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?