1. “your Ladyship can hardly expect me to own it” (110). These words of Elizabeth to Lady Catherine seem to signal a certain turning of the tables insofar as here Elizabeth is claiming something like Darcy’s prerogative of dignified silence in respect to Darcy’s own aunt. Is Austen in fact changing how Burkean inertia is defined in the world of the novel, from being a matter strictly of noble “property,” blood and land, to instead being a matter of…. what?
2. The following is written by the omniscient narrator but it doesn’t seem neutral: “[Lady Catherine] examined into their employments, looked at their work, and advised them to do it differently; found faulty with the arrangement of the furniture, or detected the housemaid in negligence; and if she accepted any refreshment, seemed to do it only for the sake of finding out that Mrs. Collins’s joints of meat were too large for her family” (112). Is the narrator chanelling the perspective of a particular character? on the basis of what evidence would we answer? and if so whose? What would it mean that the narrator would take sides at this moment?
3. Vol. II, chap. 8 offers another remarkable meta-conversation (or conversation about conversing; like Elizabeth’s and Darcy’s conversation while dancing at the ball); here Elizabeth and Colonel Fitzwilliam talk about Darcy’s manner of talking as if Darcy were not there. Are we supposed to find this humiliating for Darcy? why/why not?
4. In this same conversation Elizabeth rejects Darcy’s explanation for his reserved manner by developing an analogy between conversation and music; he suggests that he is constitutionally aloof, whereas she suggests that he could learn to be more social just as she could learn better fingering technique at the piano. This analogy seems especially significant for a number of reasons, including: 1) Elizabeth emphasizes that practice is a voluntary discipline, implying that, in Burke’s terms, the inert properties Darcy has by inheritance, his noble blood, estate and physical stature, may not be enough, that he might also have something important ‘actively’ to learn; 2) Lady Catherine herself also makes a big deal about learning music, and indeed immediately takes up precisely the question of fingering Elizabeth had spoken about (so are importantly contrasting views of music at issue here?); 3) Darcy’s reply is (typically) obscure, but it emphasizes that he takes Elizabeth to mean something that particularly binds the two of them: “We neither of of us perform to strangers” (117). Describe the different types of performance that Darcy, Elizabeth and Lady Catherine respectively have in mind and the extent to which these do and don’t overlap.
5. The conversation between Darcy and Elizabeth in chap. 9 is fascinating because it’s so opaque (or, again, obscure); could its ambiguity suggest something of what the prior chapter called “performance?” What is the point of the whole question of how distant from home the newly wed settle? there must be some unspoken subtext to this question, especially when Darcy draws close and says “you cannot have a right to such very strong local attachment. You cannot have been always at Longbourn” (119); what is the unspoken meaning with which these words are so charged?
6. Elizabeth says that Charlotte’s choice of husband was unwise but prudential (118); what does unwise mean here? And what’s the significance of the fact that, although Elizabeth has such a low opinion of Charlotte’s wisdom, it is precisely Charlotte who deciphers the truth of Darcy’s feelings for Elizabeth before Elizabeth does? Is Austen suggesting that Elizabeth’s prejudice distorts her judgment of Charlotte no less than of Darcy, that Charlotte is wise in a way Elizabeth hasn’t recognized?
Morton, “Dark Ecology”
Morton writes against what he calls the illusion of “ecomimesis,” of pretending to integrate with nature even while speaking of it as an object: the beautiful soul is precisely the fantasy of transcending this conflict. For Morton truly ecological experience and art must “intoxicate and render inoperative the belief that there is a ‘thing’ called nature that is ‘out there’ beyond us” (183). There is clearly an echo of Rousseau’s and Zizek’s ‘forced choice’ here. According to Morton it is only a somewhat “painful” “melancholy” and “noir” aesthetics of “dark ecology” that makes us aware of our implication in forced choices. So he says that “now is a time for grief to persist, to ring throughout the world. Modern culture has not yet known what to do with grief” (185). but the paradox is that “we can’t mourn for the environment because we are so deeply attached to it–we are it” (186), so “dark ecology is based on negative desire rather than positive fulfillment. It is saturated with unrequited longing. It maintains duality, if not dualism….Unable fully to introject or digest the idea of the other, we are caught in its headlights, suspended in the possibility of acting without being able to act. Thus is born the awareness of the intensity and constraint of critical choice. Reframing the beautiful soul is a profound environmental act” (186). How do the poems “I am” and “The Fly” figure this? Is Oothoon, affirming a resurgent desire in the wake of rape, an apt figure of this?
“desire itself is a defense against desire:” (132) beneath the signature, provocative/annoying, paradox/claptrap is an important idea we discussed a little last time: to gain a critical perspective on a fantasy is not to dissolve its form but to demystify its content, which actually means precisely holding onto its form: the emptiness of the fantasy, which is to say the fantastic status of the fantasy, is manifest as such only in that empty frame or skeleton of the hollowed out fantasy as fantasy. Hence “the paradoxical intermediate role of fantasy: it is a construction enabling us to seek maternal substitutes, but at the same time a screen shielding us from getting to close to the maternal Thing–keeping us at a distance from it. This is why it would be wrong to conclude that any empirical, positively given object could take its place in the fantasy-frame.” Should this happen, Zizek says, fantasy, desire lose their shape and coherence and we’re overtaken by nausea, effectively traumatized.
Explain what Bersani means by a “discipline of impersonal intimacy:” a pleasure “in being ‘reduced’ to an impersonal rhythm” that “doesn’t satisfy conscious or unconscious desires; instead, it testifies to the seductiveness of the ceaseless movement toward and away from things without which there would be no particular desire for any thing, a seductiveness that is the ontological ground of the desirability of all things.” Is this analogous to Zizek’s hollowed-out frame of desire?
Bersani proceeds to suggest that this crystallization of the materiality of things independently of egoistically possessive relations to them unlocks an analogously postindividual experience of desire as the substrate of thinghood per se. How and why does this discipline of impersonal intimacy herald for Bersani an “ecological ethics…in which the subject, having willed its own lessness, can live less invasively in the world,” making it “not only imperative but natural to treat the outside as we would a home”? How does this relate to Morton’s “dark ecology?”
“We are Seven” is ironic in the sense that the poet presumes the girl could know nothing of death whereas the girl demonstrates an expertise in death that the poet lacks. So the poem is just as much about what she knows as what he doesn’t. But what is the significance of the fact that this knowledge/experience/wisdom of the girl’s is framed in terms of ‘being seven?’ the figure of a number seems like an oddly impersonal and abstract way to articulate a special intimacy with death, no?