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.

Reading Murray’s argument using Hayot’s template of Uneven U Structure

November 8th, 2016

One of the motivating moves by which Murray opens up his discussion of “Bartleby the Scrivener” is by framing his analysis in a way that shows how studying the specific case of Bartleby can provide a radical understanding of autistic presence. The fact that Murray picks a story that was written when autism wasn’t even recognized as a medical condition, points to the fact that even though Bartleby case may seem tangential at first glance, it is in fact the opposite; the story points to corporeality of Bartleby and how he cannot be reduced to a metaphor which is one of the main points of this chapter as whole.

I thought the Uneven U structure of a paragraph which Hayot describes was quite straightforward in the beginning, but it proved harder then I expected. Placing the entire argument of Murray’s into a fractal structure that Hayot describes was even more perplexing. But I will try. Murray’s claim can be divided into two sections which we can label as A and B with each section having their own set of subsections. Murray claims that Bartleby provides an example of autistic presence. This is our A. And once Bartleby’s essential difference is accepted, various narrative readings can be applied to understand the story.

The first paragraph of subset a, opens up with a combination of level 3 and level 2 statement. When Murray says “firstly, the details of Bartleby’s fictional autism” he is making a claim that Bartleby is autistic and also he is also establishing his claim in such a way so to provide direct evidence in the next line. He quotes in the next line which makes it a level 1 statement. Throughout this paragraph he is relying on concrete evidence from the text to assert his claim about Bartleby. I found that most of the paragraph didn’t necessarily followed the uneven u structure. Like in this example the paragraph didn’t open up with a general level 5 statement that slowly progressed to more concrete claims. So it was kind of confusing just categorizing each statement or paragraph and how it fit into the larger section A.

Similarly in subset of section B, Murray tackles with the fact how in narrative terms, the story is open to multiple interpretations.


Conflicting Takes on Christopher Boon’s Representation

November 1st, 2016

As the title of Greg Olear article asserts, Mark Haddon’s debut novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, perpetuates negative stereotypes of autistic individuals. Christopher Boon is characterized as apathetic, violent, painstakingly literal and cripplingly dependent on adult supervision. When Christopher is (falsely) informed that his mother had a heart attack, his response not only reveals how unaware he is of the emotional weight of the situation, but only shows his elitist or egoistic character- he would have liked to go to hospital because he likes hospitals. Even the unconscious content of his mind is shown to be filled with violent images of death; in his dreams the only people who survive are clever people like him. His response to human touch is quite extreme. He either screams or punches anyone who dares to touch him – even his father is not allowed to trespass that boundary.  Olear’s point is that it is not like there isn’t any literature available on autism, but because of the novel’s commercial success, autistic community will have to face the negative consequence from the image in which Christopher Boon is presented. Olear raises an interesting question, whether author should be responsible “to the dangers of irresponsible fiction?” (Page 4). It is quite difficult to argue with Olear’s points, that Christopher is characterized in a stereotypical fashion. But that is exactly what Mcinerney does in his article “The Remains of the Dog.”

Mcinerney claims that Haddon presents us with a character that is round, and life-like. He states, “Haddon manages to bring us deep inside Christopher’s mind and situates us comfortably within his limited, severely logical point of view, to the extent that we begin to question the common sense and the erratic emotionalism of the normal citizens who surround him, as well as our own intuitions and habits of perception” (Page 22). According to Mcinerney, Haddon does enough to show why Christopher is unable to engage, understand or participate in normal social intercourse. The reason why he is that way is because his mind is extremely logical as evidenced by the fact that Christopher considers the use of metaphors as lying. Plus Christopher is a young kid who has to contend with the messy and often illogical relationship of his parents. And as if that wasn’t enough, his father and mother keep secrets from him, which he discovers on his own. Mcinerney stresses, that the main mystery of the novel is to answer whether Christopher “is capable of change”, and that’s a central question that is explored in novels.

These two articles present different viewpoints on Haddon’s novel. Which one of them is right, well I will let you answer that.


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