Saturday, March 21, 2009

Temporal and Spatial Ellipses::The Imagery

Throughout the book there are periodic shifts in time and space:  these are portrayed by pictures, rather than words or character interaction.  These shifts happen on a single page in a matter of one to seven distinct moments, or frames, and speed tends to be ambiguous.  This loosely structured portrayal of time allows the reader some control:  One may meander or fly at hyper-speed through the very first pages when we are neither thrust nor danced to the front door of Jimmy's house.  In the next few paragraphs, I will insert my reading of the speed of time and the accompanying shifts in space.  

{Very beginning, outer space frame}  We start in wide open space and, examining the stars or aching for some dialogue, end up with half the Earth in view.  We've already been vaguely introduced to our main character- which comes as no surprise given the cover of the book- now we must decide how fast to go.  There are few details-mostly just the universe, so let's dive right in.  Your vision is urged to the right by an arc of light blessing half the Earth, the other half is dark.  To which is our journey?  From the right, time speeds up and jars you quickly from ant to mouse to monster-sized city.  "Jimmy, come ON!" and we're home, lying sideways, on the dark half of the Earth. 

{Three pages after we find Jimmy's home.}  Still sideways, time has shifted slightly- a few hours into the evening, or years into the future?  The next three frames are introduced in the same way as the city in the previous example.  At the first our visual 'target' is not visible, but arrives and is apparently the same in the following two moments.  This is where the major temporal shift happens on this page.  Rather than getting spatially closer to our story, we are moving through time at our own determined speed.  Evidence in the next frame includes radically newer automobiles and leaves on the trees.  When followed by boarded and broken windows and then absolute destruction- our movement through time, rather than space, becomes quite obvious.  

Another drastic temporal shift, which also plays with the real time experienced by the reader is available.  {A little less than halfway through the book, right after Jimmy gets his crutch and is walking out of the Medlife Clinicare.}  We see a dirty old city, presumably Chicago.  It's colors are dark and thick, it's streets are crowded and muddy, it's architecture is antique.  Here we must turn the page... only to find that our Chicago street has turned into a charred, post-apocalyptic neighborhood.  There are no people, trolley's, or even windows.  

Through these examples, we can see that Chris Ware is grappling with time and space through art.  He's also effectively pulling his reader into his conflict, allowing us to decide or ponder over the speed and direction in which things happen.       

  

3 comments:

Megan Schwemer said...

While I find it interesting that you've decided to discuss the use of time in Jimmy Corrigan, there doesn't seem to be much of an argument here. At the start, I was expecting you to make some argument that a straight-forward seeming section of the book should be read differently in terms of space-time. Instead, it seemed to me that you used two obvious examples but did not provide any unconventional explanations. I think you could definitely use more examples, and perhaps take them from other parts of the book (perhaps take some note of the bird-as-transition utilized several times in the book).

Maybe you could consider how much time passes while Jimmy is daydreaming. Is his imagination running wild for mere moments, or hours, or even longer? How much of the book is taken up with reality or dreaming? Can we even know for sure?

Another possible example would be the amount of time passing between the 'end' and the epilogue. Is it days or year? What makes you think so?

You might also, after giving your interpretation as to how time-space should be read in the book, explain what you think Ware means by doing it this way. Is he providing some insight into the lives of Jimmy and his family? Is he making some general statement about mankind?

If you want to prove that Ware is grappling with space-time, you'll have to give some good examples and interpret them in that light. As is, you seem to be just narrating the opening of the book without really going further than that.

tricia said...

Throughout the book there are periodic shifts in time and space: these are portrayed by pictures, rather than words or character interaction. These shifts happen on a single page in a matter of one to seven distinct moments, or frames, and speed (elapsed time) tends to be ambiguous. This loosely structured portrayal of time allows the reader some control: One may meander or fly at hyper-speed through the very first pages when we are neither thrust nor danced to the front door of Jimmy's house. I argue that these ambiguous temporal ellipses are there for a purpose; to engage the reader. They act as points of uncertain change and often deal in the thematic realms of life, suffering and death (which can be argued to be themes throughout the book).

{Very beginning, outer space frame} We start in wide open space and, examining the stars or aching for some dialogue, end up with half the Earth in view. We've already been vaguely introduced to our main character- which comes as no surprise given the cover of the book- now we must decide how fast to go. Your eyes wonder around the Universe and spot an anomaly, getting closer a name is brought forth from the great expanses of sky... you must get closer . Your vision is urged to the right by an arc of light blessing half the Earth, the other half is dark. To which is our journey? From the right, time speeds up and jars you quickly from ant to mouse to monster-sized city. "Jimmy, come ON!" and we're home, lying sideways, on the dark half of the Earth. The very first page invites the reader to examine details at their own place-- skimming past the introduction of the city, the earth, Jimmy, and the Universe, or wallowing in their simplistic portrayal of movement and time.

{Three pages after we find Jimmy's home.} Still sideways, time has shifted slightly- a few hours into the evening, or years into the future? The next three frames are introduced in the same way as the city in the previous example. At the first our visual 'target' is not visible, but arrives and is apparently the same in the following two moments. This is where the major temporal shift happens on this page. Rather than getting spatially closer to our story, we are moving through time at our own determined speed. Evidence in the next frame includes radically newer automobiles and leaves on the trees. When followed by boarded and broken windows and then absolute destruction- our movement through time, rather than space, becomes quite obvious. As a student of the city (Urban Studies) I often look at the fragmented and decaying Pittsburgh landscape to imagine what snapshots of blight over time might look like and how long it actually takes to destroy a place. This series of frames again allows the reader to decide how long the city must suffer before it dies.

Another drastic temporal shift, whose time is purposely ambiguous allows us to ponder life, suffering and destruction. {A little less than halfway through the book, right after Jimmy gets his crutch and is walking out of the Medlife Clinicare.} We see a dirty and old, but lively, city; presumably Chicago. It's colors are dark and thick, it's streets are crowded and muddy, it's architecture is antique. Here we must turn the page... only to find that our Chicago street has turned into a charred, post-apocalyptic neighborhood. There are no people, trolley's, or even windows. Chris Ware, through positioning this event, literally, on the thin side of the paper, gives the reader opportunity to manipulate time. You may turn back to the 'functional' Chicago and examine its street layout or its architecture, turn again to 'burnt' Chicago and look back into the distant destruction and imagine where the people are or what significance it plays in Jimmy's life. Perhaps this dystopic urban atmosphere is a literal head-nod to the future. The point, is that time is ambiguous between these two pages to allow the reader to engage his or her own imagination in the events.

(For this previous passage specifically, Ware also reaches into his visual warehouse to remake the events he never experienced. At least once in the book, during the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893, Jimmy admitted that he was only trying to remember what he thought happened.)

Through these examples, we can see that Chris Ware is grappling with time and space through visual cues. He's also effectively pulling his reader into his conflict, allowing us to decide or ponder over the speed at which things happen. In the same sense, he allows the audience's space to be filled with questions larger than that of time in his story, but also with time as a concept and life, suffering and death as its most significant measures.

Adam Johns said...

Megan - another good response.

Tricia - How, in your mind, does the structure of time engage the reader? Your introduction is clear and straightforward, but this idea doesn't seem to be 100% finished yet.

I think your overall argument (through the paper) about the fluidity or (dare I say it?) interactivity of time is interesting, legitimate, and underdeveloped.

I think the other paper here - the real paper - on Urban Studies and Jimmy Corrigan is potentially phenomenal. It's tight, focused, ideologically clear and rooted in the text. Also, your interests and Ware's converge beautifully.

This would have worked better if you'd scrapped your ostensible one and just focused on Ware's obsession with the decay of cities. That being said, I thought your ostensible argument was potentially quite good too - but let me raise a theoretical point. The fundamental nature of comics is to represent time in space, but in a seemingly arbitrary way, because each frame represents a moment, and the distance between moments is *not* signaled by space. Without rambling on too long about it, I'm trying to argue that you're writing about the spatiotemporal characteristics of comics, without having really thought through the fundamentals of how this art form works...

A potentially interesting and incomplete essay, with a much better essay hidden within it...