In Stillman’s first conversation with the protagonist the story invokes an idea that language in its prelapsarian state involves words correlating to an object’s function and physical exterior. When Quinn asks Stillman his purpose for collecting broken objects, Stillman replies that he’s “invent[ing] new words that would correspond to the things”. This can be interpreted as Stillman giving the objects new names that would agree to their functions and outward appearances. Through the thought of the objects being renamed in accordance to their very nature, the scene suddenly evokes a sense of wholeness hence supporting an underlying theme of unity. But how does this connotation we receive from the mere thought of renaming an object tie to the theme of unity? Recall that in Stillman’s umbrella analogy he indicates that when we hear the word ‘umbrella’ we think of an object that protects us from the rain. By thinking of the umbrella in terms of Stillman’s description of it, we are drawing an immediate connection between the objects name and its nature. This relationship that we are picturing between the object and its name blurs the boundaries that separate the word ‘umbrella’ and the object it names, subsequently making them seem as one. From this interchangeability we feel from sensing this connection, evokes the connotation of wholeness. Though this connotation we receive lies the underlying theme of unity as this tone that we sense involves the unification of the word and the object it names. However, if the umbrella were to break, it would no longer serve its function as something that would protect one from rain. Hence, would it be appropriate to call the broken object an umbrella? Stillman believes not! Alas, the sight of the broken object does not correlate to our initial impression of the word umbrella. Because we were initially taught to recognize an umbrella, as Stillman describes it to be, as “a kind of stick, with collapsible metal spokes on top that form an armature for a waterproof material which, when opened, will protect you from the rain” calling an umbrella that is broken as an umbrella removes the connotation of wholeness unlike when we draw the connection between the name of the object and the object itself. Without this feeling of wholeness, the name ‘umbrella’ loses the sense that it is a language in its prelapsarian state.
Recent postsHere are the most recent posts to the site, including blog posts by students and instructors in Arts One. Click on the titles to go to the original posts if you want to comment.
Hi everyone! Wow! :O I can’t believe we’ve already reached the end of the year! It’s a miracle we survived! And sorry that this is late! I felt that it would be better that I do it now rather than regretting that I never did later.
In my perspective, I found the story to be delivering a master-slave relationship between the human will and language in its prelapsarian state. I thought that language in that state was in a slave-like position: was submissive to human perception of what the person sees. Through Stillman’s Humpty Dumpty analogy and his insight of before the fall of mankind in the Garden of Eden, the story examines how the interchangeability evoked by a word fully embodying an object’s nature and appearance within the compliance language has upon the human will can restore language back to its prelapsarian state. When Stillman noted Humpty Dumpty’s statement “[w]hen I use a word, Humpty Dumpty said… it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less” the statement evokes a sense that words can be submissive to human will. By indicating himself to be responsible for the meaning of words, it suggests an idea that if we were to “become masters of the words we speak” we then have the power to create and alter words into our liking; in other words, we have the capability of forming words that would correspond to our perception of an object’s appearance or function. By suggesting that we are able to form words in accordance to our preference(s), the scene evokes a notion that this power we hold over language can restore language back to its prelapsarian state. In order to further support this notion of our mastery over language, let’s investigate Stillman’s insight of before the fall of mankind in the Garden of Eden. In his analysis, Stillman examines Adam’s task of inventing language in the Garden. In his state of innocence, the words Adam used to describe what he saw wholly embodies the nature of the things before his eyes: his words “had revealed their essences, had literally brought them to life”. By being able to draw out the nature of the things he saw, the language that Adam uses seems convey a sense of subservience to his own perspective. Through this statement, we can infer that the words he uses before the fall directly associates with the way how he views the functions and appearances of the things he names. By initially inventing words in correlation to his own perceptions, we can conclude that Adam’s words before the fall represents language in its prelapsarian state. Subsequently, this association suggests to us that we have absolute power over words we speak: that we are capable of inventing words and changing them to suit our perceptions of what we see. By being able to invent a name that correlates to our perspective of an object’s appearance or function, we are able to force an object and its name to appear compatible, hence invoking a sense of unity. Through this connotation re-stimulated by the interchangeability between an object and its name, the story then suggests that we are able to, in our own power, restore language back to its original state before the fall of mankind.
When I visited Tanzania a few summers ago, I was struck by how homogenous the art being sold was. At every market stall and adorning the walls of ‘art galleries’, you saw the same kind of wood-carved animals, paintings of tribespeople and baobab trees, and colourfully printed cloths. I recall thinking that the artists who mass-produced these paintings were clearly talented, and the realisation that they would always produce the same picture because of tourist demands saddened me somewhat. Only after we spoke about native art and the limitations that artists have in evolving was I able to put my thoughts into words. Not only does consumerism dictate the supply of art coming from a certain group, but it also causes outsiders to view said group in a particular and unchanging way. This self-perpetuating cycle means that groups such as the first nations communities of Canada remain stuck in the past, where evolving would inadvertently lead to economic disadvantage.
In Riding the Trail of Tears, the TREPP represents a synthesis between past and present: the history of the Cherokee people is combined with a futuristic virtual reality program. Although this synthesis is severely misguided in the case of the novel and ends badly, the importance of using art and new media as a way of processing the past and traumatic experiences therein remains. After our lecture on Hausman, I coincidentally stumbled upon an article in i-d magazine about Afrofuturism, a movement that had been unknown to me before that point. According to this article, Afrofuturism “is multicultural, transhistorical, and concerns itself with the past, present, and future effects of the African and black diaspora”. It is “about imagining different spaces of creative thought that don’t put your identity in a box”. Works of ‘afrofuturist’ art include “virtual-reality renderings of futuristic African metroplexes” and “replacing figures in classical works … with people of color”. What this movement highlights is the need to transcend history and allow misrepresented groups to evolve their art and culture.
I lost the original, so this terrible photo of it, which I sent to my Mum on a whim, will have to do!
Also, cheers for a fun year everybody!!
I definitely didn’t get a chance to get to know everyone the way I wish I had this year, but I just wanted to say thank you to all the friends I’ve made because of Arts One. From being overwhelmed and crying after our very first seminar to now, things have most definitely changed for the better. I’ve learned so much about myself as well as all of you that I’ll always be grateful for. I gotta say, I’m pretty proud of all of us for completing 12 essays and reading (well kind of reading) 23 books this year! Just 2 more essays (revision + portfolio) to go and our final! Without the support Arts One has given me, I wouldn’t have realized my potential as a student…because I was ready drop out since the end of September. A big thank you to Jason for supporting all of us as individuals as well as a class.
When lecture finished early on the 3rd, some of us went around enjoying that sunshine we so deserved after all these gloomy days Vancouver has given us. After taking a ton of pictures that looked like we were part of the cast of FRIENDS, I made a little video collaboration. Just as the song in the intro goes “I’ll be there for you”, I really would like to keep in touch with you all and just know I’ll be there!
Thanks for all the great memories, LETS SUDY TOGETHER SOON GUYS
For my essay rewrite, I plan to revisit Rousseau’s Discourse on Inequality. In my original essay, I argued that Rousseau successfully convinces his readers that the nascent man was happy than both the natural or modern man. However, as I reread and investigate his argument with new outside scholarly sources, I’m beginning to find faults in Rousseau’s claim.
While it may be true that nascent man was the”golden mean” in societal advancement, a happy medium between the natural, isolated protohuman and the modern, egocentric man, technology and the creation of a collective human experience through established society has actually proven to increase satisfaction in the general population. Studies conducted on modern happiness find that even though the complexity of the current era has created an excess of stress, we are more able to address and move on from stressors and are overall happier people than those in the past. The world is not as black-and-white as Rousseau would like to make it seem: though nascent man achieved a level of self-actualization that he could be satisfied in his existence without becoming susceptible to vice or corruption, the development of corruption and vice actually allows us to better ourselves as people. These things do contribute to civil unrest, but our ability to overcome and learn from past grievances and/or mistakes is what has allowed us to transcend and improve societal relations overall. If there was no dissatisfaction, how could we possibly better ourselves? Nascent man may have comfortable in his own blissfully ignorant existence, but in order to be the best we can, we must allow for some strife.
Sorry this is a bit late, but I thought it was better late than never (an unofficial Arts One motto really). I have a lot of notes I never used that makes for a fun theory.
So within the book there are many doubles, in a way that might confuse the readers as to what it could mean: there are two Stillmans (Sr. & Jr.), two Peters (Quinn and Stillman), two Daniels, two red notebooks, two William Wilsons, two Paul Austers, two HDs (Humpty Dumpty & Henry Dark) and two DQs (Daniel Quinn and Don Quixote). Out of these, I believe the most interesting double is the DQ, because judging by the conversation Quinn had with Auster the writer, there may be something to do with the identity of the narrator.
I briefly touched on this in my essay, but basically the argument Auster the writer brings to the table about the narration of Don Quixote could be a parallel to what may be going on in the novel City of Glass itself (just popped up in my mind but City of Glass the title could also be a reference to its mirroring effect). Simply put, both Cervantes and Auster (the real author) makes it clear that they are not the actual authors, but rather like an editor to the real narrator, in Don Quixote’s case Cid Hamete Benegeli and in CoG the unnamed narrator. While they are supposedly real events, both narrators are absent from the actual events. Here Paul Auster the writer brings up the theory: the narrator “is actually a combination of four different people” (152). He states that three of them are Don Quixote’s friends–Sancho Panza, the barber, and the priest–who stage multiple different ploys to “lure him back home” and “hold a mirror up to [his] madness” (153). The three involved in the case Quinn gets are the three Stillmans, who I theorize are the three in disguise. Virginia is the “woman in distress” and the barber (like Peter’s old nurse, Miss Barber(44)). Peter Stillman Jr. is the Knight of the White Moon and of the Mirrors (in Don Quixote they are both the same person as well), as his pale whiteness is highlighted from his first appearance and mirrors both his father in name and Quinn’s son Peter in his need for protection. Professor Stillman, then, must be Sancho Panza, not only in his initials but in his connection to language as Auster argues.
However, the reason why I wrote all of this in the first place is the last twist mentioned at the last paragraph of page 153. Auster believes that Don Quixote was in fact not actually mad, but only that he pretended to be to experiment whether it was possible to “persuade others to agree with what he said, even though they did not believe him” (154) quite like how us readers go along with his train of thoughts knowing they are far-fetched and likely unreal. “Would it be possible… to say… that puppets were real people?” (154) Apparently, yes. It is Daniel Quinn, like Don Quixote, who selects his players, first choosing the Stillman case to play out his detective story and choosing the professor out of the two doppelgangers to follow and make sense of. In Auster’s theory, it is Don Quixote who makes the events and writes the story. In CoG it really is Daniel Quinn who makes out the clues and writes in his notebook. Quinn, like Quixote, is the hidden narrator Cid Hamete who holds the “only true version of [his] story” (151). But who could be Cervantes, the one who picks up the story to show to all?
It is, then, my theory that the narrator is the one character solely written to be a reflection of Cervantes: the retired policeman, Michael Saavedra, who starts this chain of events by referring Quinn’s number to the Stillmans. That in itself is an interesting fact to think of, as Auster also imagines “Cervantes hiring Don Quixote to decipher the story of Don Quixote himself” (154) but most of all it is the name (Michael Saavedra=Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra) that convinces me.
In a way, it does feel a bit too simple and direct for Paul Auster (the actual author) to have written in this labyrinth of a novel. It certainly doesn’t connect to every bit of information given, but then again, isn’t the feeling of a clean, cathartic matching of puzzles the potentials of all the pieces a part of the essence of mystery novels?
In City of Glass, Paul Auster depicts a detective story that is really a mission for finding truth. The narrator we later realize is an actual character that problematizes the novel for readers. It problematizes the reliability for the narrator, as there are many blurred moments that prove the narrator to be very subjective. It plays around with the characters and lead confusion between the identity of the criminal and the detective. We see that the narrator is someone who does not know, but is searching. Coming to the conclusion later that what he is searching for isn’t to solve the crime of Peter Stillman, but to come to the realization that there will always be something missing. One could say that, the unreliability of characters and the narrative is just a way for the readers to see that not everything is trust worthy and ultimately questionable. With role of names becomes essentially important in this novel as we see that names may have less importance, as they seem to be. One’s identity cannot be dictated by his/her name. As a prime example of this being Peter Stillman’s uncertainty with his name as his name is also his fathers name. All is lost, when one realizes that identity can be constructed and disassembled quite easily with the change of just a name.
We were very fortunate to have a guest lecture by Paul Karasik on the graphic novel, on Monday, March 27, and he gave a public lecture later that day as well.
One of the students in my Arts One seminar group asked him about the scribbled face that appears numerous times in the graphic novel. Karasik didn’t want to “give too much away,” and just said it had something to do with who the narrator of the story is. So of course we had to discuss this further in class!
We talked about it in small groups and then I took notes on the board on what the groups had discussed. I’m not sure it’s all going to make sense outside of the context of our class discussion, but here it is! (and you get to see my not-so-clear handwriting…)
The first point: “Has different versions–left, centre, right, left” refers to how the face stars off facing left, then later we see it from a centred perspective, head on, and then is facing right, and then on the very last page where it is on a piece of paper in the pit it is facing left again. There are several possible interpretations for why this might be the case, and unfortunately I didn’t write down the one that was given by the student who noticed this and I can’t remember what it was! (Please comment below if you do). We also noticed that the expression is slightly different in it sometimes, such as when it is more angry on p. 52, when Quinn sees Peter Stillman Sr. for the first time.
We thought it might have been drawn by Quinn’s son, or even by Peter Stillman, since it looks like a child’s drawing. We noticed that it appears sometimes in places that are emotionally significant for Quinn, such as when he thinks about children raised by wolves, about Peter Stillman Jr., and about his own son; when he meets Peter Stilllman Sr. for the first time, and when Auster tells Quinn that the case is over because Stillman Sr. has committed suicide. Some students thought the face was a kind of raw expression of emotion, such as one might give with visual language rather than with textual language. As I wrote above, basing it on what the students said, you can “feel it viscerally” even more than you might if it were in words.
We also noticed that the face could be thought of as a kind of incomplete character, such as Miguel Mota spoke of Stillman Jr. being in Auster’s novel–he is a kind of puppet without a controller, a character without an author, someone who is incomplete and still needs filling out (he is all white, as if blank, and can’t use language well). The scribbled face could also represent Quinn himself as an incomplete character in the sense that Quinn has multiple identities and isn’t fully any one of them: Quinn, Wilson, Work, Auster…. The “deterioration of his identity as Quinn” is related–Quinn is losing himself as Quinn, becoming more of an incomplete shell of himself.
We didn’t come to any full conclusions, just discussed various possibilities. I myself don’t have a reading on this that I’m happy with. When I read the graphic novel I assumed that the scribbled face was a drawing done by Quinn’s dead son, and that it comes up for him at various times that are, as noted above, emotionally significant. It comes up first on p. 7 in between two panels when Quinn is going to sleep, suggesting that it emerges for him when his guard is down, perhaps, as something that he has been trying to repress–among other things, memories of his dead wife and son. And that fits with p. 33, when the face appears right after Stillman Jr’s face and his son’s face, and Quinn is thinking about children that grew up without parents. But that doesn’t go very far in explaining the face’s appearance in other parts of the book–why would it appear when Quinn is standing in the station as the train is arriving, next to the multiple images of Quinn himself, on p. 50?
Students in our class have also blogged about this question, and you can see those posts on our class website, here. Some interesting interpretations there…well worth a read!
Last book, last essay last blog post- we’re coming to a bittersweet end.
Anyways, I have some thoughts. Not a lot, but some. On Wednesday, Zach and I were kind of talking about why Auster put himself in his book as a character. I (somewhat jokingly) asked “is he really that narcissistic?”, and Zach said something along the lines of (sorry bud, I don’t remember exactly) Auster’s in there to make you think. So I did think. A lot. Aaand the best that I could come up with is that Auster is in the book so that he can detach the narrator from himself. By interacting with the narrator, it confirms that the narrator must be someone else.
Like I said in seminar today, I think that the narrator is Quinn himself. I know that Christina already thinks this/ has a blog post about it, and I did talk about it in seminar today, so I don’t have anything new to contribute. But here are some things that I’ll try to convince you with
- The narrator knows stuff that came before Quinn bought the notebook
- Maybe he ‘later forgot’ the dreams because he is no longer Quinn- (this is a bit of a stretch, but) because Quinn doesn’t exist anymore he can’t remember his dreams, but the new Quinn, being the narrator, knows about them because he does remember them, but because he’s not Quinn he doesn’t realize why he knows about them??????? (I’ve just confused myself, really)
- It would explain why he cares so much at the end, and is super mad at Auster for not doing anything to help him
- Quinn’s body is never found, so it’s not like he died- he just became someone else
We also mentioned the Stillman Sr. dopplegängers today, and how in lecture it was suggested that both of them could have been Stillman. I don’t have any textual evidence to back this up, so it’s more of a personal fantasy. While I was reading the book for the first time last weekend, I also thought that both could be Stillman. There’s a part in the novel (I’ll put the actual quote and page number in when I get home, as I am currently writing this without the book on me), where the narrator says something about Daniel imagining Mrs. Stillman naked is not the only mistake he made? I thought that maybe he picked the wrong Stillman, so he went down the wrong timeline. If he had picked the other one, because he’s all shiny and clean, maybe he would have lived a proper detective story.