(The Reading Of) The Wine-Dark Sea : A Thesis Proposal
14 October 2019
For my thesis, I am currently focusing on the concept of found text, found poetry, and “bibliomancy”. I am fascinated by different interpretations of text. My thesis has gone through many different stages in its development, but something that has remained constant is studying these variations. Originally, the purpose was to study how people saw the world in the past, through the eyes of authors; now, it’s much more focused on how different readers look at the same words.
The source text I am currently concentrating on is the Odyssey. I have access to many different translations, and it is a story that I have appreciated since adolescence. The variations in translation are a large part of my interest in this particular work — just looking at the first line, there is a huge difference between Emily Wilson’s “complicated man” and Samuel Butler’s “ingenious hero”. Removing these lines from their context and surrounding them with other text sources or other media exacerbates their differences, such as in Elisabeth Tonnard’s In This Dark Wood. I am not limiting myself to this one source text, but I find that having a “default” to go back to is helping me stay on track.
I am currently exploring how to combine the previous idea with the concept of bibliomancy. Bibliomancy uses phrases or words, chosen at random and taken out of context, to divine fortunes or futures. These phrases form a sort of Rorschach test, where the reader (/bibliomancer) is likely to find a meaning they were already anticipating, while a different reader in a different situation can find something the first reader would never expect. How can photographs, drawings, objects, or other texts change the meaning of a randomly selected phrase? How does the context affect the meaning?
Other inspirations that I am considering include the tradition of the cento, a form of found poetry using preexisting verses, especially those drawn from Homer and Virgil, and Peter Mendelsohn’s What We See When We Read.
My next steps are to continue with pairing found (or bibliomanced?) text with unlikely or random media. I started with photography, and I will expand this concept to include drawings, objects, and even sound or video.
I'm comparing different translations and different contexts of words, phrases, and stories to see how the changes affect the way we see/feel/understand meaning.
(The Story Of) The Wine-Dark Sea
August 10, 2019
With my thesis work, I will explore storytelling as a medium of culture and communication. This idea grows from a lifetime love of literature, song, and language.
There are two goals to my work. The first is to examine the tools of storytelling. These tools include rhetorical and literary devices, character tropes, and story cycles such as Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey. I will look at ancient stories to determine what devices are used, and compare those to other stories, both early and modern. For example, poetry and song both use meter, rhyme, and repetition; what makes a poem different from a song? Stories are meant to be remembered and to travel — what allows them to do so?
My second goal is to investigate the content of common stories. I will study the main conflicts, characters, and settings to find patterns that encompass certain genres and media types. By doing this, I hope to draw connections between seemingly unrelated stories by finding out why each story was told. I was taught that stories were told to teach lessons; I want to know what kind of lessons are being taught, if any. Considering the content of stories may help me to understand the culture and emphases of its people.
For first steps, I will be compiling a list of possible media to study. The beginning portion of this thesis will be very research-heavy. Keeping myself and my notes as organized as possible will be my goal for the first few weeks. As for the art side of the process, I can imagine many different forms for the artwork I will make. Part of this process will be to narrow down my possibilities as research and development continue. Overall, I think this topic gives me plenty of room to explore, and I can already see the beginnings of more focused paths.
The Wine-Dark Sea
For my thesis, I plan to explore the relationship between language and color. This idea began with my examination of color in Homer’s Odyssey which uses a very limited palette: red, yellow, white, black, and metals such as gold, bronze, and electrum. I want to research ancient literature from several cultures to examine how they use color. Once I have references, I plan to design and make small books about each color and how it is used in unexpected or unorthodox (by English standards) ways. For example, Homer’s sea is described as “wine-dark” (oinops, literally wine-face) and honey is described as yellow-green. Literature from other languages may have similar, if less well-known, depictions of color. I’ll start with well-known classics such as the Odyssey, the Epic of Gilgamesh, and the Tale of Genji. I’d also like to include an installation of some sort for which I would survey 30+ people on their opinion of what “wine-dark” etc. actually look like, inspired by Spencer Finch’s “Trying to Remember the Color of the Sky on That September Morning.”
I’ve been interested in the development of language for years now. I’ve also loved the Odyssey since I first read it. Classic literature can be a gateway to learning about the language and culture of a bygone era. I want to explore how people saw the world in the past.
I’ve done countless hours of research, reading, and note-taking in my life, so the first steps of my plan are relatively straightforward. Later in the process, I’ll distribute surveys to gather information about others’ perspectives on historical descriptions of color.