Tongue Twisters: The Spoken Langauge in Austerlitz

As hard as I tried, I could not make myself like W.G. Sebald’s novel Austerlitz. It was predominately the long, descriptive, and digressive style that contributed to my distaste for the book, as, by writing in this manner, Sebald effectively confused me and, as a Austerlitz’s story gradually became more complicated, made me want to finish the novel less and less. However, I do think that my confusions with this novel are suitable for what will most likely be my last Arts One blog post since it seems as though I have been nothing but utterly confused in most of my blog posts all year….

One thing that I found vexing, albeit intriguing, was the multiple different languages (as in spoken languages, not the “language” of images) used throughout the text and how and when they were used. Although I do believe that Austerlitz and the narrator mainly converse in French or English (Please correct me if I am mistaken!), several other languages are woven into the recount of the narrator’s prolonged conversation with Austerlitz through the various different character voices that are brought up throughout Austerlitz’s story. For instance, when Austerlitz recalls his first visit with Vera, he claims that she “stared at [him] over her spread fingertips, and very quietly but with what to me was quite singular clarity spoke these words in French: Jacquot, she said, dis, est-ce que c’est toi?” (153). From this point on, the reader is aware that the conversation between both Austerlitz and Vera is taking place in French, although, being an English translation of the novel, their words are predominately written in English. However, Austerlitz also states that Vera told him that, in the past, she and the young Austerlitz “spoke French, and only when [they] came home in the late afternoon and Vera was making [their] supper did [they] convert to Czech….In the middle of her account Vera herself, quite involuntarily, had changed from one language to the other” (155). One can see, in these excerpts, two of the ways in which Sebald indicates that there are different languages being used to communicate throughout the text. My favourite of the these two ways of illustrating language has to be the first. For by getting a character to speak a line in, say, French, the reader assumes that the character speaks the rest of their words in French, allowing Sebald to avoid employing the boring old phrase, “said Character XYZ in French”. However, knowing full well that not all his readers speak the languages that he uses throughout his novel, Sebald sometimes provides one of a general overview of what the character said. Take the bottom three lines on page 152, where Austerlitz speaks in Czech, for example. Immediately after the Czech sentence are the English words: “I am looking for Mrs. Agáta Austerlitzová” (152-153). Thus, the reader knows that was the gist of what Austerlitz had said in Czech, even if they cannot read Czech for themselves.

What confuses me about all this is when Sebald does the opposite of what was described in the last example in the paragraph above–when Sebald states something in English and then translates it back into French, Czech, etc., even though he has already established that these characters are, in fact, not speaking English. One such instance of this can be seen on page 173, wherein the narrator states “that [Austerlitz] had [his] things with [him] in a little leather suitcase, and food for the journey in a rucksack–un petit sac à dos avec quelques viatiques, said Austerlitz, those had been Vera’s exact words, summing up, as he now thought, the whole of his later life”. Although I get that these are the “real” words that these character would have been using (and, thus, these words are conveying the character’s real meaning), I am a bit perplexed as to how Sebald is adding value to the text with this method. After all, the English (or, in the original version of the book, German) readers may or may not be familiar with these languages. Thus, one may end up having to translate some of these sentences into English in order to understand them, which, as far as I can see, completely goes against the initial intent of keeping the words in their native language. Therefore, I am wondering if there is any value to keeping these words in their original language? And if so, how these words can provide any reader with additional value.

As a sidenote, something that I found kind of frusterating is when Sebald did not provide a translation (or give his readers a rough idea of what was being said) in another language. An example of this can be found on page 283, when, in French, “Austerlitz quoted from memory” a passage from a book about Colonel Chabert. Austerlitz then goes on saying that reading the book “reinforced the suspicion that [he] always entertained that the border between life and death is less impermeable then we commonly think…” (283). Although this is fine to do, I, as an Anglophone, who has, unfortunately, lost much of the French that I have learned, am not able to understand what is happening in this section very well. After reading the quoted passage, I have no idea how the excerpt in French shows how life and death are supposed to be closer than we think. Even though Google Translate can provide me with a rough translation of the passage, I can’t help but feel as though I have been left out of the loop, like Sebald did not intend for a non-francophone to draw much meaning from the passage. However, I do feel like this section is trying to communicate something significant. So, why did Sebald not translate this passage into English or give an English overview of what Austerlitz quotes?

Mirror Images

Looking at the picture of the manga-filled bookshelf that Dr. Lieblang featured in his lecture slides, I laughed a quiet and somewhat embarrassed laugh, for my bookshelf at home was very similar in appearance. Sandwiched between a battered copy of Katherine Stockett’s The Help and Margret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake sits volumes 54 to 72 of Masashi Kishimoto’s ninja manga Naruto. Okay, so I know Naruto is not the most intellectually rigorous read, but one thing that I find worth mentioning is that–unlike the Arts One copy of volume one of Tezuka’s Buddha, which is read left to right–English renditions of Naruto are read from the right to the left. For the most part (or, at least, what the editor in my copies of Naruto claims), the original formatting of the book is preserved in attempt to display each of the images in the way that the author had intended them to be viewed. For, when translating a manga from its traditional right to left form into the American left to right format, the publishers invert the image and the panels so that they appear as though one was looking at the picture in a mirror. As a result, a character who has a shirt that reads “MAY” in the original Japanese version will appear in the English copy wearing a shirt that says “YAM”.

In Buddha, one place where this is particularly noticeable is on pages 162-173, where Chapra is first trained by General Budai’s soldiers to use a sword. Throughout the scene, one notices that both Chapra and the solider he fights are left handed, as they brandish their sword in their left hand. This might seem kind of strange, considering that the majority of people on Earth are right handed, yet Chapra and the solider are not exceptions. On page 162, excluding three soldiers, all of the warriors are holding their weapon in their left hand. This was not because Tezuka decided to draw more right handed people than left handed people, but because all these characters originally were right handed; when the manga was “flipped” into the left to right reading format, all the images were inverted and the right handed characters became left handed (you might have also noticed this when Dr. Lieblang included the original image of page 53 in his lecture slides, as the image in the text and the image on the slide were mirror images of one another). Thus, with this in mind, I am wondering how you think inverting the panels and images could possibly effect the way in which the images convey meaning and elicit a response in the reader (beyond the simple analysis of the right handed, left handed switch that I described above).

False Advertisement: Questions Regarding Publicity in Ways of Seeing

I’m going to be quite frank, I don’t really understand Berger’s argument regarding advertisements.  Part of my confusions steam from way in which the ad is portrayed; how, depending on whether the intended audience is either male or female, the purpose of the ad is slightly changed.  When discussing the effect of publicity images, Berger writes, “Publicity begins by working on a natural appetite for pleasure.  But it cannot offer the real object of pleasure and there is no convincing substitute for a pleasure in that pleasure’s own terms” (132).  But, Berger goes on to state, “This is why publicity can never really afford to be about the product or opportunity it is proposing to the buyer who is not yet enjoying it….Publicity is always about the future buyer” (132).  Berger argues that the advertisement makes an individual “envious of himself as he might be” by depicting another person, similar to the viewer himself, so that the viewer becomes “envious of himself as he might be” (132).  Therefore, Berger concludes that publicity “is about social relations, not objects” (132).  Yet, two pages later, Berger quits denoting the viewer as “himself” and begins calling the viewer of the ad as a female figure.  Like the male viewer, the female is also supposed to become envious of her future self.  However, unlike the man, the woman, will “imagine herself transformed by the product into an object of envy for others, an envy which will justify her loving herself” (134, italics mine).  Here, it seems that the ad aims to objectify women even further.  Although Berger argues that women are objectified by art in the third essay of the book, this statement makes little sense to me.  After all, if an ad really is about social relations and not about objects, how can it still be effective and make a woman into an object at the same time?  (As a quick note, I do realize that Berger is arguing that women are shown as objects throughout art and, as a result, came to asses and value themselves as objects.  But, honestly, I don’t get why a woman would want to further objectify herself.  Doesn’t a women want power, which would allow them to transcend their traditional categorization as objects?)

Near the end of his essay on publicity images, Berger claims that “Publicity helps to mask and compensate for all that is undemocratic within society.  And it also masks what is happening in the rest of the world” (149).  Even though what Berger describes does apply to many advertisements, it is not always the case, particularly when it comes to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and social enterprises.  Take Lifebuoy, for instance.  In 2013, Lifebuoy launched a campaign called “Help a Child Reach 5”, which was aimed to improve the living conditions in developing countries by reducing the number of deaths resulting from preventable diseases.  As one of the world’s largest health soap brands, Lifebuoy focused on improving the hand washing habits of people to prevent the spread of diseases, such as diarrhoea.  To raise funding for its campaign, Lifebuoy launched an award winning advertisement.

However, in many of the countries in which Lifebuoy’s video was shown–such as Canada–did not sell Lifebuoy’s product.  Thus, the purpose of this advertising campaign was not to increase sales or make a person feel envious of their future self, but to raise public awareness of a global issue.  Thus, it seems that Berger has not accounted for NGOs and social enterprises in his argument, despite the fact that they make up a considerable potion of the business world.  Hence, I am wondering if there is, perhaps, a way in which operations like NGOs and social enterprises can be included in Berger’s argument?  And if so, how?


It’s Just a Matter of Perspective

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I actually liked The Bloody Chamber, not only was Carter’s language evocative, but it was also very interesting how her style could shift from fine and sophisticated to vulgar and obscene within the matter of a single word.  As I happen to be on the topic of language and words, I will take this time to say that I was rather confused by the tense Carter sometimes used throughout the stories featured in this collection.  In “The Courtship of Mr Lyon”, Carter begins the story using the third-person perspective.  However, at the end of the first paragraph she suddenly writes: “The roads are bad.  I hope that he’ll be safe” (41), only to return to the third-person perspective in the next line.  Thus, it appears as though Carter may want this line to stand out.  After all, it is not only an abrupt change in tense, but she also puts it in a paragraph of its own right before a break in the story.  The narrative then forges on, never returning to this first person point of view again.  Because this line is the only line to be told from the first person perspective in this story, I am wondering about its significance to the story and why Carter may have chosen to express this thought in this way, especially as the thought being expressed does not seem to be all that profound. After all, if she wanted to express the girl’s thoughts, she could have easily accomplished this using the third-person perspective.  So, what is the significance of this line and what is the purpose of writing it in this perspective?

Other stories in The Bloody Chamber also feature this combination of the first person and third person perspectives, such as “Puss-in-Boots” and “The Lady of the House of Love”.  When reading “Puss-in-Boots”the narrator’s choice to frequently change perspective (sometimes even in the same sentence!–take the following sentence, for instance: “So Puss got his post at the same time as his boots and I dare say the Master and I have much in common for he’s proud as the devil… (70).) caused me a lot of confusion; it even made the story hard to read at times.  Yet despite this, Carter insistently sticks to this method of switching perspective throughout the story.  Then, in “The Lady of the House of Love”, the perspective changes from third-person to first-person perspective in short stanzas, in which she refers to lines from Jack and the Beanstalk (96, 97), as well as a few phrases in French (102, 104, 105)–wherein the Countess tells the solider to follow her; that she was waiting for him; and that he is her prey.  The tense also changes on page 103, in which the Countess describes what she is planning to do to the solider. But, immediately after this tense change, the Countess is described as a “haunted house.  She does not possess her self; her ancestors sometimes come and peer out of the windows of her eyes and that is very frightening” (103).  So, these words–in combination with the lines from Jack and the Beanstalk on pages 96 and 97–seem to suggest that, despite her appearance, which gives her the “fragility of the skeleton of a moth” (100), she is struggling against some kind of ferocious monster-like being (her natural vampire instincts ?) inside her.  However, I do feel that, perhaps, there are other ways in which one can interpret this change in tense; so, if you have a different interpretation that you think makes sense, feel free to add a comment.  In seminar today, someone also pointed out that there is a tense change at the very end of “The Earl-King” (91), as well.  However, the tense goes from first person to third person in this story.  Honestly, I have no idea what to make of this.  Thus, one may wonder: what does Carter hope to accomplish by changing the tense so frequently, especially if this changing perspective only complicates the story even further?

While reading The Bloody Chamber, I also noticed that Carter used a lot of reoccurring symbols throughout the collection.  One instance of this occurs with flowers, as they appear in nearly every story.  In “The Bloody Chamber”, the protagonist compares her husband to a lily , saying “sometimes he seemed to me like a lily.  Yes.  A lily.  Possessed of that strange, ominous calm of a sentient vegetable, like one of those cobra-headed, funeral lilies whose white sheaths are ruled out of flesh a think and tensely yielding to the touch as vellum” (9).  “Puss-in Boots”, also features this symbol of a white lily, as the virginity of the master’s lover is likened to that of a pure, white lily (72).  I found this very interesting since, although both stories feature a white lily, they use it to represent two totally different things; “The Bloody Chamber” compares the lily to death and funerals, whereas “Puss-in-Boots” uses the lily to represent purity.  The “The Courtship of Mr Lyon”also features a white flower, for Beauty only wants a white rose for her birthday.  Because the winter season makes roses hard to find, Beauty’s birthday wish causes her father to steal from the garden of the Beast (44). Later, when Beauty returns from the Beast’s castle and immerses herself in a life of luxury, she sends the Beast a bunch of white roses, in exchange for the flower that he had gave her (48), only to find that, when she has returned to the castle the, all the flowers are dead (50).  Interestingly enough, in “The Tiger’s Bride”–which, like “The Courtship of Mr Lyon”, is also based on Beauty and the Beast–the female protagonist doesn’t seem to be the least interested in the flowers that the Beast gifts to her.  Instead of accepting the white roses from the Beast, this girl thinks that these white roses are “unnatural, out of season” and, as a result, her “nervous fingers ripped [them], petal by petal, apart” (53).  Later, when she receives bouquet of flowers from the Beast, she “[tosses] the defunct bouquet into the rucked, frost stiff mud of the road” (57).  I have no idea what to make of the two female protagonist’s different reactions to the same white roses, especially because both stories are based on the same fairy tale.  Although they are red, roses are also present in “The Snow Child” (92) and “The Lady of the House of Love” (107).  From what I have seen, the first story not to have a flower in it is “The Werewolf”.  Yet, in this story, Carter explicitly states that, in this land of werewolves, “no flowers grow” (108).  From this point onward, the stories all feature werewolves and, also, contain no standout images or symbols of flowers.  Although I am well aware that these images and symbols of flowers can take on a multitude of meanings, which differs from story to story, this reoccurring image of the flower makes me think if there is, perhaps, some kind of connection between the flowers in each story.  Maybe, by looking at the image of a flower in one story, we can determine what Carter is trying to portray in other stories.  Or maybe we can determine what “flowers” mean to Carter as a whole and come up with a specific symbolic meaning for the flowers in each story.  But, even if we can’t, it’s just a thought that would be interesting to explore.

Questions, Questions, and More Questions–The Result of Trying to Interpret German Short Stories

Personally, I find the readings for this week to be particularly interesting.  I mean, I never would have thought that I would be writing a scholarly essay on the Grimm Brothers’ fairytale “Little Snow-White”.  Reading stories like this, however, has reminded me that even supposedly simple works of art can have a deeper meaning–if you take the time to interpret them.  After all,  like “Little Snow-White”, the other two short stories, “Fair-Haired Eckbert” and “The Earthquake in Chile”are also fictitious (though it is believed that “The Earthquake in Chile” was inspired by the events that occurred in the Lisbon earthquake of 1755); yet, being fiction doesn’t seem to make them any easier to interpret.  In fact, I would even say that, in some ways, the fictional elements of these stories make interpretation even more difficult.  After all, authors have a lot of freedom when it comes to composing a fictional work; they can defy reality by making that which is impossible achievable. In “Fair-Haried Eckbert”, Ludwig Tieck, makes full use of his power that fictional authors have by telling the tale of a knight, who has a wife with a very unusual childhood.  While reading “Fair-Haired Eckbert”, I get the sense that this is a story that has meaning layered on top of meaning–there is just so much going on, all at once! Every time I think that I am starting to come up with a solid interpretation of “Fair-Haired Eckbert”, I re-read the story, notice something new (and contradictory to my interpretation), and get confused all over again.  One thing that I find particularly confusing occurs at the end of the narrative.  After paranoia causes him to kill his friend Walther and distrust Hugo, Eckbert abandons all notions of friendship and rides into the wilderness. In his delirious state, Eckbert finds “himself entangled in a labyrinth of rocks, from which he could discover no outlet”(44)–he has becomes as lost and confused physically as he is mentally.  Eventually, Eckbert crosses paths with an old peasant, who reminds him of his dead friend Walter.  Frightened, “Eckbert spurred his horse as fast as it could gallop, over meads and forests, till it sank exhausted to the earth.  Regardless of this, he hastened forward on foot” (45).  In the sharp contrast to the frantic state just described, in the next line, Tieck goes on to write: “In a dreamy mood he mounted a hill” (45).  Tieck’s choice to use the word “dreamy” here confuses me.  When I think of a “dreamy mood”, I think of a relaxed, carefree, head-in-the-clouds state.  Yet, Eckbert was just perviously in a mad fit of fright, which seems anything but relaxed.  Tieck then goes on to describe  how Eckbert “fancied he caught the sound of lively barking at a little distance; the birch-trees whispered in the intervals…” (45).  On the wind, Eckbert also hears the following song:


Alone in wood so gay,

Once more I stay;

None dare me slay,

The evil far away:

Ah, here I stay,

Alone in wood so gay. (45)

The description of this scene left me rather bewildered.  Not only does it seem unusually peaceful and pleasant, when compared to the previous place and state Eckbert found himself in, but the words of the bird’s song state that “evil is far away”.  Yet, in the paragraph following this description, evil anything but far away, it is nigh.  For, after hearing the song, Eckbert is described as being in an enchanted, dream-like state, in which “he was incapable of thought or recollection” and everything had become “a riddle that he could not solve” (45).  He then is confronted with the old woman from his wife’s past, who Eckbert learns was really Hugo and Walther, his only two friends.  Upon discovering this Eckbert cries, “in what frightful solitude have I passed my life?” (45).  Yet, the bad news doesn’t stop there, for the old woman informs Eckbert that his wife, Bertha, was really his sister.  In despair, “Eckbert lay distracted and dying on the ground” (46).  Thus, it seems as though Eckbert has lost everything important to him;  he has lost his ability to reason and think clearly, his friends, and the innocent love that he felt towards his wife. Everything in Eckbert’s life has been touched by evil and corrupted.  Therefore, I am confused about the significance of the words of this song.  Earlier, the bird’s song always highlighted a significant truth about the situation portrayed in the story, yet this doesn’t seem to be the case here.

I also find it interesting to compare the scene mentioned above to another part of the story.  Earlier, Bertha describes her first encounter with the old woman and how she came to live a solitary life in the woods.  Before meeting the woman, Bertha says that she was also in a very distressed state of mind, in which she “was tired and spend, [she] scarcely wished to live, and yet [she] feared to die” (34).  Then upon nearing the old woman’s house in the woods, she describes nature in a very breathtaking, peaceful way, for “the trees were standing with their tops in the glow of the sunset; on the fields lay a mild brightness;…the pure sky and open paradise…and, from time to time, the rustling of the trees, resounded through the serene stillness, as in pensive joy” (35).  And while Bertha observes all this, she hears the old woman’s bird singing in the background:

Alone in wood so gay

‘Tis good to stay,

Morrow like today,

Forever and aye:

O, I do love to stay

Alone in wood so gay. (35)

But, while living in the woods, Bertha states that “‘I never fairly thought I was awake, but only falling out of one dream into another still stranger” (36).  Thus, like Eckbert at the end of the story, Bertha cannot tell whether she “was dreaming now, or had before dreamed” (45).  Thus, it seems as though Tieck is recalling Bertha’s first encounter with the old woman at the end of the story.  Yet, why would the author do this?  What purpose does it serve, if it serves any purpose at all?

(Aside: Also, what is the significance of the title.  The story is called “Fair-haired Eckbert, but it mostly seems to be about Bertha and her childhood.  Why does Eckbert have to be “fair-haired”?)

I also have a question concerning “The Earthquake in Chile”.  Religion seems to be cast in a bad light in this story.  When Josefa’s father discovers that she is secretly meeting with her lover Jerónimo, he places her in a nunnery as punishment.  Despite becoming a nun, Joesfa, continues to meet with Jerónimo and the two conceive an legitimate son.  Upon going into labour pains, the nunnery discovers that Josefa is pregnant and, “with no regard to her condition, [Josefa] was immediately thrown in prison…” (5).  Then, immediately after giving birth to her child, “by order of the archbishop, she was subjected to the most harrowing trial” (5).  For doing nothing more than falling in love with a man and having a child, Josefa is sentenced to death.  On the day of Josefa’s execution all the “pious daughters of the city invited their girl friends to attend the spectacle offered to divine vengeance at their sisterly side” (7).  Thus, the devout religious people seem to be portrayed in a heartless and blood-lusting manner.  Yet, Jerónimo, who was thrown in jail for his immoral acts, does not seem to abandon religion entirely, as he  “flung himself down before the image of the Mother of God, and prayed to her with tremendous ardor, believing her to be the only one from whom salvation could still come” (7).  What I find interesting to note here is that Jerónimo does not pray to God, but to Mary and that he believes that only Mary can save Josefa.  But why? I get why Jerónimo might have no faith in God after his love had been sentenced to death by religion, but I don’t understand  why Jerónimo still  has faith in Mary.  Isn’t Mary still associated with the religion that sentenced Jerónimo’s love to death?  Then, later, after being freed from prison by the earthquake, Jerónimo “bowed his head so low that his forehead touched the ground,in order to thank God for his miraculous rescue…” (9).  Yet, upon recalling Josefa’s execution, “he began to regret having prayed, and the Being that rules above the clouds seemed fearsome to him” (9-11).  But, when he discovers that Josefa is alive, he shouts “‘O Holy Mother of God!'” (11).  So, God seems to be largely associated with negative aspects, whereas Mary seems to be praiseworthy, someone worth worshipping.  I may be reading into this story way too much, but I would really like to know why you think Mary and God are portrayed in this way!

Thanks for taking the time to read my massive blog post!

The Monster is a Mirror: Questioning the Uncanny Power of the Doppelgänger

I have a twin.  This is something that you may or may not already know about me.  Since my twin also happens to be a girl, one of the most common questions that I am asked is this: “Are you identical?”.  Unfortunately, I am unable to provide anyone with the answer to this inquiry.  After all, there is a special medical test that twins have to take (I believe that it is a DNA test) in order to see if they really are identical and my twin and I never ended up taking it.  So, when asked this question, all I can tell people is that my twin and I look related; we look related enough that people sometimes have a hard time telling us apart, that the unsuspecting viewer will occasionally mistake us for one person, who happens to miraculously change clothes every 10 s.   Young children also seem to have difficulty wrapping their minds around the fact that there is two of us.  For some reason, they often make make my twin and I into one person; thus, when we happen to be standing together, the child will examine us with a sense of sheer bewilderment upon their face.  So, I assume that my twin and I look similar to some extent.

Me and my twin. See if you can guess which one is me!
Me and my twin. See if you can guess which one is me!

In his essay, “The Uncanny”, Sigmund Freud states that, in order to determine the source of the uncanny impression that one gains when reading literature, one “must content oneself with selecting the most prominent of those motifs that produce an uncanny effect, and see whether they too can reasonably  be traced back to infantile sources” (141).  Freud then goes on to explain that, in a particular piece of literature, these elements of uncanniness “involve the idea of the ‘double’ (the Doppelgänger), in all its nuances and manifestations–that is to say, the appearance of person who have to regarded as identical because they look alike” (141).  He even is so bold so as to state that this uncanny feeling brought on by the Doppelgänger is “intensified by the spontaneous transmission of mental processes from one of these persons to the other–what we would call telepathy–so that one becomes the co-owner of the oner’s knowledge, emotions and experience” (141-142).

This is one of the problems that I have with Freud’s “The Uncanny”.  First off, being a twin myself, I can state with certainty that twin telepathy does not exist.  At least, not to the extent that Freud is proposing here.  Believe me, there are times when I wish that my twin could read my thoughts and that we could have secret telepathic conversations.  However, I can’t project my thoughts to my twin or translate my experience into unto her.  And, as far as I know, she hasn’t been able to do any of these thing either.  However, sometimes, if you take my twin and I to the same place at different times, we have the tendency to do or say the same things.  For instance, when I was four or five, my dad took me to a job site of his.  I hopped out of his truck, put my hands on my hips and asked him what he was doing working way out in the middle of nowhere.  He just looked at me in shock.  Apparently, the other day, when he took my twin sister with him, she did and said exactly the same thing.  This is the closest thing that I have experienced to “twin telepathy”.  So, it seems that, to some extent, twins, perhaps, are able to relate their emotions unto one another (yet, I am not really sure if we become “co-owners” the emotion, meaning that we become equally effected and aware of the emotion).  However, this “telepathic” effect doesn’t seem to translate over to knowledge or experience.

Even if we accept that this whole telepathic thing is false, then Freud still holds that the presence of the double is enough to invoke an uncanny feeling in one.  Yet, if I saw a person who looked like me walking in the street, I wouldn’t feel particularly uncanny, even if I realized that this person was not my twin.  In fact, even if I discovered that I had a secret triplet, I would feel more undignified that my parents didn’t see the need to inform me of this rather than uncanny.  I mean, I have spent my whole life surrounded by the notion that there is another person who resembles me.  So, seeing another individual who looks like me does not seem particularly frightening or unusual.  In the only footnote for the third part of “The Uncanny”, Freud relates to an experience in which he is a passenger on a train.  Suddenly, the train lurches forward and the door to the toilet next to him swung open and a man similar in appearance to Freud walks out and turns to enter the compartment in which Freud was sitting.  When Freud attempts to inform the man that this is his seat, he realizes that the man wasn’t a man at all, but was his own reflection in the mirror in the bathroom door (162).   Even though Freud says that he wasn’t frightened by this experience, he still “found [the double’s] appearance thoroughly unpleasant” and felt particular “displeasure…at seeing [this] unexpected [image]” of himself (162).  I’ve had a similar experience, albeit it didn’t occur on a train, in which I have mistaken my own reflection for my double.  Taking my reflection to be my twin, however, I did not feel the same displeasure at my apparent double.  In fact, I started to ask my “twin” something before realizing my mistake.  Immediately, I began to feel embarrassed at my own confusion.  I’m not sure if you can take this experience to be uncanny, but if you can, then it is important to note that unlike Freud’s experience–in which the sentiment of uncanniness was the result of being confronted with one’s own image–in my case, the feeling I had was brought on by the apparent lack of a double.   So, I am wondering how we can attempt to fit this into Freud’s theory of the uncanny.  Even though Freud mentions somewhere in “The Uncanny” (I can’t seem to find the quote right now) that the uncanny effects that he describes won’t necessarily be considered uncanny to everyone, he states that what he describes will seem uncanny to most people.  But, I feel that there are enough twins, triplets, etc. present in society for them to be lumped in with “most people”.  Thus, I feel that it would be worthwhile to try and fit twins, and their experiences, in with Freud’s theory.

On Physics and Other Natural Phenomena

In the opening lines of the second chapter of his novel Leviathan, Hobbes states:

That when a thing lies still, unless somewhat else stir it, it will lie still for ever, is a truth that no man doubts of.  But when a thing is in motion, it will internally be in motion, unless someone else stay it…(7). 

Those of you that are familiar with classical mechanics will notice that what Hobbes describes here is Newton’s First Law of Motion.  If you have yet to encounter Newton’s Laws of Motion (or if you have forgotten what they were), I will quickly recap them here.

There are three fundamental laws of motion, each which describe the motion of an object (or a collective group of objects) when a outside force is applied to it.  These laws are as follows:

  • Newton’s First Law (aka The Law of Inertia): An object will move uniformly (will move with constant speed and direction) unless acted upon by an outside net force.  Eg. A ball that is thrown horizontally will continue to move horizontally–at the same speed and in the same direction as it was thrown– forever unless some outside force (such as gravity or air resistance) acts upon it.
  • Newton’s Second Law: The force (F) on a object is equal to the mass (m) of the object multiplied by its acceleration (a)


Basically, this law states, that if an object does not have a mass (or if the object is not accelerating), then a force cannot be acting on it.

  • Newton’s Third Law: For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction (“Equal and opposite” is short for “equal in magnitude and opposite in direction”).  E.g. When you hit a ball with a racket, the force that the racket exerts on the ball is equal in magnitude and opposite in direction to the force that the ball applies on the racket.  You can observe this effects of this law by pushing on a table with your hand.  You will notice that even though you are pushing on the table, the skin on your hand will be indented where it is touching the table.  This happens because the table is exerting a force back on you!

Returning to Hobbes, one might begin to see how these laws could pertain to Hobbes and his argument.  After all, as Dr. Hendricks pointed out in the lecture and in seminar, to Hobbes:

life is but a motion of limbs,….For what is the heart but a spring; and the nerves, but so many strings; and the joints, but so many wheels, giving motion to the whole body… (3)

Humans are nothing more than automata to Hobbes, “engines that move themselves by springs and wheels” (3), things that act in a predictable and perpetual manner in accordance to Newton’s First Law of Motion.

Yet, Newton’s Second Law is also equally applicable to Hobbes’ argument.  In chapter I, Hobbes states that humans are able to perceive things when they sense them.  Sense, as defined by Hobbes, is the “diversity of appearances” (6) that are produced when an object acts on a person’s body.  He then goes on to say that:

The cause of sense is the external body, or object, which presseth the organ proper to each sense,…which pressure, by the mediation of nerves and other strings and membranes of the body, continued inwards to the brain and heart, causeth there a resistance, or counter-pressure, or endeavour of the heart to deliver itself… (6)

If we refer back to Newton’s Laws of Motion, we see that what Hobbes has described here sounds awfully similar to the Second Law of Motion.  For, in the quote above, there is an external body, or mass, applying a force on another mass (the human body), causing the mass on which this force is applied to accelerate (move).  But, because this force that allows objects to be sensed can only be applied by a mass on another mass, only things with masses can perceive and be perceived.  Furthermore, Hobbes comes to conclude that names such as “incorporeal body” and “incorporeal substance” are “contradictory and inconsistent” (21).  By this reasoning, if one is to accept that God or the soul exists, then they both must be corporeal and have a mass.  However, this means that the Law of Conservation of Mass would then apply to both God and the soul.  The Law of Conservation of Mass states that: mass cannot be created nor destroyed; it can only be rearranged into different forms.  If this is the case, then what happens to your soul when you die? Also, if the human population is continuously growing and matter cannot be created, then how are new people being born?

In seminar, Dr. Hendricks (and I apologize in advance if I get this wrong) said that, later in Leviathan, Hobbes proposes that, immediately after death, nothing happens.  But, eventually, your soul is resurrected in a new body somewhere on Earth.  However, the chapter in which Hobbes argues for this is not within the prescribed reading for Arts One.  Another person in my seminar also said that it could be likely that (and I am sorry if I get this wrong, too) your soul might go to another materialistic place when you die.  As the matter of the soul is not being created nor destroyed in either case, the Law of Conservation of Mass is upheld.  Thus, both of these propositions could occur if the soul was corporeal.

However, I don’t feel like my second question was adequately answered in seminar.  Since we are doing two weeks of Hobbes, I hope that we can reflect on this question and, perhaps, come up an answer for it.  Please feel free to leave a comment even if you aren’t in the Hendricks seminar!

Okay, this is a bit of an aside to what I was talking about previously, but I am going to mention it anyways.  In Chapters XIV and VX, Hobbes prescribes a set of laws, which he refers to as the Laws of Nature.  But, why does Hobbes choose to give these laws this name? After all, when I hear the word “nature”, I think of the way things  are in their natural state.  According to Hobbes, the natural condition of mankind is “a war…of every man against every man” (76).  But, in Chapter XV, Hobbes states that some of his laws of nature “only concern the doctrine of civil society” (99) and, thus, would not apply in the natural state of man, which is confusing.  In seminar, Dr. Hendricks pointed out that Hobbes defines a Law of Nature as a:

precept or general rule, found out by reason, by which a man is forbidden to do that which is destructive of his life or taketh away the means of preserving the same, and to omit that by which he thinketh it may best be preserved” (79)

By definition, Hobbes’ Laws of Nature describe the natural order of the world.  Hence, the Laws of Nature are not like a civil law, which are prescribed by the commonwealth, but are more akin to fundamental laws, such as Newton’s Law of Motion, which describe the way that the world works.  Newton’s Laws of Motion describe what is required for things to move.  Likewise, Hobbes’ Laws of Nature state what needs to occur in order for well functioning groups of people to exist.  Yet, Dr. Hendricks also made it clear that, because people have various different opinions  on what Hobbes means when he refers to the Laws of Nature, there is a lot of scholarship on this matter.  If you think there is another reason why Hobbes calls his laws the Laws of Nature, please consider leaving a comment as well.  I’d love to hear what you have to say about this!

Republic: The Imitator’s Imitation?

Earlier on in Plato’s “Republic”, Socrates and Adeimantus set out to determine the kind of education that the guardians of Kallipolis should receive.  While doing this, Socrates gives his opinion on what he thinks should and should not be conveyed in the work of artists.  In order to complete his consideration of art, Socrates decides that it is necessary to investigate the style in which artists portray their work, reasoning that, in doing such, he and Adeimantus “…will have completely investigated both what [artists] should say and how they should say it” (Plato 73).  Socrates then brings up the “Iliad” as an example.  At the beginning of the “Iliad”, Socrates points out that the author “…himself is speaking and is not trying to make us think that the speaker is anyone but himself.  After that, however, he  speaks as if he himself were Chryses, and tries as hard as he can to make us think that the speaker is not Homer, but the priest himself…”(Plato 74).  According to Socrates, Homer, by narrating the “Iliad” through the eyes of his characters, is trying to “imitate” (Plato 74) the people in his story.  In stating this, Socrates goes on to hold that artists should not try and imitate anyone other than themselves, on the grounds that doing so would result in the artist not being “…able to practice any pursuit worth taking about…” (Plato 76).  After all, doesn’t Socrates argue that everyone is suited for only one kind of job alone?  Hence, while reading this, I became very confused.  Throughout the “Republic”, Plato uses Socrates as a sort of mouthpiece to express his thoughts and opinions and never actually appears in the dialogue itself.  Furthermore, all the characters, with the exception of Thrasymachus, seem to utilize Socrates as a way of expressing their views, for they simply nod and agree after pretty much everything Socrates says.  If this is true, then, by his own definition, isn’t Plato (and Socrates) acting as an “imitator” himself?

Later, in Book 5, Plato addresses the way in which his ideal city will conduct war.  As Kallipolis is a Greek city, Socrates suggests that, when it is at war with another Greek city, the warriors of Kallipolis should show them mercy and not take any Greek prisoners nor burn down their houses nor ravage their land.  On the other hand, Kallipolis, as part of the Greek race, is “strange and foreign” in relation to the non-Greek “barbarians” (Plato 162).  As a result, Socrates proposes that: “When Greeks fight with barbarians, then, or barbarians with Greeks, we will say that it is warfare, that they are natural enemies, and that such hostilities should be called war.  But when Greeks engage in such things with Greeks, we will say that they are natural friends, that Greece is sick and divided into factions in such a situation…” (Plato 163).  Being a city of supposed near justice, Kallipolis represents what Plato sees as a form of justice itself.  However, back in Book 1, during the examination of Polemarchus, didn’t Socrates establish that “…neither justice nor the just consists in benefiting friends and harming enemies…” (Plato 12)?  Thus, I am a bit perplexed about this whole situation and would appreciate it if someone could shed some light on this whole thing.  For, as it appears to me, Plato is subtly undermining his own argument.  And if the philosopher himself cannot uphold his own philosophy, then how can he expect others to do as he proposes?


A Few Things About Me….

For nearly as long as I can remember, I have wanted to study at UBC. Coming from a small community, however, where the graduating class from the local high school averages in about 50 students each year, I knew that attending a post-secondary institution—especially one of the same magnitude and caliber as UBC—was going to be drastically different experience, both inside the classroom and out. Therefore, when I heard about Arts One with its smaller class sizes and more intimate setting, I thought that it would be the perfect opportunity for me to ease into my first year at university. But, by the time course registration for UBC’s 2015 winter session rolled around, I realized that I was hesitant to sign up for Arts One.

Somehow, in my final year of high school, I found myself in graduating without the slightest inclination of what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I hadn’t even decided what type of degree I wanted to pursue.  As a result, even though I was admitted into the Faculty of Arts here at UBC, I was not entirely sure if I was going to stay as an arts student or if I was going to transfer to a different faculty. After all, my high school did not have much in terms of course selection beyond the basics, like Pre-Calculus, English, and Social Studies, leaving me unsure of what many university courses, such as economics or statistics, were going to be like. Thus, when I went to register for my courses at UBC, I suddenly found myself presented with seemingly endless opportunities and areas of study. Did I want to take a chemistry class or should I enroll in French? Should I take an ethics course or did I want to try my hand at enriched physics?

In the end, I decided that the art of clearly expressing oneself, both in writing and with the spoken word, is an important skill, no matter what path one decides to follow in life. I chose to take Arts One. Unfortunately, I was so unsure about what courses I wanted to enroll in that, in spite of being assigned an early registration date, I found myself on the waitlist for Arts One, as well as several courses. As you all know, the fortunate part of this story is that I did end up getting a seat in Arts One (a special thank you to Rose Harper and all the other Arts One staff) and, I must say that I look forward to getting to know you all. I can’t wait to hear all the reasons why you picked Arts One.

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