What I found especially enjoyable about reading Beauvoir’s The Second Sex and Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper together was the way in which Gilman’s text functioned as a sort of case study for Beauvoir’s questions surrounding femininity. I found the concept of “Mitsein” that Beauvoir references in The Second Sex to be of particular interest. Beauvoir writes that “Male and female stand opposed within a primordial Mitsein, and women has not broken it” (Beauvoir xlix). I was curious as to the meaning of the word and looked it up during my reading to discover that the phrase “primordial Mitsein” was coined by Heidegger. I referenced the Larousse online dictionary for a german- english translation of the word and was provided with the definition of “Verb: to go or come along”. A quick reference to Wikipedia for a synopsis of Heideggerian terminology tabbed “Mitsein” under a meaning of “Being-with”. According to the subsequent explanation provided by Wikipedia “The term ‘Being-with’ [Mitsein] refers to an ontological characteristic of the human being, that it is always already with others of its kind… it is a statement about the being of every human, that in the structures of its being-in-the-world one finds an implicit reference to other humans”. I found the concept of “Mitsein” to be in direct opposition with the Hegelian model of the “Other” which Beauvoir outlines at the very beginning of the text. I see the argument between humans as being naturally individualistic or communal as directly connected to this opposition and central to Beauvoir’s analysis of the role of sexuality in determining “gender” roles. As my research was obviously only very preliminary I am interested in exploring “Mitsein” in more depth in seminar and wonder what role this concept plays in Beauvoir’s later analysis of Freud’s theory and also how the concept of “Mitsein” might be analyzed in relation to Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper.
– Sophie Draper 2/9/15
In this post I would like to focus on an aspect of Appelfeld’s novel that wasn’t yet touched on in tutorial. The reoccurring allusion to the body as being an extension of the mind and spirit was something that I found particularly interesting in my reading. What brought my attention to this theme was the repetitive use of the word “movement” and I wondered about the implications of such repetition. Toward the end of the novel, the reader is told that, “Blanca’s life seemed to have slowly disintegrated. First her conversation, then the hasty marriage, and immediately afterword, her mother’s death. In those two ceremonies and in the funeral, parts of her soul were amputated. And after her father’s disappearance, her body was emptied of all its will” (218). I feel that this passage summarizes the way in which Blanca slowly loses touch with her mind (she has ended her studies, she in no longer immersed in books, silence overcomes the ease with which she once made conversation), her body (she is beaten and raped, she becomes ill, she is pushed beyond her physical limits w/ expectations at work and at home), and her soul (she has no ties to her ancestry, the family around her dies, she is Jewish yet feels out of place when confronted with Jewish spirituality). The body appeared to me to act as a vehicle of the mind in this novel; as Blanca moves farther from the person she once was mentally she continually describes a feeling of disconnectedness with her physical being. What is ironic however, is that as Blanca progressively loses touch with her physical and mental “self” she also seems to become stronger and more confident. I found the shift in Blanca’s perception of self to be both interesting and puzzling as it immedietely reflected for me a sort of spiritual journey or connection with an other-worldly power- this is of course a controversial issue in terms of Blanca’s character and the decisions she makes. I would love to hear what the rest of the class’s thoughts are on this.
The focus on the concept of justice and frequent references to Homer in Plato’s Republic made me think about justice as portrayed in The Odyssey and The Penelopiad. In The Odyssey, the concept of “justice” is rather obscure; humans do not appear to have much agency and the concept of “fate” and often biased discretion of the Gods are given the most weight in terms of the successes and failures of each character. For example, Odysseus, the admirable hero of Homer’s tale, is repeatedly described as being extremely “unlucky”. The association that is made between Odysseus’ difficulty in returning to his home and duties as a king and father implies that the Gods often act in brash and childlike way without much thought to what is “just”. In terms of justice in The Penelopiad, the maids do not make it specifically clear how they want justice to be served but the implication is that Odysseus and Telemachus should have to pay for their hanging. In Republic, Socrates says he dissaproves of the negative protrayal of the Gods and lack of assertion by humans in The Odyssey. This being said, I don’t think Socrates would necessarily agree with the maids in The Penelopiad either. Are the maids not stepping outside the realm of their roles as servants by opposing their masters? Furthermore, to reference Professor Hendricks’s lecture from today, I thought about the different rankings of lives and how they could apply to the characters within The Odyssey and The Penelopiad. Is Penelople in what Socrates says most people believe to be the “best” category as someone who is unjust but appears just? Seeing as Penelope is haunted by guilt and the maids are haunted by vengeance I would say that Socrates’ argument appears to be true; it is best to be just AND appear just. But who, in either of these works, exhibits both traits?