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Archive for September, 2007

Jameson

Although this post on Jameson doesn’t deserve any title what-so-ever! I gave it one anyway. I was so frustrated by this 50 something page, thing, that I don’t even know what to write about. I’ve been trying to avoid having to write this post, but it’s inevitable. Jameson talked me into circles of a mess of things I didn’t understand. This may sound ridiculous but I couldn’t even understand whether he was for postmodernism or thought it was terrible. I think coming out of reading this and out of our class discussion the only thing I slightly understood was his example of the Van Gogh and Warhol pictures and how they do or don’t reflect history. THAT’S IT! Which is awfully sad, but I guess I’ll just write a little about that.

So, two main points I guess he’s saying about each of these artists works is that:

  • Van Gogh’s painting is a more accurate description of history because the shoes in his painting have depth and they show wear and tear. Because of the shoes worn and dirty appeal along with their two dimensional look, they become a part of history because someone has used them, existed in history with them on? The shoes represent a lived experience, if I understand it correctly.
  • Warhol, on the other hand, has a picture of shoes that are flat and show no signs of use. Thus, they show no history or connection to real history. These shoes have no history because they have no depth, and represent more of a contemporary consumerism look. Rather than acting as an image of history, the picture connects more with capitalism, and the need to make the shoes look appeal for consumers.

Basically, Jameson’s obsession with a very defined history and the fact that we must be looking at history in the wrong way is all I could really grasp from all of this. I was looking for class discussion to help me a bit more but it happened to just confuse me even more. I did find out that Jameson is not so much for Postmodernism, and just as I thought I understood Lyotard and his ideas of postmodernism, Jameson had to come in a ruin it all. Postmodernism acts as a cultural dominant, according to Jameson. He says on page 4, “…to grasp postmodernism not as a style but rather as a cultural dominant: a conception which allows for the presence and coexistence of a range of very different, yet subordinate, features”. I think I can see here how Jameson beings to reject postmodernism and he does so by first attaching its lack of style. I get the feeling he’s basically saying postmodernism is a mess and modernism is much more clear and concise. I’m not too sure how I feel about Jameson…I’m going to now turn back to Jameson and reread it…then I’ll be back for more. I’m determined to get at least one more thing from him

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FIGHT CLUB!

After watching this movie for the first time I couldn’t help but wonder why I had never seen it before. Then I watched it a second time to make sure I absolutely picked up on everything, and that is when I realized that this movie is incredibly interesting and disturbing at the same time. I want to focus on a couple of particular things in this movie…

First, the role of Marla in the movie is very intriguing and her relationship with the narrator is essential. She is first introduced into the movie when she begins invading the narrator’s emotional space by attending the support groups. The support groups seemed to act as a resource for the narrator in a number of ways. The support groups helped him sleep when suffering from insomnia, and it seemed to me that the narrator was feeding off of Bob’s pain to realize his pain. When Marla intruded and the narrator confronted her and said he couldn’t cry when she was there, his need to cry becomes an important part in the movie. At that point, Marla has begun invading his life and could very well be the cause of his mental creation of Tyler. In a way her constant fearlessness and freedom also resembled Tyler and who the narrator wanted to be.

Tyler is another essential part to the story. Being that he and the narrator are the same person in the sense that Tyler is who the narrator wants to be is very interesting to me. For the narrator to really have been who Tyler was throughout the story is so mind blowing because, although he insisted they were partners and started fight club together, he never once said anything at any of the meetings. Tyler spoke for him, and you can really see this when he’s in the hospital and repeats exactly what Tyler tells him about having fell down the stairs. A majority of the time the narrator is behind the scenes watching everything that Tyler does rather than taking any control. Is this because it was really him the entire time? It’s so crazy how this is portrayed in the movie.

Tyler and Marla then tie together in the narrator’s life. While he thinks Marla is having sex with Tyler and is dreaming about it and beginning to get quite jealous, he says “she ruined everything”. At that point it seems as though he values his “relationship” (if you can call it that) with Tyler more than Marla which is ironic to the ending. In my opinion, what led to the ending between Tyler and the narrator all had to do with Bob, Robert Paulson, being killed. That was the point where I saw the narrator snap. My thoughts on the situation are when Bob died the narrator started to recognize what was actually happening with project Mayhem and what Fight Club had turned into. He also realized that whoever Tyler was wasn’t who he wanted to be.

This is what sets off the entire end of the movie for me. It’s not that he now sees Marla, who I think he loves at the end, as a crutch, but instead he no longer needs a crutch and no longer need to go back to who he used to be, but he has found a content place in life and needed to kill Tyler or who Tyler was because that’s not who he wanted to be. I’m beginning to ramble so I’m going to leave those thoughts as they are for now!

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Lyotard!

 Lyotard(He looks awfully happy for how confusing he can be.)

Reading through Lyotard for the first time definitely threw me for a bit of a loop. Our class discussion really helped me pull it all together. What I grabbed most from the reading was Lyotard’s point that postmodernism alludes the reader to think certain things and I could connect with this in comparing it to Written on the Body. As a postmodern text, Winterson is constantly trying to allude the reader and the end of the book is probably the best example of that. The reader is left wondering whether or not Louise is really there and its completely left open for the reader’s interpretation.

What I really got stuck on in this reading were things like:

  • “A work can become modern only if it is first postmodern” (79).
  • “Postmodernism [as] the nascent state, and this state is constant” (79)

After our class discussion, however, it all became clear how with the help of the concept of a metanarrative, postmodernism can occur before and after modernism and allude the reader without focusing on any type of end product or whole. Could it be that easy? I’m going to have to say no. What I’m still really caught up on is how reality and capitalism fits in completely with this.

Lyotard writes,

But capitalism inherently possesses the power to derealize familiar objects, social roles, and institutions to such a degree that the so-called realistic representations can no longer evoke reality except as nostalgia or mockery, as an occasion for suffering rather than for satisfaction (74).

This was something I was really curious about and we never got to it in class. So, I’m still wondering how capitalism fits into the whole scheme of postmodernism and nostalgia and so on. Perhaps it connects with the unpresentable and the nostalgia of the unpresentable. Because postmodernism is attempting to allude to the unpresentable which in turn creates nostalgia for a particular form….I’m confusing myself on how capitalism applies here….

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I must say that after reading the ending and after our in depth class discussion, I regret saying in my last post that I wanted to know what happened in the end. My first reaction of the end was that Louise was simply a figment of the narrator’s imagination; there was no possible way she could be standing in front of her after all that searching. Then I went back and read it a second time…ok so now I’m buying the idea that she actually could be standing in front of the narrator. After our class discussion I would have to say that I can agree with the idea that she was actually there, and that now Louise and the narrator were in love and planned on starting a whole new life based solely around their relationship.

The last paragraph could really show how the narrator is no longer going to obsess over Louise’s body and the narrator’s immense attraction to her body and her beautiful red hair. Instead, their relationship has opened the whole world for them,

The windows have turned into telescopes. Moon and stars are magnified in this room. The sun hangs over the mantelpiece. I stretch out my hand and reach the corner of the world. The world is bundled up in this room. Beyond the door, where the river is, where the roads are, we shall be. We can take the world with us when we go and sling the sun under your arm (190).

I get the impression that this is the last draw for the narrator. Louise has finally come back and the narrator can’t waste any time objectifying her the way the narrator did throughout the novel. As we discussed in class, this could be a new beginning, the subject remains dead leaving the narrator and Louise open to all new possibilities, the novel is no longer based on “I” or “you” but rather “we”, the two of them together, not one more important than the other. The more I think about our class discussion and the ending as a whole, I like the fact that it leaves the reader to construct his/her own ending in a number of ways. There is no certainty as to what happens, the only certainty we have is that, for the narrator, “this is where the story starts” (190). Could it be that this was the case during the entire novel? Not only was the ending an opportunity for the reader to construct their own thoughts, but in a way the entire novel falls into this gap. As readers we were given the opportunity to decide whether or not the narrator was male or female, or perhaps the idea of a genderless narrator is what pulled us through the novel.

Either way, this ending is not only the start of the novel for the narrator but for the reader as well. It presents an entirely new outlook on the novel and how it can be read from the end to the beginning, rather than from the beginning to the end. What is really the fate of their relationship? Is this novel a novel about love or clichés? Perhaps the really beauty in this novel is that it leaves us with absolutely no answers!!

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Nearing the end of the novel, I am very interesting in finding out what will happen next. It was surprising to me that the narrator would give up being with Louise, someone the narrator loves and admires so much. The idea that Louise is given up to Elgin in order for him to save her really makes me think. Why is Elgin stepping in now, when after finding out that Louise had an affair with the narrator he still stuck around in the flat with the two of them? I have this thought in the back of my head that he admires cancer more than the helping Louise. Knowing from earlier in the novel how obsesses he is with spending time in the lab and working on cancer, could it be that Elgin is more intrigued by the disease, caring more about the disease than anything else?

Elgin is very strange in the things that he does, but at the same time I’m still unsure as to why the narrator would agree to such a thing. Perhaps it’s the longing desire the narrator will feel when realizing he/she has left Louise. I have this feeling that it’s all something that just revolves around the feeling of longing that has taken place often in this novel. Is the narrator only concerned with his/her own feelings? This reminds me a lot of the Malpas reading. One aspect of the reading that really got me thinking was the topic of bisexuality. We found out in this part of the novel that the narrator had a boyfriend at one time, (92) so this leads to the point that without knowing the actually gender of the narrator we can still come to the conclusion that the narrator is bisexual. In this case according to Cixous from the Malpas reading,

This notion of bisexuality is not simply a description of sexual practice, but rather calls for the recognition of the multiplicity of drives and desires within any subject…one is not simply a woman or man…she presents the idea that is able to affirm these differences, resist the closure of a male-orientated logic, and present subjectivity as a structure of continual renegotiations that transform the categories of patriarchy (73).

With Cixous argument based on the idea of bisexuality, the subject of this novel is thus interchangeable. Regardless of the narrator’s gender, the male as the subject is taken out of the novel. If the narrator were female having an affair with Louise the subject can then be identified as either the narrator or Louise. In hoping that I understand the Malpas reading correctly, even if the gender went the other way the subject of the novel is still missing. According to Malpas this is exactly what postmodern literature is attempting to do. To stray away from the traditional male-oriented subject and lean more towards multiple subjects in one novel.

In that case, in still a little hung up on the idea of the narrators actions meant only to turn the focus of the novel on his/her self. It seems as though Louise’s cancer and the narrator fleeing London is just another way for the narrator to concentrate on the longing and love for Louise more profoundly. I guess that’s still up for debate…now I need only know what will come of their relationship in the end…

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Written on the Body

winterson While I’m still hung up on the idea of postmodernism and whether or not I can really tie it to anything, I must say that I enjoy this novel (once I got past the first few pages). I was confused in the beginning, and I guess thats due to the fact that in the beginning Winterson’s writing gets confusing and her thoughts seem very jumbled. I got used to this after a while and once the “you” confusion of who “you” really was, that the narrator continues to refer to, things began to clear up. I’m really interested in the narrators thoughts in this novel and I find myself wanting to read on. I think this is happening for two reason:

Wanting to know what was going to happen next is probably the main reason I keep reading. I feel as though, due to the randomness of the events in this novel, and the narrators continuing love affairs, I’m always interested in what strange thing will occur next. The gender of the narrator is something that keeps me guessing over and over again and as I’m reading I’m searching for an answer that I will never find. Its so interesting to me how Winterson consciously wrote the novel in this way to play with the reader and really leave it open for them to decide what gender the narrator should be. I continue to analyze the narrators thoughts as things occur and I can’t help but feel that its a woman. There are such specifics flowing sensually from the narrator that really gives the audience the narrators true feelings on love. This is even obvious in the very first line of the novel, “Why is the measure of love lose?”. I think this is why I get the sense that its a woman. For now, however, I’m going to try and leave my mind open on this for the narrator to keep me guessing.

Another thing that kept me reading was when I noticed the postmodern aspects of this novel really shine through in Winterson’s form. It is often that I had to go back and reread something because she jumps from dialog between two people to a random thought. An example of this that really stands out for me is on pg 32. The narrator is going on about his/her obsession with looking at Louise’s wedding ring, then some dialog jumps in that reads, “‘ you bloody idiot,’ said my friend. ‘Another married woman.'” Then the narrator starts talking about Elgin and the history behind his name and his family. This left me thinking, who the hell is the friend? and why is she jumping around? The narrator does this again on page 36. When finished with the discussion about Elgin the narrator moves to knocking on Louise’s door and then to “Is food sexy?”. The inconsistent flow of the novel keeps me reading and at the same time is one postmodern aspect that stood out to me most, which also reminded me a lot of lost in the funhouse.

Our class discussion on McHale’s definition of postmodernism and modernism will be very useful in pulling out some more postmodernism in this novel. Not only does the narrator draw in postmodernism through the essence of his/her gender, but modernism as well through the narrators truth and knowledge with his/her experience with love. Now that I’m used to Winterson’s fluctuating style and the narrators sensual thoughts and experiences, I’m really interested in reading the rest of the novel to see how it will end.

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Modernism ME
To decide whether I am a modernist or postmodernist is a tough decision for me to make. Previous to reading Malpas’ The Postmodern I would have probably classified myself as a modernist, sticking to the basics while at the same time trying to make myself think I was straying away into some type of new far-reaching form. After reading Malpas, however, it felt as though depending on whether it had to do with Architecture, Art, or Literature my role as a postmodernist or modernist would change.

While I am constantly aiming to do drastic things with my writing, or whatever it may be, or to use postmodernism to (as Malpas would put it) “confront the reader or viewer with a work that is challenging in terms of both form and content” (30), I find myself not always being confident enough to actually put it out there from someone else to read. This is where I hit a wall and refrain from labeling myself as an all out postmodernist. I would have to say that I fall in the middle, if at all, of the two. What I found very interesting and what also grabbed my attention toward being somewhere trapped in between the two is when Malpas states, “what counts as modernism or postmodernism will change as a culture adapts to the provocations that works of art produce” (31). As discussed in our first class, the word postmodern has been thrown around so often that its meaning had become misleading or untrue, thus making a distinction of what is modern or postmodern has become very difficult. With Malpas’ help this has become a bit easier; however, even he mentions the fact that modern and postmodern can vary even between cultures. This led me to question whether or not the word was really being misused (and confused me a bit more).

So, can I classify myself as being somewhere in between the two or neither at all? I honestly can’t say. Although I fully enjoy encompassing the aspects of modernism and its focus on “how a world can be interpreted or changed, and its interest in questions of truth and knowledge” (24), (getting down to the bottom of things), I sometimes find myself taking much more pleasure in generating some philosophical ideas, question the realities of the world, to really get the mind going.

As of now I’m going to leave the question open…What am I really? Modernist or Postmodernist?

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