ENGL 871
—LITERARY & CRITICAL THEORY—

Class NOTES
& Commentary
(& Memes)

 

    Last Updated: 18 Oct. 2018    

                


        
--To the Most RECENT "Class Notes" Updates--
   IMMEDIATE ASSIGNMENTS:
• For W, 10/24: MacIntyre: (the rest of) Post-Truth: xiii-122, 151-172 (Hey, some light reading for a change!?)

Reading Question(s) for MacIntyre:
 Obviously, at least I found MacIntyre's chapter on "postmodernism" as major cause of our "post-truth" era to be among the weakest in the book, in terms of support and argumentation. (And certainly Ono's reply to the 1st Q&A question voiced a similar skepticism.) So—which chapters/arguments are M.'s strongest? (And do these ultimately render the "pomo" chapter superfluous?!) Also, keep an eye out for places in the rest of the book where one of our previous theorists might have raised a (no doubt supercilious) eyebrow—especially regarding M.'s very assumptions about the nature of "truth"?

 TH, 10/25: HotE Lecture
    • 5:30 pm, at the Sheldon—Lee MacIntyre talk: "Post-Truth in the Internet Age"
—Summary of talk: "The phenomenon of 'post-truth' has been defined by the Oxford Dictionaries as 'relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.' As such, it is part of—or perhaps the culmination of—a campaign of fact and truth denial that has been going on in Western democracies for the last several decades. On scientific topics such as evolution and climate change, the forces of ideology, cognitive bias, media confusion, and financial interest have conspired to spread disinformation and legitimize doubt about even the most well-settled factual questions. As technology improves—and we suddenly face questions over the authenticity of even the most convincing audio-visual resources—we must find a way to challenge the idea that truth has no meaning outside a partisan political context."

SA, 10/27, midnight: PRESENTATION "TOPIC" CHOICE DUE (via email)

W, 10/31: Response #4 (see next); Foucault: Discipline and Punish: Parts II & III (73-228); [optional—Nealon readings, for FR {all Canvas PDFs, under "(More) Nealon Readings"}; note that most are very much about/influenced by Foucault]

  RESPONSE #3 (2 pages or more; hardcopy only)—50 points—Due W, 10/31—CHOOSE ONE:
a) MACINTYRE talk (10/11): Respond to "Post-Truth in the Internet Age": 'how (well) does it relate to our course theme of "post-truth"?'!? Also, to quote the syllabus, "connections with our course readings will be especially welcome" (in fact, de rigeur).
b) If you CAN'T MAKE the MacIntyre talk: Select the five "most significant" passages in the Foucault assignment (D&P 73-228) and explain why there are.

Reading Questions/Notes for Foucault:
 Note that, due to "time considerations," I'm omitting Part I, titled "Torture," one chapter of which is called "The spectacle of the scaffold." This whole section is a set-up for Parts 2 & 3, as it describes the previous ("classical") episteme—Foucault's word for "historical era," sort of—in which the spectacle of public executions was one of the central means for the display of state power. Parts II & III involve the "modern" episteme (from circa 1800 on), characterized by the rise of the bio- & medical sciences, which created whole new discourses of knowledge (as "wills to truth") and therefore new social modes of punishment.
 Foucault's "Discourse on Language" PDF includes a footnote that says Foucault's favorite book by Nietzsche was The Genealogy of Morals. How is the theme of "the interiorization of man" in Nietzsche's book played out in these sections of Discipline & Punish?
 The subject of the last assigned chapter ("Panopticism") has become a famous trope for the modern condition, of a specifically modern means of "disciplining & punishing." Why?
 Finally, Foucault is an historian writing history here: with hope, you'll grow quickly adept at skimming his sometimes lengthy historical examples; keep the forest clear from the trees by following his more general ideas about institutions of power and "truth," etc., many of which were forecast in the "Discourse on Language" essay.

F, 11/2: 3:00-4:30, Andrews 111!: class meeting with Jeff Nealon, author of ("The Swerve Around P"! and) I'm Not Like Everybody Else: Biopolitics, Neoliberalism, and American Popular Music (new book in the U of Nebraska Press's PROVOCATIONS series)

[Attendance = +10 extra credit points!]

—Also, we're all invited to the Indigo Bridge book launch event at 5:30 pm.


That's Foucault on the right. Of course.
(Not my meme. I would never use a colon after "to"!)

 



 W, Aug. 22nd:: Syllabus/course introduction; Bruno Latour: "Why Has Critique Run out of Steam?" {Canvas PDF}; Lee McIntyre: "Did Postmodernism Lead to Post-Truth?" (Post-Truth 123-150)

 Introductory materials:

• Powerpoint: "General Intro: (Continental Philosophy &) Critical Theory" {Canvas PPT, under "Miscellanea"}

• PDF: CritTheoryFlowChart {Canvas PDF, under "Miscellanea"}

Reading Notes for Week One:
   These first three readings are designed as an intro to the course's focus on "post-truth" and its putative intersection with postmodernism (or more specifically, poststructuralism, which is characterized by a relativism that treats all "truths" as social constructs). I suggest reading the McIntyre chapter (2018) first, as the most direct (and probably already most publically known) claim regarding the connection of our lamented "post-truth" era and the critical theory of poststructuralism. Latour (2004) and Nealon (2012), as people much more imbued in critical theory themselves, have more—uh—"complicated" views of the current "plight" of critical theory! (Note that MacIntyre uses the Latour article as central support for his "attack" on "postmodernism.") Nealon's essay is, of course, the one most specifically about "literature" and critical theory, in our "post-postmodern" age, with its ruminations on "interpretation": ultimately, is there (a) truth to be discerned in the act of criticcal reading?! . . . Finally, it may seem odd to begin a course on critical theory with some big questions regarding critical theory itself: but to do so is so . . . critical theory!
   A second reason for my text choices: both McIntyre and Nealon will be on campus later this semester. (Latour apparently had other engagements, probably barricaded somewhere against the onslaughts of both scientists and humanists.)


My new meme (19 Aug. 2018): of course, his actual words were "truth isn't truth." Later he said, "it's somebody's version of the truth, not the truth"—which sounds closer to Nietzsche (and Foucault).


À propos of my theory that Euro-Rationalism has pretty much turned upon, or cannibalized, itself.


  Lee MCINTYRE: "Did Postmodernism Lead to Post-Truth?" (Post-Truth 123-150
   

 Postmodernist "thought" introduced: such figures as Foucault and Derrida; such "foundational ideas" as "Derrida's theory of 'deconstructing' literature, whereby we [. . .] break" an author's meaning "apart and examine it as a function of the political, social, historical, and cultural assumptions behind it. This was all the rage in humanities departments" of "the 1980s and 1990s, as it gave fresh life to the idea that literary scholars could question almost everything they knew[?!] about great works of literature" (12)—whatever those are! [More specifically, this philosophy/approach is known as poststructuralism. However, M. never explains the why's or how's; he just points us to the "lamentable" result: a philosophical relativism regarding "truth."]

 • Deconstruction encore [which is really but one "technique" of poststructuralism; never do we find out that Derrida's deconstruction is based on a philosophy of linguistics]: "This meant that there could be many answers, rather than just one, for any deconstruction. [. . .] There is no right answer, only narrative" (125).
 • One of poststructuralism's origins: Nietzsche's "perspectivism" (125)
 • Now some Foucault: "any profession of truth is nothing more than a reflection of the political ideology of the person who is making it. Michel Foucault's idea was that [. . .] language itself is shot through with the relations of power and dominance" (126).
 • M. finally admits that his "account [. . .] is not sufficiently detailed or nuanced to do postmodernism justice" (126)! [And again, "postmodernism" more usually refers to the general intellectual & artistic & cultural climate of approx. the late 1960s on; poststructuralism is M.'s real target, which can be viewed as the most characteristic—or symptomatic!—philosophy of the postmodern era.]

 Versus the fact that "facts matter": Sure, the history of philosophy is all about questioning "the concepts of truth and objectivity"; "but," M. concludes, "the complete[?] rejection of and disrespect for truth and objectivity goes too far" (127). [My main quibble with M.'s whole book is that he tends to conflate "facts" and "truths" in many of his arguments? In the tradition of Continental Philosophy, at least, truths and facts are (or can be) quite different things. For instance, M. later asks, "Does the left believe in truth or not?" (147). Well, I believe in facts; we'll have to talk about what you mean by "truth." (See 148 for another conflation of "truth and facts" as some veritable pair of synonyms.)]


"The Science Wars" (128-130)

 [Yes, another defining characteristic of poststructuralism is] social constructivism, the "claim that all of reality[?]—including scientific theories about it—were [sic] socially created and that there was no such thing as objective truth" (128).

 • One recent field involved here is "science studies" (128), the "strong" version of which "said that all theories—whether true or false—should be thought of as the product of ideology" (129; pretty close to Foucault's position, actually). [Note Latour's essay, where he admits to being a famous/despised social constructivist. But he denies that he ever denied FACTS!]
 • M. alludes in passing to feminist & ecofeminist critiques of science without naming them: "Others have pointed out that the language of scientific inquiry was irredeemably sexist and revealed its exploitive nature" (129). ["This habit of citation via "Others have said" and "Some have said" gets a bit excessive, for an intellectual argument/text?!]

"The Sokal Hoax" (128-133)

 This section speaks for itself: both hilarious and sad!


"Right-Wing Postmodernists" (133-148)

 [My initial/general reaction to this section and the rest of the chapter is, "Like, didn't the Nazis totally misread Nietzsche, too? Are we supposed to blame Nietzsche for that?"]

 Example #1—climate deniers: I actually respond more favorable to M.'s opponents here, those who argue against the connection, like Mooney: "the idea that conservatives would be strongly influenced by the abstruse arguments and wordplay of left wing academia doesn't make any sense" (134-135)! And again: "The biggest objection [to the influence of pomo] is that climate change deniers do not look, behave, or sound postmodern in any meaningful sense of the term" (135)! . . . And later: "Can you picture" conservative Senator [and climate denier] "James Inhofe citing Derrida or Foucault? The very idea is comical" (135)! . . . Later, in an attempt to counter this, M. writes that "some still seem stuck on the idea that unless one can find Kellyanne Conway reading Derrida, this is all just speculation" (147)!

 • In fact (Mooney continues), "most science deniers actually [do] believe in truth"—that is, the deniers just think (or at least claim) that most scientists just have the FACTS, the truth about climate change, wrong (135). [I might make a more general point here, that Trump supporters apparently believe in the truths of God, the American Dream, et al.?!]

 Example #2—Intelligent Design: M. then moves on to the evolution controversy, especially Intelligent Design, and concludes that "[t]here is little doubt that postmodernist thought had an important influence of this debate" (136). [I gloss most of this since I don't find it very convincing. "But then, I'm one sick, biased puppy!" M.'s later conclusion that it "could not be clearer that postmodernist thought had an influence on ID theory" (139) seems mostly supported by the fact that one nut-job read some pomo theory in college? Again, as with Nietzsche and the Nazis, it's a "bogus"/twisted connection at best?]

 M. moves on to Latour via pomo theory's apparent antagonism towards science: "Even if right-wing politicians and other science deniers were not reading Derrida and Foucault, the germ of the idea made its way to them: [i.e., the idea that] science does not have a monopoly on the truth" (139-141). As one of the supposed "founders of social constructivism," then, Latour writes "Why Has Critique Run Out Stream?" in 2004 (141), admitting there that, yes, he has himself "spent some time in the past trying to show 'the lack of scientific certainty' inherent in the construction of facts"; but he then speaks fairly unsympathetically about "[e]ntire Ph.D. programs" continuing to "make sure that good American kids are learning the hard way that facts are made up, that there is no such thing as natural, unmediated, unbiased access to truth, that we are always prisoners of language" (142; 227 in Latour's original). [But I'd note that the "bulk sum" of Latour's work agrees with much of this pomo "stuff," or else he'd have never been known as a social constructivist!]

 • But it's another scholar (Berube) whom M. quotes as admitting "the potential for science studies to go horribly wrong and give fuel to deeply ignorant and/or reactionary people" (144). [One is still left wondering if this is a reasonably good sample of "pomo" scholars making such mea culpa admissions?]

 The expression "If there are no facts and only interpretations" (144) is a paraphrase of Nietzsche [as we shall see later in this course].

 M.'s most damning condemnation follows: "What a complete misfire of the original politics that motivated postmodernism [or postmodern critical theory, at least!], which was to protect the poor and vulnerable from being exploited by those in authority. It is now the poor and vulnerable who will suffer most from climate change." Ouch. "This is the cost of playing with ideas as if they had no consequences" (145). [Though once again, I find this last sentence to be a misreading of pomo theory as I know it.]

 Another objection that M. acknowledges: "Some also claim[!] that it is ridiculous to see postmodernism and post-truth as cause and effect because post-truth has been around much longer than one thinks" (147). [Indeed, what struck me reading M.'s whole book is how well it describes human religion in general?!]


"Trolling for Trump" (148-150)

 Trumpite blogger Michael Cernovich as another closet poststructuralist, as it were: "'If everything is a narrative,'" Cernovich says, "'then we need alternatives to the dominant narrative'" (150). [Again, I have no problem with that statement as it stands. Many a recent Marxist, feminist, and critical race theorist have uttered something very similar. Of course, the rub lies in the motives and execution!?]

 And so M.'s conclusion: "Thus is postmodernism the godfather of post-truth" (150).


  Bruno LATOUR: "Why Has Critique Run out of Steam?" 
   
Critical Inquiry 30 [Winter 2004]: 225-248 {Canvas PDF}

 Thinking of climate change & climate deniers, L. asks the question MacIntyre has already quoted: "Do you see why I am worried? I myself have spent some time in the past trying to show '"'the lack of scientific certainty'"' inherent in the construction of facts" (227).

 And he even wonders what critical theory has come to (Baudrillard, BTW, is a famous French neo--Marxist theorist): "What has critique become when a French general, no, a marshal of critique, namely, Jean Baudrillard, claims in a published book that the Twin Towers destroyed themselves under their own weight, so to speak, undermined by the utter nihilism inherent in capitalism itself—as if the terrorist planes were pulled to suicide by the powerful attraction of this black hole of nothingness?[!] What has become of critique when a book that claims that no plane ever crashed into the Pentagon can be a bestseller? [. . .] What has become of critique when there is a whole industry denying that the Apollo program landed on the moon? What has become of critique when DARPA uses for its Total Information Awareness project the Baconian slogan Scientia est potentia? Didn't I read that somewhere in Michel Foucault? Has knowledge-slash-power been co-opted of late by the National Security Agency? Has Discipline and Punish become the bedtime reading of Mr. Ridge (fig. 1)?" (228). [The Latin means "knowledge is power"; Foucault is famous for reading "knowledge" as, above all, the assertion of socio-political power; and yes, his Discipline & Punish is on the syllabus.]

 • More brow-beating that anticipates McIntyre's critiques of pomo theory: "Maybe I am taking conspiracy theories too seriously, but it worries me to detect, in those mad mixtures of knee-jerk disbelief, punctilious demands for proofs, and free use of powerful explanation from the social neverland many of the weapons of social critique. Of course conspiracy theories are an absurd deformation of our own arguments, but, like weapons smuggled through a fuzzy border to the wrong party, these are our weapons nonetheless. In spite of all the deformations, it is easy to recognize, still burnt in the steel, our trademark: Made in Criticalland[!]" (230).

 HOWEVER (as we shall see in his book), L. never denied the FACTS (i.e., empirical data)!: "[A] certain form of critical spirit has sent us down the wrong path, encouraging us to fight the wrong enemies and, worst of all, to be considered as friends by the wrong sort of allies because of a little mistake in the definition of its main target. The question was never to get away from facts but closer to them, not fighting empiricism but, on the contrary, renewing empiricism" (231).

 L. then moves to the 20th-c. German philosopher Heidegger to get back to the "thing," as it were: thus a distinguishing between the "object" (= L.'s "matter of fact") vs. "thing" (L.'s "matter of concern"). For Heidegger, the "Thing" is epitomized by a human artifact that remains rich in cultural and historical "baggage." But Heidegger (usually) didn't give plain old "objects" their due, not enough to render them "things": nonetheless, "Heidegger, when he takes the jug seriously, offers a powerful vocabulary to talk also about the object he despises so much. What would happen, I wonder, if we tried to talk about the object of science and technology [. . .] as if it had the rich and complicated qualities of the celebrated Thing?" (233)

 • L. continues: "The problem with philosophers is that because their jobs are so hard they drink a lot of coffee and thus use in their arguments an inordinate quantity of pots, mugs, and jugs—to which, sometimes, they might add the occasional rock." [Ha!] "[T]he engagement of a rock in philosophical talk is utterly different if you take a banal rock to make your point (usually to lapidate a passing relativist![!]) or if you take, for instance, dolomite, as he [Hacking] has done so beautifully. The first can be turned into a matter of fact but not the second. Dolomite is so beautifully complex and entangled that it resists being treated as a matter of fact. It too can be described as a gathering; it too can be seen as engaging the [Heideggerian] fourfold. Why not try to portray it with the same enthusiasm, engagement, and complexity as the Heideggerian jug?" (233-234).
 • How about an example, Latour?": well, how about the Space Shuttle Columbia, which crashed to earth in 2003: "Here, suddenly, in a stroke, an object had become a thing, a matter of fact was considered as a matter of great concern. If a thing is a gathering, as Heidegger says, how striking to see how it can suddenly disband" (235). So here Latour is attempting the "thinging of the object, if you will" (as a "matter of concern").

 As for truth & non-truth and all that: L. now offers a "series of diagrams that fixate the object at only two positions, what I have called the fact position and the fairy position"—the latter = fetishism, the illusion of desire and belief (237). [Elsewhere, L. speaks of this as "knowledge" v. "belief," which he considers a false binary at last.]

 • The diagrams ultimate attempt to demonstrate how elitist criticism/theory is based upon a "trick"—regarding both the human SUBJECT: "The subject is either so powerful that he or she can create everything out of his own labor" (including/especially fetishes/illusions/beliefs)—"or nothing but a mere receptacle for the forces of determinisms known by nature and social sciences"; and the OBJECT: "The object is either nothing but a screen on which to project human free will" (again, including illusions)—"or so powerful that it causally determines what humans think and do" (241 [fig. 5]) [Note that these oppositions (including Subject/Object & free will/determinism], and the question, "how can both be true," can itself be deemed an act of Derridean deconstruction!]
 • And of course "we" intellectuals/theorists want to have our cake and eat it, too: "This is why you can be at once and without even sensing any contradiction (1) an antifetishist for everything you don't believe in—for the most part religion, popular culture, art, politics, and so on; (2) an unrepentant positivist for all the sciences you believe in—sociology, economics, conspiracy theory, genetics, evolutionary psychology, semiotics, just pick your preferred field of study; and (3) a perfectly healthy sturdy realist for what you really cherish—and of course it might be criticism itself, but also painting, bird-watching, Shakespeare, baboons, proteins, and so on" (241). [Hey! I'M a birder! Mea culpa!]
 • And so (tongue-in-cheek): "Isn't it really worth going to graduate school to study critique? 'Enter here, you poor folks. After arduous years of reading turgid prose, you will be always right'" (239)!

 L.'s excursion into the philosophy of Whitehead is much more obscure and much less successful, I think, than his use of Heidegger, but what he calls for at last is a reinvigoration (if that's the word) of "matters of interest" (including matters of belief!?): "what is presented here is an entirely different attitude than the critical one, not a flight into the conditions of possibility of a given matter of fact, not the addition of something more human that the inhumane matters of fact would have missed, but, rather, a multifarious inquiry launched with the tools of anthropology, philosophy, metaphysics, history, sociology to detect how many participants are gathered in a thing to make it exist and to maintain its existence. Objects are simply a gathering that has failed" (245-246). [Love that last clause! Note that, by "participants," L. means both human & non-human, incl. inanimate objects, which will become clearer when we get to his book. At last, his call is for us to turn "objects"—of "matters of fact"—into "things"—or "matters of concern" by making them contexualized, historicized, et al. Indeed, in Pandora's Hope, he more commonly uses "event" for what he here calls a "thing."]

 • Conclusion: if they would heed L.'s words above, "then we could let the critics come ever closer to the matters of concern we cherish, and then at last we could tell them: 'Yes, please, touch them, explain them, deploy them'" (248).


  Jeffrey T. NEALON: "Interpretation. The Swerve around P: Theory after Interpretation" 
   
—from Post-Postmodernism: or, the Cultural logic of Just-in-Time Capitalism (Stanford UP, 2012): 126-145 {Canvas PDF}

"Literature" (126-134)

 Current critical theory (& literary studies in general): "this guy makes his living as an English professor, but he hasn't been in the literary criticism section [that is, the 'P' section!] for years?" Today, "much of what goes into their books on literature requires research from other places: history, sociology, social science," etc. (127). [Indeed, in terms of the Library of Congress letter system, my research more often leads me to the QL's & E's!]

 • Is this somehow related to the "'death of theory'" (127)? It does seem to at least signal the end of literary interpretation: English studies is "is no longer 'literary' [. . .] in the sense that it's no longer primarily concerned with producing interpretations of existing or emerging literary artifacts" [that is, of individual texts]. One of Nealon's key points in the essay is that even postmodern/poststructuralist criticism has been largely interpretative: "Whether Wallace Stevens was all about organic unity or whether he was all about undecidability, either way it was interpretation all the way down" (128).
 • N.'s reference to Jonathan Culler's 1976 essay "Beyond Interpretation" (128) is telling; N.'s essay is pretty of a recent updating of the general ideas of that essay (a call to "do something else" with "literary" discourse instead of the interpretation of individual texts). [By the way Culler's own alternatives to "interpretation" range from politically based Marxism to "text"-based structuralism.]
 • Typo note: "Shlovsky's" (130) actually needs another consonant, believe it or not! The Russian formalist's name was actually Shklovsky. Now say that fast ten times.]

 Again, even recent pomo theory is guilty: "My point here is [. . .] to suggest that the big claims of big theory were underwritten by a disciplinary apparatus in and around literature departments that was completely beholden to interpretation" (131).

 What can we do instead? Oh, there's the application of Foucault's theory of "discourse and power" [though this already is/has been the modus operandi of New Historicism], and there are other "anti-hermeneutic" [i.e., anti-interpretation] tools in Deleuze & Guattari, and Jameson, and Bourdieu, etc. There are "cultural studies" and "science studies" [Latour!] and the like (132). [Of course, much of pomo criticism has (also) entailed the application of these theories, so I find N.'s distinction somewhat confusing.]

 Again, (to rehearse his main subject,) N. perceives "the waning of literary interpretation itself as a viable research (which is to say, publishing) agenda"; in fact, "the work of interpretation is no longer the primary research work of literature departments" (133). . . . Much later: "just look at the table of contents for any recent 'good' journal and you'll see plenty of theoretically-inflected work, but very little of it begins or ends with the question of literary 'meaning'" (144).


"Philosophy" (134-140)

 One suspects that N. moves to Badiou because he is another French philosopher who may be the "'next big thing' in the theory world" (134)! Moreover, the move—despite Badiou's fascinating four-part theory—doesn't feel entirely successful to me, especially since N. himself jumps "off the Badiou boat" (138)!

 I, for one, jump off the boat sooner, in the assumptions of Badiou (& N.?!) that "poetry"/literature is supposedly ultimately about "crucial philosophical questions [. . .] accessed [. . .] through the literary or hermeneutic suture" (137). [Recall that, for B., "poetry" was from the beginning one of the four "conditions"—or aspects, or prongs—"of philosophy" (134).] And B.'s truly abstract and neo-Platonic "'truth without object'" (138) makes this ecocritic cringe.

"Literature and Philosophy, Again" (134-145)

 N.'s return to critical theory reiterates his point that the conclusions of "undecidability" of postmodern deconstruction and the like are just the "flip side" of the "hegemony of 'meaning'": "the hermeneutics of suspicion doesn't and shouldn't saturate the category of the 'literary'" (141). [The "hermeneutics of suspicion" was coined by Paul Ricoeur to describe the philosophies of Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud, all of which turned the positive ideals of modernism on their head in one way or other. As we shall see!] . . . Again, even the pomo finding of texts full of "holes" or "gaps"—finding a lack of "full" meaning"—is still an obsession with "meaning." Worse yet: "The hermeneutic suture's primary Achilles Heel, [sic] is that it commits you to showing first and foremost what literature can't do (it can't mean univocally), rather than what it can do (a thousand other things)" (142). [Although I personally have no problem with this conclusion!]

 One of N.'s best arguments? We don't worry about "meaning" regarding other arts, do we?!: "it always seemed [. . .] strange to me that literary studies found itself in the recent past so completely territorialized on this question of meaning, when virtually no other art form or art criticism is as obsessed by it. 'What does it mean?' seems like the wrong question to ask, for example, about music or sculpture, not to mention performance art or post-impressionist painting" (142). [For a similar reason, I've already questioned the notion of expecting "philosophy" from "poetry." . . . Another quibble w/ N.'s history of criticism/theory: of course, old fashioned formalism/New Criticism already voiced this concern about poetry having a "message" and thus spoke of the poem as an "artifact," like a mute painting or purely instrumental music.]

 Ha! We'll get to Deleuze & Guattari eventually, but I love the quot. here: "interpretosis . . . humankind's fundamental neurosis" (144)!

 Then a return to Culler, and a quot. therefrom: "'there are many tasks that confront contemporary criticism, many things that we need if we are to advance our understanding of literature, but if there is one thing we do not need it is more interpretations of literary works'" (145).

 Conclusion: "Nobody in music theory, architecture theory, or art theory ever really asks what the work of Beethoven [. . .] or Jackson Pollock means. These days, maybe that question doesn't make much sense for literary theorists either" (145).


To the Top

 W, Aug. 29th::

 Terry EAGLETON: LITERARY THEORY: An Introduction—Outline/"Handout"

Reading Questions for Eagleton:
 Intro: How does Eagleton dismantle the signifier "Literature"? (Maybe a better question: WHY?)
 CH 1: Why does Eagleton historicize the beginnings of English studies/lit crit? ("Because he's a no-good commie bastard, that's why.") What do you make of the fact that he claims that the discipline of English was originally largely a replacement for/displacement of religion?
 Conclusion & Afterword: Why is the "Lit" component of English here at UNL now called "Literary and Cultural Studies"? That is, why is Eagleton's final pair of chapters a call for replacing "English" with "Cultural Studies"? (And how does this relate to his Introduction?) [Yes, part of the answer is related to Nealon's "Swerve around P."]
 Conclusion & Afterword: Why is Eagleton rather critical of poststructuralism's announcement of the end of all grand récits (grand/meta-narratives)? ("Because he's a no-good commie bastard, that's why.") . . . See also his several discussions of feminism, which aren't entirely enthusiastic, and of poco theory, of which he's downright critical at one point.
 [Final thought (on a Friday night): how ironic is it, after Eagleton's critique of the "literary" as a meaningful term, that I put this book on the syllabus largely because I find it very freaking "literary"?! In Renaissance terms, it both "edifies and entertains." In sum, I hope you find it an enjoyable read.]


À propos of Russian Formalism's defamiliarization (Eagleton 3-4):

[Untitled]

   l(a
   le
   af
   fa
   ll

   s)
   one
   l

   iness

    —e. e. cummings, p. 1958



Vis-à-vis Eagleton's critique of the ideological (incl. religious) underpinnings of purportedly objective New Critical formalism (my photo: Rapid City, SD, 2007).


Just saw this Rolling Stone ad in a Facebook post (9/10/16).


My counter against the popular student (and high-school teacher?!) misunderstanding of reader-response theories. (I realize that Eagleton only addresses reader-response criticism peripherally in our reading to date.)


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 W, Sept. 5th::

 Links to my Outline-"Handouts" on Kant and Hegel:

 Immanuel KANT: General Background/Intro

     Immanuel KANT: General Background/Introcondensed version!

 Immanuel KANT: Excerpts from Critique of Judgment [1790]

 G. W. F. HEGEL: General Background/Intro

     G. W. F. HEGEL: General Background/Introcondensed version!

 G. W. F. HEGEL: from The Philosophy of Fine Art [1835] & "Lordship & Bondage" [1807]

Reading Questions for Kant:
 Kant's rationalism was very much a product of the (late) Enlightment—with its emphasis on such universal truths as "natural law," etc. Thus Kant himself is forever applying his ruminations to "all men." Since we are products of postmodernity (Eagleton 200-201), where do we see such universalism most breaking down?
 Eagleton at least suggests that Kant was in part responsible for the aesthetic formalism that culminates in 20th-c. New Criticism (18). (And Adams & Searle's intro to this reading [416-418] really emphasizes it.) Where is this evident in our excerpts from Critique of Judgment?
 One of Kant's contributions to later formalism is the notion of "disinterestness" (e.g., 417). Compare this to Eagleton's Nietzschean/Foucaultian notion that all judgments and (statements of judgment) are "interested" (that is, invested with subjective bias). Assuming you bought into Eagleton(!), where does Kant's claim of/for "disinterestedness" seem most bogus?
 Despite being an Enlightenment rationalist, Kant at least anticipated (and even influenced) some of the main threads of Romanticism, so also keep an eye out for his attention to subjectivity, "feeling," emotions, the "imagination," and the "sublime" in his discussions of aesthetics. (His "sublime," indeed, seems to be a feeling/perception/"judgment" that transcends Kant's own usual rational conceptual explanations—a juncture where he almost fails for words. But of course he has to analyze the various parts thereof for many pages before he gets to this metaphorical apoplexy.)
 Given what you know about Kant by the time you get to the end of the reading, WHY does he privilege poetry over rhetoric (440)? (Think: "it's the principle of the thing"—always central for Kant, be it in epistemology, ethics, or aesthetics).
 Finally: how about some yea-saying, some positives: where do you find Kant really making a lot of sense? (This may lead you to disagree with my leading/biased questions above. Fine.)
Reading Questions for Hegel:
 The Philosophy of Fine Art: Does Hegel's "triad"/dialectic of "types" of art (Symbolic, Classical, & Romantic) in any small way make you want to toss a copy of Said's Orientalism (the foundational postcolonial theory text) upon Hegel's grave? (I.e.: did someone say Euro-centrism?!)
 Though only suggested in our excerpts here, another of Hegel's triads is Art -> Religion -> Philosophy. In sum, Art is the least evolved (and least truly expressive of Universal Spirit, because it's still too "concrete"), while Philosophy is Universal Spirit most made manifest in human history. "How does this make you feel?"
 Also, Hegel's dialectical evolution of art types from Symbolic -> Classical -> Romantic (by which he actually means much post-Classical/Christian art) seems somewhat suspect to me. Isn't the Classical rather a "golden mean" of "spirit" and "matter," while the Romantic might be read as almost too much (sickeningly introverted) "spirit"?! I mean, this is certainly one way to read Hegel's distinctions, although we know WHY he must ultimately privilege the Romantic.
 But Hegel's art typology really is an amazing system, with a whole theory of genres included. The Romantic type privileges the genres of Painting -> Music -> Poetry[!]—yes, yet another TRIAD. In Romantic art theory, though, music is usually given the nod as the "purest" art form. Why, then, does Hegel's aesthetic evolution end with poetry?
 "Lordship & Bondage" (chapter from Phenomenology of Spirit): The main binary here, of "master/slave"—or "Self/Other—has been read many ways. (Since Hegel is such a lucid stylist. "Not!" —Borat.) If you have time, read this section twice, and ask yourself: is Hegel talking about some inevitable/universal psychological development (the coming to self-consciousness)? Which seemingly requires this elaborate will-to-power master/slave dialectic for the Self (Ego) to achieve psychic stability, or "wholeness"? Or is this the "usual" path of psychic development, but not the ideal one (as perhaps intimated on 564B)? And/or is Hegel's psychological "allegory" (as it has been called) symptomatic of a culture/worldview built upon unjust hierarchies? The hierarchy of economic class is explicit, in "master/slave," and obviously Marxists quickly "turned" this text to their own ends, as an allegory of the capitalist over the proletariat. Rereadings from the "Others" of gender and ethnicity easily follow. And so it has been maybe too easy to read Hegel's little treatise here as ultimately a prop of the political status quo. (Yes, I've just paraphrased how I think Eagleton would read it!)
 Finally: how about some yea-saying, some positives: where do you find Hegel really making a lot of sense? (This may lead you to disagree with my leading/biased questions above. Fine.)


• Like everybody else at that time, he [Kant] wrote a treatise on the sublime and the beautiful. Night is sublime, day is beautiful; the sea is sublime, the land is beautiful; man is sublime, woman is beautiful; and so on.
                —Bertrand Russell, A History of Western Philosophy (706)
Bertrand Russell is often scathingly hilarious, even in this understated slam. However, he is referring to an earlier treatise by Kant, not the Critique of Judgment; moreover, Russell pretty much slammed most of German philosophy in his History, as a Brit writing in 1945 (think WWII), so all this must be taken with a shaker-full of salt. And yet? .nbsp;. . [Later add:] The earlier book is titled Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime (1764), and includes the following odd generalizations: "Among the peoples of our part of the world the Italians and the French are, in my opinion, those who most distinguish themselves in the feeling of the beautiful, but the Germans, the English, and the Spaniards those who are most distinguished from all others in the feeling of the sublime. Holland can be regarded as the land where this finer taste is fairly unnoticeable" (50). And—I've now included a PDF version of this text on Canvas, because of such gems as the following: "The Negroes of Africa have by nature no feeling that rises above the ridiculous" (58); and "Among all the savages there is no people which demonstrates such a sublime character of mind as that of North America" (59)?!


•                 Therefore am I still
    A lover of the meadows and the woods,
    And mountains; and of all that we behold
    From this green earth; of all the mighty world
    Of eye, and ear,—both what they half create,
    And what perceive
. . . .
                —William Wordsworth, "Tintern Abbey" (lines 102-107)
The philosophy of German Idealism and literary Romanticism are semi-kissing cousins in the history of art and ideas, although the sheer rationalism of the German Idealists was pretty much anathema to the Romantics' mythopoeic creative urges. But there is no doubt of the Kantian influence here in Wordsworth's lines; Kant's main revolution in thought, indeed, was his perception that the phenomenal universe could be "known" and "ordered" only because that "knowledge" was largely a projection of the ("categories" of the) human psyche. At last, we do "half create" our universe. Indeed, according to Kant, "the mind is not passive but active, and" thus "Locke's metaphor of the blank tablet is profoundly mischievous" (W. T. Jones, Kant and the Nineteenth Century 19).


"Those New Yorker cartoonists can be such philistines!" (not my 'toon)


(The quotations are verbatim from students in this course in 2016.)


• [On Hegel's God:] The Absolute Idea is pure thought thinking about pure thought. That is all that God does throughout the ages—truly a professor's God.
                —Bertrand Russell, A History of Western Philosophy (735)
Bertrand Russell has fun with another German philosopher. Hegel's extreme, all-encompassing idealism—his "Absolute Idealism"—almost begs to be lampooned. (And of course, one might also apply the slam to critical theory's own propensity to—uh—over-conceptualize?! Oh, just now and then. [BTW, to further clarify the joke, Hegel was a longtime famous professor of philosophy.])


• [On Hegel's view of history:] World history, in fact, has advanced through the [dialectic] categories, from Pure Being in China (of which Hegel knew nothing except that it was) to the Absolute Idea, which seems to have been nearly, if not quite, realized in the Prussian State. I cannot see any justification, on the basis of his own metaphysic, for the view that world history repeats the transitions of the dialectic, yet that is the thesis which he developed in his Philosophy of History. It was an interesting thesis, giving unity and meaning to the revolutions of human affairs. Like other historical theories, it required, if it was to be made plausible, some distortion of facts and considerable ignorance. Hegel, like Marx and Spengler after him, possessed both these qualifications. It is odd that a process which is represented as cosmic should all have taken place on our planet, and most of it near the Mediterranean. Nor is there any reason, if reality is timeless, why the later parts of the process should embody higher categories than the earlier parts—unless one were to adopt the blasphemous supposition that the Universe was gradually learning Hegel's philosophy.
                —Bertrand Russell, A History of Western Philosophy (735)
More hilarity from Bertrand Russell. Again, his bias is on display, and yet Hegel's philosophy of history seems especially weird: that (human) history is Absolute Spirit evolving in the material realm (and into greater consciousness of itself, as it were) is a very cool idea, but why that evolution culminates with the Eurocentric nation states (with Germany #1!) rather than continuing on into some greater-whole World State seems& . . . irrational.


• [. . .] Hegel was for a very long time considered to be the worst philosopher, and many of the traditional criticisms are often raised against him even today. He was considered the worst of all philosophers because with him thought became the most idealist it could get. His absolute idealism attempted to reconcile everything in the realm of the concept, but it started to mystify the real world as his thought unwillingly flipped over from panlogism to mysticism, and, as a famous formulation goes, his absolute idealism ultimately coincided with a "crass materialism." He was too much of an idealist and too much of a materialist.
    Hegel's rationalism was deemed untenable in the face of the horrifying and unreasonable historical events that took place after his death. For these events Hegel's famous dictum "The real is the rational, and the rational is the real" did not hold anymore. His emphasis on reason unfolding in history was even accused of being complicit with these unreasonable and violent acts. If Hegel's reason was in fact the only motor of history, this motor ultimately turned out to be a brute force constantly relapsing into barbarism. [. . .] Hegel's rationalism thereby produces its own opposite.
                —Frank Ruda, Abolishing Freedom (U of Nebraska P, 2016: 101-102)
A nice (& clever) summary of some of the main later critiques of Hegel, several of which I already raised in class.


• After reading Kant and Hegel again, it occurred to me this time to ask, Why blame Nietzsche and later poststructuralism for our post-truth age? Didn't "Reason" really sow the seeds of its own demise in declaring itself humankind's all-mighty transcendental signifier? Humanistic rationalism—initiated by the Renaissance, and flourishing through the Age of Reason and the Enlightenment—climaxed with Kant and, one might say, became monomaniacally "silly" in Hegel: certainly, to say that "what is, is rational" is such a hyperbolic conflation of the Rational and the Real that Reason ultimately comes to mean nothing at all (since it attempts to "mean" and be everything). Two generations later, Nietzsche just had to look around and ask, What the hell have you people done? What the hell were you thinking?!
                —TCG (me), 5 Sept. 2018


"No, I do not play this infernal game!"


Inspired by Hegel's sentence "Architecture is in fact the first pioneer on the highway toward the adequate realization of Godhead."


To the Top

 W, Sept. 12th::

  RESPONSE #1 (2 pages or more; hardcopy only)—50 points—Due W, 9/12—CHOOSE ONE:
a) As a "preliminary/tentative" take on this course's focus on "truth" and "post-truth," discuss this focus vis-à-vis a "goodly number" of our texts to date, from Kant to McIntyre (including the Marxist readings for this week). You may or may not delve into the possibility that critical theory (and even Continental philosophy) is partially responsible for our current "post-truth" plight.
b) Aesthetics & "Truth": C/C Kant's and/or Hegel's view(s) of Art/Poetry w/ that of Eagleton and/or Nealon.
c) 20th-c. Marxism: since Adorno & Althusser are (neo-)Marxists very much influenced by Marx (of course); given what you learn from the Marx & Engels readings, how/why are they so, specifically, given their seemingly disparate subject matters (jazz music; "interpellation")?
d) Develop your own thread/thesis of interest vis-á-vis a "goodly number" of our texts to date, from Kant to McIntyre (including the Marxist readings for this week).
Note: Of course, feel free to use my "readings" and class discussions as starting points for your own ruminations; however, do not simply rehash these ideas (or those on my online outlines). "Do something new. And fresh. And true." ;-}
Note: No formal page-1 MLA headers or Works Cited needed (though yr name would be nice); however, do use parenthetical pages #'s for any specific refs/quots. to/from our various texts.

 Links to my Outline-"Handouts" on Marx:

 Karl MARX: General Background/Intro

 Karl MARX: Excerpts from the Manifesto, etc.

Reading Questions for Marx (& Engels):
 Manifesto: How is Marx & Engels' "history of class struggles" quite Hegelian?
 Manifesto: WHO is Marx's audience, when he speaks of the rise of the bourgeoisie drowning "the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervour" in crass commercialism, of stripping revered occupations of their "halo," of tearing away from the family "its sentimental veil" (610)?!
 Manifesto: Who do M & E insult more, those living under the "idiocy of rural life," or those in "barbarian and semi-barbarian countries" (610A)?!
 Manifesto: How does the rise of capitalist industrialism ironically aid the proletariat?
 Manifesto: If the "victory of the proletariat" is "inevitable" (614A), why the need for a manifesto?!
 Manifesto: Note, finally, that this is just Part I of the Manifesto. The final part ends famously—
        In short, the Communists everywhere support every revolutionary movement against the existing social and political order of things.
        In all these movements, they bring to the front, as the leading question in each, the property question, no matter what its degree of development at the time.
        Finally, they labour everywhere for the union and agreement of the democratic parties of all countries.
        The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.
        
Working Men of All Countries, Unite!

 Why did Adams & Searle find it important to include this brief snippet from M & E's The German Ideology (614-615B)?
 Finally, there's another snippet, from Marx's A Contribution, in part because he discusses ART here. How is that discussion pretty (nauseatingly & condescendingly) Hegelian? Our editors also include an excerpt from later in the work because it contains one of M's most famous concise treatments of the (economic) BASE v. the SUPERSTRUCTURE (top of 616A).
Reading Questions for Adorno:
 How can you explain the apparent irony of a Marxist privileging classical music, whose audience has historically been mainly the elite/moneyed class?
 As for "POP MUSIC," Adorno is describing 1930s-1940s (mostly white big-band) jazz. (Note also that he's a German Jew writing in 1941, in the wake of Hitler's rise.) He slams it as over-standardized & imitative & "pseudo-individualized," as just another automatonic cog in the capitalist machine that keeps the workers in line. ("People want to have fun" [par. 30]!) The main question for contemporary readers, then: has contemporary rock, rap, etc., got beyond that—and escaped cooptation & commodification by the capitalist system? In other words, is Adorno still right that "Those who ask for a song of social significance ask for it through a medium which deprives it of social significance" (par. 38)?
 I think the essay's last section, on the two types of listeners—the "rhythmically obedient type" and the "emotional type"—is especially interesting. (For one thing, the division seems pretty gendered?!) What do you make of it? And don't you love the sentence "One who weeps does not resist any more than one who marches" (par. 43), even though it was written by a commie bastard?
Reading Questions for Althusser:
 What can Althusser mean by saying "Ideology has no History" (239B-241A)?! (It's helpful to know that Althusser has been called a structural Marxist.)
 How can it be true that "Ideology has a material existence" (242B-244A)?!
 Is Althusser "outside of ideology"?!—a pregnant passage on 246A includes the following: "As is well known, the accusation of being in ideology only applies to others, never to oneself, unless one is really . . . a Marxist . . . ."
 Althusser's famous concept of "interpellation" is explained on 244A-247A. His other most famous terminology, the contrast between Repressive State Apparatuses (RSAs) and Ideological State Apparatuses (ISAs) is only briefly alluded to in this excerpt (239Bfn, 242B, 248B, 249-250), although the section on Christian ideology is a main example of the latter.


A Marxist allegory (not my meme)


  Theodor Adorno: from "On Popular Music" [1941] 
   

 "The two spheres of music" (1-12) [all #'s refer to paragraphs, as numbered on the PDF]

 Main binary: "popular music" VERSUS "serious music" (1-2)
 An initial irony?: the Marxist supporter of the working-class masses privileging an elitist music that only people with lorgnettes & pearls pretend to like!? (WHY?)

 POP music (that is, 1930s commercial "Big Band" jazz) is characterized by . . .

 Standardization: of structure (above all, the 32-bar A-A-B-A form); of genre ("types of hits"); of harmony [my example: the ubiquitous ii-V7-I chord progression/turnaround]; of even the clichéd musical "details" of instrumentalists' blues notes ("dirty notes"?!— as A. calls 'em). . . . All this allows the listener to take the structure for granted; and since the "whole" is so formulaic, at last, "no stress is placed upon the whole as a musical event" (3-5).  [Note that here, and especially in his discussion of "serious" music, Adorno is also quite the formalist aesthete.]

 SERIOUS music (that is, classical ~, exemplified by Mozart & Beethoven), on the other hand, is . . .

 • A FORMALIST's delight!—in its "totality," in the organic relationship of whole and parts (6) . . . vs. popular music, "a mere musical automatism" in which each "chorus" is "substitutable" with "innumerable other choruses"; every "detail" a mere "cog in the machine" (7). [In defense of pop music, much classical music is intentionally "through-composed," which militates against exact repetition of musical sections; I, on the other hand, find chorus-repetition to have its own aesthetic powers—for one thing, it's usually an incremental repetition (no matter A.'s comments on interchangeability) via changes in lyrics or instrumentals, etc.]
 • Objection: but aren't the "dance"-forms of classical music (e.g., waltzes & minuets) just as formulaic (8)? No, says A., there are "radical differences"; example: Beethoven's scherzo in the 5th Symphony, in which he "transvaluates" the "traditional scheme" into a "dynamic" work of "dialogue" and "tension" (9-11; note: for Adorno, all good music is "difficult," requires "effort" [15; see also 40, on Stravinsky]).  [MY objection: but didn't jazz masters Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, and John Coltrane "transvaluate" the pop 32-bar form into their own "tense & difficult" art (that is, bebop)?!]

 Standardization (13-20)

 • The difference between pop & serious music is NOT just one of "simplicity" vs. "complexity"—for, as A. admits, Tin Pan Alley tunes have, in general, greater harmonic sophistication [e.g., more 7th & 9th & 13th chords and chord changes, greater melodic leaps, etc.] than most classical music (13)!
 • At last, it boils down to standardization, and audience reaction, the effect on the masses (as Adorno's Marxism comes to the fore): "Structural standardization aims at standard reactions"; pop music is at last socially "manipulative"—"a system of response-mechanisms wholly antagonistic to the ideal of individuality in a free, liberal system" (14). . . . pop music is so transparent and "easily understandable" that the audience "actually hears only the simple"; and "the composition hears for the listener"!?—a "pre-digestion," finally, by "conditioned reflexes" (16). [But isn't this true of MOST listeners of classical music, too, smugly comfortable in the all-too-familiar airs of Mozart, Tchaikovsky, etc.?!]
 • PRODUCTION: pop music is not (yet) "industrially" standardized in the sense of assembly-line mass production (e.g., "cars and breakfast foods"), except in terms of actual promotion/sales; in fact, songwriting remains in the "handicraft stage" (17); so its standardization must have other causes. . . .
 • Ah—"Imitation"!: via the "competitive process," successes are copied, resulting in "a crystallization of standards"; via the means of production—the "economic concentration" of "cartelized agencies"—"innovations by rugged individualists have been outlawed" (18). [One might wonder, then, how pop music EVER changed?—or has it?!]
 • This "'freezing' of standards" fulfills "two demands": 1) it stimulates the audience (enough) by its various (but illusory) deviations from the norm; but more to the point, 2) it "maintains the supremacy of the natural against such deviations" by remaining "within the category of what the untrained musical listener would call 'natural' music" . . . . Note A.'s striking use of superstructure & base: "Official music culture is . . . a mere superstructure of this underlying musical language" of "major and minor tonality" that is intuitively learned in childhood (19)!  [But another objection: A.'s scorn for "dirty notes" reveals his ignorance of the "blues" scale & "blues notes," the former neither major nor minor, and the latter not even diatonic; the epithet "dirty" also sounds pretty racist!—since he's talking about a specifically African-American contribution to U.S. popular music.]

 Pseudo-individualization (21-27)

 [—Initial note: A.'s main point here is clarified in other places in his corpus, especially regarding the inanity of such pseudo-individualistic lyrics as "Especially for you" (Quasi una Fantasia [1963] 44-45)—for me, this little ol' lovelorn slob sittin' in the third row?!]
 • Such mass-standardization (under capitalistic "[c]oncentration and control" of what is really a "luxury production" [?!—or does music fulfill some more basic need?]) must be hidden: the "illusion . . . of individual achievement must be maintained," or it might "provoke resistance" (that is, from the masses, who might then take their entertainment dollars elsewhere) (21).
 • How?—via "pseudo-individualization," which, for one thing, fosters the illusory "halo of free choice or open market" (23). . . . Example: "so-called[!] improvizations," which promote the "myth of pioneer artisanship," but rapidly settle into musical clichés or "stereotyping" (24). [My objections continue: this is certainly true of much Big Band (and Dixieland) "improv"; but much less so of "real" (African-American!) jazz—including black Big Bands of the time. Adorno also ignores the racial politics of U.S. music, and the ongoing white co-optation—and yes, standardization—of African-American music.]
 • The "two main socio-psychological qualities of popular music": 1) the dependence of "details" upon the "underlying scheme" allows to listener to remain "on safe ground," in a comfort zone; 2) details/variations that disrupt the "scheme" (including "dirty notes"!) are "corrected" by the ear as being really "standard" (25). [This is true b.s., from a Euro-snob who never grew up, as most Americans have, hearing "blues" notes as part of the musical "base"!]
 • Finally, the false individualization of sub-genres, of "kinds" of pop music; in the Band Band context, the choice between "swing and sweet" [the former also called "hot jazz"] . . . such a "labelling technique" provides "trade-marks of identification," until pop music has become a "multiple-choice questionnaire" (27)!  [Adorno is right on here, still? See the genre LABELS in your CD store, with Rock (and Alt. Rock, etc.) & Country & Rap. . . .]

 Theory about the listener: Popular music and "leisure time" (28-35)

 • The audience encore, with more overt Marxism: pop music is an entertainment system that relies on listeners' "distraction and inattention"; "Listeners are distracted from the demands of [alienating-work!] reality by entertainment which [as we have seen] does not demand attention" (29).
 • Finally, the "mode of production" gist: the masses are "subject" to a "mechanized process of labour" that engenders "fear and anxiety"; ergo, the need for "relaxation" via music: "People want to have fun" (cf. the Cindy Lauper tune)! . . . Moreover, it's simultaneously a "dual desire"— a "relief" from "both boredom and effort"—at last, to "provide an escape from the boredom of mechanized labour" (30)!
 • However, this "spare-time" escape is still "moulded by the operative agencies" of capitalism, forcing the workers to rely once again on "standardized goods and pseudo-individualization"—at last, a "reproduction" of "those psychological attitudes to which their workaday world exclusively habituates them" [in sum, "production and consumption"—work and leisure—are two sides of the same interpellative superstructuralist capitalistic coin] . . . and a great quot.: "The people clamour for what they are going to get anyhow" (31-32)!—woh, reminds me of the MTV "cartel" . . . The result?: an "impossibility to escape" such a system (33).
"The people clamour for what they are going to get anyhow" reminds me of the last two lines of a poem by Hemingway: "And in the end the age was handed / The sort of shit that it demanded"!
 • But the "system" has one big problem: it still "must arouse attention by means of ever-new products"—which (we know) are really ever-old, in their very standardization; plus, arousing "attention spells their doom" [see text for A.'s explanation of this paradox]! . . . ergo, "the constantly renewed effort to sweep the market with new products" (34)—e.g., new boy bands! new teen divas! (& "new & improved" dishwasher liquid!), etc.—that merely reproduce the standardization and pseudo-individualization of pop music as a force of social coercion.

 Theory about the listener: The social cement (36-43)

 • Pop audiences don't "understand" the "language" of music per se; so at last it serves as "a receptacle for their institutionalized wants," as a "social cement" . . . . Such a "cementing" works on/via "two major socio-psychological types of mass behavior" (36)::::

 1. The "rhythmically obedient type"—which entails "a process of masochistic adjustment to authoritarian collectivism" (37)

In "my day," heavy-metal head-bangers immediately come to mind—since I was one of 'em! In fact, I wrote a 50+-page essay on "Adorno & Heavy Metal" a few years back, in grad school. The 1st half critiqued metal in terms of Adorno's "standardization" arguments; the 2nd half defended metal against these attacks, and tried to argue that the genre actually displayed greater potential for social "subversion" than Adorno could have imagined. Unfortunately, I later realized that the 1st half of the essay was far more convincing!—so it was the only part that I re-formatted for the web:

        http://incolor.inetnebr.com/tgannon/hm.html

Here are the epigraph (introductory) quots. to the essay:

On your feet! Or on your knees! Here they are, theamazing Blue Öyster Cult!
  —BlueÖyster Cult, On Your Feet or On Your Knees

The purpose of the Fascist formula, the ritualdiscipline, the uniforms, and the whole apparatus, which is atfirst sight irrational, is to allow mimetic behavior. The carefullythought out symbols (which are proper to every counterrevolutionarymovement), the skulls and disguises, the barbaric drum beats, themonotonous repetition of words and gestures, are simply theorganized imitation of magic practices. . . .
  —Horkheimer & Adorno, Dialectic ofEnlightenment 184-85

 • Another provocative quot. (is it true?!): "Those who ask for a song of social significance ask for it through a medium which deprives it of social significance"—because the "media is repressive per se" (38)!?
Thanks to a student response, I am now aware of MTV's "Video Music Award for Best Video with a Social Message" (awarded since 2011)! Adorno, of course, is cringing from his grave.
 • 1. [The "rhythmically obedient type" continued:] This audience-obedience is "based upon" the "unabating . . . 'beat'"—allowing the audience to express "their desire to obey"?! (Boy, they have been interpellated!) . . . Individuals? what individuals? They are "agglutinized[!] with the untold millions of the meek who must be similarly overcome" (39; note the DATE of this essay: 1941).
 • Then Adorno returns to "serious" music, and the 20th-c. examples of Stravinsky & Hindemith, who took the "mechanized" rhythms of modern industrialism and made them (difficult &) "disillusioning" [i.e., via polytonality & polyrhythms & "unpleasant" dissonances, which intentionally "mar the pleasure" of the listener] (40).
 • [But without such high-art "seriousness,"] the industrial "cult of the machine"—the "adaptation to machine music" [cf. techno!?]—augments capitalist-oppression reality: "men are mere appendages of the machines on which they work" (40—now: consider computers, and computer music?!; and, regarding the music industry, cf. Pink Floyd's "Welcome to the Machine").

 2. The "'emotional' type"—who might be well likened to a "movie spectator"; as with the movie-goer, "wish-fulfillment" plays a large role in their attraction to pop music (41).

 • But there's more—or rather, the opposite of wish-fulfillment: deep down, listeners realize that they "actually have no part in happiness"; one merely has the "happiness[?!] of knowing that one is unhappy and that one could be happy"—but that the capitalist system forbids it. (Indeed, rather a negative catharsis, at last; in classical catharsis, you watch someone else suffer and die, and think [really now, admit it!], thank God that wasn't me!; but here—) "the temporary release [catharsis]" is the realization that "one has missed fulfillment"! It's the "music of frustration rather than . . . happiness" (42-43).
 • FINALLY: both psycho-social "types"/coercions "reconcile" the masses to their "social dependence" within the system (= false consciousness!)—because—and another great quot., whether true or not—"One who weeps does not resist any more than one who marches" (43).

Louis ALTHUSSER [ahl-too-SAYR]:
from "Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses" [1970]
 
   

 Editors' Introduction: Althusser's "structuralist Marxism," his "anti-humanism," is most evident in the following: "There is no 'constitutive subject' but instead a structure of ideas [that is, ideology] and relations among them" (238).

 Althusser's introduction—includes the "early Marx's" definition of ideology as "the system of the ideas and representations which dominate the mind of a man or a social group" (239A).

 Note that, since structuralism = anti-humanism, Althusser will pretty much erase the individual "man" from this definition.

 "Ideology has no History" (239B-241A): this section argues for an "ideology" outside of history, an empty structuralist container, as it were, versus specific socio-historical ideologies (think Saussure's langue vs. parole).

 • Footnote 1 (239B): 1st reference (in our excerpt) to the "ideological State apparatuses" (ISA's: religious & educational institutions, the family, the arts, sports, et al.) and—indirectly, the "repressive State apparatuses" (RSA's: e.g., the military, police, & court system)—referred to here as the "state['s] power" per se [explicitly referred to on 248B].
 • Note A.'s turn to Freud, in claiming that "ideology in general" is "immutable in form," indeed "eternal," in the same manner that Freud's unconscious is (that is, as a psychic structure) (240B; see also 249B).

 ["Thesis I"]: "Ideology is a 'Representation' of the Imaginary Relationship of Individuals to their Real Conditions of Existence" (241A-242A)

 (—While A. defines the "Imaginary" as both "illusion" and "allusion" [to the Real], and the "Real" as the oppressive actuality [& "materiality"] of the economic base [241A], the fact that these two terms are straight from Lacan is no accident, and there is more Lacan to come.)
 • A. critiques two alternate explanations of "ideology" (241B-242A]: 1) that ideology is the direct result on some volitional cabal of "Priests and Despots" [Nietzsche's explanation, too, by the way]—or, by extension, the capitalist elite; 2) that ideology is a direct reflection of the base itself, of the alienating "real conditions" themselves. Rather, there is a much more complex structural-psychological, relational cause-and-effect at work. [Note how this is also, indirectly, a critique of Lukács's "reflection theory," or "vulgar Marxism."] A.'s rather-too-subtle point (so far) is that the cause/effect going on here is more subtle, and "relational" (that is, structural).

 "THESIS II: Ideology has a material existence" (242B-244B).

 • The existence of "ideas" is not "spiritual" but "material" (242B).
 • The "ideological State apparatuses": each is "the realization [i.e., materialization] of an ideology," and their "unity" of purpose is "assured by their subjection to the ruling ideology" (that is, capitalism) (242B).
 • As for the "'individuals'" living in the "imaginary distortion" of ideology—"this imaginary relation is itself endowed with a material existence" [at least for having its origin in the materiality of the base?!] (242B-243A) . .  [clearer:] the individual "endowed with consciousness" and with faith in his/her free will and freedom (themselves products of ideology) actually results in ("material") attitudes & behaviors in support of, in submission to, the system (243A); at last, "the 'ideas' of a human subject exist in his actions . . . ." [Note A.'s inversion of Pascal's "'Kneel down, move your lips in prayer, and you will believe.'"] . .  summary: "his [the subject's] ideas are his material actions inserted into material practices governed by material rituals which are themselves defined by the material ideological apparatus from which derive the ideas of the subject" (243B). And so "ideas have disappeared as such," as not having "an[y] ideal or spiritual existence" (244A); and as for the subject. . . .

 "Ideology Interpellates Individuals as Subjects" (244A-246A)

 • [And vice-versa, as it were:] "There is no ideology except by the subject and for subjects" (244A). . . . The "subject" itself is a construct of "bourgeois" and "legal" ideologies. . . . Ideology's very "function," indeed, is "'constituting' concrete [i.e., material!] individuals as subjects"—in part, by allowing the "Self" or "individual" to act "'spontaneously' or naturally" as if he/she were indeed autonomous, to succumb to the "'obviousness'" that "you and I are . . . free, ethical, etc." (244B)
 • In fact, such "obviousness" (of Self-"recognition") is "the elementary ideological effect," an effect that is always at work, a structure that precedes the individual & consciousness (cf. Lacan's Symbolic): "you and I are always already subjects, and as such constantly practice the rituals of ideological recognition, which guarantee for us that we are indeed concrete, individual, distinguishable and (naturally) irreplaceable[!] subjects" (245A; for more on the subject as "always-already" [language borrowed from Derrida, by the way], see 246B).
 • [Note A.'s recognition of the problem of Marxist critique: the attempt to "break with ideology," to achieve "a scientific (i.e., subject-less) discourse on ideology" must be done "while speaking in ideology" (245B)! The more thoroughgoing postmodernist would claim such an escape to be an impossibility.]
 • The subject's Self-"recognition" within the system A. dubs interpellation: "all ideology hails or interpellates concrete individuals [e.g., bodies!?] as concrete [capitalist] subjects" (245B). . . . Long example of police officer "hailing" an "individual" (245A-246B); but the example connotes a false temporality: in reality, "The existence of ideology and the hailing or interpellation of individuals as subjects are one and the same thing" (246A).
 • Key notion: "ideology has no outside": "That is why those who are in ideology believe themselves by definition outside ideology: one of the effects of ideology is the practical denegation [denial] that we are stuck in ideology; ideology never says, 'I am ideological'"! (But then, how can A. claim himself to be "outside ideology," via "scientific knowledge" [246A]?!; well, recall that Marx deemed his philosophy a "science.")
 • A startling notion: the individual is born into ideology, as an "always-already subject." Note that A.'s discussion of the family structure & the baby's "pre-appointment" as subject includes a reference to Lacan's Law of the Father: the "Father's Name" (246B). . . . The seemingly free capitalist subjects are therefore really "'actors' in this mise en scène [staging] of interpellation," tokens or pawns in the "structure" of ideology (247A).

 "An Example: The Christian Religious Ideology" (247A-249A)

 • God, too, interpellates the Christian "subject, free to obey or disobey the appeal" (247A). . . . [Note how "God" here is described in terms of Derrida's transcendental signified, as an "Absolute"—and later as the "Absolute Subject" occupying "the unique place of the Centre" (248A).] God is thus the "Subject with a capital S," and the human subject, "with a small s," is "a subject through the Subject and subjected to the Subject" (247B).
 • A.'s explanation of God-human interpellation as a "mirror" relationship—"a mirror-structure" that "ensures its [the ideology's] functioning"—is another use of Lacanian psychoanalysis, suggestive as it is of L.'s mirror stage, that final stage in the Imaginary (ideology itself is "Imaginary," remember!?) where the individual feels whole and "one with the cosmos" (here, the State!) (248A). . . . All of this "guarantees" the ongoing functioning of ideology (248B). (This whole section, with its Subject/subject dyad, also smacks of the influence of Hegel's master/slave relationship.)
 • Another brief discussion of R.S.A.'s and I.S.A.'s (248A); note that the latter result in most subjects being "good," and "work[ing] all right 'all by themselves'"—via mystification (248A), aka naturalization (249A) [cf. "obviousness," above].
 • The "ambiguity" of the subject [and an opportunity for some more high-theory word play!]: "subject" means both "free subjectivity," a "responsible" "author" and "center"; AND a "subjected being . . . stripped of all freedom" (248B); in A.'s Marxist philosophy, however, the second is more truly the case, a subject who can merely "submit freely" to "his subjection" (249A)! . . . A final, crucial Lacanian term: méconnaissance, or misrecognition (in Lacanian terms, for instance, the Self's "mistaken" sense of union and completion in the mirror stage); here, "ideology = misrecognition/ignorance"—that is, the capitalist subject sees the illusory propaganda of the I.S.A.'s, etc., as reality (which is "mirrored" in his/her own sense of "subjectivity," as we saw above), and thus is forced/"allowed" to ignore the Real that is the economic base of class oppression (249A). [This is roughly equivalent, of course, to the general Marxist notion of "false consciousness."]

 "P.S." (249A-250B)

 • : Althusser's postscript is an (obscure!?) attempt to allow for more insurrectionary "free will" from within ideology, via the "Superstructure" itself—in particular, from within the ISA's. First of all, "the ISAs contribute to this reproduction" of ideology (249A)—and therefore can affect/change the base, presumably? Secondly, ideology and the ISA's are the products of the class conflict, after all, a base of "oppression" and "exploitation" (249B), and thus carry the seeds themselves for "resistance" (250A) and confrontation (250B). At last, even though "ideologies are not 'born' in the ISA's but from the social classes at grips in the class struggle," it is in/within the ISA's that "the ideology of the ruling class must necessarily be measured and confronted" (250B). (This disagreement with/revision of Marxist "reflection theory" (that the superstructure can only reflect the base) is called production theory—i.e., the superstructure can produce changes in the base.)


Because, of course, we have been interpellated into screw(ed)-ness.


À propos of Althusser's essay—something of a spoof on "scientific" Marxism's presumption in this regard?


The false consciousness perpetrated by religious ideology (especially the promise of a heavenly afterlife), according to Marxism, keeps the proletariat from revolting in this world.


Oh, the fickleness of fandom! (It tickles & puzzles me, every time Lennon's birthday comes around, how gushing my Facebook friends are about him, many of whom, I know, would/should revile him for his views on religion.)


The most famous Marxist lyric of all time?:

        IMAGINE

Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today


Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace


You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one


Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world


You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one

                        --John Lennon, 1971


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 W, Sept. 19th::

 Links to my new Outline-"Handouts" on Nietzsche:

 Friedrich NIETZSCHE: General Background/Intro

 Friedrich NIETZSCHE: "On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense" [1873] and (excerpts from) the On the Genealogy of Morality [1887]

Reading Questions for Nietzsche:
 "On Truth & Lies": Why does Nietzsche deem his treatise here "nonmoral" (alt. translations: "ultramoral" & "amoral")?
 "On Truth & Lies": How does Nietzsche's (quite ingenious) theory of the origin of language lead to his skeptical/relativist attitude towards "truth(s)"?
 "Truth & Lies": I've always found the short second section more "obscure" than Part 1; for instance, in the 3rd paragraph, what is this "It" of which he speaks? (Actually, "It" is clearer in our anthology's translation; nor is "it" capitalized.) And the final figure of the essay, who "wraps himself up in his cloak and . . . walks away"—what is N.'s tone towards this character, this worldview? (And does this "fellow" show up again in The Genealogy of Morals? Yes!)
 Genealogy of Morals: I've been saying that many of the touchstone texts of critical theory perform a new "twist," a reversal, an inversion of the usual way that we think about things. What is the key reversal that Nietzsche argues here (especially in the "First Essay")?
 Genealogy of Morals: Compare & contrast Hegel's Lord/Bondsman dyad with Nietzsche's distinction between master (or "noble") morality and slave (or "herd") morality.
 Genealogy of Morals: Another thread to follow: this book (like many of Nietzsche's texts) can be read as a precursor of Freud; indeed, its main arguments involve that "interiorization" of the psyche I've talked about, which Nietzsche calls here "the internalization of man." (REPRESSION seems to be the main Freudian defense mechanism involved in the analyses here.)
 Genealogy of Morals: To quote Nietzsche, "what has been written so far [is] a symptom of what has so far been kept silent." So, yeah, I'll stop beating around the bush: why does Nietzsche say so many mean things about Christianity?!
 "Epigrams & Interludes": Which aphorism in this selection most hits home for you? "Now—what does that say about you?"


• [Regarding late 20th-c. poststructuralism/postmodernism/postmodernity:] Truth is the product of interpretation, facts are constructs of discourse, objectivity is just whatever questionable interpretation of things has currently seized power, and the human subject is as much a fiction as the reality he or she contemplates, a diffuse, self-divided entity without any fixed nature or essence. In all of this, postmodernity is a kind of extended footnote to the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche, who anticipated almost every one of these positions in nineteenth-century Europe.
                ——Terry Eagleton, Literary Theory (201)
Having read at least some of Eagleton's book, you should realize that this is (mostly) a mere statement of fact, not some conservative condemnation of pomo theory and philosophical relativism. Sure, poststructuralism's deconstruction of all meta-narratives ("grands réçits") was something of a blow to old-school monolithic Marxists (for whom dialectical materialism & the class struggle remained the crux of reality, their own "transcendental signified"), but Eagleton is obviously a close & appreciative reader of poststructuralism, and Foucault (he admits himself) was the greatest influence on the last chapter of his book (116).


[E]very great philosophy up till now [is] . . . a species of involuntary and unconscious autobiography. . . .
                —Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good & Evil (sect. 6)
Before Freud and Jung, Nietzsche recognized the need to take unconscious desires & motivations into account, of even the "great masters"; e.g., what is Hegel projecting or denying in such & such statement of ostensibly abstract philosophy?W. T. Jones critiques Nietzsche himself by extending such questioning further: Nietzsche's "psychologizing strategy is almost too powerful an instrument of destruction. The theory that all theories are expressions of underlying elements in the psyche is presumably an expression of underlying elements in the personality of Nietzsche" (Kant and the Nineteenth Century 247). And no doubt, in his better (less ego-driven) moments, Nietzsche was fully aware of this irony.


Metaphysics is the finding of bad reasons for what we believe upon instinct; but to find these reasons is no less an instinct.
                —F. H. Bradley, Appearance and Reality (xiv)
Bradley (1846-1924) was a British neo-Hegelian who is now pretty much forgotten, except for this wonderful quip, worthy of Nietzsche in its aphoristic (and anti-metaphysical & will-to-truth/knowledge) brilliance.


My favorite Nietzsche aphorism; I find it so iconoclastic that I translated it into French to "hide" its meaning from the "Philistines" on Facebook! (In English: "What is falling one should also push" [Thus Sprach Zarathustra 3.56.20].)


Nietzsche's notorious statement "God Is Dead" meets its maker, as it were. "God's" retort, I once found on a bathroom wall. The "tree's" retort is my own posthumanist/ecocritical take on the matter.


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 W, Sept. 26th::

  RESPONSE #2 (2 pages or more; hardcopy only)—50 points—Due W, 9/26—CHOOSE ONE:
a) Regarding Nietzsche as a supposed prototype of "POST-TRUTH"—argue ONE of the following, w/ support from our readings: Mr. Friedrich "Post-Truth" Nietzsche 1) denies all "truths"; and/OR 2) still offers us his own version of an absolute/ metaphysical truth, whether he realizes it or not.
b) Nietzsche & Kant: Nietzsche refers to Kant in a good handful of places in our assigned readings; dealing with several of them, argue that Nietzsche is either right on or has lost his freaking mind. (Your argument may of course be qualified by the fact that sometimes Nietzsche actually praises Kant [usually so that he can vent on some other target!].)
c) Nietzsche & Freud: C/C these two "great psychologists" (Nietzsche was certain that he was one, at least!); you might consider their "similar-but-differ'nt" concepts of the unconscious? Their "similar-but-differ'nt" critiques of religion? The extent of Nietzsche's influence on Freud in either or both of these regards? (Of course, this might require either your own previous background in Freudian psychology, or some outside research. [In sum, The Future of an Illusion isn't meant as a summary of or intro to Freudian psychology. Which reminds me: if you have little knowledge of Freud, the Dufresne intro is all the more essential reading. You might also want to refer to my "intro"-outline to psychoanalysis on Canvas.])
d) How about Marx & Freud?!—especially since Dufresne suggests that Freud's The Future of an Illusion is, in part, an attempt to counter the Marxism of his day (17-26).
e) Freud v. Pfister: "Who won the 'friendly dispute'!?" Requirement: also refer to Dufresne's intro—which pretty much "waffles" itself on who "won"?—as support. Optional further consideration: how might this debate be seen as still playing out in the politics of today!?
f) Develop your own thread/thesis of interest vis-à-vis a "goodly number" of our texts to date; but this time, addressing either our Nietzsche and/or Freud assigned texts is required.
________________
Note: Of course, feel free to use my "readings" and class discussions as starting points for your own ruminations; however, do not simply rehash these ideas (or those on my online outlines).
Note: No formal page-1 MLA headers or Works Cited needed (though yr name would be nice); however, do use parenthetical pages #'s for any specific refs/quots. to/from our various texts. (Yes, direct quotations/specific references are helpful in indicating that you do actually own & have read the texts!)

 Freud(ian) material (WORD doc on Canvas, under "FREUD & Neo-Freudians"):

FREUDIAN/PSYCHOANALYTIC CRIT/THEORY: A Basic Outline

Reading Questions for Freud:
 What similarities are evident between Nietzsche & Freud? (A good handful come immediately to mind—and these may even be direct influences, though Freud rarely acknowledges them.) In what ways do you find Freud's general philosophy/psychology significantly different from that of Nietzsche? (See Response #2, prompt "c" below.)
 As for Freud's and Pfister's "friendly dispute" regarding humankind and religion, "Who wins!?" How might this debate be seen as still playing out in the politics of today!? (See Response #2, prompt "d" below.)
 Freud has been viewed as the last great "Enlightenment" rationalist; his famous claim (or hope) that "where id was, there shall ego be" is, after all, a call to victory for an ostensibly reasonable ego consciousness over the dark libidinal drives of an arational & instinctual unconscious. Alternatively, Freud has been read, with Marx and Nietzsche, as one of the modern "masters of suspicion" who ushered in a postmodern critical theory that turned everything on its head and called into question the idealism & grand narratives of Enlightenment modernism. And so, in this book—one of his last major statements—where do you see Freud falling along the continuum (as I see it) created by these vastly different perspectives of Herr Doktor?

 


My old cartoon of the Freudian psyche—hey, it was back when Macs only did bitmap graphics!


Freud Meets Wordsworth? (for my in-class discussion of Paul de Man's ingenious Freudian reading of this poem):

[Untitled]

  A slumber did my spirit seal,
      I had no human fears:
  She seem'd a thing that could not feel
      The touch of earthly years.

  No motion has she now, no force
      She neither hears nor sees
  Roll'd round in earth's diurnal course
      With rocks and stones and trees!

                        —William Wordsworth, comp. 1799

                                    [original orthography (publ. 1800)]


My sort-of-Freudian caption for a New Yorker "Caption Contest."


Jung & A-Freud? (Freud is on the left.)


All the pre-election scandal . . . (2018 note: it was funnier when Trump's reference to "Grab 'em by . . ." and Weiner's sexting—of his "weiner"—were simultaneous/contemporary scandals.)


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 W, Oct. 3rd::

 Neo-Freudian material (PDFs on Canvas, under "FREUD & Neo-Freudians"):

Eagleton Explains Lacan (Literary Theory 142-151)--my outline/commentary

Leader & Groves: Introducing Lacan--3rd-party PDF (illustrated!) [thanks, Jordan!]

Reading Question(s) for Eagleton on Lacan:
 How did infants in cultures without reflective glass ever have a mirror stage?! (I ask only half in jest.) More seriously, Eagleton makes clear why Lacan's revision of Freud rather "saved" psychoanalysis in terms of crit-theory: how did he make it more amenable to contemporary theory's postmodern bent, to its obsession with language, to its emphasis on gender, to its inclination towards fragmentation, etc., etc.?
Reading Question(s) for Bloom:
 Bloom's neo-Freudian theory of the "anxiety of influence" (or poetry as patricide, as I like to call it) has to be the most original contribution to the study of literary influence in centuries. But keep an eye out for some (I think pretty obvious) limitations to the theory's specifics. Also, as with Lacan—how is Bloom's revision of Freud also pretty dang postmodern/poststructuralist? (Note that Bloom was a member of the so-called Yale School of deconstructionists, the first wave of American disciples of Jacques Derrida.)
 Given this essay, how might you argue that Bloom has been as much (if not more) influenced by Nietzsche as he has been by Freud?
 Also: feel free to skim-read Part 3 of the essay (335B-340A); besides his erudite sojourn through Gnosticism and the Kabbalah, it ends with a pretty murky description of his famous(ly difficult) "revisionary ratios" (and assumes an audience already familiar with them).
Reading Question(s) for Gilbert:
 Note, first of all, that a revised version of this essay would become the opening chapter of Gilbert & Gubar's The Madwoman in the Attic (1979), one of the most influential works of the first wave of literary feminism.
 Welcome to our first woman theorist! (Obviously, Continental Philosophy has been pretty much a good-old-boy coterie.) And to an essay that is a plethora of "bad" Freudian puns (e.g., the "pen" as the male author's "penis") and other clever wordplay. The essay can be read as a lit-crit critique of Freud's notion of "penis envy." Pay especial attention to Gilbert's final reading of Mary Shelley's "feminist Parable of the Cave" as a crucial part of that critique.
 Finally, what do you make of Gilbert's rather odd (muted?) treatment of Bloom's theory (488B)?


  Harold BLOOM: "Poetry, Revision, Repression" (1976) 
   

 Intro Note: this essay is from Poetry and Repression, Bloom's fourth book about his theory of the "anxiety of influence"; it was preceded by The Anxiety of Influence (1973), A Map of Misreading (1975), and Kabbalah and Criticism (1975). (Note also that "misreading" is the best [more common] synonym for his more erudite term in this essay, "misprision.")

 The intro by Adams & Searle includes a useful summary statement: yes, Bloom differs from many poststructuralists in wanting to still deal with the author: "But the author that Bloom rescues is hardly the author of traditional humanism. Rather, he[!] is a creature of savage will to power[!], who comes on the scene always too late, always embattled by the fact that a strong precursor was there first. He must do battle with this precursor by creatively misreading him. For Bloom all poetry is interpretation of previous writing. Indeed, it is inevitably misinterpretation [i.e., a 'misreading' or 'misprision'], as is all criticism as well" (330).


1.

 Bloom immediately establishes his debt to Nietzsche in describing the "strong poet": "The strong word and stance issue only from a strict will, a will that dares the error of reading all of reality as a text, and all prior texts as openings for its own totalizing and unique interpretations. Strong poets present themselves as looking for truth in the world [. . .] but such a stance, as Nietzsche said, remains under the mastery of desire, of instinctual drives. So, in effect, the strong poet wants pleasure and not truth" (331B).

 How about a summary of the book?: "The concern of this book [. . .] is only with strong poets [. . .] exemplified by the major sequence of High Romantic British and American poets: Blake, Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats, Tennyson, Browning, Yeats, Emerson, Whitman, and Stevens, but also throughout by two of the strongest poets in the European Romantic tradition: Nietzsche and Freud[!]. By 'poet' I therefore do not mean only verse-writer" (331B).

 A forecast of his main idea: "A poetic 'text,' as I interpret it, is not a gathering of signs on a page, but is a psychic battlefield upon which authentic forces struggle for the only victory worth winning, the divinating triumph over oblivion" (332A).

 All this misreading is intertextual: "Any poem is an inter-poem, and any reading of a poem is an inter-reading. A poem is not writing, but rewriting, and though a strong poem is a fresh start, such a start is a starting-again" (332A).

 The plight of the (post-Enlightenment) poet is BELATED-ness: "every poet is belated" and "every poem is an instance of what Freud called [. . .] 'retroactive meaningfulness.'" Such a poet's "art is necessarily an aftering, and so at best he strives for a selection, through repression, out of the traces of the language of poetry; that is, he represses some of the traces, and remembers others. This remembering is a misprision, or creative misreading, but no matter how strong a misprision, it cannot achieve an autonomy of meaning" (332B).

 Thus "strong" poets are necessarily repressive regarding their "strong" influences (again, my favorite example is the influence of Milton on Wordsworth): "if any poet knows too well what causes his poem, then he cannot write it, or at least will write it badly. He must repress the causes, including the precursor-poems" (of his literary "fathers," if you will) (333A). (Note that Bloom—as he says elsewhere—isn't concerned with "weak" poets, who may likely be fully conscious that they are merely imitating their masters & betters!)


2.

 Perhaps an even more intriguing (& postmodern) aspect of Bloom's theory is that readers/critics, too, are inevitably "mis-readers"!: " Similarly, the reading of strong poetry is just as much a poetic [i.e., fictional/imaginary] fact as is the writing of such poetry" (333B; so why not be, Bloom will eventually intimate, a strong—i.e., creative—"mis-reader," as a critic!?).

 • Note that Freud & Nietzsche have already been called "strong poets" (331A)—that is, creators of (in this case) philosophy and psychology, through "strong misreading." (Note also how this ALL fits under Nietzsche's notion of "interpretation" as inevitably "creative.") One of Bloom's better examples of this occurs later, in the Gnostic Simon Magus' interpretation of the Iliad: "Simon is writing his own poem, and calling it Homer, and his peculiar mixture in this passage of Homer, Virgil, the Bible, and his own Gnosis amounts to a revisionary freedom of interpretation, one so free that it transgresses all limits and becomes its own creation" (336A).

 Indeed, the "belated" poet unconsciously must exercise "his" "poetic strength as [a] usurpation or imposition" upon the previous author/poem (333B; though the idea isn't as explicit in this chapter as in Bloom's previous writing, it's clearly intimated that this "usurpation" is a metaphorical/literary act of Oedipal patricide against the "father"-author).

 Bloom is heading towards the most difficult part of his theory—his identification of six major methods by which "ephebes" (the belated authors) unconsciously "rewrite" their daddies' texts. Each of these methods—which Bloom calls "revisionary ratios"—is closely related to a particular Freudian defense mechanism AND a particular rhetorical trope*: thus he initially intrigues us by noting that both the 18th-c. scholar Vico and Kenneth Burke saw "tropes as defenses" (334A; see also 335A).

 *And each ALSO entails a concept from the Kabbalah! And you thought that I was OCD!

3.

 Note: the apparently unnecessarily lengthy sidetrack into Gnosticism (335B-337A) is, for one thing, ultimately a segue to a related mystical tradition, that of the Jewish Kabbalah, which is central to Bloom's "revisionary ratios."

 Bloom defends his forays into Gnosticism and the Kabbalah by finding them to be good—that is, strong—"interpretative models": "The quest for interpretative models is a necessary obsession for the reader who would be strong, since to refuse models explicitly is only to accept other models, however unknowingly. All reading is translation, and all attempts to communicate a reading seem to court reduction, perhaps inevitably" (337A; note how much he sounds like Nietzsche here!). Such "negative theology," instead of even "Continental philosophy, or structuralist linguistics," may be "the likeliest 'discipline' for revisionary literary critics to raid[!] in their incessant quest after further metaphors for the act of reading" (337A-B). Besides Walter Benjamin, Bloom is the only major literary theorist I know of to subscribe to this rather idiosyncratic view; but the key point to me is that he recognizes the "illuminations" of these mystical traditions as "metaphors"—another quite Nietzschean move. (Even more interestingly, he'll later recognize Freudian theory as itself metaphorical!)

 After once again delineating the book's subject matter—"the strong poems of the post-Enlightenment, from Blake through Stevens"—he then summarizes his six famous "revisionary ratios" (338A-339B). (Unfortunately, he assumes that the reader is familiar with his previous books, I suspect, because their definitions here are quite murky. Nor do I think memorizing his exotic terms is all that time-worthy since he obviously has to do some warping of reality, it seems to me, to make each Freudian defense mechanism fit with a specific traditional rhetorical device, etc. Also, he explicitly claims that they are mere heuristic metaphors.)

 1. clinamen
 • Often the "ephebe" poet's first step, a Freudian "reaction-formation" OR/in other words—"rhetorical irony"; as both "trope and defense," the clinamen is thus an opposing "swerve" from the original model. Freud's reaction formation works here as an "overt attitude [the new poem] that opposes itself directly to a repressed wish [to simply 'copy' the old poem, as it were!], by a rigidity that expresses the opposite of the instinct it battles" (338A). (This is the clearest of the six, I think!)
 2. tessera
 . . . [never mind: again, I wouldn't expect anyone to be able to understand Bloom's six "ratios" via the explanations given here alone. But you get the idea. Instead, let me quote a passage from one of his critics, M. H. Abrams, on these ratios, which rather reiterates my point that psychoanalytic readings carry with them a certain unassailability:]
Take, for example, the Freudian mechanisms of defense—which Bloom calls "the clearest analogues I have found for the revisionary ratios"—as he applies them to interpret any poem as a distorted version of a precursor-poem. If the belated poem patently echoes the parent-poem, that counts as evidence for the new reading; although, Bloom asserts, "only weak poems [. . .] immediately echo precursor poems, or directly allude to them." If the later poem doesn't contain such "verbal reminders," that counts too, on the basis of the mechanism of repression [that is, daemonization(?)]—the belated poet's anxiety of influence has been strong enough to repress all reference to his predecessor. And if the belated poem differs radically from its proposed precursor, that counts even more decisively, on the basis of the mechanism of "reaction-formation" [that is, clinamen]—the poet's anxiety was so intense as to distort the precursor into its seeming opposite. [In sum, Bloom can't lose!]

—M. H. Abrams, "How to Do Things with Texts" (Critical Theory Since 1965, edited by Hazard Adams & Leroy Searle, Florida State UP, 1986, pp. 436-449)

 Note that Frosch's block quot. on 342B-343A presumably offers another (also obscure) summary of the six ratios: "The [Primal] Scene [. . .] has six stages, through which the ephebe emerges: election (seizure by the precursor's power); covenant (a basic agreement of poetic vision between precursor and ephebe); the choice of a rival inspiration (e.g., Wordsworth's Nature vs. Milton's Muse); the self-presentation of the ephebe as a new incarnation of the 'Poetical Character'; the ephebe's interpretation of the precursor; and the ephebe's revision of the precursor."


4.

 While Bloom's theory is largely confined to "post-Enlightenment" poets—e.g., the Romantics, on—he gives an earlier example of the "anxiety of influence" in the figure of Petrarch, who may have been "the strong instance in Western poetry of the anxiety of influence, an anxiety induced by the greatness of Dante" (341A).

 This final section is most notable in its Nietzschean move of calling even his Freudian heuristic a trope, a metaphor: "I intend no revision of the Freudian trope of 'the Unconscious,' but rather I deny the usefulness of the Unconscious, as opposed to repression, as a literary term. Freud [. . .] is only another strong poet, though the strongest of modern poets[!], stronger even than Schopenhauer, Emerson, [and] Nietzsche[?!]. [. . .] A critic, 'using' Freud, does nothing different in kind from 'using' Milton [. . . .] If the critic chooses to employ Freud reductively, as a supposed scientist, whatever that is[!]*, then the critic forgets that tropes or defenses are primarily figures of willed falsification rather than figures of unwilled knowledge" (341B; this last clause is straight Nietzsche, of course).

 • Later on, Bloom says of Freudianism: "If this is science, then so is" Gnosticism, and the Kaballah (342B)!
 • Bloom's disclaimers about being an (orthodox) Freudian continue: his critical theory "has nothing in common with anything now miscalled 'Freudian literary criticism.' To say that a poem's true subject is its repression of the precursor poem is not to say that the later poem reduces to the process of that repression." And after all, from a "strict Freudian view, a good poem is a sublimation, and not a repression" (342A).
 • And furthermore!: "the proper use of Freud, for the literary critic, is not so to apply Freud [. . .] as to arrive at an Oedipal interpretation of poetic history. I find such to be the usual misunderstanding that my own work provokes. In studying poetry we are not studying the mind, nor the Unconscious, even if there is an unconscious" (342A). (However: to Bloom to deny that his whole theory of the "anxiety of influence" was not derived fairly directly from Freudian theory would be rubbish. Hmmm—is this another slaying of the father?!?!)

 Bloom is obviously doing some poststructural moves here, including his merging/blurring of "fact" v. "fiction" and his general claim that all readings are misreadings: "Freud's lifework is a severe poem, and its own latent principles are more useful to us, as critics, than its manifest principles, which frequently call for interpretation as the misprisions of Schopenhauer and Nietzsche that they are, despite their own intentions" (342A) (Ha!: applying Nietzsche to Nietzsche!—We knew THAT was gonna happen. Note also Bloom's clever use of Freud's "manifest content" v. "latent ~"—here against Freud!)

 Now let's end with some explicit Nietzsche: "Every strong poem, at least since Petrarch, has known implicitly what Nietzsche taught us to know explicitly: that there is only interpretation, and that every interpretation answers an earlier interpretation, and then must yield to a later one" (342A; one is tempted to say, at least regarding the "anxiety of influence," that Bloom is as much if not more a neo-Nietzschean as a neo-Freudian).



  Susan GILBERT: "Literary Paternity" (1979) 
   

 Note: a revised version of this essay would become the first chapter of 1st chapter of Gilbert & Gubar'sThe Madwoman in the Attic (1979).


[I. The Male Pen:]

 "Is a pen a metaphorical penis?" (486B)—Yes, pen/penis = "paternal"/patriarchal authorship, the male writer as deific generator of the text (487B)

 literary patriarchy/"paternity":

 • Literary patriarchy's theological associations (the author as "God the Father"): "the patriarchal notion that the writer 'fathers' his text just as God fathered the world is and has been all-pervasive in Western literary civilization" (487A). . . . "the poet, like God the Father, is a paternalistic ruler of the fictive world he has created" (488A; see also 493B; and see also Barthes' essay on "The Death of the Author").
 • Literary patriarchy's misogyny (487B, 492A, 494B): Note that "patriarchal misogyny" is wonderfully explained in part psychoanalytically, as reflective of a deep "anxiety" about, and compensation for, the actual, "mysterious" role of the male in procreation—thus the need for reassuring & "compensatory fictions of the Word" (487B)! [Thus Robert Bly, among others, has spoken of literary creation as the male's compensation for the woman's ability to give birth.]
 • Literary patriarchy as sexual domination (quoting John Irwin: a "'creative onanism,'" the "'phallic pen'" on the "'virgin page'"—and the "muse's quasi-sexual excitation" at the poet's efforts!) (488B)
 • Literary patriarchy as ownership, the male author as "possessor of the subjects of his text"—incl. the female characters (489A; see also 491B-492A)

 Gilbert then calls Harold Bloom on his sexist theory (at least indirectly?!): "As Harold Bloom has pointed out, 'from the sons of Homer to the sons of Ben Jonson, poeticinfluence had been described as a filial relationship' [. . . .] The fierce struggle at the heart of literary history, says Bloom, is a 'battle between strong equals, father and son as mighty opposites, Laius and Oedipus at the crossroads'" (488B). (Gilbert is being too kind here? Bloom himself, of course, has no problem seeing this father-son struggle as the crux of "literary history"; his own theory could have been offered as another example of the literary patriarchy at work?!)

 In sum: "In patriarchal Western culture, therefore, the text's author is a father, a progenitor, a procreator, an aesthetic patriarch whose pen is an instrument of generative power like his penis" (488B).


[II. "Literary Women"]

 The female plight: "Where does this" literary paternalism "leave literary women?"—for centuries, not only "'confused'" but their literary efforts repressed (489A) . . . . 17th-c. British poet Anne Finch as a great example thereof (489A-490A, 491A)

 • [Note the concepts of Lacan's Symbolic/Law of the Father/"phallus" and Derrida's "presence/absence" binary behind the following:] "If male sexuality is integrally associated with the assertive presence of literary power, female sexuality is connected with the absence of such power" (489B).

 Finch: women as "Cyphers" (489B-490A); Germaine Greer: woman as a "'eunuch'" (490A); in general, the woman writer has been deemed "anomalous, freakish," and "'unfeminine'" (490B)

 • Finch's plight epitomizes "the coercive power not only of cultural constraints but of the literary texts which incarnate them" (491A). [Note: this "coercive" social "power" is also a dominant idea in the literary theory of New Historicism (yes, thanks to Foucault).]

 Next example: the Wife of Bath (491B), thru which Gilbert returns to the notion of (female characters as) "property": "male authors" have "assume[d] patriarchal rights to ownership over the female 'characters' they engrave" (491B); and again: "women in patriarchal societies have been reduced to mere properties, to characters and images imprisoned in male texts" (492A). [And note that the trope of "imprisonment" is a dominant motif in Gilbert & Gubar's The Madwoman [imprisoned!] in the Attic. See next passage, for instance.]

 Great passage of Derridean/lit-theory punning: "As a creation 'penned' by man, moreover, woman has been 'penned up' or 'penned in.' As a sort of 'sentence' man has spoken, she has herself been 'sentenced': fated, jailed, for he has both 'indited' [i.e., written] her and 'indicted' her. As a thought he has 'framed,' she has been both 'framed' (enclosed) in his texts [. . .] and 'framed up' (found guilty, found wanting) in his cosmologies" [i.e., myths] (492B). . . . (Note also the later reference to Coleridge's wife Mary as "an enraged and rebellious prisoner" [493B].)

 • At last, this social & literary oppression & repression has been traumatically "psychological" (492B).
 • [Gilbert's reference to the "centuries-long silence of so many women" like Anne Finch (492), by the way, reminds one of Virginia Woolf's famous hypothetical example of "Shakespeare's sister."]

 The literary patriarchy's need to even "figuratively [. . .] 'kill'" women in their writing (492B-493A; I think immediately of Wordsworth's "Lucy" poems!): is it from some male "dread" of women?; because of her associations with the body, and life—and (thus aging, and) death!? . . . fascinating analysis (from Lederer) of "'makeup'" (cosmetics) as the woman's (internalized) desire to "kill herself into art" (493A)!?


[III. Women Write Back]

 A Call to Action, then (& examples of insurrection from 19th-c. lit.): Women "must escape just those male texts which [. . .] deny them the autonomy to formulate alternatives to the authority that has imprisoned them." (492B) . . . the dawning of a new consciousness? (cf. Lacan's "mirror stage"!): "Authored by a male God [ooh] and by a godlike male, 'killed' into a perfect image of herself, the woman writer's self-contemplation may be said to have begun with a searching glance into the mirror of the male-inscribed literary text" (493B).

 • Example of Mary Coleridge (493B-494A), whose poem evidences "an invincible sense of her own autonomy, her own interiority"—reflecting the "human [. . .] habit of defying author-ity, both divine and literary" (494A) . . . This [social & literary] defiance includes a certain "duplicity" necessary to escape patriarchal bounds, a "secret self" versus "the authority of the pen/penis" (494A-B).

 Sub-thesis: "against the traditional generative authority of the pen/penis, the literary woman can set the conceptual energy of her own female sexuality" (494B; is Gilbert thus accepting Freud's idea that art is a sublimation of sexuality?!).

 • Example of Charlotte Bronte, who reinscribes Milton's "doll" of an Eve as a "fiend" full of "Promethean creative energy" (494B; cf. the "angel" vs. "madwoman" dichotomy) . . . [Note that all these examples of "rage," and "madness," and "fiend"-ish protest are set-ups for the main thesis of The Madwoman in the Attic, that underlying much 19th-c. British women's fiction—as its "latent content"—is a "feminist rage," as subtext to the overt stock Gothic or Comedy of Manners plots & docile female protagonists (="manifest content")]
 • Long (and most effective) example of Mary Shelley's intro to The Last Man, a "covertly[!—i.e., 'duplicitous'] feminist Parable of the Cave" [Plato]: note that this "cave" is a "female space [. . .] inhabited not by fettered prisoners—the motif again—but by a free female," the mythic Sibyl (495A-B); Shelley's intro speaks of being "'employed in deciphering these sacred [female] remains'" (495A). And so Shelley's task—like later feminists refashioning the canon!—is that of "reconstruction," of recuperation (of the scattered "sacred remains") (495B); as for later feminists, again, it is a "painstaking labor: translation, transcription, and stitchery, re-vision and re-creation" (496A).

 Finally, such a "quest for creative energy" IS also quite evident in "many other women writers," through Emily Dickinson to contemporary authors such as Adrienne Rich (496A-B). . . . (Yes, the original essay ends like this; as you can imagine, the revised/book version has a much more standard—er, "patriarchal"?!—flourish!)


• Thanks to a student, from the 2016 iteration of this course:


To the Top

 W, Oct. 10th::

  RESPONSE #3 (2 pages or more; hardcopy only)—50 points—Due W, 10/17—CHOOSE ONE:
a) ONO talk (10/11): Respond to "The Rhetoric of Sanctuary in the Post-Truth Era": how (well) does it relate to our course theme of "post-truth"? Also, to quote the syllabus, "connections with our course readings will be especially welcome" (in fact, de rigeur).
b) If you MISSED the Ono talk: select one of the two Ono essays on Canvas (under "HotE Readings") and respond to it, in part through the lens of at least two of our theorists to date. (Again, it's all about "connections.")

 "Outline-Handouts" for this week—all in the BB folder "STRUCTURALists & POSTSTRUCTURALists (& Other Wild Creatures)":

Modernism vs. Postmodernism Vocabulary—incl. Structuralism & Poststructuralism

Eagleton: Structuralism & Poststructuralism chapter—my outline

Jakobson's "The Metaphoric and Metonymic Poles"—my "binary-table" outline (see also table below)

Metaphor & Metonymy (Take 2)—with examples

Barthes: the Readerly vs. the Writerly—brief "overhead" (see also table below)

Derrida's "Structure, Sign & Play"—my outline

Derridean Binaries—including those deconstructed in Derrida's "Structure, Sign and Play" (see also table below)

Reading Question(s) for Eagleton on structuralism & poststructuralism:
 Follow Eagleton's connections between structuralism & poststructuralism closely. It demonstrates in part why it's still necessary to understand the basics of structuralism—in our social-constructivist/poststructuralist age. Also crucial is that the break between the two pretty much signals, in the history of crit theory, the break between modernism and postmodernism: along with the New Critics, the structuralists were rather the "last gasp" of modernism, the final faith in the text's—and the entire social signifying system's—"truth" & full meaning; poststructuralism, as I've said several times already, becomes THE philosophy/theory of postmodernism (defined as a larger cultural set of art & ideas & Zeitgeist).. . . BTW, Derrida's essay famously marks that break; the last word of the essay is "monstrosity"—which, he knew, was how his structuralist audience would view his critique of "structure" itself. So, again, please "bring" that essay, and I'll briefly(!?) work thru his major interventions. (BTW, Eagleton's exposition of Derrida's deconstruction in our assigned reading is [not surprisingly] the clearest I've ever encountered.)
Reading Question(s) for Jakobson:
 (Again, not an actually question, but:) follow Jakobson's famous distinction between metaphor and metonymy closely. (It really works out to a whole set of structuralist binaries, such as "vertical" vs. "horizontal," semantic vs. syntactic, etc. [Even, poetry vs. prose, in a way!]) Crit-theory-historically, Jakobson really "discovers" here the importance of metonymy as a central trope: while the New Critics considered it a pretty "minor" figure of speech (as in "The angry peasants were a threat to the Throne"), metonymy is now a ubiquitous term/concept in contemporary theory. (Also note that, in the scientific spirit of structural linguistics, Jakobson bases his entire argument on research in brain physiology.)
Reading Question(s) for Barthes:
 Based on what you know from the Eagleton excerpts, where in this famous essay does Barthes sound like a structuralist? Where does he sound like a poststructuralist? (Barthes, like Foucault, was a transitional figure who wrote major structuralist texts before "jumping ship" with Derrida.)
 Recall that the New Critics also called for their own "death of the author" of sorts, in refusing biographical info as a viable part of interpreting the text (= the Fallacy of Intent). How does Barthes' "elegy" differ from that of New Criticism?


The Era of "Little Theories"?
(vis-à-vis the Modernism vs. Postmodernism Vocabulary "handout")


Binaries: it's all in the codes.




  Roman JAKOBSON [YAW-kob-son]: "The Metaphoric and Metonymic Poles" (1956) 
   

 Via studies in aphasia, Jakobson concludes that metaphor is based on "the relation of similarity," and metonymy is based on the "relation of contiguity" (that is, adjacency, or spatial association) (1132B).

 Also, metaphor is "substitutive," metonymy, "predicative" (1133A). (To clarify, metaphor works characteristically on the "vertical" axis of syntax, as one word being substituted for another (the fancy linguistic adjective for this axis is paradigmatic); metonymy works more naturally on the "horizontal" axis, that is, as a predicate of a sentence, etc. (the fancy term is syntagmatic).

 Now that that's clear—MORE confusingly!, however, both "kinds of connection (similarity and contiguity)" can occur along either axis—"positional and semantic" (i.e., horizontal and vertical; see my "overhead" docs for clarifying examples of this).

 As for literature—well, either "of the two gravitational poles may prevail. In Russian lyrical songs, for example, metaphoric constructions predominate, while in the heroic epics the metonymic way is preponderant" (1133A-B).

 Poetry vs. prose (fiction): "The primacy of the metaphoric process in the literary schools of romanticism and symbolism [mostly poetry] has been repeatedly acknowledged, but it is still insufficiently realized that it is the predominance of metonymy which underlies and actually predetermines the so-called "realistic" trend" of 19th-c. fiction (1133B).
 • The predominance of metonymy in (at least realistic) fiction is Jakobson's "big find" here: "Following the path of contiguous relationships, the realist author metonymically digresses from the plot to the atmosphere and from the characters to the setting in space and time. He is fond of synecdochic details" (1133B). (The following example from Tolstoy is wonderful!; OH: note also that Jakobson considers synecdoche—"a part standing for the whole"—to be a subset of metonymy.)

 This binary of tropes also applies to other arts—"in sign systems[!]* other than language": "A salient example from the history of painting is the manifestly metonymical orientation of cubism, where the object is transformed into a set of synecdoches; the surrealist painters responded with a patently metaphorical attitude." (For the latter, think of Dali's painting of that melting clock as a metaphor, for—?!) And in cinematography, we have "an unprecedented variety of synecdochic 'close-ups' and metonymic 'set-ups'"—and in contrast, "metaphoric 'montage' with its 'lap dissolves'—the filmic similes" (1133B)!

 Note how Jakobson's structuralism becomes explicit here; later he defines "semiotic[s]" as "the general science of signs" (1134A).

 Jakobson's best example of the metonymic bent of realistic fiction is the figure of the (obscure!) Russian novelist Uspenskij, who actually did suffer from "similarity disorder" (1134A)! Indeed, "Uspenskij had a particular penchant for metonymy, and especially for synecdoche, and that he carried it so far that 'the reader is crushed by the multiplicity of detail unloaded on him in a limited verbal space, and is physically unable to grasp the whole, so that the portrait is often lost'" (1134B; see the footnote for a mind-numbing example of this exhaustingly detailed style)!

 Jakobson finally laments that "the question of the two poles is still neglected": "What is the main reason for this neglect?"—especially of metonymy (1134B).

 • Well, literary criticism is a metalanguage of its topic (language/literature), and is thus itself based upon metaphor!: "Similarity in meaning connects the symbols of a metalanguage with the symbols of the language referred to. [. . .] Consequently, when constructing a metalanguage to interpret tropes, the researcher possesses more homogeneous means to handle metaphor, whereas metonymy, based on a different principle, easily defies interpretation" (1134B-1135A). (This also partly explains why the New Critics found poetry a more amenable genre than fiction?!
 • After summarizing again that poetry is largely metaphorical and that prose, "on the contrary, is forwarded essentially by contiguity," Jakobson then brilliantly accuses literary studies, in its "amputed, unipolar" obsession with metaphor, to have a "contiguity disorder" (1135B)!!

Addendum: A (Binary) Table
—Studies in aphasia (& free association) led J. to the following bipolar structure of language, and signs in general; J. wants to give metonymy its linguistic due, since metaphor has received the vast preponderance of attention. ("Why?" [see 1134B-1135].)
    METAPHOR (vertical axis)METONOMY (horizontal axis)
    similaritycontiguity
    substitute/substitutive (associational)complement/predicative (combinatory)
Literature:poetry/Romanticism (via "symbolism")prose/Realism (via "synecdochic details")
Visual Art:SurrealismCubism
Cinema:"montage," "lap dissolves""synecdochic 'close-ups,'" "metonymic 'set-ups'" (and "pans"/panning!)
Dreams (Freud): "identification,"1 "symbolism""displacement," "condensation"
Ritual (Frazer):"homeopathic" (imitative)"contagious"
[my add.:] Linguistics (Saussure):synchronic, "paradigmatic"
    (= vertical axis!)
diachronic, "syntagmatic" [="syntactic," "predicative"]
    (= horizontal axis!)
    1 Fittingly, the neo-Freudian Lacan also uses the term "substitution" in this context, in opposition to metonymic "displacement."

Metaphor & Metonymy vis-à-vis their Semantic & Syntactic "Aspects" (Examples)
    semantic/vertical axis (X/Y)positional (syntactic)/horizontal axis (X...Y)
Metaphor:Out, out, brief candle!Love is a rose.
 ["candle"=life]["rose"=love]
Metonymy:He was a threat to the throne.Every rose has its thorn.1
 ["throne"=>monarchy (by association/contiguity,
NOT semantic substitution]
["rose"=>"thorn" (again, contiguity,
not substitution)]
1 This is a special example, of course, in which the two nouns also work as an extended metaphor.


A tribute to Jakobson's contribution to poetry exegesis.




  Roland BARTHES [BART]: "The Death of the Author" (1968) 
   

 Paragraph 1 (1256A): [Barthes quotes sentence from Balzac novella:] Who is speaking?—"We can never know, for . . . writing is the destruction of every voice, every origin. Writing is that neuter . . . where all [authorial] identity is lost." [This is related to Derrida's privileging of "absence" over "presence."]

 Par. 2 (1256A-B): "[O]nce a fact is recounted" (that is, a story told), "this gap appears" (between "author" & text). . . . Note that—especially given what we know about "primitive"/communal societies—the individual "author"-genius is a "modern" invention, likely post-Middle-Ages, based on the "prestige of the individual," which is itself the product of "capitalist ideology." [Barthes, BTW, was also a Marxist.] And even today, lit. studies (& pop media, etc.) are "tyrannically centered on the author . . . ."

 Par. 3 (1256B-1257A): Late-19th-c. & early 20th-c. examples of authors & movements that anticipated structuralism's erasure of the "author": MallarmĂ© (for whom "it is language which speaks, not the author"); ValĂ©ry; Proust; Surrealism—interesting in that it "sought . . . a direct subversion of the codes—an illusory subversion . . . for a code cannot be destroyed, only 'flouted'"!?); finally, Saussure's structural linguistics itself, which "furnishes the destruction of the Author with a precious analytic instrument," which knows that "the author is nothing but the one who writes"; "language knows a 'subject,' not a 'person,' and this 'subject'" is "empty outside of the very speech-act which defines it. . . ." [The word choice "subject"—for both author and reader—is a characteristically (anti-humanist) structuralist move.]

 Par. 4 (1257A-B): This new structuralist (& poststructuralist) insight regarding the "removal of the Author . . . utterly transforms the modern text": for one thing, "Time" changes; that is, there is no author "conceived as the past of his own book" in a cause->effect fashion [which is diachronic!]; rather, the "modern scriptor is born at the same time as his text [that is, synchronically] . . . he is not the subject of which his book would be the predicate . . ." (!—and so characteristic of a structuralist to employ a grammar metaphor). [Note: Barthes' talk about the "performative" is derived from J. L. Austin's and John Searle's Speech-Act theory, a version of rhetorical theory (see also Eagleton 102-103).] At last the "scriptor" "traces a field . . . with no origin but language itself . . . ."

 Par. 5 (1257B) [the "theological" turn]: The text therefore isn't "a line of words, releasing a single 'theological' meaning" (an argument similar to Eagleton's reading of New Criticism's "organic whole" as an implicit monotheism). Rather, the text is multi-vocal, multivalent, and a bundle of "competing discourses" [New Historicism]; or "polyphonic," "dialogic," and fraught with "heteroglossia" [terms of Mikhail Bakhtin], a "multi-dimensional space" made up of "contested several writings" [ugh translation?—but the notion of the text as a site of contestatory meanings becomes key for later feminists, New Historicists, et al. See also the later statement that "a text consists of multiple writings, proceeding from several cultures and entering into dialog, into parody, into contestation" (1258A), which also sounds very much Bakhtin]. Moreover, "none" of these "voices" are original: "the text is [but] a fabric of quotations," as it were (cf. Eliot's The Waste Land?!). Thus the centrality of intertextuality: "The writer can only imitate an ever anterior [prior], never original gesture," employing a "ready-made lexicon" of previous works, an "immense dictionary" of literary tradition. [Cf. Derrida's famous buzzphrase, "always already."] At last, this "book," this "dictionary" of discourse in toto—langue itself!—"is but a tissue of signs, [and] endless imitation . . . ."

 Par. 6 (1257B-1258A): [(Post)modern criticism itself, then? Here Barthes (more fully) reveals his evolution from structuralist to poststructuralist/deconstructionist:] "[T]he claim to 'decipher' a text becomes entirely futile," but such a deciphering has inevitably been long attempted: "To assign an Author to a text is to . . . furnish it with a final signified, to close writing." (And Barthes insists that writing is—or should be—"open.") So, "once the author is found, the text is 'explained,' and the critic has won"!? BUT the truth is that, "[i]n multiple writing . . . everything is to be disentangled, but nothing deciphered, [and] structure can be followed, 'threaded. . . .'" [=STRUCTURALISM; then the move to DECONSTRUCTION:] "but there is no end to it [the text], no bottom . . . writing constantly posits meaning, but always in order to evaporate it"; thus writing (and the deconstructionist critic) refuses "to assign to the text . . . a 'secret,' i.e., an ultimate meaning"—ah: such an approach is "countertheological, properly revolutionary, for to refuse to halt meaning is finally to refuse God and his hypostases ["versions"], reason, science, the law." (Whew! To understand such a revolution, we must get to Derrida's deconstruction of all the privileged binaries of Western Civilization, including such "transcendental signifieds.")

 Par. 7 (1258A-B): [the READER(?!):] Barthes starts out sounding like a reader-response critic in that, without the "author," the text's multiplicity ends up being "collected" at the "site" of the "reader." But then individual reader-response considerations are actually tossed out the window, since this (apparently ideal) reader is mere impersonal "subject," "a man without history, without biography, without psychology" [see Eagleton 105]?! . . . Also in this finale is B.'s first explicit reference to the "new writing" of the 1960's [see next] . . . .

 FINAL NOTE: Two of Barthes' most important coined terms are only implicit in this essay, the "readerly" text and the "writerly" text. The former includes Balzac's novella Sarrasine—and most traditional lit.—any text that not only comfortably fulfills the reader's structural expectations, but serves as a prop for capitalist/bourgeois ideology. The "writerly" text is B.'s term for the avant-garde/postmodern text that forces the reader out of all such comfortability—and forces the reader to "(re)write" the text him/herself. Barthes had in mind the "radical" French New Novel of the 1960's; in American lit. of that same time period, I might point to the poetry of John Ashbery and the fiction of Donald Barthelme. But finally, the problem in reading Barthes is figuring out sometimes whether his various cryptic utterances are meant to refer to all texts [reading this essay synchronically!] or just to his own favored postmodern ones (e.g., read par. 5 again) [a diachronic reading]. (2016 add: I now favor BOTH readings!)

From a former student's quiz, one of the better 21st-c. explications of Barthes' writer ("scripteur"), who simply creates a "fabric of quotations," re-orderering the codes from a "ready-made lexicon" (paragraph 5/1257B): "DJs come to mind; they take bits and pieces from existing works and combine them in a different way. They are born with their writings, they do not create them—they simply write them down. They are a product of their environment almost; they have no original thoughts"!

Addendum: Barthes' READERLY vs. WRITERLY
"readerly" text:=> "closed" text that fulfills/mimics the reader's (& author's) smug expectations & bourgeois ideology=>plaisir (pleasure)
"writerly" text:=> "open" text (postmodern lit.) that forces the reader to "create" his/her own "text," and disallows smug expectations=>jouissance ("bliss"!)



• According to Derrida, the U.S. Declaration of Independence is either "belated" or premature, declaring/establishing the state by assuming that it's both already happened and/or "will" happen by the declaration itself. It can't be both at once, but can be read either way. Thus the text is undecidable because of an aporia, or "hole" of logic, if you will. . . . In different words: the enunciating (performative) act of declaring independence and (the "already-enunciated" [constative]) pre-assumption of an already-actual nationhood deconstruct each other. (Most simply put [finally!]: which came first, "We the people," or nation, OR this document that creates "We the people"/nation by fiat?)

• [My supplement on supplementarity:] According to Derrida, "there is no nature"? Huh? What can he mean by this? Well, it's related to his statement that "there is nothing outside the text," his notion of "always already," and that crucial binary "Culture/Nature." In simplest terms, there really was no "Nature" until humans conceived of its opposite, "Civilization," thus constructing the binary. For example, now we have "the untamed Wild" versus "urban blight"; however, the "WILD" was never originary (before "civilization"), some real place or even idea independent unto itself (in DISCOURSE); to use D.'s most famous phrase, it was always already dependent on its opposite for its very definition. (This involves, at last, D.'s notion of supplementarity, as you'll recall.)

Some "Major" BINARIES for Derridean REVERSAL::::
    LIFE    GOOD
    - - - - -    - - - - -
    DEATH    EVIL
 
SELF=>EGO (consciousness)=>
- - - - - -    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -    
OTHER=>the UNCONSCIOUS (id/shadow)=>
 
    CULTURE(= Human)    
    - - - - - - - -- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -    
    NATURE(= Non-Human/Other Species)    
 
    MALERICH (capitalists/bourgeoisie)HETEROsexual
    - - - - - -- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -- - - - - - - - - - -
    FEMALEPOOR (proletariat)HOMOsexual
 
    "WHITEs" / WESTERN CIV. / COLONIZERS    
    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -    
    PEOPLE OF COLOR / NATIVE / COLONIZED    
 
TRUTH    => REASON    
- - - - - -        - - - - - - - -    
LIE(s)    => MADNESS    
 
SPEAKING    "LITERATURE"
- - - - - - - -    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
WRITING    NON-"LIT." (incl. criticism; pop-culture texts . . .)
 
STRUCTURALISM/DEDUCTION=> SYNCHRONY/"BEING"
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
EMPIRICISM/INDUCTION=> DIACHRONY/"HISTORY"
 
[Oh, I got another one!:    (WESTERN) CIVILIZATION    
—cf. Culture/Nature,        - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -    
Reason/Madness, etc. . . .]    (ISLAMIC) BARBARISM    


Derrida took Nietzsche's "There is no God" a step further by nearly as famously saying, "There is no nature" (Given Time 170). So "Nature's" retort was fairly obvious (my photo: SoDak Badlands, 2011).


Jacques Derrida: the most inscrutable man in the world?!


Is Donald Trump really Mr. Deconstruction?!


Probably more self-confession than anything.


The viral phenomenon of the "dress debate" (2015) made me think immediately about deconstruction's indeterminacy/undecidability.


A graphic illustration of deconstruction at work: "which way is up?"! It also illustrates (literally) how poststructuralism has been useful to postcolonial theorists.


If one could be a "card-carrying" deconstructionist . . .


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 TH, Oct. 11th::
 HotE Lecture
    • 5:30 pm, at the Sheldon—Kent A. Ono talk: "The Rhetoric of Sanctuary in the Post-Truth Era"
—Summary of talk: "The most recent onslaught of anti-immigration rhetoric and politics has put undocumented immigrants in an even more precarious position. One response by undocumented people has been to take up sanctuary in such places as churches and sanctuary cities—places where U.S. immigration law enforcement may have more limited authority. This talk thinks through the idea of sanctuary and its potential usefulness. Not only can sanctuary help shield undocumented immigrants from unwanted and unwarranted immigration control and potential violence, but it can also help scholars and students think about freedom outside of the logics of the state. Indeed, extra-state institutions, such as sanctuaries, make it possible to think about freedom across extra-state institutions transnationally, as well as to imagine freedom as unconnected, and hence untethered, to the logics and institutions of the state."

My Own Ono Reaction:
1) Intro: "post-truth" politics? . . . issues from that "classic divide" between Plato & Socrates ("philosophy" & "essential" truths) and the Sophists ("rhetoric," contingent "truths")—rather unclearly presented at first? My first thought was, so "our side"—against Trump's "post-truthiness"—has to be lumped with Plato's essentialist idealism, etc.? (Both Nietzsche & Derrida actually praised the Sophists over Plato, in fact!) . . . But apparently not: later in his talk and in the Q&A, it becomes obvious that he's privileging rhetoric over "philosophy": just countering "post-truth" w/ the facts isn't working; Ono's answer entails effective "rhetorical moves" on behalf of humanistic MORALITY, against the LAW of the State. (My immediate objection: since "truth" is no longer a criterion, isn't Trump's rhetorical also an "effective rhetorical move"?!)
2) Ono's ethical "move" here, in terms of the immigrant "sanctuaries" that make up his topic, is to redefine "citizenship" as extra-legal, as "citizenship beyond the state"—versus the normative "state-sanctioned citizenship."
3) Q&A—first question?!: Did "postmodernism" lead to "post-truth?"! Ono "doubts" it. But he does rehearse the post-WWII biggies of theory, as if he were a good grad student at an oral exam—including the Frankfurt School, and ALTHUSSER, and FOUCAULT, and DERRIDA, and CIXOUS! Best of all, he historicizes this radical "lineage" as, above all, expressing a fear of "creeping fascism"! (Wonderful. Ergo poststructuralism's critique/suspicion of "totalitarianism" in all forms—including the transcendental signifiers of language, etc.!—its constant drive to decenter.)


To the Top

 W, Oct. 17th::

 Supplementary materials on CANVAS for this week's readings—in the BB folder "STRUCTURALists & POSTSTRUCTURALists (& Other Wild Creatures)":

Foucault's "Discourse on Language"—my outline

Deleuze & Guattari's "The Rhizome"—my outline

Reading Question(s) for Foucault:
 So many things are going on in this essay regarding what is regarded as "truth" and "who can speak?" within the various socio-historical institutions, disciplines, and discourses of power. I've always found it fruitful to read this essay with the institutional power and rules of academia in mind. Most especially, how does Foucault's matrix of discourse apply to English academia?!
Reading Question(s) for Deleuze & Guattari:
 How is this excerpt from A Thousand Plateaus a continuation of poststructuralism? (Follow in particular the trope of the "rhizome.")
Reading Question(s) for Cixous:
 This essay is nearly contemporary with the Gilbert essay we've already read, so a comparison/contrast of the their presentations of (a literary) feminism is very much in order. Which do you find more effective in making her pro-feminist argument? (Why?)
Reading Question for Delueze & Guatarri AND Cixous:
 In terms of style AND content ("calls to action," dominant tropes), how much do THESE two essays have in common?!
Reading Question(s) for Griffin:
 "Why did I assign this ostensibly surreal effusion?" A better/more specific question: why is this—that is, the book it is from, Woman and Nature: The Roaring Inside Her—considered one of the foundational texts of ecofeminism?
 The elephant in the room: (as with Cixous,) is Griffin's style an aid or an impediment to her argument(s)?


 "Rhizomes and the Pink Panther!?" [yes, a "wacky" YouTube video tribute to Deleuze & Guattari]


  Hélène CIXOUS [ay-LEN seek-ZOO]: "The Laugh of the Medusa" (1975) 
   

 Cixous's subject: "women's writing" (l'écriture féminine) (309A)

 . . . including women's bodies versus the patriarchal law (cf. Lacan's "Law of the Father")—the latter a "repression that has kept them [women] in the 'dark'" [note the motif of "darkness"/"blackness" thruout] (309A, etc.) . . . this "law" = "phallocentrism" (e.g., 309B, 311B, 313B, 320A); a "superegoized structure" (312A); "phallic mystification" (312B) . . . "Woman un-thinks the unifying, regulating history" of patriarchal thought (313A-B), "the false theatre of phallocentric representationalism" (314A), and the "religion of the father" (314B) . . . phallologocentrism (315A) . . . (the end of) the "Phallic period" (315B) . . . "gynocide" (316B) . . . "the Penisneid" (318A) . . . the "sacrosanct yes-men of Concept" (318B) . . . "that theoretic monument to the golden phallus" (319A)

 The female body, this "erotogenity," is "passionate," "overflowing," the container of "unheard-of songs"—at last, the origin of woman's creativity: therefore, "Write! . . . your body is yours, take it" (via self-expression in language) (309B [see also 312, 315]) . . . [later,] child-bearing is related to creativity: "the gestation drive—just like the desire to write" (318B)

 But the "law" has meant centuries of repression, self-loathing, shame, and secrecy, of being "[f]rigidified" (310A). . . . "Men have committed the greatest crime against women," in making the latter "their own enemies" (310B).

 Metaphors of repression: "confined to a narrow room" (cf. Woolf, Gilbert); blackness/darkness: "Your continent is dark" (sarcastically paraphrasing Freud); "we are black and we are beautiful" (310B [see also 314B])

 Embracing of poststructuralist indeterminacy/open-endedness (and intellectual radicalism): "we the repressed of culture" are "not afraid of lacking" [cf. Lacan & Derrida] (310B) . . . "feminine . . . writing" is at last "impossible to define"; it "can never be theorized, enclosed, coded"; "it will always surpass the discourse that regulates the phallocentric system" (313B) . . . DECENTERING!: "If she's a whole, it's a whole composed of parts that are wholes"; Eros is "an immense astral space not organized around any one sun [that is, a transcendental signified] that's any more of a star than the others" (317A). . . . [and see "heterogeneity," below] . . . the female body's "own special way, without model or norm, the nonfinite and changing totality of its desires" (318B) . . . "dare to create outside the theoretical," in spite of the "cops of the signifier" (319B)! . . . daring/embracing the "moving, open, transitional space" (320A). . . . recall Derrida's différance: "she finds not her sum but her differences" (320B).

 (Many) CALLS to ACTION: "It is time to liberate the New Woman from the Old" (310B) . . . "kill the false woman" (within, that is!) (312A) . . . "Now, I-woman am going to blow up the law . . . let it be done, right now, in language" (316A). . . . "A feminine text cannot fail to be more than subversive" (316B). . . . Woman "is an integral part of all liberations"—including "economic"/Marxist liberation (313B; see also "biblico-capitalist society" [316A]) . . . and note the later coalition she calls for regarding other Others: "the colonized peoples of yesterday[?!], the workers, the nations, [and the] other species" (316B)

 But, to date, "with a few rare exceptions [including some men], there has not yet been any writing that inscribes femininity. . . ." [As in Showalter's "feminine" stage,] most women's writing "is in no way different from male writing, which either obscures women or reproduces the classic representations of women": a fact all the more unfortunate because writing itself is inordinately fruitful for "change, the space that can serve as a springboard for subversive thought" (311A) . . . thus C.'s continual revolutionary word choices regarding this "new insurgent writing": "breaking the codes"; "explosions"; "wildness"; "ruptures and transformations" (311B); the "emancipation of the marvelous text" of the female body/self (312A); "knock the wind out of the codes" (313A); "sowers of disorder" (314B); "sweeping away syntax" (315B); "dislocating things and values" (316B) . . . but again, "Almost everything is yet to be written by women about femininity" (315A).

 Note that C.'s appeal to the woman's body is related to her later appeal to the "unconscious" as a closely akin source of writing & revolution, since that's "the place where the repressed" exists [Freud]; interesting, too, is her claim that poetry, not fiction, has the greater capabilities for revolution, as a more "unconscious"-based art than representational realism (311B). . . . "Write yourself. Your body must be heard. Only then will the immense resources of the unconscious spring forth" (312A). . . . Later, C. talks about a "force," a "rhythm that laughs you" (313A) that sounds much like Kristeva's notion of the maternal chora/semiotic—as do C.'s various allusions to the female libido (and writing) as a flowing "wave" or "sea" (317B), and her reference to silent "aphonic revolts" (315B) . . . As in Gilbert, some Derridean wordplay: "Let the priests tremble, we're going to show them our sexts" (315A). . . . "Her libido is cosmic, just as her unconscious is world-wide" (317B).

 The feminist revolution is "two-pronged": personal/individual & political/collective (311B-312A ["Woman for women" (312B; see also 313B)])

 From written language, to woman's "speech"—and its close relationship to the female body (312) . . . crucial passage (last full paragraph of 312B): women's speech/writing, again, tied to the body, the mother, the unconscious, "love," and "song"—with the implication that the patriarchal male has lost his ties to such healthy origins, and/or was never as close to the "good mother's milk" as women (who write in "white ink"!).  [But is this a return to an old-fashioned stereotype and essentialism, that women are by nature more emotional & empathetic, even more "animal"/libidinal, than men?] . . . "Text: my body—shot through with streams of song" (313A).

 Women's writing per se: the body/female libido provides a "space" thru which "to inscribe your woman's style" (313A; cf. Gilbert & Gubar's "woman's sentence"); "We will rethink womankind beginning with every form and every period of her body" (note the pun, of course, on "period"). . . . "Her libido will produce . . . radical effects of political and social change" (313A). . . .

 C. claims a(n essential?) "distinction between feminine and masculine writing"; versus the notion "that writing is bisexual, hence neuter" (at last the product of "phallic monosexuality"), C. posits "the other bisexuality," which "doesn't annul differences but stirs them up" (314A-B).

 Attack on Freudian psychoanalysis: "its account of male sexuality . . . reproduces the masculine view" . . . as for woman: "The Dark Continent is neither dark nor unexplorable" (314B). . . . vs. the "monuments to lack" of the "white continent" (315A, 314B)! . . . "women aren't castrated. . . ." (315A), and "they haven't sublimated"!—remaining "furious" & passionate (315B) . . . versus male "sublimation, women are body" (316A). . . . versus penis-envy: "we are [not] this hole fringed with desire for their penis" (318A). . . . and a slam at Lacan: "What's a desire originating from a lack? A pretty meagre desire" (319A). . . . "[D]on't remain within the psychoanalytic closure" (319B).

 At last, "The feminine (as the poets suspected) affirms . . ." (314B).

 "Medusa" (of the title): "she's not deadly. She's beautiful and she's laughing" (315A). . . . "Medusa's" goal: "to blow up the law, to break up the 'truth' with laughter" (316B)

 Woman's body/language includes an emphasis on process, of ongoing "crossings," "awakenings, discoveries" (315A) . . . "And we'll keep on becoming" (320A).

 Summary-statement: "Women must write through their bodies, they must invent the impregnable[!] language that will wreck partitions, classes, and rhetorics, regulations and codes, they must submerge, cut through, get through the ultimate reserve-discourse . . ." (315B).

 The "return of the repressed" (of/from the unconscious, the female body): "When the 'repressed' of their culture . . . returns, it's an explosive, utterly destructive, staggering return. . . ." (315B)

 A revolution in the "economics" of human relationships: With "the new women . . . no intersubjective relation will ever be the same" (316A). . . . "For once she blazes her trail in the symbolic [cf. Lacan], she cannot fail to make it the chaosmos[!] of the 'personal'" (316B).

 In inventing "for herself a language to get inside of," she can't "appropriate" the "instruments" of the patriarchy (316A) [but can C. entirely avoid this? (see admission on 319A)] . . . rather than taking "possession," woman's way is to "fly"—including "in language" (316B)

 C.'s apparent essentializing includes woman's capability for unselfish giving: "she's a giver. . . . unselfishly, body without end" (317A)

 Heterogeneity (libido, and language): "she, the outcast, has never ceased to hear the resonance of the fore-language. She lets the other languages speak . . . . Her language does not contain, it carries"; and she herself marvels at "the wonder of being several," her "gift of alterability. . . ." . . . "the erotogeneity of heterogeneity" (317B)!

 But: the female all-embracing whole includes the "male": "isn't it evident that the penis gets around in my texts . . . ? I want it all. . . . Why should I deprive myself of a part of us? I want all of us"—"whole and entire, male or female" (319A [cf. C.'s redefinition of "bisexuality," above]).

 Whew! After all the above, Cixous' final sentence is—besides being a direct slam at Lacanian psychology—pregnant with a variety of meanings: "In one another we will never be lacking" (320B).


I couldn't resist.

Susan GRIFFIN: "His Power: He Tames What Is Wild"
from Woman and Nature: The Roaring Inside Her [1978]
 
   
 I think Griffin's rhetorically powerful ecofemist connection of "Woman" and "Nature" needs little commentary, so here's simply a series of my favorite passages (all ellipses mine):

 THE HUNT: She has captured his heart. . . . He is burning with passion. . . . He pursues her. . . . He will overtake her. He will make her his own. He will have her. (The boy chases the doe and her yearling for nearly two hours. . . . He pursues her . . . volleys of rifle shots sounding, until perhaps twenty bullets are embedded in her body.) . . . She has painted herself for him. . . . She is without a soul. Beneath her painted face is flesh, are bones. . . . She is wild. . . . She is teasing him. (Finally, she is defeated and falls and he sees that half of her head has been blown off, that one leg is gone, her abdomen split from her tail to her head, and her organs hang outside her body. Then four men encircle the fawn and harvest her too.) . . . Love has shot him through, he says. . . . He is conquered, he says. . . . He faces annihilation in her, he says. . . . Now, he must conquer her wildness, he says, he must tame her before she drives him wild, he says. . . . Thus he goes on his knees to her. . . . He makes her his own. He encloses her. He encircles her. He puts her under lock and key. He protects her. (Approaching the great mammals, the hunters make little sounds which they know will make the elephants form a defensive circle. . . . The older matriarchs stand to the outside of the circle to protect the calves and younger mothers.) He covers her with the skins of mink, beaver, muskrat, seal, raccoon, otter, ermine, fox, the feathers of ostriches, osprey, egret, ibis. (The hunters then encircle that circle and fire first into the bodies of the matriarchs. When these older elephants fall, the younger panic, yet unwilling to leave the bodies of their dead mothers, they make easy targets.) . . . He has tamed her, he says. She is content to be his, he says. . . . When he calls to her, she gives herself to him. Her ferocity lies under him. (The body of the great whale is strapped with explosives.) Now nothing of the old beast remains in her. (Eastern Bison, extinct 1825; Spectacled Cormorant, extinct 1852; Cape Lion, extinct 1865; Bonin Night Heron, extinct 1889; Barbary Lion, extinct 1922; Great Auk, extinct 1944.) . . . So he is blazing when he enters her, and she is consumed. (Florida Key Deer, vanishing; Wild Indian Buffalo, vanishing; Great Sable Antelope, vanishing.) Because she is his, she offers no resistance. She is a place of rest for him. A place of his making. . . . [T]hough something in him gives way, he is not lost in her, because she is his now: he has captured her.

 THE ZOOLOGICAL GARDEN: In the cage is the lion. She paces with her memories. Her body is a record of her past. . . . She was born in this garden. She has never in her life stretched those legs. . . . Only once did she use her claws. . . . And it was her keeper's flesh. Her keeper whom she loves . . . . Who in his mercy forgave her mad attack, saying this was in her nature, to be cruel at a whim . . . . How lucky for her he survived the blow. The keeper and his friends shot her with a gun to make her sleep. . . . They fed her with tubes. They observed her. They wrote comments in notebooks. And finally they rendered a judgment. She was normal. She was a normal wild beast, whose power is dangerous, whose anger can kill, they had said. Be more careful of her, they advised. Allow her less excitement. . . . And now she paces. Paces as if she were angry, as if she were on the edge of frenzy. The spectators imagine she is going through the movements of the hunt . . . . But she knows no life outside the garden. She has no notion of anger over what she could have been, or might be. No idea of rebellion. It is only her body that knows of these things . . . .

 THE GARDEN: She was in the garden, sequestered behind bushes, as night came . . . she stayed quiet . . . so that she could be out there alone. . . . in this new silence she began to hear the movements of birds. . . . Then she felt, she said, the earth beneath her feet coming closer to her. And she began to play with the berries and the plants and finally to whisper to the birds. And the birds, she said afterward, whispered to her. . . . [H]er face was so radiant that her mother, amazed to see this new joy in her daughter, did not tell her then what she knew she would soon have to say. That those bushes her daughter hid behind can also hide strangers, that for her shadows speak danger, that in such places little girls must be afraid.

A poem VERY reminiscent of the ecofeminist stylistics of Griffin?:

The Strange People

                The antelope are strange people . . . they are beautiful to look at, and yet they are tricky. We do not trust them. They appear and disappear; they are like shadows on the plains. Because of their great beauty, young men sometimes follow the antelope and are lost forever. Even if those foolish ones find themselves and return, they are never again right in their heads.
—Pretty Shield, Medicine Woman of the Crows, transcribed and edited by Frank Linderman (1932)

    All night I am the doe, breathing
    his name in a frozen field,
    the small mist of the word
    drifting always before me.

    And again he has heard it
    and I have gone burning
    to meet him, the jacklight
    fills my eyes with blue fire;
    the heart in my chest
    explodes like a hot stone.

    Then slung like a sack
    in the back of his pickup,
    I wipe the death scum
    from my mouth, sit up laughing
    and shriek in my speeding grave.

    Safely shut in the garage,
    when he sharpens his knife
    and thinks to have me, like that,
    I come toward him,
    a lean gray witch
    through the bullets that enter and dissolve.

    I sit in his house
    drinking coffee till dawn
    and leave as frost reddens on hubcaps,
    crawling back into my shadowy body.
    All day, asleep in clean grasses,
    I dream of the one who could really wound me.

—Louise Erdrich, publ. 1984

Also, Griffin's "The Zoological Garden" section very much reminds me of the following Rilke poem (the last translation is the best?!):

Three Translations of Rainer Maria Rilke's "Der Panther"

[German original:]    Der Panther

                Im Jardin des Plantes, Paris

Sein Blick ist vom Vorübergehn der Stäbe
so müd geworden, dass er nichts mehr hält.
Ihm ist, als ob es tausend Stäbe gäbe
und hinter tausend Stäben keine Welt.

Der weiche Gang geschmeidig starker Schritte,
der sich im allerkleinsten Kreise dreht,
ist wie ein Tanz von Kraft um eine Mitte,
in der betäubt ein grosser Wille steht.

Nur manchmal schiebt der Vorhang der Pupille
sich lautlos auf—. Dann geht ein Bild hinein,
geht durch der Glieder angespannte Stille—
und hört im Herzen auf zu sein.
                —Rilke (c. 1902; p. 1908)
 

    The Panther

                In the Jardin des Plantes, Paris

His sight from ever gazing through the bars
has grown so blunt that it sees nothing more.
It seems to him that thousands of bars are
before him, and behind him nothing merely.

The easy motion of his supple stride,
which turns about the very smallest circle,
is like a dance of strength about a center
in which a will stands stupefied.

Only sometimes when the pupil's film
soundlessly opens . . . then one image fills
and glides through the quiet tension of the limbs
into the heart and ceases and is still.
                —transl. C. F. MacIntyre (p. 1940)
 

    The Panther

                In the Jardin des Plantes, Paris

From seeing the bars, his seeing is so exhausted
that it no longer holds anything anymore.
To him the world is bars, a hundred thousand
bars, and behind the bars, nothing.

The lithe swinging of that rhythmical easy stride
which circles down to the tiniest hub
is like a dance of energy around a point
in which a great will stands stunned and numb.

Only at times the curtains of the pupil rise
without a sound . . . then a shape enters,
slips through the tightened silence of the shoulders,
reaches the heart, and dies.
                —transl. Robert Bly (p. 1981)
 

    The Panther

                In the Jardin des Plantes, Paris

His vision, from the constantly passing bars,
has grown so weary that it cannot hold
anything else. It seems to him there are
a thousand bars, and behind the bars, no world.

As he paces in cramped circles, over and over,
the movement of his powerful soft strides
is like a ritual dance around a center
in which a mighty will stands paralyzed.

Only at times, the curtain of the pupils
lifts, quietly—. An image enters in,
rushes down through the tensed, arrested muscles,
plunges into the heart and is gone.
                —transl. Stephen Mitchell (p. 1982)


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 W, Oct. 24th:: MacIntyre's Post-Truth


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 W, Oct. 31st::

 Supplementary material on Blackboard for this week's readings—in the BB folder "STRUCTURALists & POSTSTRUCTURALists (& Other Wild Creatures)":

New Historicism—my outline-handout


 
 "Noam Chomsky - Noam vs. Michel Foucault" (Foucault's words in the middle of this dialogue [1:35-4:55] may be said to summarize his entire philosophy of "power.")

 
 



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