Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Synecdoche, Uz

Some extremely interesting takes on Job as the Job course ends. Above a scene from of a comparison of Job and "Batman 2," two works M thinks concerned with human vs. supernatural justice, rewards for the patient, faithfulness against all odds. At left below are the images from W's graphic novel of Job as a "space opera." K asserts that the Book of Job isn't about why we suffer but how we should suffer. C notices that all the characters in Job express their views of God, justice and destiny through nature imagery, and concludes the Book of Job and nature act as silent partners - giving everything and confirming nothing. A complementary argument is made by L, who uses Maimonides and others to show that the Book of Job commends an active engagement with the created world; it's there that communication with God happens - earthly experience can yield transcendent wisdom. J offers a poetic (meaning Harold Bloomian) reading - God as Milton at his peak, Job and his friends as anxious English Romantic poets, Elihu as insouciant but also insubstantial Whitman, Leviathan as the pure metaphor which resists interpretation and misreading; despite our best efforts, our attempts at creating, sustaining, and mediating meaning are thwarted, are slain by our poetic ancestors in whose shadows we still dwell. L skirts Repetition to argue that Job exemplifies Kierkegaard's despair at not willing to be, arriving at the infinite resignation of the tragic hero. T argues that Job, like meditation, can interact with and reassemble our consciousness. P, building on Antonio Negri, shows Job to be a rebel whose rejection of an unjust system is not just reactive but creative, indeed the kind of superabundance of charity which can envision a better world for all - and here, not in heaven. Finally, N imagines a Theatrical Production of Job (compare with Carol Newsom's) which communicates something of the experience of our class experience. Job, restored, is trying to write his story but can't quite remember it. His wife interrupts him, and in a fit of pique he cuts her from the story he's writing. But the awareness that he is in fact recreating, and possibly fictionalizing, his experience is an epiphany. He asks his friends to help him remember, but their versions are different from his own. At this point, things go positively "Synecdoche, NY": From these collected recollections the audience starts to learn the story of the Book of Job but the characters are still not sure that they have the parts correct, they need to witness and hear the actions again themselves. Enter stage right a group of four men who look like the original group in slightly historically updated clothing. The original group of men then directs their corresponding double to a script they have written. A process of modifying the scripts happens three times which ends with a completely different result from the first that was performed. The second group of men then become angry at the first and begins arguing with their counterparts. The second group then proceeds to invite their own doubles onto the stage, again in historically updated clothing and begin to act out scripts that the doubles have given them. ... Eventually the stage is filled with several dozen men and a few women... The whole stage is in turmoil in a giant debate most of which is incomprehensible. The audience can catch wind of some of the arguments but many have nothing at all to do with the events of Job. Some shouts can be heard exclaiming familiar lines, "Do you have eyes of flesh?" or "But man dieth, and wasteth away; yea, man giveth up the ghost and where is he?" Eventually all but the original Job at his writing desk are cleared from the stage by a stage manager who recites Job 28, "True fear of the Lord is wisdom; true knowledge is avoiding sin." Elihu, an inept lighting technician, falls to the stage, speaks and keels over. The play ends as it started: a voice from every direction of the theater says: "Have no doubt, any wisdom you believe you have is not of the same nature as the wisdom which I possess." It's been an interesting journey!

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