In reading “the Real Thing” by Henry James, I took notice of the many exchanged glances that the characters shared with one another. For example, “the lady looked at the gentleman, and the gentleman looked round the room”; “my visitors exchanged a glance”; ” a sense of strangeness seemed to dawn on the lady.” It is those small subtle glances that make an impression on the reader. It creates an atmosphere of mystery. Therefore, it is the storyline that James is concerned about?, or is it that curiosity we produce within us as we are presented with mysterious characters? It is the process of figuring out why the novel is significant that James wants the reader to experience. We ask ourselves questions, like how are the characters going to interact with one other? What is the lesson and who will teach it? The answers to these questions are information that James wants to prolong till the very end of the story. The technique of prolonging information is what creates this perplexing storyline.
In the reading The Annihilation of time and space by Rebecca Solnit, the time when Muybridge was born was a time where schedules and time management were not considered an issue. People were more focused on the time of year and the seasons. However, when the industrial revolution progressed and factories bloomed, the need for faster productivity was necessary. Workers had to make a certain amount of products at a certain amount of time, which launched the issue of time. Machines were built faster and easier. She argues that the technological advances are a result of capitalism.”To use the railroad terms, the engine of this cultural and perceptual change was economic (18).” Therefore, she poses the question whether our technological advances are our downfall or not, when Solnit says, “ before the new technologies and ideas, time was a river in which human beings were immersed moving steadily on the current, never faster than speeds of nature—of currents, of wind, of muscle. Trains liberated them from the flow of the river, or isolated them from it (18).” Is technology isolating us from nature or is it saving us from it. By continuing to develop technology, we are going against nature. What we knew in the past deteriorates and all which is focused on is our present and future. If technology was taken away from us, will we be able to survive without it? We wouldn’t be able to know how to handle things like we did in the past. “We see much they did not, and can never see as they did.” With the disregard of our past and reliance of technology, we become less substantial beings because everything is being done for us. We are not doing anything for ourselves.
Muybridge launch of motion pictures presents to us that our consciousness is not continuous. We see the same image over and over again, which is what Muybridge’s pictures represent. They represent images in a repeated sequence. James would respond in opposition to Muybridge’s theory. James believes that we do not see the same image twice. Therefore, even though we are given the same image over again doesn’t mean we see a exact replica in our consciousness. When we see a scene, our conscious produces a broad outline of it. Therefore, when we look upon the same scene again we realize that details were missing from the first time we saw it. Yes, we see the same image, but we might be focusing on different details that we missed before. The repetition of seeing an image just makes our conscious develop stronger inferences about what we know about that particular object or scene.
In the reading Exploring Consciousness by Rita Carter, Carter suggests that our consciousness moves through “time and space” without any direction, always switching from thought to thought. For example, Carter suggests that thoughts are “switching from a passing face, to the origin of the universe, to tonight’s dinner or the tickle in your toe.” Even though random thoughts switch from one to the other, Carter suggests that we have control over what we think about in our consciousness. We are the director of our consciousness. She poses the question; “Can we determine whether our consciousness flows smoothly, continously or lurch along, punctuated by jump-cuts, flashbacks and fade-outs?”
In the reading Stream of thought by James, he stresses that thoughts are continuous. However, Carter suggests a flaw within the theory that thoughts are continuous. She says that our thoughts only SEEM to be continuous because we always remind ourselves of previous thoughts. Therefore, this reminder of previous thoughts are going to continuously remain in our consciousness. Carter uses the fridge example,” if you really think about it you realize this ongoing quality is actually just a consequence of the fact that every time you check to see whether you are having that particular quale- well you have it! It’s like looking in the fridge to see if the light is on. Every time you do it, it is- so you think it is always on.”
Epistemological aims of seeing
Turner’s sunspots and the sublime
Trachtenberg suggests that photographs bring true value to historical facts. There is no manipulation of events because a photo captures a moment of reality without alteration. However, there is a contradictation when he says ,”they are vulnerable. They have obscurities of other forms of evidence.” There are still questions that we ask ourselves that the photograph cannot answer for us.
In reading Trachtenberg, Oliver Wendell Holmes suggests to us that the immense clarity a photograph offers can be unappealing. These images bring back painful memories, reviving a horrific moment over and over again-that we are trying to repress(294). For example, the dismembered bodies of soldiers. Therefore, viewers are “sicken at such sights”(295). The photograph is a copy-“relics of sort, emblems that which we refuse to look at and yet cannot avoid seeing?(296)” However, it was more than these gruesome depictions that Holmes wanted to repress. He wanted to repress what the photographs represented- “unexpected savagery of a civilization and mass destruction of the war”(296). In opposition to Whitman’s account on war, the photograph gives us no room for imagination. It hits us hard with a “true” image whether we want to remember it or not.
However, Whitman’s account on war goes into detail, telling a narrative that we can visualize in our mind. We know more by reading Whitman’s accounts. Although we cannot visualize the narrative at face value like a photograph, we still feel like we are part of the narrative. Since a photograph is a still shot of one particular moment, it doesn’t provide the viewer with a continuous string of actions that a narrative form presents to us. The narrative account presents details that may be hidden within a photo.
Trachtenberg talks about how Brady introduces us to the album, where we arrange photographs to our liking. There is a manipulation of the sequence of events. If we got back to Whitman’s account, there is also a manipulation of the narrative text because it is written through one perspective. What the album offers us is the combining of text and visual aid together , which could possibly give us a stronger “truth” than if we interpret these two mediums separately (293).
Emerson suggests to us that “life is a train of moods” (473), as we pass through each mood we see different things. Does Emerson suggest that our emotions affect our perception of nature and the world? If each mood has its own “lens” does that suggest that when we grieve we see things as cold, bitter and gloomy, or when we are happy do our perceptions show things as radiant and beautiful than they really are. Are we independent variables, ever-changing within the constant of nature. What we see is really what we feel but not really what it is. It is a glimpse of an image , a subjective experience, like Turner’s paintings showing “not a full formed vision but one like a dream.” “There is no end to illusion,” as Emerson puts it.
In life we attempt to gain perspective of our place in the world and how we should engage in it. This attempt guarantees uncertainty. “Ghostlike we glide through nature, and should not know our place again” ( 471 Emerson). This uncertainty affects our perception as well, leaving it vulnerable to confusion. Therefore, we are not able to see the demands of nature. We are not able to see the gifts that nature has given us because we are too focused on our own “material existence.” Emerson says, our friends appear to have ideas, but never use them. I think it is a pessimistic view of how we use our knowledge and potential. It is not that we use it incorrectly but that we don’t use it at all, letting it go to waste. We have the “thought” and “power” but we never take the initial step to obtain it or accomplish anything with it (477).
However, Emerson compares nature to that of a mother(478). We should not question, but accept the demands of nature. Emerson suggests to us that men do not show off their beauty. “It has to be found at the right angle like a Labrador spar (477).” But when we are “turned at the right angle” we show our beauty and talents and successful men know when to “turn” and show off their luster. If we learn how to connect with nature and accept what it has given us, does that suggest that our perceptions have become less flawed?