Reading and Responding<br />Cosiby Louis Nowra<br />
Three important ideas that Nowra aims to convey in Cosi<br />The inhumanity and ineffectiveness of the mental health system in 20th Century Australia.<br />The insanity of war; the need to condemn war; and to protest against Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War.<br />The importance of theatre – as a powerful form of political protest and as a way of enriching people’s lives with art.<br />
Attitudes to mental illness can be seen in the language of ‘otherness’<br />People are labelled as:<br />Fool <br />Nitwit<br />Psycho<br />Simpleton<br />Imbecile<br />Crackpot <br />Idiot<br />Weirdo<br />Maniac<br />Their actions are:<br /><ul><li>Crazy
Funny Farm</li></li></ul><li>Images of Madness<br />Look at the following images of madness.<br />How have they been portrayed by artists and film makers?<br />Why might they be seen in these disturbing ways?<br />Is ‘difference’ sometimes socially unacceptable? Why? <br />
Excising the Stone of Folly Pieter Huys, c. 1530-1581<br />
What are Nowra’s ideas about mental illness? How does he convey them?<br />Mockery of the mentally ill? Social commentary? Affirmation of a common humanity?<br />
Finding meaning in Cosi<br />Treatments such as lobotomy (removal of part of the brain) and shock therapy were common practice until the mid-20th century.<br /><ul><li>What meaning does Nowra convey through references to these practices?</li></ul>In Cosi, Nowra positions us to condemn the values of a society which treats its mentally ill in barbaric, condescending ways.<br /><ul><li>HOW is this conveyed?</li></ul>Mentally ill characters are constructed sympathetically – an implicit condemnation of the society that has labelled and incarcerated them, and subjected them to inhumane treatment.<br />
Meaning in Cosi (continued)<br />Social and cultural contexts also helped Nowra create meaning.<br />The Vietnam War (scene from Apocaplyse Now)<br />http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sx7XNb3Q9Ek&feature=related<br /><ul><li>Cosi Fan Tutte</li></ul>http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YHwwbtD1eXM&feature=related<br />
The startling differences between the worlds encapsulated in the previous clips make us aware of some of the ironic juxtapositions in Cosi.<br />The squalor and despair of the asylum and the burnt out theatre is juxtaposed against the splendour of grand opera.<br />The betrayals in the opera parallel the betrayals in the play.<br />The ‘madness’ of the Vietnam war is implicitly compared with the chaos in the asylum (note the operatic music accompanying the helicopter assault – and Nowra refers to Wagner’s music in Cosi. Is there any significance in this?)<br />Theseironic juxtapositions and parallels show HOW Nowra conveys some of his ideas.<br />
Nowra uses sets of binary oppositions. <br />Light and dark<br />Fire and water<br />Madness and sanity<br />Fidelity and betrayal<br />Reality and illusion<br />Gravity and triviality<br />What are some specific examples of these?<br />Binary oppositions create hierarchies in which some things are valued more than others. Nowra invokes these oppositions, and then undermines them, by blurring the boundaries between them. For example, the line between sanity and insanity is blurred by the “insane” or irrational behaviour of “sane” characters (Lewis, Justin) and the “normal” behaviour of inmates such as Julie and Ruth.<br />
Finding Meaning...<br />The social and political issues Nowra draws on are central to the meaning/s of the play.<br />Through these issues, he explores ideas about:<br /><ul><li>Sanity and insanity
Fidelity and betrayal</li></ul>He uses a variety of ‘features and structures’ to convey these (and other) ideas.<br />
The main features and structures are:<br />Character – constructed to embody ‘themes’ and ideas about individuals and their relationships and circumstances.<br />Setting – Historical, cultural, physical. Settings reveal aspects of character or comment on the nature of society.<br />Structure – How the action of the play is organised – and what is the significance of this? (The juxtapositions and binary oppositions are part of the structure. The play within a play is the most striking structural feature.)<br />Style – Generic features: stage directions, dialogue, visual and aural aspects of the performance on the stage.<br />Imagery and Symbolism – Objects which carry deeper significance, or the use of recurring motifs in the play. <br />
Writing text responses which discuss the features and structures of the play<br />Lucy: “We used to talk about important things...now all you can talk about is reactionary drivel like Cosi Fan Tutte.” How does Cosi show modern audiences the contemporary relevance of Mozart’s 18th century comic opera?<br />How are ideas about betrayal and loyalty explored through the structure of the play-within-a-play?<br />‘The comic irony of Nowra’s play is that the patients in the asylum are saner than the ‘normal’ characters.’ Discuss. (Implied: How does Nowra show us his ideas about insanity?)<br />‘The visual and musical elements in Cosi are as important as the dialogue in conveying the play’s central ideas.’ Discuss. (Implied: How does Nowra show us the equal importance of visual and musical elements?)<br />Nowra’s play is set in a ‘burnt out theatre.’ Discuss the importance of setting and imagery in conveying Nowra’s ideas inCosi? (Implied: How do setting and imagery convey Nowra’s ideas?)<br />
‘The characters in Mozart’s opera and Nowra’s play prove the truth of the opera’s title: ‘women are like that.’” Discuss. (Implied: How do the characters embody these ideas?)<br />‘Both Cosi Fan Tutteand Cosiare trivial comedies which ignores the important social and political issues of their times.’ Do you agree? (Implied: How do the play and the opera convey ideas about social and political issues?)<br />“Justin: The most important thing is to feel you are in control.” Does Cosi suggest that illusions are more powerful than reality? (Implied: How does it suggest this?)<br />“Roy: The music of this opera keeps the world in harmony.” Why does Mozart’s opera become so important to the characters in Cosi? (Implied: How does Nowra show the opera’s importance?)<br />
The key to a good text response is:<br />Unpacking the topic and exploring its implications, particularly the ‘hidden’ how<br />AND<br /><ul><li>Working with a coherent paragraph structure which asks and answers the following questions:
WHAT aspect of the topic will be referred to by the assertion in the topic sentence?
WHERE does Nowra provide examples to support the assertion in the topic sentence?
HOW are some of the structures and features of the text working to strengthen the assertions made about the topic?
HOW are textual details and features used to convey MEANING – and what meanings are conveyed?</li>