Wednesday, April 14, 2010

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Monday, March 15, 2010

fixated and stuck

I see Alan as classically stuck between the pre-Oedipal and Oedipal moment, and this fixated state of his psychical development is the underlying root of his psychosis. (Eagleton 158) Considering the Strang family’s dynamics, Allen had no chance, which, ironically, his mother so fervently denies, “We’ve done nothing wrong …No, doctor. Whatever’s happened has happened because of Alan. Alan himself. Every soul is itself. If you added up everything we ever did to him, from his first day on earth to this, you wouldn’t find we did this terribly thing – because that’s him; not just all of our things added up.” (77 emphasis in original) Continuing w/a Freudian reading, everything they did to him is PRECISELY why he did what he did. His mother smothered him with her religious beliefs, verbally denied even the simplest facts about sexuality, explaining it in such excruciatingly vague terms, “…if God willed, he would fall in love one day. That his task was to prepare himself for the most important happening of his life. And after that, if he was lucky, he might come to know a higher love still…” (28-29) Between this absurd explanation about adult sexuality, and his father’s avid denial of his own sexuality when he shamefully runs into Allen and Jill at the porn theater, it’s no wonder that Allen’s sexual impulses are confused. The only sexual experience he has had, other than his failed attempt with Jill that instigated the horrific killings, was with a horse, his personal symbol of God. One other point in the book that I thought was interesting, and supports both a Lacanian interpretation, and my earlier assertion that Allen is fixated between the pre-Oedipal and Oedipal moment, is the fact that Allen is illiterate. This is most appalling to Frank, who blames his wife, “She doesn’t care if he can hardly write his own name, and she a school teacher that was. Just as long as he’s happy, she says…” (27) So he has not entered Lacan’s symbolic order, again, because of his overly attached mother. I would maintain that Allen has no hope of entering society as a healthy adult until he has passed through the Oedipal moment, and entered the symbolic order, but even this, according to Dysart at the end of the play, would not necessarily heal him, or make his life meaningful, and in fact the doctor concludes that ironically it is he, the Psychiatrist, the highest signifier in the asylum which is the prime social structure of the play, who is in need of meaning, “…That boy has known a passion more ferocious than I have felt in any second of my life. And let me tell you something: I envy it. …I’m jealous, Hester. Jealous of Alan Strang” (80-81).

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Mirror stage: a psychotic wielding a phallus




In this scene I find significant references to, most obviously, Lacan’s Mirror Stage, but also Freud’s tripartite psyche, Darrida’s concepts surrounding “Difference”, Foucault’s arguments put forth in “Discipline and Punish” and, of course, Saussure’s linguistic work, which make most of those previously named possible, and to that end, even Plato’s theories of mimesis, but for this small entry I’ll focus on Lacan’s Mirror Stage.   Travis, Di Niro’s character in Taxi Driver is clearly psychotic, but perhaps more importantly, he is excruciatingly alienated. Through slow motion pans and held frames on mundane objects, Scorsese allows the audience to view the world through Travis’s lens, the gaze of an outside observer. In this scene, he, likes the child confronting her reflected mirror image, is captivated by his reflected image and simultaneously forced into the Imaginary order, a diachronic structure that initiates struggle between the ego and the body. At this stage it becomes apparent that the Ego, or what the psyche had known of its Ego, was based on a false understanding, or, to use Lacan’s term, “Meconnaissance,” and at this point the subject becomes separated from itself and aware of Other. It is therefore not surprising that Travis treats his image so aggressively, and in the closing shot aims his phallic gun directly at: himself, his image, and the audience. The uncertainty of the object in this scene is evidence of slippage between signifier and signified. His use of a gun is a desperate attempt to wield the most powerful signifier in this process, or, again, to use Lacan’s term, the “phallus” as the “transcendental signifier” which is the privileged signifier in this process of psycho-social development. 

a man's development, arrested in oral, anal, or phallic?



The above ["sploshing"] scene is taken from Showtime's "Secret Diary of a Call Girl," a series based on a book by a London call girl, a book that began as a blog of her more interesting clients. I found this scene on Youtube, where a man, a self proclaimed splosher, had written of the actress, Belle, the following:
Did you see Billie as Belle when she did Sploshing on that Tele program? That's the best scene out of them all I don't just love Sploshing my self I also love watching Sploshing. Hey Billie Piper you ever still fancy like Sploshing again you can always contact me on my Link and I'll put some Sploshing Videos up for you. I'm an expert at Sploshing I've had experience when I was a kid at Sploshing. You wanna a Master to show you a few things or two of Sploshing contact me at anytime Billie.

and from the "mirror.ca.uk", an expert splosher blogger explains that:
THE FACTS…
Who?
‘It’s often people with very detailed, technical jobs like computers or accountants who enjoy sploshing. Women enjoy it because it is sensual, fun, and a chance to really let their hair down,’ says Bill. ‘Men enjoy it because they can throw aside any inhibitions or performance anxieties. Of course, it also involves touching when things get a little messy and there is definitely something sensual about gooey substances and textures. On the other hand some couples just like dressing up as clowns and throwing pies at each other, purely for fun.

Hm... what would Freud say about "sploshing" and the people who enjoy it? In the case of the video clip, where the woman is a prostitute, I imagine it would be safe to assume that he would disregard them both as neurotic at best, and possibly psychotic - her for living outside of societal norms, and he not only for participating in such aberrant behavior, but for drawing both sexual, and general, satisfaction from the practice. Yet i cannot decide what stage Freud would assign the man to. Food, in general, would be an oral fixation, the genital focus is obvious, for him, and yet the way that he talks about getting "dirty" and smears it all over himself and her brings anal fixations to mind. Of course, it's food, not feces, but there is something "gross" about it in the same way a child passing through that stage is - the desire and follow through of covering everything with gooey, squishy matter and then eating it seems undeniably anal.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

traversing the axes of language

I’ve been through three different video, and one music clip, trying to find a modern text on which to apply concepts from Saussure’s “Course in General Linguistics.” I finally gave up, assuming my problem stemmed from a basic misunderstanding of linguistics and linguistic theory, and that I’ve only ever “applied” literary theory to texts, while Saussure’s concepts are for linguists to…do whatever it is that they do.

But I’m terribly stubborn, and had spent so much frustrating time trying to make my seemingly simplistic enough idea work that even after my small realization, I kept at it for a while. So after reading more about “The Course…’ than I’d ever wish on anybody, I have realized something of value: my basic problem with Saussure, though I’ve always thought I liked his ideas specifically because he introduced the idea of binaries and the conflict between each, of difference, as being the source of dialectic meanings, actually challenge my own post structural bias. At this point it seems an obvious enough problem, but it had eluded me because my own beliefs depend on this same structural fact of language, so the problem I was having wasn’t specifically with Saussure’s ideas of structural binaries, but specifically about their role in the creation of meaning. As a structuralist, he believes meaning is created by these binaries, and I, while appreciating their powerful role, believe that meaning is occluded by these same binaries…

After thought: the woman speaking in the last few minutes of the clip below (you have to sit through the whole thing to get to the final minutes – sorry!), uses the classic idea of catharsis exactly as I’ve read Aristotle use it. This surprised me, primarily because I’ve never heard it used in modern times this way, and also because of the irony: the movie, with tragic endings on many levels and story lines, offers no such relief (then again I was crying at that point, and it was the second time I had watched the movie, so it’s possible I don’t know what I’m talking about!). But my main point, or moment of illumination, came when this fact forced me to look-up and seriously consider the structural rules of “Tragedy.” This was a true epiphany, as I hadn’t, up until that moment, appreciated in any way what value the Formalists, with their endless rules and categories, offered.


Monday, February 15, 2010

Meaning Maker; Author, Text, Interpreter?

As I mentally wade through the various schools of literary criticism, it’s hard to keep an open mind. Hussler’s phenomenological reduction feels too close to Plato’s Forms, too elitist to get excited about, to speak of “not just, say, the experience of jealousy or of the colour red, but the universal types or essences of these things, jealousy or redness as such” asks of the reader to not only “ignore, or ‘put in brackets’, anything which is beyond our immediate experience…” (Eagleton 55) but to surely separate herself from any communal impression. To suggest an understanding that is at once universal and entirely subjective seems, if not impossible, well, meaningless – meaningless and isolating. This view contradicts Reception theory’s novel assertion: “For literature to happen, the reader is quite as vital as the author” (74) by removing the artist from her work and oddly placing the reader’s head, disembodied, and floating in the cosmos. And while I’ve surely been influenced by Eagleton’s Marxist views, I can’t help but suspect that by advising such a reading, theses critics are supporting an oppressive State, one in which art, or divinity, or knowledge are privileged endowments, serving to maintain an existing power structure.

I offer the photo below as a sample text. If I remove my knowledge of history or context, if I “put in brackets” all that I know of the subject and its rituals, what is to stop me from reading this as a moment before a punishment? The darker skinned man with a pinched grimace, holding one hand, open, in defense, probably of his character, and the other, on what looks like a block of some kind, help by a woman, also with dark skin, smiling with wicked or insane interest at the man in question, and the back of an older, markedly lighter skinned man… should I not presume that the grimacing man is on trial for stealing, and his evil left hand is placed on a chopping block as he prepares to pay whatever exacting punishment the older man will order?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Modern Mythologies: Echoes from New Criticts and Russion Formalists




I wonder what the New Critics, or the Russian Formalists, would think of the work of Jonathan Harris.

In this video above, Harris, a web programmer and “modern day storyteller,” introduces three of his projects, all websites: 1) We Feel Fine, 2) the Yahoo Time Capsule, and 3) Universe. Each offer unique ways into personal stories by manipulating means of data collecting (passive observation vs. direct questioning) and/or by mathematically altering the presentation of the collected data, using his proprietary web programs, so that they display information in widely varied, creative forms. In this way, we are able to read private stories presented publicly and arranged with other, similar tales from around the world, that when grouped in certain ways, become individualized accounts of archetypal events, as the subtitle of the Universe project, “revealing our modern day mythology,” presented through the “metaphor of an interactive night sky” seems to indisputably confirm. In Terry Eagleton’s, Literary Theory, he presents the New Critics “…insisting that the author’s intentions in writing, even if they could be recovered, were of no relevance to the interpretation of his or her text…meaning was public and objective, inscribed in the very language of the literary text…’ (42). Each of these web projects support this assertion of New Criticism, as the personal narratives, once directly attached to their writers, become public tales of archetypal experiences, completely detached from both the author, his context, and even the reader, who at any given moment is presented with a version of the text modified by the computer program into something wholly different than what the author wrote, even though the program is often doing no more than categorizing and reorganizing the data. These stories stand entirely on their own, even as they tell universal stories repeated around the globe.

The Russian Formalist assertion that “The manipulation of representational devices may create a semblance of reality and allow one to have the impression of gazing through glass, but it is the devices alone that produce that impression…” (Rivkin 3) corresponds directly to Harris’s work that creates new meaning from old, entirely through the manipulative devices of his programs.
While the Formalists focus on literary devices “(allusion, metaphor, symbolism, etc.)”, Harris relies on varied data gathering systems (direct questioning/passive observation/public new services) to produce new meanings (Rivkin 3).

I hope you, my reader, have time to watch the video clip and follow the link to his latest project “Universe,” so you can respond with your own impressions.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Diad shmiad

As a quick follow-up to my placement of Plato’s chair as TWICE removed from ideal: I’ve just read a fellow scholar’s interpretation of this chair as ONCE removed. (Already the distance has almost ruined this writer’s argument! By twice removed, I had created a triad, while this wise, though argumentative man had insisted that it was once removed, and therefore binary.) His argument was that the idea of the ideal within the craftsman’s mind that he used as a model while constructing the chair was NOT in fact an additional stage of removal, but part of the Ideal, somehow magically implanted in his soul before he began his earthly existence. Phew! Okay, then, while common sense urges me against challenging scholars likely more learned than myself, I will continue to maintain my above triadic interpretation of Plato’s forms, and I do so, while simultaneously maintaining the possibility of the binary interpretation: why should each idea exclude the other? Really. Isn’t that more of the same, typical, boring, shortsighted binary reductionism that I’ve read strongly criticized by other noteworthy scholars?

Monday, February 1, 2010

forms..forms...forms...

Reading Plato’s discussion of forms reminded me of my recent introduction to Facebook. Everybody seemed to say with a snicker “welcome to your new addiction,” and I didn’t know what the fuss was about until I logged in. The rest is history, a history that anyone reading this online reflection most likely knows well. (Ha! How silly of me to sit here writing a “reflection” on the ideas of Plato, itself a small act of mimesis, but to do so typing onto this image of a page that I will shortly copy and paste in to this blog post…oops! I’m already so far removed from anything Plato wrote, I wonder, should I bother to continue?) It was my third week on FB when I read a friend’s post “I’m going to do it! I’m going to Twitter. You all better come with me; don’t leave me stranded. I have to know that I exist outside of FB!” This statement would have struck me as confusing enough, had I not just recently begun trying to make sense of FB’s draw. “Is this social or anti-social? Is it a way to be social without the messiness of actually having to deal with your friends, in the flesh? I feel like I’m being more social, but it’s still just me, the computer, and all of these books...” So, you see where I’m going, by now, I hope. Plato’s forms: the mundane chair you sit on, the idea of the perfect chair channeled by the craftsman who built the chair, and the ultimate, pure, TRUE chair. So, there is: my friend of flesh and blood, the binary codes delivering her magically onto FB (and now, I hope, Twitter), and the representation of my friend in these imaginary “destinations” as she seeks to prove that she exists outside of just a single such place. And then I wonder about the implications this has when Plato’s ideas are crushed on them: is she, her perfect form, the “her” in blood and skin, or the ethereal representation of her online?

I’m afraid I haven’t drawn any real conclusions.

Though I know that I want to add, perhaps in a future post, how this relates to a myriad of other connections that I know, somehow, if assembled just right, could form some interesting, if not meaningful, conclusions:

Plato

Supernatural, pure idea of Chair – an ideal form

Idea of Chair used to copy as craftsman builds one to for sitting


Chair


Freud

Super Ego (over I)

ID (the it)

ego (the I)


Saussure

Signifier

sign

signified


Lacon (what the hell)

Phallus

Transcendental Signifier

penis


Catholicism 1

God

Priest

people


Catholicism 2

God

Holy Spirit

people

(for further reading, I suggest the following essay written by a fellow blog writer, CSTEDDY, at: http://b1a3.blogspot.com/2009/05/essay-on-platos-tripartite-nature-of.html ), which also relates to, of course, Freud’s three tiered model of the psyche