Author Archives: Nicole Wong

German expressionism and architecture

Throughout expressionist films, the common theme when viewing in the light of architecture portrays similar aspects. The sets and scenes of these films tend to use buildings with sharp angles, heights, crowded atmospheres and a view of a metropolis. However, German expressionist films rejects all these naturalistic depictions of reality. Often having disorientated figures and portraying landscapes in a disorganised manner.

An example of this can be seen in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Classified as one of the classic German expressionist films during the time. Hermann Warm, the film director, worked with Walter Reimann to create the setting of the film portraying dark and uncanny sets, structures and landscapes are disorientated with sharp-pointed formations.

It is evident that German expressionist films produced immediately after the First World War holds concepts of the social political contexts, however, embodying modern problems of identity. The role of identity can be further explained seen in German society. The role of masculinity during the time after the world war played a significant role in the ideas displayed in expressionist films through the role of insanity and promiscuity in male actions. This can be explained through the changes in society and the increasing importance of the role of women in the country.

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Is everything we know ‘nothing’?

Nihilism is based on the Latin word meaning ‘nothing’. The position of nihilism plays a significant part in Philosophy when it comes to exploring the realm of nothingness. The idea that there is nothing at all, that we know nothing at all, and the extinction of moral principles. However, in this sense, it is possible to incorporate the state of nothing into any possible scenario. The more modern discussion into the idea of nihilism is based on the realisation that nothing we do, create, love, or say has no valuable meaning at all.

Undeniably, this is seen as certainly quite melancholy. The question that arises from nihilism could sound a bit like this: is that really all there is? Are human beings on this planet that insignificant that all that we believe in is in fact just a ball of nothing?

The popularisation of nihilism originated from philosophy as a form of an accusation. The excuse that they are a nihilist, then uses against you stating you are in fact a nihilist are hardwired into the vocabulary of philosophers. Interesting enough, I wonder how modern society would act if someone used ‘you are a nihilist’ as an insult. How many people would actually burst into outrage?

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Freud and Fetishism

When discussing Snow White during the seminar on Thursday, the topic of Freud and his view on fetishism came up. The thought into how the glass coffin represented in Snow White is a form of a fetish instantly related back to Freud and his possible reason behind this. Strange as it is, it sounded quite interesting.

Similarly to what is covered in The Uncanny, the point of having a fetish is a a form of substitution. Freud wrote an essay in 1927 called Fetishism, argues that it is a special form of a penis substitution. In the boys mind, the mother’s lack of a penis is a representation of his own castration fear. (See the similarities between this and castration anxiety?) Therefore, suggesting that the female genitalia is an object of fear and horror. The normal adult male will learn to transform these objects into desires.

The possibility to think that the glass coffin that Snow White was in caused a barrier for the Prince to emotionally connect with her. The inability to touch Snow White could have affected him sexually and psychologically. Imagining the story of the Prince having no maternal figure in his early childhood, the development of the fetish for the ‘girl in the box’ could have been formed by this very scenario. As the fear and horror of castration has never been prominent in the Prince’s life, the paternal figure has been significantly stronger. The deprived young boy of a maternal figure was replaced through the desire of a girl inside a box in order to fill that void. Whether the Prince grew up normal, transforming the fear of the mother’s genitalia (object) into desire, the ability to fall in love with a girl inside a glass coffin has been the only encounter that aroused his sexual desires. This can be seen that the only form of love he has ever received from a female was from the outside, and was never direct. Blocking the Prince from being able to touch, talk or communicate can psychologically explain his ability to fall in love despite the barrier through a glass wall.

(This was possibly way out of context, but it made some sort of sense to me when relating to Freud.)

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Gerard Manely Hopkins’s use of language in his poetry

It is undeniable that Hopkins’s style of poems are distinct. It can be seen as metaphysical and intricate as seen in As Kingfishers Catch Fire where Hopkins jumps from one image to another in order to portray the individuality and uniqueness of one as well as reflecting itself throughout all. Through the concentration of images, it is possible for him to communicate the instress of the poet’s perception of an inscape to the reader. Due to the fact that Hopkins was a supporter of linguistic purism in English, his dedication to learning Old English highly influenced his writing.

His added sophistication comes from regularly using alliteration, assonance, onomatopoeia and rhyme as seen for example in the first stanza of As Kingfishers Catch Fire:

As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;

The reliance of same sounding words are fully emphasised when read aloud. It can also be said that Hopkins’s poems are better understood when also read aloud. The idea of inscape is uncertain and typically known to be one of Hopkins own ideas. This idea is expressed through the individual essence and uniqueness of a certain object. Through the inscape as seen in his poem The Windhover, it aims to describe not only the bird in general but the one instance and the relation to the breeze. Without a doubt, The Windhover was one of the most proudly written poems according to Hopkins he has ever wrote.

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How passion and reason differentiate man from animal

There is distinction between man and animal to justify man’s possession and use of the Earth’s resources explaining why humans have certain unique capabilities such as reason and language. The way Rousseau defines it is that because of this man is unlike any other animal due to the way man develops such as the way he looks or his physique. Through physical strength and the senses of natural man have been established there are more complicated functions to be discussed.

Metaphysical and moral man are what Rousseau intends to described as human intelligence and the higher functions of the brain. This is what exactly distinguishes man from animal. Suggesting that both are mechanical, the ability to act freely, allowing the choice to choose, varying their behaviour. Because of this, the faulty of perfectibility is suggested. Through different interpretations of this idea, it can be seen as a form of change or to have the ability to retain plasticity in order to mould into an individual’s environment. Without this quality, man can never be truly differentiated between man and animal causing Rousseau to argue that this is undeniably a great force.

Rousseau suggests that passions are a great driving force to reason and through this producing the needs in order to fulfil their desires. It is seen that reason and passion go against the basic philosophical ideas and it is also seen through Plato’s work as they fundamentally oppose each other. It is seen that reason can and should rule over passion or even passion ruling over reason. However, in Rousseau’s argument, he suggests passions as a strong emotion that entitles motivation and to reach beyond the possible, and from these emotions, it causes man to develop and act. The leap between passion to the development of reason creates the idea that this theory only works with the prior existence of passion before reason.

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“Nasty, brutish and short.”

Not going to lie, the quote by English philosopher Thomas Hobbes, “nasty, brutish and short” portrays a rather pessimistic tone. Through his famous book, Leviathan, where he expresses his views about the nature of human beings and the necessity of governments and societies. From the strong reaction towards the publication of Leviathan, the disagreements with his theories of human nature are raised. Hobbes, like Machiavelli (an Italian philosopher) viewed human beings in a low light, whereby all humans are basically selfish and driven by fear of death and the hope of personal gain. All of us seek power over others, whether the realisation comes to us or not. However, if the view of Hobbes does not sit well inside your stomach, there is always going to be somebody who will happily steal everything you own, but it can be argued that there are some people that are selfish in that way. However, Hobbes disagrees with Machiavelli’s ideas as at heart we all are selfish, but the rule of law and the treat of punishment will keep us in a sense, sane.

The consequence of this, Hobbes argued was that if the society broke down and had to live in what he called a ‘state of nature’ without the presence of law or anyone with power to embody the sense of authority, everyone else in this society would steal or even murder when viewed as necessary. Especially if it meant continue living or surviving. Using an example of living in a world with scarce resources and the ability to find food and water was challenging, the rational thought of killing other people would more beneficial than killing yourself. Through this Hobbes’ description of life outside society would be “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”

However, Hobbes’ theory did not end there, he wanted to find a way out of an undesirable situation.

This way of solving this undesirable situation was the development of a power individual or a parliament in charge. The individuals in the state of nature would have to sign a ‘social contract’ in order to enter the part of the society. This also meant that they had to give up some of the freedoms that they had that were considerably ‘dangerous’ in order to ensure the safety of the others in the society. This was called a ‘sovereign.’ Without it, life would be questionable. Through the sovereign would give the right to punishment if anyone who committed a crime.

Whether it is agreed or not, Hobbes is and was an influential political philosopher whose ideas continue to make a impact to the world today.

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‘Blind’ The King

Fascinated by essay question four, the use of the word blind, metaphorically and literally caught my attention as throughout the play Oedipus’s ignorance towards the situation describes his metaphorical blindness as he continuously attempts to solve the riddle of who killed his father.

As the questions asks how blindness can connect to knowledge, ignorance and punishment, it can be seen that these three situations gradually evolve as the play develops but eventually the ending point was Oedipus’s ultimate punishment of literal blindness as he gouges his eyes out as he is exposed to the knowledge of truth explained through the riddle.

Throughout the play, emphasis on the words such as ‘vision’, ‘see’ and ‘sight’ further develops the pursuit of knowledge which highlights the terms such as ‘truth’, ‘oracle’ and ‘prophecy’ as Oedipus himself represents all these ideas. This idea of blindness is further emphasised when Teiresias is introduced into the play. As he is literally blind, his ability to see through Oedipus’s past, present and future shows the great extent to which fate is presented. Despite this, Oedipus, not blind but metaphorically blind is unaware of his fate that the gods have place upon his own will. Oedipus’s ignorance towards this matter made him more famous as his eager insight solving the riddle of the Sphinx can be considered ironic. This can be explained through the quote on page 44, line 637-638 the quote by Teiresias says “go inside and ponder that riddle, and if you find I’ve lied, then call me a prophet who cannot see”. The quote ultimately places Oedipus at Teiresias’s position as he becomes the prophet as well as mentally embodying the role of him.

When finally faced with the truth of his life, Sophocles rounds together the metaphorical aspect of blindness through the gouging of the eyes out as stated above. This not only is emphasised in the sense that Oedipus can no longer view his horrors his actions have created. Eventually, Oedipus becomes what he had always been, which is metaphorically ‘blind’, but ultimately embraces the symbol of all humanity where nothing is explicitly determined.

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