Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Modernist Canon: Eliot and Joyce

Literary Modernism, a movement that can be traced to the years immediately before a World War I, provides many of the next few texts for adaptation in The Graphic Canon. This week, we have two key works of this kind, one a poem composed of seeming prose, the other a piece of prose that verges on poetry. The legacy of American-midwesterner-turned-high-church-Brit Thomas Stearns Eliot is in one sense a limited one -- very few have taken up his style of dry, chanted lines, blank except for the occasional whimsical rhyme -- and yet at the same time, his influence has been enormous. This paradoxical situation was aptly summaries by a friend of mine some years ago in this bit of comic verse:

Mr. Eliot, beloved of Pound
Is riding his crafty go-cart 'round
While many a gifted latter-day poet
Is eating his dust -- they sure can't sow it.

This paradox is underwritten by Eliot's own, internal conflict; he famously described poetry not as the expression of emotion, but the escape from it. Perhaps as a result, there's a strange mixtures of tones in his best poems, combining a kind of unemotional dryness with a rich, sometimes biting wit. Both are on ample display in his early masterpiece, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," here adapted by Anthony Ventura.

Ventura chooses not to illustrate each line, but instead provides a series of scenes -- we see the statue of David, imagined as perhaps the work by Michelangelo that the women in the poem are discussing; followed a version of Prufrock as a sunglassed, balding Mad Men-era businessman, complete with dangling cigarette. A lone woman, with bouffant hair and oversize Jackie-O sunglasses, reposes with a cup of tea on a bench seat, beside a skull which plaintively declares "That is not what I meant at all"! All are illustrated

The Irish writer James Joyce, during his career, sought to establish himself as the great voice of Modernism, and something more, its representative -- a goal in which he largely succeeded. He was once heard to boast that his writings would give scholars something to think of for the next three hundred years, and what for others would be a boast was for Joyce an understatement.

Although he did not originate the technique of "stream of consciousness," his "eiphanies" -- which began with Dubliners in 1914 -- recast the notion, and with Ulysses (1922) he had his greatest triumph. The story adapted here, "Araby," is from Dubliners, and offers a characteristic example of Joyce's technique of 'epiphany' -- in which a small, crystalline moment of realization, often framed by disappointment and loss, briefly illuminates 'dear old dirty Dublin' and brings its ordinary people into a suddenly lyrical light.

The artist Annie Mok employs style that evokes both realism -- in its streets, stones, and buildings -- and an expressive, manga-influenced rendering of human faces. The palate is a blue one, suggesting perhaps the cool and damp of turn-of-the-century Dublin, as well as the old cyanotype photographs that could be bought at photo booths in the form of ready-made postcards.

In his final work, Finnegans Wake, Joyce coins the word "fadograph" for such images -- those which, like old snapshots, fade with time, as does human memory; the word fádo is also Irish Gaelic for long ago," and the word that starts many a folk and fairy tale from the Irish tradition.


  1. T.S. Elliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” is a piece that required me to read it several times. It wasn’t because of a lack of interest concerning the material, but because of a language barrier. I quickly read the lines the first time and had a moment of aloofness, but after the second reading I was able to take away a bit of clarity. I may not have had complete understanding of the poem in its message, but I was able to understand the lines more clearly. Reading his poem was similar to reading Shakespeare because of the way in which he conveyed an idea. The artwork, however, is simplistic for a reason. To take such a detailed line and transform it into a picture wouldn’t do it justice. How would one portray “the yellow fog that rubs its back/upon the window-panes,/the yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle/on the window-panes? The descriptive elements could be transformed into a beast’s head looking through a window with a transparent body behind it, but that was not what was meant to be conveyed with these words. Sticking to the art of a man and a woman was a safer choice. I’m sure Ventura was looking to draw every line. Such a task would be tedious. I do believe the ending of the poem is in a retrospective style, so to have the man holding the skull speaks a thousand words. It is his older or dead self looking back at the man which he used to be. The man who had made the decisions stated in the poem. Who really knows?
    James Joyce’s “Araby” was a good read and the adaptation seemed to fit with the story. I took that the small memory from this boy’s childhood was one of despair. He longed for this potentially older girl and believed he failed in his attempts to woo her. Yes, the blue and black coloring could be an indicator of “the cool and damp turn-of-the-century Dublin” but it could also represent the boy’s emotions while telling his story. It could be depicted very similarly like the Shakespeare’s poem a while back with all of the gold reflecting warm memories of his mother. Even on the last page the words state that “(he) saw (himself) as a creature driven and derided by vanity—and (his) eyes burned with anguish and anger.” This was not a story being told with positive emotions. Another indication of his grief and vanity towards the girl is depicted on the title page. Within the boy’s head is a golden chalice with the outlining of a woman. I do not think its a coincidence that the only other color besides black and blue was the chalice painted in yellow, or gold. That is an indicator of his vanity towards wooing the girl and his attempts to succeed by procuring “treasures” for her.

  2. I was a little bit confused on what was going on in "Araby" but I do like the uniqueness of the illustrations. The blue tint adds a sense of gloominess to the pictures as well as the story. I can tell that there is some sort of dry humor to it but the blue tint throws me off.
    I don't have much to say about either of these poems, but only because I don't know what either of them are saying. I can get hints of sadness in Araby but I don't think that was the intention of the artist? I like the random objects of yellow in "The Love Song of J. Alfred Profrock" it gives the emphasis to certain lines in the poem including:
    "In the room the women come and go
    Talking of Michelangelo" (The women's dress is in yellow giving emphasis to her as a character.)
    "My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin-" (Man in the yellow neck tie).
    I feel like yellow is a color that stands out from the rest. When you see something yellow it just shines brighter than the other colors which creates contrasting ideas and visuals.

  3. I enjoyed how well the colors matched the narrators feelings in “Araby”. I felt like I knew what was going on in his hard as well as his brain. He was a love-struck young boy, who didn’t know how to show it to the girl of his dreams, which made him gloomy. When i see the dark blue colors, thats exactly what emotion comes to mind: gloomy. The color could also represent the place and time of year. Winter time in Dublin is never a very bright and sunny time of the year. It is cold and dark which can have an effect on a persons mood. Even the weather can make a person feel gloomy. This mixed with the young boys infatuation with his friends older sister can bring him down and lose hope that he will ever get his love. Even when he he puts in the effort and tries to get closer to her by attending the bazaar, his plan backfires and his hope lowers even more. I believe the illustrations depicted the feelings and life of this young boy perfectly.

  4. “Araby” originally written by James Joyce, but adapted by Annie Mok, is very interesting. I liked the illustrations and I felt that they went well with the story. I liked how the story was set up, too. The pictures were all different sizes and i personally enjoyed that. This adaptation reminded me of Hey Arnold for some reason. I think that when Mok showed the shadows, it reminded me most of Hey Arnold. I liked that the color matched the tone of the story. You can tell the main character is gloomy and sad about the girl not knowing he is in love with her. “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T. S. Elliot adapted by Anthony Ventura, was very weird. L thought that the font was rather odd and there was too much on one page. The drawings were also weird. I didn’t really understand the point of this adaptation. I thought it was interesting, but I was rather confused.

  5. I found “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T. S. Elliot adapted by Anthony Ventura to be very awkward and aging. The adaptation sort of had a Hamlet feel to it but played on with a modern twist, as the men and women illustrated on the pages both were wearing elegant clothes. The man had a suit and tie and some cool sunglasses which I felt did not actually go along with the poem at all. I pictured the guy in the poem to be a lot less cool and awkward so I think Ventura missed the mark on that one. Overall the adaptation was packed with too many words and not enough pictures, and even the pictures that were on the pages looked as if they were just “thrown” on. However, “Araby” written by James Joyce, and adapted by Annie Mok was actually one of my favorites to read. I thought that the words and illustrations matched up very well. I could actually look at the pictures and get a sense of what was going on, especially with the fewer words on each page. I also liked that Mok decided to adapt this in the darker blue colors, it gives a sense of emotion and expresses the sadness we might not obtain from just reading the words.

  6. For some reason I really enjoy the adaption of T.S. Eliot’s poem. I enjoy the modernism hidden within it and I like the Shakespeare references. Maybe the skull is saying those lines because the whole illustration is not what T.S. Eliot meant at all. I enjoy the simple-ness of the artwork and I am not sure why.

    Having the whole piece in illustration form is impressive and Araby does impress me. I think the artwork is beautiful and well drawn. Joyce is known for having strange stories that are most hard to read, but having someone picture it for you really helps you get through the sentences or words one may struggle with (like when one of the first words consist of blind but the illustrator clarifies that means dead end). It’s helpful for people who are out of the loop with the language Joyce uses.

    The same can be said with Eliot. Eliot’s poem really doesn’t make much sense. There is no clarification what room the narrator is in and why there are woman talking of Michelangelo. Though the illustrations doesn’t make it any less vague, it helps run the imagination and lets the reader discover it’s meaning on his or her own.

    Both story adaption were well done and I am excited to looks at Joyce’s “Ulysses”

  7. In “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” the artist made it known that yellow was a main theme in the story. There was only three colors black, white and yellow, the using of only these three colors made yellow really stand out. The illustrations were very well drawn as well, they went along with the poem especially the last drawing when the poem talks about “we have lingered in the chambers of the sea” the way the artist portrayed it was perfect. “Araby” Art reminded me of older stories that were about detectives, it had that type of theme in it. The shades were very well drawn and the characters looked like modern characters you would see today in some comics.
    Bryant Ayala

  8. I really enjoy the artwork in "Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." The color yellow was a nice touch. I love when adaptations put an emphasis on one color. The color yellow is mentioned many time throughout this poem so it was a nice choice of color scheme. It made certain lines stand out.
    Another part of the art work that made lines stand out was the illustrations of the skull. The skull emphasized the lines that mentioned Shakespeare.
    I think he wrote this poem to try to persuade a girl that he likes to like him. The line when he says "I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be," makes it seem like he doesn't think he is worthy of the girl he likes.

    The artwork in "Araby" was very interesting and I really enjoyed the use of the color blue. The illustrations seemed like they could be seen in a modern day comic.

  9. I believe the both adaptations display unique qualities. 'Love Song of J.Alfred Prufrock' has a 70s vibe in my opinion. The hair, the big sunglasses, and the demeanor of the characters. The warm tones of this piece were very intriguing, and captured my eye right away. However, I wish there would have been more scenes, and I was not a fan of the bench in this particular adaptation.

    Marissa DeRoy

    'Araby' on the other hand, included cool tones which I believe added a bit more drama to what is already a very dramatic piece. I was not a fan of the illustrative style, as I feel it took away from the story. Also, the large, anime-like eyes seemed to be a distraction, and made my feelings towards this piece different.
    Overall, both adaptations were different in regards to artwork and color tones However, the meanings behind the two were very similar

  10. "Araby" illustrated by Annie Mok was interesting to read. I did like the cool tones color scheme going on. The expressions on the faces really drew out what they were feeling in that exact frame. I found the text in each frame to be annoying, as whenever I see words written in all capital letters, I just read it as shouting in my head, just from the emphasis of the capitals. Just a habit.
    "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" adaptation to me was just alright. I did like the pop of yellow color, it is very subtle and not too loud. It brought some life to the pages. But I did not like all of the texts just slapped on to the middle of the pages. It was boring to read, as I felt like I was just reading it from a book. I like more styles using text bubbles and words strategically placed on the page with spacings. Also the font was tiny, which also was annoying.

  11. Brandon Men

    This story was great and the art work stuck out to me a lot. I could tell the artist his time and i liked how all the buildings were short and the pictures were consistent. The shadowing was perfect and it really went along with the story. By far one of the better adaptations out there in my personal opinion.

  12. The art for this adaptation of The Love Song of J. ALfred Prufrock is sharp and angular. This is a large contrast between the men and women faces. The man appear to be quite old and the women the opposite. The only angle that are rounded appear to be the female breasts and lips
    In Araby I like the shape of the word bubbles, like they were torn out of a journal. As if I am reading something I shouldn't be..

  13. The art for this adaptation of The Love Song of J. ALfred Prufrock is sharp and angular. This is a large contrast between the men and women faces. The man appear to be quite old and the women the opposite. The only angle that are rounded appear to be the female breasts and lips
    In Araby I like the shape of the word bubbles, like they were torn out of a journal. As if I am reading something I shouldn't be..

  14. Amber SylvestreMay 3, 2015 at 6:04 PM

    The adaptation of "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" is interesting. It does have a Shakespearean feel to it with the way the lines of the poem are written. I do enjoy the artwork in this adaptation. It is very simple. It is in black and white with bursts of yellow color which can grab the reader's attention. I'm not exactly sure what this poem is about; it's kind of hard to follow and understand.
    The adaptation of "Araby" is cool. I like how Annie Mok used tones of blue ranging from light, pale blues to deep, dark blues and black. It gives the story a gloomy feel which helps tell the story since the main character, the young boy, is feeling gloomy or sad. I thought the artwork in this adaptation was different. It was realistic, but a tad cartoonish.
    I enjoyed the artwork in both of these adaptations.

  15. The adaptation of "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" is a simple straight forward work of art. The warm tone makes it easier on the reader to enjoy it and understand it at the same time. It would still be entertaining if the artist continued the story. It did in fact have a "70's vibe" which added greatly to the artwork and compliments the story well. Although I have never seen the whole movie, this kind of art style reminds me a 2d version of Frozen, the Disney movie.

    Nathan Silva

  16. With most of the adaptations that we have encountered in Kick’s Graphic Canon, they have helped us to understand the original work of literature and I believe that Ventura does this with his adaptation of “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” In the poem, the narrator seems to talk about his feelings for a woman; however, instead of conveying these feelings to the woman he questions himself and whether or not he should tell her. As the poem progresses, it seems as though the man has missed his chance to tell the woman how he feels due to his fear. This is communicated by Vemtura’s illustrations when the woman is sitting on a bench and instead of the narrator sitting next to her it is a skull. This shows that the narrator has either missed his chance to tell the woman how he feels or foreshadows the possible outcome if he indeed fails to do so.

    In James Joyce’s “Araby” adapted by Annie Mok, I think that she fails to capture much of the setting of Dublin. Dublin is a place where the detail is what makes Dublin stand out. Many of the illustrations provided by Mok lack this detail. One example of this is when the boys are passing by a vacant lot. Very few, if any wide-open vacant places like this appear in Dublin. One aspect of Mok’s illustration that was indicative of the setting was the cool blue tones that the story was set in. This is representative of the constant coolness of the Dublin air this time of year. Aside from her depiction of the setting, Mok’s characters and sequencing effectively portray the story of “Araby”.

  17. The adaptation of “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” was a very simple piece of art and very easy to comprehend it’s intentions. The read was very easy and enjoyable as well as comprehendible. It had a classic style the way it is written. The illustrations are very enjoyable and grasp the attention of the reader almost effortlessly.

  18. The adaptation of “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” was a very simple piece of art and very easy to comprehend it’s intentions. The read was very easy and enjoyable as well as comprehendible. It had a classic style the way it is written. The illustrations are very enjoyable and grasp the attention of the reader almost effortlessly.


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