Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Last Class of the Term

On Thursday we have our guest speaker to talk on -- & demonstrate -- dramatic performance. The actress is Ms. Karen Budra, a lecturer at Langara College: she will provide specific understamding of the dialogue Shakespeare writes between women and men.
It is also the day for Course Evaluations, & a general word about the Final Exam. Remember that I will have extended Office Hours every day of the week before the Exam: check back here for specific dates & times.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Japanese Dramatic Æsthetic in Anime

A classfellow offers this summary analysis of the import Anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion
The story becomes very involved with the characters and what is happening to them both mentally and emotionally as well as the effects their choices have on other characters and the world. Near the end of the show it starts to focus more on Shinji, a 14 year old boy who is very afraid of his father and of himself. It shows his development as the plot rolls on. The plot itself is involved withShinji's father who leads the government organization Nerv, which was created to defend Earth from an alien threat called angels. He has his own secret agenda though which comes into conflict with the government committee called Seele. The story does not have a very satisfactory ending, much like Madame de Sade, as it leaves something unfinished at the end. I guess that is the'ketsu' of the anime. The aesthetic elements of Japanese culture we have gone over in class can be seen in the series the more I think about it as there is a sudden break in the last 2 episodes and then sudden action. It also could be attributed to the fact that the creator suffered a mental breakdown during the series due to the stress of the plot elements becomingmore deeply involved and complex.
I love the, uhm, ambiguity in the concluding reflection....

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Buddhism & Suffering

The two Buddhist concepts which infuence the mono no aware sensibility in Japanese drama, poetry & literature are the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path (the latter elaborates the fourth of the former.)
You will see that mono no aware is a very real & powerful mood in Yukio Mishima's play Madame de Sade.
This is not, I should clarify, not to say that these Buddhist doctrines influenced Mishima. The contrary, in fact, since hedonism violates the fourth noble truth. Rather, the doctrines are the historical background to mono no aware -- a mood which Mishima does deliberately invoke in his drama.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Japanese Æsthetic Concepts

For summary detail on the some of the Japanese æsthetic concepts presented in lecture, click on this link. I will have the article on the ki sho ten ketsu composition form, by John Hinds, on Course Reserve next week.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Extra Office Hours

With Thursday's deadline for the mid-term paper in sight, I hope that at this point you have your thesis clearly stated, a draught of your all-important opening paragraph, and an outline of your essay's structure (how many paragraphs you will have, what the specific content of each will be, how the logic & transitions of each cohere, and an approximation of the sentence order.)

For help with any points of technicality, I will be in office hours this week as follows:

Monday, 12:00-3:00.
Tuesday, 10:30- 11:20, 1:45-3:00
Wendesday, 12:00-3:00
Thursday and Friday as usual.

I can also arrange individual appointments those three days from three o'clock until a quarter to midnight.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Mark Pedrosa's tutorials for the week of June 19

hi hi hi - today i had an excellent question regarding joan of arc as a protestant figure, as mentioned by shaw in his preface (i recommend reading this)!

[interlude: furthermore, the Epilogue is part of the play, not just an "aside" that you don't have to read... so read it! it's chalk-full of super important stuff, and is one of the main aspects for which shaw came under fire in his representation of joan].

anyway, back to it. i'll try to explain briefly how shaw sees joan as a protestant. but first, i'm going to need you to do some reading of your own. so here's the plan:
1. go to
http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks02/0200811h.html -- you need to be connected to the sfu server to access this link. it's just the fulltext of shaw's preface and play.
2. search (under Edit > Find) for "protestant"; you'll find many instances of it. one of the earliest claims her to be both a "devout catholic" and a "protestant martyr," all in the same sentence.

as you continue to search for your key word, note how it's being used: to refer to the ideas embodied by protestantism, namely INDIVIDUALITY (taking out the middle man in connection with God). many catholics take issue with shaw's interpretation of joan of arc, claiming she couldn't be either protestant or nationalistic based solely on the historical timeline (when something is out of its timeline, it's said to be anachronistic). of course joan (and all of the characters, for that matter) wouldn't know about the results their actions evoke, such as a move away from a feudal system to one of nationalism, or even the emergence of protestantism (undermining the "need" for the church to provide a link to God). this is one of shaw's literary techniques -- giving his characters a healthy dose of foresight, as though they have the knowledge of all the social and political events that will unfold from each major action taken. this is, after all, why the english and french finally come to a compomise to end joan's rise to power.

that's all i can think of at the moment. if you have any questions or comments, don't be afraid to do it up on the blog, or else in tutorial, or else in my office hours, or else over email, etc etc.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Another topic option for the Midterm Essay

Pick one of the two Henry V film adaptations viewed in tutorial. How does it hold up to the Shakespearean original when based on the criteria of Aristotle or Dr. Johnson? Analyse the film in comparison to the play, keeping in mind the goals of the course as projected by Dr. Ogden in his outline. You still have to import at least three items from lecture.

Helpful hints:
-This topic is fairly wide open; as such, treatment of the texts in their entirety may produce a far too generalized paper (remember, it’s only 1500 words!). Focus your investigation. Consider analysing a specific Act, Scene or group of related scenes. Similarly, hone in on the Aristotle or Johnson criteria.
-Some questions you might ask yourself: what is the purpose of drama? What do Aristotle and Johnson feel is the preeminent characteristic in good drama? How does film help or hinder the dramatic representation of Shakespeare’s play? Do you find the film it to be a faithful adaptation of the original?
-Remember to look at your notes: taking into account context, affect and realism can be helpful.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Group Project: Updates

How are your Group Projects going? I have updates from some of you, and am delighted to see that these are well on their way. Hopefully you are well on your way in your note-taking an analysis and have found the opportunity to touch the crease with your fellows. If you have and questions or wish for good advice, by all emans check in with your tutorial leader.
By all means forward your choice of drama to study, and I can post them all for us to share. In my tutorial, our groups have selected Star Trek, Canada's Next Top Model, and the World Cup broadcasts respectively for the project.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Introduction to Affect Theory

What we did in Mark Pedrosa's tutorials, and then some.

Part I - The Basics

- Developed by Silvan Tomkins
- Chronicled in his major work, Affect Imagery Consciousness (1963)
- From work with children, Tomkins posited that our emotional lives can be traced back to nine organ-like structures in our brain. He called these structures "affects.”

Positive: joy, interest
Neutral: surprise
Negative: fear, disgust, dissmell, anger, distress, shame

ALL experience is FILTERED through these 9 AFFECTS, or physical areas of the brain. There are no other options. If we are aware of something, we are aware of it in relation to one of these areas. A feeling is what we only become conscious of AFTER AN AFFECT (that biological part of our brain) HAS BEEN TRIGGERED.

Part II - Contagious Feelings: The Epidemiology of Affect (excerpts from Gibbs)

Tomkins distinguishes nine discrete innate affects, each of which acts to amplify the gradient and intensity of a neural firing, producing a positive feedback loop in which more of the same affect will be evoked in both the person experiencing the affect and in the observer (a phenomenon known as 'affective resonance').The face, according to Tomkins, is the primary site of affective communication and plays a crucial part, along with the voice, in the phenomena of feedback, resonance and contagion, because any one component of affective response will trigger the other neurological and physiological components of the entire pattern of response.

The subject's response to her own affective experience, which draws on memory (socially and familialy produced or learned sequences of affects, as well as defenses against particular affects, and specific meanings attached to them) but which also includes future-oriented projections, will be of cardinal importance in determining how or whether new experiences will be able to be integrated into the existing self-formation. Affects exist in complex interaction: in the therapeutic situation, some affects can be used to modulate or amplify other affects: here as elsewhere familiar sequences of affects (of which the subject is unaware) will often be triggered. Prolonged unrelieved distress is an innate activator of anger, though for social reasons it may also trigger shame, which may in turn produce contempt towards the self or others – and all this may happen internally and automatically, outside awareness.

Attitudes tend to carry with them certain very general ideas about the way the world works. Because of this, the affects that comprise attitudes may be thought of as media for such ideas. Further, because particular affects are innate activators of other affects, or can activate learned affective sequences, if one of these affects is 'caught' it may trigger the sequence of other affects which reactivate a characterisitic attitude (or possibly produce an available, culturally familiar, attitude as a posture).

Part III - Further Reading, interest permitting

A. Tomkins and Affect - A thorough and accessible overview of Affect Theory
B. An Affect Theory of Social Exchange - Edward Lawler claims that emotions are a central feature of social exchange, which is in turn responsible for the production of positive or negative global feelings. This is a dense but rewarding read; of particular interest are the five theoretical assumptions, outlined on page 327. Accessing this article requires that you be connected to the University's proxy server.

Final Thought:
The important "thing" to notice is what happens when we experience a text (in writing, in theatrical performance, cinema, television, music, and so on). Consider the unique properties and limitations of each -- how is the architect manipulating his or her medium to elicit certain responses from the audience? A play in its raw written form will inevitably differ from its adaptation on stage and on screen but, as viewers, we expect the core, central "essence" of the work to be present in each adaptation. The question, then, is how effective (or affective) is each adaptation in embodying the essence of a given work? And further, how is reception of each new adaptation related to its temporal and social /cultural context? (Hint: think of what Dr. Ogden was saying in class about Olivier's WWII-era version of Henry V).

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Shakespeare: Plan

Thursday's lecture we will begin our study of William Shakespeare's Henry V, we will walk through the opening scense s and acts & get a sense of how to read the text. Tuesday we will step back & look at some large patterns.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Celebrate Queen Victoria on her holiday

Hoping you're enjoying your holiday in honour of Queen Victoria!
I came across this oblique & tendentious article in the Telegraph on the predominance of women at the political head of England following on from Victoria's eminent sixty-four year regnancy:
Have you noticed that modern Britain is the most matriarchal society in the history of the world? The four most famous figures in the public service since the war have been women - the Queen Mother, the Queen, Diana, Princess of Wales and Margaret Thatcher.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Seminar Responses to Plato

Groups in Thursday afternoon seminar put Plato in the dock over his analysis of Drama. Here are some of their thoughtful conclusions: I must say, like them all very much. By all means add yours to the Comments section of this post, or email them to me & I can add them here in the post.

Group "TM"
    1. Plato wasn't giving credit to people, believing that they would be so easily taken in by the drama they saw.
    2. There was a lack of understanding of where the thoughts came from - as people conceive the ideas for dramas, those thoughts are present in people whether or not they see them on stage (they come from somewhere) so the banning of 'detrimental' theatre would only stop the mass communication of those ideas.
    3. There is a paralell between Plato's attempt to control the content of ancient dramas could be seen as similar to modern attempts to control the content of television, print media, and so on.
    4. A circular argument exists with the defence that a rational government would clean up dramas, leading to greater rationality and republican attitudes. If a rational government doesn't exist (owing to destructive influences like drama) then the control that they would exert over those influences would either be insufficient, or misguided.
    5. There is a greatpossibilty of a corrupt governanace using the media as a tool to brainwash people en masse.

Group "LTC"

Since all dramas are considered misleading, all drama should be removed inan ideal society, because even dramas that promote positive values are misleading. Yet, Plato's idea of an ideal society is itself a misleading fantasy (a drama?). There is NO ideal society [i.e. so just who is promoting a fantasy here anyway!]

Group "RM"

The misrepresentation of reality, i.e. drama, could conceivably serve the ideal republic in an educational role. First, there is a purely intellectual and/or conjectural use. I may find patricide and incest abhorrent, and not be particularly desirous of committing either, but that doesn't mean I'm not interested in understanding the mindset of a person, e.g. Oedipus, who has committed both. Good drama is a thorough exploration of one possible explanation for Oedipus' behaviour, and the effect it has on him afterwards. The dramatist's empathy for the immoral or polluted subject of his drama need not be permanent; being a rational human being, he can still pass a moral judgment on his characters' conduct.
A second purpose served by drama is that of the negative example (if you can't be a good example, then be a terrible warning, or words to that effect). It shows that sin leads to misery, and illumines the good by defining what the good is not. For example, in Antigone, Creon's stubborness and insistence that l'Etat c'est lui led, at least in part, to the suicides of his wife and son. Plato countered these arguments by saying that reason is a more civilized and more effective (I think) means of education, but later he explained that "the heart" can sometimes control the body where the mind cannot. I asked if that meant that the emotional appeal of drama might make it, in some cases, a more realistic lesson. Plato, I think, replied that empathy, vicarious experience, &c were not necessarily to be desired, as emotions often encourage people to do harmful things.
I think somebody pointed out that presumably rational adults, such as the citizens of the ideal republic, could be counted on the distinguish between reality and the dramatic representation of reality. I added that television has much more verisimilitude than live theatre, which point Plato disputed, saying that television is a representation of a representation of reality. I haven't yet been able to come up with an accurate explanation of what I meant by verisimilitude in relation to television. Woe, lackaday, &c. It did occur to me this morning that vicarious emotions are, with regards to techne, closer to Use than reason. Reason seeks to moderate emotion by distancing itself from... it. It stands to reason, then, that the reasonable discussion of emotion would be more like Representation than Use. But when I say "this morning" I mean "4:30 AM when I was trying to get back to sleep," so maybe this objection will make no sense at all to Plato, who may consider understanding emotion to be an uncivilized pursuit.

"Prometheus Bound" Arrives

As promised by the good people at our campus Bookstore, Aeschylus' Prometheus Bound is now in stock.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Re. the Group Project

All tutorial groups take note that the criteria for the Group Project will be released early: second course week, in fact.

Aeschylus Text Late

I have just had confirmed that the Aeschylus text, Prometheus Unbound, is delayed until the end of this week. The recommended schedule for your readings in posted in the syllabus, and provided you read Aeschylus by the end of next week you will be on schedule. Lecture on the Poetics continues through next Tuesday. You have the opportunity of course to get ahead this week on your reading of Shakespeare: you will discover that the Folger text we are using has exceptionally helpful notes on the verso.

Friday, February 24, 2006


Welcome to the course blog for English 103 "Introduction to Drama" at Simon Fraser University. More to come as the course begins ....