Goal

Apocalypse Now in three points:

  1. green
  2. smoke
  3. noise

The green thing was more of a problem with the specific screening. Jon and Jill tried to fix it (thank you), to no avail, but I’m including it in the list of points because it was just so green.

In reference to our discussions about Heart of Darkness and how people become bodies – Apocalypse Now definitely did that too, albeit in a different way. I can’t quite remember, but there’s a scene where the protagonist is met with a huge group of people all standing in boats and looking at him. As far as I can recall, they don’t speak or move at all. They’re just there.

I tried writing about smoke but it didn’t work so I’ll move on.

Noise. This is something that troubled me a little bit: it might not seem like it, but I generally dislike loud noises. In movies and TV, at least. When I turn on the TV and the volume’s above 10 (which happens often, because some members of my family turn up the sound), I literally can’t reach for the remote and turn down the volume fast enough. From about a quarter of the way through to about the end of the second third (my impression), it’s just constant, nonstop noise. It reminded me of this Hayao Miyazaki quote:

“If you just have non-stop action with no breathing space at all, it’s just busyness, But if you take a moment, then the tension building in the film can grow into a wider dimension. If you just have constant tension at 80 degrees all the time you just get numb.” (here)

Maybe an “epic war film” just isn’t for me. I found concentrating on what was going on difficult, too, because (to bring back what I said about Trouillot and Heart of Darkness), I found this movie cacophonus. Not meaningless, but cacophonus. Of course this is in part due to the fact that Apocalypse Now is a movie, and HOD is a book and books don’t have noise (unless it’s an audiobook). Also, it was so green. Jon remarked at the end of the screening that we probably got “the gist” of it. For me that was entirely accurate.

I said in tutorial that HOD is a book that maybe I’d reread a few years down the road, but I’m not sure I’d rewatch Apocalypse Now, for three main reasons: the noise, the violence, and the length. In general I don’t like watching movies, basically due to this:

“Reading a book is this entirely personal endeavor, an experience over which you have a fairly high degree of control. You decide where and when and for how long at a time you will inhabit this world, and while our movie-watching options are certainly expanding, they still don’t match our book-reading options. Plus, of course, books can be hundreds and hundreds of pages long and people will still read them. If a movie’s more than three hours or so, everyone starts getting upset.” (here)

Maybe not so much the part about having more book options than movie options (there are, after all, a lot of different stories that are specific to one medium), but definitely the part about control.

I’ve also been thinking lately about what exactly makes certain texts or stories not more or less interesting, but simply more or less comprehensible, to go back once again to Miranda’s blog post. For instance, a lot of us in LB5 (just my impression, again) didn’t fully understand Leviathan, and a lot of us (I think) didn’t like it a lot or at least didn’t want to touch any of its essay topics with a ten-foot pole. Yet I think a lot of us understood Freud pretty well; it’s just that there was hate for it. Jon told us in seminar that whether we liked the Freud text or not, some of his ideas are still a part of our world. Same deal with Leviathan. What is it that makes certain things easier to understand than others? I know it’s the end of the year and everyone’s tired, but I’d love to hear what the rest of you have to say. Thoughts?

(For your consideration, here is a pertinent tweet I found a little while ago.)

Thanks for reading, everyone, for the last time. More than once I’ve spent Tuesdays wishing it was Wednesday, and glancing at the clock during seminar and being relieved that we were only halfway through. I’d like to think I’ve taken some good notes. You’ve all been great.

 

Grand scheme of things

I like this book.

To begin with, a quote:

“It’s true that a child belongs to its father. But when a father beats his child, it seeks sympathy in its mother’s hut. A man belongs to his fatherland when things are good and life is sweet. But when there is sorrow and bitterness he finds refuge in his motherland. Your mother is there to protect you. She is buried there. And that is why we say that mother is supreme.” (134)

This reminds me a little of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe: how the White Witch knows about some magic from the beginning of time, and because of that magic Aslan has to surrender, but he comes back because of something that happened before the beginning of time. There’s an authority but there’s also a higher one, and eventually in a worst-case scenario the higher authority will come into play.

I definitely think that there’s going to be a prompt about gender for this book, and I don’t know; I might write it. There’s something about how Achebe depicts sexism without being sexist himself.

(Will calling a prompt in a blog post affect its chances of showing up?)

The Evil Forest also reminds me of the fields in Gathering Blue, and looking at it now, the parallel is probably at least slightly intentional on Lowry’s part – although in Gathering Blue, people are left in the fields when they are no longer able to work (injury, etc.), whereas in Things Fall Apart, people are left in the Forest if they pose a danger to others (illness, etc.). (Wait – gathering, falling apart. I just noticed that. Okay, maybe a little more intentional then?)

One of the things that really stood out to me on the first read, though, was how clearly Okonkwo’s character is presented. You could probably write an adequate summary of his character almost completely with one-liners from the book. Maybe that’s why I like this book? The story and characters are all laid out. If you’ll allow me one more reference, it’s like A Fine Balance: another book where the plot and all the characters and their own backstories are, well, laid out super clearly. It’s a pretty long book, but it’s not hard to read at all. Although this might also have something (probably not everything, of course) to do with the fact that these books are quite a bit more recent, and the syntax and vernacular is so much more familiar to us. Years go by and hearts start to harden language starts to become incomprehensible, as evidenced by all the footnotes in so much of what we’ve read. It’s kind of weird to think of things slipping away (falling apart) bit by bit like that. If it’s a difference of a few years, like in Antigone’s Claim (if you can call fourteen years a few), Butler’s reference to Bill Clinton is just a reminder that the book was written a little while ago. If it’s a difference of, well, maybe a generation or two, you’d probably get a “huh?” (maybe with a topic a little less prominent than U.S. political scandals – something more in the realm of pop culture. Like, say, “Who shot J. R.?”) Obviously you can google things like that, but explaining what kind of influence it had is more difficult and probably most easily done through a comparison to something more recent, which would be pretty subjective.

(Apparently I was wrong when I said “one more reference”. Sorry, everyone.)

Okay, I got off track, but this post is way long again and I’ll just stop here. Thanks for reading, everyone.

[edit: the idea that language changes with time, even though they appear to us stationary words on a page, goes all the way back to Miranda's intro lecture for us on The Task of the Translator. Funny how everything comes together, in a blog post about a book about things falling apart?]

[edit 2: the idea that language changes with time is also something I touched on in my Césaire/Walcott blog post.]

Grimm is about right

To start:

“Consider a monologue describing in sequence all of an individual’s recollections. It would sound as a meaningless cacophony even to the narrator.” (Trouillot 15)

As I was reading Heart of Darkness, I came to realize that the whole book can be described (sort of) with this quote from Silencing the Past. I say “sort of” because I don’t think that Heart of Darkness is meaningless or cacophonous; just hard to understand. I think I can say that because I’ve read it twice (third read in progress) and I’m still not too sure of it.

(I also have to admit that I didn’t flag the quote while reading Silencing the Past, and I had to search for it on Amazon. I guess that “events otherwise significant to the life trajectory were not known to the individual at the time of the occurrence” (15)).

I remember Jon saying in lecture for Black Skin/White Masks that if Fanon handed that in as an Arts One essay, he’d probably get a B-. Well, if Conrad handed in Heart of Darkness as a creative writing project in, say, high school, he probably wouldn’t get a very good grade because it’s so strongly stream-of-consciousness. (Then again, I’m sort of a lowballer when it comes to marks…)

The narration also struck me as very Frankensteinian (Shelleyan?) – guy on a boat meets another guy, second guy tells long and scary story. Although I do think Mary Shelley uses the narrative device in a way that’s easier to understand than Conrad. Hannah said something like this about Foucault before, but it’s just hard to understand what’s going on when paragraphs span whole pages and then some. I can’t remember if Shelley had the same ridiculously long paragraphs going on – but if she did, she must have done something differently.

Final thought:

“Two women, one fat and the other slim, sat on straw-bottomed chairs, knitting black wool.” (75)

One of my most distinct memories from English 10 is of Madam Defarge, knitting (not that I ever actually saw her knitting as opposed to just reading about it). When I read this part in Heart of Darkness, I asked myself (and wrote down) – when are fictional knitters ever good news? It’s not just Madame Defarge. You have the Fates in Percy Jackson, who knit huge blue socks (although in the myth, the Fates are weavers). See?

Now that I think about it, though, I guess there are some fictional knitters who end up being all right. For example, one of my favourite stories as a child was Hans Christian Andersen’s The Wild Swans, which is about a girl whose brothers are turned into swans, and to turn them back, she has to knit them sweaters from thorns. (I know Wikipedia says that they’re shirts of stinging nettle, but how I remember it is close enough, I guess. I actually seem to remember it as the girl having to make the sweaters using thorns as knitting needles…but whatever.) There’s another very similar fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm, if you’re interested.

(Since some of you apologize for your blog post titles, sorry for mine.)

I’m not sure how much longer I can stand the constant vacillation between warm/cold and sunny/rainy. Thanks for reading, everyone.

 

Golden Globes

Yes, a short text.

One time in grade eleven I almost read The Second Sex. Then I decided against it, partially because I didn’t want to read a huge book (yet I still borrowed it – I know), and also because I looked up the Parshley translation and found that it was widely criticized. Attempting to read the original was not an option either, for a few different reasons (some of those reasons produced in hindsight). We’re reading it now, though, and despite any misgivings, it is very compelling.

From the first page, de Beauvoir manages to nail down (in my estimation) the paradox of both deifying and demonizing femininity (which Jill talked about last lecture). There’s this bit:

“Is this attribute [femininity] something secreted by the ovaries?” (xli)

It’s just too similar to this, down to the word choice.

Also, since this text is so short, I’m rereading it now and picking up on things I didn’t notice before, like this:

“A man would never get the notion of writing a book on the peculiar situation of the human male.” (xliii)

Of course not, because “[i]f a woman writes about herself, she’s a narcissist. If a man does the same, he’s describing the human condition“. (Okay, so I read that first on Tumblr, but Emily Gould says it herself – she expects her audience to be people on that site.) The idea of writing about men is just writing about people. A few days ago, my sister and I were watching TV and in reference to The Mentalist, she asked why so many shows were like that. I presumed she meant, and I answered, that there are a lot of shows featuring a quirky main male character with a supporting cast. I mean, honestly (if you use “quirky” loosely): How I Met your Mother. Community (sort of, sort of). House. Sherlock. The Big Bang Theory (also sort of). Need I go on? Those are just the shows that I’ve watched appreciable portions of (figured that I should keep the complaining about shows I don’t watch to a minimum). There are more. Granted, there are also a lot of shows that feature a main female character with a supporting cast, but like it’s been said so many times before (and, forewarning, so much more elegantly), generally women are okay with reading/watching entertainment about men, but generally men are not as okay with reading/watching entertainment about women.

De Beauvoir also says this:

“The parallel drawn by Bebel between women and the proleteriat is valid in that neither ever formed a minority or a separate collective group of mankind.” (xlvii)

To comment on the idea that “women have never formed a separate collective group of mankind” – I feel like I’ve been trying to find a way to express that and de Beauvoir just went and did it.

I took way too long to write this. Thanks for reading everyone.

[Edit for clarification about the femininity paradox.]

[Second edit: here is a response to the article about boys in young adult literature. I read it before I read the original article, so I thought I should probably refer to it.]

Girls like us

I just noticed that it’s “The Rights of Men” but then “The Rights of Woman”, as opposed to “Women”. I wish I had a better starting sentence than that, but moving on…

For starters, I like the cover photo of the Statue of Liberty and how it very neatly ties into the subject of freedom while also pointing out that the woman is still being used as a symbol. Are there any statues representing a concept that are sculpted in the image of a man? I sort of feel like there’s an obvious answer to that question that I can’t quite find right now.

Wollstonecraft plays off Rousseau in chapters 1-4:

“In the present state of society it appears necessary to go back to first principles in search of the most simple truths, and to dispute with some prevailing prejudice every inch of ground.” (117)

“In tracing the causes that, in my opinion, have degraded woman…to me it appears clear that they all spring from want of understanding.” (196-197)

My notes for this book were surprisingly uniform: there were a lot of “exactly”s, “hey”s, and more than one “!”. There were also a couple of blank tabs that I put down just to flag the parts where I felt like Wollstonecraft really got something or said something really interesting that I didn’t know how to react to.

Wollstonecraft also spends a fair bit of time criticizing femininity. This was a bit of  a sticking point for me in some ways, but in other ways, my understanding is that she doesn’t trash femininity completely. What she seems to be going after is the maintenance aspect:

“Men order their clothes to be made, and have done with the subject; women make their own clothes, necessary or ornamental, and are continually talking about then; and their thoughts follow their hands. It is not indeed the making of necessaries that weakens the mind; but the frippery of a dress.” (194-195)

“I have known a number of women who, if they did not love their husbands, loved nobody else, give themselves entirely up to vanity and dissipation, neglecting every domestic duty; nay, even squandering away all the money which should have been saved for their helpless younger children…” (267)

There’s the Alexander Pope quote she brings in:

“…every woman is at heart a rake” (247)

Finally, to go back to what I said about women being symbolic, and by extension being pigeonholed to some extent (maybe even becoming muses?):

“Novels, music, poetry, and gallantry, all tend to make women the creatures of sensation…” (177)

I haven’t linked to a song in a while, so here’s one. Thanks for reading, everyone.

Geneva

I’m not done reading Rights of Man yet but here’s what I have so far.

I’m appreciating all the one-liners (page references are according to the Adelaide ebook).

“What Athens was in miniature America will be in magnitude.” (140)

“Reason obeys itself; and Ignorance submits to whatever is dictated to it.” (99)

“…as there is but one species of man, there can be but one element of human power; and that element is man himself.” (101)

Okay, so the last one isn’t exactly one line, but still. I know that give the subject matter, one-liners are basically inevitable, but seeing how concisely Thomas Paine can state his ideas is refreshing.

There are, of course, callbacks to earlier books.

Rousseau (and maybe some Hobbes?): “We have now, in a few words, traced man from a natural individual to a member of society, and shown, or endeavoured to show, the quality of the natural rights retained, and of those which are exchanged for civil rights.” (38)

Plato: “If there existed a man so transcendently wise above all others, that his wisdom was necessary to instruct a nation, some reason might be offered for monarchy…” (86)

Césaire/Walcott: “Titles are but nicknames, and every nickname is a title. The thing is perfectly harmless in itself, but it marks a sort of foppery in the human character…” (47)

I’m in Part the Second right now, and a lot of it is Paine comparing/contrasting European governments with the American. So much of what he says in lauding is completely different from how the US government is so often criticized. It’s interesting.

One more thing: at the very, very beginning, Paine seems pretty polite towards Mr. Burke, but everything else Paine’s said about him after that is just complaint after complaint. I don’t get it. Am I missing something?

Short blog post, I guess. Thanks for reading, everyone.

Glitter

I’m beginning to believe the hardest part of any book is the last ten pages.

One of the most important issues that the book raised (for me), was the question – if you’re treating somebody with multiple personality disorder, who exactly are you treating? Who/which personalities are called alters? Which, now that I’ve typed it out, I realize is probably the point that Hacking’s trying to make (in part).

More Freud, because why not:

“[Freud's] patients had to face up the truth- as he saw it. We can have no doubt, in retrospect, that Freud very often deluded himself, thanks to his resolute dedication to theory. Half a century of Freud scholarship has taught that Freud got patients to believe things about themselves that were false, things that were often so bizarre that only the most devout theorizer could propose them in the first place. But there is no evidence that Freud systematically, as a method of therapy, got his patients to believe what he himself knew to be lies.” (196)

I’m in agreement with this passage.

At the beginning Hacking calls Alzheimer’s disease “a disease of memory” (3). I tagged that with “how else can Alzheimer’s symptoms be defined?”, but now I realize (once again) – that’s probably his point. Here are some other symptoms (and therefore, other possible ways of defining) of Alzheimer’s:

“As the disease advances, symptoms can include confusion, irritability, aggression, mood swings, trouble with language, and long-term memory loss. As the sufferer declines they often withdraw from family and society.[5][7] Gradually, bodily functions are lost, ultimately leading to death.[8]” (Wikipedia)

In chapter 18 Hacking also describes what he calls “wrong-forgetting” – “the suppression of central items from one’s past that are integral to one’s character or nature” (259). I had to ask how something you don’t remember consciously can affect you (ruling out events that happened farther back than you can remember things). Hacking does provide an explanation, but it’s psychoanalytic, and he discredits it in the same breath anyway. I’m probably missing something obvious here, but what exactly does Hacking mean?

Thanks for reading, everyone.

Gathered up

I put off this post because I haven’t found anything to say about the book.

Well, I guess I can start with Freud.

“Examine diligently, therefore, all the faculties of your soul: memory, understanding, and will. Examine with precision all your senses as well. . . . Examine, moreover, all your thoughts, every word you speak, and all your actions. Examine even unto your dreams, to know if, once awakened, you did not give them your consent. And finally, do not think that in so sensitive and perilous a matter as this, there is anything trivial or insignificant.” (20)

I tagged it with Freud mostly because the dream-analysis part caught my attention, but in typing out the full quote, I realized it was closer to a description of introspection. Which is weird now, because when I was actually taking PSYC 101 I never really thought about the similarities between Freud and introspection. Probably because I hadn’t read Dora then.

I like how the first part of the book is called “We “Other Victorians”". As in, even though their opinions regarding sexuality are different, they’re still Victorians. The question of what defines an era goes back to what Miranda said about how eras are made sense of in retrospect in the Lyrical Ballads lecture and the ensuing discussion in seminar.

Foucault concerns himself a lot with what I tagged in my notes as a “legislation” of sex (37) – literally, but I was also referring to how he seems to dislike comprehensive descriptions/explanations of sex. He also draws a line between sexuality and sex in his discussion, which I found interesting (54, 114).

I also like that he didn’t use, as I said in my last blog post, the random justification (at least, not to the extent that Rousseau uses it). Maybe just because his discussion is more limited, with a focus on history like the Industrial Revolution, and not Rousseau’s brand of pre-history. Checking against my seminar notes now, we discussed Foucault in our Silencing the Past seminars and how Foucault doesn’t discuss the “provenance of power” and talks about history without being a historian (just like Trouillot). Again, now that I’ve remembered this, it’s weird that the books that have something to do with Silencing the Past are the ones I really am “decidedly neutral” (again) about. Maybe because I haven’t really considered in the past whether or not I’ve liked most of the books, and only recently have I started to do that.

See? Not much to say. Thanks for reading, everyone.

 

[Edited for spacing.]

Glaze

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.