Gathered up

I put off this post because I haven’t found anything to say about the book.

Well, I guess I can start with Freud.

“Examine diligently, therefore, all the faculties of your soul: memory, understanding, and will. Examine with precision all your senses as well. . . . Examine, moreover, all your thoughts, every word you speak, and all your actions. Examine even unto your dreams, to know if, once awakened, you did not give them your consent. And finally, do not think that in so sensitive and perilous a matter as this, there is anything trivial or insignificant.” (20)

I tagged it with Freud mostly because the dream-analysis part caught my attention, but in typing out the full quote, I realized it was closer to a description of introspection. Which is weird now, because when I was actually taking PSYC 101 I never really thought about the similarities between Freud and introspection. Probably because I hadn’t read Dora then.

I like how the first part of the book is called “We “Other Victorians”". As in, even though their opinions regarding sexuality are different, they’re still Victorians. The question of what defines an era goes back to what Miranda said about how eras are made sense of in retrospect in the Lyrical Ballads lecture and the ensuing discussion in seminar.

Foucault concerns himself a lot with what I tagged in my notes as a “legislation” of sex (37) – literally, but I was also referring to how he seems to dislike comprehensive descriptions/explanations of sex. He also draws a line between sexuality and sex in his discussion, which I found interesting (54, 114).

I also like that he didn’t use, as I said in my last blog post, the random justification (at least, not to the extent that Rousseau uses it). Maybe just because his discussion is more limited, with a focus on history like the Industrial Revolution, and not Rousseau’s brand of pre-history. Checking against my seminar notes now, we discussed Foucault in our Silencing the Past seminars and how Foucault doesn’t discuss the “provenance of power” and talks about history without being a historian (just like Trouillot). Again, now that I’ve remembered this, it’s weird that the books that have something to do with Silencing the Past are the ones I really am “decidedly neutral” (again) about. Maybe because I haven’t really considered in the past whether or not I’ve liked most of the books, and only recently have I started to do that.

See? Not much to say. Thanks for reading, everyone.


[Edited for spacing.]


I didn’t like this book at all.

The first thing that struck me as odd was Freud talking about how had published a case study without the patient knowing. I thought that possibly, this was considered acceptable back when he was writing Dora, but now I’ve found that apparently not. Either way, I thought it was strange from the beginning.

Normally in blog posts I quote my notes, but the truth is, most of my notes this time chronicle how bewildered/disbelieving I was concerning most of the things Freud was saying. There’s the part on page 23 when he talks about what how he thinks Herr. K kissing Dora translated from reality into her memory. There’s the part on page 33 when he suggests that maybe Dora’s aphonia was due to the fact that the one person she wanted to speak to wasn’t around. And, of course, there’s the part on page 91 where he provides a sexual reading of Dora’s dream. My note for that last one is a very calm “you could apply this to any locale if you tried”. Honestly. Maybe I’ve gone about reading this book all the wrong way, but I (well, a reader in general) have no idea what Freud has not told about Dora, or even what Dora has not told.

This book is just so full of conjecture and interpretation that I can’t take it seriously. It read to me overall as proof that you can make anything look like anything else if only you try hard enough. This is my new least favourite book on the reading list.

I’m aware that Freud quotes Charcot to those who have expressed a “personal dislike or disbelief”: “Ca n’empêche pas d’exister” (105). I don’t believe Freud’s made a strong enough case, and maybe that’s my problem. Very well.

General education

At the beginning of the term I was looking forward to Northanger Abbey/Shawn of the Dead, even though I’ve tried to read Jane Austen in the past (including this book) and I’ve always found her books difficult to get through. I just figured that maybe I stood a chance this time, and I managed to make it through without it being too bad. (I was actually pretty surprised when I finished reading the first page and realized it made perfect sense to me. Unfortunate true story.)

I’ve heard/read that this book is satirical, and every now and then I would come across a bit that I’d mark with just that, like:

“…what young lady of common gentility will reach the age of sixteen without altering her name as far as she can?” (9)

“A woman…if she have the misfortune of knowing any thing, should conceal it as well as she can.” (81)

“‘…I cannot speak well enough to be unintelligible.’ / ‘Bravo! – an excellent satire on modern language.’” (96)

in addition, of course, to the whole bit where Catherine tracks down the cabinet and discovers that it’s full of bills.

I also really appreciate the part where Catherine finds out Isabella’s brother might be in love with her and Isabella says this:

“‘I do not think any thing would justify me in wishing you to sacrifice all your happiness merely to oblige my brother…who perhaps…might be just as happy without you, for people seldom know what they would be at….But, above all things, my dear Catherine, do not be in a hurry. Take my word for it, that if you are in too great a hurry, you will certainly live to repent it. Tilney says, there is nothing people are so often deceived in, as the state of their own affections, and I believe he is very right.’” (106)

Just because Isabella manages somehow to use the words of the person Catherine actually likes to try and persuade her into considering marrying Isabella’s brother instead. Unless I’ve read it incorrectly.

I’m pretty sure this has taken me more than half an hour, but one more thought: I’m not sure how this reading for me was different from the other times I’ve tried and failed. I’ve said this before, but there’s something about having to read a book for class that makes reading it unenjoyable (for me), and that hasn’t been the case yet with any of the Arts One books. Miranda also mentioned in one of her posts that “It is probably inevitable that, sometimes, you will fail to read something”. What I got out of that post was that “readerly failures” change with, well, the person. So I have to wonder what’s changed.

Thanks for reading, everyone. (Also, we should play that never-have-I-ever-been-able-to-read game that Miranda talks about.)

Glass and history

1. From page 88:

“In 1791, there is no public debate on the record, in France, in England, or in the United States on the right of black slaves to achieve self-determination, and the right to do so by way of armed resistance.”

What does Trouillot mean by “self-determination” here? I ask because I always thought of it as more of a 20th century term.

2. On page 95, Trouillot discusses scientific racism. I don’t really know how to phrase this as a question. I just think it might be interesting to discuss the history of using science to legitimize bigotry.

3. From page 10:

“Historians had long questioned the veracity of some of the events in Alamo narratives, most notably the story of the line on the ground….Texas historians, and especially Texas-based authors of textbooks and popular history, long concurred that this particular narrative was only “a good story”, and that “it doesn’t really matter whether it is true or not.”

(The footnote to that segment is on page 158.)

There seems to be some shift in the meaning of “historian” in this paragraph. What is it exactly, and what does it say about Trouillot’s stance on the matter?

4. To what extent does Trouillot use narrative techniques to discuss the use of narrative techniques in recording history?

5. From page 142:

History did not need to be mine in order to engage me. It just needed to relate to someone, anyone. It could not just be The Past. It had to be someone’s past.”

Can history exist without being related to the present?


The ending story reminded me on the first read of this. I couldn’t have been the only one.

Oh, and – the copyright information at the front of the book misspells his name as “Michel-Ralph Trouillot”. Thanks for reading, everyone.


Go on

I’m finding that the more philosophy we read the less I like reading it. Rousseau wasn’t too difficult to get through but in some places I just felt like my mind was falling out.

To start with (and probably the only subject matter of this post):

“… not only did such commodities continue to soften body and mind and as they had the same time degenerated into actual needs, being deprived of them became much more cruel than the possession of them was sweet…” (113)

In some places, the Discourse on Inequality reminds me a lot of contemporary motivational/advising media. This part would probably translate into something like “don’t use your free time to find vices”. There’s also this:

“As a result of seeing each other, people cannot do without seeing more of each other. A tender and sweet sentiment insinuates itself into the soul, and at the least obstacle becomes an inflamed fury; jealousy awakens with love; discord triumphs, and the gentlest of passions receives the sacrifice of human blood” (114)

That struck me as a specific example of how, to quote the first link I wasn’t afraid to click on in the first page of results when googling the phrase “the pursuit of happiness is the cause of all unhappiness”:

“Groundbreaking work by Iris Mauss has recently supported the counterintuitive idea that striving for happiness may actually cause more harm than good. In fact, at times, the more people pursue happiness the less they seem able to obtain it. Mauss shows that the more people strive for happiness, the more likely they will be to set a high standard for happiness—then be disappointed when that standard is not met.”

There’s also this in Rousseau’s footnotes:

“One must not confuse pride and self-love, two passions very different in their nature and in their effects” (167)

Hobbes also uses the phrase “self-love” (99, para. 35), and I don’t think I completely understand what he’s talking about in that paragraph, but it’s there. I know Rousseau’s/Cranston’s usage of the phrase – an instinct for self-preservation – is kind of different from its modern meaning, but it’s funny to see it anyway.

Here’s another nigh irrelevant music video I like. It’s also where this post’s title comes from. Thanks for reading, everyone. It was really cold today.


[Edited to clarify where the footnote was from.]

[Edited a second time because I wrote "happiness" instead of "unhappiness". Sorry, everyone.]

Good Queen Margot

Five (seven) questions on The Master and Margarita.

1. Why is the book organized the way it is? (split narration, different stories)

2. Why is Margarita’s second wish (rather than the first) for the Master? (282-284)

3. Archibald Archibaldovich appears once to bail Koroviev and Behemoth out, and then promptly sets the building they were in on fire. What purpose does he serve? (354-358)

4. Why does the novel end with an epilogue? The rest of the book, as novels usually do, shows what happens. The epilogue is a shift to telling. Why does Bulgakov do this?

5. When Margarita’s husband leaves for a business trip, “no one could prevent her from thinking what she like or dreaming what she liked” (220). What prevents her from doing that when anyone else is around? What does that say about what her married life is like?


I wrote these five before today’s (Wednesday’s) seminar. Here are two more that came up today:


6. Why don’t Margarita and her husband have any children?

7. Why doesn’t the master have a name while Margarita does?


what the devil

So, before I go rambling on:
1. be ready for the rambling. prepare yourself. buckle down. close this tab. whichever.
2. know that I didn’t finish the book. As I write this, I mean. I have a lot more to go. I probably won’t be finished until Friday. Just so you’re aware.
3. I tend to focus on the little things, which is something you’l notice as this post goes on. This is mostly because I haven’t finished the book yet, ha.

Before I read the books on our lovely, long list I usually read a summary of them first. Just to make sure I’m getting the gist of things in terms of theme and other rhetorical blah blah. That being said, here’s what the summaries I read told me about The Master and Margarita.

There are several things at play. Bulgakov weaves in satire and realism, art and religion, and history and contemporary social values. The lecture on Monday gave me a ton of helpful context to better understand the little pieces Bulgakov gives that relate to the Russian society he was living in. There are also three story lines. There’s that of Professor Woland, his assistants, and their shenanigans. (I just used the word shenanigans, what is going on?) That of the Master and his Margarita. And the story of Pontius Pilate and Yeshua. It wasn’t until lecture that I learned that Pilate’s story goes through several reworkings, a fact I find extremely important and interesting, and something I’ll probably read later. Anyway, before I started reading I learned that Pilate’s story would connect the two stories of Professor Woland and the Master. This is probably one of the more interesting aspects of the novel for me. And probably a cool discussion point too; just in terms of how the story of Pilate connects the two, why, the dynamics of each story and how they reflect each other, and so on and so forth.

In all seriousness I can probably realistically blog with full awareness and understanding about the first ten chapters. Excuse me while I weep with self-pity. I shall, however, finish this cursedly thick thing. And learn to love it. Or understand it, at least. It’s interesting so far, I’ll give it that.

Here are some things I picked up as I read. Some of them I tossed around. Some of them were actually relevant. Some of them I had to ditch as I went on because they turned out to not mean what I thought they did.

  • Case in point: the devil’s glinting eye. In his retelling of Pilate’s story Kaifa’s eyes flash and later when the devil finishes the story he says he was there. I briefly entertained the notion that the eye flashing was connected and that the devil was Kaifa (which would have been crazy interesting, btw). Alas, it was not meant to be. So I ditched that observation.

Now for the more promising observations.

  • At first the constant mentioning of “to the devil” and “what the devil” and “how the devil” around said devil was amusing for me. I mean, it still is amusing, but I’m starting to notice that it has more meaning. At first I thought it was Bulgakov throwing in some more irony. But then I started thinking about speech and the power of word and its relation to action (calling back to Antigone anyone?). Much of the pivotal moments in terms of action in this novel start as forms of speech. People seem to invoke the devil just by thinking about him or saying “devil.” Speech and power are related! Eureka! *commence fervid discussion*
  • Will someone please tell me if there’s a symbolism in the sparrow because that blasted little bird keeps showing up and I don’t know much about the spiritual meaning of sparrows. So I kind of just notice it and go “what are you doing here” and keep reading. But it shows up in Pilate’s story and it flies again in The Seventh Proof on page 44. What are you doing in this novel little bird?
  • Another nature element I’m curious about! The sun. And with that comes of course: shadow, light, being blinded and so on. I mostly noticed it in Pilate’s story when Yeshua shied away from the sunlight as it got closer to his feet. What was that about? And then Pilate, who seems to be eternally bothered by his headaches and the heat and then he gets blinded by the sun and guilt and wow, Pilate’s life really sucks doesn’t it? And let’s not forget that moment when Kaifa’s shadow “shrunk to nothing by the lion’s tail” on page 37. Just how small is by the lion’s tail anyway? And my goodness sun, what are you up to?
  • Tiny side note in relation to the sun. There’s an east/west dynamic at play here and I remember reading it, but didn’t mark the page. Story of my life, ugh.
  • Other tiny side note! The diamond triangle? What is that supposed to look like? The first thing that popped up in my head was a Delta. It most likely does not look like a Delta. But it shows up twice in relation to the devil. Is it his symbol or? (I just google imaged it – it does not really look like a Delta, but I’m not entirely crazy because Deltas are, in fact, triangles.

Now onto the little things I pondered about as I read.

  • Ivan and Misha/Mikhail react very differently to the devil. This probably has to do with the fact that Mikhail sees the checkered man before the devil shows up and Ivan does not. But there has to be something else, right? Something I/we don’t necessarily know? What is clear, however, is that their relationship and how the devil affects their lives is connected to this. This then ties in to all the notes I scribbled around how the devil spoke (key word SPOKE) about Mikhail’s death, predicted it and all, and how he implored Mikhail right before he dashed off to believe in the devil. Would Mikhail not have died if he did?
  • This is also the point where I have to say how much you can pull out of Pilate’s story just from the first telling. The things brought up, the relationships that you could dissect! Oh, it’s like candy. But it also needs time. And I should probably read the retellings of Pilate’s story further in the book. So we’ll save that for another blog post.
  • Tiny question: is the seventh proof the devil’s proof? seriously, whose proof is it?
  • When the devil said that he was alone and always alone on page 43 I couldn’t help but wonder about Doctor Faustus there. In Faustus those who pledge their souls to the devil can’t have real lovers or partners, marriages and the like – only concubines and meaningless flings that fill pleasure and distract. Nothing wholehearted and such. Interesting and relevant since this novel is seen as a retelling of the Faust legend. Moving on.
  • My interest in how the sun is mentioned throughout the novel comes in again on the last page of The Seventh Proof. Berlioz sees a “gold-tinged moon” just as he died and I couldn’t help but think of how that would appear like a drained sun in terms of color. And what does it mean to see the sun or the moon? Then there’s the passing of hours and time in the novel. I haven’t really noted each one but eleven kept popping up for a few consecutive chapters so it’s probably something I’ll keep in the back of my mind.
  • I also couldn’t help but relate Ivan’s chase of the professor to be much like that of Polyphemus and Oedipus. Ivan keeps imploring people to find the consultant and send guns after him and catch him, but he seriously forgets that no one knows who the consultant is or what he looks like. So Ivan now has the pleasure of being Polyphemus in my head as he tries to send anyone who will listen to him after Nobody, resulting in people thinking he’s crazy.
  • Oh, and can someone please clear up what happened to Riukhin in the last pages of Schizophrenia, As Was Said because after he says “devil take them!” some really weird stuff starts happening and I’m not sure if I should read into it or not.
  • In the disappearances of the naughty apartment there are technically eight or nine of them. I don’t count Berlioz because he died, he didn’t disappear in the way the rest of them did. And I’m not sure if I should count Grunya because the devil admits to sending her on vacation. The number of disappearances probably isn’t as important as the fact that they’re happening so this point is really just a random musing. Carry on.

Right, okay. I just realized I ran out of observations.
So I wish this could be more cohesive, but it really isn’t. Read the book, self, then it will be.
Thank goodness I don’t have to come up with direct questions just yet. I hope this wasn’t too all over the place if you managed to get all the way to the end without thinking I was a bit insane or something. Let it be noted that I did not proof read this blog post because I’m about to rush off to dinner.
I’m leaving for Walk the Moon in a little over an hour so I wanted to get this typed out and up. Me going to a concert also means I will not be fully functional tomorrow. Oh joy.

Men have gender too

After Antigone’s Claim this is a subject I’ve been (re)thinking of lately. For a period in the summer, I suppose it could be said I had a masculine identity crisis for a number of reasons, given that I am perhaps not the best exemplar of the (cultural) male archetype.

For my money, I find that the concepts of ‘manhood’ and ‘womanhood’ are often determined in opposition to one another; that is that ‘manhood’ is the opposite of ‘womanhood’ and vice versa. I prefer to think of it as the opposite of childhood, but that’s just me.

Anyway, I’m boring, so here are interesting media links on this topic instead:

What does it mean to be man, explored through hands.

Trailer for a film exploring Western ideals of masculinity, and why they are poisonous.