oh, freud …

Well, this was a difficult read.

While there were certain characteristics of Freud’s writing style that I appreciated (the way he speaks directly to the reader as if it’s a conversation, and his language is fairly accessible for something of this genre), overall I found this to be fairly dry and just kind of blah.

As I was reading I kept stopping and asking myself what the hell I was reading. What was it originally? ‘An analysis’ could mean a lot of things … am I just being daft and it’s clearly a _______?

Also, I can’t help but feel for Dora. The narrator (Freud, interestingly) seems to play the part of both doctor and psychologist (or counsellor), and doesn’t necessarily do either well. Some of his analyses seem a bit far-fetched to me, especially when he talks about children who perpetually suck their thumbs.

“Thus, at a time when the true sexual object, that is, the male organ, has already become known, circumstances may arise which once more increase the excitation of the oral zone, whose erotogenic character has, as we have seen, been retained.” (Freud 45)

So … kids who suck their thumbs are subconsciously simulating a blowjob? I don’t buy it. I also have to say, while I appreciate that in society it may seem weird for us to call genitalia by their actual names, it actually started to annoy me that Freud refused to just come out and say ‘penis’. Especially since he has no problem talking openly about ‘phantasies’ and masturbation. I mean, there are sexual metaphors everywhere in Dora, but he continues to skirt around the issue and doesn’t just call a spade a spade. (I know this sounds awfully crude, but I honestly can’t think of a better way to put it.)

I also want to speak briefly to the way bisexuality is addressed. On page viii of the introduction, the editor says that “[Dora's] unconscious Lesbian tendencies were allied to a painful tangle of motives that only a master of detection like Freud could have picked apart – and yet held together in their true pattern, so that the reader can see the whole of Dora’s predicament in all its irremediable complexity.” This seems to imply that there have to be motives behind her attraction to Frau K, rather than it just being seen as the natural human tendency to love.

Then there’s the second part, “Hysterical Phantasies and Their Relation to Bisexuality”. I don’t think bisexuality is something that needs to be explained, and I don’t think Freud does a very good job trying to explain/rationalize it. People are attracted to people, and it’s something that continues to mystify those who feel the need to analyze everything.

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Freud x myself x delusions

Freud is a very well known and ridiculed intellectual figure. For that I love him. He was prominent in my household as a child and apparently as a toddler I chewed on his brightly colored books. Ya ya have fun dissecting that one. I did have trouble reading Dora, though, because I couldn’t separate him from his work. The cocaine, the dingy, damp, sexual analysis of everything, the cigar jokes. It’s too much. Here’s a little catharsis, because we all need that right?

J: Why does it feel like your psychoanalysis shares similarities with  conspiracy theories?

Freud: Conspiracy theories you say? What about that painting on your wall? Tell me more about that painting you have up

J: No seriously, every denial becomes further proof of repression for you.

Freud: Ah a lizard. I see….

J: Your analysis of Dora reads like a detective novel you sadistic pig.

Freud: *footnote* the lizard is a traditional symbol for a desire to eat macaroni. As I have explained already, macaroni has been found on cave painting, stuck to the wall with cheese. This has significance to the second dream, as we shall see later *end footnote*

J: Do you find pleasure in doing this? It really seems like your getting a kick out of snooping in on Dora’s entire family and their medical history. Gotta say though, do dig your stuff about desire for self-punishment being  rooted in “penitence and remorse” (pg. 39).

Feud: So you want to kiss me and my smokey, smokey mouth?

J: Hombre, Hombre…

Freud: Tell me about your PHantasy…

J: Also why does it seem like your playing musical chairs with the direction of Dora’s desires? One minutes its for Frau K, then Herr K, then her own father, then back to Herr K.??? I should also add that these ideas seem really simplistic – isn’t there more to life then sex and guilt? What about genuine compassion? What about creative production? What about taking care of house plants? Isn’t that a non-sexual activity?

Freud: Your choice of words there cannot be accidental. Tell me more about your genitals relations with house plants.


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Slightly Disturbed.

I don’t know if it was just me, but I felt a little disturbed quite frequently while reading this book. Especially when I read this:

“I could not help smiling; for I was able to show her exactly a fortnight earlier she had read a piece of news that concerned be in the newspaper.” (112)


When I first started reading, I thought that maybe this would be a 124 page book filled with medical terminology that would be a good thing to help me fall asleep during those nights that I lie in my bed at 3am knowing that I have to wake up in 4 hours.

Then I was introduced to Dora. It was probably Dora’s story that kept my attention to the end of this book. Everything in her retelling of events seemed to make sense and I took it all in at surface level. And then somehow Freud managed to take every little aspect of her dreams and interpreted them in several ways along with the sprinkle of medical terminology which left me with an expression that looked a little like this:  O_O”

I wanted to insert a meme in pace of the type out face but then there was the whole thing about copyrights. (But here it is. http://weknowmemes.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/chloe-meme-original.jpg)

I guess you could say, I didn’t like this book. I didn’t passionately hate it, but I would probably never open it again.

One part that I did find interesting was the example of the bricklayer. For those of you who didn’t read/ haven’t finished, here is what I’m referring to:

“Let us imagine a workman, a bricklayer, let us say, who has fallen off a house and been crippled, and now earns his livelihood by begging at a street-corner. Let us then supposed that a miracle-worker comes along and promises him to make his crooked leg straight and capable of walking. It would be unwise, I think, to look forward to seeing an expression of peculiar bliss upon the man’s features. No doubt at the time of the accident he felt he was extremely unlucky, when he realized that he would never be able to do any more work and would have to starve or live upon charity. But since then the very thing in which the first instance threw him out of employment has become his source of income: he lives by his disablement. If that is taken from him he may become totally helpless. He has in the meantime forgotten his trade and lost his habits of industry; he has grown accustomed to idleness and perhaps to drink as well.” (37)

More often than not, I am very optimistic. When I read this passage in the book, I found that Freud had a knack of taking something that would sound like a good thing and find a way to twist it into something else. In this case, he took the opportunity of a miracle and made it look like a death wish.


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I didn’t like this book at all.

The first thing that struck me as odd was Freud talking about how had published a case study without the patient knowing. I thought that possibly, this was considered acceptable back when he was writing Dora, but now I’ve found that apparently not. Either way, I thought it was strange from the beginning.

Normally in blog posts I quote my notes, but the truth is, most of my notes this time chronicle how bewildered/disbelieving I was concerning most of the things Freud was saying. There’s the part on page 23 when he talks about what how he thinks Herr. K kissing Dora translated from reality into her memory. There’s the part on page 33 when he suggests that maybe Dora’s aphonia was due to the fact that the one person she wanted to speak to wasn’t around. And, of course, there’s the part on page 91 where he provides a sexual reading of Dora’s dream. My note for that last one is a very calm “you could apply this to any locale if you tried”. Honestly. Maybe I’ve gone about reading this book all the wrong way, but I (well, a reader in general) have no idea what Freud has not told about Dora, or even what Dora has not told.

This book is just so full of conjecture and interpretation that I can’t take it seriously. It read to me overall as proof that you can make anything look like anything else if only you try hard enough. This is my new least favourite book on the reading list.

I’m aware that Freud quotes Charcot to those who have expressed a “personal dislike or disbelief”: “Ca n’empêche pas d’exister” (105). I don’t believe Freud’s made a strong enough case, and maybe that’s my problem. Very well.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Back with the first post of the new semester, and true to form it’s late and hurried and rushed. Some things never change. Rather apropros given the nature of our course. These sentences are blatant padding. I am going to obligatorily bitch and moan about how far behind I am on things and how overworked I am. I’m starting up a theatre company. Its hard work.

Unfortunately I didn’t go to the lectures, so I’m working from a place of (relative) ignorance, particularly regarding the connection between Northanger Abbey and Shaun of the Dead (Shaun with a ‘u’!).

I found Northanger Abbey to be a complete slog. Like it was a total chore, I couldn’t get through it. There’s something particularly alienating about Jane Austen’s narration style. I talked in seminar a while ago how reading The Kingdom of This World was strange after not reading a novel for so long; that the novel had become defamiliarized, and alienating for me. I find it particularly amusing that I found this novel in particular alienating because we always talked about the High Victorian concept of a novel, which is probably very much typified by Austen.

I get that Austen’s works rely on subtlety and parody, and that they’re comedies of manners, and that Northanger Abbey says some interesting things about the relationships between the real and the fictional, but for the life of me I can’t bring myself to care. Everything is so dull, and flat. The characters are boring and unlikable, and I just don’t care about what the novel is saying. I don’t even think the things it says are particularly interesting. Other works take up similar subjects and do it better, in my opinion. At one point reading the novel I actually fell asleep.

In my mind, the most interesting part is Austen’s lengthy digression at the end of Chapter 5 on the public opinion on novels. I feel like there’s a lot to be read into that passage but I haven’t the inclination to do so.

Shaun of the Dead on the other hand is one of my favourite films ever. It’s well-written, excellently paced, inventively shot, and excellently plays with its own genre conventions. I love the whole Cornetto Trilogy, really.

Zombies are such a great monster, because like all good monsters, they’re reflections of ourselves. Probably why they are both so disturbing and fun to kill. They’re us with the likable bits taken out. The savage other. They stand in for every dehumanizing force we’re afraid of.

A lot of the inspiration for the movie comes from an episode of Spaced (the TV show that Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost all previously worked on) where Pegg’s (who plays Shaun in the film) character takes amphetamines and hallucinates he’s in Resident Evil 2. The very same media panic we talk about in the context of romanticism. Even Wright’s hyper-kinetic directing style lends itself to this, bombarding you with cuts, information, dialogue, etc. News reports are always cutting, music is always playing, there are loud arcade noises and videogames, Shaun works in a consumer electronics store. At one point in the film when Ed and Shaun are drunk and singing a Grandmaster Flash song, they mistake a zombie as some drunk sod singing along with them. Throughout the first half of the film Shaun fails to notice all the very clear signs of the zombie apocalypse. A case of media-induced ‘savage torpor’, or are the zombies simply indistinguishable from the people?  At the end of the film, the zombies are just another media trend to be exploited.

A blog post from another seminar said that at the end of the film, Shaun is back where he started, and I have to disagree. Shaun is actually the only character in the entire film who changes (everyone else is dead, though). He survives the zombies, and in them sees the reflection of his own life. At the end of it, he’s matured, taken responsibility for his life instead of cruising through on auto-pilot. What’s interesting though, is that the rest of the world doesn’t change.

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Shaun of the Dead

Shaun’s mundane, underachieved middle aged character braves the zombie crisis that infects London and in attempt to save his closed ones he becomes more or less the hero of the story (well, he saves the girl at the end at least.) Shaun of the Dead creates itself a new category of “rom-zom-com” because although emotionally eventful and momentarily terrifying, the movie itself never takes itself too seriously. Sometimes spoofs don’t work out well but Shaun of the Dead proved witty and mimics the awkward moments to be laughed we can identify with. The success of anticipation and thrill to the viewer, mastered by the sudden fast angles and zooms are identifiable to Edgar Wright’s production style are used similarly in his other film, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (one of my favourite films!) Edgar’s motifs in Shaun of the Dead are also well produced. The reused far joke by Ed, the Winchester Pub, Shaun’s morning stretch and routine, with the second reappearance being affected by the zombie crisis creates a familiarity and joy for the viewer. Though it is my second time watching the movie, I again enjoyed it, and watching a movie for class….who can complain!

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Northanger Abbey x Shaun of the Dead

Want to start off with a quick personal note here – didn’t know parody was so central to Austen’s work. Enjoyed Northanger Abbey much more than I expected.

A couple of things really interest me about the work. One involves the indirectness of the novel,in the sense that it does an excellent job at conveying meaning without being reductionist. It entreats the complexities of the real and the romantic/the imagined. Although I believe the work can be seen as an attempt to dismantle the excesses of the Gothic genre, the way that fiction becomes just as much a part of the “real” (because it is a novel, after all) world of Northanger Abbey is really provocative. The lines are blurred, there is no clear-cut binary. In fact, it presents an intriguing “other side” to the same coin – the “real” world that Austen tries to capture in this novel is exactly that, in a novel, in a fictional work. The real is a part of the fictional just as the fictional (lies, stories, reveries, novels, perhaps even the whole notion of a high society)  is part of the real in the world of Northanger Abbey.

I realize that I’ve gone on about the real and the unreal/imagined/fictional at length before, and also that Austen is addressing a very complex notion of a “romanticized” or “gothicized” unreal. I’ll try to work out these kinks in the next few days.

I don’t see it as much of a stretch to draw comparisons between Shaun of the Dead and Austen’s work, as many I have talked to have suggested. This might interest folks http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pride_and_Prejudice_and_Zombies. Parody is parody, and parody is great, no matter the era. Shaun of the Dead, as an exceptionally clever and enjoyable movie, manages to say as much about the monogamy and dullness of daily life as Northanger Abbey. In fact, I think it’s important to remark that the film finishes more or less where it started – with Shaun sitting on the couch and leading an exceptionally simple and meaningless life – only this time, he’s with a girl. The world has changed around him, but he hasn’t changed all that much.

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Northanger Abbey

I’ve tried to read Austen a few times over the years but never had much luck, and I expected Northanger Abbey to be much the same as her other works.

Not so! Although the first few pages were a bit tricky, I got through them and really enjoyed the read. There were a few things about this reading that surprised me right off the bat.

Firstly, I think some of the points Austen is making are really interesting. She chooses to make them as part of a novel, but I think some of the things she is saying would perhaps be better put as some kind of essay? It’s hard to know, though, whether they would have had the same response had they been formatted differently.

For instance, she breaks the fourth wall a lot when writing, especially towards the end. I’m curious as to who the narrator really is in this case – is it Austen herself, or some fictionalized version of her?

Also, the relationship between Catherine and Henry is strange, to say the least. You can’t tell if he likes her for most of the book, and while she’s at Northanger Abbey he pretty much friendzones her. Then, eventually, his sister says, “hey Henry, this girl really likes you so maybe you should like her back?” and he goes “oh yeah, we should get married”. What? This is really confusing.

“I must confess that his affection originated in nothing better than gratitude, or, in other words, that a persuasion of her partiality for him had been the only cause of giving her a serious thought.” (p. 180)

Then again, Henry seems to understand the details of female friendship more than most guys do! “You feel, I suppose, that, in losing Isabella, you lose half yourself: you feel a void in your heart which nothing else can occupy.” (p. 152) This whole speech pretty much sums up most girls’ feelings when they lose a close female friend, and you can tell that although the speaker at this point is a man, the author is a woman who gets it!

Lastly, I’d just like to comment on the ending of the book. “I leave it to be settled by whomsoever it may concern, whether the tendency of this work be altogether to recommend parental tyranny, or reward filial disobedience.” (p. 187) This follows a paragraph about whether the General was, in fact, being a good parent by sending Catherine away, etc, and strengthening their knowledge of each other. While I don’t think it was good parenting per se, none of the parenting in this novel seems to be particularly productive. Mrs. Morland tries to console her daughter and fails, so she gives up and starts being critical. Mr. Morland is practically useless. Mrs. Allen only cares about her clothes, and Mr. Allen is also useless. Mrs. Thorpe is just plain annoying and the General seems to order his children around more than he parents them. Is this what parenting was like in Austen’s time?

That’s all for now!

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Gatsby, is that you?

Might I begin this blog post with this statement: Not too shabby Northanger Abbey. (Oh hey, that rhymed!)

At first, not having read the summary on the back, I walked right into that thing without a clue of what to expect. Come to think of it, I’m still uncertain of the era I pictured the story taking place is the one Austen intended us to envision.

On that note, Northanger Abbey reminded me of The Great Gatsby. Here are some of the reasons why:

  • the lavish social events they attended resembled Gatsby’s over-the-top parties
  • the intriguing Mr.Tilley and/or General Tilley bore loose resemblance to Mr.Gatsby himself
  • the entourage that Catherine hung out with behaved quite similarly to Daisy’s group of friends, with the same pompous and carefree manner

This is probably one of the contributing factors as to why I liked this story. Even though it didn’t take place in the 1920’s like The Great Gatsby did, the similarities between the settings sometimes made me picture the plot taking place in the 20’s (yes, I really do love the 20’s and the fact that the pop culture of 2013 saw many revivals of the splendor of that decade).

Another thing I really enjoyed was the roller coaster of frustration it made me feel. Early on, since we were introduced to our main character, I had developed an attachment to her, whether I liked it or not. Every time something went right I would be shared some of her emotion only to be disappointed again by whatever plot twists and misfortunes Catherine had to face. Maybe this is me being an overly sentimental girl but I really liked how there was romance in this story! I’m a sucker for a love story, even if this one wasn’t as epic as Stefan and Elena from the Vampire Diaries (a tv show, for those of you who don’t know) or cheesy (but we love them anyway), like a Nicholas Sparks novel.

Can I also say that the huge paragraphs on the pages where it looked like a brick wall of words were just so horrible to see as soon as you turned the page. I’m guessing it looked like this because of the way the dialogue was written within those paragraphs too. But that’s just what I’m used to.


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