Category Archives: Blog

The hyperreality of tourism

Disneyland_plaque

Plaque at the entrance of Disneyland

Tourism, in its essence, is the process of attempting to reconcile fantasy with ‘reality’. One becomes a tourist through presupposing what a certain location might be like to see or experience, and then visiting there in the hope that this fantasy is accurate. As with all fantasy, however, a place in actuality will never compare to a place as imagined through convoluted, mythologised sources – be they films set in that location, poetry proclaiming its beauty, even (or especially, perhaps) the brochures designed purely to get you to go there in the first place. In Platonic terms, as a crude representation of an object (or in this case, a location) a fantasy can never approach the reality of a place because it is so far removed from the source. To adapt an idea from The Republic:

‘we must inquire whether the poets, whom these people have encountered, are mere imitators, who have so far imposed upon the spectators, that, when they behold their performances, they fail to perceive that these productions are twice removed from reality, and easily made by a person unacquainted with the truth, because they are phantoms, and not realities.’[1]

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Form in postmodern English literature

There seems in the literature of the post-War period a certain preoccupation with the limitations that literary forms have to a pertinent expression of the issues that artists concern themselves with, particularly in the wake of the turbulence and fragmentation of ideals that have arisen in the period from the Second World War to the Present Day. This essay will focus on the way in which dramatists– specifically through the works of Samuel Beckett and Sarah Kane – manipulate traditional forms and conventions in order to best convey the issues that they wish to address in their work.

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Hope and despair in modern European literature

We can see in the work of Franz Kafka and Albert Camus a certain preoccupation with issues surrounding death, mortality and the apparent meaninglessness of life. In Kafka’s The Trial and Camus’ The Outsider in particular, there is evident an exploration of the nature and meaning of life, the inevitability of death, and the futility of attempting to deny or change this harsh fact. However, the key difference in both authors’ treatment of such ideas lies in the way in which certain methods of dealing with these issues are presented. Whereas Kafka shows the insanity of refusing to accept the certainty of death and ultimate meaninglessness of life in The Trial, Camus shows us a positive and enlightening way to be at peace with this notion in The Outsider. The Outsider’s Mersault is freed by the insignificance of his life, and thus finds hope in this knowledge; The Trial’s Josef K., on the other hand, finds nothing but overwhelming despair at being at the mercy of his own existence. It would appear that both characters find themselves in very similar situations, yet choose to deal with their issues in wholly different ways. From this it would appear that Kafka and Camus are both attempting to convey the same message about death – primarily that it is beyond one’s control and therefore illogical to attempt to change – yet they choose to present opposite methods of dealing with this situation in order to present the importance of this message. Both concern themselves with the inevitability of death, and promote the acceptance of one’s own mortality.

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Originality and modernity in the work of Philip Larkin

Throughout the poetry of Philip Larkin there seems evident a certain paradox in regards to the concepts of originality and modernity in his work. For upon first reading, particularly the 1964 collection The Whitsun Weddings and 1974’s High Windows, Larkin’s innovation appears to be in its distinct unoriginality, with its reliance on traditional and comprehendible forms and structures, for example. However, a closer reading leads us to the idea that it is perhaps this use of simple, digestible formal devices that enables Larkin to become both original and modern, in that it allows him to discuss issues that concern him and the society in which he lives in a way never before seen in poetry. This essay will examine the deceptive and contradictive way in which Larkin is able to achieve a degree of originality in his work, paying particular attention to the aforementioned The Whitsun Weddings and High Windows.

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The influence of jazz on the literary style and technique of Jack Kerouac

From what we know of Jack Kerouac’s life, in addition to evidence within his poetry and prose, there is on display a deep love, knowledge and understanding of jazz. It is perhaps because of Kerouac’s affinity with jazz, both in a cultural and a musical sense, that it is often seen as somewhat intrinsic to his own literary style, especially in some of his more experimental work. Due to this acknowledged intrinsic relationship between Kerouac’s work and jazz it is often difficult to separate one from the other, and as such it becomes particularly problematic to gauge just how important this perceived jazz influence actually is, and in what ways it manifests itself within Kerouac’s work. There is often a tendency, for example, to overemphasise or misread the direct influence that jazz may have in his work. With this in mind then, this dissertation will attempt to identify the specific ways in which Kerouac’s work is influenced by jazz, and also to examine just how important this influence is, and whether or not this focus on jazz overshadows a number of other key influences on Kerouac’s literary style and thematic explorations. The influence of jazz in Kerouac’s work is primarily apparent, as Larry Kart suggests in Jazz in Search of Itself, ‘as subject matter, as the trappings of his personal myth, and as a guide to prose technique’[1], and it is these key areas that I aim to explore.

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The sublime and Giacomo Balla’s Abstract Speed – The Car Has Passed (1913)

Giacomo Balla (1871-1978) was an Italian artist and a key figure in the development of Futurism, an early 20th century art movement which centred around a rejection of the past and an embracement of what the Futurists saw as issues representative of the age in which they live, namely advances in technology, industry and science, and also the recognition of the importance of progress breaking free from the anchor of tradition. As Umberto Boccioni, another key figure in the foundation and development of the futurist movement, states in his ‘Futurist Painting: Technical Manifesto’ (a manifesto of which Giacomo Balla was a signatory), ‘all subjects must be swept aside in order to express our whirling life of steel, of pride, of fever and of speed.’[1] It was necessary then for a new style of art to develop in which these ideas and issues could be adequately addressed. It is, however, the ultimate and inevitable failure to satisfyingly address these ideas that leads the work of artists such as Balla to enter the realm of the sublime.

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Four instances of the sublime in music

Possibly more than any other form of art, it is music that lends itself most often and most effectively to feelings of the sublime. This is perhaps because music, unlike visual art, and certainly unlike literature, is abstract in its very essence. If we accept the definition of ‘abstract’ as that which is ‘characterised by a lack of or freedom from representational qualities’[1] we can deduce that, despite one’s best efforts, it is potentially futile to ascribe a pure and absolute meaning to a piece of music, as no degree of description or representation can be attributed to the music without remaining external to the very music itself: no description can transcend the effect and essence of the music itself. As Nietzsche suggests in The Birth of Tragedy, ‘By no means is it possible for language adequately to render the cosmic symbolism of music,’[2] as it ‘symbolises a sphere which is above all appearance and before all phenomena…Language, as the organ and symbol of phenomena, cannot at all disclose the innermost essence of music.’[3] Therefore, language is an impotent tool in providing a full understanding of music, and so the meaning of a musical work must lie within the musical work itself, separate and free from a fully linguistic and logical comprehension.

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