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York University
HUMA 1780
Carol Bigwood

Lecture1 What are stories?- Involves Reality, Imagination, and Memory/Author(s)/Various Purposes/Structures Why do we love stories?- Make sense of our experience/Entertainment: relax, escape :/Social: gathers people together; /Educates through imaginative identification with characters; role playing; abnormal situations and alternative realities/ Promotes self-understanding:/Create our identities (memory fades)psychological reassurance: orderly sequence; single thread;/Dreams that help sort out issues (unconscious at work) Historical Changes in Media (our means of expression and communication)- 1) Oral media; dance, music , performance; visual arts/ 2) Writing Media/ 3) Mass production begins with printing press/ 4) Phone, Radio and Moving Pictures popular media and mass culture / 5) Computer and Internet (social media, computer games, virtual reality) Critical Thinking about Media and Stories- Analyzing stories for structure, meaning, and political/social contexts, recurrent themes/ Analyze stories across media/ Analyzing media forms and their affects on human consciousness, stories, and society/ Examine discussions among scholars regarding old and new media Stone Age- Earth is 4.5 BILLION years old • First humans evolved: 3.4 MILLION years ago we communicated through spoken sounds and words, body language, dance, music, and visual arts we are storytellers by nature • Upper Paleolithic: 40 THOUSAND years ago • Agricultural societies develop in Neolithic Age (12 thousand years ago): end of STONE AGE Agricultural Society- WRITING: 3000 BCE: Bronze Age: first writing in Mesopotamia (Sumerians). Egypt; Harappan culture in Indus Valley; and Crete (Minoans) undeciphered; may be protowriting/ China: 1200 BCE (Before Common Era)/ 700 BCE: Greeks rediscover writing adapting Phoenecian script/ 1200 CE (Common Era): medieval period: still copying by hand Industrial Society- 1700CE Industrial Society; mass production; move from rural to urban • Invention Printing: of moveable metal type of individual letters • Mass production of religious literature • Spread of literacy • Industrialization and literate skilled workers by 1900’s • Telephone, Radio, Film, TV Narratives Across Media by Ryan: Stories are dependent on the medium but to what extent?/ Media differ in their expressive and communicative power (built in properties affect stories)/ The media embodies the “semiotic substance” of the narrative, not just hollow conduits. Ryan choose 2 meanings what is media:- 1. a channel or system of communication, information or entertainment/A particular technology or cultural institution such as radio, TV, telephone, books/Encodes messages and sends through the medium to be decoded by receiver2. Material or technical means of artistic expression. Key Problem for defining “Narratives”-1) On the one hand, if narrative is independent of medium (coded meaning in “hollow pipe” and then decoded), seems to distort and oversimplify the deep nature of human communication (Ong) 2) But on the other hand, if narrative is so bound up with the medium it can’t be separated, then how can narrative be defined, and narratives in different mediums be compared?? Rayan’s position:- Wants to find a medium free definition of narrative to do cross-media narrative comparisons/ Language is the best medium (but not only one) to make explicit the logical structure of narrative/Nonverbal narratives can be studied without applying the communicative model of verbal narration/Compromise but don’t reject the “hollow pipe” model of narrative. Accept that modes of transmission can also be means of expression (ex. Hard to separate story from process of film making and film experience). Ryan’s definition of media-lity and relation to narrative:- “Mediality” is a relational rather than absolute property. Note: From a narrative perspective, a new technology may develop that doesn’t affect narratives (ex. Wireless telegraphy); or a new narrative genre can be born with same old technology (ex. daily newspapers) Narrative approaches: 1) the existential approach- Helps us understand and give meaning to our experience; often about dealing with our mortality, pain and joys, love, / Helps us create and express our identities/ Helps us be aware of our situated being with others/ Helps us imagine alternative realities.2) Cognitive approach- how we use stories to organize our thoughts and make sense of our perceptual environment (picking out objects from the perceptual background/Some argue we should also apply this approach to broader life activities/Some contrast narrative mode to argument making mode. 3) Sociological approach- Focus on performance of text in context (narrative as social practice)/Common denominator of narratives is not in its particular social function but in the context- transcending nature of the act. Various Understandings of Narrative (story) so far. . .- Narrative as only verbal./Narrative as including nonverbal, but most fully implemented in verbal/Narrative as independent of medium. Language is best suited medium for language, but you can study narrative in its nonverbal manifestation. Lecture2 Stone age Music and Dance- Earliest evidence: Two flutes were found near this Venus of Hohle Fels sculpture in Germany. Dated about 40,000 years old carved from mammoth tusk. Evolution: Not a single line: Rather many coexisting protohuman types /Our primate cousins kept evolving /Not steady progress upwards, /Racial difference is more of a social than biological difference Chimps, Bonobos and Humans have common ancestor- We share 98.7% of same genes/ Bonobos may have retained more features of our common ancestor since its bodily proportions are similar to our protohuman (hominid) ancestor. Mankind is often distinguished from animals by the following- Walking upright; Tool making; Fire-making/Having sex for non-reproductive purposes; frontal sex; /Ability to play games, dance and enjoy music/Having different cultures/ Recognition of self in mirror/Express sadness at the death of a loved one/Use of symbolic language to express new thoughts/Naming new objects/subjects/Bonobos: our primate cousins can do most of these! Dancing, Singing, and Percussion likely had Adaptive Value- Communication: musical or rhythmic phrases can have symbolic meaning; also emotional communication/Helps group cohesion and cooperation; / Courtship, sex/Calming effect (i.e singing and rocking babies)/Promotes Cognitive Development: artistic; spiritual expression; Memory ; Invention Gill: How to understand Dance?- We have to avoid the mind/body dualism developed in later Western thought and the illusion that we are disembodied minds in control of our bodies/ She likes the idea that consciousness itself develops through movement (both in terms of a single human lifetime; and in terms of the evolutionary development of human beings) The evolutionary development all animals could also be understood through animate form- Octopus: most intelligent invertebrate (vertebrates split in another direction 700 million years ago) have individual personalities/ Neurons are mostly in its arms, not in its brain like us!/ Incredible range of expressive movement, color and shape change. Proprioception: Every animal’s ability to move depends on it- Proprioception: awareness (unconscious and conscious) of the relative position of your body parts; your sense of where you are in space (eyes closed)/ proprioceptors are physically located in your muscles, tendons, joints and inner ear/Feeling your body to be of a certain size and proportion/Dancers and athletes develop a better sense than most. Dancing and becoming “other”- The dancer “becomes in her dancing, something or someone other than who she is” (Dancing, Culture, and Religion, 69)/ Ec-stasy: to be or stand outside your place. Leroi_Gourhan speculates humans advanced through gestural patterns- He understands the human hand as the first tool because it was seen as “other” to the self. . .(?) gestural skills act as external supports for memory/ Gill agrees and speculates that dance was the lived foundational experience that first made external supports to memory possible. . . (?) Lecture 3 From last week: Gill: How to understand Dance?- Wants to avoid the mind/body dualism developed in later Western thought and the illusion that we are disembodied minds in control of our bodies/Paradox; dancing as “self-othering” in a most embodied way/She likes Sheets- Johnston’s idea that consciousness itself develops through movement (both in terms of a single human lifetime; and in terms of the evolutionary development of human beings). Our understanding of self and of the world develops first of all through our moving bodies. The Epic of Gilgamesh- Sumerian in Mesopotamia 2700BCE: images of story appear, then text on tablets translated into Akkadian-Bablyonian 2000-1500 BCE Some Genesis stories (Creation; Paradise, Noah and Flood, Cain and Abel) in Bible have similarities to much older Sumerian stories- Eve” from Sumerian story “lady who gives life” and heals rib of sick god who has eaten from Tree of Life no childbirth pains in paradise. Performance situation of the story Gilgamesh- Told by minstrels for the entertainment of the king’s court likely to accompaniment of harp / First epic poetry: individual hero; long speeches; disconnected tales; / Patriarchal society. Gilgamesh: the first in a long line of male heroes/ most popular character type/Overcomes obstacles /Often in search for something he lacks or save others/Heroines, helpers, and villains are defined in relation to the hero. Important Recurrent Theme in Western Literature: the search for immortality: GiIgamesh : arrogant, oppressive king/Lonely; wants a companion/Fights and befriends Enkidu/Pained by Enkidu’s death/searches for immortality (is a popular theme to this day). Note role of females in the Story- “Prostitute” makes Enkidu a man /Kings have right to sleep with virgins on their wedding night (Enkidu disapproves) /Gilgamesh’s two dreams of star and of axe: “I loved and embraced it as a wife”?!/Love Goddess Ishtar initiates marriage proposal to Gilgamesh who spurns her / Wife of Utnapishtum takes pity on Gilgamesh after his failing of test, and convinces husband to let him have secret of immortality anyway/ Inanna is older Sumerian name for Ishtar (Old Babylonian)./She is Astarte in ancient Canaan. “Self and Other” and Literary Devices- Literary Device: Mirroring (reverse images)-Story of their “becoming human together” reverse journeys: savage Enkidu to City; civilized Gilgamesh to Wilderness /Note death and sleep are described as twin brothers/Note other literary devices use of metaphor: fight “like wolves” “like bulls”- Flashback (distinguish between now and then): story of the flood-Story within a story (Utnapishtum tells story to Gilgamesh in first person). Finally meets the immortal sage Utnapishtim- Who gives him advice: Gilgamesh should accept the impermanence of life./Enjoy life/You can’t know when you will die. Gilgamesh has learned from his adventure- Not arrogant/Accept his limitation: mortality/Recognizes his affinity with all creatures who must die/ Animal/Human/Divine all connected. Lecture 4 (masks, Theatre, Greek drama) What was the Role of Drama in Ancient Athens?- Much more than just entertainment • Theatre in Athens had a civic function (for all male citizens) like participation in democracy and military (patriotic citizen identity) • Tragedy: Competition for great honor • Dramatists use mythic past as basic storyline where issues could be played out • Are these plays subversive and challenging norms or are they justifying state ideology? • Aristotle: Catharsis: beneficial release of emotions of pity and fear • Took place In the context of a religious festival for Dionysus Ancient Greek Theatre: a few strange aspects regarding gender- many roles for strong- willed destructive females (in a society that kept strict control of women)/all actors male (with female parts played by boys)/ the audience and likely only male (maybe non-citizen females). Greek Tragic Theatre evolved from Choral Song and Dance- • Old tradition of lyric choral dance to honour certain gods/goddeses (ex. Artemis; Dionysus) • Choral leader with chorus who move in a circle and sing in unison • Greek Tragedy: likely developed from the lyric choral dance and the dithyramb (exuberant songs and dances for Dionysus) • In 5 day Athenian festival: 2 days for dithyrambs (20X50 boys; 20X50 men competitions= 1000 male voices) The new Athenian Tragic Drama festival may be an appropriation of women’s song tradition of Lamentation, and of the woman’s mystery religion of Dionysus : • Athens: very male dominated society • Archaic Greek Female singing traditions: Lamentation and lyric love-complaint poetry; • Solon laws limit women’s lamentation at funerals • Greek Male singing traditions: Epic poetry (Homeric rhapsody); lyric genres (victories, battles) Masking: Masking is both mesmerizing and frightening/The rigid face that is not mistaken for living face (is not a disguise)/Masking presents first hand, rather than represents: comes alive/The masker becomes another through the mask (manifests animals, gods, persons). In honor of Dionysus: Why? • Collective emotion; loss of boundaries of self (temporary madness of women who are initiated into religion) • Freedom of bodily expression, noisy celebration, masks, torches • Had been a popular, rural, dignified god of eternal life; fertility, and wine always with his thiasos (ring) of women but in Athens, around 500 BCE becomes effeminate wine god of male worshippers (continues with Roman Bacchus). Satyrs (half-horse/half man), later: half goat/half man become the primary revelers in later depictions: • Hooves, ears, tails , erections spirit of forest and mountains who attend Dionysus • Interesting: never depicted molesting women initiates (unlike centaurs who rape women: Temple of Apollo) • Always a Satyr play after, and related to, tragic trilogy at City Dionysia festival (chorus are satyrs) Older Festivals in his honor before the City Dionysia (Athenian Theatre): His ritual celebrations concern 1) Processional festivals to celebrate his arrival to Greece (bringing the cultivation of the grapevine) 2) Mourning and joyful celebrations for the God who dies and is reborn: the wine making process: festivals for crushed grapes; others to commemorate putting into vessels underground to ferment (the “sewing in”); and festivals to open and taste new wine. In later myth, Dionysus is “twice-born”: Historically, Dionysian worship precedes Zeus, but in official mythic stories, Zeus is both “mother and father” (same with Athena who is born from Zeus’s head) • The Dionysus Fetus is ripped from his mother Semele’s (Wisdom) womb by Zeus and “sewn in” into the thigh of Zeus to be born a second time! • He is then given as a baby to the god Hermes to raise. Dionysus arrives on ship with dolphins: The important Oracle of Delphi means “dolphin” (Crete) • Apollo and Dionysus “share” the sanctuary of Delphi: take turns! • Both have stories of their arrival involving ships and dolphins. Dionysus arrival in ship-cart: part of procession/ Procession leads to a marriage between Dionysos and Ariadne/ Arrival” can also mean arrival of Dionysian madness/ “Tragedy” means song on occasion of the he-goat. Dionysos at Delphi: Dionysos takes over Apollo’s own sanctuary (!) in the winter months (when wine is being cured: grapes crushed and put in jars underground (“sewn in”); / women nurse him, wake him from underworld and are overcome by his “madness”/visions; He is called out with their noisy song; / His Rebirth: Wine is opened; also barrier between life and death temporary opened. The Festival of City Dionysia: 5 days- As democracy became popular so did tragedy become more grand, funded by state Likely 2 days of dithyrambs and 3 days each of tragedy trilogy and satryr play and a comedy • All business and law courts closed • Ten elected generals begin the festivities (not priests?) • Plays went on even when Athens under siege by Spartans. City Dionysia: Day one: Night Before: Re-enacting Dionysos Arrival- ephebes (young warriors) bring statue to his sanctuary in city; Parade of phalloi; sacrifice bull (Dionysos). Dithyrambs sung. Grand Procession next day: includes: Playwrites; foreign dignitaries, ephebes, citizens, metics (foreigners in red) sacrificial bulls; girl with knife (boy dressed as girl?) • All carry tributes and/or phalloi • Libations poured by ten generals; more sacrifices; dances • Then speeches honoring war heroes, the playwrites, performers, city benefactors; orphaned sons are paraded, and gifts, • People cry out before plays begin “Nothing to do with Dionysus.” Why? Aristotle’s Poetics: first reference to “medium” or media: Defines “poiesis” as different types of imitation which can be distinguished by • “medium” used: (color, shape, rhythm, melody and voice) ex: music uses melody and rhythm Dithyramb uses all simultaneously; tragedy and comedy uses all, but not simultaneously • B) “object”of interest: ex: epic and tragedy: dignified people • C) general “mode”: to differentiate when medium and object are shared: tragedy imitates through mimetic mode (showing); epic poetry though diegesis mode (telling) /Plots in tragedy are more tightly woven Aeschylus: Oldest Tragedies (extant)- playwrite would also be main actor (chorus leader) and producer (paid and taught chorus) • Added a second actor (who also only speaks to chorus, not other actors) • Chorus (about 12): moves like one body across stage (strophe), back (antistrophe), and finally standing still (epode) • Masks (whole head); simple bold movements; dignified long robes Innovations in Theatre over time: Aeschylus: skene: a wooden building sets up hidden fearful feminine world • At first not “stage” for illusion: rather performance space for chorus • Pericles builds the Odeon for shelter; • Cranes to swing actor over orchestra • larger chorus; more actors; actors get funded by state; solo parts increase Sophocles: Antigone: the fight between older “divine” unwritten laws and the new Athenian written man-made laws: Antigone disobeys King Creon’s command and is sentenced to be entombed • Antigone, Creon’s son Haemon and wife all commit suicide • Note tragedies focus on families that are doomed (concept of inherited guilt through generations): Antigone is already the product of incest (Oedipus and his mother) How to interprete Antigone? Is Antigone a suicidal anarchist who wants to destroy civil order and man made laws for sake of her own family and religion? (i.e immature old laws (includes blood revenge) must give way to rational laws) • OR is she an emblem of a civil order that must include respect for maternal ancestry and “natural” divine laws of a larger cosmic order? • In any case: Woman as dangerous to social order. Tragedies and Comedies are different: More honor in winning tragedy contest • Tragedy: episodes divided; time is usually in mythic past; Often set in a single place; clothes: long robes, noble body; tragic ending • Comedy had an “agon” (debate between two adversaries); not mythic past; and happy ending Old Comedy: Episodes in multiple places; time is often in present;/ Funny costumes and exaggerated parts/Chorus and two key adversaries/Use of jokes, ridicule/Often ends in feast or wedding, dance. Aristophanes: Lysistrata: Athenian Old Comedy/Very good dialogue/Political satire/Women on both sides stage a sex strike to make men reconsider war/Would the audience consider this drama anti-war (take seriously the threat from women and their wish for peace) or anti-peace (the absurd premise that their wives could wield power by denying sex )? Lecture 5 Orality and writing What’s wrong with thinking media simply progressed from most “primitive” to most “advanced”? • One stage does not just take over the previous, making it obsolete. Even in our digitalized, networked world, we are still an oral culture. (Ong calls “secondary orality”)/ older modes of communication may be revived • printing may not be a stage in linear progress but a digression • Technological change is not always positive progress Also Remember Ong is critical of the “hollow pipe” model of communication- The idea that a medium simply allows for encoding and decoding of a message (or narrative) distorts and oversimplifies the deep nature of human communication. For Ong, the medium affects not just the message, but the way we think and see. Ong: Primary and secondary orality- To understand changes in media, how they affect societies and ways of thinking, we need to understand what “primary orality” was/ Hard to do because we look back through lens of our wired, literate modern world Ex. Oral understood as “preliterate” does not understand “orality” on its own terms. Ong: Writing “Restructured” Consciousness?- Problem: can’t have restructured human brain so quickly (50,000 years for physical change)/ But might change the way we think (ex. Organize our thoughts, makes us think along path dependent lines), and the way we perceive the world (ex. Vision dominates other senses) Pictographs (glyphs): LOOK like what it means. Ideogram: abstract; image now SYMBOLIZES ideas (can mean more than what it looks like). Phonograms: refer to SOUNDS or spoken symbols. Bronze Age: Egyptian Hieroglyphs- Combine pictograms, ideograms and phonograms/Only a few special people of elites would learn it/ ambiguity in meaning of some signs. Different Kinds of Phonograms- May represent a whole word/ May represents a syllable/ In a Full Alphabet: letters are full visual equivalents of sound including all consonants and vowels/ A sound might be represented by a few letters (ex. Ba). Phonetic Alphabet gives full visual equivalents to sound: Note other scripts like Hebrew may have to supply vowels when reading (i.e. non-textual information): not full visual equivalents so more difficult to learn, and to translate • Ancient Greeks adapted Semetic Phonecian script: Greeks added vowels • Forms basis for Latin alphabet ( used in English, etc.) South Korean: Amixture of alphabetically spelt words and Chinese characters / 1443 king decreed an alphabet should be devised for Koreans / Was ready in three years / At first used for unscholarly practical purposes. The importance of Writing: History begins with writing: ie. Prehistory is a time without writing • Literature begins with writing • Literacy (much later): emerges only after writing is widely learned and made available to public Ancient Athenians: Plato: By time of Plato, Greeks had had writing for about 350 years A form of money for about 200 years Written laws for about 200 years (Note Antigone play about written versus unwritten laws) • Yet his teacher Socrates did not write a word • And Plato emphasizes dialogue: question and answer format • Note Plato’s objection to Solon (law maker) in Phaedrus. Some of Plato’s objections to writing- It is unresponsive (passive): you cant ask questions • It can circulate to everyone, even “unsuitable readers” • It cannot defend itself- no question and answer like in the art of dialectic so no true instruction. • Writing is an illusion of wisdom, a shadow of true knowledge • You can twist written words, paste and pull apart; • It tries to establish outside the
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