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Tag Archives: Blade Runner

I’ve had a request I can’t really answer…

For starters, I can’t really offer advice online, except for general clues as in this post. The only ones I can directly help are those I see “live” and even there I never help with assessment tasks, except to help clarify the meaning of the task. That said, here is the request:

I’m a student doing my HSC now and read your blog on Frankenstein and Blade Runner and it was really good. I have an assessment on it, which is a visual representation, to compare how the two core texts treat similar content in different ways because of the context of their composition. I have to make 2 A3 posters and compare them with each other. I really have trouble with doing this and completely clueless on how to represent a concept in different contexts…

Well, I would go looking for images, poems, quotes on such things as what the environment was like at the time each text was composed. I’d also go looking for old pics of scientific experiments for Frankenstein, or for typical Romantic and Gothic paintings. For Blade Runner I might go looking for examples of genetic engineering or cloning gone wrong…

Here are some samples of what I found. The top one is an 18th century laboratory. The middle one is an industrial landscape. The bottom one is a still from the movie Koyaanisqatsi (1982). 

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krup_industrial_revolution

koyaanisqatsi_cityscape_at_night

Those are just starters. Keep looking and thinking! 🙂

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NSW Module A English HSC Advanced: on not seeing the wood for the trees…

My coachee was unfamiliar with the expression “can’t see the wood for the trees”, so I explained that it means losing sight of the whole pattern because details grow and grow at an alarming rate. This is a state many HSC students find themselves in. So how to guard against it?

darlingharbour 025

Photo by Neil Whitfield 2008: artificial forest at the Sydney Chinese Garden

Make sure you read and understand the course description. My coachee and I are working on the Frankenstein and Blade Runner pair. The first thing to note is that the module is called TEXTS IN TIME: TEXTS AND CONTEXTS. That is the wood.

This module requires students to COMPARE TEXTS in order to EXPLORE THEM IN RELATION TO THEIR CONTEXTS. It develops students’ understanding of THE EFFECTS OF CONTEXT and QUESTIONS OF VALUE…

Students examine ways in which social, cultural and historical context influences aspects of texts, or the ways in which changes of context lead to changed values being reflected in texts. This includes study and use of the language of texts, consideration of purposes and audiences, and analysis of the content values and attitudes being conveyed…

OK, that means:

1. You need to know what issues or themes of interest each text embodies. In our two, for example, one can think of: the moral/ethical issues in science and technology; the need for companionship or love; what it is to be human; what is “natural”… And so on. It does not greatly matter what the issues are, so long as they are important ones and are major issues in both Frankenstein and Blade Runner. Your teacher and your class will no doubt determine perhaps two or three big ideas to hang your readings on.

2. You need to appreciate what was being thought, said and done around the time each text was composed: 1818 in one case, and 1982 in the other. Consider also where each text was composed. How does what you discover about this explain why each text may have been composed? Be careful here. It can be tempting to write history or philosophy and forget about the actual texts. Not a good idea.

3. Having found an issue, explore where and how it is presented in each text. Don’t forget to be specific rather than general. Find key passages or scenes. Look closely at the techniques used in their making. Then ask “Why is this passage/scene like this?” What in the context may have shaped the way it has been done? What in the context made this issue of sufficient interest to the composer and his/her readers and viewers? Where does the composer stand on it? What does the composer regard as important, or troubling, or worth arguing for or against on this issue? Now you will be exploring values and attitudes.

4. There are also genre issues to think about: The Gothic, science fiction, dystopias, film noir… Why have these genres thrived at various points in history? Why have they persisted? What is the relation of our two texts to these genres?

It really is hard to coordinate all this thinking. Anyone who tells you the HSC has been dumbed down is just plain dumb! I know that I never had to do anything half as difficult in my final year of high school in 1959! The good thing is that the issues raised in these texts really are interesting – and important!

So, good luck. Also, any suggestions about how to organise the material in an exam-friendly way will no doubt be appreciated by others. You may use the comment space here for that, if you care to.

The truth is out there

Yes, you are also lucky. There is so much good material to explore, some of it suggested on my previous post on this.

Here’s another, and very recent. This week an article appeared in The Times in London: Lynda Pratt, “Who wrote the original Frankenstein?”

Frankenstein – that most resonant and enduring of early nineteenth-century fictions – was born in the febrile atmosphere of the Villa Diodati in the summer of 1816. Bored by the unseasonably cold, wet weather, the Villa’s residents, Byron, John Polidori, Percy Shelley and the eighteen-year-old Mary Godwin, amused themselves by writing ghost stories. The other female member of the party – the pregnant Claire Clairmont – did not take part. Surrounded by three competitive males to whose conversations on “the nature of the principle of life” she was a “devout but nearly silent listener”, frustrated by her inability to “think of a story” (and perhaps also by her future husband’s determination that she should “obtain literary reputation”), one night Mary had a dreadful “waking dream”…

As Marilyn Butler so acutely observed, Frankenstein is “famously reinterpretable. It can be a late version of the Faust myth, or an early version of the modern myth of the mad scientist; the id on the rampage, the proletariat running amok, or what happens when a man tries to have a baby without a woman”.

Yet the very familiarity of Frankenstein means that its complex pre- and post-publication textual history is often overlooked, and the actual process of composition of a fiction so centrally concerned with creation ignored. The novel’s textual instability is explored in the impressive introduction to Charles Robinson’s new edition. His honourable aim is not to give us another text of the novel we know – or think we know – but to strip away nearly two centuries of revision and appropriation in order to return to what he describes as the “original” Frankenstein. Or rather, since the “transcript of grim terrors” and the short versions of July and August 1816 do not survive, to reinstate the earliest recoverable version of the novel: the manuscript first draft composed between autumn 1816 and March-April 1817, which is now in the Bodleian Library, Oxford. Robinson’s volume is the first ever edition of this manuscript (a facsimile, by the same editor, was published in 1996)…

The image, vividly evoked in Robinson’s introduction, of Mary and Percy passing the manuscript draft between them, each responding to the ideas of the other, is a powerful reminder that the popular myth of the Romantic author as an isolated, creative genius is just that – a myth. The Shelleys were part of a complex cultural network, involved in literary collaborations and (as the connections between Frankenstein and early nineteenth-century scientific debates illustrate) responsive to contemporary issues.

Frankenstein – in whatever form we choose to encounter it – is not alone in this. Other works central to British Romanticism, such as Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads (also first published anonymously), were brought into being by the creative interactions of their authors both with one another and with the political and intellectual climate of their age….

My next HSC post will introduce the concept of BELONGING and make a few suggestions…

 

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Mary Shelley, “Frankenstein” — and “Blade Runner”

Henry Fuseli "Dream of Belinda"

Henry Fuseli: Dream of Belinda

There is no lack of material on the Internet about this famous novel. Those of you doing the 2009-2012 HSC in NSW must compare it with Scott Ridley’s 1982 movie Blade Runner, which you will also find on this site. You must attend especially to the context in which each work emerged, issues of genre, and issues of language and technique, as well as of course forming ideas about the great themes each work embodies.

Look at this essay: Frankenstein as Lucy (PDF).

friedrich

Here is a beautiful site to look at: Nature, Beauty, and Power: The Romantics (Pitt State University). Another US university, Washington State, offers a plain no-nonsense introduction to Romanticism.

There is also Romanticism: an Overview on The Victorian Web. See especially Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” (1818) — A Summary of Modern Criticism.

Two YouTube videos follow; if you are at school these may just be blank spaces! Try at home.

Kenneth Branagh 1994

Opening of Blade Runner

See also Studying the Gothic, or Emily Bronte?.

UPDATES

  1. The course material for this unit prepared by Melpomene Dixon for the English Teachers’ Association NSW is really excellent!
  2. I have since done a follow-up post.
 

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An essay in progress: HSC Module A — "Brave New World" and "Blade Runner"

INTRODUCTION

This has now joined the other workshops on the pages here.

Hi I’ve written an incomplete essay on Brave New World and blade runner. Can you just read it and see if it’s going to the right direction and also what else can I write about?

Topic

Imagine you have interviewed the composers of the TWO prescribed texts you have studied regarding how they attempted to show their interest in man’s relationship with the natural world.

Write the script of this interview in which the two composers reflect on man’s relationship with the natural world and how they tried to show this in their works.

 
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Posted by on September 12, 2007 in English studies, esl for students, HSC, Media/Film studies, questions asked, student help, works/authors, writing

 

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A new version of Blade Runner?

Many NSW Year 12 Advanced English students will be interested in this: Blade Runner – REDONE?
(again?!)
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Posted by on April 28, 2007 in English studies, HSC, Media/Film studies

 

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In the Wild: Brave New World and Blade Runner

This went up on my personal site on 2 May 2006.

I mentioned yesterday that I was rereading Aldous Huxley’s 1932 dystopia, using the Vintage Classics edition of 2004. David Bradshaw’s 1994 preface to that edition really is very good on the novel’s context and on its ambivalence: one is never sure whether Huxley is warning us about or celebrating his “Brave New World.” I really think the novel is about the search Huxley was on as much as anything else; certainly Huxley’s later career would seem to bear that out.

Also, it has to be said that Brave New World really is not a very good novel, with its crashing coincidences and its deeply unbelievable Savage and its great dollops of Cardinal Newman and others. I rather like Bradshaw’s idea that Linda is based on D H Lawrence’s wife Frieda von Richtofen.

Those studying the novel should head for somaweb.org, which is just about as comprehensive a set of ideas and links as you could get. One of those links is to the rather amazing A Defence Of Paradise-Engineering, whose theme really seems to be that we all need soma but just need to get the formula right. Another links to an essay by Ming Li, “The Cost of Stability in Brave New World“. I like this bit:

Homer Simpson once said, “God has no place within these walls, just as facts have no place within organized religion”.

See also Answers.com, which is also excellent on the novel.

[Ming Li’s essay seems to have gone, a pity. You may instead look at Snow Crash vs. Brave New World: Visions of the Future by Eric Richardson, Columbia, South Carolina. He quotes more extensively than I did from Ming Li’s essay.]

NSW HSC students read Brave New World in conjunction with Blade Runner (2000 Director’s Cut), that quite amazing movie dystopia. My link refers you again to Answers.com, which gives you just about all you need. HSC students are asked to consider both texts as part of a unit called In the Wild, the details of which you may read there. It is in fact a rather interesting unit. An alternative study of the same topic may be undertaken using David Malouf’s An Imaginary Life (a much better novel than Brave New World) and the poetry of Wordsworth. I have dealt with that one on my on another post here.

On my personal blog this generated a bit of discussion: Look here. I moderated my view of Brave New World thus: “…while I still think BNW is far from the ‘world’s greatest novel’, it is an interesting parable, and does raise issues that even the brightest students can grapple with — perhaps for the rest of their lives! I know I am still grappling with them.”

See also Watched Blade Runner (Director’s Cut) last night on my personal blog.

2009-2012 HSC

Blade Runner is now paired with Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, and the emphasis is different from “In the Wild”. Even so, much of the material above is useful still.

 

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