Picturing the Word
This podcast is both a continuation and a response to a class that John and Danielle are taking through the Torrey Honors Institute at Biola University. The class, titled Heroes and Saviors, focuses on heroes, saviors, and the myths that make them popular. One of the goals of this class, and of this podcast, is to help culture listeners understand how timeless stories are reinvented for new mediums & new generations. Our culture is uniquely drawn to visual myths in film, television, and comics and contained within these popular stories are echoes of the greater story and the greater hero. The podcast is designed to consider the broader themes and concerns of these visual texts as they relate to the culture at large. We hope that you find the content of the podcasts accessible,that they prompt your own thoughts and questions as you encounter old myths in their new context, and that you will join us in the greater conversation of which this podcast seeks to be a part.
Danielle is a graduating senior at Biola University; she is majoring in Humanities with a Philosophy emphasis and a member of the Torrey Honors Institute. While at Biola, Danielle studied abroad at Oxford University, competed for the University Debate Team, produced plays for Torrey’s amateur theatre program, acted as Project Supervisor the Film Music Guild Conference 2009, and is presently a Special Events Director for Biola’s Associated Student Government. In addition to her school projects, Danielle is also the Associate Producer of the Hugh Hewitt Radio Show, a nationally syndicated political talk-radio program. Danielle has a broad range of interests that include politics, journalism, literature, aestethics, and film. She also loves cooking, jigsaw puzzles, reading, and traveling.
John will graduate from Biola University in May with degrees in English and Philosophy and as a member of the Torrey Honors Institute. John also studied abroad at Oxford University. During his time at Biola, he was co-founder and President of the Biola College Republicans. He has also presented on “The Challenges of Globalization for College Students,” at Zeitgeist Paper Conference, was a member of the keynote panel for the “We the Students Journalism Conference” at Biola, and is a contributing political writer for The Chimes, Biola’s student newspaper. John’s interests include literary theory, postmodern literature, politics, and Lost; he also loves good books and great conversations with friends.
PICTURING THE WORD:
A NAME EXPLAINED
Words have the power to inspire pictures. For as long as men have been telling stories (either orally or in writing) listeners have been picturing the words. We picture them in our imaginations, we picture them on stage, we picture them on paper (or canvas, or clay, or…), and today we most commonly picture them in film.
The name of this Podcast was inspired primarily by the memoir of Chinese-American poet, Li Young Lee; in his book, The Winged Seed, he describes his struggle to write his own name in Chinese characters. Recounting a scene from his childhood, Lee writes about trying to make “the pictures that are the words my mother says.” He describes: “I mix memory and forgetting, I hurry shadows, while holding noon at standstill…while I hunt the picture that’s my name…while I look for something to keep, something the wind won’t eventually inherit, the sun disperse, time unravel. I look for a word, one word which said is a picture. I look for a pictured word.”
Like Chinese characters, the visual stories and myths that are prevalent in today’s culture (mainly films, but also television and comics) are also “pictured words.” Over the course of the semester, John and I (along with our class and our professors), will be watching dozens of films and reading an armful of books concerning the nature of heroes, saviors, myths, and stories, and one of our central concerns is understanding the relationship between a word and its image. Both in class and in this podcast, we desire to think well about how one pictures words, how to be picturing words well, and how to partake of pictured words thoughtfully.
The relation between pictures and words is also of particular significance to John and I because it is a reflection of Christ; in the New Testament, John 1 declares, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God….The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We have seen his glory.” Christ is not only the Word—text, logos—but also the image of the invisible God—the incarnate Christ is the Pictured Word.
Furthermore, as humans, we are all the image of God, and as Christians, we are ever striving to be formed in the image of Christ—we are endeavoring to become pictures of the Word. The famous English poet Gerard Manley Hopkins writes, “But Christ plays in ten-thousand places,/ lovely in eyes and lovely in limbs not his/ to the Father through the features of men’s faces.” (Kingfishers Catch Fire) As we are remade in the image of Christ, God pictures us as the Word, as images of the Image.
“Picturing the Word” is an outgrowth of all of these ideas—through the podcast John and I are endeavoring to explore the preexisting pictured words that compose the heroes and myths of modern society, to discourse on their relevance to and value in popular culture, and to think well about these stories relate to Christ as the Pictured Word.