On 1648 Foucault writes of sex, “As if in order to gain mastery over it in reality, it had first been necessary to subjugate it at the level of language, control its free circulation in speech, expunge it from the things that were said, and extinguish the words that rendered it too visibly present.”  What I got from that is that on its own, “sex” is something too abstract to be roped in and be controlled.  So in order to control it, it must first be put into a form that can be controlled, language. 

I did a little reading in Barry, and found that Foucault was into new historicism.  “New historicism is resolutely anti-establishment, always implicitly on the side of liberal ideals of personal freedom and accepting and celebrating all forms of difference and ‘deviance’.” (Barry, 175.)  After reading “The History of Sexuality,”  it is easy to see why Foucault would subscribe to new historicism.  Through the essay, he is obviously against any form of establishment, and thinks that sex is something that should be kept on an individual level.  In his wikipedia profile (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michel_Foucault) it also lists Althusser and Marx as being influences on Foucault.

On page 1653 Foucault mentions Freud’s Three Essays on Sexuality.  And while I was on wikipedia, I figured I’d look to see what they were all about.  “In short, Freud argued that “perversion” was present even among the healthy, and that the path towards a mature and normal sexual attitude began not at puberty but at early childhood (see psychosexual development). Looking at children, Freud claimed to find a number of practices which looked innocuous but were really forms of sexual activity (thumb sucking was a primary example, the implications being fairly obvious). Freud also sought to link his theory of the unconscious put forward in The Interpretation of Dreams (1899) and his work on hysteria by means of positing sexuality as the driving force of both neuroses (through repression) and perversion. It also included the concepts of penis envy, castration anxiety, and the Oedipus complex.”  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Essays_on_the_Theory_of_Sexuality)

On  1655, Foucault mentions a new kind of school, “Salzmann even organized an experimental school which owed its exceptional character to a supervision and education of sex so well thought out that youth’s universal sin would never need to be practiced there.  And with all these measures taken, the child was not to be simply the mute and unconscious object of attentions prearranged between adults only; a certain reasonable, limited, canonical, and truthful discourse on sex was prescribed for him– a kind of discursive orthopedics.”  A special school where kids go to learn about sex?  With the way things are today, that may be necessary.  It seems today that nobody wants to talk to kids about sex, parents expect schools to do it, and schools expect parents to do it. 

I think my favorite part from the essay is in this section still on page 1655 when he describes the outcome of the children’s sex education in this school, “The replies were enlightened, offered without shame or embarrassment.  No unseemly laughter intervened to disturb them–except from the very ranks of an adult audience more childish than the children themselves, and whom Wolke severely reprimanded.”  This just goes to show that no matter how old you are, you may still not be mature enough to talk about sex.  

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The End of Disgrace

March 21, 2007

So in the last section of Disgrace we have David leaving the farm as he and Lucy continue to grow further apart.  I thought it was interesting that David goes to the home of Melanie’s family, and then to her father’s office in order to speak with him.  I’m not sure what David felt this visit would accomplish.  I also found it a bit odd how receptive Melanie’s father was to him, going so far as to invite David over to dinner.  It almost seems as if Melanie’s father was enjoying seeing David in the position that he is now in, on page 167 he says to David, “how are the mighty fallen!”  Melanie’s father seems to be relishing this opportunity, it leads me to believe that David had been right before when he figured it was the parents who pushed Melanie into filing the complaint.  And Melanie’s father is admiring the results of his work.

It seems David has learned nothing since his time away.  On his visit to Melanie’s house, he is immediately attracted to and lusts after her younger sister.  David also goes to view the play Melanie is in, and it is at the play David shows that he is not over Melanie and has not been able to let go, “Yet when they laugh at Melanie’s lines he cannot resist a flush of pride.  Mine! he would like to say, turning to them, as if she were his daughter.  And it is there that he runs into the boyfriend again.

We also learn that Lucy has become pregnant as a result of the incident.  When David asks her about it, Lucy explains that she will keep the child despite it being a result of rape.  David is made very uncomfortable by Lucy’s situation, he does not like the fact that Pollux is around all the time, and he is very upset by Petrus’ offer to marry Lucy.  Lucy however seems apathetic to all this.  She is willing to go along with anything and refuses to listen to David about leaving the farm.  On page 208 she tells David, “Everything had settled down, everything was peaceful again, until you came back.  I must have peace around me.  I am prepared to do anything, make any sacrifice, for the sake of peace.”  Lucy is willing to accept the child, accept one of the thugs living near her, and accept Petrus’ offer, not because she wants any of these things but because they will make things simpler. 

There are two passages towards the end which I found interesting.  On page 216 there is a conversation between David and Lucy, “You should try to be a good person too”  “I suspect it is too late for me.  I’m just an old lag serving out my sentence.  But you go ahead.  You are well on your way.”  And then on page 218, “The truth is, he has never had much of an eye for rural life, despite all his reading in Wordsworth.  Not much of an eye for anything, except pretty girls; and where has that got him?  Is it too late to educate his eye?”  I think both of these quotes go back to one from the beginning of the book which stated the temperament as being one of the hardest parts of the body.  In both of these passages, it seems that David is willing to accept the way he is and will make no effort to change or better himself.  The same way Lucy will not do anything to change her situation.  Both of them feel that it is easier to leave thing the way they are.

More Disgrace

March 20, 2007

On page 77, Lucy suggests that her father attempt to fill his time by assisting Bev Shaw in the animal clinic.  He eventually agrees, but when he does, he says this, “All right, I’ll do it.  But only as long as I don’t have to become a better person.  I am not prepared to be reformed.”  I think this goes back to the quote I mentioned from the beginning of the book that gives temperament as being one of the hardest parts of the body.  While David has had to move out to this area, he is not ready yet to have it change him.

On page 99 there is a depiction of David giving Lucy a hug after their incident, “When she does not come, he puts aside his blankets, stands up, and takes her in his arms.  In his embrace she is stiff as a pole, yielding nothing.”  The obvious comparison here goes back to what we have called the “rape/non-rape scene” between David and Melanie, “Not rape, not quite that, but undesired nevertheless, undesired to the core.” (page 25)  David experiences this feeling twice, but with Lucy it is more serious because it involves the rape of his daughter and not a seemingly uninterested sexual encounter with Melanie.

 A passage I found particularly interesting is on page 102 and involves Bill Shaw picking up David from the doctor: “Bill Shaw believes that if he, Bill Shaw, had been hit over the head and set on fire, then he, David Lurie, would have driven to the hospital and sat waiting, without so much as a newspaper to read, to fetch him home.  Bill Shaw believes that, because he and David Lurie once had a cup of tea together, David Lurie is his friend, and the two of them have obligations towards each other.”  Considering the negative thoughts David has about the Shaws, Bill still feels close enough to David to retrieve him from the doctor.  Or maybe it has nothing to do with David, Bill was instead doing it as a favor to Lucy.  I think David’s utter surprise that someone who he does not feel close to would simply perform a good deed is interesting.  I think even today people are surprised when someone is willing to go out of their way to help them, and they always feel there is a catch attached to this favor. 

I cannot figure out why David feels the need to do what he does with the bodies of the dogs from the animal clinic.  I don’t know if it’s out of guilt, and if so, from what? 

Disgrace

March 14, 2007

So while this book may not be as cool as Watchmen, anything is a welcome change from readings in the big book, with those words I don’t understand.

On page 2 Coetzee writes, “The skull, followed by the temperament: the two hardest parts of the body.”  I really liked that line, I think it illustrates just how stubborn people can be.  This is why David gets fired from the school.  He knows that his relationship with Melanie is not right, he even acknowledges this fact, but he continues to pursue her.

On pages 3 and 4 it says, “Human society has created language in order that we may communicate our thoughts, feelings and intentions to each other.”  This reminded me of Saussure and his thoughts on language.  Saussure wrote, “Language is a well-defined object in the heterogeneous mass of speech facts.”  He also wrote on language, “it exists only by virtue of a sort of contract signed by the members of a community.”  That quote, I think most closely ties to the one from Disgrace.

On page 66 of Disgrace when David is talking to his daughter about why he left his position at the school,”Re-education.  Reformation of the character.  The code-word was counselling…..It reminds me too much of Mao’s China.”  His feelings of the school reminded me of a Marxist belief of the school being a state apparatus.

Finally, a passage on page 62 “In the old days, cattle and  maize.  Today, dogs and daffodils.  The more things change the more they remain the same.  History repeating itself, though in a more modest vein.  Perhaps history has learned a lesson.”  This makes me think of Jameson and postmodernism.

Taking Stock

March 11, 2007

So this is the part where I look back and reflect upon my work with theory, as well as look ahead to the future.

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In the beginning of this class, I described my previous experience with criticism and theory as feeling like the boat was taking on more and more water every day.  Well the good news is, it doesn’t feel that way anymore.

In terms of the readings, it’s no secret that a lot of the stuff we read is a little difficult to grasp.  But there are times when I’m reading and I definitely feel like it’s sinking in and I’m understanding some of it.  But then there are other times when I’m reading and it just makes absolutely no sense.  And it’s at times like these when I get lazy and start to skim.  My logic being that I don’t understand it anyway so it doesn’t matter how close I read.  Smart thinking, huh?  But I’m getting away from that.  I am reading and often times re-reading in order to gain at least the slightest understanding of what I’m reading.  I have also begun to look in the Barry book (I was beginning to wonder why she made us buy that) and find that it can be helpful in trying to understand the often heavy language used by the theorists.

With writing, I think my blog posts are getting a little better than when first started.  (Although the post before this one is made up largely of references to old episodes of Seinfeld)  My beginning posts consisted of mainly “This is what I don’t understand.”  And while I may not be understanding everything, I am gradually understanding more and more and the blog posts are becoming a little more involved with at least an attempt to talk about the reading and make some sort of point.  And to this point, nobody has left a comment on one of my posts saying, “You’re an idiot, why would you write that?”  So I take that as a good sign.

The list says I should talk about conversation next.  I am fully aware that I won’t be getting the gold star for class participation.  Maybe something I should work on.  It’s just that when we get to class I really don’t feel like I have a strong enough grasp on a matter to comment speak intelligently on it.  That’s why I sort of sit back and let other people talk and try to pull an understanding out from what they say.  Or maybe it’s because I’m just shy, I don’t know.

My thoughts on group work will wrap this up.  I enjoy and feel I benefit greatly from getting into smaller groups and discussing.  Being in the smaller group kind of forces me into saying something so I have to formulate an idea and talking it out with the group and hearing what they have to say, whether it be similar or completely different, helps me come to an understanding.

I do feel that, though slowly but surely, I am improving in theory.  And this assignment has caused me to look at all the things I do for this class, and all the things I can do to get better.  Not getting lazy while reading and maybe participating a little more are good places to start.

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This piece tackled the hard hitting issue of race relations.  And with an issue this serious, of course the only thing that makes sense to do is to make a Seinfeld reference.  I’m sure we all remember the classic episode where Jerry explains to Elaine how the black and white cookie is the perfect example of racial harmony.  And if we would just “look to the cookie,” then all would be well.  However, it should also be noted that after consuming the cookie Jerry threw up shortly afterwards.  A symbol that the races can never peacefully coexist?  You decide.

But getting to the piece itself… I was a little unsure with how exactly Fanon wanted to compare African Americans to Jews.  On pages 115-16 he writes, “Granted, the Jews are harassed- what am I thinking of?  They are hunted down, exterminated, cremated.  But these are little family quarrels.  The Jew is disliked from the moment he is tracked down.  But in my case everything takes on a new guise.  I am given  no chance.  I am overdetermined from without.  I am the slave not of the “idea” that others have of me but of my own appearance.”  But then on page 122 he writes, “I joined the Jew, my brother in misery.”  Is he trying to say that the Jews are kind of like him in that they suffer too, but since he feels he suffers more, he wins? 

On  page 116 he writes, “When people like me, they tell me it is in spite of my color.  When they dislike me, they point out that it is not because of my color.”  Caucasians are commonly beginning sentences, “I’m not racist, but….”  There’s that need to cover yourself in fear that what you say will be construed as a racist comment.  Fanon also writes on being introduced as “the black friend”, page 116.  (I feel another Seinfeld reference coming on.)  There was an episode in which George’s boss, who is black, took something George had said as a racist comment.  George then looks to bring in one of his black friends to prove he is not a racist.  However, he has no black friends.  But George thinks the only way to show his boss he’s not racist is to have a black friend.  There is a fear among whites of being seen as a racist, so some people look for ways to prove they are not.

While I was reading this, I noticed some aspects of it seemed strongly Marxist.  These suspicions were proved when on page 133 it says, “it is no coincidence that the most ardent poets of negritude are at the same time militant Marxists.”  Kind of rained on my parade, here I thought I was applying what we had already read and was coming to some great understanding, but it was already spelled out, waiting for me to find.

I think I’m going to start relating all future blog posts to old episodes of Seinfeld,   makes them easier to write.