The following is a compilation of my work from ENG 52 Video Literature, a class I had no knowledge of when I signed up for it. I had no experience working with video editing programs previous to taking this class and had never even uploaded a video to YouTube. This class forced me to do things that I was not comfortable doing, such as using my voice as a narrating tool, and thus made me a better person for it. I also gained experience in areas such as video editing that I probably never would have ventured into had I not taken this class. It also forced me to read certain works that I never would have thought to read, such as the graphic novel The Watchmen.
In some ways VidLit was similar to a traditional english composition class, we analyzed texts and created works responding to them. In many ways this class was extremely different from any traditional english class I have taken, we responded to literary works through the use of a digital medium, and I don't mean Microsoft Word, we created videos. We created videos that sampled from previously existing media, such as movie's and motion comics. We sampled from media totally unrelated to our topic as well, whether it be stock images that portray a certain theme, or GIFs that we just happened to find on the Internet. We represented characters through song and analyzed those representations through video discussion.
The work was sometimes challenging, trying to get your point across through video can sometimes be difficult especially when you have to balance your message with aesthetic appeal. Our work was also rewarding when it was completed and you had this "thing" that you specifically made and portrayed the message that you wanted it to, it was exciting seeing your transitions from scene to scene mesh and make sense. The articles we read also gave us insight into cutting edge methods of teaching english, even if they were abstract and sometimes difficult to comprehend like "E-Poetry". Over all the class was very rewarding and I would recommend that whoever is reading this take something similar because these are the things that make you well-rounded if you are truly willing to invest your time into them.
Character Playlist: Holden Caulfield
For our first project we were given the task of representing a character from a literary work through six or more songs. My literary character that I chose to focus on was Holden Caulfield from JD Salinger's Catcher in the Rye. I remembered this character's persona and actions fairly well because I read this book over winter break my senior year of high school, but I read some online summaries of the novel in order to refresh my memory of the character. This research in addition to my current understanding led me to conclude that Holden was a misunderstood adolescent with a desire for companionship but a lack of experience in establishing those types of relationships.
After submitting my first draft and receiving feedback I learned that there were some obvious corrections that should be made in order to better represent my character and his actions. Some of the suggestions made by my classmates that particularly resonated with me were "There is a little more emphasis on lyrics over song style". These suggestions coupled with my professor's advice of changing the first song entirely, are what I made my corrections based on.
Originally I had Take Me Home, Country Roads by John Denver but realized that this song was too upbeat and deviated too much from the aspects of Holden Caulfield that I was trying to portray. I amended this by replacing that song with Bob Dylan's Don't Think Twice It's All Right, a song that conveys more longing and misunderstood desire, which is more indicative of who Holden was as a fictional character. I also added a second paragraph to each entry that focused on how the sonic elements of the songs were representative of the character. I focused on such things as instrument choice and playing style to convey the overall "vibe" of the songs as they related to my character.
Overall, this project required a level of critical thinking that I never would have given to the book itself. I loved the book after I first read it but I didn't really give it the justice of trying to fully understand it. I knew the surface of the book and related to it as an adolescent but was unaware of certain implications. One such thing I never realized previous to this assignment was Holden's reasoning for acting the way that he did. I couldn't grasp why he pushed people away every time they made an attempt to be with him while when he was alone he would think about girls and old friends in a way that made him seem like he wanted these relationships. He lamented his loneliness but made no attempt to change it. I now believe that this was because he feared rejection even more than loneliness, he hated rejection and did everything he could to avoid it.
Character Playlist Walkthrough
After completing our playlists and revising them until we were satisfied we were given the task of creating a video walkthrough of them. This project entailed creating a video in which we reflected and discussed how and why we chose the songs that we did. This created another layer of thinking on top of what he had to do for the playlist itself. It solidified why I chose the songs that I did and made me put my reasoning into actual words for narration. I chose to narrate this video as did most of my classmates and I believe this part of the project was particularly beneficial in itself. As a result of the videos having to be under six minutes in length I was forced to boil down my reasonings for each song into less than a minute of speech each. I chose to focus more on the sonics as they related to my character and tried to paint the most accurate portrait of Holden Caulfield that I could through this method of narration.
Digital Humanities Video
"Digital Humanities video was abstract and proved to be somewhat difficult #vidlit"- @maydenhartin (Hayden Martin)
Digital Humanities is essentially the dissemination of information of the subjects that study human culture through a digital format. We discussed the usefulness of this topic at length in class but were assigned a project in which we had the option to discuss the benefits and drawbacks of using the digital humanities tool that is Voyant. Voyant is essentially an online program that takes literary text and tries to extract important themes based on the frequency with which words occur in said text. The task does not appear to be difficult at first glance but it proved to be very abstract and it was hard to create something meaningful as a result.
In my video I discussed the usefullness of the tools on the Voyant program and concluded that it was an effect tool in relaying information relating to the text that I entered. The text that I entered was The Stranger by Albert Camus, a novel that focuses heavily on the themes of existentialism and absurdity. With some prior knowledge of the book and some of it's terms you could easily create a meaningful presentation with the aid of Voyant's tools. These tools include the
The Road was our first novel that we were assigned to read for this class. It was initially depressing and overall bleak but there were valuable themes to be taken away that could be understood after reflection on the novel. These "take-aways" were not entirely dark but held uplifiting truths about humanity and hope even in the darkest of times.
For this project we were tasked with creating a video that captures our response to the novel The Road in a way similar to how an essay would. This project was initially challenging but proved to be somewhat easy after meeting with the teacher and getting some advice from classmates in the form of commentary. The book as a whole was depressing and suspenseful so I chose to focus on a crucial element that was not entirely depressing in itself, my initial video focused on "the fire" that the two main characters possessed and shared as father and son. This theme proved to be difficult and ephemeral and was later amended slightly, but this "fire" was essentially a metaphor for hope or some form of motivation to keep moving forward when faced with extreme adversity. I paid special attention to how this connection continued even after the father dies in the novel and how the "fire" continued to glow inside of the son.
This feedback essentially confirmed what my professor suggested that I do as well. There seemed to be a consensus among my classmates and everyone who watched my video that while the video was "good" it didn't do the best job of conveying the "fire" theme. I decided to amend the theme all together and make it something more concrete and easier to understand. I focused more so on the relationship between the father and son as opposed to this ephemeral "fire" theme. Their relationship is also similar to a guardian-prey type relationship as essentially every antagonist in the book is a cannibal who wants to eat them and the father saves the boy several times.
This project helped me to see past the dreary, post-apocolyptic surface that was the plot of this novel. It was easy to get bogged down emotionally as a result of all the unfortunate and depressing events that occurred in the novel, whether it was getting chased by cannibals, learning how the man's wife committed suicide, or the man himself dying. It was through paying closer attention to the novel and the interaction between the man and the boy that we are left with some hope for the boy and future of the world. This hope for the future stems from the boy's innocence, how he selflessly cared about others even when he had nothing, the fact that he was able to exhibit such qualities showed that as long as there are people like that in the world to carry on some sort of humanity.
This project was particularly interesting because it was based on a graphic novel. I had never read a graphic novel previous to this and had never held them in high literary regard, however I have found a new respect for them as a medium and would suggest this graphic novel to anyone. The assignment itself was similar to our The Road videos in that we were to create videos that responded to the novel with our take on the story. I chose to focus on the character of Dr. Manhattan, a genius who is transformed into a supernatural being with knowledge of the future and past as well as the ability to create and control matter. Even with these God-like abilities he is unable to relate to people, he finds that all of his relationships unravel before him and ultimately ends up alone. My videos highlight these contrasts in ability and power.
My first draft focused too much on Dr. Manhattan's transformation process and subtracted from the message of loneliness that was my ultimate goal. The clips that I included from the movie itself and the motion comic on YouTube were excessive and were longer than they needed to be. I also included clips when a still image of a cell from the comic would have sufficed. My usage of movie clips was excessive and my callout text wasn't as clear as it could have been, making the message of my video cloudy. The audio levels of my clips also began to compete with each other at different points which made it difficult to hear my video.
In general, I feel like some clips might be swapped out for a cell from the book, or trimmed to work on the flow of the piece - Daniel Anderson
"One of my primary concerns when making my 'Watchmen' video was capturing the attention of an audience. #vidlit" - @maydenhartin (Hayden Martin)
When revising my video I looked at the feedback that I received in the comments section and what I was told in person and did my best to rectify these. I removed a lot of the clips that focused on Dr. Manhattan's transformation and focused more on his supernatural powers and his lack of empathy for worldly matters. I removed all of the competing sound bites and replaced them with a single underlying song. I feel that my newest version reveals more about the irony of Dr. Manhattan's supernatural abilities and lack of ability in basic communication with people. I was forced to create more effective callouts so that my message would be more clear to viewers. I also learned more about clip speed as a result of using recording tools when typing my callouts, although this acheives the same message of just plainly posting a quote in my video, it adds to the aesthetic of my work, which is very important in capturing the attention of the audience.
Of the options we were given to explore the topic that is E-Poetry I focused on David Jhave Johnston's Sooth the most. I found it to be very different from any poetry I had read in the past as it combined all sorts of textual, auditory, and graphical elements. I had heard from discussion with friends that they found the combined elements to be confusing and distracting from the actual message of the poetry itself, but I believe that they are wrong. I feel as though they may have been trying too hard to read the text itself as opposed to viewing the experience as a whole. The text is important, sure, but the sounds and images combined make it whole and add to what the text says. The text did move which made it slightly harder to read but I believe that there is something to be said for the patterns of movement as well.
The section entitled Sooth was placed on the backdrop of what appeared to be a marsh, with calming and almost eerie sounds playing as well, however I should note that the sounds weren't eerie to the point that they put you on edge, they made you feel as if you were alone. The text seemed to move fluidly throughout the page and everytime you clicked a new line of text would be brought to your attention. I regret not having the opportunity to create my own E-Poem as I am certain that there would have been something to gain from the experience.