All posts by Angela

Glaringly Political Rushdie Treatment (Here, as Subject)

Huggan’s treatment of Salman Rushie puts him in an interestingly vocal position in relation to Bourdieu’s claims about the ilusio. Specifically, Lindsay Mackie’s brief article titled “Indian wins the Booker” says a lot about his function as both a representative of his nation (exiled from, but not mentioned there) and his function in the political Booker game. If the Booker prize intends to “reset” the definition of the ideal reader, which would exist outside gender, class, and nation, to instead represent the ideal upper-middle-class, British, white, heterosexual cis-male, Rushdie’s role is represented as re-positioning India “as a subject and not as the background,” while simoutaneously reasserting his authority as a British subject, which Mackie not-so-subtly implies by ending the article thus: “[Rushdie] had embarked, he said, on another very long novel, this time set in Britain. He lives with his English wife and small son in Kentish Town, London.”

Possible nugget?

To avoid reiteration, I’ll simply add the disclaimer that I also think the point of this article is not to choose sides, but rather to tear several arguments apart from their inherent paradoxes. I’d like to add to the discussion a moment where I think I found the sort of answer Guillory is searching for throughout his meticulous working-out of the canonical problem of representation:

“Acknowledging the conditional force of literacy in the history of canon formation would thus disallow us from ever assuming that the field of writing is a kind of plenum, a textual repetition of social diversity, where everyone has access to the means of literary production and works ask only to be judged fairly” (18).

Since most of his ideas as so compounded, it took some extra time to wheedle out the meaning from this moment, but what what struck me the most was the idealistic scenario that emerges in the last part of his sentence. Much of the paradoxes surrounding canonical and noncanonical literature maintain this vision of an ideal space impossible because of the problems surrounding inclusion/exclusion. However, the ideal canon would reflect the ideal social empowerment of all minorities, thus becoming a shared reflection of “social diversity,” and where the canon is not the only type of “literary production” that everyone would share equally. And, finally, it would result in the judgment of subjects/pieces/academic objects “fairly,” as in, not simply as a stand-in for the aspired-but-perpetually-unachieved-political/social-representation-of-minorities.

Two Kinds of Negations with Subtle, yet Important, Differences

The public as a vital (perhaps central?) dimension of literary experience and yet hostile force is the point Woolf pressures in her except of “Shakespeare’s Sister.” Woolf frames the two greatest immaterial difficulties the public represents to the male and female geniuses in the following: “The world did not say to her as it said to [Keats and Flaubert and other men of genius], Write if you choose; it makes no difference to me. The world said with a guffaw, Write? What’s the good of your writing?” (601).

Here, Woolf frames the different experienced relationships between the public and the gendered writers as well as projects an objective to writing depending on the sex of the author. For the man, the adversary of indifference indicates the objective of writing (for men) is to make a reaction and/or incite change. Woolf scrutinizes this as a position of privilege by presenting the image of the female author who cannot be admitted into literature at all. The female author envies the man of genius for having the opportunity to advance onto the world stage; yet, if there is no audience, how can any work live? The “guffaw” Woolf inserts is the rebuff of an egotistical, patriarchal society, yet the recognition of the individual, if even through the limitations of the sex to participate freely, excites the type of energy that the male author desires. Since the “guffaw” bruises the ego in assuming female writing cannot be useful–it cannot produce a “good” affect on society–the objective of writing for women is insinuated to be (initially, at least) utility. Being barred from the world stage is therefore the adversary, even though the public is, in fact, incited emotionally to “guffaw.”

 

 

Shuttling between Personal and Thematic

Said’s method of argument seeks to establish a dialogue between the personal and thematic levels, which he accomplishes by making small concedes between the two levels until finally arriving at the moment of contact. For example, he initiates his conversation about Heart of Darkness with the broad statement that “domination and inequities of power and wealth are perennial facts of human society.” He then guides the argument using a theoretical argument that if “you tell Arabs or Africans that they belong to a basically sick or unregenerate culture, you are unlikely to convince them” and marks the point of convergence by stating “the history of this stand-off is manifest throughout colonies where white masters were once unchallenged but finally driven out” (19). Personally, I find this method appropriate for a critique of Heart of Darkness because it effectively replicates the narrative tendency Conrad employs to shuttle between an intimate account of racism and the greater theological implications his novel seeks to illuminate.

Affirmation that Class Work is Important

What I found most stimulating throughout the readings was the extent to which our last class on Joyce had hit upon a crucial theme: the problem of paradigms/structures that stunt human development. Although this is not the exclusive argument of Lukacs, he does appear to develop his opinion of Joyce-esque literature from that seed. He claims “man . . . is by nature solitary, asocial, unable to enter into relationships with other human beings” (1219 Luksas). A  great part of me agreed with him here because I sympathized that the inability to develop relationships with other human beings is largely due to (as we contended in class) the structures in society that restrict them. And there’s a lot of evidence for this in Dubliners; take “The Sisters” for one. The speaker was limited or otherwise restricted from developing his friendship with the priest because the family structure ruled against it: “I wouldn’t let children of mine,” [Mr. Cotter] finally said, “to have too much to say to a man like that. . . . What I mean is,” said old Cotter, “it’s bad for children. My idea is: let a young lad run about and play with young lads of his own age and not be…Am I right, Jack?” “That’s my principle, too,” said my uncle” (2 Joyce).

 

However, there are also characters that depend on the social structure, and are considered simultaneously a vital and repulsive character by it. Specifically, Maria from “Clay.” This particular passage intrigued me: “They led [Maria] up to the table amid laughing and joking and she put her hand out in the air as she was told to do. . . . She felt a soft wet substance with her fingers and was surprised that nobody spoke or took off her bandage. There was a pause for a few seconds; and then a great deal of scuffling and whispering. . . . Maria understood that it was wrong that time and so she had to do it over again: and this time she got the prayer-book” (68 Joyce). While Maria is a celebrated character in her social circle, when she breaks the social code unconsciously, the social embarrassment she causes is heightened, possibly as a result to her grotesque appearance. While I believe it’s true that “[the hero] does not develop through contact with the world; he neither forms nor is formed by it” and that “the only “development” in this literature is the gradual revelation of the human condition,” I believe the placement of characters within/without history and their relationship with social order is more complex than Luckas is willing to credit (1220 Lukacs).

 


Joyce, James. Dubliners. New York: Dover Publications, 1991. Print.

Lukacs, Georg. “The Ideology of Modernism” The Critical Tradition. 3rd ed. Richter, H.
David. Boston: Bedford/ St. Martin’s, 2007. 1218. Print.

Quick Question

To anyone who might know–

When we were looking at McKay’s “America,” one question we focused on was why he chose the Shakespearean sonnet as his form of choice. As I was thinking about it more I thought  McKay might have been making a pun on the name of the Harlem Renaissance, since that was the time during which Shakespeare made his sonnets infamous. However, upon trying to research it I can only find that during its time the movement was called the “New Negro Movement.”

 

My question is: when did it start to be called the Harlem Renaissance, and who came up with the name?

Auden, Adorno, Obscurity

Adorno writes, “Language is itself something double. Through its configurations it assimilates itself completely into subjective impulses; one would almost think it had produced them. But at the same time language remains the medium of concepts, remains that which establishes an inescapable relationship to the universal and to society” (43).

Although I had a hard time getting through this criticism, Adorno’s loose definition of lyric poetry language as having one foot in the universal and another in society, while at the same time, being subjective to impulsive associations on an individual level, began to demonstrate the varied levels that lyric poetry is functioning at. This complex approach to poetry spanning several levels of interaction across different concepts of societies was most closely associated with Auden’s poem 34, Spain, because Auden uses the word “Yesterday” and “To-morrow” in reference to several different temporal periods, each with both specific and generic details. For example, the references I picked up toward the end of the poem were “To-morrow the enlarging of consciousness by diet and/breathing” as a strangely prophetic reference to modern super-food health consciousnesses; next, “Tomorrow the rediscovery of romantic love” seemed a nod toward Romanticism, and the next, a different time, “Tomorrow the exchanging of tips on the breeding of terriers” (seems grounded in the 19th century, breeding the dogs in England and Ireland for hunting). In this manner, they create a spontaneous reaction from the frustrated reader for trying to unravel the obscure references, but at the same time remain unknown enough to maintain a cryptic-and-strangely-universal tone with lines like “The stars are dead. The animals will not look.” Is he talking about his very day, or the todays that are also the “yesterdays” and “tomorrows” of other times?

Poet as a Nightingale

“Even in modern times, no living poet ever arrived at the fulness of his fame; the jury which sits in judgement upon a poet, belonging as he does to all time, must be composed of his peers: it must be impanelled by Time from the selectest of the wise of many generations. A Poet is a nightingale, who sits in darkness and sings to cheer its own solitude with sweet sounds; his auditors are as men entranced by the melody of an unseen musician, who feel that they are moved and softened, yet know not whence or why.”

Percy Bysshe Shelley, A Defence of Poetry (page 350, The Critical Tradition)