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Archive for February, 2007

Gayle Rubin brings up a lot of good points in this essay. I like the way she addresses what she is going to be discussing right away, and doesn’t cloud up the essay with unnecessary things (the way I feel most other theorists do). In the third paragraph on page 1664, she introduces a comment by Marx. It seems to me that as she goes on, answering the question she poses by Marx, bashing what he asks. She says, “A woman is a woman. She only becomes a domestic, a wife, a chattel, a playboy bunny, a prostitute, or a human dictaphone in certain relations”. I get the feel here that she’s really trying to tell him off, or maybe it’s just how I’m reading it. But she is very good at making a strong point of the oppression of women.

Her main target in this essay is to provide a better definition for the sex/gender system. When she first introduces this system she defines it as, “a set of arrangements by which a society transforms biological sexuality into products of human activity, and in which these transformed sexual needs are satisfied” (1665). She states this definition in the beginning of the essay and then goes on to discuss the work of Levi-Strauss, Freud, and Marx. Rubin discusses women as the capital in capitalism, their place in the work force (or working in the home), and the need for sexuality and procreation for generation to generation.

After a discussion of all those things the definition of the sex/gender system is given again as, “a set of arrangements by which the biological raw material of human sex and procreation is shaped by human, social intervention and satisfied in a conventional manner, no matter how bizarre some of the conventions may be” (1668). Here it hasn’t changed much but a few words were added or removed. She then discusses patriarchy as “a specific form of male dominance” (1669). Rubin also introduces the idea of women as a gift to men, they system of kinship, and the incest taboos of women marrying women, or men marrying men.

One point I really like that she brings that sort of dwell off of the women as gifts or the ‘exchange of women’ as trafficking women. I enjoyed this because it is a perfect way to describe it! She states, “The ultimate locus of women’s oppression within the traffic in women, rather than within the traffic in merchandise” (1673). Essentially the point seems to be women as objects for people to just take dibs on. A lot of what she presents in this essay to show the oppression of women seem very disturbing and could really get to me at times. I like, however, the way she presents the information and tries to defend it with various examples.

She touches on heterosexuality and homosexuality, how it can work and how it can’t, which seems to be essentially aiming for a division of the sexes that will hopefully make men and women closer. Then, what I think is her last definition of the sex/gender system, states; “the sex/gender system is not immutably oppressive and has lost much of its traditional function…it will not wither away in the absence of opposition. It still carries the social burden of sex and gender, of socializing the young, and of providing ultimate propositions about the nature of human beings themselves…the sex/gender system must be recognized through political action” (1680). I found it interesting how after all of the information she ties in to this essay to define the sex/gender system, in the end she describes it as having “lost much of its traditional function”.

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Althusser

AlthusserI found many of the points Althusser made to be difficult to understand but interesting at the same time. Although the language he uses takes a bit of rereading to really grasp, the things he says, once they strain a little bit of understanding out of me, are some interesting points. What was a little aggravating was the constant question asking, but at the same time this was helpful because it made me focus on those specific things he asked about. But, on the other hand, with these questions, at times I was waiting for an extensive, easy to understand, description of certain things after the way he introduces them at that was never what I got.

The most frustrating of these questions was, “What do children learn at school?” (1485). Being I’m an education major this really caught my eye. I was waiting for him to answer this intense question with something ravishing and instead we get, “they learn to read, write, and to add–i.e. a number of techniques, and a number of other things as well…Thus they learn ‘know-how'” (1485). Well, DUH!!! I know kids learn to read, write, and add. I could have told Althusser that, but I guess the real importance of what he was discussing was that these skills children learn in school are what get them a specific job in the future.

This ‘reproduction of labor power’ was also very interesting. The whole necessary wages for the reproduction of labor seems to me like he’s really trying to say, the labor you put into working doesn’t result in making money. It’s almost as though he’s saying, people work hard for money but the two really aren’t related. Well, if I understand this at all, looks like I should forget about getting a job. In connection with this he draws in the (repressive) state apparatus and the ideology state apparatus. Since, “the state is a ‘machine of repression'” (1487) the working class is completely taken over by the state, or ‘the state apparatus’. Althusser constantly relates the state and its power as repressive and violent.

What I don’t understand though, is why he has such an obsession with state power? He repeats a lot that the ruling class has all the power, but I don’t understand what makes this significant. What’s interesting though, is that he relates the government, police, courts, and the military as the repressive state apparatus/violence, probably because each of these high standings are forceful. But, the ideological state apparatus is small systems like the school and church which is run by ideology rather than violence. The repressive state apparatus makes up one state apparatus while there are a number of ideological state apparatus’.

Most of what Althusser explains can be clear and interesting if it is closely read. He makes a lot of fascinating points but I can’t seem to understand why, exactly, this is important? This is when I consulted Barry. Barry describes the ISA and RSA as a whole which I didn’t grab from what Althusser wrote. Barry describes the RSA as state power and the ISA as state control. He puts the two together by saying that state power is controlled by the government, but at the same time the power of the state “is also maintained more subtly, by seeming to secure the internal consent of its citizens” (Barry, 164).

Barry is useful in breaking down much of what Althusser says into something that is easier to understand. He explains that what Althusser is trying to do is to create a more subtle view of society. This helped me grasp why Althusser says certain things and how they all relate.

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Watchmen, The End.

While the end of the book was a little confusing from all of Veidt’s mumble jumble, it was at the same time interesting through its structure. I’m going to have to agree with the idea of Derrida’s freeplay in Watchmen because it really starts to show through all of the characters by the end. While the structure of the comic is there the characters and the story line are constantly shifting. I also found it interesting how the beginning of chapter X very much resembles the end of that chapter. The two riders coming in, in the beginning it was the jets with the President on them, in the end it was Nite Owl and Rorschach approaching Veidt.

Veidt

By the end of this comic I also feel that every character is trying to get into each others own world. They all seem to have something individually going on and by the end, each of the characters left were all blending their individual worlds together. I also feel as though each characters importance tends to shift in these last few chapters as well. Veidt has gotten what I really think he was aiming for the whole time, to be more powerful and let everyone know! At the beginning when he is first introduced, he is made to look like the naive character that just wants to be a “super-hero”.

The whole structure of the comic is being reinvented after Veidt’s destruction that has devastated so many. I’m still trying to figure out what meaning Rorschach’s journal has at the end when the guy at the newspaper now has control of it. Throughout the comic Rorschach’s notes were a way to piece everything he was gathering together, yet before he actually discovered Veidt was really the one behind it he set it in stone and got rid of his journal. For me, this set his personal destruction for the reader. It told you that he wasn’t going to make it through the end to tell his findings himself nor did he have faith that Nite Owl would make to spill the news either.

Doctor Manhattan is even incapable of doing anything to stop this devastation which I found very odd. I was expecting him to come in and start piecing everything back together. When he and Laurie got back to New York he had no sense of what was going on. The character that was known throughout the comic to be the only one with “powers” stood around in amazement because even he was thrown off by what happened. I was completely thrown off by the fact that Dr. Manhattan seemed powerless, and the powerless seemed stronger than ever (Veidt).

In the end I see more confusion with a lot of things left up in the air. This comic as a whole reminds me a lot of Jamesons, Bonaventure Hotel, a whole lot of confusion as to where to enter and tackle this monster and then once your in try to navigate your way around. I’m going to need to go back and read through to really grasp all the relevance of this destruction. Did anyone really think this “end of the world” idea was really going to show its face, and who would have thought Veidt was the one behind it? I guess that’s the whole purpose…to put a spin on things, and throw off the structure a little more!

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Watchmen 2

WatchmenThere were a lot of things that really stood out in chapters 4-9. What I found most interesting was the connections that are made throughout every chapter. For example, when the text within the text appears from the outside comic, it leads the reader into conversation at the newsstand. I always find the outside comic’s text to appear once frame before the news vendor shows up. Along with this and what we briefly talked about in class, this text acts as something that emphasizes what is happening in Watchmen. I really notice a play on words because the news vendor will say something about the war or the end of the world and the other comic will reemphasize what was said in other words.

What was also interesting about these chapters was the focus on Rorschach and how it really pushed Dan (Nite Owl) to a whole new level. He became uncomfortable with himself and once he put his old costume on that all changed. He was even afraid to move forward with Laurie as himself, but after one thrilling night in his costume again nothing was stopping him. This all seems to stem from Rorschach’s capture and the close analysis of his identity as Kovacs and Rorschach as two separate identities. This opens up a lot of other things of importance. The doctor is questioning Kovacs hashing up his past and it seems only to open up the eyes of the doctor rather than working to help Kovacs. The doctor goes in thinking one thing that he can make this guy better, but he leaves wondering what Rorschach will say next. If you ask me it seems like Rorschach is psychoanalysing himself and the doctor is just along for the ride.

The Nostalgia perfume is also very prominent in these chapters as well. However, this time it isn’t only behind the scenes but out front as well. I continuously notice the bottle or a picture popping up when one of the characters is reminiscing or when something of the past is being discussed. They are reiterating the past to others and nostalgia seems to be the main focus.

These are a few things I found interesting and there are many others. The size of the panels as discussed last class as well is really interesting too. The one I found most interesting in 7 pg. 21 was the picture of Laurie and Dan that is separated into three panels but make up one picture. This was interesting to me because it was the first I had seen this in the comic and I am wondering why it was done this way. I am also trying to tie these chapters into theory but I have yet to do so. I am going to attempt to go back and reread some things that caught my attention and see what I come up with so for now this is all I have.

(Sorry it’s so short, I’m not feeling so well and haven’t for the past 4 days)

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Watchmen

WatchmenAs soon as I opened this book I knew I was going to like it. Not only because there were pictures or because it isn’t that huge anthology book, but because I have never really read a comic before and I was looking forward to this comic clarifying what we have read thus far for this class. As for the clarification, it’s lacking a bit, but I’m enjoying the story so for right now that’s ok! After reading the first three chapters and going back and thinking about what I’ve read I envision the story as if it were a movie. I think that is because of the pictures. Before and after I read I focus on each of the pictures so I really know what is going on and it seems to really be working.

So as for relating this comic to theory it is reminding me mostly of Jameson which is probably because his writing is the only one I fully understood. As for what he was talking about with the parody and pastiche I have noticed that a lot in Watchmen. I see the super hero’s acting as a pastiche because to me it seems as though they are completely mocking the social setting all together. Not only is the other super hero group that is discussed in the book, I think they call themselves the Crime busters, a mock of the Minutemen, but the Minutemen act as though they are mocking the cops and the “bad guys”. The law enforcement isn’t doing their job at controlling the crime so the Minutemen will get the job done. All of it seems like a mockery to me.

Another thing that has me a little confused is the fact that they don’t have any powers other than Jon, who is an enormous blue man that doesn’t wear any clothes. This goes against all other super hero’s throughout history that are infamous for their powers. (i.e. Superman). There was Jon, Nite Owl, Mothman, Sally, The Comedian, and a few others, but other than Jon being discussed for his powers the only other super hero that had anything going for him was The Comedian and he was just twisted. The part in the comic when he shot the pregnant woman is the image that I constantly picture and is what makes this comic remind me of a movie.

What also caught my attention were the excerpts from Hollis Mason’s book. When he analyses himself as a super-hero and their purpose as a whole he makes it sound like he himself doesn’t believe in it which made me feel as though it was all a waste. Some of the things he wrote made me think getting into this story line and wanting to go on and read more was pointless because it all sounded like a joke. Other than that his connection with the comic really helps tie in any loose ends. The back flashes confused me at first but once I read the excerpts from his book some things were cleared up while others panned out and made sense. I felt myself wanting to read more which I really enjoyed because the other readings for class I couldn’t wait are finished with.

One last thing that I noticed on page 7 of Chapter 3 was the picture of a woman with “Nostalgia” written under her face in large letters. In the corner is says, “Where is the essence that was do divine?”. For right now I’m trying to figure out how that ties in because pages 6 and 7 in chapter 3 have me a little confused as to whether that is past or present and maybe if it is referring to past, trying to determine why nostalgia is in large letters in its own frame and how it could possibly relate to Jameson.

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I think Jameson’s got something going here that I can actually discuss. Right off the bat he starts by explaining postmodernism and giving examples. This is extremely useful because he relates to things that aren’t foreign or too complex for me to understand. Based on these examples it seems that postmodernism just stems off of rejecting things modernism believes.

With that said, Jameson writes that “two of its significant features, which I will call pastiche and schizophrenia; they will give us a chance to sense the specificity of the postmodernist experience of space and time respectively” (1962). What I like about this is that he immediately identifies the two things he’s going to describe and for what reason. He then goes in to explain what pastiche is; ” the imitation of a peculiar or unique style, the wearing of a stylistic mask, speech in a dead language: but it is a neutral practice of such mimicry without parody’s ulterior motive, without the satirical impulse, without laughter, without that still latent feeling that there exists something normal compared to which what is being imitated is rather comic” (1963). It seems as though it is its own for of imitation for something that really is not there. This, although it seems like a far fetched idea, is surprisingly easy to grasp. It doesn’t take the past and recreate it; it uses the past as a basis and “reawakens” the feelings of the past in something new.

Jameson refers to the past a lot and I’m not sure if I completely understand why, but I find the things he poses interesting. On page 1967, for example, I like the way he says, “for whatever peculiar reasons, we seem condemned to seek the historical past through our own pop images and stereotypes about that past, which itself remains forever out of reach”. It’s as though he is inferring that we really don’t know what the past is like, we simply make assumptions and create false images based on the recreations of the past that are being made.

When we get to The Bonaventure Hotel I become a bit confused. When he discusses the entryways and how they never bring you to the main floor, I kind of lose him and what he is trying to say. What I did get from this hotel was his focus on the outside or “the glass skin”. This hotel was supposed to act as a substitute for the city so this glass skin was a very interesting concept. If anyone has ever been to the UAlbany campus, their administration building is an exact replica of what this reminds me of. The outside is like mirrors and reflects back what surrounds it. You can’t see inside only what is surrounding you. It leaves the inside a mystery. I like how he relates this to the sunglasses “which make it impossible for your interlocutor to see your own eyes and thereby achieve a certain aggressivity towards and power over the Other” (1969). This is an interesting idea. Without exposing what is inside you leave the onlooker wanting more; in this case holding the power.

I enjoyed many of the ideas Jameson discussed here and it was nice to read because I could get a good idea of what he was trying to say. The examples he used were easy to relate to and made it easier to grasp the ideas in a better way!

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Derrida

I thought I put a kink in the chain, but now the links are, once again, all intact. This whole chain of not understanding what the hell these people are trying to say, week after, was finally altered after reading Saussure and slightly understanding it, and all of a sudden it’s back in action. As I have noticed in a lot of other people’s blogs, at least I’m not alone on this one. But as for even trying to make sense of it, there is no hope for me.

Just like everyone else, I too am lost on this whole “center is not the center” (915) ides Derrida is talking about. First, he begins with saying,

structure…has always been neutralized or reduced, and this by a process of giving it a center or referring it to a point of presence, a fixed origin. The function of this center was not only to orient, balance, and organize the structure..but above all to make sure that the organizing principles of the structure would limit what we might call the freeplay of the structure (915).

What I really want to know from this little passage I included here is, WHY?!?! Why does he go so in depth with this idea of the center of structure only to tell us that “the center is not the center”. It’s almost as thought everything he says takes us back to this one damn sentence. Then he starts talking about anxiety and all I could think about here was how much his words were giving me anxiety, not paying any attention to what point he was trying to make with it. The rupture he speaks of at the beginning is what threw this whole center of structure off?? Well, damn the rupture then!!

I’m getting the feeling that Derrida and his post-structuralism and deconstruction is really just a way of throwing us all off. This attempt to unmask what the text is saying, particularly when he discussed Levi Strauss is all just a way of really confusing us. He picks apart things Levi Strauss discusses, like the sign for example, and completely loses me in doing so. I’m not going to lie this whole human sciences really confused me and I can’t even make any connection as to why this is important or what significance it has.

I’m not going to try and discuss this bricolage idea that apparently has something to do with ‘literary criticsm’ (919) because I’m probably not even pronouncing the word right. Instead, I am now going to give up on this discussion of decentering and Derrida’s obbsession with Levi Strauss before I thrwo myself off anymore than I already have. But to end with one last line, “The absence of a center is here the absence of a subject and the absence of an author.””‘If it be asked where the real focus of the work is to be found, it must be replied that its determination is impossible'” (921). Well, you dont say Derrida!! Really, Thank you so much! NOT!!!!

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