notes & questions for sept. 27

NB:  journals due either in class on the 27 or in the English Dept. office before noon on the 28th.

Burke

Burke suggests that the French revolution is illegitimate in part because it’s barbarity couldn’t be “commemorated with grateful thanksgiving” (11); but is the point of revolutions to be commemorated?

Beyond emphasizing its barbarity Burke imagines the sacking of Versailles in a way that, to put it mildly, is somewhat sexually suggestive; how important is it that Burke implicitly likens the revolution to a rape?  does his political theory provide a way of making sense of this metaphor?

Burke’s metaphor of the “drapery of life” (12) suggests that we esteem only what we imaginatively construct whereas, stripped of the latter, our “naked” nature, reduced to empirical facticity, is inherently “defective.”   As we’ve already seen he also says the effect of power is increased rather than decreased by its obscurity.   In analogous paradoxes he says that virtue must be habitual to be effective and that “prejudice” has its own kind of “reason” and “justice.”  What can just and rational prejudice possibly mean?  Could such a just prejudice bear some relation to the prejudice Austen’s dealing with?  There must be some limit to Burke’s advocacy of habitual illusion and renunciation of the kind of empirical/rational critique he associates with the French revolution; how and where does he draw the line?

What does Burke mean by “the cold sluggishness of our national character”?  is this a good or bad thing?  It can’t mean complete inertia given what Burke suggests above about the importance of an at least somewhat actively, imaginatively elaborated “drapery.”  In the following passage from the Reflections not included in your excerpt, he describes this balancing act in terms of the theme that represents a key, clear point of departure from Rousseau, property.  Private property for Rousseau is, as for Marx, is the source of reified, abstract amour-propre and arbitrary exchange-value.  As the passage below attests, Burke sees the matter differently, to put it mildly.  He defends precisely the radically unequal distribution of property that Rousseau and Marx attack, but Burke argument is extremely complex and subtle and arguably ultimately not necessarily totally incompatible with theirs.  Do you see possibilities of reconciliation or not? why?

“Nothing is a due and adequate representation of a state, that does not represent its ability, as well as its property.  But as ability is a vigorous and active principle, and as property is sluggish, inert, and timid, it never can be safe from the invasions of ability, unless it be, out of all proportion, predominant in the representation.  It must be represented in great masses of accumulation, or it is not rightly protected.  The characteristic essence of property, formed out of the combined principles of its acquisition and conservation, is to be unequal.”

Adorno

Adorno’s brutal; there’s no getting around it.  The only way to read him is to resign yourself to the difficulty, don’t demand to understand every sentence but rather just go with the flow, let yourself fall into the dark woods and wait for the occasional formulations that appear and somewhat illuminate the surroundings.  Adorno’s whole point is that reification is so insidious that nothing can be said clearly and straightforwardly against reification without this very accessibility secretly promoting the reification it renounces.  So difficulty is part of Adorno’s point:  strenuously exercising our brains is necessary to extricate ourselves from our complacently commodified existence.

A couple illuminating passages I’d draw your attention to:

“Art is related to its other like a magnet to a field of iron filings.  The elements of art as well as their constellation, or what is commonly thought to be the spiritual essence of art, point back to the real other.  The identity of the works of art with existent reality also accounts for the centripetal force that enables them to gather unto themselves the traces and membra disiecta of real life” (234).

“[Art] gives the lie to the notion that production for production’s sake is necessary, by opting for a mode of praxis beyond labour” (237).

“Prose writings like Metamorphosis and Penal Colony…seem to call forth in us responses like real anxiety, a violent drawing back, an almost physical revulsion.  They seem to be the opposite of desire, yet these phenomena of psychic defence and rejection have more in common with desire than with the old Kantian disinterestedness….The precondition for the autonomy of artistic experience is the abandonment of the attitude of tasting and savouring….In a false world all hedone is false.  This goes for artistic pleasure, too.  Art renounces happiness for the sake of happiness, thus enabling desire to survive in art” (237).

Freud

In Beyond the Pleasure Principle, Freud postulates the “death drive” in an attempt to explain the repetitious traumatic war neurosis he witnesses in the wake of WWI.  The repetitions of traumatic neurosis disobey the pleasure principle.  This disobediance is consistent with the definition of trauma as an overwhelming of the mind’s capacity to incorporate stimuli into a stable economy of pleasure and unpleasure; the traumatic stimulus penetrates what Freud calls the mind’s outer “crust” or “protective shield” and inundates the mind directly (29, 33).  Thus, Freud writes, “the pleasure principle is for the moment put out of action.  There is no longer any possibility of preventing the mental apparatus from being flooded with large amounts of stimulus, and another problem arises instead—the problem of mastering the amounts of stimulus which have broken in and of binding them in the psychical sense, so that they can then be disposed of” (33f).

The option is available to Freud of resigning himself to an essentially negative explanation; i.e., that traumatic neurosis simply represents the mind’s failure to execute the fundamental operations that allow it to operate according to the pleasure principle.  Indeed, Freud almost seems to take up this option when he says that the phenomena of traumatic neurosis “are endeavoring to master the stimulus retrospectively, by developing the anxiety whose omission was the cause of the traumatic neurosis” (37).  Here it is possible to picture the traumatized mind as attempting to reactivate the functions that would allow for reinstallation of the pleasure principle.  Repeating the traumatic experience, then, would be a function of this attempt to retrospectively “bind” it somehow, to integrate it into the psychic economy so that it may be metabolized and “disposed of.”

But Freud apparently doesn’t take this option, but instead offers the very ambitions, speculative hypothesis that in such disruptions of the pleasure principle we actually glimpse the functioning of an even deeper principle, that of the death drive, the self-destructive impulse of all organic life to return to its original, pre-organic state.

As an economic drive that functions to undermine the economy of the pleasure principle the death drive is profoundly perverse, and sets up something like an anti-economy economy, a sheerly entropic force towards disrupting any homeostatic balancing of pleasure and unpleasure.  As a such an anti-economistic principle does Freud’s death drive bear some resemblance to Burke’s inertia, and Adorno’s art?

The ultimate question raised by Burke, Freud and Adorno in this regard is whether and how they manage to theorize, to offer some kind of general purpose conceptualization of, a principle of resistance to theoretical abstraction?  are they self-contradicting?  if yes, is it to the point of invalidating what they say, or do they manage to be suggestive in spite of self-contradiction?

McGann

As the title suggests, The Romantic Ideology is a critique of romantic literature as ideology.  But McGann’s critique is also a meta-critique (a critique of a certain critical method) in that it accuses critics today of uncritically repeating romanticism’s  ideology.  This he describes on p. 13:  “One of the basic illusions of Romantic Ideology is that only a poet and his works can transcend a corrupting appropriation by ‘the world’ of politics and money.”  Romantic poetry tries to valorize this illusion, which means trying to disguise its status as an illusion, trying to rationalize it, etc., but consequently involves itself in, or as McGann says, “suffers,” the “contradictions.”  As post-romantic critics, then, McGann says we have the choice of attuning ourselves either to the ideological illusion itself that romantic poets promoted or to the effort or suffering that promoting it required of them.  The former approach isn’t criticism, McGann argues, but the opposite because it just perpetuates an illusion (and an outdated one at that).  The latter is critical by virtue of pointing out two kinds of difference:  1. between the reality of the romantic’s socio-historical context and the illusions of their self-representations, and 2. between the historical context of the critic and that of romanticism.  Thus in genuine critique “ideologies of the present are thereby laid open to critique from another human world, and one which–by the privilege of its historical backwardness, as it were–can know nothing of our current historical illusions.  Our own forms of thought thereby being to enter our consciousness via the critique developed out of certain past forms of feeling.  Like Trelawney at the cremation of Shelley, we shall reach for the unconsumed heart of the poem only if we are prepared to suffer a genuine change through its possession” (13).  So present-day critique of romanticism, by uncovering the “suffering” self-contradictions of romantic poems, becomes self-critique that pierces our own ideological illusions and makes us likewise “suffer” our historical particularity.

Austen

In Chapters nine and ten Bingley seems to espouse a principle of impulsiveness that is the antithesis of Burkean inertia.  When a debate ensues as to whether a friend’s persuasions might mitigate Bingley’s impetuosity, Darcy says that in order to judge the matter one can’t speak of a generic friend but must specify “the degree of importance” attached to the friend’s persuasions and “the degree of intimacy subsisting between the parties” (34).  By way of concurring Bingley makes a jocular remark with profoundly Burkean resonances of which no one could be more obvious Bingley himself:  “By all means, let us hear all the particulars, not forgetting their comparative height and size; for that will have more weight in the argument, Miss Bennet than you may be aware of.  I assure you that if Darcy were not such a great tall fellow, in comparison with myself, I should not pay him half so much deference.  I do not know a more aweful object than Darcy, on particular occasions, and in particular places; at his own house especially, and of a Sunday evening when he has nothing to do” (34).

A few things to consider here:

1.  “weight/inertia” effects a non-discursive kind of persuasion; it commands “deference” and “awe” precisely by what it does not say for itself, by what remains inarticulate, “obscure.”

2.  as in Burke this is associated with property; the objective properties/possessions of a person, their body and estate.

3.  in Bingley’s statement this specifically means Darcy’s body and Pemberley which will prove to have just such non-discursive persuasive power over Elizabeth.

4.  but why would Austen thus have Elizabeth’s fate not just foretold but explained in advance by a character as vapid as Bingley?  Consider Elizabeth’s earlier remarks on poetry:  to Darcy’s comment that “I have been used to consider poetry as the food of love,” she replies, “Of a fine, stout, healthy love it may.  Everything nourishes what is strong already.  But if it be only a slight, thin sort of inclination, I am convinced that one good sonnet will starve it entirely away” (31).  Again in a way Burkean spirit the emphasis seems to be on getting a proper appreciation for the inherent inequality between the “stoutness” or inertia of love, property, “the English character,” etc., and whatever we might discursively or cognitively say or think about it.

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24 Responses to notes & questions for sept. 27

  1. Rhiannon Gascoigne says:

    I’ll get the ball rolling, though I admit that I’m not sure I’ve quite sorted out everything in my mind just yet. So take it with a pinch of sodium. I’ll respond to the questions on Burke at the moment. Or actually I’ll just give my first impressions.

    The way Burke implied the “drapery of life” as being almost more natural– perhaps more “real” than our naked selves reminded me very much of two things: Wendy Shalit’s “Return to Modesty” and CS Lewis’ comments in (I think) “The Four Loves” about the unnaturalness of nudity to the human existence.

    The former is a lengthily argued advocation for sexual modesty as being more empowering for women than today’s notions of “free love” and “casual sex.” The latter referred to the sexual act as special and private precisely because it was NOT normal to be naked. The very word “naked” is a past participial of the the verb “to nake”– originally used to described the peeling of nuts and fruit. The naked man is the oddity- not the dressed man. . Lewis argues that we are in a sense more ourselves when clothed, because while naked we a reduced to universal “He and She” (he was talking about the sex act) and are acting out a kind of pantomime in which character does not play a defined role.

    Now Burke’s meaning, when he talks about the “drapery of life” is the outward appearances and modes of society that set us apart from one another and give us part of our identities– be it king or beggar. We have a place, a role, and a means by which we can relate to one another and interact meaningfully in a community. And like Lewis, he does not believe that these “imaginative” constructions of society are untrue simply because they are constructed– or rather he does not believe that we are more ourselves when stripped of these constructions. Stripped of these “draperies” we are reduced to generalities (he and she)- in a way it negates our individuality whilst harming our ability to function properly as a community. People become objects because they have no identity of their own expressed by their particular drapery.

    This is partly why the metaphor of a rape to describe the sacking of Versailles is so powerful. It illustrates perfectly what occurs when people throw off the “draperies”–they lose their uniquenesses and become objects to one another and are capable of the most heinous atrocities.

    Wendy Shalit argues that a lack of sexual modesty is harmful to women for this very reason– they begin to think of themselves as objects of sexual desire and therefore become vulnerable to abuse. They encourage men to treat them like objects by stripping away their “draperies”– which means not only their physical clothing, but the mysterious nature of their guarded person which is an inherent part of that. True empowerment comes from obscurity.

    One’s “draperies” are therefore both an open expression of our uniqueness whilst simultaneously being our protection against commodification. It is a paradox in a way– that in revealing ourselves through the expression of our personal character and identity (as we wish it to be revealed) we guard the more vulnerable part of ourselves from being simply reified. And yet this is precisely what gives us power and freedom.

    Does any of this make sense?

    Burke’s “cold sluggishness” to which he refers as characteristic of the English character, seems to him most definitely a good thing. (I can also attest to its infinite truth). And I would again relate it to this idea of sexual modesty. No jumping in the sack willy nilly with just anyone! The English are not quick to jump on any old revolutionary bandwagon– they stick to their social and moral prejudices and deviate only very carefully, based more on the understanding of their hearts than on rational objective consideration. (Anyone seen Amazing Grace?)

    In this I think Burke’s meaning in the word “prejudice” might be what we would call “tradition”– or the accepted modes of thinking about the world and ways of going about things according to our particular community of people. I would imagine that for Burke these things carry a wisdom of their own because they are at the heart of a people, long identifying themselves as a community and make sense for the people AS THAT COMMUNITY. They define that community’s character– make it work to some degree.

    Would Jane Austen agree with that? I’m not sure at this point. It seems to me that all the characters in Pride and Prejudice, with the exception of maybe Jane and Mr. Bingley– are hopelessly blinded by prejudice. Perhaps it is important to view our society’s “prejudices” objectively, to acknowledge their role and importance, whilst not allowing them to completely take command of us.

  2. Rhiannon Gascoigne says:

    PS– Sorry that was long…

  3. Carmel Ohman says:

    In the introduction to The romantic ideology: a critical investigation, McGann touches on a paradox inherent to all works of art, applying it to Romantic literature in particular: that in the act of implicitly or explicitly criticizing elements of Romantic Ideology, Romantic poetry becomes all the more entrenched in the symbolic order from which it seeks to extricate itself. Adorno discusses this concept at length in Aesthetic Theory, noting that “the tension in art … has meaning only in relation to the tension outside. The fundamental layers of artistic experience are akin to the objective world from which art recoils” (233).

    McGann derides post-romantic critics, claiming that many have unknowingly internalized Romantic ideology, resulting in “an uncritical absorption in Romanticism’s own self-representations” (2). He encourages post-romantic critics to step back and acknowledge the Romantic illusions that they have now had a part in perpetuating – to cultivate an awareness of the further contradictions that have arisen as a result of an inherently false brand of criticism. McGann believes that a truly critical approach benefits the modern world by dispelling illusions, not only in the context of a historical Romantic Ideology, but in the context of the modern critic’s relationship to Romantic Ideology (his relationship to a set of ideas which necessarily arose in a different socio-historical climate than that in which he finds himself).

    Ultimately, McGann’s introduction not only sheds light on the self-contradictions of this ideology, but more importantly emphasizes the importance of the acknowledgment of “the historicity of knowledge and belief” (7). Because ideologies and works of art do not exist independently of the time and space in which they are realized, but also because of their universal resonance, he advocates Heine’s approach to criticism, “by which the historical resources of culture may continue to live and move and have their being in the present even as they are also recognized to be definitively placed in the past” (11). It is with an understanding grounded in both the historical particularity and the universality of art that we are able to transcend, or at least glimpse, our ideological illusions and firmly place ourselves in the here and now.

    McGann says that “one of the basic illusions of Romantic Ideology is that only a poet and his works can transcend a corrupting appropriation by ‘the world’ of politics and money” (13). How does this ideology interact with Austen’s Pride and Prejudice? In his September 17th posting, “Austen, Free Indirect Discourse, Realism & Social Class,” Professor Earle describes Austen as a “social conservative … [who] stood for preserving the traditional social order.” How, then, do we define her relationship to the Romantic Ideology discussed in McGann’s introduction? Did her belief in a tiered society somehow free her from a stereotypically Romantic Ideology, or did this ideology simply manifest itself in her in a different way? Armed with an often subtle irony, it’s difficult to say whether Austen was at any point consciously injecting her novel with social commentary, or whether an underlying ideology fused with her realistic portrayal of human relationships to produce a work that would come to be recognized for its sharply insightful socio-economic critique.

  4. Carmel Ohman says:

    I just noticed the phrase “more importantly emphasizes the importance of.” Shudder.

  5. Madeline Fuchs says:

    In response to the questions posed about this week’s reading from Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. I found that the particular passage quoted (the discussion of persuasion) to be a significant one in the development of Elizabeth Bennet’s character. I agree with the idea that Bingley’s allusions to impulsiveness is an antithesis to Burke’s opinions on inertia; however, in the case of Elizabeth’s character, I wouldn’t go as far as to claim her actions and thoughts to be impulsive.

    Although Bingley may be considered vapid, and his jocular remarks towards the influence of Darcy on his own actions appear immature, he does does foreshadow much of the future of the novel. In the initial chapters of the novel, we can see that Elizabeth proposes to be steadfast in her opinions on Mr. Darcy, evident in her conversation with Mr. Wickham at her aunt’s house. Elizabeth is determined to suggest that she does not like Darcy and will not like him ever, even though it is suggested in earlier chapters, while she is still residing at Netherfield that she can feel her opinions beginning to change.

    Essentially, over the course of the novel (and I feel like I can only make broad statements about this – as I already know the outcome of the plot – and we have not read that far yet), we can see that Elizabeth fails to remain committed to the inertia of love, as she is persuaded very much by Darcy and his words and actions. Thus proving that Bingley, although “vapid”, does hold truth in his belief on persuasion by friends.

  6. Vladimir Cristache says:

    It is tempting, when we read “Beyond the Pleasure Principle,” to identify the compulsion for repetition qua “unpleasure principle” with the death drive. The very form of the argument points the way to this identification: Freud starts precisely from trying to find the origin of the “unpleasure principle” (of that part of the compulsion to repeat “which pays no heed to the pleasure principle” [149]), and when he postulates the death drive we think that this is his answer. But keeping the death drive within the constraints of the “unpleasure principle” takes away the extremely radical move that Freud makes in postulating such a drive. What I will argue here is that Freud provides an answer that exceeds his initial question, an answer that he then tries to cover up.

    As we get into Freud’s explanation of the death drive, we’re faced with two queries: 1) if this is an account of the origin of the “unpleasure principle” where’s the complementary account of the pleasure principle? 2) where has the discourse of pleasure/unpleasure gone in these pages (165-9)? I will propose here a speculative resolution to both these problems based on my understanding of the death drive: the latter exists precisely outside of the discourse of pleasure/unpleasure and at the origin of both.

    Freud defines the death drive as “a powerful tendency inherent in every living organism to restore a prior state” (165). Only external forces get in the way of this drive, and it is to them that we should “accordingly ascribe the achievements of organic development” (166). Finally: “In this way living matter may have experienced a long period of continual re-creation and easy death, until decisive external factors changed in such a way that they compelled still-surviving matter to take ever greater diversions from its original course of life and ever more complex detours in achieving its death-goal” (167).

    By defining the death drive in this way, Freud gets completely away from the idea of an economy of pleasure versus an anti-economy of unpleasure. In other words, if we usually associate productivity with an economy of pleasure, and “resistance to the system” or art as a form of masochism (Adorno: “Art renounces happiness for the sake of happiness”) with an anti-economy of unpleasure, then what Freud shows us is that this division is false. For Freud, the very productivity of life is only another way to achieve death. It is because of external forces that we’re forced to be productive in the first place, but we agree to this productivity insofar as we can find another way toward death. To sum it up: “the goal of life is death” (166).

    This insight is more radical then we tend to acknowledge. What Freud is trying to postulate is the origin of WWI itself. And along the way I believe he even postulates (13 years before the fact) the origin of Nazi Germany. WWI was an instance of the death drive being part of productivity itself. When we consider that one of the largest industries in the world was (and still is) the production of arms, how can we not acknowledge the truth of Freud’s thesis? And, speaking of Nazi Germany, weren’t its two biggest values precisely those of productivity and death – very well represented by the words “arbeit macht frei”? Just as with the United States today, in order for Germany to keep producing death (arms) they had to keep producing death (war). Production and death are inextricable – this is Freud’s radical thesis.

    Therefore, Freud’s answer to “what is the origin of the ‘unpleasure principle’?” goes much beyond the question, in that he deconstructs the question itself, showing how the unpleasure principle (death) and the pleasure principle (productivity) are tied together. In fact, we can find this interpretation of the death drive in the title of the work itself. “Beyond the Pleasure Principle” is obviously an allusion to Nietzsche’s “Beyond Good and Evil.” This connection forces us to complete Freud’s title: “Beyond the Pleasure Principle and the Unpleasure Principle.” And indeed, this is where we locate the death drive.

    However, another fact that may distract us from upholding this radical conclusion is Freud’s own infidelity to his thesis. After acknowledging that “considered in this light, the theoretical significance of the drives concerned with self-preservation, self-assertion and dominance diminishes greatly” and these life-drives are only “‘partial’ drives, charged with the task of safe-guarding the organism’s own particular path to death” (167), he goes on to say that “if we really think about it, this cannot be true!” (168). He then postulates the existence of sexual drives as the answer to why some organisms don’t develop at all. But the very definition of these sexual drives is contradictory. Are they the origin of ‘productivity’ as suggested at the end of section V (“Taken in conjunction with the effects of repression, [Eros] could well account for the phenomena attributed to the ‘perfection drive’” [171])? Or are they “conservative in the same sense that the [other drives] are in that they reincorporate previous states of the relevant living matter” (169)? Although we may be tempted to see the sexual drives as the source of productivity, a choice doesn’t have to be made. We can therefore put an even more radical thesis forward, which in some sense is a reiteration of Freud’s own radical thesis: that Eros and Thanatos are two sides of the same coin.

    Insofar as this is the case, Freud’s death drive is not equivalent to Adorno’s “art.” Adorno is much too focused on defining art as “a mode of praxis beyond labour” (237), or, as Professor Earle put it, an “anti-economy economy.”

    Works Cited Outside of Course Texts:
    Freud, Sigmund. “Beyond the Pleasure Principle.” The Penguin Freud Reader. Ed. Adam Philips. London: Penguin, 2006. 132-95.

    • Vladimir Cristache says:

      P.S.

      In fact, there may be one way of reconciling Freud’s death drive to Adorno’s art. The latter can be understood as not necessitating a subject that creates it. As being part of a mere dialectical process. We could say that in Adorno’s theory of representation, there is no difference between the mind (where we’d find ‘Ideas,’ or ‘phenomena,’ or ‘signifiers’) and the outside world (where we’d find ‘representations,’ or ‘noumena,’ or ‘the signified). Art is merely the sedimentation of reality, therefore it is likened to a natural process. No subject needs to come in and create art, “every work of art is an instant; every great work of art is a stoppage of the process, a momentary standing still” (234). It’s as though art works come to be just like anything else in this world, through the mere happenstance of a balance. It is therefore “a mode of praxis beyond labour” insofar as it is present only in those rare moments when everything comes to a standstill – but we have to maintain Adorno’s hypothesis against himself in claiming that it cannot “really” be a mode of praxis, since intentionality doesn’t play a part in it.
      A natural/dialectical process as such is therefore similar to the death drive. However, within this analogy we risk claiming that the moments of stoppage that we have defined as “works of art” would be all the moments in which millions of people do start dying (wars), moments in which the external forces that prolong life are in balance with the death drive.

  7. Natassia Orr says:

    I think the key term in Burke’s “commemorated with grateful thanksgiving” is not necesarily commemorated, but rather grateful thanksgiving. In history (at least at the high school level), one of the things that are studied the most are the revolutions, successful or otherwise. In the scholastic discourse, relatively few revolutionaries are condemned– they are often treated as someone fighting for the rights of the oppressed or disenfranchised. We are “grateful” to see someone standing up for marginalised groups of people in a history full of oppression. I believe Burke’s argument here is that we don’t get that sense justice. The French revolution is arguably best known for its violence, rather than the freedom it may or may not have brought its people.

    As far as Burke’s weight is concerned, Bingly and Darcy embody it very well–because they are fictional characters, their physical description matches their temperament. They would be matched in a physical conflict the same way they would in an intellectual one. Darcy is indeterable and slow to reorient, while Bingly is agile and quick to react. Darcy’s weight and height is not only physical, but also intellectual. He has momentum in the physical sense of the word. Darcy has a clear control over his body and his mind–he cannot be toppled in a fight, he cannot be persuaded by Bingly in his affections. He also has the self-control to keep things unexpressed. While Bingly is very vocal about his opinions, his likes and dislikes, Darcy keeps remarkably quiet about his changing affections. This is, arguably, the source of his appeal. Because Elizabeth does not know what Darcy is thinking, she speculates about him. Because she knows what Bingly is thinking, she pays little attention to him.

    A “stout” love is almost obsessive. Experience is twisted to fit the paradigm of one’s love. In that regard, a sonnet can do only good. Anything indifferent is twisted to make it favourable. Anything distasteful or offensive is ignored, eclipsed by the person’s love. Such is not the case for a “slight, thin sort of inclination”. There is more rationality to a thin sort of love, more thought that goes into analyses of experience. Without the obsession inclining the receiver towards love, the sonnet may seem vapid, poorly composed, offensive or downright creepy. The writer may realise that he or she has no real praise on which to form a sonnet. In both cases, the thin love is dissipated. A stout love has the momentum not to be deterred; a thin love does not.

    • Tina says:

      I especially love Natassia’s take on Bingley and Darcy’s respective inertia and weight. Darcy, a character so built around his $10000 pound income and his grandiose Pemberley mansion, is very much the “axis” of this novel – the plot revolves around him and all the other characters (Elizabeth included) always seems to be travelling around/towards him, never the other way round. He is also the slowest to change due to his heavy inertia (reluctance to sway his prejudice). We haven’t got to that point of the novel yet but I think this gives rise to some very interesting questions.

      Prejudice, or as Burke calls it, “ inbred sentiments”, “faithful guardians” – are habits of the mind, or an accumulation of wisdoms and experiences. My personal approach to a “just and rational prejudice” will be exactly that. You live life going through all its hard knocks and you’re bound to pick up a few scars along the way – these scars endow you with a personal set of knowledge that isn’t derived from empirical proofs, logical deductions, or the best kind, personal anecdotes (god bless Dogbert!) This knowledge is completely personal. It is the way you see it, and no-other. For example, if you got tripped on a pink rock and you think that pink rocks are cumbersome and “out to get you” then naturally you’ll begin to develop an aversion against pink rocks. This is why people call it prejudice, and this is why prejudice gets such a bad rap, especially in this era of excessive political correctness.

      I think prejudice can be perfectly just and rational. It all boils down to personal autonomy. People have the right to think the way they do. We can attempt to educate people and change their personal set of knowledge but otherwise prejudice is completely legit as long as we have the freedom to think and express ourselves. The kind of prejudice Austen is dealing with is the conflicting mindsets between the middle and elite class during that era. Darcy’s prejudice, or experience, has taught me to see Elizabeth as just another middle-class girl with mediocre wit, talents and beauty. Her inferior social status may signal to him that she is only interested in wealth and financial security. The same goes for Elizabeth, she regards him with awe but his subsequent put-downs wounds her pride.

      Prejudice can go either way for our protagonists – Elizabeth and Darcy. Burke has given us a very original (?) take on prejudice, and hopefully it will give me greater insight into Austen’s P&P.

  8. Raquel Baldwinson says:

    Dr. Earle asked, of Freud, Adorno and Burke, “Are their conceptualizations of principles of resistance to theoretical abstraction suggestive or self-defeating?”

    I’m going to pick up where Vlad left off, completing the shift onto Adorno.

    Adorno’s “Aesthetic Theory” is valuable as aesthetic theory but I am going to focus on the way he handles aesthetic theory—on his own (art) form. His approach exhibits the problems and productivity of this act of theorizing negative space.

    I’m going to list off a few instances of the different way he tries to articulate art’s topically paradoxical relationship with the empirical world.

    1. Art is “blissfully soaring above the real world” (233).
    2. Art is “still chained by each of its elements to the empirical other, into which it may even sink back altogether at every instant” (233)
    3. Art is a “heterogenous moment” (234)
    4. Art “must not try to erase the fractures left by the process of integration, preserving instead in the aesthetic whole the traces of those elements which resisted integration” (234)
    5. Works of art are like “windowless monads, representing something which is other than they” (233).
    6. Works of art have a “centripetal force that enables them to gather unto themselves the traces and membra disiecta of real life” (234).
    7. Works of art are the “sedimentations of social relations” (233).

    The sheer range of his metaphors involving time, space, movement, matter… points to the unresolved difficulty of the task at hand. Adorno requires that art polemicizes the conditions of society (233). That being said, is it not apparent that each of these novel metaphors offers something like a polemic against the mediums and modes of society—against societal ways of thinking and communicating those thoughts?

    Adorno does a brilliant job gesturing towards negation and resistance in his aesthetic theory. Still, anyone who attempts such a task commits oneself to the paradox of trying to regulate the unregulated, to refine the wilderness art. However, Adorno illustrates that, by using artful elements in theorizing art, one is finding a way to “describe” aesthetic negation without compromising its sublimity.

    Existing language and concepts fail us because we they are part of that narrow temporal reality which art attempts to briefly defy. Metaphors assist Adorno because they use language and concepts in a way that evacuate room within our minds for this new idea of negative space.

    He manages to dance longer with the untheorizable than other theorists do.

  9. Arin says:

    Last summer I was a nanny for a little girl who was just under the age of two. She was adorable and was just learning how to speak. She could say a few words, like “mommy”, “daddy”, “yes”, and “no”; the usual words that children learn to say. There was another word that was by far the most important word she had learned thus far, and that was “more”. “More” to her could mean anything from “again” to “I would like some more of…” It was entirely context dependent. Mornings and before naptime were usually the traditional times I read to her, and she had plenty of books to choose from. However, what I would find extremely exasperating is that she would constantly ask me to repeat the story I had just read to her. This repetition grated on my nerves constantly, I cannot begin to describe how irritated I became with The Foot Book. Anything that rhymed increased the likeliness that it would be asked for again, and I would begin to dread the word “more”. Today, while I was reading Freud I stumbled upon this sentence, “nor can children have their pleasurable experiences repeated often enough, and they are inexorable in their insistence that the repetition be an identical one… the re-experiencing of something identical, is clearly in itself a source of pleasure”(Freud, 42). As soon as I read this statement, a light bulb literally went on in my head and I wholeheartedly agreed with this idea. However, I had an issue digesting the next few lines, “Novelty is always the condition of enjoyment {for adults}” (Freud, 42). If this were in fact true, then I would never go back to the same restaurants and order the exact same thing, and I would not watch “The Nightmare Before Christmas” more than once a month. I agree to a certain extent that some novelty is required in order to find something enjoyable, one could argue that time is a factor in this stipulation. It seems “new” to me because a certain amount of time has elapsed and I am then allowed to draw pleasure from a repeated experience once again. Alas, I find this notion also troubling because if novelty is indeed required for an experience to be found pleasurable, then the porno industry would have collapsed a long time ago. You see my dear reader, porn is intensely repetitive, and it is based on a series of patterns and constructions that adhere to the very aim of all forms of television. Show the viewer what they want and evoke a pleasurable reaction. One could look at any kind of explicit material and see that most forms of sexual content follow a strictly regulated pattern depending on the gender of the performers. It is carefully pieced together and at the same time immensely repetitive, and yet, this industry is thriving. Voyeurism is stronger today than it ever has been, and why, if the movements are in essence all the same and the same strategies and techniques are being used, do people still enjoy it? The stimulation is the same, the response is the exact same, yet people still watch videos or read magazines with explicit content. Again, one could argue that the variety of people in the pornography industry makes the experience “novel”, new people equals new experience, but I will say that this is not true because again, it is in essence all the same. So, my question to the classroom is do you agree with Freud? Is novelty required to draw pleasure from any kind of experience? Do you personally have any experiences that refute Freud’s statement? Is pornography somehow a rebellion against the fact that the aim of all life is death (being that the aim of fornication is reproduction in its simplest meaning)? Could this in fact be tied to the death drive somehow? By being voyeurs, are we trying to witness a return to a pre-organic state by watching a primal instinct? Am I misconstruing everything that Freud has said to suit my own argument? (Probably)

    • Rhiannon Gascoigne says:

      Hi Arin!

      I wholeheartedly appreciated your problem with Freud’s hypothesis about pleasure and novelty. I think he got it all wrong– in fact I think he got kids wrong too.

      Having two (very different) kids myself, I think I can say with some experience to back me up that, while Freud is right that children find repetition a generally pleasurable experience, I don’t believe it is at all for the reasons he implied. It seems to me that the reason children enjoy repetition is that THAT’S HOW THEY LEARN. That’s how we all learn, and learning is the mode by which we gain the independence necessary for our survival.Of COURSE it’s pleasurable.

      Not only this, but children grow from more or less helpless creatures, unable to lift their own heads, to incredibly agile little people in the space of a year. When you think about it, their entire experience for the first year of their lives must be like rapidly acquiring superpowers that they don’t know what to do with. They need to learn where the boundaries are–the limits of their own power– which is why they dump their food on the floor again and again and observe the reaction of those around them- does it ALWAYS happen this way? Does Mummy always lose her schmidt? Does my brother always scream if I whack his head with a block? Does the spoon always make that really loud noise if I bang it on the table? Finding out where those boundaries are and reassuring themselves of their constancy is also pleasurable.

      Absolute freedom, as defined by Zizek and described as impossible, is UNpleasurable for them. They NEED rules and guidelines in order to feel safe and secure in their existence. Which is why under-disciplined children tend to have very low self esteem and problems with insecurity. They lash out and throw tantrums when they can’t control things because they’re world is full on inconsistent boundaries. Could this be an explanation for the inertia of Burke and an argument for its necessity?

      As for adults and novelty, I think that Feud is both right and wrong– in a completely reified world experience– yes, absolutely he’s right, and I think your example of porn is a very good illustration. The experience of pleasure may be the same, the porn repetitive, but the consumers, the viewers, are intentionally objectifying people for purposes of their own pleasure and the reason this is pleasurable is not because the experience or pattern is different, but the OBJECTS are.

      However, I would argue that adults can have pleasure in a “novel” experience for the same reason that babies can– it is a learning experience. They can also have repetitive experiences that are pleasurable because they enjoy being reminded of a past pleasurable experience– like your favourite restaurant.

      Perhaps I am arguing that there are two kinds of pleasurable experience which both children AND adults can enjoy in: the pleasure in discovering a boundary, and the pleasure of reassurance in experiencing a known boundary’s constancy. A healthy experience of pleasure is one in which these two are balanced, and perhaps we can argue that a moral experience of pleasure is one in which the cause of that pleasure is the consumption of novel objects without the corresponding novel experience?

      • Kellie Gibson says:

        I’m wondering if every experience is somehow a novel one because nothing can truly be recreated as it once was. That an experience only exists once for a very brief moment in time and space. Thinking on the frequenting of a restaurant, while the place and perhaps the ordered food may be the same, the experience will always be unique because the atmosphere may be different, the people around you different, your mood different, etc… all affecting how you interpret the situation, rendering it a ‘novel’ experience and thusly ‘enjoyable.’

        In this case, could it be possible that children enjoy repetition for the same reason? That they are not experiencing a repetitive action exactly the same each time, as Freud seems to pose it. That even though throwing a reel attached to a string over and over again is the same, the action will always yeild a slightly different yet result. Perhaps it wasn’t thrown as far as the last time, or it came back more easily than before, so the enjoyment comes from it being experienced differently each time.

      • Lindsay Vermeulen says:

        I’m really liking Kellie’s idea about every experience being a novel one. Actually, I’ve been consciously applying this to my university career. Every school day tends to replicate the one before it very closely, from the bus I catch to the people I see to the foods I eat and so on. In order to prevent the onset of insanity I make sure to position myself so I can see the lookout go by from the bus – the one on Marine Drive – and make myself observe something different from the day before, be it a new shade of colour or lighting or cloud formation. This reinforces the fact that another day has actually passed.

        Perhaps children are applying this principle as well. While establishing certain “control” factors, like the story being read, the person reading it and the setting, they experiment to see what parts of the outcome will be different. Like Rhiannon said, Does it happen every time?

        From an adult point of view, having certain factors remain the same time after time permit us to take more pleasure in the subtle differences between the past and present occurrence of a certain phenomenon. If I was doing totally new and different things each day, I would be unlikely to notice a novel play of light on water.

        On a rather snobbish and didactic level, I am concerned that “society today” is altogether too concerned with novelty, which feeds the machine selling us things (need the newest iPod! the newest camera! the newest boots! and so on.) Perhaps we could benefit from a return to the childish fascination with repetition.

  10. Aron Rosenberg: says:

    It’s been a long day and there are lots of really well thought out responses up already! I’ll have a go though: I found myself identifying, (unfortunately for my ego but fortunately for the group or for the long run), with those towards whom Mcgann’s criticism was aimed. As Carmel intelligently put it, Mcgann “encourages post-romantic critics to step back and acknowledge the Romantic illusions that they have now had a part in perpetuating – to cultivate an awareness of the further contradictions that have arisen as a result of an inherently false brand of criticism.” Although I do agree that this is something to be aware of, I feel like if proper weight is given to the paradigm of the romantic artist, one can contemporarily use their ideas as they fit into the historical perspective, not in content necessarily as much as in form. In terms of this thought in relation to Austen and to exemplify what I mean, a modern reader can relate to or learn from Austen’s socially conservative ideologies through an exploration of how they provide a stage in which clever/likeable characters are able to distinguish themselves within the rigid public discursive realities of Austen’s world. Can this then be carefully transferred to an understanding of that format as it can be related to a modern context in which obligations and restrictions require clever and proactive maneuvering? (Being free by recognizing lack of freedoms?)

    Separately, I really appreciate what Raquel wrote about Adorno’s ability to dance around what he was trying to say in order to communicate it without compromising/adulterating/tainting it with the frames of language and the mazes of ontology. Considering the intricate and only esoterically knowable though hardly communicable genuine truths reached through exploring paradox in Adorno’s article, it may prove truthful that there’s always the possibility (or perhaps even the responsibility?) to go on a quest for truth despite the knowledge that there can be no knowledge, only knowing. I wonder if language, or written analytical/theoretical prose is the most effective way to go about exploring essences as opposed to representations and the sublime gap. Poetry perhaps might work better? Surely, for me, Blake and Strand proved very elucidating, though perhaps, according to McGann, misleadingly so. Pride and Prejudice too has the ability to go beyond non-fiction and help (or perhaps go beyond our modern paradigm and hinder) Maybe music in some unspeakable way could put a rest to the question of genuine presence with alterity, separation, and difference? Or Sex even? Drugs?

  11. Alyzee Lakhani says:

    I see a recurrent theme in our readings of Burke, Adorno and Freud that postulate a binary or a tension of opposites. For Freud, this opposition is the pleasure principle against the death drive. Freud thinks the truth of the pleasure principle is “so obvious” (4) that it can scarcely be overlooked. As I think I live in some ways by the pleasure principle and reality principle (which is also the pleasure principle, only the pleasure to be attained is deferred), I do not require Freud to account for the existence of the pleasure principle, as Vladmir thinks he should to maintain the symmetry of his argument. Even unpleasure is explained through the pleasure principle, as the part of the psyche that is being “pleasured” in this case are the unconscious instincts that the conscious has banished. However when Freud explains the death drive, it becomes somewhat problematic that there is no way to prove his theory that we repeat traumatic experiences to return to an original state. This instinct is said to be pre-conscious, and I think supposes a species-wide instinct to recoil from the forward march of time and supposedly, life. Even though Freud doesn’t explain it, the theory that ‘the purpose of life is death’ is soothing as it promises rest – and so I am inclined to believe it (this is not very empirical of me, but I don’t think the writers we are reading this week would care). But Freud says “There is unquestionably no universal instinct towards higher development observable In the animal world, even though it is undeniable that development does in fact occur in that direction” (49-50). What are we to do with this last clause? If all our mental processes are fueled entirely by instinct (8), and Freud owns that unpleasure occurs as a consequence of the ego “developing into highly composite organizations” (8), does that mean that to develop is to get closer to death which is returning to an older form of existence?

    Vladmir suggests that Freud is using the death drive to explain WWI and even WWII. Doesn’t this lump the human species together as a body of sorts, with one goal, with different parts acting differently, but cohesively, to achieve it? I’m afraid there may be a problem with this suggestion, only because the arms industry very materially benefits some people, while the “benefits” of war and violence are indirect at best to others, who are often imposed upon or taken by surprise. I agree that those that make the decision to participate in war are perhaps motivated by the death drive, and achieve some pleasure in hurtling towards death (am I taking “death” too literally?). But those that intiate and execute war – at least according to the books I’ve read – are far from the field of destruction, usually enjoying the predictable benefits of their rank. Perhaps I have misunderstood the death drive altogether. I hope I get a clearer idea of it in class tomorrow.

  12. Rhiannon Gascoigne says:

    Also Alyzee, if war is evidence of the “death drive” at work in the human race then I’m afraid we would have to apply it to the animal kingdom as well– as far as I know war is a strictly human thing. So I tend to have problems with this hypothesis as well.

  13. Mandy Woo says:

    Freud uses the word “involution” (50) instead of “evolution”, which is key as “involution” (50) brings to the table three possible forms of development: “retrograde” (50), entanglement (OED), and a turn inward (OED). Although “the [death drive] [w]ill permit of no halting at any position attained” (51), to develop does not mean to get closer to death since Freud continues, “but, in the poet’s words, [the death drive presses ever forward unsubdued]” (51). By using “but” (51), the poet or art is shown to be an exception to the rule, outside of instinct and also “involut[ed]” (50) or entangled with it. Freud goes on to distinguish between life’s inevitable “conclusion” and life’s “goal” (51): “there is no alternative but to advance in the direction that growth is still free – though with no prospect of bringing the process [of life] to a conclusion [which is death] or of being able to reach that goal” (51), that is, the “goal” (51) of “produc[ing] phenomenon” (51).

  14. (it’s hard to follow such amazing posts, & to piece together my own fragmented thoughts, but here goes: )

    @Rhiannon Gascoigne & the death drive in animals: one could argue that animal extinction (e.g. dinosaurs) proves a kind of ‘death drive’ operating in nature, or in the universe? I would have to look more into entropy/chaos theories to prove that idea; (as in, the universe came from nothing, and wants to return to nothing).

    To me, Freud’s ‘death drive’ seems to be very similar Zizek’s ontology, in that they both see humanity as ultimately determined and lacking autonomy. Zizek does this by claiming that “’wickedness appears to be something which is irrevocably given”( Zizek, 187) and Freud conjures up a ‘drive’ that is inescapable and ultimate (Does Freud claim that we can override the ‘death drive’?) Freud maintains a kind of autonomy, in that the individual wants to die, but by his own internal workings and not through outside interference; in the same way, Zizek claims that we make the choices which have been prepared for us in advance, freely.

    I find Freud’s attempt in this book to be almost touching, and perhaps (if we accept his framework) many of us have seen the ‘death drive’ manifest in family members, or even in ourselves. I appreciate Freud’s brief allusion to the ways in which religion has tried to explain the compulsion for repetition, that is to say, religion explained the phenomenon through “daemonic possession”. But what exactly is the difference between the two explanations? They are both invisible forces acting upon the individual, over which we have no control. They are both impossible to prove. It seems that the question of religion has permeated (almost) every reading we have had this far: in that, the questions/ symptoms remain the same, only the answer has to change to fit the current ideology.

    Thus, one way to interpret Freud’s statement, “the goal of life is death” (166), is that it is an essentially atheistic statement, striving to eliminate ultimate purposes, and tending towards nihilism(?). It guess, to return to the ‘pre-organic’ state is the ultimate purpose for Freud, but what does that really mean? It loosely reminds me of my favourite Bertrand Russell quote: “That man is the product of causes that had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve individual life beyond the grave; that all the labors of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins- all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding dispair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built.”

    For me, recognition of the ‘death drive’ demands unyielding despair, and seems to undermine, essentially, all of Freud’s life work.

    • Rhiannon Gascoigne says:

      @Christina– yes one could look at extinction as some kind of evidence of a death drive and I’m not denying its existence necessarily, but extinction is not the same thing as war at all. It depends on entirely on chaotic circumstances –for the most part extinction is something that happens TO the animals either by natural forces or because of human carelessness and consumerism– it is not something they create themselves. War IS something we create and Vlad’s implication is that while we wage wars for the sake of productivity, the REAL force driving our productivity is the death drive. And I’m not sure I can agree with this statement as being the universal motive for productivity. In a society of reifying consumers it may very well play a key role, but that does not mean that all production is bound up with the death drive. Our creative faculties and the way in which we use them to create communities seems to me to be quite outside this particular influence. We make love as well as war.

  15. Amy Miles says:

    Examining Burke’s take on prejudice, and the reasons for which prejudices are upheld rather than dispelled, certainly brings up the Austen connection. Many of Austen’s characters are, as Rhiannon already noted, blinded by their prejudices, often to the detriment of their circumstances—and this must surely be intentional, given Austen’s central theme. In setting forth a wealth of examples of prejudices, Austen is directly engaging with the notion of prejudice itself, in the same way that Burke does, and I would argue that they arrive at similar conclusions.

    Burke notes that, “instead of exploding general prejudices, [many men] employ their sagacity to discover the latent wisdom which prevails in them… Prejudice is of ready application in the emergency; it previously engages the mind in a steady course” (14). First, I will argue that we might take Burke’s “prejudice” to mean “tradition” or “habit”—for, I think, both of these words serve Burke’s purpose equally well. Burke is positing an ideology that is cherished due to its longevity and generality, which creates a social framework with which to frame new experiences. I don’t fancy that this reading totally unproblematizes Burke’s idea of a just and rational prejudice, but it does help to contextualize it in terms of Austen.

    In Austen, I think that we see Burke’s thoughts on prejudices played out in a social context. Prejudices associated with notions of rank and class are exemplified in the censure of Mrs. Bennet’s coarseness by Miss Bingley and her sister—the ideological framework of “country” versus “town” being one of those long-cherished, unexamined prejudices that Burke explores.

    Austen’s central commentary on prejudice is, of course, to be found in the character of Elizabeth Bennet. While it is early days in the text, already we have seen the formation of her prejudices surrounding Mr. Darcy. His introduction, and first few interactions with Elizabeth and other members of her social circle, is sufficient evidence for that social circle to apply to him a pre-conceived ideology of pride and elitist snobbery. Elizabeth seems willing enough to hold the course there, as evidenced by her treatment of Darcy during her stay at Netherfield: however, her conversation with Mr. Wickham, because it affirms—or, one could say, provides Burke’s “latent wisdom” or “reason” to continue—her prejudice.

  16. Lauren Weatherdon says:

    Regarding Burke’s apt description, “the cold sluggishness of our national character”…

    Burke is certainly not polemicizing tongue-in-cheek, here; indeed, he is quite sincere about the benefits of England’s hesitance/slowness to act. Burke’s claim seems to recall Montesquieu’s assertion that “There was in cold climates a certain strength of mind and body which made men capable of actions that were prolonged, difficult, great and audacious” (XIX: 2). Likewise, this echoes the notion that climate has a significant influence on the productivity of a culture (… Plato’s Republic?).

    Burke is rebuking the effects of the Enlightenment, alluding to the fact that it has “embowelled” other cultures, removing their ability to truly feel and the very essence of “the age of chivalry” (12)(reminiscent of Honneth – but in a different, less commodity-oriented way):

    “We look up with awe to kings, with affection to parliaments . . . with respect to nobility. Why? Because when such ideas are brought before our minds, it is natural to be so affected; because all other feelings are false and spurious, and tend to correct our minds . . . and render us unfit for rational liberty” (14)

    Although his opinion seems to directly oppose that of both Rousseau and Marx, Burke would agree with the detrimental effects of reification – he would just attribute it to the lack of tradition, rather than economics. His emphasis on what is natural follows his assertion that “the glory of Europe is extinguished forever. Never, never more shall we behold that generous loyalty to rank and sex. . . the subordination of the heart which kept alive, even in servitude itself, the spirit of an exalted freedom” (12). Therefore, he portrays the English as culturally proud and very much connected (or so he hopes) to their traditional roots, having been slow to adopt what he would view as the ‘radical’ theories of the Enlightenment (and particularly Rousseau). Apparently, he is regarded as “the philosophical founder of modern conservatism” (Wikipedia), which would clearly explain his disdain for the Enlightenment and its disregard of past wisdom – particularly the wisdom of the Church. (The separation of Church and State would have horrified him).

    While Burke agrees whole-heartedly with Rousseau that “Society is indeed a contract” (14), he differs in his opinion of the necessity of state and communal law – alluding to the Original Sin as an example of the importance of social order. He postulates that “He who gave our nature to be perfected by our virtue willed also the necessary means of perfection. He willed therefore the state; He willed its connection with the source and original archetype of all perfection” (16). In short, Church and State should be, and were formed by God to be, one.

  17. questions:

    i haven’t yet seen the newly posted Zizek videos, but can anyone help me with these questions?

    1. Doesn’t Zizek argue that there is no ‘thing’, therefore it’s just”nothing”? Thus wouldn’t Zizek argue against both Burke and Adorno, since they have substituted this thing either for artifice or for ‘suffering’?

    2. In class today we said that “all suffering has the dream of escape” but, isn’t that dream of escape exactly the kind of religious ideology that we are trying to break free of?

    3. We spoke to day of the way in which Adorno wishes to release us towards an enjoyment that we don’t know the purpose of. Shouldn’t Adorno also claim that there is no purpose in the first place, since any kind of purpose (other than the death drive) must appeal to some kind of ‘spooky’ metaphysics? How do we reconcile today’s discussion with, for example, the “Brights” movement, which involves very popular figures such as Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennet, or with evolutionary biology? That is to say, these people would argue that perhaps even our view of the sublime is an illusion, a trick of our mind to make us think there is something more; therefore, raising any idea/experience (such as suffering) to that stature is just another form of false ideology. Wouldn’t evolutionary biology claim that the only thing that connects us is egoism/the will to survive?

    4 Once we are extracted from a world of reified purposes, what would human relationships look like? I mean, what ‘purpose’ is left to us? We talked about having a ‘vision of a common suffering’ through the ‘destroying of the self’ but, it doesn’t follow that these two conditions will bring about 1. a change in human relationships 2. a better world. Once we have seen the picture of dehumanization, why do we assume that everyone will want to share in a common vision of redemption? Indeed, it may be better for humanity to live in the illusion.

    5.Doesn’t this language distinctly remind anyone of sunday school/ Christian theology? I mean, isn’t the claim of Christianity precisely this, that no human being can kill the ‘self’, but that divine power/intervention is required? And baptism is exactly that, an identification with the death of Christ, a self-crucifixtion that then unites us with other believers into one Body.

    6. To me, the idea of “redemption” – in the context of modern society – is absurd. (you can’t have your cake and eat it too.) To me it’s absurd because it demands a kind of metaphysical justice that seems to require us to work ,yet again, within a set of ideology; whereas, in a naturalistic world view, there is no redemption. This is it. Hitler will never be punished; you will never get your just revenge; your charity will come to nothing once the sun blows up. There is nothing more. And that realization should bring about despair, not hope. Therefore I’m (at the moment) confused with Adorno’s attempt to find hope in art. The realization of a damaged world cannot bring hope! (unless you bring in God) At the moment ( i have to look back on the readings) i am of the opinion that all art can do is help us contain this despair; help us capture/experience little moments of pain from which we can then distance ourselves and go on about our daily lives.

    We talked of how Adorno argues for a “tragic transcendence where we recognize the impossibility of transcendence” >> isn’t that a paradox?

    7. What if capitalism just reflects an actual human reality: what if our very genetic makeup/ human body is incapable of operating within a system where people are not objectified to some extent? I would argue that we can only really be intimate with a couple of people, possibly the most intimate with a spouse, and the more people we add to the equation, the more superficial the relationships will be. Even though you live within a capitalistic society, you still treat your mother as your mother, not as an object. The distancing towards the outside world could be required for our very survival: what if i was to cry for every disaster victim as if my own mother died? That sorrow would probably kill me too. I understand the general claim against capitalism, yet we should also consider that, even though we have objectified 6 billion people, we really only have the power to change/impact a small number of people that are part of our lives.

  18. Cristina Ciotinga says:

    Excellent quote in relation to Burke:

    “The Value of myth is that it takes all the things you know and restores to them the rich significance which has been hidden by the veil of familiarity.” -C. S. Lewish

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