Bulgakov on Doctor Faustus

The Master and Margarita is definitely my favourite of the works that we have studied thus far in Arts One. Many consider it to be one of the greatest novels of Russian literature, if not one of the greatest pieces of literature of all time. It encompasses so many themes and topics; it’s a satirical political commentary on Communist Russia, a religious debate, a love story, and an exploration of mysticism and realism, and I’m just barely scratching the surface with this summary. It is also a fabulous read, a little hard at first to get into, but definitely worth it. There is absolutely no way that I could effectively communicate the depth and brilliance of this novel in this short blog, although I will certainly try to in my essay. Interestingly, reading Master really helped with my interpretation of Doctor Faustus. They both play on similar themes, and even similar plot elements, but while Master is clearly a clever political allegory attempting to derail the policies of Stalin’s regime, my initial reading of Doctor Faustus left me very confused with Marlowe’s purpose and opinions. As an anti-Calvinist I would think that Marlowe would portray the failings of it’s doctrine, but Faustus is a very poor example of the failures of these teachings. He is a ridiculous and unsympathetic idiot who brings his demise upon himself, and ultimately proves the Church’s values. After reading Master it occurs to me that Marlowe may have intended Faustus in the same way that Bulgakov intended Master, a critical and satirical allegory for the times, exposing the flaws of society or the institution that he is criticizing through the flaws and even idiocy of his characters.

plato, meet judith – AKA when my brain exploded

so I kinda struggled to get through Antigone’s Claim by Judith Butler. it is a seemingly short book containing an exceedingly and unapologetically dense commentary on Sophocles’ Antigone.

to start off, I absolutely love Antigone; I’m not always sure where I stand on it, whether I support Antigone or Kreon or both, but I love it all the same. after reading Antigone’s Claim my adoration for Antigone is in serious jeopardy. to me, Sophocles is a genius – a master playwright, he was able to infuse amazing and perhaps unprecedented depth and meaning into a simultaneously dramatic and entertaining piece. and there is no doubt that modern dramatists, including and especially Shakespeare, were enormously influenced by his writings.

I am not a fan of Butler. never have been. I haven’t read any philosophical works of hers prior to Antigone’s Claim, only articles and interviews, and suffice it to say reading one of her actual books did not help me to glean any further understanding of her – at least in her favour. I liken her to the barnacle on a whale, a parasite, or maybe a mosquito would be a better example, feasting on the misery of others and gleaning any kind profit from the labors of others. this may seem a little hyperbolic but that’s what reading butler does to me – it really sends me over the edge. seriously – my brain – all over the wall right now.

you know how in English class there’s always that kid who can’t help but ponder the metaphorical resonance and glean the deepest meaning about every friggin thing, and the rest of us are like hey, maybe what the author wrote is exactly what he meant, when he said that the curtain was blue, that was all that he meant – there is no abundant metaphorical resonance in the color of the goddamned curtain!

well that kid’s name is Judith friggin butler.

Antigone’s claim is butler’s weak attempt to ponder the deepest kind of metaphorical resonance of the blue curtain – so deep that it is non-f%^*$# -existent. who does she think she is, riding Sophocles’ coattails. butler. I swear to god – it was some kind of divine intervention that spared us Plato and butler from living and writing in the same era and thus preventing their procreation and the continuation of our species.