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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Against Theory

My problem with the article Against Theory is centered around a similar issue we have discussed heavily throughout class. Should readers like myself, only take into consideration the authors intent? Or should we look behind the scenes and read between the lines to see what underlies the authors text? Personally, I find it almost ignorant and insane to think that an author intends to portray every critical method possible. Knapp and Michaels state that, “the mistake made by theorists has been to imagine a possibility or desirability of moving from one term (authorial intention) to a second (textual significance) term when actually the two terms are the same”. As I recently employed a historical analysis for my final paper, I found the cultural and social environment that surrounded the author to have a profound influence on his writing. When doing so, I found that the author was aware of the environment that surrounded him, but failed to recognize his own influence for that historical context. I just cannot seem to grasp the idea that if an author writes a piece of text to represent a specific cultural context, how one can then derive various meanings from this. I believe that authorial intent should only be relied on if and only when the author makes a clear distinction about his/her work. However, I do believe that reading between the lines is necessary in constructing a basis for ones argument. If someone chooses to read a piece of text through the lense of gender or race, then I believe it is necessary to atleast acknowledge the historical context and framework in which the author was placed. The real question then becomes what is the intent of not only the author, but of the text itself? And as a literary and cultural theorist, I find it impossible to arrive at such a conclusion.

Authorial Intention and the Generation of Meaning-Knapp and Michaels'-Against Theory

I agree with Knapp and Michaels’ claim that language becomes accidental and merely “like language” if it’s deprived of an author. However, I do not agree that by taking away and author and authorial intent, the language loses all meaning. The article poses the question whether or not computers can have intention, and I believe that they can’t. Computers can replicate or perform the intentions of the program/programmer, but it is absurd to think that computers could have intention. The question of whether or not the sea could have intention isn’t relevant because the sea certainly cannot create/intend anything, it only reacts when biological or environmental factors act on it. However, to expose the truth about the necessity of authorial intent for the creation of meaning, imagine yourself dropping a glass of O.J. on the ground and the word “run” appears. Clearly the incident is a phenomenon, but its lack of authorial intent doesn’t stop your heart from speeding up, your adrenaline kicking in, and your eyes from the scanning the room. While in this case authorial intent doesn’t substantiate the meaning of word run, leading to a horror film chase scene like you’d expect, the language itself possess meaning and causes us to think twice about staying put.

Calling All Theorists! The Problems of Literary Theory

Knapp and Michaels’ thesis states, “The mistake on which all critical theory rests has been to imagine that (the problems of interpretation) are real” (Knapp 724). To back this up, they cite the relationship between correct interpretation and authorial intent and the ambiguity and generalizations done by “interpretive assumptions” (724). On the first point, we have seen this relationship explored in our workings of Joyce’s Dubliners, particularly in the role of Joyce’s little brother’s diaries in A Painful Case, as well as in Dr. Herzog’s discussions of Vietnam War literature. It is no question that the connections between authorial intent and correct interpretation are often hazy, especially when an author’s work is read in a different era. However, I believe there are examples in which authorial intent can play a direct role in more thorough interpretation. I see this in Nikki Giovanni’s poem “Nikki Rosa”. Her poem essentially is a post-structuralist attempt to rewrite the popular construct that wealth determines happiness in creative form. Instead of material goods, she states that “Black love is Black wealth” (Giovanni “Nikki Rosa” l. 30). Her biography is reflected in the piece by describing her poverty and childhood home in Woodlawn; however, she explicitly states that while biographers will “probably talk about my hard childhood / and never understand that / all the while I was quite happy” (l. 31-33). Her explicit statements help the reader to examine what structures and binaries the “biographers” would have drawn upon (l. 17).
I find the second issue of their piece much more relevant and in need of examination. Particularly in some of our presentations, there is a general assumption that certain stereotypes about women, non-white races, and other subjugated groups exist because of their subjugation. However, many of these stereotypes are not grounded in “a direct encounter with its object”, also known as the text (Knapp 737). Here, they see the danger of the practice of theorizing about a subject that may not exist exactly in their framework. When I read this, I hear a call to ground theory, whether that is the original constructions, the deconstructions, the explorations, and the arguments, in the texts. If there are any “practical consequences” of such an examination of theory, it is to make sure what we theorize about is tangible in the language of a text (738).

PUSH Against Theory

Steven Knapp and Walter Benn Michaels, in the first part of their argument in "Against Theory," question E.D. Hirsch's theory about what defines a text. It is questioned as to why Hirsch separates meaning and intended meaning when trying to define what is projected to an audience by a text,especially if meaning and intention are the same. When reading this, I thought of the contrast between the novel "Push" by Sapphire and the movie "Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire." I remember reading the book and realizing that one of the most predominant male characters was one that didn't exist in the actual plot: Louis Farrakhan. Farrakhan was the basis to which Precious, the novel's central character, ran her life and made most of her moral decisions and judgements. Farrakhan is mentioned throughout the entire novel quite often, but when the movie was made, there is no mention of Farrakhan at all. This forced me to think in the minds of Hirsch as opposed to Knapp and Michaels, wondering if the intention of the author and the textual meaning of "Push" were the same. If they were indeed different as Hirsch suggests, I would think that Sapphire, the book's author, would be upset that her critique of Precious's reliance of Farrakhan is completely ignored in the movie. This would imply that the director, who is essentially the most important audience member, and the author perceived the text's meaning as different things, eventually opposing the author's intentions.

An Argument Against the Argument Against Theory

The article by Knapp and Michaels was interesting in that it posited a way of thinking about authorial intention that some may not have previously considered. In this course, we have examined how various theories can help indentify larger structures of language and context which elucidate further meaning beyond what is immediately recognizable. By looking through various critical lenses, a reader can gain a richer understanding of a given text. But the question arises as to what degree does the author's intended meaning matter in our interpretation. Are there times when a rose is just a rose, placed within the story for aesthetic value? This is where I have personally struggled with theory. The idea of tearing apart a piece of literature sometimes leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I like to think that literature can be valued for its inherent beauty: the formation of sentences, the sharing of experience, and the construction of real characters. But I realize that there is a place for theory, much in the same way that there is a place for the biological examination of our world. If there is something deeper within the structures of literature, why shouldn't we seek to expose and examine it in order to gain a fuller understanding? I may now be ranting, so I will try to bring my argument back to the original subject matter. In the article, the authors oppose the idea of separating what the author hopes to say and what is actually meant by the language of a text. The authors say "Some theorists have claimed that valid interpretations can only be obtained through an appeal to authorial intentions. ..But once it is seen that the meaning of a text is simply identical to the author's intended meaning, the project of grounding meaning in intention becomes incoherent" (Knapp and Michaels, 724). Perhaps I am reading this incorrectly, but are they saying that there is no need to look to the author's intent because the way a text is interpreted is how the author intended it to be interpreted? This notion seems a cheap way of passing through the boundaries of the intentional fallacy. Of course there will be discrepancies between the way a text is perceived by the reader and how the author intended it to be understood. That is the place of the author: to give a text to the world in order that it might be read and interpreted in a variety of ways. To say that each of these ways of interpreting is the way the author intended it is to say that an author writes without intention, or that the author's intention is to have multiple interpretations. The fact remains that there will always be multiple interpretations of texts, no matter what the author intends. In this way, there will remain an inherent discrepancy between the reader and the author. The article fails to recognize that these two modes of interpretation and intention are not the same.

Against Theory

The argument over authorial intent and meaning of the texts is ongoing. I agree to some extent with the authors that these two items which are usually separated, should not be. The cycle of the author taking into account his or her events and surroundings feeds into his works, which plays a role in the author’s intentions. Even in pieces like Soyinka’s Death and the King’s Horseman where Soyinka explicitly states at the beginning of the play that the piece is not about colonialism, we can see a post-colonial influence. However, I do not see how we can interpret a piece if all of our tools of interpretation are removed. We the readers bring our own interpretations to the text. Our own surroundings influence how we interpret a piece that was written by a person who themselves were influence by their surroundings.

Happy Guesswork

How fitting (yet ironic) is it that once we've learned that there's no need to try to perscribe a single reading and pin a text down that not even the theories we use to analyze these texts with too cannot be constrained within simple definitions. At least we're getting used to the anxiety of not having to "know" what a an artifact is saying and be happy simply in speculating and doing our best to justify it. I for one have found some happy medium in all this, and it is just to see what I see and point it out.

The Argumentation in "Against Theory"

Using Hirsch to attack Hirsch and basing an entire argument on his faux pas is all moot. Knapp and Michael's claim that, "From the standpoint of an argument against critical theory...the only important question about intention is whether there can in fact be intentionless meanings. If our argument against theory is to succeed, the answer to this question must be no." is outrageously asinine. There can be no such thing as "intentionless meanings". From the lowliest child's book to the most advanced medical journal and everything in between and every other media form there is, contains some sort of meaning. Regarding their example of the scribblings in the sand the words still maintain their meaning whether or not they "merely...resemble" words. As for the author's intention, that is beside the point. Even Formalist theorists, who read texts for what is there and do not speculate as to meaning, cannot always regard authorial intention. Every reader of a text is "wired" a different way and interpret things differently. The fault with Knapp and Michael's argument against theory comes in its principle. It just cannot be done.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Feminism in "The Women"

This blog might possibly be too late to receive any points, but that's okay I still want to discuss it. While the majority of the audience of the play and readers of the script would want to classify either Mrs. Haines (the original) or Nancy Blake, I find the real feminist of the story to be Peggy Day. Mrs. Haines, though she does not mind about being temporarily single, eventually goes back to her husband and Nancy seems to knowingly make the claim that women aren't happy unless they have a man. This situation is entirely different Peggy. She is someone who has no trace of motherhood whatsoever, referring to her newborn child as "it." Even though she gets pregnant several times throughout the course of the play and has a number of child, not once does the audience see any time of nurturing character within her. This rejection of typical motherhood defies society's standards on a woman's place within the marriage, both then and now. Additionally, she is governed by the Id, having sex for pleasure (this is inferred by her constant pregnancy) and being highly gluttonous, fulfilling her every desire without fear of repercussions, performing a stereotypical male role. She is a wife and a mother only by title.

Responding to "Against Theory"

What I found the most interesting about this article is what we have been discussing several times throughout the majority of the course: whether we should only take into consideration authorial intent or look at what is behind the author's words. Within the article, Knapp and Michaels mention, "The mistake made by theorists has been to imagine a possibility or desirability of moving from one term (the author's intended meaning) to a second term (the text's meaning), when actually the two terms are the same."It almost seems naive to make a generalization that the author intended every possible meaning. When analyzing a text, especially from a historicist viewpoint, events and social roles are in important component in the influence of the author's beliefs and values. If someone is looking at a text to look at the cultural, many authors are unaware of how they specifically define themselves, societal influences, and unintentional connections made in the writing process. I do not understand how, if a poet writes a piece of poetry about a flower and the reader recognizes it as an analogy of the speaker's life, then how are those two things the same? Authorial intent should only be taken into consideration when the author explicitly makes a statement about his or her work; even then, though, there should be some degree of analysis on why the author made that choice and what it means to the reader.

Using Theory to Breakdown Theory

The “Against Theory” article was interesting, but as I began to think about how the duo of Mr. Knapp and Mr. Michaels were analyzing the use of theory, I realized they were using theory to breakdown theory. Knapp and Michaels use post-structuralist theory to breakdown critical theory in general. By using post-structuralist theory, Knapp and Michaels are deconstructing the signs of authorial and speaker’s intent by saying what is perceived by the reader or listener isn’t always what the author or speaker intended, breaking the binary of how to read texts based on authorial or speaker’s intent. They seem to be using theory, breaking the binary of intent to interpretation, to disrupt the current literary theory movement, but by the end of the article Knapp and Michaels are claiming the two are inseparable. By claiming they are inseparable, the two authors are forcing the binary of “practice and theory”, which despite objections by the duo, is essentially their final conclusion.

"Against Theory"...Really?

Seriously? I almost have to believe this article was the result of a bet gone wrong: "$20 says you can't write an article that opposes all theory" "You're on." It's not that the arguments here are illogical--in fact they make perfect sense. It's just that they are totally irrelevant. I'll use their authorial intention argument as just one example. No one, in my experience anyway, has ever argued that a piece of literature has no authorial intention. Of course it has authorial intention. The real question is what is that intention? How does that intention (or meaning, for I agree the two are the same thing) interact with our culture today? When we looked at The Tempest, for example, there was never a question about whether or not Shakespeare intended for his play to have meaning. Our discussion was whether or not his intention/meaning has the same significance today as it had 400 years ago. Shakespeare intended his play to have a meaning for his audience; now, 400 years later, how do we respond to that intention/meaning? Those are the important issues, and none of them are addressed by this article. As complex as it was, and as difficult as it was to read, I was really hoping I'd come away from it with more on my mind than "so what?"

What are Knapp and Michaels talking about?

I have to agree with Eric on this. In Knapp and Michaels’ Against Theory I understand the concept of going against theory, but the way they presented and argued their case is hard to understand. In the piece there is a reference squiggles in the sand that spell out actual words that make up something that resembles a stanza. The authors make the claim that if there is no author then these words are reduced to mere squiggles that resemble words. I have to say that this is not clear to me. Knapp and Michaels make the claim that: “The recognition that what a text means and what its author intends it to mean are identical should entail the further recognition that any appeal from one to the other is useless” (Knapp and Micheals 725). This is to say that if there are in fact squiggles in the sand that are actual words but there is no known author to claim them then the words are not words at all, just lines. If this is the case, what if I was to come upon a book with that contained a great story but the story had no author, is then not a great story or a book? The arguments made by Knapp and Michaels have many flaws and their point seems to lack any backbone. At the end of the day I still believe that theory is useful in understanding a text.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

One Cannot Theorize about a Text, But How Do I Understand Something that Isn't Clear?

I have to be quite honest in saying that I am aware of what Steven Knapp and Walter Benn Micaels were arguing but I do not know how they were supporting their argument. I just couldn't understand it. Some of that may have be a result of sleep deprivation in preparation for finals, but most of their argument didn't seem to stand up. From what I could understand, they argued that even if someone says something different from what they had originally intended, they still intended to do so. But, my problem with saying that this cancels the need for theory is that one must theorize what exactly those meanings are. Through a study of psycho- and sociolinguistics, I learned that words do not have a specific meaning that is true in all cases. Under such circumstances one must determine what the intentions of the speaker are for why and how he used such a word. People use sarcasm in speech and it feels necessary to rationalize whether or not someone is using that or not and why in order to form a response. I have also been taught that the best texts are the ones that are more ambiguous in meaning. George Bernard Shaw is a great example because he never entirely resolves a problem nor does he ever create characters that are entirely good or entirely bad. Each character has some major flaws and redemptive qualities. We recently discussed an example of difference in intention in class because Wabash had a showing of The Tempest which was much more comedic than the darker show it had originally been. This was done to appeal to today's audience because they no longer understand Shakespearian language. However, the play can be read multiple ways, and the way that it is read drastically effects character portrayals and thus what the author is trying to imply about such characters. Knapp and Michaels seem to say that because intended meaning and author's intention are identical, that there can really only be one explanation which is what the author has presented for us as though it should be obvious from the text. But, I have yet to read a text that all people can agree on even with things like the Bible that are only "supposed" to be interpreted in one way.

What Makes Language “Language”?

As I was reading Steven Knapp’s and Walter Benn Michaels’s article “Against Theory”, I was most intrigued by their discussion on what constitutes language, in particular their example regarding the poem written in the sand on the beach. You notice the stanza written in the sand and then a wave washes upon the shore and as it recedes another stanza is visible as if the poem was a coincidence of nature. “You will either be ascribing these marks to some agent capable of intentions (the living sea, the haunting Wordsworth, etc.) or you will count them as nonintentional effects of mechanical processes (erosion, percolation, etc.). But in the second case—where the marks seem to be accidents—will they still seem to be words? Clearly not. They will merely resemble words” (728). According to this excerpt, written words must have intention and purpose in order to be considered language. Seeing the poem written on the beach, you would assume that someone previously wrote the words in the sand, but after seeing the wave wash up and recede, leaving behind a formation in the sand that reads like a poem, then the writing only resembles words. The wave just left that form on the sand and did not write it with any purpose. It is only coincidence that “words” are there. Language is conscious, intentional, and purposeful.

Ariel in "The Tempest"

As I watched the performance of Shakespeare's "The Tempest," the portrayal of Ariel was what stood out most to me. Played by Jamie Blue, the way he moved about onstage and delivered his lines was very intriguing. It made me think about the conventions of gender and its rigid classifications. Ariel is this spirit of the island controlled by Prospero and employed to further his plot during the course of the play. The costume that Blue wears to elicit the idea of him being a spirit is interesting as well, as any signifier of gender was absent. No hair was visible, so it would be impossible to decipher whether Ariel was male or female based on hair length or style. The attire comprised of a full body suit with some blue and green decorations about it, so neither the suit or the decorations could be used in identifying the gender of the character. In the dialogue, Ariel was only ever referred to by name or as a spirit.
Blue's performance, as well, transcends a specific categorization in terms of gender. Blue's movements onstage were dance-like and almost sexual in the way. He would dance around other characters, invisible to them, as if floating and in an almost sexual manner. Sometimes before becoming involved in a scene, he could be seen off to the side or near the structure that inhabited the middle of the stage lying on the ground or crawling in an almost erotic, lustful manner. In scenes with Prospero, he would contort his body in various, but not unnatural, ways, and sometimes sensually touching Prospero while delivering the lines in a manner that was entrancing. The way Blue spoke Ariel's lines was almost like singing. His tones were very seductive and were never given in a deep, masculine manner, but also not in a completely effeminate manner. Though he is a spirit and this performance could be portraying that, the spirit came from some individual and was at least once classified as have a gender. Jamie Blue's performance blurred the lines of gender in the play, and I see it as being apt in a time where usual gender and sexuality classification binaries such as male-female, heterosexual-homosexual have become less useful.

Trinculo and Stephano

After having read The Tempest a few times, it was a treat to finally see it performed. I thought the portrayals of Trinculo and Stephano were quite good. The play portrayed Trinculo and Stephano as being rather close. They are together on the island following a ship wreck, drinking from the same bottle, and enslaving Caliban to the notion that they are gods. The relationship between these two is very much satirized. Their relationship is portrayed within the confines of a normal human marital relationship. Affection is very evident in their relationship. They even have a small conflict that is present in many relationships. Stephano is the dominant person in the relationship, while Trinculo is not necessarily submissive, but he is not the decision maker.
The entire purpose of the tempest, according to Prospero at least, was to find someone for Miranda to marry. Within the context of the time the play was written, a heterosexual relationship would have been the norm. However, Shakespeare puts Stephano and Trinculo’ relationship into a comedic light. I think this is his way of subtly exposing homosexuality to his audience in a manner that would not get him censored. To bring homosexuality up in a humorous light might seem insulting, but Shakespeare does bring it up.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Tempest: My First Time!

I have never read nor seen the play “The Tempest”. The play took place a week early for the C&T reading, but, regardless, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I enjoyed the way Dr. Cherry played Prospero. The comic undertone of most scenes companied with the obvious colonial analysis, seen in Prospero’s control over most of the characters, made for an excellent story. At no time was Prospero not in control of the entire island, even the natives Ariel and Caliban. I cannot help noticing the mystical control Prospero possesses over his daughter. Miranda had next to no freedom in the play, and even her final love seemed to be a tool of her father’s mystical control. There are no other women in the play, and the one that is, is trapped. Interestingly enough, Shakespeare takes Miranda’s lack of freedom further by making her appear, at least as portrayed in this production, as clueless and submissive. I think Shakespeare is assessing the state of women in British society at the time by using painting women in this light.

Wabash College's Feminist Tempest

A Feminist Take on The Tempest
Shakespeare, being a product of his time, is not usually regarded as a feminist writer. Nor would I know exactly how he would respond to a feminist production of one of his plays, especially his swan-song, The Tempest. Wabash College, though, has taught me that an author is more than likely the least helpful source for information on a text or work of literature. This is certainly applicable to our production of The Tempest, a production where the main female character, in fact the only female character, is given strength Shakespeare may not have intended.
Briefly, The Tempest is Shakespeare’s last known full work; it falls into the genre of a Romantic play, that is a sprawling journey with a story arc to match that of his comedies, usually ending in marriage and resolution of an otherwise convoluted plot. The Tempest certainly does have a convoluted plot and also ends in marriage, or at least the promising of marriage. Prospero, the main character, was driven from his Dukedom of Milan by his brother. He ended up on an island and plotted revenge through the aid of his sorcery for twelve years before divine circumstance allowed him to actually follow through with it. His revenge is a complicated one, so I won’t focus on it specifically, but what is important is that Prospero could be read as an angry character, overwhelmed with a desire to set the world right again by regaining his Dukedom.
One of the main players and assistants in his revenge is his young daughter Miranda. When reading the text, she can be seen as another pawn in his game. He sets her up to marry Ferdinand, heir to Naples and thus establishes a dynasty for his name. Wabash’s production, though, makes her out to be a much more forceful character. Their relationship is very close, and Miranda has power over her father. This is most evident in the opening scene when she criticizes the storm her father is making. She uses words such as “beg” and “plead” to get him to stop. When reading the text, she was a much more passive character, but Wabash plays these lines like commands instead. She is given power over the most powerful character in the play.
Also, her love for Ferdinand is played not like a strategic maneuver, but instead as true love. Miranda was only three years old when she first arrived at the island, and because of that doesn’t know what other men look like. The play is a positive discovery of mankind in her regard. She refers to the world in very positive terms, “What a brave new world!” is her most famous quote. In the Wabash production she helps Ferdinand carry the burdens her father has set on him, she is a force to be reckoned with, not just a passive female as may have been the intention. She is stubborn and intent on pursuing her own happiness, not a happiness set upon her by anyone else.

Oppression in Shakespeare's- The Tempest

The portrayal of Caliban in The Tempest identifies the oppressive nature of Prospero. Not only does Prospero feel that Caliban is indebted to him for the little knowledge he has, but manipulates him for his own end, acting as if it’s beneficial for Caliban. I believe this reveals the oppressive nature of European colonialism that Prospero embodies. Imprisoned on his own island, Caliban is subject to the will of Prospero. Caliban is able to curse because of the knowledge he has gained through Prospero, and is punished even though he didn’t choose to know how to curse. Caliban is tempted to drink and curse solely because of his exposure to both, through his interactions with Prospero. Caliban embodies the innocent native insofar as his misfortunes are the result of his oppression. Shakespeare exposes the oppression of the natives represented by Caliban, and portrays the manipulative power of knowledge, which Prospero possess in books. This parallels the difference in technology that allowed European colonizers to enslave the Africans and oppress them for them generations. Ultimately, Caliban is subject to the will of Prospero, analogous with European colonizers oppression of Africans.

Post-Colonial Analysis of Shakespeare's The Tempest

For all the unique aspects of the Wabash College production of The Tempest, the most striking feature about the play comes from the colonial issues raised by the text. Most particularly, the interactions between the natives Caliban and Ariel with Milanese Prospero elucidate the different yet similar ways in which the colonizer acts on the colonized. First, there are differences in attitude; Ariel’s almost eager obedience to Prospero is in marked contrast with the rebellious attitude of Caliban, who ultimately becomes enslaved by Prospero and more disgruntled with his role. I see it important that the nature of the two native inhabitants reflects the difficulty in colonization. To a Shakespearean audience not versed in post-colonial theory, let alone established views on colonization, Ariel becomes an ideal servant and partner in cultural interactions, accepting the rhetorical power and economic status of Prospero in sharp contrast with Caliban. However, it is important to note that Ariel is not true flesh but rather a spiritual construct by Shakespeare; Caliban’s human flesh and tangible disgust for his situation mirrors more closely to the common resistance of the colonized throughout history. The question here becomes this: which character is most revered through the public discourse of the time period? The use of Ariel to contribute to a safe resolution of the plot upholds Ariel, while Caliban’s contrived role in a plot against Prospero casts him negatively. Such a construct of values differs largely from Montaigne’s essay Of Cannibals, which argues against colonization.

Gender Analysis of Shakespeare's "The Tempest"

There is a clear divide between genders within The Tempest. This is most evident in the relationship between Miranda and her father Prospero. Towards the beginning of the play, Prospero has a conversation with Miranda regarding how they came to the island and how Prospero once reigned over Milan. Throughout their conversation, however, Prospero exercises his control over Miranda when Ariel, an airy male spirit, appears. To ensure that he may speak with Ariel alone, he puts Miranda in a deep sleep in order to cease her from asking more questions. Given that Miranda is the only female (besides a few spirits that appear within the middle of the play), it appears that there is a certain type of patriarchy present. Here, the men decide all of the actions that occur within the play: Prospero decides to shipwreck Alonso and his court, Ariel carries out all of Prospero's demands, Caliban joins forces with Stefano and Trinculo to try and gain power over Prospero, Prospero plans the union of Miranda and Ferdinand, etc. Miranda, the lone female, has her fate decided by her father and is put to sleep when he feels that she doesn't need to hear anymore information. This, because of how the "society" is empowering men and demonstrating the domination of women throughout the entire play, shows how a patriarchy is established through the relationship between Miranda and Prospero.

Beauty and the Beast: Post-Colonial Analysis of Ariel and Caliban

After reading the Tempest last year in C&T, I like most of my classmates, recognized Prospero’s oppressive nature to be a central theme. However, upon seeing the great performance here at Wabash, these themes were brought to life and offered up a fresh perspective into this topic. Watching the play with post-colonial theory in mind, I could not help but notice the similar, yet very different characteristics and portrayals of Ariel and Caliban. Both natives of the island, Ariel and Caliban have been ‘colonized’ by Prospero, as they remain oppressed by his magic. Still, this colonization comes to light through Ariel and Caliban’s submissive and opposing relationship with Prospero. In debt to his gratitude, Ariel who represents a figure of beauty must remain enslaved to Prospero. But what struck me about Ariel is that while a slave, he remains swift, graceful, and dreamlike. Presumably, we know nothing about what degree of education or language Ariel possess, however, he is able to coarse people to sleep with song. At first glance, Ariel appears to be the abiding and passive servant to Prospero’s oppression. Caliban on the other hand, represents the apathetic and rebellious outcome of Prospero’s colonization. Simply looking at the dress of the two should in a way signify the distinct ‘otherness’ of the two slaves. Dressed in rags, Caliban lives in the ground and walks and talks in the most unfashionable of ways. Ariel serves for a purpose to Prospero, but Caliban seems to represent a mere child-like figure. Basically saying stay out of my way, Prospero designates Caliban to complete the most basic and mundane of tasks. Like that of a child, Caliban also lacks any sense of self-control. This is evident throughout his interactions with Miranda and his obsessive desire to constantly drink wine. In other words, both Ariel and Caliban are natives of the same land and remain disillusioned by Prospero’s magic. However, their submissive attitudes remain at opposing ends, which is demonstrated through Prospero’s colonization and treatment of both.

Prospero's Got Class: An Analysis of Class Divisions within The Tempest

After viewing the play this past week, the thing that struck me most was how Shakespeare chooses to represent his characters. In nearly all of his plays, the different levels of class are represented by their different forms of dialogue and attire. The tempest was no different in this regard. While characters like the King and Prospero were subject to long, intellectual forms of delivery, others like Trinculo and Stefano. As a butler and a jester, the two men are presented to be drunken fools who do nothing but get themselves into trouble; they also work to appeal to a mass audience and bring light to certain deeper themes, following the typical Shakespearean style. Additionally, the boatswain and other crew members were always shown with open shirts or casual dress with an extremely simplistic speech. It is also interesting how Shakespeare portrays the one woman in the entire play: naive, inferior, easily-manipulated. She believes whatever Prospero says, often having difficulty understanding what he is trying to say. When Ferdinand arrives, she is instantly infatuated with him. The playwright seems to make the statement that women are simple-minded and rely on men for happiness.

Theater Fever

I had the opportunity this weekend to see two great productions—The Tempest and The Women. The first thing I'd like to say is Bravo! to the directors and cast members. Both plays were excellently well done. The first play I'll talk about is The Tempest by William Shakespeare. One of the elements which struck me as related to race and post-colonial theory was the way Prospero was affected by his enslavement of Caliban and Ariel. Before he finally frees Ariel, Prospero mentions how surprised he is to find that the spirit has emotions, specifically sympathy, for the wrecked nobles. He realizes that his mind has been warped by hard magic, ironically making him less "human" than his servant sprite. I remember this same effect from Frederick Douglas' autobiography. He talked about how his master's wife initially treated him with respect and care, and she even began his education by teaching him rudimentary literacy skills. Soon however, due to the effects of human enslavement, she became cold and cruel to everybody. This actually parallels Prospero's treatment of Caliban, as well. He was initially kind to him and taught him to read, but like the master's wife he soon changed his attitude toward the native and forced him into tortuous labor. The difference between these two accounts is, of course, that Prospero redeems himself by abjuring hard magic and freeing his slaves.
The Women also reminded me of a recent reading in C&T, this one by feminist writer Simone de Beauvoir. In The Second Sex, she talked about how the efforts of women to attain equality were hampered by class and racial differences between women. It was impossible to forge a "women's" movement because upper-class women identified more closely with upper-class men than with lower-class women. This was evident in the play, as well. Even without a single male actor on stage (except for Jim Amidon's introduction and the stage-hands), the class distinctions that separate women were very apparent. The main characters are all quite wealthy—most in fact have money independent of their husbands'. On the other hand, most of the supporting characters are poor, usually acting in some serving capacity to their wealthier employers. These two classes rarely interact on an even level (one exception being where Lucy talks about her love life with the Countess).The only woman who defies this class-split is Crystal, who is not only the most vile character in the play (I don't believe I'll ever look at Dr. Benedicks the same way again), but is often ridiculed as "common" by the upper-class characters. They despise her for breaching their class barriers as much as for her lecherous behavior.

The Power to Curse: Postcolonial Analysis of The Tempest

When I first read The Tempest in Cultures and Traditions, I was struck by the parallels that one could draw between the oppression of Caliban and the treatment of the "other" in the setting of British Imperialism. The colonizing figure, Prospero, arrives as an outsider on the island on which Caliban and his mother lived. After overpowering his mother, Prospero enslaves Caliban and uses him as a beast of burden to carry out menial tasks. It is interesting how closely this binary between the colonizer and the subaltern follows the trend of British Colonial expansion. Prospero speaks of Caliban as being a "barbarian." The word itself is used in the postcolonial context as a signifier of a subhuman status. The true nature of the barbarian is its lack of similarity to the colonizing power. Prospero recognizes Caliban's illiteracy as definitive of a lesser being. Therfore, Prospero practices what he believes to be an act of good-will by giving Caliban the gift of language. The act in itself seems harmless, but when one considers the relationship of dependency, there seems to be a definite element of control in the colonizer's actions. Caliban becomes dependent on his master as the provider of knowledge. He loses agency in that his means of operating in Prospero's world depend on Prospero giving him the tools to do so. However, this binary is subverted in an interesting way. Caliban challenges Prospero's position as master when he claims that Prospero's gift of language gave him the ability to curse him. This brings to mind the character of Olunde in Death and the King's Horsemen. With the education given to him by the British, he is able to pinpoint the absurdities and failings of the British colonial mindset. What the colonizer initially intends as a tool of control becomes a weapon in the hands of the colonized.

Oppression in The Tempest

In my initial reading of the play in the infamous C&T course I only looked at Caliban’s character as being oppressed, but witnessing the characters come to life in the play made me look at the play’s use of oppressor and oppressed differently. Not only did Prospero have Caliban as a prisoner, he also had the fairy Ariel as a slave laborer who, throughout the play, was in service to Propsero to pay off a debt of gratitude which arose from Ariel's rescue. Prospero’s reign of oppression did not stop at these two characters; he also controlled the actions of Miranda and Ferdinand, through the use of magic,as well as all of the other victims of the storm. Seeing the play acted out forced me to see that Shakespeare’s story of magic is actually a story of oppression and power.

Post Colonial Analysis of The Tempest

I have to admit that I have a certain bias since some of my best friends from school performed in Wabash's showing of Shakespeare's The Tempest. Craig Vetor, my teammate from swimming, played the role of Caliban, a spirit abused by Prospero. Caliban is a native of the island who was cast under Prospero's magical spell. Caliban welcomed Prospero to the island eagerly. He showed him where everything was and taught him many things about the magical place of the island. But, Prospero soon took advantage of him. Prospero refers to Caliban as his lowly slave. He sends him to gather wood, doing all the grunt work that Prospero himself would have to do if he did not use his powers to control Caliban. This is is almost a repetition of the African and Native American story. The natives welcome a foreigner in which case the foreigner deems himself superior. Prospero constantly sees Caliban is being worthless, even until the end of the play. Such consistency poses that natives were often treated the same way. Caliban has not been educated in the same way that Prospero has, but he does not lack intelligence or culture. His is simply different. Caliban tries to fight the oppression that he faces with an attempt to kill Prospero, but instead he mostly runs around drinking. Such portrayals of a "native savage" acting in mostly savage ways is a sort of biased opinion towards people representing "the other"-- someone from another culture. Caliban is never really redeemed as a character or individual who could be on an equal level to Prospero or the others. We can see this partly through Propspero's attitude towards Ariel. Anyone who actively obeys Prospero and serves him in the utmost fashion has commanded his respect. Caliban. who basically saved Prospero by teaching him how to live on the island, gets completely neglected.

Workin' aint Easy but it's Necessary-- A Look at the Tempest

A theme that is immediate when watching the Tempest is magic. Both Prospero and Ariel used their supernatural abilities to affect the natural world. Magic is used to change the weather, human perception and will. The drama then becomes not how the characters operate under their own free will, but the motivation behind why they are externally influenced. Propero is the manipulative puppeteer, and we are to understand why it is he feels the need to control others. Life if made easier for him when all others are subject to his magic. He does not have to persuade or participate in physical labor when he can will them to think or do whatever he wishes. Depicting magic in such a way, establishes the binary that magic (or anything that is deceptively more convenient)is less virtuous and valuable to human understanding and growth than doing things the hard, "human" way. It is difficult to persuade and work, but the realization that life is hard and suffering is valuable is much of what makes us human. We do not have magic, we are each granted only so much power. It too is an amazing power, but greed in providing ourselves with ease of living and too many conveniences makes one feel unfulfilled in our own endeavors.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Poor, Poor Caliban: Reflecting on "The Tempest"

Thinking about "The Tempest" in terms of post-colonialism, really the only aspect of the play that seems relevant are the relationships Caliban has with Prospero and Stephano/Trinculo, or the relationship between Prospero and Ariel (this is a pretty big chunk of the play, actually). Both characters (Ariel and Caliban) are taken advantage of (Caliban more than Ariel) by people more intelligent and powerful than them. Prospero uses Ariel's magic to control the other characters, and he uses Caliban as a sort of slave. And Stephano adopts Caliban and does more or less the same thing (that is to say, he uses Caliban as a slave). Caliban has it much worse, I think than Ariel. Prospero is much smarter and can manipulate Caliban easily. Stephano uses booze where Prospero uses brains. Caliban is helpless. He doesn't have the means (though he knows the language, he doesn't know how to use it to defend himself against magic or alcohol) to deny his "gods." These oppressors sweep in and dominate him in his home. Echoes of post-colonization. Sort of like when Europeans took peoples' freedoms and land with guns and germs, only this time it's done with magic wands and whiskey. Even in the end Caliban receives censure. But Ariel is set free. So it isn't all bad for everyone.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Sloop and Semenya

One point in Dr. Sloop’s talk that I found interesting was his assessment of the behavior of Semenya’s father. Semanya’s father said that she has always acted like a boy, played like a boy, and sound like a boy on the phone, yet still claimed she was a girl because of what was not in her pants. I thought the reaction of the audience, and Sloop himself, was very interesting. They failed to wrap their minds around Semenya’s father’s reasoning. I’m guessing that the members of the audience were imposing a western view of gender on the younger Semenya, in that since she played and talked like a boy, she must be a boy. However, having the benefit of traveling to South Africa and Botswana twice and interacting with people that would have belonged to Semenya’s demographic, I saw some sense in what her father was saying. From my observations, the children who attended school wore western style uniforms, pants and shirts. Both sexes dressed very much the same way. I saw very few skirts for the females. Both sexes played soccer, as well as the other games that we played with them. The dress, attitude, and mannerisms were fairly unisex. More than once, I was made fun of for mistaking a girl for a guy, or vice versa. The issue of gender doesn’t seem to be a large issue at the village level in southern Africa, so Semenya’s father’s comments do make sense within that context.

The Tragic Mistreatment of Caliban in Shakespeare’s The Tempest

While watching The Tempest, I was able to understand the storyline much better than when I read the play for class a year ago. I was able to understand the storyline, the setting, the plot, humor, etc. One thing I couldn’t help but notice was Prospero’s poor treatment of Caliban. Caliban is treated like a brute and a savage and he acts as such, wearing tattered clothes and chomping on a leg of meat. Prospero has him doing brutish manual labor like hauling firewood while calling him “slave”, “savage”, and “son of the devil.” There is clearly evidence of postcolonial theory in this interaction between Prospero and Caliban. Prospero is exercising his dominance over Caliban in a foreign land and the distinction can be made between the two of who is “the other.” Prospero is indeed portrayed as the civilized while Caliban is distanced from him by performing manual labor and being referred to with less than humane terminology.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Article on Queer Public Kissing

In Dr. Sloop's essay "Refiguring the Politics of Queer Public Kissing, a section of the piece concentrates on the "Read My Lips" campaign, depicting two men in Naval uniforms sharing an embrace and a passionate kiss. Later he speaks of how the movement is "hampered by the apolitical, incremental, and assimilationist perspective adopted by gay and lesbian cultural agents (13)." The acceptance of homosexuality in the mainstream is considered as having to be an abrupt and massive movement, or else the change in perception cannot be achieved. Though this seems somewhat flawed, most political movements and revolutions followed attempts of incremental change. Segregation protestors would never have achieved their aims had they attempted to work outside the political realm or attempted the change slowly, as seen in the 100 year gap of rights and equality for blacks. Black slaves in French Haiti had to enact a hasty insurrection after the rights they had been given were revoked. The "Read My Lips" unexpectedly thrusts the viewer into the world of homosexuality and deprives one of comfortable, as Sloop and Morris term it, heteronormativity. Though at first there is always rejection, with any major movement, it can appeal to those with weaker views on the norms of sexuality and even elicit, in my eyes, sympathy for homosexuals. It forces a common image of passion and romance on the individual, but between two men instead of a man and a woman. If this is coupled with actions in other areas by gays, only those most ardently opposed to homosexuality would be remain unmoved.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Why Objectivity?

As much as I liked and appreciated Sloop’s lecture and article, I could not help but wonder “so what?” Sloop gathers discourse, but does not form an opinion on the material that he collects, which, for me, leaves many questions unanswered. Going into the Caster Semenya I had many thoughts about who defines gender, even in athletic settings, but when leaving the lecture, as informational as it was, I had the same questions. I think the reason that the group was never able to discuss the “What Lips These Lips Have Kissed” article is testament to the unanswered questions the group had. In the academic medium, opinion, from the critical theory we in English 397 have studied, seems to be imperative and obligatory, yet Sloop offers none. I have tried to consider reasons objectivity being advantageous, but critical theory class has taught me to be critical. And so, I suppose I fail to see the importance of objectifying the discourse, so, any input to enlighten my ignorance would be greatly appreciated.

Dr. Sloop's Presentation - Caster Semenya and Women's Bodybuilding

Dr. Sloop’s lecture on Caster Semenya and the notion of gender was a topic filled with much insight and understanding. As an avid sports fan, I found this topic particularly interesting as it provided a look into sports that I was previously unfamiliar with. Currently studying the discourse surrounding Caster Semenya, Dr. Sloop labeled this time as a “moment in time where gender is being done and undone.” For some reason, this struck me with great interest and stuck with me throughout his lecture. Dr. Sloop is a discourse analysis, where in Semenya’s case, looks at the communication that is created by winning a certain track and field medal. But in looking at this discourse, I feel that Dr. Sloop missed one American sport worthy of similar discussion. Women’s professional bodybuilding is something that I am quite unfamiliar with. But having listened to Dr. Sloop both in class and during the lecture, I could not help but draw simple comparisons. At face value, we have women here in America trying to create a physique like that of a man. On the contrary, Caster Semenya has had to fight to defend her sexuality as a woman on all fronts. When looking at Semenya, Dr. Sloop studied three specific discourses: sex and gender, hermaphrodite, and masculinity. Each piece of discourse placed Semenya in a specific category through interpretations of specific signifiers. Still, as researched by Dr. Sloop, these signifiers remained somewhat consistent in examining Caster’s tall-boyish physique, her deep voice, and overall manly appearance. However, it is these exact signifiers that I feel apply directly to professional women bodybuilders. For instance, in the magazine photo of Semenya, she clearly defines herself as a female. Still, despite her dress and beautification, many critics challenge this by examining her physical stature and physique. But I would like to ask these critics to look at the latest muscle magazine that shows the physique of any professional women’s bodybuilder. In both cases we have women challenging stereotypical roles of gender, however, for professional bodybuilders they consciously choose to do so. While for Caster, she must suffer from biological imperfections. So I guess my question for Dr. Sloop would be to ask, why not first look on a domestic level for similar scenarios? The women’s sport of professional bodybuilding seems to encompass many of the same themes found within the discourse surrounding Semenya. Personally, I feel like there is a lack of discourse surrounding women’s bodybuilding and that something could be said for this. Why is it socially acceptable for American women to challenge roles of gender, while Semenya and others must face the scrutiny of cultures worldwide?

On Dr. Sloop's Presentation- Gender, Sex, and Caster Semenya

The point I found most interesting about Dr. Sloop’s talk about Caster Semenya is the fact that Semenya could always prove she is a female by going to the locker room and proving it. However, as Dr. Sloop said, the word now is that she has internal testicles, explaining her obviously higher than normal levels of testosterone. Semenya having a vagina and not a penis doesn’t necessarily mean she’s a woman if her testosterone levels are that of a man. I feel that from a biological standpoint, Semenya is technically both male and female since she has a vagina and internal testicles. I believe that Semenya should be forced to compete with the men because clearly she is physically superior than the other female runners. If Lebron James’s testicles were internal and he had a vagina, he still wouldn’t be allowed to play in the WNBA because he is obviously physically superior due to his levels of testosterone that are higher than the normal female’s. Further, if Lebron James was physically the same as Caster, but unlike Caster acted like a female, the case would still be the same; he wouldn’t be allowed to play with the women. He would be deemed a male and have to play in the NBA regardless of his vagina. I feel that Semenya’s gender, her male-like mannerisms, should most certainly ban her from competing with the women. Physically her outer sex isn’t necessarily her inner sex, and her internal testicles prove just that. In Semenya’s case it is apparent that a person’s gender certainly says something about their sex and vice versa. So while Semenya has a Vagina, her gender is certainly representative of the levels of testosterone that allow her excel athletically over the female competitors. Ultimately, I believe that Semenya’s internal testicles, man-like-mannerisms, and incredible race times provide substantial evidence to ban her from competing against other women.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Reaction to Sloop's Talk- Caster vs. other Athletes

I think Dr. Sloop made several good insights and found culturally loaded artifacts, but I felt he was reluctant to make any of his own in-depth assertions on them. Many questions were put to Sloop comparing Caster to other popular and talented athletes and why they proved less controversial. I kept answering those myself in the back of my mind as they were asked. To me, the issue is choice. Caster, while arguably as muscular Serena Williams or Marion Jones chooses to comport herself in what is a more masculine manner while the other two are consistently "acting" female. Caster sports and accentuates her lean muscular figure as a man would, but Marion is seldom seen without a pony-tail and a sports bra. Granted her figure is a bit more naturally curved, or female, but she chooses not to braid her hair into tight, masculine-looking cornrows (as Caster does). Similarly, Serena (or Venus, I forget which) was just on some commercial in a fairly evocative display of her playing in a tight, short, white skirt with sweat beading off her through tight camera shots jumping across her body. Serena agreed to the commercial, because she is not uncomfortable with this portrayal.

Caster is a controversial icon because she COULD look like a woman (as the magazine Sloop showed us) but chooses not to. She could potentially adhere to what is considered pretty for her sex, but instead obscures the line of what we consider to be a physically perceived sex. I think if she were incapable of the "transformation" of sex-transferrence, this would not be an issue. A woman who is homely and also resembles a man would not be criticized because she can look no other way. While Caster may or may not fit into that category, she is expected by hegemonic culture to do the best she can in appropriating her look to fit their neat binaries of sexual appearance.

Stereotypes, Institutions, and the Observer: My reactions to Dr. Sloop's lecture and discussion on Caster Semenya

Dr. Sloop’s lecture on Caster Semenya’s exposure of gender absolutes fascinated my curiosity on a situation widely discussed among my Wabash track & field teammates. I first heard the issue brought up not by watching her race (which I have watched on YouTube; her kick with 250 meters to go is absolutely incredible) but by one of the coaches, who said that in his many years of running/coaching track & field, he said, “She looks like a man” more than he had ever seen before. Many of the comments on YouTube videos of the race reflect my coach’s idea, although often times more demeaning than what my coach based off her visual appearance.
Dr. Sloop opened up to me what many observers—intelligent and knowledgeable in their own rights—were doing by basing their judgments of Semenya by her visual attributes: they don’t realize they attempt to define gender. When Dr. Sloop said, “We are all performing drag now,” it made me see that even in your own sweat and grit often seen on the track, with the race on most competitors and fans’ minds, judgments are made subconsciously about gender. A casual observer can note fairly quickly any difference in their perceived stereotypes of gender, especially if such differences are radical. I think that was part of Dr. Sloop’s point: identity change, whatever it is, is always radical to someone. As he said in his discussion, if the definition of male & female goes far enough, then we all can be considered unisex/intersex in some way. Semenya’s particular case involving the polarizing IAAF—done not necessarily out of malice or ill will—shows that such stereotypes reflect in many of the institutions we take for granted today.
As for Wabash as one of those institutions…I’ll let someone else write about that.

Reaction to Dr. Sloop's Article

During his lecture and Q&A sessions, Dr. Sloop was always very careful to avoid making value-judgments or assumptions. He justified this by claiming to be interested only in the discourse surrounding the issues. However, in his "What These Lips Have Kissed" article, he seems to confuse certain examples of discourse with broader social norms. He argues that same-sex kisses are "immediately marked…because they are understood, often viscerally, as an unnatural and dangerous erotic expression—as exigent representation" (4). But to whom are they dangerous? Sloop clearly means this to be the American mainstream—after all, it wouldn't make sense to call gay public kissing a "juggernaut" were not effective on a very large level. Sloop takes a number of especially outspoken examples against public gay kissing and suggests that these are representative of broader cultural beliefs. He says things like, "For example, two men kissing in public have often suffered verbal or physical bashing" (13). While such "examples" are obviously terrible, I don't think it's legitimate to project them on to the American public at large. Perhaps most Americans have no problem with gay public kissing. We simply don't know without direct evidence.
In fact, it seems like the last thing Sloop tries to do is get an accurate reading of the feelings of the American public. Giving a quote from "Robert Knight, director of the rightwing Culture and Family Institute" hardly gives his readers an objective standpoint (2). Of course Robert Knight will find this activity threatening! Wasn't it just a few years ago that James Dobson of Focus on the Family felt threatened by Spongebob Squarpants for the same reason? None of these views are representative of my views or the views of the vast majority of Americans. The closest thing he gets to a "poll" would be the 100 or so letters he samples from the Post-Dispatch controversy (16). Of course, any statistician knows that voluntary response bias makes these results entirely unreliable. Whenever you give a "sample" the option to respond, there is an overwhelming tendency for those with highly negative opinions to respond. Those readers of the Dispatch who have neutral or positive feelings will rarely take the time to express their opinions. Thus, when Sloop says, "Post-Dispatch readers understand or interpret the photograph [of a married gay couple kissing] as immoral," I find it strange that he does not qualify these statements as merely examples—and highly unreliable ones at that (18).
Much of what Sloop argues is undoubtedly accurate, but I would have liked this article far better had he been more careful to qualify his statements. Perhaps he could have said that queer public kissing is disruptive to some people, or to a certain segment of society. It may have made his article sound less impressive, but I think it would have made it more accurate.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Heterosexuals and Queer Kissing

Reading Charles Morris’s and John Sloop’s lengthy article on queer public kissing, one passage in particular caught my attention. At the beginning of the article they cited a scene from Dude, Where’s My Car? where the main characters played by Ashton Kutcher and Sean William Scott engage in an open-mouth kiss without showing the slightest bit of hesitation or disgust. Queer filmmaker Bruce LaBruce claims that this kiss did “more to advance the cause of homosexuality than 25 years of gay activism.” But what is the significance of the two being heterosexual? In class today, we discussed a Snickers commercial where two men accidentally kiss and are disgusted afterward and are compelled to “do something manly” to prove they’re not gay. We saw this as poking fun at homophobic people, but what’s wrong with two heterosexual men not desiring to partake in homosexual activity? The scene in Dude, Where’s My Car? has the men express no disgust at their queer kiss, but why did they not use homosexual men to do this? Could it be because the characters were stoned? Or the need to mimic the other characters, Fabio and his girlfriend, exactly? Or, it could be the time period of when the movie was filmed and the attitudes towards queer public kissing at that time. Viewers probably would have responded adversely to a scene of two gay men kissing, but since they knew that the Kutcher’s and Scott’s characters were straight, they would not have been as offended. This way, the pro-queer kissing sentiment is conveyed with minimal backlash.

What Constitutes "Gay Kissing?" A Response to Sloop's Article

I found both Professor Sloop's lecture on Semenya and his article on queer kissing to be well-researched and thought out. I would like to take a closer look at the latter, particularly the ways in which "gay kissing" is almost exclusively considered abominable when it involves two men. Reading the article, I could not help but think that when he referred to gays kissing, he was referring only to men. Perhaps this is because the term "lesbian" is often used in conjunction with the romantic relationship of two women. Nevertheless, I find it interesting that the primary concern of society is the portrayal of men kissing. Television and the media are incredibly keen on censoring male kissing. This display of affection is considered to be borderline pornographic. What is shown on television, however, is overly sexualized woman on woman kissing. This scenes have become a sort of Holy Grail for male viewers, who consider the shallow displays of affection to be fulfillments of their every desire. On two separate occasions, my favorite TV show, Scrubs, depicts two females kissing. Both of these instances, which are shown on cable TV, are highly sexualized. My concern, then, is that the allowance of the display of lesbian affection demonstrates an inherent sexual bias proliferated not only by the heteronormative hegemony, but also the patriarchal structure of society. As Sloop says in his article: "Representations of man-on-man kissing suffer stigma more severely and are perceived as a greater threat to heteronormativity" (Sloop, 9). The patriarchy allows for the sexualized display of female kissing because it is pleasing to most men. Gay kissing, being that between two men, threatens this patriarchy because it deviates from what the commonplace idea of manhood is purported to be. Gay kissing will continue to be a threat to the foundations of society as long as society continues to be inherently heteronormative and patriarchal.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

John Sloop Article Review+Intended Questions

Mr. John Sloop's question and answer session was extremely informative that raised a lot of fascinating questions involving gender. However, I do wish that we had discussed some of the other topics that he had researched regarding the idea of queer kissing. The article begins that all kisses are a performance but I have a hard time believing that such is the case. He was very careful to state that he, himself, was the type of person that never had an answer. He says that he is the type of individual to raise many viable questions. But, to imagine all kissing as an act seems unrealistic. Cannot some forms of kissing be just a simple gesture of friendship and/or love? I feel like, in some instances, kisses can almost be an impulse. I do feel that there are much stronger opinions of gay kissing though. However, some of the most powerful examples of gay kissing have been through acting itself. He addressed that Saturday Night Live has done some skits with gay kissing but they have worn out their comedic affect. I wanted to ask him how much he felt those skits impacted gay kissing. Anytime people are exposed to something they are uncomfortable with, there is sometimes a tendency to become desensitized. I wondered how much these skits could have changed societies acceptance. Another issue I've always been fascinated with is society's general acceptance of female on female kissing versus male on male. I'm not sure how much of that perception is true, but just exploring the topic further is something I've always wanted to do.

Analysis of John Sloop's Cultural Criticism of Caster Semenya's Win

John Sloop ventured in media outlets of multiples countries, in order to do a cultural criticism of Caster Semenya's 800 meter win in the 2009 World Championships. Sloop discussed multiple ethnic signifiers that he found within the media; he even asserted that multiple critique forms can be applied to Semenya's case, including race analysis, feminist critique, and transgender/ transsexual analysis. I found Sloop's discussion of other countries critiquing "Black Africa" to be most interesting because it reminded me of Hall's discussion of the oppressed and empowered: "Racism and ethnocentrism have been forces plaguing almost every society and region of the world, as differences in appearance, language, and customs have been used to designate groups of us and them, with the unique characteristics of them perceived as a threat to the security and interests of us." Sloop discussed the "white media" in the eyes of those in Africa, who felt that Semenya's amazing accomplishment was being overshadowed by racist comments being made by the "white media." Some, according to Sloop, even implied that they were trying to "keep Blacks down." This shows a type of us versus them mentality being created, where those in Africa represent us and the "white media" represent them. The opposing media is being defined as them because they are threatening the interests of the African people, specifically by trying to overshadow the win of Caster Semenya. The Africans, being the ones that are opposed in this situation, are us. By Sloop identifying the views of both sides, it is easy to see how the Africans, despite Semenya winning the 800 meter dash, can be viewed as subaltern, while the media is viewed as superior.

Post-colonialism in Chapter 1: The City Under Siege

By the second page of the first chapter, there is already an indication of post-colonialism while Desiderio describes the city that is attacked by Dr. Hoffman:
The word "indigenous" was unmentionable. Yet some of the buildings, dating from the colonial period, were impressive - the Cathedral; the Opera House; stone memorials of a past to which few, if any, of us had contributed though, since I was of Indian extraction, I suffered the ironic knowledge that my forefathers had anointed the foundations of the state with a good deal of their blood (16).
Desiderio plainly states how the establishment of the city negatively effected the indigenous peoples. Stating that the foundations were "anointed. . .with a good deal of their[Indian] blood," Desiderio conjures images and scenarios of explorers and settlers wantonly killing confused "savages" for land, entire villages struck dead by viruses and diseases from lack of immunity, and forced Indian labor in constructing that same Cathedral on Opera house described as being so "impressive." It is all the more condemning to think of the chief religious structure and meeting place and the nexus of entertainment for the city as being built as a result of many innocent deaths. By indicating that indigenous is an unmentionable word, one can see that this is because of either guilt because of the settlers slaughtering of the natives or because of fear of the Indians, either for retaliation or from misunderstandings originating from the very first days of contact. Desiderio himself is a product of colonialism. His mother was forced to seel her body to survive in white culture and his father was an unknown white man. The effects of his "disinheritance" coalesce in what keeps him safe from the machines of Dr. Hoffman. Could he not realize his disadvantage and see how his own people were treated, yet not being one with those people, he wouldn't have had the sardonic and indifferent attitude that helped him become the savior of the city.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The People on the River: Post-colonialism and Angela Carter's "The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman"

This lengthy passage from Angela Carter’s The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman outlines the solicitation, exploitation, devastation, and marginalization of a native people (the River People) by an invasive people (the Jesuits):

"Here and there, in the dry tundra and even the foothills, the Jesuits set the Indians, who were all sweet-natured and eager to please, to build enormous, crenellated churches with florid facades of pink stucco. But when the Indians had completed the churches and had gazed at them for a while with round-eyed self-congratulation, they wandered away again to sit in the sun and play tritonic melodies on primitive musical instruments. Then the Jesuits decided the Indians had not a single soul among them all and that wrote a definitive finis to the story of their regeneration.
But not all the Indians died. The Europeans impregnated the women and the children in turn impregnated the most feckless of the poor whites. The blacks impregnated the resultant cross and, though filtered and diffused, the original Indian blood finally distributed itself with some thoroughness among the urban proletariat and the occupations both whites and blacks deemed too lowly to perform, such as night-soil disposal…They were the bogeymen with which to frighten naughty children; they had become rag-pickers, scrap-dealers, refuse collectors, and emptiers of cess-pits -- those who performed tasks for which you do not need face.
And a few of them had taken to the river, as if they had grown to distrust even the dry land itself. These were the purest surviving strain of Indian and they lived secret, esoteric lives, forgotten, unnoticed" (69).

The Indians are initially taken advantage of, their skills as artists and artisans used selfishly by the Jesuits until obsolete. Once devoid of utility (in the eyes of the Jesuits), the Indians are reduced to soulless bodies, good for nothing, and are either killed or impregnated or driven away. The Indian blood is diluted and thinned out and mixed around and spread about until it settles like sediment at the bottom of the societal hierarchy, down where nobodies do menial labor for next to nothing, where people quit being people and become rats or ghosts. And the Indians who run way, who work to distance themselves from the intruders, are quiet and alone and acutely peripheral. They close themselves off from the outside world, are ruthless in their separation, never let anyone in, shun anyone who leaves and tries to return. They (i.e., the Indians) are a people either pressed down or pushed out by their oppressors, post-colonization. This entire chapter (chapter 3) is an abridged and sadly barely (if at all) exaggerated example of post-colonialism and the possible outcomes that it may hold for a group of people.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Peep Show- “Perpetual Motion”—Queer/Feminist Theory

The Peep Show- “Perpetual Motion”—Queer/Feminist Theory
Carter’s language surrounding the gallery in the peep show exhibiting “a man and a woman conducting sexual congress” seem to remark on the suppressed sexual freedoms/hampered desires of humans due the fear to deviate from the social norm. The hegemonic, heterosexual majority oppresses others’ sexual freedom by adhering to and normalizing the belief that all human relationship’s foremost concern is passing on their genetic material. Desiderio pities this copulating couple commenting that they “were not so much erotic as pathetic, poor palmers of desire who never budged as much as an inch on their endless pilgrimage.” Palmer, referring to a medieval, Christian pilgrim who wore palm leaves as proof of a visit to the Holy Land denotes that religion is one of the main components of that hegemony. It is an oppression which limits the possibility of sexual exploration as a morally or socially valid means of establishing an identity. The man in this couple seems to the one most without an identity. The woman, is fulfilling the role of sexual exhibitionist therefore she openly displays her delight in orgasm, but the man’s is hidden within woman’s neck. This seems to suggest that males are more oppressed than females in not only exposing their bodies, but in adhering to the heterosexual norm. I attribute this to the fact that male homosexuality is more heavily ridiculed than female homosexuality. The less resistance that female homosexuals are subjected to is due to the trend of females as the preferred sexual objects. This beneficial (though unjust) prejudice has allowed women to be more graciously accepted as homosexuals than men.

Structuralist Reading of the River People and the Institution of Marriage

“…Aoi was only nine years old, I thought there would be a long period of betrothal but everyone assured me she had reached puberty and offered me visual proof if I did not believe them. So I abandoned the last vestiges of my shore-folk squeamishness and Nao-Kurai fixed the date of my wedding for a few weeks ahead.” (81)

This excerpt from Angela Carters “The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman” explores the institution of marriage and its adoption in two opposing cultures. Here, the river people offer Desiderio a wife named Aoi, who is merely nine years old. Ignoring her young age and intellectual maturity, the river people regard Aoi’s physical stature as the necessary means for marriage. With this, readers sense the oppression that is felt by women throughout the novel, as men here are responsible for organizing all marriage proceedings. Somewhat doubtful and shocked by the idea, Desiderio states that, “she was only nine years old” and thought that “there would be a long period of betrothal.” Once again Desiderio acknowledges the immaturity of Aoi, however, he questions this by imaging a long period of engagement. Desiderio recognizes her young age, and naturally believed in a “long period” of development. Still, these doubts are laid to rest as Desiderio is reassured of Aoi’s physical maturity with the threat of “visual proof.” Ultimately, Desiderio “abandoned” what little doubt was left to accept and set the date of his wedding. Finally signifying the tension between two combining cultures and the institution of marriage.

The Never-Before-Seen Mirror in Angela Carter’s The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman

The past 3 summers, I participated in a two-week trip into the Rocky Mountains or Grand Canyon with 90 other high school students. For many of us boys and girls, it was our first real experience without brushing our teeth every day, meticulously working our hair, and showering every day. I remember the first appalling reaction by many of my fellow students, including myself, when we first saw our reflections in the mirror upon our return from the wilderness. Living in a society used to mirrors, many of us stared sort of in awe and definitely surprised at ourselves that we let our hair, initially appalled at how we saw ourselves after days without seeing our reflections in a mirror or in the glare of glass windows.
Desiderio undergoes a similar experience, yet in many ways opposite to what we understand and experience in normal life. While we are used to looking in mirrors and often times judging something about ourselves based on the reflection, Desiderio never had seen a complete reflection of himself because the Minister broke all the mirrors around him “because of the lawless images they were disseminating” (12). Desiderio had grown not to judge himself because the only reflections he could see were fragments of his physical self; in other words, the broken mirrors left our hero with a broken picture of himself he had learned to disregard.
When Desiderio encounters complete, whole mirrors filled with the sexually desiring eyes of the Acrobats of Desire, he succumbs to the agony of judgment. Never before viewing himself wholly, he now sees “eighteen and sometimes twenty-seven and, at one time, thirty-six brilliant eyes” repeated by the mirror’s own reflections (117). He compares his judgment not to his own experiences, but to the judgment of Saint Sebastian because he, unlike the modern reader, has no experience judging himself from a mirror’s reflection. Unlike the students who expect to judge appearance when they see their reflections, Desiderio expects nothing from his own experiences (for he has none with unbroken mirrors) and instead assumes condemnation like Saint Sebastian. “Stuck through with the visible barbed beams from brown, translucent eyes”, Desiderio becomes paralyzed temporarily before the Acrobats’ rape (117).

Structuralism in Dr. Hoffman

The scene on page 214 near the conclusion of the book has a structuralist element to it. The naked young couples producing the eroto-energy that feeds the desire machines are kept in fine mesh cages. The mesh that surrounds these beings signifies the structure by which we all live. The mesh is designed to keep the desires of the lovers, and ourselves, contained, as in not to be let out. The mesh design is seen throughout the book. Things like roads were given a set of rules by which to follow. The crossword done by the Minister with Desiderio’s assistance is a prominent example of this mesh of reason. Even the mesh of time, as indicated by Einstein, was disrupted. The lovers and their desires being caged up brings summation to the point that even in the production of infinite desire, some of that desire must be contained, meaning a world ruled by infinite desire is simply not possible.

Feminism in The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman

In The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman, there are many strong elements of feminism. A particular scene that stands out is when Desiderio and Albertina get lost in Nebulous Time and meat the centaurs. The centaurs are baffled by the appearance of these “two legged” horses. This almost innocent curiosity causes them leads one to stick three fingers in Albertina’s vagina. They are surprised by her animated response which, for some reason, encouraged the entire male herd to penetrate her one by one in a scene of horrific rape. They were entirely unaware of what they were doing, but their actions seemed purely natural. The females took care of Desiderio, however, his experience was one of great physical pleasure. They didn’t harm him. The females simply caressed his sensitive parts putting him in physical ecstasy right where Albertina had suffered so traumatically. Desiderio interestingly points out that it is the centaur belief that it is the fate of women to experience constant suffering. All of the women in the House of Anonymity experience a similar fate. The women are caged as beasts used only for the most abstract sexual pleasures. One woman stands in the cage as a full human, meaning she doesn’t have the animal parts that others do, but she is covered with fresh wounds. This is an explicit statement of the sexual abuse women face by the brutality of man. This idea is further exposed in the peep-show. Women are only used to serve men’s sexual desires and fantasies. There is no sign of love or equality, just lust. We see the effects that this lust has on men through Desiderio. He constantly tries to have sex with Albertina and after being rejected so many times he strikes the woman that he loves with all his soul, thus further demonstrating the power of love and lust. This probably also shows the physical difference that leads to man’s abuse of women’s sexual roles. Angel Carter appears to be exploiting this idea throughout the premise of her novel.

Desiderio, the Alienated: A Post-Colonial Reading of Carter

When reading Carter's Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman, the reader is immediately introduced with the narrator and protagonist and is given an immediate description of where he fits in with the world. That is, Desiderio is a character of whom Carter has taken the liberty to create with a complex nature that feels he does not fit in anywhere within the world because of race. As he discusses the illusions plaguing the citizens, he gives a quick but of insight into his ethnic background, "But as I often felt I was a half-breed ghost myself, I did not feel much concerned over that!" (Carter 19). The reader goes on to learn that Desiderio is a of mixed descent, have one Caucasian and Indian parent. Though the location of the Minister's prized city remains unnamed, the reader is given an indication that it is in some way British. Thus, the mystery behind the misguided narrator's lineage is explained, he is the product of British occupation over the country of India. Because of mixed background, he is able to slightly mesh both within the city and the river people; yet, he does not feel as if he belongs in either. His constant alienation from society, often displayed most by his dark skin tone and light eyes, accounts for his inability to relate to others and feel as if he is part of something greater. Rather, he simply does his best in attempts to assert some type of personal identity, yet fails because he is torn between two sides.

Queer Theory Analysis of Angela Carter

There are a number of different passages within this book that could be analyzed through queer theory. Any one of Albertina's many different forms, and the different kinds of sexuality she exerts through them, could be analyzed as an inversion of "normal" heterocentrism. The passages that struck me in particular, however, came from the Carnival in the "Acrobats of Desire" chapter. Inside of this miniature society, sexuality and gender roles were completely free from the boundaries of the larger world. There was Madame la Barbe, the bearded woman. Completely ostracized from her community and church, the only place she can belong in is the Carnival (106). Another resident was Mamie Buckskin, the "fully phallic female with the bosom of a nursing mother and a gun, death-dealing erectile tissue, perpetually at her thigh", who "preferred women" (108). Mamie managed to defy both gender and sexual norms. The Carnival was to them a place of refuge, as it was to Desiderio after his escape from the River People. To the Christian village, however, it was nothing more than a representative of "the inherent evils of mankind" and "the temptations of the flesh" (115). I believe this polarization pushed Desiderio further away from the oppressive society he served. In this free and open environment he became much more self-aware of his desires, even to the extent that his violent encounter with the Arab Acrobats was only a rape "as far, that is, as [he] was conscious of his desires" (emphasis mine, 115). The experiences he had here were a vital step in his journey, preparing him for his experiences with the master of desire himself, the Count.

Post-Structuralist Reading of Angela Carter's-"The Infernal Desire Machines of Dr. Hoffman"

The binaries established in Angela Carter The infernal Desire Machines of Dr. Hoffman seem to be obvious and somewhat stable. However, I believe that on page 25 Desiderio’s statements place him in the middle of the binary: desire vs. reason. I believe that The Minister of Determination serves as the character best representing reason, as is signified by his “predetermined net” approach that Desiderio identifies on page 25. Dr. Hoffman then best represents desire because of his deployment of desire machines. However, Desiderio deconstructs the binary when he states “I felt as if I was watching a film in which the Minister was the hero and the unseen Doctor certainly the villain; but it was an endless film and I found it boring for none of the characters engaged my sympathy.” (pg. 25)Here Desiderio prevents the reader from the immediately identifying the Minister as a hero and the Doctor as the villain by identifying the opposition exists as if it were the plot of a movie, and by giving each side of the binary an equal lack of sympathy. Desiderio’s next line also supports his placement in the middle of both reason and desire when he states “none of the characters engaged my sympathy, even if I admired them, and all the situations appeared the false engineering of an inefficient phantasist.”(pg. 25) Here Desiderio shows he is a capable of both reason and desire by analyzing the relationship of the Doctor and the Minister in both ways; as if he admired them, representing desire, and from a reasonable standpoint, as if it was all just engineered. Thus, Desiderio appears firmly conflicted by both desire and reason, and infers the Minister should not be immediately seen as the hero. Until the end of the novel, the binary created by the Doctor representing desire and the Minister representing reason is presented with equal value because of Desiderio’s ability to reason and desire that places equal significance on both sides.

Postcolonial Reading of Angela Carter's "River People" in "The Infernal Desire Machines of Dr. Hoffman"

“But when the Indians had completed the churches and had gazed at them for a while with round-eyed self-congratulation, they wandered away again to sit in the sun and play tritonic melodies on primitive music instruments. Then the Jesuits decided the Indians had not a single soul among them all and that wrote a definitive finis to the story of their regeneration.”(69)

The presence of the Jesuits on the island was a one sided deal. The Indians were “sweet-natured and eager to please” and this would only lead to one thing, oppressor and the oppressed relationship between the natives and the Jesuits. A common term in postcolonial studies is “the other”, which refers to the unfamiliar or unexplainable. In this quote, Carter writes “the Jesuits decided the Indians had not a single soul…” The word that stands out in this excerpt is “decided”. The Jesuits had no idea of the native’s beliefs or ideals about live or the after-life. They simply “decided” the Indians were soul-less beings and as a result killed off many of them. The Jesuits looked at the Indians as a group of unfamiliar beings, the simple dichotomy in the names Jesuits and Indians shows the separation between the two groups and this separation between the two lead to the demise of the original river people and the begin of a hybrid group of people whose entire beings are built upon European presence.

Feminist Reading of "The Infernal Desire Machines of Dr. Hoffman"

“These tattoos were designed as a whole and covered the back and both arms down as far as the forearms; and the middle of the chest, the upper abdomen and the throat and face were all left bare on the males though the womenfolk were tattooed all over, even their faces, in order to cause them more suffering, for they believed that women were born only to suffer” (172).

The tattoos were the way the males in the centaur society put the women in their place. The tattoos represented the traditional woman roles in the society, and by noting the pain that the tattoos caused we know that the women were meant to suffer. This coupled with the gruesome rape of Albertina and Desiderio’s pleasure allowed by the centaurs further advances the notion that the centaurs were a male-based society. What is interesting is that Carter writes this male-based society as very animalistic. The centaur is half man half beast, and the only events that occur around the centaurs are sexual or painful in nature. By making the interaction with these half-men be very instinctual Carter seems to be almost poking fun at traditional manliness by taking the nature of men to an extreme to show their oppressive ways.

Jackson, Duffy, and the closet

I agree with Roberta Jackson’s assertion that Duffy is a closeted gay man. Jackson gives many pieces of evidence to suggest James Joyce cast Duffy as a man in the closet. One compelling piece of evidence for me was the deconstruction of Duffy’s hometown, Chapelizod, the name meaning “Chapel of Isolde.” This references Wagner’s opera Tristan and Isolde which labels Duffy as having failed at loving women. Also, Duffy’s diet is slightly feminine in that he drinks lager beer with his lunch. If Joyce wanted to portray Duffy as a more masculine character he may have had him consuming a more masculine drink.
Duffy’s association with the Irish Socialist Party was Duffy’s way of getting involved in the political world. The socialists would have advocated massive social and governmental reforms. Duffy being apart of this group makes sense because if he were a closeted gay man he would affiliate himself with a party that would seek the greatest amount of social change, considering the negative opinion of gays at this point in time. The fact that he discontinued attending meetings because the workers were too concerned with their wages instead of social issues is evidence of his hope for change.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Queer Analysis of Angela Carter's "The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman"

There are many aspects of Carter's novel that are available for analysis, including the way both females and nature are portrayed. Some of the more subtle aspects of Carter's "The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman" are the sections in the story that can be viewed through the lens of a queen theorist. Donald E. Hall says that an important question should be employed when reading text that can be analyzed using queer theory: "Does the text promote a notion of proper sexual and affectional attachment as existing only within the confines of the traditional marriage between a man and a woman?" (241). Desiderio's rape, for example, graphically depicts several men taking turns penetrating him. Here, as well as many other places in the book, Carter breaks the cultural norm by making sexual intercourse both outside of the realm of marriage and between members of the same gender. This is largely because Carter defines sexual "normality" as intercourse based merely on desires, which even constitutes rape in many instances within the book. By Carter defining "sexual normality" so far outside of the box (in relation to contemporary society), queer critique becomes based more upon how sexual desires and sexuality are defined than the sexual acts themselves.

Post-Structuralist Analysis of The Infernal Desire Machines of Dr. Hoffman

Though I am still struggling, to some extent, with the intricacies of post-structuralist analysis, there is no denying that The Infernal Desire Machines of Dr. Hoffman possesses elements which tear down the preordained boundaries of society and open up an endless world of possibility. The seemingly diabolical works of Dr. Hoffman systematically replace elements of control (time, reason, etc.) with the whim of desire. Such destruction of concepts considered to be universally paramount mirrors what Hall talked about in his section on post-structuralist analysis. He says "post-structuralism calls into question all [structuralist] assumptions of comprehension and comprehensiveness, suggesting that conclusions are always fragile and subvertible" (Hall, 161). The main struggle in the novel is between the Minister, who embraces reason and a coherent system of naming and recognition for things in the world, and Dr. Hoffman, who wishes to dispel any notion of definitiveness in regards to worldly things. In a sense, it is a struggle between structuralism and post-structuralism (represented respectively by the Minister and Dr. Hoffman). This struggle becomes evident in the specific changes that occur not only to the creatures and landscape, but to the very nature of objects which hold certain connotations within society. One such example is the description of the roses at the Mayor's mansion. Roses are typically recognized as signifiers of love and, to some degree, lust. They are a typical Valentine's Day gift in that they are socially considered to be symbolic of passionate love. The roses Desiderio finds do not match this description. The roses at the Mayor's mansion spread their thorny vines all along the side of the mansion and throughout the other foliage, creating what Desiderio describes as an "orgiastic jungle of all kinds of roses" (Carter, 51). This is but one example of how desire is warped and twisted by Hoffman's machines. The roses, a long standing symbol of desire, become horridly pungent and dangerous. By manifesting the very essence of human desire, Hoffman subverts the human perception of the quotidian and replaces it with "phantoms" which destroy any conception of control or universal applicability in regards to definition and recognition.

Feminist Theory in Angela Carter’s The Infernal Desire Machines of Dr. Hoffman

“These tattoos were designed as a whole and covered the back and both arms down as far as the forearms; and the middle of the chest, the upper abdomen and the throat and face were all left bare on the males though the womenfolk were tattooed all over, even their faces, in order to cause them more suffering, for they believed that women were born only to suffer” (172).

An individual reading this passage describing the centaur civilization in Carter’s book could easily do so with a feminist analysis. The fact that it is a male-dominated society is explicit even though the evidence is just this small passage. The male centaurs are tattooed to enhance their aesthetic beauty while the females are tattooed excessively to cause extra pain because suffering is the “woman’s place” in society. Also, by making such a harsh distinction between male and female, the female is put into the group of “the other” because “they believed that women were born to suffer”. They are distinguished physically by their tattoos and their genders roles are distinguished by the relative amount of pain their tattoos cause.