Gayle Rubin

February 28, 2007

I’m going to try my best on this one, even though a lot of it went without me understanding .

Like Althusser, Rubin mentions the reproduction of labor.  However, Rubin takes that concept and applies it to housework.  She is saying that because traditionally it is women who do the housework, and since there are no wages associated with housework, this is perpetuating the oppression of women.  Like the worker returns each day to earn more wages, so to does the woman do housework each day, but without earning any wages.

I was a little confused as to what exactly kinship systems are.  On page 1669 Rubin writes, “Kinship systems are and do many things.  But they are made up of, and reproduce, concrete forms of socially organized sexuality.  Kinship systems are observable and empirical form of sex/gender systems.”  So, kinship systems are used to maintain a rigid structure in which women are kept inferior to men?  Is that what a kinship system is? Maybe?

I found the part of gifts to be pretty interesting.  On page 1671 it says, “women who are the most precious of gifts.  He argues that the incest taboo should best be understood as a mechanism to insure that such exchanges take place between families and between groups.”  First of all,  you shouldn’t need an outside mechanism to tell you that kissing your cousin just ain’t right. 

On 1672 it continues, “If women are the gifts, then it is men who are the exchange partners.”  This I can kind of see.  I think of marriage and how before a man proposes to the woman, he first asks the father’s permission.  And at the wedding, it is the father who gives his daughter away.  I guess this can be seen as the father offering his daughter as somewhat of a gift to another man. 

Those are the parts that I understood, the rest could use some explaining.


I want to read Watchmen again

February 25, 2007

With the conclusion of Watchmen, I was less than excited with having to read from the big book again.  And being posed with the question “What, then, is the reproduction of the conditions of production?” did not make the transition any easier. 

Althusser puts much focus on the schools and how they serve as a means of reproduction.  On page 1485 he asks “What do children learn in school?” and answers it with “they learn ‘know-how’.  Althusser feels that the schools are a mode in which the ruling ideology passes on its ideals to a younger generation, so that those ideologies will continue to live on.  He also believes school to be the dominant ideological State apparatus.  He writes of school, “it takes children from every class at infant-school age, and then for years, the years in which the child is most ‘vulnerable’, squeezed between the family State apparatus and the educational State apparatus, it drums into them, whether it uses new or old methods, a certain amount of ‘know-how’ wrapped in the ruling ideology.”  He feels the only thing children are learning in school is nothing that will be of any use to them, but will instead just teach them how to be followers of the state.   


I also understood his point about wages and how they too help in the reproduction of labour-power. (Page 1484)  A person will work in order to collect wages so that they will be able to purchase things they want and need.  And in order to be able to keep being able to buy those things that person must return to work so that they may obtain more wages.

On page 1488 I like the 4 step process in how to overcome the repressive state apparatus.  Although step 4 looks like it may take a little work.  Also, I found the metaphor of the building to explain infrastructure and superstructure to be helpful.

The End of Watchmen

February 21, 2007

I must first admit my sadness that goes along with the conclusion of this work.  This now means our reading will return to that of the anthology.  It was nice while it lasted I suppose.

So maybe Veidt is the smartest man in the world, his plan was very elaborate and he managed to pull it off with relative ease.  The only snag coming when the Comedian caught on, and saw something that even he couldn’t turn his head to.  Veidt’s plan raises an interesting question.  While it resulted in the loss of countless lives, his reasoning was that in the end it was for the greater good.  Uniting the world and thus putting off armageddon a little while longer.  So was it worth it?  Nite Owl and Dr. Manhattan sure thought so.  Dr. Manhattan believed in it so much he was willing to fry Rorschach.  I guess Veidt’s logic goes along with the whole you gotta break a few eggs, line of thinking.

I thought it was interesting how in the end the name of the fragrance has changed from nostalgia to millenium.  The change seems to go along with the fact that everything has changed.  Nothing is the same as when the book started, characters have died, Dr. Manhattan has left (again), Dan and Laurie change identities, and not to mention that whole millions of people dead thing.

There is one thing I don’t quite understand.  When Rorschach put his journal in the mail, I was wondering who there is that he would trust enough to send it to.  And then it ends up at the newspaper just sitting in a pile of other papers.  I can’t understand why he would send his personal thoughts to the newspaper.  Jameson, and his dislike for the media, would not agree with this move. 

More Watchmen

February 19, 2007

Ok, so a lot happens in chapters 4 through 9.  We’ll try to recap as well as maybe stick some insight in along the way.

In chapter 4 we get the origin of Dr. Manhattan.  And with Dr Manhattan there is a Superman-like situation, that is, a being of unlimited power but who uses that power to serve the greater good instead of their own needs.  And it’s interesting that in chapter 9 Dr. Manhattan tells Laurie “We are all puppets.”  That along with all his talk of actions being preordained raises a question that is not very new.  Do our actions have an impact, or is the ending already written? 

Also in chapter 4, we get the good doctor’s thoughts on The Comedian, “Blakeis interesting.  I have never met anyone so deliberately amoral…. As I come to understand Vietnam and what it implies about the human condition, I also realize that few humans will permit themselves such an understanding.  Blake’s different.  He understands perfectly…and he doesn’t care.”  And a little later in chapter 6, we get Rorschach’s thoughts on The Comedian, “Forceful personality.  Didn’t care if people liked him.  Uncompromising.  Admired that…. He understodd.  Understood man’s capacity for horrors and never quit.  Saw the world’s black underbelly and never surrendered.”  For everything that The Comedian does (rape, murder of woman carrying his child) the other characters almost seem to admire him for this understanding he seems to have of the world.

There was much nostalgia in the chapters, starting with Dan and Laurie reassuming their superhero personas.  Also, with chapter 8 starting with a conversation between Hollis Mason and Sally.  And at the end of chapter 8, the thugs run by a sign that says “nostalgia” on their way to attack Hollis.

A few questions I had from the reading: What is with that guy who killed his kids?  What’s the deal with the silhouette figures?  Did anyone else think it was a little messed up in the comic within the comic where the guy built a raft out of dead guys and took a bite out of a bird?  And I don’t really understand what the story is with Max Shea, the missing author. 


I’ll start by saying that Watchmen is pretty cool and by far one of the most enjoyable things I’ve had to read for a class assignment.  Having said that, I have no clue how to relate what happens in Watchmen to anything written by Jameson, Derrida, Williams, Saussure, or anyone else.  But maybe, had they included super heroes in their works, I may have better understood what they were trying to say.  So it may be a long shot, and most of it may not make sense, but I’ll try to relate some things from the writings of literary theorists to what I read in the comic book.

I believe there is an example of pastiche in Watchmen, and that comes from the formation of the Crimebusters.  The Crimebusters form following the example of the original super hero team The Minutemen.  This is pastiche because the Crimebusters are going off of what has already been established, without the mocking aspect that goes along with parody.  Also with Jameson, on page 1962 he writes of postmodernism, “It is also, at least in my use, a periodizing concept whose function is to correlate the emergence of new formal features in culture with the emergence of a new type of social life and a new economic order”  On page 10 of chapter 2, Captain Metropolis tells the Crimebusters that “new social evils emerge every day.”  So where postmodernism comes into play from the formation of new fads and concepts in society and culture, the Crimebusters must come together because of new evils and dangers to society.  Did any of that make any sense?

I can see Derrida liking the pharse “who watches the watchmen?”  He wanted to show that there are flaws in the concept of universal structure and there can never be a clear center.  In Watchmen, the people were not  comfortable leaving the job of their protection and safety in the hands of an unchecked group of heroes.  Thus, they saw the flaws of having a definite center and structure.  How about that, did that make any sense?

The character of Rorschach, the attitude of The Comedian, the man with the sign proclaiming the end of the world, and what happens with Doc Manhattan at the end of chapter 3, these are all things that I find interesting but as of yet cannot tie them with any of our readings.  Maybe it will come with further reading in Watchmen.


On page 1961 Jameson writes, “most postmodernisms mentioned above emerge as specific reactions against the established forms of high modernism.”  I sort of related this to what Derrida was going for, in that Derrida said there could not be a definite structure.  Jameson is saying that there is not set modernism, which is part of the reason why postmodernism is so difficult to define.

I understood the differences he gave between parody and pastiche.  And how it is impossible to have pastiche if language were to become heterogeneous because the basic concept of pastiche as well as parody is to play off the common and widely known norms.  And if everything were to become individualized and too specific, parody and pastiche would not be able to exist.

You have to admire any theorist who would make the decision to use Star Wars as a reference point in helping to explain his ideas.  I have to say it did help to explain the nostalgia mode.

Then we get to the Bonaventure Hotel.  This was a bit tricky, and I am going to need escalators and elevators explained a little more.  But other than that, I think I understand most of it.  When Jameson, on page 1968, writes, “the Bonaventure aspires to being a total space, a complete world, a kind of miniature city” and continues on page 1969 with “ought not to have entrances at all, since the entryway is always the seam that links the building to the rest of the city that surrounds it: for it does not wish to be a part of the city, but rather its equivalent and its replacement or substitute.  That is however, obviously not possible or practical.”  What I took from that is postmodernism would like to be its own separate entity with no connections anything else (it’s own complete world with no doors)  However, that is not possible. 

Also, when he writes on the “glass skin” on page 1969, “it is not even an exterior, inasmuch as when you seek to look at the hotel’s outer walls you cannot see the hotel itself, but only the distorted images of everything that surrounds it”  What I took from that is postmodernism does not have an “inside” to look at, it draws everything from what surrounds it and bases all off that.

Finally, I agreed with what he wrote on page 1974: “One is tempted to say that the very function of the news media is to relegate such recent historical experiences as rapidly as possible into the past”  It does seem that the news tends to find a particular story or two and will focus on them for a little while, but as soon as something new and better comes along,  the first story is long forgotten and pushed into the past.

Any sense of hope and “hey, I may be starting to get this stuff” taken from Saussure was thoroughly and effectively crushed upon reading Derrida.  I can compare it only to a team who is down 3 games to none in a 4 game series and who wins game 4, keeping hope alive, only to be very badly beaten in the next game and eliminated anyway.

It was hard enough to understand just what Derrida was saying, but I had an even more difficult time trying to figure out what exactly it had to do with language. 

It starts off right from the beginning, on page 915, with what I’m sure will be a topic of discussion in class: “The center is at the center of the totality, and yet, since the center does not belong to the totality (is not part of the totality), the totality has its center elsewhere.  The center is not the center.”  So just what is the center?  And does the center even know?

Then there’s incest-prohibition.  Two words, whose definition as I know them, really have no place in a literary discussion.  I did not understand why these words were being used.  Bricolage was another thing that was lost on me.  And seemingly out of nowhere this essay turned into being all about Levi-Strauss.

 After reading this essay, I think I could use some of that freeplay he was talking about.


February 3, 2007

Saussure writes of semiology that it is “A science that studies the life of signs within society.  Semiology would show what constitutes signs and what laws govern them”-page 962

What we took from that is that semiology is intended to by a system that isolates language and focuses on the building blocks of the process of attaching a word to a sign.  Each language is essentially a naming system with the words being different for each language.  Semiology would look to discover how it is that a language arrives at the naming process.

For example, “Stop” signs in Canada may have a different word on them, but based on color and shape you would still stop.