Hercules wants you to take a break from you labors and read a book. These two are free right now.
Pre-internet, decapitalisation has a radical history. The poet e.e cummings, invariably stylised his name (as well as “I”) in lower case order to allow the reader a more fluid reading process and show his disavowal of hierarchy. The feminist theorist bell hooks decapitalises her name (itself borrowed from her grandmother) in order to decentre herself so that her readers focus on her ideas instead.
This upturning of grammatical norms is a means of questioning the status quo. “There is a prescriptivist attitude to capitalisation you learn in English classes,” says deandre miles-hercules, a PhD researcher in sociolinguistics at the University California Santa Barbara. “We can use language to reflect on and push back against systems and create new stylistic practises that bring attention to the systems by which we mean to deconstruct racism and sexism […] When [hooks] writes ‘imperialist’, ‘capitalist’, ‘white supremacist’, ‘patriarchy’ she is linking all these things together in a way that is fundamentally inseparable and rejecting conventional forms of writing that are embedded in that system.”
Interpreted literally, capitalisation might also be used to interrogate ideas of capital and capitalism. “Why do I capitalise ‘Black’, for example?” asks miles-hercules. “It is related to the fact that Blackness in its inception as a racialising category was actually about capital, turning people who came to be known as black into literal capital – property – in order to generate profit.”
While miles-hercules believes that artists tend to be at the forefront of cultural trends, they feel somewhat sceptical about the co-option of lowercasing by the mainstream: “There is a way in which these writing systems and orthography have taken on trendy or artsy connotations, without particular attention to its history. As soon as you might see someone using unconventional capitalisation on their single you see it on commercials for Target. It has become a way for brands to be relevant and connected to their audiences. It appeals to folks for the sake of profit rather than being actually disruptive.”
“Pelops was the son of Tantalos, said to be a child of Father Zeus and a favorite of the gods; such a favourite that they even invited him to their divine banquets of ambrosia and nectar and when eh invited them back, accepted. This was altogether too much for his sanity. He was beside himself with self-importance, promising his human friends that next time he was invited to Mount Olympos he would put aside a little of the gods’ food and drink and bring it back for them to taste, and asking them meanwhile to find hi the choicest foods and wines in Greece to set before the gods. He knew, of course, that the gods never touch human food or wine. They like us to offer them a prime ram or bull and to pour on the ground a libation of he costliest wine, but not for them to consume, only to demonstrate our love and esteem, our sense of gratitude for what earth gives us, our willingness to sacrifice the best things we have in their honour.
So when the twelve Olympian gods came to diinner at [Tantalos’s] place in Arcadia — that made thirteen at the table, including the host — Tantalos did not expect them to eat any of the twenty or thirty courses he provided, nor to drink any of the choice wines from Thasos and Chios, Rhodes and Cos, and nearby Nemea. What he did expect them to do, as each delectable dish was brought in and placed on the table with its aroma wafting around the hall, as each superlative wine was opened and poured into the mixing-bowl and then both dishes and wine removed untouched, was to appreciate his very special, very expensive sacrifice. And they did. They smiled and laughed and sniffed the wonderful scents of the wines and powerful aromas drifting round the hall from every sort of meat and game and fish and vegetable and herb. But [Tantalos’s] disastrous mistake was the piece de resistance. It was a huge casserole and Tantalos in his blind pride dared to set the gods a test. Could any of them, he asked, lifting the lid himself with a flourish so that the savour rose up in a rush with the steam, tell him what was in the casserole? A dreadful silence followed, but Tantalos thought it was only because they were flummoxed. He took a juicy piece of meat out of the pot and held it up for them to see. He even bit into it and chewed it with relish.”
See also: The gods don’t need your worship [essay]
Through its neat plays on old storylines—the OA regains her sight, rather than losing it; Homer is the blind prophet’s lover, not her creator—The OA toys with our expectations and with a rich and old narrative tradition. But it’s the OA’s ordeal that elevates these references into something deeply thoughtful. Her secret is that she and several other people (including her beloved Homer) were kept locked up in a psychopath’s basement, hewn out of bare rock.
As with its treatment of Homer, The OA both reverses and strangely expands upon parts of Plato’s allegory. Much like Plato’s captives, the prisoners understand part of the mysteries confronting them. They can see shapes of ideas. How can they get out? Why are they here? Why does this nutty scientist care about their brains in particular? They see the answers to such questions like half-formed shadows playing against a wall. But as the show unspools, we realize that the captives can only find the truth by turning inward.