Saturday, January 31, 2009

Monday, January 26, 2009

student presentation: The Introduction to Structural Analysis of Narrative

by Amanda Moffat and Mandy Sellers

Lecture 3: Barthes and Borges - Student Presentations

As agreed last week, today we'll have three different groups present on three different texts.

Reading for next week:

Journal Cover
You can login to access this article via the jstory site using your athens login.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Links: Reading Materials and Module Guide

As discussed in class, here are the links to several of the texts we've already discussed:

The Language of New Media by Lev Manovich is on his own website here:

Barthes' "Death of the Author Essay" is here:

Barthes' "An Introduction to the Structural Analysis of Narrative," is here in New Literary History, Vol. 6, No. 2, On Narrative and Narratives (Winter, 1975), pp. 237-272. You have access to the article with your Athens Account,

Jorge Luis Castillo's “Pierre Menard and the School of the Skeptics,” Hispanic Review, Vol. 71, No. 3 (Summer, 2003), pp. 415-428 is available here:, again, use your Athens Account to access this via jstor.

A useful essay on Barthes is "Roland Barthes from 'The Death of the Author' to Camera Lucida: The Trajectory Made by Critical Theory" that can be found here:

The module guide will be uploaded soon but in the meantime here is some information for you.

****PLEASE NOTE: the coursework deadline is not confirmed!!!****

Module Code: IOCT 5003

Module Title: Digital Cultures

Semester 2

Academic Year: 2008/2009

Module Leader: Dr. Jessica Laccetti

Lecture Location: IOCT Main Lab

Contact Details

Room: 0.80, Gateway House


1 Module Description

This module gives an introduction to key ideas in critical and cultural theory that affect creative technologies and the creative industries. Areas covered include Modernism, Postmodernism, Structuralism, Poststructuralism, Semiotics, Linguistic Theory, Anthropology, Reader-Response, Post-Colonialism, Multimodality, Hypertext Theories, Transdisciplinarity, The Ethnography of Cyberspace and Feminism.

2 Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of the module the students will demonstrate;

Increased understanding of critical theory and cultural context.

Detailed knowledge of key ideas in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

Increased understanding of the role of ideas in shaping technologies.

Ability to articulate theoretical concepts.

Ability to make critical analysis of cultural artefacts.

4 Assessment

Students may be assessed in any taught module on up to a maximum of two occasions, i.e. first attempt and reassessment. Please see section 4.2 for further information.

Assignments should be handed into the IOCT Office (Gateway House 0.80) by the date and time detailed below. Please remember to include a Receipt for Coursework form with your work – this will be your proof of submission.

Assessment: Essay

Volume of Assessment: 3000 words

Weighting: 100%

% Threshold: 40%

Due Date: (NOT YET CONFIRMED!): 01/05/09, (Week 16), 16:00

4.1 Criteria for Assessment

The assessment method allows the student to demonstrate his/her understanding of critical and cultural theory key to the creative technologies through an essay related to the areas listed in the module syllabus. The assessment relates to the learning outcomes by allowing the student to analyse and articulate theoretical concepts, demonstrating a detailed knowledge of key ideas in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries and an understanding of the role of ideas in shaping technologies.

The module operates to the generic University marking criteria which provide summative results and transcripts in the form of percentage marks.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Lecture 1 & 2 - Pierre Menard, Author of Quixote

Pierre Menard, Author of Quixote. simply a joke for anyone who might choose to belive it or an extravagant play on the nature of words and believability?
upon first reading this piece, i belived it nothing more than an elaborate joke that simply got funnier the more effort it seem that was put in to the writting. however, the more you learn about the context in which it was written, the more meaning can be dirived from the work itself (and not just for the sake of it). looking at the history not just of the author the himself (borges) and the author himself (menard) the translating of it can not only show meaning in the nature of beliving autoritivly written work, but might also leave borges laughing in his grave at all of us for simply discussing it.

Lecture 2: Borges and Introduction to Structuralism

Welcome to Lecture 2!

The first group activity we did:

You have ten minutes to comment on TWO blog responses (NOT your own) and:
pose a question in response to your colleague's thinking
note the similarities between your response and theirs

Some background notes on Pierre Menard and Quixote

  • Protagonist aims to write his own version of Don Quixote in the 20th C (originally published 1605)
  • Cervantes known to have a style that can “flower too abundantly in a way that can be a trial for the reader”
  • Originally written as 2 volumes but before vol. 2 was published Avellaneda made a pirated copy!
  • Revenge: Cervantes included pirated version within his story
  • Wants to recreate identical text therefore MUST live identical life to Miguel de Cervantes
Becomes an act of translation
Translation (and reading) always marks the text with the signs of the translator/reader
These “marks” can be decoded
“We know now that text is not a line of words releasing a single ‘theological’ meaning (the message of the author god) but a multi-dimensional space in which a variety of writings, none of them original, blend and clash. The text is a tissue of quotations drawn from the innumerable centres of culture."

Partner Activity
  • Choose ONE partner
  • Share your response to Pierre Menard with your partner
  • Discuss with each other the following:
  • What was the most important word in the story? Why?
  • If we see Pierre Menard as an act of translation, is anything “lost” or “gained” in the 20th C version?

Reading for next week:

Barthes – “Death of the Author,” define: “reality effect” - Paul and Tom
Barthes – “An Introduction to the Structural Analysis of Narratives,” Image/Music/Text, define: “vraisemblance” - Amanda and Mandy
Jorge Luis Castillo – “Pierre Menard and the School of the Skeptics,” Hispanic Review, Vol. 71, No. 3 (Summer, 2003), pp. 415-428 - Kieren, Andy and Max

Rachael Folds-Lecture One

Before reading Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote, the first thing that struck me about Borges penchant for fabricating literary reviews , is that it would not be possible in a digital culture to deceive people into believing his writings. This is due to the ability of using the web to search for the so called book and his fraudulent writings would be discovered, and therefore possibly harm his reputation as a writer. In the era that he published this work, it was not possible to check the authenticity easily or quickly, therefore rendering it more easily believable by his readers.
Borges appears to aim this writing towards a well read / educated audience and this is evident in his frequent literary references to the likes of Shakespeare and Poe. He also seems to elevate his academic status by stating his accomplishments of reading Quixote at a young age. This gives the reader the impression that he himself must be an academic and therefore should be believed. This also comes to the fore with the repeated mentions of his relations with the gentry such as Baroness de Bacourt.
He tries to convince the reader of his own knowledge of the book by referring to objects and situations he has been in with Menard in order to enhance self credulity. Quite confusingly he mentions two exact lines from each book and refers to Menards’ version as richer. How can the exact text appear richer and have a contrast in style? I felt that this story or writing was extremely confusing and lacked structure – was this Borges strategy. By creating such confusion in his readers, it eliminates their desire to appear unintelligent and thus stops them questioning.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Thomas Hall Lecture 1

It has been suggested that the text is referencing Borges’ relationship with his father. Shortly before Borges wrote “Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote”, his father died. Both father and son admired each other. It is also noteworthy that Borges had received a head injury between the bereavement and writing the text.

I think that the text becomes the new Quixote itself.

In Cervantes’ Don Quixote, Alonso Quixano is a retired man obsessed with acts of chivalry. In a deluded manner, he calls himself Don Quixote de la Mancha and sets out on adventures to prove his belief of self-heroism, by fighting fictitious enemies.

A parallel can be drawn upon Borges’ character Pierre Menard. Both characters, Quixote and Menard, cite imaginary accounts of their doings and rationale. In the narrative reality, their delusions are both dismissed, but often backed up by ones who show concern. The list of Menard’s personal files may be a kin to Quixote’s recollections of tales of gallantry. For example, as Quixote fights what he sees as giants, they are in actuality windmills. So for Menard’s heavyweight texts, they may be considered scribbling of a mad man. Another parallel is that of Menard’s Countess de Bacourt, an advocate of Menard’s work, could be considered to be Cervantes’ or rather Quixote’s Dulcinea del Toboso, a farm girl elevated in status and renamed by Quixote to raise his deluded ego.

The question I have left from my initial thoughts on this text is, whom is Borges relating himself to the Cervantes book. Is he Cervantes himself? Or is he (which is my preferred line of enquiry), Sancho Panza, the realist who goes along with Quixote’s imaginary account of encounters, but knows Quixote’s view or interpretation is far from factual.

Mandy Sellers _ Lecture 1

Blog post to Lecture 1

Talk about a Hypertext story! This essay required a lot of crosschecking Wikapedia, google lanuguage tools, and to understand what Borges was on about. Had I read this back in 1939 when it was published, well, I couldn’t have if I only had my current knowledge.

To me this essay was about two things; first, the authoring of a fake essay and the blaming of Madame Henri Bachelier in vicious way for making an error not to mention Pierre Menard’s work on Quixote and miss noting some other works. Second, the philosophical point to be made about one’s work never being original, or at least the only thing original about it is the context of the reader.

So, why didn’t Borges just write an essay about the latter? My guess is that would not get the point home. He’d be just another academic saying “I think this…”, ie, having little impact, not very memorable, even a bit ho-hum boring. Now, to really get this idea across how about presenting as written by someone nobody knows because they are of course fictional. That means no one can interpret that work with the author in mind, leaving out that bit of connotation. So, that’s pretty clever really, to be talking about perspective as the only original part of a literary work, then to make sure you’re way of communicating is a twist on perspective via a fake essay.

The first part is striking because of how critical the essay is of Madame Henri Bachelier and the newspaper that is accused of misrepresenting Pierre Menard’s “visible” literary works in what I am guessing Menard’s obituary. I mean, he really drags her and the paper through the mud! And, really, the essay’s point is to talk about the non-visible work of Menard. Then he goes on to point out two highly regarded ladies who back him, justifying and adding credibility to his claims. Again we see the implications of context; he says his authority is easily challenged but apparently theirs is not. (But to me, a 21st century reader, they have no more authority than the fictional author.) I guess this is more clearly demonstrated later in the essay (p5):

“In spite of these three obstacles, Menard’s fragmentary Quixote is more subtle than Cervantes’. The latter, in a clumsy fashion, opposes to the fictions of chivalry the tawdry provincial reality of his country; Menard selects as his “reality” the land of Carmen during the century of Lepanto and Lope de Vega.”

So, it just depends on who’s reading it, if these two ladies are more credible than the author!

Then after this is the list of visible works; very deep and heavy stuff with monographs of historical polymaths and a few sonnets for the two afore mentioned ladies. This gives the reader an idea that Menard was to be taken seriously as an author and I guess that the two ladies were his patrons.

So, with all that said, the role of representation of identity I think relates to the idea he’s trying to get across, that identity will affect how someone views your work. I think he uses the list of works as a way to get the reader thinking about things related to the point of this essay. He name drops tons of philosophers and polymaths, each known for some new way of thinking. So, it’s a bit of trickery there, getting the reader to recall Raymond Lully’s debating tool for winning over Muslims to Christianity through logic… and so on to influence how the reader is thinking before they get to the big philosophical argument on perspective and originality.

As far as authenticity goes, this type of writing was at the time innovative, but again there is the paradox that no writing is really original, that all is pastiche – every story or piece of art is made up of bits and pieces of other works, and that the only original part is the paradigm and cultural climate one views it from.

Dissemination and production and really, readership of this essay back in 1939 would’ve been quite limited. Borges wrote for literary journals and if you didn’t read that journal you weren’t going to see it. And, like I mentioned before, you’d have to be uber-knowledgeable to read it or else, even if you managed to have it in hand you wouldn’t understand it.

Finally, authorship seems to play two roles. First, this is a fake essay and even some fake authors are given. Next, the listing of the works… well, it’s the one work that has no physical evidence left behind that is the greatest piece. I guess the point is you read an author’s story but you author your own story of their story by merely reading it from your point of view. (wow. Pretty deep! Lol)