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Old 19th June 2012, 08:57 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Symbolism

The Symbolism Survey - famous authors talk about symbolism.

"Do you have anything to remark concerning the subject under study, or anything you believe to be pertinent to such study?"
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Old 19th June 2012, 09:42 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Re: Symbolism

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Originally Posted by J-Sun View Post
"Do you have anything to remark concerning the subject under study, or anything you believe to be pertinent to such study?"
This is in books, but I've just come here immediately from reading people's thoughts on the Christian symbolism in Prometheus - whether actual or perceived - and I'd say this was just as pertinent to films as it is to books. Prometheus has a plot filled with holes and the best parts of it are essentially a remake of Alien. Yet, people can talk about the symbolism forever since there is no definitive answer.

Similarly, I'd say the continued discussions over films such as The Matrix and Bladerunner long after their sell-by dates is due to their symbolism (particularly the origami horse and chessboard in Bladerunner.)

Very often, I'm sure the symbolism in some films was not intended or not concious, but what Director would say he hadn't carefully considered these deeper meanings when he made the film. It is surprising how honest those authors were in their replies.
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Old 20th June 2012, 10:19 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Re: Symbolism

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...I'd say this was just as pertinent to films as it is to books....
Definitely - yeah, I put it in books because it was sparked from authors and I generally think "books" primarily, but symbolism in any media would definitely apply.

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(particularly the origami horse and chessboard in Bladerunner.)
Well, as far as the horse (unicorn, actually) I'd say that may have symbolism attached to it but it was more a literal gimmick of implication - like a detective clue is a clue, rather than a symbol. As far as the chessboard, I'm not familiar with that - I remember Sebastien using it as an access code, being Cyrano'ed by Baty and there's probably symbolic significance to the "master of life and death" playing games with his creations and all but were you meaning the board itself? I don't remember the specifics of that.

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Very often, I'm sure the symbolism in some films was not intended or not concious, but what Director would say he hadn't carefully considered these deeper meanings when he made the film. It is surprising how honest those authors were in their replies.
That's the thing that most struck (and pleased) me. The authors seemed to be story-centric and relegated symbolism to a critic/teacher game. That's how I feel about it as a reader - the story usually has to work on a literal level for me first and the symbolism is extra - but many readers (and a handful of authors) work almost exclusively in symbols and will do damage to sense on a literal level because the symbolic level is more important to them.
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Old 21st June 2012, 02:29 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Re: Symbolism

Sorry, my bad... it was a Unicorn.

Authors obviously do use symbolism, but I'm sure they don't use it as much as your "critic/teachers" claim they do. I admit that I did very badly in my 'o' Level English Literature, however I still find it hard to believe what my teachers and the Study Guides told me; that William Shakespeare and Thomas Hardy really put all that symbolism into what they wrote. I'm sure that the equivalent of an 'urban myth' grows up over time in these things. It also strikes me as a case of the Emperor's New Clothes.
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Old 22nd June 2012, 08:30 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Re: Symbolism

Thanks for passing this along; it's wonderful.

The answer that rings most true for me is Ralph Ellison's, and Bradbury seems to me to echo it somewhat: A writer writes and then reads what s/he has written and if s/he recognizes something symbolic, uses it or doesn't. (And may not recognize something as symbolic, though readers just might. Remember, the author doesn't know everything.)

I think for many, if not most, writers the idea for a story comes first and the ideas about what the story can expand into comes after the initial writing, the act of writing stoking the imagination. A lot of writers have said something along the lines of, 'I'm not a writer, I'm a re-writer'; the story doesn't usually come all at once, it accretes from tinkering with it, from adding here and subtracting there, moving this piece to that place, sanding off the spurs on the transition, plugging the hole where it came from, shoring up the part left behind. In the process the writer aware of symbolism and in favor of that symbolism will write to strengthen and support it.


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