Right now, I’m still struggling to figure out exactly how I want to attack the beast that is my ideas about Sherlockbut I think I’m getting closer. Rewatching the first season of the series may have narrowed my scope in terms of the episodes I think I want to consider, but it added the number of things I was noticing and getting interested in exploring.

So I established in my draft that I wanted to explore how the creators provide the audience with a “teaching moment” that shows them how they should watch the show, particularly if they hope to engage with the show in the same ways that we engage with the original Sherlock texts by Arthur Conan Doyle. IF they want to solve the crime with Sherlock, THEN they have to analyze the show’s mis-en-scene the same way Sherlock analyzes crime scenes (and people, unfortunately). The scene in the cab when Sherlock explains his process of deduction (specifically how he knows everything about Watson before they’ve had any kind of conversation) to Watson acts as this teaching moment. Sherlock’s describes the things he “observes” on Watson while the show gives those odd three-dimensional stills of Watson, zooming in on the pieces that Sherlock is discussing. I would suggest that because Watson in in an unnatural setting, Sherlock is analyzing the mis-en-scene related specifically to Watson in order to “solve” who he is and what his purpose for meeting him is.

So by allowing Sherlock to describe his process to Watson (who acts as a conduit for the audience, says Matt Hills, so thus the viewers as well), the creators are also asking viewers to emulate this process while they watch. They must analyze elements of the mis-en-scene in order to solve the case with or before Sherlock.

I think “A Study in Pink” acts as a type of test run for viewers. The case requires only one real “break” into to solve it. Throughout the episode there is repeated images of cabs. First a cab drives through the scene when the 18-year-old man is heading back for his umbrella. Even in our teaching moment, the cab is made a central element of the mis-en-scene because of the directors decision to shoot the scene through the cab windows from the outside. If the viewer uses the framework established by the teaching moment and analyzes the mis-en-scene while watching, they will notice this repetition of cab imagery, and be able to put the pieces of the case together. What do a man at the airport, a kid in the rain, and a drunk woman have in common: THEY NEED A RIDE, in a cab, with a serial killing driver!

“A Study in Pink” also appears to be a “test run” for viewers in the way that is incorporates the televisual words over the Woman in Pink’s crime scene. Here we can literally see how Sherlock is registering certain elements of the woman’s “mis-en-scene.”

My stakes for this paper focus on our shifting viewing practices as we gain access to mroe and more platforms for time-shifted viewing. Thanks to the inclusion of Moriarty, Sherlock not only has episodic cases, but a case that is present throughout the first two seasons. I’m continuing to explore how viewers can use Sherlock’s process to determine who Moriarty is in the first season.

I have to say that I wasn’t really all that into Chronic City, Jonathan Lethem’s third novel, set in Manhattan. It seemed to do a lot of talking about things I had little interest in or knowledge of, so getting into it was a struggle for me.

In terms of the texts we’ve read this semester, the books central theme, as many reviewers of the book point out, is the “pursuit of truth.” The book is full of unbelievable, sci-fi esque elements, from the rogue tiger/tunnel digging machine, to the dog apartment complex, to the stranded fiance in the space station, that I found myself looking for alternatives for the “reality” that Lethem was proposing, my favorite of which was that all of these things were weed-induced delusions.

I think that Chapter 26, when Chase Insteadman is going to the Met to meet Oona, was the most interesting to me. In this chapter, Lethem uses the museum, with its recreated exhibits that model some real moment in time (Since the Met is specifically an art museum, there seems to be the suggestion that art is a model of a real moment in time, which I would agree with) is a metaphor for our lives. Lethem suggests that we aren’t actually living, were modeling it, we’re pretending to be living for real. As he arrives at the museum, Chase is thinking about the ritual of the Met, which may also know if you’ve ever been there, this kind of invented simulation of activity that suggests that we have some kind of choice about what we are doing there (note the “suggested donation” reference). This reminded me so much of Louis Althusser’s “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses” it hurt, particularly the idea of buying into the rituals of ideology, it’s physical manifestations. What makes the Met a symbol of high cultured importance? Obviously the fact that we fulfill it’s rituals! Lethem, writing in Chase’s point of view, writes “I didn’t want to model free will, I wanted to embody it” (441). I think Lethem is drawing attention to how much of our life is spent modeling free will via these rituals and routines that we become  engrossed in, instead of really truly living. I noticed throughout the text that Chase is always saying something about how he “couldn’t remember if this was the first or one hundredth time” he was doing something, whether its going through the Met’s rituals or his friendship rituals of weed-smoking and movie watching with Perkus and someone (be it Ava or Richard).

This linked with the idea of distraction that seemed to come up a lot in the text. That so many things, like the tiger machine, are distracting us from living. This also reminded me of some of the theorists we’ve read in Lit Crit classes, like Marxists, who suggest that the proletariat are distracted from the horribleness of the capitalist system by the bourgeoisie via race wars or regular wars or something like that, and even Barthes who deals with second order signification and global truths. In an interview I found, Lethem says that the novel was inspired by the effects of the reelection of George “Dubya” Bush on NYC (around 4:50 of the YouTube video below). “Afterwards the sense of despair… the way bringing him back into office and therefore ratifying… being complicit with everything that had happened in the first four years made New York City feel, to me, a place of great despair and great irrelevance. It was as though the emotions attached to 9-11 had been stolen…” I thought this was an interesting bit of evidence and considered how completely we tend to turn ourselves over to the rituals of ideology, particularly in times of great distress.



So, as I said in class, I’m exploring the possibility of the first scene between Sherlock and Watson, and its subsequent explanation in the cab, as a teaching moment for viewers, spelling out how they should engage with the show, based on genre-based expectations of the tradition of detective fiction from which Sherlock  stems.

In my research have been exploring the question that Genevieve posed in class: What is the implication of this teaching moment in the first episode of the first season of a serial text? Particularly I’ve been thinking about current shifts towards time-shifted viewing. If we are now able to view shows at a time that is convenient for us, and more importantly, consecutively without a week long lapse, then serial shows like Sherlock are better able to provide their viewers with a teaching moment early in the series, with the assumption that even new watchers who start in the middle of a series are able to get access to the earlier episodes and engage with text in the same way as viewers who began watching the show at the very beginning.

I think there also may be another implication of the type of reading that the directors of Sherlock are teaching us to do while watching the show, though, and I’m not sure where I want to go with it. While exploring the idea that there may be multiple teaching moments within the show, I began to wonder where we see them. I started with the characters that Sherlock can’t read, particularly Irene Adler. In my exploratory draft I wrote:

Sherlock uses various objects to on a person’s body to tell him information. Audience members, then, must also focus on how objects work to inform the way we understand the text. How the inclusion of particular objects, images, or scenes affects the way the audience understands the show as a narrative?… In some way, I wonder if Irene is almost a commentary on Sherlock’s process of using physical attributes

I was specifically interested in the fact that, if we consider the scene I discuss above as a teaching moment, what kind of teaching are we being asked to do? Sherlock is observing surface details, from clothes, personal objects, and movement, all of which are elements of mis-en-scene, in order to deduce information about other people. Constantly throughout life we are told that this behavior, this type of reading people based solely on their physical attributes, is wrong. “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” right? Yet this is what Sherlock does repeatedly, and asks us to do. Take, for instance, his exchange with the lady police officer and crime technician. He deduces that they are lovers and adulterers based on a few physical clues. So Sherlock is asking us to read in a way that we aren’t usually supposed to, and often, Sherlock does so with great success. This reminded me of a quote from Slavoj Zizek’s essay on courtly love, that I can promise you I hardly understood at all:

There is more truth in the mask we wear, in the game we play, in the “fiction” we obey and follow, than in what is concealed beneath the mask.

In our first encounter with Adler, she is naked. In the absence of clothing and personal affects, Sherlock is forced to read Adler’s body, quite literally, for the combination to the safe. The combination is her body measurements, making her body itself the clue. While Sherlock has little trouble analyzing Adler’s naked body for the clue he needs, Watson is so uncomfortable that he can’t even look at her. He would never be able to crack the case because of his embarrassment. This also foreshadows the end of the episode, when Sherlock once again uses Adler’s body, her pulse, to discover the pass code for her phone. The directors are suggesting a way of reading individuals bodies that would typically make us uncomfortable, and which did make people uncomfortable when the episode aired. There was a lot of backlash in Britain against BBC for airing the episode, nudity and all, before the 9 pm.

Is Sherlock some kind of social critique? and if so, what is it critiquing?? Are the directors attempting to draw attention to our discomfort with Sherlock’s brand of reading, which serves him well throughout the series?

Well, I have to say that Beginners was a pretty funny movie, and Arthur was adorable. Gotta love a good movie about a quirky family, right? and it’s certainly a nice change from Seven Types of Ambiguity.

In terms of narrative structure, the director, Mike Mills, makes some interesting choices with the non-linear structure. It is not clear at first, which sections of the the narrative are “present” and which are past, making for a confusing few minutes when Oliver says that his father has died, but his father returns throughout the film. But, after a bit it is clear the scenes with Anna are the present, while scenes with Hal, Oliver’s father, are past. It is still somewhat unclear if the scenes with Hal are chronological or flashbacks from various points in time (but I suspect the latter).

It seems that the director is attempting, through the scenes with Hal, to recreate the act of remembering. The film conventions used throughout these scenes give them the impressions of having been memories. For instance, at very points, the diegetic sounds bleed from one scene to the other, as if Oliver is mentally leaving one moment and returning to a moment in the past. These scenes of the past often have similar themes, topics, or occurrence to the juxtaposed scenes prior to them. Oliver (and the adorable Arthur) go to the Halloween party, where he pretends to be Freud. After he goes to get himself and Anna drinks, the scene shifts to one of Oliver’s memories of his father. The first clue is when the sounds of the party fade out and the telephone ringing bleeds into the party scene. Then we see Oliver and his father on the phone together.

What I thought was very interesting was that we see Oliver’s father, despite the fact that Oliver would not actually be able to see his father. I began to wonder about the way we remember acts of communication when we aren’t able to communicate directly with other people. If we know the person well, I think we can picture what we would expect them to be doing, and I wonder if this is what the director is trying to capture. Once a person is gone, how do we attempt to augment our stash of memories of that person? Do we recreate or invent new memories? This idea is further support with the scene of Hal at the club. He is standing in the center of a closed shot in a spot lot surrounded my anonymous men, who are all in the dark. His white shirt acts to contrast the darkness surrounding him. It is clear that he is meant to be the focus, not just of the shot, but of Oliver imagination, which is invent a memory of his father.

Anyway, topically or thematically, the scenes relate in that Oliver is picking Anna up at a party, and in the latter scene, his father is telling him about his night at a club trying to pick up men. This seems to be a kind of trend. First we get a scene from the present, then a related scene from Oliver’s past with his father.


If Mills was attempting to create a visual representation of the process of remembering, I think he did an excellent job.


My favorite line from the movie: “Black music is the deepest because they suffered the most. Them and the Jews.” In a non-academic side note, I can only hope to be as kooky when I grow up and have kids. I think Oliver’s mom was LIT-erally (Rob Lowe voice from Parks and Rec) my favorite character.


Elliot Perlman

As an intertext for Elliott Perlman’s novel Seven Types of Ambiguity, William Empson’s critical text by that name works in two ways. First, it draws attention to Perlman’s use of linguistic ambiguities throughout the novel as a stylistic choice. Second, it  supports Perlman’s theme, specifically the idea that truth and reality are ambiguous, a theme that has been prevalent throughout the various texts we’ve explored this semester. While Empson focuses specifically on the linguistic ambiguities that makes poetry meaningful, Perlman takes ambiguity a step further, drawing attention to moral and social ambiguities we face every day. Over the course of seven sections,  like Empson’s text, Perlman gives us seven perspectives on one situation, revealing the various ways the situation and the underlying connections between the characters, can be interpreted.

Empson’s Seven Types of Ambiguity was published in 1930. It was an influential critical works in the field of poetry and became part of the cannon of New Criticism.  New Criticism, which dominated American literary criticism in the mid-20th century, “emphasized close reading, particularly of poetry, to discover how a work of literature functioned as a self-contained, self-referential aesthetic object” (Wikipedia). For more comical  contextual information on William Empson, check out Simon’s biography of the poetry theorist on pages 199-200 of the novel.

William Empson

Critics of Empson’s work believed that he simply gave himself an out to search for various meanings within a text without exploring the context within which the ambiguity appeared (Poetry Foundation). In the second edition, Empson even goes so far as to suggest that his own extend definition of ambiguity rendered it almost meaningless.  However, Empson’s “explanations of how meaning is carried in poetic language have made poetry accessible to hundreds of readers” (Poetry Foundation). Lisa Rodensky suggests that the aim of the books “is to figure out the processes that go on… in the minds of readers as they read… and then to articulate in detail the different meanings that those processes generate so that one can make sense of the response that one has to the poem” (57-58). Essnetially, the importance of Empson’s work is that it focuses the process of close reading ambiguities for the purpose of finding multiple layers of meaning within poetry, added to the poems richness.

Empson’s text is divided into seven sections in which he outlines the seven types of linguistic ambiguity he sees in poetry. Ambiguity is generally defined as any piece of language that can be interpreted in multiple ways. Empson points out in his text that linguistic ambiguities are often, as a rule, “witty or deceitful”  in that ambiguity can be used purposefully to mislead audiences. Empson extends the definition of ambiguity to include “any verbal nuance, however slight, which gives room for alternative reactions to the same piece of language” (1). By replacing “meaning” with “reaction,” Empson is not only addressing the multiple levels of meaning in a given text, but the varied ways that those ambiguities can effect readers as they consume the text. The seven types of linguistic ambiguity that Empson lays out are:

1. When a detail is effective in several ways at once. For instance, when you use a metaphor, but it is unclear as to which similarity between the two concepts being compared you mean to highlight.

2. When multiple alternate meanings are resolved into one. This can be achieved through grammar.

3. When two unconnected meanings are given at the same time. Read any Shakespeare play and you will notice the ABUNDANCE of puns throughout. This is the third type of ambiguity.

4. When a statement has multiple meanings that do not agree with each other, but work together to show the complicated state of mind of the author.

5. When the authors writes his way to meaning.

6. When the author writes something that essentially says nothing, forcing the reader to determine what that nothing means on their own.

7. When two words in a sentence or phrase contradict each other. Empson claims that this exposes a conflict in the author’s mind. A great example of this is when Simon says, “This is a need, a need that is recognized at least unconsciously by every reader” (Perlman 147). As Alex points out, you can’t recognize something unconsciously, since recognizing it is in fact, becoming conscious of it.

Empson uses these qualifiers for poetry, but can any text not have any linguistic ambiguities? How does an author create multiple layers of meaning, and possibly trick readers into interpreting texts in a particular way, through the use of ambiguous language?

On a thematic level, Empson’s work also works to support Perlman’s novel, particular the way we view the characters’ relationships. Throughout the novel, categorizing the relationships between characters seems to only complicate them, particularly when two characters view their relationship in different ways. Simon explains Alex’s theory:

 that, just like a verbal expression, a relationship between two people is ambiguous if it is open to different interpretations, but that unlike most words, most relationships are seriously ambiguous.  And, he contends, if two people have different views, not simply about the state of their relationship, but about its nature, then that can affect the entire course of their lives. (200-201).

We see then, that Perlman is addressing the ambiguity of the categories we place relationships in. Alex and Angela, for instance, have an ambiguous relationship. Their connection is economic, since she is a hooker, but also intimate, because he reveals his darkest secrets to her and they have sex. This relationship is further complicated when other characters attempt to “read” and categorize it. Anna believes the relationship is even more intimate than it may be, because Angela urinates on Joe due to her MS, because that was a possible sexual outlet Joe  unsuccessfully asked Anna to explore previously. What other relationships in the novel are ambiguous?

Second, Perlman draws attention to moral ambiguity seen throughout the text. Various character’s are involved in activities that are deemed socially unacceptable, from Simon’s kidnapping scheme, which even the inmate in jail find appalling, to the various extramarital  affairs, to political/economic scams. When Alex, Simon, and Angela are discussing the way that authors can trick readers into identifying with an antihero, and the emotional toll this takes on that reader, Angela asks if it is “because he has been tricked into thinking the violent scene is some how morally ambiguous when, of course, it isn’t really?” (146). In what ways, then, is Perlman asking us to see the characters’ actions in Seven Types of Ambiguity as morally ambiguous? Simon believed that by kidnapping Sam he was saving him from a broken home in which his parents no longer loved each other. What other characters are engaging in behavior that is normally considered immoral, but may be more complex given the information provided by the text? Perlman forces us to consider whether we agree that morality can be ambiguous, or it can be more concrete. 


Empson, William. Seven Types of Ambiguity. New York: New Directions, 1966. Print.

Perlman, Elliot. Seven Types of Ambiguity. New York: Riverhead, 2005. Print.

Rodensky, Lisa. “Empson’s Seven Types Of Ambiguity.” Essays In Criticism: A Quarterly Journal Of Literary Criticism 53.1 (2003): 54-67. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 18 Mar. 2013.

“William Empson.” The Poetry Foundation. Poetry Foundation, n.d. Web. 18 Mar. 2013. <http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/william-empson>.

Lars Von Trier

This whole post may end up being all “debris” as Dr. K suggested we do at the bottom of our posts, because, quite frankly, I wasn’t sure what to do with Melancholia. In order to try and get a better understanding of it, I started by researching Lars Von Treir and his unique ideas about film making. By researching, I mean I googled him in the fashion of our favorite detective, Sherlock.

He helped create the ten princples of Dogme 95, which are as follows:

  1. Filming must be done on location. Props and sets must not be brought in. If a particular prop is necessary for the story, a location must be chosen where this prop is to be found.
  2. The sound must never be produced apart from the images or vice versa. Music must not be used unless it occurs within the scene being filmed, i.e., diegetic.
  3. The camera must be a hand-held camera. Any movement or immobility attainable in the hand is permitted. The film must not take place where the camera is standing; filming must take place where the action takes place.
  4. The film must be in colour. Special lighting is not acceptable (if there is too little light for exposure the scene must be cut or a single lamp be attached to the camera).
  5. Optical work and filters are forbidden.
  6. The film must not contain superficial action (murders, weapons, etc. must not occur.)
  7. Temporal and geographical alienation are forbidden (that is to say that the film takes place here and now).
  8. Genre movies are not acceptable.
  9. The film format must be Academy 35 mm.
  10. The director must not be credited.

Don’t get too excited, its copied directly off of Wikipedia. After exploring these principles, I began to see that maybe, just MAYBE, the link to our in-class discussions of narrative, realism, and truth lie within Von Trier’s style o film making. Essentially what I gleaned, and I will explain further in a second, is that Von Trier and his cohorts create truth in their films by filming what actually happens instead of using the incredible cache of technologies available to them to trick the audience into “seeing” something unreal, something created using digital images because it can’t be created with real tangible objects.

So looking back over the principles, many of them require the director to use only what he has physically in front of him. Rules one, two, four, and five all suggest that anything the viewer sees or hears must be present within the story of the film, or diegetic. No tricks of lighting or added sound. Not computer animated visual effects either. Everything in the movie really happens, even if it is script and shot over and over again.  By creating a film in this way, Von Treir and other directors are attempting to simulate life as precisely as possible. Their film is more realistic, visually, than one that was created with all amounts of technical illusions.

This being said, Melancholia is not actually a Dogme 95 film and does break some of these rules.

1. The openning shots of the film are completely weird and all over the place. They are a mash-up of various still and moving images, including a close-up of a dirty Justine (Dunst) with birds falling out of the sky around her, a shot of Claire carrying Leo through the 19th hole of a golf course with her feet sinking into the ground, a medium close-up of Justine exuding electricity from her fingers, the horse laying down, Justine running through woods in her wedding dress while trees attack her, still shots of paintings, and images of planets colliding. Just really all manner of weird things. These juxtaposed shots, all slowed down, seem to work in a few different ways. First, they foreshadow the end of the film. Even when you think they might of escaped, they don’t! Second, I wonder if they are a visual attempt at revealing Justine’s inner monologue. At the wedding, when she falls asleep on Leo’s bed, Justine says that she is dreaming or having visions of some of these images, particularly the one of her feet sinking into the ground. Unless there is a way to insert these scenes into the diegetic life of the film, Von Treir would be breaking his own rules by using visual effects and sound. IF this mash up was part of Justine’s thoughts, however, it would fit more with the principles, not to mention being less mind boggling.

2. The is non-diegetic music through out the film. This music often works to set a particular mood for the scene. For instance, the music as they sit in the stick “cave” and wait for the Melancholia to hit the Earth and kill them is orchestra music that gradually  gets louder and seems to climax at the moment of collision. In this last scene it becomes mingled with the diegetic sound of the planet coming closer and hitting the Earth. It may be the same music from the very beginning of the film (I think it is, but I know little about orchestra music and it all sounds the same to me!). ADDITION: I am wondering if maybe this music could also be within Justine’s mind, or maybe it starts in Justine’s in the beginning and ends up in Claire’s when she hits rock bottom like her sister.

3. There are definitely some visual effects here, since obviously no planet has collided with Earth yet. And the camera is not always hand-held, I don’t think… I think that he breaks the rules a lot more in the Justine half of the film, as if Justine’s point of view cannot ever be realistic because of her depression.

Other random bits and pieces:

I think there is some discussion of truth in the wedding scenes where Justine in pretending, or acting out, the happiness that she is supposed to feel on her wedding day.(And isn’t that a bit of Metanarration). She is so obviously plagued by depression, and so this moment, which should according to society completely blow her depression out of the water, make her whole, and be the highlight of her life, does nothing for her. Instead she spends the whole time trying to escape or sabotage the event. It reminded me of those dreams you have when you have somewhere to be but you cant get there. It was very frustrating

Could it all just be Justine’s or Claire’s creepy dream? I was trying to find a moment when we could have slipped from reality to dream, but I haven’t really found one yet.

Why does the dad call every woman “Betty”?

For the last couple weeks I’ve been focusing on narrative, particularly the structure of various texts we have been working with. The Brief and Wonderful Life of Oscar Woa fits with the other texts we’ve read in that it breaks from a linear structure and involves polyvocality (Thanks Native American Literature for that little gem of a vocab word!), including sections from Yunior and Lola. Structurally, its exactly what we have been discussing.

Thematically it also fits nicely with our other texts as Truth is a major focus in this text. Much of the book plays with the concept of fuku, the idea that misfortune can derive from evil, supernatural vendettas and curses, and not always through the conscious actions of the individual. On top of this, we are returned, once again, to the question of reliable narration.  The book is primarily narrated by Oscar’s sister’s boyfriend, Yunior, providing a level of distance from the story. It’s clear that Yunior was not present for the events he explains (save for Oscars years at Rutgers), but is instead acting as a type of curator of the de Leon family’s history of fuku (or fuku history?). Instead Yunior acts as a connected outsider. There is no evidence that Yunior is trying to deceive the reader, as with The Uses of Enchantment, yet there is also a sense that he has trouble understanding the young man whose story he is trying to tell. in a related but not so related side note: I was a little thrown off by the moments of in the text when blanks are left instead of people’s names, places, and some phrases…

This leads me to the main point of my post. I found it interesting that  Junot Diaz, the author, is telling a story of Yunior, a character, telling to story of Oscar and his family. Certainly there are some elements of metanarrative here, as with our other texts. Essentially, Diaz creates a book in which Yunior speaks for Oscar in a way that incorporates Oscar’s voice in Yunior’s storytelling. This made me think of Lit Crit and reading about Bahktin’s theories on the novel and double-voiced narration. Bakhtin discusses the way that language gets stratified by social, professional, historical, and ideological diversity of its users, a phenomena called heteroglossia. According to him, ‘retelling a text in one’s own words” is a “double-voiced narration” because it puts the text in the reader’s voice while also maintaining some of the authorial voice. In terms of Oscar’s story, Yunior clearly uses terminology that Oscar wouldn’t have used, even during the moments of the text when he is telling stories that Oscar told him. Through the retelling of direct dialog from Oscar the reader can become aware of his unique way of talking; his voice. For instance, we hear one of Oscar’s pick-up lines on page 174, “If you were in my game I would give you an eighteen Charisma!” We also know that Oscar “used a lot of huge-sounding nerd words like indefatigable and ubiquitous when talking to niggers who would barely graduate from high school” (22). Yunior obviously doesn’t speak in this way normally and so, throughout the text he sometimes uses (well Diaz uses for him) his own voice to relay the story, incorporating approximations of Oscar’s voice when he can.  In some instances, it seems as though Yunior Dominicanizes Oscar’s story, since Oscar is portrayed as the anti-macho foil of the Dominican male stereotype.  He incorporates Spanish language into the English. In what way does this style of storytelling, one character through another, act as a double-voiced narration, changing Oscar’s story slightly into Yunior’s story of Oscar. We can imagine the ways in which those two stories would be different, emphasizing different details or moments.

My debris thoughts:

  • I’m somewhat interested in the links between comic book narratives and Oscar’s story…  I don’t know much about comic books, but I get the sense that the misfit becomes a hero, save a girl, stands up for what is right ect.
  • Why does Lola get a section of narration? Also! talk about just glossing over her having a revenge abortion, especially after all that talk about not caring about the kids near the beginning!  That seemed so out of character to me!
  • I feel like an idiot for knowing nothing about Dominican history.

When we were talking about The Uses of Enchantment, we discussed the sense that there is a story outside that which is written in the text. The unreliable narration of all the characters blurred the line of truth and reality, suggesting that the real story was not within the stories as they were told by the characters, but someplace else. Some place outside the book.

In my last post I was thinking about narration in visual texts and the way in which the camera acts as a third person narrator, taking on the point of view of various characters throughout. Most often, the camera assumes the point of view of Sherlock or Watson through shots that suggest a certain mental state (like unbalanced shots of Watson, and when Sherlock gets spun around), non-diegetic additions to scenes (like words that show up around Sherlock’s “victims”), and shots that seems to assume a characters sight. We have already established that Watson and Sherlock are potentially unreliable. Watson is experiencing some kind of post-traumatic stress while Sherlock is untrustworthy, secretive, and emotionally distant. With primarily unreliable characters, does the truth in this show also lie outside what we see? Throughout the series we notice suggests of what lies outside the story, which further seems to support the idea that what we are seeing in the show is not all there is.

Throughout the series there are numerous moments when Sherlock is discussing, dealing with, or working

Sherlock is a surprising effective fighter...

Sherlock is a surprising effective fighter…

on cases that we don’t see. On a very basic level, this is disconcerting to me because it seems to break the standard that other shows similar to Sherlock have established. Most T.V. shows, particularly those that involve solving crimes, tend to show one case in its entirety without any suggestion about other cases. Each case is the central conflict of an individual episode. This leads to questions about the genre of Sherlock. Some episodes include multiple unrelated cases. Others hint at other cases that Sherlock is working on without going into any details about them (For instance in series one episode 2 we get a short scene of Sherlock fighting a man with a sword wearing what appears to be a traditional Middle Eastern attire for instance), while in others, Sherlock solves small cases before he solves the major one (the man dead in the field in Set 2 Episode 1). In the first instance, it appears that Watson doesn’t even know about the case, as evidenced through his dialog. Watson asks if Sherlock is working on the case of some missing jewels and Sherlock claims it was boring while using his feet to push the sword of the now vanished opponent under his chair. If the cases themselves are not the focus of the episodes, then what is the genre of Sherlock? Is it really a crime drama? But this classification issue is some what outside what I’m thinking about.

I think series two of Sherlock, even more so than series one, seems to explore the idea that what we see on the screen is not all there is. The world created by the narrative seems to exist both before what we see and outside the range of the camera. We continue in this series to have cases mentioned but not explained.

On an interesting side-note, I wonder if these cases would have been covered within the paratexts that BBC created to go along with the show (see Molly’s blog), including Watson’s blog and Sherlock’s website. This would allow the creators to cover ground that they can’t in the show.

I wonder in what ways this sense of something beyond the screen affects the viewing process. If the writers aren’t focused on what cases as in other crime dramas, why suggest that Sherlock is working on cases that Watson isn’t aware of or a part of? Is it these moves that make it so difficult for viewers to believe Sherlock is a truthful narrator?

This is not the first time I watched Sherlock. I really like crime dramas, especially ones that allow the reader to solve the crime with the on-screen detective, so it made its way into my “Recommended Shows” lists on Netflix quite a few months ago. It was nice to watch it again though!

For the last two weeks, we have been very focused on narration, particularly the shifts in point of view and nontraditional narrative structures. Since this has been my approach to the texts we read already, I was still thinking about this when I started rewatching Sherlock. In Mr. Peanut and The Uses of Enchantment, much of our discussions centered on whose point of view was being represented in the narration and the reliability of that person. Skimming the original text that the first episode was based on by Arthur Conan Doyle, I noticed it was written in first person from the point of view of Watson and incorporated a kind of diary-like narrative structure. I found myself wondering how the writers of the T.V. adaptation would either attempt to visually represent Doyle’s original narrative decisions or if they would change them. As the first episode begins, it seems that the writers are going to maintain, as best they can with the visual medium, Watson’s point of view. The episode starts with scenes from a contemporary war, which we discover is his dream. The diary format is changed to a blog, which Watson’s therapist tells him will help him get over his post traumatic stress issues. After watching more of the episodes, I think the adaptation jumps to various different points of view. Sometimes it appears to be from other characters points of view. Unlike the books we have read, however, the show seems to remain relatively chronological with a traditional pyramidal narrative structure. Each episode has an exposition, rising action, climax, and resolution. It is always clear what is happening, and, while we obviously question what the “truth” of the cases are, it seems that there is a question about what is “real” in the show as our two books did. Can we consider the camera a third person narrator? In what ways can the camera come to embody a characters point of view for the viewer? We often get shots that show what characters are thinking, like the Watson’s dream and the when they place non-diegetic words to label what Sherlock sees on victims.

We have also talking a lot about Truth.

One of the moments that does seem to question what is truth and what is fiction is Watson’s leg injury. The psychiatrist thinks his limp is a physical symptom of his post traumatic stress, while Sherlock’s brother suggests that its because Watson misses the war. We see that once he meets Sherlock and finds something to interest him, he no longer needs his cane at all. It leads us to question whether this idea of the physical embodiment of psychological issues will be a recurring theme of the show.

In that  first scene, I found it very interesting that when Watson sits at his desks and removes his laptop, we see his gun sitting in the desk. I think it was Chekhov who said that if you see a gun in the first act, it will go off by the third. But Watson’s gun never goes off. At first it seems to suggest a suicidal tendency. Throughout the first season, however, we realize that Watson misses the war, so the gun could be symbolic of the need for some kind of action. An action that Sherlock provides him with.

There are some obvious similarities between Mr. Peanut and The Uses of Enchantment. First, the narrative structure in both in nonlinear, jumping between time, space, and point of view. Where Ross allows (or forces) the reader to do most of the heavy lifting in terms of pulling apart and repiecing what is real and what is not in the novel, Julavits provide more clues for the reader through graphic devices like chapter titles, dates, and the way certain section are written. For instance, the author uses the correct format for dialog in the chapters which take place in the novel’s “present,” but does not use quotations in the section that are “What Might Have Happened” or Dr. Hammer’s transcriptions of his appointments with Mary. I think this seems to suggest that we are not to take the things “said” in these latter sections as dialog, particularly because its unclear if they are inventions of either Mary’s or Dr. Hammer’s imagination. Dr. Hammer’s “Notes” are riddled with times, which also act as a kind of distinction from other parts of the text. I think its interesting that Julavits used these graphic elements as signals for the time, place, and point of view of each sections. It made it far easier to follow that Ross’s text.

Both texts also include some elements of metafiction, with David’s book in the former and Dr. Hammer’s book in the latter. That being said, I liked Mr. Peanut much more. I think that writing style as well as the plotlines made Ross’s book more suspenseful and intriguing. While Ross incorporated parts of this text within his text as pieces of the narrative, the book with The Uses of Enchanctments seems more like a type of prop for the narrative.

In The Uses of Enchantments, it seemed that one of the major themes was that the characters needed to reclaim their own stories. The idea is brought up by the man, whose wife is in “Reclamation therapy” in order “to take her story back from” him (77). While this idea of having to reclaim ones past is directly discussed by the man about his wife, it seems that this is what many of the characters in the text are doing. One the secondary character level, it seems that Paula Veal, Mary’s mother, was attempting to reclaim the story of her ancestry with Abigail Lake. Mary’s father is likewise attempting to reclaim his story in the chapter which starts on page 335 as he tells Mary about some of the issues he and his wife hid from their daughters. Dr. Flood is reclaiming her tragic past as a survivor of genocide. The man even seems to be attempting to reclaim parts of his story in the “What Might Have Happened” sections, especially the one starting on page 105. The whole book revolves around Mary attempting to reclaim her own story from, essentially, everyone: her family, Dr. Hammer, Roz, even Miss Pym. This necessity of reclaiming seems to suggest that the “truth” can escape from us in some way. That we can lose sight of what happens to us by becoming overwhelmed with what could have happened, what others think happened, and what others wanted to happen. A review by Emily Nussbaum on the NY Times seems to think about this idea a little bit also, but she talks about the “identity politics wars of the 1980s” when “[e]veryone everywhere seemed to be telling the story of what happened to them.” I am very curious about what the heck she’s even talking about!

One of my favorite moments was in the chapter where Mary and her father talk:

Her mother was obviously the more difficult personality, yes; but her father had made it easy for her to be difficult. He’s made it easy for her to be strangled by her own worst tendencies

It almost reminds me of the idea of the “self-fulfilling prophecy.” Maybe we develop into the type of person that other people think we are in some way.


I think it would also be interesting to explore the connections between the original book by the same title of Julavits, which seems to have been a pschoanalytic reading of fairy tales!