On Thursday, November 15, our class visited the Ackland Art Museum in Chapel Hill, NC. During our visit, we were divided into two groups, and we were led around to look at different works of art. All of the pieces of art that we looked at were very different from one another and very unique. Although they might not have had many similarities to each other, they each had their own story to tell. Inferences and conclusions could be made about each work based on what the subject matter of the work was, the way the artist chose to depict that subject matter, and the feelings that the audience of the work felt. Something that stood out to me while we were viewing the works of art is the way that connections can be drawn from art to the books that we have been reading throughout the semester. Although a lot of the art that we looked at was original, many of the pieces of art that we looked at were variations of existing themes of art that had already been created. It was interesting to see the way that the artist changed some things around from original works and created works of their own as well as thinking about what meanings the new art conveyed to the audience.
One of the most unique works that we looked at was titled “The Batture Ritual,” and it was a 25-minute video put together by Jeff Whetstone. The video captures a small section of the Mississippi River with passing boats and fishermen going down to the water’s edge. The mood of the video is peaceful, and this mood carries over to the audience who is observing it. The both natural and artificial lighting create a feeling of relaxation and simplicity, which is strengthened by the boats passing and fishermen. It brings back thoughts of simpler times, and serves as a reminder that they still exist.
A common depiction in the works that we viewed was water. It was interesting to see the way that water was depicted in such different ways. In one painting titled “Looking at the Sea,” by Howard Hodgkin, it was unclear that water was being represented in the first place. There were thick brushes of blue paint throughout the painting, and the borders were contained by a red frame that was painted on as well. This painting created a feeling of chaos and anxiety. Another painting titled “River Landscape with Fishermen” depicted peaceful water with a small town in the background. There were fishermen on the water, and everything was calm. I found it fascinating the different ways that the artists chose to depict water.
Lastly, another painting that stood out to me was “Eve and the Serpent.” This artist takes a very common theme, Eve in the Garden of Eden, and transforms it into something completely new and interesting. This painting depicts Eve, completely naked, petting the serpent who is curled around the tree. The artist used vibrant colors, and there are animals that appear to be calm and happy. Another interesting fact about this painting is that Eve is depicted with dark skin, unlike most depictions of Eve.
My main takeaway from visiting the Ackland is that art has many more connections to literature and life than I previously believed. There are many different ways of viewing art and thinking about art that might not be so obvious at first glance.
On Tuesday, October 23, our class met in Wilson Library to look at different copies of some of the works that we have been studying throughout the semester, as well as some new ones that we have not talked about. When we first arrived, we listened to a brief lecture on the copies that we would be handling as well as the proper technique to handle some of the copies because they are so old. We then got into groups and got to walk around and look at the different copies and handle them. Most of the books were on wedge blocks to prevent the binding from bending too much. It was important to be careful while flipping the pages. I was very surprised at how old and brittle some of the pages were. They felt like they could fall apart.
There were a few things that really stood out to me about the copies that we got to examine at Wilson Library. The first piece of text that we examined was an old Sherlock Holmes comic book. The cover had vivid and bright colors that suggested an action-packed and exciting story to be revealed. It also depicted a crazed dog with wild eyes, as well as a calm and collected Sherlock Holmes in the background while smoking a pipe and holding a violin. As we opened up the comic and asked the woman who was helping us in Wilson, we learned some very interesting things about the comic book. Sherlock Holmes is depicted in an unusual way throughout the comic, as he is shown punching a criminal, and he is usually known for his deductive reasoning. Also, there is very little attention drawn to the name of the author, which focuses the attention of the readers on Holmes instead of Arthur Conan Doyle. Lastly, this comic is a combination of two Sherlock Holmes novels: A Study in Scarlet and The Hound of Baskervilles. The fact that the comic is a combination of two previous novels makes it an adaptation.
Another set of books that we found to be very interesting was a copy of Jane Eyre. The books were divided into the three volumes. Although the date on the side of the books said 1847, we concluded that these books were printed much later. Also, the binding on the outside of the books was custom made. It was green, and it was in perfect condition. The actual binding on the sides had ridges that were intentional. We discussed the possibility that it was actually owned by a wealthy family who had the cover and binding done in accordance with a common theme or color that is present in their family library. It was fascinating to see the way that the books had been configured. Visiting Wilson was a great experience, and it was very interesting to get a first-hand look at some of the texts that we have been looking at throughout the semester. I’m looking forward to going back to visit the collection sometime in the future.
At the beginning of Part IV in Foe, it is clear that there has all of a sudden been a huge shift. The narrator of the story is no longer Susan Barton, and the story is no longer being told in the past tense. The point of view shifts to first person and the tense is now present tense. Also, the narrator is no longer Susan Barton. There is an unnamed narrator, as it is not clear who the new narrator is. Ever since I read Part IV of Foe, I have been interested in discovering who the narrator is and have read many different perspectives on it. While the narrator is not specifically defined and it will always be up for interpretation, I believe that there are two valid explanations of the narrator. First, I believe that Friday could be the narrator in Part IV of Foe.
The reason that I believe Friday could be the narrator is that the narrator makes multiple references, time and time again, to speech and talking, something that Friday is unable to do until now, when he is the narrator. The first reference to speech comes when the narrator says, “His teeth are clenched. I press a fingernail between the upper and lower rows, trying to part them” (P. 154). While the narrator is talking about Friday, it is almost as if they are trying to communicate what it was like for Friday to try to talk. No matter how much he tried, there is always a barrier in between Friday’s head and his mouth since his tongue was cut off. It is like the narrator is trying to convey this feeling. It seems as if the narrator relates to Friday more than anyone else in Part IV. The most outright evidence that the narrator is Friday is when they say, “‘Friday,’ I say, I try to say…” (P. 157). This time, instead of the narrator trying to convey only how Friday cannot open is mouth, it is as if the narrator is unable to speak as well. Only Friday could be unable to speak, which once again indicates that the narrator is Friday.
The identity of the narrator is not the only mystery in Part IV of Foe. There is also the mystery of what is going on in the first place. It does not seem to be set in reality, but rather in a dreamlike or hallucination state. The main reason I believe that Part IV is not set in reality is that the setting jumps from the house to a ship, which has the resemblance of a dream. My interpretation of this is that Friday is the narrator, and he is dreaming. I believe after the duration of the entire novel, where Friday is unable to speak, Coetzee is finally allowing Friday to speak in a dream, the only time that this is physically possible. He is able to finally communicate, and the reader is offered a glimpse into the unique and depressed mind of Friday.