Multi and New Media

This class involved a great selection of academic essays and entertaining activities. Revolving around new media, it was a good class to flex my feminist writing muscles which I did in both my podcast, The Fourth Wave: Cyberfeminism, and the essay on Vlogs Vs Podcasts: A comparative essay from a consumer perspective:

For example, in the ‘Wonder Woman’ podcast (Mirk 2014) the author/speaker discusses how wonder woman’s back story has been changed and manipulated to, essentially, change her from having been born of female solidarity to being born from female rivalry. In the ‘Background Characters vlog’ (Sarkeesian 2014) the author/speaker discusses how, as video games are more interactive and players are not mere viewers but participants through their ability to manipulate the character’s world and actions, players are engaging in the sexual objectification of NPCs (Non-Player Characters). The vlog then cuts to numerous clips of players, through their character, paying NPCs for sex, paying for lap dances, picking up prostitutes and other such scenes. The author/speaker then points out that these actions have the same effect as the character getting a drink- using the women as sex objects increased health and status within the game. Again, the vlog cuts between those same scenes and a scene in which the character buys a drink from a vending machine. The audience themselves can now clearly see what the author/speaker is discussing with sickening clarity. Within the game, the sexual objectification of women is much the same as buying a drink. The author/speaker then announces that having NPCs displayed as sex objects only allows for them then to be dismissed as disposable. Toward the end of the vlog the same characters are then shown with the same NPCs in identical situations (paying for sex/lap dances) however afterward the character, at the command of the player, then physically assaulted and, in most cases, brutally murdered the NPC. Seeing this has a greater influence on the audience than merely hearing it can.

To begin with the ‘Background Character’s’ vlog (Sarkeesian 2014) issues a content warning, comes with a list of links and resources for further reading and a detailed summary of the series, unlike the ‘Wonder Woman’ podcast (Mirk 2014.) The ‘Wonder Woman’ podcast (Mirk 2014), whilst intelligently discussed and well put together, has received a mere 400 views compared to ‘Background Characters’ vlog (Sarkeesian 2014) which has 177 Twitter shares, 334,000 YouTube views, over 1,000 Facebook likes and has generated 11 cash donations for the Tropes Vs Women series. These viewer numbers support the findings of Helft (2013, p.1) who writes that “Viewers consume 6 billion hours of YouTube videos monthly — that’s almost one hour for every person on the planet”. If one compares Helft’s (2013) findings with that of Markman and Sawyer (2014), which state that podcast listeners didn’t listen to more than 30 minutes a week, it is clear which form is the more effective.

The revenue the ‘Background Character’ vlog (Sarkeesian 2014) alone has generated for the Tropes Vs Women series contrasts strongly with the reports by Markman & Sawyer (2014) that 39% of podcasters create no revenue and over 75% spend significantly on the creation of their product. The ‘Wonder Woman’ (Mirk 2014) podcast would, if it contained the some visual element, would undoubtedly do equally as well. In the discussion of podcast versus vlog topic and content are not of the utmost importance (Markman & Sawyer 2014). To engage an audience the delivery is of greater concern. Guest speakers and interviews help engage interest, though the addition of graphs, images and video cannot be valued highly enough. Had the ‘Wonder Woman’ podcast (Mirk 2014), on topic due to the upcoming movie, included the images being discussed, such as wonder woman wielding a sword, views would have surpassed the current count of 400, a belief backed by Markman and Sawyer’s (2014, p.4) observation that most “podcasters drew a small audiences.”

Continue reading

Writing for Illustration: Graphic Project and Book Cover Designs.

For NMIT’s writing for illustration I chose to create a comic through Bitstrips based on the short story Too Much To Lose, one of the stories I self-published in the Behind Closed Doors collection that can be found on Smashwords here. Too Much To Lose takes readers into the reality of life with anorexia; the obsession, the isolation, the silence…

With any luck it might just burst into flames and I could leave, or the building might burn down and I could die. It is hard to feel anything about that thought. Wanting to die isn’t something I really do- it’s just a vague thought, almost a joke. I hear the creak of a chair and spy Carroll’s legs under the desk as she sits back in her seat. Her thighs spread out before her looking ready to burst from her stretched skirt. I’d bet anything that her thighs touch even if she stands with her feet apart. I glance down at my own thighs, poking at the hard bones that define them. I look up and meet Carroll’s eyes, my mouth twisted to the side in a smug smile – Too Much to Lose.

To see Too Much To Lose follow the links below:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

The intention behind using this short story as a comic series published online is to counteract the massive online presence of pro-ana (pro-anorexic) websites, particularly those appearing on sites such as Tumblr. I wanted to illustrate the control an eating disorder can have over your life and the isolation. It was difficult making the comic appear as dark as I wanted it as I was really limited by the graphics provided on Bitstrips. I was only able to manipulate and edit so much. For example, I had very limited backgrounds on offer and to create a dark background I had to use the same gradient frame. If I could draw, I’d have made Ana (Ana being a personification of the protagonist’s ED) look like a hollow eyed, ghostly figure at times and as your stereotypical beautiful model at others. This would highlight the opposing sides of the image of an anorexic. In reality, you end up being skin and bones and look sickly. Your hair falls out, you’re constantly dizzy and pale. However, in the pro-ana forums there is this desire to see it as a lifestyle and beautiful. Many anorexics end up with a certain attachment towards starvation. Basically, the opposing images of Ana would illustrate all this. With more time, I would have fine tuned the dialogue too.

Continue reading

Magazine 11 Reflections

Take a kick-ass subject and add to it a brilliant lecturer and what do you have?

(Translation: Please give me a HD.)

I’ve learnt so freaking much in this class (am I allowed to say ‘freaking’ if this is for an assignment?) When I nodded along when we were all asked if we knew what a media kit was, I was lying. I had no idea. I was surprised everyone else knew. Were they lying too? Or do I really need to get with it? Either way, I know now.

I also designed a magazine insert for this class which is something I would never have even thought of before. It’s so simple but, still, it wouldn’t have occurred to me.

I am really happy with how my InDesign skills improved this semester compared to last. I haven’t actually had any of the classes were we’re taught InDesign so I’ve been learning by watching tutorials and playing around with it. I think I still have a long way to go.

At so many points I wanted to smash my face through the keyboard because, dammit, designing a magazine is so…fiddly. Every time I’d sit back and think ‘there now, it’s perfe- oh, f*ck!‘ Literally every time I think I’m done with it, I discover some tiny new error that irritates me.

The cover to begin with was atrocious until I purchased some stock images for it. The TOC (table of contents) was atrocious until I’d scanned some tutorials. As you’d expect, it’s still  little (a lot) on the basic side. Really, as far as the design goes, I have little to say. You can clearly see a colour scheme and I used the same two fonts throughout (why? They just have the right look). I just experimented in InDesign and messed around with colours and layouts until I had something nearing how I could picture it. There is still so much potential with designs that hasn’t even occurred to me though. The magazine presentation day illustrated for me the variety of layouts it’s possible to have. It’s something I’d want to experiment with a lot more.

That said; Lo and Behold! Here is an example of some of the magazine:

Magazine116 Magazine11 Magazine1113 Magazine1112 Magazine1111 Magazine118

I had the idea for the magazine in semester one when I was put on the spot and asked what I might possibly want to do a magazine on. I came up with a parenting magazine out of nowhere. I prefer writing about women/feminist topics. The thing about this magazine though is that it’s about parenting and being a young mother in general- it’s not for children. I did some research on parenting/lifestyle magazines and realised there is definite gap in the market where younger parents (and even single parents) are concerned. There seems to be plenty of parenting magazines for older, married mothers that are still trying to sell the image of the perfect, nuclear family.  I knew I had found a good angle for my magazine.

My other motivation is being a passionate believer that having a child young doesn’t mean the end of your life or that you’re a hopeless, brainless idiot. Lets face it, there is no end to that attitude. When I found out I was pregnant I had to deal with the most ridiculous comments. For example, being snidely asked after mentioning my desire to go to university, “You’re going to study and have a baby. Do you, like, even know how to do that?” Guess what, I know now. At my year 12 graduation I was also told the parents in the audience were disgusted that I was allowed on stage. I always wondered why there was this attitude that I shouldn’t be allowed to continue on with my life. There was definitely this expectation within the town I lived that I should drop out of school and do nothing with the rest of my life. Luckily, my family and I did not share that expectation.

Young Parenting was created with the purpose of delivering an honest yet positive take on being a young mother. It’s purpose is to inform, encourage and unite young mothers throughout Australia between the ages of 16 and 23. It would stress the importance of continuing with your education and taking your aspirations seriously. It would not be condescending, demeaning or be written with the assumption it’s audience knew nothing.

If it were an actual glossy generating a profit, in line with the above values, the magazine would offer two successful applicants a 10 week paid internship each year. The magazine would also keep readers up to date with various study and skills building opportunities and scholarships.

Studying With Children

playing at the park.

playing at the park.

One of my assignments for this semester at uni, for my Writing Life, Self & Other class, is to write a blog post.

Well, that’s okay… I can do that. I’ve been doing that.

“Choose an area of expertise,” the lecturer instructs us when we ask for more details about the assignment, “and write a post on it.”

Damn. An area of expertise… What am I an expert on?

Nothing? I ask myself kindly. Ok, well let’s narrow it down then. What things do you do? What are you good at?
(Yes, I do really have internal conversations with myself. Well, arguments usually…)

Feeding and bathing and bedtime story telling in under an hour on busy nights. I’m always ridiculously proud of this. Although, I usually end up soaked to the bone from energetic splashing during the bathing part.

I have a four year old daughter and am in my fourth and final year of studying.

I have totally reached the level of Expert Student-Parent.

Two Weeks Ago:

I am sitting at my desk in my office (papers strewn everywhere, books spilling from the shelves, books stacked in shaky towers on the floor, leaky pens scattered around.) and Olivia is playing behind me, singing passionately about fairies turning blue, and setting up a tea party for her toys. I get to work designing the cover for ‘Behind Closed Doors’. After a while I make the mistake of turning around.

Bombsite.

Toys are everywhere, bits of lego looking gleefully up at me, just waiting for a chance to puncture an unsuspecting foot. Focus, I remind myself. I finish the cover and begin an editing project. A few pages in, the computer screen goes blank.

What? I stare at the screen for a moment. Olivia has migrated to sitting beneath the desk, having just switched the computer off at the power point, she looks up and smiles at me.

 Back In The Present:

Maybe I’d better hold off on awarding myself the title of Expert Student-Parent.

Now, what’s my area of expertise…?

Brief Book Review: ‘Tampa’ by Alissa Nutting

image

Celeste Price is an eighth-grade English teacher in suburban Tampa. She’s undeniably attractive. She drives a red Corvette with tinted windows. Her husband, Ford, is rich, square-jawed, and devoted to her.

But Celeste’s devotion lies elsewhere. She has a singular sexual obsession—fourteen-year-old boys. Celeste pursues her craving with sociopathic meticulousness and forethought; her sole purpose in becoming a teacher is to fulfill her passion and provide her access to her compulsion. As the novel opens, fall semester at Jefferson Jr. High is beginning.

In mere weeks, Celeste has chosen and lured the lusciously naive Jack Patrick into her web. Jack is enthralled and in awe of his teacher, and, most important, willing to accept Celeste’s terms for a secret relationship—car rides after school; rendezvous at Jack’s house while his single father works late; body-slamming encounters in Celeste’s empty classroom between periods.

Ever mindful of the danger—the perpetual risk of exposure, Jack’s father’s own attraction to her, and the ticking clock as Jack leaves innocent boyhood behind—the hyperbolically insatiable Celeste bypasses each hurdle with swift thinking and shameless determination, even when the solutions involve greater misdeeds than the affair itself. In slaking her sexual thirst, Celeste Price is remorseless and deviously free of hesitation, a monstress driven by pure motivation. She deceives everyone, and cares nothing for anyone or anything but her own pleasure.

Whilst I understood the narrative, the themes and the points raised within the text, it nonetheless left me confused. Some reviews described the graphic descriptions in  this book as erotica. I disagree. This book is not in the slightest bit erotic. There is nothing remotely alluring or erotic in Celeste’s sick fantasies or the detailed descriptions of the sex scenes. The desire Celeste has for teenage boys is simply too inconceivable. Positively baffling.

This book has left me feeling conflicted and, I believe, this is what makes it so good. it will leave ypu with doubts and questions. You will be mentally haunted by this book. Perplexed confusion is the strongest emotional reaction I had to this book. This, I think, is due to the media/societal norms/advertising. Like most, I could better understand a lecherous older man’s interest in teenaged girls than the situation in reverse (though both disgust me equally.) How often are younger women viewed as more desirable? How often is it men who are depicted as the dominant ones? It is far more common. This book certainly flips gender roles and stereotypes on their head.

Despite being told in the first person POV by Celeste, you are not treated to any understanding of where her singularly obsessive sexual compulsion comes from, other than the fact she is clearly a sociopath. This, I think, is Nutting’s intention. Celeste is the kind of cold, calculating predator no one believes a woman capable of being. It makes her light sentance, given because she is an attractive woman (and how could sex with an attractive woman be rape?), seem all the more apalling. It’s appalling but it is also very accurate social commentary. How often is violence and sexual assault towards men taken seriously when the abuser is a woman? And how often is it taken seriously is the abuser is an extremely attractive woman?

‘Tampa’ also gives a perplexing view into how statutory rape is complex and different from rape in general. Celeste’s victims do give consent. They want her throughout the book, along with their peers, and they state at her trial they were willing. Which they were, but they were also manipulated, stalked and used to satisfy Celeste’s selfish, obsessive desires. One victim in particular was clearly left confused and destroyed by his involvement with Celeste. It is easy to see why, even with consent, sex with a minor, even if they are a teenager, is illegal. They aren’t mature or in control enough to protect themselves or to understand when they’re being abused. They have only the illusion of being in control or consenting. In reality they have been stalked and carefully selected for their weaknesses (being quieter, shyer, having less involved parents.)

Overall, this is an intriguing read. Do not expect to understand Celeste. Unlike HH in Lolita, and many real-life pedophiles, Celeste does not try to convince herself or the reader at any point that she actually cares for or “loves” her victims.
This book is quite graphic and disturbing, so definitely not recommended for the squeamish.
To purchase an ebook version, follow the link here.

The Blog Hop: Absurdly Honest Answers

I was tagged to answer the following four questions by Mandi.

What are you working on?
I am currently working on putting together a collection of short stories that will be self-published via Smashwords. I am also, privately, working on something else that is outside my usual genre, but this is currently Top Secret. I’m a little timid about sharing the details of it just now.

How does your work differ from others in the genre?
The stories in Behind Closed Doors don’t necessarily link up in terms of genre and theme like many do in anthologies and short story collections. What they have in common is more obscure. The best way of describing it is we all have acquaintances in life, people we smile at and say hello to, but don’t really know. We don’t know what’s going on in their lives, what struggles they might be enduring, what experiences they may have had, what secrets they are keeping. That’s the theme of this collection: the things going on behind closed doors, the unspoken stuff happening in people’s lives.

Why do you write what you write?
If you asked me why I write in general it would be easier to answer. In general, I write because I am compelled to do so. I write because, rather than having to find my writer’s voice, writing is my voice. As Mandi pointed out, I am terribly shy. I am not an excellent talker. Small talk has a way of making my throat close up. But why do I write the things I do? I think it’s because I have something to say, something to share and to show. I enjoy writing non-fiction and short stories mostly. I love non-fiction because I can share people’s stories. I have been doing ghostwriting lately and that is very rewarding. It makes a real difference to people’s lives to tell their stories and, given the subject, it can help others in their own struggles.

How does your writing process work?
I usually just start writing because of something I have seen or heard, or a thought or idea has come to me. Once I have a page or a few pages down then I stop and this is when I start planning. I plot out character maps, themes, the story arc and where I see it going. I do any research that is needed. I try not to make it too specific to allow for natural character growth and room to move the story where I feel it needs to go. Often halfway through writing new developments will crop up and usually I will go with these because they are more natural to the story and the characters development.

Finally, I nominate Jessi Tait (at innerminute) whose writing style I both admire and envy in equal parts.

March in March: A Vote of No Confidence in The Abbott Government

Image

The train, normally so quiet and empty on a Sunday afternoon, is packed. There are families, middle aged women clutching signs, men with beards and waist length dreads, an attractive woman wearing a maxi dress under a cropped denim jacket. Everyone is smiling, chatting, leaning forward to talk to their companions.

In a huge surge we exit at Melbourne Central. I have never seen it like this; not late on a Friday or Saturday night, not at peak hour on a weekday, never. We are slowly shuffled forward, unable to resist the flow of the crowd. We make our way through the twists and turns of the station and exit onto Latrobe St, directly across from the Melbourne State Library where thousands have already gathered for the March in March protest- a vote of no confidence in the current government and Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

The signs are eye catching, bearing slogans such as “We need an Abbott-Proof fence” and “Welcome Refugees. Deport Abbott.” Every now and then chants arise, led by speakers and groups within the crowds, cries of “Shame, Abbott, shame” and “People, not profits.”

The vibe of the crowd is good; strong and purposeful. It is hard not to marvel at the diversity of protestors. This is not just one group. Here are not just hard-leftists. There are grandparents, elderly wheelchair-bound individuals, mums pushing babies in prams, dad’s with toddlers high atop their shoulders, men and women with dread locked hair and bare feet, groups carrying tin drums, youthful university students, individuals wearing Anonymous masks, and many, many people carrying cameras.

One speaker calls for everyone in the crowd to pull out their phones, take a picture, and upload on all social media sites with the hash tag MarchinMarch. The crowd complies. They want this to be huge. They want to be heard. This protest was not organized by the usual activist’s groups- they attended but they weren’t running it. It arose through social media, through a nationwide discontent with the Abbott government. Afterwards, we would learn the hash tag MarchinMarch had been trending at no.4 since 10AM that morning; a success. The media would indeed report on the marches but the coverage would be minimal and mildly dismissive. It would comment more on the size of the crowds and the unpreparedness of the police, than the purpose of the march and the changes Australians need to see being made. The media would, however and to their credit, report with honesty that the crowd was benign and respectful. 

Many marching were doing so with the knowledge that as of September 1st in Victoria such political protests will be illegal, a law passed at 1pm on Friday 15th, dictates. This was added to the long list of things to infuriate the people of Melbourne.

The signs clearly proclaimed what many were marching for. Like me, they were marching for:

1.            Australia’s National Parks and Tasmania’s old growth Forests.

2.            Asylum Seekers on Manus Inland and the violation of their human rights.

3.            Women’s Rights (and against Abbott appointing himself Minister for Women and against the new Paid Parental leave scheme, which will make employer’s less inclined to hire women.)

4.            Climate change and the Carbon tax.

5.            The Great Barrier Reef.

And much, much more. The list is endless.

As a small van trundles past to lead, blaring up-beat music and encouraging chants, the march as it begins. We all begin to creep forward, signs and banners raised, ready to show Abbott just what we think. Many people walking by or eating at café’s whip out their phones to record us as we march by. Others stare in complete confusion.

One man has a little boy atop his shoulders. The boy, no more than four or five, is pumping a chubby fist in the air and shouting in a soft, rounded child’s voice “People, not profit! People, not profit!” Other marchers turn to look and take pictures. The boy’s dad joins his son, his voice deeper, louder.

“People, not profit! People, not profit!” My friend and I join in as do dozens of others marching alongside us.  I’m sure plenty will wonder what difference it will makes and perhaps it will make none, but the purpose is to express a vote of no confidence and when 30,000 people turn out in one city to march, that expression has to be heard. It’s not just Melbourne either. Thousands upon thousands of people in city after city are marching with the same purpose.

After all this, one would think Abbott would wake up and start listening. As one sign claimed, “The power of the people is greater than the people in power.”

Things Observed

Observation one:

It is not a good idea to press the buttons on a toaster with wet hands.

Observation number two:

“Look, man, I’m telling you just leave her,” a man says into his mobile. He rubs his hand across his forehead. “You’ve got to just get out of that situation.”

He pauses and I can hear the faint whine of another voice through the phone. His friend? His brother? Maybe it’s his boyfriend.

“Go and stay with Karla,” he is saying. This advice is followed by more muffled noise. I wonder who Karla is.

“Well, what’s going to change then?” He is shouting now, gesturing wildly around him. “She’s just gonna keep using you.”

The train pulls into my station. I stand and make my way to the doors. Usually when people complain about relationships, they just want someone to listen. As I step off I hear the phone-guy sighing. He must have figured it out.

Observation number three:

I stand at the counter; Olivia balanced on one hip with her arms wrapped around my neck. She smiles, showing off a dimple. The aroma of coffee is tantalising.

“Will there be marshmallows?” Olivia asks. I nod.

“Will it have chocolate?” she asks the woman making the drinks.

“Yes,” she answers her, smiling.

“Thank you,” Olivia says. The conversation done, I lower her to the floor to stand next to me.

A woman with white hair pulled into a bun gestures her dark, wrinkled hands toward Olivia who, shyly, grabs my hand. The woman catches my eye and smiles.

“Isn’t she cute?” The blonde sitting next to her says.

“She is, she is cute,” another agrees.

I smile back. Then, turning, I tune back into Olivia; she’s happily chatting about the curved, silver fan above us. It is, apparently, a magic fan.

Madame Bovary Book Review

Madame Bovary (Flaubert 1857) had me hooked; line, and sinker. As I began reading I was uncertain as to whether Flaubert had intended it to be humorous, or if I were reading it wrong. However, as I read on, I quickly came to the realisation that was the point of Flaubert’s humour; to be dry, ironic, and subtle.

The key to such humour is that whilst we are being treated to a realistic and objective narration of events, as the narrator is that of third person omniscient, we also see everything through the eyes and thoughts of Flaubert’s clawing, desperate characters. This creates a disparate version of the plot; that of the characters, and that of the omniscient narrator/reader.

Emma Bovary, for example, longs for passion, excitement and wealth. She wants for nothing more than her life to mime that of an opera. Instead, however, the first affair she embarks on, whilst an intoxicating Great Romance, in her mind, is in fact nothing more than a womanizing, selfish man recognizing in Emma weaknesses (her boredom and romantic ideals) that leave her ripe for seduction, and taking advantage of this.

Emma’s second love affair ends when she begs her lover for money, since she has incurred for herself, and her husband, an unpayable debt by living beyond her means. Both Emma’s lovers react with cowardice in the face of her desperation. However, had they attached themselves to her, she would undoubtedly either soon grow bored of them, or else be the ruin of them. Both men grow bored with Emma’s antics and desires; here again Flaubert is ironic, for Emma herself is bored with both her husband and child.

Throughout the novel characters continuously comment on how clever a woman Emma is, yet she isn’t shown to be clever in action or thought in any scene. Rather, she is shown to be self-absorbed, and lacking in any affection for her husband, or her only daughter. She takes lovers, but is unsatisfied, and demanding. She takes out loans to purchase luxurious items, yet takes no satisfaction in them, always wanting more.

Emma’s story ends with her suicide, and even that fails to go as she would have hoped; it’s drawn out, painful, and absent of any tender, tearful farewell from her child. In a final, unflattering scene, at her funeral, her head is hacked at in order for her husband to have a lock of her hair.

He stepped forward himself, scissors in hand. He was shaking so violently that he punctured the skin in several places on the forehead. Finally, bracing himself for the shock, Homais gave two or three big cuts at random, which left white patches in her beautiful black hair. (Flaubert 1857, p. 345)

For the final irony of ironies, Emma, who had dreamt and longed for city life, passionate love, ballroom dances, and wealth, condemns her only child, her legacy, to the life of a penniless orphan, sent to work in a cotton mill.

Flaubert writes Madame Bovary (1857) with such skill and realistic depth that while we laugh at the audacity, and despair at the mistakes, of Emma, we do not dislike her, or any other character. They are too human for the reader’s dislike. After all, most of us share in a hint of Emma, whether it be a desire for more, for wealth, for a passionate love, dazzling talents or a brilliant career. It is in this truth that Madame Bovary (Flaubert 1857) is an exemplary piece of realist literature; both in character, plot and writing style.

Further Thoughts on the Narrator:

Madame Bovary (Flaubert 1857) opens with the narrative being told from the first person plural point of view.

We were at preparation, when the headmaster came in, followed by a new boy dressed in ‘civvies’ and a school servant carrying a big desk. Those who were asleep woke up, and everyone got to his feet with an air of being interrupted at work. Motioning for us to sit down, the Head turned to speak to the form-master. (Flaubert 1857, p. 15)

The narration then soon changes to that of third person omniscient, quite seamlessly. It is noticed by the reader, certainly, but not disruptive.

The Beginning Hook:

I was instantly intrigued by Madame Bovary (Flaubert 1857) for one single, stand out reason. The book is titled “Madame Bovary”. The blurb enticingly states “Emma Bovary is beautiful and bored.” And yet, the narration begins with dull Charles Bovary. And then following that, two equally dull Madame Bovary’s; Charles’ mother, and Charles’ first wife, chosen by his mother. The curiosity to see when and how this mysterious other Madame

Bovary would come into the story is what kept me reading. That, and the humour.

On Constructing Reality:

Flaubert’s (1857) construction of reality is so thorough that when Emma, having had her monstrous debts revealed to the town, goes to beg money from the wealthy Guillmen, enters his house and observes “Now this…is the dining room I ought to have.” (p. 223).

The reader laughs out loud and sinks their head in their hands in disbelief. Emma is still (still!) not content with what she has in life. There she is, begging for money, and still she is hungering for more, more, more.

By this reaction from myself, as a reader, I realised I had become entirely sucked into the world crafted by Flaubert. He creates human characters, and describes a world so thoroughly, that the reader forgets that these are not helplessly foolish, fallible neighbours, friends or relatives of theirs, but characters in a book, doing what Flaubert makes them.

Another such scene that reveals, by personal reaction, how successfully real Flaubert has made Madame Bovary (1857) to his audience, is this one:

‘If you’d like to go in now and again,’ he said, ‘that wouldn’t be too ruinous, after all.’ ‘But it’s no use unless you keep it up regularly,’ she replied. And that was how she managed to obtain her husband’s permission to go into Rouen once a week to see her lover. (p. 272)

Favourite Quotes:

“And Emma started laughing, a ghastly, frantic, desperate laugh, fancying she could see the hideous face of the beggar rising up like a nightmare amid the eternal darkness. (Flaubert 1857, p. 337)

At last she sighed. ‘What can be more distressing than to drag out a futile existence like mine? If only our sorrows could be of use to someone, we might find some consolation in the thought of our sacrifice.’ (Flaubert 1857, p. 245)

Notice here, the great detail Flaubert gives, like a camera focusing on a scene, time and place, to draw the moment out and mark it as important, before panning over the rest of the setting:

In summer there was more of its shelving bank to be seen, and the garden walls were uncovered to their base, with several of the steps leading down to the water. The river ran noiselessly, swift, cool to the eye. Tall slender grasses leaned above it in a mass, bent by the force of the current; weeds streamed out in the limpid water like green wigs tossed away. Now and then some fine legged insect alighted on the tip of a reed or crawled over a water-lily leaf. The sunshine darted its rays through the little blue bubbles on the wavelets that kept forming and breaking; old lopped willow-trees gazed at their own grey bark in the water. Beyond, the fields looked empty for miles around. (Flaubert, 1857, p. 107)

Had they nothing else to say to one another? More serious communications were, to be sure, passing between their eyes. As they tried to make conversation, they felt the same languor stealing over them both, as if their whispering voices were being drowned by the deep continuous murmur of their souls. (Flaubert 1857, p. 108)

 

Reference:

Flaubert, G 1857, Madame Bovary, 3rd edn. Penguin Group, Australia.

Critical Appraisal of Little Snow White (The original Snow White, Grimm version.)

In this essay I will be examining Liberal Humanism, Marxist and Feminist literary theory in relation to The Grimm’s Brothers version of Little Snow White (Grimm, 1812). This analysis will include biblical and religious references, as I find those to be unavoidable when doing a critical analysis on Little Snow White (Grimm, 1812).

“The most obvious… way to think of literature is as verbal representations of the real world” (What is Literary Theory, p.1). This interpretation of what literature is correlates well with the discussions had in our introduction to The Critical Appraisal of texts- which led to the natural conclusion that language exists solely in the metaphorical world as a means of conveying to others what we experience in our physical worlds.

Given this interpretation,   it makes sense to think of literature as capturing the essence of human experience. Literature is an art that explores different times, lives, political climates, and social hierarchies.

This definition of literature brings me to my introduction of Literary Theory. Literary Theory is an important practice as it is the “interpretation of how literature makes sense of the (literal world) and, in turn, how critics make sense of such literary works” (What is Literary Theory, p.1).

So, what role do fairy tales play in literature and what is their relevance? What can fairy tales tell Literary Theorists of the world?

Keeping in mind the definitions I have given for what literature is, and what Literary Theory is, it makes sense to view fairy tales as a means of introducing and explaining the world to children. Fairy tales are tales of caution, tales depicting social hierarchies, tales that explore the role of men and women- and the values of both. And, as written by Jack Zipes, tales that “confront the injustices and contradictions of (the) so-called real world”. Zipes goes on to write that fairy tales “can be equated to the wish fulfilment and utopian projections of the people”.

As Literary Theory is the analysis of what Literature is saying of humanity and the world in general, fairy tales are immensely relevant to Literary Theorists even to this day. Fairy tales, myths and legends are at the beginning of the story telling culture- and the beginning of what Literature has evolved to. Fairy tales are also still a huge part of contemporary literature today.

In applying Literary Theory to fairy tales both ancient and modern, theorists may see how the world has evolved over time, particularly how society’s attitude towards children, women and religion has changed. More significantly, the comparison of ancient and modern fairy tales can show what has not changed, and what is implicit and reoccurring in human nature- something Liberal Humanism explores.

Feminist Literary Theory is primarily concerned with the representation of women in literature and the conditioning that entails. These representations in fairy tales tell boys and girls what are acceptable feminine attributes, and what are not.

The deconstruction of any text using a feminist approach involves focussing on what the text is showing about women. For example, what is their purpose in life? How must they act, and what characteristics of a woman’s are of value?

No work of literature could be more appropriate to revision by Feminist Literary Theory than fairy tales. Cinderella, The Little Goose Girl, Snow White and Rose Red, Rapunzel and Little Snow White- all these tales from The Grimm Brothers collection (1812)- are very telling to what was expected of, and acceptable behaviour for, women, especially given that these tales focus on female characters and were told to children. This was most likely to teach boys and girls of a young age what a woman’s value and place in life was.

Why did such fairy tales focus on females? As the cautionary tales that they are, does it suggest women required more guiding? And more warnings for caution? I feel confident in answering yes to that, as even today people urge women to be more cautious than men. However, in considering that the villains in these stories are also women and, generally speaking, queens and witches, does it suggest that knowledge and power in the hands of women is not only unacceptable, but dangerous?

Such stories could be viewed as advocating that women require to be kept obedient, sweet, domestic and innocent for their own good, and to ensure their own safety. I will now attempt to satisfactorily answer these questions and more in a feminist reading of Little Snow White.

There are two aspects to Little Snow White that are immediately obvious. The first is the double standard toward female beauty. Throughout the text beauty is portrayed as a most precious commodity in a woman, and is the central point to the story.

It is repeatedly stressed within the text how very beautiful both Snow White and the Queen are. For example, the Queen is renowned throughout the land for her beauty and daily addresses a magic mirror to ensure there is none more beautiful than she.

Beauty, ensures the tale of Little Snow White, will get you far. We see this when the hunter ordered to kill Snow White takes pity on her and kills an animal to present its organs to the Queen in place of Snow Whites. Why does the Hunter take pity on her? It is not, as you might think, because she was ordered to be murdered by her mother or because she cried, pleading for her life, and offered to run away instead. No, instead “The huntsman took pity on her because she was so beautiful, and he thought “The wild animals will soon devour her anyway” (Little Snow White, p. 1).

Then, when Snow White is found asleep in one of the Dwarfs beds they take pity on her because, on seeing her, “good heaven!” They cried. “She is so beautiful!” and they liked her very much” (Little Snow White, p.2) And finally there is the prince who becomes besotted with the beauty of Snow White’s corpse and carries it around with him until she is awoken, and then they marry.

The double standard arises when comparing Snow White with the Queen. In the case of Snow White beauty is portrayed as the most feminine attribute, and the most valuable thing a woman has to offer. However, a woman must not be vain. She must not be aware of or glorify in her own beauty, as the Queen does.

The story first establishes beauty is important to men but women must not use this to their advantage or be vain for that is evil and will lead to punishment. Punishment such as a being forced to wear iron shoes and dance to death. One might argue that the tale warns women to be each other’s heroes. Don’t be jealous. Don’t begrudge others; you may think it is saying. However, given beauty is stressed to be of the utmost importance, put yourself in the Queens shoes. Beauty is all that she is known for throughout the land. When that begins to fade, or be replaced, so must the peoples regard. Although we don’t read of The Queens background it is safe to assume her obsession with beauty arises only because it is so obsessed over by men, as proven throughout the text.

Instead of trying to hang onto her status as beautiful the Queen should give over to the other things women are valued for; raising children, being motherly, keeping house, sewing, cooking and cleaning- things that Snow White does readily.

Graf says “Fairy tales promote unhealthy sex stereotypes… They glorify passivity, dependency, and self-sacrifice. They promote a theme that is the inferior position of women and teach girls win the prize if they are the fairest of them all” (‘Reading Female Bodies in Little Snow White: Independence and autonomy versus subjugation and invisibility’, 2008, p.81).

Graf also writes that, in Little Snow White, “It seems the only role available to women, other than the submissive, abused, young protagonist, is one that defines women as devious, manipulative and therefor subversive” (‘Reading Female Bodies in Little Snow White: Independence and autonomy versus subjugation and invisibility’, 2008, p.81).

The messages in Little Snow White are not by chance- as stated previously these are tales told to children specifically to teach them about the world and their role in it. As Maria Lieberman writes “Fairy tales have only one function and that is to shape girls perceptions to conform to a gendered identity through stereotypical characters like the wicked mother and beautiful, helpless daughter” (‘Someday My Prince Will Come’, 1972.)

The tale of Little Snow White’s (Grimm, 1812) purpose is to teach girls, and boys, that women must be attractive to men, but not vain. Women must ensure they are demure and submissive, perform household duties and listen to men. This is backed by the scene in which Snow White is finally killed by the Queen- by ignoring the warning of the seven dwarfs with whom she lived and letting a stranger in. Little Snow White strongly presses the point that beauty and obedience are the only two things of value in a woman. A woman with knowledge and power is dangerous and woman who refuses to step aside for her more youthful counterpart is positively evil.

I now come to the second thing within the text that is immediately apparent; whatever critical theory you are applying within your review.  Firstly, Snow White eats an apple and dies. This has a strong comparison to Eve eating the apple from the tree of knowledge and being the downfall of women for eternity, and causing Adam and herself to be banished from the Garden of Eden. As is the message in Christianity so is the message in Little Snow White; Curiosity, knowledge and power in a woman is wrongful and fearful. This is also reflected by the wicked mothers and female villains in fairy tales such as Little Snow White being portrayed as witches. The Church feared and persecuted wise women and even midwives, accusing them of witchcraft.

To support this analysis of Little Snow White (Grimm, 1812) holding strong biblical references there is repetitive use of a biblically significant number; the number seven. Within the text there are seven dwarfs; Snow White is seven years old when she surpasses her mother in looks and the dwarfs live in the seven mountains. Most telling of all, are the dwarfs seven beds. As described in this passage “(Snow White) wanted to lie down and go to sleep. She tried each of the seven little beds, one after the other, but none felt right until she came to the seventh one, and she lay down in it and fell asleep” (Little Snow White, 1812, p.2).

This passage directly relates to the making of the world and the working week with the seventh day being a day of rest. Prior to resting in the seventh bed Snow White also eats some simple brown bread and drinks some wine- practices also repeatedly referenced in the bible. However, there are other aspects to the tale of Little Snow White (Grimm, 1812) more aptly covered by a Marxist analysis.

Marxist Literary Theory, as written by Peter Barry in ‘The Beginning Theory’, dictates that good art “always has a degree of freedom…from economic circumstances” although, it is acknowledged, such economic and social climates are the work of arts “ultimate determinant”.

Marxist literary criticism naturally drew a line between propaganda and art. However the prevailing thought behind Marxist literary criticism is to look at the context in which the text was written. What political and social implications are within the text? In what way has it been written?

In Little Snow White I will focus on a Leninist critical reading. Leninist criticism, writes Barry, “insists on the need for art to be explicitly committed to the political cause” (‘Beginning Theory: An introduction to literary and cultural theory’, 1995, p.154).

The obvious place to begin with Little Snow White (Grimm, 1812) is defining the class of the characters. The Queen, in this tale, represents a dictatorship. She has power over everyone, even Snow White who, along with The Prince, are capitalists. Their demands are met and they get whatever they wish from the lower classes. The Seven Dwarfs a prime example of the petite bourgeois. They work for themselves and have the ability to buy the labour of others however they are not as upper class as Snow White or The Prince. Following this cast is The Huntsman and The Servants of The Prince who are representative of the proletariat and the lower class struggle.

As it is in Marxist and the Bolsheviks ideology a communist revolution may not be possible without the rising up of the proletariat and we do indeed see this in Little Snow White. When the servants, tired of carting the corpse of Snow White around, pound her dead body and send the poisoned bite of apple flying from her mouth, Snow White is resurrected and thus able to marry a powerful prince and overthrow the dictatorship of The Queen.

The Huntsman represents the struggle of lower class between two warring ideologies. The Queen orders him to kill Snow White and he must obey. Snow White begs for her life and he is compelled to obey also. This importance on social standing is also reflected when The Prince only admires Snow White’s beauty and wishes to have her after he notes her coffin states that she is a princess, therefor upper class like himself.

The Seven Dwarfs are forced to let Snow White live with them, although they do require manual labour in return. This reinforces their position as depicting the petite bourgeois. Their social standing as below that of the Capitalists is reinforced when The Prince desires to have Snow White’s body for his own. The Dwarfs, of course, must accept.

Finally, at the end of the tale The Queen is forced to wear iron shoes and dance to death- iron being representative of the middle and lower classes labour and such, and dancing a leisure activity of the capitalists.  The dictatorship of The Queen is thus overthrown however the tale can be viewed as commenting on the failings of the communist revolutionary attempts for in place of The Queen is a new dictator- Snow White and her Prince.

Liberal Humanism, on the other hand strips back all these prejudices and interpretations. Liberal Humanist Literary Theory ideally looks at what is at the essence of the text, and what it says about humanity.

It can do this as Liberal Humanist literary Theory views literature as timeless; as well it might in the case of fairy tales as they have survived the test of time, numerous retellings and adaptations. In applying the first tenant of liberal humanism to Little Snow White we must look at what within the text displays as being constant in human nature. This is easy to spot in the story; the things that have remained throughout constant changes to the story are natural jealousy and fear of ageing. It displays the human instinct for survival, not wanting to step aside, be over taken and to hang on to life.

The second tenant is that the text contains its own implicit meaning; it does not need to be read from a socio-political context or a literary-historical one in order for its meaning to be grasped. The inherent meaning of Little Snow White, as a fairy tale of caution or pure entertainment, would be that all too obvious warning; don’t talk to strangers, although I think in this case the real message is to listen to your superiors (In this case the seven dwarfs).

It is also important to note that Snow White sends a religious message- or to apply it to any time- a warning to not do bad deeds. One must not be vain, greedy, gluttonous or envious there will be punishment. The queen is guilty of these sins when she wants to be the fairest of them all- displaying greed and vanity. She is envious in her jealousy of Snow White and gluttonous when she devours what she believes are Snow White’s lungs and liver.

I believe to view the tale of Little Snow White in a manner of “seeing the object as in itself it really is” (‘Beginning Theory’, 1995, p.17), is very difficult given in reading the text it is impossible to put aside the strong and constant biblical references.

When it comes down to it; do you believe in transcendent qualities? Does each individual have an unchanging essence that makes them so? Are some things in human nature entirely unchanging?

Some things, certainly. Our basic instincts, for example, are unchanging. However, today they are often over ridden by rationalisations and conscious thought. All our subconscious instincts and thoughts however probably remain shockingly unchanged throughout time.

The idolisation of beauty is one such thing. As Iris Murdoch says, “beauty is the only spiritual thing which we love by instinct”.

People all over the world and throughout time have always admired and valued beauty- and it is this instinctive appreciation that is timeless in Snow White.

Little Snow White (Grimm, 1812) also tells us, along with beauty, society values hard work, kindness and social ranking, fitting well with point six of Liberal Humanism that “the purpose of literature is essentially the enhancement of life and the propagation of humane values” (‘Beginning Theory’, 1995, p.17).

In conclusion, any form of Literary Theory can be applied to any text satisfactorily. It is important to take a step back from theory and to enjoy the experience that text is depicting and to remember language and literature in a Liberal humanist manner- as something abolishing the distance between words and things, as something that expresses our humanity and experiences in a way which will remain timeless and relevant.

Reference:

Barry, P 2002, Beginning Theory: An introduction to Literary and cultural theory, 2nd ed. New York: Manchester University Press.

Graf,  D 2008, Reading Female Bodies in Little Snow White: Independence and autonomy versus subjugation and invisibility, 1st ed. Oshkosh: University of Wisconsin .

Grimm, G, Grimm W 2011, Brothers Grimm: Little Snow White, 2nd ed. United States: Books LLC.

Zipes, J 2012, The Irresistible Fairy Tale: The cultural and social history of a genre, 1st ed. United States: Princeton University Press.

Zipes, J 2002, Breaking the Magic Spell, 2nd ed. Kentucky : University Press of Kentucky.