Go gentle into that good night

One thing that was on my mind all through Doctor Faustus was how Meph and Faustus act like they’re in love. From the oath:

“I, John Faustus of Wittenberg, Doctor, by these presents do give both body and soul to Lucifer, Price of the East, and his minister Mephastophilis…”

(Act II, Scene i, lines 105-107)

(Minor point: how can you give your body and soul to two different entities?)

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Whenever I read I’m often struck by similarities to other things I’ve seen/heard and sometimes I laugh a little bit at these moments. The people around me are usually pretty used to the sight/sound of me laughing randomly and sometimes they ask me what’s up. In the absence of people being around me while I’m at home and insist on reading quietly, here are some random thoughts I had on Antigone and Antigone’s Claim.

1. RECENT: Taylor.

“Indeed, consciousness seeks a retrieval of itself, only to recognize that there is no return from alterity to a former self but only a transfiguration premised on the impossibility of return.” (Butler 14)

On that page of Antigone’s Claim, I have a sticky note reading “TS: ‘I’d like to be my old self again, but I’m still trying to find it’”. The quote is a line from a song, “All Too Well”,  which she wrote about a relationship which, to my best knowledge, lasted about three months. With that in mind, the song sounds very serious and very sad. Under the lyric is an arrow and my own note: “you can never really go back”. This whole discussion in Antigone’s Claim about trying to go back comes out of one of Butler’s commentaries on Hegel’s work, which are always confusing because like a lot of other people (I would think), I’ve never read Hegel’s analysis of Antigone. Sometimes I find myself in situations where I’m reading a critique of something that I never even knew existed.

A little bit of what I remember from our last seminar which reminded me of this note is Miranda talked about splitting and seeing past versions of ourselves as permanent, with reference to post-structuralism. Naturally, having a brain stuffed full of irrelevant bits and bobs, I brought up Horcruxes.

Naturally, since this post is supposed to be about Antigone, how does she relate to all this? Honestly, I don’t know. The idea of going back is the only thing that jumped out to me in a passage that was otherwise bamboozling and more than a little reminiscent of something else that came up during the seminar: the feeling that at points in Antigone’s Claim, Butler (figuratively) pulls aside a group of people with deeper knowledge and goes, “by the way, here’s this little offshoot of interesting stuff”.

So, I guess, a little tip for Taylor (in case that she hasn’t already figured this out for herself, which I doubt): It’s okay. You can’t go back. Things don’t un-happen.


2. ANCIENT: Elizabeth.

Also on page 14 of Antigone’s claim is a sticky note reading “EB Browning poem”. Rather, this poem. This is in reference to the mentions of Lacan’s idea of “pure Being” (Butler 14, 48). Going back to #1, I think the first time I ever saw this poem was in a commentary about how weird the concept of loving someone for no reason is. How do you do that? I guess it’s one of those ideas that I’ve dismissed with, “Give it some time. I’ll understand it when I’m older”. I’ve dismissed a lot of ideas like this. It’s worked before. Still waiting on this poem, though. Maybe I should go outside more often.

Of course, any thoughts about Elizabeth Barrett Browning are probably accompanied with some nod to this poem. I remember reading this for English 10. This poem makes more sense to me now. I also remember our English 10 teacher talking about how every time you go back to this poem, it has some new or deeper meaning. She was right about many things.



The opening of the second chapter discusses the importance of making Kreon’s declaration heard (Butler 27). I thought about this for a bit before adding a note on page 29, in comparatively cramped writing, about something I read once on Joni Mitchell’s Wikipedia page about her writing and giving up her daughter for adoption. I’m not going to quote it, because it doesn’t seem to be cited, but I did just spend some time digging this relevant bit up from one of her interviews:

“When my daughter returned to me, the gift kind of went with it. The songwriting was almost like something I did while I was waiting for my daughter to come back.” (from here)

I think it helped me interpret Antigone’s rash behaviour a little better: she doesn’t have her family to talk to, so she doesn’t mind if everyone knows what she’s doing.


In closing, here’s a music video I like, which is also sort of related to what we’ve been reading lately. Thanks for reading, everyone.


For Antigone

The Replacements – Androgynous

Here come Dick, he’s wearing a skirt
Here comes Jane, y’know she’s sporting a chain
Same hair, revolution
Same build, evolution
Tomorrow who’s gonna fuss

And they love each other so
Closer than you know, love each other so

Don’t get him wrong and don’t get him mad
He might be a father, but he sure ain’t a dad
And she don’t need advice that’ll center her
She’s happy with the way she looks
She’s happy with her gender

Mirror image, see no damage
See no evil at all
Kewpie dolls and urine stalls
Will be laughed at
The way you’re laughed at now

Now, something meets Boy, and something meets Girl
They both look the same
They’re overjoyed in this world
Same hair, revolution
Unisex, evolution
Tomorrow who’s gonna fuss
And tomorrow Dick is wearing pants
And tomorrow Janie’s wearing a dress
Future outcasts and they don’t last
And today, the people dress the way that they please
The way they tried to do in the last centuries 

“Gorgias”, apparently

I decided to not delete that first automatic blog post (“Hello, world!”) because in a few years I’ll probably look back on it and remember not really understanding exactly what I was supposed to do with this.

In our last seminar, our professor commented that we preferred syncretic (okay, I just googled that to make sure I spelled it correctly, and I didn’t at first) questions: as she explained it, questions that could be answered with a yes/no. That reminds me of two different memories: the first one being one of my teachers from high school, who would ask us if we had any questions and then pause. He would hold the pause for a while and one time he explained to us (as far as I can remember) that the silence was designed to give us time to formulate our questions and then get over the awkwardness of raising our hands to ask them. The second memory it reminded me of is that one time I was with some friends at a science exhibit and one part had us answer questions on a screen by pressing buttons. A friend of mine laughed when she noticed that I was slapping the buttons and I thought it was kind of funny too, and the best explanation I could come up with was that there are some topics I have very strong opinions on, and that I’m completely comfortable with having those strong opinions. For me, at least, I think the preference for close-ended questions is real. Just telling somebody what you think, without having to explain, without having to let them pick your brain a little, is easy and not as personal. Lately I’ve been wondering if having really strong opinions on something could just mean that I don’t want to consider other perspectives. Is the best opinion one that you’re willing to change? (I’ve thought about this and I’ve concluded there’s some kind of semantic tangle in that question, but I don’t know how to fix it.)

I do think that although yes/no questions are easy to answer, they’re really just good for warming up. If all you can get out of somebody is yes or no, it probably means that they don’t really want to talk to you or that you aren’t asking the right questions.  Sometimes I’m watching an interview and the interviewer asks a question that does more to show what they already think and less to show what the interviewee thinks (and isn’t that really the point of the interview?). The fact that I can’t go through the computer screen and say, “Objection – leading question” saddens me a little.

In the case of the seminar, we were lucky, and the yes/no questions were just a warmup. I remember checking the time on my computer, realizing we were halfway through, and thinking, “This is so great”, despite having trouble in the first bit even getting some thoughts together before somebody made a remark.

Also, thoughts on Gorgias:

Socrates talks so much that I used three different colours of tabs for him and one colour for everyone else. Trying to understand exactly what the other characters think can be a little difficult if a lot of what they express is a yes or a no to Socrates’ paragraphs. (more syncretic questions!) Being able to quote them is far better. The only note I have for Callicles, for example, is that he disagrees with Socrates, which isn’t exactly helpful. And Callicles and Socrates get to converse at length, unlike, for example, Gorgias, who has lines at the beginning but not much otherwise.

More generally, though, “Gorgias”‘ discusses of the exact definition and purpose of oratory extensively, which gets very Abed. Socrates gets the last word but ultimately we have to decide for ourselves and I’m still not sure about what oratory is (but if I hadn’t read “Gorgias”, I don’t think I would have thought about it).

That’s all I have for now. Hopefully I’ll write more soon. Good night, everyone. Thanks for reading.



The fruit itself

I had meant to do something else for my first blog post but this observation was too funny to pass up.

So, in my seminar someone offhandedly referred to the fruit of The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (loquacious, innit?) as an apple, as is the popular conception. Of course, nowhere in the text does it state that it is an apple, so where does this stem from? Obviously the apple is (at least in Western Culture) the quintessential fruit, and one most associated with intellectualism and thus the transgression that implies (Newton’s apple, teacher’s apple, apple a day keep the doctor away). But later that day, while I was eating potato chips at the bus stop (I’m that guy, yes) I noticed that the French referred to it as pomme de terre, fruit/apple of the earth.

In Hebrew the fruit is referred to as Ha’adamah, fruit of the earth. Given that French is a Romantic language and early Christian translations of the Bible were in latin, it’s easy to see where the conception of it being an apple comes from.

Except that pomme de terre also means potato.

The forbidden fruit, with all the eroticism, transgression, and liberation that it implies for humanity, that which caused The Fall and our expulsion from Paradise, Original Sin, was a potato.

A potato.

Just picture it, a nude rosy cheeked Eve in the hue of youth, flush with the overwhelming discovery of knowledge and of her own latent sexuality, with the tempting serpent coiled round her shoulder in an insidious seduction, voluptuously, sensually, taking a bite out of a potato, before passing it on to Adam.

But if potatoes confer knowledge of good and evil, what is the fruit of The Tree of Life?



The Book of Genesis and Oneness in Judeo-Christian Culture

The second set of readings for the #ArtsOne course was the Book of Genesis and Kant’s Conjectural Beginning. The Book of Genesis translation which we were assigned to read was Robert Alter’s 2004 version.

As I was reading Genesis this morning, I kept stumbling upon this tension between unity and individuality. I noted evidence of this tension in Kant’s commentary on Genesis as well.

Here are some of my notes pertaining to instances where I think there might be a move away from unity/oneness towards individuality in Genesis:

1:26 – “our image” – god creates humans in “our image” not in his image, which leads me to believe that he is creating humans in this image of “the good”, as all his creation before (plants etc. etc.) had been deemed “good” by the creator. “Our” implies that others are part of the creation process – meaning that all that he has created is also part of his image, and humans, made in his image, are part of everything else he’s created as well. The pronoun “our” suggests an inter-connectivity.

Around 1:27 – Alter notes that there is controversy over the translation of the pronoun representing Adam. Could Adam be androgynous before his rib is used to make Eve? The transfer of the rib is itself a hint at a sense of oneness, and the idea that Adam is androgynous before this (which Alter seems to reject under the pretext that it unleashes “dizzying paradoxes”) would mean that much like the way god divides in Book 1 of Genesis (in all honesty a lot of the first chapter of Genesis should be mentioned here), the creation story is about a crumbling, or falling apart of a unity.

2:18 the use of the word “sustainer” – suggests a sort of loneliness inherent in humans – they are not really part of the inter-dependency of the animal world.

9:? Following the Fall, further indication of humans being separated from the oneness of creation becomes apparent. I noted that in chapter 9 Alter suggests that the way that humans move towards a carnivorous diet suggests that humans are exercising a sort of inner violence upon the animal kingdom – the notion of ruling over the animal kingdom is also apparent, Kant notes, in 8:114.

Chapter 10 – The Tower of Babel is a pretty well-discussed instance of human dis-unity. Once united under a similar language, humans loose that sense of collective when they are punished for trying to build a tower to the heavens. Babel could be seen as the real end of unity – humans are isolated individuals

The Fall can really be seen as the turning point between unity and individualism. I think that this tension and sense of duality should be examined further considering that a lot of what modern spiritualism promotes is re-aligning oneself with the oneness of the universe. Many stories in the Bible have this inherent individualism that I’m sure makes many skeptical. – I’ll explore this more in my essay

Just some thoughts, nothing to be taken too seriously. nothing should ever be taken too seriously relaly.