Notice: Announcements will now be made at the start of class, arrive on time.
When taking class notes, take note of concepts discussed, key ideas, vocabulary, specifics and the spirit of the discussion. Additionally, the class notes are formed through crowd sourcing, anyone can contribute to the class notes through the comments.
Reminder: Check the class schedule. It will be updated regularly, plan ahead accordingly.
Notice: Class discussions are a part of the Blogging requirements. Again, the Blogging makes up 20% of your grade. Participate in all discussions going forward.
Notice: If you don’t have access to Netflix, Metropolis is available for streaming on Kanopy.
Notice: When using quotations, make sure to properly cite the texts through MLA format.
How to handle a textual analysis
Take baby steps first. Start with a Micro Level analysis. How would a detective do it?
Use the text itself to find evidence; don’t start with an outside source. Ask critical questions, don’t jump to conclusions. Don’t be a detective that jumps the gun.
Look for clues that repeat themselves. Such as recurring motifs, words, terms or even senses. Does the Author use the same word repeatedly? Most likely on purpose! Ask why? e.g., Forster uses the word “irritated” to describe Vashti’s emotional response. What does this tell us about her?
Additionally, use the evidence to either simplify or complicate your view of the text.
Once you’ve collected evidence, interpret it. The questions you ask are important. Again, a critical question should arise from your interpretation of the evidence, not a definitive answer. A text will likely not have a finite number of interpretations; there are multiple ways of thinking about a text.
Afterwards, you should start a pre-draft. Brainstorm and critically think about the textual analysis. Form a synthesis, one coherent theory from several ideas. Get a sense of all the elements of the text. After you’ve done this, you can form a thesis. It is the product of a lot of detective legwork.
The terms of Utopia and Dystopia are both genres of their own and are closely tied to Science Fiction literature. The etymology of the word comes from Sir Thomas More’s book Utopia in 1516. It was intended as pun, a pejorative and quixotic term. The word “Utopia” is made of the Greek word “ou/eu” meaning “no” and “well” respectively, and topos meaning “place.” Hence a good place that is no place.
As a reader, a Utopia usually means the society presented is better than contemporary society. A Dystopia is usually presented as a critique of contemporary society.
Side note- The three classic Dystopias are Huxley’s Brave New World, Orwell’s 1984, and Zamyatin’s We.
The Machine Stops Textual Analysis
“I dislike seeing the horrible brown earth, and the sea, and the stars when it is dark.” (2)
The story takes place in a post-apocalyptic setting. We should ask what happened. Why can the Earth not sustain life anymore? Why does Vashti say this, how does she feel?
“Vashti watched his face in the blue plate.
“But I can see you!” she exclaimed.
“What more do you want?” “I want to see you no through the Machine,” said Kuno. “I want to speak to you not through the wearisome Machine.” (2)
Are their parallels to today’s contemporary society? We should ask what is lost when speaking through a mediator. What are the benefits or drawbacks, it is not necessarily black and white.
Why is “Machine” capitalized? Why does Kuno use the word wearisome to describe the Machine? What can we infer from the context? How does Vashti react and how is this telling of her character.
“You talk as if a god had made the Machine,” cried the other.
“I believe that you pray to it when you are unhappy. Men made it, do not forget that. Great men, but men. The Machine is much, but it is not everything. I see something like you in this plate, but I do not see you. I hear something like you through this telephone, but I do not hear you. That is why I want you to come. Pay me a visit, so that we can meet face to face, and talk about the hopes that are in my mind.” (2)
This paragraph sets up the external conflict in the story, man v. machine. There are interesting dichotomies in the paragraph. We should ask if men built the Machine, why does it subjugate them.
“In the air-ship—–” He broke off, and she fancied that he looked sad. She could not be sure, for the Machine did not transmit nuances of expression. It only gave a general idea of people – an idea that was good enough for all practical purposes, Vashti thought. The imponderable bloom, declared by a discredited philosophy to be the actual essence of intercourse, was rightly ignored by the Machine, just as the imponderable bloom of the grape was ignored by the manufacturers of artificial fruit. Something “good enough” had long since been accepted by our race. (3)
A recurring theme is introduced here, a theme present in many Science Fiction works. What is “authentic?” How does the genuine, real thing compare to the substitute or fake. How do the ersatz substitutions hold up against the real thing? Note the word “imitation” in parenthesis later on page 3 as well. Everything is artificial, why is this?
“By her side, on the little reading-desk, was a survival from the ages of litter-one book. This was the Book of the Machine. In it were instructions against every possible contingency. If she was hot or cold or dyspeptic or at a loss for a word, she went to the book, and it told her which button to press. The Central Committee published it. In accordance with a growing habit, it was richly bound.” (4)
How is the Central Committee introduced? They are an authority within the machine. Why is the book richly bound, let alone a physical object? If every single contingency is enumerated within the book, is their room for originality or independent action? Later on page 4, the word “reverently” is used in context of the Book. Vashti chants an apostrophe and the word “Acquiescence” is used on page 5, what can we infer from these words. Why is the book being deified?
On page 7, Foster writes “”O Machine!” she murmured, and caressed her Book, and was comforted.” Why does it comfort her?
“Above her, beneath her, and around her, the Machine hummed eternally; she did not notice the noise, for she had been born with it in her ears. The earth, carrying her, hummed as it sped through silence, turning her now to the invisible sun, now to the invisible stars. She awoke and made the room light.” (5)
The hum is practically inborn. This raises a question recurring in many Science Fiction works, what is a cyborg? Short for cybernetic organism, the term represents an organism, usually human, that has been biologically enhanced by technology. It is not the same as a robot. Arguably cyborgs exist presently, such as a person with prosthesis. Furthermore, the argument can be made that we can all be classified as cyborgs with the commonplace use of vitamins and medicine.
“But she thought of Kuno as a baby, his birth, his removal to the public nurseries, her own visit to him there, his visits to her-visits which stopped when the Machine had assigned him a room on the other side of the earth. “Parents, duties of,” said the book of the Machine,” cease at the moment of birth. P.422327483.” (6)
What questions arise and what can we infer from these lines.
Vocabulary (definitions taken verbatim from Google)
Acquiesce (verb): accept something reluctantly but without protest.
Apocalypse (noun): an event involving destruction or damage on an awesome or catastrophic scale.
Apostrophe (noun): an exclamatory passage in a speech or poem addressed to a person (typically one who is dead or absent) or thing (typically one that is personified).
Contemporary (adj.) belong to or occurring in the present.
Dichotomy (noun): a division or contrast between two things that are or are represented as being opposed or entirely different.
Dystopia (noun): an imagined place or state of things in which everything is undesirable or frightening
Ersatz (adj.): (of a product) made or used as a substitute, typically an inferior one, for something else
Etymology (noun): the study of the origin of words and the way in which their meanings have changed throughout history.
Imponderable (adj.) difficult or impossible to estimate, assess, or answer.
Juxtaposition (noun): of two things being seen or placed close together with contrasting effect.
Motif (noun): a distinctive feature or dominant idea in an artistic or literary composition.
Pejorative (adj.): expressing contempt or disapproval
Quixotic (adj.): exceedingly idealistic, unrealistic and impractical.
Reverence (verb): regard or treat with deep respect.
Synthesis (noun): the combination of ideas to form a theory or system.
Utopia (noun): an imagined place or state of things in which everything is perfect. The word was first used in the book Utopia (1516) by Sir Thomas More.