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Gabriel Garcia Marquezs `A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings`

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                                                     ANSWERS TO QUERIES 1 TO 5

    Question 1.In our lecture, we considered some characters in Gabriel Garcia Marquezs `A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings` as `readers` in a metaphoric sense. .They may include the couple who discovered the old man, Father Gonzaga  the woman who knows life and death ,and some people traveling from afar to see the old man. Cite one example to illustrate the relation between approaches to reading and the readers background.(200 words)

    We had regarded as metaphoric ‘ readers’ some characters in Marquez’s  “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” because they reflected or defined  their respective characters, perceptions,  and background,  when they interacted with  or, ‘read’  the old winged man.  Like us literal  readers we “read”  through who he was.

    The couple Pelayo and Elisenda saw the old man as a foreign sailor on the mere supposition he was from a ship, but together the stupid couple ignored  the old man’s wings. The couple’s reaction defined  their backgrounds  and  character.  Fr Gonzaga mirrored his dogmatist character and ‘readership’ when he rejected the angelhood of the man on the sheer basis that he spoke no Latin.

    A kind reader would have taken care of a wreck victim, but all these people were making unbelievable conclusions. The woman who saw the old man as a harbinger of death, was a ‘reader’ who saw the old man as a devil incarnate, out to take the life of a baby.  And so were all those who came to see the old winged man in a cage  ‘readers’, too, well who saw their object of derision as a circus curiosity.

    These ‘readers’ have one thing in common—they had maximum stupidities and minimum of compassion, but as author Garcia Marquez derided them as a metaphor of the stupidity and undiscerning cruelty of mankind, they were also being defined as stupid ‘readers’ who failed to ‘ read ‘the miracles of the wings, the miracle of his patience, as well as all other miracles—well, the very presence of a kind, quiet old winged man.

    In applying the various approaches to reading, a formalist approach would possibly see through the minute linguistic indicators of the various characters, analyzing their language and the  authenticity of their diction.  The meanings of what they said would be subjected to formalist inter-relationships to define the precise contextual meaning.

    A historic approach would try to dissect the social backgrounds of the priest, and delineate the precision of his language and opinions, on the basis of other similarly situated priests, in terms of historical existence and details.  In contrast, a formalist critical approach to the story would elevate the interrelationships of the texts or discourse of the various characters, interpreting them into parts of an organic whole, de-emphasizing the external facts of what period this fiction could authentically be placed or situated.

    As actual “true” reader in contrast with the metaphoric one, I would prefer a combination of approaches.  A reader-responsive critical theory would work best for me, because the meaning of the story is a dialectically or inter-actively arrived at:  the final meaning is  what the author and myself has made of it.  Inter-active  because, my interpretation of the work arose from my own personal experiences (for example, my own conception of an angel), other than what the author himself has originally intended.    The approaches to reading would then serve as a set of tools that can make us understand this great work in many levels and from many perspectives.

    Question 2.Roland Barthes thinks that connotation can be understood on many theoretical levels. One of which is what he calls `ideological and ethical connotation` where the connotated message `introduces reasons and values into the reading of the image`(The photographic message`208).Cite a photograph either from our selections in class or of your own ,discuss this kind of connotation in photographic images. Name the photograph clearly if you are using those that we have discussed. If you choose one of your own, scan or attach the photograph for our reference.(200 words)

    After an acquaintance with Roland Barthes I can never look at photographs the same way anymore.  He has really enriched my otherwise simplistic perception of a photograph, and made me understand the many dimensions of  a photo, particularly those that had been set with pre-conceived purposes, ethical or ideological.  Connotative meanings, as they are used in literature, applies its semantic meaning in photography, as used by Barthes.

    Connotative meanings refer to culturally-determined  meanings in photographs, For example, the picture of a mother and a child carries connotations of varying stages—initially, as a photo of a biological relationship.   On a second plane, it partakes of a connotation of motherly affection for a child.  At the level of ethical or religious—the photo of  Mary cradling the infant Jesus elevates the biological relationship to a religious icon, that evokes a wide range of  religious and ethical values to some religious organizations.

     A similar photo of Christ and Mary is absolutely disrespectful for Muslims, who also venerate Mary and Jesus Christ, but whose religious beliefs allow no representations of  divine personages with images and photos.   The photo of a dog or an intelligent pet or comic swine, could be considered endearing for Westerners, but it partakes of repulsive connotations in Islamic countries.

    These connotative meanings are determined by many cultural influences that include religious, ethical, and other values.  Similarly a mere innocent photo of a pig which in a denotative description, is a copy of an image of an animal, partakes of connotative meaning if the same is used in a card and sent to a habitual sloth.  I am attaching two photographs taken from the Internet to illustrate my point.

    A photo below of Muslims praying in theTaj Majal would have evoked a pious reaction from a Muslim.  However, the reaction of a western-educated  blogger to such photograph   should show that this connotative significance is not universally shared by someone coming from another culture.  (Refer to the two following insertions please)

    2007 | Author: Unum | Category: Film/TV, Foreign, Local, Religion

    Every time I see Muslims praying with their heads to the dirt and their butts in the air, I can’t help but think of this symbolic posture as that of complete submission. Think about it — in that particular position, one is completely vulnerable and exposed. Do you think religion, in and of itself, devises these symbols of submission randomly? I think not. Religion once again raises its ugly head above the pious pretentiousness of required reverance and dutiful submission and wields it power over its believers. It has turned ordinary people into supplicating robots who cannot possibly think for themselves.

    My comments here may seem to be irreverent and disrepectful but if uttered by another Muslim, it could get them killed. What is this power? And why are millions of moderate Muslims not speaking out about the human rights abuses and radical Islalmist agenda of jihad and martyrdom? It is said that only a very small fraction of Muslims are radical. If this is so, why are they not doing something about this shameful tyranny of their very own religion?

    I have been curious about this for some time so when I caught Irshad Manji on the TV the other day on a panel of speakers concerning global terror, I was mesmerized. She is the author of a brave book about Islam’s failure in allowing fellow Muslims to think for themselves. The book is called The Trouble with Islam Today: A Muslim’s Call for Reform in Her Faith. And true to religious tyranny, since writing the book she has received so many death threats that she had to install bullet proof windows in her home. She has become the “star attraction on the jihadist death-lists”.

    But the irony of her intention is that she doesn’t condemn the Quran or Islam. Instead, all she is looking for is reform. She is looking for the same reform that Christianity went through in the sixteenth century. This is what the Pope was talking about when he quoted so-called “blasphemy” regarding Islam by calling them an “immature” religion. It is an immature religion and they are way past the time for reformation. So, the Pope was right on target and I admire him for not apologizing for his comment since it was true.

    Question 3.Explain what John Berger means by the duplicity of being a surveyor and the awareness of being surveyed.(200 words)

    When John Berger said men act women appear,  what is meant substantially is that  women act according to the impetus set by men.

    So that when  John Berger indicts oil painting as having done to women what money has done for social standing  ( meaning, the more money one has, the higher one’s  social standing)  he meant that oil painting which has had a long tradition of making women pose as models or as subjects or objects of their dominant attention, has  created a tradition or has further institutionalized, if not very accurately reflected the actuality of women as objects for the satisfaction of men.

     Berger goes further to assert that this social structure had become so ingrained that women now actually feel it their roles in society to be watched and to survey themselves in conformity with their implicit role as the possession or objects of male attention or ownership.

     What is the duplicity here:  The difference between a man and a woman is that men do not have to watch themselves, the direction of watching comes from him, and his  object is the woman.  She on the other hand does NOT equal this arrangement, instead of returning the watching, she instead watches herself  tiptoeing (so to speak)  to the tune of the dominant male expectations.  Her condition in this set up is a duplicity of being watched, and watching herself conform or to act accordingly, in contrast with the man who simply, acts.

    Question 4.Referring to “Ali: Fear Eats the Soul” discuss how the gaze can be a form of  control and power.(200 words)

    Emmy, an aging, widowed German national fell in love with  Ali, a young Moroccan immigrant.  All the time and all  their lives after they got entangled in this relationship ,  they had an awareness people were gazing at them.

    In Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, the author captures the essence of the power of the gaze that John Berger somehow depicted as the power of watching and being watched in terms of men-women power equation.  In this s literary work however, the power is vested on the vile attention of social forces on Emmy and Ali,  to which their  characters and eventual motivations would always revolve.

    Society despised Emmy with vile looks, but she herself looked down on her Slav associate, often giving her looks of prejudice and hatred. The power of the gaze was used by society whenever she is with Ali.  She acts accordingly as if the gazes coming from her co-workers, strangers, or whoever  were giving her the cue on how to act.  .

    Though we sympathize with her, we are somewhat balanced by the fact that she uses the same power against other characters.  When finally Emmy  aspired for another place where she and Ali would not be stared at, she was proclaiming the power of the gaze.

    Her ultimate desire  was to contain  the gaze that were thrown at her direction whenever she was with Ali.   Clearly, it’s absence would define her happiness.

    Gaze– in the same way that watching and being watched connotes power relationship –obviously confers power on the gazer.  And even in everyday life, a gaze or a stare is considered impolite.  The ethical standard that prevents us from giving any person a prolonged stare or a gaze is based on socially determined  standard of  avoiding any assumption of patronizing superiority — an unacceptable social perspective that places the offender  as a  visual aggressor.

    Question 5.In the first part of this semester ,we have introduced some crucial literary and cultural concepts that help us to see the relation between text and society .Choosing one of the concepts from the following list,present your personal critiques of them .By critiques ,I mean the following:
    1)Explain what they mean
    2)Tell us if they help you in reading literary and cultural texts and cite any useful examples if you find it necessary
    3)The problem with such notions if you think they are inadequate.
    Remember to use your own words and only quote when it is necessary.

    —The death of the author
    —Posing,identity and death
    —John Bergers statement:`Publicity is the process of manufacturing glamour`
    —ideology(based on Graeme Turner)
    (300 words)consisting of 2 or 3 parts for question 5

    When John Berger said publicity is the process of manufacturing glamour, he was in effect characterizing the present mass media as a tool for the advancement of one’s image or importance and reputation  in the perception of the general public.

    In  items 3  and 4 above we discussed the power relations  in terms of the watcher and the party being watched, and also between the gazer and the parties being gazed at.  Berger in the context of power relations discussed the role of power in the subject of oil paintings—the men watch women as subjects, and therefore the men show interest in possessing them.  The principle of the reduction of women to a possession that one can show off , Berger quite curiously, extended  as well to modern times in terms of publicity.

    Publicity under which advertising falls, has a message about the products being advertised.  In general, buy this and you will improve your life,   this is general thrust of advertisements.

    How the concept can help in understanding literary and cultural texts?:

    The similarity between an advertisement (of today) and an oil painting (of the past centuries) is that both extol the eventual ownership of either the product, or the woman who is the object of the oil painting.   Berger said publicity caters to helping men create the impression that they are what they have.  (In advertising, men can own the products being sold, in oil painting, the man gazer desires to possess the woman as object of his  conquest).

    This perspective may be useful in deducing meanings from otherwise deeply structured text.  Berger’s concepts give us a framework for eliciting meanings e where conventional literary devices and tools will not work.  For example formalist criticism cannot apply to the analysis of what the ultimate expressive content of advertising is.   Modern life is a  deluge of advertising, and we need  conceptual tools necessary to interpret  the significance of advertisements beyond what they sell or tell us.

    Berger seems to say that Publicity  allows society to take a peek of one’s social standing in terms of his ownership of advertised products. Publicity “manufactures” glamour because it allows more members of society to know the possessions of  certain people, which, in an assumed materialist society, classifies them higher  according to what they possess.

    A failure in  this framework is in the lack of justification it gave its very cynical attitude to an  otherwise ethical practice of publicity or advertising. Berger’s philosophical value system is an unrealistic yardstick for many advertisements or publicity programs that do not advocate or have no hidden motivation for the manufacture of glamour.  In the first place there was no proof at all that all publicity manufactures glamour.

    The wholesale  lumping of  all  publicity or advertising programs  as motivated by the materialist advancement of  capitalist reputation may not stand scrutiny, considering that many advertised goods in the market do not necessarily fall under the category of vanity possessions that one has to show off.

    In fact most cases of advertising cover basic necessities that have no practical reputation enhancive value. The generalization of advertisement as an endorser of vanity overlooks the importance of this discipline in modern societies which rely on it (advertising) as a source of truth in making intelligent purchasing decisions.


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