Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Tonight is the night, when two become one.

"With another painfully swift and reducing intuition it realized it was not just an I, but a male I."

This quotation comes from a passage on page 4 of Mantissa. I talked about it a little bit in my presentation, so sorry if this is repetitive, but I feel like there is so much that can be said about this one sentance. First of all what we went over in class, that this is Lacan's mirror stage and it shows the moment of Miles Green's self recognition. This awareness is a theme throughout the book because the narration is very self aware, there are constant remarks about how this is a novel and there are references to page numbers as well. This also shows a birth which could possibly be seen as a reaction to the death of the author, because now he is putting himself inside the text to assert his power.
Another key part of this sentance is the use of the word "reducing". Reducing implies the castration Lacan believes we go through when we are entering the symbollic stage he is reducing any sense of reality he might have by confining himself as a male I, using the confines of language. Speaking of language the words "male I" can also be read as Male eye or a male gaze.

Other than that, I don't know about Mantissa. It confusses me a lot. and not in the way that "I don't get it" but i makes me confused about how I look at it or how I may feel about theory while reading it. On one hand it is written in such a playful tone that I can easily brush it aside and continue just to think however I like about theory. On the other hand it makes me question whether or not the author is really dead... something I have started to believe - or at least believe is a good tool for analyzing literature. Because now that the narrator is an author and the author is clearly the narrator, how can I seperate the two???

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

I Want to Have Your Abortion.

Awkward. My topic for the research paper is a psychoanalytic view of the narrator/narration in Fight Club. Yikes. And of course, this is the one type of paper mentioned in class as what NOT to do. However I think that may saving grace may be that the narrator in David Fincher's Fight Club is more than a character, he is the narration and I can focus on that and perhaps I can just re-work the thesis a little. I wanted to focus mainly on the image of the family projected on Tyler, Narrator, and the members in Project mayhem. Even though there is a total lack of the feminine in this "family" it still creates an Oedipus complex which (SPOILER ALERT although i am sure everybody has seen this movie) leads to the narrator killing the Tyler Durden- his projected father. This Oedipus complex reveals how truly emasculated these characters, and in turn male society feels. Because of this they are trying to re-write history in a patriarchal fashion.
I had a hard time deciding what to do, I couldn't think of a text- or a theory that I wanted to write about, so I looked at the sheet that McGuire gave us to choose from and saw that there was a Marxist reading of Fight Club and I thought that I would enjoy doing a paper on Fight Club and then I found a whole bunch of articles about masculinity, sexuality, patriarchal society and the Oedipus complex in Fight Club and I decided to go from there.
The articles I found are:
A Generation of Men Without History by Krister Friday
Fight Club and the Dangers of Oedipal Obsession by Paul Kennett
Private Satisfactions and Public Disorders: Fight Club, Patriarchy,and the Politics of Masculine Violence by Henry A. Giroux

Obviously I am still slightly confused/overwhelmed. So I welcome and comments or suggestions.

And I am sorry I couldn't think of a corny Fight Club joke to put in here. So I went with a picture instead.

over and out,
Ben Kelley.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The first thing I thought of when I read the part of this post about Simulacrum was drinking in college. Have people always drank excessively in college? Is this a new development? Did it happen after Animal House? People come to college and expect to do a lot of partying and drinking? Is there a more explainable reason behind this? Is it because students are finally free from their parents and they decide that they are going to drink an excessive amount just because they can now? But if that is true, why aren't kids sleeping on the streets to rebel, or fasting, or doing lots of heroin?
It is because students rely on the simulation of the college experience. I have been told that these are the best years of my life, or that college is the maximum amount of freedom I will have in my life with the most limited amount of responsibility. And there is no better way to flaunt this lack of responsibility than to drink yourself into a stupor. But why do we come to school thinking that drinking is a part of college? I think it is because we have heard all of these stories about the crazy things people did when they were in college and we watch movies like old school, animal house, and PCU and think that this is what college is supposed to be and since we have only a limited amount of time many people fall into the pattern of partying and drinking all the time in college.

Now I am not making this post to try and knock drinking, I am in no way against it. I have drank before and will drink again. And I also acknowledge (for all my commenters who may be and college and not drink) that not everybody drinks in college. But it is a college stereotype and we can all think of people that we know that fit the animal house role to a T. Drinking is just the first thing that I thought of while I was reading Ken Rufo's post.

Another point I really enjoyed about his post/
Baudrillard's theory is that there is a glimmer of hope. When Ken Rufo said that, "The idea is that the world ultimately resists our attempts to theorize it, whether those attempts are philosophy or physics, and that this actually may be a saving grace" it made me smile. There is finally a little bit of hope in these theories. Even though his other theories suggest that nothing is real (which can no doubt be depressing) he does say that the world's refusal to fit into the neatness of one persons theory makes me happy and makes me think that there can be some randomness and hopefully some reality in the world.... you know.... like on MTV's the real world.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

I don't believe in books but I read them all the time.

In Barthes The Death of the Author states that once a text is written it loses its origin. It becomes a series of words in a book that is set to be deciphered. In this way the author is dead, all the thoughts he but into the book no longer matter, what matters is the text and how it is deconstructed by the readers. He goes as far as to start referring to authors as scriptures saying, “Succeeding the Author the scriptor no longer bears within him passions, humours, feelings, impressions, but rather this immense dictionary from which he draws a writing that can know no halt: life never does more than imitate the book, and the book itself is only a tissue of signs, an imitation that is lost, infinitely deferred” he later goes on to claim that having an author puts limitations on the text.

This seems weird to me, I mean, I understand what is being said and that we cannot look into a text and only look for what the author was intending, that is a little limited. But without the author what is there? Is the author just a tool that magically produces words that go on a piece of paper? We just use them because they are quicker and more convenient than the chimps that are locked in a room trying to type up some Shakespeare. Is there a more reasonable way to put this? Can we divorce the work from the author? Can she have the work legally seceded? This seems a little fairer to the author. I don’t think it completely destroys the point that he is trying to make, but can we play with language a little bit more.

Connecting the ideas from Death of the Author and Foucault’s What is an Author to I cite’s blog post Making Readers in her post I cite thinks about the symbiotic relationship between a blogger and the readers. She says “I thought that folks interested in technology and democracy would read this blog. That was a mistake… …When I blogged about Zizek, then I got readers. But this suggests more that readers create the blog, that they impact what is written. To be sure, it's not unidirectional, but there is a difficulty in trying to talk about blog readers without going back to the writer. This quotation is a way of spinning Barthes theory around and thinks about the readers. There are no readers without the writers, and although in a way they have dictated what she writes, she also dictates what they discuss. She can shape her blog on any topic of any theorist and it forces all the readers to think and discuss Zizek on her terms. This creates a whole new power for the author. I understand that this is slightly different than a book because blogging is meant to be much more accessible and interactive. But texts have always been talked about in reviews, scholarly journals, and in classrooms and to a certain degree we are limited in what we talk about because we are reading a text, that was written….. by an author.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Freud seems to be a perfect piece in the post structuralist puzzle. Post structuralism looks for all of the disunity in a text where as Freudian, applied to literature looks to make sense of the lack of unity and omitted ideas. All of the unintentional breaks in a text can be explained, or at least begin to possibly be explained. One can begin to psychoanalyze the author or the critic of an author by trying to figure out the common link between these absences in the text for example in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby* there seem to be some questionable omissions.
“‘Come to lunch some day,’ he suggested, as we groaned down the elevator.
‘Keep your hands off the lever,’ snapped the elevator boy.
‘I beg your pardon,’ said Mr. McKee with dignity, ‘I didn’t know I was touching it’
‘Alright,’ I agreed, ‘I’d be glad to.’
… I was standing beside his bed and he was sitting up between the sheets, clad in his underwear, with a great portfolio in his hands.
‘Beauty and the Beast… Loneliness… Old Grocery Horse… Brook’n Bridge…’
Then I was half asleep in the cold lower level of the Pennsylvania Station, staring at the morning Tribune, and waiting for the four o’clock train”

Could this lever that Mr. McKee possibly had been the elevator boys penis? Why was Mr. McKee in his underwear? Why was Nick Callaway standing next to his bed? What happened in-between? Why and how did Nick end up at Penn Station at Four? These are all questions left to the reader to interpret. But perhaps this is just a defence mechanism for the narrator -and possibly author- covering up anything that may be seen as homosexual and potentially embarrassing for the Author. Maybe Nick was actually in the bed Mr. McKee and he is just projecting himself in his memory as next to the bed where Mr. McKee may or may not have been doing these possibly gay things. With this omission the narrator proves he is no longer reliable and we start to question all of his actions. Why is he telling this story even though he is only a marginal character in it. Is it because he feels unsafe about how he is going to be accepted in society. What is his obsession with Gatsby? Is he sexually attracted to him, does he see him as a fatherly figure going after Daisy in some sort of perverse Oedipus complex? Obviously this analysis cannot decisively answer any of these questions but it is interesting to look at these texts in a psychoanalytic perspective.

* I don't even particularly like The Great Gatsby it just happened to have come up in two of my posts.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

It always ends up drivel.

Skylar: So, maybe we could go out for coffee sometime?

Will: All right, yeah, or maybe we could just get together and eat a bunch of caramels.

Skylar: What do you mean?

Will: Well, when you think about it it's just as arbitrary as drinking coffee.

-Good Will Hunting

The quotation from Good Will Hunting above questions the conventions of modern dating. Why does “going out for coffee” signify a date? Why isn’t eating caramels or going fishing the code for “let’s go on a date?” In the same way that Will Hunting questions the code of dating Saussure questions the code of language and reality. Structuralists believe that our reality is constructed by language and that often times things don’t “exist” until we name them. "The bond between the signifier and the signified is radically arbitrary" is the Saussure quotation that I chose to explore for this blog. And example of what Saussure is saying is that the word Balloon (signifier) has no inherent connection to the piece of rubber filled with helium, air, or water (signified) that we accept as balloons.

A balloon could have had any of a billion different names and we still would accept it for whatever we called it. Saussure says that the combination of signifier and signified is what makes up a sign. Although there is no real bond between the signifier and the signified, the sign does have a very practical purpose. In the English language when I say the word balloon everyone that I am talking to understands exactly what I mean by balloon. We may have different forms of “balloon-ness” is our heads we all understand what I mean, and this is the importance of the sign. The thing we discussed in class that made this idea clear to me (and I may misquote so I am sorry if I do) is when “Dr. M” said that there was an indigenous group (I think it was Eskimos) that had over two hundred different words for snow. This blew my mind because on one hand, it is a little ridiculous to have 200 different words for snow. But on the other hand they must see snow completely differently than I do. I have 3 categories that snow falls into fluffy, slushy, and dirty. But these people see snow in 197 more ways than I do. That is amazing. It makes me wonder what would happen if we only had one word for food. Would all different types of food not seem that different to us? Would we just make lots of oatmeal because “food is food”?

This affects my view of literature because it makes me think of the word choice in any novel I read now. When somebody describes something as white, are they saying it because it is the opposite of black? Or perhaps because of its association with snow? Is whatever the author is describing pure? Or cold?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Reactions to Craig

I giggle a little bit every time I hear Lou Reed's A Walk On the Wild Side on in public. The last time I heard this song in public was while i was shopping in a grocery store with my mother. Now normally if I was listening to a song about blow jobs, transvestites, overdosing, and prostitution I would feel awkward, but somehow none of the adults in the grocery store acknowledged this. Half of them were even singing along with it and singing the chorus. The reason I giggle is because if there had been a rap song on the store radio then I am sure a lot of the shoppers would have raised a fuss, but Lou Reed nestled in between Jim Croce and Harry Chapin goes unnoticed.
I thought of this phenomenon in relation to Christopher Craig's Thoughts on Ideology. Craig says that "the ruling class appropriates those ideas which it finds most threatening. It commodifies them and mystifies their meaning, while also potentially taming the subversive behaviors that might result from them". This is especially applicable when it comes to rebellion in popular culture. Elvis is a household name, kids commonly go through a "punk rock phase", and Lou Reed is lost in the shuffle of a light rock station. Marxist theory points out how we turn ideologies into material things that can be bought and sold therefore losing its power. In this same way literature, whether it is known to the author or not, is judged by how well it can turn the ideologies of the ruling class into a nice little package that can be sold. Books are packages of ruling class capitalist ideology.
Returning to the popular culture it makes me think of rap. I am not 100% up to date on the state of rap music but I feel like in my lifetime it has already started to be turned into a commodity. When I was growing up, NWA had just broken up, Public Enemy was being banned from the state of Arizona, and Biggie and 2pac both died. But also within my lifetime Vanilla Ice, Kriss Kross, MC Hammer and Lil’ Bow Wow (now just Bow Wow) have all flourished. So is rap no longer dangerous? When I went to the observatory on the top of the prudential building this weekend there was a rap song explaining how you become a U.S. Citizen. Does that make rap safe? Are there book versions of rap? What books aren’t safe? Or are they all safe because even if they try to be subversive and have opposing voices are their existence just reinforcing the normal superstructure? These are the questions I still have.