Sunday, November 29, 2015

HYPOTHESIS AND HOW IT IS CHANGING HOW WE READ ONLINE

Hi everybody! Today I just wanted to quickly review an awesome tool called Hypothesis that I've been using all semester for two of my English classes (Currents in American Lit and Critical Theory).

As an extension of your web browser (I use Chrome...does anyone not use Chrome?), Hypothesis lets individuals highlight and annotate any online text of their choosing. By allowing (encouraging it, I daresay) people to comment on texts, a sort of community is born and it's truly neat to be involved in.

The two classes I am in this semester are among the first classes to use Hypothesis in the classroom, and it has been exciting to test this tool, find bugs or problems, and watch the tool itself grow and improve. Though, that is to say that for the most part Hypothesis has proved to be quite user friendly and well programmed.

Personally, I struggle with reading online. I'm a "hold the book in my hand" kind of gal. When I say "reading online", I mean reading a text and actually comprehending it. Anyone can read online, but to get something out of a text that is not physically in front of you can be a challenge. However, I think Hypothesis has helped me to improve my competency and critical thinking skills. 

I like to think of Hypothesis as a literary Facebook, if you will, as my classmates and I not only comment our own thoughts but also reply to each others. Far too often when I am reading a challenging text for class I can't stop dwelling on these questions: "Does anyone actually understand this? Am I crazy for thinking this means ___?" This brilliant tool lets me know that I'm not alone in feeling this way when I can see my classmates commenting in a similar fashion. It's quite comforting. Being able to reply to classmate's comments (with a range of media, no less...gifs anybody?) makes for some pretty entertaining online banter as well. I've laughed hysterically too many times to count whilst reading my classmate's comments (especially when we read Freud...man, that was a comedic goldmine) and I must say it increases the enjoyment I get out of doing my homework. And that's saying something.

At this point in the game, it is safe to say that technology has gradually wiggled its way into the sphere of education and changed it for the better. People were skeptical at first to shy away from traditional modes of teaching and learning, but technology in the classroom has not taken away from the process of teaching, rather enriched it profusely. Tools like Hypothesis contribute positively to the experience of learning, as they promote discussion and help build a community that functions as a collective pool of knowledge and possibility. I like to think I'm apart of that pool now!

Tools like Hypothesis are the future of education.

And I can't wait to see what else the future holds for students and teachers alike.

until next time,

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

WALT WHITMAN'S QUEERNESS AND WHY IT DOES(N'T) MATTER

Hey everybody, long time no talk!

True or False: The famous poet Walt Whitman was gay.

Anybody?

Oh, nobody knows for sure?

And it's not like we can ask him. You know, cause he's dead.

But the most important question we need to ask ourselves is: Does it really matter?


Queer theory, which we studied in Critical Theory, is a lens through which examining literature becomes way more intriguing and possibly a little bit homosexual.

Here are two ways to go about examining a text through a queer lens:

1. biographically

2. textually

More likely than not, the biographical information will be more telling in terms of a definitive answer. If there's evidence that the author was gay, which in Whitman's case there is, it will probably show up in their bio.

Biographical information is great for definitive answers when it is well supported (there is plenty of evidence), but looking to the text can be even more telling than the facts sometimes. Whitman's book of poetry Leaves of Grass is, at some points, quite blatantly homosexual.

Example from "Song of Myself":

"Loafe with me on the grass, loose the stop from your throat…Only the lull I like, the hum of your valved voice"

Walt Whitman talking about blowjobs? Sure seems that way to me. After all, he is quoted as saying that in a nutshell that life revolves around sex. So, coupled with biographical evidence like the love letters, the case for Uncle Walt's queerness is looking pretty strong.

But to return to the question I posed earlier: Does it matter?

After everything is said and done, does it matter if Walt Whitman is gay or not?
Does his supposed preference for the male sex affect how his writing is viewed?
Or how it is read?
Or why?

In my opinion, there isn't a cut and dry answer to this question. This is simply because the concept and functionality of sexuality means something different to everyone.

For Whitman, it is quite possible that his purposed preference for men influenced his writing and vice versa.

For a straight student reading Whitman's work, perhaps "Song of Myself" sparks self-reflection on the subject of identity and nothing else.

For a gay student (who is aware of Whitman's questionable sexuality) reading "Song of Myself", maybe it provides reassurance, confidence, or comfort and reminds them that they are not alone in feeling the way that they do.

until next time,

Sunday, November 8, 2015

HOLY MOTHER OF...

Hey everybody! We recently covered Sigmund Freud in Critical Theory and we touched on some of the weird, traditional concepts like penis envy, the castration complex, and of course the Oedipus complex.

The "Oedipus complex" is inspired by the play Oedipus Rex by Greek playwright Sophocles. The main character murders his father, has sex with his mother, and then proceeds to gouge his eyes out and go blind.

Worst day ever?

As the hilarious comedian/singer-songwriter Bo Burnham says in one of his songs:

"Gay dads blow pops, another sucker,
Oedipus was the first motherfucker"

Freud named his concept after Oedipus because he embodies the violent tension between child and same sex parent and the sexual tension between child and opposite sex parent.

Being the lover of popular culture (TV in this case) that I am, I couldn't help but think of a really awesome example of the Oedipus complex from American Horror Story. None other than Dr. Oliver Thredson from the second season, Asylum.

Played by Zachary Quinto, Thredson epitomizes the Oedipus complex. He is, quite literally, a living testament to Freud's theory. Which is pretty damn ironic considering the fact that Thredson is a psychiatrist.

Disclaimer: I am not a psychoanalyst, therefore my views on Thredson are merely speculation and open to interpretation and criticism. My professor told us we needed to say this before we went around saying crazy stuff about people, fictional or not.


Now Thredson's version of the complex is pretty interesting, considering the fact that his mother was absent from his life from a young age and his father's whereabouts are questionable. Because his mother was absent and therefore neither physically or emotionally present, his desperate need for motherly love morphed into something sinister and also sexual. The Oedipus complex is usually resolved in children when they cease their harboring of negative feelings towards their same sex parent, but clearly Thredson's absent father makes that resolution quite difficult.

Thredson first discovered his sexual feelings towards motherly figures when he was in medical school, more specifically in his anatomy class. The cadaver that the class examines, and Thredson later on is alone with, is a thirty three year old woman, the exact age of Thredson's mother when she abandoned him. In his deluded mind, Thredson believes that the cadaver is his mother.

viewer discretion advised: if rape scenes make you uncomfortable, i would say skip the video

At one point in the season, Thredson kidnaps Lana Winters from the asylum. Lana is a reporter who visits the asylum with the intention of exposing the horrors that occur there, however she herself ends up experiencing those horrors for herself. Thredson tricks Lana into thinking that he is helping her escape the monstrous asylum but little does she know that the home of her accomplice holds much more terrifying secrets.

As the video shows, Thredson claims that Lana is "the one", the motherly figure that he has searched for his entire life. He breastfeeds from Lana against her will and proceeds to rape her while she is in a catatonic state.

Clearly this an extreme case of the Oedipus complex. According to Freud, the Oedipus complex is usually resolved with minimal internal conflict and life goes on without a hitch. The origin of Thredson's neuroses is almost definitely rooted in his unresolved Oedipus complex, however that's not to say that his instability isn't influenced by psychopathy.

I suppose it's only fitting, if not ironic, that he went on to become someone who makes a living telling other people everything that is wrong with them.

until next time, 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

THE iOS 9 UPDATE AND WHY IT CAUSED ME TO MEDITATE ON STRUCTURALISM

Hey guys! So, the iOS 9 update for iPhone came out today and finally (FINALLY) we were blessed with the new emojis we've been promised for what seems like an eternity. After years of struggling to truly identify with any one emoji character, the day has finally come. Ladies and gentleman, behold: the sassy eye-rolling emoji.

third row down, second from the left

Sassy eye-rolling emoji is not to be confused with the shifty eye emoji. Just saying. Also, middle finger emoji, 'nuff said.

But anyways.

What does this have to do with structuralism, you say? Well, a whole heck of a lot actually.

Structuralism, which goes hand in hand with semiotics, is a theory that examines the relationship between concepts/things and how they are represented through language. Emoji is arguably its own language, originating in Japan as a mode of expressing unique cultural ideas and symbols.

The emojis themselves are what we refer to as the signifier, or the word, image, or representation that is used to designate the signified. The signified is the object or idea that the signifier is referring to.


For example, this is an emoji of a tree. An evergreen, to be more specific. This treemoji (see what i did there?) is the signifier, a symbol that represents the living thing that supplies us humans with oxygen and on occasion something that we put in our house and decorate. That bauble covered, lit up tree in your living room being the signified.

The "arbitrary nature of the sign" is the famous phrase that defines structuralism, coined by Ferdinand De Saussure. The phrase basically boils down to this: the sign has no real relation to the signifier or the signified. This addresses the question that I'm sure many people (including myself) have pondered: How are there so many words to describe the same thing? 

When somebody looks at the tree emoji, they know what that image is referring to. (If you want to be technical, yes, perhaps not everyone on the planet is familiar with this specific kind of tree, but they at least have a general idea of what the image is supposed to represent.) However, two people can look at the same tree emoji and exclaim either, "Arbre!" or "Arbol!" This goes back to Saussure's claim that the nature of the sign is arbitrary, as signifiers and the signifieds are not consistent across all languages.

Since we are on the topic of different languages, let's backtrack for a second and remember that the origin of emoji can be traced back to Japan. A country where they speak Japanese  and the culture is radically different than say the United States, where emoji are extremely popular. As anyone who uses emoji has probably realized by now, there are quite a few characters that the typical American isn't able to identify. Because the relationship between the signifier (the emoji character itself) and the signified (whatever that character is supposed to be representing) is unknown in this circumstance, the emoji takes on a life of its own, as determined by the user.

In an era that is driven and defined by technology and communication, language evolves quicker than ever. Emoji has become like a second language to those who communicate virtually, but this shift to a non-verbal way of conveying emotion and information is still very much consistent in the way it interacts with structural concepts.

until next time,

Sunday, October 18, 2015

AUTHOR AND AUTHOR FUNCTION: FOR DUMMIES

Hey everyone! In this post I am going to be tackling the difference between the author and the author function.

In Critical Theory, we've been looking at Michel Foucault's article What Is An Author? which addresses the concept of authorship and how/why it exists.

When it is put into simple terms, it is quite easy to understand the difference between author and author function. The author is the living, breathing human being that writes. (We are speaking of the author in the present tense, however the author may be dead. Or alive. Or they might not exist yet. See, this is where it gets a bit complicated...)


This is a picture of the author J.K. Rowling, the very talented woman who wrote the Harry Potter series. The idea for Harry Potter came to her while she was stuck on a train and she started writing the prolific story on a napkin because it was all she had at the moment.

Now, author function is a tad bit more complicated to explain. While the author is/was a real person, the author function is a concept that perseveres long after the author is dead and gone. In other words, the author function in the context of this example with J.K. Rowling is anything that makes up the body of her work. So, the seven Harry Potter books that she penned, minor yet related works (i.e. books that exist in the HP universe that she wrote and released in real life like Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and The Tales of Beedle the Bard), those horrific crime novels she wrote under a pseudonym (and for good reason).

More often than not, when someone is referring to Rowling they are referring to the author function and not the author. Perhaps if they are speaking of her personal life or her childhood, the person is referring to the author. However, usually when someone refers to Rowling (or any other author really...this example isn't limited to just rowling) they are using her proper name in a more generalized way, as if to say that Rowling is her work. As Foucault suggests, the text creates the author and not the other way around. So perhaps it is appropriate to refer to the author in relation to the works that they have created, as their authorship would be non-existent without the creation and preservation of their works.

J.K. Rowling is defined by her famous series and her legacy will live on through the books she has written. When she is long gone, Harry and his friends will continue to brighten the lives of those who embark on the journey of delving into his magical world.

until next time,

Thursday, October 15, 2015

IN OTHER WORDS, YOU'RE GOING TO HELL: EXAMINING THE LANGUAGE OF JONATHAN EDWARDS

Hey everyone! In my American Lit class we have sadly left the craziness of good ol' Salem behind (boo, though i'm actually going there tomorrow so that should be interesting...more to come on that) and we have moved onto the Great Awakening. This time period, which began in the mid 1700's in America, is known for being a religious revival of sorts. Though religious devotion and reformation is a common thread in the texts from Salem as well as from authors of the Great Awakening like Jonathan Edwards, the inclusion of emotion is what sets the latter apart from the former. Long gone are the days of snooze-inducing Puritan prose, as Edward's works like Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God are fraught with fervent imagery, raw emotion, and maybe even some sexy stuff. In addition to looking at Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, we also examined Personal Narrative. The contrast between the two texts is stark, as one portrays God and religion as something to be revered and feared while the other suggests that he is beautiful and lovely. This contrast is especially blatant in the language used, and in the choice and repetition of certain words.

Word cloud for Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

Word cloud for Personal Narrative

So, I decided to make word clouds for both of the texts we looked at. For those who may not know, word clouds are a visual representation of word frequency. Therefore, the bigger a word is the more it is used! Repetition is a theme that pervades Edwards' work, and it is easy to see when looking at these word clouds. As he was a preacher, it can be deduced that repetition is a kind of tactic to drive home a point. In Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, the most used words are God (woah, shocker there), hell, wrath, destruction, and pleasure. For Personal Narrative, those words are God (again), Christ, sweet, divine, glory, and infinite.

God and the varying emotion that one feels in relation is obviously the topic of both pieces, however the contrast in language between the two are what distance them from each other. Fire and brimstone or light and goodness, either way Edwards certainly portrays God in such a way that provokes critical thought but also maybe an eye roll for good measure.

until next time,

Thursday, October 8, 2015

EYE OF THE BEHOLDER: MAYBELLINE THROUGH A STRUCTURALIST LENS

Hey everybody! In this post I'm going to be examining a company that you may be familiar with, Maybelline. Though this website was born as a "beauty and fashion" blog if you will, I'm sure it has become quite apparent that is not the case any longer. (Totally not to say that I don't enjoy makeup or writing about it...but that's not my point here.) In Crit Theory today we were discussing language and the relationship between ideas/objects and the words that we use to signify them. So, my friend and I decided to take a look at the makeup brand Maybelline in order to observe this phenomenon.  

Diachronically speaking, Maybelline represents the “ideal” woman in American culture: one that is seen and not heard. In other words, she is revered for her physical appearance and not for her personal beliefs or opinions. Although their ads have changed over time in terms of appearance and marketing techniques (i.e. slogans and color schemes), the message has remained static: women are made into meaningful individuals by making themselves up with Maybelline products. In Maybelline ads from the early 1900’s, the message is blatant and woven expertly into the descriptions of the ads. However, in more recent advertisements the sexism is implied in the language rather than said outright.

When you look at this specific ad from Maybelline in a synchronic sense, you get the idea that everything women are doing is for men, not for themselves. Women are told through this makeup ad that men always want them to be perfect. However, they are only perfect when it comes to their physical appearance; women’s thoughts and ideas are clearly not as revered as much as say, her eyes. Even if the women’s man is away, she should look the way he thought she would when he returned.


 The word “makeup” itself leads one to believe that those who use it are hiding something. Makeup acts as a façade, a mask that covers up the truth, and “the truth” is that women are undesirable without it. Many of the advertisements feature words like “accent” and “perfect” imply that women need to use Maybelline products because their natural beauty is understated, boring, and in need of improvement.

These Maybelline ads speak to the nature of American beauty ideals: women need makeup because they are not pretty without it. Natural beauty is something to be ashamed of, and the façade that makeup provides becomes the “truth”. The language that these ads utilize is persuasive and steeped in sexism, aimed solely at generating revenue and perpetuating stereotypes of women.


 Maybelline’s “target audience” is arguably white, heterosexual upper-middle class women. While this demographic is likely the main consumer of these products, it is important to keep in mind that there are a multitude of individuals (of varying races and ethnic backgrounds) who are consuming but not being represented. The ideas that construct Maybelline as a brand were once stable and static as women were trapped in a singular role by society. However today, as women continue to stand up for themselves and defy social norms, those ideas are outdated and fail to accurately support women as a whole.

until next time,

    

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

I'LL PUT A SPELL ON YOU: PORTRAYING THE SALEM WITCH TRIALS IN MODERN CULTURE

Hi everyone! It's fall now (in New England, anyways) and that means colder weather, chunky sweaters, and watching the 1993 Disney film Hocus Pocus on repeat. Shoutout to Halloweentown, also a fantastic movie, but for the purpose of this blog post we're sticking to the former. I've loved Hocus Pocus since I was a wee child along with all of my peers. Even more so, I've been a little bit obsessed with the Salem Witch Trials for years now as it is of significant interest to me. Perhaps my interest in this subject was solidified by it's unusual and macabre nature, however I'm inclined to believe that the media's portrayal of this event is too what peaked my fascination. 

Why is the media so fixated on this particular historical event, even in today's popular culture? Are we fictionalizing it to the point where it becomes an unauthentic representation of "history", where real people are mere characters and their trials and tribulations become the plot of a dramatized soap opera of sorts?

Going back to Hocus Pocus for a brief moment...oh, quick little tid bit. My professor Robin shared with all of us today during her lecture on the trials that the Salem "witches" were not officially pardoned until 1992. Hocus Pocus came out the following year...coincidence? Although this is not quite relevant to my ultimate point, I think it is interesting to highlight the fact that this movie is still very much relevant, namely at this year's Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party at Disney World's Magic Kingdom.


Can we just take a moment to appreciate the awesomeness? I want to high five whoever did the casting for this show, especially for Winifred, because they were all SPOT ON. Sadly, I highly doubt any of the young kids that were watching the show even know who the Sanderson sisters are, let alone have any idea about what the movie is meant to represent historically. Seeing as it is a children's movie, elements like death, evil, and witchcraft have a comedic spin put on them. However, applying comedic tropes to a serious and grotesque historical event, in this case, seems to mock instead of providing relief.


While Hocus Pocus is a funny anecdote about three fictitious witches, WGN's scripted drama Salem takes a more serious approach to the subject of the witch trials. First of all, check out the kick ass intro:

  

Wicked creepy and bonus points for using a Marilyn Manson song. Props! Anyways, in my opinion, Salem is a hybrid of sorts. Yes, it most definitely has some historical truth in it and visually it provides a sense of what living in 1690's Salem would have been like. But, considering the fact that there is still so much uncertainty and mystery surrounding the Salem Witch Trials, the show is able to take creative license regarding the extent to which they dramatize the stories and how far they delve into the realm of the supernatural. Some of the characters, like Cotton Mather and his father Increase, are based on real figures during the trials but most are not.

In saying that Salem is a hybrid, I am saying that it is part historical drama and part cheesy soap opera. As Salem was a wholly religious community with an emphasis on purity in all aspects of life, it is difficult to swallow the highly sexualized nature of the society (and its relationship to witchcraft) as it is portrayed in the show. The sex seems out of place in a show of this nature and it is all too obvious that the inclusion of the sex is only an attempt to keep Salem on the same plane as other popular sexualized TV shows like Game of Thrones and The Tudors. With all that being said, I wholeheartedly enjoy Salem. In my opinion, it is perfectly acceptable to like watching this show despite all of problems that encapsulate it, because in this case the outcome of consuming the media's representation of an event such as this is pure entertainment rather than edification.

People still flock to Salem, hundreds of years after hysteria engulfed the Puritan community that resided there. The tourists flood the city especially during the month of October, Halloween dredging up the screams of the afflicted and the accused alike. Modern culture, most notably literature and film/TV, too continues to dredge up this story, or parable if you will, but for what reason? To prevent the masses from forgetting the atrocities that occurred? To preserve a classic example of the battle between good and evil? To act as a drama in which we insert fictitious individuals into history to warp and distort the truth?

Regardless, the Salem Witch Trials serves as a moral paradigm and grotesque defining event in American history that will forever live on in Salem proper and in modern culture.

And that makes me very, very happy.


until next time,

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

ANNE BRADSTREET: PURITAN POET AND BADASS FEMINIST

Hi everyone! This is the first post I am doing for my Currents in American Lit class, and today I wanted to quickly introduce you to the gloriousness that is Anne Bradstreet.



Now, here's the deal: Anne Bradstreet is considered to be the first female author published in the New World, and that feat in itself is impressive. Which is kind of sad, because the fact that it is impressive speaks to the position of women during this time period and even more specifically (and especially) in the Puritan society that Bradstreet resided in. The surprise that follows the publication of Anne's work The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up In America is best summarized by her brother in law, John Woodbridge, as he writes in his prologue:


"The worst effect of his [the reader’s] reading will be unbelief, which will make him question whether it be a woman’s work, and ask, is it possible?"

This is exactly the point where Bradstreet's subtle feminism comes into play. Forget bra burning in the 60's, because this wonderful woman dethroned the patriarchy with her understated poetry and I'm not even quite sure she knew the power in her own words.

In her poem "Prologue", Anne addresses those who question her abilities as a writer, and in turn her womanliness:

"I am obnoxious to each carping tongue
Who says my hand a needle better fits.
A poet's pen all scorn I should thus wrong;
For such despite they cast on female wits,
If what I do prove well, it wont advance-
They'll say it was stolen, or else it was by chance."

To me this verse screams, "Hey men, I know you don't like me and you think I should stick to my womanly duties but screw you because I'm just as capable as you!" Her mocking tone and sarcastic rhetoric is somewhat hidden underneath her coy jabs at male views on women. 

Personally, I believe that Bradstreet's  In Honour Of The High And Mighty Princess, Queen Elizabeth is the most overtly feminist poem in the collection. In a world where men are consistently and simultaneously the author and the reader, Bradstreet turned this notion on its head by dedicating a poem to Queen Elizabeth who, "was so good, so just, so learn'd, so wise, from all the kings on earth she won the prize". To praise a queen rather than a king could be considered treason in the eyes of men, so in doing so Bradstreet may be considered the first American feminist. The most intriguing part of Bradstreet's ode to Elizabeth can be found in the second epitaph at the conclusion of the poem. Here, Elizabeth is referred to as an "unparallel'd prince", which leads to the question: Why use a highly gender specific (ie male) term to refer to a powerful woman? Is it because she is trying to appeal to her male readers, perhaps making Elizabeth more manly and therefore more fit to rule in the eyes of men? Or is it because Anne Bradstreet is attempting to shake society to its core by stating that a woman can do just as good of a job, maybe even a superior job, when it comes to ruling than a man? Gasp!

With all things considered, Ms. Bradstreet was surely onto something with these poems of hers. Whether she was aware or not of the effects her work would have on society and how women were viewed within it, who knows. But regardless, Anne Bradstreet's radical poetry paved the way for female voices in the New World and that in itself is a contribution to be proud of.

until next time,

    

Sunday, September 27, 2015

A NATION REBORN? THE PURGE AND IDEOLOGY

Hi all! I feel a trend emerging...here I go again finding connections between popular movies and less popular critical theory. I feel like I simply cannot live a normal life anymore because I analyze everything way too freakin' much. Life of an English major, am I right?

In case you didn't guess already, this time around we are looking at the 2013 horror movie (this categorization is questionable, i would suggest cautionary tale) The Purge.

For anyone who hasn't seen it (Robin, this one's for you), here is the trailer:



I think that watching the trailer is important in this instance, as the film's premise is somewhat complicated to explain. Here is the announcement that commences the holiday:

 "This is not a test. This is your emergency broadcast system announcing the commencement of the Annual Purge sanctioned by the U.S. Government. Weapons of class 4 and lower have been authorized for use during the Purge. All other weapons are restricted. Government officials of ranking 10 have been granted immunity from the Purge and shall not be harmed. Commencing at the siren, any and all crime, including murder, will be legal for 12 continuous hours. Police, fire, and emergency medical services will be unavailable until tomorrow morning until 7 a.m., when The Purge concludes. Blessed be our New Founding Fathers and America, a nation reborn. May God be with you all."

(In Critical Theory, we have been talking about Marxism and therefore how class structure influences and interacts with ideologies. For this blog post, I will be referring specifically to and quoting from Louis Althusser's Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses.) Before we even get to the film itself, let's take a moment to look closely at this specific piece of text.

I think one of the most striking things about this announcement is the strong religious language. Yes, the documents and oral tradition that make America the great country it is today are steeped in religion (i'm looking at you puritans, ooh crossover between american lit and crit theory, so meta) so it is not particularly surprising that this speech echoes that tradition. What is jarring about the pious content is that it acts as a buffer or excuse, if you will.

Oh, you murdered your neighbor? Well, it must have been God's will I guess. Good thing he's there to back you up. And since you're a model citizen the other 364 days out of the year, he's going to forget it even happened.

Here is where the ideology comes in: Religion (or the church itself), in Althusser's writings, functions as one of the main ideological state apparatuses (or ISA's as they will be referred to from here on out, because that phrase is too damn long). An ISA, as he explains is a, "distinct and specialized institution(s)...of the private domain". Even in the slightly futuristic setting of The Purge, religion remains one, if not the most, dominant ISA in American culture.

The concept of the Purge itself is arguably religious as well. The definition of the word "purge" is

a) rid (someone) of an unwanted feeling, memory, or condition, typically giving a sense of cathartic release
or

b) an abrupt or violent removal of a group of people from an organization or place

Okay, the first definition to me is fraught with religious overtones. Confession anyone?!

The second one is a tad more out there, at least in the context we're using it, but it sure is interesting. The Purge is not just the masses wreaking bloody havoc on the upper class, the Purge is an "equal opportunity employer" of sorts in the way that it encourages everyone to participate.

Another startling aspect of the Purge is the absence of what Althusser calls repressive state apparatuses (or RSA's). Unlike ISA's, RSA's belong to the public domain as they are in place to control society (for example, the police are an RSA). As Althusser points out, if ISA’s do their job there is no real need for RSA’s with a few rare exceptions simply because we do not live in a utopian society.

But is the comfort of ideology enough to survive the Purge? Does the complete withdrawal of RSA’s from society for a brief period of time lead to the destruction of ideology, and therefore all sense of morality? This leads to the ultimate question: How many people would actually participate in such an atrocious “holiday” if the opportunity arose?


In the film, there are two distinct kinds of people; those who are gung ho about the Purge and seem excited, even giddy to murder and maim whomever they can get their hands on. The other kinds of people are entirely against the Purge, their only wish to survive the night and they do so in varying ways. The family in the movie is well off financially; therefore they can afford to hide out in their giant mansion which is armed with an expensive and elaborate alarm system. However, as it is addressed in the sequel The Purge: Anarchy, the majority of people (shall we call them the 99 percent?) spend the night hiding wherever they can whether that’s their modest unarmed home which is vulnerable to those who run amuck or perhaps people who have no home at all who are trapped outside. This discrepancy in protection and support for the Purge itself is yet another example of Marxist theory coinciding with the concept, as the discrepancy amplifies the theme of class struggle that pervades the film as a whole.

As far as ideology is concerned, this film could be interpreted a multitude of different ways. Take for instance, this article that suggests that The Purge serves an allegory for the possible domination of the U.S. by the Republican party. What I do know for certain is that this film would intrigue the likes of Marx and Althusser, and for that reason I wish they were still around so we could ask them: To purge? Or not to purge?

That is the question.

until next time,

Saturday, September 12, 2015

CURSE YOU, WIMSATT AND BEARDSLEY: WHY NEW CRITICISM RUINED MY VIEWING OF SINISTER 2

Hi guys! As you can probably tell, this post (and most likely the next few, at least) is going to be different than my usual posts. I will be creating content for two of the English classes that I am taking this semester which happen to be Critical Theory and Currents in American Literature. Today, for Critical Theory, I'm going to attempt to make connections between two things that seem entirely unrelated: welcome to the life of an English major.

Last night I went to see Sinister 2 with my boyfriend and, as expected, I was royally disappointed. I mean it's not like I went into it with the highest of expectations anyways.


I'm not going to waste much of my time recapping the plot for you, because a) I'm still kind of confused by it to be completely honest and b) it's not that important when it comes to the point that I'm attempting to make. As someone who is reasonably jumpy and easily spooked, it means something for me to say that I didn't find this film to be that scary at all. Sure, there were a few moments where I was disgusted by the gore or I jumped but the most shocking aspect of the movie was not supernatural in the least. 

For this next part, you might need a little bit of backstory for you to follow me so here we go:

Sinister 2 follows a family (single mom with two twin nine year old boys) who moves to a farm in rural Indiana where some real crazy stuff has happened in the past. I'm talking some really messed up stuff. But that's besides the point. The mom is fighting for custody of her twin sons, as it is revealed over the course of the movie that their father is extremely abusive towards his wife and children, even sending his own son to the emergency room at one point.

Yes, I am aware that Sinister 2 is a horror film that on its superficial surface is about a demon that recruits children to do his bidding and murder their families. However, I can't shake the feeling that deep in the underbelly of this messy mythology there's something more sinister lurking than the Boogeyman. The subplot that addresses the domestic abuse that the mother and her two sons endure, to me, doesn't seem like much of a subplot at all. When I walked out of the movie last night, I couldn't stop pondering whether I had just watched a horror movie or a manifesto on the issue of basic human rights. As my boyfriend said to me after the movie was over, "You totally just analyzed that movie like an English major".

I know it's been a strange journey to this point, but here we are connecting Wimsatt and Beardsley's The Intentional Fallacy and The Affective Fallacy to Sinister 2. These two concepts, brought to you by New Criticism, question the role of the author and reader when it comes to trying to decode the meaning of a work. In this case, I suppose we are dealing with the author and the observer although the relationship between the two are highly similar.

According to Wimsatt and Beardsley, everything I just said about thinking Sinister 2 was about domestic abuse is irrelevant because the only way to know the "truth" is to look to the text, or in this case the script. If I asked Scott Derrickson, one of the writers, if he intended for the movie to actually be a giant metaphor for domestic abuse, with the Boogeyman character who tries to steal children away representing the twin's father, he may have absolutely no idea what the hell I'm even talking about. In most cases, the author doesn't even know his/her own intention! Therefore, how can the observer know the author's intention if he/she is unaware of it?

Also, the emotional effect that the film had on me personally is irrelevant as well in the eyes of Beardsley and Wimsatt. Just because it makes you feel something, doesn't mean that it's of any importance from a critical perspective. Harsh but true, man.

And that, my friends, is why new criticism was replaced by reader-response theory. Insert mic drop here.

until next time,

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

SOMEWHERE NEW AND AN OLD FAVORITE

Hi everyone! Long time, no talk. I know. To be quite honest with you, most of my summer has been utterly boring. As in, I've spent it working my tush off at two jobs. I'm in the process of saving up for my move to Florida (oh yeah, that's a thing that's happening btw!) hence lots and lots of slaving away as an underpaid waitress. But you know that they say....all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Or in this case, me, Shannon. I did, on the few occasions I wasn't stuck at work, do some traveling this summer! First, I visited my Disney roommate/best friend Brittany in her hometown of Lafayette, Lousiana. Also known as the hottest place on the planet. Or maybe that's just the entirety of the South in the summer? Yeah I'm gonna go with that.


We started my trip off right: with a trip to the world famous Cafe Du Monde of course! We didn't go to the original one first (we saved that for my birthday) but it didn't matter because the beignets and coffee are to die for no matter which one you go to. Swoon.


Brittany and I spent the first few days of my trip exploring Lafayette and the surrounding area.



the new fountain on brittany's campus; geaux cajuns!

We ended my trip in New Orleans where I turned 21 on Bourbon Street, posed with a cardboard cutout of Channing Tatum at his bar because the real one was not present (i also had my first legal drink there), and experienced some good ol' voodoo.





outside the american horror story coven house :)

And I went back to Orlando about a week ago with my friend Jaden because I just missed Disney too darn much. How predictable.



until next time,

 
site design by designer blogs