I definitely didn’t get a chance to get to know everyone the way I wish I had this year, but I just wanted to say thank you to all the friends I’ve made because of Arts One. From being overwhelmed and crying after our very first seminar to now, things have most definitely changed for the better. I’ve learned so much about myself as well as all of you that I’ll always be grateful for. I gotta say, I’m pretty proud of all of us for completing 12 essays and reading (well kind of reading) 23 books this year! Just 2 more essays (revision + portfolio) to go and our final! Without the support Arts One has given me, I wouldn’t have realized my potential as a student…because I was ready drop out since the end of September. A big thank you to Jason for supporting all of us as individuals as well as a class.
When lecture finished early on the 3rd, some of us went around enjoying that sunshine we so deserved after all these gloomy days Vancouver has given us. After taking a ton of pictures that looked like we were part of the cast of FRIENDS, I made a little video collaboration. Just as the song in the intro goes “I’ll be there for you”, I really would like to keep in touch with you all and just know I’ll be there!
Thanks for all the great memories, LETS SUDY TOGETHER SOON GUYS
In City of Glass, Paul Auster depicts a detective story that is really a mission for finding truth. The narrator we later realize is an actual character that problematizes the novel for readers. It problematizes the reliability for the narrator, as there are many blurred moments that prove the narrator to be very subjective. It plays around with the characters and lead confusion between the identity of the criminal and the detective. We see that the narrator is someone who does not know, but is searching. Coming to the conclusion later that what he is searching for isn’t to solve the crime of Peter Stillman, but to come to the realization that there will always be something missing. One could say that, the unreliability of characters and the narrative is just a way for the readers to see that not everything is trust worthy and ultimately questionable. With role of names becomes essentially important in this novel as we see that names may have less importance, as they seem to be. One’s identity cannot be dictated by his/her name. As a prime example of this being Peter Stillman’s uncertainty with his name as his name is also his fathers name. All is lost, when one realizes that identity can be constructed and disassembled quite easily with the change of just a name.
With racism everywhere, it’s hard to say that the world has evolved. Not only do we have a president in the USA who actively puts down other races other than whites, but there are also tons of hate crimes that still exist in many areas. In Canada, I can comfortably say that I don’t often feel like the colour of my skin changes the perception people have of me. However, it was during my reading break when I travelled through Washington and Oregon, just like a few others in this class, that I started to feel that the colour of my skin mattered so much more than I thought it did. There were a few times at stores in the malls of Oregon where I realized a security guard was specifically following my cousin and I because we were the only coloured people in the store. Thankfully, there were other places that I visited during my trip that made me feel comfortable again in my own skin. There was a street specifically that I was amazed by in Oregon called Alberta Street. On almost every single store/restaurant’s front display and windows, there would be signs that said “Black Lives Matter”. There was also another sign that I absolutely loved that said, “We welcome ALL races, ALL religions, ALL countries of origin, ALL sexual orientations, ALL genders. We stand with you, you are safe here.” It was reassuring to me that just because the United States may have a misogynist and racist president, that doesn’t mean there aren’t good people around. It was along that street that I felt most safe knowing that whatever I may be is acceptable. Just like the dramatic racism displayed in Toni Morrison’s book Jazz, we can see that having a voice and individuality helps escape overcoming the struggles of stereotypes in racism that many people like myself have experienced.
In his book Discipline and Punish, Michael Foucault discussed the relations of disciplinary mechanisms seen in educational institutions. Foucault brings up clear and reliable points seen in the education system that have intentions towards discipline. Although the institution of learning is an invisible disciplinary of power, teachers are the ones who express visible sovereign power. Teachers and other superiors to students are in control of a few main parts of the way in which control is possessed in the institutions; classroom settings, timetables, examination techniques, and hierarchical techniques. With all these variables combined, achieving power and control to create well-conducted students is easily achievable.
Being a student for the last 15 years in a public school background, it is clear to me that the disciplinary mechanisms that Foucault writes about has definitely applied to my education. Firstly, classroom settings and timetables create spaces and time that allows for greater control. Teachers mainly, who have this control, understand that by using these techniques they have the best possible power. Foucault explains that discipline requires enclosure in a protected place and a school is definitely one of these places that can provide what it takes to maintain power. In my experience of being a chatty-outspoken adolescent, I understand that the purpose and use of classroom settings such as assigned seating to be useful. A talkative student like myself is specifically placed beside a shy, timid student in order to balance personalities out as well as allow control to be given to a teacher. Not only do teachers have the power to control your seating arrangements, but time is crucial in discipline as the division of time provides control of the body. One of the many reasons there are school monitors during break times at school is to ensure that at the end of the break students are back to where they must. Given too much freedom with availability of too much time and leisure to move around, control is unattainable. Considering school as an institution that enforces discipline, it is understandable why classroom settings and timetables are enforced as well to encourage proper learning.
Foucault also goes into depth when writing about hierarchical observation and examination techniques to explain the importance of power of visibility and the gaze. The use of Jeremy Bentham’s panopticon is an example of making power visible. The panopticon is a building with a tower in the centre from which it is possible to easily see everyone surrounding the tower. This keeps people actively aware that they are being watched, giving power directly to the ones in control/in the tower. This can be seen in relatable examination periods where teachers or older students are forced to keep an eye on every move you make. Personally, I have never been caught for cheating. However, I have seen why it is important to keep a visual lookout during examination periods because cheating is not tolerated in the school system for many reasons. Constantly being watched at school is something that has become almost a norm for me. Being a student for most of my life, it is understood that being watched is a useful tool of power yet there are many downsides to all of these techniques of enforcing discipline.
School as an institution may enforce useful discipline that generates well-educated and respectful students, but there are many parts to the techniques that take away from individuality. Students often lack choice of expression due to identities that are predefined for them. The use of dress codes, timetables, lack of class selection, classroom-seating arrangements all restrict individuality in students from a very young age that give power away that could be used towards individual growth. There is definitely a line that should not be crossed when it comes to discipline in the education system, but Foucault makes it obvious that the reasons for doing so are intentionally beneficial. It has created self-discipline that is ultimately needed throughout life.
It is seen throughout all the stories within Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber, but especially in the title story, that there is a connection between violence and sexuality that Carter is trying to emphasize about. Carter was influenced by Marquis de Sade and the term sadism which is defined as the tendency to derive pleasure, especially sexual pleasure from pain and suffering. It is seen that Carter’s reason for creating her fairytale stories with this use of sexuality and violence, is to show that there is a darker side to what humans desire.
The fairytale genre was made to “reinforce essential gender differences – cultural double standard of desire, denies presence of personal, individual story to characters, and associates female ‘virtue’ with ‘being good’.” Fairytales are created with an abundance of imagination that people are attracted to because it can often times be an escape from reality although having somewhat realistic features that makes it relatable. Just like fairytales, pornography is also a type of expression that depicts human sexual desires that are full of imagination. This is why it has such a similar impact on lives as it shows off desires that most people want and long for.
Unlike Carter’s writing, most fairytales depict woman as the damsel in distress that needs a hero to save her, as well as a subject to the male. Carter challenged this in order to show that women should not be depicted as these social gendered norms that typical fairytales use and instead show the hidden desires that women are often afraid to show. With the use of sexuality and violence that is found within the text, it allows for readers, especially men to realize that women should not be trapped in their bodies. Using sexuality and violence shows that woman are not seemed as objects in the sense that some woman may desire certain pleasures that shouldn’t be seen as shameful or a wrong behaviour.
Carter encourages in most of her stories in The Bloody Chamber that her reading shouldn’t be unsettling, but something that makes people want to break against the stereotypes that censored fairytales and social ideologies deem woman as not being the imaginative and sexual souls that they may be.
The Earthquake in Chile by Heinrich Von Kleist is a German short story that is best known for its question of theodicy and whether there is meaning to all events in life. The people of the city are searching for an answer as for why god would create an earthquake that destroyed buildings and some people. However in the midst of the destruction Joesphe and Jeronimo, a couple in love who were sent to be executed and prisoned for their sins are freed because of this earthquake. Although they are temporarily freed, a mob tries to kill the two lovers and their child but mistakenly kills the wrong child. The twist in events makes people question whether there is an underlying reason for this natural event of the earthquake as well as what it has done to the people living in the city.
During lecture as well as seminar, we discussed how philosophers such as Immanuel Kant believed that natural events have no real meaning yet we live in a world where people constantly want to place explanations onto everything that occurs. The people in the story though, are searching as to why God would create something as evil and destructive as an earthquake. To some, this is god’s displeasure at the sexual promiscuity in the town, but realistically it is clear that the earthquake is nothing more than chance and luck. It is the only valid explanation that the earthquake is just a random natural event that can occur in many parts of the world and at random times, and that god has simply nothing to do with it.
It is understood that the reason people are in constant search for meaning has to do with search for their true selves. To find one’s true self is to project meaningful values that connect with the purpose of living. Finding oneself, is finding meaning to life, and without meaning the purpose of living is often questionable.
I’m just going to leave this blog post with a meme because I’m still trying to figure out whether it is a good thing to believe that everything has meaning or not.
Around the same time that I first understood Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution in my early high school science courses, rapper Eminem came out with the song “Survival.” His song included lyrics that were inspired by Darwinism, the idea that only the strong will survive. Eminem has always been one of my favourite rappers and songwriters and when I realized that this song included Darwin’s ideas on evolution it helped me understand his theory even more as it was musically appealing.
Important related lyrics in “Survival” by Eminem:
THE HOOK: “This is survival of the fittest
This is do or die
This is the winner takes it all
So take it all”
“ why stop when it doesn’t have to end?
It ain’t over ’til I say it’s over – enough when I say enough
Throw me to them wolves and close the gate up
I’m afraid of what’ll happen to them wolves
When the thought of being thrown into an alligator pit, I salivate at it”
“o fill up this last can, man will I survive in this climate or what?
They said I was washed up, and got a blood bath
I’m not a rapper, I’m an adapter, I can adjust
Plus I can just walk up to a mic and just bust
So floor’s open if you’d like to discuss”
“Cause I’m a fight ’til I die or win”
Eminem lyrically agrees with Darwin’s idea of natural selection, that only the strong will continue on while the weaker one’s die. The hook summarizes this idea and is emphasized throughout the entire song to reinforce its importance. At the time that this song was released, Eminem is making his comeback into the music industry after three years. This solo track being the first song out since since his absence, was created to send a message to his listeners that he can do anything and that he will “fight ‘til [he dies] or [will] win” his fans back. I think the line “I’m not a rapper, I’m an adapter” perfectly explains the way in which natural selection can correlate to humans, in this case for Eminem. It shows how even he understand that we must fight to survive by adapting to our environment’s the best we can and by striving to overcome all obstacles that can prevent us from getting what we want.
Something Jean-Jacques Rousseau mentions in A Discourse on Inequality is the term Amour propre. Amour propre is a translated in French as “self-love” and is the concept that one’s esteem is dependent on the opinion of others. As Rousseau explains in his book, the savage man is concentrated on himself and what it takes to survive, while the civilized man is someone who cares about the opinion of others. As man turns from savage to civil, he is forced to compare himself with the others around him. With this, civil man is often inconsistent in the way he presents himself and they way he truly is. In modern society, this is the common way to survive, as one must be able to compete with others to dominate and achieve what one wants in life. It’s unfortunate that a modern life style entails a lack of authenticity at times in order to strive forward.
The topic of “Amour propre” can be related to social media and the ability to be someone else behind a screen. Being able to make an account on Facebook or Instagram allows one to be able to post and share information about oneself with others. Social media can be a place to escape for those who want to be perceived differently than the way they are seen in the real world. In some cases however, people are too afraid to post exactly what they want and tend to pretend to be someone else on social media because of the constant worried about the way others will perceive them. It is due to modern society that people like “civil man” have lost their realness and feel the need to display themselves differently.
In The Tempest written by William Shakespeare, one topic that I find interesting is the way virginity is a matter of politics. At this place in time, matters of feminism were inexistent and women were treated fairly stereotypically. A woman was meant to be someone who was controlled by a man, father or husband for example, and to control their behaviours including sexually related ones. Miranda, the daughter of Prospero, who was also the only female character in the play and was portrayed to have one intention; to be a bride to Ferdinand to bring joy to their fathers. The value of Miranda was her virginity, and her virginity was a matter of politics. In order to be the wife of Ferdinand, especially him being a prince and all, Miranda had to be seen as “pure.” This ensured Ferdinand that his children one day would never have to be questioned as his and to ensure that Miranda was seen an example of chastity. Not only was Miranda constricted to behaving a certain way because of the men around her, but she also getting into a political marriage that she may not have realized. This marriage set up by Prospero was done so that he was entitled to grandchildren in line with the throne, a political matter. Virginity here was nothing more than doing what “was right” for others (like the fathers of the couple) and being seen as innocent and pure like women were supposed to be. It was unfortunate at times like this that the value of virginity was strictly politics.
Students nowadays complain about the abundance of books we must buy during the school year. I definitely wasn’t prepared to have to buy more than five hundred dollars worth of books for my first year of university. The only plus side I found besides getting to read new books were the fact that they were not ancient, bulky bamboo scrolls that I would have to lug around campus. In the time period where Mengzi (Mencius) was originally taught, Mencius the philosopher’s ideas were not presented through a book but through speech that later turned into writings on bamboo strips and much later into translated books like The Essential Mengzi that we have today. Mencius engaged with his students directly and his collection of anecdotes and conversations on political philosophy and moral were put together in later days by his followers to continue these beliefs onto later generations. His teachings were passed down successfully as he is someone we continue to read from all over the world due to followers who chose to translate and share his knowledge. Although the book The Essential Mengzi isn’t exactly how Mencius may have explained his teachings before the fourth century BC, his values and ideas were not lost in translation. His ideas on human nature, goodness, and social order are relatable to people in all generations and is what keeps his practices going. Thankfully, we are able to learn Mencius’ beliefs without having to carry around fourteen scrolls that would likely equal to this one short book with commentary that we are able to have in the palm of our hands.