Calvino directly defines his subject for the lecture about multiplicity; “the contemporary novel as an encyclopedia, as a method of knowledge, and above all as a network of connections between the events, the people, and the things of the world.” Calvino strongly believed in this quality. He believed that it was almost impossible to fully define the multiplicity of each subject of study because everything in the world is connected in some way. Every subject can be expanded upon and then expanded again. He begins his lecture with a passage from Carlo Emilio Gadda’s “That Awful Mess on the Via Merulana”. Gadda was one of the writers, like many other greats, who took on the challenge of knowing everything and then tried to write a book of worldly knowledge, a novel as an encyclopedia. Gadda was rarely able to complete his own works because everything he began seemed to expand to the infinite. He was unable to find a point at which it was acceptable to stop connecting and expanding. Robert Musil, an engineer, wrote about the tension between mathematical exactitude and the imprecision of human affairs. He too was unable to complete works because he saw the connection that Gadda was plagued with. The difference between Gadda and Musil was the path at which they found this infinite connection. Gadda saw the connections as a tangled ball of thoughts and ideas that overwhelmed and consumed him. Musil took a more scientific approach, he saw the connections as codes and processes. He believed that there was a rhyme and reason for all the connections but like Gadda was unable to conquer it. Gustave Flaubert was a writer that Calvino also looks to discuss. Flaubert’s novel, “Bouvard and Pecuchet”, is consider the most encyclopedic novel ever written. The title is the names of two characters that take a journey on a ship. Flaubert was a true leaner, he took the time to learn as much as possible, studying any subject he could find. His broad knowledge gave him the ability to use the characters as a venue to express all of his own personal worldly knowledge. He ends the novel with Bouvard and Pecuchet giving up on finding worldly knowledge and deciding to just try to copy the books of the universal library. Although Flaubert’s novel has an ending, it is only an ending that personifies Gadda’s and many other writers’ struggles with the “ultimate book”.
These men, mentioned above, were some of the greatest minds our world has ever seen and they still were unable to even crack the surface of total worldly knowledge. This memo has the best examples because so many tried to show true multiplicity. Everything truly is connected and without multiplicity in one’s work, the reader is robbed of the whole subject, only learning a portion of it.
I began to think about other works I have read personally that seem to exemplify multiplicity. I was stumped at first because I began thinking on a scale similar to that of the works of a novel as an encyclopedia, an area on literature I am unfamiliar with. Then I realized that although those are the best examples, there are plenty of stories that show multiplicity, just on a smaller scale. A series of books that comes to mind when thinking about multiplicity is the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. She takes the life of a small wizard and connects it to an endless world of imagination. The series not only covers the lives of multiple characters, Rowling was able to connect Harry Potter to all ranges of study. She was able to connect him to scenes of danger, love, pain, and much more. The books are so captivating because, even though it was fictional, Rowling was able to create an entire imaginary world. She wrote a novel as an encyclopedia to a world she invented.
Unfortunately, I am unable to use a comic as an emblem for visibility because Calvino has already done so and the E-Lit I selected is based on comic strips. The second emblem I look to in order to convey the E-Lit’s quality for visibility is that of a sun rise. The sun rising is an emblem for visibility because, like the comics do in “Brainstrips”, the sun rise represents multiple ideas. The first thought that comes to mind when looking at the sun rising is the thought of beauty. The image conveys the thought that the earth is naturally beautiful. The second thought that comes to mind is the thought that the day has begun. The sun rising indicates that the day is beginning and we must begin our daily routines. Like the images in the comics do, the sun conveys important details in our life and without words is able to influence our thoughts.
I was overlooking the options for the graphic design elements we can use to best describe our selection of E-Lit in “Graphic Design The New Basics” by Ellen Lupton and Jennifer Cole Phillips. I noticed the first major elements discussed is Point, Line, Plane. These three elements are considered the “building blocks of design”. I assumed I would not find an E-Lit work that these elements could be used to shows the core aesthetic value. Then I realized that they are the core elements that allow the comics in Alan Bigelow’s “Brainstrips” to convey the images that help show the author’s meaning behind the piece. The comics are a combination of points, lines and planes. They are very basic and show little dimensional quality. Calvino discusses that images are an important part of aesthetics and without the simple elements of points, lines, and planes, these images would not be able to be drawn.
While journeying through the E-Lit anthology, I was having trouble finding a piece of work that can truly conveys the qualities of visibility. Most of the E-Lit work has relatively good visual effects but the interest of the authors did not seem to be in the visual quality. Fortunately, I stumbled across the work of Alan Bigelow. Bigelow created an E-Lit piece called “Brainstrips”. It consists of multiple live action comics that discuss major issues and concerns in the world. Although the author was most liking mainly concerned with issues discussed, his piece’s true quality is in the visual aspect. He uses comic stripes and then adds small action details like the firing of a bullet. The combination really allows the reader to understand the comic and ultimately understand the message the author is looking to convey. This appeals to the second imagination process that Calvino discusses, the process of an image giving the reader the sensation of verbal expression. The author hopes that the piece of E-Lit influences the viewers to express their feelings towards the discussed issues.
“If I have included visibility in my list of values to be saved, it is to give warning of the danger we run in losing a basic human faculty: the power of bringing visions into focus with our eyes shut, of bringing forth forms and colors from the lines of black letters on a white page, and in fact of thinking in terms of images.” – Italo Calvino
The quote above is from Italo Calvino’s book, “Six Memos for the New Millennium“. This quote shows Calvino’s passion in respect to this specific quality. In his other memos, Calvino mentions the importance of using the qualities as a guideline for one’s literary works, but when discussing the quality visibility, Calvino seems to be concerned that we are losing this quality. He explains his concern about the loss of such an important aspect of aesthetics. Aside from just his concern with the loss of thinking in images, Calvino also expresses his worry for the change from people thinking of original images to people thinking of others’ images and replicating.
Calvino expresses visibility in relation to imagination. He believes that imagination has two processes: the process by which the words on a page can guide a reader to create the image being discussed and the process of an image giving a person the sensation of verbal expression. Although Calvino is and has been highly regarded for many years, not everyone agreed with his thought process of imagination. Dante the poet wrote about Dante the character in “Divine Comedy” as having his images “rain down” from the heavens into his mind. Dante didn’t even wait for the images to fully form. He discussed how they came in time and became clearer as time went on.
Calvino looks to relate visibility to en emblem. He mentions how italian comics convey the power of visibility. At the time, comics had yet to develop the word bubbles that we are accustomed to here in America. This left it all up to the image to convey the thought the author was looking to get across.
Visibility leads my mind to think about one of my favorite books of all time, Patrick D. Smith’s “A Land Remembered“. The story follows the generations of a family that looks to start off a career in cow herding in the early years of Florida’s development. Smith does an incredible job at conveying the beautiful natural scenery of old Florida. Being a life-long Floridian, I can truly appreciate the beauty he discusses that we have lost over the years. Smith is able to use “lines of black letters on a white page” in order to convey an absolutely beautiful scene that the reader can vividly see in their mind.
“Carving in Possibilities” uses layers of text to convey the core meaning of the piece of work, the sculpture of David by Michelangelo. The process of building a skyscraper is very similar and can serve as an analogy. First off, as Larsen does with her E-Lit, the process of building a skyscraper must begin with a well thought-out plan. Calvino mentions this as one of the three core values of exactitude. Once the plan is laid out, all the areas of specialty must combine to build the towering building. Like the text does for Larsen, engineers, architects, etc. must combine to complete the project. The real representation of exactitude comes in the actually building of the skyscraper. The workers must use the least amount of resources and time to build the building but must keep up with the codes implied. Literature is held to this same standard. The author must use the least amount of words to describe the overall meaning of the piece of work.
While looking at “Carving in Possibilities” by Deena Larsen, I immediately notice the layers when discussing graphic design. The E-Lit uses layers of text to carve out the final image, the sculpture of David by Michelangelo. The layers are the core graphic element that best displays the quality of exactitude. Each layer of text represents the simple form of communication, a phrase, that combine to express the core of the work. The layers build together to show the sculpture, like Calvino mentions, you want to use the most exact words to describe your thoughts, like Larsen does with the phrases.