Thursday, April 22, 2010

Mister hide and dr. jekyll

One- sorry this is posted late; my internet at home went down last night.

What can one say about this novel; it’s a classic- one of the novels that started science fiction. One thing I love about this novel is the duality that exists between the characters. First, the obvious duality between dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde- dr. Jekyll is the up standing, handsome, moral, Freudian super-ego; while Mr. Hyde is the un-moral, animalistic, grotesquely undefinable, Freudian id. The duality between the two characters that exist with in the same frame- is at the core the same man. Mr. Hyde does only what Dr. Jekyll is afraid to do, what society prevents him from doing. Mr. Hyde does horrible things, some of them very vague. the duality that exists in this novel is comparative to that of schizophrenia but sadly- its a willing schizophrenia. I think it does bring some attention to the blight of schizophrenia.
Another duality is the male/male relationship and the severe lack of any significant female role. This was also present in Frankenstein. I think the lack of any female role is certainly something to pay attention to. The hollow male/male relationship between Mr. Utterson and Dr. Jekyll is a perfect example. These men have no pending business, or really anything to say, but because it is routine and the men are ‘old friends’, these men will forego all other social invitations to be with the other man. I also think the lack of any female presence is significant. I think this may be a sexual statement. Women during this time were not in men’s business- and this is a story about the professional Victorian man. I think the separation of the sexes and a woman’s place is loudly stated through its absence and its lack of significance with in the novel. The woman’s place was in the home, a vast realm removed from that of the man’s business world. This is opposite of Frankenstein because though there are no female characters; the want of the monster for a female creation, the want of a mate- creates a ghostly female presence for the novel as a whole. But the only possibility for a female presence is through Mr. Hyde’s vague experiences. Perhaps one of those ‘blocked’ experiences was of a sexual nature.
I think the absence of any male sexual experience is also significant. The Dr. Jekyll character wouldn’t been seen having sex because he represents the ideal Victorian man. He is smart, polished, sociable, and in his own realm; it would have been out of his staunch Victorian character to engage openly in sexual acts. As he is our narrator for a portion of the novel, his sexual experiences wouldn’t be written down for our view. I feel like Mr. Hyde should have sexual experiences, the lack of them is seemingly unfulfilling to me. As it is a Victorian novel sexual experiences are often coded and hidden- but here they are completely absent.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Split Personality

I'm going to write about something very close to my heart and after reading most of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, I think it's completely relevant to things that have happened in my life.

This novella seems to touch on a lot of different themes and ideas that are easy to relate to. The idea of the split personality is something that I can understand greatly. And although I am not writing about someone who suffers from a split personality disorder, I have lived my life with an alcoholic.

Like the characters of Mr. Hyde and Dr. Jekyll, this person used substances to morph into the kind of person that they wanted to be to be comfortable with situations and their life. Dr. Hyde uses the potion to morph himself into someone who has no conscious to try to cope with his bad urges so that he feels nothing for them just like an alcoholic uses alcohol to deal with uncomfortable situations or to suppress feelings of unhappiness or sadness that they find impossible to deal with outside of the use of substance.

After a while though, it becomes difficult to see the difference between the alcoholic and the person that is sober, just as Dr. Jekyll began to morph into Mr. Hyde unknowingly. The potion however, can only be used in higher and higher doses as it seems that it has little to know effect on helping Dr. Jekyll keep himself from changing and morphing into the evil that he always is trying to suppress.

In my life I have found that sometimes as the alcoholic gets further into their disease it begins to take a hold of them. It takes a hold of every aspect of their life and there comes a point where the affects are irreversible. It begins to affect everyone around them without the alcoholic even realizing what they are doing or who they are hurting.

This is exactly what happened with Jekyll and Hyde and I thought that it was a really interesting comparison to make since I have lived first hand with someone who I have seen morph and change right before my eyes into something that I knew they did not want to be but had no control over.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

the end of the editors narrative and the beginning of confessions

First, I want to say I miss-phrased in my past post- the priest is not a Catholic priest but a protestant minister.
After Robert takes George’s place, estate and money- George’s faithful friend, Mrs. Logan, tries to find his killer. She doesn’t think the person accused has actually done any harm to George. She finds a witness to the crime, a Bell Calvert; who is in rather scruffy condition and stands accused of breaking into Mrs. Logan’s residence. After she is acquitted of this crime, she agrees to tell her story to Mrs. Logan. From the story told Mrs. Logan deduces that George’s killer is in fact his devious religious brother Robert. With the information from the witness Mrs. Logan has enough evidence to go to the police. The authorities hurried to the estate where Robert and his biological mother now live, when the authorities arrive; they found both Robert and his mother gone. This is the conclusion of the editor’s narrative.
I find it ironic that the righteous and religious mother and son are the ones running from justice. Also, this brings to mind the title of the novel & how the novel satires the religious fantasism that existed in Europe during this time. The two ‘righteous’ characters are the ones who are actually sinners and on the run for a crime committed. Murder is an offense of the state and an offense of religion. But, the two ‘righteous’ characters still retain their former religious fortitude.
The Sinner’s Confessions begins with Robert’s side of the story instead of the out side narrative voice of the Editor’s Narrative. One would think this portion of the novel would be present to make Robert sound more sympathetic, more appealing to the reader, but in fact it makes him less sympathetic and almost cruel. Robert claims to have had a difficult life, first with his father’s abandonment and then his life living with the pastor. But as a child, he is a cocky bigot and tries to be better than those he sees as inferior to himself and even lies to get credit in the eyes of his elders. He is rough and cruel with his speech, and dislikes most people, even his own mother who he dislikes for her modesty. Although, he does say that he is a sinner, but justifies it because he doesn’t mean to sin it occurs by accident. Robert then tells of the most important occurrence in his life, meeting Gil. Gil looks very much like Robert and acts very much like Robert, only he does not participate in religious things with Robert. In fact, it kind of seems like Gil is in fact the devil or a daemon of the devil, he says that he is not a Christian. But where I stopped reading, the specifics of Gil’s situation are still vague. But I would find it ironic if Gill was the devil, because then not only is Robert an outlaw of the state, but he would be an outlaw of god as well.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Another cain and abel?

In the first half of the book, the focus is on the history of the two brothers, george & robert. Though they are of the same parentage, one is brought up by the biological father and the other is brought up by the priest of the biological mother. The mother who is passively absent from the boys’ life except in birth, was so fearful of her husband’s sinning ways that she split her sons apart. The ironic thing about the split is the son she wants on a righteous path is the one who strays. The son who is brought up in sin and indulgence is more seemingly proper. The brother brought up by the biological father (george) is privileged and the golden child of his father. He has no real knowledge of his brother, only relative knowledge. He knows he has one but not the specifics of the situation. The brother brought up by the priest of the mother (robert) is a religious zealot, who has no poise or grace and is in almost every way the opposite of his brother. The brothers meet during a tennis match where george is playing and robert interferes with the game in any way feasibly possible. He stands in the middle of the match trying to impede play, and even after being hit and discouraged several times, the boy still returns. Though this shows some tenacity in wanting to be a presence in his brother’s life, I think it was gone about in the wrong way. The brother brought up by the priest is very jealous of the privilege and station that his brother george has. He sees it as his right, his place and has very childish wishes and wants regarding the situation. george tries to tell his father of the situation at hand and how his brother is trying to insinuate himself into the life that george has, but the father just tells the boy to let it roll off his back and not pay it any mind. This was a horrible mistake and led to the death of his beloved son. The ‘religious’ brother eventually kills off his other brother in a rage that is reminiscent of Cain and Abel. The father shortly follows the son into the grave leaving robert to inherit what he believed to be his in the first place. The brother of god doesn’t feel remorse for his actions but believes that he has done no wrong either to his dead brother or his dead father. The rage and discontentment that the brother feels is not likely to be soothed with his father’s estate or his father’s money. It also leaves the remaining brother living on the seedy side of life, he has killed his remaining biological family, one directly and the other as a result of his actions. The brother of god feeling no remorse for murder, a religiously punishable offense is interesting to note, one would think growing up in a strict religious background would cause the brother to lead a more ‘straight and narrow’ kind of life, instead of one full of murder, lies and stealing.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Better to be a Cyborg than a Goddess?

Donna Haraway’s article “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century” was extremely difficult to understand. I will not even pretend to understand it by writing an objective summary. Instead, here are just a few of my thoughts on the text.

The title of the text “A Cyborg Manifesto” immediately brings to mind Karl Marx’s book entitled “A Communist Manifesto” which extensively discussed his vision for the working class, and communism as a whole.

Haraway starts off by announcing that her work will be one of irony and blasphemy, meant to be taken seriously. She says “Perhaps more faithful as blasphemy is faithful, than as reverent worship and identification. Blasphemy has always seemed to require taking things very seriously.” By saying this, Haraway is pointing out that although irony and blasphemy come across with a humorous voice, it takes serious consideration and critique, and often involves more dedicated belief than reverence itself.

Haraway defines a cyborg as “a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction” and later says “we are all chimeras, theorized and fabricated hybrids of machine and organism; in short, we are cyborgs.” If her definition of a cyborg is merely the merging of social reality and fiction, then our lives are indeed no different from that of a cyborg. Although we are defined by our natural condition, our “reality”, we go through our lives performing, role playing, and in essence, creating a fiction of ourselves. If our own representations of ourselves are not even truthful, how different from a machine that generates its own identity are we?

The author then launches into a discussion regarding the lack of origin for cyborgs, which I was not able to follow. Since the essay is a reflection for feminism, it may be that Haraway is attempting to point out that the cyborg is a creature devoid of natural origin, however as humans we can point back to a natural origin. This origin has given excuse for generations to reduce women to the role of child bearing, due to the natural functions involved with the human body. This attitude, however, reduces women to a tool, only as good as their bodies.

After a discussion of the mind and body of women as tools, Haraway gives a list of the places of women and how these places have been defined and re-defined through time. These places are: the home where she is at the mercy of men, the market where she is merely a consumer, the workplace where she experiences sexual division of labor, the state where she is used for office work, the school where she is not considered for mathematical intelligence, the clinic-hospital where her purpose of reproduction often brings her, and the church where she is given no authority.

Toward the end of the essay, Haraway makes a comparison on how we can treat machines and organisms. She says “…Machines could be animated—given ghostly souls to make them speak or move or to account for their orderly development and mental capacities. Or organisms could be mechanized—reduced to body understood as resource of mind.” Here is where I believe she makes her chief point of the essay. She uses the metaphor of attempting to “humanize” a cyborg and override the reality that it is a machine to show that the exact opposite has been done to women. Society has turned women into a “lesser object” than men, incapable of legitimized thought, despite the fact that females are endowed with the same mental capabilities as males. If a living, breathing human being with a soul can be turned into merely a tool to reproduce males, then what is wrong with elevating a non-gendered machine to be our companions?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Mary Shelley Frankenstein. Some initial thoughts about it

I have decided to post some thoughts about the novel. The story is something completely different from the Mansfield Park and the poetry that we have discussed in the class. I am not a big fan of science fictions, but this one seems to be very interesting so far.
The preface of every book is very important for a reader. It is something that the author wants you to know before you start reading the story. Usually it contains a purpose, an author’s approach and a method he or she uses in the book. He or she tries to put a reader into a right direction. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley is not an exception.
The event that has occurred in the book is not impossible from the scientific point of view, but the author describes her work as a product of imagination. I believe that some events in science have contributed to Shelley’s decision to create a novel like Frankenstein. It almost sounds like she is apologizing for creating something that contradicts the rules of human nature. The novel could be interpreted as imagination vs. reality. It was created to amuse the readers. She seems to be tired of novels describing every day life, marriage market and attempts to originate the literature of the Romantic period. She reminds me Coleridge and his desire for supernatural forces and powers, only this time it is not a poetry, but fiction.
The letters at the beginning of the book are intended to lead the readers into the beginning of the novel. It also could be introduced as a preface to it. The whole story is flashback of a stranger that Captain Walton met.
The location and social status of the protagonist is distinguished in the first lines of the novel. The story is going to be about a family and events that will occur within it.
The content of the story is not only interesting from the literary and scientific perspectives, but also from the religious point of view. I mean the reaction of Christian world on the production of a human kind using only methods of science. It probably took a while for the readers to recognize this novel as a great example of fiction writing.

imagination vs. images

Last class we met and we talked in great length about this idea of visual versus language. Throughout the Keats section of poetry we saw this theme come up many times in his poems, with describing physical objects. In his poems we are presented with words that depict a physical image. This emphasizes Keats feeling of permanance and the opposition to mortality and temporariness. The images he describes the subject leaving little if any room for our own imagination to explore possibilities. We can relate this to Shelleys arguement over intellectual beauty, and what really makes something beautiful. We can see how Keats feels, there being beauty in permanace and things we can see that inspire us. Keats writes about this one kind of beauty and art, but makes his own by trying to describe it to us which leaves us open to imagine what it could possibly look like. With Ode on a Grecian Urn, we see the sense of permanance that Keats wants us to relate to beauty because the Ode is to what is on the Urn, to what makes it beautiful. At the end of the poem he ends with Beauty is truth, truth beauty. This line does not explain itself in the poem so we are left to wonder, what is beauty and what is the truth in beauty?
That question brought up another in my mind of whether or not the difference between visual and language is more or less determined by values? What does the observer, or reader find more beautiful, or more truthful. Seeing something tangible with beauty already created, or a description of something so the imagniation can create something beautiful. I gave the example of movies and books. Like the Harry potter books, I enjoyed the books much more. My opinion is so because with the books, we were given basic descriptions of what people and places looked like, how situations happened, and how we wanted to view the characters intentions. Yet when the movies came out, although they were pretty awesome :), the characters were already made up a certain way, dressing a certain way, acting a certain way, and what we had imagined was questioned as to being wrong or incorrect. I feel this is the same way with artwork and nature. We can see it and have this feeling of awe and contentment from it's beauty, but what we see is what it is, no more no less. When someone tries to tell us what something or somewhere looked like, our imagination creates it's own image of what beauty is. So is our beauty truth, or truth beauty?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Six Degrees of Separation

Essentially, in his book "Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism", Benedict Anderson is showing us a shift away from the sense of community found in small towns and cities where lives where interconnected and focused around religion, to a new sense of community based on the fact that we feel connected with other people in similar situations as us. He says “Beneath the decline of sacred communities, languages and lineages, a fundamental change was taking place in modes of apprehending the world, which, more than anything else, made it possible to “think” the nation.” Here Anderson shows the shift from a focus on divine influence and the close knit communities formed around it to a more philosophical approach which allowed a sense of nationalism to come out in the minds of the people.

Anderson goes on to talk about the fact that prior to the rise of novels and newspapers, the “common” people were not truly able to think for themselves and really grasp the concept of life. Formerly, the “latin-reading clerisy” or intellectual elite were the only ones who could read. These clerisy therefore defined reality for the illiterate people who trusted in their interpretation. This continued through parish priests who were, in essence, the ones who communicated to God on behalf of their congregation. What the priest received from God was what the parishioners must accept as truth. This kept the communities close together because they depended on that face-to-face connection with the priest in order to define their concept of truth and their understanding of reality.

The impact of the novel’s imagined world was that the reader suddenly had the opportunity to “play God” as it were as they read. The reader of the novel is able to sit back and read a story from the perspective of multiple people and see what is going on in each of their minds, even though none of those characters are aware of each other’s thoughts. This new representation of thought and imagination opened up the idea that even though people do not personally know everyone else living in their community or even country, they are all interconnected by their personal ties, and their lives are all interwoven. In this way, the eye’s of society were opened through the novel not only to the consequences of each person’s life affecting another, but also of a new sense of nationalism, that each person in the country truly was connected, even though they may never meet face to face.

Anderson next described the increase of this affect through newspapers in the modern era. Newspapers created a larger imagined world as people began to see the world and realize that just because something disappears from the headlines does not mean that it has ceased to exist. For example, we know that when the newspapers stop reporting about Haiti, that does not mean that Haiti has recovered from poverty. It still exists, even though we do not personally interact with it.

My understanding of nationalism through imagined community in the chapter came when he described the daily “consumption” of newspapers. You read the newspaper once in the morning and you have consumed it, knowing that tomorrow you will consume another one. But you also know that every morning as you read the newspaper, millions of other people are reading the same thing at the same time, even though you are not reading it in the same room as each other, nor do you even know who they are. This creates a sense of community through common action, although separated in distance. This community is not a community in the same way that a church was a community to those in the middle ages. Instead it is a community imagined by us as we relate to others in the world who are similar to us.

His explanation of juxtaposition throughout the chapter reminded me of what we call “6 degrees of separation”, where we claim that every person in the world is separated from everyone else by no more than six degrees. For instance, if you know me, and I know a cousin of mine in Holland, and my cousin goes to school with a student from Britain, and the student in Britain has met Prince William, then you are only four degrees separated from Prince William. We may not be aware of his actions every day, but he wakes up every morning just as you wake up. Even though you do not talk to him every day, he still exists and can be part of your community.

Anderson summed up his explanations for the rise of the imagined community by describing the following three occurrences which led to it:

  • When people lost the idea that truth was only accessible to a certain group of people. For example the fact that only pastors could contact God or only clerisy could interpret philosophy. Novels and newspapers gave everyone the ability to interpret the world around them, to see the progression of time.
  • When people moved away from believing that society revolved around the social elite, such as royalty and those born to be socially affluent. We see this shift in what we have studied this semester when people began to be less concerned with the outward appearance and more concerned with the inward state. Social mobility became a new possibility.
  • When people were no longer bound by the concept of temporality and saw the past, present, and future laid out as a continuous stream, with cause and effect.

How does this affect Mansfield Park, Jane Austen, and the novel? When the novel appeared and allowed people to see the individual, to see themselves through literature, an extended world was opened to them. It brought a new way of seeing the world as connected. For instance, when Sir Thomas goes to Antigua to perform business, the reader sees now how the lives of those in Antigua directly affect the lives of those in Mansfield Park, even though the two communities may never mix and the individuals at Mansfield Park may not be overtly aware of the actions in Antigua. Although residents of the estate which John Yates leaves before arriving at Mansfield Park may never meet the Bertram's, their attempted performance of a play incites the Betrams' interest in theatre, creating a larger community.

Ultimate, community was no longer defined by land and property connected, nor by the direct interaction of individuals centered around a common action. Instead, individuals were now given the opportunity to imagine a larger community by defining their associations through common thought. Individuals began to identify with others not based on a common interaction, but based on new ties.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Land and tigers and bears

When I first started to read Culture and Imperialism, I was reading it with Kalie out loud and I looked at her and said, I do not understand half of what this Said man is saying. I can understand the part about Mansfield Park, but I could not really connect it. It wasn't until Dr. Bowser started to put the essay in more lame terms and I was able to see some of those connections. While drawing the diagrams on the board today so many ideas and thoughts popped into my mind. Have I been reading this Mansfield Park with the wrong interpretation all along? Have I been watching the relationships take place and unfold, while neglecting the more important ideas Austen is conveying. The title alone, Mansfield Park, is a way of showing us that this was going to be about a "colony". Within a colony many things take place and are to be determined, who is in charge, social order and rules, limits, space, relocation, dislocation. Edward Said connects this so well to the imperialistic actions England took so long ago to conquer lands they wished to improve and make their own. With Mansfield Park, it's run by Sir Thomas, who is a patirarchal and authoratative role in our novel. With his rule, there was a specific social order at the house, and despite Mrs. Norris' objections, Sir Thomas stood strong. The men, Edmund and Thomas knew where they stood in the household, Tom following his father to Antigua which brought on another idea of colonization. With Edmund then the next in command, Fanny saw more respect and attention than she would have if Sir Thomas was there. It's almost as if we can view Fanny as a piece of property. She is just there, no one pays much attention to her, take her for granted. Edmund shows tender, love and care and this bright woman begins to blossom, who ends up becoming a huge asset to his life. As for Maria marrying Mr. Rushworth there is a different transfer there, no love but lust, a concern for wealth and social acceptance. Maria wants to be in possession of land so she feels a sense of worth. The family overlooks the absence of love but sees the inheritance. It is an improvement to their social standing. When we look at the instances that have to do with land in this novel is has something to do with improvement whether it is social status, economic wealth, or personal gain. The imperialistic underlyings in this novel change the outlook of why this novel was so influential and not just another Austen love story.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Miss Mary Crawford

Mary Crawford has been a character that I ignore while I read Mansfield. There are a lot of personality traits that make her stand out. Mary is gives us a view at her desires both internal and external. When we talk about internal desires and self-policing, I think there is an apparent example with Mary and her desire for Edmund. She has this longing for love and relationships and friendship with Fanny but remains in check to who she is and what she wants. She is of higher class and with that expects more when it comes time to pick or be arranged with another. She has ideas of incomes and occupations that will fulfill a certain societal need for her external desires. She even critiques Edmunds name. “ I mean to be too rich to lament or to feel any thing of the sort. A large income if the best recipe for happiness I ever heard of.” (197) Here we can clearly see the difference in desires just between Edmund and Mary and their interpretations of what they believe to be appropriate for their needs. Their differences in upbringings and personalities play a large role in their differentiating views. Mary continues to display a contradictory role throughout the novel playing with Edmund’s heart. She tugs at the corners giving him false hope then attacks him with opinions that are the antithesis to what he believes and holds close. So far in the novel we’ve looked upon Maria as the one who is dangerous with love and lust and her flirtatious demeanor with Henry, but now that she is out of the picture, that new villain becomes Mary. We see this in the play with Maria and Henry and Mary and Edmund are in the background. Mary gave hints that she wanted Edmund to play her complimentary role, and the words literally spell out I love you.
The interesting part of it all is Mary befriends Fanny and takes a liking to her. She gives Fanny the chance to be a person with an opinion and a mind of her own. However, I sense ulterior motives that Mary uses Fanny to one, make herself feel better about herself, and two, to bring her closer to Edmund.
Mary may just be another character in this novel, but to me she is one of the antagonists.