Presentation on “A Modest Proposal”

April 6th, 2017

Beaumont in his article “Swift’s Classical Rhetoric in “A Modest Proposal” ” argues that the essay is modeled after five part classical oration:The Exordium (Paragraphs 1-7),The Statement of Facts (8-16),Classical Digression (17-19),The Proof (20-28),The Refutation (29-30),The Peroration (31-33)


  • “The classical form of the essay is itself an important constituent of Swift’s irony, for the projector’s addressing his readers through an ancient and learned form helps allay any suspicion of radical newness” (307). Because Swift uses a respected traditional form, the absurd and radical proposal that the projector advices comes off as ironic.

Classical Rhetorical Devices that Create Irony:

  • Aristotle identifies three kinds of proof for a speech: the ethical, emotional, or the logical proof. Swift relies on the ethical proof, “which springs from the moral character of the speaker” (307). The projector of this modest proposal is characterized by Swift as humane, competent, reasonable, and weary and exhausted from his attempts to improve his native kingdom. Beaumont asserts, “In creating his projector, Swift faced a rhetorical problem that required careful balancing of these contrasting characteristics in one person. He had to make his projector humble enough to gain the reader’s approval and sympathy and assured enough to gain the reader’s confidence. Further, Swift had to keep the projector sufficiently dense to sustain the irony” (308).
  • The self-confidence of the projector is revealed in the second paragraph when he states that he looks forward to seeing himself commemorated with a statue. His sureness of himself and the efficacy of his proposal is further revealed in the Statement of facts. And he speaks out boldly in giving his proofs. But the projector is also humble. The proposal is introduced in modest terms “I shall therefore humbly propose…” “I do humbly offer to publick consideration.”
  • “Swift has blended these two qualities of his projector in such a way that both are convincing and neither quality overshadows the other. The result is a pleader whose humility is justifiably tempered by the sure knowledge that he has something to offer Ireland” ( 310).
  • These are the explicit indicants of the moral character of the pleader; they are reinforced and dramatized by the whole tone of the essay.


  • Classical Rhetorician use the device of diminution, “the use of lesser term to name a thing” (311).
  • The most obvious use of diminution is the use of lesser noun to refer to people. So Swift refers to mothers as “beggars of the female sex”
  • Couples are referred to as ”breeders”
  • ” Rhetorically, the projector’s varying the normal term with the animal term serves to keep the reader off guard, with the result that if the reader begins to expect the animal term, he is fooled. The effect is that one term is just as normal as the other” (312).
  • Furthermore, Beaumont asserts “As if the diminution of human beings to animal were not strong enough, the irony is intensified by a species of redoubled diminution. The animal becomes food. The progression than becomes man to animal to food” (312).
  • “If such man-to-animal diminution stood alone in the essay, it would no doubt be so offensive that it would defeat its intended purpose of persuading the reader. However, as Swift has blended the operation of this device with the functioning of the several devices, the whole resultant fabric of the irony is made so tightly knit that this particular use of diminution is one highly successful and basic to the whole essay” (313).


  • Refining is the third most important rhetorical device that Swift uses in this essay. Refining “consists in dwelling on the same topic and yet seeming to say something new.” Swift uses this device in a subtler form. Swift varies the word until the word or phrase has new meaning/definition.
  • The proposal is designed “for the children of professional beggars” (313). Swift uses the term in paragraph three, but here children of professional beggars and infants of the poor are two separate groups. In the next several paragraphs he refers to children of the beggar as “the children of the poor” and the noun, beggar, is dropped. It is in fourteenth paragraph that he identifies the infants of the poor as beggars. So as the essay progresses, the two groups, infants of poor and children of beggars is conflated”

Main Points:

  • “For “A Modest Proposal” Swift uses ethical proof, diminution and refining as the major rhetorical devices to construct irony” (315).
  • Swift’s ironic norm is established by the pervasive tone of diminution (human beings to animals) and by the projector’s sustained point of view as an economist.

Secondary Article: Swift’s Classical Rhetoric in “A Modest Proposal” by Charles Allen Beaumont.


Presentation on “Bartleby the Scrivener”

April 6th, 2017

Background on Melville:

For most of his life, Melville struggled financially. He didn’t have much support from his family, who were also under financial stress. And prior to writing “Bartleby the Scrivener” Melville had personally experienced economic hardships. He searched for work without success in Illinois and then later in New York City in 1830, before becoming a commercial sailor and a whaler. He lived in NYC from 1844-1850.

New York City in 1850s:

The city was going through political change. There were labor movements springing across neighborhoods. Often these labor groups had contentious and violent contact with the police authority. This led to a mood of mass political turmoil. Two writers in particular, Bennett who wrote for Herald, and Greeley who wrote for the Tribune, wrote extensively on labor issues. Both championed for the rights of the working class, but both had differing perspective on the problem. Bennett’s argument was “there was hardly a rich man in this community, who had not risen from poverty through persevering industry.” He argued that wage labor system was consistent with Christian values. Greeley on the other hand chastised the way “Christians harmonized this social injustice” with their faith. He encouraged that workers should resist and fight this unjust system. These protestant values legitimated class privilege and inequality.

The conflict in the story, between the lawyer, who represent Protestant entrepreneur who fused his values with the economic system, and Bartelby who refuse to do work because of the impersonal, unequal and exploitive conditions is “like the opposing positions of Bennett and Greeley” (386)

Setting in the Story:

■Wall Street, in Melville’s depiction, is, after work hours, as “deserted as Petra … an emptiness,” a space “entirely unhallowed by humanizing domestic association” (385)

Kuebrich describes it as “attention to the Wall Street setting and the sharp class divisions in the workplace clarify the symbolic function of the story’s omnipresent physical barriers: the prison walls, the brick structures that surround the law office, and the fold glass doors and portable screen that divide it internally. phrasing Emerson’s trope, the walls are natural facts which suggest social and psychological facts: the densely developed urban setting that separates the story’s characters from nature; the growing impersonality of not only of the workplace but of the larger society” (386). Furthermore, there are distinct separation of classes. The clients are the rich, the lawyer represents the upper-middle class and the employees are the lower class. Furthermore the prospect of social mobility for the copyist is really slim. This is shown by the fact that Turkey is still doing that job at his old age, and “Nippers is a frustrated would be lawyer.” Bartleby is the representation of the worker who refuses to work in these growing impersonal and unequal conditions.

The Lawyers Outlook upon Work:

■The lawyer constantly attributes the problems of Turkey and Nipper to their nature. Their lives are lamentable because of their vice.

■Turkey’s irritability is result of him drinking too much wine or “red ink.” The lawyer never “asks himself why he drinks” in the first place

■Nipper’s problems are a result of vice and genetics

■ “nature herself seemed to have been his vintner, and at his birth charged him so thoroughly with an irritable, brandy-like disposition, that all subsequent potations were needless” (392)

Workers are Servants of the Boss:

■He identifies his authority with natural order

■“Bartleby’s refusals strike him not as acts of resistance to an unjust and humiliating subordination but as “violently unreasonable” (p. 22), whereas his own behavior is “perfectly reason- able” (p. 25). He places Bartleby inside his office behind a high screen so that the scrivener may be hidden from view and yet “within easy call, in case any trifling thing was to be done” (p. 19). On the third day of Bartleby’s employment, the lawyer relates how he “abruptly called to Bartleby” in “natural expectancy of instant compliance” (p. 20, emphasis added). It is in response to this brusque summons that Bartleby issues his first “I would prefer not to” “ (393).

Main Point:

■“An awareness of the many correlations between “Bartleby” and current social conditions and debates does not in itself explain the mysteries of the story, but it does make a strong prima facie case for viewing it as an historicized text more concerned with then-contemporary economic realities than is usually acknowledged” (388).

Secondary Source: Melville’s Doctrine of Assumptions: The Hidden Ideology of Capitalist Production in”Bartleby” by David Kuebrich

Transmission of Affect Presentation Notes

March 30th, 2017

Transmission of affect has been recorded in premodern European history. In the writing of Montaigne,  he describes this exchange of energy in between old man and a young man. After 17th century the idea of transmission disappeared from the philosophical canon. And subsequently with the growing interest in animal magnetism in 18th century, it contributed to the decline in the notion of  transmission of affect. The point Brennan is making is that the notion of transmission of affect fades as we proceed in western history.

What is affect? Brennan uses affect interchangeably with emotion. In Brennan’s words “by an affect, I mean the physiological shift accompanying a judgment” (5). She makes a distinction between affect and feelings. Feelings are sensations that have “found the right match in words”(5). In other words feelings are thoughtful, while affects are thoughtless. Affect has to do with judgment while feeling has to do with discernment. The main point is that affects can be transmitted and are experienced in social situation.

Understanding Transmission of Affect:

Transmission of affect is the idea that our surroundings influence our physiological responses. So transmission of affect is social/psychological in origin, but biological and physical in effect. Affects have an energetic dimension. Transmission of affect means “that we are not self-contained in terms of our energies. There is no secure distinction between the ‘individual’ and the ’environment’ (6). Brennan however is not arguing that their is no difference between individuals. She states, “The point is that, even if I am picking up on your affect, the linguistic and visual content, meaning the thoughts I attach to that affect, remain my own: they remain the product of the particular historical conjunction of words and experiences I represent.” (7). The thoughts that we attach to our affects come from our personal history.  She stresses this point, throughout the first chapter, that she is not arguing that there is no distinction between the individual and the environment.

The Need for a Theory on Transmission of Affect:

Even though we accept social theorist like Marx, Foucault, and Mannheim who have shown that the thoughts of a subject are dependent upon the culture, and socio-economic conditions of the subject, we still resist the idea that “our emotions are not altogether our own” (2). This is a residue of Eurocentric thinking, that we are emotionally contained subject. This denial of transmission of affect leads to inconsistencies in many theories.

Two forms of transmission of affect: one where people become alike whereby “one person’s or one group’s nervous and hormonal systems are brought into alignment with another’s.” (9). (The neurological term for the process is called “entrainment”)And then there is transmission in which people take opposite positions (the angry and the depressed etc). Entrainment is achieved primarily, according to Brennan, through “unconscious olfaction.” One of her point is that affect is transmitted through pheromones. She asserts, “smell emerges as critical in communicating responses ranging from the aggressive to the soothing; it is also a vehicle for effective changes in another’s hormonal composition” (10).

Foundational Fantasy:

Brennan critiques Freud’s views  that “individual psyche is the origin of the drives and affects” (12). Brennan coins this term “Foundational fantasy” to explain how we (by we I mean western modernity) has seen the mother figure as “the natural origin rather than the repository of unwanted affects.” The infant projects onto the mother all the bad qualities like envy, anger, while the infant is the good and the powerful. Brennan says this fantasy is the foundation of this self-containment myth.

Brennan explains the foundational fantasy as “the belief that “we” the passive infant, are the true fountain of energy and life, and the mother is a hapless, witless receptacle. Situating the mother as the passive repository for the child’s unwanted raging affects is , perhaps, the first powerful instance of the transmission of affect” (13). The foundational fantasy explains why we think of ourselves as self contained and also why we judge others, why we project negative affect onto the other.

Unlike Freud’s work, Brennan’s theory situates the origin of affect outside of the individual. Brennan states “These affects come from the other, but we deny them. Or they come from us, but we pretend that they come from the other. Envy, anger, aggressive behavior-these are problems of the other. Overtolerance, overgenerosity-these are our problems .”(13)

A Note on Brennan’s use of fantasy: it is used in purely negative terms. Fantasy is a tool for self deception. However, in psychoanalysis, fantasy can be generative and productive while also have negative effects.

Main Points:

  • Affects are material and have energetic dimension
  • Transmission of affect happens through smell as well as sight.
  • Foundational fantasy, by denying the mother agency, fosters this illusion of self-containment of the psyche.  But the foundational fantasy doesn’t account for maternal agency in utero.
  • A paradigm based on transmission of affect answers these question and inconsistencies in other theories.

To understand how you can use this theory for the exam, go directly to Chani’s blog where she explores how transmission of affect can be applied to “The Yellow Wallpaper” “The Mark on the Wall”, God of Small Things and a couple of other texts.

Plan for the Exam

March 14th, 2017

Here are my notes on how to use some of the text for the exam:

In Fun Home, Alison Bechdel goes through melancholic mourning. Upon learning about her father’s closeted gay identity, Bechdel is left with ambiguous emotions towards her father, which she has to reconcile before she can loosen her libido from her father. I will be reading Bechdel’s novel through Freud’s theory on mourning and melancholia. Freud believed, that the melancholic self-criticism was in fact directed towards a lost object and thus pathological, and Alison Bechdel in Fun Home, argue that melancholia is generative and allows the mourner to their new identity in the absence of the loved one. Along with Freud, I will also incorporate Judith Butler and her theory about how our gendered behavior is a performance and thus a learned behavior. In the graphic novel there are a lot of instances where we see that.

Fun Home can also be considered an elegy. Bechdel subverts some of the conventions of elegy. Fun Home is anti-elegiac. Bechdel doesn’t try to console herself for her father’s loss. Instead she attacks his identity. In a traditional elegy, the mourned person is often apotheosized by the end. That doesn’t happen in Bechdel’s case. Similary, I will also be using Virginia Woolf’s “Mark on the Wall” as a text that works with the conventions of the elegy.

I am going to use Emily Dickinson’s poems and show how they conform/diverge from Professor Chu’s definition of a lyric i.e musicality of the poem, exploration of heightened sense of consciousness etc. Professor Chu’s definition of lyricism is mirrored in Dickinson’s poem. (I am not sure if that will go under theory or genre but I am hoping it will cover one of those categories)

I am also planning on using De Bois theory of double consciousness and how Gwendolyn Brook’s poems explore that in variety of different ways. The speaker in Brook’s poem often look at themselves through the eyes of others. There sense of self is unstable and that ties directly to double consciousness.  I think that will also fall under understanding a text through a use of theory.

In The Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde offers a commentary on the constraint that were imposed on individuals by Victorian morality. Wildee satirizes this whole idea of what society deems respectable and absurd, right and wrong. (I don’t know what secondary text I will using to explore this text, but I hope I can find some articles that addresses Victorian culture and how it is reflected in the text)

Johnathan Swifts’ “A Modest Proposal” is a satirical response to the harsh economic condition under which the Irish peasant were living during the 1730s. In her essay Louis A. Landa compiles a number of prominent papers that explained the economic policies of the time. Landa writes that “A Modest Proposal” is a protest against the economic maxim of the time that “people are the riches of the nation.” Landa writes that Swifts “purpose was to demonstrate that however these maxims applied to other countries, they had no application to Ireland” (Landa 161).

At this point I feel relatively comfortable in showing how different theories can be used to understand certain texts that I am going to be using. I need to work on how the text also reflect and engage with the different historical conditions under which they were produced.




February 18th, 2017

Here are my plans to organize and structure my essay into a more coherent piece:

  1. I need to work on my introduction. Situate Huxley’s views on pleasure in relation to other modernist writers (explaining how other writers were dealing with this subject matter at the time)
  2. Lay out the dichotomy of mind and body that Huxley uses to understand pleasure.
  3. Explain how I will be using works on pleasure from other discipline firstly to test whether it coheres with Huxley’s views and what it reveals about Brave New World.
  4. Isolate and define key terms in the essay and use them in the various paragraphs

I think I have framework and I need to build on it. The key thing for me at the moment is to make sure I define my key terms properly and to not rush through my paragraphs. I am motivated to finish this last stretch in a positive note.

Plans for Revision

December 23rd, 2016

As I have mentioned in my cover letter, I don’t really have a well grounded and defined motive for writing on pleasure. So the first part of my revision is going to be to start developing that part of my essay more solidly.

I have to read my sources more scrupulously, annotate the position of each theorist regarding pleasure and subjectivity, find similarities and differences and then proceed to formulate an outline for my essay.

So far everything that I have written in my draft is going to be revised. But once I have read my sources in detail, and have gotten a better hold of their conceptual framework, then I am going to apply them in relation to Huxley’s theory of pleasure.

I am not really worried about stitching or any of the other details that may help my essay, because I don’t think I am there yet. For now, I am going to be making sure that I can use some of Gaipa’s strategies, specifically the leapfrogging one because I am finding out that even though I agree with some tenets of my sources, I find that I have some disagreements as well. Furthermore, I need to develop my ballroom diagram, so that I am sure I am engaging my sources and they are not just there to occupy empty space.


During the break, my hope is that I can successfully come up with an arguable thesis, and develop Huxley’s notion on pleasure in relation to Barthes, Foucault and Bloom. But for that I will need to spend my vacation with my books. So I will get packing.

My Progress So Far

December 13th, 2016

When I was looking for sources it all seemed to gel together. I thought I had more than enough sources to pull the paper in the right direction. My biggest issue thus far is that incorporating theoretical work into my paper is relatively easy but it seems like I need to find other sources, because the material is just not enough. Personally, I haven’t spent enough time on my paper so I can’t complain as to why its not coming together. But trying to put the sources into discussion without just summarizing them or paraphrasing them is a challenge at the moment. I think Gaipa’s strategy #8 should be helpful but it’s easier said then done. I have been attempting to somehow incorporate Bloom’s theory on pleasure into my work, but it just seems like I am forcing it. I am still missing one of my sources, which has made me put brakes on my work.

I am excited about my topic. So this has kept me from despairing too much. I know if I spend time on it, I will be able to put the essay together. I am considering using another of Huxley’s novel and how he represents pleasure in Point Counter Point. But I don’t want to jump on that idea yet.

Most of my problems are because I haven’t managed my time properly, and haven’t gotten hold of all my sources. But I think I can make a comeback.

Annotated Bibliography

December 6th, 2016

Barthes, Roland, Richard Miller, and Richard Howard. The Pleasure of the Text. New York: Hill and Wang, 1975. Print.

In his book, Barthes delineates between two kind of text, one that produces pleasure and one that results in bliss. He divides texts into two groups, the readerly text requires no effort on the part of the reader to understand the text; it is straightforward, where meaning is fixed and pre-determined. The reader has limited agency, and is a passive consumer, a vessel to receive information. Writerly text on the other hand allows the reader to as Barthes puts it “I read on, I skip, I look up, I dip in again.” The reader is actively forced to engage with the text, and form their own meaning. To derive jouissance (bliss), the reader has to take action. The writerly text takes erotic pleasure in the death of the subject, which allows the reader to participate in the formation of meaning, rather than merely reacting to the text. Using Barthes distinction of the two types of text, I am going to show that Brave New World is a writerly text. I will argue that the lack of characterization (which some critics have argued as a weakness) serves to make the reader actively engage with the text. The various inter-textualization of Lawrence and Shakespeare’s ideas into the book, destabilizes any fixed meaning. Reading of Brave New World through Barthes’ theoretical lens will allow me to show how the construction and structure of the book (Brave New World) conform to the kind of pleasure that Huxley was advocating for. I am also going to pick a fight with Barthes (I don’t know if it’s a smart idea) by disagreeing with him on the point that writerly text doesn’t reduce the reader’s identity into self-oblivion, but the gap that the text presents the reader with, which the reader has to actively fill to make meaning, provides a space for new identity to emerge. So creating pleasure, is directly tied to identity formation.


Bloom, Paul. How Pleasure Works: The New Science of Why We like What We like. New York: W.W. Norton, 2010. Print.

Bloom distinguishes between animal pleasure and human pleasure, and the difference lies in that human experience pleasure in a “deep” way and by deep Bloom means “that pleasure draws upon deep intuitions, that it is smart, and that it is evolved and universal and largely inborn.” There is a lot packed into that quote. That statement seems contradictory. How can pleasure be both our response to stimuli through years of evolution, and at the same time be considered “smart.” I am going to be working with Bloom’s theory on pleasure which is tied to the theory of essentialism – that humans respond to the essence of things, from which they derive their pleasure. For Bloom, pleasure is intimately connected to knowledge. (I am not sure if I agree with his theory but I think it would be helpful to incorporate it into my essay).


Foucault, Michel, and Paul Rabinow. “Sex, Power, and the Politics of Identity.” Ethics: Subjectivity and Truth. New York: New, 1997. Print.

Applying Foucault theory on sexuality and pleasure, I will analyze the sexual encounter in Brave New World and what it reveals about identity. Foucault’s main point is that “we must not exclude identity if people find their pleasure through this identity, but we must not think of this identity as ethical universal rule” (166). What Foucault is stating that identity should be subservient to pleasure. It is not a “universal rule”, but that the pursuit of pleasure can result in an individual forming an identity. For Huxley, the pursuit of pleasure for the sake of pleasure was a direct assult on individual freedom, and not only that it reduced the individual to be completely consumed by the collective identity. What Huxley found imprisoning, and a threat to individual freedom, Foucault considered to be liberating. Individual identity was a prison. And because power structures according to Foucault can’t appropriate pleasure, so then one must create their identity through pleasure. Pleasure, to Foucault is similar to a theatre, where one can create and recreate one’s identity. Foucault’s central argument on the link between pleasure and identity is the opposite to that of Huxley.


Frost, Laura. “Huxley’s Feelies: The Cinema of Sensation in Brave New World.” Twentieth-Century Literature 52.4 (2006): 443-73. Web.

In this paper Frost makes several points about how Huxley links feelies in Brave New World to cultural degeneracy and artistic decadence. For the most part I will be ass-kissing Frost’s argument, but there is an example which Frost provides that shows that Huxely’s feeling towards intoxication and feelies may have been not as straightforward as it is assumed. John, the savage, reaction to feelies is portrayed as puritanical hysteria. I will be close reading those passages and try to interpret it in a different lens. I will be focusing on how Huxley portrays feelies as similar to being under an influence of a drug where the individual is completely unaware or without control of their mind and body.


Huxley, Aldous. Collected Essays. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1959. Print.

In his essay “Pleasure” Huxley delineates what’s wrong with modern pleasure. He states, “ In place of the old pleasures demanding intelligence and personal initiative, we have vast organizations that provide us with ready-made distractions—distractions which demand from pleasure-seekers no personal participation and no intellectual effort of any sort.” Using this essay I will outline what Huxley means by old pleasure and the pleasure that he considers pernicious. I will use this essay and “Where are the Movies Moving?” for introduction and hopefully pepper my essay with key phrases to orient and give shape to my essay. The main point of Huxley in this essay is that pleasure that removes agency must be fought against, because they make individuals susceptible to mind manipulation, and is a threat to their freedom.


Kracauer, Siegfried. Theory of Film: The Redemption of Physical Reality. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1997. Print.

In this book, Kracauer develops his theory of film and compares a filmgoers experience to that of a drug user. He claimed that the film engaged individual’s senses before the person had a chance to “respond intellectually” to the film. I am going to read John’s experience of the feelies through this lens. (I haven’t gotten the book yet, so I don’t have enough details on how it may shape my essay).

In the beginning of my essay, I have to establish what kind of pleasure huxley is advocating for, and why is he against pleasure that doesn’t require participation. Since I am looking at various representation of pleasure in the book, I am also going to use the book in itself as one such representation. I will be using Barthes text Pleasure of the Text and apply his theory to Brave New World. At the moment I am having difficulty trying to understand Bloom and how to incorporate him into my essay. Since his theory is relatively new, it would be very helpful if I could somehow fit him into the picture without forcing him there. Foucault’s theory seems to be completely opposite of what Huxley’s understanding on this subject. Reading the sex parties through a Foucaldian lens will provide a fresh take on the subject. I am still waiting for Kracauer’s work. I hope to get it soon.




Research Proposal

November 22nd, 2016

I will be working on Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, a book that depicts a dystopian society set in the future, where people are conditioned from birth through means of hypnopaedic process, classical conditioning and other means of manipulation, to follow a prescribed set of orders. Whether the book was a response to some of the social changes that were happening in the 1930’s like the effect of depression, the political surge of communism, the mass effect of over organization is an interesting question that one can examine. But I wanted to focus on how the citizens of the world state are stripped of their individuality. The book is a depiction of a world where people don’t have an individual identity. What does in Huxley’s views are the forces that strip individuals of their selfhood? What are some values which are essential to one’s identity? How is a collective identity formed and reinforced in this society? These are one set of question that I am interested in. Another important aspect of this society is the drug soma. It is used as a stimulant which produces within the user a state or euphoria. The World Controller use it to keep the people in check, and to prevent them from thinking. And the popular form of entertainment in this state is going to the feelies. Feelies is a cinematic viewing experience where the viewer is fully engrossed in the film, much like how the 3d movies function in our culture. I want to explore how feelies (and soma) function in creating their identities?

Some possible sources that will help me in further my research would be to look up some historical commentary on what it meant to be a citizen during that time and how those views shaped what it meant to be an individual? One source that I have identified is “Huxley’s Feelies: The Cinema of Sensation in “Brave New World”” by Laura Frost. In this essay Frost delves into Huxley’s views on cinema, and how he thought it was going to shape “the mind of England.” The introduction of sound in cinema raised a lot of moral and ethical questions and physical effects that the new cinema would have on mass audiences. In his essay “Where are the movies moving” Huxley describes how the sound and the effect of “moving images” puts the viewer in a hypnotic state, who is then susceptible to mind-manipulation. His horror to the cultural transformation of the movie industry can be traced in the way the World State uses different form of mind manipulation to keep its citizen as order-obeying robots. I want to find some criticism of cinema by popular cultural figures and put their views in conversation with Huxley.

The main aim of my project is to try to show how identity/selfhood is a historical and cultural creation. By understanding what Huxley considered indispensable to individual identity, I hope to show how his views are a product of the historical conditions of the time. There has been a lot of work done on the way Huxley’s dystopian world is influenced by Freudian pleasure principle. I want to pay more attention and show that social and cultural beliefs of Huxley are tied to his conception of selfhood.


Examining Heterosexual Identity in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

November 15th, 2016

In medieval times sexual acts were “fundamental to an individual subject sense of self” (Dinshaw, 207) and heterosexuality was the structure of normativity.  Dinshaw’s essay analyses the representation of heterosexuality in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, by showing how the kisses exchanged between Gawain and Bertilak on the one hand function under the normative system of heterosexuality, but on the other hand the kisses exchanged by the two men threaten that heterosexual identity.

Narrative juxtaposition of the hunt with the bedroom scenes reveal the heterosexual identity by which the poem operates. Bertilak proposes to play a game with Gawain and the conditions that he sets are as follows: every day he will go out to hunt and will give the spoils of his hunt to Gawain – similarly Gawain must give to Bertilak everything that Gawain earns in the castle. The seduction that goes on in the bedroom is then a metaphorical representation of the hunt that is going on in the wild. But Dinshaw points out that it is precisely in these scenes when Gawain’s sexual identity is “unfixed.” In the bedroom he is the one who is passive and is being hunted by the feminine gaze. When she enters the room, Gawain pretends he is sleeping. He is passive while she initiates the action. In this banter between the two, the lady challenges Gawain identity as the knight who is known in the court, and whose name signifies to kiss. In the end of the exchange Gawain must submit to the lady in order to reaffirm his identity (Dinshaw, 212). There is clear reversal of gender roles and it is Gawain who acts like a woman in these exchanges. Similarly, this narrative arc is mirrored in the hunt of the deer. Just as Gawain is being hunter in the bedroom, the deer is being chased in the forest.

These scenes that function simultaneously under the normative heterosexual model of the medieval times, while at the same time the scene disturb that heterosexual identity. The kisses then exchanged by Bertilak and Gawain produces the possibility of homosexual act while at the same time making it in the context of the narrative, unintelligible.

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