Capstone-Alone in the Dark: Isolation in the Horror Genre

Hi all! I was encouraged by Dr. Johnson to share the website of my Capstone with everyone! I look at the role of isolation in the horror genre by analyzing the books Frankenstein and Dracula, and the movies Alien, Scream, and HushClick here!Screen Shot 2019-05-10 at 2.41.03 AM.png


Special Event: Anthony Green, “Today’s Music Through Activism”

On November 20th I attended Anthony Green’s event where he demonstrated his take on the relation between contemporary music and political activism. I knew hardly anything about the event before attending, so I went into with with no expectations. The event was performance-oriented, as well as sound-oriented, as Green used a culmination of his voice, a piano, his body, percussion, balloons, a marker, fixed media audios, and the audience’s voices to create a soundscape which he then presented to viewers through both fluid and jagged movements of his body. Green sang, screamed, hummed, yelled, and made a variety of other sounds that I lack the vocabulary to properly explain. He combined these sounds with movements of his body, sometimes jumping or strumming his hands all over himself to create a beat, other times using his hands and arms to accentuate the feelings he was conveying through the sounds he made. This event was Green’s way of combining, what I would call, non-traditional and experimentational music with activism with the intention of making his audience aware of the Black experience in the United States.

While Green’s performance fits into nearly everything that’s we’ve learned this semester, I personally feel that it coincides with Josh Kun’s Audiotopia the best. For me, Green created a space, maybe not a world but most definitely a space, in which the non-traditional and unfamiliar sounds that he was making steadily started to become more familiar. The show opened with his quoting a line where a judge condemned a Black man to be lynched, or “hung like a goose”. Green then performed, what I interpreted to be, the events of that lynching through an unconventional vocal performance. The sounds Green created communicated an inability to breathe as well as a sense of terror and discomfort. He did this partly by vocalizing sounds while attempting to breath in through his mouth, and by grabbing at his throat, or thumping himself on his chest/back, and making choking sounds. There were also times where he would disrupt this aural illusion of struggling to breath by mimicking the sounds of people, occasionally a woman based on the high tone of the sounds, screaming in agony, anguish, or rage, at the events that were transpiring.

Green added to his audio space by performing a dance/stomp routine which communicated a sense of togetherness and camaraderie, despite him performing the number on his own. Green also encouraged the audience to sing with him, or hum with him, while he wrote the names of Black people who had died because of the color of their skin or because of their activism on balloons before setting them free to roam and move on stage. The audience, lead by Green, hummed church hymns that were typically sung in the Black community at funerals while he slowly went along and popped each balloon- mimicking the sound of a gunshot and how these people died. Overall, Green transformed the warm, dark, confined space in Emery into a audio space within which he communicated the fear, anger, and resistance that can be seen and felt in the Black community through his unfamiliar and inspirational utilization of non-traditional sounds and body movement.

Juliana Burch is a senior English major at UMF. This post was originally written for the UMF Literary Theory 2018 blog, which is used by students in ENG 455 Literary Theory to write about course reading material and sometimes to apply the ideas from course readings to events on campus. The Anthony Green performance was scheduled as part of the events organized by the New Commons Project at UMF.

One Woman, Eight Pairs of Hiking Boots, and Six Countries

sarah-marquis-wild-by-nature-700x400            Named the 2014 National Geographic’s Adventurers of the Year, Sarah Marquis, author of Wild by Nature, is a Swiss adventurer and explorer. Born in 1972 in Northern Switzerland, Marquis always had a desire to explore the farthest corners of our world, and began fueling this desire to explore when she got a job working on a train at the age of 16. She then went on to canoe through Algonquin Provincial Park in Canada, hike the United States Pacific Crest Trail and hike across the US from border-to-border in four months. In 2002-03 she covered 8,700 miles across Australia, then in 2006 she hiked the Andes of South America followed by hiking part of the Andes from Chile to Machu Picchu. Needless to say, Marquis has a vast amount of experience with exploring and a deep familiarity with nature. But in 2010 she pushed herself to extreme in a 10,000 mile solo hike that stretched across 6 countries, beginning in Siberia and ending at “her” tree located on the Nullarbor Plain of Australia. This remarkable adventure is shared through an enticingly personal account in her book, Wild by Nature.

Marquis recounts her 3-year solo journey across the Gobi Desert from Siberia to Thailand in a stunningly simplistic way. Her humor, wit and close affiliation with nature fill every page and enable readers to experience the journey with her through a unique perspective. Rather than detailing the events of every day of her expedition, Marquis instead decides to focus on the colorful array of people and cultures that she encountered during her trek. By doing so she exposes readers first hand to the alienation, harassment and camaraderie that she herself endured. She is exposed to cultures were they express the least amount of emotion possible, cultures where she is viewed as a prostitute due to not being seen with a man. Marquis also experiences the frustration and fear of not being able to effectively communicate with those she encounters. But from these encounters she learns and grows, carrying these newly learned skills with her as she continues her adventure. Marquis shares her experiences from the perspective of a true outdoorswoman and of a vegetarian. This perspective plays a large role in her book as she spends a vast majority of her pages explaining her decision to be a vegetarian, describing the beauty of the flora and fauna that she encounters, and sharing her opinions on mankind’s connection to the natural world.

As a young woman who dreams of exploring the world, Sarah’s story has inspired me while also having temporarily sated my own desire for adventure. She faced the Mafia, drug dealers, dengue fever, a life-threatening abscess, and men on horseback who harassed her through out the days and nights of her journey. Her expedition does a phenomenal job showcasing the dangerous circumstances that a loan female explorer must sometimes endure as they traverse the world. She also show cases her own determination to complete this expedition solo as any time that she must be evacuated, due to military or medical emergencies, she resumes her expedition either at the place where she had been removed from or charts a new path to reach her next destination. Sarah’s respect for those she encounters and blatant appreciation of the small things makes her a phenomenal narrator of her adventure. Her book is divided, not so much but chapters, but by small headings where, with only a few words, she gives you an intriguing and occasionally vague idea of what she’ll be encountering next. At the end of each chapter she includes a simplistic map that gives readers, regardless of their familiarity with maps, a general and to the point idea of where she is as well as where she is going and how she got there. Her unique way of describing the animals she encountered often left me needing to reread the description as I thought I might have missed her identification of the animal. But she always shares the creature’s name, both the common name and the scientific one, after having introduced the creature to her reader in a nearly unfamiliar way.

If you are looking for a story of adventure with explicit details that will leave you with an accelerated heartbeat and a desire to buy a plane ticket, then this is not the book for you. As I stated earlier, Marquis does not detail every event of her entire adventure. In fact, I almost wish that she had talked a little bit more about her adventure. What she does instead is reflect on her life and her relation with nature while also introducing readers to the variety of cultures and individuals that she encountered throughout the ups and downs of her exploration. In terms of adventure novels, even those based on real expeditions, Marquis’ is unfamiliar due to her style and execution. This book provides you with a realistic woman who faces 6 different countries, all with many different variations of culture and language, with an endless supply of tea and an tireless love of what she’s doing. This book left me contemplating my life and my own desires to travel. It has also left me with the need to read more books like this one; that recount the amazing journey of one person across different parts of the world. For Marquis this adventure is not only about reaching her tree in Australia; it’s about the persistence, passion, human-ingenuity, and determination necessary to accomplish such an adventure.

Wild by Nature

Sarah Marquis

259 pages. Published by Thomas Dunne Books. Hardcover $26.99

The Bald Soprano: Play vs. Script

To say that the play [t]he Bald Soprano was strange would be a understatement, as it was the most bizarre and outlandish script I’ve yet to read. There seemed to be no moral or point to the story, there was no clear perception of time and the characters quickly seemed to lose what little sanity they had had. Needless to say, reading the script was a unique experience. Attending a live action performance of the script, however, was a different experience entirely on it’s own.

UMF’s interpretation and representation of [t]he Bald Soprano was interesting as they portrayed the play to be much more comical then I had originally perceived it to be. I enjoyed their representation of Mr. Martin, Mrs. Smith and Mary the most. When I had first read the play I had envisioned Mr. Martin as being a very plain and boring man, at least as plain and boring as a character in this story could be. Instead he was represented as, in my opinion, a somewhat nervous character whose blatant discomfort added humor to the ‘plot’. The scene I most enjoyed with Mr. Martin was the monotone interaction between him and Mrs. Martin. Not only was this entire reaction extremely hilarious, it was also much more animated then I had originally interpreted. While reading this scene I had pictured the two characters sitting side by side while they conversed. The fact that the characters were given the chance to navigate the stage and mirror one another’s actions made the entire scene all the more comical. While the portrayal of Mr. Martin was intriguing, I enjoyed Mrs. Smith and Mary much more.

In the written play I interpreted Mrs. Smith as a snobby woman who seemed to enjoy hearing herself speak, even if she really had nothing significant to say. The actress’s portrayal of Mrs. Smith was phenomenal as they made her into a dramatist who expressed herself through grandiose gestures and exuberant behavior. The actress projected her lines in a clear and confident, or perhaps obnoxious, tone while also over-exaggerating almost every action that she conducted. These attitudes made the character appear more in-depth, but only when compared to her alter ego in the script. All of these actions combined together transformed a character, whom I had originally perceived as snobbish and dull, into a comical and slightly more layered individual. Her interactions with the other characters, as well as her reactions, added a level of humor that the play deeply needed. However, the character that I enjoyed the most in the play was Mary.

Mary had a pretty insignificant role in the script, (but what significance did any of the characters have?), as her main job was to inform the audience of the identity crisis that Mr. and Mrs. Martin were unaware of. But, between the actress’s animated and, what I would call, personal portrayal, as well as her hilarious exchange with the Fire Chief, have combined to create another character that came to life on the stage. The actress gave her a sassy yet comical attitude that I had initially not imagined the character as having. Her passionate and exaggerated interaction with the Fire Chief was, without a doubt, the highlight of the play in my opinion- though I also really enjoyed her “Sherlock Holmes” moment. Overall, the actress’s posture, tone, and facial expressions are what ultimately turned this character into a comical and perhaps slightly more complex character.

Being able to visually see the script being acted out made my comprehension of the script much more clear, which in turn enable me to enjoy the production. Between the added comedy, the set design, the lighting, and the actors I was able to connect this play to a number of theories that we have been covering in class. While I would also like to see the play without the added comedy aspect, just to compare my experiences and interpretations, I very much enjoyed this production. My advice to any viewers who wish to see this play is simple; read the script beforehand. The pre-exposure to the bizarre and unfamiliar nature of this production will help you to, hopefully, have a better understanding, or at the very least, a better appreciation of the show.

Psychoanalytical Theory in The Phantom of the Opera

The psychoanalytical theory, as described by Sigmund Freud, is the theory of how a individual’s personality is formed based on three fundamental structures of the mind: the id, superego and ego. The id is the body’s needs, wants, desires, or impulses, all of which are usually sexual or aggressive in nature. The superego is the individual’s morals; it’s the part that strives to act in a socially acceptable way by being conscious of “authority” and “law” (Parker,119). The ego is the common ground between these two and is, essentially, the individual’s conscious; their “Jiminy Cricket” so to say. When we apply these concepts to a piece of literary work then our interpretation of the text becomes based on the theories of Freud. We will apply the concepts listed above to the 2004 movie adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera, and will also be referencing Robert Dale Parker’s third edition of How to Interpret Literature.

We will be focusing on the hidden meaning behind the conflict between Raoul and Erik, the Phantom. Throughout the play Erik masquerades as the “Angel of Music”, someone that Christine’s dying father promised would take care of her, and uses this persona to trick Christine into trusting and idolizing him. Raoul, a childhood friend of Christine’s, also appears which then sparks a fight between the two men as both fight for Christine’s affections. The conflict between Raoul and Erik, and Christine’s attraction to both of them, can be perceived as an example of Freud’s belief that ‘all daughters want to sleep with their fathers’, and vice versa. This is referred to as the manifest content and the latent content, or the signifier and the signified.

The manifest content, or how the content is perceived on the surface, is that both Erik and Raoul are competing with one another for Christine’s affection. But the latent content, or the hidden meaning behind this message- at least as perceived by Freud-, is that Erik represents the father figure who wishes to sleep with his daughter, Christine, and kill the competitor, Raoul. This desire to sleep with one’s child or parent of the opposite sex is a deep and primal desire that Freud believed stemmed from the id part of the mind; this is also the psychoanalytical theory that I believe we see in [t]he Phantom of the Opera. I say this because not only is there a very apparent age difference between Erik and Christine, one being in their thirties while the other is in their late teens, Erik also plays the role of a paternal figure throughout most of Christine’s life. Erik has been teaching and mentoring Christine ever since she came to the opera house, and is furious that Raoul has shown interest in her.

Erik then goes on to pretend to be Christine’s father, hiding inside her father’s sepulcher while singing “too long you’ve wandered in winter, far from my fathering gaze”, in hopes of tricking her into going with him. Between the vast age difference between Erik and Christine, Erik’s deception of Christine, and resentment towards Raoul, is what leads one to believe that Erik represents the father who wishes to have sex with his daughter. One could also argue that, despite the vast age difference between Christine and Erik, the Phantom’s unbridled obsession with her is because his own mother, who had “fear[ed]” and “loath[ed]” him due to the deformity of his face, had abandoned him at a very young age. Freud would view this obsession as “the return of the repressed”, something similar to neurosis (Parker, 119). Neurosis is defined as “a mild mental illness” caused by “symptoms of stress (depression, anxiety, obsessive behavior, hypochondria) [rather than by an] organic disease” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). Freud believes that adult neurosis derives from the child having suffered early childhood traumas, which interfered and stalled the child’s psychic development. This stage of development could then resurface at a later point in the child’s life, as they were never able to truly outgrow that stage (Parker, 119).

Erik’s obsession with Christine may be because he was unable to completely grow out the Oedipal stage of development, according to Freud. Needless to say there are several literary theories and psychoanalytical theories that one could apply to [t]he Phantom of the Opera.

Trailer for 2004 The Phantom of the Opera

The Phantom of the Opera. Dir. Joel Schumacher. By Andrew Lloyd Webber. Perf. Gerard Butler, Emmy Rossum, and Patrick Wilson. Warner Brothers, 2004. DVD.

Parker, Robert Dale. How to Interpret Literature: Critical Theory for Literary and Cultural Studies. Third ed. New York: Oxford U Press, 2011. Print. Chapter 5.

Toys and Gender Roles

        In Roland Barthes’ Mythologies he addresses the topic of toys in French societies, and how they are “reduced copies of human objects” to form a “microcosm of the adult world”(53). In other words what Barthes is saying is that toys are modeled after real world jobs so as to train and prepare the child for a career once they enter the workforce. This is a trend that is also seen in America. In America the toys are often gender specific so as to condition the child for the jobs typically associated with their gender. In other words we often see cooking sets or baby dolls being advertised for girls, so as to“ ‘condition’ her [for] her future role as [a] mother” or as a homemaker; both of which are stereotypical positions often held by women (53). With boys we often see science labs or toy guns being advertised for them, which will prepare the boy for a career in math or science or as an officer of the law or soldier. These are also career fields that have been primarily dominated by men for generations.

        While gender marketing seems to be becoming less prominent, especially as more gender diverse toys flood the market, there are still some toys that are advertised as gender specific. Compare and contrast these two lego commercials, both advertising a toy set. This first video is advertising for a lego café set, though it mentions two more sets, and is clearly targeting girls. The second commercial is advertising a lego fire station and is targeting boys.

“Café” LEGO Friends

“Fire Station” LEGO City

        The first commercial is filled with bright colors-like greens, pinks and purples- and has a backdrop of a beautiful sunny day. These colors are often affiliated with products targeting a female audience as bright colors are interpreted as being feminine. The person advertising and narrating the commercial is also clearly a woman, who is speaking in a clear voice with positive tone. The second commercial has a dark backdrop, the scene being set during night instead of during the day like in the café commercial. These dark colors- blues, reds, and blacks- are often associated with masculinity, as darker colors are perceived as dangerous, mysterious, and, in some cases, erotic. A man who is speaking with a “scratchy” sounding voice and what appears to be some form of an accent is also narrating this commercial. The bright feminine colors evoke feelings of positivity and happiness; especially when combined with the upbeat narration done by a woman. The dark masculine colors, combined with the excited and scratchy voice of the male narrator, evoke feelings of danger or thrill, and power.

        Next, all the lego figurines that are advertised in the café commercial appear to be girls, as they possess the stereotypical feminine features: such as large eyes, colorful attire, and long stylish hair. In the fire station commercial all of the advertised figurines- at least the firefighters- are perceived as being men due to their lack of hair, face stubble, and dark clothing.

        These commercials are communicating to viewers that baking, socializing at a friend’s house, and being a vet are all jobs for women. We can hypothesize that the reasoning behind this is due to women often having the role of being a homemaker who cares for the family members. Being a firefighter, however, is a job for men as the job calls for bravery and strength as well as protecting and saving people, all of which is affiliated with masculinity.