Tag Archives: Lightness

Light: Cornell

21 Apr

The composition of a blox based on the work and guidance of Cornell around The Giving Tree in terms of the quality of being light, I will draw upon things from my own childhood that give me memories of lightness that are also found in The Giving Tree. The first thing that comes to mind is leaves. Not only are leaves an epitome of the quality of being light, but they are a large aspect of the story- they are much of the tree as the picture on the pages, as well as a prop for the boy when he makes a crown and builds his house. Another item included in my blox for light’s quality will be a child’s blanket. This is for both personal reasons and because of the boy’s adolescence in the book. When I would young I had a blanket that I loved. It was the perfect weight- just light enough to be snuggly and comforting while at the same time providing the comfort of warmth when I was cold.  Part of my synthesis for the holes in the story is the boy at home with his family. I can imagine that he would also have some kind of a blanket, as many children do.

The concept of being light can also, in my mind, represent a state of happiness. Therefore, I will include a flower, more specifically a daisy, because flowers make me happy. This is something that I imagine being around as a wildflower in the forest where the tree grows and where the boy plays. As a child myself, I spent a great deal of time playing outside and enjoying the outdoors. As another component of lightness implied in The Giving Tree to which I also relate are clouds. As the boy is outside playing in the shade of the tree, one can imagine that the sky is filled with sunlight and big, pillowy clouds.

For all of these items, I have reflected on the aspects of the story to which I relate that represent lightness. I have relied on nostalgia as well as prior knowledge that has been acquired over my 22 years of living, along with my 17 years of education. Like Cornell, this reliance on both physical and mental notes and the collection of items surrounding specific emotions have allowed me to compile this blox as I have.



25 Feb

An emblem I chose to describe Lightness is a feather. Aside from the common expression, “light as a feather,” I do believe that a feather embodies the epitome of Lightness.

Not only are feathers light on their own accord but they also enable birds and ducks to achieve the ultimate status of lightness: flight. This attribute is enough to exemplify the reasoning behind a feather as an emblem of Lightness, however, I prefer to focus on the feather as a single unit, exclusive of its function for flight. The feather is almost weightless when held and when floating through the air flutters down to the ground in an unpredictable and slow drifting manner.

Despite the structural integrity of a feather, its lightness remains, and its structure is what allows it to be light. The simplistic structure of the feather brings to mind Lightness because the simpler something is, the less complex or cumbersome, and therefore the less it weighs, if only conceptually or hypothetically.


24 Feb

The analogy I am using to represent Lightness is of free-falling on an amusement park ride such as the Tower of Terror at Disney’s Hollywood Studios or Doctor Doom’s Fear Fall at Universal’s Islands of Adventure.

I feel as though free-falling is comparable to the work of E-Lit that I have chosen for Lightness because they both imply or provide explicitly a sense of weightlessness and discomfort. The weightlessness in the E-Lit work, “in the white darkness” is found from the transparency of the overlay that is layered on top of the actual image. There is a white mask on top of the picture beneath, but the picture is not clearly visible because of the opacity of the white layer and the blurred effect that it creates. This white layer, although evoking a sense of haze, also evokes a sense of weightlessness because it acts as a veil and we understand aesthetically the purpose of a veil and know that it is not of great weight. Free falling also provides a sense of weightlessness because of the physics involved in such an amusement. Typically these types of rides take the rider to the top of the tower or structure at a rather fast speed, therefore pressing the rider into the seat in which they are strapped. When they reach the top, the hydraulic system is released and the vehicle is released so that the passengers are for a moment suspended in the air, weightless.

I have also mentioned that both the E-Lit work and the act of free-falling provide an experience of discomfort. There is discomfort in experiencing the E-Lit work because of the inability to clearly see what is beneath the layer of whiteness. As discussed in the Graphics section, humans’ natural inclination is to feel a sense of discomfort or anxiety when we know that something is there that we cannot see or understand. The free fall also provides discomfort or anxiety to those experiencing the sensation of weightlessness because of the adrenaline that our bodies release in response to being in an atypical situation. Not only do we experience physiological discomfort, but some people have genuine fears of heights or falling and therefore also experience a great emotional response that elicits screaming and sometimes crying to release their feelings of discomfort and anxiety.


24 Feb

The graphic element I think best represents Lightness is that of transparency. In design, transparency is used to create veils and layers of color and texture. Typically something is transparent when it has a value between 0 and 100 so that it is opaque to some degree but also reveals the layer or object beneath it.

I feel as though transparency represents Lightness best because of the sense of weight, or lack thereof, that it implies. Naturally, we understand that by the principles of physics and gravity that when one object is underneath another object it bears the weight of the latter. With transparency, the simple fact that the top layer is “see-through” implies a sense of lightness, as opposed to if it were completely opaque, no matter the texture or object. Transparency almost gives a feeling of relief to the viewer because it allows for the understanding and visibility of the multiple elements that are being observed. Because humans are curious characters, we have natural inclinations to feel anxiety from what we cannot see, or what do not know is there. The value of transparency, both literally on a scale and figuratively, is important to the understanding of what is being observed in art, just as Calvino’s quality of Lightness is pertinent to the reader’s ability to feel a sense of calm and understanding without the weight of burdensome text or meaning.

E-Lit Example

22 Feb

The E-Lit example I chose to represent Lightness is “in the white darkness: about [the fragility of] memory” by Reiner Strasser.

While the term “white darkness” is of course in itself contradictory, the name of the piece itself implies a great sense of Lightness. When thinking of darkness, one imagines being enveloped by blackness, where no or little light is found. The absence of light brings with it a sense of weight, a sense of being overwhelmed by the discomfort that is caused by the inability to see or sense what is around. Therefore, the name “white darkness” presents almost the antithesis of this weight of darkness- it implies what can be felt as a sheer veil of light. The difference between a true darkness with little or no light and a white darkness, to me, is that of perception. With true darkness, perception of other elements present is highly distorted if not impossible, whereas white darkness, while also a distortion of other elements, at least leaves the person experiencing it aware of the present elements.

As Calvino uses science to exemplify Lightness, so further can a connection between science, Lightness and this piece of E-Literature be made. Our memories function on a system of neurological connections and messages sent through passageways at fractions of seconds. The tiny impulses are another example like that of DNA that Calvino references with respect to Lightness. He says that he looks to science to nourish his visions in which all heaviness disappears. I feel as though our memories and quick neurological impulses are also a scientific instance in which heaviness disappears.



Not only can Lightness and science be found in the implicit and deeper meanings of “in the

white darkness” but so can Lightness be found in the aesthetics of the piece. The title itself lays the foundation for the

weightlessness that the piece bears, free from any capital letters, even though the letters of the words as part of the title. The page initially seen by the audience is that of a white screen with the letters of the title cut out, revealing an image beneath it- the E-Lit. Also seen are a series of small circles connected with curved lines, some solid, some dotted, that lead the audience to make the connection that these imply the brain’s function of a memory and the transmission of information along similar looking passages in our nervous systems. Finally, the revealed piece of E-Lit is a picture of linen curtains hanging in front of a window, blurring the view of what is outside, with an overlaid transparent screen that becomes more opaque, then more transparent, as if flashing slowly or throbbing. Also within the transparent layer are circles that with the throbbing motion seem to grow larger and smaller. These circles are meant to imply the spottiness of the mind of someone who is losing their memory and cannot gain a clear picture of what it is they are trying to recall.


Calvino’s Lightness

20 Feb

The first memo of Calvino’s Six Memos for the New Millennium is Lightness. Rather than explicitly or concretely defining the quality of Lightness in his own way, Calvino demonstrates Lightness employed through multiple examples of other literary works. He does, however, declare that he has come to consider Lightness a “value rather than a defect.” (pg. 3) He draws heavily on the character of Cavalcanti and the image presented by his escape from his enemies and, symbolically, death. Calvino states, in the context of Cavalcanti’s story that he is concerned with something when it maintains three characteristics:

1) when it is to the highest degree light

2) when it is in motion

3) when it is a vector of information

This image of Cavalcanti leaping over the tomb to escape is this emblem Calvino chooses for this quality. He says that the agile leap of the poet-philosopher over the grave, raising himself above the weight of the world, demonstrates that even with all of his gravity he has the secret of lightness. (pg. 12) Calvino expresses that his own discussion of Cavalcanti personally clarifies what he defines as Lightness, and that is that it goes along with precision and determination, not with vagueness or the haphazard. He supports his feelings by referencing Valery, who says that one should be light like a bird, not like a feather.

Calvino goes on th explain that Cavalcanti presents at least three senses of Lightness:

1) A lightening of language whereby meaning is conveyed through a verbal texture that seems weightless, until the meaning takes on the same consistency (pg. 16)

2) The narration of a train of thought or psychological process in which subtle and imperceptible elements are at work (pg. 17)

3) A visual image of lightness that acquires emblematic value, like Cavalcanti (pg. 17)

Calvino also emphasizes the polarity of the concept of lightness with weight and its tendency to proclaim itself throughout history. He speaks of the light end of the spectrum in reference to Cavalcanti. This tendency has tried to “make language into a weightless element that hovers above things like a cloud….” The other tendency, at the opposite end of the spectrum, is initiated by Dante in which he “tries to give language the weight, density and concreteness of things, bodies and sensations.” (pg.15)

An example of literature that I feel can capture the essence of Lightness is the poetry of Carl Sandburg. I feel a personal sense of connection to the works of Carl Sandburg because as a child I visited his home in North Carolina and have since enjoyed the simplicity and elegance of his poetry.

An example:

Between Two Hills

Between two hills

The old town stands.

And the roofs and trees

And the dusk and the dark,

The damp and the dew

Are there.

The prayers are said

And the people rest

For sleep is there

And the touch of dreams

Is over all.

Carl Sandburg

Although this is just one example of the work of Carl Sandburg, it captures the essence of all his works. His ability to lead the reader’s imagination to a place with details resembling a picture in the mind of the reader, yet retaining the feeling of weightlessness and sense of simplicity is, in my opinion, right in line with Calvino’s desire for his audience to be underwhelmed with weight or overwhelmed with lightness through the examples that he provides. There seems to be a certain sense of lifting off of each line in his poem and such strong imagery as though each line itself is its own picture that becomes part of a slowly moving movie reel or scrapbook of pictures that work together to create one cohesive collage.

I feel as though Calvino portrays Lightness through his examples of works in reference to both the literal lightness of the language and its structure, as well as the content and contextual meaning of his examples. This is why I feel that Sandburg’s work very well exemplify the quality of Lightness because of its lack of heavily weighted verbage. This has nothing to do with the length of some of his works because there are a number of lengthy poems, nor does it have to do with the subject matter because there are also a number of poems with heavier meaning . It does, however, have to do with the stylistic and syntactic elements to his works and the true genius that is common through every line of every poem.