The Crucible

I actually wasn’t aware that The Crucible had anything to do with the cold war, but that comparison really made me appreciate the play more. The story becomes richer when you think of it as just an earlier example of the human potential for mass hysteria, which was also present in Miller’s time. The cultural transcendence of this issue, which can only be fully understood after knowing the historical context and message of the play, is impressive. The differences between these two examples of hysteria (cold war and witch hunt hysteria) is also interesing. There were real communist spies within America, but there were no witches in sixteenth century Salem. This demonstrates how strong of an emotion fear is. The objective truth doesn’t seem to be as important, even in the cold war/Mccarthy scenario. Rather mass fear and paranoia can create reality for all intensive purposes, and justify deplorable actions as it did in Salem, and for people like Mccarthy. Such justification of craziness brings to mind the complacency of people and their active ignorance of the evils of society we discussed in regards to Heart Of Darkness. Once things are made official and legitimate, or as Conrad put it “efficient”, (as “efficiency is saves us”) seemingly immoral acts can become justified or necessary to people.

On another note, I’m unclear, although interested, about how observing tragedy can be therapeutic, as was mentioned in lecture. Is it a case of morbid fascination and taking comfort in knowing we don’t have it as bad as any given tragic hero does?

Heart Of Darkness post

Heart Of Darkness was one of the books I enjoyed reading most this year in arts one. For me at least, the plot and narration of the novel was one of the most absorbing of anything on the syllabus. I think part of the reason why I was so captivated was because of the ongoing mystery of ‘the darkness’ and its specific nature, which was left pretty vague. I think the setting and general premise of the book worked perfectly to lead me on, beckoning me to continue reading with the promise of a dark secret being told. The sinister depiction of the river and unsettling images of the workers and natives made me want to understand why they were like this. I was especially unsettled by the description of the workers at the stations, who seemed to be only feigning true purpose, and working to no particular end. As was mentioned in lecture, it is easier to be occupied with a specific job that society deems necessary than to rise above that job and realize ‘the horror’ of the world,which you may actually be contributing to. The therapeutic facade of work demonstrated by the company employees really expressed to me how daunting and fearful the realization of one’s own complicity can be, and how blindly going about a task is a perhaps more appealing alternative.

Fanon blog post

sorry if this post is confusing, I’m not sure I even understand my own opinions, let alone the book they’re based on

In ‘The Lived Experience Of The Black Man’ chapter of Black Skin, White Masks, the narrator claims that he “was up against something irrational” in being “hated, detested, and despised…by an entire race” (Fanon, 97/98). This seemed obvious enough once I read it, but for some reason it never previously crossed my mind that the battle for race equality is a battle strictly between rationality and irrationality. But Fanon seems to be saying something along those lines. The divide between black and white people was created by, or at least still perseveres, because of the irrationality of white society’s racism. I think this theory seemed odd out of the blue due to the self-proclaimed reputation of rationality, science, and logic which Western society, (especially North American Society) has come to enjoy. This image of White culture still seems dominant, despite racism. Yet Fanon is encouraging black people to combat racism with rationality, reason and truth. Would this then be an example of ‘trying to be like the subject’, and giving white racists a taste of their own medicine? It’s very difficult to associate a complete race with irrationality vs. rationality, and the more I do this, the more racist I myself feel. But I don’t know if its possible to at least sound, a little racist when talking about racism even objectively. That may be why Fanon’s book was so jarring- because it wasn’t even trying to be objective, or politically correct. It was unabashed, shameless, and raw. Black Faces White Masks captured the issue of racism more vividly than something trying to be neutral would have.

Northanger Abbey

Contrary to my expectations, I enjoyed Northanger Abbey abbey quite a bit, becoming strangely compelled by the story, and its characters. I think part of what I was so enamoured by was the fact that Jane Austen was able to make so much out of so little, and out of such ‘traditional’ characters. Even though the motivations of marriage, reputation, and so forth seem archaic to me, and maybe were even a bit dull to readers in Austen’s time, she is able to convey the thoughts and personalities of characters with dizzying  depth and complexity. Her writing was intimate enough that even the journey of such a seemingly dainty, foreign psyche as Catherine’s appeared as a jarring emotional roller coaster even to me. I guess what I’m getting at is Northanger Abbey demonstrates that exceptional writing can make something even as foreign to us as Regency era England transcend its own context and feel vivid and high-stakes. Not to mention that the prose was exceptionally easy to read and get through. The writing style Austen adopts may exemplify Wordsworth’s definition of bibliotherapy as writing that is the non-savage, accurate transfer of meaning and emotions through words and thoughts heavily meditated on.

Hacking blog post

I thought Rewriting The Soul was an incredibly insightful, informative read, although perhaps one that was at times staggeringly thorough. Initially i assumed that it’s ultimate goal was to study the disorder of multiplicity- determine its causes and symptoms, etc. I was thus puzzled by the seemingly philosophical questions it posed early on regarding the ‘reality’ of the disease. Although Hacking sets out his main point very early in the book- “the way in which a new science, a purported knowledge of memory, quite self-consciensly was created in order to secularize the soul” (4). Yet as interesting as this idea sounded to me, it still seemed removed from the study of multiplicity- I did not find myself drawing connections between it and the alleged ‘main point’ while reading the immersive case studies included of mpd. As the book wore on, however, I noticed patterns involving the social and political reconstruction of memories involved in the treatment diagnoses of multiplicity within these studies.
The example of therapists ‘creating’ a cause for multiplicity in a patient struck me especially. The looping effect between society and patient I noticed helped me understand a bit better the title of the book, as well as the noted main point. I might be a little (or a lot) off here, but the most compelling theme of the book I gathered was that society is collectively, and maybe subconsciously streamlining or at least coercing peoples habits of and attitudes towards memory through creating a non-spiritual science out of it.

One specific thing i starting thinking about regarding multiplicity was amnesia and forgotten states. Could I be experiencing a state presently that I wont remember once i ‘wake up’ from it, and thats why I assume I’m ‘normal’ right now? Is there even a difference between believing that I am and it being so? After all, we are a hybrid of imagination and reality.

Twilight Of The Idols

This one was a struggle for me to get through. A lot of the text seemed disorganized, vague, and sometimes even random. Although some of this confusion was likely due to the many historical and philosophical references made that I had difficulty understanding despite the footnotes, which a reader of Nietzsche’s time would probably grasp more easily. Part of me was pleased by the short length of the book, as I like to consider myself capable of keeping up with a dense text. However, I also found that the book was in some parts lacking in adequate examples or elaborations, especially considering some of the provocative statements Nietzsche makes in it. Overall, Twilight Of The Idols was a nearly overwhelmingly fast paced, assertive read. Nonetheless, I think Nietzsche makes some compelling, albeit pessimistic observations on contemporary humanity in it. He makes an interesting assertion that current society has replaced the organic behaviour and ‘natural’ morality of man with morality which is softer, weaker, and probably more submissive. I may be wrong, but in turn it seems that Nietzsche tries to point out that such a society is also stiflingly obsessed with fairness and equality, which aren’t virtues that he seems to support himself . As well, his opinion on freedom is conveyed as equally problematic, as he considers it to be something that is perhaps blindly preached out of paranoia and fear of authority. With all this in mind, adding as well that the philosopher embraces struggle, I have to wonder what Nietzsche’s ideal government/society would look like. Would it even be possible to maintain a society under the more hardened moral code alluded to? If so, I am still trying to think of how it would be at all pleasant.


Silencing The Past post

I felt a bit unsettled after the lecture on Silencing The Past. Having read the book, I-maybe naively- still considered the silences explained in the text to be a nearly extinct tool used only by historical narrators of the egocentric, imperialist past. I was not surprised by the notion of European glorification in historical narratives. Overall, the silences portrayed in the book seemed exotic and distant to me. Yet during the lecture on Monday, I realized that things like active ignorance, fabricated distractions or deviations from the truth, and historical silences in general are still occurring today. This worried me because, as Miranda commented, it sort of questions the whole mentality of modern liberalism- specifically social liberalism. It could definitely be said that today’s optimistic portrayal of interracial coexistence in entertainment and the media is a falsification of these relationships,or at least a cover-up of the past. Could such a progressive culture’s attempt at equality actually just be silencing racism rather than doing anything about it? Ultimately it’s as if society is trying to outrun the past, hoping not to become caught in a retrospective trap which would shame their ignorance.Looking at things this way, such a skirting of the race issue seems unhealthy. But what is the alternative? Is there an ideal medium between recognizing the past and the future? Have we achieved it?

Leviathan blog post

The leviathan is definitely a risky and ambitious piece of literature, both in and out of its context. The risks Hobbes takes in recording such a definite opinion on human nature and society is substantial, considering the precarious times in which he lived- times when having any sort of strong resolve for much any principle could be dangerous. This said, it seems fitting that someone who valued the masses and ‘common man’ so much should be bold enough to independently try defining civilization. For as far as I know, Hobbes was in no position of authority or power (political or otherwise) at the time he wrote the Leviathan.

The text holds great potential for controversy in modern times as well. As accurate as Hobbes’ description of anarchy may be, it implies that humans are naturally selfish and bad. This position is a bold one, due if nothing else but to its bleakness. Also, it is an opinion that is easy to oversimplify and jump to conclusions about. The common interpretation of it is that people are by default innately malicious in their ‘natural state’, as malevolence is obviously linked to ‘bad’ or ‘selfish’ values. But I think it is important to note that Hobbes does not say that people will go out of their way to harm others without reason, but only in protection of themselves, or for their own benefit. And according to Hobbes’ theory regarding the commonwealth, people will only tend to do this in times of discord, war, and distrust which arise out of lack of unity. For it is not just that bad human nature creates war and anarchy, but vice versa as well. That is to say people act badly under circumstances in which they cannot trust or understand each other due to lack of a common goal. I don’t think this is much of a stretch. For lack of unity is a powerful inhibitor of empathy, which is an important factor in peace.

blind ambition in the Tempest

The Tempest is one of my favourites by Shakespeare. The fact that it is set in such an enclosed,  isolated, and exotic place makes for not only a nicely different visual aesthetic  from many Shakespeare plays, but it also initiates an interesting social experiment between the characters. For it was intriguing to watch the behaviours of people with such controlling, ambitious personalities in a place too desolate for there to be much to control at all. There was a sense of juvenile futility and desperation in seeing such a mass of (literally) washed up noblemen with obstinately determined personalities conspiring for control of whatever they could get their hands on. The characters in the Tempest are so seized by their ambitions of gaining status, that they continuously overlook the logistics of the situation. Very rarely is their a discussion surrounding actually getting back to the country they all so wish to rule. Furthermore, the plot Caliban leads (all while drunk) to help usurp Prospero on an island with little to rule anyways emphasizes the potential pettiness which ambition can lead to. This is especially true when put into the context of people who are unable to reap the benefits of their potential successes, as are the likes of Sebastien and Antonio, as they’re trapped on an island.


On another note, the idea that Platonic themes were incorporated into the play confused me a bit. How exactly is Prospero a philosopher king? It was also mentioned in lecture that some characters in the play have “soul-types” which can be categorized into those outlined in The Republic (that of appetite, spirit, and reason). This seems accurate, but not like complete proof of the connection.

Antigone would vote Tea Party

The comparably specific themes and issues of Antigone were a nice change from the behemoth that was the Republic. Yet I found the situation in Sophocles’ work to be no less gripping. For Antigone’s dilemma seemed fairly pertinent and universal-  should she abide by the law or follow what she thinks is right? The fact that such a problem could even exists points out the flaws in law-making and laws in general.  Furthermore, it conveys a political issue that is still around today- the anarchy question.  Antigone’s story is an excellent case -in- point argument which any modern libertarian would love to use against big government.  It proves that it is very difficult, if not impossible for one to demonstrate absolute faith and obedience to a leader they may not even have chosen or liked, and that it’s possible for humans to remain lawlessly noble.  On the other hand it is a bit of a copout to justify breaking the law because you  simply can’t agree with it or those involved in making it. Yet when it comes down to it, this is what Antigone is doing. The play’s premise is perfect for making a law-breaker not only look innocent but utterly benevolent. However the piece doesn’t do this by focusing on the corruption or unfairness of the law being broke, but rather on the untouchable virtue of family duty and religion. (Although Kreon doesn’t strike my as a particularly good leader.) Should these virtues be prioritized below rules implemented by a leader?  This is the conversation Antigone brings up. In my opinion, the answer to this question would be yes, as I think laws and regulations help maintain equality and keep people from doing crazy things they’ll probably regret. But I’m also non-religious and like to think I agree with most laws anyway, so this is likely a bias outlook.