Published on February 20, 2008
ENGL3017: Effective Writing: ENGL3017: Effective Writing INTRODUCTION TO THEMES: Technology, Urbanization, and Nature Primary Themes in Canadian Literature: Primary Themes in Canadian Literature Technology and Nature (essay 1) Existentialism – Responsibility and Choice (essay 2) Canadian Identity (exam Part A) Part B of the final exam compares and contrasts themes 1 and 2. Other Themes in the Course: Other Themes in the Course Gender and Power (the politics of relationships) Leisure vs Work Mid-life Crisis, Aging, and Death Life-affirming vs Life-denying processes and attitudes Critical Thinking, Logical Reasoning, Emotional Appeals, and Censorship Racial and Ethnic Stereotypes in Canada Northrop Frye and “The Motive for Metaphor”: Northrop Frye and “The Motive for Metaphor” Frye wrote a series of talks aired on CBC radio for the Massey Lectures, now collected as a book called The Educated Imagination. In his essay “The Motive for Metaphor,” he describes our relationship to nature and the world around us. “Suppose you’re shipwreaked on an uninhabited island….”: “Suppose you’re shipwreaked on an uninhabited island….” Nature is set against us—it is not a human world of language—no morals, no human intelligence, and we feel alone, “frightened and unwanted” (Frye 3). Our intellect sparks our curiosity about the world. Our emotions tell us it is either beautiful or terrible, depending on our mood and what is happening to us. Our intellect and emotions cause us to be divided in our response to nature. Feeling close to and at one with nature tends to be a rare emotion; whereas our “habitual state of mind” tends to be a “feeling of separation” (4). Literature and the Ethical Use of the Imagination: Literature and the Ethical Use of the Imagination In “The Keys to Dreamland” Northrop Frye distinguishes between fiction and reality in King Lear and the “exuberant” use of horror in response to violence. If the eye-gouging scene in Lear were real, the play would be pornographic; because the scene is staged, and we know it is staged, the violence becomes instructive—because nothing actually happens. Unremitting violence in art, however, can be pornographic or “pornoviolence.” Redemption and “eucatastrophe” (J. R. R. Tolkien) or the un-expected turn are also essential elements of fiction. Sometimes, in Canadian fiction, the redemptive elements are implied, that is the reader’s participation in a “solution” becomes part of the story. TECHNOLOGY: TECHNOLOGY Derives from the Greek techne [art] and technetos [artificial] Commonly refers to the mechanical or industrial arts Also described as “extensions of man” by Canadian mass media guru Marshall McLuhan Slide8: Explore more information about Marshall McLuhan here. Also check here. Image copyright owned by creators of McLuhan.ca. Marshall McLuhan: “Prophet of Postmodernity”: Marshall McLuhan: “Prophet of Postmodernity” Canadian media critic 1911 - 1980 Made reputation in 1964 with his book Understanding Media Lost favour in the mid-70s as “apolitical” (Todd Gitlin 254). There is current interest in his ability to predict media future and “chart” its course (254) His postmodern style reflects our current culture as fragmentary and media-oriented. Cool versus Hot Media: Cool versus Hot Media Refers to the “effect” rather than the content of media McLuhan described media’s capacity to “subliminally” create “transformations” in the viewer/user (Adrienne L. McLean “Media Effects” 257). Are defined in terms of sensory participation Cool Media: Cool Media Television, phones (esp. cells), cartoons, the internet are all cool media (257) Cool media “[thrive] on cool characters and … casual participation of all the senses” (255) Cool media “substitute a vague insight for a real point of view” (255) “collective anxiety” takes precedence over “private guilt” (255) Cool media “supply less visual or aural information and require greater participation” (257) Hot Media: Hot Media Radio, photography, films (257) “contain relatively complete visual or aural information” (257) “tend to ‘extend’ one sense over others” (257) “[R]equire less involvement of the user” to make sense of them (257) McLuhan said, “All media tend to heat up over time” (257). TECHNOLOGY: “Extensions of Man”: TECHNOLOGY: “Extensions of Man” According to McLuhan, technologies are “extensions of man.” Technologies extend, enhance, increase, amplify human senses and activities. Technologies add speed and power to human senses and activities. “Extensions of Man” Examples: : “Extensions of Man” Examples: Eyes/vision: lenses, eyeglasses, sunglasses, binoculars, microscopes, telescopes, mirrors, X-rays, CAT scans, MRI… Skin/protection: clothing, gloves, sunscreen, armour, thermostats, furnaces, shelters… Breath: straws, snorkels, SCUBA, submarines, bellows, blowguns, pumps, vacuums… “Extensions of Man” Examples:: “Extensions of Man” Examples: Hands/Arms: stones, knives, tools, plows, shovels, cups, bowls, clamps, hammers, oars, levers, cranes Weapons: from throwing a rock to slingshots, spears, bows & arrows, cannons, missiles, smart bombs Feet/Legs: stairs, ladders, bridges; wheels, bicycles, skateboards, trains, cars, airplanes “Extensions of Man” Examples:: “Extensions of Man” Examples: Inner needs, dreams, desires: books, movies, television, videos, pictures, eroticism, pornography, games, advertising, marketing, the internet Fears: walls, moats, police, insurance policies, surveillance cameras, laws, courts, prisons Violent urges: sports, boxing, war, video games Themes about Technology and Nature in Canadian Literature: Themes about Technology and Nature in Canadian Literature Positive, constructive applications of knowledge and science used to sustain and improve human life Negative, destructive by-products/“costs”: pollution, environmental damage, diminishing human skills Negative emotional by-products/“costs”: anxiety, alienation, disconnection from nature, a reactionary yearning Themes of Technology & Nature in Canadian Literature: Themes of Technology & Nature in Canadian Literature Polarity between city & country (civilization and nature; garden and wilderness) Conflict between technology & nature (“costs” of technology) Nature viewed romantically as “benevolent” versus “violent.” Nature personalized by poets, writers, artists: given human or Divine intent, meaning (personification). Polarity of views re: Native Canadians (stereotypes do not reflect a complex reality); Aboriginal peoples are associated with nature and “anti-” civilizing forces. Themes of Technology & Nature in Canadian Literature: Themes of Technology & Nature in Canadian Literature Related articles in From Reading to Writing: “From The Morningside Papers” (Gzowski) “A Planet for the Taking” (Suzuki) “Where the World Began” (Laurence) “The Alchemy of Sailing” (Bruce) “Dan George’s Last Stand” (Fotheringham) “The Story of Grey Owl” (Ross) Slide20: Related stories (short fiction) in The Oxford Book of Canadian Short Stories in English: “From Flores” (Ethel Wilson) “Thrill of the Grass” (W. P. Kinsella) “Eiffel Tower in Three Parts” (Matt Cohen) “Kill Day on the Government Wharf” (Audrey Thomas) “The Loons” (Margaret Laurence) Conclusion: Conclusion As Frye suggests, science is a way of describing and measuring the world around us. Art is a means of describing the world as we would like it to be. We tend to relate art to the emotions, and science to the intellect. However, art, like theoretical science, uses the imagination to create ideal worlds, human worlds. Technology is an extension of man that attempts to shape nature and the world around us and may, as Technopoly, a book by Neil Postman, suggests, cause us to surrender culture or art to basic science. Conclusion: Conclusion Frye tells us we need to engage our imaginations in order to create a “third level of mind” or “higher level of existence” (Frye 5) that joins together practical skills (I can affect the world around me) with conscious desires (I want this or that). Art and literature, then, show us a “world completely absorbed and possessed by the human mind” (11). This desire is “the motive for metaphor” to “identify the human mind with what goes on outside it.” (Wallace Stevens, paraphrased by Northrop Frye). Metaphor and Simile: Metaphor and Simile Metaphor creates identity: this is that. Simile creates analogy: this is like that. Irony sees the differences between the world as it is and the world as it seems to be.