[Because my mind hasn’t yet adjusted to normal post-writing processes, here’s another school essay in lieu of contemplative anime analysis. It’s a comparison of James Joyce’s Ulysses (of which I’ve only read the first three chapters!) and Homer’s Odyssey, which our entire class read previously. After getting some flak for dissing Dr. Campbell last time, I wax lyrical over his ‘accomplishments’ now. This time, the word limit really is 1000 words, which I’ve once again filled completely…]
In 1949, comparative mythologist Joseph Campbell discovered a pattern in diverse cultural myths: the Hero’s Journey. The Hero’s Journey’s 17 stages encompass many mythological plot points, including Homer’s ancient epic, the Odyssey, and James Joyce’s modernist classic, Ulysses. While neither Telemachus nor Ulysses’s first protagonist Stephen Dedalus display heroic traits, their journeys still exemplify Campbell’s monomyth—a Hero’s Journey without a hero.
The Odyssey starts with Telemachus seeking information of his father. His house is overrun with rowdy suitors, and he feels powerless against them. He commences his own Hero’s Journey to find Odysseus. The main themes in the Telemachia are the suitors’ unwanted domestic occupation and Telemachus’s spiritual growth as he meets Nestor and Menelaus. When he returns, he has become a man.
Ulysses’s first part, also called the Telemachia, chronicles three hours of an ordinary, insignificant Dublin morning in 1904, as Dedalus contemplates life. Dedalus is an ordinary young man living with a ‘friend’ who insults his dead mother and snatches away the house key. The first chapter’s last line is “Usurper”; thus, Dedalus believes his ‘friend’ usurped his home (Joyce 35), like the suitors usurped Telemachus’s. He too embarks on a subdued ‘adventure’, meeting with his anti-Semitic employer, Deasy, and ruminating life along the beach. This parallels Telemachus’s fruitless meeting with Nestor and Proteus’s information about Odysseus. Deasy lectures that “a faithless wife first brought the strangers to our shore here, MacMurrough’s wife and her leman O’Rourke” (Joyce 53). Actually, MacMurrough abducted O’Rourke’s wife, preceding the Norman Invasion of Ireland (Braín 1152.6). Nestor’s reputation for wisdom, yet lack of useful information, corresponds to Deasy’s historical ignorance. Proteus’s shape-shifting represents change, so Joyce’s interior monologue narrative style constantly changes direction, yet illuminates Dedalus’s perspectives on life and regret over not accomplishing childhood dreams.
The Telemachia displays many early monomythic plot points. Telemachus’s Call to Adventure is Odysseus’s disappearance. Athena aids Telemachus by spurring him on; after reaching Pylos, he has Crossed the First Threshold into the unknown, away from the his home’s safety. The Telemachia ends here; later, Telemachus’s Belly of the Whale is the suitors’ ambush, and he Atones with his Father in Eumaeus’s hut. Odysseus’s adventure is more overtly monomythic, but Dedalus corresponds only to Telemachus.
Dedalus’s Call to Adventure is his ‘friend’ demanding drinking money and the house key, paralleling the suitors’ thankless cadgering. A milk woman indirectly spurs his journey by exacerbating Dedalus’s scorn of his ‘friend’; Campbell observes that “the milk woman is the role of Athena, who comes to Telemachus when he is 22 and tells him to go forth, find his father” (Campbell Disc 3). He Crosses the First Threshold after his meeting with the obtuse sexist Deasy, who gives Dedalus thick racist remarks and his salary. Finally, he enters the ‘unknown’: his own mind. To readers, this is shocking: few writers would illustrate natural human thought with natural—illogical—first-person topic transitions. Readers are truly venturing where no man has gone before.
The Odyssey’s monomythic scope is more obvious than Ulysses’s. Telemachus sets out on a voyage, and Odysseus wanders the wine-dark sea for a decade, encountering fantastic creatures. Telemachus is not a hero. He starts weak, irresolute, and naïve, but grows through his journey. However, the monomyth is about the story, not the character: protagonists can even be morally repugnant ‘villains’, their Ultimate Boon perhaps being world destruction, as long as they venture into the unknown and return with an Ultimate Boon. Thus, the Odyssey, as a monomyth, transcends the Hero’s Journey—it is a journey without a hero.
Ulysses lacks the Odyssey’s scope, merely detailing an ordinary Dublin day. However, as the Odyssey transcends the Hero’s Journey, so does Ulysses. Joyce’s writing elevates Dedalus’s thoughts to a godlike level; the sheer breadth and range of his interior monologue’s allusions equate his commonplace musings to an epic. He sees midwives carrying a misbirth, and ponders about an unending chain of navel cords, linking all humanity back to Adam and Eve: “Gaze in your omphalos. Hello. Kinch here. Put me on to Edenville. Aleph, alpha: nought, nought, one” (Joyce 57). This connection to the Genesis broadens his monologue’s temporal scope; a typical day on the beach and Dedalus has already alluded to all human history.
The grandiosity gradually decreases over the chapter. He broods on what could have been in his own past: “Remember your epiphanies on green oval leaves […]? Someone was to read them there after a few thousand years, a mahamanvantara […] You were going to do wonders, what?” (Joyce 61, 63). This shows his disgust with his past’s naïve optimism. Like all epics, the scope is first historical, and now personal. Eventually, reality overtakes his philosophical reverie, and his thoughts deal with the immediate: “My handkerchief. He threw it. I remember. Did I not take it up? […] He laid the dry snot picked from his nostril on a ledge of rock” (Joyce 76). This concludes the chapter, a tour de force from Eden to snot. Although the setting is a walk on the beach, Joyce’s purview transcends its humdrum nature: from molehill to mountain, from the mundane to the sublime.
Both Ulysses and its hypotext, the Odyssey, contain early monomythic plot points. The Odyssey transcends a Hero’s Journey because Telemachus is not heroic, yet his tale is still a monomyth. Ulysses transcends the monomyth because, although Dedalus’s ‘journey into the unknown’ is ordinary, Joyce’s interior monologue transforms his thoughts into a genuine adventure. Thus, both Ulysses and the Odyssey represent the monomyth.
It is only appropriate: Campbell, a Joyce scholar, borrowed the term ‘monomyth’ from Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake. These two works, Ulysses and the Odyssey, stand as a testament to the monomyth’s ubiquity—so many works embody the monomyth that we learn nothing from cross-comparison! Joyce creates an oxymoron—a common hero, shaping the power of literary form into a medium of literary expression. Stephen Dedalus’s Hero’s Journey has no hero, has no journey; Joyce elevates the everyman to create a hero, his words transcendent.
Word Count: 1000 (not including title)
Braín, Tigernach U. The Annals of Tigenach. Edit. Corráin, Donnchadh Ó. Cork: CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts, 1996. Web.
Campbell, Joseph J. On the Wings of Art: Joseph Campbell on the Art of James Joyce. New York: Highbridge Audio, 1995. Audiobook.
Joyce, James A. A. Ulysses. London: Random House, 1992. Print.
Homer. The Odyssey. Trans. Robert Fagles. Toronto: Penguin Books, 1997. Print.
I wrote this abomination of mental diarrhea at the height of my fever-induced delerium last Wednesday; lethargy filled me from the crown to the toes, and I could do nothing but mope and whine and write. I left it on my computer in case I wanted to do something with it and decided, why the heck not: nobody’s going to read to the end anyways, so I’m just going to post it here.
In it, I somehow manage to cover all eight of my classes and their associated midterm exams/projects. If that doesn’t merit a literary achievement, it certainly was a mental one… it’s Hell Week right now for me, so this also explains the inexplicable lack of posts from my part. Mad props to redball for doing the first impressions post—solo—last week.
C’est la vie. Such is life and life is such. A life of lives lives lively. Liveishly? Livelylike? Livelily? Consider the livelilies in the field. They study not; neither do they write. So society spurns them, casts them aside. What use have we for lilies? C’est l’école. Senegal. Say lego. Lilies are unproductive. Humans would also be unproductive if we didn’t go to school. But school takes a long time and that time takes away from the time that it would take us to take a hike and make something. Few people live over a century. No lilies live over a century. We must maximize the work humans do in their lives. Each extra year of education increases productivity by 0.56. Transform into quadratic vertex form and calculate the vertex. (-b/2a, 4ac-b^2/4a) gives an optimum human productivity of x when years of education are increaseh by y. Calculate x and y in exact form.
Because we’re all just numbers, numbers in the face of the societal God that is optimization and industrialization and productifization and efficientization. We’re organic machines, vegetables to be harvested for fuel, lilies that toil in the field, spinning, spinning. Why do we work so God-approved hard? Is it worth it now? Sacrificing all those bloody midnight hours for an extra mark, that 0.56% away from getting an A, and now an entire week wasted. Everything ventured, nothing gained. Going to school at 7:00 in the morning to retake a math test because 75% just wasn’t good enough. Fuck me in the foot if I actually do better this time what with the world spinning around me as I spin and the teacher spins out another math test, a midterm this time, a midterm that I can’t retake because I already retook a test and the teacher’s too lazy to let anyone retake more than one test in a year. Anti-China policy #1: stop students from compulsively retaking tests in a futile effort to achieve more than they haven’t achieved. Am I Chinese enough now?
I blame the cold. I blame the fresh mountain air and the cool, clean breezes of trademark Vancouver Hospitality™ others call rain, liquid precipitation, the tears of God as he struggles to understand: why aren’t people being more productive? Why are so many people doing nothing in the rain? They’re just sitting there, not moving… what a waste of time! I blame the mandatory P.E. strip everybody has to wear. We had P.E. strip in elementary. The vice-principal had 13 words everybody must remember: something something be on time something something pee ee strip something something something. Memory serves me well as tennis serves me well or volleyball serves me well. Waiting outside an hour in the rain. Volleyball wasn’t outside, but for someone whose only shorts are emblazoned with the school’s currish emblem, coldness is to me as bad luck is to that girl in that anime. Which girl? Which anime? Why do anime girls never get sick despite always wearing less than I ever will?
I remember that look on the P.E. teacher? Assistant? His face when I told him I was sick this morning. “Go home! I was just sick last week! Don’t sic [sic] me again!” The verb, sic, was necessarily preferred to the adjective, sick. Which he used, I shall never know, and neither did context reveal to me. Was he a teacher or just the assistant? He seemed a sprightly young fellow, and hung out with the girls in our class. But he also lounged around the teachers’ lounge, where I found him lounging in the absence of the actual P.E. teacher who wasn’t my legal P.E. teacher, because my legal P.E. teacher was hit by a car over the summer, yet the school still decided to give her two classes in the same block to teach. She must’ve been a really good teacher to watch over two classes at once. I walk over to him during attendance as he converses with some generic girl and tell him, I’m leaving. Without missing a beat, he shoos me away with a pompous lack of reaction before catching me off-guard: “Wait, which one of them are you?”
Not, “Who are you,” but “Which one of them are you?” What did ‘them’ mean? The students? That wouldn’t make sense, because I’m none of them, I was physically separated from all of them by the direction I was in and by the condition I was in. Why ‘them’? It had to be something that included me, because I’m one of ‘them’, but didn’t include the P.E. teacher-assistant-hybrid. The P.E. assistant-teacher wasn’t a student, and he also wasn’t…
…Asian. Situated as it was, our entire school was entirely Asian, save the French Immersion minority. There were only two non-Asians in our P.E. class. Did he just refer to an entire continent of cultures as ‘them’? Could he really not tell the difference between ‘us’? The audacity of… and the tone of his voice, that half-laughing, half-mocking sneer that momentarily claimed his mouth, as if he had made a nice joke by deindividualizing the entire class he was supposed to assist-teach. It felt weird. It wasn’t like my non-Asian friends telling genuinely offensive anti-Asian jokes which should really get my blood boiling but doesn’t. Here was some stranger, directly insulting every essence of my first-world-raised being, us who are taught from birth in our ‘specialness’, how each of us is a little lily in our own special little lilyponds. Do not toil—you’re special! Do not spin. Do not pass Go. Collect $200 anyways. This wasn’t racism. This was life. C’est la vie. If this mild annoyance disturbed me like this mentally incapacitating headache, then true racism would be the chronic cancerous tumour of mental termination, an end of life as life knows it.
Then, I saw. Saw his eyes met nobody’s but his pencil, searching down the list. What did ‘them’ mean? The names. “Which one of these names are you?”
But even so, that’s all I’ve been thinking of. Why did I go to school? The response would have to be this. People would look at me disapprovingly, and when, by a stroke of fortune or a stroke of the major arteries, they themselves succumb to the disease of human incapacity, who’ll take the blame? Find the most ‘logical’ explanation. It’s common sense, right? But it’s Wednesday and on Friday, we submit our French film projects. A grand total of two scenes filmed over seven hours Sunday as I lay on the floor—the floor!—of that room with the dimmable lights and giant television set, while we waited for our camera to recharge itself. The camera was a literal potato wired up to a 4×4 red monochrome LCD display screen that approximated the red light shining backwards through the pinhole. We had four iPhone 9GS+s, but everybody was too busy playing 2004 Flash games ported to iOS.
I’d say it was all an excuse. We used ‘recharging battery’ as an excuse to not do shit. For three hours before I arrived (because nobody told me there’d be a meeting), three people did nothing but translate two scenes in already-written English into French. Each scene had three lines. One of those people was a native French speaker. I arrived, the fifth member arrived two years later, and while I lay on the warm, soft, disease-matted carpet, they clicked around on their iPhones and now I know how I got sick I know how I got sick now.
I’m a bloody idiot.
It’s due on Friday. We need to shoot eight more scenes, as well as finish writing the actual script for those scenes—in English, not French. Translating the script is another beast entirely. I know, I tried it, and promptly succumbed to a large dose of not-giving-a-fuck anymore. I have two more scenes with me in it, and then there’s dubbing the French because we shot those scenes not having translated the script yet. If we finish all that within two hours tomorrow because the only guy who knows how to edit has school plays going on every night this week from 5:30 until 10:00, then we can hand in our French project. But if I’m sick tomorrow then I’ll have to skip the next day and get a doctor’s note in the vain hope that the teacher gives us an extension instead of yelling in our faces that we should’ve started sooner WE SHOULD’VE STARTED SOONER
A lifetime of procrastination begs to differ. We should’ve started later. Look, they shot three scenes yesterday in two hours. Productivity! 3 scenes/2 hours with 4 people. Person A can shoot one scene in two hours. Person B can shoot one scene in four hours. How many hours will Person C and D take to shoot the entire movie together? The implication is that I shoot an average of negative one point two scenes every hour. Shoot. Skipping school has its advantages. If she gives us an extension, we just got three extra days. If she doesn’t, I will literally become the bloodiest of bloody pulps, the mushiest of mush, my bones ground into paste, my organs cut into bite-sized chunks, my meat stewed into gravy and served on a platter to appease Armok. Your arm OK? No soap, radio. My arm is paralyzed from the fingers down. Falling down, tripping, moving my foot up to stop the fall—wrong foot—crack. Hitting the pavement while accelerating at 9.8 metres a second. Blood red, crimson, palm not OK: four cuts, bandaid slips, too much blood. Now two warts on my fingers. Now lip bleeding. An apple a day keeps the doctor away. Doctor, doctor! It’s OK, no apples here; come, Eirin, save me!
It’s midterm weak. Midterms are for the weak. The strong stay at home, lie in bed of an unknown delirium and appear all fine and well the day after the midterms to find out all their group projects have failed. Science fair? BAM! You just lost 25% from your term science mark! Planning project? BAM! You just failed the entire course because that’s the only assignment this entire term! In the teachers’ minds, spinning: “Let’s give these poor bastards more pointless projects because it’s midterm week and they need one project for every single course! That way, it’ll be a FULL-COURSE MEAL!” Strings field trip next week sounds nice, but that’s two hours of nonstop performing and lugging cousin-sized violas on ~public transit~ (poor bassists) in a class we could study in. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger? This fever isn’t killing me. Am I stronger now? Can I lift, bro? Please?
The God of Blood answers from his omnipotent throne, made from the ashes of countless anvils He has wrought with his bare hands: “Has the Campbell opposition changed their stances?” It is a task, an ordeal that We must struggle through to find the light that He promises, the light of a Good Future™ where we might be Good Numbers that increase our productivity by 0.56 each year until the year of parabolic maximum. To appease the Blood God. It seems meaningless now, but someday, someone will ask you; “What do you think about the Campbell opposition during that year when they said those things?” And you might respond in the affirmative, or in the negative, and you’ll think back to those halcyon days when you were lying in bed with a fever, typing out these monotonous words while praying to God, let Him have mercy on me, let He that deals divine judgement on souls spare my marks! Take my sons, take my fathers! Leave my grades alone!
“wat a horrible time to be sick lol”
“do you have the note cards”
“o ya i should probably buy those lol”
So the God decreed, “And I shall require, on the 29th of January, a supply of note cards appropriately purchased from capitalist establishments, that one may take notes on; And notes on other media, shall by this day be—Prohibited.” Was he being sarcastic? Was he implying something there? What did the ‘lol’ mean? If he was being sarcastic, he could have not really meant ‘horrible’ and ‘sick’; maybe he thought I was faking it? For what? So I could possibly get an extension for a French project we already failed, by association with me, that failer of failures? Or was he genuinely sympathetic towards my slightly irritating plight? Regardless, I’d have to buy those note cards before I can start taking notes on that in-class essay on the 29th. Did the Campbell opposition change their stances? Tiger stance to a dragon stance?
Ineluctable modality of the audio-visual. He says these words with a digital accent, one with no sarcasm detection. We may lower-case no-punctuation caps-exclamations-maximum on twitter if we’re being sarcastic, but he cannot. The culture of texting vs. the culture of often-at-home twittering. He does not say these words, nor do I hear them. He types the words, no, the letters, on the keyboard with his fingers. He feels the words. Ineluctable modality of the sensual. Story of my life, à la Joyce. Is this how I think? Not with pictures or ideas—with words. Do you dream in words? What was the last image I image-ined?
Ulysses is a modern masterpiece. Even looking just through chapter three, you see the rich interwoven tapestry of words and language that Joyce bends to his will. He’s a master artisan that manipulates, carves, and molds language itself into expressing more than language. More than meets the eye, more than the ear hears, more than the conscious mind can ever process—Joyce paints a picture of THOUGHT itself, making his characters more than simply human. The characters become us, we become the characters as we’re literally swept into another’s shoes, and body, and mind. Have other books done this? Possibly, but none to the refined needle of trenchant wit and biting description that is Ulysses. And definitely none have its epic scope, flooded with allusions. I used to think allusions were pretentious bullshit—who cares if you’re referencing some dead white guy? But no: they add scope, each allusion is a new story that enhances a tale, and Ulysses is that tale, a tale of tales, a mundane epic about a common hero, the towering modernist achievement of the century.
Writing essays is fun when you don’t have a headache—but you need to choose a topic. That’s the hardest part, because choose a topic you don’t like, and you don’t have yourself an essay. Have another choose a topic for you, and you don’t have an author. “Compare Ulysses to the Odyssey,” so the God decreed, “Rough draft due Friday.”
Weighing the options in my head, weighing mentally a loaded die that flipped over, once, twice, heads, tails, spinning like the world around me and my head spinning around and the God of Blood weighed in with a shatter of the skull, a weight upon it that sent vibrations of nausea echoing down my throat. Consider the lilies of the field. They don’t have throats. That’s why they don’t toil. That’s why they don’t spin.
Skipping school tomorrow and the next day? Failing our French film project? Having no class time to prepare for midterm week?
C’est la vie.
[We read the Odyssey in English class, and had to write a variety of assignments (ok, fine, just two) on it. One of these assignments was a comparative essay, in which students could choose their thesis, yet on the criteria sheet, ‘all students must use the same thesis’. The thesis in question was that an old Coen Brothers’ comedy (O Brother, Where Art Thou?), loosely based on the Odyssey, represents Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey.
I thought the Hero’s Journey was just some old man saying that all cultures’ hero stories had a beginning, a middle, and an end. He also claimed that these stories reflected humanity’s ‘collective unconscious’, and that people like to hear stories with beginnings, middles, and ends. Although it seems obvious to us, it is pretty coincidental and influential in studying comparative mythology and evolutionary psychology. Yet, I thought that the Hero’s Journey structure offered no insights into modern ‘heroes’ journeys’.
This jaded me immensely, and like the contrarian hipster I am, I decided to advocate for the Devil. The result is below; formatted, but unedited. If it seems to jump around in places, it’s because I condensed it to one page of 1000 words, ‘for the lulz’. I like it, but I still haven’t gotten my grade back, and I have the feeling that my English teacher won’t like people casting the Hero’s Journey aside…]
In the 1988 PBS documentary The Power of Myth, mythologist Joseph Campbell talks of his theory: a universally archetypal Hero’s Journey originating from the fundamental human psyche. The Hero’s Journey’s plot points, although useful for comparative mythology, are too generic. To differentiate Heroes’ Journeys from regular Journeys, Heroes’ Journeys must star a hero with heroic traits, deeds, and growth.
Ancient poet Homer’s Odyssey is about protagonist Odysseus’s voyage home from the Trojan War. Although contemporary Greeks heroized Odysseus, in a modern/Roman context, he possesses few heroic requirements. The Coen Brothers’ modern film O Brother, Where Art Thou?’s protagonist Ulysses represents Odysseus, and also lacks these requirements.
Neither O Brother, Where Art Thou?, nor its hypotext, the Odyssey, represent the Hero’s Journey.
Click on this hyper-text to read on»
I recently finished Yoshiki Nakamura’s 1996-2002 shoujo manga Tokyo Crazy Paradise, and it got me thinking about the confines of genre tropes and standards. See, this manga (henceforth TCP) is very much a romantic comedy about highschoolers, much like any other shoujo romance series. What makes it stand out, however, are the other story aspects the series touches upon, even if they never receive full focus. The premise of the story is that in futuristic Tokyo (2020, to be exact), women are scarce and as such are often victimized, to the point that many are openly attacked in broad daylight. In addition, our protagonist ends up as the bodyguard to a mob boss, who is the primary love interest. So, with this context, let me list some of the more standout content present in TCP:
- Numerous instances of near rape
- Drug dealing
- Drugging girls on hallucinogens, then forcing them into cage deathmatches and betting on who dies first
- The love rival getting her right arm sliced off at the elbow
- Gang wars
- And an active attempt by supporting characters to get one of the protagonists to cheat on their fiancé
. . .All wrapped up with a bow of light-hearted comedy and soap-bubbly teen romance. And you thought romcoms were all the same.
What’s up with that title? Everybody knows that prose and speech obey the laws of grammar, and not the other way around! Imagine a world where people write ‘connexion’, and others write ‘connection’, where some write ‘kerb’ and some ‘curb’, where ‘gaol’ and ‘jail’ coexist.
Imagine a world where it is standard grammar to even split an infinitive in literature, or a world where my parents, the serial comma and a serial killer are all acceptable. Imagine a world where ‘who’ also functions as its own objective case. Who am I talking about?
I’m talking about the evolution of a language. The evolution of English.
The wrixles of Anglish wordstock»
Once upon a land, in a time far, far ago, some guy asked me, “What the fuck are you doing you fucking retard? This fucking blog fucking sucks fucking dicks! Why the fuck do you even care so much about your fucking shit-ass site you fucking retard? Nobody even reads your fucking blog. Who the fuck are you trying to write for anyways? Go drown in a fucking well off the coast of Fucking, Austria!”
I may be paraphrasing, but this did cause me to have a revelation. After all, what’s the point of publishing a post every day for the past two (soon to be three) years when a) nobody reads them b) I don’t have fun writing the posts c) see (psst that was a pun)? I mean, shit, the last six anime I watched were complete and trite tripe, and those six serious are seriesly the only anime I have watched for the past nine months.
That’s the state of this blog’s degeneration! I don’t even watch anime anymore!
So, something’s obviously wrong.
After waking up at 8am this morning only to realize the full impact of reality, I admit I was extremely hostile but instead of mass tweeting philosophy, I took a long walk in a nature preserve near my place. I sat next to a stream for a good hour thinking about everything. I came back at around 11 and after a few minutes to myself, I decided to write this post.
I write posts because it’s fun.
I write posts to entertain.
Enough of this episodic crap. I’m not going to continue writing this worthless drivel about my personal interpretations of Mouretsu Pirates’s geopolitical ramifications, nor about the inner conspiracy to create a clone of Madoka in Black Rock Shooter (replete with filled-in star symbol). I’m going to write bad Sword Art Online fapfics and NOBODY CAN STOP ME