Tag Archive: Writers


Adopting Medieval Tactics to Promote Modern Science

This is one of those ideas that came out of the blue while thinking about current events. It’s no secret to anyone reading this in 2018 that there is an alarming reduction in fact-based thinking and discussion. Some of this is due to the highly-charged emotional times we live in. Some of it is also a long, slow decline in emotional connection to science.

I remember reading old 50s magazines and comics years ago. The nuclear age had just begun and the Space Race would soon be on its way. There was this idea that the future would be all space ships and laser guns. In short the future was an adventure and science would pave the way. Today is much different, of course. People use computers, cars and airplanes, but routinely deny the existence of climate change as well. In the past science was magical, but still understood as a human invention to make life better. Today, it seems to have simply drifted into background noise.

I think a lot of this has to do with a lack of proper communication of scientific concepts to the average citizen. As I mentioned earlier, a lack of emotional connection. People seem to understand that science exists, but not that it is a man-made phenomenon that is accessible to the average person. As result, interest has waned, competing ideas are coming into the foreground and America finds itself fighting to get students interested in science so that we can compete with the rest of the world.

A Proposal on Communicating Science to Citizens

Although not entirely the same situation, we do see an ongoing lack of interest in art education. Art is seen as something kids do in school, but no real effort is made to bring artists in line with small business owners on the scale of social respect. In fact, a life of art tends to come across as a sure-fire way to basically be broke all the time. This is bizarre because artists, be they painters, actors or musicians, are basically skilled in emotional communication. They provide emotive experiences that are designed to move audiences towards an idea or state of being.

This ability has been exploited in the past very effectively in the Medieval period in Europe. On the secular side of history, bards were also employed to create poems and songs highlighting important people and events. This was important because while the elites were well educated, the masses were largely illiterate. Written texts would have done very little for spreading information. Religious organizations went even further. First, they spread by identifying the holidays for other religions and presenting their own competing holidays. This is why Easter is a Christian holiday despite originally being a pagan holiday. It’s also why Christmas is celebrated during the winter solstice despite Christ himself having been born in the summer.

Re-purposing the holidays was only part of the equation. Once the people had been assembled, indoctrination had to begin. This began with chants and hymns, which were easy to remember, but expanded over time to plays and pageants. The plays fell into three basic groups: morality plays, mystery plays, and passion play. Mystery plays covered the history as presented by the Bible. That is, the birth of the universe, its death and the intervening events. Morality plays were as their name implies and were generally diverse, as seen by the play Everyman and the medieval plays of Saint Nicholas. The Passion plays were focused on Jesus Christ in particular. These plays were short, easy to understand and, at least in the case of Everyman, highly metaphorical. They were meant for an audience that had not yet been prepared for complex ideas or discussions.

Adapting Ideas to Science

It seems both science and art complement each other well. Scientists are more interested in uncovering facts and expanding knowledge, and artists are more interested in moving the hearts and minds of people. It seems both could adapt the tactics developed in the Medieval age to promote each other in a symbiotic manner in the modern age.

The first step is to identify holidays that draw major public interest, such as Christmas or the 4th of July. Scientific organizations can then organize and promote pre-holiday festival and celebrations. These events would offer free music and theatre presentations. Taking a cue from Medieval plays, they would be short and easy to understand. Comedy is effective, as well. Both the music and the plays would focus on science in some manner. Think Jonathan Coulton’s Mandelbrot Set, as an example for music. In addition, the celebrations should be replete with demonstrations of science. These demonstrations would displays meant to “wow” the attendees. The goal isn’t so much to educate, but amaze. The music and plays themselves are the educational aspect in that they would present easy-to-digest introductions to ideas, people and so forth (again, think Mandelbrot Set, or 88 Lines About 44 Mathematicians.)

Scientific organizations could expand on this by creating in-house positions for theatre groups and individuals. These individuals would act as resident “bards”. Their job would be to create music, poetry and writings that introduce important figures or events, illustrate important ideas and methods and so on. This would be a kind of expansion of general PR duties into the field of edutainment. In essence, someone from within the greater scientific organization would give some information on scientific advances, people or ideas and the bards and playwrights would compose something to present to masses. Imagine Friday nights at a college campus where there is a free concert by the Science building, or an ongoing tradition of lunchtime plays, all free watch.

This material would, ideally, be in the public domain. Since different organizations in different locations would each have their own set of theatre groups and bards, a great wealth of material would develop to share and adapt. These would be composed of plays, poems, stories, parables and so forth. Collections could be made and offered for free or a small price to add funds to the productions. One might also argue for a scientific “bible” which would contain various parables, lessons and stories of meant to draw the reader in. Theoretically, if this was done on a large enough scale, a large enough population of people would associate science with some positive emotion. The emotional connection would build and, hopefully, foster an ongoing interest and trust in science.

Appealing to the Non-Masses

There’s another idea that is somewhat complementary, if also somewhat cynical. During the Medieval and Renaissance periods, Masques were all the rage. These were a specific form of theatre that merged together spoken theatre, song and dance. They were specifically made for a particular party event and even included attendees in their performance. Often, they glorified the host of the event and the attendees. Masque’s were the must-go events of their day and were exclusively the domain of those in favor with the court.

Much has been made, both publically and among the tech community, of the incredible position of the scions of Silicon Valley. Jeff Bezos, as of this writing, is the wealthiest man in the world and has aspirations of being the first man on Mars. That is to say, achieving a goal that involves spending billions of dollars with no guarantee of return. Silicon Valley CEOs are phenomenally wealthy and, possibly, very self-satisfied with their success. They are also very interested in continuing their dominance in technology, which itself is a product of scientific research. Interested science and technology organizations could expand on the celebrations mentioned earlier to create exclusive name-only events for these privileged few. After all, who wouldn’t want to enjoy the benefits of wealth?

Like the masques of old, these events would involve productions that glorify the attendees and hosts before transforming into a larger party. In addition, there would be more of the aforementioned scientific spectacles. Something to amaze, but also a possible venue for inspiring some form of argument for funding. Think of it overall as a celebration of successful people. The production feeds into the collective ego of those attending and in turn makes them amenable to arguments for funding this project or that supporting that legislative proposal. Parties are a great way to network and fundraise.

Summary

The current distrust of science and lack of scientific interest can be attributed, at least in part, to the lack of ability to emotionally connect to science, or at least associate science with some positive state. By looking to the past we can observe that there were problems with drawing people to a particular message or idea. Using the tactics of art, in the form of bards, plays and masques, we can see how secular and religious organizations promoted themselves to the masses and the elites. This allowed them to spread messages, secure support and otherwise fulfill their goals. These same tactics can be used to promote modern science and, one hopes, bring scientific literarcy and trust back into the public sphere where it belongs.

Thoughts on Shakespeare for Actors

Introduction

Years ago I was friends with an aspiring actor, one of many actors and pseudo-actors that try to make it in the film industry. He had started out as a software developer on the East Coast before having some kind of epiphany (or nervous breakdown) and realizing his purpose in life was to act. Naturally, discussions eventually turned to Shakespeare. I was expecting him to wax poetic on the Bard, but surprisingly, he dismissed Shakespeare entirely. In his mind, Shakespeare just was not relevant to modern society.

I probably should not have been surprised. Going through college, I myself was taught that Shakespeare was one of the greatest writers in English literature, but not much more beyond that. He was great because everyone said he was great. A sort of Elizabethan Kim Kardashian, as it were. It wasn’t until I found a video online of a speech by Ben Crystal, a noted Shakespearean actor, that I was able to really put the problem into words. Simply put, Shakespeare is taught in an incompetent manner. This essay, then, would be my response to that aspiring actor from years ago.

Research and Informed Interpretation

The reason Shakespeare is important for actors is because it exercises critical skills that actors should have in terms of research, analysis and presentation. Because of the manner in which Shakespeare’s works are taught, read rather than acted and discussed rather than witnessed, the works themselves come off a exceptionally dry. They appear to have no relation to the issues of modern life. As Ben Crystal makes clear, the genius in Shakespeare was in his storytelling abilities, not as some static poet (for the purposes of this essay, I’m excluding his sonnets and other poetic works).

Shakespeare and Class in His Theatre

Shakespeare is often taught as if he existed in some vacuum, but he did not. In fact, he had to appeal to two opposite classes of people simultaneously. I recall watching a documentary years ago that focused on designers and their thoughts on design. One designer mentioned that he liked to place customers for a product on a spectrum. By solving design issues for each end of the spectrum, he is basically assured that everyone in the middle of the spectrum will be taken care of as well. This is not unlike the problem Shakespeare himself had with his audience.

In Shakespeare’s day, the very poor were situated in front of the stage with the very wealthy surround everyone in privileged seats. If Shakespeare did not appeal to the interests of the wealthy, the theatre would not make money. If the he likewise did not appeal to the interests of the poor, they might disrupt the play, storm the stage or otherwise cause chaos. This would drive away the wealthy and give the theatre company a bad reputation.

Appealing to both ends of the spectrum is no mean task. The wealthy were well educated and expected high-minded language and themes of greatness. The poor were often illiterate and preferred bawdy jokes to monologues on the meaning of life. Both classes enjoyed poking fun at each other. This combined with Shakespeare’s ability to analyse and recreate human nature allowed him to balance these interests. Thus, we read Hamlet contemplating mortality with Yorick’s skull just before two illiterate gravediggers discuss how easily justice and salvation is bought for the rich while the poor are forced to live by the rules. Both classes can laugh at Dogberry, the night constable in Much Ado About Nothing. He’s a low-class character who tries constantly to appear higher than he actually is, thus making a fool of himself to both sides.

The above, of course, is a broad outline. For any particular play, any good actor should be doing research on the character, the character’s class and how the character is portrayed in relation to that class. Further, research should be done on how the character relates to that character’s self, the immediate social circle and the world at large. This informs the nature of the character and the potential experience for the audience.

Shakespeare and Acting Notes

The necessary research goes beyond the character in Shakespeare’s plays. For one thing, Shakespeare rarely wrote stage directions. This may be because of two important points regarding Shakespeare. First, he was constantly writing, being a very in-demand playwright and second, he worked with the same general group of people thoughout his career. This has given rise to the theory that he didn’t have time to write out stage directions, but rather placed them in the dialogue itself. For example, every “Oh” in Shakespeare would denote a point where the actor would be expected to dramatically emote.

For a modern actor to take advantage of this would require a lot of research into Shakespeare’s writing style, literary and dramatic trends of the day and so forth. Just reading (or speaking) the words isn’t enough. Thought has to be put into why particular words keep showing up or why Shakespeare wanted actors to speak certain words at certain times. Without doing this, the language falls flat.

Shakespeare and Modern English

Shakespeare spoke and wrote in what we now call Early Modern English. It is true that we can understand most of what Shakespeare wrote, but the use of the word “Early” is no joke. The reason Shakespeare was able to add so many words and phrases into the English language was because Modern English was only just being formed. There was a lot of room for defining and redefining words. As a result, many times Shakespeare will write something that made total sense to his time but is completely lost on modern audiences.

One example is in Hamlet. When Hamlet is confronted by King Claudius about the killing of Polonius, Hamlet mentions “a certain convocation of politic worms are e’en at him”. What modern audiences will miss is that Hamlet is making a pun on an event called The Diet of Worms which is a conference called by the Holy Roman Emperor in 1521. Because there’s no reason modern audiences will understand this at all, the actor must find a way to relate the basic point while gliding over words that might distract and confuse from that point. This calls for imaginative adaptation from the actor, which is a critical skill in general. Needless to say, Shakespeare’s texts provide ample opportunity for this sort of tactic.

Summary

Shakespeare appears distant to modern audiences because of inadequate teaching methods. This has led many, including actors, to feel that Shakespeare is simply not part of their world and a relic of the past. Shakespeare, in fact, is a critical proving ground for actors because the effective portrayal of Shakespeare requires critical skills that serve actors well in any role from any author. An example would be researching the dynamic of the audience that Shakespeare was writing for. This is especially important with regards to class divisions.

Research must also go into how Shakespeare related information in his plays to the actors and how trends in his text reveal how he felt the actors should portray a role. Finally, a dramatic nimbleness must be displayed to enable audiences to understand the basic point of a text while glossing over material that is no longer accessible to modern viewers. All of these create a proving ground for actors and part of the set of reasons that all serious actors should have a high regard for Shakespeare’s works.

It’s too bad I didn’t think to come up with all this so many years ago when I actually having these discussions. Ah, well.

Book Notes – How Fiction Works, Ch. 10

How Fiction Works is a book written by critic James Wood and is an examination of the techniques that fiction utilizes to immerse the reader and create an experience. This is the ninth of a series of write-ups of notes that I have taken while reading the book.

Chapter 10: Truth, Complexity and Realism

In some ways the book has been leading up to this point. Wood immediately tackles the subject of realism. Wood starts out by offering quotes that denigrate realism in novels as a series of clichés. Wood suggests a different term: “commercial realism”. Here he suggests that what people are responding to are a kind of commonly accepted technique of using a lot of descriptive words that don’t reveal very much information at all. It’s just a sort of detailed description of what people are doing and what is around an environment but without anything to push a story forward in a relevant way. It also represents an interesting trope where where the same clichéd descriptions, scenarios and statements are used and re-used repeatedly.

Wood suggest replacing a focus on realism with a focus on truth. That is, he suggests that good writers don’t need to create a literary photograph of a moment so much as a sense that the moment is accurately depicting a truth within the reader. This is harder than it seems, however. He warns that writers must be constantly inventing new ways to unveil truth. Over time, clichés develop because writers start using the same techniques and ideas over and over again. This means what is truthful now, become empty convention soon after.


This is tip of the spear when it comes to the book. James Wood kind of uses this chapter to pull together the rest of the book  provide the framework for a truthful fiction. The word “Complexity” in the chapter title seems to mostly come from the complexity of words used in “realistic” novels. As mentioned much is said, but little is conveyed, leaving the reader to do a lot of work without much benefit.

Book Notes – How Fiction Works, Ch. 9

How Fiction Works is a book written by critic James Wood and is an examination of the techniques that fiction utilizes to immerse the reader and create an experience. This is the eighth of a series of write-ups of notes that I have taken while reading the book.

Chapter 9: Dialogue

This is a relatively quick chapter to read. James Wood begins with a 1950 interview of author Henry Green. Green asserted that he resisted authorial adverbs (“she said, gallantly”, for example), rarely explained character motives and never internalizes character thoughts. In his thought people don’t know the thoughts of others, so why should authors know the thoughts of their characters?

Wood doesn’t believe things have to be this way. He notes that Green’s views makes sense because Green likes to reveal information through dialogue. This is useful especially for dialogue that is layered with meaning. Wood’s counterexample is the characters in the story “The House of Mr. Biswas” where there are many examples of authorial descriptions of behavior and environment. Dialogue alone does not have to reveal everything. An example in the story is Biswas’ purchase of a doll house. There is no dialogue here, but the description of the action alone explains the nature of the situation and the relationship of the characters.


Although this was a relatively sizable chapter, the bulk of the content can be reduced to the points above. Primarily it was a back and forth on the relevance of dialogue. The most valid point is that talking heads are not necessary to relay information and just relating in terms of action can have powerful effects if the author knows how to do it.

Book Notes – How Fiction Works, Ch. 8

How Fiction Works is a book written by critic James Wood and is an examination of the techniques that fiction utilizes to immerse the reader and create an experience. This is the seventh of a series of write-ups of notes that I have taken while reading the book.

Chapter 8: Language

In this chapter Wood insists that novels must be written and read with a musical precision that should be equal to the beauty of poetry. The key, he proposes, is to write with simplicity or to focus on transmitting complexity in as little prose as possible. One tool is the use metaphors, which can spark a reader’s imagination with new meaning of the word. Metaphors are distinctly authorial, but properly done can feel organically grown out of the character’s world. The danger of metaphors is that they can be mixed in ways that just mix clichés, which can put off a reader. The best metaphors link to and replace their subjects in the mind of the reader.

When not using metaphors, think about avoiding the same phrases and idioms. To develop non-poetic beauty look to simple words to evoke color, time, action and so on. Unexpected rhythms can capture the reader’s eye and repetitions of words and phrases can reinforce ideas or suggest some kind of change. Gustave Flaubert himself loved to read aloud for this reason since it allows the language to be appreciated from a different perspective.

This brings a question of the difference between slick writing and truly interesting writing. When writing or reading, look for the variety in which the author is relating information. A truly interesting writer should be able to move from one voice to another for dramatic or comedic effect.


What makes this chapter interesting is the treatise on “slick writing” vs “interesting writing”. The chapter is not very long, but I do like the belief that prose should be as beautiful as poetry as well as the ideas on how to pull it off.

Book Notes – How Fiction Works, Ch. 7

How Fiction Works is a book written by critic James Wood and is an examination of the techniques that fiction utilizes to immerse the reader and create an experience. This is the sixth of a series of write-ups of notes that I have taken while reading the book.

Chapter 7: Sympathy and Complexity

Wood begins with a question of the value of fiction. Wood asserts that there are three major values. One is language, the exposure to vocabulary and concepts of speech and writing. The second is the world. That is, experiencing life through the eyes of others, even if they are fictional characters. The final value has to do with convictions and beliefs. This is the idea that fiction allows readers to reinforce pre-existing beliefs or develop new beliefs or ideas through exposure to a fictional world. Seeing the world through the eyes of another can elicit sympathy and understanding and this is no less true for fictional characters than real people. In addition, insight into a character can be shown by that character’s own ability (or lack thereof) to imagine the world through the perspectives of another.

Wood believes this is connected to moral philosophy. The ability to sympathize with others or see their perspectives can lead to a character forced to immediately deal with two equal and conflicting moral arguments. Wood cites Bernard Williams, who claims that moral philosophy about the emotional life of a character rather than basic talk about the character’s self or general perceptions. Wood argues this can lead to insight in the complexity of a society’s moral fabric.


This was a relatively quick chapter to go through. I think the insight about a character’s ability or inability to understand the perspectives of others was interesting. This is also interesting in light of the idea that it can be used to highlight emotional perspectives and general moral fabric.

Book Notes – How Fiction Works, Ch. 6

How Fiction Works is a book written by critic James Wood and is an examination of the techniques that fiction utilizes to immerse the reader and create an experience. This is the fifth of a series of write-ups of notes that I have taken while reading the book.

Chapter 6: A Brief History of Consciousness

In this chapter James Wood examines the idea of how characters evolved from essentially stock characters to developed entities that we expect today. In Wood’s estimation, this transition began with theatre, which he posits changed the nature of who sees the character. That is, is the character behaving a certain way for the benefit of the audience, or for some unseen force? That is to say, the author or some unseen deity. This becomes an highlight issue when taking into account theatrical soliloquies, such as Hamlet’s famous monologues. Who or what is the character talking to and what is the motivation? This begins the perception of dimensionality of the character.

For novels, the theatrical monologue becomes an internal voice, a form of mental speech, allowing readers to look into a character’s mind. In addition, theatrical characters can change over time due to dramatic effect. The dynamism of character in theatre caused novelists to experiment with their own medium, for example playing with time or perceptions within their stories in an effort to match and provide an alternative to the dynamism of theatre.

Wood also asserts that the modern novel owes much to the work “Rameau’s Nephew” by Denis Diderot. Diderot made the story completely about the internal lives of his characters instead of using the standard tropes of the time. This was also shown in the works of Dostoyevsky which focused on an analysis of human nature. His characters had three different layers: announced motives, unconscious motivations and a desire to be known and have their flaws revealed.

Just as an example of early storytelling. Wood cites a biblical story, David and Bathsheba. David as a character is transparent to God, but not to the characters, The readers can see his actions, but not his thoughts. This causes his actions to sometimes surprise readers, since they can’t see his motivations. According to Wood, such internal access doesn’t really come along in full until Shakespeare. In particular Wood cites Macbeth, which introduced the idea of retrospective thought, not just internal calculations. Dostoyevski’s character Raskolnikov acts as a kind of hybrid approach. Here the audience has complete access to the character’s mind and is all-seeing until God makes an appearance at the end of the novel.


This is an interesting chapter because there are pros and cons to the idea of being privy to a character’s inner mind. When a character is not internally accessible, the readers must create a narrative like assembling a puzzle. When a character is totally internally accessible, the readers can be more analytic.

Book Notes – How Fiction Works, Ch. 5

How Fiction Works is a book written by critic James Wood and is an examination of the techniques that fiction utilizes to immerse the reader and create an experience. This is the fourth of a series of write-ups of notes that I have taken while reading the book.

Chapter 5: Character

Wood points out that a minor character can be just as compelling as a major character. A good minor character need only surprise the reader once before disappearing to be memorable. This is because for characters in general very little personality detail is needed. What is required is just enough detail to highlight important personality traits. This gives the reader something to latch on to and build a personal narrative about without hitting the reader over the head.

The particular detail, however, should be related to how the character interacts with other characters, or the world in general. Sometimes an author can get away with a line on what the character is thinking. New writers tend to make the mistake of rendering this detail as if the character were the subject of a photograph. Rendering the character in motion is a much better alternative so that the reader doesn’t feel like the story has paused.

Another point is to make sure not to explain everything. Wood points out that author Muriel Sparks has the motto of “never apologize, never explain”. Character-defining behavior does not have to be explained or justified. This forces the reader to ask why the character is behaving in a particular way, which can lead to a reader imagining a narrative about that character. This is also important because the character involved may not be one that adheres to current moral standards or tastes. Spending time explaining the character’s motivations with an unsavory trait weakens the character and diminishes the reader’s incentive to think about the character.

Finally, it’s important that characters be determined to be themselves. Everybody in real life has a personal fiction that they tell themselves to put life into perspective. A framework of dealing with reality, if you will. Fictional characters are no different. In Wood’s estimation, good characters aren’t just determined to be themselves, they are determined to be themselves in a theatrical manner. They create a fiction all their own about who they are and how others should, or will, treat them or what their place in the world is. They then enact that personal fiction as definitively has possible in the given situation.


Admittedly, I never really thought about portraying a character in static or in motion, but I think Wood’s arguments are compelling in this area. The reader doesn’t want to pause. I’m also a bit relieved about the ideas regarding character details. Having to spend coming up with a high-detail description of a character is exhausting and never seemed completely necessary to me. Leaving a bit of mystery makes sense from a reader-investment perspective.

Book Notes – How Fiction Works, Ch. 4

How Fiction Works is a book written by critic James Wood and is an examination of the techniques that fiction utilizes to immerse the reader and create an experience. This is the third of a series of write-ups of notes that I have taken while reading the book.

Chapter 4: Detail

Wood mentions the obvious, which is that the use of detail draws readers in, but then continues on to note that literature show readers how to notice details and that the skill of noticing is then practiced in real life. That is, literature can be a primer text for real world issues.

Wood asserts that details work when they draw attention to themselves in a momentary way. That is, the detail doesn’t just show up repeatedly for no reason. The reader should take note of it and then move on. The detail should also have some visceral connection to it; it should be described using materials, names, numbers, but never described in vague terms.

Often details are not meaningful in any way. They are there to add detail to a moment in the story. In other cases, the detail could appear completely meaningless, but really have relevance in some non-obvious way (they are “significantly insignificant”). Often details of both types mentioned can be used to help present the reader with a passage of time. It is important, however, to be strategic with details in general. Excessive detail can be a distraction. Be prepared to identify relevant and irrelevant detail.

Details don’t always have to be justified. They can be a mystery. A detail can be applied to a character or event with no explanation. This can make the reader want to know more.


I think the chapter on detail really covers ground that appears on most treatises on writing. The information isn’t particularly new, but it is useful in the context of the book as a sort of set-up for future chapters.

Book Notes – How Fiction Works, Ch. 2 & 3

How Fiction Works is a book written by critic James Wood and is an examination of the techniques that fiction utilizes to immerse the reader and create an experience. This is the second of a series of write-ups of notes that I have taken while reading the book.

Chapters 2 and 3: Gustave Flaubert

These are among the shorter chapters in the book, if not the shortest. The chapters more or less are a breakdown of ideas put forward by Gustave Flaubert, the French writer behind Madame Bovary among other works. James Wood contends that it is Gustave Flaubert who brought in the era of modern novelization by being the first to assemble all the literary pieces necessary for it.

In Wood’s description, Flaubert’s writing is like a camera, giving a precise description of the world of the story in a moment in time. Moreover, Flaubert is able to mix actions that occur at different time scales. Mundane repetitive actions happen at the same time as immediate and momentary actions. This serves to give the reader a sense of a fully realized world because it mimics how a reader is surrounded by a variety of events and actions in real life, both noticed and unnoticed. The author of a work might be emotionally detached from the story, but the reader could still be pulled in by the level of detail.

To be fair, this was more easily done by Flaubert because of his use of French. The language, according to Wood, allows a writer to more easily render events simultaneously that would otherwise happen at different time scales. English is somewhat more awkward in this regard. That said, it is not impossible.

Another Flaubert device is the “Flaneur”. The flaneur is a character that is unhurriedly looking out at the world, seeing its detail and reflecting on it. In other words, the character is the author’s camera as mentioned earlier. The character is a stand-in for the author and in a way, a kind of writer as well since the character is reflecting on the world and therefore creating a narration of it. Wood comments that, in a way, the existence of the flaneur as a device is the result of urbanization. People are confronted by so much in urban life that the character of the flaneur is a strong representation of what real people might do just walking down the street.

The effect is at once lifelike and artificial. Lifelike because real people are assaulted by details in the course of daily life, but artificial in that the details the flaneur is taking in are precisely chosen by the author. In fact, the flaneur as a device confuses who is doing the observing; the character or the author.


The last paragraph ties into the idea of authorial irony in the previous chapter. I feel like these two chapters were of historical purpose to get readers to understand where the indirect free speech technique originated. Today’s audiences, I feel, might wish for more investment from the characters rather than an “unhurried” observance, but the roots are clearly there.