Ackland Art Museum

‘Confused, overwhelmed, rushed, and exasperated’ would be a few of the words that accurately encapsulated my mood during my first visit to the Ackland Art Museum. The different artworks seemed to continuously cascade all around me and each room seemed to develop a new identity once I returned. It felt as if I was trying to escape the most complicated labyrinth ever designed by man, and I was so eager to escape the never ending web of clay pots, paintings, and statues. Luckily, my second visit to the Ackland Art Museum was nothing like the last and allowed me to develop a new appreciation for the building and the artwork from within.


Instead of being on a time crunch and frantically running around trying to find different pieces of art in a Spanish scavenger hunt, I was actually able to learn the history behind some of the most historical pieces on display at this museum. I greatly appreciated the change of pace between my two experiences at this building, and rather than mindlessly looking at a piece of art for a few seconds before running to the next, I was actually able to absorb some important information behind the piece that completely morphed my interpretation of each presented work as a whole. One of the pieces that remained imprinted in my mind for the longest time was a piece called “Eve and the Serpent” by Rose Piper. This painting is an adaptation of the well known story of Adam and Eve, specifically portraying the moment right before the serpent persuaded Eve to disobey God and eat the forbidden fruit. This painting intrigued me due to its beautiful, vibrant color display (the color of the serpent being my favorite). I also thought that it was interesting how the painting relates to a song “Sarpent he Came Roun’ de Trunk; At Miss Eve his Eye he Wunk” which I feel could possibly be an element of intertextuality. It was also interesting how the artist decided to do an African spin-off of Eve to reflect her own person identity in a sense. In the top left corner, there is a shift between the blue, serene appearing clouds with dark, ominous, and foreboding ones foreshadow the turmoil that is about to occur once Eve eats the forbidden fruit. Rose Piper did an incredible job at capturing this story and putting her own twist and flare on it to separate it from other similar works which I greatly admire.

Overall, I appreciated this slow-paced tour of the museum and the background information provided for each piece. It really helped put certain elements into perspective and portray how individuality influences how art work can be differently perceived by everyone. If I were to ever be asked to provide the name of a great “tourist attraction” on the UNC campus, the Ackland Art Museum would definitely be at the top of my list.

A Glimpse into Wilson

One of the most prestigious and admirable buildings that I have been fortunate enough to visit on this campus is Wilson Library. Each encounter that I have had in Wilson has introduced me to various unique rooms that all have an interesting, historical background that collectively tell a story of the building. This particular visit exposed me to a vast collection of rare pieces of literature which allowed me to momentarily take a glimpse into the past to see how literature has evolved and the different societal perspectives gathered from each time period on the works in comparison to present day perceptions.

The piece that resonated with me the most was the Frankenstein (1818) book written by Mary Shelley and illustrated by Barry Moser. The aspect that captivated me to this piece the most was the front cover of the book. In comparison to many of the plain cover books that were displayed, this one exuded an eye-catching composition of an assortment of vibrant colors to depict the infamous scene in the book when Frankenstein’s creation strangled Elizabeth on her wedding night. On the cover, the lifeless Elizabeth is dressed in a seemingly luminous, yellow dress sprawled out on rumpled bedsheets following her encounter with Frankenstein’s creation. The creature can be seen in the background looking at its enlarged hands, while the sun sets in the background. These are all interesting components that morph the way a reader interprets the text of the book. Not only does this provide the readers with a figure to associate with two of the main characters in the book, but it also gives rise to an interpretation of what the creature Frankenstein created looks like which has been a topic of much controversy. In this version, the creature possesses more human-like features and can even be seen sporting normal attire which contradicts the present day monstrous, mysterious appearance attributed with this character.

The preservation process for maintaining the good condition of these pieces of literature added an element of respect and awe during the handling process. For this book in particular, we were instructed not to open it and could only view the front/back cover. We noticed that the pages on the inside had a yellow hue to them which intrigued us to inquire about how old the book was and what kind of paper was used to create the work. Although I do not specifically remember the year and material used to construct the book, I do recall being very surprised that it was able to be maintained for such a long period of time and held it at an even greater importance. This visit to Wilson helped me obtain a new appreciation for the world of literature. The preservation of such pieces is crucial for allowing future connections to be made and interconnecting them with elements from the past to create an overall picture for the history of each piece and the future adaptations that surround a body of original work.

To Speak or Not to Speak

Speech…it’s one of the largest components for human interaction to date, but what are the drastic effects that occur in literature once this right is infringed upon in a work? Does a language barrier further perpetuate the incompletion of the world’s Tower of Babel, or in Crusoe’s case island of isolation? What entails when speech is taken away in essence completely from one of the characters in a book, does the reader ever get to truly dissect that character’s purpose? Furthermore, how stressful are the circumstances when a language barrier and the inability of speech coexist to suffocate any understanding from one of the characters completely? Does that character then still have a purpose or is their story lost behind the words of another character?

These are the circumstances that surround the character Friday in both Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe and J.M. Coetzee’s Foe. It is apparent that the reader’s perception of both versions of Friday are impacted by the manner in which he is portrayed verbally and physically. Friday’s demeanor impacts the purpose he serves in each novel, how he is perceived by the readers, and the presentation of the story of Crusoe as a whole.

In Robinson Crusoe, Friday is presented as a rescued captive of the cannibals that frequent Crusoe’s island. After Crusoe rescues Friday, he realizes that they are initially unable to communicate due to a language barrier between them that hinders their interaction with one another. However, Crusoe was determined to teach Friday certain words and phrases to fill that void of loneliness that he felt after being deprived of human interaction for years. Once Friday learns how to say basic phrases to Crusoe, their relationship dynamic becomes more evident to the reader as Friday’s thoughts and emotions are more easily perceived. This further allows for the character development of Friday to surface to the forefront with regards to his religious journey and experience on the island with Crusoe. Over time, it is made clearer to the reader that Crusoe and Friday are able to be more productive on the island after Friday is taught the language essentials directed by Crusoe. Crusoe mainly focused on teaching Friday work phrases to make it easier to instruct him to complete certain tasks, however, this leaves one to wonder how different the novel would have been had Friday been able to speak Crusoe’s language completely from the beginning. The novel would attain a different aura as the two would have been able to divulge more information between one another, and not be limited to discussing trivial work tasks. It also poses the question concerning whether or not Crusoe would have viewed Friday as more of an equal and not provide him with a sense of inferiority on the island.

Foe’s Friday gives light to an entire different perception of the character since he is completely deprived of a vocal presence in the work, which drastically impacts how the reader classifies him in the novel. Friday is presented as a mutilated individual incapable of speech entirely, which is further substantiated with the cultural bridge and language barrier between him and Crusoe. Since this version of Friday eludes any communication with the main characters, a general opinion of him and his purpose by the reader is solely based from another character’s perception of him. This characteristic can be advantageous and disadvantageous depending on which way it is being deciphered. The author is able to use Friday’s silence to his advantage to further the purpose of another character and give rise to other questions in the novel (like the story behind Friday’s origins, who he was mutilated by, and other aspects of his life). This creates an ominous element to Friday’s character and enables for the creation of a sub-plot, along with effects to his relationship with Susan Barton. However, this can be a disadvantageous element for the reader since they are given a limited scope into Friday’s life and have to rely on the impression of another character to bridge the gap to better understanding his purpose in the novel which could be quite frustrating. In the end, it arises that Friday’s very being is the physical embodiment of the island, “His mouth opens. From inside him comes a slow stream….It flows up through his body and out upon me….Soft and cold, dark and unending…” (pg. 157, Coetzee).

Ultimately, the manner in which Friday’s character is portrayed in both novels significantly impacts how the audience perceives his purpose as a whole and dissect his relationships with the other characters that are prevalent within the work. Loneliness and seclusion was an abstract concept in both of these accounts of Crusoe, and Friday’s character addressed this element differently in each piece. In the original Robinson Crusoe, Friday helps Crusoe alleviate his sense of isolation from others since he provides human interaction despite it being limited. However, Foe’s Friday further intensifies the loneliness felt by the main character which affects the way the reader interprets the text as a whole. The juxtaposition of these two different texts allows for a breakdown of how important dialogue between characters in writings are and how it changes the functionality of a given work in general.