General education

At the beginning of the term I was looking forward to Northanger Abbey/Shawn of the Dead, even though I’ve tried to read Jane Austen in the past (including this book) and I’ve always found her books difficult to get through. I just figured that maybe I stood a chance this time, and I managed to make it through without it being too bad. (I was actually pretty surprised when I finished reading the first page and realized it made perfect sense to me. Unfortunate true story.)

I’ve heard/read that this book is satirical, and every now and then I would come across a bit that I’d mark with just that, like:

“…what young lady of common gentility will reach the age of sixteen without altering her name as far as she can?” (9)

“A woman…if she have the misfortune of knowing any thing, should conceal it as well as she can.” (81)

“‘…I cannot speak well enough to be unintelligible.’ / ‘Bravo! – an excellent satire on modern language.’” (96)

in addition, of course, to the whole bit where Catherine tracks down the cabinet and discovers that it’s full of bills.

I also really appreciate the part where Catherine finds out Isabella’s brother might be in love with her and Isabella says this:

“‘I do not think any thing would justify me in wishing you to sacrifice all your happiness merely to oblige my brother…who perhaps…might be just as happy without you, for people seldom know what they would be at….But, above all things, my dear Catherine, do not be in a hurry. Take my word for it, that if you are in too great a hurry, you will certainly live to repent it. Tilney says, there is nothing people are so often deceived in, as the state of their own affections, and I believe he is very right.’” (106)

Just because Isabella manages somehow to use the words of the person Catherine actually likes to try and persuade her into considering marrying Isabella’s brother instead. Unless I’ve read it incorrectly.

I’m pretty sure this has taken me more than half an hour, but one more thought: I’m not sure how this reading for me was different from the other times I’ve tried and failed. I’ve said this before, but there’s something about having to read a book for class that makes reading it unenjoyable (for me), and that hasn’t been the case yet with any of the Arts One books. Miranda also mentioned in one of her posts that “It is probably inevitable that, sometimes, you will fail to read something”. What I got out of that post was that “readerly failures” change with, well, the person. So I have to wonder what’s changed.

Thanks for reading, everyone. (Also, we should play that never-have-I-ever-been-able-to-read game that Miranda talks about.)

Get out of Cape Cod

Some thoughts for the end of the term.

One aspect of reading the Walcott that I really enjoyed was being able to read into details and word choices again after spending most of the term studying form and argument. (In continuation of my post on Rousseau – it’s not philosophy!!) What made the property of it being able to stand up to close reading even better was that it’s from 2002, so there’s no need for questions like “Did Walcott write these stage directions himself or are they editorial?” Here’s something that stuck out to me, from page 37:

(They are all shocked to an electric silence.)

I’m still not sure if that was meant to be a pun.

There’s also this, from page 102:

“[Henri Christophe:] Petion is powerful. They are coming,/They are coming, Vastey./If I could move…

[Vastey:] You cannot tell how near they are,/And it is thickening,/And the chateaux are tall and dark”

Macbeth realizing that his reign is over, anyone?

 

Moving on to the Césaire – there’s more on the role of women. Where Rousseau defines family by fatherhood in the Discourse (pp. 62, 113), Césaire seems to define it by motherhood:

“Orphans torn from your mothers’ breasts” (p. 74)

I don’t know how accurate that interpretation is but it’s something I noticed.

Also, from page 25:

“In the past they stole our names/Our pride/Our nobility”

That reminded me of Spirited Away. I watched it once when I was younger and I remember some of it but not a lot. Maybe for our next movie night?

Page 22 also mentions a swagger stick. I didn’t know what that was at first and I found its name mildly funny. Another example of how meanings change as time goes by (like Rousseau/Cranston and their use of “self-love” – I know I’ve talked about it before, but it’s relevant).

To end this post, two things:

  1. Today seems to be this guy‘s birthday.
  2. Where the title of this post comes from. Also, since they’ve been on tour lately, their own goodbye song.

Thanks for reading, everyone, and thanks for a great term. I know it’s impractical but I’m still sort of wishing for snow.

 

[Edit: Prof. Beasley-Murray corrected me during the lecture - "Henri Christophe" is not from 2002 but rather 1949. (Embarrassing.) But the point stands; it's still fairly recent. Sorry, everyone.]

Glass and history

1. From page 88:

“In 1791, there is no public debate on the record, in France, in England, or in the United States on the right of black slaves to achieve self-determination, and the right to do so by way of armed resistance.”

What does Trouillot mean by “self-determination” here? I ask because I always thought of it as more of a 20th century term.

2. On page 95, Trouillot discusses scientific racism. I don’t really know how to phrase this as a question. I just think it might be interesting to discuss the history of using science to legitimize bigotry.

3. From page 10:

“Historians had long questioned the veracity of some of the events in Alamo narratives, most notably the story of the line on the ground….Texas historians, and especially Texas-based authors of textbooks and popular history, long concurred that this particular narrative was only “a good story”, and that “it doesn’t really matter whether it is true or not.”

(The footnote to that segment is on page 158.)

There seems to be some shift in the meaning of “historian” in this paragraph. What is it exactly, and what does it say about Trouillot’s stance on the matter?

4. To what extent does Trouillot use narrative techniques to discuss the use of narrative techniques in recording history?

5. From page 142:

History did not need to be mine in order to engage me. It just needed to relate to someone, anyone. It could not just be The Past. It had to be someone’s past.”

Can history exist without being related to the present?

 

The ending story reminded me on the first read of this. I couldn’t have been the only one.

Oh, and – the copyright information at the front of the book misspells his name as “Michel-Ralph Trouillot”. Thanks for reading, everyone.

 

Go on

I’m finding that the more philosophy we read the less I like reading it. Rousseau wasn’t too difficult to get through but in some places I just felt like my mind was falling out.

To start with (and probably the only subject matter of this post):

“… not only did such commodities continue to soften body and mind and as they had the same time degenerated into actual needs, being deprived of them became much more cruel than the possession of them was sweet…” (113)

In some places, the Discourse on Inequality reminds me a lot of contemporary motivational/advising media. This part would probably translate into something like “don’t use your free time to find vices”. There’s also this:

“As a result of seeing each other, people cannot do without seeing more of each other. A tender and sweet sentiment insinuates itself into the soul, and at the least obstacle becomes an inflamed fury; jealousy awakens with love; discord triumphs, and the gentlest of passions receives the sacrifice of human blood” (114)

That struck me as a specific example of how, to quote the first link I wasn’t afraid to click on in the first page of results when googling the phrase “the pursuit of happiness is the cause of all unhappiness”:

“Groundbreaking work by Iris Mauss has recently supported the counterintuitive idea that striving for happiness may actually cause more harm than good. In fact, at times, the more people pursue happiness the less they seem able to obtain it. Mauss shows that the more people strive for happiness, the more likely they will be to set a high standard for happiness—then be disappointed when that standard is not met.”

There’s also this in Rousseau’s footnotes:

“One must not confuse pride and self-love, two passions very different in their nature and in their effects” (167)

Hobbes also uses the phrase “self-love” (99, para. 35), and I don’t think I completely understand what he’s talking about in that paragraph, but it’s there. I know Rousseau’s/Cranston’s usage of the phrase – an instinct for self-preservation – is kind of different from its modern meaning, but it’s funny to see it anyway.

Here’s another nigh irrelevant music video I like. It’s also where this post’s title comes from. Thanks for reading, everyone. It was really cold today.

 

[Edited to clarify where the footnote was from.]

[Edited a second time because I wrote "happiness" instead of "unhappiness". Sorry, everyone.]

Good Queen Margot

Five (seven) questions on The Master and Margarita.

1. Why is the book organized the way it is? (split narration, different stories)

2. Why is Margarita’s second wish (rather than the first) for the Master? (282-284)

3. Archibald Archibaldovich appears once to bail Koroviev and Behemoth out, and then promptly sets the building they were in on fire. What purpose does he serve? (354-358)

4. Why does the novel end with an epilogue? The rest of the book, as novels usually do, shows what happens. The epilogue is a shift to telling. Why does Bulgakov do this?

5. When Margarita’s husband leaves for a business trip, “no one could prevent her from thinking what she like or dreaming what she liked” (220). What prevents her from doing that when anyone else is around? What does that say about what her married life is like?

 

I wrote these five before today’s (Wednesday’s) seminar. Here are two more that came up today:

 

6. Why don’t Margarita and her husband have any children?

7. Why doesn’t the master have a name while Margarita does?

 

Go gentle into that good night

One thing that was on my mind all through Doctor Faustus was how Meph and Faustus act like they’re in love. From the oath:

“I, John Faustus of Wittenberg, Doctor, by these presents do give both body and soul to Lucifer, Price of the East, and his minister Mephastophilis…”

(Act II, Scene i, lines 105-107)

(Minor point: how can you give your body and soul to two different entities?)

Continue reading

Goldilocks

Whenever I read I’m often struck by similarities to other things I’ve seen/heard and sometimes I laugh a little bit at these moments. The people around me are usually pretty used to the sight/sound of me laughing randomly and sometimes they ask me what’s up. In the absence of people being around me while I’m at home and insist on reading quietly, here are some random thoughts I had on Antigone and Antigone’s Claim.

1. RECENT: Taylor.

“Indeed, consciousness seeks a retrieval of itself, only to recognize that there is no return from alterity to a former self but only a transfiguration premised on the impossibility of return.” (Butler 14)

On that page of Antigone’s Claim, I have a sticky note reading “TS: ‘I’d like to be my old self again, but I’m still trying to find it’”. The quote is a line from a song, “All Too Well”,  which she wrote about a relationship which, to my best knowledge, lasted about three months. With that in mind, the song sounds very serious and very sad. Under the lyric is an arrow and my own note: “you can never really go back”. This whole discussion in Antigone’s Claim about trying to go back comes out of one of Butler’s commentaries on Hegel’s work, which are always confusing because like a lot of other people (I would think), I’ve never read Hegel’s analysis of Antigone. Sometimes I find myself in situations where I’m reading a critique of something that I never even knew existed.

A little bit of what I remember from our last seminar which reminded me of this note is Miranda talked about splitting and seeing past versions of ourselves as permanent, with reference to post-structuralism. Naturally, having a brain stuffed full of irrelevant bits and bobs, I brought up Horcruxes.

Naturally, since this post is supposed to be about Antigone, how does she relate to all this? Honestly, I don’t know. The idea of going back is the only thing that jumped out to me in a passage that was otherwise bamboozling and more than a little reminiscent of something else that came up during the seminar: the feeling that at points in Antigone’s Claim, Butler (figuratively) pulls aside a group of people with deeper knowledge and goes, “by the way, here’s this little offshoot of interesting stuff”.

So, I guess, a little tip for Taylor (in case that she hasn’t already figured this out for herself, which I doubt): It’s okay. You can’t go back. Things don’t un-happen.

 

2. ANCIENT: Elizabeth.

Also on page 14 of Antigone’s claim is a sticky note reading “EB Browning poem”. Rather, this poem. This is in reference to the mentions of Lacan’s idea of “pure Being” (Butler 14, 48). Going back to #1, I think the first time I ever saw this poem was in a commentary about how weird the concept of loving someone for no reason is. How do you do that? I guess it’s one of those ideas that I’ve dismissed with, “Give it some time. I’ll understand it when I’m older”. I’ve dismissed a lot of ideas like this. It’s worked before. Still waiting on this poem, though. Maybe I should go outside more often.

Of course, any thoughts about Elizabeth Barrett Browning are probably accompanied with some nod to this poem. I remember reading this for English 10. This poem makes more sense to me now. I also remember our English 10 teacher talking about how every time you go back to this poem, it has some new or deeper meaning. She was right about many things.

 

3. NEITHER TOO RECENT NOR TOO ANCIENT: Joni.

The opening of the second chapter discusses the importance of making Kreon’s declaration heard (Butler 27). I thought about this for a bit before adding a note on page 29, in comparatively cramped writing, about something I read once on Joni Mitchell’s Wikipedia page about her writing and giving up her daughter for adoption. I’m not going to quote it, because it doesn’t seem to be cited, but I did just spend some time digging this relevant bit up from one of her interviews:

“When my daughter returned to me, the gift kind of went with it. The songwriting was almost like something I did while I was waiting for my daughter to come back.” (from here)

I think it helped me interpret Antigone’s rash behaviour a little better: she doesn’t have her family to talk to, so she doesn’t mind if everyone knows what she’s doing.

 

In closing, here’s a music video I like, which is also sort of related to what we’ve been reading lately. Thanks for reading, everyone.

 

“Gorgias”, apparently

I decided to not delete that first automatic blog post (“Hello, world!”) because in a few years I’ll probably look back on it and remember not really understanding exactly what I was supposed to do with this.

In our last seminar, our professor commented that we preferred syncretic (okay, I just googled that to make sure I spelled it correctly, and I didn’t at first) questions: as she explained it, questions that could be answered with a yes/no. That reminds me of two different memories: the first one being one of my teachers from high school, who would ask us if we had any questions and then pause. He would hold the pause for a while and one time he explained to us (as far as I can remember) that the silence was designed to give us time to formulate our questions and then get over the awkwardness of raising our hands to ask them. The second memory it reminded me of is that one time I was with some friends at a science exhibit and one part had us answer questions on a screen by pressing buttons. A friend of mine laughed when she noticed that I was slapping the buttons and I thought it was kind of funny too, and the best explanation I could come up with was that there are some topics I have very strong opinions on, and that I’m completely comfortable with having those strong opinions. For me, at least, I think the preference for close-ended questions is real. Just telling somebody what you think, without having to explain, without having to let them pick your brain a little, is easy and not as personal. Lately I’ve been wondering if having really strong opinions on something could just mean that I don’t want to consider other perspectives. Is the best opinion one that you’re willing to change? (I’ve thought about this and I’ve concluded there’s some kind of semantic tangle in that question, but I don’t know how to fix it.)

I do think that although yes/no questions are easy to answer, they’re really just good for warming up. If all you can get out of somebody is yes or no, it probably means that they don’t really want to talk to you or that you aren’t asking the right questions.  Sometimes I’m watching an interview and the interviewer asks a question that does more to show what they already think and less to show what the interviewee thinks (and isn’t that really the point of the interview?). The fact that I can’t go through the computer screen and say, “Objection – leading question” saddens me a little.

In the case of the seminar, we were lucky, and the yes/no questions were just a warmup. I remember checking the time on my computer, realizing we were halfway through, and thinking, “This is so great”, despite having trouble in the first bit even getting some thoughts together before somebody made a remark.

Also, thoughts on Gorgias:

Socrates talks so much that I used three different colours of tabs for him and one colour for everyone else. Trying to understand exactly what the other characters think can be a little difficult if a lot of what they express is a yes or a no to Socrates’ paragraphs. (more syncretic questions!) Being able to quote them is far better. The only note I have for Callicles, for example, is that he disagrees with Socrates, which isn’t exactly helpful. And Callicles and Socrates get to converse at length, unlike, for example, Gorgias, who has lines at the beginning but not much otherwise.

More generally, though, “Gorgias”‘ discusses of the exact definition and purpose of oratory extensively, which gets very Abed. Socrates gets the last word but ultimately we have to decide for ourselves and I’m still not sure about what oratory is (but if I hadn’t read “Gorgias”, I don’t think I would have thought about it).

That’s all I have for now. Hopefully I’ll write more soon. Good night, everyone. Thanks for reading.