[Work: Othello, William Shakespeare, 1603]
Antagonism in Othello:

Subversive and Progressive Racial Attitudes in the Characters of Shakepeare’s Othello

 

Introduction:

The development of interpreting William Shakespeare’s plays for their progressive capabilities has been increasingly common in the modern era; Shylock, the Jewish character in The Merchant of Venice, portrayed on-stage for hundreds of years as a remorseless villain, is today played as a sympathetic and often ironic character whose persecuting is often shown to be more-or-less on-par with his persecution.

Similarly, the Othello seen in modern productions of OthelloOthello - William Shakespeare - Race, Iago is a sympathetic tragic hero, rather than a dangerous, violent, and easily manipulated caricature. Yet, while some ambiguity about the nature of the character of Othello is inherent to the text, and even in keeping with the academic sentiment that the interpretation of art is more reflective of the morality of the reader than of any ‘opinions’ one may find in the work, Othello seems to contain a far more progressive element than The Merchant of Venice—in its antagonist, who in Othello is (of course) not the racialized character, but Iago.

The character of Iago is unambiguously the antagonist of the play, and, beyond this, serves as both the catalyst to the events of the play and as the detractor or destroyer, either directly or by extension, of every character who falls in the play. Indeed, in Othello, the character of Iago does more to challenge racial stereotypes contemporary with Shakespeare’s writing thereof than does the character of Othello to affirm them.

Continue reading

[Work: Othello, William Shakespeare, 1603]
Antagonism in Othello:

Subversive and Progressive Racial Attitudes in the Characters of Shakepeare’s Othello

was last modified: April 12th, 2016 by Daniel Podgorski

[Work: The Woman who Walked into Doors, Roddy Doyle, 1996]
Not Himself:

Roddy Doyle’s The Woman who Walked into Doors and the Ethics of Representation

 

Introduction:

Roddy Doyle Sketch by M.R.P. - The Woman who Walked into Doors - representation abuse poverty

Sketch by M.R.P.

The Woman who Walked into DoorsThe Woman who Walked into Doors - Roddy Doyle - representation abuse poverty, written by Booker Award-winning Irish novelist Roddy Doyle, is a novel from 1996 with a strange pedigree. Its narrative began life as part of an award-winning 1994 television miniseries called FamilyThe Woman who Walked into Doors - Roddy Doyle - representation abuse poverty, also written by Doyle. It was then partially ‘novelized’ to produce the work in question.

Despite being a novelization of a multimedia production—a strategy most well known for its overabundance of slapdash cash grabs—The Woman who Walked into Doors is an excellent novel. But its origin is not the subject of this article, and its quality is secondary to that subject; the subject of this article is the book’s representation of its narrator and protagonist, a working class woman who is abused by her husband, who cares deeply for her child, and who develops a drinking problem.

In particular, this article intends to consider a point of view which I have encountered over and over again in academic, professional, and casual discussions of different works of art. It is a point of view to which I am sympathetic, but with some serious reservations, and it is something that I can not help but think about when working on my own creative writing. It can be summed up relatively well as follows: ‘It is disingenuous or morally questionable for an artist to assume the perspective of a person with an identity the artist does not personally possess, especially when that identity is underprivileged, disadvantaged, or underrepresented in the artist’s culture.’ This is a delicate topic, and one I intend to give a fair consideration.

Continue reading

[Work: The Woman who Walked into Doors, Roddy Doyle, 1996]
Not Himself:

Roddy Doyle’s The Woman who Walked into Doors and the Ethics of Representation

was last modified: November 7th, 2016 by Daniel Podgorski

[Work: A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess, 1962]
Burgess’ Myopic Morality:

Why Anthony Burgess’ Infamous A Clockwork Orange is Stronger Without its Original Last Chapter

 

Anthony Burgess Sketch by M.R.P. - A Clockwork Orange - bad last chapter 21

Caricature Sketch by M.R.P.
[High-res prints available here]

Introduction:

I really think that there is no better demonstration of the valuable insight and truth behind the concept we know as ‘the death of the author‘ than A Clockwork Orange. Anthony Burgess wrote one of the greatest works of philosophical farce of the twentieth century—in many ways as strong in that genre as is Voltaire’s Candide—and then lived out the remaining 30 years of his life without really realizing he had done so. And on the strength of luck (as well as a savvy editor, and later a savvy director), his accidental stroke of genius will be remembered in perpetuity.

Do not mistake this as outright disparagement of Burgess’ abilities as an artist. Far from it, I think he was a clever writer, a subtle reader of classic literature, and a capable composer. But I also think that he was too old-fashioned, moralistic, and traditionally intellectual to notice the real virtues of his work in A Clockwork Orange.

And the great book that he decried (his own), which became the great film that he decried (Kubrick’s), was something that he dedicated much time and effort to denigrating in his later years. He sneered at it and dismissed it whenever it came up, and—most egregiously, from my perspective—he worked hard to ensure that a weaker version of the book (which he successfully marketed as the true version of the book) became the primary version available to the world.

The nature of this article is such that it requires spoiling basic plot details of A Clockwork Orange, so you should only continue reading after this paragraph if you either do not mind spoilers or have already read the book (or seen its 1971 film adaptation).

Continue reading

[Work: A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess, 1962]
Burgess’ Myopic Morality:

Why Anthony Burgess’ Infamous A Clockwork Orange is Stronger Without its Original Last Chapter

was last modified: May 11th, 2017 by Daniel Podgorski

[Work: Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë, 1847]
Powerful Vision:

The Power of Women and the Motif of Sight in Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

 

Introduction:

The revolutionary and game-changing nature of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre in the history of literature is easily forgotten. The novel seems to modern readers, after all, a conventionally Victorian exercise in listening to the inner struggles of a person navigating a highly ordered and repressive society. But I consider that perspective to be akin to the ‘Seinfeld is Unfunny’ trope, insofar as anyone leveling that accusation must necessarily have limited knowledge of the medium.

Brontë’s sustained, sensitive, and extremely personal examination of the thoughts and feelings of her character Jane Eyre was daring and unconventional. It is no coincidence that many late Victorian realists as well as many early twentieth century Modernists cite Jane Eyre as a big influence. I could talk about this book from any of six or seven angles, but to give this article some focus (and prevent my endless rambling) I would like to make the case for Brontë’s achievement through just one of Jane Eyre‘s motifs: vision.

Continue reading

[Work: Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë, 1847]
Powerful Vision:

The Power of Women and the Motif of Sight in Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

was last modified: September 1st, 2016 by Daniel Podgorski

[Work: Cat’s Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut, 1963]
Laughing at the Worst:

The Equal-parts-comedic-and-nihilistic Critique of Inhumane Research in Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle

 

Introduction:

Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut is a member of a class of novels which could arguably not have surfaced without the Cold War as their context. It is brimming with paranoia, and it manages to frame the greatest of tragedies as the subtlest and most inevitable of truths. I’m not entirely sure what to call work like this: perhaps something like ‘bureaucratic sci-fi.’ But whatever you call it, what it provides is a stinging criticism of a society that knowingly teeters on the brink of destruction, and which does so with a smile. Where there is something to smile about, reasons Vonnegut, there is something to laugh about. Cat’s CradleCat's Cradle - Kurt Vonnegut - arms race satire, despite having one of the bleakest and most nihilistic plots of any of Kurt Vonnegut’s novels, manages to be one of his most hopeful, charming, and humorous works.

Cat’s Cradle holds nothing sacred, and—like much of Vonnegut’s work—its message may be summed up succinctly by a sigh that comes through a grin. It takes to task humans that are indifferent to human suffering; technological advancements that are made without humanistic aims; and spiritual as well as governmental institutions which fail to provide happiness to their participants. It is pithy, clever, and confusing, and it just might be my favorite Kurt Vonnegut novel.

Continue reading

[Work: Cat’s Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut, 1963]
Laughing at the Worst:

The Equal-parts-comedic-and-nihilistic Critique of Inhumane Research in Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle

was last modified: January 22nd, 2017 by Daniel Podgorski