English 738T, Spring 2015
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Furthering the Discussion of Eyes

Posted by Denis Dodson on Wednesday, May 13th, 2015 at 11:21 am

For my final blog post, I want to further discuss how I view, (forgive the pun), the use of eyes within many of the works presented to us in this class.  As we discussed while discussing Blade Runner, in particular, there is a massive emphasis on the physical eye, as well as the act of seeing.  This is exemplified by the fact that it is often the glowing eyes of the genetically engineered beings that cause differentiation to be made between creation and human.  As we discussed in class, the reason Roy seems to have an affinity for attacking the eyes of his victims might emphasize the idiom, “the eyes are the windows to the soul” – meaning, eyes are a form of connectivity.  By linking eyes, it can be stated that you are connecting, at least at an emotional level, to that other person.  Which is why it is imperative that Roy destroy the eye, or window, to the soul, as it robs the person of far more than their life.  This is a fascinating idea, particularly in what it means to have genetically created eyes.  The need to connect with another via sight, however, is not a new concept.

One of my favorite examples of emotional connection through the physical eye is in Chaucer’s “The Knight’s Tale”.  There are two very distinct passages that speak to this phenomena:

1075         That through a window, thickly set with many a bar
1076         Of iron, great and square as any beam,
1077         He cast his eye upon Emelye,
1078         And with that he turned pale and cried, “A!”
1079         As though he were stabbed unto the heart.

1095         This prison did not cause me to cry out,
1096         But I was hurt right now through my eye
1097          Into my heart, so that it will be the death of me.
1098          The fairness of that lady whom I see
1099          Yonder in the garden roaming to and fro
1100          Is cause of all my crying and my woe.

As stated within Chaucer on Love, Knowledge and Sight by Norman Klassen, “Chretien de Troyes discusses the importance of vision at length in the romance Cliges.  There, the eyes serve a double function as perceivers of beauty and as active agents.  As agents, they strike through the eyes and enter the heart of the person whose gaze they meet” (86).  As it can be read in “The Knight’s Tale”, love requires sight.  When you look upon someone, a piece of you, as it was believed, literally enters their heart through the eye.  In this way, the eye has a very real and truly physical consequence in “The Knight’s Tale”.  I would, however, argue that this is of extreme consequence for the majority of the works that we have read for class.

Although it cannot be argued that a literal part of oneself enters the hearts of modern romantic literature, the eyes still have an enormous stake in forming emotional bonds.  Frankenstein, for example, is absolutely obsessed with the yellow of the creature’s eyes, and the terror that Victor finds in them.  Therefore, by Roy focusing on destroying the eyes in particular, I believe it is speaking to the necessity of eyes to form human connections.  Although eyesight is not as imperative as it is within “The Knight’s Tale”, it is a valid form of creating human attachment.  If the world is merely a creation of our perception, to forcefully rid our bodies of the main organ for perception is crippling.

So I am curious – now that we have finished the semester and have read an abundance of literature that seem obsessed with sight or what is seen (in particular, I am also fascinated with the technology of photography in Memento), how is the physical eye and sight handled throughout the course?

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4 Responses

  • Sara Lyons says:

    I would argue that eyes, based on the texts we encountered this semester, are connected with believability and “truth”. In the Matrix, eyes are faulty in the simulated world yet are deemed not faulty in the Matrix – we are supposed to believe that to be truth; however, as we discussed in class, how do we know that what’s deemed to be true is actually true? The same can be said for the photography in Memento. The photos don’t encompass all of the truth and sometimes are even faulty on their own – he doesn’t know the truth about Natalie because he doesn’t have time to write it on the picture before he forgets and he doesn’t know he already killed the man because he’s missing a picture. I would also argue that what defines the reality of something cannot be identified through the eyes because even though, in Blade Runner, the way to determine the “humanity” of someone is through the eyes and the yellow of the Creature’s eyes, in Frankenstein, (supposedly) characterizes his monstrosity, these aspects are clearly faulty as they only actually determine the person’s physical reality, not actual humanity.

    I guess I’m concerned with taking the focus on eyes and applying it to how we determine truth as we humans tend to wrongly depend on what we see.

    • Denis Dodson says:

      I am actually writing a bit about “truth” for my final paper, and I would argue that you are correct in stating that humans tend to wrongly depend on what we see. I would further this, however, by stating that it is almost a form of forced subjectivity – humans create flaw in what they see or remember, preferring subjectivity over objectivity.

      Even relating it back to my previous post about the Baltimore riots, there seems to be an inherent willful ignorance through forcing subjectivity in a lot of human writing or memory.

  • Kyle Bickoff says:

    Hi Denis,

    I really have enjoyed learning (and noticing) so many eyes in our texts throughout the course of the semester, and the conception of “the eyes are the windows to the soul” is still a very applicable one. I’m glad that you bring Chaucer in here–I hadn’t been familiar with the poem previously, but it certainly fits the bill. Eyes retain a position of empathy, or perhaps human connection. I had the chance to, some time back, watch the Ken Burns documentary “The Dust Bowl.” When photographers funded by WPA projects went out west to document the terrible, unbearable conditions in the Dust Bowl region of Colorado, Kansas, and the panhandles of Oklahoma and Texas, they were told by a supervisor–”I want to see their eyes.” So when we see Dorothea Lange’s “Migrant Mother,” we’re seeing her eyes, her emotion, her pain, and even so many decades later we’re able to empathize with her through this powerful photo–and through the eyes.

  • Amanda Gogarty says:

    Hi Denis,

    I definitely agree that eyes were one of the most prominent themes in most of the works we have read for this semester. I agree with Sara on the idea that looking into someone’s eyes is supposed to reveal the “truth,” however I am more interested in how many characters’ eyes are hidden (for example, the sunglasses in the Matrix, or Molly’s prosthetic lenses in Neuromancer. I think it is also interesting to think of hiding the eyes as a form of protection, especially when a female character decides to hide her eyes (i.e.- Molly again.) I wonder if there is any difference in implication when a female hides her eyes vs. when a male hides his eyes, and if so, what it could signify.

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