The following Forum topics for Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo are optional. You may want to think about them or answer them on your own, or you can feel free to make a post here. That said, if you were to make a thoughtful post, considered post, it would become part of the dialogue of the class, and as such would affect your participation mark positively. To reiterate, however: there is no penalty for not posting!
As I mentioned last week in our discussion of the novel Vertigo, I find fairly compelling evidence that Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac are echoing in their novel the themes and artistic concerns of Edgar Allan Poe’s disturbing short story, “Ligeia,” published over 100 years before the novel’s publication. I add “artistic concerns” to the usual general “themes” because Poe’s story (like “The Fall of the House of Usher”) is at least in part about the sensibility (sensitivity, obsessiveness, etc.) of the artist as an observer of his world. Notice that I do not say “his or her” (or “their”), because in novel, film, and Poe story, the artist is very much a “he,” working with inspiration by a subject that is very much a “she,” whether real or idealized. In other words, gender, and ideals around it, are key to the discussion here.
Read Poe’s “Ligeia” very closely, with an eye to tracing at least one of the following details throughout. Try to come up with a statement—in your own words, but with a passage or two to support i—to the significance of this detail to the story’s overall meaning:
a) setting, architecture, “set design,” theatricality;
b) eyes, vision, seeing and not-seeing;
c) memory, remembrance, forgetting;
d) artistic sensibilities: passion, inspiration, mania, obsession, depression, and dejection;
e) the battle of the wills (as in willpower), and power and oppressive control more generally.
The above themes are key not only to Poe’s story (and work more generally), but also to the Gothic tradition in the U.S. Remember that we are working on a developing sense of this tradition, and how in this case it might have echoed forward from Poe to influence Narcejac and Boileau, and Hitchcock.
FORUM (Optional): Choose one of the following topics. Write your opening forum post on a single, specific detail with a clear, well supported thesis, in 250 words or fewer. The word count includes any quotations you might draw from the text(s). Read all responses prior to yours; make sure that your response adds to the discussion that is already underway.
If you do respond on the site, indicate the topic number you chose. Indicate italics in all caps, e.g.: VERTIGO.
Topic 1—Idealization: Vertigo (novel and film) and “Ligeia” feature female characters who are so idealized they (arguably) become monstrous. Compare/contrast the character Ligeia to the character Madeleine, in either the film or the novel (not both). Base your comparison/contrast on the single most revealing characteristic about the character, or what she represents.
Topic 2—Dreams: Compare the role or significance of dreams in “Ligeia” and Hitchcock’s Vertigo. What key similarity can you draw from what these dreams reveal, or the themes they encourage us to trace in these works?
Topic 3—Allusions and Influences: Discuss the degree to which the novel and film draw from key original themes found in Poe’s “Ligeia.” Single out one key theme, issue, or concern from the story and discuss its importance to film and novel.
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