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Jenna’s Bartleby Story

The process of making the computer voiced Bartleby was frustrating, and perhaps rewarding for overcoming the frustration. Within our group we had differing interpretations of the text and therefore had to work to come up with a concept that satisfied us all. It seemed that we were all down with the using computer voices for the characters other than Bartleby as a metaphor for the machine of capitalism. However, some group members had more sympathy for the narrator than others. Through our meeting before class last week I felt that we were at an artistic impasse. While that was no fun, once we’d arrived at a solution, I felt a real thrill at having worked through issues.

With our group I didn’t experience the other often-infuriating group project problem, which is some members doing more work than others. At least I hope that wasn’t the case! Clearly Lisa and Sabina as editors and Lauren as computer voice wrangler put in more hours on the technical aspects of the project, but I felt that Travis quickly developing our script and presentation and me being the whip and Bartleby, we all contributed.

I just referred to myself as the whip of our group. I was also the outlandish ideas guy:

While each of these ideas would have been monstrous to execute in the time allotted, I stand by them!

My most visible/audible role was reading Bartleby. In order to do so, I had to work with Audacity, which was wonderfully easy, even when I had to download LAME to make the mp3 export work. Picking up that experience with audio recording was satisfying, but even more meaningful to me was being forced to think more carefully about the text by how my group was going to render it. Our group was committed to Bartleby having a human voice, signifying his resistance to capitalism, but our class discussion and an exchange with a friend led me to rethink Bartleby as any kind of activist. By recording time, I’d come to view Bartleby as an inflexible, selfish loser, who was ground down by himself as much or more as by the system, so I read him blasé.

I don’t have a lot of experience with lit crit. As a former theater director, I tend to think conceptually about text. I do close readings of zines sometimes, but when it comes to capital L literature, I’m a n00b. Working on this audiobook project dug into the text in a way I never have before.

3 thoughts on “Jenna’s Bartleby Story

  1. I’m updating this post to say that it seems to me that Lisa is bearing an undue share of the burden of this project. I don’t think it’s because anyone in our group is a shirker (at least I hope I’m not!). I think sometimes the division of labor is not always equal. Oftentimes the person with the most tech chops has to do more, or the person writing the documentation, or the person maintaining a project over time. I think about how work is valued, or not and how we negotiate unequal commitments of time, skill, creativity, care, infrastructure development and maintenance, etc.

    • Well, while I did spend a great many minutes on my portion of the project, it was largely because I *don’t* have more than almost-adequate tech chops, at least when doing this type of task in Audacity (a program I have grown to loathe for its user-unfriendliness – well, you get what you pay for, right?). But when a group project consists of very different tasks, it’s necessary that sometimes the labor is uneven at times. In the end, my part may have not been the most fun or creative, but it was nevertheless the one task the entire project has depended upon in order to produce an experimental audiobook, and it made sense that one person do it. I was interested in how people responded to my suggestion about using mostly automated voices, and where they went with that (which I discovered in the process of editing). I also learned a little more about working in Audacity, and why I don’t want to do that again if I can help it. In any case, I’m very interested in hearing the finished product with Sabina’s (and maybe others’ ) vocal annotations!

  2. Pingback: Technofeminist Bartleby | Doing Things with Novels

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