Vector 1: Orpheus and Eurydice-> Dante’s Inferno

  The theme of exploring what world will be waiting after death has been contemplated from multiple perspectives throughout history. In the interest of comparing the story of Eurydice and of Dante’s Inferno, the parallels and differences depicted through both of their views of the underworld must be examined. Naturally the variation of religious beliefs between the two protagonists, both established patrons of the arts, makes certain implications, particularly pertaining to the setting and characters presented in the underworld. Dante, although being of Christian faith, makes allusions to Greek mythology as he delves into the depths of hell. Interestingly, the character of the ferryman is present and consistent in both stories, being the final figure to consummate passage across the river into the underworld. Cerberus, the three headed dog is also alluded to, maintaining the same duty as described in the tale of Eurydice. One common theme shared explicitly between these two stories is the ability of the protagonist to return to the upper world after entering hell. Although escape is attained through alternative means, the ability to enter hell, confront the “King of the Deep,” and return to reality is the strongest medium connecting Eurydice and Dante.

Vector 1: The Sandman’s Take on Orpheus

The Sandman by Neil Gaiman is a multiple-award-winning ten-volume graphic novel series that Doctor Whalen teaches in his Graphic Novel class, which I have never taken but am pleased to know got at least one text right anyway. There are two prevailing threads of narrative in the series: a linear one involving Morpheus/Dream/The Sandman being imprisoned by humans for seventy-two years and then having to rebuild his life and kingdom – only to realize he is not the same person he was – and a much more fragmented series of interconnected short stories that examine how Dream and his siblings Destiny, Death, Destruction, Desire, Despair, and Delirium (who was once Delight)  have interacted with figures both historical and mythical throughout their existence.

One of these short stories, “Orpheus”, recasts the fabled Greek as the son of Dream and Calliope, Muse of heroic poetry. When Eurydice dies he first begs his father to help. Dream says no, it is not in the natural order, and they become estranged. He then begs his aunt Death (actually the sweetest, kindest, and most cheerful of the family) to allow him to go to Hades. She warns him that he can only do so if he agrees never to die. He agrees. When he fails to save Eurydice, he cannot die to be with her, and he moreover gets torn apart by the crazed followers of Dionysus and has to live the next ten thousand years as a disembodied head. His father arranges for priests to care for him and at once point for an adventuress to rescue him from the French Revolution – it makes sense in context – but does not see him again until the 1990’s, when he is forced to ask Orpheus for help and in return grants him the boon of finally dying.


Vector: “The Matrix” -> “Simulacra and Simulation”


In the Wachowski brothers’ 1999 film The Matrix, there are several allusions to and story elements derived from Jean Baudrillard’s “Simulacra and Simulation”. Published in France in 1981, this philosophical treatise examines the nature of signs, symbols and other representations that have replaced meaning and reality in human society. He focuses especially on the idea of the simulacrum (simulacra is the plural form), which is defined as a copy without an original. Not only does the nature of Baudrillard’s material relate directly to the story of The Matrix, which takes place in a world where reality as we know it is only a simulation programmed by machines to turn humans into docile batteries in the midst of a ruined future, but there is an unmistakable reference in one of the first scenes of the film. After the protagonist Neo is introduced, he is visited by a group of his friends at his apartment looking to collect one of the pirate programs he created. As an obvious close-up reveals, the programs are stored on discs in a hallowed-out copy of “Simulacra and Simulation”. Other than that, the idea of a false reality to conceal a true one parallels Baudrillard’s observations. Morpheus, upon finding Neo and “waking him up”, also refers to the post-apocalyptic wasteland that humans are sheltered from as “the desert of the real”. Baudrillard makes frequent use of the term “the real” when referring to what the simulacra conceals.


Vector: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland -> Disney’s Alice in Wonderland (2010 Film)

It all started in 1951 when Walt Disney first released Alice in Wonderland as a feature length film.  Since then, there have been countless rereleases of the film on the big screen.  Most recently in 2010, director Tim Burton brought his vision to life.  Burton’s version took the film in an entirely new direction.  Burton’s film included live-action, animation, and 3D and Imax experiences.  It takes place years after Alice’s first visit whens he returns at 19 to slay the Jabberwocky.

This adaptation of the film was interesting to those familiar with the typical Alice storyline.  Alice, at 19, is back in a place called “Underland” to slay the Jabberwocky.  She encounters many of the typical characters including The Hatter (Depp), the Red Queen (Bonham Carter), and all the proper tea party attendants.  This version of Wonderland has been waiting for Alice to come and save their world.  This story is less about the adventures through a foreign, magical land and more about a young girl standing up for herself and embracing the role of hero.  The film, which won an Academy Award and Teen Choice Award, among many other wins and nominations, revised the common perception of Alice.  As Tim Burton often does, he took a common story, twisted it, and produced a darker, more experimental work.   I chose this version because it’s a telling of a classic story through inventive eyes.  It’s obviously a telling of Alice’s story, though not the one everyone expects.