By Sudeeksha Somani, MA Graphic Communication Design at Central Saint Martins for Walls in Online Places Vol.2
In this project I analyse the female protagonists in four classic literary novels (Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, Madame Bovary by Gustave Faubert and Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell) from the 19th century. I give life to the character by drawing her out of the authors’ context through different colours of stitches. I attempt to rework the text and tie together fact and fiction in an exploratory manner by reading against the grain and speculating the messiness and knotted identity of women. This is interpreted by examining the characters through certain themes, which are tweaked according to the disparate realities and styles of writing of the authors.
Stitching is used as a metaphor for the domesticated stereotype women have been labelled with through history and the types of stitching are my reflective evaluation of the control and suppression that is tangled up in their identities.
Far from the madding crowd
In Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy, the key is an overall breakdown of the female protagonist’s role in the novel. This method of analysing was chosen because of Hardy’s approach of talking about characters in a more simplistic and less wholesome and complex manner. So the key here is the character’s - Words and Actions (pink stitch), her thoughts and reflections (blue stitch), description of her physical appearance (yellow stitch) and lastly, the external judgments and pressures by other characters and society (black stitch).
In Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, the key is more detailed and based on themes that occur in the novel, similar to Brontë’s meticulous treatment of character and its interaction with culture and society. The key is divided by two styles of stitching. The first depicts the female protagonist’s thoughts and reflections, and the second, the external opinions and pressures she’s faced with. These two categories are based on 4 main themes that take place in the novel - Class discrimination (lilac), Gender discrimination (turquoise), Love (peach), and Religion (wine red).
However, due to Covid-19, I was unable to access a sewing machine to stitch the pages of this novel and therefore have drawn the stitches with pen to give an idea of what I will be doing once things get better.
I am still working on the other two novels (Madame Bovary by Gustave Faubert and Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell), which will soon complete my project.
Its been 3 months since I flew back home to India just before the borders shut and have been in isolation since. Doing my final term of MA at CSM online didn't feel like I was in college at all. I missed campus and the motivation the place created. The restrictions made it difficult for me to carry on with my graduation project and converting it into something digital last minute would take away the impact and physicalness my project needed. As you can see in the images, other than my first novel unfortunately I'm unable to stitch the rest of the books. Drawing the stitches in them to show it as a proposal for later is a very disappointing yet only way out. Apart from all the mess, I realised this was a great time to try out all the things I've wanted to (and can), finish previous projects, spend some quality time with my family and my puppy.
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