Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Presentation Follow-Up

I gave my class presentation yesterday and I thought I would post some follow-up thoughts, since they could be relevent to our discussion.

My idea was that the New York Times "Mid-Week Pictorial" Series would help us with a better understanding of the literature of our course (or in the case of our blog, in reading The General), specifically in addressing the portions of the texts that take place on the front lines of WWI (i.e. trenches). The reason for this is two-fold. First, I think that photography can add a dimension of reality to the images we get in the text. Take, for example, this passage from The General, chapter XVI, P. 161:

"The road they were on had ceased to be a road at the crossroads, where the red-hatted military policeman had stopped the cars. A vague indication of a trench had grown up around them as they progressed, and soon it was quite definitely a trench, floored with mud, in which they sank ankle deep - the warm weather had not dried it - crumbling and slipshod in appearance for lack of revetting. They floundered in single file along the trench..."

I enjoy the realism in Forester's text (in the setting and characterization especially), and I think the above passage embraces that and is effective on its own. My argument for photography is that it gives us, as an audience almost 100 years removed from WWI, a more rounded view of what it was really like on the front lines. We can look at a picture of the trenches, of the damage to the landscape, of the injured soldiers, and "get it," so to speak. Having this background knowledge makes us more attuned to the literary imagery in the texts we're reading. An example I gave in class responded to the picture of trenchfoot that was passed around. We've talked about trenchfoot before, but as I watched people's reactions to the photo, they appeared to be much more horrified when they actually saw what it looked like (let's call it the "cringe factor").

The other thought I had was that photography reminds us to question the texts. When looking at a primary source, such as the Mid-Week Pictorials, one must ask questions. Was this photo a set-up? Was it taken by an agency or individual? Where/who published it? What does the caption suggest? and so on... For me, it gives a gentle reminder to question the text. What perspective is Curzon coming from? What does his class have to do with his position in the War? How is his experience different from the War experience we get from Owen, Graves, Sassoon?

Do you guys agree/disagree? I'm curious what you have thought about the imagery in The General and how it contributes to the overall novel.


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