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.
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“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.
Italo Calvino explains lightness as the extraction of “weight” from a piece of literature. He believes that there are three senses of lightness and explains them all through Guido Cavalcanti, a character from Boccaccio’s “Decameron”. His first sense is lightness of language, described as ” meaning is conveyed through a verbal texture that seems weightless, until the meaning itself takes on the same rarefied consistency”. The second sense referenced is the narration of a train of thought or psychological process. The last sense that Calvino describes is the sense of “a visual image of lightness that acquires emblematic value…”. He is referencing the lightness of an image; his example here is the emblem he selected to represent lightness, Cavalcanti leaping over a tombstone to avoid his antagonists. This emblem shows that Cavalcanti has embraced lightness by leaping over death.
Cavalcanti is not the only example that Calvino uses. His first example given in the memo is the mythological story of Perseus and Medusa. Perseus was only able to defeat Medusa’s death stare by reflecting her own image back onto herself. Once he was able to behead the beast, he found that the head of Medusa could protect him, using it against other monsters. The head, also, when laid upon sea tress turns them to coral. Perseus was able to step back and see his reality from a higher viewpoint. The story references Perseus’ ability to fly with his winged shoes, a literal translation of him flying to a high point, but the way he was able to accept something that was so evil as good with the right use shows his true lightness in character. Calvino believes that our current world has trouble seeing lightness because our view of the world is too dense. He believes we will only be able to see true lightness if we are able to “fly away” like Perseus and see the world from a different perspective.
When referencing my own knowledge of lightness, I am drawn to the idea of comics. A simple comic strip can bring about a sense of humor with very little meaning or weight. A famous comic that comes to mind that exemplifies lightness is “The Far Side” by Gary Larson. He uses simple images and short captions to appeal to one’s humor about an everyday idea.