Thursday, April 16, 2009

Rough draft of the Final

Jimmy Corrigan

This is obviously very rough, however the main idea is present, potentially incorporating Joy after discussion of thesis. Also, after more research I plan on continuing with discussion of the symbolism between Jimmy and the reader, focusing mainly on the architecture and technology aspect and how we should ultimately read Jimmy Corrigan

The World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 was a highly successful celebration of American culture during the end of the 19th century. Magnificence of new architecture, technology and arts provided a significant American optimism as well displaying a powerful image of American excellence. Likewise, in the graphic novel Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth, author Chris Ware displays the significance of the World’s Columbian Exchange to one specific character, Jimmy’s grandfather. Ware purposely uses large portions of frames and pages describing the event and its significance to storyline. Among many reasons Ware included this specific American landmark, one being his skill in precise and detailed drawing and his own fascination with the architecture however, on a deeper and more symbolic level is the relationship between the character of Jimmy Corrigan and our current relationship with technology and its impact on our lives. Upon this awareness of the symbolic meaning behind the World’s Columbian Exposition we, as readers can focus on Jimmy Corrigan in a new sense and have a better understanding of the seemingly dull and simplistic character Jimmy. Jimmy Corrigan is a metaphor for the current American society today in the midst of a technological advancement.

To better understand this seemingly expansive concept some background on the World Columbian Exposition would be beneficial. Opening to the public on May 1st, 1893, the celebration was held on the 400th year anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the New World. The city of Chicago beat out other contesting cities in large part due to banker Lyman Gage’s financial prowess, his ability to raise several million dollars in a 24-hour period bested other viable cities including Washington D.C., St. Louis and New York City, winning the privilege to host this influential world’s fair. earning its nickname the “the windy city” after the heated competition. When the Exposition opened in Chicago, only 22 years had passed since the devastation of the Chicago fire, in which a three and a half square mile area burned through the heart of city over a short 36 hour period. The United States as a country had just recently felt the end of a destructive Civil War only 28 years before. During this truly remarkable interval of time the country and Chicago transformed and boomed during the Age of Reconstruction and flowed into a Gilded Age, a time of an enormous population and wealth increase. Along with this industrial growth came class conflict and questioning of the American people concerning this violence. As a solution, America followed in European footsteps and tried to ease tensions and provide some “cultural cement” by turning to the world’s fair.  Despite the flaws and failings of first world fair in Philadelphia, and growing concern from American’s whether or not this idea would solidify in the states, momentum for a second was building in order to celebrate the Columbian quadricentennial.

After Congress voted for and approved the undertaking of the world’s fair in Chicago, under the guidance of American architect David Burnham and landscape architect Fredrick Law Olmstead the Chicago World’s Fair began to take shape. The process was enormous and the architectural talent displayed was remarkable, buildings such as: Agriculture, Electricity, Horticulture, Machinery Hall, Mines and Mining; to name a few, all made up “the White City”. Buildings made of white stucco and use of extensive street lights presented the moniker of a white city. In these buildings exhibits displayed the “culture and civilization” of the time. It was without a doubt a symbol of “emerging American Exceptionalism”.

Aside from that brief history lesson, now imagine a young boy, dreaming of attending this colossal achievement, stepping through the Golden Door of Transportation and the complete awe he must feel. This must have been the case for anyone of any age experiencing such a triumph courtesy of human fabric.

Getting back to the storyline of Jimmy Corrigan, Jimmy never experiences this; in fact he hardly experiences any happiness or excitement throughout the whole novel. Yet, this expansive series of frames takes place in the heart of his story, his novel. Why? Perhaps it is to parallel his boring and dull life to show contrast by comparing it to such an exquisite time period. However, the symbolism stretches deeper; start for example, at the beginning of the flashbacks of Jimmy’s grandfather. The transition from Jimmy’s story in the present to Chicago 1893 begins and ends with a house or building, however the architecture and detail is important. Notice how bland and unimpressive the architecture of the house is, or for that matter throughout the whole story in Jimmy’s life. The contrast is obvious while flipping through these pages; Ware’s precise use of detailing on these buildings was not only time consuming but also involved lots of research and study. With that in mind, Ware went to these lengths not to simply impress readers with his skill, but to strike a connection between Jimmy and the reader, or the average American.


SPECIFIC DETAIL HERE TO HOW JIMMY RELATES TO US AND HOW our current situation doesn’t compare.

 ( add more background but focus on Ware’s symbolic efforts throughout Corrigan research more about Ware)

Chris Ware has an eclectic range of influences, however his heavy interest in the aesthetic 20th century American is evident in his comics. The five-year span that it took to finish the series of comics making up Jimmy Corrigan, the smartest kid on earth are impressive in itself, considering Ware still uses “old-fashinoned” drawing tools, shying away from computer generated pictures and artwork. 

1 comment:

Adam Johns said...

I won't comment on the details of your language, since it's obviously very rough in that respect.

First: this is fine for a draft, but you need to cite your sources precisely when you do the final version. It's totally unclear when reading this when your voice transitions into your research and back again.

Second: For most of this draft, your precise argument is unclear. Clearly you're interested in the relationship of Ware's work to the historical details of the exposition, but neither your initial discussion of the book nor your more-or-less random compilation of facts about the exposition help to formulate an argument. As a way of gathering your thoughts, it's fine. It reads, though, as an early rough draft - almost like a brainstorming session.

Where I started to become interested, and, I think, recognized your distinctive voice, is when you began to contrast the expansive frames of the exposition vs. the tedium of Jimmy's life. While we talked about this stuff in class, you're moving (by the end) in the direction of an interesting and focused argument. What you need to do is clarify and make that arguement in detail from the beginning, rather than stumbling your way vaguely to it.

Short version: formulate a more precise argument faster, use more correct language and fix your (absent) citations. The idea has promise.