Reflections, Reflections, Reflections

So I’ve realized that it’s about time I wrote my first reflections post. Now I had planned to write a reflections post sooner but I guess I never really got around to it…which is why now is a perfect time to start!

You’re probably wondering what is a reflections post..well in this context I’ll be talking about generally how the course is going, what were the highlights, the drawbacks, the fun times, etc etc.. I’m sure you get the point, its reflections just like I said. Simple right? Since I do have a tendency to ramble I’m going to organize my thoughts into points, starting with…

*drum roll*

  1. THE COURSE

Honestly, the course has been going pretty good. We’ve been following a set pattern with classes well planned out and full of discussion, and the great part is the teacher encourages us to voice our opinions and he actively inculcates dialogue in class; I never realized how much other people’s takes on the same text could be such a learning experience. Usually the class consists of either reading a text/discussing theory or a text/powerpoints/ videos or movies./random tangents (unavoidable). Now I’m not a huge class participator, and I don’t see why we’re graded on participating in class, but during the course I’ve actually contributed in ongoing class discussions..semi-actively (yay me). I also like how the course has progressed slowly, not going too fast or rushing through plays but spending quality time on each text, reading it in class and then voicing our own opinions. I’ve been exposed to Indian playwrights that I didn’t know anything about, and overall the flexibility in class structuring has been refreshing..it’s pretty awesome not to have your hand spasming after class because of all the notes you’ve taken (as a psych major, it happens to me all too often). The grading components (2 Assignments, 1 final assignments) have been well spaced out, and proportional to the work load, and all in all I think I’ve really enjoyed whats been happening.

2. THE MATERIAL

Well where to start! We hit the ground running, starting with readings from the very first class (Seymour Chatman), readings on folk theater and performance, plays (Ghashiram Kotwal, The Resistable Rise of Arturo Ui, Kichakvadh) along with presentations, videos and short films on playwrights/plays/folk drama and theater. There hasn’t been too much additional reading material and the readings we’ve read have really helped understand discussions we have in class (especially the folk performance readings). I’ve quite enjoyed the plays too, maybe not so much Kichakvadh, but the other two have been really great and introduced me to different drama forms. The videos we’ve watched mainly consisting of short clips of the plays we’re reading have helped visualize the stage as we’re reading, and I also liked the BBC documentary we watched on Bertolt Brecht, it was quite good. http://www.thedramateacher.com/brecht-on-stage-video/ –> you’ll find the documentary here!

3. WHAT I’VE LIKED

Definitely the plays, especially Arturo Ui, I think it really put out a message to all of us and Brecht did an amazing job with the setting and use of dialogue. If you’ve read some of my other posts theres a ton of stuff on folk theater too which I found really interesting, I mean living in India of course you hear about it from time to time but actually reading plays and researching for my assignment I came across a ton of new information and the whole topic is fascinating in how much there is to it. I thought the videos were informative too, the ones on tamasha were pretty good, and it breaks up the monotony of constantly talking. I think talking about plays people have watched, in class, has also been fun because we get to hear about their experiences and get to know of plays that sound really interesting.

4. WHAT I HAVEN’T LIKED

Honestly, not much, I think the course has gone quite well.  I mean I didn’t enjoy Kichakvadh as much as the other plays, but I suppose that can’t be helped.I do wish we watch some more videos in class, and documentaries, about the playwright and his life. It really helped understand Arturo Ui when we watched the documentary about Brecht because I got to understand him as a playwright and a director and how he developed his own form of theater as well the times he lived in, which just served to enhance my reading and understanding of the play itself.I think that maybe spending a little more time on the Dramatic Performance Act and seeing how it relates to society now, is it still as relevant and necessary in today’s times, how has it affected plays or the message certain plays are trying to put across and so on might have been good. Its too bad that there hasn’t been a sort of field trip thing where we all go together to watch a play as a class, I think that would be a really memorable experience but maybe a bit tough to fit in what with different schedules and lack of class time. Oh well.

 

So far things are going pretty well, we’re progressing at a good speed, I like the readings and plays and there isn’t a very heavy workload so it sure makes things a little easier. Stick around for more reflections posts!

Seymour Chatman- All About the Narrative

Seymour Chatman was an American film and literary critic, as well as a professor, and was particularly well known for his book ‘Story and Discourse: Narrative Structure in Fiction and Film’. However, when it comes to understanding drama and the narrative, his essay ‘Story and Narrative’ is most enlightening.

So what makes the narrative so special? What does it even comprise of? Well lets take a look!

chatman

Structuralist theory believes that each narrative holds two parts; a story, the content, or “chain of events” (actions, happenings), and the “existents” (characters, items of settings;  and the discourse, or the “expression, the means by which the content is communicated”. The story then becomes the ‘what’ in a narrative that is portrayed, while the discourse becomes the ‘how’. Chatman notes that such a distinction has existed since the time of Aristotle’s ‘Poetics’; “For Aristotle, the imitation of actions in the real world, praxis, was seen as forming an argument, logos, from which were selected (and possibly rearranged) the units that formed the plot, mythos”

The Russian formalists had such a distinction as well, but used only two concepts; fable (fabula)- the “basic story stuff, the sum total of events to be related in the narrative” and the plot (sjuzet) the story as actually told by linking the events together. Formalists see the fable as the series of events tired together, which are communicated to us in the course of the work, whereas plot is how the reader is made aware of what has transpired.

The narrative embodies a “communication”, therefore it has two parties; a sender and a receiver. Each party has three different “personages”- the sender contains the real author, implied author and the narrator (if present). The receiver contains the real audience, the implied audience and the narratee. Furthermore, the audience is compelled to respond with an interpretation; they can’t avoid participating in the “transaction”. Likewise, the audience makes interpretations about the character as well.

The events of a story are usually thought to form the plot. Aristotle stated that the plot (mythos) was “an arrangements of incidents”. Structuralists believe that narrative theory proposes that the arrangement “is precisely the operation performed by discourse”-then the events in a story are turned into a plot by its discourse, the “modus of presentation”. Like Chatman says, its function is to “emphasize” and “de-emphasize” certain story events, to interpret some and to leave others to inference, to show or to tell, to comment or to remain silent, and to focus on any aspect of an event or character.

In terms of the narrative, what is an event? Events are either “actions (acts)” or “happenings”. Both are “changes of state”. If the action leads to being significant to the plot, then the “agent” or “patient” is called a character. So, the character is the narrative subject of the “narrative predicate”. In classic narratives, events take place in “distributions”; they are linked to one another as a cause to effect-these effects cause other effects which in turn cause effects.

Perhaps the most important part of his narrative theory are the concepts of ‘kernels’ and ‘satellites’-here, Chatman draws on Roland Barthes works. Major events and minor events have different structures, and major events, which Chatman calls ‘kernels’ takes forward the plot by raising and satisfying questions. Kernels are essentially “narrative moments that give rise to cruxes in the direction taken by events”. The minor plot events, or “satellite” are not really as crucial as the kernels, and their deletion can occur without disturbing the plot, even though it may cause an aesthetic imbalance of the narration. Satillites are based on the kernels and they primarily “flesh out” the skeleton of the kernel.

Chatman’s theory provides an interesting, and detailed way to understand narratives, and his construction of the plot and events are applicable to many texts we see today. By understanding his point of view, it opens a door into understanding structuralist and formalist schools of thought and also can be applied to drama’s to uncover deeper meanings within the plot.