A little rant over here


So I’ve already done my blogging for this week, but I felt the need to post a little rant, and since it has everything to do with Arts One here it is:

I’ve heard multiple comments from my peers complaining about the amount of Feminist texts in this course. People are annoyed that there are books that either talk about women or are written by women with a female perspective, therefore we have had essay topics pertaining to this.

Now, I understand recently the course has been feminist heavy. Firstly, this is nothing to complain about. Most of your life (if you continue with English), you will be surrounded my male authors and male-centered books. Books where women are degraded or completely ignored, but books that nonetheless need to be read because they have some merit in their works. For there to be course that has a good amount of feminist literature is not only exceptional, but should also be the norm. There should be an equal balance of both male and female centred texts.

What’s even more frustrating is the fact that realistically, the course is not feminist heavy whatsoever! I just needed quick look at our reading list to confirm my beliefs, but we have only had two actual feminist readings: The Second Sex and The Vindications of the Rights of Women. Other than that, we have read two books I am pretty sure pass the Bechtel test: Antigone and Northanger Abbey (although I am not sure about the latter).

In comparison, we have read numerous books and authors that either do not speak about women or have no women characters (therefore failing the Bechtel test), or that do speak about women but only to degrade them. These include Gorgias, Leviathan, Rights of Man, Heart of Darkness, Doctor Faustus, Dora, and a few others.

This blog post is not here to start any arguments, offend anyone, or anger anyone. I just feel the need to point out these biases that people have, but may not be aware of. We could spend weeks reading books that have nothing to do with women, and the majority of people will not notice anything out of place. But when we read two books pertaining to women in the span of a few weeks, everyone quickly bores of it and is annoyed.

Just something to be aware of.


Things Could Fall Together Better

So today’s lecture was about Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, but really it just felt like a lot about the issue of racism between Conrad and Achebe.

Now I’m not complaining. I think it’s an interesting topic, and one I focused my whole Conrad essay on. But, I do wish this lecture had been done before we wrote about Conrad.

Having chosen the topic of “Is Marlowe a Racist?”, I got many more ideas for my essay from this lecture, then the one that was actually about Conrad. Since this one actually focused on my topic, I found a lot of the arguments that Jon brought forward in favour of Achebe’s view were one’s I hadn’t focused on in my essay. My essay was in favour of Conrad, as in that Marlowe is not a racist, so much of lecture I was thinking of rebuttals to what Jon was saying. Although I do not know if I would change my essay, it would have been nice to have these questions and this knowledge at the time of writing.

Which brings me to a larger dilemma. I like the concept of remaking and remodelling. But, as was discussed today, often I find it hard to find such connections. Yes, I can see the relationship between certain books quite easily, Like Antigone versus Antigone’s Claim, but some of these pairings are not as well done as I would have liked. For example, Conrad’s Heart of Darkness can be paired with so many great things, such as Dante’s Inferno or Apocalypse now. Instead it is paired with Wollstonecraft, which although I enjoyed her writing, honestly has the most vague connections. Past the concept of “The Other”, everything is a far stretch. Just as with this week’s pairing of Achebe and Apocalypse Now I can manage to make the connection (Achebe is responding to Conrad, Conrad’s book inspired Apocalypse Now) but why not literally connect those, instead of splitting them up into odd pairings.

As we saw today, the lecture focused so much on Conrad versus Achebe. Why not read them together? I know it would have helped me out.

Now, honestly, I love Arts One and I am truly going to miss it. I even loved this stream (although it wasn’t my first choice), and am glad I ended up in it.

It’s just moments like these I become frustrated when there are some beautiful pairings that could be done, and are ignored. Maybe they are too obvious, or too easy, but like Jon said today: “When a book is too easy, you need to complicate it”.

The Right of a Rant

This week we’re reading RIghts Of Man by Thomas Paine, and I’m finding this book very hard to get through.

Firstly, it is very historically based, and history is not my strongest subject. I’m knowledgable in a few key parts of history, and sadly the French Revolution is not one of them.

Secondly, the book very much feels like an angry rant on the part of Paine against Burke, which does bring some humour to the reading, but also can become tiring when we are not so familiar with the argument he is fighting against.

I do think Paine brings forth some interesting ideas, and that he was quite brave for writing them in the time he was in. His publisher even withdrew the text at some point for fear of persecution. I am very against censorship of texts, and the persecution of authors, so I am happy that Paine put his ideas into the world, even though it may have caused him hardship. It was a book that needed to be out there at the time, especially since it was written in words that everyone could understand.

At the moment I feel I still have not really grasped this book, therefore this blog post is probably quite bland. Hopefully the seminars will help liven this book up a bit.


Sexualities and Fetishes

This week for Arts One we read Michel Foucault’s The History of Sexuality.

Now I have not completely finished the book, therefore I have not yet formed a strong opinion on the overall text. But it definitely was not what I was expecting.

I went into this novel with no clue what would be inside. We recently read Freud and Fanon, who had quite a bit to say on the subject of sexuality. What would Foucault bring to the table?

So far I have had many mixed feelings about the text, and a lot of them stem from my uncertainty of what Foucault’s stance was on many of the issues brought forward. Christina talked about this in her lecture, which made it easier to understand. Foucault poses the questions, but not the answers (how frustrating!).

One part that really interested me was the portions where Foucault spoke of various sexualities. He speaks of “zoophiles and zooerasts, Rohleder’s auto-monosexualists”, as well as “mixoscopophiles, gynecomasts, presbyophiles, sexoesthetic inverts, and dyspareunist women” (43). Later on he goes on a broader spectrum, speaking of “(sexualities of the infant or child), those which become fixated on particular tastes or practices (the sexuality of the invert, the gerontophile, the fetishist)” (47) and many more.

What threw me on these passages is that many of these preferences were unheard of for me, especially under these terms. I don’t seem to be the only one. A quick google search into some of the terms led me to other Foucault readers who have made educated guesses to what some of these sexualities mean. These terms seem to be very much out there only due to Foucault himself.

Another thing that threw me was that many of these sexual acts were not under the umbrella term of “fetishes”. Fetishes had its very own category, which made me wonder what Foucault considers a fetish. And, looking at this from a larger perspective, how are some of these actions considered a sexuality? Something like dyspareunia, which in modern day is often called S & M or BDSM, is not considered a fetish. But in our current society, at least in my opinion, most see it as a fetish. I don’t see BDSM as a sexuality, per se. But, as was discussed in the lecture, Foucault’s ideas of a sexuality are extremely broad.

I questions where Foucault draws the line on what is a fetish, and what is a sexuality. Could fetishes be sexualities? Could sexualities be fetishes? Did he go by any sort of scale or compass in making these distinctions?

Overall, I find Foucault quite confusing. Christina warned us he is, but this is not the confusion I was expecting. The language of the novel, although tricky, is maneuverable. The real confusion comes from the very idea Foucault is trying to explain: sexuality.

~ Ola

The Modern Day Freud Debunked

I was very pleased with this weeks reading assignment of Dora: An Analysis of a Case of Hysteria, for besides my love of English, I adore Psychology.

I have been learning Freud from a psychological perspective since some time in grade 11, when I first began taking psychology courses. I have studied his theories, and his findings, and have made my own opinions on whether he was credible or not.

That is the main problem with Freud: within modern psychological circles, he has been much discredited. So I was quite worried about how the Arts One students would react to reading Freud. Would they see him as a genius? As a madman? Forming an opinion on him based solely off Dora can be dangerous. You may feel he is only one or the other. I, however, have always seen him as both. He has his merits, but he also has his faults.

A modern day Freud approach is rare. A Psychoanalyst is an MD with 2 years residency, as well as a chosen specilization. It is seen as being an inefficient method of treatment, as it requires patients to come in multiple times a week for years. A modern subfield of Psychology called a D. lay analyst has been formed. They are non-MD’s with training in psychoanalysis, and I swear my Psych 101 prof cringed when speaking of them.

Although Freud’s methods are a thing of the past, many of his ideas are still widely researched and discussed. The Id, Superego, and Ego are still taught in psychology classes all over, but they do not occur in this novel.

The subject of dream analysis in this case study is quite fascinating. Many psychologists are split on the subject of the significance of dreams. Some say there is no basis, no substance, behind our dreams. Others still believe there is something important to be learned from them, though you rarely hear of Freud’s beliefs in our unconscious desires being shown there.

Knowing all of this information, it was hard to read Dora with an unbiased viewpoint. Most of the time while reading, I just felt sad. Sad about Dora’s life, but also about the treatment she was receiving. I find Freud to be very self-serving, often relating Dora’s sexual desires to himself. He also believes most of her trauma to be caused by her avoiding the advances of Frau K.’s husband, when really it was the advances themselves that caused her to fear.

It is just overall frustrating reading this novel, when I can see so many faults in his logic. Sure, on some far stretching limb some of his ideas on where Dora’s issues lie may be connected. But that does not make them the real reasons, nor does it help her case at all.

Really, this novel should be called The Tragedy of Dora, as not only was she wronged by the treatment she recovered (although one may argue Freud had good intentions), she was also wronged in the writing of this novel. Patient-client confidentiality anyone?!

Ruins or Stones: What are they really?

So, being the last week and all, I managed to forget about this blog post. And now, at 2:32am, lying in bed, I remembered!

So here we go!

This week we read two plays, both regarding the Haitian revolution. This follows the theme of the previous two books we read.

During the lecture today, I managed to get a little bit distracted with the twitter conversation I was having with some of the profs. Jon Beasley-Murray, who was running the lecture, talked a lot about ruins. And it has us (the tweeters) really wondering what ruins represented.

Jill Fellows stated the dilemma quite nicely in her tweet:

Jill Fellows ‏@FellowsJill13h

Do ruins suggest that nothing is permanent? They exist. They resist remodeling. I wonder if their impermanence is questionable. #artsone

On one side, ruins are proof that everything continues. Just like in our plays and novels, Sans Souci still stand. It may be crumbling, but it continues to live on.

On the other side, ruins show how nothing is permanent. Like Leonard de Mezy’s plantation in Kingdom of This World. When Ti Noel returns to the site in the third part, all that are left are stones. He himself says no one would recognize it for what it was: “Ti Noel sat down on one of the cornerstones of the old mansion, now a stone like any other stone for those who did not remember” (106).

So are ruins just a pause in the timeline of decay? Can we look at them as something on their own, or are they just a piece of something that will soon be gone?

Are they permanent?


The past is confusing

I am not a huge history buff. My father, on the other hand, adores history. Therefore I grew up knowing quite a bit about the past, but I never quite favoured it to the present.
I’m a strong believer in learning from our past, then moving forward. So I was kind of worried with this week’s book, knowing it was about history. Although I don’t find history boring in any way, depending on the author it can sometimes seem a bit dry.

I was pleasantly surprised with this book. Although I am not completely done (oops) I am definitely enjoying the change of pace from our previous books.

One quote that I have been trying to decipher is this:

“. . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past — or more accurately, pastness — is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past.” p. 15

At first read I literally thought… what?! Were those just words on a page? I feel like my mind just did a circle and realized I was right where I began.

After re-reading the page a few times (maybe more like 10 times), I think I am starting to understand it. Is it just a point about semantics, in the sense that we need to know present to know past? Or is it more than that?

Hopefully we’ll discuss this in our seminars. I definitely require some clarity here.


Hobbes: Make up your mind!

I’m going to say it now, I have not finished the assigned chapters at the time of writing this post. But so far I believe I have a general idea.

Today’s lecture by Dr. Robert Crawford was very interesting, and brought  forward a lot of interesting points. One that struck me was (and this is paraphrasing from my personal lecture notes) when he spoke of one of Hobbes’ ideas as “Be a good ruler or you’re gonna wind up dead. Hobbes feels this is enough to keep them [rulers] in check.”

Now this is one point that has stuck with me. Hobbes views are shown to be very anti-rebellion. One does not question authority, and follows what those in higher positions say. Now, I do not agree with this, but this is what Hobbes believes. I’ll pretend to agree for all intents and purposes.

Here is where my issue lies. In our lecture and the reading, another idea is brought up. “Authoritarian states need to be aware of the natural punishment of going too far”. So, as Dr. Crawford explained, Hobbes believes that if the rulers are bad, people will kill them. That is a natural punishment. Even if rebellion is illegal, that will not stop an angry population.

So, what is Hobbes’ view on rebellion? It is wrong, and should never be done. But, he also says that rulers should be good enough that people will not rebel. Now this seems straightforward, but I still feel unsatisfied. Rebellion is wrong, but will happen if rulers are bad. Well then… wouldn’t that make it good? Or at the very least necessary?

I understand that if the people in charge follow what Hobbes says, he feels rebellion will not occur. But it still remains, if they don’t follow his beliefs, rebellion will happen. It will be needed.

I don’t know if anyone else sees it this way, but I feel a dissonance between ideas here. I’m curious to see what the class thinks in our seminars. Maybe I’ll change my mind!


Doctor Faustus: A Deal with the Devil

Let me preface this by apologizing, for I am about to include one of my favourite tv shows in this blog post. I have two good reasons: 1) Because I can, and 2) Because it actually has something to do with the text.

So this week our assigned reading was Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe. For those unfamiliar with the text, it is about a man who sells his soul to the devil in exchange for power and knowledge.

You may be thinking, What?! Why would someone do such a crazy and stupid thing?!

Well, in one of favourite shows, Supernatural, this theme is one that is brought up often. What must be going on in someone’s head to make a deal with the devil, especially as, historically speaking, the devil doesn’t seem like a very trust-worthy guy.

In Supernatural, the main character’s have often made deals with demons and devils alike, usually for a good reason. In their cases, they do it to save family members, or to try to right a wrong. Sometimes even, to save the world

Unlike them, Faustus does not seem to do it for others, or the greater good. His reasons are for him, and eventually lead to his demise (surprise, surprise!).

This question is one I have always been curious about: in our day and age, what would it take for someone to make a deal with the devil? Knowing full well it may not end nicely?

What would possess someone to do something so risky? Extreme poverty, sickness, depression?

It makes you wonder what we as humans are capable of doing if we really want something enough.


Born to be different

So I happened by my copy of Antigone in my town’s used book store. I bought it before we had known what editions we would need, but somehow fate led me to buy the exact edition we would be using. It was a used copy, and there were some minor notes inside. One thing that struck me from the beginning was on page 20, the official first page of the play, there was a note beside the character description of Antigone.

Antigone daughter of Oedipus and Jocasta

Scribbled beside it in pencil it said:

– Born to oppose.

From the beginning of the play I tried to understand what the previous owner had meant. Having read Oedipus Rex, I immediately thought of the title character’s strife to break out of fate’s grasp. Both Antigone’s mother and father tried to deny fate, and opposed what the prophets had told them. But as we know, it didn’t work out well for either of them.

Could this be what the mysterious note meant?

Or could it have to do with the origins of Antigone’s name, as discussed by Professor Crawford today in his lecture. Anti means against, while gone has many translations. The one’s that fit most seem to be birth/motherhood/offspring,  bends/angles/corners, or gonos which means seed or semen. So could he or she have meant that Antigone’s own name means to be against bending to the will, to be against the role of woman in her time?

Maybe. But I also think that Antigone is less “Born to Oppose”, and more “Born ahead of her time”. From the beginning of the play she is shown as a strong female character, unafraid of Kreon like her sister Ismene. She has no fear of disobeying his rule, and doing what she believes is right. Her sister even says “We are women, born unfit to battle men” (23). Yet, nothing deters Antigone from her goal.

This could be because by this point she has nothing to lose (why does everyone always seem to die?!) but I like to think of it as her conscious decision to not let the rules of her time govern her. I’d like to think of her as some Athenian feminist.

So maybe I’ll never know exactly what the previous owner had meant, but reading this book, I don’t think either of us are far off.