Tag Archives: detail

Calvino’s Visibility

28 Feb

The fourth quality that Calvino introduces is that of Visibility.

He begins by introducing Purgatorio in which Dante is presented with scenes that act as representations or quotations of examples of sins and virtues. First they are revealed as “bas-reliefs” that appear to move and speak, then they appear as visions projected before his eyes, then as voices in his ear and finally as purely mental images. (pg. 81)

Calvino uses this example as a representation of the imaginative process, of which he says there are two types: (pg. 83)

1) the one that starts with the word and arrives at the visual image

2) the one that starts with the visual image and arrives at its verbal expression

The first of these processes, Calvino says, is what happens when we read normally. “We are brought to witness the scene as if it were taking place before our eyes….” He calls this the “mental cinema.” He is focusing on what happens to the reader when they experience literature. It is just that, an experience. The mind works in such a way that it paints such vivid pictures, that the reader is moved in some emotional fashion, be it to action or just contemplation. It is rare that we do not watch a movie, or even television show that we are not inspired or piqued in some way that a reaction is not elicited. In a day when we have an essentially free method of communication at our fingertips through social media and the internet, we are more inclined than ever to share our thoughts, feelings and reactions to works that exercise our imaginations and emotions.

Independent of, yet relative to Calvino’s second example of Visibility, Ejercicios espirituales, the book of Revelation in the Bible is a strong example of Visibility that elicits an emotional and cognitive reaction, regardless of religious belief.

In Revelation chapter 1, verses 12-16, John is explaining his experience to the Seven Churches. He says, “When I turned to see who was speaking to me, I saw seven gold lampstands. And standing in the middle of the lampstands was someone like the Son of Man. He was wearing a long robe with a gold sash across his chest. His head and his hair were white like wool, as white as snow. And his eyes were like flames of fire. His feet were like polished bronze  refined in a furnace, and his voice thundered like mighty ocean waves. He held seven stars in his right hand, and a sharp two-edged sword came from his mouth. And his face was like the sun in all its brilliance.”

With a parallel to Dante’s Purgatorio, John is relaying a message and describing in the greatest of detail what he has seen. Interwoven into this description are, what I feel to be, his feelings of overwhelmedness and awe. He explicitly states that he “sees” these things, and therefore this cannot but translate into the reader’s imagination as an image or picture.

No matter the piece of work, Visibility is a quality that is inherent in literature. Albeit that some provide more vividness than others, the beauty of literature is just that- its ability to vividly describe a scene and therefore project an experience upon the reader.

I feel as though I share John’s sense of overwhelmedness and awe. Both he and Dante describe their experiences in an awesome way- in the literal meaning of the word- and I cannot help, as a visual learner, having a stronger inclination for an experience when I can use all of my senses to do so because of the Visibility of the work at hand.

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E-Lit Example

22 Feb

The E-Lit example I chose to demonstrate Visibility is “Entre Ville” by J.R. Carpenter.

This short narration is about what is assumed to be a group of children who live next toand play in an alleyway and have done so for eight and a half years. They own a dog who sniffs his way up and down the alley, chasing after and retrieving an orange ball. The way in which the story is told is through the most vivid of details to the point where a great sense of Visibility is achieved.

For example:

“Let’s say our dog walk us up and down this alleyway three times a day. That’s eight-and-a-half years up and eight-and-a-half years down. Nine thousand three hundred laps of toenails clicking on the cracked concrete. Tail zigzagging, long tail wagging, long tongue lolling, dog tags clacking. Ears open, eyes darting, nose to the ground.”

Just within this short excerpt the reader gets a sense for what this dog does every day, how he does it and what he looks like doing it. Almost every sense is employed by the reader because of the implied and explicit details. The smell of the ally, the sound of the dog’s nails clicking and tags clacking, the prance of the dog, and one can almost feel the wind blowing through the ally.

The aesthetic I feel from this piece of E-Lit is almost a sense of nostalgia. Memories can be so vivid that clothes, places, patterns, colors, scents, weather and any  number of other elements can be remembered because they are ingrained into our memories through their vivid presence and therefore represent Visibility in our mind’s eye or imagination.

http://collection.eliterature.org/2/works/carpenter_entreville/index.html