A Marxist Analysis of Casino Royale

As with Pamph/lette, three sections comprise this analysis of MGM’s Casino Royale. To begin, I chart an (absurdly short and shallow) evolution in marxist literary theory from Mikhail Bakhtin to Frederic Jameson, culminating in an explication of Peter Rose’s own method for the double hermeneutic as defined in his work Sons of the Gods, Children of the Earth. I then perform a double hermeneutic analysis of my own upon the first of the latest Bond franchise films, Casino Royale. I conclude with a post mortem of the success (or not) of the method in extracting an interpretation of the narrative.

Full project: The Peoples’ Bond

Pamph/lette

This quick paper unfolds in three stages. To begin, I explicate Roland Barthes’ theory of readerly/writerly texts as explored in his 1970 structuralist analysis of Balzac’s Sarrasine.” I then perform the same application Barthes uses in his analysis of Balzac upon the February 2013 issue of the Reed College Pamphlette, a satirical news journal. To conclude, I perform a post-mortem of my application to think out loud about how effective Barthes’ approach may or may not be in examining the written word.

Full project: Pamphlette

Acerrimus

A Thesis Presented to Reed College, Division of Literature and Languages

This project examines the Nisus and Euryalus episode from Book 9 of Virgil’s Aeneid through a series of creative adaptations. In my introduction I present a spectrum of viewpoints regarding adaptation theory before situating my own approach within a character-driven framework.

Chapter One argues for a new reading of the Nisus character utilizing the modern vocabulary of psychological trauma. I then consider the question the character himself asks at the start of the episode: from where does his dark desire for violence come? This analysis suggests that Virgil meditates through this episode on the darker costs of the poetics of war and of war itself, framing within his work an anxiety of his own complicity in coding young men to long for battle, an experience that destroys the mind along with the body.

Chapter Two presents the first of three creative adaptations of the episode. By retelling the story within a film screenplay, I suggest that the visuality of events renders the interiority of Nisus both more accessible and less sympathetic to the audience. Through this shift in genre, I consider the insufficiency of the written word to render adequately the brutal horrors of combat.

Chapter Three contains a poetic journal written from Nisus’ perspective. Beginning the day of Nisus’ arrival at Troy to defend it from the Greek siege, this series of snapshots charts a trajectory in the character’s development from a young man ignorant of battle to a seasoned soldier struggling to maintain his grip on sanity.

Chapter Four ponders the poet’s complicity in the deaths of young men in the form of a theatrical dialogue between Hades and an unnamed character shortly after the events of the episode of Book 9. With the main character’s identity uncertain, the conversation, structured according to the five stages of grief, suggests a collapse of Virgil and the Nisus character as the two become one in defending the events of the episode against the interrogation of the lord of Hell.

A translation of the episode can be found in Appendix A. All translations are my own.

Full project: Acerrimus

Brasidas, the Spartan ναυτικος

Scholars have long struggled to situate the character of Brasidas within Thucydides’ History. This solitary hoplite shatters the stereotype of the Spartan myopic military tradition displayed throughout the Archidamian War. Unlike the unimaginative Spartans lambasted by the Corinthians at the debate in Book One, Brasidas wins victories through decisive action (2.25). He witnesses defeats at sea (2.91) and learns from them, becoming a naval counselor whose radical voice goes unheeded to disastrous effect (2.93, 3.79). When he finally breaks out on his own, Brasidas brings new tools to bear on the fighting in Thrace, wielding rhetoric and deception along with violence to keep Sparta afloat in the war (4.70-116). He dies in sacrifice, defeating the Athenian Cleon despite disadvantageous circumstances, earning heroification by the Amphipolitans (5.10). Swift, cunning, and eloquent, by the end, he seems decidedly unSpartan.

To understand the value of the Brasidas character, one must look to its narrative throughout the History and the lessons it tells. What this paper argues is that the Brasidas narrative from Books Two through Five substantiates Thucydides’ claims regarding war’s ability to force the human temperament to adapt to changing circumstances (3.82.2). Brasidas represents the process by which war thrusts opposing cultures against each other in brutal conflict that changes each participant. He becomes an exemplar of the dangerous consequences such conflicts create. To survive against the imperial might of Athens, Sparta itself must change. Brasidas embodies such change, one that prolongs the war and drives Sparta onward to increasingly desperate circumstances.

Read more: Brasidas

See me presenting this paper at Harvard’s Συνοικισις Undergraduate Research Journal here.

A Mirror Darkly: the Sympathy of Pharsalia 6 and Aeneid 9

Presented to the Reed College Department of Classics as part of my Junior Qualifying Examination, November 2013.

This project challenges traditional scholarship in its reading of Lucan’s Pharsalia by arguing that, instead of challenging or subverting Virgil’s Aeneid, Lucan’s poetry actually engages in dialogue with Virgil’s world. Starting with a close reading of the structural and lexical similarities between the Nisus aristeia of Aeneid 9 and the Scaeva aristeia of Pharsalia 6, I perform a deeper analysis of both passages according to the paradigm of mythic-vs-fictive literature as framed in Ralph Johnson’s Darkness Visible. I conclude by suggesting that both poets seek to interrogate not merely the subject of their poetries — epic war — but even the form through which they work — epic poetry, itself.

Full paper: From Virgil to Lucan