Wednesday, May 9, 2012

I found a possible email address for Dale. It's

 I just sent my final in to this email address and it hasn't been bounced back, but he hasn't confirmed quite yet either.  so you can give it a try if you like.  I will confirm once dale does.

cheers everyone!!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Reminder About Our Symposium Tomorrow

This is just a quick note to remind everybody that because I am directing a dress rehearsal of the MA Thesis Presentations tomorrow morning ni the auditorium on the Chestnut campus from 9am to 12.30pm we cannot have our regularly scheduled class tomorrow. However, we all decided last week that we would still like to have our informal final Symposium together anyway and so we voted to meet tomorrow at roughly half past noon in the open-air theater space on the roof of the Chestnut campus building. Just to give you a firmer idea of what I expect from the Symposium, the idea is that each of you in turn will present to me and to your colleagues an overview of the final project/paper you are working on for the class. Some of you, I hope, will have written portions of your papers that you can share with us. Everybody should have a clear idea of the texts they are focusing on, the argument they are making, the kinds of textual evidence they are marshalling in their work, and I would also like everybody to be prepared to say a little about how their individual projects connect to the larger themes of the class as they see them. Although I will be commenting and offering advice to each of you (I can't help it if I have a big mouth), I really envision this as a time when you take the class from me and take it into new places I have not, I envision this as a comfortable and informal discussion among colleagues in which you have as much or more to say to one another than I have to say to you, and I think it should be enjoyable and enlightening for us all. By all means, feel free to bring drinks or snacks to tide you over as each of you presents and discusses their work for the class over the afternoon. This class has been a real pleasure for me, and tomorrow should provide a lovely end to it. As for the formal deadline for getting your papers to me, I can talk about that at the beginning or end of the symposium, and we should also briefly do evaluations at some point tomorrow, too, since we'll all be together. Best to you all, see you tomorrow! d

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Sam Mell Summary of Readings, Week 15

Klein – No Logo: Introduction

In the introduction to No Logo, Naomi Klein provides a brief history of the emergence of brand name marketing.  She pinpoints the rise of brand promotion in our economy to an important shift in the theory of corporate management.  Simply put, the transformation into a marketing economy was brought about by the idea that “successful corporations must primarily produce brands, as opposed to products.”  It turns out that companies can do without the cost and complexity of manufacturing their own goods.  The obvious solution is to focus on the primary concern, to pitch the product to consumers.

Klein outlines the transformation of goods from local production to industrial mass-production, out of which brands emerged.  Mechanization necessitated branding by homogenizing mass-produced goods and products, as familiarity of brand names also came to advocate for the quality of products that were otherwise anonymously produced and packaged.  Brands came to epitomize the values that manufacturers wished to project into their products.  Companies realized that brand names carried enormous cultural capital in themselves, and this justified a steady rise in advertising spending.  However, there was a crisis in the 90s when premium brands began to lose business to their bargain equivalents.  It seemed that in times of economic hardship, people cared more about the product itself, which could be easily duplicated by no-name companies, than its brand name.

This is the situation out of which rose contemporary marketing.  Companies like Nike, Apple, and Starbucks are built exclusively around branding.  Every aspect of their corporate structure serves a set of cultural values geared toward selling their brand name.  Branding allowed companies to drive up prices and diversify their range of products.  In this model “the product always takes a back seat to the real product, the brand.”  Today, most brands will describe themselves as “not a product but a way of life, an attitude, a set of values, a look, an idea.”  Successful corporations today are marketing-oriented in nature, not production oriented.  This is a dramatic shift from the industrial economy critiqued by Marx, since the commodity is no longer the central concern.  The contemporary focus on marketing is more akin to DeBord’s spectacle.

Klein – “Patriarchy gets funky” from No Logo, chapter 5

Here, Klein focuses on the ways in which corporate marketing swallowed up the political controversy surrounding media representation of racial, sexual, and social identity.  She sets the scene in the late 80s, a time at which the politics of social equality were focused on media representation of minorities and alternative identities.  At first, the media and authority figures reacted strongly against accusations of political incorrectness.

However, corporations drew on issues of diversity and identity politics, seeing them as the key to a multitude of market niches, demographics waiting to be represented.  Nike sold racial awareness, MAC sold gender fluidity, etc.  Political radicals who had formerly thought they were instigating social revolution found that their ideas had only fueled the prevailing system.

Klein concludes that companies were able to accommodate cultural differences while remaining internally coherent by homogenizing the world’s needs and desires.  Enter the age of the global corporation.

Claire Bishop – Relational Aesthetics and Antagonism

In this article, Bishop criticizes artists whose work is based on interactivity with the viewer.  A prominent proponent of the movement, Nicolas Bourriaud, lays out a new realm of aesthetics that encompasses real human interaction (on the part of the viewer) and the social realities that it represents.  Bishop focuses on the artists Rirkrit Tiravanija and Liam Gillick, both of whom set up installations whose primary purpose is to outline a distinct social interaction between viewers.

While interactive work is novel in that it replaces detached opticality with intersubjective relations, Bourriaud’s analysis is inadequate in that it does not address this phenomenon with any distinct set of standards that would equip it with aesthetic value.  Bishop introduces the idea that democratic social structures are based on antagonisms that are never quite resolved.  Antagonism is the result of collisions between incomplete identities, which necessarily characterize the subject under Lacan’s definition.

Relational aesthetic judgments must be formulated with respect to the according realities of social interaction.  Bishop discusses two artists, Santiago Sierra and Thomas Hirschhorn, whose work highlights social antagonisms without resolving them via ‘microtopias,’ superficial notions of community evoked by the aforementioned artists.  Art that assuages reality by glossing over social divisions with shallow notions of community is dangerously akin to entertainment.  Even in the sphere of interactive performance and installation art, the goal remains to mirror and thus reveal deep, ubiquitous realities.
Here is a link to a project, the "Conflict Kitchen", that includes a "communicative situational" context that blurs social and art practice.  This project is testimony to Eco seeing art as reflection to a fragmented condition, opposed to Bourriard's, seeing art as the production of the conditions.

"Corporate Performance Art"

Naomi Klein's No Logo addresses the issues of corporate structure in regards to the development of brand identities and their rise to power. This reading raises a lot of interesting points but one of particular interest to me was mention of "corporate performance art." (Klein, 4*) In never ending attempts to expand their horizons, brands have infiltrated almost every facet of daily life; from envelopes to takeout containers no surface is safe from iconic imagery and often overt ad campaigns. Now this poison is seeping into the art world. But what exactly does this entail? Brands have been incorporated into artistic expressions for the last century, but primarily in a mocking, thought provoking nature that often reflects the problems of corporate entities.  So what does “corporate performance art” look like specifically? What role does the artist play in developing brand image? Would this role enable the artist with any real power or would they act merely as a figure head for a corporate entity? Would that not commodify the art object even further? In proposing corporate performance art, Klein uses the Pink Mattel Neighborhood as an example of artistic expression fused with corporate branding. Another project that comes to mind is NBC’s Artist in Residence program which featured Bon Jovi as its first corporately commissioned artists, performing on practically every NBC series during a two month stretch. (See attached article) Although Bon Jovi may be an kitsch interpretation of art (at least in my opinion), does this foreshadow a deeper integration of corporate agenda into the realm of fine art?

Please Post any related examples!!! (I know there are better ones than Bon Jovi…)

*the page numbers referred to here reflect a printed version of an online draft. These numbers are then subject to change dependent upon reproduction type...

"1984" Mac

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Thesis Generation Exercise

Here is the worksheet for the thesis-opposition generation exercise I have mentioned in seminar a few times in the past. It is usually pretty helpful, or at any rate provocative.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Lady Gaga

Has anybody posted comments on any of these provocations in advance of our screening of Velvet Goldmine? C'mon people! Okay, perhaps this late addition will fuck with your heads a little...

Marilyn Manson

New Romantics

Derek Jarman

Sun Ra


James Bidgood

Jack Smith

David Bowie

Maria Montez

Kenneth Anger

Marlene Dietrich


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Hannah Arendt, from The Human Condition: An Excerpt of Section 33 -- I R R E V E R S I B I L I T Y A N D T H E P O W E R T O F O R G I V E

We have seen that the animal laborans could be redeemed from its predicament of imprisonment in the ever-recurring cycle of the life process, of being forever subject to the necessity of labor and consumption, only through the mobilization of another human capacity, the capacity for making, fabricating, and producing of homo faber, who as a toolmaker not only eases the pain and trouble of laboring but also erects a world of durability. The redemption of life, which is sustained by labor, is worldliness, which is sustained by fabrication. We saw furthermore that homo faber could be redeemed from his predicament of meaninglessness, the "devaluation of all values," and the impossibility of finding valid standards in a world determined by the category of means and ends, only through the interrelated faculties of action and speech, which produce meaningful stories as naturally as fabrication produces use objects. If it were not outside the scope of these considerations, one could add the predicament of thought to these instances; for thought, too, is unable to "think itself" out of the predicaments which the very activity of thinking engenders. What in each of these instances saves man—man qua animal laborans, qua homo faber, qua thinker— is something altogether different; it comes from the outside—not, to be sure, outside of man, but outside of each of the respective activities. From the viewpoint of the animal laborans, it is like a miracle that it is also a being which knows of and inhabits a world; from the viewpoint of homo faber, it is like a miracle, like the revelation of divinity, that meaning should have a place in this world.

The case of action and action's predicaments is altogether different. Here, the remedy against the irreversibility and unpredictability of the process started by acting does not arise out of another and possibly higher faculty, but is one of the potentialities of action itself. The possible redemption from the predicament of irreversibility—of being unable to undo what one has done though one did not, and could not, have known what he was doing—is the faculty of forgiving. The remedy for unpredictability, for the chaotic uncertainty of the future, is contained in the faculty to make and keep promises. The two faculties belong together in so far as one of them, forgiving, serves to undo the deeds of the past, whose "sins" hang like Damocles' sword over every new generation; and the other, binding oneself through promises, serves to set up in the ocean of uncertainty, which the future is by definition, islands of security without which not even continuity, let alone durability of any kind, would be possible in the relationships between men.

Without being forgiven, released from the consequences of what we have done, our capacity to act would, as it were, be confined to one single deed from which we could never recover; we would remain the victims of its consequences forever, not unlike the sorcerer's apprentice who lacked the magic formula to break the spell. Without being bound to the fulfillment of promises, we would never be able to keep our identities; we would be condemned to wander helplessly and without direction in the darkness of each man's lonely heart, caught in its contradictions and equivocalities —a darkness which only the light shed over the public realm through the presence of others, who confirm the identity between the one who promises and the one who fulfils, can dispel. Both faculties, therefore, depend on plurality, on the presence and acting of others, for no one can forgive himself and no one can fed bound by a promise made only to himself; forgiving and promising enacted in solitude or isolation remain without reality and can signify no more than a role played before one's self.

Since these faculties correspond so closely to the human condition of plurality, their role in politics establishes a diametrically different set of guiding principles from the "moral" standards inherent in the Platonic notion of rule. For Platonic rulership, whose legitimacy rested upon the domination of the self, draws its guiding principles—those which at the same time justify and limit power over others—from a relationship established between me and myself, so that the right and wrong of relationships with others are determined by attitudes toward one's self, until the whole of the public realm is seen in the image of "man writ large," of the right order between man's individual capacities of mind, soul, and body. The moral code, on the other hand, inferred from the faculties of forgiving and of. making promises, rests on experiences which nobody could ever have with himself, which, on the contrary, are entirely based on the presence of others. And just as the extent and modes of self-rule justify and determine rule over others—how one rules himself, he will rule others—thus the extent and modes of being forgiven and being promised determine the extent and modes in which one may be able to forgive himself or keep promises concerned only with himself.

Because the remedies against the enormous strength and resiliency inherent in action processes can function only under the condition of plurality, it is very dangerous to use this faculty in any but the realm of human affairs. Modern natural science and technology, which no longer observe or take material from or imitate processes of nature but seem actually to act into it, seem, by the same token, to have carried irreversibility and human unpredictability into the natural realm, where no remedy can be found to undo what has been done. Similarly, it seems that one of the great dangers of acting in the mode of making and within its categorical framework of means and ends lies in the concomitant self-deprivation of the remedies inherent only in action, so that one is bound not only to do with the means of violence necessary for all fabrication, but also to undo what he has done as he undoes an unsuccessful object, by means of destruction. Nothing appears more manifest in these attempts than the greatness of human power, whose source lies in the capacity to act, and which without action's inherent remedies inevitably begins to overpower and destroy not man himself but the conditions under which life was given to him.

The discoverer of the role of forgiveness in the realm of human affairs was Jesus of Nazareth. The fact that he made this discovery in a religious context and articulated it in religious language is no reason to take it any less seriously in a strictly secular sense. It has been in the nature of our tradition of political thought (and for reasons we cannot explore here) to be highly selective and to exclude from articulate conceptualization a great variety of authentic political experiences, among which we need not be surprised to find some of an even elementary nature. Certain aspects of the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth which are not primarily related to the Christian religious message but sprang from experiences in the small and closely knit community of his followers, bent on challenging the public authorities in Israel, certainly belong among them, even though they have been neglected because of their allegedly exclusively religious nature. The only rudimentary sign of an awareness that forgiveness may be the necessary corrective for the inevitable damages resulting from action may be seen in the Roman principle to spare the vanquished (parcere subiectis)—a wisdom entirely unknown to the Greeks—or in the right to commute the death sentence, probably also of Roman origin, which is the prerogative of nearly all Western heads of state….

Crime and willed evil are rare, even rarer perhaps than good deeds… But trespassing is an everyday occurrence which is in the very nature of action's constant establishment of new relationships within a web of relations, and it needs forgiving, dismissing, in order to make it possible for life to go on by constantly releasing men from what they have done unknowingly. Only through this constant mutual release from what they do can men remain free agents, only by constant willingness to change their minds and start again can they be trusted with so great a power as that to begin something new. In this respect, forgiveness is the exact opposite of vengeance, which acts in the form of re-acting against an original trespassing, whereby far from putting an end to the consequences of the first misdeed, everybody remains bound to the process, permitting the chain reaction contained in every action to take its unhindered course. In contrast to revenge, which is the natural, automatic reaction to transgression and which because of the irreversibility of the action process can be expected and even calculated, the act of forgiving can never be predicted; it is the only reaction that acts in an unexpected way and thus retains, though being a reaction, something of the original character of action. Forgiving, in other words, is the only reaction which does not merely re-act but acts anew and unexpectedly, unconditioned by the act which provoked it and therefore freeing from its consequences both the one who forgives and the one who is forgiven. The freedom contained in Jesus' teachings of forgiveness is the freedom from vengeance, which encloses both doer and sufferer in the relentless automatism of the action process, which by itself need never come to an end.

The alternative to forgiveness, but by no means its opposite, is punishment, and both have in common that they attempt to put an end to something that without interference could go on endlessly. It is therefore quite significant, a structural element in the realm of human affairs, that men are unable to forgive what they cannot punish and that they are unable to punish what has turned out to be unforgivable. This is the true hallmark of those offenses which, since Kant, we call "radical evil" and about whose nature so little is known, even to us who have been exposed to one of their rare outbursts on the public scene. All we know is that we can neither punish nor forgive such offenses and that they therefore transcend the realm of human affairs and the potentialities of human power, both of which they radically destroy wherever they make their appearance. Here, where the deed itself dispossesses us of all power, we can indeed only repeat with Jesus: "It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea."

Perhaps the most plausible argument that forgiving and acting are as closely connected as destroying and making comes from that aspect of forgiveness where the undoing of what was done seems to show the same revelatory character as the deed itself. Forgiving and the relationship it establishes is always an eminently personal (though not necessarily individual or private) affair in which what was done is forgiven for the sake of who did it…. [L]ove, although it is one of the rarest occurrences in human lives, indeed possesses an unequaled power of self-revelation and an unequaled clarity of vision for the disclosure of who, precisely because it is unconcerned to the point of total unworldliness with what the loved person may be, with his qualities and shortcomings no less than with his achievements, failings, and transgressions….

Respect, not unlike the Aristotelian philia politike, is a kind of "friendship" without intimacy and without closeness; it is a regard for the person from the distance which the space of the world puts between us, and this regard is independent of qualities which we may admire or of achievements which we may highly esteem. Thus, the modern loss of respect, or rather the conviction that respect is due only where we admire or esteem, constitutes a clear symptom of the increasing depersonalization of public and social life. Respect, at any rate, because it concerns only the person, is quite sufficient to prompt forgiving of what a person did, for the sake of the person. But the fact that the same who, revealed in action and speech, remains also the subject of forgiving is the deepest reason why nobody can forgive himself; here, as in action and speech generally, we are dependent upon others, to whom we appear in a distinctness which we ourselves are unable to perceive.

Closed within ourselves, we would never be able to forgive ourselves any failing or transgression because we would lack the experience of the person for the sake of whom one can forgive.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Kafka's "Give It Up!"

It was very early in the morning, the streets clean and deserted, I was on my way to the railroad station. As I compared the tower clock with my watch I realized it was already much later than I had thought, I had to hurry, the shock of this discovery made me feel uncertain of the way, I was not very well acquainted with the town yet, fortunately there was a policeman nearby, I ran to him and breathlessly asked him the way. He smiled and said: 'from me you want to learn the way?' 'Yes,' I said, 'since I cannot find it myself.' 'Give it up, give it up,' said he, and turned away with a great sweep, like someone who wants to be alone with his laughter.


Thursday, March 8, 2012

Adorno, Adorno, Adorno.... --Chad Kipfer

Presentation III, from Aesthetics and Politics, presents three letters from Theodor Adorno to Walter Benjamin and one reply from Benjamin to Adorno. The letters addressed to Benjamin are all critiques of Benjamin essays/drafts and present the problems that Adorno finds within them. Benjamin's letter is a reply to Adorno's last letter which specifically denied the publication of Benjamin's study of Baudelaire in the Institute for Social Research's journal the Zeitschrift fur Socialforschung until after Benjamin made the required 'corrections'/alterations. The introduction to the presentation presents us with a nice bit of historical background to the letters, placing Adorno and Benjamin in context and touching on their prefered subjects of music and film respectively. The first letter from Adorno dated 2 August 1935 presents the most thorough of his critiques of one of Benjamin's works. In it Adorno calls for more specificity and less romanticism, he basically chides Benjamin for not being rigorous enough, citing many specific examples and noting pages needing revision within Benjamin's draft essay 'Paris -- Capital of the Nineteenth Century'. The second Adorno letter is in response to Benjamin's work 'The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction' which Theodor appears to have appreciated and found less fault in than the first essay. Here he focuses on the limits of Benjamin's writing on art accusing him of a "romanticism of blind confidence in the spontaneous power of the proletariat in the historical process-a proletariat which is itself a product of bourgeois society." Adorno also offers glimpses of his writing on Jazz as a sort of example with which he encourages Benjamin to open the dialectic of art and realize the limits of film and the value of art for art's sake.  The third Adorno letter is in many ways the most biting and hints at a distance and difference between the two men. Adorno essentially keeps one of Benjamin's work from being published and then writes to him to tell him why, avoiding the obvious admission of disapproval and instead offering lines of other writers poems and prose as boon to Benjamin's project. To this we get Benjamin's reply. He addresses each of Adorno's concerns, highlights the decisions he made and then points out the great mistake of not publishing his work, which kept it from becoming part of the larger discussion. Then and interestingly we see a glimpse of Benjamin's great respect for Adorno, telling him of his life, entrusting him to run an errand and asking him of his wife and work.

The anti-enlightenment of the culture industry is the theme of Adorno's piece 'Culture industry Reconsidered'. In it he differentiates between the terms culture industry and mass culture, taking away the unconscious dream within the word mass. He goes on to define the culture industry as self sustaining and self serving beyond commodity and unflinchingly powerful over the masses.

This essay also references Benjamin's essay 'The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction' in its discussion of film and its abandonment of the elevated individual and the aura. Both pieces however fail to foresee film becoming the culture industry reaffirming vehicle that it is today. Devolved into a tool of multiple senses and seemingly limitless time constraints, capable of offering false transcendence at every turn.

The Horheimer and Adorno piece here adds to the context of the term culture industry, highlighting especially the roll of advertising and way in which its expectation tempers its seemingly explicit goals. Advertising does not need to sell anything, it just needs to remind us that it is there, and for the bourgeois that pay its exorbitant fees it acts as waybill, pass code.

and then...
Marinetti's The Futurist Manifesto replacing "myth and the mystic cult of the ideal" with another myth and an ideal of abandonment and zest. Reaching for a future and brushing aside the past while standing on nothing but a now built of aggression and speed. Naivety as both the goal and condition....for the pursuit of yet another myth.

Adorno and Benjamin (and Horkheimer if you're keeping count)

General impressions and points that run throughout the texts
Art in the Age….. & The Culture Industry  linked

The main thing I noticed about these readings were how they were greatly intertwined. Benjamin's Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproducibility is to me a laying of the ground that Adorno and Horkheimer roam around on. Benjamin touches on the fact that the film and photography, other mechanical reproduction as well are opening up a space for the public to become critic. That common citizen can be an extra in a film. The difference between public and author is about to lose its basic character.

Throughout this text Benjamin remains objective but in The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception Adorno and Horkheimer paint a bleak picture. By the way what a title!

They basically say that well the Culture Industry has us beat to the punch at every turn. They have "eeevvvery thiing youuu Neeed yessir!" and if they don't have it yet they will have it as soon as its available. Furthermore at what ever level one is at it is considered by the Industry. This notion chimes back to the blurring of the line between public and author. 

Benjamin gets the ball rolling on this in IV of Art in the Age saying " the instant the criterion of authenticity ceases to be applicable to artistic production, the total function of art is reversed. Instead of being based on ritual, it begins to be based on another practice - politics." 

Again Adorno get's even more bleak. "Dissidence as business strategy is still part of business." Read into this that one cannot truly be dissident - it is rather well planned originality. Does the commodification of Punk Rock and Grunge come to mind here? 

In my notes I have a point here that links to last week's play. Adorno and Horkheimer say that "the ruled always took the morality imposed upon them more seriously than the rulers themselves, the deceived masses are today captivated by the myth of success even more than the successful are." Sound's familiar in that the lower classed characters would not break etiquette meanwhile their decadent hosts did nothing but trample on proper etiquette.

There is so much to talk about but I noticed one other thing in The Culture Industry,
the notion that the western world had arrived at a popular lexicon. A way of speaking influenced by the Culture Industry rather than that which evolved in the organic way we saw earlier with our plays - the dandys and their eye for fashions and customs - now to navigate one must adhere to Culture Industry norms and the Culture Industry is ready to package any new developments. Thus is worthwhile to pay attention, otherwise you just don't exist. I am thinking specifically of how most Americans under the age of 30 use the Valley Girl phrase, "like, I was like this" etc. 

Culture Industry Revisited

Or read It Gets Worse. He points out that Intellectuals have taken to ironic toleration of the Culture Industry.  TV shows, films off the rack, pocket novels are accepted as harmless fulfillment of democratic demand even though it is a stimulated demand.

Prescribed fun- prescription for fun- prescription fun

The world wants to be deceived, has become truer than had ever been intended.

Say it ain't so Adorno!

It is no coincidence that cynical American film producers are heard to say that their pictures must take into consideration the level of eleven-year-olds. In doing so they would very much like to make adults into eleven-year-olds.

It is only deep unconscious mistrust, the last residue of the difference between art and empirical reality in the spiritual make-up of the masses explains why they have not, to a person, long since perceived and accepted the world as it is constructed for them by the culture industry. 

The total effect of the culture industry is one of anti-enlightenment

Ok on to Adorno vs Benjamin and vice versa

The quarrel of the ancients and moderns continues. Benjamin in this exchange is in my opinion looking at the fissures and cracks in the pavement that we saw in I believe Bloch last week. He is willing to admit that the world is fragmented and approaches his work on Baudelaire in much the same way. He breaks his argument into three parts and allows the whole to coalesce in the readers mind. This is what I imagine it to be in hearing the interchange but having not read the Book.

Adorno however is obsessed with the idea of phantasmagoria. I sense he had a problem with it. This is Benjamin allowing things to be subjective. He is painting a setting, a revolving landscape and setting for the reader. Adorno is looking for things to be whole, cohesive, presented in broad daylight. It is an apt observation of their friends that Benjamin is getting lost and exploring the "cave" of the Paris flaneur. 

When considering Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproducibility and Adorno's responses to it, the major ideas hinged on Magic and the Aura which are used to describe painting and the Surgeon and his activity of cutting into the body. A magician a "healer" heals by the laying of hands, by his/her authority. A surgeon navigates inside the body, once inside the body analyses.

This analogy is tied to the painter as magician, and mechanical nature of photography film to the surgeon. The world presented within a film is knowable through objective details of the world and the passing of time. A film builds the whole moment to moment, analyzing piecemeal. The painter presents an Aura dictated and completely whole, contained and presented all at once. 

Don't know how this fits in the relation between the two but Adorno keeps mentioning Magic.

I will sum up Adorno and Benjamin with the ending of Art and the Age of Mechanical Reproducibility

Comes down to War- Art for Art's sake- Mankind at one time was an object of contemplation for the Olympian gods, now is one for itself. Its self-alienation has reached such a degree that it can experience its own destruction as an aesthetic pleasure of the first order. This situation of politics which Fascism is rendering aesthetic. Communism responds by politicizing art.

I had a hard time with the  Futurists, they just seem like a motorcycle gang pillaging and terrorizing with hate and calls for War. I think they were extremists but they do touch explicitly on the idea of the Quarrel of the Ancients and the Moderns. That being that they are uber Modern pushing forward towards a grand future which they expect to be assassinated in promptly after the age of 40. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Don't Sweat the Orton

I know there's no link to the Orton one act. We have more than enough to talk about without it. We're doing a full-length comedy of manners by Orton in a few weeks, Entertaining Mr. Sloane and there's no online access to it either. I'll make a handout with both plays for you then. You'll love Orton, by the way!

Wilde @ the Legion of Honor

"The Cult Of Beauty" Comes to the Legion Of Honor

The Cult of Beauty: The Victorian Avant-Garde runs through June 17, 2012, at the Legion of Honor, 100 34th Avenue.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Posted on Behalf of Ilchi Kim

Presentation 1

Ernst Bloch – Discussing Expressionism

Bloch suggests a close relationship between expressionism and fascism. Emotive, rhetoric, vacuous, pseudo-activism grounded in the expressionism. Bloch criticizes Lukacs for lacking the primary basis; supplying only second-hand evidences and making only ‘a concept of concepts.’ Moreover Bloch credits Lukacs for making fine observations on ‘the petty- bourgeois against…capitalism.’ Proclaiming the emergence of Neo-classicism, Bloch notes a retrospective dilemma of expressionism, in which the allegiance with classical heritage and rejection of its atavism co-inhabits. At last Bloch urges the liberation from Classical systems and expansion of a concept of reality.

I personally found that Bloch’s essay is too lack substantial primary groundings and purely reactionary to Lukacs’ essay but I do agree on the need of expansion on the reality in saving expressionism.

Georg Lukacs – Realism in the Balance

Lukacs calls necessary specification and re-evaluation of Expressionistic principles. Here Lukacs discards dialectics between modern and classical in modern art and observes its divorce from specific literary. Addressing inter-related individual economic autonomies and unity, Lukacs further defenses his notion of ‘totality’ in Marxist tradition to comprehend the essential truth that is ‘greater than emotional and intellectual reality.’ Prompting ‘organic connection,’ Lukacs discerns the danger of subjectivity, immediacy and maybe to the extent of the oedipal contingency. It is evident that Lukacs inserts the reality as measurable, concrete and independent of appearances and process.

Presentation 2

Bertolt Brecht – Against Georg Lukacs

As a practitioner, Brecht contemns Lukacs for ‘escaping’ rather than ‘advancing.’ Brecht demands the need of reduction, subjectivity and ‘artistic form’ – ‘absolute false’ – in assessing social content and deeper causal complexes. Brecht highlights the contingency of realism and offers that the intelligibility of work of art is ageographic, aperiodic and ahistorical. For this Brecht asks ‘generous’ and ‘careful’ assessments for possible abstraction.

Walter Benjamin – Conversations with Brecht

Here Benjamin unfolds his private and yet political conversations with Brecht in exile.

Again Brechtian maxims:

‘I’m not against the asocial, you know; I’m against the non-social.’
‘The struggle against ideology has become a new ideology.’
‘Don’t start from the good old things but the bad new ones.’

Fredric Jameson - Reflections in Conclusion

In conclusion, Jameson appoints the danger of reification and provisional lessons of the Realism/Modernism dialectics. And further states that the functions of new aesthetics and realism are to resist reification and to reinvent totality.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Week 6: Irene Carvajal reading response

Fixing a social problem such as poverty with acts of generosity alone is like putting a band aid on a cancerous wound. The root of the problem is a society that does not foster individuality. In a socialist society individualism will flourish due to the fact that basic needs are in place and need not take up surplus energy that can then be utilized in pursuit of beauty. 
 Starvation is the root of crime, if people’s basic needs were met crime would be unnecessary. When we see hunger and try to alleviate it with  generosity it actually promotes and prolongs hunger. A generous act between unequal parties exalts the inequalities, it demoralizes and degrades. But also and more dangerously masks and blurs the symptoms and creates apathy. Apathy that just prolongs the status quo.
A socialist society is formed by voluntary associations not compulsory or authoritarian rules. But then who does all the unwanted laborious work? Wilde proposes machines take on the role of laborers and/or slaves. Freeing up humanity to make beautiful things. But the machine must “belong” to all. For if it belongs to one person alone it displaces workers, but if it belongs to all it promotes individuality in all.
Oscar Wilde acknowledges the privileged position in which he and his peers live, those who need not labor for a living and therefore can occupy their time and energy in pursuit of their ideas, passions and art. Wilde proposes this should be available to all. Working to generate money and acquire goods should not be the goal of a mans life, for a man should not be measured for what he has but for what he is. Man should live not just merely exist.
You have a wonderful personality. Develop it. Be yourself. Don’t imagine that your perfection lies in accumulating or possessing external things. Your affection is inside of you. If only you could realise that, you would not want to be rich. Ordinary riches can be stolen from a man. Real riches cannot. In the treasury-house of your soul, there are infinitely precious things, that may not be taken from you. And so, try to so shape your life that external things will not harm you. And try also to get rid of personal property. It involves sordid preoccupation, endless industry, continual wrong. Personal property hinders Individualism at every step.”
The laborer, the poor working man has little more value than a work horse. His virtue is in disobedience and rebellion. He must question and act upon this inequality. Conformity leaves no room for freedom. It would be like going through life asleep, merely existing. Agitators are individuals who are essential for human progress. Agitators are necessary to start a revolution. Revolution fosters progress for the enlightment of humankind. Wilde is interested in the change and evolution of mankind and of the individual. Attacks towards an individual create a personal revolution that ultimately intensifies the individuality. There is no greater expression of individuality than art. 
Art is the most intense mode of individualism. For art is only worthy if used for ones own pleasure. To make art that is agreeable to the public the artist must forget his culture, annihilate his style, and surrender everything that is valuable in him. In doing so the art becomes a commodity. Individualism (Art) is a disturbing and disintegrating force. Art is an agitator, art is a revolution. Trying to sell or please the public degrades both the artist and the art.
Oscar Wilde writes the Soul of Man in 1891, 4 years before the Libel Trials are to begin.  In the soul of man he speaks of public opinion and its destructive effect. Public opinion focuses on the private life of the individual, in trying to control him. Breaking his individuality. He goes on to say that public opinion does not alter a man. His personality is untroubled, his soul is free.   He should not listen to it. “Even in prison a man can be quite free.” Wilde is set free in 1897, socially and economically he is broken. He makes some spiritual and artistic attempts at renewal but by 1900 dies destitute and alone. Did society destroy him or did he have a hand in his own destruction? 
The Importance of Being Earnest

 is it somewhat autobiographical (double christening and leading a double life)
All these characters have multiple personality disorder! 
Or they are just children playing at being grown-ups. They sound very childish.
We have user names for our avatars in the virtual world. Do we use this as an alter ego?
Phrases And Philosophies For The Use Of The Young 

Read like bumperstickers
reminds me of the “Land of Happy” by Shel Silverstein:

“Have you been to The Land of Happy,
Where everyone's happy all day,
Where they joke and they sing
Of the happiest things,
And everything's jolly and gay?
There's no one unhappy in Happy, There's laughter and smiles galore.
I have been to The Land of Happy -
What a bore!”

Trial Transcripts

Of the many legal documents available for you to read at the link I provided in the syllabus I think this one is probably the one that will interest you most given our other readings for tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

"The Grigsby Episode"

Wilde's original four act play was subsequently re-written as the three act work we now know. Many lines were cut, but almost none of them are especially to be missed. One scene, known as "the Grigsby Episode" was more substantial and elaborates themes that matter to our particular reading of mannered comedies as documents of the emerging categories and subjectivities of neoliberal political economy. Here is a clip of a fine production of Earnest in which they director decided to re-introduce the Grigsby Episode back into the play. I strongly recommend that you read the more familiar and canonical version of the play before supplementing it with this scene.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Glimpses of The Threepenny Opera

Some Glimpses of the Beggars Opera


Just posted lots of little bits for you to look at. Sorry I waited so late -- I kinda sorta forgot all about it. Thanks to all of you who just e-mailed me with reminders! See you all tomorrow, Marx day is always fun!

Adam Smith: "Propensity to Truck and Barter"

An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith 1776 Book 1, Chapter 2, "Of the Principle which gives occasion to the Division of Labour"

[01] THIS division of labour, from which so many advantages are derived, is not originally the effect of any human wisdom, which foresees and intends that general opulence to which it gives occasion. It is the necessary, though very slow and gradual consequence of a certain propensity in human nature which has in view no such extensive utility; the propensity to truck, barter, and exchange one thing for another.

[02] Whether this propensity be one of those original principles in human nature of which no further account can be given; or whether, as seems more probable, it be the necessary consequence of the faculties of reason and speech, it belongs not to our present subject to inquire. It is common to all men, and to be found in no other race of animals, which seem to know neither this nor any other species of contracts.

Mill: "Homo Economicus"

John Stuart Mill, On the Definition of Political Economy; and on the Method of Investigation Proper To It.

46. In the definition which we have attempted to frame of the science of Political Economy, we have characterized it as essentially an abstract science, and its method as the method à priori. Such is undoubtedly its character as it has been understood and taught by all its most distinguished teachers. It reasons, and, as we contend, must necessarily reason, from assumptions, not from facts. It is built upon hypotheses, strictly analogous to those which, under the name of definitions, are the foundation of the other abstract sciences. Geometry presupposes an arbitrary definition of a line, "that which has length but not breadth." Just in the same manner does Political Economy presuppose an arbitrary definition of man, as a being who invariably does that by which he may obtain the greatest amount of necessaries, conveniences, and luxuries, with the smallest quantity of labour and physical self-denial with which they can be obtained in the existing state of knowledge. It is true that this definition of man is not formally prefixed to any work on Political Economy, as the definition of a line is prefixed to Euclid's Elements; and in proportion as by being so prefixed it would be less in danger of being forgotten, we may see ground for regret that this is not done. It is proper that what is assumed in every particular case, should once for all be brought before the mind in its full extent, by being somewhere formally stated as a general maxim. Now, no one who is conversant with systematic treatises on Political Economy will question, that whenever a political economist has shown that, by acting in a particular manner, a labourer may obviously obtain higher wages, a capitalist larger profits, or a landlord higher rent, he concludes, as a matter of course, that they will certainly act in that manner. Political Economy, therefore, reasons from assumed premises—from premises which might be totally without foundation in fact, and which are not pretended to be universally in accordance with it. The conclusions of Political Economy, consequently, like those of geometry, are only true, as the common phrase is, in the abstract; that is, they are only true under certain suppositions, in which none but general causes—causes common to the whole class of cases under consideration—are taken into the account.

Marx: "There Is No Royal Road to Science"

Karl Marx
1872 PREFACE TO THE FRENCH EDITION of Capital Volume One

To the citizen Maurice Lachâtre

Dear Citizen,

I applaud your idea of publishing the translation of “Das Kapital” as a serial. In this form the book will be more accessible to the working class, a consideration which to me outweighs everything else.

That is the good side of your suggestion, but here is the reverse of the medal: the method of analysis which I have employed, and which had not previously been applied to economic subjects, makes the reading of the first chapters rather arduous, and it is to be feared that the French public, always impatient to come to a conclusion, eager to know the connexion between general principles and the immediate questions that have aroused their passions, may be disheartened because they will be unable to move on at once.

That is a disadvantage I am powerless to overcome, unless it be by forewarning and forearming those readers who zealously seek the truth. There is no royal road to science, and only those who do not dread the fatiguing climb of its steep paths have a chance of gaining its luminous summits.

Believe me, dear citizen, Your devoted,
Karl Marx
London, March 18, 1872

Marx As the "Darwin of History"

In his 1888 Preface to The Communist Manifesto, Frederick Engels attributes to Marx a “proposition which, in my opinion, is destined to do for history what Darwin’s theory has done for biology[.]” This proposition is as follows:
[I]n every historical epoch, the prevailing mode of economic production and exchange, and the social organization necessarily following from it, form the basis upon which is built up, and from which alone can be explained, the political and intellectual history of that epoch; that consequently the whole history of mankind (since the dissolution of primitive tribal society, holding land in common ownership) has been a history of class struggles, contests between exploiters and exploited, ruling and oppressed classes; that the history of these class struggles forms a series of evolutions in which, nowadays, a stage has been reached where the exploited and oppressed class -– the proletariat –- cannot attain its emancipation from the sway of the exploiting and ruling class –- the bourgeoisie -– without, at the same time, and once and for all, emancipating society at large from all exploitation, oppression, class distinctions and class struggles.

Theses on Feuerbach

Written: by Marx in the Spring of 1845, but slightly edited by Engels; First Published: As an appendix to Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy in 1888; Source: Marx/Engels Selected Works, Volume One, p. 13 – 15.


The chief defect of all hitherto existing materialism – that of Feuerbach included – is that the thing, reality, sensuousness, is conceived only in the form of the object or of contemplation, but not as sensuous human activity, practice, not subjectively. Hence, in contradistinction to materialism, the active side was developed abstractly by idealism – which, of course, does not know real, sensuous activity as such. Feuerbach wants sensuous objects, really distinct from the thought objects, but he does not conceive human activity itself as objective activity. Hence, in The Essence of Christianity, he regards the theoretical attitude as the only genuinely human attitude, while practice is conceived and fixed only in its dirty-judaical manifestation. Hence he does not grasp the significance of “revolutionary”, of “practical-critical”, activity.


The question whether objective truth can be attributed to human thinking is not a question of theory but is a practical question. Man must prove the truth — i.e. the reality and power, the this-sidedness of his thinking in practice. The dispute over the reality or non-reality of thinking that is isolated from practice is a purely scholastic question.


The materialist doctrine concerning the changing of circumstances and upbringing forgets that circumstances are changed by men and that it is essential to educate the educator himself. This doctrine must, therefore, divide society into two parts, one of which is superior to society. The coincidence of the changing of circumstances and of human activity or self-changing can be conceived and rationally understood only as revolutionary practice.


Feuerbach starts out from the fact of religious self-alienation, of the duplication of the world into a religious world and a secular one. His work consists in resolving the religious world into its secular basis. But that the secular basis detaches itself from itself and establishes itself as an independent realm in the clouds can only be explained by the cleavages and self-contradictions within this secular basis. The latter must, therefore, in itself be both understood in its contradiction and revolutionized in practice. Thus, for instance, after the earthly family is discovered to be the secret of the holy family, the former must then itself be destroyed in theory and in practice.


Feuerbach, not satisfied with abstract thinking, wants contemplation; but he does not conceive sensuousness as practical, human-sensuous activity.


Feuerbach resolves the religious essence into the human essence. But the human essence is no abstraction inherent in each single individual. In its reality it is the ensemble of the social relations. Feuerbach, who does not enter upon a criticism of this real essence, is consequently compelled: To abstract from the historical process and to fix the religious sentiment as something by itself and to presuppose an abstract – isolated – human individual. Essence, therefore, can be comprehended only as “genus”, as an internal, dumb generality which naturally unites the many individuals.


Feuerbach, consequently, does not see that the “religious sentiment” is itself a social product, and that the abstract individual whom he analyses belongs to a particular form of society.


All social life is essentially practical. All mysteries which lead theory to mysticism find their rational solution in human practice and in the comprehension of this practice.


The highest point reached by contemplative materialism, that is, materialism which does not comprehend sensuousness as practical activity, is contemplation of single individuals and of civil society.


The standpoint of the old materialism is civil society; the standpoint of the new is human society, or social humanity.


The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Posted for Justin

Justin Margitich

School for Scandal, Richard Sheridan

All of the characters in Sheridan's play, to use Schiller's words, could be called the "civilized classes". This is not flattery for he goes on to say that "Egotism has founded its system in the very bosom of a refined society, and without developing even a sociable character, we feel all the contagions and miseries of society". He might go on to say that the characters found in the play, in order to be complete, adequate and not stunted, need to "renounce the totality of their being" and to follow truth.

The petty gossip of the play is what makes it interesting and funny, contrary to Schiller's high intellectual ideals. The play is not a call to action or some sort of didactic tool, but something of a comedy, a reflection of a certain part of society.

Contained in it are more of the same dialogues concerning wit. I found interesting, the mentions of wit associated to good or bad. Lady Sneer at one point in the play says that wit is good or perhaps better with a little malice. Later on Sir Peter states that true wit is "allied to good-nature". For Maria, wit is not respectable with malice. Wit, it seems, can be seen as a blanket term, its meaning has an ability to change based on association or context of the user.

This, in a way, relates to the whole of the play. Wit sounds similar to the "scandals" in the play. That is to say that, most of the scandalous actions in the play, however they may bother a character's conscience, always seem to be then justified in the eyes of those very same characters. In other words, out of the character's upperclass boredom any scandalous enterprise may be questioned but ultimately justified.

* * * *

In his essay "Letters Upon the Aesthetic Education of Man", Schiller employs examples of extremes to balance and to find what could be seen as some sort of ideal medium. The intermingling of dualities, or perhaps, the dialectic of these extremes, he uses to make the final case of beauty and aesthetics. He slowly works up to his conclusions of this idea. Schiller begins by giving us the idea of "natural" and "moral" laws, these he finds, somewhat crudely, in the masses/underclasses and then in the upperclasses. He deems them the "wild" and the "lethargic", applied respectively. He thus finds fault in each, perhaps more in the underclass of which he is not a part. Nevertheless, he quantifies them as extremes and not apt or conducive to an ideal. In short, this is his means of argumentative sway throughout the essay.

As stated, he gives us "natural" and "moral". He continues with the binary comparisons. "Imaginary" and "reason", (occasionally throwing in his biases, e.g., the Greeks were better, our class topic of veneration of the past, a sort of conservativism) "facts" and "poetics", "appearance" and "reality", "sensuous" and "formal", "change" and "permanence", "independence" and "passivity", "feeling" and "thinking", "strength" and "gentleness", "indetermination" and "determination", the list is long. He ponders on each of the aspects of what I understand as human qualities. It is not merely one or the other, they both must subdue the other and at the same time mix with each other.

How can these couplets become one? He answers: by beauty and aesthetics, wedding the two extremes. He goes so far as to say that art is the "savior of undignified humanity" and calls beauty "our second creator after nature". He then comes to his ultimate conclusion of beauty at the end of the essay. That is, that "aesthetic communication alone unites society, because it applies to what is common to all its members" and "Beauty alone confers happiness on all, and under its influence every being forgets that he is limited".

Schiller himself states his essay is directly influenced by Kant, and it dutifully is. The idea of temperance or giving up some autonomy to then be received by the collective whole, is present and the driving force. Aesthetics and beauty are Schiller's logical departure and step forward after Kant.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

    Just for the sake......... :  Neo Rauch, "Die Fuge", 2005

Week 3: Carlos Franco Reading Response

“Idea for a Universal History from a Cosmopolitan Point of View”

“All culture, art, which adorns mankind, and the finest social order are fruits of unsociableness...”

Kant sketches out his theory of the progressive evolution of societies throughout history. Based on a  “theological theory of nature”, he sees man as  holden to the precepts of end and purposefulness that he ascribes to it (nature). Those same precepts he applies both to the microcosm of the individuals and to that of societies; the highest end they may, and should aspire to, achieve is that of a “universal  civic society”, and by consequence a commonwealth of states. This may be reached by assuring the education, or ‘enlightenment’ (through ‘reason’, which is built through generations), of each of its constituents (both individuals and the states).

To accomplish this end (and also serving as a conceptual hook with which to defend the idea of free will and the rights of the individual in his theory) Kant inserts the concept of a dialectical progression of history. Man, through a history of strife and antagonism (him being an animal driven by a natural will to compete), must reason himself into sociability as it is the most practical solution to the problem that arises when confronted by the will and ends of other men ( reference: Hobbes concept of the ‘social contract’).

“Thanks be to nature, then, for the incompatibility, for heartless competitive vanity, for the insatiable desire to possess and rule! Without them, all the excellent natural capacities of humanity would forever sleep, underdeveloped. Man wishes concord; but Nature...she wills discord.”

He also projects this dialectical progression into the world stage arguing for the necessity of the states (after going through their own internal process of “maturation”) to form a common bond, a ‘league of nations’ that can assure the security of the state, and by consequence the rights and well being of its constituents.

With this argument, and his focus on the role of Reason and Enlightenment in the history of men and societies, Kant sets the ground for later writers such as Schiller and Hegel and the development of German Idealism, which would later serve as the ground for a counter-argument atop which Marx would develop his theory of Historical Materialism.

“...our world rulers at present have no money left over for public education and for anything that concerns the best in the world, since all they have is already committed to future wars...”

In his essay preoccupations like the  ‘league of nations’ and the reference to the effects of ‘war debt’ seem more contemporary than anything else, which begs the question:

How do geometrical projections (such as linearity, or circularity) of history hold up two centuries later? Does an idea of  progress still have value? Progress of who and for whom?

Has there really been any progress, or are we still fumbling around contemporary notions of states and nations in a similar manner?

 In that context, what is the now in history? If the form determines the context, are we still in Kant’s theoretical now?

How does his romantic view of progress inform our concept of the now?

How did Kant’s argument serve as a legitimizing discourse for modern imperialism and colonization?

"An Answer to the Question: What is Enlightement"

“Sapere Aude!”

Kant struggles with the concepts of freedom in the context of his theory on the dialectical progress of history and the role of the church and state in relation to the individual’s right to reason. In his mind enlightenment equals the courage required for the embracement of freedom of thought and speech; immaturity he ascribes to those that ‘dare not’ and which still depend on the cemented ideas of previous generations.

“He must obey.”

Addicted to the impulse to categorize every concept that comes to his mind, Kant  distinguishes between two manners in which the use of reason could take part: "public" (scholars), which he says need to be immune from censorship, and the second "private", which he relates with civic responsibilities (such as a soldier taking orders) and which he considers, if necessary, able to fall under censorship and restriction. Nice way to defend his own skin.

It’s always entertaining seeing Kant, in his eternal inclination to make philosophy look ever more scientific, assert a general concept (ideal in this case) and then borderline on contradictions by feeding this urge for compartmentalization: the scholar must be able to speak his mind out, the soldier must obey orders but can question them as a scholar, and we must pay our taxes. This logic also leads him to defend the position of the monarchy (Frederick II) justifying the need for man to be guided by a supreme ruler... as long as he is enlightened and assures the freedom of the state’s constituents... right.

“...”Do we presently live in an enlightened age?” the answer is, “No, but we do live in an age of enlightenment.”

This constant playing between affirming the necessity of each person’s right to freedom, a dialectical  progression of history in which we must constantly question ideas and structures of previous generations, and the assertion that man must be guided by a supreme leader and subdue his own free will in determined conditions, leads to a load of precarious conceptual juggling, which fortunately Kant is master of, but at the same time, as is the case of any good philosophy from the 18th and 19th century, tries to make too much sense of itself.


Will we ever reach a level of enlightenment where we won’t need a ‘leader’ to discipline us? Is the only possible state one of fear?

Is Kant right on setting limits for freedom and the use of reason so it doesn’t interfere with our civic duty? To who do way owe our moral direction? The collective or the individual?

Does the state truly represent the collective and individuals, as Kant asserts?

How does the argument of freedom in the use of reason relate to the idea of freedom of speech? How does this apply to contemporary media and what are the implications in our culture and recent history?

“The Way of the World”

“ MIRA.  I wonder there is not an act of parliament to save the credit
of the nation and prohibit the exportation of fools.”

The thing that I found interesting about the play is seeing all these urbanite characters overtly conscious of their social positions; 18th century hipsters riding the milk cow, dandies conspiring themselves into social conformity. The play takes footing in a society thats going from a transient aristocracy into a burgeoning culture. A lot of the drama seems to revolve around the microcosmos of social logics that these people create around themselves, and to which they are subdued in order to maintain their own social position and ‘dignity’. Another thing that jumps out is Mirabell’s and Milamant’s pre-nuptial agreement, and the interest in most of the characters to determine their relations through economic conditions, also the manner in which some of the female characters pan out through the play, exerting what some would consider a libertine attitude for the times.


How can we relate this play to Kant’s vision of the nature of man?

Are any of these archetype of characters still visible today? If so what is the implication for our social relations and our ideas of the now? Does this imply a circularity in history?

All this talk of german idealism, history, progress, and archetypes leads me to one visual reference: Neo Rauch, Schöpfer (Creator) oil on canvas 210 x 250cm . Enjoy

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Portrait of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester

Dig the monkey and the pages of manuscript. The artist is unknown, and the painting is dated between 1665-1670. If the later date were true, that would put the painting of the portrait five years before the publication of the Satyr Against Mankind and ten years before his death, presumably from various venereal diseases exacerbated by alcoholism.

Christina Elliott – Week 2 Reading Responses

Christina Elliott – Week 2 Reading Responses
Rochester: A Satyre Against Mankind
In A Satyre Against Mankind Rochester highlights the despair and doubt associated with intellectual pursuits. Overall the piece is quite pessimistic in its opinion of Reason. Rochester uses the metaphors of a man lost in a foggy bog, nights spent with “common whores,” slavery, witchcraft, and tormented flesh-ripping battles to illustrate the frustration involved in scholarly thought. A second voice emerges in the poem to defend Reason, stating that it allows for distinction between man and beast and permits “flight beyond material sense.” Yet, this argument is short lived and quickly turns against Reason once more. He likens educational institutions to insane asylums filled with “frantic crowds of thinking fools.” Warning is offered against becoming overly engulfed in philosophic thought, that sensible reason can bring about happiness but overthinking these issues can destroy any inherent pleasure and lead to anxiety and listlessness.
Rochester’s ridicule against institutions such as universities and government bureaucracies draws to mind Goya’s Los caprichos, a series of etchings completed in 1799[1] that offered brutal criticism of the elite, the government, the clergy, societal norms, superstitious behavior, and the arrogance held in intellectual circles. Plate 43 The sleep of reason produces monsters, depicts a man falling asleep while studying. The man is immediately surrounded by owls, a typical symbol of wisdom. Yet, these creatures begin to morph into absurd monstrosities as they fly from the man. This image echoes Rochester’s warning against Reason becoming perilous if taken too far. Rochester’s prose “So charming ointments make an old witch fly. And bear a crippled carcass through the sky” readily relates to Plate 68 Pretty Teacher!, which portrays an old witch and her young apprentice. The owl in the upper right corner reflects back on the subject of reason, and may allude to a similar opinion held by Rochester, that scholarly endeavors are fraught with as much mischief, fear, dishonesty, and dread as demonic practices.  
“Tis evident beasts are, in their own degree, As wise at least, and better far than he.”
Hobbes on Equality
“Hobbes on Equality” seems to present a contradiction from the very start. Immediately he makes a distinction and alludes to a hierarchy in human thought. He states that men are basically equal, aside from those who inhabit the arts or sciences. Another thought he proposes seems to strike a nerve regarding current events. Hobbes states “For there is not ordinarily a greater sign of the equal distribution of any thing than that every man is contented with his share. From this equality of ability arise the quality of hope in attaining our ends.” This statement is haunting in light of the current “Occupy” movements and growing discontent over the uneven distribution of wealth. Certainly “every man” is no longer content with his share.
Hobbes on Power
“Hobbes on Power” outlines the qualities deemed fundamental in acquiring power. Of these he highlights authority, financial freedom, reputation, and popularity. Yet, Hobbes has left out the role of sexuality in power struggles.[2] He proposes that power has its own inertia, “increasing as it proceeds.” Amusingly, Hobbes also states that “The value or worth of a man is, as all other things, his price; that is to say, so much as would be given for the use of his power, and there for is not absolute, but a thing dependent on the need and judgment of another.” In this sense Hobbes makes man a commodity and his exchange-value is highly dependent on how others rate his level of power. “Exchange-value manifests itself as something totally independent of … use-value.”[3] So then if the community refuses to recognize him, they deny him power, and his acquisitions of wealth and prestige become trivial and worthless.
Also interesting within this text is Hobbes statement that “Nor does it alter the case of honour whether an action (so it be great and difficult, and consequently a sign of much power) be just or unjust: for honour consisteth only in the opinion of power.” He goes on to explain that depicting Gods as rapists and thieves is honorable because they are actions produced by wielding power. Although these acts require power, does this still make them equitable in an honorable sense when they carry a heavy social stigma? Do we honor modern icons in similar manners? In Hobbes interpretation, politicians caught with their pants down should feel honored. The fact that they have the means and resources to engage in multiple affairs is proof of their power.
Questions for Discussion
Do you think Rochester had anyone in mind when he talks of the “whimsical philosopher” liking his tub better than the spacious world?
Do you personally believe that ‘knowledge is power’ or ‘ignorance is bliss’?

Goya, Plate 43: The sleep of reason produces monsters, 1799
Goya, Plate 68: Pretty Teacher!, 1799
David, Marat Assassinated, 1793
“his tub prefer”

[1] Basic information on Goya’s Los caprichos can be referenced in Perez Sanchez, Alfonso E. & Gallego, Julian. Goya: The Complete Etchings and Lithographs. New York: Prestel-Verlag, 1995. Print: 32-34.
[2] Luckily for us, Foucault elaborates quite extensively about the role of sexuality in systems of power…
[3] For more on the topic of various values and commodities see Tucker, R. The Marx-Engels Reader. 2nd ed. New York: W.W. Norton & Co. Inc., 1978. 302-304.