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.

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2 Responses to “Annotated Bibliography”

  1. Brandon Hernandez on December 7, 2016 1:00 pm

    Ikram, it seems like you’re focusing on how pleasure is an aspect of identity and the role it plays in transposing identity.

    Your first source had me confused with why you were even considering pleasure in your research but then your argument against Barthes to relate back to the idea of identity is a pretty decent and original idea. I think the Bloom article can help back you up on that.

    The Frost article is interesting, but you didn’t mention how it might tie into identity. I think you can still make that connection.

    The Huxley article is interesting especially in relation to his own novel. I think by introducing that article is a good start for the flow of your paper. It’s always important to have your reader understand the definitions and terms you are going to use throughout your paper so the reader isn’t lost.

    The Kracauer article I’m 70/30 about. 70 for using it, 30 for not. Reason being is because I can see the connection you’re going to make with film and relating it back to the Frost article, but you might be drifting down another path. But like you said, you haven’t gotten the text yet so I’m sure you’d make as much use of it as you can.

    Other than that, your research seems to tie into one another and, more importantly, ties back into the text. I know there are many articles out there that talk about identity, so you’re definitely joining in on a conversation and have a strong motive.

  2. Radheeka Sharma on December 22, 2016 5:52 pm

    I am interested on how you are focusing on the topic of pleasure to understand identity. I really like your source, Huxley’s Collected Essays. i like the argument in that pleasure that removes agency is a threat to a persons freedom. I think you could somehow relate that back to how much pleasure can make up an identity. I think thats a really good source for your focus on pleasure.

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