Friday, 2 November 2012

Tell Me When You Feel Wonder

This week I am scrambling to put together an assignment on a topic that is new to me in a format that is even newer to me (it involves hand-coding). I have two posts that I would really like to write following my reading of Geek Love, but I don't have time. However, in this hopefully very brief study break, I want to kick a question toward my readers. As always with my questions, it's born out of a bigger problem I'm working on, so it might need a preamble.

In those two posts I wanted to write, I would talk about the problem with a lot of cultural representations that produce wonder. It seems like wonder in many mediums requires visually (or musically) stimulating representations of things that are largely unknown to us but promise knowledge. Wonder requires evocation without explanation. However, those "things" are often people or cultural artifacts. For instance, in Big Fish, which needs as a part of its project an on-going catalogue of wonder-inducing things (marvels), the conjoined twins Ping and Jing are an example of a marvel the narrator's father shares. Their marvelousness comes from the strangeness (to us) of their bodies and, probably a little bit, from their cultural otherness. In order for them to continue producing wonder (and I've watched many people watch this movie, and based on watching them, I would say that Ping and Jing do produce wonder), they must remain distant. We must know that they are there and we must know that they are different, but beyond this we must be kept ignorant in spite of the curiosity the film encourages us to feel about them. As a result, their personhoods are threatened, both by how the film depicts their anatomical and their ethnic/cultural difference. (If this seems like a stretch or an abrupt conclusion, that's because the work from one part to another would have been the subject of one of the conspicuously unwritten posts.)

If I want to produce wonder in my own work (what little of it there is--ha!), I know that I must be careful to avoid representations that would threaten my subjects' personhoods. Any attempt to derive wonder from people is dangerous. However, in general I do want to produce wonder as a component of my work, so I need to find new ways of doing that. I have an idea (exactly one), but I figured asking other people might be a good idea, too.

So I'm asking you. What, in fiction, film, art, or real life, brings you to wonder? That's my major question. If you want, maybe you can help me with more: Why do you think those things produce wonder in you? (Or, why do you react to those things with wonder?) How do you conceive of wonder, and does your idea of it rely on ignorance to the extent that I describe?

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