Monday, February 16, 2009

Bible Verses/Bad Timing

third essay for brit lit. the byronic hero in his prime. 

“The Byronic Subversion of Bad Faith”

No matter how completely at odds an idea may be with itself; the complete subversion of any that is zealously believed by a mass of people is not an easy task. Organizing clarity, and exposing the major flaws in anything like this is a problem that can only be resolved through an inventive use of language, and an definitively solid rationale. Lord George Gordon Byron’s drama, “Cain”, possesses these qualities and uses them to undermine the most domineering of all belief systems. His attack on Christianity casts Abraham’s family as it’s characters, appropriates biblical verse and the logic of faith, and uses them against themselves. Employing the guise of the very faith he undermines, Byron authors self-critique that leads to self-implosion. From the standpoint of ‘other’, he is able to upset the base misconceptions and contradictions that must be subscribed to for one to call their self “Christian”. The exclusionary nature of salvation is unmasked, and we see that the truth offered to us through mystified language is not really a truth available to all who seek it. This conclusion is brought on partly by the use of language, and partly by points Byron suggests. By adapting, and at times even quoting the word of the omnipotent God, Byron authors a new myth that is not based on fear or obligation, but instead promotes freethinking, and gives agency to those who doubt.

The voice of Byron himself comes out mostly through Cain. Lucifer is the informer, while Cain is the human with doubt in a group of the most religious believers. From the beginning, Cain questions the faith that his family practices with blind passion. Cain is always seen acting in different faith than the others, and is the voice of realization for the critique being delivered. Because of his difference, Cain is something of an outcast in his own family. There is an emotional and spiritual divide from the start, and Cain is misunderstood more often than he is not. As an agent of mankind he is alone, working under the guidance of the figure perceived as the face of all evil by those around him. Interactions between different characters work to exemplify how language becomes distorted through holy rhetoric; causing those who follow to confuse what is true and false, good and evil, empowering or imprisoning. Cain is the only character who acknowledges his doubts, making him already radically different than the rest of those banished from Eden. He is the only character who refuses to fall victim to his original sin. He instead falls victim to social isolation, and the burden of having to answer the questions religion simply glosses over.

Though he cannot relate to those around him, Cain does benefit in that he is not made a slave to the prescribed sense of morality and self-deception as the others. He is more capable of reasoning clearly, and is able to use what Lucifer tells him of reality to his advantage. From their dialogue is where many of the flaws and contradictions of Christianity can be realized, and is where more honest and reasonable alternatives are proposed. We hear Christianity defeating itself in the conversations between the most unlikely of biblical heroes; if it weren’t for Cain’s position as other, this shamelessly reasonable rejection of faith would not carry the same resonance.

This is not to say that all in Byron’s approach is without problems. One problems with Christianity stressed here is that the supposed truth and salvation offered to all who seek it, is in fact only available to some. Ignorance is like a privilege from which some are excluded the rights to. While Byron makes a point to tell us this, at the same time his critical position has exclusionary tendencies of it’s own. He makes clarity, freethinking, and unbiased knowledge into something that seems to be available to only to those who seek liberation from this specific form of ideological slavery.

While Byron’s solution may not include the specifics of everyone’s problem, it does work as an example, or a formula that can be applied to the deconstruction of religious logic.

I. Give and Take/Good and Evil

Much of Byron’s poetic discourse works though the duality of interplay between characters and their ideas. Cain’s ‘otherness’ is omnipresent, sometimes mirrored in interactions between characters, two ‘god’ figures, and sometimes between audience and author. Nonetheless, all of this revolves around one main atypical hero. As we revolve, there is a sort of sympathy and admiration from the reader that builds in regard to Cain. The Romantic language accentuates this, and we are meant to sympathize or empathize with Cain in his implied misunderstanding, isolation, and cause that seems lost to everyone but himself. He becomes a romantic figure, who we could call the quintessential “Byronic Hero”.

While this is endearing, the romantic aspect of the character conflicts with the usefulness and intention with his position of difference. It seems to perpetuate the recursive dialogue between Cain and the others. His revelations are often read and written off as mere changes in mood, or newly outspoken confusion that is just characteristic of the tragic hero. While the language of the play does often form the it’s success, this romance and melodrama tend to interfere at times.

No matter, the realizations made to us in dialogue are always framed by this romance, and usually occur in the form of oppositio---both in opposing viewpoints, and the moral opposition Cain experiences. For instance, when Adah encounters Cain and Lucifer at the end of the first act, she sees Lucifer at first as an angel, but then sees the opposite when he begins to the truth. She compares Lucifer to the lying serpent of Eden that caused their grief, and Lucifer turns this on it’s head He explains that this grief is knowledge in itself, and that God has betrayed man by consciously tricking Eve into desiring knowledge, but when this desire is acted upon casts out all humans from the garden in consequence. This is essential truth in Adah’s and her religions own words. Lucifer states that truth by its very essence must be good, and the grief caused by the outcast from Eden is not by essence not good. This dialogue shows us the inherent self-deception that must be practiced in accordance with Christianity. Truth, by logic, is completely cut out from the faith. Original sin is not good, therefore God cannot be all good like he claims.

The notions of knowledge and love are compared when Adah asks Cain to make a choice between them. Love is her, and the belief in God. Knowledge is opposite, or the belief that ‘sin’ cannot be original or inherited, but is instead contingent. Adah argues for love using her lover/sister relationship with Cain. When Lucifer asks if she loves Cain more than their mother and father, she says yes, and asks whether or not that is a sin. It is impossibly difficult for Adah to see her relationship with Cain as immoral or sinful, because it has always been presented to her in the guise of “love”. Lucifer says that their love is not a sin, or at least won’t call it that, but it will be in the children they have. Sin is debunked when Lucifer says that sin cannot be sin in itself, because immoral act is always determined by its circumstance. This thwarts the sense of the concept of being born into sin, which is the foundation of Christianity.

Adah reasons that if she is not born with sin than we are slaves to circumstance. Lucifer clarifies by saying that in choosing faith, they are made slaves through a preference for the “smooth agonies of adulation” over the “independency of torture”. Instead of thinking freely and embracing circumstance, an attempt to manage reality is made by worshiping a God that will somewhere down the line solve all problems. The price of this gain is giving up freedom, and living by an imposed moral code. They are not slaves out of love, as they argue, but because of the fear that God is always watching them.

II. Love of Romance/Desire of Defiance

There is a different ‘other’ relationship between God and Lucifer, with God never having to even make an appearance. Lucifer consistently makes an effort to distinguish himself from God by saying that he is not evil; it is instead the rhetoric, politics, and power of religion that are. He calls himself the ‘other God’, but disassociates from him on the grounds of ways he would exercise his power if it were his own. He doesn’t say it directly, but we know he would never consciously make the choice to tempt who he created into eating fruit from the Tree of Knowledge, all the while knowing that this would happen, because he is the all-knowing maker. The figure that has been throughout history characterized as pure evil, and in fact stands on higher ethical ground than God himself. He instates these values in Cain with his advice.

Cain is the prototypical tragic hero, and looks good being one. The romance surrounding his character might make us want to imitate him, but that wouldn’t be the best approach to solving the problem at hand. Byron gives us all of the necessary components we need for a tragic ending: Our hero, the advice he needs, the struggle, and what happens to those he struggles with. The breaking point is when Cain kills his brother. In this bible, this is done because Cain envies that Abel is the favorite of God and Abraham, but that is not the motive here. While the act doesn’t really even qualify as murder, but more as unintentional homicide, he is immediately branded with having performed the ultimate of all “Thou Shalt Nots”. The distance that has always been present between Cain and his family becomes a literal divide at this moment. His family disowns him, and the angel of God makes him into a real, social outcast for all eternity.. The appropriate consequence suggested before this decision is that he of course be killed. Cain wishes death upon himself, but is not granted this, and in a way the consequence he is given is worse. In exile, Cain will never be able to share the knowledge that is preached against. This works in God’s favor, and for whatever hidden agenda he’s getting atso we shouldn’t be surprised. If we were follow the noema of Byron’s example, the possibility of social change would be ruled out. Byron can only create more Byrons, and the outcast is not the ideal politician.

III. The Word of Man

The tactics by which “Cain” was written are radical, even to this day. Byron uses the exclusionary language against itself, so essentially one would have to deny the principles of their faith is based upon in order to disagree. Though a subjection to Christian belief is necessary to understand the message, to this specific reader, the message can only be ignored through completely blind faith. Byron exposes Christianity as the rejection of knowledge and truth, with its only real purpose being the relief of the follower from philosophical inquiry. The practice of this faith is in itself ‘bad faith’, in that believing requires one to overlook the contradictions on which the foundation is built. In his efforts, and in outcasting himself from the society of his time, Byron prefaces many radical thinkers to come. He prefaces Fredrich Nietzsche’s idea of ‘slave morality, that would upset the world of philosophy and pave the way for even more later thinkers. He also embodies a range of years in ethical theory in his conclusion that a system of morals cannot be based on a religion, as it must be relative. Byron’s ideas may not have been accepted at the time, but his impact can be seen in it’s effects the philosophical infrastructure of the world we live in.

If we don’t like the myth we’ve been given, “Cain” works as a new one. Nothing has really been changed here. The language of the bible has been consciously preserved, and all of the characters play their original roles, only they have been adapted and arranged in a new way. If we accept that religion, or myth in general is spread by mystified language and coded meaning, we can still build a new religion based upon the same words. We still get the same moral rhetoric, imposed guilt, promotion of ignorance, and objectification of women; the same fallen angel, and the same solitary God figure that refuses to deal with humans directly because we’ve done, or really what he’s made us do. What’s different this time is that there is a much different perspective at work. Instead of Abraham as the one to save all mankind, it is Cain. However, it never seemed to be God’s intention to save humanity, therefore Cain is banished to where he can save no one.

What still needs to be learned can be suggested, but not found here, The proposed goal cannot be fully resolved using this method of ‘other’ language. If exclusionary language is to be the vehicle, what is to be made of this by those who are not well versed in it? The power of this text is its potential for liberation, but this is only available to some readers. We are in a time and place where Byron can be understood, but what he says it is not yet common knowledge, and still has audiences to reach. While brilliantly solid in approach, as long as we desire the liberation of all people from physical and ideological slavery, the approach must be further revised.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

This Land is Your Land?

second essay for british literature. looks at the use of landscape as a medium rather than a genre, in the british imperial context. down with wordsworth! enthusiasm! this still needs some work...

Taylor Martin
Essay #1

“There’s a Landscape Between Us”

                             What is a medium? Is it a material thing, or just an idea? In the context of art, we think of the word as signifying what the artist uses in process, or the physical means by which a picture is made. It can take many forms, but it is always whatever comes between the artist’s hand and the product; What is intermediary between the image and it’s maker. However, the word means much more than what its artist connotation implies. With text, is it the actual process of writing, or is it the language itself that is medium? The latter makes more sense. If we allow something as broad as language to be a medium, then a greater spectrum of meaning should be considered.
                              Distinguishing what is medium becomes complicated when looking at the ideological realm. Really, anything that comes between one thing and another can be ‘medium’. Anything that is used as some sort of ‘means’, to progress towards some sort of ‘end’ is fair game for such classification. Anything that is essentially used at all earns the name.
In physical terms, medium is easy to point out. In philosophical terms, however, you can call a greater number of things by this name. To unpack this suggestion, we will be looking at one of history’s favorite romantic poets, William Wordsworth, and discussing his tactics of exploitation, and how the landscape is used as a means to his end.

“I came among these hills; when like a roe I bounded o’er the mountains, by the sides of the deep rivers, and the lonely streams, wherever nature led; more like a man flying from something he dreads, than one who sought the thing he loved.”

                                 William Wordsworth was alive between 1770 and 1850, what we could see as a turning point between the two highest times of the British Empire. He lived out his youth during the latter half of the Second Empire, and grew into the beginning of what became a century of totalitarian imperial rule. Looking at Wordsworth’s favorite subject, the landscape, tends to raise questions when his context is taken into consideration. To Wordsworth’s empire, land was something that was completely up for the taking. The displacement of who occupied the land first was irrelevant; instead the colonial view of progress took greater precedence.
The choice to muse on the ‘beauty’ of the land at such a time is curious. We could initially read this as unproblematic, possibly as a rejection of the way political affairs were handled by the imperialists. However, if we examine the language closely, it does not seem as though a ‘return to nature’ really means a return to a simpler time before imperial rule. Wordsworth seeks nature not as a form of liberation, but merely as an escape. He briefly escapes, and then returns. Shrouded somewhere in this language of escape, we can gather a desire for conservation. Considering that we know Wordsworth spent the majority of his own time in the city, and yet his work speaks of the rural land, furthers this notion. He does not seek liberation from those in power, as he is always quick to return home. After his return, he spends his time dwelling on mere memories of this untamed place.
                              As a young adult, Wordsworth came to inherit a large estate. He went from being excluded from the ranks of the ruling class, to becoming a part of it. His choice to escape the city can only be escape, as he is quick to return to his privileges, and revel in what he experienced while away. The landscape he paints for us is fabricated by memory, and sentimentalized to an extreme. He briefly larks about in the natural with gaiety, almost as if he wishes he could just take it home. His wealth allows him to come and go as he pleases, without any consideration of the social realm of what is outside his element. He never mentions the presence of any other humans in his paradise. He sees the land as public domain for his private fantasy. There is no regard for who might be there, or the history the land retains. The landscape is borrowed, and used as a way to get closer to a happier, more virtuous image of Wordsworth.
                                  While not actually in the landscape, Wordsworth uses what he remembers to fuel his poetic disposition of privilege. This in a way resembles colonial thinking, in that he can dream of the land he conquers while on vacation from the comfort of home. In his mind, he dictates the land while he is away from it. There are great parallels between his exploitation of the land for the sake of poetics, and the benefits reaped by the empire while away from the colony. He is intrigued by the natural wilderness, but through his portrayal of it the environment it is again re-tamed. This reflects the imperial desire to tame surrounding areas, those not yet under control of the empire.
                                 Wordsworth’s memory and description of the landscape work to package it in such a way so that his ideal version can be later sold to the reader of his own, and of future generations. However, we know that a packaged landscape is in no way the same as the actual landscape. We can see this in the simple fact that we know the memory of an event is not the actual event, but is instead a medium somewhere between reality and perception. This essential aspect in his writing process exposes a major flaw that is furthered by the fact that Wordsworth’s retellings of the landscape do not seem to even take the reality of the time and place into consideration. There is no mention of any culture, history, people, or evidence of people who might inhabit the land. We only hear of the beauty of the fields, and how this beauty makes Wordsworth feel. His wish is not to present the idea of a real place to us; he instead creates an image that appeals to himself, and the logic of his country.
                                     In his traipsing about the countryside, and the later accounts of it he makes from home, Wordsworth does not only embody and project the colonial mind, but asserts his self-realized intellectual dominance in doing so. He does not only borrow the land, but personifies it by giving it human characteristics. He frequently refers to the land as ‘she’, assigning gender to whom he exploits. While in much of his language, he seems to attempt at granting power to the female landscape by commending the untamed power of the land, there is something that seems to linger below the surface here.

“By reason and truth; what we have loved others will love; and we may teach them how, instruct them how the mind of man becomes a thousand times more beautiful than the earth on which he dwells”

                                       These lines are found at the end of the last book of the prelude. While the prelude was written early in his poetic career, before his more apparent adoption of British nationalism, lines like these read as warning of what is to come. What is he trying to tell us? Considering the language that has been used to speak of the earth throughout, we can assume this is an affirmation of his philosophical stance in regard to his ‘others’, with whom he rarely even comes in contact with. He often romanticizes the hermit, and seems largely unconcerned with the social reality around him. Still, he declares the female land as ‘other’, and places himself above it in social hierarchy. Additionally, we often hear him slip and refer to ‘things’ as having qualities of humans. Around this time, Immanuel Kant outlined in his version of ethical theory saying that morality can only be exercised by to those with the ability to rationalize. Those who lacked this elitist notion of mental ability were not humans, but were tagged as mere ‘things’. This is a parallel that is hard to ignore. Following this typical 18th century rationale, Wordsworth decides his self-determined ability to reason ‘better’ makes him a greater human than the personification of the landscape itself, as well as those who inhabit the landscape he uses. He declares himself as superior to what he has appropriated, sentimentalized, and assigned gender; what is the very means he uses to escape his reality.

When is it that something traditionally classified within a genre, can in fact be more appropriately given the name of medium? When we can identify what it is that comes between author and product, or something that mediates an outcome; when something is used as a way to obtain something greater. The idea of landscape, in the context of Wordsworth and other British Romantics, becomes ‘medium’ because exploitation of the land is hard to deny. Wordsworth’s use of the landscape mirrors the Empire’s mentality towards the acquisition of land, and is used as the medium to realize his poetic voice. Acquisition of land equates to the acquisition of power. This comes at the cost of the land, and the ‘others’ implied through the language used to describe it. Wordsworth’s sentimentality for the landscape can be equated to the painted landscapes of the time, since they both frame a greater social problem within an idealized image, that does not get at any sense of social reality. It would be a stretch to even call what we are reading about a real place, if we go only by the author’s description. Instead, we see a desperate man’s simulacrum; an escapist notion of reality taken through a siphon of memory and post-editing. The language comes from the position of self, with no real sense of an attempt to become external. We are left to decode Wordsworth’s ciphers, and raise our eyebrows at what we might find. The romantic language of landscape functions as the intermediary between actual social reality, and the author’s clouded perceptions and retellings.

revised BFA proposal

yada yada yada. sometimes i can't shut up, when i'm typing. here it is.

Taylor Martin
BFA Proposal // First Draft

“Ciphers and Shrines (Notes on Visual Language)”

                               The basis of this project will be the idea of a ‘subjective history’. For me, it will be a way to distinguish what is essential from what is learned. I want to create a multi-sensory environment that mimics the environment I feel I am a product of. One that raises questions about what we control about who we are, and what makes it’s way in without our knowledge. This is especially relevant to the artist, as the process of art making can be seen as a ritual, with the product being images of a personalized visual language. The setup will be a comparison between what is fact, and what is myth. While this is an attempt at evaluating greater cultural influence, it makes the most sense for me to deal with this in terms of myself, as I can then diffuse outward to make connections between the viewer and myself.
                                 Physically, I will be addressing this problem with an installation consisting of three major parts: videos, a sculptural component, and a book. The videos will be running in sync at times, and break away from each other at others. They will be shown on 5-6 small televisions placed on the floor, and will be simple loops of both created and appropriated footage that test the viewer’s ability to recognize and process the visual information. The book will be a stand in for opposing vessels for knowledge. It will be dealt with as a means of documentation, added to daily as I am going through this transitory period in my life. Inside will be a collection of collages, drawings, writings, photographs, other relevant material, and generally references to ideas being dealt with. The sculptural component will compete with the placement of the televisions, and will consist of fabricated tree branches hung approximately 12 feet above the viewer’s eye level. Hanging from the branches slightly above and below eye level will be found photographs in small frames.
                                The environment will be a manifestation of forms of knowledge that will be competing for the viewer’s attention. In our age, this is a typical scenario we have been conditioned to respond to. I feel that my entire sense of knowledge is the result of a process of siphoning information; dealing with an overload of visual and mental stimuli through a process of deciding what is important and what is not. While much of the self is constructed by what is learned, there is also the more essential aspect of what is with us, that we have not in fact learned, but still choose to believe. This is where mythology comes in. We look to myth, both literally and in a more ambiguous sense, as a way to resolve questions to which we cannot formulate answers.
                                     Mythology will be referenced through the hanging of found photographs. The images will be borrowed from family imagery and public domain, and will be iconic in such a way so that they have personal significance, as well as room for interpretation. The act of hanging these from branches references pagan shines, quite literally. The installed space as a whole could be thought of as a shrine to my own constructed self, but also contains plenty for the viewer to connect with. For the viewer, this interaction will be like a shrine to some unknown, omnipresent order. They are then left to decide if this environment, and then wheter their own sense of myth is defined personally, or by a prescription of belief. On the other hand, knowledge will be referenced with the book, as well as with technology acting as intermediary for the passive reception of information in the videos.
                                  Another aspect of what this project can be defined is the dialgue between what is inside and what is outside. The environment is being constructed as a way to bring outside environment, influence, and stimuli into the context of the gallery, to be considered. In a way, the process of interpretation will be like the artist’s ritualistic process of making. The artist responds to a somewhat emotional motivation by making images, and taking them through a process of rationalization. Similarly, the viewer will first respond to this environment visually and emotionally, and then rationalize to make sense of it. In order for this to be done most effectively, a corner space in the gallery would be ideal. Since a variety of media are being dealt with in the same space, two walls, and the interior implications of the corner will allow for the space to be designed so that things do not become too crowded. This will be an interior environment referencing it’s exterior counterpart, both formally and conceptually. The effect of ‘environment’ will be much easier to imply if the architecture of the gallery can be dealt with, and space can be engaged with more freely.

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Unrequited Passion of Patience, Not Required

dear us,

wake up. take a minute to acquaint yourself with your surroundings. once you realize where you are, feel free to mix your words. take the time to hold your tongue between alternating cheeks, and push phrases through the tiny spaces between your teeth. spit them into the sink, bathtub, or toilet. consider the consequences of each option, but not for too long. you don't have forever. the choice is yours, and yours alone to make. scrub yesterday's dirt from your skin. clean your fingernails. stand in front of the mirror and think for a minute about everything you've ever forgotten to do in your life. ask yourself of your shortcomings, but you needn't dwell on this for too long. you still don't have much time. if you don't move fast, you might forget how to walk. move back to your room and put your socks on. promptly leave your house, even if you really don't want to or can't find a reason. do this because it is the most subversive thing you can possibly do. oh, wait! you're not wearing shoes.

nice to see what you saw in the same light of the same time and place. nice to see in general. if i couldn't see, how could i know we're different?

breathing fast in bedroom. the bauhaus art of bad timing. a skill to be acquired, a taste to be rejected, a place to be forgotten, and a name that doesn't suit you.

would your really call this a phantom? one that plagues you? did we really consider each factor in it's own right? do we really know what we're doing? is this really a narrative? is this supposed to make any sense? should we read it again, only thins time more slowly? should we call our mothers and beg for mercy? for twenty dollars to help pay the rent?

this land is your land! this land is my land! a land of passive collectivism and unrequited love. a land that can only be yours if you take it by force.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


it's not about me, it's about us. i mean this in all honesty.

altrusim was defeated long ago. now, it's just a game we play. we can link it most closely to utilitarianism, i think. the motive is self interest, is what ayn rand said. i heard she was a dumb bitch, but if you deny this, you're acting in bad faith. aren't we all just actors, anyway? i ain't not actor. or maybe i am. where did this mask come from? oh yeah, southern gentry racism old money new money colonialism white flight buildings burned downtown in the sixties after our perfect leader was shot at the lorainne motel, oh fuck. i always's liked malcom x better anyway. we share the same birthday. no joke!

i'm white as hell, and i was born with too much money.

actually, i'm not white. that whole color thing is a construct. if you want to make my skin color, start with white, add yellow ochre, pink, and a tinge of brown. i'm somewhere in there.

arguing, arguing, arguing. but what for?

i like to think of myself as a runaway, but not from anything that's real. nothing that is impending, or closing in fast behind me. nothing wearing a white hood, or a civil war military uniform.

when nothin's real, i just can deal with it, i'm not afraid to be here. the hounds of love are haunting me. i never know what's good for me. i've always been a coward. well, here i go! it's coming for me through the trees! help me darling help me please! take your shoes off, and throw them in the lake!

just two hours away, two hours, two hours away!

put this into your own words. your own poetic ciphers for articulating your own civil injustice. this is really for the best. clear, concise language will never touch reality. language is incapable, in general. i'll preach this until the day i die.

our histories will never repeat. that's a silly lie you've been told since grade school.

it doesn't matter anyway, so let's just make our own.

when was the last time you looked in a mirror? why? because you've changed. you look so healthy!

i'm recycling. can you tell?

here, now:

i leave don juan, for the present. safe--
not sound, poor fellow, but severely wounded
yet could his corporal pangs amount to half?
of those with which haidee's bosom bonded!
she was not one to weep, and rave, and chafe
and then give away; subdued because surrounded
her mother was a moorish maid, from fez
where all is eden. a wilderness.

-not me


this is the first essay of the semester for canfield's british literature. it's just a diagnostic essay, so give me a check minus, a check, or a check plus. not a A, , B, C, D, or F. everything below the line will be printed and handed in. he's always said i should take risks. wish me luck.


“Taking off the mask. Unpacking interdependency in Pantomime and Burn!.”

Is is the master who depends on the slave, or is it really the slave who depends on the master? We will be looking at two examples of this problem: Walcott’s play, Pantomime, and Pontecorvo’s film, Burn!.

In Pantomime, the issue of interdependency is portrayed through the psychological dynamic between a master ad his slave. While Jackson, the slave, can be seen as dependent on his master Harry in a somewhat immediate way, since it is he that provides Jackson with essential things such as food and housing, it is never Jackson who is the one to be seen as dependant in a psychological respect. However, for Harry, Jackson can be seen as something like a 'life-coach'. In the last scene of the play, we see Jackson take on the role of Harry’s once wife. In doing this, Jackson is essentialy identifying the maxim of Harry’s problem, which is his sadness. Jackson speaks to Harry through the guise of his wife, whom Harry is still pretty broken up over. Jackson breaks Harry down in this late dialogue, as a way for Harry to see what is really bothering him. The moment is eerily sentimental, and potentially adorable.Jackson literally wears the mask of Harry's wife, holding a photograph of her to his face, crying at times, and at other times mocking him. After this pantomime has run its course, it is as if his job is done. Jackson then promptly resigns from his role as slave. He says his will devote his time to his true work, and the play ends in a moment that leaves the reader wondering what Jackson will really do with his newly acquired ‘freedom’.
Though the relationship between Jackson and Harry is staged as dyadic, one between master and slave, which suggests that there would be some equal dependency going on, the moments in which we see Jackson actually depending on Harry are rare.

On a different note, “Burn!” shows the subject of interdependency in a different light. Here, we do not see the master so much as being dependent on the slave. Sir William Walker is sent from Great Britian on a mysterious mission with a seemingly hidden agenda. He essentially ‘coaches’ the working slaves on the island into a revolution. This problem is most evident in the beginning half of the film. Later, we begin to see Walker’s intentions more for what they are. However, in this beginning, we hear many questionable lines coming from Walker that inform our later interpretation of his character.
What can be seen as faults in Walker’s imperial logic, actually show through as admirable points. For instance, the whole bit where Walker stages a scene as a way to make a point to Delores. He accuses him of stealing his bags, when he is aware that this was not the case, but is able to make Delores plead gulty for a crime he did not commit. He points out Delores’ conditioned response to submit immediately to the will of the colonizer, as a way of telling him he shouldn’t do such a thing. While this benefits Jose at the time, it also provides satisfaction to Walker, and causes us to question what his motives for this instruction really are. Another scene where a similar conclusion can be made is when Walker gifts guns to a group of slaves. He proceeds to tell them how the guns are used, providing both the tools and instructions to use these tools for revolution.
While the slaves are dependant on the master in this respects, there is more or a sense of interdependency, at least as an evident exchange in "Burn!", Walker, as a character, is charismatic and suave in his delivery, and we could perceive him as doing no wrong, if we didn’t know any better.
The exposure of this fault, and Walker's country’s dependency on the slave is outlined for us in a way that is more blatant.. We do not have to look at subtle clues in Brando’s delivery to understand the monetary benefits of free labor to the colonizing country.

Despite differences in the way interdependency is treated in filmic and dramatic text, both do a good job of unpacking, or at least exposing the complex political issues that drives their reasons for being written. They make a good pair, in that the dependency can be seen in two opposing formats. A more complete perspective of the issues between master and slave, and their underlying political motivations, can be acquired through a thorough comparison.

“The music hall’s loss is the calypso’s gain”

In a way, this play was written for a psychological interpretation. It is an extensive dialogue between two characters, one whose troubles are more personal (real problems?), and one who has learned to deal with the complex condition of being an enslaved person (real problems!). However, to make this interpretation alone would be to only look at surface issues. Walcott writes in a poetic language, making countless references and analogies. However ambiguous they may be, they allow for the reader to outwardly make connections between the personal, social, and political realms in which these issues are relevant.
In this dialogue, and within the relationship in general, the master and slave are in a constant exchange of roles. It is predefined that Jackson is slave, but he is often dominant because of his ability to reason more clearly, and control his emotions. To see this for what it really is, it is important to acknowledge that Harry’s and Jackson’s problems arise from very different circumstances. Harry’s comes from being a privileged man who is shipwrecked, stranded, out of his element and reacting in the best way he knows how. While this must be complex psychologically, this is really nothing in comparison to Jackson’s condition. Jackson’s ‘problems’ never seem like problems to him, but what is there is still far more complex. They are the result of being forced into performing free labor, while being provided much less compensation for his efforts than any white man performing the same tasks. He is at the same time a man without history, as it was taken from him upon his enslavement. The very language he speaks was imposed on him through the barrel of a gun. While both conditions could seem cause for dependency issues, Jackson’s issues are much more of a cause for a need to be dependant. Still, he is never the one to show weakness. It seems that weakness has no place in Jackson’s vocabulary. His problems have always been there. He has lived with them for the entirety of his life, and is hence able to deal with them, while still having enough free time left over to coach a character who we see sometimes as a his master, sometimes as his slave, and sometimes as his friend.
The dynamic between the two is confusing. Henry often lashes out, using Jackson as a scapegoat for his misguided aggression and emotional problems. Jackson is always levelheaded, speaking rationally to Harry even though most of the time he does not hear him. Much of the play takes place around the reading of the play Harry has written. Jackson is consistently frustrated with doing this, as he feels his diginity being stripped away from having to wear the mask of a created role over the mask he already wears in the face of Harry. Still, he goes along with this, from obligation, but also to humor Harry. Through much of the complications that arise between them over this role-playing, Harry is often cruel in what he says to Jackson. Harry feels okay doing this because he sees Jackson as a lesser human, Jackson seems to know this is the case, but doesn’t exactly have a choice in the matter. He is for the most part very civil in this interaction, and when he does express frustration it goes unnoticed by Harry.
This can be seen most clearly in a single scene, in which Walcott utilizes his poetic ciphers as a way to acknowledge the complexity of Jackson’s character. Harry’s command is to “Make them Laugh.”, since this is supposed to be a pantomime and all. Jackson responds with a monologue about shadows that at first is funny at first to him, but loses it’s humor when it’s truth begins to resonate. He speaks of shadows, something easily metaphorical in this context. In this monologue, Jackson is talking about his personal history with his own master, but also about all of the slave and master relationships of this same context. He says, “For three hundred Years I have served you”, and he has, along with the people who share this same burden. He addresses Harry by calling him “boss bwana, effendi, bacra, and sahib”, all of the names for master that he could be called by, and that all other masters could be called by their slaves in some confused, native language that has been lost in this process of colonization and relocation. He stops laughing when he begins to speak more literally of shadows. He says, “You smiled at me as a child does smile at his shadow’s helpless obedience”, acknowledging the difference between himself and his master, by alluding to a history that has caused the differences in their ‘senses of humor;’. He goes on to acknowledge that the humor is lost, and that the child stops smiling when he becomes frightened by his power to influence the obedience of the shadow; That it becomes even more frightening when the obedience of the shadow cannot be controlled, when the master cannot control the obedience of the slave. This is Jackson’s way of reversing the role of master and slave. The master loses his power when this happens. This is what he calls “The power and black magic of the shadow.”
Harry writes off what Jackson says by saying he “Got really carried away that time, didn’t you?” What is possibly the most profound moment of the play, goes unnoticed by the very person to whom the speech was directed. After this, the conversation quickly resumes to it’s normal, lighthearted mode of banter. However, in this moment, Jackson has in a way succeeded in liberating himself from his slavery, at least ideologically, before the second act has even begun. Long before he declares his freedom at the end. Jackson knows he doesn't need Harry, but is only able to free himself after helping Harry to free himself.

“You sell the sugar, but we cut the cane”

As stated earlier, “Burn!” deals with interdependency from a different standpoint. Here, slaves are dependant of their master figure in order to formulate their liberation, while the masters are dependent on the free labor of slaves to further progress their economic agenda. Walker’s agenda is hidden throughout most of the film, mostly to the slaves to which he is aiding ‘liberation’. However, it is said that he is employed as a secret agent of sorts, so his intentions do not go unnoticed to the viewer. Walker implants into Dolores’ head all that he needs in order to be viewed by the slaves as the right person to lead their revolution. Walker intends for the information he gives to be used as ammunition against the Portuguese, as that is what would be economically beneficial to himself and his country.
He never intends for the information, or the status of ‘revolutionary leader’, to be used against him. After the successful revolution against the Portuguese, Walker departs, as his job is done. He must however return after a number of years, once Jose uses his knowledge to provoke a second revolution against British rule. This scenario is an excellent setup in that it clearly outlines the logic of the colonizer, and exposes all of the interdependency that was present before this point.
Though Dolores uses the knowledge he gained from Walker, and the apparent ways it fueled the success of the first revolution, he later denies it’s use in the second revolution in almost a single line. At one point, Walker offers Dolores his freedom after he is captured. Dolores promptly responds by saying “Freedom is something you take for yourself.”. This knowledge subverts all of the previous knowledge he gained from Walker. It seemed as if Doores understood this well before, but we know know that he really gets it now. In a way, he is saying that your freedom is not something that can be handed to you by your colonizer, whether is is staged or unstaged, whether it had a hidden agenda or did not.


Both of these approaches to unpacking the problem of slavery are great attempts, and successful in their own rights, but still leave us with questions about the nature of freedom to the slave. How is it that the enslaved can declare their own freedom from the colonizer, or have it handed to them? What is freedom to someone who knows nothing but slavery? Someone with a sense of history that has been erased? Someone with no ‘homeland’ to go back to, or even a native language to speak? What we can learn from this someone in this situation is that identity is not something that should be considered as inherent, or something you are born with that is based on a sense of your country’s history, or your heritage. Instead, identity is something to be made for yourself, or constructed based on personal experience. When freedom is acquired by the slave, this becomes the immediate problem at hand. Understanding, and constructing this selfhood is the only way to gain true, personal form of liberation, or a sense of self that is more honest than anything that could be inherited. This can apply across any boundary of race, gender, age, or culture. “Pantomime”, puts this into a personal perspective, which can then be applied outwardly. “Burn!” acknowledges the social and political aspects of this problem more directly.

My translation, in short:

You mean to tell me a man can't sit in his own hotel, casually eating his breakfast in his underwear when there's not a soul around for miles to see? Why the hell not?

This is a game called 'self deception.' This is a humanity you were born with, and must get rid of. This is what started the wars. This is the same projectile that no matter how much your favorite 19th century philosopher encourages you to dodge, keeps hitting you in the face and knocking you back down. Down to what is essential. You were born to be this way, and it is your obligation to not go down again without a fight. Saying 'This is just the way i am' is not acceptable. To learn anything new, you must first unlearn everything else.

The Industrial Revolution jumped the gun, woke the baby, called us stupid, forgot our names, left and never came back, and didn't even bother to write. Four o’clock is coming up fast behind us, and all we can do is let it pass and hope we don't make eye contact or show weakness.The weakness implied by our differences. You can try and take off the mask, but you can't rewrite the history. You can't retell the stories your grandmother told you when you were still young enough to not know any better. it's time to grow up, reconcile cultural difference, and forget all of that money we were gonna make off of free labor and abundant sugarcane. I’m white, 21 years old, and economically privileged, but I don’t think I’m stupid. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I like sugar just as much as the next guy, but if we accept that 'no man is an island', we'll just have to get back up and start harvesting on our own.