Titanic as Metaphor

Paul Rogers

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A well-written and interesting article - congratulations, Monica.

As well as addressing the question as to why Titanic has become an enduring metaphor, I think also it goes a way to explain why so many people (relatively speaking) get hooked on the subject. Personally, I think one major reason for the fascination is the name; the word "Titanic" - when linked to something that can be accurately described as such - seems to connect almost viscerally with people. To name a ship Titanic, in hindsight, seems almost heresy.

I wonder if the disaster would still have become: "..probably the cultural metaphorical icon of our times.." if it had been either Olympic or Britannic that had foundered on 15th April 1912.
 

Ernie Luck

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Nov 24, 2004
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Yes, An interesting article, Monica.

Like Paul, I wondered if given a different name the loss of the Titanic would have garnered less interest. The name 'TITANIC', definitely part of the mystique.
 

Inger Sheil

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Dec 3, 2000
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Tremendous piece, Monica. I'm delighted to see an exploration of this particular aspect of the enduring Titanic mythos, and as Paul says it is very insightful on why the ship has become so entrenched in popular culture. I found it a very thought provoking piece.

It's wonderful to see how well-rounded the ET research papers section has become - from solid technical pieces with innovative forensic analysis to literary criticism and explorations of the pop culture manifestations of the story.
 
Jan 28, 2003
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Sitting here with a cup of tea, having been woken by a storm. Wouldn't want anyone to think I'm so gripped by Titanic that I'm here 24/7...

I do think you're definitely onto something with the name, Paul. I mean, had it been the Cedric, for example, it would have been quite impossible for anyone to say "He made a Cedric error etc."!

I'm very pleased you all found it interesting, as I had considerable doubts about whether many people would. So thankyou very much for your comments.
 

Dave Gittins

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Apr 11, 2001
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I'd like to add my praise for the article. Titanic is certainly fixed in the public mind. Within a day or two of the article appearing we were told that certain Australian politicians were "rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic". They never seem to clean Challenger's windscreen.

Paul's comment about the name is a good one too. I've mentioned elsewhere that a movie called "The Chambermaid on the Baltic" would never have been made.

If I'd add anything, it would be that the disaster is an early example of a media event in which the coverage was out of proportion to the importance of what happened. It wasn't exactly a beat-up on the scale of the coverage of the death of Diana Spencer, but it's an ancestor. Plenty of worse things happened at around the same time, but it was Titanic that was covered to excess.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>If I'd add anything, it would be that the disaster is an early example of a media event in which the coverage was out of proportion to the importance of what happened.<<

That's probably because among other things, it was possible to cover most of the events in something that had a passing resemblance to real time. Until the development of the radiotelegraph, that wasn't really possible unless someplace had a hardwire telegraph to pass on the news. It was probably helpful that there were a number of luminaries aboard at the time as well. No more then the usual of course. It's not like they could travel between Europe and New York by train, but had Titanic been carrying nothing but immigrants and cattle, who would have cared?
 

Inger Sheil

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If I'd add anything, it would be that the disaster is an early example of a media event in which the coverage was out of proportion to the importance of what happened.
Like my other favourite early media circus - Jack the Ripper. Why popular culture should still be obsessively fascinated with the deaths of a few Victorian prostitutes (given that there is no dearth of ghastly unsolved murders in history) is a fascinating study in its own right, and has much to do with the point the press had reached in its evolution in the 1880s, as well as contemporary social issues.

I started a collection of clippings of Titanic related political cartoons years ago...wonder where it is now. Be interesting to do a search on State and Federal Hansards to see how many references there have been to it in the Oz parliaments alone.
 
Dec 8, 2000
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I've always loved that Onion headline.

Apologies, Monica, for I am yet to read your article. I did take advantage of the 'printer friendly' option for a portable copy though, so reading it isn't that far off.

Inger, I remember you talking about your cartoon collection earlier. You're bound to find it somewhere eventually, even after all your moves, although it will be missing a few year's worth of material by now.

There's frequent enough mention of Titanic in our state's Hansard that I don't start when I come across one. Rearranging the deckchairs is a perennial favourite, of course. As Dave Gittins has commented, there's scope for analogies and metaphors from other disasters, but it's Titanic that's trotted out time after time.
 

Ernie Luck

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Nov 24, 2004
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Prime Minister Tony Blair supported by his supposed arch rival. Precarious position, would you say Monica?
 

Paul Rogers

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I don't think Gordon will need a distraction or a reason to 'accidentally' let go in the near future! It's a shame they couldn't both fall in.

I wonder if the Titanic in the cartoon carries a cursed member of the undead in its hold... called Michael? (Not you, Mike S!)
 
Jan 28, 2003
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Precarious indeed, Ernie.

I am registered with yougov.co.uk, that internet public opinion poll - largely for professional reasons, it lets me talk about market research real time with my students. But I also have huge fun. Due to its text-mining facility, it allows you not to just tick boxes for approximate opinions, but also to give open-ended replies to questions about what you really think about politicians of all stripe .... heavenly therapy after a hard day at work. Keyboard suffering extreme punishment, glass of wine at your elbow etc. Dunno if it makes any difference.

Have you seen T. Blair's election campaign blog on the Downing Street website - cringe! My neighbour got a two minute answerphone message from M. Howard yesterday. I don't know how we are going to survive this.
 
S

Susan Leighton

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okay....I am beginning to understand. Thanks Monica, and don't worry....you WILL survive the political season in the UK. We did here in the US. Some of the stunts that were pulled here were so chock-full of entertainment value that I actually miss it, especially Theresa Hines-Kerry. No matter what your affiliation, I think she was good for a laugh. But, no matter, they are already gearing up for 2008. Ya'll have fun over there on the other side of the pond.