« John Irving's _Until I Find You_, 2005, U.S. | Main | ENG 122 Academic Writing II (All Sections)--Spring 2011 Syllabi and Handouts »

April 06, 2011

Jill Ciment's _The Tattoo Artist_, Canada, 2006

Image Source: http://www.english.ufl.edu/faculty/publications/2005fall/images/ciment_tattoo.jpg

"If you look closely you'll find all my lovers inscribed on my skin." ~Jill Ciment, The Tattoo Artist: A Novel




Using the REVISED directions (Quotation, Page Number, Setup Statement based on quotation, Non-yes/no Discussion question based on interpretation of quotation) I provided in some handouts I gave you previously, please type your entry-ticket discussion questions for this reading in the comment box below. These questions will be . . .

. . . fair game for the midterm and final exam. In addition to submitting the question to English-blog.com, the question must also be submitted to Turnitin.com. You should also have it written in your Course Journal (collected at midterm and at the final), and have a typed, printed hardcopy to bring with you to class on the day the work is discussed (see syllabus). I will not accept late submissions so mind the deadlines.

Posted by lhobbs at April 6, 2011 03:35 PM

Readers' Comments:

From The Tattoo Artist by Jill Clement, page 32:
“I was supposed to weigh the teeth on a jeweller’s scale, but I rarely did. Too often it felt as if I were weighing the worth of the man himself, the very elements from which he was made.”
Sara, the main character, took a job of purchasing and selling old gold. She would go around and knock on strangers’ doors, asking if the inhabitants had any gold they were willing to sell. Even in a time when possessions were few, people were judged by what he or she had. Why has this view not changed over the centuries?

Posted by: Chad W. at April 13, 2011 03:16 AM

From The Tattoo Artist, by Jill Ciment:

“Ishmael’s brows, a pair of tattooed wings, rose as if to take flight.” (77)

The tattoo seems to come to life with this one statement. Are all tattoos essentially alive, or does it depend on the placement and content of the tattoo itself?

Posted by: Amanda Butler at April 13, 2011 01:54 PM

Natasha Witter
April 13, 2011
ENG 340
Tattoos in Literature
“He was carrying pots of ink, and fish-bone pens and I thought he was going to beseech me, as Philip had once beseeches me, to draw what I saw in my fever dreams. Instead he knelt down behind me and unhurriedly examined his canvas. With both hands, he palpated my lips and chin. He said or I hallucinated that he said, “You were so curious to own my art.” (pg 92)
In the beginning of the chapter we witness Sara and Philip’s interaction with one of the villagers, creating a business relationship between them. When Sara and Philips tent strikes one of the village’s homes, killing three people, we discover that one of the people who died is no other than Ishmael’s grand-daughter. They are brought to enclosed areas, separated from one another and given what we can assume to be anesthetics. We can assume that Sara is going to be tattooed by Ishmael in the very near future is it possible that them getting a tattoo for their crime is indicative of the Ta’un’uuans culture and practices?

Posted by: Natasha Witter at April 13, 2011 02:26 PM

The Ta’un’uuans never assign a name to a work of art. When the Christian missionaries told them that God’s first creation, Adam, had been given the task of naming all his other creations, they wept for Adam. (p. 27)

Does art with a powerful meaning need a name? Because wearers of tattoos do not typically name their body art, would this be closer to the beliefs of the Ta’un’uuans? Do you think these are some of the reasons why Sara likes the tattoos?

Posted by: eric dirth at April 13, 2011 02:27 PM

Katie Ganning
Dr. Hobbs
ENG 340
13 April 2011
The Tattoo Artist’s Body
''Ever changing, forever decaying canvas.'' Her body was stiches of her life. How does this quote represent Sarah’s personality and past events of her Jewish background? Does she turn out while in Tahiti like Gauguin did?

Posted by: kathrine ganning at April 13, 2011 02:41 PM

From The Tattoo Artist by Jill Ciment:

“The islanders had designed themselves so that the sum of their creation was always greater than its parts. An individual’s tattoos were considered by the tribe to be no more meaningful than a word taken out of context.” (66)

The tattoos of the islanders are intended to be part of a unified canvas, connecting the islanders to one another through art. How does this contrast with Western motivations for tattooing and how representative is it of their culture’s values? Furthermore, how would the tattooists of the island be able to blend/link all of their designs together in order to achieve this desired affect?

Posted by: Nicole Natoli at April 14, 2011 10:40 PM

In Jill Ciment’s The Tattoo Artist, the narrator vividly describes a sense of motion to all of Ishmael’s tattoos in the scene from chapter 8 when she first meets him. On page 75, Ishmael “…choreographed his tattoos. He flexed his pectorals and a shark lurched. He tensed his shoulder and a tuna jumped… He worked all the muscles in his abdomen, buttocks, and thighs until all the creatures on his flesh either pounced or bolted.” Imagery such as this is common in tales that use tattoos as a means of describing a character. Is it possible for a tattoo to show movement and action similar to what is described here? How does this scene influence the narrator’s perception of tattooing as an artistic expression in your opinion?

Posted by: Douglas Phillips at April 15, 2011 12:32 PM

Emmanuel Cruz
Dr. Hobbs
ENG 340
April 15, 2011
Discussion Question
“The last tattoo shouldn’t be more revered than any other tattoo, but how could it not be? It’s the final tattoo to be removed before the body journeys to the afterworld, the last image of vanity to be fed to the fishes” (206).
Is this quote implying that every tattoo should be perfectly crafted because nobody knows when he/she is departing to the afterworld?

Posted by: Emmanuel Cruz at April 15, 2011 12:52 PM

“There were many days, especially during those first years, when I'd brace myself for the prick of the needle, wondering if I'd gone mad on this piece of rock. Why did I keep inflicting my art on myself? What did it matter?” (Ciment 154-155)
In this passage, Sara describes the tattoos she gets as “inflicting” art on herself? This brings to mind the pain that comes with tattooing, as well as the manner in which some people suffer for their art. What is Sara referring to? Does the physical pain of getting a tattoo mirror the emotional toll art can have on the artist? Or is she only speaking about one of these, the emotional or physical impact of tattooing?

Posted by: Greg Robinson at April 15, 2011 01:16 PM

“I ran the pad of my fingertip over his hair, his throat, his chest, his mouth open in song. Try as I did, I couldn’t remember what his voice sounded like , and this, above all else, is what finally undid me” (168)

At this point in the story Sarah has moved on after Phillips death. But, despite her active attempts at preserving his memory, she has found that she cannot recall his voice. What does this say about the transitory nature of our lives and is her grief at having failed to completely preserve Phillip natural?

Posted by: Mathew Rodgers at April 15, 2011 01:47 PM

“If I could draw like you, mein lieb, I’d will myself a fever every second of my life”
Pg. 17

In this section, Philip asked Sara to draw her “fever dreams” as she is battling a horrific fever that does not allow her to leave his house. After he is done making love to her to warm her up, he hands her a pen and she starts to draw her father’s visions of cities made of coffins because she believes her art is not worthy of depiction. Why does she believe her art is not worthy? What makes her father’s visions more worthy of depiction when it is clear that Philip adores her art?

Posted by: taylor leonard at April 15, 2011 01:49 PM

“Mostly, he’d spend his evenings on a folding chair in the studio, a hank of unwashed hair pulled back with one of my old barrettes, a smoldering cigarette hanging from his bottom lip, his overalls a virtual ashtray, all the while not taking his eyes off a blank canvas that had been hanging on the wall for week” (pg 33). Ole Philip complains to Sara about how he loves art so much but he is mediocre at best when making it and it hurts him so. Art is relative and some people may love what Philip does, he just may not have met them yet. Is Philip truly an artist? Does he just think the idea of being an artist is cool, and has romanticized the idea of it in his head “the struggling artist”??


Tara McLoughlin
English 340
Dr. Hobbs
April 15, 2011
Discussion question: Jill Climent’s “The tattoo artist”
On page 39, Sara says, “Had Phillip only allowed his art a little ugliness, a little fallibility, a smidgen of human exhaustion. But he didn’t. He continued to believe, a forty-three, that art was perfection or it was nothing, and that the avant-garde artist, like the seer, felt only the eternally youthful upsurge of indestructible faith, or he was a fraud.”
Sara explains that Peter is a control freak when it comes to his art. He does not accept anything unless it is perfect. Why is Phillip so obsessed with perfection? How can Phillip claim to be a total and complete revolutionary thinker when he refuses to create art in a revolutionary way?

Posted by: Tara Mcloughlin at April 15, 2011 02:21 PM

Patricia Pothier
Dr. Hobbs
ENG 340
Pg. 206, “The Ta’un’uuans always reserve a small patch of virgin skin, unsoiled by the needle, for any last images, any final words, so to speak, before the canvas has been completely saturated with one’s exploits. The patch is on the palm, left if you’re right handed, and vice versa. For a tattoo artist like myself, it’s expected. The last tattoo shouldn’t be more revered than any other tattoo, but how could it not be? It’s the final tattoo to be removed before the body journeys to the afterworld, the last image of vanity to be fed to the fishes.”
Sara tattoos a crude anchor on her hand. Do you believe this is the end of her tattoo story? Why do you think she chose an anchor? What does that tattoo symbolize in the narrative?

Posted by: patricia pothier at April 15, 2011 02:26 PM

When speaking of Philip’s fatal injury, the protagonist notes that “The hole itself was black-edged and bloodless: it looked as though it might have been tattooed on” (146). The protagonist relates even the death of her husband to tattoos; how can this be connected with the idea of embracing tattoos completely into her life that the protagonist displays? Use support from the text to defend your answer.

Posted by: Meahgan Jameyson at April 15, 2011 02:31 PM

Dana Jennings
Dr. Hobbs
Entry Ticket: Ciment
“I’d be buried beside my mother and father in the city of coffins with nobody to remove my skin, my art, before I have to face all my dead loved ones. I looked up from my copy of Life. Staring back at me from the center of the glass-radio-motion-picture-screen—backlit, ethereal—sat an old tattooed ghost in a hotel robe” (Ciment 190).
Sara is back in New York City, and she is reminiscing about her long life and has interesting experiences with the excess of the city. She looks into the mirror with melancholy feelings. Does she have tattoo regret, now after all of these years and a whole body’s worth of tattoos? Defend your answer.

Posted by: Dana Jennings at April 15, 2011 02:44 PM

"Blood pooled at the base of each bar. I wiped it away with my fingertip. I could see how transient the lines were underneath. In a minute, they would seal closed; in a day, they would only be red marks; in a week, pink shadows; in a month, there wouldn't even be a trace of my Philip" (p. 149)
In the story, Philip dies among many other tribesmen. The tradition of the islanders to mourn is to scratch their skin, causing self-inflicted pain that mirrors the pain they feel on the inside. What does this paragraph say about the scars left when a loved one dies? Do you think this is a similar reason people get tattoos that are cenetered around death?

Posted by: Sarah Buckner at April 15, 2011 05:08 PM

“ Over the past thirty years, I’ve given a great deal of thought as to how an urbanite like Philip, a man for whom New Jersey was wilderness, and an East Side Jewess, a woman for whom a canary was wildlife, embarked on the voyage we did take.”- Chapter 5, page 44

What do you think Philip and Sara were seeking when they decided to set out on the South Seas? Was theirs an attempted journey of self discovery or a means of escape, or possibly a combination of both?

Posted by: Lindsay Renner at April 15, 2011 06:57 PM

Entry Ticket #13 The Tattoo Artist: Chapter 13
“The Ta'un'uuans believe that to tattoo and to be tattooed is the deepest form of intimacy–the puncturing of the skin, the entry into another's body, the flow of blood, the infliction of pleasure and pain, the closure and healing of the wound, and most of all, lest anyone forget, the indelible trace of the process” (124). Why would being tattooed be considered the deepest form of intimacy? How spiritual do you think getting a tattoo is?

Posted by: William Kopnek at April 15, 2011 09:55 PM

“The islanders believe the way a body ages is as vital to the final design as the imagery. They believe that age is the final patina of art.” (Ciment 5)

Combining this quote with the idea that tattoos are quite permanent, trace the theme of that permanence throughout—not only this novel—but all the works we have read. Reflect on your own feelings about tattoos using what we have learned in the class.

Posted by: JH Pless at April 18, 2011 12:48 PM


*NOTE* The deadline for this particular assignment has now passed. Any comments listed below are *ONLY* for the reposting of comments that I specifically asked to be revised or are ones from non-student posters. Any 'student' posts below that missed the assignment deadline will not get credit for the assignment.

~ Dr. Hobbs

Posted by: Dr. Hobbs at April 18, 2011 01:00 PM

My Blog

Creative Commons License
This weblog is licensed under a Creative Commons License. Some rights reserved. 2006.