To all the mathematicians out there, like myself, who dread taking that english course for a Gen Ed requirement, here’s some advice to get you through it pain free: Take Literature in the Digital Age! The name of the course itself alludes to the fact that less reading will be required than your average english course at UNC. There’s no shame in admitting that most of us mathematics/statistics majors struggle to enjoy reading a book, touching a book, or even looking at a book. Well what if I told you can succeed in this course without encountering a book once in an extremely cost effective manner (I know how important that is to all college students). And as a stat major myself, what better way to guide a bunch of number fanatics through acquiring the texts for this course with an Excel spreadsheet. Hope you all enjoy exploring literature in the digital age as much as I did!
From the very beginning of Netflix’s Russian Doll I loved Natasha Lyonne’s roll as the main character of the show. She not only did a fantastic job of playing the part but her character Nadia was extremely interesting and likable throughout. Her troubled past and the assortment of men in her life go along perfectly with her care free attitude on life. This perspective not only provides the audience with a decent amount of comic relief throughout but it makes it very interesting to see how she handles the weird sequence of events that are happening in her life. Almost halfway through the series we are introduced to a man named Alan who is experiencing the same cycle of death that Nadia is. I greatly appreciated the contrasting personalities of the two characters and how they handle their predicaments differently while still working together to figure out what the hell is going on. Nadia’s care free mentality allows her to investigate her situation as calmly as one could while Alan is frantically searching for answers and jumping off of buildings. These drastically different personalities are most likely due to the fact that he is continuously living the worst day of his life while Nadia is reliving her birthday party but the character contrast adds depth to the show either way.
Despite my appreciation for the two main characters of the series I struggled to feel the same about the storyline. In first discovering that Nadia and Alan are reliving the same day over and over again I believed it would make for a very interesting plot, however, I began to realize what this repetitive aspect of the series was doing to my perception of it. I found myself caring little about what was actually happening to these individuals as they lived out the same day again and again and focussing more on when they were going to die next and appear in the same bathrooms I had seen at least fifteen times. I felt as if this repetition hindered the progression of the plot significantly throughout the series.
All in all, it seemed as if I was waiting for the “aha” moment for a majority, if not all of the show. Everything that happened up until episode seven felt like an introduction to the problem at hand that was extremely drawn out thanks to the endless repetition I mentioned above. I did enjoy Nadia and Alan coming to the realization towards the end of the series that they both had to confront the darkest points in their lives to stop their endless cycles of reliving the same day. This was not only a good message for the writers to convey to the audience but it introduced a deeper side to Nadia’s care free personality. The ending still felt lazy as the two entered separate worlds where they had to save the other from death, leaving many questions unanswered with an abrupt ending. These techniques are fine when writers make it clear there will be another season but this was not the case with Russian Doll. I didn’t know if I should feel content with the two successfully saving one another because of the uncertainty of whether or not they will continue to enter other dimensions thanks to our lack of knowledge of how it happened to them in the first place. This made for a frustrating finish to a show with a fantastic concept and characters that I genuinely enjoyed throughout.
Brit Marling’s Netflix Original, The OA, had many ups and downs for me personally throughout the series. The first four episodes left me extremely confused at times as most mysteries intentionally do when setting up the storyline. This strategy is often beneficial, however, these were very drawn out and extensively long introductory episodes that left me feeling lost and uninterested rather than intrigued to discover what was really going on.
Episode five was a pivotal point in the show for me that regained my interest significantly as we found out what the group has learned to do while in their glass cages. I later realized, however, that discovering this developed an idea in my head of what I wanted the remainder of the show to be about which was not the case in the end. When watching Prairie and Homer bring a human being back to life, I inferred this would explain why she was telling her story to a random group of individuals who all seemed to have lost someone close to them at some point in their lives. She was going to teach the group the movements to bring back those who they had lost. Prairie would have been helping those around her with what she learned from an awful experience for herself personally which would have made for a very pleasant end to season one. Furthermore, this led me to believe the show would delve more into how the doctor and his captives were able to develop such outstanding knowledge and explain why Prairie was telling her story in the manner that she was. Instead, the second half of the show focusses more on the captives escape from the doctor and Prairie and her family attempting to return to normalcy and get some sort of closure on their situation.
A film technique that I very much appreciated and wanted to point out was the way in which the filmmakers conveyed a literal and figurative perception of the multi-dimensional aspect of the show. The flashbacks of her life when being held captive and her life afterwards felt like two completely different worlds which did a great job of symbolizing the group’s goal of multi-dimensional travel throughout. Prairie’s life post-captivity felt extremely normal in a small American town while her life in captivity consisted of living in glass boxes in some spaceship looking basement and being drowned in an attempt to enter a new dimension. These drastically different worlds only mimic the gap between the real world and the parallel universe the characters are searching for but the thematic metaphor still got its point across. Parallels like this often go unnoticed but they prove the attention to detail the writers put into the show.
The final episode of season one once again left me lost and quite disappointed but thankfully the trailer for season two made season one feel worth watching. The ending quite simply felt lazy as it failed to explain many key plot points such as how the captives escaped, why Prairie told her story the way she did, and left the audience questioning whether or not her entire story was even real. I felt a connection to the group of individuals she told her story to as they stood around the car with Prairie’s box of books on top, frustrated with the possible lack of sincerity in her story. Luckily, unlike season one itself, the season two trailer confirms the multi-dimensional aspect of the show and seems like it will answer the many questions I have following the finale of season one in an extremely exciting way as the characters finally enter the new dimension they have been searching for.
Pierre; or, The Ambiguities by Herman Melville has long been debated whether or not to consider it a literary masterpiece or dud. The ambiguity of the story and how it was written makes this a very tough call that many have drastically opposing views on. Personally, I believe there was great drama at varying points in the storyline, however, these points were scattered throughout a book full of longwinded tangents that often failed to add anything of importance to the plot of the story. Many times when reading I felt as if I needed to remind myself of the plot after just reading countless pages of nothing that were thrown in throughout. You could say this made my reading a frustrating experience at times and this was one of many issues I had with the ~wonderful~ story of Pierre.
I have never been a fan of old stories due to their use of old language and I feel as if Pierre falls under this category in a very unique way. When having to focus more on comprehending what the old language is trying to say rather than the actual story itself I have a very hard time enjoying myself. There is no denying that Melville uses a unique sort of language with beautifully descriptive words throughout that sometimes made very unimportant parts of the story feel relevant. With that, much of the language was still very ambiguous and unnecessarily drawn out. I would find myself more focussed on the eloquent vocabulary being used to describe a big rock than the actual meaning and importance of that portion of the story. Language style can often enhance a readers perception of an entire book but in my reading of Pierre it did the opposite.
Much of Pierre has moments that are intentionally left for the readers own interpretation. Some believe that this makes the story a philosophical masterpiece but when you struggle to comprehend the authors language in the first place, like myself, it makes it extremely challenging to develop these interpretations. In summary, the ambiguous nature of Pierre was a very frustrating experience and a meme cannot possibly fail to express my true opinion of Pierre in its entirety.