the end is near

Well, this is awfully strange. I’m sitting down to write my last official Arts One blog post. (Since we’re watching a movie next week, I probably won’t blog.)

Since the first time I blogged, it’s been 6 months and 11 days, 192 days total. In those 6 months, a lot has changed for me (as I’m sure it has for most first years). I don’t want to talk too much about not-the-book, but I would just like to say that Arts One has been an incredibly positive experience for me and one that I would absolutely recommend. The things I’ve learned, the books I’ve read (or mostly read) and the people I’ve met have made me think about the world differently and that’s always a good thing in my eyes!

Okay, on to the book now. I really enjoyed this one! There’s something very honest and eye-opening about Achebe’s tone, and this made the book very readable. In anticipation of our final in-class essay, I’ve been flagging things I think are important and I’ve probably flagged every other page. So I don’t go on forever, I’m going to just pick a couple of flags to mention here.

“To show affection was a sign of weakness; the only thing worth demonstrating was strength.” (28) This reminds me of when we talked about ‘manliness’ as opposed to effeminacy – the manly man is strong, the effeminate man is emotional and seen as weaker.

“Okonkwo was specially fond of Ezinma … But his fondness only showed on very rare occasions.” (44) Along the same lines. A father isn’t allowed to be affectionate towards his daughter without coming across as weak?

Also I want to point out the treatment of women. It’s bad. I’m not going to say anything more about this because, as we all know, I’m not much of a feminist (ha). Other recurring things: the presence of music and chants, as well as the presence of spirituality. Hmm. I’m interested to hear more about this in lecture/seminar!

That’s all folks. It’s been real.

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I really enjoyed Heart of Darkness, but I’m fairly sure I understood almost none of it. (Lecture tends to be good at clarifying things for me though, so I’m not too worried.)

The first thing I noticed was the chunks of text and lack of paragraph separation, I will admit. I grew used to it as I kept reading, but it doesn’t look very approachable. Also, Conrad’s language is very descriptive, to the point where I would call it flowery. I don’t think this detracts from the understanding of the book, but it’s worth commenting on.

Also, his tone is very conversational. Obviously the whole thing is told in the form of a story, but it’s gratifying as a reader to pick up a book and feel like the author (and, by extension, the characters) are speaking to you directly. He has certain expressions that are just unbelievably gorgeous, and I flagged some pages simply because the words he used made me go back and read the passage again and again. For instance:

“One ship is very much like another, and the sea is always the same.” (69-70) This is just so eloquently worded … and it applies to a lot of situations. The minor details all blend together and in the long run, the world/sea/life is fairly uniform.

“… the weakness of many tellers of tales who seem so often unaware of what their audience would best like to hear …” (72) This is just really accurate, so I thought I’d point it out.

“We could not understand because we were too far and could not remember, because we were travelling in the night of first ages, of those ages that are gone, leaving hardly a sign – and no memories.” (107) This deals with a few concepts we’ve touched on already in Arts One. It talks about memories as well as the concept of suppressing those memories, intentionally or otherwise, and not leaving a sign (silencing?) past events. Wow, this text is remaking/remodelling previous texts.

A closing word: I intended to flag all the places where ‘darkness’ comes up so I could accurately point out all the things it could mean, but I failed pretty early on and gave up. Hopefully I’ll have a chance to go through it again, because I think the different meanings of ‘darkness’ are definitely applicable. Darkness = desolation, negativity, skin colour, death, the power of the devil, etc.

I hate feeling like I’m missing the point, as I often do with that ‘story about a story’ kind of book. Oh well. All will become clear soon.

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litererrors 2014-03-10 12:39:01

I am so ecstatic about this text that I can come up with neither a good title nor a good opening. This woman is seriously amazing, and I think I like this mostly because it’s not aggressive feminism but instead a push for equality. Her tone is readable and her language isn’t too flowery, and she refers to other philosophers we’ve read (and hated), particularly Freud. In fact, she dismisses Freud’s Electra complex as ‘nonsense’ on page 43, so she must know what she’s talking about.

“Some say that, having been created after Adam, she is evidently a secondary being; others say on the contrary that Adam was only a rough draft and that God succeeded in producing the human being in perfection when He created Eve.” (lvi-lvii) This is a nice way to put the creation dilemma, and she goes on to say that we must get rid of the concepts of superiority and inferiority. Great.

“It is not the lack of the penis that causes this complex, but rather woman’s total situation; if the little girl feels penis envy it is only as the symbol of privileges enjoyed by boys. The place the father holds in the family, the universal predominance of males, her own education – everything confirms her in her belief in masculine superiority.” (44) I like this way of justifying her disbelief in penis envy. I think penis envy is just a simplified way of explaining that because men have traditionally held power, some women wish that they were men (or at least more like men, so they could have power as well). This makes a lot of sense and it’s completely true.

“All psychoanalysts systematically reject the idea of choice and the correlated concept of value, and therein lies the intrinsic weakness of the system.” (46) This dismisses traditional psychoanalysis in an educational way and points out the fatal flaw with a system that is widely believed to explain many of life’s phenomena.

To conclude, I just really love this, and I feel like it’s more of an ‘everyone is equal and all superiority/inferiority should be thrown out the window. As Simone de Beauvoir says, “The fact is that every concrete human being is always a singular, separate individual.” (And we shouldn’t just be part of some complex or some phenomenon or some idea; we should just be people.)

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I am actually genuinely sad that I had such an insane week/weekend last week, because this is a book I wish I’d already finished. I wonder why? Maybe because it’s about feminism! Not kind of hidden in the background feminism, or super aggressive feminism (Antigone’s Claim), but just a discussion. About feminism.

I like her tone right from the start, but she uses very flowery language. I don’t know if this is just who she is, or how writing was at the time, or if it’s partially to make a point. She references Rousseau a lot, which leads me to believe that there will probably be some kind of comparative question on the list of essay prompts. This excites me, because I liked Rousseau. Also, Wollstonecraft asks a lot of questions as well as maintaining the ‘in my opinion’/'I think’ kind of statements. This feels conversational and approachable rather than somewhat pretentious and stuck up …

Just a few quotes today:

“Men, indeed, appear to me to act in a very unphilosophical manner when they try to secure the good conduct of women by attempting to keep them always in a state of childhood.” (127) This is interesting, because she goes on to say that innocence is essentially the same as weakness, and that children should be innocent, but men and women who are innocent just look weak. I like this point.

“Another instance of that feminine weakness of character, often produced by a confined education, is a romantic twist of the mind, which has been very properly termed sentimental. (330) Girls these days always get complained at for being ‘too sentimental’. I don’t understand why, because it’s natural that girls are a little bit more emotional and a little bit more romantic. Is it ‘weakness of character’? I don’t know. This could lead to a huge argument and I don’t want to get into that.

“Could these girls have been injured by the perusal of novels?” (331) This reminds me so much of Northanger Abbey, because it suggests the same thing, that by reading certain kinds of books, our ideals (and especially female ideals) of love and romance have been warped to something super unrealistic. I love it because it’s completely true.

Okay! That’s enough of my feminine thoughts. I’m excited to hear Jill’s lecture on this and even more excited to finish the book!

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I haven’t finished this book. Now that that’s out of the way, I can start ‘analyzing’. I’m going to stick with quotes today so my brain doesn’t explode.

So far, I’m finding this book okay. It’s not literature, though. Argh. Paine kind of seems to kiss America’s ass, which I find a bit intolerable, but his tone is very conversational. So it’s kind of a 50/50 between excruciatingly annoying traits and really appealing ones.

Page 9 has my favourite quote/idea so far: “There never did, there never will, and there never can exist a parliament, or any description of men, or any generation of men, in any country, possessed of the right or the power of binding and controlling posterity to the ‘end of time’, or of commanding for ever how the world shall be governed, or who shall govern it … Every age and generation must be as free to act for itself, in all cases, as the ages and generations which preceded it.”

This is really interesting because 1791 is quite early for the ‘every generation for itself’ concept. Hmm. I’m interested to see what else Paine has to say about governments. Although I typically don’t like political philosophy, this could be an interesting shift from my regular reading preferences.

These next two weeks are particularly hectic for me, so I’m going to try my best to stay on top of readings, etc!

PS: Seamus was right about Paine … he’s kind of a pain.


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I’m confused

As with most weeks, I read Charlotte’s blog post before I wrote mine and I agree with everything she said. Big surprise. I also saw a lot of things that echoed Trouillot and Freud (the latter more obviously, as his name is mentioned in the text), which was interesting.

I also liked Trouillot, and yet I find this a bit … unrewarding. I’m reading the words, and I’m processing, but I’m not getting anything from it. And it’s not the usual “hmm I wonder what this means” feeling that I have after reading a particularly mind-boggling text. It’s more of a perpetual “hmmmmmmmmm” and not much else.

This is about sex. Okay. I find that a lot of the things Foucault addresses as phenomena, or something like phenomena, are rather obvious. For example, parents sleep in different bedrooms from their children because sex and children do not mix. The issues of masturbation and puberty are part of the so-called ‘sexual experiences’ of children. A lot of times sex is considered a taboo subject and is kind of skirted around rather than being tackled head-on. This seems very simpleminded to me, rather like a mediocre essay. Almost there, but not quite that last step that would make it an A.

Also, being the OCD/petty details person that I am, I find the text in this book impossible to look at. It literally looks like a chunk of words on every page. Oh, and the sentences are ridiculously long.

A few quotes I found interesting:

“Everything that might concern the interplay of innumerable pleasures, sensations, and thoughts which, through the body and the soul, had some affinity with sex.” (Foucault 20) –> so everything to do with pleasure/sensation has to do with sex?

On page 27, he describes sex as being “a constant preoccupation”. I feel like by this point he’s said it a few other ways already. I get it. Everyone is thinking about sex, all the time, every day.

Once again, it’s late (not even Sunday anymore, but Monday…) and I’m looking forward to hearing Christina’s thoughts on this puzzling text in lecture tomorrow.

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Race revisited

I’m really not sure how to feel about Black Skin, White Masks to be honest. The first thing that struck me about this compared to other texts was its ‘readability’. It seemed quite accessible to me and not dense or dry or ugh like some other things (Hobbes, Freud). Or maybe I’m just being incredibly simpleminded and enjoying the larger size of the text.

On the other hand, I really disagree with a lot of what Fanon is saying. I’ll start with something petty that bothers me about this: I hate footnotes. Really. Truly. I wish they weren’t a thing. Sometimes I read them, but never in the place I’m supposed to, and a lot of times (especially if they’re bloody long like half the ones in here) I’ll skip them entirely because the print is lighter or smaller and at the bottom and it’s honestly too much work.

Now to actual content: Fanon says in the introduction that “Many Blacks will not recognize themselves in the following pages. Likewise many Whites.” (xvi) He follows that up by saying that just because we don’t understand something fully or experience it ourselves doesn’t mean it isn’t a reality, and that all the things he puts in his book (analysis?) he has found to be true “any number of times”. This is a nice set up but a lot of the things in the text itself feel a lot like generalizations. (Also, as a ‘White’, I don’t recognize myself in this.)

As we have talked about in seminar many (many) times, I don’t like generalizations/stereotypes/assumptions. I think that Fanon overgeneralizes based on racial and ethnic group, and he compares a lot of situations that black people experience to those experienced by the Jews. (“I was drawing closer to the Jew, my brother in misfortune. Disgraceful!” (101)) Certainly, both of these groups have been through a lot of unnecessary crap. Still, comparing their situations feels overly general to me.

Towards the middle of the book (page 86) we suddenly start talking about penises. Okay. If “The fierce black bull is not the phallus” and “The Senegalese soldier’s rifle is not a penis, but a genuine Lebel 1916 model”, then why are we bringing up genitalia at all? (There was also a brief section on pages 79-80 where Fanon talked about a patient-type scenario, analyzing dreams and the unconscious. Very reminiscent of Freud.)

I could pick on any number of quotes; I’ve written down a ton of them. I’m going to end with one that I think is particularly thought-provoking:

“Sin is black as virtue is white.” (118)

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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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