiana and her mother live in a shack on the lower end of New Orleans.  The rest of the movie is about Tiana kissing a prince frog and then turning into a frog herself.  On the adventures the two go on to undo the curse put on the prince frog, they encounter jazz and the blues, live in a bayou, eat gumbo, and blah blah blah they end up fixing everything and Tiana gets her restaurant.

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The first question I would like to answer is the one about how long it took to make an African American princess movie.  It seems silly to have a white black-haired character, two white blonde-haired characters, one white brunette character, one Asian, one Middle-Eastern, one Ginger, and one Native-American and not an African American! Disney started making it’s animated princess movies in 1937 with Snow White.  During that time World War II was going on followed by the Cold War and the Civil Rights Movement.  Not making an African American princess until 2009, about 50 or so years after the movement took place with rights granted African Americans seems like a long time.  This is a prime example of how society today still has racial issues.  Just like Tyson mentioned “[i]t’s just gone ‘underground'” (Tyson 367). Racism is a problem a lot of Americans don’t like to consider still goes on.  Disney could have feared that making an African American princess earlier would have raised too many conflicts. Even when the movie was first introduced as an idea it caused controversies.  Why did the place in the film have to be in New Orleans? Why does Charlotte have to be the wealthy one? Why does Tiana’s mother have to be a seamstress of Charlotte?  Having Charlotte be the wealthy one shows she is in a higher class, one that has authority over others.  A term we used in class that defines this well is hegemony, a dominance over other groups in a society.  Charlotte’s family, being white, feels they have a dominant position over Tiana’s family.  It also brings about this type of “white privilege”.  Having Tiana’s mother be the seamstress could be seen as a derogatory thing. As for the location of the film, New Orleans is a hub for many African American ideologies.  It’s the birthplace of jazz and many important and famous black artists like Buddy Bolden, Louis Armstrong, Sydney Bechet, and so many more! It has seen its past with slavery, and has even a present (and past) voodoo interest.

This all also ties in with the literature canon.  Yes, this is a film and not a written piece of art but the concept still applies.  The canon before the film was made was still in the past, in a place that wasn’t accepting of African American art.  It was hard to make such a big step in a society that still discriminates.  Obviously, this was overcome, but it took many years to finally have the confidence Disney needed, and support, to make a disney movie. The social construction of race is a theory based on what should be categorized for race.  However, history shows something different. History shows that it still exists among many different ethnicity’s through biological and physical aspects.

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Bryan’s Bridge to the Blog

Today in class I overheard one of my classmates say that some of the theories in African American criticism seem obvious, and I would like to address why this is and why it is still essential to be discussed as it went unanswered and ties into the overall discussion of why I found it important to discuss these theories. For those of us who are reading Tyson, many of the theories across all of the sections seem a bit straightforward, a little silly to have to say out loud. However, there is a very important reason for why these things have to be stated.

There are a million things that go undefined. While the Germans try their very best to label everything (backpfeifengesicht roughly means “a face in need of a punch”), English speakers to let specific things slide. What if humans chose to not label gravity, opting to refer to it as “the phenomena of non-sustained, airborne objects falling?” Not only is it a bit wordy, but it makes it harder to study. By giving a theory, a phenomenon, etc. a full name we are marking its importance in that field of study. We find ourselves now able to write about and research these everyday occurrences that previously could only be discussed indirectly. We make the leap from calling something “stuff white people like” to the ingrained issue of Eurocentrism and “everyday racism.” We don’t have to point out “white people sure love ‘taking a year off’ to explore themselves,” because we are free to actually study white privilege as a structure.

If I write about material/ideological… material too much, it is only because this is what I find the most fascinating having grown up as a white male. The actual conventions of African American writing which we spoke of in class are also fascinating to look at. Within the literary sectionn of African American criticism, I found orality particularly interesting. Some of our greatest writers in canon are ones who bring the most “realistic” and well-crafted dialogue (see: Jane Austen), so it is interesting that African American writers commonly feature dialogue so realistically, yet have still been ignored. I read the Bluest Eye in high school, but looking back I don’t remember any discussion of how and why Morrison chose her words. I remember my teacher praising several word choices, but we really only read the novel as a flimsy pretext to have some obligatory discussion on race. We had sound bites more than meaningful dialogue on the work and how it was crafted.

I’d like to know what everybody else’s experiences are with African American criticism prior to English 295, particularly prior to college. I don’t anticipate a lot of people saying they dissected every word, motif, and voice, but I’d like to know how deep everybody’s understanding was of these theories all the same.